Monday, June 10, 2013

Hold Still by Nina LaCour...

Nina LaCour
Title: Hold Still
Author: Nina LaCour
Published: 2009 by Dutton Books 
Pages: 229
My Rating: 5/5!

Going through that particular shelf in the library where I usually find the most amazing books, I came across the name 'Nina LaCour' and was immediately reminded of some other book that I'd come across by the same author, The Disenchantments. I knew for a fact that it was a good book and I guessed this might be worthwhile as well. I'm so so so glad I picked it up! (You know, without wanting to sound bashful, but I think I've got one among the best books-chosen-from-the-library choices). Just for the record, I've added this book to my wishlist. :P

Goodreads Blurb!
An arresting story about starting over after a friend’s suicide, from a breakthrough new voice in YA fiction. dear caitlin, there are so many things that i want so badly to tell you but i just can’t.

Devastating, hopeful, hopeless, playful . . . in words and illustrations, Ingrid left behind a painful farewell in her journal for Caitlin. Now Caitlin is left alone, by loss and by choice, struggling to find renewed hope in the wake of her best friend’s suicide. With the help of family and newfound friends, Caitlin will encounter first love, broaden her horizons, and start to realize that true friendship didn’t die with Ingrid. And the journal which once seemed only to chronicle Ingrid’s descent into depression, becomes the tool by which Caitlin once again reaches out to all those who loved Ingrid—and Caitlin herself.

My Thoughts!
Hold Still is an immensely profound book. It is Caitlin's story of dealing with her best friend Ingrid's suicide. The story starts off with Caitlin spending the summer roaming forests with her mother, who's trying hard to help her daughter deal with the trauma. The trips make hardly any difference and before she knows it, she's back in school. It's hard for Caitlin to start a new year at school without her best friend, especially their favorite class, photography. Ingrid had a great talent when it came to photography and both of them would spend their weekends on photographing experiments. Their photography teacher Miss Delani is like a role model for the girls, but when Caitlin returns without Ingrid, why does Ms. Delani ignore her? It's an excruciating journey, Caitlin's transition and dealing with the depressing effects of Ingrid's suicide, but it's not a depressing novel. Everything has been described so beautifully and the emotions in such vivid details that you can't help feeling those same emotions like the characters do.

There isn't anything that seemed unnecessary. The book has detailed descriptions, but it very cleverly sticks to only describing those parts that are central to the story and the rest are either left out or written in such a way that the reader imagines them. That's one of the many things I liked best. It's mostly about Caitlin, her feelings and emotions and actions, written in such a way that you'd feel like you're reading something right off her own mind. It's not something that isn't yours, or someone else's story. It was just beautiful. Gradually, Caitlin makes friends with Dylan, the new girl at school and with Taylor, who likes her, two people central to her transition from being a depressed girl to someone nearing normalcy. I just am not able to describe exactly how it is, because with these words, it seems like a sad book, but it's not. With the minute detailing, it is very close to reality and if you've lost someone close, you'd be able to understand and relate to it better. And if you haven't, you'd understand what the emotional pain and dilemma is like. It isn't even exaggerated in any way.

For example, it tells how Caitlin feels when she finds Ingrid's journal under her bed. It was meant for her to find it. She doesn't know how to feel about it, or how to act. She's scared and upset and decides to go through it one page a day. She discovers things about Ingrid she didn't know. She's already mourning, missing her, in such emotional pain that it's almost physical, her parents trying hard to bring her to do things to take her mind off the sadness. Hold Still is like a journey through almost a year, how Caitlin gradually starts feeling more like normal. There's still a void, but she does a lot of things that help her calm down. Things she feels are right, for her and for Ingrid. Photography for one. After she feels betrayed by Ms. Delani, she deliberately does poorly in her assignments. In the end, the teacher sorts it out, because she herself was going through an emotional dilemma. Caitlin heals herself through photography, with the help of her new friends, her parents, music and visiting their (Caitlin and Ingrid's) secret hideout and favorite place, an old theater that's soon to be demolished.

She does things that make her feel like Ingrid deserves those and they are purely soul-lifting. "Painfully beautiful" are the words I've used to best describe the book. It was also inspirational for me because with those amazing descriptions, you could totally feel and look at the photographs they clicked, just with the words that were used to describe them. I used to enjoy photography and spent hours at a stretch working on those and the book moved me enough that I picked it up again. :D The writing style is amazing, engaging and feels completely honest. I liked the way the characters were described, how they come and go, it all seems natural and like I mentioned before, nothing's repetitive or unnecessary. It's just beautiful. ^_^

'People take one another for granted. How amazing it is to find someone who wants to hear about all the things that go in your head. You just think that things will stay the way they are. You never look up, in a moment that feels like every other moment of your life and think, "Soon this will be over." But I understand more now. About how life works.'

'It was the moment I realized what music can do to people, how it can make you hurt and feel so good all at once. I just stood there with my eyes closed, feeling the movement of all the people around me, the vibration of the bass rise through the floor to my throat, while something inside me broke and came back together'.

'Sometimes inspiration strikes; other times you have to hunt it down.'

'I think that people who make judgments about other people they don't even know are shallow, and people who start rumors are shallow, and I really don't care what shallow people say about me.' 

'It isn't the happy ending that Ingrid and I have dreamed up, but it's all a part of what I'm working through. The way life changes. The way people and things disappear. Then appear, unexpectedly, and hold you close.'

PS- I don't think I've done the book justice with this review, because I'm still not sure how to express what I really felt. It's a beautiful book and let's just say you're missing something if you don't read it! 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Wanted Man by Lee Child...

Lee Child
Title: A Wanted Man (Jack Reacher # 17)
Author: Lee Child
Genre: Thriller/Mystery/Crime
Published: 2012 by Bantam Press (Random House)
Pages: 427
Price: Rs. 249 at Flipkart
My Rating: 4/5!

The latest Jack Reacher thriller, A Wanted Man is set in the suburbs, around Kansas City, Denver, Iowa and the surrounding places. It's a very different kind of a mystery for me, as far as a Jack Reacher thrillers are concerned. It's not that I've read many of those, but still. 

Goodreads Blurb!
Reacher is back! A Wanted Man is a new masterpiece of suspense—from #1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Child.

Four people in a car, hoping to make Chicago by morning. One man driving, eyes on the road. Another man next to him, telling stories that don’t add up. A woman in the back, silent and worried. And next to her, a huge man with a broken nose, hitching a ride east to Virginia.

An hour behind them, a man lies stabbed to death in an old pumping station. He was seen going in with two others, but he never came out. He has been executed, the knife work professional, the killers vanished. Within minutes, the police are notified. Within hours, the FBI descends, laying claim to the victim without ever saying who he was or why he was there.

All Reacher wanted was a ride to Virginia. All he did was stick out his thumb. But he soon discovers he has hitched more than a ride. He has tied himself to a massive conspiracy that makes him a threat—to both sides at once.

In Lee Child’s white-hot thriller, nothing is what it seems, and nobody is telling the truth. As the tension rises, the twists come fast and furious, keeping readers guessing and gasping until the explosive finale.

My Thoughts!
A Wanted Man is a unique thriller. It starts by Jack Reacher trying to hitch rides to go to his destination- Virginia. Thanks to his stoical build and a freshly busted nose, he looks quite intimidating to the normal eye and it's a long time before he gets a ride. Things turn starkly scary, in the most mildest sense because the reader as well as the characters (victims) feel the build-up to something sinister, while Jack's in the car. He was offered the ride by three people in similar outfits, probably corporate people going for business related work. Two men and a woman who's stubbornly quiet. It's a road-based story for the most part, as the events happen during the road trip. Reacher figures out that the woman is a victim and it's her car and it's a carjack kind of a situation! They try to figure things out, but the events take an unlikely turn.

The whole book is actually quite unpredictable, because towards the end, no one is really what they were in the beginning, all except for Reacher, the poor recently-turned-civilian who seems to find himself stuck at odd spots and in the midst of dangerous crimes during his journeys. There's a sense of betrayal for the reader because once you put in your trust on someone, you realize later on that they're not who they were supposed to be. For a change, this book has no "civilian" involvement. All the good and the bad guys are either high profile police agents (FBI, CIA, and the like) or some sort of organized institution. That made the book different to its counterparts in a lot of ways. Language, for one. And that's a risky part because if readers aren't hooked on to the book already, all the technical language and details might be lost to them and they may lose interest. But considering how it's all explained in the way Reacher's mind works, I guess it'll be alright. 

The writing style is good, like usual. Though once again I found myself getting desperate for longer sentences. Reacher's part is portrayed through his thoughts, the way they form in his mind. And he thinks with a lot of full stops. After every few words. Just like I'm doing. Like this. :P I mean, it's my personal qualm, I'm a sucker for long sentences. But that's just a part of Reacher's character. He focuses on details. Every single one. Actually, that's the best thing I like about him as well. He's such a thorough man that he knows almost exactly what the situation is, or could be and the way it's unraveled in the book, all such details come with almost a minor shock to the reader. Or at least with a small skip of the heartbeat! I'm quite fond of Reacher's skills. He seems to use his brain more than the usual detective guys I've read about and it's almost like psychology. 

Which really makes the whole thing interesting, because the stories end up being psychological warfare, coupled with a few fights-with-guns-and-armor in between. There are some ghastly scenes as well, purely because Reacher describes everything in so much detail. The whole 427 pages cover almost 24 hours (which made me somehow think 'Dan Brown!', but there's no other similarity) and I liked the way it shows the spontaneity with which the authorities spring into action! Whatever time of the day it is! That made me completely "whoa! That's just awesome", because for the most part, the plot is running and full of action. Maybe because of a few days break I took in between, or because I was getting more than enough of driving through countryside roads, I felt like it disconnected in between, when everyone's real identity was revealed and they got together to plot. Or maybe I was suffering from oh-you-betrayed-me syndrome.

Overall, the book is an entertaining and heart-twisting read. I was shocked for a bit towards the end (hint hint: a bullet all of a sudden and a spontaneous death :'( That was OH NOOOO!!) ), but then I remind myself that it's a story and it's okay. (It's not, actually, but we try so hard to convince ourselves, right?). I'd recommend this book to mystery and thriller lovers, fans of Lee Child, and those looking for an intelligent mystery. There's a lot of technical stuff, though. No adult content, unless you count the killings and their bloody details.

Special Agent Julia Sorensen (oh how I loved this character!): "If you tell the truth, you'll not get into any trouble"
Jack Reacher: "You still believe stuff like that?" (Ha! You got it so right. I love you!)

Thankyou Random House publishers for this book! :)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Looking for Alaska by John Green...

John Green
Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Published: 2005 by Harper Collins
Pages: 268
Price: Rs. 299
My Rating: 5/5!

*This could be more of a why-I-loved-this-book, than a structured-review* 
But I'd suggest you still read it. ;)

Looking for Alaska is my second John Green book, after The Fault in Our Stars, which I inevitably loved. I had a lot of expectations from Looking for Alaska but I actually didn't know much about what the story is going to be like. I guess that's what made me love the book more than I thought it would, because it was totally a "first-time-experience" while reading, not knowing anything in advance what the story would be like. I'd had this book on my TBR just because I loved TFIOS and a couple of friends whose book judgement I trust blindly, had tagged the book under "hugely recommended reads". It (reading the book) was a profound journey, filled with moments of anxiousness, irritation, happiness, smiles, confusion, heartbreak and learning. This book is one I'm going to keep with me at all times, to be opened up to any random page and start reading whenever I feel like it. 

Goodreads blurb!
Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (Fran├žois Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

My Thoughts!
When the book began, I was confused. And I'm admitting to a very funny (and embarrassing) thing over here: I mentioned how I was clueless about the story? I hadn't even read the blurb properly and had no idea about the characters. So..... well, I took Miles to be a female character. Okay, laugh all you want. Maybe I missed a 'she' or 'her', or maybe it wasn't there at all, but until the first mention of Miles being a 'he' was made (which was maybe 4 pages into the book), I was imagining him as a her. Anyway, so I read those pages over again once I realized the blunder, and read it again with more enthusiasm, because it's been ages since I last read a book with a boy as a protagonist (do you think girls are more used as the protagonist, instead of boys?), that too a boy who wants to live his life inspired by a famous person's last words! How attractive! ;) 

So yeah, I did like Miles. Maybe because I have this hunger for smart kids in books. I love them, they're the kind I wish I had for real in my life as friends (not that my friends aren't smart. I would just love these bookish ones too!). Then came Chip, Miles's roommate who I thought was a bossy character, but he seemed like pretty much a normal guy later on. I really liked Takumi's character, especially in the fox-hat scene! Lara seemed more of a person who's kind of liked by all and you can't help having her around and you automatically include her in your plans and activities and talks. Finally, coming to Alaska. Personally I'm a decent kid. No crass language (okay, sometimes I do use them, but mostly in writing about something that hugely infuriates me), no lies, no crossing limits kind of a person. But I always sensed this other side of me lying in the shadows, dormant. I know even now, given a certain level of freedom, that part could wake up and the desire and hunger for risk and adventure would take over. That's what Alaska was to me. I wondered if I could be the "other side of me", it could come close to Alaska. 

Maybe I wouldn't be too callous with my words and language (frankly, those were the first things that made me think 'This is Alaska? I don't like her character one bit!'). But then I do love books and I wished I could be defined as "the girl who loves books" (Oh wait. Maybe I already am! :D ), but still! I gradually grew fond of Alaska in the most non-traditional sense. I didn't like a lot of things she did, but I still liked her boldness, intellect, randomness, mysteriousness and the way she was loved. One of the most striking things about this book for me was the realization that people are loved so much and cared for, by those who.. well, those who love them. I mean, this kind of love makes me envious. Though I'm a strictly going-by-the-rules kind of a girl, I enjoyed the pranks these guys played. 

I think the "Before" and "After" thing was unique and that is something that adds a lot of value to the book. It gives off a sense of mystery and if you're a clueless-about-the-story-beforehand kind of a reader, you'd be breezing through the story happily until you get to the "bomb" part of the book, which just gave me a minor heart attack. I took a two day break before continuing. The best, best, best thing about this book was how so many things are metaphors. I love metaphors, how they give a sense that you're not alone, that something equivalent to your situation exists somewhere parallel. It's awesome and I loved how this book had the major parts of the story as a metaphor. I loved the reality aspect of the book. That it's not necessary to always have a happy ending, and you can't always have the answers you look for. 

I really love this book because it made me like it despite having so many characteristics I usually don't like in a book. It's like, something that challenged my mindset and won! :D I don't remember if I cried anywhere in the book, maybe in the end reading Pudge's (Miles's nickname) answer to the question, "How will we get out of the labyrinth of suffering?" I think I found this one more profound and moving than TFIOS. Although I like a lot of lines and quotes from the book, I'd still mention a couple of my favorites!

“We are all going, I thought, and it applies to turtles and turtlenecks, Alaska the girl and Alaska the place, because nothing can last, not even the earth itself. The Buddha said that suffering was caused by desire, we'd learned, and that the cessation of desire meant the cessation of suffering. When you stopped wishing things wouldn't fall apart, you'd stop suffering when they did.”

"That is the fear: I have lost something important, and I cannot find it, and I need it. It is fear like if someone lost his glasses and went to the glasses store and they told him that the world had run out of glasses and he would just have to do without.” -- I kind of understood what this means exactly. :D

Recommended for: Everyone. Just be aware that it's considered John Green's "dirtiest" book. It's a book worth reading a million times, and can be best read if you don't read summaries and reviews beforehand.

PS- People living in Delhi! Please fill out the survey form in the tab 'World Book Fair Survey', if you still haven't. Please! It's for my summer internship project.!


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