Julie Cross: The Comfort of Patterns

“Pressure is just that—pressure. It’s all in your head. It has nothing to do with what you can or can’t do.”
―  Whatever Life Throws at You

I’ve always wondered what was more important as a writer: having the agility to make all of your characters and plots completely unique, or being able to write a few things well.

While having cookie-cutter characters and plots would be totally boring (imagine having a template where you just add in names and places), I think the old adage “write what you know” makes sense.

Julie Cross is a perfect example. Most of her books share similar elements:

  1. There is always at least one set of absentee parents. (what a cliche)
  2. The protagonist is usually a  precocious girl in her late teens who’s socially awkward due to an unusual childhood.
  3. Each story has a heavy sports angle to it.

However, these repeats are precisely what makes her books so compelling. Julie Cross writes with a confident authority about sports. I don’t know much about sports or the training that goes into it. The extent of my athletic capability is using a bike to get around dancing alone in my room for an hour.  However, either Cross was once a serious athlete or someone close to her was.  She writes so competently about the persistence, the determination and the challenges an athlete faces, it’s hard to believe anything else.  She doesn’t name drop terms or over-explain them; she just inserts them in a way that is immaculate and natural.
Note: I just googled her and found out that she was a former gymnast and now she’s a coach. 

Though there is always at least a dead parent or a dead-beat one, there is also a rational, supportive adult the protagonist can rely on. Julie Cross is fantastic in dismantling the young adult “the adults can’t be trusted trope”. This is not to say the coach/remaining parent is rah-rah, perfect and infallible . More often than not, they don’t know how to bridge the gap with their teenage ward. They enforce curfews and limit independence and have no idea how to talk about feminine issues. But they do try hard. They are stable and present, making it obvious they have the protagonist’s best interests at heart. Watching an angsty teenager and clueless adult bridge the communication gap and build a strong relationship is truly amazing.  I don’t usually make judgments about people’s personal lives, but I think she would be an amazing mother. I know I sound like a stereotypical teen, but she just gets it. 

“You’re always observing people, but maybe you’re studying the wrong things.”
-Third Degree

By reading her books, you can tell that Julie Cross really likes slow-paced, mature relationships. The romance between characters is always born out of friendship and trust. It begins with talking, then there are demonstrated common interests and showing that you understand and care about your to-be-significant-other. This is the ideal I aspire to for love. The characters (and Julie Cross by extension) deal with sex and intimacy in almost a grown-up way. There is no raging jealousy over exes, although there is some insecurity, which is dealt with by talking (how novel!). In Cross’s books, sex is a big deal (most of her teenage girls are socially isolated and young enough for them to be completely inexperienced) but it’s not called a “precious gift” or a guarantee of marriage. She doesn’t even imply that the first time is perfect; in fact, the moments leading up to it are a bit awkward.

I don’t like “Letters to Nowhere” and “Whatever Life throws” and “Third Degree” in spite of the repetitive patterns. I like them because of it.

Third DegreeWhatever Life Throws at YouLetters to Nowhere (Letters to Nowhere, #1)

 

Twilight: Why I Can’t Respect it

We all know the plot: Girl moves to rainy town. Falls in love with the”inhumanly” good looking loner at school almost at first sight. He turns out to be a sparkly vampire with masochistic, brooding tendencies. Vampire leaves girl for her own good. Girl cries for months. Werewolf falls in love with her. She tells him she wants to stay friends and jump off a cliff. Vampire thinks she’s killed herself and decides he finally wants to be Romeo to his Juliet., etc.  What am I talking about?

Twilight (Twilight, #1)

I was recently requested to review Twilight.
Twilight…is Twilight. It’s the series that we love to hate.  You might remember the”…still a better love story than Twilight.” and “Edward is Tinkerbell” memes. However, there is no doubt that the series was financially very succesful, with just the films grossing a profit of 2314 million dollars and inspiring the even more profitable 50 shades of grey phenomenon.

But I still don’t like it.

I don’t [openly] judge people who adore the book, but I do think it promotes some very unhealthy relationships. One thing that really disturbs me is that Bella’s life revolves around Edward. As a teenage girl, I feel qualified to say that life doesn’t revolve around one boy. There is school-work and sports practice. There is SAT prep and volunteering. There is the drama that comes with teachers who grade on curves and friends who need emotional support. There is going out for coffee and there is hanging out at the library until your squad gets enough nasty looks you feel compelled to leave. There is gossip about which guys are cute,  which ones are dating who and which ones would be a disaster. At this point (this point being high-school), few people think their love is going to last forever. Nobody dedicates much time to high-school romance. There is so much going on and so much nervous anticipation about the future, you very literally can’t picture being with the same person for the rest of your life. You can barely imagine getting married to them- much less following them into eternal death. You can’t imagine falling into a several-month long depression if/when they break up with you and ditching your friends, extra-curriculars and school-work.
Teenage girls do dream about love and romance. And there’s something inherently compelling about young lovers who are willing to give up their life  for each other. I know it’s not a new theme (Romeo and Juliet) but it’s such a waste of life.

Another thing that freaks me out about Edward and Bella’s relationship is the age-difference. In some case, age is not just a number. Edward has all the power. Not only is he physically stronger, he has also had more life experience (he’s lived for over a century). He’s able to ‘dazzle’ Bella at several points- compelling her to do things she was initially dead-set against. They’re not equals in the relationship because Bella is incapable of saying ‘no’. There’s a term for the type of relationship where someone has so much power over the other and that is rape (statutory rape is a real thing). I can not idealize a book about rape.

Still, I am reluctant to throw every single page of Twilight into the trash. Some of the characters that Stephanie Meyers has created have amazing backstories. Alice, for example, used to be in an asylum. Jasper is an ex-confederate soldier and was pressed into service in a military army. Rosalie was raped and murdered by her fiance. Esme was abused by her ex-husband and thus lost a baby. All of these characters carry so much baggage with them. I think Stephanie Meyers would have had a much healthier (and more compelling) story if she had chosen to focus on one of these characters and their struggle to become (mostly) healthy individuals.

Half Wild: A Book Review

“The point of being good is doing it when it’s tough, not when it’s easy.”

Book: Half Wild (Half Bad #2)

Author: Sally Green

Half Wild (The Half Bad Trilogy, #2)

Blurb:

“You will have a powerful Gift, but it’s how you use it that will show you to be good or bad.”

In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, seventeen-year-old Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world’s most powerful and violent witch. Nathan is hunted from all sides: nowhere is safe and no one can be trusted. Now, Nathan has come into his own unique magical Gift, and he’s on the run–but the Hunters are close behind, and they will stop at nothing until they have captured Nathan and destroyed his father.

My Thoughts:

This book is like taffy; It’s a bit tough in the beginning  but it sticks to your teeth.
Weird description, but it holds true. I  promise. 🙂

In the first book, I felt sorry for Nathan. In that book, he was a child. Prosecuted, abused, frightened, eager to make the world like him. Nathan was the child locked away in the attic that you cry for. The poor little kicked puppy trying to so damn hard to be perfect. It was impossible to hate him- I could see why he wanted his family to accept him. But at the same time, it was impossible to be impressed by him.

In this one, he’s evolved. He isn’t a child any more; if I had to put him into an age group, I’d say angry teen who belongs to a gang. He’s come to terms with the fact that there’s a rift between Black witches and White witches. He’s no longer bright-eyed, bushy-tailed- believing that if he’s quiet enough, sweet enough, good enough- the White witches will stop judging him for the deaths that his Father caused. He’s jaded and angsty. He’s violent, less likely to look for ‘painless’ solutions. He’s turned into a serious badass (complete with missing finger) and he’s stopped trying to impress the Whites (well, except for Annalise but I’ll get annoyed about that later).

Now, here’s what I really hated about the book: Annalise and Nathan’s obsessive quest to save her. Oh! Annalise with the soft white skin and blue eyes. Oh! Annalise who’s a helpless, judgemental little twerp. Oh! Annalise- who I just can’t seem to appreciate but Nathan had to spend the first quarter of the book rhapsodising about. Oh! Annalise I am so tired of hearing about you.
<Spoiler> She betrays Nathan to the white witches at the end and I’m almost glad because, finally he realises that he’s idolised her, </spoiler>

One unique thing about this book: I have the feeling that the pretty girl will be replaced  as the love interest by the capable gay guy. That makes the protaganist bi-sexual (and a bit confused in the interim). No, I’m not making up weird slash fanfiction plots; <spoiler> Nathan does kiss Gabriel </spoiler>.  I really hope it ends up this way. I adore Gabriel. I loved the Nathan/ Gabriel dynamics when they were friends and I saw those dynamics shift (the dynamics are still as  beautiful) in this book.

“I can’t not be with you, Nathan. I wanted to leave you in that grave and walk away but I couldn’t. I can’t walk ten paces away from you without it hurting me. I treasure every second with you. Every second. More than you know.”

This was a pretty good middle book for the series. It carried along the plot further, made the relationships more interesting and elaborated on the history of the world.
Obviously, if you haven’t read Half Bad yet, you should start with that one. Also, if you’re wondering if Half Lies is worth springing for, (It’s a short story about Gabriel’s sister. She was a Black Witch who fell in love with a White Witch and when she was captured, the White Witches executed her.)  it definitely is.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

 

 

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.”

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)

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.”