Books Set Around the World II

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week we’re revisiting a past Top Ten Tuesday topic and redoing or updating it. I’m revisiting my past post Top Ten Books Set Outside the US and adding more books I’ve read that are set around the world! I love travelling, but sometimes outside factors affect your ability to travel – like time, finances or, you know, being in the midst of a global pandemic. Luckily we have books so that we can explore other countries and cultures from our own homes. And here’s hoping travel can safely open up soon!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Best Opening Lines

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is best opening lines. When I first saw this topic, half of the following opening lines immediately popped into my head. That’s the power of a good opening line or paragraph – it draws you in and sticks with you long after you’ve completed the novel. Some are short and punchy; some lyrical and mysterious. All intrigue the reader to dive into the story, and inspire writers to craft a kick-ass introduction.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books with Sensory Reading Memories

top ten tuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Although this week’s topic is top ten villains, I’m returning to a previous topic that I missed the first time around: books with sensory reading memories. This topic is such an interesting and unique one, so I knew I had to write about it at some point. I am the type of person who can remember what I was wearing on my first day of grade nine. I know what year and with whom I watched a certain movie. I can listen to songs from high school and be instantly brought back to a certain memory. So here are a couple books that I strongly associate with certain memories!

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Throwback Thursday: My First Teen Reads

I was thinking about Throwback Thursdays and nostalgia and some of the teen books I read back in late elementary school and early high school, and then I thought, why don’t I combine those topics into a blog post? So here are some of the very first teen books I remember checking out, when I first ventured into the teen section of my local library. (I hope this doesn’t date me too much!)

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set During the Summer

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is “Books with X Setting.” I decided to go with a summertime setting. At first I was debating doing books set at summer camp or at a beach house or by the ocean, but what they all have in common is that they’re set during the summer.

What is it about books and summertime settings that seem to go so well together? There’s something about the freedom from studying and annoying teachers and locker drama and finding someone to sit with at lunch. The longer days, the sleeping-in, the late nights or all-nighters. You’re free to have new experiences, meet new people, travel, and figure out who you are. These books capture those summers where anything can and does happen, when you start to see things – or people – differently, when you go outside your comfort zone.

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Review: You Know Me Well

LaCour Levithan You know me wellTitle: You Know Me Well

Author: Nina LaCour and David Levithan

Published: June 7, 2016

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is, until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other—and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour and David Levithan, You Know Me Well is a story about navigating the joys and heartaches of first love, one truth at a time.

I love both David Levithan’s and Nina LaCour’s writing, so I thought this collaboration would be a perfect pairing. It ended up being not my favourite David Levithan collaboration, but it was still a good read. It’s a great novel to read during Pride Week as it’s set in San Francisco and features Pride festivities. There are a lot of coming out YA novels; this one is more about what happens after. I could definitely feel the passion and excitement of the characters at the end when they were embracing who they are, celebrating, and heading to the parade.

The characters, especially Katie, were very relatable. In particular, this book absolutely nailed a few things: running away from opportunities because you’re scared or because you think you’re not good enough or don’t deserve them, and pushing away someone you really like because you want to hold onto the idea of them and don’t want to ruin things – and you can’t ruin them if nothing’s begun.

At first I was a bit disappointed in how Mark’s storyline ended, or maybe I was just sad for him. At the same time, I liked that the novel didn’t end with everyone getting together with the person they liked. It can still be a happy ending without everyone pairing off in romantic couples. Plus it felt more realistic that way.

It was nice to have a novel focus on a platonic male-female relationship – in particular, a friendship that wasn’t toxic or dysfunctional, just a friendship where the two of them are there for each other, pushing each other to go after what they want, supporting each other through bad times, understanding each other in ways that other people don’t or can’t.

Favourite Quotes:

“And when I begin to worry that I chose the wrong college, or that my future roommate will hate me, or that I’m going to grow up and forget about the things I once loved – cobalt blue, this certain hill behind my high school, searching for old slides at flea markets, the song “Divided” – I think about Violet.”

“Because we lose it. We grow up and we lose ourselves. Sometimes when my favorite songs are on I have to stop what I’m doing and lie down on my carpet and just listen. I feel every word they’re singing. Every note. And to think that in twenty years, or ten years, or five, even, I might hear those same songs and just, like, bob my head or something is horrible. Then I’m sure I’ll think that I know more about life, but it isn’t true. I’ll know less.”

“And we step off the curb, all of us together, as if to say, Here we come – through hard days and good ones, through despair and through exhilaration, in love and out of love, for just now or for forever. Here we come. It’s our parade.”

You might also like: any of David Levithan’s collaborations – Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares (all with Rachel Cohn), Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green), and other David Levithan books – Two Boys Kissing, How They Met and Other Stories, Boy Meets Boy, The Realm of Possibility + + check out Nina LaCour if you haven’t – The Disenchantments is a personal favourite!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set Outside the US

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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!

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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.”

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.

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