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Scarlet110

Bibliomaniac Scarlet

I came here to keep in touch with all my friends who left GR after the censorship debacle. I read a little of every genre. I co-blog at Musings of a Bibliomaniac.

Currently reading

Burial Rites
Hannah Kent
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Ana Juan, Catherynne M. Valente
Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

The Snow Child

The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey

“No warm blood in me doth glow,

Water in my veins doth flow;

Yet I’ll laugh and sing and playB

y frosty night and frosty day–

Little daughter of the Snow.

 

"But whenever I do know

That you love me little, then

I shall melt away again.

Back into the sky I’ll go–

Little daughter of the Snow.”

 

- An extract from Little Daughter of the Snow by Arthur Ransome.

 

 

This book... it's a dream. An unhurried, ethereal, captivating dream - so captivating, that I cleared out my currently-reading shelf after the first two pages so that I could bask unhindered in the spell this book cast on me.

 

The Snow Child is a retelling of the Russian fairy-tale Snegurochka or The Snow Maiden. Eowyn Ivey's debut tells the story of an old childless couple in the Alaskan wilderness, who shape a little girl from snow during the winter's first snowfall. What happens thereafter is pretty obvious.

 

The first half of this book is absolute perfection. The Alaskan setting, the characters, the magic in the winter air - everything comes alive through Ivey's gorgeous prose. Somewhere past the halfway mark however, the story takes a detour from the original fairy-tale and things get impossibly more real with every page, finally ending on a note that's too bizarre to fully comprehend. The Snow Child constantly hovers on the border between illusion and reality, which may either be the book's strongest point or it's undoing, because if you think about the plot too long, many threads come untethered and threaten to unravel.

 

Jack and Mabel are some of the realest characters I've ever encountered. I cannot claim to exactly understand their anguish; I'm too young for that. But I could feel it - in the silence, in the breath of the narration, in the things that were deliberately left unsaid. I understand how the absence of something (or someone) can haunt a person like a presence. I understand why seeking an explanation may not be so important when the thing you most desire ends up at your doorstep.

 

On the contrary, the Snow Child herself, or Faina as she's called, never felt real to me. I'm guessing this was the author's intention. It works well in the beginning when Faina is more of an illusion, coming and going like a shadow. The second half adds (or tries to add) more substance to Faina - something I had trouble digesting - which is probably why it felt weaker in comparison.

 

The entire story has an undercurrent of sorrow to it. In the beginning, Jack and Mabel grieve for what they never had. Once Faina enters their lives, this grief takes the form of a quiet desperation; the dread of losing what they now have, even though Faina is more of a phantom-child than a real daughter.

 

Another thing that struck me was the occasional streak of violence. There are many animal killings in the book. Surviving in a landscape like Alaska would entail hunting for meat but in retrospect, I feel these scenes were strategically placed at intervals. Like the visual of blood on snow was meant to combat the fascinating idea of a child born of snow.

 

Not much happens in the book plot-wise. Some of the most enchanting parts are also the quietest. It's like peering into a snow-globe - the scenery does not change; yet, there's something so captivating in simply watching the glitter settle, and also this feeling of fragility, like how the world inside the globe could shatter in a single fall.

 

Fairy-tale or not, The Snow Child requires you to follow the rules of one: It doesn't matter why or how things happen; just that they happen. If you can do that, this book will take you on an enchanting journey.

 

A stunning, stunning debut. Highly recommended.

SPOILER ALERT!

Ultraboring

Ultraviolet  - R.J. Anderson

The good thing: Misleading blurb alert!! Ultraviolet is much more than a murder mystery.

 

The bad thing: It still bored me to death -_-

 

Before I justify my (unpopular) opinion, I have a confession to make. I was never really interested in Ultraviolet. Reading this book was an act of desperation. I badly needed a break from Picoult's super-sentimental preaching in The Storyteller and this was the only book on my Ipad that wasn't emotionally draining. So I guess this was doomed from the start.

 

 

---Some spoilers, nothing major---

 

Ultraviolet has a fabulous concept. The MC, Allison, has Synesthesia, which according to Wikipedia "is a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway."

 

o_O

 

In more understandable terms, all of Allison's senses are cross-wired.

 

As a result, our MC can:

- see/taste sounds

- feel/taste words

- see numbers as colors

- sense colors by touch

- taste feelings

 

She also has a condition called Tetrachromacy, which according to Wikipedia... no, forget it.

 

It basically means that Allison can see into the ultraviolet range so a lot of the colors she sees have no names. Yet.

 

Both disorders exist in reality. However, Allison's condition in the book is very, very exaggerated (like most things in YA). It's like super-synesthesia or something. She can even see heartbeats, taste the wind, hear stars, blah blah.

 

Here's what I don't understand: How did she not end up in a psych ward sooner??

 

The kind of sensory overload this book describes.. it's too much. She lived like this for 16 years and nobody had a clue?? How did she not have a major mental breakdown as a child??

 

That's not the reason for my low rating, by the way. That's just a random question that popped up in my head.

 

My reasons are:

 

- Allison. She annoyed me. For someone with such gifted sensory perception, her narration felt painfully monotonous to me.

 

- The writing. Too simplistic.

 

- Nearly 80% of the story takes place in a psych ward, which is not a setting I like very much.

 

- The Ending. I mean, SERIOUSLY?? It was absolutely lame. It hit me like a paint-ball in the face - sudden, painful, unpleasant.

 

SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!


[

Allison's therapist turns out to be an alien.

Her classmate Tori, who 'disintegrated' according to the blurb was just sucked into another dimension.

Oh, and Tori is an alien too.

But they're not aliens, they are actually humans who come from another colony.

And of course, the human Allison is in love with her human-yet-alien therapist.

 

WTF.

 

Ever since The 5th Wave, the word 'alien' in YA makes me see red (no synesthesia-related pun intended). So maybe it's me, not the book.

]

 

Sorry if this review is disjointed, I'm mentally exhausted.

The Storyteller

The Storyteller - Jodi Picoult

---Some spoilers but nothing major---

 

The first few chapters of The Storyteller introduce us to Sage Singer - a twenty-something baker who is struggling with scars both emotional and physical. Following an accident that maimed half her face, Sage suffers from very low self-esteem, lives and works like a recluse and settles for being some guy's mistress.

 

Had I not read the blurb, I would have assumed that I was reading one of those chick-lit stories where an insecure girl with too much emotional baggage meets a guy who loves her for who she is.

 

400 pages later, that is EXACTLY what The Storyteller turned out to be.

 

What a bummer.

 

I'm not saying that The Storyteller doesn't talk about the Holocaust or doesn't do justice to it. In fact, the best parts are the flash-backs from WW2. I'll give credit where it's deserved - Jodi Picoult has researched the whole thing extremely well. And yet, the Holocaust angle always felt secondary to me. It did not get the attention it deserved. Or rather, undue attention was given to trivial plot-points.

 

Take the baking, for example. There is a ton of absolutely pointless information. What Sage bakes. Why she bakes. How she bakes. How gluten works. How brioche is made. Yadda yadda yadda.

 

Another useless detail that is hard to ignore - Sage's sisters are called Pepper and Saffron.

There's nothing technically wrong with those names except that they serve no purpose in the book whatsoever and stick out like a sore thumb.

 

All the side-characters were unrealistic and absolutely weird, again, for no reason other than grabbing undue attention. Who the hell speaks only in Haiku?? What kind of nun (or ex-nun) paints Jesus with the face of Bradley Cooper?? What is this, some Sophie Kinsella novel?? >_<

 

All that time Picoult wasted on meaningless digressions could have been better spent in developing Josef and Sage's friendship, which felt rather sudden and underwhelming to me.

 

There's another story about a vampire (No, I'm not joking) that is narrated in parallel. It has allegorical meaning in the context of the book but feels like fan-fiction sometimes.. I wish this story was kept separate, maybe like a prologue/epilogue to each part. It's jarring to go from SS officer in one chapter to blood-thirsty vampire in the next.

 

Now, the good part. Minka's harrowing tale of surviving the Holocaust is without question, the highlight of The Storyteller. The meticulously detailed descriptions make it nearly unbearable to read, but those 150 odd pages tell a supremely compelling story. For that one section, I'd say Brava, Ms Picoult.

 

Sadly, even Minka's story cannot save The Storyteller from my 2-star shelf. What should have been about Josef and Minka focused too much on Sage and Leo.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz

My favorite thing about this book was the way in which Vera's relationship with her dad played out. It was realistic in terms of all the father-daughter issues, yet it never stopped being endearing.

 

I also loved the narration. The hilarity of it nullified the many tough themes in the story. The flow-charts and the talking pagoda were such clever additions.

 

I just don't get Jenny Flick's character. How can an eighteen year old be so quintessentially evil?? A guy broke up with her so she set a pet-store on fire??! And possibly killed the guy?? That is what the story alludes to, even though Charlie's death is never fully explained.

 

This is probably the uber-sensitive side of me talking but I CANNOT STAND ANIMAL ABUSE OR ANYTHING THAT EVEN REMOTELY DEMEANS THE LIVES OF PETS. If I had the paperback version, I swear I would have flung it across the room :/

 

The ending was a let-down. I was waiting for some kind of major revelation and it never came.

 

Overall, this was just okay. I expected a lot more from a Printz Honor winning book, so I'm a little disappointed.

Atonement

Atonement - Ian McEwan

This. Book. Drove. Me. Nuts.

 

Did I sabotage the book by opting to watch the movie first?

Maybe.

 

Or would it have turned out this way regardless?

I'll never know.

 

I like the idea of this book. Ian McEwan's definition of atonement is as dazzling as it is strange. I also love the prose. So rich and refined. For these reasons alone, I'm giving Atonement 3 stars.

 

The rest of this review, I'm afraid, is a jumbled explanation for why this book made me so mad.

 

I thought the purpose of this book was to tell a story. A story about how a misunderstanding borne out of innocence could tragically alter so many lives. But did it really do that??

 

It tried to, at least in the beginning. But even then, I did not for a minute believe that it was really happening, that all these people actually existed. It felt like the script of a play - everything was carefully rehearsed and choreographed. Every character from Briony to Cecelia, from Robbie to Leon, was like a caricature, like Arabella in The Trials of Arabella.

 

Then somewhere past the halfway mark, the story just stopped and Atonement turned into a documentary on the horrors of WW2. Civilians were getting blown to bits, soldiers were being left to die, villages were turning to rubble... I'm not saying it was pointless but it was way overdone. If these characters felt vague before, they ceased to exist for me then - lost in the mess of war tales.

 

So you see, very little actually happened in the course of 350 pages. So much of it was devoted to overtly descriptive passages that were, for lack of a better word, boring.

 

And then there's the twist at the end, of course.

 

MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD:

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Saving Francesca - Melina Marchetta "I want the bus driver to turn the bus around and I want to spend the rest of my days in a whirlwind of the last few days. Of flirting. Of laughing. Of ridding the world of evil. Of folk songs. Of piggybacks. Of hip-hop dancing. Of foolishness.And most of all, of forgetting.I look past them to where Will and his friends are sitting, and he catches my eye for a moment and smiles. It’s a weird smile, but it reaches his eyes and I bottle it. And I put it in my ammo pack that’s kept right next to my soul. The one that holds Mia’s scent and Justine’s spirit and Siobhan’s hope and Tara’s passions. Because if I’m going to wake up one morning and not be able to get out of bed, I’m going to need everything I’ve got to fight this bastard of a disease that could be sleeping inside of me." And that is when I fell for this book.Saving Francesca is not perfect and it's definitely not the best contemporary I’ve ever read. The first half seemed like such a pain that I actually made a things-that-annoy-me list in my head. Then I turned a page and saw those lines and... fell in love. Just like that.You see, up until that point, I had it all wrong.Saving Francesca was never about Francesca.It was about... the small things that turn out to be big. Or the bad things that turn out to be good. How the tiny details are what you miss the most, or how the silliest of conversations is what you hold most dear, or how the unlikeliest of people become the best of friends.So while this book started off on a not-so-impressive note, what matters is how it turned out in the end.Which is, that I went from scoffing at the drama to crying at it's authenticity.Lovely writing, real characters, heartfelt conversations and a bittersweet ending - Saving Francesca was well worth my time.3.5Buddy read with Komal.
2001: A Space Odyssey - Arthur C. Clarke I did not expect a book on extra-terrestrial life to leave me thinking about the evolution of mankind.You won't find any alien action here, no war-of-the-worlds scenario. Instead, 2001 is a book that relies on the sheer strength of ideas - which is what I believe good science-fiction should be about. All those intriguing what-if and maybe questions that can challenge your beliefs and change your perspective.Maybe light is not the fastest medium there is. How do we know what lies buried on the moon? What if there are aliens out there who are so very alien that it's beyond out human faculties to even think of them as life forms?Okay, I'm freaking out a little.My point is, as fascinating as the book is, it's also utterly terrifying because almost everything about it seems plausible. Especially the part about Hal's malfunctioning. My blood nearly froze when that happened. Computers! Neural networks! Artificial Intelligence! Forget alien invasions, what if there's a Mutiny-of-the-Machines or something!.I did not fully understand the ending and I don't think I ever will. The implications of that are so immense that it's impossible to get your head around - pretty much like the universe itself.Or maybe I should say that the ending was too alien for my poor brain to make sense of.2001: A Space Odyssey is one of those books that have timeless appeal. No wonder this has been labelled as the best science-fiction book ever.

Gameboard of the Gods

Gameboard of the Gods - I'm not sure if this is Mead's best book to date but it's definitely her most ambitious.Now that I've finished all 464 pages of Gameboard of the Gods, I can tell you that I liked this book. While reading though, I wasn't so sure. It was a constant now-I-love-you-now-I-don't situation.I'm going to divide the book into 3 parts and give a rundown of what I felt about each of them.First one-third:Confusing, because Mead gives no introduction, no preamble. You're simply dropped in the thick of action in a futuristic world and you must make sense of it as you go. It's like a mental game where you must keep track of all new terms and try to guess their meanings from snippets of conversations and casual references.Interesting, because of RUNA. God, the world-building in this book blew me away. It's so detailed. Mead explains nearly every aspect of this futuristic society (I use the world 'nearly' for a reason; more on that later). Politics, military, social hierarchies, religious sentiments... impressive stuff.Middle part:Frustrating, because for every tiny thing that starts to make sense, a new riddle pops up. Lots of new characters, lots of seemingly meaningless conversations, lots of what-the-hell-is-going-on moments.Annoying, because of the characters. Maybe it's just me, but I could not connect emotionally with any character on any level. Sad, because I've always associated Mead with smart, memorable, kickass characters and that didn't quite happen in Gameboard of the Gods.Justin is what I believe Adrian Ivashkov would have grown up to be if he hadn't met Sydney Sage (and if he wasn't so lazy). But while I love Adrian despite his bad-boy ways, Justin was just plain infuriating.As for Mae, she was more like Meh. I neither liked nor disliked her.I wasn't interested in their romance or their conversations. I did not appreciate the plot digressions. The back-stories were intriguing but it really didn't help in the emo-connect aspect.Last one-third:Rewarding, because finally, things get good. You get answers. Explanations. Some action. And it keeps coming and coming - a little disorienting but in a nice way.Addictive, because I like how it ended. Of course I'll read the sequel.So,3 for the first part, 2 for the second, 4 for the last.Average = 3.Now, coming back to RUNA, here's something I wish Mead had shed some light on:Why is RUNA against religion?I know it has something to do with the Decline, but what? I mean, religion is such an ancient, deeply ingrained concept. Wars are fought over it. So the fact that this society is so staunchly opposed to the idea of believing in a God-like entity is not very plausible. I expected some sort of justification but there was none. Not in this book, anyway.Apart from that, yeah, this was an interesting book. I don't think this will appeal to every Richelle Mead fan because it takes a lot of patience and concentration, and the good stuff starts only after 300 pages which may be too late for less-patient readers.I'm looking forward to Age of X #2. I just don't know how to remember all this till it comes out :o

And the Mountains Echoed

And the Mountains Echoed - Khaled Hosseini

Here's something you should know about Khaled Hosseini: All his stories have more or less, the same ingredients.

 

It always starts with Afghanistan in its pre-war days. The protagonists are children, guileless and innocent. Then the invasion happens. People separate, the bonds between them torn apart either by fate or by design. Many gut-wrenching chapters later, there's some kind of reunion but with a catch - there's something amiss, something unfulfilled, like a testimony to the unfairness of life.

 

To be honest, I'm not a fan of formulaic things. Yet, when it's Hosseini telling a story, I listen. I give in. I let his words curl around me like a blanket. I fall in love. And when it's all over, I clutch the book to my chest and weep like a child.

 

Because formula or no formula, Khaled Hosseini just knows how to tell a story. He knows what to say and how to say it. It's like an art he's mastered - and no matter how many times he does it, the impact of it doesn't seem to fade.

 

And the Mountains Echoed is an ode to siblinghood and all the joys and heartbreaks that come with it - the anguish of separation, the guilt of envy, the comfort of companionship, the burden of responsibility. Unlike his previous books, Hosseini adopts a short-story approach for this one. There are multiple narratives in multiple time-frames spread across several different countries, all connected by a common link to Afghanistan.

 

The writing is beautiful, as always. Sample this:

 

"All my life, I have lived like an aquarium fish in the safety of a glass tank, behind a barrier as impenetrable as it has been transparent. I have been free to observe the glimmering world on the other side, to picture myself in it, if I like. But I have always been contained, hemmed in, by the hard, unyielding confines of the existence that Baba has constructed for me, at first knowingly, when I was young, and now guilelessly, now that he is fading day by day. I think I have grown accustomed to the glass and am terrified that when it breaks, when I am alone, I will spill out into the wide open unknown and flop around, helpless, lost, gasping for breath."

 

 

And the Mountains Echoed was one of my most anticipated books this year and it did not disappoint. That being said, it pales in comparison to his previous works - The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Maybe it was the multiple POV thing. With so many characters and so many stories, it's inevitable that some would hit harder than the rest. Personally, I found the first half more emotionally striking - Abdullah, Nabi and Parwana's stories all made me tear up. I missed Afghanistan in the later segments.

 

And in case it wasn't obvious enough, I just wanted to say that I love Khaled Hosseini. If it weren't for him, I would have foolishly associated Afghanistan with just the Taliban. It's shocking how little I know about this country even though it's so close to mine.

 

Thank you for the culture-cum-history lessons, Mr. Hosseini. And even if your next book adheres to the formula, I'll still read it and in all likelihood, cherish it.

The Garden of Evening Mists

The Garden of Evening Mists - Tan Twan Eng

Attempt #7:

(This is going to be a long review because I have too many things to say. I just hope it's coherent.)

 

Have you ever sat in a dark room listening to an intricate piece of music (like Sergey Rachmaninoff's 'Tears') and experienced a deep-seated sadness when the last note died off??

 

Reading The Garden of Evening Mists felt like that.

 

This book took me on a journey. It was turbulent and tranquil, beautiful and ugly - all at the same time - and when it was over, I found myself sitting by the window crying for reasons I cannot discern.

 

This is not a book for everyone, be warned. I've read some unflattering reviews and found myself agreeing with the points they make, yet I cannot give this anything less than 5. Eng has achieved a lot of super-ambitious things in 350 pages that many authors can only dream of doing, so I'm going to overlook the few flaws I encountered.

 

Giving a summary for this book is daunting. There are too many layers and too many interpretations. Instead, I'll tell you my version of what this book is about.

 

The Garden of Evening Mists is a book about conflicts, or more specifically, it's about the co-existence of antithetical things.

 

There's a scene where Yun Ling comes across the yin-yang symbol in Aritomo's garden, which describes how the positive and the negative are interrelated to each other. I feel this theme is manifested in the entire book.

 

 

---Remembering / Forgetting.---

 

When Yun Ling visits Yugiri for the first time, the garden is an escape - a place for forgetting the brutalities of war.

36 years later, when Yun Ling returns with a disease that threatens to rob her off her memories, Yugiri transforms into a temple of contemplation, a place for remembering.

 

(To remember when you want to forget and to forget when you want to remember... How ironic.)

 

 

---Peace / Violence---

 

There's something almost tangible about the stillness of Yugiri despite the guerrilla violence that's rife in the surrounding jungles. An amazing juxtaposition, if you ask me.

 

 

---The Beauty of Art / The Horrors of War---

 

This book could very well be a tribute to the arts of Japan. There's gardening, ukiyo-e (woodblock printing) and horimonos (tattooing). I found the cultural aspect mesmerizing.

A stark contrast to this is Yun Ling's recollection of her POW days - extremely disturbing.

Ultimately though, it's the art that stands out. I love how Eng treats it as a medium of healing, for both Yun Ling and (maybe) Aritomo.

 

 

---Love / Hate---

 

Yun Ling (understandably) harbors a lot of bitterness against the Japanese and yet she's drawn to the reclusive Japanese gardener. I suppose this is hypocritical behavior but I found the whole thing believable - probably because I was anticipating it. The relationship is alluded to but not explicitly spelled out (like many other things in the book), so you may miss it if you don't pay attention.

 

 

The book is slow, especially the first half. I prefer describing it as 'quiet'. There's not a lot of action happening but it still demands you pay attention, especially since Eng seems to love hinting at things rather than actually saying them.

 

Yun Ling comes across as emotionally detached sometimes but I think it works in her favor. The way I see it, Yun Ling is someone who has been through so much that she no longer has the capability to be emotionally fazed.

 

Aritomo is an enigma. The more you know about him, the more unknown he becomes.

 

Eng has crafted a beautiful story, but if you read this expecting to find answers, you'll be disappointed. The ending is... incomplete. There are a few facts, a few hints, but no answers. This is going to sound stupid, but I loved the unfinished ending. You see, every character in this book has had an unfulfilled life so it makes sense that the story would be unfulfilled as well. Like Yun Ling realizes in the end, sometimes its better to cherish what you know than chase after things you don't know.

 

And I've finally figured out what made me so sad about that ending. Something to do with the temporariness of time. Whether it's people or places or memories, time leaves everything behind, doesn't it??

 

The Garden of Evening Mists is not a book with universal appeal, but I loved the feel of it. Easily the best book I've read this year, and one I'll cherish for a long time to come.

Darkhouse (Experiment in Terror, #1) - Karina Halle 3.5I was expecting this to be an okay kind of read but it turned out great!! Nothing profound or anything, just very, very entertaining.Adorably unhinged characters... check.Smart dialogue... check.Strong plot... check.Creepy ghost moments... check.Only complaint - I wish it had a better cover. That garish purple hurts my eyes.Overall, an impressed 3.5 (^_^)
The 5th Wave (The Fifth Wave, #1) - Rick Yancey I have successfully survived all 5 waves.The 1st Wave : Confusion (Not as good as I thought)The 2nd Wave : Hope (Maybe it gets better)The 3rd Wave : Boredom (zzzzz....)The 4th Wave : Disappointment (This is not getting any better)The 5th Wave : Annoyance (Just end already)Then why am I even giving it 2 stars?? Because my hatred for this book does not translate into this being a bad book. Some of the best reviewers on GR have loved The Fifth Wave and I totally respect their opinions. I guess this was simply not for me.I'll start with the thing that annoyed me the most: The WritingThis is probably a me-thing, but I found the writing extremely irritating. Not necessarily terrible, just...irritating. There were 2 aspects that especially got on my nerves.#1: Unnecessary details"This could be it,” Lizbeth whispered. She rubbed her nose nervously. Dug her lacquered nails into her dyed blond hair. Tapped her foot. Rolled the pad of her finger over her eyelid: She had just started wearing contacts and they bugged her constantly."Seriously?? Pray tell me, WHY are we talking about lacquered nails and contacts when there are bigger things to talk about?? like aliens?? And you know, this Lizbeth girl, she's not even there in the book. Her collective appearance spans 3 measly pages so I don't know what purpose that paragraph serves :-/#2: Unnecessary RepetitionI hate it when writers keep repeating words in a sentence, or clauses in a paragraph. It may work in poetry but otherwise, it's just plain annoying."So of course he did the most reasonable thing. He was a responsible adult, and that’s what responsible adults do. The reasonable thing.""The stars above, bright and cold, and the dark road below, and the humming of the wheels on the dark road beneath the cold stars.""There are the stars, the pinpricks of light stabbing down. There is the empty road beneath the light stabbing down and the girl on the road with the smudged face and twigs and dead leaves entangled in her short, curly hair, clutching a battered old teddy bear, on the empty road, beneath the stars stabbing down."Now the love-story - it was a massive fail. Stupid Cassie falls for Creepy Evan - and then things quickly turn into a retelling of The Host. I didn't find anything remotely romantic about the whole Evan thing. Okay, so he saved your life and nursed you back to health. But he also bathed you when you were passed out. How does that not creep you out, Cassie?? HOW??The writing makes sure that we're constantly reminded of Evan's chocolate-brown puppy-dog eyes and hands soft like clouds (barf).The final thing that made me lose it - the cliches.The alien apocalypse happens and the human race is nearly wiped out. There are hardly any families left BUT Cassie survives, and so does her brother and her father He dies later, but still. And of course, her high-school crush also survives - how else will you have a love triangle in the sequel?? I think Evan's making a comeback in book 2 So what if he never noticed Cassie before?? Now he can, since the competition is dead.You wanna know the saddest part??This was my first book about aliens.And there weren't any aliens.At least not the kind I was looking forward too :(There was some action towards the end but I was way past the point of caring by then.Verdict: MASSIVE LETDOWN.I need some uplifting chocolate therapy.(I do not intend to offend anyone with this review.)
Bruised - Sarah Skilton 3.5I wish I could give this a better rating but the fact is that Bruised did not impact me like I thought it would.It’s a good book and I liked it but I feel it could have been better. Bruised could have been a deeper, darker exploration of PTSD had it stayed focused on the main Tae Kwon Do aspect of it, but it kept derailing into needless drama that I did not care about.I found Imogen very unlikeable. Her attitude towards her parents especially bothered me. While I appreciate the complexity of her characterization, I could not connect with Imogen at all so her supposed trauma did not feel all that traumatizing to me.Here's something I don't understand - why is Imogen so convinced that Ricky, and only Ricky, can understand what she's going through?? I get that she's upset because she didn't use her training to prevent what happened but why the certainty that a random guy hiding under another table would understand her agony better than her parents?? It would have made more sense had she known Ricky before the hold-up or had he been a trained fighter like Imogen herself but since that's not the case, her so-called connection with Ricky felt grossly underwhelming.Coming to the good parts, I loved the writing. It was unusually seasoned for a debut."If my brain’s the arena, my thoughts are the rabid caged dogs in the wings, whipped into a fury. As long as I don’t acknowledge them, I can keep them at bay until I go to bed, at which point they show up as nightmares and tear themselves apart."I also loved the subtle touch of feminism concerning girls and fighting."The only way female fighters could possibly interest anyone is if there’s a chance they’ll rip each other’s clothes off. Nobody will just let us fight.""If a girl punches someone, she’s crazy. If a guy punches someone, he’s dealing with his feelings. He’s normal."The Tae Kwon Do aspect was the best part of the book. Imogen's passion for martial arts and her loss of self-belief following the diner incident came through brilliantly well. I personally thought the ending was great Imogen goes back to Tae Kwon Do but starts all over again with the white belt and the part where Imogen realizes how arrogant she'd once been was a nice touch - made me like her a bit. Overall, a very promising debut. I just wish Skilton had concentrated more on the central theme and not on the many sub-plots.

Impulse

Impulse - Ellen Hopkins I appreciate what Hopkins has tried to do here but I'm not in the mood for self-destructive teenage behavior right now. The 45% I read was disturbing and it looks like things only get uglier in the second half. Plus, the verse makes the book more depressing and difficult to read.Hopefully, I'll come back to this someday and when I do, I'll opt for the audio-book.

Carrie

Carrie - Stephen King

Don’t let the brevity of this book fool you. Carrie may be one of King’s less thick books but right from the scandalous opening scene to the very last page, it’s a relentlessly harrowing read.

 

King pieces together Carrie's story through a series of reports and articles concerning a telekinetic catastrophe in Maine. I knew how terrible the end would be before it even happened, so reading the book was an excruciating experience - the dread just kept building page after page, I could see what everything was leading to, I knew how easily avoidable it was, but there was nothing I could do except watch the dominoes fall one after the other.

 

And once the horror of it wore off, the tragedy of it sunk in.

 

Yes, tragedy. Because more than anything, Carrie is a very sad story of bullying gone too far. Carrie's life is miserable - whether at home, where she's oppressed by her religion-obsessed mother, or at school, where she's relentlessly bullied by her peers. I was scared, not of Carrie but for Carrie. My heart went out to her and in the end, when the finale played out, a tiny part of me may even have rooted for her.

 

Carrie won't give me nightmares, but it's left me emotionally drained and heartbroken - not something I expect from a genre like horror. Quite an impressive start to my foray into SK territory, I must say.

Teeth - Hannah Moskowitz -----Immediate Reaction-----Teeth is brilliant in many ways. I know, because I'm struggling to hold back tears even as I write this, and a part of me wishes this were a fairy-tale so that everyone could ride off or sail away into the sunset together.But Teeth is not a fairy-tale. And while I see the brilliance of this book, I simply couldn't connect with it enough to actually let the awesomeness sink in.I guess this is one of those it's-not-you-it's-me incidents. Maybe Teeth is the kind of book that gets better upon a re-read.I need to think this over.-----Full Review-----I’m pretty sure there’s never been a book like Teeth in YA, and I say that not only for the strangeness of its vision, but also for its unusual maturity. Enveloped in magic, Teeth is a story about love, responsibility and sexual identity, where even seemingly innocent things (like magic healing fish) have a dark underside to them.Rudy, a lonely boy on a mysterious island, strikes up an unusual friendship (or something more) with a merboy called Teeth, who’s just as lonely and lost as Rudy. It’s a relationship that’s precariously balanced on the cliff-edge of responsibility, because each must risk the others’ family to save his own. Rudy needs the healing Enki Fish to cure his sick brother Dylan; Teeth wants to save his fellow fish brethren from death at the hands of fishermen.You don’t have to read the book to see the potential in that concept. It’s amazing, original, full of promise – and having read Gone, Gone, Gone, I believed Moskowitz could pull it off. She does actually, for the most part. Teeth and Rudy’s relationship forms the crux of the story and while it may take some getting used to, I don’t think Moskowitz could have done it any better. It’s understated, subtle and as real as any human-fish bond could possibly get."It’s not fair, you know?”“I know.”“You’ve saved me way more times than I’ve saved you.”Oh. “You tend to get yourself in more shit than I do.”“Not a good friendship.”“Well. We’re not exactly friends.”As much as I loved the central idea of the book, there were times when I completely disconnected from it. Like when you’re talking on the phone and the network’s down so the voice at the other end keeps breaking now and again. Something like that. The whole picture was brilliant-weird and I loved it, but there were all these tiny details or ‘um, what?’ moments in between that were just weird-weird and lost on me.Teeth’s back-story was a major ‘um, what?’ moment for me. I realize that magic realism is a genre that often requires you to suspend logic and reason but the woman-raped-by-a-fish story was too whacked-out to get my head around. Another ‘um, what?’ situation was the one concerning Teeth and the fishermen. I’m not even sure what I feel about that – I’m utterly conflicted. Is humans-raping-a-fish meant to be a metaphor for something?? Rape is a serious issue even if the thing in question is a mythical half-fish person. Teeth could have gotten away but he didn’t, and I can’t quite swallow the explanation for that. The more I think about it, the more confused I get.Coming to characters, Rudy and Teeth were brilliant but I wish some of the secondary characters had a bigger role to play – especially Fiona and Ms. Delaney. Judging from the way things were in the first half, I thought these characters were all leading somewhere but they’re mainly absent in the second half.The writing is unstructured and effortless. The word-phrasing feels almost accidental and this lack of technical precision works very well in the context of the book.Overall, I feel Teeth is a very brave attempt on Moskowitz' part. Not many YA authors would dare tread on such a delicate and dark territory. My problems with this book don't have anything to do with what Moskowitz did or didn't do right - it's just that I don't love the genius of it even though I recognize it.3.5