Monday, February 25, 2013

Review: The Selection

Title: The Selection (The Selection # 1)
Author: Kiera Cass
Published: April 2012 by HarperTeen
Pages: 327
Find it at: Flipkart / Amazon
My Rating: 5/5!

*Warning: May contain spoilers!*

Goodreads blurb!
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself--and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

My Thoughts!
*Swooning* and *Sighing* all through was practically the most of what I did while reading this book, which I did non-stop. Thank goodness I chose a Saturday evening and an entire Sunday for that, or else it’d have killed me to wait to read while I trudged around in classes in college. I had been quite fascinated with the beautiful cover, all the while I saw the book coming up last year, reading reviews and the like. You know how much just a little, I’m biased towards going for books by their covers. And pretty covers almost always win! ;) So I picked up The Selection yesterday for the weekend read (even though I still have tons of work for college, but then, an amazing book is a book is a book! :D ) and managed to sleep through last night and continued in the morning. For starters, I didn’t want to stop reading, or rather, it didn’t let me. It’s a light book, yet there’s something weighty about the story so that it’s not something you can discard from your mind easily. At least for me, it’s going to stay on for a while at least.

It’s a dystopian world where there are strict rules and the Nation if Iléa, with its somewhat quirky rules and governance has the population divided into castes, right from Ones through Eights, the Ones being royalty, Twos and Threes being close enough to luxury and so on, with Fives consisting of artists, Sixes having helpers, Eights being the poorest. People are classified based on their birth and they’re expected to stick to what they’re supposed to do. Mostly no one ever marries someone who’s a caste below, which is where the trouble arises for America Singer, the protagonist of this almost-fairy tale. America, a musician and singer-performer, loves Aspen, who’s a Six and by fear of having being caught and put into jail for this, the relationship is a secret. She totally wants to marry him, but gets caught up in ‘The Selection’. The Prince of Iléa, Maxon, is ready to choose a wife from the Daughters of Iléa and America is eligible. Her mom makes her fill out the form and for the final 35 candidates, she gets chosen.

Now America’s status naturally rises to a Three and with the compensation the palace is providing her family, she is no longer worried about their hard survival, almost saving up for food. Now, apart from the cover, I’m also in love with royalty and naturally inclined to like stories that talk about plush palaces, kings and queens and their lifestyles in  humorous detail, even more from the point of view of a common girl like me, which was something that happened in this book via America. Needless to say, I loved it! I was initially sceptic about the concept of the Prince looking for a wife this way, but turns out the Prince is confused too! Maxon is actually quite adorable, if I have to describe him. Or maybe I’d also use the word “cute”. He’s such a gentleman and caring and I love the chemistry between him and America.

This is where I was confused beyond repair! Who would be right for America? Maxon or Aspen? While I liked Maxon, I wished he’d stay a friend to America (like he was being) and the love interest should be Aspen, because of the simple fact that they had been together for two years and Aspen was hard working. As the story progressed, I wondered if Maxon wouldn’t be better, but then again I went back to Aspen. I’m still not sure but I think I’d be Team Aspen, as much as I love Maxon. The book was balanced, I believe. Though the main theme was romance, but it was still a dystopian world and the related themes of caste, poverty, rebel attacks on the palace, war, etc were neatly mentioned. Not a single thing went over the board and the whole book was pretty much clean (except for the occasional kiss). Even though I love details but if there had been more to this, I wouldn’t have liked it, maybe. It seemed just perfect, giving the sense of mystery and curiosity, owing to the things that were left unsaid.

These things aside, I quite enjoyed the training and the initial parts of The Selection, when the girls stayed in the palace, were put into pretty dresses and stuff. Told you, I absolutely love royalty! I love America’s character too. She’s strong, talented, loving, smart and honest. If I hadn’t been Team Aspen, maybe I’d have loved America to be the Selected One. Right now I wish it would be Marlee, but all this remains to be seen in the next books! The ending has left me wanting for the rest of the story, but I have to admit, it did end on a satisfactory note, what with it being the first in the series and thus, having a cliff-hanger-type ending. The next book, TheElite, will be out in April 2013 and I just cannot wait enough for it.

Recommended for: Young Adult readers, those looking for a nice romance story, dystopian lovers, and girls who love princess-stuff! ;)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Review: From the Eye of My Mind...

T.G.C. Prasad
Title: From the Eye of my Mind
Author: T.G.C. Prasad
Published: 2012 by Random House India
Pages: 303
Find it at: Flipkart / Amazon
My Rating: 5/5!

I had picked up this book to read a couple of days ago and managed to read about 50 pages in two days, that too in between classes, especially during the boring ones (thank you super hectic college!). I planned to read it more on Sunday, it seemed quite interesting. Now it's still Sunday and I have finished the book two hours ago! From the Eye of My Mind is one book that you don't want to stop reading, once you begin. It has that funny sense of getting a reader hooked, where you don't find anything heavy in the book, but it's just so 'pure' and sweet that you just can't stop. I have no other way of explaining it. 

Blurb from the book's cover!
I am eighteen years old and five feet six inches tall. I have big eyes, long fingers, and I am healthy because I eat my food on time. I also have a mole on my left palm. Grandma says, 'Mole on the palm is bad luck.' Eric Hoffer, an American writer, said, 'A great man's greatest good luck is to die at the right time.' I wondered what a right time to die was? I feel I have an eye in my mind and I close it when I am with strangers.

Mallika is autistic and lives in a strangely whimsical yet ordered world of her own. When her mother breaks the news to her that her beloved elder brother Ananth is going to get married, Mallika's fragile world collapses. How will she deal with a stranger in her home and life? Told in an inimitable style, From the Eye of My Mind is a charming tale of acceptance, love and a beautiful mind.

My Thoughts!
Before I begin talking about the awesomeness of this book, I'd tell you in advance that I'd be using the word 'beautiful' a lot. In this review, for this book, beautiful means, 'something that makes you feel all gooey inside, in a remarkably nice way, especially when you read about the innocent protagonist and look at the world from her eye'. Now, the book is essentially written in first person, from the point of view of Mallika, the eighteen year old protagonist who's an autistic, a special child. That's the first thing that's remarkable about this book. It easily makes you forget the world you live in and you get to 'experience' life as an autistic kid. (To read about autism on Wikipedia, click here). Mallika has a remarkable ability to remember facts and trivia, though she may not understand everything. Social interaction is something she shies away from and prefers to be 'in my mind' when she wants to. She loves routine and gets upset when anything from her routine is out of the regular way. More than all that, she's deeply loved and cared for by her family and is absolutely adorable.

I really grew fond of Mallika. Maybe it was the first person thing, like we're reading something she wrote, like a cute story, or maybe because I loved the fact that her family was so caring. I mean, I absolutely adore the way her parents and her brother and even their housekeeper Subbu and Mallika's friend Swati are so comfortable for her. It could also be because of the pure innocence and curiosity that she has. It's just so heartwarming and beautiful. I remember somewhere someone said/wrote about how children teach us a lot and special children, even more. I suppose it's true. As the book's been written as if we're inside Mallika's mind, there is almost everything that she thinks, in the precise way. It's also filled with trivia and facts and information that Mallika's talking about. I don't know. I just am very fond of her! ^_^

If we talk about the storyline, it's quite simple. There is a family of four, Ma, Pa, Ananth, Mallika. They have a housekeeper called Subbu who has helped raise the kids and is a part of the family. Mallika doesn't like strangers and prefers being only with her family and Subbu, her friend Swati and Sister Alka, her teacher at her school. When Ma tells her that Ananth is going to get married, Mallika's upset because she cannot bear the idea of having a stranger at her home. The story goes on till the time Ananth's married and a little bit after that. It's mostly about how such a development in her family can make Mallika upset and confused and out of sync. But over time and with everyone's help and efforts, she makes it through the marriage, though she hasn't yet accepted Ananth's wife completely. I think I liked almost all characters, with the minute exception of Subbu (just because of her antics, her bus at the kerb thing, and being a BBC) and Julie, Ananth's wife. She seemed fine in the beginning, but I disliked her after she started staying with them, but then kind of went 'she's okay' towards the end. 

I really liked the simplicity of it all. It's like reading Mallika's diary, which makes it deeply intriguing, because that's how Mallika is. That's why I personally am so fond of such books. They're emotional, and they give you a sense of someone else's life in such an amazing manner so that you automatically turn introspective and learn to think in a broader light. Initially you may find it exasperating, because you're not aware of a special child's way of thinking, but once you get acquainted, it's impossible to not like it. There weren't really any "quotable quotes" as such, but I liked many manyyy lines in the book, some of which I'm sharing and which would give you an idea of how Mallika thought:

"I found it very funny. When people want to eat something, they shouldn't ask for it. When people are offered something, even though they would like to have it, they refuse. Then you are supposed to ask them a few more times and persuade them to take it. In a way, it is better not to be social. Why do people invent such social customs that make life so complicated?

When I feel like eating something, I ask. When somebody offers me something which I want, I take it. I must write my own social rule book. It will be about all the simple things I could follow and all the tougher ones that I would leave for the world to follow. There will be two paths- the easy one and the hard one. Then people will have a choice. As of now, there doesn't seem to be a choice. All of us are expected to follow one rule book. My rule book will have simple rules- 'Ask for what you want' and 'Say no to what you don't want'. Won't the world be a much simpler place when you say what you mean?"

There were quite a few grammar errors in the book, which I first mistook for a misprint, but as I noticed a few more, I realized maybe it's done intentionally, what with it being written as Mallika's describing it. I'm not sure, though. 

Recommended for: Everyone: Young Adult, Teens, readers looking for a witty, emotional read and those who might just want to know more about autism. 

Thank you Random House publishers for this book!


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