Tag: Romance

Paris for One and Other Stories, by Jojo Moyes

“Actually, I’ve had a large white wine. Which means I’m saying what I think.”
“Don’t you usually, then? Say what you think?”
“Never. Safer that way.”

cover105449-mediumJojo Moyes is a name I across all too frequently these days, after the massive success of her books Me Before You and After You. I’ve not read either of the two because at first I wasn’t too sure if I would be into them, given my experience with and opinions of popular romances (such as The Fault in Our Stars or The Notebook). Later, when I thought I might take a look, I learned the ending of the first book, so I didn’t think there was a point to going back. And you can’t read the second book if you haven’t read the first.

I’ve been in a reading slump for a while. This time last year, I had read over 12 books. This year, I’ve read 2 (and now 3). I thoroughly enjoyed Sarah Scribbles, and while Yiyun Li’s writing is nearly flawless, there’s only so much you can like a book while disagreeing vehemently with the writer’s views. The other books I picked up (for instance, The Stand and Lifting the Veil) were not what I needed at that point in time.

Paris for One and Other Stories came as a breath of fresh air during those times. I stay away from chick-lits, but this is one that surprised me. Like they say, it is all about feeding your needs.

Paris for One is the story of a girl who never took risks – she was always described as safe, stable, trustworthy etc., never bold. On a whim, she decides to take a trip to Paris with her boyfriend. She is stood up by the boyfriend, and ends up alone in Paris. She changes her mind about leaving, and decides to enjoy the city on her own.

There are eleven short stories in this collection, all with uplifting, positive endings. My favourite is the first and the longest story – the one I’ve talked about above. Two close contenders for the top position are Margot and The Christmas List.

Margot is the story of Em, who meets the titular character – a boisterous American lady – at an airport and learns something important. The Christmas List is about a harrowed housewife who is fed up of her demanding husband and mother in law. A conversation with a cab driver convinces her that she needs to turn her life around.

If you’re going through a dull time, and need something to lift you up, I think this book would just be perfect. It certainly helped me! I wanted this review to be posted on Valentine’s Day, but unfortunately, I couldn’t finish the book in time. Nevertheless, here it is. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

Amazon | Goodreads

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from Penguin UK-Michael Joseph/Netgalley. My review is honest and unbiased.

 

The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon

Local Teen Trapped in Parental Vortex of Expectation and Disappointment

28763485Natasha Kingsley is about to be deported. Daniel is on his way to attend an interview to get into Yale, pursue medical studies and become a doctor. Their paths cross thanks to a series of coincidences. Although, no two people could be less alike – one is a science geek, who believes love is just chemicals in the brain and nothing more; the other is a dreamer and a poet (who has absolutely no interest in becoming a doctor). But now that their paths have crossed, how do they spend the one day they have got with each other? Is it just one day, or does Natasha somehow manage to stay in the country? Told from alternating POVs of the main characters, and punctuated by the histories of the sub-characters, we watch this light-hearted story unfold.

My interest in The Sun is Also a Star was piqued because it gave off a distinctly Eleanor & Park vibe when I read the blurb on Goodreads. Now that I’ve read it, I know I was wrong. Aside from the simple fact that both the male protagonists are Korean American, the two stories don’t have anything in common. I’m choosy about YA – either I enjoy the books tremendously or I’m left utterly cold. TSIAAS lies somewhere in between. Of course there were things that I would normally call out as issues – such as the instalove between the two characters, Daniel’s conviction that everything is rosy and poetic (it’s VERY unrealistic – he’s always dreaming!), the fact that despite being blatant opposites, in their individual narratives their voices are strikingly similar. I have to admit though that it’s a cute story. It’s not badly written; by that I mean, while I don’t believe anyone could fall in love with anyone in a day (love is a big word), I didn’t feel as cynical as to not enjoy the book either. It allowed me to suspend my disbelief and as far as books go, that’s not a terrible thing. It’s not a terrible thing at all. So I forgave the instalove and the dreaminess, and I closed my eyes and enjoyed it. Maybe you will too.

Mind you though, it is no Eleanor & Park. It’s a book that’ll get rid of reality for a few hours, in a complacently pleasant way (if that makes sense).

Note: I received an ARC from Netgalley/Penguin Random House Children’s Publisher. My review is honest and unbiased.

The Universe of Us, by Lang Leav

We existed in a time before love.

41uk183zjdl-_sx310_bo1204203200_So, I’m back with the review of Lang Leav’s new book, as promised yesterday. I could have written this yesterday, in fact, just chose not to. The page count says 200+, but 1) every alternate page is blank or has an image, 2) every page has only one or two lines. I read it in breaks, but when I finished, I realized I took up approx 55 minutes (give or take 10 minutes) to read it. Let that sink in.

Yesterday, in my review of Faudet’s book, Bitter Sweet Love, I mentioned how his work is rather juvenile and Leav’s work is something that in the past I have considered high school-ish. Given that I read The Universe of Us right after the poorly written Bitter Sweet Love, by comparison, Leav’s book seemed more sophisticated. By comparison.

This is true of the first half. By the second half, the book plunges into all that I feared going in – the childishness, the dullness, the half-bakedness. I know Leav is extremely popular, but what is worrisome is that her audience is mostly young and very impressionable; some of her poetry can be construed as dangerously terrible advice. Her poetry isn’t layered; it doesn’t have a lot of depth – it is all too easy to take it literally. Consider this one for instance: I think love is about being your darkest, most destructive self. To be loved, not in spite of this but because of it. My dear, that is abuse, not love.

Speaking of abuse, Leav’s obsession with love seems almost unhealthy. I have read excerpts of her poetry before, if not the whole books (although, a lot of her poetry in this volume had me thinking “I’ve read this before”. There is, after all, only so many times that stars can collide). The number of metaphors for “love” and “heartbreak” make you drowsy, not like your bored, but more like you’re drugged. There is no variety, no casual observation thrown in to break the monotony, nothing. It’s love all around. So syrupy.

While the book was all right for a quick read, while a lot of her words rhymed and everything, while her “poetry” is certainly better than Faudet’s, if someone asked me to recommend a poetry book, I wouldn’t be jumping up with pompoms for Lang Leav.

Note: I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley. This review is honest and unbiased.

Goodreads | Amazon

Bitter Sweet Love, by Michael Faudet

A memory picked from a flower wilted, its petals faded all color crushed. How can I forget such fragrant perfume? The lingering regret of a love long lost.

30227846

I noticed this book because of its cover – so strikingly similar to Faudet’s first book, Dirty Pretty Things. I used to follow Faudet’s poetry on Facebook. I felt some of his works were good, if not the stuff of classics. But Bitter Sweet Love just did not work for me.

It was either Isabel Allande or Anais Nin, I can’t remember who now, who said Erotica is a feather, but pornography is the whole hen. Faudet seems to have missed that memo. There were some of his earlier works (not in this volume) that fit better into the erotica bracket. Those were lovely poems, and the reason why I was interested in his poetry in the first place. But after reading Bitter Sweet Love, I can’t seem to quell this niggling feeling that his work is, on the whole, extremely juvenile.

All the so-called poems in this volume probably fit within 140 characters. They’re just broken into

sentences,

phrases

that may go on

or not

then end

period.

See what I mean? Just because it rhymes, it can’t be called poetry, now, can it? Although this is what seems to pass for poetry amongst the contemporary crowd, or the tumblr crowd, as they are called. Now don’t get me wrong. There are several tumblr poets who’ve produced works of exceptional beauty (Christopher Poindexter comes to mind). But Faudet’s book reads more like a Penthouse. And it was not fun either; just saturated (migraine-inducingly) with a lot of love and fucking (because (and I quote), “this is no weather for making love”). Oh, and vodka.

Bitter Sweet Love is dedicated to Lang Leav, another contemporary poet whose works I’ve called high-schoolish in the past. Interestingly, along with this book, I got a copy of her latest, The Universe of Us. Pretentious title aside, I think it fares much better than this one. I’m only halfway done, so more on that in my next review.

Goodreads | Amazon (pre-order)

Note: I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley. This review is honest and unbiased.

 

Every Day, by David Levithan

“Where do you want to go?” I ask again. “Tell me, truly, where you’d love to go.”
I don’t initially realize how much hinges on her answer. If she says, Let’s go to the mall, I will disconnect. If she says, Take me back to your house, I will disconnect. If she says, Actually, I don’t want to miss sixth period, I will disconnect. And I should disconnect. I should not be doing this.

But she says, “I want to go to the ocean. I want you to take me to the ocean.”

And I feel myself connecting.”

13262783May I say how much I hate Levithan right now. This man makes me break my book resolutions. And this man not only makes me read books from a genre I dislike (and scoff at), he makes me enjoy them. Worst of all, this man caused a conflict, nay, a war! Just look at this:

Brain: A genderless-bodyless entity that wakes up in a new human body each day. What a premise! This ought to be good.
Heart: Whatever, really.
Brain: Um… This is a love story.
Heart: *indistinct humming*
Brain: OK. Why am I reading this? These is YA. This is romance. Let’s close this and read something else.
Heart: Could you shut. Up. For. One. Minute?
Brain: Beg pardon?
Heart: SHUT UP.
Brain: …

.

Heart: Ohmygod, this is so beautiful, I have tears. I’m crying. This is… awww.
Brain: ???

Heart: *weeps* Oh, A. Oh, Rhiannon.
Brain: Blech. Oh, come on! “It’s the way you looked at me – it couldn’t have been anyone else.” Seriously? That is SO cheesy.
Heart: *sulks* Yeah, okay, just shush.
Brain: !!!

Heart: I have to make a phone call!
Brain: Dontdoanythingstupid!!!
Heart: NO, I really do!
Brain: This is NOT an Adele song!
Heart: Hang yourself, you stupid brain.

Brain: Why aren’t they explaining why A is this smoke entity person thing? Why is this happening? Are there others like this? Can it have feelings? What about the bodies it goes into, why don’t these people notice that entire days from their lives have just gone missing? This makes no sense!
Heart: Really, I couldn’t care less right now.

Brain: OK, that was a weak ending if I ever saw one.
Heart: So what if the ending wasn’t great. It couldn’t have ended any other way.
Brain: I’ll be the judge of that.
Heart: You jealous, emotionless, ROBOT!

*Heart walks off stage, leaving a trail of warm fuzzy feelings behind; brain, feeling useless, dejectedly plops down on a bed*

PS: I have to say though – only Levithan could have pulled this story off. Any other YA author would have turned it into a disaster. Do give it a read for the warm fuzzies. And keep your phone far, far away.

Goodreads | Amazon

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, by Xiaolu Guo

“Doesn’t his tongue feel cold?”

1533682Someday when I look back, I might think of 2013 as the year of horrible reading choices and good music. 2016, on the other hand… This year, I have come across books purely by chance and have unexpectedly and thoroughly enjoyed them. Touchwood.
One of these books is A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, by Xiaolu Guo, that I found on the Amazon Used Bookstore. On the surface, ACCEDL isn’t a wholly remarkable plot – girl meets boy (man twenty years her senior, in this case), a whirlwind romance, [SPOILER, AVERT YOUR EYES] a realization that they have no future together, and an eventual, quiet and resigned heartbreak. [SPOILER ENDS; CALM DOWN]

What sets ACCEDL apart is the way it examines the West through the eyes of a Chinese girl who can barely speak the language, and how this culture clash causes problems in her relationship with her English lover. And what makes ACCEDL wholly unique is the way in which it’s written – in deliberately bad English.

Books with poor grammar are tedious to read. But ACCEDL works. Whether it works because the reader knows the terrible grammar is a deliberate plot device (yes, it does add to the plot) or in spite of it, I will never know. What I do know is that it was a delightful little read – perfectly paced, flavored just so. Each chapter begins with the definition of a new word that the protagonist, Zhuang (Z for the westerners), has learnt, and how she learnt it. Funny at times (“In France, their fish is poisson, their bread is pain, and their pancake is crepe. Pain and poison and crap. That’s what they have every day.”), profound at others (“Love’, this English word: like other English words it has tense. ‘Loved’ or ‘will love’ or ‘have loved’. All these tenses mean Love is time-limited thing. Not infinite. It only exist in particular period of time. In Chinese, love is ‘爱’ (ai). It has no tense. No past and future. Love in Chinese means a being, a situation, a circumstance. Love is existence, holding past and future.” ); the wit is balanced with poignancy. It is presented without unnecessary drama or loud colors, yet with a beauty specific to itself. As for the prose, it is a testament to the author’s skill that even with the poor grammar it is written in, it manages to evoke such vivid images and convey such precise thoughts. Consider the quote at the beginning of this post. Z meets a man who has lost several of his teeth. I was struck by how she thinks about his tongue feeling cold! It is funny, yet so clever.

The story of a naive, homesick girl who finds love, and also learns to live on her own. Do grab a copy and let me know how you like it!

Goodreads | Amazon

I Wrote This For You, by Iain S. Thomas

“I need you to understand something. I wrote this for you. I wrote this for you and only you. Everyone else who reads it, doesn’t get it. They may think they get it, but they don’t. This is the sign you’ve been looking for. You were meant to read these words.”

sreesha-divakaran-iain-thomas-pleasefindthis-wrote-this-for-you

When you read an intense, packed book like the last one I reviewed, you want to read something that makes you feel you’re flying through it to even it out. I wanted something short enough that I could read it within a few hours, yet something that gave me something to chew. I was, in particular, looking for something like The Lover’s Dictionary. Unique, short, yet not “silly”. I picked up another Levithan from my collection, but it didn’t quite stick. I may go back for it another day. Instead, I found I Wrote This For You, by Iain S. Thomas (who goes by the name pleasefindthis on GR and his blog).

I Wrote This For You is a collection of photographs (by Jon Ellis) and quotes/poems/aphorisms/observations. It begins with the quote above. It is interesting to note that each person who reads it will interpret it in his or her own way. As for me, while some of it did not resonate with me on a personal level, this is one book in which I went furiously highlighting a sentence or passage on nearly every page, especially in the first half. I felt like it was an intimate conversation between two people and I was an observer. Detached, but not eavesdropping. Like I had every right to be there, yet it was not a story to call my own.

There were some passages though, that I desperately wished were part of my own story – words I wanted hear, but never did, perhaps. Words I wanted to say but never found the courage to.

“I read what you leave in public spaces. The songs you reference. The quotes you quote. I know it’s about me. I can feel you thinking of me. I want to tell you that I know and admit that I feel the same. But I can’t.”

There are quotes like that that hit you hard.

Now, given the fact that I went looking for something like The Lover’s Dictionary, a comparison of some sort is natural, though unfair. I liked Levithan’s book for its uniqueness, and its layers. The fact that it had a story that you had to piece together like a puzzle. I Wrote This For You is honest, insightful, observant and almost makes your scars bleed. But it reads like a blog, not a book. That put me off a little bit. There’s no real connection between the chapters, though you can try hard to find some, or even fool yourself into believing there is, but they are all separate pieces. If it weren’t for that, I’d put both on the same level. A good read, nevertheless. Made my weekend!

Goodreads | Amazon