Sharing your book list…the horror

There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.

-Bertrand Russell

On a scale of 1-10, how horrified would you be to have all your reading made public? 1 means you’re an exhibitionist who would enjoy having your reading list go out to random strangers. If you were a 10, you would hail the mere thought as the apocolypse.

On that scale, I’m very comfortable being number 8. The idea of my reading list going public makes me want to curl up in fetal position and never come out of my room.  I can’t see why anyone would ever want their acquaintances to know what they read. I mean, I’m sure there are intellectuals who read Dante’s Inferno and feel the need to toss it into other readers’ faces.  I know certain people who are in the middle of War and Peace ( have been for over a year) and wouldn’t mind you thinking they’re a lot smarter than they actually are.

But for the most part, most people will share different parts of their reading list with other people. I have classics ready on the tongue when people ask for favorite books, while I swoon over chick-lit and romance privately with close friends. And I’ll probably take some of the darkest, most taboo books I’ve read to my grave.

At the same time, it’s hard to think of reading as personal as say, your social security number or your sex life. Don’t get me wrong —it’s up there on the list. For example, I’d rather share my blood type,  phone number and weight than  a comprehensive list of what I read. But what is the point of reading if you can’t  fangirl or rant about it later? One of the highlights of my life is probably having a captive audience of 800 listen to me ramble on about the Golden Compass series. For a few glorious minutes, I bubbled over with enthusiasm as I  described how every read brought something new to my attention.

About a year back, Goodreads released a feature which allowed you to add the books you were currently reading to your email signature. They were surprised it didn’t really take off.

Cute idea but I read too much naughty stuff to add something to my email signature. I can just imagine sending an email to my dad with a cover of a shirtless man!
-D.G.

I’m not.

This Savage Song: A Book Review

“Monsters, monsters, big and small,
They’re gonna come and eat you all…”

Book: This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity)

Author: Victoria Schwab

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity, #1)

Blurb:

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

My thoughts:

It’s almost pathetic how eager I was for this book. But then, I’ve always had a high opinion of anything that Victoria Schwab writes. It’s rare for me- but I think  I’ve given 3 of her books (Vicious, A Darker Shade of Magic and The Archived) a 5 star rating.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like This Savage Song nearly as much. If I was just rating it on concept, this book would get a perfect rating. I love the idea of lovable monsters and horrible people. I like the idea that every evil we commit has direct, tangible consequences in the birth of a monster. I adore the mob-like atmosphere and how vicious and unforgiving it is.

Unfortunately, the characters break this book for me.  I don’t find anything redeemable in Kate. She aspires to violence and is slavishly devoted to a father who doesn’t care much for her. To prove herself to him, she commits crime and terrifies well-meaning teenagers. In general she’s horrifying. I hated her from the very first page where she burns down her school because she “didn’t want to be here.”

On the other hand, August is terribly masochistic. He hastes himself and the darkness he is made of. It’s like someone took a stereotype of a brooding teen, slapped a monster label on him and made him a character. Honestly, I’m disappointed.

“He wasn’t made of flesh and bone, or starlight.He was made of darkness.”

I see no chemistry between the characters, although I know they’ll end up with each other. I don’t want them to because their relationship will be unhealthy. They’ll egg each other on to commit terrible crimes and in the interim they’ll sigh a lot and be boring together.

I wasn’t a fan of the dystopian walled city, with the elite and moneyed enclosed inside and the poor, scary masses outside. Dystopia just doesn’t appeal to me these days. Yet, This Savage Song is still salvageable. Like always, V.E. Schwab’s writing is lyrical and beautiful.

But the teacher had been right about one thing: violence breeds.Someone pulls a trigger, sets off a bomb, drives a bus full of tourists off a bridge, and what’s left in the wake isn’t just she’ll casings, wreckage, bodies. There’s something else. Something bad. An aftermath. A recoil. A reaction to all that anger and pain and death.

Additionally, the ending is just cliff-hanging enough for me to want to read the next book.

Overall Rating: 2.5/5

 

People Watching: A Poem

I like to sit on sun-lit benches

In crowds full of people

But alone.

 

Nobody stays still. I watch them

Laugh, eat, run and linger

Watch them go.

 

I like to close my eyes and hear

Melting conversations

All mixed up.

 

“…merely inconsequential.”

“Ate pancakes till I threw-up…”

“…Lap-dancing…”

 

Sometimes I wonder who each one is.

I give them their own backstories.  

All made up.

 

A matador, running with bulls.

Royal princess in disguise.

Tired felon.  

 

Sometimes I see others sitting on benches.

Watching the whole world ebb and flow.

What do they see?

Empire of Storms: A Book Review

 

“The world will be saved and remade by the dreamers.”

Book: Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)

Author: Sarah J Maas

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass, #5)

Blurb:

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those don’t.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

My thoughts: 

Trust me, you don’t want to know what I had to do to get my grubby hands on a copy of this book. So, it gives me great pleasure to tell you all about it and you’re so excited about the book, you have to listen because, I think this is what they call a captive audience.
While the title gives me gleeful shivers, I’m going to refer to the Empire of Storms as EoS throughout this post for convenience’s sake.

The plot thickens and there are more names to remember. It feels almost like an authentic fantasy book. We’ve come a long way from the frivolous confection masquerading as the Throne of Glass.  Plot wise, most of this book is about rounding up armies, underscoring how high the stakes are and gathering the major players. It’s also a chance for Sarah J. Maas to solidify her characters because… well, she’s not known for keeping them consistent.
Take the main character: She went from Celaena, spoiled and violent assassin, to Aelin, responsible and self-sacrificing queen.  What really sunders ToG fans  is the fact that she’s been attached romantically to 4 characters. I don’t know how Maas managed, but Celaena/Aelin has had great banter, romantic scenes and chemistry with all of them. Is it any  surprise the fandom will never agree on who she’ll get her happy ever after with?

“Even when this world is a forgotten whisper of dust between the stars, I will always love you.”

Speaking of romance, I don’t know if this could be classified as a spoiler (since it becomes obvious midway), but EoS is a first for Sarah J. Maas because there are no shifting ships. I can’t believe it but Rowan is still with Aelin. Dorian and Manon continue to play with fire (by toying with each other).

There are some ships I saw coming a mile away: Lysandra and Aedion toss some flirty banter back and forth. There are epic declarations and everything.

Lorcan reached out, grasping her chin and forcing her to look at him. Hopeless, bleak eyes met his. He brushed away a stray tear with his thumb. “I made a promise to protect you. I will not break it, Elide.”
“I will always find you,” he swore to her.
Her throat bobbed.
Lorcan whispered, “I promise.”

But guess who I’m shipping?
That’s right, Lorcan and Elide.  I know it seems like an unlikely pairing. Elide is an escaped slave girl and in the last book she really got on my nerves because she seemed to depend on everyone else to save her. However, in this book she starts to stand on her own feet. She is a masterful liar, a conman in every sense of the word. She’s brave and ferocious and weirdly enough, she’s unflinchingly honest with herself.
Lorcan is a vicious fey warrior whose constant companion is death. Until EoS, I thought he was irredeemable. Who would have guessed that he had a gruff, sweet side? But EoS makes it clear Lorcan’s a man of actions, not of words. His strength and cynicism perfectly complements Elide’s cunning intelligence and boundless optimism. Together they’re beautiful. I have to hold myself back from crushing on him; I would be devastated if this ship sank.

Let me end this the way my English teachers have warned me not to: All in all, EoS was perfection. The real question is, can you wait another year for the last book to come out?

Overall rating: 4.5/5

My thoughts on YA dystopia

“I tuck caution into my pocket and hope I can reach for it if I need to.”
― Tahereh Mafi

You know what the Hunger Games, the Giver and Unwind all have in common? Though it’s tempting to say insanely limiting governance, it’s more (or perhaps, less) than that. They’re all dystopia.

Dystopia covers a pretty broad spectrum of things. In young adult fiction, there’s Mindy McGinnis’ Not a Drop to Drink where there’s no governance, just an acute scarcity of water and too many people who’re willing to kill for it. There’s also Red Rising, which is somehow science fiction and fantasy and dystopia combined. My point is it’s hard to figure out what the common identifying feature is.

Personally, I believe it isn’t dystopia without the bleak sense that things are bad (and that they’re just going to get worse) . It’s about people feeling trapped and powerless. It doesn’t have to be about a government; It doesn’t have to be the apocalypse, even.

Imagine you’re in a car that’s sitting in a ditch. You turn on the ignition and the wheels turn, throwing up a cloud of dust. There’s this whiny noise like the wheels already know their effort is futile.
When you turn off the engine, you’re even more stuck in the rut. This is the attitude of most of the characters in a dystopian novel. They’ve seen efforts to make things better, and they’re convinced it won’t work. So, they just sit in their cars which are in ditches.

For most people, it’s not hard to learn, to find a pattern of thought that works and stay that way.

– Veronica Roth, Divergent

Then- behold! There comes a dashing young hero (or heroine) who was born in the stuck car (yikes! my metaphor is getting really stretched here). She’s grown up in the stuck car and so she’s bitter, deprived and cynical. In a word, she’s completely “ordinary”.  But she sees something ahead of the ditch. Maybe it’s an ice-cream truck passing by on the road. So, she along with a group of sidekicks and love-interests loyal, talented friends come up with a contraption to save the day. They pull the car out of the ditch with the help of sheer will power held together by scotch tape (it’s magical, you know). The ending goes something like: Everyone lives happily ever after (except for the few that got squished underneath the car).

“Hope. It’s the only thing stronger than fear.”

-Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire

I get why dystopia is attractive. I really do. There’s something intoxicating about a person who is close to normal stepping up to save the world. It’s lovely to read a bleak, depressing book and think “Man, we sure have it better than they do.”

Image result for dystopia

From a Georgia Tech blog. Ironically enough, it’s graffiti.

But right now, most dystopia is not my cup of tea. I can’t justify reading something so profoundly unhappy and bitter when the world isn’t even close to perfect. I’ve moved on from the point where pissed-off and bitter characters seem more like children to me than kindred souls. Those are just excuses. Let me muster up some courage to tell you, I just don’t get it anymore.
I don’t know if it’s because the sudden flooding of dystopian books have cured me of my liking or if I just grew out of it naturally.

Do I hate dystopia? No, that’s like saying I despise hope. Or that I can’t take pleasure in misery. I totally can. It just has to be really high-caliber hope and despair.

<Evil cackle>

The Seat Next to Mine: A Poem

When I was 5 years old,
I walked into a classroom
Full of golden light and
giggling children.
I sat down on a rug that
spanned the alphabet.
Criss-cross-applesauce
on the letter “A”.

I watched you enter the room,
and plop your pink backpack
down in your cubby.
You stood uncertainly
like you wanted to sit
I hesitated….
Then I patted”B”.

For a year we sat together.
We made crowns of dandelions,
and tasted buttercups
at recess together.
Promising each other it
tasted like popcorn even
though we knew it didn’t.

I scowled at you when you
wouldn’t give me
the pink balloon
I really, really wanted
even though it was my birthday.
But when 7 year old Bryan,
grabbed it from you,
I yelled at him
“Give it back!”
because it was yours.

You left a couple weeks after
your dad got a new job.
I didn’t have your number,
your e-mail, your address
or even your last name.

I went on with my life.
I learned that buttercups
had nothing to with the food
and that dandelions were weeds.
I decided purple was a
much nicer color than pink.

12 years later, I walked into a room
filled with musty books
and the smell of coffee.
I look around the room
for a familiar face
and my gaze snags on yours.

I hesitate because I’m
not sure you are you.
But you pat the desk
in the spot next to yours.
And I sit next to you
One more time.

Adorkable: A Book Review

Book: Adorkable

Author: Cookie O’Gorman

Adorkable

Blurb:

Adorkable (ah-dor-kuh-bul): Descriptive term meaning to be equal parts dorky and adorable. For reference, see Sally Spitz.

Seventeen-year-old Sally Spitz is done with dating. Or at least, she’s done with the horrible blind dates/hookups/sneak attacks her matchmaking bestie, Hooker, sets her up on. There’s only so much one geek girl and Gryffindor supporter can take.

Her solution: she needs a fake boyfriend. And fast.

Enter Becks, soccer phenom, all-around-hottie, and Sally’s best friend practically since birth. When Sally asks Becks to be her F.B.F. (fake boyfriend), Becks is only too happy to be used. He’d do anything for Sal–even if that means giving her PDA lessons in his bedroom, saying she’s “more than pretty,” and expertly kissing her at parties.

The problem: Sally’s been in love with Becks all her life–and he’s completely clueless.

This book features two best friends, one special edition Yoda snuggie, countless beneath-the-ear kisses and begs the question:

Who wants a real boyfriend when faking it is so much more fun?

My thoughts:

This is not to be confused with Sarah Manning’s book of the same name. That one features a well-known blogger in high school who lives by herself. This one features a much more “normal” protagonist; she’s geeky and in love with her best-friend.

Adorkable was a very light and quick read. It didn’t touch upon any serious issues. The characters were adorably stereotypical and the plot-line was blessedly predictable. One serious issue I had with the book was the whole premise. Sally is in high-school?  Why are her mother and best-friend so concerned about her being boy-friendless. High school is nowhere near the point at which you are supposed to be in a serious relationship. I’d estimate that age to be closer to 30, maybe 35.

A relatively minor quibble compared to that gaping plot hole is Sally’s plan to get into Duke. Now that I’m a Senior and applying to colleges, I’m aware that Duke requires a really high-caliber student. Leadership in a couple of extracurriculars, several AP’s and a super high test score are expected. And I don’t know about the other 2 criterion, but president of German club and a position on newspaper staff probably wouldn’t be enough unless she was a recruited athlete or she got ridiculously lucky.

On the other hand, this book was sweet. Cookie O’Gorman did a better job of diving into the trivialities of a teenage brain than most YA authors.  This made the book funny at points. It was a breeze to read through and I “aww”ed a couple of times because it was just that cute.

“I was free, liberated. For a second there I even considered burning my bra.”

Overall Rating: 2/5