#BoutOfBooks 17 – Challenges & Updates

Bout of Books

I am so excited to start with my third Bout of Books read-a-thon! This time, I made certain rules for myself:

  • No galleys – they form a big chunk of my reading but my TBR pile  and backlisted books get neglected
  • All books will be print ones – because that pile is growing too tall and will topple soon.

<-img_20160823_002118.jpg My  reading list, in that order
If you want to  join me for a buddy read, or just chat about your favorite books, I am just a tweet away!
And finally, so as not to spam my followers, all updates and daily challenges will go into this master post. Continue reading

Review: Girls on Fire

Girls on FireGirls on Fire by Robin Wasserman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Girls on Fire tells the story of Hannah and Lacey and their obsessive teenage female friendship so passionately violent it bloodies the very sunset its protagonists insist on riding into, together, at any cost. Opening with a suicide whose aftermath brings good girl Hannah together with the town’s bad girl, Lacey, the two bring their combined wills to bear on the community in which they live; unconcerned by the mounting discomfort that their lust for chaos and rebellion causes the inhabitants of their parochial small town, they think they are invulnerable.

But Lacey has a secret, about life before her better half, and it’s a secret that will change everything…

Girls on Fire is an intense book; it feels more like a mirror of society rather than just a straightforward story. What Wasserman has done is, within the narrative, challenged the gender roles and male privilege, while telling a story about three girls who, for different reasons aimed to carve out their identities and be something else than what they were molded to be. The setting is early 90s, when Lacey was just introduced to Kurt Cobain and the liberation of her inner self. The fire within her attracted the oft-forgotten Hannah, who becomes Dex to please her, and because she is tired of being Hannah. Together, their friendship is all-consuming, a relationship that though platonic, is more intense than romance. Dex needs Lacey to keep her wild, and Lacey needs her to feel sane; the latter is broken and won’t admit it to the former. In fact, both present a facade of coolness at first – desperate for validation and feeling needed, and where there are lies, there are cracks for another person to come.

Lacey’s and Dex’s wild adventures don’t go unnoticed in their conservative town, but as long as their antics are heard of, not seen, people don’t really give them a hard time. But one night, in a string of mistakes, Dex falls prey to her peers and it sets off a chain of events that leads to Nicole driving a wedge between them, and dredging up a shared past with Lacey. It must be noted here that despite Lacey’s and Dex’s anarchic tendencies, most of their actions were to get a rise out of people – kind of like a middle finger to their ultra-perfect-model town, in which God-fearing parents think their kids can do no wrong and are quick to point them out as the Devil’s handmaidens. We have these complex girls and this is a complicated town, making for a plot that is laden with subtext about nearly everything from sexism, bullying, violence and trauma, to loneliness, and abuse.

A topic that the book circles around is the burden of being a girl as opposed to the burden of being a women. In alternating perspectives, the story is mostly told by Dex and Lacey, but there are a few ‘Them’ chapters about the mothers – who were girls like them once, and now grown into women, see their daughters like the girls they once were. It places a different demarcation between a girl and a women – the loss of not innocence, but of dreams and that fire that burns within a girl until it is stamped out and replaced with expectations. The story doesn’t glorify being ‘bad’ but it doesn’t see all that great about being ‘good’ either. One particularly powerful quote was about how for men it was easy to be different things, whereas for a girl it was either good or she is slut-shamed.

Finally, I would like to point out that while the story is pretty good, the pace is slow. The story also speaks more of nostalgia, and that should have been my first clue that it is not YA (damn you, Goodreads shelving). I found out, at the end of the book, that is actually an adult novel, and with the content of the book, I would say it ambiguously straddles the line between both. On one hand, the language and content (there is a lot of mature content) would place it in adult, but it is not entirely unusual for YA to deal with such topics either. But the overall feel of the novel is distinctly not YA, which I can’t really explain in words. Bottom-line? It is a book that is amazingly written and has plenty of food for thought.

Trigger warning: Sexual assault, Suicide

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#BoutOfBooks 17 Sign Up

Bout of Books

 

The next Bout of Books is almost here! It is my third #BoutofBooks and I am sooo excited! One week of staying in my reading cave and surviving only on books! Nah, kidding. The actual read-a-thon is not harsh. As Kelly and Amanda of Bout of Books say:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 22nd and runs through Sunday, August 28th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 17 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

Like last time, I have not decided on the books to read, because, well I am a mood reader. But since I have already read August’s and most of September’s galleys already, I am going to turn my attention towards my neglected TBR pile. I will try to get through as many of the books I have, but my starting goal is 4 books.

Good luck to all of you who are taking part, and lets do our best!

P.S. If you want to  join me for a buddy read, or just chat about your favorite books, I am just a tweet away!

ARC Review: Three Dark Crowns

Three Dark CrownsThree Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Release date: September 20, 2016

Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

Three Dark Crowns is actually the first Kendare Blake novel I have read, despite having her other series on my TBR for quite some time; and this book has made my fall in love with her writing – I was impressed by the world-building, and the way the society of Fennbirn was constructed. The island country has female rulers and most positions of power are held by women. As for the plot, the closest I can come to comparing it would be the War of the Five Kings in Game of Thrones. So, on the island the magic is divided into gifts, and three main gifts – poisoner, elemental and naturalist, are common and have reigning houses. Each generation of rulers are born as triplet daughters, each usually manifesting one of the three main gifts, and they are separated at childhood and brought up in their respective gifted community. On their 16th birthday, the challenge for the throne begins and since the houses rule the island once the Queen has given birth to the next generation, there is fierce competition for the throne. Forget nature, it’s all nurture ruling here.

As each Queen is groomed for her battle against the other two – right from childhood – she is taught to hate and despise her sisters. The tale of these sisters – Mirabelle, Arsinoe and Katherine is told from the third perspective, but shuffles around with the viewpoint of secondary characters. We see how the power-hungry houses don’t even care for their respective Queen – she is merely an instrument for them to gain power – and burden her with that responsibility. For the sisters, though, it is a fight for survival, and being apart means they have no love for each other that would make them hesitate. The crooked manipulations of the houses are such that they will twist any other Queen’s actions into an act of war. The girls themselves are sheltered for the most part, and even the best of the houses, the naturalists, still are quite bad when it comes to resolving differences.

The romance portion of the novel was not that interesting, and there is unnecessary drama with the love triangle. No book-boyfriend worthy males (all are boring) here, so far, but I like that the sisters and their quest for the throne is the main focus. Still, I felt the sisters themselves aren’t brought out that well – for now, they are mostly naive girls getting carried away. Mirabelle really needs to let go of her one-night stand, Arsinoe should invest time in looking up Terms & Conditions of Low Magic, and Katherine – well, I like where her path is going for now. The female relationships in this book were better developed, in my opinion, with the easy friendships the girls had among their friends, as well as varied kinds of maternal affection displayed. What I am now interested in how this plays out between the sisters – will they realize how they have been conditioned for hate all their lives, or will they give in to the power struggle and war with each other. The fact that the ending had a nice little twist (oh, it was good) means there is chance for some major upsetting of the status quo, and I am hopeful that the sequel will live up to this good start.

Received a free galley from HarperTeen, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest unbiased review.

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ARC Review: Teen Titans: Earth One, Vol. 2

Teen Titans: Earth One, Vol. 2Teen Titans: Earth One, Vol. 2 by Jeff Lemire
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Picking right up after the cliffhanger ending to the first volume, Cyborg, Beast Boy, Terra and Aqualad are in desperate straits: they’re homeless, destitute, and on the run from Cadmus, the project that created them. Unfortunately, Cadmus has more surprises up its sleeve… and a whole new set of teenage weapons, with none of the bothersome morals of the originals!

This volume came so much later than the first that I was a bit lost at the start. Continuing after the events of Volume 1, the Teen Titans (Cyborg, Terra, Beast Boy & Aqualad) are now on the run, while Raven is learning about and protecting Starfire. Meanwhile, their sneaky fellow Titan J-something is revealed to be a double agent. Needless to say, Star Labs is on the hunt and their enemy is Cadmus, who is this creepy dude who likes to brainwash children into thinking he is their father. *le sigh* What these Titans don’t know is that there is another set of Titans that has been even more brainwashed – they are basically Cadmus’ soldiers, and come to hunt them down. Cyborg is weakening because the metal is overtaking him, and even with Raven and Starfire’s help things get difficult. We get a bit more insight into how Star Labs had created the Titans, but the story is pretty short and predictable. The artwork, too, isn’t impressive, when you compare with Volume 1. Sure, it looks grittier, more detailed and suits the tense atmosphere of the storyline, but I miss the clean lines and pleasant color scheme of the first one. As a sequel, it is a bit of a letdown in terms of artwork but story is more intense.

Previous books

Teen Titans: Earth One Vol. 1

Received a free galley from DC Comics, via Netgalley and Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.

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