Raindropreflections: January 2012

Sunday, 29 January 2012

NetGalley and Me

So, well,  I have a Kindle. Needless to say, I was looking forward to utilize it for NetGalley. And ever since I’ve started using the ebook-ARC service, I’ve totally fallen for it.

It’s a plus for both publishers and reviewers. We get to read books early, and publishers get to build buzz. I’m assuming that an egalley costs less to publish than a print copy, so that’s even more economical.

As a reviewer, I absolutely love the service. It’s easy to navigate, and fun, and there are so many titles that I wouldn’t normally get but took a risk on and ended up loving. I’ve widened my reading horizons, and I love that.

I’ve gotten a bunch of promising-looking books to read over vacation, like The Peculiars, which I like a lot right now, and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, which has the coolest cover EVER. And there are a whole lot more books, more than I’d normally have gotten to read early.

There’s only one con to NetGalley: rejections. Ouch. I mean, I get that if everybody reads a book early, sales will go down when the book comes out. Plus, this is the publishers’ method of quality control. But still… yeah, one con. Not a lot. I love NetGalley.

How is YOUR experience with NetGalley? Love it? Hate it? Tell me about it!

Monday, 23 January 2012

A Semi-Hiatus

So. I’m heading on vacation soon to an undisclosed location you will probably figure out by the end of this post. I’m thinking of posting pictures, too. Maybe even a photo of *gasp* myself, so that you lovely peeps know that I don’t have a Nutella jar for a head. (Although that would be convenient- I’d just have to scratch my Nutella head and come away with heavenly chocolate spread on my fingers.)

What this vacation means, though, is that there will be a disruption in regular programming here. While that may or may not affect you, I just thought I’d let you guys know. Because, like, I love you peeps. A lot. In a non-creepy, platonic way.

The past few days have been tough. Of course, as a teenager, I think the world revolves around me, so things like me nearly getting one camera after another but then something ends up going wrong and I’m back to looking for a camera to buy- and this repeating for WEEKS- yeah, it’s taken a toll on me. When you want something badly enough, like, say, a good camera so that you can capture a completely different environment- everything else stops mattering as much.

That’s not a good thing.

So here I am, sitting at my computer feeling really down and unable to do anything about it. On bloggy matters, though, I have a BUNCH of reviews and some thoughts on YA that I’d like to share with you amazing peeps, and I hope to be able to do that in India. I’ve gotten so much through blogging, and I’d like to continue.

So here I am, saying this: see you later. I WILL be back. Just not for a week or so.

And I might even show you my face.

Also, here’s something for you: a clue. If you figure out what place I’m going to… no, you won’t get a prize, but you will gain the title of Smartest Person EVARRR in my head. And on this blog. (And Bee, you are excluded from this competition because you already know where I’m going.)

guess where?

Funny, the place didn’t look half as pretty when *I* went there. Have a good time guessing, lovely peeps. See you soon.

Friday, 20 January 2012

6 Books That Changed My Life

I know that “6 Books That Changed My Life” is a heavy title- I mean, I’m sixteen! How much great literature could I have read in order to actually get enough books to write this post? So far, I haven’t read many classics. So far, I’ve only just dipped my toes into adult literature. So far, I know the YA section of my library inside and out. And so far, I’ve read enough books to be able to write out this post.

So, in no particular order, here we go. *clears throat*

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

This is a beautiful, beautiful book. It’s sad, yes. It’s depressing a lot of the time. But I (and I hate to say this) love tragedy. It gives life a completely different dimension, and here is the result. Read this book. If the writing doesn’t blow you away by the end, then dude, tell me what book trumps this one in writing, and I’ll make sure to read it.

How did it change my life? Maybe it was the stunning prose. Or the ending. Or the characters, so real that they jumped off the page, and my love for them. Maybe it was the sadness of the thing, proof that human lives so rarely have happy endings. Or that it’s okay to write about these things. It was all that and more.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

I’d read Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner before this, and while I absolutely love it, I have to say that A Thousand Splendid Suns resonated with me on a completely different level. The writing, the story, the ending- oh, my gosh. I love this book.

I think I love this book so much because although I disagreed with certain things in the book (things too political for me to feel free telling you my thoughts right here) there was the very human struggle to find meaning in life that is so universal. There were the characters. And I think I can read forever and ever about Afghanistan and never be tired of it.

The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

I’m sure this one is VERY obvious. Which reader’s “changed my life” book list does this not feature on? I grew up reading and watching Harry Potter. I breathed spells and had Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans for lunch. I lived vicariously through those three iconic characters that I have no doubt I’ll remember forever. Potternerd forever.

(Where’s my letter from Hogwarts, people? Why hasn’t it arrived yet?)

Hansel and Gretel

I don’t know which version of the story I read, so I can’t say who the author was. *clears throat* Anyways, this is the first book that I ever read. It was a picture book, obviously, and I turned the pages so many times after that the book fell apart. I knew all the words by heart. I can still clearly see some of the pages in my mind.

This is the book that introduced me to the wonders of the written word. That showed me how a story is formed. It also grounded the (now discarded) belief in me that there must be happy endings or else. (Growing up watching Bollywood does that to you.) And now that I think about it, a happy ending cannot be from the brothers Grimm, can it? Who the heck was the author of this one? I owe them!

Blue Jasmine by Kashmira Sheth

As an immigrant child, I related with this one on a much deeper level than any other book I read at that time. I mean, I didn’t understand our language. I couldn’t speak it (still can’t speak it) without stumbling on every other word. But even with my perfectly normal Canadian accent, I could never shrug off the feeling that I wasn’t Canadian enough for Canadians, or Indian enough for Indians. I was always in the middle. Still am.

I’ve learned to appreciate being stuck between two places that will never completely be mine. I get a unique perspective on everything. This book helped me come to terms with that. Plus, I found out I wasn’t the only awkward immigrant kid in the world.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

While this book is ridiculously funny and has the best supporting character in the history of supporting characters, Hassan, it was the book that started my addiction to young adult fiction. I hadn’t known that people wrote about that strange half-grown stage where you aren’t child or adult. And, well, this is the book that made me realize that I could write about this strange stage too, AND read more books about people my age. WIN.

And that’s that. How many of these books have YOU read? What’s a book that changed your life?

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (24)

It’s been a while since I’ve done a WoW. *cracks knuckles* *shakes out muscles* Let’s get going. Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This Wednesday, I’m waiting on City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare, (yet) another installment in The Mortal Instruments. It’s releasing May 2012.

Summary (goodreads):

In Book 5: City of Lost Souls, the Shadowhunters struggle to piece together their shattered world after a betrayal by one of their own leaves them reeling.

And that is all Goodreads tells us. Any of you who are familiar with TMI series know that the ridiculous cliffhanger on that last book makes me want to figure out what the heck is going on with that Jace, even though I thought that the series should have ended at book 3.

There are so few urban fantasies I love that this is one I’m keen to follow just to show myself that I’m not just, you know, one of those readers that never goes out of her comfort zone. So I love this series, I love Simon, and even though I’m frustrated that TMI keeps going on and on when it should have ended long ago, I’m looking forward to reading this one.

Also, that cover: I love. I’ve always thought that Clary was pretty meh, but she does have a choice between two hot guys I like a lot more than her. Jace looks like a bit too baby-faced here for his character, but his HAIR. ZOMG, HIS HAIR. I love it!

My question is, when is Simon gonna show up with Clary? HE’S my favourite.

What are YOU waiting on this Wednesday?

Friday, 13 January 2012

Review- Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Summary (goodreads):

Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastians, a boys’ school that’s pretends it’s coed by giving the girls their own bathroom.  Her only female companions are an ultra-feminist, a rumored slut, and an an impossibly dorky accordion player.  The boys are no better, from Thomas who specializes in musical burping to Will, the perpetually frowning, smug moron that Francesca can’t seem to stop thinking about.

Then there’s Francesca’s mother, who always thinks she knows what’s best for Francesca—until she is suddenly stricken with acute depression, leaving Francesca lost, along, and without an inkling who she really is.  Simultaneously humorous, poignant, and impossible to put down, this is the story of a girl who must summon the strength to save her family, her social life and—hardest of all—herself.

Cover: that girl looks like Anne Hathaway. COME ON. I can’t be the only one to think so. IT’S TRUE. Oh, and I do like the cover.

Before Reading: this is my third Marchetta book, and although I did really like Jellicoe Road and Finnikin of the Rock, I didn’t understand why everyone loved Marchetta’s work THAT much. Well, uh, this book changed that.

My Thoughts

Saving Francesca is the book I’d shove in your hand if you told me to find you a classic YA contemporary. It’s what I’d recommend if you want to see a good ol’ character-driven plot. And it’s definitely what I’d go around telling everyone to read because I loved almost every single character in this book.

Melina Marchetta has (among many) a strong point: she knows how to have character growth. Francesca isn’t the only one who changed. Almost every character who was friends with Francesca had this amazing character arc that makes me reiterate: contemporary is the backbone of YA.

Good contemporary makes you think. It makes you relate. It makes you fall in love with a swoony boy. Saving Francesca did all that. The fact that she’s Italian in Australia- I can relate, even though I’m nowhere near any of those two ethnicities. And it made it all the more special for me.

The swoony guy is what YOU must be thinking about. It wasn’t our love interest Will Trombal, incidentally. I mean, I did like him, but it was Jimmy Hailler who I really fell for. I have no idea why; I mean, he’s weird and funny and sweet and warm and… yeah. I just really liked him. *blushes furiously* *clears throat* *glares at anybody who gives me a weird look*

Moving on. I can’t finish this review without mentioning all the amazing supporting characters: Justine, Tara, Siobhan, THOMAS (I almost liked him, too, only he apparently turned out to be taken) and even the Stella girls. And of course Jimmy Hailler. *blushes again*

I’m in love with this book. And Jimmy Hailler. I’m seriously hugging the book right now because it was amazing and beautiful and it made me fall for the vibrant characters, especially Jimmy Hailler so yeah. This might just be my new favourite YA book.

And although this wasn’t by Jimmy Hailler, I loved this conversation, because I could imagine even a regular high school guy saying this:

“Do you think people have noticed that I’m around?”

“I notice when you’re not. Does that count?”

Oh my gosh, that’s SO sweet. I’m also a teenage girl, so it must be why I love that line so much, even if it’s slightly cheesy.

Parting Thoughts: this is GOOD contemporary, the kind that would be ridiculously fattening because of everyone knows that all the good things are bad for you. But this is a book, thank goodness, so it only opened my mind and made me acknowledge that yes, Melina Marchetta is the queen of contemporary.

Rating: 5/5. Read this, peeps. I loved Saving Francesca, and if you love contemporary, methinks you’ll fall head over heels in love with this one. Also, Jimmy Hailler is mine.

Monday, 9 January 2012

I'm Not Afraid

This post is long overdue. What with the Goodreads meltdown over one negative review and just a couple of days later, another author’s anger-filled post about a negative review that wasn’t even offensive enough to be so bothered about- I should have written this earlier.

I guess I just didn’t know what to say.

I am a book blogger, peeps. It means I love to read. And as a reader, my tastes aren’t always going to be the same as everyone else’s. I may hate a book everybody loved. Or heck, the other way around. And it’s my choice.

You know why? Because reading is subjective. That’s the beauty of it. I don’t know how many times we’ve pointed this out over the course of the last week, but reading is something that can strike a different chord in everyone. The very thing I loved about a book can be a peeve for somebody else. Isn’t there something beautiful in that?

I’m not writing reviews to please authors. I’m writing reviews to help others and to share my thoughts.

I won’t be bowing down to imaginary pressure from displeased authors. And ha, I suppose that pressure isn’t imaginary after all, is it? YA has been going through some rough patches lately. What everybody needs to understand is this: reviews are just that. Reviews. They may or may not help somebody get a book. A person is going to read your book no matter what if they’re interested in it.

So please don’t take out your anger on bloggers. Because, believe it or not, we have lives outside of blogging and reading. About 99 percent of us are NOT bitter, beaten down folks who want to take their anger out on the more successful artists out there. But for some reason, the majority of published authors seem to think that this is the case.

All I’m saying is this: if I didn’t like a book, I’m going to speak my mind. I’m not going to personally attack the author. I’m just going to share my thoughts, and I’m entitled to that.

I’m not afraid. And I hope that you fellow book readers and reviewers as well aren’t, either.

(And it’s okay if you didn’t get my Eminem reference from the title.)

Friday, 6 January 2012

Stereotypes in YA

I’ve seen so many times in YA that there are 5 stock characters that pop up somewhere or the other. In no particular order, here they are:

Cheerleader:this is usually never a girl who is confident in herself and her looks, although to be a cheerleader I’m pretty sure you need to be both. Instead, this girl is shown as a complete biatch who likes nothing better than stealing others’ boyfriends. Hmm.

Mean Girl: this is the perfect, popular girl who is apparently so insecure in her looks that she finds it worth her time to fight over a guy with our protagonist, who repeatedly describes herself as “plain” and “normal.” Dude, the perfect girl shouldn’t have any problem getting a guy, much less thinking that a plain, average girl has more of a chance than she does. The world isn’t fair. Get used to it.

Nerdy Guy: glasses, acne, you name it. Plus, he’s usually in love with the protagonist. This isn’t so implausible, if only the nerdy guy isn’t spurned by our protagonist in favor of the hot guy. Which brings me to…

Hot Guy: ridiculously good-looking. If he really was that handsome, with a buff body to boot, he’d either be in Hollywood or trying to make it there. Also, he wouldn’t be interested in you, protagonist, no matter how wonderful your brain is. It’s the truth. Life sucks.

Protagonist: I’ve been complaining about this person the entire time, and here’s why protagonists have become something of a stereotype: they’re all pretty but claim they’re not. They’re apparently smart but do stupid things. They seem average but attract the attention of the hottest guy in school by- what, breathing? Without even talking to them more than a couple of times.

I’m not saying that this is the case in ALL books. It’s just that if YA fiction talks about high school, it may as well be realistic, right? Remember Marcus Flint from the Jessica Darling books? He had red dreadlocks, for heavens’ sake. But there was something about him that made us all love him. *clears throat* and it couldn’t all have depended on his looks.

What I’m trying to say is this: if the protagonist is pretty, say so. If the hot guy is ridiculously hot, do have an actual explanation for him staying at some regular old school when he could be auditioning in LA. (Making him a vampire would work, now that I think about it. Heh.) If there’s a mean girl, why is she so intent on stealing our protag’s guy? Is there a reason she would hate a perfectly normal person?

High school is life intensified a hundred times. Every emotion is magnified, every sad thing turns into angst, and every conversation is pulled apart even when it might not mean anything other than what’s apparent. (Bee knows what I’m talking about.) Through it all, making the protagonist, the love interest, and hey, the odd vampire believable goes a long way. Readers totally appreciate it.

So tell me: what’s a stereotype in YA you’ve commonly seen? I’m curious, peeps!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Review- How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Summary (goodreads):

“Every war has turning points and every person too.”

Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.

As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.

A riveting and astonishing story.

Cover: I love this one. It isn’t the edition I read from, but I love this one too much not to use it.

Before Reading: I’d been looking forward to reading this one for a long, long time, mostly because all the writer/book blogger peeps I love only had good things to say about it.

My Thoughts

This is a powerful little book. It engaged my attention completely from start to finish. I’d look up at points and be startled to find myself in my own world instead of the beautiful, crumbling house those rare magical cousins lived in. And I haven’t lost myself like that in a book for a long time.

So, How I Live Now has incest in it. A lot of reviews I’ve read find this creepy and weird, which I understand, but for myself as a reader… I shrugged. I come from a country where first-cousin marriages aren’t taboo; in fact, they’re accepted and more common than even I knew. And JSYK, this country isn’t very overly religious or [insert stereotype of backward country here]. So I’m nobody to turn my nose up at this stuff.

So that aspect of the book didn’t put me off, and I’m glad, because How I Live Now is a gem. The writing style is breathless and real and makes everything so much more vivid than even a slightly more constrained voice would have done. This is a great example of experimental writing that works.

There’s a fictional third world war going on, which right now is actually kind of likely, so it was scary and relevant at the same time. I appreciated not knowing if it was the present (it certainly felt like it) or in the near future. I like it when authors leave things to readers’ interpretations.

And the characters. Oh, the characters. The life of the story. They were as vivid and as real as if I were watching them in front of me, and what with their uncanny abilities- a great way to incorporate magical realism into this work- I couldn’t help but feel for every single one of them.

Osbert, with his snobby ways; Isaac, who I loved the most because he was just so different; Edmond, the one who knows what you’re thinking before you say it, and of course, Piper, with her maturity and wisdom: I loved them all. And the characters are amazing examples of people in magical realism- a genre I hadn’t encountered before.

The one problem I had with the book: our protagonist Daisy is fifteen, but she refers to herself as a kid and sometimes says things that teenagers wouldn’t. I’d know; I only recently turned sixteen.

But then again, the book was written in 2004, so maybe teenagers thought differently then. Maybe the market wasn’t as heavily saturated with young adult books. Whatever it was, I’m not going to go on about it, because the overall feel of the book wasn’t too affected by my nitpicking. This is the honest, real YA book I’ve always been looking for.

What I’m going to tell you is this: don’t shy away from How I Live Now because of the controversial topics. Don’t. You’ll miss out on an amazing read otherwise.

Parting Thoughts: Read it. I can almost guarantee that if your tastes are anything like mine, you’ll love this book for its brutal honesty and braveness.

Rating: 5/5.

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