Friday, March 30, 2012

Combo Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars and Going Bovine

Alright, so I read John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Libba Bray's Going Bovine (actually I read Going Bovine back in January but never got my butt in gear enough to write a review) and I'm now going to do a review and compare/contrast thing here.

I originally thought that since both books feature teenaged narrators who both have fatal diseases, the books might have similar or totally different endings. Well, that's like comparing Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings because they're both third person and fantasy. Kind of a silly thought on my part.

Both of these books are amazingly well written. Bray and Green both excel at humor and at being serious. I mean, the books are about death. Or, being confronted with one's own mortality and learning to live. 

Yes, both main characters Hazel, from Stars, and  Cameron, from Bovine, are teenagers who don't make the most of life. Hazel lets herself get stuck in a rut or limited existence partially because she's dying of lung caner (and thus requires being hooked up to oxygen tanks) and partially because she's depressed and has been away from her peers for three years. The only social interactions she gets are at the community college she attends three times a week, and a support group where all the kids have cancer. It's easy to see how it would be hard to really embrace life to the fullest in that kind of situation. 

Cameron on the other hand doesn't really have a good reason for being a moody loner teenager. For Cameron, it is the disease that gives him life.

Also, I really admire the fact that both narratives are written through the voice of a teenager that is the opposite gender of the writer. I mean, John Green has never been a female teenager (and I have therefore I can be a good judge on the matter), but he pretty much nails the voice in my mind. Now, I've never been a male teenager, and neither has Libba Bray as far as I know, but she as well does an extremely convincing job. 

And that's where the similarities end. Well, they also both have characters who love video games, but I'm not going to linger on that.

So brief reviews on both books...

Going Bovine by Libba Bray
genre: magical realism 
overview: Cameron contracts mad cow disease and teams up with a dwarf, a garden gnome, and an angel to travel cross-country and find a cure while trying to defeat an evil wizard.

I loved loved loved this book. It has been awhile since I read it, but the strengths of it still stick out in my mind. Bray does an amazing job with details. She takes these minor details from before Cameron gets sick and then weaves them into the amazing adventure he has. Like (and I don't consider this a spoiler alert) watch out for snow globes. 

Also, mad cow is not something that you get better from. It's not something you can live with. No. The disease kills you. So you would think the ending of the book would be horribly sad and make you cry for days. And while there are sad parts to it, the book ends on a hopeful note. 

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green 
genre: realistic fiction (but also fantasy in the way that only falling in love for the first time can be)
overview: Hazel has lung cancer and is terminal. She is sleep walking through life, but meeting Augustus Waters gives her a new reason to get out of bed in the morning. 

I adore John Green. He writes characters that I could've been friends with in high school. They just feel like real people. And not just the kids - the parents too. I feel like I'm most like Hazel's mom in this book (she celebrates every holiday. Such as arbor day. It's not goofy. Her child is dying of cancer and the mom wants to make the best of it - who can blame her?)  Also, I'm kind-a in love with the fact that the two main characters (Hazel and Gus') first real conversation revolves around the correct use of the word "literally." You know how that can be a pet peeve of mine.

Does this book end sadly? Yes. The main characters have cancer. To be fair (to them and the world) there is only one way for this book to end. But, is it a book about kids who have cancer? I'd say no. The characters are not defined by their disease. It is a book about kids who are living, not dying.

Here's a video from John Green talking about the novel. 


So... where did I think the book was lacking? I feel like the character of Gus (Augustus) at some points is a bit too awesome and a little unrealistic. A super hot guy who is concerned about the metaphor of having an unlit cigarette... and he's 17. So maybe not totally unrealistic but very rare.

But it is totally worth reading. So read it!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reflections: Harry Potter The End of the Series

At this point I have finished the Harry Potter series, having read nothing else (apart from research) for the most of January and February. I know when I first started I discussed how reading it now was different from reading it when they first came out. I think I have mentioned this before, but I will again. I grew up with Harry. With each new book I was his same age. Harry was a peer and a friend. I found the books amazing and magical (and I sill do, but more on that in a minute). Now, I am different and reading them has been a different experience. So, for this post I thought it might be cool to look at how reading the series has been different this time around, and how it's been the same


  1. I mentioned this in an earlier post, but I think that my professor is right; the use of magic in this series is almost too easy. No, don't carry your suitcase when you can just have it levitated up the stairs. Sure, who doesn't want that choice? But I really like the concept of balance in the magical world. Like in the Wizard of Earthsea books... calling upon the storm to stop tossing your boat around the ocean might just cause a horrific storm elsewhere - somehow that balanced approach to magic makes it a bit more believable. 
  2. I like a lot more of the "minor" characters now. I say minor in quotation marks because in many ways these characters are not minor ones in the least, but they just aren't major ones. For example: Hagrid (he'll be getting his own post at some point), Ginny, and even Cho. With the exception of Cho, these characters are just amazing. (Cho I hated when I first read the books, now she doesn't bother me at all). Ginny and Hagrid give Harry strength and are just such real and well developed characters - I totally overlooked that the first time through. Sure, I liked them, but now I think I love and respect them.
  3. I can't read an entire book in a day. This probably has more to do with me having a job and reading these books for a paper, but once-upon-a-time I could fly through these books with no sleep and just love it.

The Same

  1. I still cry at the end of books 5 and 6 and pretty much the entire way through 7. I actually had to stop reading the 7th book at my local Starbucks when I was getting close to the Hedwig bit because I knew I would just start crying - and that would be kinda weird in public. 
  2. I still want to go to Hogwarts and study there. I would even consider teaching there. It would be awesome!
  3. I still want to be best friends with Harry, Ron, and Hermione OR Sirius, Lupin, and James
  4. I still hate Umbridge with a fierce passion and find Lockheart super annoying. I think it's totally because of those two characters that the 2nd and 5th books are my least favorite of the series.
  5. And finishing the series is still like saying goodbye to an old friend. It's almost like they've died - sure you can reread the books and relive the memories (like watching old movies and looking at photographs) but these characters will never do anything new again... and that's a bit depression.

I don't know. It's hard to remember just what it was like reading the books for the first time. All I know is that when I was done with one I was hungry for the next which I would devour as soon as I got my hands on it. It's not like that now. I think this time through I was looking more for specific things - things that would support my argument of my paper. I was looking more at Voldemort and how he and Harry would fit into this box I'm trying to build.

I know I won't do it for a while, but I would love to read these books again and just enjoy them. Read them for fun. I have learned in this process that reading a book you love for school can be almost as bad as reading a book you hate for school. I want to read them and pay attention to how Rowling captivates readers of all ages. I want to see how she makes her characters feel so real and have them grow. Those are the kind of riddles of Harry Potter I want to unravel. 

I was going to end my post there, but it just didn't seem right. It seemed as if there was something missing. Something more I wanted to include.... I found this video after I'd written the original version of this post a few weeks ago. Back then I hadn't finished the series yet and wanted to get some ideas out before I lost them. So, right before posting this I found this clip. Sorry for the quality, but I think it's a fantastic note to end on.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Missing: One Blogger/ Creative Writer. Reward if found.

I promise I haven't forgotten about my blog. I know it seems like I have, but there just aren't enough minutes in the day sometimes.

So, what's been going on in my life in the past month?


I finished my annotated bibliography and detailed outline (which wound up being nine pages long and generated a WOW! from my professor) and got them turned in.

I've started writing the first draft of my paper (wish me luck)...

My life has too much Harry Potter in it... I keep having dreams about it. The one I remember most involves me and my husband being at Hogwarts with Lilly and James and me giving dating advice to Lilly while my husband replaces Wormtail as the fourth member of the group (but doesn't go all evil...)

And I've been sucked into the Hunger Games world. Yes, I saw the movie friday, finished the second book later that night and then finished the third yesterday. Holy cow. I'm pretty sure that sometime this weekend I overdosed on reading... Husband accused me of huffing literature and it's true. I can get addicted to certain books.

Now that I'm done with the Hunger Games I can start having a normal life again, and I'm going to start reading John Green's latest book The Fault in Our Stars. It promises to be good, so hopefully I'll stop being lazy and actually post a book review on that one.

Just wanted to make an appearance... Let you know that I'm not dead (yet). And that there will be more to come.