Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Goodreads Description:

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.

My Review

The Fault in Our Stars tells the heart-wrenching story of terminal cancer patient Hazel Grace Lancaster who finally acquiesces and joins a support group at the behest of her well-intentioned parents. There she meets the charming boy, Augustus Waters, in attendance to support his friend Isaac who is losing his sight to cancer. Hazel and Augustus hit it off immediately and he fills her bleak, numbered days with beauty and love.

I loved the romance between Hazel and Augustus.

“May I see you again?” he asked. There was an endearing nervousness in his voice.

I smiled. “Sure.”

“Tomorrow?” he asked.

“Patience, grasshopper,” I counseled. “You don’t want to seem overeager.

“Right, that’s why I said tomorrow,” he said. “I want to see you again tonight. But I’m willing to wait all night and much of tomorrow.” I rolled my eyes. “I’m serious,” he said.

“You don’t even know me,” I said. I grabbed the book from the center console. “How about I call you when I finish this?”

“But you don’t even have my phone number,” he said.

“I strongly suspect you wrote it in this book.”

He broke out into that goofy smile. “And you say we don’t know each other.”

I loved the humor in this book. Here is a bit of dialogue where Augustus and Hazel are talking with Augustus’ family:

“It’s just that most really good-looking people are stupid, so I exceed expectations.”

“Right, it’s primarily his hotness,” I said.

“It can be sort of blinding,” he said.

“It actually did blind our friend Isaac,” I said.

“Terrible tragedy, that. But can I help my own deadly beauty?”

“You cannot.”

“It is my burden, this beautiful face.”

“Not to mention your body.”

“Seriously, don’t even get me started on my hot bod. You don’t want to see me naked, Dave. Seeing me naked actually took Hazel Grace’s breath away,” he said, nodding toward the oxygen tank.

I loved the introspection.

“Without pain, how could we know joy? This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.”

And finally, I loved how a finite number of days can turn into a little infinity when you spend it with someone you love.

“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get… But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

I’ve seen a few reviews where the reader believes the language used by the teens in the book is too advanced for the characters to be believable. When I was a teen, intelligence and popularity seemed to have an inverse relationship. You risked being labeled a nerd if you were too smart. To fit in, I suspect many of us pretended to be less competent than we were. It’s sad, but true, at least from my experience. I applaud the way John Green created characters that were witty, erudite teens. Let’s give our young adults books that are intelligent and thought-provoking, books that may have them reaching for the dictionary, but I suspect our youth is far wiser than they sometimes let on.

I loved, loved, loved this book. It’s proof I don’t need a “happily ever after” to enjoy a book. After all, “the world is not a wish-granting factory.”

5 out of 5 stars

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Musical Monday: Best Day of My Life by American Authors

For my kids’ birthdays, I create a CD of their favorite songs for the year.  This is one my daughter recently chose for her 9th birthday CD and to me it captures her spirit. She has such a zest for life that she approaches each day as if it’s the best day of her life. There are no limits or impossibilities. The day is what you make of it. I adore her for that.

According to lead singer Zac Barnett, the inspiration for the song comes from the book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. You can learn more about it here. I suppose the monster in the video represents the things that frighten you and the message is to make the best of it. Embrace your fears.

The Best Day of My Life

(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh)

I had a dream so big and loud
I jumped so high I touched the clouds
Whoa-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh (Whoa-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh)

I stretched my hands out to the sky
We danced with monsters through the night
Whoa-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh (Whoa-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh)

I’m never gonna look back, Whoa-Oh
Never gonna give it up, No-Oh
Please don’t wake me now

(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh)
This is gonna be the best day of my life
(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh) My li-i-i-i-i-i-ife

(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh)
This is gonna be the best day of my life
(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh) My li-i-i-i-i-i-ife

(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh) Whoo
(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh)

I howled at the moon with friends
And then the sun came crashing in
Whoa-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh (Whoa-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh)

But all the possibilities
No limits just epiphanies
Whoa-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh (Whoa-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh)

I’m never gonna look back, Whoa-Oh
Never gonna give it up, No-Oh
Just don’t wake me now

(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh)
This is gonna be the best day of my life
(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh) My li-i-i-i-i-i-ife

(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh)
This is gonna be the best day of my life
(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh) My li-i-i-i-i-i-ife

(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh)
(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh)

I hear it calling
Outside my window
I feel it in my soul (Soul)

The stars were burning so bright
The sun was out ’till midnight
I say we lose control (Control)

(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh)

(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh)
This is gonna be the best day of my life
(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh) My li-i-i-i-i-i-ife

(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh)
This is gonna be the best day of my life
(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh) My li-i-i-i-i-i-ife

(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh) This is gonna be, this is gonna be
This is gonna be, the best day of my life (Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh)
Everything is looking up, everybody up now

(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh)
This is gonna be the best day of my liife
(Ooh, Ooh-Ooh, Ooh) My li-i-i-i-i-ife

 

My Writing Process

Thank you to Lori MacLaughlin  for inviting me to join in the writing process blog hop. I was fortunate to discover Lori’s blog while participating in A to Z in April. We share a fondness for Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, castles, the breathtaking views in Scotland and Ireland, and, of course, writing. I must also apologize to Lori. I had every intention of publishing my post on my scheduled day (July 7th), but was plagued by internet issues on the 6th and went on vacation the following day. I thought I’d hook up to a wireless connection at the beach house and publish my post, but it seems the internet issues followed me there as well. So, this post is a week late.

It seems I’m about the last person in the blogosphere to take part in this blog hop. The idea was to invite three other writers to participate, but with the exception of Kate Sparkes, everyone else I’ve asked has either already participated or declined. So thank you to Kate Sparkes for keeping this part of the blog hop alive!

sparkes profileKate Sparkes was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but now resides in Newfoundland, where she tries not to talk too much about the dragons she sees in the fog. Her debut novel, Bound (YA Fantasy), was released in June 2014 and is available in e-book and paperback. Please visit her blog (link above) to read about the writing process of a published author!

If someone reading this post wants to participate let me know in the comments below.

As the title indicates, the idea of the blog hop is to share your writing process with other writers. Here is mine:

MY WRITING PROCESS

My writing process has evolved over time. When I began writing in 2009, I had a story idea and simply sat at my laptop and wrote. No structure, no outlines, no character profiles, no timelines…nothing, zilch, nada. It was all in my head and I wrote furiously to get it on the page before the words escaped me. As I continued writing, I realized I needed to organize my thoughts so I didn’t contradict myself or commit other blunders in the story. So I prepared character profiles and a timeline. I also filled a three-inch notebook to overflowing with my research.

I edited as I wrote and continually re-read and edited what I’d written. Unfortunately, I edited so much I took my voice right out of it. When I wrote the last chapter in 2013, the novel clocked in at over 120,000 words. By some miracle or sheer dumb luck, it followed proper story structure, but unbeknownst to me then, it was sodden with other rookie mistakes.

After an unsuccessful search for representation, I realized I had much to learn about writing. Even though I’d read several books on the craft, I purchased at least a dozen more and dedicated myself to learning everything I could about it. Here are my top recommendations:

Story Engineering by Larry Brooks
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
Hook Me: What to Include in Your First Chapter by Rebecca Talley
Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder
Breathing Life into Your Characters by Rachel Ballon
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

My writing process is drastically different today for having read these books. I’m no longer a “pantster.” That’s someone who writes by the seat of their pants for those of you who may not know. Now, I’m more of a plotter.

While I learned a great deal from these books, it occurred to me as I thought about my writing process that there is a model for what we writers do that is older than time itself. It’s written in the book of Genesis. We are, after all, pseudo gods creating imaginary worlds filled with imaginary beings.

The Blank Page
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
All writers have hovered over the formidable blank page, struggling to find the right words to give shape to their story. As writers, we are natural creators. We have an idea for a story, probably hundreds if you think about it, but at this point, it only exists in our minds. That blank page will remain formless and empty until you choose to act.

“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.” ~ Vladimir Nabokov

The Words
“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”
Put simply, a story is a collection of chapters, that are composed of scenes, which are, in turn, composed of sentences, and it all begins with one word. This is the moment when the idea begins to take shape. Some of us believe we must wait for inspiration to strike. I say poppycock, or rather BICHOK. Put your little Butt In the Chair, with your Hands On the Keyboard and write. And follow my addition to this acronym: TAM. Type Away Madly. We have no one to blame but ourselves if the words don’t make it onto the page.
At first, I don’t worry about grammar, or creating a compelling opening line to hook the reader. In fact, I don’t follow any writing rules. I simply summarize my story idea in a few pages. I get a little crazy, but all writers are a little mad, right?
“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” ~ E.L. Doctorow

The Protagonist and Antagonist
“He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.”
We may believe our story idea has merit, but it will not be compelling until we have a clear vision of both the protagonist and antagonist who have conflicting goals. I get into the mindset of each of these characters. I contrast and conflict; separate the light from the darkness.
“A stage play is basically a form of uber-schizophrenia. You split yourself into two minds – one being the protagonist and the other being the antagonist.” ~ David Mamet

To read more about the antagonist and protagonist visit these posts: Creating a Credible Villain and Late at Night I Toss and Turn and Dream of What I Need.

Story Structure
“Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.”
Once I’ve summarized my story and have a clear vision of the opposing forces (protagonist and antagonist) and the goals they want to meet, I prepare a beat sheet and compare it to proper story structure to see what might be missing.
“It doesn’t matter if you outline your stories or not, or if your words make the angels weep or not, because if what you’re writing isn’t hitting the page in context to solid and accepted—key word there—story structure, it’s doomed until it does.” ~ Larry Brooks
To learn more about story structure and beat sheets read Building Your Story on a Solid Foundation and Just Beat It: Using a Beat Sheet to Plan Your Story.

Timelines
“Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years.”
When does the story take place? Does it occur in the future, the present, or the past? What period will the story span? A century? A decade? A year? Or maybe only one day? I create a timeline of the events in my story. Seeing a visual snapshot of the timeline helps ensure continuity of the story.

World Building
“Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky. Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.”
What kind of world will you create for your characters? Will it be a place of magic inhabited by dragons and unicorns? A subterranean refugee camp for those who survived an apocalyptic event? A dystopian where the earth and its inhabitants are downtrodden by an oppressive government? Or maybe a galaxy far, far away?

Whatever you envision, you should include description typical of  your genre to make it believable. I spend a lot of time thinking about the world my characters inhabit. While I compile tons of research to make it as believable as possible, only a small part makes it on the page.
For more about world building read What a Wonderful World.

Character Profiles

“Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.”

As writers, we infuse a bit of ourselves into the characters we create. We draw on our experiences and observations. This is an opportunity to explore the best and worst of ourselves and others. The deeper we go, the more authentic the characters become.

“The characters in my novels are my own unrealized possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented.” ~ Milan Kundera

“Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

A writer must breathe life into their characters. To make them compelling, they must think and act like real living, breathing people. Otherwise, they are as one dimensional as a cardboard cutout. I create basic character profiles for the characters in my story. It helps me to keep track of physical characteristics and other traits so I don’t contradict myself. These profiles become much more detailed for the main characters as I write the story and get to know them better.

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

For more about creating characters read The Three Dimensions of Character, Writers: Don’t Forget the ICE, The Benefits of Being a Profiler: Creating Character Profiles, and What’s In a Name? Choosing a Name for Your Fictional Character

Feed the Muse

“I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.”

Inspiration is all around us. It can be found in news headlines, novels, short stories, poems, essays, movies, TV shows, the stranger we observe at the grocery store, our own life experiences, and so on. I draw from all these sources to feed the muse.

“A man will turn over half a library to make one book.” ~ Samuel Johnson

To learn more about feeding the muse read Find Your Writing Zen and Feed the Muse: Get in the Game.

Taking Stock

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”

Once I’ve planned my story, I review all that I have made and write a logline (a summary of the story in one or two sentences). If I can do that, then I know I have the main ingredients for a good story.

To learn how to write a logline read Writing a Logline That Hooks the Reader.

Post Planning
“God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.”
When all the planning is complete and I have a compelling logline, I sit at my laptop and… write.
“Look, then, into thine heart, and write!” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Combating Writer’s Block

• Exercise or perform mindless activities like mowing the lawn or washing the dishes.
• Participate in NaNoWriMo, JuNoWriMo or other writing contests. It helps you develop a routine by having a daily writing goal. It establishes what I refer to as writing muscle memory.

It works for me every time.

Editing

I avoid editing until the story is complete. To see why, read the post Editing: The Risk of Overdoing It.

For more helpful tips on editing, read the following:

Words to “X” From Your Writing
Say You, Say Me. Say It Much Better…Grammarly
Can You Raed Tihs? Why Tihs Stduy Is Improtnat for Wirtres
Wordle: A Nifty Little Tool For Writers

So there you have it: my writing process. Everyone is different, but this is what works for me.

When it comes to writing your story, think and act like a god. Be the master of all you create.

 

Read This to Assuage the Sting of Rejection

So you’ve received a rejection letter or two, maybe even dozens. Don’t let it get you down because you’re in good company. I researched the top 20 best-selling authors of all time and discovered that quite a few were rejected, in some cases hundreds of times. That’s right: hundreds of rejections. Here are a few examples from the top 20 with the rank beside their name:

Agatha Christie (#2): She started out writing short stories and most of her early works were rejected. All the publishers she submitted her first novel to rejected it. However, she went on to write 85 books, which have sold 4 billion copies, making her one of the world’s best-selling writers, second only to Shakespeare.

J.K. Rowling (#11): Twelve publishers received the first novel in the Harry Potter series and all of them rejected it. Yet, she continued to submit the novel and the series became the best-selling book series in history, selling 450 million copies. The movie version of the books is also the top-selling movie series in history.

Stephen King (#19): Initially, he pinned rejection letters to the wall with a small tack. As the rejections accumulated, the tack became a nail and then a railroad spike. To date he has written about 70 books, selling 350 million copies.

What did these authors have in common? They never gave up.

We may not be able to find motivation among a mounting pile of rejection letters like Stephen King, so I wanted to share an inspirational letter I found among my daughter’s schoolwork. It’s just a few words of encouragement from one of her sweet friends. I thought it was adorable.

Never Give Up

 

Also, while researching this topic, I stumbled upon the following articles you might find encouraging.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/stmartinspress/20-brilliant-authors-whose-work-was-initially-reje-7rut

http://www.literaryrejections.com/best-sellers-initially-rejected/

Source: Wikipedia.com

 

What is the Insecure Writers Support Group?

IWSG badgePurpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time.

The IWSG is the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh. This month’s co-hosts are:  Krista McLaughlin, Kim Van Sickler, Heather Gardner,  Hart Johnson! Please visit their blogs and thank them for supporting this amazing group.

Are you an insecure writer? Would you like to join the group? Click here for the sign up page.