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. 

SOMETIMES WE TELL THE TRUTH: A Book Review

This author has Talent with a capital T.

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Everyone knows it takes a lot of talent to write a novel, but what takes even more talent is writing a novel that modernizes one of the most important stories in the English language and doing so in a way that makes every character feel unique and special. Because that’s right: when Kim Zarins wrote Sometimes We Tell The Truth, not only did she modernize the Canterbury Tales by giving the stories to a bunch of high schoolers, but she also wrote 24 unique character voices. And the best part? She does it flawlessly. 

Brief Premise: On a bus trip to Washington, DC, Mr. Bailey, the civic’s teacher, proposes that each student tell a story to the class. It doesn’t have to be true, but it has to be made up on the spot. The winner with the best story gets an automatic A. Our narrator, Jeff Chaucer, leads us through the stories, offering insight into his own life, and we get this beautiful character development arc in this 6 hour bus trip where we see Jeff completely evolve, thanks to the stories he hears– and tells himself.

If you’ve ever read the Canterbury Tales, the stories are very familiar, but they’re all modernized to suit those telling them: teenage kids. They’re just as raunchy as Chaucer’s originals– and let me tell you, Zarins nails teenagers and teenage humour– and although each story is “fictional,” it’s very apparent that each story actually reveals a lot of truth about the person telling it. Hence, the title– even if fiction, sometimes we do tell the truth.

As I mentioned before, the great feat of this novel is not the stories, but the character voices. Each one shines through, completely different from the last. Sure, some are similar, and yes, there are a lot of voices which means a lot of characters get lost or forgotten, but there are many voices that come through loud and clear again and again, shining bright in their teenage imperfections. You will recognize yourself and people you knew in high school in each of these characters, but let’s face it: we are all Jeffs.

Jeff is rather unlikable, but it’s his unlikability which makes your root for him. And I have to admit, the reason why I didn’t like it is because I saw my own mistakes in him. He messes up, a lot. Like, yell-at-your-book-what-are-you-doing-Jeff messing up. But it’s all for the character development, which is great, even if it’s rushed and a crash course. But a novel needs an arc, and if the novel happens in 6 hours well… the arc is going to be fast paced.

There is so much representation for minorities in this book, and for voices that are rarely heard. If you don’t fall in love with Pard by the end of this novel, then you are doing something wrong. Alison was the type of girl I hated in high school, but she comes off some genuine that I couldn’t help but love her (or maybe it’s just because I love the Wife of Bath, who Alison is based upon). Sure, sometimes the characters are melodramatic, and yeah, the “everyone’s got a story that could break your heart” theme can get tiresome, but the good characters and plots outweigh the bad ones. I don’t think there was any character I didn’t love and understand and feel in my heart by the end of this.

Also, no spoilers, but the romance arc…….. is actually kind of beautiful. I’d read an entire book about that, yes please. It warms my cold little heart.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I love this book and everything it brings to the table. I know it’s faults, but I can’t help singing its praises. I never wanted to stop reading it. I’m so glad I stumbled upon this gem, and I urge everyone to read it. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll make you want to tell a story of your own.

4.5 bus trips out of 5.

(Did I mention there’s an intersex character? SO COOL.)

 

EAST OF EDEN: A Book Review

If you’ve read this book, then it’s probably your favourite book.

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East of Eden is Steinbeck’s masterpiece, and I would say it’s one of the most beautiful books the English language has to offer. I don’t have much to say about it, because it’s a book you must experience to understand. The prose is stunning, filled with lavish descriptions of the landscape and of characters that make them feel so incredibly alive.  Like most good works, the setting is a character, influencing others and the lives they live.

East of Eden tells the story of the Trask family and the Hamilton family. I call it a family epic, because that’s what it is: you follow generations of these families, and you follow some characters from birth until death. Within the Trask family, the story of Genesis is told and retold, particularly the story of Cain and Abel. It is Genesis, but it’s not Genesis: it’s a modern retelling, where Eve is a heartless whore and the Cain characters are full of too much.  It’s the story of falling, but it’s also a story of getting back up: as long as there is land, and as long as there is love, there is hope.

What I loved most, other than the beautiful prose, is the theme of family and generations. You follow these characters, and you see how they become who they are, and how they change, and the influence of parents– fathers especially– affects our choices and who we are. Sins of the parents are passed down to the children, but the novel makes sure to emphasize choice as well: our family and our history does not have to be our future. There is always a choice, a choice to be mean, or a choice to be good. Your history can shape you, but it doesn’t have to define you.

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”

There is so much to say, but I fear I cannot say enough. Everything this book is boils down to one word: Timshel.

And you’re going to have to read it to understand why.

But let me just assert: this is a beauty of a novel, and you should do yourself a favour and read it.  It has easily become one of my favourites, and I look forward to reading it again and again and again…

5 stars out of 5. 

HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME: A Book Review

You know a book is going to be good when you find yourself crying on the first page.

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I’m not ashamed to say that I cried reading this book. In fact, I cried a lot. I usually don’t like to consider myself a romantic, but then a book like this comes along, and I’m filled with so much pain over loves that cannot be, and I realize that yes, I do have a little bit of a romantic streak. I am going to warn you now: History Is All You Left Me is going to hurt you. It is going to make you sad, and it might make you cry, and it might make you make ugly noises in the middle of the night. It is not a book to binge read; you will read it slowly because the pain is so sharp on the page that you will cut yourself if you read too much too fast. You will finish this book, and you will cry, and you will clutch it to your chest and thank the author for writing something so beautiful and so real and thoroughly satisfying.

I genuinely don’t have anything bad to say about this book.

I love every second of it. I loved the characters, who are so broken and precious. You want to hug them all, to hold them as they cry– because they cry a lot. I loved Griffin and his love, deep and ferocious. I loved Jackson, haunting and hurting so badly that you wonder how he can survive. I loved how great Griffin and Jackson were for each other, and how together they learned to smile again. I loved how much they grew within the pages, and how they realized that love never ends, but neither does pain. They are going to love and hurt over Theo forever, but that doesn’t mean they won’t ever be happy again.

One of my favourite parts of this book is the absence of Theo’s voice. At first, I was wondering if it was intentional or not, but the ending (no spoilers!) reveals that it is indeed an intentional move on the author’s part, and it is brilliant. Because it’s not Theo’s story; it’s Griffin’s. (Sidenote: I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tearing up right now.) And Griffin– Griffin is a protagonist I am going to love for the rest of my life. He is so endearing, and his faults and mistakes all feel so real, and maybe that’s why, in part, this novel is so difficult to read. Griffin’s feelings seep right into you, and you feel what he does, and you feel for him, too. I repeat: this is a sad book. But it’s uplifting and beautiful too, a thorough story of love and loss.

Everything I thought would happen, happened, but it happened in ways I didn’t quite expect. There are some plot twists, some turns in the narrative, that hit you with such force that you’re surprised you didn’t see it coming all along.

Another thing I loved was how, like Griffin and Jackson, you’re left with “what ifs?” and what could have been. These questions have no answers, and cannot have answers. You can dream, you can wish, but as our protagonist learns, eventually, you have to go on.

History Is All You Left Me is one of my favourite books. I cannot stop thinking about it, and I don’t really want to. It’s such a beautiful novel, and I know I’ve said that a lot, but I can’t think of anything else to say. The ending is so satisfying and perfect, and the beginning is a punch to the gut as well. Everything is so satisfying even if I’m forever going to be sad that Theo and Griffin didn’t make it, and won’t ever get the chance to become the endgame they thought they would. But the end feels real, and I am so happy with how it turns out, and how finally, all the pieces are maybe beginning to fall into place. I’m still going to be plagued with questions, as all the characters in this novel will be as well, but I think these questions are okay, as long as we don’t lose sight of what’s here right before us. This story’s pain comes from its realism, and I’m just so grateful that I had the chance to experience this story. It’s going to be with me for the rest of my life, I guarantee.

5 histories out of 5. 

ALL FOR THE GAME: A Book Series Review

This series is not for the feint of heart.

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I went into The Foxhole Court, the first in the All For the Game series by Nora Sakavic, thinking I knew what it was about. I knew it was about a fictional sport. I knew it involved some dark themes and rough characters. I knew there was a gay relationship somewhere in there.

Turns out, I didn’t know anything.

This series is dark. It’s about a boy name Neil who is on the run from his father who is out to kill him since he and his mother ran away from him years ago. Because, you see, his father is a mobster. And he’s angry. Oh, and he’s called “The Butcher.” And that’s only the beginning. Because then there’s Kevin, who has a tattooed “2” on his cheekbone to always remind him that he’s number two; and there’s Aaron and Andrew, twins who can’t seem to stand each pother, and Andrew’s on anti-psychotics that just make manic and more psychotic. Then Nicky, Aaron and Andrew’s cousin and guardian after their mother died in an accident that might not have been an accident.

And those are only half the characters.

Through the fictional sport of Exy, Neil gets caught up in their world, and each one of them has dark secrets they’re trying to keep secret, and each one of them is wondering just what it is that Neil is hiding…. The web just gets darker and darker as the series goes on.

I mean it when I say that this series is not for the feint of heart. There are scenes that involve torture, and many more that involved violence and manipulation, and I sometimes found myself needing to take a break reading  because I was getting too hyped up and too emotional. I’m not trying to scare you off– there is definitely worse out there– but I am warning you that this series is less about sport and more about navigating through a world of darkness and learning to trust the people whose histories are just as dark and broken as your own.

I was surprised by the lack of sport play-by-plays in the series, but that’s because the books really aren’t about the game: the game exists as a binder, as way for them all to meet and heal and grow, a way from Neil to learn how to trust, and a way for relationships stronger than concrete to form. It’s kind of beautiful. You know, if it weren’t for all the murder.

The inevitable love story (if you can even call it that) is by far the softest part of the series, but it never feels mushy: it’s a story of two people learning to depend on each other when they’ve never bothered to depend on anyone before. It’s about trust, and acceptance, and really– it’s about learning to love.

I loved this series. As I said on my Goodreads review, the first book felt like a being dropped on a highway and being told to run; the second was driving 100 mph on that same highway and hitting the gas; and this one is like being pushed from an airplane. There’s this moment of softness, where everything is floating and you feel okay, before the panic sets in and you land smack into the ground.

If you like gritty and messy and dark and your characters to be broken assholes who don’t know the meaning of “nice,” then you will absolutely love All For the Game. If not, you might want to pass this one by, but I’m telling you, this series is worth its pain.

5 foxes out of 5. 

[First novel is The Foxhole Court, followed by The Raven King, concluding with The King’s Men]

CHAOS WALKING TRILOGY: A Book Review

I’m about 10 years late to the party, but let’s talk about Chaos Walking!!

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It only took two short months for Patrick Ness to become one of my favourite authors. His novels, the YA ones at least, never disappoint. The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first in Ness’s trilogy, was his first young adult novel, and I am forever grateful he began writing YA because holy crap this series is a ride.

Summary for those of you who have somehow missed this book like I did:

The Knife of Never Letting Go is about a boy named Todd who lives in a world where everyone can hear everyone’s thoughts in what is referred to as “the Noise.” Oh, and the virus that gave everyone the noise also killed off all the women. Todd, the youngest boy in his town at just a few weeks before age 13 when he’ll become a man, finds a spot where there is no Noise: everything is quiet. He heads back to his home, and his parents immediately send him on the run, no explanation given except that Todd needs to leave now. And thus begins the chase.

The Knife is a great novel but it’s in the second and third books, The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men, where this trilogy becomes art. This series is highly morally grey. It makes you question what is “for the greater good” when everyone is simply working for themselves: including our beloved hero, Todd. You will question everything reading this series. It is so hard to distinguish what is right, and what is wrong, and what the truth is, and if there even is a truth. It changed my perception of everything, and presented my absolute favourite kind on conflict: how can we possibly trust our own judgement on right and wrong?

Along with absolutely breathtaking themes, this series is fast past. Seriously. It was a piece of cake to read over 100 pages a day, and often, you’d read them without even noticing the time go back. Your eyes run across the page, bouncing from word to word, as you try to discover the secrets and figure out what’s going on.

If anything, read this series for the third narrative voice that appears in book three (no spoilers from me but holy crap x2 this character is one of the most interesting I have ever encountered in any work of fiction).

If you need a second reason to read it, read it for the ending. I’m tearing up just thinking about it. It had be screaming: I had to put the book down and pace around my room before reading the last few pages, and the very finally words had be sobbing…..

These characters may not capture your heart (they captured mine), and it might not rush to the top of your favourites list (it did for me), but this is a series that demands to be read. Question your own reality, your own choices, and those of everyone around you, and read this series. You won’t regret it.

Did I mention there’s a talking dog?

5 knives out of 5.