John Green’s favorite summer reads

John Green Google Play

The Fault in our Stars author John Green has shared his summer reading list on Google Play.

“You’ll have to average two books a week to get through the list, but all these stories are, in their own ways, the sort that demand to be read, that open up time for reading you didn’t know you had,” he wrote.

The recommendations includes The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi, and others.

Speaking of which, I didn’t realize how awesome the Google Play book store was.

Our tragic flaws: a review of The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our StarsCancer is a disease that most of us bumble through the world caring little about until we encounter it for the first time. I don’t mean in textbooks or television commercials but in a fellow human being. Once it affects someone you love, you see it everywhere, an unseen force that Won’t Stop Taking Lives.

I was lucky. My family’s experience with cancer, which has been quite personal, was tame compared to what it could have been, to what I know it can do and how quickly and unfairly it can kill. I’ve seen it reduce people to shells in a matter of months, robbing wives of husbands and sons of mothers. Not that something else, like a car accident, makes any sort of sense either, but cancer is a cruel sickness: what’s ruining a person’s life is life itself — cells that grow in a way they shouldn’t.

So first, The Fault in Our Stars is a coming-of-age novel. Secondly, it’s about cancer. And also love. Someone’s going to die, and you’re probably going to cry.

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It’s Monday! What are you reading? #3

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Happy MLK Day! It’s Monday again, which means it’s time to share my latest endeavors. Even if you don’t participate regularly or don’t intend to, feel free to talk about what books you’re reading in the comments.

Penguin LostWhat I’ve been reading

I polished off The Jazz Cage by Ray Chen Smith (review here) and the Russian novel Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov. More on that this week! In short, it’s good and depressing at the same time — so one of “those” books.

I know there’s a sequel, so I’m going to have to read that because I flew through this one.

That makes two books so far for what’s looking like a very busy 2013. :)

What I’m reading now

Here I come, The Casual Vacancy! Yay! I’ve been looking forward to this one.

BoneshakerWhat I plan to read next

February is around the corner, which means I need to read a historical mystery for the Eclectic Reader Challenge. Not sure yet what I’m going to pick. Any suggestions?

I need to squeeze in The Fault in Our Stars next month, too. LONG OVERDUE. And I want to read Boneshaker since I came across that recently.

What are your reading plans? What books have you discovered lately? Any good recommendations — or words of caution? ;)

It’s Monday! What are you reading? #1

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday, folks! I’ve decided to join the weekly reading meme over at Book Journey. Even if you don’t participate regularly or don’t intend to, feel free to tell us about your recent activity in the comments.

Today’s New Year’s Eve, so I hope everybody has plans to drink and party (drinking and reading is also acceptable). :) Have fun and stay safe out there.

What I’ve been reading

The Underwater Welder smallMy sister got me The Underwater Welder for Christmas, which I’ve been excited to read. Jeff Lemire is an amazing writer and artist. I’ll have my review posted in a couple hours (11 a.m. EST) at this link.

I also finally got around to reading Where the Dead Fear to Tread by M.R. Gott (review here). The author asked me to read it awhile ago (sorry!), but I just kept putting it on the backburner. I’m making it my goal to complete a few outstanding requests before I move on to other books.

January 12 is my next book club date, so I’ll be bringing along Zombie Blondes by Brian James. You can expect my review to go up then.

What I’m reading now

I’m about to start a book for Kirkus Indie (my lips are sealed on that one), and I’m hoping to continue reading The Jazz Cage by Ray Chen Smith — another one of those books I agreed to review for my blog but have been procrastinating on. Whoops! Sorry. :( I’ll do better! I’m making it my priority right now.

So far, though, so good.

What I plan to read next

The Casual Vacancy smallI’m really excited to start reading The Casual Vacancy, my book club selection for February. Whooo! By the way, is that book expensive or what? I have all of J.K. Rowling’s major books in hardcover, so I wanted this one to complete my collection. But holy cow — $35? I picked mine up for $24, but still, that’s ridiculous. Good thing I had a gift card.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is also calling to me, so I’ll probably begin that soon, too.

What are your reading plans? What books have you discovered lately? Any good recommendations — or words of caution? ;)

John Green on creating characters for novels and written stories

John Green

John Green talked today about how to create characters in novels and other text-based forms of storytelling … while playing Fifa Soccer 11, which probably doesn’t have very deep characters.

But his reasons for playing make sense. Fifa is a video game, which is largely a visual medium. The author of The Fault in Our Stars said that what’s often forgotten about character creation is that characters in stories are made out of text, not images. “When I first read Harry Potter, I didn’t think of the physicality of Harry Potter. That wasn’t as central to his character as his interior life and my own feelings and connection to his interior life.”

He added, “First-time readers of Harry Potter are able to read that story without thinking of Daniel Radcliffe or even picturing anyone specific.”

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Love at first anagram: a review of An Abundance of Katherines

Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for your forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.

I’ve been a fan of John Green ever since I started watching the Vlogbrothers videos on YouTube. Looking for Alaska is my favorite out of the three (and counting) that I’ve read, including Paper Towns and most recently An Abundance of Katherines. It might not rank first with me, but An Abundance of Katherines possesses merits that are undeniably strong. This is a young adult book with a surprising amount of depth but one that reads lightly.

For the most part, anyway. Green tries his best not to bog the book down with the equations that his protagonist, Colin Singleton, devises in his attempt to calculate the future outcome of all romantic relationships—specifically his chances with the many Katherines he’s dated and hopes to continue to date. You see, Colin Singleton is a borderline genius—a prodigy who knows more languages than he has fingers, loves to anagram, finds everything and anything fascinating, and above all is terrified of not mattering.

After Katherine XIX dumps him, his friend Hassan takes him on a road trip that leads them to Gutshot, Tennessee, the resting place of Archduke Franz Ferdinand—who was shot in the middle (a word that Green cleverly uses given the book’s context), leaving the same kind of gaping, empty hole that Colin feels he has without a Katherine in his life. Their adventure introduces them to a strange girl named Lindsey Lee Wells, who adapts her demeanor to whomever she’s with but who’s smarter than she lets on, and together they come unwittingly into a summer job, seating them across from the elderly of Gutshot in an effort to record their lives and memories of working for the town’s only factory.

As always, Green has a knack for crafting dialogue and a story that feels genuine to his audience. But the real worth here is found in Colin Singleton and his unmistakable need to matter—to be a genius, not just a prodigy. The novel beautifully unravels why he’s so obsessed with being the best, speaking more greatly to the human condition of loneliness. Colin might be a super intelligent nerd who’s painfully awkward in social situations, but he grapples with many of the same issues that the rest of us do.

More importantly, I think, is what Green is trying to say not only about the fear of relationships, and letting someone get close, but relationships in general: that we can’t go through life expecting to date only Katherines or Colins. When we put stipulations on who the right person is, we never find the right person at all because we’re looking for someone of unreasonable expectations—a kind of expectations that prevent people from truly falling in love with another human being. Some people say we find love when we stop looking, and for me, at least, that’s held absolutely true. My boyfriend doesn’t have striking blue eyes and a body like a Calvin Klein model, but he does make me happy (and he’s very handsome).

An Abundance of Katherines is also about letting yourself make mistakes, an act many of us never do out of anxiety for what might happen. Sound silly? It is.

The book is also about storytelling—mostly because Colin lacks proper foresight. For all his intelligence, he can’t understand why he’s fallen into the same disastrous pattern and why he’s intent to stay in it. Green establishes a noteworthy literary framework here, connecting the parts together at the end, when things finally make sense for the characters.

It’s about having confidence in ourselves—being okay with who we are and understanding that being “special” is not nearly as important as being present in the world. We have to live, really live, in it.

An infinitesimal change. And that infinitesimal change ripples outward—ever smaller but everlasting.