Sunday, December 18, 2011

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi: Review

Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war-- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting as The Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel—with a paranormal twist—that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel.

Dystopian novels have sort of inundated the market, and some of them have turned out to be terrible. In fact, most dystopian novels I've read recently (this include "The Pledge", "Enclave", and the Matched series by Allie Condie and the current favorite "Divergent") have all promised and then disappointed. With Shatter Me drawing rave reviews from most reviewers, I was expecting something from it. Did it disappoint? Yes. Did it have its bright, brilliant bits? Yes, there too.

Trouble is, I need three things to say that I like a book. One, the writing. Two, the plot. Three, the characters. Shatter Me got One and Three right. That's right: I didn't really like the plot. But let's go in the order I like it.

First of, the writing. Mafi has a very poetic style, words stumbling over each other in some places as Juliette's thoughts stumble over each other, beautiful metaphors rising out of the ashes of usual dystopian choppiness. Some of the Shatter Me metaphors are going to stay in my mind for a long time. The strikethrough thing is brilliant- it reminds me of my diary when I'm in a bad mood. I write like a madwoman whenever something pisses me off, or excites me beyond critical level, and I tend to strike off and rewrite and it's all very emotional. I got that vibe from Mafi's writing. I felt for Juliette: her pain, her isolation, her confusion. Juliette's thoughts pour out through her writing in the notebook, so the description part of it is understandable.

Secondly, the characters. As I said, Juliette is a good female lead. She has a strange power that she can't control- well, unless she puts herself in a full-body leotard or something- and that makes her starved of touch. Which is a really, really bad thing. I agree. Plus, she's been locked up in a cell, forced to share with a gorgeous cellmate (for, like a few pages, but whatever) forced to torture someone and has already killed someone else with her powers. Makes sense that she's broken. But I can also see that she has strength: it's not an in-your-face thing like in Divergent, but more subtle, better told. Adam, the hero, is a perfect YA lead: gorgeous, moody, has an abused past, and is pretty good with tanks and guns and stuff, except that he does get his ass kicked more than Juliette does in this book. (She rescues him. Hah. I'm happy with that.) Warner is the strangest, and scariest villain I've seen in recent dystopian books, scarier because he's so young, and so good-looking. And because he actually likes Juliette. Do I feel sorry for him? Yes, I do. Surprising, really, but maybe not that much. I expect Daddy Warner will be the real villain. There's a pattern to these YA books, which I hope Shatter Me doesn't follow, but I've a feeling it will.

Thirdly, the plot. This is pretty vague for a first book: there's not much world-building, except that there seems to be no birds or animals. There is new technology, I suppose, or maybe the re-establishment got rid of it, I'm not sure. There is an X-men like group at the end of the book that seems out of place for some reason, although I was expecting it. That is the problem I had with this book I guess: I was never blind-sided, I could see every twist coming. Warner and Adam's peculiar gift regarding Juliette: I saw it coming. The Professor X kinda guy and his mutant group: saw it coming. The romance part was obvious. Totally, there was nothing ORIGINAL about the plot. A polluted world, a Nazi kinda organization, throw in the X-men, strike a few bits out.

But that's not to say I didn't enjoy Shatter Me. I did, because I really loved the writing, Juliette's voice, the romance, the villainy. In fact, I think I like Mafi as a writer more than Shatter Me as a book. I'll read the next one in the series, but I won't say I have much expectations in the story-factor of it. The next Hunger Games is not here, yet. I still worship Katniss. Sigh.



BUT, despite my not-liking the book, I do like the author's blog a LOT. Check it out: http://www.stiryourtea.blogspot.com/
Power to the Blogosphere!  Peace out.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Quick Tales: 1: FAIRYDUST


So the blog's undergoing some major changes in light of the coming Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Award contest, which I'll hopefully get into....provided I finish my novel on time. Till then, the blog's gonna have a hoarde of writing exercises (it'll be fun) and this is one of my favorites: QUICK TALES.
Quick Tales is basically flash fiction, tiny short stories. Mostly inspired by pictures. I won't say much more, but please read the story :)

from beckyrox.buzznet.com
random search for inspiration
QUICK TALES 1: FAIRYDUST


My best friend was moving houses, moving countries, moving continents.

She announced it on the day before her departure, declaring that she will never see me again. We were lying beneath the tree in my garden, an occasional raindrop from yesterday’s rain plinking down on us. Her braided hair smelled of jasmine, and the water drops reflected millions of starbursts onto her skin.
“I’m moving,” she said. “, Away. Across the world.”
“Where?” I asked, devastated.
“Away.”
“But you’ll call?”
“There are no phones.”

“E-mail?”
“There are no computers.”
“Where is this place?”
Her lips thinned. “Where there’s no steel. Now, do you want to play one last game or what?”
 We played till her mother came to call her home. Her mother’s eyes seemed strange in the twilight, an almost purple blaze. Fairy eyes, I thought, vaguely.
She turned at the edge of the street and waved at me, and that was the last I ever saw of her. I had the bottle pressed into my hand, the bottle that she gave me, my keepsake.
The bottle of silver fairy-dust.
Through years the bottle has solaced me when I needed it the most. The warmth of her hand has never faded from it. The silver powder in it shines sometimes, an invitation to uncork it, and when I open it, there’s the scent of faint jasmine. The shimmer of starbursts. The scent of earth freshly watered. The sound of two girls and their beating hearts and the rustle of wind as it pulls time along with it in an eternal race. The sound of two souls still not stained with the bittersweet spice of separation.
I think of it as a slice of time, a tiny pie-wedge of it, powdered and enclosed in a bottle.
Fairy-dust, from a fairy-girl.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tiger's Curse by Couleen Houck: Review

  
The last thing Kelsey Hayes thought she’d be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-year-old Indian curse. With a mysterious white tiger named Ren. Halfway around the world.
The last thing Kelsey Hayes thought she’d be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-year-old Indian curse. With a mysterious white tiger named Ren. Halfway around the world.
But that’s exactly what happened.
Face-to-face with dark forces, spell- binding magic, and mystical worlds where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.
Tiger’s Curse is the exciting first volume in an epic fantasy-romance that will leave you breathless and yearning for more.
“. . . a sweet romance and heart-pounding adventure. I found myself cheering, squealing, and biting my nails — all within a few pages. In short, Tiger’s Curse is magical." -Becca Fitzpatrick, New York Times bestselling author of Hush, Hush
But that’s exactly what happened.
Face-to-face with dark forces, spell- binding magic, and mystical worlds where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.
Tiger’s Curse is the exciting first volume in an epic fantasy-romance that will leave you breathless and yearning for more.
“. . . a sweet romance and heart-pounding adventure. I found myself cheering, squealing, and biting my nails — all within a few pages. In short, Tiger’s Curse is magical." -Becca Fitzpatrick, New York Times bestselling author of Hush, Hush

I did not finish this atrocity of a book. If you loved this book, as most of you did, you better not read this review, because I'm a hater.
This is gonna be a long rant, so let's split this up.


CHARACTERS
Blah, blah, blah. I didn't care about a single one of them.

KELSEY: was boring. She's independant and supposed to be the antithesis of a Mary-Sue Bella Swan, but the way she was written didn't give me that kind of a vibe. I spent most of the time I read this book wondering if she'd left her brain behind somewhere. Because, who goes to India with someone they'd just met? WIth a carnivorous animal they'd just met? And anyway, why does she behave like a twelve-year-old most of the time?
REN: Um. The Indian Prince. Yeah...I believe that. Because you served it to me on a plate, not because there was anything remotely resembling Indian culture or its vestiges in him, save for the Hindi dialect. I like him better as the tiger, because he doesn't speak. And Ren, why are you wearing white trousers and a white shirt? TROUSERS.  In INDIA. In the 16th century. HUH?
YESUBAI has violet eyes? Wow. I didn't know Indians could have violet eyes.
And what kind of princely names are REN and KISHEN? They were all called Dhirendravarma or Chandragupta or Krishnadevaraya.
I didn't even care about the others.


THE PLOT, THE SETTING, THE ACTION
The Plot? Bizarre. To someone who's been following Hinduism, incredibly bizarre. Won't go into that one because I haven't finished the whole thing and has no intention of finishing it.
Needless to say, I had high expectations about this one, mostly because the blogosphere has been going crazy about how original and how inspiring and how non-Twilight this book is. Well, okay, if you're not from India. Double okay, if you're not from India and know nothing about Hinduism. Some reviewers say that Miss Houck has done her homework regarding Indian culture. To them I say: excuse me?? There are so many descrepancies regarding the culture, and not just that, the WAY Indians behave, and talk.


Before you say Miss Houck has done her homework, or researched well, or offered wonderful tidbits of Indian culture, please at least realize that this is somebody who doesn't know what Google Images mean.  In caps, for easy access to the brain: FYI, BENGAL TIGERS MOSTLY ARE ORANGE. There are very few WHITE TIGERS, those are like orange tigers with a recessive gene. And they're INCREDIBLY rare. And you can't just walk around India with a white tiger the way Kelsey does. THERE ARE RULES. THESE are a SPECIES nearing EXTINCTION. (In 100 Bengal tigers, there are just 12 white tigers, so I find it difficult to relate that no one Kelsey meets in India, on the roads at least, is wondering why she's moving around with a white tiger. She would be immediately put in jail!)


And if you have half a brain, you could just type Royal Bengal Tiger in the Google Images box and they'll show you ORANGE tigers. In this book there is a specific dialogue where Mr Kadam tells Kelsey that Siberian tigers are orange and Indian tigers are WHITE. Didn't the editor notice this? The editor is Indian, according to the author. So, well, hulloo?? This is like saying ostriches are rampant in North America and mate with flamingos.


And then, Goddess Durga has a tiger called Damon. I've been giggling in my prayer room ever since I read this book, because we have a statuette of Goddess Durga on the tiger, and I look at him and think "Damon, Damon, Damon." This might be true, because some sites say so. I've never heard it, and neither has my grandma. 


The mythology in this book is odd. It's okay to make up mythology, but the myths in Tiger's Curse didn't have the flavor of Indian myths. It was off. If you think about it, there are very less instances in Indian mythology where the heroes are on a quest to find something as compared to other mythologies in the world. Heroes and heroines of Indian myths are mostly concerned with human virtues: such as faithfulness, marital fidelity, knowledge, strength, the king's need to protect and do the best for his people, promises before blood and stuff like that. The normal Greek Myth kinda quests seeking for magical objects doesn't quite feature in Indian mythology. The story of the Kalyanasougandhika flower is the only thing I can think of at the moment. In everything else involving magical objects, they are either gifts from the Gods (Arjuna's arrows, etc) or something that should be stolen skilfully from a God. (King Bhageeratha "stole" the river Ganga from Lord Shiva.) I don't think Indian gods send heroes and heroines on quests to bring objects. They go themselves.
And Ren, who's a 16th century prince or whatever thinks it's okay to fall in love with an English woman. Well, sorry, but isn't he concerned of his kshatriya status?
Not to mention the guide guy, Phet or whatever, who speaks like Yoda. Indians speak English pretty well, FYI, or they don't speak it at all. And the whole Indian continent does NOT speak Hindi.
I can forgive the linguistic stuff, all right, but please. The tiger color change put me off so much that I wanted to throw the book. And the fact that no Indian is interested in safeguarding our national, and endangered animal. Insult, insult.
And there's this bit where Kelsey is in Mumbai and she sees all these exotic body-paint shops and palm-reading and whatever. Since I wasn't paying much attention by this point, I had to shuffle back a few pages. WHAT? When did she time-travel? There was no mention of centuries dropping away in between?
FYI, Mumbai is an enormous city with buildings everywhere. Flats, corporate offices, etc. You'll find street vendors, selling...Reebok. Adidas. Fake Gucci and Armani bags. Icecreams and jeans and little jewelry stands and pirated CDs and porno and such. BUT NOT PALM-READING, or exotic body-painting shops. You don't even find that stuff these days in rural India, albeit very very rarely. And the only tattoo-place in Mumbai is pretty hi-fi. Sorry. Wrong information, I'd like to kill the editor now, please.
India is a country very difficult to describe, especially for foreigners. Why say foreigners? I'm a South Indian who finds it difficult to describe North India. I admire the author for taking the effort, and pulling off quite a bit of it, but when it comes to important bits like mythology and tigers, which your book is entirely based on, you should do better research than this, right? Don't leave the orthodox Hindus wondering where the mythology came from. It's okay if you skip the occassional Hindi narrative (for the record, I don't think anyone says "my prema". My "priya" yes. "Prem" is the word for love, but we don't use it like "my love")
And THE ACTION? I spent too much time getting bored out of mind to get into the action.


VERDICT: Good cover. Read it if you know nothing about Indian culture. Please picture Ren orange if you can.



Sunday, November 27, 2011

WATER BOMB: Is No One Listening?

As you probably know by now, I live in the tip of South India, in a green little state called Kerala. I don't think the foreign media is covering this, but the lives of lakhs of people in the state is currently at risk. A collapsing dam stands between us and the water bomb on the other side. Quakes rock the state nearly every day. The dam is 116 years old. It's lifespan is supposed to only be 50 years.
If it breaks, or more accurately, regarding present circumstances- when it breaks- nearly three districts of the state will probably be affected. Lakhs of people will die, crores and crores of property will be lost, and the environmental impact of a massive wall of water slamming into the earth is beyond comprehension.
This is a shout out.
A post that I hope you will read so you will know that there are people living in the shadow of a water bomb, waiting for it to explode any moment. Praying for their lives, and worse, the lives of their children. Helpless.
Save PeopleThere is the question you are asking of course, WHY?
WHY are we helpless? WHY is there no comfort from the Government that is supposed to be protecting us?  WHY was nothing done about the cracks on the dam when it first formed? WHY is it an issue in the first place?
Believe me, most of us are asking ourselves the same thing. Some blame the Kerala Government, some the Tamil Nadu Government (the dam seperates the two states and the water belongs to both; hence the political mechanisations leading to no answers for the public) and some even blame the Central Government for sitting by and watching, waiting for catastrophe to strike before doing something even mildly productive.
Save Mullaperiyar Dam, Save Kerala Facebòòk CampaignThe shout for a new dam seems to be falling on deaf ears. The rain keeps pouring, and the water level keeps rising in the Mullaperiyar dam. We've been hit by minor quakes but if anything above 6 in the Richter scale hits, disaster will be imminent.
WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT TO SAY:
This is not the time for empty large-worded assurances.
This is the time to DO.
We don't need assurances, but ACTION.POLITICS should not come before the lives of LAKHS of people.

While we live in fear, there are questions that nearly everyone seems to be asking: Is a vote all that matters in a democracy? Is it alright to turn a deaf ear to the voice of your neighboring state and simply suggest that Keralites are over-reacting? Is it alright to sit by and send teams of people to study the dam when teams of people studying it over the years have kept saying that it is in major danger? Is it a democracy, really, when CHILDREN have to go on hunger-strikes and protests just to get some sort of ACTION?

For once in the entire blogging history of this blog, I'm asking you to help me shout out. Retweet this. Share it if you can. Comment.

There are lives at stake.
Peace out.

FACEBOOK COMMUNITY: Save People: http://www.facebook.com/Mullaperiyar999?sk=wall

Save Mullaperiyar Dam, Save Kerala Facebòòk Campaign: http://www.facebook.com/savemullaperiyar


IMAGE COURTESY: Various Malayalam news channels.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Review : Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
 
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone might be the best written paranormal romance I've read in a while. Let me put it like this: Laini Taylor's prose is magical. She can bring to life the twisting, tangled streets of Prague or the noisy hot squares of Morocco with about as much ease as most YA authors portray American high schools. To better get this review done, let me break it into segments.
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

THE PRETTY

Karou. Is. Effing. Beautiful.
I hate it normally when authors go for incredibly beautiful people in books and I confess I had some trouble with the omniscient third person narrative of Karou's description, but the way Taylor has described her heroine is just BEAUTIFUL. Lapis hair, dark eyes, tattoos. To someone who's a total sucker for body art, this is just the literary version of true eye-candy.
The amount of work that must have gone into Karou's characterization must have been huge, because I could picture her. I could almost feel her. I could see the whisper of her footsteps on the streets of Prague, and picture her in her orange dress in Morocco. The sounds, the smells, the SETTINGS...Taylor does it all right with the eye of an artist (which she is).

Akiva, the hero, is standard YA material: hot, glorious, powerful, haunted. But you know what? I like heat better than marble-cold heroes anyway, and HEAT has a great new meaning in Akiva. SMOLDERING has new meaning in Akiva. No, literally, because he has wings of fire and all. And you know what? He isn't a sappy YA angel hero. Taylor's prose is what remedies the over-gorgeousness.

The mentionable thing here is that the secondary characters all are lovable. Let me especially mention Zuzana, Karou's tiny scary friend, who I loved, and the strange story of Izil, which freaked me out. All of Karou's strange "family" is interesting too.

But most of all, it was the prose that really, really sucked me right into the book. It deserves praise so glowing that the praise is neon-orange. Some of the metaphors are just delicious. It's like eating the best ice cream flavor imaginable. The otherworldly settings possess an almost unbearable beauty. Taylor, I have to say this, is a seer.

THE DISAPPOINTMENTS

For what should have been a glowing, beautiful book, the Daughter of Smoke and Bone did disappoint me on certain occassions. There's a lot of TELLING and not SHOWING.

Why does Brimstone need the teeth? Well, that was the question I kept asking myself but I thought it could have been revealed better. And there is insta love. I DO NOT like insta love. (For those who read this book: We are not talking about the Karou-Akiva love story, we're talking about the BEFORE.)

 I didn't know what kind of a mystery I was expecting the book to be, but it was definitely not up to my expectations. I just didn't connect with the plot, although I did connect with the characters. I think I would have been happy just to see Karou and Akiva fly around, and draw the other, and have angsty conversations, and kiss. The plot, I thought, sort of lacked a little. Nice, but not exceptional. And that's a pity, because the other aspects of this book is just so wonderful.

Again, was it overdone a bit? Everyone is too beautiful. Karou, Zuzana, Mik, Akiva, Hazael, Lazric, Issa. EVERYONE. WHY, why, why does every YA author do this? :(

WRAP UP
I guess, totally, the good stuff triumphs easily over the bad stuff, and I'm a sucker for great writing as well. The cover is TERRIBLE. Okay, maybe it's a nice color and all, but please. Bad books have some awesome covers. This is a book written so well that it deserves a cover that really represents its essence. Magic, cover artist, MAGIC. There's so much magic in this book it doesnt't go on to the cover, and that's a terrible tragedy. Because I'm an artist as well, and I would have wanted my book to look better.

I wish Taylor would write a better sequel, one with a plot that has more substance that mystery+ hot guy+ flying around+ fire+ mystery solved. Although the plot did pick up at the end, I thought there should have been more, or a better one.

But will I read everything and anything Taylor ever writes? Absolutely. I've fallen for her magic pen.

QUOTES

“Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there's no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.” OVERALL SCORE:
 
"She craved a presence beside her, solid. Fingertips light at the nape of her neck and a voice meeting hers in the dark. Someone who would wait with an umbrella to walk her home in the rain, and smile like sunshine when he saw her coming. Who would dance with her on her balcony, keep his promises and know her secrets, and make a tiny world wherever he was, with just her and his arms and his whisper and her trust"
 
“Happiness. It was the place where passion, with all its dazzle and drumbeat, met something softer: homecoming and safety and pure sunbeam comfort. It was all those things, intertwined with the heat and the thrill, and it was as bright within her as a swallowed star.”

“Hey! My body may be small, but my soul is large. It’s why I wear platforms. So I can reach the top of my soul”

7/10- pretty damn great, with points chucked off for the cover, for the not-well-carried plot, and for the overdone beauty. Sue me if I'm being unfair.

CIAO.




Monday, September 12, 2011

Is Magical Healing Respectable?! (human interest)

Magical Healing: Should We?
Magical Healing. Don’t we all love it as fantasy/ paranormal writers? Everyone is hot in romance novels, aren’t they? Wholeness matters. Beauty matters. I hate novels where the girl is described with, I don’t know, a squint or a cross-eye or as being (in one book I won’t mention because I might lose all control to think about it) “plain” (as though plain is a disability) and then the guy comes along, or some other Dumbledore like character comes along, and magically transforms her into- hey, presto- beautiful girl worth the boy!  What is this madness about? What is wrong with the girl being plain, or cross-eyed, or even crippled, for God’s sake? Won’t the guy love her enough?
 I hated Twilight at one point of time because Bella kept going on about how she wanted to be a vampire because only then would she be worth Edward. (Twilight fans: maybe you have a different explanation for this, but I will never get over this weirdness)
I am plain. Is that a problem? Do I have to do something to my face so a guy will like me?
 This is there in so many paranormal novels. Girl, not much to look at, transforms into a gorgeous siren due to some weird magical intervention. Or they’re thrown into the imagination of the author as beautiful creatures. They have scars, which disappear magically. Spines, which right themselves magically even though every doctor said “sorry, impossible”. Deadly diseases that get better because they’re brave, because they’ve found the Magical Elixir of whatever. Every time I tell my stories to one of my friends, and I let it slip that okay, the girl is blind, or the girl is plain, or even the girl has a scar on her face, they say “But she’ll be pretty in the end, right? There’s a scene in the end where the guy stares at the gorgeous vision in front of him with open-mouthed surprise, isn’t there? You’re not going to ~gasp~ keep her BLIND?”
Then they suggest ways to make her not-blind. Ways to make the guy gawp at her vacuously. And I think, any guy who wouldn’t gape at me vacuously before I was pretty wouldn’t be worth my time. Because, for a second, THINK: what are you doing? What is the message you are sending out, as an author? That it’s not okay to be disabled? That the guy won’t love the girl enough if there isn’t at least one scene in the book where he isn’t hit by the sledgehammer of beauty that she is? Isn’t this the most vacuous, empty-headed trope?
 And hullo, no one’s forgetting the heaps of characters that are “terrible” just because they have a limp or a hunched back. How many books have we read where an annoying character is described as being “cross-eyed and squinty” or “having a limp” or “deaf and batty”? Almost to the point that we think children’s literature is cruel to these characters. (Don’t get me started on fat characters. I’ll write a post on that unfairness soon)
Why is it not okay to be disabled, or ugly, or plain? I find it heartbreaking when books make characters absolutely lovable and fun and, yes, disabled and then kill them off, relegate them to secondary roles, or magically heal them. Eona, by Alison Goodman, was such a great example of how a person can work around their disability and triumph. She was crippled, her hipbone malformed due to a deliberate “accident”. She, pretending to be a He, is genius enough to work around that one and come out triumphant. So why did Ms. Goodman have to go and heal her in the end of the book? Because a crippled heroine is not a heroine? Or is it some kind of attempt to say that if you’re brave and fabulous and ass kicking enough, you’ll finally be rewarded by wholeness? So how do the disabled people who read this feel? That they aren’t brave enough and worthy enough? I’m not going to hark about just this book; there are countless other characters... L. M Montgomery’s Dean Priest, Eragon in Eldest, all the plain girls (a.k.a Ugly Ducklings) who due to the magical influence of whatever turned into swans. This kind of writing is shallow.
By the trend, I see in books, it’s not possible to be happy if you’re disabled. It’s not possible to love or to be loved unless you’re healed magically at the end. It’s not possible for Mr. Gorgeous to fall for you if you’re anything less than Ms. Beautiful is and if he does, then Ms. Plain transitions to Ms. Beautiful with some otherworldly help.
I wish teen-lit will stop being about beauty and start being about heart. As I promised, I’m going to write a “fat-character-post” soon. Very soon. For now, chew on this.


So what do YOU think of magical healing? To do or not to?

NOTE: if you've liked this post, you should read the following posts, which inspired this:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we feature the books we're waiting for!
 
This week, I'm featuring Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. Obviously half the book reading world is waiting for this book, and the ones who've been lucky enough to get the ARC tells me that it's totally worth it. Read a few excerpts and quotes, and I loved it. Also, Mafi's blog is pretty awesome. You can read her at http://www.stiryourtea.blogspot.com/
 
SO, I give you, Shatter Me
 
Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting as The Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel—with a paranormal twist—that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel
.
 
Here's a quote from goodreads.
 
“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction. ~ pg. 71 (ARC)”

Monday, September 5, 2011

Q and A Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Soooo. This is THE book I've been waiting to read for so long. I'll give you the Q and A version of a review for this one.

Synopsis

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.  
So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.
But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life.

Q. Why the hell did you want to read it so much in the first place?
A. Because:
1. The cover is REALLY gorgeous.
2. I'm tired of angsty, whiny female heroines. I want a smartass dude's POV. And Cas is full of smartassery.
3. I love that title. Love it. Anna Dressed in Blood. Now, why didn't I think of something like that?
4. He's called Theseus Cassio Lowood??? He he, you just know this kid's going to be amusing. Also, my new novel's protag is called Cassio. I'm an Othello fan, too, WTH.

Q. What did you think of Cas?
A. Theseus Cassio Lowood. Not only having to battle ghosts but also the ghosts of his own past. Never whining about it. (Thank GOD for that.) Professional ghost-killer, smartass, intelligent and all around great guy. Not that he keeps saying that. It's so nice to see such a dynamic young man from his own POV. I love how Cas is both sensitive and brilliant, I love his dynamic with Anna and with his mother, I love the way he's out to avenge his father. I love him. He's full of awesome.

Q. What did you think of Anna?
A. Ah, Anna. Anna, Anna, Anna. Why don't we have more female leads like Anna? Here's what Cas has to say about Anna, the dark ghost of Anna Dressed in Blood:
She was nothing like I expected, though now that I’ve seen
her I have a hard time remembering what I did expect. Maybe I thought she’d be a sad, frightened girl who killed out of fear and misery. I thought she’d trundle down the stairs in a white dress with a dark stain at the collar. I thought she would have two smiles, one on her face and one on her neck, wet and red. I thought she would ask me why I was in her house, and then come at me with razored little teeth.
Instead I find a ghost with the strength of a storm, black eyes, and pale hands, not a dead person at all but a dead goddess. Persephone back from Hades, or Hecate half-decayed.

 And, you know, this entirely believable, wonderful boy keeps doing the "goddess" reference. Which is just great. Because Anna reminded me instantly of a powerful, dark goddess too, the way she was described.

Q. Is there a plot? Or is it just usual YA blah-blah?
A. There's a kind-of plot. But there doesn't have to be a linear structure to the plot, because this book is more about the movement of the protagonist. Cas is a ghost-killer. But he's half in love with death itself. Anna is a killer ghost. But again, she's heartbreakingly in love with him too. Again, there is the whole angle of Cas's family that's been done very well. I loved his kitchen-witch Mom, she's a very strong character. I liked Carmel and Thomas. 

Q. Stand alone?
A. I hear there's a second book. There better be.

Q. Writing?
A. Great. I loved Cas's voice, his cursing, his wise-guy comments.
The hallways today look like something out of a movie. You know, the ones where the important characters walk in slow motion and the rest of the people just whip by as different flesh- and clothes-colored blurs.
This is how the entire book is, with his sometimes weird observations that's perfectly believable for a guy. (Or maybe, I don't know, I'm not a guy.)

Q. Verdict?
A. 4 on 5. I'm knocking off one point simply because I thought the book could be longer.



Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (3)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we feature the books we're waiting for!
This week, I'm waiting for:

PURE by Julianna Baggot
We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . .
Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . .
There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it's his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her.
When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again.

So what are you waiting for this wednesday?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Top 10 Best Settings for YA novels- Part 1

So this is a post about novel settings. You’ve got to love these books which are set in places that seem nearly magical. By magical, I don’t mean there has to be unicorns or singing fountains, but there has to be the thrill of discovery, of seeing a whole world through a character’s eyes. So here we go with my list of awesome novel settings!
Number 1: The World within a World
This has to be my favourite of all time. There’s just something about there being a hidden world right in ours! It’s totally fascinating to think that you could be standing at Kings’ Cross between platform nine and ten, on September 1, and that the Hogwarts Express is somewhere just beyond...or imagine suddenly walking into something like a gateway to Faery... This is always amazing because we KNOW the world the character inhabits in the beginning, and the magical otherworld is always just beyond the veil...
My Best Books in this Category: Harry Potter, which wins hands down, and Incarceron by Catherine Fisher. Cassandra Clare and Holly Black’s works are notable. So are the Percy Jackson and Artemis Fowl series.
Number 2: The Future
Oh, this setting is absolutely FABULOUS. Because, you know, I can say people in the future are orange skinned, and no one can dispute me. Anything is possible in the future. Everything is possible in the future, because the future is unknown. Awesome, right? And also there’ll be a lot of techy gadgetry which I’m so mad about.
My Best Books: The Hunger Games trilogy, Neil Gaiman’s Snow Crash, Enders Game, and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (which really tops this list).

Number 3: The Closed and Cramped
This setting is mostly exploited by Stephen King and Dean Koontz. You know, putting people in a building or someplace cramped and working on their emotions. This setting is quite frightening, basically because there’s nowhere to run. Typically, it’s pretty high on my list.
1408, Under the Dome and the Shining by King, Strangers by Koontz, 1222 by Anne Holt and the Harrowing by Alexandra Sokoloff are prime examples.



Number 4: The Exotic
To do this kind of writing really well, you must have first travelled somewhere exotic, or lived somewhere exotic. Living in India has its greatest perk in that you can find a lot to write about if you just walk out on a random street. My favourite setting in India is the pre-Independence era. I love books set in the stranger European countries: especially Romania, Norway, Finland, and my ABSOLUTE favourites ever: Istanbul, Prague and Bucharest.
Orhan Pamuk, William Dalrymple and Elizabeth Kostova comes to mind instantly. I am a huge fan of Kostova.
Number 5: Small Town America

From Kristen Hubbard's website

I don’t know what it is about this that attracts me, it just does. I like the sentimentalism and moral values that seem to be in the fabric of the characters’ mould. I like towns where everyone knows everyone else, everyone still lives in a kind of past. It’s sweet, I think, most books set in this kind of setting.
 Of course, again, Stephen King uses a lot of small town setting...Recently; I read Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard and thought the town of Washokey was described beautifully. I also enjoy the description of Gatlin in the Caster Chronicles. Recently, I also liked Graveminder by Melissa Marr, set in Claytown and Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves, set in Portero, Texas.
Next Week, I'll do the rest of the Settings Post :)
So do you have a favourite setting for a book? Or do you have a specific book in mind you think is the best of any of these categories? Leave me a comment!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Review: St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

Goodreads Summary (a bit shortened) :
A dazzling debut, a blazingly original voice: the ten stories in St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves introduce a radiant new talent.

In the collection’s title story, a pack of girls raised by wolves are painstakingly reeducated by nuns. In “Haunting Olivia,” two young boys make midnight trips to a boat graveyard in search of their dead sister, who set sail in the exoskeleton of a giant crab. In “Z.Z.’s Sleepaway Camp for Disordered Dreamers,” a boy whose dreams foretell implacable tragedies is sent to a summer camp for troubled sleepers (Cabin 1, Narcoleptics; Cabin 2, Sleep Apneics; Cabin 3, Somnambulists . . . ). And “Ava Wrestles the Alligator” introduces the remarkable Bigtree Wrestling Dynasty—Grandpa Sawtooth, Chief Bigtree, and twelve-year-old Ava—proprietors of Swamplandia!, the island’s #1 Gator Theme Park and Café
Russell’s stories are beautifully written and exuberantly imagined, but it is the emotional precision behind their wondrous surfaces that makes them unforgettable. Magically, from the spiritual wilderness and ghostly swamps of the Florida Everglades, against a backdrop of ancient lizards and disconcertingly lush plant life—in an idiom that is as arrestingly lovely as it is surreal—Karen Russell shows us who we are and how we live.
Know what made me pick up this anthology of short stories, despite being someone who prefers novels a lot more? The title of this book. St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.
What. A. Title.
I knew I was in for something original, quirky, fascinating and magical the moment I started reading the first story- Ava Wrestles the Alligator- which is a real treat. A young girl, living in a swamp, looking after alligators while her sister has an affair with a ghost named Luscious? How much more original can you get? More than this, though, Karen Russel's prose is simply stunning. I've read Swamplandia! which is her novel based on the Ava story, but the beauty of her writing shines much more in this collection than in the average novel.
Haunting Olivia, which is about two brothers searching for the luminous ghost of their dead sister Olivia underwater using special goggles is simply fabulous. Look at this description of Olivia, for example:
She used to change into Wallow’s rubbery yellow flippers on the bus, then waddle around the school halls like some disoriented mallard. She played “house” by getting the broom and sweeping the neon corpses of dead jellyfish off the beach. Her eyes were a stripey cerulean, inhumanly bright. Dad used to tell Olivia that a merman artisan had made them, out of bits of sea glass from Atlantis.

In ZZ's Camp for Disordered Dreamers, we come across Elijah, with the ability to predict things that have already happened in the past through his dreams. A "pastmonition" as he calls it, again this short story is simply fascinating, because it seems rather unlikely to be set in this world.
Here's a sampler:
Z.Z.’s Sleep-Away Camp is divided down all kinds of lines: campers who can’t sleep vs. campers who sleep too much, campers who control their bladders vs. campers who do not, campers who splinter through headboards vs. campers who lie still as the dead.
In yet another, strange and marvellous story, a boy recounts his memories of migrating with his Minotaur father (yes! with horns!) and in another, a large woman runs a Palace of Artificial Snows and causes a huge, festival-like event called the Blizzard, and in yet another, little girls sail away on Precambrian Shells. The title of the book is the title of the final story, where a group of nuns try to civilize a set of girls raised by wolves.
Quote:

Each story in this short collection is as fascinating as the one before, basically because Russel seems to have no rules when it comes to her imagined world. Her world, an island in Florida Everglades, I think someone has said, is at once both startlingly too familiar yet utterly magical. It's a place where anything can happen. With well-drawn characters (a feat when you're writing short-stories), abrupt, almost flourish-like endings that leave you gaping, and a totally new look at the art of story-telling, this collection is really, truly, surely, one to cherish.

That said, my favourite is Ava Wrestles the Alligator, so I'll leave you with a short quote from it (Do read this if you haven't, it's an experience!) :
My older sister has entire kingdoms inside of her, and some of them are only accessible at certain seasons, in certain kinds of weather. One such melting occurs in summer rain, at midnight, during the vine-green breathing time right before sleep. You have to ask the right question, throw the right rope bridge, to get there—and then bolt across the chasm between you, before your bridge collapses.

We’d heard rumors about former wolf-girls who never adapted to their new culture. It was assumed that they were returned to our native country, the vanishing woods. We liked to speculate about this before bedtime, scaring ourselves with stories of catastrophic bliss. It was the disgrace, the failure that we all guiltily hoped for in our hard beds. Twitching with the shadow question: Whatever will become of me?

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Images used in this blog are either digital art created by the author or free photographs. Reviews and views expressed on this site are strictly personal. Text by Varsha Dinesh is copyrighted under Creative Commons.