A hate letter to cockroaches, the bane of my existence

Dear Cockroaches,

Is your main purpose in life to traumatise innocent human beings?

If so, then congratulations. You’ve succeeded, 101%. Because there’s no denying how I (and many fellow humans) feel about your species. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not scared. I’m disgusted. I literally have bile rising up my throat staring at your form, whether dead, alive or struggling somewhere in between.

Does your very definition of dying valiantly with honour and pride mean to die in the hands of a human being? (Actually no, I can’t even use the word hands, because no sane person can even bear to touch your revolting body with their bare hands). Whether death through Baygon, newspapers, brooms, shoes, asphyxiation… Make no mistake, I don’t want to spare extra seconds looking at your revolting form, much less to kill you nauseating creatures. But you leave me with no choice.

Really… why exactly do you even exist? Are you really that useful in the ecosystem? Even lizards and bees are useful… but you cockroaches? Really? I have my doubts.

I can’t even begin to comprehend why you unworthy imbeciles can get off so easily by being able to reproduce through laying those damn hideous eggs. YOU SHOULD NOT EVEN BE ALIVE, SO WHY IS IT SO BLOODY EASY FOR YOU GUYS TO REPRODUCE?!

Please. Stop infiltrating and feeding off my family. Stop disturbing my precious sleep by making me paranoid and driving me to spend time at 2.30am spraying Baygon at you. Stop reproducing. If you really have to, go somewhere else. Like a forest or something that no one goes to at all. And actually, stay there for the rest of your meagre lives. Get your entire family of 4000+ species to migrate there. I don’t care if you build an entire empire of 999 billion cockroaches there, as long as you don’t try to come into human territory ever again.

I’m begging you, because I’m sooo grossed out.

And annoyed.

And disgusted.

Disgusted.

Disgusted.

Disgusted.

x1000001

Please, have some social awareness. You’re not wanted here.

Thank you very much.


 

This is a hate-filled rant I wrote a few years back when I was both furious and frustrated at being terrorised by cockroaches several nights in a row. Thankfully I managed to completely get rid of them a few days later, but I recently spotted a cockroach at home (OH NO!) which made me think of this hate letter again..

Hope you had fun reading it!

My ambitious TBR for the next 30 days..

I have a towering pile of books that have been waiting to be read by me. Some of them have been waiting for so long that their pages have turned yellow/brown before I’ve even started to read them! I’m determined to significantly shorten my TBR pile before my first year of college starts, so I shortlisted about 20 or so books to read by the end of July. I’m pretty certain I won’t be able to finish the entire list, but I’m just gonna have to think of it as a challenge to overcome, or I’ll never get those books read.

Here’s my list, categorised by genre. For convenience, I’ve added hyperlinks to their Goodreads page, and I’ll embellish with a few sentences for the less known books and/or those that I’m particularly looking forward to reading!

Fantasy

This is the prequel to one of my favourite fantasy series, the Books of Pellinor. I’ve probably said this a dozen times, but do read this series if you like Fantasy!! From reviews I’ve read, I think it’s best to go into this prequel only after you’ve at least read the first book of the series, The Gift.

Novik’s Temeraire will be my first ever fantasy read about dragons! I’m really excited to give this one a go because I loved her standalone fantasy, Uprooted. Plus, I’m eager to be introduced into the world of dragons. Not only that, it has some historical bits as well as it’s set in the time of the Napoleonic War!

Fiction

I’ve been putting this off at least 2 years. But this is a book with an interesting premise about China’s one-child policy, where the main character, as a midwife, is an unwilling enforcer made to perform abortion on women.

Ecstatic to do a second read of this book! I haven’t read Amy Tan for a while, so I thought it was time to do a re-read just to remind myself of why and how much I love this author.

I’m really looking forward to this one! Part classic, part historical romance and part family saga, this book is relatively well-known and highly rated (even has it’s own TV miniseries), but I actually learnt about it from a Chinese book I read maybe 5 years ago. I think this is going to be one heartbreaking and tearjerking story… which is honestly my favourite kind 🙂 Just hope I won’t be disappointed!

Classics

At 1.4k pages, this is definitely going to be one of the longest books I’ll ever read. It’s a huge mountain to scale, but I’m highly motivated to do this; I loved both the musical and the movie, but I can’t proclaim myself a true fan of this story without even reading the book! Anyway, this must be a great book if it has an average rating of more than 4 on Goodreads despite it being terribly long, so I have high hopes.

Non-fiction/Memoirs

I’ve had this for 3 years but only recently decided to start picking it up. How I wish I hadn’t delayed my reading of this book! It would’ve helped in my Economics exams… Still, I think this is a good book to read for anyone who wants to learn to make more conscious and clearer decisions.

This is a narrative-style book about Native Americans, about their philosophy and history, and about their conflict with the.. non-native Americans(?). I stopped about 100 pages in because I wasn’t in the right mood for it, but I’m looking forward to restarting and finishing this book soon. It’s both philosophical and spiritual, which makes for an enriching read.

Well… that’s all! It’s a long list and I’ll be glad to even accomplish half of it… I’ll update soon about my progress!

Review: Fever series by Karen Marie Moning

I love fantasy – it’s one of my favourite genres – but I’ve always stuck religiously to Epic Fantasy and mostly avoided Urban Fantasy. The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning has completely changed my mind about urban fantasy.  I think I can learn to love that subgenre as much as Epic Fantasy, if only there are many more like the Fever series out there.

The Fever series starts when Mac‘s sister is murdered in Dublin, Ireland after leaving an alarming and cryptic voice message to Mac. Overwhelmed with grief and vying for vengeance, Mac travels to Dublin seeking answers to uncover the truth behind her sister’s murder. However, she is soon introduced to the realm of the Fae – while normal humans are unable to discern Fae from humans, Mac is able to see through their glamour – and learns that her world is nothing like she’d been brought up to believe.

As book summaries go, this is still a pretty obscure one. It doesn’t even begin to expound what in the world this book is about. But this is a series you should definitely go in blind. I don’t want to reveal too much because one great appeal of the series was how Karen Marie Moning (KMM) cleverly revealed, little by little, the world she created and the secrets each character hid. KMM’s Fae world was carefully layered with detailed history, captivating characters and unimaginable creatures, secrets, lies and manipulation. Throughout the entire series, KMM kept me busy hypothesising and theorising about what each character was concealing, about who or what each character was, or about what was going to happen. Like Mac, I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone, like I was constantly being kept in the dark and urgently needed to find answers.

Especially towards the end of the series, a lot gets uncovered and we finally know the truth behind each character. These carefully hidden secrets were mind-blowing, shocking, and definitely added more complexity into the story. I loved how KMM masterfully did it piece by piece, layer by layer – at first misleading us into thinking one way, then another and another, tricking us into a wild-goose-chase before finally unveiling the crazy truth that somehow makes sense.

With each book, the world just kept becoming more and more complicated, and the situations Mac found herself in became increasingly dire. That paved the way for Mac’s amazing character development. The rather frivolous, sunshine (and sometimes annoyingly daft) girl she was in book one (a.k.a. Mac 1.0) turned, with each book and each adversity she overcame, into the tough bad-ass woman she was in book five (Mac 5.0!) who learnt to save herself. In every book, she changed, somehow both gradually yet also significantly. There were times, especially in the last two or so books, where I worried that she was in such a bad situation that she’d give in to darkness and do the wrong thing. It was almost like a ticking time bomb, and I was just waiting for the moment where she’d somehow unleash all evil into the world (yes, that’s how dark this series turned into). But eventually she learnt to have hope. She learnt who she was. She learnt that evil is not a state of being, it’s a choice. Her strength and growth encouraged me.

And what can I possibly say about Jericho Barrons (the man who first introduces Mac into the Fae world) without understating his awesomeness? Sure, he’s ruthless and sometimes rude, but I have no qualms about him because he owns up to it. While he has his own secrets he wants to keep, he doesn’t pretend to be anything he’s not. He’s upfront and self-possessed. I liked him, but I didn’t love him… not until what he did for Mac at the beginning of Dreamfever (Book 4). I can’t reveal what because it’s a major spoiler, but he officially became one of my all-time favourite male characters. And I don’t often have favourite male characters.

I loved the consistency of KMM’s writing. All the books in the series were enjoyable for me, and not only that, they actually got better. That is a rare feat for a long series. I just had one problem that slightly reduced my enjoyment of the books:

The narration is sometimes a little (just a little) long-winded. The books are written in such a way that we know Mac is recalling it after all the events have happened. The narrative is retrospective; there are foreboding sentences like “But I didn’t know it back then” or “If I had known, I wouldn’t have…”, which while meant to increase tension and make readers nervous and worried, only irritated me because they were used too often. It is also introspective; that’s how we know so much about Mac’s character development and her thought processes as she uncovers each mystery. But while I love introspection in books, here it was sometimes repetitive, laid out in long sentences when just a single short one would have been enough. I skimmed through them most of the time. Of course, this might just be a personal problem because I’m a pretty impatient person… I’ve seen a few other reviews on this series and haven’t seen one having a problem with the narrative.

Overall, while KMM’s writing style and narration are not, in my opinion, flawless, I think this series is a solid 4.5/5 and a highly recommended read. I’m thoroughly impressed by KMM’s consistency in delivering 5 great books which grabbed my attention throughout (I read them back to back in the span of 4 days!), and by her meticulous world-building and great characters. Also, have I mentioned she has the best cliffhangers?! It’s not even annoying because she knows how to pace her books well.


Breakdown of each book’s score:

  1. Darkfever – 4/5
  2. Bloodfever – 4.5/5
  3. Faefever – 5/5
  4. Dreamfever – 5/5
  5. Shadowfever – 5/5

REVIEW: A Different Blue by Amy Harmon

I’ve read A Different Blue  not once, not twice, not even thrice… probably four times, and all in the span of the one year I’ve known about this book. Each time, I’m reminded of how much I love this story, its characters, and Harmon’s writing.  I love this story so much that I’ve never really known how to do a review on it. This time, however, I shall attempt to do it.

First, I don’t think I can do a better synopsis than the one on Goodreads, so for once I’ll do it the lazy way and just copy and paste it here:

a-different-blueBlue Echohawk doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know her real name or when she was born. Abandoned at two and raised by a drifter, she didn’t attend school until she was ten years old. At nineteen, when most kids her age are attending college or moving on with life, she is just a senior in high school. With no mother, no father, no faith, and no future, Blue Echohawk is a difficult student, to say the least. Tough, hard and overtly sexy, she is the complete opposite of the young British teacher (Mr Wilson) who decides he is up for the challenge, and takes the troublemaker under his wing.

This is the story of a nobody who becomes somebody. It is the story of an unlikely friendship, where hope fosters healing and redemption becomes love. But falling in love can be hard when you don’t know who you are. Falling in love with someone who knows exactly who they are and exactly why they can’t love you back might be impossible.


The synopsis however is a little misleading, because this is NOT the story of a forbidden romance between student and teacher. Blue and Wilson don’t have a romantic relationship until late into the story, and in fact 40% into the story, Blue would have already graduated from high school. More than their relationship, this is the story of Blue – her history or lack thereof, her loneliness and lack of identity and belonging, her journey of redemption, growth and revelations.

Blue is a lonely soul – since she could remember, she’s only ever had Jimmy, the man who raised her. But when Jimmy is lost to her in an accident and she’s told that Jimmy wasn’t actually her biological father, Blue’s only source of identity and belonging is taken away from her. She doesn’t have anything, or anyone else – no birth certificate, school records, immunisation records, etc. Alone in the world, she grew up strong and tough, independent if not for her need for another’s love.

I loved Blue as a character. Although I have never been in a situation anywhere similar to Blue’s, Amy Harmon’s writing was so powerful that I felt acutely how much Blue ached for love and redemption, how lost she felt and how she desperately needed help but had no one to ask it from. While it is a common trope in many books to find characters with tragedy-ridden lives like Blue’s, I found Blue uniquely compelling, very unlike many self-pitying protagonists that I’ve read enough of. Although lost in life, she’s self-aware, bright, strong and courageous. In spite of the trials she faced, she braved through them with her head held high. She was a character I could understand, admire and ultimately respect.

Wilson, the male lead, was also charismatic. Although quirky and nerdy, I understood why his students, and Blue herself, found him charming and alluring. Like Blue, I found myself captivated during his History lessons, during which Wilson turns History into introspective lessons about life and identity. Wilson asks his students to pen down their own personal history, but Blue, a stranger to her own identity and history, finds it impossible to do so. She begins to write a parable about an unwanted blackbird who was pushed out of its nest:

Once upon a time there was a little blackbird, pushed from the nest, unwanted. (…)

This obscure story and her reluctance to write her personal history compels Wilson to find out more about her. They form a slow friendship that only strengthens after her graduation, when Blue finds herself in a dire situation and has no one but Wilson to help her along the way.

The story only gets better from then on. Slowly, Blue learns to love herself and others. She finds redemption and learns to receive and give help. And while Wilson was a major contributing factor to this change in Blue, Blue’s accomplishments and growth were mostly attributed to her own strength and resilience, which made this story even more beautiful.

“I have tried to change, Wilson. Remember when we talked about redemption? That night my car wouldn’t start, that night we were rescued by Larry and Curly?
That night … something happened to me. Something I’ve never felt before. I was heartbroken and sick inside. And I prayed. I cried out for love, not even knowing that love was what I asked for. I needed to feel loved, and it was just… just poured down on me. No strings, no ultimatums, no promises required. Just freely given. All I had to do was ask. And I was… changed by it. In that moment, I felt… healed.
Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t perfected by it. My trials weren’t even taken away. My weaknesses weren’t suddenly made into strengths, my struggles weren’t any different. My sorrow didn’t miraculously become joy… but I felt healed all the same.
It was as if the cracks were filled, and the stones around my heart were broken up and swept away. And I felt… whole.”

Besides the characters and storyline, Harmon’s interweaving of the tales from the Paiute Indians/Native Americans, short history recounts during Wilson’s classes, and the intricate craft of wood carving, with the story brought culture and a deeper meaning into the story. I loved all these mini references and it’s clear that Harmon did her research because she displayed more than just a facile knowledge of these topics in her writing.

Harmon is a brilliant author with a knack for writing poignant stories about life, identity and love. I’ve read a couple of her other books (Running Barefoot and Making Faces) and also loved them, but A Different Blue remains my favourite. It is in no way a cliched story about a love between teacher and student, but rather an unconventional story about a girl who, against all odds, redeems herself and learns to love. A highly recommended read for… well, everyone.

“I keep wishing you had a better life… a different life. But a different life would have made you a different Blue. And that would be the biggest tragedy of all.”

 

(I’m sorry this turned out to be more of a lengthy declaration of love for the book rather than an impartial review, but if you’ve read this far, thank you.)

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

For all the great reviews that this book’s ARC has gotten, I personally don’t think When Dimple Met Rishi lives up to the hype. That said, I don’t think this was a bad book per se. In fact, this book though lighthearted, deals with several societal issues.

She wept for her hardheadedness, and for a world that couldn’t just let her be both, a woman in love and a woman with a career, without flares of guilt and self-doubt seeping in and wreaking havoc. No one she knew had balanced both. There was either work or love. Wanting both felt like a huge ask; it felt like wishing for hot ice cream or a bitter sugar cube.

You can find the goodreads synopsis of the book here. But I’ll just do a little summary for you lazy folks out there.

When Dimple Met RishiWhen Dimple Met Rishi is a contemporary Young Adult novel about two teenagers (Dimple and Rishi) from traditional Indian families living in America. Dimple and Rishi’s parents have arranged for the both of them to be married to each other in future. However, while Rishi is a hopeless romantic who is fully on board this idea, Dimple is kept in the dark (because her parents know she’d never agree). When Dimple goes to a summer program at Stanford, Rishi joins to meet her, thinking that she was going there solely for the purpose of meeting him too. And then the story unfolds…

Dimple is an ‘unconventional’ American female in many ways:

  1. She is an Indian-American.
  2. She is interested in web development, a subject usually more popular among males than females
  3. She prioritises career over starting a family, isn’t interested at all in finding love, and doesn’t really care much about her looks. (Don’t shoot me, I KNOW these are just stereotypes and especially today these stereotypes are increasingly challenged, but that’s the point, I guess)

This allows the author to very subtly input more weighty topics including: the shame or lack of belonging that many second-generation migrants feel about their heritage; prejudice and disadvantages of women in STEM jobs, and how this causes women to feel that they have to choose between career and family. She didn’t go into lengthy paragraphs and discussions about these topics, but I felt that it was well-balanced considering the book was meant to carry more of a light-hearted tone anyway.

Sandhya Menon also did a good job in developing Dimple and Rishi’s characters. Throughout the book, I had a clear idea of Dimple and Rishi’s characters, even if they didn’t have predictable personalities.

What I didn’t like about the book was Dimple and Rishi’s relationship. Problem was, this took up majority of the book.

Menon’s writing was a little childish and underdeveloped, which was what made Dimple and Rishi’s relationship cloying. I’m not sure if that’s what her actual writing style is like, or if she was just trying too hard to write in the perspective of teenagers.

Her choice of words was slightly disturbing too. Throughout the book, she repeatedly mentioned how ‘the tip of Rishi’s ears turned pink’ or how Dimple’s cheeks ‘heated up’, and I felt like I was reading about prepubescent twelve year olds in a relationship. So I cringed internally each time they kissed, made out, or… basically whenever they did something that would otherwise have been considered sweet or romantic if the writing was better. It wasn’t even that Dimple & Rishi weren’t good for each other, because I felt that personality-wise, they did have a connection and complemented each other.

Another thing I find a little misleading was that Dimple and Rishi were supposed to be in a summer programme for app development, and Dimple is supposed to be crazy passionate about coding. Yet, only minimal parts of the story really involved this so-called programme, and there were absolutely zero scenes of them doing any coding. You could read maybe 4 chapters of the book and only get one or two sentences about the ‘progress’ of the application Dimple and Rishi were supposedly designing. And then one fine day, they’ve finished their prototype and the winners are announced. There was no buildup, no excitement. It was disappointing.

Still, despite its flaws, I think this was a worthy effort for a first-time author; I think this book deserves at least of 3 out of 5 stars.

Let’s talk FANTASY – Fantasy Maps

Fantasy maps are another element of high fantasy that I simply adore.

If you’re a geek like me, you’d probably spend several good seconds (or minutes) admiring the map at the start of many high fantasy novels. I just love the illustrations on these maps.

Here are just some of them:

Edil Amarandh map
Map of Edil-Amarandh, from Alison Croggon’s Books of Pellinor
Grisha map
Map of the Grisha world, from Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy)
Middle Earth
Map of Middle Earth, from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy

 

They are so pleasing to the eyes!! These maps spark so much wanderlust in me and I just want to jump into these worlds physically, if only I could.

Truth is, I don’t even refer to them while reading because I’m too into the story to bother, but I think these maps just add so much more character into the world and makes it even more real.

I love how Fantasy writers put in so much effort into details like these – where the mountains and hills are, the size of each place, the distance between each place – and when they make all these details matter by linking it to the background or history of their world. It’s another reason why I respect fantasy writers so much; they dedicate so many years to create an original fantasy world!

Do you have a favourite fantasy world map? Share it with us in the comments below!

Review: Jandy Nelson – I’ll Give You the Sun & The Sky is Everywhere

There’s been a whole lot of rave over Jandy Nelson’s two YA Contemporary books, I’ll Give You the Sun  and The Sky is Everywhere. I finally read both of them, one after another, so here’s what I think about these books!

I won’t do separate reviews for them, but rather a comparison because I liked one over the other much more, and I don’t think I have much to say about them separately. But first, a brief summary of each of the books..


I'll Give you the Sun'I’ll Give You the Sun is about twins who used to be very close, despite them being very different, until a whole series of events happens that causes a falling out. The book has alternating POVs between the twins Noah and Jude, of which Noah’s POV is from when they were 13, and Jude’s when they are 16.


The sky is everywhereThe Sky is Everywhere is about Lennie as she struggles to get over the death of her older sister, and along the way she finds herself in between two boys, one of them a new kid in school, the other her sister’s boyfriend.


In both books, Nelson adopts a casual and slightly humourous way of writing, like what you’d expect if you were listening to the thoughts of a teenager, except more coherent. Basically, the writing style is like most other YA Contemporary novels out there (except with a tinge of peculiarity because her characters are rather strange). I don’t think there’s much special about her writing style; it’s more of the plot and characters that makes her stories unique. If you want to try one of Nelson’s books, I’d recommend I’ll Give You the Sun over The Sky is Everywhere. Here’s why:

What I found most distinguishing about both books was that the characters are very idiosyncratic. In I’ll Give You the Sun, Noah is the nerdy artist who is so passionate about art that he even paints in his head, and Jude is the highly superstitious girl whose only friend is her grandma’s ghost. Together, they talk about things like dividing the world (sun, moon, ocean, flowers, trees etc) among themselves. In The Sky is Everywhere, Lennie writes poems on every surface possible and hides them everywhere, and she has an obsession with Wuthering Heights. I loved that Nelson added these bits of weird-but-somewhat-cool-ness into both stories, making her characters come to life.

However, while I felt that Noah & Jude’s idiosyncrasies were an essential part of the story in I’ll Give You the Sun, Lennie’s poem and Wuthering Heights obsession thing in The Sky is Everywhere felt superfluous and wasn’t tied in as seamlessly with the rest of the story. As such, I didn’t feel as attached to Lennie as I did Noah and Jude.

Additionally, I’ll Give You the Sun had an actual plot with a lot of things happening. Whereas in The Sky is Everywhere, not much was really happening and I felt like I was just waiting for Lennie to finally screw up and learn her lesson so that the book could move on.

Considering the four-year gap between the publishing of both books, Nelson’s writing has undoubtedly improved since her debut The Sky is Everywhere. So while The Sky is Everywhere was just okay (3 stars) to me, I did enjoy I’ll Give You the Sun (4 star read) a lot more and it’s one I would recommend.

Have you read any of Jandy Nelson’s books? How did you find them? If you’ve read both of these books, do you agree with my preference? 🙂