Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Title: Everything, Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
ISBN: 0553496646
Published: Delacorte Press, September 1, 2015
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Main Characters: Madeline, Olly, Carla, Pauline

Synopsis: You’ve heard of Bubble Boy… well, here comes Bubble Girl. Afflicted from a young age with SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency), Madeline is allergic to everything. She’s never been outside. She’s never felt the wind on her skin, treasured the cool lap of an ocean wave, smelled the freshly cut grass. Her mother, a doctor, is her caretaker and best friend. Only friend, really– until a new family moves in next door. Madeline finally realizes there is more to life than what she’s been living, but she must decide what’s worth risking her life for. Is anything? Is everything?

Memorable Quotes:

  • We are awkward together for a few moments, unsure what to say. The silence would be much less noticeable over IM. We could chalk it up to any number of distractions. But right now, in real life, it feels like we both have blank thought balloons over our head. Actually, mine’s not blank at all, but I really can’t tell him how beautiful his eyes are. They’re Atlantic Ocean blue, just like he said. It’s strange because of course I’d known that. But the difference between knowing it and seeing them in person is the difference between dreaming of flying and flight.
  • He leans his forehead against mine. His breath is warm against my nose and cheeks. It’s slightly sweet. The kind of sweet that makes you want more.
    “Is it always like that?” I ask, breathless.
    “No,” he says. “It’s never like that.” I hear the wonder in his voice.
    And just like that, everything changes.
  • “They tried to stop me. They said it wasn’t worth my life, but I said that it was my life, and it was up to me to decide what it was worth. I said I was going to go and either I was going to die or I was going to get a better life.”
  • “Maybe growing up means disappointing the people we love.”
  • My heart is too bruised and I want to keep the pain as a reminder. I don’t want sunlight on it. I don’t want it to heal. Because if it does, I might be tempted to use it again.

Review: I haven’t reviewed anything in over a year. I’m terribly sorry. I haven’t been reading very much, either. Went through some shit. Left the country for the first time. But anyway, I figured this was a good book to come back with. There will be slight spoilers in the below.

If you’re looking for a book that will remind you what your priorities in life should be, this is the one you want.

I tend to judge books based on their ability to make me cry. A book can still be good if it doesn’t, absolutely. But I’m not much of a crier, and it takes a lot to set me off. Whether it’s a sensation of awe, or grief, or unfairness, something that just hits a little too close to home… This book was none of those things, though. I was crying and I didn’t even know why. I still don’t, and I finished it last night.

So, long story short, Bubble Girl meets Boy From Outside and risks her entire existence to be with him. Okay, it’s not that simple. It’s not just about him, and she knows that. What he does is give her a taste of what life could–should– be like. And life isn’t trapped inside her white, air-filtered room. Madeline notes that she’s happy, but she’s not alive. And she never realized there was a difference until she meets Olly.

I can’t relate to her situation, of course. I’ve never been forcibly trapped in a house with an airlock. (Forcibly? What a great plot twist, right?) But I definitely don’t live my life the way I could.

We spend so much time in our own little worlds. We don’t take risks. We don’t appreciate what we’ve got until it’s gone.

I read an article recently about a billionaire doctor who contracted a terminal illness. And he said that suddenly, none of it mattered– not his mansion, his fancy cars, all the things money could buy. And of course it was a little aggrandized, like this guy had spirits come to him in his sleep and tell him what life was really about blah blah… but what matters is that he got there, you know? He came to the realization that all that was important in life are the people you surround yourself with, the people you love. And he’d wasted so much time…

I never want to be that person. I want to take every step of my life with love. Just because I haven’t managed to find my life partner yet doesn’t mean I can’t express that love in other ways. Friends. Family. Animals. The planet.

I’ve carefully constructed a facade of cynicism and I’m tired of being that person. I believe in love and hope above all things– I always have– and I’m tired of hiding it. Maybe it makes me naive, or a dreamer, or somehow “lesser than.”

But I don’t care.

Do everything you do with love, and all the rest will flow.

“Love is worth everything. Everything.”

Rating: ★★★★★

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Illumicrate: What’s Inside

Hi guys! I just received my second Illumicrate, a wonderful quarterly subscription box for lovers of the Young Adult genre!*

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It’s a fabulous collection of stuff curated by just one person in the United Kingdom named Daphne. I don’t know how she does it, the thought and love put into each box is astonishing.

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For starters, obviously, it always comes with a book (and usually a signed bookplate or two to go with it). This round, we received When We Collided by Emery Lord (which you can expect a review on soon). Also included was a four-chapter sampler of Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer. According to the website, she tries to include brand-new books so the possibility of someone having already read it is very slim! (Also, they’re UK editions of the books, which is a pretty cool bonus for me since that’s definitely not something I’d ordinarily obtain.)

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This quarter’s box was filled with all sorts of lovely knick-knacks, most of which are exclusives from small businesses on Etsy (and/or similar websites). Here’s what the packing list says:

  • “To Be Read” List Notepad by Goodnight Boutique (exclusive) – keep track of your TBR pile and other bookish to-dos with this specially designed notepad
  • Ex Libris Stamp by Little Stamp Store (exclusive) – mark books from your library or create cards and tags with this gorgeous, versatile stamp
  • Book Club Mug by The Art of Escapism (exclusive) – great for indoor and outdoor use when discussing your latest reads
  • Readers Gonna Pin pin by Literary Emporium – display your reader status proudly with this adorable enamel pin
  • Bookworm clips by My Bookish Mark (exclusive) – use these little cuties to mark your place in books or planners

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Not mentioned on the packing list:

  • 4-mini-button set from author Jenny McLachlan
  • postcard featuring #mystery&mayhem, which appears to be a collaboration of twelve authors
  • set of postcards (or placards, moreso) that match the art from the Emery Lord novel, featuring quotes from said novel
  • card with excerpt from The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, entitled “How to Make A Wormhole”
  • on the back of the card is a recipe for the cinnamon muffins from the aforementioned novel (makes 12 muffins, which I will probably make and eat ALL BY MYSELF)

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That about cover this quarter’s contents! I’m really excited to dive into the book (and to check out The Square Root of Summer and eat muffins while I read). Thanks to Illumicrate for another stunning creation; can’t wait for the next one!

* I am not receiving anything for reviewing this, I’m just doing it BECAUSE IT’S AWESOME.

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Review: The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

Title: The Midnight Watch
Author: David Dyer
Genre: Historical Fiction
ISBN: 9781250080936
Published: April 5, 2016 St. Martin’s Press
PurchaseAmazon, Barnes & Noble

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Hi guys, I just finished a review of this amazing book for a blog I write for called PopCityLife!

Check it out here!

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Review: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

Title: We All Looked Up
Author: Tommy Wallach
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 978-1-4814-1877-5
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2015
Purchase: Amazon, Simon & Schuster
Bonus: Full-length companion album

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Main Characters: Peter, Eliza, Andy, Anita

Synopsis: One evening, a blue-tinted star appears in the sky. Not “appears” as in something only careful astronomers and amateur star-charters would notice, but “appears” as in everyone on the planet notices at pretty much the same time and won’t stop talking about it. It’s only a couple weeks before NASA tells the world that yes, it might hit us. In fact, there’s a 2/3 chance that it will. What would you do in the months leading up to impending doom? Wallach’s novel, told through multiple perspectives, takes us through the lives of four teens and their friends as they try and figure out what’s worth keeping around… either for the continuation of the world, or the end of it.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “… The best books, they don’t talk about things you never thought about before. They talk about things you’d always thought about, but that you didn’t think anyone else had thought about. You read them, and suddenly you’re a little bit less alone in the world. You’re part of this cosmic community of people who’ve thought about this thing, whatever it happens to be. I think that’s what happened to you today. This fear, of squandering your future, was already on your mind. I just underlined it for you.”
  • She believed photography to be the greatest of all art forms because it was simultaneously junk food and gourmet cuisine, because you could snap dozens of pictures in a couple hours, then spend dozens of hours perfecting just a couple of them. She loved how what began as an act of the imagination turned into a systematic series of operations, organized and ordered and clear, mixing up the processing bath, developing the negatives, choosing the best shots and expanding them, watching as the images appeared on the blank white paper as if in some kind of backward laundromat– a billowing line of clean sheets slowly developing stains, then hung up until those stains were fixed forever. And then there was the setting, crepuscular and shadowy, everything about it perfectly calibrated for creativity, from the sultry red glow of the darkroom lights to the still and shallow pool in which her prints rested like dead leaves on the surface of a pond…
  • … “Anita, do you every worry that you’re wasting your life?”
    … “I think everybody does,” Anita said. “But we’re only eighteen. You can’t have wasted your life at eighteen. We haven’t even lived our lives yet.”
    “But you have to decide, you know? It’s like that poem with the road in the woods. You don’t want to end up running down the wrong road, because you’ll probably never get back to that place again. The place where the road splits, I mean.”
    “Actually, the point of that poem is that it doesn’t really matter which road you pick.”
  • After it was over, Peter sat on the couch and let his mom hold him. His dad kept changing the channels on the TV, hoping to find someone able to contradict some parts of the president’s speech. Both of them were crying, his mom steady as a stream, his dad like an imperfectly sealed pipe– just a slow drip around the edges. Peter loved his parents, but right then he would’ve given anything to get away from them. Their anxiety burned away all the oxygen in the room; his own feelings couldn’t breathe. He was only eighteen! There were so many things he hadn’t experienced yet– world travel, bungee jumping, sushi. And what the hell had he been waiting for? Why had he assumed time was some sort of infinite resource? Now the hourglass had busted open, and what he’d always assumed was just a bunch of sand turned out to be a million tiny diamonds.

Review: This book was an easy sell. I was intrigued by the cover, first of all, and then I flipped it open to read the blurb. I didn’t even read the first part, but my eyes were immediately drawn to: “They said the asteroid would be here in two months.” That was all I needed. Bam. Sold.

I’m going to throw it back a bit here, but do any of you remember Animorphs? You know, that series about the kids that were able to turn into animals to save the world from the invading aliens? Anyway, that’s one of my favorite series of all time, and its author, K.A. Applegate, has continued to write books that blow my mind. Shortly after Animorphs ended, she released a series called Remnants. It didn’t quite have the longevity of Animorphs, but the first book in the series began with a similar premise to We All Looked Up: the end of the world. An asteroid impact. The rest of Remnants involves the 100 or so people chosen to escape the planet on a dilapidated space shuttle and their adventures once cryostatis wakes them up 500 years later, which is pretty divergent from WALU, but anyway. The point is that Remnants #1 is absolutely one of my all-time favorite books (within the top 10) and it’s a brilliant reflection on human nature.

Which is to say, that human nature is unpredictable. There is no “default” setting for human nature. What you assume humans are going to do… well, they won’t. Some will. Others will exist completely outside the realm of plausibility.

WALU follows the story of four interconnected teens and their lives leading up to the Big Impact. The book begins with Peter, already having an existential crisis before the asteroid even appears in the night sky; obviously, learning that there’s a 66% chance that humanity will be wiped out just like the dinosaurs doesn’t do much to help him.

Anita is perfect. She gets perfect grades, has a perfect family, always looks perfect. But she’s tired of being perfect. She gets a C on a test for the first time ever, just to see how her parents will react. Spoiler: it’s not good.

Eliza’s home life sucks, so she’s taken to meeting boys at clubs and sleeping with them, just so she can feel something. To try and make someone care. But ultimately, no one seems to.

Andy is torn between loyalty to the guy who has always been his best friend, and the knowledge that his best friend is … well, not a good person. Andy wants to help Bobo, but might soon realize that Bobo is either beyond help or just not worth saving…

One of my favorite aspects of the book was the descriptions of what other people were doing. The randoms. The people you’ve never met and undoubtedly never will. Strangers in cities, strangers on islands, strangers in penthouses, and strangers on the street. Some, like Peter’s parents in the quote above, can’t find it in themselves to do anything but cry. They fall into the pit of depression, of hopelessness, of “what’s the point,” and there’s no one who can help them climb back out. Others decide it’s finally their chance to do whatever the hell they want; what’s a two-week jail stay in the long run? It’s all going to burn anyway. Others, though, others spread love: tell their loved ones they love them, make an effort to DO those last things on their bucket lists, find the money or the excuses to visit those beautiful places they’ve only dreamed about.

Not that any of those is a right or wrong response, really, which is sort of the point. You can’t predict how you’ll react. Honestly. You can ponder it day and night for the next 50 years but until it actually happens to you, you just don’t know.

Spoiler: the book ends before the meteor hits. Or doesn’t hit. I was slightly disappointed at first, because come on that’s the best part– but then I realized that the moral of the story is that it doesn’t matter. What matters is the person you are leading up to that moment. You can die in jail, or you can spend the next seventy years in jail. Or you can fill your life with light and love and go out surrounded by the people you care about the most… or if the world doesn’t end, wake up to a new world surrounded by the people you love.

Which one sounds better to you?

Rating: ★★★★½

P.S. The author is also a great musician, and he wrote an album to go along with the book. Check it out on bandcamp! You can download it for $5, or if you really love it, get yourself the vinyl for $20. Why not? After all, life is short.

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Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-553-45938-8
Published: Random House, 2011
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

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Main Characters: Wade/Parzival, Art3mis, Aech

Synopsis: In the not-so-distant future, technology companies own… well, pretty much everything. The development of fully-immersive virtual-reality gaming (the OASIS) catapulted its inventor to multi-billionaire-dom, and while he used his wealth and power for good, there are plenty of others who would like to obtain and use that power for evil. Wade, known in-game as Parzival, is a very average kid: his home life sucks, so he spends most of his time in the virtual world. When an opportunity arises to solve the world’s biggest virtual riddle and inherit the billions of dollars the OASIS’ founder has left behind, Wade jumps at it. Can Wade solve the riddle and change his future forever, or will the evil corporations and their less-than-orthodox methods win out?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “You’re probably wondering what’s going to happen to you. That’s easy. The same thing is going to happen to you that has happened to every other human being who has ever lived. You’re going to die. We all die. That’s just how it is.”
  • “Very well!” he said. “You shall prove your worth by facing me in a joust!” I’d never heard of an undead lich king challenging someone to a joust. Especially not in a subterranean burial chamber.
    “All right,” I said uncertainly. “But won’t we be needing horses for that?”
    “Not horses,” he replied, stepping away from his throne. “Birds.”
  • I considered giving them what they wanted. I really did. But I thought it through, and I couldn’t come up with a single good reason why they would let me live, even if I helped them clear the First Gate. The only move that made sense was to kill me and take me out of the running. They sure as hell weren’t going to give me five million dollars, or leave me alive to tell the media how IOI had blackmailed me. Especially if there really was a remote-controlled bomb planted in my trailer to serve as evidence.
  • I felt no shame about masturbating. Thanks to Anorak’s Almanac, I now thought of it as a normal bodily function, as necessary and natural as sleeping or eating.
    I would argue that masturbation is the human animal’s most important adaptation. The very cornerstone of our technological civilization. Our hands evolved to grip tools, all right—including our own. You see, thinkers, inventors, and scientists are usually geeks, and geeks have a harder time getting laid than anyone. Without the built-in sexual release valve provided by masturbation, it’s doubtful that early humans would have ever mastered the secrets of fire or discovered the wheel. And you can bet that Galileo, Newton, and Einstein never would have made their discoveries if they hadn’t first been able to clear their heads by slapping the salami (or “knocking a few protons off the old hydrogen atom”). The same goes for Marie Curie. Before she discovered radium, you can be certain she first discovered the little man in the canoe.
    It wasn’t one of Halliday’s more popular theories, but I liked it.
  • I sat there in my stronghold, staring at the monitors, watching all of this unfold in stunned horror. There was no denying it. The end of the contest was at hand. And it wasn’t going to end like I’d always thought it would, with some noble, worthy gunter finding the egg and winning the prize. I’d been kidding myself for the past five and a half years. We all had. This story was not going to have a happy ending. The bad guys were going to win.

Review: I received this book as part of a LootCrate and it took me an embarrassingly long time to get around to reading it. Like, on the order of months. I hadn’t heard anything about it and wasn’t really intrigued by the blurb on the back, and honestly, I thought it might’ve been too geeky for me! I play a myriad of video games across all kinds of genres (like World of Warcraft, Transistor, Borderlands, Counter-Strike, what have you), which… okay, yeah, I’m pretty geeky. But I’ve never delved into the lore of such games, and I figured that’s the kind of thing this book would be about.

Then one day I was staring at my shelves, trying to decide what to read, and this was one of the few left untouched. So I grabbed it, and it did not leave my side until I’d finished it. I carried it around in my purse for a few days– to work, to dinners, and then up and down the steps with me at home. It was so, so quick to catapult itself to the top of my favorite books list that I was almost in shock. My review on GoodReads was quite brief, amounting to: “This is it. This is my favorite book in the world.” Let me tell you a bit about it.

As I mentioned in my synopsis, we begin in the not-so-distant future: the year 2044, to be precise. The world is quite different. The wage gap continued to grow and numerous environmental crises took root. There are few habitable areas left, and those that do exist are wrought with poverty. There’s pretty much one place left in the United States where there’s any sort of money or power, and it’s in Columbus, Ohio. Most people’s lives are pretty shitty, and most people take to the OASIS to escape. That’s the name of the fully-immersive virtual-reality world created by James Halliday, which quickly became the go-to computer operating system in the world, and made Halliday the king atop a pile of gold. (Well, not literally. But he wound up kinda rich. Like, the most rich.) However, the OASIS is a free service. You have to buy the computers and headsets, of course, and the internet, but once you can log on, you’re home free.

At any rate, Halliday died (like people are wont to do), and instead of a will, he left a riddle. A riddle that would culminate in the finding of a golden egg. A riddle so ridiculously intricate that it was five whole years before anyone managed to figure out the very first steps. Five years of studying every piece of 80s trivia available (Halliday’s favorite era), five years of studying gameplay of video games long since forgotten, and five years of “gunters” (egg-hunters) slowly throwing their hands up in defeat.

Wade, our hero, thinks it could be him. He’s a smart kid, and he’s put in some hard work. He spends all his free time on the OASIS, either attending virtual school or ingesting more potentially-useless trivia. There’s no real reason for him to go anywhere else, because he lives in a trailer stacked atop approximately twenty others, and he lives with his aunt, who doesn’t seem to care what he does. Pretty much his only possessions are the interfaces that allow him to connect to the OASIS, and he’s got them sequestered away in his hideout, which is pretty much a cave deep within a pile of old, rusting cars.

But not even Wade realizes what will happen the instant his username appears in the first-place slot, or what dangers will arise. It’s been blank for five years, and there are some people– or companies (companies are people, right? Right…?)– who would do anything to get their hands on the golden egg (and Halliday’s fortune). Namely IOI (Innovative Online Industries), the internet service provider that has monopolized that industry, headquartered in the only city left in the United States that isn’t a slum: Columbus, Ohio. The IOI wants Halliday’s money. They want his legacy. They want to make even more money by being able to charge people to log into the OASIS. And they want it really, really badly.

Badly enough to kill.

Wade has never really had a problem going it alone, but he had met some online friends along the way. One such friend is Aech, whose whereabouts are unknown but has always been there for Wade as a gaming partner or a confidant. Aech is pretty equally matched with Wade in terms of 80s knowledge and video game expertise. They’ve spent the past few years collaborating on their research, but decided that if they’d figured out the first steps, they’d keep it to themselves. Nothing like a little friendly competition, right? But they’ve got plenty of learning to do about each other, first, and when Wade’s situation turns desperate and he winds up turning to the real-world Aech for help… well, let’s just say there are surprises in store for both of them.

A second person he meets along the way is Art3mis, the wickedly intelligent blogger who Wade had always admired from the safety of his terminal but had never attempted to interact with. When he runs into her virtual avatar outside the tomb where the first clue is located, they begrudgingly spark a friendship that quickly turns into something else… or does it?

I really don’t want to give away too much here. I want you to read this book. I want you to love it. I was barely alive in the 80s (late ’88) so some of the references are lost on me, but a lot of it is stuff that is firmly ingrained into the public consciousness and won’t be going away any time soon! And look, it’s 2016– if you don’t know what something is, you can flop the book down and open a new tab for Google. There’s no excuse for not “getting” anything that happens in this novel. Besides, if people in 2044 are still loving the 80s, you can too!

The point is that I loved this book. I loved it so much. The ending made me bawl. Like, flat-out “put the book down and cry”-cry. And that is honestly not something that books can achieve for me very often. I want to buy this book for every person I know. Actually, I started toward that goal today– I was at Books Inc. in Mountain View this evening with my friend Alex, and I bought it for her. I hope she loves it as much as I did.

A lot of this story rang true for me because I’ve been there. I’ve gotten lost in the virtual world. It allows you to be a person you can’t be in real life– to fly, to use magic, to be strong– and allows you to see places straight out of other people’s dreams. I’ve met so many people through virtual platforms, friends and lovers alike. I started playing World of Warcraft in 2009 and I still talk to people from my first guild on a regular basis. Sometimes the friends you make are thousands of miles away, but it’s never stopped any of them from being there for me when I needed them most. Just like Wade’s friends.

Whether you’re a gamer or not, I hope this book inspires you to take the first steps of something. Maybe nothing so drastic as a challenge to win yourself billions of dollars, but maybe something you’ve always wanted. Make an effort to meet the person you’re in love with… for real. Change your stripes. Write a book. Record an album. Do something, but do it because life is short and it will be worth it. I promise.

Rating: ★★★★★+

P.S. they’re making a movie out of this, due in 2017. You’ll want to have read the book first. I’m hoping the movie will be awesome but as we all know, it’s never quite as awesome as the book. 🙂

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Hello!

Sorry I wasn’t very active last year! It wasn’t because I wasn’t reading, but mostly because I hadn’t really read anything new, or up-and-coming, or frankly worth reviewing.

I’ve got some posts queued in the pipeline that should begin posting tomorrow! They’re books I read a few months ago but that were so phenomenally amazing that they’ve stuck with me. They’re embedded within me, even.

The first one is going to be for Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which rapidly ascended the ranks to become my current favorite book. Maybe even my favorite book of all-time. So much so that I honestly want to buy a copy for everyone I know… hey! Maybe I’ll do a giveaway! (Seriously, it’s great.)

After that will be a book called We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach. This one was equally amazing and deals with some of my favorite themes– how do people act in the face of certain destruction? As you can guess, the answer is… unpredictable. It was another great book I couldn’t put down and I’m excited to share my thoughts with all of you.

At any rate, stay tuned! I haven’t gone anywhere and I pledge to you to be more active for 2016!

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Excerpt: “Just One Year” by Gayle Forman

Here’s a bit of a companion piece to the excerpt I posted yesterday, told from Willem’s point of view.

Where Just One Day dwells on the couple’s meeting and Lulu’s time afterwards, Just One Year describes Willem’s year beginning with the day he and Lulu are separated.

From Just One Year by Gayle Forman, pages 174-175

“I think this whole falling in love business is a mistake,” Nawal continues. “I mean look at you.” He says it like an indictment.

“What about me?

“You are twenty-one and you are all alone.”

“I’m not all alone. I’m here with you.”

Nawal eyes me pitifully, reminding me that, pleasant as these days have been, he is here to sell something and I am here to buy something.

“You have no wife. And I’ll wager you have been in love. I’ll wager you have been in love many times like they always seem to be in Western films.”

“Actually, I have never been in love.” Nawal looks surprised at that, and I’m about to explain that while I haven’t been in love, I’ve fallen in love many times. That they’re separate entities entirely.

But then I stop. Because once again, I’m transported from the deserts of Rajasthan to that Paris café. I can almost hear the skepticism in Lulu’s voice when I’d told her: There’s a world of difference between falling in love and being in love. Then I’d dabbed the Nutella on her wrist, supposedly to demonstrate my point, but really because it had given me an excuse to see what she tasted like.

She’d laughed at me. She’d said the distinction between falling in love and being in love was bogus. It sounds like you just like to screw around. At least own that about yourself.

I smile at the memory of it, although Lulu, who had been right about me so much that day, was wrong about this. Yael had trained as a paratrooper in the Israeli Defense Forces, and she once described how it felt to jump out of a plane: hurtling through the air, the wind everywhere, the exhilaration, the speed, your stomach in your throat, the hard landing. It always seemed the exact right way to describe how things felt with girls– that wind and the exhilaration, the hurtling, the wanting, the freefall. And the abrupt end.

Oddly enough, though, that day with Lulu, it didn’t feel anything like falling. It felt like arriving.

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Excerpt: “Just One Day” by Gayle Forman

I’ve got a few excerpts I want to share with you all. These excerpts are really too long to be featured quotes in another article, so I’m going to make them their own posts.

I particularly loved this bit of the book. It’s a unique look on love versus… lust, perhaps, or maybe something entirely different. But it resonated with me, so I’d like to share it with you.

From Just One Day by Gayle Forman, pages 62-65

… “We just fell in love once.”

I take a gulp of my citron pressé— and choke on it. It turns out it’s not lemonade so much as lemon juice and water. Willem hands me a cube of sugar and a napkin.

Once?” I say when I recover.

“It was a while ago.”

“And now?”

“We are good friends. As you saw.”

I’m not sure that’s exactly what I saw.

“So you’re not in love with her anymore?” I run my fingers along the rim of my glass.

Willem looks at me. “I never said I was in love with her.”

“You just said you fell in love with her once.”

“And I did.”

I stare at him, confused.

“There is a world of difference, Lulu, between falling in love and being in love.”

I feel my face go hot, and I’m not entirely sure why. “Isn’t it just sequential– A follows B?”

“You have to fall in love to be in love, but falling in love isn’t the same as being in love.” Willem peers at me from under his lashes. “Have you ever fallen in love?”

Evan and I broke up the day after he mailed in his college tuition deposit. It wasn’t unexpected. Not really. We had already agreed we would break up when we went to college if we didn’t wind up in the same geographical area. And he was going to school in St. Louis. I was going to school in Boston. The thing I hadn’t expected was the timing. Evan decided it made more sense to “rip the bandage off” and break up not in June, when we graduated, or in August, when we’d leave for school, but in April.

But the thing is, aside from being sort of humiliated by the rumor that I’d been dumped and disappointed about missing prom, I wasn’t actually sad about losing Evan. I was surprisingly neutral about breaking up with my first boyfriend. It was like he’d never even been there. I didn’t miss him, and Melanie quickly filled up whatever gaps he’d left in the schedule.

“No,” I reply. “I’ve never been in love.”

Just then the waitress arrives with our crêpes. Mine is golden brown, wafting with the sweet tartness of lemon and sugar. I concentrate on that, cutting off a slice and popping it in my mouth. It melts on the tip of my tongue like a warm, sweet snowdrop.

“That’s not what I asked,” Willem says. “I asked if you’ve ever fallen in love.”

The playfulness in his voice is like an itch I just can’t scratch. I look at him, wondering if he always parses semantics like this.

Willem puts down his fork and knife. “This is falling in love.” With his finger, he swipes a bit of the Nutella from inside his crêpe and puts a dollop on the inside of my wrist. It is hot and oozy and starts to melt against my sticky skin, but before it has a chance to slither away, Willem licks his thumb and wipes the smear of Nutella off and pops it into his mouth. It all happens fast, like a lizard zapping a fly. “This is being in love.” And here he takes my other wrist, the one with my watch on it, and moves the watchband around until he sees what he’s looking for. Once again, he licks his thumb. Only this time, he rubs it against my birthmark, hard, as if trying to scrub it off.

“Being in love is a birthmark?” I joke as I retract my arm. But my voice has a tremble in it, and the place where his wet thumbprint is drying against my skin burns somehow.

“It’s something that never comes off, no matter how much you might want it to.”

“You’re comparing love to a… stain?”

He leans so far back in his seat that the front legs of his chair scrape off the floor. He looks very satisfied, with the crêpe or with himself, I’m not sure. “Exactly.”

I think of the coffee stain on his jeans. I think of Lady Macbeth and her, “Out damned spot,” stain, another speech I had to memorize for English. “‘Stain‘ just seems like an ugly word to describe love,” I tell him.

Willem just shrugs. “Maybe just in English. In Dutch, it’s vlek. In French, it’s tache.” He shakes his head, laughs. “No, still ugly.”

“How many languages have you been stained in?”

He licks his thumb again and reaches across the table for my wrist, where he missed the tiniest smudge of Nutella. This time he wipes it–me– clean. “None. It always comes off.” He scoops the rest of the crêpe into his mouth, taking the dull edge of his knife to scrape the Nutella off the plate. Then he runs his finger around the rim, smearing the last of it away.

“Right,” I say. “And why get stained when getting dirty is so much more fun?” I taste lemons in my mouth again, and I wonder where all the sweetness went.

Willem doesn’t say anything, just sips his coffee.

If you haven’t read the rest of this book, I hope this inspires you to pick it up. It’s a true gem.

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Review: Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

Title: Never Always Sometimes
Author: Adi Alsaid
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 0373211546
Published: Harlequin Teen, August 2015
Purchase: Amazon

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Main Characters: Dave, Julia, Gretchen

Synopsis: Dave and Julia are best friends. Nothing strange about that. Prior to the beginning of their high school careers, desperate to avoid turning into the cliché high schoolers you see on TV, they collaborate on a list: things they should Never Do. With three months left of their senior year, they decide that maybe it’s time to give the Nevers list another look…

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Well, it’s part of a longer quote, this really beautiful passage about how the best anyone can ever do is to leave the world a little better than you found it. It doesn’t matter how you do it. Invent a new toaster or reach out a helping hand; just, you know, leave it a little better than you found it.”
    Dave noticed that their knees were touching. Amazing what kind of warmth could come from such slight contact. “What book is it?”
    Timbuktu by Paul Auster,” she said. “I know it’s weird to say or even think this, but that book has made me who I am. Not entirely, obviously. It didn’t help me at soccer, or make me so good at telling jokes with a straight face. But certain lines felt like they were thoughts I’d had my whole life that just hadn’t taken shape yet until I read them. ‘A little better than you found it’ is how I see everything now. Not just the world, but everything. People, too. I want people I know to be a little better off than when I found them. God, that sounds pretentious, doesn’t it?”
  • How Julia had felt something so deeply for so long without knowing it herself was a mystery. As if love was a fugitive harboring in an attic, hidden even from the people residing in the house.
  • “That’s not enough,” Gretchen said after a moment. “To be sorry you hurt me is not enough for me to forgive you.”
  • Gretchen took a step closer to Dave, so she was less of a silhouette, the details of her face coming into focus. He couldn’t tell what she was feeling, if she was about to slap him or hug him. The moment stretched on and on without a clue as to what was on Gretchen’s mind. People walked all around them as if on fast-forward, like a film-editing trick. Dave realized he had no idea what was on anyone’s mind, not even a little.

Review:

It’s been a long time since I’ve read something so good that I actually wanted to accumulate the energy to review it. (It’s really hard to do this when your job sucks the life out of you, you guys. Hold out as long as you can.) But this book, especially the last third, resonated with me on a level that a novel hasn’t in quite a good while.

Spoilers ahead!

So, let’s face the facts: Dave and Julia are best friends. The book starts off in third-person-Dave, so we know right off the bat: he’s in love with her, he’s been in love with her as long as he can remember. He’s memorized her face, he’s tortured by her touch, he adores when she smiles (especially if he’s the one who caused it). When he and Julia decide to start breaking the Nevers, he can’t tell her that he’s been breaking one this whole time: #8. Never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school.

Most of the Nevers are silly, things that most kids in high school take for granted. Never go skinny-dipping. Never hook up with a teacher. Never go to a beer party. They’re fun to break, and any time spent with Julia is time well-spent, no matter what they’re doing. But when they get to the lower Nevers on the list, things start to get complicated. Never date your best friend. Can that one be broken? How? Why?

Dave meets Gretchen at a party and a few things fall into place: one, Julia is never going to feel for him the way he feels for her, and two, Gretchen is pretty awesome. She’s smart, funny, pretty, and genuine. And she’s interested in him.

Naturally, it takes the lightning bolt of seeing Dave and Gretchen together for Julia’s heart to kick-start into motion: she’s in love with Dave. Of course she is. But she can never tell him. Not now, not that he’s finally found someone he loves. Who wouldn’t love Dave? Julia expresses surprise that no one’s ever taken an interest in him before. He’s handsome, intelligent, funny… oh God, she’s so in love with him.

The dance of love/not-love/platonic love that follows in the wake of this revelation is fantastic, especially as someone who’s been through (is in the throes of) a similar scenario. Julia can’t hold down her feelings for long, and this culminates in a night of passion on a beach– a cliché to end all clichés, if we’re keeping score! Waking up with Julia in his arms was just as he’d dreamed it would be: perfect. It was perfect.

Before, when Dave had dreamed about love, this is what it looked like:

It was lazy. Love was lazy as hell. Love laid around in bed, warm from the sheets and the sunlight pouring into the room. Love was too lazy to get up to close the blinds. Love was too comfortable to get up and pee. Love took too many naps, it watched TV, but not really, because it was too busy kissing and napping. Love was also funny, which somehow made the bed more comfortable, the laughter warming the sheets, softening the mattress and the lover’s skin.

But. (There’s always a but.)

It isn’t long before Dave realizes something is off. As much as he loves Julia, as perfect as this friendship-turned-relationship has turned out, he can’t escape from the fact that when he’s looking at Julia, sometimes, just sometimes, he’s thinking of Gretchen. The doubts manifest into a dark cloud that follows him around, and he has to face the truth: that his affection for Gretchen had grown into something that not even this finally-requited love from Julia could squelch. For so long, Julia had been all he wanted– and now he’s gotten it, and he wants something else.

Gretchen gets hurt along the way, of course. It was unavoidable. As someone who is currently standing in Gretchen’s shoes and hasn’t gotten her happy ending yet, I almost couldn’t bring myself to finish this book because I couldn’t bear to find out how it ended. (Seriously, there were tears.) Would Dave make the right decision? Would he follow his heart to Gretchen, and where it would be truly happy? Or would his guilt, obligation, and fear of breaking Julia’s heart make him stay with her?

Spoiler: he makes the right decision.

In a scenario like this, someone getting hurt is unavoidable. But there comes a point where you can’t worry about the other people who will be hurt: you have to decide what’s best for you. It took a lot of courage for Dave, to break off this relationship with this person he’d wanted for as long as he could remember, who’d finally given him her entire heart. How could he ever hurt her? He’d already hurt Gretchen; that wasn’t the issue. But he had to figure out where his heart truly lay, and it was with Gretchen. To stay with Julia because… that was how he’d always wanted it, or because that’s how she wanted it, or because he didn’t want to hurt her… isn’t fair to either of them.

You’d be surprised how difficult this decision is for some people. Some people never make it. They settle. They never get to live a life less ordinary, or experience the difference between great love and mediocre love.

Jump. If you take one piece of advice from me, ever, it is to jump. Take that leap.

I’ll never fault anyone for following their heart.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Review: The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder

Title: The Museum of Intangible Things
Author: Wendy Wunder
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 1595145141
Published: Razorbill, April 2014
PurchaseAmazon, iBookstore

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Main Characters: Hannah, Zoe, Danny

Synopsis: Hannah and Zoe are best friends. They always have been and they always will be. In a classic case of “opposites atrract,” Zoe is the thunderstorm and Hannah is her lightning rod. When Zoe’s health issues take a turn for the worse, Hannah has to try and keep her friend safe while she sifts through her own shit: self-pity, daddy issues, and love. A whirlwind tour around the country carves etchings of jackalopes, buffalo, and casinos on each of our three characters’ hearts.

Memorable Quotes:

  • Whereas I am grounded and mired in this place, she’s like milkweed fluff that will take off with the first strong breeze. Stronger than fluff, though. She’s like a bullet just waiting for someone to pull the trigger.
  • So, what is the opposite of a “helicopter parent”? I wonder. A subway parent? A sinking ship parent? A hibernating bear?
  • “You’re a glass-is-half-empty kind of girl, aren’t you?”
    “No, not really. I just like surprises, so I keep my expectations low.”
    He seems to think for a moment and then says, “The difference is subtle.”
  • “Don’t break up with her. You don’t want any part of this,” I say, swirling my hand in the air. “I don’t mean to be presumptuous or anything, but you seem to be testing the waters. And these waters are seriously polluted. With scorpion venom and Crown Royal and all sorts of toxic whatnot. Stay with Rebecca.”
  • I’m reluctant to steal a car. And I’m really reluctant to steal a car from a McDonald’s employee whose entire paycheck goes into the upkeep of the car just so he can drive back to work. Like that story of Sisyphus rolling the rock up the hill and never getting anywhere.
  • “No, Zoe, it’s not enough,” I say, and I think how my love for Danny, at the outer limits, might last until he goes to college. My love for Zoe is supposed to last through graduations and weddings and baby showers and games of bridge. Forever.

Review: This is the greatest book I’ve read in a while. I’m sure you’ll notice the dearth of posts lately; it’s not that I haven’t been reading, but I haven’t come across anything that screams, “Review me! Tell the world how great I am!” This was definitely a yelling book.

I’m going to warn you straight off the bat, though, that this book does not have a happy ending. It’s not that kind of story. It’s a story that rings true, a tale of struggle. Zoe has bipolar disorder, and it’s about as bad as it gets: hallucinations and altered experiences. Hannah is Zoe’s rock, and has been since they were both very young. Hannah has seen Zoe’s disorder manifest itself over and over; she’s learned the signals, and she’s learned how to cope. How to help Zoe cope.

But this time, it’s not working. The Pippi stockings aren’t working. The threats of lithium aren’t working. The last stop on Hannah’s “Help Zoe” train, Zoe’s autistic little brother, Noah… isn’t working.

Zoe has her heart set on the college of her dreams: New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. She is a wizard of a seamstress, breaking fashion boundaries and helping the girls at the prep school keep their skirts too short. But somehow, Zoe isn’t accepted, and something inside of her snaps. She blows out of town like a hurricane, dragging stick-in-the-mud Hannah along with her.

Hannah has her own crap she’s in the middle of, though. She’s been hauling a hot dog stand around town for two summers, trying to earn enough money to attend the local community college. Her mom is poor, and her dad is squandering every cent he makes on booze when he’s not attending AA meetings or being a weatherman. After an on-air meltdown, Hannah discovers that her father has siphoned her hot dog money. All $2000 of it.

So, what the hell? Why not run off with Zoe? It’ll only be for a day or two tops, right? It’ll give her time to cool off, time to think of some way to face her father without smashing his head in. Or sending him to rest peacefully at the bottom of the lake, which is where her hot dog stand now resides.

Except Zoe doesn’t want to turn around. When she’s not turning the car north to follow tornadoes, she’s turning it west to chase buffalo. She’s setting Kermit the Frog free the night before the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. She’s bleaching her hair blonde in a Walmart bathroom on Black Friday. Above all, though, she’s not eating. Or sleeping. She doesn’t need to anymore, she tells Hannah. The aliens have been reformatting her DNA.

Hannah has to match her every step, because she doesn’t know what else to do.

Is Zoe crazy? What is crazy? If someone creates a world for themselves that’s better than the one they’re in, can you really blame them? She’s not harming anyone– except, okay, maybe the elderly security guard at IKEA whom she tazed in the middle of the night. Except herself, as she continues her path into starvation and sleepless madness. But she’s Hannah’s best friend. She’s the girl who creates museums in her basement for her brother to understand emotions. She’s the girl who teaches Hannah the meanings of audacity. Gluttony. Destiny. Betrayal. Insouciance. None of the meanings that you can glean from a dictionary, but the meanings that invoke life.

“If you won’t come with me, I’ll go with you,” Hannah tells Zoe. When forced to make a choice, I chose her.

Rating: ★★★★★

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