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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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‘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”

book review · books · shanti · Uncategorized

8 Reasons to read Ashbury/Brookfield

Hi Virtually Readers! A few months ago I was deep in some corner of the internet (aren’t we all) and found all these posts on inside a dog that Jaclyn Moriarty had written AGES ago, about her Ashbury/Brookfield books, a series of contemporary novels told entirely in found documents. They’re more companion novels, btw, rather than sequels. And I read the series over then next few months, finishing in September, and I loved them all. The books are Feeling Sorry for Celia, Finding Cassie Crazy, The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie, and Dreaming of Amelia (except I got confused and read Amelia before Bindy). Those links, by the way, go to my reviews. I loved the series, and now I’m going to give you some reasons to read it.

One, the books are all hilarious.

Because it’s told in documents, there are all different styles of writing to differentiate the characters. One character, Emily, is prone to malpropism (I shall rain over everyone). Another character thinks she’s really smart, and it shows hilariously in the writing. Then there are fake court summonings (SO FUNNY) and drunk blogging. Not to mention the situations the character get into which are funny…one character is hilariously convinced that there is a ghost and another runs away to the circus.

Two, they’re all mysteries.

Now I’m an idiot and it took until the fourth book for me to figure out that all the books were mysteries. I actually really liked this though; it’s a sign that the mystery is well incorporated into the novel, and the focus stays on the characters.

Three, melodrama

All of the characters are teenagers, and like teenagers are wont too, tend to exaggerate their own circumstances to be a little more important and life changing than they really are. (especially Emily. Oh Emily, how I love you) But there are just enough instances where something ~creepy~ is actually happening that you can’t quite be sure.

Four, friendship

There are so many strong female friendships; and even just friendships in general. Finding Cassie Crazy and Dreaming of Amelia especially focus on a trio of girls, Cassie, Emily, and Lydia, and they are very funny and very supportive and generally excellent. And Amelia and Riley are very good friends to each other, and I love that Ernst is friends with Bindy (also a bit of shipping there tbh), and also all the boys in Finding Cassie Crazy are great (except for some of them). I liked Seb particularly.

Five, creative and quirky documents

Remember the fake court summonings I mentioned up above? Well, they’re part of the documents that make up the story. It’s a lot like Illuminae, but less pretty. There are also these excellent messages from various ‘societies’ in the first book which help us get into Elizabeth, the main characters head. In every book except The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie, you don’t know why the docements have been found and collected; but they’re there, and they’re wonderful, and you just enjoy it.

Six, compelling characters

Sometimes with document based stories, it’s hard to connect to the characters, but Jaclyn Moriarty is so clever that this never happens. I especialy connected with Bindy Mackenzie and Elizabeth Clarry, in the first and third books, which are more centred on one person. The honesty of the stories, the issues the characters have, and the way that the documents they leave can and simeltaneously cannot account for their lives; somehow, it works, and all the characters are just so true to life.

Seven, surprises

I often guess plots, but Moriarty consistently surprised me. I never knew what to expect and quite what each clue added up to, and that made such a nice change. The endings are a little ridiculous, but still perfect.

Eight, ALL CAPS.

There are a lot of ALL CAPS as emphasis in the book. Very relatable if you’re a book blogger.

I do actually have some critiques of these books, which you can see in my reviews. Overall, though, they’re very clever, very enjoyable, and very funny and I think more people need to read them so go forth and do likewise.

Have you read any of these books? And what’s your favourite document based book? let me know in the comments!

 

book review · Shar · Uncategorized

Review: Genuine Fraud (genuinely not for me)

33843362Title: Genuine Fraud

Author: E. Lockhart

Genre: YA mystery/thriller

Themes: Friendship, murder, power, wealth and poverty

Blurb: Told in reverse chronological order, Genuine Fraud is about a girl who has conned her way into inheriting and heiress’ fortune. Now on the run, Jules refuses to let anyone take what she’s got away. But what did it take for her to get what she has? Where has she come from? And what happened to Imogen? Continue reading “Review: Genuine Fraud (genuinely not for me)”

books · Shar · tags · Uncategorized

Cake Flavoured Books Tag

Hi Virtually readers! As I’ve mentioned before, the last 2 months I’ve been a useless person who has barely commented/done much blogging at all. Why? Because I’ve been travelling! (To see where I’ve been going, click here and follow the Europe Diaries tag). Now I’m at home again, I will try to reply and everything. Before I start, though, I’ll do a monthly roundup of books I read because I feel like it.  Continue reading “Cake Flavoured Books Tag”

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 · 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 · Uncategorized

#LoveOzYA and also this book

In case you haven’t heard of it, Begin, End, Begin, is a short story collection by a bunch of Australian Young Adult authors, and I adored it. Each story was excellent, and the authors I hadn’t read made me want to try out their full-length work(Will Kostakis and Alice Pung, I’m coming for you. I like short fiction, because it’s like dipping your toe into a story, and not worrying too much about info dumps or even background info. The story is a perfect capsule in and of itself, and it’s such a joy to have a variety of tales all together. Each author just really got teenagers.

30844667The YA event of the year. Bestsellers. Award-winners. Superstars. This anthology has them all. With brilliantly entertaining short stories from beloved young adult authors Amie Kaufman, Melissa Keil, Will Kostakis, Ellie Marney, Jaclyn Moriarty, Michael Pryor, Alice Pung, Gabrielle Tozer, Lili Wilkinson and Danielle Binks, this all-new collection will show the world exactly how much there is to love about Aussie YA.
One Small Step My only critique is that Kaufman seemed to be trying a bit too hard to tick aalllll the diversity boxes? But it was a lot of fun. I loved the setting on Mars, and this one had lots of action. I also liked how it confronted what you do after school, because it’s been something that’s on my mind a lots lately.
I Can See the Ending I definitely didn’t expect this one to have a magical realism twist. It was nicely incorporated into the story without too much spaced wasted on explanations. Anyway, Kostakis has this excellent way of showing what it means to embrace a relationship, and what a struggle that can be.
In a Heartbeat I loved this concept, and how the central tension between the narrator and her mother was resolved–not perfectly, but realistically–as well as dealing iwht what it means to be a good mother and accept responsibility. The flashbacks and format as a letter were also excellent.
First Casualty I have no idea who Michael Pryor is, but this was a really sensitive, galactic way of approaching xenophobia, in society and within ourselves. It’s not easy, but it was lots of fun.
Sundays I’ve read Cinnamon Girl and Outer Space, and I think I liked them more than this? I loved the ‘group friendship/relationships are complicated’ thing, and the movement through the part lent the story a lot of dynamism
Missing Persons Whoops, I accidentally forgot everything about the Every trilogy which I didn’t finish. Anyway, this kind of stands alone, and has friendship and not much crime, which I liked.
Oona Underground I love Lili Wilkinson’s cute contemporary, but this had a darker vibe. I liked the idea of finding your way amidst mystery and silence, and trusting in your relationships.
The Feeling From Over Here I just had to look this one up in my ebook because it’s very forgettable. Again, I appreciated the contained format, and it’s easy to read, but the characters don’t have much nuance. Anyway. Gabrielle Tozer is still great.
Last Night at the Mount Solemn Observatory This was really fun. I found that it was subtle in all the right ways–the inclusion of a variety of characters was seamless, and it dealt with that central YA concern of figuring out who you are without someone else, in this case an older brother.
Competition Entry #349 Jaclyn Moriarty is WONDERFUL. Her minimalist worldbuilding was EXQUISITE and I liked the way this story looked at how one person’s experience is just one way to view an event–there’s always other things going on, and time travel can reveal that. oh, and it’s really funny!
If you love Australian authors or YA in general, this is a top notch collection that will make you feel so understood. I’m so glad it exists!

have you read many short stories? tell me in the comments!