ARC Review: Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway

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Blurb:

Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?

Review:

Cutesy dootsy. Much fluff, but also had enough depth to keep me interested and entertained. It generally made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, which was quite strange since I was expecting this book to be darker, it being about a kidnapped boy and such. Emmy and her best friend, Caroline aka Caro(?) actually talk to each other about non-boy stuff and also speaks up against slut-shaming, which was refreshing. Overall, a solid YA novel and a sweet weekend read. 3.5

-Selina

ARC Review: The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson

Hello lovely persons of the internet,

It’s been a pretty long time, since I’ve written anything. I could say it was because I’ve been extremely busy and stuffs, but honestly, I’ve been in a bit of a book slump. My reading pace slowed down to the point that it was kind of shocking. Nevertheless, I am recovering from this slump and I’m glad to be writing book reviews again. Now onward!

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Release date: November 18th 2014

Blurb:

Maud Heighton came to Lafond’s famous Academie to paint, and to flee the constraints of her small English town. It took all her courage to escape, but Paris eats money. While her fellow students enjoy the dazzling joys of the Belle epoque, Maud slips into poverty. Quietly starving, and dreading another cold Paris winter, Maud takes a job as companion to young, beautiful Sylvie Morel. But Sylvie has a secret: an addiction to opium. As Maud is drawn into the Morels’ world of elegant luxury, their secrets become hers. Before the New Year arrives, a greater deception will plunge her into the darkness that waits beneath this glittering city of light.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I’d like to bring to your attention that the cover, is indeed, pretty. The woman in a pretty dress? Nope, it’s all about the stunning Parisian landscape.

The Paris Winter is quite a engrossing, fascinating read with lyrical descriptions of Paris, a strong plot, slow but not too slow pacing, and great female characters. Great female characters, from a female author (such a rarity), who contrast each other in the best way. They aren’t stupid, vapid, or cliche, which is simply fantastic. Maud is the epitome of the starving artist representing the hardships of trying to make it as a woman to their male counterparts.  Also, I absolutely loved the setting of Paris during the Belle Epoque, she describes it so whimsically it’s impossible not to fall in love.

The second part is where the pacing picks up quite a bit and becomes surprisingly dark and twisted after an unexpected twist. The relationships between Maud, Tanya, and Yvette deepened and were conveyed so well. They actually talk to each other about not-boys. I think after reading crappy YA fiction, my expectations for female characters are sadly, much lower.

The notes of art history and paintings at the end of each section, though, was really lovely and clever. Its inclusion is explained at the end. I’ve always loved art, history, and museums, which might also be a reason why I enjoyed this book so much. The prose, oh the prose. It’s evocative, moving, and so wonderful. It drew me in from the very beginning, one of the hallmarks of any good fiction.

The Paris Winter is the perfect blend of historical fiction, art, mystery, and thriller. I highly recommend if you’re looking a semi-short historical fiction read.

More reviews to come!

-Selina

Review: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

I haven’t written anything in quite a while, which is quite sad. Unfortunately, I’m in a bit of a book slump with so much homework but I finished reading Dragonfly in Amber, the second book of the Outlander series, and I’m still reading Atonement. So the buddy read didn’t go quite as well as Mariel and I planned it out to but here is the review, a month or so late.

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My friends and I saw this book at the LA Times Book Awards Ceremony and Festival and the author as well, and we were all in love with Nao by the first page and wanted to buy the book.

Here’s Mariel’s take on the first 10 chapters:

http://booksthefinalfrontier.wordpress.com/2014/07/12/a-tale-for-the-time-being-chapters-1-10/

And her review:

http://booksthefinalfrontier.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/a-tale-for-the-time-being-wrap-up/

Blurb:

In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in a ways she can scarcely imagine.

Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.
Review:

This book was whimsical, fascinating, and really deep and insightful. Ozeki explored so many themes that sent me in a philosophical tizzy (but in a good way.)  I think it’s the kind of book I’ll be reading over and over again, still discovering new parts of it and provoking super deep contemplation about everything. The pacing was perfect, the characters were moving and quite relatable to, and Japanese setting was captivating. The book trailer did not do it justice.

I loved Nao’s perspective. The writing style is humorous and quirky, sometimes a little blunt in a way that made me raise my eyebrows. But Nao is a teenager, still curious about the world. The descriptions of the Japanese monastery/temple and her urban environment were really enjoyable, since I’ve never been to Japan. Nao’s experiences in bullying were also pretty surprising and eye-opening because stereotypically, Japanese people are very well-known for their politeness and courtesy. However, she is subjected to awful, demeaning jokes by her fellow classmates. Her grandmother is a anarchist/feminist/buddhist nun. She definitely goes on the list for Best Grandmas in Books. The BGB, it has a nice ring to it. In some ways I could relate to her, like her perspective of the world and her experiences of being bullied but in other ways, like some of her darker experiences, I couldn’t imagine a girl her age going through.

Some of my favorite quotes from her are:

“It made me sad when I caught myself pretending that everybody out there in cyberspace cared about what I thought, when really nobody gives a shit. And when I multiplied that sad feeling by all the millions of people in their lonely little rooms, furiously writing and posting to their lonely little pages that nobody has time to read because they’re all so busy writing and posting, it kind of broke my heart.”

I can relate so much that it hurts.

“But don’t worry about it. You need to be a little bit crazy. Crazy is the price you pay for having an imagination. It’s your superpower. Tapping into the dream. It’s a good thing not a bad thing.”

Haruki!!!!!! Yay for the beautiful magic realism and exploring the themes of blurring the lines between dreams and reality. And superpowers, ’cause they’re pretty cool and inspiring.

Ruth perspective was also pretty interesting. It’s fascinating because this sounded a little autobiographical since in the book Ruth’s husband is named Oliver and the author is named Ruth and has a husband named Oliver. Another part of her perspective that was unique was that she was reacting to and experiencing Nao’s diary while I was as well, so I could read her thoughts on it while formulating my own. And I could react to her reactions which is so much inception and mind-bogglingness that I can’t handle. Her perspective is a contrast from Nao’s as she is older, from a different time period (theme: past and present and once again, blurring the lines between them), and is more reserved.

Overall: 5 stars, so please read this book

 

Review: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

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Blurb:

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon–when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach–an “outlander”–in a Scotland torn by war and raiding Highland clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into intrigues and dangers that may threaten her life…and shatter her heart. For here she meets James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, and becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire…and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

Review:

This book is . . . interesting. I feel extremely conflicted about it, so bear with me. Let’s start with what I did like. Scotland is such a gorgeous setting and I never got tired of the descriptions of it. The plot was perfectly paced and the characterization of Claire and Jaime was great. Kind of, but I’ll get to that. I felt totally immersed in this world, on late nights curled up with this book. Now on to the stuff that’s both like great and cool but at times WHAT THE F***!?Namely, Claire and Jaime’s romance. In the beginning, I was totally infatuated with Jaime and their romance was cute and really hot (because romance can be both cute and hot). Until Jaime beat Claire. As mentioned before, WHAT THE F***!? He falsely accused her of the motives of her attempted escape, which the real reason was because she wanted to GO BACK HOME. The feminist in me was all kinds of freaked out and angry while cringing during this scene. She wanted me to throw this book into the corner while cursing Jaime the hell out.

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Then, all the other parts of me were like, hmm. . . this is really disturbing. Yet it depicts relationships between a heterosexual married couple during that time period accurately.

“Without one word of direct explanation or apology, he had given me the message he intended. I gave you justice, it said, as I was taught it. And I gave you mercy, too, so far as I could. While I could not spare you pain and humiliation, I make you a gift of my own pains and humiliations, that yours might be easier to bear.Without one word of direct explanation or apology, he had given me the message he intended. I gave you justice, it said, as I was taught it. And I gave you mercy, too, so far as I could. While I could not spare you pain and humiliation, I make you a gift of my own pains and humiliations, that yours might be easier to bear.”

Justice as you were taught it, Jaime? Your punishment as you received as a son from your father is vastly different, oceans apart from the “punishment” you doled out on Claire because these two relationships are vastly different. As you can see, deeply conflicted. Turns out the review section of this wasn’t lighter.

To add even more to my oh-so deep struggle, Jaime will experience more bad stuff than he has revealed that he has already suffered through. This book is definitely NOT a light read, there are themes of sadism, abuse, and assault prevalent throughout the whole book. If you’re ok with reading about this, than I do recommend this book. If not, don’t come near within 10 feet of it. I have started reading the second book in the series, which I will probably write about as well.

August 2014 Wrap-up

(blurbs from Goodreads)

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Blurb:

“Dead girl walking”, the boys say in the halls. “Tell us your secret”, the girls whisper, one toilet to another. I am that girl. I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through. I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame. Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit. In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.

Review:

Laurie Halse Anderson, is a very talented writer. The prose was haunting and scathing. The protagonist, Lia, scarily clever and extremely good at hiding her disorder after returning from therapy. I think many teenagers, especially girls of course, can relate to this book for everyone has probably experienced some sort of negative self-image, self-conscious thoughts at some point in their life. However, like in The Impossible Knife of Memory with Hayley, I disliked how she portrayed Lia. She was so insensitive and unappreciative of both sets of parents, her father, her stepmother, and her mother. In addition to that, the way Anderson wrote and described these relationships, and surprisingly Lia’s friendship with Cassie, was flat and kind of lackluster. I think the main reason why I wasn’t too affected by this story, was that the root of her distorted thoughts and actions wasn’t really explored. Overall it was a solid book, but it was a little to cut and dry for me. I did enjoy Anderson’s books Speak and Fever 1793 though. But again, meh.

Movies!

Starred Up is so gritty and violent and completely destroyed my stereotype of English people. Amazing movie.images

Begin Again was also a great and pretty cute hipstery.

Happy Labor Day Weekend,

Selina

 

 

Quick Reviews!

Hello! I haven’t post anything in quite a while because I procrastinated on my summer English stuffs. Oops. However, I have read some great and not-so-great books recently so here they are:

The blurbs are from goodreads.

Throne of Glass:

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“After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.
Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another.
Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.”

Meh. Celeana was just soooo annoying. She’s supposed to be the “most feared assassin” and “perfect seductress” but I saw none of that. She didn’t kill anyone and wasn’t particularly bad-ass. But she was quite resourceful. And perfect seductress? Pssh, I think not. She became a friggin tomato every time she was in close proximity to Dorian and Chaol, the love triangle I did not enjoy.

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The plot was somewhat exciting but not really. So basically, meh.

How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller:

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“A meth dealer. A prostitute. A serial killer.
Anywhere else, they’d be vermin. At the Mandel Academy, they’re called prodigies. The most exclusive school in New York City has been training young criminals for over a century. Only the most ruthless students are allowed to graduate. The rest disappear.
Flick, a teenage pickpocket, has risen to the top of his class. But then Mandel recruits a fierce new competitor who also happens to be Flick’s old flame. They’ve been told only one of them will make it out of the Mandel Academy. Will they find a way to save each other—or will the school destroy them both?”

YES.

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Me gusta mucho. I loved Flick, the protagonist, and I loved Joi, his love interest. She wasn’t super tough and aggressive like most females are portrayed in this genre. She was, wait for it. . . different. I read it in two sittings, staying up late at night just to finish it. The plot was fast-paced and exhilarating. And there’s DIVERSITY, which is unfortunately relatively rare in the YA genre. 

I highly recommend this book.

Dark Eyes by William Richter:

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“Wally was adopted from a Russian orphanage as a child and grew up in a wealthy New York City family. At fifteen, her obsessive need to rebel led her to life on the streets.
Now the sixteen-year-old is beautiful and hardened, and she’s just stumbled across the possibility of discovering who she really is. She’ll stop at nothing to find her birth mother before Klesko – her darkeyed father – finds her. Because Klesko will stop at nothing to reclaim the fortune Wally’s mother stole from him long ago. Even if that means murdering his own blood. But Wally’s had her own killer training, and she’s hungry for justice.”

I started reading this one right after How to Lead a Life of Crime. This was grittier, darker, and more violent. And so good. Wally is an honest-to-god bad-ass, she is tough, intelligent, and resourceful. She does resemble Lisbeth Salander (who is also someone I admire, kind of). There was romance but it was definitely not a large aspect of the novel. The action scenes had my palms sweaty and heart racing. And was once again, there was DIVERSITY. Never have I read about an Asian girl, who is a significant character, in a romantic relationship with a white, nevertheless stereotypically jock-ish, boy. Ever. *slow claps* Read this book, it deserves more love.

Bonk: A Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

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“The study of sexual physiology – what happens, and why, and how to make it happen better – has been a paying career or a diverting sideline for scientists as far-ranging as Leonardo da Vinci and James Watson. The research has taken place behind the closed doors of laboratories, brothels, MRI centers, pig farms, sex-toy R&D labs, and Alfred Kinsey’s attic.
Mary Roach, “the funniest science writer in the country” (Burkhard Bilger of ‘The New Yorker’), devoted the past two years to stepping behind those doors. Can a person think herself to orgasm? Can a dead man get an erection? Is vaginal orgasm a myth? Why doesn’t Viagra help women or, for that matter, pandas?”

As I’ve written in one of my previous blog posts, I find sexuality fascinating. This book was like. . . getting the whole Harry Potter series for 5 bucks. Which I did. 🙂 It was mostly funny though sometimes the jokes she cracked weren’t funny. I giggled and snorted throughout the whole book. It was such an entertaining yet enlightening read. If you’re ever interested in what happens when humans and other species get down to it, this would be a great book.

That’s it!

Have a lovely week,

Selina

The Impossible Knife of Memory: Review

 

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Blurb from Goodreads:

“For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.”

Review:

First of all, I like the cover, it’s attention-grabbing and unique. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for the book. I realize PTSD in returning soldiers is a really challenging topic and it has gained much attention in the news recently. However, this book doesn’t make me empathize, or feel Hayley’s or Andy’s pain and the problems they go through. Hayley’s thoughts and beliefs are understandable and I could relate to them to a certain extent but she was just so apathetic. I thought this book would be heart-wrenching and poignant and all that but it was just kind of dull. And their texting was just ridiculous, I have never seen a fellow teenager text like that. It was quite painful to read. 

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Finn Ramos, Hayley’s love interest, was ok. His mom is apparently a “kick-ass feminist” but he ogles other girls’ butts while talking to another and he follows the “Man Code.” I’m maybe probably being a little too hard on him, but still. He was cute, but he didn’t make me swoon. Their romance was pretty undeveloped and contrived. They were apparently perfect for each other according to their friends, but I just didn’t see it. It was kind of bland, despite their problems arising from dealing with problems in their families. They just keep talking and kissing. 

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I guess this book was well-written in the way that I liked that she gave us more insight into Andy’s memories and history through the flashbacks. I did feel a twinge of panic when Hayley had a panic attack and at the end when *SPOILER ALERT* her father was at the quarry. I’ve read one of Laurie Halse Anderson’s other books, Speak, and I thought it was pretty good. I think I’ll still try reading some of her other works. 

Overall: 3 Stars and not worth the hype