Afterworlds – By Scott Westerfeld – On YA authors, publishing and cultural appropriation

Afterworlds (Afterworlds #1) Rating:

Synopsis2BELIEVING IS DANGEROUS…

Darcy Patel is afraid to believe all the hype. But it’s really happening – her teen novel is getting published. Instead of heading to college, she’s living in New York City, where she’s welcomed into the dazzling world of YA publishing. That means book tours, parties with her favorite authors, and finding a place to live that won’t leave her penniless. It means sleepless nights rewriting her first draft and struggling to find the perfect ending… all while dealing with the intoxicating, terrifying experience of falling in love – with another writer.

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy’s novel, the thrilling story of Lizzie, who wills her way into the afterworld to survive a deadly terrorist attack. With survival comes the responsibility to guide the restless spirits that walk our world, including one ghost with whom she shares a surprising personal connection. But Lizzie’s not alone in her new calling – she has counsel from a fellow spirit guide, a very desirable one, who is torn between wanting Lizzie and warning her that…

BELIEVING IS DANGEROUS.

In a brilliant high-wire act of weaving two epic narratives – and two unforgettable heroines – into one novel, Scott Westerfeld’s latest work is a triumph of storytelling.

My reviewTold in dual-narrative, Afterworlds, the title of this book is actually the title of the book that Darcy Patel, the protagonist is working on. Darcy, eighteen years old, has landed a two-book contract for almost a quarter million, and her life, as she knew it, changes overnight. From someone who has never lived alone, she moves from Philly to NY, and is thrown into the rigmarole of what goes into the few months leading to the big debut. It was absolutely delightful to read about everything you have always suspected being a blogger, about how the life of such a debut author would be. So I guess a part of it was wish fulfillment, to see it all on page, even if it felt slightly exaggerated and surreal – all the YA author parties, gatherings, pre-pub tours, the discussions about what makes a good book, “originality” versus writing what sells, the brainstorming during editing and rewrites and so on. Then you also have Darcy’s friends, through whom you see yourself on page too, as they are yapping on about how they have read or heard about most of the not-yet-published books because of their well-connected school librarian who always got hold of the latest ARCs.

The entire book, i.e Darcy’s book “Afterworlds” is within this book. It is interspersed with Darcy’s story every alternate chapter and right off the bat you know that everything works out okay and atleast the publishing goes without a hitch, because you are practically reading the finished book within this book. But Westerfeld manages to make it interesting, especially by showing Darcy’s inexperience at pretty much everything – as an author, a lover and well, as someone terrible with her finances. Darcy can’t stick to her own schedule, is caught up with the bling of a new city and you just get a feeling that she has a “I will just wing it in the end” attitude sub-consciously. All the self-doubt about whether she was even a real author was done pretty well. At one point she wonders whether she is a fluke as she finished first draft in 30 days but she is taking months to rewrite the final chapters.

I personally felt that some of the Indian rep was done well. There were so many little things – about Darcy’s parents being believers but not that religious, her sister Nisha being great at math and hence looking over the family’s tax filings, her engineer dad, her mom’s story about how they didn’t spent any money on clothes when they first came to US and got everything from India, Darcy being naïve and clueless about a lot of things in NY because she has never lived alone, screwing up the budget allocation Nisha planned for her .. and so on.. It was a good balance between atypical and stereotypical .. because hey, there is no one “true rep” and the truth is always somewhere in between. And gosh, I loved all the moments when Darcy was searching for an apartment and ended up going atleast 500$ over-budget with the final monthly rent. She pretty much tears Nisha’s financial planning to shreds, it was a bit of a trainwreck tbh  – Darcy paying 3500k per month in NY without taking in any roommates and then casually blowing up money on food every eating outside frequently instead of, well, spending on setting up her kitchen so that she can cook at home. I think she finally does that (?) through her aunt gifting her some stuff and her dad driving over with some items(? I am not sure) but she continues to blow up money anyways. Nothing extravagant, but frugal or budgeted living is definitely not her cup of tea. She did give the impression of someone who knew she has a safety net of a stable loving home and a reasonably well-off family to return too if her writing career doesn’t take off as early as she expected.

Darcy ends up falling in love and living with another writer with Imogen and I thought the author contrasted the difference in their personalities pretty well; some of it due to their age difference. Imogen has been in atleast one relationship more than Darcy, and also has a markedly different work style when it comes to her writing. All this sort of manifests into challenges they have get through while living together, especially with Darcy struggling to give Imogen her space and privacy. Imogen, in turn worries about how Darcy will handle Afterworlds’ success (or failure). In some ways, Imogen takes charge of their present by making some difficult decisions so that they have the promise of a better future to look forward to.

I think what I struggled with the most as a reader is getting through the entire book (within the book) Afterworlds. I loved the idea TBH; Yamaraj is someone I am familiar with since I am Indian. But gosh, Yamaraj was made to be such a watered down and bland representation. Westerfeld might have as well written Twilight 2.0. Lizzie and Yamaraj’s love story was THAT kind of Hot YA commonplace. Look, I get it, the author’s intention was to show how so many stories publicized as “epic” YA romances are finally clones of one another and that so many authors have those breakthrough debuts with such stories (?). After reading Darcy’s novel, you do wonder – How on earth did THIS book get her a hundred grand in advance? The most interesting function of this book is however the conversation it generates regarding cultural appropriation. It raises questions with no definitive answers; but just further questionable topics for debate. Under what terms is “cultural appropriation” acceptable? Is there even such a thing as acceptability? Does Darcy being Indian exclude her from the criticism of getting the “essence” of her cultural history wrong when translated to paper? Considering she isn’t even that religious, can she be considered an “authentic” source of authority over the “correct” representation of Hinduism? So much of this brought up in the book, and in between Darcy is shown doubting herself. But, Darcy’s internal conflict doesn’t manifest into any real, tangible consequences.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the world-building in Darcy’s book. It was a pile of confusing mess, like Inception on steroids, except that you have ghosts and your ghostly selves on different astral projections. It was hard to keep track of the different worlds (Overworld, Afterworld, Underworld) along with the permutations and combinations of time, space, visibility and travel constraints in different worlds. So yea, definitely not my kind of fantasy novel. But if is something you enjoy reading, and can get past the slightly simplistic (deliberate?)plot stretched across half the book, then I think you would definitely enjoy Westerfeld’s Afterworlds in totality.

I quite enjoyed it for its unique idea. I might have liked it more if we didn’t end up getting Darcy’s entire novel and instead got snippet like say, Simon Snow’s fanfic in Fangirl, just enough to get an idea (and enough to drive discussions about appropriation). But I really liked all the “real” characters – be it Imogen, Nisha, Darcy or her friends. And I definitely enjoyed reading about Darcy more than Lizzie.

Advertisements

This is my genre, tell me yours! (Book Tag)

I have been on a hiatus for the past few weeks and though I have been reading, it wasn’t enough to shrug off the blogging slump.

I thought, what better way to get back to it than doing a book tag. Thank you Liz@CoverToCover for tagging me and Drew for creating the tag. Both of their blogs are amazing so do check them out, especially for great horror and fantasy recommendations!

thisismtgenrenrwlogo

The Rules:

  • Credit Drew @ The Tattooed Book Geek as the creator of the tag, either use the created tag name graphic or create your own and link back to my blog.
  • Answer the questions
  • Tag as many people as you want

What is your favorite genre?

Well, I don’t stick much to any genre in particular these days – I mostly read books that are YA/New Adult fic (which are mis-genred so much that I don’t even know anymore, hehe) , but if I have to choose, I think it is going to be those historical fics or messy family dramas (icing on the cake – business rivalries) spanning decades..

Who’s your favorite author from the genre?

So, borrowing from Liz, I am going to say, I have had three different “reading timelines”. The first was during my primary school where I used to love Enid Blytons, Sweet Valley series, Nancy Drews, Hardy Boys and Perry Masons. So I guess I really liked mysteries. The second was my middle school phase, when I read a lot of books from what is still my favorite genre – the Jeffrey Archers and Sidney Sheldons.. I used to think Jeffrey Archer was like the best author ever :p .. and well, his books are really popular in India.. I still loved mysteries and “graduated” to reading and picking them based on genre – like medical and legal mysteries.. So lots of Michael Palmers, Robin Cooks and John Grishams.. After that, my love for historicals and family dramas  continued.. and I just read a whole lot of them.. Tbh, I don’t even remember some of the books and authors…. It was just that phase when I picked a lot of books from the library shelves and read them one after the other without thinking or analyzing much.. So some of my favorites that I actually remember are classics like East of Eden and Pillars of the  Earth.

What’s the book that started your love for your favorite genre?

Must be one of those Jeffrey Archers, maybe Kane and Abel..

If you had to recommend at least one book from your favourite genre to a non-reader/someone looking to start reading that genre, what book would you choose and why?

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Why do you read?

It is my favorite way to spend those quiet, lazy afternoons.. My attention-span is just very less when it comes to TV shows, so I am actually terrible at binge-watching unless I have company… so yea, reading anytime!! Moreover, I just feel that reading when you are older is completely different than when you had just started out in school… Your perspective about a lot of things are different than it used to be, and your takeaways from certain books are also different.. I mean, there is a reason why some books that you thought were the best books ever written a few years ago later turn into “guilty pleasures”. So I guess I just find all that self-awareness and the evolving nature of book preferences quite fascinating.. hehe. So thats another reason I read and will continue to do so.

I tag:

Tiana@TheBookRaven

Sylvia@SerialBibliophile

Cleo@CleopatraLovesBooks

Tizzymatic

and anyone else who wants to do the tag! Feel free to skip this if you have already done it or don’t feel like doing it!

 

 

In the month of Feb (a quick monthly wrap-up)…

I BOUGHT… Wayfarer (Passenger, #2)   I finally used my B&N birthday gift card for this one .. I really liked Passenger, so I thought this would be a good book to acquire.. And I absolutely love the cover ..All the purple hues ❤ ..

I REVIEWEDThe House that Spoke  Lovely writing!! Would recommend it despite some pacing and plot issues.

I READ… A List of Cages  I liked the neurodiversity rep, both dyslexia and ADHD; I never felt like it was forcefully plugged into the story. So props for that. However, I wish I could have raved about this book. If I had to review this one, I would have probably given it 3.5/5. I think I was slightly put off by how much the book relied on the depiction of physical abuse for its plotting, and sort of just neglected everything else. I think a better way to put it is – there really isn’t much happening, really. It is too… cyclic and predictable. But Julian and Adam were so likeable and easy to connect with as MCs, and that’s what saved the book for me. It was enough to bump my ratings to a 4 on GR.

The Sun Is Also a Star  Gaaahh …. ❤ .. This one made an insta-love convert out of me.  Swoonworthylicious ( #ifthatisaword) . An easy 5/5.

Tell Me Something Real (Sort-of-spoilery mention… so skip the next paragraph if you plan on reading the book)

TMSR depicts an MI which is usually used as a dramatic twist in the final pages of a book. This book sort of does it too (and well, I guessed it.. again…), except that it is not at the end of the book. This is probably the first story I have read which deals with the aftermath and ramifications of the revelation on the entire family. So I really appreciated that the author wasn’t tempted to push the *big revelation* to the end and stuck to what she wanted the book to actually be about.

I RECEIVED… Under a Painted Sky  via Shenwei’s giveaway.. (thank you!!) .. Heard so much about this one, so can’t wait to read it!!

I DNF’ed… Into the Darkest Corner   .. I went through more than 1/3rd of the book, but it just didn’t seem to be getting anywhere..

 Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle, #1)   I gave up after the first few chapters, but I might try it again sometime in the future.. I think I picked this up at a time when I wanted an “easy read”, but this had a lot of confusing info-dump to keep up with.

 

 

The House that Spoke – by Zuni Chopra

The House that Spoke Rating:

Synopsis2Fourteen-year-old Zoon Razdan is witty, intelligent and deeply perceptive. She also has a deep connection with magic. She was born into it.

The house that she lives in is fantastical—life thrums through its wooden walls—and she can talk to everything in it, from the armchair and the fireplace to the books, pipes and portraits!

But Zoon doesn’t know that her beloved house once contained a terrible force of darkness that was accidentally let out by one of its previous owners. And when the darkness returns, more powerful and malevolent than ever, it is up to her to take her rightful place as the Guardian of the house and subsequently, Kashmir.

My reviewIn her debut novel, the author, Zuni Chopra, doesn’t just make a house speak, she makes the Kashmir valley sing with ferocity – of yearning for its glorious past and longing for a present that stills its beauty as an untarnished snapshot. The prose in this book is absolutely gorgeous. The author infuses magic and personality into everything around Zoon, be it the house she has grown up in (which, quite literally, holds magic) or the valley that makes up her entire world. So whether it is a fireplace being possessive about his fresh stock of logs, or a wise-sounding armchair maintaining order among bickering bookshelves, you just buy into her imagination of the house and what it stands for.

I loved the fact that the author didn’t write this book from any political standpoint. She also steers clear of demonizing any country, religion or military institution. The book is deeply allegorical, and through the idea of Zoon being a “Guardian” of her house, the author explores what it means to call a geographical area your home, and to what extent is it your duty to guard it. The “villain” of this story is basically the manifestation of all things vile and sinister plaguing the valley, and I loved how the book conveys the idea of securing your home, purging or keeping “evil” at bay, before expanding the same to your town or city.

This was magical realism at its whimsical best, the kind where even “non-magical” mundane moments are elevated to something else. There is humor in everyday observations; my favorite was probably the one where walking across a floor of people in sleeping bags was likened to navigating through fat bed bugs. The only criticism I can make is this – there were times when I felt the writing was too wordy. It got better as the book progressed but I did struggle with the initial chapters – especially with too many sentences like this:

“Instantly, every man on the doorstep felt suffused with a cosy, quiet calm – not a heated, eerie sort of silence, but the calm that wafts like pure cotton around one’s healing heart”

There are a few passages that are set in 16th/18th century to give some context about the history of the house and its magical origins. However, such parts are kept to a minimal in the book, thereby avoiding info-dump and slowing down the present-day plot. Moreover, the theme of this book is such that it doesn’t really need a fleshed out background to convey ideas effectively. However, I did feel that we didn’t get to know Zoon’s mom as much as we should have. I wasn’t sure about how much she was privy to regarding the house’s history. I didn’t connect to her and to her and Zoon’s relationship as much as I should have through most of the book. The last few pages did make up a bit for it though..

In contrast, Zoon’s grandma had a much more compelling presence and relevance to the story, and with Zoon’s new-found friend Altaf, and some neighboring families completing the secondary cast of characters, there are enough human stories to keep us invested in their lives.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough; especially since this is a recently released book with not much buzz in the blogging community… Do check it out, it is a precious little gem of a novel!

 

[Mini] (Reviews, book haul and update)

The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan Rating:

Synopsis2Winnie and Helen have kept each others worst secrets for more than fifty years. Now, because she believes she is dying, Helen wants to expose everything. And Winnie angrily determines that she must be the one to tell her daughter, Pearl, about the past—including the terrible truth even Helen does not know. And so begins Winnie’s story of her life on a small island outside Shanghai in the 1920s, and other places in China during World War II, and traces the happy and desperate events that led to Winnie’s coming to America in 1949.

My reviewMost of the immigrant stories I have read are about second-generation American desis, so I loved reading all the intrinsic cultural details of first/second gen Chinese Americans in the Kitchen God’s Wife – both similarities and differences.

A lot of immigrant stories feature and emphasize on the disconnect of the second-gen with their cultural heritage and the consequent tussle with their parents. This book pretty much ticks all the cliche boxes with Pearl not identifying much with her mom’s or extended family’s Chinese roots. I think my problem with this book is the disproportionately large number of pages (more than three-fourths) devoted to Winnie’s life in China. She starts narrating it to Pearl and apart from it coming off as unreal (that she could, as a seventy-five year old woman, remember every little detail so vividly), I also realized I am not a huge fan of such a large chunk of history being told all at once instead of being revealed in phases across the book I wish there were more pages with Pearl’s POV so that we could get a glimpse of how she felt hearing everything her mom has to say. I honestly felt slightly shortchanged because we didn’t get to see enough of how the present-day Pearl-Winnie relationship was affected by the revelations.

The best part of the story were all the women in Winnie’s past life. Each one of them was so remarkable – though conditioned to think and behave in a certain way because of the times they lived in and maybe unjust to one another to favor their own – stood up for each other when times became desperate in the post-war scenario. Wish I could say something for the men too, but most of them were portrayed as weak or evil. Those who weren’t either of them didn’t have much to do in the book.

Another issue I had with the book is that the “suspense” (or whatever little there was of it) was revealed quite early in the book… so the rest of the book was more of a case of “working backwards”. This was the same issue I had with Book Thief too.. and well I have realized, I don’t like this way of structuring the narration.

Despite some issues, I loved the book for not just its cultural insights but also all the historical ones (the book talks about the times in China during the Japanese invasion and it was definitely a learning curve for me .. )

divider

Furthermore Rating:

Synopsis2A captivating and colorful adventure that reads like a modern day fairy tale, from the bestselling author of the Shatter Me series.

Inspired by her childhood love of books like The Secret Garden and The Chronicles of Narnia, bestselling author Tahereh Mafi crafts a spellbinding new world where color is currency, adventure is inevitable, and friendship is found in the most unexpected places.

There are only three things that matter to twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it’s been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she’s about to embark on one to find the other.

But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. It will take all of Alice’s wits (and every limb she’s got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.

My reviewWith charming randomness and gorgeous evocative descriptions of magical lands, all  of which masks the slight creepiness and gruesome reality behind the colors, this reads like a children’s fairytale. But the thing with fairytales  is that they are short and end before you start getting tired of make-the-rules-up-as-you-write world-building. But at 450+ pages, Furthermore really tested my patience. I loved the writing but by the 100th pages, I got tired of reading about how the sun was raining, the rainlight was glowing and the landscape was lush with colors. Furthermore could have been a sharper novel with a bit of editing, instead of becoming a fairytale that overstayed its welcome.

The biggest strength of this novel is what Mafi conveyed through her characters – about finding within yourself the courage to accept the way you are instead of expecting the world around you to see you through different lens. I also loved how artistry, creativity and unconventional decisions by the characters are richly rewarded (albeit after a lot of hiccups). It was such a cool nod to real life!

Both Alice and Oliver were believable because they acted their age – they were impulsive, distrustful and lied to each other initially to protect their self-interests; and were generally clueless although their ego prevented them from admitting it.

I was wondering whether this was meant to be a wonderland retelling. But, I saw that Mafi recently clarified that it isn’t. Well, retelling or not, this would make for a lovely movie because it has such a picturesque quality to it.

divider

Finding Audrey Rating:

Synopsis2An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.

My reviewI would have probably rated this as 3/5 a year ago but I feel like I have read so many books since then with a much better anxiety rep. So this was kind of cringe-worthy to read.

I love Kinsella’s Shopaholic series which is genuinely full of LOL moments. But I found the author so out of depth here. Most of the attempts at humor fell flat and anxiety issues were handled in a way that felt farcical. The romance didn’t work for me either because I have already read similar budding teen love stories in the past year that had more spark. This was just plain dull.

The only person I could probably relate to was Frank (Audrey’s brother) whose incredulous reaction to what was happening mirrored my feeling too. I feel like this book needed more attention and authenticity devoted to mental health than the video game track, because Frank’s gaming obsession just didn’t go well or add anything to Audrey’s story. The details of what caused Audrey’s health issues to get worse is fuzzy and never cleared up. Heck, I am not saying that I always need details about the triggering condition but if you are partially bringing it up then either do it properly or don’t bring it up at all.

And if you are insisting it is a severe anxiety condition, don’t show the “recovery process” going so smoothly by the end of the book. It just doesn’t work that way.

dividerdividerdivider

As I am travelling to India this month, I will be on a bit of a blogging hiatus till March.. I am too excited (and distracted) about my upcoming trip these days to really sit down and review anything.. but I did manage to read a couple of books recently:

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity, #1) This was my introduction to Schwab and I loved it!! It was entertaining, but I felt that some parts (when Kate and August were on the run) were kind of tedious to read. I would liked it if that was cut short and more time was spent on making the dystopian part of the world-building more fleshed out and understandable.

Dark Places With this, I have finally finished reading all of Flynn’s books and : Gone Girl > Sharp Objects > Dark Places > The Grownup .. (or I might feel The Grownup>Dark Places later :p )

I also bought a couple of books which were on the library sale:

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown      All the Light We Cannot See

dividerdividerdivider

Since the entire travel time is 24+ hours, I downloaded these books into my overdrive (because I couldn’t decide on one)

13047567      The Impostor Queen (The Impostor Queen, #1)      Into the Darkest Corner

Have y’all read any of these books? Which one of these make for a good flight read? (Psst… had to download the Chaos Walking trilogy because The Knife of Never Letting Go was on hold..)

 

 

 

 

 

[Blog Tour]Spotlight+Excerpt – Corrupt Me by Jillian Quinn

blog-title-header-corrupt-me-blog-tour

I am so happy to feature Jill’s (@rantandraveaboutbooks) upcoming debut novel on my blog today. When I saw the tour post, I just knew I had to sign up because:

I loved the Godfather, but always wondered about how it would have read if it had been if women had more role to play in the book. So when Jill mentioned that Corrupt Me was inspired by  the “what-could-have-been” of the relationship between Michael Corleone and Kay Adams, I was hooked!

cm-synopsis-website

corrupt-me-couple-slider-size

Here’s an excerpt from the book: 

Of the three, Luca was the most attractive. And, judging by his cockiness, that wouldn’t be news to him.

Luca cleared his throat, a smirk tugging at his mouth. “Twice in one day.”

He tapped his knuckles on the table. It drove me crazy—the air of confidence he exuded, the whole I-own-the-school mentality. What a pompous ass.

I rolled my eyes and chugged the last sip of my soda. “Yay for me,” I deadpanned, holding the straw to my lips as I fought a smile. “Now, I know you’re stalking me.”

“Where are you really going tonight, bella donna?”

As much as I wanted to smirk, I liked hearing him tell me I was beautiful. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I struggled with my feelings for Luca. The butterflies doing somersaults in my stomach churned up acid from my picked over mystery dinner.

“Bella—” Luca said, breaking the silence.

“That’s not my name,” I just about spit the words. Even though Bella was a nickname for Isabella, I never liked that name much. Luca’s older brother, Mario, always called me Izzie when we were kids, and I thought Izzie better suited me. “You’re an ass, you know that?”

Luca ran his fingers through his dark hair, flashing a very Preston-like smile. “Let me take you out.”

“Not a chance.” My first thought at his words, “take you out,” was that he wanted to whack me, and that provided me with my own personal entertainment. But I knew he’d be pissed if I mentioned that aloud.

I almost felt bad when he frowned, but he recouped quickly. His looks made it so hard to hate on him for too long. Still, I couldn’t allow myself to become involved with someone like him. In some ways, it was a conflict of interest. There was a reason our families severed ties over the years even though I suspected Grandfather had kept in touch with Luca’s father.

I leaned on the table, meeting his gaze. “Is that part of your winning charm? You think you can give me that shit-eating grin, and I’m going to drop to my knees? Like I said, I’m not interested. If this is about earlier, I’d rather give you the money and be done with whatever this is we’re doing.”

He laughed. “I’m not that bad, babe.”

I snorted at his comment, annoyed by his pet names.

He scratched his jaw, the corner of his mouth opening a little bit. He didn’t need game. He had that crooked smile and that sexy mouth I wanted to smash my lips against.

corrupt-mrs-marchese

About the Author:

Jillian Quinnabout-jillian-quinn-bio-graphic

Connect with the Author:

Facebook | Twitter | Author Website | Goodreads Profile

Buy Links:

Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Kobo|iBooks
Goodreads

Book Trailer:

corrupt-me-book-boyfriend-twitter-teaser

Do check out all the tour stops:

 

corrupt-me-blog-tour-week-1-poster

 

corrupt-me-blog-tour-week-2-poster

 

My Trip to Adele by R.I. Alyaseer, A.I. Alyaseer

My Trip to Adele Rating:

Synopsis2An Adele concert held in Verona becomes the focus for an unhappy married couple, a divorced mother and a devoted lover from three different countries and cultures.
This is the story of three flawed but likeable people. First up is Elias, a Moroccan man living in Rome. He discovers that a black magic spell was cast upon him but starts to doubt whether it was the real cause of the break-up between him and his long-lost love Malika. He decides to search for her in the shadows of Marrakesh after eight years of separation.
Nadia, a single mother from Jordan, is battling her ex-husband in the courts and doing all she can to secure freedom for herself and her only son. Her dream is to take her son to see his idol, Adele, live.
Finally, Yaser, a married man living in Las Vegas, realizes that his marriage is crawling all over him like a slow, painful death, so he starts to rebel against his wife. While faith initially brought them together, it is now causing them to drift apart.
These three characters are on a journey to break free of everything that has haunted them, learning harsh truths about fate, religion, courage, desire and guilt along the way.

My review I loved this one!! I went into this book thinking it was some “frivolous” read, but I was so taken aback by the breadth of cultural insights and ethical issues it covered. From local sights and sounds of Morocco to the women standing up against patriarchal “family councils” in Jordan – I loved how none of the “dilemmas” felt manufactured. I mean, the whole time you really do wonder about what decisions they are going to take next and how “right” or “wrong” it is.

My favorite story was Nadia’s because of the sheer simplicity and bluntness of its message in the end – Happiness and freedom don’t run in parallel. Sometimes you just have to keep bartering one for the other based on priorities.

I don’t prefer books which end up reading like religious fiction, but in case of Yaser’s story, I didn’t really mind it. Because, more than “religion-specific” it was more about faith and belief in higher power and making a marriage work when one of the thornier issues between the couple is that one is an atheist and the other is a staunch believer. What happens when your belief system is completely different (or non-existent) from your partner but you are not honest about it because you want to make your marriage work? This is the story of Yaser’s marriage with Mariam. His feelings of suffocation within the monotony and acrimonious daily nature of his life with Mariam was well written.. maybe too well. Which is why I couldn’t understand the rationale behind his decision in the end… It felt rushed, and completely contrary to his state of mind some hours ago..

Elias’ story is probably the one I least connected to. I liked the all the backstory of his connection with Malika, but his final thoughts as the story concluded was .. well it was something I had to read twice to understand.. I mean, I didn’t get what was going on in his head though it was all written.. Did he feel foolish about his search? Was he upset or disappointed that the love he imagined in his head didn’t translate into the same reality?

All the three stories lead up to the characters deciding to (or not to) go to an Adele concert – to either mend or nurture existing relationships or start a new one. Well, I won’t reveal who do or do not go but I absolutely loved how (and with which character) the authors decide to end the story. It was so goddamn powerful and reminded me of this quote:

“Listen to the music of your heart and the voice of your soul and dance to the best soundtrack of your life. ” (Credit: http://www.simrankankas.com/quotes)

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1) by Zoraida Córdova

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas, #1)   Rating:

Hardcover:  336 pages
Expected publication: September 6th 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Note: I won an copy of this book via Samantha’s YA Halloween giveaway.

overview Alejandra “Alex” Mortiz is not just any other Bruja. She is one of the most powerful Brujas of her generation.  But if she could have it her way, she doesn’t want anything to do with the magic that runs in her lineage; her blood. All Brujas usually show or start exhibiting their magical abilities before they are sixteen. Well, so has Alex; a long time ago. But she has hidden this fact from her mom and sisters. Showing it the first time killed her pet cat and drove her dad away from home so she wants nothing to do with magic. But with her Deathday celebration just days away, she is worried that she can no longer exercise the choice to subdue her magic. After all, the whole point of the Deathday ritual is to invoke the blessings of her ancestors’ souls so that she is able to control and use her powers in the best possible way.When Nova, a mysterious Brujo boy with a shady past tells her that there is a way to refuse her “rite-of-passage” to become a proper Bruja, she is determined to see it through.  With hopes of living a “magic-free” life, she takes matters in her own hands and tries out a different Canto in her Deathday ceremony. But instead of wiping out her magic, it wipes out her entire family and guests…

Now, she has to turn to Nova for help to get them back. But getting them back from Los Lagos – a place where the dead rest before passing on and where Brujas are banished into exile by the Deos  – is not going to be easy.

My thoughtsBringing in elements of Latinx culture and folklore into its world-building of magic systems and ancestry, this book was all kinds of wonderful. I loved how centered it was on family and traditions passed down from generations. It is something that I don’t read a lot in fantasy world-building these days. I mean, maybe it is just the genre- but everything is so large-scale with huge stakes, kingdoms, and borderline-dystopian, if not dystopian. The world in Labyrinth Lost felt “smaller” in geography but cozier. Even when the story shifts from regular Brooklyn to the magical Los Lagos, it felt like some strange private island and not an open battlefield. I think by keeping the actual magical locations easy to remember and understand, the author could focus more on what Alex was going through emotionally in trying to understand and process what is happening around her and within her. (Psst.. it does help that we get a map of Los Lagos).

I can also now understand why this book made it to so many of the LGBT recs list last year. Alex’s bisexuality is presented in the same way any cishet characters’ romance would have. This is how it should be in fiction, and I needn’t have to be “applauding” a book for it.  But it doesn’t happen that often.  So kudos to the author for such a casual, non-gimmicky rep. Thank you for not unintentionally othering Alex.  There is enough of that nonsense going on in real life.

I loved all the Mortiz family scenes, especially with her older sister Lula. It was nice to see her not being the usual older sister stereotype – rude, bitchy, insecure and aloof from the rest of the family. I can’t wait to read about all of them again in the next book and maybe see more of them. This book, understandably, was all about Alex getting her family back so we don’t read much of them in this book. Although, the author does manage to make their presence felt as much as possible during Alex’s journey.

I rarely see Hindus as one of the MCs, so it was nice to see Rishi Persaud not just being a token desi character. (Sidenote – Rishi is a very uncommon choice of name for a girl.) It was also nice change to see a desi who is not shown as conforming in terms of styles or choices. (I am not saying that it is not accurate rep, but it is just that I have already seen such characters in too many books, so Rishi was a welcome change) Oh, and thank god she is not eating “naan-bread” or “chai tea” but just roti and dal. No, seriously, I thought if I did look twice, I would see “roti-bread” or “dal-lentil” instead.

I am not sure how I feel about Nova though. His backstory and motivations were explained in the end but it was all at once and it felt rushed, and I don’t think I even understood it in terms of the “magic logic”. I also feel that in terms of magical concepts, the plot might have been.. stronger (?) if all the explanations didn’t come back to (or rely heavily on) souls. (So many of the other elements that we see throughout the book, like magical creatures, just come together in the end like some sort of a monolith.) That just made some things in the end feel less menacing than it should have been. The main villain – the Devourer – definitely should have creeped me out. But I felt like I could have probably taken a kitchen knife, jumped into the pages and stabbed her in the – well, wherever her heart is supposed to be.

Alex is more likeable and personable once she is more accepting and open about how special her family and heritage is, and how special Rishi is to her. But just by herself, she is pretty clueless through most of the book .. which works. There is nothing more eye-roll worthy than a Chosen One being a know-it-all. Alex gets a lot of help and pretty much blunders her way through a good portion of the book before having direct advice handed out to her about just how exactly being a conduit of magic works. But I feel  I would have probably liked and know more about HER (rather than all that comes with being a Bruja) in the next book (assuming the next book features her..)

I can’t wait for synopsis of the second book to come out. The tidbit released by the author last month has me wondering whether it is again going to be from Alex’s POV or someone else’s.

When Three’s Not a Crowd!!! My top reads of 2016

Sooo, when I was picking some of my favorite reads in 2016, I realized I can call them out in groups of three:

MY TOP 3:

  1. New-to-me authors:

A Monster Calls This was perfection ❤ and my only 5-star read this year.

Fangirl  I loved – Cath!! The way Rowell portrayed her struggle with social anxiety was so relatable. I disliked – The abrupt ending to the Simon Snow show after all the extended page-time.

Speak Check out my Teaser Tuesday post here.

2) Standalone fantasy/paranormal

The Diabolic An inter-galactic fantasy replete with themes of loyalty, political coups and revenge. Check out my review here.

Holding Smoke I honestly didn’t think I would end up liking this one so much because – A) I totally judge books with people on the cover. B) I have been sandbagged in the past with “soul-themes” turning into religious fiction. But I had nothing to worry about. Read my review here.

The Infinity of You & Me My first brush with multiverse fantasy. Read my review here.

     3) Author debuts

Shelter A story of an estranged son and his Korean immigrant parents. Read my review here.

Sometimes We Tell the Truth A retelling of the Canterbury Tales, SWTtT was a delightful read. This had a large, diverse cast with respectful representation of gay and intersex characters. Read my review here.

Phantom Limbs  Definitely my favorite book release of 2016!! With sensitive portrayals of  depression, PTSD, disability, bisexuality and one of my favorite male teen YA narrators in Otis, this book, along with SWTtT, deserves more appreciation. Read my review here.

divider

So what are some of your favorite reads in 2016? Do let me know in the comments! If you have a blog post up with your top picks, do link me up!!

This would probably be my last post for 2016, so happy holidays and wish y’all a very happy New Year in advance!!!

Take 5 – Most disappointing reads of 2016

This has been a great reading year for me – the sort of year where I found something to appreciate even in the books that were otherwise major disappointments. Here are some books that I really wanted to fall in love with but couldn’t :

(Click on the images to go to their Goodreads page)

divider

The Selection (#1 and #2)

The Selection (The Selection, #1)  The Elite (The Selection, #2)

 

 

 

I stopped at #2 because of the feeble dystopian world-building elements and the overwrought love triangle.

Finding Audrey 

Finding Audrey

 

 

 

 

 

Needed more focused and believable social anxiety and GAD representation.

Furthermore

Furthermore

 

 

 

 

Lovely writing but it was difficult to read a wafer-thin plot stretched over 400 pages.

 

Everything Everything

Everything, Everything

 

 

 

Relies too much on the shock value over a big plot twist which I guessed pretty early on. I wasn’t a fan of the twist itself because.. well I guess I didn’t like health issues being used in such a way. Read my review here.

A Little Life 

A Little Life

 

 

 

 

The most disappointing of the lot. Maybe because this was something that was on my TBR since my pre-blogging days. Oh well, I have ranted quite a bit about it here.

divider

So, this was my list of disappointing 2016 reads. Have you guys read any of these books? Were there any books this year that you were really looking forward to reading but were seriously let down by it? Do let me know in the comments!