Want by Cindy Pon | Book Review

Title: Want
Author: Cindy Pon
Pages: 336 pages
Release Date: June 13th, 2017
Source: ARC from publisher
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Rating: 4/5 stars
From critically acclaimed author Cindy Pon comes an edge-of-your-seat sci-fi thriller, set in a near-future Taipei plagued by pollution, about a group of teens who risk everything to save their city.

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits, protecting them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is, or destroying his own heart?

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**I received an advanced e-galley from the publishers. This has not affected my review in any way** 

Rarely have I ever found a book as perfect for me as this one right here. It is a science fiction book featuring an Asian main character, written by an Asian author. It takes place in Taipei, Taiwan. The main character has the same birthday as me. We might as well have been twins. I was reading this book for the #AsianLitBingo event that was happening. It was also Asian Heritage Month when I read it, and I think its important to acknowledge these stories by own voices authors.

This book is just so different from anything on the market right now. I really enjoyed the change of pace. I had never read a book with a setting in Taiwan! Growing up in Taiwan, the author made sure to include key parts of what she loved most about her birthplace. 

Not many people caught this but despite the fact that the entire book was told in English, the characters were actually speaking Mandarin. I thought that was a really interesting perspective and often times I found myself trying to translate the English into Mandarin, even though my Chinese is subpar at best. The book brought so many relatable parts of my culture into the story, including the foods that I eat and the customs we have in my house. It was so great to read about someone so similar to me on the pages of a book. It's a feeling I can never explain. 

I think with a lot of science fiction books, we as readers always ask ourselves "is this plot believable or conceivable?". Want takes place in a future where the levels of pollution have wrecked havoc because of the actions of society. It is a totally realistic re-imagining of how the world will look in 50-100 years, from the state of the environment, increase in expensive technology, and the wealth gap between the rich and the poor.

The book starts off by thrusting us into the conflict but slows down from there. I found the middle to be quite slow and dragging at times. The pace picked up after about 100-150 pages, and I was hooked. I so desperately wanted to know what the end of the book held for the fate of this society.

Although there is a romance between the main protagonist and one of the characters, I think it took a back seat for most of the book. The real shining gem of this book were the freaking fantastic characters and their relationships. The entire cast was amazingly diverse, including a Filipino, Indian and a bisexual character. Even from the beginning of the book, we get to see how close this ragtag group of activists is and how they strive for change.

Want is much more than a diverse, fast-paced science fiction novel. It's as Kirkus says a 'socially conscious futuristic thriller'. It's a story that reveals much more about our society than we realize. It brings to light so many current issues that I think many readers will take a stand in. I also think this is a great book that will, in the future, create more advocates to stand up against issues like poverty and the continued pollution that occurs. Not only did Want fulfill my little environmentalist heart, but it was also a token to my culture and background. If you're even the slightest bit hesitant about picking up this book because you don't think it'll be your cup of tea, just buy it anyway to prove yourself wrong. If you ever need more confirmation, just talk to the author because she's a sweetheart as well!

BLOG TOUR | Flame In the Mist - Learn Some Japanese + Giveaway!

Title: Flame In the Mist
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Pages: 368 pages
Release Date: May 16th, 2017
Source: ARC from PenguinTeen
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Rating: 3/5 stars
The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.
 

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Welcome to today's tour stop for Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh. As a third-year Japanese student, I was so excited at the possibility of a book that takes place in feudal Japan inspired by the character and story of Mulan. I've been taking a course in the Japanese language in my school for the past three years of high school. I'm really lucky to have a teacher that is as passionate to teach the language as I am to learn it. Kawamoto-sensei often brings objects and candy back from Japan on vacations to share with us.

Although it has proved to be quite a challenging course, I do enjoy learning and speaking the language. I think the best part is writing the characters though because some are very similar to Chinese characters. For today's post I'm going to share a little bit from my knowledge of learning Japanese for the past three years. Now keep in mind that I'm not a native speaker but the first thing I learned was the hiragana system of Japanese writing. 

There are three Japanese systems of writing: hiragana, katakana and kanji. The names in Ahdieh's book are in romaji, which is a representation of Japanese sounds using the English alphabet.

I will be teaching you how to write the names in the book in hiragana characters. I'm not 100% sure if the author intended her names to be in romaji but that's what it seems like. Traditional Japanese names are usually written in kanji, but I won't be writing it in kanji for today because those characters are really complicated and there are many kanji that could represent the same hiragana.

This is a hiragana chart! These sounds represent a different character. You can use these sounds to create a word. For example the word tachi (which means long sword) is composed of the two separate syllables ta and chi. You could look on the hiragana chart and look for which Japanese hiragana characters represent the worlds ta and chi. Let's see! 

We found them! Now put them together!

Let's try with some of the character names! 

TIP: Feel free to try writing some of the other words in the book in hiragana! It's not hard once you remember the hiragana chart. With good study habits and dedication, you'll be writing sentences in no time! In my opinion, out of the three Japanese writing systems I find that hiragana is the easiest. My Japanese teacher started teaching me with hiragana, so as a tip I'd say to start with learning this before you jump to remembering words and definitions. 

GIVEAWAY TIME!

Enter for a chance to win one (1) of five (5) copies of Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh (ARV: $17.99 each).

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on May 8, 2017 and 12:00 AM on June 5, 2017.  Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about June 10, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

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Renée Ahdieh 

Renée Ahdieh is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger. In her spare time, she likes to dance salsa and collect shoes. She is passionate about all kinds of curry, rescue dogs, and college basketball. The first few years of her life were spent in a high-rise in South Korea; consequently, Renée enjoys having her head in the clouds. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and their tiny overlord of a dog.
 

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#ReadADessen | Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen Favorite Quote + Giveaway!

Title: Saint Anything
Author: Sarah Dessen
Pages: 417 pages
Release Date: May 5th, 2017
Genre:  Young Adult, Contemporary 
Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.

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Sarah Dessen's Saint Anything is riddled with quotes that I find inspirational and motivating. It's hard, when reading such a lengthy book, to choose just one that you think fits the entire theme of the book as well as catch the attention of any perspective readers. However, I think I did a pretty good job at choosing one that glorifies this book and extends an honest and truthful message. Some may take this quote as a damsel in distress seeking attention. The way I see it is that even those scary things may happen, we shouldn't run the other away and cower in an "invisible place". It's never wrong or cowardly for us to ask for someone else's help in a situation where the outlook may seem dim. 

What is your fave Sarah Dessen quote?



GIVEAWAY TIME! 

Enter for a chance to win one (1) set of Sarah Dessen’s books in paperback (ARV: $132.00).

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on April 17, 2017 and 12:00 AM on May 29, 2017.  Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about June 1, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

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BLOG TOUR | The One Memory of Flora Banks Guest Post + GIVEAWAY!




Title: Flora Banks
Author: Emily Barr
Pages: 303 pages
Release Date: May 2nd, 2017
Source: ARC from publisher
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora's brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend's boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora's fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words "be brave" inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must "be brave" if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

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Hey everyone! Today I have a special guest joining me today on my Flora Banks tour stop. It's the one and only Emily Barr, author of The One Memory of Flora Banks. I'm sure you've all seen this book floating around the blogosphere, but if it still hasn't piqued your interest then I'm hoping this post will. In books, I am captivated with the idea of memory loss. A lot of the books I have read that include characters that lose their memories have been thrillers or mystery books. I've never seen a contemporary one. I took this tour opportunity to ask the author Emily Barr about the research that was required to write about a character with anterograde amnesia and how she was able to capture this essence in a young adult book. Here is her answer. 


Research About Amnesia
by Emily Barr

It sounds so easy to write a book about amnesia. In fact I’d wanted to write one for ages but had held back because the ‘knock on the head/ can’t remember anything’ trope felt so clichéd and I didn’t know anyone in real life who’d had anything remotely like that happen to them. It felt as if fiction-amnesia was a whole different thing from real-amnesia.


I did, however, have experience of older people with dementia, losing their recent memories while remembering things from long ago. I remember, as a young child, visiting my grandfather who had Parkinson’s with the associated memory loss. It was incredibly distressing. I also knew people with younger family members who had experienced different kinds of memory loss and I could see that brains were complex, incredible things.


When I started writing The One Memory of Flora Banks I knew I had to do everything I could to get it right. I read books by Oliver Sacks (who is an absolute hero of mine: The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat is a brilliant starting point for anyone writing about anything brain-related). I read anything I could find about anterograde amnesia. I got in touch with an old university friend who works in this field, and he sent me all kinds of reading material, and looked over my plans for Flora to tell me what was plausible and what wasn’t.


I went through the book again and again, doing everything I could to make it logical. Because Flora can remember things from before she was ten she has the basics about how things work: I have a ten year old of my own and she certainly know about charging phones and laptops and those kinds of daily-life things. However, I kept catching myself letting Flora remember things she shouldn’t have remembered. In fact, I’ve never written so many drafts of anything.


I am left with the overwhelming feeling that the human brain is a remarkable thing, that memory is not a static objective thing, but a weaving together of impressions of sights and smells and sounds and tastes, and the way things make us feel. We can forget things, and we can remember them, and we can remember them wrong. A tiny change in those mechanisms can make an enormous difference to a person’s life, and that is, in the end, going to happen to a lot of us.

 GIVEAWAY! 

Enter for a chance to win one (1) of five (5) copies of The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr (ARV: $17.99 each).

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on May 1, 2017 and 12:00 AM on May 22, 2017.  Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about May 24, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

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Emily Barr

Emily Barr (www.emilybarr.com) began her career as a journalist at the Guardian before realizing that she was drawn more toward books. After taking a year to go backpacking for a column assignment, she returned home with the idea for her first book, the New York Times bestseller Backpack, and never looked back. She has since written 11 additional books for adults. The One Memory of Flora Banks is her young adult debut. Emily lives in Cornwall with her partner and their children. You can follow her on Twitter @emily_barr.
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