Friday, June 20, 2014

John Green!! Musings, reviews, and life lessons

With all the hype around John Green lately, I thought it would be fitting to grace the internet with my thoughts on this brilliant author. However, since everyone and their mother has already seen, read, or at least heard about The Fault in our Stars, I decided to review some of his other, lesser known but no less wonderful books.

John Green has been a favorite author of mine for years[pushes up Hipster glasses]. I first discovered him with TFIOS years ago, right when it came out, and from there went on to read 3 other books written by him: Paper Towns, Looking for Alaska, and Abundance of Katherines.

What I have learned about the brilliant John Green is that each book has the power to make you laugh and cry equally. He has this wonderful way of writing that makes you truly connect with his characters, and the result is a hilarious but thought-inducing novel that leaves you with life lessons to ponder and a new perspective.

So, without further ado: Paper Towns!!

This book was actually my least favorite of John Green's for the sole purpose of it being comprised 95% of slow-moving, grasping-at-straws mystery/confusion/teenage boy obsession. BUT the 2.5% in the beginning and 2.5% of the end were amazing and very interesting.

BEFORE YOU EAT ME ALIVE IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS STILL A WONDERFUL BOOK. It actually has my favorite life-lesson of all his books, which is the simple truth that not every body is what they seem.

As humans, we go through life judging people on their looks, how they present themselves to the world, their sense of humor, etc. But what we forget is that everyone has more to them than what meets the eye.

"Just remember that sometimes, the way you think about a person isn't always the way they actually are." Paper Towns

You never truly see every side of one person, and I think it is so important to remember that. No matter how long you spend with someone, no matter how close you are to that person, it is impossible to truly know them inside and out. So how could anyone possible expect to know who a stranger is? Judgments are almost never right, so give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

Looking for Alaska:

No, this book is not about searching for the great wilderness of Alaska. If that's what your looking for, go read Into the Wild.

 Looking for Alaska is set in a boarding school in Alabama, and it is about a boy who loves last words, and falls in love with a girl named Alaska. This was one of my favorite books to read, and it also comes with a thought-inducing message about loss.

Everyone will lose loved ones at some point in their life, whether a result of death, or just simply losing touch and drifting away. But this book reminds one that people enter- and exit- your life for a reason. But in the wise words of a boy called Pudge, people never really leave, because the sum of their parts cannot begin and cannot end. The memories that you have of them allow them to live on, because matter cannot be created or destroyed. Some of them resides in you, so they will never truly disappear.

Keep in mind I was paraphrasing. John Green writes with much more elegance and absolutely no cliché. (Unlike me, oops)

Finally, Abundance of Katherines:

To tell you the truth, this book has the least moral value, in my opinion. However, it is a very quick, light-hearted read that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. It's about a child prodigy that just graduated from high school. This book really struck a chord in me, because I started reading it days after I myself graduated from high school, and was feeling many of the things Colin was experiencing.

As a child prodigy, Colin was very smart. However, he felt like he was wasted potential, because he had never really done anything significant or new in his life. All he could do was learn the genius of previous...geniuses. He hadn't done anything to leave his mark on the world, to be remembered. I think everyone goes through this at some point in their lives, the fear of being forgotten. Of living a pointless, shallow existence.

So, Colin goes on a road trip. He gets a job, makes a new friend (his 2nd ever) and slowly realizes that he is enough. He doesn't need to try so hard to be known and remembered, because he has great friends and family members in his life who will love and remember him anyway.

So in summary, John Green is a genius. His writing is beautiful, collected, thought provoking, and sincere. His characters are multi-dimensional and truthful. They feel real. Their reactions are not forced, fake, or unrealistic. They are beautiful, and each of these books will be well worth the read. Enjoy!

xoxo, Ariel

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Dearest Aurora

My very favorite Princess! Aurora is graceful, lovely, gentle, kind, and beautiful.

Unfortunately she is only is the movie for a sum total of 18 minutes :( But she still manages to capture my imagination. I wish I was just like her!

Just look at how graceful she is! Maybe its weird, but I'm obsessed with her hands:

Aren't they lovely? And so delicate.

And you have to admire her hair, it is flawless!

I also love Prince Philip, he is so handsome!

Aurora is my very favorite Princess, for her beauty, her voice, her adorable fairies, and her handsome prince! Oh, and Maleficent is pretty cool too ;)

Monday, April 29, 2013

If I Stay, by Gayle Forman

Let me just start off this post by saying that this book affected me more strongly than any other book I have ever read. Did I cry when Fred died? Absolutely. Did I shed a tear at Bella's happy ending? You betcha. But by the time I finished this book I couldn't stop the tears from gushing.

Here is the cover art:

And the summary:

In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen ­year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces- to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make. Heartwrenchingly beautiful, this will change the way you look at life, love, and family. Mia's story will stay with you for a long, long time.

The book starts off very happy, with a family eating breakfast, chatting about the snow day. They take a drive to visit some family friends, and then the whole voice of the story changes as Mia has an out-of-body experience. She watches herself being taken away from the scene of the accident, wondering if she was dead, not knowing how to return to her body.

As she follows herself around, Mia slowly pieces together the details of the accident, while learning the fate of her parents and younger bother. Then she must make the decision to stay or join her family in death, while she watches a parade of loved ones visit her body, trying to convince her to wake up.

Throughout the book, Mia experiences flashbacks, helping the reader understand her, and simultaneously fall in love with her. The whole book lasts one long, tragic day as you navigate the trials of grief and indecision with Mia.

This book...I'd advise you to pick up this book with caution. It will definitely stay with you long after you finish it, but is quite the tear jerker. No matter Mia's choice, there will be no happy ending for a story like this, so for someone like me who thrives off of happy endings, it can be a bit difficult. So while I couldn't put it down, and it is indisputably an amazing, well-written, and eloquent book, I'm not sure if I would ever reread it, because I would rather fill my time with happy-yet-serious books like Entwined, by Heather Dixon (which I highly recommend!!).

All in all, a very good book, if a bit depressing.

Until next time dearies!


Monday, April 22, 2013

The Wild Queen

This book was a little different from the other books I've read in the past, because it is historical fiction. It follows the life of Mary, Queen of Scotland (circa 1530). Here is the cover art:

I bought this last summer, based purely off of the cover, and subsequently wasn't interesting in actually reading it until last week. I finally ran out of other books to read and thought I would give it a go!

Here is the summary:

Mary Stuart was just five years old when she was sent to France to be raised alongside her future husband. But when the frail young king dies, eighteen-year-old Mary is stripped of her title as Queen of France and set adrift in the harsh world, alone. Determined to reign over what is rightfully hers, Mary returns to Scotland. Hoping that a husband will help her secure the coveted English throne, she marries again, but the love and security she longs for elude her. Instead, the fiery young queen finds
herself embroiled in a murder scandal that could cost her the crown. And her attempts to bargain with her formidable “sister queen,” Elizabeth I of England, could cost her her very life.

So, as I mentioned earlier, this book is a far cry from my usual fantasy/fairy tale/mystery genre, but I found that once I gave it a chance, I quite enjoyed it! It is written from Mary's point of view, so you get to live the sumptuous life of a queen vicariously through her, which is always nice :)

Another thing I liked about this book was its basis in fact. It is cool to know a little somethin' somethin' about Scotland's history!

*Fun fact* Every single British monarch is descended from Queen Mary.

I will say one thing though, the ending was quite...disappointing? Depressing? If you are familiar with Queen Mary's demise, you will understand what I mean. It is definitely bitter sweet.

Despite that fact, I would highly recommend giving this book a chance! If historical fiction is you thing, then be sure to check out Carolyn Meyer's other books, because she has quite a few on similar topics.

On that note, I shall bid you adieux!


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Strands of Bronze and Gold, by Jane Nickerson

Hello there!
Today I have a book review about a retelling of the classic Bluebeard fairy tale, by Hans Christen Andersen; Strands of Bronze and Gold. Here is the cover art :

And the summary:

The Bluebeard fairy tale retold. . . .
When seventeen-year-old Sophia Petheram’s beloved father dies, she receives an unexpected letter. An invitation—on fine ivory paper, in bold black handwriting—from the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather. With no money and fewer options, Sophie accepts, leaving her humble childhood home for the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey, in the heart of Mississippi.

Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it’s as if, thread by thread, a silken net is tightening around her. And as she gathers stories and catches whispers of his former wives—all with hair as red as her own—in the forgotten corners of the abbey, Sophie knows she’s trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac’s intoxicating world.

Glowing strands of romance, mystery, and suspense are woven into this breathtaking debut—a thrilling retelling of the “Bluebeard” fairy tale.

This book just came out early last March; naturally I went and bought it as soon as I could. The writing was beautiful, with the perfect amount of mystery. Nickerson possesses the gift of hinting at the truth, without every truly giving the plot away.

Sadly, I made the mistake of reading the original fairy tale about a third of the way into reading this book, because I was curious. I would recommend avoiding that if possible, because the story lines are quite similar and it would give away the big plot twists.

Other than that, I highly recommend this book! I'd say we have a promising young author to keep our eyes on, because if her next book is anything like this one it will be another winner.

My favorite thing about this book was its setting-- 1850s Mississippi. Nickerson wrote about controversial issues such as the slave trade, but managed to balance the undesirable truth with lovely descriptions of old time south, such as the lovely dresses and grand balls and that time period. Her eloquent writing transported me to Wyndriven Abbey with Sophia, and had me rooting for this brave heroine.

I look forward to reviewing Nickerson's next book! Until then lovelies,


Ps. There was a perfect amount of romance woven into the complicated plot :)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Forgotten Garden review

Hello all!
I don't know about any of you, but I grew up with fairy tales. Hans Christian Andersen, Grimms, and Disney's interpretations of them, so fairy tales have always resonated well with me. Kate Morton obviously felt the same way, because the Forgotten Garden was centered around a beautiful book of fairy tales.

Let me fill you in...
  A little girl, Nell is found abandoned on a ship dock in 1913, clutching only a suitcase with a dress and a book of fairy tales. The shipmaster and his wife take her in, but never tell her the truth about her parentage. On her 21st birthday her father explains to her that he never knew who her true family is, and from that time on Nell's sense of belongingness was shattered. She begins her search, and eventually finds out a great deal about her true family, but never uncovers the reason why she is abandoned. Due to circumstance, namely a granddaughter she becomes guardian of, she is never able to resume her search and dies without ever knowing the truth.

Nell's granddaughter, Cassandra, resumes the search for her, and through a complicated plot of love, betrayal, crime, and 3 generations of women, the truth if finally revealed. The book alternates between the lives of Nell, her granddaughter Cassandra, and the author of the fairy tale book, Eliza. Eventually the 3 different stories come together to form a cohesive whole, and the reader finally understands the truth.

Phew! I must say, this was a very complicated plot just to summarize, let alone write, so my props to the author! She truly has a gift for writing mysteries, because I simply could not put it down. Morton was able to drop subtle hints at the truth that kept the reader guessing, sacrificing sleep in the hope of solving the riddle.

The storyline has similarities to The Secret Garden, but Morton is able to attribute that to the author of that book being in attendance at a garden party held by the family in question, and is apparently inspired by the family's strange circumstances (an estranged cousin, Eliza author of the Fairy tale book is taken in by her aunt and uncle, and becomes fast friends with her sickly cousin. Together they repair a walled off garden as Eliza's cousin Rose regains her health. Sound familiar?) But Morton gracefully explains that away, so no harm done!

What I most loved about this book was the way that you are kept guessing right up until the very end, and when I closed the book I just sat there, trying to make sense of what I had just read. It is an intoxicating, mysterious, addictive read!

If you are in the mood for a benign mystery, I highly recommend this book!

Stay tuned for my next review, Splintered!