Tag Archives: book reviews

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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DNF? WTF?

DD is for DNF

DNF: Did Not Finish. I suppose this is the acronym that is the bane of all authors.

W-what? Why didn’t they finish the book?

Although I’ve never received a DNF—not because my books are that good, I’ve actually never published anything—I imagine it would feel a little like being told your baby has a disease. Yes, to an author, the book is her baby. After all, she labored long and hard to give birth to it. She may stare at the letters in horror praying the disease doesn’t spread.

Will more DNFs appear? Is it {gasp!} terminal? Will the book be plagued with DNFs until she’s on her deathbed, gasping for her last breath?

The author may check her vitals constantly praying for 4 and 5 star reviews to overcome the threat of death. Most often there’s no reason given for a review marked DNF. There are only those three little letters, attached to a one-star rating, leaving the author to wonder if DNF will lead to DNR, then DOA and finally, RIP. 

If this happens, one can only find comfort in the words from those who knew her best: Continue reading DNF? WTF?

Book Review: We Are Not Alone by Kristin Lamb

We Are Not Alone by Kristin Lamb

Goodreads Description:

Forward written by NY Times Best-Selling Author and Co-Creator of Who Dares Wins Publishing Bob Mayer “I wished there had been a step-by-step guide for writers on how to not only do it technically, but do it content-wise. This book is the answer to that wish.” Social Media is more popular than ever. As society becomes more and more technologically advanced, people are seeking new ways to interact. Humans are social creatures. Relationships and community are vital to our survival and our mental and emotional health. Writers, published and unpublished, fiction and non-fiction are hearing words like platform and brand with increasing frequency as the publishing paradigm shifts into the 21st century. The world around us is changing faster than ever, and publishing is certainly not immune. There are more opportunities for a new author today than there has been in the entirety of human history. Yet, the flip side of that reality is, with thousands and thousands of authors with books and blogs, how can a writer ever hope to stand apart let alone succeed? This book will show you how. There are countless social media experts, but Kristen’s system is specifically designed to meet the unique needs of a writer. Take charge of your future today. You have great books to write, and don’t have time for rookie mistakes that can cost you years of rebuilding your name, brand, and platform. Kristen’s method is simple, effective, and helps you harness that same creativity you apply to your writing and harness it to build you social media platform. Best part is you don’t even have to be a computer expert or know anything about sales. This system is designed to change the writer’s approach, not the writer’s personality. And the best part is you have help. Remember, We Are Not Alone.

My Review:

I read this book shortly after I started blogging in March of this year. The most valuable advice that I gleaned from it was the importance of branding your own name. If you’re a writer, don’t use a moniker for your social media platforms. Readers will have difficulty finding your book if the author name is rarely mentioned. She also advised that authors avoid using the title of their book as their name/identifier in social media platforms unless they plan to write just that one book. And what if you change the title of your book before publishing? She recommends that you use your name or the name you will be writing under for all social media platforms.

This was eye opening for me. When I started my blog, I wasn’t sure what name to use. I remember coming across all these creative social media monikers, but I couldn’t come up with one that I thought I’d want to stick with permanently, so I just used my name. By sheer dumb luck, I did exactly as the author recommends. Well, it’s more than a recommendation. To her, it’s a must.

“…it is absolutely crucial for you to brand your name over and over and over and it is always associated with your content, that is like a non-stop commercial pitching your work every single day. This is why a moniker can absolutely KILL your platform.

When you use anything other than the name that will be printed across your book, you give up your most valuable marketing real estate…the top of mind.”

The book is a bit dated, but considering it covers the ever-changing world of social media and was published in 2010, that’s not surprising. Still, it contains useful information for those who are new to social media and with the author’s sense of humor mixed in, it’s a very enjoyable read.

4 out of 5 stars

Kristin has recently released an updated book titled Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World. It’s been getting rave reviews and is on my TBR list.

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Ocean at the end of the laneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Goodreads Description: Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

My Review:

Opening sentence:

“Nobody came to my seventh birthday party.”

Why had no one gone to his birthday party? Was he new to the area? Was he shy? Was he a social outcast because he was somehow different? What was it? I had only read the first sentence when I began to empathize with the protagonist. I recalled the times in my childhood where I’d felt out-of-place, a little misfit. Neil Gaiman does a remarkable job of stirring those childhood memories to create a connection with the reader.

“Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that come later, like childhood toys forgotten at the bottom of a crammed adult closet, but they are never lost for good.”

This story will take you back to your childhood as quickly as the aroma of your mother’s homemade Christmas cookies wafting through the air. Only, it isn’t the pleasant memories that come to mind. You will recall the times you heard or saw things that weren’t evident to adults.

“Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences. I was a child, which meant that I knew a dozen different ways of getting out of our property and into the lane, ways that would not involve walking down our drive.”

I often wonder if, as a child, I was more in tune with the metaphysical world, with the unexplained, the things that go bump in the night. It was the time before I learned to put the world in a neat little box where every odd occurrence could be reasoned with a logical explanation. What about the toy that begins to play in the middle of the night? Oh it’s just a malfunction in the mechanism. What about the trinket that falls off the shelf? Surely it had been accidentally shifted by a person’s touch during the day and finally succumbed to gravity.  What was the flash of light across the bedroom wall? Oh, it was the reflection of a passing car. What was the shadow you saw in your peripheral vision? Well, of course it was just your imagination.

“I saw the world I had walked since my birth, and I understood how fragile it was, that the reality was a thin layer of icing on a great dark birthday cake writhing with grubs and nightmares and hunger.”

Reading this book will cause you to relive that paralyzing childhood fear when you were certain something was lurking under your bed or in your closet, but somehow hiding under your covers provided a magical layer of protection from anything sinister. You will believe that there are invisible forces at work. While evil lurks in the shadows, there is a benevolent force, like Lettie, that will cover you like that warm blanket from childhood. And quite possibly you will wonder if there really is an ocean at the end of the lane.

Memorable quotes:

“It’s hard enough being alive, trying to survive in the world and find your place in it, to do the things you need to do to get by, without wondering if the thing you just did, whatever it was, was worth someone having…if not died, then having given up her life.”

“How can you be happy in this world? You have a hole in your heart. You have a gateway inside you to lands beyond the world you know. They will call you, as you grow.”

4 of 5 stars

Book Review: Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

I typically finish a book in a day or two, and although my reading time was limited when I was reading this book, it wasn’t the only reason it took me longer to finish Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t get past the preface before I was marking sentences that spoke to me and rereading them. I think if you have the soul of a writer, this book will speak to you too. Here is an excerpt:

“I have learned on my journeys, that if I let a day go by without writing, I grow uneasy. Two days and I am in tremor. Three and I suspect lunacy. Four and I might as well be a hog, suffering the flux in a wallow. An hour’s writing is tonic. I’m on my feet, running in circles, and yelling for a clean pair of spats.”

If you’re looking for a how-to manual on writing, this is not the book for you. There seems to be a consistent message among great authors who publish books on writing. There is no magic formula. You must simply have the desire to write and determination to see it through.

Bradbury’s book is a collection of essays written over a thirty year period. Here is a sampling of some of his advice about the craft of writing:

Write with zest. Writing is meant to be a joyful experience. Write what you are passionate about and then it will be.

Feed the Muse. We feed our bodies by ingesting food and water. We feed the muse by ingesting life experiences through our senses. Seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and feeling give sustenance to the Muse.

Read everything you can get your hands on. It doesn’t matter if the author writes like you or not. Read it anyway and reap the benefits of an expanded mind.

“These are the stuffs, the foods, on which The Muse grows. This is the storehouse, the file, to which we must return every waking hour to check reality against memory, and in sleep to check memory against memory, which means ghost against ghost, in order to exorcise them, if necessary.”

Surround yourself with supportive people and get rid off (no, put the gun away, silly) those who aren’t.

Write every single day. Ray Bradbury wrote 1,000 words per day from the time he was twelve, and finally discovered his unique story at the age of twenty-two. Do this exercise and your voice will eventually emerge.

When it comes to first drafts, just put your thoughts down on the page. Don’t stop to analyze what you’ve written. Don’t let Left Brain spoil the party.

“The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style, instead of leaping upon truth which is the only style worth dead falling or tiger-trapping.”

Make lists. That’s right. Make lists of topics that interest you, things that you love or hate, things that exhilarate or terrify, things that have left an impression on you. The stories that live within you–from your unique thoughts and life experiences–will take their first breath from the words on your list.

“I leave you now at the bottom of your own stair, at half after midnight, with a pad, a pen and a list to be made. Conjure the nouns, alert the secret self, taste the darkness. Your own Thing stands waiting ‘way up there in the attic shadows. If you speak softly and write any old word that wants to jump out of your nerves onto the page…

Your Thing at the top of your stairs in your own private night…may well come down.”

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to be a writer.

4 of 5 stars