The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan // A Cute Sequel. That's It.

Sunday, 25 June 2017 0 comments
The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily (Dash and Lily #2), by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Publication: October 18, 2016, by Knopf Books FYR
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 215
Format: ARC
Source: BEA/Publisher
Rating: ½

Dash and Lily have had a tough year since they first fell in love among the shelves of their favorite bookstore. Lily’s beloved grandfather suffered a heart attack, and his difficult road to recovery has taken a major toll on her typically sunny disposition.
With only twelve days left until Christmas—Lily’s favorite time of the year—Dash, Lily’s brother Langston, and their closest friends must take Manhattan by storm to help Lily recapture the unique holiday magic of a glittering, snow-covered New York City in December.

My Thoughts:

I have been waiting forever to read the sequel of Dash and Lily, and I finally got the chance a little after Christmastime this year, which is kind of depressing. The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily, however, was quite boring and uneventful compared to the first novel. I feel that this might be because it was released years after the first book stunned us. It has lost the magic, to be honest, and I feel bad saying this, implying that the sequel to an adorable contemporary romance novel was disappointing. 

Listen - 3.5 stars isn't bad. It isn't even terrible at all. It's just that I was expecting something more to come out of this. I wanted Dash and Lily to have a story that screamed out Christmas, hot cocoa, and gooeyness all together. But instead - NO. I was given a story about the two members of this lovely couple questioning their relationship, questioning all the time they have spent together. It was just lacking something, and I felt that the story as a whole was just filler and made to please the audience. It wasn't made as a continuation, because a continuation honestly wasn't needed.

So, as the title explains, this story takes place over a span of twelve days. Twelve days for the two main characters to discover who they are and what their relationship really means. It was cute, but I feel that New York City, the setting, was the reason why it was cute. I COULDN'T GET ENOUGH OF READING ABOUT ALL OF THE STREETS AND ATTRACTIONS AND AGH - it was glorious. I just loved the idea of reintroducing these characters for a short period of time again. It was like another season of Gilmore Girls - same idea and characters, simply made to please the fans.

"This is the funny thing about New York — there are so many things to do at all times of the day, but there are still moments when you have no idea which of them to do, and feel extra silly because you know there has to be something out there for you to do; your mind just hasn't found it yet" (180).

The plot was a little slow for me but I can admit that it was all because of the pacing. The story was meant to go by fast but the relationship's destruction slowly occurred and I just became confused. This surely had its good, swoony moments where I literally FELL for Dash, but I occasionally felt the need to read something else. However, Levithan and Cohn's writing is as gorgeous as always. I constantly feel these poetic vibes coming from every word and chapter.

If you are the BIGGEST fan of this series, then give this a go. If you liked it, but wasn't OBSESSED with it, then you may pass on this because, even though it was written nicely, there are better books out there, including better books by these two authors. I can admit that I missed both Dash and Lily, so this was a nice run-into.

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

What is a sequel that is worth skipping?

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi // My First Experience With a Graphic Novel in English Class

Saturday, 24 June 2017 0 comments
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi
Publication: June 1, 2004, by Pantheon
Genre: Non-Fiction, Graphic Novel, Memoir
Pages: 153
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ½

Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.
Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.

My Thoughts:

 You can't even imagine how long it has taken me to write this review. Eight months, maybe? Nevertheless, I LOVED it. This is the second graphic novel memoir that I have read, and it was so intelligent and unique. It definitely gave me a new outlook on the Iranian Revolution, an event I previously read about in Marina Nemat's Prisoner of Tehran (if you read that and enjoyed it, then this will be just as good). Persepolis is an outlook on crises in the Middle East, and I completely recommend it for anyone of any age. We often hear about what the governments' roles are in these types of situations, however we have limited information as to what citizens are enduring. Marjane Satrapi provided us with this information, and I have grown a bigger sympathy for people because of this memoir. It has made me a better person, I can admit.

Persepolis paints a picture of Marjane's life and how she overcame the many struggles she faced. It's a deep story that is much more than what meets the eye. I adored it so much and found that the graphic novel style imagery just made the book's plot fly by faster. And to be quite honest, the book itself was absolutely in-depth to the point that it felt like fiction. Marjane's story felt like something an author wrote to make readers intrigued. However, this is valid and legitimate, proving that people's lives can be so complex to the extent that we feel that it is totally unreal.

I now feel intrigued to read more of Marjane's writing - I want to see how her story continues and how she became the person that she is. It's not everyday where you get to read a story like this, and I feel quite lucky that this book was chosen as a required read for my English class. It boosted my interest, simply because it is a graphic novel (and I once had an Archie phase so this made me nostalgic in a way) and because it was promising. It holds a unique topic that our world needs to talk about more often. It's an influential, inspiring story that can teach everyone that all we need is a little hope, that no giving up should ever occur or else that'll tear us down. 

Marjane's writing was also easy to read with bits and pieces of depth that is up for interpretation and analyzing. I love analyzing books as I read, so I definitely found many hidden messages in between the lines. I just can't get this out of my head, so I actually am going to request the sequel from my local library so I can see the continuation. It's SO good, and I feel like we need to raise awareness of these unknown books. GO MEMOIRS.

I am begging you to pick this up. IT IS WORTH IT and one of the best books I have read in English class. There's just so much to talk about, so let's have a discussion about this!

Are there any other graphic novel memoirs out there?

Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman // Phenomenal Though Harsh

Saturday, 27 May 2017 0 comments
Death and the Maiden, by Ariel Dorfman
Publication: December 1, 1994, by Penguin Books
Genre: Fiction, Drama, Play
Pages: 96
Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed

Ariel Dorfman's explosively provocative, award-winning drama is set in a country that has only recently returned to democracy. Gerardo Escobar has just been chosen to head the commission that will investigate the crimes of the old regime when his car breaks down and he is picked up by the humane doctor Roberto Miranda. But in the voice of this good Samaritan, Gerardo's wife, Paulina Salas, thinks she recognizes another man—the one who raped and tortured her as she lay blindfolded in a military detention center years before.

My Thoughts:

Death and the Maiden is warped - it has a truly messed up plot that makes you ponder about the relationships people have, but, at the same time, its warped-ness just makes it beautiful. Otherwise, it would have been a completely ordinary play that has a dark theme. This is a play that I will remember for the rest of my days. There's so much to analyze in Ariel Dorfman's writing that we can spend AGES going through it, trying to understand it all. I need to look Dorfman up and find more of his writing - it's addictive, to be quite honest.

I read this play a loooooooong time ago, but what I know I loved about it was the fact that it was so deep and carried an important message: we need to speak out. In addition, it was beautifully written and stayed true to its Chilean culture. It seemed that Dorfman had put a lot of thought into writing this story and making it fit for each of us. There were moments when I wanted to vomit because of the detailedness of Dorfman's writing and Paulina's actions, and times where I wanted to cry out because Paulina's character development was unbelievable. She began her story as a surprisingly tough woman who progressed to have feelings and understand her husband better.

You see, I read this in school and we even acted it out. That was the difficult part - but it also helped us understand the story and meaning much more. I cannot write so much without spoiling, but, short story short: YOU NEED TO READ THIS. It is deep and gory, but hey - it has a beautiful ending that will make you want more. 

Read this, fall in love, hate Roberto (you'll find out who he is), and be amused. This is a play with three AMAZINGLY CRAZY characters who are each so different yet alike. It's a literature masterpiece.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall // Absolutely Astonishing.

Saturday, 13 May 2017 2 comments
Under Rose-Tainted Skies, by Louise Gornall
Publication: January 3, 2017, by Clarion Books
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Rating: ½

At seventeen, Norah has accepted that the four walls of her house delineate her life. She knows that fearing everything from inland tsunamis to odd numbers is irrational, but her mind insists the world outside is too big, too dangerous. So she stays safe inside, watching others’ lives through her windows and social media feed.
But when Luke arrives on her doorstep, he doesn’t see a girl defined by medical terms and mental health. Instead, he sees a girl who is funny, smart, and brave. And Norah likes what he sees.
Their friendship turns deeper, but Norah knows Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can walk beneath the open sky. One who is unafraid of kissing. One who isn’t so screwed up. Can she let him go for his own good—or can Norah learn to see herself through Luke’s eyes?

My Thoughts: 

I was fortunate to read Under Rose-Tainted Skies during a vacation, and I must say that the book itself is like a vacation from the typical books we read. Louise Gornall has created a book quite similar to Nicola Yoon's Everything, Everything, which stood as a flaw for me, but it had its own unique ideas - like its main concept surrounding a girl's agoraphobia—her fear of leaving her own house—and OCD. It's a real look at mental illness and how we all have the potential to find things in our lives that make us feel better or different about a specific fear we may have. In the main character—Norah's—case, we found that love and opening up were the best ways for her to succeed in life and realize that we cannot go through life solely in fear. This was amazingly written, poetically-inclined, and precious. I cannot help but FREAK OUT over everything Louise Gornall writes - or, in other words, I WILL FREAK OUT OVER THIS.

My first instance of love for this story began when I saw the cover. It screams out "beauty and poetic writing," and that's what it truly provided me with. It gave me a new, RAW (most important thing) look at love that other contemporary romance or chick-lit novels seem to fail at. Gornall proves that love is not perfect; every picture-perfect moment may not be picture-perfect because something goes wrong. Occasionally, couples have these moments where they fail to understand each other or what they are trying to get at in their relationship. I loved that about Luke and Norah's relationship - they somehow made love feel, you know: achievable. Under Rose-Tainted Skies had a direct reference to each reader's heart because honestly? We're all looking for a beautiful story like this.

"I want to be her. I don't care how much it costs; I would pay it to have her tan and high cheekbones," (195).

Things definitely took a turn towards the end of the book where I got so confused and anxious to the point that I couldn't put it down. The whole book revolves around Norah's issues of opening up to her new neighbour, Luke, who begins to appreciate Norah for who she is, even though she is afraid to kiss, to make contact with him. But hey - they find things that they can do, like freak out over the same fandoms and watch horror films together. That is my idea of a perfect relationship. The imperfectness of the characters is what made this story SO SO SO lovely and memorable. It's been a few months since I read the last few words of Under Rose-Tainted Skies, but it feels like it was yesterday, just because the characters kind of, you know... live with you forever.

Even though there weren't many characters in this whole story - because the fact that Norah couldn't leave her house, there was so much complexity all over the place. We get to see a struggling personality in Norah's mother, whose life also had to take a halt because of her own daughter's fear of experiencing things. But, as Norah gains strength, so do the people around her. I would really like to see a film come out of this with A+ actors who have the capability of mastering the emotional aspect of the characters and novel.

"I want to tell him I'm sorry. I want to tell him I'm insecure. I want to tell him that I am hard work, that my head is a mess, that my sickness was making even the smallest thought explore that night. I want to tell him the kiss scared me but I can't stop wanting a second one," (302).

Gornall's writing was raw and addictive. Once I began reading, I couldn't stop, but even if I had to, I kept reminding myself that it's worth the wait because I eventually will not be able to experience this story the same way anymore - the first time. YOU ALL NEED TO PICK THIS BEAUTY UP AND EXPERIENCE.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is going to be one of the best books you will read this year. It features issues we all need to talk about more, like phobias and mental illness. This is absolutely beautiful and deserves a try from everyone.

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

Are there any other YA books about phobias? What about OCD? Do you think this needs to be addressed WAY more in YA?

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West // West's Books Are My Guilty Pleasures

Friday, 5 May 2017 0 comments
The Fill-In Boyfriend, by Kasie West
Publication: May 5, 2015, by HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 343
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Rating: ½

When Gia Montgomery's boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she'd been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend—two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.
The problem is that days after prom, it's not the real Bradley she's thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn't even know. But tracking him down doesn't mean they're done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend's graduation party—three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.
Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

My Thoughts:

When one first reads the summary of Kasie West's The Fill-In Boyfriend, you would think that it is the cheesiest book ever and it can totally be a chick-lit film. But, if you're a good soul and decide to pick it up because hey—why not, you'll discover that this book is one of a kind. THIS BOOK IS THE BEST. It's heart-wrenching, ABSOLUTELY adorable, and gives you all of the staticky emotions. You feel like you don't even know where you stand because it just formulates emotions that are all over the place. Even though a story like this (with a fill-in boyfriend and love at first sight) is nearly impossible, I must say that it is a gem—a good find that will warm your heart on a depressing, rainy day.

What I loved most about West's writing in this case is the fact that Gia, our protagonist, is so damn confident. She has a personality that teenage protagonists rarely have in fiction these days. Although she was completely boy-crazy and obsessive, we later discover that she herself has her own issues that she is hiding from the outward view. The romance was even better and I appreciated this story so much - it's the kind of story that makes you want to believe in love, at the same time as having a cup of coffee by your side.

The Fill-In Boyfriend had a fast-paced plot and characters who I will never forget because of the wacky storyline. It does seem completely odd and out of reach—yes—but IT WAS TOTALLY BEAUTIFUL.

Read this gorgeous story—NOW.

What is a contemporary romance with a unique storyline?

What Light by Jay Asher // Holiday Books Can Actually Be Read Anytime

Monday, 1 May 2017 0 comments
What Light, by Jay Asher
Publication: October 18, 2016, by Razorbill
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 251
Format: ARC
Source: BEA/Publisher

Sierra's family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it's a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other.
Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.
By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb's past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.
What Light is a love story that's moving and life-affirming and completely unforgettable.

My Thoughts:

Jay Asher is the king of YA literature. THE KING. ALL HAIL JAY ASHER. And I bet you all can completely agree with me because of the success of Thirteen Reasons Why, one of the best books ever. I think the show has just boosted the readership of the novel SO MUCH so I'm hoping that people might feel a little more interested in this because of the movie. What Light is a lovely Christmas-y story that made me squeal and freak out over the one emotion that every human being has felt at one point of their life: LOVE

I am really impressed with this story because it's not JUST about the cutesy lovey stuff. It's more than that; it's the usual Jay Asher fluff. He adds so many more topics that we never really aware about into his gorgeous stories. What Light basically showed us that hey: HOLIDAY BOOKS ARE FOR THE SUMMER. They can be read in the spring, fall—whenever. When I began reading it, I didn't expect that this would be entertaining, but it definitely was. Asher's writing was (almost) as good as ever, and I really appreciated the storyline.

This is one of those feel-good stories that makes you want to appreciate life a little more. Caleb and Sierra are the power couple of them all. I fell in love with their romance as well and just pined for them to be together. IT WAS MAGICAL. I felt a real connection to the book because I wanted the best for the characters if you know what I mean. The plot, on the other hand, was quite slow-paced which was the reason why I had to stick with a lower rating for this one. Unlike Asher's other books, it lacked something. Something life-changing. How did Thirteen Reasons Why accomplish this? I really don't know. Let's just say that it was a nice story.

Want a pleasing, adorable story? Read this. That's all I can say.

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

What is the best holiday book you have read?

A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen // A Lovely Work of Modern Drama

Sunday, 30 April 2017 0 comments
A Doll's House, by Henrik Ibsen
Publication: December 1879, by Hard Press
Genre: Fiction, Play, Drama
Pages: 122
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed

A Doll's House (1879), is a masterpiece of theatrical craft which, for the first time portrayed the tragic hypocrisy of Victorian middle class marriage on stage. The play ushered in a new social era and "exploded like a bomb into contemporary life".

My Thoughts: 

A Doll's House was one of the three plays I was fortunate to read for English class this year, and I must say that it was just absolutely stunning and alluring. I have read about ten pieces of drama and this is one of the best for its different style of writing and subject matter. How often are we readers fortunate to read about a couple's crisis in the Victorian era in Norway? Never. Ever. After reading Ibsen's work, I feel more captivated to look into his other plays and see what he has in store for us. This can definitely be classified as modern drama, but it gives us the perspective of 1800s Europe before all of the violence and wars began. This was more about a couple's struggle in the sense of their marriage and social status.

We spent about a week reading this relatively short play and analyzing it in my class and I didn't want to miss a second of it. In the beginning of the play, we are introduced to Nora and her husband Thorvald who are a well-off couple living in a Norwegian town. The whole play takes place in a span of a couple of days, and it is so raw and real. Ibsen was definitely not influenced by any of the modern topics (like technology) that we are surrounded with, so he told us a different story about a couple that we haven't been surrounded with before. 

The characters were absolutely my favourite part of the play. Everyone, including Nora, Thorvald, Mrs. Linde etc. etc. are so well planned-out and amazing. Each of them has their own emotions and qualities that they are specifically known for in the play. We feel their pains, their struggles, their desires... and this is the reason why I appreciate drama so much compared to novels. There are only a few books that actually have the ability to create this raw feeling. A Doll's House did that. And it's so creative too; just look at the title. Occasionally we find these basic titles that are pretty much meaningless for the whole novel/play. In this case, IT BRINGS OUT SO MANY THEMES that can be discussed for decades and millenniums.... and forever.

The only thing I want is for a greater sense of background information in Thorvald and Nora's relationship. AND THE KIDS. AND THE MAID. We just need a sequel play, okay?

A Doll's House is lovely. It's a work that I would want to come back to all the time and analyze the themes over and over again. In addition to Shakespeare and Hamilton and all of THOSE lovely plays, read this. NOW. 

What are some other brilliant modern plays?