A Sister to Scheherazade by Assia Djebar

6 Oct

 

A Sister to Scheherazade

author : assia djebar

pages : [paperback] 176

favorite character : hajila

summary :

Isma and Hajila are both wives of the same man, but they are not rivals.

Isma – older, vibrant, passionate, emancipated – is in stark contrast to the passive, cloistered Hajila. In alternating chapters, Isma tells her own story in the first person, and then Hajila’s in the second person. She details how she escaped from the traditional restraints imposed upon the women of her country – and how, in making her escape, she condemns Hajila to those very restraints. When Hajila catches a glimpse of an unveiled woman, she realized that she, too, wants a life beyond the veil, and it is Isma who offers her the key to her own freedom.

review :

Sister to Scheherazade is a fascinating story of female oppression framed by the story of Scheherazade. She is a woman who escapes death every morning by refusing to tell the end of her story to her husband, who wants to kill her but keeps delaying her death so that he might hear the end of her tales. Eventually he falls in love with her and she isn’t in danger of being murdered any longer. Hajila is in danger as well but from a different kind of death. Because she is forced to veil herself completely, because her family wishes and expects for her to remain inside her home like a proper woman would do, she will suffer a kind of death from the world and also lose a sense of self.

I really liked how the story was narrated. Isma is telling Hajila’s story; it’s symbolic in itself that Hajila has no say in what is told about her life. Hajila is the ‘you’ of the book while Isma remains the ‘I’, having freed herself of her husband who would have controlled and restricted all of her movements. While of course I hate reading about women who are treated so terribly, I can appreciate this book for it’s presentation of this flawed society in which little freedoms can seem like enough to live for. It’s terrible that women need to live their lives this way, completely under the constraints of men.

I don’t think that the writing was strong enough to carry the characters. While there were many short, powerful lines, I feel like the style didn’t do enough to make up for a rather passive plot. Isma is telling her story but she needs to make up much of it for Hajila because she can only imagine how the other woman might feel. There aren’t many incidents or exciting things that happen in this book.

I would certainly recommend it, not for a pleasurable read but something that will be thought-provoking and promote helping women around the world find equality and freedom.

3.5/5 stars

 

Asylum by Madeline Roux

5 Oct

 

Asylum 

Asylum #1

author : madeline roux

pages : [hardcover] 313

favorite character : abby

memorable quote No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.

summary :

Asylum is a thrilling and creepy photo-novel perfect for fans of the New York Times bestseller Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it’s a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.

As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it’s no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.

Featuring found photos of unsettling history and real abandoned asylums and filled with chilling mystery and page-turning suspense, Madeleine Roux’s teen debut, Asylum, is a horror story that treads the line between genius and insanity.

review :

Asylum tries to do something that too many horror stories have done before. An asylum is a terrifying place. I hate the concept of losing control over what happens to yourself, both physically and mentally. There are plenty of stories about sane people being tormented in asylums, tortured patients coming back to haunt the living, and dead doctors attempting to experiment on intruders in closed asylums. Roux’s novel plays on all of that, though not in a new, exciting light.

I think that I could have forgiven the contrived horror if the characters had been more distinctive; I never truly got to know them because too much about the book was never explained in order to fixate on things that might make situations creepier to the reader. Despite the pictures cleverly inserted in the book to make the reader see what Dan is finding in this closed asylum turned dorm, I never found myself truly scared or afraid for these characters. And I’m usually someone who can be kept awake at night by anything.

Without a horrific plot or interesting characters, what does Asylum have? An unrealistic setting. No sane college campus would put student in an old asylum without clearing out the building first! They can’t honestly expect that teenagers wouldn’t go poking around where they don’t belong. With all of the medical instruments and other deadly stuff in the basement, that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. It was odd to me that Dan and his friends were the only ones interested in and fixated upon the fact that the building used to house mental patients. Well, maybe not so surprised because we don’t really get to hear about any students other than Dan and his two friends.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone looking for a frightening story that’ll keep them up at night. I can’t really think of who this book will appeal to. Apparently there’s a sequel to this, which I might pick up out of pure curiosity to see where else this plot is going to go. It kind of ended itself in Asylum, so I don’t see why book two is necessary. I think this horror series is one you can skip.

2/5 stars

The Dark Bride by Laura Restrepo

4 Oct

 

The Dark Bride

author : laura restrepo

pages : [paperback] 368

summary :

Once a month, the refinery workers of the Tropical Oil Company descend upon Tora, a city in the Colombian forest. They journey down from the mountains searching for earthly bliss and hoping to encounter Sayonara, the legendary Indian prostitute who rules their squalid paradise like a queen. Beautiful, exotic, and mysterious, Sayonara, the undisputed barrio angel, captivates whoever crosses her path. Then, one day, she violates the unwritten rules of her profession and falls in love with a man she can never have. Sayonara’s unrequited passion has tragic consequences not only for her, but for all those whose lives ultimately depend on the Tropical Oil Company.

A slyly humorous yet poignant love story, The Dark Bride lovingly recreates the lusty, heartrending world of Colombian prostitutes and the men of the oil fields who are entranced by them. Full of wit and intelligence, tragedy and compassion, The Dark Bride is luminous and unforgettable.

review :

The Dark Bride is an intense book that will definitely keep you interested, though it isn’t the best novel that I’ve ever read. I needed to read it for class and found myself needing to push through it because I wasn’t very connected with the characters. I thought that the setting was interesting and was depressed about the lack of possibilities for the men and especially the women living in this area. I haven’t read much about Colombia so in itself I thought that it was a good experience to read more about a place that I’m not so informed about.

I think that the writing in this book is great! I really liked it, though I realize that this is a translation. It’s impossible to tell what the author would have chosen to say if she’d written the novel originally in English. I’m glad that I read a good translation, then, that got me interested in the book. I think that plenty of people who wouldn’t normally reach for this type of book would like the writing and get into the plot because of it. I definitely don’t read fiction like this when I typically read for pleasure but I’m trying to expand my horizons. I think that this is a good novel to pick if you’re looking to learn more about the world and read something outside of your typical box.

I’d recommend this book but I wouldn’t say that it’s one you should push yourself to read. If you’re looking to read something not so mainstream and that’ll make you more informed about another culture, try out The Dark Bride.

3/5 stars

A Pinch of Ooh La La by Renee Swindle

29 Sep

 

A Pinch of Ooh La La

Author : renee swindle

pages : [paperback] 336

favorite character : bendrix &

summary :

To get to happily ever after, sometimes you need to start from scratch….

Abbey Ross, who runs her own bakery in Oakland, California, is known for her visually stunning wedding cakes. But lately, Abbey’s own love life has become stale. According to her best friend, Bendrix, Abbey’s not the spontaneous young woman she was when they were teenagers listening to the Cure and creating attention-grabbing graffiti. Of course, her failed relationship with a womanizing art forger might have something to do with that. Nevertheless, it’s time for Abbey to step out of the kitchen—and her comfort zone—and Bendrix has even handpicked a man for her to date.

Samuel Howard is everything Abbey’s dreamed of: handsome, successful, and looking to raise a family. But a creamy icing might be needed to hide a problem or two. When Samuel complains about disrespect for the institution of marriage, Abbey’s reminded of her nontraditional family, with thirteen children from various mothers. And when Samuel rails about kids having kids, Abbey thinks of her twenty-year-old sister who’s recently revealed her pregnancy.

Soon Abbey is facing one disaster after another and struggling to make sense of it all. Her search for love has led her down a bitter path, but with the help of her unique family and unwavering friends, she just might find the ooh la la that makes life sweet.

review :

A Pinch of Ooh La La has good ideas, yet doesn’t execute them well. I went into the book thinking it’d be a cutesy story about Abbey’s search for love as well as finding herself. Unfortunately I was disappointed with how this book played out.

Abbey is nearing forty and sees her chance to be a mother ticking away as time goes on. There’s no harm in her worry because I think that she’d be a wonderful mother; seeing the way she interacted with her younger siblings as well as nieces and nephews only confirmed that. But she’s much too eager to find a man to ‘complete’ her life, especially when she’s doing very well on her own and has had terrible experiences with men in the past. Enter online dating (as it always happens in novels, she’s forced into it by her friends; I’ve never seen a story where online dating is the woman’s idea) and finally Samuel. He’s gorgeous, successful, and is quite nice to her. Unfortunately, as soon as Abbey meets him in the book, that’s when the plot begins to get awkward. She goes on a few dates with him and all of a sudden the novel skips ahead nine months. Then it starts skipping years. When I picked up this book I never imagined that the plot was going to cover such an enormous time span! It felt too forced and I couldn’t grasp how characters were developing when we weren’t given a chance to see them.

I also didn’t enjoy how predictable this novel was. While I really did like Abbey’s character, I didn’t understand some of the things that she put up with. She had such a strong family preaching great values to her, even if they were an unconventional family, that I can’t fathom some of her decisions. I’m not going to spoil anything, but during the novel I knew that I’d be extremely mad if it didn’t end the way that I was thinking it should. Some of the relationships in this book just aren’t healthy and it’s frustrating when characters, through no explanation, deal with insulting circumstances without a fight.

While I do think that so much could have been done with this book, I’m not sure that others will like it more than I did. Perhaps people who are older, closer to Abbey’s age, might enjoy reading such a novel because it does end with a good message. I particularly appreciated that. Yet for now, I think I’d say to skip this book.

2/5 stars

Book to Movie: The Maze Runner

28 Sep

I’ve been so excited for this movie! When I first read the book, it was back when young adult movie adaptations were just getting started (think Twilight) and I was so sure that The Maze Runner was going to see the spotlight one day. I’m so excited that I got to see the movie on the day that it came out, after years of waiting!

I’d definitely recommend checking out the trailers for this movie because I think they did a fantastic job capturing some of the suspense and intrigue that really make this trilogy special. I’m no expert on film but really loved the angles used and how those few minutes really captured the emotion of the book as well as the movie.

Our leading man, Thomas,  is played by Dylan O’Brien. I’ve only seen a few episodes of Teen Wolf and he has a small appearance in The Internship but I always had it in my mind that he was a great actor so I was excited when I heard that he was Thomas. I think he did a fantastic job creating Thomas’ character even through the confusion and memory loss Thomas experiences. Because I haven’t seen O’Brien much on screen, I think that also made it easier for me to imagine him as that character.

The same was true for most of the boys. Some of them began to get mixed up with one another (because in a pack of all boys, things can get confusing) but overall I was happy with the group. Chuck was appropriately adorable. Alby was a great leader. I wish that we’d gotten to see a little more of Minho and Newt. Also, it’d been a while since I read the book, so I completely forgot Frypan’s name and they never directly introduced him in the movie. I was sitting there in the theater thinking, What are they calling him? Fred? Frank? until it clicked.

As with all book to movie adaptations, I was terrified that The Maze Runner was going to tear apart one of my favorite books. Instead, it showed off some scenes that looked absolutely amazing done in film. I think that the Grievers were awesome and terrifying, even though they were nothing like what I’d pictured in my head (think Robosnail from Rugrats, except smaller and more terrifying). The maze scenes were awesome, with all of those moving parts and great effects. The Glade was less impressive but I think that’s because it can do nothing but pale in comparison to the awe of the maze.

There were some parts of the book that were completely left out. I won’t point out anything very specific because I think you could watch the film, like it, and then go to the book to get another great story that’s slightly different. There was so much between Thomas and Teresa that just wasn’t included, so I don’t know how they’ll skirt around that when it comes to the next movie. I think that overall I wasn’t too annoyed by anything that was taken out of the film because it’s been so long since I’ve read the book. I’ve learned my lesson not to reread the book right before the movie or I’m almost guaranteed to dislike the film!

The great thing about reading the book before the movie? You get to enjoy the theater’s reaction to a plot twist you know is coming. Yeah, maybe I was a little too smug, looking to see how my friends who hadn’t read the book were reacting to what was happening. There was a particularly funny part for me when everyone thought the movie was over, but I knew that the action was just getting started. I feel like with The Maze Runner, which absolutely thrives on plot twists, there’s never any way of knowing where the story’s going to go next.

The ending disappointed me a little. I hate enjoying an adaptation and then leaving the theater unsatisfied because they just needed to change up the ending. It happened with The Giver. Divergent. Now The Maze Runner. The end is important because it’s the last thing I get before I leave so of course I want it to be on a great note. Not that I’m saying they completely changed the end of this; they just left it off at a different part and didn’t go quite as far with the plot as the book does, which is annoying.

Overall, I was so impressed with The Maze Runner that I need the sequel immediately. I’ve heard that they’re planning to make one, but it isn’t coming until 2016. How can I wait that long? If this movie does well in the box office, I’m hoping that means The Scorch Trials will have an even better budget for a greater movie–not that I’m saying the visual effects in this first installment didn’t impress. Far from it. The maze was terrifying realistic and the Grievers . . yep, part of my nightmares now.

I’d recommend this movie to fans of the book, those unsure of whether they want to read the series, and people looking for a movie filled with suspense and action. This is a book that I read and thought would be even cooler as a movie. I’m glad that the film proved me right.

Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Promise Part 2

27 Sep

 

The Promise Part 2

Part 1 Review

by : Gene Luen Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino, Gurihiru, Bryan Konietzko

pages : [paperback] 76

favorite characters : zuko & sokka

summary :

The Avatar’s greatest adventure continues!

Aang and Katara work tirelessly to prevent a dispute between Fire Lord Zuko and Earth King Kuei that could plunge the world back into war! Meanwhile, Sokka helps Toph prepare her hapless first class of metalbending students to defend their school against a rival class of firebenders!

review :

The Gaang is back in this second installment to a trilogy of graphic novels. The art and characters are as beautiful and captivating as ever! It’s wonderful to see how Aang and his crew are doing after the conclusion of the television series. If you’re a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, you should get your hands on this second installment of The Promise. If you’ve yet to see the TV show, you’re missing out on so much fun, adventure, and excitement!

What I really liked about this book was getting to know how Aang will deal with conflicts in the future, as he really comes into his own as the Avatar. He’s supposed to be the peacekeeper, yet that’s kind of an impossible task when two sides of the conflict assure him that it would end if he’d do completely different things. While Aang is still young in this book, he’s wiser and usually has Katara around to either guide him or help him find a safe space for him to think. Then he’ll be able to make decisions that will be best for all involved.

I also really liked seeing Zuko interact with his father. It’s only a small part of this book but I could sense so much emotion and tension boiling down to those moments when he speaks to Ozai in his cell. Zuko is a great character; I love that he’s flawed and is still trying to find a way to the light, though he isn’t entirely ready or equipped to abandon his family yet.

I’m excited for the last book in this trilogy and am looking forward to picking up more of these graphic novels. It’s exciting to see the characters again and they’re so well done. I love how they fit in so well with the show and capture the characters wonderfully!

5/5 stars

Have you read these books? Do you want to read them? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Something Real by Heather Demetrios

25 Sep

Something Real

author : heather demetrios

pages : [hardcover] 403

favorite characters : benny & chloe

memorable quote You can’t screw up your own suicide and then expect the universe to give you presents wrapped in the skin of a wonderful boy. That’s just not the way it works.

summary :

There’s nothing real about reality TV.

Seventeen-year-old Bonnie™ Baker has grown up on TV—she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker’s Dozen. Since the show’s cancellation and the scandal surrounding it, Bonnie™ has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight. But it’s about to fall apart…because Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air. Bonnie™’s mom and the show’s producers won’t let her quit and soon the life she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show. Bonnie™ needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own—even if it means being more exposed than ever before.

review :

I typically wouldn’t pick up a book like this. I selectively watch reality TV but reading a book about it just didn’t sound very fun. Then I saw how high a rating this book had on Goodreads and I also know that Heather Demetrios is going to be in the area soon as I wanted to read some of her work. I’m really glad that I gave this book a chance. Something Real proves that you should sometimes reach for books outside of your reading comfort zone!

Bonnie™ has a trademarked name, a stepfather who seems a little too eager to get on camera, and twelve siblings, most of which have been adopted. Her life would be crazy enough if it weren’t constantly filmed to make the reality show Baker’s Dozen. Her life has been on screen so much that she refers to her memories as being in season thirteen or season seven instead of simply saying she was thirteen or seven when something happened. Before the scandal that cancelled the show, Bonnie hadn’t known a normal life. Even her birth had been filmed! Now that the show’s been off for four years, she doesn’t know if she’ll be able to handle it when her family takes over television again.

I really felt for Bonnie–or Chloe, as she preferred to be called when the show was off the air–because her descriptions of life on a reality show were giving me anxiety and I didn’t even need to live through them! Her most embarrassing moments have been captured in film, seen by millions, and are preserved forever. She constantly has cameras in her face and the paparazzi won’t even let her have a normal life outside of the house. Something Real also shows how reality shows aren’t so real after all. Producer Chuck is one of our villains in this story, micromanaging every scene and changing conversations and events so that the show can have product placements or create more drama that wouldn’t have genuinely happened.

I also really enjoyed the romance in this novel. Patrick is very swoon-worthy, simply from the way he looks after Bonnie and wants her happiness and safety above all else. Their relationship wasn’t perfect, something that added to the drama of the plot but also an aspect that made this contemporary romance more realistic. No relationship is perfect, especially one in high school where the two partners are plagued by paparazzi. There were scenes between Bonnie and Patrick that were just so incredibly cute, it added to their charm.

While I realize that it would have been impossible to feature all of Bonnie’s twelve siblings in the novel, I wish we’d gotten to know some of them better. Bonnie heavily converses with the two closest to her in age, twins Lexie and Benny. The others were young but I feel like they could have had individual character, not lumped into a generic crowd of kids doing childlike things.

I’d really recommend this book to anyone looking for a cute, fun read. This went by very quickly and had me fall in love with Heather Demetrios’ writing style. I’m definitely going to pick up more by this author!

5/5 stars

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