“My True Love Gave To Me:Twelve Holiday Stories”” by Stephanie Perkins – Book Review, Part 1

Okie dokie fellows, I am back once again. As you might have already noticed, my very ambitious goal of daily posts was not, indeed, reached, the same way my holiday TBR is still mostly untouched, a fact I am deeply ashamed by, because I haven’t been reading much lately and that is a truly hurtful thing.

Now, you see, because of my very real shame that hit me like a tsunami last night, when I was peacefully trying to fall asleep after watching a very, very nice movie (“A Good Year”,2006 – check it out, it is funny and really relaxing, if you ask me. Moreover, it is about wine and France and London and it is really culturally attractive.), I decided that I should really do some reading. So I got onto a collection of stories that I have started reading back in October and then left aside because the time was , um , not appropriate. But ’tis the season, dear people.

The time had come for Stephanie Perkins’ story collection “My true love gave to me”. It has a nice cover and a truly wonderful festive atmosphere. Along with a dozen of romantic – at least slightly- stories.

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I only read ( or skimmed through) half of them , out of which I really, really liked – smiling dubiously at the screen of my Kindle, my heart fluttering at the perfectness of the whole thing- half. I’m going to write a super duper short review for each of them and maybe rate them because, duh, I am the one and only judge this world has ever seen. SO, ONTO THE STORIES THEN.

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By the way, I wanted to point out that the cover is not random at all, every pair drawn came from one of the 12 stories. Nice, right?
  1. “MIDNIGHTS” by Rainbow Rowell – This one I read back in October, but it was a delight. With all the discouraged romance, still delightful, still beautifully written, still absorbing, still Rainbow Rowell keeping it simple and making my life miserbale because, hello, the truth always lies somewhere else.

92.75%, let’s say. I am really bad with ratings, so excuse me.

2. “POLARIS IS WHERE YOU’LL FIND ME” by Jenny Han – I’ve read     almost all of Jenny Han’s books and the thing I most;y likes in them was the family element. So warm, so nice, so much humanity there.  That has usually kept me reading and reading, the prospect of nearness and tenderness and the idea of home. The familiarity. But, for Santa Claus’s sake, I was annoyed by this story, mainly because it felt so, so juvenile. I get that the narrator is 15 and the only human (???) in Polaris, where elves and Santa live in peace with the short days and the long nights. I kept reading, thinking that, at some point, I would start enjoying it, but I didn’t actually , so. Meh for me. Too… sweet, I suppose. Too…quirky.

73.236% here.

3.”IT’S A YULETIDE MIRACLE, CHARLIE BROWN” by Stephanie Perkins – If anybody ever asks me what the title means , I won’t know to say, funnily enough. I started wrongly, by giving you the idea that I had any type of problem with this story, but I. Did. Not. It was all sorts of wonderful and creative and made me smile a very big and true smile. It was great, like every other thing Stephanie Perkins wrote. Which is really surprising, tacking into account that I have the tendency to avoid romance for it strikes no chord in me. Her work does. This story did. Brilliant.

98.999%, just because.

4. “TEMPORARY SANTA” by David Levithan – Ok, this one had a weird premise, I think. A sorta illegal and stupid one, as far as I understand it. Didn’t like it at all, mainly because I couldn’t find it rational. Weird, weird, weird.

60.33%, I suppose.

5.”KRUMPUSLAUF” by Holly Black – Damn, I’ve just said that David Levithan’s story made no sense in my head? I take it back. Because, as much as I’ve tried, this story was a “no” for me. I get the creepiness, I get the whole idea she had with refusing to write some stereotype Christmas love story, but it was more violent than it needed to be and less logical than anything else. So, um, I didn’t actually get to finish it.

6.”WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE, SOPHIE ROTH?” – Gayle Forman – This might have been the less sad, depressing and dramatic work of Gayle Forman’s that I read and it was sooo nice. I really liked it, in a very twisted way, because it talked about peculiarity and not belonging. Alienation. I like those things. Really nice, touching slightly more profound subjects than the other ones. I liked it so very much, it is a 97% to me. And it will forever be.

This was it for today, people of winter. I will ( to be read as “I probably won’t, but hope I will, because that is exactly the level of my devotion”) post smallish reviews for the rest of them as well, when I finish reading them.

Have a nice time dreaming of snow, fellows, I’ll be back. Soon. * dramatic noises in the background*

 

Childhood Movies & Bits of Russian History

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 Heart, don’t fail me now
 Courage, don’t desert me
 Don’t turn back now that we’re here.

Really inspired, aren’t I?

Have I fallen into the deep pool of melancholy? Yes. Oh, and how I have, but it doesn’t bother me, not in the very least.

Because having rewatched “Anastasia” tonight, after so many years, has brought lots of things back on my mind and gave me an idea for today’s post. The one which was not, in fact, supposed to exist, due to my greatness.

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I was blunt in my way of explaining that title I wrote there and I’m just realizing it, but I am not going to press “Delete” because I want you to feel like you are listening to me rambling about one of the only coherent things left of my wondrous childhood. Which you basically are, after all.

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Ten years ago today ( I have no idea whether the date is the 19th of December or not, but it was cold outside and snow was falling hard and the house was warm and smelled of burnt earth, so I am just going to pretend, for better aesthetics, that it was the 19th of December.).

Ten years ago today – or something like that – my parents came home with a cassette. We used to have this machine in which we would introduce the cassettes and watch movies. Cartoons. “The Titanic” one million times. That time, it was “Anastasia”. People had come at our house for some sort of loud celebratory reunion, I have no idea what it was. But on the small screen of the voluminous TV we had back then, the tale of a lost Russian princess was taking form. And I remember how my father accidentally stepped on the small piano I had back then and how I couldn’t bring myself to care because it was cold outside and the translation to “Once Upon A December” has rhymes. I was haunted by this song. Sort of. I was haunted by the idea of musical box. I have been haunted, ever since, by how beautiful the name Anya sounds to my European ears and how wonderfully similar it is to my own name. I’ve pretended, for years and years, that my old plain Ana was short for Anastasia and I was the lost princess of some glistening kingdom.

Far away, long ago,
Glowing dim as an ember,
Things my heart
Used to know
,
Things it yearns to remember

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If you aren’t aware, this animated movie ( which is not a Disney one, for that matter ) is based onto the controversial death of the Romanov family , back in 1918, and the hypothesis that one of the five children of the family, the youngest daughter, Anastasia, might have survived the execution. This possibility, one of the most approached theories of the 20th century, was demonstrated to be false during the 70s.

The plot surrounds the journey of the true Anastasia, ten years after the Revolution, in 1926,struggling to find her family, as she couldn’t remember a thing about her past, Dimitri  – the kid who had saved her, during the revolution, from being taken by the Bolsheviks, along with her family, and the one and only love interest – and Vlad, a guy who used to be part of the Imperial Court, to Paris, where the mother of the Tsar, Empress Maria, had managed to escape. While adventurous and interesting, it needed a dark side, didn’t it? So we have the second component of the plot – Rasputin, the Russian monk whose legend is closely associated to the Romanov family, had cursed them, announcing their deaths – by managing to escape, Anastasia threw him in some sort of anti-place where he couldn’t actually reach his powers or the human world, but rather discomposed in a  very slow manner. So when he finds out he actually is alive and well, he decides to send his creepy green minions that actually look like some sort of fluorescent bats to kill her. They fail, obviously.

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I don’t want to make this a sum up of the movie, but rather a formulation of a question that has popped into my mind. A question that I feel the need to ask, but I don’t believe I can do it without offering you some historical background.

Meanwhile.

This is the full soundtrack of the movie, simply fantastic. Great. Wonderful. I suggest “Once Upon A December”, “Journey To The Past
” and “Prologue”.

Because, as much as I love this movie –  the characters, the graphics, the lines, the music, the atmosphere , the music again and again – it is terribly inaccurate to the Russian history. Terribly. An euphemism, almost disrespectfully regarding a matter which I have no idea how to approach, because I don’t know if Russians look upon this violent episode of their history with sorrow, or rather see it as a step in their development.

So. Historical context.

The last dynasty of rulers the Russian people had was the Romanov dynasty, Tsar Nikolai II, father of Great Duchess Anastasia, being the last Tsar Russia would ever have. He and his political system were to be violently removed in December 1916 by the Bolsheviks. Two years later, his whole family would be executed.

My question is, then –  is watching and making popular such historical – related works of fiction, that clearly diverge from a very crude and painful reality, romanticizing it greatly, a good thing?

Truth to be told, this movie was what would spark, years later, my interest in Romanov’s history. The reason for which I did quite some research and read some books and.

I’m going to stop here, I suppose, for I don’t feel in the position to talk about historical manners as if I have a great historical knowledge. I don’t. But these things passed through my mind while humming “Once Upon A December”.

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See you tomorrow.

Again, not literally see you .

 

 

 

“Shatter me” Series by Tahereh Mafi – Book Review

Hello.

I’ve decided to write  about the “Shatter Me” series by Tahereh Mafi.

If you are even slightly familiar with the new YA releases of the past years , you might have noticed these books as they were really hyped and very well sold and gained some sort of popularity among the young dystopia readers, even only for their extremely beautiful covers and rather intriguing titles. Containing a total of three novels – “Shatter Me”,”Unravel Me” and “Ignite Me”- and two novellas – “Destroy Me” and “Fracture Me”, sold separatedly but also together under a new title – “Unite Me” – the series follows a basic narrative line of the genre – young girl with super powers discovers her inner strength and understands that her really messed up world is not that messed up so she saves it and so we have a nice ending for everybody.

What actually makes the difference here and constantly overpowers  the plot itself when it comes to meaning and importance are the characters and the writing style that actually manages to save this whole story from two potential threats that the plot typology itself implies – 1. a non-human-lacking-a-heart-or-a-conscience type of heroine and 2.a fast-paced but very dull narration.

I can confess that, while the plot was mostly intriguing, kind of familiar at times, but not truly fascinating, and the world building was not underdone, but, once again, bore the main characteristics of the basic dystopian universe, what I really really enjoyed about this book, leaving alone the unique reading experience that the beautiful writing style was generating, was the wonderful character growth. Seeing the protagonist, Juliette, overcoming her huge fear of herself and crossing the path to confidence and dauntless self exploration was very enjoyable as, at first, we are placed in the head of  a very scared girl who is unable to hold herself up or to understand her true identity.

The romance included in this book was enjoyable because of the amazing way in which it is approached. I mean , the author has to deal with the perspective of an unable to decide 17-year-old hormonal girl and does it in a way that should be praised –  instead of weird cliche type of things, the relationships develop in an intense way, but we get our insight of it deliver in metaphors and wonderful quotes to write on a sticky note and place right in front of your desk. Yes, it might be cheesy for some, but it is undoubtedly beautiful and the feelings that this book deliver are various and palpable and the visuals the author creates are amazing.

On the other hand, as we evolve through the series, it is easily noticeable that the writing style slightly changes and, by book 3, new characters are introduced and a new type of humor and over all optimism replaces the initial despair that was radiating through the pages , so I found myself laughing out loud while reading these books and earned a couple of odious gazes from normal people.

This was it for the absolutely spoiler-free review, not even the synopsis is included above because I really recommend you read this book without knowing what to expect because it will make the whole thing a lot better. So if you don’t want to be spoiled, even slightly, I suggest you stopped reading right now, because I plan on further analyzing the books individually and I don’t want to be the one to destroy some innocent’s reading experience.

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“SHATTER ME” – Book No.1

“I am nothing but novocaine. I am numb, a world of nothing, all feeling and emotion gone forever.
I am a whisper that never was.”

Remember when I said that the visuals are amazing? Well, here you have some sort of proof and a very very nice but utterly depressing quote. So.

This novel basically follows the story of Juliette, a young girl with a super power, that being that her touch is lethal. Obviously, not being ever touched by anybody else has led to a horrible childhood, ostracization and a whole deal of social and psychological problems that scarred her deeply and really attacked her fragile balance. The fact is , in the book present tense, Juliette is held in this creepy asylum for people with mental health issues and hasn’t talked to anybody for 264 days when a cellmate is brought in – a boy she knew from her school years, maybe the only friendly human being she had ever encountered.

What happens next, the ways people want to use her as a weapon in their sick war and how she earns the ability and the strength to fight back, is included in the fast paced full of full news and occasional humor of the last two thirds of the book.

The writing reflects the characters issues very well – it is incoherent at times, there are passages cut like this showing  her lack of stability and confidence that makes her reluctant to accepting her own feelings or thoughts.

“I always wonder about raindrops.

I wonder about how they’re always falling down, tripping over their own feet, breaking their legs and forgetting their parachutes as they tumble right out of the sky toward an uncertain end. It’s like someone is emptying their pockets over the earth and doesn’t seem to care where the contents fall, doesn’t seem to care that the raindrops burst when they hit the ground, that they shatter when they fall to the floor, that people curse the days the drops dare to tap on their doors.

I am a raindrop.

My parents emptied their pockets of me and left me to evaporate on a concrete slab.
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

 

When in comes to book no. 2, “Unravel Me”, the main feeling I can recall when thinking of reading the first part of the book is a mild form of frustration because we are somehow introduced to some sort of an “America Singer” situation (if you read “The Selection”, you know and understand the struggle of  a young woman who can’t bring herself to decide between the two corners of the love triangle) and also we have to face Juliette’s inability to embrace her power and shape it so that she can help her new people , but these two elements are inserted in a way that generated empathy and understanding and a whole new level of attention to the shape shifting process Juliette’s mind goes through.

Without going much into the plot itself, I really want to point out the highlights of the book for me, at least, starting with the new level of world building that proved itself satisfying when talking about credibility in this book – the fact that we learn some basic things about the way the Energy works and have a great insight on Omega Point’s way of existing is great. Also, Juliette’s translation to new, powerful individual is delightful in the same way discovering what lies under all the layers Warner has surrounded himself with struck me as a revelation. But, for me at least, the most enjoyable proof of Tahereh Mafi ‘s great talent was Kenji. He is, for sure, my favorite character in this series the way humor and strength and intuition and super powers are linked to shape such a personality is beyond my comprehension. He is the main reason for which the depressing element o this book is way more ameliorated than the first one’s, and that is great for character building, the way I see it. All in all, it was a really enjoyable read and defined the arc on which the story goes -it gave me the feeling that the final point of the books was to bring out and highlight Juliette’s strength and any human being’s potentiality , in fact, to put himself or herself up and build a broken self into a new powerful one.

“Loneliness is a strange sort of thing.
It creeps on you, quiet and still, sits by your side in the dark, strokes by your hair as you sleep. It wraps itself around your bones, squeezing so tight you almost can’t breathe. It leaves lies in your heart, lies next to you at night, leaches the light out of every corner. It’s a constant companion, clasping your hand only to yank you down when you’re struggling to stand up.
You wake up in the morning and wonder who you are. You fail to fall asleep at night and tremble in your skin. You doubt you doubt you doubt.
do I
don’t I
should I
why won’t I
And even when you’re ready to let go. When you’re ready to break free. When you’re ready to be brand-new. Loneliness is an old friend stand beside you in the mirror, looking you in the eye, challenging you to live your life without it. You can’t find the words to fight yourself, to fight the words screaming that you’re not enough never enough never ever enough.
Loneliness is a bitter, wretched companion.
Sometimes it just won’t let go.”
Tahereh Mafi (Unravel Me (Shatter Me, #2))

there went another emotional yet really beautiful quote 🙂

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The time has come to talk about the last book. Which I really enjoyed but which didn’t quite fulfill my expectations – I feel like I need more of an explanation or a “Mockingjay” sort of epilogue or anything,for that matter, that can make me understand.

Don’t take me wrong, it was a good book. It made me feel something and I think that for such book there is the point, in feeling something. But. But. It also left me waiting for more and maybe the story required an open finale so I’m going to go with it. Moving further to the actual content of the book, I can say it was even , balanced and fulfilled my predictions when it came to the great magnificent development of Juliette’s power and her relationship with Warner turned out really beautiful. All in all, it was a good final book – not a spectacle of feelings and emotions and rage and the huge war I was expecting, but a novel that did leave many doors opened and many questions to be further asked, but in the refreshing way of inciting your imagination to a great extent.

I still had some issues with the relationships around here, tho, because they turned more and more twisted and I couldn’t actually forget their initial abusive tendencies and it was kind of creepy in the end if you analyze it retrospectively – some people seem to love how the romance in these books turned out and I am not the person to argue but I didn’t come here for the romance in the first place anyway.

So, all in all, I’d sum all this huge block of text up by saying that I really enjoyed reading this series, it had one of the most unique premises I’ve met in a while, the writing style so so beautiful and some of the characters very well formed and rather nice people to spend my last couple of days with , but I didn’t blow me away. I recommend this to anybody who finds joy in YA dystopias – like “Divergent” , for an obvious example- and can stand a girl very poetically talking about her feelings.