Christina’s Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green


Christina’s Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Published by Penguin on 2012-01-10
Genres: Death & Dying, Love & Romance, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: eBook
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Now a Major Motion PictureTODAY Book Club pickTIME Magazine’s #1 Fiction Book of 2012

May’s book club pick was The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. This book is a popular book many have already read, and I know many have enjoyed. Please do not hate me or take this the wrong way when I say I am glad I am through this book and do not intend to read it again…

Recently on our Playing Jokers Facebook page, we posted the article: 16 Books to Read and Love Forever. This book was on the list… do you agree with it belonging here? I guess I should get into my review and thoughts before I answer this…

The Fault in Our Stars follows a teenage girl, Hazel, on her journey with cancer. Her parents push her to go out of the house and hang out with her friends more, so she does. While in her weekly cancer support group, she meets the handsome Augustus and the story really begins… Hazel and Augustus begin a friendship that turns into a romance of the ages. There is humor and tears intertwined with life lessons, experiences, inspirations and difficult times. The reader will be brought through a roller-coaster of emotions as they fall for Hazel and Augustus and wish for them a happily ever after.

For me, the story told is not truly about Hazel. Hazel may be the person whose life experiences are followed and who the reader sees through the eyes of. However, the story is more about Augustus. Augustus has his own hardships he has had to endure, particularly with losing his leg to cancer. He, like Hazel, grows through the book. The Fault in Our Stars reads as a definite YA, coming of age and understanding, book.

Now for the grit…

This book was hard for me to read. It was a book club pick and I wanted to contribute to the discussion, so I picked it up on a Friday night and read through it, finishing it by Saturday afternoon. I just had to get through it and did not want to linger on it. I had a feeling that would be the case going into it… as I got a couple of chapters in this initial thought was confirmed… I just was not ready to handle it. The Fault in Our Stars caused me to relive experiences I did not want to remember. I do not want to remember those hard times a loved one experienced but rather the beautiful memories I had shared with them before… I will not go further here on my personal experiences…

The Fault in Our Stars was revealing of the monster cancer is. It does not matter where you are in your life… 6…50…90 years old. Cancer is destructive and does not care about time or the person it eats. It does not care about love and the people around. Cancer is an evil in this world I would give anything for to cure it and give life back to those it stole from.

So for those who have not read this book: I felt it was a good book to read and understand the power and effects cancer can have. However, if you are familiar with cancer and its effects, this can be a hard book to read. For me, it was and I was not ready for it. Instead of making me attach myself to the love story taking place, I was caught up on the side effects of cancer told. So to answer the question I asked above if I believe this book should be included in Huffington Post’s article on “16 Books to Read and Love Forever” – no, I do not feel this book should be included. It is hard to like a book that brings back sad memories of loved ones, rather than the happy, beautiful, loving times you spent with them. I have returned this book to the library and will not revisit it again after book club.

I really hope I do not offend anyone… these opinions are my own. I just wanted to share because, sometimes, it helps.

pj - christina

Christina’s Review: Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Hahn


Christina’s Review: Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing HahnMister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Hahn
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 2012
Genres: Adolescence, Death & Dying, Girls & Women, Law & Crime, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 330
Format: Paperback
Goodreads
two-half-stars
Based on an actual crime in 1955, this YA novel is at once a mystery and a coming-of-age story. The brutal murder of two teenage girls on the last day of Nora Cunningham's junior year in high school throws Nora into turmoil. Her certainties—friendships, religion, her prudence, her resolve to find a boyfriend taller than she is—are shaken or cast off altogether. Most people in Elmgrove, Maryland, share the comforting conviction that Buddy Novak, who had every reason to want his ex-girlfriend dead, is responsible for the killings. Nora agrees at first, then begins to doubt Buddy's guilt, and finally comes to believe him innocent—the lone dissenting voice in Elmgrove. Told from several different perspectives, including that of the murderer, Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls is a suspenseful page-turner with a powerful human drama at its core.

I borrowed this book from Michelle because the book’s description sounded intriguing to me. The story is based off of real-life events that took place in 1955 around Washington, DC involving the author. In Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls, the original events are fictionalized and moved to just outside of Baltimore, Maryland to a quiet suburban neighborhood. The story followed the last day of Junior year for Nora and her group of friends, and how their lives were changed forever.

This story is about accepting death and follows that “coming-of-age” and understanding of life story-line. The author chose to tell the story primarily through Nora’s perspective, but also through the eyes of other characters involved, including Buddy and “Mister Death” himself. The character differentials were hard to get through at first… I could tell the author tried to make their voices sound different, but they felt forced and I did not identify well with any of the other characters except Nora as the main character.

As the summer progressed following the murders and search for the killer, or waiting on the conviction of the guy it had to be, Nora began to question her religious views: Is God real? Why would he let this happen? Why did he take the lives of two young girls? How would things change from here?

Getting towards the end of the read, there was no real climax. The end of the story just happened, and it was not until the “Afterword” that I really grasped why that was. The story was based on events that occurred during the author’s life when she lost two friends to an unknown killer. I believe the book was more therapeutic for the author and meant for her primarily to get out those emotions and the events that haunted her past and present. I did not feel closure in the story, and I did not really identify with the characters or events. In fact, I really just wanted to get through the book and to the end to find out what would happen.

It was a fairly quick read… short sentences, straight-forward content. The book was meant to be a coming-of-age type of read, but I did not get that. To me, it was a story based on real events and meant to be more of a closure for the author than a tale for the reader.

pj - christina

 

Michelle’s Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart


Michelle’s Review: We Were Liars by E. LockhartWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Published by Random House Children's Books on 2014-05-13
Genres: Death & Dying, Emotions & Feelings, Family, General, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 240
Format: Audiobook
Goodreads
five-stars
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I spoiled this book for myself before I had ever decided to read it.

In June everyone was raving about this book. It seemed like everyone was reading it, book bloggers, vloggers, and critics alike! I had heard about it through some online article about books to read this summer and had nominated it for my book club to read. I hadn’t actually expected to ever get around to reading it. I’m not exactly the fastest or the trendiest reader. So when it was selected as our book club’s August book, I was both happy and a little disappointed.

Because I had watched all the spoiler sections of people’s vlogs about this book. I had spoiled that big twist that everyone alluded to.

But here’s the thing: it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book at all. Perhaps I liked the book for different reasons than those who were in the dark; it was like rereading a thriller and being able to connect the dots that were previously invisible to you. But it was still so much fun. It was definitely one of my favorite reads so far this year.

  • Why was it so good?
  • It was artistic. There was poetry in its prose that was not overdone but instead helped to create a certain mood.
  • It was a thriller without being too heavy. It was the kind of book you would bring to the beach and end up forgetting to go into the water and still feel relaxed.
  • The setting was so real. It made me long to go to that island and have my own summer adventures (minus family drama, please!).
  • The narrator of the audiobook was absolutely amazing and a perfect fit for the book. I had listened to other books she has narrated before and liked her then too but she definitely did this book justice to the point where I feel like my experience of the book was greatened by listening to it instead of reading it.

This was the book that inspires so much discussion and analysis, with no one being truly right or wrong about it. And I think I’ll enjoy discussing it for some time to come.

pj - michelle

Christina’s Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart


Christina’s Review: We Were Liars by E. LockhartWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Published by Random House Children's Books on 2014-05-13
Genres: Death & Dying, Emotions & Feelings, Family, General, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 240
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-stars
A New York Times Bestseller.

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.


We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I jumped ahead on August’s VA Wine and Book Club pick and read We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. I started it on a Thursday, and finished it the next day. It was a quick and easy read, and entertaining as well. Reading the book description, I was a little skeptical to begin, however, I found myself at the pool looking for a light read, and this book ended up being the perfect fit. (Actually, I may have spent a little too much time at the pool after getting drawn-in through the book)

We Were Liars followed the summers Cady Sinclair and her beautiful and wealthy family spent together on a private island. What family could be more perfect than the Sinclair’s? They emulated the pristine and got through things without showing the hardships or emotions. The “Liars” of the family included Cady, her two cousins, and friend Gat who spent the summers together each year. Their relationship with each other as family close in age was relatable for me with my cousins. They were friends whose story was conflicted by an accident that fogged Cady’s memory and was carried out in her story throughout the book. What happened during her fifteenth summer? What changed her beautiful, flawless life?

E. Lockhart did a seamless job with the story-line of her book. Her writing style was unique…wistful, metaphoric, and captivating. She covered so much detail and kept the book moving fast, however, she left so much to question and keep the reader thinking at the same time. The first few chapters took me some time to get into the story and adjust to her writing style, however, once I did I found the book irresistible and wanted to reach the end to learn who the liars were and what could have happened to Cady.

As other reviews have mentioned, it is difficult to go into details with this book without the risk of saying too much. Therefore, I will keep this review short and sweet. I recommend this book as a light read. It was the perfect pool-side escape, and should be an interesting book club discussion. When I reached the end, I felt my jaw hanging open with suspense, anticipation, confusion and excitement. This is definitely one of those books I will have to re-read again to further understand the significance of the events and details captured by the author.

Enjoy this read, and let yourself escape into the world of the Sinclair’s!

pj - christina