Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Title: The Giver
Author: Lois Lowry
Publisher: Ember
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
Blurb: Jonas' world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

This book was the very thing I have been looking for in quite a long time. I know this because upon reading the last word, a shiver crept through me and my eyes began to sting with longing for more.

Jonas lives in an ideal world. Conflict does not exist. Poverty, injustice and divorce are unheard of. There is no color in his community. Everything is nondescript. Each December, children who reach the age of 12 are given a job that was selected to fit their aptitudes. Jonas is given more, for as of age twelve, he must bear atop his shoulders a weight equivalent to a million mountains.

When I finished the book, I asked myself why on earth it took me so many years to finally read it. I've seen this book around since I was ten years old, and now, six years later, I am glad that I did not read it earlier. Had I done so, I might not have understood the beauty in the simplicity of the language. I might not have understood the importance in distinction. I might not have felt the sting of tears at the idea that there could be a world without love and loss. Without pain and joy. 

Jonas lives in this indifferent life, and it was certainly something new for me to perceive. The idea behind the story is very bizarre, but definitely atmospheric. The setting was such that the colorless world seemed almost palpable to me.

And the characters! Their conformity with the rules was very well executed. The characters did not come off as card boards even though they felt nothing they were not taught to feel. In all honesty, until about halfway through, I began to wonder myself what was so rotten about the nondescript life they lived in. It was that real. I thought everything really worked. There is no struggle! But there is also no choice.

I would recommend this book to everyone. Though it was written for children, the depth between the lines is enough to fill up anyone with wonder. 

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Summer 2014 Must Reads!!

It's finally that time of the year when all the book nerds throw back, relax, and get ready for extreme reading. Oh, joy, I am so stoked because summers are when you can finally get to try perhaps a new genre, or a book you've heard plenty about, but have never gotten around to read. The only problem is, the world is overflowing with books of all sorts, so much so that it can be sort of intimidating stepping out of your norm. This year, I've actually already taken some baby steps away from the YA field. Today, I will share with you the books I've read this year that would make worthy summer reads. So progress, good folk.


1) The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy. (more)

Why you should read it: 
Ever read a book that really makes you feel nostalgic? Makes you feel a longing for childhood, or just really goes deep into your memories and emotions and builds a nest there? This book does that with its subtle hint at beautiful lessons about what it means to be a child and how we grow up to forget. The setting was beautiful and vivid, containing every sort of comfort (a pond, quiet old town, a barn, green hills).

Bottom Line:
Read to feel a moment of awe.

2) The Little Prince

A pilot forced to crash land in the Sahara desert encounters a little prince who is visiting the earth from his own small planet with its three volcanoes and a beautiful flower. Through this encounter, the pilot comes to discover many of life's universal truths which illuminate the human condition with all its foibles, cunning and eccentricities. The Little Prince is a strange and wonderful parable for all ages, championing the beauty and wisdom of childhood which fades when one becomes a 'grown up'. (more)

Why you should read it:
The Little Prince is a timeless, abstract classic that is relatively fast to read. The pictures within the books are absolutely breath taking, and the dialogue is so very unique and emotional.

Bottom Line:
Read to indulge in the aesthetic of language and art simultaneously. 

3) The Golem and the Jinni

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian Desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Struggling to make their way in 1899 New York, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their neighbors while masking their true selves.

And then, one cold and windy night, their paths happen to meet. (more)

Why you should read it:
If you are a die-hard fan of beautifully constructed love stories, than jump right on and read this baby! The main characters are so very unique, and the story will keep you on edge and turning the pages because you simply cannot get enough of the plot.  

Bottom line:
And then, one cold and windy night, their paths happen to meet. Tell me this line doesn't give you goosebumps of anticipation.

4) The Ghost Bride

Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.

Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family's only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price. (more)

Why you should read it:
For those of you who are reluctant to step out of YA fiction, this piece of work is a great place to start. The writing style is not very different than that of YA. The plot of the book is very unique, and the mysterious element really reels you into a whole new world. And if you are not accustomed to reading about books that take place overseas, well, you should be worried. Books with Chinese or Japanese settings can be extremely beautifully crafted, and extremely addicting. After you read this, you will want more books with a similar setting, at which point I would recommend Three Souls by Janie Chang 

Bottom line:
You will not be able to predict the ending. Or the romance (insert wink).

Sunday, 12 January 2014

The Saga of Larten Crepsley by Darren Shan

NOTE: This review is very general to the whole series, being a prequel and all. There are no spoilers.
Birth of a Killer (The Saga of Larten Crepsley, #1)
Title: The Saga of Larten Crepsley (#1 Birth of a Killer, #2 Ocean of Blood, #3 Palace of the Damned, #4 Brother's to the Death)
Author: Darren Shan
Rating: 5 stars
Blurb: (Of the first book only)
Ocean of Blood (Saga of Larten Crepsley, #2)The highly anticipated prequel to the New York Times bestselling Cirque Du Freak series!
Before Cirque Du Freak...
Before the war with the vampaneze...
Before he was a vampire.
Larten Crepsley was a boy.
As a child laborer many centuries ago, Larten Crepsley did his job well and without complaint, until the day the foreman killed his cousin as an example to the other children.

In that moment, young Larten flies into a rage that the foreman wouldn't survive. Forced on the run, he sleeps in crypts and eats cobwebs to get by. And when a vampire named Seba offers him protection and training as a vampire's assistant, Larten takes it.

Palace of the Damned (The Saga of Larten Crepsley, #3)Review:
Darren Shan has done it again. The Master of Horror is now too the Master of Originality, and the Master of Storytelling. He is the Master of Masters. Brother's to the Death was the fourth and final in the Larten Crepsley Saga, and though this saga is a prequel to the Cirque Du Freak Saga (many sagas there), it contained the same
 thrill, emotion, and depth as a non-prequel. I say this because prequels can often get tiresome. The events do not always bear a shock or surprise, but the same cannot be said for Darren Shan's Larten Crepsley books.

Brothers to the Death (The Saga of Larten Crepsley, #4)The idea behind his novels may revolve around vampires, but do not be fooled. These vampires are some of the most ancient, most noble and vicious. These vampires do not glitter and nor do they turn to ash beneath the sun. They are not all handsome (most are not), but they are some of the most heartfelt vampires I have ever read about. Mr. Shan has simply blown the scales of the 'Feel-o-Meter'. The characters, vampires and non vampires alike, are heavily padded with realism and depth. Their lives are so fascinating. Even after having turned the last page I found myself stuck in the 19th century, standing beneath a dark sky. The atmosphere of the story seemed to have drifted from the pages, engulfing me, blinding me like a thick fog.

I implore everyone to give Darren Shan a try. Although it would be a good idea to start from the original saga, The Cirque Du Freak. His characters are some of the most profound I have ever set eyes upon. His plots are some of the most fascinating. I can proudly say that Darren Shan rests a place in my heart along with Rick Riordan, Patrick Ness, and Neal Shusterman.

(On a side note, in this review I've tried to speak generally of all four books in the Saga).

Sunday, 5 January 2014

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

The Beginning of EverythingTitle: The Beginning for Everything
Author: Robyn Schneider
Publisher: Katherine Tegen/Imprint of HarperCollins
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Blurb:Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His particular tragedy waited until he was primed to lose it all: in one spectacular night, a reckless driver shatters Ezra’s knee, his athletic career, and his social life.

No longer a front-runner for Homecoming King, Ezra finds himself at the table of misfits, where he encounters new girl Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is unlike anyone Ezra’s ever met, achingly effortless, fiercely intelligent, and determined to bring Ezra along on her endless adventures. (More)
My Review:
After having read many dystopian and fantasy novels, I felt relieved when I sat down with The Beginning of Everything. I just needed something sweet and normal; a light read that was anything but my usual genre. To my delight, this book gave me just that, and it even threw in a surprise ending.

Ezra Faulkner is high on the plateau of social status at his high. He is a popular jock who has everything, until his own personal tragedy makes him realize that he, in fact, had nothing. The readers are made to embark on a journey of self discovery, of what it means to more than just exist in the world.

Right from the start I was getting a nice vibe from our protagonist. His tone was distinct from the usual in a chick lit, and his character was nicely built. I could really connect with him, and I felt myself rooting for him from the very start. When Cassidy Thorpe, the protagonist’s crush walked into the picture, I started predicting how the plot would unravel, which was a bit of a downer. You know, a typical boy falls for girl novel. But of course it wasn’t that. There was a mystery about the new girl and I just couldn’t seem to put a finger on what the issue could possibly be.

The writing itself was flawless. I loved the pace and the descriptions, and oh, the use of the Panopticon analogy was simply genius. A Panopticon is a building where a watchman can observe all of the inmates without their knowledge. The idea is that nobody can step out of line in fear that they may be watched. This idea was related to the world Ezra lives in. Great isn’t it?

Nicely paced and well written, the Beginning of Everything was a breath of fresh air. I especially loved the ending. Things didn’t wrap up as I had expected, and for that I was surprisingly glad. The book truly portrays what it means to go beyond existing by the expectations, and into actually living.   

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil, #1)Title: The School for Good and Evil
Author: Soman Chainani
Rating: 4 stars
Blurb: The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil. (More)

My Review:
Even before starting this book, I knew it would be different. Perhaps I felt this way because of the integration of fairy tales. Can I just say, finally. As a child growing up, I was obsessed with tales of princesses and princes living their happily ever after. Those times were truly magical, and reading this book has brought back the magic in an original and breathtaking way. I was pulled into the fairy tale world the author created from the very first line, and the excitement only grew as the story steadily progressed. I found myself lost in the plot, constantly envisioning the vivid imagery of the world in the story. 

The story line follows two best friends, one pretty, and one supposedly ugly. Sophie, dressed in pink and busy with good deeds, wishes for nothing but to be taken to this fairy tale land where she would acquire her happily ever after. Of course, when her friends Agatha, drab and constantly dressed in black, lands in her dream school, things take and unexpected turn. 

The idea I have to admit is ingenious. I mean, a legend about a fairy tale school the product of which are villains and charming princesses? Nice. Now add in just a touch of romance and mystery and you've got a perfectly wonderful book. 

The characters were, I would say, just right. I especially loved the son of King Arthur, who proved to override the mainstream Prince, though he had his times. The qualities and actions of the characters made me grow fond of them, and I even found myself teary-eyed at their occasional sorrows. 

Like every story, of course, this one did have flaws, the biggest being target audience. The length and vocabulary seemed much too long for a young audience, and yet the characters were aged only twelve and so the dialogue was sometimes tedious. I feel the problem could be easily resolved with an age swap, because frankly, it's difficult trying to picture a twelve year old Snow white, and even harder to picture a twelve year old prince charming. 

That's not to say that the story lost its effect on me. The plot line and world building cast aside my doubts and swept me to a truly enchanting ride. I was once again reminded that no one is ever too old for a fairy tale. 

And the cliffhanger! I will now start pulling out my hair. Oh, and did I mention, I'm loving the cover.