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Seven Ways We Lie, one book

Hi Virtually readers! Sometimes, I like to read multiple perspectives books. This one has seven different central characters, but I was so impressed with how the author handled that and the story, adding lots of interesting elements along the way. It was very entertaining– I read it all in one day.

26240663Paloma High School is ordinary by anyone’s standards. It’s got the same cliques, the same prejudices, the same suspect cafeteria food. And like every high school, every student has something to hide—from Kat, the thespian who conceals her trust issues onstage, to Valentine, the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal.

When that scandal bubbles over, and rumors of a teacher-student affair surface, everyone starts hunting for someone to blame. For the seven unlikely allies at the heart of it all, the collision of their seven ordinary-seeming lives results in extraordinary change. (blurb and cover from goodreads)

 

The cover has the seven deadly sins on it. Each character has a ‘sin’ attached. What I liked, though, is that it wasn’t super obvious which characters had whih sins. I’m pretty certain about four characters but on the fence about a couple as well. Looking out for each flaw added another element to the story, and made the characters deeper. It’s tempting to turn contemporary YA into ‘issue’ books, each focused on a problem that teenagers deal with. But the thing is, teenagers deal with lots of problems, and respond to them in different ways and in different places. But with the sins as focal points (that sounds weird to say but I’m rolling with it) Riley Redgate can examine ‘contemporary teen issues’ in a real way. Because the thing is that no ‘issue’ comes up on its own: they are compounded, compacted–and they don’t take up the totality of your life.
Riley Redgate is younger than most authors–the author bio said that she finished her undergrad degree in 2016. I think that really shows in the voice of the novel. Each character has a distinct voice (one character has all of her sections in free verse which was an interesting choice but done quite well), which is important as there are so! many! of them (that said most of the relationshisp are within the seven central characters because otherwise it would be a lot to keep track of). The dialogue is especially exceptional. Tbh, the way the characters talk reminded me of the person who recommended this to me. I don’t talk in quite the same way, but it still felt familiar–lots of uses of ‘super’ and so on. I’ve been reading some non-YA books recently which is great and makes me feel Grown Up ™ even though lol I’m eighteen. Anyway, there were sections in this which reminded me that I love YA because YA gets being a teenager (sorta).

“A lot of the time I worry that I am a terrible person and just haven’t had it confirmed yet.”

“Sometimes you go a long time having fooled yourself into thinking that you’re as grown-up as you’ll ever be, or that you’re more mature than the rest of the world thinks you are, and you live in this state of constant self assurance, and for a while nothing can upset you from this pedestal you’ve built for yourself, because you imagine yourself to be so capable. And then somebody does something that takes a golf club to your ego, and suddenly you’re nine years old again.”

Those are two things I feel all the time and it’s always nice to be understood.
I mentioned that this bookengages with a lot of issues. For how many characters and situations Riley Redgate is juggling, I think she does an exceptionally good job. The central issue that the plot (there’s not much of a plot though) is shaped around is a teacher student relationship. This is a dodgy topic, and obviously a culmination of bad decisions and almost indefensible and also something that has never intersected with my real life. All that aside I thought the way she dealt with it was…okay but not much more than that. IDK. Seven Ways We Lie also touches on drug dealing and abuse; alcohol abuse; absent or disengaged parents (so common in YA. Claire’s parents seemed normal but they didn’t really appear in the story); friendship complications and associated risks of growing up. It’s not a super serious book, despite all that.
The characters, for how little page time they get, are surpisingly rounded. There’s Kat, unable to figure out how to fill the hole her mother left behind; Olivia, Kat’s twin, fiercely defensive of her sexual choices but confused beyond that; Juniper, one of Olivia’s best friends, who only looks perfect; Claire, Olivia and Juniper’s other best friend, afraid of losing people; Matt, stuck in one place, family escaping; Valentine, shut off, focused only on academic success, accidentally entangled; and Lucas, Claire’s ex boyfriend, trying to figure out how to tell the truth to the people around him. All characters are compelling, flawed, and able to grow through the story, which is quite the achievement. oh, and there’s lots of diversity!
This book is quick to read, and absorbing and enjoyable. It made me feel a little more understood. What more could I ask?

Have you read this? What’s your favourite multiple perspective book? I’d love to know!

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blogging · discussions · Shar

Giving a book/author a second chance

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You may or may not have heard of Sabriel, which Shanti fangirls about with alarming frequency, as do some of our other friends. However, I picked it up in 2014 (I think. A long time ago, anyway), got about 40% through, and the DNF’d it. I recently finished the audiobook and really enjoying it, which made me think about giving books second chances.

You know the feeling. There’s a book everyone’s talking about… but you’ve already tried it and didn’t finish. Someone’s just published a new book, but you haven’t enjoyed the author’s other works. You

 Reasons not to give the author/book a second chance

  • You don’t have the time. There’s lots of other books you have to read or review and you don’t want to waste your time with something you don’t think you’ll enjoy.
  • There is a seriously off-putting aspect of the book. Maybe it had really horrible rep, or was racist or misogynist, or just really really annoying.
  • You don’t think you mesh with the author. Maybe you’ve read several of their other books and didn’t enjoy any, and maybe something about them and their writing just doesn’t work for you. (It’s okay! It will work for someone else!)

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I’m quite glad I gave Sabriel a second chance, like I said before. I don’t know what my past self was thinking to DNF it (and complain about how dumb it was) for so many years.

But this doesn’t always work. For example, I was kind of meh about Bookishly Ever After, but I reread it (and kind of liked it more?) before trying Dramatically Ever After, which I was really not a fan of. And I didn’t really like quite a few Kasie West books, tried them again, and consistently kept not liking them. (Please note this was giving authors, rather than books a second chance. But sometimes it’s the same idea).

In that light:

Reasons to give the author/book a second chance

  • If you’ve read it before, chances are it’s easily available at your library/on your bookshelf/belongs to your friend/on your ereader, which other books you want to read may not be.
  • Your friends might have really liked this book/author, and constantly harass you about reading it. Maybe you didn’t like it orginally, but they’ll be happy if you give it a chance, and you’ll be able to join in discussions about it (such was the case with me and Sabriel). (Although I do have friends who really want me to give Sarah J. Maas a second try. I have so far refused)
  • You might have changed since you tried reading the book. Maybe you’ll like it now when you didn’t before. (I suspect this was also the case with Sabriel). Look up reviews or ask friends who’ve read the book to find out.
  • The author might have changed since you last read their books. Maybe the newer books are more your type. If you think this may be true, then I’d suggest looking up reviews and synopses to see if there are aspects you might enjoy now.
  • You can try another format.  Maybe you didn’t like it as an audiobook, but you’ll like it as a physical book or vice versa? This was the case for me and Blue Lily, Lily Blue. I DNF’d several times with the audiobook (I’d listen to a few chapters, give up, start again because I’d forgotten the plot) but eventually finished it (and low key enjoyed) as an ebook.

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In conclusion, I think giving a book or author a second chance depends on several things. Firstly, you’ve got to have the time to prioritise it over everything else you might want to read. Secondly, you have to work out if what you didn’t like originally is something that has changed, or if you have changed to like it. Also, I’d say that if you give a book/author a second chance, and still don’t like it for whatever reason a few chapters in, you are still perfectly justified in stopping it immediately, because you’ve got better things to do. And if the first two chances don’t work out, don’t bother with third chances. You’ve got better things to do, and someone else can enjoy the book.

Do you give books or authors second chances? Why or why not? Do you have any reasons to add to either side of my list?

 

 

book review · Shar

Science non fiction mini reviews

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 I really like science in general, and I surprised myself by reading 3 nonfiction books about science last month. Although they weren’t YA, I really liked two of them, and I’m also trying to branch out my reading and the content on this blog. So here are some bite-sized mini reviews for you. 

Other Minds

 Peter Godfrey-Smith

One thing you may not know about me is that I really like biology, and I’m going to study it in university. My animal loving, science self adored this book. It basically talked through the evolution of the octopus’ mind and extrapolated to draw conclusions about the evolution of humans and brains.

This book was really well structured, not dense even though it was sciency, easy to follow, engaging, and basically made me really really like octopi and cephalopods in general. I learned a lot about evolution and brains (although I did know some things mentioned already; high school psychology and biology ftw!) and really enjoyed it. 5 stars.

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Astrophysics for people in a hurry

Neil Degrasse Tyson

astrophysics-for-people-in-a-hurry-neil-degrasse-tyson1I gather that this author is quite a famous scientist/TV personality? I don’t know anything much about him though. I picked this book because a) it had a pretty cover, and b) I know nothing about astrophysics and wanted to remedy this.

I did learn a lot, but I didn’t find the book that easy to read. It went through various aspects of astrophysics in each chapter, and assumed basic scientific knowledge in all the explanations. I didn’t always know what was going on, mainly because I haven’t done any physics since 9th grade. I could usually figure it out if I concentrated, but it was hard and I had to go back and reread a lot. This definitely affected my enjoyment.

I noticed that the chapters I understood the most, especially the one about the astrophysical origins of chemical elements, were easy and fun to read, and the more theoretical and physical stuff wasn’t.

Also, the writing style was a bit jarring. It was mostly dense language to a layperson at least, but lots of the paragraphs ended in (not very funny) jokes. This didn’t really work for me and felt really awkward. I guess it goes to show good scientists aren’t necessarily good writers?

I did like how the last chapter explored why astrophysics matters amid the turmoil and darkness or life on earth. Then Tyson started to be like ‘the cosmological perspective lifts us from the darkness of our mundanity’ which I felt was a bit much.

I rate this book 3 stars: I’m glad I read it, but didn’t exactly enjoy it.

 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Rebecca Skloot

immortal-lifeI’ve been meaning to read this ever since I discovered it was a book, or maybe before that, when I first heard about Henrietta and HeLa in biology class about 2 years ago. This book is about the cells of a black woman who had cervical cancer. In the 50s, a sample was taken, and they turned out to be essentially immortal—able to divide infinitely without dying like normal human cells. This made them ideal for experiments, and they were used to discover a polio vaccine, standardizing culture mediums, learning more about viruses, studying how cells become malignant/cancerous, finding out how to freeze cells effectively, how to clone cells, developing the basis of IVF fertility treatments, learning more about genetic diseases and chromosomes, used to learn about the effect of radiation on cells, used to screen chemotherapy drugs, and to test cosmetics (among other things). An enormous and lucrative industry was built around her cells, but Henrietta died a few months after the sample was taken (without her permission), and it was decades before her family found out about the cells.

This book was really well written, and struck a fine balance between exploring the personal aspect of Henrietta’s story, and her family’s, medical ethics from the 1950s to the present, and the science about how the cells were used. I found it easy to read and intensely interesting. I would say that the book isn’t for everyone; it’s quite dense and scientific in some places and then more like a non fiction novel in others, but it’s really well researched and thorough. It’s definitely worth reading if you like this kind of thing. Four stars.

 

Do you enjoy nonfiction? Do you have any recommendations for me? How do you feel about octopuses?

 

books · features · shanti

The Bookish Planet: The Castle

it’s time for another installment of The Bookish Planet, the feature where we give a guided tour of settings seen in a lot of books. Today, the feature is The Castle. They are often found in Magical Forests, within fantasy kingdoms. The Castle is exciting, magnificent, sometimes crumbling, sometimes lavish. No matter which castle you end up in, something exciting will be going on.

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Featured in: The Montmaray Journals, Snow Like Ashes, Song of the Lioness, Protector of the Small, Rose Daughter, Graceling, Throne of Glass, Shadow and Bone, Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Winner’s Kiss, The Queen of the Tearling, A Wicked Thing, The Orphan Queen, The Lost Crown, The Reluctant Heiress, The Crown’s Game, The Goose Girl, The Wrath and the Dawn, The Star Touched Queen.

Description: Where the castle is, there will be the royalty also. And royalty (or other nobles) come with a lot of extras: servants, fancy dogs, horses, thrones, murder, banquets, elaborate dresses, small economies, more servants, tapestries, war, treasuries, betrayal, injustice, love…all of those fun things. These things produce DRAMA and PLOT which make it an excellent place. Never a dull moment! But that’s not really the case. Sitting through court is quite boring. So are banquets. And speeches. Luckily, as a visitor, you will be able to skip some of these events. Spend the extra time exploring. With any luck, you’ll find a secret tunnel, paintings of ancestors, or clandestine meeting.

People: The people of the castle are obviously the most interesting part: without them, you’d just be living in a lump of stone. Social hiearchies are strict. If you’re not familiar with the culture, then you need to pay lots of attention to figure out the relaitonships. If you’re a diplomat or a visiting royal, you can probably go all over the palace. If you’re the cousin of Asma the cook’s assitant, keep your expectations low. Castles are physical manifestations of of inequality, so don’t expect any kind of fairness in how you’re treated, okay? But the people should be interesting. Look at how the servants kinteract with the nobles, and how they gossip about each other. It’s a fascinating study in primitive society obscured by the trappings of wealth.

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History: Where the royals are, there will be unecessary bloodshed, long term trauma, and possibly emotional abuse. They’re all variation on a theme because that is what violence is, and history repeats. But this is a secret, okay? Let the rich people bother about that, okay, and then through them repeating the mistakes of thier ancestors and their ancestors, you can learn Deep and Important things about the cyclical nature of violence and get on with your ordinary life. (Unless you’re a noble, in which case, enjoy being responsible for other peoples deaths without being involved, and no there aren’t counselling services for you or anyone else, this is a war, but at least you have these diamonds, aren’t they nice). And also learn the personal histories and rivalries and so on, they’ll be useful later.

Hazards: Servants know most things, so stay on their good side. Any sort of gossip could ruin you forever. If you hang around too much, you might accidentally run into a plot and never be able to read (this is true for all locations feature on The Bookish Planet, but this one especially). There are often swords and suits of armour hanging around. Stay away from them. They may be cursed, or at the very least will probably be very sharp. Stay away from the dungeons, and, in general, try not to learn information you shouldn’t, because it increases your risk of becoming entangled with plot.

Where to Stay: Look, you’re in a castle. You’ll be staying in the castle. Maybe it’ll be a good place to stay. If you’re a higher class visitor, there’ll be servants to deal with all the stuff like chamberpots and candlesticks because modern plumbing and electricity is dumb (also you’re probaby in a medival fantasy land so it would be anachronistic), if not, you’ll have to share a stinky latrine with an unknowable number of other people. You might have to share a bed as well. Manage your accomadation expectations in accordance with your level of wealth relative to the owners of the castle.

have you ever visited a real castle? and what’s your favourite fictional one? let me know in the comments!

books · features · lists · shanti

#SettinginStone tbr

It’s a new year which means a lot of people are posting tbr’s. I was reading blog posts this morning and was thinking oh yeah, reading challenges, they’re not my thing….and then I remembered that I’m actually hosting the chillest, coolest reading challenge for the first two months of the year, aka Setting in Stone, and if you participate, I would be delighted (and surprised but I’m trying not to betray my low expectations). Anyway, I thought I’d share some books that I want to read for this challenge–and if you add recommendations in the comments, I’ll add them to the post!

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books · lists · shanti · Shar

2017 round-up with Shanti and Shar

Hi Virtually Readers! It’s the end of another year–a somewhat tiring and also exciting year–where, among other things, we read a lot of books. This year, our reading tastes evolved a little–we read a lot more adult books and non-fiction (this growing up thing, it’s terrifying). Anyway, we’re linking up with The Perpetual Page Turners end of year survey to tell you about it. Shanti is italics, Shar is normal, questions are in bold. Let’s go! Continue reading “2017 round-up with Shanti and Shar”

books · discussions · features · shanti

Setting in Stone: Settings vs. Character

Hi Virtually Readers! It’s almost Christmas oh my goodness! I am in New Zealand now which is bizarre but I’m dealing with it. However, I do have a lot of things going on in my life, so I’m not sure how active I’m going to be blogwise for January–but I’m still trying to make Setting in Stone happen. And I would be delighted (not to mention surprised) if you, yes you, joined in. In my last post I mentioned that I was going to write a post about diversity of seting vs. diversity of character. I have not planned this at all but here we go.

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books · shanti · tags

Childhood Book Tag!

The very lovely Elizabeth@Musings From Neville’s Navel tagged me for The Childhood Book Tag, which is about books from your childhood. I just want to say that Elizabeth is the main person who tags me for things and I only do the tags every once in a while but THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAGGING ME ELIZABETH! I actually hate tagging people and have decided that I stress less when I don’t tag people…so let’s see if I’m in the mood when I get to the end of this post haha. But I like being tagged. I am a woman of contradictions. Let’s get to it!

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‘Tis the Season of Rereading His Dark Materials

heya Virtually Readers! It’s a ’tis the season of rereading day again! Today, I’m talking about my rereading experience for His Dark Materials. I first read this when I was in sixth or seventh grade. I remember hat it was a marvellous adventure, and I remember that the ending was really sad. Since then I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how it’s very anti-religion–sort of the opposite to The Chronicles of Narnia, if you will. On this reread, I definitely kepth that in mind. I have a bind up of all three books, and I mostly read this in Lucknow, so I carried it around a lot, so these 900 pages have made my arms stronger if nothing else.

Continue reading “‘Tis the Season of Rereading His Dark Materials”