book review · books · Shar · Uncategorized

Review: Allegedly

Hi virtually readers! I’ve been super busy travelling in the last week and have had like NO time to read or comment or almost anything book and blogging related. But I’m here now and I’m reviewing a very interesting book that I mentioned in my list about teen pregnancy. Continue reading “Review: Allegedly”

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book review · books · collabs · shanti · Shar

I Believe in a Thing Called Love co-review

Hi Virtually Readers! Shar and I recently read I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a contemporary YA book about a girl who tries to get the guy of her dreams by following steps gleaned from K-drama. Neither of us watch K-Drama, but that’s not an obstacle to enjoyment of the book—everything is pretty well explained, and it’s entertaining even if you don’t know the tropes. We thought we’d review it together because co-reviews are fun. Shanti is normal type, Shar is italics. Continue reading “I Believe in a Thing Called Love co-review”

book review · books · shanti

Review: One Would Think The Deep

I have gone surfing like…once? But One Would Think The Deep has lots of surfing and I didn’t mind at all. I struggled to read this book, and I think it’s because Claire Zorn’s strength let her down. She is excellent, even superb, at conveying the elements of real life. This gives her narratives a visceral quality. But here, she failed to collect them into a coherent story.  This is also #LoveOzYA, it’s set in Australia in the late 90’s which was cool and means that all the characters are now like middle aged.

Continue reading “Review: One Would Think The Deep”

book review · books · Shar

Review: The Wouldbegoods

Hi Virtually Readers! I read the Wouldbegoods (and later The Treasure Seekers) recently. They are classic children’s books that I really enjoyed, and I especially liked the writing style so I tried to review it like it had been written in 1901. Even if this book isn’t your thing, I found writing the review super fun.  Also Shanti and I are currently away so the posts in the next few weeks will be scheduled. 

DSC07745Title: The Wouldbegoods

Author: E. Nesbit (who is actually a woman)

Genre: Classic children’s (but fun to read as an older person too)

Themes: Friendship, mischief, living in the countryside, games

Similar to: William series, Peter Pan

Despite the fact that this tome was penned more than11 decades prior to Shar’s time, she thoroughly enjoyed it. She would like to dispel rumours that she only reads fluffy, modern books that rot her brain (though these are more wonderful than some would believe); she is an erudite girl who seeks to read expand her vocabulary and knowledge by reading the classics. And if they are written for children, who cares?—the stories are more interesting anyway.

Continue reading “Review: The Wouldbegoods”

book review · books · Shar · Uncategorized

Review: Want

I *claim* to be a fan of the sic-fi genre. I’ve said before that it’s my favourite. But it has come to my attention that I read far more contemporary and fantasy than sci-fi, which is shameful. So as soon as I heard about Want and realised it was sci-fi/dystopian then I knew I had to read it. So I did. want-by-cindy-pon

Title: Want

Author: Cindy Pon

Genre: YA Sci-fi

Themes: deception, pollution, climate change, activism, friendship, rich people are literally bubble heads.

My blurb: In futuristic Taipei, there are two types of people. The ultra-rich yous protect themselves from the terrible pollution with oxygen suits and money, while the meis die young, suffering from all the environmental degradation and their poverty. After someone Zhou loves is murdered trying to bring in new environment laws, he and his friends decide they’ve got to do something to get back at the corporation who is responsible. But their plan is risky and the first thing they need is a lot of money. Zhou’s actions are about to get him into a game of deception and risk where he might lose sight of the end goal…

There were a lot of good things about this book, but first I have to complain about something important. Namely, the writing style. I haven’t read anything by Cindy Pon before, but the way this book was written really affected my perception of the story. The book required a lot of worldbuilding because of its dystopian nature, but instead of showing aspects of the world of pollution and global warming and poverty inequality, it was totally told. Especially at the start of the book, the writing had what felt like paragraphs spouting information that wasn’t always that relevant, though it did help paint the scene. At other times Jason (that’s his code name—we never learn his real first name, which is weird) comes up with information that you wish he’d announced earlier, like ‘oh I was not sick now because I had the flu when I was 10’ or ‘this person said X important thing to me the other day’ instead of actually showing it happening. This made it feel like the things being narrated didn’t happen.

The writing was also occasionally confusing, especially during action scenes, and there was a big reveal at the end that wasn’t made to feel that big. The book opens on an action scene, then goes back to ‘two months earlier’ to explain what’s going on. After that, though, there is no explanation of the time gaps, even though it becomes evident that weeks or months have passed with only a few days or events having been described. Generally, something about the writing style really made me feel disconnected from Jason and the other characters, even though it was a first person narration, which normally is easier for me to connect to.

However, there were some good things about this book. Firstly, I really liked how it was set in Taiwan, because I’ve never read any other books set there (and the author was born there) and my ex really good friend is Taiwanese. I liked the descriptions of food and although it made the future look bleak, it wasn’t hopeless either.

DSC07942

I also liked how it dealt with wealth inequality, something that’s rapidly becoming a bigger problem and environmental degradation. I personally believe both of these are going to be big problems in the future and I don’t get why more dystopias don’t tackle them. Like I don’t think the US is going to become a monarchy that likes to play games to amuse the prince and help him find a wife. But growing commercialism, the ethics of surveillance without consent, bio-warfare and deadly viruses, and poverty and climate change are all things that are already problems now and will be in the future. I liked how this book touched on all of these.

Also, I just generally love sci-fi and dystopia, not gonna lie.

 

I really liked the love interest character! I liked how she wasn’t only petite and subservient, but she wasn’t just the Stronge Female CharacterTM archetype. She was a combination of all of them. Jason’s ‘gang’ and all the minor charcters were really interesting.

The plot was intense and usually interesting. I liked how I thought the plot was going to centre around all of Jason’s deceptions getting him into trouble and be something where nothing would happen if everybody was honest, but it wasn’t.

Overall, I liked the idea of this book, and it definitely tackled some good topics, but failed to execute them well enough to make me like it.

Characters: 3/5

Writing: 1/5

Setting: 4/5

Plot: 4/5

Total: 3/5

Have you heard of this? What other books have you read set in South east/East Asia? (I need recommendations) Is there a genre you claim to love, but never read? What have you read which has a really great concept but not as good writing?

book review · shanti

The Sandcastle Empire is easily destroyed

Hi Virtually Readers! It’s a Tuesday on a Shanti week which means it’s time for a review. How exciting! Sadly the review is not for a book I enjoyed. A few weeks ago, I read The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson, and I must admit that I was decieved by the title. I thought it was fantasy, because if I see the word ’empire’ I automatically assume it’s fantasy. However, this book, with a cover as green as Divergent serum, is decidedly dystopian. Anyway, fascinating insights into my mind aside, this novel was so surface level, and that was it’s main problem. It begins as an escape narrative, becomes a mystery, then is an action-thriller until the end. There is a lot of interesting things going on, but Olson, unfortunately, didn’t really explore them, so while the reading experience was fairly enjoyable, I totally failed to care.

32051724When all hope is gone, how do you survive?

Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves—but the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected.

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.
The presence of class as compulsion for rebellion is an interesting idea, as was allusion to climate change and Kiribati as beginning the apocalypse that fueled said (evilish) rebellion, and new technology albeit ridden with NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE but whatevs. Olson fails utterly to explore these ideas, really letting herself down. Her protagonist, Eden doesn’t engage with these issues or contemplate her relative privilege in the least. She has no awareness that her lifestyle led to a planet where Kiribatians died in swarms and Wolves took over. I wished that the climate change and class aspects had been explored more.
The narrative of learning to trust again was also intriguing, and utterly ignored and rushed. Hope has been consistently betrayed by those close to her, so no wonder she has trust issues. The romance is not-quite instalove, but ridiculous. Deaths and violence are barely questioned. Olson could have turned this into part of the story, in her own style it would read something like Chapter 79. Once I was a girl who would have been shocked by the blood on her hands but now I am something else isn’t it sad. She may even have written something like that, but it was so forgettable that it’s fallen out of my memory. The choppy ‘deep thoughts’ chapters irked me completely. And though most of the characters were teenagers, adults still had the power (and Lowan’s resistance position made ZERO SENSE), which seems like Olson wasn’t able to fully commit to her ‘teenagers saving the world narrative’. This resulted in a ‘worst of both worlds (adults with power, teens with unrealistic influence) scenario which made little to no sense. The rapid shift in the characters goals was disorienting, and I never got a feel for anyone other than Alexa (and her redemption arc could have been way better. Another disappointment). The fast ending, which the protagonist barely played a role in, didn’t work for me at all.
In the world of the Wolf Pack, a sandcastle empire, there were so many opportunities to explore power and privilege and evil and Olson more or less missed them all (even though the social forces are so relevant to today). The story is superficially enjoyable, but by divorcing the musings to random choppy chapters, the story collapses and crumbles like sand into the sea.

Have you read this book? Are you able to enjoy stories which don’t talk about the issues they allude to? What’s your favourite book which features climate change? tell me in the comments!

book review · books · Shar · Uncategorized

Review: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

Hi Virtually readers! This book was one of my favourites of last month. Basically: READ IT, FOOLS.

417b881d-36a7-406c-814c-1aa04332b06bimg100Title: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz

Genre: YA Contemporary

Themes: Friendship, growing up, parents, family, gay-men-who-collect-17-year-old-children-in-the-best-way

Blurb (from Goodreads): Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.

Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?

I really liked Ari & Dante when I read it in 2014 (which reminds me to reread it). I read this one in a day and LOVED IT. Here’s a list of some of the things I liked (because if I wrote everything, I’d probably just paste a copy of the whole book. And apart from being illegal, that would be far too long for a blog post.)

Things I liked about The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

  • The writing. I totally believe the author is also a lauded poet. I really liked the writing style and Sal’s voice ad the way he narrated what was happening in his life—death, family, confusion (but mainly confusion #relatable). I think in another book, I would have said that the writing style felt too distant, if that makes sense, but because this wasn’t exactly an action novel, it worked perfectly.
  • The focus on family. Sal’s dad is one of the nicest fathers in YA literature that I’ve ever read. And Sal and his best friend Sam and their other friend Fito basically end up like siblings. Plus Sal has an amazing Mima (grandma) and extended family. Because Sal’s adopted, he has some quite interesting thoughts about how he feels Mexican because that’s what his family is even though he’s white. Building on that, there’s no romance so family is the central theme.
  • Like Sal, Shar is my nickname because my full name is too long and hard to say. A book that finally got the problems with long names and didn’t just feature Bellas, Graces, and Dans.

DSC07776

  • THE FOOD. I haven’t eaten that much Mexican food, but this book totally sold me on it. A lot of cooking goes down and it’s excellent and made me hungry.
  • The characters. Sal and his confusion about everything, really, and his development through the book was really accurately portrayed, because aren’t most people constantly confused? Or is it just me? Anyone? I think most people would agree that your last year of high school is pretty confusing. Sam and the way she deals with grief was really well written and, I feel, accurate, as were the characters of Fito and Mima. Sal’s dad, Vicente, was amazing yet also imperfect. I haven’t read many other books featuring gay parents and this one really rang true for me. Basically, the characters were just excellent.
  • The setting. It wasn’t a generic American town, but was in Texas right next to the Mexican border. I liked the inclusion of a lot of Mexican culture and got a good sense of the town in general.
  • The fact that not much of the actual action happened at school? Like, the characters went to school but it wasn’t the most important thing to them.
  • The theme of belonging. I guess the need to belong is a human trait that most people think about but because Sal is adopted, he spends a lot of time thinking about his birth parents, and especially if he takes after his birth father or adoptive one.
  • The chapter titles and parts. I just really like these.
  • Words for the day. it seems like a fun practice.

Overall, this was a well written, deep and beautiful book. It didn’t have much plot but that wasn’t the point.

Plot:– (like actually there wasn’t one)

Characters: 5/5

Setting: 4/5

Writing: 5/5

Themes: 5/5

Total: 5/5

Have you read this? How do you feel about books that are half poetry? Have you read many other books featuring gay parents? What’s one contemporary without romance that you’ve enjoyed?

 

book review · books · shanti

The Color Project

I don’t get ARC’s very often, but Sierra Abrams, the author of the Color Project, was kind enough to send me an early copy. This comes out on August seventeenth, and is about joy and the complexity of relationships. I had some issues with it, but found that it was pretty adorable and summery, if you’re into that. I’ve done my best not to let the free ARC affect my opinion. I loved the characters and the atmosphere.

22892448Bernice Aurora Wescott has one thing she doesn’t want anyone to know: her name. That is, until Bee meets Levi, the local golden boy who runs a charity organization called The Color Project.

Levi is not at all shy about attempting to guess Bee’s real name; his persistence is one of the many reasons why Bee falls for him. But while Levi is everything she never knew she needed, giving up her name would feel like a stamp on forever. And that terrifies her.

When unexpected news of an illness in the family drains Bee’s summer of everything bright, she is pushed to the breaking point. Losing herself in The Color Project—a world of weddings, funerals, cancer patients, and hopeful families that the charity funds—is no longer enough. Bee must hold up the weight of her family, but to do that, she needs Levi. She’ll have to give up her name and let him in completely or lose the best thing that’s ever happened to her.

For fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson, THE COLOR PROJECT is a story about the three great loves of life—family, friendship, and romance—and the bonds that withstand tragedy.

The characters were all, or at least mostly, interesting, believable people. But there were a lot of them, so the power of each individual character was diluted. Like there was this chick who loved shoes and was related to a TV show person or something, and two twins who liked to compliment Levi in Hindi (and the 1 Hindi line the said was sort of awkward but that’s possibly because I just dislike romanized Hindi), and this dude Keegan at the shop, and Bee’s sister, and her brother, and the florist, and all these people were present and vivid, but there were so many of them that I didn’t have a decent understanding of who each one was.


Another thing which troubled me was the charity. Now, maybe I wasn’t paying attention in the beginning, but was it clear why it was called the Color Project, and why Levi wore bright shirts. I don’t know much about charities, but my parents work for NGO’s, and having an organisation that just hands out cheques to people who were low on money just seemed a) generic and b) unrealistic. Usually charities try to help to cause of the problem (Poverty or inequality or health issues) more specifically rather than just handing out cheques, and that was never explained adequately enough for me. And it’s really hard for small charities to get the kind of donations that The Color Project was getting. Funding proposals are HARD and COMPETITIVE, yo. anyway.

My one other main problem was that a central plot point revolves around Bee hating her name, but at no point does she explain why she hates her name, or talk to her parents about it or anything like that. Bernice Aurora Westcott just didn’t seem like a very bad name to me? And I have two middle names, but I just felt like her concerns about her name were a bit ridiculous.


Those were my three main concerns, but I also was troubled by the way that Bee didn’t mention her high school at all? And the setting was just sort of confusing to me, but I don’t know America that well. I also wish that the ‘villain’ had been a bit more complex. I also found that some characters were a little too perfect.
Luckily, there’s lots to love in this story as well. For one, the two main characters are incredible. They feel really real and interesting. They were imperfect, trying to figure out what role they wanted in their great wide world, and in each others lives. Bee’s concerns about what she wanted to do with her life were totally valid and relatable, and I loved how she was just figuring out where she belonged. That narrative resonated with me. I also loved the relationship between Levi and Bee. It wasn’t quite perfect, but they were really sweet to each other and they helped each other out, and supported each other, and it was wonderful. I also really liked Levi. He was a bit of a troubled soul, but the was really genuine about what he cared about and who he cared about. I also loved his relationship with his mum. All of the characters are curious and compelling, and perfectly relatable, and I just loved that. Abrams writes amazing relationships.
I also loved the atmosphere of this book. It’s mostly a summery book, golden and warm and shimmery, but tainted by deep undercurrents of grief an unrest. The book doesn’t have a particularly strong plot; rather the shifting in the mood and atmosphere is what hold it together and makes it so lovely to read. I just loved how each chapter ends with this line full of heart that just captures what it means to be young, to be lost, and to be finding yourself. The writing is excellent. Another brilliant part of the story was how the ideas of stargazing are woven into the narrative. The characters get to know the stars as they get to know themselves; the motif worked perfectly without feeling forced, and believe me, it takes skill to do that as a writer.
This is a story full of characters and this wonderful atmosphere, and that’s what makes it stand out in a sea of contemporary. I’m so glad I read it, and despite some problems that I had, it was worth it.

What is a contemporary you’ve read which focuses on complex relationships? Have you ever gone stargazing? And have you heard of the Color Project? Tell me in the comments!

book review · books · Shar

Review: Night Swimming

Hi Virtually readers! I read so many books on holiday (well, 14) and this was one of them. It was rather excellent.

nightswimming-stephboweTitle: Night Swimming

Author: Steph Bowe

Genre: Australian YA contemporary

Themes: Family, friendship, falling in love, figuring out what you want to do with your life, putting on a musical starring a goat dressed as a plant

My blurb: Kirby has lived her whole life in a boring small town. She has a best friend and a goat—what else could she need? Then comes a stranger, Iris. Kirby is forced to deal with her feeling for Iris and what that could mean for her friendship with Clancy.

This was like a cuter, quirkier Remind Me How This Ends. There’s the small-town Australia vibe, swimming in a river, characters who aren’t attending university. I really liked it. It wasn’t exactly just a romance? It was more about the specific characters.

The main character was Kirby, who I really liked. I like how she enjoyed reading, how she chose not to finish school (that’s a lot rarer in YA than it is in real life, if you ask me says the girl who finished school), how he had a pet goat (I had pet goats once), and was generally pretty cool. She also happened to like girls, and I think it was good that this fact wasn’t a complete big deal. This definitely wasn’t a coming-out story. Also yay to not having the fall-in-love-with-a-best-friend trope.

DSC07740

Let’s talk about Iris. I loved her so much. I really liked the way her character developed in Kirby’s eyes from stranger to friend. Also, she was a biracial Australian whose mother was from NZ and father was from India. Just like me (except I’m not Australian). I really liked her fashion sense and personality and genral quirkiness. I will admit, though, that compared to Kirby and Clancy I didn’t feel like she underwent much character development? She was slightly flat as a character. As other people have said, this book represents a lot of divers perspectives—characters from different ethnicities, LGBTQ+ identities, mental illness and single parent families (does this classify as diverse?)

I also really liked Night Swimming’s focus on family. Kirby is really devoted to her grandfather, who has dementia, and she has to deal with the existence of her father and understanding that her mother loves her, even if she shows love in a way Kirby can’t always understand.

Last of all, this book was absurdly quirky. Stanley is a hilarious goat (what goat isn’t) (side note: I have a stuffed sheep called Stanley Shunpike Sheep); Kirby, Iris and Clancy put on a musical for a rather unenthused audience, there are crop circles with a mysterious creator, rain storms, Indian and Chinese food, cats, goat soap (I wish there was more about it. Like, what actually is it and how is it made?), a house like the Burrow, a lot of love for mixed-lolly packs, and (of course) night swimming.

Overall, this was a glorious and adorable book that I thouroughly enjoyed.

Plot: 4/5

Setting: 5/5

Characters: 4/5

Writing: 4/5

Total: 4/5