My December TBR

I’m finally posting here again! It’s college winter break so I really want to regain the reading momentum that I lost when school started. My first ever semester of college has been a whirlwind of experience – it’s crazy to think about how much has changed just in the past few months and the new discoveries I’ve made about myself. I’ve mostly been flooded with schoolwork so I haven’t done much leisure reading, and I’m awfully excited to embark on (what I hope will be) my December/winter break reading spree.

I’m going to do things a little differently this time with more non-fiction; I had some philosophy classes in college and realised that I find philosophy extremely intriguing – there’s a whole art and beauty behind reasoning and thinking about all sorts of things, especially when they’re regarding issues people take for granted such as ethics, consciousness, virtues, and when they involve challenging conventional ideals. So I’m going to spend my winter break reading about areas of philosophy I’m interested in!

Other than that, I still need my break from serious stuff, so there’s definitely still some fiction involved, though they’re mostly remainders from my previous pre-college TBR that I clearly did not manage to complete.

Fiction TBR:

  1. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
    • As I mentioned earlier, the Les Miserables musical adaptation means a lot to me, so I’m honestly really disappointed in myself that I haven’t even gone past Volume 1 of this book (i.e. I haven’t even reached the part where Valjean and Cosette meet!)..
  2. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
    • Another classic that has been on my TBR for ages…
  3. Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
  4. My Brother and His Brother – Hakan Lindquist
  5. Sing, Unburied, Sing – Jesmyn Ward 
  6. Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    • This will be my first read from an African writer! I got this when I went on a school trip to South Africa. Adichie is known not just for her writings (many of her books can be found in the typical bookstores),  but also for her advocation of feminism – she has a book/essay titled We Should All Be Feminists and has given a (popular) TEDx talk on the same subject.
  7. Night – Elie Wiesel
    • This book is going to be a hauntingly horrific and harrowing read.. It’s an autobiographical account of the author’s experience in a Nazi concentration camp. The story has been translated to 30 other languages. Wiesel was also a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his work in the cause of peace.
  8. The Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson
    • Out of everything, I’m most excited for this book. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Brandon Sanderson is a genius. I loved his Mistborn trilogy, and Goodreads is full of praise for The Way of Kings. I’m sure this won’t disappoint!

Non-fiction TBR:

  1. Meditations – Marcus Aurelius
    • One of my required readings in college which I didn’t complete entirely. It’s full of life lessons and reminders that Marcus Aurelius has for himself, and is unlike other philosophy texts because this is more stating rather than argumentative
  2. Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder – Kent Nerburn
  3. Beyond Good and Evil – Friedrich Nietzsche
  4. Why I am not a Christian and other essays – Bertrand Russell
  5. The End of Faith – Sam Harris
  6. The Meaning of Things: Applying Philosophy to Life – AC Grayling
  7. Run, Racist, Run: Journeys into the Heart of Racism – Eusebius McKaiser
  8. The Virtues of Our Vices – Emrys Westacott

Wish me luck! 😉

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Review: The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

It’s a rarity to find books that captivate you so much that you find yourself still thinking about that fictional world hours after completing the book. Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds is one of those few treasures for me. I can’t get closure without first writing or discussing about it, so a review is surely in order.

By the way, this is a pretty long post so if you don’t have the patience, let me just tell you this: READ THIS BOOK.

The Thorn Birds has elements of historical fiction, romance, and family saga in it. It centres around Meggie, the only daughter in a large patriarchal family of many sons. It follows Meggie as she grows from age 4 till 50 years later, and the heart of this novel lies in the forbidden loves between Meggie and an ambitious Catholic priest (read: wannabe cardinal) Ralph. There are also some chapters or paragraphs about the other members of the family, which gave us insights into their characters.

McCullough did a fantastic job with these characters. Meggie, Ralph, Frank (Meggie’s eldest brother), Paddy (Meggie’s father), Fee (Meggie’s mother) and Justine (Meggie’s daughter) were all characters I both liked (mostly) and disliked (occasionally), and that was what made them very real to me. They were loveable yet flawed, had their share of strengths and vulnerabilities, and they had the inherent inconsistencies of human nature – these made them very three-dimensional. I wish to discuss more about them, but I’m afraid it might get a little spoiler-y so maybe I’ll save that for another post.

Under McCullough’s writing, even places and settings were separate characters of their own. From New Zealand to Gillanbone and Drogheda, Dungloe to Rome and the Vatican, McCullough’s use of personification and her detailed yet concise descriptions of each setting gave life to each of these places, particularly Drogheda, where Meggie’s family lived for the large part of the novel. Drogheda, with her harsh bouts of droughts and floods, was extreme, but with these extremities came her beauty and larger-than-life personality.

There is a lot about love, loss, and life with its irony and struggles in this book. It is tragedy ridden, which I know some readers have had a few complains about, but personally I felt that it wasn’t too over-the-top. I could actually imagine most of these events happening, and because McCullough’s characters are all so realistic I cared deeply about them, worried for them, grieved with them, and smiled for them. There were many moments while reading where I found myself sitting up with my heart clenching, knowing what was about to happen would cause another bout of tears; and there were many moments too when I wasn’t reading where I caught myself thinking about them, wondering if they were going to be fine after all. I think that is a great testament to how powerful and epic McCullough’s story is.

Most importantly, I valued the internal struggles that each character faced. Written in a third-person’s POV, the writing seamlessly switches from an indifferent but omniscient outsider to an involved character in the book, hence we are given insights, both from a character’s perspective and from an observer’s viewpoint, into the depth of each character’s thoughts and emotions. As a result, it’s difficult to fully dislike any one character, because we understand their motivations, reasoning and thought processes behind their actions. To illustrate, I really wanted to hate Ralph (if you don’t remember, he’s the priest whom Meggie falls in love with) for his pride and ambition which drove him to forsake Meggie for his career – yet I understood that he himself had struggled to do so, that he wasn’t happy with his own decision either. Among others, there was also Fee’s blatant favouritism of Frank, Meggie’s (really stupid) decision to commit to someone else she didn’t truly love, and Frank’s desire to escape for independence despite his love for his mom. Each of these I disliked, yet I could empathise and understand where they were coming from. Truly, that is the beauty of a third-person narrative, and McCullough has utilised it so effectively that the readers get all the positives of a third-person perspective while somewhat retaining the benefits of a first-person narrative.

I also really loved the addition of religion, or at least love for God, into the story. I’m not a religious person at all – raised as a ‘casual’ Buddhist and now a free thinker, I don’t actually know much about Catholicism or Christianity – but I love the spirituality and romanticism of religion. Ralph struggles as a priest who wants to honour his vows to God. He loves God, strives to put God first, and is ambitious in his career in the church, yet being a priest had never really been a choice for him – it was a long standing tradition in his family for the second son to serve God. Ralph’s inability to reconcile his love for God to his love for Meggie ends up being his demise. If that’s not romantic (I mean, romantic in the most tragic way possible), then I don’t know what is.

I also appreciated the input of historical events into the novel, but I have no clue how accurate they are and am not particularly motivated to find out (The book is good enough already, doesn’t matter how historically accurate it is, it’s still going to be a good read).

PLEASE read this book. I also couldn’t help but watch the miniseries after that and it’s great but of course, the book is better.

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

T5W: Children’s books & Childhood faves!

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme originally created by Lainey, and now hosted by Sam. You can read more about it on the Goodreads page. This week’s topic is on the top 5 children’s book I loved and would recommend!

I think as a kid we all felt like our future held infinite possibilities and we could do anything we wanted, be anyone we wanted. Part of that is the reason why I believe children should read – to feed their imagination and spur their curiosity and wonderment of the world. Exposing them to different situations and ordeals via books will also, I believe, make them more prepared for the real world. I’m so grateful to my parents for encouraging me to read and ultimately nurturing a love for reading in me, and I hope this is still something that parents nowadays (and in the future) will continue to do!

Anyway, moving on to my top 5…


1. The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne

magictreehouseseries
Source: http://www.magictreehousebooks.net

The Magic Tree House was probably the first book/series that introduced me to the concept of fantasy, and it was also likely the first book that sparked my love for adventure. For ages 5-8, the series follows young siblings Jack and Annie as they travel back to the past and all over the world. In the first book, Jack and Annie discover the treehouse filled with magical books. Using these books, they can travel back to different historical eras. They soon meet the wizard Merlin, who sends them on missions everywhere. From the Amazon to Egypt to Japan, and from the period of dinosaurs to the medieval ages to the Great Depression, Jack and Annie witness and experience all sorts of historical events and cultures. I think this is an amazing series for children to learn and realise that the world they live in is even more complex, beautiful and full of history than they thought.

2. Maximum Ride series by James Patterson

maximum ride

Ahhh Maximum Ride… It doesn’t have the best covers, but this is the one childhood series I actually still have all the books of. No doubt, the first few books were better, but by then I was already too into the series and characters to properly spot a flaw in the later books. The Maximum Ride series is about a small group (flock) of 6 kids who have wings on their backs. Yep, you read that right.. they’re 98% human and 2% bird, and they can fly. They’re clearly the (more successful) products of genetic experiments, raised as specimens in cages in labs and all that jazz. Not fun. Mercifully they’ve successfully escaped thanks to one of the nice scientists who ‘adopted’ them, but when he disappears they find themselves again being hunted by the people who created them. This series slowly evolves from them trying to escape, to trying to assimilate into the world and live their lives as normal kids, and then trying to save the world with the other ‘products of genetic experiments’ while avoiding the mad scientists who get crazier and more psychopathic with every book. Okay I know I don’t sound excited about this series at all, but it’s just that I’ve moved on and I feel like cringing whenever I think about how I gushed so much about these books. I loved this series because of the flock’s rapport and compatibility; there’s a lot about friendship, loyalty and betrayal in this series, with an added bonus that they’re all pretty bad-ass characters. As a kid I really treasured this series up till my early teens, so I still think it’s a great idea for pre-teens/tweens to try this one out!

3. Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz

alex rider

The Alex Rider series is a spy-kid thriller about 14-year old Alex, who after his parents’ death was raised by his uncle. But when his uncle dies, Alex learns that his uncle was a secret agent at MI6 who died on his mission. He soon realises that his uncle’s strict training of him – learning multiple languages, self-defence, … all sorts of skills you wouldn’t expect a young teenager to know – was for a reason, and Alex is thrown into the world of a secret agent. Alex is super smart and probably a genius for his adeptness as a spy, but of course as a kid the world was my oyster – I didn’t realise the extent of how unrealistic it was and simply loved how adroit Alex was. The books are fast paced, exciting and innovative – thrilling stories, a bad-ass yet relatable character and cool unthinkable gadgets. What more could a kid want? Good for pre-teens/tweens!

4. Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

kira-kira

I wish I could remember more of what this book was about, but this was so long ago that I can hardly recall anything except for the emotions the story overwhelmed me with. So I’ll just go the easy way out and use the goodreads synopsis:

kira-kira (kee ra kee ra): glittering; shining Glittering. That’s how Katie Takeshima’s sister, Lynn, makes everything seem. The sky is kira-kira because its color is deep but see-through at the same time. The sea is kira-kira for the same reason and so are people’s eyes. When Katie and her family move from a Japanese community in Iowa to the Deep South of Georgia, it’s Lynn who explains to her why people stop on the street to stare, and it’s Lynn who, with her special way of viewing the world, teaches Katie to look beyond tomorrow, but when Lynn becomes desperately ill, and the whole family begins to fall apart, it is up to Katie to find a way to remind them all that there is always something glittering — kira-kira — in the future.

5. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume

are you there god its me margaret

This is a little like a children’s version of chick-lit. But that said, I think this can be a pretty helpful book for children (mainly girls) as it shares about insecurities, self-consciousness… all the pains of growing up and entering puberty. I loved this book because it was very relatable, and it was this book that got me ‘speaking to God’ for comfort as a kid. However, this book definitely doesn’t preach so if you’re a non-Christian, don’t worry – like I said, I’m not a religious person but I still enjoyed the book and who knows, you may start to understand better why some people turn to God or religion for solace.

Honourable mentions: The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

 

(Sorry this is a pretty bad post, I was really tired and too lazy to edit but I wanted to get this done in time).

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: 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.)