Review: The Accident Season

fowley-doyle-accident-seasonTitle: The Accident Season

Author: Moira Fowley-Doyle

Published: August 18, 2015

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

It’s the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.

The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara’s life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara’s family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items – but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear.

But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?

A few months ago, the Top Ten Tuesday topic was “Books Set Outside the US” (see my post here). As The Accident Season takes places in Ireland, many bloggers included it on their lists and ranted and raved about it. I had never heard of it before. But then a few days later I was at the library, and it jumped out at me on the shelves, even though I’d never seen it before. I decided I had to get it and read it, and I’m so glad I did!

The Accident Season is such an original and lovely book. It’s creepy and magical and strange and imaginative. There are tarot cards and lots of whiskey and an abandoned ghost house. There are secrets and accidents and changelings. There are dreamcatchers hanging from trees, and messages typed on typewriters and displayed around the room. The whole thing is so atmospheric, if that’s the right word. Everything, from the style of writing to the plot to the objects and the characters, contributes to a strange and haunting sort of mood.

I loved the idea of the secrets booth set up at school, where students typed up their secrets in private on a typewriter and put them in a box. Then all the secrets are displayed in a room. I think that would be such a cool thing to view, and to see all these anonymous secrets and confessions that you maybe relate to.

October is the perfect month for this book to be set during – October with its black cats and witches and creepy happenings. The whole book is leading up to a Halloween party set in an abandoned mansion, appropriately named the Black Cat and Whiskey Moon Masquerade Ball.

I’ve been reading a lot of magical realism books this year, and I’m so glad this was one of them. I would highly recommend it.

Favourite Quotes:

“Accidents happen. Our bones shatter, our skin splits, our hearts break. We burn, we drown, we stay alive.”

“We bite back the things we can’t say and we cushion every surface for the inevitable moment when they all come fighting out.”

“There are no ghosts; only the dust in the light, our breath and the wind in the quiet, and the feeling that something, or a lot of somethings, are watching us. So maybe there are ghosts after all.”

“So let’s raise our glasses to the accident season,
To the river beneath us where we sink our souls,

To the bruises and secrets, to the ghosts in the ceiling,
One more drink for the watery road.”

You might also like: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

 

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Review: Places No One Knows

Yovanoff Places no one

Title: Places No One Knows

Author: Brenna Yovanoff

Published: May 17, 2016

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

For fans of Lauren Oliver and E. Lockhart, here is a dreamy love story set in the dark halls of contemporary high school, from New York Times bestselling author Brenna Yovanoff.

Waverly Camdenmar spends her nights running until she can’t even think. Then the sun comes up, life goes on, and Waverly goes back to her perfectly hateful best friend, her perfectly dull classes, and the tiny, nagging suspicion that there’s more to life than student council and GPAs.

Marshall Holt is a loser. He drinks on school nights and gets stoned in the park. He is at risk of not graduating, he does not care, he is no one. He is not even close to being in Waverly’s world.

But then one night Waverly falls asleep and dreams herself into Marshall’s bedroom—and when the sun comes up, nothing in her life can ever be the same. In Waverly’s dreams, the rules have changed. But in her days, she’ll have to decide if it’s worth losing everything for a boy who barely exists.

Places No One Knows is an unusual book. I know the synopsis makes it sound a bit like a typical teen novel with all the common tropes: the perfect, overachieving girl; the slacker guy who drinks and does drugs; a romance that develops between two people of completely different cliques/social classes/insert any other category here. How many times has that been done, right? But trust me when I say it’s not like that.

Waverly, for one, is not your typical perfect popular girl. She has two tarantulas as pets. She likes gory horror movies. She is a bit of a sociopath: when asked why she’s friends with certain people, she says, “They have their uses.” She puts on a mask for the world and plays her role. Nobody knows her true thoughts and feelings. And Marshall – Marshall feels too much all the time, and that can be too much, and I just want to wrap him up in a big hug.

dream girlDreams can be fascinating, and the ideas of waking up in someone else’s dream or dreaming yourself into someone’s life are pretty cool. Beyond the dream aspect, there were no other paranormal/fantasy aspects, so this was more realistic than some of Brenna Yovanoff’s other books. Waverly dreaming herself into Marshall’s room essentially served the purpose of allowing them to connect and get to know each other away from prying eyes, when they normally would never talk to each other.

I just loved what developed between Waverly and Marshall. There were several scenes that epitomized, or tried to, showing someone all the messy, ugly parts of yourself, the parts you normally keep hidden, and yet they say, I see all of you and I still want/like you anyway. And isn’t that all anyone wants? I was rooting for Waverly and Marshall to allow themselves to be vulnerable and embrace what they have, despite what others might think.

Places No One Knows is well-written and has a dreamy quality to it, which makes sense given the subject matter. I loved this book; it was one of those ones where I wanted to keep reading more and more of it, yet at the same time I wanted to go slow and savour it. The reader’s dilemma! I would definitely recommend it.

Favourite Quotes:

“The way he watches me is physical – a pressure on my skin. He is so tender, so immediate, and I am only good at wanting things from a safe distance.”

“It’s so hard to love someone when you have to do it in the open. The second you expose a thing to air, it has already begun to oxidize.”

“There’s an inevitability to telling the truth – people never react the way you need them to.”

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!

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.”

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.