➪ Ink Read ➲ Author Amanda Sun – Ralphslaurensoutlet.co.uk
Completely LOVED this book If you ve ever watched a Japanese drama, you know exactly what to expect Cute bad boys, a gutsy girl, silly friends, and DRAMA Throw in a paranormal twist and you ve got a blockbuster It was so authentic too, this author obviously lived and breathed in Japan and it shows Everything was meticulously researched down to the food, kendo, the customs, the language, how real Japanese teens talk everything It made me miss my Japanese classes so much to read about how these things looked through a gaijin s eyes, just like I had for so long And I ve been to Tokyo and it s one of the most welcoming, bizarre, lovely, crazy busy, and wonderful places I ve ever been I m sure Shizuoka is just as beautiful The absolute worst thing about this whole book though Giving me one chapter of the next book at the end.ARGH.Forgot to add, the arc was given to me by NetGalley Reading the negative reviews, I understand now why they re so up and down Japanese and Korean dramas are definitely an acquired taste They re formulaic They re basically soap operas, but I ate them up for years while I was studying Japanese and fell in unabashed love.And this book pulled up those memories and made me long to visit Japan all over again Here s a link to Toro Iseki, so you can see where Tomo and Katie spent so much time together And jeez, view spoiler no wonder people saw the dragon hide spoiler I actually thought it was illegal for a novel with a cover this good to be so painful Illegal But when I checked with my lawyer, she said I should get out unless I was going to pay her and I am definitely not going to pay her Pfft So I m still not sure about that But what I am sure about is that Amanda Sun has a lot of potential as a writer, even if this book was a painful mess for me I know that doesn t seem to make sense Even I can t explain it.It s redeeming feature is that, once the relationship between Katie and Tomo was underway, the story did pick up considerably due to the not insignificant sexual chemistry between the two No points if you re able to guess the reason for that Okay, I lie I never really got Katie s Tomo obsession I can tell Amanda Sun has a talent and knack for manufacturing a sweet and tender relationship When Tomo and Katie were together, it was the only time I really liked them Individually, though, meeeeehhhhhh Tomo was like the paper drawings he made just a bunch of ink on the page.Katie fares only marginally better This girl must seriously be a 9 11 truther or false flagger Everything makes her suspicious Give her a look and she ll stalk you for months Teenage boy spends time alone Most normal people would rightly assume excessive masturbation on his part Not Katie Something s gotta be up with that, amirite I could make fun of her all day, but you have to give it to her Crazy stalker or not, the girl has agency She believes in her instincts, stands up for herself and makes her own decisions Especially when it comes to the decision to stalk Gotta give that girl some serious stalking props too, may I add.So the characters can be flat and irritating, but the story still has entertainment value and the setting itself is detailed and almost lovingly illustrated for the reader But, and here s the big BUT Narratives are a bit like pitches If you see them coming too often then it s gameover Ink has so many tells, I hope it doesn t play cards The characters are always about five steps behind the reader and every plot point is thoroughly predictable.Ultimately, it s not a horrible book It s just generic, which is the most disappointing of all Because for many people out there, Japan and everything related to it holds a special place in our hearts So when an author is setting their novel there, it really needs to be something amazing It needs to be near perfection to live up to all our hopes and dreams There s a lot of power in fulfilling hopes and dreams And you know what they say about great power Goddamn it, Ink Will you take this seriously This review, and others like it, also appear on my blog, Cuddlebuggery Book Blog.This ARC was provided to me by the publisher for reviewing purposes This did not entice me to be any less annoyingly opinionated than I would otherwise be. A little while ago, forsaking my credit card bill, and the fact that I work 25 hours a week at minimum waaaahhhhhhhggUgh, I should just stop In the last six months or so I began throwing handfuls of copper coins at things like potato scones and cigarettes and 40 Ryanair flights to mystery destinations The absolute best thing about Ryanair is that it is SO janky and SO cheap and you never know quite where you re going, you just know you re getting on whatever flight is cheapest, landing near whatever hostel is cheapest, so that you can spent five days waffling around drinking local beer and talking to Australians or Americans who have their lives together.Americans and Australians who travel almost always have their lives together They weren t the ones who threw the contents of their swear jar at an unplanned trip to an unplanned destination and only got the time off by calling in sick to work from Malta I have swine flu, I can t come in, ignore the sounds of softly cawing gulls and Maltese people laughing at the sun drenched bus stop behind me Americans and Australians who travel are brave souls who have saved up for extortionate flights and they ve spent on planning and guidebooks and making sure that they make the most of travelling to the other side of the world I salute them so hard They are so organised and I am a human disaster.I live in the UK, so my privileged ass only needs to be verbally abused by elderly people to whom I serve coffee and fried food for a while, get a shite pay check, chip away very slightly at a growing stack of bills, then buy a ticket for 9.99 on a flying tin can and within four hours I m staggering someplace new.This was how I ended up in Berlin, inappropriately dressed, with five days worth of living supplies stuffed into a backpack I bought on Etsy That backpack has been there for me It was there when I cried in Halifax airport and when I nearly got the cops called on me on the Berlin subway and when I had to use very, very alternate methods of wipage in the bathrooms at the cyber park in Marrakech I DO NOT HAVE 10 DIRHAM FOR TOILET PAPER I AM NOT THAT PREPARED.So when I was in Berlin, at a bad time of year to be there, when it snowed every day and the hostel scene was sparse because who the fuck goes to Berlin in winter, I met this older woman, and it was her sixty fifth birthday so she gave me some birthday cake and a huge shot of cognac She told me about how she had been moving from hostel to hostel for the past few weeks, because her upstairs neighbours in her apartment block were cooking meth She was from Berlin, an absolutely lovely woman, and she said something that captures the city so perfectly So sweetly I could not have said it better myself Berlin I love it and I hate it This book.I love it and I hate it.It s this sort of Frankenstinian thing, this lumbering creature that you can t grab a hold of, so when it wanders off the straight and narrow and down a plot line that makes absolutely no sense, all you can really do is shrug and say, Oh, okay On one hand, it so beautifully captures how bloody exhausting it is not only to enter a country whose culture is different to yours, but to live there I remember feeling the way Katie does, staggering home after attending foreign high school where I am the foreigner, and feeling so emotionally and physically drained and anxious that I d collapse into bed and sleep the rest of the afternoon away like an elderly woman Or like a hamster.Katie is spunky, she s sharp She does dumb shit because said dumb shit moves the plot along, but her core characterisation is so enjoyable She s not afraid to climb trees and confront the guys who look up her skirt when she does She s so dry but sensitive and she really cares about shit like, she cares about people s feelings.But the problem lies with Tomohiro, and how great his characterisation was at the beginning, before it got creepy and problematic, then irritatingly saccharine I get that he s loyal, and I also get that he s afraid of himself so he feels like he has to push people away to protect them, but couldn t he just have told Katie that she breeds with the mouth of a goat Did he have to make her think he was a rapist What the ever loving fuck is that all about How weird How problematic How Did I already say weird And not in a good way In a let s back away slowly because this is getting wildly out of hand kind of way The mythology was this book s saving grace honest to god, it s the only thing saving it from being a total shit show If this had been about vampires, I d have flushed it down the toilet But Kami are new to me, and this particular magical element was something I d never come across before It was fresh and exciting to me, and beautifully rendered in action The way Tomohiro draws, almost shamefully, with an air of fear about him, was painful and beautiful But did the bloody Yakuza really need to come into this Did they really Are you serious with this Why But this is my tussle with this book it s so lovable and yet so fucking hateable too The artwork is gorgeous, but the villains are ridiculous, to the point of being comical I really liked Katie, but Tomohiro was such a clusterfuck The setting was gorgeously written, with so much heart, but then there were car chases and mobsters and other such silly gimmicky crap I loved Katie s relationship with her aunt, but she treated Yuki like shit And that girl was only ever nice to her At the end of the day, this is your average YA formula with a few really cool, interesting embellishments It s a big tangle of wasted potential, which is such a shame It s like going somewhere new and exciting, but knowing that in order to get you there, Ryanair will starve you and freeze you half to death before slamming you down with such force on the runway at the other end that your ass actually leaves the seat.Outhie I bih my thung. I can t believe I have it in me to hate a fictional character s actions this much.I know a lot of people are super excited about this book.I m here to help you with that problem.Ok, so you re a white girl in Asia Your mom has died, you re living with your hip aunt who teaches English in a medium small Japanese city You re making a few friends, sloshing your way through homework when BAMB Your obligatory love interest suddenly enters the picture Will he be cool Will he be funny How do you think you two will meet How about you see him for the first time as he s in a scream fight, breaking up with his current girlfriend because she just found out he got a girl pregnant Romantic Let me make it better for you you also learn that he almost got taken to jail when he was 9 for repeatedly stabbing his best friend kid almost lost an eye and then had to transfer schools But wait He s also got mafia connections That s right kids Yakuza The same people responsible for smuggling blond girls into the country and forcing them into the sex trade But because he s the cool type he s also emotionally distant and constantly posing.While I was reading this I constantly had to keep from hitting my head against the wall Of course poor Tomo is just really misunderstood and there are PERFECTLY REASONABLE EXPLANATIONS behind all of the above, but even before Katie knows for certain that he s not responsible she still falls for him To make matters worse we never really get solid evidence until the last moment that he s not someone s baby s daddy with a violent past Most of their discussions around these things go like I heard blah blah blah about you I didn t do it LOOK MAGIC I believe you without question MAKE OUT WITH ME.How fucking stupid is this girl You can t just put pregnant girlfriend, violent guy on the table and then not deal with that And even if we learn he was innocent of not attacking his friend back in elementary school at one point Tomo confesses to Katie that he regularly goes along with his best friend in the mob to shake down guys for him We hear he s constantly getting into fights and has had to drop out of schools clubs because of this HIS VIOLENT BEHAVIOR IS NOT AN ISOLATED INCIDENT WE HAVE HEARD AGAIN AND AGAIN ABOUT OTHER FIGHTS WHY IS THIS GUY SUPPOSED TO BE SO SEXY Roughly fifteen or ten years ago, an entire generation of youngsters discovered that cartoons and comics from Japan were the new thing to go crazy over, thanks to various TV networks running anime throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, and the Pok mon boom in 1997 certainly didn t hinder it any I know I was there.That generation has now grown up, and with it, I suppose we can expect to see some of these super fans of anime and manga growing up into writers We re already seeing P2P fan fiction, after all Mostly Twilight fan fiction, but I m sure some publisher somewhere is desperately poring through the anime manga fan fiction archives Thankfully, Amanda Sun isn t one of these, from what I can find She cosplays and speaks Japanese, but she isn t quite the out and out weeaboo you might expect to be writing the story of an American girl living in Japan who falls in love with a mysterious boy, with supernatural powers thrown in here and there Mercifully, the premise for the novel comes from experience as opposed to an obsession with anime and manga Amanda Sun lived and travelled in Japan for a while, so it s hardly just some dumb teenage wish fulfilment written in between washing down Pocky with some Ramune whilst waiting for the latest episode of BLEACH to finish buffering.Unfortunately, this was a DNF for me, which I seem to be having a streak of lately I m sorry, but I can t bring myself read a bad book any if there s no signs of improvement This book started off okay, and then just got dull and I couldn t care about any of the characters At all.The story begins with Katie Greene, who has just lost her single mother and cannot stay with her grandparents any due to their poor health So, she is sent off to Japan with her next of kin, her Aunt Diane who moved to Shizuoka to find herself Katie finds living in Japan tough at first she only had five months of rudimentary tuition in the language and yet her aunt insists on her going to a monolingual high school While she does write about her improvement in reading kanji, and hiragana and katakana, it did confuse me at first how, since this novel is in first person narration, Katie was understanding entire conversations in the first few chapters To put that in perspective, I ve been studying French since I was six, and the last time I went to France, I could only understand 30% of people s conversations because listening and speaking to someone in real life is nothing compared to learning words out of a dictionary or grammar workbook It s not like the other students are saying easy things to comprehend, either Plus, these conversations would be going by so quickly that you d quickly get lost in the different expressions you d have to untangle from Japanese into English to make sense of any of them I mean, there s a Japanese expression about finding a rice cake on a shelf , which means getting something good from an unexpected place We don t really have an equivalent in English not off the top of my head, anyway , and you d have to be pretty fluent in Japanese to understand that your friend isn t literally telling you they found a rice cake on a shelf, but that they were talking about finding fortune unexpectedly It just baffled me.I didn t keep track of too many quotes from this book, but I m quite sure that Katie shouldn t be able to keep track of and provide translations for every conversation without any mistake Need I remind you, this is in first person narration I know Katie is a blank slate and she doesn t know much Japanese the same way your average person could write what they knew about Japan on a postage stamp However, I can t help but feel that Katie s unexplained fluency might have been described better simply by adding in somewhere that she took Japanese for a few years at high school, perhaps I wouldn t have built her up to be a complete stranger to Japanese language and customs when she seems to be getting along just fine.Anyway, Katie is aided by her friend Yuki, a gossip who somehow understands English than the rest of her class because she goes to cram school.Yuki s heard rumours about school bad boy Tomohiro, who has been going out with several girls from different high schools, one of whom is now pregnant and unable to bear the consequences In fact, Katie first meets Tomohiro whilst he s breaking up with his girlfriend at school, and he s just completely nasty to both of them.If I were in a YA novel, I d take a guy s rudeness to mean that he doesn t like me very much and to probably stay away Katie, however, continually follows him, and has to make a fool out of herself She climbs up a tree in the park, forgets she s wearing a skirt, and winds up flying the proud flag of Panties That s pretty much the set up for a gag in a particularly painful high school anime It also reminded me immediately of Fifty Shades of Grey, in which our heroine starts the story by doing a clumsy roly poly into a high ranking CEO s office Clearly, when it comes to grabbing the attention of bad boys in YA, it s either making yourself look like a complete idiot, or stalking him and rifling through his school records and or performing online web searches to learn about him, or even the paranormal species you think he might belong to Katie does the baka gaijin thing as well as feeling this urge to constantly follow Tomohiro, even though she knows he s got an aura of danger about him Hey, writers Knock that last thing off, please That former thing, too.Yes, Tomohiro is basically Edward Cullen He has a mysterious backstory check, he has strange powers check, he pushes people away from him in order to keep them safe check The list goes on and on Tomohiro doesn t suck blood, though He has a special power for ink and paper, in particular, making his drawings come to life Tomohiro used to be in a calligraphy club, but had to quit after his masterpiece the 10 stroke kanji for sword was ruined by a huge squirt of blood He passes it off as getting a cut from a staple in the canvas, but of course, it remains a mystery until we learn about this rumour of him stabbing his childhood friend Koji multiple times in the eye and the arm Since Tomohiro has these powers with ink and what have you, the logical answer is that both of their injuries were something to do with these special powers Tomohiro has.Of course, he never quite comes out and tells Katie about his powers, he just avoids the question and tells her to stay away from him Oh, the very same way a certain vampire did to his plain Jane love interest There s another boy in Katie s life, though Oh, woe is me I m a stranger in a strange land and all the boys like me What do I do Anyway, this other guy is called Jun, and he and Tomohiro look damn similar Both of them have the blond highlights in their hair, and the same mysterious attitude I was expecting some kind of shocking twist maybe Jun is actually Koji, or he knows about the incident at the calligraphy club But nope, he s barely around, almost as if he s constantly being forgotten about by the writer.I don t quite understand why Katie s character metamorphosed from headstrong and capable in the first chapter even if she did make a prat of herself , to the simpering little thing she becomes towards the 50 page mark Oh yeah, I forgot Omnia vincit amor. Especially the brains of na ve teenage girls.When Katie and Tomohiro finally get together and do the whole Bella and EdwardWhat are you I can t tell you, How old are you Seventeen How long have you been seventeen A while , they re hanging out in an old archaeological dig Tomohiro tells Katie that he lost his mother as well, and because they have that in common, Katie sinks to her knees and is rendered speechless. Page 66 7 or so Yeah, I think I ll do that the next time I meet somebody with whom I share a dead relative It d go down a treat.115 pages in, Katie translates an old Japanese news article about the incident between Tomohiro and KojiMy Tomohiro would never do thatNo, seriously In the next chapter, Tomohiro has to go to his uncle s funeral, and Katie goes I felt his absence strongly than I d expected I felt off balance when he wasn t there, and while Eto sensei droned on about world history, I thought about Tomohiro. Page 117 But it was frightening to fight with Tomohiro When he shouted and brought the shinai toward me, all I could think about was Koji, even though I d mostly figured out the truth It still frightened me, what Tomohiro might be capable of. Page 118 Girls attracted to dangerous guys like a moth to a flame Isn t that right Said nobody, ever.I don t care if Katie is even slightly self aware that she s falling head over heels andagainst all common sense , it s still perpetuating this crap that girls will automatically go for men who are dangerous and beguiling because they re too flighty and emotional to step back and rationalise that being with their ideal bad boy is a terrible idea.Anyway Some time after this, Katie decides to join the kendo club I used to do kendo, so my interest was piqued by how it would be handled Tomohiro and his friend who has a tattoo, thus he s in the yakuza no, actually, Katie, you should probably check to see if he s had part of a finger chopped off attend this kendo club, so naturally Katie sort of blabs her way into the club Katie doesn t like contact sports, however, telling us she chickened out of karate because she doesn t want to hurt people Her aunt even reacts as if Katie has joined an illegal boxing ring when Katie tells her she s started doing kendoIt s dangerous You ll get hurt Excuse me while I get my shinai Now, imagine I just reached out of the computer screen and thwacked you over the head with it.If you aren t feeling any pain, that s because shinai are so light and hollow that you can have a direct blow to the cranium and not feel much pain at all The majority of the shock is absorbed through the hollow chamber in the blade , so to speak When you are hit on top of the helmet themen, it s just like a little bop on the head It s distracting than it is painful In fact, you aren t allowed to learn any dangerous swordplay liketsukia strike to the throat until you re at least fifth or sixth dan.It seems to me like the kendo was researched via YouTube videos rather than personal experience of the sport, because there s quite a few mistakes here and there For instance, at one point Tomohiro just slips the men helmet on his head There s no mention at all of anybody wearing a tenugui, a small towel used as a bandanna and as padding so hits to the helmet don t affect you as much, and also so the helmet doesn t shift about Tomohiro s friend is referred to asflattening his mop of hair underneath a headbandpage 118 and again as a headband on page 121, but that s not really the right choice of word That s just basic stuff As is knowing that a kendo helmet does not havescreen meshlike a fencing mask Ahem.There s also a lot of ritual etiquette involved in kendo To begin with, you bow when entering and exiting the dojo, whether it s an actual dojo or just a rented gymnasium After changing into your gi and hakama, you position your armour bogu neatly around you, and sit down on your knees seiza Your sensei will then lead a call to meditatemokusofor a minute or two You then bow down to your sensei and the dojo, and slowly get up, holding your shinai in a very specific way After warming up and putting on their bogu, kendo practitioners who are sparring against each other will bow, turn and step back ten paces, then turn again and walk back those ten paces until they are arm s length from each other Again, basic stuff that just wasn t covered at all Research, people Research The author goes into great detail about sparring within kendo, describing it as like adance between old samuraiand the description is rather filmic, but it s pretty much gone in an instant Katie is just there to gawp at Tomohiro and his friend fighting, and that s it Sure, Sun gets a lot of details right about kendo, like the correct striking places on the body and some of the technical terms, but overall it just comes across as sloppy.In fact, the writing is very sloppy from time to time I mean, sure, it s a YA novel so we aren t expecting it to be groundbreaking prose, but come on He had a black wristband around his wrist. Page 113 Thank you for that, I would have never known It came up, finally, a single old article about the incident Of course, it was also written using hundreds of kanji I was still learning It might as well have been in hieroglyphic. Page 115 Ah yes, that well known pictorial language, Hieroglyphic The wagtails songs turned erratic and I looked up, trying to figure out what happened They jumped around and chirped high pitched warnings to each other Were they that worried about me No They re birds.Oh, and of course Katie gets to compete in the school district tournament even though she s only been practicing kendo for a month Of course. No, I don t care for her sensei s explanation that they need another girl on the team out of 40 students , or that a completely inexperienced gaijin being on their team would be great PR.Okay, enough about kendo and bad writing choices Tomohiro s friend who appears to be in the Yakuza sneers at Katie and tells her Tomohiro will never truly care for her, that he s got a destiny to fulfil, and that she would be much better off without Tomohiro Katie rushes home in the rain, and feels like passing out on the bus home Because Tomohiro isn t there and can t prop her up when she s feeling insecure Good Grief It reminded me of a scene in Alexandra Adornetto s book Halo, in which the super special Mary Sue angel Bethany has this reaction to her one true love no longer being by her side When I realized Xavier was absent from school the following day, my eyes burned and I felt hot and dizzy I wanted to crumple to the ground and just wait for someone to carry me away I couldn t make it through another day without him I could hardly make it through another minute Where was he What was he trying to do to mePage 184 of Halo In all, this wasn t a very good book, and I had to bail out early on I m sure it s okay if you re 14 and heavily into anime and manga, and want to read some prose rather than comic panels, but I just found the story so trite and poorly done Like I said earlier, it follows the Twilight formula to a T, and the characters are just bland Tomohiro has all this mystery surrounding him, but there s no intrigue at all I don t find him that interesting enough to be invested in solving the puzzle In fact, he just keeps refusing to tell Katie what the deal is with his powers and why she seems to be able to see these powers and why drawings are coming to life That s not intrigue That s just a lazy carrot and stick device I certainly don t care to find out about Tomohiro s powers, or the mystery surrounding him Or even Katie s connection to him.2 5 This review is also available on my blog Beautiful.even beautifuli m crying now.amazing.Tomo Excuse me for a moment as I squeal my lungs out This book was awe inspiring, awesome, funny, you name it Ink stars a foreign girl named Katie who moves to Japan There, she tries to fit in with her surroundings, whether it s actions, language or people And that s where we bring in Tomohiro Katie finds him fighting with someone and decides to follow him once school has let out But, instead of discovering why he s so mysterious, she gives him a full view of whats underneath her skirt Now that s something you don t see everyday But kids, don t be a pervert She s obviously wearing underwear Gosh.After humiliating herself in front of a cute guy, and also discovering he s not on drugs , Katie learns her lesson.And for main characters like her, we all know that her lesson is to keep following him like a stalker.That s right, persevere.But what does this lead to Hehe, you ll never know unless you read the book. Ink Is In Their Blood.On The Heels Of A Family Tragedy, Katie Greene Must Move Halfway Across The World Stuck With Her Aunt In Shizuoka, Japan, Katie Feels Lost Alone She Doesn T Know The Language, She Can Barely Hold A Pair Of Chopsticks And She Can T Seem To Get The Hang Of Taking Her Shoes Off Whenever She Enters A Building.When Katie Meets Aloof But Gorgeous Tomohiro, The Star Of The School S Kendo Team, She Is Intrigued By Himand A Little Scared His Tough Attitude Seems Meant To Keep Her At A Distance, And When They Re Near Each Other, Strange Things Happen Pens Explode Ink Drips From Nowhere And Unless Katie Is Seeing Things, Drawings Come To Life.Somehow Tomo Is Connected To The Kami, Powerful Ancient Beings Who Once Ruled Japan And As Feelings Develop Between Katie And Tomo, Things Begin To Spiral Out Of Control The Wrong People Are Starting To Ask Questions, And If They Discover The Truth, No One Will Be Safe.