3 Reasons Why ‘All The Bright Places’ Wasn’t My Cup of Tea

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All The Bright Places
by Jennifer Niven
Published by Penguin Australia 
on January 6th 2015

As soon as I saw the cover and read the quote “This is the next Fault in our Stars” I had a feeling All the Bright Places wouldn’t be my cup of tea. I should probably listen to my gut feeling more often haha. While I didn’t find All the Bright Places life-changing or soul-crushing – in fact, I found one third of the book particularly boring – I’ll admit that the last one hundred pages were rather memorable and I would highly recommend it to my friends/anyone who liked The Fault in our Stars i.e. 99% of the population but definitely not me.

The main reasons why All the Bright Places didn’t work for me

  • Couldn’t connect with the characters

This is a it’s not you it’s me thing, but I felt there was no intimacy between me as the reader and the characters I’m reading about, and that’s a very serious issue for me. If I can’t connect with the characters on any level, then there’s no point in continuing with the book.

The story is told from alternating perspectives of Finch and Violet, an approach that was executed terribly. I couldn’t distinguish between the two voices as they sounded exactly the same. On more than one occasion, I started reading a new chapter thinking it was from Violet/Finch’s perspective, only to later realise that it was actually from the other character’s POV. Violet and Finch had the same dull voice and that truly frustrated me as a reader.

  • The characters didn’t have chemistry

Violet and Finch had no chemistry, in my opinion. I realise this is probably a result of feeling disconnected from the characters and the storyline, but the fact remains: I didn’t feel any chemistry, which made it infinitely more difficult for me to root for them.

  • The constant references to dead poets and statistics

I’ve always hated poetry. I can’t wrote poetry nor can I analyse them. I’m sure there are readers out there who appreciated the references to dead poets and the death related statistics, but I wasn’t one of them. It ruined the flow of the story for me because I had no interest in the information and skipped most of it.

I considered giving up after 100 pages but forced myself to continue reading because I make it a point to always finish books that I paid for. (Otherwise I’d feel like my money was wasted) . I ended up skimming almost 260 pages until FINALLY after page 260, Mr Embryos/Finch semi-explained what was wrong with him. As soon as I discovered Finch’s possible ‘diagnosis’ – or since Finch hates labels so much, the possible explanation for his erratic and uncontrollable behaviour – I developed a newfound interest in the book. I wanted to know more about Finch and what this illness could do to a person if untreated.

As I mentioned before, the last 100 pages were extremely memorable; Finch’s condition was heartbreaking and I wished someone had noticed what he had been going through for so long. I didn’t understand how everyone just brushed off his behaviour as “it’s just Finch”, like it’s completely normal for anyone to just up and disappear for months and then come back as if nothing had happened. I didn’t understand how Finch’s older sister Kate was aware that he was away from school for months but didn’t care enough to see what wrong with him? I especially hated Finch’s mum; how could she be completely oblivious to everything that was going on under her roof?

All in all, All the Bright Places wasn’t for me but I would recommend it to all contemporary readers! I think I’ll give Jennifer Niven’s books another go sometime in the future, but I’ll be approaching them with caution and low expectations.

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Review | Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Publisher: Penguin 
Release Date: 5th May 2015  

 

Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.


Two years ago when I read
Saint Anything for the first time, I liked it. Two days ago I decided to re-read it, and upon finishing discovered that I love it. I have since bumped it up from 4 stars to 5 stars. I decided to read Saint Anything again in preparation for Sarah Dessen’s new book Once and for All out in June (not long now!!!!!).

Saint Anything is so raw, so heart-achingly relatable that you have to read it for yourself to understand just how real  it is. Dessen has managed to strategically weave a beautiful story of family, friendship, forgiveness and redemption. I used to like Dessen’s work because I loved the romance in her books, but with Saint Anything, it wasn’t just the romance that hit home. It was the feeling of always being invisible until you find that one person, or group of people that you realise actually see you and get you. Perhaps the reason I was able to connect with Sydney is because I’m still searching for a Layla and/or Mac, but in the meantime, I have Saint Anything to give me hope.

Sydney has always been in the shadows of her older brother, Peyton, someone who is gorgeous, charming, and as Sydney puts it “once you saw Peyton, you couldn’t take your eyes off him.” This is in contrast to Sydney, who is pretty but in that “common-face-pretty” kind of way. She represents all the ordinary girls out there who aren’t striking in any way, who don’t have obvious talents, who just don’t stand out. Perhaps staying unseen is better than getting negative publicity, but sometimes all we want is to be recognised for our achievements, to be seen as an individual or our own person.

“My own life felt flat and sad too much of the time; It was reassuring, somehow, to lose myself in someone else’s.”

The quote above hit home because the reason why I read so many books is to somehow lose myself in someone else’s life. When my life becomes a routine, it feels flat and boring. I’m always craving a new adventure – which is probably why I love travelling so much – but in the meantime when I’m stuck in the same city doing the same things every day, losing myself in books keeps me sane.

“But without them (TV Show characters), the house felt so empty….I;d grown to dread the moment I stepped off the bus after school.”

As an only child, I usually have the entire house to myself when my parents are at work. I used to like it when I was younger, but now? It’s lonely. I always dread going home early on Friday nights because the house is so empty and quiet. If I had it my way, I’d be out every Friday night with friends or family.

Although I’m able to relate to Sydney on so many levels, there was one particular thing that I couldn’t – and it’s largely because my parents listen to me and trust my judgements in people (Thank heavens!)  Sydney never outright told her parents how she felt uncomfortable around Ames ( I would’ve told them straight up or left the house every time he was there). I don’t know how she kept her sanity; I can’t imagine feeling unsafe or terrified of the people living in my own home.

To conclude, please do yourself a favour and read this. Sarah Dessen is a saint for writing this spectacular book and I can’t wait for Once and for All! 

5 STARS

A Court of Thorns and Roses Series Review | Part 2

 A Court of Thorns and Roses A Court of Mist and Fury | A Court of Wings and Ruins 

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 Sarah J Maas | Bloomsbury Australia

Welcome to Part 2 of my review of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J Maas! In this review, I will be detailing everything I didn’t like about ACOWAR. (I liked the first two books too much to find any fault in them.) Keep in mind there will be spoilers ahead!

While Sarah J Maas has a penchant for creating picturesque worlds using a combination of imagery and metaphors and very, very descriptive language that generally causes me to gawk at how beautiful her writing is, I couldn’t help but notice her writing in ACOWAR was unpolished. I understand that when we talk, we sometimes pause in the middle of the sentence to search for the correct word to describe whatever it is we’re talking about and adding “…” certainly adds authenticity to such dialogues BUT adding an ellipsis every single time someone speaks ruins the flow of the narrative. Another thing I noticed was Sarah J Maas’s questionable choice of words. I’m not a great writer so I usually don’t criticize an author’s use of words, phrases, or writing techniques (I merely comment on the overall writing style ) but there was one phrase that made me laugh out loud at how ridiculous it was – “… the back of my palm” . Umm….did you mean the back of my hand?

 Romance

Look, it’s completely fine if certain characters don’t get their happily-ever-after. I would rather they be happily single than forced to pair up with another character out of sheer convenience. Isn’t it so convenient that Nesta and Elaine became high Fae and are paired up with Cassian and Azriel respectively. ( I don’t see Elaine and Lucien getting together and as Mor is officially out of the picture, I feel like Maas is pushing Elaine and Azriel towards each other) Amren’s sudden romance was also unnecessary. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with characters staying unattached so why did Sarah J Maas have to pair Amren, the deadly, formidable otherworldly being with a High Fae? Was it really necessary?

 Nesta and Elaine

Nesta and Elaine read to me like Cinderella’s two stepsisters. I understand that Feyre forgave Nesta and Elaine for failing to help/provide for the family in the years before ACOTAR but I’m unable to forgive them. Perhaps Nesta redeemed herself in ACOTAR by attempting to climb over the wall to reach Feyre, but that doesn’t change the fact that she would rather to watch her family starve to death and blame her father and everyone else in the world than get her ass out of the house and help Feyre hunt for food. It doesn’t help that she’s unnecessarily hostile to everyone and I certainly don’t care how powerful she is. She does not deserve Cassian nor a place in the Night Court.

As for Elaine, I think she’s even worse than Nesta. She reminds me of Bella Swan from Twilight. A beautiful damsel in distress that isn’t capable of physically doing anything to help out. No one got angry with her for not helping to provide for the family because she was kind? Really? That sounds to me like she’s just utterly useless. In ACOWAR, she spent a good few weeks wasting away in her room – exactly what Bella did in New Moon. What about during all the battles? Someone always had to look after her because she was so useless she couldn’t defend herself. Sarah J Maas attempted to portray her as a hero in the last few chapters but I guess even Bella Swan had her heroic moments eh?

Despite having issues with ACOWAR, I was satisfied with the ending. Sarah J Maas’s battle scenes kept me at the edge of my seat and everything played out perfectly. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be back for the spin-off series (I have no interest in any of the other pairings.) I am however, looking forward to Sarah J Maas’s future projects as long as they feature sexy male leads like Rhysand, Az or even Tarquin J

A Court of Thorns and Roses Series Review | Part 1

A Court of Thorns and Roses | A Court of Mist and Fury | A Court of Wings and Ruins 

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 Sarah J Maas | Bloomsbury Australia

***Spoilers Ahead***

 It is no secret that ACOTAR was my favourite book of 2015 and 2016’s was ACOMAF. Instead of writing a traditional review for each book, I’ve decided to post my thoughts about the series in general. This review is divided into 2 parts – Part 1 will convey why ACOTAR and ACOMAF are books that I believe delivers powerful messages to its readers while Part 2 will explore reasons why ACOWAR didn’t quite work for me. Note that I wrote Part 1 before I finished reading ACOWAR and Part 2 was written after.

Books are powerful. The messages they convey, the portrayals of characters, relationships and the dynamics between people, family members, friends, partners etc. are very likely to shape a reader’s understanding and perception of the world. Perhaps not always. But I know it does for me.

The reason why I’ve suddenly developed an immense gratification and admiration for Sarah J Maas is due to her willingness to incorporate important social issues into her ACOTAR series. I read ACOTAR 2 years ago and ACOMAF last year and only TODAY discovered the ‘hidden’ messages within the books. Perhaps I’ve become more in touch with my social surroundings and social media has alerted my attention to the grave significance of issues such as domestic violence, abusive relationships, sexual assault to name a few. There will be none of my usual fangirling in this review; I suppose this will be more of a personal reflection for me than an actual review.

Abusive Relationships

Reading Colleen Hoover’s ‘This Ends With Us’ was the first time I recall sitting down and thinking about something that is prevalent in our society but is rarely discussed openly. I myself am not too acquainted with this topic but I am aware of how important it is for men and women to identify the red flags and leave the relationship. I’m an active Reddit lurker, especially on the AskReddit subtopic and some of my favourite threads are ones that are marked “serious” where people from all over the world share their personal stories in response to whatever serious question is being asked. I recall reading several threads that were associated with people leaving a relationship/marriage because of physical and/or emotional abuse and it truly breaks my heart to read these stories.

I love how Sarah J Maas draws on this type of relationship in ACOMAF. Perhaps the red flags were evident in ACOTAR, perhaps not, but if they were, I certainly missed them.

“I trashed half the house,” he said, leaning forward to press his brow to mine.

I remember reading Beautiful Disaster years ago and a similar quote came up. I didn’t think anything of it at the time because I thought it was “romantic” but now? Holy shit this violence is disturbing.

“During that first week back, I wasn’t allowed out of sight of the house. “ | “He’d trapped me in here; he’d locked me up.”

Having her entire life dictated by Tamlin and treated like a possession as opposed to a human being was so upsetting for me. The fiercely determined Feyre from ACOTAR was gone and replaced by an empty shell. She withered away day by day, yet no one fucking helped her.

Sexual Assault

I’ve detected a gradual increase in Rape Culture interest/posts on social media and in newspapers in light of recent incidents that have made headlines over the last year. I’m sure you know which ‘incidents’ I’m talking about. (If you don’t, think judges handing out light sentences to rapists or blaming the victims for getting themselves into those situations in the first place.) There is no excuse for rape. None at all.

I’ve seen many personal stories about men getting raped and/or sexually assaulted and keeping silent about this their entire lives because there is a stigma in society that “men can’t be raped”. Yes they can. They can and society needs to stop thinking otherwise. The ‘relationship’ between Rhysand and Amarantha in ACOTAR was a cleverly crafted representation of sexual abuse – Rhysand being tortured and assaulted at the hands of Amarantha. Despite Rhysand’s cold, merciless exterior, this ordeal has left Rhysand traumatised and broken, as illustrated in ACOMAF.

I’m currently reading ACOWAR and so far I’m really liking it. I’ll most likely end up reading it twice – the first time for my pure enjoyment only and the second to pick up on things that I missed the first time round. Lastly, I need to mention that while Sarah J Maas seems to advocate very strongly for redemption and forgiveness, personally I could do without Nesta and Elain’s recurring appearances in all the books. In my opinion, there is absolutely no need for them to play such a huge role in the series – sisters or not.

Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of Unrequited
by Becky Albertalli 

Publisher: Penguin 
Release Date: 11th April, 2017  

 

 Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love-she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful. 

 Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness-except for the part where she is.
Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny, flirtatious, and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.


 There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

The Upside of Unrequited 

I’ve discovered that with time and age, my reading preferences have changed. I’m certain 16 year old me would have swooned, gushed and raved endlessly about how cute The Upside of Unrequited is and talked excessively about how adorably slow and perfect the romance between the Molly and Reid is. Unfortunately, 22 year old me thought the whole push and pull between the two was too cute for my liking – I think I can only tolerate small doses of cuteness before I go “Yeah, nah”, onto the next book.

I’ll start with what I enjoyed about The Upside of Unrequited, and then I’ll address the main issue I had with it. I think most people would disagree with

A relatable main character 

The Upside of Unrequited had the ingredients for the perfect YA book. In particular, I found Molly’s actions and the situations she found herself in very relatable. Molly has had 20-something crushes in the past and none of them moved past the ‘crush’ stage because she never communicated her feelings in fear of rejection. Yeah, guess what – same here. The whole time I was thinking “wow….this is so me”. Some other examples of some things I do that I didn’t think anyone else did until I read this book.

“I google the number, but Google doesn’t know, and I feel dumb asking who it is. So I ignore it. “

So yes, when I receive a random call and he/she doesn’t leave a voicemail, or when I receive a random text from someone I always google the number first and then decide whether or not to call back. Usually when they don’t leave a voicemail, I ignore the number.

“It’s the second time, because you’ve already used up all the obvious topics of conversation.”

This one is so applicable to me when I meet people I don’t ‘connect’ with. I mean, I can keep a conversation going during our first meeting – no worries – but if we randomly bump into each other again, say the next day then sorry, but what the heck am I suppose to talk to you about?! All obvious topics of conversation have been exhausted! Hhahahahah obviously this doesn’t happen all the time, but when I read the quote above, I just thought of situations in the past where I had nothing to say to someone I’d just bumped into.

Diversity

I’ve been on and off on twitter over the last few years so sometimes I miss out on important bookish news and trends. Sometime last year/ this year ‘Diversity’ became a top trending topic between readers, bloggers, authors and publishers. From reading a couple of tweets it seems the gist of it was readers wanted more diversity in books. Well, turns out, you asked and Becky Albertalli delivered.

Now, I’m going to say something that may not be well received since after reading a few reviews and general comments on Twitter, I’ve concluded that my feelings belong in the minority. While I appreciate Albertalli’s attempt at creating a world with all types of diverse characters, the impression I got was more of a ‘diversity dump’ or a shopping list of diverse characters. I personally felt it was a desperate attempt to incorporate all these diverse characters into one book to appeal to readers to the point that the characters didn’t feel realistic anymore. They felt like chess pieces brought in for the sole purpose of writing a book about diversity; there was no substance or depth to any of the characters beyond their labels. I remember at least one character was Jewish, and others had different skin colours, religion, sexuality but that was it. The terms were thrown around and then the story went back to the cute interactions between Molly and Reid.

I was slightly annoyed at Albertalli’s representation of Mina. The first time I realized she was Asian I thought “Oh yay! An Asian character, I like this book already!” Then after a few chapters I got the feeling that Albertalli was desperate to reiterate to the readers that Mina‘s A PERSON OF COLOUR, that it felt like she was shoving this fact in my face. Cassie was constantly saying how Mina is “Korean-American” and the whole time I just imagined Mina with a banner above her head with the words LOOK AT ME. IM KOREAN-AMERICAN. A DIVERSE CHARACTER.

So my point is I like books where the author doesn’t tell me once, twice, or five thousand times that someone is pansexual, or Asian or Jewish. Please do your research and show me this information. Having said all that, The Upside Of Unrequited wasn’t bad – it was a quick read and I definitely enjoyed it but I probably won’t be coming back for more.