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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!*

Illumicrate

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.)

illumicrate

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: 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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Review: The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Title: The Moon and More
Author: Sarah Dessen
Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN: 0-67-078560-1
Published: 2013, Viking Juvenile

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Main Characters: Emaline, Theo, Benji, Luke

Synopsis: It’s the last summer before everything changes, and the change has already started. Emaline and her family run a realty business in Colby, renting out fantastic beach homes to rich families seeking the vacation of their dreams. Theo is among them, and from the moment they meet, everything changes. Emaline had been dating Luke since freshman year, but when he cheats on her, that relationship goes down the hole (surprise). Also, her birth-father rolls into town unexpectedly, toting along Emaline’s ten-year old half-brother, Benji. Emaline spends the summer with Theo and Benji, and along the way she realizes that only she has control over who she becomes, and that perhaps giving everything The Grandest Title Ever leaves no room for improvement.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “‘Yeah. Thanks. This lug nut’s being a bitch.’
    Of course it was a female. I sighed.”
  • “When you’ve never gotten love from someone, you don’t know what it might look like if it ever does appear. You look for it in everything: any bright light overhead could be a star.”
  • “Sometimes, when it came to events and people, it had to be okay to just be.”
  • “‘Life is long. Just because you don’t get your chance right when you want or expect it doesn’t mean it won’t come. Fate doesn’t punch a time clock or consult a schedule.'”
  • “She was dressing for the life she wanted, not the life she had.”

Review: Let me preface this by announcing that I am a huge Sarah Dessen fan. I have been, ever since I stumbled across This Lullaby at my local Borders’ outlet. Presumably, I always will be. I wish she could turn out a new book every week, that’s how much I long to desire them. However, I know that’s a sightly ridiculous goal, so… keep doing what you’re doing, Ms. Dessen. That being said, this novel certainly did not disappoint!

Even at the ripe old age of 24, it’s quite easy for me to relate to Dessen’s characters. She’s spoken of her love for the 16-18 age group before, and that she has no plans (as of yet, anyway) to move beyond it. She claims nostalgia. That’s fine with me, though, because she writes about the sort of loves and lessons that transcend age boundaries. She writes Strong Female Characters without having to drop them into such tropes as warranted by the TV/movie world, for example. (You can either be pretty and feminine, or ugly and an unfeeling warrior, etc.) Emaline works hard: she works full-time for her family’s business and somehow still managed to balance the studying required for an acceptance to Columbia University. She loves hard: she and Luke were together for more than three years before life just got in the way. She’s a feminist: she calls out Morris on his use of the word “bitch,” albeit subconsciously. (Thank you, Ms. Dessen, for that!) But Emaline is not afraid to cry, as evidenced when she disappoints her mother, or when her birth-father disappoints her. She feels lonely and not special, which are feelings everyone battles with, be they a teenage girl or not.

In a deviation from most of Ms. Dessen’s other books, this one does not end with the Girl Getting the Guy! Spoilers. Theo turns out not to be the one from her, and she goes off to East U free of romantic entanglements, ready to start again with someone new. This clearly doesn’t happen right off the bat, though, because at the end of the book we run into Emaline taking Benji to New York City for an art show. Not a boyfriend, but her half-brother. You go, Emaline.

If I had to give this book a big, capitalized Moral, it’d be You Don’t Need A Man to Be Happy. You might even be able to through an “especially” in there, in regards to her birth-father. Emaline learns that she had no obligation to be with Theo if he wasn’t making her happy, regardless of how many Best Dates Ever they had (or didn’t have). She also learns that sometimes parents really do know best, and that their love is truly unconditional: no matter how many times you disappoint them, they’ll forgive you and welcome you back with open arms. And that, even when you’re only two hours away, your mom still worries.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Review: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Title: A Northern Light
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN: 0-15-216705-6
Published: 2003, Harcourt Books

a northern light

Main Characters: Mattie, her family, Weaver, Miss Wilcox, Royal Loomis

Synopsis: Mattie is a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, trapped in 1906. She loves school and tries to spend all her free time reading– not that she has much; now that her mother has died and her brother has run away, her Pa needs her to help run the farm. But Mattie has big dreams. Big dreams that will cost a lot of money to make happen. She has to decide if she wants to marry the handsome local boy and be a farm wife forever, or to break her promises and make a break for the Big Apple. A story told in two timelines that meet up at the end, Mattie makes her choice and solves a murder mystery in the process.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “As I tried to figure out what I could say– to find words that weren’t a lie but weren’t quite the truth, either– I thought that madness isn’t like it is in books. It isn’t Miss Havisham sitting in the ruins of her mansion, all vicious and majestic. And it isn’t like in Jane Eyre, either, with Rochester’s wife banging around in the attic, shrieking and carrying on and frightening the help. When your mind goes, it’s not castles and cobwebs and silver candelabra. It’s dirty sheets and sour milk and dog shit on the floor. It’s Emmie cowering under her bed, crying and singing while her kids try to make soup from seed potatoes.” (p. 17)
  • “I stared into my teacup, wondering what it was like to have what Minnie had. To have somebody love you like Jim loved her. To have two tiny new lives in your care. … I wondered if all those things were the best things to have or if it was better to have words and stories. Miss Wilcox had books but no family. Minnie had a family now, but those babies would keep her from reading for a good long time. Some people, like my aunt Josie and Alvah Dunning the hermit, had neither love nor books. Nobody I knew had both.” (p. 96-97)
  • “I thought some lemon drops would be just the thing to cheer Abby up. It would be a furtive purchase, as I really should have given the money to Pa, but after he’d hit me, I decided I wouldn’t. Furtive, my word of the day, means doing something in a stealthy way, being sly or surreptitious. Sneaky would be another way of putting it. I did not wish to become a sneak, but sometimes one had no choice. Especially when one was a girl and craved something sweet but couldn’t say why, and had to wait till no one was looking to wash a bucket of bloody rags, and had to say she was ‘under the weather’ when really she had cramps that could knock a moose over, and had to listen to herself be called ‘moody’ and ‘weepy’ and ‘difficult’ when really she was just fed up with sore bosoms and stained drawers and the fact that she couldn’t just live life in the open, swaggering and spitting and pissing up trees like a boy.” (p. 161)

Review: Spoilers ahead! I adored this book. It took a bit of getting used to, simply because of the time period, and the way the timelines were split, but after a chapter or two it was easy to discern what was going on. I love Mattie’s use of words and the games she plays with Weaver. Weaver’s character was fantastic. He’s black child growing up in 1906 whose mother saves every penny he owns to send him to college, and he works his bum off to get into college and dreams of becoming a lawyer. Mattie can see his future plain as day and knows he’ll be brilliant in everything he achieves. Of her own future, though, she isn’t so sure. Sometimes things really are too good to be true, and Mattie’s coming to terms with that is one of the hardest parts of the book to stomach. Because although Mattie can’t see it coming, the reader sure can.

I loved the separate timeline bit, although like I said, it took a bit of getting used to. I’m still not sure if it was past/present or present/future, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter since they meet up toward the end anyway. Mattie is handed a bundle of letters and told to burn them by a young woman who turns up dead in the lake the same night. Curiosity outweighs her desire to keep her promise, and she reads them. The author’s note at the end says that all the letters are real; it’s an interesting case that became one of New York’s most famous murder mysteries. Obviously, the author took a bit of creative license with the circumstances considering Mattie is fictional, but the rest is true. (If you’re curious, here’s the Wikipedia page.)

Anyway, Mattie learns that you really do have to follow your heart, even when it takes a while to learn that it isn’t a) pointing at the handsome boy who’s asked her to marry him or b) keeping the promise you made to your mother on her deathbed when she asked you to take care of the family. She has to live her own life, and thank heavens she does.

Beautifully written with a colorful cast of characters; I didn’t mention all of them but the twist with the English teacher is a lovely touch, and greatly inspiring. The secondhand learning of all these famous authors via Mattie was good for me as well. She talks of her love for Emily Dickinson, how she didn’t hide the truths of the world for you, she wasn’t afraid of death or loss or heartbreak. That’s the kind of writer Mattie longs to be, because her life isn’t perfect and she can’t imagine lying to the world.

Rating: ★★★★

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Review: Nobody’s Princess by Esther Friesner

Title: Nobody’s Princess
Author: Esther Friesner
Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-375-87528-1
Published: 2007, Random House

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Main Characters: Helen of Sparta, her family, and her friends Atalanta, Milo, and Eunike

Synopsis: Helen of Sparta, daughter of Zeus, is a young girl growing up in ancient Greece. She may not know exactly what she wants out of life, she knows what she doesn’t: she doesn’t want to marry a boy, she doesn’t want to learn needlepoint, and she definitely doesn’t want to just be pretty! Helen takes it upon herself to make her own dreams come true, such as learning to swordfight, and sets herself up to become Helen of Troy, one of the most famous women history will ever know.

Memorable Quotes:

  • “That would be so easy, wouldn’t it?” she said. “So easy to let someone else make your choices for you. That way, if you fail, it isn’t your fault.” She clasped my hands more tightly. “You deserve to live a better life than that.” (Queen Leda to Helen, p. 87)
  • “She said that until she met you, she thought she was the only woman alive who’d ever wanted something more than a husband, a family, and a hearth fire. Was she wrong?” (Milo to Helen, p. 256)

Review: Although I can definitely say this tale was intended for someone much younger than I, I must give credit where credit is due: this is a wonderful little novel. I’ve always gotten a kick out of historical fiction, and reading about a young girl’s struggle to make a mark on the world is something I think we can all identify with. We all grew up wanting to be the President, did we not? Helen sees the cookie-cutter mold laid out for her future and doesn’t want a piece of it. The characters are vibrant and well-fleshed out; you truly feel for Helen and her plights. Her friends are loyal and imaginative, though the prophesizing Eunike comes off as a mere plot device. In spite of that, however, there doesn’t seem to be much of a plot; it’s written more as a journal, detailing her day-to-day experiences and travels. There is a sequel, though, and if I can get my hands on it, I’ll definitely review it as well!

Rating: ★★★½

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