Review: Rebel Seoul

Title: Rebel Seoul
Author: Axie Oh
Genres: Science fiction, romance
Pages: 400
Publisher: Tu Books
Review Copy: ARC received from publisher
Availability: September 15, 2017

Summary: After a great war, the East Pacific is in ruins. In brutal Neo Seoul, where status comes from success in combat, ex-gang member Lee Jaewon is a talented pilot rising in the ranks of the academy. Abandoned as a kid in the slums of Old Seoul by his rebel father, Jaewon desires only to escape his past and prove himself a loyal soldier of the Neo State.

When Jaewon is recruited into the most lucrative weapons development division in Neo Seoul, he is eager to claim his best shot at military glory. But the mission becomes more complicated when he meets Tera, a test subject in the government’s supersoldier project. Tera was trained for one purpose: to pilot one of the lethal God Machines, massive robots for a never-ending war.

With secret orders to report on Tera, Jaewon becomes Tera’s partner, earning her reluctant respect. But as respect turns to love, Jaewon begins to question his loyalty to an oppressive regime that creates weapons out of humans. As the project prepares to go public amidst rumors of a rebellion, Jaewon must decide where he stands—as a soldier of the Neo State, or a rebel of the people.

Pacific Rim meets Korean action dramas in this mind-blowing, New Visions Award-winning science fiction debut.

Review: I knew I needed Rebel Seoul in my life the moment I heard it compared to mix of Pacific Rim and Korean dramas, and I was not disappointed. There were giant robots, fight scenes, complicated (and angsty) family relationships and (ex-)friendships, questionable loyalties, rebellions, and a lovely romance—basically, author Axie Oh delivered everything I had hoped for.

Jaewon was an excellent narrator whose position in life gave him a unique look at his far-future society. His priorities (getting a decent military placement, using it to leverage himself out of the Old Seoul slums, and just plain surviving) gradually started to shift as he learned more about the Amaterasu Project. It isn’t that he lost his innocence so much as he began to understand that there was a broader world out there with people who were more complex than he originally thought. There were some wonderful moments throughout the book where Jaewon considered someone else’s point-of-view, which radically changed how he saw them.

The world of Rebel Seoul is fascinating. It’s not so far into the future as to be unrecognizable, and the classic divide between the haves and have-nots that’s common in dystopian-ish worlds was there. But one of the things that Oh did well was that this brutal government is frequently just as awful to its elites as to its poor, and being rich or from an important family isn’t as good a shield as its frequently portrayed to be. (Hello, first test! And mandatory military service for everyone, though privilege and excellent scores could get you less dangerous positions.) We got just enough detail to have an idea of how this militaristic superstate formed, and I liked how much it felt like this was a society that had been at war for decades. That kind of society made a good contrast for drama among more intimate relationships, like classmates, friends, neighbors, and romantic partners.

I have a weakness for “forbidden” romance, so Jaewon and Tera’s budding relationship was a delight. My favorite parts about it where how it developed out of time spent together and Jaewon’s empathy. He could have kept his distance—should have kept his distance from a girl raised and experimented on to become a weapon—but his empathy made him view her as a person first, not a tool for the exclusive use of his government. These two have become one of my favorite battle couples in YA.

There were a few plot twists that I felt were too easily predicted and a few characters I wish had been fleshed out, but overall Rebel Seoul was one of my favorite reads this year. It is a book set in a messy, complicated world without easy answers or neat resolutions, and I loved it.

Recommendation: Buy (pre-order!) it now. Axie Oh’s debut novel is a phenomenal mix of science fiction and romance set against a militaristic dystopian society. Rebel Seoul’s compelling characters and fast-paced plot means that this will almost definitely be on my year-end best-of list.

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Heading on a road trip

I’ll be on a mid-sized road trip soon (roughly 12 hours each way), so my first priority is deciding which books to bring with me. I’ve got a number of contenders, both older titles and newer ones. I especially want to make a dent in my Rich in Color-worthy reading pile, which means that Want by Cindy Pon, Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh, and Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh will definitely be making the cut.

Are you doing any traveling this summer or hanging out at the side of the pool? What’s on your summer TBR pile?

Want by Cindy PonWant by Cindy Pon || Group Discussion Announcement
Interview with Cindy Pon

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits, protecting them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is, or destroying his own heart?

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh || K. Imani’s review

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she’s quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she’s ever known.

Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh

After a great war, the East Pacific is in ruins. In brutal Neo Seoul, where status comes from success in combat, ex-gang member Lee Jaewon is a talented pilot rising in the ranks of the academy. Abandoned as a kid in the slums of Old Seoul by his rebel father, Jaewon desires only to escape his past and prove himself a loyal soldier of the Neo State.

When Jaewon is recruited into the most lucrative weapons development division in Neo Seoul, he is eager to claim his best shot at military glory. But the mission becomes more complicated when he meets Tera, a test subject in the government’s supersoldier project. Tera was trained for one purpose: to pilot one of the lethal God Machines, massive robots for a never-ending war.

With secret orders to report on Tera, Jaewon becomes Tera’s partner, earning her reluctant respect. But as respect turns to love, Jaewon begins to question his loyalty to an oppressive regime that creates weapons out of humans. As the project prepares to go public amidst rumors of a rebellion, Jaewon must decide where he stands—as a soldier of the Neo State, or a rebel of the people.

Pacific Rim meets Korean action dramas in this mind-blowing, New Visions Award-winning science fiction debut.

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Interview with Pintip Dunn

We are so excited to have Pintip Dunn at Rich in Color today! Pintip’s new book, GIRL ON THE VERGE, came out last month, and we’re thrilled to be able to interview her. If you haven’t heart of GIRL ON THE VERGE, you should definitely check out the summary before you read the interview.

From the author of The Darkest Lie comes a compelling, provocative story for fans of I Was Here and Vanishing Girls, about a high school senior straddling two worlds, unsure how she fits in either—and the journey of self-discovery that leads her to surprising truths.

In her small Kansas town, at her predominantly white school, Kanchana doesn’t look like anyone else. But at home, her Thai grandmother chides her for being too westernized. Only through the clothing Kan designs in secret can she find a way to fuse both cultures into something distinctly her own.

When her mother agrees to provide a home for a teenage girl named Shelly, Kan sees a chance to prove herself useful. Making Shelly feel comfortable is easy at first—her new friend is eager to please, embraces the family’s Thai traditions, and clearly looks up to Kan. Perhaps too much. Shelly seems to want everything Kanchana has, even the blond, blue-eyed boy she has a crush on. As Kan’s growing discomfort compels her to investigate Shelly’s past, she’s shocked to find how it much intersects with her own—and just how far Shelly will go to belong…


Tell us more about Kanchana and her relationship with her family—and with Shelly.

Kanchana is a Thai-American girl who is caught between cultural worlds. She doesn’t feel quite Thai enough, but she doesn’t feel quite American enough, either. She has one foot in each world, and she wants desperately to belong — somewhere. Although her personality and situation are not remotely similar to mine, her feelings of otherness are inspired from my own experiences as a Thai-American girl. She loves her family with all of her heart — but she doesn’t feel understood by them.

When she meets Shelly, she feels understood for once in her life — before it all goes horribly wrong, since Shelly approaches the problem of not fitting in from a wholly different perspective. Girl on the Verge may be a thriller, but at its core, this novel is really a story about the intense loneliness of not having a place in this world.

I think it’s neat that Kanchana designs clothes! Why did you give her that trait?

I wanted Kan to have a passion that doesn’t fit in neatly with what is revered in Thai culture. Her mother immigrated to the U.S. for a reason: so that her daughter can have a safe and secure life with a safe and secure income. The creative field of fashion design — and the risks that come with it — do not fulfill this requirement.

The synopsis says that she has difficulties fitting into her two worlds. Can you tell us more about that?

Kanchana was raised by her Thai mother and grandmother — but in America, which means that she’s not like all the other girls in Thailand. At the same time, she’s really not like the other girls at her predominantly Caucasian school in a small town in Kansas. Whether she is in Thailand or America, she’s look at as different. (She’s bigger than most Thai girls because of her American diet; she has the Asian features that cause her to stand out in Kansas, etc.) But the differences are internal, too. Kan is shaped by both cultures, which can either mean she belongs to neither or both. As the story progresses, she gradually swings from one side to the other.

What have been the most challenging aspects of writing Girl on the Verge? The most rewarding?

This story is very important to me. While every book I write has parts of me in it, this novel might have the most of me. Like I said, while Kanchana’s situation is not remotely mine, her feelings are directly inspired from my own. I have to admit, it was scary to put these words on paper, and it is still really scary now to think about people reading them. The difference between this book and my other books is that I’ve always hidden the part of me that I had to tap into to write this story. In the Forget Tomorrow series, for example, the part of me that I put into the stories is the intense love I have for my sister. I don’t mind if everyone knows this fact about me. In contrast, I’ve never really talked about the loneliness that comes from not belonging. If I’m being honest, I still don’t feel like I belong, even now.

The most rewarding thing about writing this novel is that I get to publish a book about a girl who looks just like me. I’ve wanted to be an author ever since I was six years old, but I grew up believing that if I wanted to be published, I had to write a story about Caucasian characters. If my story helps even one person feel less lonely,…then, to quote Hamilton, that would be enough.

It looks like you have another series starting in October 2018. What can you tell us about it?

Fit To Die is a book I wrote with pure passion burning inside me, and it was the very first book I sold. For a long time, it was also my favorite book that I’ve written (although I don’t think I’m supposed to admit that!), but now there are several others competing for that spot.

Fit To Die is set in a world where food is scarce and calories can be transferred between people via a pill. Society is split into Eaters and Non-Eaters. The Eaters have been genetically modification to convert food into energy more efficiently, and they consume food for the rest of the people. The heroine is the daughter of the king. Her father is ailing, and she has been tasked to find the person who is fit to die for the king. However, the one who emerges as the best candidate turns out to be…the boy she loves. She can only save one: her father or her one true love. Who will she choose?

What 2017 books by or about people of color or people from First/Native Nations are you looking forward to reading? Which ones would you recommend to our followers?

I just finished Want, by Cindy Pon, which I thought was fantastic, and The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, was absolutely stunning. I loved, loved, loved November Girl, by Lydia Kang, which comes out this November. It was so unique and mesmerizing. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I’m really looking forward to reading The Education of Margot Sanchez, by Lilliam Rivera; When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon; Hollywood Homicide, by Kelleye Garrett; Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, by Julie Dao; and A Distant Heart, by Sonali Dev.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about Girl on the Verge or your other work?

I’m so thrilled that Girl on the Verge is out in the world, and I hope that readers will enjoy Kan’s story. It has — and will also have — a special place in my heart. My next book, Seize Today, comes out in October of this year. It is the conclusion to my Forget Tomorrow trilogy, and I’m so pleased with how Olivia and Ryder’s story turned out. You know the other books competing for the favorite book title? This is one of them.


Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL.

Pintip is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House. Her novel, FORGET TOMORROW, won the RWA RITA® for Best First Book. In addition, it is a finalist for the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, the Japanese Sakura Medal, the MASL Truman Award, and the Tome Society It List. THE DARKEST LIE was nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her other books include GIRL ON THE VERGE, REMEMBER YESTERDAY, and the forthcoming SEIZE TODAY.

She lives with her husband and children in Maryland. You can learn more about Pintip and her books at www.pintipdunn.com.

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One magical library coming right up

We found one new book for you this week, and it sounds like a lot of fun! Is it on your TBR pile?

The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana
Razorbill

A romantic coming-of-age fantasy tale steeped in Indian folklore, perfect for fans of The Star-Touched Queen and The Wrath and the Dawn

No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough.

The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos of a palace under siege. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?

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Interview with Kat Zhang + Giveaway

Everyone, please welcome Kat Zhang to Rich in Color! Kat is an author of young adult, middle grade, and pictures books. Her newest book, THE EMPEROR’S RIDDLE, came out just a little while ago:

Mia Chen is on what her mother calls a Grand Adventure. She’s not sure what to make of this family trip to China, and didn’t want to leave her friends for the summer, but she’s excited about the prospect of exploring with her Aunt Lin, the only adult who truly understands her.

Then Aunt Lin disappears, right after her old nemesis, a man named Ying, comes to visit. Mia knows that years ago, when Aunt Lin and Ying were sent to the Fuzhou countryside to work as laborers, the two searched for an ancient treasure together–one that still hasn’t been found. She’s suspicious that their shared history might be linked to Aunt Lin’s disappearance.

When Mia discovers an old map filled with riddles in Aunt Lin’s room, she quickly pieces together her mission: find the treasure, find her aunt. Now, Mia, along with her big brother, Jake, must solve the clues to rescue the person she knows best in the world—and maybe unearth a treasure greater than her wildest dreams.

We’re excited to have Kat stop by and to ask her questions about THE EMPEROR’S RIDDLE. Once you’ve finished reading the interview, be sure to enter the giveaway for a copy of the book!


Tell us more about the development of Mia. What do you hope she means to readers?

First off, thanks of much for having me on Rich In Color! I’m so happy to be here talking about THE EMPEROR’S RIDDLE 🙂

As for Mia–it’s always hard for me to talk about “developing” my characters, because it usually feels like they’re revealing themselves to me, rather than being characters that I have to make up. From the first few pages of the first draft, I knew that Mia was going to be a dreamer, a lover of history and fantasy, someone with her head up in the clouds. I knew, too, that as much as she liked these things about herself, they also made her feel inadequate next to her high-achieving mother and older brother. The rest of Mia’s quirks and traits built from these core elements of her personality.

I think there are a lot of kids like Mia, but the world eventually pushes them to change, to be more sensible and realistic and “Adult.” Of course some growing up is inevitable, and maturity is important–but I hope readers of RIDDLE find some encouragement in how it’s Mia’s fantastical, dreamer nature that helps her solve problems no one else can.

Why did you decide to write a family-based story? What importance does family have in the book?

I set RIDDLE during a family trip to China in part because similar trips were a cornerstone of my own childhood. Those summers were all about family for me–not only was I spending a whole lot of time with my parents, but I was seeing all this extended family that I usually didn’t interact with at all. And that’s on top of all the stories about my parents I’d hear, all the old pictures and places I got to see.

Considering the roots of the story, it only made sense to bind RIDDLE with themes of family and belonging. Underneath the treasure-hunt plot, RIDDLE is at its heart a story about Mia coming to terms with the various members of her family, and discovering new aspects of them she never appreciated before.

What was your research process like for the legend and cultural/historical landmarks in The Emperor’s Riddle? Tell us about some of your favorite discoveries.

The research for each of the riddle/clue landmarks was actually pretty extensive, but also a lot of fun! I wanted to make sure I touched on a variety of places, but also used places that were old enough to have realistically been around back when the riddle was created.

My mother is actually from the Fuzhou area originally, so I’m pretty excited about actually visiting these locales in the future. I’d especially like to see the “Three Lanes and Seven Alleys” area Mia and her family visits. It seems really neat!

What have been the most challenging aspects of writing The Emperor’s Riddle? The most rewarding?

The logistics of the riddle was probably the trickiest part–just making sure that everything came together correctly, and stayed as historically accurate as possible, while still being exciting and fun. It was incredibly rewarding for me to get to delve into Mia’s travels, the cool things she sees, and to hear that readers have had fun taking this journey around Fuzhou with her.

I see that you have another middle grade book and a picture book on the horizon. What can you tell us about them? Are there any other projects you’re working on right now?

Yes! My next middle grade is called THE MEMORY OF FORGOTTEN THINGS. It’s about a girl named Sophia, whose mother died when she was six years old. However, that’s not how she remembers it–not always. You see, even after her mother’s death, Sophia kept accruing new “Memories” of her mother, memories of things that never actually happened… Now she’s on a quest to make these “Memories” come true, to change the fabric of her world so her mother never died.

AMY WU & THE PERFECT BAO is my first picture book, and it’s about a little girl on a quest to make the world’s most perfect bao 😉

I’m incredibly excited for them both!

What 2017 books by or about people of color or people from First/Native Nations are you looking forward to reading? Which ones would you recommend to our followers?

I recently got copies of two other books my editor worked on this past year: WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI and AMINA’S VOICE. I haven’t gotten the chance to read them yet, unfortunately–the last few months have been pretty hectic–but I’ve heard really great things!

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about The Emperor’s Riddle or your other work?

Only that I’m so thrilled they’re going to be out there, and I really hope they give kids the chance to see him or herself reflected in the novels they read.


Kat Zhang spent most of her childhood tramping through a world weaved from her favorite stories and games. When she and her best friend weren’t riding magic horses or talking to trees, they were writing adaptations of plays for their stuffed animals (what would The Wizard of Oz have been like if the Cowardly Lion were replaced by a Loquacious Lamb?). This may or may not explain many of Kat’s quirks today.

You can reach her at www.katzhangwriter.com, @KatZhang (twitter), or @KatZhangWriter (instagram).


Kat has generously offered a copy of THE EMPEROR’S RIDDLE to one of our readers! Enter the giveaway by using the Rafflecopter widget below. The giveaway is only open to people with U.S. mailing addresses. It will end at midnight Eastern time on July 17th.

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Review: Summer of Sloane

Title: Summer of Sloane
Author: Erin L. Schneider
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 304
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: Available now

Summary: Warm Hawaiian sun. Lazy beach days. Flirty texts with her boyfriend back in Seattle.

These are the things seventeen-year-old Sloane McIntyre pictured when she imagined the summer she’d be spending at her mom’s home in Hawaii with her twin brother, Penn. Instead, after learning an unthinkable secret about her boyfriend, Tyler, and best friend, Mick, all she has is a fractured hand and a completely shattered heart.

Once she arrives in Honolulu, though, Sloane hopes that Hawaii might just be the escape she needs. With beach bonfires, old friends, exotic food, and the wonders of a waterproof cast, there’s no reason Sloane shouldn’t enjoy her summer. And when she meets Finn McAllister, the handsome son of a hotel magnate who doesn’t always play by the rules, she knows he’s the perfect distraction from everything that’s so wrong back home.

But it turns out a measly ocean isn’t nearly enough to stop all the emails, texts, and voicemails from her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend, desperate to explain away their betrayal. And as her casual connection with Finn grows deeper, Sloane’s carefree summer might not be as easy to find as she’d hoped. Weighing years of history with Mick and Tyler against their deception, and the delicate possibility of new love, Sloane must decide when to forgive, and when to live for herself.

Review: If you’re looking for a book to take with you on vacation this summer, look no further than Erin L. Schneider’s Summer of Sloane. It is an engaging contemporary romance that starts off with two bombshell scenes about Sloane’s best friend’s and boyfriend’s betrayals. As a reader, Sloane’s anger, confusion, and betrayed feelings were things I easily sympathized with. I’m glad Sloane had a network of family and friends to help support her while she struggled to figure out what to do with her fractured relationships, though I do wish we had seen more of Sloane’s relationship with her mother and with Mia.

Some of the best scenes in the novel are when Sloane ponders the things she’d lost and tries to figure out where she should go from there. Summer of Sloane is all about the messiness of life, establishing boundaries, and coming to terms with the fact that sometimes the people we love deeply are just as deeply flawed. Schneider did a great job of describing the emotional rollercoaster Sloane was on throughout the book and exploring the many ways Sloane was and wasn’t handling everything that had been thrown her way.

The developing romance between Sloane and Finn was fun, and they had a pretty natural progression from acquaintances to friends to significant others. I liked their banter and the way they could get each other to open up with the things they were each struggling with. I was less enthused with Finn failing to give Sloane more space during their rockier moments (to the point where I half wished Sloane would handle him like she had Tyler just so Finn would back off), but I did like where the two of them ended up.

I do have a few nitpicks about the lead-in to the finale, but they’re all spoilery. Suffice it to say, I was bothered by what I viewed as the disparity between Mick’s and Tyler’s resolutions. That isn’t the way I had hoped things would go, and I feel as if Mick got the raw end of the storytelling. In spite of that, I appreciated the generally optimistic tone of the ending and felt that it did well by Sloane’s character.

Recommendation: Get it soon if you’re looking for a fun summer vacation read. Despite a few specific-to-me nitpicks, Summer of Sloane was a good contemporary romance about love, forgiveness, and growing up. It should definitely make its way into your TBR pile if it hasn’t already.

Extras

Goodreads giveaway (ends July 10)

Interview at Next Page Please

 

 

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