“Siege & Storm” Blog Tour Stop! Guest Post: Leigh Bardugo on expanding worldbuilding in her middle book, and more!


14061955Hey, everyone! Welcome to our stop on the “Siege & Storm” blog tour! Today we have the wonderful, lovely, and all around awesome Leigh Bardugo doing a guest post on expanding worldbuilding within a middle book, which should be some very interesting reading indeed! “Siege and Storm” is one of Usagi’s picks of the year, so she’s especially excited about this guest post.

Some quick things you should know:

– Leigh will be on the Spring 2013 Fierce Reads Tour. More deets here.

– Leigh made a thing for the book! Actually, it’s a song called “Winter Prayer”, and you can listen to it here. It’s pretty awesome. Haunting, really.

– Preorder S&S, get proof of said preorder, and get some promo stuff! Deets here.

– Read the first five chapters of S&S on your e-reader for free here!

And now, beneath the jump, dive into Leigh’s head as she explains her methods on worldbuilding in a middle book!

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Review: “Siege and Storm (Grisha #2)” by Leigh Bardugo


14061955Title: “Siege and Storm (Grisha #2)”

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Genre: YA, high fantasy, AWESOME

Publication Date: June 4, 2013 (Macmillan – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Summary: Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

☆:  5/5 stars – Another hit for Bardugo! Now I need that new novella and third book STAT.

Review: Holy wow. This is a very hard review to write – I have to agree with other reviewers when they say that it’s hard to really write reviews for Leigh’s books, because they just kind of knock the wind out of you, they’re so good, yet they leave you totally incoherent with it. All I can say is if you liked “Shadow and Bone”? You will LOVE “Siege and Storm”. I know I did. The stakes are higher, your book boyfriend/girlfriend harem will grow by several characters, and there’s a lot more character exploration in general. Oh, and new magical monsters. Yes, yes, yes. I need that next novella and book three NOW. Definitely up there in my top five faves of 2013, “Siege and Storm” is nothing short of breathtaking and will leave you aching for more.

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Friday Night Lights: Week 8


fridaynightlightsHey, everyone! Welcome to the launch for my newest feature, Friday Night Lights – a feature exploring Japanese light novels that I love and I hope you enjoy, too!

What is a light novel, you ask? Check out my launch announcement post here for details. Basically, you can call it YA lit for Japan, though that’s not entirely accurate. I’ll be using the same terms for genres as I do in my Manga Monday segment, so if you get confused, go here for clarification on those terms.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s get to our first featured light novel for this feature! Remember, if my choice of the week has been fan translated, if it gets licensed for your area/territory and goes on sale? Please buy it and support the original artists!

Week 8 Light Novel Choice: “Book Girl (Bungaku Shoujo)” series by Nomura Mizuki

Book 1, as released by Yen Press in North America.

Book 1, as released by Yen Press in North America.

Title: “Book Girl (Bungaku Shoujo)”

Author: Nomura Mizuki

Series?: Yes! 16 volumes, plus 4 short story collections. It’s finished publication, and is no longer in serialization.

Officially Licensed & Translated?: Yep! Yen Press is doing a fantastic job and releases somewhere between 2-4 volumes a year.

Fan translated?: Yes – by Baka-Tsuki, until it was picked up by Yen Press. It’s now “abandoned”, but there are other language translations (Viet, for example) that are still going on through them for this series.

Anime: Yes! One movie, and 3 OAV (original animation videos – one-off stories). As of April 2013, it has not been picked up for distro in North America.

Manga?: Yes! One manga series per book, by several different publishers. You can get more information at the official wiki page here. It’s still in publication/serialization within Japan as of April 2013, but has not been picked up for US/NA distro as of yet.

Summary: For self-styled “book girl,” third-year high school student Tohko Amano, being the head of the literary club is more than just an extracurricular activity with minor perks. It’s her bread and butter . . . literally! Tohko is actually a literature-gobbling demon, and instead of the less palatable option of water-soaked bread, she opts to munch on torn out pages from all kinds of stories. But for Tohko, the real delicacies are handwritten stories. And to satisfy her gourmet tastes, she’s employed (aka. browbeaten) one Konoha Inoue, an underclassman who has retreated from writing novels after his experiences with getting published at an early age. So day in and day out, Konoha scribbles away to satisfy Tohko’s appetite. But when, one day, another student comes knocking on the literary club door to seek advice on writing love letters, will Tohko discover a new kind of delicacy to whet her voracious appetite? (official synopsis for book one via Yen Press)

Why?: One of my absolute favorite LN series EVER (possibly because I’m the human version of Tohko), “Bungaku Shoujo/Book Girl” is a wonderful series because it contains so many things. Mystery. Romance. Magical Realism. Tough stuff issues. It goes to a lot of dark places that other LNs don’t in terms of real problems in the lives of young adults, and I admire Nomura for doing that. It’s not easy getting some of that into publication, especially in Japan. It’s written beautifully (I’m currently tackling the third book in its original format) in both Japanese and English (seriously, GJ, Yen Press!), and will definitely suck in anyone who tries to read it. HIGHLY recommended, guys. Seriously.

Are you a light novel fan? If so, which ones are your favorites? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Friday Night Lights: Week 5


fridaynightlightsHey, everyone! Welcome to the launch for my newest feature, Friday Night Lights – a feature exploring Japanese light novels that I love and I hope you enjoy, too!

What is a light novel, you ask? Check out my launch announcement post here for details. Basically, you can call it YA lit for Japan, though that’s not entirely accurate. I’ll be using the same terms for genres as I do in my Manga Monday segment, so if you get confused, go here for clarification on those terms.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s get to our first featured light novel for this feature! Remember, if my choice of the week has been fan translated, if it gets licensed for your area/territory and goes on sale? Please buy it and support the original artists!

Week 5 Light Novel Choice: “Kamikaze Girls/Shimotsuma Story (Shimotsuma Monogatari)” by Takemoto Novala

Kamikaze_Girls_NovelTitle: “Kamikaze Girls/Shimotsuma Story (Shimotsuma Monogatari)”

Author: Takemoto Novala

Series?: No. Sadly. My kingdom for a series for this world and characters, for serious.

Officially licensed & translated?: Yes, yes, yes! Viz did a fantastic job with this one, guys!

Fan translated?: No. Funnily enough, right before Viz announced it was going to translate and release it (after the film came out and there was such huge success with it both in Japan and over the pond), I was actually practicing translating it, intending for a fan-translation release. That never happened, but yeah. I also had a friend working with me as well at the time since we were such big fans.

Anime?: Nope. But I’d kill for one. Just sayin’. Preferably with character designs by CLAMP or Imai Kira. But there is a live-action film (one of my favorite movies ever), and you can find out more information on that here. Good news – it’s also been released by Viz here in the States!

Manga?: Yes! One volume by Kanesada Yukio. Also translated and released by Viz, shortly after the novel and film here in the States under the title “Kamikaze Girls”.

Summary: Meet Momoko, a “Lolita” decked out to the nines in the finest (and frilliest) of Victorian haute couture. The only scion of a drunken interlude between a cowardly yakuza and an inebriated bar-hostess, Momoko’s mom has since split the scene, and, after various ill-fated scams that involve imitation brand name merchandise, Momoko’s dad relocates them to the boondocks of rural Ibaraki prefecture. To escape her humdrum existence, Momoko fanaticizes about French rococo, dreams of living in the palace of Versailles, and buys all her extremely lacy clothes from an expensive Tokyo boutique.

Meet Ichiko, a tough-talking motorcycle grrrl (on a tricked-out moped) who leads a ladies-only biker gang known as the Ponytails. Together, this unlikeliest of duos strike out on a quest to find a legendary embroiderer, a journey on which they encounter conniving pachinko parlor managers, legendary street-punks, and anemic costumers. Who knows, they might just make it big…if only Ichiko would stop head butting Momoko in the forehead.

Why?: I actually saw the movie first, and then found out there was the original novel that was the source material. I went out and bought the original Japanese edition, and this was when I was still a second-year in the Japanese program at SB, and Takemoto’s style is notoriously…flowery (to say the least), so I was having issues reading it. Luckily, Viz went and published a good translation a year later. What you see in the film is actually a lot less than what’s in the book, so it’s definitely worth reading if just to see what the screenplay glossed over. Also, it introduces the yankee and lolita subcultures, which are pretty big deals in Japan, so it’s a pretty great book all around. If you want a great bromance contemporary novel that’s comedic yet heartwarming, this is definitely the book for you. And if you can, go see the movie! They cast Ichigo and Momoko perfectly with two of my favorite Japanese actresses, Fukada Kyoko and Tsuchiya Anna in those two main roles. While girls may relate to this book more, Takemoto makes it available for all gendered audiences to enjoy, so I hope there are a few more guy readers out there that will be willing to try this book. It deserves it.

Are you a light novel fan? If so, which ones are your favorites? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Review: “Days of Blood & Starlight (Smoke & Bone #2)” by Laini Taylor


Title: “Days of Blood & Starlight (Smoke & Bone #2)”

Author: Laini Taylor

Genre: YA, AWESOME, paranormal, romance

Publication Date: November 6, 2012 (Little, Brown for Young Readers – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided finished copy

Summary: Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

☆: 4.5/5 stars – a DEFINITE must read for 2012, and another wonderful chapter in the “Smoke and Bone” saga!

Review: I’m very, very happy to say that this second installment in the “Smoke and Bone” trilogy has absolutely NO middle book syndrome at all. None. We get to return to two worlds that have become very near and dear to my heart – that of Earth, our world, and Eretz, the world of the Seraphim and the Chimaera. There’s a ton of action, a lot of heartache, and some breathtaking magic involved, so buckle up, fans of book number one, because not only will this book kick you in the feels (repeatedly, I might add), it’ll also kiss it all better. Or almost.

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Cover Reveals – Special Edition! The Japanese Edition of “The Iron Fey” series is here!


So, a happy thing popped up on my facebook dashboard this morning – turns out Harlequin Japan has bought the rights to one of my favorite YA faerie tales, “The Iron Fey” by Julie Kagawa. I’ve been bothering Julie forever about if the rights had been bought yet, etc, but this was a complete surprise. Harlequin Mira Japan is releasing the series under the title “The Fairy Princess (フェアリー・プリンセス)” with sub-titles (not subs) for each book. Example: “フェアリー・プリンセス 夢迷宮への片道切符 上 (Fairy Princess: One-Way Ticket to a Dream Labyrinth – Part 1”. “The Iron Daughter (Book 2)”  is now “フェアリー・プリンセス 盗まれし季節の誓い 上 (Fairy Princess: The Stolen Oath of the Seasons – Part 1)”. Books 2 and 3 will be released in October.

Japanese release for the first half of “The Iron Daughter”, which has turned into “Fairy Princess: The Stolen Oath of the Seasons – Part 1”. It’ll be released in Japan in October.

“The Iron King”, book 1, which is now “Fairy Princess: One-Way Ticket to a Dream Labyrinth – Part 1”. Both parts to “Iron King” in Japan are on sale now!

(Important note: It’s a common practice in Japan that books that are ordinarily in one-book formats in other countries, they get split into two books for the Japanese translation. This also happens within the regular Japanese book industry – you see this a lot in paperback releases in general if the manuscript is long enough.)

Why is this awesome, you ask? Because basically, Kagawa’s story is being turned into Light Novel material. What is a Light Novel, you ask? Go here for the answer because it’s kind of long, but tl;dr, it’s for books that are usually around 200pgs and are targeted for the YA demographic. It’s pretty common to have a long story arc split into at least two books (parts 1 and 2), and it seems like that’s what Harlequin JP is doing here. Also, in traditional LN fashion, they’re inserting illustrated scenes.

For everyone interested at the official site there are translation samples from both books so far, as well as part of the first novella (branded as bonus spoiler material), as well as a contest for Japanese readers to get their art into the third book. Looking at the translations, they’re pretty solid (except Meghan has turned into Mee-gan, facepalm), and I’m pretty happy with the job that Harlequin JP has done so far. I plan on getting my hands on the first half of the first book sometime soon. Possibly with holiday money. I’ll have to order from Kinokuniya or something.

Book trailers are only starting to get popular in Japan for publishers, so I was surprised that “Iron Fey” got its own trailer, which you can watch here (it’s on Facebook, so..I couldn’t embed that here).

As a bonus, you get to see the relationship web of all of the characters on the website, and when you hover your mouse over each character, an explanation in Japanese about the character and how they relate to Meghan pops up. It’s pretty neat. But I LOVE these illustrations, don’t you?:

Left: Winter Kingdom (Fuyu no Oukoku), Left Bottom: Iron Kingdom (Aian no Oukoku), Right: Summer Kingdom (Natsu no Oukoku), Right Bottom: Human World (Ningenkai).

Ethan is just ADORABLE with his bunny. Can I kidnap hi- oh wait. The faeries already did that. Other than that, I think I love Mab’s character design the most. I might just buy all of these books just to see the illustrated scenes, guys. And if we’re lucky enough (and if the books are popular/sell enough), we MIGHT just get a manga and/or anime series out of this. Which would excite me to no end!

Which brings me to my final announcement of the day – I’ll start covering Light Novels in a new Friday segment called Friday Night Lights. At least once a month I’ll be choosing an LN series I really like and showcasing it here on the blog. I’ll give translation details, and details on whether it’s available in North America yet or not, etc. So I guess you could say this is FLN’s inaugural post?

Anyway, fans of “Iron Fey”, how do you feel about Harlequin JP’s decision to rename the series and each book? Do you like the character designs? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Review: “Monstrous Beauty” by Elizabeth Fama


Title: “Monstrous Beauty”

Author: Elizabeth Fama

Genre: YA, Romance, Historical fiction, Mermaids, AWESOME

Publication Date: September 4, 2012 (Macmillan – North America)

Source: NetGalley review copy/Publisher-provided review copy

Summary: Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.

☆: 5/5 stars – absolutely stunning, left me gasping for air.

Review: Guys, it’s books like this that keep me reading YA paranormal stuff. Stunningly wrought and carefully crafted, “Monstrous Beauty” is a feast for the senses, and quite the teaser for the brain. I don’t even know where to begin talking about how much I loved this book. If you like paranormal romance and historical fiction, you simply must read this book.
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