Friday, September 20, 2013

Where The Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

ARC (Advance Reader's Copy) provided by NetGalley and Bloomsbury USA
Release Date : 24th September 2013

First let me start by saying tons of thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury USA for providing me a copy of Where the stars still shine by Trsih Doller. I, first came across this book on Goodreads when they were doing a Giveaway. I did enter the giveaway but didn't win *sad face* . As an avid reader, I try to find every possible ways to read book and that is how I found Netgalley. I found this book on Netgalley and immediately made my request. It was a day long wait until I got an email from the publisher that I have been given access to read Where the stars still shine *throws confetti*. I couldn't put this book down, I just whipped through the pages. I have fallen in love for Doller's flair. I have read many contemporary novels with cliched concept, but never read a such a refreshing contemporary in a very long time. A poignant, refreshing and extremely heart-breaking novel. It is near impossible to write a review for the novel you love. I would try to do some justice to this adorable book.

Let me start by introducing the characters in this book. Protagonist Callista or Callie,Veronica Quinn- Callie's Mother, Alex-Callie's swoon-worthy boyfriend, Kat-friend/family member of Callie, Nick-Kat's boyfriend, Greg-Callie's Dad, Phoebe-Callie's Stepmother, Tucker and Joe-Callie's half-brothers, Georgia-Callie's Grandmother.

How would it be being stolen away from a large, loving family and not having a normal life for more than ten years for a seventeen year old girl? Well, our protagonist Callie has the experience of being stolen from her loving family by her mother, Veronica. I can see you gasping. The story begins with Callie and her mother moving from one place to another. Callie has never stayed in one place as long as she can remember. Callie has not been to school since kindergarten. Her education comes from libraries and sale books. Callie enjoys reading books. Callie has been molested by one of her mother's boyfriend. Since then her view on men has been totally different. She feels dirty and tainted. Doller's writing is so beautiful that she puts Callie into the reader's mind and make sense for her flawed character. 

When Callie's mother is arrested for kidnapping her, she's to live her father and his family. It's from there Callie's life takes a turn. Although Callie's new family welcomes her with love, she pushes them away because of her past living pattern knowing what she does is something unwise. Since her mother leaves her unattended for days or weeks together, she is used to being alone at night and started to hookup. Even after moving in with her father Greg, she hooks up with the hottest guy in town, Alex Kosta. What I really loved in this part was Callie's narration that she feels settled and safe for the first time in years. Where the stars still shine is about figuring out what Callie wants in life and how she deals with her new family and her decisions. 

Greg is an amazing father every girl would wish for. I adored Greg for being a protective father and at the same time being friendly to his daughter. There are certain things which can't be spoken openly between father and daughter, and I could see the awkwardness Greg faces when he speaks with Callie regarding certain issues. Doller has portrayed Greg-Callie relationship so well. Basically Greg wins by planning to build a big bookshelf for Callie. Callie's half-brothers are the cutest kids of this book. Although Phoebe loves Callie, there were moments that she acted as Step-mother. Don't get me wrong, Phoebe is not an evil character. It's really hard to put in words but the writing was fantastic to show Phoebe and Callie's relationship. 

For the first time ever Callie has a chance to make real friends and Kat becomes her best friend. Kat is little pushy but she is the right person to pull Callie out of her shell. Although Kat annoyed me a little in the beginning, she made me cry towards the end. Kat and Callie work in a gift shop near the sponge dock and  since Alex works at the sponge dock, Callie easily hooks up with him every now and then. The book is set in Tarpon Springs, Florida and I get to see Sponge diving and what types of sponges are available through Where the stars still shine. As the book progresses layer after layer is revealed. 

Where the stars still shine deals with pretty heavy topics- mental illness, sexual abuse. But it has been handled perfectly and never overdone. It had all elements what I expect from a realistic novel. If you wish to read one contemporary this year, let it be Where the stars still shine

Trish Doller, wonderful story and phenomenal writing. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

RATING : 4.95 Stars

Looking for Alibrandi is the best Australian contemporary I have ever read. Melina Marchetta has an incredible flair for writing a beautiful contemporary in a fresh voice. I never knew it's Marchetta's debut novel until I finished this book. It would be an understatement to say I liked this book. If given a chance, I would meet Marchetta and ask her if it's her personal novel. It feels more like that to me. It's worth the money and time investing in this book. My rating is pretty close to perfect that's because I can't decide where to place this book, it was beautiful and poignant. I might even bump it up to 5 stars. Looking for Alibrandi goes to top tier of my favorites. I'm craving more of Marchetta's works. Most of the contemporaries which I read has a cliched plot-line and I was in a stage of giving up contemporaries for a while. It was that time I read, Looking for Alibrandi and I was utterly flabbergasted that a contemporary novel could be so wonderful. Marchetta, I'm in love with with your writing. Looking for Alibrandi is more of a self-discovery novel which captures the essence of Italian immigrants in Australia.

To start off let me introduce the characters. We have our protagonist Josephine Alibrandi, her mother Christina Alibrandi. Katia Alibrandi- Grandmother of Josephine and mother of Christina. Sera, Anna, Lee- Josephine's friends, Jacob Coote-Josephine's boyfriend.

The story starts with Josephine Alibrandi in her final year of school with bittersweet feeling and  it is the year everything in Jose's(Josephine) life is going to take a turn. It is the year she meets her father, Micheal Andretti who has not acknowledged her existence for seventeen years. Furthermore Josephine's grandmother is conservative and wants Jose to follow her words, and Jose is caught up between old-values and modern society. To add to all this mess, Jose develops feelings for Jacob Coote and her long time crush John Barton becomes her friend. With all these Jose has to survive her high school with a good score. Eventually Jose figures out what she wants in her life and how to survive in the world. 

Jose is loud-mouthed and obnoxious yet smart and funny. Jose is a person you would love to be friends with. Quite frankly Jose reminded of me when I was her age at least in some moments. Jose and her mother's relationship was totally awesome. They fight over petty issues and get cuddled up within minutes of their fight. This is exactly what me and my mom do every time. If my mom reads this book she would be the first to come over to me and say the same. Looking for Alibrandi personally affected me in a good way, just because Marchetta got something incredibly real incidents into light. Josephine's voice is witty, unique and yet thoughtful. Jose faces tiffs with her friends, teachers, and her family members mainly her grandmother. Jose's grandmother's past is really heartbreaking and her narration to Jose was written beautifully. Reading this book reminds me of my grandmother. I have moments fighting with her exactly like Jose, may be that's why I rant a lot about this book. 

When it comes to relationship, I adored Jose and her father. Micheal Andretti comes to town and was surprised that he has a daughter. Jose at first gets angry since she was with her mother all her life. But slowly she moves closer to Micheal, and their bond is awesome. Eventually Micheal understands her daughter. Looking for Alibrandi is the only novel which gave importance to the secondary characters. I enjoyed Sera's character. In a nutshell, Looking for Alibrandi is a novel about father understanding her daughter and mother understanding her daughter's past life, granddaughter understanding her grandmother and family traditions and most importantly finding what you want with life. I ended this book with a bittersweet feeling. The ending was just perfect. Marchetta, this is a masterpiece. I would recommend every one of you reading this post to get your hands on Looking for Alibrandi. Melina Marchetta is one of the few YA authors whom you'll instantly fall for her works. I couldn't give 5 stars only because Jacob Coote didn't turn the way I wanted. Maybe only I felt like that way, otherwise I totally loved Looking for Alibrandi.

I would also recommend for you to see the movie version of the book. I'm not always a fan of book-to-movie adaption. I definitely have issues even with Harry potter movies, but Looking for Alibrandi movie has all the important elements from the book. Pia Miranda plays Jose's role and I couldn't think of anyone other than Pia in that role. All in all the movie is equally good as the book. 
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