Friday, September 2, 2016

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN by Lionel Shriver (School Review)

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Kevin Khatchadourian is guilty of murdering nine of his classmates, a cafeteria worker, and a teacher. He now resides in prison, heavily guarded and being tried as an adult. While locked up, his mother Eva Khatchadourian, comes to visit him.
We Need to Talk About Kevin is the story of Kevin through Eva’s eyes, written in letters to her estranged husband Franklin. She describes raising Kevin in detail, from the day he was born and refused to drink his mother’s milk, to his odd distaste for everything from the very moment he was able to function on his own at all.  The story is just as frightening as it is eye opening - you are forced to ask yourself the age old question “Nature or nurture?” Kevin seems to have come into the world angry and manipulative, but could he really have turned out so bad if he had been raised ‘perfectly?’
There were many themes in this book, including a lot of American culture and bias. A native Armenian, Eva once made mention to Kevin by saying that he was ‘as American as he could be’ after shooting out his school, because she found this action to be distinctively “american.” She also addresses America’s optimism and “high-hopes-crushed” attitude, which is especially embodied in her husband, Franklin.
More importantly, I think that We Need to Talk About Kevin is very psychologically centered, focused on Kevin and trying to show all sides of who he was as a child, teenager, and finally a near adult in a jail cell. After a lot of contemplation, I would say the main theme was exactly the question that I asked above: Are people like Kevin (diagnosed psychopaths and sociopaths) born or made? Or on what side of the scale does it usually tip? In this book particularly, it tries to make it seem like a ‘born’ situation - and does a very convincing job of it - but it’s also a big controversy associated with this book in particular. Eva didn’t deserve a “Mother of the Year” award by any means, but Kevin’s behavior was uncalled for and unexpected even from the time that he was a screaming infant. At the same time, Shriver seems to offer the possibility that Eva’s ambivalence towards maternity may have affected his development, and yet there is no scientific or logical proof that it could happen.

I chose to compare We Need to Talk About Kevin with the song “The Chosen Pessimist” by In Flames ( I chose this song because of the tone and feel of it, and because of the lyrics “Approaching constant failure” and “Between love and hate/ Which path to follow?/ How can I keep balance in this race?/ Come faith, I’m dying...” I think that these lyrics really capture Kevin’s mindset. He sees that he is “approaching constant failure” and “between love and hate.” With these viewpoints, it doesn’t seem that there is a wrong or right path, and that the outcomes and consequences are all just blurred together. But if you only see yourself as approaching a “constant failure”, is there really anywhere else to turn?

Overall, I think it was a very well written book with undeniable literary value. It was thought provoking and realistically disturbing; the psychology so real and possible that it nearly made me develop agoraphobia. Shriver definitely did her job.
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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

SANDS by Kevin L. Neilson

For nine months of the year, the sands of the Sharani Desert are safe. The genesauri—giant, flying, serpentine monsters who hunt across the desert in enormous packs—lie dormant. The smallest of their kind is able to take down a single man with ease, and the largest is able to swallow entire clans. The people of the desert have always been able to predict the creatures’ appearance, but this year, the genesauri have stopped following the rules. 

When the genesauri suddenly attack her clan, seventeen-year-old Lhaurel draws a sword in her people’s defense—a forbidden practice for women of any clan—and is sentenced to death by her own people. Chained to a rock and left to be eaten by the next wave of genesauri, Lhaurel is rescued by a mysterious, elusive clan said to curse children at a glance, work unexplainable terrors, and disappear into the sands without a trace. 

With the fate of the clans hanging in the balance, Lhaurel discovers she possesses a rare and uncontrollable power—one that will be tested as the next deadly genesauri attack looms on the horizon and the clash between clans grows more inevitable by the hour. 

Sands by Kevin L Neilson is definitely unlike anything I have ever read. It was new, engrossing, and had a different and interesting feel. If I could give it any big overall award, I would for sure label it as unique.
Sands is set in a very interesting setting with a complex, thought out plot. It takes a vivid imagination to think up - or even understand - this one, but the author did a great job of describing it. There were a lot of things that I loved about Sands, and some things that I did not like quite as much - I believe I will try my first “list review” on this one!

  • Lhaurel was an amazing MC. She was strong and independent, even given her background (a clan where women are totally disrespected and treated like trash). I always love a good character that can fight back, and Lhaurel was one of them.
  • As I have already mentioned, I loved the setting. I can honestly say that I have never read a book with a even a similar setting, and (trust me) I’ve read a lot of YA books
  • The genesauri. Dang, those things are scary as heck, but also totally realistic. They’re basically just like dinosaurs on steroids... yeah. Sweet dreams.
  • The light romance put in there. I myself am a romantic, so I appreciated it and found it a lot more believable than the ‘insta-love’ we see so much in Young Adult books today.
  • The world didn’t feel foreign - what I mean to say is, the author was obviously well acquainted with the world that he built and knew it inside and out. He was able to provide good, thoughtful detail to help me know how to navigate its complexities.
  • Plot twists. I love me some plot twists.

  • This one is obviously opinion, but I have never liked having more than two (sometimes I can tolerate three!) points of view. Especially since some of the names sound so foreign to me, I sometimes got lost and it would turn my head around for a few pages before I finally caught on. If you’re good with names, this won’t be a problem for you.
  • There were some minor editing problems. They weren’t so frequent that I was distracted from the story or anything, but they were there.
  • It’s a tad bit slow in the beginning.

Overall, it was a very refreshing read. I personally love finding books that are diverse, so it was very a entertaining and fun ride. I highly recommend for you fantasy lovers (I might even classify some of this as epic fantasy, but that’s my opinion going off again) and anybody who loves a good book that requires you have a brain (we all know those YA books that you could read on 1 hour of sleep and understand completely)
Ending rate, I give it 3.75 stars for the reasons above. Happy Reading! :)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

HOTEL RUBY by Suzanne Young

Stay tonight. Stay forever.

When Audrey Casella arrives for an unplanned stay at the grand Hotel Ruby, she’s grateful for the detour. Just months after their mother’s death, Audrey and her brother, Daniel, are on their way to live with their grandmother, dumped on the doorstep of a DNA-matched stranger because their father is drowning in his grief.

Audrey and her family only plan to stay the night, but life in the Ruby can be intoxicating, extending their stay as it provides endless distractions—including handsome guest Elias Lange, who sends Audrey’s pulse racing. However, the hotel proves to be as strange as it is beautiful. Nightly fancy affairs in the ballroom are invitation only, and Audrey seems to be the one guest who doesn’t have an invite. Instead, she joins the hotel staff on the rooftop, catching whispers about the hotel’s dark past.

The more Audrey learns about the new people she’s met, the more her curiosity grows. She’s torn in different directions—the pull of her past with its overwhelming loss, the promise of a future that holds little joy, and an in-between life in a place that is so much more than it seems…

Welcome to the Ruby.

I’ve always been fascinated with the song “Hotel California” by The Eagles. In seventh grade, my friends and I would debate on what the meaning of the song was and what we thought was really going on at that hotel. That’s why this book was such a perfect match for me. Hotel Ruby is basically Hotel California in YA book form - and it perfectly captures the image.
When The Casella’s decide to stop their road trip momentarily to rest at the Hotel Ruby, everybody is excited. It’s a very beautiful building, they’re treated like kings and queens, and Audrey gets to spend a little more time with her dad before she needs to part with him. But the beauty of the hotel is only a fleeting glimpse before the Hotel’s true colors start to show. Audrey is put on the 13th floor alone, where she beings to see and hear things that aren’t there. She keeps hearing a particular song being played over and over, but she doesn’t know where it’s coming from or even if it’s real or just a figment of imagination. But just when Audrey thinks things couldn’t get any creepier, her brother and dad start to change... her dad keeps insisting that they stay longer and her brother keeps hanging out with this totally wack chick that Audrey can’t seem to persuade him is crazy. All she wants to do is leave, but it seems her dad and her brother want to live at the Hotel.
But when Audrey meets the sexy Elias she starts to think huh... maybe this isn’t so bad after all! But is Elias just another thing to be afraid of?
Hotel Ruby was a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but my favorite part of this book was how much it blew my mind. One of those We Were Liars types that totally messes with you, but you love it because after it’s finished all you can do is stare at the wall and say “Whoa...” over and over. In just a few words: Hotel Ruby is a haunting blend of romance and mind-blowery. And if you love Hotel California, you’ll love this book for sure!