Silent Goodbye : A Poem

You trace the floor in quiet
steps so silent,
but I can still hear feet
as the they tap against
woodboards that tense
until your dancing feet
soothe and cajole it
into keeping screaming mouths
tightly shut.

I keep my eyes closed
as you bend toward
my still silhouette.
And you don’t know yet
that I’m only feigning rest
as you bend downward
to press warm lips on my
still closed eyes
and to whisper goodbye.

And my eyes remain shut
as your feet tap
across the creaky floor
and when the door
noiselessly shuts,
I open my eyes and heart
to let rejection pour out
and break into tiny parts.

Inspired by the never-elaborated on scene in Ann Aguirre’s book Blue Diabolo series where Corine leaves.

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Lauren Layne : Isn’t She Lovely?

Remember that post I did recently about Why New Adult Romance and I Have Never Got Along? I am forced to take some of that back. Don’t get me wrong! I dislike the genre as much as I always have but I know that there are some exceptions (actually, if you read that post carefully, you’ll notice that I never implied that all NA was bad.)

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that NA is a sub-category of YA. As much as I dislike the New Adult genre in general, I’m not completely willing to write it off for this reason. It may also be because the 18-25 age bracket which NA is all about is one that I’m eagerly anticipating. Although…if NA’s an accurate representation of that life, I may be actually willing to wait till I’m 18 and in college.

Getting back onto the topic of the hour: Lauren Layne. Lauren Layne’s books aren’t exactly quality literature. I’m sorry to say that, but if I had to classify it into a category it would be a guilty pleasure (for some of them but I’ll get to that later).

Isn't She Lovely (Redemption, #0.5)

The first Lauren Layne book that I read was ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ and it’s a retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Pygmalion. In case you need a refresher, Pygmalion was a sculptor who one day, decided to carve a sculpture of his ideal woman. Ironically, he fell in love with her. He prayed she’d come to life and she did but eventually she was unable to live up to his expectations. I’ve always loved the myth of Pygmalion- it does show that you can’t simply project your desires onto someone else because you’ll only end up disappointed that way. However, I had no idea that My Fair Lady (which I completely adore, by the way) was inspired by Pygmalion.
Lauren Layne and her characters do a superb job casting themselves in a modernized version of My Fair Lady set in New York where instead of a cockney accent, it’s her goth self that the protagonist has to give up. In true new adult fashion, the protagonist has a deep, dark past (which I’m sorry to say only evoked sympathy not empathy from me) and is using god-ugly boots and thick eyeliner as a shield to protect herself from her tragic past. She’s grown to accept it as part of her and is understandably hesitant to cast it off, even if it’s for the sake of a film project in which she has to infiltrate the upper echlons of New York society.

One thing that had me really excited me about the book was the beginning. Stephanie, the protagonist and main narrator begins with a sarcastic explanation of what a meet-cute is ( I totally get points for knowing what a meet-cute is despite hating film, right?). To be honest, I’m tired of meet-cute’s- a couple’s first meeting in which something embarrassing or totally embarrassing happens. When a couple has a meet-cute, they always have a good answer to ‘So, how did you two meet?’- so when I got this sarcastic meet-cute, I was pretty thrilled. Although, slamming into a guy and having him help you pick up your feminine sanitary products…well that’s really a meet-cute.

It’s not just in this book. Lauren Layne has a real penchant for meet-cute’s. In the sequel to this book Broken, I think there’s a reference to suicidal tendencies and giving the ‘circus-freak’ a dollar to see his scars. In her book, Only For You, there’s the mother of all meet-cute’s- the love interest mistakes her for a …gasp! hooker! I’m still on the fence as to whether I like meet-cute’s or not…

One thing that Lauren Layne was not able to convince me of is Happy Ever Afters. I still don’t like HEA’s and I mean no offense, but I really dislike the huge demonstrative ones in which you make a significant change to your lifestyle and then run half-way across the country to show your significant other how serious you are in your desire to get back together to your significant other. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been in a relationship, but I really don’t see the appeal.

The beginning and ending may seem a little formulatic but I can promise you the in-between is completely organic and beautiful. Lauren Layne is brillinant with her double- PoV . This is  made even more impressive by the fact that one character is male! The plot actually moves along (unlike most NA’s) and the dialogue is so witty and cute it’s…lovely.

Broken (Redemption, #1)

This is the case for the sequel to this book, Broken even though it’s more angsty. It’s also true for her The Best Mistake series which deals with older and more mature characters (and scenes). I wasn’t able to properly enjoy her Sex, Love and Stiletto series because I highy doubt journalists are able to lead lifestyles like ones shown in the books-which reminds me, that a film-buff friend was unexcited by the lack of filmi-passion in this book.

That hardly makes Lauren Layne’s books formulatic or even similar to each other. One thing I really enjoy about her books is how each romance is so different, but still so beautiful. I recently wrote to her

Me:

Not really a question, but after reading Isn’t She Lovely, Broken, Only for You and Made for you- how is it possible that you’re able to write such different romances and that they’re all so great?

Her reply:
Aww, so sweet of you to say this! Especially since it’s something I worry about as an author … there’s always this sense that the “superfans” of one book won’t like the next one because it’s so different. Isn’t She Lovely and Broken were especially like this for me!! Isn’t She Lovely was snarky and funny, Broken was a bit more gritty. Was worried I’d alienate my ISL fans!
So it’s lovely that you wrote this message 🙂 Mostly it comes down to trying to do your best by the book … writing the character/story as it comes into your head without deliberately trying to make it emotional/sad/funny, whatever.

Isn’t that inspiring? Isn’t she lovely?

Getting Personal with Book Reviews

A book review -done right- can be one of the most personal things written. Most of you are probably making a move to X out this post. If you’re the type, you’re probably rolling your eyes and scoffing at this no doubt overly exaggerated and ignorant statement. But in all seriousness, I mean it. Reviews aren’t something for the emotionally stunted. Each sentence in a review is supposed to be deeply personal. Each word is supposed to be carefully chosen to bring out the opinion, taste, feelings and personality of a reviewer.

When you say you like a character in a book, it means that there is some aspect of their personality that you really respect and wish you could emulate. When you say you can identify with a character, it means that you saw something in their characteristics which reminded you of yourself. When you say you hate a character, it may be because he/she had traits which you absolutely despise in real life or it might be because the author uncomfortably hit a sensitive spot and the character reminds you of someone you find absolutely revolting.

It’s not just with characters- it can be with a plot or even a setting of a place. When you have strong feelings (whether positive or negative) for anything and you express it in the form of writing, the writing gets personal. And a book review, as a rule is the expression of opinions that the book evoked. When I put it like that, how can it not be personal?

I’ve always made it a point to post personal reviews on this blog. I choose only those books which evoke something out of me. It doesn’t have to be tears. It can be a sense of peace, or laughter, or even several eye-rolls or anger. Even if a book doesn’t appeal to me, I can appreciate it for being written in a way that forces me to feel. Over the course of the past 11 months (yep, my first blogversery is coming up soon), I’ve been forced to dive deep into my inner psych and figure out why I like certain stuff and why I don’t like other stuff. I’ve shared information on this blog that I’ve never told anybody in real life (sometimes when I think about people who I know reading this blog, I feel queasy). After all, being self aware can be uncomfortable- having other people be aware of your sense of self encroaches on the awkward territory.

An hour or so on this blog and you’ll probably have a good idea of my sense of humour, my darkest fears, my biggest ambitions and my stance on most issues. The idea of that is terrifying. When I first opened this blog, I purposely avoided using my name and face to stop this from getting too personal (maybe also to avoid identification and judgment on my writing). I’m beginning to think that was a pointless move.

I used to think I was the type of person who wasn’t very good at sharing my emotions through writing. If that were true, I should have never started posting book reviews because it’s true-  Book Reviews can get very personal.

Blog Reorg for the Better

Just wanted to let everyone know that I just reorganised my blog a little.

If you look at my Main Menu (that’s the menu at the very top, attached to the header), I’ve changed the scrolling posts of Book Reviews to a single page- A Book Review Archive- which should have links to all the books that I’ve reviewed. I realised it was pretty impractical and inconvenient for it’s to be a scrolling list. I’m so sorry if it’s wasted any of your time or caused any frustration.  After all how many people here want to actually want to read all my book reviews? <Watches hands stay down and nods in satisfaction> I thought so. Hopefully the new set-up will make it easier for you to read reviews of books that you’re actually interested in reading reviews of. If that fails, I’d like to remind everyone that this blog has a search button which might be able to help you.

I’ve done a similar thing for my Awesome and Awful Authors button (which is now a subcategory under Book Review Archive) and for my Poetry Corner. I don’t have a lot of posts in either of those categories right now but I see that changing in the near future. <Fingers crossed>

Thankyou guys for taking the time to read through my posts (even ones as boring as this one).You have no idea how much it means to me. But I love you for it- seriously.

Love Hurts: A Poem

“You love me. I know you do.
I know you love me, you know I do.”
And it’s something that you
don’t deny because it’s too true.

But when did love turn painful?
When did it start demanding a toll?
Has love always been hurtful,
something that slowly smothers the soul?

It used to be willfully and freely given,
But now it’s quickly and harshly taken.
Is this the way it’s always been?
or is the change something more recent?

First tiny pushes, then little shoves,
Nothing too hard for you to forgive,
not when you were so sure of love.
After all, wasn’t love more than enough?

But then it started to become more.
Instead of one slap, now there were four.
and he made it clear that it was a chore
to hurt you and love you. But he was still yours.

Then came the bruises and agony.
Always followed by a soft, sweet apology
in which he was so genuinely sorry.
He wouldn’t do it again- probably.

So you dealt with it, or at least you tried.
When others were around, you smiled.
With him,  you held the pain inside.
But when no one was around, you cried.

And then for him came frustration
and for you lots and lots of pain.
But he always hated useless emotion
so you hid your tears and confusion.

Hiding so easily became second nature.
You hid from him when he hurt
and you hid from others when you hurt.
Careful, careful never to tell another.

You made excuses for him in your head
’cause he hated questions that lead.
And you said what you always said,
protecting him from those who wouldn’t understand.

You still wanted to keep him and for him to keep
because he still loved you…somewhere down deep.
And so it was all worth it- the nights of no sleep,
the endless purchase of make-up, all the pain you’d reap

As long as he loved you and you knew,
You’d love him unconditionally too.
And if it hurt, if it was painful to you
Well people said love is pain- now you do too.

Then came the bruises and agony.
Always followed by a soft, sweet apology
in which he was so genuinely sorry.
You thought you knew his psychology

What’s Wrong with New Adult Romance?

I am a huge fan of young adult fiction. Therefore, that implies I am a huge New Adult fan too, right? Well…no not exactly. New Adult is part of that murky grey area which falls between young adult fiction and adult fiction, much the same way young adult fiction is close to middle grade but not exactly it. New Adult (NA) fiction is a developing genre of fiction with protagonists in the 18-25 age bracket. Supposedly, it’s meant to be an ‘older’ YA ( I’d rather the world not insult YA with such a label).

New Adult fiction tends to focus on issues such as leaving home, developing sexuality, and negotiating education and career choices.

When it’s put like that, New Adult doesn’t actually sound bad. Actually, it sounds pretty good. It sounds like a coming of age tale, a figuring out of what you want to do with your life kind of story. Unfortunately, though that may be the intent- in practice it doesn’t often work out that way.

New Adult focuses extensively on love romance sex. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with sex or embracing your sexuality or even exploring your sexuality, but I’m not exactly comfortable reading a book about sex and only sex. I’ve gotten to reading books about romance (yes, I even enjoy them) and I’ve come to understand that sex is often a part of them but I really, really dislike it when the sex is written really explicitly. If I do come across an explicit description of the act, I usually skip past it. This works well with YA books and even adult fiction because they usually have a plot that’s not dependent on long, detailed descriptions of what happens in bed (or in the shower, or the kitchen table, or the…I think you get the point). However, most new adult romances can’t claim that. A lot of people are blaming this new phenomenon  on the hugely popular novel Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L James (which I never plan to read, by the way). But we can’t completely blame this annoying PWP (porn without plot) on a single book.

Most New Adult romance books don’t deserve to have the title ‘romance’ in them. The romance in these books is sometimes so unhealthy, it’s almost funny. Sorry, that came out wrong; Unhealthy relationships are never funny- never. BUT what’s somewhat funny/awkward/annoying/sad is that people start idealizing these messed up relationships and the twisted characters in these relationships, saying they want those relationships too. But it won’t be funny anymore when people start emulating these relationships because these relationships are seriously twisted.
They often feature guys chasing girls who constantly refuse their attentions. But of course, the guys don’t listen and continue pursuing her, forcefully kissing her and afterwards saying something like ‘You know you wanted that.’ or ‘See, you liked that didn’t you?’. People, that is horrendous on so many levels. When a girl says no, she means it. She doesn’t mean ‘Oh! Go ahead and continue molesting me.’ That’s not sexy at all; that’s rape.
Another thing which isn’t sexy but is really creepy, is jealousy and all the things that come with it. Girls should be allowed to have other guy friends and guys are allowed to have other female friends without the say-so of their significant other. In real life, jealousy is not attractive- it’s painful, embarrassing and makes it tough to combine your social life with your love life (thus wasting time). Things which come with it include guys saying stuff like ‘You can’t wear that’. (Beautiful Disaster) ‘That’s too revealing.’ Girls, we’ve all complained when our dad’s don’t let us wear what we want. Why would we consider it romantic if a boyfriend did the same thing?
When the guys on the cover are all hot, shirtless and tattooed- it’s probably a NA book. And looking good may let you get away with a lot, but that’s not really a healthy message to spread. If you’re like me and want even your fiction reading to feature healthy relationships- a good test to keep in mind would be if someone clinically bad-looking did this, would you let them get away with it? Or would you scream bloody murder- or worse- rape?

Another thing that’s really distinctive about this genre is  the dramatic, soap-opera like plots, and  broken characters with “issues” ranging from history of abuse, anger management issues, and troubled family lives. Apparently their ‘issues’ give them a free pass when dealing with life. It allows them to be petty and insecure, it allows them to fake everything about themselves and it allows them to treat their significant others really badly. And anyone who disagrees with that is just plain unsympathetic and uncaring. An example of such a book would be Lovely Vicious where the fact that the protagonists were sexually abused allows them to play humiliating, childish pranks on each other.

These things are all pretty common across the genre. In fact it’s so bad that now, even when I like the author, I’m not able to read any of their books if they write a new adult book. When it comes to books, I’m so optimistic about authors I like, I give them the benefit of doubt and read their books even when I know it’s a NA book. And each time I do that, I set myself up for disappointment and disgust.  Considering the fact that a lot of YA authors are now dabbling in NA (and vice versa) this affects me a lot more than you would actually think. I’ve liked a couple of J. L Armentrout books (like Stone Cold Touch) but when she writes under her New Adult pseudonym as J Lynn, I’m not able to stomach her books. The same goes for Ann Aguirre and Sophie Jordan.

In the Afterlight: A Book Review

“What I’m trying to get at is, as bad as everything seems, I think, at its heart, life is good. It doesn’t throw anything at us that it knows we can’t handle—and, even if it takes its time, it turns everything right side up again.”

Book: In the Afterlight (The Darkest Minds #3)

Author: Alexandra Bracken

In The Afterlight (The Darkest Minds, #3)

The Darkest Minds Never Fade In the Afterlight…

Blurb:

Ruby can’t look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government’s attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. With them is a prisoner: Clancy Gray, son of the president, and one of the few people Ruby has encountered with abilities like hers. Only Ruby has any power over him, and just one slip could lead to Clancy wreaking havoc on their minds.

They are armed only with a volatile secret: proof of a government conspiracy to cover up the real cause of IAAN, the disease that has killed most of America’s children and left Ruby and others like her with powers the government will kill to keep contained. But internal strife may destroy their only chance to free the “rehabilitation camps” housing thousands of other Psi kids.

Meanwhile, reunited with Liam, the boy she would-and did-sacrifice everything for to keep alive, Ruby must face the painful repercussions of having tampered with his memories of her. She turns to Cole, his older brother, to provide the intense training she knows she will need to take down Gray and the government. But Cole has demons of his own, and one fatal mistake may be the spark that sets the world on fire.

My Thoughts:

This was the last book in the Darkest Minds trilogy. If you haven’t read the Darkest Minds and Never Fade, there’s really no point in you reading In the Afterlight. Go read them instead. But for those of you who are loyal fans and have followed this series closely, trust me- this book is no disappointment. I’m certain you’re all already planning to read it so I’m posting this review mostly to drive you mad with almost-spoilers (I won’t actually be giving anything away though) until you get ready to pick up this book of pure awesomeness.

Ruby is more in touch with her powers than ever and is a lot stronger and assertive for it. Unfortunately, her new-found confidence and sharing secrets with Cole has brought some distance between her friends, Chubs and Vida, and her boyfriend Liam who don’t know what to make of her any more. But while her relationship with her friends has deteriorated, shared secrets and command has brought her closer than ever to Cole. Both of them have common objectives- Making life easier for the kids, finding a cure and protecting Liam. I saw a lot of potential in Cole in Never Fade and he has lived up (maybe even exceeded) those expectations. One of the things which I loved most about this book was the reappearance of Zu. It’s been a while since we (and the kids in this book) have seen her, but she’s never been far from our hearts. She’s back in this book as adorable and brave as ever, adding her name to Vida’s, Cate’s and Ruby’s in a long list of strong, capable females in this series.

This book deals with more jaded, more cynical characters than the first book. Even Liam who was such an optimistic sweetheart in the first book (thus making up one half of one of my Top 5 YA Ships) has taken a heavy dose of reality and betrayal from those who love him most (I love Ruby, but what she pulled at the end of the Darkest Minds was inexcusable. Just inexcusable.) But though that optimism has dampened, it’s not completely disappeared and the characteristics which made me love him in the first place are strengthened by ones that make me respect him. I had heard rumours that there would be a love triangle between Ruby, Liam and Liam’s brother Cole. I am very happy to say that the rumours are very, very wrong. Cole was an amazing character (maybe one of my favourite characters this year)  with a lot of pressure on him and I’m very glad that Ruby was able to provide a strong and steady friendship- and only friendship- for him. I wrote a post about YA tropes. One of the things I mentioned was that in YA, guys and girls are rarely ever just friends. The Darkest Minds Trilogy (with the beautiful friendships between Ruby and Chubs and Ruby and Cole) make it onto the selective list of books which avoid this trope. That being said, I think Cole deserved a shot at happy-ever-after instead of what he got.

The plot escalates in this book although it didn’t exactly WOW me. This book was really fast paced and while in some parts that was good…in others it wasn’t.
The characters had a lot to worry about, and sometimes the book seemed a bit chaotic and fragmented as it jumped from action scene to action scene. There was so much tension and stress, we never got a chance to take a chance to breath and appreciate the characters for who they were.

As for the ending, I have a complaint similar to one I had for the Blood of Olympus. Everything just tied up too neatly for me…

My rating:

Cover: 4/5
Plot: 2.5/5
Characters:4/5
Romance:4/5
Plotholes:4/5
Ending:2/5
Overall Rating: 3/5
Will I Read Another Book By This Author: Yes, for sure. This series was one of my favourites. Alexandra Bracken is on my automatically- buy-books-from-this-author list.
Other Books Like This: Article 5 by Karen Simmons is a dystopia with a strong emphasis on ‘camps’.