Sunday, 29 June 2014

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Publication date: May 13th, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Links: Goodreads | Amazon US | Amazon India
Stars: 4/5
Source: Bought
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.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.


REVIEW

I'm going to copy-paste what's in the blurb, in case you're not the kind of person who reads the blurb first. Because, of the plot, this is all you need to know: 

"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."

No, its not just the blurb that's deliberately elusive. We Are Liars is as fragmented, as vividly illusionary, suspenseful and pseudo poetic as what you just read. The characters pop out of the page, demanding every bit of your attention span. They say pretentious things, everything they want or need is just there- on a literal platter, share a superficial, seasonal friendship amidst raging hormones and the salt of the sea water. And you'll listen to them. 

Because in their perfection and pretention and destruction, they remain glamorous. It's the sheen this kind of inherited privilege has given them.

The Liars were perfect. Until something happened and now, Cady, "the beautiful and damaged girl" has constant and prolonged migraines. A huge chunk of her memory, of "the accident" and what happened before, is missing. Gat, the Indian American boy she loved, who made her "weak", becomes inconsistent. Her friends, the Liars, seem to be crumbling with her. Her parents and aunties are drinking and shopping more than usual and their fake smiles are waning. 

What happened to these beautiful, beautiful people?

We Were Liars recounts the scenic, the surreal and the lies the Liars and their parents lived through in startling purple prose. Eventually, and without warning, it plunges into the truth which NOTHING can prepare you for and can never quite set you free. I was crying into the early morning hours. I remain stunned. I would never read this book again, because of how it messed with my head; branded it with images that will never leave me. But you should read it that once. BECAUSE it will mess with your head and grip you until you get to the bottom of it. Because it made me mull over the nature of "ownership" and things that are fickle and pretentious.

It goes without saying that if you dislike fragmented, purple prose and tales about "them poor-little-rich-kids", you will probably not like this book.

Rating: ★★★★

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Review: One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern

Publication date: May 6th, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
Stars: 5/5
Source: Review copy (Thank you, William Morrow!)
Internationally bestselling author Cecelia Ahern delivers her biggest and most compelling book yet—a tale of secrets, second chances, and the hidden connections that unite our lives

Scandal has derailed journalist Kitty Logan's career, a setback that is soon compounded by an even more devastating loss. Constance, the woman who taught Kitty everything she knew, is dying. At her mentor's bedside, Kitty asks her, "What is the one story you always wanted to write?"

The answer lies in a single sheet of paper buried in Constance's office—a list of one hundred names—with no notes or explanation. But before Kitty can ask her friend, it is too late.

Determined to unlock the mystery and rebuild her own shaky confidence, Kitty throws herself into the investigation, tracking down each of the names on the list and uncovering their connection. Meeting these ordinary people and learning their stories, Kitty begins to piece together an unexpected portrait of Constance's life... and starts to understand her own.

REVIEW

I give this book five, very subjective stars. I'm not quite sure if I would've given it five stars if I'd read it way back in January, when I received it for review... or even a bit later, when in the midst of finals. But then again, is there any such thing as an objective rating? That being said, I read One Hundred Names when I needed to read it the most.

One Hundred Names opens in a hospital, where Kitty Logan asks her dying mentor, Constance Dubois, about the one story she's always wished to write. It's a difficult time for Kitty as well. She made an error in one of her stories, the scandalous kind, that caused her a suspension from her job as a TV-journalist and set her network back big time. It's a mistake that may forever ruin her career. She's hanging on to her other job at Etcetera magazine, however unrelated to the TV scandal, by a thread.

Constance asks her to retrieve a list of one hundred names-- a list that had something to do with the story she had in mind. Before Kitty can get back with the list, Constance passes away. As a part of her tribute issue, Kitty needs to find out what connects these people; the very nature of the story Constance wanted to write. There isn't much time to piece it all together... it's ONE HUNDRED different people, and lives, she'll have to delve into... and her job might just depend on it.

I can definitely picture this book being made into a movie. It would be one of those romcoms with a slightly quirkier twist, and dialogues that are meaningful and sometimes even funny. The plot might seem a bit contrived: the way most plots involving a large cast are. It features six very different, very dreamy, "ordinary" but interesting people... people who, like in most books that have several subplots, gradually find their stories intermingling when they are thrown in a common setting.

Reading One Hundred Names, however, felt far from contrived. I've always admired the earnestness in Cecelia Ahern's writing. I'm glad she doesn't stick to the same formula. Instead, she always tells us different kinds of stories that take on different perspectives; retaining the freshness in her narration. In this book, it's the earnestness of the main players that gets to you. It's easy to picture them living their lives, one day at a time. 

Kitty attempts to uncover what Constance could've possibly wanted to write about them- practically drilling various angles into their lives... and as the arc finally dawns on her- it humbles her, and the reader. It's not something you couldn't have guessed several chapters before. In fact, I think it was pretty clear from the beginning. Still, it's beautiful because it's something all of us take for granted but is very very true.

One Hundred Names, through wonderful characterization, several humorous and WTF moments, is one heck of a journey! Before you know it, you are a part of their lives: laughing, groaning, whooping and cheering them on! Their energy is your energy. It reminds you of the value of a genuine and positive story; how wasteful it is that we are constantly on the lookout for superficiality, drama, a "dark" past and conflict instead. It encourages you to look beyond the surface, at what is already around and within you. 

Rating: ★★★★★

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Review: Right Click (Click, #3) by Lisa Becker

Publication date: May 19th, 2014
Publisher: CreateSpace
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Stars: 3.5/5
Source: Review copy
Love. Marriage. Infidelity. Parenthood. Crises of identity. Death. Cupcakes. The themes in Right Click, the third and final installment in the Click series, couldn’t be more pressing for this group of friends as they navigate through their 30′s. Another six months have passed since we last eavesdropped on the hilarious, poignant and often times inappropriate email adventures of Renee and friends. As the light-hearted, slice of life story continues to unfold, relationships are tested and some need to be set “right” before everyone can find their “happily ever after.”

REVIEW

Right Click takes us back to the CC'd and BCC'd adventures of Renee, Ethan, Shelley, Mark and the rest! With moving away, relationship-hiccups, break-ups, baby-troubles, Vegas trips, celebrity-run-ins, funerals and a wedding-in-planning, we're in for quite a ride; peppered with Billy-Joel-offs, pun-offs and plenty of surprises along the way.

In the final part of one of my favourite email-trilogies ever, Becker maintains the zippy-and-cheery pace set in Click and Double Click. Email plays an even bigger role in the characters staying connected to each other; especially in context of specific situations where no other medium works as well. 

The likability of the main players, however stuck-up and relatively annoying some of them may appear to be, instantly won me over. They have grown over the span of three books-- but at the same time, their voices are easily recognisable. Some of them make less-than-ideal comebacks and others, you continue to love to hate. While the story is centered around Renee, who has her share of ups and downs, Shelley continued to make me involuntarily "LOL" and Ashley's struggles were realistic and made my respect for her grow. Mark, who I've always found adorable, also gets his happily ever after!

I'm not going to deny that, like all chic lit novels, Right Click, too, did have that point when it got a bit too fluffy and even the ha-larity felt like an overkill. Thankfully, that's exactly when Becker chose to infuse grit and a surprising dose of tough love! Reading the last few email (!) exchanges between what has, over time, evolved into Renee's pretty tight-knit group, even left me a little teary-eyed! 

Click started out as a breezy and hilarious novel chronicling the online-dating (mis)adventures of Renee and Mark. Over time, over new and renewed friendships, heartbreak, funerals, PR-events, therapeutic pun-tertainment and hilariously tacky cat videos, it's clear that through chemistry, witty and light-hearted banter, forwards and mis-forwards, this series has morphed into so much more. And Right Click, over several plot arcs and important character milestones, provided a heartwarming and balanced finale to what has been a fabulous e-journey!

Rating: ★★★1/2

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Review: The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer


Publication date: April 8th, 2014
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
Stars: 5/5
Source: NetGalley
Witty, sarcastic Ethan and his three friends decide to take down the reality TV show, For Art's Sake, that is being filmed at their high school, the esteemed Selwyn Arts Academy, where each student is more talented than the next. While studying Ezra Pound in English class, the friends are inspired to write a vigilante long poem and distribute it to the student body, detailing the evils of For Art's Sake. But then Luke—the creative force behind the poem and leader of the anti-show movement—becomes a contestant on the nefarious show. It's up to Ethan, his two remaining best friends, and a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise to save their school. Along the way, they'll discover a web of secrets and corruption involving the principal, vice principal, and even their favorite teacher.

REVIEW

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy has got to be the most enjoyable Young Adult book I've read in a while! I read this book way back in January, and if I hadn't been on an unofficial-hiatus I would've reviewed it right away. A lot of "reality show" based books end up wearing thin, but not this one.

The Vigilante Poets...(don't you love the title?) is about Ethan Andrezejczak who is witty, sarcastic, perfectly likable and hung up on ballerina Maura, the poster girl for Unattainable. Throw in a reality show their artsy unconventional school is the center of, an inspiring English teacher who introduces them to Ezra Pound's Cantos, the realisation that the show is ruining everything their school stands for and a creative rebellion is underway. There's plenty of genuine wit, solid characters, betrayals, a gerbil you will dote on and anti-climatic romantic twists to make this story epic and memorable. 

The best part? The ride is smooth. The writing is both charming and intelligent; and at no point does the plot pause. At no point are there Reflections or a pointless elaboration of angst. What we get of the show and the anti-show-movement are mere commercial-break-infused snippets. What we get of the characters, whether it's Ethan and his friends, his adorable twin sisters or even the elusive Maura, is brilliant. They grow on you, they fill you in on insights about themselves that surprise you just as much; but they never pause on it!

This book is a smart, snappy, insightful and colourful laugh-riot that reminds you of, but surpasses by a landslide, TV shows like Glee. A work of art by itself that gets the fun-insightful ratio just right, I highly recommend giving this book a shot.

Rating: ★★★★★

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys


Publication date: April 1st, 2011
Publisher: Puffin Books
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
Stars: 4.5/5
Source: Two lovely people (Thanks a ton xD)
Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

REVIEW

I have seen this book around but never thought to pick it up. I figured it would be
too intense
a difficult read
so involving, I'd get lost in it
and given the current Semester's workload, I've been seeking refuge in "easy" and predictable books with the kind of wit, banter and plot arcs that I've grown so comfortable with, the repetitiveness ceases to bother me.

But when two really good bookie friends of mine gifted Between Shades to me for my birthday, it felt like the choice had been made for me! And I'm glad.

Between Shades of Gray was too intense. There were parts where I had to blink away tears or worse, felt too numb to react. It was not an easy read but it was an important one; capturing a part of history, of Lithuanians forcibly deported to Siberian work camps by the NKVD during World War II, that I wasn't aware of. It was a story that needed to be told and couldn't have been put across in a better way.

The book also got so involving, it broke through my reluctance- completely quite possibly stemming out of nothing short of indolence- to read something that grabbed every bit of my attention and made me feel for real. It dares to infuse beauty and meaning into the period when the darkest and most cruel side of human nature was exposed. It crushes you with the enormity of the hardships these people had to shoulder and how even then, many refuse to crumble. 

The protagonist, Lina, is just fifteen years old at the time when she, along with her mother and brother are deported in a train labeled "Thieves and Prostitutes". Her perspective holds both innocence and incredible strength. It's heartbreaking how she is forced to grow up in a work camp; in such brutal, unforgivable conditions. And yet, she does. Despite being reduced to a state of near-starvation and constant worry for the people around her, she still has spirit. 

Lina's a gifted artist, and despite Soviet rules barring them to do so, she never stops drawing about the injustices they are forced to undergo. She never stops trying to get messages to her father, who is separated from them. She never stops hoping and fighting and loving. Her journey, with flashbacks to life before the deportation that are seamlessly integrated, is heartbreaking. The kind of bonds formed and the togetherness that exists among the deportees; the fabric of strength maintained by the adults for their children and their individuality despite the NKVD grouping them as "cattle" was astounding. 

Wonderfully written in a sharp, almost cinematic manner, with well-fleshed out, memorable characters, this book will, indeed, as the blurb says, "steal your breath and capture your heart." 

Rating: ★★★★1/2

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Cover Feature: Right Click by Lisa Becker

I really liked Click: An Online Love Story as it was incredibly fun and light!

The sequel, Double Clickwas even more of an entertainer.

And now it's time to unveil the cover of:

Release date: May, 2014
Links: Facebook | Click Book Trailer
Love. Marriage. Infidelity. Parenthood. Crises of identity. Death. Cupcakes. The themes in Right Click, the third and final installment in the Click series, couldn't be more pressing for this group of friends as they navigate through their 30's. Another six months have passed since we last eavesdropped on the hilarious, poignant and often times inappropriate email adventures of Renee and friends. As the light-hearted, slice of life story continues to unfold, relationships are tested and some need to be set "right" before everyone can find their "happily ever after."

!!!

Sad as I am to have to part with this series, I can't wait to see how the loose ends are tied up! And I love the heart-shaped mouse in the cover.


Right Click is due for release in mid-May. Check out the Facebook Page for further updates!

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Review: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Publication date: January 28th, 2014
Publisher: HarlequinTEEN
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
Stars: 3/5
Source: NetGalley

Life. Death. And...Love?

Emma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with.

But Emma can't tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.

Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn't have interested Old Emma. But New Emma-the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia-New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge.

Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death-and maybe, for love?

REVIEW

What do you do when you're losing the person who matters the most and suddenly, everything else loses meaning? When all that's left is anger, grief and guilt? Elizabeth Scott explores this in Heartbeat where Emma's senior year is far from what she imagined it would be like. Her mother is brain-dead, still pregnant, kept alive by machines until her baby brother can be born. She's angry that her step-father chose this for her mother... chose to have her kept alive as a vegetable as she believes her mother never wanted the baby in the first place. Her grades have gone out of the window but still, she finds love and support in unexpected places.

Heartbeat was a very difficult book to read and I cannot imagine what it would've been like to write. It reverberates sadness and leaves you at a loss for words. Emma keeps going back and forth, from anger to grief to anger to guilt, and it's frustrating, sometimes monotonous, but also realistic... when she takes her time to waver towards acceptance. I think this was the strongest point of the point... how ongoing the cycle of grief and hopelessness was until the breakthrough.

While the relationship between Emma and Caleb was this ray of light in the otherwise dark place she was in... it didn't convince me. It felt like Caleb just happened to be there and that he had experienced loss at a similar scale helped. I was more gripped by Emma's relationship with her stepfather, the baby, the lingering presence of her mother and her perspective on school and life. How these things were challenged in the face of regrets and blame, and how she came to terms with them.

It took time to get into Heartbeat but at its core, it is a well-written, perspective-changing and poignant read about love, loss and how you never really move on from the latter.


Rating: ★★★☆☆