Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Title: Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-307-58837-1
Published: Broadway Books (Random House), 2012
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

gone girl

Main Characters: Amy, Nick

Synopsis: Nick and Amy appear to have the perfect marriage. They’ve got it all: looks, money, love. But one morning, Amy has disappeared, and all that is left are signs of a struggle. Was their marriage really as good as it looked? Is Amy dead or just missing? Is Nick the fragile, worried husband or is he… a killer?

Memorable Quotes:

  • They’re baffled by my singleness. A smart, pretty, nice girl like me, a girl with so many interests and enthusiasms, a cool job, a loving family … I know that they secretly think there’s something wrong with me, something hidden away that makes me unsatisfiable, unsatisfying. (Amy, p. 29)
  • I know I am going to be angry– that quick inhale, the lips going tight, the shoulders up, the I so don’t want to be mad but I’m going to be feeling. Do men not know that feeling? You don’t want to be mad, but you’re obligated to be, almost. (Amy, p.65)
  • I have never been a nag. I have always been rather proud of my un-nagginess. So it pisses me off, that Nick is forcing me to nag. I am willing to live with a certain amount of sloppiness, of laziness, of the lackadaisical life. I realize that I am more type-A than Nick, and I try to be careful not to inflict my neat-freaky, to-do-list nature on him. Nick is not the kind of guy who is going to think to vacuum or clean out the fridge. He truly doesn’t see that stuff. Fine. Really. But I do like a certain standard of living– I think it’s fair to say the garbage shouldn’t literally overflow, and the plates shouldn’t sit in the sink for a week with smears of bean burrito dried on them. That’s just being a good grown-up roommate. And Nick’s not doing anything anymore, so I have to nag, and it pisses me off. (Amy, p. 85)
  • My husband is the most loyal man on the planet until he’s not. I’ve seen his eyes literally turn a shade darker when he’s felt betrayed by a friend, even a dear longtime friend, and then the friend is never mentioned again. He looked at me then like I was an object to be jettisoned if necessary. It actually chilled me, that look. (Amy, p. 100)
  • Until Nick, I’d never really felt like a person, because I was always a product. Amazing Amy has to be brilliant, creative, kind, thoughtful, witty, and happy. We just want you to be happy. Rand and Marybeth said that all the time, but they never explained how. So many lessons and opportunities and advantages, and they never taught me how to be happy. I remember always being baffled by other children. I would be at a birthday party and watch the other kids giggling and making faces, and I would try to do that too, but I wouldn’t understand why. I would sit there with the tight elastic thread of the birthday hat parting the pudge of my underchin, with the grainy frosting of the cake bluing my teeth, and I would try to figure out why it was fun. (Amy, p. 224)
  • My body was a beautiful, perfect economy, every feature calibrated, everything in balance. I don’t miss it. I don’t miss men looking at me. It’s a relief to walk into a convenience store and walk right back out without some hangabout in sleeveless flannel leering as I leave, some muttered bit of misogyny slipping from him like a nacho-cheese burp. Now no one is rude to me, but no one is nice to me either. No one goes out of their way, not overly, not really, not the way they used to. (Amy, p. 250)

Review: My friend Caroline and I picked this up at the bookstore a couple weeks ago. I hate seeing a movie adaptation before reading the book; I’d rather have the book ruin the movie than the other way around. We were going to read it together and do our own personal sort of book club, but she works a lot more than I do and I simply couldn’t put this book down. Caroline, stop reading this right now and finish your book!

If you’re planning on seeing the movie and haven’t read the book yet, I’d advise you don’t read this review. Spoilers ahoy.

First and foremost, this book is a masterful piece of work. Amy is a masterful piece of work. Nick is a smarmy, spoiled baboon along for the ride.

Amy is… brilliant. She’s sharp, conniving, and knows what Nick is going to do before he even thinks about it. Amy does not like to be taken for a fool, and when she finds out that Nick is cheating on her with a ditzy twenty-three year old, she sets her sights on the ultimate revenge. She spends an entire year crafting this; every single spoken phrase, every single action is meticulously calculated. She doesn’t move unless she knows how it will be read once the plan is set in motion.What’s the plan? Why, to frame her husband for her murder, of course.

Like I said, Amy is meticulous. Her husband thinks she’s got an adorable affection for crime novels, but she’s really doing her research. She spends her evening writing a fake diary for the cops to find; she picks out real events from their shared history and twists them just slightly in her favor. She mentions real historic events that were happening at the time, things that would be sourced to ensure their plausibility. In the diary, she mentions feeling sick, describing textbook symptoms of antifreeze poisioning: yes, that’s right, she poisoned herself with antifreeze, then saved the vomit to later be wielded as evidence against her husband. She performed Google searches on his computer, things that would seem innocent until the police were looking for them: body float Mississippi river.

Somewhere along the way, Nick figures out what is going on. Of course he did– he’s a bumbling baboon, but he’s not a complete nitwit. All the proof that the cops are going on are things that were set up by Amy. Nick’s a deep sleeper? Perfect opportunity for Amy to plant his fingerprints all over the murder weapon. Nick’s cheating on Amy? Plant some underwear in his work office. Amy’s pregnant with a baby Nick didn’t want– wait, what?

I honestly think this is my favorite of Amy’s tricks. Her friend Noelle was pregnant with her fourth child. Amy invited Noelle over for lemonade and just happened to have drained the toilet– oh, it’s broken. When Noelle needed to pee, Amy later went and collected it, swapped it out at a doctor’s appointment, and voila– iron-clad laboratory proof that she, Amy, is in fact pregnant. What kind of monstrosity would kill his pregnant wife?! jeers the crowd. So cruel, so cruel. Because Nick did actually want a baby.

After hiring the best lawyer in the country, Nick finally learns how to act, and begins pleading with Amy via the national news. Come home, he says. I love you. He paints such a good picture of his adoration that even Amy begins to fall for it. He knew she would; that’s how well they know each other. Amy literally doesn’t believe she’s unlovable. She expects admiration, so when it’s granted, she believes it completely. Of course Nick loves her. Why wouldn’t he? Amy’s plans begin to change.

This is such a completely brilliant novel. Like I mentioned earlier, I legitimately did not want to put it down. I brought it to work with me and read over my sandwich at lunch. Amy’s plot is so precise, the lines so taught, that Nick never even had a chance. I read somewhere that we’ll never hear about the perfect crime, but this, my friends, is the perfect crime.

I chose the quotes above because they resonated with me the most. Amy and I have very little in common, but every good piece of writing has moments you can relate to. Especially that first quote; that’s me in a nutshell. To the outside world, I have plenty of redeemable qualities, and yet… single. So single. Anyway, for that second quote: I know what it’s like to be angry and then have it written off as “irrational.” I think every woman does, which is why the “do men not know that feeling?” was such a great piece of writing. The rest of the quotes are there not because they echo in familiarity against the inside of my skull, but because they’re some damn good quotes.

Check out the trailer for the upcoming movie here.

I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this story as a movie, especially because 50% of Part I is a fabrication. The events are mostly true, sure, but all the feelings behind them are not. It’s easier to throw a plot twist like this at you in a book, I think. But it comes out next Friday and I will be there for sure, that you can count on!

Rating: ★★★★½

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Net Neutrality: Part 2

Hi loyal readers,

I wanted to offer up some more information about Net Neutrality. Check out this link below.

http://www.singlehop.com/blog/a-neutral-guide-to-net-neutrality/

It explains what exactly is going on in much better terms than I ever could. Furthermore, it contains points from both sides– why the companies like Comcast and AT&T are lobbying for this, and why the rest of the internet is rallying against it.

Shoutout to Sam Bowling for throwing the link my way!

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Net Neutrality: The Great Internet Slow-Down

If you woke up tomorrow, and your internet looked like this, what would you do?

Imagine all your favorite websites taking forever to load, while you get annoying notifications from your ISP suggesting you switch to one of their approved “Fast Lane” sites.

Think about what we would lose: all the weird, alternative, interesting, and enlightening stuff that makes the Internet so much cooler than mainstream Cable TV. What if the only news sites you could reliably connect to were the ones that had deals with companies like Comcast and Verizon?

On September 10th, just a few days before the FCC’s comment deadline, public interest organizations are issuing an open, international call for websites and internet users to unite for an “Internet Slowdown” to show the world what the web would be like if Team Cable gets their way and trashes net neutrality. Net neutrality is hard to explain, so our hope is that this action will help SHOW the world what’s really at stake if we lose the open Internet.

If you’ve got a website, blog or tumblr, get the code to join the #InternetSlowdown here:https://battleforthenet.com/sept10th

Everyone else, here’s a quick list of things you can do to help spread the word about the slowdown:http://tumblr.fightforthefuture.org/post/96020972118/be-a-part-of-the-great-internet-slowdown

Hey guys, I thought I’d take a break from my usual posts and talk about something that’s very important to me: fast internet!

Basically, internet giants like Comcast and AT&T want to take away websites’ freedom. You know how when you use too much data on your phone, you get throttled? Well, they basically want to do that, except to the entire internet.

If a website doesn’t pay up, they’re going to be throttled. Imagine not being able to watch anything on Netflix without preloading it. Imagine taking five minutes to load one page of your dashboard on Tumblr.

Want to help do something about it? Check out the websites above! Text it, tweet about it, share it on Facebook. We can’t let these money-grubbers get away with this! It’s time to take a stand and fight for our internet.

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Review: Finding It by Cora Carmack

Title: Finding It
Author: Cora Carmack
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 0062273280
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks, October 2013
PurchaseAmazon

finding it

Main Characters: Kelsey, Hunt

Synopsis: Kelsey is on a mission to find herself. She’s been running from herself and her twisted past ever since graduation: drinking, dancing, and fucking her way across Europe. One night, in a drunken stupor, she lays eyes on the hottest man she’s ever seen, a man with one name: Hunt. Somehow, he’s immune to her charms, which naturally just makes her want him even more. Kelsey thinks she’s finally had enough and is about to give up and head home, but a few more encounters later, Hunt issues her a challenge: spend a week with him, and if he can’t give her the adventure she’s been looking for, then she’s free to hang her head and go home.

Memorable Quotes:

  • There was no room for unhappiness when squeezed between two sets of washboard abs.
  • All of my friends were off chasing their dreams, moving into their futures, and I just wanted to want something with that kind of desperation, that kind of fire. I was an actress. I’d spent nearly half my life stepping into a character, searching out her desires, finding what drives her. But for the life of me, I couldn’t do the same for myself. It had been a long, long time since I’d let myself want something enough for it to matter.
  • A haunted expression stole over his face, filled with ghosts and shadows. It was the kind of look that told me more about him than any words he could ever say. He meant it when he said that he would protect me. It was written as plainly across his face as whatever tragedy tore through his memory because of my words.
  • I’d thought before that gravity pulled me toward Hunt, but it was more than that. He was the gravity. In that moment, he was the push and pull that held my universe together.
  • “You’re not horrible, Kelsey. You are vibrant and beautiful, and you burn. Burn so vividly. Fires can damage, but they’re also beautiful and vital and they can purify and give the chance to start fresh. You’re not horrible. Not at all.”
  • I opened to him immediately, his tongue tangling with mine. He tasted like warm summer days and hurricanes, like everything I wanted and everything I didn’t know I needed.

Review: So somehow I missed that this was the third book in a trilogy. I did my research after the fact though, and luckily, the other two books focus on different characters. So I didn’t really miss anything important, just other stories that happen to take place in the same world. Phew!

At any rate, I completely fell in love with this book. It’s absolutely brilliantly written. It’s just Kelsey and Hunt, traveling around Europe. And it’s fantastic.

I don’t even really have the words for this. You’re just going to have to take my word for it. If you like realistic characters with realistic backgrounds and realist feelings and reactions, this is the book for you. Check out the quotes up there and how brilliant and evocative they are, and go get this book right now!

As soon as I get a job, I’m snatching up the rest of her books. If they’re half as good as this one, it’ll be money well spent!

Rating: ★★★★★

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Review: Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

Title: Meant to Be
Author: Lauren Morrill
Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN: 0385741774
Published: Delacorte Press, November 2012
PurchaseAmazon

meant to be

Main Characters: Julia, Jason

Synopsis: Julia is a bookworm. There’s no way around it. She keeps perfectly sharpened #2 pencils in her purse! And her friends bailed on her, so now she’s the only bookworm on the class trip to London. When you’re in high school, it seems like teachers are out to make your lives hell, and Mrs. Tennison is no exception: she assigns partners for the trip. Who does Julia get paired with? Class clown and unruly ginger, Jason. All Julia wants to do is survive this trip and get back to distantly ogling her MTB (Meant To Be), also known as the gorgeous hunk Mark, whom Julia has known since childhood. Is there more to Jason than meets the eye? Furthermore, is there more to Julia…?

Memorable Quotes:

  • I hate to fly. Seriously. HATE IT. It seems wrong to be hurtling through the clouds at warp speed in a metal tube. It makes about as much sense as being flung over the ocean in a slingshot.
  • London is where Mom and Dad went on their honeymoon, and they always talked about coming back here. Dad used to joke that Paris was the city of love for unimaginative folks. “Give me those guards in the big fuzzy hats any day,” he’d say, laughing and planting a kiss on Mom’s forehead. They’d even saved up for a tenth-anniversary trip, but when Dad got sick, the trip was quickly forgotten.
  • “Wow. That’s … wow,” I reply, choking back what I’m really thinking, which includes the phrases “shove it” and “butt munch.” I toss back my glass and manage to mask my disgust for the drink and the company in one fell swoop.
  • His voice cuts right through the London fog, and I’m glued to the bench, unable to take my eyes off him. He stares right back at me, eyes sparkling. He hits every note, even Paul McCartney’s trademark ooohs at various pitches.
  • “Point is, maybe some people wouldn’t want to be around me all day, but there are people out there who would. And they’re smart and funny. And they like some of the things I like and hate some of the things I hate, but they also introduce me to all kinds of new things. That’s as close to ‘meant to be’ as I can imagine.”

Review: This was a completely lovely story. It’s one of those that, again, you pretty much know how it’s going to end, but the journey it takes you on to get there is well worth the ride.

It’s set in London, as mentioned in the synopsis. The class trip is a little over a week, and they’re staying in a very posh hotel. Julia doesn’t even have to deal with a roommate, which is great for her, because she’s one of those “me against the preps” girls. (I used to have that kind of frame of mind too, back in elementary school, but thank goodness I grew out of it!)  She can spread out, fold her clothes, set out her books… and not have to worry about anyone messing it up.

Julia starts off with nothing but distaste for Jason, especially since he spent the whole plane ride over yelling “We’re going down!” every time there’s a semblance of turbulence. Like Julia doesn’t hate flying enough. (This, she and I have in common. See the first Memorable Quote.) That sums up his personality in a nutshell, really: he’s a joker, prankster, doesn’t really care how he’s perceived as long as at least one person is laughing.

In terms of things I didn’t like, SPOILER, Mark shows up in London. Yes, that Mark. Mark and Julia were neighbors when they were children, and they used to have a blast playing together every day. They even staged a pretend marriage! Alas, Mark moved away at some point, and her crush waned, as things do. But then Mark moved back, and it was like he’d never left. Clearly, this was a sign that they were Meant To Be.

At any rate, it turns out that Mark has some sort of connection to the hotel Julia and the kids are staying at, so she bumps into him in the lobby and they end up hanging out a lot. Long story short, Julia realizes Mark is definitely not the guy she thought he was. At all. I didn’t really… like that. I didn’t think it was necessary for him to magically show up. I think she could’ve appreciated Jason on her own, without the contrast of “Oh, Mark sucks, so Jason is clearly the only choice.” I wish she would’ve made the choice on her own, instead of basically having it made for her.

Regardless, this was a completely enjoyable book. The descriptions of London are so vivid and real. I even made myself watch a YouTube video of a trip on the London Eye because it was described so well in the book that I had to see it myself! Sadly, I’ve never been to London. I’ll get there someday, though, and this book gave me a few places I’d like to add to my sightseeing list!

Rating: ★★★★

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Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Title: These Broken Stars
Author: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN: 1-42-317102-0
Published: December 2013, Disney Hyperion
PurchaseAmazon

TBSFinalCover

Main Characters: Lilac, Tarver

Synopsis: Tarver Menderson is a soldier. He accomplished something recently that propelled him into “hero” status, but even with that he doesn’t come close to the magnificent star system that is Lilac LaRoux. Lilac LaRoux is… rich. Beyond measure. A princess, by any futuristic standards. Why, her father built the spaceship that she and Tarver are both sailing on. (Spaceship? More like, colossal luxury cruise ship IN SPACE.) Except… Tarver doesn’t know who she is. He’s heard of her, of course, but he doesn’t recognize her on sight. So when he chats up the beautiful redhead in the ballroom, he has no idea that he’s speaking to the daughter of the most powerful– and dangerous– man in the universe. Well, that’s awkward. But there are worse things than incurring Mr. LaRoux’s wrath. Worse things like the ship bucking out of space and time itself. In a cruel twist of fate, Tarver and Lilac help each other escape the tormented ship. Their escape pod careens into the forest on a nearby planet, and they watch together as the behemoth of a space cruiser, dying and aflame, slams into the surface of the planet.

Memorable Quotes:

  • The Icarus is falling. She’s like a great beast up in the sky, and I imagine her groaning as she wallows and turns, some part of her still fighting, engines still firing in an attempt to escape gravity. For a few moments she seems to hang there, eclipsing one of the planet’s moons, pale in the afternoon sky. But what comes next is inevitable, and I find myself reaching out to put an arm around the girl beside me as the ship dies, pieces still peeling away as she makes her final descent.
  • My lady? Does he know how crazy his faux courtesy makes me? Surely no one could be so aggravating by accident or coincidence. I cling to that anger, trying not to let it fade as I look at him. It’s safe, this fury. I can’t afford to feel anything else.
  • How quickly one’s delusions come crashing down– the soldiers aren’t watching us society folk, wishing they could touch us. They’re laughing at us in our bright dresses and parasols, our immaculately re-created drawing rooms and parlors. And what was funny in the sparkling world of the Icarus is simply pathetically ridiculous down here, in the kind of world they live in day to day.
  • The idea that someone will swoop down and take him away from me, off to fight some distant war in some distant system, makes me feel like my lungs are filling with water. I don’t know how to reach him, how to make him see how I feel. I don’t know what’s going on behind the brown eyes I’ve come to know so well. I don’t know what he’s thinking as he looks at me.

Review: This is one of those books that you start off knowing how it’ll end, but that doesn’t make the journey any less fun.

This was just such a fun story! The opening scenes on the ship do a great job for establishing the characters. You learn quickly about their personalities, even if you don’t know their background stories yet. The action of the ship going down is brilliantly paced.

The book starts off with what can only be interpreted as someone being interrogated. You’re able to figure out a couple chapters later that it’s Tarver. But who is interrogating him, and why? The actual story, then, is a flashback as told by Tarver. (Except somehow the chapters alternate POVs. Hmm.) This also sort of answers a question you didn’t even know you had: when they crash-land, when all this bad stuff is happening to them, do they manage to make it off the planet alive? Well, clearly, yes. Because Tarver is giving a debriefing about it.

Their trek across the planet to reach the fallen Icarus comes off as a bit slow sometimes. (Are they there yet?) But the authors do a really good job of filling the silence. That’s when all of the character backstory comes out. The characters don’t tell all of it to each other, but we as the omnipotent reader get to see what’s going on.

You learn a lot about the planet through their separate reactions to it. Obviously, this book is set in the future. This society has the ability to terraform (and then colonize) planets. This planet that they’ve landed on is definitely terraformed: Tarver has been on many terraformed planets, and he recognizes the specific elements, like the type of trees used, the way the air is breathable. But the trees are taller than he’s ever seen… and, even stranger, there are no colonists. How long has this planet been terraformed? Why are there no colonists? What the hell happened here?

The love story takes a back burner to the larger mystery, which is quickly noted as being a mystery but slow to be fleshed out. Why is Lilac hearing voices? Is she simply crazy (or in shock), or is there something else going on here? Seriously, why are there  no colonists? Are they ever going to confess their feelings for each other??

This review came out a bit more sarcastic than I intended, but I truly did enjoy the book. I read it in less than a day, it was that enthralling. It’s an adventurous, futuristic love-story mystery novel. What’s not to like?!

Rating★★★★

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Review: Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Title: Everything Leads to You
Author: Nina LaCour
Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN: 0-52-542588-8
Published: May 2014, Dutton Juvenile
PurchaseAmazon

verything-Leads-to-You-Nina-LaCour

Main Characters: Emi, Charlotte, Ava

Synopsis: Emi, a Los Angeles native, has just graduated high school. Thanks to her older brother, Toby, she’s got an awesome job: she’s interning at a movie studio. She’s in charge of designing a set! Just for one scene, which is a tall order for an intern, but Emi is very, very good. The job isn’t without its perils, though; she’s working with her love interest, Morgan, who has just dumped Emi… for the sixth time. In her attempts to avoid Morgan, Emi avoids the studio. She’s looking for furniture for her set design anyway. However, she finds something at an estate sale that will completely change her life– and a few others’ along with it.

Memorable Quotes:

  • Later, though, once she’s lying under the boy’s weight, and there are close-ups of their hands or feet or faces, people will see the thread and the leaves. I can picture the girl’s hair spilling over the side, blending with the gold, like she’s tangled up in a forest. There’s something fairy-tale-like about it, which is perfect, because fairytales are all about innocence and ill will and the inevitability of terrible things. They’re all about the moment when the girl is no longer who she once was…
  • “… I’m sure that Tracey loved me and couldn’t imagine losing me, too. But that doesn’t mean she really wanted to be a parent. Or that she was ready to be one.”
  • This conversation isn’t that different from the five others we had before getting back together. But it feels different, because wanting someone is not the same as loving her, and now I understand that Morgan does not love me. When you love someone, you are sure. You don’t need time to decide. You don’t say stop and start over and over, like you’re playing some kind of sport. You know the immensity of what you have and you protect it.
  • … I am thinking about the set I would create if this were a movie about me. If I were trying to show people how it once felt to be with Morgan I would show the shimmering blue water of the pool at her apartment, and the line she rigged on her back deck because her unit has a washing machine but no room for a dryer. All those tank tops and pairs of bright underwear in the sun. It would be a soft nostalgia, a faded romance.

Review: I love falling in love with characters. I love falling in love with the way a book makes me feel. I loved falling in love with this book, maybe more so than I even like falling in actual love.

Spoilers abound.

This is a beautiful, beautiful story. At its heart it’s a love story, of course. But Nina LaCour crafts the book so beautifully, I can’t help but compare her to Emi and her careful eye as she constructs a set. Every little detail matters, whether it’s the way a picture frame tilts just off kilter, or the way the light hits Ava’s hair. Obviously Emi and Nina are of the same brain… but it’s different, somehow, this time. I could get lost in the way things are described. I picked out a few of my favorites and posted them above. The way she describes the couch, for instance. I mean, it’s a couch! But the couch is Emi’s job: she finds the beauty in the details, she knows how important the subtleties are, and all of that comes across in the writing. You and I, we look at a couch and think, wow, that looks comfy. (Or… maybe not, depending on the couch!) But Emi looks at a couch and sees how it needs to connect with the story. The golden thread, the character’s golden hair. A fairytale forest, full of ominous danger, because that is where the character is headed in the story.

I loved the emotion weaved into the story, too. There’s a particularly poignant moment in the story after Ava confronts her adoptive mother, Tracey.

Without warning, Ava pulls onto the side of the road. She pulls up the emergency brake and leans into Jamal, buries her face in his shoulder, her body quaking. She trembles and trembles and when she finally cries it doesn’t even sound like crying. Nothing like that night in our living room with Clyde Jones on the screen looking out at her. Not like a few minutes ago, on Tracey’s front lawn. Not even close to that. It’s this gasping that makes Charlotte and me lock hands, makes me have to struggle against crying myself. It isn’t my tragedy. It isn’t me who knows for certain in this moment that I’m alone in the world. She has us, I know, but for all people talk about friends as being the same as family, I know that, really, they aren’t. At least not when you’re eighteen. Not when sometimes you need your mother.

I can completely identify with that feeling. Last year, I moved to a completely new place by myself. I didn’t know a soul, and my workplace was not conducive to making friendships. I didn’t know anything about the city I was in, and going out was always a pain in the ass because of traffic, so I pretty much always stayed home. It got to a point where my anxieties had completely overwhelmed me and I was becoming a bit of a hypochondriac and I was crying multiple times a day and… I just really needed a hug from my mother. But she wasn’t there. She was three thousand miles away. I know it’s completely, 100% not the same thing as being abandoned on purpose, but that sense of alone-ness, of not having anyone there to comfort you in your darkest moments when you absolutely need them… that, I get.

I feel like there’s a bit of “manic pixie dream girl” dismantling going on here, too. When Emi first meets Ava, she thinks she’s perfect. The girl is a mystery. Ava doesn’t even know anything about her own life! Emi’s dramatic flair takes over, and she wants to solve this mystery. She wants to help Ava in her rags-to-riches fairytale. She wants to be the one who made her. Emi wants to direct the movie of Ava’s life, frame the situation. That the tragedy is in the past and now Ava can be free and live her life in the spotlight. Except… that’s not how real people work. I found this passage particularly beautiful.

I want to confess. I thought that her story was composed of scenes. I thought the tragedy could be glamorous and her grief could be undone by a sunnier future. I thought we could pinpoint dramatic events on a time line and call it a life.

But I was wrong. There are no scenes in life, there are only minutes. And none are skipped over and they all lead to the next. There was the minute that Caroline set Ava down and the minutes it took her to shoot up. There was the minute that Caroline died and all of the minutes before Lenny discovered them. The minute he left Ava there, still crying, and the minutes before the ambulance came. And all of the minutes that followed that, wherever she went next, whoever held her, so many gaps in memory that must have been filled by something important. I want to apologize for not realizing sooner that what I felt in Clyde’s study was not the beginning of a mystery or a project. She was never something waiting to be solved. All she is– all she’s ever been– is a person trying to live a life.

I also want to add that it’s really refreshing to read a book with queer characters that… isn’t about being queer. Emi is gay, obviously, but it’s not her defining trait at all, just like a regular human being. It’s just one facet of her being. So many “queer novels” are about the gay struggle: coming out, getting kicked out of the house, telling your friends, what have you. And those are… important, but it’s not the end-all, be-all of the genre. The world needs to recognize that queer people can lead just as normal lives as anyone else, and that’s who Emi is. She’s a normal teenage girl with an awesome job, a family, a best friend, and a car. Her love is the same as anyone else’s: timid, nervous, afraid of messing up, but passionate. It’s what we all strive for in a relationship, no matter what gender the person we search for it in.

In short, I’ll leave you with this. If you want a completely beautifully written story, with colorful, relatable characters, and fantastically interwoven plotlines to boot, please pick this book up. Do yourself the favor. It’s $11 for your Kindle and you don’t even need a Kindle to read Kindle books! Just get the free app on your smartphone. Seriously. I promise you won’t regret it.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

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Review: The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle

Title: The Infinite Moment of Us
Author: Lauren Myracle
Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN: 1-41-970793-0
Published: August 2013, Harry N. Abrams
PurchaseAmazon

infinitely-us

Main Characters: Wren, Charlie, Tessa, P.G., Starrla

Synopsis: Charlie is in love with Wren, but up until today, she didn’t know he existed. Wren has been too focused on being perfect for her parents– perfect grades, perfect career path, perfect lack of boyfriends. Is she willing to throw it all away for Charlie? Is he willing to do the same for her?

Memorable Quotes:

  • She waved at him and smiled, and relief rippled across his features. Immediately he soothed his expression, but she’d seen, for a second, what he really felt. She had the strangest urge to go to him and say, No. Please. Sometimes the things we hide– aren’t they the parts of us that matter most?
  • He replied in his lowest, most serious voice: “I don’t make promises I don’t mean.”
  • She let go of him, and he missed her touch. She turned her back to him and stared up at the sky. Night had fallen, and the first stars had winked their way into existence, twinkling against a palette of inky purples, deep reds, and one last slice of pearly, light-infused blue. It was a blue that reminded Charlie of the ocean, or of pictures of the ocean. He’d never been. He wondered what Wren saw.
  • “Oh,” Tessa said. “You’re jealous.”
    “Am I? Ugh, I guess I am, but only when he picks them over me. But that’s dumb. I know.”
    “I didn’t say it was dumb,” Tessa said. “It’s what you feel, and guess what? Feelings are like three-year-olds. They’re not rational. They’re just there.”
  • How could she be his everything if she, herself, wasn’t enough?

Review: Let me preface this by stating that the only reason I ever put this book down was because it was 4:30am and I literally couldn’t hold the book anymore, let alone keep my eyelids up. But I promptly finished it the next morning (okay, afternoon), before I even rolled out of bed.

I completely enjoyed this book, and it was quite refreshing after the travesty that was the last book I reviewed.

Wren and Charlie fall in love really fast, and and not unrealistically. They’re both young and it’s the first experience of love for both of them. Naturally, that love is also peppered with insecurities. Like any teenage female, Wren struggles with the idea that Charlie could possibly like her over someone, anything else, especially when that someone is the too-attractive Starrla. Charlie’s troubled past and reluctance to share it with Wren isn’t helping those insecurities fade.

Wren is a character that’s very easy for me to identify with. From our insecurities to our thirst for knowledge to our ideas about gun control (“her solution to gun violence would be to make all guns everywhere disappear”), she could be me in a parallel universe.

Wren is an only child, and as such, she’s been spoiled rotten by her parents. They’re not especially rich, but they’ve spoiled her in attention. Naturally, as one is wont to do, you grow out of needing that level of attention, and sometimes the parents just can’t understand why. Wren has reached that point. She wants to live her own life. She doesn’t want her parents to live another life vicariously through her. Understandable, right? Wren has been accepted into the college her mother works at, to pursue the career they want her to do, and they bought her a car (for which her mother wrangled special freshman “car on campus” privileges). But Wren… doesn’t actually want to go there. So she defers her enrollment, deciding to sign up for Project Unity instead (which is like a less-intensive version of the Peace Corps).

The catch? She doesn’t tell her parents she’s done any of that.

Charlie, on the other hand, grew up in the system. The System. Capital T, capital S. He was a foster child. Somewhere along the way, though, he was picked up by Pamela and Chris, and they have treated him well. Treated him as their own. Sometimes Charlie still can’t wrap his head around it, though, drawing on his past experiences with other foster families, knowing it has to go sour at some point. He found asylum as a young teen in Starrla, another broken person, someone who could actually understand what Charlie was going through. It wasn’t love, but it was… something.

Wren and Charlie… their souls touch. They’re truly in love, something neither of them have experienced before. It’s a whole lot of firsts between them, though maybe not the same ones.

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the ending, really. I was a bit confused, because for all intents and purposes, it looked like she had decided to stay and he had decided to go, so they were going to miss each other by a matter of minutes.

My favorite part of the book, though, is when Wren has decided that love isn’t worth the pain, and she’s going to cut off her nose to spite her face, basically.

“Well … I guess I just realized how hopeless it all was,” she heard herself say. “Love. Relationships. Being with Charlie.”

“Being with Charlie is hopeless?” Tessa said. “Why?”

“It was hopeless from the beginning,” Wren said. “I just convinced myself it wasn’t. I convinced myself that because we loved each other, we should be together, when really, what is love? It’s not something you can prove, is it?”

“Oh, okay,” Tessa said, cocking her head. “Is this because of Starrla? Because of what she said about Charlie?”

Yes, thought Wren. Because he told her, but he didn’t tell me. Because he was afraid to tell me, because he knew it would upset me. Because it has upset me.

“I’m not good enough for him,” she whispered. “His problems are always going to be bigger than mine.”

“So, what, you’re cutting him off like… like a tag on a piece of clothing? Something you can just throw away?”

Wren shrugged. It was easier not feeling things. “There’s no room for me.”

“Wren. You’re being ridiculous.”

“I know.”

“You’re hurting him, and you’re hurting yourself.”

“Yep.”

This excerpt hits home a little bit for me. I tend to do this, all the time. “It’s easier not feeling things.” Every time I develop feelings for someone… the instant I realize it’s happening, I shut it down. There’s no point, I tell myself. They’re not going to like me anyway, so I might as well flip the switch and save myself the trouble of getting hurt somewhere down the line. “I have to learn not to need people,” Wren says. She and I, we’re the exact opposite of risk-takers, building up the walls that we have no intention of scaling.

At any rate, this is a fabulous tale of love, insecurity, and figuring out that real relationships do actually take work.

Rating: ★★★★½

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Review: The One by Kiera Cass

Title: The One
Author: Kiera Cass
Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN: 0-06-205999-8
Published: May 2014, HarperTeen
Purchase: Amazon

the one
Main Characters: America, Maxon, Aspen

Synopsis: There are only four girls left, and Maxon has to pick soon. But the rebels are looming on the horizon, attacking from both the north and the south, and the entire Selection hangs in the balance. Can Maxon save the country? Can he save his future wife? Can he even save himself?

Memorable Quotes:

  • “Would you regret it?” he asked. “For the rest of your life, it would be like this. Beautiful walls, but walls all the same. My mother scarcely leaves the palace more than once or twice a year.” … “And if you think the public is intrusive now, it would be much worse when you’re the only girl they’re watching. I know your feelings for me run deep. I feel it every day. But what about the life that comes along with me? Do you want that?”
  • I thought of the mouselike boy in the corner of the room that night. He willingly ran out into the fray for me, for all of us. Bravery hides in amazing places.
  • I can imagine you sitting here, smiling at my idea, maybe shaking your head at me as if to say I’m being silly. You do that sometimes, did you know? I like that expression on you. You’re the only person who wears it in a way that doesn’t come across like you think I’m completely hopeless. You smile at my idiosyncrasies, accept that they exist, and continue to be my friend. And, in seven short hours, I’ve started to miss that.”

Review: You know that thing that happens when you’re reading a book, and you start to run out of pages, and you’re like, “Oh god, all the plot points can’t possibly be wrapped up in this many pages, there’s going to be another novel”? Well, that definitely happened with this book. So look forward to the fourth book in The Selection Series by Kiera Cass!

Er… wait. No, I’ve got that all wrong. There isn’t going to be a fourth book.

So where the hell is my wrap-up?

Don’t get me wrong, I’d been completely enjoying the book up until the very end. It was a helluva lot better than the second book, that’s for sure. It didn’t seem haphazardly thrown out of Kiera’s fingers to appease her editors. But when the book ended, I was completely floored by the complete waste of potential.

I still have so many questions. The story ends (SPOILERS!!!!) with Maxon promising to undo the caste system, which is apparently something he’d been planning even before America opened her big mouth on national TV. (Sure, buddy. Sure.) And then he and America get married. Fantastic! Lovely! I mean, we all knew it was coming!

But… what about the rebels? In this third novel, we learn that the northern rebels are on Maxon’s side. They want to protect the monarchy, and like Maxon, they want to dissolve the caste system. It’s the southern rebels that are the dangerous ones. They’re the ones that resorted to killing people in the castes of the Elite because they refused to quit the Selection. They’re the ones that lead armed raids on the castle. We don’t want the southerners in power, because they’ll overthrow the monarchy and put a crueler one in its place.

So… what happened with them? Was every single southern rebel killed in the last assault on the palace? Speaking of which, how on earth do rebels manage to get in and out of the palace so easily? (Even the “good” ones?) Let’s not even mention how so many rebels (disguised as guards) slipped past the regular guards. Did no one ever say, “Hey, I don’t know this group of guards. Where did they come from?” Check their papers. There’s gotta be some record of their arrival if they’re legit, right? Better safe than sorry, right?!

We also learn at some point that the leader of the northern rebels is a descendant of Gregory Illéa himself. But… why bother? That revelation has literally no bearing on any other part of the story. He goes to a couple meetings with Maxon and that’s it. He doesn’t want the crown. Maxon doesn’t even seem particularly impressed by it; it’s not like knowing the boy is an Illéa grants instant trust with the monarchy.

There was so much set-up with the outside world that never amounted to anything at all. America kindles a friendship with the Italians, right? That’s all well and good, and it turns out to be a reason why King Clarkson even considers not kicking America out of the Selection outright. But what does it ever do? America convinces the Italian princess to give some money to the northern rebels for weapons. But did she? Do they ever use them? It’s hinted that the northerners use some artillery against the southerners in the final battle, but who knows where that came from. Elise is kept around because her family is from New Asia, and an alliance could be useful there, too. But an alliance for what…?

Something that is also revealed late in the book is that America’s own father was part of the northern rebels. (Apparently, northern sympathizers have a thing for North Star symbols. Necklaces, tattoos, tittles*. But that’s literally all we ever learn about that in regards to her father. How did he come to be a northern rebel? What did he do in service of the cause? Was their mother in on it, too? Did he have plans to induct America into the society before she was Selected? Yet another lovely plot point setup that went absolutely nowhere.

Let me bring your attention back to the ending of the second book. Do you remember that revelation? That Maxon is being abused by his father, King Clarkson? Well, here’s another spoiler for you: the King is killed in the final battle of the third novel. Surprised? I can’t say that I am. I was pretty sure he was going to die, but I didn’t know at whose hands. He’s simply killed by a southern rebel, if you must know. His wife, the loving, wondrous, oblivious Queen Amberly, is also killed. She was trying to save her husband.

But what is Maxon’s reaction?

Literally nothing. Nothing. There is nothing.

One could argue that in the hours after it occurs, he’s simply in shock. All right, I’ll give you that. People all grieve in different ways. He says something along the lines of, “I can’t believe it’s real.”

But… to not give us any sort of reaction after the fact? This man is the King of Illéa and he’s been mentally and physically tormenting Maxon for at least the last year, if not for his entire fucking life. Maxon, your tormentor is dead. Does that not elicit ANY SORT OF REACTION? Happiness? Relief? Bitterness? Sadness, in spite of himself?

What about his mother? The woman who was benign, benevolent, and loving, but ultimately completely blind to the abuse that was inflicted on her son by her husband? That’s gotta arouse some feelings too. Resentment?

I think the lack of reaction to his parents’ death is what pissed me off the most.

I am glad, though, that the silly love-triangle shenanigans was mostly absent in this book. Aspen finally falls in love with someone else (I won’t tell you who, but it’s pretty obvious it’s happening), and early on, America finally realizes she’s completely head-over-heels for Maxon. Of course, though, the love triangle ends up blowing up in her face even after all this is revealed, but you’ll have to read the book to find out how it happens and if it manages to be resolved.

Another thing that was missing from this book was the bland, vapid version of America we met in Book 2. You remember her. Constantly weeping because of the choice she had to make in her heart. Skulking around the castle hiding from both of them. Honestly? The way this third book is written pretty much pretends that the second book doesn’t exist. America makes a few references to sleeping next to Maxon in the safe room, but that’s about it.

If I’d reviewed this book in the middle of it, it’d probably be getting four stars. But the completely awful ending wrecked it all. If you manage to make it through the travesty of a second book and start reading this one, do yourself a favor: pretend it ends right after Maxon and America profess their love for each other. That way NOTHING is wrapped up and you can mentally write your own ending, instead of getting like pieces of one wrap-up and none of any others.

Rating★★½

* Before you giggle, a tittle is the term for the dot in a lowercase I or J.

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Review: The Harm in Asking by Sara Barron

Title: The Harm in Asking
Author: Sara Barron
Genre: Memoir
ISBN: 0-30-772070-5
Published: March 25 2014, Three Rivers Press
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

The-Harm-In-Asking-copy

Main Characters: Sara

Synopsis: Sara Barron, in her own words, has “suffered.” She spent her childhood constantly fighting with her brother for the praise of their parents, and now she has grown into a remarkable woman with a propensity for extreme farts. In a collection of wildly humorous essays, Sara dives right in to the grubby, spiderwebbed corners of her life, leaving no gritty stone unturned.

Memorable Quotes:

  • Over time, a weird thing happened. Locked in the bathroom, I invented imaginary friends to keep me company. And if you’re thinking, That’s not weird. It’s what kids do! I’ll point out that I had no fewer than three, and that each of these three was accessible to me only after I’d taken a shit.
  • Prior to getting together with Charlie, all I’d wanted was a boyfriend. And then I got one. At a dog run. He’d offered access to his basement, coital time in which to pee and wash my face. What more could I want? What more could I need? Why wasn’t it enough? Was I afraid? Was I a snob? Was I wrong to turn my nose up at a carpet in a basement?
  • I was at the local coffee shop one weekend afternoon when I spotted a certain gentleman, and after a series of boring events he and I wound up having sex. It was mostly uneventful, except for the fact that during the proceedings, I sprained my neck. We’d had sex and gone to bed, and when I woke up the next morning, I found I couldn’t move it.
    “Oh no!” I exclaimed.
    My companion groaned wordlessly in response.
    I rotated the entirety of my torso to face him.
    “I think I sprained my neck,” I said.
    “From the blowjobs?” he asked, but nodding “yes” was not an option. I pitched my torso back and forth.
    “Oh, shit!” he laughed. “Wow. That’s really funny.”

Review: I will admit, I’m generally not one for memoirs or essays. But an opportunity came along to review this book, and I couldn’t resist! And I’m so glad I did. Not only did this book manage to draw my attention away from the World of Warcraft, which is admittedly where I spend most of my time these days, it also had me laughing out loud the entire time.

Sara doesn’t really have any enlightening bits of advice to pass along, which is good. I’m not in the market for a self-help book. She’s just a normal woman with a fantastic sense of humor. She has an ability to look back at events in her life and understand that, good or bad, they happened; they’ve made her the person she is today, and there’s always something you can draw from that.

My favorite segment of the book is one in which Sara has a desire to be a lesbian. “A what?” you ask. “How can someone desire to become a lesbian? You either are or you aren’t!” Well, young reader, you see, when Sara was a little girl, her parents were friends with a lesbian couple. To Sara’s understanding, being a lesbian just meant you were super cool. The comprehension that you actually had to enjoy eating out other women didn’t hit her until many years later. This didn’t stop her desire, however, even when she was ogling cucumbers at the supermarket and rubbing them longingly against her cheek. And it wasn’t until a dalliance with another woman in her collegiate years that Sara finally accepted the fact that well, no, she was not a lesbian. But for those details, you’ll have to read the book.

I also ended up highlighting a lot more quotes than I used in the Memorable Quotes section. Unfortunately, some of them wouldn’t work without more context than I was willing to give! Do yourself a favor and pick up this book, even if you don’t traditionally read essays!

Rating: ★★★★

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