The Fault In our Stars

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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is a book I have read an awful lot about in recent months. I feel as though it has been everywhere; from students reading it in class to articles I have been using in KS4 lessons (there are some good ones on The Mail Online and The Guardian about the genre of sick lit in general, sick lit being books that deal with issues such as terminal illness and suicide). However I have never had a huge urge to pick it up, but in an attempt to read a bit more teenage fiction I borrowed it from the school library this week and read it in a few evenings.

The Fault in Our Stars follows the life of Hazel, a sixteen year old suffering from terminal cancer. She has already had one ‘miracle’ and prolonged her life by X years, but is constantly aware of the devastating fate of her illness. Hazel (reluctantly) attends a cancer patient group and it is here that she meets Augustus ‘Gus’ Waters, a fellow cancer patient who, after a leg amputation, is in remission. Despite the fact Hazel is acutely aware her life is hanging in the balance, her and Gus cannot keep away from one another and so begins a touching relationship that takes them to Amsterdam and beyond.

Although this book can be described as a typical teenage romance story, as a reader you are acutely aware of the more tragic element of the plot and this of course makes the story upsetting in places. I came to this book with an idea as to how it would end and what would happen and I am pleased to say there were a few twists that I didn’t expect when I picked the book up but that I suspected the more I read. I am undecided as to how I feel about the book as a whole. Yes it was a good read and I sped through it, but I’m not sure if I am as keen as everyone else seems. For me the love story element, whilst touching, was a tad cliched in places and although I quite liked Hazel as a character I can’t say I was enthralled with her.

There has been lots of hype regarding the controversy of the cancer theme, with it clear that some reviews feel this is a groundbreaking book in terms of what it explores. However as various articles I have read discuss, talking about serious and often upsetting issues is hardly new in literature, look at Romeo and Juliet or Tess of the D’Urbervilles. And this isn’t exclusive to adult fiction, what about the treatment of Colin in The Secret Garden? Some reviewers are outraged at the idea of authors exploiting terminal illness and the emotions of the reader to sell books, but this is not a view I share. There is always going to be a current fashion in literature and authors would be stupid not to explore it, as long as they do it well, which Green does. It is great that there are books for teenagers covering more serious issues, at least these are more true to life that vampires, but then I’m not sure how I would have felt about these types of books when I was younger and my mum was ill; I think it would have brought the reality a bit too close to home and I certainly wouldn’t have been as indifferent to this book as I am as an adult.

I think my problem is that I don’t understand what all the fuss is about, really I should be grateful for any book that spreads so quickly amongst students in my classroom.

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A Clash of Kings

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I finally finished the second installment in George R.R.Martin’s epic Song of Fire and Ice series, which not only means that I can watch the second series of Game of Thrones but that I am desperate to read the next book. I shall try and write this review with as few spoilers as possible, but apologies if one creeps in.

A Clash of Kings picks up where the first book ends, with havoc spreading across Westros, a vicious fight for the Iron Throne and the growing fear that Winter is well and truly on its way. There are four contenders for the throne: a northern king, two brothers who both think they are the legitimate heir and the ‘son’ of the previous king. All four are determined to succeed at any cost and a great many battles, defeats and triumphs ensue. Needless to say the fight is still raging at the end of the novel, although some of the contenders are certainly out of the race. As with the first novel each chapter of A Clash of Kings focuses on a different character, mainly the Stark family. The Stark children, the five legitimate ones and Jon Snow ‘the bastard’ are divided across the country and throughout the novel we read of their personal struggles to get back home, protect their home and family or aid in protecting the Kingdom from what lies beyond The Wall. Other key characters from the previous novel also return and we glimpse the lives of Tyrion Lannister the Imp, Theon Greyjoy, the Starks former ward and Daenerys Targaryen, the young Mother of the Dragons who fled from Westros after her family were slaughtered, who hopes to return one day.

My short synopsis does not do the novel or the series any justice at all as it is an incredible, epic read and I feel it will continue to be one of my favourites throughout the next few years. I have spoken before of my admiration of Martin’s writing style and easy it is to become engaged and immersed in the world he has created. I have a love/hate relationship with the chapter style; I love how we get an insight into each character’s life, but I hate the cliffhanger endings that leave me desperate to read on and get to the next chapter for that character. I feel this narrative style is what makes such a long, long novel an easy and engaging read as the action is constantly moving and you don’t get any boring overkill on what a certain character is up to during the day etc.

As with any great read there were lots of shocking moments and cliffhangers. I always try and end my reading at the end of a chapter and I know I was crazy shocked at one point regarding some sudden deaths that I just couldn’t put the book down, despite knowing I needed to sleep. As with the first book it was a real ‘no, I can’t have just read that’ moment, that I wanted to keep reading to prove myself wrong. And did I? Well you will have to read it yourself. I’m sure those who have read the book will know exactly what I am talking about. Perhaps if there was one thing I felt the book was lacking is that we didn’t see a lot of Daenerys and I am quite keen to see how her character will progress.

I am as eager as ever to read the next book, but I think it might have to wait in line as I have a whole stack of books that have been gathering dust on the to be read pile that I must see to first. On the plus side, I have the second series still to watch, so if I get Game of Thrones withdrawal symptoms I know exactly what to do.

Me and Mr Jones

Back in September (surely not that long ago?) I volunteered to review a book for Dot. This is the second time I have reviewed a book for Dot – the first one is here – and I was pleased to receive another book and postcard in the mail ready for me to read and enjoy. This time I received Me and Mr Jones by Lucy Diamond, a chick lit novel based on three very different brothers and the women who love/fall for them.

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First the eldest brother, Hugh, whose wife Alicia is dreading the imminent approach of her fortieth birthday; she wants fun and excitement, a chance to spice up her happy, but somewhat plodding along, marriage. Then there is David, who has been made redundant and seems slightly lost, none of this is helped by his wife, Emma’s desperate quest to have a child. And finally, the younger brother, Charlie, a bit of a ladies’ man who, whilst charming, is hardly what one would call reliable, so it is with good reason that Izzy has her doubts about getting too close, especially considering her relationship history. On top of this, the brothers’ parents are contemplating selling the childhood home and B&B, leaving a chance for new and exciting business opportunities well and truly open…for anyone brave enough to win the admiration of the dreaded mother-in-law that is.

I love a good chick lit novel and I feel they have been slightly missing from my reading in recent months, and whilst I have not read any previous work by Lucy Diamond, I was eager to pick up Me and Mr Jones. It came at a time where I was at a go slow with my personal reading; school had started to take over my life and the book I was attempting to read was far too dense, meaning I wasn’t getting much enjoyment out of the limited time I had for reading.

And then I began Me and Mr Jones. It was the perfect, relaxed, easy going read for those evenings where I just couldn’t summon the energy to move too far, or concentrate too hard. This is not to say it is a basic, easy read, but it is certainly an enjoyable, light hearted one. There were times when I felt the plot was a tad too predictable (not that I minded) and then something completely unexpected would happen. There was one particular incident when I actually exclaimed ‘no way’ out loud during my reading because I was so shocked, and no I am not going to spoil it by saying which part. I loved how it ended on a cheerful and promising note and how Diamond successfully conveyed the message about first appearances being decieiving.

Overall this was an enjoyable, light hearted read that certainly landed through my letterbox at the right time and I look forward to reading more of Diamond’s work in the future.

October Round Up

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I am going to add my voice to the chorus of people proclaiming ‘I cannot believe it is the end of October already. Where has the time gone?’ My own little chorus is echoed with a ‘I can’t believe half term is almost over, do I have to go back to school?’ Autumn is by far by favourite time of the year, not just because of my birthday, but because I love the weather, the colours, wrapping up warm and drinking lots of yummy drinks. It is also one of the busiest times work wise for me, which sadly has an impact on my reading. Luckily I have managed to relax and get some reading done this month.

I have a review pending for Dot Scribbles which I will post in time.

I started on a little crime novel spree this month and began with Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie. I think all the adverts for the final four episodes of Poirot started this and as one episode was filmed at Agatha Christie’s house Greenway, I chose to read another novel set there. I watched Dead Man’s Folly with my mum in the week and it was good to see some of the pales we visited on our holiday. I’m a little sad there are only two more episodes to go.

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The cast of Dead Man’s Folly at Greenway.

The next stop on my crime spree was Martina Cole’s The Lady Killer. This was the first Cole novel I had read and although it was a fairly good read I can’t say I am dashing for the library to pick up another one. It was a good holiday read though. On the plane home form Malta I began the latest Bridget Jones but it didn’t grab my attention, so I have put it aside for now and moved on to A Clash of Kings the next instalment in George R.R.Martin’s Game of Thrones series, which is much more gripping and exciting.

October is also my birthday month and although I don’t appreciate edging closer to 30 than I am 20, I do love birthdays! No birthday is complete with some new additions to my bookcase and I was pleased to add the following Persephone Books to my collection.

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Who knows when I shall get round to reading them, but I am already planning which friends might enjoy a Persephone read for Christmas presents. And so on to Novemeber! I do love fireworks!