Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Fault in our Stars

     In a single word - AMAZING!  The Fault in our Stars by John Green is one of my favorite books of all time.  It is laugh-out-loud funny and sobbingly tragic within sentences of one another.
     The characters are some of the most believable I have ever read.  Hazel, Augustus, and Issac feel like friends I formed iron bonds through tragic circumstances, although the other characters were not as developed.  
     The dialogue was brilliant.  It held the beauty of Shakespeare, the simplicity of poetry, and the depth you only get from surviving a trip through Hell.
     The description of Spring in Amsterdam made me homesick for a place I have never been.
     The title refers to a line from Julius Caesar.  Cassius tells Brutus, "The Fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves..."  It is the perfect title for a story of three teenagers facing terminal cancer.
     Hazel starts her story on the day she meets Augustus at the cancer support group.  She has terminal thyroid cancer that makes her unable to breathe on her own.  Suffering from depression, her mom insists she go to therapy.  One of those dreaded events she does each week, until the day Augustus appears in the group.  Hazel does not want to fall in love and devastate any more people than she has to with her death, but she can't stop falling in love with a boy who metaphorically holds the object of death in his mouth but doesn't smoke it.
     Augustus has been in remission from Osteosarcoma since his leg was amputated.  He knows the risks he faces falling in love with Hazel; his last girlfriend Caroline died from cancer.  In fact, he can't stop staring at Hazel when they first meet because she looks so much like Hazel.  He knows that losing the person you love is a grenade going off inside, but he knows love means something in this world that loss and death cannot diminish.
     Isaac loses his eyesight from his own cancer, but through his loss he sees life and love more clearly than before.  Although Isaac's girlfriend Monica swears to love him forever, she breaks up with him the night before the surgery to remove his eyes.
     He rages to Hazel, "Always was a promise!  How can you just break the promise?"
     Hazel replies, "Sometimes people don't understand the promises they're making when they make them."
     "Right, of course.  But you keep the promise anyway.  That's what love is.  Love is keeping the promise anyway."
     Through his loss, he gives my favorite line of the book.  This is my new definition of love.
     It has been a long time since I read a book by choice and found myself underlining lines and passages that were so powerful I knew I would want to come back to reread them later.
     Although this book has teenagers as the main characters, the language and sexual scene make it inappropriate for some teenagers.  However, it did fit into the book and the characters' situations; it was not done gratuitously.             

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Son of Neptune

     Another great book by Rick Riordan.  Percy finds himself in California this time, fighting Gorgons who won't die.  These Gorgons are greeters from Bargain Mart with big buttons on their vests and silver trays loaded with free samples.  Although Percy puts up a good fight, these Gorgons keep coming back to life.  Death has been kidnapped and the monsters reform as fast as Percy can kill them.
     As Percy escapes on a free sample tray, he encounters Juno and carries her across the Tiber River to Camp Jupiter.  By doing so, Percy loses the protection of the River Styx and chooses a life of pain and possibility.
     Percy becomes a member of the Fifth Cohort with the two kids who save him from the Gorgons - Frank Zhang and Hazel Levesque.  After the nightly war games, Frank is claimed by his father Mars.  Percy, Frank, and Hazel are sent on a quest to free Thanatos, the god of death, from captivity in Alaska.
     On their way, they face many monsters and have wonderful adventures.  I love the new characters in the book.  In Greek tradition, they meet a blind man who sees and knows everything.
     Ella is another favorite.  She is a small, kind-hearted Harpy that remembers everything she reads, including prophecies.  One of my favorite parts of the book is when she falls in love with Percy's cyclops brother - Tyson, my favorite character in the series.  They were very cute together.
      I also like the Hyperboreans, bright blue, peaceful giants, living in Alaska  For some reason, they seemed to fit Alaska well.  I could visualize them going through Alaskan life at peace with nature and immune to the angst of the humans and monsters below.
     Arion was another fun character.  Who wouldn't love riding a gold-eating horse at the speed of light?  He also has a trash mouth, but we never have to actually hear the words, since Percy is the only one who understands horses.  
     Of course, I also like Octavian.  In the ancient days of Rome he would have read animal entrails for signs.  At Camp Jupiter, he reads the stuffing of stuffed animals instead.  That made Nick and I laugh hysterically.    
     My favorite part of the book occurs at Iris' store called Rainbow Organic Foods & Lifestyles or R.O.F.L. for short.  The store is protected by a brilliant rainbow that blinds the monsters trying to get inside.  When Polybotes demands Iris kneel before him, a dark object flies out the window and lands at his feet.  Polybotes yells, Grenade" and orders everyone to the ground.  When it doesn't explode, he looks more closely.  He roars in outrage, "A Ding Dong?  You dare insult me with a Ding Dong?"  It was so unexpected that I couldn't stop laughing.  What a great thing to throw at a giant threatening you to show how little you think of his threat.  A great life lesson in that analogy, as well.  
      The book was fast paced and full of adventures, romance, and monsters.  I enjoyed the writing, the variety of new characters, and the humor.  It was a wonderful addition to the series.  It is going to be really hard to wait for the next book that comes out in the fall.