A BOOK : All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

 

B L O G M A S  D A Y  13

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Today we are talking about All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. You know how after John Green got SUPER popular suddenly every book that was young adult and contemporary had a little statement claiming it was EXACTLY LIKE BOOKS BY JOHN GREEN?

Well good news! I’ve heard little blurbs talking about THIS book saying if you like books by John Green you would like this, and I think that is SUPER accurate.

And I’m trying to figure out what it is about this one that seems like that is a very true statement. Because yes, in All the Bright Places you have two very smart seemingly very different from each other teens start becoming friends (and possibly more-ooh-la-la). You also have tragic stories mixed with humor.

On the surface all of those ring true, but that rings true for a lot of books that I wouldn’t say capture the same feeling and voice. Niven’s book speaks to that same feeling and voice though. It is of course completely its own story….

[SUMMARY TIME.

Finch is notorious for his weirdness and how different he is. Violet is notorious for her popularity. They are on polar opposites of the social structure, yet somehow they both end up on the roof of the school at the same time with possibly a similar idea… the book is told in alternating view points as they navigate their histories, trying to live in the present, and the possibility of a future.]

So even though the core of the story is definitely different, what Niven seems to do similarly is to put to words the yearning and emotion in life when you’re feeling stuck physically and emotionally that Green also seems to do. It’s idealistic in certain ways, yet grounded in harsh realities.

I will say, similarly with The Fault in our Stars there is an interesting tension between the lightness of the book with the seriousness of some of the situations being discussed.

Is it fair to spend so much time comparing one author to another? Probably not. But I think that was my strongest review reaction– especially because is has attained a similarity that a lot of marketing people seem to be striving for.

So if you’re looking for something that simultaneously somehow draws from your happy and giddy emotional pool and your my heart is breaking emotional pool, add All the Bright Places to your to-read list!

Heads up though- the book does discuss suicide a lot.

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A BOOK : A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman

I think if you were to ask me what my favorite book I read this year was, I might have to say it was A Man Called Ove. I listened to the audio, and I have to say. If you decide you’re going to read this go for the audio if you can, if only because at the beginning of different chapters it starts with, “A man called Ove….” and for some reason that line repeated again and again throughout the book just drives home all of the charm this story had.

Because my goodness, is it charming.

It’s charming yet heartbreaking and at times goofy and heart warming, but still. So, so, so heartbreaking.

Basically A Man Called Ove is about a curmudgeon-y old man who lost his wife and now doesn’t want to live himself. He likes his systems and he likes his schedules and he likes his orderliness and he likes his rules, and so every day his days follow the same patterns. He does his morning neighborhood patrol and then essentially tries to end his life. Except. Life keeps getting in the way, as things in his neighborhood get a little nutty and of course, as Mr. Uber Controlling Neighbor he butts in or is forced into dilemmas whether he likes it or not.

While most of the story line exists in the present, it flashes into Ove’s past– his relationship with his father and growing up and how he met his wife. Ove is just such an endearing character. He sees a problem, he fixes it. He’s stubborn and certainly is very oblivious. He angers way too quickly, and I’m sure he would be someone I would be hesitant to interact with in real life, but in the end he has this soft core and tries to do good and has this humble way about life and work.

I’m trying to figure out what it was about this story I liked so much. I guess, to me it was oddly comforting. It feels like as close to a fairy tale as real life can get. There are all of the hardships and disappointments, but at the end of the day life keeps moving providing alongside the broken hearts moments of joy and healing and light.

Add it to your Goodreads TBR shelf HERE

Warning: the book does discuss suicide, so if this is a triggering topic you might want to tread carefully. If you want to learn more specifics so you can decide to read or not read, just let me know and I can let you know more details.

A BOOK : We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

B L O G M A S   D A Y   8

We Were Liars
by E. Lockhart

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
 
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE

I am joining the ranks of everyone going all “ishddfiubwfiub” over this one. Because seriously. ;ibgikubrgiebng.

The writing style used in this book is pretty much one of my favorite all time writing styles. Lockhart gives her main character, Cadence, a very distinct voice and the story is told completely from Cadence’s perspective. As a result we get to experience the roller coaster Cadence is on. I love how poetic everything sounds. I love how because of the way this is written, it feels very raw.

There is also a little bit of a play with fairy tales, and it was interesting to see how those fairy tales progressed and how they connect to reality.

This book is just one big puzzle, and it does it in a way where the answer to the puzzle is hinted at and hinted at a lot, but it is still super unreachable. Because I’ve read so much, I tend to at least have ideas that are in the right ballpark as to what will come next, but my reading sleuthing skills completely missed the mark on this one.

On the front cover John Green uses the word blisteringly, and I have to say that word hits the feel of this story right on.

If you haven’t yet, add We Were Liars to your tbr shelf on Goodreads! It was this year’s reader’s choice winner for teen fiction, which is pretty neat :).

Warning: Spoilers in comments!

A BOOK: The Space Between Trees

The Space Between TreesThe Space Between Trees by Katie Williams
Published 2010

This story was supposed to be about Evie: how she hasn’t made a friend in years, how she tends to stretch the truth (especially about her so-called relationship with college drop-out Jonah Luks), and how she finally comes into her own once she learns to just be herself, but it isn’t. Because when her classmate Elizabeth “Zabet” McCabe’s murdered body is found in the woods, everything changes and Evie’s life is never the same again.

My Thoughts:
I read The Space Between Trees based on the recommendation of author Courtney Summers. She made a guest appearance over at the blog Stacked and shared a few of her favorite young adult novels. She made a comment about the narrator being unreliable, and that’s what drew me to checking this one out.

And oh my gosh.

The feeling I got while reading this novel? I just don’t even know how to describe it. The entire time everything just felt wrong in a very purposeful way, if that makes any sense. Which makes sense, it should feel wrong. A girl was murdered.

Evie, the narrator, is just such an… interesting girl. The way she understands and interacts with the world is awkward, because her interpretation of the events around her are often not accurate. This is a VERY realistic thing, of course, as we all interpret what is happening around us differently based on our own experiences and what we want to see. Williams portrays this so well, that it was really hard for me to read at times, in a “this novel is written so good and this character is just such a person” kind of way. I don’t even understand what kind of magic Williams worked to be in Evie’s head so well, while still giving the reader some room to breathe.

Pretty much, I would suggest reading this based on the character alone. Evie is 100% Evie and unlike any other character I have read before. This is another book I would suggest to read if you are interested in writing and want to learn how to write a little better if only for the characterization.

While we are dealing with a murder and danger, this is by no means a fast paced “WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT?!” kind of novel. It’s slower and more psychologically thrilling. There were a few moments where my heart rate went up, but it felt like more of a study of people in the time of tragedy instead of a thriller. While it does have a slower pace and there are a lot of beautifully written descriptions, I personally never felt like the story was lagging.

My last note, please if you are going to buy this go for the hardcover. I read the edition with the cover shown above, and it is stunning.

My last last note, please check out Stacked and Courtney Summers’s blog because they are awesome.

Review: Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska
by John Green
Published March 2005
Puffin

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another. A stunning debut, it marks John Green’s arrival as an important new voice in contemporary fiction.

Photo and summary from Goodreads.com

Once upon a time I read this book in high school.  It was about this boy who had this love for learning people’s last words– presidents, authors, generals- you name it.  After I read that I thought it was the coolest thing ever, and decided I would do the same thing.  I checked out one of those “Famous Last Words!” books and set myself up to read all those famous last words.

Well, that only lasted like 2 days.

Still, it’s been stuck in the back of my head– what a cool idea for a character!

Well, 5 or 6 odd years later is just so happens I’ve discovered I LOVE JOHN GREEN.  I’ve heard a lot of good things about Looking For Alaska so I finally ended up picking it up… and IT’S THE SAME BOOK mentioned above.  I forgot most of the book besides the main character and Alaska, so it was the best thing ever because it was like I was reading the book for the first time again!  And I have to say, it definitely did not disappoint!

It was actually even better this time around, because I got more of the philosophical thoughts in this book– and I also knew a bunch of the author references.

So!  Here’s what I’ve got to say about the book–

The main character sets out at the beginning of the book for the “Great Perhaps”- the Great Perhaps being something the poet Franςois Rabelais declared on his death bed he was off to seek.  Miles’ method of finding the Great Perhaps is leaving public schook to spend his last 2 years of high school in boarding school in Alabama where he ends up hanging out with some incredibly smart (and silly) kids- one of the most notable being this girl named Alaska.

Alaska is this fierce, incredibly smart, loud girl.  Miles compares himself to her saying that if they were rain he’d be a drizzle (or something close to that- I forget) and she’d be a hurricane.  She is this roller coaster of a woman, going from incredible highs to incredible lows.  But what I love about her is that she isn’t that glorified broken girl character, her strengths and beauty are shown but also her weaknesses too and how she affects the people around her, both positively and negatively.

With having such an active character as Miles’ friend, Miles definitely moves in the book.  He ends at a different place than he started in and so the book is pretty much centered on Miles becoming that slightly different person he became at the end of the novel through living and loving and learning.

His living consists of pranks and girls and reading and video games and doing a lot of homework and having a lot of discussions.

His loving consists of learning to be a friend and to having friends and getting to know girls and pretty much just growing up.

And his learning consists largely of these two quotes:

“I go to seek the Great Perhaps”  by Franςois Rabelais

and

“[Bolívar] was shaken by the overwhelming revelation that the headlong race between his misfortunes and his dreams was at that moment reaching the finish line.  The rest was darkness.  ‘Damn it,’ he sighed.  ‘How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!'” which was in Gabriel García Márquez’s book about Simón Bolívar.

He’s learning how to live when there is so much suffering and about forgiveness and how his decisions do or don’t affect the people around them.

I think one of the reasons why I ended up enjoying this book so much is because it’s so much about motion and changing– the world, the people around you and yourself moving and growing into something different.  And not just that.  How do you keep moving on?  When is it okay to move on?

But that’s just me.  🙂  I’d be really interested to know what other people thought of this book… I guess suppose I’ll have to get going and read some reviews.

Ultimate Review: If you like books that make you think PICK THIS UP.  If you’re just looking for something with characters who are interesting and lovable and a storyline that will capture your attention, still, PICK THIS UP.  And who knows, you might think about stuff a long the way!
Random pointless story: While writing this review the UPS man delivered a package to one of my neighbors and my insanely nosy PROTECTOR OF THE STREET dog was outside (chained up thankfully- he is really good at jumping over fences) barking up a storm, so I tried to get him inside, but I ended up accidentally tripping him really bad and he fell.  It was kind of sad.  But he is a-ok now…

Review: Fall For Anything

Fall For Anything
by Courtney Summers
Published December 2010
St. Martin’s Griffin

When Eddie Reeves’s father commits suicide her life is consumed by the nagging question of why? Why when he was a legendary photographer and a brilliant teacher? Why when he seemed to find inspiration in everything he saw? And, most important, why when he had a daughter who loved him more than anyone else in the world? When she meets Culler Evans, a former student of her father’s and a photographer himself, an instant and dangerous attraction begins. Culler seems to know more about her father than she does and could possibly hold the key to the mystery surrounding his death. But Eddie’s vulnerability has weakened her and Culler Evans is getting too close. Her need for the truth keeps her hanging on…but are some questions better left unanswered?

Photo and summary from Goodreads.com

This book has left me with an ache in the heart that doesn’t seem like it will ever go away.   It was good, mind you.  Courtney Summers did not disappoint with her fantastic story-telling skills, but she did such a good job with this heart-breaking story that it, well, broke my heart.  Over and over again.

As it states in the summary, Eddie’s father commits suicide, leaving her and her mother to figure out how to live after that.  Having lost the love of her life, Eddie’s mother pretty much shuts down, which just leaves us with Eddie.  17-years-old.  Trying to make sense of everything.  By herself.

I don’t really know what to say.  Books that particularly affect me tend to leave me either speechless or a chatter box.  I guess all I can say about this book is this.  Based on my experience:

this book…
-has left my heart changed in some manner.  I’m not sure how to be exact.  I know one thing it gave me was more awareness of the feelings for those who has had someone close to them commit suicide.  What the other things are I suppose I’ll have to either read the book again to figure it out, or let time coax the changes forward.

this book…
-struck me by how incredibly realistic it was.  Hope isn’t extremely evident in the novel– just like it isn’t in day to day life necessarily.  I really had to search and pay attention to find some for Eddie and her mother.  It seems like Eddie will never get over this, because she can’t.  At least not fully.  Not when it’s someone so close.  But where the hope comes in is she is not as alone as she seems she is and you know she has to find some way to live.  Or at least you hope she will…

this book…
-was more than just about grieving someone you love.  Eddie became a beacon to anyone who has simply been lost and is trying to find his or her way back.  I could relate to little things so well– the tug of her heart toward certain things.  Her confusion.  Her awareness of the change in her relationship with her best friend.  Needing to understand something that you just can’t.  Little aspects of Eddie’s pain were incredibly tangible and real to me, because I’ve felt similar things.

this book…
-made me think a lot about personal strength, specifically what it means to be a strong human being.  It made me think of the energy required for every day.  It made me think about hurting people and what helps the hurt.

and lastly, this book…
-exhausted me.  In a good way.  Some books I easily become a passive third party watching what unfolds before me.  This book I was inside the pages actively experiencing Eddie’s roller coaster and struggling to make my voice heard to her.

For me the real beauty of books comes in that last point.  Really good books tear me away from myself and make me look at someone, something else.  They draw me in and don’t let me leave.  I am constantly amazed at how successful Courtney Summers is in doing this to me.  She has this fantastic ability to wrap up a real human and bind them between the pages of her novel.  After that, she invites you in to see, understand, learn, and figure out your own thoughts.

Ultimate Review: This book won me over within the first couple pages.  It deals with something that’s not talked about a lot that everyone should understand and be privy to, especially in this day and age where depression is so incredibly rampant.
Number of times I cried: I actually only cried twice.  Even though the book is sad and serious it was filled with enough happy things to make me do more than cry and hurt.

Review: 13 Little Blue Envelopes

13 Little Blue Envelopes
Maureen Johnson
Pub. Sept. 2005
HarperCollins
Young Adult

When Ginny receives thirteen little blue envelopes and instructions to buy a plane ticket to London, she knows something exciting is going to happen. What Ginny doesn’t know is that she will have the adventure of her life and it will change her in more ways than one. Life and love are waiting for her across the Atlantic, and the thirteen little blue envelopes are the key to finding them in this funny, romantic, heartbreaking novel.

Photo from maureenjohnsonbooks summary from goodreads

This is what I would call an entertaining read.  You have to suspend your disbelief in this one– there are some things you just have to accept (like lack of parents and financial credibility), and if you do that you will have fun as you go along on Ginny’s exciting journey of self-discovery.

This book is great for:

1.  Anyone with wanderlust.  It covers a large number of European countries in a short time.  You get a nice little taste of everywhere from Amsterdam to Greece.  The Louvre makes an appearance along with the vestal virgins in Rome, Edinburgh Castle, Harrods and quite a few other interesting places.  It’s fun to read about these places from a 17-year-old girl’s perspective.  I especially liked to read about her navigating the Louvre and her trying to figure out whether a door led to a bathroom and if it did if it was Male or Female.  Ginny made me giggle– not at her mind you.  With her.  🙂

2.  Anyone who likes self-discovery books.  Ginny is shy in an awkward almost pain staking way.  As she gets further and further out of her comfort zone you get to see her realize what she is capable of.  This is definitely a novel about finding yourself through adventure.

3.  Anyone who likes fun romances.  I think the boy lead brought a TON of life to the story.  Personally I would have liked to read more about him and see more of him.  He had a super interesting back story.  Maybe we’ll read more about him in the SEQUEL coming out SPRING 2011 titled The Last Little Blue Envelope!

4.  Anyone who likes art.  While Ginny is not an artist herself, her aunt whom she loves A TON is an artist.  She talks a fair amount about art because of this and it sparked my interest.  One of the side characters is actually based off a real artist named Vali Myers!  If you want to read about her you can at her website http://www.valimyers.com

5.  Anyone looking for an adventure read.  Because of the nature of the blue envelopes you never know what will come next!  As the content of the envelopes are revealed you get to learn more and more about Ginny’s aunt who turns out to be quite the mysterious character.

Ultimate review: A fast read that’ll make you want an adventure of your own
Because of this book I… went to the art institute with my friend!