Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman // Phenomenal Though Harsh

Saturday, 27 May 2017 0 comments
Death and the Maiden, by Ariel Dorfman
Publication: December 1, 1994, by Penguin Books
Genre: Fiction, Drama, Play
Pages: 96
Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed

Ariel Dorfman's explosively provocative, award-winning drama is set in a country that has only recently returned to democracy. Gerardo Escobar has just been chosen to head the commission that will investigate the crimes of the old regime when his car breaks down and he is picked up by the humane doctor Roberto Miranda. But in the voice of this good Samaritan, Gerardo's wife, Paulina Salas, thinks she recognizes another man—the one who raped and tortured her as she lay blindfolded in a military detention center years before.

My Thoughts:

Death and the Maiden is warped - it has a truly messed up plot that makes you ponder about the relationships people have, but, at the same time, its warped-ness just makes it beautiful. Otherwise, it would have been a completely ordinary play that has a dark theme. This is a play that I will remember for the rest of my days. There's so much to analyze in Ariel Dorfman's writing that we can spend AGES going through it, trying to understand it all. I need to look Dorfman up and find more of his writing - it's addictive, to be quite honest.

I read this play a loooooooong time ago, but what I know I loved about it was the fact that it was so deep and carried an important message: we need to speak out. In addition, it was beautifully written and stayed true to its Chilean culture. It seemed that Dorfman had put a lot of thought into writing this story and making it fit for each of us. There were moments when I wanted to vomit because of the detailedness of Dorfman's writing and Paulina's actions, and times where I wanted to cry out because Paulina's character development was unbelievable. She began her story as a surprisingly tough woman who progressed to have feelings and understand her husband better.

You see, I read this in school and we even acted it out. That was the difficult part - but it also helped us understand the story and meaning much more. I cannot write so much without spoiling, but, short story short: YOU NEED TO READ THIS. It is deep and gory, but hey - it has a beautiful ending that will make you want more. 

Read this, fall in love, hate Roberto (you'll find out who he is), and be amused. This is a play with three AMAZINGLY CRAZY characters who are each so different yet alike. It's a literature masterpiece.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall // Absolutely Astonishing.

Saturday, 13 May 2017 2 comments
Under Rose-Tainted Skies, by Louise Gornall
Publication: January 3, 2017, by Clarion Books
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Rating: ½

At seventeen, Norah has accepted that the four walls of her house delineate her life. She knows that fearing everything from inland tsunamis to odd numbers is irrational, but her mind insists the world outside is too big, too dangerous. So she stays safe inside, watching others’ lives through her windows and social media feed.
But when Luke arrives on her doorstep, he doesn’t see a girl defined by medical terms and mental health. Instead, he sees a girl who is funny, smart, and brave. And Norah likes what he sees.
Their friendship turns deeper, but Norah knows Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can walk beneath the open sky. One who is unafraid of kissing. One who isn’t so screwed up. Can she let him go for his own good—or can Norah learn to see herself through Luke’s eyes?

My Thoughts: 

I was fortunate to read Under Rose-Tainted Skies during a vacation, and I must say that the book itself is like a vacation from the typical books we read. Louise Gornall has created a book quite similar to Nicola Yoon's Everything, Everything, which stood as a flaw for me, but it had its own unique ideas - like its main concept surrounding a girl's agoraphobia—her fear of leaving her own house—and OCD. It's a real look at mental illness and how we all have the potential to find things in our lives that make us feel better or different about a specific fear we may have. In the main character—Norah's—case, we found that love and opening up were the best ways for her to succeed in life and realize that we cannot go through life solely in fear. This was amazingly written, poetically-inclined, and precious. I cannot help but FREAK OUT over everything Louise Gornall writes - or, in other words, I WILL FREAK OUT OVER THIS.

My first instance of love for this story began when I saw the cover. It screams out "beauty and poetic writing," and that's what it truly provided me with. It gave me a new, RAW (most important thing) look at love that other contemporary romance or chick-lit novels seem to fail at. Gornall proves that love is not perfect; every picture-perfect moment may not be picture-perfect because something goes wrong. Occasionally, couples have these moments where they fail to understand each other or what they are trying to get at in their relationship. I loved that about Luke and Norah's relationship - they somehow made love feel, you know: achievable. Under Rose-Tainted Skies had a direct reference to each reader's heart because honestly? We're all looking for a beautiful story like this.

"I want to be her. I don't care how much it costs; I would pay it to have her tan and high cheekbones," (195).

Things definitely took a turn towards the end of the book where I got so confused and anxious to the point that I couldn't put it down. The whole book revolves around Norah's issues of opening up to her new neighbour, Luke, who begins to appreciate Norah for who she is, even though she is afraid to kiss, to make contact with him. But hey - they find things that they can do, like freak out over the same fandoms and watch horror films together. That is my idea of a perfect relationship. The imperfectness of the characters is what made this story SO SO SO lovely and memorable. It's been a few months since I read the last few words of Under Rose-Tainted Skies, but it feels like it was yesterday, just because the characters kind of, you know... live with you forever.

Even though there weren't many characters in this whole story - because the fact that Norah couldn't leave her house, there was so much complexity all over the place. We get to see a struggling personality in Norah's mother, whose life also had to take a halt because of her own daughter's fear of experiencing things. But, as Norah gains strength, so do the people around her. I would really like to see a film come out of this with A+ actors who have the capability of mastering the emotional aspect of the characters and novel.

"I want to tell him I'm sorry. I want to tell him I'm insecure. I want to tell him that I am hard work, that my head is a mess, that my sickness was making even the smallest thought explore that night. I want to tell him the kiss scared me but I can't stop wanting a second one," (302).

Gornall's writing was raw and addictive. Once I began reading, I couldn't stop, but even if I had to, I kept reminding myself that it's worth the wait because I eventually will not be able to experience this story the same way anymore - the first time. YOU ALL NEED TO PICK THIS BEAUTY UP AND EXPERIENCE.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is going to be one of the best books you will read this year. It features issues we all need to talk about more, like phobias and mental illness. This is absolutely beautiful and deserves a try from everyone.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

Are there any other YA books about phobias? What about OCD? Do you think this needs to be addressed WAY more in YA?

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West // West's Books Are My Guilty Pleasures

Friday, 5 May 2017 0 comments
The Fill-In Boyfriend, by Kasie West
Publication: May 5, 2015, by HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 343
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Rating: ½

When Gia Montgomery's boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she'd been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend—two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.
The problem is that days after prom, it's not the real Bradley she's thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn't even know. But tracking him down doesn't mean they're done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend's graduation party—three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.
Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

My Thoughts:

When one first reads the summary of Kasie West's The Fill-In Boyfriend, you would think that it is the cheesiest book ever and it can totally be a chick-lit film. But, if you're a good soul and decide to pick it up because hey—why not, you'll discover that this book is one of a kind. THIS BOOK IS THE BEST. It's heart-wrenching, ABSOLUTELY adorable, and gives you all of the staticky emotions. You feel like you don't even know where you stand because it just formulates emotions that are all over the place. Even though a story like this (with a fill-in boyfriend and love at first sight) is nearly impossible, I must say that it is a gem—a good find that will warm your heart on a depressing, rainy day.

What I loved most about West's writing in this case is the fact that Gia, our protagonist, is so damn confident. She has a personality that teenage protagonists rarely have in fiction these days. Although she was completely boy-crazy and obsessive, we later discover that she herself has her own issues that she is hiding from the outward view. The romance was even better and I appreciated this story so much - it's the kind of story that makes you want to believe in love, at the same time as having a cup of coffee by your side.

The Fill-In Boyfriend had a fast-paced plot and characters who I will never forget because of the wacky storyline. It does seem completely odd and out of reach—yes—but IT WAS TOTALLY BEAUTIFUL.

Read this gorgeous story—NOW.

What is a contemporary romance with a unique storyline?

What Light by Jay Asher // Holiday Books Can Actually Be Read Anytime

Monday, 1 May 2017 0 comments
What Light, by Jay Asher
Publication: October 18, 2016, by Razorbill
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 251
Format: ARC
Source: BEA/Publisher

Sierra's family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it's a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other.
Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.
By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb's past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.
What Light is a love story that's moving and life-affirming and completely unforgettable.

My Thoughts:

Jay Asher is the king of YA literature. THE KING. ALL HAIL JAY ASHER. And I bet you all can completely agree with me because of the success of Thirteen Reasons Why, one of the best books ever. I think the show has just boosted the readership of the novel SO MUCH so I'm hoping that people might feel a little more interested in this because of the movie. What Light is a lovely Christmas-y story that made me squeal and freak out over the one emotion that every human being has felt at one point of their life: LOVE

I am really impressed with this story because it's not JUST about the cutesy lovey stuff. It's more than that; it's the usual Jay Asher fluff. He adds so many more topics that we never really aware about into his gorgeous stories. What Light basically showed us that hey: HOLIDAY BOOKS ARE FOR THE SUMMER. They can be read in the spring, fall—whenever. When I began reading it, I didn't expect that this would be entertaining, but it definitely was. Asher's writing was (almost) as good as ever, and I really appreciated the storyline.

This is one of those feel-good stories that makes you want to appreciate life a little more. Caleb and Sierra are the power couple of them all. I fell in love with their romance as well and just pined for them to be together. IT WAS MAGICAL. I felt a real connection to the book because I wanted the best for the characters if you know what I mean. The plot, on the other hand, was quite slow-paced which was the reason why I had to stick with a lower rating for this one. Unlike Asher's other books, it lacked something. Something life-changing. How did Thirteen Reasons Why accomplish this? I really don't know. Let's just say that it was a nice story.

Want a pleasing, adorable story? Read this. That's all I can say.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher via BookExpo America in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What is the best holiday book you have read?

A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen // A Lovely Work of Modern Drama

Sunday, 30 April 2017 0 comments
A Doll's House, by Henrik Ibsen
Publication: December 1879, by Hard Press
Genre: Fiction, Play, Drama
Pages: 122
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed

A Doll's House (1879), is a masterpiece of theatrical craft which, for the first time portrayed the tragic hypocrisy of Victorian middle class marriage on stage. The play ushered in a new social era and "exploded like a bomb into contemporary life".

My Thoughts: 

A Doll's House was one of the three plays I was fortunate to read for English class this year, and I must say that it was just absolutely stunning and alluring. I have read about ten pieces of drama and this is one of the best for its different style of writing and subject matter. How often are we readers fortunate to read about a couple's crisis in the Victorian era in Norway? Never. Ever. After reading Ibsen's work, I feel more captivated to look into his other plays and see what he has in store for us. This can definitely be classified as modern drama, but it gives us the perspective of 1800s Europe before all of the violence and wars began. This was more about a couple's struggle in the sense of their marriage and social status.

We spent about a week reading this relatively short play and analyzing it in my class and I didn't want to miss a second of it. In the beginning of the play, we are introduced to Nora and her husband Thorvald who are a well-off couple living in a Norwegian town. The whole play takes place in a span of a couple of days, and it is so raw and real. Ibsen was definitely not influenced by any of the modern topics (like technology) that we are surrounded with, so he told us a different story about a couple that we haven't been surrounded with before. 

The characters were absolutely my favourite part of the play. Everyone, including Nora, Thorvald, Mrs. Linde etc. etc. are so well planned-out and amazing. Each of them has their own emotions and qualities that they are specifically known for in the play. We feel their pains, their struggles, their desires... and this is the reason why I appreciate drama so much compared to novels. There are only a few books that actually have the ability to create this raw feeling. A Doll's House did that. And it's so creative too; just look at the title. Occasionally we find these basic titles that are pretty much meaningless for the whole novel/play. In this case, IT BRINGS OUT SO MANY THEMES that can be discussed for decades and millenniums.... and forever.

The only thing I want is for a greater sense of background information in Thorvald and Nora's relationship. AND THE KIDS. AND THE MAID. We just need a sequel play, okay?

A Doll's House is lovely. It's a work that I would want to come back to all the time and analyze the themes over and over again. In addition to Shakespeare and Hamilton and all of THOSE lovely plays, read this. NOW. 

What are some other brilliant modern plays?

Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat // Heart-Wrenching and Memorable

Saturday, 29 April 2017 0 comments
Prisoner of Tehran, by Marina Nemat
Publication: May 6, 2008, by Free Press
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ½

What would you give up to protect your loved ones? Your life?

In her heartbreaking, triumphant, and elegantly written memoir, Prisoner of Tehran, Marina Nemat tells the heart-pounding story of her life as a young girl in Iran during the early days of Ayatollah Khomeini's brutal Islamic Revolution.

In January 1982, Marina Nemat, then just sixteen years old, was arrested, tortured, and sentenced to death for political crimes. Until then, her life in Tehran had centered around school, summer parties at the lake, and her crush on Andre, the young man she had met at church. But when math and history were subordinated to the study of the Koran and political propaganda, Marina protested. Her teacher replied, "If you don't like it, leave." She did, and, to her surprise, other students followed.

Soon she was arrested with hundreds of other youths who had dared to speak out, and they were taken to the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. Two guards interrogated her. One beat her into unconsciousness; the other, Ali, fell in love with her.

Sentenced to death for refusing to give up the names of her friends, she was minutes from being executed when Ali, using his family connections to Ayatollah Khomeini, plucked her from the firing squad and had her sentence reduced to life in prison. But he exacted a shocking price for saving her life -- with a dizzying combination of terror and tenderness, he asked her to marry him and abandon her Christian faith for Islam. If she didn't, he would see to it that her family was harmed. She spent the next two years as a prisoner of the state, and of the man who held her life, and her family's lives, in his hands.

Lyrical, passionate, and suffused throughout with grace and sensitivity, Marina Nemat's memoir is like no other. Her search for emotional redemption envelops her jailers, her husband and his family, and the country of her birth -- each of whom she grants the greatest gift of all: forgiveness.

My Thoughts:

Prisoner of Tehran is one of those books that I will just never forget. I read it A LONG time ago (not kidding; it was November 2016) but it is so raw that I feel like I just read it last night. This was one of my English class' required reads, and I expected to like it less because (A) I watched a movie about someone escaping Iran, which was AMAZING, but I didn't want to experience the same kind of storyline again and (B) the cover is definitely not the prettiest. Nevertheless, I adored it and I couldn't wait for all of my friends who had English class after me to pick it up and enjoy it as much as I did. Marina Nemat is a lovely writer who writes like she experienced all of this not too long ago. It has been quite a while, but you can feel the pain and sorrow in every word she writes. 

I actually was fortunate to "meet" Marina (she came to speak at our school) and it was a perfect experience since I can hear the thoughts of the brilliant author who changed my life. Everything she told us was life-changing. She spoke about inclusion and diversity, and how we (this generation) are the key-life-changers of the world. When she spoke, she made it seem like we are able to conquer anything. It was amazing to see her in real life and (sadly) see how affected she still is after all of her traumatizing experiences in Iran.

Prisoner of Tehran starts off pretty normally. We readers feel the tension because we know that there are going to be (many) rough moments throughout this story, but we first learn about Marina's life before the Islamic Revolution... before things changed and got her into prison. I'm going to make a generalization here: we constantly think that people who take big risks in life are only in the movies, or are one of a kind and come along once every few generations. Marina showed that she thinks she is an ordinary person though took a risk to speak up. Because of speaking up, Marina ends up in the notorious Evin Prison and her life changes from there. She has a life sentence, but she occasionally feels that death is the best way out of her troubling life. Ali, one of the prison guards who beat her, begins to come into her life more and more, and we see that the tensions between the relationship of a captor and captive become clear and kind of... interesting.

The people who Marina talks about are characters, in reality, as this is a novel, but we have to keep in mind that this story is as real as ever. It's a beautiful story that moved my whole class and I, and a story that told us about someone's life in somewhere across the world. Marina now lives in Canada, half an hour from where I live, and it's amazing to see how successful she has become. She was first successful with having courage to do what she did, but she is now even more courageous to tell her story. I felt such a connection to this book like never before and I seriously am so thankful that I was able to analyze it and pinpoint every literary device Marina uses because why not? She is a writer who easily told her story but left some important messages in between the lines.

This is such a lovely story and I wish that Marina would make a film based on her story. She is such an influential woman who mastered the art of writing with this memoir. I never knew much about the Islamic Regime in Iran, and in the midst of learning about this woman's life story, I learned so much about that. 

What are some other books about the Iranian Revolution that you know of?

All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker // A Quite Interesting Read

Monday, 24 April 2017 0 comments
All is Not Forgotten, by Wendy Walker
Publication: July 12, 2016, by St. Martin's Press
Genre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 310
Format: ARC
Source: BEA/Publisher

In the small, affluent town of Fairview, Connecticut everything seems picture perfect.
Until one night when young Jenny Kramer is attacked at a local party. In the hours immediately after, she is given a controversial drug to medically erase her memory of the violent assault. But, in the weeks and months that follow, as she heals from her physical wounds, and with no factual recall of the attack, Jenny struggles with her raging emotional memory. Her father, Tom, becomes obsessed with his inability to find her attacker and seek justice while her mother, Charlotte, prefers to pretend this horrific event did not touch her perfect country club world.
As they seek help for their daughter, the fault lines within their marriage and their close-knit community emerge from the shadows where they have been hidden for years, and the relentless quest to find the monster who invaded their town - or perhaps lives among them - drive this psychological thriller to a shocking and unexpected conclusion.

My Thoughts:

All is Not Forgotten is a novel that I would normally want to pick up and devour instantly. It definitely is "my kind of read," especially because it is a psychological thriller slash mystery. There are so many good things about this genre that I usually am unable to imagine anything horrible about it. However, this time around, I feel pretty confused or mixed-feelings-like about this novel, and I feel quite upset over the fact that I am writing this review NOW, maybe seven months after I first read it. 

This was basically the best book gone wrong. I had so much hope for it because I expected a read that would be more about the actual mystery instead of the aftermath of this all. In a few words, I would describe this as a PTSD book. It's heartbreaking to read stories like these when you know that they have the capability of being so good or enjoyable. 

I honestly am not able to remember what this book is even about. What I can tell you is that it was readable—I was able to enjoy some of it and pick up on some of the important/captivating parts where I couldn't stop reading, but there were other points of time where I just felt like saying "meh." That is the best way to describe this whole book. 

This definitely incorporates some graphic violence so I would keep my eye out for that if you're not into stories that are really depressing and difficult to endure. All Is Not Forgotten is an average mystery novel that hits you a little, but leaves you shocked because you completely expected more. 

*A review copy was provided by the publisher via BookExpo America in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What is a new adult book about domestic violence?