Monday, May 20, 2013

Review: The Fault in our Stars

Let me preface this review with three facts about my reading preferences:
1. I hate romance. Hate. It. I have been known, on occasion  to throw books with ridiculous romances in them across the room. I don't know how this happened, because in other ways I am the girliest of girls (the kind that sees pedicures as a necessity, not a luxury), but it is true.
2. I hate books about dying/death/illness. I like to put on the front of being tough and uncaring, but the truth is, I have a giant soft heart that can hardly handle reading about the pain of others.
Cover image from Amazon, via LibraryThing
3. I generally don't read realistic fiction, probably something to do with the first two facts. I look at books as a way of escaping the world.

That being said, I could not possibly have loved this book, about a romance between a terminal cancer patient and a recovering cancer patient, any more. Hazel is a self-described "professional cancer patient". Her diagnosis is eventual death from her condition, although she has bought herself some time with a successful cancer drug trial and her trusty oxygen tank to help her "crap" lungs. She does her best to live as a normal teenager, mostly for the sake of her parents, which includes attending a support group where she meets Augustus. Augustus has one leg, which put his bone cancer into remission, a wry sense of humor, and the same stark way of speaking about the world. Of course they should probably fall in love, but how do you forge a relationship when you are assured of dying young?

It's not often you describe a book about cancer patients as delightful, but there are so many points of this book that had me literally laughing out loud. Hazel's voice is sweet, realistic, honest, and she is not afraid to point out the truth of her situation. Never once did it feel forced or treacly. The dialogue is crackling with equal parts humor, sarcasm, and honesty. They are simply two kids, one of which has no leg, and one that has very little future to look forward to, trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into the world.

The Fault in our Stars is definitely for an older group of kids. There is frank discussions of sex, death, cancer, some minor language (one usage of the so-called R-rated curse word), and one alluded-to sexual act. Keep your parent or guardian nearby, and perhaps a tissue for tears (if you're that kind).

LibraryThing Review

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review: Would You Believe... in 1400, reading could save your life?!

I picked this book up originally, because I thought it was about books and reading. Since, at the time, it was World Book Day (April 23), I thought it appropriate. It's not about reading, or books, not really. It's about schooling. Which is fine, really I actually enjoyed the book quite a bit, but this is the second time I've gotten the content of this book series wrong because of the titles. Clearly they need someone to come over there and suss out more appropriate book titles.
Cover image courtesy of Amazon, via LibraryThing

From hunter-gatherers in caves to the mandatory public education systems of today, schooling and education have always been an essential part of humanity, helping prepare the next generation to run the world. Throughout history, schools have been in the home, away from home, battlegrounds for new soldiers, religious training centers, and, if you were lucking, a place to hone your homemaking skills. While schools have changed a lot in the centuries since they were created, the desire to better ourselves and instill important life skills in our children has not.
Would You Believe... gives a nice overview of the history of education, including a discussion of whether schools are necessary for success. Each page is rich with photographs, captioned with brief bits of information. While it clearly tries to focus on a broader perspective, most examples come from Western Europe, the United States, China, and the Islamic world, which is disappointing. Despite this, the book is a good introduction to the world of education and should pique the interests of students in grade 3-6.