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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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

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.

THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE: A Book Review

Historical LGBT+ is the best genre, sorry, I don’t make the rules.

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Ah, what can I say about The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue? I could say that it’s an important book, not because the protagonist is a bisexual male, but because it bothers to show this side of history at all. LGBT people have always existed, hidden within the pages of history, and this book lets them thrive even while showing how, yes, it was a very dangerous and scary life to live at times.

(Don’t worry, there’s a happy ending).

I could say it’s a fun book, filled with adventure and sticky situations. Maybe it’s not as crazy adventurous as I expected it to be; instead, it’s a bit more realistic in its insanity, and the situations they find themselves in seem rather plausible. It’s a great roadtrip-style narrative, one that you feel like you could love. And with just a touch of magic, the story flies off the page. I found myself easily flipping through chapter after chapter to get to the end to figure out how they get through the mess they’ve created for themselves.

That mess includes one of the best romances I’ve read in awhile. Is there anything better than double unrequited love? Monty, the protagonist, moons over his best friend, Percy, and is very open to the reader about his affections– which he considers unrequited. HOWEVER it’s very clear to the reader — and any character with eyes– that this love might not be as unrequited as Monty thinks…. It’s frustrating to watch these boys stumble and hurt over a love they think could never be returned, but deliciously so. Their love story is one for the ages.

Monty, I should mention, is a conceited asshole, but of the type you can’t help but love. Percy is soft with rough edges. And Felicity is a beautiful genius who deserves the world. The only thing better than these characters is watching them grow into their skin and develop to become even better people. It’s beautiful, frankly.

So in case you haven’t noticed, I really loved this book. I’d like to personally thank Mackenzi Lee for writing historical lgbt+ YA fiction– the world needs, needs!, more books like this.

I have no bad words for this book.

5 grand tours out of 5

NOWHERE NEAR YOU: A Book Review

Rendered speechless from this work of perfection.

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How do you review a book you consider absolutely perfect? Nowhere Near You is the sequel to Because You’ll Never Meet Me, one of my favourite novels. Now, BYNMM did not require a sequel: it ended in a way that felt satisfying and yet open, so the characters could live on in your mind. In fact, I loved the ending and praised it, even when those on Goodreads didn’t. Yet, when I saw Nowhere Near You in the store, I jumped around and clutched it to my chest, over-eager to read it.

Because You’ll Never Meet Me didn’t need a sequel, but I’m so glad it has one.

Nowhere Near You picks up right where the first left off and doesn’t miss a beat. It feels less like a sequel and more like a continuation. Everything I loved about the first carries on, and most of it is elevated. There’s so much more in this one: more love, more friendship, more mistakes, more mystery. More confusion. More hope. More heart.

I loved everything. I loved the plot. I love the adventure, and the secrets that creep in the corners of the pages. I love the mistakes Mo and Ollie make, and I love how their friendship evolves into something beyond. I love the new characters: every single one of them shines bright and is lovable in their own unique way.

I love the ending.

If I thought Because You’ll Never Meet Me ended perfectly, I was wrong. This is the ending Mo and Ollie deserve. I’m crying thinking about it.

Perfection, perfection, perfection.

This might be my favourite book of 2017.

Sorry this review was so lame. My heart is full of too much love and adoration to see any flaws this book might have.

There is nothing better than a satisfying ending to a beautiful story.

5 letters out of 5. 

MORE HAPPY THAN NOT: A Book Review

My heart hurts.

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More Happy Than Not is Adam Silvera’s first novel, but I read his latest, History Is All You Left Me first. I’m kind of disappointed I did, because History is a masterpiece and I don’t know if it’s a story Silvera can ever surpass. Happy is not History, but it’s still a story that surprised me and hurt me in the best way possible.

More Happy Than Not is clearly inspired by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (my favourite movie) but it isn’t a replica, and because of that, the twists and turns still left me breathless. Without revealing anything, I will say that I should have seen the plot twists coming, but I didn’t, and that is what ended up leaving me with tears in my eyes at the end. The seeds of History are planted deep into this novel, and there are a lot of similarities not in plot, but in tone and format. The biggest similarity is the feeling of deep sadness is that drips off of every page of the text, and stabs you in the chest right when you least expect it to.

I really don’t know what to say. I finished reading about an hour ago, and the wound is still raw for me. The thing is, I knew I would be sad, and I knew it would make me cry, but that didn’t stop it from hurting. What’s even worst is that despite how much everything hurts right now, I wouldn’t change a thing about this story. There was no other possible outcome, and nothing else would have been satisfying. It is masterfully told.

The thing about this sadness is that it’s a needed sadness. It isn’t a book that is sad to be sad, or that gives you a sugar-sweet happy ending just to satisfy that desire in all of us for happiness. It’s a book about finding happiness within yourself, and how sometimes, we have to hurt to find out what happiness is.

And boy, oh boy, do I hurt.

It’s clearly a novel that leaves a message to the reader, and I do hope that all those who read it understand what is being said. I don’t mean to scare you away by talking about how sad I am: my intention is to show you the affect Silvera is able to evoke in me. It hurts because it feels real, and it feels real because it’s a story we can all relate to.

The pursuit of happiness is difficult, and it’s a journey we all take. And sometimes, just sometimes, we achieve it, but it takes a lot of pain. I just hope that we can all find ourselves more happy than not.

5 memories out of 5.