Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

“My life story is the story of everyone I’ve ever met.”

Wow. W O W.

I had an inkling when I first tried to read this book that it would trigger some unresolved trauma within me, which is why I set it aside back when it still felt a bit too much. But coming into this now, I can say I’m glad for the wait. I needed it.

Funny enough, I decided to pick up Foer’s book after seeing it in a dream recently where I was roaming the library shelves for the right read. My dream featured Foer’s Here I Am, but in real life, my local library currently only holds his Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. It felt like the right time to dive in.

Firstly, I have to highlight my keen appreciation for Foer’s characters. He breathes life into his creations. I’m a sucker for his dialogue and curious character traits. I still think about a particular line I read in Here I Am that gave voice to the process of growing up – it all happens in one day when you don’t pick up the little one and then you realize they’re not so little anymore.

I have trust in his writing. The quote I opened this review with has been with me since at least 2014. His words have staying power.

Usually, I’d cover my thoughts and feelings throughout my reading. Usually. This book is different in that the last 30 pages had me releasing tears that have felt stuck for the last ten years. Like, I could wash my face with all the tears that kept on coming. I feel compelled to focus on that experience. I’ve never had a book release me so. Is this the peace of mind everyone keeps mentioning? I guess that’s why I kept avoiding this book like the plague.

I’ll admit at first I had a bit of a tough time with this book because I felt so invested in Oskar, and I just couldn’t bring myself to care about this other bizarre storyline happening with his grandparents or the hunt. The author excels at interactions – so please, don’t bore me with subplots of characters we won’t see again.

The book built itself up just for the ending. And so it felt heavy because we spent so much time circling around the real issue for it to then be uncovered so completely felt a bit jolting, at least for me. I mean, that would explain my extreme reaction.

“My search was a play that Mom had written, and she knew the ending when I was at the beginning.”

Oskar’s mental state was all I cared about. The last 40 pages granted me peace of mind after seeing someone you care for finally receiving the attention they deserve. Protect him at all costs, I kept yelling whenever I’d read how no one monitors the terrible things he looks up online (“which I know about but really, really wish I didn’t”). But I have an affinity for his inventions and curiosity, though I feel bad that they keep him from falling asleep. I love the thought that he’d be thrilled to know that some of his inventions finally exist, like the cuddle bed. What a gem of a boy!

What keeps echoing in me are the phone calls (and when the tears really hit):

“Are you there? Are you there? Are you there?”

Tears.

For a book that started off barely keeping my attention throughout it, those last pages really picked up the game. If I were to draw a graph of my reading experience, the spike shows with the chapter, “A Simple Solution To An Impossible Problem.”

It took me a full day to come back to write about it.

Oh, and coming into this book after having watched The King of Staten Island, I can’t help but go back to this scene in the movie that mirrors the thought-process of children who went through trauma: When they drop Harold off at school, Scott tells him to kiss his sister goodbye. “Now, if she dies tomorrow, you’ll remember that.” The end is always in sight.

There’s also this line in the book “the end of missing someone” that pains me because it hit me now as I’m writing that Oskar won’t experience that feeling again… heavy boots. That’s why he’s so eager to hear new memories people have of his dad. Oh. I’m telling you, this read isn’t light.

But the fact that I can write so many lines simply over that ending shows just how its all-encompassing nature. I’ll have to prepare for Here I Am next.

September 2018: All the Books I (Re-)Read this Month & Am I Joining BookTube?

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The month of Tishri (or, September) was full of Jewish holidays, from Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot to the Fast of Gedaliah and Yom Kippur, granting me all the rest days to just sit down and devour these books in single sittings. Surprisingly enough, I delved mostly into rereads this month, save for three, given that those are all my physical copies of books. In total, I read and reviewed seven books:

Movies that made my month:

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This was pretty much the month of being in Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before universe. From watching the Netflix film adaption and reviewing it in detail here, to rereading the trilogy after craving more and more of the same cute, contemporary vibe.

My Patreon:

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After much deliberation, and upon watching Ariel Bissett’s vulnerable video on the topic, I decided to create a Patreon with the goal in mind to start creating BookTube videos in the near future. I’ve had the thought circling in my head for the past year, and I’m hyped that the idea is starting to formulate itself into a more concrete shape. I’ve already started noting down any exciting book-related topics to feature that I personally haven’t seen discussed before (aka the Jewish side of BookTube).

Before all that can happen, however, I need help in making this a stable reality. If you would like to participate in this creation, join me on this exciting new road and make a pledge through my Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/bookspoils

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That was my reading wrap-up for September, thank you for reading! Let me know your thoughts down below in the comments. How was your reading month?

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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.

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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.

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  • 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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