Book 4 of YA for Adults Book Challenge

"The Book Thief" by reaper-gal93 on deviantArt.com

“The Book Thief” by reaper-gal93 on deviantArt.com

Title: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

As I’m writing this review, I’m already building a pillow fortress to protect myself from your thoughts. As much as I enjoyed the characters, the wonderfully writing, the original plot, but…I wanted more. I felt like I needed more to like it more. It was an enjoyable book, but it was just fine.

I really enjoyed the way that it was written. The going back and forth between the protagonist and death’s point of view was well done. Their tales from the present and past, respectively, were interwoven very well. Yet most of the book was about these moments BEFORE we understood the meaning behind the “book thief” or before the Jew came to the house.

This was a book of beautiful moments and a wonderful concept…but I wish that the relationship between Liesel and Max was more developed. I don’t mean romantically…that’s just *unconsciously shivers* gross. I wish that there was more of a cohesive overall story arch. The book felt like a collection of poignant moments and nostalgic recollections. Beautiful and random.

 

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Book 3 of YA for Adults Book Challenge

"5 Divergent Factions" by arelberg on deviantArt.com

“5 Divergent Factions” by arelberg on deviantArt.com

Title: Divergent (#1 of Trilogy)

Author: Veronica Roth

Ok, I feel that the vast majority of loyal-YA readers and occasional YA readers, alike, have read at least the first book of the Divergent series. I really enjoyed the world that Roth built. Beatrice and the other characters were well rounded and slowly developed throughout the book. Unlike other YA books/series, the love interest development between Tris and Four was slow building and believable. Each faction was well structured and built. We learn about Dauntless in detail in Divergent and visit the others in Insurgent (#2 of the trilogy). Roth does a great job in the first two books building up the great mystery that has befallen our great American society. As more is revealed about the characters, we follow in great anticipation to find out what will happen next. A YA book driven by plot? Did our dreams and hopes come true at long last? But don’t worry…Roth kills it all with the last book Allegiant (#3 of the trilogy). How so? Alternating POV’s with no real voice or difference, transparent  schemes, gaping holes in plot, constant let downs by the romantic lead, the ENTIRE ENDING of the 3rd book with the brother switch, the mother-in-law/mommy issues, etc.

I enjoyed both Divergent and Insurgent. They were a fun ride into a new world, but was completely let down by the third book. Oh Roth…did you give into YA peer pressure? Money making pleas by your publisher? I’m not sure what happened, but I feel like I could’ve read a fanfiction that could’ve better tied up all the plot holes left over in this book.

Book 2 of YA for Adults Book Challenge

"The Scorpio Races - Sean and Corr" by TechnicolorWings on deviantArt.com

“The Scorpio Races – Sean and Corr” by TechnicolorWings on deviantArt.com

Title: The Scorpio Races

AuthorMaggie Stiefvater

I feel like this book had a lot of promise…High stakes + adrelanine-junkie racing + violent flesh-eating horses = My total undivided attention…But for some weird reason, it never did. Not sure what was the exact reason, but here are a couple things that bugged me.

The story concept started off pretty strong. Puck Connolly, the main protagonist, wants to win the race in order to win enough money to save her parents’ home. Sean Kendrick, the second protagonist/love interest, wants to win his 5th race so he can buy the horse of his dreams. The entire fate of the island is based on the income the races bring to the island’s economy and people are on the edge of their seats waiting to see what the horses will do. Other than the fact that was a serious LACK of people getting ripped apart by flesh-eating horses, the narrative became disjointed with the alternating POV – especially since they both sounded very similar. I had to constantly go back to the start of a chapter to remember who was speaking. Also, I did not feel emotionally invested in the characters. I wanted to believe and support Puck as she broke with tradition, but I just didn’t care. Overall, for a book that was supposed to be about this great deadly race, there were few deaths and lots of missing action.

If you were to check out goodreads.com, you’ll see on average the book does well with audiences (an average of 4.08 out of 5 stars). Friends that have read the book did enjoy it, so I say check it out and make your own decision. I personally didn’t enjoy it, but it doesn’t mean you won’t.

Book 1 of YA for Adults Book Challenge

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Title: The Fault In Our Stars

Author: John Green

I’d like to start off by admitting something…I have already read a few of the books on this list. However, some I have read more recently than others. In order to better review these books, I will be re-reading books I haven’t read in a while…it’s only fair to both the books and myself.

I’m sure countless thousands of reviews have been written and shared over the Internet about this book in hundreds of different languages. It’s a phenomenon that has swept world-wide and has only grown with its upcoming film premiere this upcoming weekend (the U.S. release anyway). I read this book a few years ago as part of a YA book club that my friends had asked me to join. When I had read the synopsis, I muttered to myself “Ugh…a cancer book”. As soon as I met Hazel and read her thoughts on the subject matter – “Cancer books suck” – I knew I had found a kindred spirit. No I do not have cancer. I have had family members who have had cancer, one in remission and one passed. Yet, both family members were older when they learned of their illness. I don’t think I need to state the obvious in comparing a devastating illness in the elderly compared to someone barely out of their teens.

For this review I’d like to comment on where John Green got his inspiration for the title of this book – only because I have yet to read a commentary dedicated solely to the title. I’m sure you can read thousands of reviews about the countless “feels” you get from reading the story. Besides, I think we all agree this is a good book and deserves a chance to be read by all at least one time….Anyway, Green has been quoted in deriving his book’s title from a famous line in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” (I,ii,139-140)

[To me] In Shakespeare’s work, it is being said that fate is not to blame for what happens in our life – contrary to popular belief brought about by Shakespeare’s OWN work. No, we – humans – are to blame for our own faults and mistakes. It may seem that we are merciless against what the Fates have planned for us but that isn’t true…”we are underlings”. The Fates are busy worrying about more important things than us mere mortals. We must take care of our own problems. Let’s be honest, Caesar was sort of an ass. I’m not condoning murder, but you could see his “fate” coming a mile away.

Green, in an interesting twist, changes the famous words to read that “the fault is in our stars”. Living with illness, whether it’s cancer or otherwise, is not a fate I would wish upon anyone. Whether you are the patient or family member watching it happen…it just sucks all around. I feel that Green is making that point with is title. No one would consciously make the decision to become grievously ill or would actually want someone else to suffer through it. Hazel and Augustus have not even reached the “prime” of their lives. They’re children when they’re first diagnosed. Was it their fault? A mistake from a past life? Some consequence from the misbegotten youths of their parents? No. No. Definitely not. It was fate, it was written in their stars. They were doomed from the start. The title is just take on the age old saying, “Life isn’t fair”. We can’t control what families we’re born into or what obstacles we come into contact with, but we can control how we meet those challenges and we will be remembered (by those that know us) by how we dealt with those same obstacles. Here are some of my favorite quotes…I stress some because rewriting the book in its entirety would break copyright laws…

“You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are.”

“I fell in love [with]the way you fall asleep; slowly, and then all at once.”

“It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.”

“Sometimes it seems the universe wants to be noticed.”

“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”

“How are the eyes? Oh excellent. I mean they’re not in my head is the only problem.”

“You gave me forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers. I do.”

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Here’s to hoping that the theatrical version won’t crush us with feels! On to the next book in my challenge 🙂

Oh John Green, you’re killing me…

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So my cousin’s girlfriend lent me a copy of John Green’s “Looking for Alaska” a few weeks ago and I decided to finally read it…cause it’s rude to hold onto people’s books, they could be missing them (Yes, I believe books have feelings! Don’t judge me!). Honestly I wasn’t expecting much going into it – in order to make sure the book didn’t fall below my expectations.

***If you have NOT read the the book, please click away NOW. I WILL be mentioning happenings that are critical to the plot of the story. Don’t blame me for SPOILERS!!!***

In high school everyone wants to be a bit like Alaska. Center of attention, likable without being condescending, the girl of every guy’s fantasy, smart, witty, adventurous, edgy/dangerous, an uncanny way of making you see mundane things in a new light…but the problem with these idealized high school figures there’s always some flaw that cannot be discounted. My sophomore year of high school we lost one of the friends in the group. He was nothing like Alaska. Sure there were some parallels- he was well liked by every crowd/”click” in school, smart, and had a very unique perspective – “Have you every noticed how when you stare off in class those little specs seem to have a halo effect around them? It’s almost like they glow.” He was one of the most caring, compassionate, and humble human beings I have ever known. But like Alaska he was a “deeply unhappy person”, something I often wish we would’ve noticed. The day after he committed suicide our entire sophomore class was called to gather into the cafeteria, much like in the book. I remember noticing that he hadn’t showed up to school that day and thought he might be sick. I thought it was odd, he was never sick, but quickly dismissed it. Once we were told the majority of the class broke down, sobbing aloud and turning to one another for comfort. I remember just being shocked. Not believing that this could’ve happened. I wandered around school aimlessly for the rest of the day. Not really sure if I believed it or not. When our school brought in grief counselors for our group I remember being angry. Angry at the thought that in on brief hot moment he could have ended his own life. Angry that I had to listen to people who barely knew him cry as if they were his best friends. Angry that I’d no longer have my friend.

When reading a book I feel that it is best to connect with the character, but not always necessary. Often times reading is a cathartic art. The way we can release feelings that we have hidden away in that dark quiet place in our minds. But for young readers, these type of stories, are their way of learning and understanding these life defining moments. That is what John Green has been doing with his books. I’ve watched and listened to my students as they have read these books and what they think of these experiences. As a middle school teacher, I know the majority of my students are not mature enough to fully comprehend the weight of this type of loss. Some are, but not all. Yet it is important for them to be exposed to this genre of literature. Maybe if we’d read something like this growing up we would’ve been more prepared to loose our friend. Yet ultimately, I don’t think we would’ve ever been ready for that.

Book 2 of Quarter-Life Crisis Challenge

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Title: The Defining Decade – Why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now

Author: Meg Jay, PhD

Coming off the emotionally roller coaster of the last book read during this challenge, I had quasi-high hopes for this book…which were quickly dashed. Let me start off by saying that I know I have lead a “blessed” life. At 26 years old – soon  to be 27 at summer’s end – I have earned two bachelors degrees (paid for mostly through scholarships), finished my masters this past December (paid with savings I accumulated my first three years of working), and currently thinking of seeking another degree (E.d.D. or another certification) to help me open up my employment options. I’ve been working for five years at the same job, which I find fulfilling. Of course I have my share of bad days, but who doesn’t. Between graduating with a double major and finding my current job I only went through 6 months of unemployment – much less than many of my friends. As far as my love life goes, I’ve had multiple monogamous relationships – both short and long term. Each of them has taught me more about myself and what I want in my future husband. I have friends and family who have been supportive and are always there for me when I need to talk out my inner ramblings…this all being said I feel that this book was not truly meant for me.

That isn’t to say that I didn’t find some meaningful quotes or interesting thoughts from Dr. Jay. But honestly, a lot of what she wrote about doesn’t really relate to my current predicament. If anything, she confirmed what I already knew and the book made me feel better about the path I’m already on. Even if it was in a – “Wow, I’m glad I’m not dealing with that hot mess of a problem”. Some of the more interesting points in the book where…

“Twentysomethings who don’t feel anxious or incompetent at work are usually overconfident or underemployed.”

“There is a difference between living your life in your thirties and starting life in your thirties.”

“There is a difference between sliding into living together and making the conscious decision to move in with another person because you want to spend your life with them.”

I would recommend this book to someone who just got out of college or someone in their twenties who feels they lack direction. That doesn’t necessarily mean I feel like I’ve got it all together – I don’t. I’ve spent countless hours freaking out about what my “future” may or may not hold. But honestly, why spend time worrying about things that are out of our control. Sure there are several things within our control: who we date, where we apply for jobs, what we do to prepare for further educational or work opportunities, etc. But there are always going to be curve balls thrown our way. That’s life. What we really need to worry about is whether or not you have the skills and maturity to deal with life’s “curve balls”.

Now to next book to conquer…I’ll be revisiting John Green’s “Fault in Our Stars” and am currently reading “Looking for Alaska”. Get ready to start the YA Book Challenge!!!

Book 1 of Quarter-Life Crisis Book Challenge

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Title: Tiny Beautiful Things
Author: Cheryl Strayed

Dear Sugar,

Since your book is comprised of collection of some of your “best” replies from your advice column from The Rumpus, I thought it only appropriate to review your book in letter form.  We often know that advice columnists are not professional therapists, psychologists, or psychiatrists. I doubt someone who had to evaluate someone’s mental health for a living would enjoy doing it for free to complete strangers without knowing a true back medical history on the advice seeker. What really draws readers to advice columns is the writers’ ability to draw us in and tell us a story. Sugar (aka. Strayed), you’ve done just that. Honestly, I picked up the book without knowing anything about you, your former work (memoir, The Wild), or The Rumpus. I’m sure, like others who read advice columns, I read each letter and then tried to guess what “advice” you would impart on each person.

Unlike “Dear Abbey” you weren’t trying to change social norms or have any other visible public agenda. Actually, you didn’t give any sort of straightforward advice, except the occasional recommendation that the person seek out professional help. Instead, you delved into your own experiences to give perspective through anecdotes, which were not only entertaining but had LOADS of shock value. For a while I thought you were writing JUST to shock the audience, but I could see and understand why you wrote what you wrote for each person.

I was able to read several letters at a time, enjoying the way you told your stories, until I reached one that struck a cord with my own personal life. Once I read those, I had to stop and put it down. I even had to skip a couple and come back to them later, because I knew I wasn’t ready to read those – “The Truth That Lives There.” However, I truly think that in spite of the essay, anecdotal feel of the “advice” given there were many truths found throughout the book. Here are just a few of my favorites…

“Go, even though you love him. Go, even though he’s kind and faithful and dear to you. Go, even though he’s your best friend and you’re his. Go, even though you can’t imagine your life without him. Go, even though he adores you and your leaving will devastate him…Go, even though you’re sure no one will ever love you as well as he does…Go, even though you don’t know exactly why you can’t stay. Go, because you want to. Because wanting to leave is enough.”

“The best thing you can do with your life is tackle the mother fucking shit out of it.”

“Forgiveness doesn’t sit there like a pretty boy at a bar. Forgiveness is the old fat guy you have to haul up a hill.”

“You will learn a lot about yourself if you stretch in the direction of goodness, of bigness, of kindness, of forgiveness, of emotional bravery. Be a warrior for love.”

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others who enjoy well written essays or would just like to read a different perspective. This book made me take a second look about my life. I don’t believe EVERY person who reads this book will make some huge epiphany about their own life. But I do guarantee there will be at least one or two stories that will make you take a closer look at your life or make you remember a moment in your past that you hadn’t thought of in a long time.

Thanks Sugar. It was a roller coaster ride.

Regards,

Looking Forward

Now to next book of the Quarter-Life Crisis Book Challenge!!!…”The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter-and how to make the most of them now” by Meg Jay, PhD