Book Review// Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan

Author: Megan Nolan
Series: Standalone
Genre: Literary Fiction
Release Date: March 9, 2021
Book Length: 288
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review: 5/5

My Review:

Imagine you’re interested in someone and you don’t really know why, there’s just *something* about them. Pretty soon, that *something* becomes an all consuming feeling – you wonder how you ever lived without them before, and don’t want to imagine ever having to live without them again.

You romanticize this person and their feelings for you; you want to believe there’s merit to them, but they’re not really meant for the pedestal you put them on even though you’ve convinced yourself that they are. Though you can’t see it right now, years from now, you’ll probably look back and realize that the only *something* interesting about them wasn’t a something at all – it was you and the way you romanticized them.

But for now, you’re desperate: desperate to convince them you’re worthy of their love, desperate to be the person that changes them, desperate to believe they wouldn’t be unfaithful, wouldn’t yell at you, belittle you, make you feel crazy.

That’s what this book was. It was very messy and raw on both the narrator and her boyfriend’s ends, and though I enjoyed it very much, it was quite frankly hard to read at times; trigger warning checks are a must for this one.

If you are a fan of the ‘young woman trying to navigate life and relationships’ genre, this is the book for you. It was definitely a ride.

– Catherine

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Book Review// Every Summer After by Carley Fortune

Author: Carley Fortune
Series: Standalone
Genre: Romance
Release Date: May 10, 2022
Book Length: 320
Publisher: Viking
Review: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Six summers to fall in love. One moment to fall apart. A weekend to get it right.

A magazine writer has to make a choice when she returns to the lake she grew up on, and to the man she thought she’d never have to live without, in this achingly nostalgic debut.

They say you can never go home again, and for Persephone Fraser that has felt too true for the last decade, ever since she made the biggest mistake of her life. Instead of glittering summers on the lakeshore of her childhood, she spends them in a stylish apartment in the city, going out with friends, and keeping everyone a safe distance from her heart. Until the day she gets a call that sends her racing back to Barry’s Bay and into the orbit of Sam Florek.

For five summers, through hazy afternoons on the water and warm summer nights working in his family restaurant and curling up together with books–medical textbooks for him and work-in-progress horror short stories for her–Percy and Sam had been inseparable. And slowly that friendship turned into something breathtakingly more, before it fell spectacularly apart.

When Percy returns to the lake to attend Sam’s mother’s funeral, their connection is as undeniable as it had always been. Percy must confront the decisions she’s made and the years she’s spent punishing herself for them, in order to determine, once and for all, whether their love might be bigger than the biggest mistakes of their past.

Told over the course of five years and one weekend, Every Summer After is a big, sweeping look at love and the people and choices that mark us forever.

My Review:

This is my favourite romance ever as of now; I feel so strongly about this book that I bought it in all 3 formats so I could enjoy it from every avenue. Everything about it was perfect and I felt so seen and comforted by all the Toronto/ Canadian references – when else will I read a book that mentions Tim Horton’s, Hudson’s Bay, and Pizza Pizza???

I used to think enemies to lovers was my favourite, but that was before I met Percy and Sam. There is something so beautiful about watching a friendship blossom into love over time; I appreciated that this wasn’t some insta-love, but rather a bond that tenderly grew over the years, and at its core remained unchanged even after so much time had passed.

Speaking of which, don’t even get me started with Sam – he was so beautifully written. My biggest regret in life is that my parents didn’t own a cottage up North so I could have the chance at a yearly summer romance with the cute guy next door. Most of the books I read lately have some sort of sad undertone, but this was a ray of sunshine I desperately needed.

I loved this one so much; please pick it up if you enjoy romance books, you won’t regret it

– Catherine

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Book Review// Fate’s Ways by Janille N. Giambattista

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Author: Janille N. Giambattista
Series: Standalone
Genre: Romance
Release Date: December 30, 2021
Book Length: 48
Publisher: Kindle
Review: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Sometimes love happens, and we can’t explain why or how. Sometimes meeting our soul mate involves taking Fate’s hand and putting our trust in a force akin to magic. In this novella about two people who are quite literally destined to love each other for all their lives, Janille N. Giambattista examines how sometimes we can’t quite put into words how we were led to The One–but in the end, the how or why doesn’t matter as long as we find our Happily Ever After.

My Review:

As a child, I used to sit awake at night wondering about my life: Who would I become? Whose would I become? I conjured up a silhouette of this mystery man in my mind that I carried close even as I got older: dark hair and eyes, taller than me, good sense of humour, and all the other standard, surface-level things that come to mind when you make up a person from your imagination. I would write people off immediately upon meeting them, knowing intrinsically that they wouldn’t fit the mold; I was on a mission to manifest the person I’d created, and when I’d meet him, I’d know. I’m a firm believer in fate myself, and Janille has taken my childhood fantasies in the form of these main characters and propelled them onto these pages.

The hint of magical realism made this novella feel part fairy-tale. I’d love to live my life with the conviction that everything (and everyone) that happens to you is maneuvering you in the right direction, even if everything feels wrong at the time. In my interpretation of their enchanted encounters before meeting in adulthood, each of them is meant to face their heartaches, challenges, or close calls with the hope that the other is out there waiting for them some day, and to prepare them for the versions they are meant to be when they find each other. I thought this was such a beautiful and unique narrative, and one that I’d love to read more of.

I devoured this novella in one sitting, and I would happily absorb myself again in any and all future work of Janille’s – I’m already looking forward to her next one!

– Catherine

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Book Review// You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

Author: Dustin Thao
Series: Standalone
Genre: Young Adult
Release Date: November 9, 2021
Book Length: 304
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Review: 2/5

My Review:

I knew this book would cause me pain and suffering, but I didn’t think it would be because I disliked it so much.

This is about 17-year old boyfriend and girlfriend Sam and Julie, and how Julie is affected by Sam’s death following a tragic car accident. Just when Julie thinks Sam is gone forever, she discovers that she can still communicate with him via phone calls. Even though he’s still with her now, it won’t be the case forever, and eventually, Julie has to learn to let go. 

The synopsis really had me intrigued, and not only that, but the cover is beautiful too. Unfortunately, the idea of this book was way better than its execution. 

This story is told through the eyes of Julie, and oh man was she the absolute worst character ever. While I don’t understand or agree with how she went about it (tossing out all of Sam’s things the same week he died, deleting all their texts, not showing up to his funeral, etc.) I had to remind myself that everyone grieves differently. It was really hard to do that though, because I can’t imagine someone who refuses to let go of the phone calls being okay with purging him from her life so quickly in all those other ways. This, before she even knew the phone calls were a thing she could do to continue their communication. It all seems very conflicting with the character that Thao created in Julie. What also really threw me off about Julie was that she would do nothing to better herself or any situation she was in, yet she complained as if she were the victim. For example, she kept mentioning that she was behind on all her assignments and barely did any work, yet she was surprised that she was doing poorly in her classes and didn’t get into the college of her choice. She also let down so many people – all her friends were stood up for anything they planned with her. Again, I understand the process of grief is different for everyone, but can you just stick to one promise you make to someone and stop being so predictable with always cancelling anyone who tries to support you? It’s a wonder she had any friends left by the end.

Aside from not feeling connected to Julie, I also didn’t feel the connection between her and Sam, or even with Sam for that matter. Everything the reader gathers about Sam is either from their phone conversations, or from random flashbacks she has of their time together. Most of the time, Sam was sweet, and it had me wondering how he fell for someone as selfish as Julie. There were other times though that Sam really had me annoyed, particularly during their phone calls. There was this one instance where he got really cold and short with her literally out of nowhere, and it felt like the conflict was put in the story out of force, not because it would be something these characters would have genuinely fought about. 

The magical element of Sam and Julie being about to communicate through the phone was cool, but there was never an explanation of why or how it happened. I guess not all magic needs an explanation, after all, it is magic. I don’t know though, I still wish there would have been some heart wrenching explanation for this. 

Despite all of that, the ending was heartbreaking and I couldn’t help but feel something about it. If this were executed in a different way, I may have felt that tiny spark I felt at the end throughout the entire thing, and maybe then I would have liked this better.

– Catherine

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Book Review// Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Author: Sally Rooney
Series: Standalone
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: September 7, 2021
Book Length: 356
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review: 3/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend, Eileen, is getting over a break-up and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon are still young—but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world? 

My Review:

I’m torn. On one hand, I thought this book was brilliant, but on the other, I so agree with all the 1 and 2 star reviews. I’ve never read a Sally Rooney before, but from what I gather, I think her work is something you either love, or do not resonate with at all. I find myself somewhere in the middle.

There is no real plot, no end game; it’s just ordinary people living their lives. At first, this confused me – I thought: What even is this book about? What is the point? I almost put it down because of those thoughts, but something else told me to keep going. Despite there never being a clear direction that this took, I found the writing too captivating to give up on. I felt like I didn’t like any of the characters, or really deeply care about them like I would have wanted to, yet I resonated with them. How Rooney managed to put their thoughts and feelings on paper to get me to care about otherwise bland, unlikeable, woe is me people, I do not know, but I was impressed. I like to read to escape reality, but these characters brought me back down to it as they were trying to find the meaning of existence in the 21st century.

I found the relationships in this book very fascinating. For example, Eileen and Simon were saying everything in code, speaking at length late-night about their fantasies involving each other. They could have easily made these things a reality, but they didn’t for the majority of the book – their actions were fleeting. I know it sounds incomprehensible, but sometimes the certainty of the fantasy is more enchanting than the potential finality of the reality. Even though I prefer to read as an escape, as a young person particularly, I found it amusing to see something so real like that play out in a book. Also, a lot of the lower star reviews mention that the sex scenes were awkward, which, funnily enough was the reason that I liked them. If you read the rest of it, you would realize that the sex scenes being awkward is more realistic for the tone of this book. Everything about these characters was flawed, so at least in my opinion, it would stand that intimate moments between the characters would be less than quintessential too.

Do I think this book is for everyone? Definitely not. I’m still not even convinced it was really and truly for me! But did I feel something undeniable about this writing? Absolutely. And that alone would get me to read another one of Rooney’s books.

Quotes I liked:

Every subsequent hour since I saw him has been worse than the last, or is it just that the pain I feel right now is so intense that it transcends my ability to reconstruct the pain I felt at the time? Presumably, remembered suffering never feels as bad as present suffering, even if it was a lot worse. We can’t remember how much worse it was, because remembering is weaker than experiencing.

It’s better to be deeply loved than widely liked.

What if it’s not only a small number of evil people who are out there, waiting for their bad deeds to be exposed – what if it’s all of us?

I feel so frightened of being hurt — not the suffering, which I know I can handle, but the indignity of suffering, the indignity of being open.

– Catherine

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