Saturday, February 28, 2015

Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Title: All the Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Publisher: Penguin (2015)

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
 I do not normally take the time to review books I do not like, but I am going to make the exception for All the Bright Places because of my strong feelings regarding its content and because of the hype surrounding it at the moment.

I did finish this, so this is not a review based on assumptions and impressions gained from the first 28 pages, unlike most of the negative reviews I see on the interwebs. I specifically finished it because I wanted to see if my suspicions regarding the plot were actually true.

I shall begin with the simple idea that this is both a bad and a good book. Makes no sense at first, so we will start with the good. Jennifer Niven is a talented writer. She knows her way around a sentence. She can construct good dialogue and writes decent descriptions. Had she tackled a lighter sort of novel, such as a fun romantic romp, I would have loved her, no questions asked.

She did not do this. Instead, she wanted to write the next Fault in Our Stars. But just take away the cancer and toss in suicide. Because, you know, suicide is just a great vehicle for a romantic novel. Not that cancer is much better, mind you. But there is something forgivable about TFIOS. It could be the fact that it made me weep like a baby. This book? Not so much.

Suicide was dealt with like a lighthearted joke. Let's make lighthearted fun of it, y'all! There was too much scrambling around witty banter and pseudo-quirky characters for my liking. Finch is not a character at all. He is a set of cliches which do not add up to form anyone of substance I actually gave half-a-crap about. He is not Augustus Waters.

Violet is a pathetic excuse for a human. If you are only going to start caring about your life because someone else is driving you do, then I am afraid I cannot give a damn about you either.

I also was pissed off with the ending. It is pure emotional manipulation for no gain at all.

Suicide. Clearly Jennifer Niven has no cooking clue about depression. Or the thought processes that drives one to even contemplate it. It all so trite and forced, I am still angry. I know depression. From a personal point of view as well as having people close to me go through it. I also understand the state of mind a person is in when they are considering killing themselves.

Without going into too much detail, I went through a bit of a rough patch in 2011. I felt my brain literally break as the antidepressants I was prescribed kick in. I remember rocking in the corner of my room, crying and panicking because, as it turns out, they can induce full on anxiety attacks before they do what they are supposed to do. And then there was the deadness. Walking around feeling wrapped in this bubble of absolute apathy. And making the conscious choice to go off the meds and live my life because anything was better than feeling dead inside.

I also recall moments pre-meds when I hated myself, hated life.

And then I made the choice to start living and growing as a person. This is a choice that I continue to consciously make almost four years later. Every new thing I do and try has been carefully considered. I walk my own path in life and I firmly believe that the only way to not feel that way again is to do what I damn well want to. Because depression sucks. It is awful. It eats you from the inside if you let it.

I love my life now. I am molding myself and my experiences into how I want them to be. "I am on a rollercoaster that only goes up, my friend." to quote Gus from TFIOS.. 

I have also seen the consequences where depression gets too much. I am lucky that I was present enough to kick ass and live my life.

And that is why this book made me angry and why I am writing this review. It read like utter nonsense. It felt like a silly excuse to make a quick buck of the success of a far superior book with little understanding and empathy. And tact. And the cliched events in the characters' lives. Abuse, death, family issues... how much can two people go through realistically?

Good lord, if you are going to write a book, do not think posting random links at the end means that your story is accurate and believable. Like OMG, if someone you, like, know is depressed or wants to die, call these numbers.

This is the last negative review I will write, because reading this was personal for me. I took her emotional manipulation for the sake of selling her story personally.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

2015 Reading Challenge

So I have decided to take part in the 2015 Reading Challenge as discovered on the Reader's Warehouse website.

Here is the list and my ideas so far! This list is a work in progress and I will add and edit as the year progresses. 

  1. A book by a person whose gender is different from your own - Looking for Alaska by John Green
  2. A classic romance - Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
  3. A book with more than 500 pages - The Diviners by Libba Bray
  4. A book published in 2014 - The Infinite Sea
  5. A  book published this year
  6. A book written by someone under 30
  7. A book written by someone over 60
  8. A funny book - Will Grayson, Will Grayson - John Green
  9. A fantasy book
  10. A classic
  11. A book that became a movie - The Maze Runner
  12. A book with a number in the title - The Fifth Wave
  13. A murder mystery or thriller
  14. A book with a one word title
  15. A short story
  16. A book by a South African author - Day Four by Sarah Lotz
  17. a nonfiction book
  18. A book a friend recommended
  19. A book based on a true story
  20. A Pulitzer Prize-winning book
  21. A book your mom loves
  22. A book your dad loves
  23. A scary book
  24. A book set in a different country
  25. A book based entirely on its cover
  26. A memoir
  27. A book with bad reviews
  28. A book you can finish in a day
  29. A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit
  30. A book that came out the year you were born
  31. A book from your childhood - Witch Child by Celia Rees
  32. A book set in the future
  33. A YA book
  34. A graphic novel - Saga
  35. A book by an author you've never read before
  36. A banned book
  37. A collection of poetry
  38. A book originally published in another language - Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  39. A book you would consider a guilty pleasure 
  40. A self-improvement book
  41. Read the first book in a trilogy 
  42. The type of book you rarely or never read
  43. A 2015 bestseller
  44. A historical novel
  45. A book by your favorite author - Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead
  46. A book that have been on your "must read"list for ages
  47. A play
  48. Read a book on the grass
  49. A book you saw someone else reading
  50. A book written by a celebrity 
  51. A book you should have read in high school - The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  52. A book "everyone" has read but you.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Review: A Thousand Pieces of You

Title: A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird #1)
Author: Claudia Gray
Publisher: Harper (2014)

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him. 
Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

You ever have that experience where you are browsing through the shelves of your  local bookstore and you find a book cover that is to gorgeous that you simply have to own the book now?

This was pretty much that for me with this book. I mean, look at that cover! Just look at it. Complete perfection.

Just a damned pity the book didn't live up it its promises.

Firstly, this books reads like a while entire volume preceded it. We are thrown directly into the action and are expected to give two shits about our protagonist without a proper introduction. Completely unfair of the author, if you ask me. Oh you get backstory. Shuffled between the present and far too late for me to actually care.

There is also the niggling issue that what could have been a brilliant concept (inter-dimensional travel) is turned into a mushy love fest.

I also could not shake the feeling that Marguerite is far more concerned about her little love triangle than finding out who her father's killer is. She actually does not seem too bothered about the whole situation once the hormones kick in.

Honestly, don't be fooled by the pretty cover. This is badly written, poorly conceived rubbish wrapped in a nice package.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Nandi Reviews: Lament and Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

Lament (2008)
Ballad (2009)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic

LamentSixteen-year-old Dee is a cloverhand – someone who can see faeries. When she finds herself irresistibly drawn to beautiful, mysterious Luke, Dee senses that he wants something more dangerous than a summer romance.
But Dee doesn’t realize that Luke is an assassin from the faerie world.
And she is his next target.

BalladWhen his best friend, Dee, fell in love with a faerie, James realized she’d never feel the same way about him.
Trying to escape into music, James finds himself surrounded by more faeries than ever. Before he knows it, James is trapped in a dangerous game. One where the only way to win is to betray the one you love…

I don’t usually read novels set in the faerie world, but these two books sounded interesting and I had heard great things about the author, so I thought I’d give them a try. I was pleasantly surprised. I usually find faerie YA books difficult to get into because the background to the faerie world isn’t well established. Stiefvater, however, manages to explain the world in a well thought out and simple to understand way, making it easy for the reader to immerse themselves into the story she is creating. Stiefvater also has some great laugh-out-loud comic moments that add to the enjoyment of the books.

At the end of Lament, I was left excited to find out what happens next with Dee and Luke, as the story doesn’t have a long-term definitive conclusion. Soon after starting Ballad, I realised I probably wouldn’t find out what I wanted to know. Dee and Luke don’t feature very much in Ballad, and even though I knew the story was about James, I was still disappointed. The parts where they do feature adds to James’ story, without concluding theirs.

By the end of Ballad, I was left with numerous questions from both books. I felt like there should be a third book to conclude parts of the story that were left hanging, and I was rather frustrated that I didn’t have the end to the story. This was possibly because I read them one after the other without a break, so all the parts of the books I had questions about were compounded. I think it would have been better to wait a few days or weeks before reading Ballad, almost treating it as a stand-alone novel with some common characters from the same world.

Despite the questions I had at the end of the books, I thoroughly enjoyed them, and I look forward to reading more of Stiefvater’s work. The books were well written and entertaining, and explain the faerie world excellently.

(Review by guest blogger - Nandi Ziller. Thanks Nandi! Looking forward to your next reviews!)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkowski

Title: The Winner's Curse
Author: Marie Rutkowski
Publisher: Bloomsbury (2014)

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.
One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.
But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 
The Winner's Curse it not something I would normally choose for myself, but there was something in the cover and the storyline that got me excited to read it.

I am so glad I did! I really enjoyed this novel, that had more of a historical flavor to it rather than fantasy.

Kestrel is a great character and a suitable role model in that she stands by her convictions. Arin is also interesting and the plot moves forward quickly, with enough going on to keep you interested.

This book is also competently written and certainly rises above the over-saturated YA marketplace. The world building is concise and I had very few questions at the end. I especially loved the different races and how their cultures were represented.

Give this a read this holiday season. You won't regret it!

I cannot wait until the sequel is out!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review: We Were Lairs by E. Lockhart

Title: We Were Liars
Author: E Lockhart
Delacorte Press (2014)

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

I bought this on a whim, having remembered that it is one of the Goodreads winners this year. It was also pretty hyped on social media so I figured it would not be a mistake in buying it.

I don't know what I was expecting going into this book, but I was certainly expecting it to be better.

 One of the things that really stands out is the jarring and confusing use of metaphor throughout the book. Half the time, it felt that what was being described was actually happening to our narrator. And then irritation sets in as I realized it was a really shitty attempt at metaphor. The other half felt like purple pose written by a teenage who has discovered description for the first time.

The style it is written in is also really, really confusing.

I read. The book annoyed.
The plot failed.
Sentences were short.

If you were not aware, the book does have a plot twist. But, by the time I got that far, I felt so manipulated and fed-up by Cadence (our privileged narrator) that I just didn't care.

The good things about We Were Liars? It is nice and short. It has the potential to be an awesome story. Maybe if a more proficient writer like a Sarah Dessen had decided to tackle something like this, it would have gone better.

But this book has enough good reviews and don't base your opinion solely on my grumping about it.

I was in the mood for an awesome contemporary YA with a twist and this just did not deliver.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Film Review: Mockingjay Part 1

Title: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
Actors: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Director: Francis Lawrence
Lionsgate Films (2014)

So I went to go see Mockingjay on opening night (as any good fan would) and I was completely mind-blown.

Firstly, I was initially pissed off that they split the book into two films. They do that far too often and makes me think the studios are only in it for the money. To the doubters, this movie had to be split. There was so much going on. Not just with Katniss, but with the Capitol and the Districts. Never at any point did I feel the story was dragging and nothing was happening.

I love Jennifer Lawrence. Both as a person and as Katniss. She has this very real quality and I have rarely been so emotionally invested in a character. Lawrence has made a favorite book character come to life and her portrayal of the changes in Katniss' mental state throughout the films is simply amazing. For me, she is Katniss.

I am also so impressed with Josh Hutcherson. He does not feature much in this installment, but he is absolutely amazing when he does get screen time. I will say nothing, for fear of giving something away!

The sets and costumes were brilliant as always. There was hardly any focus on the outlandish Capitol fashions, but we got a closer look at District 13 and their military ways. Brilliant.

The odd thing for me is that Mockingjay was my least favorite book, but ended up being my favorite movie (so far! We are waiting for Part 2). I think it is because at this stage in the game, I am so invested in the characters and story that I am aching for things to work out for them.

One of my favourite parts features a song that was also included in the book. The Hanging Tree was a song that Katniss used to sing with her father. The scene with this was absolutely breathtaking and haunting.

(Here is a fan-made cut scene regarding The Hanging Tree song that I found while fangirling over Google that you should watch!)

Anyway, if you enjoyed the first two movies, you will not walk out of this one disappointed! I will say no more and simply send you on your way to your nearest cinema!