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3.8 out of 5 stars29
3.8 out of 5 stars
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I haven't read a lot of YA fiction that is set in places other than America and Britain so it was really refreshing to read something set in a world so far away with a culture so different. Right from the very beginning of this novel, you are sucked into the authentic Japanese setting as the author frequently uses Japanese words in her writing, especially in dialogue. There is a handy glossary at the back of the book which lists all the common phrases that are repeated throughout the book which are very helpful, though, I didn't discover this until I'd finished reading the book so the glossary is more of an added bonus really. Being half Chinese, half English, myself, I completely understand how Katie feels about living in a country where you're singled out as the `foreigner' and her narrative feels so real and is so believable. I liked that this book didn't skip out on the fact that Katie obviously wasn't completely integrated into Japanese society and people did treat her differently and this added to the general `authentic' oriental feel that was running through the book.

The chemistry between the characters of Katie and Tomohiro is electric. There is no insta-love in this novel and you see a real relationship develop between the pair before anything really `romantic' actually happens. Plus, as always with oriental stories, even a hug is a big deal so progress is slow but yourself slowly falling in love with these characters as the book progresses just as they fall in love with each other. Although there is romance in this novel, it doesn't take over the story. The major plot line is about Tomohiro's drawing abilities and the romance weaves in and out with this, running parallel to this main story line throughout.

Although this book has a beautiful cover, the story within is actually quite dangerous. Amanda Sun has somehow managed to combine danger and beauty in this story with the two beautifully integrated. This means that there is also lots of action in this novel and I could see it appealing to YA boys as well as girls. This book definitely has darker themes running through it with criminal organizations and Gods but nothing is overly unrealistic as the `Kami' (Gods) are based on real Japanese myths which is fascinating.

This book will no doubt be a fascinating read for any foreigners who are interested in Oriental culture. This book has action, romance and suspense and I imagine it appealing to all teenage readers, though adults would probably enjoy it too. The author has weaved both history and culture into this fictional story in such a way that you believe that the world she has created is real. All in all, I absolutely loved this book and would recommend it to all. A large portion of this book is dedicated to finding out about Tomohiro's gift and this book has set itself up nicely for several sequel novels which I look forward to reading.

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on 16 November 2013
Review also published on my blog,

Following the death of her mother, Katie is horrified to be sent off to Japan to live with her aunt - `the piece that never fit'. Thrust into a different culture, with only minimal Japanese and an aunt she barely knows, Katie's life only gets more complicated when she starts to see pictures moving. Unsure whether to believe her eyes, or whether these are hallucinations caused by stress and grief, Katie tries to ignore it, but she can't help feeling that the mysterious Tomohiro is somehow connected. Despite his cold reputation, Katie is drawn to Tomohiro, and as they grow closer the ink spirals further out of control.

Amanda Sun's writing is wonderfully descriptive and evocative without feeling overdone or excessively wordy. Beautiful, graphic imagery will have you easily able to visualise Shizouka, leaving you feeling completely immersed in Katie's world.

I loved Katie as a character; although reluctant to move to Japan, she threw herself into learning the language and customs, and didn't give up her feisty nature. My only criticisms are both YA cliches related to the love interest: I felt she became too attached too quickly, and that she ditched her friends for him. This seemed particularly cruel particularly considering how willing her friends were to go out of their way for her. Tomohiro was a bad boy with a tortured past, which felt a bit cliche, but I did enjoy finding out more about him and seeing their relationship grow. Diane, Katie's aunt was also a great character, though I'd have liked to see a little more of her.

Ink had a wonderfully unique premise, and I thoroughly enjoyed the occasional Japanese word, and the snippets of culture. One thing I will say about Ink is that it is definitely drama filled, with an additional side plot reminiscent of an action movie. Although, I found that side plot a little bit of a stretch, I couldn't help getting engrossed as it progressed. If a unique premise and lots of drama sounds like your sort of thing, Ink is definitely worth a try.
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on 31 July 2015
Katie is getting used to her new life in Japan. She's moved there to stay with her aunt after her mother passed away. Life in Shizuoka is very different from life in America and it requires a lot of adjusting. Katie's aunt decides to send her to a Japanese school. Katie has problems with the language, so she has to take a lot of extra lessons to keep up. The food in Japan is different, she has to wear slippers in school and her blonde hair stands out wherever she goes.

Fortunately she makes friends pretty quickly. At school she also meets Tomohiro. He's aloof and cold at first and Katie can't seem to get through to him. He's great at kendo (a form of fencing), so he's the school's sports hero and a lot of people are fascinated by him. Katie's drawn to him and can't stay away. They share something strange. Tomohiro has a way with ink and even though Katie isn't gifted at drawing with it the ink is what connects them. Because of Tomohiro Katie finds out more about the Kami, powerful descendants from an ancient god. What does this have to do with Katie and Tomohiro and are they both in danger because of it?

Katie is very strong and she goes for what she wants. She's still sad about losing her mother, but she's resilient and soon she embraces the Japanese way of living. She likes the food, she makes some great friends and staying with her aunt isn't so bad. I loved learning more about Japan through her eyes. Katie soon falls in love with Tomohiro. He's like a magnet and at first she doesn't understand why exactly, but she keeps following him until he accepts her presence. She does this in a determined way, because she knows that beneath the tough and cold exterior there's a kind and caring guy who likes her back.

Tomohiro's best friend is in a gang and he keeps dragging Tomohiro with him. He's trouble and he doesn't like Katie. She wants Tomohiro to stay safe, but he's always there for his friends. This means he often gets into fights and I couldn't help feeling bad for him as he clearly doesn't like that life very much. Things keep getting worse, but Tomohiro stands by his friend. Tomohiro's drawings are fantastic, he can't draw in the presence of anyone besides Katie, because of what happens when he's using ink. I loved reading about his talents. I liked that the drawings were coming to life and that ink played such an important role in this story. I'm now so curious to read more about Katie's connection to the ink. I can't wait to find out what will happen in the next book of this series. I'm definitely intrigued and love Amanda's Sun's writing.
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on 22 June 2013
See my review of this book, and many more, at

After the pain of losing her mother and the huge culture shock moving to Japan to live with her aunt, Katie could be forgiven for suffering from stress and seeing things that aren't really there; drawings moving, staring at her with blank eyes, or crawling towards her with razor sharp teeth, and ink that pools and oozes like blood. If only Katie could believe it was just stress, but she knows different - this is all somehow linked to Tomohiro Yuu, the good looking senior with amazing artistic skills and a bad attitude. Is he human, or kami - a person with god-like power?

As Katie gets closer to Tomohiro they discover that her being near him causes the ink he uses to act strangely. With her Tomohiro's power is increasing, and his control is slipping. Soon, Katie isn't the only one who has discovered what he can do.

Ink had so much potential to be an amazing book, full of monsters and Japanese culture - and whilst it is clear a lot of research has been put into this book, in the end it just doesn't do enough to break through the typical YA paranormal romance cliches. The setting is very fleshed out (at least to a Westerner who has never visited Japan) and described beautifully, especially the images of the cherry blossoms in bloom. The romance also began rather sweetly - for all its "insta-love" problems, they can be forgiven as they fit with the character of Katie. She is alone in a foreign country, living with an aunt she barely knows, and often struggles with her new life. She has trouble speaking and reading Japanese, she keeps forgetting every-day customs like bowing and when it is acceptable to address someone by their first name, and she is the only white person in her school. For her, falling in love with Tomohiro so fast is about finding someone who also feels like an outsider, and their shared pain over loosing a mother is the beginning of their bond. Throughout the novel we see Katie's confidence grow until she feels at home in Japan, in a realistic and sweet way.

Unfortunately, the romance soon gets fairly boring, and has practically all the annoying stereotypes of a YA paranormal romance. Insta-love (not even half way through Katie claims she can't live without him now), not being able to be together because one of them will get hurt, ignoring or dropping friends the moment a guy comes along - these are just a few of the cliches used. The mythology of the Kami was such a unique idea, and the few scenes that depicted Tomohiro's power (like a dragon coming to life and attacking them) were amazing to read, but they were few and far between, ultimately not enough to save the book. There is also far too much of Katie running around, stalking Tomohiro, and generally being paranoid.

If a standard YA paranormal romance, with a beautifully described setting, is what you are looking for then Ink is perfect - but if, like me, you where hoping for something special and memorable then prepare to be disappointed.

3 stars.
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on 27 January 2016
I truly love all things Japanese, so when I found out this book was set in Japan, it became one my instant must reads. Not only did the story have a refreshingly unique concept that was based upon ancient Japanese myths and legends, but it also gave the reader a brilliant insight into the everyday workings of Japanese language and culture.

The story begins with Katie. Recently orphaned, she has moved to Japan to live with her aunt and facing the trials a new country, a new culture and a new language brings, she finds herself struggling to make a new life for herself. Not only is she a gaijin – an outsider – in her small Japanese town, but after witnessing the school hottie, Tomo, break up with his long term girlfriend she finds her world becoming more and more complicated, when suddenly drawings around her begin to move.

On the surface, Tomo is a cold hearted bad boy with the face of an angel. Yet for some reason Katie keeps running into him. However the more she gets to know him, the more she realises that his cool façade is just an act, because Tomo hides a deadly secret. He is a Kami, a descendant of the old Gods. With the ability to make his drawings come to life, he can create real beauty, except he has little control over his creations and for some reason, the ink is drawn to Katie… and it’s after blood…

I really enjoyed this book. I’m a big fan of manga and Japanese dramas and this book read much the same way. It had an authentic Japanese feel to it and the descriptions were done in a way that made everything very realistic and easy to imagine. I also liked the page drawings that were spaced throughout the story – it added a nice touch to the book.

I liked the characters, especially Katie as you really felt her mixed emotions of being thrown into a foreign culture. Her attraction to Tomo was curious; it was one of those ‘I know I should stay away from him, but…’ kind of romances, which in the end worked out well.
Tomo was also great character, blowing hot and cold, it wasn’t always easy to read his intentions but he had a sharp wit and I couldn’t help but like him. I’m looking forward to seeing how his and Katie’s relationship develops in the next book.

Yet the secondary characters were also interesting too, particularly Yuki’s brother, who I hope we get to see more of in the future. There’s also Jun, who not only looks awesome, but has a whole mysterious thing working for him too. Yet while I think I see a love triangle developing between him, Tomo and Katie, I can’t wait to see what fates going to throw at them next. Then there is Ishikawa, he’s Tomo’s best friend, but one who has ulterior motives. I couldn’t help but like him, even though he was technically a bad guy…however I’m interested to see if that will change in the future. He is definitely a character to watch out for. So overall, I really did like the cast.

Plot wise, I loved how Amanda Sun incorporated so much Japanese culture and myth into the story. It was a paranormal romance, but one set on the realm of ‘what if’ and I like books where it’s easy to imagine such things happening, only hidden from the real world. Yet, while I think there were moments when Katie made stupid decisions and sometimes seemed a little stalkerish, it didn’t really take away my enjoyment of the book. Yes there were quite a few clichés and while this book did have many of the typical YA elements (irresponsible guardians, plenty of hot guys and a deadly love interest) ultimately, I still enjoyed.

So overall, I would say Ink has a unique setting and an interesting new concept that most fans of YA paranormal will enjoy. Bursting with intrigue, danger and romance, Ink will sweep you away. 4 stars!
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on 26 August 2015
I was really excited to read this - Japan is not a country I'm very familiar with, nor its culture. Fish out of water stories always appeal to me, and it could have been a great chance to learn about a part of the world I don't know.

And it almost was. The narrative was certainly steeped in a lot of Japanese culture - from the Kendo clubs, to the language used from time to time, to the ways the characters react in situations that is very different to how Western teenagers might have reacted. There was a rich knowledge behind the story that could have added depth to the story.

The problem was, there wasn't much story to add any depth too. The story basically is 'Tomohiro is so hot and mysterious' and despite some interesting elements - Japanese mythology, Yakuza gangsters - it never really stops being about how hot and mysterious Tomohiro is.

I can't understand why Katie is so crazy about him. It seems to go from 'he's a horrible, nasty person' to 'I have the warm fuzzies when I look at him' with no real journey in between. There's the shared loss of a parent, which I can see would warm Katie to Tomohiro, perhaps even make her try to overlook his callous behaviour when they first meet, but I don't buy that it would move to romance without something else going on in between.

There were also a lot of weird jumps in time - judicious use of line breaks would have made the story much easier to follow. Sometimes I had to re-read whole pages to understand what was going on, and that really took me out of the flow of the story.

Basically, there was a lot of nice window dressing for what was essentially a story about a girl swooning over a boy. It was never horrible, but at best it was a little distracting, at worst boring. And then it ended rather abruptly, and I can't say I'm all that bothered about finding out what happens next.

Rating: 2.5/5
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on 14 June 2014
When I heard this was a fantasy novel set in Japan, I knew I had to read it. And it turned out to be a captivating tale which blends the contemporary with Japanese mythology in a unique story of gods, romance, and ink that has a life of its own.

Katie feels like an outsider in her new life in Japan, where she moved to live with her aunt following her mother’s death. She barely speaks the language, and a series of freakish incidents involving the standoffish bad-boy Tomohiro Yuuto don’t help her to feel settled. Around him, ink seems to come to life, and seemingly lifeless paper creations attack her. Desperate for answers, she finally learns the truth: he’s a Kami, descended from the original gods of Japan - and has a dangerous power many want to possess.

I really like Katie as a protagonist - her efforts to fit in despite having lost everything familiar to her make her easy to relate to. I did find some of her reactions to Tomo in the beginning a bit frustrating and there were echoes of other teen romance novels, but thankfully the unique mythological element and insight into Japanese culture more than made up for this. It’s clear that Amanda Sun has really researched the culture and setting and this makes for a more immersive reading experience. The plot is at first slow to unfold but the intriguing twists kept me turning the pages. All in all, this is a great debut and a must-read for anyone interested in Japanese culture, or just looking for a new contemporary fantasy book
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I have a yen for Japanese culture (yeah...I went there) so am always looking for fiction/movies that provide an insight into this unique and fascinating country. I was hesitant to try INK after mixed reviews but was pleasantly surprised to find a book that I connected with almost immediately and thoroughly enjoyed reading. I've only recently started reading Manga but I noticed some parallels and themes that feature heavily in INK which I think helped me enjoy the book more.

Katie is an American girl who has just recently moved to Japan to live with her aunt Diane after her mother dies. Overwhelmed by the new way of life, Katie can't help but feel lost and intimidated by all the new experiences accosting her senses at every turn. When Katie overhears her fellow student and resident bad boy Tomohiro break up with his girlfriend. In a fit of anger, Tomohiro throws his notebook of sketches aside and when they scatter Katie is stunned to notice one of them move. Sure that she imagined it, Katie can't help but feel drawn to Tomohiro and is determined to find out more about him and his mysterious drawings.

At first glance there is a lot of clichés in this book as Katie despite being humiliated by Tomo on several occasions continues to go back for more and behaves a bit stalkerish however as the book went on and Katie and Tomo actually communicated and connected with each other I felt their relationship grew and developed and it became a non issue for me.

The highlight for me was the descriptions and world building. I loved how Sun created a picture of Japanese culture that was fascinating and realistic and focused on how overwhelming it would be for a Westerner to experience. Particularly social etiquette where hugging your best friend and calling a person by their first name straight off the bat are considered no-no's. I was captivated by the history intertwined with legend of the Kami and their role in this book. The pacing of the book flowed well for me and I found it a pleasure to pick up every time, fully immersed in Katie's and Tomo's story.

I liked Katie as a character, I really felt she grew from the intense grief-stricken girl we meet at the start of the book into a young woman capable of adjusting to new situations and unafraid to following her heart. Tomo was interesting but it wasn't until the story really started to develop in regards to the Kami that I really started to like him and root for him as a character.

While not everyone's cup of tea, INK was highly enjoyable for me and I adored Sun's take on the Kami legend and her well-crafted story and am aching to find out what happens next in RAIN.
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What did I think about Ink? Well, to start with I was really drawn in by the fact it was set in Japan. I've never ever read a book that's set in Japan and I can honestly say that I loved learning about Japan and the Japanese culture. I've never known much about it so I enjoyed getting the opportunity to learn about it in this book. The other thing that really drew me in to start with was the moving drawings. I mean, how could you not be drawn in by that! One second your just sitting there doodling and the next minute your drawings try to eat you! Yeah, I had to find out more about that.

I wasn't overly impress with this book as the story went on. I found myself getting bored slightly and also kind of confused. The random Japanese words that amused me to start with got more annoying as the book went on. I didn't want to constantly have to look up what they meant so I kind of skimmed over them. I think I only learnt what one of the Japanese words meant and then I gave up.

Katie was an alright main character, although she did annoy me a lot. She had lost her parents and had to move to to Japan and try to fit into this new life. I really felt for her because of that. She was struggling with coming to terms with her parents death but she was also struggling to fit it. She seemed like a likable character, and then she met Tomo. Katie basically turned into a stalker when she met him. She followed him around, spied on him and tried to find out what he was up to. It was kind of creepy actually, and I thought she was a complete psycho. Sure, Tomo was up to something, but that didn't mean that she had to become his personal stalker! It was pretty weird.

And then there's Tomo. Tomo was an intriguing character, but he was a dick. Most of the time I wanted to punch him. He'd act like a dick to keep people from getting close to him and finding out his secret. There were times when I really liked him though. He could be sweet and funny, and I enjoyed seeing Tomo like that. I really liked discovering Tomo's connection to the Kami. It was pretty interesting, but his connection was dangerous and that's why he tried to keep people away from him.

The whole storyline of the Kami was extremely interesting. I loved learning about the history of the Kami and what Tomo's connection was. I adored seeing Tomo's drawings and seeing what he was capable of because of his connection. There was a lot to discover and a lot of danger involved with being connected to the Kami. Japan was a major part of this book as well and I adored discovering the culture along with Katie. I never knew much about the Japanese culture before I read this book and I'm glad I got the opportunity to learn about it.

The ending of this book was actually pretty interesting and I am intrigued to find out what's going to happen. Tomo was given a warning about what his Kami connection will do to him and I want to know whether he'll be able to find a way to avoid it. I'm also pretty intrigued to find out what Katie's connection to the Ink is since we never found out in this book.

Overall, this was an enjoyable book. There were parts I enjoyed and some boring parts that took me a while to get through, but I still enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to the second book, but it won't be one I'm desperate to get hold of.
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on 4 November 2013
Ink shows Amanda Sun's knowledge of Japan, its culture and its legends, as well as her own sensitivity and I admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of this story.
Katie is in a foreign country, coping with her grief, trying to make friends and learn a new language. How can a reader not feel empathy for her? Moreso because we can see her efforts, particularly not to let her mother's death effect her day by day.
Katie is drawn to Tomohiro because he is a loner too, and because she thinks she sees his ink drawings come to life, which naturally makes her curious about him.
At points in the story Amanda Sun attempts to introduce a good versus evil plot but often the lines become blurred making it difficult to distinguish which side the character belongs to.
Ink is an innovative and creative novel in which the fantasy world exists parallel to that of the human world. It seems that in particular the illusionary images and events are connected to the emotions of Tomohiro and Katie; they have both lost their mothers and Tomohiro's grief is exhibited as anger, which he encourages Katie to feel, and although Amanda Sun allow them to share a more sensitive side with each other in their relationship, the reader speculates which element of their personality will win.
The reader is also in the privileged position of learning about Japanese history and the Kami (although Amanda Sun does not sound like a history teacher!!). I enjoyed the part when Katie and Yuki stay with Niichan in Miyajima, visiting the Itsutushima Shrine as I thought it just brought made the story more genuine.
Although I could probably carry on for pages about this book I wouldn't want a loooooonnnnngggg review to stop you from reading a clever and amazing book! Oh, the plot isn't straightforward so expect a few surprises thrown in there :-)! Definitely one I recommend you read NOW!!!!!
I received this as a review copy, but this has had no influence on my opinion.
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