Highs of a Book: A Poem

You’re nothing but the mushed, crushed pulp
of bloated, water-logged trees past help,
Pressed into thin sheaves that whinge and yelp,
Black barnacle spreading on it like kelp.

Nought but sheets of paper, ink bled through-
A potent drug of highs and torment. (Why aren’t you taboo?)
Causing rich, drawn-out hallucinations untrue.
So vivid and lifelike- no wonder I’m addicted to you!

It’s all a matter of fickle, fickle perspective.
Are you degenerative or miraculously corrective?
No doubt you’re sweet, zealously addictive.
There’s nothing I haven’t done under your influence.

You lay so innocuously. Spine languid and stretched.
Mine too as I breathe you, consume your every inch.
To some, you may be wicked, or an inanimate wretch.
But to me you’re pure awe-some-nothing more, nothing less.

You’re awe-some as I flip your fresh and fine front cover,
As I finger past first one and then another chapter.
When I flip the last page and you’re finally over,
You’re still awe-some as you wait for another reader.

Five Flavors of Dumb: A Book Review

“…bands fall out. But at the end of the day, they’re like family. You get back together because you have to, because you’re stronger together than you are apart.”

Book: Five Flavors of Dumb
Author: Antony JohnFive Flavors of Dumb

Blurb:

The Challenge: Piper has one month to get the rock band Dumb a paying gig.

The Deal: If she does it, Piper will become the band’s manager and get her share of the profits.

The Catch: How can Piper possibly manage one egomaniacal pretty boy, one talentless piece of eye candy, one crush, one silent rocker, and one angry girl? And how can she do it when she’s deaf?

Piper can’t hear Dumb’s music, but with growing self-confidence, a budding romance, and a new understanding of the decision her family made to buy a cochlear implant for her deaf baby sister, she discovers her own inner rock star and what it truly means to be a flavor of Dumb

My Thoughts:

This book has hovered around on my TBR list for over a year, but I’ve never gotten around to reading it. When I saw it in the library, I felt chastised and I picked it up. Trust me, I’m glad I did.

I hate to sound pretentious and condescending, but initially I found the premise impossible. When I read the blurb, I wondered out loud: How can Piper be a band manager when she can’t even hear music?
I’m sorry for that tactless question. Piper really proved me wrong. At the risk of sounding cheesy, just because you can hear music doesn’t mean you understand it; just because you can’t hear it- doesn’t mean you can’t understand it.

This book is a journey on appreciating music, family, friends and your own power. This is a coming of age book set in Seattle focusing on the early heavy and grunge rock that the city’s famous for. If you’ve ever lived in Seattle (like me!) or even visited- you know how much pride the city takes in its’ music scene and its’ casual love for the art.

The supporting characters were well-developed, multi-facetious ones. The band was full of strong personalities (that clashed more often than not). In a non-preachy way, Mr. John shows us the perils of quick judgement and how powerful bonds can be formed amongst the most unlikely people.
Family played an important role in the book. Mom, Dad, Younger Brother, Baby Sister- Piper’s eyes opened to who they really were and vice versa. In recent memory, I can’t think of any book with such stupendous character development.

The romance in this book is seriously cute. A crush which grows into friendship which grows into something more, all set against the backdrop of chess, drums and coffee (yes, another Seattle thing).

This book is a fantastic learning opportunity. You will learn so much about deaf culture, Seattle and music. At the same time, you’ll empathise so strongly with Piper and the Five Flavors of Dumb, you will walk away amazed. Read the book. You will not regret it.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Books Like This: Everything Leads to You, Made You Up

Quotables:

“Don’t worry about wanting to change; start worrying when you don’t feel like changing anymore. And in the meantime, enjoy every version of yourself you ever meet, because not everybody who discovers their true identity likes what they find.”

“Not at all. It’s why people come. They say it’s about looking smart, or beautiful, or professional, but it’s not. Gray-haired ladies try to recapture their former brunette. Brunettes want to go blond. Other women go for colors that don’t arise in
nature. Each group thinks it’s completely different than the others, but I don’t see it that way. I’ve watched them looking at themselves in the mirror, and they’re not interested in conforming or rebelling, they just want to walk out of here feeling like themselves again.”

“Music. It’s not about those things. It’s about a feeling. It’s about expressing yourself. It’s about letting go.”

The Fixer: A Book Review

“I have a passing fondness for explosions.”

Book: The Fixer
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Fixer

Blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick has spent her entire life on her grandfather’s ranch. But when her estranged sister Ivy uproots her to D.C., Tess is thrown into a world that revolves around politics and power. She also starts at Hardwicke Academy, the D.C. school for the children of the rich and powerful, where she unwittingly becomes a fixer for the high school set, fixing teens’ problems the way her sister fixes their parents’ problems.

And when a conspiracy surfaces that involves the family member of one of Tess’s classmates, love triangles and unbelievable family secrets come to light and life gets even more interesting—and complicated—for Tess.

My thoughts:

This book is freaking fantastic. It’s the first mystery/thriller that I’ve enjoyed in a long time. This is three hundred and eighty-four pages of rebellion, sarcastic witticisms, determined girl heroines (who are more spice than sugar), well-rounded side characters, untraditional but caring families and an intense mystery.

There’s no way to make this clearer: I love Tess. Tough, determined, sarcastic, brave and protective- how could I not?

“There are a lot of ways to castrate a bull,” I said, my words deliberate and slow. “You can band the balls off, so they shrivel up and die. Or you can take a knife, and slide it just so.” I demonstrated with my free hand. “I grew up on a ranch. I know a lot about castrating bulls.”

I loved reading from her point of view. She was mature and passionate, but simultaneously relatable. She made you feel for her.

This is not a book where adults play no role (thus avoiding one of the major YA tropes)

Her ‘sister’, Ivy (I’ll leave you wondering why I’ve used single quotes) is an impressive woman with the power to get things done. She is so put-together, mysterious and effective. She’s a more badass version of Tess; it’s easy to believe they’re related. But at the same time, she brings different things to the table (not better, not worse- just different). To be honest, she sort of scares me, but mostly I am impressed as hell by her. I think I have a new role-model.

Adam, family friend and captain of defense, is pure awesome. There’s not really any romance in this book but, I ship Adam and Ivy together <spoiler> which is kind of weird since she was once in love with his brother </spoiler>.  I dunno, they just work. Brodie, Ivy’s chauffeur and bodyguard, is hilarious and makes surprising introspective comments. Potential love triangle here. I like him and all, but I like Adam better. (It’s cute that I think I get an opinion).

The teens are as cool as hell. I need to poach some of Ms. Barne’s magic. How else would she get the intricacies of getting such an eclectic bunch of kids to mesh so well?

Vivie is that friend that you always wanted to have. She’s plain nice, but she’s deceptively strong and brave too. She’s supportive, willing to lend you an ear or discuss something trivial to get your mind off things. And Tess is more than willing to return the favor. One of the best friendships I have seen in YA.

Asher is adorable. He’s a trouble-maker but he’s so much fun, charming and up for anything. I loved reading about him- especially when he was interacting with his twin (a college obsessed twin with a surprising skill with computers who loves her brother deep down) or with a person is a position of authority. I really hope there’s no love triangle with him, Tessa, and Henry because I would hate to see this bromance destroyed.

It’s your favorite person.”
“No. You’re not.”
“I won’t embarrass you by proving I am.”

Henry is intense, a bit bull-headed and charming in his own right. Again, I like him- but I like Asher more.

As for the plot itself, it is amazing. Priding itself on its’ political intrigue, it’s full of twists you’ll never see coming. YA needs more books like this!
Unfortunately, I had to pause in the middle of the book because the screen got really blurry. Okay, fine-I’ll admit it: this book wrung out a few tears from me.

I am unabashedly desperate to read the next book (too bad it doesn’t come out until 2016). There’s no other way to say this: this book was perfect.

Overall Rating: 5/5

Other Books Like This: Trust Me, I’m Lying, We All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1)

The Advantages of Being Shy

“If you’re an introvert, you also know that the bias against quiet can cause deep psychic pain. As a child you might have overheard your parents apologize for your shyness. Or at school you might have been prodded to come “out of your shell” -that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and some humans are just the same.”
Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

I’ve had friends tell me that before we knew each other well, they thought I was meek (ouch!), or worse, stuck-up (double ouch!). It’s not a perception that I set out to acquire but I’ve gotten used to it. It’s all par for the course when you’re a shy person.  Let’s just say, if ‘shy’ was real estate: then I would own it upfront.

Being shy is like being part of being part of an exclusive club. If you aren’t the shy type, then you have no idea what it could possibly be like. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable but sometimes you’re proud of the fact. It can be disadvantageous, but shyness has it’s advantages too (something non-shy people find hard to believe).
Despite common perception, shyness has nothing to do with a lack of confidence. It’s more of an aversion to approaching new people or of exposing yourself to them too quickly. There’s fear, yes. But there’s also pragmatism involved.

I am shy because I hate approaching people. I hate it. I hate that uneasy eye-contact you make which implies you have to move towards them or risk snubbing them.  I hate walking up to someone, tentatively smiling and proceeding to introduce yourself (what is the optimal way to introduce yourself?) I hate awkwardly flubbing your way through social niceties, and boring questions that no one really cares about. I hate second guessing what I’m going to say, as I try to be witty without being cheeky, interested without being an eager-beaver, and intelligent without being a know-it-all. I hate awkward first meetings.

But at the same time I’m aware. Since I put so much effort into this stuff, I’m really listening. I’ll remember you, your face, your name, which school you study at, which grade you’re in- and if we ever move past the social niceties, what you’re into, what you love, what you want to do. I am a great listener.

Another awesome thing about being shy: I rarely have to apologize for what I say. Because I think before I speak, I never accidently insult someone (trust me, if I insult you- you’ll know it). When I give my opinions, I use the words ‘I think’. Try it. Using  ‘ I think you have no idea what you’re talking about’ is less offensive compared to ‘You have no idea what you’re talking about.

“I must say that, beyond occasionally exposing me to laughter, my constitutional shyness has been no dis-advantage whatever. In fact I can see that, on the contrary, it has been all to my advantage. My hesitancy in speech, which was once an annoyance, is now a pleasure. Its greatest benefit has been that it has taught me the economy of words. I have naturally formed the habit of restraining my thoughts. And I can now give myself the certificate that a thoughtless word hardly ever escapes my tongue or pen. I do not recollect ever having had to regret anything in my speech or writing. I have thus been spared many a mishap and waste of time. Experience has taught me that silence is part of the spiritual discipline of a votary of truth. Proneness to exaggerate, to suppress or modify the truth, wittingly or unwittingly, is a natural weakness of man, and silence is necessary in order to surmount it. A man of few words will rarely be thoughtless in his speech; he will measure every word. We find so many people impatient to talk. There is no chairman of a meeting who is not pestered with notes for permission to speak. And whenever the permission is given the speaker generally exceeds the time-limit, asks for more time, and keeps on talking without permission. All this talking can hardly be said to be of any benefit to the world. It is so much waste of time. My shyness has been in reality my shield and buckler. It has allowed me to grow. It has helped me in my discernment of truth.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

So, shyness isn’t an issue. It really isn’t. Just because I don’t randomly approach people, doesn’t mean I dislike talking to them. Just because I have a quiet voice, doesn’t mean I can’t make myself heard. It doesn’t mean  I need to learn how to speak up or need to stop hiding in the shadows. Being shy doesn’t make me any less capable, or any less of a people person- in fact, in some cases, it might make me more.

If you’re a shy person, or if someone you’re close to is one- you should read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I’ve quoted her in the beginning of this article. Her book is powerful and will help you appreciate shyness as a character trait and understand how to leverage it.

My Rating Scale

This seems horribly backward! Why haven’t I posted my rating scale yet? Obviously, because I temporarily lost my mind. (yeah right- for one and a half year?)

This pitiful human heaps a dozen apologies at your sacred feet. She is so sorry you have suffered and been totally clueless because of her absent-mindedness.

I plan to make amends now. <Insert mental drum roll here> Presenting the  long-awaited rating scale:

1/5- Yuck! I didn’t finish this book. I don’t even feel guilty about leaving it. It’s a terrible waste of time and will kill your brain cells. Read at your own peril. I will not be responsible for the results.

2/5- I really, really disliked this book. It’s possible I didn’t finish it. But I did see something redeemable in there, and/or I have heard great things about this book from other people.

(Note: When is it okay to just stay ‘stop’? When do I stop reading?)

3/5-  I like this book. It was cute. Possibly sweet. But there was at least one major thing I didn’t like about this book.

4/5– This book was amazing! You can thank me after you’re done reading the book. A few minor issues that you probably won’t catch during first read anyway.

5/5- This book is manna from heaven! (or ambrosia, if you’re more comfortable with that word). I’m stingy with my 5’s so sit up and take notice!

Also, go ahead and take a look at which criteria I consider when I rate books.

Best Books of 2015 Awards (We’re Halfway Through!)

It’s July now, which means half of 2015 is up. All I can say is 2015 has been an absolutely fantastic year for YA with a whole bunch of great books coming out. I’ve been shamelessly working my way through them, and I’ve fallen in love with a great proportion of them. But there are some which deserve a special mention.
(Note: This only contains books from the young adult genre that were published for the first time in 2015)


Best Debut:

Book: Ember in the Ashes (Ember in the Ashes#1)
Author: Sabaa Tahir
An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1)

Comments:
Possibly my favorite book of the year. Gorgeous cover and worldbuilding. Not to mention that the plot is awesome. So glad a sequel’s coming. Not so glad it won’t be here ’til 2016.


Best Dystopian:

Book: Red Queen (Red Queen#1)
Author: Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen (Red Queen, #1)

Comments:
Ooh! Betrayals abound. With awesome superpowers! This book reminds me of Red Rising- possibly better. Too bad I have a thing for the bad guy.


Best Fantasy:

Book: A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1)
Author: Sarah J Maas
A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)

 Comments:
Super hot! Fantasy! Faeries! I don’t know what more to say. Another contender for my favorite book of the year.  Read my review here.


Best Romance:

Book: The Start of Me and You
Author: Emory Lord

The Start of Me and You

Comments:
Cry-fest. Amazing friendships! (one that evolves into something more). My role model in relationships. Read my review of it here.

 Maybe this is unfair. But I had to tie this category.

Other Book: I’ll Meet You There
Author: Helen Demtrios

I'll Meet You There

 Comments:
This book was so wickedly raw and powerful, I had trouble breathing after i was done. It’s surprisingly powerful and relatable.


Best Mind-Screwer:

Book: Made You Up
Author: Francessa Zappia

Made You Up
Comments:
This book screwed with my mind. Love the crew in the book and the *ahem* spiciness of the main character. Read my review of the book here.


So those are the books I loved this year. I’m a bit disappointed I don’t have anything for the sci-fi category or for the historical fiction category. Never fear, I have books on my TBR list which (I hope) I will love.
What do you think about the list? Would you replace anything? Do you have any nominees?

Victim or Not?: A Poem

We were hurt once
and then they told us
that the pain that
settled over our shoulders
weighted like the world
was our cross,
was our albatross
to wear,
to bear.
A green
badge of shame
to haunt us to (in)fame.

And then the truth came out-
Or at least our perspective did.
When we were allowed to speak
You    called    our    words    venom
leaping from them like they were snakes
calling us liars, calling us naive, calling us ignorant.

And so you blamed us for our pain
and we took it as out due
Let it fester,   turn to hate
What else were we to do?
We waited, bided our time
Wore our marks of shame.

We tore at the twisted stains
that besmeared, besmirched
our    forever    tainted    souls
We clawed with  our fingernails
until we drew     our own  blood
And then we tried   to pass the pain
The same way it     was passed to us

Stolen: A Letter to My Captor: A Book Review

What you did to me wasn’t this brilliant thing, like you think it was. You took me away from everything – my parents, my friends, my life. You took me to the sand and the heat, the dirt and isolation. And you expected me to love you. And that’s the hardest bit. Because I did, or at least, I loved something out there.
But I hated you too. I can’t forget that.”

Book: Stolen: A Letter to My Captor

Author: Lucy Cristopher

Stolen: A Letter to My Captor

Blurb:

It happened like this. I was stolen from an airport. Taken from everything I knew, everything I was used to. Taken to sand and heat, dirt and danger. And he expected me to love him.

This is my story.

A letter from nowhere.

Sixteen year old Gemma is kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian Outback. This wild and desolate landscape becomes almost a character in the book, so vividly is it described. Ty, her captor, is no stereotype. He is young, fit and completely gorgeous. This new life in the wilderness has been years in the planning. He loves only her, wants only her. Under the hot glare of the Australian sun, cut off from the world outside, can the force of his love make Gemma love him back?

The story takes the form of a letter, written by Gemma to Ty, reflecting on those strange and disturbing months in the outback. Months when the lines between love and obsession, and love and dependency, blur until they don’t exist – almost.

My thoughts:

There’s one (and only one thing) in this book that will make or break it for you: Ty.

He broke it.
Yes, he was brutally raw, primitive, passionate, beautifully honest and towards the end of the book, he was very compelling. I’m not going to lie- I felt for him. And in another setting, I might have loved him.
But he was obsessed, and that’s why I couldn’t. He was insane, a sick madman who teeters on the brink of anger and violence. At times, he was terrifying.

He stalked a girl for six years (ever since she was ten). He ‘protected’ her from other stalkers. And then he stole her. He drugged her. He imprisoned her.

Yet, you can’t completely hate him. He does it with the best of intentions (you know what they say about the path to hell). He feels that her parents don’t value her enough (true.). He never ‘touches’ her, much less rapes her (there’s not a single kiss in this whole book). He clearly cares for her, maybe even loves her.

But I can’t excuse him.
I shouldn’t excuse him because he scared a 16-year-old girl and then confessed romantic intentions towards her (he was in his mid 20’s at least). I shouldn’t excuse him because he drugged and dragged her like a caveman to his freaking cave. And another reason that justifies me condemning him:

“How long will you keep me?” I asked.
You shrugged. “Forever, of course.”

I can’t excuse him.

“It’s hard to hate someone once you understand them.”

Yet…in the middle he negotiates with her. If you still dislike it after four months, I’ll drop you off at the nearest town, he says. In that sense, if he’s a kidnapper- he’s a  good one. In the end, He gives up his freedom, to save her life.
It was tough for me to choose- but I couldn’t excuse him. But could I hate him? Of course, not!

“Lets face it, you did steal me. But you saved my life too. And somewhere in the middle, you showed me a place so different and beautiful, I can never get it out of my mind. And I can’t get you out of there either. You’re stuck in my brain like my own blood vessels.”

If Ty was complicated, Gemma was anything but. She was instantly relatable. She reminded me of…me. A little bratty, a little jaded, surprisingly insightful, curious and so, so brave. But still so believable. Yes, she pissed herself. Yes, she was terrified through half the book. But, she was empathetic, tenuous and determined. If I was ever in such a situation, I would be proud to behave like her. And when Stockholm Syndrome gradually began seeping in, I was as confused as she was.

The writing (lyrical, descriptive, poetic) and the setting (the wild, flame coloured sandy desert in Australia) almost steal the show- but not quite. No matter how gorgeous the scenery, our hearts and minds remain entangled by the bewitchingly bewildering situation, and the powerful characters.

Stolen: A letter to my captor, is so heart-breakingly confusing and beautiful, you will walk away from the book half dazed and completely in tears.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Books like this: On the Jellicoe Road, 5th Wave

Quotables:

“People love what they’re used to, I guess.”
“No.” You shook your head. “People should love what needs loving. That way they can save it.”

“Icy blue, looking back at me as if I could
warm them up. They’re
pretty powerful, you know, those eyes, pretty beautiful, too.”

“One day they’ll let you out of that dry, empty cell. You’ll return to the Separates, and you’ll feel the rain once more. And you’ll grow straight, this time, toward this sunlight. I know you will.”

Blood Warrior: A Book Review

Book: Blood Warrior (The Alexa Montgomery Saga #1)
Author: H. D. Morgan

Blood Warrior (The Alexa Montgomery Saga #1)

Blurb:

When her home is attacked by murderous vampires, 17-year-old Alexa is forced to leave her mother for dead in order to save her sister. She soon learns that she is the last known member of an elite race of supernatural Warriors, and is thrust into a world full of vampires and werewolves who all seem to regard her as some sort of savior. Meanwhile, Alexa battles a monster within herself that seeks to gain control; a monster that seeks blood.

The hidden city she finds herself in appears perfect, but Alexa’s instincts tell her that all is not right within its walls. When she is asked to attend a school of fighters, whose exams consist of gladiator-style competitions, she must decide who she can trust among the smiling faces. And, when she meets Kayden, a vampire she feels undeniably drawn to, she must decide if she can trust herself.

My thoughts:

I picked up this book because of the blurb, and I am sorely regretting it now. 


As a self-pub, I wasn’t expecting too much by way of grammar- but even then, a lot of this book is composed of some very awkwardly phrased sentences. I mean, why use one word when two will do?


Even Nelly, whom I loved more than anything, and who I enjoyed being around more than anyone, didn’t make me happy the way Kayden did. He made me happy in a very different way, a way that made me feel balanced and complete.

That’s a lot of words (and not even pretty ones) to say that she likes Kayden and that he makes her happy.

The world-building was just a dump of information. It’s fairly unique, but I couldn’t enjoy it at all because it was glopped over me at one time. Lamia’s, searhers, werewolfs, warriors- what? This could have been a lot of fun, if Morgan had gradually paced it all out, but it was poorly executed and I was left confused. 

I couldn’t enjoy the characters because they were emotional robots. Where is the sense of betrayal, the anger, the confusion- when the MC realises that her sister and best-friend have been hiding a secret from her, and she’s the last one to know she’s non-human?
When her mother dies- she almost forgets about it, after a day or two.
Seriously, I know she’s not human, but she doesn’t even act humane.
Sure she says she feels happy after she kills a blackbird, and she admits she feels jealous of her sister. But, it’s merely lip-service. I don’t ever see her experiencing any real emotions.
It just pisses me off that she goes through so many weird, life-changing events, and she doesn’t get mad, she doesn’t feel excited, she doesn’t get sad. She just stays in one emotional state- robotic. I think this is what got to me most. 

Another thing which really got me was the stereotyping and the total employment of cliches. There’s the fact that Alexa is a special snowflake (obviously, she doesn’t know it) who’s been mistreated her whole life. Of course, that means she’s got several hot guys vying for her attention, a lot of girls who inexplicably hate her, and a younger sister who depends on her to ‘protect’ her. Yawn. Cliche. Yawn.

Even the setting was screwed up. There was royalty and there was a boarding school. Needless to say, this confused me. It’s like the author took a bunch of idealised YA settings and mushed them all up together in the hopes of making something that would sell instantly. But it felt very transparent.

Ultimately, I had to stop reading the book.
Life’s too short to waste on such misery.

If you want any sort of character development- or even characters at all, don’t read this book

Overall Rating: 1/5

Books to Read Instead of This: A Court of Thorns and Roses, Pretty much any other book

Autocorrect: A Poem

I type on tinky keyboards,

The letters cut to size,

To meet pitiful proportions.

I type one thing,

My keyboard another

And am hunted.

Am hunted and hounded.

By words which change under clumsy fingers.

Words changing under clever software.

Yet clever is not nearly clever enough.

I’m left hissing.

Am left hissing and spitting.

Cursing and shouting and face-palming.

Damn you Autocorrect!