Monday, November 26, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars (John Green)

Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Publisher: Dutton Books (Penguin)
Length: 313 pages
Rating: 5/5

Hazel Grace Lancaster is a 16 year old terminal cancer patient. She spends a lot of time reading her favorite novel, An Imperial Affliction, and thinking about death. Her mom, worried that she’s depressed, sends her to a cancer support group. There, Hazel meets Augustus Waters who is in remission from the cancer that took his leg. And while Hazel and Augustus know better than anyone that their lives will end in oblivion, they decide to live while they can.

This novel began with an authorial insistence that a story in and of itself can make an impact. And then it proceeds to prove that statement to be completely true. I laughed, I cried (several times), I loved, I felt closer to life, and I just kept reading. As you know, I’m obsessed with books that make me feel something beyond myself. And this book performed wonderfully.

I’ll admit I was hesitant to read this book at first because it practically screams depressing. And sure, Hazel and Augustus could be terribly depressing and boring. While they do tend to wax a bit existential, when faced with death, instead of being a drag, they’re quirky, deep, and wonderful. They’ll make you reconsider your own perspective on life and death and want to go hug everyone you love.

The love story between Hazel and Augustus can’t be described as anything but epic. Life is a little more precious when death is your third wheel on every date.

While John Green is quintessential YA, I loved that this book didn’t fit the YA mold in one major way: Parents tend to be non-existent or ineffective in most YA. In The Fault in Our Stars, Hazel’s two best friends are her parents, and she worries more about what will happen to them after she dies, than she fears actually dying. Augustus’s parents are also very present in the novel.

This is a book you won’t want to miss. If you’re still on the fence, listen to John Green read the first chapter here: 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Hat Full of Sky (Terry Pratchett)

This review is dedicated to the Linwood Community Library where I've been the YA Intern the past four months. Thanks to my boss Dave for recommending this book!

Title: A Hat Full of Sky
Author: Terry Pratchett
Publisher: Harper Tempest (HarperCollins)
Length: 407 pages
Rating: 4/5

Tiffany Aching is a witch-in-training, away from home for the first time to learn about magic and witchly responsibility. But a sinister disembodied monster is after Tiffany, and it will take all her training, her bravery, and a little help from her friends the Wee Free Men (six-inch high troublemakers) and Mistress Weatherwax (the greatest witch in the world) to defeat it.

This book is the sequel to The Wee Free Men, in which Tiffany first befriends the small fairies and discovers she is a witch. Here, poor Tiffany is just learning to be a witch when she is attacked by one of the greatest threats in the world. Luckily, she has some amazing friends to help her out. The Wee Free Men were delightfully hilarious to read about, and all the other witches are quite peculiar and interesting (and often absurd).

I loved that this book made impossibilities happen and challenged my mind as I read. It takes place in a fantasy world where real rules don't apply and everything is turned on its head. Anything is possible, and the more absurd, the more likely it is to happen! But at the same time, everything is quite serious, because Tiffany's life is at stake, and in the end, only she can save it.

A very funny read that will make you wish the sky was your hat too!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Princess Academy (Shannon Hale)

Title: Princess Academy
Author: Shannon Hale
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Length: 314 pages
Rating: 4.5/5

 Miri and all the other eligible girls in her village must attend a Princess Academy to become worthy of being chosen by the prince because the priests have declared that the next princess will come from their small mountain village. While at the academy, 14 year old Miri discovers much about herself and the world, all while competing with the other girls to be chosen. At the same time, Miri must decide if becoming a princess is worth giving up her beloved village and the people there.

This book was wonderful and a very quick read because I didn't want to put it down. Miri and the other girls have all sorts of adventures while at the Academy, learning about themselves, each other, their world, and how to stand up for themselves. All the characters had such depth and growth throughout the novel that by the end, the reader doesn't know who to root for the prince to pick!

This Newbery Honor book is more than just your average princess story and is definitely worth a read. I haven't read the new sequel, Palace of Stone, yet, but I'm looking forward to it!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Embrace (Jessica Shirvington)

Title: Embrace
Author: Jessica Shirvington
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc
Length: 369 pages
Rating: 4/5

Weird things start to happen on Violet Eden’s 17th birthday. Not only does she find out she’s half-human, but the guy she’s been crushing on knew about it and didn’t tell her. He’s half-human too, and together, they’re destined to fight angel exiles on earth. But Violet doesn’t trust him anymore, and turns to the support of Phoenix, who just happens to be an angel exile. Choice and destiny don’t seem to be getting along for Violet who is learning that life and the higher powers definitely don’t exist in black and white.

Violet Eden not only has the coolest name, but she’s pretty awesomely hardcore herself. Yeah, she’s got the attention of two hot guys, but she doesn’t become passive or whiney because of it. Instead, she’s all about choosing her own destiny, even though she doesn’t actually have a whole lot of choice in the matter. But she tries as hard as she can to control her own fate and has a lot of respectable inner strength to match her outer strength.

Speaking of those two hot guys though- talk about some great romantic tension. I couldn’t put this book down. Lincoln and Violet are made for one another, but angel rules dictate they can’t be together. And he’s broken Violet’s trust and she has a hard time getting past that. Phoenix has a major thing for Violet, because she’s a new, special kind of fighter, and he’s intrigued. All in all, the makings of a great love triangle.

Some of the angel hierarchy explanations still left me a little muddled, but hopefully it’ll clear itself up in the next book. Which I’m very much looking forward to reading. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

City of Ember (Jeanne DuPrau)

Title: City of Ember
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Publisher: Random House
Length: Audiobook, 6hrs 52min
Rating: 3/5

At age twelve, children in the City of Ember are given a job to contribute to the welfare of the city. Lina wants to be a messenger so she can travel to every part of the city. Doon wants a job underground, because that’s where the generator is, and he’s determined to find a way to fix it. In Ember, the darkness is only kept at bay by the generator, and lately, there have been many blackouts. Coupled with the dwindling lack of supplies, and Doon is sure the city is close to shutting down forever. When Lina finds a document that suggests there might be a way out of Ember, she teams up with Doon to find out if there is a way to escape the darkness and if so, if anything exists beyond the city of Ember.

Why is Ember the way it is? Lina and Doon know nothing but their city, where the only power is from a water-powered generator that produces electricity, but only to power lights plugged into the wall. There are no portable lights, and when the power goes out, all one can see is absolute darkness.

Doon and Lina are only twelve, but they take on the responsibility of saving the city when the adults can’t. While they grow a lot in this process, they also learn that they can’t do everything themselves, and that pride can be not only their downfall, but the downfall of the city as well. Will they figure out the puzzle and save their city?

I should include the disclaimer that I tend to like books I listen to on audiobook a little less than those I read because I’m impatient to find out what happens. That being said, I did enjoy the voices of the narrator, even though the slow pace and incredibly detailed descriptions frustrated me. This book centers around a word puzzle that Lina finds, and it’s hard as a reader to help Lina figure out the puzzle without being able to see it. But afterall, I suppose it is Lina and Doon’s puzzle to figure out, not mine, and the mystery was the best part of the book.