Short Story Review: Flowers by Darnell "Saki" Dickerson

title:  Flowers

author: Darnell "Saki" Dickerson

pages: 34

format: Kindle

isbn/asin: B008A9FWRO

buy it: Amazon

rating: 5/5 [in the genre] or 8/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for: Fans of Chuck Palahniuk.  People looking for a well-written, tight story with gorgeous language. Anyone in need of a quick read. Seriously, just read it!

George and Chloe are High School sweethearts nearing the end of their senior year with a serious problem. The adorable, inseparable couple that everyone sees smiling and holding hands is a façade. Behind George’s doting ways and charming smile lies a jealousy and paranoia so deep it drives him into a blind rage that is best kept under wraps. When Chloe announces she is moving to California for college George unravels and there is no stopping the rampaging, possessive beast that lives within causing him to do terrible, terrible things. Will George be able to take control of this inner monster before it destroys everything good in his life or will he be a slave to it just as his father was?

This is a story of young love and fear, affection and abuse, sunflowers and suspicion, innocence and blood.

the basics
I'm very picky about short stories.  Maybe it's all the fiction classes I took in college.  Doesn't matter.  Basically...I don't go around gushing about short stories lightly.  So when I say that Flowers is a fantastic story, that's not an empty compliment.  Set up as a journal, it gives us a slice into the life of George, a deeply troubled high school senior.  We don't get his past.  We don't get all the details, or know how we got here.  That was one of my favorite parts.  You're thrown into someone's life and you have to solve the puzzle.  While I would have liked more details about George's father, and though the epilogue was unnecessary, on the whole I was extremely impressed.  Dickerson knows how to create atmosphere and he has a literary voice both beautiful and captivatingly faltering.  At least in George's character.  I'm psyched for Dickerson's next work!

plot . 4/5
I didn't exactly know where it was going from the beginning.  It worked.  I came to the realization slowly, which is perfect for a horror story.  I watched the pieces forming into a puzzle, unable to stop it.  I would have liked a little more set-up.  I didn't need a full history of George's mom and dad, but considering how important they were, I would have liked more veiled references and hints.  A few more journal entries, maybe.  More hints of George's impulses before they're fully revealed.  Mostly, I thought it moved at a great pace.  I thought the last journal entry would have been a perfect ending.  I really didn't need the epilogue, and I don't think it added anything.

concept . 5/5
The comparison of flowers to women, especially as used here, is gorgeously sinister.  Okay, it sounds pretty and normal.  But just wait.  I don't want to spoil it, but I'll just say...the concept of both of them withering is key to the message of this book, and so well done.  It's the perfect frame for this length of story.  Not too obvious, not too subtle.  It gives me eerie tingles of literary joy thinking about it.

characters . 4/5
I thought George was very well portrayed, but I wanted some more Chloe and more of George's mom and dad.  I felt like I needed a better grasp on the parents, especially, to understand George and how he became who he is.  However, George was, for the most part, very relatable.  Even during the darkest parts of this story, I found myself wanting to hug and protect him.

style . 5/5
I'd be surprised if Dickerson hasn't taken some fiction classes.  His writing is beautifully polished.  There are a few confusing places, like on the first page--but considering it's a journal format, I felt like the confusing bits fit with George's state of mind.  His language is simple for the most part, with forays into stronger language that's absolutely beautiful.  As a result, it's a quick read that doesn't feel flowery (ha) or overbearing, but it creates a subtle, dark impression.  Layer on layer.  It's hard to describe, but you feel reading this book the way you do watching a horror movie, at the opening, when the character is first walking down that long dark hall but nothing horrid has happened yet.  It's just beautiful.

mechanics . 5/5
Okay . . . I am in love with this cover.  I wish this was available as a physical copy because I want to be able to stare at this cover.  Also, ya know, cause the story was very enjoyable!  But seriously.  The cover reminds me of my favorite Ivan Albright painting and it perfectly, beautifully, eerily matches the atmosphere of the story.  Not to mention looks totally professional!  Other mechanics-wise, there were some comma splices and such, but it was presented as a journal so I almost would have liked to see more weird grammar.

take home message
An atmospheric horror story with a surprising plot and beautiful, clean writing.

Note: I received this copy free from the author. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


Feature & Follow: J'Adore Happy Endings

Q: What is the BIGGEST word you’ve seen used in a book lately – that made you stop and look it up? Might as well leave the definition & book too. 

A:  Ooh, good question. I think it was "insouicant" in City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. One of those words I recognized and can never remember the definition for. Maybe I will now. It's "free from concern, worry, or anxiety; carefree."

All follows loved and appreciated!  I can't wait to meet everyone! 
I'll stop by your blog as soon as I can! 
I'm also stopping by all last Friday's followers, because life exploded last week. 


Banned Books Week Giveaway: Crank and Pretty Amy

welcome to the banned books week giveaway!

Censorship sucks.  It takes important issues that need to be talked about and tries to hide them.  But, guess what?  Pretending they don't exist doesn't make them go away.  Maybe you don't want your kids reading about them...so what do you do when it happens to them?  Knowledge is power.  Don't be powerless.   

Enter this giveaway to win one of two awesome books that have been challenged or banned...and go to the rest of the hop for more great prizes! 

- click the covers to learn more - 


challenged, banned, you name it. 


a national magazine pulled its review 
because it references drug use. 

This giveaway will run until October 6th. 

This giveaway is open to anyone whom Book Depository ships to.  

The winner of the giveaway must respond to my winner e-mail within 48 hours to claim the prize. 

Thanks for stopping by!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Waiting on Wednesday: Dear Cassie by Lisa Burstein

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a feature hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine to feature yet-to-be-released books.

lisa burstein
Learn more

coming march 2013 

Companion novel to PRETTY AMY that follows Cassie's post-prom arrest to a rehabilitation retreat in the woods, told in Cassie's irreverent voice via her diary entries.

c.j.'s thoughts
I am SO pumped for this book.  In case you don't know, Pretty Amy was a fabulous story about a teen girl picking up the pieces after getting arrested at senior prom.  Aka, a really fun read with a lot of real-world issues and just enough romance.  So I'm pretty excited about Dear Cassie, because knowing Lisa Burstein, I expect it will be just as awesome as her first book.  Cassie was a pretty interesting character. I hope to see her grow more in this book.


Wishlist Wednesday: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Wishlist Wednesday features books that have been on your wishlist for a long time, old or new.

john green

When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton's type happens to be girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. He's also a washed-up child prodigy with ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a passion for anagrams, and an overweight, Judge Judy-obsessed best friend. Colin's on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which will predict the future of all relationships, transform him from a fading prodigy into a true genius, and finally win him the girl. Letting expectations go and allowing love in are at the heart of Colin's hilarious quest to find his missing piece and avenge dumpees everywhere.

c.j.'s thoughts

I just read my first John Green, and I pretty much loved it.  And my pretty much, I mean, yes.  I did.  So now I'm determined to read everything he's ever written.  Not only does this one sound hysterical, but I love romances with male leads.  I don't know why, but sometimes I relate to them more.  Maybe because I'm not a super girly girl.  Maybe because some romances with girls are super girly.  Not all of them, of course!  But maybe it's also because awkward male protagonists are adorable, and I love them.

Showcase Sunday #5

Showcase Sunday is a meme to show off all the books you've collected this week!  

you mean it's not sunday!?  so posting this meme will make the world explode and kittens cry!?  yes, okay, i'm a slowpoke.  i spent all weekend running around crazily and watching the irish destroy michigan, so i'm a bit behind on everything important in my life.  including groceries.  what is this 'eating regular meals' thing?  

also, my ocd tendencies refuse to let me title this something different, because then it won't get to be with its friends!  so here's showcase sunday, the tuesday edition.  

and yes, my new books are sitting on top of two of my four copies of behavior genetics, the journal of the behavior genetics association.  why yes, i am a nerd.  thank you for noticing.  

acquired this week 

Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Weiss {paperback} 
Can't Get There From Here by Todd Strasser {paperback} 
The Demonata: Lord Loss by Darren Shan {paperback} 
Wicked Lovely by Marissa Marr {paperback} 
The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling {hardcover} 
By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters {hardcover} 
Scars by Cheryl Rainfield {hardcover} 
Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott {hardcover} 

Short Story Review: The Uninvited Guest by Troy Aaron Ratliff

so i apologize to the lovely author for taking SO long to review this story, but i'm glad i finally got to it! 

title:  The Uninvited Guest

author: Troy Aaron Ratliff

pages: 44

format: Kindle

isbn/asin: B007IQC6TC

buy it: Amazon

rating: 3/5 [in the genre] or 6/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for: People looking for a fun, quick read with a surprise ending.

When teenagers Harland Jacobs and Jose Rodriguez crashed a wedding, they weren’t doing anything terribly wrong. Jose only came because his nagging mother made him. Harlan only joined him to make it tolerable for his friend - and the free food, the girls and the dancing, of course. And they took full advantage too, eating, laughing at the guests behind their backs, and in the end, were planning to make complete fools of themselves. Why not? What did they have to lose? But they never dreamed this wedding would have taken such a staggeringly horrific turn. They never dreamed they would be fighting for their lives in this lodge tucked away in the woods. They never dreamed they would have heard so much screaming on a wedding day either.

the basics
While I didn't like this story as much as Ratliff's other story Little Bernie's Map (which was brilliantly creepy and had a super clever concept), I still think he has a lot of promise as an author.  The Uninvited Guest has a very clear concept of character.  The narrator feels authentic as an apathetic teenager, and his friend brings some nice, funny moments.  What made me feel less excited about this story was the somewhat over long introduction.  I felt like I didn't really know where I was headed or what was trying to be said.  I don't usually read a lot of genre short stories, so maybe it's just not my thing.  I thought the surprise would have worked better with more foreshadowing, though, for greater impact.  Overall, the writing was good and I hope to see Ratliff grow as a writer.

plot . 3/5
This was the main part of the story that lost me.  The beginning was very long and seemed to be primarily about the wedding festivities.  I knew that something bad was going to happen, per the blurb, but I didn't feel it.  In Little Bernie's Map, there was a sense of creepiness from early on.  The narrator kept mentioning "what happened later", but this was too blunt for foreshadowing.  Instead of feeling the slow build of anticipation like I did in Ratliff's other story, I was just waiting to finally get some answers.  I think with a shorter beginning and more subtle foreshadowing, the final surprise would stand stronger.

concept . 3/5
The concept was interesting for a thrill, but I don't think it was as strong as Map.  The wedding didn't seem to serve much purpose except for providing a group of people for the horrific event to happen to.  However, the wedding took up much more of the page space than the attack did, which kept making me wonder what it was trying to say.  I think the attack could have been worked in a little more to the beginning to send a stronger message.

characters . 4/5
I really liked the narrator.  He reminded me of someone I could know.  A carefree, self-conscious, slightly freeloading nineteen-year-old.  Secretly affected by the romantic goings-on but also mostly occupied mentally with the buffet.  His friend, Jose, was a funny but unexplored side character.  I would have liked to know more about the bride and groom, since they played such an important symbolic role.

style . 4/5
Ratliff has a very clean writing style that allows the characters and plot to show through.  He has a good sense of voice.  His narrator felt authentic.  However, it got repetitive in some places.  The food and certain things about the wedding were mentioned several times, so that they were amusing the first but seemed less interesting after a repetition or two.  I think tightening overall would have made this story shine more.

mechanics . 4/5
There were some grammar error and typos that I would have liked to see corrected.  However, generally the formatting was good.

take home message
A quick, fun read with an endearing narrator and a surprise ending.

Note: I received this copy free from the author. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


Teaser Tuesday: 13 Reasons Why, Girl Interrupted, Uninvited Guest

"Teaser Tuesday" is a weekly feature hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.  

yes, i'm re-reading Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher instead of working on my gigantic to-be-reviewed and comments-to-answer pile.  i apologize.  i like to read familiar things when i'm feeling down, and for some reason, books about sad teen issues are comforting. in a really weird way. do not fear! i am getting through all my review requests!  i just have a crazypants life right now. 

jay asher  

If you're listening to this, one of two things has just happened.  A: You're Justin, and after hearing your little tale you want to hear who's next.  Or B:  You're someone else and you're waiting to see if it's you.

susanna kaysen

People ask, How did you get in there?  What they really want to know is if they are likely to end up in there as well.

troy aaron ratliff 

It seems like taht's all weddings are, clapping, eating, and dancing, not to mention all the picture taking.  I'm not knocking weddings or receptions, but when you don't know anyone, well, in the illustrious words of Jose, it bites.

books are an escape. they put into words what we can't. if you're suffering in silence, you're not alone. 


Review: 34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues

busy weekend! the irish won, i did a lot of driving, and i still haven't found my driver's license. yikes. here's a review! 

title:  34 Pieces of You

author: Carmen Rodrigues

pages: 336

format: Hardcover

isbn/asin: 978-1442439061

buy it: Amazon

rating: 5/5 [in the genre] or 8/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for: People who loved 13 Reasons Why or Crank. Teenagers. Lost souls.  Young adults.  People who support mental health.

A dark and moving novel—reminiscent of Thirteen Reasons Why—about the mystery surrounding a teenage girl’s fatal overdose.

There was something about Ellie…Something dangerous. Charismatic. Broken. Jake looked out for her. Sarah followed her lead. And Jess kept her distance—and kept watch.

Now Ellie’s dead, and Jake, Sarah, and Jess are left to pick up the pieces. All they have are thirty-four clues she left behind. Thirty-four strips of paper hidden in a box beneath her bed. Thirty-four secrets of a brief and painful life.

Jake, Sarah, and Jess all feel responsible for what happened to Ellie, and all three have secrets of their own. As they confront the past, they will discover not only the darkest truths about themselves, but also what Ellie herself had been hiding all along….

the basics
The review you're about to read is very different from the review I would have written after the first few chapters of the book.  With all the comparisons to 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, a favorite of mine, I had pretty lofty expectations.  34 Pieces of You wasn't exactly what I expected--but with each page, I found myself enjoying it more and becoming more entranced with the characters and their world.  It's also amazing how little Ellie actually appears in the text.  You see her through the eyes of others, eyes that have their own biases, agendas, and blindspots.  Sometimes the chronological jumps made the plot difficult to follow; but overall, you didn't need to track the exact order of everything to get a powerful impression.  I'd read this again, and recommend it to anyone looking for a compelling, well-written story with a lot of real-world impact.

plot . 4/5
The impact of having multiple narrators (three, to be exact) and jumping between time periods is that sometimes, the plot is hard to follow.  I kept having to reorient myself: okay, so Ellie died in November and this was March.  Was this before or after that other thing happened?  Aside from that, I really enjoyed the plot.  Hints are dropped early on.  Stories unfold piece-by-piece.  You never get the exact truth, because the only person who knows is Ellie herself, so you're left with exactly what the characters are left with: clues and impressions.  I thought it was great that they never found all the answers.  It leaves you guessing, and it feels more realistic.  You don't need perfect closure to find meaning in the end.  Also, the scenes between Jessie and Ellie were my favorite.  I basically hugged my book.

concept . 5/5
The concept was different than I'd been expecting from the blurb.  I thought that the characters would find the box of clues and piece it together throughout the story, like a mystery.  Instead, the clues were chapter headings that loosely related to the chapter content.  You weren't 100% sure about the stories behind them.  The characters didn't even all know about the clues until later in the book.  I ended up really liking it this way.  It really emphasized how complicated Ellie's situation was, how private she was, and how there were so many things about her that people didn't know.  After I finished the book, I read through just the clues again, and found that their meanings were so much richer now that I had context.

characters . 4/5
I loved that you mostly saw Ellie through the recollections of others.  Sometimes she appeared herself, but a lot of times, it was people talking about her after-the-fact.  You had to piece together who she was, just like putting those clues together.  I thought Jessie and Sarah were the strongest narrators.  Jake didn't feel as different from them as he could have.  His voice was too similar.  Jessie and Sarah were pretty distinct, though.  I felt like I really got to know them and their own inner demons.  I loved Jessie.  Tommy could have been fleshed out more.  I didn't have a very strong grasp on his role.  I got the idea enough to understand the plot, but felt like there were huge gaps.

style . 5/5
It's a little more poetic than I'd expect of teenagers, but I think it works here.  These are all very insightful, introspective teens.  It makes sense that they'd have a lot of personal metaphors and carefully constructed descriptions about their lives.  It's hard for some adults to sound like teens when they write, but Rodrigues does a great job.  I believe her characters.  I believe their reactions.  I think she makes a well-written, pretty story that's still easily readable by even younger teens.

mechanics . 5/5
Nothing too notable here.  The cover was perfect, especially after you've read the book.  It just sets the right mood.

take home message
A multifaceted memoir about three teenagers trying to put together a puzzle with missing pieces, all to understand the sudden death of their friend.  The narrative is emotional, thoughtful, and ultimately allows the reader to form their own impressions.

Note: I purchased this copy. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


Feature & Follow: The Authoress

Q: What hyped up book do you think was worth all the talk? 

A:  Amelia already said The Hunger Games, which is true, but in the interest of being different...I'm gonna go with The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  Usually, I see a book with tons of five star reviews and it's pretty decent.  With this book, I understand that people only gave it five star reviews because they couldn't give it six. It was everything I wanted in a book!  You can learn more about why it's so great here.  But basically: WAY worth the hype.  The hype couldn't even describe it's awesomeness.  

All follows loved and appreciated!  I can't wait to meet everyone! 
I'll stop by your blog as soon as I can! 
There may be delays in following, as my next few days are INSANE. But I will absolutely stop by. 

Don't forget to check out the other cool bloggers doing the hop!


Giveaway Winners: Extras and 13 Reasons Why

( the winners have already been notified, but i wanted to make sure everyone else knew too! ) 

we have a winner! 

Thanks to everyone who entered the 13 Reasons Why giveaway!  I'm happy to meet all my new followers and I'm so grateful to everyone for participating and sharing with others.  

Didn't win?  Look no further than the Giveaway Page for more chances to win great prizes! 

                     congratulations to
megan v.!

( the winner has 48 hours to respond to the winning e-mail, otherwise a new winner will be chosen ) 

we have another winner! 

Thanks to everyone who entered the Extras giveaway!  I hope you all enjoyed checking out Steven Katriel's new work. I know I did. 

Didn't win?  Look no further than the Giveaway Page for more chances to win great prizes! 

                     congratulations to
kristin l.!

( the winner has 48 hours to respond to the winning e-mail, otherwise a new winner will be chosen ) 

look out for the next giveaway of an october release on september 28!


Waiting on Wednesday: The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a feature hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine to feature yet-to-be-released books.

mindee arnett
Learn more

coming march 13, 2013 

16-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare. Literally. Dusty is a magical being who feeds on human dreams.

Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder. The setting is Arkwell.

And then it comes true.

Now the Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.

c.j.'s thoughts
So wait.  You  mean this story has (a) nightmares, (b) magic, (c) boarding school, and (d) a murderer!?  So, basically this book was written for me, yes?  Narcissism aside, I am already in love.  The blurb (and cover) have a very Neil Gaiman-esque feel.  Which is never not a good sign.  There's nothing better than horror with some magic and some whimsy.  I get from it memories of The Graveyard Book, only for teens.  Which is good.  Because teens are fun and a little implied romance is okay.  Because there's nothing wrong with teenage romance.  Especially when the boy is only mentioned in the blurb and is not described as "that omg dark devilish mysterious sexy stranger who changes everything 'cause the main character has no life basically".  But I'm not bitter.  Anyway, this sounds fantastically promising.  And comes out just before my birthday!  Hint hint.

Wishlist Wednesday: Envy by Gregg Olsen

Wishlist Wednesday features books that have been on your wishlist for a long time, old or new.

gregg olsen

New York Times bestselling adult true crime author Gregg Olsen makes his YA debut with Empty Coffin, a gripping new fiction series for teens based on ripped-from-the-headlines stories…with a paranormal touch. 

Crime lives--and dies--in the deceptively picture-perfect town of Port Gamble (aka “Empty Coffin”), Washington. Evil lurks and strange things happen--and 15-year-olds Hayley and Taylor Ryan secretly use their wits and their telepathic “twin-sense” to uncover the truth about the town's victims and culprits. 

 Envy, the series debut, involves the mysterious death of the twins' old friend, Katelyn. Was it murder? Suicide? An accident? Hayley and Taylor are determined to find out--and as they investigate, they stumble upon a dark truth that is far more disturbing than they ever could have imagined. 

 Based on the shocking true crime about cyber-bullying, Envy will take you to the edge--and push you right over..

c.j.'s thoughts

I discovered this recently and I want to acquire it.  Badly.  Also the new one, but it's not out yet, I don't think.  Weirdly, I don't read a lot of crime stuff.  Even though I watch a lot of crime shows.  And like serial killers.  But not in the creepy way.  Maybe because most crime books are written for adults and I am whimsically and regressively (is that a word? no...) attached to the young adult genre.  So when I saw this?  Yep.  Want.  The paranormal bit is a great touch.  Maybe it'll be cheesy, but I doubt it.  I've heard good things.  I think it'll add a fun, creepy element to the story--but hopefully the very real-life issues won't be totally overshadowed by the obviously-not-real elements.  It reminds me of The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee, which you should read.  Because it rocked.  And wasn't about crime, exactly, but it was a ghost story.  And I can feel a lot of ghosts in Envy's description.  So yeah.  Rambling aside, I'll be looking out for this.


Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

title:  The Fault in Our Stars

author: John Green

pages: 336

format: Hardcover

isbn/asin: 978-0525478812

buy it: Amazon

5/5 [in the genre]
10/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  Teens.  Parents.  Anyone who wants to be inspired.

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.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

the basics
This is not a cancer story.  Yes, the main characters have cancer.  Yes, cancer is mentioned on every page.  But more than anything, this is a story about life.  Love.  Living.  Forgive the sappy start, but I can't help it.  I am 100% obsessed with this book.  From the first page, I connected with Hazel completely.  Saw through her eyes.  Felt her fears.  Laughed with her, cried with her.  I am also 100% in love with Augustus Waters.  He might possibly be the perfect boy--though he's not at all perfect.  Have I told you anything about this book yet?  It's hysterical.  It's sad.  It's your typical teenage love story with the weight of life and death thrown in.  I dog-eared pretty much every tenth page because there were so many brilliant quotes.  One of the top five best-written YA novels of all time.  I'll fight you on that.  This will not be the last time I read it.

plot . 5/5
It's not the plot you'd expect from a "cancer story."  Yes, there are plenty of tragic events.  However, much of the plot focuses on the relationship between Hazel and Augustus and their search for Peter Van Houten, the author of their favorite book.  It's about living.  It's about dealing with the every-day realities of their situation, and what it does to the people around them.  It's about leaving an impression--or choosing not to.  And the end?  I won't spoil it, but it wasn't exactly what I expected.  And it was great for it.  (Although, I almost wish it had ended mid-sentence!  For purely literary snob reasons.)  Basically, I couldn't stop reading this.  And when it was over, I nearly started it again.  And I promise: John Green does not go for cheap thrills.  He doesn't throw in senseless tragedy just to make you cry.  Everything is realistic and fits together.

concept . 5/5
I don't like stories about terminal illness.  Death is my number one biggest fear.  It gives me panic attacks.  It's not friendly.  Stories about cancer are sad and full of cheap tugs at your heartstrings.  Except this one.  John Green is my new hero.  He takes one of the most hopeless, tragic subjects and makes it about more than the disease.  It ties in science fiction, fine literature, movies, video games, art--everything important to a precocious and too-soon-mature seventeen-year-old.  It's layered with symbols without being clunky.  It's whimsical while still feeling real.

characters . 5/5
So I already mentioned my eternal devotion to Augustus Waters.  Basically, he is my soulmate.  He's attractive and knows it, but in a way that's somehow charming rather than irritating.  He's self-aggrandizing and self-deprecating.  Whimsical and seriously devoted.  A romantic and a child.  He's funny, flirty, lives in metaphors, and uses obscure literary and art references in everyday conversation.  I could go on.  Basically, he feels like a real person and brings life to every page.  Don't get me wrong.  Hazel was also amazing.  Her voice is sarcastic, unique, quirky, and nerdy.  She uses "pedophilic" as an adjective.  She quotes T.S. Eliot.  She wants to be a normal girl but she's also very pragmatic about her situation.  She's not annoying or narcissistic though; she's just incredibly quirky.  I'd cast her with a young Zooey Deschanel--and that's high praise from me.  And the other characters?  All unique.  All funny in their own ways.  This could be a secret biography, it's so real.  I'd go on but this is already a long paragraph.  They were all perfect.

style . 5/5
John Green has accomplished something I've longed for, for quite a while.  He's created a young adult novel with literary style.  The writing is MFA-worthy but still completely accessible to younger readers and completely believable as a teenage writer.  It's alternately snarky, witty, and heartbreakingly beautiful.  No words are wasted.  Symbols and allusions are everywhere.  You'd have to read it ten times to figure out half the meanings, but you could read it once and still be moved, inspired, and delighted by it.  It's fast-paced, too, so you're never bored, and full of snappy back-and-forth dialogue.  If the writing were a person, I'd marry it.

mechanics . 5/5
Green plays with grammar and language and literary style in a clever way.  The book is mostly memoir, part diary, part poetry, part letter.  It does things like use unusual dialogue tags (Mom: Me:) to express Hazel's sarcastic view of a scene.  Also, the cover is very pretty and I love that it doesn't have a sad picture of a girl on it.

take home message
The Fault in Our Stars takes a subject that can easily become histrionic, and instead makes it witty, clever, and deeply moving.

Note: I purchased this copy. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.

Teaser Tuesday: The Fault in Our Stars and 34 Pieces of You

"Teaser Tuesday" is a weekly feature hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.  

i've included a few from The Fault in Our Stars, because i am obsessed and can't pick just one.  read them all.  read them!  have i convinced you to read it yet?  reeeaaad it.  

john green

Me: "If you want me to be a teenager, don't send me to Support group. Buy me a fake ID so I can go to clubs, drink vodka, and take pot." 
Mom: "You don't take pot, for starters."
Me: "See, that's the kind of thing I'd know if you got me a fake ID."  

Without looking over at me, August Waters said, "You're killing my vibe here, Hazel Grace.  I'm trying to observe young love in its many-splendored awkwardness." 
"I think he's hurting her boob," I said.    

All I know of heaven and all I know of death is in this park: an elegant universe in ceaseless motion, teeming with ruined ruins and screaming children.  

carmen rodrigues

We are silent until we are a calm, picture-perfect family: a good mommy, a good daddy, a good daughter.  And in the silence I suddenly understand the many ways a person can die but still be alive.     


Review: Crank by Ellen Hopkins

i know i said i'd get this out on saturday. yeah. well. i forgot i didn't have a life. (or maybe i did, this weekend, and that was the problem?) anyway, here it is! and without fail, the fault in our stars will be out tomorrow. 

also, if you've left me a comment in the last four or five days, i have read and loved it.  and i will reply to it soon.  now that my life is less of a mess. 

title:  Crank

author: Ellen Hopkins

pages: 544

format: Paperback

isbn/asin: 978-0689865190

buy it: Amazon

rating: 5/5 [in the genre] or 8/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for: Fans of poetry. Teenagers.  Lost people.  Teachers.  Parents.  Those looking for a unique take on fiction

Kristina Georgia Snow is the perfect daughter: gifted high school junior, quiet, never any trouble. But on a trip to visit her absentee father, Kristina disappears and Bree takes her place. Bree is the exact opposite of Kristina -- she's fearless.

Through a boy, Bree meets the monster: crank. And what begins as a wild, ecstatic ride turns into a struggle through hell for her mind, her soul -- her life.

the basics
I loved this book.  Then I became bored with it.  Then I was sucked in and couldn't stop reading until the abrupt, haunting end.  I've never read a book in blank verse.  Or in verse, unless you count things like Beowulf.  The style made it difficult to keep the story at first.  However, before I realized it, the writing had wrapped itself around my brain.  It was beautiful, detailed, layered with so many meanings that I feel I'd learn more on a second, even third, read.  And I kept up with the plot much better when I read in one sitting instead of in pieces before bed.  This is a fantastically realistic book, gritty and dark.  It stays with you.

plot . 5/5
There are cliche elements.  Or so it would seem.  Girl gets hooked on drugs and bad boys?  Yeah, I've seen it before.  What I haven't seen is the authenticity with which Hopkins portrays these issues.  I could believe this exact story had happened, somewhere.  There's no moralistic tragic ending; no perfect fairy tale redemption.  The consequences are real; the happenings are severe, but you can feel them building for so long that they don't feel cheap.  Hopkins tackles very sensitive issues (drug abuse, suicide, rape, etc.) with a raw honesty that neither belittles nor sensationalizes them.  It's just true.

concept . 5/5
Holy cheese and crackers.  I've never read a prettier depiction of terrible, terrible events.  The addition of poetry to young adult fiction is absolutely brilliant.  More on that later.  It seems like a very straightforward drug story; it's anything but.  The addition of the Kristina / Bree dual personality is a great twist.  It makes this story unique.  It personalizes the drug self as Bree, perfectly showing how divided Kristina is.  How shattered.  It also allows for complex relationships with the other characters.

characters . 4/5
I think I would have liked a little more background on Kristina.  I just couldn't see the girl in my head as someone who would try meth, even if a really cute boy offered some to her.  At least not so quickly.  However, as the book went on, I grew to understand her more and she made more sense.  I loved Chase.  Ironically, he was one of the most caring characters in this book, even though he was enabling her.  Even the side characters feel realistic--even the pretty typical ones like Brendan.

style . 5/5
It took me a while to love it, but once I did, it was forever kind of love.  (Aka, I need to get my hands on the other Hopkins books because I am addicted to them!  Too soon?  Yeah, I know, I'm going to hell.)  The verse is such a clever form.  My favorite pages were those where the final words / phrases were separated from the main sentences.  So basically, you could read those words with the other parts and get one meaning, or read those words by themselves and get another, related meaning.  It added so many layers to this story and made it a really fun read.  I can't gush enough about what Hopkins does with language.  I'm not a huge blank verse fan, but she makes me love it.  Great sound sense.  Great internal rhyme.  Love love love.

mechanics . 5/5
Sometimes the voice felt a little too flowery, but mostly it worked.  Oh, and the cover is perfect.  Very few covers match their subject matter so perfectly.  I think "monster" as a metaphor was just used too many times.  I got it.  I'd like a little variation (or minimizing) of euphemisms.

take home message
A harrowing tale of one teen's struggle to reclaim her life from the "monster" crystal meth, and the dark path it has shown her.

Note: I purchased this copy. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


Showcase Sunday #4

Showcase Sunday is a meme to show off all the books you've collected this week!  

First off, I apologize for barely existing over the last three days. It was my friend's birthday and my family was in town, so I've had about zero free time. On the plus side, the Irish won!  On the minus side, I still have to follow all you lovelies who visited me on Friday. Fear not! I will get to that tonight or tomorrow.  And if I miss you, just poke me with something sharp. 

acquired this week 

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green {hardcover} [Look for the review on Tuesday!] 
Hate List by Jennifer Brown {hardcover}
If I Stay by Gayle Forman {paperback}
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver {hardcover} 
34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues {hardcover} 


Musing: A Day to Hope

hope (v.) Look up hope at Dictionary.com
O.E. hopian "wish, expect, look forward (to something)," of unknown origin, a general North Sea Germanic word (cf. O.Fris. hopia, M.L.G., M.Du., Du. hopen; M.H.G. hoffen "to hope," borrowed from Low German). Some suggest a connection with hop (v.) on the notion of "leaping in expectation" [Klein]. Related: Hopedhoping.  (Etymonline)

today's post is short.  

hope.  always, hope.  

because despair is easy, but it leaves you motionless.  

hope, real hope, is hard.  

but it's the only way to move forward.  

for the thoughts of several authors on hope, 

and don't forget to check back tomorrow
for a review of Crank by Ellen Hopkins! 

also, enter the giveaways on the sidebar. 
free books are awesome. 

Feature & Follow: Reader's Confession

Q: What hyped up book do you think was not worth all the talk? 

A:  Besides Twilight?  I usually don't read books that I know I won't like.  However, I think some classics are like this for me.  Like To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.  I can see why other people like them--I just didn't think they were that fabulous.  

All follows loved and appreciated!  I can't wait to meet everyone! 
I'll stop by your blog as soon as I can! 


Musing: Adventures in Depression from Hyperbole and a Half

depression sucks

Just in case you were wondering.  I feel like people don't really get it.  It's sadness, right?  You can get over it, right?  Eh.  It's more like having all the blood sucked out of your body and being unable to see the slightest ray of good in the world--and feeling guilty, because you shouldn't feel so sad.  You don't deserve to feel this way.  Nothing that bad happened to you.  

Or so your brain tells you.  Over and over.  Which doesn't help make you feel better, by the way.  

But there's a flipside to apathy.  Sometimes, it drags you to hell.  Sometimes, it's just what you need to soar.  

The talented Allie of Hyperbole and a Half has one of the funniest, most poignant descriptions of what depression is really like.  If you want to understand, go check out her post.  

adventures in depression

And don't forget to check out the giveaways on the sidebar!  Nothing brightens your day like a free book. 

Essays: Loneliness, or People in Glass Boxes

“The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.” 
Charlotte Brontë

Loneliness is a particular breed of down.  It goes along with depression quite a bit, only they aren't the same thing.  Loneliness fuels depression and vice versa, but you can be desperately lonely without suffering the other symptoms of that unfortunate disease.  Or you can be so lucky as to experience both, and more.

It's not a modern problem, but it's one that the modern age has made contagion.  Gone are the days when a child purchased the house next door to his family, across the street, in the same town.  Now we go away to college.  We move across the country.  We send each other love in the form of punctuation that means a smile, or a heart, or a kiss.

And we pretend that those pixels can replace what they pretend to be.

It's no wonder depression rates are rising.  No wonder suicide is still such a problem.  People have begun to live in little boxes.  To chatter to online friends without faces because they don't know anyone around them.  No one says hello their neighbors.  No one would know you died as long as you scheduled your Twitter updates far enough in advance.

It's an extreme view.  Not everywhere is like this.  Not everyone is so lost.  Only there's just something about the modern world that keeps loneliness alive.  Is it privacy?  Are we so afraid to intrude on other people's lives that we fail to recognize when they need to be intruded on?  Is it anxiety?  Do we assume that others will reject us?  That the deep-down ache is better than the knife wound of trying and failing?

I don't have the answers.  If you figure it out, let me know, because I could use the help.  For now, loneliness is capable of remedy in only a few imperfect ways.  Pills that flatten out any feeling so the ache hides beneath a muffle.  Books that you can live in and pretend are real.  Social media that makes tenuous friends of strangers.

I'm not so cynical.  I'm not advocating that you give up.  You should never give up, because statistics say that it will always get better if it's bad.  You will find someone to love you.  This person does exist.

Only I worry that we look for comfort in the wrong places.  Cheap sex.  Mismatched relationships.  Chat rooms and social media outlets.

We want to be loved for ourselves, but we're afraid to let that out.  So we hide it--in chat handles, in blog posts, in clever nicknames and buttons and polished internet identities.

curing loneliness means reaching out

There's nothing wrong with making friends online.  But it can't be everything.  Because eventually, your heart is going to yearn to look someone in the eyes.  To touch their hand.  To sit silently in a room and simply enjoy the closeness.  

As scary as it is, it means opening yourself up.  

It's something I'm still working on.  I hope you're working on it too.  

And if you see a person sitting alone, and you fear intruding on their life--don't be afraid.  Go talk to them.  

They're probably just as afraid and as lonely as you.  

This has been an entirely random and un-book-related post from Sarcasm & Lemons.