A MONSTER CALLS: A (Brief) Review

It’s been a long time since I’ve finished a novel in a single sitting.

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A Monster Calls is a quick read, but an important one. It’s beautiful. The story, the purpose, the prose. What makes it beautiful is that it is universal. I may not have lived Conor’s truth, or his life, but I know it. I feel it deeply in my b0nes because I have lived my own version of it. And who hasn’t? It’s so simple but it rings truer than most novels I have read, and it is for that that I cried.

I do feel like it could have been more. Everything could have been elaborated on, and this 200 page novel could have been doubled in size. It could have been sadder, it could have been more magical, it could have been dragged out longer. But its simplicity, in a way, is what makes it so bitterly real. The simplicity makes it painful and applicable and so desperately heartbreaking– even if we all know how it’s all going to turn out. The stories, then, are not just to teach Conor, but to teach us. In learning Conor’s truth, we are learning our own.

I don’t want to watch the upcoming movie in fear of what it will do to the story, but I’m also happy its been adapted because this is a voice that needs to be heard.

4.5 tree monsters out of 5.

WHERE THINGS COME BACK: A Book Review

I want to sip tea and contemplate this book for hours on end.

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I read Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley because my sister bought it years ago and didn’t like it. I can understand why she didn’t: the back of the book almost seems to mislead you, because it makes it seem as though the book is closer to a murder-mystery, or at least a crime novel, than a standard YA coming-of-age book. And the novel could have easily been a crime story, focusing on the kidnapping of the brother and the protagonist’s quest for answers. But instead, Where Things Come Back takes a realistic approach and looks at the characters: it is a study in why people do the things they do, and how people react to the life around them. In short, it is a stunningly beautiful story about who we are and how each choice we make leads to the place where all of our choices come back.

I don’t even want to review this book because I loved it so much. At times, the prose is confusing, especially since there are two stories going on, and they don’t initially seem to fit together at all. The protagonist will sometimes dissociate from his own story (he’s telling it in first person) and refer to himself in the third. This maneuver, I think, is brilliant, but sometimes, when you’re not paying attention, it can get confusing and the words blur together and you just feel kind of lost for a second or two before you find your place again. Overall, the prose is nice to read, but it does have its bumps.

The characters I think could be fleshed out a bit better, especially some of the stranger side characters (like the parents), but I did find everyone to be likable. When they made confusing or contradictory choices, they still made sense because these reactions felt very real and very human. I would have liked a bit more meat to my characters to chew on, but I did really enjoy getting to know them and found their humanity really heartwarming and familiar.

The conclusion of the story is stunning, not because it’s unexpected, but because it truly is the place where things come back. It made my stomach plummet and my heart sink then soar. It’s really a beautiful little book, and I’m so happy that my sister disliked it because it’s mine now (heheh). I don’t think this story is going to be leaving me any time soon.

4 extinct birds out of 5

THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER: A Book Review

“Just because love don’t look the way you think it should don’t mean you don’t have it”

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The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton is, above all, a book about love. Don’t be mistaken: this is not a romance. The book features all sorts of love, but perhaps my favourite part is that none of the love stories turn out as expected. Perhaps the reason why I like this book so much is because it’s all about foiled love, and how love is never what we want it to be. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about love, and how what the media portrays in regards to love and romance is so far from reality; it’s the love stories we want, not the stories we actually have. This novel subverts that, and I can’t help but think it’s one of the most authentic novels about love I have ever read.

The book is strange. There’s elements of fantasy, but the world feels thoroughly like out own. It’s not a stretch to wonder if this novel is fantastical, or if all the fantasies are simply metaphors for real world conditions and emotions. When you begin to question the fantasy, so many new layers are added to the story, but even if you simply accept the magic as is, the book still holds incredible depth. As I said before, the book really is a question about love, but it is also about identity, and how love shapes who we are– for better or for worse.

The beginning is a bit slow, and I found it was easy to forget little details as I read through the novel as it does span across 4 generations. I often forgot who characters were, or details that would have made the story a lot clearer (i.e., I forgot Henry’s ‘gift’ so to speak until the very end). This is in part due to the writing, which is very dreamy and can easily float away from you. It’s also in part due to pacing, as the plot is more “slice of life” than “fantasy adventure.” It is also in part to due to how I read a novel: this is a novel that demands quiet contemplation and not binge-reading in a night or two. That took me some time to get used to.

The last thing I want to mention is the ending. The end of the novel is pretty clear, but I think it’s also open for interpretation. There’s a lot of different ways to read it, and if I love anything, it’s an ambiguous ending. One version of the ending is a lot easier to accept as true, but I find the second version is more satisfying, in a way, and just adds that much more to the story. If you read the novel, you’ll have to let me know if you felt like the end was ambiguous, and what you’re thoughts are on it, or if I’m just reading too much into it.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a lovely little book. It reminds me of cozy weekends curled up on a couch and sipping tea. It’s a book that demands to be considered, and I think it is quite philosophical in a lot of ways. I love the “realistic” fantasy elements to it, and how easily they can be thought of as metaphors and symbols. This is a story about real love, not the kind of love we want but the kind of love we experience, and for that, I love this book.

3.5 wing feathers out of 5.

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME: A Book Review

I don’t know about you, but the phrase “call me by your name” makes my heart soar.

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This book. THIS BOOK.

So. Let’s start with the good.

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman is a modern romance. I call it that because it’s not a typical romance with a happy-as-day ending, but a romance where everything makes your heart hurt in a way that’s so satisfying. Slowly, over a summer, two boys begin a relationship and dare I say, fall in love. The summer is all they have. You know it, and they do too. But it doesn’t stop the feelings and the actions and the all-consuming thoughts. And then the summer’s over, and you get a whole chapter to sit and maybe shed a tear as you follow their relationship over the next 20 years. It’s so sad and so beautiful and it all feels so right. Ugh.

So the prose is confusing at times, and sometimes I found my eyes skimming over pages without absorbing anything. I wish this story was more poetic, because it definitely had the ability to be, and that would have made the pain so much more profound. But instead, we get to read the thoughts of a 17 year old boy who, while very intelligent, is still…. a boy. Sometimes, things get gross. Gross enough that it had me exclaiming so out loud. But despite how disgusting and strange things got, it still felt… genuine. As if this was something a boy in love with another boy would do or think or say. So I appreciate the realism, even if it was unpleasant at times.

The story could have been so much more, the romance so much more, even the sex so much more. But Call Me By Your Name is still a very lovely read, and a pretty quick one, and rather romantic in its own little way. Truthfully, that idea– to call someone by your own name– is probably the most intimate thing I have ever heard and it gives me chills just thinking about it. I feel like this book is going to have a lasting impact on me, and the last chapter really solidified its beauty and power to me. This book probably isn’t for everyone, but I recommend giving it a shot if you like LGBT fiction or unique love stories. It has its charm.

3.5 out of 5 Italian beaches. 

THE FIRELIGHT GIRLS: A Book Review

This book is warmer than a campfire on a cool summer’s eve.

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Heartwarming. If there is one word to describe The Firelight Girls by Kaya McLaren, it’s heartwarming. I picked this novel up at a huge library book sale on a whim. Usually, I research books before I read them, let alone purchase them. I like to know exactly what I’m getting into. But this book called to me. Maybe it was the title. Maybe it was the pink sunset cover. Or maybe it was just my soul knowing this was exactly what I needed.

The Firelight Girls is a happy book. It is so uplifting and light. It’s the type of book you want to read curled up under a tree or beside a fire. The book isn’t superficial though: while everyone gets a happy ending, they go through hardships to achieve it. Maybe that’s what makes the story so cozy and sweet.

My favourite part was how McLaren was able to create all these unique, independent women. Every single one of them has their own story, and their stories aren’t ones traditionally told. There’s Ethel, the woman who fell in love with a woman in the 1950s. There’s Ruby, who Love passed over. There’s Shannon, single in her 40s and wanting to teach but not knowing how. There’s Lauren, who’s been with her husband for so long she’s forgotten what love is. Then there’s Amber, whose mother neglects her in favour for men and drugs. And lastly, there’s the camp itself, who is home and so much more to each of these women.

The story isn’t world-shattering. The prose isn’t so beautiful that you could cry. The characters aren’t ones that will haunt you for the rest of your life. But still, this story remains important, one that shows the bonds of womanhood and how a place can shape and make a person. It’s a wonderful read to soften your cold heart, especially if you have experienced camp before, or anything similar to it.

So if you find this book at a book sale, or a garage sale, or on the shelf of a bookstore — or if you find any other book that seems to call to you– take the chance on it. Sometimes, a warm book-hug is all you need.

3.5 campfires out of 5.