A Mortal Song by Megan Crewe

Blurb:

30376044Sora’s life was full of magic–until she discovered it was all a lie.

Heir to Mt. Fuji’s spirit kingdom, Sora yearns to finally take on the sacred kami duties. But just as she confronts her parents to make a plea, a ghostly army invades the mountain. Barely escaping with her life, Sora follows her mother’s last instructions to a heart-wrenching discovery: she is a human changeling, raised as a decoy while her parents’ true daughter remained safe but unaware in modern-day Tokyo. Her powers were only borrowed, never her own. Now, with the world’s natural cycles falling into chaos and the ghosts plotting an even more deadly assault, it falls on her to train the unprepared kami princess.

As Sora struggles with her emerging human weaknesses and the draw of an unanticipated ally with secrets of his own, she vows to keep fighting for her loved ones and the world they once protected. But for one mortal girl to make a difference in this desperate war between the spirits, she may have to give up the only home she’s ever known.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I’m a day late, but I started reading this book to fulfill the January theme for one of my Diversity challenges, which was “Stories based on/ inspired by diverse folktales/culture/mythology.”  This book fit that theme PERFECTLY and I’m so glad I picked it up with this challenge in mind, b/c I was thoroughly entertained by Sora’s story!  This is not a book that typically piques my interest, as I tend to go for either contemporary or more modern paranormal/sci-fi.  But after reading a review from Lillian @Mom With a Reading Problem, it sort of just stuck with me.  So when I saw it go on sale, and noticed it matched the diversity theme, I snatched it up.

So after that long-winded explanation…ahem.  I really loved that this one introduced me to some mythology from Japan.  It was all so enchanting, and I loved the blending of the world of the Kami with the modern world in Japan.  I’m not really a huge fantasy reader b/c I enjoy the linking back to the real world, so I loved that this was both…I guess kind of urban fantasy then, eh?  If you couldn’t tell, I’m really not that familiar with the genre.

I loved the uniqueness of Sora’s journey.  So often we read about a seemingly ordinary girl who actually has extraordinary powers and saves everyone.  In some ways Sora’s story was kind of opposite.  She grew up thinking she was a being of extraordinary powers, but in the end she was a normal human.  But it was her normal humanness that helped save everyone (sort of).  I really LOVED that.  I loved seeing her struggle with the lies she had been told, and how she would deal with her new reality, eventually coming to embrace what it meant.  I enjoyed Sora as a narrator, I thought her struggles were relatable and she grew in a reasonable way.

And the plot kept me hooked!!  I enjoyed the journey the whole group went on to fulfill the prophecy and defeat the bad guys.  There was exciting fight scenes and intriguing plot twists.  I was up til 3am reading this bad boy, before I had to finally put it down.

I’m not a fan of love triangles, but this one only bugged me a little since it was pretty shallow, though I will admit that I fell for the first boy and didn’t give the second boy nearly enough of a chance, so I didn’t really get totally on board with the romance.  It’s funny, b/c I tend to require romance in the books I read, but I wasn’t super invested in this one.  It had some great butterfly moments, but I wasn’t always convinced of the feelings involved.  Perhaps I didn’t get what was drawing them together outside of attraction.

As for the side characters, I really enjoyed them and loved that they all had some depth, with both admirable qualities and flaws.  I thought Chiyo would annoy me, but I actually came to enjoy her and root for her (and I loved her romance with Haru).  I felt similarly about Haru, but he really surprised me, and I kind of loved that.  I almost wished I knew more about Takeo, b/c I really enjoyed him, and I felt like there could be more there.  And then there’s Keiji.  I had a harder time forgiving his flaws, but I also enjoyed his redeeming moments (and they made me bawl).  I also really liked that he was a bit of a nerd and beta boy.  I even kind of enjoyed the bad guy and the story surrounding him.

One of the things that has me rounding down instead of up is that I found I guessed a few major plot twists, and how to defeat the bad guy, quite early on, and so it was frustrating to wait around while Sora (or the others) figured it out.  Sometimes I get giddy when I figure things out, but this was just quite obvious so it wasn’t quite as fun.

Regardless of all that, I was fully invested in this story, and I LOVED that this was a standalone novel, and I felt like the story got everything it deserved in just one book.  And Sora is definitely one of my favourite YA characters, she deals with so much and I admire how she navigated her journey.

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How to Keep a Boy From Kissing You by Tara Eglington

Blurb:
30528623Executor of the Find a Prince Program™ and future author, sixteen-year-old Aurora Skye is dedicated to helping others navigate the minefield that is teenage dating. Counsellor-in-residence at home, where her post-divorce ad-agency father has transformed into a NAD (New Age Dad) intent on stripping his life bare of ‘the illusionary’ (i.e. the removal of home furnishings to the point where all after-hours work must be done in lotus position on a hemp cushion) Aurora literally lives and breathes Self-Help.

When the beginning of the school year heralds the arrival of two Potential Princes™ who seem perfect for her best friends Cassie (lighthouse beacon for emotionally fragile boys suffering from traumatic breakups) and Jelena (eye-catching, elegant and intent on implementing systems of serfdom at their school) it seems as if Aurora’s fast on her way to becoming the next Dr Phil.

As Aurora discovers, however, Self-Help is far from simple. Aurora’s mother arrives home from her extended ‘holiday’ (four years solo in Spain following the infamous ‘Answering Machine Incident’) throwing the NAD into further existential crisis. With Valentine’s Day drawing closer and the new Potential Princes not stepping up to the mark, Aurora is literally forced to take to the stage to throw two couples together. However, being cast opposite Hayden Paris (boy next door and bane-of-Aurora’s life) in the school production of Much Ado about Nothing brings challenges of its own. Not only does Hayden doubt that Cupid is understaffed and thus in dire need of Aurora’s help, but playing Beatrice to his Benedict throws her carefully preserved first kiss for a Prince into jeopardy. As Aurora races to save love’s first kiss and put a stop to the NAD’s increasingly intimate relationship with her Interpretive dance teacher (guilty of putting Aurora on detention for a ‘black aura’) she is left wondering who can a self help guru turn to for help? Can she practice what she preaches? And can long-assumed frogs become Potential Princes?

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

Wow, this one is a hard one to review.  To start with, when I first picked up this book and started reading, I had an intense desire to DNF it.  For realz.  I’m not sure if I just wasn’t in the right mood (I was extremely tired and nodding off), but Aurora bugged the crap out of me at the beginning, and I just didn’t know if I could read a whole book where the protagonist was sooooo…not me.  It wasn’t that I thought the book was badly written or anything, but the characters just didn’t seem to display a lot of qualities that I could relate to.  In fact, they’re kind of the popular crowd, and I wondered if they were gonna get a bit Mean Girl-ish at times.  Quite frankly, I looked at the blurb on Goodreads, and it did NOT ring a bell and seemed consistent with what I was reading and so I was baffled as to why I would request this book.  But I went back to NetGalley, and the blurb there is completely different, so it made more sense.  So then I went and read some reviews, and they mentioned Much Ado About Nothing, and since I adored the movie adaptation with Emma Thompson and Kenneth Brannagh (and my love of my high school years, Robert Sean Leonard), I thought maybe I should give this book some more time.

And then I kind of got sucked in.  Aurora started to display a lot more depth than I had initially given her credit for.  Hayden became kind of swoon-worthy.  Some of her friends became really intriguing characters in their own right.  And they started the play, and I thoroughly enjoyed reminiscing about that play.

And darnit, it kind of started to remind me of Clueless, so I didn’t even mind the popular crowd because Aurora was so Cher sometimes…wanting the people she loved to be happy, and trying, with the best intentions, to make that happen.  The problem is, while I do LOVE Clueless, the meddling got a bit over the top in this book.  Some parts were endearing, and some parts made me want to cringe.  Aurora was just so freaking VEXING!  She was the epitome of overdramatic.  But she had some really sweet spots.  GAH!  Love or hate?  Or neither?  She had great intentions, and she was a quirky one, but in the end she was a bit too much for me.

And quite frankly, that’s because of her obliviousness and over the top reactions to Hayden.  I just never got it.  He was frustrating, no doubt about it, but her reactions were an 11 (you’re welcome for the This is Spinal Tap reference).  And because it’s so obvious how Hayden feels right from the beginning, this was just ridiculously frustrating.  He was so sweet, and so genuine, and sure…brash and annoying at times.  But I honestly don’t know how he held out hope.  I would have dropped her like a Hot Pocket way earlier.  At least the ending was really really satisfying, even if I had to wait until the VERY END *to* be satisfied.

So while I thoroughly parts of this book in the end, there were just too many pet peeves for me to round up.  More minor pet peeves: Ms. Deforest and the unbelievability of her character and that ridiculous class; her way-too-mean Mom and my dissatisfaction with how that resolved; Jelena never getting her comeuppance for the mean Claire things, but I suppose everyone has that friend who isn’t as nice, but you don’t give up on because of history; the setting was confusing b/c it’s probably Australia, what with the January start to the school year, but they would make some references that felt like the US, almost like they changed the book for the re-release, but didn’t do a consistent job of it; and OMG WHO GOES INTO A PLAY AND DOESN’T READ THE WHOLE THING WHEN THEY GET THE FREAKING LEAD ROLE!!!  I mean seriously, you start readthroughs and you don’t know how it ends??  A week later and you still don’t know how it ENDS???  No.  Just no.

Now I need to go watch me some Much Ado About Nothing.  And maybe watch that Romeo + Juliet scene again too.

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