Friday, March 27, 2015

My Top 5 Villains

Ah, villains... How we love to hate them. Today I thought I would show you my five favorite villains from various books and series. Feel free to comment down below to share your favorite villains with me. If you want to do your own version of this post, go ahead! Just don't forget to link it back to my original post ;) 

Alright, let's begin. So at the 5th position we have...

5. Luke Castellan from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan
Luke is a demigod, the son of the Greek God Hermes. Although be befriends main character Percy at the beginning of the series, he ends up betraying his demigod bretheren and siding with the series' main villain, the Titan Kronos. Luke remains a great antagonist throughout the series as not only is he relentless in his pursuits, but he actually also has pretty strong justifications behind his choices and behavior. Aside from being a powerful antagonist, Luke is also a well flesh-out character with enough complexities for you to both love and hate him as a character. 

4. Sebastian Morgenstern from the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare

Sebastian Morgenstern is probably the most interesting villain I've read about in the YA genre. He is born to the Shadowhunters, a race of demon hunters, but later sides with demons. Evil to the core and equally beautiful and smart, Sebastian is a formidable foe and a genuinely lethal threat to the heroes of the series. He is portrayed so cleverly that by the time you realize that he is actually evil, he will have already won your weak fangirl heart over. He also has one of the most beautifully written character arcs in the entire series.

3. Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling 

Bellatrix is one of the most interesting characters in the Harry Potter universe. She is loyal to Voldemort almost to the point of fanaticism, making her one of the most lethal of all Death Eaters. She is as powerful as she is sadistic and is second only to Voldemort as the series most evil character. In the movies, she is portrayed by Helena Bonham Carter, as pictured above. 

2. Cersei Lannister from A Song Of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

Cersei is my favorite female character from the whole series. Seriously morally impaired and vicious to the bone, she is one of the most interesting characters in the series. She genuinely considers herself to be wickedly smart while she keeps making the worst mistakes possible. No one is as big an enemy to her than she is to herself. She is the Queen Regent, widow of the last King of Westeros. She helps her son becomes the next King when in reality he is an illegitimate child born from her incestuous relationship with her twin brother. Her forbidden romance with her brother is also one of the things that make her such a complex and interesting character. Cersei is portrayed by Lena Headey in Game of Thrones, the TV show adapted from the books. 

1. Lestat de Lioncourt from the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice

Lestat is a powerful and immortal vampire of questionable morality. The best part? He is also the main character of the series and actually narrates several of the installments. He is bold almost to the point of fearlessness although he does have his vulnerabilities. One of his greatest fears is loneliness, which drives him to commit irreparable acts such as turning an innocent child into a vampire only to secure the ones he loves to his side. First curious of the origins and limitations of his kind, he quickly grows defiant of the laws binding the vampire community and goes on to break the rules and challenge forces he does not entirely understand. Lestat is driven by passion, which leads him to both great discoveries and impossible pains. His defiant and temperamental personality eventually earns him the nickname Brat Prince among his vampire brethren. And let it be heard, Lestat is my favorite literary character ever. He is portrayed by Tom Cruise in the brilliantly adapted movie Interview with the Vampire and by Stuart Townsend in the butchery that is the second movie adaptation, the Queen of the Damned. 

So that's it for my favorite villains guys. And like I was saying earlier, if you want to do your own version of this post, please do so 'cause that's something I'd love to read! Just don't forget to link back to my post :)

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And because I can never get enough of Lestat... 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Matilda by Roald Dahl - Book Review

Another adorably bookish book that I've come across this month is Matilda by master storyteller Roald Dahl. (See my previous review to know more about The Storied Life of A.J. Ficky, another bookish wonder). I actually listened to the audiobook of Matilda, which was so fun it didn't even feel like it was actually over 4 hours long. Read on to discover or rediscover this classic of children literature.

The Plot

At barely 4 years old, Matilda is a genius who not only teaches herself to read, but who also takes an early interest in books. Her passion leads her to the public library where she soon discovers the magic of books. Later on, as she starts school, her teacher, Miss Honey, is quick to notice the remarkable intellect of her new student and decides to help the little girl shine to her true potential. Between playing tricks on her painfully negligent parents and avoiding the wrath of mean headmistress Miss Trunchbull, Matilda continues her eager exploration of the universe of books and learns more about the people and the world around her.

My Review

The Characters
Matilda is a formidable character who is likely to inspire children to grow a love for books as they discover her story. She is a sweet, level-headed and very smart little girl. Though she is young, she is smart enough to know no one is allowed to bully her and doesn't hesitate to do what she must to defend herself against those who are mean or downright cruel to her. She is a character who stands up to her bullies without stooping to their level, making her one of the best role models in youth literature. The 'villains' are also nicely portrayed, ranging from the shamelessly indifferent parents to the mean headmistress Miss Trunchbull. Matilda's teacher, Miss Honey is a great supportive adult character who not only lends her support to the little girl but who also goes out of her way to allow Matilda to rise to her true potential. 

The Story
The book covers Matilda's many adventures, presenting the narrative as a series of distinctive but related stories. The story is captivating enough to encourage even an adult to read on. Though it is a story meant for children, the story has deep moments that are likely to make young and adult readers alike pause and think. 

The Prose
Though the author is writing for a younger audience, he neither takes a patronizing nor a cheesy voice, keeping the language whimsical but beautiful. An adult reader is also likely to capture subtleties spun in the text that might escape a younger child. Older kids might pick up those subtle messages and make a deeper meaning of their reading. The language employed thus makes this book highly accessible to readers of all ages.

The Ending 
Matilda being a children's book, it naturally has a beautifully written happy ending. The last few pages brings Matilda's story to a satisfying conclusion that points at a happy continuation for the young heroine. 

The Rating
I gave this book a very well deserved 4-star rating on Goodreads.

If you have kids or young siblings and relatives, I highly recommend you give them this book. I wish I had discovered Matilda as a kid! Though I really don't see how much more of a book nerd I might have turned out as :p

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Movies for when you're feeling kind of meh

A few days ago, I posted my book recommendations for days when you're feeling a little low. You can check that out here: 
Books for when you're feeling kind of meh

Sometimes, when we're a bit gloomy, we just don't feel like reading. Yes, that's actually something that happens even to us, book lovers. Instead, we might prefer to put on a nice movie and not think of anything for at least a couple of hours. Here are a few recommendations for you of movies which are sure to make you feel a little better. So grab a big bowl of junk food, get comfortable on your couch and press play. The movie is about to start. 

Which one would you have picked?

1. Love Actually - Directed by Richard Curtis 
This is for me the ultimate cheer-up movie. It's about love and it's not even cheesy. Set during the Christmas season, the movie visits the different aspects of love through ten different storylines. As the countdown for Christmas begins, these stories began to intertwine. With a very good plot and an ensemble cast of formidable actors, this is one of the best romance/holiday movies ever made. You can check out the trailer below:

Cast: Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Andrew Lincoln and Colin Firth among others.

2. Up - Directed by Pete Docter

When Carl Fredricksen and his lifelong love, Ellie, were still children, they made a promise to one day visit Paradise Falls together. Later, after they got married, Carl began to save money for their trip. Years later, 78-year-old Carl finally has enough money for their trip. Ellie however falls ill and dies, leaving her wish to see Paradise Falls unfulfilled. Refusing to break his promise to her though, Carl ties thousands of balloons to his home and sets out to see the wilds of South America. At the last minute, Carl discovers there is a stowaway on board his makeshift airship. On a quest of his own to earn his final merit badge, Russell, a young Wilderness Explorer, has decided to follow Carl on his adventure. This endearing movie with leave you with all the feels. With its occasional funny bits, great characters and awesome animation and music, Up is bound to bring a smile or two to your lips. Watch the trailer here:

Cast: With the voices of Edward Asner and Jordan Nagai respectively as Carl and Russell

3. It's kind of a funny story

After contemplating suicide, 16-year-old Craig checks himself into a mental health clinic. The youth wing being closed, he's sent to the regular adult floor. There he soon meets fellow patient Bobby, whom he quickly befriends. Later, he meets Noelle, another teen patient, and thinks getting closer to her might be the best way to get over the unrequited high school crush that he's been trying to forget. The movie deals with issues such as depression and mental health while keeping the tone light and fun. This interesting take on an otherwise serious topic makes this movie an unexpectedly fun one to watch. Here's the trailer:

Cast: Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts and Viola Davis

4. Silver Linings Playbook

Patrick "Pat" Solatano, Jr., a man with bipolar disorder, goes back to living with his parents after being released from a psychiatric hospital. Now that he is out of the hospital, Pat is determined to win back his estranged wife. Soon he meets Tiffany, a recently widowed young woman. Tiffany offers to help him win back his wife but only if he accepts to enter a dance competition with her. Pat accepts and they begin to train. Soon, not only are they growing closer, but Pat also starts to cope with his problems and explore his relationships with the people around him. With its humor, awesome plot, great acting and a good measure of dancing, this movie will make you laugh and forget your troubles. Plus it has Jennifer Lawrence in it! Take a look at the trailer:

Cast: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as main characters Pat and Tiffany

5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Adapted from the book by the same name, which I mentioned in my book recommendations for this topic, this is one of my favorite movies ever. I've watched this like 5 times already. I'm not even kidding. The story is about Charlie, a shy and socially awkward boy who slowly begins to learn about life, love, sex and relationships as he meets new people and tries new things. Charlie stands out as a character for being a very sensitive and intelligent guy. The movie is beautifully done and the acting is superb. Not only does Emma Watson star in it, but Logan Lerman (Charlie) and Ezra Miller (Patrick) are also awesome in their respective roles. You can check out my previous post to know more about the story. Here's the trailer:

Cast: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller

#Special mention: Anything from Disney

Whether it's a classic like The Little Mermaid, Cinderella or even Sleeping Beauty, or a recent one like Frozen, Disney movies always have the power to cheer you up. Romance, magic, singing and the occasional sassy princess (looking at you Meg)... what else do you need, really?

Do you have any particular movie you like to watch when you have the blues? Comment down below and let me know! 

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Monday, March 16, 2015

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin - Book Review

The first thing you need to know about this book is that it is a bookish book. The main character is a bookseller so yeah, books are very much part of this story. Not only is this beautiful story largely set in a bookstore, but throughout the book we also get little references and quotes pertaining to other books and authors. As you can guess, this is pretty much an ink and paper dream come true for all book lovers. Read on to know more about the story.

The Story

Since the death of his wife, A.J. Fikry has become quite the bitter man. His business is bordering failure, his health is a doctor's nightmare due to poor eating habits and a drink too much per night, and he has taken to shutting out the people who have been reaching out to him. And then one day, as he enters his bookstore, fulling expecting another slow business day, he's shocked to find a very unique package left to his attention right in the middle of the place. Recovering from his initial bemusement, A.J.  realizes that someone just dropped off a baby in his bookstore. Thus ensues a series of decisions and events that will forever change not just the grumpy bookseller's life but also the entire community of Alice Island.  

My Review

Break Time by Maelle Rajoelisolo
The Characters
This book is quite character-driven. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that A.J is an Indo-American character, since diversity in books is something I really appreciate. Despite being presented to us as a bitter man, A.J. eventually grows on the reader. Not only is he brilliantly sarcastic, but you can also actually relate to him. Over the course of the story, through the choices he makes and due to the way he starts to interact with the other characters, he eventually grows on you, making you eager to find out more about him. 

Maya, the baby who is dropped off at his bookstore was also a really good character. Not only is she very likeable, but she is also a smart girl. The book also follows her story as she grows up and over the course of the pages, she slowly becomes a very intelligent young woman with enough book nerdiness to make us, book lovers, smile a few times adoringly. 

This book also had an interesting cast of supporting characters. Despite the fewer appearances they made, they remained crucial to the main story, adding even more depth and loveliness to the story. This might in fact be one of the books I've read to have the best supporting characters. 

The Story
The story unfolds at a leisurely and very agreeable pace. The author does not rush to feed us information. Instead, little pieces of information are offered through each flip of the pages. That does not only makes it easier for us to follow what's going on but it also allows us to focus even better on the story. This book also has a really good plot with just enough subplots to keep things entertaining and intriguing. 

The Prose
The language in this book is beautiful without going over the top with it. A more poetic prose would have lessened the impact of the narrative's more down to earth style. Instead, we are narrated the story in a beautiful but down to earth voice which makes the characters' stories accessible to the reader in a more relatable way. The language is also subtly humorous, spinning sarcasm and comical elements smoothly into the main narrative. 

The Ending 
I'm not going to spoil anything here but all I'll say is that towards the end of the book, something happens to A.J. which I believe will generate mixed reactions from readers. I was so invested into his story that I responded rather strongly to those scenes with a mixture of awe and disbelief. Regardless of how I have and how you might react to that particular bit though, the ending was beautifully done. That I'm adamant about. The final lines so perfectly concluded the book, making it quite a satisfying ending indeed. 

The Rating
I gave this book 4/5 stars on Goodreads. The only reason why I didn't give it 5 stars is due to that particular series of events leading up to the ending, as mentioned above. This is subjective though as I do believe many people would disagree with me there. Overall this was a superb book. A must for people who not only love to read but who also appreciate all bookish things in general. 

If you've read or plan to read this book, let me know down in the comments below. I'm curious to see what other people have thought of the ending. Of course, keep the comments spoiler-free :)

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Books for when you're feeling kind of meh

There are days when things just seem hell bent on not going your way. On your way to school or work that morning, you were splashed with muddy rain water as an unscrupulous driver rushed past you. Then, later that day, you remembered that assignment you were supposed to submit only when the lecturer walked into the class. Or maybe your boss yelled at you over something that was actually your fault. On the bus ride home, you casually leaned your head against the window and pretended for a little while that you were in a sad music video. Eventually though, you found yourself back home. After changing into comfy clothes and making yourself a warm cup of tea, you decided to go sulk a bit in front of the rain soaked window to continue that sad music video playing in your mind. But then you remembered about that book in your shelves. The one that never fails to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. So instead of sulking, you grabbed your cup of tea and made your way to your shelves. After quickly brushing your fingers along the book spines, you stopped at one particular book. Setting your cup down, you pulled the book towards you.

So, which one of the following sounds like something you might have picked?

1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling 

Harry Potter is almost a classic at this point. Reading this book is like coming home for the holidays. The first book is not as dark as the later volumes and is both highly imaginative and fast-paced. A few pages into this book and you'll be too engrossed into the story to remember your crappy day. 
Disclaimer: Don't be surprised if Harry Potter shows up in every single of my monthly recommendations posts...

2. Yes Please by Amy Poehler

I listened to the audiobook of this and I think that's the best way to enjoy this book. The ever awesome Amy Poehler herself narrates the book, which makes it way more fun than reading it yourself would be. Yes Please covers the ups and downs faced by Amy during her life and career. Despite the topics discussed in it though, the book is written in a fun and fast-paced tone. It's like sitting with friends and discussing life stuff with them. Definitely something you want to read when you're feeling kind of blue.  

3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This is the coming-of-age story of Charlie, a shy, antisocial but highly intelligent boy. When we first meet Charlie, he's a somewhat lonely boy who doesn't really have any friends and who is clearly dealing with a few serious issues. As his story progresses though, Charlie really shines through as a strong character. Reading about how Charlie slowly makes his way through life, learning about sex, relationships, love and grief along the journey, will make you forget your troubles for a little while as you discover a story that is as sweet as it's deep.

4. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson 

Amy has not been behind the wheel since the car accident that killed her dad. When her mother moves the family across the country, leaving some time ahead of her, Amy is compelled to rely on a family friend, Roger, to drive her to her destination. Along the way, Amy finds herself figuring out a lot more than just the road map as she and Roger take a detour to discover places they have never visited before. As the trip goes on, Amy realizes that healing might not be as out of her grasp as she initially believed and slowly begins to go back to who she used to be.  This is not your typical, clichéd, contemporary where the girl meets a gorgeous stranger and immediately falls for him. This is a deeper story about hope and healing. The writing too is light and compelling, making it perfect for when you're feeling a little low.

5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Despite the somewhat Gothic atmosphere of this beautiful classic, Jane Eyre's story remains one of endurance and hope. Jane spends an unhappy childhood at her uncle's place, hated by her aunt and cousins alike. Later, she is sent to the austere Lowood School where she faces harsh discipline and poor comforts. Jane however manages to overcome the difficulties in her path to become an intelligent and strong young woman. After spending some time at the school as a teacher, she sets out to take up the post of governess at Thornfield. And thus she meets the master of the house, Mr Rochester... This book is perfect for days where you need a little boost of confidence. Jane's perseverance never fails, regardless of all the hardships of her life. This immortal story of courage, hope and love is powerful enough to strike a chord even in young readers who might have never read it before. Also, I think this deluxe edition by Penguin is absolutely gorgeous. I really want to get this edition for myself, my old and very much loved copy of Jane Eyre having become quite tattered over the years. Definitely Amazon wishlist list material!  

So these were my book recommendations for when you're feeling a little meh. Do you have a special book you like to read when things are not quite great? Comment down below to share your favorite titles with me! I'd love to see what you would recommend to me. Also, in a few days I'll upload the movie edition of this post so make sure you drop by for that! 

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

My friends don't read: The joys and pains of the solitary reader

"Breakfast at Tiffany's" Audrey Hepburn  1961 Paramount 

Picture this. You're sitting with a book opened on your lap, with your head bent over the double-pages and your eyes quickly brushing over the words. The story is peaking into its final scene. Someone is about to die! Your hands tighten on the edges of the book and you subconsciously lean forward, as if willing the story to unfold faster. And then, just as your gaze stops across the name of ill-fated, fallen character, you hear, "Oh, my God. Put down that book already!"

And then high violence ensued that poorly timed interruption. Or, so you wished. If you're like me, a solitary, sorely outnumbered book lover, chances are you just put down the book and pretend you're not having murderous thoughts surging through your mind. 

Being a book lover and having no one among your friends sharing that same passion for books can sometimes be solitary. Here are a few instances where being a solitary reader sucks:

The pains of the solitary reader

1. You just read the most amazing book ever and you're dying to tell everyone about it... but can't.
You've barely closed the book that you're running out of your bedroom to share your excitement with someone. Then you remember no one cares and go online to gush about it. And end up writing a five-page long book review for it. 

Dream Fort by Erin McGuire

2. Lack of understanding, scorn or downright rudeness 
People don't get you? That's to be expected. Everyone can't be a book lover, right? But, then you get those people who are downright rude about it. Like, while I was reading my book the other day, I actually had someone tell me, "Don't you have anything better to do?" DON'T YOU?? 

3. New release excitement... a one man party (or, you know, one girl party)
We've all been there, right? There something so exciting in waiting for a highly anticipated book to be released. It could be the newest installment in your favorite series or the new book by your favorite author. You might even have already pre-ordered the book. And then, the release day arrives and... you're alone shaking your imaginary pompoms in a corner. At least you've got an awesome book to look forward to. 

Being a solitary reader isn't always that bad though. After all, we book lovers actually enjoy some quality time alone with our books. 

The joys of the solitary reader 

1. Quality me-time with your favorite book
Let's be honest here. Sometimes, being alone with a good book is a joy in itself. A warm cup of tea, some cookies to nibble on and a good book... Often, we book lovers don't really need anything more to be happy. 

2. A stroll through the bookstore
I don't know for you, but I really enjoy strolls along the aisles of bookstores, breathing in the smell of new books as I skim the shelves to find that next book I'm going to add to my collection. And for me, book buying is something I enjoy best when I'm alone. After all, a book lover is never really alone when surrounded by books, right? 

3. You're a time-traveler,a globe-trotter and a skin-changer, all rolled into one.
It's raining hard outside and while your friends are probably getting bored at home, you're either brewing potions at Hogwarts or you're running down cobblestone streets with Liesel in 1940's Germany. With a single book, you can travel through time and space without even moving from the comfort of your couch. George R.R. Martin said it best: "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one." 

That's it for this post guys. Share your reading experiences by letting me know down in the comments below what you guys love or not about being a solitary reader. Looking forward to reading your comments! 

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Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Coffee Book Tag!

Today I have a book tag for you! If you're not familiar with those, book tags are theme-based questions about books and bookish stuff. So today I'm doing the Coffee Book Tag, created by BookTuber BangadyBangz (best name ever?). You can check out his YouTube channel and the original Coffee Book Tag video here:

Now, you probably already know that I'm more of a tea person but this tag looked so fun that I just couldn't resist. So without much delay, let's get started!

1. Black coffee - Name a series that's tough to get into but has hardcore fans 

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (Oh, shame). I actually own the first book but I never got to finishing it. Why? Because the characters sing ALL THE TIME. I'm not kidding. They just keep singing as they go about their journey. Not only is it distracting as hell, but it also takes the seriousness out of the story. Well, at least it does for me. I do intend to finish this series one day but for now, I think I'll stick to the movies. 

2. Peppermint Mocha - Name a book that gets more popular during the winter or a festive time of the year

Harry Potter is for me the ultimate Christmas book. Not only do those books have gorgeous Christmas and winter scenes, but I also happen to have discovered Harry Potter on a Christmas morning, many years ago. I remember being eleven, the same age as Harry in the first book, when I first held this book in my hands. I was so fascinated by it, that I started reading the book right away, still wearing my PJs with torn gift paper scattered around me, the other gifts pretty much forgotten. Best Christmas ever.

3. Hot chocolate - What is your favorite children's book?

The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I remember taking this out of my school library whenever I had the chance, never tiring of re-discovering this story. It's about some kids who befriend the magical creatures that live in a huge tree, with whom they go on adventures in the various lands that appear at the top of the tree. Each time they visited, they would discover a new land above the tree, each with its own share of amazement and adventures. Another thing that I loved with this book? The food! Enid Blyton did such a good job describing food that reading about all these honey pop cakes, cherries, plums and toffee would often actually make me hungry. Damn, I miss that book. 

4. Double shot of espresso - Name a book that kept you on the edge on your seat from start to finish

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. This book is about Agnes, a woman who is accused of murder and sent to live in at an isolated farm while awaiting her execution. At the beginning of the book, the family under whose charge she is put is horrified by this situation. With time though, they start to realize that there might be another side to the story they were told. Reading this book was a roller-coaster of emotions. On one hand, you want to know more about Agnes but at the same time, you are almost scared of reaching the final page as the ending could easily go either way. Will she make it? Will she be executed? These are the questions I kept asking myself throughout this book and it's really in the last page that the answer is finally revealed. Kept me on the edge of my seat for sure! 

5. Starbucks - Name a book that you see everywhere

Here, in Mauritius, one book that I keep seeing in bookstores is Revival by Stephen King. I know this book was published last November but here, it's still being displayed in the best-selling section of bookstores. I don't know much about this book other than it's supposedly one of the best, and arguably the darkest, horror stories of Mr. King. I've been super tempted to get my own copy of this book but given my recent book hauls, I'm trying very hard to keep my book buying in check. I might get my copy of Revival this Halloween though. We'll see.  

6. That hipster coffee shop - Give a book by an indie author a shout-out

Wake (Watersong #1) by self-published author Amanda Hocking. Okay, this is something that I read eons ago, back in my teen days, and while I never even completed this series, I did remember enjoying this book. My mom had brought back this book for me from a trip abroad, which is why it has an extra special place in my heart. I do remember it being about mermaids, although it's been too long since I read this book to remember much else about it. The author has since then written several other books including the quite well-known Trylle trilogy. If you like fantasy YA, do check her books out. 

7. Oops! I accidentally got decaf - Name a book you were expecting more from

The Blood of Olympus, by Rick Riordan, is the last book in the Heroes of Olympus series. While I did enjoy it, I felt like the ending could have been executed better. As compared to the progressive build up of the series, the conclusion kind of fell flat. I had the feeling that things were concluded too quickly and too easily. Also, I personally think that Gaia failed to deliver as the supreme villainess she was supposed to be. If you've read this book, do share your thoughts in the comments! I'm very curious to see what other people have thought of it in general.

8. The perfect blend - Name a book or series that was both bitter and sweet but ultimately satisfying

Okay for this one, I'm going to cheat and name two books. The first is Clockwork Princess, the conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy and the second is City of Heavenly Fire, the last book in the Mortal Instruments series, both by Cassandra Clare. Both books were emotionally-loaded, action-packed and highly satisfying conclusions to their respective series. Awesome story, great characters... Very much the perfect blend indeed. 

So that's it guys for this tag. If you've enjoyed it, do check out the original video linked above, as well as Bangadybangz's channel. If ever you do this tag on your blog, link your post in the comments below. I'd love to see the books you'd pick for this tag! 

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

In Real Life (graphic novel) by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang - Book review

This is a graphic novel set in the universe of online gaming. This story isn't merely about the actual game though. It follows main character Anda as she takes her first steps in the virtual world of Coarsegold, meeting along the way new acquaintances and discovering new strengths within herself when very much real issues start to crop up in her life. 

The story

Anda has newly joined Coarsegold Online, a massively-multiplayer role-playing game, where she goes on virtual missions and adventures through her in-game persona, a powerful redheaded warrior. Through the game, Anda comes across new acquaintances, including kick-ass virtual warrior Sage who quickly becomes her friend and ally. Things take a complicated turn when Anda come across a gold farmer, one of the strange, silent avatars who seem to be illegally collecting valuables intended to be sold to other players. When the avatar talks to her, Anda is intrigued and immediately wants to know more about the avatar, and the person who controls it. The avatar turns out to belong to a poor Chinese boy who is paid to conduct these illegal in-game dealings. There are many others like him and while what they are doing is illegal, it's also pretty much the only thing that keeps them safe and fed. Anda thus comes to question what's morally right or wrong and embarks on her own real life mission to strive to be the hero who's only so far been real in her imagination.

My review

The characters
This graphic novel has a beautiful cast of well-fleshed out characters, each with their own flaws and redeeming qualities. Anda is a formidable main character. She is a little on the plump side, with your average looks, which makes her a very relatable character. When we first meet her, she seems to be a calm-tempered and somewhat quiet girl, with a passion for gaming and the Internet. Also, Anda is just one of the cutest characters ever drawn. I mean, look at those cheeks! As the story progresses, we see her build the character of her powerful, flamed haired warrior persona, before slowly emerging in the real world as an equally strong young woman herself. Her parents are also portrayed very realistically as stern but equally loving parents. The secondary characters of Sage and the gold farmer were also fun to read about, both of them adding depth to the story.

The story
The story is fast-paced, juggling an intriguing plot-line with just the right amount of exposition and narrative description. Since it's a graphic novel, you don't get whole paragraphs of descriptive writing but instead, the story takes root and unfolds through the actions and dialogues of the characters at a pace that will keep you entertained without being overwhelmed by information. 

The artwork
As you can tell from the pictures, this graphic novel uses a palette of light colors, giving the book a general light atmosphere which makes a beautiful contract with the somewhat serious storyline. This enables the story to be conveyed in a way that will encourage readers to read on, even when things are not always bright and perfect in the worlds of the characters. The artwork, too, is beautiful. There is a softness to the artwork that immediately makes the reader feel comfortable in Anda's the little world.  

The Rating
I ended up giving this graphic novel 5/5 stars on Goodreads. If you hadn't figured it out yet, I loved In Real Life. Also, clever title there! This is not a book I would recommend strictly to fans of comic books. This graphic novel has a very harmonious flow to it, which makes for an easy read. The story is easy to follow and the beautiful artwork does a great job capturing your attention. So, this is something that I believe would appeal even to people who don't normally read comics or graphic novels. 

Have you read or plan to read In Real Life? Let me know in the comments! I'm curious to see what you've thought of it. 

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

February Wrap-Up

Welcome back guys! It's the 1st of March already (or it will be soon, depending on your timezone) and I thought it would be good to start the month by looking back on all the books I've read in February. 

Starting this March, I'll be making reading wrap-ups at the beginning of each month, where I'll be listing down the books I've read, show you the ratings I gave them on Goodreads and write a brief synopsis for each book so that you get a better idea of what they are about. For those of you who are not familiar with the Goodreads star rating system, see below to know what it looks like.

So this month, I read a total of 8 books, out of which 3 were actually graphic novels (these were over 100 pages each so that DOESN'T count as cheating). This isn't too bad, I guess. Although for me, that's kind of the equivalent of a bad reading month. 

My reading average per month is usually 10 books, so yeah, February wasn't the best of reading months for me. 

I'll list the books I've read starting with the one to which I gave the lowest rating till the one I enjoyed most.

Maybe something will catch your eye from the list? Just don't come blaming me if you somehow inexplicably end up with a bunch of new books in the coming days! Now pour yourself a warm cup of tea, make yourself comfortable and enjoy this little wrap-up.

So starting with the one I enjoyed least...

8. Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr - 2 stars

This is the second book in the Wicked Lovely series, a YA faerie series. Now, YA fantasy is something I am usually very selective about, especially with the likes of faeries. This is not a bad series per say but let's just say that the only reason I kind of forced myself to read Ink Exchange is because this series had been sitting unread on my shelf for years and the guilt was really started to gnaw at me. 

This book, and the series in general, deals with royals from faerie courts and the repercussions from their mingling with mortals in Huntsdale, a small American town (aren't they all?). There is not much plot other than the scheming of some and the plotting of others. It's a quick read though, so although I didn't quite enjoy this book, in many ways it was the perfect read for this particularly busy February. Click here for my full review of Ink Exchange.

7. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell - 3 stars

This book is set in 1999 and it is about a man, Lincoln, whose job is to monitor emails sent between the people working in a newspaper office. One day, he comes across a series of emails exchanged between co-workers and best friends Jennifer and Beth. However, instead of turning them in for improper office behavior, he keeps on reading their messages, strangely captivated by their stories. As the days pass, Lincoln becomes oddly familiar with the girls, especially Beth, for whom he soon starts to develop a particular fondness. By the time he realizes that he may be falling in love with her though, it is too late for him to properly introduce himself because then, he would have to confess to have secretly been reading the girls' emails and risk passing for a creepy stalker. 
This was quite an enjoyable read, although too chick-lit for my taste. If that's a genre you appreciate though, do check this one out. This is no Fangirl nor Eleanor and Park, two popular books by the same author, but it's still quite fun to read. Click here  for my review of Attachments. 

6. Amulet Volume 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi - 3 stars

This middle-grade graphic novel follows the story of Emily and her little brother after they move in with their mother in their great-grandfather's house. Shortly after they move in, they realize that evil, supernatural forces lurk in the shadows of the old house. When their mother is taken away by a terrifying creature, Emily and her brother decide to save her by following the monster into the strange and dangerous world it came from. Thus ensues an adventure filled with monsters, unexpected allies, talking animals and robots. And as if that wasn't work enough for the young Emily, she also finds herself entrusted with a strange amulet with mysterious powers. The artwork is gorgeous and the story too isn't too bad. My main problem was that Emily is a little too accepting of all the weird things that are happening around her. The story has barely started that she already knows, somewhat inexplicably, how to fight monsters and channel the powers of the amulet. But overall, it's still an enjoyable story and that too, regardless of your age.

5. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black - 4 stars

Hazel and her brother live in the town of Fairfold, where humans and faeries have been living together for years. The townspeople though, have learned to remain cautious of the fae, aware of both their magic and the danger it can represent. In the woods sits a glass coffin. Inside rests a beautiful faery boy, who has been sleeping for decades in silence, such that he has pretty much become part of the town's lore. Then one day, he inexplicably awakens from his slumber, triggering a series of events that changes everything the people of Fairfold have always known to be true. Overall, this book was quite fun to read. And I realize it also means I've read two faery books last month when I don't even particularly like faery books that much. Anyway, this book was quite good but the ending could have been executed better. It also suffered from slightly underdeveloped plot elements, hence the missing fifth star. Click here for my review of this book.

4. A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin - 5 stars (obviously!)

This is the 5th book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. This book follows the stories of main characters Jon, Tyrion, Arya and Daenerys in parallel to the events of the 4th book, up to a point in the book where all the stories catch up with where we had left the other characters' stories in the previous installment. This marks the return of characters we hadn't heard about since book 4 and brings all story lines to the current timeline. This book was superb, spectacular even. Saying more would mean spoiling this book so you might prefer instead to read my spoiler-free review here

3 & 2. Alex + Ada (Volumes 1 and 2) by Jonathan Luna - 5 stars

Numbers 3 and 2 are a tie between the two first volumes of Alex + Ada. This is a sci-fi comics series set in a futuristic, but highly realistic world, where androids, robots with high artificial intelligence, have been developed. These androids take care of an array of things from mundane housekeeping to performing jobs previously held by humans. In recent times, a new and somewhat controversial type of android has been developed. These high-priced robots are made to looked like normal people and equipped with a huge database of intelligence which gives them the ability to act almost human. Because of this, these androids have been adopted by rich people for companionship purposes. Or for downright sex, 'cause, why not? Our main character, Alex, one day receives an unexpected gift for his birthday from his (rich, filthy rich) grandmother (who might also be the sexiest grandma I've ever come across in fiction). Alex opens the box and to his shock, finds within a female android ready to be switched on and activated. What he chooses to do next changes his life forever, which may or may not be a bad thing. This is one of the best comics I've read in a long time. Simplistic but beautiful artwork, great character development, gripping story... A must read, most definitely. Check out my review for Alex + Ada volume 1 here.

1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - 5 stars (only because Goodreads doesn't have 6 stars)

This is one of my favorite books of all time. Honest. Now that's been settled, let me try to tell you what this book is about without spoiling too much.
Celia and Marco are two magicians who've been trained since childhood by their respective mentors in preparation for a challenge whose outcome will determine who is the better magician. Years later, after they both become involved in a circus called Le Cirque des Rêves, they decide to make it their arena. As they compete against each through feats of magic and imagination, the circus quickly grows to become a phenomenon of its own, ultimately tying the fates of various people to Marco and Celia's. 
That's all I can say about the story. After all, part of the magic of this book resides in figuring things out along with Marco and Celia. If you can't tell already, I love this book. The beautiful prose and the vivid, highly imaginative descriptions make an otherworldly journey out of this unique story. It combines intertwining plotlines and intriguing characters in a singular and very much enjoyable book that will leave you hooked till you turn the last page and realize you've come to the end of the book. The Night Circus is one of those stories which you do not read but savor. A must read for sure!

So that's it for the books I've read this month guys. Overall, I've read some pretty good books in February. If you've read or plan to read any of the books mentioned in this wrap-up, let me know in the comments below. 

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