September 24, 2012

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Author:  John Green
Length:  313 pages
Publisher:  Dutton Books (an imprint of Penguin Group Inc.)
On-Sale Date:  January 10, 2012
Format:  Hardcover

(Warning:  Language may not be suitable for all ages).

The Fault in Our Stars is about 16 year-old cancer patient, Hazel Grace Lancaster.  A miracle (fictional) drug has halted the spreading of the disease, but she continues to live with cancer everyday.  Hazel Grace meets 17 year-old Augustus Waters, who is in remission.  This is their love story.

Things I was told before I read The Fault in Our Stars:  It’s going to be the best book you’ve ever read.  Don’t read it in public.  You will cry.
I remember thinking that all these people couldn’t have been wrong, could they?  I wasn’t in love with The Fault in Our Stars from the first page, but I was by the end.  And there were so many tears that it is almost embarrassing.

I finished The Fault in Our Stars less than two hours ago*, and all I can tell you is that I’ve carried this book with me.  I don’t want to be separated from it for too long.  I just want to stare at it and reread parts of it and memorize it.
There are only a handful of truly great books, and you know when you’ve found one.  The Fault in Our Stars is a great book.  You know because you can’t stop thinking there’ll never again be a time when you haven’t read it.  Now, there’s a Before-I-Read-The-Fault-In-Our-Stars and an After-I-Read-The-Fault-In-Our-Stars.  Great books, like this, follow you.  All you want to do is continue feeling how this book makes you feel.  Something slides into place, and this book holds a permanent residence in your heart.

I know that in a couple of months or a couple of years I am going to come back to this book.  Even while I was still reading I knew that I’d want to read it again.  But I don’t need to reread it right now, because this story is still with me.  I haven’t forgotten Hazel and Augustus; they follow me everywhere.
The Fault in Our Stars is endless.

This book has an underlying sadness to it, and you will cry so hard, but the characters will fill you with such an incredible happiness.  I’m grateful that Augustus exists.  I know he and Hazel and Isaac are fictional, but I don’t have to believe it.  They’re real where it matters.  John Green created fictional characters that don’t feel fictional.  I’m kicking myself for not going to the bookstore the very day TFiOS came out and for not reading it immediately.

People say The Fault in Our Stars is “magnificent” and “heartbreaking”, and it is those things, but it’s mostly so incredibly powerful that I wish I could invent new words to explain it.  I don’t want to go to sleep, because I don’t want to let this day go.  I know that The Fault in Our Stars will be waiting for me when I get up, (and possibly also in my dreams)**, but that’s not enough.  This story is too hard to let go of, because it could so easily be real, and that is possibly the saddest thing of all.  Gus and Hazel could be my friends if they weren’t written on paper.
But I always have a way back to them, through The Fault in Our Stars.

I could see myself in Hazel Grace.  I share her love of books and I’d rather be hurt myself than see those I love hurting.  She made me think this book was for me, in a way.  She never needed to explain herself to me, because I completely understood her every time.  I desperately wanted her to be happy.  Hazel deserved a love like Augustus.

I wish there was something I could do to say thank you for this book.  The Fault in Our Stars feels like a gift.  Gus and Hazel feel like friends, and I’m not ready to say goodbye to them.  So, I won’t.

At the end I wasn’t thinking it was a cancer book.  I was thinking it was about a girl who loves a boy and a world that isn’t fair (the boy loves her too).   Arguably, cancer is what defines the whole book, but it sure doesn’t feel that way.  I don’t think of cancer when I think of The Fault in Our Stars.  I think of how awe-inspiring Hazel and Augustus are.  I think about how much I love Augustus.  And I think about reading it again.  It feels so important.  There are books that stay with you, and there are stories that you never forget, and this is one of them.

I don’t want to live in a world without Augustus Waters, and he was only in my life for less than a day.  Damn John Green.

I had about 50/60 pages left when I sincerely thought I couldn’t finish.  I completely lost it.  I broke down crying, and one line was all it took.  I knew I needed to see how it ended, but I didn’t want to.  It hurt so much, and I could only imagine what the end would feel like.  (I couldn’t even find tissues.  My God, I had to stop reading to locate some).

I will never forget Augustus Waters.

The Fault in Our Stars has given me something to hold onto, and for that, I say, “Thank you”.

Premise:  5/5
Plot:  5/5
Writing:  5/5
Characters:  5/5
Overall:  5/5

*At the time, I had finished reading it two hours ago, but I wasn’t planning on writing a review for TFiOS so it took some time to get it right.
**I did dream about The Fault in Our Stars the night I read it.

Favourite Quotes:
“What a slut time is.  She screws everybody.” – page 112
"The marks humans leave are too often scars." – page 311
“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world ... but you do have some say in who hurts you.  I like my choices.” – page 313

September 14, 2012

Love List (18) - September 14, 2012


Well, it's September and I'm back to school.  I'm actually getting more reading done now than I did in the summer because I'm "in transit" a lot.  There's lots of time to read then.  Forgive me if I make any ridiculous errors.  I've been studying for the last number of hours and all my eyes want to do is sleep.
This has been an especially unlovely day, so it's ironic that it's time for a love list.  But even now I have plenty to love.
So, let's do the list:

Augustus Waters.
Hazel Grace.
John Green for writing The Fault in Our Stars.  (Do you sense a pattern yet?)
Hank Green's Vlogbrothers video on September 7th 2012.
Augustus Waters.
When you finish your homework and you have some time leftover.
The Night Circus.
Talking to my dad about books.
Augustus Waters.
My new agenda.
The Perks of Being A Wallflower.
No One Will Ever Get Hurt by A Rocket To The Moon.
Augustus Waters.
Watching The X Factor with my Mom.
My Dad:  "When The X Factor comes on I lose your mother."
How I felt after I read The Fault in Our Stars.
That all my favourite artists are coming out with new albums in the next month.  (So excited!)
That Hank & John Green have reached 1,000 videos on their Vlogbrothers Youtube channel!
My job.
Meeting nerdfighters at work.
Bonding over books.
When people share my emotions over books.
Augustus Waters.
That the TFiOS related posters went up on DFTBA the day I read The Fault in Our Stars.  (I bought two posters).
The kindness of parents.
The love of my family.
Body butter.
I feel like I shouldn't put Augustus Waters after body butter ...
That a John Green box set exists.
"Being unironically enthusiastic." - John Green
Your pants jokes.
Augustus Waters.  (Probably not appropriate here either).

I really, really loved The Fault in Our Stars and especially Gus.


September 9, 2012

Book Review: Dearly, Departed

Author:  Lia Habel
Series:  Gone With the Respiration (it's possible that this is a fan made title)
Length:  467 pages
Publisher:  Ballantine Books (an imprint of Random House Inc.)
On-Sale Date:  October 18, 2011
Format:  Hardcover

Definitions as per my understanding:
Lia Habel’s zombies:  Dead.  Can only be killed by beheading and / or a bullet to the brain.  Zombie-ness caused by a genetic mutation that kills you, and causes you to be reborn as one of the undead.  Some zombies reanimate with their brains intact, while others are insane.
Grays:  Insane zombies.
Lazarus Virus (or "Laz") Zombie genetic mutation.
New Victoria:  Mostly Central America, plus Mexico, parts of Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Peru, and Brazil.

New Victoria was built hundreds of years ago, in a world that had been nearly destroyed.  Now, in 2195, young ladies carry electric powered parasols, because this future is combined with modern advances and historic elegance.
Nora Dearly is a sixteen year-old living in present day New Victoria, 2195.  Her life hasn’t been the same since her father’s death – exactly one year ago – and getting approached by a strange boy isn’t helping things.  The boy – Bram – introduces himself as someone who knew her father before he died, and has a message to pass on.  Only, Nora doesn’t believe him, and from that moment on, her life is completely turned upside down.  She’s attacked, threatened and kidnapped by troupes of the walking dead.  But how can the dead be living?  The government has been hiding the existence of zombies and the Lazarus Virus, and now the Laz is spreading, and will not be contained.
Nora’s thrust right into the middle of zombie central, and the longer she’s there the more she learns – about her father, the Laz, and the part she has to play.  She’s let in on some dangerous secrets, and Nora might just be falling for the boy who pulled her into this world.

I bow down to Lia Habel.  I was ecstatic that Dearly, Departed was the first zombie novel I’d ever read.  After I finished reading it, I was literally jumping up and down while making exuberant hand gestures … (and then I read this line that I found hilarious to everyone who would listen to me).

I had absolutely no intention of reading Dearly, Departed, although, I was immediately drawn to the pretty cover.  As soon as I read the word “zombie” I was turned off.  Someone, with a similar taste in books, had this exact reaction and loved it, so I decided to give it a chance.  I was so happy that I did.

I don’t know if I had ever laughed so much while reading a book (I’ve read 15 of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels).  I wasn’t even sure if everything I was laughing at was meant to be funny.  I was on the bus, on the subway, on campus, and I laughed, giggled, clapped, and stamped my feet.  I could not contain myself while I was reading.

Lia had a way of cutting off a chapter right at that crucial moment where you needed to know what happened, and you needed to know right then.  Sufficient to say, it was difficult to stop reading this book for any period of time.  I still found zombies a bit creepy but was able to move past it, and this book just swallowed me whole.  It was so easy to love Dearly, Departed.

There was so much thought put into this world.  These characters and the Lazarus Virus (zombie-making-ness) fit carefully together.  Inevitably, while reading I questioned the mechanics of the Laz and zombification.  The answers given were explained well and so logical that I could have, possibly, believed that the Laz was real.

Dearly, Departed was primarily told through Nora Dearly and zombie Bram, but other characters had their say as well.  You wanted to hear from the character you were reading, and you never rushed through a chapter or wished that you were reading from a different viewpoint.

The story centered around Nora Dearly, and everything always pointed back to her.  Nora was left in the dark, and the reader discovered the undead world as she did.  She was not without fear, but she wouldn’t live in ignorance either.  Nora was resilient and completely stubborn making her ideal for contending with an army of the undead.

Bram was the love interest.  He also happened to be a zombie with an intriguing name (Bram is short for Abraham).  Bram was both sweet and ferocious at once.  He was sad and resigned to an inescapable fate, but a glow of determination burned within him.  The care he had for other people saved him, and love gave him a purpose.  In the end you didn’t care an awful lot that he was part of the undead.  Bram was not a monster.  In fact, he was more of a gentleman than most teenage boys.

Nora and Bram had every possible obstacle standing against them, and you wanted nothing more than for them to beat the odds.  You wanted them to survive and you wanted them to survive together.  However, deep down, even they know that any sort of relationship they had would not have “forever” attached to it.

It was terribly sad that you became connected to these characters while knowing that they were already dead.  They were literally falling apart; missing limbs and rotten flesh.  Their hearts weren’t beating and yet, they were capable of loving and hating and feeling.  They were dead, but they were human.  (Fictional characters no longer need to be alive for me to love them).

Take a bite out of Dearly, Departed.  (Yes, I had to say that; I could not help myself).  Seriously now, I cannot form coherent sentences that would explain how much I’m looking forward to the sequel.

Dearly, Departed was so enjoyable.  Now, when I’m shopping I’ll pick up books that I wouldn’t have ordinarily, because I could end up loving it like I loved Dearly, Departed.

Favourite quote:  "Please use the bathroom appointed for your gender and mortality!"
- page 459

Premise:  5/5
Plot:  5/5
Writing:  5/5
Characters:  5/5
Overall:  5/5

Disclosure:  I received a finished copy from the publisher.  This did not influence my review in any way.