Beneath the Glitter by Elle & Blair Fowler

Title: Beneath the Glitter
Author: Elle & Blair Fowler
Genre: Young Adult/ Chick-lit
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 4th 2012 by St. Martin’s Griffin

I’ve seen these sisters makeup videos pop up on YouTube very often and if you’ve ever searched for a review of a beauty product on YouTube, one of their reviews will most probably be recommended. I’ve watched a few, especially Elle’s Glitterature videos and they are pretty descent. So when I saw this book in the library I was instantly curious. My first reaction however was ‘Anyone now a days can write a book‘ considering being good at makeup doesn’t make you good at writing. But since I was in a reading slump already I thought I might just stop being a book snob and see what the book was like.

So let’s get on to my thoughts on this book. If you don’t like chick-lits or Young Adult, stay miles away from this book. It is what it is – a fluffy and light read. It actually does read like a feel good chick flick. 2 sisters Ava and Sophia become popular because of their makeup beauty videos and move to LA to climb the career ladder. In LA, they get to mix with the rich and famous and attend lavish parties. Eventually the lifestyle and misunderstandings between the 2 sisters almost ruin their career.

 The book tries to capitalize on the big bad image of LA and how being rich and famous will make you a shallow person. Only thing is it doesn’t quite ring true in this case. It feels too much on the surface. The story too is very breezy and superficial and drives on clichés. But it is entertaining. It’s a very quick read and doesn’t want you to make use of your brain cells too much, which could be a good thing once in a while.
Another good thing about the book is the bond between the 2 sisters – Ava and Sophia. I have 2 sisters and I could well understand their bond and it was very heartwarming and sweet at times. That is the perhaps the only section of the book which seemed effortless to me.
The worst Part? The book starts with the sisters getting arrested for a murder. It ends with ‘to be continued in the next book’ which annoys me to no extend. Again, I said this before, I don’t mind sequels but I prefer the subplot to end in the same book. If you want to write a sequel come up with another subplot.  Anyway, this book might not be for everybody. It seems like something targeting teenagers and younger crowd. But if you don’t mind a breezy, no-brainer once in a while, this does fit the bill.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Title: Anna Dressed in Blood
Author: Kendare Blake
Genre: Young Adult
Book in the series: #1
Awards: Cybils Award Nominee for Fantasy & Science Fiction (Young Adult) (2011), YALSA Awards for Best Fiction for Young Adults (2012), YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers (2012), Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Books of the Year (2011), NPR’s Top Five Teen (2011)
Endeavor Award Finalist (2012)

My thoughts:
First off, I don’t watch horror movies nor do I read many horror books. The last ghost movie I saw was Grunge and that too in the theater so it was pretty long back. But who can resist a cover like that? Also, since it was Young Adult, I assumed it wouldn’t be super scary. Well, I was partly right. It wasn’t as scary but considering how easily I get spooked I refused to read this at night.

Either way, I think it was a very good book and however scared I might be it was worth it. Cas Lowood is not your typical teenager. He kills ghosts that haunt. He inherited this unique vocation from his dad who was a professional Ghost killer. Cas and his mom move to a new neighborhood as usual in pursuit of a new Ghost – Anna. Anna is said to be living in an old house and has killed many people. She was brutally murdered a few decades back but that doesn’t explain the amount of strength she has. Cas, as always, is there to kill her. But circumstances are such that alter his life forever.

I thought this would be a typical fantasy novel somewhere along the lines of Twilight or Hush. But the story and the setting is very unique and so is Anna. The first encounter with Anna is very scary and I almost stopped reading. But I had to continue as I couldn’t resist knowing what happened next. Dont take Anna’s ghost as all fluff. There is violence, there is gore and there is no glossing over her deeds. The romance although weird Is believable and doesn’t feel forced. I want to read more about it and hopefully there will be more in the next book.

The characters could have been fleshed out more and the story could have had more details. But other than that I have no complaints. This is the first book in the series but its complete in itself which is very rare these days in YA.

Note: I just googled this book and it seems very popular. There are many art works dedicated to Anna. 

Stephanie Meyer is producing a movie based on this book. It will be exciting to see how it turns out.

The Raising by Laura Kasischke

Title: The Raising
Paperback: 496 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial (March 15, 2011)
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The Raising is about a perfect blond teenager who died in an accident and comes back to the campus to haunt. Whats not to like? A lot apparently. My foremost complaint about the book was that it jumped a lot between the past and present and in-between the characters as well. The moment I found myself immersed in a certain storyline the narration jumped to something else. Not only did I find this very distracting but it also made it very difficult for me to follow the story.

The characters for most part were also very unlikable, be it Nicole, the girl who died, her boyfriend or Josie – her roommate. The only character I liked was Perry who was Clark’s friend.  But half way through the book I started to dislike Perry as well. The storyline was also very bizarre, I found it very difficult to accept.

But the book is not without its plus points. That I found the story weird could also be a plus point for someone who likes a unique storyline. The one thing I loved about the book was the classes on Death that Professor Mira taught. I was genuinely interested in the subject and this book provided me enough material to learn something new and start researching more on a certain topic if I wanted to.

All said and done, although I was very excited about reading this book, it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me.

She walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell

Title: She walks in Beauty
Author: Siri Mitchell
Source: Library
Genre: Historical Fiction
Set in: New York, U.S
Rating: 4 out of 5

My thoughts:
It is worth remembering that when, as a society, we deem something absolutely necessary to beauty or happiness, some people will do absolutely anything to obtain it.”-Note at the end of book by the author.

This sentence more or less sums up what this book is about. Like me, don’t get fooled with the cover and think it’s a historical bodice ripper. It’s far from that. It’s about Clara Carter and Lizzie, both 17 years old, entering their first season in New York. If you’ve read enough bodice rippers or historical YA, you’ll know what a season is. But you won’t find any handsome rake here. What you will get though are the De Vries brothers, Franklin and Harry. Franklin is the elder brother and hence the heir. So Clara, Lizzie and mostly all the girls debuted that season have their eyes set upon him.

Clara though is a little different from most of these girls. Her mother died when she was very young, her father is a famous physician who wants to restore his wealth, position and take revenge from the De Vries because they lost all their money in the panic as it was deposited in the De Vris bank. Clara wants to marry for love and although she doesn’t want to adorn herself with heavy dresses and heavy ornaments and doesn’t want to wear a tight corset to reduce her waist to 16 inches, she doesn’t have any choice. She doesn’t rebel because she loves her father and she wants to make him happy.

Along the way though, she discovers the value of friendship, that God will accept you as you are and all this glitter and glam is nothing more than a show. In the process of capturing Franklin’s heart and getting a proposal out of him she also discovers that marriage has to based on love.

The author Siri Mitchell has highlighted the extent to which women in the Victorian age went to achieve that perfect 16 inch waist and to get a lifetime of wealth and privilege. Even though this book is set in the Victorian times we still have the same problems in our society today to some extent. That’s probably why we have models who are all skin and bones and have shows like Bridalplasty.

Although I love romances, I loved how it’s not the main focus of this novel. It’s more of a coming of age story, of breaking the bonds that society has set for us and of differentiating between the right and wrong. I loved how the novel preaches without actually preaching. I thought the book a was bit slow at first because I was expecting a romance novel but sometime after 100 pages I looked at one of the blurbs on the front cover and realized that this was Christian fiction. Any complaints I have for this book are because I was expecting something else, so I wouldn’t really mention them here.

All in all a very satisfying read. Siri Mitchell is a very talented writer and I look forward to reading more books by her.

The Memoirs of a Monster Hunter by Nick Redfern

Title: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter
Author: Nick Redfern
Genre: Non-Fiction (Memoir)
Source: Library
Rating: 2 out of 5

My Thoughts:
I love reading everything paranormal. I have watched a lot of documentaries that deal with searching or proving the existence of Paranormal entities. So when I saw this book in the library I was instantly attracted to it. The book is Redfern’s account of the 5 years he spent in America chasing after monsters like bigfoot, Chupacabras, Moth-Man and others.

The book begins when Nick flies to the U.S for a conference where he meets his would be wife Dana for the first time. After a while they get married and they decide to stay in the Texas, U.S. for some time. He spends most of his time attending conferences. Now his research, or at least what he writes in his book, is mostly visiting the places where the monster was seen, talking to people who had seen them and also talking to people who have written books about them or are researching about them.

I didn’t feel there was anything new in this book. The back of the book says
But do such creatures really exist? Can it be true that our planet is home to fantastic beasts that lurk deep within its forests and waters? Memoirs of a Monster Hunter proves the answer is a resounding yes!

ummm…well, not really. At no point it’s actually proved that anything is real. Nor does the author ever comes across such creatures, at least not in this book. He does come across something called as Ghost lights and he claims to have seen them and taken a picture. But for some reason, he does not include the photo of the only possibly paranormal thing he has seen. And it’s not like there are no photos in the book. I’m just confused about why he wouldn’t include that photo, that’s all.

But the book is an easy read and is not boring for most of the time. I liked reading about conferences and such and how seriously all this monster hunting and UFO thing is taken. The books as a whole had little substance and the only chapters I enjoyed reading were the ones about Chupacabras in Puerto Rico. The author calls Chupacabras vampires because they suck the blood out of the animals and leaves 2 holes on the neck. I loved this section because it was new to me and the setting of Puerto Rico was marvelous. But again, all he does is go around interviewing people and visiting places and not proving or even trying to prove anything.

With a bit of effort he could have proved or at least made an effort to find some solid evidence. For e.g. when he found the place which the goat man had possibly marked as his lair, how difficult was it to place a camera all night at the place or even stay overnight? But he says he did not have the time. Because seems like most of his time was spent in attending conferences or hopping from one place to another. At one point he did not go to an actual site where he and his friends were going to stay overnight to see if they could find anything, but preferred to interview some person who had probably seen something years back. I mean seriously?

To me, it didn’t seem like he was actually interested to study the monsters in-depth. He was just there for the ride. Memoirs of a Monster Hunter was disappointing. And I don’t even want to start about how he was shamelessly plugging his other books throughout. Sigh.

The Truth of the Matter and The Patron Saint of Butterflies

The Truth of the Matter by Andrew Klavan: This is the third book in the Homelanders series. You can read the second book without reading the first but to read the third, you have to read the second. In the first book (no spoilers), Charlie West does not remember anything about his life. He learns that the police are on his trail to arrest him for murdering his best friend. But the bad guys are after him too and he’s clueless why. In the second book he finds some answers but he doesn’t really remember a lot from his past year. In this book he remembers almost everything and seriously what a bizarre one year it was for him. I mean, the plot is unbelievable. I rolled my eyes almost throughout the book. There is only so much that can happen to an 18-year-old. But Charlie West is an extraordinary human being obviously. This book made me laugh so many times, not because the book was funny but because the plot was so unbelievable. But there is this un-putdownable quality in this book. I just couldn’t stop reading. It’s a good continuation to the series. This book doesn’t end here though. There is a fourth book in this series. And you know what? I want to read that too.  3 out of 5 stars.

The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galante: A nice book which would have its own post if I had reviewed it on time. But I didn’t and now the details are a bit hazy. It’s a story about two 14-year-old girls Honey and Agnes set in Mount Blessing religious commune. Agnes is devoted to her faith and believes everything that is told to her by her parents and their religious leader. Honey is an orphan who is a little wild at heart and difficult to tie down. As she has no parents to teach  her the ways of their religion all the time, she grows up reluctant to follow it blindly. She wants to move out of the commune and experience normal life. There are also things going on in the commune that she knows are wrong. When Agnes’s grandmother takes the kids and runs away from the commune, Honey and Agnes have to learn to live their life all over again with a completely new set of rules and beliefs. I loved how opposite the two characters are and I liked both the girls. I liked how they both struggled with what was right and wrong and what was taught to them. In spite of a serious subject it’s a pretty light and quick read. I enjoyed reading it and will definitely recommend it. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

The Sari Shop Widow by Shobhan Bantwal

Title: The Sari Shop Widow
Author: Shobhan Bantwal
Genre: Fiction
Print Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Kensington Books (August 24, 2009)
Source: Library
Rating: 2 out of 5

My Thoughts:

I had such high hopes for this book but only a few pages in and I knew I was not going to like it. But I thought I would give it a chance since it was easy to read and I was hoping it would improve. But as you can see from my rating, it didn’t. Before I tell you what I didn’t like in the book, let me tell you about the plot.

Anjali Kapadia, a 37 year old widow, owns a high-end boutique of Indian clothes and Jewelery called ‘Silk and Sapphires’ in Little India of New Jersey. She lives with her parents who help her manage the store. When her business is suddenly in financial crisis, her father invites his rich and successful big brother, Jeevan to pull them out of it. Jeevan arrives with his rather young and dashing business associate, Rishi, who is a British-Indian and has many successful businesses of his own. Naturally we all know what is going to happen next.

The very first thing I disliked about the novel was the main character Anjali. She had this holier than thou attitude which I hated. She thought she was better than all the other Indian girls out there. The author probably meant to portray her as an independent woman, which she was, but to me she came across as a snob. The author wanted to portray a woman who was the best of both worlds, but mostly Anjali criticized her own culture. As an example, read this

Anjali watched her mother flash her most cordial smile and bend down to touch Jeevan kaka’s feet in the conservative way of greeting an elder. So she followed her mother’s example and did the same. It’s be best if she played the passive little Hindu woman–for the moment.

First of all, touching your elder’s feet is not conservative, it’s a cultural thing. And by suggesting that modern woman do not do that is plain ridiculous. It’s a form of respect and if you think you are not modern if you do that, I am going to have very little respect for you. There a few other similar things that irked me in this novel. In fact at one point, as was convenient, she also says this

Maybe despite her American ways she was still an old-fashioned Indian woman who looked on total fidelity and trust as the cornerstone of marriage.

huh? Generalizations are a pet peeve of mine and this novel had them in abundance. The story was also pretty superficial than I thought it would be. It was a simple love story, which I would have loved anyway, if it had a better central character. Even Rishi, the handsome, dashing guy who supposedly every girl dreams of, was always better because he was British-Indian with Indian cultural values thrown in when convenient.

I can really go on and on about what I didn’t like in this book. The one and only positive thing it has is a small glimpse into the life of Indian-American families. That’s about it. Read it at your own risk.

Swapna’s review is very positive though, so I hope you go read that for a different perceptive.

Pupulazzi by Elise Allen

Title: Populazzi
Author: Elise Allen
Source: Review Copy
Genre: Young Adult
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books (August 1, 2011)
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

My Thoughts:

Normally I wouldn’t have picked this book up because it seems like it’s aimed at teens. I love YA but I usually stay away from books that revolve around school like because I don’t really seem to connect. But Populazzi I picked because it’s written by Elise Allen who is a 2011 Debutante.

Cara is a teenager who is a nobody in school. The fact that she peed in school when she was a kid followed her as she grew up and stopped her from climbing the social ladder. But when she changes school she decides to start with a clean plate. Her best friend Claudia, makes a plan for Cara to climb the ladder and thus become popular in her new school. The plan is to start dating guys starting at the middle level and then gradually climb up and date the most popular guy and hence become the Populazzi.

It’s actually a pretty predictable plot. It started off very interesting and funny. I was engrossed until her first two boyfriends, Archer Jain and Nate. But after that it just seems like a drag. It’s a pretty believable story though. I can totally see teenagers relating to it. In spite of the topic of the book, the author has tried to maintain a sense of right and wrong throughout the book. Cara definitely knows the difference but still goes with the flow.

It is also probably one of the very few books with an Indian American as one of the important characters. So that was kind of refreshing. The writing was free-flowing which helped but I can’t deny that I was a little disappointed in the book.  But I liked the writing so I will definitely pick up her next book if the premise interests me.

I seem to be in the minority as the reviews on Goodreads are very good.

Heart With Joy by Steve Cushman

Title: Heart With Joy
Author: Steve Cushman
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Review Copy
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Canterbury House Publishing (September 1, 2010)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

My Thoughts:
Heart with Joy is about a 17-year-old boy Julian whose mom left him and his father because she said she wanted to help her parents with their motel and complete writing her book. But Julian knows it’s more than that. He plans on going to Florida to his mother for the summer, and possibly to settle there. He is not as close to his father as he was with his mother, so staying with his father is not really appealing to him.

Julian takes up cooking and other household activities after his mother goes away. Slowly, he discovers that he really likes cooking and is possibly even passionate about it. He gets acquainted with his next door neighbor, who is a really old woman, who has a passion for birds.

Heart With Joy is exactly that, finding something that fills your heart with joy instead of going through life just because you have to. It’s a coming of age story, where Julian begins to understand his father, his mother and his own heart. It’s an easy read and its a very simple and quite story. I enjoyed knowing more about birds as a hobby and also loved the glimpse of recipes given in the book.

I had a problem with what a sweet, understanding teenager Julian is. I haven’t met any teenager who is as well adjusted and has his priorities in place and also who has such insight into things. But maybe I’m just being cynical.

It’s a good book though, definitely worth a try if you like YA or like quite stories.

Paper Towns by John Green

Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Genre: Young Adult
Set in: United States
Source: Personal Shelf
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

My thoughts:
I cursed myself for waiting so long to read it and to discover John Green. I can safely say it’s one of the best YA novels I have read. I don’t know what I was expecting but I wasn’t expecting this. This book really make me laugh out loud many times, it made me fall in love with the characters.

Quintin (Q), Ben and Radar are friends who are in their final senior year. Q and his friends are not the popular kids , but they do have fun and are almost comfortable in their own skins which makes it a refreshing approach on unpopular kids in YA novels. Q is in love with this firecracker of a girl called Margo. She is everything Q is not. Although they were good friends when they were kids as they lived next to each other, they kind of drifted apart as they grew up. Margo became the popular girl. On the outside she seems perfect, but beneath that perfect exterior is a girl who is very different from what Q knows and loves. When she disappears leaving clues for Q to find her, he starts realizing that there is a lot more to her than what appears on the surface.

Q becomes obsessed with finding Margo and as the book progresses we get to know more about Q’s relationships with his friends and his parents. Paper Towns is the kind of book that makes you want to love the author for creating characters like these. The humor is delicious and as I said before I was laughing throughout. Even my husband was intrigued and asked me to keep my copy for him instead of taking it back home. What is the best part of Paper Towns is that even underneath all this humor is a sensitivity and warmth which very few authors can achieve.

If you haven’t read John Green, do so now. Even if you don’t read YA, you simply cannot go wrong with John Green. Cannot wait to read his other books.

Some Quotes from Paper Towns
“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.”

“When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.”

“The rules of capitalization are so unfair to words in the middle of a sentence.”

“When you say nasty things about people, you should never say the true ones, because you can’t really fully and honestly take those back, you know? I mean, there are highlights. And there are streaks. And then there are skunk stripes.”