BOOK REVIEW: A Whole New World by Lis Braswell

~ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review~

you can find the book at:

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Author Website

 

 

 

my review:
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
I had to think about this one and then decide how I was going to write it, but overall – it didn’t live up to it’s potential – mostly because the first 30% was literally a rushed version of the first 30 minutes of the original movie before the original material finally kicked in. The characters – old and new- were underdeveloped and the conflict didn’t emphasise what the actual stakes in the real story were. It had some good moments but, overall, not so good.

This action-packed book had a sufficiently built world, easily visualised, but what was lacking was characterisation. It was fast-paced yet, but I wanted it to be slower. There were also more than a handful of new roles in this story: friends and enemies but they were as flat as a board, leaving me feeling no sympathy for them in their crisis.

In this book, I didn’t really root for anyone apart from Morgiana—a kick-ass, witty female friend of Aladdin. She was my favourite character. Aladdin is supposed to be the charming, “diamond in the rough” street rat – who excels at thieving. Seriously—every time he tries to steal something he gets caught. I suppose it could be for narrative tension/suspense, but it felt sloppy. Jasmine is even worse. She starts off as a self-absorbed princess and doesn’t really lose that. Yes—she’s savvy; she’s a quick learner; she’s reflective—and she has moments where I can see what the author was trying to do – make her into a Katniss-type revolutionary leader. But it didn’t work right.

The relationship between Jasmine and Aladdin irked me so much. Yes, it happens in the film, but in this book, you could replace their name with anyone other YA couple, and it works. The whole romance felt very modern, very contemporary as if they were just two American teens with crushes on each other. It didn’t even sound anywhere near accurate. Even if they’re both orphans and impoverished street rats, I would still imagine that there are cultural customs and traditions in place – behaviour that’s inappropriate between two young, unmarried people.

As like the film, Jafar is our evil villain and even more so in the adaptation, and that REALLY irritated me. He doesn’t seem to have a backstory – there’s no reason why he is the way he is, and ultimately this drives him mad. I get that he’s supposed to be the villain, but again, this just seems to be “the easy way out.” It’s all right to have a good power-hungry dictator as your villain – but when there’s no reason, it just seems simplistic and sloppy.

The ending was typical. There’s a plan – a weak one – and our main characters band together to save the day. Of course. Despite the tension the author attempts to depict, there’s never really any doubt that Jafar’s going to lose and they win. Her best attempt at dramatic tension results in Jasmine being tempted by the dark magic – but luckily she has Aladdin there to draw her back to the light. It all resolves relatively quickly.

What really disappointed me was that this was such a fantastic opportunity to represent the cultural diversity that is so lacking in children’s and YA novels – to tell a Middle Eastern/Arabic tale with accurate cultural customs and beliefs – to show readers something probably unfamiliar to them in an appealing way. Since it’s based on Aladdin, it is already going to attract readers, it was a perfect opportunity to do so.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

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goodreads summary:

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

my review:

Rating:
★★☆☆☆

(This review is a reposted one from my old GoodReads Account but my opinion on this book has changed making it a 2 instead of a 5 )

My initial reactions to this book were pretty similar to the rest of Green’s fans. I enjoyed the story and characters, and it was an exciting read in the end. I liked how it was about coming to terms with the fact that your life will almost never rise above insignificance. However, three years have passed since I first read TFIOS and my view on the book has changed considerably. TFIOS isn’t a bad book, but it’s standard and very similar to the other works of Green. And I understand why so many readers would have had such an emotional response to the book. Books about death are often upsetting & thought to provoke- looking back on this, I didn’t find it either.

I don’t believe in Hazel and Augustus the same way anymore. Their dialogue is contrived and ridiculous. Augustus was just created to spew a plethora of metaphors.And there’s the other problem I have with Augustus and Hazel: their romance feels like a plot construction far more than it feels like a real passion. In Green’s other books, although I didn’t enjoy them, I understood the romance. Augustus Waters just shows up in Hazel’s cancer support group and stares at her, and she just swoons at him. That’s almost as bad as Bella Swan falling in love with Edward Cullen even though he apparently hates her. Green attempts to play it cool by having Hazel recognise that she’d be creeped out if it were an ugly guy staring at her, but that doesn’t make their love affair any less sudden, but the plot won’t work if they aren’t in love, so it happens.

Also, Hazel is not a believable character, we learn nothing about her. She just hates Support Group and loves Augustus for reasons that were never adequately announced throughout the book. The idea that he spends money just so he can act out a metaphor that doesn’t do anything but make him look like a pretentious idiot.

But the strength of The Fault in Our Stars is that it refuses to offer false comfort regarding a subject matter that we all know doesn’t have a happy ending. We are all going to die, but we live our lives pretending that words like “forever” or “always” have meant something to us. Maybe that’s why it worked so well with so many readers, it did for me at first.

I guess this book would have been better for me to read if it had been about what happened to Peter Van Houten and his life in Amsterdam with Hazel and Gus coming to see him or Hazel with her actual terminal cancer. It would have been better to read Hazel’s cancer to conflict with her ability to be with Gus, rather than give her a weird miracle drug.

And that’s why The Fault in Our Stars no longer impacts me as much as it did the first time reading it.

BOOK REVIEW: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

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goodreads summary:

On the eve of her ninth birthday, Rose Edelstein bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the slice. All at once her cheerful, can-do mother tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes perilous. Anything can be revealed at any meal. Rose’s gift forces her to confront the truth behind her family’s emotions – her mother’s sadness, her father’s detachment and her brother’s clash with the world. But as Rose grows up, she learns that there are some secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.

my review:

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a combination of both strange and unorganised, but I still enjoyed reading it. The main idea of the story was exciting but wasn’t taken far enough. It took me a few chapters to achieve mild interests, but then when Part II came along all the way to the conclusion, I was completely confused with the shift in the story’s theme.

The writing is excellent, especially in describing the food and the emotions it evokes for Rose. However, there are a few things that I didn’t enjoy about the book. Bender chose not to use quotation marks, I was hoping that after completing the book I would see a reason for the decision, but I still see none. It’s confusing to the reader and adds nothing to the experience that I can guess from. Also, the switch from the focus of Rose and her special ‘gift’ to her brother was confusing. Bender does attempt to tie the two together in the end, but for me, it was less than successful and ultimately unsatisfying. I found myself tuning in and out of the events, but it felt like it was slapped together randomly.

I was disappointed with the ending. You never know what would happen if the Dad goes into the hospital, which is okay, but I would like to know. Also the brother, I get his unique ability, but why he wants to disappear forever? What drove him to do it? His grandfather smelled, his sister tasted, what was his?

The idea was good: a girl can taste the feelings of whoever prepared her food. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much plot with characters which were uninteresting & heavily dependent on stereotypes – distant father busy providing for an unfulfilled wife who’s having an affair and geek brother. The brother also has a unique talent, which was a massive distraction from the main story, and wasn’t very well explained anyway. But most disappointing of all was the lack of a real storyline. The book describes the main character’s developing her ability to identify where her food comes from and what emotions the cook was feeling, but it never really builds to any climax.

A small part of the novel that annoyed me, Rose’s mother is having an affair, and Rose figures it out so. She tells her daughter she’ll stop the affair if Rose wants her too (not because it’s wrong and not because she feels terrible about it) but only if Rose tells her to stop, which Rose says to her to carry on with her affair. I had initially read the book at my grandmother’s house and left the book there mid-finish until I asked if I could finish it which my aunt happily gave the book over to me but I felt like I wasted my time with this book and that’s always a disappointing experience.