The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd

Book cover of The Vast Field of OrdinaryThe Vast Fields of Ordinary
by Nick Burd
Published on: May 1st, 2009

From Goodreads:

It’s Dade’s last summer at home, and things are pretty hopeless. He has a crappy job, a “boyfriend” who treats him like dirt, and his parents’ marriage is falling apart. So when he meets and falls in love with the mysterious Alex Kincaid, Dade feels like he’s finally experiencing true happiness. But when a tragedy shatters the final days of summer, he realizes he must face his future and learn how to move forward from his past.

My thoughts:

I read this book a year back. Yup. Long, long time. But just couldn’t get around to talking about it because I tend to lose my coherence when I end up liking something (which, I understand, is a terrible thing to admit on a book blog but whattodo!).

This book is one of my brother’s favourites (the kind that he re-read so much that he actually lost count of how many times he has read it) and he gave it to me at this time last year when I had no idea what I was doing with my life and made the impulsive decision to shift from Calcutta to New Delhi again.

Anyway. I moved to ND almost empty-handed (in terms of books, really) save for this. And thank god for that. What an ache-y, sensitive, beautiful book this was.

I believe the true test of a book lies in holding your attention and making you feel, really feel, when you’ve shut yourself from the rest of the world and kind of hit rock bottom. Everything stops mattering at this point. And if a book ends up mattering, well, you can guess how good a book that must be,

This is an extremely well-written book, exploring that time between high school and college when everything around you is changing and you are not quite sure if you want it to or maybe you’re just torn between wanting it to and not wanting it to. Dade is at that point, wanting to leave high school and his town behind but not quite sure how to, especially when he falls in love with the strangely alluring Alex Kincaid (fictional crush alert, yup). This is a book about relationships, complicated relationships – between divorcing parents, between parents and children with secret lives, between lovers and ex lovers, and it’s all very sensitively handled. It’s a book with a big heart and it’s essentially a bite of a-few-days-in-the-life-of-a-gay-teenager. And it’s done beautifully. And that makes all the difference.

I don’t know if Nick Burd has written any more books. I haven’t come across any more but I wish he does, because I would read it. He is immensely talented. It takes a deft hand to make the everyday so beautiful and significant.

Revenge Wears Prada

Revenge Wears Prada
by Lauren Weisberger
Release date: June 4, ’13
From Goodreads:

The sequel you’ve been waiting for: the follow-up to the sensational #1 bestseller The Devil Wears Prada.
Almost a decade has passed since Andy Sachs quit the job “a million girls would die for” working for Miranda Priestly at Runway magazine—a dream that turned out to be a nightmare. Andy and Emily, her former nemesis and co-assistant, have since joined forces to start a highend bridal magazine. The Plunge has quickly become required reading for the young and stylish. Now they get to call all the shots: Andy writes and travels to her heart’s content; Emily plans parties and secures advertising like a seasoned pro. Even better, Andy has met the love of her life. Max Harrison, scion of a storied media family, is confident, successful, and drop-dead gorgeous. Their wedding will be splashed across all the society pages as their friends and family gather to toast the glowing couple. Andy Sachs is on top of the world. But karma’s a bitch. The morning of her wedding, Andy can’t shake the past. And when she discovers a secret letter with crushing implications, her wedding-day jitters turn to cold dread. Andy realizes that nothing—not her husband, nor her beloved career—is as it seems. She never suspected that her efforts to build a bright new life would lead her back to the darkness she barely escaped ten years ago—and directly into the path of the devil herself.

A word about the cover: Unlike the hardcover, the paperback keeps with the shoe theme of all of Weisberger’s books. If not for the trident heel or the fact that this a Devil Wears Prada sequel, I’d probably glance over.

My thoughts:

Okay, so let me be clear: I haven’t read the Devil Wears Prada. I’ve read Weisberger’s other books, but not Devil. I’ve watched the film uncountable times but yes, I realise that there were things in the film that were different from the book, so I’m not going to draw comparisons between Revenge and Devil.

Let’s treat Revenge as a standalone. where I know the back stories of the characters. Happens, right?

By itself, I thought Revenge was entertaining. I’m not exactly a fan of Weisberger’s but Revenge had my attention throughout. Oh, of course, it starts off with Andy being crazy, making a mountain out of a molehill, that really makes no sense at all, but maybe, just maybe, that could have been a foreshadowing of things to come.

So it’s been 10 years since Andy left the ‘Runway’ and instead of writing for The New Yorker or something, she runs a super-successful luxury wedding magazine, along with – surprise!surprise! – Emily, Miranda Priestly’s former first assistant and you know, just the girl who couldn’t stand Andy earlier. Yes, 10 years do change a lot of things. Which also means that there’s a new guy (husband, actually), Max, who is as close to perfect as men can be. Except, of course, for the things Andy find right before her wedding that send her taking a ride across loonville through the first half of the book. I’m thinking Andy may just be a little too paranoid than necessary and hence the pointless jumping-to-conclusions take up the early part of the book. I mean, she had a pretty good domestic and professional life otherwise.

Until, of course, Miranda comes into the picture. Well, she isn’t physically present much of the time that she was in Devil, but she’s here alright. In Andy’s nightmares and hey, the magazine world. There are actually more moments of perfect domesticity than Miranda-tornadoes. It was pacey. At least till the last 30% of the book when almost everything takes a whole hey-i-didn’t-think-that-would-happen turn.

So all of Goodreads has been exploding with how Weisberger completely dashes the ‘American Dream’ in this book. I’m not sure that’s a valid criticism. So, yes, the end picture isn’t pretty, but hey, life isn’t always rosy, is it? There’s hope and that’s important. Revenge, too, has hope. If you plan on going into this book with a critical eye, you won’t be doing yourself any favours. Read it like you would treat a summer fling. It’s fun. Revenges always are.

Have you read either Devil or Revenge?

 

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl
by Rainbow Rowell

Release date: September 10th, ’13
From Goodreads:

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love. 
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .
But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
Or will she just go on living inside somebody else’s fiction?

A word about the cover:  I think it’s perfectly adorable. I love illustrated covers and this one is so pretty and sparse and clean it totally gets you into the mood. And I LOVE the blue! Also, the font. And the thought bubbles. And the lanky guy and the nerd girl. It IS perfect.

My Thoughts:

Guys, this book made me feel so good, I can’t even tell you how much. Even thinking about it makes me smile, such heartwarming goodness it was.

When I saw this one up on netgalley I just knew I had to read this. I mean, fandoms (Harry Potter/Supernatural/Game of Thrones, ftw!) and fangirls – such nerdsomeness – what could get better than that?

The first thing for which Fangirl won brownie points from me was the setting. Guys, guys, guys, this book is set in college and I LOVE that. Why aren’t there more books set in college that don’t become just this huge flesh-feasts? Not that there’s anything wrong with that but you know, there’s more to college than just sex. Like, um, classes and roomies and friends-who-aren’t-potential-love-interests and maybe, sometimes, fandoms. (Okay, so maybe I’m being biased about the last thing, but you get what I mean, right? You need things like Harry-Potter-talk because HOW DO YOU SURVIVE OTHERWISE. Okay. I’m going to shut up right now)

My favourite thing about this book was the characters and their relationship with each other, which altered and wavered and stabilised and developed in so many ways throughout the course of the novel. That’s the other thing I really liked about this. The pace. No quick-mode, no insta-anything, nothing overtly dramatic. Fangirl was a leisure ride with things taking place at a realistic pace and in such a believably real-life way.

The characters were so well-rounded. Cath and Wren. Levi. Nick. Rowan (damn, I loved Rowan!). Cath and Wren’s dad! It’s really nice to read books where the parents matter, for a change, and where they aren’t the devil incarnate. And it’s even nicer when the dad is an adorable creative genius.

So this is the first YA book written in third person past that I’ve read in quite a while and it was so well done! The writing was so good that I was inspired to write the next whatever-I-write in third person (and no, I’m never inspired to try third person) – it’s just THAT good.

Read this book, okay? It doesn’t come out till September but pre-order it if you have to, just read it. It doesn’t matter what your reading tastes are, Fangirl, I’m sure, will appeal to everybody.

You know, the kind of coming-of-age that happens in college is different from the coming-of-age that happens before that. It’s just this whole other thing – this living away from home, actually having to take things into your own hand (whether you like it or not) and Rainbow Rowell captures all that in her book with subtle brilliance. Read it for the feels. And the fandom.

Did/do you write fanfiction?

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

(Hardcover/Australian Paperback)

Imaginary Girls
by Nova Ren Suma
(Author blog)
Released: June 14th, ’11
From Goodreads:

Chloe’s older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can’t be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby’s friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.
But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.
With palpable drama and delicious craft, Nova Ren Suma bursts onto the YA scene with the story that everyone will be talking about.

A word about the cover: That hardcover version is the Most. Brilliant. Cover. Ever. Period.
And that paperback below? Hauntingly creepy. But the hardcover wins, hands down.

My Thoughts:

This is quite possibly the most gorgeous book I’ve owned. I doubt I can be coherent at all while talking about this because, honestly, it blew my mind. Wow. Just WOW.

(Paperback)

If you ask me right now which author I so wish I could write like, I’d say Nova Ren Suma in a heartbeat. Not only is the writing oh-so-breathtaking, she blends it in with a story that will sometimes make your heart ache, sometimes put your heart in your mouth and hang on to you even months after you’ve read it (I speak from experience. Yes, it’s been months that I’ve read it. I just didn’t know how to talk about it. Still don’t, but you get what I mean).

This is a story about sisters and obsession, about dead girls and lost towns, sibling love and sacrifice, destruction and resurrection. This is a story about magic. Magic that will make your toes curl yet keep you captivated. This is magic realism at it’s best. The best I’ve read in years.

At it’s heart, Imaginary Girls is a mystery. There’s mystery in every page, in every character, in every action undertaken by a character. Ruby, Chloe’s older sister, is perhaps the biggest mystery, which also makes her the most enticing character of all. Ruby is complex. So complex that sometimes sometimes it’s scary. But she’ll hold you entranced, like she holds Chloe and the rest of the town. Yet in spite of the power she wields, there will never be a time when you even remotely associate her with being bad. That’s the kind of magic Suma crafts with Imaginary Girls. Her characters will make you wonder at their strangeness, yet you get where they are coming from. You might drown in the terror of the situation, yet you’ll have your heartbroken in pages.

It isn’t just the characters. The setting is stunning. I kid you not when I say it’s perhaps the most vividly atmospheric novel I’ve read since Emily Bronte‘s Wuthering Heights. The reservoir which holds a size-able amount of the mystery of Imaginary Girls takes on a life of it’s own. It’s so richly evocative, sometimes I felt myself drowning in it or listening to it breathe in the night, like Chloe did.

Imaginary Girls is the kind of book that is built on paradoxes. Of reality distorted to suit personal interests. The kind of book that manages to be both startlingly beautiful and hair-raisingly disturbing. The kind that makes you wonder what the author feeds on to have come out with such an extraordinary piece of work. The kind that makes you want to give out copies of it to every person you come across just so they can have a piece of its magic too. The kind that makes you pull out your pen or laptop, if only to make you aspire to create something as marvellous.

Do I recommend this? YES, YES AND A THOUSAND TIMES OVER. And then some more.

And just so I can make you a li’l jealous,

OWNED!
Author signed! See? 😀
(I won this at a giveaway)

Glimpse a little of the magic through the trailer:

How often do you read magic realism?

Tempest

Tempest
by Julie Cross
Released: 17th Jan, ’12.

From Goodreads:

The year is 2009.  Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer is a normal guy… he’s in college, has a girlfriend… and he can travel back through time. But it’s not like the movies – nothing changes in the present after his jumps, there’s no space-time continuum issues or broken flux capacitors – it’s just harmless fun.
That is… until the day strangers burst in on Jackson and his girlfriend, Holly, and during a struggle with Jackson, Holly is fatally shot. In his panic, Jackson jumps back two years to 2007, but this is not like his previous time jumps. Now he’s stuck in 2007 and can’t get back to the future.
Desperate to somehow return to 2009 to save Holly but unable to return to his rightful year, Jackson settles into 2007 and learns what he can about his abilities.
But it’s not long before the people who shot Holly in 2009 come looking for Jackson in the past, and these “Enemies of Time” will stop at nothing to recruit this powerful young time-traveler.  Recruit… or kill him.
Piecing together the clues about his father, the Enemies of Time, and himself, Jackson must decide how far he’s willing to go to save Holly… and possibly the entire world.

A word about the cover: I don’t know why but I really like the floaty-ness of it. (Is that weird?) Also, the photo is a little unusual for what has recently flooded the YA market (read: Sad Girls In Pretty Dresses). It makes me want to give it a second look.

My Thoughts:

The whole time-traveling shizz appeals to me a lot. I think that’s the coolest possible super-power to have. I mean, what can you not do if you can travel through time? And lets face it: the premise of Tempest is actually very relatable. How many times have we thought if only I could turn back time when we lost a loved one? Me? Tons.

Tempest was a book I wanted to read, ever since I started following Julie’s blog, right after she got her book deal, even before the book became the talking point across blogosphere.

It was..well, inventive. I was uber curious about what was happening and what was going to happen and if Jackson would really be able to save Holly and all those things that could make this book work. Unfortunately, it was also one of those books that you go through a page-flipping-frenzy mode for then promptly forget about (I didn’t forget because I had to do this review, but you get the hint).

My problem mostly was with the characters – a shallow bunch of jerks with some wrong notions about certain things. Case in point: Holly’s roommate is called a feminist – when she is very clearly a misandrist – and is dismissed as being a bitch along the same lines. And what does that imply? That a feminist is very easily a misandrist or that feminists are bitches? Because that’s EXACTLY how it comes across.
Also, Jackson’s reaction on getting to know that Holly is a virgin? He’s worried about her and then goes –

The idea that she might not enjoy this was turning me in the other direction. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been with a virgin, even just messing around. Maybe never.

I mean, DUDE, seriously? Jackson’s seventeen. And he has slept with so many people he doesn’t even remember the last virgin he slept with? (At the same time we get to hear Holly call him ‘deep’. I mean, SERIOUSLY?) I don’t get moralising over books or anything but what really annoys me is Jackson’s attitude here. So is he implying that being a virgin means you’re all uptight and that it probably puts him off? Or is it that because somebody isn’t a virgin it’s okay to mess around with them?
And at the same time he’s actually worried about Holly, huh? Contradictions, contradictions. Conclusively, Jackson ends up being typecast as the seemingly nice guy who is really a jerk underneath. Sadly, no character development there.
I call these characters jerks because there’s no redemption, nowhere in the book do they regret such thoughts or realise what absolute jackasses they really are. All of it is as easily dismissed as it is brought on. Like this very dignified bit:

“I just met this chick last night at my friend’s party. She’s mega hot and a total airhead.” “Exactly your type right?” “Yeah, but only if the flakiness is genuine. Not that pretend-I’m-stupid shit. You know it’s going to bite you in the ass later. Besides, I love messing with people who just don’t get it.” 

Waaay. To. Go.

I had issues with Tempest throughout my reading experience of it. Maybe if I leave my own personal beliefs aside, maybe it could work. I mean, I loved the bits Jackson had with his sister Courtney. I think I was mostly in that page-flipping-frenzy mode just so I could get to the parts with/about her. But then, such personal beliefs can’t really be pushed aside. I *am* a feminist and I cannot tolerate sexism and coming from a country where woman’s position in society is a matter of argument every-freaking-day, reading about women being dismissed as easily as toilet paper makes me angry.

Yes, there are good things about the book. Like I said, Courtney. And it moves at breakneck speed inspite of the whole ‘time-line’ thing being highly confusing more often than not. And the last quarter of the book makes you feel a little bad for the main characters sometimes. It’s not a bad book.

But, I don’t know. With all those sexist ideas being dismissed as casual fun, it’s not exactly making it to my list of good books.

Reading is subjective, right?
I know Tempest has/will have it’s fair share of fans (heck, a movie’s been optioned, too!). It’s just that I’m not one of them.

Have you read Tempest? What’s your favourite read on time travel?

Waiting On Wednesday (#2)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme started by Jill @Breaking The Spine, where we talk about upcoming releases we just-can’t-wait for.

This week I’m waiting for – oh, screw it – this I MUST INSANELY ACQUIRE –

This Is Not A Test
by Courtney Summers
Expected Publication – 19th June, 2012

From Goodreads:
It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually wantto live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

Why I’m waiting for this:

Dude, it’s COURTNEY SUMMERS! Need I say more?

And okay, lets be honest, I’m not particularly fond of zombies, but HAVE YOU READ THE EXCERPT SHE SHARED? No? Go. Read. It. Now.

Her writing is so haunting, and well…it reads like an edgy contemporary – more focus on the characters, less focus on the zombies. Which totally makes it my kinda read.

Also, this is about a girl who wants to die. And if you’ve read any Courtney Summers, you’d know that she specialises in troubled characters. And she does them brilliantly.

And that cover? All that hair matted with blood and those sprinkled drops up there and all that blue? This is possibly the best cover of the year yet.

That’s a book I desperately want to hold in my hands.

What are you waiting for?

Waiting On Wednesday (#1)

So, I’ve decided to join the bandwagon and do a weekly meme.
I like the concept of Waiting On Wednesday (started by Jill from Breaking the Spine) because:

  • featuring books that I so-can’t-wait-for seems like fun.
  • I get to talk about more books!
  • you get to hear about more books!
  • and…well, I’ll have a weekly something to look forward to posting. Without fail 🙂

…and therefore, you see, this is the perfect thing to do every week. Hope you’ll stick around.

    This week I’m waiting for –

    Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink
    by Stephanie Kate Strohm
    Expected publication – May, 2012

    From the author’s website:
    Libby Kelting had always felt herself born out of time. No wonder the historical romance-reading, Jane Austen-adaptation-watching, all-around history nerd jumped at the chance to intern at Camden Harbor, Maine’s Oldest Living History Museum. But at Camden Harbor Libby’s just plain out of place, no matter how cute she looks in a corset. Her cat-loving coworker wants her dead, the too-smart-for-his-own-good local reporter keeps pushing her buttons, her gorgeous sailor may be more shipwreck than dreamboat — plus Camden Harbor’s haunted. Over the course of one unforgettable summer, Libby learns that boys, like ghosts, aren’t always what they seem.

    Why I’m waiting for this:

    Firstly, I was sold at ‘Jane Austen-adaptation-watching’. I mean, I like Ms. Austen’s books a lot, but I think I like the screen adaptations even more. I don’t give a damn about how the critics rate them, they function like pick-me-ups and are hugely entertaining. Plus, the men are swoony.


    Secondly, there’s a museum and CAMDEN HARBOR IS HAUNTED! So ghosts. I love ghosts! Especially in contemporaries where they make a guest appearance. I mean, seriously, what’s not to love?

    Thirdly, see those other characters mentioned? I *want* to read about them. I want to read about the hostile coworker, the supersmart reporter and the pretty sailor. Wait…what?! A sailor? Where did he come from? WHY AREN’T THERE MORE BOOKS WITH SAILORS? Authors, are you listening?

    The moment I came across this book on one of my lurk-sprees, I almost sang out. This book is for me, me, me. It sounds fun and quirky and there’s Jane Austen and ghosts and – oh damn, I need this right away.

    What are you waiting for?