Pick of the Day

Something Tragic by Jessica Yeh

⭐⭐⭐⭐☆★ There are some books that hold you in a thrall of emotions that they create long after you’ve finished them. You have emotions...

Something Tragic by Jessica Yeh

⭐⭐⭐⭐☆★

There are some books that hold you in a thrall of emotions that they create long after you’ve finished them. You have emotions bubbling for the character/s hours after you’ve finished the book. This is one such book. And right at the outset we’d like to say that despite the title, this is not a tragedy.

Crisa Grayson is Ms. Popular in high school but a nice-girl-Ms. Popular. Gorgeous and rich, Crisa has people hanging off her and is the most popular subject for the school chatterati and is legendary in everything she is and does. Addison Warren is a new girl in the school. Freshly transferred, she plays the drums in the orchestra and is a quite nerd. Crisa and Addison are paired together for a project. Crisa reaches out a hand of friendship to Addison and their acquaintanceship grows into friendship, slipping into a hazy romantic-platonic zone. As Crisa bares herself to Addison, Addison sees the girl behind the stories and rumours and falls more and more into her.

While Yeh balances the story between both the characters, Crisa is magnetic. Living up to expectations of her mother, peers and society; struggling with self-worth and self-acceptance; bravely taking emotional risks; having the courage to reach out repeatedly to build a relationship with Addison – everything about Crisa evokes deep emotions. The relationship did feel a little dis-balanced because Crisa was the one persistently working on it, building it and constantly giving. Addison also has mettle but she’s just eclipsed. The writing is strong and some of the descriptions and emotions are absolutely beautiful.

This is one of the best YA books available. 

⭐⭐⭐⭐☆★

Entanglement by Max Ellendale

⭐⭐⭐★


Discovering dimensions, particularly about sexuality, about oneself is not limited to late teens and new adulthood. It can happen later in life and the emotions and struggles would possibly be the same, if not slightly more intensified because of the sheer improbability. Ellendale deals with this subject in Entanglement in a masterful way.

Billie Jean Olsen emancipated herself from her deeply homophobic parents and made a life in Seattle as a detective. She supports her much younger brother and little sister (17 year age gap between the sisters) to do the same. Billie is a particularly observant detective and an asset to the department. While investigating a murder which looks like the latest attack by a serial murderer, the detectives find an unusual package on the victim. As a part of investigating the murder, Billie connects with Professor Mira Lewis, a passionate physicist, to help unravel the mystery. Billie is immediately attracted to the hot straight professor, but keeps her attraction under wraps. Billie’s and Mira’s paths cross again unexpectedly during a soccer match – one in which Billie is a spectator and Mira is one of the players. They start hanging out together and the acquaintanceship progresses into a kind of flirty friendship. When Mira realises that she is in fact, attracted to Billie, her entire being is shaken as she struggles to come to terms with this new aspect about herself and deal with the fallout of the same with her family and friends.

The relationships (between the two MCs and between Billie and her siblings) are superbly developed. Ellendale is especially gifted in writing fantastic sex scenes and we were delighted to read about Mira’s innocence and uncertainties about sex despite being in her mid-thirties. We loved that Ellendale has recognised this is a thing. While we liked both the MCs, Mira had a slight edge for us for most of the book and huge edge in the latter half of the book. 

The latter half – this is the problem area of the novel. It is just too long. Plus, from the point when she is offered a promotion, Billie seems to be only crying with Mira. Additionally, she does something unforgivable – she talks about the offer to her friend before she talks about it to her partner. Like all of Ellendale’s books, this one also has cross-over characters. (For the record, we still don’t like Dax Stocker).

We absolutely loved the first half of the book and wish it was at least forty percent shorter. If it were up to 60% of what it is, it would’ve been a 5-star read.  

PS: We totally loved the quantum physics stuff. In fact, we so loved it that we crushed a little on the author for it!

⭐⭐⭐★
 


The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

⭐⭐⭐⭐☆★

A breathtakingly brilliant fantasy book of epic proportions that is addictive and just simply – awesome.

A thousand years ago, the Nameless One, a fire breathing dragon birthed from the volcanic bowels of the earth, had wreaked havoc on the world during what is now known as the Grief of Ages. Legend has it that Galian Berethnet, wielding Ascalon (a mythical sword) defeated the Nameless One and bound it in the Abyss.

The family of Berethnet rules Inys, a Queendom. It is believed that for as long as a Berethnet queen is on the throne, the Nameless One cannot return. However, the current queen Sabran shows no inclination towards marriage and procreation. Loth is Sabran’s dearest friend since childhood, but Sabran’s council believes that his presence is the hindrance in Sabran’s nuptials. They believe that Sabran is involved with Loth and therefore refuses proposals from other kings and kingdoms. Inys and all its allies are singularly anti-dragons considering them all evil.

Seiiki is a kingdom that worships water dragons who are the natural enemies of the fire-breathing dragons. Tané, a Seiikian, has a dream of becoming a dragon-rider and protecting the world. She has spent her whole life dreaming this dream and preparing for it. She won’t let anyone or anything derail her ambition.

Niclays Roos is an alchemist and an anatomist. He had promised Sabran an elixir of eternal life but spent his time and her money drinking. Sabran exiled him for his false promise and his transgressions and after seven years in the tiny island Orisima, Roos harbours a special hate for Sabran.

Ead is ostensibly one of Sabran’s ladies-in-waiting. Ead is a member of The Priory of the Orange Tree, a group that knows the truth of the Nameless One’s defeat and binding. She is in Inys to protect Sabran from harm without making her background known.

Signs point towards the Nameless one rising again and the world is in grave danger. Divided by beliefs, by ambitions and by politics there seems to be no possibility of stopping the dreaded dragon if it rises again.

The scope of the book is huge and so are the number of characters. Strong women people all the kingdoms in the book. The story progresses following Tané, Roos, Ead and Loth. The worlds and kingdoms are richly described in terms of their geography, the people, their beliefs and culture. It all comes alive immersing you completely. Each character – minor and major, human and non-human – is fully realised. The book keeps crossing between stories of each character and carries you along in every single sentence, para and page. Realistically, the main characters are somewhat grey, particularly Tané and Roos, and can leave you with mixed feelings about them. Ead and Loth are easier, because they are fairly white all through.  

But, the heart of the book is definitely Sabran. Noble in her strength and her vulnerability; heart-tugging in her isolation and her honesty; captivating in her loving and her queenliness – Sabran is the core of the sweeping epic. She drives the book and the story. She is the one who captured us, stayed with us and made our heart throb.

The love story between Sabran and Ead is heart-warming, heart-breaking and heart-achingly beautiful. We absolutely LOVE the fact that this book has a Sapphic love story between the main characters of the tale at its centre instead of one of the supporting or minor characters representing alternative sexuality. Even Roos is gay.

This is a wonderful, wonder-filled and wondrous must-read. 

⭐⭐⭐⭐☆★

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