Saturday, August 23, 2014

ARC Review: The Before Now and After Then - Peter Monn


The book started by ticking all the boxes in my checklist to like a book - intriguing title, intriguing cover, interesting shelves, and above all, an interesting premise.
(Blurb from Goodreads)
Danny Goldstein has always lived in the shadow of his identical, twin brother Sam. But when a hurricane of events forces him into the spotlight, he starts to realize that the only thing he’s truly afraid of is himself. With the help of his costume changing friend Cher, a famous gay uncle with a mysterious past of his own, two aging punk rocker parents and Rusty, the boy who will become his something to live for, Danny begins to realize that the music of the heart is truly the soundtrack for living.
Danny Goldstein is broken after his twin dies on a night that was a tragedy among tragedies. Sam was the fighter. Danny walked in his shadow - Sam was his safe house. Their room reflected Sam from its furnishings. “Just an outline of the picture, giving some definition but not really filled with any kind of personality”. Even before Danny told him he was gay, Sam already knew. Like only a twin knows. So when he dies, “broken” isn’t a dramatic word. The first few chapters also strengthened my belief that I was going to love this book.

As you can guess from my phrasing of the introductory paragraph, that didn’t happen.

The book starts with a paragraph from a made up book that I wished would exist so I can read it.

(I can’t include the entire paragraph for obvious reasons.)

But this sentence is enough to describe all the characters here – Danny, Cher (GOD CHER DESERVES HER OWN FUCKING BOOK), Rusty, Alex (author of the famous Suburban Wasteland which I want to read) – all of them. As I am introduced to the characters, (Cher just jumps off the page like an effing page can’t hold her back), I start falling for this book. Danny sounds scared and lost, Cher hides all her insecurities under the fandom of her namesake, purple hair, and a ton of “I’ll maim you” attitude, brave Rusty with his fears, and Alex sounds like the cool, gay, honorary uncle. I liked them all and the direction in which the plot was taking me. (I like depressing premises if you didn’t already catch that).

And then

There was so much cheesiness and an overload of soppy dialogues; I kept wincing all throughout the middle. There was a lot of moons, and flowers and one-week anniversaries. I mean they’re gay, not girly girls right? Major stereotype revision happens here - so I guess I should be happy.
(This was my moment of revelation actually. Since my LGBT knowledge is limited to reel life, I thought gay men can be manly – LIKE FREAKING MATT BOMER AND WENTWORTH MILLER – and here Danny and Rusty was slathering me with cheese.) If all this happened in a straight book I would not forgive it, so same applies here.

And then life started to get complicated like it couldn’t bear to see Danny happy and then my cousins were very amused at my “Oh God” expressions and gasps.
So, that’s speaking plot-wise.

The writing pleased me (I am deliberately not including the cheese pizza slices), but it didn’t unbalance me or anything. And the coming-out phase happens at the very beginning of the book, so thankfully the whole story was not about accepting his gay-ness (ok, it is, but not outright). But this is a romance when all is said and done (which is not what I thought it would be) and romances don’t inspire me that much, so -
VERDICT: 3.5 stars.

Cher deserves pompoms though. I loved her.
Ooh, I just remembered why the talk of cassettes and B-sides gave me deja-vu. See Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Liebster 2.0

Yes people, believe it or not, I have been nominated for the Liebster for the SECOND time by the very fabulous Briana over at Reader, Writer, Critic. Briana, thank you, it was an honour doing this post. She informed me SIX DAYS AGO but um, because I was academically occupied, this post comes now.

These are the rules to be followed by a Liebster recipient:
  • Thank and link back to the person who nominated you.
  • List 11 facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated you.
  • Nominate 11 bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers (You can't nominate the blogger who nominated you.)
  • Ask them 11 questions.
  • Let them know about the nomination.

Here are some facts useful for MOI 101:
  1. I am short (barely 5'2"). But I have made my peace with it.
  2. People come to me for breakup advice. Fact: I have only ever been in fictional relationships till date.
  3. I don't own a single mass produced fandom tshirt. Parents don't believe in online shopping. (I have informed them that I am legally an adult. They don't care.)
  4. I am the class nerd. Poor muggles think since I love books, text books are my favourite bedtime read.
  5. I am currently high on chocolate (at the time of writing this sentence).
  6. I hate eating chocolate when reading. Give me fatty, oily, spicy bags of chips please.
  7. I can read anywhere (waiting rooms, standing room on buses, boring dinner parties) thanks to the smartphone age.
  8. One of my professors is the nephew of the wife of my great-grandmother's younger brother. We keep track of relations like that.
  9. I can't speak Hindi despite the language being compulsory for seven years. I have to watch Bollywood movies with English subtitles. (Yes I despise myself too; I hope to rectify the situation as soon as possible).
  10. My friends think I'm going to have a whirlwind romance. I hope so too.
  11. My biggest fans are my sister and my kid cousins. They are my pit crew.
And these are my answers to Briana's questions:
What post are you most proud of? (Link us to it please!)
Ode to a Washing Machine. I don’t know why – probably because I realized I can do funny exaggerations for the first time, I was surprised at myself.

If you had to pick two fictional characters to be your parents and raise you from baby to adult who would you pick and why? (They don't have to be from the same books.)
ATTICUS FINCH IS THE COOLEST DAD EVER. EVER EVER. If you ask why, slap yourself and read the book again. And if you don't know which book I'm talking about ...

Percy's mom, Sally Jackson from the Percy Jackson series is one inspirational woman. For twelve years she managed to hide Percy from monsters and willingly suffered an abusive husband to help her do that. And when she gets rid of him, *rubs hands* oh yeah. She kicks ass when it comes to her kid.
If you had to take the place of a character in a book, whose place would you take and why?
When I went through the Harry Potter rite of passage, I would write with fountain-pens, pretend I'm writing on parchments, and imagine I'm Hermione - she was the easiest for me to relate to what with the bushy hair and nerdiness.  Being Hermione, in addition to satisfying my childhood dream, would also be an honour. And it's not as life threatening, like Katniss.
Everyone always asks about your favorite part of blogging, but let's be real, there have to be things that you don't like. What is your least favorite part or the part that is the most challenging?
The frequency with which I have to post. My life right now is so hectic, sleeping for six hours straight is a privilege. And a blogging challenge (but something I enjoy) is coming up with a debate-able topic.
What has been your favorite read this month? (Or pick a few if picking one is too hard.)
The Hex Hall series. Most definitely. This month was busy college-wise, so this wasn't a hard question.
If you were to make a book cover that represented your life and personality what would it look like?
Like this.
At first I would seem like some mass produced humanoid giving monosyllabic replies and polite smiles to the unfortunate stranger, but once someone manages to peel off some of the whitewash off my walls (that looks wrong once I wrote it, it sounded impressive in my head – ANETA GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER) I’m pretty colourful. (Again that sounds wrong, but whatever.)
Of course you love books and blogging and all that good stuff but if you didn't spend time doing either one of those things, what would you spend all your free time doing?
What would I do with all the time I get if I weren't reading or blogging? God, I would probably spend my time in some mental ward. Seriously. Or if that didn't happen, I would probably not even be ME.
What's your favorite and least favorite genre and why?
Favourite genre? Anything that has a writing style with personality. But if I'm in a bookstore or browsing on Goodreads, it would be social drama. And historical fiction. I like reading about people even though they are insufferable.
Least favourite genre is easily romance. Or any of those sophisticated synonyms like NA and contemporary. I don't like the romance being the main course, it should be the seasoning. Basically it's all the same, with the traditional falling-in-love phase and sappy dialogues.

What makes you want to read a book (more than other books)?
If I have read another book of the same author that I loved ta-da it's instalove. Then the cover, the title, and the backside blurb, and Goodreads reviews  influence my decision.

How do you feel about book covers? Do you judge books based on them? Is it ok to? Etc.
Theoretically, it's not ok to judge books by their cover like they say. But it's impossible not to, ok? I do not like females and males in intimate positions, decapitated people, females with a close up of their face, shoddy graphics, and such. I unconsciously link covers with the genre of the book. I like covers that are thought provoking. It should be an art and a story in itself. One cover that suddenly feels as an example is Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. Precious cover.

If you were to pick an author to write a book based on you and your life, who would you want to write it?
I have the plainest life possible. I haven't changed anyone's life. Elementary school and middle school was filled with uninspiring teachers. I didn't have a posse in high school, college isn't that fun either. The only portion biograph-able is my family which is angst and drama - ridden. I'm guessing Patrick Ness can find the thread of a story buried under all that mundane details. And with that writing of his - WHAM nobody would care I'm a nobody, it would be an instant bestseller.
 And these are my questions to the nominees:
  1. How did books become a part of you?
  2. Which writer would you accidently want to meet?
  3. "You read fiction? Hmph. Why would you read about witches and zombies and kids with superpowers? What a waste of time." Please comment. I really need an answer.
  4. List top three things you hate.
  5. Which superpower would you like to have? Feel free to invent one.
  6. What's your biggest vice?
  7. Which book comes to your mind when I say: a) Swords b) Yuck c) LGBT
  8. When you were a baby, what did your parents do to put you to sleep?
  9. If you had to witness the end of the world, how would you prefer it - fire or ice?
  10. Which book failed massively to live up to the hype for you?
  11. If you could keep a mythical creature as your (pet?) what would it be? What would you name it?
And now, the nominees are:
(Thank you for the drumroll)
Kaitlin @ Always Write.
Louisa and Katie @ A Novel Adventure
Angel @ Spare Reads
Ashly @ Book 'n' Go
(I do know how to count and I know that's only eight, but it's hard finding a blog that you like AND satisfies the nomination criteria.)
Oh and by the way,
(Pic courtesy of deviantart)
That blonde is me, ok Percy? Even though I'm not a blonde and you love Annabeth to the depths of Tartarus.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

ARC Review: Since You've Been Gone - Mary Jennifer Payne


There I was browsing the titles on Netgalley when I saw a book with a Kelly Clarkson song as the title and I'm so ready to skip it (not because I hate the song - God forbid) when I accidently read the blurb.

(Blurb from Netgalley) Is it possible to outrun your past? Fifteen-year-old Edie Fraser and her mother, Sydney, have been trying to do just that for five years. Now, things have gone from bad to worse. Not only has Edie had to move to another new school — she's in a different country.

Sydney promises her that this is their chance at a fresh start, and Edie does her best to adjust to life in London, England, despite being targeted by the school bully. But when Sydney goes out to work the night shift and doesn't come home, Edie is terrified that the past has finally caught up with them. 

Alone in a strange country, Edie is afraid to call the police for fear that she’ll be sent back to her abusive father. Determined to find her mother, but with no idea where to start, she must now face the most difficult decision of her life.

So as Netgalley kindly informed me, the titular "you" is not some useless ex, but the heroine's mother. I wanted this.

Edie is scared of some "him". She has a lot more to deal with than your average hormonal teenager - which includes a lot of moving around, no stability and living in constant fear. Her mom is the only constant in the equation of umpteen variables. And if she goes missing, I can only imagine how much Edie has gone through.

Now there's the problem. Edie doesn't seem to be suffering from severe heartburn. Even though it's narrated in first person the trauma that she's going through doesn't come across convincingly. She waited for more than the recommended number of days to physically start the "Searching for Missing Person".

 "I'm beginning to realize that finding Mom in a city as massive as London is going to impossible without some sort of miracle."

I get her reasoning and the practical limitations, but wouldn't YOU move heaven and earth to get your mom back as soon as possible?

And the hero enters in a tried-and-tested fashion (more details? read the book) and offers to join the one-woman search party. And you know what she does when he turns up at the door? Instead of leaping outside, she went back into her room, applied makeup and admired her curves.

I appreciate the fact that there are PoC characters, but I got pissed when I realized Edie's new friend Savitri is a Muslim (FYI, there are no Muslim girls named Savitri). And there is a lot of A-Z London happening as well (Edie, News Flash: YOUR MOM'S MISSING STOP SIGHT SEEING ).

And then there was some out of the blue make out session and I'm like:
(Shoot me now, please)
I like the fact that the book features a sort of patchwork quilt of less documented side of life (everyday racial prejudice, foster parents for a day) but these come with the bonus of seemingly random complications.

VERDICT: 2 stars

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Book Raving: Hex Hall Series - Rachel Hawkins

Miss J has been after my life for the past one year.


I never had any inclination to, what with being tired of similar sounding plots and traditional ships. Then it rained for two days straight and I finally fulfilled her dream.

I vented out on Goodreads thus:

Hex Hall (Hex Hall, #1)Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Actual Rating: 3.5 stars

I didn't know it was possible for so much of plot twist to happen in the last 30 pages or so. My poor heart.

And I stayed up till 2 am. That's not pleasant when I already had a splitting headache.

Demonglass (Hex Hall, #2)Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

See, this book (series) at first seems predictable. A witch with a confused magical identity shipped off to a school for bad behavour with faeries, werewolves, vampires, shapeshifters ... you name it. Enter a heartbreakingly hot guy with a bad reputation wielding sarcasm like a macho accessory and bam. There is now a recipe for a succesful print run. Insert a worthy soft spoken guy with a broody air and ta-da you have a love triangle. Wait, we forgot the villain and some evil organizations attempting to thwart the heroine. Nope, we have them. Season with some teenage angst.

But this book wasn't AT ALL predictable and I hated that my normally dependable sixth sense was off.

Spell Bound (Hex Hall, #3)Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Death threats aside, failed love triangles aside, teen angst aside, there isn't much other than an okay ending.

I still feel the antagonist(s) were not scary enough. But this series works. Two rainy days well spent.

View all my reviews

Friday, August 1, 2014

REVIEW: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz

(Blurb from Goodreads) 
A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Every once in a while, there is the sort of book you pick up - one or two of your Goodreads friends might have five - starred it - and you might not even have heard about it before it appeared in your Goodreads feed.

This was that sort of book.

It isn't a book that comes demanding glorifying reviews. It isn't a book whose SP is "This book will change your life". It isn't a book in which a character's gay-ness is a Major Plot Point.

This book is exactly what the title says. Two boys with funny names, and an unclear sense of their identity, in pursuit of the secrets of the universe.

Profound, huh?

There isn't a straightforward honest to god PLOT. There are no evil high school cheerleaders, no alcoholic parents, no crimes in which the character is a suspect, no sudden baffling powers, and no monsters. Except for the ones inside us.

This review is turning into something that's neither here nor there.

The characters become people you've known for a while now. Ari with his anger. Dante with his wisdom. Ari and Dante with all their guilty pleasures. Ari's dad with all the secrets. Ari's mom with all the hurt. Dante's parents with all their capacity to love.

Benjamin Alire Sáenz has a beautiful way of writing. It hints at his power of language but also speaks of his deliberate usage of simple language - it was Ari talking. When a fifteen year old questions the universe, he doesn't use big words. Like Ari says, "To be careful with people and with words was a rare and beautiful thing."

I had to travel 24 hours on the bus for one week. So it was roughly a book per day. That was how I picked up the book. Out of desperation. But I felt a constant smile on my face. Sad smile. Fond smile. Happy smile. "These boys" smile.

VERDICT - Five stars. 
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