Posts Tagged With: John Green

Fall-ish Reading List 2014

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In the holiday shuffle, I missed posting my fall reading list.  So this one contains everything I’ve read up until January 1.  It’s shorter because I’ve been doing less reading of other people’s novels and more reading of my own.  Draft 6 is in full swing.

So, without further ado, here it is:

1.      A Wonderlandiful World, by Shannon Hale – Fun like the others, but I missed Apple and Raven.  Hale does some brilliant stuff that is Against the Rules and Shouldn’t Work with the character of the narrator. And yet it does, perfectly.

2.      Demons, and other magic by Meghan Ciana Doidge – She did not deliver on a (stupid) thing she’s been threatening for three books now, so that made me unhappy.  Otherwise it was what it should have been.  Nice epic finish that felt big enough.

3.      Manon Lescaut by Abbe Provost – I can’t say I liked it, although it got me thinking quite a bit.  It’s one of those novels where I disdain the characters and think they’re all idiots.  But it broadened my horizons.  So I’m not sorry I read it.

4.      The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern – If it was possible that anything could be funnier than the movie, this book is funnier than the movie.  The Florin jokes, abridgements, and history are the best thing ever, like I’m part of a massive inside joke.

5.      Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – Man hired to read company e-mails secretly falls in love with girl who keeps violating the e-mail policy.  The two gals are beyond hilarious, the main character is such a great guy, and I love this book so much.

6.      The Lake by Analisa Grant – I just… 1st person present tense was difficult for me, and the story was cliché.  But it had profluence and an interesting main character.  I gave up 1/3 of the way through.  Maybe I’ll pick it up again, I don’t know.

7.      A Garden Folly by Candice Hern – The stupid sort of G rated Regency romance I love a lot.  Although it does make me uncomfortable when a girl says no and a guy doesn’t listen, no matter how much she’s really enjoying it.

8.      Paper Towns by John Green – Looking For Alaska was a better “finding someone” novel, and An Abundance of Katherines was a better “road trip” novel.  But it enjoyed it, and would have enjoyed it more had I not read the others first, I think.

9.      The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer – Now this is what I look for in a sappy regency romance.  Sophy is delightfully uncouth, quippy, and still the toast of the town.  It’s such a fun novel!  I’m pretty sure Heyer is my new obsession.

10.  The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer – A confusing start but ultimately fun.  Minus (miniscule) points because the siblings don’t have a great reason for masquerading.  Most of the novel had me in conniptions worried for Prue in White’s club.

11.  A Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer – I feel  like I shouldn’t have liked this one because of the abduction but I did anyway.  I could have done without the swath at the end where silly brothers are silly.  Otherwise impeccable.

12.  The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer – Considered her best by folks on Goodreads. It was cute, but I wasn’t super impressed.  The way she treats gender relationships sometimes bothers me, but not enough to hate the book.  It was a different time.

13.  More Than Somewhat by Damon Runyon – Why is he so wonderful?  I forgot how hilarious he makes the Broadway underworld of the 1930s and 40s.  I wish more of his stuff was available.

14.  The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black – Oh CRAZY good, and perfect for the Halloween mood I was in.  Vampire novel meets quippy YA novel in the best way.  It was violent, but I found I could take it.  Seriously, this one is amazing.

15.  The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer – This one was sort of murder mystery-ish, although I knew who did it way too far in advance.  Once again, some unwanted advances are blamed on the flirtatious girl (sigh).  But I enjoyed it anyway.

16.  Dangerous by Shannon Hale – I love this novel, and the problems I saw in it the first time didn’t bother me at all the second time through.  The best part is still the funny names Maisy gives her false arm, and the bad puns.  They never get old.

17.  A Midwife’s Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich – You don’t often get nonfiction books that focus on the daily lives of women.  And women in the late 1700’s? Sold! It was a fascinating read and taught me A LOT about colonial domestic life. Love.

18.  The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer – It’s weird.  This book feels utterly familiar and yet new at the same time.  I am in love with her, and this book is all the toppings on the sundae of how she’s changed my perspective and my life. So good.

19.  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – Beautifully written. It made me angsty and paranoid, though. The things she has to say about relationships are so heartbreakingly true that it feels like I could get there.  And the end?  No.  Just, no.  Ultimately did not like.

20.  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – I have never read any Dickens as an adult, and I’m enjoying it a lot more than I did when I was younger.  His character descriptions are delightful, and the story is so much more full.  Poor Pip and his fortune.

21.  Balls and Synthetic Cheese by Amethyst Hethcoat – A classmate of mine.  Such a weird and sometimes funny collection of short stories.  I had forgotten her penchant for unlikely metaphors and similes that make me grin. I was glad for the reminder.

22.  Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley – SO good, with that mundane quality in which nothing and everything happens which McKinley does so well. It’s a different book than Beauty, the ending far more satisfying.  Happily ever after is happy too.

23.  Landline by Rainbow Rowell – CRAZY good.  It made me think of Brian and the way things used to be 15 years ago when we were first dating.  It was sweet, and at this point I’m ready to read everything Rowell has ever written ever.

24.  Sunshine by Robin McKinley – It killed me that I didn’t have 12 hours to just sit down and read this thing all the way through.  Dirtier than most McKinely novels, but I didn’t mind.  This book makes vampire tropes look Hot (capital H).

25.  Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – I love the way Rowell makes me think of my own college days.  It makes me want to love Brian in detail like that again.  Cath is so wonderful in such a messy way.  There isn’t anything I don’t love about this book.

26.  Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones – A re-read.  I forgot how terrible Gwendolyn is, and how funny Chrestomanci’s dressing gowns are.  And Millie! And the adorable but bitey dragon! Some of the best of Diana Wynne Jones.

27.  The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones – A re-read.  Because after Cat, you HAVE to have Christopher and his Almost Anywheres.  I might love this book more than the first one, although I nearly always read them in this order.

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Book Reviews: 4 by John Green

John Green

Looking for Alaska:

I picked this one up because I felt I had to jump on the John Green, The Fault In Our Stars bandwagon. The movie was coming out, and his work was EVERYWHERE. Even if I didn’t like his stuff, it was enough of a cultural phenomenon that I had to have an opinion. I knew I couldn’t handle a kids with cancer, dying sort of novel so I looked at what else he had written. Looking for Alaska was a NY Times Best Seller.

I really loved the way he organized this novel. Most of his books are the linear chapter 1, 2, 3… you expect but this one isn’t. This one is broken up into “before” and “after,” but you have no idea what the event in the middle is until it happens. I had a growing realization of the doom of it as I read the novel and I hoped I was wrong. I wasn’t.

Pudge and the Colonel are hilarious with their dilapidated couch, and their milk & vodka antics. Alaska is a spitfire of a girl who feels so real that she’s easy to fall in love with despite the crazy that’s lurking inside. Pudge has his last words and his Great Perhaps. She has her Labyrinth. The pranks they pull are genius. Especially the last one, the one Alaska masterminded. The novel walks this line between tragedy and comedy, with plenty of embarrassment thrown in. It feels like a cooler, more expansive version of my own high school life. My only criticism is that Green uses the high school, class-mimics-life trope that is so overused in high school stories. But if it has to be used, this is the way to do it.

I read a lot, and what I am reading for is to find those novels that take up head space and linger. They are rare. If I don’t find it in 80% of the books I read, I am at least guaranteed some entertainment along the way. Looking for Alaska is one of the lingering kind. I read it on kindle, but I purchased the nice hard back. It’s a keeper.

 An Abundance of Katherines:

This novel wounded me, and I’m not really sure why. It’s lighthearted. It features the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, a pig hunt, a grand theorem of dumping, a cave lair, and plenty of other silliness. I don’t know how John Greene gets women so right, but his girls are all some of the few women written by men who feel real. Lindsay Lee Wells is the sort of girl I wish I was: bold with no nonsense and sweet all at the same time. Colin’s assertion that his prodigy status doesn’t automatically make him a genius (or even successful) felt so true. Hassan’s Arabic insults make me smile.

I was wounded, I think, because the novel is about the things we give up because our families have expectations of us. It seems easier to not do, or conform, than to decide and leave. It’s about the burdens of a good upbringing amongst a supportive family and how that can shape someone, too. Lindsay Lee Wells’ life is not like my life, but I recognized her problems as old frenemies.   It’s about other things too, of course, and some are probably more evident to others than my own take away. Like the quest of us all to be original and the ways history changes through the generations. But that was the one that stuck in my heart and kept me pondering.

This was another book that was a thinker. I’m a convert to the John Greene church of nerdfighting (or whatever). I bought this one twice, too.

The Fault in Our Stars:

Perhaps, you think, I should have seen it coming? I did not. I thought, ‘John Greene, amazing writer, in a lauded book I’ve seen on the internet everywhere. I never cry at books. After the other two, I think I’m ready.” I also made the mistake of reading it on my lunch hour. I have not cried over a book since I was 12 and John Brooke died in Little Men. I ugly cried on my lunch hour over TFIOS. I’m 32. It didn’t help that tall, quippy, Augustus Waters reminded me a little of Brian.

Maybe I wouldn’t like to be Hazel Grace with pips in her lungs and an oxygen tank, but I would like to have that smart brain of hers. She is another force of nature like the rest of John Green’s girls. Her parents are great people. Augustus’s search to make a mark on the world that was permanent is something everyone I know has experienced. Isaac’s blindness is sad. All of their stories are sad, but they are so smart and so funny in the midst of all this tragedy. It is gallows humor, but it is the funniest gallows humor I have ever read.

I could say things about Amsterdam. Or about universes needing observation, tasting the stars, video games and inspirational needlepoint, or the literal heart of God. But I realize that I can’t even put this book into words. It’s something that must be experienced. It defies summary.

This one wasn’t a thinker. It was a life changer. Those are the rarest kind of books of all.

Paper Towns:

When I originally read Paper Towns, I felt like it was the worst of all John Green’s books (That sounds more terrible than I mean it to sound. It’s still far, FAR superior to most things I come across. ‘Worst’ is in relation to the rest of John Green, not to the rest of literature). I will still assert that Looking for Alaska was a better finding someone novel and An Abundance of Katherines was a better road trip novel. I did like his thesis that some people are windows and some people are mirrors, and you never know if you’re looking in a mirror or a window when you see someone. I feel more mirror than window most days.

The book is beautiful, too; all these abandoned settlements, tract houses, and malls. Visiting them was fun. Learning about paper towns was so interesting. There is a dog named Myrna Mountweasel. I realized after a few days that I do find myself thinking about this one. After I had written it off as not his best, I found myself pondering the abandoned mall, and the place they find Margot, among other things. I’m sure if I had read this one first it would have been another favorite. I still recommend it, but after TFIOS it was anti-climactic. Perhaps that is the real reason I didn’t fall head over heels with it.

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