Monday, June 30, 2014

All Things Meg Collett: A Look Back at Her End of Days Series as it Comes to A Close

A Note from The Literary Connoisseur:

It's with a heavy heart that I announce that the End of Days series by Meg Collett is coming to a close. Her last book in the series, The Only One, came out today and thus concludes Michaela, Clark, and Gabriel's story. 

I am lucky enough to say that over this past year, I have gotten to know Meg very well, and I could not have any more adoration for her than I do. She is a wonderfully smart, creative, and beautiful person, whose brilliance when it comes to pen and paper, is extraordinary. I say that I couldn't have more adoration for her than I do now, but that's not true. Every time I think I can't love her more, somehow she proves me wrong, and I fall in love all over again. 

I am sad to say goodbye to Michaela, Clark, Gabriel, and the rest of the End of Days characters, but I am even more excited to say, "Hello!" to Meg's new stories and books.

In this blog post, we're going to take a look back at her End of Days series, starting with The Hunted One, transitioning into The Lost One, and finally, ending with The Only One. Here you'll find my reviews, buy links, and a special interview with Meg Collett.

I hope you enjoy, and if you haven't yet read the End of Days series, I suggest you start now. Meg's books truly are a treasure to behold.


The Hunted One by Meg Collett:

  I received Ms Collett's book The Hunted One (book one in the End of Days series) as an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) for review purposes about a month ago, and was incredibly excited to start it. I read the synopsis, checked out her author page and noticed that The Hunted One was talked about, well before it was even released! (And still is, since it officially hasn't come out yet.) Now I know why...
  As I type this, it has been about 20 minutes since I've finished the book Just, absolutely and positively wow. Based on how easily I fell in love with the story, I knew I was going to rate it around four to five stars, but now that I've finished it and am one step away from begging Meg for the next book, I HAVE to rate it five stars. The author initiates you into this adventure that Michaela, our main character, is thrown into and once you're in, you won't want to be let go. 
  Michaela has just been betrayed by her Archangel brothers and sisters, and was tricked into letting the Fallen into Heaven. Michaela's life long-partner and confidant Gabriel was tossed into Hell, Michaela has just committed a horrific crime, and Lucifer has just ripped off her wings, banishing her from Heaven. Michaela is done for...or so we think. She is saved by Clark, an angel protector, and must fix and stop what has started. Here starts the beginning of the End of Days series. 
  This book will hook you and addict you from the very first page. I would know, because I am a recent addict of Meg Collett's books. 
  There are many incredible and absolutely mind-blowing things about this book and Meg Collett's writing. Among them are Michaela's strong will and backbone, making her a beyond amazing heroine, a character that provides comic relief when you feel as if there's no hope left in the world, and most of all, and my favorite; how easy it is picture what the author is describing. As Ms Collett (and Michaela) was describing the angels and their array of transformations, I could easily picture what was happening as it was happening, without even closing my eyes. When someone was in trouble, I could feel it. When a beautiful or horrible scene was playing, I could see it and I could feel the emotions emanating from it. 
  These are the signs of a soon-to-be New York Times best selling saga writer. 
  Meg Collett has greatness awaiting her, I just know it.
  I am ecstatic, nervous and immensely excited to read on in the End of Days series, and I can only hope and pray that she has mercy on my favorite characters.

Book                                 ebook

The Lost One by Meg Collett:

The Lost One by Meg Collett is the second book in the End of Days trilogy, and now, it is my favorite. Before I started it, I chatted with Ms Collett and she told me that this installment of the End of Days series was her personal favorite, and that she thinks she did the best job on it.
  Of course I thought, "Oh, she's the author. It's different for her. I'm sure The Hunted One (book one) will continue to be my favorite out of the two."
  And now...I say this: Meg was right, and I was wrong.
  The Lost One is AMAZING! The continuation of the story, the plot development, and the character progression are beyond incredible. Of course I fell in love with Michaela and Clark as soon as they met in The Hunted One, but as I read on in The Lost One, I truly realized how exceptional they are. They're not just neat characters, they're some of my favorite characters in literary history! Their chemistry is absolute perfection.
  If you are not (YET) a fan of the End of Days series, let me catch you up...
  In The Hunted One, Michaela has just been tricked by her angelic brothers and sisters, she is now cast out of Heaven, and her wings have been extracted from her body. Clark (a human ally) stumbles across a nearly dead Michaela and helps to nurse her back to health. Together they fight to bring Heaven back to the way it once was.
  In The Lost One, Michaela has been betrayed by her love Gabriel, and she's desperately trying to protect the seals of Heaven from the ones who want it most, the Aethere. Meanwhile, the sky is (almost literally) falling, and the ten plagues are being cast on everyone around them. All Hell has broken loose.
  The way that Meg Collett tells this story is truly remarkable. She has a knack for storytelling, and a talent for putting me on the edge of my seat!
  These books are beyond brilliant, I just can't get enough of them.
  Which brings me to my next question...Meg, when will I get a book three??

Book                                 ebook

The Only One by Meg Collett:

It's here! The final installment of Meg Collett's End of Days series is here. 
We will finally know what happens to Michaela, Clark, Gabriel, and most importantly, heaven. 
Will Michaela return to heaven?
Will she fully forgive Gabriel? 
Will heaven fall?
The only way to find out is to read The Only One.
And I have.
As I read on in the End of Days series, I would repeat to myself, "There is no way I could love this book as much as I loved the previous one," and I was wrong. Each time. Meg Collett, with each book, captured my heart, my emotions, and of course, my reading time. 
The Only One was exactly the ending this incredible series deserves. It was flawless, breath-taking, impactful, and it will leave you wanting more, with an "I'm satisfied with this ending" chaser. That'll be your exact feeling when you finish it too. You will feel the most satisfaction when it's over, but also an overwhelming longing for more. 
Which is what reading is all about. The feelings that emanate from your very being when you read Meg Collett's End of Days series are the exact reasons why you adore reading so much in the first place. Meg Collett's books are pure love, and pure magic. 
I for one am VERY happy with this ending. And for some reason, I have a feeling that my love of Meg Collett's writing will long stay with me.
Well done, Ms Collett. Your End of Days series is a winner, and The Only One scratched just where I itched.
The Only One is well written, Meg Collett writes extremely likable characters- especially Michaela, who is a strong female lead- her stories are exceptional, and her End of Days series will capture your attention from the very first page. There is nothing I love more than a series that captures my heart from book one, and that is exactly what happened with Ms Collett's books. 
There are not enough nice things in the world I could say about these books. They are beautiful pieces of artwork, and I consider myself very lucky to be a recipient of them.
Meg, I cannot wait to see what brilliance you're going to come out with next.

Book                                 ebook

An Interview with the Star of the Hour Herself, Meg Collett:

The Literary Connoisseur: Hello, Meg! Thank you for stopping by The Literary Connoisseur and answering some questions about you, your life as an author, and your books, in celebration of your latest release, The Only One. If you're ready, lets begin! Are you a reader as well as a writer? If so, what do you enjoy reading? 

Meg Collett: I think of myself as a reader before a writer. I LOVE reading. Reading books made we want to become a writer. I enjoy reading all sorts of genres, fiction and nonfiction. I also love reading books by fellow authors and supporting the indie movement by leaving reviews and giving shout outs to that author. Right now, I’m reading Death at SeaWorld for research on my next project.

The Literary Connoisseur: Do you have a favorite place to write? Outside, or at your work desk perhaps? 

Meg Collett: I rotate between my desk and the couch to write and work. I’ve been working on the couch a lot lately so I can hang out with my dogs. Which is to say, my mastiff stretches out on the couch, and I huddle in a corner with my laptop perched on my knees.

The Literary Connoisseur: What would you like to say to your fans? 

Meg Collett: I would like to thank them for taking a chance on a new author and for supporting my End of Days series. It’s meant the world to me. I hope they’ll enjoy my next creation.

The Literary Connoisseur: What would you like to say to future fans of yours, or people who have not yet read your End of Days books?

Meg Collett: I would like to say that I think I’ve created a unique story that they’ll enjoy. The series has a little bit of everything in it: paranormal, fantasy, action and adventure, and romance. I wanted to write a story about redeeming yourself and rising from the ashes of your life to prevail and overcome. You may lose your faith along the way, but you never give up the fight. And I think I’ve accomplished that with this series.

The Literary Connoisseur: Do you have a particular writing strategy when first putting together a story? Does your Inspiration Board play a big part in your writing process? 

Meg Collett: I always, ALWAYS start with an outline. I know a lot of writers don’t use one, but I think sitting down and truly understanding your story takes time. And you don’t want to waste that time by writing what you don’t need. You can still discover new things while writing when you use an outline. I always revise my outline as I go. But outlines help you push your story to the best point. After I have a fleshed out outline, I’ll start writing. I just sit down and get the first draft done, NO MATTER WHAT. I don’t go back and edit, and I don’t reread what I write. I’ll typically write 2,000 words a day. But toward the middle to end of the story, I’ll increase to 5,000 words a day. The speed and quantity keep you in the story and keeps up the momentum. After that draft is done, I’ll do a slow read through and take notes on all the things I need to change. I stole this technique from Veronica Roth: I’ll start with a column of “issues,” and to the right I’ll have a column of “solutions” that I come up with as I work. After the slow read through, I’ll revise and send the second draft to my critique partner. Then it’s another revision and then off to beta readers. Then another revision process then off to the copy editor. Then I revise her notes then off to the proofreader. Then I accept those changes then back off to the formatter. He sends me files and upload them. VOILA! I have a published book. Easy, right?

The Literary Connoisseur: What is your favorite thing about being an author? 

Meg Collett: Getting to sit down and discover my stories. It’s one thing to have an idea for a story, but it’s something different altogether to truly become that story and live it while you’re writing it. I love having my first draft in my hands and preparing to make it the best story it can be. There’s no better feeling than accomplishing your vision for the book.

The Literary Connoisseur: How did you first come up with the plot for The Hunted One, the first book in your End of Days series? 

Meg Collett: Well, the plot for The Hunted One was six years in the making. I would write it, trash it, rewrite it, trash it, etc. I didn’t outline the first book and it showed, because I’d get halfway through and realize I had a huge, gaping plot hole. It took me YEARS to figure out the story I wanted to tell. Thankfully, I’ve matured beyond that point, but it was agonizing trying to plot the first book. I was still learning as a storyteller, so it just took me ages to put the pieces of the story together. Only when I sat down and outlined it, did I really begin to come up with the plot. By then, it was easy. It’s like driving a car: If you know the end goal, you can maneuver all over the map. You’re never lost if you know where you’re going to end up. And if you understand your characters and their motivations, you can make that journey exciting and meaningful for readers.

The Literary Connoisseur: Why write about angels? What about angels made you want to write about them? 

Meg Collett: The angel element was just another development along the six year road to The Hunted One. Suddenly, it just made perfect sense to make my characters angels. I was lying in bed one night and it just came to me. I jumped up and starting scribbling ideas down. I knew I wanted to tell a story about redemption and what better way to tell that story than with an angel who makes an awful mistake and has to fight to clear her name? It’s the ultimate redemption, because nothing is more pure or perfect than an angel.

The Literary Connoisseur: Which of you characters would you say are you most like? Would you say you're like Michaela or Clark in any way? 

Meg Collett: I’m similar to Michaela, because I identify with her. When I started writing the story, I needed to read about a character who had lost faith in herself but still fought for what was right anyway. At the time, I’d lost faith in myself, and I was struggling to handle things. Michaela was my outlet for all the emotions I was feeling at the time. I couldn’t make my life better, so I wrote about a beaten down character who still fought back and redeemed herself. In that way we are similar.

The Literary Connoisseur: What is your favorite thing about Clark, Michaela, and Gabriel? 

Meg Collett: My favorite thing about Clark is his loyalty. Everyone needs a best friend like him. And they are hard to find. I love him, because he never gives up on Michaela. Some people have said that Michaela is weak and indecisive, and I agree with them. She was an angel, the highest of all angels. She’s never known the other side of the line before. She’s never stood on the “wrong” side or the “bad” side. Right and wrong have always been black and white to her. So of course she struggles when she’s on Earth as a disgraced angel. But Clark never lets her give up. He is her moral compass, her lighthouse in the night. He lets her have her moment, but then he helps her pick herself back up even if he has to yell at her while he does it. That’s a good friend. And a best friend will put a smile on your face and a laugh in the air even in the toughest time.
Michaela…my favorite thing about her is her struggle. Sometimes the book is angsty and dark and riddled with self-doubt. But Michaela is honest and true in those times. She doesn’t skim over them just because she is an angel. Instead, she absorbs them and feels their impact because she is an angel. She has the greatest capacity for pain and grief because she has seen an eternity of it. So even though some people don’t like her struggles and indecision, I LOVE it. I admire Michaela for it because in the end, she overcomes it and she’s better for every struggle she experienced.
Gabriel’s issues are a little more external than Michaela’s, but he still struggles and overcomes them. But my favorite thing about Gabriel is his love for Michaela. In book one, we learn they are partners, created together and meant to be together for eternity. They share a unique love and bond for each other. But it’s tested on Earth, where everything isn’t perfect. Gabriel hates Michaela at times. He yells at her and hurts her as only those who truly loves us can hurt us. But I think that’s the most honest kind of love. There is no such thing as a knight in shining honor or a love that never fails or a happily ever after. And I think Gabriel represents that. He loves Michaela in the deepest way possible. He messes up and so does Michaela, but they come back to each other because their love isn’t superficial; it’s woven into every fiber of their existence.

The Literary Connoisseur: Are you currently working on any new projects? 

Meg Collett: Yes! I’m working on a new series. It’s sci-fi action with a bit of anarchy and romance thrown in. I first had the idea after watching the documentary, Blackfish. It’s about the killer whale that killed three people in captivity. Yet, SeaWorld still used him for entertainment (and willing put more trainers in the water with him until OSHA stepped in and banned it) and breeding, which only breeds in more aggression in SeaWorld’s already very inbreed killer whale calves. It’s one of those films that shakes the foundation you stand on. I’ve been to SeaWorld when I was little and I loved it. But only now did I stop and consider why we use these sentient, understanding creatures for entertainment. We put them in tiny tanks and push them into a psychosis where their only outlet is to kill.
And then I got to thinking…what if humans were the entertainment? What if in the future, scientists discover that our most powerful emotions cause disease and death? What does human nature mean when everyone can’t feel fear, doubt, love, etc.? What if we had to put a group of humans in a glass box and watch how they interact to remember what it feels like to hate or love? What would that be called? Reality television…perhaps? Exactly, and so The Glass House Series was born.

The Literary Connoisseur: Since the End of Days series is drawing to a close, how would you say you're feeling right now? Sad? Happy? Sentimental?

Meg Collett: As I finished writing the last book in the series, I cried every day. It’s hard to see this series come to a close, because I grew up with these characters and this story. It consumed my thoughts for years. To finish that…well, it’s tough. And scary. Delving into a new series is uncomfortable and hard. I can’t rely on Clark’s humor or Gabriel’s prickly silence to get me through scenes now. I have to understand new characters and a new world. It’s starting from scratch all over again. And that makes writing a book even harder. But I love it. And I’m already enjoying every second of my new main character, Wren.

The Literary Connoisseur: Meg, thank you again for honoring us all with this interview! You are a gem, and a sweetheart to do this for me, my fans, and your fans as well. Stay awesome, and Happy Reading (and Writing)!

About Meg Collett:

Meg Collett lives deep in the hills of Tennessee where there the cell phone service is a blessing and internet is a myth of epic proportions. She is the mother of one giant horse named Elle and two dogs named Wylla and Mandy. Her husband is a saint for putting up with her ragtag life. End of Days is her first series.

For more on Meg Collett, 

Like her on Facebook here!

Follow her on Twitter here!

Check out her website here!

Like her Goodreads page here!

And so we conclude this hour of Meg Collett, but I know deep down in my heart that my love of her work is not over, and her time to shine has only just begun.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wrecking Ball by B.N. Toler

  Wrecking Ball by B.N. Toler started with a shock. Our two main characters were separated, the two of them kept at a distance from each other for a reasonable amount of time... Enough time for Sophia to forgive Brandon for what he did.
  After meeting and falling in love with each other almost instantly, years of marriage, and raising two beautiful daughters together, Brandon has betrayed Sophia's trust beyond repair. Sophia is terribly hurt, and she doesn't know if she can ever forgive him.
  And after reading about half the book, you'll have a hard time forgiving him as well.
  But in this story, you'll have to play Devil's Advocate, because not only are you reading Sophia's perspective, you're reading Brandon's perspective too.
  Prepare to feel extremely conflicted!
  I have to say, B.N. Toler's Wrecking Ball had me hooked pretty instantly. All it took was Sophia's sister, Tia, showing up on Sophia's doorstep, ready to take her on an adventurous trip for me to fall in love with her characters. Especially Wrecking Ball's secondary characters (Tia, Brandon's friends, Tia's boyfriend Antonio, etc.). I was pretty smitten with this book from the very beginning!
  This book had me an emotional wreck. I was laughing one minute, getting weepy the next, swooning soon after, and everything in between. It was emotional in every wonderful way.
  Without spoiling anything for future readers, I will say this: Prepare for an emotional roller coaster, and make sure you have tissues decently close by. You never know when a beautiful passage of this book is going to move you.
  I would have to say that my first experience with a B.N. Toler novel was an incredibly successful one.

Book                                 ebook

Friday, June 20, 2014

Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon

  You know what? This blog post shouldn't be called the title of the book. It should be called, "Yet Another Reason Why Diana Gabaldon is an Incredible Author, and Why Outlander Will Be One of the Best Series You'll Ever Read."
  For people who are not yet fans of Outlander, Written in My Own Heart's Blood is a perfect selling point for you to pick up the first book in the series. For fans of the books already, this book will remind you how incredibly breathtaking the beauty of this series is, and it'll remind you just how in love you were/still are with Diana Gabaldon's remarkable story.
  Now here comes the tricky part. Since MOBY (a nickname for Written in My Own Heart's Blood) takes place in the somewhat middle/close to end of the series, I cannot go into the synopsis of its story. But I can say that MOBY will reconnect you with your favorite Outlander characters, and transport you to a time when the Revolutionary War is thriving, and the United States of America is in a state of turmoil.
  As fans of the Outlander series already know, MOBY took quite a bit of time to come out. Five years to be exact. FIVE YEARS. So after five years, I and many other Diana Gabaldon fans were ready to dive back into the series and see what Herself had in store for us this time.
  I was expecting a beautifully written, jaw-dropping, extraordinary, make-me-cry-it-was-so-beautiful story, and that's exactly what I got.
  After fighting with myself for years over which Outlander book is my favorite, I now have an answer. Outlander aside (because it IS the first book in the series and the start of Claire and Jamie's life-changing adventure), Written in My Own Heart's Blood is my favorite.
  When I finished it, I was filled with this overwhelming feeling of happiness and beauty (even though I sobbed a few good times, which is not a spoiler). I was content.
  Written in My Own Heart's Blood filled the aching Claire and Jamie-sized hole in my heart more than Diana Gabaldon will ever know.

Book                                ebook

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare

For Logan- Thank you for introducing me to the world of Shadowhunters, Downworlders, and Daylighters. I wish you could have finished the series. I know you would have loved it. This book review is for you, lady. You are very missed.

  I would definitely say that the Mortal Instruments series, starting with City of Bones, helped me get back into reading during my teen years. As a child, I enjoyed the Harry Potter series of course, Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine, American Girl books and the like. But as I got a bit older, I went through a reading dry spell. I had nothing to read that interested me.
  But after a trip to Books-A-Million, and after talking to two of my friends that happened to work there, I picked up a few entertaining YA (Young Adult) books to get me back into that, "I can't live without books" mindset. I picked up Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast, Crank by Ellen Hopkins, and of course, the star of the hour, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare.
  So Logan, my dear, dear friend, I thank you for suggesting City of Bones to me. This is for you.
  Clary Fray is like every normal girl out there. She has a best friend, Simon, she's in high school, she lives her normal life with her mom in exciting and chaotic New York City, and she's just...normal.
  Until Clary and Simon go to the Pandemonium Club, and she witnesses a cruel murder, right in plain sight. Soon after, Clary learns that the murderers in the club were not human, they were in fact Shadowhunters; demon hunters, who protect fellow Shadowhunters and humans, and destroy harmful demons all over the globe. But there's one Shadowhunter who stands out to Clary...
  In the Mortal Instruments series, you experience action, love, adventure, loss, and all of those beautifully real emotions that emanate from books. It is a fantastic series.
  When I first started this series, there were only three books, and that was as far as Cassandra Clare was willing to go with the story. There was City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, and that was it.
  I read the books, fell in love, and was immediately captivated with this terribly beautiful series. (I say terrible because...well, they're demon hunters, and sometimes the whole "killing demons" process isn't pretty.) But the series was over, the ending was happy, and I (and many, many other Shadowhunter fans) were sated and satisfied. To quote J.K. Rowling- "All was well."
  Until a few years after I finished City of Glass.
  Cassandra Clare announced that Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Alec, and Simon's stories were not over. She was writing another trilogy.
  I had mixed feelings. The ending of the first trilogy was so perfect, I was afraid to think of what could possibly happen in book four, five, and six. Something unhappy has to happen to make the story stay interesting, right? RIGHT?
  Plus, more pages means more room for characters to die. Not happy.
  Please Cassie Clare, let Clary and Jace have their happily ever after. No more bad guys.
  But on the other hand, I did miss them. These books could be really, really good. I missed reading new Mortal Instruments books. Clare's Infernal Devices series (a prequel series about the main characters' ancestors, which I actually love MORE- see future review for more details) was so good, she obviously hadn't lost her writing touch. This could be good.
  Although I was disappointed a bit with book five, I have to say that the new trilogy was actually exceptional. I was very happy to be back with the characters, and just like at the end of City of Glass, I was sated.
  So, if you are itching for a new YA series, pick up City of Bones, you will not regret it. The City of Bones books will be books you cannot put down.
  Of course, there are some dry parts, some heavy (and occasionally irritating) make-out scenes, and a few sob-worthy moments, but hey, don't you have that with every good YA book?

Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments books in chronological order: 

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Jack Shian and the King's Chalice by Andrew Symon

  The Shian are a part of an underground, secretive world called "The Otherworld." The Otherworld consists of many mythological, powerful, and magical creatures, but most believe that the most dominant creatures of them all are the Shian. They're somewhat like shape-shifting sorcerers... They're powerful, and dangerous if you're on the opposing side of a fight.
  Jack Shian is, of course, a Shian and as his book title suggests, he's on the hunt for the King's Chalice, an object that could possibly make the Destiny Stone return to the full power it once had when reunited with other magical objects.
  Jack Shian and the King's Chalice, I would say, is a middle school/middle grade book, packed full of adventure and humor to keep the young mind entertained. I feel there is nothing inappropriate, nothing overly violent, and nothing that could possibly turn a young reader (and/or their parents) off.
  As for my opinion of the book, I have to say that- in all honesty- I wasn't in love with it. It was enjoyable, I adored Jack, and I was entertained throughout, but it wasn't a genre I would typically pick up on my own. Come to think of it, I am not Andrew Symon's target audience, so I may not be the best person to review this series.
  There are only a few books/series in the fantasy genre that truly captivate me, but I don't typically pick them up to read in my spare time.
  Although, I will read on, because I care enough for the characters and the story to see where they go in the future. I'm rating this book three stars because I liked it. I will most likely recommend it to parents who are looking for books to get their middle-school aged children to read, and I can actually see this book getting popular, but it just wasn't for me.

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Lemongrass Hope by Amy Impellizzeri

  Kate will never forget him. That beautifully intelligent man who stole her heart, her mind, body, and soul. Ian. Ian, who had to leave Kate to do some research in Botswana to find a mysterious fruit that holds magical powers.
  They say that at the right time, in the right place, it can make you time travel.
  Kate never forgot Ian, even after she married her husband Rob and had her two boys. She never forgot him.
  Lemongrass Hope is one of the most exceptional books I have ever read. My love for it grew from, "This is a great book" to "This may be one of the best books I've been asked to review" to "Okay, this is one of the best books I've ever read."
  It is extraordinary. Mind-boggling, captivating, emotional, addicting, and positively heartrending.
  It's one of the best books I've ever, ever, ever read. Amy Impellizzeri is a beautiful writer, and her book is a treasure to behold. Ms Impellizzeri's words will captivate you and leave you breathless as you beg for more. And keep in mind I only read the uncorrected ARC (advance reader copy)... I can only imagine how breathtaking the final draft will be.
  I've written and re-written this book review a few times. Each time I begin a sentence, I have to rewrite it in fear of it not being good enough for this story. This book deserves all five star reviews, and it deserves a spot on the New York Times Bestseller list. I could easily see this book becoming every book club's "Book of the Month," soon followed by a movie deal that I just know in my heart will not do this incredible novel justice. As I write this, a few weeks after I finished Lemongrass Hope, I still have not gotten over my extreme book hangover from Amy Impellizzeri's story. As soon as I finished the book and reread the first few chapters again (which I NEVER do in books), I was yearning to reread the entire thing ten times more. Ten times, fifty times, a hundred times, it doesn't matter. It wouldn't be enough.
  Reading this masterpiece a hundred times wouldn't be enough for me.
  Lemongrass Hope is stunning, extraordinary, and a true piece of artwork. A+

Book                                ebook

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, Book and Movie

  After my many months of blogging (eleven now, thank you very much; The Literary Connoisseur's first birthday in next month), I've done blog post after blog post about books. Whether it's reviews, teasers, cover reveals, release day blitzes, book-related products, interviews, or the odd occasion when I review a series in one blog post, it's always about books. Well this time I haven't strayed far, but I've wandered from the path enough to venture into a movie blog post. But not just any movie, the well-anticipated adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
  So let me start this long, emotional story-telling of my infatuation with John Green's works and how I first came upon The Fault in Our Stars.
  After hearing my friends talk about the book ("Has anyone read John Green's latest novel yet??"), and after I had seen many, many copies of it in Books-A-Million, I picked up a new copy of Entertainment Weekly (my favorite magazine, mainly because they have the BEST book-to-movie adaptation covers) and flipped to my favorite page, the Bullseye. In the center of the Bullseye was (and I'm paraphrasing here) "The Fault in Our Stars by John Green has a movie deal already. Please Hollywood, don't screw this one up."
  So, even before I started the book (over two years ago) I knew it was going to be turned into a movie.
  But that didn't sully my opinion of the book, or sway me in any way. I knew that if my non-reader friends, my reader friends (whose opinions I trust greatly), and Entertainment Weekly recommended it, it was a must-read. Plus there were limited-edition signed copies at the bookstore. All signs pointed to me spending the $17.99 for this book.
  I read it. I cried, laughed, cried and laughed some more, and immediately dubbed John Green one of my all-time favorite authors. Soon after that, I ate through Looking For Alaska, Paper Towns, An Abundance of Katherines, and Will Grayson Will Grayson, and bumped John Green to my second favorite author of all-time (right under J.K. Rowling). He remains in that place to this day. (If you're interested in reading more of John Green's work, I suggest reading his novels in the same order I read them- from saddest to funniest.)
  When the cast of The Fault in Our Stars was set, when John Green started Tweeting about the movie process, and when the buzz started going around that, "Yes, these fangirls AREN'T over-reacting, it IS a really good book, and John Green really IS an amazing author!" I couldn't contain my excitement any longer. It looked promising, John Green himself O.K.ed it (he admitted to crying a few times as well), the cast seemed perfect, and they were going to great lengths to make sure this movie lived up to its creator's, its fans', and its future fans' standards. I was ready to see how well they did.
  Fast-forward to say, oh, three days ago, when the movie was released. Word was slowly trickling in from friends that is was beautiful and breathtaking. "It was so heartbreaking. So beautiful, so sad, but oh-so beautiful!" Talk about the book was coming in faster and faster as days went by.
  I chose to see it a few days after it came out. After years and years of Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, and many other midnight releases, I was getting tired in my old age (ha-ha). I started to prefer an earlier time, when there was less of a chance of screaming teenage girls (and the boyfriends they dragged there) and more of a chance of older folks who need those headsets that heighten the sound on the already ear-drum bursting audio. I decided to go Sunday morning, the day the daycare was bringing bus-loads of kids to Despicable Me 2, instead of The Fault in Our Stars.
  Sunday morning was definitely safe. And I was right!
  Besides my party, there were only about eight other people in the theater for this beautiful movie. It was quiet. Nobody was kicking my seat, or answering phone calls, or rattling popcorn, or anything else that would distract me. It was almost as if everyone respected this story and knew beforehand that making loud noises during sentimental parts would be rough on everyone.
  I was okay (even now my eyes get teary from typing that word) until about a quarter of the way through. I started tearing up, wiping away cascading tears as they fell down my cheeks, and quietly sniffling. But then...oh, but then I got to the part I was dreading. The part that I knew was coming because I had read the book and it was burned into my brain.
  Which makes me think about the difference between a fan attending the movie and knowing what was going to happen, and a not-yet fan, who is experiencing it for the first time. And I wonder, who is it harder on? The unsuspecting movie-goer who heard about this heart-wrenching story from a co-worker, friend, or loved one? Or the die-hard fan, who has read and reread the story so many times they can almost time what is going to happen when?
  As a member of the latter group, I would have to say it's us. We try to "prepare" ourselves, knowing that the scene that makes us cry hardest in the book is soon coming up. But that "preparation" inevitably makes us cry harder, weep longer, and sob until are eyes are raw.
  This is what happened to me. And, I must say, this is what I recommend: Read the book, "prepare" yourself, and go see the movie. It's heartbreaking, it'll make you question life and why any God or author (thanks, John Green) would put us through this pain, and it'll make you cry your eyes out until you get a crying headache. But it is the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced.
  This story... It's so gorgeous, so unique, and so- well- metaphorical, it's truly mind-blowing. There's not anything like it; John Green's book The Fault in Our Stars is pure magic.
  The Fault in Our Stars will always be my favorite novel. It is beautiful beyond words.
  I'm very thrilled, and very proud to say that the movie did the book justice. The acting was remarkable. Shailene Woodley was so emotional, she was incredibly convincing as Hazel (her acting broke my heart and added a new level of hurt to the pain I felt for Hazel originally), and she's just so beautiful! She was innocent, sweet, and hilarious, just like Hazel. Ansel Elgort... Words cannot express how his acting impacted the story. This is not a spoiler, but in the book and in the movie, Augustus is so strong and so steady for Hazel (and the readers/watchers since you're reading/watching it from Hazel's perspective), that when he crumbles, WE crumble. The sadness and the inevitable feel of oblivion crashes down upon you after you've been holding it in for so long.
  When I read The Fault in Our Stars and heard (again) that it was becoming a movie, I thought, "Oh gosh, no one can play Augustus Waters. He is too good to be true. No one could ever successfully portray him in a movie."
  Ansel Elgort WAS Augustus. No one could have done a better job than him. Unless of course Augustus came to life and acted in his own version of the movie (and even then, I think he would still have a strong resemblance to Ansel Elgort). Our star-crossed lovers and two main characters aside, everyone else in the cast was positively perfect. Hazel's parents (our very own Sam from True Blood plays Hazel's father), Isaac (another character and story that had me rambling and gushing out incomprehensible words through tears on the ride home), Lidewij, and the very enigmatic and cranky Peter Van Houten were all absolutely bellissimo!
  This is a movie you'll be thinking about, and talking about for a long time.
  Even if you're not a reader, see the movie anyway. You will gain a lot from it regardless of whether you read the book or not (and you know how adamant I am when it comes to reading the book before you see the movie...YOU ALWAYS READ THE BOOK FIRST). But if you're not a reader per se, see the movie anyway. It's truly truly incredible.
  I approve of the book-to-movie adaptation 100%. It was perfect, and I loved it dearly, but due to my state of emotional wreckage right now (it didn't help that two saddest episodes of Doctor Who, in my opinion, are on today), I won't be seeing the movie again anytime soon. Perhaps I will when the DVD comes out. Then I can sob in the comfort of my own home without patrons walking into Cinemaworld and saying, "Oh no! Look at her face, I KNEW it was going to make me cry!" (which actually happened, but I didn't mind it because in its own pathetic way it's a selling point).
  So after reading a book review about three times the size of my normal book reviews, I bet you're wondering why I haven't in detail described the plot of The Fault in Our Stars. Well, let me tell you why.
  1) I'm sure most of you already know.
  2) Every time I recommend the book to someone, I say, "Do not go into this experience knowing the plot, and therefore creating some pre-conceived notions. Read it (or watch it now) without knowing the plot, and accept it for what it is. Enjoy it for what it is." Don't not watch it or not read it because it's sad, or because the plot is depressing, or because you're afraid of crying, or because you've heard so much about it. Read it or watch it anyway. It's worth it, and you should never judge a book by its cover or by what you've heard about it. You wouldn't judge a person that way, so why would you judge a book?
  So, long story cut (decently) short, read the book, see the movie, do whatever you can to immerse yourself in the beautiful story. It's life-changing, inspiring, sweet, sentimental, mind-blowing, and it'll have you appreciating the little things in life.
  Embrace the infinities in your life and the lives and those you love. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.

If you'd like to buy the book before you see the movie...

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