Monday, December 27, 2010

Ballads of Suburbia (+ contest link)

I'll be honest. I haven't been blogging 'cause I wanted to talk about Stephanie Kuehnert's Ballads of Suburbia, yet I didn't know how to say anything. I took some time off so I could come up with something coherent that would really explain how I felt about this book.

And I couldn't. Come up with anything, that is.

So truth be told, I can't review this book. A review wouldn't be worth it. Because just so you know, I read Ballads of Suburbia at a difficult time of my life. A time when things were changing and good or bad, they could only swing to extremes. A time when the only way I was trying to deal with things was by binge-reading. And Ballads appeared with a back cover that read like:  Kara hasn't been back to Oak Park since the end of junior year, when a heroin overdose nearly killed her and sirens heralded her exit. Four years later, she returns to face the music. Her life changed forever back in high school: her family disintegrated, she ran around with a whole new crowd of friends, she partied a little too hard, and she fell in love with gorgeous bad-boy Adrian, who left her to die that day in Scoville Park....
Amid the music, the booze, the drugs, and the drama, her friends filled a notebook with heartbreakingly honest confessions of the moments that defined and shattered their young lives. Now, finally, Kara is ready to write her own.

I can't dissect this book in a mere review. It's been a while since I read it, but it still overwhelms me. It's so atmospheric and heartbreakingly painful and packed with such stellar characters, reading Ballads was like experiencing everything that Kara and her friends went through. I could talk about so many things -- how the Chicago suburbs of the 90s came alive on the page, how unbelievably hard it was to read about these teens watching everything crumbling around them, how singularly dependent they were on substance yet in spite of the self-abuse involved, they stuck together like a group of lost young people trying to salvage whatever they can of their young lives and how they each recorded haunting personal "ballads" that showed so much raw vulnerability that I'm left awed at the brilliance of this book.

There are so many ballads. Achy breaky country songs. Mournful pop songs. Then there’s the rare punk ballad, the ballad of suburbia: louder, faster, angrier . . . till it drowns out the silence.

Yes, this book is hard because the author isn't afraid to hold back anything. She bluntly talks about cutting, overdoses and death. It's dark and probably difficult for some but the little hopes and dreams of this gaggle of disillusioned teens shine through occasionally and make this powerhouse of a book, a luminous and coming-of-age tale.

Nothing I say can sum up how much this book affected me but Stephenie Kuehnert is officially my hero now and I can only thank her for writing it.

Here's the book trailer. And though I think the actors look a bit too old to play the characters, take a look:

And while you're here, the lovely Jen Daiker from Unedited is hosting a giveaway where you have the option of choosing between books, bookmarks, magnets and bath salts, lotions, candles. How awesome is that? Obviously, I want to win, but I'm being generous enough to direct you there as well, so drop by and show her some love.

And I hope you guys had a fantastic Christmas :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Her And Me And You

This was one of those books which I had been seeing a lot around blogosphere and which instantly caught my attention, with a cover jacket that says something like this,

I met Fred first.
Fred: Hot. Enigmatic. Alex’s first friend in her lonely new town. Maybe her first…everything.
I met Adina the following Monday.
Adina: Fred’s twin sister. Cold. Troubled. Trouble.
I kissed him.
She pressed her mouth to my mouth.
People warn Alex to steer clear of the twins, but Alex is drawn to them. She wants to be part of their crazy world…no matter the consequences. 

Do you see what I see?
First crush, friendship, heartbreak, twincest ~ Lauren Strasnick packs all this and more into this slim offering.

The writing is sparse, very sparse and this is what is most striking about Her And Me And You - a lot is conveyed in very few words and almost everything is played out in dialogue.
Nothing immensely dramatic happens in here. It's one of those books that are filled with moments - passing moments that end up defining you. When her parents fall apart, Alex is obligated to leave her best friend and relocate to a another town with her mother. And things heat up when she meets the twins - Fred and Adina.

This book is in many ways a study of relationships. Alex is an oddly endearing protagonist and her relationships with the people around her form the crux of this novel: the father who fails to make things right, a downright broken mother, a best friend whose evolving dynamics with boys is changing the dynamics of their friendship and the strange and unpredictable twins Alex can't help being attracted to. 
The relationship between the twins is something that the reader is left wondering about. It's hinted at, but actually putting a name to it is left to the reader.

This is a quick read, one that you'd finish within the hour.
My only complaint was that I wished to see at least some ore complete sentences. Don't get me wrong, I love sentence fragments, but somehow too many sentence fragments, kind of make it appear choppy.
Also, I wish it hadn't ended so abruptly. I kept turning the pages to check if I had missed anything. I didn't realise the book was over.

Overall, I liked this little off beat book, though I didn't love it. I'll still be looking forward to reading more from Lauren Strasnick.

Extra Comment: I love the title and the cover. They perfectly fit the book. 

Read more reviews on Goodreads 
Lauren Strasnick 

I won this book over at writer Sydney Salter's blog. She hosts giveaways with almost every post, so you might just want to go check her out. 

Meanwhile, the YA Fiction nominations for the 2010 Goodreads Choice Awards are in. They have put together a great list, including some of my favourites this year - Sing Me To Sleep, The Sky Is Everywhere etc. It also includes By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead, which is high up my wishlist (have you read it?). Anyway, the whole purpose of this is that you go and vote for your favourite. There's also the YA Fantasy list, but I'm pretty clueless there, aside from Mockingjay. It's been long since I've read any fantasy. I'm in a whirlwind relationship with contemporary and we're going strong.

What are you reading currently? Recommend any YA Fantasy a Contemp-a-holic like me would enjoy? 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

RTW: Six Word Memoir.

Road-trip Wednesday is a weekly blog carnival hosted by YA Highway.

This week's topic: Your six-word memoir. Literally, your life story in six words.

The story of all those years of your life in six words only.
One life. Six word memoir.

Here goes,
                                         I tattoo pages with my words.

Alright, so that's just one aspect of these two decades of my life, but it's perhaps the most important one. If I have to really sum up my life, there would be multiple six word memoirs. Which brings me to ask, are six words enough to your memoir? If so, spill yours.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hitting Back With A Holiday Read: TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

As some of who you've been around here for a while already know, I've been through a really bad time. And I'm still trying to deal with it. Which is why I've been M.I.A. for so long. I couldn't blog. I couldn't write. Heck, I even quit NaNoWriMo. It hasn't been easy, but I'm trying to get back to blogging. Blog posts have been sporadic lately, but I'm gonna try fixing that. So, for now, I welcome you back with a very Christmassy recommendation!

Christmas has always been a sad time for young widow Holly Brown, so when she's asked to look after a remote house on the Lancashire moors, the opportunity to hide herself away is irresistible – the perfect excuse to forget about the festivities.
Sculptor, Jude Martland, is determined that this year there will be no Christmas after his brother runs off with his fiancée and he is keen to avoid the family home. However, he will have to return by the twelfth night of the festivities, when the hamlet of Little Mumming hold their historic festivities and all of his family are required to attend.
Meanwhile, Holly is finding that if she wants to avoid Christmas, she has come to the wrong place. When Jude unexpectedly returns on Christmas Eve he is far from delighted to discover that Holly seems to be holding the very family party he had hoped to avoid.
Suddenly, the blizzards come out of nowhere and the whole village is snowed in. With no escape, Holly and Jude get much more than they bargained for – it looks like the twelve days of Christmas are going to be very interesting indeed!

Seven months after the release of Chocolate Wishes, Trisha Ashley emerges with the perfect read for this season. Twelve Days of Christmas is a heartwarming tale of letting go of the past and finding love in the least likely place.

Since the death of her husband, Holly has been engaging herself in house-sitting activities in winter in order to isolate herself from Christmas celebrations. Christmas is a sad time for her, and the farther away she is from merriment, the better. What she did not bargain for is being welcomed easily into the Martland family, whose family home she is meant to look after. Soon, or rather, out of nowhere, the large empty house, is suddenly populated by a motley group of people and a delightful romantic comedy ensues.

Once again, Trisha Ashley wins over the reader with her brand of humour and sparkling one-liners. The large cast of characters is oddly endearing, and even the snotty Coco makes you feel sympathetic towards her. Ashley shows a lot of kindness in her work, which is why even the less likable characters do not end up villainous.

Holly is different from Ashley's other heroines. She's a house-party chef by profession who doubles as a house-sitter in winters. And you know why reading this book is like having a sumptuous feast? The descriptions of food will kill you in its deliciousness. In fact, there are additional Christmas recipes at the back of the book that you can try out at home. I'm guessing Ms. Ashley herself, is a chef by her own rights, considering the importance (a welcome importance!) food gets in her novels. If Chocolate Wishes had chocolates and confectionery, this has some mouthwatering delicacies.

Make-You-Fall-In-Love-With-Them Characters + A Humourously Heartwarming Story You Can't Get Enough Of + The Christmassy Feel + All That Food = WIN. WIN. WIN.

Twelve Days Of Christmas is the kind of book you'd want to curl up with on the sofa. It's one of those feel-good, cosy reads with a lot of heart. I. It's one of the best Christmas books I've read. It's perfect for this time of the year. And equally good all year round.

Psst! See that cover? It's got sparkly bits all over it! It's adorable.

Author Elizabeth Gill wrote a lovely little tribute post for Trisha Ashley. Here's the link if you want to check it out.
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