Review: Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

Me before reading the explicit peach scene:

Me after:

But in all seriousness, I wish I would’ve taken the plunge and read this back in 2017 when I was going through the same intense feelings Elio was experiencing. It would’ve made me like this book a lot more. I did come across this quote at the time that made me nearly pick up the book:

“He came. He left. Nothing else had changed. I had not changed. The world hadn’t changed. Yet nothing would be the same. All that remains is dreammaking and strange remembrance.”

I feel like reading this now (thanks to my local library holding a copy), however, when I’m not in that state of mind of almost feverish, obsession with somebody’s existence, it just doesn’t hold the same impact for me. Especially when I came across this oldie but goodie of a video on Youtube that made it hard for a minute thereafter to take the infatuation serious.

All I could hear was “Luuuuu-ke, we’re going to get maaaaaaried” during Elio’s grand proclamations of love.

On a more serious note, I feel like, throughout the book, I was waiting for that moment to hit us as to why exactly Elio fell for Oliver so hard. Was it simply the setting of summer, being seventeen, and having nothing better to do than obsess over every tangible move of their new summer houseguest. Or was it simply that when you start catching feelings you’re already too deep in to go back? Especially when said person is constantly around the corner, never knowing when and where they might appear next, which only adds to the perpetual train of thought circling around them on when you might see them next and what witty thing you might reply in case they end up talking to you… exhausting.

“The thud my heart gave when I saw him unannounced both terrified and thrilled me.”

“Not knowing whether he’d show up at the dinner table was torture. But bearable. Not daring to ask whether he’d be there was the real ordeal. Having my heart jump when I suddenly heard his voice or saw him seated at his seat when I’d almost given up hoping he’d be among us tonight eventually blossomed like a poisoned flower.”

The constant cycle of wanting them gone from your thoughts but never being willing to put an end to it yourself. Man, I don’t know how to bear through the intensity of all that more than once in my lifetime. Or does it never appear that intense the second time around?

I did appreciate how the author captured the “Oh, I’m getting over him any minute now” to then seeing Oliver and instantly forgetting; rinse and repeat. It captures, like he so perfectly worded, the addictive quality of it.

“I knew the feeling wouldn’t last long and that, as with all addicts, it was easy to forswear an addiction immediately after a fix.”

Also, I’m perpetually frightened at the power another person can hold over your state of mind when you’re first in the deep end of it:

“Just a word, a gaze, and I was in heaven.”

All in all, this was a quality trip down memory lane, forever grateful to be out of that state of mine but nonetheless pleased to look at it in hindsight. But the explicitness was sometimes a tad too much for me.

Check it out for yourself with both the book and its movie adaption, and do so with my Amazon Affiliate:

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Thirsty Romance Review: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

“The Hating Game. You versus me. It’s the only way this can possibly end.”

During my recent, habitual task of roaming my local library shelves, I landed eagle-eyed on The Hating Game, which I’ve heard nothing but praise for in the last year. It didn’t need any further coaxing to check it out. And damn, this is one hot summer book; I’m glad I read it at the high-end of the hot season dying down.

I know I’m low-key excited when I read the praise at the start of the book. Valerie Frankel’s “stole my life for two days” seemed promising, in particular.

NEMESIS (n)

1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome
2) A person’s undoing
3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She prides herself on being loved by everyone at work – except for imposing, impeccably attired Joshua Templeman.

Trapped in a shared office, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, never-ending game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game, The Mirror Game, The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything – especially when a huge promotion is on offer.

If Lucy wins, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she questioning herself? Maybe she doesn’t hate him. And just maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game . . .

I sank into a more comfortable reading position as soon as this book got a good laugh out of me with the line:

“He doesn’t acknowledge me for a full minute. His keystrokes intensify. Beethoven on a piano has nothing on him right now.”

This seemed promising within a heartbeat at that.
Honestly, Lucy and Joshua’s whole office teasing/hating vibe had me in fits when I made the comparison in my head with Jim and Dwight from The Office.

The Hating Game could’ve used the office angst between Lucy & Joshua to pull together some grandiose pranks, and yet… we get some mentions of HR reported pranks, but zero details of what they contained. To be honest, I never quite determined who’s who: Our Dwight fluctuates between Joshua Templeman, Assistant (To The) co-CEO, and Lucy Hutton, Executive Assistant (To The) co-CEO.

They’re so aware of one another and I’m here wondering how can you hate someone you’re so obsessed with? They’ve memorized the other’s shirt colors, moods, patterns of behavior; They’re on each other’s case every single moment. Their world orbits around the other.

Case in point:

  • The main reason why they seem to hate each other’s guts comes across pretty clear upon the flashback to their first time meeting. Lucy feels like she has to hate him because the other option is too daunting, especially if she feels it’s unrequited. Neither of them would’ve remained neutral about the other.

“Please, I beg myself. Please hate Josh again. This is too hard.”

  • Again, if a book can get me laughing, I’m all in:
When I finally work out how to decode the pencil marks, I slap my forehead. I can’t believe I’ve been so slow.
“Thanks. I’ve been dying to do that all afternoon,” Joshua says without taking his eyes from his monitor.”
This is such a subtle but humorous moment.
  • If I thought the elevator scene was hot (which it surely was; Grey’s Anatomy is quaking), I had a big storm waiting with chapter sixteen; I’m still fanning myself. And to think they started, thanks to the enticing storytelling skills of her “esoteric” dream. I had to keep all windows wide open for that necessary breeze for the rollercoaster of a ride that is chapter sixteen.
  • Lucy investigating every nook and cranny (why does this sound like innuendo?) in Joshua’s apartment in the same chapter was oddly reminiscent of an episode in season three of The Office (“Cocktails”) where the characters attend a cocktail party at a glamorous house, and Dwight’s running around, similar to Lucy, to inspect everything:

This is literally Lucy with Joshua’s heavenly couch:

“Where’d you get this couch? I want to get the same one.”
“It’s the only one on earth.” His dry voice floats out from the kitchen.
“Can I buy it from you?”
“No.”
“What about this ribbon cushion?”
“One of a kind.”

  • Speaking of the show, I have to say that before starting this book I thought all the games mentioned on the back cover meant this would be like earlier into season three, where Jim Halpert fails miserably at playing Call of Duty with the Stamford branch. Like, what if Jim had fallen for Karen Filippelli while playing Call of Duty at work. But turns out that the Staring Game, the HR Game (which is the equivalent of Dwight yelling “MICHAEL”), or the Hating Game are just ways Lucy and Joshua interact.
  • I wasn’t really that invested in the characters outside of their relationship, though, meaning that I hadn’t bothered to think beyond their personal selves, which is why the few surprise curveballs thrown my way managed to shake me up. I just wish we wouldn’t dwell so much on family drama, especially something as big as attending a wedding half filled with Templemans, if we haven’t even interacted with the family members in question prior to it. Also: the trope of the girlfriend getting involved in family drama and solving it all in one scene is eye-roll worthy. If I pick up a romance book it’s pretty obvious I’m not here for all the family interactions.
  • With romances I either hate them or l feel neutral towards the story.  I tried my hand earlier this year with The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang and found myself tired out by the sex scenes and just craved going back to that blissful state of drawn-out kisses with intimate yet deliberate hand touches.
  • So I was beyond loving this book for not granting the big s e x scene right away and make the two work for it. Like, as much as the characters were frustrated to part away, it was so worth it in the long run. I usually lose my momentum within the story once that first big scene ends because the thrill of the chase lost and everything turns quite repetitive. So it was beyond gratifying to see The Hating Game laser focus on its spellbinding, pages-long kisses, which were deliciously slow in their attentive nature to tiny details.
  • Kitchen scenes where Joshua’s preparing food and Lucy feels so at home with him that she just leans into him at every opportunity GOT TO ME.

“Don’t line my replacement up too quick. You’ll hurt my feelings.”
The reminder of the likely outcome of this entire scenario makes me decide to lean against him. The middle of his back is the most perfectly ergonomic place to hide my face.”

All bubbling and soft feelings evoked.

When you spent so much of your time pining after someone, knowingly or unknowingly, the high of getting together is intoxicating. The number of times Lucy goes to say she addicted to Joshua made my mind play Britney Spears’ Toxic in the background.

All in all: the hype for The Hating Game was worth it for the majority, even if family feuds came to intervene at the very end. Honestly, it was worth it all for chapter sixteen.

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Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell, or Fate, Time, Television and True Love

The funny thing with Landline is that I didn’t even fully mean to reread it, I just started the first few pages and then bang I was flying through it in true Rainbow Rowell fashion (see: Why I Fangirl over Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (Spoilers: Levi)). I felt like I was at an all-you-can-eat buffet, filling myself with one more page, one more…

As far as time machines go, a magic telephone is pretty useless.

TV writer Georgie McCool can’t actually visit the past; all she can do is call it, and hope it picks up. And hope he picks up — because once Georgie realizes she has a magic phone that calls into the past, all she wants is make things right with her husband, Neal.

Maybe she can fix the things in their past that seem unfixable in the present. Maybe this stupid phone is giving her a chance to start over. . . . Does Georgie want to start over?

A heart-wrenching—and hilarious—take on fate, time, television and true love, Landline asks if two people are ever really on the same path, or whether love just means finding someone who will keep meeting you halfway.

Also funny is the fact when I first read Landline, back in 2015, I came out of it thinking it was my least favorite Rowell book, simply because at that time in my life I couldn’t have cared less about married people. But with this reread now, coming after three years, I can’t get enough of family-based stories. So I was delighted to discover how with time my perspective had changed and matured to the point of gobbling up every little detail concerning the marriage chronicled in here.

It’s so hard to capture all that I loved (because there’s so many specifics) but I tried my best by including it all below:

  • Rainbow Rowell’s signature humor is ever-present and on-point.

“It was so rare to make Neal laugh. . . .
Georgie used to tease him about being a waste of dimples. “Your face is like an O. Henry story. The world’s sweetest dimples and the boy who never laughs.”
“I laugh.”
“When? When you’re alone?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Every night when I’m sure everyone is asleep, I sit on my bed and laugh maniacally.”

I was trying to find the best way to describe the humor, when I stumbled upon this interview between Rainbow Rowell and her audio narrator Rebecca Lowman, discussing the book:

Rowell: “…You know what, I don’t like punchline, sort of zingy humor. So I’m not drawn to comedians who are very big. I like people who are just sort of talking and they’re funny when they’re talking. …”

This. This is exactly it.

As well as this quote from the book on savoring what we hold precious:

“I put it in my Save Box,” she said.
“What’s that?”
“It’s actually just a box. I, uh . . . I hate that feeling, you know, when you’re thinking about something you’ve read or heard, and you thought it was so smart at the time, but now you can’t remember it. I save things I don’t want to lose track of.”

This right here hits the core on why I write such extensive notes during my reading.

  • Georgie’s office scenes with Seth (and Scotty) reminded me then why I had such a hard reading this book the first time. They weren’t my favorite scenes since no one was shining or bringing anything new to the table. In particular, Seth threw me off my game at the end because I feel like he was flexing, what Reagan in Fangirl so lovingly calls, his best friend muscles just to remind everyone that he came first. I’m not a fan. Also: He can’t write anything decent down without Georgie around, which makes him a true Nick.

“They were supposed to end up together, Seth and Georgie.
Well, technically, they had ended up together. They’d talked every day since that first day they met.
But they were supposed to end up together-together. Everyone thought it would happen—Georgie had thought it would happen.
Just as soon as Seth exhausted his other possibilities, as soon as he worked through his queue of admirers. He hadn’t been in any hurry, and Georgie didn’t have a say in the matter. She’d taken a number. She was waiting patiently.
And then, one day, she wasn’t.”

  • And since we’re on the topic of my favorite Rowell book, I was so keen on reading about Neal and Georgie together because it felt like we were seeing Cath and Levi chronicled from Levi’s perspective. Georgie is the one initiating all contact with Neal, making sure she can get a laugh out him (at least one), whereas “solid, stolid” Neal is a tough nut to crack, similar to Cath with their difficulty establishing eye contact and needing a barrier between them, such as drawing cartoons (in Cath’s case, reading fanfiction out loud) to distract. And lucky for him, Georgie doesn’t want the easy thing. To paraphrase Attachments, she likes to work a little harder to get the thing she really wants.

“He’s the guy in the Life cereal commercial who hates everything. If Mikey likes you, you know you’re good. If Mikey likes you, it means something.”

  • The concept behind ‘once we notice something, we see it everywhere’ is beyond fascinating to me, so I liked how subtly Rainbow Rowell incorporated that shift between the two:

“How had she missed Neal until junior year? He’d started working at The Spoon as a freshman, same as her. Georgie must have seen him, without really seeing him, dozens of times. Was she that sucked in by Seth? Seth was extra sucky—pushy and loud, always demanding Georgie’s attention. . . .
But once Georgie noticed Neal, she saw him around the office constantly. She’d try not to stare when he walked past her desk on his way to the production room. Sometimes, if she was lucky, he’d look her way and nod.”

Rowell excels at procuring real authentic moments.

“Can we go back and start over?”
“How far back?” Georgie tried to fold her arms, but she was still holding that stupid Zima.
“Back to the wall,” he said. “Back to you walking across the living room toward me. To you saying, ‘I’m surprised to see you here.’”
“Are you saying you want to go back to the living room?”
“No. Just go ahead, say it again now.”
Georgie rolled her eyes, but she said it: “I’m surprised to see you here.”
“You shouldn’t be,” Neal said. He lifted his chin and looked directly in her eyes. For the second time in five minutes. For the second time ever. “I’m here because I knew you’d be here. Because I hoped you would be.”

That moment when people stop playing games (Gemma Collins echo) with one another and just present their real selves… Showing someone you’re keen on them and having it reciprocated is a grand gesture.

I equally loved those tiny, intimate moments sprinkled throughout their married life:

“Stop. You’re blowing my mind.”
“Oh, I’ll blow your mind. Girlie.”
“Are you flirting with me?”
He’d turned to her then, pen cap in mouth, and cocked his head. “Yeah. I think so.”
Georgie looked down at her old sweatshirt. At her threadbare yoga pants. “This is what does it for you?”
Neal smiled most of a smile, and the cap fell out of his mouth. “So far.”
Neal . . .”

As well as featuring really beautiful metaphors with flowers, like: “Pizza girl’s name was Alison, and Heather’s face followed her around the room like a sunflower chasing daylight.”

And: “(Neal’s face was like a flower blooming—you’d need time-lapse photography to really see it in action. But Georgie’d become such a student of his face, she could read most of the twitches.)”

  • Regarding the major plot line of the magic telephone, I could only think of this:

To give some background, this quote led me to it: “Georgie exhaled when she heard Neal’s voice, then resisted the urge to ask him who the president was.”

  • I’ve been holding off, but I really have to end on the most epic cameo to appear in this book, featuring my all-time favorite couple: Cath & Levi. I really thought before starting that it wouldn’t hit me as hard because I’ve already read it before. But it’s been so long and LEVI’S STILL SO GOOD.

“Can we help you find something?” someone said.
Georgie turned. It was the ecstatic young couple. Still hanging on each other, as if neither of them could quite believe the other was finally here.
“Taxi stand?” Georgie said.
“You’re looking for a taxi?” the boy asked. The man. She should probably call him a man. He must be twenty-two, twenty-three; his hair was already thinning.”

My boy is all grown up. bookspoils“Wait a minute.” The boy got out of the truck, then hopped back inside thirty seconds later with his duffel bag. He unzipped it, and clothes spilled out. He started heaping them in the girl’s lap. “Here,” he said, pulling out a thick, gray wool sweater. “Take this.”
“I can’t take your sweater,” Georgie said.
“Take it. You can mail it back to me—my mom sews my address inside everything. Take it, it’s no big deal.”

LEVI GOES OUT OF HIS WAY TO MAKE SURE GEORGIE GETS SAFELY TO HER DESTINATION (on top of the snowy hill).

And Cath caught up with Levi’s good habits along the way because when they notice Georgie’s shoes not having foolproof cover from the Omaha snow, this happens:

“Oh for Christ’s sake,” the girl said. “You can wear my boots.” She reached for the floor. Georgie noticed she was wearing a small engagement ring. “You can have them. I don’t even like them.”
“Absolutely not,” Georgie said. “What if you get stuck in the snow?”
“I’ll be fine,” she said. “He’d carry me across the city before he let me get my feet wet.”

Levi would do it in a heartbeat!! Cue my tears.

I really thought that time would pass and one day I would be ready to move on. But these characters are my home, and I’m never going to stop missing them.

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Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 09.46.55I’ll close off by sharing this beautiful alternate cover for Landline, which has the best details from the book; the Polaroid!!

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