books

YA Psychologist

What is your bookish problem? If you’re a bookworm, you have probably encountered a lot of heartache for a lot of reasons. So today, I’m here to help diagnose you and offer you some counselling.

-Shanti

psychologist

Patient # 1: TBR sufferer

Patient: I don’t know what to do. My TBR is trying to kill me. I have so many books– books I bought, books I have from the library, audiobooks, ebooks, and arcs and I don’t know what to read, least of all what to read next. I want to read all of the books, but there are too many. I can’t survive this. *weeps*

Psychologist: TBR’s are terrible, I know. But you need to come to terms with the fact that, no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to read all of the books you want to. Once you internalise that fact, you can start to think about which books you really want to read. Is there something that you’ve heard a lot about, and own already? Is there a book that sounds so you you must feast your brain on it? Read those books, enjoy them (hopefully) and try not to panic. Panicking prevents reading from being fun.

 

Patient # 2: The Book Planner

Patient: I’m helpless. I spend all my time obsessing over books and making charts of when they come out and I have a spreadsheet of where and when I’m going to buy them and all the interviews the author ever gave and I need to check all the hashtags for the books every day. This takes up all my time, and now even my book reading friends think I’m weird.

Psychologist: It’s great that you love books so much. Still, planning around all the release dates can be very stressful. I recommend that you have a set amount of time for organising books, and then don’t go over that amount. You don’t really need to do very much, it’s the publishers job to monitor the release dates and everything. Give yourself a certain number of books, the ones which you’re most excited for, and preorder them, or ask your library to preorder them. That way, they’ll come when they come and you’ll be ready for it.

 

Patient # 3 : The Bookterneter

Patient: I love books and I love reading. But recently I’ve found that I spend more time on bookstagram and bookter and booklr and goodreads and booktube and book blogs than I do actually reading. As well as not reading, all this time means that I get really jealous of other peoples books when I hear so much about them, and I keep getting halfway through a book then stopping, because I’ve heard of another I want to read. I just love all the community around books online, and I don’t want to just leave it, but I still want to spend more time reading. How can I not be so distracted?
Psychologist: Well, first off, it’s people like you, who get people excited about books, who are really important to publishers. You are helping the whole book community by spending time online, but the reading books is still the uniting factor. If you struggle this much with being distracted (which is okay! It happens to the best of us!) then turn your wifi or data off– or outright shut down your device– for an amount of time you set yourself, which should be just for reading. And then you can come back to the internet and share your love or hate about the book.

Patient # 4: The book-ripped-my-heart-out-and-I-can’t-recoverer

Patient: I read this book. I read it six weeks ago. It was the end of a series. I had been anticipating it since I read the previous book, and I was so happy to have it in my hands. I read it, fast, and I loved it, but at the end there was a horrible plot twist and something bad happened to my favourite character. I left the world of the book when I closed it’s pages, but the story has been haunting me. I often find myself sobbing, because I’m thinking about the book. I can’t read, because the only story I can think about is that one. *bursts into tears*

Psychologist: It’s okay, it’s okay. Well actually, it isn’t. I can’t tell you that it’s just a book, because it isn’t just a book to you, is it? The book was a home to you, a place of refuge, a place of belonging, and you can’t just read another book while you’re still attached to this one. That said, sometimes the pages of another book is the best place to find recovery. So I suggest that you write a list of what you loved about the book you read. Then you can use that information to inform your next step. You could write fanfiction. You could make a tumblr account entirely dedicated to the book. You could reread the series. You could read another book that shares some of the things you loved about this one. There are so many options on the road to recovery.
Have you ever experienced any of these? What are your main bookish problems, and do you tell the people around you about them? Tell me in the comments!

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book review · Uncategorized

‘Tis the Season of Rereading: The FitzOsbornes in Exile

Do you remember January and December last year? When we sort of did a feature called ’tis the Season of Rereading and reread books and talked about them? Like Artemis Fowl and Scarlet? Even if you don’t remember, we’re resurrecting that feature, and today I’m talking about one of my favourite books EVER: The FitzOsbornes in Exile.

Shanti

fitz

First of all, to recount my previous readings. So I last read this in January, when I had a dream about it. When I dream about books it makes me want to read them, so I read it and it was fabulous. Before that it was in late October 2014, when I was using it to study for a history exam (or at least, that was my excuse. ) I read the entire series then. Before that, it was May 2014 (and I only know this because of library records) And I had read it at least once from the digital library beforehand. So we’re talking 4-5 times, counting this one.

The thing about rereading is that it means you don’t read it for the plot. I don’t think I’ve ever tried- but don’t you think rereading a mystery novel would be unrewarding when you already know what’s going to happen? So I didn’t read the FitzOsbornes in Exile for the book. I read it for the fabulously evoked setting and characters. This post will contain spoilers for the first book in the sense that I’m going to mention who lives or dies and who’s insane, but I’m not going to bring up the major plot point of A Brief History of Montmaray that led to the FitzOsbornes being in England.

The characters are highly fabulous. There’s

+Sophia: She’s the writer of the journal that is the book. She’s quiet and clever and a little bit tired of high Society. She’s kind and thoughtful and good at preventing arguments. She loves to read. She’s awesome pretty much. Through the books she gets much more confident and assured and knows herself more, which is a good journey to watch.

+Veronica: This is Sophie’s cousin. She’s pretty but uninterested in her looks. She loves history and is very fierce and passionate about justice. She is quite depressed at the start of the novel, but becomes more determined and assured, and delivers a pivotal speech to a large group of people.

+Toby: He’s really interesting. He’s a hopeless flirt, but is also hopelessly in love with Simon. (Isn’t it great that this book shows historically people of different sexualities?) He isn’t studious, and can be quite miserable as well.

+Simon: He becomes very involved with the FitzOsbornes for various reasons. Social status is important to him, but he’s also kind and hardworking, and he gets better at working with the other FitzOsbornes.

There’s a lot of character development in this book, because everything has changed for the FitzOsbornes since they’ve been forced to leave their home. They also make new friends in the Wittighams, and get to know each other better. The amazingly written characters are on of the things I love. I also like Aunt Charlotte- of course she has problems but she’s also really loving and does her best, as well as providing comic relief (along with Henry)

I also love the setting. It’s meticulously researched, and incorporates real people and real history so well into the story of Montmaray. (in case you didn’t pick up: Montmaray is a tiny island between Spain and England, sovereign for 500 years, most of the population left after all of the men were killed in WWII and the FitzOsbornes are the somewhat impoverished and now homeless Royal family, with Toby as the reluctant king and it’s 1938 at the start of the book) The research was done so well- it had actual headlines from newspapers at the time, and I felt like I knew those people, like I was there. Which is testament to Michelle Coopers excellent writing really. I see the ballgowns and hear the frustration in Veronica’s voice and feel a little bit sorry for Daniel and determined to get Montmaray back and Julia why did you do this and that dialogue made me cry and… I get the feels, pretty much.

I don’t want to spoil, but the story is as interesting as the first time reading it was well as teaching actual history.

Why do I come back to this book? What makes it worth rereading? Because I read many excellent historical novels, but there are very few that I reread as often as I have this one. I think it’s because of a lot of things- partially the amazing setting, the fascinating history, the vivid characters, the constantly moving plot, the excellent dialogue… all the things that make a book good. But I love the FitzOsbornes in Exile for more than that. I love it because it makes the pain and frustration and delight of the people who lived in history real in a way that textbooks can’t. And that is very special (and cheesy, let’s be honest here)

Are there any books that you could reread a hundred times? Do you love historical fiction? Are you going to read the Montmaray Journals now? tell me in the comments!

book review

Love in the Time of Global Warming -please no

It is very unusual for me to give a book beneath three stars on goodreads. Love in the time of Global Warming got one (though technically 1.5) I really hated it for a variety of reasons especially because it was totally different to my expectations.  So here is my review, with a lot of anger, because the pretty cover betrayed me.

-Shanti

Her life by the sea in ruins, Pen has lost everything in the Earth Shaker that all but destroyed the city of Los Angeles. She sets out into the wasteland to search for her family, her journey guided by a tattered copy of Homer’s Odyssey. Soon she begins to realize her own abilities and strength as she faces false promises of safety, the cloned giants who feast on humans, and a madman who wishes her dead. On her voyage, Pen learns to tell stories that reflect her strange visions, while she and her fellow survivors navigate the dangers that lie in wait. In her signature style, Francesca Lia Block has created a world that is beautiful in its destruction and as frightening as it is lovely. At the helm is Pen, a strong heroine who holds hope and love in her hands and refuses to be defeated.

I hated this book. I don’t hate many books, and this was partially created by expectations vs. reality. I expected: some romance, an acknowledgement of the global issues surrounding the wasteland humans create for themselves, an adventure based on the Odyssey, and maybe some poetry. What I got was: a poorly written retelling that tried way too hard to echo the Odyssey, a disaster that didn’t make sense, undeveloped characters and a weird romance that I could not appreciate in any way, and a wannabe retelling. So let’s explore these dramatic statements of mine a little more, okay?

One of the main problems I have with modern/realistic apocalyptic stories ( LitToGW was not that at all , as it turns out) are that they are ignorant. After all, the most likely apocalypse in our future is global warming in a globalised world. Despite it’s title, LitToGW totally ignored this aspect, referring instead to a mysterious even known as the “Earth Shaker” who’s details were never fleshed out (On a side note, how did everyone know it was called the Earth Shaker if they were all alone after it happened?) Very few details were fleshed out- there are clones/giants (allegedly Cyclopes) this Tibetan Goddess pops up for no reason, the actions scenes are all over the place, and suddenly there are magic powers. Maybe this lack of detail is part of the allegory but I was confused and disgruntled.

The retelling aspect also irritated me. Maybe I haven’t read the entire Odyssey (Full disclosure: I started once, but I was too bored to continue) but I know the details (Thanks Percy Jackson and seventh grade English) This books assumes that the reader knows nothing of the original story and draws all the parallels for you It’s not that I think that the original story shouldn’t be involved in a (Rook does it subtly and well) but I thought that the entire ‘retelling’ was too literal. Call me sophisticated, but I liked symbolism, something that is proven to work very well in retellings. LitToGW tried waaaaay too hard and I hated it. It didn’t make sense.

I don’t know much about gender politics, but I disliked how they were treated in here (spoiler actually) Aside from that, I disliked that progression of romance. Clearly they were going to end up together, but one day it kissing and the next it was much more, even though not that much had happened between, and they didn’t really know each other (Unless you count getting high together as getting to know)

The characters didn’t really make sense either. Everything we know about them is shown, not told Even the tattoos aren’t allowed to naturally develop their own symbolism- instead, it is crudely pointed out at every turn. Pen tells us all this stuff, trying to be an articulate John-Greenesque teenager, but she just looks pretentious. There are constant references to impressionism and cubism and other art movements that didn’t matter at all . And the other character just seemed to be there to make a team. I especially hated Hex, and as for Tara…. Merk was just a waste of ‘emotionally charged’ space. The bad guys didn’t develop at all either. It was all too brief. (Not that I wanted to read for any longer)

There were other things I disliked. The writing was trying to be poetic, rather than flowing and graceful like real beautiful writing is.

[A sign] that cruelly reads EAT (Cruel in two ways-because we’re hungry and we don’t want to be eaten)


See what I mean? It’s shown, not told.

I’m getting immune [to the hells] in some ways, but I think that may be a sign of how I’m losing my mind


In some ways? It can’t make up it’s mind. ( And I didn’t even begin on the Odyssey related quotes.) I didn’t like the writing and none of it was in the right place (explaining, developing, clarifying or describing confusing things) And the ending really bothered me (spoiler alert: It didn’t make sense) And the (non-sense making) powers were just odd plot devices.

In all fairness, I didn’t find this book hard to read. The writing is grating, but at least it’s not difficult to get into. I also appreciated the theme of family, and how Pen is searching for her family amid the ruins of her world. And te concept was good. It just was terribly executed. But that’s why this story doesn’t lose all of the stars.

Love in the Time of Global Warming tried to be too many things at once. A retelling, a romance, a fantasy, a post apocalyptic story… I fell in love with the title, but it wasn’t what I was promised. I disliked it. But if you’re prepared for a theme of confusion and maybe some anger, then you’re welcome to try to read it.

What’s the last book that you read and hated? Feelings on confused retellings that use Marquez titles? Have you read this?

book review

Gift in Green- I’m Confused

So I really like India. I live here, I’m mostly from here, but I really don’t read many books about it. With that in mind, I picked up Gift in Green at the library. It was good, but totally ruined by my constant confusion. Still, it was about the environment, in a depressing way, which is important, I guess? -Shanti

Simultaneously published in English and Malayalam, the language in which it was first written, Gift in Green is an unconventional novel about the relationship between a people and the land they inhabit.Kumaran is a young man when he leaves Aathi, serene island of water bodies and mangroves, for the ‘modernity’ and ‘exposure’ of the big city.Many years later, his return to Aathi signals the beginning of the end, as roads and bridges choke the water-life, birds and butterflies flee the dying mangrove forests, and chemicals seep into the paddy fields that have fed generations over several hundreds of years.Will the idealism of Dinakaran, the fury of Ponmani and the pragmatic perseverance of Karthiayani and her companions be able to stop the relentless progress of the behemoth? Or will the concrete city with its daily expulsions of tonnes of sewage take over the backwaters that give life to Aathi?A delightfully romantic vision of the world as it once was — and perhaps still can be — as well as a searing delineation of the dystopia that awaits us, Gift in Green shows us a new way to read our times, powered by the imagination of a writer who is known to touch a raw nerve every time she puts words on a page.

Fun Fact: I’ve actually met the translator of this novel due to a series of random events, but I didn’t know it at the time.
There were a lot of things that I liked about Gift in Green- the environmental message, the way the setting in the backwaters of Kerala is described so well, and the way that stories were used- it’s almost metafiction in that sense. My main complaint, however, is that I am confused.
The environment matters a lot. In this country, of rapid ‘development’ and concretification, it’s easy to see how little people don’t care. As the beautiful, lush backwaters of Aathi were transformed into a fetid development, the people lost touch with nature and that was terrible for them. The natural rhythms of life were gradually destroyed, and the people’s attitude towards the land changed. I liked how the book showed that the people are, at least to some extent, innocents- they have a lot of need, and the developer increased that, forcing them to work in his landfill of the greenbangle just to survive.
The setting is beautiful. I could see the fragrant, sparkling water- and then the stinking grey sludge. I could see the way of life that Aathi had. There were a few times that the translation (from the language of Kerala, Malayalam) felt awkward, like key words repeated in sentence, rather than synonyms. I have been to Kerala, if not that area, and I could practically taste it. I found that the scene with the poisoned water was particularly, though terribly, evocative.

gift in green 1 gift in green 2
I liked how the stories were used. The story of Thampuran a local saint, is used as a symbol through the story, and the storytelling nights with diverse stories from the Bible/Koran, local myths and plays are used. The element of speech and communication, and how the steel behemoth eclipses that, is well used. I liked the poetry, and that was translated pretty well.

So what is there to complain about? Basically, I was confused the entire time. I had no idea what was going on. A non-linear time structure is used, and there is no clear protagonist. In addition to this, the plot sort of doesn’t exist. It’s more like scenes from a changing lifestyle. There aren’t even any indicators of time- the level of pollution seems to indicate that it’s been years, but the storytelling nights seem to happen over days. I didn’t like it. I didn’t get it. Some of the characters were interesting, but because viewpoints kept switching, no one was developed. I couldn’t understand the characters and the plot flew straight over my head, and that made it hard to read- I wasn’t gripped to the page Also, there were heaps of names. I kept forgetting who people were. There were like 20 ‘main characters’ with equal importance to the plot.

Have you ever read a really confusing non linear book? what did you think about it? Does this sound good or confusing to you?

book review

The Last Time I say good bye to a fabulous book

I read The Last Time We Say Goodbye. I loved it.  now I shall attempt a review.
The last time Lex was happy, it was before. When she had a family that was whole. A boyfriend she loved. Friends who didn’t look at her like she might break down at any moment.

Now she’s just the girl whose brother killed himself. And it feels like that’s all she’ll ever be.

As Lex starts to put her life back together, she tries to block out what happened the night Tyler died. But there’s a secret she hasn’t told anyone-a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything.

Lex’s brother is gone. But Lex is about to discover that a ghost doesn’t have to be real to keep you from moving on.

From New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand, The Last Time We Say Goodbye is a gorgeous and heart-wrenching story of love, loss, and letting go.

This book was excellent (4.5 stars because I can’t decide). The way it dealt with grief, the complexity of the characters and the plot of forgiving yourself all worked so well.
Grief is difficult. I’ve read enough books with heartrending, beastly cliffhangers to know that I am lucky that I have less personal experience with it than Lexie, but the writing in the Last Time We Say Goodbye shows it- raw, painful, real but also something that becomes part of who you are and eventually leaves. Lexie and her parents changing relationships, as well as her relationship with Steven, is shown in how they each deal with grief and each other. They learn that it’s not their fault even though it is in some small ways, and I liked that. I really felt how Lexie was through her experience of grief- her fear of getting it wrong, her fear of being wrong, the fact that she was trying to find a new place in the world. I don’t think her therapist was really necessary, except as a plot device, but those conversations were important too. And her friends were awesome for the record.
Lexie is such an interesting character to read about. She had what was missing from Pearl in the Year of the Rat (which I read last week) . She experiences the world and details and numbers and the little pieces- parts of Ty’s room, numbers and statistics. She’s a very detail oriented person, and Hand’s beautiful writing really demonstrates that. The other characters were pretty periphery, but the flashbacks helped me to get how that knew each other. The journal entries were quite vital, and the way she doesn’t quite know how to deal with the hole in her life (the hole of grief, another element of writing which I loved) made me utterly empathise with her.
Lastly, I liked the plot. The ghostly element was not as important as I expected, but it was still an interesting idea to read about. I liked the physicality of the cologne and what it represented, and how, even after his death, through the letter and the note and the text. The journal entries were a nice contrast too, and they embodied the passing of time. The ending also wrapped up perfectly, just enough to feel satisfied without the characters lives being over. I didn’t actually think that the Phil and Damian plotlines were necessary, or even that whole bike ride thing, but I do get why they were there- so Lexie knew that she wasn’t aloneThe way that the plot showed that family and friendship is more important when you’re afraid was wonderful.
So there were a few unnecessary elements, but overall, The Last Time We Say Goodbye is a brilliantly written, life-affirming novel with wonderful characters and a lot of sadness and a bit of happiness. The emotions are powerful and I really recommend it!

Have you read The Last Time? What did you think? Do you find it easy to connect with stories of grief, or confusing? tell me in the comments

books

Reading Goals and why it’s important to branch out

By Shar

The title is self explanatory, really. Also, I’m wearing pyjamas and sitting on my bed because it’s raining, a standard state of affairs for the next 3 months. *sigh* 

So remember way back in January when I wrote this post (during my ‘off’ week, as well. As co-bloggers Shanti and I each write for one week, then have a rest for the next.) about my 2015 reading goals? Today I’m going to do an update about where I am with them, and talk about the importance of branching out.

  • This is what my (somewhat messy) handwriting and my yard looks like
    This is what my (somewhat messy) handwriting and my yard looks like

    Writing down everything I read– I’m pretty sure I’ve done this. I’m a few books behind right now. *consults calendar* but I think I got them all. I read 15 in January, 10 in February, 5 in March, 5 in April, maybe 3 (I couldn’t remember) in May, and so far 9 in June. That’s a grand total of something like 48. So that actually went quite well. I used my calendar to write down what I finished each month. Can you guess which months I had school and which month I had exams? ( the amount of books I read appears inversely proportional to the amount of schoolwork I have. I should write an equation.)

  • Read some classics- I’ve only read Jane Eyre, so far, which was quite good. I should probably read more classics, but they’re so much work!
  • Review more books- I’ve only reviewed what I’ve posted, so that’s not that much, but probably more than I did in 2014.
  • Read some nonfiction- This has gone semi-well. I’m about 50 pages through Collapse by Jared Diamond (but I have been for 3 weeks so that doesn’t quite count), I read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and yesterday I finished City of Djinns by William Dalyrymple.( that was summer reading though, so does it count?). I also have to read In Cold Blood for summer homework.
  • Read the newspaper- I’ve read it a bit, maybe one article a week. But I prefer the fun ones about science or random funny news or opinions to actual things that are happening.
  • Read in Hindi- This has utterly failed. I haven’t read in Hindi at all and my skills are deteriorating (although being fully immersed for  3 days two weeks ago probably didn’t hurt) except reading quarter of a page of a Hindi Bible, which I found super difficult for some reason.

So why do I want to branch out? I could just read fluffy contemporaries and be happy. But sometimes, by branching out, you discover a new genre, or new type of book you love. I thought Jane Eyre was amazing ( although I didn’t like the ending) even though it was hard work to read and took me over a month to get through. A few years ago, I thought I only like fantasy- until I discovered dystopia. Later, I discovered contemporary and now I enjoy a lot of genres. If I had looked at, say, the People of Sparks (my first dystopia) and said ‘that sounds dumb. I’ll read Harry Potter.’ then I wouldn’t have discovered a whole genre I liked. Even if I don’t really like every genre, even if there’s a book that’s a genre I love, that doesn’t make it good. I don’t want to miss a really good book just because it’s the wrong genre. Just like ‘judging a book by it’s cover’ or a person before you really know them, choosing books for their genre is very close minded and makes it extremely easy to miss a gem. Sometimes, with non fiction or classics, it might be harder than reading something you’re used to, but it can make you wiser or see the world in a different way than if you’d stayed with your favourite genre, clinging like a stubborn blind limpet that doesn’t want to see the world.

DSC03076 DSC03075

Did/do you have reading goals? Have you ever learned something from branching out? (and it doesn’t just have to be with books) What’s your favourite genre? Tell me!

books

Discussion: Mental Illness in YA

By Shar

Hi people. I recently finished It’s Kind of A Funny Story, and I started thinking about mental health in YA books. And anyway, I think it’s a good  and important thing to talk about, so I thought I’d do a discussion post. 

Let’s begin with discussing books that tackle mental health/illness. One’s I’ve read include It’s Kind of A Funny Story, Falling Into Place, Say What You will, Thirteen Reasons Why, Speak, Wintergirls, Looking for Alaska, All the Bright Places, The Impossible Knife of Memory, We Were Liars, This Song Will Save Your Life, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and that’s all I can think of. I’ve heard that Challenger Deep, The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B, and others. (Tell me if you’ve read others, readers.)

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So why is mental health and illness important? 

Some studies have shown up to 1 in 3 people live with mental health problems. From depression to OCD, there are so many problems and  books are one way to raise awareness and also reduce stigma from these problems. You know how sometimes on Facebook and things there will be photos (e.g of bald or disabled people) with quotes saying 1 like=1 respect (you can’t quantify respect) and ‘ help me beat cancer by giving me 10,000 likes!’ (these are pretty much word for word quotations by the way. But do you ever see ‘Please like to help me beat depression’ ‘I’m got treatment for my schizophrenia (hard to spell, by the way) so encourage me by sharing!’ No. Even though we have left the straightjackets and padded rooms behind us, there is still a huge amount of stigma around mental disorders that you don’t find in many other areas. This can discourage people from seeking help, and also mean there is less awareness in people. It’s easier to blame someone for having depression than for being born with only three toes. Books are part of culture, specifically pop culture, and represent our society. By reflecting mental health issues, a complex but certain part of our society, in books, we begin to reduce stigma around it. It may be baby steps, but it’s definitely better than nothing.

What is good or necessary in mental disorder novels? (Contribute in the comments!)

Firstly, we need good characters. They need to have a reason for their mental disorder, be more than their problems (meaning that they’re not just a person with depression, for example, but a person with depression who craves success, loves his parents, enjoys peeing, has a complex relationship with his so-called friends, etc, in Craig’s case.) Good characters who are round and detailed, not just ‘here is person. Here is problem. This is complex.’ help the reader have empathy, even if the character is completely different from them, and better understand them as a person, not just a problem. I think this also relates to real mental health disorders, because it is easy to see someone with any disorder- especially severe mental disorders- as just a problem rather than a person with a problem.

Another important aspect is a description of the disorder. It doesn’t have to sound like it came from a medical journal, but at least so the readers know what is actually affecting the person’s mind. This is less necessary with more common problems such as depression, but even with commoner (is that a word) problems it’s just useful for the reader to have a sense of how the character is affected.  This also helps the reader to gauge the reliability of the narrator, because you don’t want to spend half the book being absorbed and then told that all of what you read is a lie and completely irrelevant to the actual plot. I think that It’s Kind of A Funny Story actually did a really good job with this.

I don’t know about everybody else, but for me, I want books of this genre to end with at least a glimmer of hope. For starters ‘then he went crazy and died’ is a very uncreative ending, but I don’t want my characters to have no chance at a better life. It’s grim and I don’t know if mental illness is ever truly cured, but I know that with medication and counselling and things a lot of disorders can get a lot better. The ending needs to be round, not fully ‘now I am totally fine and normal’ (which was one thing that annoyed me about it’s kind of a funny story) but not ‘life is a hopeless pit of despair and I will never ever recover’ .

What is really ridiculous and unnecessary in this genre?

First, insta cure. Like I said (and I really don’t know all that much), mental illness isn’t something that can really be cured, only treated. It seems like an unrealistic and over the top ending, which I disliked and definitely happened in It’s Kind of a Funny Story.   While I do like hopeful endings, just fixing everything doesn’t really work for me.  The ending of Wintergirls and Speak was really good in not ending this way.

Kind of similarly, insta love curing everything. If your mind isn’t super stable, then is it really a good idea to start a relationship? I actually thought Noelle and Craig in IKOAFS were quite a good couple, but they moved way too fast. Besides, considering Craig and Nia the day before, I think this proved that he probably wasn’t in the best place to start going out with Noelle.

Ridiculous characters who don’t add things to the plot are also annoying. In any book, if they’re only there for laughs then that’s a bit pointless. Like with the other category, there are a lot more but I just can’t think of them right now. M

ental illness is a really serious and tough topic to tackle. I think it’s important for authors to tackle, because it is a highly stigmatised and challenging issue, but also relevant to almost anybody. Because of all the challenges around mental health, it is really hard to write about, and it’s easy to make mistakes. But even if a book that tackles mental illness isn’t perfect, it can still be a learning experience for the readers. We need diverse books, and mental health is one part of the gorgeous diversity we find in our everyday lives. Just beginning to address this fragile and unique issue in books will make it easier to confront in our everyday lives.

So, what do you think? I haven’t really done any discussion posts before, so I want some feedback. What are your opinions on mental illness in books? What are books you’ve read with really good representations of mental illness? Do you have anything to add about what makes a boo about mental health really good or not so good? 

book review

Quick Review- Surviving the Applewhites

By Shar

Good morning (or whatever) This week I have been busy with finishing up school (the last day was yesterday) and other things. I technically have one exam this afternoon, but it’s RE (which is open bible… do you think that sounds funny) so I’ll be all right. I recently finished this very sweet MG book, which I actually got out for my brother to read (since I’d already read it) but that didn’t happen so I did.

Title: Surviving the Applewhites

Authour: Stephanie Tolan

Awards: Newbury Honor (And I don’t think I’ve read any Newbury I haven’t liked

picture from Amazon
picture from Amazon

Genre: Conteporary MG

Themes: Drama, family, friendship, living in the Deep South (or is it the deep south?)

Basic Idea: Jake is a bad kid. He’s been kicked out of every state in Rhode Island and now one in North Carolina (Americans, I don’t know geography. But these aren’t neighbours, right?) Nobody will take him, and his parents are in prison. The only option left is the Creative Academy, a home school run by the crazy, artsy Applewhite family, or juvie (Juvenile detention, fyi). E.D, the only non-crazy, non-artistic, organised member of the family, isn’t all that excited about him coming. She just knows he’ll burn the school down, or kill a goat or something. With spiky dyed hair and all black clothes, it seems Jake will never fit in. But when the local production of The Sound of Music needs a home, maybe Jake is more Applewhite than anyone would think.

What I liked: The characters were good. This was light and funny, but also touched on important themes. Destiny (the youngest Applewhite) was adorable, even if he should have cried like a normal four year old. Even though it’s a contemporary, the premise was actually pretty good and surprising.  The setting was fabulous. The butterflies were awesome. The ending was good, even if I wanted it to tie up loose ends.

What I disliked: Jake’s transformation was not all that comprehensible. Some characters, like Marcia Manning, Paulie, Hal, and Govindswami weren’t really necessary. There wasn’t a great deal of background information. Jake and E.D both didn’t really act like 12 or 13 year olds (and I should know, considering I live with one)

favourite characters: Lucille (an aunt), Wolfbane (a goat), Randolph (the dad), and Bernstein (a reporter whose car breaks down and is stuck with them for a few months)

Character: 3/5

Setting: 5/5

Premise: 4/5

Plot: 3/5

Total: 3/5

Have you read this book? How do you feel about MG (it always cheers me up)? What was the highlight of your week? Do you have school/university finishing up?

book review

Unlikely Heroes in Room 13b

I felt like reviewing this book. It is totally awesome and the characters are complex and wonderful and I liked them a lot. You should go and read this book, okay? Its a short review, so just bear with me :).

This was a really great book. An appealing protagonist and other characters, a believable plotline and really good writing made this book fabulous and something which you should GO AND READ ASAP
Adam was a really well written character. He loved and lived and had an anxiety disorder sort of thing as well as OCD. I could really get into his head. I totally understood him. I am a fidgety person- nothing like OCD of course, but my finger tapping patterns do help calm me down. I knew absolutely nothing about OCD before reading this, even though my mother works in mental health. All of the other characters were also great. I loved Snooki and Thor, and of course there is Robin/Robyn. I loved how Adam always referred to her as Robyn, because he saw the real truth. The lies of the characters just made so much sense and were so heartbreaking. Also, the ‘new Robin’- Adam’s brother was great, and so were his family.
Believable plots aren’t always what I look for in a novel, but this one was believable, and that was good. The letters weren’t as important as they were made out to be but, still they were interesting and kept the plot moving. The plot was held together to a large extent by lies and secrets, but that was explained in context of the characters and their choices. The timespan it covered and the ending were PERFECT.
Of course, I loved the writing style. It really let me get inside Adam’s head, and I felt the emotions, the setting and the characters so strongly through the choice of words. Just once or twice it was a little repeptiive- Adam did this he thought that he felt that, but mostly it was a great expression of the characters. It was a similar i tone to Harry Potter but we were with Adam the whole time. I think it worked better than first person to express Adams sense of isolation and fear, and I liked the emotions it conveyed.
Fabulous expression of mental illness. Tick. Really great characters. Tick. Amazing writing. Tick.
I would totally read another book by this author, and you should totally read this book, if you want to understand OCD and see lovable characters and LAUGH YOUR GUTS OUT at people wanting to wash their hands in church.

books

fabulous elements of fabulous books

By Shar

Good morning/afternoon/evening/night/lunchtime/breakfast time/whatever awesome readers. This is one of those posts where you start with no idea what you’re gonna write about, only a sense of obligation to post. Because I no longer have holidays (which is sad, but at least I get to spend hours with all my friends) I haven’t finished any books, so I can’t do a review. I am reading Summerland by Michael Chabon ( definitely MG but seems okay), and bird by bird by Anne Lammott, which contains advice about writing. Hey, I know! Cait@paperfury did a post about what she likes in books. I’ll do that too!

What I’m looking for in a good book (not that a good book need these but I like them)

1.  Incredible journeys

I love it when characters, perhaps ones who might not even like each other, are forced together on some kind of epic journey. For example, Eragon is forced to flee Carvahall with Brom and Saphira and seek refuge with the Varden, and the Fellowship of the Ring must accompany Frodo as he saves the world, and in the Heroes of Olympus the Seven must travel to Greece. DSC02002Incredible journeys often strip characters to their most basic and grumpy, and you see what they’re really made of.

2. Success against terrible odds in the most surprising of fashions

Eoin Colfer does this every time, in the Artemis Fowl series and Airman and Half-Moon investigations and everything. This also happens in Percy Jackson, and The Heroes of Olympus, and Skullduggery Pleasant, and the Mortal instruments. It’s great to see how authors can get creative and overcome these insurmountable obstacles, even death (*cough* Rick Riordan, Derek Landy, Cassandra Clare*cough* DSC02007

3. Great but realistic friendship

It really annoys me when in practically all the books I read (especially contemporary), the girl and the guy who are best friends fall in love with each other. Seriously, it’s like it’s impossible to be friends with a member of the opposite sex without hating them. This is utterly unrealistic. Harry, Ron and Hermione in the Harry Potter series manage to stay friends through all their adventures, but have some fights along the way (and yes, Ron gets together with Hermione, but it doesn’t count in my world. I couldn’t say why. Apparently people ship Harrione(is that what it’s called?) but I disagree. The canon romances are the best in this case). Friends like Sloane and Emily in Since You’ve Been Gone, Simone and Caroline in Just Like Fate, Stephanie and Skullduggery in Skullduggery Pleasant, Verity in Maddie in Codename Verity and Katniss and Gale in the Hunger Games (yes they *SPOILER* kiss once, but again, doesn’t count). This shows that there doesn’t have to be romance, and is just so inspiring and awesome I like it.

4. Realistic Romance

So many books have these perfect couples! It just doesn’t happen in real life. Adam and Mia in If I Stay (not where she went), Harry and Ginny (they are really an OTP) Michael and Tori in Solitaire, Violet and Theo in All the Bright Places, Abdi and Teagan in When We Wake, Percabeth (of course), Penny and that other boy whose name I forgot in Love-Shy. It’s just so annoying when these people look at each other and suddenly everything’s perfect. The world just doesn’t work like that. It gives you all these standards and then you look at real life and you’re like ‘why can’t I have a boyfriend like Four? Why world? Just Why?’ (I don’t exactly like Four… but I do at the same time. It’s confusing. Maybe he’s good for Tris but not for me)

5. Interesting Settings

Whether it’s fantasy or the real world… a good setting just makes everything better. Like the little Welsh Island in Miss Peregrine, or anything in World War II (e.g the Book Thief. Codename Verity, Montmaray). The setting of Alaigasiea (which I can’t spell) in the Inheritance Cycle’s pretty good. If it’s well described then it makes it so much easier to imagine the characters going wherever they’re going and just fun.DSC02006

6. Interesting Narrators(not good guys)

How many bad guy main characters can you think of in YA fiction? Not that many. It’s just, they have stories too! They do interesting things! I can think of Fairest (which I still haven’t read. I want Winter more though. But the other books have parts from her POV) and not that many others. But Death in The Book Thief is one of the most original narrators I’ve met (first sign of book madness:treating fictional characters as people). It’s very refreshing and enjoyable (If you know other books with bad guys, please just tell me in the comments)

7. Pretty Language

I just love it when authors use great words, and make it all sound better and nice. For example, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, the Ingo Series, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Yiddish Policeman’s Union.  It just sounds better. It’s pretty and happy and good and wonderful.

Thanks, Cait, for your great idea! (And sorry if I said anything you already said. It wasn’t intentional.)