Book Review: “All the Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven (ARC)

18460392All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Publisher: Knopf
Publishing Date: January 6
Genre: young adult, contemporary
ISBN: 9780385755887
Goodreads: —
Rating: 
★★★★★

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

Theodore “Freak” Finch fluctuates between Awake and Asleep states, only it’s different from being awake and sleeping. One day he’s fine and energized and full of life; time passes, and later he’s disconnected, his only desire is to crawl into someplace dark and warm. He’ll come out some time later — a long time later — and he does this so often his friends and family think nothing of it. Violet Markey, once a cheerful and popular girl, is also disconnected from the world, blaming herself for her sister’s death in their shared car wreck. Brought together at the top of the school’s bell tower and  later in their US Geography class, Finch and Violet’s lives collide. She keeps him Awake, he keeps her Alive; together, they remind one another what it means to live, to wander, to find adventure, and sink into beauty. But as Violet’s world expands, Finch’s shrinks, to the point where she is his only star.

When the publishers market this as The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor & Park, they weren’t kidding. Grab yourself a box of tissues, read up on mental illness, and grab a map of Indiana. You’re in for a very raw, emotional, enlightening, and literal journey.

I want to meet Niven. I want to meet her and hug her and thank her. I want to bow at her feet. I want to buy all the copies ever of this book and give them to all of my friends — my undergraduate peers in the psychology department, the friends and coworkers with mental illnesses, the friends and family who are survivors of death and suicide. I want them to see that it is possible to write and read a book that touches upon these subjects exactly how it’s experienced, and yet treats them with love and respect and dignity.

This is a book about death. It is not glorified nor is it shamed. This is a book about mental illness. It is not treated lightly nor does it sadden the reader — it’s enlightening. It’s refreshing. It’s filled with love and beauty. It’s a roller coaster ride, and Finch and Violet are our guides. Indiana is the back drop — and I’m so thrilled at how beautiful Niven paints this state. For once, Hoosier country isn’t simply defined by TFiOS, but this next great YA novel.

It truly is great. I can’t even give this a proper review without accidentally revealing everything about this book. Just know that this is the book readers of all ages are waiting for.

Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this copy from Knopf for review!

Top Five Books of 2014

The most difficult post of the year: selecting five fantastic books from the 66, as of December 17th, I read this year!

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Goodness. This year was full of discoveries. If last year was deemed The Year of Gothic Literature, this could be called the ARC Frenzy (so. many. ARCs.) or The Year of Contemporary YA. Seriously, why hadn’t I read Gayle Forman sooner? Or Rainbow Rowell? Or Stephanie Perkins? They’re definitely my top YA authors now — I will follow their publishing career to the ends of the earth. This was also the year I stumbled upon Morgan Matson, Jenny Han, and Huntley Fitzpatrick. What a fun experience!

In no particular order, here are my Top Five Books of 2014!

For more favorites: Top Five of 2013, Top Five of 2012. To see the full list of books I read in 2014, feel free to see my Goodreads Challenge!

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon || Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins ||
Just One Day by Gayle Forman

A time-traveling historical fiction with a dash of romance, now a hit TV series, is totally worth the volume of words and pages. If you haven’t giggled in a while, travel to Paris and relive your first romance! And finally, one magical day abroad can change your life forever.

Clearly there’s a foreign theme going on…

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell || Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Break personal barriers and overcome anxiety your freshman year in college, or shatter your entire belief system to save hundreds of people your uncle despises. These young women are daring in their own way!

Some honorable mentions include Indiana author Sharon Biggs Waller’s A Mad, Wicked Folly, the Buffy-esque series starter Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins, and quietly beautiful The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston. There are two great books coming out in January 2015 that I read this year and loved (and will most likely make it into the Top 5 of 2015!), Geek Girl by Holly Smale and All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven — reviews to come.

Which books made it to your Top Books of 2014 list? 

Nonfiction Selections for the Bookish Fan

There’s no other way to say it: I would not call myself a nonfiction reader. At all.

When a nonfiction book receives praise left and right, I still don’t read it. I tend to ask friends, bloggers, colleagues, and other readers what they thought of this book and what it was about, but I never actually read it myself.

Now that completely changes when it comes to something I’m passionate about. Literary parodies, facts pertaining to the making of Harry Potter (movies and books), historical references on my favorite writers and their works — yes. I’ll read those, hands down.

There are three nonfiction books this holiday season I think many readers would be interested in receiving as a gift. If you’re stuck in a rut, why not get that special someone one of these books?

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Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg

From Homer to Harry, Oliver Twist to Katniss, Daisy to Buchanan to Nancy Drew, this book has it all! Watch Hamlet procrastinate, see just how twisted Lord Byron could get, experience the yellow wallpaper all over again — Texts from Jane Eyre is the perfect parody for literary folks. Like a certain Shakespeare play, Victorian poet, or famous character? He, she, or it is probably in here, and you’ll laugh right along with Ortberg’s playful handling of their personality and situation. My favorite was John Keats, my father enjoyed Oliver Twist, and my mother couldn’t stop laughing over Sherlock Holmes. My brother, who isn’t much of a reader, laughed at all the books parodied he’d read for school. Good fun for the whole family!

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Harry Potter: The Creature Vault by Jody Revenson

Are you a Harry Potter fan? What about your friends and family? You’re going to want to get multiple copies of this book. It’s incredibly insightful and full of so many behind-the-scenes facts about the filming of the Potter movies. Not to mention all the stunning artwork — it was both fascinating and frightening seeing the visual conception morph from one interpretation to another, resulting in the final product. It really sheds light on just how dark the children’s series really is. All those mermaid, goblin, and dementor drawings are quite haunting. Anyone interested in design, film production, art, CG effects, and Potter in general would want this gem.

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Jane Austen Cover to Cover by Margaret C. Sullivan

This isn’t just for Janeites! Jane Austen Cover to Cover is a brilliant blend of graphic design and publishing history. It’s also a neat insight to social and cultural changes. The covers that enticed readers in the 1950s are vastly different from those that entice readers today. With beautiful quotes, historical facts, and stunning cover exposures, this is a great gift for anyone interested in learning more about design and publishing. (And for those who already hoard multiple editions of books…)

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Which nonfiction book are you planning to give to someone this holiday season?

 

Sisterhood of the World Book Bloggers Tag

I was tagged by Morgan @ Gone With the Words to participate in this tag! She was tagged 3 times and decided to answer all 30 questions, and told those she tagged to pick 10 to answer. I tag Rachel @ Beauty & the Bookshelf, Emily @ Falling for YA, and Luna’s Little Library, and ask that you answer the ten questions I offer at the end!

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1. If you could choose one book to re-read once a year for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Oh, this is terrible. I’m torn between the entirety of the Harry Potter series (does it come in one volume? Wait, don’t answer that. If it does, you know my book hoarding instinct will kick in. What a heavy package that’d be on my doorstep), One Day by David Nicholls, and Jane Eyre. I’ve no idea. Oh no. OH NO.

At this moment, let’s go with Harry Potter.

2. What book character have you identified with the most while reading?

Depends on aspects of my personality. Sometimes I’m Lara Jean in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, sometimes I’m Cath in Fangirl, and sometimes I’m Anna in Anna and the French Kiss. While Jane (Jane Eyre of course — how could you not know that by now if you follow me?) is definitely a kindred spirit in many ways, I think these contemporary teen girls are most easily identifiable for me. At this moment in my life, I think Lara Jean is the most innocent yet mature and confident of the group.

3. Is there a book everyone hates and you love?

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. I don’t think people hate it, necessarily, but you’re either an Austen reader or you’re not, and more often than not, readers don’t enjoy this gothic satire outside of its academic context. Why must we nitpick these books? Why can’t this be a fun read?

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4. Name three fictional places you would move to in a heartbeat.

Hogsmeade, fictional London, and Blythewood.

5. What is your favorite movie or television adaptation of a book you’ve read.

WHY SO HARD. WHY. Let’s go with Death Comes to Pemberley. (Only because I read North & South after seeing the BBC adaptation, so that doesn’t count.)

6. Your top three recommendations for someone who doesn’t read YA.

Prisoner of Night and FogBetween Shades of Gray, and Seraphina.

7. Who is your most-owned author?

JK Rowling, only because I have so many editions of the Harry Potter series. The number surpasses Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë.

8. Would you rather have a new Harry Potter series about Harry in his later years, or a Marauders-era book series?

Marauders (rise of Voldemort), Dumbledore (rise of Grindewald), Founders…you name it, I’m down for it.

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9. How do you pick your next read?

If it’s an ARC, it’s based on publication date and length of the book. But with published books, it’s a mixture of pulling from my TBR jar and recent recommendations from other bloggers and readers. Lots of staring at my overflowing TBR bookcase, really.

10. When and why did you start blogging?

I began December 2011 shortly after receiving my acceptance letter into Rosemont’s publishing graduate program. I thought I’d build a blog focused on publishing industry news and my own book reviews. I quickly learned that…well, I needed to learn a lot about the industry before I could discuss it — and then found that I greatly preferred reading and editing and reviewing on a blog platform, and verbally discussing the industry in person.

And now it’s your turn! Answer these 10 questions, link back here, and tag 3 other book bloggers!

1. What is the very first book you remember reading on your own?
2. What was the first book series that got you reading like crazy? (Harry Potter, Narnia, Lemony Snicket…?)
3. Which author is an automatic buy for you?
4. How many books do you carry with you each day?
5. Do you have a favorite bookstore? What do you love about it?
6. What would your dream book be? (Plot, character, setting, topic, genre…?)
7. Pick a genre. Name three books you’d recommend to someone who normally doesn’t read that genre.
8. Name three fictional places you’d move to instantly.
9. If you could be any character in any book, who would it be and why?
10. What do you plan to read next?

The Re-Read Challenge 2015

Re-Read Challenge

Hannah @ So Obsessed With and Kelly @ Belle of the Literati are hosting a new, fun challenge for bloggers in 2015: The Re-Read Challenge! Not much of a “challenge,” per se, because why wouldn’t you want to re-read and re-experience some of your favorites? I’ll be honest, I’m really looking for a small break from my typical rush to blog and review.

Interested in participating? Sign up before the end of January, commit to the challenge, and in your re-read review, be sure to answer these questions.

WHEN I First Read

WHAT I Remember

WHY I Wanted to Re-Read

HOW I Felt After Re-Reading

WOULD I Re-Read Again

Add your post to the monthly recap post on Hannah or Kelly’s blogs, and you’ll be entered for giveaways! Check out what other bloggers are re-reading, too. You might come across some other bloggers re-reading the same books as you!

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What I Plan to Re-Read: 10 Books

I want to

…sit back and relive the Hogwarts experience (gotta catch up with Pottermore and reread Goblet of Fire (1) and Order of the Phoenix (2) (which will be terrible because I haven’t reread OotP since the day it came out. There’s a dent in my bedroom wall from where I threw the book. You know what brought that on. Don’t even ask).

…fall into the magic of The Night Circus (3).

…sob my eyes out over The Fault in Our Stars (4).

…giggle with Anna in Anna and the French Kiss (5).

…seek independence with Jane Eyre (6).

…dive into the suspense of The Likeness (7).

…agree completely with Emma in One Day (8).

…completely understand Cath on every level in Fangirl (9).

…remember why Kate Morton rocks my world in The House at Riverton (10).

 

To My Secret Santa Recipient

It’s that time of year! I work in a bookstore, I work with books and authors and editors and agents, I get steep discounts during the holidays, I have to buy presents…so obviously the gifts are books. Even my family is getting books. But this year is extra special — a Secret Santa, a book swap, and bookish surprises for friends!

As I mentioned before, I’m participating (for the first time) in The Broke and The Bookish‘s (fifth annual) Secret Santa, or #TBTBSanta on twitter and instagram. This brought on a whole new level of holiday book swap: somewhere in the world another book blogger you may have never “met” or “read” has sent you a list of books and ideas for goodies, and somewhere in the world a blogger received your own list of books and ideas for goodies. Sounds easy! But it’s quite tricky…

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1 book + 1 necklace + edible goodies + a bookmark!

 

First off, while I knew which book to pick, I didn’t know what to do about goodies! Should I send a bookmark — and if so, which one? Should I send chocolate — and if so, what kind? Should I send tea or cocoa or coffee? What other gift can I give? I browsed her blog, scrolled through her twitter, and spied on her Goodreads, and while it didn’t answer my edible questions, it certainly gave me the idea to buy a piece of jewelry that all bibliophiles would love, even if they’ve never read A Series of Unfortunate Events (note: she has!). I hope she likes it!

"BOOKS ARE EVERYWHERE WHY HUMAN WHY!"

“BOOKS ARE EVERYWHERE WHY HUMAN WHY!”

This year I not only participated in TBTBSanta, but continued the book swap concept with three of the girls from my program. In 2012 and 2013, we hosted a Secret Santa Ugly Christmas Sweater Book Swap party, and everyone received one book on their wishlist and one book their Secret Santa read and thought they’d enjoy as well. This year, since we’re scattered after graduation and still wanted to keep in touch, we came up with a list of ten books to share to the others. We emailed everyone (except the recipient) which book we were getting the recipient so no one bought the same book accidentally. Three books purchased, one book mailed to each of the three girls, and receiving three books in the mail to put under the tree. Considering we’re all in different states across the country (literally North, South, East, and West represented!), we thought we were being clever to continue the book swap this way. It’s definitely been fun! Our book lists really reflected who we are as readers. Can’t wait to discuss the books we receive!

A book-related piece of jewelry for my dear bookish friends.

A book-related piece of jewelry for my dear bookish friends.

I surround myself with people who enjoy reading, but three girls in particular (none of whom were in the graduate program) are quite close to me and we always have something to say about books. Stina (whom I met at a Harry Potter party and who introduced me to Nerdfighteria), Lindsey (of Jane Eyre guest blog fame), and Morgan (introduced by Lindsey after I fell into the Outlander fandom) are amazing women. Stina and I constantly exchange gifts and letters just because, and Lindsey, Morgan, and I have epic text conversations midnight every night. So…I bought the four of us a tiny little something, and I hope they love it!

Rossetti wishes you a merry Christmas!

Rossetti wishes you a merry Christmas!

Are you participating in #TBTBSanta?
What bookish gifts have you purchased for loved ones?

Book Review: “Ravencliffe” by Carol Goodman (ARC)

9780670784776_ade07Ravencliffe by Carol Goodman

Publisher: Viking
Publishing Date: December 2
Genre: young adult, fantasy, historical fiction, gothic
ISBN: 9780670784776

Goodreads: — 
Rating: ★★★★

Avaline Hall is no ordinary girl.

She’s a student at Blythewood Academy, an elite boarding school that trains young women to defend human society from the shadowy forces that live among us.  After the devastating events of her first year at Blythewood, Ava is eager to reunite with her friends—and with Raven, the compelling but elusive winged boy who makes her pulse race. She soon discovers, though, that the sinister Judicus van Drood hasn’t finished wreaking havoc on Blythewood—and wants to use Ava and her classmates to attack a much bigger target.

Ava’s the only one with any hope of stopping van Drood. But to scuttle his plans, she must reveal her deepest secret to everyone at Blythewood. What’s she willing to sacrifice to do what’s right—her school?  Her love?  Or her life?

Avaline ended her first year at Blythewood with more than just the knowledge that fairies exist in our world — she knows who (or rather what) her father is. A tumultuous summer break leaves Ava nostalgic for the comforts of Blythewood and all it entails: routine, classes, her friends Daisy and Helen, and Raven, the Darkling who works so hard to convince her that not all Fae are evil. But returning to Blythewood actually leaves Ava more haunted than relieved, for Judicus van Drood has a sinister plan in mind, one that will destroy the school and leave any remaining girls exhausted, torn, and ruined. The only solution Ava can see is revealing her true nature, no matter the consequences.

Gosh, if you thought Blythewood was magical and enchanting and touching in a way that only Harry Potter and A Great and Terrible Beauty could be, then you’ll fall head over heels for this. Amp up the gothic melodrama, throw in history of magic, allude to historical disasters to come and connect our world with that of the Fae, and you’ve got yourself Ravencliffe. While the first book met the standard expectations of typical Gothic literature, this one met every single point on target: the adventure, the heightened emotions, coincidences and quick solutions, and an all-encompassing romance.

Do not devour this book all at once. Because of the heightened melodrama, the mix of so many new characters and settings, and one disaster piling on top of another (which leads to an inevitable explosion of an ending), it can feel like too much too soon if read quickly. Savor it. Enjoy it. Live each chapter. The best way to enjoy a book such as this is to take it slowly.

For a concrete portion of a review — rather than my vague, cautionary ramblings and excitement over the fantastical — allow me to praise Goodman’s ability to keep the romance distinctly triangle-less. Ava is torn not between two boys — one human and one Darkling — but between two lifestyles: to accept the portion of herself that is Darkling, and therefore face potential exile from the human and Darkling worlds, or to shun that portion of herself and remain steadfastly human. That being said — and as real and honest and beautiful as her relationship is with Raven — I will not deny Nathan’s affections for her. It’s clear he prefers her company to others girls’ yet every interaction felt incredibly platonic. Thank goodness. The love they share for one another runs like siblings’ love. Also, every encounter Ava has with female Darklings and Raven cracked me up — it’s so typical for a girl, the way her mind jumped to unreasonable jealousy, and then mental slapping for ever thinking such a thing.

This book is so much more than the romance, but I cannot delve too far into it without giving away major plot points. More magical creatures, more magical places, more ominous events tied to actual history, more self-discovery, more characters outside the Order, more alliances, more everything. It’s remarkable. I’m excited to see where Goodman takes us next.

Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from Viking for review!