Review: The Fault in Our Stars

51JXXb2vpDL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The Fault in Our Stars

Author: John Green

Cover Copy: “Despite the tumour-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 stoy is about to be completely rewritten.”

My Thoughts: The fault in our stars by John green shot to fame when the adaptation was released in cinemas this year. The question is does this novel deserve the cult like following that it has received as a result? Before reading this story, of two cancer stricken teenagers and how they deal with the increased possibility of death, I was sceptical that this would be nothing other than a washy feel good approach to a serious topic. Now having actually taken the time to read it properly I can admit I was surprised at how profound it can be, the issues surrounding morality and mortality combine to form a well written, credit deserving piece of fiction.

The main characters Hazel and Augustus have come under attack for speaking too profoundly and discussing life at a higher emotional and intellectual level than some believe teenagers would, however they are not normal teenagers, they are teenagers who have had to face up to their own mortality so who is to say that they would not have deep and meaningful conversations with each other.

I found the characters lovable and despite knowing that there may not be a happy ending I was rooting for the pair to miraculously recover and live out their lives together. Hazel in particular is a very heart-warming character, it is made abundantly clear that while she battles her disease her main thoughts are for her family and how they are coping and how they would cope should the worst happen. This likeability factor that the characters possess adds to the overall heartbreak of the story, the reader becomes so invested in their happiness that by the ending you cannot help but be incredibly moved and question what is really important in your own life.

Favourite Quotes:

“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.”

“Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.”

“Maybe okay will be our always”

Final Thoughts:

This novel is aimed at young adults but I honestly think there is a lesson in it for any reader, it is so cleverly written that the story captures the audience from the beginning and presents so many important life lessons as well playing out an endearing love story.

Review: Water for Elephants

imagesTitle: Water for Elephants

Author: Sara Gruen

Cover copy: “In Depression-era America, everyone’s running away from something. Some people join the circus to escape. Jacob Jankowski hitches a ride on a freight train and in that instant his life changes. By morning, he’s landed a job with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. By nightfall, he’s in love.”

My thoughts: I had heard a lot about Water for Elephants before I picked it up, some people loved it while others were less enthusiastic so I was intrigued from the beginning. After finishing the book I can understand both sides of the argument, the story has a hint of drama for dramas sake and the animal cruelty can be disturbing to read but behind that there is a endearing love story filled with excitement.

Set in Depression-era America our hero Jacob Jankowski has his life turned upside down. Jacobs response to his emotional turmoil is to run away with the circus where he meets Marlena and thus the fairytale begins. Jacob is a very likeable character from the beginning, his willingness to help out those around him and his obvious concern for the animals endears him to the reader so we are left hoping for a happy ending to his story. Marlena is cast as the classic heroine, the damsel in distress some might say, and her relationship with Jacob provides her with a happy release from her turbulent marriage.

Gruen brings vivid detail to life as part of a travelling circus, her descriptions of the characters, living arrangements and atmosphere heighten the enjoyment of the reader. Overall Water for Elephants is an enjoyable well written novel that doesn’t demand too much thinking from the reader.

Favourite Quotes:

“Dear God. Not only am I unemployed and homeless, but I also have a pregnant woman, bereaved dog, elephant, and eleven horses to take care of.”

“Although there are times I’d give anything to have her back, I’m glad she went first. Losing her was like being cleft down the middle. It was the moment it all ended for me, and I wouldn’t have wanted her to go through that.”

“So what if I’m ninety-three? So what if I’m ancient and cranky and my body’s a wreck? If they’re willing to accept me and my guilty conscience, why the hell shouldn’t I run away with the circus?”

Final Thoughts:

A well written story about love overcoming obstacles. Gruen has created a non taxing novel that has the ability to appeal to a wide audience with its colourful characters and well thought out love story.

Review: Charlotte’s Web

imagescwTitle: Charlotte’s Web

Author: E.B White

Cover Copy: “Help is coming from above! Charlotte’s Web is the magical tale of Fern, a little girl who saves her pig, Wilbur, with the help of a most unusual spider.”

My Thoughts: I read this book numerous times when I was a child and reading it as an adult is just as enjoyable. It is a heart warming tale of friendship and an education of life lessons as Fern, Wilbur and Charlotte navigate a series of obstacles in order to save Wilbur.

Charlotte’s Web is written in such vivid detail that it is perfect way to engage children’s imaginations whilst teaching them lessons on friendship, the passing of time, loneliness and loss. The characters are well rounded and cleverly developed so that there is never a sense that White is talking down to the reader as the lessons are explored. Charlotte’s Web draws the reader in with a warm, affectionate tale about trust and loyalty, adventure and miracle, life and the acceptance of death. It is a wonderful classic to read with your children or just to recapture your own youth!

Favourite Quotes:

“Why did you do all this for me?’ he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’ ‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.”

“She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

“Trust me, Wilbur. People are very gullible. They’ll believe anything they see in print.”

Final Thoughts:

The clever prose and lovable characters make this book utterly enjoyable for any reader. E.B White’s Charlotte’s Web is a charming, heart warming tale of friendship that has the ability to delight both the young and the young at heart.

Review: Of Mice and Men

mice and menTitle: Of Mice and Men

Author: John Steinbeck

Cove Copy: “An intimate portrait of two men who cherish the slim bond between them and the dream they share in a world marred by petty tyranny, misunderstanding, jealousy, and callousness. Clinging to each other in their loneliness and alienation, George and his simple-minded friend Lenny dream, as drifters will, of a place to call their own — a couple of acres and a few pigs, chickens, and rabbits back in Hill Country where land is cheap. But after they come to work on a ranch in the fertile Salinas Valley of California, their hopes, like “the best laid schemes of mice and men,” begin to go awry.”

My thoughts: When I first read Of Mice and Men I was fifteen and studying it for my Junior Certificate in secondary school. That was almost ten years ago now and to be honest although I remembered the general plot I had forgotten what a powerful and exceptionally well written story Steinbeck had created.

The literary genius of this novel rests on the relationship between the two main characters, Lennie and George, from their friendship to their shared desire of owning their own farm in a time when hope was at an all time low. Lennie and George are two very different characters that stick together through all the challenges that life throws at them and this unbreakable bond of friendship creates a very endearing basis for this novel.

It is made abundantly clear that George’s life would be easier if he didn’t travel with Lennie but his unwavering loyalty and desire to do what’s best for his disadvantaged friend is one of the most heart warming plot points in this novel. Throughout the story the damning sense of an inability to be free from their troubles plagues Lennie and George but the reader is given a reprieve towards the end when the ultimate price is paid for peace.

Favourite Quotes:

“Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”

“Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place….With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us.”

“I can still tend the rabbits, George? I didn’t mean no harm, George.”
Final Thoughts:
Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is a classic piece of literature that primarily focuses on the strength of friendship between two farm labourers in America during the depression but looking beyond that there are elements of social commentary on the time, some of which still translate. As a stand alone novel this is worth every reader’s attention at least once.

Review: The Help

the-helpTitle: The Help

Author: Kathryn Stockett

Cover Copy: “Enter a vanished world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver…

There’s Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own sons tragic death; Minny who’s cooking is nearly as sassy as her cooking; an white Miss Skeeter, home from college, ho wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared.

Skeeter, Abileen and Minny. No one would believe they’d be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell.”

My Thoughts: The Help is a novel narrated by three very different women, the respectful Aibileen with her dedication to raising her seventeenth white child little Mae Mobley, Minny who is unemployable due to her sassy mouth and Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan the white college graduate who wants to make it as a writer. The story jumps between these three characters to develop an interesting look at life in the South in the 1960’s, from the social and racial boundaries to dynamics within family and friendships. Kathryn Stockett has created three compelling main characters and along with  the general tone of the novel this makes for an easy read despite the underlying subject matter of racial injustice. The great thing about this novel is how authentic the subject matter remains, this stems from the fact that Stockett is a Southern white woman and her experiences lend an element of truth to this fictional story. She poses the thought that, as well as plain racism, there was an element of tradition and fear of reprisal that allowed for the segregation to continue to such lengths. She shows this on both sides from the spread in popularity of white employers supposed need for separate bathrooms to the maids teaching their daughters how to act in service. This novel is both charming and humorous and it is no wonder that it became a best-seller based on these attributes.

Favourite Quotes:

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

“Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision. You gone have to ask yourself, “Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?”

“Wasn’t that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.”

“Miss Skeeter, she frowning at Miss Hilly. She set her cards down face up and say real matter-a-fact, “Maybe we ought to just build you a bathroom outside, Hilly”

Final Thoughts:

Kathryn Stockett has managed to write a charming, witty and heart-warming novel while not neglecting the seriousness of the widespread racism of the time. It is a testament to her writing talent that she has produced a novel that has the ability to both entertain and highlight social injustice.