Thursday, November 11, 2010

Blog Bash WINNERS! (+ Sneak Peek)

My blog made it through one year and all you cool kids out there made that possible. Which is why if you guys remember, I was hosting a giveaway of dreamcatching proportions. And the response from all of you was so amazing, I honestly wish I had enough stuff to giveaway to ALL of you. You guys make me feel oh-so-good. Blogosphere really is a fun place to be a part of.
I had 208 entries in all and picking out four (!) was hard, so I left it to a magic hat to do the job.

And the magic hat says, that the first winner is: Karla Kalalang

The second winning hat goes to: Jen Daiker 

The third magic wand  waves over: Jennie  

The Honorary Fourth winner is: Kai A

And because I feel kinda sad that I couldn't make all of you winners, I decided to add two more winners to the honorary list. They will get bookmark and swag like the fourth winner. And they are Mika and Chrizette.

The winners will hear from me shortly. Please keep check on your emails. Thank you everyone for entering and making this such a success.

This in turn makes me come to the second part of this post and share some pictures that inspire my WiP-turned- NaNo project, What Was Mine.

And here's an excerpt I thought I'd share:

Smoke tendrils swirl above her and around the kitchen, Deidre’s kitchen, from where we watch masked faces flirt and flow into the hall.

‘I’m not going in there unless someone takes off their mask.’ Mel rummages through the cabinets – open, slam, open, slam.

Sarah flicks the ash out of the window. ‘Not happening anytime soon.’ Turns to her. ‘Why you here then?’

Mel pops open a bottle, pours out the drink, raises the glass and flashes a crooked smile. ‘Free champagne.’

Sarah throws back her head and laughs. Mel pours us each a drink. It’s wicked fizzy and bubbles in my stomach, stirring up my nerves, making them sit up. I sit up, watch the masked faces flit around the hall, float with the music and feel myself drifting.

It’s like a labyrinth. A labyrinth of people to get lost in.

I get off the counter. ‘I’m going in.’

‘Coming after I finish,’ Sarah croaks.

I pull the black and silver mask over my face and step in with the dancers. What’s playing is a very squeaky waltz, probably picked up at the secondhand record store, but nobody cares. As long as the music rolls they can dance all night.

‘May I?’ He is tall, blond – very blond, almost white – with blue eyes dancing in desire.

I see my opportunity.

Tantalise. Make someone want me. Make him want me, for now.

His hands are around me, lifting me with the rhythm, throwing me with the air. I'm crap at dancing but he doesn't seem to notice. If there's one thing I've mastered, it's the art of masking.

(All photos taken from here

How have you been doing with your WiPs?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cracked Up To Be

When "Perfect" Parker Fadley starts drinking at school and failing her classes, all of St. Peter's High goes on alert. How has the cheerleading captain, girlfriend of the most popular guy in school, consummate teacher's pet, and future valedictorian fallen so far from grace?
Parker doesn't want to talk about it. She'd just like to be left alone, to disappear, to be ignored. But her parents have placed her on suicide watch and her counselors are demanding the truth. Worse, there's a nice guy falling in love with her and he's making her feel things again when she'd really rather not be feeling anything at all.
Nobody would have guessed she'd turn out like this. But nobody knows the truth.
Something horrible has happened, and it just might be her fault.

Reading Cracked Up To Be is like a whiplash. It's like a high school documentary. No moralizing, sugarcoating incidents and mincing words. Courtney Summers presents it like it is.

Parker is troubled, very, very troubled. And it all goes back to something horrible that's happened, for which Parker might be all too responsible. Parker is a character you won't forget as soon as you finish the book. She is someone who hooks you in, makes you turn the pages of this novel and stays with you long after you finish it. Her voice is THAT good.
And that's where Courtney Summers' debut novel sticks with you. With the character voices. Nothing about high school or high school-ers is romanticized here. The potential love interest(s) aren't knight-in-shining-armours. They are guys who can be jerks one moment and cute and kind the next moment, not walking-talking moral tales high on hotness.

The prose is sparse. No purple prose, a few words are enough to convey just what is meant to be conveyed. This style makes Summers' writing haunting and to some extent, disturbing, which is exactly what Parker's mental state is.

I already knew what the big secret was, thanks to a very spoiler-ish review I'd read online, but I couldn't stop reading Cracked Up To Be, firstly for Parker and secondly, for, well, everything else. The flashbacks are easy to connect with, considering they are done in italics, and Summers' masterfully connects them all together as a lead up to the climax.

The best thing about this book is how everything feels very natural. for instance, Parker's actions are not dominated by thought first. She does things on impulse. Sometimes a lot of the things she does or says doesn't make sense, but that's what makes her so intensely real.

The cover doesn't do much to capture the powerful content of this book. It deserved something more than a girl resting on the bench.

Cracked Up To Be did not do something as dramatic as change my life, but it's an important book. One the needs to be read. I hope you read it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

TELL ME A SECRET ~ Holly Cupala

Tell me a secret, and I'll tell you one…

In the five years since her bad-girl sister Xanda’s death, Miranda Mathison has wondered about the secret her sister took to the grave, and what really happened the night she died. Now, just as Miranda is on the cusp of her dreams—a best friend to unlock her sister’s world, a ticket to art school, and a boyfriend to fly her away from it all—Miranda has a secret all her own.

Then two lines on a pregnancy test confirm her worst fears. Stripped of her former life, Miranda must make a choice with tremendous consequences and finally face her sister’s demons and her own.

In this powerful debut novel, stunning new talent Holly Cupala illuminates the dark struggle of a girl who must let go of her past to find a way into her own future. 

Tell Me A Secret is one helluva read. I read it in one sitting. I took it out to dinner with me, cos I absolutely had to see where this was going.
I had to know how Miranda was going to end up.
I had to know what was going to happen to the other haracters.
I had to know everything. And I had to know fast.

The treatment is very different from most other reads. The narrative swings between Miranda's past, with her sister Xanda, her boyfriend, Kamran, her friend, Essence..and her present, devoid of them all. How this happened is not revealed in a flash.As Miranda or Rand's PoV oscillates and attempts to explore and understand what happened and what is happening now, the real faces behind the masks the characters are wearing emerge.
Characters are Holly Cupala's strength. They have depth. They are multi-dimensional. They are unforgettable. Even the minor characters do not fall flat. It's almost like everyone in this novel has a hidden agenda, an untold secret. Which should explain the reason I was up half the night finishing this book.

The prose is vivid and powerful. Here an excerpt: 

"Crammed inside the house was every person under eighteen I knew, bodies crushed liked cigarettes and pulsing to the beat of a ginormous stereo. As I looked around the room, lit up by a red bulb in the corner, faces slowed down into grotesque laughter and shouts of greeting. Everyone was glad to see us - the leggy one, the curvy one, and the one who could stop Elna Mead traffic. I reached inside myself and pulled out "party girl", modeled after Delaney and Xanda herself. I smiled at the faces around me, calling out loudly and giggling. The real me floated up to the corner of the room."

Other things I liked:

-- Some characters belonged to different ethnic backgrounds. The author never deliberately tells the reader so, but you just know. Like when Xanda's boyfriend, Andre is described as cafe con leche, it's kinda cool.

-- Rand and her art. Rand's art mostly consists of labyrinths, perhaps representing her search for her own identity in her world of chaos. And her association with art is not merely shown through "splashes of paint" or with the glimpse of a "pencil tucked behind her ear". Art comes through somewhat like this:
"Vanity was a tall beautiful woman with a face like a mask. Envy was a treasure-hoarding dragon, dainty and diabolical. As I sketched in the dragon's face, I gave her eyebrows like mine, my turtle necklace around its scaly neck."

-- The character names. Essence. Delaney. Andre. Kamran. Xanda. Rand. I had a thing for them.

-- The entire canvas the novel covers. The setting isn't restricted to a panoramic view of high school. It stretches on beyond. Important scenes take place in the workplace and at home, where the parents aren't absent. Rand shares a particularly trying relationship with her parents, but in no way is the parental aspect compromised upon. The parents loom large no matter how negative vibe-y they are. Just like the setting, the characters too come from far and wide.

-- I never knew where the story was heading. Sometimes it took giant leaps, sometimes unexpected twists and they all had me surprised (or shocked).

This might not be a book for everyone. It's a dark book. There are no light and sparkly moments. At times Rand's future as the pregnant teen, deceived by her friends and unaccompanied by her family, looks gloomily bleak. But then again, Rand isn't a character to just give up. And in spite of the gritty realism of Tell Me A Secret, Holly Cupala doesn't shake away hope from the story. There is hope and there is love. Just not from sources you go looking for.

A fast paced novel about one girl's attempt to find the truth about her sister's death and in turn unravel the tangles of her life, Tell Me A Secret is one of those debut novels that leave an indelible mark.

PS. In the meanwhile, it's November or rather, NaNoWriMo month. So, who's going the 50,000-word-this-month way? If you are, buddy me: Bidisha

PPS. Also, my blog's birthday giveaway is open till the 10th of Nov. There shall be four winners and you can join in by clicking on the link just below the header.
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