Re-reading Katherine by Anya Seton

“I only know that from wherever it is that we’re going, there can be no turning back”

Katherine by Anya Seton

This is my week to realize that in the past few years or so, my reading taste has changed so much.

Katherine

I re-read Anya Seton’s Katherine this week.
Why? I know it’s very strange behavior for a book reviewer who is so behind on her TBR list but I was studying a British royalty linage chart, and I happened to recognize the name Katherine.  Katherine is the very scandalous “lady” who was once John of Gaunt’s mistress and then his third wife. Her once illegitimate children are the direct ancestors of today’s British royalty. I did a quick re-read of Katherine; it’s more of a romance than actual history since so little is known about her, but I was very impressed with Katherine as a character.

Though this book was published over half a century ago, Katherine is almost as strong as a modern-day “girl power” character. True, she’s not as out-spoken and brash. Also, most of her power over other people comes about from the men in her life, but she really does the best she can with the resources offered to her. Over the course of a book, she does develop to a wily source of courage and a self-sufficency that teenage girls will always find empowering. Additionally, this is a rag-to-riches in the truest sense of the phrase. In the book, Katherine was the orphaned daughter of a Knight but eventually, she becomes the mother of the King of England. Additionally, I wouldn’t hesitate before putting it on my list of the Greatest Lovers of Literature. John of Gaunt and Katherine would definitely be above Romeo and Juliet (not saying much), Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester (which is saying something), Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy  (which is saying quite a bit).

When I last read this book, I was put off by how the harsh, gritty realities of the 14th century (complete with the Black Death and Peasant revolt) were described vividly, in poetic and flowery detail. I found the book distressing, and I was taken aback by the treatment of women at the time. Katherine is a powerful piece, but I was not equipped to handle it at 14.

I hesitate to say that I am fully equipped now at 16 to appreciate what a thrilling and beautiful book Katherine was. Anya Seton is insanely talented, and I am willing to bet that there are several subtle nuances and details that I haven’t yet caught. Maybe, two and a half years down the line, I’ll pick up this book again.
I’d definitely recommend this book for a read (and a re-read).

Overall Rating: 4/5

Truthwitch: A Book Review

Because ‘just me’ isn’t who we are,” Iseult hollered back. “I’ll always follow you, Safi, and you’ll always follow me. Threadsisters to the end.”

Book: Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1)

Author: Susan Dennard

Truthwitch (The Witchlands, #1)

Blurb:

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

My thoughts:

I won’t lie- I picked this book up for the cover, but I ended up comparing it to the Six of Crows.
…It did not compare favorably.

Like Six of Crows, Truthwitch uses multiple point of views to tell a tale of witchery and wonder, corruption and lies. However, I did not find the characters anywhere near as compelling. Initially, I keep getting mixed up between the heroines. I promise, it wasn’t my fault. Their mental “voice” sounded very similar and their thoughts were almost indistinguishable. it was easier after I learned about their respective backstories and skills, but I still never got into the flow of reading it.

“Allow me to serve you, Safiya. We have spent too many years apart.” “And I have spent too many hours between meals.” A glare. “Give it to me now, Polly, or I shall castrate you with a fork.”

If this was real life, Safiya would be diagnosed as a poor little rich girl. She has the obligatory skill with knives that YA fiction demands of its fantasy heroines, but somehow, she ends up disarmed multiple times throughout the course of the story. She’s demanding. She’s bratty. She yells a lot. (As if that’ll help her get her way). She feels entitled to respect, to have people feel grateful to her. For me, it was a major turn-off.

Iseult was mildly more interesting- but only because she has a powerful backstory in the form of being a part of a minority race that is literally reviled. Also, it’s strongly hinted that she has a very dark nature. But it’s not enough; I’m still not invested in her.

The world-building was pretty confusing in this book too. I was continuously bombarded by names of places and characters. Inevitably, they all sounded similar. Reading this book was an exercise in frustration. I had to go back and refer to the blurbs to remember the MC’s names. I don’t remember the names of any of the countries. I couldn’t possibly tell you what the villains motive was; although I do know it was highly patriotic.

“Oh, the Bloodwitch named Aeduan was no longer bored. No longer bored at all. And now he had work to do.”

The romance in this book was a mess. Very hot and cold love interests with dubious motives. Also, they’re borderline abusive. Trust me, nothing to swoon about.

This book was pretty disappointing. I’m puzzled by it’s pretty high rating on Goodreads. My advice: Stay away, unless you have practice reading confusing fantasy in which the characters seem to blend into each other.

My rating: 2/5

Instead, read: Six of Crows, Throne of Glass

 

Passenger: A Book Review

Society is always the same, regardless of the era. There are rules and standards, with seemingly no purpose. It’s a hateful, elaborate charade, equal parts flirtation and perceived naïveté. To men we have the minds of children.

Book: Passenger (Passenger #1)

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Passenger (Passenger, #1)Blurb:

passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever

My thoughts:

I love Alexandra Bracken’s books (The Darkest Minds, Brightly Woven) and so this automatically went on my TBR list. I had some trouble acquiring it, but I persevered because you know- Alexandra Bracken!

This book combines 2 of my favorite themes: Time travel and strong female characters. Etta is not traditionally strong- she’s a pale, thin muscled musician- but she has an inner strength that’s probably more fun to write about. She’s determined to protect the people that she cares for, she’s willing to constantly learn and she sticks to her guns.

What a privilege it was to never feel like you had to take stock of your surroundings, or gauge everyone’s reactions to the color of your skin.

After a while, it got somewhat annoying to listen to her judge people from the past with her modern set of ethics and principles, but you have to admire a girl who stands up for women’s rights and equality at all times (I mean that very literally).

How do you fight against a mountain? How do you move it when you don’t even have a shovel?
Maybe you don’t have to move it. Maybe you have to climb it.

Let’s talk about time travel. One of the worst things that can happen to a time-travel book is having it over-explained and super-analyzed until the average reader has no idea what is going on. It’s even worse when the world-building acts as a noose around the plots neck, strangling it slowly by way of flaws and plotholes which are immediately obvious to anyone with a basic understanding of physics.  This book does not fall prey to these major tropes. Ms. Bracken keeps it simple (and mysterious). I hope she keeps it that way for the rest of the series.

Never. Never again would he allow any other man to define him, set his course.

Moving on to Nicholas Carter. I’m sorry to use this phrase- but he is adorable! (see, I used an exclamation point). First and foremost, he is a sailor who aspires to captaincy. However, he’s born at a cruel time when slavery is still an acceptable practice and African-Americans are considered sub-human. These are very real obstacles that keep him from recognizing his talents. It also leads to a very flawed self-image and idea of sel-worth. Nicholas Carter is the guy you would feel for because he is sometimes heartbreakingly uncertain. However, he doesn’t let you feel pity for long because (be warned- I will use the exclamation point again), he is awesome!

Things that I want to complain about: This book has a very anti-adult feel to it. The adults all seem to be hiding secrets and ulterior motives. <spoiler alert> Yes, all of them. <spoiler over>. It;s a theme that was in the Darkest Minds, but there it made sense. Here, it really doesn’t.

You cannot fathom the distance I would travel for you.

I’d wholeheartedly recommend this book if you want something light about time travel or if you want a book with powerful characters. Alexandra Bracken is an amazing writer, and this book was not a disappointment.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Books you might want to read: Parallel, Darkest Minds

Running Barefoot: A Book Reivew

“Like a shoe that has lost its mate is never worn again, I had lost my matching part and didn’t know how to run barefoot.”

Book: Running Barefoot
Author: Amy Harmon

Running Barefoot

Blurb:

When Josie Jensen, an awkward 13-year-old musical prodigy, crashes headlong into new kid Samuel Yazzie, an 18-year-old Navajo boy full of anger and confusion, an unlikely friendship blooms. Josie teaches Samuel about words, music, and friendship, and along the way finds a kindred spirit. Upon graduation, Samuel abandons the sleepy, small town in search of a future and a life, leaving his young mentor behind. Many years go by, and Samuel returns to find his old friend in need of the very things she offered him years before. Their roles reversed, Samuel teaches Josie about life, love, and letting go.

Deeply romantic and poignant, ‘Running Barefoot’ is the story of a small town girl and a Native American boy, the ties that bind us to our homes and families, and the love that gives us wings.

My thoughts:

I don’t know why this book surprised me. I mean Making Faces by Amy Harmon was fabulous. But Running Barefoot blew that book out of the water. I expected high-quality from Amy Harmon, but she outdid herself with the profoundity, the beauty and the romance in this book.

Josie (despite her rather horrible name) is a precocious child and a beautiful woman.  She shoulders a stunning amount of responsibility for a 13 year old after her mother dies. But at times, you’re reminded how young she is- her naivete and her self-consciousness. She’s deeply passionate about music- and that makes her pretty relatable. I think this quote is a good example of how Josie’s eloquence and maturity meshes with her age.

Sometimes I think if I could just SEE without my eyes, the way I FEEL without my hands, I would be able to HEAR the music. I don’t use my hands to feel love or joy or heartache – but I still feel them all the same. My eyes let me see incredibly beautiful things, but sometimes I think that what I SEE gets in the way of what’s…what’s just beyond the beauty. Almost like the beauty I can SEE is just a very lovely curtain, distracting me from what’s on the other side…and if I just knew how to push that curtain aside, there the music would be

Samuel as a teenager is the cliched dramatic, angry (maybe for a reason) guy. But he has his own depths and is surprisingly receptive when josie shares  Classic Literature and Music with him. And perhaps the fact that he’s willing to form a deep friendship with a girl whose 5 years younger than him is the biggest indicator of his inherent sweetness.

“Your song…that is the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me.”

As always, Amy Harmon handles the topic of romance sensitively. I’ll be honest, when I heard that there was going to be a 5 year gap between the MC’s (and they’d be teenagers for a good portion of the book)- I was majorly squicked out. I don’t know why I was worried. For a good portion of the book, Josie crushes on Samuel. But it’s one of those mature crushes where you know you can intensely trust someone instead of something physical. First and foremost, Josie and Samuel are friends.
The romance comes later.

If I had a complaint about this book- it’s the Navajo myths. Though they were beautifully retold and emphasized just how proud Samuel was of his heritage, I felt that they detracted from the main story, from Josie’s and Samuel’s story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It moved me with it’s beautiful writing and simple, honest characters. I’ve reread this book twice and I cried each time.

If  you’re looking for a quiet, profound and beautiful romance; If you’re looking for a good story; If you’re looking for something that will move you- this is the book for you.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Tonight the Streets are Ours: A Book Review

“Love means sometimes sacrificing the things you want in order to make somebody else happy. It means being there for them, even when maybe you don’t feel like it, because they need you.”

Book: Tonight the Streets are Ours

Author: Leila Sales

Tonight the Streets Are Ours

Blurb:

Recklessly loyal.

That’s how seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley has always thought of herself. Caring for her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But lately she’s grown resentful of everyone—including her needy best friend and her absent mom—taking her loyalty for granted.

Then Arden stumbles upon a website called Tonight the Streets Are Ours, the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter, who gives voice to feelings that Arden has never known how to express. He seems toget her in a way that no one else does, and he hasn’t even met her.

Until Arden sets out on a road trip to find him.

During one crazy night out in New York City filled with parties, dancing, and music—the type of night when anything can happen, and nearly everything does—Arden discovers that Peter isn’t exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn’t exactly who she thought she was, either.

My thoughts:

I am a huge, huge, HUGE fan of This Song Will Save Your Life. I laughed over it. I cried over it. I related to it.  And I recommended it to every single person I talked to. I even reread it-thirice. So this was the most anticipated 2015 contemporary book for me.

You know what they say: Over expect and under-deliver.
Oh! Wait, they don’t say that. But that’s totally what this book did for me.

If TSWSYL was fresh and bubbly, Tonight the Streets are Ours was flat. Like soda that’s been left overnight. But you wake up in the morning, desperate for sugar, you look past the lack of bubbles. Only to be disappointed.

A huge part of this was the characters. I could hardly relate to Arden. I think it’s sad that her biggest accomplishment was becoming a doll. I think it’s even sadder that she was known for her ‘reckless loyalty’. But what’s most sad is she felt trapped into being recklessly loyal.

“But that’s the thing: when you swear to take someone’s side no matter what, sometimes you have to go to war for them.

She was hopelessly naive. Hopelessly reckless. Hopelessly entitled and she kept on making stupid decisions.  How does she not know about the consequences of being found with drugs in her possession? How is she ‘selfless’enough to accept the blame in place of her friend? And most importantly (to me, at least) why does she keep enabling her friends bad choices?
I hurt for her, okay? I hurt for her because it’s so damn sad to think you have to be ‘nice’ all the time. It hurts to have to force yourself to be nice. Especially when you’re supposed to be a nice person.

Lindsay was completely different. Bolder, braver, less willing to hide her selfishness and self-absorption with a mask. Argumenative and self-conscious in the fact that she repeatedly asks- “Am I too ugly to get a girlfriend?” but I think I preferred her to Arden (which is something most reviewers will not). Though she’s reckless and selfish, at least she’s honest.

Peter was a character. I can understand the fact that he was excited to meet a fan, but honestly, the hunting down a blogger thing is creepy and scary. If someone found me on the web and told me they loved my reviews- I’d be a little flattered but mostly creeped out. Like, how did you find me?

He was meant to be the douche of the story. He misrepresented his life and had an alcohol abuse problem. But I pitied him. He was an artist on extreme. Complete with mood swings and addictions and lies.

Does this mean I think this book was a waste of paper?

No. I think it addressed a lot of important questions without being preachy. How far can you exaggerate your memoirs before it becomes fiction? Are our heroes always like we think they are? Do you have to conform to a label that is slapped onto you? How may truths are there?

The answers might seem obvious right now, but Leila Sales is amazing at exploring that gray space between correct and incorrect.

It was the characters that killed the book for me. But they might appeal to you.

Overall Rating: 2/5

Quotables:

“Hurting people, really, deeply hurting them – that isn’t something you do on purpose. It’s just a by-product of living.

These days, I think that love is not so dramatic as all that. Maybe loving somebody means simply they bring out the best in you, and you bring out the best in them – so that together, you are always the best possible versions of yourselves.

Mistwalker: A Book Review

Those lights on the beach have no idea I’m watching them. Wanting them. Plotting against them. Ignorant, every one of them—they dance; they sway. They’re just far enough away that I can’t enjoy their music or eavesdrop on their conversations.
Right now, I hate them more than anything

Title: Mistwalker
Author: Saundra Mitchell

Mistwalker

Blurb:

When Willa Dixon’s brother dies on the family lobster boat, her father forbids Willa from stepping foot on the deck again. With her family suffering, she’ll do anything to help out—even visiting the Grey Man.

Everyone in her small Maine town knows of this legendary spirit who haunts the lighthouse, controlling the fog and the fate of any vessel within his reach. But what Willa finds in the lighthouse isn’t a spirit at all, but a young man trapped inside until he collects one thousand souls.

Desperate to escape his cursed existence, Grey tries to seduce Willa to take his place. With her life on land in shambles, will she sacrifice herself.

My thoughts:

Oh! I’ll be honest, nothing much happened in this book. This was a book without a plot and maybe that explains the low rating on goodreads.

If you look past that, you’ll notice this book has depth. It has longing. It has guilt. It has regret. It has selfishness. This is a book you read for the characters.

I almost didn’t care about the lack of plot because I fell in love with the characters and their stupid, selfish, pained lives. I fell in love with the despondency of a cursed fishing town past it’s hey-day. And I fell in love with the Grimms fairy-tale like fog that shrouded it all.

I fell in love with a girl who was responsible for her brother’s murder; drowning in her intense guilt and (what she thought) were her petty, selfish thoughts. I fell in love with her silent, taciturn father who took everything upon himself and did his best to protect his daughter. I loved the confused, complex dynamics of the family.

I cheered for Seth as he realised that he didn’t want to marry Willa and fish for the rest of his life, even though he cheated on her. And I fell in love with Bailey and her mania to get into the Ivy League and keep her relationship with her girlfriend going strong.
I fell in love with Grey, all alone without even his memories to keep him sane on the sea he hated. All alone, collecting souls lost at sea, afraid of himself and frustrated that he got all that he wished for but not what he needed. Selfish, willfully blind and falling in love (or lust) with the wrong girl- twice. Girls who couldn’t love him, wouldn’t love him.

The characters in this book are flawed. Irreparably screwed up. And the best thing is there is no talk of ‘fixing’ someone with ‘love’. The book is faultlessley honest when it tells you that love can screw it all up- but sometimes it’s the only thing which makes everything bearable.

This is not a love story. At least, not in the ordinary sense. This is a story of guilt, of family, of blame and despair. And no matter who you are, there will be at least one character you feel for and relate to.

The ending…bitter-sweet but mostly salty, like the sea. Or like tears.

Should you read it?
Only if you want to get lost (and I mean really lost) in words. And then cry.

Overall Rating: 3/5

Books like this: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Quotables:

Genies took your wishes the worst kind of literal. Faeries were monsters; I needed a piece of iron. I needed to get myself together.

Old rituals we kept to guarantee the impossible: all good weather, no bad days.
But in our bones, we knew it was blizzards and nor’easters and squall lines that sank ships. Draggers and trawlers and people from away stealing our catches and leaving nothing for our pots. Government dopes making us trade float line for sink line, twice as expensive, lost twice as much.

A curse is a curse—the trappings are beautiful. They have to be, to tempt the eye, to sway the heart. The gilt packages, the plates that fill with any delicacy I like, they’re the sugar in the poison. The way I look—the way Susannah looked—ethereal monsters. I’m a devil with an angel’s smile.

Vengeance Road: A Book Review

“So long as they go down, I don’t much care if I go with ’em”

Book: Vengeance Road

Author: Erin Bowman

Vengeance Road

Blurb:

When Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the notorious Rose Riders for a mysterious journal that reveals the secret location of a gold mine, the eighteen-year-old disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers and justice. What she finds are devious strangers, dust storms, and a pair of brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, she gets closer to the truth about herself and must decide if there’s room for love in a heart so full of hate.

In the spirit of True Grit, the cutthroat days of the Wild West come to life for a new generation.

My thoughts:

I’m going to alienate a lot of people by saying this, but I’ve never been a huge fan of Erin Bowman. Throughout her Frozen series, I was reading out of a sense of duty (‘You like young adult dystopia, ergo you must like this book’) than any real fondness or appreciation for it.

In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of Moria Young’s Blood Red Road. It features a very tough female heroine, who’s supremely comfortable with weapons. And that’s awesome. Unfortunately, it also has a lot of grammatical mistakes to authenticize ‘dialect’. Unfortunately, that took a lot away from the experience for me. I was jarred every time I came across an  “Int” or an “Em” or an “I’se”. Let’s just say: It was a pretty bumpy ride.

So were there any positives?

Definitely. I loved the plot-line. Vengeance, cold blooded kills and dressing up as a guy- It’s like the Ms. Bowman wrote this book with me in mind.

By extension, i loved the MC. The plotline was very character-centric. You know the plot was built for the character rather than the for the plot. But Erin Bowman has done a fantastic job with both.

“”Now for the love of God, lower that damn pistol.”
“All right,” I says.
And I do.
Right after I shoot him through the skull.

Plus, when was the last time you read a YA book set in the Wild West. Oh! That’s right-never. And it was fun. Outlaws and a search for gold- I loved the plotline. And it’s probably why I stuck to the book as long as I did.
A quibble that might be minor or major to you depending on who you are. Some of the supporting characters are completely cliched stereotypes. The Native American girl had immense respect for nature, was an amazing guide and crept silently. To top it all off, she spouted off white stories. Ugh!
Then there was the mountain hermit, who kept panning for gold. He was as expected- big, loud, trigger-happy, superstitious, flannel-shirt clad and socially awkward.
I’m sure some of these facts are necessary to being a Native American or Gold Miner of the time period, but it’s like that was the sum total of their characters.

The romance in this book gave me whiplash. Since when is a guy playing hot and cold attractive? Someone needs to tell YA authors that teenage girls are not masochistic. They don’t thrill by falling in love with guys who can’t make up their minds, anymore than adults do.

If dialect is something you can overlook and the Wild West and badass female MC’s are what you want, I think you’ll like this book. Otherwise, stay far far away.

Overall Rating: 2.5/5

Books You Might Like: Eon

Quotable:

“See you in hell, mister.”
And that’s where I’m going, sure as the sun will rise, ‘cus I feel nothing. No remorse. No guilt. Not even a sliver of doubt. He deserved it, and I’d do it again.

Eon: A Book Review

“You are wrong when you say there is no power in being a woman. When I think of my mother and the women in my tribe, and the hidden women in the harem, I know there are many types of power in this world…I found power in accepting the truth of who I am. It may not be a truth that others can accept, but I cannot live any other way. How would it be to live a lie every minute of your life? I don’t think I could do it.”

Book: Eon (Eon#1)

Author: Alison Goodman

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn (Eon, #1)

Blurb:

Also Known As: Two Pearls of Wisdom, Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye, and Eon (All the same book just published with different publishers)

Swordplay, dragon magic–and a hero with a desperate secret

Twelve-year-old Eon has been in training for years. His intensive study of Dragon Magic, based on East Asian astrology, involves two kinds of skills: sword-work and magical aptitude. He and his master hope that he will be chosen as a Dragoneye–an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune.

But Eon has a dangerous secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been masquerading as a boy for the chance to become a Dragoneye. Females are forbidden to use Dragon Magic; if anyone discovers she has been hiding in plain sight, her death is assured.

When Eon’s secret threatens to come to light, she and her allies are plunged into grave danger and a deadly struggle for the Imperial throne. Eon must find the strength and inner power to battle those who want to take her magic…and her life.

My thoughts:

So you’ve been going through Grishaverse withdrawal? Trust me, we all have. Been looking for a good book that’s like it- but not plagiarism? Eon is a great series for you. Best way I can describe it is the love child of Mulan and Shadow and Bone -but on steroids.

This book touches upon (and hits them spot on) adult topics that the Disney movie would have never covered (like transgenders, eunuchs and rape). Eon borrows heavily from Japanese and Chinese cultures (with a good dash of fantasy thrown in)- giving special importance to ancestors and dragons. Much like Mulan, it’s highly feministic, questioning traditional gender roles in society as well as stereotypes. This book is totally a ‘hear me roar!’ kind of book, celebrating traditions, ethnicity and women!

At the same time, it is action-packed, action-jammed. You will be unable to put this book down because so much happens. Sword fights, intrigue, careful stealing, etc. Full of two-faced courtiers, the politics in this book will grab you by the throat and the breath-taking descriptions of the magic will hit you in the heart. You will probably lay down on the floor, gasping for breath- and you will love every second of it.

This book is absolutely flawless- from the color and vividness of the world Ms. Goodman built to the backstories and multiple facets of the characters she dreamt up. There are marvellous friendships that spring forward in this book, and the romance is a slow to build but scorching fire.

The villain will be totally despicable <spoiler> although wait and see til the next book </spoiler> and the characters will be cowardly and selfish at times but beautiful and honorable at the peak.

“Even a cornered rabbit will fight with teeth and claws.”

You will love these characters. You will weep for them.

I’m going to keep this short and sort of vague. This book is best enjoyed without spoilers. You will thank me for this later.

Just know that when you finally flip to the last page you will slam the book in disappointment and collapse on the floor. But you won’t stay there long- you’ll run to get the sequel to this book (Eona) so that you can begin the process of falling in love and breaking your heart all over again.

Overall Rating: 5/5

Quotables:

‘Are you frightened now?’
I nodded, shame flushing my skin.
‘Is it going to stop you?’
‘No.’
‘That is the courage of a warrior.”

“There was a saying that a man’s true character was revealed in defeat. I thought it was also revealed in victory.”

Parallel: A Book Review

“At every moment, each person has the freedom to choose a different path, thereby changing the trajectory of his life. Nothing is set in stone.”

Book: Parallel
Author: Lauren Miller

Parallel

Blurb:

Abby Barnes had a plan. The Plan. She’d go to Northwestern, major in journalism, and land a job at a national newspaper, all before she turned twenty-two. But one tiny choice—taking a drama class her senior year of high school—changed all that. Now, on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, Abby is stuck on a Hollywood movie set, miles from where she wants to be, wishing she could rewind her life. The next morning, she’s in a dorm room at Yale, with no memory of how she got there. Overnight, it’s as if her past has been rewritten.

With the help of Caitlin, her science-savvy BFF, Abby discovers that this new reality is the result of a cosmic collision of parallel universes that has Abby living an alternate version of her life. And not only that: Abby’s life changes every time her parallel self makes a new choice. Meanwhile, her parallel is living out Abby’s senior year of high school and falling for someone Abby’s never even met.

As she struggles to navigate her ever-shifting existence, forced to live out the consequences of a path she didn’t choose, Abby must let go of the Plan and learn to focus on the present, without losing sight of who she is, the boy who might just be her soul mate, and the destiny that’s finally within reach.

My thoughts:

Alternate universes for the win. I adore this book. You want to know why? It’s because this books is good science fiction. The kind with alternate universes and coherent theories you have to read twice to make sure you understood it.

It’s excellently laid out with first, a scene from the ‘real’ world, and then alternating with present-day and memories from the ‘parallel’ world and finally ending with a scene from the ‘real’ world. Trust me, there’s no less confusing way to explain it; but it makes logical sense when you read it.

Now ugh! Love triangles, but I almost didn’t mind it in this book because the MC very literally felt she was two different people. There was a lot of drama when she found out that <spoiler> Josh and Micheal are brother’s </spoiler>, but it added to the plot.

Speaking of the plot, if it can be summarized in a sentence: Fate prevails and so does love.
Not only romantic love, but friendship and familial love remain constant in both universes. Nothing is unfixable. What happened in one world, may not have happened in another. And it takes less for you to undo your mistakes (when it comes to the people you love) than you’d expect.
Also, if it is meant to be- it will happen.

BTW, I’d like to state that in one context Parallel is a misnomer for the title. I’m sure Ms. Miller was referring to parallel universes when she titled this book. But I immediately thought of the math’s definition: two lines on the same plane which never intersect.
Except that’s the whole point (Oh! Look, an unplanned pun.) of the book: World’s collide and there are some things that would have happened anyways.

I love the friendship in this book. The girls know each other so well, are faultlessly loyal and…well, I just love them.
Only negatives in this book:

1.)I found myself annoyed that she had two perfect lives in hand. On one hand, she got to Yale and on the other, she became a movie star.In real life, I know people who might actually kill for one of the opportunities. And she gets both? Unrealistic.
So I removed one star.

2.) There was a little bit of slut-shaming in the beginning of the book with a friend’s girlfriend referred to as a ‘beach-blond barbie’, ‘arch-nemesis since kindergarten’ and indirectly implied to be a sl**. But by the end of the book, I could almost excuse it because the Ms. Miller very deliberately showed that it was all ‘high-school’ pettiness and immaturity that should be avoided, instead of emulated. Also, I think it was made clear that the MC was insulting on her best friend’s behalf (who had a crush, possibly loved the aforementioned crush).
Come on, you can relate to loyalty, can’t you?

3.) I didn’t cut any stars for this because some people really do believe in this and this is the whole point of the book: I’ve never believed in the idea of ‘Soulmates’.

This book will twist your mind in the most epic way. It will educate you on alternate universe theory. But most importantly, it’ll let you sigh in relief because Fate will get you where you need to go.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Quotables:

“That’s the funny thing about life. We’re rarely aware of the bullets we dodge. The just-misses. The almost-never-happeneds. We spend so much time worrying about how the future is going to play out and not nearly enough time admiring the precious perfection of the present.”

“A person rarely gets just one chance at anything. There are second chances everywhere, if you know where to look for them.”

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.”