Tuesday, January 31, 2012

May B.


May B.
by Caroline Starr Rose
Released: January, 2012.
From Goodreads:
May is helping out on a neighbor's Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it's hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May's memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she's determined to find her way home again. Caroline Starr Rose's fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love.


My Thoughts:

Verse is the most beautiful form of writing EVER. Seriously. Prose can be made beautiful but anything that verse touches is instantly beautified.  It's easy to go wrong with verse, but if you get it right, the result is nothing short of dazzling.

Caroline Starr Rose's May B. is one such beautiful novel. The verse is stylistic, yet simplistic and makes for a read that is oh-so-compelling, it begs to be completed quickly. And that's easy, because it is fast paced and May's voice is very engaging.

May's resilience is arguably the best thing about this novel. She is so young and it hurts to read about her struggles. Her struggle with her reading disability that brings out her insecurities before sniggering classmates and a very discouraging teacher. Her struggles with the downsides of being a girl in the 19th century, witnessing her brother get the little privileges she is denied. Struggles with being separated from her family, then being abandoned in the midst of nowhere and having to face nature's fury by herself. Her struggle for survival. 

Most of the time I just wanted to give her a hug. And it broke my heart that there wasn't anyone to give her that. Seriously, this girl needed it. But the thing about May B. is that in spite of being severed off from known civilisation and having to do without any human companionship, she has a quiet strength, a fighting spirit that manifests itself against all odds. It's empowering and it unfurls itself not dramatically, but gradually.

I liked how the author juxtaposes May's struggle with dyslexia with the challenges imposed by the approaching winter. The setting, infact, is brilliant. I could literally hear the blizzard. And it terrified me. That says a lot about the author's skill, doesn't it?

Caroline Starr Rose's May B. could be called an adventure tale featuring a very brave and unusual heroine, that makes for a heartwarming and enduring read. Whether verse is your thing or not, I recommend this.

How often do you pick up a verse novel?


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Graphic Novel Spotlight: Princess Reborn - Chapter 1

Princess Reborn: Chapter 1 (Graphic Novel)
by Lee Tidball

Lari’s puzzled. What’s Mom’s secret? And could it have anything to do with Lari’s, secret? Lari’s family will never be the same again when an unspeakable evil is unleashed on the world. a dark nemesis from mom’s phantom past, bent on ruling and revenge. The world will stand helpless against it. 
The time for heroes has come again. One must be born, though she has no idea who she is. And the other must, against all odds, be REBORN.




This is the first graphic novel I'm featuring on my blog.


I don't read as much of them as I'd like to. Although Neil Gaiman's graphic novel version of Coraline will always be a favourite.
Princess Reborn is a superhero story. And even better? Female superheroes. We don't get to see much of them as their male counterparts, do we? So this immediately scored brownie points for that. 

It's a very slim novel and considering that it's a graphic novel, a quick one, too. 

Seventh grader Lari has always suspected there's something strange about her mother, who has maintained a discreetness about her past ever since she can remember. What Lari doesn't realise is that there are bigger secrets and conspiracies at work than she can imagine. And it all builds up to a pulse-racing climax. 

I cannot elaborate much for fear of giving anything crucial away. And there's a lot of that - crucial details. 

Princess Reborn: Chapter 1 is filled with action, suspense and a lot of excitement from start to finish. It is very well illustrated and structured - which means that I didn't have trouble following the conversation bubbles which I sometimes have. I think the illustrations capture the action sequences particularly well. 

The only thing that frustrated me is the ending. It ends on such a cliffhanger. And I'm not a fan of the big cliffhangers. They bug me to no end. I guess the fact that this is just 'Chapter 1' implies there's a long adventure to come and I have to wait for Chapter 2 before I get the answers to at least some of the questions raised. 

Overall, this was fun to read. I let my 14 year old brother read it after me. He enjoyed it and called it 'exciting'. So if you are a graphic novel nerd or know someone who is, here's a new recommendation to consider picking up next time you have hours to kill :) 


Author website
Goodreads
Amazon <-- there's an excerpt available here, if you're interested.

Do you read graphic novels?

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Review Debacle

(I have a lot to say, so bear with me)

This has been going on far too long. I think every year there comes a time when the eternal debate of whether authors/aspiring authors should be book reviewers too comes up. This generally sparks off several more posts regarding reviews (blogger reviews, to be specific) and how positive or negative they should or shouldn't be. And it's alright to have these discussions. That's why we are human beings. We have the power to reason and discuss, test and explore new ideas. And every year we have some very interesting discussions on said topics, which leave us with greater understanding of things, even if our fundamental beliefs remain unchanged.

This time, though, something went wrong. Something spiraled beyond discussions and took on an ugliness of its own - where certain authors ganged up on certain reviewers, certain agents conspired with certain authors to rig the review rating system on Goodreads and Amazon, mudslinging and bitch-slamming in public took place - it's been one hot mess after another.

And it's been very, very disappointing. This is NOT the book world as I know it. The book world I've grown to love and respect is the one where writers and reviewers and readers co-exist in harmony - occasionally going to tea with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, engaging in Wildean witty banter, tipping their hats to each other when they gather at book clubs or pen clubs (where they brainstorm ideas. This doesn't officially exist by that name). There are differences of opinions, yes. As long as there will be people there will be opinions and everyone has a different opinion and everyone's entitled to it. But this is done with a respect for each other, with the thought that - 'Yes, I understand that's what you think about me/about this book and while I don't necessarily agree with you, I appreciate your thoughts'.

Unfortunately, that's the ideal. Which obviously, also makes it unreal. The ugly truth of it is that somewhere that line between public and private has been crossed and dirty linen is being washed in full view of the rest of the world.

I mean, look at us. I'm assuming (and rightly so) that we are all literature lovers here. And literature preserves the ideals of humanity. It's supposed to give us a better understanding of life. Supposed to sensitize us to people and their situations. Of all people, we, readers and lovers of literature should know that jumping at each other's throats is not the way to go about things. And creators of literature? You should know better.

My biggest dream is to be a published author. I want to hold a book in my hands, which has a shiny new cover and my name on its spine. A book that people will want to read and hopefully, some of them will love a little. Yes, that's what I really hope happens someday.

But you know what? I was a reader first. It's my love for reading, for books, that made me want to be a writer. I love talking about them, what they made me and didn't make me feel. What worked and what didn't work for me. Would I be reading it again or would I be putting it aside? I like the process of reviewing, evaluating a book and then interacting with fellow readers and getting to know their thoughts on said book.

But when someone tells me that by putting forward my honest thoughts about a book I may as well be killing off my future career as an author, that disappoints me. You're asking me to choose between my love and my dream. I ask you: WHY? Why does it have to be a choice between either? I understand that the writers of the books I don't fangirl over might become my colleagues when/if I do get published, so it might get awkward, but whether I deal with it by simply deleting all reviews I've written or not, is entirely my decision. If I'm not mistaken, whether or not I become published or not depends entirely on my own merit and not because I may not have liked a book by a fellow author and publicly said so. Unless there's a conspiracy of some sort brewing in the industry.

Which brings me to a post by a certain very well-respected author that saddened me a great deal. The author made some interesting points but it all boiled down to her perception that book bloggers aren't real reviewers. That, I vehemently disagree with.

Now, guys.
I understand where she's coming from. She talks about jerk-fests - personal attacks that come under the guise of reviews. That is wrong. That is just very, very wrong. Yes, we live in a free world (at least most of us do) and we are allowed freedom of speech (at least, till now) but that's NOT to be exploited. Reviews that go: "Oh jeez, I think this author wrote this book simply to annoy me! She should be locked up in an asylum and that goddamned book should be barbecued!" NO. That is NOT how book reviews should go, no matter how much you hate a book. Be snarky, yes, use funny gifs, have a good laugh - heck, yes, that's fine - but you cross the line at cruelty and meanness. I get that. And I'm totally against it.

But what I don't get is the distinction she makes between paid reviews and unpaid ones. Between how real the professional reviews (say, ones that appear in The Guardian and the New York Times and other literary publications) and how not real the unprofessional reviews (say, on Goodreads and book blogs) are. I mean, seriously? That's like saying that books that don't win awards aren't real books.
Blogger reviews are NOT all jerk-fests that take potshots at the author's personal life. NO. They probably comprise only 2% of the blogosphere. So clubbing every blog reviewer under the 'jerks' umbrella is biased and wrong.

The author also says:
Let's talk about the negative "reviews" that authors have been lashing out at. They often involve animated gifs, swearing, and snark. They're often quite funny. But here's the thing, though. When a blogger writes a biased, hilarious, snarky rundown of a book they despised, he/ she is not writing a review. They are writing a post about a book. I'm not saying that bloggers shouldn't write biased, hilarious, snarky rundowns of books. I'm saying that those rundowns are not reviews. Bloggers who regularly write them cannot expect to garner the same respect and treatment from authors that pro reviewers or non-pro reviewers do. They can't expect authors to read their posts and learn something from them. And they cannot expect authors to not take it personally. They've made it personal. 
Um, hello - WHAT?
So because they are informal, these are not reviews? I don't get it. How I evaluate is book is entirely up to me. And what's the deal about these being personal? DUDE, art is personal. Everything about art is personal. There can't ever be anything such as looking at a book 'objectively'. I mean, how can it? The way you respond to a book is entirely yours. You and I might love a book but on a deeper level, in almost all probability we love it for very different reasons. EVERY REVIEW IS SUBJECTIVE. It is personal, because it it about how I personally feel about the book. Irrespective of whether or not I mention the 'I' in my reviews, it's omnipresent. It would be ridiculous to suggest otherwise.

I realise it's very hard to let your book - your sweat and blood and tears - out there and watch other people take a swing at it, but that's what happens when you go public with your work. If you want the fangirls, you have to accept the non-fangirls as well. You are allowed to be secretly angry with them but don't lash out at them. Don't demean the bloggers who are putting forth a thought on your book because of their love of reading, irrespective of which way their opinions might swing. I stumbled upon this blogger's post while writing this. Go read it. It's more articulate than I can be at this point.

As for the reviewers, you're allowed to be honest. You're allowed your opinions. You're allowed to like or dislike a book (don't let anyone threaten you otherwise) but be careful not to turn that dislike into a personal attack. Don't. Do. That.

Guys. Look at us. We're Literature lovers. All of us. Lets not indulge in such pettiness. It's unbecoming and savage and puts Literature to shame.

We are all doing something we love. Bring on the respect, guys. And be a sport.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Year's Gift for the Blogstars!

The calender on my laptop screen says 2012. WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN? Year of the Apocalypse - ALREADY?

Also, I will be 22 this year. In about 7 months time. Sheesh, I'm getting old *clutches on to youthful self*

To be honest, I feel like this:

But for the sake of this being the time-of-the-year-to-spread-cheer, I'll push aside the cynic to quote Oprah:


For all that the last year has given me and taken away from me, I'm thankful for one thing.
I'm thankful for you.
Yes, YOU guys. My blogstars.
This blog wouldn't have been anywhere, if you guys hadn't stuck around with me. I could have rambled on and on with no followers or readers and then I'd have gotten bored of..well, just talking to myself (I mean, I can do that in my room. I don't need a blog for that), so I guess I'd mope about, secretly listening to emo music and occasionally crying out 'Woe is me. Nobody wants to listen to me. Nobody cares.' And then eventually I'd have left blogosphere. 
Now THAT would have been terrible for me. Because, honestly, belonging to this blogging world has made me a better writer AND reader. Don't ask me how, but it has. Maybe it's just your awesomeness rubbing off on me.

So.
I'm celebrating.

Not in a big way, cause big celebrations call for a lot of money, which I don't have (what with me being a poor university student and all that), but celebrating, nevertheless. I'm giving away an e-ARC of Kelley York's HUSHED. Yeah, that book I gushed about in December. This is how it looked like. Remember?


If you don't know the book I'm talking about, click on the links above. There's plenty to make you want to read it ;)

There are two requirements to enter:
1. Be a follower - because, really, this is a thank you of sorts to my followers who really are the blogstars.
2. Be a blogger - because they are awesome. And they have made my stay here, awesome. So, I'm sorry non-bloggers, this is only for the blogger folks.

There are a few ways to earn extra entries, too, but that's up to you. I won't love you less if you don't go that way, but it is appreciated. Also, like all giveaways on this blog, this is open to everyone with a valid email address :)

You'll find the form at the end of the post.

Anyway. Now that that's out of way, I've been thinking a lot about wishes and goals for 2012. I mean, every year I go, 'Oh dear lord, please, PLEASE, see that I get published this year' - it's kind of become the usual thing. Of course, I still want that. Will always want that more than anything else. As much as I want to go to New York. Or get a beach house. Or marry Tom Felton. You know the drill. This time, though, I'm not really expecting anything specific. I just want this to be a really good, unforgettable year. 
This is what I want out of 2012.


This year I want to be surprised. With good, magical things.

What about you?
Have a good year, folks! :)

 
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