Inspired by True Events

This past week I spent in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN. It was a vacation with the whole family, so of course anything can happen. It turned out to be a phenomenal experience. I ran through caves, hiked mountains, jumped off a cliff, swam in rivers, and did some white water rafting. This vacation suited me perfectly and I’m already thinking of a return trip to the mountains. Perhaps my favorite experience this past week (it is so hard to choose just one) was walking a short path of the Appalachian Trail. This trail was G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S! Take a look –

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A view from the trail

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The vibrant trail (photo edited, but I promise it really was this beautiful)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My fascination with the trail took root and hence, I found these books to start exploring further. Books really can be wonderful, useful, enlightening…. I can’t wait to get reading (and maybe find some hiking here in MI).

AT1

 

aT2

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The Dinosaur Daily: Get FREE books!

The Dinosaur Daily

June 15, 2014

The Dino Daily

Source: BookBub

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Fellow readers,

You may have the privilege of already having discovered the joys of Book Bub, but for those that have not read on.

A friend told me of this yesterday and I thought I’d share. Bookbub (link above) is a website that offers discounted and sometimes free books. It’s incredibly easy to sign up and it suggests books based on your preferences. I think this is the start of  new, beautiful relationship.

Yesterday I got these two books for free!

Ties That Bind by Carolyn Arnold

TTB

Goodreads Synopsis:

When a woman is found strangled in her home, Detective Madison Knight and her partner Terry Grant rule it an isolated incident. But when another woman is murdered with the same line of neckties, they know it isn’t a coincidence. Now they must figure out the connection so they can stop a potential serial killer before he gets to his third victim.

Gravity by Abigail Boyd

Gr

Goodreads Synopsis:

A lost friend, a new love, and a town full of secrets… One night in the town of Hell, Ariel’s best friend goes missing. Those around her believe Jenna ran away, but when Ariel is tormented by nightmares and paranormal activity, she realizes Jenna’s disappearance was part of a bigger mystery. Ariel’s obsession with haunted houses and horror movies makes her the perfect detective. 

But to complicate matters, a handsome newcomer named Henry Rhodes plagues her with unwanted attention. Though he doesn’t believe in the supernatural events, she enlists his help and that of quirky nerd Theo. What is making the lights at school flicker? And why did Ariel dream of the old abandoned Dexter orphanage? When Ariel finally discovers the truth, it’s much worse than she ever feared.

I got these new reads just in time for my family vacation! I have a Nook and with an app on my phone, it makes it easy to access new books anywhere. Book Bub helps me save money on new books and is simple and fun to use. I recommend it.

Book Review: Anya’s Ghost

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Goodreads Synopsis:

Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn’t kidding about the “Forever” part.
Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century.
Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya’s normal life might actually be worse. She’s embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she’s pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs.
Or so she thinks. Spooky, sardonic, and secretly sincere, Anya’s Ghost is a wonderfully entertaining debut from author/artist Vera Brosgol.

AG

 

My Review:

Anya’s Ghost is a story that embraces the many fears of coming of age. Anya, the protagonist, is no extraordinary girl – except when she is. She worries about her weight, getting boys attention, approval from her peers, clothes, nationality, making friends, and understanding familial values. Really, Anya is just an ordinary teenager with some likeable and some rather unlikeable traits. For an unextraodinary girl, something extraordinary happens to her. Anya falls into a well. Yes, a well. And just when things couldn’t get worse, Anya’s hit rock bottom – literally. But maybe the fall was exactly what she needed. In a supernatural turn of events, Anya befriends a ghost. Well, actually, the ghost kind of follows Anya. But Anya’s disdain for her ghostly friend disappears when she realized her new friend’s physical, or rather non-physical form, has its perks.

The problem is that Anya is still a teenager. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a teenager, but she’s just an average-minded girl with the hopes of impressing the student body (and one boy in particular). There’s an even greater problem than Anya’s misguided whims – and its sitting (or floating) right next to her.

This story is a wonderful YA read because it addresses several fears of the average teenager without the overwhelming diction that makes readers aware they are being lectured. It’s just a good story with an edgy, supernatural twist. Readers will understand Anya, and if they don’t relate to her themselves, they probably know someone who would. Anya is the kind of friend we’ve all been, or had as a friend. The fight for attention leads to disappointment and betrayal, which Anya is quick to discover.

Besides Anya’s problems at school, there’s that whole ghost stalker thing she has to worry about. It appears she’s not the only one begging for someone’s affection, but Anya has to be careful or she might be in grave danger. The supernatural twist to the story is sure to engage readers. It is fearsome and fascinating – perfect for the teen or preteen reader.

I give Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol a five out of five stars

 

5 Stars

 

Book to Box Office: The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

written by Scott Neustadtar, Michael H. Weber, and John Green

Directed by Josh Boone

Starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort

tfios film

IMBD Synopsis:

Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel’s other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group.

 

My Review:

As a highly anticipated film, I had certain expectations of this movie although I was careful not to put my expectations too high. The Fault in Our Stars delivered. I was not disappointed. In fact, I think I need to see it again.

First and foremost, for those die hard fans out there the film does a great job of following the book. Is it just me or are filmmakers finally understanding that fan viewers really like to see the story they read visually portrayed?  With that though does come some downfalls. I loved the fact that the story swayed very little from the book. But because it did so, I think the film lost some of its magic. It was less of an emotional journey as in the book readers were in the first person narrative of Hazel Grace, in the film not as much. Not just that, but there were definitely some ‘pleaser lines’ if you will. That is, the well-adored quotes from the book are loud and clear throughout the film, almost as if picking out the popular items from the novel and using them as items in the storyline to help sell it to the audience. It felt somewhat disconnected to me, like the story existed to tell these insights. I understand the audience will love it, but I didn’t think these insights were delivered with the personality the book intended. I was surprised that the title line, the quote that identifies the reasoning behind the popular title, was left out. Unless I just missed it?

As for the casting, Woodley and Elgort delivered the personalities of Hazel and Augustus perfectly. Woodley had the cool and distant demeanor and Elgort did a particularly good job with his facial expressions, which were slight but delivered quite the blow. These two are going to become headlining actors after their performance in Divergent and now The Fault in Our Stars. Personally, I think both Woodley and Elgort were more suited to the roles of Hazel and Augustus than they were meant for Tris and Caleb in Divergent.

During the film I was most looking forward to the confrontation between Peter Van Houten and Hazel and Gus. This scene was very good! Even though Peter wasn’t quite as I expected him, William DeFoe portrayed the actor with ideas I actually liked better than I originally imagined him. The scene followed as expected, but again, lost its touch of magic as we were outside Hazel’s thoughts and certain things, such as Peter’s assistant and the Swedish rap music, seemed underdeveloped in comparison to the novel.

The scene I was most impressed with actually followed the author confrontation scene. When Hazel, Gus, and Lidewij went to Anne Frank’s house. Whoa! the symbolism here and Hazel’s stubbornness were more dominant than what I remembered in the book. At one point the symbolism became a touch overdone, but I suppose the whole thing suited the taste of the film, following the major ideals and metaphor’s of the book. Hazel’s comparison to Anne Frank and their two stories, two struggles met in that house. I was impressed with the interpretations in this scene.

Even though I continue to say the film had less magic than the book, I understand that novel and film are two completely different mediums with two completely different ways of presenting a story. With each Book to Box Office Review I write, there is a certain difficulty comparing the two devices. While I was grateful for the filmmakers to keep the story so close to its original script, John Green’s book, I admit I wished to see a touch more interpretation. It’s one thing to make the characters move and say the same things as they do in the novel, but another to make the audience feel the same way about them. Josh Boone really did a superb job directing this film, but as usual, the novel holds more emotional impact than the film was able to deliver. Of course, I still shed a tear or two. It is an emotional story after all.

As for the elements of film, I’m much less educated to this aspect. However, I was constantly impressed with the costumes of all the characters. Isaac’s character probably surprised me the most, but it was a pleasant surprise as I realized I hadn’t spent too much time creating Isaac as a character while I read. Hazel’s loose, somewhat baggy, clothes suited a cancer-ridden frame of a sick child. She wore simple tees in basic, not-too-loud colors that suited her ‘whatever’, careful-not-to-get-too-close to anyone attitude. And Augustus wore that brown, leather jacket like a hero. It suited his athletic build – a shadow to his life before cancer, but it also reminded me of a fighter pilot, a motorcyclist, or some other action figure that perfectly suited Augustus’s consistent desire for heroism.

While I know little about the mechanics of film, other than operating a few digital projectors at work, I really enjoyed the way this film was shot. The scenes didn’t hover around the characters, but made them part of a larger picture. The images were sometimes blurred and bright – beautiful, simple, yet artistic. I don’t always notice the cinematography (I hope that is the right word), but the way The Fault in Our Stars was filmed seemed another artistic filter for the story directly. It is how Hazel and Gus would have imagined it, I believe.

Also, the soundtrack was. amazing. There are probably about thirty seconds of film that I entirely missed (is that Ray Lamontagne? It is, I’m sure of it. Oooh! I haven’t heard this song before – and so on).  Again, the soundtrack was another artistic element that persuaded the film to be a touch more of John Green’s beloved novel.

The Fault in Our Stars is a film that will please audiences whether they are John Green fans, only fans of The Fault in Our Stars, Woodley or Elgort fans, and even everyone else. It is emotional, but happy as well. You shouldn’t leave sad and you won’t cry uncontrollably so its probably okay for a date night movie. For those seeing it after reading the book, don’t pick it apart at the seams. It does follow the book nicely. You won’t be disappointed, but as a novel is a larger investment into character and plot development, don’t be too critical if you feel like that same spark isn’t in the film. It’s okay. Actually, it’s good.

I give The Fault in Our Stars, directed by Josh Boone a four out of five stars.

4 stars (2)

Read the book review here

Also on IMDB

seen the film? Looking forward to it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Comment below

 

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

TFIOS

The Goodreads Synopsis:

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.

My Review:

To be honest, I really didn’t want to write this review. It’s pretty obvious by my timing that I put off reading this book until the film was made, and now here’s my review the night before The Night Before Our Stars big premiere event. I can’t help that I have a certain distaste for reading books with large fan followings. While I usually end up enjoying these books at some level, I can’t help but think my opinion was swayed (either for the good or the bad) due to the large following of the book or series. It is for this reason I have yet to read The Hunger Games series.

Anyway, without further ado – actually, I typed that prematurely. I just took several Buzzfeed quizzes before diving into this review. Like somehow discovering what my beer choice says about me would enlighten me and make writing this review a breeze.

*ahem* without further ado

The Fault in Our Stars was brilliantly written. If I had half of John Green’s talent you could be sure I’d be doing more than blogging. Here’s the thing – TFIOS isn’t some outstanding story about a cancer kid with new insights on life and struggle. I mean, it is, but it doesn’t necessarily stand out above the rest of the stories about cancer kids with their struggles and new life experiences. Green knows how to pull the heartstrings as well as the next guy. While reading TFIOS it wasn’t the pain the characters experienced but their joy that made this a worthwhile read.

So for the sake of not repeating everything that’s been said about this book, I’m going to discuss some of what the Celebration! Cinema Book Club went over when I had time to visit.

I liked Hazel as a protagonist. I’ve read a lot of negative reviews calling her pretentious and unrealistically witty for  a sixteen-year-old. I thought she was lovely. Hazel has a completely different sense of time from normal teenagers. She’s dying, and she is keenly aware of it. Therefore, I find her quick wits a heroic gesture to fight for her adulthood, and also a weakness as readers are reminded that Hazel does not have the same life as most other teens. The same goes for Augustus. He and Hazel are a perfect match because they are both stubborn and weak in similar ways – not that they are two pretentious teens using their sickness to heighten their sensitivity and intellect.

An Imperial Affliction – Hazel’s favorite book  – creates a beautiful frametale to Green’s story. Anna’s story (from An Imperial Affliction) and Hazel’s are connected in some unseen ways. I’d say its agreed that Hazel looks to VanHouten’s story as a comfort, as she identifies with Anna, but more so, the fact that Anna’s story is unfinished helps Hazel live her story. It’s no wonder that Hazel wants to know what happens to Anna’s parents when she worries what will happen to her own parents in the event of her death. The answer isn’t in the book though, and through a string of some happy and some sad events, Hazel gets a little closer to understanding the end of An Imperial Affliction and maybe even her own story.

** This portion contains some slight spoilers** That brings me to Peter VanHouten, the author of Hazel’s favorite story and perhaps, in my opinion, John Green’s most brilliantly written character. Peter was a jerk, right? Perfect. Hazel and Augustus are treated poorly in Peter’s house, yes, but what I loved about this is that for possibly the first time, the two of them are given the same treatment as everyone else. And Peter, his is the ultimate struggle. As one of the ones left behind with only his brilliant mind. I can’t fathom what a man of his intelligence struggles with – the afterlife? the afterlife of someone he loves? Perhaps the alcohol is consumed to numb these sorts of thoughts. **Spoilers over**

And finally, I can’t ignore the romance of Hazel and Gus. They might be sixteen, but they love like they’re sixty. It seemed a bit too perfect at first, but I think it all makes sense. They are both conscious of their time left on earth. They do not love with urgency though because they each understand that time will take what it wants. And as Hazel is cautious not to hurt anybody in the even of her impending death, she proceeds slowly. They both have this mature understanding of protecting the other, but they do so in different ways. Hazel doesn’t want to hurt Gus, and Gus doesn’t want Hazel to make unnecessary sacrifices. Compared to Issac and Monica’s relationship they show some maturity beyond their years. Isaac and Monica’s “always” had a predictable ending, but Gus and Hazel agree that their relationship is “okay”. Now that is impressive (and okay, kind of adorable). Sometimes bodies get sick and sometimes love gets sick, and they are completely familiar with both.

The Fault in Our Stars was a worthwhile read. It is more than an emotional tear-jerker or some teen love story. It is a story full of deep insights and admirable characters you’ll feel like you’ve met before.

I give this book five out of five stars. 

5 Stars

Book Review: India Was One

India Was One by An Indian

Find it on Goodreads

Goodreads Synopsis:

…Suddenly, he saw something shiny at the bottom of the abyss. He squinted his eyes to see what it was. He ran back to his binoculars and turned them to see what it was. Sharp barbed wires that separated the two mountains came into focus. He had come as far as he could in his country. But she was standing in another country.

He was in South India and she was in North India…

Have you ever imagined India being divided into two countries? What happens to the millions of Indians who are from South India but are now residing in North India? Kaahi & Jai were two such people who got trapped in this situation. Everything was going smoothly for them and suddenly, their world turned upside down.

How will they get together? Will India become one again?

Take an exciting journey with them from their college days in Mumbai to their life in the US and back to India when they find out that India is divided.

India Was One

My Review:

The author sent this book to me in exchange for an honest review. As India Was One is a self-published novel (create space), I will review it in comparison to novels of similar beginnings as it is unfair in my opinion to judge these authors against those who are spoiled with agents and editors to help make their work shine (and possibly, if you agree, a bit less their own).

I was very excited to begin reading this book because I am particularly interested in exploring other cultures. This book’s greatest strength was the insight on Indian and even American cultures. Also, the author shares much knowledge of the Indian food, festivities, interests, and daily life. As an Indian, I understand the author’s romanticizing of the Indian culture, and I admit, I would love to visit his beloved country one day. My only annoyance was that there seemed to be nothing wrong with India in its culture or government that wasn’t swiftly resolved or excused. I understand the fear of making heated insights on one’s own country, but it IS a political novel and I would have liked to see some struggle in that aspect in order to appreciate the author’s patriotism a bit more. Very little of the book was dedicated to what seemed to be the climax of the novel. The plot thickens and then dissipates almost all at once. This part of the plot could certainly use some development, but I’m glad it was at least addressed partially.

The majority of the novel is about the married life of Jai and Kaahi. Their romance was entertaining, but it was the family life in India that captured my attention most. Jai and Kaahi’s romance seemed a bit lifeless – not that I didn’t like them as characters, their romance simply didn’t create the struggle in the plot as I believe it was intended. Their friends Bunty, Punk, and Subra were more engaging as characters despite their supporting roles. Personally, I believe the story was much too focused on Jai and Kaahi when it could have explored other relationships as well. One chapter of this novel was completely dedicated to Jai learning karate, which turned out to be completely irrelevant to the rest of the story. I understand the idea of character development, but this particular passage could have been left out.

India Was One explores the differences between Cricket and Baseball, which creates a unique culture comparison and is entertaining for readers who enjoy either sport. In order to appreciate this aspect of the novel, the reader really does need to understand sports.

Overall, the novel was well written and easy to follow. The characters had a variety of depth to them and were likable although each seemed a bit too flawless in some ways. The cultural insight is incredibly knowledgable and fascinating to read. The plot could have focused less on the marriage of Jai and Kaahi and more on the political disturbance that hinges the novel, but overall, with the beautiful descriptions of life in India, this book is worth the read.

I give India Was One by An India four out of five stars

4 stars (2)

 

Musing Monday

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…

• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then

musingmondays51

My Musing: 

I’m back on a pretty good reading kick! I just finished India Was One by An Indian (review tomorrow), The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Book/Film Review coming soon!), and Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol (Review coming soon).

I just started reading The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann. As you can tell from my last Monday Musing post, I’ve been working through the stack of new books I received from the Scholastic Book Fair. It seemed to be just what I needed and everything I’ve read has been very good!

I’ve only just started The Peculiar, but it already different from what I anticipated, in a good way of course. I’m excited to see where this story leads. Look for my review soon and find out!

Here’s the Goodreads description of The Peculiars by Stefan Bachmann:

TP

Don’t get yourself noticed and you won’t get yourself hanged.

In the faery slums of Bath, Bartholomew Kettle and his sister Hettie live by these words. Bartholomew and Hettie are changelings–Peculiars–and neither faeries nor humans want anything to do with them.

One day a mysterious lady in a plum-colored dress comes gliding down Old Crow Alley. Bartholomew watches her through his window. Who is she? What does she want? And when Bartholomew witnesses the lady whisking away, in a whirling ring of feathers, the boy who lives across the alley–Bartholomew forgets the rules and gets himself noticed.

First he’s noticed by the lady in plum herself, then by something darkly magical and mysterious, by Jack Box and the Raggedy Man, by the powerful Mr. Lickerish . . . and by Arthur Jelliby, a young man trying to slip through the world unnoticed, too, and who, against all odds, offers Bartholomew friendship and a way to belong.

Part murder mystery, part gothic fantasy, part steampunk adventure, The Peculiar is Stefan Bachmann’s riveting, inventive, and unforgettable debut novel

 

MizB’s original post at Should Be Reading