I was recently mopping my floors and staring at my bookshelf (because what else would you do while cleaning) and realized that I haven’t actually reviewed all the books on my favorites shelf. I’m not talking my mental “favorites” shelf, which is about a gagillion books long, but the physical shelf where I put my favorite books. Being a book blogger and moreover a book lover, I have my own unique system for organizing my books (mostly so I can find my way to whichever book I want in the vast ocean of literary works I own). It involves a single shelf dedicated to my favorite books in order of preference and merit (but also organized by author because I can’t not organize my books by author), excluding dystopian series because then it wouldn’t fit on a single bookshelf. Anyway, I decided that this would never do and that I’d better review these books quick. Also, I saw a chance to make a graphic. I like that (though I’m not very good at it).
Here is a picture of said bookshelf, but look, it’s mysteriously blurred out (insert chance to make a graphic here).
Can you guess which book I’m reviewing today? The one in focus, perhaps?
I’m going to forgo my usual header because there’s no use to giving these books a rating. This review is for The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I don’t EVER talk about this book in public and try to avoid the subject because I love this book so much (as does most of the reading world). It ended up on Tally’s Three Books I Cannot Review list (coming up later this week) and I, similarly, have avoided reviewing it for various mental health reasons. Maybe this is bad for our readers because we don’t review those books we love the most (a lot of the books you’ll read about being on my favorites shelf I haven’t previously reviewed for this reason), so I’m going to attempt to review them here, but give me some slack on these reviews because these will be the hardest books for me to talk about publicly. Maybe I’ll devote a later post (I haven’t written the Tuesday post for next week yet so maybe you’ll see it then) to why we (I) refuse to talk about some books, but for now we’ll focus on this book in particular.
My favorite John Green book is Paper Towns, but The Fault in Our Stars is the first book on my favorites shelf because it hit me so hard in the emotional stomach that I just felt it deserved that first place spot. Because it got that first place spot, the next four books on my shelf are also by John Green because as previously mentioned I can’t bear to break up an author in my organization system (you should see my Scott Westerfeld section). First, a (hopefully spoiler free) summary:
Hazel Grace Lancaster has lived on borrowed time for a great part of her life, thanks to miracle cancer-slowing drug Phalanxifor. There is no knowledge as to when this time will run out, but Hazel has accepted that and would be pretty okay with staying home and watching America’s Next Top Model for the rest of her undetermined lifetime. In spite of Hazel’s wishes, her mom insists that she attend Cancer Kid Support Group, which Hazel thinks is kind of ridiculous.
Then Hazel meets the least ridiculous thing about support group: Augustus Waters. Extreme fan of metaphor and drama, Augustus attempts to sweep the usually unsweepable Hazel off her feet, and in the process gets swept off of his one foot at least several times. The result is everyone lying on the floor, in every array of emotion possible.
When I say everyone lying on the floor I mean that metaphorically but also quite literally in that I was lying in a sort of puddle-heap hybrid by the end of this book. It (metaphorically) killed me emotionally, though a tiny bit of that might’ve been because I read TFiOS in one sitting starting at like eight o’ clock the night I bought it so I was sitting there having my feelings ripped out at approximately five a.m., but it was also a really emotionally difficult (but great!) book. Everyone (meaning one person) I’ve ever talked to about it also says they suffered a mental breakdown while and after reading the last chapters, and that is in agreement with every online discussion of the book I’ve ever read.
I don’t want to say too much more about TFiOS because I don’t want to risk ANY spoilers, but just know that it really is really truly really worth a read. It didn’t make it to the tippy top of the NY Times bestseller list for no reason.
The author, John Green, does other things besides write books, including running a vlog with his brother, Hank, and generally building and sustaining an awesome online community that has been helping to decrease worldsuck (aka do good things for the world) for years, as well as providing a ton of fuel for intelligent discussion (we like that here at Bookmarks) and the increasing of knowledge. You should go check him out.
Can you guess which book I’m reviewing next? (Here’s a hint: it’s the one not blurred out all the way.)
Happy Tuesday and hope you’re warm,
As we come back from our break it seems like everyone’s unveiling new features (have you heard about Line Catchers?), and I’m not one to argue. With this, I bring you Flashback! It’s basically exactly what you’d expect from the name: I head back to the middle readers and review a book I loved back when I read absome lighter topics (because nobody wants to hear me review The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest again (although there’s a fascinating biography of Stieg Larsson written by his lifepartner Eva Gabrielsson that I’d kind of like to reivew)). It could take off, it could sink dismally, but I think I’ll give it a try. My first flashback: Double Identity by Margaret Peterson Haddix.
Oh, and did I forget to mention the fun part? I’m not allowed to read any synopses, selections from the book, reviews, blurbs, etcetera for the first half of the review. The only thing I get to look at is the cover. Then I do my research (aka I read all or part of the book) and we see how bad my memory is.
I read Double Identity in fifth grade, and I really loved it. A lot. A few years ago I was at a bookstore and saw it used (I’ve mentioned previously that I have a habit of collecting books I liked when I was little *cough*theres’s a reason I have storage underneath my bed *cough*) and it’s been living in my house ever since. I reread it a while back, but it’s still been about three years since I last had a refresher.
[SPOILERS] but not necessarily correct spoilers:
As far as I can remember, main character Whoseit (no I don’t remember her name… Brittany? Elizabeth? Hailey?) has lived a life full of normalcy. Sure, her parents are weird and overprotective, but everyone’s are, and sure, they’re kinda stuck in the past, but that’s no reason to worry, right? Whoseit has a thing for peach flavored instant oatmeal (a surprisingly important part of the book), and really loves swimming.
One day nearing her twelfth (is it? Or sixteenth? I don’t know) birthday, Whoseit’s mom loses her mind. Her dad whisks away his wife and daughter in a car where he got the electric window controls switched out for the roller kind (also important), and leaves Whoseit in the hands of an aunt and adultish cousin (Jordan?) who are pretty weird. They treat Whoseit like someone very fragile and spend a lot of time looking like they’ve seen a ghost. As Whoseit settles in at her new home (by the way, where are her parents? She tries not to think about that), she realizes that it’s not just her eccentric family members. The whole town turns pale and wobbly when Whoseit enters the scene (she’s basically the antiKesha, the party always stops when she walks in), but nobody explains anything to her. As she realizes more and more that there’s something big she hasn’t been let in on, papa Whoseit sends a perplexing package full of cash and identification papers (I think).
(About here is where things go fuzzy for me, so hold on to your hats) It soon comes out that Whoseit is her parent’s second draft at raising children. The first was killed in a car crash around her twelfth (we’re going with twelfth) birthday and, get this, Whoseit is that girl’s clone. As hard as the parents tried to replicate exactly Whoseit 1.0’s childhood and upbringing, they kept getting overprotective of their daughter (they knew what was going to happen next, and sometimes they didn’t want that thing to happen), and ended up with, in Whoseit 2.0’s opinion, an inferior second choice.
After that discovery things sort of blew up and there was an evil scientist running around trying to catch Whoseit and figure out how to clone people but everything worked out well and Whoseit made it past the date of Whoseit 1.0’s death, which meant she was finally living her own life. The end. Good book.
Major apologies to anyone I might’ve offended with that one (really though, sorry). Let’s see how well I did.
First off, main character’s name is Bethany, not Whoseit. Secondly, it’s Bethany’s thirteenth birthday, not twelfth (though I was surprisingly close). Third, I was pretty close to getting Bethany 1.0’s name, Elizabeth, but I kind of thought both girls had the same name. But still. I was close. The evil scientist I remembered was actually someone who’d paid Bethany’s dad to clone him, then got caught embezzling from his science company and put in jail, so Bethany’s dad just cloned Elizabeth. The dude just wanted to know what happened to his clone. Cousin’s name: Joss, not Jordan. Indeed, Bethany’s father does send her an envelope full of cash and birth certificates, which kind of tips her off that there’s a little more to the story than she expected. All in all though, I did better than I had expected.
Quite honestly, rereading Double Identity was not what I’d hoped, but I guess that’s to be expected. I’ve grown a lot as a reader and a person (not to mention I’ve spent countless hours analyzing plotlines and symbols and all that literary stuff so I’m a little bit of a snob where I wasn’t when I was still in elementary school). It was kind of a blast from the past, which I find worthwhile. Also, Double Identity was a pretty solid middle reader. I’d give it 3/5 stars.
As many of you know I really like Jessica Therrien and her work. I’ve previously reviewed Oppression, the first book in her Children of the Gods series, and we did a great author interview in celebration of her new (though not so new at the time of this review because I’ve had this post on my computer for the past month and a half and just hadn’t uploaded it in all that time. Also it took me like a month to get to reading it after I got the book) book Uprising. I’ve finally finished the highly anticipated novel, and, as usual, I have some things to say. First, a no-spoilers summary:
Elyse and William are still in hiding, both as a couple and as a race. The Descendants, a group of partial gods living amongst the humans of the world, are still constantly working to conceal their secret while hoping to avoid the wrath of the Descendant big brother, the Council. Elyse and William are personal interests of the violent and powerful Christoph, member and leader of the Council and intent on the possession of their heretofore nonexistent child, the new oracle of the century. As lovers Elyse and William try desperately to prevent the conception of their child, are they as safe as their protector would have them believe?
I really liked this book for the first 72% (I know the numbers because Jessica Therrien and publishers generously reduced the price for a while and I bought it on my kindle), and then there was a plot twist I very much disagree with. I will not detail it here, but it wasn’t so much “oh no cruel fictional world” and more “wow that was a trope destined to make the rest of this novel worse and predictable.” And it did make things, in my opinion, worse, but there was still some unpredictability, which I am very much grateful about. Jessica Therrien pulled through with the writing and [SPOILER] having been recently pregnant with her first child, provided one of the most accurate pregnancies I’ve seen written in paranormal YA in a long time (Twilight, I’m looking at you) [END SPOILER].
All in all, a solid followup to a phenomenal first.
It’s been a while since I made a list, and after coming home today under a bit of a grey cloud to find myself craving not one of my go-to reads but a book I haven’t read in several years, I realized that a worthwhile list would be books to remove a bad mood. I’ve posted a sort of sister post to this where I talked about particular lines from several books I consider stress relievers. Today I’ll be expanding that list in a different way, listing off several books that I love not for their familiarity, but for their ability to dissolve a bad mood.
1. Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy From Mars by Daniel Pinkwater
2. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
3. What I Call Life by Jill Wolfson
4. Belle Prater’s Boy by Ruth White
5. Obama’s Blackberry by Kasper Hauser and James Reichmuth
Hoping you’re enjoying de-stressing with some reading time this Tuesday afternoon,
Sorry for my lack of internetting these past few (few? yikes) weeks, and I hope to manage a better posting schedule from here on out.
While I was away from the keys, a very big thing happened. Wordstock 2013. Though I didn’t get to spend much time there I did step out of a sixteen hour debate tournament to see a panel on YA fantasy/dystopian/sci-fi (this panel wasn’t titled, as you can probably guess) which included the magnificent Maggie Stiefvater and several other authors I found thoroughly enjoyable. Maggie the Magnificent signed the rest of my Wolves of Mercy Falls books, and was generally nice to me (as always). On day two I snuck away to see Kirby Larson talk about her new book, Duke, and then proceeded to break down in tears as she signed my well-loved copy of Hattie Big Sky (one of the best books on the planet).
I caught a peek of Jill Wolfson and spent the next hour beating myself up about not catching her talk, but overall I’m happy with who I saw. I could’ve spent all weekend there, but scheduling was not exactly conducive to that amount of free time.
I other Wordstock-related news, I finally finished one of the books I bought at Wordstock 2012, Every Day by David Levithan, so look for that review soon.
See you soon (hopefully),
Today we continue the playlist review of Shiver by Maggie Steifvater, heading into chapters six through ten. If you missed the original post, fear not. If you want to keep up only with the playlist reviews, they’re all organized on the Recurring Topic Archives.
Chapter 6: October – Stephan Moccio
Grace, post wolf time, finishes dinner and receives the news she will be getting a new car, which to her means freedom. She and the white wolf from before have a midnight standoff.
Let me say it for the thousandth time, I am a vibe over literal message, so for Shiver especially I pick a lot of instrumental/classical/not-lyrically-matching songs and ask that you just roll with it. This one sounds awesome and I feel like it conveys (if you’re reading along at home, you’ll know what I mean) the whole chapter pretty well and especially the part at the very end of the chapter where she’s in bed with her sweater.
Chapter 7: The Devil’s Tears – Angus & Julia Stone
Sam is still obsessed with Grace. End of chapter.
I picked this song mostly for the instrumental background, but the lyrics are also fairly pertinent. I especially love the instrumental intro. It sounds like Sam to me.
Chapter 8: Tear Us Apart – Ghost Beach
Grace spends some time with actual human beings, though she doesn’t like it much, and she feels like one of her two friends, Olivia, doesn’t like her much anymore. At the end of the chapter, she hears a scream, but we don’t know where it comes from.
In actuality, I a little bit picked this song because the title directly relates to the chapter, but it also sounds like the chapter, so I think it’s allowable.
Chapter 9: In Our Nature – José Gonzales
Grace follows the scream (she believes it’s the dead dude’s, Jack Culpeper) into the woods, where she sees the angry lady wolf, the pack leader, and a new wolf who has the same colored eyes as Jack’s. Grace comes to the conclusion that there are more things going on than she currently has a grasp on.
I feel like José Gonzales is a pretty werewolfey dude, and I know I’ve been telling you vibe over message but this message is pretty great. The sound is also a bit like the chapter, but maybe not the part of the chapter where things are the most dramatic.
Chapter 10 – Brain Stew – Green Day
Grace is still fighting with Olivia when Isabel Culpeper, Jack’s sister, comes in and talks about how her rich and influential family is having all the wolves killed that afternoon. This freaks Grace out, obviously, and she drives off in her quickly stalling car to where the hunting party has already left, leaving a powerless officer in their wake. After making up a story about a ‘friend’ who was in the woods to make the officer do all he could to stop the wolves, she takes off in the hopes of saving any wolves she can.
I try to avoid Green Day because all of their songs have been heard a hundred times, but this song was the best for this emotionally-fraught chapter and the gritty (okay not so gritty, but gritty for paranormal romance) hunting scene.
Hopefully your day has been less exciting than Grace’s,
I’ve talked before about Maggie Steifvater’s Shiver, the first book in her Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, which is one of the books on my favorites shelf I’d actually label ‘romance’.
The reason I like Shiver isn’t the smut scenes so much as the pretense of scientifically-explained lycanthropy. That’s right scientifically explained lycanthropy. It’s not real-world science but there is an actual pretense for why the characters suddenly pop into a different species, and it has nothing to do with magic or some “age old history” we never actually hear about. It’s very refreshing, and allowed me to focus on other things rather than getting caught up on details I found unbelievable.
I’m recapping from this review now, but another reason I really enjoyed the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy was something Maggie Steifvater said at Wordstock (2010? 2011? A few years ago): “My characters are wolves when they’re wolves and humans when they’re humans.” That really comes through when you read the books, in a way one might not have expected, but it really adds to the believability and the character development (again, not something you’d expect, but totally true).
Now that I’ve given you a few reasons to read the book, I give you chapters 1-5 in song form. (There are no chapter titles, so no hints there I’m afraid.)
Chapter 1: Eyes on Fire (Zed’s Dead remix) – Blue Foundation
The story begins with Grace, as a small child, being ripped apart by wolves. There’s one wolf that isn’t enjoying it, and the last thing she sees are his gorgeous yellow eyes. When she wakes up, she’s safe.
I picked this song for obvious reasons (the yellow eyes, the whole ‘flay you alive’ chorus, etc.) but also because I think it’s a solid remix of a decent song with paranormal links (the original was on the Twilight movie soundtrack, if you’re wondering) and I like to start a new playlist review on a good foot. There will possibly be more Blue Foundation songs on this playlist in the long run because they are a quality band.
Chapter 2: Electric Feel – MGMT
Next we hear from the wolf with the yellow eyes – Sam. He’s hungry, but the moment he sees the little girl in the snow he begins to change. And then he saves her.
I know this song is kinda overused, but it really fits with all that goes on in this chapter, and the tone matches as well. Also, now I’ve gotten the MGMT out of my system early on.
Chapter 3: Beyond This Moment – Patrick O’ Hearn
These first couple chapters are really short, so not much happened in this chapter, but pretty much Grace talks about how the wolf came to visit her every day in the winter and never in the fall – and how she always thought they were wolves, nothing more.
I really love this song in general, but it also sounds like I imagine six years of childhood passing by as you stood in a window watching the snow fall on your best friend that happened to be a wolf would sound.
Chapter 4: No One’s Gonna Love You – Band of Horses
Chapter four details the first time Sam sees Grace as a human. He’s working in a bookstore when she and her friends brows and all he wants is for her to notice him, but she’s too busy looking at all the books she wants to read.
I’m a believer in vibe over lyrics, and No One’s Gonna Love You is one of those songs that just sounds like the noise that plays in my head during scenes like this.
Chapter 5: How I Feel – Wax Tailor
A boy in Sam and Grace’s town, Jack, was killed by wolves, and now everyone’s afraid of them, except for Grace. In fact, her wolf gets closer to her than ever, which results in a little bit of pack dissonance, but an overall happy couple.
There’s just something about this song that matches the chapter really well, though I can’t quite pinpoint it. Like the chapter, it’s different from what we’ve heard in the pieces before it, and also a little unexpected.
That’s it for today’s review, but keep an eye out for chapters 6-10 sometime soon.