Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close / Jonathan Safran Foer

 

*This review does have minor spoilers–it would be difficult to give this book a good review without mentioning certain things / people.*


Synopsis: “Jonathan Safran Foer emerged as one of the most original writers of his generation with his best-selling debut novel, Everything Is Illuminated. Now, with humor, tenderness, and awe, he confronts the traumas of our recent history.

Nine-year-old Oskar Schell has embarked on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York. His goal is to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey.”


Review: This book really surprised me. I went into it thinking I was going to be reading a story about Oskar and his journey through grieving for his father, but it was so much more than that.

The first thing I liked about this book was Foer’s writing style. His use of pictures, white space, italics, etc., made for an interesting and new type of reading experience. The book was also broken down into three different narratives–Oskar’s, his grandmother’s, and his grandfather’s. Oskar’s story is told in the third person present tense, while the grandparent’s stories are told through letters that they’ve written. I really felt that the multiple narrations helped get across Foer’s point of how trauma and tragedy affect people, and how different people cope in different ways.

The way that he intertwined all three narratives created a connectedness between the characters that I don’t feel like would have been there if the story was told only through Oskar’s eyes. The fact that the readers get an insight into the grandfather’s head especially helps us to understand why he did certain things, because if we didn’t have his thoughts I believe he would come across as a very unlikable character because of his actions.

“Why didn’t I learn to treat everything like it was the last time. My greatest regret was how much I believed in the future.”

Another thing I found very interesting about this novel was that the main character, Oskar, is a little different than the average narrator. It is not blatantly stated, but it is clear that Oskar lies somewhere on the autism spectrum. He is extremely smart with sciences and maths in school, but he lacks very basic people skills and coping mechanisms, so when his father passes away in 9/11, he doesn’t know how to deal with that loss. Oskar’s character reminds me of Christopher Boone from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time because he is also a young, autistic main character.

Now, as a person who lost her father at the same age as Oskar did, I loved the way Foer explored how the loss of a parent can affect a child. However, I didn’t think it was the most important part of the novel. Oskar’s story was definitely one that needed to be written because so many people felt the way he did after losing loved ones in the tragedy of 9/11, but I personally think that the letters and experiences of the grandparents were better at showing how loss and trauma can affect someone for the rest of their lives. Also I thought they were much more interesting than Oskar’s search around New York for the lock.

All in all, I think this novel did a wonderful job with examining tragedies and loss within people, but I personally would have wanted the main storyline to have followed the grandparents a little more than Oskar.

threestar

TBR / Autumn, 2016

For a few months every year the wind turns cold, the leaves fall, and pumpkin reigns as many people’s flavor of choice. Autumn has arrived once again, and with it, books that compliment this chilling time of year.
This is my Autumn TBR list. It’s fairly short, just because most of the books are quite long, plus I’m doing a lot of reading for my classes this semester and I don’t want to feel like I’m rushing through my books to get through them all.

*Each synopsis is either directly from the back of the book or from Goodreads.*


 

House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski

imgres“Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth — musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies — the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.
Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices.
The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.
Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story — of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.”

The Darkest Minds, Alexandra Braken

51glg9yppil-_sy344_bo1204203200_“When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.
Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at having a life worth living.”

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer

extreme-1_1“Jonathan Safran Foer emerged as one of the most original writers of his generation with his best-selling debut novel, Everything is Illuminated. Now, with humor, tenderness, and awe he confronts the traumas of our recent history.
Nine year old Oskar Schell has embarked on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York. His goal is to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey.”

The Forgotten Girls, Sara Blaedel

imgres-1“Four days later, Louise Rick still had no answers.
An unidentified woman’s body was discovered in a local forest. A large, unique scar on one side of her face should have made the identification easy, but nobody reported her missing. As the new commander of the Missing Persons Department, Louise risks involving the media by releasing a photo of the victim, hoping to find someone who knew her.
Louise’s gamble pays off: an older woman phones to say that she recognizes the woman as Lisemette, a child she once cared for in the state mental institution many years ago. Lisemette, like the other children in the institution, was abandoned by her family and branded a “forgotten girl.” But Louise soon discovers something more disturbing: Lisemette had a twin, and both girls were issued death certificates more than thirty years ago.
Aided by her friend journalist Camilla Lind, Louise finds that the investigation takes a surprising and unsettling turn when it brings her closer to her childhood home. And as she uncovers more crimes that were committed–and hidden–in the forest, she is forced to confront a terrible link to her own past that has been carefully concealed.”

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

“It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a imgres-2girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery…
Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.
This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.”

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt

imgres-3“It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.
As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.
The Goldfinch combines vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.”

Hands

Your hands, strong and steady
when I am neither.
You wrap yourself around me
and I suffocate in your
warmth until I forget how to be
anything but yours.

Your hands, selfless and skilled
in the art of holding others’
weight. They carry more
than they were designed for,
but never shake.

Your hands, soft and subtle
on my skin. I feel the
creases in your palm
as it glides back and forth,
etching your story for me to
read when I lose
track of my own.

Your hands, more than
hands. Ocean tides
that ripple across the earth
and leave people questioning
what they were ever
afraid of.

Playlist / Reading + Writing

When I read and write, I always need complete focus. I tend to lean toward the introverted side of the spectrum, and with that comes my appreciation of solitude and silence. However, there are some rare occasions where I need to put on some tunes to really get into my book, or I need the words of someone else to give me inspiration. (Sometimes writer’s block is just TOO real). So for times like those, I made a playlist on Spotify of songs I love that help me focus on the words on the page.


Platlist Title: Read / Write

Dirty Paws / Of Monsters and Men
Slow it Down / The Lumineers 
I Gave You All / Mumford & Sons
Take Me to Church / Hozier
Little Black Submarines / The Black Keys
Ain’t Gonna Drown / Elle King
Breathe Me / Sia
I See Fire / Ed Sheeran
Sweater Weather / The Neighbourhood
#88 / Lo-Fang
Mirror Maru / Cashmere Cat
Intro / The xx
Tides / The xx
Menswear / The 1975
Oblivion / Bastille
Mind Over Matter / Young the Giant
Georgia / Vance Joy
Waiting for Your Love / Lawrence Taylor
When You Love Someone / James TW
Nothing Arrived / Villagers 
Hot Gates / Mumford & Sons
Jackie and Wilson / Hozier
Prey / The Neighbourhood
Ophelia / The Lumineers
Robbers / The 1975
Re: Stacks / Bon Iver
Blame It on Me / George Ezra

So, there it is. I made this playlist about a year ago when I was in a huge reading slump , and have kept the songs pretty consistent since. I have deleted and added a few songs since it was created, but really, only a few.

I hope you find these songs as helpful as I do.

The Nightingale / Kristin Hannah

Synopsis: “In love we find out who we want to be.

In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France … but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can … completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.”


 

Review: Where do I even begin?

I picked this book up from the Barnes and Noble down the road from my apartment because I felt like I needed something different. I often read young adult contemporary novels, but lately I’ve been really trying to get out of that so I can broaden my horizons, if you will. That being said, I picked this book up because it’s a historical fiction novel, which I very rarely read.

This book all in all was amazing. It very beautifully portrayed the effects of war on families, focusing on one family in particular. The characters of the two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, are masterfully written. Each of their characters develop over the course of the novel, and as a reader you can really see how the war has made each of the sisters grow and change.

 

“Men tell stories. Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war. There were no   parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in history books. We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over.”

This novel was heart wrenching. The soft and poignant writing style of Hannah made this book very easy to connect to on an emotional level. And since the book is so historically accurate, you could almost forget that the sisters in the book are fictional.

Since this book is a historical fiction novel, making sure things are accurately depicted is important, and I think Hannah did an amazing job. There were real families and sisters, just like Vianne and Isabelle, who lived through the hardships of war. That kind of life is extremely hard to capture, especially if you didn’t live it yourself, but Hannah really makes her characters and plot realistic and believable.

This book is going up on my shelf as one of my all-time favorites, which is why it’s getting a rate of five stars.

Rating:fivestar

Book Reviews / Rating Criteria

It’s not a secret: I love reading. And even though I know that just “loving books” does not makes me an expert on reviewing and rating them, I’m going to do it anyway.

Personally, I think every book should be rated according the strength of (at least) these three things : their storyline, their characters, and their writing. Those things are going to be what I base every rating off of at first, and then things can change depending on my personal opinions and preferences.


 

onestar

A book with a one-star rating, to me, is a book that I feel didn’t really do much of anything. If I read a book and finished it feeling extremely confused, that the characters weren’t developed well / likable, or that it was all-around poorly written, that deserves the lowest rating. I don’t think I would ever have any reason to rate a published book one star, but it’s here just incase.

 

twostar

A two star rating is very similar to a one star rating, except for one major difference: I can see where this book was going. I can still see the route the writer was trying to take, even if they didn’t quite get there. A two star book probably also wasn’t written that well and has somewhat flat characters, but the storyline and overall message / meaning of the book is able to be understood.

 

threestar

Three stars: very average. There’s no major plot holes, no boring / unlikable characters, and not poorly written. There could be one thing I disliked about the book, whether that be something technical in the writing or just my own personal preference.

 

fourstar

A four star book is one I really liked. I think most of the books I’ve read I would rate four stars (and have done so on Goodreads). I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is a big fan of the genre. For example, if the book I’m rating is a YA contemporary novel, I would recommend that anyone who’s a fan of that genre of book pick this one up.

 

fivestar

Last but not least, five stars. For me, a five star book is going to find itself a place in my all-time favorites. I would probably recommend this book to every one I know who reads, even if they usually don’t like the genre the book is in. A five star book is one that is universally wonderful and interesting.


 

So, finally, here is my rating system. Most of the books that I’ll review and rate for this blog will probably be in the 3-5 star range because usually if I really dislike a book I’ll just stop reading it completely and move on to something else.