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.

Ashyn vs. Moria (Narrators of the Age of Legends Series)

Kelley Armstrong is best known for her adult paranormal fiction series, The Otherworlds, which feature pretty badass and inspiring female narrators/protagonists. And though Elena, Paige, Eve and Jamie and Savannah are amazing characters, it’s Moria and Ashyn from the Age of Legends series that really stick.

Sea of Shadows (Age of Legends, #1)Empire of Night (Age of Legends, #2)

The series is set in a fantasy world that bears some resemblance to our medieval age, complete with cloaks, strange-but-fascinating-honour-codes, paganry, princes, warriors, exiles and a punishing caste system. The books follow the twins, Ashyn and Moria with alternating PoV’s as they plow through creatures they thought were only in ‘stories’ and figure out who to trust, and how much.
Full of peril and betrayal- each character develops dramatically (but gradually). It becomes pretty obvious that the twins may look identical, but they have very different personalities.

Moria:

Moria is the quintessential modern girl heroine. Brash, painfully honest and with a sharp temper and even sharper throwing knives, Moria is the girl we all want to be. Pragmatic about love and unabashedly unshy about the body and her wants- it’s hard not to envy her. Her actions (more likely her attitude: ‘do first, think later…maybe’) get her into heaps of trouble, but keep her relatable.
Moria has a hunting cat Daigo; It’s pretty obvious Ms. Armstrong is paying homage to that old adage about humans and their pets. Lethal, honest, volatile and sensuous- Moria is very much a panther. And doesn’t every girl secretly want to be a cat?

Ashyn

If we continue with the pet analogy, Ashyn is a hound. Dogs are loyal, calmer, more friendly and more desperate for approval. So is Ashyn.  She’s a strategic thinker, book smart, tactful and a bit of a romantic. She rarely says stupid stuff that she will regret later. Also, she will not force you into a love triangle which will probably end up breaking at least one heart  and two good friendships. (No, I’m not defensive at all). If Moria is the girl you want to be, Ashyn is the girl you are. She is the sweet girl next door who will be nice to the new girl and bite back insults when someone forgets their manners. She’s observant but can fade into the background as she withdraws into the newest romance novel she is reading. When her crush crushes on her sister, she will feel a little jealous but will try to mitigate the love-pain. When a guy she doesn’t like (in that way, at least) indicates he’s attracted to her, she will rebuff him as nicely as possible. Yet at the center of this soft and sweet girl is a core that’s as brave and as hard as steel. When her loyalty to her sister or to her friends is tested, she will show her mettle by logically choosing the best path and supporting their choices- no matter the fallout.

It’s not a competition, but if it were then Ashyn would be my favorite. Hands down. She reminds me of myself so much that I’m afraid there’s a good bit of ego and narcissism speaking in my previous statement. But I’m not taking it back.
In fact, I bet that she’s going to be imperative in the next (and final) book, Forest of Ruin which comes out on April 5th 2016. Take note people: I want this book for my birthday.

Forest of Ruin (Age of Legends, #3)

And then finally everyone will know the power of the quiet girl. Muahahahaha.

On a side note, if someone who knows the lovely Ms. Armstrong would persuade her to write something short from one of the guy’s PoV (preferably Rowan’s)- that would be awesome. I don’t think I could give you eternal servitude, or even scrambled eggs. But I could probably get you a squished apple. And eternal gratitude. Don’t forget the eternal gratitude and karmaic goodwill.

…Yes, there was a reference in the previous paragraph. Two actually. Kudos to you if you got it.

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

My Top 5 Young Adult Ships

A huge part of reading young-adult is the romance. And as a young adult, it is impossible not to go through a couple of books without really loving how two characters go together, appreciating their chemistry and just sighing at their combined cuteness. So this is going to be a post on the ships that I love, love, love.

1.) Jonah Griggs and Taylor Markham
Book: On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Couple Name: Jaylor? or Tynah? I think I prefer Jaylor (pronounced like ‘jailer’)
Why: There is nothing cuter than this couple; they have so much history. The angst that they share and how they reach out to each other is truly heart-breaking. But what gets this the number one spot on this list? They say the sweetest things.


2.) Will and Lyra

Book: The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials Trilogy) by Philip Pullman
Couple Name:  Willyra? Lyrill? Oops. Both of them sound pretty bad. No cute couple names for them; It’s a good thing that both of them have short names.
Why: These two have a very sweet relationships. Both of them are strong, brave, impetuous and beautiful. They would do anything (and they did a lot) to protect each other. The romance never really got far (they were about 12 years old in the books, how far was it supposed to go?) but there was so much possibility and potential. The end of The Amber Spyglass was the saddest, most beautiful ending I have ever read.  Here’s a picture of it.


3.) Magnus and Alec

Series: The Mortal Instruments by Cassendra Clare
Couple Name: Finally a couple with a well-known couple name that actually sounds good. Drumroll please! May I present to you: Malec.
Why: Although this was never the main pairing in the series, it stole all of our hearts anyways. Magnus is a flamboyant glitter-loving warlock while Alec is a tough, closeted and fiercely protective shadowhunter. These two are so much more than the token LGBT characters. They’re well rounded characters who occasionally have problems in their relationship- just like anyone else.


4.) Penryn and Raffe
Series: Angelfall, World After (Penryn and the End of Days) by Susan Ee
Couple Names: Oh God! This couple name was doomed from the beginning. Penryn was named after a highway exit and Raffe sounds suspiciously like ‘raw feet’. So, Penaffe? Renryn? I didn’t think so.
Why: Angelfall is my favourite angel book ever (maybe even my favourite paranormal) and a huge part of it is due to Penryn and Raffe. I loved the witty banter that they kept up throughout the book. I loved that both of them were total badasses (this is more rare than you would think in a paranormal book) who took turns rescuing each other.  I loved their loyalty towards each other and how it sometimes made them do stupidly dangerous things.


5.) Liam and Ruby
Series: The Darkest Minds, Never Fade ( The Darkest Minds) by Alexandra Bracken
Couple Names: Luby? Riam? Okay, I think I prefer Riam. But not by much.
Why: Because the good-guy is seriously under-rated in young adult fiction. Liam was heartbreakingly sweet (even if he was naïve) at sometimes. He was just perfect for Ruby who was seriously traumatised after just escaping a concentration camp where she had been forced to stay for several years. Also, it’s pretty rare in fiction to see such a powerful, strong and self-assured girl . Let me tell you it was refreshing.


Disclaimer: I own none of these pictures. I just…borrowed them. They belong to their respective artists.

Between Shades of Grey: Book Review

Book: Between Shades of Grey

Author/Authoress: Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray

Cover: 5/5

Unlucky book. It has a pretty unfortunate title for a YA book. A lot of people probably bypassed this book due to the fact it (coincidentally) sounds very similar to 50 Shades of Grey, a notorious adults-only book. But, it’s not the author’s fault. Between Shades of Grey was published a couple of months before 50 Shades of Grey. As far as I’m concerned, that gives Ruta Sepetys precedence. Too bad it’s not just me who’s concerned.

This book is a gem but it’s one of those hidden jewels. It’s one of those books which are over looked. Not just because of the title, but also because of the content. This book is set in a camp during WWII but it’s not a Jewish concentration camp. The living standards of the people in here are almost as bad yet history knows nothing about them.

Basically, the Soviet Union and the Germans made a treaty called the German-Soviet nonaggression pact which essentially allowed Soviet occupation of  Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bessarabia, northern Bukovina, and eastern Poland and German occupation. We all know that the Germans later broke this pact when Hitler got paranoid and decided to attack Soviet Union occupied territory (when will dictators ever learn that fighting a war on two different fronts is fatal) and the rest, as they say it, is history.

But Between Shades of Grey focuses on the plight, the terror and the indignities suffered by the educated class of Lithuania when their country is taken over by the Russians and that is something that is often overlooked in history. They’re rehabitalized, treated as second class citizens, labelled as thieves and prostitutes and generally treated terribly all-around. . This book is desperate, sad and dark. For that reason, the cover is oddly fitting.

The cover’s not  just fitting for this book. It’s perfect. The snow and the barbed wire fits and sets the stage for all the cruelties and horrors featured in the book but it’s the small plant which symbolizes hope that is the crowning glory of the book. Small and not obvious, the plant is almost buried in the snow just like little snippets of hope are buried in the darkness and hopelessness of most of the book.

Plot:4/5

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

Oh, it did. It did steal my breath and capture my heart. It also wrung out a few tears from my unwilling eyes. This blurb does cover what goes on in this book but it does not even come close to capturing the real essence of this book. For that, you’ll have to read the book. *hint,hint, nudge nudge*

Between Shades of Grey has a plot so ugly it’s almost beautiful. Through all the indignities and tragedies Lina is forced to suffer, you’ll keep wanting to root her on and tell her it’s going to get better. But at the same time, you’re faced with the oppressive fact that it’s not. Not for a long time.

Characters:5/5

I have not come across a world war 2 book which is as heart breaking and heart wrending as this one. And yes, that does include Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and One Eye Lauguhing, the Other Eye Weeping by Barry Denenberg.

Lina is a very strong and brave character. Right from the start she, she audaciously chooses to write about the terrible cruelties and the Soviets are doing to those around her as well as her family and herself. Lina is an artist, and she uses this talent to depict the gruesome scenes she’s forces to witness on a daily basis. She then hides her drawings where the NKVD (that’s the earlier version of the KGB), hopefully, won’t find them. In this she hopes that, one day, someone will find the proof of what really occurred, and make sure that it never happens again. But that’s not the only reason she draws. Separated from her father, she draws in the hopes that one of her pictures will make it’s way to him and assure him that she’s alive, even if she’s not safe and happy. She idolizes her mother, who is probably one of the most selfless, helpful and caring mother’s in YA and loves her brother. Her relationship with her family is one of the happiest and wholesome parts of the book.

Romance:4/5

The romance in this book was under rated and it times awkward  but it was innocent and sparkling throughout. Just enough to give hope.

Andrius was an interesting character. He has so many faces. Angry (rightfully so) with the treatment of his mother. Caring, generous and playful with Lina’s family. And teasing with Lina herself. Intense all the time.

Good men are often more practical than pretty ” said Mother. “Andrius just happens to be both.”

I think this was my favourite Andrius part:

“Andrius, I’m…scared.”
He stopped and turned to me. “No. Don’t be scared. Don’t give them anything Lina, not even your fear.”

Writing:5/5

A special mention has to be given to the writing. The sentences were short, succinct and definitely not flowery. And, really that’s the only way this book could be written. Somehow the shortness and harshness of the sentences contributed to the misery and darkness of the book. That being said, there were no euphuisms for what happened. Nothing cut short to spare the readers any of the horror or the pain. And it worked well that way. If Sepetys had used euphuisms for each horrible thing, this book would not be as hard-hitting. And if she had gone into long flowery tangents on how the narrator was feeling, I couldn’t have taken this book as seriously. Instead of getting descriptions of emotions I was forced to feel them instead.

Plus it was pretty quotable:

“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.”

“I planted a seed of hatred in my heart. I swore it would grow to be a massive tree whose roots would strangle them all.”

“He threw his burning cigarette onto our clean living room floor and ground it into the wood with his boot.
We were about to become cigarettes.”

“…we’re dealing with two devils who both want to rule hell.”   (the two devils refer to Hitler and Stalin)

 

Ending: 3/5

 That’s it? We get a measly epilogue which tells us barely anything.All we know is that Lina and Andrius survived, they got married and they wrote about their suffering so that other people could hear about it. I would have liked to know if other people survived. Like the guy with the hat. And if their life after the war was any better. I feel the need to chant something like ‘see-quell, see-quell, see-quell’

 Plotholes:4/5

I felt a little bit cheated with the ending but other than that this book was good. Really good.

Overall Rating:4.5/5

If you feel the need for a sad book with a little bit of hope or a good historical novel, then you need to pick up this book. If you don’t, you need to pick up this book anyways. This book is intense and maybe even life changing.