REVIEW A Christmas Carol: Charles Dickens [The Twelve Days of Christmas- Day 7]


IN THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS

This is a book that comes out of its musty corner on the shelf every Christmas. I loved this book as a kid, and it's a Christmas tradition of sorts, to read this book.

On Christmas Eve, seven years after the death of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge's partner Jacob Marley, three Christmas ghosts visit him during the course of the night. The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge his boyhood, stirring in him dormant tender emotions. The Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to the home of his nephew Fred and his underpaid but overworked clerk Bob Cratchit. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows him his bleak lonely future if he did not learn his lesson and become a kinder man.

I started off with reading the illustrated children's version of the story, and then progressed to the original. This book is said to have played a major role in transforming Christmas from a sombre occasion it was into the merry festival it is today. Dickens incorporates themes of generosity and goodwill into his narrative, while at the same time, showing the condition of the poor working class in those times. We get a look into the mindset of rich English gentlemen who selfishly dismiss the poorer class as fit only for a prison or a workhouse.

The character I love most in the novel is Tiny Tim. Seldom do you get to meet such an endearing character to whom your heart goes out. He symbolized hope and cheer even in the face of adversity, and you feel really happy near the end of the story when you get to know that Tiny Tim got better and Scrooge became a second father to him. I also liked Scrooge's nephew Fred, a jolly, kind man who invites his miserly uncle to Christmas every year, despite his uncle giving him the cold shoulder.

A Christmas Carol is an incredible book about the spirit of Christmas, and I think that it's message should be remembered throughout the year, not just during Christmas.

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REVIEW Anne of Green Gables: L.M. Montgomery [The Twelve Days of Christmas- Day 6]


FOREVER CHARMING

You know those books which give you a really warm fuzzy feeling. Anne of Green Gables is one such book. I first read it a couple of months back (don't be shocked, I'm quite behind on my classics), but it struck me as a very Christmassy book. It’s a book that makes you happy, and also stays with you long after you finish reading it.

Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert of Green Gables in Avonlea have decided to adopt a boy, but imagine their surprise when they find a girl waiting for them. The girl is no ordinary girl; she is the imaginative eleven year-old Anne Shirley, who on the drive from the station to the Gables, talks more than Matthew did in his entire life! After some initial hesitation, the Cuthberts decide to keep her, and thus a ray of sunshine enters their lives. The ray does get into numerous scrapes, is dreamy and scatter-brained, but wins the heart of everyone she meets.

Anne is one of the best heroines I have come across in a long, long time. She is highly imaginative, a chatterbox, vivacious and cheerful. I loved her flights of imagination and her honesty. She is uncomplicated, takes life as it comes and opens her mind to a variety of experiences, both real and imagined. She sees beauty in even the most mundane of things, enjoys the little things of life with as much enthusiasm as you would enjoy the big ones. You instinctively know you’d be great friends with her if you met her. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading this book, especially in a time when the other books I had at hand were irritating, to say the least. The book has an old-worldly charm to it, so different from the current whiny teen lit. I can’t say I wish we could be back in the olden times, but I dearly wish we could have some of the writers of those times back. I’ll leave you with an excerpt from the book, which captures the essence of Anne.

“ ‘The Haunted Wood! Are you crazy? What under the canopy is the Haunted Wood?’
‘The spruce wood over the brook,’ said Anne in a whisper.

‘Fiddlesticks! There is no such thing as a haunted wood anywhere. Who has been telling you such stuff?’

‘Nobody,’ confessed Anne. ‘Diana and I just imagined the wood was haunted. All the places around here are so— so—COMMONPLACE. We just got this up for our own amusement. We began it in April. A haunted wood is so very romantic, Marilla. We chose the spruce grove because it’s so gloomy. Oh, we have imagined the most harrowing things. There’s a white lady walks along the brook just about this time of the night and wrings her hands and utters wailing cries. She appears when there is to be a death in the family. And the ghost of a little murdered child haunts the corner up by Idlewild; it creeps up behind you and lays its cold fingers on your hand—so. Oh, Marilla, it gives me a shudder to think of it. And there’s a headless man stalks up and down the path and skeletons glower at you between the boughs. Oh, Marilla, I wouldn’t go through the Haunted Wood after dark now for anything. I’d be sure that white things would reach out from behind the trees and grab me.’ ”

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A Recipe [The Twelve Days of Christmas- Day 5]

I know that Christmas to many of you, means roast turkey and Christmas pudding, but usually in India, we don't really have much of that (and that's why it used to sound so delicious when I read about it in books!) At home, Christmas is usually an occasion for me to pester my mom to make her delicious Dum Biriyani. Well, I don't have the recipe for that (I'm not that good a cook...yet), but I could give you a recipe for Hyderabadi Dum Biriyani which you may want to try out.

HYDERABADI DUM BIRIYANI


Ingredients:
1 whole chicken / 2 lbs chicken,
1 kg Basmati rice / 2 lbs rice
1 cup thinly sliced onions fry,
2 tsp ginger/garlic paste,
3 tsp chilli powder,
1/2 tsp turmeric,
100 g cashew nuts,
4 or 5 bay leaves,
4 or 5 cloves,
2 cm long cinnamon sticks,
3 or 4 cardamom pods,
1 or 2 tsp shah jeera (royal cumin),
2 cups mint leaves,
1 cup coriander leaves (cilantro),
½ tsp garam masala powder(shah jeera, elachi (cardamom), dalchini (cinnamon), lavangam (cloves)),
1 lemon,
1 ½ tsp salt (according to taste),
1 cup ghee (clarified butter),
½ cup yogurt,
1 cup oil,
few strands of saffron,
2 cups finely sliced onions,

Preparation

1. Make deep incisions on the chicken flesh – deep enough for spices to get absorbed but making them too deep could render the pieces smaller. Mix turmeric, chilli powder, salt, garlic paste, yogurt, and half-lemon’s juice. Thoroughly apply this paste onto the meat flesh and let marinate for an hour.
2. Heat about 100 ml of oil. Roast cumin, cloves, cinnamon, depoded cardamom, bay leaves, ½ spoon cumin, 1 spoon coriander powder, and finally add onions(2). Wait a couple of minutes to add mint leaves. When onions turn slight brown, add marinated chicken and cook for about 20-30 min. It should NOT be fully cooked at this stage; add garam masala and coconut powder and turn off flame when about ¾ cooked. Gravy should not be much, chicken pieces should look roasted.
3. Meanwhile, while the chicken is still cooking, prepare the biryani rice. Slightly rinse 3 cups of basmati, and add water little less than the volume of the rice itself so that its only half cooked preferably in an electric cooker. Amount of water actually depends on kind of rice at hand and your experience helps to judge it. Also add 1-2 teaspoons of salt to it. Take a few semi-cooked grains of rice and colour them with diluted saffron for garnishing.
4. You will need a utensil of about 12″ (300 mm) base. Place about half of semi-cooked rice in it. Next, layer half of chicken on it again topped by a layer of rice (half of the remaining). One more layer of remaining chicken, finally with layer of rest of the rice on top ends the rice-chicken layering stage.
5. Heat oil and deep fry half the sliced onions to golden brown. Similarly fry cashew. Garnish the top layer with these two along with 100 ml ghee, coconut milk, saffron rice grains and coriander. Lid the vessel and try making it airtight (but no pressure should build up). Put on high flame for 5 min before reducing it to low flame. The flame should NOT be at the vessel’s centre, but on one side of it. Wait for 2-3 min and turn the vessel to heat other next part on its circumference. This way, keep rotating the vessel every 2-3 min for about 20 min. Every time you turn it, carefully disturb the contents by a shake/jerk so as to avoid settling of ghee at the bottom.
6. Put off the flame and wait for about 10 min before opening. Before serving, mix the medley from the bottom. Serve with Raitha.

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Monday Movies: The Grinch was Sleeping [The Twelve Days of Christmas- Day 4]


THE GRINCH
Starring: Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen
Directed by: Ron Howard

The Whos of Who-ville love Christmas, but the hairy green Grinch (Jim Carrey) is bent on ruining it for them.Cindy Lou Who (Momsen) is a young Who who feels the true meaning of Christmas is lost, as she is overwhelmed by all of the commercial and materialistic commotion. She is fascinated with the Grinch and wants nothing more than to get him into the Christmas spirit again. She convinces the Grinch to participate in the Whos' Christmas festivities, but he insulted by others. He vows revenge, and it is up to Cindy to remind him and the rest of the Whos about the true spirit of Christmas.

This is one traditional Christmas watch for me, as it will definitely be shown on one movie channel or the other. When I first saw it, I was like, Whoa! That is Jim Carrey! He looks quite grotesque and pitches in a good performance. I haven't read the Dr. Seuss book (hey, don't be so shocked!), so I came with no expectations, and came away quite entertained. It is a cute movie, a nice reminder of what the Christmas spirit truly is.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman
Directed by: Jon Turteltaub

Lucy (Sandra Bullock) is a lonely train fare collector, the highlight of whose day is selling a ticket to a handsome commuter Peter Callaghan (Peter Gallagher). When she saves him from an oncoming train and takes him to hospital, his family thinks that she is Peter's fiancee. Peter is in a coma, and Lucy doesn't want to break their hearts, so she plays along. But then she falls for Peter's brother Jack (Pullman), and complications arise.

This movie is set in the backdrop of Christmas, and is a sweet little romantic movie. I first watched it with my friends last Christmas, and all of us went "Oh, they are so cute!" every time Lucy and Jack talked. I especially loved the ending, the part where Lucy says "I object", immediately followed by Pullman, saying "I object" too. This was the movie that shot Sandra Bullock to fame, and I liked it very much. Bullock has a sweet innocence about her which was quite endearing. A Christmas movie I'd recommend.

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Sunday Salon: Guest Post by Nymeth [The Twelve Days of Christmas- Day 3]

I'm thrilled to have Nymeth from things mean a lot, guest post as part of the Christmas special that I've been having. Nymeth is someone everybody in the book blog world knows and loves, and I enjoy her insights into books and reading. Welcome to Advance Booking Nymeth!


I love Christmas. For some odd reason, this always seems to surprise people, who expected me to roll my eyes at the mere mention of the holiday season. Maybe it’s because I live in a very Catholic town and haven’t made a secret of the fact that I’m not, myself, a person of faith. But there’s still plenty that I do love about Christmas.

I mean, I understand why there are people who choose not to celebrate it, for religious or other reasons. And I think that the people who point out that it has become over-commercialized most definitely have a point. But to me – and as clich├ęd as it sounds, I have to say it – Christmas is about comfort, kindness and warmth.

My boyfriend grew up in the Southern hemisphere, so his way of experiencing Christmas has always been very different from my own. It goes without saying that both are equally valid, but personally I can’t dissociate Christmas from winter. I don’t know all that much about old-times Yule celebrations (note to self: seek a book), but from what I understand, the old Winter Solstice celebrations were in part about celebrating the fact that in the darkest, coldest time of the year, there was warmth, company and food. This might sound small now, when so many of us take comfort for granted, but I don’t think it is. Not at all.

On to what matters, which is the bookish part of this post: one of my favourite traditions is reading spooky stories during the holiday season. I actually started doing it before I learned that it was a real tradition in some parts of the world. It makes perfect sense that it is – what goes better with a warm fire, a cold and dark night outside, and a gathering of people than a spooky story?

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a classic for a reason, of course. I never tire of it, or of its several movie adaptations. Last December I read M.R. James’ ghost stories, and they were absolutely perfect. And right now I’m reading Elizabeth Gaskell’s tales of mystery and the supernatural, which are definitely putting me in the mood for the holiday season.

What about you? Have you ever read spooky stories during Christmas time? Do you think they fit the holiday mood? Anything you’d recommend?

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Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas Song [The Twelve Days of Christmas- Day 2]

It's cute, it really is.


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The Twelve Days of Christmas- Day 1


To all my blog readers, I wish a very Merry Christmas. May this festival bring warmth and good cheer into all your lives. I'll be having a Christmas special for the next couple of weeks to celebrate this festival, and you are all welcome to join in.

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REVIEW The Vampire Diaries- The Fury: L.J. Smith


VIOLENT LOVE

I was left disappointed after Book 2, but this book redeemed the series. I enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to reading Book 4. Before reading this, be warned, I couldn’t talk about this book without recapping the previous one, so there are spoilers.

Elena wakes up after her car is run off the bridge, but she is not alive: she is a vampire. In a state of confusion, she attacks Stefan, who thinks that Elena doesn’t love him anymore. Damon helps Elena in her vulnerable state. But vampire Elena is not without worries, as Fell’s Church is haunted by an Other Power, to defeat which Stefan, Damon and Elena have to team up.

The Fury was written much better than the other two books; there was more depth in it. Elena emerges as a much stronger, sensible person after her transition. But the revelation is Damon. He transforms from a hateful character into one with grey shades, a bad boy with traces of good in him. I loved his devil-may-care attitude, a complete contrast to a slightly boring Stefan. The story is quite strong and moves along at a fair pace, though some of the characters are not properly fleshed out. The ending was crackling, a twist in the tale nobody could have expected. It is bittersweet story, and really intense too. There are two more books in the series, and I want to see what turns the story takes.

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REVIEW Ice Station: Matthew Reilly


NON-STOP ACTION

I needed a book that would have zero love in it, after the romance overdose that was the Twilight series, so I chose this action-packed book. The Daily Telegraph called it “supersonically paced”, and I agree.

At a remote US ice station in Antarctica, a team of U.S. scientists have made a startling discovery trapped in an ice sheet 400 million years old, that can change the face of technology. Led by the enigmatic Lieutenant Shane Schofield, a team of U.S. Marines is rushed to secure the bizarre discovery for their own nation. Meanwhile, other countries are also hot on the trail. Schofield and his team have to battle enemies both external and internal, in a fight that could extract a very high price.

Ice Station proceeds at a breakneck pace right from page 1, and that worked okay for me. But it got a little frustrating after a point; I wanted the action to just slow down for a little while. Schofield seems to have super-strength- he dodges bullets, saves children, fights sharks, nukes a station and what not. The author puts him through some impossible situations through which he always seems to come out unscathed and ready for the next. The book read more like the screenplay of some guns-blazing action movie, and I felt it should have been made into one; it would have been more fun. But as a post-Twilight book, it wasn’t a bad read.

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REVIEW The Shadow of the Wind- Carlos Ruiz Zafon


SHADOWS OF MYSTERY

I read a couple of positive reviews about Zafon’s book Angel Games on many blogs, and when my friend raved about this book to me, I thought I’d give it a try. I’m so glad I did, because this is one hell of a book; I’d definitely count it among my Top 10 reads of the year.

Ten-year old Daniel Sempere’s father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books in Barcelona, an immense library which probably contains every book published. Daniel is allowed to choose one book to keep, and he chooses Shadow of the Wind, by an obscure author, Julian Carax. Daniel is drawn by the book and its mysterious author, when he learns that some stranger has been seeking out all books of this author and burning them; a faceless fiend who has taken the name of the devil in Carax’s novel. Daniel digs into the past of this author who has gripped his imagination, but each revelation brings more questions than answers.

This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.

If anybody had told me that this was a book about a book, I might have been more energetic in my efforts to track it down. I read this book in fits and starts because of a hectic schedule, but that gave time for the story to sink in. The translator, Lucia Graves, has done a fantastic job; there was no awkwardness in language I have seen with some translations. The characters are very well-constructed, and I especially loved Fermin, the beggar that Daniel brings home, who becomes his ally in the Carax search. The writing is beautiful and evocative, and conjures up the image of Barcelona as a city of shadows, a city steeped in twilight, so to say. It’s a Gothic novel steeped deeply in history, a tale of Daniel’s obsession with a stranger whose life starts to mirror his own.

I was totally drawn into Daniel’s search and totally entranced by the setting of the story. The book has an eerie mysterious feel to it, and I got goosebumps at quite a few places. There are a lot of threads, stories within stories, some of which are left untied. Others are tangled up, leading to plot twists that kept me to the edge of my seat. Every turn the story takes is a revelation that comes crashing down on you, from Fumero’s origins to Carax’s and Penelope’s relationship. Zafon writes to an intelligent reader, one who doesn’t need the whole story spoon-fed to him, one who is capable of filling in the blanks. This liberty to the reader to give wings to his/her imagination is one characteristic of the book that I loved. To quote Winston Churchill, the story is a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. The search for the key makes the book a great read. Definitely a book on my reread list.

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REVIEW Breaking Dawn: Stephenie Meyer


THE SAGA ENDS

Finally, finally, I’m done with the Twilight series. The long haul is over, and I am so glad that Bella is off my back at last.

After hemming and hawing about the marriage thing throughout Eclipse, Bella finally gets hitched to Edward, and they are off to their honeymoon somewhere in the Pacific. But all is not fun and games for the newly married couple, as Bella gets pregnant. The half-vampire, half-human child grows at an abnormally fast rate, putting fragile Bella’s life in danger. Elsewhere, a rejected and dejected Jacob fumes around, but rushes to Bella’s side once he hears about her situation, leaving his werewolf pack behind. When the baby is born, Bella thinks her life will finally be normal again, but she is so wrong. Poor self-sacrificing Bella must put herself in the line of fire (again), to save the person she loves most.

Breaking Dawn is split into three parts, the first and third narrated by Bella, and the second by Jacob. I found the third part the most interesting, as Bella changes from the wishy-washy narrator she’s been for three whole books, into a more confident person. Her voice was the least irritating in the third part, and I enjoyed her narration for a while. I thought Jacob’s narration would be decent, but it was a little fake. It was like Meyer just watched a couple of action movies to prepare for writing in a guy’s voice; she didn’t really have a grip on the character.

One thing that bugged me was the mess of contradictions associated with each character. Worst of all was Jacob: one moment he is rushing to tear Edward’s throat out, the next he ditches his pack to protect the blameless Cullens. Meyer gave everybody their happy ending: right triumphed wrong, everybody lived happily ever after. So who cares if characters did major volte-faces from one page to the next? And the ending; what an anticlimax! She built it up so much that I was really looking forward to this huge vampire war and clash of the titans, and then suddenly, everything just goes phoosh. My crackler of an ending turned out to be a damp squib. Well, I shouldn’t complain. If there had been a battle, the book probably would have been 7000 pages long, instead of 700.

I’ve been asked this question many times: if you didn’t like the books, why did you keep reading them? My answer to them is this: if I had quit midway, I would have been told that I stopped just before the truly awesome parts, that the next book would have blown my mind away. And I couldn’t have contradicted them. Now that I finished the series, I can say with conviction: there were NO truly awesome parts, not for me.

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The Rocky Road to Romance: A Guest Post by AnimeGirl

I met AnimeGirl a.k.a. Alex from AnimeGirl's Bookshelf through BBAW, as she was my interview swap partner, and it's my pleasure to have her guest post for us today. Alex is a big romance reader, and she shares with us some of her thoughts on the genre.


When Hazra was kind enough to ask me to do this guest post and talk a little about a genre I love dearly, I was very excited – few things get me talking as much as romance novels – but then I faced a bit of a writer’s block, I had too many things in my head and wasn’t sure where to start.

Romance is one of those book genres that you either love or you love to hate and I was lucky enough to read my first romance story when I was still young and hadn’t become quite too cynical about what romance meant – you know, beyond princes and princesses, frog kissing and fairy dust – and in many ways in changed my life.

In ‘Real Life’ I’m quite pragmatic, I’m not really touchy feely, and even a bit cynic about most things surrounding relationships and human nature but when it comes down to love there is this small part of me that goes that to that first story and the many I have read since, and that little part is what keeps me hopeful.

Now, Romance is a genre that houses many other genres. Within the broad scope of romance novels you can find criminal thrillers and books about lawyers and doctors or professional players of any sort of sport, fairy tale retellings, comedies, dramas and tragedies, historical, contemporary or futuristic, paranormal, fantasy or simply rooted in reality: there is something for everyone in romance.

That’s one of the things I love the most about Romance, you can find something to suit your taste. Even as a modern woman very much living in the 21st century, I still turn to romance for comfort and find stuff to relate to even in stories set in the past, in places I’ve never been to and even with lands and creatures that don’t exist.

The sad part of this though, is when you encounter what I called a Book Snob. If you ever have encountered a Book Snob you know what I’m talking about. Book Snobbiness spreads far and wide, there are Book Snobs who trash talk fantasy or sci fi, saying that such genres are for kids or geeks; there are Book Snobs that claim that Y. A. books are silly and shallow; and then there are the Book Snobs that look down on Romance Novels.

People who don’t actually follow the genre seem to have this idea that a romance novel is some trashy, pink book with Fabio on the cover and a happy ending but, and though happy endings are a bit of a requirement, that image isn’t quite how things are. As in everything, in Romance Novels you can find the type of trashy books – with bodice rippers and super alpha heroes that border on abusive and heroines that are too stupid to live –that give romance novels a bad name, but you can also find awesome books that are smartly written and compelling, books that boldly go to a familiar territory and yet make everything seem new and brilliant even if the plot is familiar – I always say that there is only so many things under the Sun, basic plot-lines repeat endlessly but it’s how each author approaches said basic plot what makes the difference – and what gets you emotionally invested in all sort of stories and pairings.

This is not to say that we romance readers think stories as they happen in the books are the norm in real life, we are very much aware that it is just a book but the emotional punch is still there. Romance novels give the idea that relationships can be fulfilling and rewarding, filled with love and respect and in most cases they affirm the idea that women are important – in today’s romance novels, even historical ones, is rare to find a hero that by the end of the book doesn’t see his heroine as his equal, as someone worthy of respect; and it’s even rarer to find an heroine who does not her own value by the time we reach the epilogue.

More than that, romance novels provide a safe heaven where everything is possible, where you can hope and dream. Sure, many of them novels will never be considered classics, and there always be book snobs that will think they aren’t even real books but I don’t think I – or anyone I know how loves this genre for that matter – will ever truly care about that. And, save for the occasional super fabiesque cover, I feel no shame whatsoever to stand tall and say: “I’m a Romance Reader”. To some it might not be as high minded as reading Nietzsche or a depressing literary novel, but hey, we all need our share of fun. Don’t we?

Now, what about you? Any romance readers out there?

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REVIEW Second Helpings: Megan McCafferty


Second Helpings sees the return of Jessica Darling, along with the motley crew that makes up Pineville High. This wasn’t as simple a read as the earlier one, but decent anyways.

After having her heart broken by Marcus “Krispy Kreme” Flutie, Jessica Darling spends her summer holidays far from Pineville High, at a creative writing program. She has a crush on her teacher, which comes to nothing. Back in school, she has to avoid Flutie while obsessing about him, decide if she really will go to Columbia, wonder about the mystery Gossip Girl, while dealing with her running-fanatic dad, obnoxious sister and the inanities of the Clueless Crew.

When I reviewed Sloppy Firsts, I wondered if all the angst wouldn’t be overkill. It was, kind of, but not as bad as I thought. The book was a little too long: angst stretched out over what seemed like a billion pages made me a little headachy. Jessica is moody and mopey, but at least she realizes that she is Persona Negativa, that she whines more than she smiles. As much as she analyses everybody else, she also analyses herself. She also does a lot of things new: she takes a stand and speaks her mind more often, instead of just searing page after page of her journal. On rare occasions that she feels happy about something (her fervent wish to get into Columbia, her niece’s arrival, her bonding with her grandmother), her lucidity is a nice read. The final couple of pages, that is Jessica’s graduation address, I really loved; it echoed my feelings exactly.

“I believe that what we get out of life is what we’ve set ourselves up to get, so there’s no such thing as an inconsequential decision. Our destinies are the culmination of all the choices we’ve made along the way, which is why it’s imperative to listen hard to your inner voice when it speaks up. Don’t let anyone else’s noise drown it out… The real world, whether we like it or not, is right here, right now. All of this, every day, is important. Everybody matters. Everything we do has an effect on others, directly or indirectly, whether we realize it or not… For better or for worse, you have helped me become the person I was always meant to be: me. Yes. Me.”

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REVIEW The Vampire Diaries- The Struggle: L.J.Smith


BLACK RAGE

Why is it that the sophomore book in a series usually falls flat compared to the first book? I was eagerly looking forward to the second book, and I was quite disappointed in it.

In The Struggle, Elena rages at the sly, cruel Damon for bringing despair into his brother, Stefan’s life. She searches for Stefan and finds him nearly half-dead, and gives him some of her own blood to revive him. Damon pursues Elena with a vengeance, wanting to steal her from Stefan. Meanwhile, Elena’s high-school nemesis Caroline is also up to something sinister.

As I said, I was really disappointed in this book. For one, the writing is kind of juvenile and unpolished; it’s as if the book was written in a terrible hurry. Also, I developed a hearty dislike for Elena. I find many similarities between her and Bella, and you know how much I dislike Bella. The strength and spunk Elena showed in the first book seems to be missing, and all she is capable of is crying or making empty threats to Damon (seriously, how does she expect to make him “pay for what he has done”?) Stefan doesn’t really have much to do, and I felt that Damon’s evil nature could have been explored some more; I couldn’t really fit Ian Somerhalder’s calculating Damon from the TV series with the book’s slightly insipid one. The book feels like a rickety bridge between the first and third books, with not much of a strong story, and a little too much of whiny love. It ends on a cliffhanger as well, and I really hope that the third book turns out to be better.

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