Red Rising: A Book Review

Book: Red Rising

Author: Pierce Brown

Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy, #1)

Blurb:

The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity’s last hope.

Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it’s all a lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.

My thoughts:

Any sci-fi fans out there? Any dystopian fans?
If you’re anyone of these, you’re going to love this book.
With absolutely no emphasis placed on worldbuilding (despite the amazing and complicated world that Pierce has created) you’re going to be thrown in head-first, just like Darrow is.
What happens when you find out that your whole world- no, your whole universe is a lie?
If you’re Darrow, then you infiltrate the upper echelons of the liars to bring out their hypocrisy and to snag their power. And you lie your ass off.

After his wife is executed, the only thing Darrow wants is revenge. The Sons of Ares transform him physically from a lowly Red to an upper-caste Gold. As he enters an institution to turn Gold born children into war-machines, space ship commanders and all-around masters of the universe, he’s thrown into a very dangerous game (modelled after life) where he’s forced to kill, to lead and to betray.

And as he forms strong friendships with his enemies-the Gold, he struggles with his own identity.
His own sense of communism is offended by how many liberties he and his friends take- but at the same time, he knows these liberties are the only things which allow him to survive.

This book deals with people. How to lead people, how to betray people and how to trick people. Darrow is a strong main character prone to flashes of anger and somewhat naïve at the beginning. The supporting characters- his wife, Mustang, Trey, Julian, Caleb, Roque, etc. are fleshed out character with real ambitions, real friendship and real betrayals.

The writing in this book is stupendous. Sometimes crude, sometimes flowery- always powerful.

Pick this book up and you’ll have 382 pages of action, violence and drama.
This dystopia is better than the Hunger Games and more exhilarating than Divergent. Read it.

Overall Rating: 4/5


Quotables:

“Funny thing, watching gods realize they’ve been mortal all along.”

“ ‘I live for the dream that my children will be born free. That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.’
‘I live for you,’ I say sadly.
She kisses my cheek. ‘Then you must live for more.’ ”

“Personally, I do not want to make you a man. Men are so very frail. Men break. Men die. No, I’ve always wished to make a god.”

“Promises are just chains,” she rasps. “Both are meant for breaking.”

Sloppy Firsts: A Book Review

Book: Sloppy Firsts (Jessica Darling Book #1)

Author: Megan McCarthy

Sloppy Firsts (Jessica Darling, #1)

Blurb:

“My parents suck ass. Banning me from the phone and restricting my computer privileges are the most tyrannical parental gestures I can think of. Don’t they realize that Hope’s the only one who keeps me sane? . . . I don’t see how things could get any worse.”

When her best friend, Hope Weaver, moves away from Pineville, New Jersey, hyperobservant sixteen-year-old Jessica Darling is devastated. A fish out of water at school and a stranger at home, Jessica feels more lost than ever now that the only person with whom she could really communicate has gone. How is she supposed to deal with the boy- and shopping-crazy girls at school, her dad’s obsession with her track meets, her mother salivating over big sister Bethany’s lavish wedding, and her nonexistent love life?

A fresh, funny, utterly compelling fiction debut by first-time novelist Megan McCafferty, Sloppy Firsts is an insightful, true-to-life look at Jessica’s predicament as she embarks on another year of teenage torment–from the dark days of Hope’s departure through her months as a type-A personality turned insomniac to her completely mixed-up feelings about Marcus Flutie, the intelligent and mysterious “Dreg” who works his way into her heart. Like a John Hughes for the twenty-first century, Megan McCafferty taps into the inherent humor and drama of the teen experience. This poignant, hilarious novel is sure to appeal to readers who are still going through it, as well as those who are grateful that they don’t have to go back and grow up all over again.

My thoughts:

This book confused me. There’s no other way to put it.
No wonder when it’s written in the form of a 16 year old’s diary. Yeah, life confuses me too.
It was a jumbled, confused mess of thoughts. Sometimes the thoughts were hopelessley shallow and petty and made me roll my eyes (I’m a teen I do stuff like that), while at other times I could relate with the MC so much I wanted to cry and then there was the occasional stray thought which was so introspective and profound that I could actually understand why she had been labelled a genius.
But throughout this book was raw. Raw and organic -which makes it sound like some healthy kind of food. Her writing was as tangential as mine (typical teen mind, I guess) but there was something beautiful about the fact that it was so unedited.
Fake friendships (I thought this was particularly interesting dealt since it dealt with both sides-being the untrue friend and being betrayed by someone else), being true to yourself (whatever that may be),parental expectations, appreciating the irony of life, unrequited crushes, missing friends, the consequences of drugs and manipulation- this book dealt with it all. And very poignantly, that too.
I don’t know if I liked this book, but I can’t deny that this book made me feel.

Overall Rating: 3/5

Why Do We Love the Characters We Do?

It’s no secret that the characters are the most important aspect of YA books. Yes, it’s so much more important that snazzy (does anyone use that word anymore?) brave, new worlds or even a plot (embarrassing, but I have loved books which are absolutely filled with fluff).

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”
-Ernst Hemmingway

Characters….Whether it is a Gandalf like wise old mentor, or a butt-kicking heroine like Katniss (or maybe someone more relatable like a female protagonist from any Sarah Dessan book), or a meltingly hot love interest like Raffe from Angelfall, we all know that characters are the bread and butter of a good book.
Sure, a surreal setting or a cute plot is nice to have but ultimately they just form the characters. I guess, you could say they give them the opportunity to shine.

“Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”
-Ray Bradbury

Personally, I’ve noticed I have a pattern when it comes to the characters and books I like.
I love it when the main characters (mostly girls, which I know is unfair but it’s just that I find them easier to relate to),are cynical, smart (though not as smart as they think they are) cheeky ,rebellious,a bit dismissive of the people around them and great liars. I love the con-men (or maybe just the con-women), the mercenaries, the pickpockets and the soldiers who don’t necessarily take the orders that are given to them. In other words I like characters that are more black than white on the monochromatic scale of inherent human goodness.

Is it because I can identify with them? Is it because I like seeing these half-villain kind of characters ironically turn into protagonists? Does it keep me hopeful that I’m capable of being a better person? Or perhaps I just like these kind of characters because they’re the ones capable of doing something, anything- and I want to be that kind of person. Maybe it’s just becuase I really appreciate the fact that they refuse to be defined, that they can play a multitude of roles. It’s hard to analyze how much of what comes into play, but a whole bunch of variables go into the making of a character. And just as many go into the liking (or disliking) of these characters.

“I don’t know where people got the idea that characters in books are supposed to be likable. Books are not in the business of creating merely likeable characters with whom you can have some simple identification with. Books are in the business of creating great stories that make you’re brain go ahhbdgbdmerhbergurhbudgerbudbaaarr.”
-John Green

Examples: Alex from the Ashes trilogy, Katrina from Heist Society, Calaena from the Throne of Glass series, Mare from Red Queen, etc.

For the love-interests, I think the reasons are a whole lot less complex. I like them witty, a little jaded and capable. Confidence is great as long as it’s not arrogance. It’s a lot harder to find love-interests like this in books than you’d think.
Examples: Akiva from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, Jonah Griggs from the Jellicoe Road
And then there are the side characters. These come in huge varieties. You have the totally cliched ones and then you have the ones which are multi-dimensional, insightful, funny and totally human.
Examples: Dee and Dum from Angelfall, Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series
When I say I love a book, it’s probably because I can relate very deeply to a character (usually a main character but sometimes a side one too). It’s because I can imagine them floating or walking or jumping out or whatever from the pages of the book. I can see my friends and family in them. I can see myself in them. And sometimes I can see someone who I want to be or someone I used to be in them. That makes it sound like I have a split-personality disorder. I don’t (at least I don’t think I do). But there are several aspects to my character and I love when I can identify a part of myself in another person- or another character.

“The characters in my novels are my own unrealised possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented.”
― Milan Kundera

The Difference between 15 and 16

So as of April 8, I am a 16 year old.

For the longest time, I thought 16 was a landmark age. I mean, there has to be some reason it’s called sweet 16, right?
Unfortunately, now that I’m 16 the landmark seems to have shrunk.

I did a Google search on ‘things you can do when you’re 16’. Sites from UK sees to dominate the search results; 16 seems to actually mean a lot for the Brits (and the Scots and the Irish). Not so much for the rest of the world.
As a 16 YO, here’s what I can do:

  1. Legally drink in Germany and Mexico! (First of all, I highly doubt I’m going to Germany and Mexico anytime soon. Second of all, I don’t plan to drink.) 
  2. You can drive. (I need to learn how to; besides this isn’t even true in India)
  3. You can have sex with an 18 year old! (Hmm…tempting. No.)
  4. You can get body piercings. (I think you just need parental permission for most body piercings here; you can do it any age.)
  5. You can be out later then 10:30 in the city of St.Albert. (Umm…curfew for being out? Imposed by the government? Non-existent here.)
  6. You can now get a job at Starbucks, Zellers and Walmart! (Nope you need to pass 12th grade for Starbucks. Zellers and Walmart don’t exist here- yet.)
  7. You can get a a credit card. (Which I won’t be able to use anyways)
  8. You can get married without parental consent (Only in certain places. And I believe marriage can wait. It can wait for a long time!)
  9. You can now work full-time. (Nope. I still need to go to school)
  10. You can move out of your house. (I think I’ll stay at home for a while)
  11. You can work at a daycare. (I highly doubt any parent wants to put their little darlings under my care.)
  12. You can get a US passport that’s valid for 10 years (I’m actually planning on doing this.)
  13. You can buy a lottery ticket. (No offense, but it’s a fools game)

So being 16 means pretty much the same thing being 15 meant to me. Oh well! I guess there’s always 18.

Organ Harvester: A Poem

You’re an organ harvester
and you take things part by part.
A nose here, an arm there;
You’ll take me apart.

It’s beyond you to care,
too much for me to expect
that the total value
you see in me
is more than just
the sum
of fragments,
of pieces,
of parts.

But I’m not an organ harvester.
Even though I’m stupid,
I’m foolish enough
to call myself a donor.
I give.
I give.
I give.

But you always take less
than what I freely offer.
As you see me as a collection.
A collection of working,
functional but ultimately just
body parts.
Instead of a fully working,
fully functional individual.

Summer 2015: Books I Plan to Read

Yes, summer has started for me.
And that means temperatures soaring to 40 degrees, a crazy amount of mangoes entering the house, no school and perhaps most importantly, the time to read a bunch of amazing new material.
So here it is. A list of 5 new releases I want  plan to read this summer:

  1. Things We Know By Heart

    Author: Jessi Kirby

    Release Date: April 21

    Things We Know by Heart
    When Quinn Sullivan meets the recipient of her boyfriend’s donated heart, the two form an unexpected connection.

    After Quinn loses her boyfriend, Trent, in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the pieces of her now-unrecognizable life. She hears back from some of them, but the person who received Trent’s heart has remained silent. The essence of a person, she has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent’s, then maybe she can have peace once and for all.

    Risking everything in order to finally lay her memories to rest, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn’t want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they’re connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost…and all that remains at stake.


  2. A Court of Thorns and Roses
    (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1)

    Author:Sarah J Maas

    Release Date: May 5

    A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)
    When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

    As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.


  3. End of Days
    (Penryn and the End of Days #3 or Angelfall #3)

    Author: Susan Ee

    Release Date: May 12

    End of Days (Penryn & the End of Days, #3)
    After a daring escape from the angels, Penryn and Raffe are on the run. They’re both desperate to find a doctor who can reverse the twisted changes inflicted by the angels on Raffe and Penryn’s sister. As they set off in search of answers, a startling revelation about Raffe’s past unleashes dark forces that threaten them all.

    When the angels release an apocalyptic nightmare onto humans, both sides are set on a path toward war. As unlikely alliances form and strategies shift, who will emerge victorious? Forced to pick sides in the fight for control of the earthly realm, Raffe and Penryn must choose: Their own kind, or each other?


  4. The Wicked Will Rise
    ( Dorothy Must Die #2)

    Author: Danielle Paige

    Release Date: March 31

    The Wicked Will Rise (Dorothy Must Die, #2)To make Oz a free land again, Amy Gumm was given a mission: remove the Tin Woodman’s heart, steal the Scarecrow’s brain, take the Lion’s courage, and then Dorothy must die….

    But Dorothy still lives. Now the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked has vanished, and mysterious Princess Ozma might be Amy’s only ally. As Amy learns the truth about her mission, she realizes that she’s only just scratched the surface of Oz’s past—and that Kansas, the home she couldn’t wait to leave behind, may also be in danger. In a place where the line between good and evil shifts with just a strong gust of wind, who can Amy trust—and who is really Wicked?


  5. Saint Anything

    Author: Sarah Dessan

    Release Date: May 5 (expexted)

    Saint Anything
    Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

    Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

    The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.

Predictably Irrational: A Book Review

Why do our headaches persist after taking a one-cent aspirin but disappear when we take a 50-cent aspirin?

Why does recalling the Ten Commandments reduce our tendency to lie, even when we couldn’t possibly be caught?
Why do we splurge on a lavish meal but cut coupons to save twenty-five cents on a can of soup?

Why do we go back for second helpings at the unlimited buffet, even when our stomachs are already full?

And how did we ever start spending $4.15 on a cup of coffee when, just a few years ago, we used to pay less than a dollar?

When it comes to making decisions in our lives, we think we’re in control. We think we’re making smart, rational choices. But are we?

Book: Predictably Irrational
Author: Dan Ariely

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

First non-fiction book I’m reviewing, so bear with me here.

I’ve always had an almost perverse fascination with decision-making. Not just my own decision making but others too (maybe that’s why I like psychology so much).
So when this book promised to analyse why we make stupidly illogical, irrational decisions- I was tempted (maybe even irrationally tempted). Of course, when friends and family added their voices to the mix, assuring me the book was great and I would love it (and learn a lot from it)- I went ahead and took the plunge.

Other Part of blurb:

(The other part is at the top of the review)

In a series of illuminating, often surprising experiments, MIT behavioral economist Dan Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways. Blending everyday experience with groundbreaking research, Ariely explains how expectations, emotions, social norms, and other invisible, seemingly illogical forces skew our reasoning abilities.

Not only do we make astonishingly simple mistakes every day, but we make the same “types” of mistakes, Ariely discovers. We consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. We fail to understand the profound effects of our emotions on what we want, and we overvalue what we already own. Yet these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless. They’re systematic and predictable–making us “predictably” irrational.

From drinking coffee to losing weight, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, Ariely explains how to break through these systematic patterns of thought to make better decisions. “Predictably Irrational” will change the way we interact with the world–one small decision at a time.

My Thoughts:

Do I regret it? Not exactly.
In my experience, non-fiction is either as dry as a text-book or full of filler fluff which pompously hammers home the same point in a million different ways (each less clear than the previous one). Predictably Irrational wasn’t like that. It had intriguing experiments (I feel so weird saying that since I haven’t exactly designed any experiments but still…) and the narrative voice was very easy-going and anecdotal.  (However, after a few chapters the ‘You are never gonna guess what happened’ thing got annoying because it was kind of obvious where things were going).

But I wouldn’t exactly recommend this book. So where did it go wrong?
I think I felt cheated. The stuff in Predictably Irrational has been referred to so much, over-hyped and repeated that none of it felt new anymore. The discoveries mentioned in the book were awesomely radical. The problem is other authors and writers think so too. I didn’t learn much. And that really leached the joy out of this book.

Essentially, this is what Dan Ariely tells us in his book. If you’re already familiar with these concepts you might want to give this book a miss.

  1. The value of an object is always comparative to other similar objects; not an absolute value in itself.
  2. First shock always hurts the most. After that, each shock is more bearable than the last.
    i.e. When buying a large item, we’re not too likely to care if the price is a couple of dollars here or there because we’ve already become numb to the ‘pain’ of spending that much money.
  3. Placebos work. Expensive placebos work better.
  4. Humans unconsciously define themselves by stereotypes.
  5. Humans dislike bringing money into social relationships because these relationships are considered ‘priceless’
  6. Humans like to believe they’re moral. So most people, if given the chance, will cheat only a little (riiight because cheating a little is a whole lot better than cheating a lot)
  7. Under pressure, humans will make different decisions than the ones they would have made if they were more objective.
  8. People love the concept of free. Even when it’s not good for them.
  9. Procrastination= bad
  10. Humans like having options. They hate seeing options disappear.
  11. We want other people to think we’re special, unique, non-conformitive.  And we’ll go out of our way to conform to that.
  12. Ultimately, humans makes irrational, emotional and biased decisions.

It was a good read. I’m not saying it wasn’t. I’m just saying I didn’t learn much from it and unfortunately, I hold non-fiction books to that unfairly high standard of being both informational and interesting.

Overall Rating: 2/5