A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

25334922  ★★★★★

Pages: 720 Pages
Publication: August 13th, 2015
Publisher: Picador
Summary:
When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

My thoughts:

I am going to expand slightly on my first review, just because I feel the need to address things a bit clearer.
THIS WILL BE A SPOILER FILLED REVIEW. DO NOT READ UNTIL YOU HAVE COMPLETED THE ENTIRE NOVEL.

This book means everything to me. I have never had a book blur the lines between reality and fiction this much. I was engrossed in every word, every moment. At times I could sit there and remind myself none of this was real, but more often than not I would sit here and want so badly to fly to New York so I could go meet Jude. Meet Willem. And even then, most of the time I felt like I was one of them. Hanya Yanagihara made me feel like I was in this. I felt like I was a ghost, a friend that followed them around and watched their life. It was surreal and it honestly put me in a weird funk. I was distant this week, quieter than normal. All I wanted to talk about was this book. I didn’t have the emotional capacity to talk to people about anything else.

The thing about this book that impacted me so hard is that I grew to love these characters. I grew to regard them as “mine.” As something special to me. While JB was someone I had obvious problems with (I, like Jude, have never been able to get over Jackson’s little dance), I loved his love for the rest of them. And Malcolm, while I can’t say he was my favourite or that I loved him the same, I still grew to love him. Willem is obviously special to me. Almost more so than Jude. I love Jude with all that I am and because of that I just love Willem even more for everything he ever did for Jude.
And Jude. Jude Jude Jude. St. Jude was the patron Saint of desperate and lost causes. If that doesn’t explain him, then I don’t know what else can. Can I really say anything else about him? Hanya has already said so much about him, has written an entire novel that leaves absolutely nothing out about his personality. I, as the reader, felt like I was part of Jude. Jude was rarely so open with anyone as he was with me. I think this is what impacted me the most, that Jude trusted no one else as much as he trusts the reader. He doesn’t see that literally everyone who meets him loves him. No one in his “post” life has ever hated him, simply because he is the best sort of person. It saddens me deeply that he doesn’t really exist, that I can’t call Jude and ask him for help when I need it. But again, it makes me incredibly happy he doesn’t exist, because I can’t imagine anyone living with everything he lives with.

This book made me FEEL. Feel everything. It made me cry at several points. This is a rare occurrence for me, and shows just how much I loved this. But the moment in the book I felt my heart break was truly the moment I realized what the title means. Page 483. When Jude tells us that Brother Luke asked him to “show a little life, a little enthusiasm” was really the moment that I just couldn’t do it anymore, when the reality fiction line blurred too hard for me.
But the book also made me happy. While there was a lot of unhappy moments in The Happy Years section, most of it made me happy. Willem and Jude together was the best thing I could have ever imagined. And honestly, I knew that everyone cried at the 88% mark, and by the time Jude and Willem ended up together I knew either Jude died or Willem died. But I wished it was Jude that died. Not that I wanted Jude dead, I wanted him to live more than anything, but I knew that out of everything that had ever happened to him, losing Willem was not one he could survive. And to live 3 years after was more than I thought he would managed. June 12th will always mean something significant to me, even if Jude isn’t “real.”

This book was truly something special. Something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. These characters will never leave me, they will stay with me for all my life. I will revisit the book and I know I will think about them again like they are old friends who I haven’t seen in a while. This book was truly something else.

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

26114463     ★★★★★

Pages: 448 Pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books || St Martin’s Press
Publication Date: August 9th, 2016
Summary:
In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.
Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.
Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.
Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

 

My Thoughts:

This was just amazing!

So this book is written by an unknown narrator who is telling us the story of a girl named Mia and her journey through assassin school, where she wants to learn so she can avenge the death of her family.

The writing in this book is by far the best part. The first 11 or so pages were done in such a beautiful way that I was instantly hooked to this book. And the writing just continuously gets better. There are footnotes in this book and honestly at first I found them completely jarring. I would get so engrossed in the story but then I would have to jump to a footnote. But the thing I loved was that the footnotes involved little snippets about Mia’s character or world building that I absolutely adored. It helped make the story a lot easier to read, but it didn’t clog it down with info dumping.

The characters are fantastic as well. Mia is a character that I related to so well. She is easily relatable and has many qualities that people will see in themselves. Her wit, sarcasm, and humour were easy to read and made her a more enjoyable character to read about and her journey and character building was fantastic. 

As for the side characters, I loved them all. Tric was easily my favourite character but I loved everyone, even the villains. They are all such believable characters and seem very realistic to what you imagine real assassins to be like. 

And the plot. Wow the plot was good. I really loved the whole idea of a school for assassins and the way the school operated and just the entire aspect of the world building. I will admit, there is a section midway through the book that I found a bit slower to read, just because it was like daily life and wasn’t always super engrossing, but it was still interesting to read and absolutely key to the story.

The ending of the book though, that’s where things went from really good to amazing. I did NOT expect anything that happened and I, on three separate occasions, actually yelled out “WHAT” when I was reading. There were 2 instances at the end of the book that will make the wait for book 2 so unbearable. 

Overall, just an amazing fantasy story that has a great plot, great character, and amazing writing. I recommend to all the lovers of fantasy because what’s not to love. And really though, it’s assassin’s.. what could go wrong?!

Top 5 Wednesday – Books You Feel Differently About

I have decided that since I cannot really film Top 5 Wednesday videos, I will do them on my blog! I love the August topics, but especially the one for today.
The topic today is books that we feel differently about now that time has passed. Whether we think they are better than we used to, or worse, or we re-read them and our feelings changed.
This list, in descending order, are my 5 choices.

Number 5:

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The Giver is a book I rated 2 stars on Goodreads and I remember thinking it was boring. But when I think back on the novel, I am always left remembering that I enjoyed the plot and I thought the story was good. So I think I might re-read this sometime soon to see if my feelings really have changed or if I still think it’s boring despite the great plot.

Number 4:

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Anyone who knows me knows I despise the Shatter Me series with everything in my being. I have never really admitted this to anyone, but when I read the trilogy originally… I liked them. I started to hate Shatter Me after I finished the series and realized how well loved Aaron Warner was. He was such a despicable and disgusting character and seeing people love him made me hate this with a fiery passion.

Number 3:

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When I read Heir of Fire I gave it 3 stars. And I maintain that rating. But my extreme dislike for the way Sarah J Maas has handled Chaol Westfall as a character has made me dislike her, and therefore will not continue past this book in the series.

Number 2:

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For similar reasons as Heir of Fire, I really detest Sarah J Maas, almost more so in this series. She took a great romance with a clear direction and tore it apart to fit her perverse fantasies and now everyone is obsessed with the series. I personally find that a disgusting thing so I won’t continue past this and while I will maintain my 5 star rating because I loved this book, I hate the author and series now.

Number 1:

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When I read Hopeless I found it boring, but still rated it 3 stars. But the more I realized what I read, the angrier I got. In the end I changed my rating to 1 star and I rarely, if ever, change my ratings. But, for personal reasons, this book did not sit well with me and I still detest everything that happened in it with every fibre of my being and will go down in history as my least favourite book of all time.

 

So there’s my first Top 5 Wednesday on my blog! It’s a bit of a negative one, but I figure start negative and get positive as the month goes on.

I hope you enjoyed!

The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

download      ★★★★★

Pages: 320 pages
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Publication Date: July 26th, 2016
Summary:
Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heat wave scorched Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil.
Sal seems to appear out of nowhere – a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy claiming to be the devil himself answering an invitation. Fielding Bliss, the son of a local prosecutor, brings him home where he’s welcomed into the Bliss family, assuming he’s a runaway from a nearby farm town.
When word spreads that the devil has come to Breathed, not everyone is happy to welcome this self-proclaimed fallen angel. Murmurs follow him and tensions rise, along with the temperatures as an unbearable heat wave rolls into town right along with him. As strange accidents start to occur, riled by the feverish heat, some in the town start to believe that Sal is exactly who he claims to be. While the Bliss family wrestles with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.

My Thoughts:

GUYS. This book was amazing.

It’s kind of funny because when I read the blurb for this book, all I read was that the Devil comes to this Southern USA town and I knew I wanted to read it. I don’t read blurbs often so I didn’t read the rest, but just that one or two sentences was enough for me.
But the book is about so much more than that. It’s about a loss of innocence. It’s about families and communities and friendship and sibling relationships and romantic relationships. It covers race issues and LGBT issues and even different than usual psychological issues. And the book does them all WELL. It does not overload you with content, it has a really nice balance.

The characters in this book are absolutely so well written. Many times throughout the novel I found it impossible to believe that she was a debut author because this was so well written. Sal, Fielding, Grand, his parents, Elohim, all of them were just so fleshed out. They were complex and complicated, filled with so many feelings and backstories and conflict, and yet they were simple. Prone to human desires and human feelings that everyone feels. Throughout the novel it was hard to see who the villain was. There were obvious villains, but there were moments where I questioned who was bad and who was good. But then I realized that that was the brilliance of the way the author wrote these characters, they were human, they were flawed and could be both bad and good.

I loved the setting of the story. I loved this small southern town where it was incredibly hot all summer. There were times when just the descriptions of the heat made me feel like I was experiencing it with them. I could picture this town and all its inhabitants perfectly because it was a simple, yet elaborate, setting.

Overall, there’s just not enough praise I could give this book. I may have had problems with the book, if I did I honestly don’t remember them as by the end I completely had forgotten them. If I had issues, they clearly weren’t important. This book broke my heart. It made me feel angry, upset, and even, although rarely, happy. I feel like I lived through this book with the characters and that’s not a small thing for me to say. As a debut novel this is amazing, as a novel in general this is still amazing. Tiffany McDaniel definitely has a reader in me for life because I just loved everything about this book so much.