Posts Tagged ‘Japanese influences’

Barefoot On The Wind

Zoe Marriott
29235197There is a monster in the forest…
Everyone in Hana’s remote village on the mountain knows that straying too far into the woods is a death sentence. When Hana’s father goes missing, she is the only one who dares try to save him. Taking up her hunting gear, she goes in search of the beast, determined to kill it – or be killed herself. But the forest contains more secrets, more magic and more darkness than Hana could ever have imagined, and the beast is not at all what she expects…

Before I begin to tell you my thoughts and feelings about this lovely book I have a big fat and horrible secret to admit to you all…. this is my first Zoe Marriott read.
Yes I know shock horror and I should probably be burned at the stake for this treachery and massive YA offence; but before you get your pitchforks let me tell you what I thought, and let me solemnly promise that I will be making amends to right this terrible wrong!

Barefoot on the Wind is a wonderful and clever retelling of one of the best (in my humble opinion) fairy tales: Beauty and the Beast.
As with many retellings Zoe Marriott put her own imprint on this story. The transposition and adaptation of the original story line to a Japanese environment, lay out and way of life was incredibly faithfully done. The village, the villagers, the rules and regulations of that period in time down to the Japanese denominations for each member of society and status were respected, making me feel like I’d actually stepped into a Japanese mountain village that was being plagued by a beast and I was about to witness the unfurling of this story.
I was all geared up with my cup of green tea to sit back and enjoy what I thought was merely a transcribed and slightly altered fairy tale to suit the new set up, when Zoe decided that actually she hadn’t quite finished with her adaptation.
It soon became clear that from the original tale, all that was taken were the bare bones, in a manner of speaking.
Now before I go any further I should tell you all that I am a massive fairy tale fan, and will happily read any retelling and any new story that comes my way, but what I came across here was pretty wonderful and a very original take on fairy tales with a pinch of modern thinking.
Although you will catch a glimpse of Belle in Hana-San’s kindness and love for her family, and you will perceive some of the Beast’s hard earned humility in Itsuki, these two sets of characters are as different as they are alike. Zoe Marriott’s Belle is a fighter, a hunter and does not fear the dangerous dark woods that have claimed many a life. She is proud and strong and although her hierarchical society does not approve, she holds her ground steadfast and fights for what she believes is right even if that means going into the beast’s lair alone. Zoe’s Beast, that Hana dubs Itsuki, is the gentlest creature you will ever meet. He cares for all those that are harmed regardless of by whom and why. He has a big heart and has worked hard to learn what patience, humility, true love and respect mean.
Although initially perplexed I soon came to love these two characters and how their interactions were so similar and yet so different from those that I have loved and grown up with.

As I mentioned before Zoe merely used the bare bones of the classic and then built her own story giving it flesh and thoughts to shape it differently and make us readers reflect.

As per all fairy tales there is a lesson to be learned, and whilst deconstructing and recreating her tale our lovely author did not forget this vital part. Whilst the Disney we all know and love focused on romance and the signature happily ever after, Zoe Marriott decided to centre her story around Hana-San, her journey to self discovery, forgiveness and its ripple effect on the surrounding characters and, indeed, the story. Although romance and love is undoubtedly a main thread to it, Zoe Marriott reminds us that the types of love that can change someone also include the love between a family, siblings and friends. She reminds us that love’s close counterpart and partner in crime is hate and the line between these two at times has been known to be thin, thin and full of its own emotions ranging from anger to sorrow.

You might ask be asking yourself what else is different aside from the characters, the set up, the nature of the beast, the strength of the belle and the society whose rules they live by?

Well I will let you figure that one out for yourself, but what I will tell you is that this is a very cleverly constructed Japanese fairy tale retelling, and that like Hana-San you will have to walk into the dark woods and tread lightly on the dark magic that has cursed more than just a man, and you will have to heed the advice of the trees and the wind that blows through them because a monster, a beast roams the woods but the two are not always one and the same and every individual is capable of monstrous things.

Barefoot on the Wind proved to be more than just a simple fairy tale with a different back drop. Zoe Marriott brought with it her own set of characters and morales to teach us. Despite the simplistic story, she managed to build into it new thoughts and feelings giving it a new dimension and complexity that I had not previously appreciated.

Verdict: I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this tale and will happily be getting lost in these dark woods again with Hana-San and Itsuki.

Reviewed by Pruedence

Publisher: Walker Books
Publication Date: September 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 313
Genre: Retelling, Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Pruedence
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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Ink Blog Tour: Book Excerpt

We are delighted to share an excerpt from Amanda Sun‘s Ink.

inkOn 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 him… and 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.

Then I heard the chimes.

There were at least forty of them hanging in the tree above me, little Japanese wind chimes tinkling in the hot gasp of wind, their papers floating and rippling as they twisted back and forth. Most furin chimes in Japan were bright summer colors, but these were black-and-white with jagged edges, so I knew Tomohiro had drawn them into existence. Some of the chimes sounded mournful, likely the drawings that had gone wrong, but the sound of them all jingling together was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever heard.

He was sitting in the grass, his notebook balanced on his lap. I watched him for a moment before he realized I’d arrived. He looked up at the sky, the clouds drifting lazily above. He’d loosened the tie around his neck and rolled his sleeves up to his elbows. The top buttons of his shirt were unbuttoned, exposing the defined edges of his collarbone. He seemed lost in the sound of the chimes, and I hesitated, listening to them, too.

Then the pollen of the flowers caught in my nose and I sneezed. He whirled around, his eyes wide until he realized it was me.

“Okaeri,” he said, and as much as I’d felt awkward when Diane said it to me, when Tomohiro said it I got goose bumps.

“I’m a bit late,” I apologized.

“I’ll say,” he said with a laugh. “Come see what I’m drawing for you today.”

I walked forward and sat beside him in the grass. He opened his notebook, and a half-finished sketch draped across the page. I stared with wide eyes.

“You’re serious.”

He just grinned and pulled the cap from his pen. I rested my hand on his arm.

“Don’t you think people will notice that?”

“In Toro Iseki?” he said. I just stared at him. “Katie, this is our last chance to try this. We won’t have another opportunity like this for who knows how long. I want to try.”

“You’re totally crazy,” I said. “It could trample us.”

But he placed the nib of his pen on the paper and started filling in the sketch. He drew in the eye, a dark pool of ink on the page. He filled out the ear and the mane, the muzzle and the long, strong flanks that whizzed across the page as he drew them. The sketch tossed its head and turned to bite a fly off its withers.

There was a gentle thud in the grass, and another, and then the horse stepped out from behind a Yayoi hut. There was a ghostly, vacant look in its eyes, and its mane was as jagged as Tomohiro’s hurried pen strokes.

Tomohiro drew faster and faster, his own eyes growing vacant and strange like the horse’s. He was scribbling in details, fetlocks above the hooves and muscles trailing down the horse’s legs.

“I think that’s enough,” I said.

“Huh?” He broke away like I’d snapped him out of a dream. I pointed to the horse sniffling at the grass with his scribbled black muzzle.

He whispered, “I did it.”

Our thanks to Mira Ink for allowing us to share this excerpt with you today.

Still undecided? Check out Pruedence’s review of Ink here.

Ink is available to buy now from Amazon (here).

Amanda Sun was born in Deep River, a small town where she could escape into the surrounding forest to read. Ink is her first novel and The Paper Gods series is inspired by her time living in Osaka and travelling throughout Japan.
Visit her at www.AmandaSunBooks.com and on Twitter at @Amanda_Sun.

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Ink

Amanda Sun

inkI looked down at the paper, still touching the tip of my shoe. I reached for it, flipping the page over to look.
Scrawls of ink outlined a drawing of a girl lying on a bench.
A sick feeling started to twist in my stomach, like motion sickness.
And then the girl in the drawing turned her head, and her inky eyes glared straight into mine.
On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is 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.
Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they’ll both be targets.
Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive.

I have had Ink in my possession for a few months now and I simply couldn’t wait to read it. I have had a passion for Japanese culture and mangas for as long as I can remember, and when the lovely peeps at Mira Ink started talking about Ink it was like all my dreams had come true. I had finally found a novel that was the embodiment of a manga-like story, with strong Japanese culture references, based in Japan, in an English book! As you can already tell I was very very excited!

I finally tore into it as I lay on a roasting beach in Italy. Despite the Mediterranean surroundings Amanda Sun quickly transported me to Shizouka in Japan.

Ink is the story of sixteen year old Katie Greene who is uprooted from her home in America to relocate to Japan with her aunt after the sudden loss of her mother. At an age where friends, communication, stability and school are pretty much the epitome of her life, Katie was beyond allergic to the idea of adapting to her new environment. Personally I couldn’t envy her more but hey-ho such is life.

Learning Japanese kanjis however becomes the last of her concerns when she notices Yuu Tomohiro’s pictures move on paper. And all concerns whatsoever decidedly go out the window when her own snail doodles at school develop sharp teeth (which she is sure she never gave them in the capacity of their creator in a moment of boredom at school) and decide to have a go at snacking on her own fingers.

Ink had a slow and steady start like the gentle brush strokes of an artist who isn’t quite sure where his new painting is going, picking up the pace with every new chapter until it all became a vortex of events and fight for survival as the artist’s design becomes more and more clear and he struggles to complete it in a frenzy whilst the idea is still fresh in his mind.

As cool a concept as it may be, Amanda put an almost evil twist on things turning them as dark as the ink they were drawn in. Initially I thought the worst I had to fear from any picture was a paper cut but for Katie and Tomo far more was at stake.

Verdict: Ink was a read that I couldn’t disengage from once it sunk its calligraphic claws into my mind. And neither do I wish to be released!! I now drown in the inky images created by Amanda Sun whilst anxiously awaiting the sequel!

Reviewed by Pruedence

Make sure you pop back next week, when we will be sharing an excerpt from Ink.

Publisher: Mira Ink
Publication Date: July 2013
Format: eArc
Pages: 384
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Japan, Magic
Age: YA
Reviewer: Pruedence
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge:None
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The Night Itself

Zoe Marriott

the night itselfA breathtaking new urban fantasy trilogy from the critically acclaimed, award winning author of The Swan Kingdom and Shadows on the Moon.
When fifteen year old Mio Yamato furtively sneaks the katana – an ancestral Japanese sword – out of its hiding place in her parent’s attic to help liven up her Christmas party costume, she has no idea of the darkness she is about to unleash on modern day London, or the family secrets that she is going to uncover.

I don’t travel well. If my mode of transportation doesn’t consist of my own two feet, or a vehicle I am steering then there is a good chance it will inspire nausea. In the case of flying it will also inspire a racing pulse, breathlessness, fidgeting and sweaty palms. It’s not that I have an irrational fear of flying (well, not really) it’s just that I take no pleasure from spending hours in an uncomfortable enclosed space, traveling at hundreds of miles an hour, miles off of the ground in a tin can (see I’m completely rational).

This spring, in order to spend time with my gorgeous niece on her first birthday, I had to undertake my first unaccompanied flight. Prior to now I have always had friends, my husband and/or my children as travel companions to distract, entertain and soothe me. Knowing my travel weakness I prepared to endure the experience and counteract my bodies ‘fight or flight’ response with fiction. As a result I have spent the last couple of weeks considering the pros and cons of The Night Itself as an inanimate travel companion.

1. OCCUPYING A RESTLESS MIND

PRO
Time suck.

Having arrived at the airport earlier than the compulsory one hour prior to my flight, I settled down in a coffee shop with a large latte and my gorgeous ARC in the hope of occupying myself until it was time to board my flight. Zoe immediately grabbed my attention with Mio’s distinctive voice and the foreshadowing of trouble. Once captured, my attention was retained by the humorous dialogue, the realistic relationships, an action packed pacey plot, original world building and the compelling mystery of the Katana.

CON
Running.

Unfortunately for me, I got a little too involved in the storyline and I missed the initial publication of my boarding gate number. This resulted in me having to run (an activity that does not come naturally) for my gate in order to make my flight.

2. COUNTERACTING MY URGE TO FIGHT, FREEZE OR FLEE.

PRO
Laughing, smirking, swooning

One way I’ve found to reduce my anxiety is through the experience of other emotions, I can’t panic if I’m laughing (unless it’s the nervous or hysterical variety of course!).

I identified with Mio’s distinctively British voice. Her humour, observations and turn of phrase, had me smirking along with her and I couldn’t help but love the banter between Mio and her feisty BFF Jack. In fact while I loved the action, the character development and the world building of The Night Itself, what I enjoyed the most were the relationships. Whether functional and supportive or estranged, established or developing, past or present, familial, platonic or romantic, it was the relationships, which grounded the story in realism, and elicited my emotional connection to the book.

CON
Giggling like a loon in a public place;

Snorting with laughter,
Knowingly smirking,
Gasping, breath holding and squirming with tension,
and, crying snot bubble accompanied tears…
Whether you consider this to be a con, of course will all depend on how you feel about public displays of emotion.

3. DISTRACTING ME FROM MY IRRATIONAL FEAR.

PRO
Books not drugs!

I found The Night Itself to be the perfect distraction to my inflight anxieties. Having spent the duration of the flight sat next to a fellow reluctant flyer, who had resorted to prescription drugs to get her through the experience, I can say that the adventures of Mio and Co were much better at inducing calm than valium (ok so it’s not exactly the most scientific of tests, a randomized control trial it is not, but it worked for me).

Prior to reading The Night Itself, my knowledge of and exposure to Japanese culture was pretty much limited to sushi (pass the salmon sashimi). Zoe’s obvious passion for Japanese culture was contagious, and she presented the cultural references in such an non elitist way that instead of feeling intimidated by my lack of experience I found the topic refreshing, and I fascinatedly gobbling up every tit bit and reference. I have subsequently found myself Googling elements, like the Kitsune (fox spirits) to satisfy my newly inspired curiosity.

CON
Errrr

Nope, sorry I can’t see any cons for this one.

Verdict: I adored The Night Itself, the first book in Zoe Marriott’s London based urban fantasy trilogy, and I will be adding future installments to my travel essentials.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Walker
Publication Date: July 2013
Format: ARC
Pages: 368
Genre: Urban fantasy
Age: YA/Teen
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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