Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I Read in 2013


I must confess, I feel a little underwhelmed this year.

I didn't read as much as I had in 2012. I fell short of my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal by 29 books (71/100 books). My reviews and posts were sporadic and off schedule. I guess real life got in the way.

Nevertheless, just scrolling through the list of books I did read in 2013 brought back a lot of memories: from characters that popped out of the page, the most intense book moments ever to real-life events intimately tied to the book I was reading at that time. I had a really hard time narrowing it down to the top ten best ten books I read in 2013 because there were so many books that impacted me in so many different ways!

THE BEST TEN BOOKS I READ IN 2013



Attachments by Rainbow Rowell [REVIEW]

I cannot believe this book has been around for so long and I almost didn't read it. Rainbow Rowell is an incredible writer and you will know this if you read Attachments as it has this amazing setting (the Y2K speculation), characters I could relate to, fun movie references and hilarity in every second page. I read this book twice this year and both times, it bowled me over with its depth and warmth!

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I never got around to reviewing Me Before You because by the time I was done with it, there. were. no. words. left.

Me Before You was poignant... so much so that I ditched everything I had going on at that moment to root for these characters... engrossed in their struggles and triumphs. It tackles some difficult issues but above everything, it is a love story; one that is earnest and tearful and one that matters.

Maybe I Will by Laurie Gray [REVIEW]

A game-changing narrative that breaks barriers related to perception of sexual assault and its consequences. This book felt real, raw and eye-opening. I cannot forget the day I read it and how I was left quieter, kind of awestruck... with a lump in my throat.

Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend (Confessions, #2) by Louise Rozett [REVIEW]

Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend is book #2 in the Confessions series that renewed my faith in series set in high school that were defined by... well, ordinary high school stuff. A mix of happy, sad, angry, relevant and interesting is what this book was.

Pivot Point (Pivot Point, #1) by Kasie West

This one was high school with a supernatural an evolutionary (?) twist. Who would've thought one choice, a pivot point, could potentially change everything? I loved how the mind powers in this book weren't as easy or straight-up-cool as most superpowers. The plot was engrossing and threatened to wreck my heart at every turn. .__.

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1) by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) [MINI-REVIEW]

I might be a little biased since I don't think I would've read this book if it weren't written by Rowling but... it felt so good to have Rowling back! The quirky and well etched-out muggle characters, the well grounded Cormoran Strike, old fashioned detection, passages wrought with charm... I cannot wait for more of this series!

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell [REVIEW]

Another Rainbow Rowell novel... and this one is set in college! From fangirling, fanfiction, writing fiction that isn't fanfiction, being a social recluse, making those first friends to charming, polite, smiling Levi, Fangirl will slowly steal your heart and bring back any fandom-related nostalgia!

The Angry Woman Suite by Lee Fullbright [REVIEW]

Vivid, thorough and mind-numbingly heartwrenching. While The Angry Woman Suite can get really heavy... definitely not something you can read at any time... it is because of the intricacy of the narratives as a result of which the characters stay with you. A surprise favourite that blew me away!

Finding Cinderella (Hopeless #2.5) by Colleen Hoover

A novella that was... spunky, I guess.
Fresh.
NOT your average love story where the Boy and Girl play way too many mind games and create issues out of nothing.
Has a twist that comes out of nowhere and that will definitely shock you... even more if you've read Hopeless. 
Contains straight-up brazenness... so much of it... that saves so much time and makes the main characters your heroes in every way.

The Homing Pigeons by Sid Bahri [REVIEW]

A beautifully written love story set during the 2008 recession. More than the love story itself, it's the writing and characterisation that makes this Indian contemporary novel shine.

OTHER STAND-OUTS

1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Utterly. Captivating. And dreamy.

2. The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan

Neat. Well written. Layered. A pretty awesome addition to the Young Adult boarding-school genre with enough suspense, intrigue and drama to keep it engaging.

3. Just One Day (Just One Day, #1) by Gayle Forman

The one fateful encounter and that one magical day that sets this story rolling captured enough of my imagination that the succeeding detatchment and misery felt real... and the changes that followed in the protagonist's character inevitable. I still haven't stopped wondering about the cliffhanger ending.

4. You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik

Despite the controversy surrounding the author and book, the prose was stunning... haunting, almost.

Happy new year, everybody! :)

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


Publication date: September 10th, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository | Infibeam (India)
Stars: 4.5/5
Source: Bought
From the author of the New York Times bestseller Eleanor & Park.

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

REVIEW

Okay, so. This book!

I don't even know where to start with it. I don't know whether to gush about it incessantly... that would come naturally because I am definitely containing myself from gushing along various incoherent tangents right now... or I could collect my thoughts and write something that resembles coherence.

But. Really. Fangirl demands squealing. *points to the title* It embodies awesomeness in a way that's inarticulate, gushworthy and epic.

It's about Cather, this girl, who's a devout Harry Po Simon Snow fan. Like in a my-life-depends-on-it-and-it-sucks-that-I-can't-attend-Hogwarts-Watford-School-for-Magicks way. She writes Simon Snow fanfiction... really good slash fan fiction that's read by millions of fans over the world. And yeah, she's going to a college a few hours away with her twin Wren, who does not want to be roommates because they "need to meet other people".

Real life was something happening in her peripheral vision.

What follows is a girl-meets-roommate's-"boyfriend", girl-writes-a-story-that's-not-fan-fiction and girl-sorts-out-family-stuff plot in a way that's most layered, complex and non-cliched. It reads like your favourite fantasy novel minus the fantasy with the warmth and once-upon-a-time-storybook-like comfort it brings. It begs you to highlight almost every line and scream "ME TOO!" because if you picked up this book, you are a fangirl in some way, aren't you? Rowell does a brilliant job integrating Simon Snow snippets as well, which makes you truly feel the way you felt when you were hooked on to something... when it began, when it was happening and when it ended and then never truly ended! 

Rowell also gives us a way more holistic picture of college than most books of this genre do. She does not forget the roommate, the initial cluelessness/social awkwardness and the people you leave behind. What more, she gives us LEVI, who shaped up to be perfect... not Gary Sue perfect, but quirky perfect! There were passages about him that made me smile so much and others that had me swoony and teary eyed. He's so good natured and charming, there's this part where Cath describes his face as the "smilingest" and it does not sound wrong at all!

While it's not without occasional lapses in momentum, Fangirl is what Rainbow Rowell's Attachments was to romcom novels and the Y2K era and what Eleanor & Park was to coming-of-age: a pretty darn amazing addition to its genre! It's wholesome in its depiction of college life (whether it's Cath's or Wren's side of the coin) with sensitively etched out characters and if you've ever geeked out about something or read/written fan fiction, pays rightful homage to that phase!


“Happily ever after, or even just together ever after, is not cheesy,” Wren said. “It’s the noblest, like, the most courageous thing two people can shoot for.”

~
 

"Okay." She turned around and unlocked the door. "You can come in. I'm not sure yet about all the other stuff."

"Okay," Levi said. She heard the very beginning of a smile in his voice -a fetal smile- and it very nearly killed her.

-Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell

Rating: ★★★★1/2

Monday, 16 December 2013

Kismet Book Touring & Harlequin TEEN Promo Blitz: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Heartbeat
by Elizabeth Scott
Release Date: 01/28/14
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

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?
 photo addtogoodreadssmall_zpsa2a6cf28.png  photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpg  photo 111AD205-AA04-4F9E-A0F4-C1264C4E9F30-1855-000001A1E8CEB6D7_zps9b730b94.jpg 

THOUGHTS

I love Elizabeth Scott and the title and cover both make my heart quicken. While the blurb of Heartbeat makes it sound like a more intense read than I'd expect it to be, Scott's characters are usually so well-fleshed out that it's bound to be worth it! :) Can't wait to read this one!

PRAISE FOR HEARTBEAT

“An intense examination of a family coping with grief, this absorbing character study easily keeps pages turning.”

— Kirkus on Heartbeat

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ELIZABETH SCOTT grew up in a town so small it didn’t even have a post office, though it did boast an impressive cattle population. She’s sold hardware and panty hose and had a memorable three-day stint in the dot-com industry, where she learned that she really didn’t want a career burning CDs. She lives just outside Washington, D.C., with her husband, and firmly believes you can never own too many books

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Feature and Follow Friday #14: The One Involving Hardsell

Feature and Follow is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read!

Bookselling Time: Go to your biggest bookcases. Go to the second shelf from the top and pick out the sixth book from the left. Hardsell that book to us – even if you haven’t read it or if you hated it. (if you don’t have bookcases, don’t have six books on one shelf, etc, pick a book at random)


The sixth book from the second (and bottom) shelf of my bookcase is Cat Girl's Day Off by Kimberly Pauley. CHECK IT OUT ON GOODREADS HERE

For movie buffs, it's Ferris Bueller's Day Off meets quirky cat person with superpowers! 

If you're a cat person, it has the most kickass protagonist ever who can talk to cats! These cats aren't just signposts for the main character to solve the mystery, or whatever. No! They have personality! Some of them are snobby to the point of seeming royal, some cheeky while the others are plain adorable. And at one point, there's a whole army of cats! 

If you love pop culture, you'll like Nat's celeb-obsessed friends and Easton West, a celeb blogger who reminded me a little of Perez Hilton in the beginning!

If you have a soft spot for the underdog, you'll love how Natalie (that's the protagonist) shows the world that it's not just invisibility or lie detection that are the *major* superpowers that count. 

If you feel minority characters aren't given enough importance in books or just exist as token characters, once again... meet Natalie! And her friend Oscar!

If you like a good crazy, how-did-they-get-even-here?!, barely-takes-place-in-a-day, movie-within-a-book story with the best characters and the best cat quotes, Cat Girl's Day Off will feel like it's written for you! :)

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Isla and The Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases!

This book has probably been over-featured but I feel like I've been waiting for its release since forever:


From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and √Čtienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.


Anna and the French Kiss has spoiled me for life. I guess it was a combination of Etienne St. Clair, Paris and boarding school awesomeness that left me starry eyed and weak-in-the-knees. I didn't even like the second book, Lola, as much. It's so cool that Isla and the Happily Ever After takes place, once again, in Paris and is about Isla and Josh, both of whom I loved in Anna! And that the couples from the previous books make appearances.

The release year was pushed back to 2014 which is finally just.around.the.corner. so I cannot wait!

And um, this may not be a book release but it still has me psyched for 2014 so I could not help myself (again, FINALLY!):

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Review: Imaginable by J. Meyers (Intangible, #2)


Publication date: April 1st, 2013
Publisher: Self-pub
Links: Goodreads|Amazon|B&N
Stars: 4/5
Source: Review copy
Twins Sera and Luke Raine’s unusual abilities are growing. Sera is healing vampires now, making them human again. And, at times, Luke can actually change the future he Sees.

But Sera’s healing has dangerous consequences, and though Luke is altering the outcome of more visions, he can’t control them yet.

Now Sera is in danger as the dark creatures of the Realm seek to use her. As Luke struggles to master his gift in order to save his sister, he discovers even more about his powers.

And what he learns just may put him in greater danger than Sera has ever been.

REVIEW

Imaginable is the sequel to Intangible, where we first met Luke and Sera: twins with supernatural abilities. In Imaginable, Sera's healing powers make her the target of various dark creatures. Much of the book takes place in the Realm, where Sera is alternatively held captive by vampires and the Shadows, while her friends seek to locate and rescue her. 

Most sophomore efforts tend to be a bit of a muddle... probably because they usually function as bridge books between the first and later parts. In many ways, Imaginable was no exception. While there's a lot of action, even hints of something brewing and you do get into the skin of these characters, you also cannot quite grasp where this is all ultimately headed. Is there a big picture to all of the little plots and developments?

Also, many of the back story details were fuzzy in my head. I couldn't recall what had happened to Luke and Sera's parents because it had been a while since I'd read the first book. But you know what? Most of the time, all of these things didn't matter. Mainly because I love the world and the characters of J.Meyers' Intangible series. The main players are all so colourful and unique, so balanced somehow, that most of them are in no way defined by their Giftedness/origin. They are who they are despite their origins, and that's something I found refreshing.

Luke, Sera, Quinn, Rachel and the lot once again seem a lot younger and innocent, somehow, than the average Young Adult character. Their friendships are genuine -they actually make you feel something- and the romance, subtle but no-less-powerful, takes its time to develop (and when it does, you cannot.stop.squealing.)! The action was solidly described, making the climax extremely engrossing. 

All in all, I enjoyed reexperiencing the richness of the world J. Meyers has crafted and the warm, steady and admirable cast of characters! Not sure what's in store for them in the future parts but I'll definitely be reading them!

Rating: ★★★★☆