Posted in 2018, Discworld, Fiction, terry pratchett

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

This book was wonderful with wit. Reminds me of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. It’s really hard to write a book review about it because I know that the Discworld is so detailed and I’ve only just read the beginning.

The book starts out with describing a turtle (whom I wish to learn about but it is not really mentioned in this book. We are then transferred into the world of the tourist, who originally communicated via punctuation (seriously though, what does an “!” sound like?). The tourist is taken into town where eventually he hires the services of the Wizard, that is when the fun begins. The Tourist is quite naive and ignorantly brave whereas the Wizard is extremely cynical and cowardly. They are the opposite of each other and both provide comic relief.

The footnotes make it feel like a textbook which makes this feel historical instead of fictional. Making Death a character is great! Scrofula is super cute, probably the funniest moment of the entire book (Even as I type it I know this is incorrect. Due to the recency effect, I believe that this is the funniest part, but I found myself thinking that same sentence over and over again)! Oh! And bringing back dragons but actually giving them an actual complicated history was well done.

Below are questions I’ve had during the book. I plan to read more of Discworld.

  • It’s a game?! With Fate? (Hahahahahahaha!!!!!)
  • Who is Octavo?
  • Do we ever find out more about Lady?

Favorite Quotes

“I used to be an exceptionally powerful wizard. My daughter poisoned me, of course. It is generally the accepted method of succession in our family”

I mean, come on! How funny is that!!!!!!

Ripples of paradox spread out across the sea of casualty.

Wow

Some pirates achieved immortality by great deeds of cruelty or derring-do. Some achieved immortality by amassing great wealth. But the captain had long ago decided that he would, on the whole, prefer to achieve immortality by not dying.

Logical.

But usually he didn’t bother the gods, and he hoped the gods wouldn’t bother him. Life was quite complicated enough.

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(Feature Image taken from https://www.goodreads.com/book/photo/34497.The_Color_of_Magic)

Posted in 2018, Fiction, LGBTQ

The Ghost Network by Catie Disabato

I’m not really into mystery novels but this one was worth reading. If you read the description on Goodreads where it claims it’s “Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl for adults” you’d be perfectly misled. I read Fangirl and this is nothing like it. Fangirl is a love story by someone obsessed with fanfiction and has low self-esteem and doesn’t believe these cute guys can actually like her (there is more to the story than that….it’s also about her figuring out her writing style, it’s about her relationship with her twin and coming to trust her roommate. It’s about her relationship with her parents. But this blog isn’t about Fangirl so I won’t go into detail). Although the Ghost Network does contain characters who are experiencing a loving relationship, the story is about the Situationists (which apparently was (or is) a real group that originated in Europe led by a man named Guy Debord.

This story starts out with a disappearance of a girl named Caitlin Taer, whose body they never recovered from the sea even though her friends, Nick Berliner and girlfriend (see, love relationship) Regina Nix made it back to shore after their (stolen) boat was recked (I should also mention that they were drunk at that time). Taer’s disappearance was a lot less of a mystery because everyone was still too busy trying to figure out where Pop Sensation Molly Metropolis has disappeared to. Molly was at the height of her Pop Music career when she disappeared before a show. Her body was never recovered and no one knew of her whereabouts. The only comparison I can make to Fangirl is that, whereas Cath was working on improving her writing, Molly was working on improving her music. Well, I guess the other comparison I can make is that where Cath was obsessed with Simon and Baz fanfiction, Molly was obsessed with the Situationist.

Molly obsession got the point where she was trying to figure out what the New Situationists (a new group of Situationists that originated, although rumored to be dismantled after one of their members, Mary Helen Krauss [she is not actually French] was arrested for manslaughter after a domestic terrorist attack went wrong.  The original plan was that they were going to blow up parts of the Chicago Public Transit System after working hours. Just to take the extra step, they pulled the fire alarm to make sure any homeless or security guards got out. However, in Krauss’ section, there was a sleeping security guard that didn’t hear the alarm and therefore….boom goes the guard. Krauss was sentenced to 25 years of prison.) were up to.

Molly persisted on befriending Nick Berliner (a known New Situationist) in order to get more information. Nick refused at first, but Molly persisted. When Nick went to discuss this with his girlfriend, Krauss (he visited her every week), she asked him to bring her (Nick did not know at the time that Molly had already visited Krauss, but they kept that a secret from him). Krauss asked them to find out anything they could about what that NS was planning. That’s when they found out that the Situationists were trying to retrieve all archives of the Chicago Public Transit System, those that existed, those that were planned but never built, those that were rejected and those that were just thought up but never presented to the board. With that, came the Ghost Network.

Caitlin Taer was a reported and a huge Molly Metro fan, so when she found out that Molly disappeared, she wanted to be the one to take on the report. That’s when she learned that a former high school acquaintance of her, Regina Nix, worked closely with Molly. Taer’s editors said that if she can get an interview, she can have the story. Taer contacted Nix and Nix obliged. That’s slowly how their love relationship started. They developed a friendship and then it developed into more…and pretty soon they were living together. Nix was depressed and wasn’t as interested in finding Molly as Taer was. Taer thought about Molly almost all the time. When Nix was asked to clean Molly’s hotel room, she asked Taer to come along and that’s where they found her journal. That’s when Taer’s obsession fully blossomed. That’s also how they come to know about Nick Berliner (his number was written in her journal). Nix also told Taer that Molly always read about the Situationists. Eventually, they befriended Nick and tried to solve the mystery of “where is Molly Metropolis.”

The story is written by a fictional Catie Disabato who was given the work of her mentor, Cyrus Archer after a car accident. He was writing the book on Molly Metropolis and her disappearance. Catie further investigated the matter in order to finish the book and find out the truth. It reads like a report and is sprinkled with footnotes. My favorite part is all the uncertainties of identities….and the fact that there is a secret society. I love secrets so, it’s no wonder I enjoyed this book.

It was suspenseful but also extremely detailed. Whereas the book synopsis claims it’s about finding Molly Metropolis, I honestly say she was just a piece to the larger picture and this book is really about discovering the Situationists. She goes into complicated detail about the history and intentions and I still don’t think I fully understand this organization. But the mystery behind it is what makes it appealing. The idea of a new world is what made it exciting.

This is definitely not a book I would recommend to just anyone. This reminds me of a much more middle school version of what Atlas Shrugged was meant to be. An awareness of human perfection. A place where intellect rules over popularity and status.

The cool thing is that this book feels real. They have current celebrity references (like Miley Cirus and Jennifer Lawrence…even Christopher Nolan is thrown in there). And in the acknowledgments, she even thanks Caitlin Taer and Regina Nix; her created fictional characters as if they really did undergo this great adventure that helped her discover this new world (which in a way, they did).

If I haven’t lost you already, here are some of my favorite quotes.

If you know a place, he realized, it’s no longer a trap.

 

Very often, when you meet a person for the first time, their emotions are really turned off. Even people who are really open, I’m not just talking about closed-off people. Most of the time, people don’t show you thier heaviest, deepest emotions the first time you meet them. I mean, they don’t want to show you that vulnerable part of themselves and you don’t want to see it. You don’t want them to see yours either. There’s a social contract between people who have never met before, to be some diminished version of yourself.

 

Debord was interested in a sociological study performed by Chombar de Lauwe in 1952, where de Lauwe strove to show that the average Parisian doesn’t live in a neighborhood so much as a small swath of the city determined by her won habits and preferences.

 

Most people are ready to suffer, as long as it’s for the right reasons.

 

 

These quotes make you self-reflect, don’t you think?

If you know any books regarding secret societies or mystery worlds, please comment and let me know. I’m starting to realize that I appreciate those book a lot more than the fantasy books that used to help me escape. I know Jules Vernes has books with secret worlds. But I don’t know of any others.

Posted in Becky Albertalli, Fiction, LGBTQ

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Leah on the Offbeat was hilarious to read. Not because it was funny, but because I guess the plot before even reading the book. I remember texting my friend what I thought it should be after I read the synopsis. I can’t say what it is because of spoilers.

Anyway, happy feelings aside, this book was different than Simon Vs The Homosapien’s agenda because (besides it being from the point of view of Leah) it wasn’t as happy…or innocent. Unlike Simon liking Blue, Leah liking her crush posed complicated ethical dilemmas. Also, Leah was not the way she was described by Simon. In Simon, Leah was this easily angered friend…whereas here, she was just sensitive (and no wonder, she had to deal with a lot of obstacles).

Leah and the Offbeat also slightly connect to Albertalli’s other book “The Upside of Unrequited” but it is not necessary to read in order to know what is going on.

Because I can’t write more without disclosing spoilers, I will go straight to quotes.

It’s that girlfriend feeling again, not that I’ve ever been anyone’s girlfriend. But I imagine it feels like this. Like I’m this tiny precious wanted thing. I can’t decide if I feel gross about that, or if I only think I should feel gross about it.

This feeling….I have never read it in a book before so it was…cute.

There’s a tug in my chest. Because when Bram says Simon’s name, he pronounces every part of it. Like it’s worth being careful over. It’s really sweet and everything, how wow, I get so jealous sometimes. It’s obviously not just Simon and Bram. It’s couples in general. And it’s not about the kissing stuff. It’s just — imagine being Simon. Imagine going about your day knowing someone’s carrying you in their mind. That has to be the best part of being in love–the feeling of having a home in someone else’s brain.

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I think I hate the concept of needing space. What it really means is that the person’s mad at you, or hates you, or doesn’t give a shit about you. They just don’t want to admit it.

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I used to think boners literally pointed in the direction of the person you’re attracted to, like a compass. That would be helpful. Mortifying as fuck, but at least it would clarify things.

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Let your guts hand out. I don’t even get that. Why would anyone want to live like that? Why would anyone want to live like that? Like it isn’t bad enough I’m always one breath away from falling apart. I’m supposed to fall apart under a spotlight?
It’s too much. And I don’t want to embrace the suck. I want things to not suck. And I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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“Do I want to love him enough that leaving him would wreck me? Yeah”

*speechless*

 

 

Posted in 2018, Fiction

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

I remember watching The Golden Compass movie when it first came out (before reading the book) and I thought it was soooooo boring!!! Now after reading the book, I understand why. The actors did a terrible portraying the fictional characters. The actors, themselves are usually good but in this movie, the only believable characters were the animals.

Therefore, it took a while for me to find the motivation to read it. If it wasn’t for a pen pal making a pack to read it together, I probably wouldn’t have opened it, regardless of how many people told me it was a wonderful read.

Now that I have read it, I agree with it. It’s fantastically detailed and filled with imagination. This was the first part of a 3 part series of His Dark Materials.

The details, in the beginning, made the story feel slow at first, but after our protagonist’s adventure began, it was hard to put down. I would definitely recommend it if you are a fan of the fantasy genre.

There was a moment in the book where the author really described a fearful event. To us, it would be a normal event but in the book, the occurrence is so unbelievable that I remember my eyes going wide. That is how you can tell a book is good. When you start feeling what the characters are feeling.

Here are some of my favorite quotes (spoilers below):

“Nothing will hold my hand, Margaret, save only judgement. If I stay my hand in the North, it will only be to strike the harder in the South. To strike a day too soon is as bad as striking a hundred miles off. To be sure, there’s a warm passion behind what you say. But if you give in to that passion,friends, you’re doing what I always warned you agin: you’re a placing the satisfaction of your own feelings. Our feelings don’t matter. If we rescue the kids but we can’t punish the Gobblers, we’ve done the main task. But if we aim to punish the Gobblers first and by doing so lose the chance of rescuing kids, we’ve failed.”

That’s why John Faa makes a great trusting leader. He commenced by saying when the times comes, he will because his heart is not soft, but it will be under judgment and not passion.

Being a practiced liar doesn’t mean you have a powerful imagination. Many good liars have no imagination at all; it’s that which gives their lies such wide-eyed conviction.

Hahaha, it’s an honest quote.

“Well, that seems kinda precipitate. Seems to me a man should have a choice whether to take up arms or not.”
“We have no more choice in that than in whether or not to be born.”

I feel like that’s life. You don’t get a choice on which war you get thrown in, you just get thrown and you have to do the best you can.

“There wasn’t really and Adam and Eve? The Cassington Scholar told me it was just a kind of fairy tale.”
“The Cassington Scholarship is traditionally given to a freethinker; it’s his function to challenge the faith of the Scholars. Naturally he’d say that. But think of Adam and Eve like an imaginary number, like the square root of minus one; you can never see any concrete proof that it exists, but if you include it in your equations, you can calculate all manner of things that couldn’t be imagined without it.”

Here they are talking about Dust. That when Adam and Eve ate the apple, their Daemons turned into one form instead of changing about like a child’s do. The twist here is that Dust started forming because the Lord said “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” as in, you will be filled with Dust (another cool argument is that someone argues that returning to the ground is God’s way of admitting his own nature to be partly sinful). Dust in the book is an elementary particle that surrounds kids after puberty. It is themed as original sin. One sentence that really struck was when he mentioned: “There was a physical proof that something happened when innocence changed into experience.”

I really like that the book focuses on the importance of Dust. In my opinion, it’s a metaphor for finding yourself. Lyria doesn’t want to grow up, and her pursuit of understanding Dust is her way of trying to figure out where she belongs. The people who inform her about Dust are ironically her parents. Given that Dust is proof when “innocent changed into experience,” it’s interesting to know that the more she knows about Dust (herself, her life…her place in the scheme of life), the more she is losing her innocence.

We’ve heard them all talk about Dust, and they’re so afraid of it, and you know what? We believed them, even though wecould see that what they were doing was wicked and evil and wrong…We thought Dust must be bad too, ebcause they were grown up and they said so. But what if it isn’t? What if it’s [good]?”

I love that logic 🙂

Posted in 2018, Fiction, Our Shared Shelf

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I read The Hate U Give because, not only was it constantly being advertised, it was the book of the month for the Our Shared Shelf virtual book club.

I was really excited to read it because one of my friends mentioned that it was an influential book for the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Now, in my opinion, if I didn’t already believe that black lives do matter, this book wouldn’t have convinced me otherwise.

The problem was that there was no connection to the main character. It’s not that she wasn’t relatable, because she was, at least for me. I can relate to not wanting to sound ghetto around white people due to the fear of judgment. I can relate to needing to separate parts of your world with different people. I can relate to constantly having the pressure of “which identity do I need to be right now” in the back of my mind that disconnects me from the moment and my reality. Very relatable, no connection though. That probably has to do with the fact that she is emotionally unavailable. She had to get hard because, well, her life has been horrible. Her family, as odd as it is (which I won’t go into detail as to why since it has little to do with my argument here, but it is rather interesting and is beneficial to the character dynamic of the book), is probably the only thing keeping her sane. (The rest of this blog contains spoilers) She watched two of her best friends getting killed….heck she watched one of her best friend getting killed when she was too young to process death, let alone murder. I can only imagine the emotional impact it can have on her. That’s probably a good cause as to why she had to shut down. She didn’t shut down in the angry teenage angst kind of way, more or less, she just stopped expressing herself. She expressed her thoughts constantly, sure. She expressed how she felt, or how she felt she needed to feel. But the majority of the time, she just felt like a narrator rather than a protagonist.

I get it. She has a painful story to tell, and if I were in her situation, I probably wouldn’t have had the magnitude to tell it. Maybe if she made Khalil more of a person rather than a memory, things might have felt different. I know that he technically was a memory…but the thing about the mind is that it can make memories feel real. She could have written him to be somewhat present. The way her aftermath occurred made it seem like she just underwent a very traumatic experience….if I didn’t know that he was her best friend, I wouldn’t assume that he was. It was too…detached. Or maybe she’s just more grown up than I am, but if my best friend was wrongly killed, I’d be broken to the point of dysfunction. That is why I couldn’t connect with her. If her emotions were a little more extreme it might have changed the whole story. If she were angrier, or more fearful, or even completely dead inside (this is a teenager we are talking about, after all…I’ve been there….it’s crazy) and she is acting all responsible. But, I guess the end result is that it got the message across. No matter how well you cooperate and follow the laws, black people still have injustice brought upon them. No matter how many right things she did, in the end, she still lost the war. So I would say that the protagonist here isn’t really Starr, but the black lives matter movement itself….leaving the antagonist to be the system.

“‘Pac rapped ’bout that stuff too, yeah, but he also cared ’bout uplifting black people,” says Daddy. “Like he took the word ‘[n-word]’ and gave it a whole new meaning–Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished. And he said Thug Life meant–”
“The Hate U Give Little Infants F—s Everybody.”

I didn’t grow up listening to Tupac. I only really know a few songs from him but I always knew he was a big deal….kind of like Elvis, Michael Jackson and The Beatles…although I didn’t grow up listening to them either. Suffice to say, I might not have the best music taste.

Regardless, I never knew this about Tupac. I asked a friend who loves him if this is true (because part of me thought this was just a theory from the author…kind of like the gang theory from Harry Potter [also mentioned in the book…which makes total sense and that’s somewhat the reason I liked the series]) and she said it’s true (even if it weren’t true, that wouldn’t take away from the book. It’s a cool saying). Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because, since it is true (according to my one source, so don’t take my word for it), I feel like all his work in the progression of black people has gotten lost somewhere. I don’t mean black people in general. I mostly mean the hip hop artists, whom, instead of using the N word as an empowerment tool, they use it to bring other’s down. The usage of it in the songs these days is similar to using the B word. There is no grace to it. So it’s sad that Tupac made it meaningful, and that these new artists, whom claim to be inspired by Tupac, are shattering that legacy.

Now thug is an appropriate acronym. I do believe that, even though we try to act otherwise, we are affected by how others view us and treat us. We become the product of our environment. It’s why we love stories with underdogs, and going against all odds and other unreal things that don’t normally happen to the average person. We are amazed by the unordinary because we are prone to become numb to our surroundings. People settle. It happens. We let our dreams die. When our dreams die, it affects the world. Think of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” There was a plan for your existence, and if, for whatever reason you stop honoring that path, it affect the world…directly or indirectly.

“This neighborhood makes young men deaf to their elders”

The truth to this statement caused me to pause and digest. Sometimes, when the situation seems overwhelming, we stop listening to wisdom and start listening to the fastest way out. I don’t blame Khalil for needing to sell drugs (before we knew the real reason). When people are taught to believe that you won’t accomplish much, you look for a way out. You think you will be an exception. You think you’ll figure it out the way no one else has done so before. Life is extremely personal and it’s hard to believe that you are just a vulnerable piece in the game of life. Elders are wise from their experiences and obseravations. Youth blinds us to time because the pressure of it feels deathly.

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”

One of the reasons I loved reading this book is because the family had strong moral values…well….to an extent. It’s hopeful to read about people continually trying to do good regardless of the circumstances. It’s easy to give in to the darkness, and this family kept trying to be better…to do better even after they’ve already made countless mistakes. George W. Bush made a speech where he said “Self-correction is the secret strength of freedom. We are a nation with a history of resilience and genius for renwal.” That’s essentially what the characters in this book embraced. It’s refreshing. I’m always reading books where characters are trying to justify their actions but here….they face the truth, as ugly as it is and learn from it.

I also liked that the main family had to fight off racism…not just from the cops…but internally as well. Starr had to face dating her white boyfriend after a white cop shot her best friend. She knew it was wrong to judge him by his color, but…it is what it is. There is this invisible line when two cultures (whether ethnic or religious) merge of what’s appropriate and not appropriate. Starr refused to let any of her white friends in on her personal life…and she doesn’t introduce her black friends to her white friends. She is certain they wouldn’t understand (and there is truth to that) but she doesn’t even give them a chance. She, without realizing it, judged them. It happens. The question though is whether or not you let arrogance rule your thoughts. She learned to try and see the best in people regardless of the exterior. Great character development.

Daddy once told me there’s a rage passed down to every black man from his ancestors, born the moment they couldn’t stop the slave masters from hurting their families. Daddy also said there’s nothing more dangerous than when that rage is activated.

As a minority, I often find myself livid about the injustices of the past and the present. I can’t really explain why that happens, or why it feels so strong….but this works as a possible explanation.

I don’t know if I would recommend this book. It wouldn’t be for everyone. I would recommend watching the movie though. Although it hasn’t been released yet, the trailer pretty much gives the story away. Frankly though, I’m displeased at the direction they took of Khalil’s last moments…with him reaching for the brush. The way it was written in the book was so much more…intimate. His last moments were of him worrying about Starr…whereas in the trailer, it seemed he care more about impressing her, or showing off. Won’t know until the movie comes out, obviously.

Posted in 2018, Fiction

The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom

I don’t know why I think this, but I feel like this book is underrated. There is nothing too special about the book to make me think that, I just do.

The story follows a man named Eddie, from the day of this death (which just happens to be his birthday) to the five people he meets in heaven, and the stories in between.

The concept is that when you die, you meet five people in heaven that help you understand your life. The themes I see throughout the book is forgiveness, how to let go, integrity, and humility.

Let’s get straight to the quotes:

“There are five people you meet in heaven,” the Blue Man suddenly said. “Each of us was in your life for a reason. You may not have known the reason at the time, and that is what heaven is for. For understanding your life on earth.”
Eddie looked confused.
“People think of heaven as a paradise garden, a place where they can float on clouds and laze in rivers and mountains. But scenery without solace is meaningless.
“This is the greatest gift God can give you: to understand what happened in your life. Yo have it explained. It is the peace you have been searching for.”

I don’t believe in heaven, but if I did, that’s what I would want.

“Fairness,” he said, “does not govern life and death. If it did, no good person would ever die young.”

“My funeral,” the Blue Man said. “Look at the mourners. Some did not even know me well, yet they came. Why? Did you ever wonder? Why people gather when others die? Why people feel they should?
“It is because the human spirit knows, deep down, that all lives intersect. That death doesnt’ just take someone, it misses someone else, and in the small distance between being taken and being missed, lives are changed.”

“Strangers,” the Blue Man said, “are just family you have yet to come to know.”

“No life is a waste,” the Blue Man said. “The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we are alone.”

That was the first lesson. From that, I took that no event is random. The circumstances have a reason for why it happened the way it did, whether we agree with it or not.

He wakes up the next morning and he has a fresh new world to work with, but he has something else, too. He has his yesterday.”

I never realized how powerful the past can be till I read this. You get a fresh start with the knowledge of yesterday. It’s common sense, but how many times have we taken something for granted.

“Sacrifice,” The Captain said. “You made one. I made one. We all make them. But you were angry over yours. You kept thinking about what you lost.
“You didn’t get it. Sacrifice is a part of life. It’s supposed to be. It’s not something to regret. It’s something to aspire to. Little sacrifices. Big sacrifices. A mother works so her son can go to school. A daughter moves home to take care of her sick father.
“A son goes to war…”

Sacrifice is the second lesson. Bitterness can ruin a soul faster than any substance. Sacrifice is selflessness. It’s understanding that you are not entitled. It’s knowing you are a part of a greater scheme of life.

Through it all, despite it all, Eddie privately adored his old man, because sons will adore their fathers through even the worst behavior. It is how they learn devotion. Before he can devote himself to God or a woman, a boy will devote himself to his father, even foolishly, even beyond explanation.

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Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them. They move on. They move away. The moments that used to define them- a mother’s approval, a father’s nod- are covered by moments of their own accomplishments. It is not until much later, as the skin sags and the heart weakens, that children understand; their stories, and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones, beneath the waters of their lives.

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“People don’t die because of loyalty.”
“They don’t?” She smiled. “Religion? Government? Are we not loyal to such things, sometimes to the death?”
Eddie shrugged.
“Better,” she said, “to be loyal to one another.”

This is the 3rd lesson. Although in this lesson she was referring to her father’s loyalty to his friend, in a way, Eddie was loyal to his father. It’s why he pretty much took his place as his mother’s caretaker and his position in the amusement park. But most importantly, he was loyal to his anger towards his father. This is why the next quote is effective.

“Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that gating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.
Forgive, Edward. Forgive. Do you remember the lightness you felt when you first arrived in heaven?
That’s because no one is born with anger. And when we die, the soul is freed of it. But now, here, in order to move on, you must understand why you felt what you did, and why you no longer need to feel it.”

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Love, like rain, can nourish from above, drenching couples with a soaking joy. But sometimes, under the angry heat of life, love dries on the surface and must nourish from below, tending to its roots, keeping itself alive.

“Lost love is still love, Eddie. It takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken, another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it.
Life has to end,” she said. “Love doesn’t.”

The fourth lesson is love. Eddie loved his wife. The old fashion love. Where you can’t really move on without your partner.

The 5th lesson is redemption and purpose. I couldn’t find a good quote for it. Nor do I want to go into detail about it because this is something that you should read and experience the impact for yourself. I didn’t know if anything was able to top love, but this did it.

Let me know what you think of this book, and what lessons you believe you might have in your heaven.

Featured image taken from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3431.The_Five_People_You_Meet_in_Heaven

 

Posted in Fiction, John Green, Looking For Alaska

Looking For Alaska by John Green

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

Looking For Alaska by John Green is a story of adventure, love, loss, and friendship. Miles “Pudge” Halter is a teenager searching for the “Great Perhaps” and convinces his parents to let him go to his father’s old boarding school.  There he meets The Colonel (his roommate and fast friend), Alaska Young (neighbor), Takumi and Lara. Together they pull pranks and participate in other teenage antics.

Miles is obsessed with knowing people’s last words. For the most part, he feels insecure about his looks and has a hard time making friends.

The Colonel comes from a poor family but is one of the most ethical guys at school. He doesn’t believe in ratting people out. He’s a smoker, a tough guy and an expert in geography.

Alaska seems like a party girl when you first meet her. She’s a reckless, smart, philosophical feminist.

We don’t really get to know much of Takumi and Lara outside of Mile’s point of view. The story focuses more on the relationship of Miles, The Colonel, and Alaska.

I got this book because I remember reading a quote from it and thought “this is a book I need to read.” I would recommend this book if you’re into YA books. It fits the standard of an outsider kid who finds friends and starts feeling like he belongs. There is a slightly complicated love story. And like most successful books, there are golden nuggets of wisdom buried in the book.

I would not recommend this story if you don’t like a narcissistic protagonist. Miles has low self-esteem but that doesn’t stop his sense of entitlement (to his defense, he doesn’t know he has that attribute and he isn’t a jerk about it. He’s just a…well…human).

The characters here are rather simple and it doesn’t have a strong character development, but given the events, I don’t expect it to. I wish I could say it had an interesting plot twist, but I wasn’t at all surprised. If anything, I was expecting the tragedy. That, however, didn’t take away from the story.

IN-DEPTH REVIEW (CONTAINS SPOILERS)

The book is separated from the Before and the After. This is an interesting concept because you know there has to be something big in order for there to be a before and after.

When I first started reading it, I thought the before and after was Miles losing his virginity (don’t know why just felt like that would be a big thing for a teenage boy). As the story progressed, I thought it had something to do with a tragedy revolving Alaska. Maybe she left school, maybe she wound up ODing or hanging herself. I didn’t expect her to die in a car crash persae.

One of the things I loved about this book is that the dialogue really spoke for the characters. It wasn’t just mindless conversations. They exposed parts of themselves with responses. Here are some of the quotes I dissected.

Before

“‘I guess I stay with her because she stay’s with me. And that’s not an easy thing to do. I’m a bad boyfriend. She’s a bad boyfriend. We deserve each other.'”
There are so many people who have stayed in relationships because of this mentality. The “I don’t deserve better than I have” mentality. I appreciate this being part of The Colonel’s story because at first, he seems like this confident guy. But as we start getting to know him, we get to see his insecurities. He was, by far, my favorite character.

“‘Y’all smoke to enjoy it. I smoke to die.'”
Alaska Young said this on page 44. This is when I knew something would happen to her. I feel like when you have a character as dark as this, there are only a few directions this person can take. Even if she fell in love with Pudge, he is not a strong enough character to have her change her whole personality and live the “happily ever after” most teenagers hope for. Characters like Alaska are really hard to write for, mostly because they are such forces.

“‘I’m not going to be one of those people who sits around talking about what they’re gonna do. I’m just going to do it. Imaging the future is a kind of nostalgia.'”
This is a quote that Alaska said that made it obvious that there was more to her than the party girl prankster she portrays herself to be at first.

“‘You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining the future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.'”
The labyrinth becomes very symbolic in the book. It derives from Alaska’s favorite book The General in His Labyrinth by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. His last words were “How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!” Alaska was as obsessed with the mystery of the labyrinth as Pudge was obsessed with last words. Alaska and Pudge went back and forth with figuring out what it was (more on that later).

“‘I just did some calculations, and I’ve been able to determine that you’re full of shit.'”
This is going to be my new comeback. BRILLIANT! The Colonel told this to Pudge after he tried to deny that he didn’t ditch his parents to stay because of Alaska. I like that this shows that The Colonel is very perspective, and knows more about people’s intentions. He is the only one who truly knew Alaska. I also like that he lets others be who they are without trying to change them. He even told Pudge that if he does hook up with her, it would disastrous, but he never forbade him not to hook up with her.

“‘I’m really not up for answering any questions that start with how, when, where, why, or what.'”
Another response I have to add to my arsenal of conversation. This was from Alaska when she was feeling down. She can be very closed off when she wants to. This was a bit frustrating because, since we were already so invested in wanting to know Alaska, it felt like a tease…and I’m also the person who wants to really know a person by more than just a superficial level. Anyway, it plays out well enough since the second half of the book is about her friends trying to understand her last thoughts. The mystery that is Alaska Young.

“‘No woman should ever lie about another woman! You’ve violated the sacred covenant between women! How will stabbing one another in the back help women to rise above patriarchal oppression?!’
This is Alaska’s argument when The Colonel’s girlfriend Sara lies about The Colonel and Alaska hooking up. This is the moment I knew I would like Alaska. Before I was a little unsure of whether I thought she was a strong female character mostly because she seemed to tease Pudge a lot. Sometimes without meaning to, but still, it felt like she was just going to be a sexualized character (which makes sense since we are in the mind of a teenage boy). However, Green made her this complicated, deep-thinking,  character. With her witty remarks, her power over her peers and her comfort around the adults. She, for the most part, tries to be a good person.

“Just like that. From a hundred miles an hour to asleep in a nanosecond. I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my arms around her and sleep. Not fuck, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together, in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.”
This was the quote I read on a post that made me think “I want to read this book.” It gave me butterflies just writing it down. I’m such a hopeless romantic.

‘Don’t you know you love, Pudge? You love the girl who makes you laugh and shows you porn and drinks wine with you. You don’t love the crazy, sullen bitch.’
Alaska told this to Pudge when he was trying to console her after she started sobbing wondering why she always screws everything up. It seemed like a sudden turn from such an outspoken character. Later we find out where this “”Scared isn’t a good enough excuse!”” attitude came from. But for now, the reason I liked this remark is that it shows that she feels like people won’t like her deeper rooted emotions. That they fall in love with this idea of the perfect girl. It’s no wonder she’s cheated on all her boyfriends.

Alaska tells the group that her mother died when she was young and that her father blamed it on her because she didn’t call the police on time. She was a kid, she was in shock. Her mother was choking and she didn’t know what to do. This is why her “Scared isn’t a good excuse” mentality is so strong. This is why she thinks she screws everything up. Because her mom died from her incompetence. Now I don’t believe she was incompetent. She’s a little lost, yes, but she had a good heart.

Before she convinces the boys to distract The Eagle (their principal) so she can leave (she was drunk…), she was freaking out over something. Later we find out that she was freaking out because she forgot her mom’s death anniversary so she was going to drive to the cemetery…only she didn’t make it.  The whole after consisted of the guys trying to figure out if it were an accident or suicide. The police said she didn’t even swerve. She just drove straight to the cruiser.

After

All night, I felt paralyzed into silence, terrorized. what was I so afraid of anyway? The thing had happened. She was dead. She was warm and soft against my skin, my tongue in her mouth, and she was laughing, trying to teach me, make me better, promising to be continued. And now.
And now she was colder by the hour, more dead with every breath I took. I thought: 
That is the fear: I have lost something important, and I cannot find it, and I need it. It is fear like if someone lost his glasses and went to the glasses store and they told him that the world had run out of glasses and he would just have to do without.”
This train of thought, passing through Miles (I switch his name, he is Miles when he is by himself and Pudge when he’s with his friends). This is the constant annoying thought that keeps running through his head that makes me call him narcissistic. He is more concerned that he will never get to continue kissing Alaska, than the actual fact that she is dead. I understand though, people handle death differently. It’s a traumatic event to lose someone. It is normal to start thinking about what you lost. I have told many people that if I were to die, not one person would really know me, they would just know the role I played in their life. Therefore, given that he only knew her for less than a year, it makes sense that he only sees her as a love interest. It’s not his fault, it’s just…really annoying. He wasn’t the only one who lost Alaska, we, the audience, lost her too…and I would have like to know more about her. But, we don’t get what we want. The Colonel even called him out for this. He said that he forgot her personality already and that he was only concerned about how they hooked up. Takumi also told him that he does not get to monopolize her.

And what was an ‘instant’ death anyway? How long is an instant? Is it one second? Ten? The pain of those seconds must have been awful as her heart burst and her lungs collapsed and there was no air and no blood to her brain and only raw panic. What the hell is instant? Nothing is instant. Instant rice takes five minutes, instant pudding an hour. I doubt that an instant of blinding pain feels particularly instantaneous.
This train of thought gave me a headache. I get it. I have experienced deaths of those close to me and there is no such thing as consolation. It hurts. And anyone trying to make it less painful doesn’t understand the pain of loss. There is no “at least” there is only what is and what isn’t.

Yeah. I was so tired of her getting upset for no reason. The way she would get sulky and make references to the freaking oppressive weight of tragedy or whatever but then never said what was wrong, never have any goddamned reason to be sad. And I just think you out to have a reason. My girlfriend dumped me, so I’m sad. I got caught smoking, so I’m pissed off. My head hurts, so I’m cranky. She never had a reason, Pudge. I was just so tired of putting up with her drama. And I just let her go. Christ.‘”
This is The Colonel speaking. Remember how I said he knew her best, but that she didn’t let people in? This confirms it. She wouldn’t talk to her best friend about her problem. Life gets overwhelming when you don’t talk about what the real issue is. When Alaska confessed the tragedy regarding her mom, The Colonel was surprised that she never told him. But she was itching to talk about it, otherwise, she wouldn’t have said anything. Her life was slowly falling apart. That’s why she convinced Miles (not that he needed convincing) to hook up with her on a truth or dare. Because although she didn’t want to cheat on her boyfriend, she was also trapped in her mind.

‘I am sorry, Alaska. You deserved a better friend.'”
The Colonel said this as he kissed her tomb. I think he finally felt guilty that he didn’t see the signs as signs, but just as part of her personality. I don’t blame him though, how was he supposed to know? Still, that was heartbreaking. Of course, he was also feeling remorse for not stopping her. But again, how was he supposed to know?

“How will we ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering? –A. Y.
‘I’m going to leave that up for the rest of the semester,’ he said. ‘Because everybody who has ever lost their way in life has felt the nagging insistence of that question. At some point we all look up and realize we are lost in a maze, and I don’t want us to forget Alaska, and I don’t to forget that even when the material we study seems boring, we’re trying to understand how people have answered that question and the questions each of you posed in your papers–how different traditions have come to terms with what Chip, in his final, called ‘people’s rotten lots in life'”
Alaska’s labyrinth is suffering. When the guys were collecting her stuff from her room, she wrote “straight and fast” in her copy of The General and his Labyrinth. That’s when the guys started believing it was indeed, suicide because she drove straight and fast. But it wasn’t intentional at first since she had flowers for her mom. If she were going to kill herself, why bother with flowers. They believed that once the opportunity presented itself, she took it. Unless, of course, the flowers were a peace offering to her mom and it was intentional. We will never know. Also, her initial thought of what the labyrinth was life and/or death. She constantly thought about death.

The times that were the most fun seemed always to be followed by sadness now, because it was when life started to feel like it did when she was with us that we realized how utterly, totally gone she was.
I like this quote because it reminds me a lot of Inside Out, the Pixar movie. Memories change. Emotions change. Grief is a challenging emotion.

When you stopped wishing things wouldn’t fall apart, you’d stop suffering when they did.”
If Alaska was able to remove herself from the situations, maybe she would have learned how to escape the labyrinth. This was a thought that Miles had. Along with “Because memories fall apart, too. And then you’re left with nothing, left not even with a ghost but with its shadow.” He was forgetting her. His memory was fading with what he wanted, what was real and what he couldn’t comprehend.

Eventually, Miles realized that “we had to forgive to survive the labyrinth.” Forgiveness is one of the hardest acts to ever accomplish. True forgiveness. Not just in the moment forgiveness. Not just “I’m going to forget for now because I don’t want to deal with it.” Not just forgiveness for the sake of forgiving. It’s why resentments are so powerful. It’s why some of the 7 deadly sins revolve around the consequences of not forgiving. The inability to forgive is the ultimate disservice to one’s spirit. It’s how wars start. It’s how bridges are burnt. It’s how life becomes unmanageable.

I, at first, thought the labyrinth was…well…life. Not necessarily life as in real life, but life as in the standard people put you in. Your identity. How do you escape the identity that was thrust upon you, without your permission? How do you escape without suffocating? Think about it, how can Alaska forget the blame her dad put her through. How can she escape the girl her friends want her to be? The girlfriend her boyfriend wants her to be? The student they want her to be? She was never really her. That was the ultimate tragedy. If she was this fantastic person, while filtered…image how incredible she would be if she were able to escape this labyrinth?