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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ten Miles Past Normal

by Frances O'Roark Dowell

I enjoyed this book. It is a little young for high schoolers, but it was still good. Janie Gorman is a freshman who lives on a goat farm. She feels awkward, and is struggling to find her place in a new, big school where having hay in her hair or goat poop on her shoes isolates her from others. The plot isn't amazing but it was still good.
I would describe this as Nilla Wafers, my favorite snack when I was little. It is sweet and reminiscent of simpler sweeter times. Over all I would give this a 4, because I love those books that are short and sweet, without all the drama and over the top problems that most YA books are characterized by.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Karma by Cathy Ostlere

I've been afraid of the hefty books lately, but upon realizing that Karma by Cathy Ostlere (clocking in at a substantial 517 pages) is a verse novel, I decided to take a chance.

I'm glad I did.

Maya, a Canadian fifteen-year-old with one Hindi and one Sikh parent, is traveling to India with her father. Her mother recently committed suicide and they are heading to her homeland to deliver her ashes. What sounds like an already sad, emotional tale is augmented by the historical reality. Maya and her father are flying to India on October 31, 1984. The night they arrive is the same night that Indira Gandhi is assassinated and the India they find is one filled with chaos. Her father's Sikh heritage puts him at risk and in the rioting and random acts of violence that follow, he and Maya are separated. I don't want to say much more and give away key points of the plot, but let it be known that this book is also an epic love story that reminded me at times of the book (and film) The English Patient.

What made this book a magical experience for me was the heartbreaking honesty in the poems. Maya's father and mother had their own sort of epic love story. Their marriage was, unlike others in their home country, not arranged. And beyond that, they came from different traditions (Sikh and Hindu). The only way they could be together was to leave India. Unfortunately, leaving everything they knew behind had an unimaginable affect on Maya's mother and contributed to her depression. The poems explore such a wide territory, providing achingly sad background information on Maya's parents as well as relentless action scenes as Maya runs through the streets of New Delhi searching for her father.

Recommended for anyone who likes to travel through reading and fans of epic love stories. 4/5 Stars.

Okay, might as well take a stab at the food analogy. This book is like the vegetarian plate from Rajun Cajun in Chicago (the best Indian-Soul Food restaurant I've ever eaten at). It has a little bit of everything and many flavors. Like this meal, it left me wanting to return and dine on it again. But also, like a meal from Rajun, I know it isn't the best Indian food ever. As much as I liked this book, I'm not sure it will be an enduring favorite. But it's one I savored nonetheless.

Author's website

Monday, May 9, 2011

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

Clare should have stopped after she finished her trilogy. This book seemed like an excuse to write about everyone's love life. The main plot was more of a side story. The majority of the pages were taken up with Clary worrying about whether Jace loved her, Alec being with Magnus, and Simon's double relationship with Maia and Isabelle. Really, it's all very shallow. Why does Alec get so mad when he finds out that Magnus dated someone a couple centuries ago? Why does Jace start to pull away from Clary because of some nightmares instead of telling her about them? No, all he says is that he doesn't want to hurt her. Of course, it all adds to the romantic drama. At least the bit at the end was cool, but I'm not sure it was worth reading the rest of the book just to meet the awesome character at the end. There should be more text dedicated to the actual plot, not the boring, unnecessary side stuff. A little is ok, I guess, because it's clear that Clare wants to write about that, but to have most of the book devoted to it is a bit much.
So it can have a 2.35. The first most of it was bad and needed plot development, but the end was cool. It was like bad chocolate, that really cheap kind. It's chocolate, which is good, and there's good in it, but it could be so much better, and it doesn't actually taste that good.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

This Girl is Different

  I must admit- I was very nervous after the first few pages of the book. It was setting itself up to be another feminist diatribe-against-humanity type book that made me shudder quite a few times before we even go to the action. To start things off, main character Evie is out adventuring alone, far out in the wilderness, catching snakes and drawing them and whatnot, when she trips and badly sprains her ankle. Suddenly, the most popular girl in the school and her "perfect"-guy-archetype brother suddenly spring from nowhere (this is the wilderness, remember!) and offer to help her back to civilization.
  But, let's hold on for a sec. What we have here is a clear case of a guy asking a girl if she needs help. Scandalous. Outrageous. How DARE he?! The nerve!
  Moving on. Evie eventually acquiesces to his repeated offers of help, but only under the condition that she not be a "damsel in distress" and that he not actually help her. She's helping herself. Guys aren't allowed to help girls. It's demeaning. She makes it back, having been not-rescued by the boy, Rajas.
  I believe I digress. Taking a break from the borderline-offensive feminism, Evie turns her critical eye to Rajas' car, a gas-guzzling old-timer, as she explains how her house is an economically- and environmentally-efficient geodesic dome that doubles as a farm and home to their 700,021 cats.
  For some reason, I can't think of a unifying theme or a flow to this review. I wonder why...? Oddness. Anyways, Evie's decided to try out "the Institution of School" (High school), because, of course, she's been homeschooled for all her life.
  So, of course, she goes to school, and instead of being even relatively normal (it's not that difficult. Seriously.) she alienates everyone and is only popular because she's BFFLs with the popular girl mentioned before. Meanwhile, she starts dating the popular girl's hot brother, the one who saved her, the one she studiously disliked until she realized he was attractive and liked her. Honestly, if you're going to do feminism, do it right. She can't just dissolve into a blubbering heap that slimes after his footsteps. *cough* Twilight.
 Meanwhile, there's a student-teacher relationship that's explored in disgusting detail and a feel-good student revolution that evokes Easy A and Mean Girls, but not in a good or original way.
  Writing style is crisp but simple and uncreative. Plot is retch-worthy at points, and this book is just barely entertaining. 2.5, or a slightly moldy lemon tart that seems to be trying to drown you in sugar while slapping you awake with rancid bitterness.

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