Piper Perish by Kayla Cagan // I Have Never Appreciated Art More.

Thursday, 2 March 2017 1 comments

Piper Perish, by Kayla Cagan
Publication: March 8, 2017, by Chronicle Books
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

Piper Perish inhales air and exhales art. The sooner she and her best friends can get out of Houston and into art school in New York City, the better. It's been Piper's dream her whole life, and now that senior year is halfway over, she's never felt more ready. But in the final months before graduation, things are weird with her friends and stressful with three different guys, and Piper's sister's tyrannical mental state seems to thwart every attempt at happiness for the close-knit Perish family. Piper's art just might be enough to get her out. But is she brave enough to seize that power, even if it means giving up what she's always known? Debut author Kayla Cagan breathes new life into fiction in this ridiculously compelling, utterly authentic work featuring interior art from Rookie magazine illustrator Maria Ines Gul. Piper will have readers asking big questions along with her. What is love? What is friendship? What is family? What is home? And who is a person when she's missing any one of these things?

My Thoughts:

If you have never seen Piper Perish before (by seen, I mean its GORGEOUS cover), YOU ARE CRAZY. If you have never heard of this masterpiece of a novel, YOU ARE CRAZY. You, we, I am crazy for all sorts of reasons, but Piper Perish by the phenomenal Kayla Cagan has literally made me rethink of a definition of crazy. YOU NEED TO HEAR/SEE/READ THIS BOOK. When I first read the synopsis, I knew it would be a keeper. Little did I know that it would become a total jewel/gem of a story that I will remember forever. It kind of reminds me of the point of my life that I am currently in: that point of your life where you're just starting to get everything together. Where you're pulling/pushing the pieces, wondering what you really want to do in the future, what's worth keeping. This lovely novel has such a huge focus on art and friends: two brilliant things that I myself am so lucky to have an abundance of in my life. This will become everyone's favourite 2017 novel, I feel it.

It has been a wwwwhhhhhiiiiillllleeeeee since I read a book that was this raw, this intriguing. Yeah, you know, we constantly read contemporary romances or chick-lit novels about girls/guys finding themselves, figuring out their purposes in life. In this case, our protagonist Piper was the one finding herself. But this story was different. I think it's because it wasn't just about the romance. It was a 75% focus on the contemporary part, the more realistic beautiful part. Kayla Cagan just mastered that. I felt myself melting into the story and it's rare for me to feel this way, especially in the midst of a horrifying reading slump. Now that I look back at this, I think it definitely brought me out of this treacherous slump that's been active for a year probably. 

Piper Perish is a story you can ramble about forever. There was just so much that happened in this big chunky story. (IT'S A HUGE STORY SO YOUR MONEY IS WORTH IT IN EVERY WAY. BUY YOURSELF A BEAUTIFUL HARDCOVER.) It begins off with us getting to know Piper, who is dumped by her boyfriend who literally streaks in the middle of a dance floor on New Year's Eve. It's quite messed up. We learn about how much she loves art and how she wants it to become a big part of her future as she applies to a New York art school. I LITERALLY FEEL THE SAME WAY SHE DOES. (Minus the art part and boyfriend part... it's all about university my friends.)

SO the best part of this book is that it's relatable. Any teenager can find something in this gorgeous story that they could relate to. Whether it is the problem Kit (Piper's best friend) and Piper had surrounding their friendship, or even the problem with just liking something (art) that others do not find interest in, this is a coming of age novel that will hit you. It has all of the elements we are seeking, like LGBTQ characters (Enzo!!)!! The only reason why I did not feel that this was perfect was because it lacked a fast pace. It was intriguing, but at points I felt that it wasn't really moving anywhere. ANYWHO, we must get back to the positives.

This is a happy, feel-good story that will just make you smile. That's the final result. A MASS OF EMOTIONS HIT ME SO HARD that I decided that the best way to write about this book is to just ramble about how much we can all relate to it and find beauty in it. There: it's your turn to explore it. ENJOY AND GRAB THIS INSTANTLY. No one will be disappointed.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*


HI. I was VERY VERY VERY fortunate to be a part of Raincoast Books' blog tour for Piper Perish, and I was also fortunate to ask the author, Kayla Cagan a question! Here it is and her response:

Hi Kayla! Piper Perish has a big focus on art, so what inspired you to write about it? 
My inspiration came in four parts, throughout my life. One, I am an avid reader of biographies and watcher of biopics of great writers and influential artists. These are my creativity teachers - How did they persevere in times of failure and success? How did they have and hold on to relationships? Why were they the ones who specifically came up with a way of writing/creating/making, surpassing others? I just wanted to read what was in the mind of a young Picasso or a young Warhol or young Dickinson or young Plath. I wanted to see who they were before the world had an idea of who they were and should be, how they should act etc… 
Two, I grew up in my mother’s ceramic shop. She was a professional ceramist and potter. She has always continued to create in several ways, most recently in mosaic tiles. But growing up in a storefront introduced me into a world much bigger than my own school and neighborhood. I felt like a grown up in her tiny shop. The one thing that united people there, besides my mom, was art. They built beautiful pieces, they painted and glazed and watched their pieces become toasted and strong in mom’s kilns. They made gifts for their families, they made gifts to celebrate successes, they made emblems of themselves. They broke and smashed pieces there, too. They were all creators, and I felt creative there, though I was more prone to theater and writing. I still did my fair share of ceramics. Art was such an early part of my life, and always encouraged, and I never knew you couldn’t have a way of life. I knew I would be in the arts one way or the other since I was a kid. My biggest heroes have always been and continue to be artists. So, I guess you could say I wanted to write Piper as my up and coming super hero. I wanted to give Piper a superhero origin story.
Three, my best friend in high school, Amy, was an art kid. She was so talented she left “regular” high school and was accepted into HSPVA, my dream school at the time. HSPVA - The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston. Part of Piper is part of Amy. It took my mom pointing that out to me to realize I had written a small tribute to her. Another close friend of mine, Paul, is now a teacher there. And it’s still one of the best schools in Houston. 
Fourth, I love journaling. I’ve been doing it since I was 10 and haven’t stopped. I wanted to write a book like a journal. I love fiction that reads like a diary or journal. I’m a sucker for that structure. So, I allowed myself to write one.

Thank you so much Kayla and Raincoast Books for putting this lovely blog tour together! What is another beautiful YA book that features art? (Or a big focus on art?)

How the Cold War Began by Amy Knight // Excellent Research Novel

Sunday, 26 February 2017 2 comments
How the Cold War Began: The Gouzenko Affair and the Hunt for Soviet Spies, by Amy Knight
Publication: November 1, 2005, by McClelland and Stewart
Genre: Non-Fiction, History
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed

Just weeks after World War II had ended, a young cipher clerk named Igor Gouzenko walked out of the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa with secret papers stuffed under his shirt and headed straight for the offices of a city newspaper. His action would change the course of the twentieth century.
Gouzenko’s defection sent shockwaves through Washington, London, Moscow, and Ottawa. It was the first from a Soviet Embassy, and the smuggled documents, which suggested that agents in North America were feeding atomic secrets to Moscow, sparked a witch-hunt for spies, including not only Americans and Canadians, but a leading British nuclear scientist, Allan Nunn May.
FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover used Gouzenko’s defection to demonize the Soviets and discredit the leftists in President Harry Truman’s White House. All he had needed to push his agenda was evidence of spying, and Gouzenko delivered the goods. The FBI and the House Un-American Activities Committee used Gouzenko’s revelations to go after Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, and many others. And all the while, infamous MI-5 double-agent Kim Philby kept his Soviet masters apprised. The Cold War had truly begun.
In this first book to tell the Gouzenko story, Amy Knight uses newly declassified files as well as interviews with several of the key players to examine the substance of Gouzenko’s revelations and delve into his hidden motives for defecting. She explains how Gouzenko was really a pawn in a much larger game. And she brilliantly connects these events to the hardening of relations between Moscow and the West, the practice of guilt by association, and the end of the movement for international control of the atomic bomb.

My Thoughts:

I am telling you that I did not plan to read this book. I really wasn't interested in those boring American history books about subject matters that could be explained much better. BUT. (There's a but!) I needed to read this for a research essay for school about Igor Gouzenko and how he basically affected society politically and socially/culturally. This was the only book available about the Gouzenko Affair and to be honest, it wasn't too terrible. I based much of my research paper on this book and everything that Amy Knight highlighted. How the Cold War Began was an interesting novel that provided me with the just the right amount of information that I could base my paper on. I was able to learn more about the other Soviet spies who had similar jobs to Gouzenko, and I was able to also learn about how Gouzenko achieved the courage to defect and announce his role. 

This was difficult to read, and that was a major flaw for me. I ended up skimming some parts because I felt that some chapters were not relevant for my paper. This is not the ordinary kind of book I would pick up and read, so I decided that I would only bookmark the important parts. On a road trip back home from the lovely New Orleans, I picked this one up and spent my two-day journey reading it, sticky-tabbing it, you name it. I would honestly prefer to read a contemporary-romance, but it was pretty enjoyable since I chose the subject matter.

Would I recommend this? Sure. If you are an avid history reader/lover who wants to learn more about the initial moments of the Cold War and how Russia, the United States and Canada played a role, go for this. It truly is quite interesting.

How the Cold War Began was the perfect book to read for the purpose of what I was writing about at the time. I wasn't 100% interested in the writing at all times, but that's history for me (and most people).

What is an actual GOOD history novel? What subject matter should I begin with?

Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery // This is Not a Kid's Book. This is For Everyone.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017 1 comments
Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Publication: April 6, 1943
Genre: Kids/YA/Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 87
Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed

Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.

My Thoughts:

I speak *pretty fluent* French, and I read Le Petit Prince in French for my class, but I am an incredibly lazy person who just had to write a huge French paper so... I'm just going to write this review in English for time's sake. And for your understanding's sake. Before anything, Y'ALL NEED TO LEARN THE FRENCH LANGUAGE. It's beautiful and I can imagine that the diction and language used in the French version of this exceptional novel is much better and more deep than the English version. BEFORE EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING POSSIBLE, let's get this straight: every single soul on this planet needs to head to their library, online, Kindle, local bookstore—whatever, and pick up a copy of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince. All of our hearts and minds depend on this kind of feel-good story that is so much more than what is literally written.

You can read The Little Prince in two ways: a literal way and a contextual way. Both of these methods of reading are just SO SO SO enjoyable. And that's the reason why this glorious 87-paged novel is studied by both children and adults. I looked at the novel both ways and it was phenomenal. Once you reach the ending you'll discover that there is more to the book than what us readers can even imagine. And then comes in the concept of adults versus children, which was explained amazingly.

This is a story that will always stay with me. I feel that the Little Prince is somewhere up in the stars, watching his readers and guiding them through life. I guess you can now tell that I have some sort of spiritual connection to him and it's true. Saint-Exupery created this story wonderfully, but I can't happen to wonder if this is a true story, if there really was a little prince. (I understand that Antoine's plane crashed during World War Two, but there must have been more to that story. This is not a hallucination).

I read this over a course of a few weeks because we spent a lot of time in class analyzing everything, doing projects and doing short quizzes to test our knowledge, which I despised. 

Le Petit Prince is unlike any classic you'll ever read. It is easy to read, though it holds a meaning that will stun you for days or even months to the point that you'll feel eager to read it all over again to discover a whole other meaning.

OMG Series Mini-Reviews: Scrooge #worstgiftever and Darcy Swipes Left

Monday, 13 February 2017 1 comments
Scrooge #worstgiftever, by Charles Dickens and Brett Wright
Publication: September 27, 2016, by Random House BFYR
Genre: Fiction, Retellings, Classics
Pages: 112
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

Imagine: What if Scrooge, Marley, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, and the whole Cratchit family had smartphones? A classic is reborn in this clever adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol!

One grouchy old man who can’t stop asking “How did you get this number?!”
Three ghosts who communicate in the most modern ways, including one who ONLY uses emojis!
And a status update with the most “likes” ever: God bless us, everyone!
This retelling will cure even the worst bout of Bah hummingbird! #darnyouautocorrect

A glossary and cast of characters are included for those who need it.

My Thoughts:

Brett Wright's OMG Series is absolutely a must-read. THIS DOES NOT DISAPPOINT! Scrooge #worstgiftever was the best present a girl can receive for Christmas. If you have read Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, or even if you haven't, being entertained by this witty hilarious story is the best. It is so easy for me to understand the goal of the author and what this is leading to because of the emojis and everything. THE MOOD IS JUST JOYFUL, even though the book is focused on a character who is depressed and grumpy about the Christmas season. This definitely turned out to be my favourite #OMGClassics story.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

Publication: September 27, 2016, by Random House BFYR
Genre: Fiction, Retellings, Classics
Pages: 128
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Rating: ½

Imagine: What if Lizzy Bennet and Mr. Darcy had smartphones and dated IRL (in real life)? A classic is reborn in this clever adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice!
A truth universally acknowledged: a rich guy must want a wife.
A terrible first impression.
A couple that’s meant to be . . . if they can just get over themselves. #hatersgonnadate
Don’t miss: Lydia taking selfies with soldiers, Mrs. Bennet’s humble-brag status updates, Lizzy texting from her long walks, and Darcy swiping left on a dance card app.
tl;dr Jane Austen’s most famous novel told through its characters texting with emojis, posting photos, checking in at locations, and updating their relationship statuses. The perfect gift for any teen (or any reader with a sense of humor)!
A glossary and cast of characters are included for those who need it. For example: tl;dr means too long; didn’t read.

My Thoughts:

This is the first time I can say I read a classic that an #OMGSeries book is based on. Courtney Carbone's version of Pride and Prejudice is absolutely fabulous and it lies so well with the real story that I NEED MORE. I wish there was a P&P part two so I can read about Darcy and Lizzy's children and so I can grab another addition to the #OMGSeries! I have nothing much to say about these books in general because they are all so enjoyable, but they are feel-good reads. Nothing's better than grabbing one of these, a cup of tea and a blanket by your side. ENJOY THIS.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury // The DYSTOPIAN of Dystopia

Thursday, 9 February 2017 0 comments
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
Publication: October 1, 1953, by Simon and Schuster
Genre: Fiction, Classic, Dystopian
Pages: 249
Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ½

Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden. Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television "family." But when he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn't live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known.
The sixtieth-anniversary edition commemorates Ray Bradbury's masterpiece with a new introduction by Neil Gaiman; personal essays on the genesis of the novel by the author; a wealth of critical essays and reviews by Nelson Algren, Harold Bloom, Margaret Atwood, and others; rare manuscript pages and sketches from Ray Bradbury's personal archive; and much more. Here, at last, is the definitive edition of a classic of world literature.

My Thoughts:

Listen friends: Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 seriously is the DYSTOPIAN of dystopia. Of the dystopian genre specifically. This is the book that began it all, that began the sudden influx and creation of hundreds—no thousands of dystopian novels like Divergent. I'm sure that somewhere, somehow, the topic of a deteriorating world, a somewhat 'utopian' society first originated from this story. This was, in fact, the first book that I read for my junior year English class, and it was the worst out of the six we read. I feel that my twelve-year-old self would have appreciated Bradbury's writing so much more, perhaps to the extent that I would've given this a five star rating. This isn't the right kind of book for me. I truly truly TRULY appreciate the fact that there is a big focus on books and literature (YAY) though the whole concept that Bradbury tried to get at—showing how one person rebelled against his society and was influenced by someone who saw the truth, was weak. I feel that so many books rely on the same topic or theme. Fahrenheit 451 definitely is a classic novel, as it was written during the Cold War era and was basically made to show fear, specifically nuclear fear and fear in the world when things are falling apart.

The major thing that annoyed me was the fact that this was written weirdly. I appreciate beautiful writing that incorporates a lot of imagery and whatnot, though this was written awkwardly. I felt the awkwardness as I read; I wasn't intrigued and many of my classmates weren't, either. This could have been because we were basically *forced* to read this book twice. Bradbury divvied up the protagonist, Guy Montag's story into three sections, and we had to read each section twice. Once for the actual content and understanding the story, and the second time for paying attention to themes, characterization and literary devices. Yay me. I was annoyed because I feel that the imagery I *paid attention to* was not really there for a reason. Yes, I put on my special English cap and pretended that the four walls represented the isolation of society. Yeah, I could see that, but I do not believe that Ray Bradbury wrote this novel, specifically implying that the four walls represented that. It was boring and really vague. Montag's world was the same; bland and vague, though I'm pretty sure that his novel wasn't supposed to feel that way. It did, however.

I love the concept of books and book burning. Bradbury played with the whole concept of firefighters and instead of them saving people's lives from hazardous fires, in this world, they actually start the fires. You might be thinking that I'm losing my mind or something, but honestly? They set fires to get rid of any books that people have, like the Bible for example. It's complete propaganda and censorship, and this highly reflects the issues Bradbury dealt with during the time he wrote this book. When reading this, we readers are immediately put into a situation where we are more conscious of our surroundings, or at least: I was more conscious. I realized that technology is deteriorating our society and that there is much more to life than our phones, or the computer I am using to type this up. Fahrenheit 451 has such a powerful message. I think it's always going to stick with me.

I especially loved Montag's character in the novel. You see, this middle-aged man is different from the rest of his society. For the longest time, he acted as if he fit in with everything: his job (he was a firefighter) and the technology around him. After he meets his neighbour, Clarisse, who is a young teenager who actually understands the world around her and its problems, Montag is influenced by this girl's views and realizes that he has always had it wrong: the world is imperfect. It's so interesting to see how an idea can stick in all of society's minds, and how quickly one can actually be influenced by a new idea. If you rarely read dystopian fiction, then this could certainly be for you.

Fahrenheit 451 is absolutely interesting and riveting, though it lacked some uniqueness that I haven't seen in other stories. I was bored for a big chunk of it and felt that it lacked a "WOW factor." You can easily, however, fall in love with the characters, like Montag, our protagonist, Clarisse, his neighbour and the 'villains' who make us realize that technology has the capability to influence people to the extent that they do not really feel that they have an identity. It makes me scared about what our society might turn into if we do not realize what is important in life.

What are some other 'classic' dystopian novels? What is your favourite classic novel, in general?

First There Was Forever by Juliana Romano // Summer? Yes. Drama? Absolutely.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017 0 comments
First There Was Forever, by Juliana Romano
Publication: April 14, 2015, by Dial Books
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Rating: ½

Juliana Romano's expressive debut is an absorbing and bittersweet story about first love, first loss, and the friends that carry us through it all.
Lima and Hailey have always been best friends: Lima shy and sensitive, Hailey funny and free-spirited. But Hailey abandons Lima to party with the popular kids and pursue Nate, her disinterested crush. As their friendship falters, Lima and Nate begin spending more time together. And before Lima knows what she’s feeling, she and Nate do something irreversible. Something that would hurt Hailey....if she knew it happened.
Lima thinks she’s saving her friendship by lying, but she’s only buying time. As the secrets stack up, Lima is forced to make a choice: between her best friend forever, and the boy who wasn’t meant to be hers.

My Thoughts:

CALIFORNIA LOVEEEEE. *plays the song by Tupac* That's a song that immediately pops into my head when I think about Juliana Romano's First There Was Forever. I cannot really think about the direct lyrics, though Romano's debut does take place in California, the land of dreams, Beverly Hills, drama and daily doses of sunshine. I don't think anything gets better than California. When I read this book, I just came home from California, so I was enduring some kind of post-trip depression where all I wanted to do was hop on a plane again and travel to the place where I am happy. (Not that I'm not happy anywhere else but... it's a happy land). First There Was Forever was raw and so meaningful. 

The important detail to note here is that it, the novel, displays the realism of teenagers and their mentalities to an interesting extent. And by an interesting extent, I mean an over-exaggerated extent. I'm a teenager living in the twenty-first century, and I can tell you that the only reason why I did not give this book a perfect rating was because I was disappointed with the fact that the characters in the book were showcased as people who only cared about boys and partying, and of course, a little bit of friendship drama here and there. It's kind of wrong, and I felt all iffy about the whole situation. I definitely felt that it was real, but I cannot personally relate to any of the characters and situation because it's all just out of my realm.

This does, however, portray friendship and the problems of being a teenager. Our protagonist, Lima, undergoes the time of her life where she realizes that she needs to change her way of thinking and friend group. I can personally relate to that, and I bet many other teens can, too, because there's always that period of our lives where we feel that we just don't belong somewhere. And when we find that special group of people who we slide in with, it all works out. Lima was a protagonist who was so energetic and special; she was shy to the others, though reading about her life from her eyes made the book even better. Seeing that she was slowly climbing out of her shell to become more confident in her shoes was remarkable. I LOVED SEEING THIS DEVELOPMENT.

This isn't your typical girl-falling-in-love-with-her-BFF's-crush novel. It's more than that. It's something you can fall in love with very quickly and feel unable to let go. It's 400 pages of awesomeness and a rich plot that you won't be able to forget about for ages. I especially loved the whole story because it's summery and fluffy; it also incorporates themes that take you to a deep level of consciousness, if that is even possible. It's just deep, beautiful and full of drama to the point that I felt the fast pace in me as I read. It's been a looooong time since I read a book this quickly. 

In a quick sentence: I adored Lima and Nate and despised Hailey with all of my might. She was your typical mean girl who you just wanted to depart the plot. 

First There Was Forever has been sitting in my shelf for months, perhaps even a year before I decided, "Hey! This might be the perfect time to pick it up!" This is the kind of book that was not written solely for teenagers; anyone is able to find something here that they will enjoy. I am SO SO SO eager to pick up Romano's Summer in the City and see what her setting of NYC has in store for her characters. I'm lost for words; this is phenomenal.

What is a book that at first, seemed typical, but was better and more unique than everyone first expected?