Friday, October 21, 2016

An Evaluation of My Summer Sixteen ft. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Hi again everyone,
Happy Half Term! I must say, I cannot believe that it has already been 6 weeks since the start of school and the end of summer :( Time flies when you're having fun...
Now that I've finally settled into Year Eleven, I thought that it was time for me to reminisce the summer...
I can truly say that I did not read enough this summer and for that I am disappointed in myself. I had planned on reading a great variety of books, ranging from non-fiction to hispanic classics. Not to mention, I thought that this summer would be the summer where I finally discovered a hidden passion, something other than reading and writing of course. I had decided to go about accomplishing this through tackling as many books as possible. However, that was not the case. I found myself occupied with other things this summer. I focused on spending the majority of my time with friends, cherishing every moment I spent with them. Although this was wonderful, I feel like I missed out on a lot of reading.

Looking back, I can confidently say that my previous summer was relatively calm as opposed to this one. As a result, I had managed to keep up with my reading. However, this summer, I craved a different kind of fun. Although it is shocking that I only read two novels, I must say that I experienced so much more than the world of fiction could have possibly offered. My goal was for me to find out something new and interesting about myself. Sure I thought that I would do this by reading and feeding my intellectual curiosity, but instead I was able to successfully accomplish this through my own experiences. I spent three weeks at Brown University's summer course, during which I was expected to take care of myself entirely. My family was a whole ocean away and I was as independent and alone as I had ever been. This meant that I was responsible for my own actions and for making my own decisions. Being surrounded by only teenagers for almost the entirety of July, I was exposed to ideas, concepts and things that I had never been exposed to before. I met people from all parts of the world, including Puerto Rico, Lebanon, India, and Guam. The friends I made came from differing backgrounds and cultures, spoke different languages and all had conflicting views on many matters. One of my favourite things about attending such camps is the fact that I am given the opportunity to meet people from all around the world, further enhancing my relationship with not only different people but with the world itself.

Despite all this, I did read The Great Gatsby!

The Great Gatsby is a novel celebrated worldwide. Not only are there two films produced in its honour but it is a novel that has, and continues, to influence many. 
For as long as I remember, I've been following the popular belief that, 'the book is always better than the movie', and so I've always encouraged myself to resist the urge to indulge in the film before reading the novel. However, The Great Gatsby was my one and only exception. As I class, we celebrated the end of Year Nine by watching the Great Gatsby, starring the much loved Leonardo DiCaprio. I remember returning home that day in awe at the brilliance of the production. Ever since then I was desperate to read the novel. I did not believe that the novel could possibly outshine the movie. And I can honestly say that indeed, it couldn't and it didn't.

For those who might be reading this and are a fan of F. Scott Fitzergerald's work, I am sorry to disappoint but I must announce that I will not be joining the fandom. I do not know whether the fact that I watched the movie before reading the novel influenced my opinion and reactions whilst reading, but I cannot say that I necessarily enjoyed reading The Great Gatsby. That said I still understand why this novel is so critically acclaimed and treasured; it is worth the read. However its genre is not one that I favour. The main reason as to why I did not enjoy the novel was due to it being very anti-climatic. There was never a time when I felt hooked or when I felt my heart racing as a result of suspense and tension. There was not enough drama, and therefore, to me, it was dull. 

On the other hand, I must praise Fitzgerald for the sophistication of his characters. Each character had something about them that made them unique and interesting. The character of Jay Gatsby, for example, was intriguing for he brought the novel an element of mystery and danger. His mysterious identity created a thrill for the unknown. Furthermore, his relationship with the narrator's cousin, Daisy Buchanan, is the core of the novel.

The two protagonists are young lovers who are separated after Gatsby is sent to fight in the war. During his long absence, Daisy finds herself going back to her old habitats of keeping lovers. She longs for everything a woman of that time would desire: a husband, stability and a family, everything Gatsby couldn't offer.

The novel finds the lovers reunited in a blur of extravaganza and magnificence; five years after the war, in an area of Long Island, New York, known as the West Egg. Events are unraveled in the perspective of Nick Carraway, who acts as both the narrator and as a participant in the events. Though their romance did not initially come at a cost, circumstances are different now: Daisy is married to a short-tempered and selfish man, whose own affair leads to a catastrophic ending.

Though the novel has a storyline, I found that some events were rather irrelevant and spontaneous. I feel as though the novel might have had hidden meanings and deeper concepts that I, as a younger reader, might not have fully grasped or picked up on. As the novel did not have a direct plot and lacked the certain excitement that I look for in a good read, I did not enjoy it to the extent that I had hoped I could have. I must say that it's a great pity that I did not find this novel favourable, for I had been strongly blown away by the movie. This is rather interesting because, unlike many other novels and their films, the movie of The Great Gatsby was indeed extremely true to the book. As a result, I do not understand how I did not find the same pleasure or feel the same kindling emotions whilst reading the novel as I did
watching it.


The Sky Is Everywhere-Jandy Nelson-Passionate, Powerful and Packed with Emotion

... Here's a repost...
Let me just make it very clear that Jandy Nelson is my favourite author. I just can't get enough of her books, even though she so tragically only has two: I'll Give You The Sun and The Sky Is Everywhere. Now if you follow my account on Instagram, which I'm sure you all do ;) (@teenagereadsxo) then you'll definitely have realised just how much I love I'll Give You The Sun due to all the posts! It's certainly the most featured book on the account. 

Almost everyone I know is aware of my great interest for reading and so often ask me what my favourite book is, and I know I've probably said something very similar to this in one of my blog posts before but mentioned another book, but I'll Give You The Sun is hands down my favourite. Well at least it is for now anyway. So as soon as I put the book down, I went onto Goodreads (such a lifesaver!) in order to find another Jandy Nelson novel. To my utmost delight I discovered The Sky Is Everywhere.

Like I'll Give You The Sun, The Sky Is Everywhere has a very earthly and romantic title which leaves the reader already floating in the clouds. On reading the first sentence of the novel, one knows that they are going to be swept off their feet as Nelson takes them on a journey through romance, sorrow, discoveries, adventures and the importance of family, especially the power of siblings. What makes the books so compelling is the way in which Nelson seems to embody the characters, very successfully and effectively expressing each action and emotion felt by them. When books have unique characters with unusual and interesting personalities, it is then when I am left immensely intrigued and the novel invades my thoughts.

The sky is everywhere, it begins at your feet."

The two books have similar themes. They both focus on the loss of a family member, the strong bond between siblings and how the best things come one's way when they are least expecting it. In The Sky Is The Everywhere, the protagonist Lennon Walker, has just lost her older sister and is on the slow and dark road to recovery. Her sister isn't the only one who has left a gaping whole in the family; their restless mother had abandoned the family years before and the girls never knew who their fathers were. Lennie won't talk about her emotions with her eccentric grandmother or her helplessly romantic uncle, Big. She has bottled her feelings away and seems to only relax and let loose in the company of the boy her sister has left behind.  Lennie feels that by just being alive she is preserving her sister's soul. Yet as Lennie slowly starts to forget the sound of her sister's voice and as the image of her sister's face slowly blurs in her mind, she can't help but feel like she is truly slipping away from her.  Toby, her sister's boyfriend is also grieving and every time Lennie looks at him she feels like he contains the missing pieces to her sister's soul, driving their relationship in a dangerous direction.

"Grief is a house where no one can protect you
where the younger sister
will grow older than the older one
where the doors
no longer let you in
or out” 

After taking a break from school, Lennie finally returns in time for the last week of the year, completely conscious of the pity that fills the corridors every time she walks down one. She hasn't touched the clarinet since her sister's sudden death, too frightened of the sweet sound that comes out when she puts her mouth to the instrument. She knows that she is wasting her talent but by feeling any sort of happiness or joy Lennie believes that she is betraying her sister. Whenever Lennie feels happy, guilt conquers the feeling, leaving her limp with melancholy once more. However, every time Lennie lays eyes on the new boy in school, the darkness that settles around her seems to clear. Joe Fontaine is going to save her from the tenacious grip of misery, she is certain of it.

"Music: what life, what living itself sounds like.” 

As the summer holidays begin Lennie has prepared herself for the lonely days that will follow. Yet when Joe appears on her doorstep one morning baring croissants and carrying his guitar, she knows that her summer will take on another path. Joe's knocks on the front door every morning begin to take on the role of an alarm and his presence brings light into the whole house. Slowly, the whole family seems to be falling in love with the boy. Lennie can feel it too. But her situation and desire for Toby's company confuses things, leaving guilt, remorse and regret to consume her. Her complicated relationship with Toby is a threat to her pure relationship with Joe.

“There once was a girl who found herself dead.
She peered over the ledge of heaven
and saw that back on earth
her sister missed her too much,
was way too sad,
so she crossed some paths
that would not have crossed,
took some moments in her hand
shook them up
and spilled them like dice
over the living world.
It worked.
The boy with the guitar collided
with her sister.
"There you go, Len," she whispered. "The rest is up to you.” 

The only time Lennie opens up her mind is when she has a pen in her hand. When a memory of a conversation or event she had shared with her sister itches at her brain, Lennie scribbles down the past on anything within her reach, be it a tree trunk, bench, wrapper or shoe. This way Lennie feels like she is slowly losing the heavy baggage that is weighing her down.

What made me like the book was the way Nelson opens the mind of the characters to the reader, making it all so realistic and even more sensational. However, I have to say that I'll Give You The Sun was a better read as I felt a stronger connection with the protagonists and the characters were much more strange and extraordinary. I could feel the electricity and passion between each character in that novel, whereas I could do so less in this one.


Kiki (ps. Sorry for the strange difference in font, I don't know why it's like this)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Chronicle of a Death Foretold- Gabriel GarcĂ­a Marquez

Hi Everyone! 
It has truly been a while, I apologise. Due to my long absence some of you may feel neglected, unsure of what to read next following the lack of recommendations I have been providing you with, but not to worry, it is summer time! With summer comes beaches and sun beds, and with beaches and sun beds come long hours of reading and relaxation; I'll be able to provide you all with a new list of recommendations soon, just be sure to direct message me via Instagram or leave a comment :)

My first summer read of 2016 is Gabriel Garcia Marquez's, Chronicle of A Death Foretold. I was told various times to read the works of this author by a very good friend of mine, but I hadn't until now... 
As most of you must be aware, I have now moved off YA novels as I am eager to become more familiar and expand the variety and the breadth of the kind of books I read, focusing more on sophisticated and renowned novels ie. classics. At first I found this change in genre a little difficult, as there is a great difference between the language and the entirety of YA novels and adult literature. The first book I had attempted to read was Orhan Pamuk's, The Black Book. I only realised the mistake I had made of starting off with such a book, when I found that I was losing interest in reading, for I truly disliked it; the language and style of writing was too much for me to bare. I figured that I had to start off with something less heavy, something that would be a smooth transition. Therefore, I read Elif Shafak's, Honour (scroll down for the review). After finding that the language and the overall concept of Shafak's book, though similar to that of a YA novels, was to the standard that pleased me, I sought help from my friend, hoping that she would be able to recommend similar novels to me. And so, like multiple times before, she insisted that I read Marquez's works, and this time I did. 

It seems to me that Marquez is most known for his novel, Life in the Time of Cholera. Many were surprised to hear that the first novel I was reading by him was Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Why? I'll discover later. Though it may be that his other novel is better, I must say that I do not regret choosing to introduce myself to his works through this novel. I do not know how his other books are styled, but I found pleasure in reading this novel because of the unique way it was written. Although it is a fictional piece of literature, it reads almost like a diary, a memoir of a past event experienced by the author; the events are so profound that they feel like a past reality. Marquez focuses on journalistic techniques in this novel, showcasing his skill as a journalist rather than that of a novelist. It is written in first person, however, the narrator's identity is not known. As a result the novel creates mystery for we know a lot about the narrator; we are introduced to his family and friends, given a glimpse into his young adulthood but we do not know his name or anything else about him.

The novel takes place in a small town in Spain, in a different period of history. The reader is made aware of Santiago Nasar, the protagonist's death at the very start, and so the novel tells the story of the days before and the events that foreshadow and relate to his murder. The narrator, a member of the society, a good acquaintance to those involved in the crime and a friend of the deceased, tells the story as a person who played a role in the events. Consequently, there is an element of sympathy and strong emotions are displayed throughout. Although the novel mainly focuses on the events that lead up to the killing, it includes recounts and quotations from interviews the narrator held with those involved, twenty-seven years after the incident, giving an insight into what followed and how people were affected.

It is fundamentally based on the desire to unravel the secrets and the reasons behind his death. The novel is centred around the idea of honour as Santiago's execution is essentially an honour killing, committed by two brothers who seek to remove the possible stigma of their sister's scandalous actions. The one thing I continuously felt whilst reading the novel was frustration. Knowing what happens and what one could have done to stop the death drove me up the wall. What made the novel so frustrating and complicated was the fact that everyone but the victim knew that he was being hunted, yet he still was not able to be saved.

As I mentioned before, the style of the novel is very interesting; the way in which information and facts are given create a Sherlock Holmes type of atmosphere. I found that the abundance of characters was both to the advantage and disadvantage of the novel. As the narrator was directly related to the town and the people, his inside scoop to the gossip and his relationships made it ever more authentic and added depth to the plot and the foundation of the novel. The fact that there were many people involved added to the complications, the severity, and outrageousness of the death, making the novel rise to its value. The vast network of relationships and interactions built a stronger sense of a genuine community and added to the excitement. On the other hand, as there were so many characters, there were many interferences and I often got confused with all the names and different life stories that were shared with me.

I have to say that I am extremely glad that I finally followed my friend's advice and read the novel. Now that I have, and truly understand how great a novel Marquez can produce, I am certain that I'll be reading many more of his books.

Have a wonderful rest of the summer!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Honor-Elif Shafak-Terrific-Traditional-A True Treasure

Honor was an incredible read and I am not just saying this because the author is a family friend of ours but because Shafak truly is a gifted writer. It is no doubt one of my favourite 'non-YA' novels yet, with its great foundation of culture and religion! Partly why I enjoyed it the way I did is probably due to how I could relate to it. The novel is based on the lives of a big and traditional Kurdish-Turkish family, who have moved to London in the hopes of bigger and better opportunities.

As some of you may know, I too am originally Turkish but live in London, so the characters and I share some similarities. And so when reading Turkish words and phrases or when exposed to the familiar Turkish culture I felt a pang of joy. Yet, unlike my family, religion and honour hold great importance in the household of the fictional family, who also put many traditional values into place. For example, the mother Pembe, has by default taken on the role of solely cooking, cleaning and taking her of her three children. 

hough the family have moved to a more westernised country, England, both parents' mindsets are still rather traditional and this reflects a lot onto the events. However, life for Pembe only becomes more burdensome and tiresome when her husband and children's father, Adem leaves them for another woman, somewhat dishonouring the family. Pembe has devoted her life to serving others and she receives nothing but oppression from her religion and culture in return. Amongst many of the emotions I felt while reading the novel, pity and empathy for Pembe were the most dominant. The dehumanisation of such a bright and humble soul was devastating.

The reader is aware of the incident and what it is at the start of the novel. The novel works its way through the events that caused Iskender, Pembe's first son, her 'Sultan', to end her life and so in a way, it is a gradual progress through the past, leading to the present. When Pembe starts having a chaste affair, it is not long until her family catch wind of her secret. Her two other children try to keep it hidden from Iskender, knowing that he would be ashamed and feel as though their mother has disgraced and dishonoured their family further. As Iskender is now the man of the house, he feels as though he has authority over his mother and would see it as his role to try to stop her.  However, circumstances are different and not particularly safe because Iskender is a belligerent and aggressive youth, who naturally holds dominance over others and so his predicted actions threatening.

At first, the structure of the novel was a little confusing, but once I had a clear understanding of each family member and their role and had learnt their names, I learnt to value it. All I felt whilst reading was a desire for each chapter to end so that I could read the next chapter and discover more of each individual's secrets. Each chapter is either narrated or based on the key events that took place in the lives of varying characters until the incident. They also play a significant role in grasping the history and values of the family, as well as acting like puzzle pieces. The history in a chapter varies; some are based on the time when Pembe and her twin Jamila were children growing up in their native Kurdish town, and others are more recent recounts. The town acts almost like the root of everything and throughout the novel, I could not help but feel like the present was occasionally mirroring the past.

Another reason for why it was so enjoyable to read was because the more you read, the more connections you were able to lake between events and the more you could identify when the past was foreshadowing the future. In addition, the variety of characters also made the novel unique. Those who resembled the past, this includes the family's extended family, were more traditional and less modernised in their approach to things, the strong roots of honour beginning with them. It was immensely interesting to read and realise how very different rural life was and might still be now to life in cities.  The novel gave me an insight into life in a native Kurdish village which otherwise I never would have been given. I also thought it was was shocking to see how far family values can be treasured and honoured years into the future.  

Usually, I would write a paragraph on the main character but unlike other novels, there wasn't a stronger or more important role in this one. Every word said and the movement of each and every character had a reason, meaning and consequence.

All in all, I honestly wasn't expecting this novel to be anywhere as impressive as it is. I definitely want to recommend it to all my followers but as it does contain some adult themes, I cannot. Therefore, to my younger followers, wait a few years until you read it. It's going to be difficult, I'm not going to lie. Finally, to everyone, get ready to feel a wave of frustration when you reach the last few pages; be prepared for a twist...


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Blog's Almost One Year Anniversary!

Hey everyone! 
I know it has been a while since I last posted a review but I have a reason. Before the start of my Christmas holidays, my mom bought me novels by Orhan Pamuk, encouraging me to read them as a change from all the YA novels I usually read. I agreed to give them a go and so started The Black Book. It's now 5th of January and I still haven't managed to finish it...

It's not that I didn't enjoy it or didn't find it interesting, it's just that I haven't read such literature before. To be honest, it's quite a heavy read and it takes me about 5 minutes to get through a page. Not to mention, it's quite a thick book, which in itself puts me off, but the font is also rather small. Let's put it this way, when I was in Year 5, I had just begun to realise that I really loved to read and so was eager to challenge myself and read an original Sherlock Holmes novel. The exact book was The Mysterious Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I had started the book with great enthusiasm. However, as the number of underlined words increased and as I slowly realised that I was spending more time reading the dictionary than the novel itself, my enthusiasm and interest decreased. That's to say, I carried on progressing through the novel and found that I actually thoroughly enjoyed it. A similar thing happened in Year 6 when I thought that I could easily read Jane Eyre. I couldn't and so gave up, only picking it up again last year in school. So these are all anecdotes which hopefully have given you a vivid idea of how I felt while reading The Black Book. I will definitely try to read it again, that I can promise.

Obviously, I couldn't go to California for my holidays without a book in my backpack. As mentioned a couple of months ago on my @teenagereadsxo Instagram account, I have decided to take a break from the YA novels and read more advanced literature. This meant that instead of bringing another Morgan Matson or Patrick Ness book, I brought along Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird with me. So far so good. 

I promise to write a review on To Kill A Mockingbird once I have finished it.

Happy New Year!
This is my mom's high school copy and so it's filled with notes and scribbles


Friday, October 9, 2015

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour- Morgan Matson- Lighthearted, Lively, The Perfect Summer Read

During the summer, I read six books, each with very different genres, yet all almost as good as each other. However, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour has to be one of my favourite. With its lightheartedness and lively characters, it was the perfect summer read. The book, with its dominating genres of romance and adventure, was not only bright and happy but had its darker aspects which brought realism, and interested me further. Surprisingly, there was also a character called... KIKI, which made me like the book even more hehe :)
"There weren't enough tears to cry."
Amy Curry has been alone for months: spending most of the summer in her room, reluctantly welcoming potential house buyers and eating microwaved pizza off of the same plate. Every day. After the tragic accident, both her mother and brother have managed to escape, leaving her to grieve in solitude, with only her own thoughts of guilt and pain to keep her company. Her mother has moved across the country and has given Amy the responsibility of driving the car to their new house which offers a fresh start. However, since her father's death in the car accident, Amy hasn't been able to drive. 
But when Roger comes into the picture, Amy knows that things are about to change. With his good looks and charming personality comes the chance at actually having a good summer. Yet Amy doesn't believe that she deserves it as she's convinced that her father's blood is on her hands. Roger, the solution to her responsibility, but also a total stranger, whose presence doesn't seem all that appealing at first, is somewhat irresistible. And so their journey begins. 
"It's not about the destination. It's getting there that's the good part."
Unlike many other books I have read, Amy and Roger's relationship is a gradual process and Amy begins to feel her crush on him developing well into the novel. In contrast to other books, Amy doesn't immediately confide in Roger about the tragedy, as her strong sense of self-worth causes her to find herself first. So, as their journey advances so does Amy's course of coming into terms with the events that took place. What also made the book quite intriguing was all the truth and confessions that were shared between the two protagonists. By traveling to various places and exploring a handful of states,  they meet a variety of characters on the way. Along with the scrapbook theme and the pages of pictures, receipts and brochures, these short introductions to different characters also brought realism into the book.  
"The best discoveries always happened to the people who weren't looking for them."
While reading this book, my mother and I were continuously discussing where we should go on our Christmas holidays and thanks to it, I had the perfect idea: a road trip around California! It successfully sparked a desire for discovering new things and places in me. So those who are looking for a very satisfying future summer read, or those who just want to develop a yearning for an unpredictable journey, this is the perfect book.



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Running Girl- Simon Mason- Thrilling and Tense with Terribly Tricky Characters

Reading Running Girl was like watching an episode of CSI! One must read to keep up with the investigation and not watch. Now, I am aware that some of you might be thinking, 'Um no thanks. Hate crime.' but I can assure you that this book will come to most of your liking with its extremely quirky and peculiar characters, and wild goose chase of an investigation. When buying the book, I knew that it would be very different to the desired summer reads I wanted to occupy myself with throughout the summer, and that's exactly what it was, different. Last week, before I had started the book, I had found myself wanting a break from all the lovey dovey, perfect scenario, #relationshipgoals type books that I had read all summer, so I savoured Running Girl and finished it within 3 days. 

Simon Mason has really created a masterpiece of a character with the protagonist, Garvie Smith. I've never read a book with a main character as eccentric and interesting as Garvie. Normally, I enjoy reading books with characters I find I can easily relate to, but that wasn't the case this time. Garvie's immensely curious and capricious character made the book funny and there were moments when I had to close the book in bewilderment at his actions. However, Garvie wasn't the only out of the ordinary character in the book, almost all the characters had unique and unusual aspects to them. In my opinion, it was the characters' strong influence on the book that made me enjoy it.

Garvie couldn't care less about school and his grades. His nights are spent out in the park with his dodgy friends, some of whom are robbers committing petty theft, and druggies. He really should be doing his homework and studying for his GCSEs. Garvie is unlike many teenage boys; instead of caring about the usual, sports and girls, everything to Garvie is a mathematical problem waiting for a solution. But life sucks at the moment, and Garvie is yearning for some excitement. Fortunately, he gets what he wants, possibly a bit too much...

Chloe Dow's, his ex girlfriend's, body is pulled out of the lake and DI Singh is immediately on the case. Chloe, blonde, beautiful but very mischievous, is a draw for male predators, both within school and out. Garvie, being Garvie, can't help but be excited and soon begins woking on the case himself. Treating Chloe's death like a game, he goes to great extents to solve the case and find her killer. 

Always one step ahead of DI Singh, Garvie and his somewhat rebellious ways cause him to always end up in hot water. His curiosity and knowledge are often confused for arrogance, making his relationship with Singh a little rocky, which is not good if you are willing to fall foul with the law. By using his photographic memory, conducting his own interviews and making use of his 'famous mental ability', Garvie is soon exposing the truth behind the secrets in his town. 

Just when you think the case is solved, a new suspect or scenario comes into the picture. The book is filled with twist and turns and constantly kept me on my toes. Running Girl was definitely a good book, but the many suspects and the constant change in events often left me a little confused. I would definitely recommend this book to others but it wouldn't come to mind first. Yet, it was certainly worth the read!