Posted in dating, relationships, romance

Hello, Goodbye.

For as long as I can remember I’ve always been the kind of person who made lists, whether in my head or in actual writing. I’ve always felt better once I’ve put some semblance of order into the everyday chaos of my life, and things just make so much more sense to me when I can see them in bullet points.

At work, I would probably be described as task-orientated. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I mean we thank the stars for task-orientated people in our workplaces because they get things done. They tick off each item on the list and move on from one task to the next without batting an eyelash.

I come from a family obsessed with life goals and plans. We’ve always been encouraged to go for our dreams but to make sure that those dreams pay the rent. Again, sensible, but the thing about having dreams and aspirations that no one ever tells you about is that they take a lot of work and a lot of focus. Hence, the list. The list of the things you need to accomplish in order to achieve your dreams.

It’s only now that I’m a little bit older that I wonder what things I’ve missed out on because I’ve been too busy trying to achieve that “life list” in my head. For example, I was so focused on doing well in my studies that I never really dated in high school or college. I mean, let’s forget about the fact that my strict Chinese-Catholic parents (and extended family) had forbidden it, we all know there were ways that I – being smart and sort of devious – could have gotten around it.

It’s telling that I never felt the inclination to rebel against that particular rule when I’ve broken others (curfew, travels to other cities, drinking, spending too much money, you name it!). I think I always knew that dating and having a relationship would put a wrench in my plans; its an unknown variable that I can never fully control. Of course, that’s not to say that love (the unrequited kind!) didn’t shape my life in a major way but that’s a blog for another day!

And since we’re talking about dating, I can’t fail to mention that other list in my head. You know, the list I had of what constitutes the perfect man. Think of every attribute you’ve ever read in romance novels or seen in Hollywood rom-coms and you’ll have a good idea of what my list looked like. These days, much to my chagrin, I’m down to just two non-negotiable traits: hygiene and sense of humour. Everything else – I can learn to live with (or without). But there was a time when I was holding out for Prince Charming or his handsome twin brother.

Lists go hand in hand with plans. I’ve always planned to be successful, married and settled by the time I reach my 30s. I’ve sort of achieved the first one, but yeah, let’s all laugh at that naive teenage girl who thought that the 2nd and 3rd would be easy. I think everything I’ve ever done in my life has been rooted in my need to achieve that marriage plan. It’s so deep-seated that even when it makes absolutely no sense anymore I can’t seem to fully let go of it.

The thing is, I think we all harbour this illusion that we are somehow in control of our lives. And to an extent I think we are, I mean certainly its up to us how we react to or handle certain situations. But as for the things that actually happen to us, the people we meet, the things we experience, I still believe that a lot of that is fate and some unknown force in the universe who likes toΒ laugh in the face of our so-called plans.

And thank God for that.Β 

Spoiler alert: I’m not married nor am I likely to be in the immediate future. But. This year I planned to seriously think about settling and to keep at dating even when I have one bad date (or two or three. I think the current count is five in a row!). I told myself that I was done with the games and the fanciful aspirations; I want a mature life partner that I can finally think of settling down with, hygiene and sense of humour non-negotiable, stable bank account desirable but not required, good looks – open to negotiation depending on all other criteria met. Lol

I’ve spent the last 6 months making a list of how I can achieve this goal and the last 4 or 5 seriously doing everything I can to tick off the items on that list. I’ve been on a sort of dating frenzy, swiping right and left willy-nilly and never really getting anywhere. But just like the Energiser bunny, I kept going and going because I told myself that he’s out there somewhere and just like everything I’ve ever accomplished in my life, I just need to work harder and I’ll find him.

And then one day, out of the blue, due to some random collision of chance, fate and orthopaedics, I met a guy who made my world stop. It’s like someone was looking at my life for the past 3 months and they got fed up and finally pressed PAUSE. Pause, anj. You’re getting too caught up in all of it that you’re forgetting to actually enjoy life.

Since we’ve met and gone out, I don’t know, its like someone saw a list of all the things I wished for when I was a little girl dreaming of romance and that same someone has been granting my wishes one date at a time: getting lost in the city when its raining, bonding over a shared love for food, cuddling for warmth in winter, drinks and intimate conversations, texts in the morning, secret looks at work, waiting for me to finish up at the office so we can go out, going to a fair together, and my favourite, holding hands in the park while drinking mulled wine.

I harbour no illusions about this guy, nor do I think for one second that there is a future in store for us. In lots of ways, its a case of wrong place, wrong time. We’re at different stages in our lives and we probably want different things. He’ll be going back to his home city in a couple of days and I will not waste my breath hoping that this thing extends beyond that.

But until then, I got to enjoy the oh-so-wonderful present. I’ve loved every single moment of the past 3 weeks, the uncertainty of wondering whether he’ll text or call and the delight when he follows up with the next date and the next date and the next one after that. This is an interlude in my life that I’ll look back on whenever I need a happy memory.

I think that bad dates take away a piece of your soul each time and it gets harder to recover and pick up the pieces to try again with each successive bad date.Β I didn’t realise until now, writing this post, how close I was to giving up on love and romance entirely. That’s saying a lot for a girl who’s always been a hopeless romantic. So no matter what happens, I am grateful for this wrinkle in time, for this wrench in my plans, for this wholly unexpected blessing that fell into my life just when I needed it the most.

Cheers to another couple of days NOT making plans with you. πŸ™‚

Posted in dating, Lifestyle, relationships, romance, Uncategorized

Goodbye, Hopeless Romantic…

Its a rainy Saturday morning in London and I’m listening to the last song on Taylor Swift’s new album and I feel compelled to write a confessional blog.

 

Most of my friends know how much of a hopeless romantic I was. I read romance novels by the dozen every week while I was growing up. Name every literary romantic tropes and I’ve probably fantasised about and lived through them, especially the tragic ones: the enemy turned crush, the popular guy you could never have, your best friend’s boyfriend, and of course, the unrequited love for your best friend.

 

I’m not going to get melodramatic, don’t worry. I’ve already exercised a Taylor Swift-style catharsis on all my past loves in one way or another, including a Facebook message to someone I should have said ‘I loved you’ to a long time ago that is as honest and candid as it is cringeworthy (I still CANNOT believe I did it.)

 

In this age of Tinder and Match.com (and endless stories from my friends of cheating, friends with benefits arrangements, and one-night stands) its hard to hold on to my starry-eyed belief in fairy tales and happily-ever-afters. Its hard to reconcile my unrealistic expectations with the very harsh reality that dating and relationships in the 21st century is not the stuff of Disney movies and Judith McNaught novels.

 

When I moved to London, I resisted the pull of online dating for a long long time. My hopeless romantic soul could not accept the idea that my future love story would be written with an opening line of “…once upon a time there was an app where you can swipe through all the single men within a 5-mile radius”.

 

As time went by and life got busier, I came to fully understand why those sites exist. It is difficult as hell to meet someone in this city and I say ‘bullcrap!” to those articles that say London has the most number of single people in the world. Where are those single, eligible people? They’re certainly not walking up and down the halls of the NHS in scrubs and clogs. They’re not buying Pret coffee or egg McMuffins with bleary eyes and tired faces, already anticipating a long shift at work.

 

So yeah, online dating: today’s version of meeting people in coffee shops and striking up random conversations. Almost the same, except that everything’s virtual. With much reluctance, I ultimately resigned myself to the fact that this is how people date now.

 

At least once a year every year I download an online dating app and try my hand at dating. And without fail, every year for the past 6 years I go on one or two bad dates and then I give up on the process. I delete said app and go back to living the life of an independent woman, telling myself that I refuse to date for the sake of dating and that if its right, it will be easy. I believed (and still believe) that there’s nothing lacking in my life just because I’m not in a relationship; having a partner isn’t what defines me and society can piss of if they tell me 30 is too old to not be married.Β 

 

While all of the above are true, they’re also symptoms of someone who’s tried and failed too many times that it just became too exhausting to try, and easier to tell myself that I’m happier being single. And I’ve been really happy these past 6 years; my life has been enriched by experiences and adventures that have changed me for the better. And with the 20/20 vision that comes with hindsight, I realised that there are two reasons why I’ve always failed at dating (online or otherwise) where others have succeeded: I was never really ready, and I’ve been incredibly lazy.

 

My attitude towards online dating is a little like my attitude towards shopping at TK Maxx. Like I know that there are loads of amazing stuff there but I’m too lazy to go through all the rubbish ones to find that one dress that will make me feel like a million dollars. And then someone comes out with that amazing dress and I kick myself for not making the effort.

 

2017 is the year of the effort. I think that for the first time in a long time I’m genuinely ready for a relationship and I hope that my second-date-claustrophobia won’t rear its ugly head once again. I’ve had three meh dates and one bad one already this year and I’m still trying. I’ve had dates where someone’s nice but boring, where someone’s not boring but is only out for one thing, where there were sparks but no follow through, where there was a follow through but no sparks…and I figure that sooner or later, lightning will strike and all those elements will come together in one date (Please, God, I hope this is true. haha).

 

Baby we’re the new romantics, come on come along with me. Heartbreak is our national anthem, we sing it proudly.

New Romantics | Taylor Swift

 

I’m no longer the hopeless romantic that I was, and while some part of me misses the girl with the rose-coloured glasses, I’m mostly okay because I know she’ll always be there somewhere. She’s there in the way I giggle at every text; she’s there in the way I smile because he’s said something funny; she’s there in the warm feeling I get when he says something that means he gets me even though we’ve just met; she’s there, always, in the way I keep the hope alive that this time lightning has struck. But the great thing about being this new kind of hopeless romantic is that I know, even if I strike out instead, I will somehow find the fortitude to have another go at the bat.Β 

 

Goodbye, hopeless romantic. Hello, Hopeless Romantic 2.0 – bigger (literally), better and stronger version.

Posted in Books, Reviews, romance, Young Adult

Book Review – Turtles All The Way Down

So there’s this saying about books that we’ve all heard that says we’re not to judge it by its cover. Yes, I get that its not meant to be taken literally, as in we’re not really talking about books when we spout that overused statement. But because I’m actually reviewing a book and finding myself unusually unsure about where to start, I’ll start with that. We don’t judge a book by its cover; we judge a book based on how much it makes us think and how it makes us feel.

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John Green’s latest offering has me baffled, to be honest. On one hand, there are bits about it that I really really like and which I’ll get to later. On the other hand, a part of me found it really difficult to get through the book especially towards the end when things start to spiral out of control for our main character.

Aza Holmes is a teenager who is trying, really trying, to co-exist with the thoughts that live in her head. She tries to lead a normal life with her fearless best friend Daisy and even finds the time to dabble in a little mystery: the mystery of where billionaire Russell Pickett has hidden himself to avoid getting arrested for corruption. She also makes a connection with said billionaire’s son, Davis, whom she met at “sad camp” years ago and this connection slowly leads to – what else – the sweet sweet bloom of first love.

First of all, I think John Green did a really good job of not just describing what mental illness feels like but really getting the readers as close to the real experience as one can get while reading a fictional novel. The scenes where Aza becomes a helpless victim to her thoughts, to the point where she can’t even kiss a guy she likes without freaking out, were really painful for me to read. In that moment, I was as fully invested as Aza to the outcome of that situation and that speaks to John Green’s talent as an author.

I mentioned that I found it difficult to get through the book. I think what I meant to say is that it hit a little too close to home. Aza gets anxious about her health, specifically about getting an infection. I’ve already admitted in a previous post that I’ve always been a little bit of a hypochondriac. At one point in my life, I was so convinced that I had brain tumour because I found a lump at the back of my head. I remember crying in the dark in my room, crying in church and thinking about all the things that I will never get to do because I was going to die of brain tumour. I think I must have been about 12 or 13.

After a week, I managed to rid myself of these irrational thoughts and correctly concluded that I did not have brain tumour. Studying Nursing made my anxiety about my health both better and worse. Better because I can usually reason myself out of my worries by reciting the signs and symptoms of my imagined illness – signs and symptoms that I didn’t have – and worse because whenever I do have symptoms, my brain goes to the worst possible scenario there is.

I can usually laugh it off and make a joke about it. But reading this book makes me realise that its not a laughing matter when these thoughts start to take over your life; when you can’t even kiss a guy without worrying that his microbes will forever be a part of you; when you actually ingest a dangerous substance just to make yourself clean; and when you find yourself pleading for someone to just take you out of yourself so that you can stop having these thoughts. Yes, in some respects this book is really really dark.

The moments of levity come from Aza’s friendship with Daisy and of course, the romantic connection with David. I think that the friendship between the two girls is one of the strongest points of the novel. In fact, the novel can be mostly summed up by this line that Daisy tells Aza:

You know I love you right? My whole life I thought I was the star of an overly earnest romance movie, and it turns out I was in a goddamned buddy comedy all along.

The friendship takes a little bit of a back burner to the romance but I’m glad that it was made clear towards the end that it was one of the constants that helps Aza get through life.

And what about the romance you ask? Come on, this is John Green. You can bet your ass that there will be instagrammable and quotable quotes that the more emo half of the population will just devour. There is also the ever-present, ever-so-deep (and slightly pretentious) existential conversations that makes me ask whether teenagers really talk that way these days.

However, I think John Green made the right call by not making this seem like another book where love cures all but rather, the romance almost seems like a bittersweet postscript, a small but significant ode to the magic of first love:

You remember your first love because they show you, prove to you, that you can love and be loved, that nothing in this world is deserved except for love, that love is both how you become a person, and why.

If I could make a small criticism, I thought that bit with the mysterious disappearance of the billionaire was not only irrelevant and useless, it was also weird. Honestly, it did not add to the story except as a plot device for the MCs to re-connect with each other again. And also, who leaves all their money when they die to their pet lizard? It was just ridiculous and the reason why I only gave this book 3-stars on Goodreads. Apart from that, really good book for both fans of the YA genre and just readers in general.

 

 

Posted in Books, Reviews, romance, Young Adult

Book Review: The Raven Boys Series – Maggie Stiefvater

Sometimes, you come across a book series that defies categories and genres, and is such a mishmash of storylines and plots, that you find yourself scratching your head and asking: WHAT THE HELL AM I READING?!

 

 

This is exactly the kind of reaction this book series evoked in me. There are four books in this series, and usually I expect to be confused and muddled for the first two books when the author is laying all the groundwork for the reveals, plot twists and payoffs that are sure to occur in the last book. HOWEVER. When you’re already reading the last book and you’re still not quite sure what it is you’re reading and what the point of the story is, I think that’s a different story altogether.

 

 

Every year on St Mark’s Eve, Blue Sargent stands guard with her psychic mum as a group of soon-to-be dead people walk along the “corpse road”. She herself has never seen them until this year, when one of them sees and speaks directly to her. Her clairvoyant aunt told her that there is only one reason for the dead to speak directly to a non-seer: either Blue is this person’s true love or she killed him herself. Now this is relevant because all her life, Blue has been told that if she kisses her true love, he will die (how tragic!). She doesn’t know who this guy is, all she has is a whisper of a name: Gansey.

 

 

Gansey (Richard Campbell Gansey III, to be more exact) is no stranger to dying. In fact, he’d already died once before after being stung by a hornet and he was brought back to life by the power of the “ley line”, which I imagine to be some kind of psychic force field. As he laid there dying, a voice whispered in his ear that he will be brought back to life because at that very same moment, someone else died on the ley line when they weren’t supposed to. This second shot at life led to an obsession over all things related to the ley line, specifically the quest to find ‘The Raven King”, whom legend supposes to be buried in the heart of this line. Legend also has it that whoever finds this tomb will be granted one favour by The Raven King.

 

 

Through a series of chance and twists of fate, Blue finds herself increasingly involved with Gansey and the rest of the Raven Boys: Adam, the poor scholar who struggles with jealousy, pride and the need to make it in the world in his own terms and without receiving any hand-outs from his rich friends; Ronan, a troubled kid who found his father bludgeoned to death and who plays a more central role to this story than I initially thought; and Noah, who’s just…always there…until he isn’t. In this already complicated mix of characters we add Blue’s family: her psychic Mom and her psychic friends who all live in 300 Fox Way.

 

 

I’m telling you, there are a lot of things that go down in this series. There’s the mysterious power of dreams; a subplot that to me is a metaphoric plea to save the environment; demonic activity; death and resurrection; romance. It is FULL ON. In the hands of any other author, I think this book would have been rubbish. However, Maggie’s prose is so extremely readable that I found myself just going along with it no matter how confused I became. I’ve taken some memorable quotes from Pinterest and included them in this blog post (all credits to the original users who posted them, none of these are mine!).

 

 

 

I enjoyed the story and I enjoyed the character developments. I enjoyed reading the strength of the friendship among the four Raven Boys, the kind that won’t let you go into the dark alone, and the kind that will save you even if what you need saving from is yourself. I loved that Blue is a sensible heroine and that I didn’t feel the need to smack her, and I love that the romance developed gradually and didn’t feel forced or rushed in any way. I also loved that the romance aspect never overshadowed the supernatural element of the story. There was also a surprising twist -and additional romantic entanglement – that I would not have seen coming but was unfortunately spoiled for me because I read the bloody Goodreads reviews (%#Β£!!!!) but which I think readers will enjoy.

 

 

Does Gansey die? Is he Blue’s true love? Will she ever get to kiss anyone? Does this ragtag group of misfits ever find The Raven King? All those questions will be answered after a lot of talking and reading and posturing. I warn readers that I am of the opinion that I finished this series only out of sheer curiosity and stubbornness, and that some readers may find it tedious and pointless (adjectives that I used at some point while reading the books). Nevertheless, YA fans may still want to check it out. I also just have to point out that the cover art is incredibly beautiful.

 

 

If you agree or disagree with the review, feel free to leave comments below. I would love to know what everyone else thought about this series!

Posted in Books, LGBT, romance, Young Adult

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Remember your first crush?

Remember walking down the corridors of your high school and blushing whenever you catch a glimpse of that one cute guy who seems to shine just a little bit brighter than everyone else?

Remember the late night conversations with your friends trying to decipher and construe every conversation and gesture, looking for any hidden meaning or indication that he feels the same way?

Remember your first heartbreak, like when you find out he likes someone else and you comfort yourself with a tub of rocky road ice cream and listen to emo music (Jann Arden in my case)?

These are the kind of memories that this book evokes. It takes you back to a time in your life when every feeling and emotion is magnified (probably because of teenage hormones). It recalls the innocence of first love and I think it captures it perfectly, with just the right amount of self-deprecating humour, sweetness and angst. 

But you know what the most beautiful thing about this book is?

Its about two teenage boys falling in love for the first time. I am really happy to be living in a time where books like this can be published and widely read, not just by the lgbt community but by mainstream readers as well. I think that ten years ago, a kid growing up confused about his sexuality would have felt alone and depressed whereas I fervently hope that now, with all the support and books like Simon, they would know that there are other people going through the same thing and that it DOES get better.

I love Simon’s internal monologue, I really like getting into his head and seeing his take on things. I love that he is a huge fan of Harry Potter and I love that he does theatre. I love the fact that he thinks “coming out” shouldn’t be exclusive to gay people and that straight people should come out as straight too. I love that he thinks straight shouldn’t be the default setting and I love that he was able to bring a sense of humour to his own eventual coming out. 

I know that coming out is a really serious issue for teens, and I’ve read several books where this hasn’t turned out well. But, spoiler alert, its great to read a book for once where family and friends really rally around the character in order to give him support. It gives you hope that that kind of tolerance will eventually be the norm. Love is love people, get with the program.

There’s a mystery to be solved here and if you guys are anything like me, you’ll be tempted to just read through the end to find out who “Blue” is but trust me, you don’t want to spoil the experience. I honestly guessed it early on but I kept getting thrown by the red herrings. However, just like when I’m reading crime and mystery, I know that its rarely the obvious suspect whodunit because where’s the fun in that? And also if you’re really observant, Blue gives himself away in one of his emails to Simon. 

Anyway, if it was possible to die from sweetness overload, I would have keeled over last night. I finished the book and just went “awwwww“. It kinda makes me miss high school, although I wouldn’t go so far as to wish to go through adolescence again. If you’re looking for a nice and easy read, add this to your to-read list! I guarantee you won’t regret it. 

Posted in Books, relationships, Reviews, romance

In Death: An Ode to JD Robb

There is something to be said about an author who’s got enough mileage to keep a series – for the most part – fresh and interesting 44 books in, with number 45 having just been released this week.

JD Robb, who first gained fame as a romance author under the pen name of Nora Roberts, has earned the title of being one of the most prolific writers in the business. She still publishes under both pseudonyms and she’s able to churn out at least two books a year. While her works as Nora have declined in quality in my own personal opinion, the In Death series under JD Robb feels a little bit like the energiser bunny: its just going to keep on going until her fingers get too arthritic to type on a keyboard.

I read the first book in the series a little over a year ago when I was looking for a good whodunit crime novel. I picked up Origin in Death based on the recommendation of one of my Goodreads friends who has a reputation for always giving honest reviews. I was quite surprised that she praised this one so highly as she’s usually into alternate universes, post-apocalyptic settings and dystopia. In comparison, this “futuristic” series seemed a little bit tame for her taste. Despite the fact that its set about 60 years in the future in a still-recognisable but crazier version of New York City, and despite the fact that there are crazy gadgets and new inventions to help solve crime, at the heart of it this is a procedural crime novel with Lieutenant Eve Dallas of the NYPD at its centre.

Eve and Roarke

Eve is an enigma even to herself. She’s very methodical and all about the job. She cares and stands for her victims and seems to take any crime in her city personally, which is what makes her so good. You can tell she’s been through something nightmarish in her past because she’s so closed off to other people and have very little, if any, time for a personal life. She is the job and the job is what makes her. While working a case, she meets the equally enigmatic and ultra-charming billionaire Roarke (no last name just like Madonna), who was initially one of the suspects in the case she was working on but who she later develops a romantic relationship with.

The mysteries in each book are interesting in and of themselves; I would probably have followed the series for that reason alone. But the backstory and the character development, as well as seeing how a relationship between two people with such a complicated and traumatic past developed into a strong partnership, is what makes the series special. Seeing how Eve Dallas, respected lieutenant with a reputation for solving crimes, navigates the minefield of marriage and is thoroughly discombobulated by her role as a wife provided a comedic fodder for all the other heavy stuff going on in the books. It was also amazing to see how she developed close relationships with other people and how she somehow allowed them in to her world as a result of opening herself up to Roarke. So much so that she finds herself pleasantly surprised that she’s managed to create a family after years and years of being alone.

The Supporting Cast

The supporting characters in the story also enrich the experience of reading the books. We’re introduced to Delia Peabody, Detective McNab, the other detectives at Cop Central, Chief Morris, Captain Feeney, the chief of police, Summerset the butler, Mavis Freestone, even Galahad the cat – they all matter. JD Robb somehow wrote the series in such a way that she gradually made the readers care for each and every one of them one book at a time. But the lynchpin of the books is really Eve. Its such a joy to see her journey as a character. Which isn’t to say that she can’t be annoying. I sometimes get so annoyed by how she sees things in black and white, which is probably why Roarke is perfect for her because he is all about the shades of grey in between.

44 books in the series!

I read all 37 books in this series one after the other. I’m quite happy that I didn’t know just how many books there were when I started because it might have put me off starting. As it is, I’m sure I made Amazon Kindle really happy when I bought all the published books back then in a bundle, it probably cost me a little over 200 quid but its money well spent. Not all the books were great and there were some that I was tempted not to finish because I was bored, but then those books would surprise me with a scene between Eve and Roarke that would just move their relationship forward and it would make up for an otherwise mediocre story. That’s how JD Robb hooks you: if the story is a dud, the character development makes up for it. If there’s nothing new to explore in terms of the main characters, you sink your claws into a good old-fashioned crime mystery. Its the perfect one-two punch.

Unfortunately, none of the books can be read as a standalone. I mean, when you start reading the first three or four you’d just want to carry on anyway. And okay, you can probably pick one book at random and still enjoy a good mystery but the payoff really is in knowing the characters and the history of how they all came to be what they are to each other. Some books are all about the payoff, with returning characters from previous books or a previous issue that was brought up in one of the previous books but was never fully explored. So I wouldn’t recommend not reading them in order. I would recommend borrowing them from someone who’s got the full collection rather than buying them like I did. There are some highlights in the series and you can go visit my page for my top ten favourite In Death books to check out my personal favourites.

All in all, reading books from this series always feels like visiting an old friend. Its always great to escape into Eve and Roarke’s world for a while and to pray that in these troubled times we live in where the world is literally going to hell in a hand basket, there would be someone like her in our police force who will stand for the good people of London the way Eve Dallas does for New York.

More power to JD Robb and may the books keep coming!

 

Posted in Books, Reviews, romance

Waterstones Armchair Murders Book Club Pick of the Month: If We Were Villains

Full disclosure: I skipped through the end of this book because I just could not bear not knowing what happened for a minute longer.

I picked up this book because it was selected for next month’s book club meeting. Had I known that it had been frequently compared to Donna Tartt’s A Secret History, I may have hesitated to start it because I found that book as tedious as it was – strangely -compulsively readable. I found the characters in that book so unbelievably pretentious. And, I may be the stupidest person in the world for saying this, but I just did NOT get what all the latin translations contributed to the plot advancement. I did not understand why so many people found the book life-changing but agree to disagree.

This book could not have been any more different.

The thing I love and hate most about reading a book is when you become so invested in the characters that you share in their joys, hopes, disappointments and sorrows. M.L. Rio, almost from the first 50 pages, made me care so much about her protagonist Oliver Marks that I felt a genuine sense of foreboding when he began his story.

The Synopsis

Oliver has been in jail for the past 10 years and his release coincides with the retirement of the detective who took on his case. Wanting closure, the old detective’s final request is for the truth: what really happened during that cold November night when one of Oliver’s friends wound up dead in the lake? 

They were seven friends who shared one thing in common: an all-consuming passion for acting. And not just any acting; Shakespearean acting. Throughout their four years in an exclusive school for the arts they’ve been typecasted: the hero, the villain, the star, the sidekick, the vixen. But when a teacher decided to shake things up and change the status quo, the power shifts; friendships are threatened, rivalries awakened, secrets unraveled, ultimately ending in tragedy.

Oh, The Feels

I don’t think this will be the most coherent review I’ve ever done mostly because I’m writing with my heart rather than my head. All I am after this book is a mass of feelings. Honestly.  This book is more than just a crime novel; its a coming of age story, its an ode to the great bard and most of all its an epic, passionate romance. I know this is supposed to be a thriller, but honestly its LOVE that underscores all the scenes in this book. The kind of love that makes fools of us all, the kind of love that borders on insanity.
Oliver is the kind of character who just grabs you. There is no way to describe him without giving away spoilers because to understand how things turned out the way they were, to really understand his motives, you have to look at the heart of who he is. There are things that were so blindingly obvious to me as the book unfolded that I pretty much guessed whodunit early on. I don’t know if its just me but it really wasn’t that much of a mystery. 

The Twist

I really love a good ending. And a good ending for me is one that ties up all the loose ends; I do not like ending a book with more questions and I do not like to be kept hanging. But really, if done right, ambiguous endings have this impact on readers that cannot be put into words. And this one sure did a number on me. I have read and re-read the last two pages of this book five times and I’ve even googled Shakespeare to give me some clues but I’m still left with the need to rip my hair out because I really want to know what it all means.

I know that we’re meant to form our own conclusion as to the ending but dammit ML Rio, YOU CAN’T DO THIS TO ME!!! 

I’m quite excited to go to book club now and discuss this with the others. I just really need someone to reaffirm my interpretation of the ending. That’s all I need, one person to tell me that the version of events unfolding in my head is not so far-fetched. It’ll be interesting to see how my fellow book club members will react to this. I have a feeling this may have a polarising effect on the group. It will sure make for an interesting discussion.

Hey bookworms in London, if you’re interested in discussing fabulous crime and mystery books, join us every first Wednesday of the month at Waterstones Piccadilly. Free wine! More details here.