Why do I like Reading?

Let’s go back to the basics. The very fundamentals, the building blocks, whatever you want to call them. But the truth is- this is a book blog and the very first thing you learn in connection with books is how to read them.

Why do I like reading? It’s a good question, and just like all good questions- it’s a hard one to answer. My parents think that people praised me for reading and I got addicted to the praise and started connecting the praise to the reading in some sort of demented Pavlov’s experiment like relationship. But I like to think my love for reading was born out of something less shallow than a desire to be praised. Or even if it was born out of that shallow desire, it’s evolved into something more mature and less laugh-provoking.

I started reading at age 3 and I started  with really simple stuff. Stuff like ‘Pat has a bat.’  Four words. A simple sentence but it evokes a whole picture in your mind, doesn’t it? For me, it evokes the picture of a little blonde girl with her hair in pigtails and bent knees preparing to swing an aluminium baseball bat, but you might automatically think of a tall gothic lady with fangs, wearing a blood-red strapless gown with a pet bat perched on her shoulder.

What I’m trying to say is reading gives you control over a world. From the tiniest description, you are able to mold and shape something that you would have never been able to imagine before. And when you read a lot, you can piece together everything you’ve read to create a marvelous new world of your own.

And contrary to what some people think (you know who you are) reading does not immerse you in a quagmire of fantasy where you have no idea how to differentiate between what is real and what is unreal. On the contrary, I’d say that reading gives you a wider persepective and allows you to see reality from more angles than one. Reading is a window into another world, into lives and manifestations of it you never knew existed.

I don’t know what it’s like to be poor. I don’t know what it’s like to be French. Or to be gay. But by reading I have a better idea of what it would be like to be poor or French or gay than someone else who doesn’t read. I can empathize with them, I have a better insight into their ambitions, their psychology and their dreams than I did before. I know just how similar they are to me and how they are different.

I never saw the bloodthirsty violence of an oppressed public during the French Revolution. I never had to deal with the cunning, scheming intrigue of the Ton. I never endured the harsh, gritty life of miners looking for gold in  California in 1949. Only wait! I have. Not first-hand, but I have seen it second-hand.

Reading makes me smarter. It gives me a better understanding of the world. It’s fun. What’s not to love?

Reading doesn’t just help me disappear into a whole new world, it helps me find things. It’s an easy way to find out about other people’s dreams, hopes, ambitions and fears.

Reading isn’t a choice. It’s a lifestyle.

“Reading one book is like eating one potato chip.”- Diane Duane, So You Want to be a Wizard

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Cracked: A Book Review

Book: Cracked (Soul Eater #1)
Author: Eliza Crewe

Cracked (Soul Eater, #1)

Cover:2/5

Plot:4/5

Blurb:

Meet Meda. She eats people.

Well, technically, she eats their soul. But she totally promises to only go for people who deserve it. She’s special. It’s not her fault she enjoys it. She can’t help being a bad guy. Besides, what else can she do? Her mother was killed and it’s not like there are any other “soul-eaters” around to show her how to be different. That is, until the three men in suits show up.

They can do what she can do. They’re like her. Meda might finally have a chance to figure out what she is. The problem? They kind of want to kill her. Before they get the chance Meda is rescued by crusaders, members of an elite group dedicated to wiping out Meda’s kind. This is her chance! Play along with the “good guys” and she’ll finally figure out what, exactly, her ‘kind’ is.

Be careful what you wish for. Playing capture the flag with her mortal enemies, babysitting a teenage boy with a hero complex, and trying to keep one step ahead of a too-clever girl are bad enough. But the Hunger is gaining on her.

The more she learns, the worse it gets. And when Meda uncovers a shocking secret about her mother, her past, and her destiny… she may finally give into it.

My thoughts:
As soon as I read the blurb, I knew I was going to have a ‘bad’ protagonist with tons of sass and attitude. Have I mentioned that they are my favourite type of books? I usually love books with angels and demons…especially when they don’t get too religious. So, it kind of felt like Eliza Crewe wrote the book with me in mind.

I enjoyed the new take on the Crusaders;instead of ancient knights searching for the holy grail to protect it, they search and protect something just as rare- noble individuals. When Meda accidently runs into a group of full demons and is saved by the crusaders, who mistake her for a Beacon (a noble individual) she goes along with it in the interests of self preservation and for information. Hilarity ensues as Meda tries to keep her cover (yep, unfortunately that means no soul-sucking) and her life and figure out what the hell Hell wants with her.

Characters:5/5

Meda is the reason that this book works. She’s so bad that she’s great. We meet her as she’s in the middle of a meal. For her, that means the soul of some depraved individual. At times, she can be sadistic, manipulative and annoyingly egocentric. She is always shamelesy self-centred, downright rude, and all kinds of dark and witty. She is the body-ripping, soul-eating main character that I never knew I wanted.

Death is my art form–when I fight, I’m a ballerina. Graceful. Chi lacks my grace, but makes up for it in energy and enthusiasm. His fighting style is like breakdancing–strong and frenetic with some really sweet moves. Jo’s is . . .the Macarena. Ugly but gets the job done.

Jo and Meda have a rocky relationship at first.This may or may not be due to the fact that Jo distrusts Meda. Of course Meda purposely tries to antogonize Jo by flirting with her not-yet-a-boyfriend.With her snarls and threats, it’s impossible not to love Jo. Even though Jo is as thoroughly good as Meda is bad, both are equally cynical and jaded. She (and everyone else around her) sees herself as an invalid but despite her disability she is still one tough chick. After reading this book, the world Doctor will have a whole new meaning for you.

“I’m pretty sure Jo couldn’t talk about the weather without somehow including a threat. Forecast today: cloudy with a chance I’ll kick your ass

Chi is not-Jo’s-boyfriend. He has a great sense of humor and loves playing the knight in shining armor role. Meda finds it very easy to manipulate his desire to protect the weak by portraying herself as weak. But despite his naivete where Meda is concerened, he is a genuinely likable and three-dimensional character.

I consider the many tools at my disposal, eyeing his large blood-splattered frame, and settle on my weapon of choice – one so infrequently used I need to dust it off first.
My eyes fill with tears. “Wha–” I swallow hard “– what were those things?”
“Demons.” Thanks, Einstein. I got that part. I let a tear trickle over.
He hurries to reassure me. “Don’t cry – I’ll protect you.”
Humiliating. Absolutely humiliating.

Romance:N/A

Um… no romance. Not really. Sure, Meda flirts with Chi but that’s more to annoy Jo than anything else. And of course there’s the hot half-demon, half-human demon spawn but he makes an appearance for,like, eight pages. But this book is so good it doesn’t need romance. Or maybe it’s good because of the lack of romance. I think I’d lose a lot of respect for Meda if she started following some guy around like a good little puppy. Ew, no i can’t even imagine that.

Ending: 5/5

Cliffhangers and Death. If you somehow missed the message that Eliza Crewe was an evil genius, you’d get it as soon as you finished the book. You have no idea how desperate to read the next book, Crushed.

Plotholes:4.5/5

I’m still a bit surpirsed that Meda managed to keep her cover for that long ( I mean hello, her attitude was way obvious) but the balance between good and evil was perfect in this book (unlike most other books about demons). And the world built was mega-interesting. There were plot twists but they actually made sense. So 4.5/5 for the Plotholes in this book.

Overall Rating:5/5

Consider me awed. By the world, by the characters, by the plot and by Eliza Crewe. I am surprised this book isn’t more famous. So go ahead and read it and help this book become a little more famous. But yeah there’s quite a bit of cussing in this book. If you aren’t fine with that, I wouldn’t recommend this book to you.

Best Book Dedications

Um…yeah. You read that right. This post is going to be about book dedications or acknowledgements. Whatever you want to call them.

Usually I don’t pay much attention to the book dedications. I mean, if I’m opening a book I’m interested in the story and the characters. Not who the author loves and how they helped them come up with book, etc. But there are some dedications which caught my eye. Here’s a list.

1.) Abundance of Katherines by John Green.

I may not like the guy’s books but even I have to say An Abundance of Katherines is pretty cute. The main character is a guy who really loves anagrams (and constantly uses them), so that makes this dedication prettycool in context.



2.) The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

After the Mark of Athena ended with a cliffhanger with our favorite couple going to Hell-literally, fans all over the world cried, screamed and freaked out in general. Rick Riordan replied in his next book via dedication:


3.) The Deathly Hallows by J K Rowling

Yes! It’s in the shape of Harry’s scar and we finally find out why it’s so important and terrible in this book

4.) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

One of the first books I ever read- but I have to say dedications don’t get much better than this:

Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.
BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR.


5.)  Otherland by Tad Williams

This isn’t from a single book but from a series which I haven’t actually read but I’m including this because I can kind of relate to this; my Dad definitely doesn’t read fiction- if, no when, I publish a book, he probably wouldn’t read it. Plus the dedication’s completely hilarious.

“This Book is dedicated to my father Joseph Hill Evans with love.
Actually Dad doesn’t read fiction, so if someone doesn’t tell him about this, he’ll never know.”

“This Book is dedicated to my father Joseph Hill Evans with love.
As I said before, Dad doesn’t read fiction. He still hasn’t noticed that this thing is dedicated to him. This is Volume Two – let’s see how many more until he catches on.”

“This is still dedicated to you-know-who, even if he doesn’t.
Maybe we can keep this a secret all the way to the final volume.”

“My father still hasn’t actually cracked any of the books – so, no, he still hasn’t noticed. I think I’m just going to have to tell him. Maybe I should break it to him gently.

“Everyone here who hasn’t had a book dedicated to them, take three steps forward. Whoops, Dad, hang on there for a second…”


6.) The End (Series of Unfortunate Events #13) by Lemony Snicket

So because technically I cheated by adding a series that I’ve never read, I’m addign this one too.

This series will always have a special place in my heart. It taught me how to use the term ‘quid pro quo’ properly, the meaning of ambidexterious and how to recite Swineburn- all at the age of eight making people (ncorrectly) think I was a bit of a child prodigy. The last book in the series began beautifully  like this:

For Beatrice –
I cherished, you perished.
The world’s been nightmarished.


So these are my favorite dedications. What are yours?

Born Wicked: A Book Review

Book: Born Wicked (Cahill Witch Chronicles #1)
Author/Authoress: Jennifer Spotswood

Born Wicked (The Cahill Witch Chronicles, #1)

Cover:3/5

Plot:4/5

Blurb:

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word… especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

My Thoughts:

No offense to whoever decided the blurb was a good description of the book but it definitely is not. The discrepancies start in the first line. Contrary to what the blurb suggests, this book is not full of Mary Sue’s who are way too pretty, way too smart and way too mysterious. The sister’s are all pretty relatable; they have their own flaws and foot-in-the-mouth moments.

A large part of the plot relies on the worldbuilding, and Oh My God! What a world! Set in an alternate version of the US, where witchcraft exists and is stifled. The history of the world is confusing at first, but here it’s in a nutshell.  Around 100 years ago, the Brotherhood gained power, killing all the witches and then setting  up a Puritan-like regime under which women have no power and very few rights. They use the witches’ power to justify suppressing  women and making them subservient.

But what I liked most about the book were the sibling dynamics. Favouritism, jealousy, teasing, rivalry- this book had it all. Though the sister’s sometimes go out of the way to get on each other’s nerves, at the end of the day, they’d do anything to keep each other safe and happy.

Characters:4/5

As far as characters go, Cate Cahill is as good as you get. An admirable character despite all her flaws;She’s fiercely protective of her sisters, but at the same time somewhat resentful of them. After all, she has to play disciplinarian to her two contrary, wilder, free-spirited sisters, and it sucks the life out of her to do so. She’s angry with the Brotherhood and the rules of the world, and though she tries concealing it, it shows. She’s distrustful of the world around her and deeply paranoid that someone will figure out the secret of her sisters. As a result she keeps everyone at arm’s length but she tries (she really tries) to help people who are unable to help themselves. She hates her own magic because she hates that it puts them all in danger of being found out.

Maura and Tess have less screen time than Cate does. But Maura is a very interesting character. Sometimes spiteful and petty, she’s jealous of Cate. Unlike Cate, she fully embraces her magic and resents Cate for cautioning her. She’s a true romantic but at the same time, she’s resolved to marry pragmatically. The reason for this becomes clear near the end of the book. Tess is the sweet, bookish younger sister. Precocious, quiet and wise- both of her older sisters adore her. Yet, Tessa seems to be closer to Cate than Maura.

Elena is another fascinating character. She’s a governess sent from the Sisterhood (a convent like organisation). Right from the start she’s unpredictable. The sister’s expected a governess who was old, traditional and stuffy ; instead they got Elena’s pretty, intelligent and fashionable. She pushes the sisters towards entering the Sisterhood instead of the more  conventional marriage route. She’s a manipulative and cunning women who quickly wins Maura’s favour. Cate dislikes her for thoroughly winning Maura over (part of it is jealousy), and distrusts her motives.

Romance:2/5

Yuck! There’s a love triangle. On one side, we have the best friend, Paul-  a successful architect and someone who understands Cate’s thirst for adventure. On the other wee have the bookish, deeply loyal, mostly innocent gardener- who’s thoroughly unsuitable. Oh angst, angst, angst. Who will Cat choose?  That was sarcasm, by the way.

Ending:3/5

Where did that come from? Out of nowhere, that’s where. I can honestly say: I did not see that coming. But if there’s one thing that the ending succeeded in , it was in making me impatient for the next book .

Plotholes:4/5

The blurb is a bit iffy and I’m not on board with all the romance in this book. But I really did love the complicated relationship between the sisters as well as the firendiships developed in the book. I think that more than balances things out. The strong feminist messages in the book also scored the book a couple of points (or more than a couple, really) with me along with all the diversity ( we have Japanese, African-Americans and some lesbian characters in the book- all who play a major role)

Overall Rating:3/5

A fun read, that can get pretty intense at times. Don’t read this book for the romance; read it for the familial relationships.

 

 

Goodreads: The Ultimate Reader’s Website

Other than a semblance of literacy (and obviously a book), what do you need most for reading? Duh! You need recommendations and a bunch of people to discuss the books with . And in my humble opinion, Goodreads is THE best website ever for recommendations and discussions.

Goodreads gives surprisingly accurate recommendations. Out of my top 10 favourite books, I think 9 out of 10 were recommended to me by goodreads (either with goodreads as first recommender or a secondary recommender). I have no idea what algorithm they’re using, but whatever it is- they should keep it.

 

 

One unique and fun thing that Goodreads has is Listopia. Users can make different lists for books of a certain type (people have made lists for stuff as wide as genres like ‘YA’ and as narrow as ‘YA books with covers with purple on them’). After an initial list is made, other users can add and vote for books which fit into the category. This is pretty helpful when you’re just itching for a long marathon of say- ‘Urban Fantasy’ or ‘Hate at First Sight’ books. However this does come with it’s limitations. Some trigger happy people (I’m not pointing fingers) randomly add books like the Twilight and the Hunger Games into lists regardless of whether it fits into the category or not. If you’re one of those people, please- don’t do that. Do verify whether the book you’re adding to the list matches.

The Discussion Boards for some books are very informational and can get you a whole new perspective on a character or on the events of the story. I think one of the most informational threads I’ve ever participated in was one for the book Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Septys.

Giveaways: This is one thing about goodreads that really disappoints me. But that’s probably just because I’ve never gotten anything. A warning from the wise (or at least someone who’s pretending to be wise): There are a lot of people who enter the giveaways and the criterion for selecting winners is very random. It doesn’t hurt to enter a draw, but it’s highly unlikely you’re going to win anything.

Goodreads Voice features interviews and Q&A sessions with the most amazing authors in each genre. Veronica Roth, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Kasie West…
 Wow! You have no idea how many times I have been inspired.

Yeah.. in case you couldn’t tell, I love goodreads.com. If you don’t already have an account, make one-pronto. If you do, go ahead and add me. Here’s a link to my page: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/19911504-akansha-gupta