Wednesday, July 28, 2010

RTW: Best Book I've Read This July

Road Trip Wednesday is a weekly blog carnival organized by YA Highway.

This week's topic: Best book you've read this July.

This month has been awesome, because I've read some fantastic books, so choosing one particular book was considerably tough. But since I've already posted about the other awesome books I've read this month, I'm gonna do the one that I was about-to-post-about. Also, this isn't just one of the best book I've read this July, it's also one of the best books I've EVER read.

Trust Jaclyn Moriarty to do something like this. Also, what else can you expect? She's pure awesome.

What is Feeling Sorry For Celia about?

Life is pretty complicated for Elizabeth Clarry. Her best friend Celia keeps disappearing, her absent
father has reappeared, and her dialogue with her mother consists entirely of wacky notes left on the
fridge. On top of everything else, her English teacher wants to rekindle the "Joy of the Envelope," and
now a Complete and Utter Stranger knows more about Elizabeth than anyone else. A #1 bestseller in
Australia, this fabulous debut is a funny, touching, revealing story written entirely in the form of
letters, postcards, and missives from imaginary organizations like "The Cold Hard Truth Association."

Feeling Sorry For Celia starts off with enough quirkiness to catch your attention (unless you're a quirky-hater, in which case I don't know what to say to you). The first letter shot off to her is from the Association of Teenagers telling her what an embarrassment she is to teenhood. And throughout the novel, Elizabeth gets letters from such associations and clubs like The Society of People Who are Definitely Going To Fail High-School and The Best Friends Club and Cold Hard Truth Association etc admonishing her, praising her (while also being very quick to bring her down) but that's perhaps the least of her worries. Her best friend, Celia, has run off to the circus (yes, the circus - with tents and tightropes and everything), her English teacher is making her write to a stranger from the neighbouring public school, her Dad (who has remarried) is suddenly shifting to Australia and is bent on rekindling his relationship with her while she has never even met her step-family and strangely nobody but her seems to be keen on it.

Jaclyn Moriarty does epistolary to perfection, with a generous distribution of letters, postcards and post-it notes. The character voices hook you and hold you under a spell (like only your favourite ice-cream can) and befriend you such that by the time you near the end of the book you start dreading reaching the last page. The characters are absolutely endearing - Elizabeth's Rollerblading-activist mother, her Brookefield-er penpal Christina, Celia - who thirsts for adventure and thrives on restlessness, the weird and gorgeous Saxon Walker and the very secret Secret Admirer (!). Elizabeth herself is someone who grows on you in all her quirkiness and takes a place in the YA-Hall-of-Memorable-Protagonists.

This is a book you'd read and re-read and fall in love more with each read.
Also, if The Year of Secret Assignments made me a Jaclyn Moriarty fan for life, Feeling Sorry For Celi  makes me love her to death.

...Awards won by Feeling Sorry For Celia include:
  • Winner in 2001 of the Ethel Turner prize
  • A Children’s Book Council of Australia Notable Book
  • A BookSense 76 Pick
  • An American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults
  • A White Ravens selection
This lovely, bittersweet account of teenage life is a winner all through.
Gotham magazine pretty much sums it up:
"Edgy and irreverant...a sharp and witty take on friendship, family and the roller-coaster ride of adolescence [Elizabeth is] to-fall-in-love-with."

What's the best book you've read this July?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Teaser: #Fate smirks back

In this scene: Roles for the new English project are being picked and delivered. Lol.

Miss Walker's face falls. I bet she thought we'd be excited and punching the air and running around naked in euphoric exhibitionism. I was surprised to see her when she walked into English, until Mr. Smith announced, 'This project will be a collaboration between English and Drama, so your participation will count toward the annual assessment of not one but two subjects. Which means if you don't take this seriously it's goodbye to grades and college.'

Mr. Smith knows how to hit where it hurts. College, for us, is the ticket out of here and failing grades mean being stuck in this hell-hole for life. My reasons for going to college are entirely different from Sarah or Mel's - who want to be fashion journalists. Heck, I'm even clueless about what I want to do. All I know is that I must go somewhere far, far away, where Aunt Ruby's pity-pool eyes won't watch my every move fearing when I'll break and the neighbours won't be whispering how tragic I am behind my back. School is a part time escape. College should be full time.

'Cobweb, assistant fairy extraordinaire.' Sarah crumbles her chit and pushes the hat toward me. Shredded pieces of fate - only half the original chits left now. Mr. Smith nods at Sarah and writes down her role. She looks disinterested already but Miss Walker keeps a steady gaze on her, searching for some sort of a smile.

I pick the smallest scrap of paper hoping it will say something like 'lighting' or 'set design' or 'background sound' - anything non-performance based.
Unfold the paper and my annual fate smirks back at me.

'Ronni?' Mr. Smith smiles expectantly.

'Can I change?'

'No. What you pick is what you play.'

'Can I pick again?'

'What do you have there, Ronni?'

I say it aloud and it's wrapped and sealed and stuck forever.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hi5: For The Love Of The Title

Hi5 is a weekly meme hosted by Cara @Chasing Words, Anne @Potter, Percy and Nomes @inkcrush.

Topic of the moment: Five Book Titles You Are Crushing On 

Book titles are so, so cool. At par (or even higher) with gorgeous covers that make you lust for the book. And there are some extremely cool book titles out there in this wide, wide world, so choosing five -only five!- made me pull my hair out. I mean, I love books and book covers and titles and argh, everything that has anything to do with books! So, beyond the top five, I'm including other runners-up titles. (Dear awesome book titles, I heart you to death.)

1.The Sky Always Hears Me And The Hills Don't Mind: The book title CALLS out to me. This one's such a winner!

2. Feeling Sorry For Celia: Unique. Original. And who the heck is Celia?

3. Knocked Out By My Nunga Nungas: All the Georgia Nicholson books have ROTFLMAO titles. I didn't know which to choose and which ones to leave out. Sample these: ..And That's When It Fell Off In My Hand, ..Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers, Luuurve Is A Many Trousered Thing..etc

4. How I Spent My Last Night On Earth: I'm all ears.

5. My Invented Life: Invented life? *iz curious* *very*

Runners-Up Confetti Goes To...

--> How I Live Now ~ Meg Rosoff
--> God Is In The Pancakes ~ Robin Epstein
--> Beauty Shop For Rent ~ Laura Bowers
--> Rain Is Not My Indian Name ~ Cynthia Leitich Smith
--> Dancing Naked ~ Shelley Hrdlitschka
--> Far From Xanadu ~ Julie Anne Peters
--> Eva Underground ~ Dandi Daley Mackall
--> Every Time A Rainbow Dies ~ Rita-Williams Garcia
--> The Sky Is Everywhere ~ Jandy Nelson
--> Last Dance On Holladay Street ~ Elisa Carbone
-->Thou Shalt Not Dump The Skater Dude (And Other Commandments I Have Broken) ~ Rosemary Graham
--> Waiting To Disappear ~ April Young Fritz 

Basically I've gone against the whole purpose of this post and named seventeen book titles as opposed to the original five, but tell me which is your favourite book title ever? Like any on the list?

Sunday, July 18, 2010


This isn't a review. It's a TLHC inspired issue-talk.(Ah, yes, I'm inspired)

Inspite of good reviews or bad, The Lonely Hearts Club is right now a popular book because of its theme. Though light and funny it deals with a common-place yet rarely-addressed issue -- the way girls change themselves for guys.

Cue horror music.
Enter human girl enamoured by sparkling vampire.
Exit girl shedding her human identity to turn into a vampire.*

Humans or non-humans, this affects everyone and it's frequently reflected in fiction like it doesn't even matter. Thankfully, Elizabeth Eulberg decides to do something about it. She creates the sassy Penny Lane Bloom, who has more sense than her counterparts and decides to stand up for herself.

Hopefully some will get the hint from the book.

Yet there will still be some who wont.

Like, I know people who cannot remain without boys for more than a day. When they break-up with their boyfriends they become emotional wrecks (which is understandable since break-ups are obviously tough or whatevs) but they get depressed and suicidal because they don't have a guy in their lives and remain so till they get another (which isn't more than a week later). It's as if without a guy their identity gets a violent shake-up and they feel threatened or something. That's just so...unhealthy. No wonder we never stayed friends.
I'm not talking about swearing off guys. Heck, that's not even possible (Elizabth Eulberg tried while she was writing The Lonely Hearts Club...and failed) especially when you have a cake-e-licious someone as your next door neighbour or your best friend's all smokin' -- but does that mean you become someone else for a guy?** Lame. Lame. Lame.
All those whose schedules revolve around that of a guy's? Lame. Lame. Lame.
All those who don't have time for their friends because now they are busy with their boyfriends? Get a life check. We were here first.
Standing up for yourself doesn't only mean standing up if you're in an abusive relationship (that demands something bigger). It's the little things too. Like for once choosing your favourite movie instaed of his. IT's not always about compromising. Sometimes, and more often than not, it's about not being a pretender TO YOURSELF.

Some guys push around their girls, some girls are naturally submissive. They are both equally bad. And it's up to you if you just wanna be somebody's shadow or get a face for yourself.
Once again, it's not about swearing off guys. If you like someone, and someone likes you back, it's the coolest thing on earth, but you don't give up who you are for that. You don't give up your friends.
Penny falls in love, too -- inspite of all the rules she makes for her club -- but she lands squarely on her feet. And that's the charm of it.
Even in Jaclyn Moriarty's The Year Of Secret Assignments, Lydia (one of the MCs) sets one condition for her relationship -- if she starts losing her identity, she'll be done with it. Fighting with swords and battle-axes are fine and everything, but these are fiction's true heroes. Because fiction isn't just an untrue story. These stories reflect on life and sometimes they inspire people. I think that's one reason why we read. Sometimes we just want to be inspired. And that's cool as long as we don't have girls wanting to have stalker boyfriends who think sexual assault is sexy*.

Once in a while we need a book like The Lonely Hearts Club that takes a dig at the puppet and makes you wanna punch the tossers.
/ends rant

*References to any work of fiction is entirely coincidental.
** Excepting convicts who've reformed with *ahem* love from *ahem* a good-natured lover.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I URGE You To Read This

How many times in the past couple of years have you heard about the ‘forbidden love story’? Speaking for myself, zillions. Every YA fiction that’s coming out is apparently about a forbidden love story. Mostly it’s all the paranormals. Vampire- human, werewolf – human, angel – human, slayer – vampire blah blah blah.  It’s all about people who are not meant to be together AT ALL, yet by some glitch of fate (or the brain) they end up bonkers in love with each other. It’s all life and death situations, ooh scary! Scary! Scary!
And, now, how many times did it actually feel forbidden?
Sometimes, yeah, it did...when you had contingents of vampires and werewolves breathing down your back...and the non-human guy battling his guilt yadda yadda.
Thing is, almost all of these were urban fantasies, so I maybe it didn’t feel as forbidden to me as perhaps a forbidden love story in the contemporary world might feel like.
Like this one.
Like Tabitha Suzuma’s Forbidden. Because this one makes you feel the full impact of the word 'forbidden.'

Summary: She is pretty and talented – sweet sixteen and never been kissed. He is seventeen, gorgeous and on the brink of a bright future. And now they have fallen in love. But…they are brother and sister.

I have read books about incest, but they were either about one member of the family being raped or sexually assaulted by another or if it was consensual, the relationship was between distant relatives who’ve never met each other before.
This is different.
This is about a brother and sister who’ve grown up together. Who’ve been like surrogate parents to their younger siblings in place of their missing father and their alcoholic mother. Who’ve managed the household entirely on their own. Who’ve been best friends and partners and equals. Who’ve always been there for each other.
And then, they fall in love.

It was impossible to read this book in a single sitting. Not because I wanted to put it down, but because I had to put it down at certain intervals. I was compelled to do so. It was so overwhelming with emotion and tension, it left me breathless.
Forbidden is told in dual PoVs – Lochan’s and Maya’s. While Maya’s shows most of the action, Lochan’s is more internal, more about his mental state –and it left me reeling, reeling under the sheer power of the prose.

This isn’t a sensationalized love story. It’s just so very real, with so many emotions – guilt, despair, elation, helplessness, euphoria – sometimes it’s claustrophobic, but all the while it’s something you can’t stop reading. Something you can’t get over thinking about.
See, I like books that offer me escapism (I think that’s an important reason why we read) but I love books that make me think. That put me through hard realities and make me feel both scared and powerful. It’s very cathartic.
And this book, made me go through every kind of emotion that’s known in this world, perhaps. My heart was hammering the whole while, because I was so scared for Maya and Lochan. Because I couldn’t imagine what would happen if they were caught.
Tabitha Suzuma takes an extremely taboo subject, goes beyond the bounds of conventional storytelling, beyond the boundaries of Young Adult fiction, and creates a novel that explodes in your mind, takes you on a journey and leaves an unforgettable impact on you.
It frightened me.
It thrilled me.
And it made me fall in love.

Forbidden is a devastatingly beautiful story, one that shattered me…and left me with hope. This is a book of immense power.
I urge you to read it.

(You can read an excerpt here.)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

How Jaclyn Moriarty Won Me Over As A Fan For Life

Back in March, I won a giveaway where I had the option of choosing from a list of four books. They were all equally tempting. All had equally tempting storylines.
Other than the adorable cover and all that I've heard about Jaclyn Moriarty, what made me opt for The Year of Secret Assignments (aka Finding Cassie Crazy)?

The fact that it is epistolary. Written in the form of letters, diary entries, graffiti, notes between friends, transcripts etc.

The book took ages to arrive. There was some misunderstanding with the emails sent to and fro and blah blah…but the book eventually did arrive sometime in June.
And I finally did read it.
And now, I'm in love with Jaclyn Moriarty.

Summary (from the back of my book): Three girls. Three boys. Two rival schools. This could get messy. The Ashbury-Brookefield pen pal program is designed to bring together the two rival schools in a spirit of harmony and 'the Joy of the Envelope'. But when Cassie, Lydia and Emily send their first letters to Matthew, Charlie, and Sebastian, things don't go quite as planned. What starts out as a simple letter exchange soon leads to secret missions, false alarms, lock picking, mistaken identities, and an all-out war between the schools – not to mention some really excellent kissing.

I have to say, I don't think the book summary does the book justice. Yes, it sounds the kind of fun that makes you want to lunge for it at once, but The Year of Secret Assignments is so much more than plain fun. It's about friendship and families, death and coming to terms with yourself. It's about doing things you didn't think you'd ever do, even if it's as simple as writing in a diary.

The Year of Secret Assignments takes a year out of the lives of three best friends – Lydia, Cass and Em – with a penchant for setting off smoke alarms and bunking maths to go to the movies, and lets the reader take more than a glimpse into their private letters, notebooks and diaries. It turns out to be a rather eventful year since the tenth grade class of Ashbury High is forced to participate in a pen pal program with their rival school, Brookefield. That sparks off some heated words (or letters), challenging (secret) assignments (or pranks *ahem*), threats…which eventually give way to grudging liking in certain cases, Dates with A Girl and one terrifying encounter with a pen pal.

Jaclyn Moriarty's strongest point is definitely her character voices. There are six main character voices (Lydia, Em, Cassie, Seb, Charlie, Matthew) and an additional three others (Emily's father, the forever-concerned form mistress and Bindy Mackenzie). That's nine voices in all but they are so distinct from other another, the characters take on a life of their own. Thus, at the start of their correspondence, Em, Lydia and Cassie respond in their characteristic manner.

Cassie: “I always think it’s funny when a teacher tries to be cool. I want to sit them down and say ‘It’s okay, you’re a grown-up, you’re allowed to be a nerd,’ and they will look up at me confused but also relieved and teary-eyed.”

Lydia: “I am a fish. You wouldn’t think so to look at me, what with my uniform and the hair on top of my head and all that. But it’s true. I am a fish.”

Emily: “Don’t get me started about chocolate! My nickname might be ‘Em,’ but sometimes it’s also Toblerone! I think this is an angiogram of Thompson, which is my last name.”

The three girls write to three different guys and sometimes they end up narrating the same incident all over  again, but once again it's the character voices which save it from being repetitive. And the friendship depicted between these three very different girls is so charming (in a YA world which seems to running amok with frenemies) and sweet and realistic, well, I'm just glad I finally get to read about girl friendship which doesn't have an ulterior motive. The girls' relationship with the guys, too, is delightfully portrayed, though I didn't forsee the twist that came with one of them.

This is a quirky, book with dollops of charm, screwball humour and a cast of delightfully unforgettable characters. I loved it. I loved everything about it. And I can read and read this book over and over again. It's refreshing and original and well, JACLYN MORIARTY HAS WON ME OVER AS A FAN FOR LIFE.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Last Days of Teendom: THE FINAL ADIEU

Another couple of days to go.
And then it’s adieu to the big, bad world of teendom.
Seven years. Seven very important years, that either make or break you.



Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been scared. Oh yes, I have. These years have been so good and so shitty and so darn crazy, I can’t even imagine moving beyond the –teen tag attached to my age. Yet on the 3rd of July, the –ty will take the place of the –teen.
Which means I’m growing older and older still.
And in 7 more years, I’ll start scientifically aging.
Holy crap.
Maybe I need a sparkly vampire to come bite me so I remain an immortal teenager for ever and ever.

Tempting? Sure, but no thanks. I can do without being cold and hard as a rock for all eternity while I watch everyone around me die. Ugh.

So, human me has to move on. And step in to the non-teen world.
And contrary to how I was feeling a few months (or even a few days) ago, I don’t feel as bad. ‘Cause, lets face it. The teen years have been awesomesauce and awesomeshitty.
I had dreams. I had expectations. Some worked out. Some fell apart. Some were forgotten. Some still await being realised.
Like wanting to get published before I turned 18.
That never happened *shrugs*. Heck, I never even ended up producing anything query-worthy.
But maybe I’ll get closer to that dream now. Who knows. I don’t know what tomorrow or the next day or the next month or next year holds, but I can hope.
Maybe I’ll also get to do things now that I didn’t get to do all these years, even though I wanted to.
Maybe I'll finally get to go bungee-jumping.
Maybe these years will be more awesomesauce than awesomeshitty. Or even if it isn’t, I’m thinking, I can take that, too.
Hell, yeah.
Bring on the Big Two-O!


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