The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – 4 stars (out of 5)

The Fault in Our Stars

Synopsis from Good Reads:

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

So every review I have ever read about this book is how it will make you bawl your eyes out. And I thought to myself, challenge accepted. I do not, as a general rule, cry at entertainment. I’m not saying it’s never happened, but it’s a very rare occurrence. Of the 122 books I have read so far this year, there has been exactly one that made me cry. A little. And then I read The Fault in Our Stars.

The tone is almost immediately set as irreverent and funny and I thought it would be easy to make it through this book if this is how it is written. And it retains that tone throughout the book, though it’s quieter in the last third or so of the story.

My biggest complaint is that the characters were all a bit pretentious. I’m not saying they haven’t earned the right to be (even as I write that, all I think is “Cancer Perk”), but it was a little over the top sometimes. Especially the author of their favorite book, who I understand is supposed to be insufferable, but was almost too insufferable to read at times. Even so, I loved both Hazel and Augustus. I liked how their relationship started out as friendship. I liked how sarcastic they were, but that they also had moments of intense seriousness. I also really liked their newly dumped and blinded friend, Isaac.

I don’t have personal experience with people who have cancer. My grandfather had cancer, but he was only in the hospital for a week before he passed and we didn’t even get a diagnosis until the night before he did. So I don’t know if this story is a realistic portrayal, but I feel like it could be. It seemed honest and relatable and real. And it was heartbreaking.

Overall, I really liked this book. Even though it made me ugly cry in the last few chapters.  The characters were likable (despite their bouts of pretentiousness) and the writing was superb. I would recommend this book to just about anyone. Just make sure to read it at home and not at work on your lunch break. People will worry.

“Her Last Breath” by Linda Castillo – 3 stars (out of 5)

16044965

Her Last Breath is the fifth book in the Kate Burkholder series. For those that don’t know, Kate is the Police Chief of the small fictional town of Painters Mill in Holmes County Ohio, which is Amish county. She is a formerly Amish herself. One of my favorite things about the Kate Burkholder series is that I grew up quite close to Holmes County and almost all of my friends growing up had Amish relatives and I went to school with some Amish kids (up until 8th grade, which is the highest they go in public school). I know people that work at Pomerene Hospital in Millersbug, which is mentioned in every book. But I digress.

*POTENTIAL SPOILERS FROM THE FIRST FOUR BOOKS TO FOLLOW*
Her Last Breath opens with Kate being the first responder to a buggy accident. It appears to be a hit and run that kills a man and two of his children, leaving a third child injured. They happen to be the family of Kate’s childhood best friend, Mattie. The investigation leads to evidence that it may have been premeditated.
This book also continues Kate’s romantic relationship with John Tomasetti, an officer from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation. He’s bought a house in Wooster, the halfway point between where he works and where Kate works and is patiently – at times – waiting for Kate to decide if she wants to move in with him.
The third storyline woven in is that the remains of Daniel Lapp (the young Amish man that Kate shot when she was fourteen after he raped her) have finally been found and the police investigation leads straight to Kate’s family, whose farm was the last place Daniel Lapp was ever seen.
Thoughts (beware of possible spoilers):
-The summary for the book includes the phrase,” An extraordinarily beautiful Amish woman, a dangerous femme fatale”, so it’s pretty obvious that Mattie is not the perfect Amish woman she appears to be, but it takes until the final chapters to really reveal this and I felt like I was supposed to be surprised. Maybe I would be if I hadn’t read what the book was about before I read it.
-I felt like I needed more information of how Mattie is a “dangerous femme fatale.” In the previous books, the psycho’s psyche has been more greatly explored and I missed that in this book.
-The Daniel Lapp storyline was not wrapped up. Obviously this will continue in the next book, which is fine as it’s a central theme in how it shaped Kate to become the person she is today, but I felt like it was just repeating old territory. Kate fears being discovered and what it will do to her, her family, and her career.
-Not enough Tomasetti. In the previous books he’s been a part of the investigations, but in this book he mostly stayed at his new fixer-upper house, offering advice and comfort. I understand that his role in this book focused on how Kate needs him as a person versus how she needs him for the investigation, but I still would’ve liked to see more of him in this book.
-This book kept the red herrings to a minimum. While the previous books mostly gave several options on who the murderer(s) is/are, this book only gave a few options and I didn’t feel like any of them came out of left field. I like a mystery that can surprise me, but only as long as it makes sense.
-While Kate still has her issues, I found her to be more emotionally stable and likable in this book. I appreciate the character growth of both her and Tomasetti.
-Overall, it was another enjoyable addition to the Kate Burkholder series that I would recommend to readers interested in mystery/crime, as well as the Amish.