Category Archives: Books

Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars

book review | The Fault In Our StarsJohn Green, ladies and gentlemen. John Green.

The Fault In Our Stars stews together a thick mixture of emotions, providing an easy yet quite a challenging read for those who are particularly emotionally sensitive. In just 318 pages, John Green gives the reader an unforgettable experience unlike any other work of teen fiction known to the world of literature.

Rather than traveling through the expanding world of dystopian fiction, The Fault In Our Stars takes a realistic approach to the life of three teenagers who are forced to endure quite possibly one of the most difficult battles in human history. One survivor and two cancer-battling teens find solace in each other as they struggle to cope with the reality unknown to so many others of their age.

The reader witnesses the growth of 16-year-old terminal cancer patient Hazel Grace Lancaster, who narrates the novel from a unique perspective influenced by her favorite novel, An Imperial Affliction. Her outlook on life takes a slight left turn when 17-year-old Augustus Waters appears in the Literal Heart of Jesus one evening at a support group she attends from time to time. From then on out, Hazel faces a new struggle–developing relationships with others with whom she is fated to part.

Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. And then there are books like An Imperial Affliction, which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal (33).

Hazel and Augustus travel a life-altering journey together in more ways than one, taking the reader for a long and intimate ride beside them as they experience life at its fullest. The bond the two form across the pages of The Fault In Our Stars far surpasses that of those formed in countless other teen fiction novels. The strength they build is unbreakable.

Such power swims within their seemingly endless lines of dialogue. I once read that the definition of a good book is one that causes the reader to close the book after reading such a well-written sentence sit in silence, in awe of its beauty. This book is peppered with those little moments, leading the reader to contemplate life as she knows it.

John Green tosses the reader’s emotions like a salad with the twist he so maliciously throws into the mix.

Hazel is also close friends with her mother, who has been there for her through every waking [and sleeping] moment of her life. It is quite refreshing to read a book in which the main character actually gets along with her parents. Some may find it unrealistic, but I can tell you otherwise with great confidence. By no means am I saying that the two do not have their moments; those moments are what add to the reality of this beautiful piece of fiction. We all have our moments (some of us more than others), but if life were easy, we would be bored. All the time. The human race exists to be challenged. It is how we handle those challenges that displays who we truly are.

“That’s the thing about pain,” Augustus said, and then glanced back at me. “It demands to be felt” (63).

 

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. It’s as if this book was written for those facing unfathomable struggles, and the message can most certainly apply to various not-so-unfathomable situations, as well. I think each one of us can relate to at least one subplot, and possessing the ability to relate to a book is often what makes it so lovable among its fanbase. Read it. Okay?

What’s next? Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, is resting on my bedside table. I found the movie at a local used game store, and being me, I need to read the book before I can pop the disk in the blu-ray player.

I’d also like to explore more of John Green, like Looking For Alaska. Eventually. I have my already-made list that I need to conquer first.

Your turn!

  • Have any of  you seen the movie adaptation of The Fault In Our Stars yet? What are your thoughts? Don’t throw any spoilers at me, though. I do plan to watch it at some point, but I have to get my hands on a copy first. And probably another box of tissues.
  • Have any of you read Looking For Alaska? Would you recommend it?

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Book Review: “Four: A Divergent Collection”

WARNING: POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

dystopian fiction

Before introducing us to the 16-year-old mind of Tobias Eaton in Four: A Divergent Collection, author Veronica Roth reveals that she first began writing the Divergent series from Tobias’s point of view. After finishing Allegiant, chronologically the final book in the Divergent series, it’s not unreasonable to wonder why she didn’t give us more from Four.

But instead, Roth chose to pursue her project through the eyes of Tris Prior.

Fortunately, less than a year after the release of the last book in the Divergent series, Veronica Roth gave us Four: A Divergent Collection. This book is comprised of four short stories and three snippets that precede and overlap Tobias’s time with Tris.

The Transformation of Tobias Eaton

Throughout the short stories in Four: A Divergent Collection, the reader witnesses the transformation of Tobias from his last days as a meek member of the Abnegation faction to his time as an instructor for new Dauntless initiates. In just 285 pages, Roth provides highlights spanning the course of two years of Tobias’s life.

Veronica Roth | Divergent SeriesLet’s face it, Tobias has always had people problems. Who wouldn’t, after spending 16 years trapped in the environment in which he was raised? But the reader watches him slowly crack out of his cocoon at the insistence of Amar.

His transfer to Dauntless sparks Tobias’s thirst for a new identity, which he manages to attach to the alias he earns from his instructor, Amar. Those who have read the Divergent series know of Amar and that he and Tobias had grown close during Tobias’s initiation, and in Four: A Divergent Collection we are granted the privilege of witnessing the growth of that friendship.

However, Tobias soon discovers being Dauntless isn’t what he expected and that the faction certainly doesn’t follow its manifesto, and learning his mother’s true fate only adds to his suspicions about the faction system and factionless alike.

Eric The Erudite

As is briefly mentioned in Divergent, Tobias was in the same initiation class as Eric, an Erudite transfer. In this book, readers get to watch firsthand as the tension between the two is born. The interactions between Tobias and Eric were the most enjoyable for me throughout this collection of short stories. I enjoyed the snarky remarks they toss at one another.

Readers discover the reason Tobias turned down the Dauntless leadership position he’d been offered, as well, through his interactions with Max and Eric. Thanks to Eric, readers also learn why Dauntless initiate training becomes more competitive throughout the Divergent series than the years before Dauntless introduced young blood into their leadership ranks.

With few friends and even fewer allies, Tobias is alone in exploring and uncovering the truth behind his suspicions of a corrupt faction system.

 

Would I reread this book? Absolutely. It’s still not enough. Perhaps I’m stingy, but I would like more Four, please. On a slightly related note, I’d also like more on Eric.

Would I recommend this book? Yes. But only to those who have already read the Divergent series. I would highly advise against reading Four: A Divergent Collection before starting Divergent. If you enjoy dystopian teen fiction, you’re sure to enjoy the Divergent series as a whole.

What’s next? I’m currently tackling Quidditch Through the Ages, which is quite a short read, by the ever lovely JK Rowling. Also, have you seen her Twitter account lately? She totally shot down the Westboro Baptist Church. I love her.

(I know, I know. I’m a week late. In my defense, I did write the majority of this last weekend. Just didn’t get the pictures together until today. Thanks for bearing with me!)

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J.K. Rowling Congratulates Robert Galbraith: New Cormoran Strike Novel

The Silkworm | The Cuckoo's Calling

Early this morning, Little, Brown Book Group UK (@LittleBrownUK) took to Twitter to announce their privilege of publishing Robert Galbraith’s next completed novel in the Cormoran Strike series–Career of Evil–this fall. The synopsis and publication date have not been revealed, but Little, Brown assures us that we will be rewarded with this delicious news soon enough.

Publisher

Around that same time, Galbraith (@RGalbraith) announced his completion of the beloved title page. As per true Rowling fashion, the title page was the last to be completed, sealing the deal like an 11-year old’s Hogwarts acceptance letter. J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) tweeted Galbraith saying, “Very pleased for you, Robert.”

Aren’t we all!

Cormoran Strike novel

Career of Evil is to be the third novel in the Cormoran Strike series of a veteran and private investigator facing his own troubles while getting involved in sticky messes others tend to overlook or underestimate. The first novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, was released in April 2013, but it was not until July of that same year when we learned Robert Galbraith is in fact Rowling herself. The second book, The Silkworm, was released June of last year. And the greatest news yet: Rowling says plans are in the works to create even more books for the series. In addition, last July, she revealed the slightest tidbit of information on this third novel at the only promotional event she attended for the release of The Silkworm. With Career of Evil set for publication this fall, it is looking more and more like we will be served one juicy Galbraith novel a year–each to satisfy us long enough until the next course is served.Rowling answered a few fan tweets, as well. And she pleased us all when she took the liberty of answering one particularly open-ended question.

fan questions for J.K. Rowling

So, what can we expect in Career of Evil? A further insight into the lives of those who leave the military, as released in July’s promotional event. Other than that, we’re once again left to our imaginations. But one thing is certain: Galbraith has yet to disappoint.

“After all, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things. Terrible, yes; but great…I think it is clear we can expect great things from you…” (Ollivander, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone [film]).

 

Twitter images taken by screen capture.

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Happy Birthday Children’s Author Kate DiCamillo

Today, March 25, in 1964, Kate DiCamillo was introduced to the world in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Now living in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the age of 51, Kate is the author of various children’s novels, picture books, and early chapter books. Quite a few of her works have earned literary awards, as well.

Children's Literature

Photo Credit: Candlewick Press

Because of Winn-Dixie

DiCamillo’s children’s novel Because of Winn-Dixie has blossomed since its publication in 2000. It received the 2001 Newberry Honor and was later made into a film for the big screen that was released in 2005.

The film stars AnnaSophia Robb (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Bridge to Terabithia) as ten-year-old Opal and actor Jeff Daniels as her father who is also a preacher. Although I have never read the book, I did see the film a few years back and can say with confidence that it is quite a heartwarming tale of a young girl adapting to new surroundings and trying to rebuild a dwindling relationship with her father.

The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux was published in 2003 and then received the Newberry Award in 2004. DiCamillo’s novel was transformed into a film adaptation in 2008.

The film adaptation features various famous voices. Matthew Broderick plays the voice of Despereaux, while Dustin Hoffman assumes the role of Roscuro. Other voices include Harry Potter cast members Emma Watson as Princess Pea and Robbie Coltrane as Gregory. The man who plays everybody’s favorite scientist in Back to the Future, Christopher Lloyd, voices the character Hovis in The Tale of Despereaux.

View all of DiCamillo’s children’s novels and their accompanying awards here.

Early Chapter Books

Kate DiCamillo’s early chapter books include the Mercy Watson series, featuring the 2007 Giesel Honor book Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride, and the Bink and Gollie series. Currently, there are six Mercy Watson books and three Bink and Gollie books.

Her newest addition to the collection of early chapter books was published in August 2014 and is titled, Leroy Ninker Saddles Up.

Kate DiCamillo is currently the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, appointed by the Library of Congress.

Congratulations on your astounding achievements thus far, Kate. We look forward to your next great literary adventure!

*Information obtained from Kate DiCamillo’s official website. and Internet Movie Database.

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Insurgent Film: A Weak Attempt At An Adaptation

WARNING: POST CONTAINS SPOILERS.

Veronica Roth | Divergent series

Amity Faction Symbol

As I reported not long ago, I had stumbled upon an article that suggested the content of the film adaptation of Insurgent is somewhat different and that those changes may affect the production of Allegiant. No truer statement can be made about this movie. The main plot is generally the same, but they tweak it slightly. Of course if the film were to contain everything in the book, as with most book-to-film situations it would be significantly longer than one hour and 58 minutes. But to cut out certain subplots and switch characters’ points of view…that’s just wrong.

And perhaps it’s just me, but I would think an opening weekend 3D showing would have more than ten viewers. Granted, I did attend the 3:25 p.m. showing on Sunday. But ten people, including myself and two friends, in an entire theater of cushy recliners? That’s rather sad.

This post is dedicated to revealing many of the the differences between Veronica Roth’s novel Insurgent and the film adaptation she co-produced that was released Friday, March 20, 2015. Again, this post is packed with spoilers. Turn away now or proceed at your own risk.

Time Lapse

If the producers and directors included everything that occurred in the book within each specified time period, the movie would be too long for its own good. However, events happen so quickly, the viewer is likely to miss them if he/she reaches for a sip of soda.

In the beginning, the spat between Tris and Peter that happens at Amity headquarters happens within the blink of an eye, and in the next scene, Caleb is also in Johanna’s office in addition to Tobias, Tris, and Peter. And the part I was most looking forward to seeing–Tris in the office and around Tobias after she’s injected with too much peace serum–doesn’t happen. In just a few minutes, the Dauntless Traitors arrive and…well…things happen.

All the time the group spends in Candor in the book (at least it feels like a long time)…Tris and Tobias are there for maybe two days in the film.

Jeanine’s Purpose

Jeanine Matthews. In the book, she spent her time trying to determine how the Divergent were able to resist serums and testing the strength of serums on them. However, in the movie, she has a different goal.

In the book, Tris has the disk that holds information people believed to be hidden, information that Abnegation plan to release. In the film adaptation of Insurgent, this “hidden” information is contained in a box that can only be opened by a Divergent who can pass five individual simulations–one for each faction. Jeanine gets hold of this box, and her sole goal becomes discovering its contents.

The book version and film version of Jeanine are similar, however, in that they both are engulfed by a burning curiosity, a true Erudite trait.

(During one scene in particular, Kate Winslet‘s portrayal of Jeanine greatly reminded me of her role in Titanic and I couldn’t help but suppress a smile.)

The Factionless

In both the book and movie adaptation of Insurgent, Evelyn Johnson is head of the factionless. In the movie, there is no community fire, no sitting in circles on the ground passing cans of food to one another. Evelyn has her own home where she feeds her guests a decent meal at a well-set table. Although he says it bitterly, multiple occasions arise during which Tobias calls Evelyn “Mother.” It would be a stronger display of defiance for him to call her by name as opposed to using her biological relation to him as a tag of recognition.

Evelyn and Tobias do not have a private conversation about creating an alliance; it happens at the supper table. Tris watches this conversation unfold, seemingly intrigued by Evelyn’s idea of creating an alliance between the factionless and Dauntless. This is far from the case in Roth’s book. See Tris’s written thoughts below.

I don’t want to admit that I was eavesdropping, but I want to tell him I don’t trust Evelyn, or the factionless, or anyone who speaks casually about demolishing an entire faction (Insurgent, p. 111).

After one of the major events at Candor, they return to the factionless with the rest of the Dauntless who have not betrayed their faction.

The Truth Serum

I believe Shailene Woodley delivers an impeccable performance as Tris Prior during her trial at Candor headquarters. It’s quite possibly her best throughout the entire film. It feels so real, as if the viewer is in the giant room with everyone watching her struggle to fight back the truth that was sure to destroy a friendship. It is a well-done, very emotional scene.

Veronica Roth | Insurgent

(Photo obtained from www.divergentfans.com)

Missing Subplots

Many personal relationship and self-discovery developments within in the book are not included in the film adaptation of Insurgent. Below are just a few examples.

Tris Prior and Tobias Eaton

The lack of proper portrayal of the relationship between Tris and Tobias in the movie is discouraging. Their relationship struggles drastically in the book, because they each keep secrets from one another. Their relationship is crumbling because of lie after lie. Tris is scared to tell Tobias certain things, and Tobias does not include Tris in his situations. This is not an uncommon struggle among couples, and its inclusion in the book is Roth’s way of showing her readers that relationships are not perfect.

In the movie, the two suffer little to no struggles between themselves. Perhaps their hardships were cut not just to save time but to limit distractions from the main plot. Either way, this inevitably destroys the possibility for the existence of the next omitted subplot.

Marcus Eaton

In the film adaptation of Insurgent, Marcus remains at Amity after the events that force Tris and the others to leave; therefore, all subplots involving him are destroyed. How do the filmmakers address this conflict?

  • No conflict of interest is discussed between Marcus and Johanna (p. 23).
  • Evelyn does not suggest Tobias to “become important” (p. 111) and there is no tension between him and the Dauntless that leads to his encounter with Marcus at Candor (p. 240).
  • Tris and Tobias are not destructively divided in their beliefs on how to handle the situation with Jeanine, so there is no need for Tris and Christina to form an alliance with Marcus.

Marcus’s absence contributes to the change of the movie’s ending.

Guns and Self-Sacrifice

Insurgent book to movie comparison

Insurgent Book Cover Back

Throughout the book, Tris struggles with her ability to use any sort of firearm due to the death of her friend in Divergent. In the movie, this struggle is nonexistent, making her appear stronger and more determined.

In addition, self-sacrifice is a recurring theme throughout the Divergent series. She and Tobias argue over the true definition and Tris’s interpretation, but not in the film adaptation of Insurgent. It goes along with the very few disagreements Tris and Tobias have in the movie.

Out of good conscience, I can’t reveal the ending. I believe I’ve already typed too much, yet not enough, and for those who haven’t seen the movie just yet, I don’t want to destroy the entire experience for you. But yes, it is much different from the book. The 3D experience was fantastic, but after returning home and coming across the trailer for Insurgent on IMDb.com, I realized that the color on the big screen seemed rather dull in comparison.

—-

Would I recommend seeing Insurgent? Honestly, I’d say it’s worth the wait for it to be released on DVD/Blu-Ray. And even then, I’d suggest buying it used, because it’s not worth the $14.00 I paid to see it in 3D. (Sellers on Amazon.com have great deals on used movies, and I’ve only ever had scratch issues once.)
Did this film do the book justice? Not at all. The acting is well done, but it lacks multiple subplots that build character development and contain life lessons themselves within the book.

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