Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set Outside the US

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is “Ten Books Set Outside The US.” Here are my picks!

Kephart One thing stolen

1. One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart (Italy)

Set in Florence, Italy, this was a beautifully written book about a girl whose mental state and capacity for communication seem to be strangely diminishing. The book follows her as she travels around Florence, searching for an elusive Italian boy and gathering strange objects, and tries to figure out what’s happening to her.

Hingston dilettantes

2. The Dilettantes by Michael Hingston (Canada)

This book is set at Simon Fraser University in BC, Canada, is written by an SFU graduate, and I was reading it while I was attending SFU myself, so that was pretty cool. Two editors of The Peak, SFU’s campus newspaper, are trying to save the paper amidst approaching graduation, a free daily paper coming to campus and stealing readers, a Hollywood star returning to finish his degree, film shoots on campus, and lots of absurdity. It was hilarious and full of smart and funny observations about college life, and some inside jokes about SFU campus life specifically.

Forman just one year

3. Just One Year by Gayle Forman (Amsterdam + Mexico, India)

This is the sequel/companion novel to Just One Day, and it’s told from the perspective of Willem as he returns to his home in Amsterdam, and then travels around to places like Mexico and India, all the while searching for a girl he knows only as Lulu and growing as a person. Lots of lovely descriptions and beautiful passages.

Marchetta looking for alibrandi

4. Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta (Australia)

Melina Marchetta is amazing and this is her classic coming-of-age novel about Josephine Alibrandi, an Italian-Australian teenager who learns about and navigates school, friendships and relationships, family, and her heritage. If you haven’t read any of Melina Marchetta’s novels, do it now!

Montgomery Anne of Green Gables

5. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (Canada)

This is where my interest in Prince Edward Island began. One of these days I will get there and I will visit the real Green Gables!

Teller Nothing

6. Nothing by Janne Teller (Denmark)

In a small Danish town, a seventh-grade boy decides that nothing means anything, so he climbs a tree and refuses to come down. His classmates try to convince him that things do have meaning, and to do so they resort to increasingly shocking and extreme measures. To be honest, I don’t recall if I actually enjoyed this book, but I don’t necessarily think it’s the type of book you’re supposed to enjoy. I think it’s supposed to be unusual and thought-provoking and a little bit twisted, and if that was the goal, then it definitely succeeded.

Kephart Going Over

7. Going Over by Beth Kephart (Germany)

This book is set in 1980s Berlin. Two teenagers are in love, stuck on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall. Full of lovely, literary writing, it provides a glimpse into a historical time period.

Giordano solitude prime numbers

8. The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano (Italy)

A prime number can only be divided by one or itself; special primes are prime numbers like 13 and 15 that are close but still separate. The two main characters, Alice and Mattia, are called twin primes because they too are close yet still remain lonely and isolated. This book is certainly not a happy read; it was rather bleak and depressing at times, but not in a bad way, if that makes sense. It was an interesting concept and very well-written.

Nilsson heart's delight

9. Heart’s Delight by Per Nilsson (Sweden)

A book about first love and first heartbreak. Over the course of a night, a boy assembles a random assortment of objects, including a potted plant, a grammar book, condoms, and a movie ticket, and decides he must get rid of them. As he tosses each item out the window or into the garbage chute, we find out that each has some significance in his relationship with his heart’s delight and learn what happened in this relationship.

Van de Ruit Spud

10. Spud by John van de Ruit (South Africa)

I confess that I haven’t actually read this, but it’s on my list! It’s about a boy who starts at a boys-only boarding school in South Africa, and according to the blurb, it is apparently full of “illegal midnight swims, raging hormones, and catastrophic holidays that will leave the entire family in total hysterics and thirsty for more.” It sounds hilarious. Plus, I just found out there’s a movie adaptation, and Troye Sivan plays Spud!

 

Have you read any of these? What books set outside of the US have you read?

 

Re-Reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Rowling Harry Potter 5

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is not my favourite book in the series. This may be because I don’t feel it has as much of a compelling and overarching mystery that makes you want to keep reading, at least not to the same degree that some of the other books do. Like in The Chamber of Secrets, you’re wondering, “Who has opened the Chamber of Secrets? Who is the heir of Slytherin? Why do students keep getting petrified?” And in The Goblet of Fire, it’s all about “Who put Harry’s name into the Goblet of Fire and why? What will the next task be?” etc. In some ways, OotP seems like a book that is setting up for the rest of the series: the political environment, the climax, how neither Harry nor Voldemort “can live while the other survives” and the implications of that. That said, it’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, because I did. It started out slow but picked up somewhere around the middle and became more interesting, and I flew through the last 200 pages or so with much more enthusiasm. Continue reading “Re-Reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”

Review: This is Where the World Ends

Zhang this is whereTitle: This is Where the World Ends

Author: Amy Zhang

Published: March 22, 2016

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Janie and Micah, Micah and Janie. That’s how it’s been ever since elementary school, when Janie Vivien moved next door. Janie says Micah is everything she is not. Where Micah is shy, Janie is outgoing. Where Micah loves music, Janie loves art. It’s the perfect friendship—as long as no one finds out about it. But then Janie goes missing and everything Micah thought he knew about his best friend is colored with doubt.

Using a nonlinear writing style and dual narrators, Amy Zhang reveals the circumstances surrounding Janie’s disappearance in a second novel.

When I first heard about this book I thought it was about apocalypses and the world ending for real – as in, a meteor coming for earth or an actual zombie apocalypse or something like that. So I didn’t pay much attention to it because that’s not really my thing, but as it turns out that’s actually not what it’s about at all!

This book is a dual narrative, with Micah telling the “After” chapters and Janie telling the “Before” chapters. Eventually the Before and After kind of converge and you get a clearer picture of what happened. This did help to build suspense and keep me reading, because every time I found out a little bit more of what happened Before, the chapter cut off and we were back to After. Micah having amnesia also contributed to the suspense because he can’t remember what happened to Janie or how he ended up in the hospital; the reader finds out what happened only in bits and pieces.

I was disappointed because I guessed early on what had happened to Janie, although I didn’t know all the specific details of how. Because of that, the reveal and ending were not as shocking or unpredictable as they were probably meant to be. The book also seemed to end before it should have. There was the big reveal, a couple of lines that were maybe supposed to hint at closure, and then it was over. I felt the ending was too sudden, with some unanswered questions.

This definitely reminded me a lot of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Not only were there similarities in plot, but both also interspersed fairy tale re-tellings. In the case of This is Where the World Ends, every so often there was an excerpt from Janie’s journal. She was studying fairy tales for her senior project, so her journal was filled with re-written fairy tales that reflected the thoughts or situations of her and other characters. I did think this was well done, and it emphasized the idea that life is not always like a fairy tale, but even if it is, fairy tales can be dark and twisted and not end happily, just like the original fairy tales that many Disney movies are based on.

Although overall I was disappointed with this book, I might still read Amy Zhang’s debut, Falling into Place, at some point, because I did enjoy her writing style and I hear a lot of people saying that her first is better than this one.

Favourite Quotes:

“He is rainwater and smoke and wishes. He is honey and wind and bitter as truth and sharp with hurting and endlessly, unbearably sweet. He is air, finally, endlessly. Ease — that’s what it is, that’s what we are, we snap into place, or we glide, or we fall.”

“Micah was right — I would have wished and wanted but I would have been too scared to do anything. Just like everybody else. Everyone says they want to travel and leave home and find themselves or whatever, but they never do it. That’s what high school’s for. You make plans and you don’t follow through. You dream and you can be brave when you dream, brave enough to dream that there’s actually a yourself to find, brave enough to finish projects even though you were never born with endings, brave enough to plan volunteer trips even though you’d probably be dead of asphyxiation by the time you’re there because you’re always holding your breath as if that can keep you together.”

You might also like: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, All the Rage by Courtney Summers, Looking for Alaska by John Green, Paper Towns by John Green

Review: A Sense of the Infinite

Smith A sense of the infinite

Title: A Sense of the Infinite

Author: Hilary T. Smith

Published: May 19, 2015

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

By the author of the critically acclaimed Wild Awake, a beautiful coming-of-age story about deep friendship, the weight of secrets, and the healing power of nature.

It’s senior year of high school, and Annabeth is ready—ready for everything she and her best friend, Noe, have been planning and dreaming. But there are some things Annabeth isn’t prepared for, like the constant presence of Noe’s new boyfriend. Like how her relationship with her mom is wearing and fraying. And like the way the secret she’s been keeping hidden deep inside her for years has started clawing at her insides, making it hard to eat or even breathe.

But most especially, she isn’t prepared to lose Noe.

For years, Noe has anchored Annabeth and set their joint path. Now Noe is drifting in another direction, making new plans and dreams that don’t involve Annabeth. Without Noe’s constant companionship, Annabeth’s world begins to crumble. But as a chain of events pulls Annabeth further and further away from Noe, she finds herself closer and closer to discovering who she’s really meant to be—with her best friend or without.

Hilary T. Smith’s second novel is a gorgeously written meditation on identity, loss, and the bonds of friendship.

This is a quiet and thoughtful book. In some ways, a lot of things happen, but in other ways, not a lot happens. What I mean is, there’s a lot of introspection, of shared glances and little jokes, being ignored and being on your own – little moments that mean something, sometimes something significant, but aren’t necessarily major events in terms of plot. Mostly this book is about Annabeth’s growth as a character, as her friendship with her best friend Noe deteriorates and as she slowly opens up to other people and experiences.

A Sense of the Infinite incorporates a variety of issues, including eating disorders, rape, abortion, and depression, but not in a heavy way, not in a way that makes it feel like an Issue Novel or a Problem of the Week Book. It just feels like it’s about real life and complex people, and these issues are naturally a part of their character or backstory or circumstances.

I liked the friendship that developed between Annabeth and Steven. When I first read that Noe’s new boyfriend, a constant presence, was changing Noe and Annabeth’s friendship, I thought that was going to go in a completely direction. I expected to dislike Steven, to resent his presence and interference. I thought it was going to involve a girl who ditches her friend and spends all her time with her boyfriend, but that was not the case. I actually liked the character of Steven a lot – in fact, much more than Noe.

I loved how certain lines said so much. One example is “I believe you owe me a pizza” – if you’ve read the book, you know that line spoken to the nutritionist has a lot of significance, but it’s not spelled out. It’s just there and then the chapter ends, and it leaves you thinking about what that means. So many times a chapter ended on a powerful line or two.

In fact, the writing was easy to read yet powerful. Even though it was 400 pages, I whipped through it in a couple days. Smith’s writing is emotional, beautiful, and poignant. I’ll just end this with some quotes, because there were a lot that resonated with me in one way or another.

Favourite Quotes:

“‘Everything’s happening!’ we said over and over, until it turned into a magic spell, an incantation, sweeping us out of Noe’s bedroom and into the great rushing hugeness of the rest of our lives.”

“It felt like the day had already lasted a hundred years. I wanted to talk to myself some more; to attend to those quiet inner stirrings that didn’t happen every day. I wasn’t ready to turn outward, to engage.”

“It was hard to switch from being deep in my head to talking on the phone, to vocalizing. Words felt clunky and crude, like using wooden blocks to communicate.”

“Were we even still ourselves back then, or had we already changed into these other people? Did we really mean it, or were we playing out our old rituals one last time, as a kindness, or a half-life, the way that light from a dying star continues to reach the earth for years after the star has burned out?”

“People are like trees. They need one kind of food when they’re seedlings, and a different kind of food once they’ve been growing for a few years. Maybe you and Noe needed each other in ninth grade in a way you don’t need each other now.”

Teaser Tuesday: June 21, 2016

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books And A Beat.

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Here’s my teaser (I actually chose 3 sentences):

Grandmother wanted me to love the stories, to take them into my heart through my ears and let them become a part of me, connecting me to all the people who told them before. It feels disrespectful just to give them away on a sheet of notebook paper. It feels wrong not to be able to include or incorporate the way she said certain words, and where she paused, in her retellings.

Henry The love that split that world

This is from page 89 of The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry. It’s a YA novel described as Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife. I’ve still got lots of it left to read, but hopefully I will be able to review it soon!

Re-Reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Rowling Harry Potter 4

The Quidditch World Cup! House elf liberation! The Triwizard Tournament and other magical schools! Malfoy as a ferret! Portkeys! Yule Ball drama!

Even though I’ve read this one multiple times, it’s been at least six years since I last read it and it was so amazing. I had a massive book hangover and didn’t want to read something new. What is it about these books that even when things are bad, they feel cozy, and when I finish I feel like I’m leaving behind friends. That’s rare; I don’t get that with many books, and I read a lot.

Harry Potter gif world cup

In this book I could feel Harry’s anxiety and dread about the next task and what he might have to face, his elation when the task’s over and all went well and he doesn’t have to think about the next one for months, his guilt over Cedric’s death.

I just can’t get over how immense and detailed the wizarding world is, AND all the clues and hints J.K. Rowling dropped regarding future events. She alludes to the Room of Requirement and horcruxes, for example. The whole series is like an intricate puzzle with millions of pieces, and in the end Rowling fits them all together just so. I think that’s part of why this series is so fun to re-read, because you can go back and see how the puzzle fits together after you’ve seen the end result.

Every time I read the fourth book, I think about Dumbledore’s portrayal in the movie and in particular the infamous “Harry did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire?” scene and I just cringe and cringe and cringe. Dumbledore is supposed to be calm, serene, composed, eccentric. Look at this description of him from Wikipedia: “He almost constantly gives off an aura of serenity and composure, rarely displaying intense emotions of anger or fear.” Why couldn’t he have been portrayed that way in the movies? Why was the Goblet of Fire scene in particular so off the mark?

Harry Potter gif gof

Tear Factor

I actually got teary on two different occasions. The first was when Harry, Ron, and Hermione banged on Hagrid’s door, shouting that they don’t care if he’s half-giant, they still like him and want to know him. It was just such a lovely example of true-blue friends who stick by and stand up for each other no matter what.

The second was when Harry was in the hospital wing after the whole ordeal of the third task and what happened after, and he’s on the verge of tears because he feels like it’s his fault that Cedric died, since Harry was the one who suggested they both take the Triwizard Cup. And then Molly gave him a huge hug, the likes of which Harry can’t remember ever receiving in his life, and I just wanted to cry over all Harry has been through, not only on the night of the third task (which would have been enough on its own!) but also during his whole life.

Favourite Quotes (more like scenes – the bantering and dialogue are top-notch in this one)

“Mr. Weasley, it’s Harry … the fireplace has been blocked up. You won’t be able to get through there.”
“Damn!” said Mr. Weasley’s voice. “What on earth did they want to block up the fireplace for?”
“They’ve got an electric fire,” Harry explained.
“Really?” said Mr. Weasley’s voice excitedly. “Ecklectic, you say? With a 
plug? Gracious, I must see that … let’s think … ouch, Ron!”
Ron’s voice now joined the others’.
“What are we doing here? Has something gone wrong?”
“Oh, no, Ron,” came Fred’s voice, very sarcastically. “No, this is exactly where we wanted to end up.”
“Yeah, we’re having the time of our lives here,” said George, whose voice sounded muffled, as though he was squashed against the wall.

(and basically the whole chapter of the Weasleys arriving at Privet Drive to take Harry to the Quidditch World Cup – pure gold. That would have been HILARIOUS if it was in the movie!)

“Well, I certainly don’t,” said Percy sanctimoniously. “I shudder to think what the state of my in-tray would be if I was away from work for five days.”
“Yeah, someone might slip dragon dung in it again, eh, Perce?” said Fred.
“That was a sample of fertilizer from Norway!” said Percy, going very red in the face. “It was nothing personal!”
“It was,” Fred whispered to Harry as they got up from the table. “We sent it.”

But Ron was staring at Hermione as though suddenly seeing her in a whole new light.
“Hermione, Neville’s right — you 
are a girl….”
“Oh well spotted,” she said acidly.

“Who’re you going with, then?” said Ron.
“Angelina,” said Fred promptly, without a trace of embarrassment.
“What?” said Ron, taken aback. “You’ve already asked her?”
“Good point,” said Fred. He turned his head and called across the common room, “Oi! Angelina!”
Angelina, who had been chatting with Alicia Spinnet near the fire, looked over at him.
“What?” she called back.
“Want to come to the ball with me?”
Angelina gave Fred a sort of appraising look.
“All right, then,” she said, and she turned back to Alicia and carried on chatting with a bit of a grin on her face.
“There you go,” said Fred to Harry and Ron, “piece of cake.”

He therefore had to endure over an hour of Professor Trelawney, who spent half the lesson telling everyone that the position of Mars in relation to Saturn at that moment meant that people born in July were in great danger of sudden, violent deaths.
“Well, that’s good,” said Harry loudly, his temper getting the better of him, “just as long as it’s not drawn-out, I don’t want to suffer.”

Read my thoughts on The Order of the Phoenix here.

 

2016 YA Releases I Can’t Wait to Read

2016 is shaping up to be a great year for YA releases; many of my favourite authors have interesting, intriguing, clever, and/or fun new releases coming out. It’s always awesome when some of your favourites have new books being released, because you know you’re almost guaranteed a good read. This list of five 2016 YA releases consists almost entirely of authors I’ve read before, except for #5.

Altebrando The Leaving

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando
(release date: June 7, 2016)

Tara Altebrando always seems to incorporate interesting and original concepts into her stories, whether it’s the history of Coney Island and carnival sideshows in Dreamland Social Club, or the contrast between the fakery of Las Vegas attractions and their real-life European counterparts in What Happens Here. It will be interesting to see her tackle thriller/suspense.

Caletti Essential Maps

Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti
(release date: April 5, 2016)

I will read anything Deb Caletti writes. End of story. I love her prose, and she has a way of perfectly capturing certain feelings and incorporating little details to make a story feel so real. Her newest has secrets and falling in love and tragedy and depression and alternating perspectives, and somehow incorporates the children’s novel From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (which I never got around to reading when I was younger, but maybe Caletti’s latest will inspire me to check it out).

Arnold Kids of Appetite

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold
(release date: Sept. 20, 2016)

David Arnold’s first book, Mosquitoland, was amazing, so I’m excited for his sophomore release. According to his websiteKids of Appetite is about:

1. A coded mission to scatter ashes across New Jersey.

2. The momentous nature of the Palisades in winter.

3. One dormant submarine.

4. Two songs about flowers.

5. Being cool in the traditional sense.

6. Sunsets & ice cream & orchards & graveyards.

7. Simultaneous extreme opposites.

8. A narrow escape from a war-torn country.

9. A story collector.

10. How to listen to someone who does not talk.

11. Falling in love with a painting.

12. Falling in love with a song.

13. Falling in love.

I can definitely say I’m intrigued.

Yovanoff Places no one

Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff
(release date: May 17, 2016)

Brenna Yovanoff’s books can be strange in a good way, and this looks like no exception. I devoured her book Paper Valentine, which is less paranormal/horror/fantasy than her other books (genres which are not really my thing). Places No One Knows is apparently like this as well – more contemporary realistic with some elements of magical realism and fantasy. It involves dreams and waking up in other people’s dreams and connecting and sharing parts of yourself with another.

Cavallaro A study in Charlotte

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
(release date: March 1, 2016)

Just recently I got into watching BBC’s Sherlock. I’m super late to the game, I know, and I have no idea why. It’s so totally my thing: mysteries, clever deductions, sometimes snarky dialogue… I mean, I grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries and playing Nancy Drew computer games. I wanted to be a detective, and had a magnifying glass and a spyscope for peering around corners! I had a notepad where I could record clues and suspects! Anyway, all of this is to say that I’m looking forward to A Study in Charlotte. It’s a sort of modern re-telling of Sherlock Holmes in which Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson are the descendants of Sherlock and Watson, respectively. They attend a Connecticut prep school and of course there is a suspicious death and much investigating and many twists and turns, I’m sure.