An Honest ‘Girl Online’ Book Review

Girl OnlineTitle: Girl Online
Author: Zoe Sugg (and Siobhan Curham)
Hardcover: 344 pages

GoodReads rating: 3.81

When I had heard that Zoe Suggs would be writing and publishing a book of her very own I was excited. For about two years or so I’ve been following her blog and her vlogs on Youtube.

Watching her on Youtube, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I found her incredibly relatable. I’ve always felt like I have so many things in common with her. We’re the same age, we both have younger brothers who have incredibly similar personalities and we grew up with those terrible 90s neck chokers. So when the book was available, I immediately bought it off of

Before the book reached my doorstep, there was this whole news about how it was ghostwritten by above Siobhan Curham (this is a post she made in regards to the issue that you might want to read to clear the air on the false assumptions the media has made), a popular young adult writer who Zoe acknowledges at the end of her book. Penguin also confirmed that not all of the book was written by her. Hearing this news, I was torn. I was very torn because I, myself, yearn to one day be a writer and I wonder how it would feel like if I were ghostwriting and the book I wrote became a bestseller but the credit was never justifiably given to me and the words that I had written. At the same time, I felt indignant that online platforms – even Times news (why are you covering this?) – seemed to completely side-sweep the publisher, Penguin, and instead target Zoe – who they probably never heard of until this issue arose.

I had two responses when I heard this news. The short-term and immediate reaction was that I felt myself regretting having bought the book. I felt almost guilty. But then, maybe after a second-thought, I realised that because of all that was happening in regards to the issues of ghostwriting, I felt that it was even more necessary and relevant that I should read the novel.

Hence, the moment the hefty parcel reached my hands, just two days ago, I ripped it open and began digesting it. To avoid crediting where credit may not be due, I will address the novel itself instead of the author(s). I will, also, attempt to write as honestly as possible to how I felt about this novel – honest to both camps: those who love it and love Zoe and vehemently support and root for her, and those who are incredibly skeptical of the writing and believe that the story itself is garbage (which I believe it is not).

The first few chapters of Girl Online, and my first impression of it, was that it was palatable and the writing was decent. The character development was also pretty decent. The overall tone was quirky and easy to read.

I could tell that Penny, a sixteen-year-old student living in Brighton, aimed to be a girl with whom readers are immediately meant to identify with. She felt awkward, she was clumsy and shy and felt inadequate, and really wanted the approval of friends and family and boys.

Penny’s homosexual best friend, Elliot, was also someone with whom Zoe’s target readers should immediately love. When I read of him, I was immediately picturing Tyler Oakley in my head. And I wonder if that was intentional. I appreciated the random fun facts in the book and I honestly wish there had been more of that. I also wished there had been more exploration into who Elliot was as an individual and that he had not spent 80% of the novel hiding behind a mask of stereotypical “diva-fashionista-awesomeness” and comedic fluff.

Personally, I was still on board with the story, that is, till the point Penny and her family flew off to New York. The beginning story (without spoiling anything) attempted to tackle issues that I felt are close to any young person’s heart: bullying (esp. cyber-bullying), anonymity and problematic friendships.

It was in New York that the plot of the novel took a swift nosedive for me. It was FanFiction-esque: delusional and superficial. And I shall explain why I used these two negative adjectives as criticism. Maybe it is because I’m not the “hopeless romantic” type, and some (lovelorn teenagers) may disagree with what I am about to say next, but Penny and Noah’s love is a carbon copy of what many fangirls must envision in their heads when they picture themselves falling in love with their favourite boy band musician – regardless of whether they come from 1D or 5SOS. If anything, the romance between Penny and Noah is actually completely unnecessary for the primary message of the novel: that your words and actions can hurt, that you should think twice before saying them, and that no matter what, if things go terribly wrong, you should still love yourself and know that your family will support you.

So, for me, the Penny and Noah story in the middle of the novel was like the wrong stuffing in a roasted Christmas chicken dinner. Noah was in every way a stock character of the ideal rocker boy. His actions to romance Penny were the most cliched and at-the-top-of-your-head gestures that any boy could attempt to perform if they were willing to devote so much money and time for a girl. His little sister was every cliched angelically adorable attempt to make readers fall in love with her. There was little real about the family – including (dare I say it) the accident of Noah’s parents.

Getting that out of the way, there are moments where Girl Online does shine and communicates its message unexpectedly well. I won’t be ashamed to say that I teared up at some moments in the story – especially since many of the moments seem to parallel the reactions Zoe immediately got after the online communities and media platforms realised that her novel was ghostwritten.

The first time I teared was (and I specifically remember) on page 87. Shall not spoil here, but those who have the book or are reading it should know which part particularly, regarding cyber-bullying. It was an early moment and I believe that a previous incident that happened to me in the past triggered my empathy towards Penny at that particular moment. In today’s day and age, I also believe that this moment should affect a lot of other readers. It is kind of sad how many young people are affected by cyber-bullying, whether it be hateful messages online, “unglam” photos of them posted by people who do not like them, or being ostracised by a group of classmates on the internet.

The later “feels” occurred towards the end of the book around page 288-289. I have a soft spot for characters who are misunderstood or attacked by other individuals. So this part got to me.

I believe the message of the novel was strongest when aspects of who Zoe is as a person shone through. It is apparent that she had a clear role in creating this novel through certain minutiae: the line in which Christmas was her favourite time of the year, the father who is great at homey meals, the Margherita pizza and room service and the bath bombs – and many other things I can’t quite recall at the moment.

Lastly, I feel like I shouldn’t give my overall rating of this book, mostly because I am so torn as to what I should give it. In terms of plot and how it is written, it is comparable to those I read on Honestly, if I came across it on, I would be happy to have found a decently written albeit cheesy plot for a story.

If there is anything you should treat this story as, in terms of story progression, it is a bag of chips – or cookies. It’s probably not good for you, but you want to eat it cause every so often you feel that biting into that chip makes you feel better and more satisfied as a human being. But, in all honesty, when you come out of finishing it, you have to admit to yourself that it probably was a whole bunch of No Good.

But, I can see where it is written from, and that there are good intentions in it and the issues that it attempts to address are still there. I believe that it could have been better if it focused more on those issues and less on romance. Those moments that I previously mentioned were the moments that shined for me and that were the most heartfelt.

Regardless of how wishy-washy the writing process of this novel was, I am still proud of Zoe for how she managed this novel and the criticisms that followed. It is honestly the most beautiful covered book I own at the moment – except maybe my new signed copy of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. And I love how it looks on my bookshelf. So, at the end of the day, I have no regrets buying it. It was honestly the perfect light-hearted read I needed for Christmas.

And, in regard to the entire issue of how the book was ghostwritten and how some have gone up in arms about it, I quote this part of the novel:

I sit on the edge of my bed, staring at my phone in terror. I picture people all over the world reading about me, posting hate-filled messages about me. People I don’t know. People who’ve never even met me.

This was written in the perspective of Penny – but I also believe that it is written very much so in the perspective of Zoe now. I don’t know why, but I feel incredibly protective of her as a person. I can’t imagine what she might be feeling or going through, but I feel that contempt is never justified if you are not personally involved in the situation. I feel like there are many times that we have been prematurely judged by others, and some times where we are unaware that we prematurely judge in return. I guess, the only suggestion I wish to make (not just for others out there but also as a reflection of my own) is to be more sensitive with words and how they may affect others. It’s easy to type blankly into a screen. It is harder to empathise and understand who you are communicating to and the effect your words may have on others.

(I believe that my last paragraph there is an attempt to not only summarise the message of the book but also the irony of the situation in relation to the book and the issues arising from the book in its entirety.)

Lastly, on a more positive (and less convoluted) note: this is the 25th book I’ve read for this year – which means that I completed my goal to read 25 books this year! And I’m so proud of myself now for having been able to accomplish this in light of how busy this year has been. 😀

Also, maybe as a post-postscript (P.P.S), I hope you don’t mind that I posted a Saturday’s Inklings on a Sunday/Monday (depending on your time zone) – and that I wrote it at 2am in the morning for me, which probably explains why this review is not as organised as I probably want it to be.

But I felt it was necessary to get all these words out before I forget them.

Till next time,

cumuloq ❤


Thank You, Maya Angelou

Credits to

Credits to

Maya Angelou’s death, this year, on May 28th 2014, never really struck me deep. At that point in time, earlier this year, her name was one among many authors and poets that I had heard in passing, acknowledged but never really took the time to know of. So when it was informed, only three words passed through my mind: “That’s a pity.” And life went on.

It was not until recently that I began reading her novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I chose to read it (and am still reading it) because I thought it was a nice transition from when I previously read the novel Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Like the protagonist in Speak, Marguerite Johnson in Angelou’s novel deals with selective mutism.

And, because I’m reading it (excruciatingly slowly), last week I came across a particular paragraph from the novel that really struck me. In the novel, the young protagonist is made to go to a funeral of a Mrs. Florida Taylor. It begins (and captures my attention) at these lines:

At first the news that Mrs. Taylor was dead did not strike me as particularly newsy bit of information. As children do, I thought that since she was very old she had only one thing to do, and that was to die.

At this point in the story, I felt guilty as these words somehow resonated to me about anyone who was elderly – that the next predictable destination was death and that there was nothing to it.

Angelou then writes this:

The inevitable destination of all living things seemed but a short step away. I had never considered before that dying, death, dead, passed away, were words and phrases that might be even faintly connected with me.

But, on that onerous day, oppressed beyond relief, my own mortality was borne in upon me on sluggish tides of doom.

It felt – and I can’t quite summon the perfect adjective to describe it – unnerving reading these words, especially from an author who had only recently married herself to those terms “dying, death, dead, [and] passed away” … I sat there reading those words as if Angelou spoke to me from those pages. (And this is me reflecting on how words are as though we time travel both to the future where we no longer exist as authors and to the past to have conversations with the dead.)

Photo of Maya Angelou

Credits go to

I reflected on how, writing those words, Angelou never fully pictured herself gone from this earth and the words on the page speaking on her behalf. And I imagined the same of myself – how right now I can’t imagine those words connected to myself but inevitably they will be.

(Well, aren’t we funny creatures to so vehemently – my new favourite adverb – protest and proclaim the impossibility of our deaths … until we are dead and gone?)

When I read those words on my bed I almost teared. I felt as though the tides had turned, that I was Marguerite Johnson attending the funeral of Mrs. Taylor.

And personally, I feel like now’s better late then never to thank Maya Angelou for her poetic words and for her accomplishments and milestones in literature as a “Phenomenal Woman”.

I only wish I had read and known you sooner. Reading your novel now, I feel as though I relate to you in a million small insignificant yet all too significant ways. And so I quote one of your recent passages that plucked my heart out of its chest while I was reading on the bus earlier; while it was directed for the black community, I feel like anyone who has felt in the position of the minority can share the sentiments written in your words …

It was awful to be Negro and have no control over my life. It was brutal to be young and already trained to sit quietly and listen to charges brought against my color with no chance of defense. We should all be dead. I thought I should like to see us all dead, one on top of the other. A pyramid of flesh with whitefolks on the bottom, as the broad base, then the Indians with their silly tomahawks and teepees and wigwams and treaties, the Negroes with their mops and recipes and cotton sacks and spirituals sticking out of their mouths. The Dutch children should all stumble in their wooden shoes and break their necks. The French should choke to death on the Louisiana Purchase (1803) while silkworms ate all the Chinese with their stupid pigtails. As a species, we were an abomination. All of us.

Till next time.

cumuloq ❤



P.S. Looking through her photos on Google Image search and writing these words almost did make me cry. This is my personal belated mourning of a marvellous woman – but hopefully it is more heartfelt to have gotten to know her through the pages of her book and then said goodbye than to have said words that only now I realise I truly mean from deep down within my heart (and may I add, soul).

What I Read and Why I Read

6 inklings - saturday

Previously I wrote the post “What I Write and Why I Write” – I thought it was about time that I wrote the companion post to it, “What I Read and Why I Read”. It kind of helps that one of my recent class assignments was to write about this. Below is the modified version of it – I have taken none of the substance away, just beefed it up in certain areas.

I was always a library camper, whether it be in my school or communal libraries. From the age of seven I knew how to reserve books, how to borrow wisely till the maximum amount I’m allowed to carry back home in my heavy library canvass bag, and how to read the shelves and find my favourite authors and genres.

If there was one crime I ever actually committed when I was a kid, it was accidentally stealing a library book from my school – I vaguely remember it being about Santa Claus. I devoured books by Mem Fox, Libby Gleeson, Enid Blyton such as The Magic Faraway Tree and Jacqueline Wilson’s Double Act. My school in Australia had a subscription to Scholastics and I bought books every month – much to the frustration of my parents.

A few years later on I’d giggle at the trivial hilarity of The Bugalugs Bum Thief and Captain Underpants, and delved into classics such as Jack London’s The Call of the Wild and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. (I got the exact covers of the books I actually read below.)

When I was eleven in Perth, Australia, my teacher, Mrs Daventry, introduced my class to a life-changing novel called Alanna: The First Adventure written by Tamora Pierce. The character, Alanna, was probably my first proper fantasy heroine.

Prior to being exposed to the genre of fantasy, I mostly entertained myself with Jeanne Betancourt’s Pony Pals and Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High. Mrs Daventry one day caught me in class reading the latter and I remember specifically that she called it “junk food”. She then proceeded to tell me of a book store in our neighbourhood where I could get discounts for good books. Learning from her was such a joy. With every book we read, we learnt about the history behind them, the vocabulary that surrounded them and the characteristics we aspired towards.

When the doors of the fantasy genre gaped wide open I never looked back. I devoured the genre, reading series after series by authors such as J.K. Rowling, Lemony Snicket, Gail Carson Levine, Philip Pullman, Garth Nix, Libba Bray, James Patterson and Dianna Wynne Jones. For me reading was very much escapist in nature. Coupled with sketching and writing, my twelve-year-old self created worlds that were imitations of the characters, plots and settings I read. The fantasy worlds shaped much of how I saw the world when I was young, filled with magical potential and gateways to alternative realms. That’s why I identify so closely to the narrator of Gaiman’s novel:

“I went away in my head, into a book. That was where I went whenever real life was too hard or too inflexible.” – Unknown Narrator, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My purpose for reading altered when my parents made the decision that we would move to another country. There, I admit books were my shields to the curious eyes of my new, strange classmates. For a decent year, because of my introverted disposition, my confidantes at the time were mostly the characters in the novels I read and the stories I created.

In my new school I was introduced to more canonical works, such as that of Shakespeare. There we tackled Twelfth Night, Macbeth and Merchant of Venice. Other novels included Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (which I memorised more than understood) and Robert Louis Stevensons’ Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (which I found fascinating till this day). It was also during that time that I got enraptured by culturally-stemmed beliefs – spiritual myths of seances and ghost visitations. A lot of the books I read during that time were dark – but not necessarily scary. Like how a child may be more fascinated than terrified of Coraline, I was more fascinated than terrified of the world beyond the grave.

It was when I moved country once more and underwent a tertiary education that my reading for pleasure habit slowly dwindled. There I was introduced to some of my favourite novels such as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. But it was also where I learned to grapple with R.K. Narayan’s The Guide – a book which, till this day, still reduces me to coughing up bile.

It was also during this period where literature transformed into something I loved to something which I no longer understood. I was forced to wrangle with poetry in a void. I was mostly silent in class, petrified to give the “wrong answer”. Reading for pleasure was bulldozed away and in its place was planted desperations of not failing, and not being alone.

And maybe my saving grace was giving literature a second chance and choosing it as my degree. During my four years in uni, I could once again engage with and discover newfound love in other literary genres. It was in uni that I fell in love with novels such as Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, and Jean Rhys’ Good Morning, Midnight.

My main interests during that time lay in (post- and) modernism, feminism and Gothic literature. I decided to combine two of them for my FYP and wrote about representations of the living dead in women – It was also an excuse for me to analyse Resident Evil.

However, I can’t quite say that during those four years I read for pleasure. My reading during that time was limited to the reading lists of the courses I took. So the final stage of my reading journey thus far was during my eight months of contract teaching. Thanks to this blog (and also from creating an account on, I managed to finally read for pleasure and read whatever I wanted to – the way I did when I was eleven.

I first of all started with the Young Adult fiction that I missed out on during my uni days, i.e. Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. This was followed by Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, John Green books, i.e. The Fault in Our Stars, Looking For Alaska, and Paper Towns, Stephen Chbosky’s Perks of Being a Wallflower, Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, James Dashner’s The Maze Runner trilogy and Lois Lowry’s The Giver.

Of course, I didn’t spend all my reading time catching up with YA. I also delved in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Neverwhere. It was safe to say that during those eight months I read and completed more books in my spare time than during the six years within the rigid education system of my new homeland.

At the end of the day, reading for me has always been a means for me to understand and see different perspectives to the world. It was a means to make sense of things that no longer made sense. The covers were my shields, the characters: my friends, the enemies: a representation of the challenges I should be tackling. At the end of the day I would not be the person I am without books. It’s a shame that reading today is less than it was – less time for books, less words in books, more competition for attention among the million other attention-grabbing devices out there in this world.

I offer anyone who is willing to share their reading journey to send me a link to theirs in the comment section below! Let us all preserve the pastime and love of reading together!

Till next time!

cumuloq ❤


Disclaimer: The book covers featured are not mine and belong to their respective owners. I take no credit for any of the photos featured in this blog post.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane Review


Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Hardcover: 181 pages

GoodReads rating: 4.01
Personal rating: 4 out of 5 stars

On Wednesday, what I first intended to be me returning a book (The Death Cure by James Dashner) to the library, ended up with me, like the unnamed (I only realised this after googling the book – I hadn’t realised it throughout the book that the narrator was not named) narrator of Gaiman’s novel, unknowingly yet almost deliberately hovering towards the adult section to pick up the only (shameful) Neil Gaiman novel that stood on the lower rungs of the shelf, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

I’ll frankly admit here that this is the first Gaiman novel I’ve picked up. The only exposure I (knowingly) have had before reading this novel was watching the films Stardust and Coraline – and that’s almost like picking second-hand scraps from an author’s writings.

That day, I had time to kill, so I went up to the second floor of the library, where a quiet reading section lay behind walls of glass, as though readers here were extinct animals put up on exhibition, and chose a seat that looked over at the trees and grass that sat behind the library. Honestly, I chose it ’cause the sun was nicely warming that area and I knew I would get cold after a while of reading. I then started, like every other reader does, on the first sentence.

I really did not know what to expect, having both never read Gaiman’s books and having read from the young adult section rather than the adult section for a long time. And I almost felt sheepish at having expected a “grown-up” book. Actually, these lines in the book suited my sentiments while reading it exactly (most likely purposefully so):

“I wondered if that was true: if they were all really children wrapped up in adult bodies, like children’s books hidden in the middle of dull, long adult books, the kind with no pictures or conversations.”

If anything, the novel (expectedly so) had the same stylistics and plot devices as Coraline did – a blur between the lines of imagination and reality, a display of how a child’s world is both real and unreal and how stories traverse the boundaries between the two.

Summarising the plot, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is about an unnamed narrator who revisits his childhood neighbourhood. He decides to pay a visit to a particular lane where, at the end of it, is a pond, a pond which a childhood friend named Lettie used to call an “ocean”. There, he recalls memories of himself as a seven-year-old boy, memories he had not previously remembered and a story which I found more fascinating than haunting, though there are undertones of suicide, attempted homicides, and sexual affairs mingled among the magic.

When it came out, the book debuted at number one on The New York Times best seller list and last year was voted Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards. It was also GoodReads’ Choice 2013 Winner.

Personally, I loved this story, otherwise I probably would not be writing a review of it. I usually only write reviews of books that I am inspired by. If I had read it during the time of the 30 Day Book Challenge, I probably would have chosen the unnamed narrator as my most relatable character, who buried himself in books of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland, who tried to understand the world around him through the books he read:

“Growing up, I took so many cues from books. They taught me most of what I knew about what people did, about how to behave. They were my teachers and my advisers.”


“I went away in my head, into a book. That was where I went whenever real life was too hard or too inflexible.”

I really never expected a seven-year-old boy to speak so many truths about how I see the world. But Gaiman captured perfectly in words how I felt about myself as an individual and how I also saw other human beings:

“I’m going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”

I relate so much to this quote ’cause I’ve understood for a long time that I will always be that nine-year-old self I was – as if that part of me is the smooth pebble stone and, accumulated over the years, is a thick layer of debris – the debris being culturally-imposed ideals and expectations and burdens – but underneath all that debris, I’m still a small smooth pebble.

So, what did I overall think of the novel? Let’s say I loved the first half of it thoroughly. I loved when Lettie took the narrator out into the fields and woods and the entire “worm hole” part. I loved (and hated) the moment when Ursula turned up to take care of the narrator and his sister – it felt like Matilda trapped in the house of Miss Trunchball.

However, I can’t really say that I liked Ursula’s true form, of the fabric with torn eyes, or her hovering in the sky – I felt less terrified than the seven-year-old narrator during those confrontational scenes. Maybe it’s because Gaiman does not give me enough palpable descriptions of her, or my imagination for horror is not as it used to be.

Also, the entire novel creates a lot of suspense and mystery towards what the “varmint”s were – and I kind of found myself less than terrified of them than I was of Ursula. So, because of these reasons I suppose, I preferred the first half of the novel to the second half. The ending however, was quite perfect. It tied the book together in a nice little string bow. It was especially perfect ’cause I turned to the next page, where the acknowledgment section lay, and read this line: “This book is the book you have just read. It’s done. Now we’re in the acknowledgments. This is not really part of the book. You do not have to read it. It’s mostly just names.” Actually, this line made me smile like a goofy idiot in the middle of the library.

At the end of the day, I say definitely give the novel a shot, especially if you’ve watched Coraline and found the narrative of that film captivating. And especially if you need some form of escapism. This book gave me a journey in the four hours I spent reading it. The writing is gorgeous and Gaiman understands a child’s mind so well – how things that cannot be understood are given different forms and names, and how sometimes a parent’s disapproval is more terrifying than the monsters a child creates in his or her own imagination.

Otherwise, if you are not a book person, I’m sure you’ll only have to wait a year or two for it to be made into a film, as it is currently in development in becoming one thanks to Focus Features, which bought the rights to the novel earlier last year. Personally, I can’t wait to see how Ursula and the varmint translate on screen. I personally hope they are more terrifying.

Also, let me know what Gaiman novels you suggest I read next! Or if there are any novels that are similar that are worth reading. For now, I’ve picked up Ann Leckie’s Ancilliary Justice from the library and that is my current novel.

Till next time!

cumuloq ❤

30DBC Day 30: Your favorite book of all time

Hi everyone!

Oh wow, the last day of the 30DBC! I will be posting up an overview/recap later today of everything I’ve chosen for this challenge. So look out for that! But, for the last time in this challenge, let me remind you to check out Rhey of Sunshine‘s blog for her all-time favourite book. We both thank you for reading and following us through. And if you are ever interested in taking part in this challenge yourself in the future, let me know so I can, in turn, check yours out!

Now, for my favourite book. I’m going to rewind a bit here all the way back to Day 17, where I was made to choose my favourite quote from my favourite book. For those who read it, I quoted this: “A river of words flowed between us.”

It’s a simple enough quote, nothing really too remarkable about it, honestly. But this is was the phrase that stuck out the most when I read my favourite book.

Here, let me give you the full quote that led up, and pass it:

As the weeks continued to pass, Art3mis and I spent more and more time together. Even when our avatars were doing other things, we were sending e-mails and instant messages to each other. A river of words flowed between us.

I wanted more than anything to meet her in the real world. Face-to- face. But I didn’t tell her this. I was certain she had strong feelings for me, but she also kept me at a distance. No matter how much I revealed about myself to her—and I wound up revealing just about everything, including my real name—she always adamantly refused to reveal any details about her own life … My whole relationship with Art3mis was in defiance of all common sense.

And where is this from?

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready-Player-One-cover-by-Ernest-ClineYes, and I actually wrote a book review of this right before doing the 30 Day Book Challenge. So essentially, we’ve come full circle.

There are so many geeky reasons why I love this book so much, and how it has so easily climbed up my list of favourites, which includes Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”, to make it to the top.

Ready Player One is a story about Wade Watts, a boy who lives in absolute poverty, in a world that is completely neglected and left to ruin. People instead, in this society, escape into a virtual world aptly named as the OASIS. The story kicks off when the creator of the OASIS, Halliday, dies and leaves behind clues and a game for a potential successor who will inherit his fortune and the OASIS for themselves. Wade is determined to find the easter egg that Halliday has created within the OASIS. This story tells of To check out more of what the book is about and my general (unbiased) review of it, click on the link above.

There were so many times during the 30dbc that I wanted to mention some parts of this book. It is by far one of my favourite books this year, I hope to someday read it at least three times (and hear it a million more in its audio version – which is read by Will Wheaton! Will freakin’ Wheaton!), there was an entire section that made me laugh like an idiot, there were bitter realisations that struck me deep and it honestly contains some of my favourite characters – some with amazing plot twists.

I mean, this book references so many 80s music it makes an entire soundtrack, one that you can actually look up and go listen to. It references so many movies that you can have an 80s marathon. It references so many games, you can totally geek out to them over an entire afternoon. It is even freakin’ meta, ’cause Cline created his own easter hunt game from the book that people are actually listed as winners of. So to me, this book is not just a book, you do not read it, you experience it.

Recently I watched WarGames (shown below) for the first time which was referenced in this book – and it was awesome.


I love some of Cline’s technological inventions in the game. My favourite being FlickSync – which is basically like karaoke but instead you are a character in your favourite movie and when you recite the right lines (especially in the right tone and with the right action) you get points. The object of the game is to recite the lines as well as possible to get the highest score. Wouldn’t you love to have that in real life?

Another reason why I love the book is that it is so neatly laid out in terms of plot – find the three keys and unlock the three gates and you’ll get Halliday’s ultimate prize. Yet, at the same time, there are so many thrilling moments, sometimes you forget about the plot entirely. Personally, I found it such an immersive experience.

Ultimately what I love about it is that, even though Wade is entirely engulfed by pop culture, by technological advancement, by games, Cline does not fail to reveal the double-edged sword of the world he has created. Every moment I am in awe at the beauty of the OASIS, I am also reminded that Wade is incredibly alone, incredibly poor and incredibly lost. He grew up in this virtual world – and while you admire the technology, you pity him.

So Ready Player One is definitely my favourite book – it was everything Ender’s Game failed to be. It showed promise the very first time I saw the cover of it and I was not disappointed in the least when I finally read it. The only problem now is that I’m in the search of an equally enticing sci-fi novel.

Till next time,

cumuloq ❤

30DBC Day 29: A book everyone hated but you liked

Hi everyone!

So, this is the penultimate day of the 30DBC, if you have been reading all – or heck, most – of my posts for this challenge so far, I thank you for following along. Even more so if you’ve also been following Rhey of Sunshine‘s blog.

Today’s challenge is on the book I liked that everyone else hated. Personally, I don’t think this scenario exists. Unless you did like Twilight. Otherwise, it’s pretty much impossible for everyone to hate a certain book. There will always be the classic book camp and there will always be the teen novel camp, and those in between, and one may hate the other but mutual hate does not really exist. And if it did, there is a strong likelihood that I hated that book to, so that’s pretty much a moot point.

So the closest situation I could think of in which there was a text I liked but everyone seemed to hate is …

Self Reliance and Other Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson

9781566196987_p0_v1_s260x420Okay, so let me begin with my story: It was the first year in uni and we had to read Emerson’s essays early in the semester for one week for my American Literature course. And, like the diligent student I am, I read them, specifically “Self-Reliance”, “Circles” (by accident, even though it wasn’t on the reading list but it was so good), “The Poet” and “History”, and I just remembered being sent into a transcendentalist journey.

The essays are like 19th century self-help or self-exploration articles. They spoke of living in the moment, being satisified with the person you are and to not be over-involved in the concerns of society but instead to be appreciative of what is around you.

And then I had to go for the lecture that week to discuss it, and I was so excited to discuss the philosophy behind it – and, to my utter astonishment, it seemed like everyone there just absolutely hated it.

They could not read past half a page, they did not understand anything Emerson was saying, they did not like the fact that there really was a clear argument to his essays (although that is not what essays are always about!) or they just did not like transcendentalism as a whole. And I could not understand it – who could not agree with what Emerson says? Even in the most superficial sense of his words?

Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say “I think,” “I am,” but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.” 
― Ralph Waldo EmersonSelf-Reliance and Other Essays

To me, there are so many passages quotable from Emerson’s essays and so many concepts to reflect upon. But, I can, to some extent, understand their qualms with his writing. Emerson does not write in the most direct manner – sometimes you lose the point in his speech – you forget what exactly he is trying to say, he crafts sentences in squiggles rather than straight lines.

But isn’t that the point of it? It’s to not to be concerned with what has passed or what is in the future, but to live in the words themselves.

I would recommend anyone to try reading one of Emerson’s essays (Here, let me provide a link) – sit down in a comfortable place, preferably near a window that looks out at some greenery, and with a nice warm cup of coffee and tea, and just read. They aren’t long, and they don’t take long to read (they take longer to think about), and they are a goldmine of beautiful quotes and reflections.

So, I’ll catch you guys tomorrow for the finale – the last challenge of the 30 Day Book Challenge.

Till next time!

cumuloq ❤

30DBC Day 28: Favorite title

Hi guys!

It’s becoming all too real now, that this 30 Day Book Challenge is almost over. And today I’m covering my favourite title, which is …

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell JarI took this challenge as my ideal title for a novel, a title that just summarises everything perfectly, a title that just resonates, a title you cannot forget. I have to say that from the first time I heard of the title, The Bell Jar, I fell in love with it. It intrigued me. And yes, they say that you should not judge a book by its cover, and that includes its title, but I would be lying if I said I do not go into the bookstores and scan the shelves, and stroke the spines of books for wonderful titles. The more mystique it holds, the more it just captivates me. And The Bell Jar did just that.

“What is a bell jar? And what does the story have to do with one?”

And then, in one of my uni courses, I had the absolute pleasure to finally read it, and find out …

To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is a bad dream.” 


because wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.” 

and, lastly,

But I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t sure at all. How did I know that someday―at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere―the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again?” 

Lisa The Bell JarFirstly, a bell jar is exactly how you would imagine it to be, an upside down jar, shaped like a bell that creates a vacuum effect. It preserves whatever is in it; anything within remains trapped in time and space, separated from the outside world. And this image is perfect for the protagonist, Esther Greenwood, who suffers from clinical depression.

She feels absolutely confined in this metaphorical bell jar, stuck within her own head. Every day to her is one of stagnant, stale thoughts, with no escape.

I love the metaphor because it shows how you can still be stuck in your head yet others can barely see it – you can still look at society (although through somewhat distorted images), and they can still see you. There is nothing apart there that is hindering an individual from being a member of society. Yet at the same time you know you will never be a part of them, you will never feel like them, and they, in turn, knowing your condition, will see you as something fragile and something that will not be a part of them.

Hence, the title is perfect – it reflects someone trapped. It calls to those who feel trapped in a pocket within society – which is obviously any individual. ‘Cause I know I definitely feel that I will never feel like everyone else in society. I, by no means, have the same aspirations and wants as everyone else in society. But then, doesn’t everyone share the same sentiments? Yet at the same time, aren’t we all reluctant to voice this out? Then, aren’t we all sort of living separate bubbles of lives with distorted thoughts of one another? It’s just so compelling to think of the world like this.

Even more so, it’s compelling to think that, since we were born, we are able to think an infinite number of thoughts yet in a finite way – in our way. And the same thoughts that strike us the most keep swimming in our head. And if we are never inspired by anything, then these same thoughts will continue to dangerously float in our heads. And we sit there, among our thoughts, ruminating, as they stifle us like tiny droplets of humidity that cling on the inner surface of the bell jar.

And – I think after those two paragraphs – it is evident that the title, The Bell Jar, is able to manifest so many different images in one’s mind. And this is the reason why it is one of my favourite titles. It is one subtle metaphor, but it is a powerful one. I think Sylvia Plath would have been proud to have grown mushrooms (referencing a Plath poem here: “Perfectly voiceless, / Widen the crannies”, and not drugs) in my mind.

So, for more wonderful titles, go take a look at Rhey of Sunshine‘s blog. And I’ll catch you tomorrow for the penultimate challenge.

Till next time!

cumuloq ❤