review: the blood of flowers

30 July 2012

book info:
ages: 14 and up
grades: 9 and up (Years 10 and up)
on sale: now
copy from: library
publisher: Little, Brown and Company
pages: 369 (big pages)

title: The Blood of Flowers
author: Anita Amirrezvani
photo credit: goodreads

In 17th-century Persia, a 14-year-old woman believes she will be married within the year. But when her beloved father dies, she and her mother find themselves alone and without a dowry. With nowhere else to go, they are forced to sell the brilliant turquoise rug the young woman has woven to pay for their journey to Isfahan, where they will work as servants for her uncle, a rich rug designer in the court of the legendary Shah Abbas the Great.  Despite her lowly station, the young woman blossoms as a brilliant designer of carpets, a rarity in a craft dominated by men. But while her talent flourishes, her prospects for a happy marriage grow dim. Forced into a secret marriage to a wealthy man, the young woman finds herself faced with a daunting decision: forsake her own dignity, or risk everything she has in an effort to create a new life. 

review: the caliph's house

28 July 2012

book info:
ages: 14 and up
grades: 8-9, years: 10 and up
on sale: now
copy from: library
publisher: bantam
pages: 349

title: The Caliph's House
author: Tahir Shah

photo: goodreads
(goodreads) In the tradition of A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun, acclaimed English travel writer Tahir Shah shares a highly entertaining account of making an exotic dream come true. By turns hilarious and harrowing, here is the story of his family’s move from the gray skies of London to the sun-drenched city of Casablanca, where Islamic tradition and African folklore converge–and nothing is as easy as it seems….

Inspired by the Moroccan vacations of his childhood, Tahir Shah dreamed of making a home in that astonishing country. At age thirty-six he got his chance. Investing what money he and his wife, Rachana, had, Tahir packed up his growing family and bought Dar Khalifa, a crumbling ruin of a mansion by the sea in Casablanca that once belonged to the city’s caliph, or spiritual leader.

With its lush grounds, cool, secluded courtyards, and relaxed pace, life at Dar Khalifa seems sure to fulfill Tahir’s fantasy–until he discovers that in many ways he is farther from home than he imagined. For in Morocco an empty house is thought to attract jinns, invisible spirits unique to the Islamic world. The ardent belief in their presence greatly hampers sleep and renovation plans, but that is just the beginning. From elaborate exorcism rituals involving sacrificial goats to dealing with gangster neighbors intent on stealing their property, the Shahs must cope with a new culture and all that comes with it.

feature and follow (7)

26 July 2012

   I'll just sum up my "tweaked" rules:

  • You are not required to follow me, only if you like my blog!
  • You can leave a comment and I will seriously consider reading your blog if I like it
I believe in people following because they like/want to, and not to be forced because of a blog hop. Anyway!

What was your favourite book that you were REQUIRED to read when you were in school?

photo credit: goodreads

I actually don't remember most of the books I was required to read. However, this year's summer reading included The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I made a completely amazing dialogue journal (split pages into two sides, write a passage on one side, and discuss it on the other) that I will take pictures of to show you all. It included making a table of context (since the book is missing one) and my own, painted cover of the book as well as a book cover for my notebook :)

Usually, people hate summer reading books. But I think they're chosen for a reason: they have depth. (well, as far as all my summer reading books have gone) and they really mean something. I'm always curious by required reading at school, because I know it's going to be either ridiculously amazing, or confusing. 

What about you?

P.S. Recently revealed my new writing blog (voyage: I would love it if you could visit :) Thanks!

new blog: voyage!

Voyage, pronounced "voy-aah-j" Like in that French accent. Now, for some shameless promotion :D

Hi readers! 

  This is actually a premature post requesting you all to visit and/or follow my new writing blog, Voyage. See, I'm having it designed but it's taking longer than expected. I'm not angry or anything, I'm just really excited. It's going to be simple and sweet and cute, and not professional like Pages is. A pleasant change I'm looking forward to! It's going to be more personal as well, seeing as I don't feel personal posts would fit well into the character of Pages. :D

the URL:
(It'd love it so much if you could stop by)

review: hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet

24 July 2012

book info:
ages: 13 and up
grades: 7-8 and up (Years 9 and up)
on sale: now
copy from: library
pages: 290
publisher: Ballantine Books

title: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
author: Jamie Ford

photo: goodreads

In the opening pages of Jamie Ford's stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

review: a thousand splendid suns

23 July 2012

book info:
ages: 16 and up
grades: 10 and up (Years 12 and up)
on sale: now
copy from: library
pages: 372
publisher: Riverhead

title: A Thousand Splendid Suns
author: Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan's last thirty years, from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to post-Taliban rebuilding, that puts the violence, fear, hope and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives, the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness, are inextricable from the history playing out around them.
Propelled by the same storytelling instinct that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once a remarkable chronicle of three decades of Afghan history and a deeply moving account of family and friendship. It is a striking, heartwrenching novel of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love, a stunning accomplishment.

I am stunned. Is all I can say. I just finished reading it two minutes ago, and I'm shocked. The story is heartbreaking, sad and hopeful and absolutely emotional. This story has the same profound effect as The Kite Runner.

topic: nasty or noble?

22 July 2012

source: tumblr
" And he understood human nature so deeply, not just our great capacity for virtue and for goodness, and for love, but our capacity for pain and destruction and anger." Tom Hiddleston on Shakespeare

There's something about the way Mr Hiddleston (Mr Hiddleston, haha, why am I so formal? I don't know him personally, so I don't feel like I'm privileged to address him on first name basis) says things, about the characters he plays or on human nature itself, but whenever he says something like this, I get very inspired. Mind you, I haven't taken psychology or studies on human nature at all, so I don't speak from professional knowledge. 

"I believe we are born clean slates, and we all have a capacity to be nasty or noble"

Nasty or Noble?

They're two halves of a whole, I think, and we have to embrace both parts in ourselves. A person that is completely nice, completely passive and serene, is empty. He that never yells, or speaks his mind in fear of others judging him, and just sitting back is he that's a grey, empty, unfeeling person. I might have already said this, but it resounds in my mind the quote that someone once said "The opposite of love is indifference" A person who is 100% noble (I think that person doesn't exist) is not 100% human.

And on the other, extreme end, and occurs more frequently than the former, are those that are wholesomely nasty. Allowing oneself to become bitter, or mean-hearted, is allowing oneself to go the deepest, lowest pits of self-esteem and hurt. One can reach that place by just being sad and isolated, like I was for a time being, and it's clear whether or not one has reached there. The choice that has to be made is whether to fix it or not.

Striking the perfect balance, with preferably more nobility than nastiness, is easily done. When you feel like you're in a particularly grim mood, it happens to me when I'm hungry or tired, quickly try to remedy it and hold back any mean words or things you wouldn't normally say. Countless times, I haven't been able to do that, and I ended up hurting the people I love. It's not a good feeling! Lately, I've been preventing it from happening and I feel good about doing so later on.

Good or Evil?

I don't believe that a person is either good or bad, like black or white. There are, quoting a popular phrase "shades of grey" inside a person, and it's up to he or she to decide which to side to use and when.

In Literature

Like Mr Hiddleston said, all shades of humanity are explored in Shakespeare's works and I think it's brilliant. But how about in more commonly, sometimes more popularly, YA books? We take our complex personalities for granted, and it comes naturally while writing and reading, to understand people. What's more exciting is exploring the ugly side of human nature, in these books, and it's what's read about most often. In my previous posts on kindness and compassion, I mentioned how these actions/traits are  missing from YA books. Yet, I think it's good that books explore the ugly side of people's because usually, it'd remedied, and it's necessary to bring out the bad side of someone, to show it to readers, and also show the capability of overcoming that gunky, slimy bad things and break open the shell to become a re-discovered butterfly. Gosh, that just sounded so lame (haha!), but I hope you know what I mean?

On Male Characters: specifically "The Nice Guy"

Since most YA is written from the female perspective, and I think it's because the writers are female, that it's difficult to understand, yet alone write, male characters. Sometimes, I believe they're too shallow. There's either the nice guy or the bad guy. And the bad guys are more complex, have that small, tiny heart that's still capable of love. But the nice guys: they're just pure sugar: it's like they're not even worthy of having human characteristics, and are this one dimensional person with no layers. 

But of course this problem wouldn't be present, if there weren't any love triangles! My gosh, I'm growing quite...sick of reading love triangles. I've come to expect them, and them I'm happily shocked when I don't see one (very rare occasion!) Anyway, I'd just like to ask, if there are "nice guy" "bad guy" characters, to make them have both good and bad qualities, and not just based on looks, but their personality, traits, and feelings.

I feel like I have just ranted about the same thing a thousand times, in different wording. I'm so sorry if I just sounded preachy the whole time. Did you enjoy this post, or topic posts in general?

what do you think?

Hello friends!
  Soon, it's going to be the start of a new school year for me, and I want to bring about some changes to this book blog. I like the way it is. Simple, sweet: just reviews and topic posts, the occasional interview and giveaways. However, I feel like I'm not servicing to your interests so I decided to change things, but I want to know how you feel about it.

There are already many giveaways planned for this year, guaranteed, and I know how popular those are, haha. But would you guys like to see more:
  • interviews
  • book spotlights
  • guest posts
  • blogger interviews
  • excerpt reveals
And if so, what genres are you all most interested in seeing? I've added my opinions:
  • Young Adult (YA)  <---yes!
  •  Middle Grade (MG)
  •  Romance <---if it's in the YA genres
  •  Chick-Lit
  •  Fantasy <---YA
  •  Paranormal
  •  Contemporary <---YA
  •  Dystopian <----YA
  •  Mystery/Thriller
  •  Historical <---Adult or YA

feature and follow #6

20 July 2012

It's another feature and follow Friday! For all you newcomers (I'm not sure if there are) here are my "tweaked" rules for the hop, which I hope are acceptable:

I don't like Feature and Follow Friday's because it forces people to follow this blog, of whom are not really interested in my content, and are only interested in getting followers for their blogs. I know this isn't true for everyone, but it's an underlying concept. Therefore, I've changed it a bit to fit me. Why? Because a blog that doesn't grow is stale and boring. And as a blogger and person, I'm constantly craving meeting people and interacting.

SO If you're visiting (thank you so much!) here's what's happening:

  • If I followed you, you are NOT required to follow me back: only if you want to
  • If you follow me, I'll seriously consider following you back, but it's not guaranteed

I know it's part of the hop, that it's basic courtesy to follow you back, but...I'm not sure I can do it. I don't believe in following a blog that I don't think I'll enjoy, even though you're an awesome person. Gosh, I feel like I'm just ruining the fun of this hop. SORRY!

review: a map of the known world

19 July 2012

Hi readers! I'm going to try something new with this review. I read a post on (Candace's Book Blog) about what people look for in a review, so I'm going to make this one to see if I can improve my reviewing skills. Tell me what you think! (P.S. this is a book I read quite a few years ago, but never reviewed)

book info:
ages: 13 and up
grades: 7-8 and up (Years 9 and up)
on sale: now
copy from: Amazon
pages: 243
publisher: Scholastic Press

title: A Map of the Known World
author: Lisa Ann Sandell

photo: goodreads
Cora Bradley dreams of escape. Ever since her reckless older brother, Nate, died in a car crash, Cora has felt suffocated by her small town and high school. She seeks solace in drawing beautiful maps, envisioning herself in exotic locales. When Cora begins to fall for Damian, the handsome, brooding boy who was in the car with Nate the night he died, she uncovers her brother's secret artistic life and realizes she had more in common with him than she ever imagined. With stunning lyricism, Sandell weaves a tale of one girl's journey through the redemptive powers of art, friendship, and love.

They say no land remains to be discovered, no continent is left unexplored. But the whole world is out there, waiting, just waiting for me. I want to do things-I want to walk the rain-soaked streets of London, and drink mint tea in Casablanca. I want to wander the wastelands of the Gobi desert and see a yak. I think my life's ambition is to see a yak. I want to bargain for trinkets in an Arab market in some distant, dusty land. There's so much. But, most of all, I want to do things that will mean something.

historical fiction: prepare to see more of it!

17 July 2012

Historical fiction is one my most favourite genres, but I just haven't actually gone out and picked them up. Getting books from the young adult section at my library is easy, it's several bookshelves along a wall that are all YA. However, going to the adult fiction section is like, about eight massive bookshelves one after another: so getting books there has been a put-off. I do plan, however, when I go to volunteer there again this Thursday, to hunt through that section. I shelve adult fiction for now, so it'll provide me with that opportunity, hehe :D

What inspired me to actually start on historical fiction is this historical fiction blog called The Tiny Library. I'll be reading and reviewing a lot of books that Sam has mentioned, yay! It's really exciting. What to expect:

photo credit: goodreads
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  • A suitable boy : a novel by Vikram Seth
  • In Arabian nights : a caravan of Moroccan dreams by Tahir Shah
I'm pleased to read Arab/Indian historical fiction. I'm slightly biased because I am Indian, so I'll be able to understand a lot. And my family hangs out with Pakistanis and Sikhs and the whole awesome bunch, so I'll also have background info on Arab based historical fiction.

So what do you think? Do you have any historical fiction suggestions? It'd be cool if they were slightly older, so I can get them at the library, I haven't got the time or money to drive all the way over to Barnes and Noble (quite a distance from my house) you know? Thanks!

Six Hundred Followers!

16 July 2012

Hi guys! I'm really excited to announce that I have achieved six hundred followers! That's an amazing achievement that I never thought I'd get, back when I had around two hundred followers. It seems like 600 is the magical number of followers that makes one a "high up" blogger. The number of followers shouldn't matter, as quality of content is the only thing that should, but nonetheless, it's an observation I've made.

I am old

As I was browsing through my Reading List, trying to find blogs I've loved and grew up blogging with, I realised that nearly all of them have just...stopped blogging. I did that once too, I might have stopped with them and a generation would have died: but I didn't. I feel like a survivor. I mean, I had great affiliates like Cate from Sparrow Review and Liz from Cleverly Inked:

Now they've both gone, and my only affiliate left is Precious from Fragments of Life. It's sad to not see them around any more. Jenn from Book Crazy has formally stopped blogging. Fortunately, not all of my old favourites have entirely left. Kate from the Neverending Bookshelf and Bookworming in the 21st Century (another one that I love) actually continued blogging together. Brizmus is still around on twitter and Teens Read and Write is still functioning after all these years.

my books

14 July 2012

Well, really the books in the bookshelf. I've taken a picture of my bookshelf before, but not the actual books that I own. Welcome: to my books! This may kind of look like bragging, but I don't usually buy books like many other bloggers, so I don't have too many fantastically envy-worthy books to share. 

First, I have my prized Harry Potter collection! I'm sad to say I've mis-located the Chamber of Secrets and I still need to get my own copy of The Half Blood Prince. I know they're the necessities in every bibliophile's library but...I promise I'll get to it! My favourite series ever: Harry Potter!

US Editions

Thanks to my Mum and Dad for getting them for me :D

short review: harmony

I'm not going to go through with a formal review on this one. The author, Sonya Bria, kindly offered me a signed copy to review and I thought: "Wow, Celtic folklore, that's gotta be good" and lately, independent/self published authors have been sending me requests to review their books. I know several good self-published authors, like Keary Taylor (and her amazing book, Eden), so I accepted and....well, here you go:

title: Harmony: A kingdom of souls book
author: Sonya Bria

Sophie is a high school senior with only two things on her mind, graduating from Jefferson High, and moving on, leaving the death of her mother firmly in the past. But the past is not done with Sophie, and she finds herself suddenly thrust into a tragic, Irish love story centuries old. Does she have the strength to accept her part, confront her own past, and rely on someone long forgotten?

Ian is a vampire with only one thing on his mind...Sophie. For years, he has watched over Sophie, and protected her from the darkness surrounding her mother's death. He would like nothing more than to forget the past, but his fate lies with Sophie and her destiny. Can he help Sophie confront her nightmares and not fall in love?

Sophie and Ian will discover that they also have a connection-something that could bind them together forever or rip them apart. What will they choose?

Only time will tell.

feature and follow: 5 + funny harry potter pictures

12 July 2012

I hope you'll note the button I made. I wasn't too fond of the old one, haha :D For new readers, if you want to know how I do Feature and Follow Friday's, click here. Welcome and thank you so much for stopping by!

This week's question:

What drove you to start book-blogging in the first place?

Nothing drove me, really. I just started doing it, I didn't realise I could get "free books" or actually correspond with authors or meet so many new people. I fell into the book blogging habit and I've never gotten up. And I'm glad for it, haha :D

This post is pretty short, so I thought I'd add some funny pictures. Regular followers will know I love posting funny Harry Potter pictures. I don't curse though, these pictures do. Plus! I am not a twilight hater, I'm just not particularly fond of the books.

For some reason, I cracked up at this. I read it aloud in the same voice Daniel Radcliffe used in this scene, haha :D

Troll in the dungeon!
I feel terrible for hating Snape when all this time, he was truly good inside.
Lupin does have it pretty touch

And thus concludes this feature and follow friday! I hope you've enjoyed! Comment and I promise I'll visit your blog :D Happy blog hopping!

(PS: photo credit to those who made the photos! I don't know where they came from)

review: the sea of trolls

book info:
ages: 13 and up
grades: 7 and up (Years 8 and up)
on sale: now
copy from: library
pages: 450

title: The Sea of Trolls
author: Nancy Farmer

photo: goodreads

Jack was eleven when the berserkers loomed out of the fog and nabbed him. "It seems that things are stirring across the water", the Bard had warned, "Ships are being built, swords are being forged."
   "Is that bad?" Jack had asked, for his Saxon village had never before seen berserkers.
   "Of course. People don't make ships and swords unless they intend to use them."
   The year is A.D. 793. In the next months, Jack and his little sister, Lucy, are enslaved by Olaf One-Brow and his fierce young ship-mate, Thorgil. With a crow named Bold Heart for mysterious company, they are swept up into an adventure-quest in the spirit of The Lord of the Rings.
   Other threats include a willful mother Dragon, a giant spider, and a troll-boar with a surprising personality--to say nothing of Ivar the Boneless and his wife, Queen Frith, a shape-shifting half-troll, and several eight-feet-tall, orange haired, full-time trolls. (---A Junior Library Guild Selection. Hand-typed right now by me from the book's flap. You're welcome :D)

I had first read this in elementary (primary) school and remember liking it a lot. I don't think I fully followed the story, with so many elements and such a fast moving plot, but I enjoyed the adventurous story. I've read the sequel, but not the third book, which I intend to read after re-reading said sequel.

 There are many reasons to love this book. The rich Norse mythology with somewhat historical accuracy, the   quest, the magic, the mythical creatures and thrilling's a perfect recipe! The storytelling is brilliant, and I love the allusions to Beowulf (tied in with the book's characters) and the way the Norse Saxon/Viking culture is brought to life. I've read about Yggdrasil in Michael Scott's The Alchemist, and I'm familiar with Jotuns and Jotenheim from the movie Thor (with Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston), as well as countless other terms. I'm also familiar with a bit of the mythology that the characters talk about to each other from interviews with Mr. Hiddleston and the picture books I'd read when I was very young. Yet Ms (Mrs) Farmer weaves together all these fragments of my knowledge into this seamless, unforgettable story. There wasn't a second when I thought "This is boring, lets skip a few pages..." The book was gripping and thrilling. I felt like I was alongside Jack and Olaf and an amazing adventure.

I feel like I'm repeating so many things, because I've just completed it and am that slobbering mess of "Ohmygosh, I can't believe this happened" (meaning my reading such a great story) So I will simply say this: whether you are a young adult or an adult, this book is for you. Because though this is such a fantastically brilliant story, I don't think I can give it a five tree rating until I've finished all the other books. And because it doesn't strike me directly in the heart, but still thrills me nonetheless. You know?

the kindness project: july

11 July 2012

As you know, I've been writing a lot about kindness and compassion and all the things to make one a better person. Well, I'd been browsing the blogosphere, when I encountered this project. It's like a meme, to be posted the second Wednesday of every month. Here's what it's about (from the website)

Too often kindness is relegated to a random act performed only when we’re feeling good. But an even greater kindness (to ourselves and others) occurs when we reach out even when we aren't feeling entirely whole. It’s not easy, and no one is perfect. But we’ve decided it’s not impossible to brighten the world one smile, one kind word, one blog post at a time. To that end, a few of us writers have established The Kindness Project, starting with a series of inspirational posts. We post the second Wednesday of every month.

Thanks to the kind and polite host, I am now part of this project :D The goal is to inspire people to be kind and I think I can achieve that.

song: good morning sunshine :) + international giveaway

09 July 2012

This song makes me so happy! I really can't stop singing it (very catchy) I'm a huge fan of Alex Day and Chris Kendall, so this is double the awesomeness :)

Some other awesome news: the Shadows Cast by Stars giveaway is INTERNATIONAL! So if you're international, you can enter here :D

topic: compassion

07 July 2012

[Compassion literally means] "Suffering with" means taking on another's suffering as your own,
a deep kind of understanding and connectedness with another human being. 

Having compassion for people as a whole, for the whole palette of humanity, all of us with all strengths,
our flaws,
our nobility 
and fragility

"Compassion is kindness, forgiveness, and empathy"

-Tom Hiddleston

On Us

Yes.  Compassion is empathy, to feel with another person, and I think it's this quality, along with kindness, that makes someone a better person. I'm working on this...because when I see someone in pain or anxiety...I don't know what to do. I'm not that emotionally stable myself, so I do feel compassion for them, but I don't know how to act upon it sometimes. If I see someone crying, I'll go up and pat his or her back, or if I know him, I'll give him a hug. I really wish I could do more to help people, and I am working on it. How about you?

On Literature:

 It's a quality that I think is overseen in YA Lit. It's understanding someone, and not judging him or her for whatever's been done. I can think of one character that has this spectacular and respectable and mature trait: Jem from The Infernal Devices books by Cassandra Clare. He is my favourite character from that book. For a character in a book to have very human compassion for others is compelling, and makes Jem even more of a beautiful person, despite his fabulous looks (silvery hair and eyes? And naturally too? That's pretty awesome) 

But finding and writing these kind of forgiving characters is a hard thing to do, because it contradicts our instinctive nature. Writing a bully is so easy. He's mean, he curses, and he has a troubled past. When we get hurt, it's easy to blame someone or wish for revenge, but it's hard to forgive. Once, long ago, I remember hearing something along the lines of "forgiveness is the greatest gift" and I live by that. It's part of the reason, or rather more of the reason, why I hate books that are centred around revenge. Where the whole plot is about getting revenge. Sooner or later, the protagonist will realise that's not what he or she wants.

I would like to see more complicated characters in young adult fiction. Not something to just entertain the senses, but the entertain the mind. Right now, on a scale of flat to super dynamic, we're in between. I see some great characters, and then really weak ones. In order to write out that complex of a character, there has to be a good storyline as well, or if it's in a cliche storyline, make it the best.

Compassion is something that needs to be present. I don't enjoy shallow books about revenge. I mean, what lesson, or what message, is that sending to readers? That it's fine to act on revenge to an ex-boyfriend and make his life miserable for breaking up with you? For getting revenge on that super pretty girl that's stolen your boyfriend? A message of forgiveness needs to be heard, you know?

interview: catherine knutsson + giveaway

06 July 2012

Hi everyone! Another fantastic author has stopped by, and she's written Shadows Cast by Stars. Even though it's set two hundred years in the future, the story takes place in a rustic, Old fashioned place full of magic and mythology. I'd like to welcome Catherine Knutsson to Pages! She's really friendly and easygoing, so I've definitely enjoyed this interview! I hope you do :)

1. First off, what was your inspiration for Shadows Cast By Stars? Blood being a commodity is really an intriguing idea, as is “blood harvesting” ~shudder~

When I started writing what would become SHADOWS CAST BY STARS, I thought I was going to be writing a retelling of the legend of King Arthur, but it didn't take me too long to realize that wasn't what the story wanted to be. I'm not entirely sure how the leap from King Arthur to a Métis girl living in the future happened (oh, the mysteries of the subconscious!), but I do know that the blood element arrived after a visit to my local museum. They have an exhibit about the smallpox epidemic that hit Vancouver Island in the late nineteenth century. At the time, about 800,000 First Nations people lived on Vancouver Island, and by the time the epidemic had run its course, only 80,000 First Nations people remained - pretty staggering, huh? That got me to thinking about what blood is - I mean, what a fascinating thing to be running through our veins, carrying nutrients and oxygen and so much information about who we are and where we came from, let alone antibodies and natural immunity. I spent a lot of time thinking about how that works - why are some people (or peoples!) immune to one virus, and not to another? How does that happen? I mean, I know how it happens on a biological level, but how does it come to apss on an evolutionary scale? All of that is a pretty convoluted answer, but that's sort of how my mind works!

2. The summary of the book has mentioned the Spirit World and then the plague-ridden rest of the world. Is this parallelism to any other concepts today, and if so, what?

I think so. Something that I don't talk about a lot is that I've done some of my own studies in healing. In fact, when I graduated from high school, I actually thought I was going to be a doctor! Though I didn't follow that path to completion, I've always been fascinated by medicine, and alternate modes of healing in particular: herbalism, acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, folk medicine - that sort of thing. And, one of the themes I constantly came across in my studies and my reading is that many healing traditions believe physical illness has equally important spiritual and emotional components that aren't always acknowledged by traditional western medicine. So, if a person can be ill in mind, body, and spirit, could a society? A civilization? A world? And if that's the case, how would healing happen? I don't have answers - I'm a question person - but I do think about this a lot (and then, turn off the news!).

3. Writing dystopian has many challenges, like coming up with a “history”, new terminology and slang, futuristic technology and so on. What did you find most difficult about writing Shadows Cast by Stars?

Well, I cheated a bit in terms of dystopian jargon by setting the story in a place I knew really, really well: the place where I grew up. So, aside from a few technology things (Searches, etherstream, datachips), I tried to steer clear of the jargon minefield. Some of the terms I did use might be unfamiliar to some, but all of them are "real". Dzoonokwa, for example, is the wild woman of the woods of Pacific Northwest First People's stories. Sisiutl is as well. Oolichan is an oily little fish that flourishes around Vancouver Island (it's also called candle fish, because it's so oily than once dried, it can be burned as a candle!) and salal is a plant that's growing right outside my backdoor.

The most difficult thing I experienced when writing SHADOWS CAST BY STARS wasn't the setting or the technology. It was getting Cassandra out on to the page. I knew who she was inside my head, but making sure the real essence of her was getting through into the story was a real challenge.

4. The cover is absolutely enchanting, but some authors have images of covers in their heads while writing. What did you first envision your cover looking like?

I'm so glad you like the cover as much as I do! Actually, I didn't really envision my cover while writing, but I did hope it would be true to the story. And then, one day, it magically arrived in my inbox with a note from my editor saying "I hope you like it!", and it was perfect!

5. The Plague seems to be the root issue here: is it the Bubonic Plague re-discovered, or an entirely different disease?

Well, the bubonic plague was a starting point in my mind, but I think this is a difference disease - one that affects both body and spirit, I think. But maybe all diseases do that, really, depending on one's theory of thought!

6. Now to you ! You’ve mentioned on your bio that you’re Métis, which means you’re part of aboriginal Canada. Can you explain further? And is the language, Michif, something you speak decently? (I hear you’re still learning) :D

Métis flag photo credit

Sure! The Métis are one of the three officially-recognized aboriginal peoples of Canada (the other two being First Nations (or native Indian) and the Inuit.) The word "métis" means "mixed", and that's what Meéis people are: descended from First Nations women and their European fur trader (usually Scottish or French) husbands. Since I didn't grow up knowing I was Metis (my grandmother kept it a secret, and sadly, since she's now passed on, our family will never know why. But, we suspect her reasons were rooted in difficulty and pain), I had to apply for Métis citizenship, which is lengthy process where you have to provide documentation for five generations of your heritage, including scrips and baptismal certificates of your ancestors who were either First Nations or Métis. My aunt had already done most of this work, so that was great, and seeing copies of these old documents of my ancestors was really surreal, and very cool!
As for Michif, I'm just in the beginning of the learning process. Michif is a hybrid language, combining Cree and French, so the French part I'm okay with (I used to speak French pretty fluently, but I'm out of practice these days). But the Cree part is a lot more difficult! But, I'm learning - slowly but surely!

Quick Questions!

1. Celebrity crush and why?

Without a doubt: Tom Hiddleston. Tall, handsome, intelligent, witty - what's not to like?

K: Oh my gosh....I know! He's my celebrity crush too! Ahh! 

2. Sunny days or rainy days?

Cold, clear, windy, sunny days are my favorite sort of days! Or, snow! We so seldom get snow where I live 

3. Old book smell or new book smell (or Kindle/Nook smell :D)?

Definitely old book smell! (The first thing I did when SHADOWS CAST BY STARS arrive was smell it....)

4. Favourite food dish?

Pizza, in my opinion, is the king o' food...though I'm a foodie, so as long as it's not liver or mayonnaise, I'm good...

K: Yuck, I hate liver too!

5. Muffins or cupcakes?

Both! Though, now that I think about it, cupcakes have icing, and well, it's hard to go wrong with icing...

6. How was your short time in Iran? (this can be longer, I guess :D)

I was very young when I lived in Iran, but I think living there was one of the most important experiences in my life. The first non-English language I encountered was Farsi, and even now, I can still say a few words! Memories of my family's time there are etched in my mind, and it was a thrill when I learned that a fellow debut author was Iranian, because I then pestered her for recipes of Barbary bread (which I can still taste and smell, even though I lived in Iran over thirty years ago) and the amazing Iranian rice. I'd really like to go back one day, but until then, I've contented myself by working on a novel that's set in an Iranian-esque world


feature and follow (4) + Coldplay!

Hello readers :D

 For those of you who are new, this is how I've "twisted" the FF rules:

I don't like Feature and Follow Friday's because it forces people to follow this blog, of whom are not really interested in my content, and are only interested in getting followers for their blogs. I know this isn't true for everyone, but it's an underlying concept. Therefore, I've changed it a bit to fit me. Why? Because a blog that doesn't grow is stale and boring. And as a blogger and person, I'm constantly craving meeting people and interacting.

SO If you're visiting (thank you so much!) here's what's happening:

If I followed you, you are NOT required to follow me back: only if you want to
If you follow me, I'll seriously consider following you back, but it's not guaranteed
I know it's part of the hop, that it's basic courtesy to follow you back, but...I'm not sure I can do it. I don't believe in following a blog that I don't think I'll enjoy, even though you're an awesome person. Gosh, I feel like I'm just ruining the fun of this hop. SORRY!


Jumping Genres: Ever pick up a book from a genre you usually don’t like and LOVE it? Tell us about it and why you picked it up in the first place.

This is a poor question to ask me, because I usually don't go out of my favourite genres, and I haven't done so lately. Fantasy fiction is something I've been slimming down on, but I do love The Inheritance Cycle (despite its similarities to Lord of the Rings) and Lord of the Rings. OH

I don't think I'd ever have liked or even decided to read Lord of the Rings if it hadn't been for my brother, who had taken control of the telly this one evening, where Lord of the Rings was on. I had watched snippets of it, of all three films, out of order. Eventually, i watched them in order and then read the books. Awesome :D

ALSO! I'd like to post pictures that my friends took at the Coldplay concert we attended on Monday!
"Is that a Jon Bon Jovi hat?" he asks, taking a hat from an audience member

The stadium :D The bracelets we wore lit up as part of the performance 
"I drew a line, I drew a line for you- all those people all the way in the back- and it was all yellow." I'd like to thank my friend, Nikki, for telling us to get back row tickets. Chris Martin was so appreciative of us. :D
It's pretty off topic, this Coldplay concert, but I'm so happy about it! They're doing their Mylo Xyloto tour :)

review: shadows cast by stars

05 July 2012

book info:
ages: 12-13 and up
grades: 6 and up (years 8 and up)
on sale: now
copy from: author
pages: 464

title: Shadows Cast by Stars
author: Catherine Knutsson

beautiful cover!

Two hundred years from now, blood has become the most valuable commodity on the planet—especially the blood of aboriginal peoples, for it contains antibodies that protect them from the Plague ravaging the rest of the world.

Sixteen-year-old Cassandra Mercredi might be immune to Plague, but that doesn’t mean she’s safe—government forces are searching for those of aboriginal heritage to harvest their blood. When a search threatens Cassandra and her family, they flee to the Island: a mysterious and idyllic territory protected by the Band, a group of guerilla warriors—and by an enigmatic energy barrier that keeps outsiders out and the spirit world in. And though the village healer has taken her under her wing, and the tribal leader’s son into his heart, the creatures of the spirit world are angry, and they have chosen Cassandra to be their voice and instrument…

My first thoughts after finishing this was that it isn't really a dystopian novel. At the start, it did, but then when Cassandra and her family move to the Island. There's only one paragraph explaining the searches for aboriginal blood, and the threat didn't build up or Cassandra didn't like, nearly escape an official trying to capture her. There wasn't much description, except that one paragraph that says how serious it is. From there on, everything happens on the Island, living in the Old Way, which means like how some Native Americans do today. There's no contact from the outside world, so that ends the dystopian part.

The actual story was intriguing, and very original. The myth and the magic is well done. However, there was something very lacking. The setting. When I read, I paint a picture in my head of what's happening, and I play it out in my head like a film. But without knowing certain small things, like the colour of the sky at this point in the story or something. When setting description is done, however, it's great! I'd just like for there to be more of it. I think, what's also missing a little, is the description of the characters. I have no idea what Cassandra or her twin brother Paul look like. There's once again, a wee tiny bit of description on certain characters, but not enough for me. 

Besides all this, the plot line is brilliant. There isn't many Native American young adult books, and learning all these mythical creatures and imagining what it's light to have visions or be so closely spiritual with the land is something enriching. A nice change from horribly paranormal books. 

I give this book three trees, marking down because of what I explained above. It's a good book, and I'd recommend it for those of you who are interested in tribal culture and Native American folklore. I'd also like to thank Catherine for providing me with the (signed!) book, and lovely bookmarks!

topic: kindness

02 July 2012

I will eventually relate this to books, but for now. Today's topic to start off the week is kindness.


I believe that being kind is one of the best qualities one can have. To show compassion, and caring, and being understanding is what makes an ideal human being. I started off with being my raw, hard self. Like, I'd slip into a gloomy state where I'd just thoughtlessly say things without realising or meaning them. I'd unintentionally say rude things. I can't think of examples...but I'd say, "You're shirt is so weird" or something, or I'd just shut people out, like yelling "Nothing's wrong! Gosh!" or just ignoring my parents and not answering.

But then, in the past year or two, I've become really concious of myself  and everything around me. My actions have consequences, whether good or bad. The opposite of love is indifference, someone once said, and I had been acting quite indifferent. I don't like being cold, yet it comes like a natural instinct. So I strived to become a better, warmer, nicer person.

How many rude and mean people there are in the world, how inconsiderate and bad people's a really sad thing to see! I've become aware now. Like, if I'm moody, I watch what I say. I apologise when I slip up. And I've started to really make myself happy by making others happy. I live off of happiness, you know?
dancing is fun. I only do it in private (haha) but it never fails to make me feel happy. photo credit

Where I'm going with this, is that I would like you all to be really kind and nice this week, despite however hard things are, because it's not a stranger's fault that your cat of twelve years died last night, or that you woke up feeling horrible. And I think that the world becomes, in one's perspective, sad and gloomy without nice people to light it up.

I found this out, like a boxer's punch to my face, today while shelving books at the library. When people make eye contact at me, I smile and wave hello. I did that today, to about ten people, all of which stared at me like I was a weirdo. Is it so wrong for me to do that? And this man sitting at a table across my isle coughed (it sounded like a sneeze) and no one said "bless you". So I did, after an awkward silence and he looked around to find out where the voice came from, then looked straight back at his book. That's what I would do, but I would at least smile and say softly, "Thank you" or something like that.

Fortunately, this woman was trying to get past me in an aisle and I moved aside for her. She smiled and talked about how she was trying to get through this book, and mentioned something about the cover being really interesting. We struck light conversation and it just made me happy for the rest of the evening.

I know you all are really nice! You don't know it, but you are. You hold doors open for people, you say "pardon me" when walking past someone in the isle, you smile and compliment people upon meeting them etc...  What I'm trying to say is: be aware of yourself. The world is a better place with nicer people.


but you don't have to grow a moustache :)
 photo credit
I am, once again, harping upon cliches, but there are lots of rude people in young adult literature. Now, all men are not pigs, but a lot of boys frequently appear to be that way. All dark and handsome and arrogant. Of course, this isn't all books. A fair majority of boys are actually nice and friendly, but the more attractive ones are rude. I have a teenaged friend who's quite good-looking (Year 13) who  said "... i get to be a gentleman which i enjoy" and "in my opinion, being a gentleman is actually fun". Being a "gentlewoman" (it's actually a word! But doesn't sound as classy) is actually fun too. :D

There are those cliques of just artificially "pretty" girls who are so mean to our main characters. I can't help but to feel compassion for them. Something's happened in their lives that's negatively affected them. All people are born good and innocent, and I'd like to believe it's hidden there amongst nasty people. Like that head cheerleader that's mad at you for dating her ex-boyfriend and will stop at nothing to get you out of the picture: maybe her parents haven't been giving her the attention and love she craves, and maybe inflicting pain upon others and establishing a sense of power  fulfils that need of self-acceptance, that need for...feeling important. I really wish authors would elaborate on the "villains".

The arrogant boys as well. Society has made them think that being rude and mean gets them "love" and "popularity". Or maybe it's just the way these boys, portrayed in novels, were raised or grew up. Maybe his father was drunk all the time, and the boy picked up his lazy attitude, imitating a prominent male role model such as his dad. Maybe he grew up trying to protect his little sister from bad people, and grew that hard, un-trusting outer shell that blocks people out, masking his anxiety with harsh words. Usually these rude, masculine boys are hiding a secret or two. After a while, we can see these characters are actually good people at heart, and that's something important that I like reading.

Hopefully literature for young adults will promote kindness and good manners too. I'm seeing lots of male characters mistreating girls, who only love them more for it (which makes no sense) Like Patch from Hush, Hush. He's not very nice to Nora, yet she claims to love him. Or Damon from Evermore, or Daniel from Fallen. Or Edward from Twilight. I tie these characters with lack of "real love" and dominance of "lust" in a relationship, but also because they have unseemly personalities that I'd not really enjoy.

 Maybe it's that I've never experienced romantic love, so I can't really understand? Do you guys understand it? You're all probably more experienced than I am :)

P.S. Going to a Coldplay concert tonight :D So excited!

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