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Aisuru (Hakodate Hearts Book 1) Kindle Edition
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
After the death of her parents [an incident that caused Sakura to suffer severe organ damage], and her guardian, Sakura is left to live on her own. Knowing the fact that she too, will die soon, Sakura alienates herself from any form of relationship - allowing her to leave as little an impact on people when she does succumb.
In another world, Kazuki receives a letter to meet his brother at his mother's grave. When he arrives, Kazuki is brutally attacked - barely managing to escape with his life. When Kazuki regains consciousness, he is greeted by Sakura and the human world.
I must admit, I was taken by surprise with this novel - Aisuru is not a novel that I would have chosen for myself, had I seen it in a bookstore. The plot is quite unlike any other romance I have read. I loved that it contained romance, humour, fantasy, and a hint of mystery regarding Kazuki and his brother. My only nitpick with the plot was that I felt the circumstances of Sakura's illness a bit farfetched.
I adored the characters Anma Natsu has created - I felt that the main characters were sweet, and easy for readers to connect to. I believe that whilst many aspects of this novel were purely fantastical, that Kazuki's wish for Sakura to live was very real - as was Sakura's wish to distance herself to keep from hurting everyone around her.
In terms of the setting, Japan was an amazing choice. Whilst reading, the reader picks up an introductory insight into the culture of Japan [even learning a few of the words - aided by Natsu's footnotes].
Ultimately, Aisuru is a gorgeous story with an equally gorgeous cover. Without a doubt, I can picture this novel as a animated movie [or Anime in Japan]. The Characters were wonderful, the plot was wonderful, and the setting was wonderful - my biggest problem was that it came to an end. I hope that the author plans to write more in the future - I want to know what the future has in store for our two paranormal lovers.
I'm a total fan of Japanese culture and folklore, in fact I love most Asian based stories or at least am willing to try them. I knew what a yokai was and yet haven't read many books about them, mostly they are featured in manga (which is cool because it comes with drawings...) I loved the explanation of the honorifics and any Japanese terms she used through the story. So I was super excited for this book! And in the end I was not disappointed. My review may sound as if it is a troupe hell and you may agree but I cried several times through the book and that NEVER happens! It was quite inexplicable but also wonderful how these characters struck me so...
Sakura and Kasuki are perhaps exactly what you expect from a girl dying and a yokai who falls in love. It wasn't the extreme specialness of these two characters that wowed me so much as their quiet, regular lives and how they chose to go about living. Some might call this book slow but I really was totally into the story every page. Sakura really sucked me in with her hardships and how she was making the life she had left so much harder on herself than she needed to. I wanted to see her loosen up and get a chance at life. Kasuki was not the sharpest tool in the shed but he had people he cared about and even though he didn't want the kingdom he was willing to do what was needed until the situation could be resolved. You might call these two special snowflakes or Mary Sues and while they might rightly fit in either of those categories I wanted to see them be happy. There was a rough transition between the setup and when other events start happening (i.e. the plot starts) that smacks of insta-love. Really there needed another couple weeks to pass before their thoughts go from friends to lovers. (This is minor but it is my major problem with the book!)
Here is what I said when they first met: "There is something delightful about their first interactions. Simple but peaceful and understanding. I like that she dragged him inside thought it could kill her... I thought it very cute how he teased her about the bed. Loved how important she thought it was to tell him of Hiro's death before they eat. He's so excited at the books and tv she left for him."
Here is what I said at 25%: "I'm loving this book though it's slower than some might like. I had the feeling at 22% of the story just now starting. I think most writers would not have such a slow beginning but I like that the status quo was setup well. They shop for his clothes and he's so cute looking around and fearing cars. I like he got her to buy herself a dress..."
My thoughts once the setup was complete: "We get the whole story of why her body is failing her...it is terribly sad and all due to a mental illness. Her poor mother! Kazuki doesn't want to leave her now but also wants to find a cure for her in his world. It smacks a bit of insta-love the way he is acting... I like it anyway. This author has thought out everything so far..."
Akari, Hina, her two friends and Karasu, Kasuki's young servant were such a great addition to this relationship. I loved Karasu's problem with Sakura. I loved Akari's reservations. I loved Hina's curiosity. For a relatively small group of characters they were used well to add dimension to Sakura's plight without feeling like accessory characters. Karasu's transformation from a hater to a little brother particularly touched my heart!
The plot once we hit 40% really hits its stride. It's a long buildup to this point but if you hang in there you are so invested in them all. I loved the bucket list, the dohame and Kasuki's problems with Yuji his little brother. The villain is a silent threat that I enjoyed as I wondered about the little details dropped through the whole book. The stories within the stories really worked for me too, they really added the yokai kingdom aspect to this human world story.
This at its heart is a romance novel set in Japan. It's a touch supernatural and quite heartbreaking at times. The end was super exciting and while the twist is quite obvious it was also unexpected! You'll have to read it to see what I mean...
On a side note, my only other problem is the next book in the Hakodate Hearts series is not about yokai! Why spend all that time setting up that world and not explore it more? (I was hoping for a book about Yuji or Reito or even the father's romance with Kasuki's mother!) I have zero interest in this very modern turn, which is so disappointing!!
This was a very interesting book. It had a pretty unique story line, but it wasn't so far out there that it made me not like it. The characters were interesting, and while there wasn't an incredible amount of time spent on fleshing out their every nuance and motivation, I still felt like I had a pretty good idea of how each main character would handle a particular situation, in general. The author also lets the reader discover each character over the course of the whole book, which I love. There's not a crazy-long exposition on who this person is at the beginning of the book that never comes into play again. The characters develop as things happen in the story, and you feel like you're learning about them as they are learning about themselves.
It does have fantasy-type elements throughout the book, especially toward the end, but that's my favorite genre, so it was fine for me. I know some people don't really care for it, though, so here's your warning.
I also thoroughly enjoyed learning a bit more about Japanese culture, simply by reading this book. I know a little bit about it from certain video games and from a history of drama class that I took, but I know a little bit more now, thanks to the research this author did and her explanatory footnotes that were easily accessible on my Kindle. The footnotes were also not intrusive, which I truly appreciate. It was just a superscript number that I could touch and have the footnote pop up, then close it and pick up right where I left off in the story. Doing it this way provided context, and made it easy to understand a more nuanced meaning of the words and phrases she used that needed a bit of explanation. No weird back-and-forth between the story and the footnotes. Yay!
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a fantasy-laced book about the life of a girl who thought her world ended long ago and the people who show her what life can be if you let people in.
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