Monday, August 24, 2015

Aisuru by Anma Natsu

Amazon / B&N / Goodreads
Author: Anma Natsu
Publisher: Zenbi Press
Publication Date: March 22, 2015
Disclaimer: I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review
Sakura Takeshi's world was torn apart by her father's mental illness, leaving her orphaned with wounds that left her living on borrowed time.  To help her get through her pain, the kind man who adopts her regales her with stories of his childhood friend, a magical yokai from another world.  Harmless fairy tales to take her mind off things, or so she always thought...
Until the night a wounded man appears in Sakura's garden and she learns that her adopted father's stories had all been true!  Kazuki is not only a yokai, but also the heir to his kingdom. Unfortunately, he is on the run from his younger brother who wants the throne for himself.
With Kazuki's gentle influence, Sakura's world opens up. But what point is there in learning to live again, much less to fall in love, if you'll only have to say goodbye in the end?
Set in Hakodate, Japan, Aisuru is a young adult fantasy love story that will appeal to fans of manga-style stories and "grown up" fairy tales.
Before you even dive in to Aisuru there is a "Note on Language Choices and Honorifics" from the author, Anma Natsu. She explains that some phrases just don't translate well into English, so they are retained in Japanese with footnotes to assist in the reader's comprehension. The author also chose to stay authentic with the customs and rules of a society that many of us are not familiar with; she goes into a mini lesson about how people address each other appropriately, which I found quite helpful while reading. I felt like I learned a lot with this note alone, and even more so as I read Aisuru, so I am glad she chose to include this.

The protagonist, Sakura, was so strong; not only was she dealing with health issues that would eventually kill her, she had no family or friends to confide in. This was partly her choice, as she was afraid to get close to anyone because she knew she would only be leaving them. The story behind her health problems was absolutely heartbreaking and made me tear up a couple of times. I found myself feeling bad for her, but she didn't seem the type that would want anyone's pity. I admired the fact that she still had goals that she worked toward; some people might want to give up when faced with the same circumstances, yet she kept on working hard to achieve them. 

Then Kazuki, a prince from another dimension, came into her life and changed everything. He had his own issues at home, not the least of which involved his missing brother, who also happened to be heir to the throne of Throklana. Kazuki and Sakura were so sweet together; I loved how excited he got any time she showed him something he had never experienced before. His gift to her was even better. He showed her that some people were worth letting into her life, however short it may be. Here's one of my favorite interactions between them:

"Ah, the fair princess has returned. The sunshine has returned to my humble life once more." Kazuki made a sweeping gesture as he waited for her just past the entry.
"You really will say the wildest things sometimes." Sakura shook her head at him in amusement before switching out her shoes and stepping up into the house.
"Yes, yes. I do." He laughed before stealing a kiss. It was a harder, longer kiss than he'd given her before. "You truly are a light in my life. This you can believe." (excerpt from Aisuru)

I predicted a few facets of the ending, but some of it was still a surprise. It was equal parts heartbreaking and hopeful. I can't help but be optimistic that there will be a follow up to this book; I need more closure and would love to spend more time with these characters.

If you would like to learn more about the author, Anma Natsu, please visit her website and connect with her on Facebook and Google +.

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