Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Wonder by RJ Palacio

You can't blend in when you were born to stand out.

My name is August. I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August Pullman wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things. He eats ice cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary - inside.

But Auggie is far from ordinary. Ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids don't get stared at wherever they go.
Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he's being sent to a real school - and he's dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted - but can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, underneath it all? -Goodreads

I don't really know how to review this book. This book that made me feel queasy on the inside. This book that made me need to isolate myself to think and to write down half this review when I was only 56% into the book. I don't know what to say about it. So I'll talk about myself for a bit.

When I was in primary 6 (11 years old), I endured what I still think was the worst bullying I had ever experienced in my life. I was bullied all through my school life really. But I think primary 6 was the worst because I was aware. I was aware of what was happening and I let it happen.

So this is what happened. In my primary school class, much like the classrooms in Wonder, we sit in twos. I was sitting next to this girl. Let's call her Jo. Behind me were two others and in front of me, two more. I thought the 6 of us were the best of friends. We used to play during lunch and we would send notes in class and eat together. We were friends. Until I wasn't. I remember this clearly only because I wrote about it in great detail in my old diary but what happened was that I accidentally gave Jo the wrong page numbers for our homework. It was a complete accident. Mind you, Jo was in school that day. She just wasn't paying attention.

So the next day, she got into a lot of trouble for not doing her homework and I of course didn't. I apologised profusely but she was mad. That day, after recess, I received a note from her. It was a sort of a contract and it was signed by 5 people. The same 5 people that sat around me and who I thought were my friends. It said that I had to change my attitude because it was really bad. According to the contract, the people that signed it were promising to not talk to me at all until Jo decided that my attitude was better. There was no mention of what it was I did wrong or how I could change or anything. I didn't even know what I had done wrong. Because as far as I knew, I did nothing wrong. Again, I was 11. So this was much like my world had just exploded.

Okay so that was day 1. The next day, more people in my class started signing it. Next thing I knew, people in other classes had signed it. Very quickly, people I didn't even know began signing the stupid contract.  I would ask someone something and they would be like, "I can't talk to you. I signed the contract." This lasted a week before I finally said something to my dad who talked to my teacher. She scolded Jo and the others and made them rip up the contract and apologise to me. Of course the problem didn't just vanish. I mean, a lot of things happened that week. The problem wasn't just that there was a contract. There was so much more that happened and so much more that happened throughout the entire year. But I won't go into it. All I will say is that at the end, I still embarrassingly enough, had to grovel to get my 'friends' back. I was 11. I was foolish and I let it happen.

The point of this story though was that for 1 whole week I was ostracised by everyone. Even people I didn't know. I pretty much was Auggie in that week. It was the most horrible week of my life. I had never felt so isolated and so belittled. What did I do wrong? I did nothing except to exist. The feeling was just indescribably awful.

So when I read this book, especially the Jack Wills chapter when the entire school froze him out, I got it. And I didn't like it that I got it. I felt queasy. I felt trapped because all the emotions from that awful week came rushing back at me. I didn't like that I got it. I was in school and I actually had to isolate myself during lunch to write all this down.

Okay I've just finished the book so let me talk to you more about it. Don't worry. No spoilers here. So the writing was excellent. It was very believable that the narrators were mostly 11 year olds. The way they reacted to things was also very understandable of people their age. I liked how the author got into the minds of children instead of making them overly philosophical and annoying.

I went into this book expecting to cry. And I did. I cried a lot. I had a lot of weird feels that I have never had when it comes to any other book. It was just strange and amazing at the same time.

I think if anything, this book really makes you think about how you treat other people. It really forces you to think. I mean we all want to be like the character of Summer. We all want to believe that when faced with someone with a disability or abnormality, we will react like how Summer did. But the truth is, most of us are Charlottes or Jacks. We try but when push comes to shove, we cannot see it through. We cannot defend our friendships with the less popular people. We show little bit of kindness but really we will not stick by them. I am like that. You are like that. And I think this book challenges us to be Summer. I know that I will now look at life differently. I will try to be Summer in the way I treat people who have difficulties. I mean, I don't know anyone who would strive to be Julian so.

Overall this was an amazing book. It's definately one of my new favourites and I've just got The Julian Chapter into my kindle and I'm reading it now and it's so exciting because people have been raving about it and I need to read it. It's a novella in the POV of the bully in the book by the way. So go read it. Now. Like go right now. Go. Click here. Buy the book. Now. Go.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Sunday, 28 June 2015

My Top 5 Books For (Half) Of 2015

Hey guys so it's June!

Yeah okay. It's been June for a while now....Um...yeah... Anyway, I don't exactly know how half a year has gone by but it has and I thought that this was the perfect time to do recommendation post. So I'm going to recommend 5 books to you based on what I have read over this last half year. I've read 54 books so far and if you want to see all the books, you can click here. Okay so let's get straight into it!

1) The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

If you only read one book this entire year, I would say read this one. I read this in the early part of the year and reviewed it here. So you can check out my full thoughts on it if you want. But basically this is a historical fiction book that follows the lives of two sisters as they try to survive in France which has just been taken over by the Nazis. If you are worried about the historical aspect, don't. Its not boring or overly factual. It's more fiction really. I cried so hard during this book. It broke my heart and then stomped on it. And I loved it!  In fact, this is the book that I have been recommending left and right and I will continue to recommend it for a very long time.

2) All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

This book was perfection. You can read my full review here. But it is essentially about these two kids. Theodore and Violet. They meet on the top of a bell tower when they are both trying to commit suicide. They pretty much save each other from that and they soon start hanging out and eventually they fall in love. This book has quite a hard ending. It made me cry and it made my heart hurt for days after. I still think about this book now and consider how it made me feel and react.

3) An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

This book follows Laia, a slave who is trying to free her brother from prison. She joins the Resistance and in exchange for their help, they send her to one of the most dangerous places. They send her off to be a slave and spy of the Commandant. The woman in charge of the Masks. She is in charge of a training ground for Masks and she is deadly. Among the Masks is a boy called Elias. He is desperate to be free of the Mask life. He meets Laia and together they attempt to attain freedom. I absolutely loved this book. The world building in this one was excellent. I loved how complex the story was yet it managed to still be very much readable and enjoyable. Certainly something to pick up.

4) Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

This book was something I enjoyed greatly. It's about how this young girl named Jenna spends her whole life trying to find her mother who disappeared when she was 3. She enlists the help of a psychic, Serenity and a private investigator, Virgil to find her mom who walked out of a hospital and vanished after a trampling killed her co-worker at the elephant sanctuary where she worked. The book is shrouded in secrets and mystery and I love how the story twisted and turned all the way through. I especially loved how much I learnt about elephants through this novel. Jodi always does amazing research for her books so each of her books is a learning experience in itself. I completely recommend this if you like a good mystery and have a passion for animals. Actually, even if you don't have a passion for animals, Jodi will make you love them in this book.

5) A Court Of Thorns And Roses by Sarah J Maas

This book is a retelling of Beauty And The Beast. It's about a girl called Feyre who kills a wolf in the forest one day. Unfortunately, she doesn't realise that the wolf is a Faerie. Because of what she has done, a Faerie named Tamlin comes to take her over the wall that separates Faeries and humans and he keeps her captive there. Slowly, Feyre finds herself falling in love with Tamlin. The story twists and turns and spins around. It's a really amazing book that I just fell deeply in love with. I completely recommend it if you're looking for an interesting love story.

Well that's my recommendations for the first half of this year. I most likely will do another recommendation post at the end of the year. Hopefully by then I would have finished another 50 books which actually looks like it might happen if I keep going at the pace I am keeping with now. Honestly this half year has been full of really good books so check out all the books I've read if you want to find more great reads. Other then that, have a great Monday and an awesome week ahead!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Happy Birthday Page Twenty Three!

Hey guys! Guess what today is! It's my blog's first birthday!! Wow. One full freaking year. I can't even believe how fast time has flown by. It literally seems like yesterday that I was nervously rereading my very first post over and over again to make sure that it was completely perfect before I posted it. I remember I used to be so nervous that one of my real life friends might find my blog. That has changed a lot now though. I mean I tweet out links to my posts now.

I just... It's so incredible that I've managed to keep this little space on the Internet alive for a whole year. It's so wonderful that people read my rants, my reviews. That you guys enjoy my boring days and my exciting ones. It's mind blowing to me

When I started Page Twenty Three, I was warned that I would not be an overnight success. It is years of hard work. And that is so true. I still have a long way to go to get my blog out there and to attract readers. But It's so much fun. I just have so much fun thinking of ideas, photographing them, writing my posts and finally pressing the publish button.

I started this blog to be able to tell the world about what went through my mind. I wanted to bring a message across to my readers. And I am in the process of doing that. It is such a learning journey. I learn something new every time I post, every time someone contacts me about my blog. I learn something new everyday with this blog. And I couldn't be more grateful.

I think it is something so special to be given an opportunity to voice your opinions and thoughts in a public space. It's a lot of responsibility but it is an opportunity. There are thousands of blogs out there and anyone can make a blog. But it's a two way communication. If no one wanted to read what I had to say, I don't know if it would have been possible for me to keep this blog going. So I want to thank each and every one of you for listening to me. For giving me a voice and allowing me into your heads. I want to thank you for spending time out of your day to read what I have to say. It's such a privilege. I wish I could give all of you hugs.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Feng Shui & Charlotte Nightingale By Pam Ferderbar

Feng Shui and Charlotte Nightingale' is an uplifting and hilarious fable about empowerment and perception, and the magical things that happen when we begin to see the glass as half full. 

Charlotte Nightingale has the worst luck in the world. Her cluttered apartment is the poster child for *shar chi* - poison luck in the realm of feng shui. Her boyfriend s a jerk, her job sucks, she's broke and her own family seems to hate her. Kwan, a handsome Chinese food delivery man and aspiring feng shui practitioner, takes pity on Charlotte. While Charlotte searches for the money to pay for the Emperors cashew chicken Kwan has delivered, he surreptitiously begins to move things around in Charlotte s apartment in accordance with the ancient art of placement - hoping to improve her life. 

Charlotte's luck subsequently appears to change in a big way. It goes from bad to worse - or so it seems.
 Charlotte is free to embark on a great adventure that will awaken in her a world of possibility where nothing is as simple as it seems. Until, in the end, Charlotte realizes that everything she ever wanted was right under her hose the whole time.  -Goodreads
This book was everything that I wouldn't normally read. If I saw it in a bookshop, I would let my gaze slip right over it. But I guess that is why it's good to be a reviewer. You get exposed to books and genres that you would normally glean over. 

When I started reading this, I found it a little bit hard to get into. I just couldn't understand how one person could be that unlucky. It seemed almost over exaggerated. But after a few chapters, the words and the storyline became smoother and I was able to settle comfortably into the story. I have always said that the one thing about reading that I find most special is the fact that you can live a thousand lives through the pages of a book. Through this book, I was able to live the life of an extremely poor woman who was miserable and who had nothing much going for her. I was able to see her rise up from her troubles and decide to make the most of her life. I was able to learn more about feng shui which I previously knew very little of.

I found the book to be very uplifting. Initially I worried that it might be preachy and it was slightly at the end but it was very relevant to the storyline and I could forgive her ending because the rest of the book was just really good. I loved how three stories  merged into one. I also loved how funny Charlotte was. In fact, I thought she reminded me a lot of the brunette girl in 2 Broke Girls.

I found myself laughing out loud at certain parts and shaking my head at some parts and rolling my eyes at some parts (especially after that doctor boyfriend got involved). It was a very feel-good book. Just a very lovely, sweet read.

Overall, I'm really glad that Pam approached me to review this book. I really enjoyed it and I think Pam personally deserves all the success that this book is going to garner. If you want to watch the book trailer and see the cover reveal that I did a short while back, click here.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars
*The book was given to me to read and review by the author*

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

How My Reading Habits Have Changed Since I Started Blogging

Hey guys! So recently, I started thinking about how blogging about books in particular and joining Goodreads has changed the way I read and the way I feel about books. Because honestly, there has been a major change ever since I started blogging about what I was reading. I have gone from loving books, to obsessing over books.

I have gone from being a casual reader to someone who is in a fast paced and snappy community (that I adore). I've gone from being a lonely reader to bouncing thoughts with my book club mates. And I thought you guys might like to hear about this because a lot of you may be new to the community or just may be curious about it.

So let's start with some background. I first blogged about a book last year in June when I posted my review of The Fault In Our Stars. After that all I did was lifestyle. And then in October, I decided that I wanted to do more book reviews so I did one on Gone Girl. It was also about that time when I joined Goodreads. And from that point, everything changed.

1) I Read More

It's not a big surprise to anyone that ever since I joined Goodreads and started blogging, I've read so much more. In fact, I read a total of 36 books last year but this year, I've already read 49 books and it's only June.

 So that's a huge jump. I guess it has to do a lot with the pressure I face externally. I used to just read whatever and whenever but now I have friends in the book community and new books are coming in every day and there is so much discussion going on that you feel left out if you haven't read the latest Sarah J Maas book or heard about the publishing date of the final book in a series. There's a lot of pressure to keep up but it's the good kind of pressure. The kind that pushes you to keep wanting to do better and to read more. I personally love it. It just drives me and makes me feel amazing.

2) I Know What and Who I'm Reading

In the past, I used to walk into a book store and not know a thing. I wouldn't know any author except one or two that I found particularly notable. I wouldn't know a thing about any of the books on the shelves until I read the blurbs. But now, when I walk into a book store, immediately everything is familiar. I know what I like and what I don't. I roughly know when books were published. I know about the author and if I've read books by them in the past. I can confidently say that I recognise about 70% of what is in a bookstore now. I'm still learning but it's quite a leap from knowing absolutely nothing.

3) I Feel Less Alone

I never really had friends who were super crazy about reading. I had a couple of friends who liked reading but usually never as much as I did. Reading to me was a lonely hobby. That is, until Goodreads and book blogs and booktubers popped up. Now, I no longer feel like I'm in this bubble of sorts. I feel like I'm part of a group of people. I can freely talk to people about what I'm reading and it's not like I'm talking to a wall anymore. I feel like I can finally share my passion for something with other people and form friendships through that. It's just a lot of fun.

Well I think that about sums it all up. It was just a short little post but I wanted to let you guys know how blessed I am to be part of this wonderful community of people. Honestly I don't know what I would do without some of the friends I've made here. I just feel like I have a place here which is something that I have never felt in most aspects of my life.

Okay I have no idea how to end this without it being awkward so...bye haha.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Feng Shui & Charlotte Nightingale By Pam Ferderbar (Cover Reveal)

Hey guys! So a month ago, I got a very quirky email asking me to review a new book. Now I'm quite careful about the books I accept for review because I don't want to end up not reading a book I agree to read. So against my better judgement, I said yes to this book. And it's been one of the best experiences I've ever had regarding advanced reading. Pam and I quickly became friends through our regular exchange of emails and I read her book and I loved it. I personally gave the book 4/5 stars and a full review will be posted very soon. Pam clued me in to every stage and it was just a wonderful process to watch everything take shape.

So I'm super stoked today to be finally revealing not just the book cover of Pam Ferderbar's new novel, Feng Shui & Charlotte Nightingale, but also her website and book trailer! So without further ado, here's the cover for Pam's new book!

Feng Shui and Charlotte Nightingale' is an uplifting and hilarious fable about empowerment and perception, and the magical things that happen when we begin to see the glass as half full. 

Charlotte Nightingale has the worst luck in the world. Her cluttered apartment is the poster child for *shar chi* - poison luck in the realm of feng shui. Her boyfriend s a jerk, her job sucks, she s broke and her own family seems to hate her. Every day is a bad hair day. Kwan, a handsome Chinese food delivery man and aspiring feng shui practitioner, takes pity on Charlotte. While Charlotte searches for the money to pay for the Emperors cashew chicken Kwan has delivered, he surreptitiously begins to move things around in Charlotte s apartment in accordance with the ancient art of placement - hoping to improve her life. 

Charlotte's luck subsequently appears to change in a big way. It goes from bad to worse - or so it seems. Charlotte finds a photo of her boyfriend with another woman, her car dies, she is fired from her job, the plumbing in her apartment explodes, and making matters worse, Charlotte s perfect, perky, designer-obsessed, blonde sister is about to marry a square-jawed, richer-than-god, insanely handsome plastic surgeon from Beverly Hills and the entire family loves nothing more than to rub Charlotte*s nose in it. Is it bad luck that sends Charlotte careening through calamity after calamity, or is it merely a matter of perspective? 

Without a loser boyfriend, beater car and an awful job, Charlotte is free to embark on a great adventure that will awaken in her a world of possibility where nothing is as simple as it seems. Until, in the end, Charlotte realizes that everything she ever wanted was right under her hose the whole time. The reader might ask whether feng shui, luck, voodoo, prayer or magic can effect change in a person s life, or whether an about-face is purely a function of attitude. Or better yet, whether perhaps it is a combination of all these things. -Goodreads

And as promised, here is the link to the hilarious book trailer:

For more information on her book, you can visit her website here.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Royal Wedding (The Princess Diaries #11) by Meg Cabot

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Princess Diaries series, comes the very first adult installment, which follows Princess Mia and her Prince Charming as they plan their fairy tale wedding--but a few poisoned apples could turn this happily-ever-after into a royal nightmare.

For Princess Mia, the past five years since college graduation have been a whirlwind of activity, what with living in New York City, running her new teen community center, being madly in love, and attending royal engagements. And speaking of engagements. Mia's gorgeous longtime boyfriend Michael managed to clear both their schedules just long enough for an exotic (and very private) Caribbean island interlude where he popped the question! Of course Mia didn't need to consult her diary to know that her answer was a royal oui.

But now Mia has a scandal of majestic proportions to contend with: Her grandmother's leaked "fake" wedding plans to the press that could cause even normally calm Michael to become a runaway groom. Worse, a scheming politico is trying to force Mia's father from the throne, all because of a royal secret that could leave Genovia without a monarch. Can Mia prove to everyone--especially herself--that she's not only ready to wed, but ready to rule as well?
Okay so let's get this out of the way. I haven't read any of the Princess Diaries books before this. But I love Meg Cabot so when I found out that she was coming up with a new book in her Princess Diaries series after 7 years, I just had to read it. So I got early access to this book and I was so so happy. 

I absolutely loved this book. I thought it was hilarious at all the right places and that it was relatable yet not over the top. You know how some annoying authors try too hard to be relatable  and they shove pop culture references every which way? Meg Cabot is one of the few authors that can do that and still make her book flow and be not annoying.

I loved the humour here. I found myself actually laughing out loud and grinning at so many points in the book. It was such a happy book. It made me happy. It was quirky, sassy and clumsy but it was beautiful.

This one can most certainly be read as a stand alone but much like the Shopaholic series, you would feel closer to the characters if you had read the previous 10 books. But I mean, I managed it. In fact, if I wasn't worried that I might be too old for it, I might consider picking up the previous 10 books. Though let's face it. I'll never be too old for Meg Cabot.  As it is I'm going to be rewatching the movies for sure.

The book releases today so go get your copy and enjoy the genius that is Meg Cabot!

My Rating: 5/5 Stars
*An ARC was provided to me by the publishers to read and review*