Sunday, December 7, 2014

[Review] I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 16/09/2014
Publisher: Dial (Penguin)
Pages: 371
Source: Bought
Genre: YA (14+) - Contemporary

Violence | Sexual ContentProfanity


Book Tunes
Jessie J - Sweet Talker

My Rating: 

Masterpiece

My thoughts

Jandy Nelson's debut novel, The Sky is Everywhere, was one of my absolute favourite debut novels of 2010. Its strong depiction of the ailing effect of music and love in the midst of a grieving period in a young teen's life quickly landed the author a place on my list of authors I will follow no matter what. In that book she showed a unique sensitivity and delivered a beautifully-woven story that I could not forget.

Her sophomore title, I'll Give You the Sun, surpassed her debut by far. I cannot even begin to describe how invested I had become with the story and the characters; everything was so powerful, so emotional, so beautiful. Contemporary YA will always be my home genre and I think I'll Give You the Sun just confirms to me that Jandy Nelson can do no wrong. 

[Note: I haven't been in the mood to write for a while so it's been >1 month since I read this book, so I'll write as much as I can.]

I'll Give You the Sun is a story about family. Jude and Noah are twins. Each have their own perspective, their own side that they share to the reader: Jude at 16 years, Noah in the past when they were 13 years of age. At the heart of everything is their mum, who favoured Noah's artistic talent while seemingly dismissing Jude when they were 13 years old and about to apply for the prestigious CSA (which Jude didn't want to go to because she wanted to be "normal"). At 16 they are separated, but their stories will intertwine, the truth will become uncovered and they will eventually start to love one another again.

I loved the use of dual perspectives--one from the past, one from the "present". Their individual voices were unique so you could easily differentiate the two. Jandy Nelson's talent lies in writing beautiful prose, lilting and rhythmic, that flows and moves the reader.

I was able to sympathise with both Jude and Noah, whose roles and personalities and lives seem to have swapped in those three years. Jude, who only wanted her mother's approval and to be "normal" and have a brother who will open up to her. Noah, whose passion and drive for art is destroyed when he isn't accepted to CSA. When the truth is unleashed, they--and we--will understand everything.

Jude is at odds at the CSA: she's one failed step from quitting the academy. She is convinced her mum's ghost is destroying all her sculptures, to punish her, to push her to give her brother back his rightful position at the academy. Her only hope is to use another medium, to use unbreakable stone, reach out to the stone-master and esteemed mentor, Guillermo Garcia... who turns out to be closer to her than ever imagined.


I loved the story behind Guillermo, and how he fits into their story. Not to mention his incredibly arrogant and flirtatious assistant, Oscar, with whom Jude is instantaneously drawn to. Almost enough to break her boy ban... I loved the romance and relationships that shift and develop and evolve. Oscar frustrated me, mostly by what he puts Jude through, but in the end he's trying to change. In the end I do think they're good for each other, but true to life there are gray areas of doubt.

I don't want to make a big deal about this, but it does need to be mentioned. There are themes of GBLT in this book. There's so much confusion, anger and frustration linked to Noah's story in relation to his sexual orientation. He becomes enamoured with his one and only friend, the new kid from up the block, Brian... which becomes complicated when Brian becomes popular, the star athlete, got a reputation to uphold, and a relationship with another guy will unravel all his plans. As a straight female I was still able to sympathise with Noah. I feel like the underlying themes of longing, regret and inability to love someone completely and how you want to are heart-renderingly universal--such that I was able to relate to his situation on some level.


In the end, this book just got me. It was just perfect for me. I love stories about art/music/performing arts. I love stories about family and love and heartbreak and revenge and secrets. It does get a little bit melodramatic near the end, but that never seemed to bother me too much. The ending is a little bit abrupt, I'll admit, and I definitely would love to know what happens after, but maybe that's just proof of how attached I became to all of the characters. I absolutely cannot wait for Nelson's next book. Without a doubt she will not disappoint.

Quotes

First line: This is how it all begins.

Favourite: 


"It's very hot and steamy to laugh out of control inside a wool hat, so after a time I lift it up and see him there, his face splotchy and eyes watering from truly losing it, and I'm filled with something I can only describe as recognition. Not because he looks familiar on the outside this time, but because he feels familiar on the inside.
Meeting your soul mate is like walking into a house you've been in before - you will recognize the furniture, the pictures on the wall,the books on the shelves, the contents of drawers: You could find your way around in the dark if you had to. (221)


Source: penginteen@Tumblr




And so many others. This book is filled with quote-worthy passages (that I managed not to save, which means I will have to re-read in the future! ;)).



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I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.



Monday, November 10, 2014

[Review] Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

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Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 14/09/2014
Publisher: Dutton
Pages: 352
Source: Bought
Genre: YA (14+) - Contemporary

Violence | Sexual ContentProfanity


Book Tunes
Christina Perri - Arms

My Rating: 

Feel good read

My thoughts

Let me preface this review by saying that I am madly in love with Stephanie Perkin and her previous books (Anna and Lola!). Her stories and characters are so incredibly realistic, fun and interesting. You can't help feeling happy reading her books. In the case of Isla and the Happily Ever After... I'm not sure if it's just a personal thing (where I am compared to where I was back when I read her previous novels), but there was just too much of it. It was too cutesy, too happy, too easy. Instead of feeling excited to continue reading I was groaning and waiting for the agony to end.

The first 150~ pages is practically a recount of Isla and her mad love affair with the dreamy, swoony, perfectly gorgeous bad boy artist with whom she had been crushing on for the past three years--turns out he has been crushing on her all this time, too! It was just... too sweet for me to swallow. But afterwards there was actually some substance and STORY and now my feelings for this book as a whole is a jumbled mess. On the one hand I love where the story ends, but the beginning was such a struggle to get through. It pains me to even say this about Isla. All things considered, I am glad that this book exists and I applaud Perkins for finishing all of their stories. :)

Isla and the Happily Ever After follows Isla, an introverted and ordinary teenage girl, as she falls deeper and deeper in love with her "the one", an artistic and attractive guy by the name of Josh, one year her senior. During the summer holidays off SOAP, they meet up in Manhatten through a chance encounter. She's doped up on happy gas fresh from the dentist and in a moment of madness/bravery she asks him to draw her... and the rest is history. The problem is that Josh is trouble... and his parents...

I love that Perkins discusses the future. For teenagers it's such an important issue. Many people have no idea what they want to do after school, while some, like Josh, have it all planned out. Isla has no idea
what the future holds for her, where she wants to go, who she wants to be. Perkins allows this issue to be contemplated by the reader.

As for the characters, Josh is an interesting character. He reminds me somewhat of Logan from Gilmore Girls (who I despised).
But anyway. Josh's parents are the rich but absent type; he is never left wanting for anything... except for their attention. He's artistic and a romantic and idealistic and reckless and he's got big things coming for him in the future. I do feel like he's a little bit too wish-fulfillment-y. (But I'm okay with that.) Then there's Isla. On the one hand, I can empathise with her: I think everyone can. We all have insecurities, and sometimes we may feel like we aren't deserving of love... for whatever reason. She's also really unsure of herself and of her future, she hasn't really got it all figured out. Yet again, something that lots of teens would be able to relate to. I think my problem is in her development. I don't quite BELIEVE it. It all just kind of happens too quickly so the resolution doesn't feel that genuine to me. It's beautiful, just very idealistic and a bit rushed. Thinking back, I can't really pinpoint anything specific or special about Isla, so if that bothers you it might be a bit of a struggle finishing this book.Isla and Kurt. Their friendship is so beautiful. I wish I had that kind of strictly platonic friendship with a guy where we could sleep together and it wouldn't be weird or out of the normal at all. Kurt is a great support character for Isla... while he does have a few character traits of his own he really gets pushed to the sidelines (since it's written in Isla's perspective). I wish we could have known more about Kurt and his side of the story. (Idea for a short story in his POV, Stephanie?)

Lastly, there's the development of the sisterly relationship between Isla and her younger sister, Hattie. Hattie is reckless and loud and bold and abrasive and seems to deeply dislike Isla. I actually liked Hattie by the end, you see there's more to their relationship and to her than first thought. I love when family, especially among siblings, is an aspect of the story. I think Perkins explored their story well and I liked where they ended up. Yay for resolution! :D

And lastly (for real), I need to briefly mention the characters from previous novels. You know: Anna, St Clair, Lola, Cricket, Meredith. In this one they don't really bear too much significance, other than to shake Isla by reminding her that Josh has this whole other life with these friends that she knows next to nothing about, has barely seen besides a short encounter or two and the portraits that surrounded Josh's dorm room. They have that same warm dynamic and it's just nice to find where they've all ended up.


So I did enjoy this book, but I can't say that it was my favourite. There was still a lot of charm in this book, but Anna and Lola did it better.

Quotes

First line: It's midnight, it's sweltering, and I might be high on Vicodin, but that guy--that guy right over him--that's him.
The him.


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AUSTRALIA: Booktopia | The Nile | A&RFishpond

INTERNATIONAL: Book Depository




I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.



Saturday, November 1, 2014

[Review + Giveaway] The Infinite Sea (#2) by Rick Yancey

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(#2, The 5th Wave)
The 5th Wave | The Infinite Sea | Untitled

Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 16/09/2014
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher for review + Bought
Genre: YA (14+) - Dystopian

Violence | Sexual ContentProfanity


Book Tunes
♪ x

My Rating: 

Mindblowing

My thoughts

Warning! Spoilers if you have not read The 5th Wave!

THAT ENDING.

WHAT EVEN HAPPENED IN THIS BOOK?!?!?! I STILL HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS. I finished this book whilst on night shift at the hospital and I was just gaping from ear to ear, thinking that there must be more, that Yancey couldn't have ended the book like that. But he did, and now I--we--have to wait for the next installment... it's going to be excruciatingly painful and long. I hope it will be more than worth it.



Anyway, let's back-track here. I think I got ahead of myself. So The Infinite Sea catapults you back into the messed up lives of Cassie and Zombie and Walker, but first, we're thrown into the eyes and mind of Ringer. I like that this book was told from multiple perspectives. We learn more about Ringer in particular, but also Cassie and Zombie and Walker and Poundcake. Ringer makes for a very interesting character; she develops and changes so dramatically throughout the course of this novel, it really hits at the heart of what humanity stands for. In The 5th Wave we know her briefly as the cold-hearted killer and an excellent shot and yes, in The Infinite Sea we still get that impression, but we also get to know more of her.

I was extremely emotionally drawn to the story. I think that Rick Yancey writes his characters in a way that makes them sympathetic and you want to know more about them and you want them to live and be happy, but you know they've been placed in a world where that is no longer possible.... Also, they are flawed and have shades of in-between; no character is inherently good or bad, and the lines are becoming a bit blurred I guess. It's the way characters should be written: the more time we spend with them the more they should grow as a character and the more we should learn about them... the more we should feel and care for them.

The writing style was, as expected, magnificent. (Although I think "infinite sea" was a bit over-used.) Yancey has such a way with words. The words, sentences and paragraphs just seem to flow seamlessly, effortlessly, beautifully.

 At the heart of it, The Infinite Sea remains a story about family. And love, and hope, and home, and fighting a battle unknown and possibly hopeless. It is a story about humanity. I can't even comprehend what these "aliens" are and still what the bigger purpose is, or if there really is nothing...? I have no clue at all and I'm perfectly content with being pulled along for the ride.

Quotes

First line: There would be no harvest.

Favourites: 

"Can't go back. Can't go forward. Can't hold on. Can't let go. Can't, can't, can't, can't. What can you do? What can you do?
I lifted my face. Okay. I can do that.I stood up. That, too.I squared my shoulders and slipped my fingertips into the place where the two doors met.
I'm stepping out now, I told the silent deep. I'm letting go.I forced the doors apart. Light flooded into the void, devouring the smallest shadow, down to the last one. (63)


"'The world is a clock and the clock has wound to its final second--why would you want to live?'
'I don't want to save the world,' I tell him. 'I'm just hoping I might get the opportunity to kill you.' (238)




Giveaway!!!

Yay! It's been so long since I've done one of these. :D I received a review copy of this book (right after my purchased book arrived in the mail the day beforehand!) so I'm going to be giving away 1x copy of The Infinite Sea to one lucky reader!

  • AUSSIE ONLY! Sorry to everyone else. Shipping to other countries is ridiculously expensive. I will host another giveaway in the future (via The Book Depo) so I hope you can forgive me!
  • OPEN UNTIL 11/11/14... at 11pm, because why not? Remembrance Day and that. :P
  • TO ENTER, post a comment or tweet @cc9309 answering the following question: Who was your favourite character from The 5th Wave and why?
That's it! :) Good luck~


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AUSTRALIA: Booktopia | The Nile | A&R | Bookworld

INTERNATIONAL: Book Depository




I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.



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