Tag Archives: relationships

All The Bright Places – not a mood-booster

23357458So I learned a life lesson from All The Bright Places the other day. When you are stressed out and miserable, and all you want to do is get home and curl up with a good book, it is not a good idea to read the end of this book on a crowded tube home, when you have no tissues. It is a sob-fest. No other explanation needed.

And in case you were wondering, no it didn’t make me feel better. It just made my nose run for the entire 60-minute commute. It turns out I had no tissues. I was not prepared for this book.

All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

The cover of the copy I have says that this is the next Fault in Our Stars. Now, I didn’t really love The Fault in Our Stars (although I did sob my eyes out at it), so I don’t think that would be the greatest accolade for me. But it did give me something of a heads up about what direction this book might take.

So this is a really lovely book, in general. It’s about Violet and Finch, both of whom are struggling when they meet on the ledge of the bell-tower at school. Why would a school have a bell-tower? I don’t know. It’s never really explained. Violet has recently lost her sister, and is struggling to cope. Finch can’t stop thinking of ways to die, and is struggling to cope. But between the two of them, and a shared Geography project, they start to go about finding a way to live, and a way to stay in the present.

This book is really quite beautiful. It’s about falling in love, about struggling as a teenager, about coping with loss, about finding someone you can be yourself with, and about accepting people the way they are. It’s about finding a way to move forward and a way to connect with people even in the face of how hard life can be. It’s full of beautiful imagery and two messed-up, sad, lonely people who find a way to make each others’ worlds a little bit brighter.

I really did enjoy this book. I don’t recommend reading it in public places, though. And I did have one major complaint. The last thirty or forty pages of the book were a sampler of Jennifer Niven’s next book – Holding up the Universe. I’ve actually already read that, so I was pretty disappointed, as I thought there was still a fair chunk of story left to go. I wish books which have sample chapters at the end would make that clear from the beginning, so that I wouldn’t be left wanting more, just from the thickness of the pages I have left.

Still though – a lovely book, with lots of really lovely moments in it about love, life, and struggling, and how to find one small good thing to keep going.

Four Stars
****

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Book #69 – To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

15749186Sinéad suggested I try this book. And I suspect she got the recommendation from Tumblr, because that’s where she finds lots of things. I love the cover of this book – it’s really simple, but really pretty, and the handwritten title is evocative of the mood of the book in general.

So!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han

This is a YA book about Lara Jean, who’s 16, and just about to enter her junior year. The middle of three girls, Lara Jean has always written love letters to the boys she loves – once she’s finished with them, that is, she writes all her feelings about them in a letter on her good, thick writing paper, seals them, addresses them, and then puts them in the hatbox her mother gave her, under her bed, never to be sent. Until, that is, the hatbox disappears one day, and her letters get sent.  The recipients of the letters then begin to come forwards, including her first kiss, the boy from summer camp and, horror of horrors, her sister’s ex-boyfriend. But dealing with her feelings instead of writing them down and forgetting about them may lead to some unexpected results.

So! Romance-wise, this was a typical, possibly a little dull, teen romance, with confusion, stolen kisses, ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, intrigue, lies, and a hottub. There was nothing objectionable about it, but nothing spectacular either. Yet I’d rate this book pretty highly. Why is that?

Well, it’s actually because of Lara Jean’s relationship with her sisters. She’s the middle of three girls, and I am too (although I have a brother as well), so she really resonated with me. Throughout the book there are loads of lovely descriptions of how her relationship with her sisters works, from her smartass younger sister directing when she drives (errr… yes, I need Sinéad to navigate for me) to her lies that everything is fine so as not to worry her older sister, even as far as little things like bribing her sister with cookies to get help with styling hair and her younger sister’s opinion on boys being very important. The relationship between the three Song girls really resonated with me, far more than the romantic entanglements (and they’re very entangled) between Lara Jean, her sister Margot, Margot’s ex Josh, Lara Jean’s first kiss Peter, and Peter’s ex Gen (who also happens to be Lara Jean’s ex-best-friend).

I really, thoroughly enjoyed this book. It wasn’t particularly deep, or thrilling, or in any way heart-rending, but it was cute, sweet, and loving, and did a wonderful job of depicting the relationship between three sisters.
One thing which irritated me a little was that it was written in present tense – lots of books which I’ve read lately are, but it grates a little on my nerves. Not enough to deduct a star though, just something worth noting.

It wasn’t quite all wrapped up neatly in the end, but I was satisfied with the ending. There have been a few reviews which I read on GoodReads who bemoaned the fact that it’s not a perfectly wrapped up ending. That’s in part due to the fact that there’s a sequel coming in 2015, called P.S. I Still Love You, and I’ll certainly pick that one up, too. However, I think the book is strong enough to stand on its own as well – there’s a definite sense of closure at the end of the book, while also retaining the possibility of future romances. And, let’s face it, isn’t that how most teenagers live their lives?

Four Stars
****

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Gone Girl

gone-girlAwh man. Awh man. THIS BOOK.

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

I was recommended this book a few weeks ago by Dave. He knows I read a lot, although I’m sure he despairs of the majority of awful YA fiction I read, but generally I’ll take any recommendation from him quite seriously. Except the Time Traveller’s Wife. THAT BOOK. I have many ranty feelings about it. That’s a post for another day.

Anyways. Gone Girl.
Amy and Nick are about to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. It’s the morning of. Pancakes are made. Loving greetings exchanged. Presents are being wrapped, dinner reservations made, and when Nick comes home from work, he finds Amy… not there.

As the police investigate, it becomes clear that Nick is hiding something – lying, evading questions, acting inappropriately and certainly marital relations were at an all time low. Interspersed with excerpts from his missing wife’s diary, it becomes clear that things are not how they seem. But is he a killer?

Well, this is the question which the book throws at you. But it’s not the only question. There are approximately a million more. And then some more after that. And the book flies through twists and turns and punches and holds nothing back so that reading it is an exercise in containing your shouted reactions, because the people on the train would look at you funny.

The best word I can come up with to describe this book is twisty. It’s dark, and it’s twisted, and the story is twisted, and the plot flies through a myriad of twists until you don’t know what’s up and what’s down and what’s true and what’s false any more.

It is incredible. It is a masterpiece. I’ve already gotten Flynn’s other two novels, and I’m hoping they’re just as good.

FIVE STARS. MAYBE EVEN SIX.
*****(*)

Thoroughly recommended. You should definitely read this book.
Also, I’m now re-evaluating all of my relationships, friends and family to wonder if I know them as well as I think I do. That is what this book did to me!

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