Giveaways · Goodreads Choice Award

December Giveaway: Anna Kendrick, Gabrielle Zevin and Sierra DeMulder

Cue the snow in, our favourite time of the year is upon us!

We are aware that different meanings are attributed to this particular festive season, but we simply must spread the love (and we don’t really need a reason for that, do we?).

As to celebrate you, us, the world (you have misbehaved, but we are giving you another chance – AGAIN), and all that wonderful jazz, we are giving away not one, not two, but three books. In an attempt to cover all territories, we have sort of an autobiography, fiction and poetry. Ah, and there might be a surprise or two… 😉

So if you would like to take home a copy of Anna Kendrick’s Scrappy Little Nobody, Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and Sierra DeMulder’s Today Means Amen, leave us a comment with a title that you will be gifting this year. You have until the 19th to participate.

Best of luck to you all!

P.S. The winner will be announced on the 24th.

Goodreads Choice Award · Reviews

“Just One Day” by Gayle Forman

“What if Shakespeare had it wrong?”

How is one supposed to carry on like nothing has happened when there’s a book out there with that question as a first line? All the awards to you, Gayle Forman.

I am rather speechless, to be honest. What to say? This book hits home in more ways than one. It’s about feeling lost and soon realizing that you are actually starting the process of finding yourself. It’s about accepting that process as a journey to enjoy instead of a destiny to reach. It’s about changing and understanding that you are just learning who you are, accepting who you are, all throughout life. At every break of dawn a new breath, a new negotiation of a self that doesn’t ever stop evolving. And so much more.

“Oh, honey, have you learned nothing from these plays? Ain’t such a line between faking and being.”

Beautifully written. Splendidly well developed and built as one. And Shakespeare! And Amsterdam, Paris, London… And the spirit of travelling… and all the stains that come with it.

I would say Gayle Forman outdid herself. Then again, I think that’s what she does. Always taking a step forward. Never standing still. It has been an absolute pleasure to walk with her.

Thank you, Gayle Forman. Thank you so much. For everything.

Goodreads Choice Award · Reviews

“Holding Up the Universe” by Jennifer Niven

“I know. I get it. It’s easy to give everyone what they want. What’s expected. The problem with doing this is you lose sight of where you truly begin and where the fake you, the one who tries to be everything to everyone, ends.”

Libby Strout and Jack Masselin are two teenagers trying to make sense of the world, trying to recognize themselves for who they are and not for the shadow they cast. While Libby seems not to know how to be anyone but herself, Jack seems to survive on exactly the opposite, on being everyone but himself, at least when in public. A bad decision born from a good intention brings them together and they find themselves in each other.

“My mom used to say sometimes it’s actually about the other person and you just happen to be there. Like sometimes the other person needs to learn a lesson or go through an experience, good or bad, and you’re just an accessory in some way, like a supporting actor in whatever their scene happens to be.”

I would say that Holding Up the Universe is, first and foremost, a novel about navigating and surviving the world of expectations, a novel about growing into our own skin amongst people who keep trying to mold us into being what they think of us, what they want and need us to be. A novel about dreaming, I would call it, about waking up and still wanting to leave the bed. A novel about hope.

I must confess I was rather nervous because of how much All the Bright Places meant to me – oh, hello there expectations. I needed not to worry though. Jennifer Niven delivered yet another beautifully written story that has the reader bonding with the characters over their scars, their fears, their wishes, dreams and desires, over trying to survive in a society that wants to label them and chain them to particular boxes, categories. I love how this connection finds roots in everything but pity.

“It’s been my experience that the people who are most afraid are the ones who hide behind mean and threatening words.”

I think this novel is beyond relevant, but recent events have made it even more so. Fear has had a supporting role since the beginning of times, and all through History, but lately it seems almost as if the script has been revised and fear has been promoted to the main character. Instead of helping the world take a step forward, it seems to have it taking a step back, creating distance, spreading an avoidance policy that has hatred filling the void.

“She believed that situations and people were almost never black-and-white.”

At the end of the day we are all human. Everything is a matter of perspective and we have a say in how we look at things, from where we try to comprehend them, we have a choice. It’s not always easy to open our eyes, to refuse to be led by hurt. We can’t forget though that words have no inherent meaning, we are the ones to give them power. While we have to teach people to think before speaking, we also have to learn how to listen.

“How can something so final happen in an instant? No preparation. No warning. No chance to do all the things you planned to do. No chance to say goodbye.”

I would say that Holding Up the Universe is a novel about love, yes. Not just about finding, recognizing, people who love you, but also about learning to love yourself.

P.S. I didn’t want to address the girl-needs-boy-for-validation narrative that could be seen here, but I think perhaps I should. Libby never said she needed a boy, but she wants love, she wants company and understanding. Who are we to judge her? As long as it makes her happy and doesn’t have her attacking anyone…

Goodreads Choice Award · Reviews

“The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin

“Why is any one book different from any other book? They are different, A.J. decides, because they are. We have to look inside many. We have to believe. We agree to be disappointed sometimes so that we can be exhilarated every now and then.”

Every now and then, more often than not when I am going through one of my sporadic yet maddening not sure what to read, if anything phases, I wonder why I do it, why I read. Well, this is it. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is it.

A.J. Fikry is an Edgar Allan Poe enthusiast, a specialist of sorts, turned bookseller by the heart of Nic, a woman of poetry with a particular, peculiar and yet endearing thing for vampires. Together they open Island Books, the only bookstore in Alice Island. Then life happens, and it could have been the end had life not happened again… and again, following no particular storyline, having no consistent plot. Had it been a novel and not his own life, he would have probably thrown it at a wall. To be fair, he does try, but it doesn’t stick.

Commonly written off as a snob for his specific taste in literature and awkward-mistakenly-taken-for-standoffish behavior, the epic tale of A.J. Fikry’s life is told through a list of short story recommendations… and I’m afraid that is all I’m willing to say, because I don’t want to end up disclosing by mistake one of the many little revelations that make this book the treasure that it is. I would like future readers to face it as a stranger and have the pleasure of watching it grow into something possibly as familiar as an old friend.

“They had only ever discussed books but what, in this life, is more personal than books?”

Gabrielle Zevin’s writing is… charming. It doesn’t stand out, it doesn’t shout look at me, how magnificently tailored I am. Instead, it focus its attention on the characters’ voices, giving them a physicality that is almost, if not truly, palpable. If that’s not a gift, I don’t know what is.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is one of those books that blends with reality in such a way that it makes it almost impossible for the reader not to blend with it. These people become family and you get to know their little quirks and that’s how you feel it, you feel it happening. I found myself putting the book down for five minutes at a time, half expecting, daring, fate to change. It didn’t. Oh, but how I appreciated, loved, every moment spent in the company of this book. Quoting A.J. Fikry himself, “Every word is the right one and exactly where it should be.”

As is by now evident, I loved every single thing about this book, but there’s an idea in particular that has my heart full of wonder – life as a collection of works instead of a novel. I needed this. Not making sense as a whole is perhaps what makes sense. After all, is there such thing as linearity when it comes to life? We are made of moments, are we not?

“In the end, we are collected works.”

To every book lover out there, if you haven’t read this, DO IT. You won’t regret it.

Goodreads Choice Award · Reviews

“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed

“It was my life – like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me.
How wild it was, to let it be.”

It took me over a month to get through this book. That makes it sound like a burden, but it wasn’t – even if I could feel its weight upon my shoulders. I don’t like rushing stories, making them happen before their time, but I have been told I am a fast reader – I believe it has more to do with the easiness with which we blend with words than the act of racing through them. That said, it has been years since I last dedicated so much time to reading one single book. It didn’t feel wrong, the idea of giving up or leaving it be never quite crossed my mind, but there was something particular about it… I just needed more time – and I am glad I took it, I am glad I carried on. I found it interesting though, how this attitude seemed to somewhat reflect what was happening in the book itself.

Wild is not the kind of journey that takes my breath away. It is not the kind of journey that drowns reality. Instead, I found it to be the kind of journey that makes you painfully aware, conscious, of who you are, of where you are, of how you are. It can feel claustrophobic at times, not because of the lack of space, but because of the abundance of it – you have to be yourself everywhere at the same time. There’s no silence, you are, become, it.

Even though we know from the beginning that she has made it through, it’s almost unbelievable how it seems to become irrelevant once you start. Her voice is so honest, so real, her descriptions rich to the point of hurting, of mending… Anything could happen.

I believe the message to be this: life is a journey – no matter how ill-equipped or misinformed we feel, we can do it. There is no shame in asking for help, no shame in wanting to be alone or craving company, no shame in making mistakes. One step and another and another and so on. Take in your surroundings, routine is but a word. Deep breaths. We will get there.

Goodreads Choice Award · Reviews

“All the Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven

I walk into my closet and shut the door. Inside, I try not to take up too much space or make any noise, because if I do, I may wake up the darkness, and I want the darkness to sleep. I’m careful when I breathe so as not to breathe too loudly. If I breathe too loudly, there’s no telling what the darkness will do to me or to Violet or to anyone I love.

I think that quote pretty much says it all, but for some reason I am still adding a little something of my own. I wrote somewhere, while I was still far from finishing this book, that it didn’t ask for anything. While some stories almost beg your full and undivided attention, this one felt different.

It was just there, just there waiting to exist if only you ever bothered to peek in.

That’s all it takes for you to completely surrender to it. A smile. That’s it. Suddenly you find yourself thinking about all your places, all the places that you have come across and all the ones that have come across you. And there’s a new light to them. Suddenly you are reminded of their extra-ordinarity.

There’s a reason why you keep coming back, why something, someone, somewhere, has become a routine.

And you stop and you look around and you realize it’s not always the same place. You are changing at every breath and with it everything changes too. And suddenly you are facing all these bright new places without even having to reach for a map.

You are all the colors in one, at full brightness.

What does this have to do with Finch and Violet? Everything and nothing. As they tell you their story you end up writing your own. And at the end, after immense oceans of tears that might remain as unshed as the unsaid words that keep biting your tongue, you’re just… here. And you might start forgiving yourself for that just. After all, it’s just a matter of angle and they are infinite.

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