Rainbow Rowell: Rave About or Rant About?

Name: Rainbow Rowell
Rainbow RowellOrigin: Nebraska, USA
Books: Attachments, Eleanor and Park, Fangirl
Recognition:In 2013 Rowell published two young adult novels: Eleanor & Park and Fangirl. Both were chosen by The New York Times as being some of the best young adult fiction of the year. Eleanor & Park was also chosen by Amazon as one of the 10 best books of 2013 and as Goodreads’ best young adult fiction of the year.Fangirl was chosen for the tumblr reblog book club.
Her Blog:http://rainbowrowell.com/blog/

 

First of all, I want to fangirl a bit about her name because is just so awesome! The first time I heard about it, I thought it was a pseudonym because it matches her writing so perfectly. It’s quirky, alliterary (probably not a real word since I’m getting that ugly red squiggle underneath) and the ‘Rainbow’ part adds a touch of irony- very nice.

So what is this going to be, a rant or a rave? If you haven’t already guessed, it’s definitely going to be a rave. Rainbow Rowell convinced me of something that, a year ago, I would have thought was impossible. She (gasp!) got me into contemporary young adult. Let me tell you- this was a major feat. In fact it’s practically award worthy because I had sworn never, ever, ever to read contemporary. About a year ago, I was just getting into the whole young adult thing. I had read a handful of YA contemporary and they all turned out to be bad. Uninspired, bland, shallow. Really bad. Then along came Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell like a dragon hell bent on encouraging me not to misjudge it’s entire race.  The blurb was cute and catchy. The title even more so. Especially since I had spent two whole years reading and writing huge (and I mean HUGE) amounts of fanfiction. Obviously, I fell in love with the book. The rest, as they say, is history. Actually no, it’s not- if you take a look at my blog, you’ll notice that nowadays I review quite a few contemporary young adult books. I would have missed a lot  good books (This Song Will Save Your Life , Wanderlove , 45 Pounds: More or Less , Just One Day) if I never got into this genre. So, I owe Rainbow Rowell a lot. A lot more than I can say thankyou for.

And what exactly makes her so awesome? I think it’s a combination of things. First and foremost is her characters. They’re quirky, interesting, unique, surprisingly profound but at the heart of it still realistic and well rounded. Eleanor deals with bullying and self-image issues at school and her home life is a train wreck waiting to happen. But at the same time, she never loses her sense of humour or her individuality. Cath is socially awkward. The thought of actually interacting in person with real people turns her into a nervous mess but she’s a gifted writer. She has the talent to write amazing stories which have major fan-followings Unfortunately for her, her writing teacher doesn’t believe in fanfiction and fanfiction is what Cath writes best. But Cath is the kind of character who grows as the story progresses. She moves (or maybe shuffles is a more appropriate word for it) out of her comfort zone and shell and actually forges new relationships.

Which brings me to the next thing I love about Rainbow Rowell’s books: The Relationships. How does an author create such different characters? More importantly, how does she make such different characters get along? Most importantly, how does she make their relationships so…memorable and perfect? I have no idea but let me give you an example. Reagen is a girl who’s larger than life. She’s prone to mockery and is excessively blunt. How does she even get along with (much less become BFF’s) with quiet, nervous, head-in-fanfiction Cath? I don’t know how it does, but it works. Rainbow Rowell proves that in fiction at least, the best pairs are the ones with the least in common.

How else would you explain Eleanor and Park? Eleanor is all red hair and wrong clothes. It’s impossible not to stare at her and the force of her personality (and her size) makes everyone seem duller and flatter. She comes from a broken home…quite literally, her home is broken. Her parents, both not so great to begin with, are divorced. Her mom remarried a man who loves to drink and loves to bully…and bully he does, but he does so much more (I can’t say much more without giving major spoilers). Park, on the other hand, has a wonderful home life. His Dad met his Mom in Korea, married her and brought her home. They still kiss and hold each other like they haven’t seen each other in months. They are simply adorable. Park himself is popular enough and respected enough at school but sometimes he feels like he doesn’t fit in. And that’s where the tagline for the book comes in: Two misfits. One extraordinary love.

But the real oomph and glamour of the book doesn’t come from the characters and their relationships (although we’ve already mentioned that they’re much better than great).  What makes these books so spectacular is the writing. Yes, the writing.

“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”
Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park

“I…” – her voice nearly disappeared – “think I live for you.”
He closed his eyes and pressed his head back into his pillow.
“I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together,” she whispered. “Which means, when I see you on Monday morning, it’s been like sixty hours since I’ve taken a breath. That’s probably why I’m so crabby, and why I snap at you. All I do when we’re apart is think about you, and all I do when we’re together is panic. Because every second feels so important. And because I’m so out of control, I can’t help myself. I’m not even mine anymore, I’m yours, and what if you decide that you don’t want me? How could you want me like I want you?”
He was quiet. He wanted everything she’d just said to be the last thing he heard. He wanted to fall asleep with ‘I want you’ in his ears.”
Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park

“Happily ever after, or even just together ever after, is not cheesy,” Wren said. “It’s the noblest, like, the most courageous thing two people can shoot for.”
Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl

Just… isn’t giving up allowed sometimes? Isn’t it okay to say, ‘This really hurts, so I’m going to stop trying’?”
“It sets a dangerous precedent.”
“For avoiding pain?”
“For avoiding life.”
Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl

Rainbow Rowell’s writing is so unabashedly sweet and profound (but not in a in-your-face way). Sometimes just reading quotes from her books is enough to make me catch my breath, sigh and let loose a few tears. I chose a few of them but these are just the tip of the iceberg. On a scale from 1 to 5, her quotes are a ten on quotability. For some more of them, click on the link here (it’ll take you to goodreads). Better yet, read the books.

   

 

 

 

 

 

They might not be pretty, but seriously (in this case, at least), don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

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Wanderlove: A Book Review

Book: Wanderlove Author/Authoress: Kristen Hubbard

WanderloveWanderlove

Cover: 5/5

I love both covers. Okay, the first one might be a bit of a cliché with a petty girl being wistful and the second might be a little cartoonish but both of them cover (pun not intended) the main aspects of the book. The first cover is gorgeous. A little bit sad, wistful and hopeful at the same time. Personally, I think that the violet flowers (could they be violets by any chance?) were a great addition, somehow bringing colour, vibrancy and playfulness into a cover that would have otherwise been sort of dull, without messing up the pensive quality of the book. The second cover is something that I can actually imagine Bria, the MC, drawing. It’s a outline map of Mexico with all the important sights that she saw marked and sketched (or pencil-shaded) with exquisite detail. Along with the quintessential, anonymous backpacker girl (you’ll see why that girl is so important in the story; she’s sort of Bria’s muse). And the backpacker girl just so happens to look a bit like Bria. Coincidence, right?

Plot:5/5

It all begins with a stupid question: Are you a Global Vagabond? No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path. Bria’s a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan’s a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they’ve got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward. But Bria comes to realize she can’t run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back. Kirsten Hubbard lends her artistry to this ultimate backpacker novel, weaving her drawings into the text. Her career as a travel writer and her experiences as a real-life vagabond backpacking Central America are deeply seeded in this inspiring story. Wow! Wow! Wow! It’s hard to imagine a plot more exciting and wholesome than what this blurb promises but somehow it’s true. This book is full of new experiences, adventure, gross hotels, travel tips, art, self-discovery and second chances. It seems hard to believe that all this can be found in just one book. But this book is not just any book. Dun dun dun. This is a backpacking book. And a pretty good one too. The scenery adds to the plot and brings it from great to swoon-worthy (if you’re the type that swoons over books; and I totally am.) . Mayan cul­ture, pineapple liquitas, the vibrancy of crowded cities, the jun­gle, the humidity, the rides on the chicken buses, and the bluest waters with exotic fishes in it.

Characters: 4/5

Backpacking has been on my bucket list since…forever. My destination wasn’t Guatemala and Belize (it was Europe in case you wanted to know), but whatever. Same difference, right? And just like Bria, I have the tendency to overplan and compartmentalize. Thankfully not overpack though. Travel has been over-romancised in Bria’s mind. She wants nothing more than to learn how to be spontaneous. Her goal for the summer is to learn how to travel effortlessly and ‘just go with the flow’. Unfortunately Global Vagabonds, the tour group that she signed up with, is non-conducive to her goals.  Every­thing is planned out for her from the walking tours to the food they eat. There’s no downtime or room for self discovery.  Once an oppor­tu­nity to ditch them arises, she takes it to prove her­self to all her  doubters back at home that she can do this. And to herself as well. Bria is the kind of character that evolved as the book went on. In several ways. As a traveller, she lost her fear of shabby rooms and humongous insects. As an artist, her drawings became more emotional and complex. And as a person, she tried new things, overcame several fears, regained her self confidence and started acting more spontaneously.

Rowan has a…checkered past. He subscribes to a policy of wanderlove.

“Wanderlove is about forgetting the bad things and focusing on the good. Out with the old and in with the new… The only way to escape the past is to keep moving forward.”

His life used to be like a nonstop rave, with rowdy parties and pounds of…something (that is probably not bananas). But during the time the book is set, he’s on the straight and narrow (except for a few stray pranks here and there, misguiding not-so-well-travelled travellers). But seriously, other than the pranks part, Rowan was a sweet guy with a lot of travel knowledge and an interesting perspective on life. Starling was a pretty interesting character. She’s Rowan’s half-sister and alleviates her first world guilt by volunteering as a teacher in third world countries for pennies. Throughout the book, her goal numero uno is to keep Rowan happy and safe. Even if she has to keep him safe from himself.

Romance: 5/5

Loved, loved, loved the romance in this book. It’s an interesting pairing but it makes so much sense. I liked Bria and Rowan as friends. The way they shared their philosophies, talked about books, travelled together and encouraged each other to step out of their comfort zone. But those two had chemistry and I was really, really glad when the friendship turned into something more. The romance was so believable. Their issues were handled perfectly. All in all, I think the romance was sweet and believable.

Ending:4/5

Perfect ending. The story ending is the closure but not-yet-the-end type. And that’s my favourite type. We closed one chapter of their life but that doesn’t make the story over (I’m not a fan of Happy Ever After’s in case you didn’t notice). But I’m cutting off 1 star for the cheese. Sometimes it works but not this time…

I can wait until tomorrow to call my college, where I’ll probably be sleeping on a cot in the basement, but at this point, I don’t care. When you fall for a guy like Rowan, nothing’s certain. But I’m pretty sure we’ve found the antidote to Wanderlove: each other.

Seriously, overkill.

Quotables:

Envy is when you want what someone else has. Jealousy’s when you also don’t want them to have it.”

“Hearing about vacations is like hearing about dreams — no one cares except the person who’s experienced them.” “What everyone forgets — even me — is the people who actually live here. In places like Central America, I mean. Southeast Asia. India. Africa. Millions, even billions, of people, who live out their whole lives in these places — the places so many people like us fear. Think about it: they ride chicken buses to work every day. Their clothes are always damp. Their whole lives, they never escape the dust and the heat. But they deal with all these discomforts. They have to.
“So why can’t travelers? If we’ve got the means to get here, we owe it to the country we’re visiting not to treat it like an amusement park, sanitized for our comfort. It’s insulting to the people who live here. People just trying to have the best lives they can, with the hands they’ve been dealt.”

“Prices are relative. So is poverty. So is happiness.”

And this one made me laugh because it’s just so…Bria.

“I want to draw you. All of you.’ Then I pause. ‘That came out wrong-you can keep your clothes on.”

Plotholes:3/5

At the beginning, Bria comes across as sort of snobby and a bit of a brat. In fact, when she was on the plane and lied that she was a photographer, I wanted to simultaneously laugh at her, slap her and slam the book shut. Not necessarily in that order. Besides up till, like 1/8th of the book, it seemed like Bria and the author was keeping us (the reader) at arms length. But seriously, don’t give up on the book. It gets better. And once you get Bria’s backstory, all will become clear.

Overall Rating:4/5

A great summer book when you’re stuck at home. I almost felt like I was on the trip with Bria. I loved the characters and the plot was pretty good. And the cover’s really pretty. Almost like an accessory. So stop making excuses and pick up this book. As soon as possible.

Just One Day: A Series Review

Okay, I’m going to mix this up a little by writing a review for Just One Day and Just One Year together. Both books are part of the Just One Day series by Gayle Forman. The reason I’m reviewing both books at the same time is because really, there’s no other way to read these books. I kind of feel sorry for the people who read Just One Day before reading Just One Year came out. Reading both one after another adds a lot to the reading experience.

Both books cover the same time period but are in different PoV’s. I’m a sucker for fanfics and novellas which promise to tell me what’s going on inside the other character’s head. I like having different perspectives and figuring out what other characters are thinking. So, really it was pretty obvious I was going to like the books.

Just One Day (Just One Day, #1)

Cover:3/5

They’re cute enough I guess. But they don’t have the same enthralling-slightly-haunting quality that ‘If I Stay’ and ‘Where She Went’ had.  Those books had covers which pulled you in and kept you thinking about those books until you actually got to them. I think the problem with the cover for ‘Just One Day’ is that it’s so…adultish. So mature and picturesque. From the font of the text, to the silhouettes and the sunlight’s glare, everything is so effortlessly chic and mature. It’s intimidating. Really intimidating.

I didn’t really look at the cover for ‘Just One Year’. I was too eager to read the book, too excited to know exactly what was going on in Will’s life during that year.  So, I can’t make any judgement on the cover of ‘Just One Year’

Plot:5/5

Just One Day:

Allyson Healey’s life is exactly like her suitcase—packed, planned, ordered. Then on the last day of her three-week post-graduation European tour, she meets Willem. A free-spirited, roving actor, Willem is everything she’s not, and when he invites her to abandon her plans and come to Paris with him, Allyson says yes. This uncharacteristic decision leads to a day of risk and romance, liberation and intimacy: 24 hours that will transform Allyson’s life.

A book about love, heartbreak, travel, identity, and the “accidents” of fate, Just One Day shows us how sometimes in order to get found, you first have to get lost. . And how often the people we are seeking are much closer than we know.

Just One Year:

When he opens his eyes, Willem doesn’t know where in the world he is—Prague or Dubrovnik or back in Amsterdam. All he knows is that he is once again alone, and that he needs to find a girl named Lulu. They shared one magical day in Paris, and something about that day—that girl—makes Willem wonder if they aren’t fated to be together. He travels all over the world, from Mexico to India, hoping to reconnect with her. But as months go by and Lulu remains elusive, Willem starts to question if the hand of fate is as strong as he’d thought. . . .

The romantic, emotional companion to Just One Day, this is a story of the choices we make and the accidents that happen—and the happiness we can find when the two intersect.

My thoughts:

Both books are bitter-sweet, emotional and ultimately so honest. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a romance book. Not really; It’s more of a book of self discovery and travel. In Paris, Allyson didn’t just lose Willem. She also found a stronger, more confident and more assertive part of her that Willem called Lulu.  A lot of people think that her behaviour after losing a guy who she had been with for just 24 hours was ridiculous (her best friend included) but I felt like her loss was much more than that. The most hard-hitting part of her day in Paris was not the fact that she met a guy, got to know the important parts of him, spent a day in the most romantic city in the world with him and then ultimately lost lost him – all within a day. No, the most hard-hitting part of Lulu/Allyson’s day in Paris was she realized that the rest of her life had been meaningless and that she been striving hard to complete her parent’s goals and match their expectations rather than her own. This book is what I wanted ‘The Infinite Moment of Us’ to be like. I loved the first part of the book. That part was a fun and cute read. In fact, just reading the book was enough to make me want to go to Paris. I was kind of bored around the middle. Her depression and confusion throughout the first semester was not exactly fun to read about. But it served it’s purpose. I fell in love with the book again as soon as Allyson decided to go back to Paris. Her job, her French Classes and her interaction with her friends at University was amazing to read about. Can you fall in love three times in one sitting? I did. I fell in love with this book again during her second Europe trip as she flitted from one place to another, a stronger and more impulsive creature this time around.

Willem also goes on a journey of self discovery. Literally. He travels around the world going to destinations as exotic as the Netherlands, France, Mexico and India. I loved getting into his head. Oh My God! I felt for this guy. I really did. The backstory I wondered about in ‘Just One Day’ was shown in this book and let me just say- I completely understand. All those little niggling doubts that I had about him in book 1, they disappeared by the middle of book 2. There were parts I found really frustrating. The parts where Willem and Allyson came so close to finding each other but missed each other by a hair almost made me want to tear out my own. I was so invested in the story, I ranted and cried for almost ten minutes before picking up the book again. I loved meeting his friends and seeing his charisma in action as he met new people. His reconciliation with his mother was a complicated one but ultimately it was a beautiful one.

Characters:5/5

Okay, I’ve covered most of this in the plot section but there’s a little bit more I want to add.

Can I just say that Allyson was a character I really identified with? I’m the quintessential book geek. You know the type. Painfully shy, overly obedient,  desperate for an adventure but not bold enough to actually grab a real opportunity. I guess I live vicariously through books. And Allyson was much the same at the beginning of the book. But unlike me, Allyson didn’t have to live vicariously through a book. She actually went to Paris and grabbed her own adventure. I guess books like these are meant to give us book geeks hope that we might actually have an adventure someday. But unlike most books, this book actually managed to convince me that I’ll get the chance and I’ll take it. Allyson becomes stronger, more impulsive and enthusiastic as the book progresses. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to attack a gang member with a book but I definitely cheered Allyson on as she did. Similarly, I don’t think I could do something as impulsive as marching up and down the canals of Paris and bribing a boat operator to take me for a ride. But Allyson did and I loved her for it.

Willem was a character who was so much more complex than was shown in book 1. Seeing everything from his perspective was surprisingly…enlightening. In book one, I wasn’t really a fan of his. He was overly light-hearted and flippant. I couldn’t really understand his motives at any point of book 1. But seeing everything from his point of view. Wow! I think I kind of misjudged him. That light-hearted and flippant guy? Yeah- that was all just a farce. Seeing his issues- the way his family had fallen apart after his father’s death, the abandonment he felt from his mother never being around on account of her being too busy to help the misfortunates of the world instead of him and the real loss and desperation he felt after losing Lulu (Allyson) because he felt like she was the only one who saw right through his farce. It made me feel for him. I might have empathized with Allyson but all my sympathy went to Will.

Besides these awesome MC’s, there was a great set of supporting characters. For example: Allyson’s mom. At first, I thought she was the villain of the piece. She was a helicopter parent, pushing Allyson to become a doctor even though she didn’t really want to be one and was completely unsupportive of Allyson’s trip back to Paris. But by the end, I was able to understand that she never meant to hurt Allsyon, that Allyson had hurt her quite a bit and why she wanted Allyon to become a doctor.

Brodi was a guy who was goofy enough to provide comic relief (his name literally means sandwich) but thoroughly sincere and caring enough to be more than 2-dimensional.

Romance: 3/5

It was insta-love on both parts. Actually, maybe it was more like lust within a second, love within a day. But just for the record, this was the most beautiful insta-love I’ve ever read. Within a single day in Paris, the two were actually able to get to know the important things about each other. Well, everything but names and addresses. But let’s face it, if they had thought to take those from each other, there wouldn’t have been a story for us to read.

Ending:4/5

The ending was seriously beautiful. Just as both of them had given up hope for finding each other, they found each other. You know that quote: When you stop looking for something, you find it. My only gripe is that there are so many questions left unanswered. Or actually there’s only two important ones. Now that they’ve found each other, what will they do? And, Will they be able to live up to each other’s expectations?

I’m definitely going to read ‘Just One Night’ as soon as it comes out on May 29th. It’s a short story and the conclusion to this amazing series. Both ‘Just One Day’ and ‘Just One Year’ end with Allyson walking into Willem’s flat and I’m just dying to know what comes next. And that’s what ‘Just One Night’ promises to tell us. I just hope the book can live up to all my expectations because this time, they’re seriously high.

Dialogue: 4/5

These are my favourite quotes. So profound…

“Travelling’s not something you’re good at. It’s something you do. Like breathing. You can’t work too much at it, or it feels like work. You have to surrender yourself to the chaos. To the accidents.”
-Just One Day
“It’s funny the things you think you’re scared of until they’re upon you, and then you’re not.”
-Just One Day
“There’s a difference between losing something you knew you had and losing something you discovered you had. One is a disappointment. The other feels like losing a piece of yourself.”
-Just One Year
“Because you don’t ever find things when you’re looking for them. You find them when you’re not.”
-Just One Year
And Gayle Forman gets major points for including one of my favourite quotes:
What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
-Just One Year

Overall Rating:4.5/5

This series is one that you just can not miss. It’s not just young-adult, I’m pretty sure some adult readers will enjoy this too. The nice thing about this series is that it can fit into so many genres so well and it can still be the best in every single one of them. Chick-lit,Contemporary, Romance, Young-Adult, New-Adult, Self-Discovery and Miraculous.

Lovely Vicious: A Book Review

Book: Lovely Vicious (Lovely Vicious #1)

Author/Authoress: Sara Wolf

Lovely Vicious (Lovely Vicious, #1)

Cover: 2/5

It’s good looking enough but I can’t remember a single time when Isis ever went swimming. So, it’s pretty much inaccurate unless Sara Wolf wanted to convey the fact that Isis felt like she was drowning…okay that’s kind of metaphysical. Too metaphysical. 2/5 for the cover.

Plot: 3/5

Seventeen-year-old Isis Blake hasn’t fallen in love in three years, nine weeks, and five days, and after what happened last time, she intends to keep it that way. Since then she’s lost eighty-five pounds, gotten four streaks of purple in her hair, and moved to the Buttcrack-of-Nowhere Ohio to help her mom escape a bad relationship.

All the girls in her new school want one thing – Jack Hunter, the Ice Prince of East Summit High. Hot as an Armani ad, smart enough to get into Yale, and colder than the Arctic, Jack Hunter’s never gone out with anyone. Sure, people have seen him downtown with beautiful women, but he’s never given high school girls the time of day. Until Isis punches him in the face.

Jack’s met his match. Suddenly everything is a game.

The goal: Make the other beg for mercy.

The game board: East Summit High.

The reward: Something neither of them expected.

The blurb’s a bit misleading. I thought it would be a cheesy, fun, flirt love-hate romance. It definitely is not.

Sure, Jack is an Ice Prince and Isis is cynical and disbelieving of love but there is so much more to the story than that. By the time you get to chapter 5 or so you’ll find out that Jack works as an escort and Isis was abused emotionally. Their backstories are truly tragic and I think the representation of who they become because of their experiences is pretty accurate.Through most of this book, I felt like a balloon was trapped in my throat. It was just so sad at times but Isis would never let me cry. Her tough, cynical, overtly-honest words refused to let me feel any pity for her. Only sympathy. Even when I got near the end of the middle and found out that their backstories were a lot more tragic than originally stated, I still couldn’t cry because neither Isis or Jack were the type to appreciate crying.

But there were times I burst out laughing. Sure their antics were a little….implausible and immature. But they were hilarious. And they lightened the mood considerably. Without them, this book would have been gloom and doom and full of angst. With it, it was dark with a streak of humour.

Characters:4/5

Isis: She comes across as totally confident and in-control but she’s hiding a insecure mess. She’s been abused- mentally, emotionally and physically and it’s done a number on her self confidence. But she’s really loyal. And that’s what gets her dragged into this whole ‘war’. Isis was a character I really enjoyed. I read this book in bed and I she made me roll off it  laughing with her intensely sarcastic and sometimes deeply inappropriate retorts.

Jack: I get the feeling that I’m supposed to like this character, but I just can’t. It’s a mess. He’s too ice-cold for me to really feel anything for/about him. He keeps on doing stuff which is morally…just not done. I really don’t have much tolerance for this guy. Maybe he’s supposed to get my sympathy but he pretty much dug his own hole. What I do like about him: In the ‘War’, he’s able to keep his own. When Isis comes up with a one-liner that would have embarrassed me to pieces he notches up the ‘War’ another level with a clever quip and a less-than-clever prank.
Also his Mom was really cool. Although isn’t it a bit sad when you like the love interest’s Mom more than you like the character?

Kayla: Okay, this she was a really interesting character. One that might be more interesting than the MC…Nah, she isn’t but she comes a close second. Kayla is Isis’s best friend but their relationship isn’t that simple. For one thing, Kayla gets seriously annoyed whenever someone takes her for just another pretty face. She isn’t and Isis is one of the first to actually acknowledge it.  Kayla has a serious crush on Jack. So that’s one thing that really complicated their friendship.
I think I was kind of creeped out (just a little bit) when Isis paid Jack to take Kayla out on a date. I was even more creeped out when he agreed (because it was kind of obvious that he liked Isis) but it became clearer by the end of the date. Kayla reminds Isis of a prettier version of her younger self- naïve and carefree.

Besides these characters, there was a whole cast of supporting characters who were pretty amazing. I think I especially loved Wren. He plays a huge part in this book and despite the fact that you should think that he’s evil ( gasp!- he’s Nameless’ cousin) he’s actually the sweetest and most caring character in the book.

Knife Guy was hilarious (not that you would think that from his nickname) and Avery definitely played her frenemy part well.

Romance:1/5

Yes, I agree that Jack and Isis are like a modern-day Romeo and Juliet.  But only because the whole Romeo and Juliet romance was pretty messed up. They were 14, Romeo ditched another girl for her, they got married, killed relatives, forgot about silly things like- I don’t know, pulses?, and poisoned themselves. Yep, totally messed up. And that’s what the romance in this book is like. It’s not a hate-love relationship. It’s like  a hate-hate turned into lust relationship. Gross.

But I can see the attraction. Maybe… deep down, somewhere.

Writing: 5/5

There were two things I loved about the book. One was Isis. The other was the dialogue with Isis.

“How did you find me? If you hacked into the Club’s computer to look up my appointments – ”
“Whoa, I think you overestimate me, shitlord. Last time I checked all I did was be in the wrong place at the right time. I saw you and had to – ”
“Stalk me.”
“ – delicately approach you. In a sideways manner. From behind. Without being seen at all. For ten minutes.”

I would love to slap you right now, but I’m currently wielding a nine pound ball and I’m afraid that would be called murder

“You’re drunk.”
“Yeah, and you’re ugly, but do I complain about it? No! Because I don’t complain about things that I can’t change. That’s called intelligence.”

Don’t you have something to better to work on?” I hiss. “Like golfing or eating prunes or dying?”
The old lady looks shocked.
“Okay, sorry, not dying. But seriously, prunes are good for you.”

Plotholes:2/5

Most of the war was completely unrealistic. At times, it got really, really vicious. I kept on thinking something like ‘He/She went too far. They’re gonna get screwed.’ throughout the book. The Principal’s involvement was really pushing it too far. I mean since when would a professional get involved in such a childish and immature prank war?

At times it seemed like this was a fanfiction. A bunch of fun, hilarious events haphazardly connected to each other with a bucket load of immature insults thrown in. I’m certain that the war part of this book would’ve been a lot of fun to write but in the realistic scheme of things, it doesn’t make much sense. It was created solely to show that Isis and Jack could take a whole lot of crap and keep moving. Which is an admirable message, but I think the ‘War’ was the wrong way to go about showing that both characters were strong, creative and versatile individuals.

Warning: The book features quite a bit of profanity. It kind of bugged me so I’m including that here.

Ending: 4/5

Oh my gosh. This is the definition of a cliff-hanger. <spoiler> She gets amnesia, forgets about Jack and meets Sophie </spoiler>. I need to see where this is going. It’s heart breaking. Heart-breaking I tell you. This was really, really well-written.

Overall Rating: 2.5/5

I’m sure this was a fun book to write and it was definitely a fun book to read but if you actually think about this book for a minute, then you’ll realize most of this book makes no sense. The only redeeming features (the ones that stopped this book from being put in the same category as Matched or The Selection) was the excellent dialogue and the some of the characters. If you can ignore every thing else, then you should really enjoy this book.

 

5 Places I Want To Go (Just Because I’ve Read About Them)

There are some books which are so well written, you can almost imagine yourself with the characters. Some places that are so well written you can almost imagine yourself being there. And some places are written even better than that. Not only can you imagine being there, you actually want to go there. And all because of a book…

These are 5 places that I was inspired to visit just because I was lucky enough to pick up the right book.

1.) Prague, Czechoslovakia

           

Which Book Inspired me?

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1)

Book: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Author/Authoress: Laini Taylor

Description: Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself.

Things I Want to See:

  1. Poison- The restaurant where Karou and her friends often visit. Creepy with coffins and ‘ghoul’ash
  2. A puppet show- an honest-do-goodness marionette
  3. Charles Bridge- the place where the showdown finally happens in the book
  4. St. Vitus Cathedral- Domes, spires and all. Any chance I can get a Bird’s Eye view like Karou?
  5. Bungee Jumping of Zvikovské podhradí


2.) Sicily, Italy

A tiny island just off Taormina''s shore (Credit Image: © Matt Munro/Lonely Planet Travel

Which Book Inspired Me?

Arcadia Awakens (Arkadien, #1)

Book: Arcadia Awakens

Author/Authoress: Kai Meyers

Description: To New Yorker Rosa Alcantara, the exotic world of Sicily, with its network of Mafia families and its reputation for murder and intrigue, is just that—exotic, and wholly unknown. But when tragedy strikes, she must travel there, to her family’s ancestral home, where her sister and aunt have built their lives and where centuries of family secrets await her. Once there, Rosa wastes no time falling head over heels for Alessandro Carnevare, the son of a Sicilian Mafia family, whose handsome looks and savage grace both intrigue and unsettle her. But their families are sworn enemies, and her aunt and sister believe Alessandro is only using Rosa to infiltrate the Alcantara clan. And when Rosa encounters a tiger one night—a tiger with very familiar eyes—she can no longer deny that neither the Carnevares nor the Alcantaras are what they seem.

Ancient myths brought to life in the Sicilian countryside, dangerous beasts roaming the hills, and a long history of familial bloodlust prove to Rosa that she can’t trust anyone—not even her own family. Torn between loyalty to her aunt and love for her family’s mortal enemy, Rosa must make the hardest decision of her life: stay in Sicily with her new love . . . or run as far and as fast as she can.

Places I Want To See:

  1. Mount Etna- How could I go to Sicily without seeing that famous Volcano?
  2. Aeolian Islands- Let’s Hope I don’t almost get eaten by a great cat like Rosa here but maybe the view would be worth the risk.
  3. Lampedusa- More beautiful beaches.

3.) Venice, Italy

              

Which Book Inspired Me?

The Thief Lord

Book: The Thief Lord

Author/Authoress: Cornelia Funke

Description:Welcome to the magical underworld of Venice, Italy. Here, hidden canals and crumbling rooftops shelter runaways and children with incredible secrets….

After escaping from their cruel aunt and uncle, orphans Prosper and Bo meet a mysterious boy who calls himself the “Thief Lord.” Clever and charming, the Thief Lord leads a band of street children who enjoy making mischief. But the Thief Lord also has a dark secret. And suddenly Proper and Bo find themselves on a fantastical journey to a forgotten place. What they discover there will change the course of their destiny.

Things I want to See:

  1. San Marco Piazza- I’ll eat the pastries but I’ll skip feeding the pigeons. Pigeons creep me out.
  2. A Gondola- Preferably, ride in one too but I’ll settle for a vaporetto
  3. The Carnevale- I really, really want to see those elaborate masks. Who knows? Maybe I’d wear one too.
  4. See Juliet’s house- Yes, the one that Shakespeare wrote about. Would love to see the balcony…a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet

4.)Paris, France

       

Which Book Inspired Me?

 

Just One Day (Just One Day, #1)

Book: Just One Day

Author/Authoress: Gayle Forman

Description:Allyson Healey’s life is exactly like her suitcase—packed, planned, ordered. Then on the last day of her three-week post-graduation European tour, she meets Willem. A free-spirited, roving actor, Willem is everything she’s not, and when he invites her to abandon her plans and come to Paris with him, Allyson says yes. This uncharacteristic decision leads to a day of risk and romance, liberation and intimacy: 24 hours that will transform Allyson’s life.

A book about love, heartbreak, travel, identity, and the “accidents” of fate, Just One Day shows us how sometimes in order to get found, you first have to get lost. . . and how often the people we are seeking are much closer than we know.

Things I Want To See:

 

  1. The Eiffel Tower- How could you go to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower?
  2. Louvre- Arguably the best art museum in the world. They have much more than just the Mona Lisa. Again, how could you go to Paris without seeing the Louvre?
  3. Arc de triomphe
  4. The famous canals; not just the Siene

5.) Narnia

I doubt this really counts since it doesn’t exist but C S Lewis did a fabulous job creating this place and I definitely wish I could visit. Too bad none of my closets are deep or contain fur coats.

Which Book Inspired Me?

The Chronicles of Narnia (Chronicles of Narnia, #1-7)

Book: All 7 books of the Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician’s Nephew, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Horse’s Boy, Prince Caspian, Voyage of The Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair and The Last Battle

Author: C.S. Lewis

Description: In brief, four children travel repeatedly to a world in which they are far more than mere children and everything is far more than it seems. Richly told, populated with fascinating characters, perfectly realized in detail of world and pacing of plot, the story is infused throughout with the timeless issues of good and evil, faith and hope. This edition includes all seven volumes.

Things I Want To See:

  1. Lantern Waste- Where Narnia begins, for real and for the first time.
  2. The Stone Table- Where Aslan dies and comes back to life for the sake of his people (and creatures). Anyone else seeing religious undertones?
  3. Cair Paravel- Where the four siblings rule from

So, these are the five places I want to go just becaue I’ve read about them along with their respective books. Where do you want to go and did a book inspire you to want to go?

 

Between Shades of Grey: Book Review

Book: Between Shades of Grey

Author/Authoress: Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray

Cover: 5/5

Unlucky book. It has a pretty unfortunate title for a YA book. A lot of people probably bypassed this book due to the fact it (coincidentally) sounds very similar to 50 Shades of Grey, a notorious adults-only book. But, it’s not the author’s fault. Between Shades of Grey was published a couple of months before 50 Shades of Grey. As far as I’m concerned, that gives Ruta Sepetys precedence. Too bad it’s not just me who’s concerned.

This book is a gem but it’s one of those hidden jewels. It’s one of those books which are over looked. Not just because of the title, but also because of the content. This book is set in a camp during WWII but it’s not a Jewish concentration camp. The living standards of the people in here are almost as bad yet history knows nothing about them.

Basically, the Soviet Union and the Germans made a treaty called the German-Soviet nonaggression pact which essentially allowed Soviet occupation of  Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bessarabia, northern Bukovina, and eastern Poland and German occupation. We all know that the Germans later broke this pact when Hitler got paranoid and decided to attack Soviet Union occupied territory (when will dictators ever learn that fighting a war on two different fronts is fatal) and the rest, as they say it, is history.

But Between Shades of Grey focuses on the plight, the terror and the indignities suffered by the educated class of Lithuania when their country is taken over by the Russians and that is something that is often overlooked in history. They’re rehabitalized, treated as second class citizens, labelled as thieves and prostitutes and generally treated terribly all-around. . This book is desperate, sad and dark. For that reason, the cover is oddly fitting.

The cover’s not  just fitting for this book. It’s perfect. The snow and the barbed wire fits and sets the stage for all the cruelties and horrors featured in the book but it’s the small plant which symbolizes hope that is the crowning glory of the book. Small and not obvious, the plant is almost buried in the snow just like little snippets of hope are buried in the darkness and hopelessness of most of the book.

Plot:4/5

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

Oh, it did. It did steal my breath and capture my heart. It also wrung out a few tears from my unwilling eyes. This blurb does cover what goes on in this book but it does not even come close to capturing the real essence of this book. For that, you’ll have to read the book. *hint,hint, nudge nudge*

Between Shades of Grey has a plot so ugly it’s almost beautiful. Through all the indignities and tragedies Lina is forced to suffer, you’ll keep wanting to root her on and tell her it’s going to get better. But at the same time, you’re faced with the oppressive fact that it’s not. Not for a long time.

Characters:5/5

I have not come across a world war 2 book which is as heart breaking and heart wrending as this one. And yes, that does include Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and One Eye Lauguhing, the Other Eye Weeping by Barry Denenberg.

Lina is a very strong and brave character. Right from the start she, she audaciously chooses to write about the terrible cruelties and the Soviets are doing to those around her as well as her family and herself. Lina is an artist, and she uses this talent to depict the gruesome scenes she’s forces to witness on a daily basis. She then hides her drawings where the NKVD (that’s the earlier version of the KGB), hopefully, won’t find them. In this she hopes that, one day, someone will find the proof of what really occurred, and make sure that it never happens again. But that’s not the only reason she draws. Separated from her father, she draws in the hopes that one of her pictures will make it’s way to him and assure him that she’s alive, even if she’s not safe and happy. She idolizes her mother, who is probably one of the most selfless, helpful and caring mother’s in YA and loves her brother. Her relationship with her family is one of the happiest and wholesome parts of the book.

Romance:4/5

The romance in this book was under rated and it times awkward  but it was innocent and sparkling throughout. Just enough to give hope.

Andrius was an interesting character. He has so many faces. Angry (rightfully so) with the treatment of his mother. Caring, generous and playful with Lina’s family. And teasing with Lina herself. Intense all the time.

Good men are often more practical than pretty ” said Mother. “Andrius just happens to be both.”

I think this was my favourite Andrius part:

“Andrius, I’m…scared.”
He stopped and turned to me. “No. Don’t be scared. Don’t give them anything Lina, not even your fear.”

Writing:5/5

A special mention has to be given to the writing. The sentences were short, succinct and definitely not flowery. And, really that’s the only way this book could be written. Somehow the shortness and harshness of the sentences contributed to the misery and darkness of the book. That being said, there were no euphuisms for what happened. Nothing cut short to spare the readers any of the horror or the pain. And it worked well that way. If Sepetys had used euphuisms for each horrible thing, this book would not be as hard-hitting. And if she had gone into long flowery tangents on how the narrator was feeling, I couldn’t have taken this book as seriously. Instead of getting descriptions of emotions I was forced to feel them instead.

Plus it was pretty quotable:

“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.”

“I planted a seed of hatred in my heart. I swore it would grow to be a massive tree whose roots would strangle them all.”

“He threw his burning cigarette onto our clean living room floor and ground it into the wood with his boot.
We were about to become cigarettes.”

“…we’re dealing with two devils who both want to rule hell.”   (the two devils refer to Hitler and Stalin)

 

Ending: 3/5

 That’s it? We get a measly epilogue which tells us barely anything.All we know is that Lina and Andrius survived, they got married and they wrote about their suffering so that other people could hear about it. I would have liked to know if other people survived. Like the guy with the hat. And if their life after the war was any better. I feel the need to chant something like ‘see-quell, see-quell, see-quell’

 Plotholes:4/5

I felt a little bit cheated with the ending but other than that this book was good. Really good.

Overall Rating:4.5/5

If you feel the need for a sad book with a little bit of hope or a good historical novel, then you need to pick up this book. If you don’t, you need to pick up this book anyways. This book is intense and maybe even life changing.

The 5 Most Over-Rated YA Books

There are some books for which the anticipation of reading them is far better than actually reading them. You know what I’m talking about. Those books that friends swore up and down were great, brilliant and genius, the ones publishers touted as the book or the last book in a series which just falls flat. There are some books which surprise you in a good way but then there are those which shock you and make you  kinda understand what people mean when they say ‘I don’t like to read’.

Well these are mine. My disappointments, fails, whatever you want to call them. The top 5 most over rated books I’ve read or at least tried to.


 

1.)

The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)

Book: Lord Of The Rings

Author: J. R. R. Toilken

Description:  Through the urgings of the enigmatic wizard Gandalf, young hobbit Frodo Baggins embarks on an urgent, incredibly treacherous journey to destroy the One Ring. This ring — created and then lost by the Dark Lord, Sauron, centuries earlier — is a weapon of evil, one that Sauron desperately wants returned to him. With the power of the ring once again his own, the Dark Lord will unleash his wrath upon all of Middle-earth. The only way to prevent this horrible fate from becoming reality is to return the Ring to Mordor, the only place it can be destroyed. Unfortunately for our heroes, Mordor is also Sauron’s lair.

Why it’s on this list: It was probably the writing. Did Toilken really have to drag and stretch everything out? If you thought the ooh-pretty-picture syndrome in Eragon was bad, then there are simply no words to describe the sheer over-description in this book. Does each tree need a rhapsody sung about it? Does each flower need a ballad in its name? Do you like it when world history is info dumped on you in annoyingly large chunks of poetry? Well, unless your answer is yes… then you won’t like the writing style of the book.

Another thing that annoyed me about this series (or book actually I didn’t get too far) was the insipidness and shallowness of the society the characters live in. It’s as if other than a few major players, no one in the world gets a personality; they’re just zombies.

I think this book put me off fantasy for quite a while.


 

2.)

The Selection (The Selection, #1)

Book: The Selection (The Selection #1)

Author: Kiera Cass

Description: For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.


But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

Why it’s on this list: You should read my review here. It’s practically a rant on what all I hate (a word that’s not nearly strong enough) about this book. The sketchy world-building with the awkward caste-system and nonsensical history was a major complaint. But that complaint was eclipsed by the shallowness of the characters and their interaction. Nothing about this story was smooth- from the dialogue to the plot. It all seemed very haphazard and thrown together. I’m not at all sure why this book was so celebrated. I mean, sure it had a nice cover but this book is the reason people say:  don’t judge a book by its cover.


 

3.)

Looking for Alaska

Book: Looking for Alaska

Author: John Green

Description:  Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

Why it’s on this list: If you know me, you probably know my opinion on John Green’s books. If you don’t, well you can read it here.  And if you want my opinion on this book particularly you can read it here. This book was kind of an awkward read for me. There were several parts in the book where I was like : Wait, what? Why would they do something that stupid? The answer wasn’t clear to me by the end of the book. So this was a pointless read besides a boring one.


 

4.)

Matched (Matched, #1)

Book: Matched (Matched #1)

Author: Allie Coondie

Description: Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate… until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

Why it’s on this list: Yet again, it’s the characters which break this book. The world building wasn’t too bad. But only because the world was completely lifted off The Giver by Lois Lowry (fantastic read, by the way). The romance in this book was completely screwed up. We have a love triangle which features Cassie: the robot, Xander: the best friend and Ky: the ‘aberration’. So completely predictable. Forbidden love Romeo and Juliet-esque style follows and it is mind-numbingly insipid. But it makes sense because that’s what the characters are too. None of them have any sort of free thought or talent. I’m all for making characters ‘ordinary’ and ‘believable’ but this was just overdone.

 


5.)

Twilight (Twilight, #1)

Book:Twilight

Author/Authoress: Stephanie Meyers

Description: First, Edward was a vampire.

Second, there was a part of him – and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be – that thirsted for my blood.

And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

When Bella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret.
What Bella doesn’t realize is the closer she gets to him, the more she is putting herself and those around her at risk. And it might be too late to turn back…

Why it’s on this list: A lot of you are probably wondering this. I mean it’s not like Twilight has a good reputation, so how can it be over-rated? It had a good reputation. Once upon a time. In 2009 or so? But here are the common list of complaints: Bella Swan is a boring,wimpy Mary-Sue based on the author, Edward Cullen is a creepy, blood sucking, sparkly stalker and the romance between them is unhealthy.  And that’s basically the summary of this 498 page fiasco. How could you possibly not say this book is overrated?


So that’s the list. Which book do you think is the most over rated?