Sunday, June 25, 2017

My current dilemma: Edging away from Y.A.

As many of you may know, I have been an avid reader since I was very young. I was that one kid who preferred to read the bedtime stories to my younger siblings, rather than have my parents read it to us. I loved storytelling, and I loved immersing myself in wondrous worlds that I could weave to life within my head by simply perusing a page.

Being a reader for so long means a lot of things: It means developing a unique world view; it means going through awful reading-slumps; it means choosing to indulge in novels at the expense of slightly alienating myself from those around me; and at last, it means growing out of and growing into a plethora of genres.

I remember picking up my first Young Adult novel in middle school. There was a kid in my English class who sat at my table, and every few weeks, he would bring along with him a new book to read, and subsequently share it with the rest of us who sat with him. It was there that I was introduced into the incredible world that is Young Adult Fiction, or simply, "YA." I recall first reading The Hunger Games (and yes, this was before it was a movie and a hype), then Thirteen Reasons Why, then the Divergent series (I just realized how all three of those have now been made into motion pictures), and so on. I was hooked. Ridiculously hooked. I clung to YA fiction like oxygen. My eighth grade year, I discovered the one and only John Green. Starting with The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, and Paper Towns (this, too, was before they were turned into films and swallowed by pop culture). John Green, quite frankly, became my idol. I praised his writing, I read his novels religiously, over and over and over. I couldn't get enough of his cynical, witty main characters that were not much older than I.

And, I think that's ultimately why I loved YA fiction so intensely. All the characters were marginally close to my own age (thus, young adults), and were going through similar tumultuous changes in thought and environment. I appreciated that tremendously. These were kids who were often "different" from everyone else. They were the social outcasts, the troubled teens that no one understood. Their stories resonated with me on a deeply personal level. These YA novels were not simply a treat I read for the adventure of it; they were a consolation to my very lonely and confused teenage heart.

I remained largely submerged in YA fiction throughout high school as well. I read YA romances, YA historical fiction, YA fantasy, you name it. As before, this genre was my safe haven.

Another big reason behind my ardor for YA was its fluidity,  the ease with which it could be read. I devoured YA novels like candy. I had no trouble getting through at least two or even three a week. It did not require much effort to understand the novels or the language. The novels were, indeed, designed for kids my age: rather simple diction, minimal literary merit.

It wasn't until just a few months ago, during the last half of my senior year of high school, that I began to question my loyalty to YA. Suddenly, I was not feeling so sure about the genre anymore. Novels and series that once captivated me in an instant abruptly began to disinterest me. I began leaving many of the books I started unfinished, lying around my bedroom, begging to be opened again. But I couldn't do it. I just couldn't. Was this the beginning of the end of an era?

Yes, indeed, it was.

The feelings that were difficult for me to decipher back then come much clearer to me now. I know now that my sudden detachment from YA was not, in fact, something that was wrong with me, but rather my transition into a new chapter of my reading life: one in which I said goodbye to the Young Adult genre, and waved hello to another.

During that time of transition away from YA, I felt like something was missing. I felt like YA could no longer satisfy me. It could no longer fulfill my crave for literature. I wanted something more.

But what?

Although it took me some time to finally put my finger on it, I ultimately discovered and understood what it was that I, personally, was now looking for in the books I read. I was looking to go deeper. I was looking for novels that I could dissect to bits, novels that were not solely about adventure and romance, but novels that touched upon highly serious topics, topics that were perhaps even too extreme to fall between the borders of Young Adult Fiction. And, I found what I was looking for in Literary Fiction.

Now, I am not going to go into a whole spiel about literary fiction, because I'm sure that could be saved for another post within itself. However, I will touch upon it a little. I, personally, have found literary fiction to be incredibly interesting. I love the beauty of the language, the versatility of topics and themes, and the literary merit. I think when some people think of literary fiction, or simply literary merit, they often tend to associate it with pretentiousness and even arrogance. I hope to make it a point that I am in no way deriding Young Adult fiction, and in no way proposing Literary Fiction to be superior. All this is entirely based upon my own bias, and my transition from YA to Literary Fiction was something that I don't think I could honestly help. As a life-long reader, going through changes in reading interests is completely natural, and this shift in tastes was bound to happen for me sooner or later. YA fiction will always be a part of me. I am never going to cease reading it entirely, simply not as often. YA fiction taught me to love myself, to be fierce and passionate and wildly unafraid. It taught me to seize every opportunity that tumbles my way, to work diligently and persevere. Young Adult fiction was the genre that pulled me through my adolescence, and largely helped define the person who I am today.

Now comes the time for a new journey, as I venture into a new road, previously untraveled.
Eventually, someday in the future, I will most likely grow out of Literary Fiction, and become enamored with another genre. And the cycle will continue.

This is, of course, just the life of a book aficionado.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Book Review: How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are by Anne Berest

What the book is about:
This witty self-help book documents the traits that make a Parisian truly Parisian. From Parisienne etiquette to effortless style and beauty, it uncovers the grand enigma that is the classic French woman.

My rating:
4 out of 5 stars.

This was a fun and quick read, one I took great delight in reading. The humor was definitely unique to the author, whom I could tell was well aquainted with what it means to be "Parisian." Ultimately, what I learned from this novel is that Parisian is not simply a culture, but a lifestyle. I bought this book because I was interested in learning more about the popular "French chic" that so many women wish to attain. What exactly is it that gives those Parisiennes their casual and cool aura? I expected to read a practical How-To Guide, but was instead surprised with a hilarious documentation of anecdotes and clever lines that left me laughing out loud. I thought this book to be very clever and well-written, and I admire the artistic elements like the different fonts and beautiful photography collectively added to create the pleasing aesthetic. The visuals were lovely and wonderfully compositioned. I highly recommend this book if you, like me, are interested in learning about the Parisian lifestyle.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August 2016 Wrap-Up!

1. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Rating: 4.75/5 stars
Synopsis: If you could steal things from dreams, what would you take?

Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself.

One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams.

And sometimes he's not the only one who wants those things.

Ronan is one of the raven boys—a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by their elite private school, Aglionby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan's secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface—changing everything in its wake.

2. Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat
Rating: 4/5 stars 
Synopsis: Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos. But when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Beautiful, manipulative, and deadly, his new master, Prince Laurent, epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.

For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else…

3. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Rating: 4/5 stars
Synopsis: Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who's "saying" the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. "To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable." Forty years later the stories and history continue.With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined. Mothers boast or despair over daughters, and daughters roll their eyes even as they feel the inextricable tightening of their matriarchal ties. Tan is an astute storyteller, enticing readers to immerse themselves into these lives of complexity and mystery.

4. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
Rating: 5/5 stars
Synopsis: First published in 1813, "Pride and Prejudice," Jane Austen's witty comedy of manners - one of the most popular novels of all time - tells the story of Mr and Mrs Bennet's five unmarried daughters after the rich and eligible Mr Bingley and his status-conscious friend, Mr Darcy, have moved into their neighbourhood. "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." So begins the novel, that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues.

5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Rating: 5/5 stars
Synopsis: It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

What were your favorite reads this month?


Thursday, August 11, 2016

In Honor of National Book Lover's Day...

"We live and breath words. ... It was books that made me feel that perhaps I was not completely alone. They could be honest with me, and I with them." — Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince

Ever since I was child, books have been my most loyal companions. They, unlike many other friends in the past, have remained by my side through thick and thin. They have been there for me at my worst and at my best. I have lived vicariously through the lives of hundreds of fictional characters and their stories, relishing in the wonder of it all.

These characters—their journeys, their hopes, their most fervent desires—are instilled into my own very heart, and collectively form a single person: That person is myself. I am those characters (both heroins and villains). I am every story I have ever read. I am those fantastical kingdoms, villages, worlds.

There is nothing quite like reading a novel. They are a gift from the minds of some of the most brilliant human beings on this earth. They are an escape route from the mundanity of reality. They provide relief, consolation, truth, and insight.

My passion for books—for the written word—is unlike anything I have felt before. I know indeed, that if it were not for books, I would not be who I am now. Literature is something that I crave incessantly; I can never get enough of it, nor do I think I ever will. It is, one of the greatest innovations that ever occurred to mankind. It has transformed me, and I will forever be thankful.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Book Review: The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, Book #2) by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: The Dream Thieves
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Paranormal; fantasy
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 437
My rating: 4.5/5

If you could steal things from dreams, what would you take? Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself. One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams. And sometimes he's not the only one who wants those things.Ronan is one of the raven boys - a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by their elite private school, Aglionby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan's secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface - changing everything in its wake.

Enchanting, enigmatic, and engaging are the three words I would use to describe the second installment of Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle. The first book was great, but this book was amazing. Stiefvater's exceptional writing had me hooked from cover to cover. I could not put this book down. I spent every moment I could immersed in this masterpiece and fascinated by the characters, the world, and all the anomalous happenings that went on. Just like Blue, I found myself in love with each and every one of the raven boys in their own beautiful and unique way. The characterization was flawless--each role was so well-rounded and perfectly portrayed that I could not help but identify with all of them. I feel like I had a little bit of everyone in me. I loved this book to pieces. I would highly recommend this series to anyone and everyone, as it is one of the most fantastic and gripping series I have read, and it seems that each book just gets better and better.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

July Wrap Up 2016

The truth that summer break is almost over is quite heartbreaking. I only have one month left to completely immerse myself in all the books I want to read and take as many photos of books as my phone can handle. Just one month, which is not nearly enough. (Nothing is never really enough, is it?) 

I read four books in the month of July and I can't wait to see what amazing books I'll read in August. Something I guess you should know about me is that I don't quite enjoy making monthly TBRs just because I don't like restricting myself to a certain list of books. 

Anyhow, here is my monthly wrap up! What did you read in the month of July?

1. Emma by Alexander McCall Smith
Rating: 3/5

2. Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
Rating: 3/5

3. The Yoga of Max's Discontent by Karan Bajaj
Rating: 4/5

4. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Rating: 5/5 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Book Review: The Yoga of Max's Discontent by Karan Bajaj

Title: The Yoga of Max's Discontent
Author: Karan Bajaj
Published: 2016
Pages: 336
My rating: 4/5

Brief synopsis: Max, a man who is living the American Dream, finds himself discontented at heart and begins to ponder over questions about suffering and mortality that have bothered him since his mother's recent death. He one day makes the spontaneous decision to go to India and continue his search for nirvana & transcendence under the tutelage of a Yogi, where he undergoes a total inner transformation that changes his life. 

Review: I remember closing this novel after I had first finished and having to take a few minutes to contemplate what I had just read. This book was wonderful--wonderfully written, wonderfully told. Max's journey as he seeks enlightenment was both captivating and inspiring. Living in a society where everything is quite rushed and overwhelming, I could not help but deeply relate to Max's disillusionment and desire to find that *something more.* This book's pacing was perfect--I am being completely honest when I say I flew through this story; it's definitely a page turner. The principles discussed in this book concerning our place in this universe and who we really are, was interesting. Although I did not agree with all the perspectives and values portrayed, I still enjoyed it and appreciate its thought provoking ideals. Not to mention that mind-boggling ending.

**Disclaimer: I was sent this novel in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my thoughts on the novel; all opinions are entirely my own.