Please Ignore Vera Dietz

veradietzPlease Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
Publisher: Ember
Number of pages: 326
My copy: paperback, gifted by Maria

Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.

So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?

Please Ignore Vera Dietz was a book that I’ve been wanting to read for so long but I never got a copy, until Maria gave me a copy. Of course, it was parked on my shelf up until the book discussion activity by the person who gave me this book.

Vera Dietz has loved her best friend, Charlie Kahn, for so long. But he abandoned her to be with Jenny Flick and the Detentionheads. Now he’s dead, so Vera goes back to her life, working full time at her job and school, trying to ignore the ghost Charlies that haunt her and tell her that she needs to tell the truth to clear his name. Will she do it? Or will Charlie’s abandonment pre-death keep her from doing the right thing?

This is my first A.S. King book, and somehow it reminds me of Courtney Summers and E. Lockhart, with all the issues (from the former) and the mystery (from the latter). There’s a lot that was hinted about the overall story here that makes you just want to read to know what really happened. Vera is a smart kid. Despite her sucky situation – especially now that her best friend is gone – she sees what’s wrong and tries to avoid it. But despite all this show of “strength,” Vera is still ultimately a kid who is facing a whole lot of grief, not just with Charlie, but from her stripper mother and her father who tries to ignore the serious things.

The fun part of the narrative are the multiple POVs from Vera’s dad (and his flowcharts!), Charlie, and even a particular landmark in their town. The writing is very sharp, and very realistic, and at the end of it all, I just want to hug Vera.

We will learn to forgive ourselves in tandem.

I liked this, I really did. :)

Rating: 

Number of dog-eared pages: 15

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

I’m sorry, but I don’t get it. If we’re supposed to ignore everything that’s wrong with our lives, then I can’t see how we’ll ever make things right.

I felt a mix of wanting to kill him and wanting to kiss him at the same time. When I thought of what true love must be like, I figured it must be like this, and not the stupid eighth grade infatuation most girls my age felt. True love includes an equal part of good and bad, but true sticks around and doesn’t run off to Vegas with a podiatrist.

I want to tell her that the only thing you get from walling yourself in is empty.

I reminded myself that the one thing Jenny Flick couldn’t buy, no matter what she used as currency, was a ticket to drive on the high road next to people like me.

EVERYONE deserves to be happy. But no one gets there by freaking out or sulking or running. So. Here’s a tissue. Clean yourself up and start back at the beginning.

I have gone from invisible Vera Dietz to invincible Vera Dietz.

 

If You Feel Too Much

If You Feel Too Much coverIf You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For by Jamie Tworkowski
Publisher: Tarcher
Number of pages: 208
My copy: ebook, advance readers’ copy from Netgalley/Publisher

In 2006 Jamie Tworkowski wrote a story called “To Write Love on Her Arms” about helping a friend through her struggle with drug addiction, depression, and self-injury. The piece was so hauntingly beautiful that it quickly went viral, giving birth to a non-profit organization of the same name. Nine years later, To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) is an internationally-recognized leader in suicide prevention and a source of hope, encouragement, and resources for people worldwide.

Jamie’s words have been shared hundreds of thousands of times online. They’ve shown up on T-shirts and posters and even tattoos. Now, for the first time, Jamie’s writing is available in the form of a book. If You Feel Too Much is a celebration of hope, wonder, and what it means to be human. From personal stories of struggling on days most people celebrate to offering words of strength and encouragement in moments of loss, the essays in this book invite readers to believe that it’s okay to admit to pain and it’s okay to ask for help. If You Feel Too Much is an important book from one of this generation’s most important voices.

I first heard about Jamie Tworkowski from my friend Isa, after she shared with me this quote:

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that i don’t like love. i love love – i think it’s the best thing that happens on the planet. It’s the biggest dream inside me. But i bought a lie somewhere along the way. i bought the lie that says i’m not alive if i’m not in love. i bought the lie that says if i love someone but then they stop loving me or they start loving someone else, then i must have no value or power or worth. i bought the lie that says if i’m not in love, then i’m as good as dead.

I had no idea who he was until then, until I found out that he is the founder of To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA), “…an American non-profit organization that aims to to present hope for people struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury and thoughts of suicide while also investing directly into treatment and recovery.”1 I found out about TWLOHA back in college, I think, because some of my favorite bands (Switchfoot, Anberlin, Dave Barnes, Matt Wertz, etc) support the organization. That’s the most that I knew about Jamie and TWLOHA, and I was vaguely aware that there was a book coming out. When I received an email from the publicist asking if I wanted to review the book, I immediately said yes because if most of the book contained nuggets of wisdom like that quote that Isa shared to me last time, then I definitely want to read this book.

If You Feel Too Much is, at its core, a collection of Jamie Tworkowski’s blog entries through the years. The topics range from work, family, friendships, romance, love, addiction, depression, self-injury, and brokenness. That’s a lot to digest, but since these came from blog entries, they’re really easy to read. If you’re reading this as a memoir with a chronology of events, you might get a bit disappointed because some of the chapters feel a little bit disjointed, and sometimes some of them seemed to carry the same thought. Some of them may even be seem too short, but that’s easy to overlook because the everything here is full of heart. More than being readable, this book is super relatable. It doesn’t matter if the context of the entry is different – there’s some sort of universal truth that makes the reader connect to the things you read in this book.

Jamie’s thoughts focused a lot on reaching out, on being a friend, on opening up to people and offering love. Inversely, he also talked about how if we don’t have the strength to reach out and to offer love, then it’s okay. We don’t have to be strong all the time — sometimes, we need to be on the receiving end, too. If You Feel Too Much does not just tell its readers that we are not alone, but more importantly, we all have a part to play in this life. As Sierra De Mulder (who was mentioned in the book, too) wrote: your voice is someone’s favorite voice, your face is someone’s favorite face. 

If You Feel Too Much is all about the pain and beauty and loss and hope that makes up our being human. If you feel too much, too, then this is the book for you. Read it all in one sitting, or read it bit by bit – if only to remind yourself of the truths that we often forget about ourselves.

If you feel too much, don’t go.

You are not alone in these places.

Other people feel how you feel.

You are more than just your pain. You are more than wounds, more than drugs, more than death and silence.

There is still some time to be surprised.

There is still some time to ask for help.

There is still some time to start again.

There is still some time for love to find you.

It’s not too late.

You’re not alone.

Rating: 

Number of dog-eared pages: 42

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

Your heart is writing a poem on the world and it’s being turned into a thousand songs.

That guy with tears in his eyes and ghosts in his heart. He loved her, and you could see it. You could see it and you told him it wasn’t his to carry. You told him about grace, and you told him about the song. And you believed it. You were certain of it. So if it’s true for him, isn’t it also true for you?
Wake up. You’re alive.

And that diamond ring. I know you think about it a lot. That ring does not define you. It never did. Then or now. You can wear it around your neck. You can throw it in the sea. It doesn’t matter. It’s not your name. You are free.

Love is a thousand things but at the center is a choice. It is a choice to love people. Left to myself, I get quiet and bitter and critical. I get angry. I feel sorry for myself. It is a choice to love people. It is a choice to be kind. It is a choice to be patient, to be honest, to live with grace. I would like to start making better choices.

If you do some losing or you walk with someone in their defeat, live with dignity and grace. It is a middle finger to the darkness.

If you love somebody, tell them. If there is conflict, let it go and fight instead for peace. Break the numb false silence and break the distance too. Laugh and cry and apologize and start again. This life is short and fragile but friendship is among the greatest miracles.

More than anything, my wish for you is this: that when hour awful darkest days come, you will know you’re not alone. Pain will tell you to keep quiet, but that’s a lie. Life is fragile and we all break in different ways. I hope you know you can be honest. I hope you know you can ask for help. Did you catch that? It is absolutely positively okay to ask for help. It simply means you’re human.

About the Author:
Jamie Tworkowski, credit Jonathan FrazierJamie Tworkowski is the founder of To Write Love on Her Arms, a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and thoughts of suicide. TWLOHA has one of the largest online audiences of any non-profit, and Jamie has been interviewed by NBC Nightly News, CBS’s Sunday Morning, andRolling Stone magazine, among others. He is the only nonmusician to win an MTVU Woodie Award. Jamie speaks frequently, telling the TWLOHA story and encouraging audiences at universities, concerts, and music festivals. A proud uncle, Jamie lives in Melbourne Beach, Florida, and loves surfing, music, and basketball.

Pre-order/order the book here!

  1. Source: Wikipedia []

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

colorlessColorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Publisher: Knopf
Number of pages: 386
My copy: hardbound, borrowed from Ranee

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is the long-awaited new novel– a book that sold more than a million copies the first week it went on sale in Japan–from the award-winning, internationally best-selling author Haruki Murakami.

Here he gives us the remarkable story of Tsukuru Tazaki, a young man haunted by a great loss; of dreams and nightmares that have unintended consequences for the world around us; and of a journey into the past that is necessary to mend the present. It is a story of love, friendship, and heartbreak for the ages.

I’ve been wanting to read a Haruki Murakami novel for the longest time, but I can never choose which book to read. Everyone I ask seemed to have too many different recommendations, and some of them even hesitate because they know that there were some things in Murakami’s books that aren’t really my cup of tea. Then someone recommended Murakami’s latest book (at least, at that time) then, because I liked collecting train maps. But of course I didn’t get a copy, until I borrowed a copy from a friend.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (which I will call Colorless Tsukuru from here on out) is about Tsukuru Tazaki and his four friends – or at least, the story of their friendship, and how they just stopped wanting to be his friend. His friends’ abandonment hurt him deeply, and he carried this all the way into his adult life. Then he meets and dates Sarah, who forces him to confront his past for his own peace of mind.

Colorless Tsukuru is a surprisingly easy read. The prose was fluid, and it had some sort of dreamlike quality to it. There was a time when I stopped reading for a long time, but it wasn’t because I found it boring – it was just plain busy-ness. But when I picked it up again, I read through it so quickly and found myself so invested in Tsukuru Tazaki that I rooted for him.

There’s a lot about Colorless Tsukuru that resonated with me, and made me feel strangely sentimental. It’s not just his fascination with trains that got me — I like train maps and riding trains, but not necessarily how trains work — but more of Tsukuru’s friendships and how he lost them. I think that was what saddened me the most, how there were some things that you just couldn’t bring back, and the hard choices that people make for the sake of friendship. There’s a lot of sadness and regret here, and when the reason why all that happened was finally revealed, I was even more saddened to realize that it was an even harder situation. As expected, closure isn’t really as clean as we all wished it would be.

There’s something about being young and having friends and witnessing the changes that happen to all the people in the group that makes one a little nostalgic, yeah? But if anything, it made me think of my own friendships, and I can’t help but utter a little prayer that what happened to Tsukuru and his friends won’t happen to my own friendships.

I really enjoyed my first Murakami, and I’m glad that this was the first one. The book lingered with me even after I read it, and sometimes I still sigh a little when I think of Tsukuru Tazaki. I’m still undecided if  I will start working on reading Murakami’s other books – maybe I will, someday. But now, let me just savor the feeling and the memories of this book.

We truly believed in something back then, and we were the kind of people capable of believing something – with all our hearts. And that kind of hope will never simply vanish.

Rating: 

Number of (imaginary) dog-eared pages: 17

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

Still, he had a constant nagging fear that someday he would fall away from this intimate community, or be forced out and left on his own. Anxiety raised its head, like a jagged, ominous rock exposed by the receding tide, the fear that he would be separated from the group and end up entirely alone.

You can hide memories, but you can’t erase the history that produced them. If nothing else, you need to remember that. You can’t erase history, or change it. It would be like destroying yourself.

Unless you take the leap, you can’t prove it. And once you actually make the leap, there’s no need to prove it anymore. There’s no middle ground. You either take the leap, or you don’t. One or the other.

If something is important enough, a little mistake isn’t going to ruin it all, or make it vanish. It might not be perfect, but the first step is actually building the station. Right? Otherwise trains won’t stop there. And you can’t meet the person who means so much to you. If you find some defect, you can adjust later, as needed. First things first. Build the station. A special station just for her. The kind of station where trains want to stop, even if they have no reason to do so. Imagine that kind of station, and give it actual color and shape. Write your name on the foundation with a nail, and breathe life into it. I know you have the power to do that. Don’t forget – you’re the one who swam across the freezing sea at night.

You don’t lack anything. Be confident and be bold. That’s all you need. Never let fear or stupid pride make you lose someone who’s precious to you.

High Fidelity

High Fidelity by Nick HornbyHigh Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Number of pages: 323
My copy: paperback, bought from D’s Books in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Rob is a pop music junkie who runs his own semi-failing record store. His girlfriend, Laura, has just left him for the guy upstairs, and Rob is both miserable and relieved. After all, could he have spent his life with someone who has a bad record collection? Rob seeks refuge in the company of the offbeat clerks at his store, who endlessly review their top five films (Reservoir Dogs…); top five Elvis Costello songs (Alison…); top five episodes of Cheers (the one where Woody sang his stupid song to Kelly…). Rob tries dating a singer whose rendition of Baby, I Love Your Way makes him cry. But maybe it’s just that he’s always wanted to sleep with someone who has a record contract. Then he sees Laura again. And Rob begins to think (awful as it sounds) that life as an episode of thirtysomething, with all the kids and marriages and barbecues and k.d. lang CD’s that this implies, might not be so bad.

I’ve been wanting to read Nick Hornby books for a long time, but I never found a reason to pick any of them up. Sure, he was on my radar, but every time I’d be in the bookstore to get a new book, I just don’t stop by to check his books. Maybe it’s because I have a bias for female contemporary (romance) authors, or you know, I just never had a reason to, until now.

So we discussed this book last April in the book club. I started reading this as soon as I finished the previous book, and when my friends started finishing the book ahead of time, I wondered if I was having a hard time reading it because I was busy, or because I was just disinterested.

Don’t get me wrong – High Fidelity was very entertaining, and I thought Rob was a bit of an adorable music dork who was just starting to group. I liked the setting, and while I wasn’t super enamored with his friends, I thought they provided a pretty fun cast of characters. The song references weren’t exactly my cup of tea, but somehow all of them made me imagine this in a movie (even if I didn’t actually go and watch the movie version of this book).

But at the end of it all, I felt pretty apathetic over Rob. Perhaps it was his whining that got to me, which I tried to understand because I knew I also did that (and sometimes I still do that). Maybe it’s because of how he treated Laura, except Laura wasn’t so great either. I wish I can say that I couldn’t relate to him, but I have had my share of disappointments in romance – perhaps not like Rob’s, but don’t all romantic failures have some kind of common vein in them? I didn’t exactly dislike Rob like some of my other friends did, but I didn’t like him so much, either. I had no strong opinions about him (or his story, for that matter), which kind of made me pretty much apathetic to the book.

The ending was okay, and okay, I liked how there was that some sort of turnaround there for everyone. But I think that’s the extent of care I could give to this. Maybe I should watch the movie version of this for better appreciation? I would try to read another Nick Hornby book, but perhaps not anytime soon, and I would probably only do it if I was given a more compelling reason. Don’t take all of my words, though. I think it just wasn’t for me, and like Rob’s other relationships, I think that’s okay.

The best part of the book, IMHO, was the discussion. My adopted little brother did an excellent job with the discussion, and I actually bought a faux leather jacket to follow his whims as the moderator. ;)

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

…sentimental music has this great way of taking you back somewhere at the same time that it takes you forward, so you feel nostalgic and hopeful all at the same time. (p. 63)

…he’s worried about how his life is turning out, and he’s lonely, and lonely people are the bitterest of them all. (p. 151)

Rating: 

Other reviews:
marginalia
It’s a Wonderful Book World

Buqo YA 2 Blog Tour: Sweet Complications

buqoya2-banner

Buzzer beater in today’s tour stop because work and life are in the way of the reading and blogging life (as always). But today, before the day ends, I’ll be reviewing one of the stories in the second Buqo YA bundle!

Once Upon a Sticky Note by Kristel Ann Cruz
Buqo YA 2: Sweet Complications (buy on Buqo!)

Nate and Tanya have been “talk all day, every day” best friends for years but on the eve of Nate’s birthday, Tanya realized she has started developing more-than-platonic feelings him. They’re going off to college soon so confessing anything that might make things complicated between them doesn’t sound like a good plan, especially now that Campus Sweetie Armi has entered the picture. What would Tanya do? Could she? Should she? Grab a sticky note and place your bets.

I’ve been seeing this story in the #buqoYA twitter feed during the time the stories were being written, and I thought this was such a cute title. I love sticky notes, too, and I was really curious on how this item would fit in the Nate and Tanya’s love story.

This is a short, short story, but despite its length, I was really convinced that Nate and Tanya were truly best friends, with the way they knew each other and the history they had together. I think that is the most challenging about writing friends-turned-lovers stories – building on their history and making the readers believe that they are meant to be even from the start (except writing that trope for YA is a bit easier because the characters are younger). I liked their back story, which was simple, and how Tanya truly loved Nate as her best friend and not just a guy she liked.

Once Upon a Sticky Note had both the sweet and the complications, as this bundle is all about. Don’t worry, the ending is more sweet than complicated. :P My only wish for this story is that it was a little bit longer, if only to flesh out their characters and their stories more. Nevertheless, this is a very sweet and cute YA story that you should not miss. :)

Rating: 

Excerpt:

Of course it also doesn’t hurt that he is nice to look at. I have always pegged Nate as a pretty boy, but his unassuming ways make him look more attractive. I like his thick eyebrows, his smiling eyes, and the dimple on his left cheek that mirrors mine. I can’t even tell you how many jealous stares I have fielded when we walk through the school together, or how my heart secretly swells seeing these.

It’s quite melodramatic to say that our lives have never been the same since we became closer because we are still very young, but that fact doesn’t make it any less true. I will feel so lost when the time comes he or I would have to go our separate ways. Graduation is coming soon and to be honest, I’m dreading college. I wonder if we will be as close as we are now or whether I will be left behind, a mere footnote to carefree high school days.

It was almost morning when I realized I am in love with my best friend.

About the author:

It boggles the mind how someone so shy and awkward found herself in Public Relations, but somehow Krissy makes it work. If she were a fictional character, she’d be a female Ted Mosby. Whether it be prose, poetry, a watercolor painting, or a craft project, she is happiest when she makes. Talk about books, movies, and lipsticks with her on www.krissyfied.com

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