Book Review: Debra Driza’s “Mila 2.0”

Debra Driza / Mila 2.0

No one suspects what she’s made of.

Mila 2.0 is the first book in a planned trilogy by debut novelist Debra Driza. At the beginning of the story we find Mila, the main character, coping up with the after effects of the deadly fire which caused her and mother to move from Philadephia to Minnesota. The fire took his father’s life but that’s all she remembers. Mila can’t recall anything. Then a freak accident reveals to her things she wasn’t supposed to know. She’s an android built by the government as a weapon and she is supposed to be terminated.

Mila 2.0 is an action-packed read. At 400 plus pages, it is quite a long story but it is enjoyable enough for a reader to finish, well, at least for me that was the case.

As a whole, Debra Driza’s debut has its hits and misses. Characterization is first on my list. A character will be introduced, I got to know him a bit but then he disappears from the scene and I am left with Mila’s recollections of this character. That was the case with Hunter and some of Mila’s friends in the story, which is a bummer. It’s hard to connect and feel for a character you don’t know much about. It’s step one in building attachment.

Second, the main character is weak (and, yes, this deserves a whole paragraph to itself). I liked Mila in the first part of the book. She’s sweet, endearingly insecure and, basically, just a teen-aged girl trying to fit in. But her lovable traits start vanishing the moment she discovers that she isn’t human at all. Instead, she turned out to be this overly emotional android with human feelings for a good part of the book after the “discovery”. I know she is supposed to have feelings but it was just too much. She could have spent more time figuring how to get out of the mess she was in instead of wasting it on whining and crying.

The strong point of Mila 2.0 is its action. Driza describes the action scenes pretty well and that made me finish the book. It kept the story interesting enough though still not that unpredictable.

Overall, I enjoyed Mila 2.0 partly because this is the first YA sci-fi book I read and I really didn’t expect too much (something I do with every book I start, yes, even novels written by my favorite authors). It is good but it could have been better. Anyway, this is the first in three books so let’s give Mila a chance to grow up (how you do that when you’re an android, I don’t know). I’ll definitely get the second and third book once they are out.

Rating: 3/5

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Wish List: Lissa Price’s “Starters” (and soon… “Enders”)

The cover for Lissa Price‘s “Enders” was recently revealed and it looks awesome. Just look at it. LOOK AT IT!!!

STARTERS-ENDERS-PRICE

I have been meaning to get Starters for quite some time now. The story sounds interesting but I have been reading a lot of YA sci-fi and dystopian literature lately and I need a cleanse of some sort. It’s better that way. It gives my mind a little bit of time to process the stories I’ve read. My head tends to mix plots together when I read books of the same genre so closely together and I don’t want that. I want to fully appreciate every single story I read.

Anyway, enough with the babble. I’ll get the book this weekend. =)

While Enderss release is still on January 7 next year, you can freely salivate over its amazing cover and a bit of an excerpt HERE

Book Review: Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”

Neil Gaiman / The Ocean at the End of the Lane

“Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that come later, like childhood toys forgotten at the bottom of a crammed adult closet, but they are never lost for good,” internalized our unnamed narrator five pages into the story.

And that is what The Ocean at the End of the Lane is all about – recollections of a childhood long forgotten.

Neil Gaimans unnamed middle-aged narrator takes readers with him as he recalls events from his childhood. It all starts when he returns to his childhood hometown of Sussex, England for a funeral. He then finds himself driving down to the house at the end of the lane where he finds one of the Hempstock women who he thought to be his friend’s, Lettie’s mother but later turned out to be the Old Mrs. Hempstock, the grandmother. And as he sat by the small pond, the same pond Lettie called an ocean, the memories of the strange events when he was a 7-year old boy come rushing back to him.

Gaiman is a master of combining myth, fantasy and horror into one solid story. In American Gods, he took in a handful of pagan gods and put them into an Americana road trip. In Coraline, he created an utterly horrific world beyond a door. It is no wonder that he turned a simple 40-year old man’s recollections into something akin to the tales of the Brothers Grimm. It may have taken him eight years to come up with an adult novel but Gaiman never lost his touch. His narrative is more vivid than ever. Creating a balance between the real world and the magical realm is a hard task but Gaiman more than manages it. He is one of those few writers who can seamlessly go in and out of the imagined world within his story.

But even if it is similar to his previous works, there’s something that sets Ocean apart.

Neil Gaiman created a narrator that’s easy to relate with. His voice is clear, his experiences very much real. He was able to capture an essential part of the adult disenchantment and put it into his main character. A lot of times while reading the book I’ve imagined a 7-year old Neil Gaiman in place of the narrator. Well, I did read somewhere that he based some of the Ocean’s  protagonist’s qualities and experiences on his own childhood so I guess in a way it really is him there in the story.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is beautifully written. More than it’s magic-filled pages, what made me love the story more is its humanity. Gaiman did not give his readers a story made up happy,everything-is-all-good characters. Instead, he gave us characters that are flawed but truthful. And even though the ending he gave us was anything but reassuring, it was closer to what happens in real life. It is open to so many possibilities.

Young readers and adults alike will surely enjoy The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It is definitely worth the eight-year wait.

Rating: 5/5

Word for Word: Laurie Halse Anderson on “Real Books”

If you haven’t heard about Macmillan’s new program, you better check it out. It focuses on books tackling real life themes, especially ones concerning teens. Check it out here.

Me, Fangirling and My Current Book Stack

I don’t usually get giddy over talking to or seeing famous people. Note, I said “not usually”, which means that there are some exceptional moments when I actually do get giddy and happy and cheery and whatever one may and should feel when someone you admire actually ACTUALLY replies to you.

I’ve just paid off the month’s bills and it goes to say that money’s a bit tight right now so I had to make some necessary cuts. I usually buy two, three books every pay day but this cut off I can only buy one, and I hate having to choose between books. It feels so much like a betrayal. I swear, if I become rich, I will buy one branch of my favorite bookstore. I will live there and I will turn it into a library of some sorts for those people who don’t have enough to buy new books.

It was a battle between Gayle Forman‘s If I Stay and Libba Bray‘s The Diviners. In the end, Libba Bray’s novel won out because it was the only copy left in the book store.

Then I tweeted this after I got the book:

1lib

I sent out that tweet without expecting any replies back, so I really went all giddy when I received this:

2lib

Talk about fangirling!!! Yes, I am. Gadh! That’s Libba Bray! I’m just so happy and surprised she even saw my tweet. (Please excuse me for fangirling again.)

I still have a few books to read before I can get to The Diviners. Here’s my reading stack right now:

IMG00243-20130720-0645

I have a couple of things coming up within the next two weeks. A couple of reviews for Debra Driza‘s debut Mila 2.0 and Neil Gaiman‘s (gasp) newest release in six years, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I may also finish the thing I’m writing about David Levithan‘s Every Day.

Well, that’s all for now. I hope you guys are doing great wherever you are. Happy reading!

XOXO

Rachel

John Green’s Looking for Alaska, Departures and Our Questioning Nature

There’s so much stuff I could write about from Looking for Alaska – the search for the “Great Perhaps”, drunk driving, self-destructive behaviors in teens – but I choose none of those. I am going to write about our questioning instead. Why? Well, because among all the things John Green’s first novel made me think about it was the one which hit me the hardest.

But, before anything else, a summary, and because I can’t come up with a more concise summary, I will borrow the novel’s back page blurb.

Looking for Alaska

before. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

after. Nothing is ever the same.

It’s always like that, isn’t it? It only takes one thing – one person – to change everything else. Then, BOOM! Nothing’s ever the same. Not. Ever. Again. And you’d think by knowing that ever reliable cliché “People come, people go” you’d fare better. Well, here’s a bucket of ice cold water dude. Pour it unto yourself and wake up. Knowing doesn’t make things any easier. It’s just not how the world works.

There’s truth in cliches, after all they won’t be repeated over and over and over again if there weren’t even a pinch of reality in them but I prefer the phrase “People come into and out of your life” over “People come and go”. It is longer, I know, but it’s more truthful.

Alaska jumped into Pudge’s life and changed him.

We all have people come into our lives, some stay while others go. But still I am sure, and I really do believe in this, that no matter what they do – whether they stay or leave – every person we meet changes us. The change may not always be big enough for us to notice but their effect will always be there, an indelible mark on our whole existence.

And we also do the same thing to many people – lives we’ve met and will meet, lives we’ve walked out of and lives we’ve chosen to stick through with.

So, when someone who’ve tremendously changed us leaves it’s all but natural to ask questions. What made them leave? Where did they go?  Who made them leave? Was it you? How could they leave? Why do they have to fucking leave?

Alaska did many things which Pudge, the Colonel and Takumi could and would never understand. She changed them and they’ve changed her, in what way, we’ll never really know.

We ask questions, trying to understand, always looking for an explanation as if the world owes us one. And we could be right, after all, we were changed then discarded like an old, ratty pair of sneakers – we were left behind at a loss and an explanation is the least we could get. But we could also be wrong, maybe we don’t have the right to demand for an explanation in the first place. And what if we don’t like the answers we find? What if our search for answers only lead us to even more questions?

Still we ask because we need to know. We need to understand.

Pudge, the Colonel and Takumi could’ve all done something better for Alaska. Stopped her, maybe? It could’ve changed things, but that’s one more thing we can never be sure of.

But we can only do so much. We’re all simple and complicated at the same time. Sometimes we can no longer tell which is which and we just go around the same circle. It’s okay to ask and try to find answers but we must also know when to stop rationalizing and answering questions and understanding why people did the things they did. We can’t change what’s already been done. It’s just one more thing we must learn to let go of.

We have to forgive the person who left us and also forgive ourselves. Only then will the questions start to stop haunting us.

Word for Word: Jack Kerouac “On The Road”

Jack Keroac

We all do have to be mad enough to be able to live – mad with desire, mad with being alive.

Book Review: Marie Lu’s “Prodigy”

Prodigy by Marie Lu

Following the events of Legend, Prodigy starts off with June and Day making a run for Vegas in the hopes of allying with the rebel Patriot group when the unexpected happens – the Primo Elector dies and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic on shaky grounds, the Patriots want to seize the opportunity to strike back and ignite a rebellion. They take in June and Day and bargain with the two – Eden’s, Day’s younger brother, rescue and assistance with their escape to the nearby Colonies in exchange for the new elector’s assassination. June and Day, for lack of options, accept the rebel group’s conditions but as they set the plan in motion they uncover information, things that may just derail their plans.

Prodigy is just as fast-paced and thrilling as Legend. Marie Lu writes action scenes very well. Her version of the near-future world – the strict Republic and the commercially-fueled Colonies – is believable. I can actually imagine a country being divided that way, but let’s rather hope it doesn’t happen.

It still follows the original plot set up in Legend so readers won’t get lost or, at the very least, not too much. I actually put off reading Prodigy for a few months because I’ve been told that it ends with a killer cliffhanger and I already have Insurgent’s own cliffhanger of an ending to haunt me. I didn’t wish to add more to that but as always when it comes to books, I caved in. And here I am, not as much of a mess as when I finished Divergent’s sequel but still a mess nonetheless.

I am happy that we got a glimpse of the Colonies in this installment. It serves as a great point of comparison against the Republic. We are given two different worlds that are both good and evil at the same time.

Marie Lu’s characters grew and became more mature in Prodigy and for me it was the best thing in this book. June and Day both learned to look at their situation from different perspectives and not just through their own biased ones.

It was Tess, however, who made the biggest jump in this story. She’s no longer the little, vulnerable girl we were introduced to in Legend. Tess became self-sufficient and confident, even confident enough to make tough decisions of her own.

The author also gave her readers more insight on some of the other characters like Thomas, Kaede, Metias and most especially Anden. He was only mentioned once in the first book during that celebratory ball for June’s capture of Day but he took on a bigger role in this second book. I guess it is safe to say that Anden will still play an important role in the next book Champion, which is due out this November 5th.

Probably the only thing that I didn’t like much in Prodigy are the love complications. Somehow I felt like throwing Anden with June and Tess with Day was only done to rock the main’s already established connection. But that’s just me. I’m not that big on love triangles, let alone a square.

Overall, Prodigy satisfies. It is a good follow-up to Legend. I definitely recommend it especially if you’ve already read Legend. I can’t wait to get my hands on Champion and see what happens to this trilogy.

Rating: 3.5/5

Harry Potter Book Covers Then and Now

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Scholastic recently released the new covers for Goblet of Fire and Order of Phoenix. To celebrate this, let’s again take a look at the other older Harry Potter book covers for the first five books.

Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens and Five Quotes about Identity and Self-love

I don’t know who you are or what you do but I’m sure we have at least one thing in common – being a teenager. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been through, going through or will go through it, what matters is that once in our lives we’ve been that young

Being a teenager is one heck of a ride. They don’t call it the “awkward years” for nothing. It is a period full of change. There’s, of course, the body changes all courtesy of your overly active pituitary gland and the hormones it stimulates into release. Then there’s the role changes, you know, bigger shoes to fill, higher expectations to reach, being more responsible, stuff like that. It should be a training ground for when you become an adult yourself but more often than not it turns out to be them, the “grown-ups”, expecting you to act more maturely while they treat (and, hell, still look at you) like a kid. It is beyond annoying.

But body and role changes aside, I think the hardest part of being a teen is defining yourself.

It’s just so hard to be who you want to be when you have so many people around telling you who you should be. Heck, you can’t even figure out what it is you want with all their blabbering.

I know, the search for one’s identity is one search that never ceases. With each day we live, we learn more and more about ourselves – things we didn’t know we like, things we thought we couldn’t do, the list goes on. But I think, and I hope you wouldn’t argue with me on this, that the highest point of that search is during the teenage years.

And that’s exactly what Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens is about. The novel revolves around teen beauty queens whose plane crashed on a supposedly deserted island. They are forced to choose which to put first, preparing for the pagent or fighting for their survival. Of course, there’s more to the story than the summary I just wrote but, as sort of a really short review, the book was smart, witty, funny and sarcastic with a very generous sprinkling of empowering thoughts.

Libba Bray

Speaking of thoughts, since I can’t tell you how to search for your own identity, I have picked five quotes from the book, excerpts which might inspire and help you keep going through your search. Well, alright, maybe it won’t help you with the search but whatever, who cares?! At the very least, I think you’ll be able to identify with these chosen lines from the novel’s protagonists. I did. So, yeah, here we go.

(1)

“Why do girls always feel like they have to apologize for giving an opinion or taking up space in the world? Have you ever noticed that? You go on websites and some girl leaves a post and if it’s longer than three sentences or she’s expressing her thoughts about some topic, she usually ends with, ‘Sorry for the rant’ or ‘That may be dumb, but that’s what I think.’” -Nicole

Everyone has an opinion and, so it goes, everyone also has the right to express that opinion. If you have something to say, say it. Some may agree with you, others won’t. That’s their opinion of your opinion and it is up to you how you’ll react to it – take it or ignore it. But I don’t believe in saying sorry for giving the world your two cent’s worth. Again, it is your right to say your piece on things.

Here’s the catch, though. All rights are not absolute thus we must exercise them with fairness in mind. We can all have our own opinions, we may express them but we must make sure that we do it the right way.  Respect is key here.

(2)

“Maybe girls need an island to find themselves. Maybe they need a place where no one’s watching them so they can be who they really are.” – Mary Lou

This quote does not only apply to girls but to boys as well. It’s just so hard to be yourself when you’re surrounded by so many people telling you who you should be, what you should do. Add that to the pressures the society and media put upon all of us. It’s almost suffocating.

But here’s what I’ve learned, sometimes you have to fight for the right to be the person you have to be. It takes courage, yes, but it also takes some self-awareness and a whole lot of love for one’s self.

(3)

“I don’t know about you but if I’m gonna be chained to a rock by the gods, I’d rather go out as the person who brought fire back from the mountain than as a pure princess who didn’t even have the sense to say to everyone, ‘Oh hell no, you are not sacrificing me to a sea monster.’ “- Mary Lou

This is my personal mantra. Well, at least close to it.

I’m used to winning. Hell! I love winning. I mean, who doesn’t? But sometimes things don’t go our way. Some fights we win, some we lose. I know it’s just so easy to throw your hands up and quit when things go shit side up. But would you rather lose and go out that way? Wouldn’t it be nicer to try and lose than not try at all? Think about it.

(4)

“I’ve learned that it takes a village to build a catapult, which is not a city in Mexico, and that uterus is not a dirty word or the name of a planet. I’ve learned that if a guy pretending to be a pirate tells you he’s nothing but trouble, he’s probably right. So you should find somebody else ‘cause there are some really cool guys – and girls – out there. I’ve learned that you can use an old evening gown to catch rainwater and that grubs taste a lot like chicken. I’ve learned how to build a good, strong hut and accesorize it just right. I’ve learned that feminism is for everybody and there’s nothing wrong with taking up space in the world, even if you have to fight for it a little bit, and that if you don’t feel like smiling or waving, that’s okay. You don’t have to, and you don’t have to say sorry. Mostly, I’ve learned that I don’t really care if you like these answers or not, because they’re the best, most honest ones I’ve got, and I just don’t feel like I can cheat myself enough to give you what you want me to say. No offense.” – Tiara

Phew! That was a long one but it’s pretty much self-explanatory so I won’t go babbling about it and you can’t really do anything about that because that’s what I want.

(5)

“I love myself. They make it so hard for us to love ourselves.” -Taylor

This I could relate to so much. I have a lot of insecurities when I was a teen, especially when I was in high school. Don’t get me wrong, of course I still I have some until now; it’s just that it has significantly lessened probably because I have found that many of my insecurities as a teen were baseless and/or I have learned to appreciate myself more.

I think that’s it, appreciate yourself more.

Some people can get to you; make you feel bad about yourself. That’s how it was for me then and it dragged me down. I don’t know when it happened but I somehow realized that if I won’t start appreciating myself, no one else will.

But yeah, those people who only tell you what’s wrong with you, they really suck. It may be hard but just ignore them. Don’t let them take over your life, you have a beautiful one and you must live it.

So there, I think that pretty much does it.  It may not be much but those are my thoughts. As for my own search for identity, well, it changes every day but I think I know myself more now than I did yesterday and the days before that. Our search for identity may never end, yes, but whatever it is that we discover about ourselves we must learn to either understand and appreciate, change if it needs changing. We only get one us to love after all.