More Than This by Patrick Ness

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61iu72bptrll-_sx307_bo1204203200_Seth is drowning. Being pummeled by wave after wave, barely having a chance to catch a breath of air. The waves slam him into a rock. Seth feels his skull crack open. And then he wakes up in a place that can only be described as his own personal hell. Where is he really? And what really happened to him?

If you’re looking for a suspenseful and heart wrenching, semi-coming of age novel, this is your book. While I thought the beginning of the More Than This was a bit slow, it turned into a page turner. There were many times throughout the book where my pulse was racing and I found myself holding my breath in anticipation of what was to come. The characters are lifelike and I became invested in them almost immediately. Patrick Ness does a great job at pacing out the story with plenty of twists and turns that left me guessing the entire time. Even at the end, I wasn’t completely sure if any of it was real, but I think that’s the point. It places you exactly where the characters are: confused with no positive or solid answers.

However, I did have two issues with the book. The first was I felt that Ness was a bit repetitive. He had the characters repeating themselves several times throughout the book to the point where I was like, ‘OK, I get it, let’s move on.’ The second issue was I felt that the ending was a bit anti-climatic. When I was close to the end I was prepared to give the book 5 stars on Goodreads, that’s how good it was. But then the end kind of petered out and left me slightly disappointed. Which was tough because I—like the characters—wanted answers, but at the same time I liked that I was in the same boat as the characters with not having solid answers on anything. While it creates more of a connection with the characters, I think a bit more closure at the end would have made the ending better.

Despite the few issues I had with More Than This, I still enjoyed it a lot. This was the second book I have read by Ness (the first being A Monster Calls) and his amazing writing and ability to tell terrific stories makes me want to pick up another one of his books. I’ve actually had my eye on The Rest of Us Just Live Here for a while, so hopefully I can get myself a copy soon!

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

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32075662It’s been six months since Kate Harker arrived in Prosperity, leaving behind Verity and the monsters that live there. But when she runs into a new monster—one that feeds on violence and chaos—she’s forced to return to Verity before it destroys the city and those she still cares about. But in Verity things have changed. North City and South City are warring against one another, and Sloan will stop at nothing to win. August has also changed, and Kate needs to find a way to bring back the monster who once wished to be human.

Our Dark Duet is the sequel and final installment of the Verity series and is just as amazing and beautiful as the first, This Savage Song. I’ve said it before and I will say it always: Victoria Schwab has a beautiful way with words. Her world building and characters are unique bringing on a life of their own. Once I picked up this book, I couldn’t put it down and was not disappointed when I was done. From beginning to end the story was satisfying and tied up the plots that still remained from the first book as well as the newly formed plots.

One thing I especially appreciated with this series is (*spoiler warning*) that the two main characters, Kate and August, did not end up in a relationship. I feel that it’s kind of standard that the two main characters who start off as enemies somehow fall in love with one another. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if it’s done in a way that works well with the rest of the story, I did appreciate that we had a male and female main character who could remain friends.

I highly recommend this series to readers who enjoy Young Adult Fantasy. I promise you will not be disappointed!

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

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jonathan_strange_and_mr_norrell_coverJonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a book that has been recommended to me by several people over the past few years. When I finally got my hands on a copy, I was surprised by its size: 846 pages. Not something I was expecting. But since I am not one to shy away from reading a tome, I chose it for my first large book of the year. While I did find some portions of the story to be a bit slow, I was not disappointed.

The book is broken into three volumes and follows two magicians, Gilbert Norrell and Jonathan Strange, on their quest to bringing magic back to England. What makes the dynamic of these characters so interesting is that they are so different from one another. Mr Norrell prefers to keep to himself and read his books of magic to learn about new spells, while Jonathan Strange wants to try the old ways of magic to learn how to adapt it in new ways. The ironic part is that while Mr Norrell warns against people utilizing the help of fairies because of their trickster ways, he asks for the help of a fairy to get his name known as a well versed magician—and lands himself in big trouble which doesn’t catch up with him until later.

Susanna Clarke’s writing style is fantastic. It reminded me a lot of Jane Austen’s writing style, and I am not the only one to describe the book as a Jane Austen novel but with magic (the cover of the book describes it similarly). The stories of the different characters weave in and out of each other, and sometimes you will be reading about Mr Norrell for a hundred pages before returning to Jonathan Strange, which can be frustrating if you are more interested in one story than another. There were definitely some story lines that I liked a lot better than others, and I would end up reading for hours hoping to get to the next part of a particular character’s story so I could find out what happens.

Even though the book is long and there are a lot of different plots branching off one another, Clarke does an excellent job at connecting them and ending it all nicely without leaving any questions left unanswered. By the end, I was left with a feeling of satisfaction, enjoyment, and happiness that I got the chance to read such a fascinating story.

The Lobster: A Movie Review

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mv5bndq1nde5nzq1nf5bml5banbnxkftztgwnza5otm2nte-_v1_uy1200_cr10806301200_al_Newly divorced, David is arrested and transferred to the Hotel where he has 45 days to find a matching mate. If he fails, he will be turned into an animal of his choice for the chance to find love in the Woods. As David’s days begin to wind down, he turns to desperate measures to secure a partner.

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, The Lobster is a deadpan, black comedy where the actors speak in monotone and reveal no emotion. But in the case of this film, that is not a bad thing. I found the premise of The Lobster to be interesting and thought provoking. This movie takes an every day situation—a break up or the loss of a significant other—and makes the solution to the problem so absurd that you can’t help but laugh at the situation. And the fact that the characters go along with the situation makes it even more absurd.

The comedy in it is dry, so may not be everyone’s cup of tea. I remember when I originally saw a preview for this movie, I thought it was another Wes Anderson film, and found the style to be somewhat similar (although darker than the Wes Anderson films I have previously seen).

My only flag for viewers is to say that there is human and animal abuse in the film which people may find distasteful. Not a lot, but some. And I think it ties in with the absurdity of the movie and allows viewers to find the beauty hidden beneath the darkness of the film.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

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41tnq1j8o8l-_sx337_bo1204203200_Growing up with a mostly absent father who was a cardiologist, Paul Kalanithi decided he would not go in the medical field. Instead, his love of books and writing drove him to study English where he explored the human condition through the works of famous authors. Until one day when Kalanithi realized the only way to really study peoples’ relationships with sickness and death was through medicine. So he decides to change his course and medicine quickly turns from a chore to his life calling. But as Kalanithi is finishing up his final year in residency for neurosurgery with big plans for the future, he is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Now, along with his family, he must begin to make new plans not only for the present difficulties, but for after he is gone.

Technically, When Breath Becomes Air is incomplete. Kalanithi began writing it after his diagnosis–even wearing silver-lined gloves to use the trackpad when chemotherapy caused his fingers to crack–and his wife, Lucy, had it finished posthumously. But at the same time the story is complete. Broken into two parts, the first part follows Kalanthi from childhood into college where he decides to go into medicine and finally through medical school and his decision to become a neurosurgeon. The section is filled with his experiences throughout his training and how his patients changed from tasks to be checked off to human beings who needed his help and comfort. Kalanithi depicted himself as a normal human being with flaws, and I enjoyed reading about the patients he met and the surgeries he performed during his time as a doctor.

The second part focuses more on Kalanithi’s fight with lung cancer and how he and his wife handled the situations dealt to them, ranging from whether to have a child or not and whether to accept a new job in a new state or to let it go. It is a heart wrenching section about Kalanithi’s increased sickness and deterioration, but it gives readers a first hand account of what it is like to have lung cancer and the decisions and stresses that comes with it. Beautifully written, When Breath Becomes Air was one of the best memoirs I have read and I highly recommend you put it on your to be read list.

 

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

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20612938The Guest Cat is the story of a couple in their 30’s who are visited by a cat during their time renting a cottage in Tokyo. The cat, named Chibi, is a stray who is taken in by some neighbors. But with its frequent visits to the couple, Chibi slowly changes the couple’s life and they begin to feel like the cat is really theirs and not just a guest.

Translated by Eric Selland, it is a very short book (only 140 pages), and reads more like an essay than a fiction piece. There’s very little dialogue and a lot of description, but the story of the cat’s effect on the couple is woven seamlessly into other small connecting stories.

Honestly, because The Guest Cat is so short, there’s not much more to say about it besides that I’m not surprised that it’s a best-seller in France and a recipient of Japan’s Kiyama Shoheir Literary Award. It was beautifully written and poetic, which makes sense since Takashi Hiraide is a poet, and is definitely a story that I will have to read several more times to fully grasp all of the themes throughout (and since it’s short that should not be a problem). I would highly recommend this book to readers interested in literary short stories and poetry. Also, you do not need to be a lover of cats to enjoy this book.

Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid

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18812437Hudson, Bree, Elliot, and Sonia are all experiencing a rough patch in their life, some unknowingly and some fully aware. The one thing they have in common is Leila: a teen girl in the middle of a road trip to see the Northern Lights. She seems to appear when these four teens need it the most. What they don’t know is Leila is going through her own struggles with the hope that this journey will help solve them.

Let’s Get Lost is another ebook I learned about through Twitter and bought this year because it was on sale. Once I read a preview of the book I knew I had to have it. What I liked about this book was it took a lot of hard topics—relationships, loss, grief—and personalizes them to make them relateable to readers. What’s even better is that each person’s story of loss is in different forms, from the loss of a scholarship to the loss of family and the loss of a significant other. While Adi Alsaid’s writing is simple, he was not afraid to mix some complex terms into the story which added to the elegance.

Although I loved the overall story, there were some parts that I found to be a bit confusing. Maybe it was the structuring of the sentences, but I would read some lines one way only to find out it meant something else. For example, there’s a part where Alsaid writes that a gas station is on the same street as a record store, only to then say the record store is across the street from the gas station. He is accurate when he writes that the record store is on the same street as the gas station because they would share the same street address, however, I took it to mean on the same side of the street so it threw me off a little when he then wrote that it was across the street. So, this probably has to do more with the way that the reader interprets the meaning than how it was written and is not that big of a deal. Just something that stuck out to me.

I also wished that I knew more about the ending of each character’s story. Particularly Elliot and Bree’s stories. I feel the end ties up nicely for Leila, which is good since we follow her the entire time, and Hudson and Sonia’s stories come to a satisfying end, but I felt the reader is left guessing about what happens to Elliot and Bree. I was hoping that at the end everyone would show up in Alaska and learn all about Leila (sorry about that spoiler, but it doesn’t happen). However, maybe the fact that we are left wondering is part of the charm of this book.