Sunday, August 21, 2016

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven // actually a pretty dark place

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I'm going to have to skip my normal Like/Dislike review format for this one, guys. Mostly because I did not like a single thing about this book, but also because I'm having trouble organizing my thoughts into a neat little list. So let's just chat a bit.

 Let me start by saying this: the hype surrounding this book is real. I think most people have heard about this one. It won the 2015 Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fiction, among multiple other awards. I've seen a lot of great reviews over it. It's already set to be a movie. It's kind of a big deal.

So maybe that swayed my judgment a little. If it was less of a big deal, maybe I would have been more forgiving. I'm not sure. But in summary, everyone else loves this book, and I did not like it at all. 

And here are a few reasons why.

Goodreads Description:

 ~~~

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First: the setup. It's obvious that this book tries really, really hard to be just like the best-selling YA books, especially those written by John Green (check out that Goodreads description if you don't believe me). It resembles The Fault in Our Stars quite a lot, taking you on an emotional journey between two teenagers who love each other but are both facing difficult times. The problem is that TFiOS provides depth and purpose, while AtBP leaves you a bit broken and helpless.

It also resembles Looking for Alaska in some spots. The major thing that bothered me were the little countdowns at the start of the chapters. Finch's is typically the number of days of "Awake" and Violet is number of days until graduation, but these countdowns are nowhere near consistent and are really only in the first half of the book. It seemed like the book was trying to mimic Looking for Alaska's Before/After structure, but it did not make sense. In Looking for Alaska, it's extremely effective, adding a bit of suspense but also giving you a timeline in which to place the events of the story. In AtBP, though, it was completely pointless.

It also had Paper Towns vibes here and there. Basically very John Green without actually being John Green.


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Second: the writing. I've read a lot of reviews that praise the writing in this book, but it felt really cliche and bland to me. There were maybe two lines that I thought, "Oh, that's a good, quotable, original line." But I felt like I had read literally everything else before, like the author took a stack of YA novels, cut sentences out of them, and pasted them together to get this (which would kinda be in line with what Finch's sister does in the book, come to think of it). 

I also did not like the switching first-person narration. I'll admit that I prefer third person in general, but I especially think that third person would have been beneficial for this book. With first person, you get to learn a character's personality pretty easily, but it takes away a lot of freedom from the reader. Third person allows the reader to critically analyze a character, and there is always parts that are left up to interpretation. This book used first person, but it didn't do anything for the story. I still feel like I didn't know who these characters were. If it accurately portrayed the mind of a mentally ill person, that would have been great. It didn't, though. Third person, on the other hand, would have allowed the reader to fill in the gaps for himself/herself, while giving the character a realm of complexity. By giving us access to their thoughts, the author really limited who the characters were intellectually and creatively. Because there just wasn't much there. The characters became their mental illnesses.

Also, the word "fuck" is censored through the beginning of the book and it was really stupid. About 100 pages or so in, Finch has this personal revelation and decides to use the actual word from there on, but the whole thing didn't make any sense. I mean, it's censored in his thoughts. Why would he censor his own thoughts?


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Third: the topic. This one is tough. It's a book about two suicidal teenagers. Finch has bipolar disorder, and Violet is grieving her recently deceased sister. Now, I'm not against suicide being discussed in YA. I actually did a whole project in college about how discussing suicide in YA can actually be really beneficial. Not this book, though.

It's a difficult topic and writers have to be really, really careful about how it's presented. I think real problems should be presented realistically. But I also think that it is important to make sure teens know that help is out there, or at the very least, leave the readers with some sense of hope. Finch seeks help in a few different ways (he sees a counselor and attends a group for teens experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts) but he doesn't take them seriously. And maybe that's realistic, okay. Maybe it's also realistic that his parents were oblivious to the problem. But he was very, very educated. I mean, he was practically obsessed with researching depression and suicide. But in the small section of the book where he discusses bipolar disorder, he kind of refuses to accept that that's what he has, and it seemed really against his character. I don't know. It just really bothered me how obsessed he was with researching ways to die and famous suicides. It seemed like a cheap novelization of what it's really liked to be depressed. Depression does not equal obsession with suicide.

I know that was a long tangent and I'm having trouble getting my thoughts in order about it. The point is the way that suicide was treated in this book made me really, really uncomfortable. Maybe readers experience it differently based on their own life experiences. But to me, this book did not portray its topic in a way that was realistic or helpful for teenagers. I did not come away with anything.

Rating: 1/5 stars
~~~

Let me know if you've read this book before, or if you've been planning to read it. What did you think about it? Did you think it handled its topic well? Did the writing style annoy you? Do you prefer first person or third person in YA? 

--Emily

Friday, August 19, 2016

July Wrap-Up



I am very much aware that it is no longer July (it's not even a little bit July. It's very not July), but I have been gone forever so I want to do a wrap-up post for what you missed and then do another one at the end of this month. That's the plan, anyway. We'll see how things go.

events
I got my first full-time job! It's really only a temporary position and ends sometime in August, but I'm hoping I'll be hired permanently soon. It's as a technical editor for graduate studies, so I'm editing a lot of theses and dissertations.

- Instagram has stopped working on my phone. And it's horrible. I have the Amazon fire phone and it's basically grown obsolete and is no longer compatible with Instagram. I feel so...empty and disconnected from everything.

- Also, no Pokemon Go. I'm very upset. I love Pokemon, but the app won't work on my phone.


- Deacon spent the summer away at an internship. And I never want to go that long without him again. I'm glad he's home now. =)

I tried and failed at Camp NaNoWriMo. My original goal was to write 25,000 words and finish my gigantic WIP. I only wrote about 6,000 and only finished one chapter. Major failboat.

Deacon and I celebrated two years of marriage! On July 18th. He was at his internship that day but we spent the weekend together so that was nice.




thoughts
- Relient K came out with a new album! I've only listened to it twice and haven't bought it yet. They're music has been changing a lot, but they hold a special place in my heart and I will always be a fan.

- I might start watching Game of Thrones. Maybe. CinemaSins pretty much convinced me, but don't make a big deal about it.

- Marlin's fishface in Finding Nemo/Dory kind of freaks me out. Too humanistic. (see also: Thomas the Train)

- Does anybody else realize that Mew is really a mouse? I know his name is "mew" and everyone thinks he's actually a cat but he is clearly based on a mouse, like the kind that is experimented on in labs (which is how Mewtwo was created).




rex report
Still healing from tearing his ACL. He also had to go to the vet twice: first to get his rabies shot and then to get tested for a UTI. For the first few weeks after I started working full-time, he started breaking his house training. And he is usually very, very good at not going in the house. His test came back clear, so I think it was mostly due to anxiety. But it's been a few weeks now since he's had any accidents, and Deacon is home with him during the day now.

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He also got a free nail trim for his birthday last time we went to the vet. I usually go to the groomer's to do it, but thought I'd save time and just do it while we were there. Rex always has to get muzzled whenever getting examined or his nails trimmed, but the lady at the groomer does it really fast so it's not that big of a deal. But the vet laid him down on his side and held him there to trim his nails, which he was super slow at. It was awful. I'm going to the groomer from now on.

(Update: A lot has happened with Rex's health in the last few weeks, so stay tuned for more information.)



tv shows
Attack on Titan
(omygosh this show. THIS SHOW IS AMAZING.)



movies
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mess (it was okay)
The Visit (liked it)
Room (liked it)
In the Heart of the Sea (very very not okay. I went in thinking this was a Disney movie. It's definitely not a Disney movie)
Inside Out (rewatch - like it)
Finding Dory (liked it)
The Legend of Tarzan (liked it)
King Foo Panda (it was okay)
Allegiant (it was okay)
Star Trek: Beyond (liked it)




books
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (liked it, but wanted more dragons)
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (liked it, but the first half was a struggle)
Landline by Rainbow Rowell (it was okay)

    
~~~

Tell me how your June/July was! Did I miss anything important while I was away? Have you watched Attack on Titan? (you should.) Do you see Mew as a mouse or a cat or something completely different? Let me know!

--Emily

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

May I have these books right now, pretty please?

These week's Top Ten Tuesday is basically a piece of cake because I keep not one but two active book wishlists on Amazon (one for physical copies and one for ebooks). And they're sorted by priority.

hosted by The Broke and the Bookish


This week's topic is: Ten books you'd buy right this second if someone handed you a fully loaded gift card!




1. The Lunar Chronicles // Marissa Meyer (boxed set)
Okay I know you might think it's cheating to be listing five books in one go, but it's packaged all nicely! I listened to these books on audio, so I don't own any of the physical copies (except for Stars Above) and would love to reread them and cuddle them and guard them with my life.


2. The Wrath and the Dawn // Renée Ahdieh (hardcover)
I'm basically the only person left on the planet who hasn't read this. I've been waiting to buy the physical copy because the cover is gorgeous, but they changed the cover for the paperback so I must have the hardback. I must.


3. Nimona // Noelle Stevenson (paperback)
 I've been trying (and kinda failing) to get into graphic novels lately. I've heard good things about this one so I thought I'd give it a go! And I know that graphic novels are available as ebooks, but do they work well in that format? I'm guessing no, but can anyone tell me for sure?


 https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25179.Blankets?from_search=true 118944 10860047


4. Blankets // Craig Thompson (paperback)
This is another graphic novel suggested to me by my sister-in-law. I don't know much about it but I trust her.


5. American Born Chinese // Gene Luen Yang (paperback)
Another graphic novel! This one has won just about every YA award ever (which is really uncommon for a graphic novel) and Gene Luen Yang also writes the Avatar comics so it's destined to be great.


6. The Night Circus // Erin Morgenstern (hardcover - UK edition?)
This is another audiobook that I loved but need the hardback because have you seen it? It is the most gorgeous book you will ever see in your life. I need it right now. (I think only the UK version has the black pages, though. Does anyone know for sure?)


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7. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking // Susan Cain (paperback)
I've been interested in reading this for awhile, but I can't read nonfiction on my Kindle. I just can't do it. So paperback.


8. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry // Gabrielle Zevin (ebook)
Kristina Horner gave this one a great review and it's been such a long time since I read a Gabrielle Zevin book. And I prefer ebooks to be contemporary/YA/light reads


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9. Everything Leads to You // Nina LaCour (ebook)
 I don't know much about this except for good things I've seen on Goodreads. The cover is pretty but I don't think I've ever seen a physical copy, so I wouldn't mind the ebook.


10. Only Ever Yours // Louise O'Neill (ebook)
I want to give this one a try but I'm not crazy about the cover, so I'd rather have the ebook for this one.


Total cost on Amazon: $166. 54
(and why are ebooks more expensive than paperbacks now on Amazon? I know they're more convenient but they are probably a thousand times cheaper to make. And what if I just want to be environment-friendly? I have to pay more to not cut down trees? Not cool, Amazon. Not cool.)
~~~


So tell me now what books YOU would buy if you had a fully loaded gift card right now. And tell me if you own any of these! How do I get my hands on the special copy of The Night Circus with black-trimmed pages? Where do you normally purchase your books? How do graphic novels work on Kindles? Why are ebooks so expensive these days? How much do you usually spend on books in one purchase? (My answer: about $30-$50.) Let me know!

--Emily