Category Archives: Lit Love

Reading and Cooking with the Kitchen Club Kids!

*I was gifted copies of these books as compensation for this review. All opinions are my own.

Dave and I both love cooking and helping in the kitchen is one of the *few* chores that Ella is thus far interested in. She LOVES cooking with us (which, regardless of what we are making, mostly involves her self-assigned task of spooning teaspoons full of baking soda into a bowl or cup, or eating the ingredients as pictured above). So when one of the authors of the adorable Kitchen Club Kids series contacted me and asked if I would be interested in sharing their books with Ella, I jumped at the chance. And trust me, they have quickly become a staple in our house!

Continue reading

My Fall 2015 Reading List

It’s that time of year….the weather is cooling down, the leaves are starting to change, and Pinterest is flooded with pumpkin recipes. It must be fall! Time for a new reading list, but first, a few updates on my summer list:

The Girl on the Train was over-rated and not nearly as suspenseful as I was expecting it to be. Mostly just depressing haha.

This is Where I Leave You was really funny and well-written but really raunchy and I wouldn’t recommend it or read any of his other books now, sadly.

-I ate Belong to Me right up (and I wrote about it here).

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen (and Listen so Kids Will Talk): This is really good so far. I’m still working on it, and I like how in the introduction the authors suggest reading it slowly and practicing different techniques in the book before moving onto a new section. That being said, I think it’s probably aimed at parents with kids that are a little older than Ella. Still helpful for the future, though!

And…the rest of my list I didn’t get to. Instead, I went through a phase where I read the memoirs of Ann Romney, Hoda Kotb, and Kathie Lee Gifford. What can I say, I am a middle-aged cat lady in 20-something’s clothing.

This fall, I’m not tackling anything too lofty, haha. These are all books that have been on my “to read” list on Goodreads for a while, and I was lucky enough to find Still Alice and A Walk in the Woods at The Dollar Bookstore today, so they made the fall reading list cut!

Small side-note: If you live around Utah Valley, you have to check this place out! There is a location in Orem and Spanish Fork. It’s a used bookstore and all books really are only $1! And they actually have a lot of good stuff. I looked around for about half and hour and easily came away with several books I was pumped about (I think Carl’s Christmas was actually the one I was most thrilled by. I really want to build up our Christmas book collection!).

Without further ado…here’s what I’m excited to read this fall!

1. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling: Ok, ok, I recognize that any girl under the age of 40 has already written about her excitement for this book to come out so I’ll just add my name to the list. I really do believe that Mindy and I would be best friends if she got to know me, though. I just know it!

2. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson: This book has been around for a while and I’ve heard how funny it is about a million times so I figured it was time to give it a try!

3. The Royal We by Heather Cocks: This seems a little more “chick-lit-y” than I’m usually into, but I’ve heard it’s such a fun, cute story I am intrigued. And, isn’t it a little bit based on Kate Middleton? So sign me up.

4. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande: I found a recommendation for this book on Everyday Reading, and her review was so glowing, I was really interested. Admittedly this topic (the science of dying) isn’t really normally my cup of tea, but I’ve been known to embrace some less-than-warm-and-fuzzy subject matter if it’s written about in a captivating way (Nothing to Envy, anyone?).

5. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: This book had its heyday this summer and I want to see if it lives up to the hype! I mean, Pulitzer Prize? Seems pretty promising.

6. Still Alice by Lisa Genova: (I know, I’m late to the party on this one too haha. I have to hear a lot of good reviews before I take a chance!) The idea of a book about early-onset Alzheimer’s seems almost too sad for me but….it’s supposed to be extremely moving and triumphant. Plus it’s got a crazy high Goodreads average so that’s a good sign, right? Also, I found it for $1. Sometimes that’s enough to convince me to read something.

Let me know what you think! What’s on your reading list this season?

#boardbooks #parenting #kids #babies #childrensliterature #readtothem

9 Board Books That Won’t Drive Parents Nuts!

#boardbooks #parenting #kids #babies #childrensliterature #readtothem

Before I had Ella, I don’t think I realized how many weird children’s books there are out there. I had images of us happily reading for hours, tickled pink by the wide array of stimulating prose and lovely illustrations we would encounter (ok, that’s a little much). I was mostly thinking about the classics, like “Goodnight Moon,” or “The Runaway Bunny.” While we have had a lot of fun reading together, I’ve realized that a lot of kid’s books are just plain boring or annoying! And of course, those are often the ones they decide to become obsessed with, right? Ella had this book about cupcakes (my fault….I bought it for $.50 at a library sale) which was her favorite for months, and I’m pretty sure it was just because there was glitter on the cover. If I never read the words “You Are My Cupcake” again, I’d be happy.

So….how do you sort through the mindless puppies behind flaps and TV show adaptations and find the stories for your little one that are truly witty, educational, and sweet–books that you, as a parent, can happily stomach night after night and aren’t tempted to hide or “accidentally” drop into the trash? Well, this is by no means a comprehensive list, but these are a few board books that we really love (as you can tell by the wear and tear on the spines in the pic above!) and I feel like have really helped her learn a thing or two. I’ve just stuck to board books, as currently, if you try to read a normal picture book to Ella she will very calmly take it from you and toss it across the room. So board books it is.

1. My Big Animal Book
: So, think isn’t so much a story (though it does have little questions on the bottom of each page which are a little over Ella’s head) but Ella LOVES seeing the huge pages of animal pictures, and I fully attribute the fact that she knows “owl” and “guinea pig” to this book. Because I certainly didn’t think to teach them to her. Cat and Dog is about as complicated as I get.

2. Olivia: This one is a bit of a cheat because the original isn’t in board book form (though the story is simple enough thar it works well), and chances are you’ve already read it because these books are adorable and have won all kinds of awards, but it deserves a mention because Ella and I both love it. Who isn’t charmed by a spunky little pig who loves ballet? And Ella is always very interested in the part where Olivia gets time out. Probably because she can relate.

3. Pride & Prejudice: If you haven’t seen these BabyLit books already, you need to! They are the cutest little “babyfied” versions of classic literature. This one is a counting book (5 sisters, 2 handsome gentleman, 3 country estates, etc.) but as a parent who loves the original story I find it witty and the brightly colored illustrations are perfect for toddlers. I kind of thought this one would be more for me but Ella really loves it!

4. Barnyard Dance! : Sandra Boynton is no newbie on the board book scene but this one is our favorite! The rhyme and the rhythm are really pleasant and the image of barnyard animals having a hootenanny is cute. I probably read this to Ella like 400 times between July and December of last year. Hence, my ability to impress everyone at Christmas with my recitation by memory, complete with actions (they were…not actually that impressed).

5. First 100 Words: I love this book because long before Ella was really into characters and storylines (ok….at 22 months I don’t think she’s really there yet, even now) she really loved books that had actual photos instead of illustrations. While this book might not seem that exciting, I actually think it did great things for her language and recognition skills. It’s still one of her favorites and we go through it and point out things or ask her to point to the ball, the airplane, the boots, etc. Maybe not the most creative book ever, but really worthwhile.

6.Good Dog, Carl: I remember reading this as a kid, and I’m so glad Ella loves it too. It’s mostly word-free, which makes it fun because we can kind of just talk about what’s happening on each page, or now, we’ve started having Ella tell us what’s happening (because she basically knows it by heart). It has pretty illustrations and the idea of a baby and dog getting into mischief while mommy is away is charming (though, one has to wonder what kind of mother thought leaving a black lab in charge was a good idea).

7. Mommy Loves: I think I found this on a book list somewhere (I can’t remember where!) and ordered it on a whim. It’s a really sweet little book about how all mommies love their babies, with a counting element thrown in. And it highlights the names for different kinds of baby animals (mice are “pinkies,” etc.) which is always kind of fun.

8. Baby Faces: Again, like First 100 Words, this isn’t going to win any awards for innovation, but Ella loves books with photos (especially other babies), and this one shows babies feeling different emotions: nervous, happy, scared, etc. You know, I thought talking about feelings might be a good thing. Empathy is nice. Although at this stage, every baby is just “sad”–even the laughing one. We’re working on it.

9. The Mitten:  I thought the story might be a little complicated for a not-quite-two-year-old, but Ella loves it–and the idea of these different woodland creatures squeezing into a mitten is sweet. Plus, the illustrations are killer, as they are in all of Jan Brett’s books, so I can be entertained by the gorgeous Scandanvian vignettes as we read 🙂


So there you have some of our current favorite board books! I’d love to hear some of your family’s favorites in the comments! I’m particularly looking for ones that teach letters and colors, as I’m realizing we don’t really have many of those. So suggest away!

I’ve linked to the books I mention on Amazon. These are affiliate links, so if you make a purchase through them I make a  small commission, so feel free to shop around for the best price!

Lit Love #5: Belong to Me

Belong to Me, by Marisa de los Santos
3.5/5 (and I have decided I am allowed to do halves….my blog, my rules) seems to be my standard for, I liked it, I’d recommend it, it’s not life-changing. Which means Belong to Me was a pretty solid book! It wasn’t a book that I had really heard about but I found it on Goodreads and it had been sitting on my “to-read” shelf forever. When I was making my summer reading list I decided to throw it on there to provide something light and sweet (isn’t that the name of a coffee sweetener?). Well, I was pleasantly surprised because when I posted my reading list on Blogher, several of the comments were about Belong to Me and how much people love this book and author, so I was excited to try it out!
A few people mentioned that Belong to Me is actually a follow up to Love Walked In, and although I wouldn’t be lost without having read the first book, it would add more perspective to some of the characters. Well, in the name of laziness, because I had already checked out and begun reading Belong to Me, I decided to forge ahead without having the background information from Love Walked In. I agree that I wasn’t confused or missing any information, but now I definitely want to read de los Santos’ other books! That’s another reason I was excited about this book–it’s fun to find a new author.
The book weaves together the stories of three individuals: Cornelia, the principal protagonist who’s just moved to the suburbs from New York City and is feeling a bit out of place, Piper, stepford-wife-ish, type-A to the extreme, and dealing with the fact that her best friend has terminal cancer, and Dev, a quiet, smart, thoughtful teenager who’s just moved to town with his single mom for reasons that he doesn’t quite understand–but will become clearer as the story progresses. While these three characters would initially seem to have nothing in common, lo and behold, their lives and stories intertwine and affect one another in ways that none of them could have possibly foreseen when they all moved into the same neighborhood.
 My introduction to the characters is making this book sound a little cheesy and melodramatic. It IS a little cheesy, but in a well-written, happy-ending sort of way. Marissa de los Santos was a poet first, so she is a fan of somewhat flowery language, but it didn’t really become too noticeable until the very end of the book, when it got to be a little much for me. And without giving anything away, I will say that there was one story-line I was a lot more interested in than the others, and I wish that hadn’t sort of faded out by the end (but that’s always the case with these “lots of stories/perspectives that intertwine” books. Is there a name for that literary device? Please tell me what it is if so). There’s a twist about 2/3 of the way through the book that seemed a little out of the blue, but de los Santos did a good job of tying it all together by the end, albeit in a slightly rushed and maybe not super realistic way.
All in all, I would definitely recommend this book if you’re in the mood for something somewhat easy, but still containing some substance and heart. It’s poignant, funny, and interest-holding without the commitment of a suspenseful story line. Now, onto conquering the rest of my summer reading list in the six weeks left of summer!
*This post contains affiliate links

Summer Reading List 2015

Reading is obviously enjoyable all year round but there’s just something about summer reading, am I right? It just seems like the time of year to dive into some fun books: lots of vacation and travel time, mixed with good weather in which to enjoy said books are the perfect combination. And while I love collecting book recommendations as I see things that interest me, it’s fun to actually sit down and go through my list and create a goal for what I want to accomplish this summer. 

It’s sad, really, how long I have spent compiling this list. Many deadly diseases have probably been cured in the same number of minutes I have spent poring over Pinterest and Goodreads. I tried to choose a variety: I’ve got a little YA, some nonfiction, a classic that I am embarrassed to admit I have never read (insert red cheeks emoji here), and even an old favorite that I haven’t read since middle school thrown in with some contemporary fiction. 

Due to laziness….I haven’t created my own book descriptions. I am just linking to their Goodreads pages. If you’re on Goodreads, please friend me! I love to see what other people are reading.

1. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley

This one has been out for a while but I’ve never gotten around to reading it. I figured it was time! I also love the fact that it’s the beginning of a series.
2. Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein
This keeps showing up on best YA lists and I LOVE WWII historical fiction. And my ward’s book club is reading it this month. How convenient.
3. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
I am also late to the party on this one but I am intruiged by the comparison to Gone Girl. I ended up abandoning Gone Girl about halfway through because it was just SO VULGAR, so I hope this one is the same suspense without the amount of yuck.
4. 1776, by David McCullough
I’ve already started this one since Dave and I are reading it together. It’s been on our bookshelf for ages and it just seems like one of those books that everyone should read. I’m excited to see if it lives up to the hype! So far it’s interesting. In a good way.
5. When the Emporer Was Divine, by Julie Otsuka
My grandma recommended this one as she has never lead me astray. 
6. Farenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
I’m embarrassed to admit that I have never read this! Please ignore the Spanish cover on this edition haha.
7. This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper
This one is supposed to be super funny and I loved the excerpt that was available on Amazon. Our library doesn’t have it so I hope it comes through inter-library loan before the end of the summer. And Tiny Fey was in the movie version. Enough said.
It seems like a parenting classic…..even though I have read some reviews that say it’s mostly common sense if you’re already not the yelling type. We shall see.
9. Belong to Me, by Maria de los Santos
This one is really quite random. I have seen it floating around Goodreads and then I walked by a display at the library today and this was on it and I just snatched it up because it looked familiar. But sometimes it’s fun to read something just because.
10. How Green Was My Valley, by Richard Llewellyn
This one is a re-read. But it’s been SO long since I originally read it I feel like I need to again. All I remember are coal miners and sobbing uncontrollably at the end.
And there it is! Maybe this will give someone a little inspiration since I love seeing what other people are reading. What are you reading this summer???

Lit Love Preview: Tantrum Edition

I’m posting about a book before I finish it because I want to see if anyone has any more recommendations for me! Parenting books are something I’ve been a little intimidated by, so thus far in my parenting journey (all 19 months of it) I’ve avoided them. I guess it’s just such a vast category of reading that I was overwhelmed, and up until this point, most books that were aimed at Ella’s age level were about sleep-training and she’s (thankfully) been a pretty good sleeper since around 6 weeks. So I figured ignorance was bliss as to how much I was screwing up my child, and we went on our merry way. 

But in the last few months, Ella’s become……a toddler. And man was I woefully under-prepared for what that would bring. Refusing to eat, refusing to nap, refusing to stay in a stroller or a shopping cart. And the meltdowns. Oh, the meltdowns. I knew that terrible twos was a thing, but terrible ones???

I finally realized I needed to get things under control when we noticed that we were bending to Ella’s every wish and order rather than rock the boat and cause a potential tantrum. I think it was the night I realized that I was actually putting jelly beans on her highchair tray as part of her dinner that did it for me.

I don’t mind being flexible, but Ella can’t grow up thinking that she’s the boss. That has to be one of those “entitled generation” traits you keep reading about that will make your kids unemployable. So I’m waving the white flag. Or not white, what color means, “I don’t give up but I admit that I don’t know what I am doing?”
I can always count on my friend Lauren for some toddler solidarity and she recommended, The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp. It was published originally back in 1970, so it’s been around for a while but it seems to be reasonable stuff so far. The premise of his book is that toddlers are not just mini adults or mini versions of older kids; they have primitive brains that are dominated by emotion and impulse rather than balanced by reason and logic (that seems very accurate based on a 30-second observation of any toddler). So the way that we communicate with toddlers needs to take that into account. So when you hear parents say things like, “Johnny, you need to share with your friend. It’s his turn. Give the ball back and say you’re sorry,” that does pretty much nothing except make the parent feel like they tried. 

I am still in the portion of the book that explains toddler’s brain development (which is actually really interesting) and have yet to get to the part that actually explains how to communicate, but the author keeps referring to toddlers as “little cavemen,” so I felt perfectly reasonable telling Ella, “cereal. good. eat.” this morning. If she ends up entering kindergarten talking like a caveman you’ll know that I never actually finished this book.
Anymore recommendations for me? I’ve already got How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, And How to Listen so Kids Will Talk,” on my list. Help me help Ella turn out to be a kind and pleasant adult who doesn’t demand fruit snacks as a bribe for everyday tasks!

Lit Love #4: Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Rating: 3/5

Here’s the thing: I am a former junior high English teacher who actually was never that into young adult literature. I know, I know, why would I want to teach junior high, then? Well, lots of reasons but that’s another story. I think part of my complicated relationship with YA lit stems from the fact that I taught in the heart of Utah County, and if you know anything about the religious/political makeup of that population, its extremely conservative. And I am rather conservative too, at least in what I would feel comfortable in recommending to my students–and most modern YA literature contains content that doesn’t fall under the “squeaky clean” umbrella. 

I didn’t want to be the teacher that introduced a kid to that word. Or that word. Or what that means. You get the idea. While I think that there is so much to be said for experiencing another perspective and letting your child learn about life through the relatively-safe lens of literature (why else would I want to be an English teacher?!), I felt very strongly that ultimately, parents need to be the ones to decide what they are comfortable with their child reading, and I needed to be respectful of that, and not try to be that teacher that is pushing shocking material (for the 7th grade crowd) just for the sake of being edgy. 

SO. It has taken me a while to really get excited about YA lit in my OWN life, because now I am not reading as much with “would I be able to recommend this to a 13-year-old?” in mind, but just for my own enjoyment. I had seen Eleanor and Park floating around a lot of “best of” lists, and it was another one on this Best Book from Every State list that I referenced in my post about The Descendants. So I decided it was time to give it a shot! 

Here is what I liked about it:

  • The male protagonist is a cute Asian guy. And the other main character is named Eleanor. So, this was basically written for me (jokesjokesjokes).
  • The period it was set in, and the way the author didn’t really explicitly state it but let you figure it out through the pop culture references. It was a fun addition to the story line.
  • I actually thought it was a pretty accurate representation of a teenage relationship. Things aren’t perfect. And it started kind of quickly, which at first seemed unrealistic to me, but then I realized that’s exactly how teenage love works 🙂
  • Eleanor’s family situation is totally heart-wrenching and it added another layer of depth to an otherwise pretty simple story.
  • Eleanor and Park are a totally adorable, unlikely, and quirky couple. If this was a movie I would be excited to see who they chose as actors. This was not an Edward and Bella sort of creepy infatuation, just a witty, funny, best-friends sort of thing that was totally cute.

My main beef was the fact that it had a TON of gratuitous swearing that I found really annoying. I get that the author was probably trying to be realistic about high school and Eleanor’s rough home life but still……it was gross. I think the point could have been made without it. And while it was a cute romance, with a few raw moments, it wasn’t really anything life-changing (at least, for me). I didn’t feel like there was a huge overarching question it addressed, like in The Fault in Our Stars, other than maybe the classic “don’t judge a book by its cover.” I might have just totally missed the point on this one.

So I give it a solid 3 for entertainment value. If you are looking for a light, fast read than this is right up your alley. Overall this probably just confirmed most of my opinions about modern YA lit: somewhat simplistic, and filled with “shocking” material to seem “real.” But I know there are a lot of die-hards out there, so go ahead, give me some more suggestions and change my mind! Just please no dystopian stuff. I can’t take any more!

Lit Love #3

The Descendants, by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Rating 4/5

I was totally surprised by how much I liked this book. For one thing, since the movie came out all of the book covers have had a lovely still shot of George Clooney and the a little “Now an Academy-Award Winning Film,” medallion, and while I respect these screenwriting and directing accomplishments, there is something sort of embarrassing about reading a book with the movie version plastered all over the cover. It makes me feel bandwagony. Also, I don’t typically identify with the wealthy middle-aged man demographic, which is who this story is narrated by. Nevertheless, a few months ago I saw this post about the best book for every state, and The Descendants was the choice from Hawaii. My interest was piqued by the Oscar win, and so I decided to give it a shot.

The Book Cover that made me feel cheap (

First of all, I will warn you that if you read this book, you will feel compelled to drop everything and visit Hawaii ASAP. I love when a setting becomes an integral part of a story, and this book was a perfect example. The main character, Matt King, is a distant descendant of Hawaiian royalty, and is coming up on a life-changing decision regarding what he and his cousins will do with their shares of highly-coveted Hawaiian real-estate. I know what you’re thinking–geez, real estate, how riveting–but this side of the plot gets woven in beautifully with the main conflict, which is that Matt’s wife has recently been in a speed-boat crash that has left her brain dead. Matt finds out after she is in a coma that she has been cheating on him, and strangely feels compelled to find her….lover? Ew I despise that word….and tell him what has happened. His wild-child-yet-innocent youngest daughter Scottie and his much-much-wilder oldest daughter Alex are along for the ride. As is the older daughter’s friend Sid, who was laugh-out-loud funny.

The plot sounds a little dark, but honestly, the end of this story was so hopeful. Matt is a really sympathetic narrator. He honestly seems like a really good person who has just let his family get out of control due to a series of small, daily decisions to be apathetic. It really made me think about the way that I conduct my relationships–would I get to a point someday where I realize that I have potentially blown these important bonds? The best part of the story is that Matt doesn’t blow it–and he figures out a way to turn what remains of his family around. And then Hawaii gets woven back in….it’s a great ending, trust me. Even if you are not into tropical real estate, you’ll like this book.

Lit Love #2

Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple

Rating: 2/5 

I was very excited to read this book after I read that the author was a former writer on “Arrested Development.” I mean, the show is hilarious (and quite inappropriate at times….) so I had high hopes for the comic content of this book. Well, I will say that I did not exactly find this book lol-worthy, though it was generally humorous. Maybe my high expectations ruined this one for me, but I would only give it a mediocre 2/5.

The premise of the book is 13-year-old Bee trying to locate her agoraphobic mother, Bernadette, after she goes missing on the eve of a family cruise to Antarctica. I don’t know if you would exactly call this an epistolary novel, but it’s a compilation of notes, emails, Bee’s narrations, memos, etc. that tell the story leading up to Bernadette’s disappearance. Even though it sounds kind of dark and intense, it is actually pretty light and due to the sort of disjointed nature of the narrative, it was a book that was easy to pick up after not reading for a few days. I think piecing together the details of a story from a few different perspectives is fun, but I know that might bug some people. I also liked that this story addressed mental illness and how it could affect a family, especially when it is the mother that’s dealing with it, but in a way that lets you see the person suffering as a normal person.

However, there were a few things that bugged me a little. First of all, it seemed like the author was trying really, really hard to write as a “precocious, quirky, 21st century teen” when she narrated as Bee. I am pretty picky when it comes to young narrators, and Bee was admittedly not my favorite. The cool factor made her unlovable to me. Same goes for the fact that Bee’s dad works for Microsoft, and there was a lot of Seattle-techy-name-droppy stuff. I don’t know, it just didn’t seem like a story that would have staying power because it was too contemporary or something.

The last half of the book reallllllyyyy drags on, too. I was basically skimming at that point. Since it wasn’t written in a suspenseful style, the whole “where is Bernadette?” urgency kind of wore off. And I won’t give away the ending, but it was completely and utterly unbelievable. The whole book is kind of quirky and outlandish, but this was too much for my little ol’ suspension of disbelief (Humanities 101 term alert) to handle, especially since the rest of the book was trying to be “cool, real-time, 21st century.”

I feel bad, because I had read so many great things about this one, but Where are you, Bernadette? just didn’t do it for me. Maybe I should just stick to re-watching “Arrested Development” for the 100th time on Netflix 🙂

Lit Love #1

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

Rating: 3.5/5

One of the reasons I wanted to start this blog was to share one of my greatest passions: books. I want to share what I am currently reading, books I have loved in the past, and hopefully, get some ideas from YOU for books to add to my future reads list. (If you would like to find me on goodreads, click here).

My original idea was to call this little feature “What I Read Wednesday,” and of course I would make some witty quip about how it was my version of What I Wore Wednesday, but “you wouldn’t care to see what I am wearing!” har har har har. Well, turns out I am more than a little late to the internet party, and about 10,000 other blogs already stole that idea. So Lit Love was born. I think I shall still try to post it on Wednesdays, though, just because.

I want to put my two cents in on The Fault in Our Stars, since the entire world is going nuts over it right now (the movie comes out this Friday in case your Facebook friends don’t post the trailer 100 times daily and so you didn’t already know). I tend to be a little book-snobbish when a movie version comes out of a book that I read a while ago. You know, try to drop into a conversation that I have actually read the book, avoid seeing the movie for a while under the auspice of not wanting to ruin my experience with the original, etc. It’s what we English majors are best at, hate me for it, I won’t blame you. I am never usually chomping at the bit to see literary adaptation if I truly enjoyed the book, because I have been disappointed more times than I care to recount. Except for Ramona and Beezus. Selena Gomez as Beezus was pure genius 😉

Well, this just might be a book that translates seamlessly into a movie. It’s got all of the features of a great teen tear-jerker: shy, awkward girl who realizes all she has to offer, a cute and witty leading guy, sarcastic quirky humor, romance, and, of course, that trump-card-of-a-plot-element: cancer. When I saw the preview I realized to the untrained eye it would seem to be another A Walk to Remember.

Ah, Shane West….so much squandered teen star potential…

BUT. I want to be very clear. The Fault in Our Stars is much smarter and better-written than A Walk to Remember. I mean, the title is taken from Julius Caesar and no offense to Nicholas Sparks (I mean, I have seen AWTR roughly 200 times) but he ain’t quotin’ no Shakespeare. John Green knows how to make a sad situation honest, but not depressing. It doesn’t drag your heart through the mud just for the sake of drama (see movie above). Without giving too much away (remember the cancer?) the book asks the question, “how would you live, if you knew your time was short?” and he does so in a way that is both funny and sweet without being sappy. The only reason I would reduce the stars is the fact that it IS a scenario that has been played out about one million times before (young love, one falls ill, etc. etc.), and I thought the whole trip to Europe came about kind of suddenly and seemed a little unrealistic. I definitely liked the book overall, but I wouldn’t say it was life-changing.

*One note: This is a young adult novel, but I don’t know if I would feel comfortable recommending it to a teenager. Several of my students chose it for their personal reading book last year, and I always gave them a little warning–it’s got some language and one scene in particular that does NOT reinforce my values. BUT, the overall message is thought-provoking so I would still recommend it for an older teenager or adult.