Saturday, April 26, 2014

REVIEW: Stones - Polly Johnson


“Thought Diary: ‘A whole lot of nothing.’ Me.”

Coo had an older brother, Sam, biologically speaking. But being the alcoholic he was, she never did have a brother. When he dies, she turns away from school – she can’t stand the sympathy, she turns away from her parentswhen were they ever there when she needed them? - she turns away from herself, because she knows something that no one else does. And even though the Shrink Woman is trying to get her back, it doesn’t work, until one day she meets Joe, an older student at her school, and the next day she meets Banks, a tramp. Her thought diary which until then was an exercise in pointlessness becomes meaningfuleven helpful.
But that doesn’t help with the ghosts.

I liked the writing which I thought was honest and didn’t try too hard to impress. I liked the way the thought diary extracts were used as epigraphs to each chapter. I liked the character evolution of Banks a lot. It was careful, and realistic. In fact, the only character that had actual depth, with the possible exception of Coo, was Banks. But, I felt that Corinne’s instant attraction to Joe was not at all necessary. Even the Shrink Woman – who is not one of the main character - came across as a better character, dimensionally.

Again, this might be only me. Everyone says I have weird preferences.

Unfortunately, I do have experience with alcoholics and their families. I do know how it tears them apart.  I do know about the constant paranoia, I do know about the extent of normalcy possible, how real smiles can get. This book deals with After Sam, and Coo’s and her family’s rehabilitation, but Corrine seems ... reparable from her time in During Sam. I realize this comes across as me being unfeeling, but I felt there should have been more of Corrine/Sam flashbacks for the reader to get an idea of what Coo’s going through. 

But I haven’t ever read a book before with tramps (I understand it’s rude to say “tramps” but Coo calls them that, and so shall I) in it, and I am grateful for this fresh perspective.
And the stones. Let’s not forget the stones.

VERDICT: 3 stars


Kindly make allowances if you find my posts getting sporadic in the next one month. I have exams running (one got over today that was so bad I could literally cry a river – but who cares?) and my internet connection is useful enough to let people know I’m not dead. Anything eating more bytes than that and I'll have to sit and stare at a revolving circle.

Friday, April 18, 2014

We Once Strangled Words

I remember a boy,
Afraid of shadows,
Tucked in my sari,
Sleeping to my lullabies.

I remember a boy,
Who deemed roti worthy,
To be eaten only if,
Fed by my fingers.

I remember a boy,
Holding the hand of a girl.

I remember a man,
Guiding me across the,
Threshold strewn with,
Flowers that would wilt.

I remember a man,
Who slept with a bottle,
That kidnapped the man,
Who’d once smiled shyly.

I remember a man,
Sneering at the crumpled,
Notes I had hidden,
And the welts I caressed.

I remember them,
The man and the boy,
Trading looks of scorn,
At the shiny TV girls.

I remember them,
The boy and the man,
Shouting at me, shouting at me,
But I’d stopped listening.

I remember them,
Veiling their surprise,
Behind pitiful faces,
On the other side of the car window.

We remember the stories,
Sung by wrinkled lips,
Hidden under whiskers,
That doomed us to cages.

We remember the smiles,
On the faces of the demons,
As they stole our dreams,
And replaced them with screams.

We remember the words,
That we once strangled,
But when they fought back,
We let them breathe.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

REVIEW: Shatter Me - Tahereh Mafi

According to Twitter, the bookish population minus me has already read this book. Ergo, I’m not going to bother with the synopsis, because I can’t wait to pour my frustration/fury into words. I don’t usually criticize a book like this, but I was looking for salvation during my exams, not torture, so this isn’t criticism, it’s much worse. I’m sorry, in advance.

I obtained this book a long time back, but for some reason, I didn’t want to read it at that time. Miss J, on the other hand, was looking for something to read, so I gave it to her. The next morning, she gives it back to me.

Me: Wow that was fast. A page-turner then, huh?
Miss J: (wrinkling her nose) No, I didn’t finish it.
Me: (confused) Why? How’s it so far, then?
Miss J: Remember Rogue? From X-Men? Yeah, she’s the heroine. And a guy comes in suddenly and then it’s the usual stuff. I got bored and stopped reading.
Me: Hm.

I *so* should have followed her footsteps and stopped reading after the first quarter of the book. Then I wouldn’t have had to deal with this annoyed feeling that THAT was time well wasted. What was I thinking? I wasn’t blind, I’d seen the cover, hadn’t I? (Clue #1 I was not going to like the book)

It’s not that I am that hypocritical person who frowns on romances saying that it’s not literary enough or anything. Or the kind of person who says maybe it’s best if the dystopian genre sticks to an action-intensive plot rather than romance. I’ve read The Host by Stephanie Meyer, and totally ship Ian and Wanda, but this was torture.

Juliette (the name should have been my Clue #2) is infuriating with her oh-so-selfless nature and I’m-not-a-monster whining. Adam is infuriating with his Juliette-is-goodness-personified and I’ve-been-in-love-with-you-for-years speech. The writing is infuriating with the … oh wait, I shall start a new paragraph now.

Imagine someone giving you a package and tells you, go ahead, open it. You look at the wrapping, which is exquisite with its curled ribbons and glitter. You take care to not rip the paper and slowly unwrap it, it’s work, but you’ve unwrapped the whole thing and you finally get to open the box and you see …


This is how the “plot” was wrapped in lyrical prose, with its poetic detailing and using numbers as a motif. But after a point, even the writing becomes insufferable. Too much poetic detail where it’s COMPLETELY TOTALLY ABSOLUTELY unnecessary.

Take this as an example. Juliette is waiting for two people to come out of a room. It’s not a pivotal scene or anything. And then she says it has started to rain, that the “sky is weeping”. This does not happen only once.

And songs have been written to body parts – “I memorize the sculpted hills and valleys of his arms”, and I’m slapping my hand over my face.
“My heart” has been repeated 59 times.
“My eyes” has been repeated 80 plus times. I forgot numbers after that. Don’t get me started on “his eyes”, “his torso”, “my bones” and “my soul”. I’ll run screaming like a madwoman.

Mockingjay was EVERYTHING in the Hunger Games. There’s a bird here too, that makes you want to slap your face again.

And usually when a book in a series ends, it leaves the reader with a “I shall want the next book soon” feeling. Here it was a so-overused-that-it’s-not-a-cliché anymore sort of ending.

I feel this angry because MAN CAN SHE WRITE. When she wants to, the writing is beautiful. Here I am, with almost zero literary skills and a laptop to disparage book nevertheless, and there she is wrapping nothing in beautiful lines of poetry. 

VERDICT: 2 stars

Thursday, April 10, 2014

ARC REVIEW: The Truth About Alice - Jennifer Mathieu


“I, Elaine O’Dea, am going to tell two definite, absolute, indisputable truths.
  1.  Alice Franklin slept with two guys in the very same night.
  2. Two weeks ago, one of those guys died in a car accident. And it was all Alice’s fault.”

This constitutes the storyline of the novel set in Healy – a town where even Wal-Mart isn’t 24 hours open. The truth about Alice is being narrated by everyone in turns except Alice herself. This novel is a pretty short one, and wisely so. We needn’t cover the truth in countless wrappings, and take it outslowly, should we? Rip it off, like a band-aid.

The writing is average, but I think it was done on purpose, so that it comes out like the characters are actually talking to us, not through some fancy writers who have attended literary classes. The plot isn’t a huge secret – it’s not as if a killer climax is being held hostage to the readers. It’s a non-hypocritical novel. Straightforward.And to the point.

The setting is Healy High. That should have been my first clue to the fact that I won’t be able to identify with what’s going on in the story. Me, a someone who’s been brought up in an honest-to-god Christian family, in an honest-to-god Indian society, in an honest-to-god girls only school, in an honest-to-god life, where boyfriends and watching kissing scenes in Hollywood movies can make honest-to-god people start tsk-ing and shaking heads. What do I know about American high school and teen pregnancies other than what’s shown in books and movies? Zilch.Nada.Nothing.

So am I the best person to judge what’s happening in the book? No.
Do I find Alice a character invoking my sympathy? No.
Did this book dredge up any strong feelings of … anything? No.
Could I find anything that could have been improved in this book? No.
Would I walk up and down recommending this book to become a fundamentally better person? No.

This is just a meh sort of book. The characters are meh. The plot is meh. 

But there is this one line that is universally applicable – something I don’t doubt everybody can relate to.
“I think people needed something that made them feel, I don’t know … like we were all still in it together.
So we picked on Alice Franklin. A nobody, a slut, a killer.”

VERDICT: 3 stars

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

ARC REVIEW: The Devil In The Corner - Patricia Elliot


In nineteenth century London, fifteen year old Maud Greenwood finds herself homeless, after her father died unexpectedly two years ago. Her brief role as a governess has left her with nothing but sleepless nights and nightmares. Having found no other means to make ends meet, and despairing in further bad dreams, the letter that arrives from a cousin she never knew she had, gives her hope for a better life in Rending.

John Shawcross is an artist whose paintings rarely leave the art gallery. His restoration of The Doom, commissioned by Juliana Greenwood, is what’s going into his pockets. His paths cross with the mysterious Maud in Rending, and he too hopes for a better future.

But the devil in the corner was just biding his time.

Interesting premise, isn’t it? (If you thought otherwise, it’s most probably courtesy of my abhorring backside blurb writing skills – check out the Goodreads blurb and you’ll agree). But that’s all this book was.

The story began well enough. I initially thought the narration was bland, but it became verbose and HELLO it’s the nineteenth century lingo which I’m a sucker for (Jane Austen, anyone?), so I became slightly happier. Maud is not a saint-like heroine, she’s real – I was happy.

So when exactly did I start getting annoyed?

The chapters switch between the POVs of Maud and John, and there perhaps was where I started getting irritated with this book. When we hear Maud, we picture this girl that we sympathize with, understand, also admire for her resolution to plough on. When we hear John, we think of Maud as this jealous, whining, controlling, aspiring – but – cautious girlfriend – whom John nevertheless describes as “fairy creature who has laid an enchantment” (I know, right?) – and we think, “Hang on, are we talking about the same Maud?”, and also, “Why John, why?”

I could forgive the romance being silly here because I was playing the “it’s the nineteenth century, you can expect this” excuse (which is, in retrospect, an insult to classics). But then the book starts to get infuriating. He is too selfless, she is too selfish, both are pining away for each other due to circumstances, but she has to court someone else, the plot is meandering through roads not needed…

Meanwhile, the devil in the corner had yet to make a significant appearance.

I hate to ditch a book, so I faithfully reached the end - which is the redeemable part of this book. The genre switches from romance to sh-I’m-not-telling, so yes, this becomes the saving grace.

VERDICT: 2.5 stars

Friday, April 4, 2014

REVIEW: Darkest Minds - Alexandra Bracken

“The darkest minds tend to hide behind the most unlikely faces.”
Charles Carrington Meriwether IV , The Darkest Minds

Ruby’s life is split into two parts: Before Birthday #10, After Birthday #10. Since then, it has been the grey walls of Thurmond, fear of the White Noise, powers that she fears, and masking these fears under an emotionless face. Then she is broken out of Thurmond, a feat never heard of before, by people she has never known. Not trusting their intentions, she runs away from them, and smack into Black Betty. Liam, Chubs, and Zu plan on finding the mythological personality, “the Slip Kid” and she joins too. She needs to find some answers. She needs a home.

Another dystopian novel –one without me needing to go around writing Ruby Liam Chubs Ruby Ruby on everything I own (shoes, bags, alarm clocks)

Why you ask?

Dystopian world with people divided on the basis of powers/profession/abnormals/normal – check
One faction that has superiority over the others – check
Rebels revolting against everyone else– check
Heroine exiting her life past and embarking on a journey to discover herself – check
Amazing world building that usually accompanies dystopian novels – Ahem.
How about none? Technically the world building was average, but for all the powers the kids possess, the world created for them is hardly futuristic.

I LOVE the characters. I do. I do. But will I love them for the rest of eternity? The answer is no, and maybe it’s because of the slew of dystopian novels I’m eating. The story starts out with a quartet –I LOVED LITTLE ZU – but then she leaves (no don’t cry – she doesn’t die, just leaves) and the quartet becomes a trio – which is not typical (which means it’s a refreshing change from heroine and boyfriend saving the world from Armageddon). Ruby, Chubs, and Liam remind me of the magical trinity – Hermione, Harry, and Ron, the last two sometimes swapping roles. I liked that. Chubs isn’t your average sidekick. I loved that. 

The narration is good, not extraordinary. I often felt that Bracken’s writing was repetitive.

Anyways, because of the PLOT I travelled with Black Betty at almost record breaking speed, when.

The End happened.

So this is me in search of Book 2:

Suffice to say, I finished reading Never Fade (Darkest Minds #2) soon after. It was okay, just another sequel. I'm not spoiling you sweethearts.

VERDICT: 3.5 stars
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