Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Runaway

Author: Meg Cabot
Price: Rs. 250
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books

The title to this third book in the Airhead Trilogy can be deciphered in two ways- Runaway because that's how Em looks like in the beginning, a Runaway gone to South Carolina with Brandon Stark (though of course the real Nikki, her mom and Steven, Nikki's brother are with them too, but that's a secret) and Runaway because in the end Em runs-away, from her fake new life, from all the stupid contracts, from her secret identity. She has uncovered the dark truth about Robert Stark and exposed him to the media. Stark's arrested and she's back to openly living life as Em! I think this one is the best in the series. It has action, it has mystery, it has secrets!


Storyline
Em's been 'kidnapped' (at least that's what we say when she's been taken against her will) by Brandon, who takes Nikki's family and Em to his South Carolina home, in order to coax the truth out of Nikki- the secret that she knows, the secret that led to this tangled mess in the first place. However, Christopher, Frida and Lulu somehow sneak into the guarded house and try to rescue Em. In the process, they tackle down Brandon and blackmail him into keeping quiet and return to New York. Now Em knows why Stark wanted to kill Nikki, she has the secret but is still clueless; no one knows how tracking down young kids with zero health problems and retaining their info using their spyware could be useful to Stark.

 Just when Em's about to leave for a party before the Stark Angel Fashion show, Christopher calls her and asks her not to go anywhere since he found out that Em herself is called a 'Project Phoenix', a secret project by Stark that's tracking down young people. Em decides to find out the truth and heads for the party. With a bit of snooping around, she sneaks into a room filled with extremely rich, old people, carrying out kind of an auction of young people! That's the catch- they 'kidnap' such fit people and legally "kill" them to carry out brain transplants for the old rich ones so that they could live a longer, healthier life! An insane scheme! Em records it on her phone, but she's caught and threatened by Stark. She however, had recorded the thing on two phones, and at the end of the New Year party, she, along with Christopher, Felix and others, discloses this fact to the world! Stark is arrested and Em is back to living her old life (though she's still the Face of Stark, a newly revamped company led by Brandon, with Nikki as her agent and Christopher and Felix working in Stark's technical department).

What's special
Mystery, secrets, danger. Something usually not seen in Meg Cabot books, it has definitely made this book the best of the trilogy (I said that before, didn’t I?). The clever scheme to earn fat bucks by Stark, the scientific edge to it and the way the mystery’s unravelled; it’s all quite appealing and makes it an interesting read. I would call it a clean, simple and interesting book, recommended for teens!

(Other books in the series- Airhead, Being Nikki)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Being Nikki

Author: Meg Cabot
Price: Rs. 290
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books

Being Nikki is the second book of the Airhead trilogy and is mostly based on Em’s (the seventeen year old female protagonist) life as a teen supermodel. In an accident that seems quite plain, Em got her brain transplanted into teen model, Nikki Howard’s body, who apparently, died in the accident. The shocks and surprises got over in the first book and this one shows Em living the life Nikki would have, if she were alive. However, as we move on to the later half of the book, we start getting uneasy feelings, as if something’s going wrong. As the truth unfolds, it is a whole new direction the story takes!


Storyline
It’s a muddled life for Em, what with Nikki being the Stark Angel for the Stark Fashion show, her complicated love life, Nikki's (real) brother showing up and informing her that their mom has been missing since the "accident". Above all, Em's suspicions that her home as well as that of her parents' is bugged, turn true, much to her fury. One day she finds herself in Christopher's flat where she sees a framed picture of her old self! His flat too, was bugged. To add to it, Christopher had been planning to break into Stark Enterprises with the help of his cousin, Felix, and take it down. Apparently, to revenge Em's death. He offers Nikki to help find her Mom in return for a username and password belonging to someone at Stark. 

Meanwhile Nikki finds herself being accused of e-mailing ex-boyfriend Justin, by a fellow model, which wasn't true, because Em hadn't been e-mailing anyone. That seems suspicious and she's intent on finding out the truth. It is during the annual party at Nikki and Lulu's place that Christopher finds Nikki and tells her that he knows the truth, that she's actually Em! He had been able to use the information to get into Stark's system and had seen Em's file there and uncovered the truth about her. Suddenly, as if some stroke of inspiration hit her, she finds out Justin in the party and they track down the e-mails from "Nikki". They were coming from Dr. Fong's house! 

A doctor who had been in the team that operated upon Em, Dr. Fong confessed when they rounded on him, that he had saved the real Nikki's life! That's because the real Nikki didn't have aneurysm, as was told by Stark and Dr. Fong couldn't let anyone die; especially someone who didn't have anything wrong with them. He placed Nikki's brain into a donor body and took her home. Nikki's mother stayed with them at Dr. Fong's place to help Nikki recover. (Nikki was however infuriated with having to give up the life she loved and stuck inside the doctor's house). This dangerous situation arose because Nikki had overheard some secret and was blackmailing Stark with it. But then, Stark had tried to kill her! All the while this truth was unraveling, Brandon had been eavesdropping, and he decides to play a game on his own. He corners Em and threatens to tell his father the truth, unless she agrees to play along him in uncovering the secret Nikki overheard from his father (they shared a strained relationship) so that he could blackmail him on his own. Em tells Christopher that she loved Brandon and will go with him to his place in South Carolina, along with the real Nikki and her family. 

What's special
Em's wit and presence of mind, as she finds out bugs in her loft, her parent's apartment, in her Stark brand cell phone, everywhere. There's a sense of foreboding as Stark cleverly intrudes every aspect of her life. Gradually as mystery after mystery reveals itself and as the truth dawns upon them, the reader experiences increased pulse-rates! It's a lot more interesting towards the end when the whole secret comes out and slightly redundant in the beginning. The ending's sad though, Em having to leave Christopher moments after they knew the truth! However, it's a fun read; you'll not get bored (it's Meg Cabot, you can hardly get bored). If you've read Airhead, you'll automatically go for this one! I liked it :)

(Other books in the series : Airhead, Runaway)


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Airhead.

Author: Meg Cabot
Price: Rs. 250
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books

Another one of my favorites!! It's hard for me not to like a book, if it's by Meg Cabot and this one totally rules! It's the first in the Airhead Trilogy. The story of seventeen year old Emerson Watts, a very normal teen, tomboyish (so like me, 'not-so-girly', I mean), with a cool IQ level and a fetish for computer games (particularly Journeyquest) and surgery shows on Discovery channel, this story is what you would say is about "turning life the other way round"!

Storyline
Em is forced to attend the grand opening of a new Stark Megastore (by a company called Stark Enterprises) because her Mom doesn't want Em's fourteen year old sister, Frida, to go there alone. Frida's a fashion maniac and wanted to attend the opening because of the star presence of singing sensation Gabriel Luna and teen supermodel Nikki Howard. While the three of them (Em's best friend, Christopher is there too) are waiting for Gabriel's autograph, some protesters create a ruckus, in the midst of which a TV panel from overhead drops on Em and Nikki's injured.

It's a month later that Em wakes up in a hospital. She discovers (after she's been 'kidnapped' from the hospital by Lulu Collins(Nikki's best friend) and Brandon Stark (Nikki's on and off boyfriend)) that she's been the recipient of a rare kind of Brain Transplant! Nikki's brain had allegedly 'died' and the only way to save Em's life was the transplant! So Em's brain in Nikki Howard's body! She's petrified! It's supposed to be a secret, because the transplant process is still not legal, but carried out anyway by a secret division of Stark Enterprises! Here's the catch- there's a bond. Nobody should know Nikki is not really Nikki, but Em. AND Em (in Nikki's body) would be fulfilling Nikki's duties as a model and the face of Stark. That meant that Em was legally, technically dead, just not literally. 

Em is heartbroken. She has to live Nikki's life. Covered with the excuse of amnesia, Nikki comes back to the world of fashion after a month (only now it's Em, of course). Em discovers a whole new side to her life. People in Nikki's life like her even more now, since she's not so mean anymore. However the person she missed the most was Christopher (whom she's always liked) and that's what made her get into TAHS, Em's school, she wanted to see him so bad. And of course to complete her education. Christopher's a changed person and that kills her inside. No matter how hard Em tries to befriend him, it's useless (why would he want to be friends with the face of the company that killed his best friend?).


It's a roller coaster ride, with all cheerleaders crooning over her and trying to impress her, Robert Stark(owner of Stark Enterprises) not paying her any attention, finding out that Nikki's stark brand laptops were bugged with spyware (that the computer pro Em easily recognized), and modelling! What she is not aware of is, how much she's in danger unless she decides to just keep playing Nikki and not poking her nose in weird circumstances!

What's special
A scientific base on the story told with such imagination and humor, it's a book that keeps you hooked. I liked the way it portrayed the fun and the worrisome side of modelling. The moral was that you don't realize what you have till you've lost it, be it your home, family, or best friends; filled with the wonderful Meg Cabot style, humor and realistic portrayal of the protagonist. It's quite interesting actually, urging the readers to keep on guessing what dangerous motive could be behind such a clean story? The answer's in the second book to the series, Being Nikki! Em's experience actually living Nikki's life! A must read for teens!!! :)

Other books in the series- Being Nikki, Runaway

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Princess Diaries # 1

Written by: Meg Cabot
Price: Rs. 250
Publisher: Macmillan UK

I don't think this book needs any introduction, if you are a cool teen, who loves girly, princessy stories. If not, then I think you deserve at least one good kick! The first book of the Princess Diaries series, this is a fantastic story told in a 'Diary' kind of way. I admit I first saw the movies and TOTALLY loved them! Then I came across these books at the World Book Fair (Delhi), read and loved them instantly!

Storyline
This is the story of Amelia Thermopolis (call her Mia, or get on her hate list), a fourteen year old teenager living with her Mom in New York, attending Albert Einstein High School. Her life is already full of teenage woes, what with her dissatisfaction with her looks- her incredible height, long feet, hair that refuse to turn smooth and shine, her mother going out with her Algebra teacher (at which she's already flunking!), dealing with bullies like Lana Weinberger (cheerleader) and other similar stuff. Then one day her Dad (who lives in Genovia) comes up to "talk" to her about something. 

This is when Mia comes to know that she's actually a PRINCESS! Of a small principality, Genovia! Her Dad is the Crown Prince and her Grandmere (French, totally!) a queen! She's dumbstruck and so NOT happy with the news. What's going to happen to her now? Then comes the worse part. Her Grandmere (whom Mia doesn't like very much) would be in town to take her 'Princess Lessons'. She even gets Mia to undergo a makeover!! Mia tries to hide this 'fact' from everyone, including her Best friend, Lilly Moscovitz (someone with an extremely high IQ and who has her own cable access TV show, Lilly tells it like it is). 

BUT her Grandmere isn't going to take things this way. She somehow leaks information to the media about Mia because 'a princess must know how to handle publicity'. This brings another turn of events, when everyone in school starts noticing her and tries to be friends. She gets into an argument with Lilly and they don't talk for a long while. She makes a new friend Tina Hakim Baba, daughter of a rich Arab man and they get along pretty well. She's also taking help in Algebra from Michael, Lilly's brother (whom she secretly likes since forever!). In the midst of all this, she gets invited to the annual Cultural Diversity Dance by none other than the most popular guy in School, Josh Ritcher (a jock, and according to me, a total jerk too). 

It is at the dance that she comes to know that Josh is only trying to get publicity for himself, and this is when Lilly comes up to her aid. They become best friends again! The book ends with Mia and her family, peacefully watching a rare sunset sight in New York and envisioning the future. What will it be like? Mia will be trained to rule a small country!

What's special
Everything??? The best part is that it's so unique! Pure 'Meg Cabot' style- conversational, funny and absolutely wonderful; written in a diary format, so that the readers feel that it's Mia's personal diary that they're reading. The story emanates a sense of being connected, with the book, with Mia and her life. It talks of friendship, of the quarrels and misunderstandings that generally happen, of love, of happiness and family. Meaningful and enjoyable. :)



Monday, December 5, 2011

Pink or Black

Written by: Tishaa Khosla
Price: Rs. 140
Publisher: Rupa & Co. 

Now, the thing that made me search for this book is the author herself. I read about this debutante writer and her book in HT City and was amazed to know that she's just eighteen! The same age I was about that time! Incentive enough to get up, search and read this chick lit novel asap! I wouldn't say I wasn't happy with it; a book by a teenager! I was greatly inspired. 

Storyline
The book contains tit bits from the author's personal diary at school (Lawrence School, Sanawar), and her experiences- good, funny, embarrassing and weird- all compiled into a story of a young girl Tiana, who's set on a quest to "find" herself. Tiana is in a boarding school and as she progresses into high school, becomes a part of the 'cool gang'. The story revolves around Tiana's gang and the typical issues that make teenage life as it is, filled with havoc, fights, tensions over friends, exams, looks and what not! 

While her friends spend time worrying over how they ought to dress up for parties, Tiana's busy thinking about "finding" herself. What created this feeling at all? A teacher once asked all students to say a few lines on themselves and it was a reality shock for Tiana that she was not even aware of things as simple as her favorite food! (stop looking surprised, I bet even you don't know). That got her going and she started with penning down things about herself as and when she understands them. In her quest she comes to know that there is always the power of "choice". She doesn't need to do anything if it isn't what she wants. She refuses to drink at parties, even when she's made fun of; she refuses to have to go around with a guy just because every girl around is going. 

The story goes on in a similar fashion, with instances from her life at boarding school, at home and with her gang (Leila, her best friend; Karam, Leila's brother; Sid, Tiana's brother; Bella, Tiana's friend; Veer, Bella's boyfriend who creates misunderstandings between Bella and Tiana). The turning point comes when Tiana consciously exercises the power of "choice". At a night time party, she again refuses to get drunk, unlike her friends. She is uncomfortable when it's time to go- the driver is drunk, and everyone else is too! Her intuition overpowers and she decides NOT to get into that car and calls up her brother, asking him to pick her up.

As the others drive away, Tiana hears a loud screech of tyres and horrified, watches as the car with the friends she loves, starts rolling over and ends up completely smashed! A typical case of drunken driving. The incident leaves Tiana shocked and in bed for many days. Though all her friends survived the crash, they were badly injured. A learning lesson for everyone, especially Tiana, who knows she was right. It's your choice that matters.

What's special
The simple way it speaks of the incidents, the dialogues, all are realistic; something that almost every teen would be able to relate to. The message it gives is so strong- that of individuality and personal choices, of believing in yourself and following your heart. The ending message was my favorite- Tiana is happy about everything, but the only thing that's bothering her is the confusion between two colors, which one should be her 'favorite'? Pink or Black? She likes both of them! 

Her mother answers her- "That is because our favorite colors have something to do with our personalities too. Pink is just one side of your personality, the side which loves life and wants to live it happily. Black is the other side of you, the stronger side which gives you hope and strength to see you through rough patches. There are so many beautiful colors, why choose only one as your favorite?".   
Isn't that a "woww" answer? I could totally feel what she meant! Pink and Black are my favorites too! :D

Recommended for teens who want inspiration from the author, and for those looking for an enjoyable light read. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Star of Kazan

Written by: Eva Ibbotson
Price: Rs. 299
Publisher: Macmillan UK

One of my absolute favorites!!! A perfect blend of exceptional story telling, relationships, children's view of the world, knowledge and emotions! This was the book that ignited my love for Eva Ibbotson, a famed author for writings for children.

Storyline
The story is set in the beautiful city of Vienna in Austria, which is very well known for music (Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Strauss, all have lived and composed there!!), the Spanish Riding School and the Prater (a ground famous for the then world's largest giant wheel). 
In a cozy home lived three professors, two brothers and a sister, unmarried and being taken care of by two women, Ellie and Sigrid. These two women find an abandoned baby girl in a church in Dorfelspitze, on the outskirts of Vienna. The circumstances make them keep the baby and they bring her up as their own child.

Annika (I just love this name!) lived in the servant's quarters in the professors' home along with Ellie and Sigrid. She was twelve but extremely talented and loved by all. She could cook like a professional, thanks to the women's training. People in the square loved her, she had great friends and she dreamed- a lot. Dreamed about her mother, visualizing a royal blood woman claiming to be her mother. Until one day it happens.

Annika had striked a wonderful friendship with an extremely old woman in the opposite house, whose family didn't care for her. She had shared her life story with Annika and left her devastated when she passed away, but also left her old trunk to her in her will, of which Annika didn't have a clue.

Anyway, one day she finds an autocratic woman, dressed royally, asking for her. Amidst tears of happiness and parting, Annika leaves with her Mother for her new home- a grand castle-like home, Spittal in Germany. However, Annika finds it weird when valuable stuff is taken out regularly and doesn't come back. She's not allowed to clean or enter the kitchen (she's a von Tannenberg, after all), but she somehow manages it and makes friends (read Zed, a stable boy). It's a twisted story that follows, with surprising turns and events that will definitely race up your heartbeat! What does Annika's mother want? She sent her away to a prison-kind of school, with no way to contact anyone. 

She is however rescued by her friends from Vienna, who suspected something wrong. They come to know that the trunk that the old lady left Annika had REAL gems and jewelry. (The Star of Kazan is one famous jewel). What follows is a series of events that leave us breathless, as the mystery gradually unfolds and Annika is in danger! She was 'adopted' because the Von Tannenbergs knew of her recent 'inheritance'. They were going bankrupt and their legacy was in danger unless they pay back all their dues, so they decided to use a foundling and claimed to be her family. It all ends happily though. Annika's back to her real home, she has the possession of her treasure, which she uses to help her friends financially, the wicked lady's caught and imprisoned.

What's special
The whole book, I would say. Perfect descriptions of beautiful places, so that the reader is actually transferred to the places and can really "experience" the stuff that happens.  The reader gets infused with the ancient world and life in Vienna, the grandiose and royal descriptions and the wonderful life! The basis on which the story's made is so touching and heart rending that you might even have real tears in your eyes. It gives out the message of the pureness of a child's heart, of real friendships, of love, care and braveness in the face of adversity. Lovely and a must-must recommended book to the young people!

You MUST read this at least once! You'll definitely love it! :D


Saturday, December 3, 2011

ABANDON

Written ByMeg Cabot
Price: Rs. 299
Publisher: Pan Macmillan

A fantastic book for teens by Meg Cabot! She's an awesome writer and one great inspiration for me! She never fails to impress her readers and it’s no surprise that her latest book ‘Abandon’ from The Abandon Trilogy is pretty impressive.

Storyline
If you loved Twilight and like reading eccentric plots, chances are, you’ll love this. It’s another young adult book, with a teenage female protagonist yet again. Based on the famous Greek myth of Hades and Persephone (complete with mythical characters) , this is a story of seventeen year old Pierce Oliviera who knows what it is like to die. Yes, she’s ‘been there, done that’. Her NDE (near-death-experience) turns her life around. After she returns back, people pester her to describe what she saw when she was knocked out- since most people who have NDEs say they saw a white light; but not Pierce. While she struggles to ramble off a satisfactory explanation, she is hiding an uneasy truth- what she actually witnessed, or rather, experienced, was nowhere near a white light! She had been to the other side of the world- the Underworld. And it was not at all pleasant. (Cool description of the place though. Completely picturesque)


After the “incident” her grades plummet downwards and her mother decides to move to her homeland- the Floridian island, Isla Huesos. A new life and a new place do nothing to reduce her uneasiness. She knows she will be looked for after her escape, and sure enough, HE finds her. Read on as John Hayden, the ‘death-man’ from the Underworld traces Pierce – as a savior and captor, both! What follows is a breath-taking series of events as Pierce constantly finds herself in dangerous situations and John appearing to protect her each time. (It's spooky if you wonder HOW he finds her every time??)

While his enemies, the Furies, are bent on taking their revenge on John, Pierce stands in danger.
The thing I liked the most was the portrayal of Pierce as a strong-willed energetic teen, who has the guts to take on life as it comes. The book's filled with the mystery of the death-man John, the old man at the cemetery and Pierce’s Grandma, who loves knitting scarves for her granddaughter; scarves that play a role in her experiencing the NDE! Gosh! Meg Cabot always gives a totally different picture of Grandmas!

The Grandma's sinister plan hadn’t worked with Pierce’s mom and it would have to be Pierce who will complete the task. This is a gripping tale of the Underworld and the mortal world woven closely together. Follow Pierce as she tries to struggle with the dangers of the Furies and John trying to protect her. It isn’t as simple a story as it seems. More dangers are lurking and it won’t be long before the Furies get free and take charge over John and the island of Isla Huesos.

What's different
The unique characteristic is the way it’s been told – full of suspense, taking the reader back and forth, as the mystery gradually unravels and truth and realization spurts out. I found the style of writing slightly different from her other books; this book keeps you on tenterhooks, trying to understand what’s happening while half of the story is untold. It keeps you guessing until you reach the end! 

I found myself pondering over these questions- What eventually will happen? Will Pierce fall into the Underworld yet again? Or will she, with sheer will power, intellect and strength and maybe John’s support, make everything work for her? The answer lies in ‘Underworld’, the second book in the trilogy, due to release this year.

If you are patient enough to wait for the truth till the end and enjoy paranormal stuff, you should happily pick up this book! And like me, wait for the next one!!!




Friday, December 2, 2011

Welcome.

Well, hello. This is me. Ashna Banga, 20, a solid bookworm. I absolutely LOVE fiction (fantasy, mystery, emotional, magic). I will attribute my characteristic imagination with the books I've had a chance to read. I've been reading ever since I could and will continue forever! It's what defines me and is totally the thing that keeps me sane in this mad world!
I will be trying to post my reviews on the books I've read. However, don't be surprised if you don't find a recently released book's review here. You might find my views on classics, in fact! I read what I want to, famous or not, recent or not.

I only hope I will be able to do justice to this blog by writing stuff here that would be useful. :)

Let's BEGIN! :)

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