Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (5 stars)

thefault

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Genre: YA Contemporary

Publisher: Dutton Books

Pages: 316

Published: January 10th, 2012

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads  |  Barnes & Noble

Author Links:  Goodreads  |  Website  |  Twitter

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Let me begin by saying that I originally had no intention of reading this book.  But then I had multiple people tell me that it was quite possibly the best book they’ve read all year…or ever.  Okay.  So, when I finally decided to pick up the book (which took several trips to the bookstore, since it always seemed to be out of stock), I was prepared to be disappointed.

I wasn’t.

THE FAULTS OF OUR STARS wasn’t the best book ever, but it deserved the massive hype.

It’s refreshing to read a book where the teenagers aren’t dumbed down into hormonal, whiny, selfish, depressed characters.  In most YA books, the focus is either on survival or romance.  In THE FAULTS OF OUR STARS, the characters already know they’re going to lose the battle against cancer, so all they have to do is wait.

I liked the philosophical debates between Hazel and Augustus.  Considering that they don’t have any of the normal teenage activities to keep them busy like schoolwork, prom, or sports, it makes sense that they’d spend more time pondering the reason for their existence.  My older brother was like that in high school.  He had no interest in “normal” teenage activities and spent most of his time doing calculus for fun and debating scientific theories.  What I’m saying is that there are teenagers out there that do talk like they do in THE FAULTS IN OUR STARS, so I, personally, had no problem with the philosophy or SAT vocabulary.

The author has a unique writing style that implies a lot and ventures into territory that most authors wouldn’t dare.  His characters are politically uncorrect and make jokes that are only funny in inner circles.  If you were to read sections of this book aloud, out of context. people will think you’re a heartless bastard.  How dare you make jokes about a one-legged man or a blind cancer kid!?

The romance between Hazel and Augustus is atypical, yet touching to witness.  They know that when one or both goes that there’s only a handful of people that will remember them.  They don’t have the time or energy to change the world, but I think that the author managed to make these characters immortal in his writing.  People will remember THE FAULTS IN OUR STARS long after the war with cancer is lost.

BTW, I didn’t cry.  I did laugh through parts and the ending made me sad, but it takes a lot to make me cry.

rating A

(I purchased this book from my local bookstore.)

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Book Review: Just Like Fate by Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young (5 stars)

just like fate

Just Like Fate

by Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young

Genre: YA Contemporary

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Pages: 304

Published: August 27th, 2013

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads  |  Barnes & Noble

Author Links:

Cat Patrick:  Goodreads  |  Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook 

Suzanne Young:  Goodreads  |  Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Myspace

Caroline is at a crossroads. Her grandmother is sick, maybe dying. Like the rest of her family, Caroline’s been at Gram’s bedside since her stroke. With the pressure building, all Caroline wants to do is escape–both her family and the reality of Gram’s failing health. So when Caroline’s best friend offers to take her to a party one fateful Friday night, she must choose: stay by Gram’s side, or go to the party and live her life.

The consequence of this one decision will split Caroline’s fate into two separate paths–and she’s about to live them both.

Friendships are tested and family drama hits an all-new high as Caroline attempts to rebuild old relationships, and even make a few new ones. If she stays, her longtime crush, Joel, might finally notice her, but if she goes, Chris, the charming college boy, might prove to be everything she’s ever wanted.

Though there are two distinct ways for her fate to unfold, there is only one happy ending..

There was one thing that kept me from reviewing JUST LIKE FATE immediately after reading it:  I was challenged by one of the authors of the book at a signing to figure out what which half of the book she wrote.  This is the fourth book I’ve read by Suzanne Young, so it should be pretty easy, right?  Nope.  The writing styles are very similar and the characters have identical personalities and reactions in each “version” of the story.  I’ve erased my guess a half dozen times in this review so far…so…I DON’T KNOW!  Tell me, please?  (I promise to keep it a secret.)

After the introduction, the chapters alternate between Caroline’s decision to GO or STAY.  It’s quite a feat to have both stories in alternate realities be equally compelling, but it didn’t matter which version was ending at the chapter’s end…I was like “NO, DON’T SWITCH IT NOW!  NOOOOOO!”  And then I was rushing to get through the next chapter and back to the events in the previous chapter, only to get sucked into the events in the next chapter and then be pissed when the realities switched again.  Couldn’t read the book fast enough.

It’s never clear which choice Caroline makes is the right one until the ending.  She makes good and bad decisions in both versions, and the consequences make you with that you could piece together the good of both and have Caroline live a truly happy life.  I really connected to Caroline in this book and I think that’s what made the consequences for her decisions so heart-wrenching to me.

I guessed correctly how the two stories would end about halfway through the book, although that might have something to do with Morgan Freeman from THROUGH THE WORMHOLE coincidentally talking about alternate realities while I was reading this book.

The ending with the STAY version felt more rushed than the GO and I don’t quite buy how nonchalant the relationship was after that major climatic scene.  It irked me how neatly everything was resolved.

Oh, and Chris is awesome, even if Caroline brother hates him.  I wish I had a boyfriend like him.  (Don’t tell my husband!)

rating A minus rating

(I received a copy of this book from one of the authors, Suzanne Young)

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This is YOUR Song – book playlist #4

Welcome to This is YOUR song

a brand new book meme hosted by Lizzy’s Dark Fiction.

book playlist meme this is your song

Meme name is inspired by the Elton John song.  Here, I’ll pick 5 books from different genres or age groups and match them with the song that I think describes the book the best.  

1) Representing mystery, we have My Dead Friend Sarah by Peter Rosch.

Mere months into recovery, Max, an alcoholic with twisted control issues, meets Sarah – the same woman that for years he’s habitually dreamt will die after a botched abduction. “Doing the next right thing,” a popular AA phrase he’s picked up in the rooms, means befriending Sarah long enough to warn her and hope she takes him seriously. But when Sarah falls in love with Max, his newly sober thinking drives him to choose his overly devoted wife, and he abandons Sarah – even when it condemns her to death. When Sarah goes missing, the NYPD suspects Max’s dream may have been a pre-crime confession. The truth, all of it, lurks inside of Max, but only by drinking again does he recapture the nerve and clarity vital to free his wife, sponsor, and himself from a life imprisoned by lies.

Song Match:  Burden in my Hand by Soundgarden

Lyrics:  Close your eyes and bow your head, I need a little sympathy / ’Cause fear is strong and love’s for everyone who isn’t me  / Kill your health and kill yourself and kill everything you love  / And if you live you can fall to pieces and suffer with my ghost

Reason:  Max is an alcoholic who wants sympathy for his situation, but he’s the prime suspect in the death of his friend’s death.  Plus, he’s not so sure that he wasn’t the one to kill her.

 

wicked2) Representing fantasy re-tellings, we have Wicked by Gregory Maguire.

In Baum’s land of Oz, animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. Green-skinned Elphaba, future Wicked Witch of the West, is smart, prickly and misunderstood; she challenges our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.

Song Match:  What It’s Like by Everlast

Lyrics:  God forbid you ever had to wake up to hear the news / ’Cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to lose / Then you really might know what it’s like / To have to lose…

Reason:  The Wicked Witch shares her side of the story.  Walk a mile in her shoes and then “you might know what it’s like”.

 

faultinourstars3)  Representing YA, we have The Faults in Our Stars by John Green.

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Song Match:  All the Right Moves by One Republic

Lyrics:  It can’t be possible that rain can fall  / Only when it’s over our heads  / The sun is shining everyday, but it’s far away / Over the world it’s said, they’ve got, they’ve got

Reason:  Hazel is a teenager with terminal cancer.  She will never be able to do the things most teenagers take for granted.  She knows she will probably never grow up.  The life she has to live is shitty, but it’s the only life she has.  It’s true that misery attracts company and she starts to appreciate what she does have when she meets Augustus, who also has cancer.

 

queenofthedamned

4) Representing horror, we have Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice.

In 1976, a uniquely seductive world of vampires was unveiled in the now-classic Interview with the Vampire . . . in 1985, a wild and voluptous voice spoke to us, telling the story of The Vampire Lestat.  In The Queen of the Damned, Anne Rice continues her extraordinary “Vampire Chronicles” in a feat of mesmeric storytelling, a chillingly hypnotic entertainment in which the oldest and most powerful forces of the night are unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

These narrative threads wind sinuously across a vast, richly detailed tapestry of the violent, sensual world of vampirism, taking us back 6,000 years to its beginnings.  As the stories of the “first brood” of blood drinkers are revealed, we are swept across the ages, from Egypt to South America to the Himalayas to all the shrouded corners of the globe where vampires have left their mark. Vampires are created–mortals succumbing to the sensation of “being enptied, of being devoured, of being nothing.” Vampires are destroyed.  Dark rituals are performed–the rituals of ancient creatures prowling the modern world.  And, finally, we are brought to a moment in the twentieth century when, in an astonishing climax, the fate of the living dead–and perhaps of the living, all the living–will be decided.

Song Match: Bring Me to Life by Evanescence

Lyrics:  All this time I can’t believe I couldn’t see / Kept in the dark but you were there in front of me / I’ve been sleeping a thousand years it seems / Got to open my eyes to everything

Reason:  Lestat goes against the advice of every other vampire.  He goes public as a vampire rock star and his music awakens the lair of the queen of vampires.  He’s brought her back to life and spawned a romance that’s everything he’s every dreamed of – however, the price of keeping her is high.  His queen is determined to destroy every vampire except Lestat.

 

5) Representing dark fiction, we have The Color of Snow by Brenda Stanley.

Can a troubled young girl reenter society after living in isolation?

When a beautiful 16-year-old girl named Sophie is found sequestered in a cage-like room in a rundown house in the desolate hills of Arbon Valley, Idaho, the entire community is shocked to learn she is the legendary Callidora–a baby girl who was kidnapped from her crib almost seventeen years ago and canonized in missing posters with portraits of what the fabled girl might resemble. Authorities soon learn that the cage was there to protect people from Sophie, because her biological father believes she is cursed.

Sophie is discovered after the man she knows as Papa, shoots and injures Damien, a young man who is trying to rescue her. Now, unsocialized and thrust into the world, and into a family she has never met, Sophie must decide whether she should accept her Papa’s claims that she is cursed and he was only trying to protect others, or trust the new people in her life who have their own agendas. Guided by a wise cousin, Sophie realizes that her most heartbreaking challenge is to decide if her love for Damien will destroy him like her Papa claims, or free her from past demons that haunt her mind.

Song Match:  Because of You by Kelly Clarkson

Lyrics:  Because of you / I find it hard to trust / Not only me, but everyone around me / Because of you, I am afraid / I lose my way / And it’s not too long before you point it out / I cannot cry / Because I know that’s weakness in your eyes

Reason:  Sophie has lived in isolation for most of her life.  Her papa has taught her that outsiders cannot be trusted.  When Damien comes to “rescue” her, she finds herself conflicted between believing what her Papa taught her and believing what the rest of the world says.

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Book Review: If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

I apologize for the slight vacation in posts.  My husband took a weekend vacation and took my computer desk with him (it’s one of those white Wal-Mart folding tables), so I didn’t get everything reassembled until last night.

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If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

Genre:  YA Dark Fiction, Contemporary

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin

Links:  Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Releases March 26th, 2013

THERE ARE SOME THINGS YOU CAN’T LEAVE BEHIND … A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen-year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and the girls are found by their father, a stranger, and taken to re-enter the “normal” life of school, clothes and boys. Now, Carey must come to terms with the truth of why their mother spirited them away ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go … a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

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I don’t usually review books this far in advance, however If You Find Me is pre-order worthy.  As a child, Carey believed every word her mama told her.  Carey raised her little sister without electricity, water and sometimes food; because her mama told her that there was a bad man out there looking for them.  When this bad man arrives with child protection services years later, Carey knows that her mother will come and save them again.  Then, she reads the note her mother says relinquishing her custody of both girls and Carey starts to doubt the stories her mother told her.

This debut novel is written from the POV of a missing child that didn’t know she was missing.  The brilliance of the novel is the contrast between Carey’s version of truth and her father’s version of the truth; the former we learn initially and the latter we learn over the course of the novel.  The truth behind why Carey ended up in the woods with her mother isn’t revealed until the very end.

This would of been an okay story if it transcribed Carey’s reintroduction with her father, but it’s a compelling story when Carey’s mute younger sister, Janessa, is stitched into the drama.  Janessa’s father was someone their mother screwed for a hit of meth and neither girl has seen that man since.  Janessa’s unwillingness to talk spawns from something that Carey did a year ago and as the horrors of both girls’ past unravels I really wondered what Carey could possibly do to top everything else they had experienced.  It was a relief when her secret was finally revealed and it wasn’t a disappointment.

I have a little sister myself, so the relationship between Carey and Janessa reminded me of my sibling bond.  It’s refreshing to have siblings in a YA story that are so genuine, you wonder if they’re fiction.  I was a less impressed by how pigeonholed Delaney was as a mean stepsister.  Compared to the other characters, Delaney was very underdeveloped and her motives questionable.

I was also slightly discouraged by the opening chapter, as it was written with a “backwoods” accent.  The accent disappears from the narrative after the first couple chapters, so don’t let the opening dissuade you.  Once the hickish accent faded from the pages, there is nothing that could stop me from finishing.  This is a book that I will recommend to friends and I think they will both love and hate me for making them read a book so poignant and real.  If You Find Me is a reminder that when a child goes missing, their story doesn’t end with being found.

rating A minus rating

(I received a copy from the publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  I have also pre-ordered a personal hardcover copy as a result of this review.)

about author authorifyoufind(Information and picture borrowed from Goodreads.)

Emily is a writer, a poet, and a lover of books. There’s never a time she’s without a book. Her debut novel, If You Find Me, will be available from St. Martin’s on March 26, 2013 and from Orion/Indigo UK on May 2, 2013. When she’s not reading or writing, you’ll find her caring for her horses, dogs and family on a ranch in rural Arizona, where the desert’s tranquil beauty and rich wildlife often enter into her poetry and writing. Emily’s other passion is saving equines from slaughter. She uses her writing to raise awareness of this inhumane practice, with the goal of ending the slaughter of America’s equines through transport to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico. She offers sanctuary to abused and slaughter-bound equines who dazzle her every day with their forgiving nature and gratitude in exchange for security, consistency, food and love. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Emily hopes her penchant for writing will do just that. All-in-all, she’s a lefty in a right-handed world, writing her way through life and smearing ink wherever she writes.

Website  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

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This Your Song #2 – Book Playlist Meme

Welcome to This is YOUR song

a brand new book meme hosted by Lizzy’s Dark Fiction.

Meme name is inspired by the Elton John song.  Here, I find that perfect song to fit some of the most popular books. I’ll pick 5 books from different genres or age groups and match them with the song that I think describes the book the best.  

slammed1)  Representing contemporary books, Slammed by Colleen Hoover.

Following the unexpected death of her father, 18-year-old Layken is forced to be the rock for both her mother and younger brother. Outwardly, she appears resilient and tenacious, but inwardly, she’s losing hope.
Enter Will Cooper: The attractive, 21-year-old new neighbor with an intriguing passion for slam poetry and a unique sense of humor. Within days of their introduction, Will and Layken form an intense emotional connection, leaving Layken with a renewed sense of hope.
Not long after an intense, heart-stopping first date, they are slammed to the core when a shocking revelation forces their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together, and the secret that keeps them apart.

Song Match:  Head Over Feet by Alanis Morissette

Lyrics:  Don’t be surprised if I love you for all that you are  /  I couldn’t help it  / It’s all your fault

Reason: Poetry in music. Layken thinks that Will set her up for loving him. This song would fit in perfectly at one of their slammed sessions.

50 shades2)  Representing erotic books, 50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James.

When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.

This book is intended for mature audiences.

Song Match:  S & M by Rihanna

Lyrics:  Sex in the air / I don’t care  / I love the smell of it  /  Sticks and stones may break my bones  /  But chains and whips excite me

Reason:  Not like it has a plot or great characters.  It’s all about the latex and bondage.

alicezombieland3)  Representing paranormal romance books, Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter.

She won’t rest until she’s sent every walking corpse back to its grave. Forever.

Had anyone told Alice Bell that her entire life would change course between one heartbeat and the next, she would have laughed. From blissful to tragic, innocent to ruined? Please. But that’s all it took. One heartbeat. A blink, a breath, a second, and everything she knew and loved was gone.

Her father was right. The monsters are real….

To avenge her family, Ali must learn to fight the undead. To survive, she must learn to trust the baddest of the bad boys, Cole Holland. But Cole has secrets of his own, and if Ali isn’t careful, those secrets might just prove to be more dangerous than the zombies….

I wish I could go back and do a thousand things differently.
I’d tell my sister no.
I’d never beg my mother to talk to my dad.
I’d zip my lips and swallow those hateful words.
Or, barring all of that, I’d hug my sister, my mom and my dad one last time.
I’d tell them I love them.
I wish… Yeah, I wish

Song Match:  Alice (Underground) by Avril Lavigne

Lyrics:  I found myself in Wonderland / get back on my feet again / Is this real?  Is this pretend?  / I’ll take a stand until the end

Reason:  This song matches what the actual book is about (not what the title and blurb allude towards).  This song is about a girl overcoming an event that turned her life upside down.  The literal Alice connection is just an added bonus.  That part connects with the “are zombies real” or “are zombies in my head” part of the book.

4)  Represrevealingedenenting controversial books, I have Revealing Eden by Victoria Foyt (Can you BELIEVE there’s a sequel!)

Eden Newman must mate before her 18th birthday in six months or she’ll be left outside to die in a burning world. But who will pick up her mate-option when she’s cursed with white skin and a tragically low mate-rate of 15%? In a post-apocalyptic, totalitarian, underground world where class and beauty are defined by resistance to an overheated environment, Eden’s coloring brands her as a member of the lowest class, a weak and ugly Pearl. If only she can mate with a dark-skinned Coal from the ruling class, she’ll be safe. Just maybe one Coal sees the Real Eden and will be her salvation her co-worker Jamal has begun secretly dating her. But when Eden unwittingly compromises her father’s secret biological experiment, she finds herself in the eye of a storm and thrown into the last area of rainforest, a strange and dangerous land. Eden must fight to save her father, who may be humanity’s last hope, while standing up to a powerful beast-man she believes is her enemy, despite her overwhelming attraction. Eden must change to survive but only if she can redefine her ideas of beauty and of love, along with a little help from her “adopted aunt” Emily Dickinson.

Song Match:  Chocolate Rain by Tay Zonday

Lyric:  Chocolate Rain / Say it publicly, and you’re insane / Chocolate Rain / No one wants to hear about it now / Chocolate Rain / Wish real hard it goes away somehow

Reason:  The song is about how society insists that racism no longer exists in the US, despite the in-proportionate amount of minorities in prison.  The book is racist, despite the author insisting it is about finding the beauty within one’s self.

cinder5) Representing Science Fiction, I have Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Song Match:  Reflection by Christina Aguilera

Lyrics:  Must I pretend that I’m someone else for all time? / When will my reflection show  / Who I am inside?

Reason:  Cinder hides the fact that she’s a cyborg to the prince.  She’s afraid that if she reveals her true nature that he won’t like her anymore.

 What do you think about my choices?  Would you have matched different songs to these books?

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