(The first chapter of this book references VOLCANOES!!! What more can I say. Did I tell you all my family and I spent Christmas Day watching SUPERVOLC(The first chapter of this book references VOLCANOES!!! What more can I say. Did I tell you all my family and I spent Christmas Day watching SUPERVOLCANO? I know.)
(Maybe I'll watch it again tonight.)
I remember when Total Constant Order first came out--I was interested but wary. I love--probably not the right word--reading about OCD. I'm always interested in furthering my understanding of this totally complex and torturous disorder. But nothing annoys more more than poor portrayals of OCD in the mainstream media. Like, NOTHING. Now, I didn't get the impression that TCO would be like this but even the remotest possibility left me hemming and hawing for uhm, well, years, actually. WOW, how embarrassing to admit, but there it is. Don't be like me, everyone.
This was a really really solid, GOOD book that unfolds at a leisurely pace but is a quick read, if that makes sense. I like Chappell's writing style a lot. There was something dreamy and artisty and fantastical about it and made for an interesting juxtaposition against the realities/harshness of Finn's obsessions and compulsions. From page one we are totally thrown into Finn's thought process, the OCD and it's intense. I like that about it. I think I read someone say that it was hard to be that far into the disorder, to read it, to follow it, but to me that's the novel's honesty! That's what makes it critical, especially in the face of so many craptastic looks at OCD out there that only glimpse at the surface of the disorder (or worse) use it for comic relief or a character quirk. If you aren't going to go there, I don't see the point and Chappell really & truly (and I think) fearlessly goes there. That's important.
One thing that I really appreciated was that Chappell didn't skimp on the anxiety, how hard it is and how awful it feels to not follow through on a ritual when you're right in the thick of the thing. For some reason, going into TCO, I was expecting a bigger romantic arch between Thayer and Finn, and even though there was a tenderness and sweetness to their relationship, this isn't a book where dude saves girl from herself--THANK GOODNESS. They helped each other but I think the key to their success was themselves, on their own. I really really liked that about it. I like the way they drifted through the high school scene a pair, trying to make sense of it in the only ways they knew how, with all they had to contend with.
Reading a lot about anti-depressants as "waterwings" (as Jeffrey Schwartz called them) for people with severe OCD, one thing I had to remind myself as I read was that this was Finn's journey--that her decision to not take the anti-depressants in the end was her own. At first that left me a little nervous, because I think when a character makes that kind of decision it's hard for the author not to look like they're coming down one side or the other but I think ultimately, Chappell balanced this nicely and as I got into the story my reservations about that melted away. I didn't feel preached at and it seemed fair, imo. FINALLY, the setting of this book was absolutely delicious. I have never been to Miami, but Chappell's portrayal of it, even from the eyes of less-than-loving it Finn, made me want to go there.
I think lots of people should read this, not only if you have an interest in OCD, but also because it's good stuff....more
I love this cover of Everything Beautiful. The sea glass heart really ties into the stoTHIS BOOK REFERENCES SURVIVOR!
That should be all I need to say.
I love this cover of Everything Beautiful. The sea glass heart really ties into the story nicely. Also, I wished I'd watched the one-handed lo-fi Everything Beautiful book trailer because I spent part of this book wondering wtf a memory cross was (now I want to make one). Before you read this book you should look at that cover and watch the trailer. Also because I like them both a lot.
About the book itself: I adored it so much! I want to call it delightful or a word that is something like delightful but a little bit more hard-edged and bad-ass, like Riley Rose, the protagonist, who is delightful(ly bitchy & cynical) and also hard-edged (angry and sad) and bad-ass (no qualifiers, she's just bad ass) with a big heart. Here is an over-simplified premise of Everything Beautiful: it's about an overweight girl, Riley, who is struggling with her mom's death and gets all rebellious. Dad reunites with his faith, gets remarried, him and his new wife send Riley to Christian Camp.
Everything Beautiful takes place over the course of seven days and it's not about being found/saved, it's not about preaching religion--it's about a girl in a certain situation and things shifting just enough to offer the kind of hope you need for change. Everything Beautiful has a big cast, but I found each character compelling and likeable, even when they were at their worst. And DYLAN! Dylan an "alumni camper and recent paraplegic, who arrives with a chip on his shoulder"--is one of my most favourite male protagonists that I have read in a long time. I would give him top five placement, I think. And I love love loved the romance between him and Riley and thought it was beautifully developed. I think they are one of my favourite YA couples I've read in a long time. It was just so... BITTERLY ROMANTIC! And then tenderly romantic. Aaah I just. They'd be a Top 5 YA Couple for me. They were just great.
After I finished Everything Beautiful, along the lines of what Adele said, I did wish that there was a companion novel from Dylan's POV or something. That's how strong a sense you get of these characters wandering off the page into their own scenes.... I just really loved Dylan, dangit. Anyway, this was a great book. I like the unexpected backdrop of a Christian Camp (not something I see every day in YA) and I loved the way Howell used it... just really thoughtful, really good. Also I cried.
DID I MENTION THIS BOOK REFERENCES SURVIVOR!...more
So I was lucky enough to get an early read on The Mockingbirds way back, and I LOVED it. I still love it. It's a real testament to the novel's strengtSo I was lucky enough to get an early read on The Mockingbirds way back, and I LOVED it. I still love it. It's a real testament to the novel's strength that every word has stayed with me from my first read to its publication and I am so thrilled that it's out on shelves for the world to read, appreciate and discuss. Because oh, there is much to discuss in this one.
The Mockingbirds is about Alex, a junior at the elite Themis Academy, a prestigious boarding school which prides itself so much on it's progressive way of teaching and its trust in the student body, it purposefully turns a blind eye to the disturbing going-ons below the surface. When Alex is date-raped by a popular jock, she turns to The Mockingbirds, a secrety society determined to bring justice to wronged Themis students whenever those students call on them.
The book follows Alex as she deals with the aftermath of her rape, the question of what exactly happened to her that night, and her introduction to The Mockingbirds. The Mockingbirds themselves raise A LOT of fantastic discussions about vigilantism, how they operate, whether they're doing the right thing, the way they can improve the system etc. (I hope these topics are explored in the sequel!)
Whitney's prose is fabulous. Beautiful and sharp. Alex's first person narration is so intimate and intense I think it would be nearly impossible for a reader not to feel they were right beside her as she pieces together what has happened to her and puts the pieces of her life together after it has happened to her. I thought the voice was excellent and I really enjoyed Alex's thought process and how fluid and realistic and intelligent it was.
One thing I love about The Mockingbirds--perhaps what I loved MOST about it--is how boldly and frankly it addresses the issue of CONSENT through Alex, her friends and The Mockingbirds. This is what YA shelves need. This is an important book. And I think people will find Alex's path to healing very empowering. Alex's unjudgmental and supportive relationship with her friends is refreshing and I absolutely loved the romance with Martin. It was thoughtfully handled.
I also felt Themis was a richly developed setting. I can believe teachers turning the other way, and to this extent. Which makes me sad to type, but there you have it. I think their neglect, their willful ignorance is also a very clever way to address the issue of powerlessness; how to take a stand when you have very few people to turn to. I think Alex's courage will inspire courage in the people reading her story. I really do.
I have been looking forward to The Line since the deal announcement went up in Publishers Marketplace, "set in the near future, when an invisible, phyI have been looking forward to The Line since the deal announcement went up in Publishers Marketplace, "set in the near future, when an invisible, physical barrier exists between the Unified States and Away, examining a girl's choice to risk crossing not just the barrier, but the lines her protective mother has drawn for her in order to keep her safe from a destructive, controlling government..."
Doesn't it get your mind whirring? Doesn't it make the reader in you say, "Heck yes?" That is totally what happened when I read the PM announcement. After I read it I said title over and over and over again in my head (TheLineTheLineTheLineTheLineTheLineTheLineTheLineTheLine) until it was ingrained in my memory, so it wouldn't drop off my radar from that point to its release. And it didn't. AND THEN I GOT TO READ IT!
Two words: lucky me!
So let's get right down to it, shall we. One of the first things that struck me about The Line--one of the first things I loved about it--was the style. There is something very fairy tale amazing wonderful about it. Take a look at these few opening sentences: "It seemed to Rachel that she had always lived on The Property, though this wasn't true. Her mother, Vivian, said they moved there when she was three years old, but Rachel didn't remember. To her, The Property was home." Do you see what I mean? I could hear the words in my head, read in this soft and gentle reading-you-a-fairy-tale type voice. It lulled and eased me into this incredible story...
With a VERY sinister edge.
I LOVED THAT. The the setting, the world, the prose offer all these sharp contrasts. Comfort. Discomfort. That you could feel this gentle fairy tale vibe INITIALLY, but it offshoots directly into this darkness that it doesn't shy away from--all while being fantastically consistent--is my favourite thing about this book. It's like a storm is brewing. Brilliant. And Rachel is the perfect kind of character to feed these contrasts to the reader. I loved her questions about The Line, Away, The Government, the reality of being brave juxtaposed against desire to be brave, reconciling what you can do with what you should do, great questions of right/wrong (by the way, this book is going to inspire some great questions and discussions in younger and older readers alike). The Line is about a time and place that is not safe and scary and feels unnervingly possible. I know I am not saying much about what happens in the book but I'm trying to talk FEELINGS here because I don't want to give too much away because I want readers to go into this knowing as little as possible so it can sweep them away like it did me. So good.
Ok so now I'm going to make a really weird comparison, but oh well, that is what I do. The pacing of The Line reminds me of the pacing of the movie Audition. Yes, AUDITION. The Line is not anything like Audition in terms of content (just throwing that in there for those of you who are now reading my review with this face O_O)--but when I watched Audition I could feel myself being wound tighttighttighttighttight, knowing that the pay off was going to leave me saying DAMN. And that is exactly what happened when I was reading The Line (AND unlike Audition, I did not have to walk away and stop The Line!). I got wound tight but I didn't even realize HOW much until I hit that last page and then I was like whoa, DAMN. But I mean that in the best way possible. And then you close the book and you're like DAMN again because the pacing and the tension was just that PERFECT. Which is also what I did after I read the last page. And now I am doing it again.
Like lots of people, my introduction to Jill Bolte Taylor was via her TED talk, which I found totally inspiring and incredibly compelling--if not a liLike lots of people, my introduction to Jill Bolte Taylor was via her TED talk, which I found totally inspiring and incredibly compelling--if not a little incomplete. I wanted to know more, more about the brain, her massive stroke, her recovery, more on the left hemisphere, the right hemisphere... just more! The book was as inspiring and compelling, and mostly complete. My only complaint is it's a short read--less than 200 pages--and I was very sad to see it end.
I'm not a brain scientist (sometimes I say I am just for kicks, jk jk) and I don't regularly read about the brain, but I never felt lost reading this. I enjoyed and respected the straightforward, sincere and passionate way Taylor narrates her experiences. I think there's much to contemplate in "taking responsibility for [our:] energy," and "stepping to the right." And those who know someone who has suffered a stroke should DEFINITELY pick this up because it offers valuable insights on the healing process and your role in it. I loved, loved, loved reading about the brain's capacity to heal and its determination to communicate.
I just love Jill Bolte Taylor's story. I think everyone should pick it up and give it a look (at least watch the TED video!). I learned a lot. It was a fascinating story that made me feel like one amazing, incredible, miraculous machine and gave me a newfound appreciation and interest in what's going on in my brain and everything it's doing for me. This is definitely not going to be the last book I read on the subject....more
I picked this up last night and got about 50 pages in before I reluctantly put it down, so I could sleep, and then I woke up and finished it before II picked this up last night and got about 50 pages in before I reluctantly put it down, so I could sleep, and then I woke up and finished it before I physically got up to drink coffee. Reading before coffee! It's possible to do that, you know. I wouldn't have believed it before today. I am now living proof.
ANYWAY. Overqualified is a novel told in cover letters (if you're a fan of A Softer World, yer probably no stranger to Overqualified), by a dude named--oddly enough!-- Joey Comeau. BUT! It is not just a compilation of cover letters. There is a running narrative of grief and love and identity throughout. And it is presented in a grim, tongue-in-cheek, smart, sharp and whimsical, sorta nostalgic way that makes it hard to stop thinking about after you close the last page.
Mostly it is bleak and hilarious and heartbreaking.
Joey Comeau is a great writer. He does not waste a word. ...more
I think there is nothing sadder than a book that has a beautiful cover and is not so great on the inside. Seriously, it bums me out. Whenever I see aI think there is nothing sadder than a book that has a beautiful cover and is not so great on the inside. Seriously, it bums me out. Whenever I see a book that is GORGEOUS to look at, I expect it to be GORGEOUS to read. I have been disappointed in this regard many, many times.
This, however, was not one of those times.
All Unquiet Lives up to its cover and goes so far to SURPASS it.
(Seriously, that's a really gorgeous cover. It's kind of like a beautiful lie. Look at it once, there's a pretty girl on the grass, look again and--HEY WAIT A MINUTE SHE'S DEAD. Ok, maybe that was just my response but.)
I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of All Unquiet Things back in July. My review then was these four words: "Wow. That is all." And you know, that's pretty much STILL how I feel about this book--wow--but I'm going to try to elaborate a little bit more now that it's closer to the release (January 12th, 2010!) and I can.
All Unquiet Things is the story of Neily and Audrey. They are both looking for closure after the recent death of self-destructive Carly (Neily's ex and Audrey's cousin). Neily is haunted by the phone call Carly made to him before she died and Audrey is determined to find Carly's murderer because she knows in her heart the prime suspect isn't who everyone else thinks it is--her father. Together, the pair become unlikely allies and in their quest for the truth, find out more about Carly and themselves than they ever expected they would.
All Unquiet Things is a really fantastic debut. The language is gorgeous and rich and incredibly transportive, which in my opinion, is essential for any mystery (slash-thriller-slash-bildungsroman). Jarzab takes us into Neily and Audrey's world so expertly, making it so close and so real, that you'd swear it's all you've ever known, and she does this to great effect as well--as this tightly knotted mystery begins to untangle, you feel every new development, every gut-wrenching reveal in your chest, like they're happening to you. Like YOUR secrets are on the line. And these secrets, these developments, are meted out perfectly as well. All Unquiet Things is on the longer side, just to look at it, but never once feels like a long book while you are reading it. It's nearly impossible to put down.
Perhaps my favourite thing about All Unquiet Things, though, are the characters and their growth, their stories. Audrey and Neily are two distinct voices. The book starts out with hurt, loss, pain. The kind that really goes deep. The rest of the novel is sort of like taking the bandages off very slowly and revealing the kind of wound that is not healing properly (ok this is a gross analogy but I really mean it as the highest praise) and you have to take a REALLY GOOD LONG LOOK AT IT before you can see what can be done, how to fix it. Anna Jarzab's take on this kind of pain, these kinds of emotional wounds, is unflinching and Neily and Carly's ultimate path to healing is satisfying. The trip down that path, for a reader, is incredible, at times shocking, and always unforgettable.
It's hard to know exactly how to describe Beautiful in a way that will do it justice. Alice down the rabbit hole. Amazing.
First things first: what DaIt's hard to know exactly how to describe Beautiful in a way that will do it justice. Alice down the rabbit hole. Amazing.
First things first: what Daisy said here. I especially agree with her when she says Beautiful reads like a memoir. It does and that makes it almost unnerving at times. It's almost like a memoir you don't have permission to read, if that makes sense--that's how personal it is.
Amy Reed has tapped into a voice that will haunt you. You will ache for Cassie, you will want to help her, you will hold your breath while you wait to see if she makes it out alive. It's very hard to put down.
I finished this book in a day. I thought I'd read for a bit before I went to bed, but 150 pages flew by before I knew what happened. When I paused to get some sleep, all I could think about was what was going to happen next and how I needed to know what happened next, even though I was afraid to know. And can I just say, I've NEVER wanted a character to be okay as badly as I did Cassie.
Beautiful is a powerful novel that will scare the hell out of parents who don't know any better and speak to girls who know all too well....more
WHAT a set-up. I've had Evermore on my shelf, tempting me, teasing me ("Reaaadddd meee, Courtney!") but had to wait until I had an uninterrupted chunkWHAT a set-up. I've had Evermore on my shelf, tempting me, teasing me ("Reaaadddd meee, Courtney!") but had to wait until I had an uninterrupted chunk of time to spend with it. I'm glad I did because it was nearly IMPOSSIBLE to put down and also means I don't gots to wait as long for the next installment. Mwahahaha. August 2009, baby! I'm so there.
Evermore is about a girl named Ever Bloom who loses her entire family in a car accident that she feels responsible for. Since the accident, Ever has had clairvoyant abilities. She can read people's auras and their thoughts. This emotionally noisy, overwhelming world has Ever on (extra) sensory overload, and she goes out of her way to close herself off to it (hoodies, plugging into her iPod and turning the sound way up). Then Damen Auguste comes to school--super mysterious, super hot, and super charming Damen--and he makes it all go away. Quiet. Calm. Wonderful. And not only that, he can read Ever's mind and has a few interesting, otherwordly talents of his own...
I really really enjoyed this novel. Alyson Noel is a wonderful writer. Ever was a great character and one of the things that struck me most about her was that she WAS her age. Right on the nose. Her narrative, her responses to other characters and their actions, her own actions, the way she dealt with her abilities, the choices she made--were completely realistic, never once unbelievable, and I think teenagers will find her extremely relateable. In my opinion, that makes the paranormal aspects even more fantastical and compelling because they just seem that much closer to reality and makes contemplating it that much more fun.
I liked the way Ever came to grips with her loss--and found myself tearing up on more than one occassion--and I thought her relationship with Riley was SO sistery, being a sister, myself. I hope we'll be hearing more from Riley, in some way or another, in future installments.
I think one of my favourite aspects about this book was the way Ever demanded answers from Damen, how she wasn't so easily had. Yes, she was compelled to him and they had an undeniable attraction and bond--but when Damen's behaviour verged on questionable or alarming... like when she thought he was stalking her, for instance, she was like, "Aagh!" Not, "Oooh!" And THAT makes a huge difference to me. Okay, that wasn't one of my favourite aspects, it was my total favourite aspect of this book. And it was what made the dynamic between Damen and Ever that much more electricifying and intriguing and well... hot. And I can't wait to see how that dynamic continues to evolve and unfold in Blue Moon!!...more
MAN, that cover is one of the best I have ever seen.
Dani Noir is so many things. The first of those things being a freaking spectacular book. An increMAN, that cover is one of the best I have ever seen.
Dani Noir is so many things. The first of those things being a freaking spectacular book. An incredible debut. A new favourite. A forever favourite. Since I was lucky enough to get an early read on this one (!), I don't want to go into much--or rather, any--detail about the plot, so I'll confine my thoughts to how this awesome novel made me feel and how sharp and tight the writing was and then amend this review accordingly after it's released (September 22, 2009--take note, people!). Also I just finished this book like five seconds ago so this review might be slightly all over the place because itwassogoodIwannatalkaboutitnowwww!
So how did Dani Noir make me feel? Well, it made me feel like I want to do right by every word I put on the page and create something that carries the reader along so effortlessly from one sentence to the next, one page after the other, like this book does. With a thoughtful and caring hand, Nova Ren Suma explores the life of a 13-year-old film noir buff during a tough period of transition candidly and honestly in ways that are charming, hilarious, and heartbreaking all at once. On one page, I would laugh out loud at one of Dani's sharp-as-heck zingers and observations (and Dani's zingers made me LOL a lot--oh my God, voice! It came right off the page!) and on the next, my heart would ache at her vulnerability and her need to find the kind of balance and control you need to find when things are changing around you in really difficult ways (yes, I cried--it was very touching! I loved Dani's rock solid relationship with and her loyalty to her mother).
The characters--all of them--are so fully realized. And Dani is definitely not someone's idea of a thirteen-year-old girl. Dani is a thirteen-year-old girl. Suma gives her targeted audience credit, stepping back and letting Dani tell her story and the way she tells it--let's just say I would read any book narrated by Dani Callanzano (and I will read every book written by Nova Ren Suma). I truly feel readers across the age spectrum are going to adore this novel for its protagonist and find much to relate to in Dani. And they will LOVE cheering her on. I was every single moment.
And Dani Noir is page-turner. Make that page-turner to the Nth degree. Once I started, I only stopped once--and that was to make POPCORN. Seriously, this book made me want popcorn something fierce so I made it (at like 3 in the morning) and then I read it while I ate the popcorn and it was magical, so I highly recommend doing that when you pick this one up. MAKE POPCORN. Also, that segues into my next favourite thing about Dani Noir: this book tickled my senses, it was so alive. The settings, the descriptions--wow. I could smell the movie theatre, I could feel it. The small town vibe and being able to understand every nook and cranny of the place through Dani's eyes--it was so vivid. And the ending was perfect.
And! And! And! The movies--the love for the movies, their stars. Oh, what Would Rita Hayworth Do? I'll tell you what Rita Hayworth would do.
Sarah MacLean has a magical way with words. I know this because I kept sneaking reads of her book when I should have been revising my own and this isSarah MacLean has a magical way with words. I know this because I kept sneaking reads of her book when I should have been revising my own and this is a big deal because it is a truth universally acknowledged that a Courtney in the midst of revising (or writing) one of her own novels is not in want of reading someone else's. I just can't. Like, it's physically impossible. Truefax: my To-Read pile only gets tackled when I'm between projects. And it has always been this way. Until now. And frankly, I'm shocked--I'm not only shocked that it happened, but I'm shocked because the book in question is a very romantic story set in Regency London. Not my usual type of read.
The Season is a very engrossing story about a feisty seventeen-year-old, Lady Alexandra Stafford, and her two best friends, Ellie and Vivi, as they prepare for their first season. It's time to get married, y'all! No matter how much you don't want to! And Alex? So doesn't want to. She's more set on adventure and, you know, not being tied down for the rest of her life (I suspect Alex would've had a GREAT time in the 21st century). And though Alex makes it abundantly clear that she has no interest whatsoever in snagging a husband and kissing fun goodbye, she still must endure the balls and the dinner parties and an ever-growing list of suitors. More pre-occupying than these, however, are the strange new feelings she's developed for her old friend Gavin. Gavin's father, The Earl of Blackmoor, recently died in an accident that is looking a little less accidental every day and before she knows it, Alex finds herself caught up in a mystery so dangerous that marriage becomes least of her problems.
I loved The Season. The timing could not have been better for me and this book. It was exactly what I needed right now; a clever, engaging romantic romp. I loved the tension between Alex and Gavin and couldn't turn the pages fast enough to see whether or not the (mis)adventures that befell them would bring them closer together or tear them apart. And yes, I am guilty of flipping ahead when the tension got a bit too much for my squealy heart to take.
One of my favourite things about the book was the biggest obstacles facing Alex and Gavin's complicated relationship were often of their own making. Early chapters introduce a beauty to rival Alex (Penelope) and a charming rogue to rival Gavin (Freddie) and I mistakenly expected I'd be reading A Love Story Where Other People Got in the Way. I wasn't sure I was up for that and I was pleasantly surprised to find that this wasn't the case. Penelope and Freddie were richly drawn minor characters that made Alex and Gavin question their feelings for each other in a refreshing way that didn't turn into a He Said/She Said.
(PS: You could ruin my reputation any time, Freddie.)
I quite enjoyed the mystery aspect of the novel. I had the culprit pegged, but to be fair, that always happens when I read a mystery novel because I make a point to suspect everyone and mentally accuse them of the wrong-doing in my mind because then I can write reviews later that say, "I had the culprit PEGGED" and it's not a total lie. I also really loved the way Alex & Co. chose to handle the events the transpired. It felt very realistic to me and the risk factor was in keeping with the limitations of the time (or at least I felt it was--to be fair, I'm not an expert).
The relationships between Alex, Vivi and Ellie were fun to read about. They were strong women who complemented each other nicely and their banter was just a total delight to read. I do wish I had more of a sense of what was next for Vivi and Ellie, who were as real and well-drawn as all main characters (The Season = Supporting Cast Win).
MacLean's prose is rich and transportive. I loved her attention to detail; from the balls, to who was wearing what. I get lost easily, but I felt like I was there and I was picturing it all perfectly thanks to her ability to bring the time to life. Annddd I think the first kiss written in this book is totally one of the best kisses I've ever read.
I don't know how much I can say about the plot without giving everything away. So just read the description on GoodReads and then come back.
Okay. Isn'I don't know how much I can say about the plot without giving everything away. So just read the description on GoodReads and then come back.
Okay. Isn't that a cool plot description? I KNOW. The Boys Are Back in Town is my second Christopher Golden book, the first being his YA zombie book, Soulless. In both books, Golden takes something I'm not crazy about (talking zombies in Soulless and magic in Boys) and then incorporates it into a story in such an awesome and entertaining and compelling way, he forces me to give him a pass. This is a big deal, especially if you know how much I hate talking zombies (Ihatethemsomuch). My ire for magic is less fiery in my heart, BUT STILL. It is enough so that my loving this book unreservedly is a feat. And I loved this book! I really enjoyed it.
It's just GOOD. I wish I had read it in October. The book is set IN October and he just nails the crunchy-dead leaves, creepy/cozy feeling so well that I wanted it to be October while I was reading. Such perfect atmosphere. I love that kind of atmosphere and seek it out in horror movies all the time, so if you are into that kinda vibe you should check out this book.
It's an adult novel but I think it has crossover appeal because it's set in two different times--an adult present and a teenage past. Golden really nails how the petty problems of high school can quickly become exacerbated to the point that people make SCARY choices that they can't take back. You just see the snowball effect happening and you totally understand it and you're like agggh nooo this is awful turn back turn back now agggh and everything gets steadily worse for the characters but it is impossible to stop reading because you have to see how it continues to unfold and is (hopefully) resolved. And the nostalgia laced throughout the novel is also something that's dead on... we all feel that wistfulness for youth as we get older. It's articulated very, very well in these pages.
The final showdown was very BIG and DRAMATIC, which I'm not sure I was expecting or at first wanted, but enjoyed nonetheless (maybe "enjoyed" is the wrong word because it was horrific but... yeah, okay, I enjoyed it). And the epilogue made me sad and the final page made me go gah (not a bad gah). Hm. I am trying so hard not to give anything away... I read ahead to see who was responsible for the terrible and fantastical going-ons (bad Courtney) but even that didn't prepare me for some of the twists and turns getting there. It was just a great ride.
Reading Christopher Golden kind of reminds me of reading some of my favourite mystery/sci-fi/thriller/suspense teen novels when I was younger, books I still love to this day. More specifically, his books remind me of the FEELING I got when I read them. Both times I've picked up a Christopher Golden novel, I just felt totally assured I was going to be entertained and the writing was going to be solid and I was going to be told an excellent story and it would be worth my time. Both times it was. He's a fantastic storyteller is all. This is definitely not going to be the last book I read by him. And given his catalogue, I am going to have fun choosing which one is next!...more
There was so much I admired in her extraordinary debut, I Know It's Over (I loved that bookWow, okay. I loved this book.
C.K. Kelly Martin is amazing.
There was so much I admired in her extraordinary debut, I Know It's Over (I loved that book too); Martin managed to bridge the distance between me and a type of story I have never truly been interested in (teen pregnancy) and made me invested, made me care. I may not have been able to relate directly to Nick's experiences, but by the end of them, I was so tangled up in his heartache I was sure I understood exactly what he was going through. No easy feat. Post-I Know It's Over, I had much emotional rebuilding to do while also basking in that overwhelmingly satisfying feeling that comes after a Good Read (see what I did there).
So needless to say, I've been going crazy waiting for One Lonely Degree ever since. I couldn't wait to see what was in store for these new characters, this new story. To see if I would get tangled up in it and come away moved and inspired.
I am happy to report that I did.
In short: the woman done did it again.
In long: I don't want to summarize the book because that is just going to waste space I want to use to talk about how I felt about it!!! When I cracked open One Lonely Degree, Finn's voice instantly swept me away. And it made me uncomfortable. Why? Because she was exactly the same kind of raw and angry and cynical I was at that age. I have been Finn, y'all. Although our life experiences differ (I did have a Record Story Guy at that age, though... Oh, Billy, where are you now?), we were total High School Attitude twins. Similar chips on the shoulder. Same kind of resistance to change. Same kind of coping mechanisms. Same kind of dependencies on other people. It gave me an instant gut response that I can't quite shake now, even after closing the last page. It just really got to me in a way that made it impossible for me to put this book down for long periods at a time.
And at the same time that I've been Finn, I've also known Finn. Her codependency on her best friends, while generally justifiable, also exhausted me on their behalf. I was relieved for Audrey and Finn when Audrey left for the summer because as much as I admired the support system and small world they had created for each other, they needed that space to grow. Finn needed to be more assertive and an active participant in her surroundings and Audrey needed a break. I also can't see their friendship evolving any other way but the way Martin has laid it out in these pages. There's a certain sad nostalgia in their arc that makes me feel lonely for all the friends I have had and distanced from in various ways, these people you need for a time that help and change you forever, but that you maybe can't have forever. It's hard to describe, but I think we all have these friendships... I'm still thinking about their dynamic. It was just so honest and it really got to me too.
I thought Jersy was a fantastic male lead as well. A listener, an observer, relaxed, engaging, taking the cards he's given with the kind of ease that makes me understand why Finn was so drawn to him. The relationship Finn had with Jersy was so charged and electric (I really wanted them to be together) and they dealt with their situation with utmost, well, reality.
Reality. That is one of my favourite things about Martin's writing--it's highly realistic YA fiction. A pulls-no-punches slice of real life with a conclusion that made me sigh in a good way, it was so fitting. I don't think teenagers will have to look too hard to find themselves in these pages. I'm not a teenager anymore and I saw myself and it's still making me go, WOW THIS BOOK THIS BOOK YOU GUYS READ THIS BOOK on the inside.
At its core, One Lonely Degree is novel about change, dealing with/adapting to it (or not) and surviving it. Holding things close, keeping them, understanding them, letting them go. Taking what's left. I think most of us have complicated relationships with change and I think the topic is delved into beautifully in this book. I just--it GOT me. I'm gettin' all knotty in the throat trying to express just how much. Martin knows how to pinpoint certain emotional truths and explores them in this incredible prose that makes the writer in me incredibly jealous.
I loved this book, okay.
edit: Wait, I just realized this book's song equivalent is Regina Spektor's On the Radio!!!! So if you get that song, you will GET THIS BOOK. Now I love it even more.
Sigggh. I always tear up at his 'stepping back from M&S' letter.
The following snippets are why I love this book:
To Mordecai Richler: "I am sendinSigggh. I always tear up at his 'stepping back from M&S' letter.
The following snippets are why I love this book:
To Mordecai Richler: "I am sending to you today under separate cover a copy of Lolita. Since it was a gift to me from the Canadian publisher, I am able to pass it on to you in the same way. I hope you're not arrested because of it."
From Mordecai Richler: "What sort of advance did you pay Norman [Levine] for his stories, goddamn it! He's got a shoeshine box out on Trafalgar Square and wears a sweatshirt with McCLELLAND & STEWART printed on the back."
To Irving Layton on his book: "... we still need a stronger injection of sex if you can find it. [...] There must be some sexy poetry around."
From Margaret Laurence: "Do you have any good idea man who might make some worthwhile [title] suggestions? I don't think I can. I'm really sorry, Jack, as I feel I have been so much trouble to you of late. Maybe someday it will all be seen to have been worth it--I hope so." (The novel in question was The Stone Angel.)
From Leonard Cohen: "Nobody is going to buy a book the cover of which is a female body with my face for tits [...] The cover is unacceptable. I will consider its publication an act of hostility."
To Thomas H. Raddall (1973): "It's becoming virtually impossible to sell a book well today without turning the author into almost a full-time huckster."
To Margaret Atwood: "The thing you don't realize, my dear girl, is that I have been forced by the economic realities to start taking publishing very seriously. For example, it has been brought to my attention that our ability to continue to pay the hordes of people employed by M&S (God knows how many mouths have to be fed) depends entirely on the number of copies of your new novel [Life Before Man] that we are able to sell between September and Chrsitmas."
From Farley Mowat: "Another book? Are you kidding? Not unless I'm born again."
Jack McClelland, CanLit, you are amazing.
"I say to hell with stuffy protocol. Let's celebrate our authors." - Jack McClelland in a letter to Edward Schreyer (then the Governor General of Canada re: the GA's Literary Awards), 1981
Re-reading this after a long time apart. I love this book. The Selected Letters of Jack McClelland is one of my all-time favourites. I think every one should read it. Unfortunately, it's not really an easy sell of a book. It makes me sad to think of how many people I could CHASE AWAY trying to describe this thing. Like, Oh, yeah. It's the selected letters of Jack McClelland. Canadian publisher. You know, McClelland & Stewart? Big hand in the careers of Margaret Laurence, Margaret Atwood, Leonard Cohen?
And I think that's why all I chose to say, in my initial review was, "Jack McClelland was BAD ASS and don't you forget it."
I am going to try again... it deserves more than that (although Jack McClelland WAS bad ass).
This book is so much more than that. It's a glimpse of a man who loved books and loved Canada, did his best by both, and made an unquantifiable impact on CanLit and it's a look into the history of CanLit and Canadian publishing and publishing in general (but you don't have to be hot for any of these things to get a kick out of and really enjoy this book). It is so fascinating to read this and see Canadian history reflected in the making of Canadian history (does that make sense?). Like how he approached publishing books with an eye on The Unity Problem at the time. Or how McClelland went from urging four-letter words out of his manuscript for fear of public outry (and so as not to offend Aunt Gemma, whose $3 "are as good as anyone else's") to, "We're now publishing books freely with all the four-letter words..." and staunchly defending his authors' right to write them. He stayed on top of and ahead of the times, which is no small part in why he made the impact he did.
Jack McClelland was noted for saying he didn't buy books--he bought authors and it's so true. The way he respected and worked with and gave himself to them is just incredibly inspiring. And these aren't just letters from McClelland--they're letters to him. Angry letters from Al Purdy. Happy ones. Margaret Atwood talking of lost manuscripts and feeling she didn't get promoted enough. Leonard Cohen, unhappy with a proposed cover for Flowers for Hitler ("The cover is unacceptable. I will consider its publication an act of hostility... let's be two good soldiers with different uniforms.") A nice look at the development stages of books that would later go on to be Canadian classics (or books that got cancelled before they ever got the chance to reach anyone) and authors who would become the pride of CanLit... it is easy to understand the kind of loyalty McClelland inspired in his stable of authors from these letters. And it is easy, very obvious, to see the impact he had on Canada, even though he's damn modest about it in these pages. But I don't think he had time to be egotistical. He worked TIRELESSLY. Apparently he'd write up to 20 letters a day. BEFORE EMAIL!
A lot of my love for this book might be attached to the fact that the first time I read this I was 1) trying to get published and 2) in the throes of a mad love affair with Canada (I am always in the throes in a mad love affair with Canada though). I have a lot of happy memories just tied to the TIMING of when I read this book. I feel that when I re-read it. But even if I didn't, I would think it brilliant and important. Every time I get to the letter stating his resignation of President of M&S, I get choked up. He did so much & it made a difference.
Uggh I just want you guys to go READ THIS NOW and then after you do, come back and say, "You're right, Courtney. Jack McClelland IS bad ass." And I will just be like, "I know!" Or, "I told you so!" Or, "I know, I told you so!"