Novel Update #8

February 19, 2013 at 8:56pm

What I’ve been reading lately. Finally.

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Anthropology
Dan Rhodes
Villard, 2000
★★★★

I bought this on a whim after seeing it in Fully Booked. The edition I have is mass market paperback-sized and adorable, and I devoured it in one sitting. This anthology is composed of 101 short stories, arranged alphabetically, that in turn have 101 words each. The writing is simple but wonderful (making use of magical realism, which I adore), and they’re all about relationships, heartbreak and feelings, both good and bad. See this (“Crying,” story number thirteen) as an example:

My girlfriend left me, and I started crying in my sleep. My nightly lament became so loud that my neighbors called the police. The press found out, and people came to stand outside my house to hear me call her name and moan. Television crews arrived, and soon a search was on to find the object of my misery. They tracked her to her new boyfriend’s house. I watched the coverage. People were saying they had expected her to be much more beautiful than she was, and that I should pull myself together and stop crying over such an ordinary girl.

It’s been a while since I’ve read it, so I’ve forgotten what my favorite was. One thing’s for sure, though—this is one of my favorite books now, and Dan Rhodes is one of my new favorite writers.

This is essentially what you get if you combine David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary and How They Met with Etgar Keret’s witty, crafty, minimalistic storytelling. This book’s vignettes have the kind of warped reality that I’d love to experience.

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An Extraordinary Theory of Objects
Stephanie LaCava
Harper, 2012
★★★★

This memoir (which comes in a nice, small clothbound volume with deckle-edged pages) chronicles LaCava’s early teen years during her family’s move to Le Vesinet in France. Awkward and lonely, finding it difficult to fit in at her international school, she deals with her new surroundings in the only way she can—by immersing herself in the beautiful culture of strange objects, people and places—before plunging into an unfortunate breakdown. 

I’ll be honest: I gave this book a four-star rating because it’s beautiful, there are several fabulous illustrations by Matthew Nelson inside much like the four that adorn the cover and they come with interesting facts about the items and places drawn, and Stephanie LaCava knows how to tie sentences together quite well. I really enjoyed reading this. Some parts were really beautiful, especially ones where she wanders around and explores the French streets on her own late at night, but other times I just wanted to tell her to get a grip and deal with it. I understood the material attachment, sentimentality and attraction to the uncanny really, really well, and it’s true that all people react differently—some more grave than most—to certain situations, but maybe she just had to be tougher and see more beauty all around her, not just the ones in her own little world. 

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Just One Day
Gayle Forman
Dutton, 2013
★★★★★

God, this book gave me feelings. Jesus, you should’ve seen the way my friends and I “yelled” (necessary quotation marks because we were only talking on the internet) and cussed to each other while we read this. I’ve already reviewed this for Elision, so let me just put the summary here:

The final night of all-American “good girl” Allyson Healey’s Europe tour group ends in England’s Stratford-upon-Avon, where they are to see Hamlet performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company. However, Allyson and her best friend break off to see a street performance of Twelfth Night instead, in which 20-year-old Dutch actor-slash-vagabond Willem De Ruiter plays Sebastian and tosses a coin to Allyson. They are never to see each other again—until they do, on a train to London, no less. On impulse, Willem convinces Allyson—whom he has taken to calling Lulu after ’20s actress Louise Brooks—to go off the rails, forget the plan and have a day in Paris. Just one day. Just like that. And “Lulu” says yes. However, the day after an amazing, eventful time in Paris spent falling in love and possibly being in it (it makes sense in context), Allyson wakes up to find Willem gone. Now back in the States and in her first year of college, she spends the next months trying to find herself and reunite play-by-the-rules, trapped-in-life Allyson with the adventurous, free Lulu through Shakespeare and travel. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll come to find Willem again. Sort of like Before Sunrise meets Wanderlove meets, um, Europe.

There’ll be a sequel called Just One Year out in a couple of months from Willem’s POV, and hopefully it provides the answers to the questions left lingering…and more swoon, because that’s the way Gayle Forman rolls. Also, MORE WILLEM, OH YES. That’s important! 

I just can’t stop talking about this, but oh my god CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO ONWARDS. My heart couldn’t take it. The novel featured things I’m not a big fan of (hell, they’re total nightmares to me!), like purposely losing things with sentimental value and not being able to say goodbye and finding out there’s more to the story (there always is) and it’s a total clincher, yet it’s still become one of my favorite books. It’s that good.  

For the rest of the review (and more of my feelings), click here. I now leave you with this passage:

He stops and looks at me, and it’s like his eyes are scanners. I have that same sensation I did on the train earlier, that he’s appraising me, only this time not for looks and black-market value, but for something else.

“I won’t say that you’re pretty, because that dog already did. And I won’t say you’re funny, because you have had me laughing since I met you.”

Evan used to tell me that he and I were “so compatible,” as if being like him was the highest form of praise. Pretty and funny—Willem could stop right there, and it would be enough.

But he doesn’t stop there. “I think you’re the sort of person who finds money on the ground and waves it in the air and asks if anyone has lost it. I think you cry in movies that aren’t even sad because you have a soft heart, though you don’t let it show. I think you do things that scare you, and that makes you braver than those adrenaline junkies who bungee-jump off bridges.”

He stops then. I open my mouth to say something, but nothing comes out and there’s a lump in my throat and for one small second, I’m scared I’m going to cry.

Because I’d hoped for baubles, trinkets, fizzy things: You have a nice smile. You have pretty legs. You’re sexy.

But what he said…I did once turn in forty dollars I found at the food court to mall security. I have cried in every single Jason Bourne movie. As for the last thing he said, I don’t know if it’s true. But I hope more than anything that it is.

GOD, I KNOW. Right?

And then there are the last few pages of chapter twelve…I’ll let you guys witness it for yourselves. Ugh, I’ll stop now because I could literally gush about and curse this book at the same time forever.

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Eleanor & Park
Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin’s Press, 2013
★★★★

Why, why, why do I keep letting books break my heart?!

It’s 1986. Eleanor is the new girl at school, a misfit because of her wild red hair and her weight. Park is the guy who yells at her on the bus on her first day, and the person she now sits next to on the way to school day after day—he’s a misfit because he’s half-Korean. Initially reluctant to interact with each other, they become pseudo-friends, then actual friends, then whatever comes after when they bond over comic books and mixtapes. However, as most tales of first love go, they’ve known from the get-go that not everything will go swimmingly, and that saving a life is both easier and harder than they could ever have imagined. Terribly bittersweet and heartbreaking. 

I finished this while waiting in line to have my passport renewed and the hour-long wait was turned into an amazing time by Eleanor & Park. I’m serious, I look back to that time and think, Wow, I’d do anything to just be able to sit in a cramped crowded room and read and lose myself in words again (and, um, be in tears by the time it ends, oops…). Anyway, the funny and talented Miss Rainbow Rowell did a great job of employing an unlikely hero and heroine (but real, so real!) and I found myself swooning. Best misfits (and deadpan snarkers!!!) in love story ever. I look forward to more of her work!

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On the Fringe
Courtney King Walker
Lands Atlantic Publishing, 2011
★★★★

I was a little wary to get into this because I don’t normally do paranormal or fantasy books. The last ghost book I read was, if not by Stephen King, then by R.L. Stine, and that really says something about me. Sheesh. 

Still, the premise of two childhood friends falling in love and having the boy in the equation die just drew me in. (Funny, I’m reading Notes from Ghost Town right now…) Ultimately, I am so glad I read it. 

(If you remember from an earlier post, yes, this is the book that once again (theoretically) fashioned its male lead after Dan Howell. Darn it, scarily apt character descriptions—not to mention names!)

Claire has had a crush on her best friend’s brother (and her childhood friend) Daniel for a while. Things were starting to look up, until Daniel is murdered at a party, leaving behind a devastated family, best friend (Claire’s brother) and who could have been his first love, Claire herself. When Claire finds herself drowning and fighting for her life on her birthday, she thinks she imagined Daniel’s ghost saving her—except it’s not her imagination. Now, every night on the exact four and a half minutes Claire almost died, she and Daniel get to talk and actually feel each other’s touch. It’s not a lifetime, but under the circumstances it’s more than they bargained for. However, some dark and vengeful force is seeking to tear them apart once more, and it’s up to Claire and Daniel to make the right decisions and subsequent actions. 

Things I love: the murder subplot, the “dark force” and how he’s tied to Daniel, EVERY SINGLE TIME THOSE FOUR AND A HALF MINUTES COME (jeez, all they do is kiss and I still swoon every time, okay, Courtney King Walker knows her shit and I actually get tingles), the carnival scene and, sob, the tearjerker parts. I mean, it’s a book about death. There’s got to be some crying involved. Then again, I cry during How I Met Your Mother episodes, so who am I to say so? Also, there’s some nice use of logic and just ugh I love this book and Daniel Holland, okay. 

Things I hate: Absolutely nothing. Brilliant from start to finish. The last few chapters, okay. But basically everything. I’m not even making sense anymore. READ IT!

  1. fi-el posted this