Saturday, October 26, 2013

Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
ISBN: 9780141345659
Date Published: January 2012
Pages: 313

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

Rating & Review 

This isn't one of my usual reads. Usually I don't gravitate towards books that are about cancer, it's just taken too many people from me. I don't want to go through that heartache again, even if it's for a fictional character. But when this book came up on the list for my book club, I was pretty intrigued. 

The book is pretty well written, the characters were well thought out and their path/destiny was an interesting journey. I thought that the naked honesty about facing and living with death was admirable. I appreciated the light humor sprinkled throughout and I also enjoyed the bittersweet moments of humor and sadness that really touched my heart.

I really liked the part whe
re Gus was saving the world (which is what two of my friends call playing military-ish video games) and he saved some kids in the game and said "my life bought them a minute and that's not nothing". That really resonated with me - every minute is so important. 

There was one character that drove me absolutely nuts. I didn't like this character at all and even though the book was based almost completely around him, I found parts of his involvement in the book to just be a waste of time. Why was the book hinged on this character? I keep thinking that if some of his interactions with Hazel had been different, it would have changed the tone of the book and it may have changed the lackluster ending for me. 

I'm always in constant search for a novel that has two things: I want a flawed main character, I want them to be so messed up that I almost can't stand them because you usually get to see this amazing character transformation/growth happen during a novel. I think it's pretty damn close to magic to watch those transformations happen and a great author can make it almost seamless. The second is for a book to make me feel. I don't care what it is... love, hate, disgust, admiration... it doesn't matter, just make me feel. This book delivered the first but I thought it fell short on making me feel. 

Now don't get me wrong, it was sad but it didn't break me down and I think I was waiting for that. I expected for this to have a gut-wrenching ending and when it didn't, I felt a bit let down. And that just kind of ruined ... everything for me. I think that an ending can make or break a book and this ending didn't do the book justice at all for me. 

All of that being said, it's being turned into a movie and while I don't feel compelled to see it now, I probably will get it on Netflix because I have to see how all of the characters are portrayed and see if maybe I was wrong about any of them. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Review: Allegiant (Divergent #3)

Title: Allegiant (Divergent #3)
Author: Veronica Roth
Date Published: October 22, 2013
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
ISBN: 9780007444113
Pages: 531

One choice will define you.

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

Rating & Review:

I honestly never believed that the day would arrive when this book came out. It felt like I was waiting for forever to find out what happened to all of the Divergent clan. The whole experience started off a bit rocky because I pre-ordered the book from Barnes & Noble and expected (foolishly) for it to magically show up on my Nook at midnight. Well, that didn't happen. But it was there when I woke up (at 4am) and I immediately dove in. And let me tell you, I really struggled with just going to the end and reading the last page so I could find out what happened. I've never wanted to do that before this book. Oh, and I guess that it needs to be put out there that it is written in both Tris and Four's pov. Annoying? A little. But I can't imagine the story being written any other way. I think that it's important for us to get inside both of their heads at this point in the story and it really paid off for me in the end.

First of all, I love this series. I've loved it since I read Divergent over a year ago. I gave both other books in the series five stars for how amazing they were. But in Allegiant, it really slowed down for me about 1/4 of the way through. I really reached a point where I had to push myself through. That has never happened before with Roth. Now, it could be because I was resisting what was happening in the story. It was just falling really flat for me and I was hoping that the series wouldn't go out so ... blandly. 

But. Veronica Roth really reestablished my love and adoration of the Divergent story. I had lost my way in the big picture of this dystopian society but she pushed it back into focus for me. Man, she is an amazing author. And to think that she started writing this while she was in school ... I see amazing things to come for this lady and I'll be the first in line for any future works. 

Now, before I get too derailed on how awesome Roth is, there is this one quote that Tris says that I absolutely adore ...

"I fell in love with him. But I don't just stay with him by default as if there's no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me."

How awesome is that?!? I'm telling you, you've got to pick this book up. 

There's not much to say about character development, writing style or any of those other things ... Roth really sets up her stories beautifully and you become invested quite quickly in the outcome of the character's lives. 

Anyhow ...  I really can't say all that much more about the book ... there are too many things that could be given away. But I will say this ... I didn't latch onto this series because of the warm fuzzies I got while reading it. I like it because of the grittiness of the characters' feelings and the constant internal character struggle between what you should do and what you want to do. I wanted the last installment of this series to rip me to shreds and leave me just sitting there wondering what in the hell happened. Well, to say it plainly, it did. I'm still sitting here wondering how the series could be over and mulling over what took place. Now THAT, makes a great novel. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Review: Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

Title: Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
Author: David Foster Wallace
ISBN: 9780349111889
Date Published: October 1997
Pages: 288 

David Foster Wallace made an art of taking readers into places no other writer even gets near. The series of stories from which this exuberantly acclaimed book takes its title is a sequence of imagined interviews with men on the subject of their relations with women. These portraits of men at their most self-justifying, loquacious, and benighted explore poignantly and hilariously the agonies of sexual connections.

Rating and Review:

This is one of those few books for me that just did not click. I didn't get it. I didn't like it and I didn't agree with it.

I couldn't even finish the whole thing. I just couldn't. I tried and I just couldn't. And this wasn't like a gradual thing ... like the book was good in the beginning and then it started to taper off ... no. This was a bad experience for me from the very beginning.

The fact that so many people have given this book four and five stars just BAFFLES me!! I just don't understand how this was a good book. I get the short stories. I kinda like the darkness and taboo-ish-ness of the stories but I just didn't connect to them.

I actually reread some of the interviews because I was honestly wondering if I had missed something. Was I reading too fast? Skimming? Not paying attention? Oh, no. I was right the first time. I paid attention, the book just didn't do it for me.

The kicker is that the movie version of the book looks interesting. It looked funny and entertaining ... I just can't figure out how this book translated into THAT.

Not for me. But it might be the best book ever to you. Good luck.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Review: Newton Neighbors

Title: Newton Neighbors
Author: Suzy Duffy
ISBN: 9781612131634
Date Published: September 2013
Publisher: The Writer's Coffee Shop Publishing House
Pages: 377

Crystal Lake—in the suburbs of Newton—is one of the most desirable places to live in Boston, and Newton Neighbors is a romantic comedy about its colorful residents just trying to “live the dream.” Things, however, rarely go as planned. The story starts with two fire trucks and a couple of cop cars getting called to the upmarket road, and that’s when things begin to heat up.

The Ladies of the Lake:

Maria’s best asset has always been her hot Puerto Rican body, but she sees the effect a new sitter has on her husband, so she decides to fight back the hands of time.

Cathi is Maria’s best friend and greatest admirer. Her own life is pretty good, too. Still, she can’t help being consumed with ambitions to live on the water. She spirals from persuasion to coercion to deceit faster than you can say ‘change of address,’ but will she succeed?

Noreen may seem like the nice little granny from next door. However, it’s the quiet ones you need to watch. While facing forty is a nightmare for Maria, Noreen’s living large at eighty. She believes “the only thing worse than a weak dollar is a weak martini.”

Jessica is in America to study. But when she takes a babysitting job in Newton, she gets more than she bargains for in the shape of fine-looking firefighter. We learn soon enough that not all heroes are good—but is bad better?

Thankfully we have Ely, Jessica’s crazy roommate, who keeps everyone laughing and partying, too.

There’s Botox, Bollinger, and a randy Bulldog. We have fireworks, fistfights, and family fiestas. It’s a story that stretches from Boston, to London, to beautiful Puerto Rico.

Welcome to the wet ‘n’ wild world of Newton Neighbors.

My rating and review ... 
Newton Neighbors was ... okay. I didn't feel really strongly about it either way. It wasn't horrible but it wasn't bad. I've had quite a few of these books lately. The great thing is that I think there is a really big chance that books later in this author's life will be pretty spectacular. The story is just missing that special something. That one thing that can transform that "meh" book into magic. 

The story that Suzy Duffy created was actually pretty good. Duffy must be amazingly perceptive. She really nailed her characters. They were so thought out. The conversations that went on in this book ... they didn't feel stiff or overworked. It really flowed well. This is not one of those books that you have to put down because it becomes too much or the descriptions are horribly long or the conversations are nothing that would actually happen in real life. This book just didn't have that. 

I was pretty entertained through the whole thing but it just left me wanting. It was just okay. But I really liked how the novel started. That actually made me look at how I feel when a babysitter comes to watch our boys. Those "mommy feelings" were really spot on. Duffy is really an artist when creating characters. 

As I was reading, I started to wonder if she just sat around recording actual conversations because there were quite a few that I've had with my husband and girlfriends. 

I think I just wasn't the target audience for this book. I love Real Housewives (that's what I thought this book would be like) but this isn't Real Housewives of New Jersey ... which is my favorite ... because of the epic arguments. I think I need something with just a little more drama and action. But this is perfect if you're looking for a lighthearted read while on a train, plane or automobile (great movie, btw). 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Review: Note to Self

Title: Note to Self
Author: Peter Ward
Date Published: September 2013
ISBN: 9781626811379
Publisher: Diversion Books
Pages: 262

In a world where technology controls everything, sometimes your own handwriting is the only thing you can trust.

Richard Henley is an ordinary man leading an ordinary life, but when he finds strange notes in his own handwriting warning that someone is trying to kill him, he is sent on a journey to places he never knew existed. With an ominous and all-powerful organisation on his trail, his only hope is to trust unexpected allies, take control of his life, and uncover the truth about what happened to the girl he loved twenty years ago. A darkly humorous commentary on our app-obsessed culture, if Richard can stay alive, his world will never be the same again.

If I was rating this book on only the last half, it would have gotten 4.5 stars, easy. The beginning was just so slow for me. I really struggled. I had one of those, UGH feelings when I picked up my Nook. I just really wasn't interested. I'm glad that I pushed through, though. The payoff at the end was completely worth it. 

I don't think that there was one certain thing that made the beginning hell for me. In all probability, it was a combination of things ... it just dragged on like a nightmare family reunion. That's it! I'd equate the beginning of this novel to getting your cheeks (the ones on your face) squeezed for hours by that one old aunt that smells like mothballs and White Shoulders. 

Now, that's not to say that the beginning wasn't interesting. It was. It was just boring. Once it started picking up, I became excited about the book again and blew through it. 

The ideas that were brought up in the book were pretty spot on. The flat out accusation that our society is too focused on technology couldn't be more correct. I survived a childhood without all of these doodads and I mostly turned out okay and kids these days (mine included) just can't seem to live without technology. Anyway, so that was pretty interesting.

This book is a prime example of pushing through the reading fog. I've read some amazing books that got off to a rocky start. But this one is worth pushing through. It has an awesome ending, one that will stay with me for a while. Is this something that I would read again? Mmm, I don't know. But I don't plan on deleting it from my Nook anytime soon, if that means anything.