Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao

American Panda

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents' master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can't bring herself to tell them the truth--that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

I wanted to enjoy American Panda a lot more than I actually did, and for that I'm very sorry. Maybe my hopes were too high going in, or maybe I just didn't really click with the story but so much of this book just didn't work for me.

Let me start with the good; I liked Mei's voice, and I loved the inclusivity this book tried to show. I really enjoyed watching Mei as a character develop over the course of the book and how that also was reflected on the relationships she has with those around her. One character that I particularly loved was Xing, and the scenes with her mum near the end were so well done.

But I just couldn't get to grips with Mei's relationship with Darren, which seemed liked a catalyst for her development but as a result was just instant romance. I hated all of he mandarin sprinkled in. I get that it was to outline the culture, but I don't know mandarin and it sort of disrupted my reading experience. 

I also feel like in some ways this book could achieve the opposite of what it sets out to. Sure, I get that a lot of Asian families are as traditional as Mei's, but some of the scenes seemed so extreme and so outrageous that I didn't really get Mei's family and instead had a negative view of them. Mei's germophobia is a plot device to show that she feels pressure to be a doctor but it's not what she wants, but it was dealt with is such a rough, untidy way that felt sort of angry and forced and selfish to me. That's the main issue that I had with the book.

On top of that, the pacing in this book was jerky and all over the place.

I think that American Panda could have been such a strong and meaningful book, but I think the approach lacked finesse, and the finished result just didn't resonate with me as a reader. 

Overall Rating: D

Book released 6th February 2018 by Simon Pulse
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: The Stranger Game by Cylin Busby

The Stranger Game

When Nico Walker's older sister mysteriously disappears, her parents, family, and friends are devastated. But Nico can never admit what she herself feels: relief at finally being free of Sarah's daily cruelties.

Then the best and worst thing happens: four years later, after dozens of false leads, Sarah is found.

But this girl is much changed from the one Nico knew. She's thin and drawn, where Sarah had been golden and athletic; timid and unsure, instead of brash and competitive; and strangest of all, sweet and kind, when she had once been mean and abusive. Sarah's retrograde amnesia has caused her to forget almost everything about her life, from small things like the plots of her favorite books and her tennis game to the more critical—where she's been the last four years and what happened at the park on the fateful day she vanished. Despite the happy ending, the dark details of that day continue to haunt Nico, and it becomes clear that more than one person knows the true story of what happened to Sarah. . . .

This book is completely a mystery, but also not even a mystery.

I've Wikipedia hopped enough to know how this story was going to end. Still, the suspense and the atmosphere was enough to keep me reading, and the snippets of Sarah's story made me feel even more engrossed in the story. this was a book that could have felt pushy or cluttered or messy but it was so completely clear and well written.

I loved the emotions through this book. Nico is broken and guilty at the way she feels and Sarah is mysterious but their relationship grows and they get this bond that it sort of makes your heart hurt when answers start coming in and the story stitches itself together. 

And despite the fact that this is a book which covers some pretty heavy topics, it never felt overly forced or limiting. This isn't an issue book, trying to make some statement that comes across as convoluted or overly flowered up, this is a suspenseful mystery book that keeps readers guessing even when they know where it's going.

Overall, The Stranger Game was a suspenseful and emotional read that kept me gripped all the way through. Cylin Busby has impressed me before, now she is impressing me again.

Overall Rating: B+

Book released 25th October 2016 by Balzer and Bray
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

Ever the Hunted (Clash of Kingdoms, #1)

Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

So much sadness. So much disappointment.

What had so much potential to be a top fantasy novel in the vein of Poison Study or Graceling lost it's identity in a mix of predictable characters and laughable cliffhangers. The romance was so shallow - if you're going to do a romance between a girl and her father's apprentice, at least make it like Riley and Beck in the Demon Trapper's series. Don't let is get washed down by tropes and predictability and shallowness.

Look, I had so many high hopes for this book. I wanted Britta to be this strong independent woman who don't need no man but I have no idea how she got so far in life, she was so completely incompetent and blind to the most obvious things. Obtuse is the word. Yes, obtuse. Don't even get me started on Cohen, the love interest... who apparently smells very very nice. I don't care Britta.

And what is this new fantasy trope of having the main character almost be the victim of sexual assault. I just can't with it.

I could go on and on about how I just did not enjoy this book and how I am so let down by where it went but I won't. I'm just going to shut up and end this review knowing that I most certainly will not be picking up the next in this series.

Overall Rating: E

Book released 27th December 2016 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

Long May She Reign

Freya was never meant be queen. Twenty third in line to the throne, she never dreamed of a life in the palace, and would much rather research in her laboratory than participate in the intrigues of court. However, when an extravagant banquet turns deadly and the king and those closest to him are poisoned, Freya suddenly finds herself on the throne.

Freya may have escaped the massacre, but she is far from safe. The nobles don’t respect her, her councillors want to control her, and with the mystery of who killed the king still unsolved, Freya knows that a single mistake could cost her the kingdom – and her life.

Freya is determined to survive, and that means uncovering the murderers herself. Until then, she can’t trust anyone. Not her advisors. Not the king’s dashing and enigmatic illegitimate son. Not even her own father, who always wanted the best for her, but also wanted more power for himself.

As Freya’s enemies close in and her loyalties are tested, she must decide if she is ready to rule and, if so, how far she is willing to go to keep the crown.

Yas. Yas Yas Yas!

I read Rhiannon Thomas' debut novel a few years ago and whilst I enjoyed it, it never blew me away.

That being said, Rhiannon Thomas is from the same city as me, and I felt a kinship in needing to read Long May She Reign when I saw it. I am so glad that I did. Freya is the fantasy MC that I have been searching for since I first met Katsa and Yelena and whilst she isn't quite there, she's almost there. She's smart and thoughtful and doesn't easily buy into the crap people are giving her and I respected that.

Yes, there was some level of convenience in the story line where something happens which conveniently leads to some kind of important discovery, but it's not glaringly obvious.

I loved the court intrigue and how that took centre stage in this book. Freya is thrown into this world and she has to navigate it with no experience. She never wanted to be queen and never thought she would need to be but here she is and she has to do the best she can, while uncovering the killer of the royal family. I loved it.

Rhiannon Thomas is slowly cementing herself to be a real heavyweight in fantasy fiction.

Overall Rating: B

Book released 21st February 2017 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Blogoversary Giveaway: Eight Whole Years

It's my birthday!!

Well actually, it's Ink Scratchers' birthday!!

This blog has been alive for eight whole years, and whilst it's spent a few if those years in hibernation, it's still been alive for a while so I'm proud of that. 

So in order to celebrate I am giving away a book of your choice to at least one lucky winner. I may add one or more additional winners if a lot of people enter, so spread the word.

It's quick and easy to enter and the terms are below:

  • Winner will be notified and will have 72 hours to reply to me before their prize is given to another winner.
  • Blog runs until 31st July 2018. I will notify winners either that day or in the 48 hours following since my work schedule is unpredictable.
  • The winner(s) can pick any book up to £15 ($20) from The Book Depository. I am happy to preorder as well.
  • It is open internationally except for the few countries that The Book Depository doesn't deliver to free.
Whilst there is an entry asking you to comment what book you would pick, you do not have to order this book if you win. This is just so I can get some suggestions for my want-to-read pile.

Happy entering!!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: This Tiny Perfect World by Lauren Gibaldi

This Tiny Perfect World

When Penny wins a scholarship to a prestigious theater camp, she thinks it’s the start of a perfect summer. But when she arrives at camp, Penny is thrust into a world of competition and self-doubt. And as she meets new friends, including Chase, a talented young actor with big-city dreams, she begins to realize that her own dreams may be bigger than she ever imagined.


This book is what it is... it's a fun little summer camp book that doesn't take to long to read and has some young characters making decisions and growing up. It's not offensive it's just not going to change the world.

I liked this book at the start. I liked Penny and Logan and Faye, they were close friends and you can see how much they both meant to Penny.

I just didn't like the way she changed after just a few days at summer camp. I get feeling stuck, and I get wanting bigger things, but Penny seemed to want things just because she felt like she ought to, not because she wanted to. I like how supportive Faye was as a friend, and I loved the relationship between Penny and her. That being said, I felt that Logan just got walked all over. He loves Penny, they are best friends and their families are expecting them to get married and make babies and they make such a cute couple but Penny just drops him for no really explained reason... then three pages later she's seeing him again and saying that she wants to be with him.

Chase was there for no other reason than a plot point to make Penny think about what she wants. He just has no substance for me aside from the whole big city dreams side of things.

Look, this book was ok, I finished it... but it's just teenagers making bad decisions for no reason. For that reason, I can't really buy into it.

Overall Rating: D

Book released 27th February 2018 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: My Plain Jane by The Lady Janies

My Plain Jane (The Lady Janies, #2)

You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

Take one of the best gothic romances of all time, add in spoonful of ghosts and mystery and copious amounts of hilarious pop culture references and pure wit and what do you get? The latest hilarious novel by the Lady Janies.

Now I have to be completely candid and admit that I didn't love this book quite as much as My Lady Jane. Still, I loved it nonetheless.

For the most part, the first half or so of this book runs pretty linear to the Jane Eyre story we all know, just with more humour thrown in and the whole ghost thing taking a big part of it. The second half though is like some crazy haywire story with people running everywhere and almost dying and making heroic rescues and ghost possession and honestly it was hectic and fast paced and consistently hilarious.

There was not a single character in this whole book that felt weak. Everyone was so unique and witty in their own ways. For me, Blackwood and Bran were my top two, but Charlotte and Helen and Jane and even Rochester and the Duke and seriously everyone was great. A book is only a strong as it's weakest character and this book is titanium. It's such a gem. It's diamond. I loved it.

I cannot wait to read more from these authors because individually, none of them are my favorite authors but they come together to make my favorite author team of all time.

Overall Rating: A

Book released 26th June 2018 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

The Afterlife of Holly Chase

On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she'd become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.
She didn't.
And then she died.
Now she's stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge--as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.
Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly's afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change. . . .

I liked this book. It was sassy and the voice was so true to life and young. It was full of a lot of the wit that one would expect from Cynthia Hand - one of the amazing Lady Janies - it was sometimes a little slow, but it was a fun book to read.

Or at least, the first half was.

I was so interested in this book and the story and the world building and our sassy, selfish main character that when things started to get a little bit more dramatic and life or literal death, it felt like a full turn from where we were. I kind of started to feel like I was reading a completely different book. It was still a good book and I was still completely invested in where it was going but it was just... different.

I loved the voice and the story and the character growth that we see Holly go through throughout the story, and I was crying by the end of it, so it can't have been bad. But to say that tears were shed, by the time I closed this book and moved onto the next I was sort of over it. It didn't sit with me for too long.

I'm torn and conflicted, because I want to call this book shallow and fun but it's also poignant and heartbreaking at times (like the ending) and I'm not sure where to go with this book, so I'm going to say read it. It won't blow you away, but maybe it will be a positive surprise. 

Overall Rating: C

Book released 24th October 2017 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Can't Wait Wednesday - 27th June 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted here, at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we're excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they're books that have yet to be released. It's based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine. If you're continuing with WOW, feel free to link those up as well! Find out more here.

The Raging Ones (The Raging Ones, #1)
The Raging Ones - Krista and Becca Ritchie - August 14th 2018 
In a freezing world, where everyone knows the day they will die, three teens break all odds.

Franny Bluecastle, a tough city teen, dreams of dying in opulence, to see wealth she’s never known. Like the entire world, she believes it’s impossible to dodge a deathday.

Until the day she does.

Court Icecastle knows wealth. He also knows pain. Spending five years in Vorkter Prison, a fortress of ice and suffering, he dreams of life beyond the people that haunt him and the world that imprisoned him.

Mykal Kickfall fights for those he loves. The rugged Hinterlander shares a frustrating yet unbreakable connection with Court—which only grows more lawless and chaotic as their senses and emotions connect with Franny.

With the threat of people learning they’ve dodged their deathdays, they must flee their planet to survive. But to do so, all three will have to hide their shared bond as they vie for a highly sought after spot in the newest mission to space. Against thousands of people far smarter, who’ll live longer, and never fear death the way that they do.

 My thoughts:
I don't need to give a reason. This just sounds soooooo good!

Top Ten Tuesday - Series I Gave Up On

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This weeks topic is: Series I have given up on

1. The Red Queen Series by Victoria Aveyard
Now call me controversial, because I know that many people will, but I absolutely adored the first book in this series. However, the second book was a very clear DNF for me... it just dragged and nothing really happened I just could not get into it so I just had to give up on this series.

2. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Oh my gosh, I was blown away by book one in this series but as soon as I started reading the second I just knew it was going in a direction that I would not like. Have to say that Delirium's last page is still one of my all time favorite book endings. 

3. The Cage by Megan Shepherd 
This book just did not really grip me, and I just have no further interest in this series. 

4. Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia and Jennifer Stohl
I really loved book one, it had that kind of southern gothic feel and was so atmospheric but for me it really works as a standalone, and I like to be ignorant to all of the sequels that have been brought out for it.

5. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
The writing is gorgeous in this series and it has such an amazing storyline but the pacing for the first book just sort of put me off, and whilst after finishing it I really wanted the rest of the series, the interest has kind of fizzled for me now.

6. Everlife by Gena Showalter
I so wanted to love the first book in this series but I just couldn't. It was so tropey and the love triangle just didn't work for me and I just knew that this was not a series I was ever going to buy into.

7. The Mortal Instruments series and prequel/sequels by Cassandra Clare
I read the Moral Instruments books when I was in my young/mid teens and I really enjoyed them, but that was the first three books. It should have been left there, but now the series just feels like a cash cow to me. Sorry Cassie Clare, I'll read other stuff from you but please let go of the shadowhunter world!!

8. Shatter Me by Taherah Mafi
Ugh this is a weird one for me because although I adored the first book, when I reread it like 4 years later it just feel very try-hard for me. I re-read it prior to buying the sequel and I just decided not to. Maybe one day - I won't say never - but the purple prose because incredibly annoying.

9. The Maze Runner series by James Dashner
I read up to book 4 and then I just couldn't be bothered anymore - it all kind of felt like the same thing was happening in each book just in a different setting. I want to know how it all works out I just don't want to have to read to find out... maybe I'll just watch the movies.

10.  The Selection by Kiera Cass
I make a prediction that this will be on many people's lists as it just had that kind of build up and then... poof, it just becomes predictable and irritating. 

Now don't get me wrong, most of the series above are series where I enjoyed the first book or two but I have a real issue for 'second book syndrome' and most of these books suffered from that.

What do you have on your list? Do we share any series? Leave me a comment and let me know.

I'm also returning back from a hiatus to find that a lot of the blogs that I followed are now dead, so please drop me a link to your blog I would love to pop over and check it out!

Review: The Queen's Rising by Rebecca Ross

When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron. Growing up in the southern kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, the solstice does not go according to plan, and she is left without a patron. Months later, Brienna’s life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Though she’s suspicious of his intent, she has no other option, and must accept. But she soon discovers that he has big plans for her future. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the rival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. The question is, who will be that queen?

Before I even begin this review I want to state that I did enjoy The Queen's Rising. It kept my interest for a long train journey and despite a rocky start - it took me a good 70 pages or so to really get reeled in- by the end of the book I sort of didn't want it to end.

That being said, on a completely critical note, some parts of this book just sort of fell flat for me. For example, at some points the dialogue just got a little bit too casual and didn't seem to fit the world that Rebecca Ross was trying to build. It pulled me out of the story a bit. On the other hand, sometimes the prose went a little too old-fashioned and it just didn't work, like a six year old trying to write a Shakespeare play.

That all being said, I did so love the plot of this book. The whole Anglo/Celtic style background and the flawed main character. I loved Brienna because she starts of the book not knowing what she wants in life and finishes it with a family and a life and a purpose. Despite the initial ickiness of the relationship between her and Cartier - which to be honest could have been erased just by getting rid of the scene where they first meet (she's ten, he's an adult) - I began to care about the two of them. I think the whole thing stemmed from the age difference because it's only around halfway through the novel that it becomes clear that he's not like fifty and is only like seven years older.

I would have liked more explanation on the magic side of things, and a little bit more time to get used to the Maevana side of things because everything felt a little too fast in the second half of the book, but I still connected with the people who really mattered on the plot.

Overall, The Queen's Rising was a good book with some twists and turns and some fun characters. I loved the world, but felt that the lore and characters were not as fleshed out as I would like. Because of some iffy prose and bad pacing, I was a little pulled out of this book but will still definitely read the sequel!

Overall Rating: C+

Book released 6th February 2018 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: The Final Six by Alexandra Monir

The Final Six (The Final Six, #1)

When Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, and Naomi, a science genius from California, are two of the twenty-four teens drafted into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever altered. After erratic climate change has made Earth a dangerous place to live, the fate of the population rests on the shoulders of the final six who will be scouting a new planet. Intense training, global scrutiny, and cutthroat opponents are only a few of the hurdles the contestants must endure in this competition.

For Leo, the prospect of traveling to Europa—Jupiter’s moon—to help resettle humankind is just the sense of purpose he’s been yearning for since losing his entire family in the flooding of Rome. Naomi, after learning of a similar space mission that mysteriously failed, suspects the ISTC isn’t being up front with them about what’s at risk.

To say that this is the book that encouraged me to start reviewing again after a hiatus of over a year says a lot about it's awesomeness.

I've not really been into sci-fi books for quite a while, to be honest I've found them so samey recently and I've just not managed to find one which grips me and keeps me the way The Final Six did. From the very first chapter when we meet Leo and Naomi to the final line I was gripped. I reran my bath water like five times and finished it in a matter of hours. It was such a page-turner.

What really impressed me about this book was the whole air of suspense and mystery in it. You know there's something secret going on, but you never completely guess it. You make some hazardous guesses along the right lines, so when it is revealed it doesn't feel out of nowhere but it's still enough of a shock to leave a reader reeling.

I loved Leo as a character, he was so warm and caring and the development of feelings for Naomi felt so organic and realistic. Naomi was such a lovely person as well - driven in her mission for the truth but not so much that she completely shuts herself from any real interactions with other people. I genuinely just loved reading about these two and came to rally care about their wellbeing and relationship.

If there's just one thing that I would say brought this book down, it was - to a small degree - the writing. I could never really tell the difference between Leo's chapters and Naomi's so sometimes I would think I was reading Naomi's point of view and it was actually Leo. Also, some of the dialogue felt a little pushed and not really what anybody in that scenario would say.

Nonetheless, I still absolutely adored this book. The ending has left me wanting more and more, and I am so excited for the next in the series!

Overall Rating: A-

Book released 6th March 2018 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review