Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Legend by Marie Lu

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.
To play along just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Legend by Marie Lu

Legend - Putnam Juvenile
“But the instant the new girl steps into the circle and I see her stance ... I know I’ve made a big mistake.”
~ Page 104

“I make sure that the sound of my crying doesn’t wake Tess and the boy.”
~ Page 132

It won’t do this book justice if I say that it is exactly what I look for in a dystopian novel. It is, however, and this will have to suffice until I write a review about it. Piece of advice: Don’t start reading when you have to leave for an appointment at a specific time.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars - Dutton Juvenile
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Published January 2012

“Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs ... for now.
Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.
Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.” Synopsis from goodreads.com

There are some books that you just cannot prepare for because they will grab you and suck you right in. The Fault in Our Stars hadn’t been on top of my figurative “must read as soon as it’s out” list. To be honest, I was a bit reserved against the idea of a terminally ill main character in a contemporary setting. Especially with a disease that affects so many families – that’s just how it seems to me, though, that everyone knows someone or of someone who has or had cancer. Then the book came out. And somehow I picked it up and more or less didn’t put it down until the end.
This book lives because of its characters and how they are presented like any other person despite their various conditions. It could as easily have been a book about cancer and people. Instead it is a story about people who happen to have cancer. Sure, there is no moment where you aren’t reminded that it affects everyone portrayed. Green manages to show that the disease isn’t what defines the individual but that it is an aspect out of many of their lives.
The story is told from Hazel’s point of view, which is an extremely witty and at times overly mature one. I can understand if some people say that she doesn’t sound like a 16-year-old – most of the time. I also think that not everyone with this perspective on life would develop the same characteristics. However, Hazel seems to me like the sort of person who would have been older than her actual age, even if she had been perfectly healthy.
Augustus is, in many ways, Hazel’s perfect match by being a well-balanced counterpart. The two of them couldn’t develop the relationship they form if one or the other had been anything less than they are. What I mean is that I doubt anyone would have put up with either Hazel’s obsession with An Imperial Affliction, a book (which thankfully is fictional) she religiously re-reads, endlessly theorises about, and has probably analysed in more detail than the average literature professor would do. Nor could anyone stand Augustus’ pretentiousness all of the time.
Isaac, who made his friend Augustus come to cancer support with him in the first place, completes this close group of people who are rarely given such an extensive and insightful voice in fiction. He’s the one I least expected to become fond of if only for the reason that his role is not as big as the others’. Yet he only needs this smaller space to establish himself as a fully developed character and show the sort of friend he is to Augustus and Hazel.
In general a lot could be said about Green’s depiction of relationships within the story and how he uses them to define his characters; but I think no matter how hard I try, I won’t be able to capture the magic of Green’s writing. The fact that even the relationship between Hazel and her father – a really small part in comparison – is so well-captured in just a few exchanges that it made me tear up several times.
This leads me to the next point: Yes, The Fault in Our Stars is a sad story and I recommend tissues in close proximity while reading. However, it isn’t told in a sad manner. And not in a falsely humorous one either. People aren’t sad and depressed all the time no matter their fate. If anything, maybe the terminally ill appreciate the smallest happy moments even more and see the value in them. This could make the book seem fake and overly moral in the “appreciate the small mercies you get” way. But it doesn’t depict its characters only as impressively brave, kind, and inspirational. There is the reality of these kids getting angry, behaving like the petulant teenagers they are, disobeying parents and all that. There is the aspect of cancer being an ugly and disgusting disease with blood and vomit and pain. Green doesn’t sugar-coat any of that, neither the light nor the dark moments. And this is what, to me, makes this book as touching as it is.
There is so much more that could be said about this book, beginning with the title and how perfectly I think it fits the story because, in contrast to Shakespeare’s play, the fault is indeed to be found in the stars rather than in the characters.
I won’t go into the story as it is the author’s wish that every reader should be able to experience the story spoiler-free with all its unexpected ups and downs – so much so that the book seems as unpredictable and at times insidious as the disease it features.

All added up, John Green proves to be the master wordsmith he is often said to be. It could be over the top but in this instance it is one of the aspects which make this book an absolute treasure – a beautiful narrative about how no one can choose when their time comes, just how to spend the time given. And choosing to live – despite everything.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's can't wait to read selection is
Incarnate by Jodi Meadows.
Publication Date: January 31st 2012

Incarnate - HarperCollins Children's Book
Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.

Even Ana’s own mother thinks she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are suspicious and afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?

Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?
Synopsis from goodreads.com

You can watch the booktrailer for Incarnate here.

And what are you waiting on this week? Let us know!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Teaser Tuesday: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.
To play along just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is not my current read (which is a very boring textbook on literary theory), but the book for which you will get a review in a short while.

The Fault in Our Stars - Dutton Juvenile
“I was blind and heartbroken and didn’t want to do anything and Gus burst into my room and shouted, ‘I have wonderful news!’ And I was like, ‘I don’t really want to hear wonderful news right now,’ and Gus said, ‘This is wonderful news you want to hear,’ and I asked him, ‘Fine, what is it?’ and he said, ‘You are going to live a good and long life filled with great and terrible moments that you cannot even imagine yet!”

This book is heart-wrenchingly beautiful. Should you decide to pick it up I recommend getting tissues as well while you're out.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

UK Cover - HarperCollins
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Shades of London #1
Published September 2011

“The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.
Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humour, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.” Synopsis from goodreads.com

US Cover - Putnam Juvenile
The setting – anyone who knows me knows that I love London and anything connected to its history so this was right up my alley. The locations are described so well that it is easy to picture London, the East End with its very own charm, and Wexford as a seemingly typical boarding school one can expect to find in England.
The characters, especially the main character Aurora (sorry, Rory), are easy to like. From the description one might expect a stereotype Southern States American teenager, but actually Rory is eager to embrace the differences she encounters in her new surroundings. For example the poor girl, instead of getting to choose her sport activity, gets thrown into a hockey team with no previous knowledge whatsoever as part of the experience. The voice she is given to narrate the story is very engaging and humorous, so hockey lessons aren't the only moments where you can expect a good laugh. I loved the description of typical British habits and how non-natives perceive them. This is equally amusing if one is part of the group with these quirks.
I take issue with protagonists who are too uncertain of themselves or act downright against every human instinct of survival unless there is a very good reason for it. At times, Rory seems to fall victim to that second category, but if you look at the situation more closely, her motivations justify her actions to a certain degree and it fits with her overall character.
You should know that The Name of the Star has no love story as its main focus. I’m fine with that and I think the story is plot-driven enough to work well with only a little of this element. Nevertheless, Rory relates to several people of her surroundings: Jazza, her roommate, is possibly as British as they come and the sort of friend who is not afraid to tell you when you need to get yourself together but will have your back no matter what. Jerome is a little bit of a mystery to me. It’s clear soon enough that he is interested in Rory but not really ambitious to do something about it. At the moment he seems a bit like a prop. I won’t go into detail about the ghost police since you are supposed to discover them yourselves. Let me just say that for a job like theirs they seem exactly whack enough to me. In a good way of course.
Now, I do realise that I didn’t really say anything about the “Jack the Ripper” part of the story, mostly because it is not only part of it but the cause behind everything. I liked how the recreation and embedding of the historical events took place in this present day scenario. The short episodes that leave Rory’s point of view were, in my opinion, exactly right to offer more information and develop the readers’ understanding of the story beyond Rory’s knowledge. The Ripper background facts seemed well-researched to me and just detailed enough to thrill but not make me want to revisit my latest meal.  I enjoyed the steady, almost imperceptible, build-up instead of being thrown from one step to another. Hats off to the unexpected hero as well, what an elegant solution.

This book surprised me, made me laugh, and my mind race at the possibilities. One major brownie point for the ending: There is no big cliff-hanger in the sense that the story arc of the Ripper mystery seems unresolved. However, there is just the right incentive to look forward to the next book, which will be The Madness Underneath hopefully published in October this year. So well done to start off a new series and I can’t wait to read the next book. The only bright spot is that I won't have to miss Maureen Johnson’s great humour and the quirkiness she brings to her writing since she frequently graces the world with her online presence. If you follow only one person on Twitter, make sure it's her or you're missing something. And read this treasure trove of a book.

Sometimes you have to see the bathroom to know the hard reality of things – UK paperback, pg. 19.