Book: Gingerbread

"Gingerbread"

After getting kicked out of her posh boarding school, there’s no way wild, willful, and coffee-addicted Cyd Charisse can survive in her parents’ pristine house. When Cyd’s rebelliousness gets out of hand, her parents ship her off to New York City to spend the Summer with ‘Frank, real-dad,’ her biological father. Cyd has been waiting her whole life to get to know her bio-dad and half-sibs, but summer in the city is not what she expects–and Cyd is far from the daughter or sister that anyone could have imagined.

I like Danny and Aaron. Out of all the characters in this wonderfully weird novel, Danny and Aaron are the only ones who have a semblance of real life people. And that’s fine. I think it works for the novel to have them be normal, because everyone else isn’t.

I also like the fact that we don’t know what Cyd Charisse looks like before we get to know her. Because I think that our acceptance of her oddity would’ve been colored a different way had we known she was beautiful beforehand.

Yes, Cyd Charisse is beautiful. People find her hot, sexy, and she shouldn’t be complaining about a hard life because, as one character puts it, she’s a spoiled little rich girl. And that’s where having presented her as the weird girl that she is first comes into play. By the time we find out how privileged our main character is, we are already drawn to the part where we feel sorry for her.

We’ve already seen the cracks before we were distracted by her beauty.

I don’t think this is the best novel I’ve read. I’m not even sure if it’s something I would recommend to other people. What I do know is that I like what the novel is trying to underline: that in stories, it doesn’t really matter what your character looks like–what matters is the story they’re trying to tell. And if that’s story is worth telling.

Admittedly, Cyd Charisse doesn’t have a very interesting story. But she does have a very interesting way of telling it. And that’s what sold me to the novel. That’s the reason I kept on reading.

If you regularly read the posts I have about books, you’d have already noticed how I favor character studies. Gingerbread is one. Which, I think, is why I didn’t mind the child-like narrative. Why I’m calling the narrative child-like instead of childish.

But the way it develops its character is not through what happens. I already said the story isn’t very original. But the way Cyd Charisse the character accepts her life, the way she processes things? That’s what makes the novel different.

And that is why I liked the book enough not to regret having picked it up.

Book: Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

"Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist"

Nick’s just seen the girl who dumped him walk in…with a new guy. What else can he do but ask the strange girl next to him to be his new girlfriend for the next five minutes?

Norah would do anything to avoid conversation with the not not-friend girl who dumped Nick…and to get over the Evil Ex whom Norah never really totally dumped. What else can she do but answer Nick’s question by making out with him?

With one electric, unexpected kiss, the five-minute couple of Nick and Norah set off on an uncharted adventured called the “first date” that will turn into an infinite night of falling in and out (and in and out, and maybe in and maybe out) of love. Theirs is a first date of music, laughter, heartache, confusion, passion, taxi driver wisdom, and a jacket named Salvatore. And of course a killer soundtrack.

As Nick and Norah wander through the middle-of-the-night mystic maze of Manhattan, they share the kind of night you want to never end, where every minute counts and every moment flickers between love and disaster.

Can you fall in love in the span of one night? Do you believe you can? Because that’s what Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist will ask you to do. Fall in love with good guy Nick and misunderstood Norah. Both are nice enough people. Both are flawed. And both will take you to an adventure of love that takes the whole night.

Confession: I’m not a gig guy. I’ve never been fond of going to bars and clubs because of a band I support. I have, but I’ve always found a way to stand from a distance. I’ve never been the guy to scream within the throngs of people, swaying and jumping and screaming to the beat. Okay, maybe for Jason Mraz, but that’s the limit. And you wouldn’t want to scream a song during a Mraz concert. You sing along, you appreciate, you sway–but you don’t scream.

And I’ve gone off tangent.

So, not a gig guy. But I’ve been to. I sort of understand the thrill. I can definitely understand the energy. And the people described in the novel are just some of the characters you’ll encounter during a trip to the local dive.

I know a Nick. I wish I knew a Norah, but I’m sure we’ve already crossed paths without ever talking to each other. I know a Thom, I know a Caroline… Heck, I know a Tal. And this is why I liked reading Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

No, it’s not because I can attribute the characters to people I know. I like the book because the characters feel real. I like the fact that, even though there are two writers, it feels like the book is written by just one because the characters stay consistent.

And I love how Rachel Cohn and David Levithan show us how being neurotic can ruin a relationship even before it begins. I like how they use their characters to push their other characters into doing things that feel natural. Organic, even.

I like how it doesn’t mean that just because you two are the main characters mean you’re already set for life. I love how the obstacles don’t feel forced, and most of them come from our protagonists themselves, and not from outside forces–although they play a part.

I love how their friends act like real people, and not just sounding boards and plot pushers. I love how they have their own lives.

And although I’m iffy about the one night love story, I love the fact that it doesn’t end on happily ever after. The characters are young. Things will happen. And at the risk of spoiling, I love the fact that authors Cohn and Levithan don’t wrap it all up with a nice bow in the end.

There’s a promise. A maybe. But nothing is definite.

Because nothing ever is.

And that is the magic of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. It’s the now. It’s possible and the possiblity.

It’s brilliant.

Book: Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List

"Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List"

Naomi and Ely have been inseparable since childhood–partially because they’ve grown up across the hall from each other in the same Manhattan apartment building, and also because they’re best friends. Soul mates. Or are they? Just to be safe, they’ve created a NO KISS LIST–their list of people who are absolutely off-kissing-limits for both of them. The NO KISS LIST protects their friendship and ensures that nothing will rock the foundation of Naomi and Ely: the institution.

Until Ely kisses Naomi’s boyfriend. And a fateful piece of gum in the wrong place at the wrong time changes everything.

Soon a rift of universal proportions threatens to destroy their friendship, and it remains to be seen whether Naomi and Ely can find their way toward new soul-mate prospects … and back to one another.

Much as I liked Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, I found myself equally mesmerized by the train wreck that is Naomi and Ely’s relationship.

In Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, authors Rachel Cohn and David Levithan introduce to us a handful of really likeable characters. There’s Naomi, the self-confessed liar and a bitch who is holding on to the hope that her best friend would fall in love with her; Bruce the First who is in love with Naomi even after she breaks up with him; Bruce the Second who is as normal as can be, considering the fact that he’s in a contemporary young adult novel; and then there’s Gabriel, Kelly and the Robins who don’t really get to appear a lot but seem likeable anyways.

The only character I had a hard time connecting to was Ely. I found him selfish and shallow. And I don’t understand why two characters would actually fall in love with him. Which is a shame since I think the book would’ve been more enjoyable had Ely been worthy of Naomi and Bruce the Second’s affections.

Of course, that’s not really the point of the book. At least, I don’t think so. From my reading of it, I think that it’s about friendship–the importance and intricacies of a friendship that means more to one than the other. And I like that. Because not all contemporary young adult novels need to revolve around love.

I mean, there are love stories in this book: there are three sets of couples by the time it ends. But it happens alongside the meat of the novel, which is Naomi and Ely’s relationship–this long-standing friendship that only takes one kiss and one lie to destroy.

Except it’s not just one kiss and one lie, is it?

Naomi, in the introductory chapters, already confess to lying. Lying a lot. Especially to Ely. Which he then answers with truth: admitting that he had kissed Naomi’s boyfriend. And they’re okay after that. Which says a lot about their friendship. All the more so when it’s revealed in their respective chapters how (a) Naomi is not at all okay with it, and (b) how Ely refuses to acknowledge that it’s even a thing.

If Ely had been more guilt-ridden, I think I would’ve liked him more. But he wasn’t. And I don’t. Then again, it would be out of character for Ely to feel any remorse at what he had done. Selfish and shallow, remember?

My extreme dislike for Ely though does not, in the least, lessen my enjoyment of the book. While I found myself annoyed at how childish some of the characters are, I do realize that they are kids. In their late teenage years, yes, but kids nonetheless. They still can act like their invulnerable–like they are infinite, to borrow from The Perks of Being a Wallflower. And with that perspective, Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List is a great cautionary tale about the fragile binds of friendship.

Especially one that isn’t so much grounded on shared experience, as it is about common interests and lies.

In the end though, Naomi and Ely do realize why they are friends and what made them friends in the first place. It’s too late to redeem Ely’s character by this time, but I thought the friendship was salvaged well.

Going over what I wrote, it may seem that I didn’t like the book; but I did. I wouldn’t have wasted so many words had I not liked it. But, as I always say, these are my opinions. Feel free to disagree with me, and we can have a discussion.

Or, you can read what other people have written about the book. Like:
The Book Scoop
Escape
The Book Muncher

Book: Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares

"Dash & Lily's Book of Dares" by Rachel Cohn and David LevithanLily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

I liked the book.

Oh, you want me to expound?

When I first started reading Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, I thought it was horribly pretentious. What with the big words and the devil-may-care attitude protagonist Dash employs in the first chapter. Then I got to the second chapter where we met Lily—the girl who is completely opposite Dash in every way. And because of this, suddenly, I want Dash and Lily to meet—just so Dash could be brought down a peg or two.

Seriously, I was rooting for the two characters not to fall in love. I just want Dash to be disappointed just as I was at opening the book. But somewhere along the way, I started falling in love with the character of Lily—the girl who hopes and believes in everyday miracles; the girl who, when she gets mad, would go out of her house to greet dogs and buy candies for the homeless.

And as I was falling in love with Lily, so was Dash. I mean, he was already in love with the idea of her from the start of the story. But he was also falling in love with the girl between the pages, without the added information I was getting through Lily’s chapters. That’s when I gave Dash a second chance at making me like him as a character.

Truth be told, if it hadn’t been for the extremely likable Lily, I would have dropped the book. Or slogged through writing this blog post at least. But I ended up loving Lily, and grew to like Dash as well because of her. So now I’m spreading the goodwill about the book to anyone who wants to read it.

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares isn’t just about falling in love; it’s about second chances and accepting people for who they really are—and not for who you wish they were. And in our world full of imperfect strangers and impossible ideals, shouldn’t we learn how to be more willing to give second chances?

Let Dash and Lily take you along their adventure, and their realization through Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares.

Find out what other people have written about the book online:
One More Page
Chachic’s Book Nook
Jenny Likes Books