Young Adult July Reads Book Review: The Fault in our Stars by John Green

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Book Review:
Book Title: The Fault in our Stars

Book Author: John Green

Rave and Rant: I read this book after my father lost his battle to cancer, and it gave me a beautiful insight into a land where cancer is not viewed as the villain and rather as a fact of life. This book is not your typical love story! It followed sarcastic teenagers who live with cancer, and does not mainly focus on the cancer, it follows their life. It is a beautifully written book and John Green brings his excellent wits in this novel. I’d suggest it to anyone, but remember to have a tissue box nearby once you’ve finished the first half of the book! This book deals with strong emotional themes. Five stars!

Potential Issues: This book does make cancer seem a little romanticized. When I look back on reading it, at the time it was the type of book I definitely needed. I was hurting and I needed a book that didn’t make cancer seem like this horrible villain in my story. This book might not be for everyone, but it helped me at the time. Is cancer scary? Yes. It is life ending, horrible, and ruins lives? Yes. But can this book help heal? Yes.

This book will make you cry – it’s definitely sad, but at the same time it gives you¬† a different insight into cancer. Yes, there is a romance story in it, but these characters will give you some form of hope. There are beautiful quotes throughout the novel that show you cancer from a very different perspective. Readers must keep in mind this book was written after John Green lost a friend to cancer as well, so this book could have helped him heal.

Final Thoughts: This book is a YA novel – that means it is not going to be 100% realistic. This novel has it’s ups and down in many ways. The characters don’t seem to talk like teenagers would (but the novel was written by an adult). I found Hazel (the main character) to be quite average (other than her amazing quotes), but sometimes you don’t want the perfect Mary Jane as your main character. Gus is kind and a jerk, all wrapped up in one package. He’s not your perfect male lead, which is why I like him. Yes he has his issues, but at the same time he is romanticized for the audience this book is aimed towards. There’s a villain who has his reasons for being evil, but they don’t entirely make up for his behaviour. Overall, I enjoyed this book because it was there when I needed it to be – it’s a good book to read to heal after losing someone to cancer because it gives you a very soft and sweet look compared to the horrors a cancer story typically is.

Five out of five stars. I enjoyed this novel.

Quick Book Review: Into the Blizzard: Walking the Fields of the Newfoundland Dead by Michael Winter

In honour of Canada Day, here is my review of a book about Canada (well, Newfoundland)!!

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Since I am a Canadian, I decided this book would be an interesting read that would enhance my knowledge of Canada. And surprisingly, I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected!

I wanted to read the book to gain more knowledge, but I ended up really enjoying the book and getting into it.

The book follows the journey of the author through Newfoundland and past battlefields and grave sites of soldiers. The chapters in this book were short and sweet, but the nicest little gem was how much information and facts that were within the small chapters. Each chapter involved a small journey or task completed by the author, but little facts either about the author’s childhood or the wars were included. These facts, despite being anywhere from one sentence to only a few paragraphs in length, gave an amazing and gigantic insight to how the War was fought and dealt with by soldiers.

The only downfall I saw to this book was how simple some of the language was. The read was smooth and quick, and I didn’t find myself getting bored with the facts and plot laid out in the story. Overall, this book was incredibly well written and a gem I would definitely read again or suggest to anyone who is interested in history, wars, or specifically Canadian history.

I believe this book would help many high school students studying history understand it a bit more (considering the fact that this book would have helped me a lot when I sat bored in history class).

Amazing book! Four out of five stars!

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Book Review: Handling Strife – Ideas for Happier Living by David Butcher

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Book Review
Book Title: Handling Strife: Ideas for Happier Living
Author: David M. Butcher
Date Read: October 12th – October 23rd, 2016
Date Reviewed: October 23rd, 2016

Introduction: I received this book as an uncorrected advance copy for an honest review. I decided to pick this book up because I wanted a little non-fiction in my life, but it turns out I also got a splash of religion (specifically Christianity).

Quick Summary: This book is not only about handling strife, but pretty much every topic you can imagine a person might deal with – hate, love, trust, guilt, shame, honesty, happiness, jealousy, envy, price, the bible, the afterlife, music, control, truth, and more. The book talks a lot about Christianity, and the author gives his opinion a lot. There are also lots of stories shared about his personal experiences and other’s experiences. If you do not want to read one man’s specific opinions on all of the topics listed above, this book is not for you.

Quick Review: I did not enjoy this book, but not for the reason you might think. I tossed the entire religion aspect out of the door – I would not judge this book based on this man’s religious beliefs. I have read many books with many different religious views and they have been wonderful. I didn’t like this book because this writer is not exactly culturally friendly. His choice in wording makes this book sink all the way to a simple one star review. This book could have been a much higher star if he treaded carefully with his wording in some situations. I knew what he meant, but what he said might not go well with other readers. So, readers beware. There are lots of opinions and bad choices in the wording department.

For a slight change in my review format, I’m going to go chapter by chapter. I read this book twice, the first time through I tried to write my normal formatted review and it was incredibly hard – I had lots of criticism and lots of love depending on the chapter. So, I’m going to go chapter by chapter for this book so my followers/readers can get a much better understanding of why my rating is so low.

Chapter 1: Idea #1 Walk in Truth
This chapter started off pretty well. I was impressed with this man’s view on truth and how to ensure you do not lie. This is a great lesson for people! Being honest is a great way to live (when it’s appropriate). But, of course, the choice of wording did not exactly turn out well in this chapter. He mentions how you should always be honest, such as if your wife is wearing a dress you don’t like, tell her to change so her dress matches her highlights (which you do like). This didn’t sit well with me. What if his wife liked that dress? Should she have to change because you don’t like her dress? If she asked your opinion and she didn’t like the dress, perhaps that honesty would work well here, but the situation is iffy. Overall, this sentence made my view change for this whole chapter.

Chapter 2: Idea #2 Be Real
Another good idea to live by, but the author’s wording yet again had me wondering what his ideal thought of “being real” is. He discusses the subconscious wants, needs and desires, and then begins to talk about the “perfect life”. A spouse must “always” look good, they must never disagree with them, they must keep the house clean and do the laundry before it’s needed. Well, okay, that might be in his household but that doesn’t always stand true for everyone. The wording for this made it seem like everyone’s spouse must do this, so I wasn’t impressed. The chapter continues to go on with poor wording choice, such as the fact that not having enough money is never a catastrophe. I would disagree with that statement, to a degree. If you consider how some countries do not have health care, if you could not afford your treatment it would be a catastrophe. If you lost your home, your car, your career, and even more because you are so sick you cannot go on and cannot afford health care, I would feel like that could be a catastrophe. It was simply poor wording choice, and it could have been worded like “not having enough for extras in your life” could have worked better to get his point across. The final part of this chapter that got my blood boiling was how he talked about children. I don’t have any, but I work with lots of children so I didn’t appreciate this wording choice. He questioned anyone who is a parent and if they loved their child at all (poor wording choice) and then continued to ask about loving them to consider their feelings before punishing them. Again, good point – don’t yell and swear at them to hurt their feelings and teach them a valuable life lessons – but poor wording.

Chapter 3: Idea #3 Get Rid of Guilt and Shame
In this chapter, David did an excellent job of describing the difference between guilt and shame. They are definitely two very different concepts that can be mistaken for one another, and I applaud his descriptions and explanations. Although, yet again, the wording choice or lack of explanation further on left me feeling cheated. Our author tells a story of a man he used to know, he killed someone and then decided to change his life after he got out of jail. He got married, got a job, went to church and became a good man. As a picky reader, does this make a good man? I would need much more explanation, since I know a lot of married people with jobs that go to church that are not necessarily “good people”, but his definition of a “good person” may not be mine. This man could have made an honest mistake and actually be a wonderful person, but David lets on that this man is not good, so I felt confused. Eventually David explains a “bad person” – people who kill (okay, sounds reasonable in some situations), people who gamble (this can be a problem/addiction for people, but they are not necessarily bad people for this…) and people who smoke and drink (doesn’t necessarily mean someone is bad, I know smokers and drinkers/alcoholics who are wonderful people). There are many different levels of “bad”, and I feel like if he wanted to discuss bad people, discussing the levels could have made a better distinction between murderers and recreational drinkers.

Chapter 4: Idea #4 Take Control
The author’s stories and situations are very out there in this chapter. He explains why becoming angry is a bad thing – it can escalate to the point you will start killing people left and right, so never get angry. He also paints his parents as horrible people in this chapter, and explains how as a small child he corrected their behaviour. This entire chapter I felt like it wasn’t necessarily truthful, or it was missing explanations as to how these make sense, but that’s just my opinion.

Chapter 5: Idea #5 Eliminate Worry and Fear
I overall liked this chapter, minus one sentence. He explains how getting rid of useless worry and fear will help you get over strife, which is a great lesson for people. I tend to worry a lot and I got a lot out of this chapter! Except for one point, he describes how he went on a trip and knew the trip would be over when “God” let him run out of money. I’m not sure that’s exactly how a trip works (you usually plan to be there for a certain number of days and bring money for just in case situations where you need more…but hey, what do I know?).

Chapter 6: Idea #6 Envy, Jealousy and Pride
As a writer/reader/reviewer/editor, this chapter left me with my blood boiling. David M. Butcher explains how envy and jealousy are the same thing (they are not, they are similar but definitely not the same). He then continues to belittle cooks and welfare recipients (I don’t know how these two are similar, but apparently they are) and says they need to change and become better. I believe he meant this as a situational story, but I felt like something had been left out during the writing process. Some people on welfare are actively trying to get better but may just be in a bad spot (I know many like this, trying to get a job or losing one due to a horrible circumstance that was not related to them) and I know many cooks who are great people who do not need to “change” to be better.

Chapter 7: Idea #7 Love and Hate
This chapter is half amazing and half bad wording. Bad wording first – all women look for princes, according to this author, and all will be disappointed when they get a regular man. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with this, not all women want a knight in shining armor (perhaps young girls do, but that’s conditioning from society, but hey, that’s another issue). And then the good wording – David discusses learning to love ourselves. Society conditions us to learn to love and accept others, but not ourselves. This is truly important, especially with mental health issues in today’s society. I will give major props, and that specific part of this chapter deserves six out of five stars.

Chapter 8: Idea #8 Be Happy
This whole chapter was incredible, no poor wording at all! David discusses that being happy takes effort – you need to decide to be happy. If anything, I would have added more to this chapter – such as everyday will not always be a ten on the scale of one to ten of happiness, sometimes it will only be a one.

Chapter 9: Idea #9 Learn To Trust
This chapter had a lot of strange stories about learning to trust prayer – if you pray, in three days something good will happen. One woman got a random item out of a catalog that she didn’t order in three days, one man got a $200 Jesus status given to him, etc, etc. And if it doesn’t come in three days, wait a year or so, it’ll happen! Not necessarily true, but hey, this author is trying to get people to trust in time and patience, so kudos to him.

Chapter 10: Idea #10 Spreading Fear and Hate
I liked this chapter a lot, and the author had great examples. Some of them were a bit out there, but it got the point across that some people spread fear and hate, and it’s important to try to not be one of those people.

Chapter 11: Idea #11 The Bible
This chapter explained a bit of how the bible has changed from religion to religion and why it was separated into parts. I found it interesting, but it didn’t necessarily need to be in a book that talked about handling stress and strife in your life.

Chapter 12: Idea #12 One God?
If anything, I just wanted to call out a great Shakespearean reference to Romeo and Juliet – the rose by any other name reference was a great way to allude to other works but get the point across – great job David!

Chapter 13: Idea #13 Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin?
This is the chapter where readers should really beware. It is the best chapter of the book for me, since it explains how people preach the bible yet don’t exactly follow what they preach – but the author does the same thing here. He preaches that women should be given the option to have an abortion, but then he contradicts himself in saying get the women lots of help to not get the abortion at all. Contradictory, but it is a literal example of what he is discussing. He also compares how people are against sexuality and other choices (because of bible versions) but the bible also says to not cut yourself or dress up as the other gender, yet we let people get tattoos, women wear pants and men get ear piercings.

Chapter 14, 15, 16, & 17
These final chapters are very short and don’t seem to apply at all to the title of this book – handling strife. Life after death, music, loving Jesus and the Kingdom of God are discussed. It’s an interesting selection of chapters, but seem redundant and repetitive in my opinion.

Final Thoughts:
David has some great references – such as Halloweentown and Captain America, as well as Shakespeare and the Bible. I didn’t like this book due to the contradictory nature of David’s words, but I did find it helpful and insightful. The book is opinionated, so reader’s need to beware when reading. You are not going to agree with all of David’s thoughts, but you may get something out of this book. To me, it seemed like a large collections of sermons piled into one book, but it wasn’t exactly culturally sensitive.

One out of five stars due to the cultural insensitivity and contradictory nature of the novel.

Quick Book Review: Queen of America by T.J. Slee

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Book Review
Book Title: Queen of America  (Freya Eriksdottir #1)
Author: T.J. Slee
Date Read: September 26th – November 4th, 2016
Date Reviewed: November 4th, 2016

Background: I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads for an honest review.

Quick Synopsis: This book is all about female vikings, which is a nice change from seeing all men vikings all the time. Freya goes out on a mission and is determined to finish it. You follow her struggles and the adventures that vikings have. It’s a great read following strong female characters that are also vikings.

Evaluation: This book was a good read, but I felt that the style did not match with me. This book is truly beautifully written and I love the strong female characters, the exciting plot and the incredible adventures, but I just didn’t like the writing style. It felt too slow for me, but that’s because I really like to read fast paced books. Yet, this book isn’t slow by any means – TJ keeps up an amazing pace. I just found it didn’t fit well with me as a reader. Other readers will definitely like this book! It gets all my praises and awards, but as a reader I just know the types of writing styles I like to read and TJ’s writing style doesn’t match with me personally.

That being said, it’s time to get into the juicy parts of this book. You follow Freya as she goes on an adventure, but you also meet her brother Leif. Her story was truly inspiring and compelling, which had me continue and finish this book.

For people interested in viking history but want a more interesting read than a history textbook, I would definitely suggest picking this book up. It’s a great fiction read that keeps you hooked and gives you some insight into their culture.

There are definitely characters I would have loved to see more of, but other than that there’s not much else to improve on in this set of stories. It’s truly a great read and I suggest readers pick it up!

4 out of 5 stars.

Quick Book Review: The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor by Howard Marks

Let’s do a Throwback Book Review from a few years ago! #ThrowbackThursday

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I never read books that are non-fiction and explain things to you (unless it is for school), but I found this book charmed me in a way that is hard to express.

This book explains to you thoughtful ways to invest, and how not to make mistakes when investing. While I found most of them to be quite obvious, when you put them all together it makes a lot of sense. It is very useful to use when you need help with money, and has made me think over my investments and where I spend my money during my schooling years.

A friend of mine who is studying Business also gave me lots of insight by telling me how true this book is, and coming from Columbia Business School (the “best” school for business, her words) that this book will be a good reference for future investments.

Overall, it was very helpful and thoughtful! Although it will not get me hooked on reading books related to business and how to make money or spend your money, I did enjoy the information I gained from it!

Four stars out of five.

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Book Review: Destinare by Matt Micros

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Book Review:
Book Title: Destinare
Book Author: Matt Micros

Introduction: I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. I decided to read this book since I was craving some quick, short reads and this book fit the bill!

Synopsis: Everyone’s lives are interconnected in some way. If we didn’t make certain decisions in our past, how would the future turn out? This book has everyone connected (and it gave me a short but sweet, with less themes Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell feel) and it’s very clear and obvious why they are.

Review: Dear readers, this book is FICTIONAL. It even states in the opening lines that it is FICTIONAL. I’ve read other reviews where people were upset about the twist ending in this book, but the book is FICTIONAL and, therefore, can have any ending it wants to be and does not need to be realistic. Did I like this book having an unrealistic ending? No. But did it fit with the novel? Yes. This book has a big plot twist at the end that shows how lives can be connected, and makes it clear that anyone’s decision will have a big impact on other people (whether you realize it or not). So, since I have mentioned the word FICTIONAL four times now, I feel like whoever reads this review should get the point.

This book is an easy, quick read that I managed to finish in one go. I sat down for an hour and took my time through it, and I really enjoyed it! It definitely didn’t blow me out of the water and want to scream at everyone to read this book, but I really liked it. The theme of everyone being connected in some way and how our decisions affect others was a great plot driver for this story. There were times where I felt like the book was a little cheesey, but it worked within the context.

If anything, I would have liked some of the stories to be extended. I really liked reading about each individual character, but some of their chapters were just to short! You’d move onto the next chapter and it felt like fifty years had passed in those few lines!!

Overall, I really like this novel. I’m impressed and I would definitely recommend people who want a fictional but short read to pick it up! Matt Micros did a fantastic job and I want to read more by him. The characters were relatable, the story hit home quite a few times, and the themes were realistic (minus the final plot twist, but hey, it’s literature! Everything does not have to be super realistic!).

Four out of five stars.

Quick Book Review: Naughtier Than Nice by Eric Jerome Dickey

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Naughtier than Nice was a fantastic read by Eric Jerome Dickey that is perfect for anyone wanting a soap opera feel kind of book.

This book is incredible! When I first started reading it I wasn’t sure what to expect. Is this book a romance? A drama? It’s both! This novel felt like one of the soap operas I used to watch on tv but instead in book form.

I couldn’t say there was much wrong with this novel, because it did seem like a soap opera. Something was always changing, there was always some kind of romantic action or spite between characters going on and it never seemed boring. There was times that I was quite frustrated with characters or where different plot twists seemed unreal, but if this book was aiming towards being a book soap opera than it did it’s job.

Overall, I was impressed. I would love more books like this where there is constant twists, drama and a big splash of romance!

Five out of five stars!

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.