Book Review (ARC) || Genuine Fraud

Author: E. Lockhart

Publishing Company: Delacorte Press

Release Year: (ARC) To be published September 5, 2017

Genre(s): YA, realistic fiction, thriller

(Shout out to Penguin Random House, where I received this ARC from!)


Synopsis

From the author of the unforgettable New York Times bestseller We Were Liars comes a masterful new psychological suspense novel—the story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

(source)

My Thoughts

Okay, wow! There’s a lot going on in this novel, and I whizzed through it because it was so intriguing. I love psychological thrillers (although I don’t get to read them very much) and this was certainly a good one!

Genuine Fraud begins with our main character, Jule, who we soon learn is extraordinarily good at makeup and accents and just, well, shape-shifting in general. She is definitely the heroine of her own story and she lets us know it straight off the bat. From there the story progresses not chronologically forward but backward. It makes things a little hard to follow at first but after the first few chapters you definitely do grow into it and at the end you realize why that sort of format works.

Jule is an interesting character, to say the least. She’s clever and strong, too emotional while somehow also simultaneously emotionally detached. She’s running away, but we don’t find out until the end–or rather, the beginning–exactly what she’s running from. Her relationship with Imogen, a jasmine-perfumed it girl, is also interesting. The pair are close friends, two girls who are both seemingly perfect but broken in ways only the other can understand. How exactly Imogen fits into Jule’s story…well, you’ll see.

The odd combinations of elements–an affinity for Victorian novels, several unexpected murders, locations like Mexico, Martha’s Vineyard, and London, various characters that pop up, and Jule’s obsession with being a modern day James Bond-like femme fatale superhero lady (what a mouthful)–all somehow work together. That being said, the real driving forces of this novel are the characters, of which there are many, all of whom are complex in ways you won’t see until the novel digs deeper.

The social commentary embedded in this novel’s sharp prose is also smart, providing a peek into the lives of Martha’s Vineyard-dwelling rich kids as well as themes like feminism, friendship, poverty, relationships and love, and coping with familial and mental issues.

Anyway, that’s all I’ll say so as to avoid the ending for you. 😉

All in all: If you’re look for an exciting, suspenseful, and more than slightly creepy read complete with an interesting antihero(ine), this one’s the book for you! Find it at your nearest bookshelf this September!

❤ Yasimone

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Book Review || Carve the Mark

Hi folks! Hope y’all have been doing well!

Veronica Roth’s latest novel came out earlier this year so here’s my review for it! Nice to be writing these things again. 🙂

Also, I changed the look of this blog a bit! Goodness knows it needed a change. ❤


Synopsis

In a galaxy powered by the current, everyone has a gift.

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power — something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is the son of a farmer and an oracle from the frozen nation-planet of Thuvhe. Protected by his unusual currentgift, Akos is generous in spirit, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get this brother out alive — no matter what the cost.
The Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, and the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. Will they help each other to survive, or will they destroy one another?

Carve the Mark is Veronica Roth’s stunning portrayal of the power of friendship — and love — in a galaxy filled with unexpected gifts.

My Thoughts

I’ve been a fan of Veronica Roth for a while now so hearing about her new book naturally got me excited, and I’m super happy to say that I was not disappointed with Carve the Mark! That being said, however, I did find a few issues with this book that I’ll also delve into in this review.

Right, so: the worldbuilding. Carve the Mark takes place in a Star Wars-esque universe (or galaxy, rather). I really liked the planets and Shotet culture and just the effort that went into creating this whole world for the characters. You learn so much about the cultures and religions of the societies and the way things are and I absolutely adore that sort of thing because I am a big nerd.

I loved the characters too! They’re all so raw and real and you get to learn a lot about their personal histories and get to know the way they think. Cyra is just so broken and beautiful and you feel so much for her. Akos is also really sympathetic character and really, the entire cast of characters is really intriguing and interesting and 3D which is exactly what I love! Seeing them together and the way their relationship develops was well-written and really good. And the plot, though it dragged at certain points, was winding and mostly fast paced and I found myself consistently excited for whatever was to come next. I mean, it’s set in space for goodness sake! You gotta love some good, exhilarating space action.crav the mark

Okay, now for the problematic part: you can definitely pick out some racist undertones in this book. Hear me out here. Cyra’s people, the Shotet, are portrayed as savages and warriors, whereas Akos and his people–Thuvians–are the kind, peace-loving counterpart. However, if you look closer, you’ll notice that Roth identifies the Shotet to be darker skinned (or mixed-race) and sets up their culture to be galactic indigenous people of sorts. Meanwhile, the Thuvians have paler skin and are basically colonizers of the planet the Shotet have always existed on. Furthermore, the Shotet language is described as “harsh and guttaral” versus the smoother, softer sounds of the Thuvhe language. Keeping this in mind with the way Cyra and Akos’s romance plays out, I couldn’t help but feel that Carve the Mark was playing on the trope of “angry person of color is civilized by kindly white person and they fall in love.” I am sure Roth did not mean for it to come out this way, but it does not change the fact that it still subconsciously plays into racist stereotypes. Big sigh.

All in all: If you can look beyond the whole racism issue, Carve the Mark would be amazing! The lack of YA sci-fi lately is pretty upsetting, and Carve the Mark was a great display of Roth’s skill and just how thrilling stories in space can be. But, yep, there’s that whole racism thing. (I would recommend this book because I genuinely enjoyed it, but be sure to read it keeping in mind that you’ll probably feel a prickle of ://// while reading.)

❤ Yasimone

Book Review || Devil and the Bluebird

Bonjour loves! How have you all been? Life has been absolutely wild lately and I’ve been away for a bit, but I’ve managed to get some good book reading squeezed in between, despite the hours slipping through my fingers like sand. It’s also officially autumn, so expect to see some enthusiastic flailing! (Let’s not mention the fact that it is absolutely boiling where I live; if the pumpkin candles and lattes are out, it’s autumn.)

Here’s a book that I picked up for the cover, bought for the synopsis, and loved for the story. Hope you enjoy!


Book Review Logo

Author: Jennifer Mason-Black

Publishing Company: Amulet Books

Release Year: 2016

Genre(s): YA, magical realism

My Synopsis

Blue Riley has made a deal with the devil.db-jpg

After her mother, who was a musician, died of cancer, it’s just been her and her sister living together with their aunt–but her sister has run away, leaving Blue alone with nothing but her mother’s old guitar. Determined not to lose her sister forever, Blue meets the Devil at a crossroads, and she (yes, she) offers Blue a deal: her voice, safety, and possibly sanity in exchange for enchanted boots and the scavenger hunt of a lifetime. With her mother’s guitar and a bag slung over her back, Blue sets out on her journey.

She bounces from city to city, hitchhiking with people she’s never met and will never see again. If her mission wasn’t hard enough already, the stakes suddenly get higher: she cannot stay with anyone for more than three days, and no one–under any circumstances–can know her real name. Along the way, she runs into many others who are trying to find their way in life too and discovers that life is unpredictable, and so are people. Through dangerous encounters and leaving behind friends, with the devil appearing at every corner and time whizzing past her, all Blue can do is trust her boots and learn to love life, people, and let music work its magic on the world.

My Review

I read this book while I was on a roadtrip–rather fitting, I’d say, for a book that takes place in cars so much. With the trees flitting by outside my window, I finished Devil and the Bluebird in one sitting and spent the rest of the ride staring outside and just thinking about it all: about people, and how they’re never what you expect.

I adored the characters. Mason-Black crafts the cast so well that all the characters that appear–regardless of the brevity of their roles–are so realistically created that you can imagine their lives and appreciate the small taste of their complexity that you’ve gotten to read. (There’s also so much diversity among the characters in many aspects, which makes me quite happy!) Blue is also such a believable, lovely main character: she’s quirky and she’s smart, and she’s also confused and afraid. Her strife, her determination, her self-guessing, and subtle humour all resonated with me in so many ways.

This novel tackles a lot of heavier subjects: running away, religion, drug abuse, and homelessness, but ties it all together deftly with words that leave you reeling in their lyrical boldness. Devil and the Bluebird is also very much centred around music; music has played a large part in Blue’s life and shows up in the story very often. Even the way this book itself is written and just the overall feel of it felt rather like music to me. It’s the book equivalent of a good acoustic folk-rock song, sung with a rich, bold voice and deft fingers picking at a guitar, the kind you’d listen to while watching trees whiz by on an empty freeway at sunset… I’m not sure what else to say besides “This book was gorgeous.”

In other words: With the passion found in David Arnold’s Mosquitoland, a uniquely haunting voice, and just the perfect amount of magical realism, this Devil and the Bluebird is a novel that will have you thinking about it for days after you read the last page. It’s a story of loss, of grief, of anger. But mostly, it’s a story of hope.

❤ Yasimone

Book Review (ARC) || The Sun is Also a Star

Author: Nicola Yoon

Publishing Company: Delacorte Press

Release Year: (ARC) To be published November 1, 2016

Genre(s): YA, realistic fiction

(Shout out to the Barnes and Noble B-Fest, where I won this ARC!)


My Synopsis

Natasha lives in New York City. Her family is Jamaican. She is cynical and practical. And she’s got a problem–her family is twelve hours away from being deported back to Jamaica. A place she remembers through fuzzy childhood memories. To be clear: She definitely doesn’t believe in fate, but it will take nothing short of a miracle for her to find  a way to stay in America, where she belongs.

Daniel lives in New York City too. His family is Korean. He is poetic and sentimental. He’s also got a problem–he has to apply to Yale and be the Good Son™ his parents want and become a doctor. But that’s not at all what he wants. To be clear: He definitely does believes in fate, and it is not in his to follow his parents’ dreams for him.

the sun is also a star.jpg
Did I mention I’m a sucker for pretty covers?

Now, under any other circumstances, they never would have met. If Natasha hadn’t been listening to music while walking away from the immigration services building and almost gotten run over, and if Daniel hadn’t skipped his college interview and been there to save her, their paths would never have crossed. But it’s funny how life works. What ensues is a journey across New York, and over the course of one day, two teenagers that began as complete and total strangers get to know each other and share in each other’s pain and happiness. And as unlikely as it seem, they each learn from each other from their differences and unexpectedly fall in love. Love at first sight is a tricky business, however. Natasha is still about to be deported. Daniel still messes things up. Will this sudden, beautiful spark burn on or fizzle out from unfortunate futures?

My Thoughts

The Sun is Also a Star absolutely blew my mind. ❤

I’m going to organise this review bit differently because if I don’t, this post will end up being a flailing mess. 😉

Writing Style

Nicola Yoon definitely writes from her heart and it really shows! I found the writing in this book to be so touching; just like the characters, it’s ever-changing. It’s a bit of soft, poetic narration that makes you feel fluttery mixed with logical philosophy and hard facts, all penned in with descriptive chapters that shake you to the core. I absolutely loved it and there were so many quote-able moments.

Format

Okay, we need to talk about how this book was set up. This book is written in multiple point-of-views, with Natasha and Daniel as the main narrators. However, some chapters are written through the perspective of side characters that briefly enter the story, while other chapters are written like the omniscient universe’s explanation of history, of fate, of incidents. It’s kind of limitless perspective that describe backstories that all connect. It’s a different reading experience but one that I thoroughly enjoyed!

Characters + Relationships

Natasha and Daniel were amazing characters! At the end of this book I almost felt as though they were real people I knew, albeit distantly. They’re both so flawed and so real, just two teens who (rather fittingly) fall in love too fast in the fastest-paced city in the work: New York City.

I generally tend not to be the biggest fan of instalove–it mostly feels too contrived to me–but this was one of the rare instances in which I was all for it. While Natasha and Daniel only knew each other for a day, the way their relationship progressed was so natural! Their dynamic was so interesting to follow along. Natasha, guarded, realist, and strictly scientific versus Daniel, an open book who tended to romanticise everything. Reading their  character development and watching the two teach and balance each other out, especially as they got closer, was deeply satisfying.

Thematic Elements

The Sun is Also a Star explores themes like fate, logos versus pathos, multiverses, the theory that all things happen for a reason, rebelling against what other people want for you versus what you want, family issues, and even some scientific knowledge smudged in. (Not to mention the whole immigration issue that Natasha was experiencing, in which she was being deported to a home she didn’t know and the bureaucracy did nothing to help.) This wasn’t a fast, fluffy romance; it wanted you to sit down and think about these things, which I respected a ton.

Another aspect I really appreciated was the racial diversity and addressing of the trials of each group. Not only were Natasha and Daniel aware of their cultures, their families were also introduced and their histories and dreams and familial struggles told. As Yoon herself is Jamaican-American and her husband Korean-America, you could tell that a lot of love and had been put into these characters and their cultures. So so so nice to see books like this. ❤

All in all: The Sun is Also a Star made me feel all the feelings. You need to get your hands on this book once it’s out. If you’re looking for a smart, dazzling romance that will leave you reeling with an overflowing heart when you’re done, this is the one!

❤ Yasimone

(Boy, this was a long review!) (Also, I’ve noticed I’ve gotten some new followers! Welcome, you guys!)

Book Review || The Kite Runner

Hello friends! Just returned to my home after five weeks of being abroad, so expect some travel posts scattered around! 🙂 Here’s a review after quite a while; I’ll be posting extra this week. (Also if anything interesting is going with you all, please let me know! I love hearing about summer!)

Author: Khaled Hosseini

Publishing Company: Riverhead Books

Release Year: 2003

Genre(s): Historical drama, political drama, realistic fiction


My Synopsis

I actually can’t give a summary for this one. There are so many incidents that occur that I honestly can’t summarise the book without giving away some major spoilers and going off on a tangent. So instead I offer you the official synopsis, taken from Khaled Hosseini’s website.

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.

My Thoughts

I picked this novel up on a recommendation. I’d heard a lot about it before; it has gotten a lot of high praise over the years. I was captivated by its synopsis, and I expected to like it.

I did not.

I know, I know. It is one of the most renowned political drama novels (for lack of a better phrase) of all time. I tried to like it, really, but I just couldn’t.

One major issue I encountered was that I simply did not like the main character, Amir. I struggled to sympathise with him so much; after all, the sheer enormity of all the tribulation he goes through should, at the very least, induce some affinity for him. Instead, I found him to be a pretentious child who grew into a mopey adult. Only towards the end, when he decided to redeem himself, did I feel sympathy–or any positive feelings–toward him.

first page tkr

This book used almost every single tragic plot device you could think of–from war to rape to illness to familial betrayal to attempted suicide. Every page brought another twist, another conveniently awful coincidence, another way to bring suffering to the characters. (So much so that I daresay it began to resemble the winding, melancholic Bollywood movies Amir and the son of his father’s servant, Hassan, watched as children.) It’s not that I don’t enjoy sad novels (because I certainly do) or war-time novels. I have read war-time books, and those centred around violence in the Middle East specifically, before, but never have I encountered one with this much desolation and absence of even a glimmer of hope.

tkr.jpg

As for what I did like: The prose was, admittedly, quite nice. It was descriptive and lyrical at times, and I admired the way imagery was used. There were some scenes that were very well-written and truly painted a picture of the beauty of Afghanistan before the war. The premise of the book is interesting, as well. The only problem, for me, was the plot–which is what, in its essence, makes or breaks a book.

All in all: I do not suggest you read it if you are easily triggered by violence, or if you don’t like wiping away angry tears every couple of pages. The Kite Runner was much too melancholic, slightly disturbing, and exaggeratedly despondent for my taste, but hey, it might be the right book for you. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

❤ Yasimone

Book Review || Murder on the Orient Express

Hello all! 😛

Hope your March is going well so far. Isn’t it funny that it’s already March and yet it’s also only just March? (Does that make any sense whatsoever? No? Alright, moving on.) I mentioned in my last post that I read Murder on the Orient Express and promised you all a review. Well, here it is! Hope you enjoy my review as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Book Review Logo

Author: Agatha Christie

Publishing Company: HarperCollins Publishers (William Marrow)

Release Year: 1934

Genre(s): Historical fiction, mystery, murder mystery

Series: The Hercule Poirot Mysteries


My Synopsis

The year is 1930-something. Hercule Poirot, the brilliant Belgian sleuth is travelling in the winter through Stamboul and across Europe. It should be a fairly simple journey, but where Monsieur Poirot goes, mystery–and murder–follows. What proceeds is a first class passenger found dead in his train cabin; stabbed fifteen times, no less! Monsieur Poirot, along with his acquaintances, the French Monsieur Bouc and Greek Dr. Constantine, takes it upon himself to investigate. But this seems to be a case like no other; there are too many clues and too many suspects. Who does the pipe found at the scene of the murder belong to? Who is this mysterious lady in a red kimono some of the passengers recall seeing? Why was the train conductor’s button in the victim, Mr. Ratchett’s, room if the conductor never lost his button? agatha christie.jpgAnd, more importantly, is the killer on the loose  in snowy Yugoslavia or still in the train?

A whirlwind of questioning, confusion, and alibi after alibi follows. A diverse cast of travellers, from the chatty American lady Mrs. Hubbard to the elegant Princess Dragomiroff to the terse British Colonel Arbuthnot, explain their point of view to the sleuth, each with their own stories and observances that, impossibly, seem to match up and yet contradict each other at the same time. As Poirot, Bouc, and Constantine question each passenger, the situation becomes even more absurd. Who is innocent? Who is guilty? And how on earth will this mystery be solved?

My Thoughts

I should probably start off my saying this is my first Agatha Christie novel, and I am super eager to reading her other books! Murder on the Orient Express was honestly the best whodunit I’ve read–then again, it was written by the “The Queen of Murder” herself. 😉

The writing is great. It’s very colorful and descriptive and all the characters are so, so well developed; each of them have their own habits and ways of speaking that will have you looking at them with suspicion or fondness. Don’t expect the writing to be overly florid, and make no mistake, every sentence adds something to the plot; there isn’t a single word that is there simply as filler. Dame Christie’s ironic sense of humour also had me smiling quite often. Hercule Poirot’s companions, M. Bouc and Dr. Constantine, while clueless in the art of sleuthing, are endearing, and the detective himself is truly a great protagonist; all quick-wit and intuition and asking the right things in the right ways to get the answers he wants.

Another point that really struck me: the entire novel takes place on a stationary Orient Express that has been snowed in in the mountains of Yugoslavia–a classic “locked room mystery.” And yet, neither does the setting get old, nor do the characters; most likely because the situation changes every chapter.

murder on the orient express.jpgNow, it’s rather difficult to do this book justice without explaining the entire situation in great detail, but I will say this: every new page brought a new twist in the mystery. Just when I thought that everything had gotten too absurd to solve and gave up on trying to figure out the murderer, the great Poirot’s fine-tuned mind put all the discrepancies together and produced an outcome I could never have even considered. Agatha Christie took a murder and then wove a tangled web of clues and characters that led to an incredible ending. 🙂

In short: Looking for a quick, well-written, crazy good mystery novel that will have you turning pages eagerly? Look no further and pick this one up!

(Update: Fun fact from a commenter below–Agatha Christie allegedly stayed in Room 41 at the “Pera Palace Hotel” in Istanbul while writing this novel. Has anyone ever been there? I sure would like to! 😀 J.K. Rowling’s hotel room is quite famous now as well; in fact, the room Rowling stayed in at the Balmoral Hotel has been named the “J.K. Rowling Suite”!)

❤ Yasimone

Leap Day

Hi everyone!

Today, as you all know, is Leap Day. I decided that I shouldn’t miss the opportunity to post today considering February 29th only comes around once every four years.

(Also, completely unrelated but still rather notable— I read my first Agatha Christie book yesterday and I. Absolutely. Loved. It. You can look forward to a shining review in the next couple of days. Honestly, I’m tempted to purchase all her novels and read them back to back right now.)

See you again in four years! 🙂

❤ Yasimone