Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Fault in our Stars--- 5.0 and Elderwand

Oh dear. I'm crying and I haven't even started writing about the book yet. I'm just THINKING about the book and what I'm going to write. I'd say that his is never a good sign, but in my opinion this is a great sign. The BEST sign.

Oh, I loved this book. So much. I believe I made it to page 11 before I knew that it was going to be an all-time favorite. I'm a fool for not recognizing it sooner. I'm crying again, let's take a break.

The writing, the dialogue, the story, and the message of this literary masterpiece is spot on. Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion, and John Green supplies it in spades.

The protagonists are cancer patients. Some terminal. Some not. This isn't a spoiler, it's announced within the first few pages, and they all attend group therapy together in the basement of a church.

"Which meant there was quite a lot of competitiveness about it, with everybody wanting to beat not only cancer itself, but also the other people in the room. Like, I realize that this is irrational, but when they tell you that you have, say, a 20 percent chance of living five years, the math kicks in and you figure that's one in five . . . so you look around and think, as any healthy person would; I gotta outlast four of these bastards." (RUN to Amazon and put her in your cart. I'll wait.)

Hazel, our leading lady, lives with stage IV thyroid cancer. Isaac has "some fantastically improbable eye cancer," and Augustus Waters a "touch of osteosarcoma." He's on a "roller coaster that only goes up."

Basically, well I'm awful at writing synopses. (looking up how to make this plural. not going to tell you how i had it written originally. i am a little shamed.) All TA's I encountered at BYU can attest to this, and I really don't believe it's ever going to change. Digressing. Still. It needs to be noted. Lest you think I am unaware of my problem. I'm not. A book blog! What a grand idea!

Back to Hazel and Augustus. They have grand adventures, and not so grand adventures, but everything with them is perfection. It's like dating really. If you can't have fun grocery shopping with someone, chances are you're not with the right someone. Because how often are you going to be eating strawberries dipped in chocolate on the beach after you're married with children? Never. That's how often. But if you can laugh together at the Target? Golden.

Hazel and Augustus understand the ridiculousness of their situation and somehow manage to find humor and poignancy in the every day. It's brilliant. (Best. Synopsis. Ever. How am I not doing this for a living?)

I laughed through the whole book and even at the end when I was ugly crying into a towel (my son was in the tub and i didn't want to scare him. he thought it was just a bizarre game of peek-a-boo.) I laughed. And then I slept with the book underneath my pillow.

I work for a cancer foundation. Oddly enough, a highly improbable eye cancer foundation. Every day I hear stories of survivors, warriors, lost loved ones, and it's hard. (Just now my computer beeped to let me know i had email. I paused in my writing to read a note from a woman who just lost her young brother suddenly to this terrible disease. My heart is heavy.) And I suppose therein explains my love for this story. That people can find humor, and light, and love amidst terrible tragedy. That life fundamentally is so hard, and that we laugh anyway. We cry, and we stretch, and we grow. We love despite the possibility (perhaps inevitability) of heartbreak. And it doesn't get any better than that.

 "The Fault in our Stars" by John Green

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Storyteller---4.0

Edited--I changed the ranking of this book because I simply CANNOT stop thinking about it. I've gone weeks and am still reminiscing about all the feeelings. And it's so well written. Sooo well written. And translated for that matter. So it got upgraded. And I might even recommend it to a few of you. (Holly Abbe, this book has you written all over it.) And there's probably going to be another post to discuss spoilers because I need to talk about it. Good Crimany, just put in on your bookclub reading list, because it will certainly inspire discussion. It still remains on the not for my daughters' eyes list. I'm like a kite in the wind.

The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis

This post may need to be edited in the future for right now I am simply angry at this book. Angry. And indignant. Antonia Michaelis is a talented, talented writer. Words move for her. And yet...

The writing is lovely and poetic. It takes itself a bit seriously, but not so much that you are constantly aware of it. It was first published in Germany (in German obviously) and perhaps that explains some of my hangups. Cultural norms. Those allowances accounted for, I am still indignant.

The author dances back and forth between fairytale and reality. I loved the fairytale sections of this book. Loved. They were poetic and beautiful. Haunting and descriptive. They explained aspects of the characters that pulled me closer emotionally. At times, the author gets a bit wordy, but I am an impatient squib and perhaps that's more a fault of mine than hers.

The plot keeps you guessing. Michaelis weaves a story that is unpredictable and alluring. It is not a story that I ever wished myself to be a part of, but I enjoyed the ride for three quarters of the journey.

And then...

An act of violence changes everything. For the characters, for the reader, for my review. But for this act and the way the author ultimately accepts the unforgivable, I would have rated the book much higher. The characters are flawed. I like that in my people. The protagonists are antagonists as well, and that makes things interesting. But for three pages...

For an adult novel, the justifications bother me. For a YA novel? Just no. I would not let my daughters read this book. I understand that some things are viewed differently in different cultures. But no. Any kind of justification for violence against women, whatever the circumstance, is unacceptable.

Tannatek-- Not a fan. I sympathized with this character and enjoy a good tortured soul. But no.

Anna-- She's in love after one stunted conversation? I understand they're teenagers and we're living in the land of Twilight, but no. There's naivete and then there's this. Woman-child needs therapy and stat.

Micha-- The most redeeming part of this book involves the spirit of this beautiful little girl. I pray that she spends more time with Linda than with Anna for the duration of her fictional life.
The Polish Peddler and our heroine Anna fall in love/fascination after one awkward conversation involving a ratty doll. I'm sure there was symbolism and that I simply missed it. Our peddler is the sole provider for himself and his younger half sister, Micha. He protects Micha from villains who want to steal her diamond heart, and ultimately finds himself committing the same heinous acts as those he despises most. It does not end well. Even though it kind of does.

I will not be reading this book again, but enjoyed the writing enough that I will possibly read another of this author's novels. Fingers crossed the overall take-away is a bit more palatable.