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.



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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.