Review: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Author: John Green
Publication Date: January 10, 2012
Publisher:Dutton Books
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 318 (Collectors Edition Hardcover)
Source: Personal Shelf
Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, 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.

 ~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

I am at a complete loss of words in regards to this review. This is one of those books that I picked up because all of my friends thought I was completely insane for not reading it. In truth, I didn't want to read it because I knew that I would bawl and I was completely unprepared to bawl. I'm the avid reader out of all of my friends and all of the non-readers read it so my nerdy reader friends ganged up on me and threatened to burn my books if I didn't read it. Naturally, I relented because my books are my babies and burning them would be like ripping out my soul. Not really, but you get what I mean. Am I beyond happy that I read this book? Definitely, and I plan on checking out numerous other stories by Mr. Green, but am I so worried about writing a cohesive review that I'm babbling and trying to distract you from the fact that I'm still tearing up thinking about this amazing literature masterpiece? A thousand times yes. So, forgive me if this review does not reach my normal standards. It's hard to review a book that leaves you speechless because there truly are no words to describe the feelings and emotions that it instilled in you.

To begin, John Green has perfected the art of unique characterization and connectivity. I had no problem connecting with Augustus or Hazel which, I believe, is why this was probably one of the most rickety emotional roller coaster rides I've been on in a while. Hazel has this really caustic, dry sense of humor that I tend to greatly enjoy in characters. However, hers was made all the more interesting because it was exhibited in such a unique and dire situation. She made an otherwise serious and overwhelmingly emotional tale full of surprising laughter and occasional smiles. At least, that was the first two thirds of the book because the last third was a killer. However, I'll get into that later.

Augustus Waters deserves his own praise. My favorite aspect of young adult leading men is flaws. I love the flawed ones because they're real, they're not these perfect men that are unattainable in reality. They're doubly perfect because of their flaws. Somewhere in the world, such a person could exist and walk among us. It's characters like this that make reading worth while and, in my opinion, Augustus Waters is one of these characters. Once a star basketball player, he had to get a limb amputated from his cancer. In remission, he lived a life of metaphors with a big heart under his overly-confident exterior. Despite his ability to be highly romantic, the boy in him shines through his love of zombie video games and novels, but this also gives way to his obsession with helping others and going out as a savior instead of a victim. I have unlimited respect for this boy who always puts others before himself. The boy who puts a cigarette between his lips signifying the ability to kill, but refusing to light it to show that he has the heart to beat it. This boy is perfect because of his complexity, uniqueness, faults, and drive. It's funny to think that when I first met him in the story I couldn't pinpoint if he was an arrogant character who was all too aware of his good-looks or if he was putting up a front. It was neither, he's a boy with unbelievable depth who just so happens to be aware of the fact that he is gorgeous (both inside and out). I would read the book just for him. This guy is full of so much love and the romance in this one is real. It's not a silly little teenage love story--this is one that deserves to have a place in the real world. This is one of the first love interests in a while who, to me, seems human.

The perfect romance aside, this book has a very serious undercurrent because it is a cancer story. I know a lot of people claim it isn't, my friends did, but this truly is one. It's just different than the usual cancer story because John Green was brutally honest. We get the whole shebang--the worry about the family once their gone, the journey to death, accepting ones fate, low points where the pain is so immense that they want to die, and the acknowledgement of "cancer perks." These perks aren't just having your one Wish granted from the Genie Foundation, but being given a license after failing your driving test three times with your prosthetic leg because you got your right food amputated and can't do anything with your left. This perk is the free trip to Disney or boarding the plane first. The things that people do for the sick people. This book is real, and that's what makes it all the more heartbreaking. Green's amazing writing skill easily allows us to be caught up in Augustus and Hazel's relationship, their easy banter and worry in the first 2/3 of the book that when things get real, you almost forget that you're reading a cancer story. ALMOST being the key word. It quickly becomes abundantly clear that the story you predicted from page one has been lurking beneath the surface and it will all eventually come to light through a flood of tears, a barrage of tissues, and an infinite number of pleas for change alongside several of the characters. It's hard to make me cry, and this book has me tearing up just thinking about it two hours after completion.

With that in thought, I want to caution that if you have a family member with cancer, I wouldn't recommend this story. It's heartbreaking to those of us who are fortunate enough not to go through such struggles ourselves, it'll be so much more intense for you.

This is not the story for those looking for a happy-go-lucky story. At times it may seem that way, but it is so much more. The tears and torment are so worth it because the tale is so perfectly weaved. I know many feel cheated by the ending because the beginning of the book was so happy, especially for a cancer story, but again, this is a cancer story. If this was a happy story it would be known as a story of survival instead of a cancer story. Thinking that a cancer story is entirely happy is like going into Shakespeare's famous tragedy Hamlet hoping that Hamlet survives. If it's a tragedy and the character's name is the title, he is clearly going to die, just as a cancer story is clearly not going to be the happiest tale alive though it could be used as a vehicle to deliver uplifting stories of survival, love, trust, and perseverance. I truly think that John Green managed that in this one.

Between the drunk yet well written and respected Peter Van Houten, Augustus Waters, Hazel, the newly blind Isaac, the ball-less Peter and all parents in this novel you will discover a cast that is easy to remember for their diversity, message, and perfect characterization. Green has easily proven himself as a literary genius and I eagerly await his other novels. It's not easy to make me cry, and as twisted as it is, I look forward to the novels that such an author can produce because the ability to make readers feel such strong emotions is something to be respected, envied, and praised in the YA writing industry. Green's characters may fear oblivion on Earth, but such a thing is nothing he will ever experience after producing a story like this.

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS deserves infinite stars.


5 stars

~*~Links~*~

Review: School Spirits

Author: Rachel Hawkins
Series: School Spirits
Publication Date: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 304 (ARC)
Source: ARC for Review from Publisher
Fifteen-year-old Izzy Brannick was trained to fight monsters. For centuries, her family has hunted magical creatures. But when Izzy’s older sister vanishes without a trace while on a job, Izzy's mom decides they need to take a break.

Izzy and her mom move to a new town, but they soon discover it’s not as normal as it appears. A series of hauntings has been plaguing the local high school, and Izzy is determined to prove her worth and investigate. But assuming the guise of an average teenager is easier said than done. For a tough girl who's always been on her own, it’s strange to suddenly make friends and maybe even have a crush.

Can Izzy trust her new friends to help find the secret behind the hauntings before more people get hurt?

Rachel Hawkins' delightful spin-off brings the same wit and charm as the New York Times best-selling Hex Hall series. Get ready for more magic, mystery and romance!
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

I absolutely loved the Hex Hall series, so I was naturally looking forward to this one. I can't even explain how excited I am to report that SCHOOL SPIRITS exceeded all of my expectations and delivered a story that I miraculously loved even more then the original series. Full of unique characters, a perfectly cute romance, an intriguing ghost story, and the laugh-out-loud humor that Hawkins is known for, this book will not disappoint.

It was refreshing to have a new voice in this one while remnants of the old still remained. And what I mean by that is that we get to learn through a more grown-up Izzy and we still have connections to the original Hex Hall series via Izzy's family, the amazingly annoying warlock that is stuck in a mirror named Torin, and distant mentions of Sophie one day leading the Council. But the new aspects of the story fascinated me and easily kept the story from following the same path as Hex Hall did--something many spin-off series do to their predecessors--so I'm a happy girl. Though, admittedly, I think that part of the reason I loved this one so much more than the aforementioned series is due to the fact that there's no love triangle in this one.

We start off the story with Izzy who is mourning the sudden disappearance of her elder sister, Finley. They were together on a mission to get rid of a dark witch coven, but Finn insisted she could handle it alone since she knew that Izzy desperately wanted to finish her current novel. Sounds like something us bookies would do, eh? Anyway, Finn disappeared that evening and after six months of searching for her, Izzy's mother decided that it was time to let go. They went back to continuing the missions that the Brannick's are known for, but when Izzy encountered some problems on her first solo-mission against a young and cliche' vampire, her mother decided it was time for a change. They moved to a small town called Ideal, Mississippi under the guise of investigating a haunting in the high school that resulted in the ghostly murder of a biology teacher. And while Izzy begins to investigate everything going on, she makes new friends in the PMS (Paranormal Management Society haha) and even captures some romantic attention from the wonderfully dorky and sweet Dex. She realizes that maybe a normal life isn't so bad at all.

Clearly, this plot leads to nothing but amazing shenanigans and a chillingly insane ghost story that make it impossible to put this book down. I read it in one sweep and was forced to skip lunch due to the amazing story hidden in this gem.

But what made it so perfect was not only the plot, but the brilliant characterization that made way for some surprising and unexpected plot twists. Izzy basically makes three really great friends while at Mary Evans High. They all happen to be the resident outcasts and members of the Paranormal Management Society. First, there's Romy. An adopted and insanely colorful Asian student, she's a good friend with a passion for the supernatural. Then there's Anderson...an ex-athlete who has the cutest crush on Romy and often stands to be some sort of voice of reason. But most importantly, there's Dex. Also insanely colorful but in a very artistic and fashionable way, he speaks unusually as if he was from several decades ago and desperately needs an inhaler when he exerts himself too much in any way. He has startlingly blue eyes that contrast beautifully with his dark curls and, oh, let's not forget that as perfect as he is for Izzy, he may just be Prodigium. Their romance is both adorable and deliciously complicated--perfect for younger readers and enticing for us older ones.

Really, there's nothing negative to say about this one. Izzy offered us a fresh voice. Though her Brannick blood causes her to be fearless, she is scared of normality. High school, boys, friendships and dating are all lost concepts to her that we watch her struggle to understand alongside Torin with the help of television series surrounding kids in high school. This proved to be a very entertaining aspect of the novel as well. Torin's presence was both wonderful due to his connection to Hex Hall and refreshing because he does play such a huge part in Izzy's life. To understand all of the cute references in this one, I highly recommend checking out the beloved Hex Hall series prior to jumping into its wonderful spin-off.

A book that simply cannot be ignored, Hawkins weaves us a literary masterpiece better than anything else she has delivered before. Izzy's story is just beginning and I am already hooked for life.


5 stars

~*~Links~*~

Top Ten Books I Thought I'd Like More Than I Did


This is in no particular order. Just because I liked a book less than I originally thought I would does not mean that nobody else should give it a shot. All of these books got 2.5 stars or lower, but they were interesting enough that I didn't DNF them. I'm not trying to bash any titles, so instead I will link my reviews so that you can see my troubles for yourself.

1. Level Two by Lenore Applehans - 1.5 stars
2. Glitch by Heather Anastasiu - 1.5 stars
3. Nobody by Jennifer Lynn Barnes - 2.5 stars
4. Shattered Dreams by Ellie James - 2 stars
5. Dualed by Elsie Chapman - 2.5 stars
6. Fathomless by Jackson Pearce - 2.5 stars
7. The Dead Girls Detective Agency by Suzy Cox - 2 stars
8. Eve and Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate - 2.5 stars
9. Touch of Death by Kelly Hashway - 1 star
10. Otherkin by Nina Berry - 2 stars

Link me up to your lists this week!

Top Ten Books I Read Before I Was A Blogger


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish.

This is actually one of my favorite topics ever because some of my favorite books were read before I started blogging. This week is a rewind, so I chose this topic because it went up while I was in Italy.

So, in no particular order...

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This is my favorite book of all time, no questions asked. It spoke to me on so many levels and blew my mind in unexplainable ways. In my mind, this book will always be unparalleled.

2. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
This is one of the series that got me reading. I loved book one with all of my heart and though I don't think books two or three can ever live up to the amazingness that is book one, I will forever love Katniss.

3. First 3 books in The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
Cassandra Clare is my favorite author, end of discussion. The Mortal Instruments has been my favorite series ever. My heart about plummeted when I learned that this trilogy would turn into 6 books. I loved where book three left off and I feel like another three books would just carry out the story and torture the characters more. However, I do own books four and five so I plan on reading them and hopefully reviewing them to decide if I'll read book six. If the show must go on, I have to be right alongside my favorite characters ever.

4. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Never before has a book made me bawl my eyes out so hard because I was both incredibly sad and prepetually happy. This book took me on such a strong roller-coaster of emotions and while I say that many books do that today, they can't compare to the intense feelings that Hosseini made me feel.

5. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Need I say more? It's Harry freaking Potter! I haven't gotten through the entire series, but I plan on doing that eventually. I love the stories and I can never review them because I can never speak about my thoughts on the books in a way that others can actually understand what I'm talking about. haha

6. Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
My favorite middle-grade ever, Percy Jackson was my first ever mythological story that gave me my love of mythology retellings today.

7. Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty
This series is the first series I've ever read that was meant for older young adults, and even then I read it while I was in middle school. Jessica Darling is a really great story for us older girls, and I recommend it to anyone.

8. Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
You WILL see a review of CLOCKWORK PRINCESS. I am so freaking excited for the release of this book, you have no idea. It's so amazing, but at the same time, I hate for this trilogy to come to an end.

9. Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
This series got me reading in the first place. It's been so long since I've read it that I do plan on going back and re-reading everything and reviewing the books that I once loved so much back in middle school. I hope my thoughts don't change.

10. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My favorite classic, I loved the plot twists that Fitzgerald delivered to us. It's so hard for me to describe my love for this one out loud.

BUONGIORNO ITALIA!!!!

Ciao ragazzi! (Hey guys!)

One thing that you may not know about me is that I love all things Italian. I've taken four years of the language and speak it at an advanced level. I went to Italy when I was 13 as a Student Ambassador and immediately fell in love with the entire country, the culture, the architecture, the preservation and emphasis on history, and of course, the food. I'm part of the Italian National Honor Society and have served a double term presidency for my school's Italian Club. Pasta? Pizza? Vino? Roma? Venezia? Firenze? Sicilia? Sardegna? Amore? I love it all. Italy is truly my favorite place in the world.

And my parents are so amazing that they are letting me go to Italy for 10 days with my Italian class. In my school, you're offered the opportunity to spend your Spring Break in the mother country of your respective language (aside from the Chinese class because it's... CHINA!). So my awesome Italian teacher that is barely 5 feet tall but is full of a billion feet of personality is taking me to Italy. This is my second time there, and I'm hoping it'll be more awesome than the first. IT PROBABLY WILL BE BECAUSE I GET TO SPEND TIME ON A BEACH IN CAPRI! WHAT!

Boys, dance clubs, unlimited wine...did I say cute Italian boys already or the fact that I can legally drink in this country? Anyway, the point of this post is this: I really want to enjoy my time in Italy. I haven't traveled outside of the country in over five years and to be granted the wish to visit my favorite place in the world for the second time is a true blessing. Which means for roughly the next two weeks, my blog will temporarily be on hiatus. Not only do I not have internet, but I don't really want to have internet. I want to enjoy this opportunity for what it is, and maybe bring back a ton of pictures to shove in your faces when I'm done.

So, I arrive home on the 14th. Factor in a few days of jetlag and you'll have me back a little over half way through this month with a ton of reviews since I have a long flight there and six hour layover in Switzerland on the way home, as well as a decent chunk of hours on a bus to get from Point A to Point B and nothing to do but read some awesome books.

I hope everyone has an amazing Spring Break.

Fingers crossed that this will be the trip of a life time. <3

Io parto per l'Italia, il mio posto preferito nel mondo! Questa è la mia grande avventura e il più bel regalo che potessi chiedere. Grazie mamma e papà. 

Review: Opal

Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series: Lux #3
Publication Date: December 11, 2012
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 382 (paperback)
Source: Personal Shelf
No one is like Daemon Black.

When he set out to prove his feelings for me, he wasn’t fooling around. Doubting him isn’t something I’ll do again, and now that we’ve made it through the rough patches, well... There’s a lot of spontaneous combustion going on.

But even he can’t protect his family from the danger of trying to free those they love.

After everything, I’m no longer the same Katy. I’m different... And I’m not sure what that will mean in the end. When each step we take in discovering the truth puts us in the path of the secret organization responsible for torturing and testing hybrids, the more I realize there is no end to what I’m capable of. The death of someone close still lingers, help comes from the most unlikely source, and friends will become the deadliest of enemies, but we won’t turn back. Even if the outcome will shatter our worlds forever.

Together we’re stronger... and they know it.
 ~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

Before I begin, I want to say that this review may have spoilers for book two because it's nearly impossible to describe the plot without spoiling book two.

Going into this book, my expectations were high. Book one and two completely blew me away, and while I greatly enjoyed book three I can't say that I believe it measured up to book one and book two.

To begin, I predicted the end of the novel in the very beginning of the book. Knowing JLA, this was going to be a cliffhanger and the ending of this one was certainly one of the worst cliffhangers I've come across in a while, but it's sort of excepted now. And it's a bummer that it could have all been avoided if certain characters just listened to their guts. It seems that aspects of the past are destined to repeat itself with this crew. Am I still eagerly awaiting book four? Totally. But part of me still sits here frustrated because it's one of those situations where all the signs were glaringly obvious and nobody listened to their instincts.

My biggest annoyance with this novel was that there was a lot of grudges. Most of the grudges were about keeping secrets from others or not trusting one's instincts which led to bad things happening. Countless times several different characters swore to stop doing this because fighting always ensued when certain topics that arose from such actions came up. Well, nobody did anything to change it. Katy still kept secrets, people still held grudges, Daemon still didn't listen to his gut, nor did anyone else for that matter. As amazing as this bunch of characters is, so much could have been avoided and it's frustrating when you sit back and reflect on it all.

Characterization wise Katy remained the same. She matured in some aspects and stayed the same in others. She got even more attached to Daemon. Daemon was still his deliciously arrogant self, but he was all the more in tune with Katy. Dee was perhaps the biggest grudge holder in this one, so she wasn't a large part of the novel for a while. Her desire to have space from Katy was no surprise after reading book two, but I desperately wanted her as part of the plot because the book almost seemed slightly dry without her and her lovely antics. Dawson was almost zombie-like and it took a while for him to get out of his trance. It was to be expected after everything he endured. The real Dawson slowly awoke with the help of everyone, and I found his slowly journey to acceptance and reality to be great.

And then there's Blake. Don't get me started on Blake. I still don't think he should have been there. He caused a lot of problems and did a lot of terrible things, yet he somehow still snooped around looking for Katy's acceptance and adoration. And the characters, while not companionable with him, learned to deal with him and his actions in order to save one of their own. What ensued afterwards was no surprise to me. Blake is Blake and will always be Blake.

All in all, I think this book was more or less there to help transition from the major plot points in books one and two to the ones in books four and five. It lacked the constant hilariousness that the others did. As usual, there was a lot of fighting and making up, a lot of Daemon's antics, a lot of worries and speculating from the characters and now the rest of their student body, but something was different when you compare this novel to the rest. I couldn't tell you what it is. As much as I love the characters, I felt almost disconnected to them at times. There was a lot of kissing scenes and sexual situations in this one. I get that a relationship progresses and Daemon is Daemon, but it's almost like every other chapter there was some steaminess and it was too much at a point. I just wanted more of a plot with this one. I like seeing Daemon agree with Katy and I like watching their relationship progress, but in comparison to the past books he keeps getting softer the more they become physical. I know their connection is growing, but gah, they're kissing so much I don't understand how they know how to breathe anymore.

I think a good comparison for this book would be to JLA's own Covenant Series, which I love with all my heart. Like Daemon and Katy, the main characters in that series are also beginning to have a more physical relationship, but it's less of a focus in that book. There's a serious kickass plot that keeps you on your toes and the relationship is a great aspect of the plot, but the kissing doesn't overrun the plot. It almost seemed like it did in this one. I'm hoping that I'll love book four as much as I loved book two and three, but this one just didn't live up to the rest in my eyes. The plot was diminished by too much steamy scenes to appease certain readers. Unfortunately, this doesn't do it for me. I love a good book and I don't mind a steamy relationship, but I prefer the overall story to a bunch of sexy times. If literature one day just turns into a bunch of heavy kissing scenes and more, I'll be severely disappointed. But, I must admit, JLA does know how to deliver in this aspect.

But seriously. Holy alien babies everywhere, I need book four to be out already after that ending! Ah!
 

4 stars

~*~Links~*~