An Open Letter to John Green

Before I begin, I’d like to express that I’ll be back to do normal posts very soon. This is a fluke….or is it? You decide. Until next time, friends.

Dear John Green,

I hope you had a pleasant and chocolate filled Easter! I’m currently looking at my Easter basket and am eyeing the chocolate duck. I’ve eaten it’s head so far (sorry duck) but all I’m thinking is, “damn, I want to eat the rest.” And honestly, I’m so torn apart right now that I just might.

Why am I so unhappy, you may ask? Because I just finished reading your critically acclaimed The Fault In Our Stars about thirty minutes ago. Normally I would turn this post into a Book vs Movie post, but I genuinely think it might deserve two posts – one letter to you and one book vs movie – just simply based on the fact that my little aching heart can’t watch the movie yet. I need time to process. To heal.

But I will give you my book review. So I’ll go ahead and give you my rating: 5 stars. No, 15 stars. This was the fault in our stars you were speaking of, Green: the fault in our star rating system because there’s no star high enough to accurately assess this novel. Wonderful.

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time, but based simply on the fact that everyone was reading the book, and everyone was loving the movie, I didn’t read it or see the movie. I didn’t want to be peer pressured into reading a book by some dude I didn’t know when I could be reading a book by Amy Tan. That was until I read Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle and yourself. I loved it. I loved it so much, and I loved your part of the story so much, that TFIOS quickly moved up my “to-read” list.

Having promised myself that I wouldn’t keep reading science fiction and fantasy novels exclusively, I decided it was time to read the book. You start the novel with a bang – cancer. You have this writing style that is so conversational, but at the same time you feel like you’re getting smarter just reading it. It’s so intelligent, and you use that intelligence to perfectly express exactly what the character is feeling in a way that a real person would feel. I can’t get over the magic of this novel.

Side note to my blog family: In case you don’t know what the premise of the novel is about, here’s a brief back cover summary: A cancer ridden Hazel is depressed and stays at her house all day watching reality TV shows. Her mom then sends her to make some friends at a cancer support group in their local church. She meets a cancer survivor named Augustus, and she starts thinking differently.

As a sarcastic and introverted person who absolutely loves reality TV (don’t judge me) I absolutely loved Hazel. I thought she was a brilliant character with a beautiful heart, and realistic expectations – and maybe a defeatist attitude. Augustus, the everlasting love interest, was portrayed as this funny, optimistic, romantic teenage boy who just wanted the girl to love him, but was really so much more than that.

And that is why I’m writing this open letter to you. As a habitual reader – clean and sober 30 minutes – I usually get way too invested in my books. They’re the great love of my life (along with my boyfriend – Hi, Anthony!) so I often put my whole mind and soul into a book – I become defenseless to these characters and allow the author to toy with my emotions for several hundred pages. There is usually an expectation, though. That, yes, I allow the author to invade my psyche with the understanding that at the end of the book I may be sad, but I won’t feel devastated.

You have crossed that boundary, sir. It has happened before, but I’m putting this on the top five list. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not necessarily that the ending was an all consuming devastation of a single event, but rather that the entire novel was devastating. It was one thing after another, and even with a fairly happy ending, you still know that more goes on when the book is finished. Much like Hazel and her obsession with Peter van Houten’s novel in the book, I just want to know what happens when the book is over. It’s only now that I realize how much of a written genius you are to have the presence of mind to create a book so devastating but so familiar and friendly, only to have it end the way you ended it, much like van Houten’s book.

Well, I feel as though I’ve berated you enough, good sir. I would like to say some kind words before we part: I absolutely LOVED this book. I truly felt connected to it in a way that I haven’t felt with another book in a while. So I want to congratulate you on creating a masterpiece, and for possibly becoming my next favorite author.

I almost wrote “I love you, Bye” before I realized that’s not how you end a letter. So until next time, okay? I love you, bye.

Rachel

The Genre Dilemma

I’m at a dilemma. After reading The Mime Order I’m kind of stuck in a rut due to my current love of the supernatural.

I ought to give you the whole backstory. You see, I have a predisposition of getting obsessed with a genre and sticking to it for a really long time until I get bored with it and move on. I do this a lot – the most memorable and long obsessions began about two years ago, when I started reading books about Asian culture.

It all started with the wonderful Amy Tan and her first novel The Joy Luck Club which chronicled a group of older female Chinese immigrants and their daughters in San Francisco. I had actually read an excerpt of the novel and was absolutely fascinated to the point where I just had to read the book. It was, and remains, one of my favorite books of all time. It’s heart warming, heart breaking, and everything in-between.

After that I decided to read her newest book The Valley of Amazement about a Chinese/American woman living and working in multiple courtesan houses. Now this book was incredible. I’ve mentioned before that a great book makes you feel as though you’re the character. That their pain is your pain, that their activities are your activities. That is exactly what happened here. I felt so connected with the main character that I actually took the book with me places so I could read while I was waiting for appointments or classes or whatever I had going on that day. I would literally break down in tears while in public reading this book. In fact, I was waiting for a class to start (I had two hours before it started) and decided I would buckle up and read the rest of the novel. I finished it in an hour and a half, and spent the next thirty minutes crying in the women’s restroom. It, too, was spectacular. Absolutely amazing, and gut wrenching at the same time.

Soon I had read nearly all of Tan’s books (I only have one of her books left! I’m saving it for the perfect time!) and was watching a documentary on olden days China on Netflix when I came across a documentary on Geisha girls in Japan. Oh my god was I fascinated. I was so fascinated that when I finished the documentary I immediately ordered Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, who was featured in the film. I was so entranced by his novel that I actually ended up writing an entire essay based on Geishas and their customs. It took a lot of documentaries and a lot of books, but I couldn’t have been happier doing that research.

So, for me at least, finding a subject that I enjoy and want to learn more about means reading a ton of novels based on the topic. My sister and I even went to Boston and I saw a woman reading a book on the subway based on a Japanese family’s life over the span of something crazy like 100 years, and I took note of the book and author so that when we got home I could buy the book. That happened about 7 months ago. I was on this Asian kick for nearly a year. I was that obsessed.

Now, I’ve moved on to supernatural/fantasy novels, usually young adult. I’ve always loved this genre – I mean my blog name is based off of a line from Harry Potter! But last January when I read The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, I began to slowly integrate fantasy novels into my repertoire, until it became all I was reading. I read books in the meantime (and I’ll admit some of them were about Asian culture – you never get rid of a love!) but I waited an entire year for the Bone Season sequel to come out. That was “my precious.” Then I finally got and read the sequel, The Mime Order, all I want now is for the next book. My next “precious.”

And this is where the dilemma begins. After reading such an wonderful novel, it’s so hard to find something similar that can live up to my expectations. So, I can either stick to my guns and continue reading supernatural/fantasy novels (I’m currently almost done with The Maze Runner by James Dashner) or I can reach out and find a new topic to hone in on. I was thinking of switching over to romance novels – I just bought One Day by David Nicholls, or perhaps a John Green novel… but then fantasy novels are just amazing, and so exciting to read! Dilemma, dilemma…

Let me know what you guys think. Maybe I’ll start taking some suggestions!

In the meantime, let’s get reading! Until next time.

Rachel

Are You There Gods? It’s Me, Percy.

After watching an older HBO show, Rome, with my boyfriend last weekend (which is a great show, by the way!) I started thinking about a certain set of books that had a sort of eerie, fantastical tone about them: the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan.

I love young adult novels. I think they’re a great read – fun to read along to, with exciting stories usually about magic or mysteries, or in this case, the Gods of Olympus. I could read them nonstop all day. The combination of my love of reading and of Greek mythology (or Greek religion, if you will) is a sure-fire way to get me to read a book — as if I needed a reason!

The series begins with Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. After finding out he is a demigod, the son of Poseidon, he is taken to a camp filled with other demigods where he can finally be himself. He makes new friends, and even meets a minor god in the Greek religion — and then a prophecy tells him that he must go on a quest to retrieve one of Zeus’ lightning bolts. Hijinks ensue, alliances are broken, and the villains of the series start to form. It’s a spectacular first book, with a great cliffhanger. The series just gets better with each book. It actually felt like the series was one continuous Greek myth that I was learning about for the first time. The writing was simple, but funny. You really feel as though you’re Percy going on these adventures.

After five books, Riordan finished off the Olympians series and focused on a couple of his other novels. He must have missed the characters, though, because he came out with a spin-off called The Heroes of Olympus. The Heroes of Olympus focuses more on the Roman gods, which were originally taken from the Greek religion. For example, the big ol’ lightning man himself, Zeus, is actually called Jupiter in Rome; and his wife, Hera, is called Juno. Roman religion was really just an amped up, angrier, more war-driven religion with nearly all the same gods and demigods as the Greek religion.

The first book in the novel The Lost Hero begins with a boy in a purple shirt on a field trip where he is attacked by mythological creatures, along with his best friend Leo and girlfriend Piper. Unfortunately, he has no memory of who he is, how he got there, or what that tattoo on his arm is about. He soon finds out that there is another camp, much like the camp that Percy Jackson found his home, but with the children of the Roman gods. The Roman gods are actually the same gods as in the Percy Jackson series, but almost with split personalities. It’s all incredibly interesting.

As with the previous series, there is a prophecy and a quest and the main character, Jason, must be the leader of it. Unlike the previous series, where the book was centered on Percy, this book is written by three different people. Jason, Leo, and Piper. The characters each alternate their chapters and pick up right where the last chapter left off. In the next book, we find our beloved hero Percy also unaware of who he is, where he’s from or how he got there while again being attacked by monsters. This book rotates characters for the chapters just like the last novel, but with new characters. It’s not until the third book that there are an array of characters from both books as the narrators of the chapters.

I would say during the third book I got kind of bored. I felt like I had been through these quests so long that it was more tedious than exciting. Each book had the same ebb and flow, starting with a quest, going on an adventure, almost getting killed, and then being fine. It was all the same. But about three quarters into the book Riordan started to get his steam back. I won’t tell you too much, because you have to read it for yourself! But it got SO good!

So my recommendation: if you love mythology, if you like young adult novels, if you like adventures, or even if you just like a fun read, these are the books for you. Remember though, if you feel like it’s getting a bit tedious, think of it like the How I Met Your Mother gag with The Proclaimers song, 500 Miles. You can listen to it over and over and over and eventually you get tired of it, but it always comes back around, stronger than ever.

And I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more…. Da da da! Da da da!

Is the song stuck in your head yet?

I’m still trying to figure out how many blogs per week I’ll be posting. So until I’ve figured it out, I’ll just post whenever I feel like it ;-P

Until next time!

Rachel