TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN: A Book Review

Sometimes, books make you cry because they’re sad. Sometimes, you cry because you’re filled with joy. And sometimes, you cry because finally someone gets it.

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Full disclosure: I love John Green. For some reason, everyone decided it was time to make fun of him, and suddenly it wasn’t cool to read John Green, but he is one of my favourite authors because every single one of his books holds up a mirror and whispers see? There you are.  Turtles is no exception. In fact, I see myself more in Turtles than I have in maybe any other book I have ever read.

Aza is a character that has wrapped her way around my heart. I know this girl, because I am that girl, in many different ways. She’s so personal which makes her charming and also very real. I don’t feel like she’s been “smoothed” down; she’s allowed to keep her sharp edges that might make her wonderfully imperfect.

Maybe you’re not an Aza though. Maybe you’re a Davis, who has problems of his own that are quieter, but still permeate the text. Or maybe you’re a Daisy, who wishes someone would listen to the problems she has for once. Every character is so entirely human, and fractured, and for lack of a better term, lovable. I honestly feel like I read a book about me and my closest friends.

Turtles is both personal and subtle.  The writing style is beautiful (as Green’s writing always is) but I found it to be much simpler than his previous works. It’s still wordy, and has metaphors that make you sigh, but it’s all toned down, letting Aza’s quietness reflect the story she’s telling. Plus, it makes the “loud” parts that much more effective.

Now for what you all want to know: yes, there is a romance plot, but no, this is not a love story nor a romantic book. It is entirely Aza’s story, and the true love story in this book is not between Aza and Davis, but Aza and Daisy. Their friendship soars, and that’s the plot that’s going to squeeze your little heart.

Turtles is John Green without being “John Green.” It’s not a quirky romance, but a true story that reflects the reality of having anxiety in the information age. It’s not as beautifully heart-wrenching as Looking for Alaska, nor as romantically devastating as The Fault in Our Stars, but it is subtle and personal and quiet, which is sometimes all you want a book to be.

And yes, the ending made me cry. In the best, most wonderful way.

5 turtle backs out of 5

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A Little Light

It’s not hard to see that I haven’t been reviewing books as frequently. I have no need for excuses; the truth is the easiest way to explain. And the truth is this: the internet has been a dark, dark place and being on it for too long sets my brain aflame.

We live in dark times. One simply has to turn on the news to see the darkness that feasts upon the world. What people tend to forget is that the world has always been dark: there have always been wars, and discrimination, and fear, and the few controlling the plenty. Indeed, we exist in the safest point in history. But if there has always been dark, then the opposite is true too: there is always, always light.

I find my light in books. Some days, the darkness overwhelms and I have to read a lighthearted young adult romance, or a children’s lit adventure. Sometimes, I crave escape, and the world of fantasy calls me. In these books, I find a form of reassurance: while reading of a world so different from my own, I come to understand my life. Sometimes, I read the bleakest stories I can find, the ones with no happy ending that leave your pages crinkled from free-falling tears. In these books, my heart hurts, then it is reborn. I can heal with these characters and let out all the sadness that rests in my soul.

No matter what you read, you will understand. There is something that comes out, illuminating the words on the page and igniting emotion in your heart. Search for books that make you feel. Search for books that make you believe. Search for books that speak to what you cannot say.

Find your light.

Find it, and never let it go.

AT THE EDGE OF THE UNIVERSE: A Book Review

Wow. Okay. So Shaun David Hutchinson is definitely not a “one book wonder.” Yes, We Are The Ants is a masterpiece, but don’t forget this little gem either because– wow.

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Hutchinson’s books are weird. At The Edge of the Universe is the 3rd book of his I’ve read, and they’re all the types of books that get you VERY strange looks when you try to explain them to someone. Don’t you understand that the disappearing universe is a metaphor, but it’s one that feels very real to our protagonist? That’s where the brilliance in this novel lies; as you read the book, you *know* the universe isn’t *really* shrinking, which means that you can’t trust the narrator, which makes you wonder… what else is he hiding? And yet, to Ozzie, the shrinking universe is very real, so it’s easy to get swept up in that aspect which makes you wonder yet again– why is the universe shrinking? What has happened to Ozzie to cause it to shrink? The novel provides answers that are thorough enough to satisfy the reader but vague enough to leave you thinking about it for long after you’ve finished.

A few days ago, a YA author I admire tweeted how he wished there were more YA novels where bad things happen to the protagonist, which essentially boils down to this: books where the ending isn’t tied with a perfect red bow. I love messy protagonists, and messy stories where your heart hurts at the end but you know something has changed in the protagonist, and maybe in you too.

If you like messy books with satisfying ends that pain you, even just a little bit, then this is a book for you.

Because trust me. It’s messy. And it might hurt. But it’s worth it.

It’s a lot like love and life in that way, isn’t it?

4 starless skies out of 5

THE RETRIBUTION OF MARA DYER: A Book Review

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The Mara Dyer trilogy isn’t quite what I expected it to be. As Mara says, her story is a romance, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a story of the oddities in life, how the strange and unusual walk among us, dangerous and safe. It’s about how monsters lie dormant in our blood. It’s about evolution of self, of relationships, of humanity. It’s a dark series, filled with answers yet leaving the reader not quite sure of—anything, really.

 

Like most trilogies, the second book – The Evolution of Mara Dyer—is by far the strongest. While the first book is good, it’s missing the strangeness of Mara’s story. It’s the closest book to a typical romance, although there are a lot of dark mysterious and curiosities. The second book is—insane. You spend about 98% of the novel unsure of what is true and what isn’t; about what Mara sees and about what Mara only sees. You are thrown into a hall of mirrors, and Mara is leading you out, except she has no idea where the exit is.

 

The final book – The Retribution of Mara Dyer – takes a different format. Unlike the first two, there is no primary setting. This lack of setting heightens the theme of instability.  Like Mara and her friends, there is no “safe space” for the reader to fall back on when they’re trying to distinguish truth from fiction. While they are answers given, there’s always a voice nagging at the back of your head, whispering but is this the truth? Is it?

 

Mara’s story is strange, yet it feels real. The characters are all fantastic, and I ended up liking them a lot more than I thought I would. I love Jamie’s constant pop culture references (which, yeah, are going to feel outdated in a few years time), and I even ended up loving Mara and Noah’s relationship, which I really worried I wouldn’t about midway through the first book. I love how the last book pulls all the pieces together, so much so that you realize that nothing is coincidence. That’s how you tell a story.

 

So maybe the ending wasn’t the big, climatic scene I was hoping for. Maybe it didn’t cause worlds to explode and maybe I kind of wish Mara had been a bit more badass (don’t worry, she still is, it’s just—well. Who is the hero and who is the villain?).  Still, the series ends with a satisfying conclusion, filled with the answers to the questions that most desperately required resolution. While not everything is answered, I quite liked that: I like the openness, and the idea that there is still so much more that Mara and company don’t know. It’s a good ending but still—it could have been more.

 

The Mara Dyer trilogy is phenomenal, the type of series that sticks with you, and makes you question everything you know. It’s the type of series that makes me want to wave the book around and yell at strange to READ IT, READ THIS BOOK. It’s good; what more can I say?

 

5 symbolic necklaces out of 5

NOW I RISE: Book Review

This book…… may have destroyed me a little bit.

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So I absolutely loved And I Darken when I read it a few months back. One of the biggest critiques that I have seen about it is that it can be rather slow paced. And yeah, it is pretty slow, but I never found that to be a problem because the story was so solid. If you found And I Darken slow…. well, you might want to stop reading now.

Because Now I Rise is slooooooooooow. 

At least at the beginning.

I found the first 100 pages or so extremely difficult to get through. I read it, but I wasn’t absorbing it. Once the plot picked up, I even found myself having to flip back to remember who certain characters were and how they were introduced into the novel. I mean, ask me what happened at the beginning, and I’m going to be able to tell you nothing. It was bad.

But then it picks up. I love And I Darken, but now I love Now I Rise even more.

What makes these novels excellent is the characterization. There are characters here that I have never seen before. The relationships are fleshed out and complicated, and I love how different yet similar they all are.

Lada is relentless and completely savage. I love her burning desire, and as much as I love her, I can’t wait until it consumes her entirely. She is such a strong female character, and one who does not renounce her identity as female but proves that she can be woman and strong. In fact, all the women in this novel are strong and ambitious and so much more than the world tries to tell them they are. I admire every one of them.

And Radu… oh, Radu. I hope for only happiness for you. Radu is extremely important to this series, for he is the heart of these novels. He is everything Lada is not, but a lot more similar to her than I believe anyone is willing to admit. Without Radu, the novel would be too harsh, with Lada making hard decisions fearlessly. Radu, on the other hand, struggles with every decision he makes, and is entirely morally grey. His choices and allegiance vary based on the situation as he tries to be “good” but comes to realize there is no such thing. Radu deserves love and happiness, even if he doesn’t believe so himself.

I eagerly anticipate the next book because, honestly, I don’t know how much better it can get, but I know it’s going to. The ending is wonderful, and leaves you craving so much more. I can’t wait to get my heart torn apart. Again.

5 stars out of 5

RELEASE: A Book Review

If you like slice of life stories with a bit of a twist, then you gotta read Patrick Ness’s Release.

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People will tell you that not much happens in this book (untrue). I almost want to say that too much happens– because a lot happens within less than 24 hours– but that’s the point of the story: it’s about the extraordinary in the ordinary. Our protagonist, Adam, begins thinking that today is going to be just another day. Instead, Adam is torn apart, bit by bit, as every piece of his life is unraveled until he finally reaches– you guessed it– release.

It’s kind of great.

What makes this greater is that there are actually two narrative storylines going on in this text. Ness played with the idea of the phenomenal story being told in the background in The Rest of Us Just Live here, and he plays with it again in Release. While Adam is living a “normal” day (it’s not normal) something extraordinary is happening in his sleepy little town, but he’s entirely unaware. It makes Adam’s story seem a lot more special in some way, and when the stories eventually link up (because you know they do), it makes everything feel…. magical. Fulfilling. Like this was how it was always meant to be.

This book is a character study. Through it, we learn all about Adam Thorn, and we don’t learn much else. I love that. I love the focus on the singular, and I love how it’s not told through a very personal, diary-esque first person narrative. Instead, we read the story of Adam, or at least, as much of it that can happen within a day.

The best chapter is the first chapter, but it’s also the worst chapter. I say this because I am a fan of Mrs. Dalloway, and the first chapter is very Virgina Woolf. It’s superb, and anyone who has read Mrs. Dalloway is clued into it right away (parallel opening lines, anyone?). However, it is also the worst chapter because I feel like the text hasn’t found its voice yet. If you’re reading the first bit, and not getting into it, I strongly suggest you keep reading. It gets easier, and better, once both Ness and Adam find their narrative voice, and the text stops being a homage and becomes something unique and special.

Because all Ness novels are unique and special.

Now, I guarantee someone, somewhere, is going to try to ban this book. There are sex scenes and they are somewhat explicit. It’s something that probably would have made me uncomfortable as a young teen, but it’s something that by sixteen or seventeen, I would have loved to read, just to have it represented. Especially gay youth. SUPER important representation for them.

Overall, I thought this book had the trademark Ness quirky-ness but in a much more sophisticated voice than a lot of his other works. I definitely recommend it to fans of the every day and to people who don’t have it quite figured out just yet, but are working hard towards that moment of release.

3 stars out of 5.

GEEK LOVE: A Book Review

Note: this book is not about comic con geeks falling in love.

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The best part about reading Geek Love is getting to tell people what it’s about. “I’m reading this strange book,” I’d say. Then they’d say “Oh? What’s it called?” “Geek Love,” I’d reply as I watch their noses crinkle. Then, I would clarify, “It’s about carnival freaks.”

But is it really fair to say that’s what Geek Love is about? Yes, the novel is about a husband and wife who decide to breed their own carnival freak show. Yes, it features a child with flippers for limbs, a set of conjoined twins, a “albino, hunchback dwarf,” and a child who appears to be a “norm” but is anything but. Yes, there is some squicky relationships and family love that goes far too far and unhealthily deep. Yes, Geek Love has the most bizarre and terrible characters you will meet, and yes, you will be uncomfortable and disgusted, and yes, it is everything it sounds like it will be, but it is also so much more. 

Geek Love is a disturbing novel about what it means to be “human” and the lengths people go to in order to feel special. Essentially, Geek Love is one of the most fundamentally human books I have ever read. Which means that, yes, you will find yourself relating to it more than you ever thought you could.

The novel is a reflection of both the desire and the disgust for difference that exists within us all. We love the absurd because it allows us to feel normal; but what the novel shows us is how we hate the normal because it makes us feel purposeless and useless.

What I loved most is how every single character is despicable and unlikeable in their own ways. They all do horrific things, things that no human should ever do, yet they seem to do it without a second guess. The choices they make are different than what most people would make because of the world they have created for themselves. Yet, these choices feel if not acceptable at least logical in their world. Perhaps the most disturbing part is how easy it is to love these characters, and how people who do disgusting things can be so close to your heart. I cried for these people. But what’s worst is that I forgave them, even when I knew what they did was wrong.

Everyone I talk about this book with says they want to read it. I will admit, this is probably because I absolutely adored it. The writing can be a bit dry at times, dense with words, and the plot is slow, but it’s this slowness that lets you sink into the world, lets you understand the carnivalesque, lets you feel almost… almost like you could be one of them. But you’re not. And the novel never lets you forget that.

I will warn you,  as I warn everyone I talk to this book with, it is highly disturbing and not for those with weak stomachs or hearts. There is a lot that is messed up, twisted to the point where you can’t believe people would do such things and yet… you understand their choices exactly.

Because, Geek Love shows us, we’re all monsters, and if we aren’t, we all crave to be one.