Monday, January 09, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars

This is a SPOILER FREE review of the Fault in Our Stars by John Green except for the last paragraph (I have a warning before the spoiler)!

There are two things you should know about me at the outset:
1. I am not a very patient person
2. I do not like stories whose sole purpose seems to be to Make You Cry. For example- most stories involving animals & anything by Nicholas Sparks (full disclosure- I have never actually read a Nicholas Sparks book, but have several friends who have & who have cried every time and I have seen the Notebook. I bawled for ten minutes after that movie ended)

The first one is important because I was one of the Lucky (?) ones who got an early copy of John Green's new novel The Fault in Our Stars. When it came in I vowed to wait as long as I could to read it. I did, however, open it to see if my copy had been doodled in by John's brother or wife (I got a Hanklerfish!). My every intention was to wait until Jan 10, the official release date. I almost made it. I started Sunday & ended up staying up waaay past my bedtime to finish it.

On the second point- I know there are people who love those kinds of stories. I am not one of those people. I feel like a lot of those books are overly melodramatic just to get the tears flowing.


Sure, the characters have cancer and sure, there were a few tears, but it is handled with well and not in a stab-you-in-the-heart-and-twist kind of way.

The Fault in Our Stars is a story about Hazel. She has cancer and, as the book flap says, Hazel has been nothing but terminal. She meets a cute boy named Augustus at her Cancer Support Group & her outlook on life begins to change.

John Green has been one of my favorite authors since I read Looking for Alaska and discovered the VlogBrothers videos. Paper Towns ranks in my top ten favorite books of all time. Hazel & Augustus, like many of his characters, are people who I would have loved to have been friends with in high school (as a matter of fact, other than the cancer, I know people a lot like them). The quick wit, the humor, the heartbreak, are all great elements in this story. I laughed out loud quite a few times & teared up a few times as well. The way he handles these characters and the way they deal with their cancer, their families, and their friends is done with grace while allowing the them to be irreverent about their diagnoses. This irreverence was authentic to the characters.

When I finished the book I re read the last paragraph about five times because that is exactly how the story needed to have ended. This is one of the most beautiful stories I have read.


I have to admit, when Hazel & Augustus talked about their favorite book -An Imperial Affliction & how it ended there was a small part of me that was afraid he might take that same route with this book.
Also I really loved the scene where Hazel & Isaac read their eulogies to Augustus. It was such a touching scene. My favorite part though is Augustus' letter about Hazel. So beautiful, so perfect.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

After Obsession

After Obsession by Carrie Ryan & Steven E Wedel is a creepy supernatural story told from two perspectives. Aimee is a teenager who has the same psychic abilities of her late mother. Alan is part Navajo who is in tune with his mystic side. Alan moves to town with his mom to help out his cousin Courtney who happens to be Aimee's best friend. While they are drawn to each other, they also know they must work together to fight the River Man- an evil spirit who is responsible for deaths over the years & is taking over the town again.

I loved this book. The chapters switched between Aimee & Alan. Sometimes this can be distracting, but in this story it transitioned well. I cared what happened to these characters & would love to read more about them (maybe more mystical evil-spirit fighting!)

5 Stars!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

2011-what I did & what I read

Every year I like to post a wrap up of my year- mostly so I can keep a record for myself.
2011 was a pretty good year overall I will have to say.

Theatre played a huge part in my year.
I was honored to play a role in two productions this year. The first was Bethel's production of All My Sons. That was possibly the best show I have been a part of. The cast, direction, set were all spot on. It was an intense story & I got to play a bitchy neighbor. :)

Probably the one of the biggest things for me this year was singing onstage in front of people I know. I have always loved acting in plays & one of my goals for a long time has been to be in a musical & be confident enough to do it with people I know in the audience. During the summer I was in a musical version of the Jungle Book. The show started with me onstage by myself.....singing in another language. I was so nervous, but I did it! I am so appreciative of the rest of the cast for being so supportive & encouraging, especially right before curtain that first night when I was about to have a heart attack.
One of my most memorable moments was the last night of dress rehearsal when I missed a cue & didn't come out during my song with Rene (the mother wolf). Thank goodness that was just dress rehearsal.

I also learned to knit this year. My friend Jessica showed me how to cast on (which I can never remember so I have to look up videos on it) & the knit stitch. I learned how to do other things by watching videos. My current project is a mini Ravenclaw house banner that I am double knitting (where the image shows on both sides, in contrasting colors). Knitting is something that I have been wanting to learn to do since I learned to crochet many years ago.

This year I was introduced to the roller derby. I love the Nashville Roller Girls & look forward to watching more games this coming season.

I saw only one show-Wicked- this year. I need to see more.

I made some new friends (mostly thanks to the theatre) who have become some of my favorite people on the planet.

I MET JOHN GREEN! One of the best things about the NCTE conference is being able to hob-nob with some of my favorite authors. John Green happens to be very close to the top of that list & I was excited to hear him speak & get my picture with him for my author wall at school.
Also at NCTE this year I rode in a limo to get real Chicago pizza. This was quite an exciting adventure for me & the other 11 teachers that crammed ourselves in that car.

I read 41 books this year, far less than my goal. I abandoned many books. I may pick some of them back up & give them another go, or I may not. We'll see. My to-read pile is quite huge at the moment.
Now, on to what I read in 2011. I have been in a reading funk the last year or so. I WANT to read, I just think I may be overwhelmed at all the good books to read I just don't know where to start ;)

Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness
Awakened ~ PC Cast & Kristin Cast
Old Habits: A Wicked Lovely Story ~ Melssa Marr
Zombiecorn~ John Green
Red Glove (Curse Workers #2)~ Holly Black
Bird in a Box ~ Andrea Davis Pinkney
Dead is Just a Rumor ~ Marlene Perez
Dead is Not an Option ~ Marlene Perez
Dead Tossed Waves~ Carrie Ryan
All My Sons~ Arthur Miller
The Dark & Hollow Places~ Carrie Ryan
Because of Winn-Dixie
The Last Little Blue Envelope ~ Maureen Johnson
Eighth Grade Bites ~ Heather Brewer
Hare Moon ~ Carrie Ryan
Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone ~ JK Rowling
Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets ~ JK Rowling
Wings ~ Aprilynne Pike
Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban ~ JK Rowling
Clockwork Angel ~ Cassandra Clare
Boy Meets Boy ~ David Levithan
Unwind ~ Neil Schusterman
Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire ~ JK Rowling
Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix ~JK Rowling
Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince ~ JK Rowling
Forest of Hands & Teeth ~ Carrie Ryan
Evermore~ Alyson Noel
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk ~ David Sedaris
Forever ~ Maggie Stiefvater
Beauty Queens~ Libba Bray

Great & Terrible Beauty ~ Libba Bray
Daughter of Smoke & Bone~ Laini Taylor
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Goth Girl (audiobook) ~ Barry Lyga
Dumpling Days~ Grace Lin
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows~ JK Rowling
The Name of the Star~ Maureen Johnson
Wake~ Lisa McMann
Black Heart ~ Holly Black
Every You, Every Me ~ David Levithan
Future of Us ~ Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler
Chime ~ Franny Billingsley