Monthly Archives: May 2017

Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

Standard
Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

Introduction

A multi-million bestseller, this book has been highly recommended as a young adult fiction must read. It deals with issues from your worst nightmare, whether you’re a parent, teenager or friend: the issue of dying. This is interspersed with romance, philosophy and a fictional book – An Imperial Affliction, which also happens to be about death.

Author.

John Green – one of the most renowned authors in young adult fiction.  I don’t think I need introduce him any further.

Main characters

Character One

Hazel Grace Lancaster – 16 years old, has stage 4 thyroid cancer, which is terminal. The main protagonist who tells the story from her perspective. Fierce and independent, she wants to make the most of the time she has left.

Character Two

Augustus Waters – 17 years old, ex-basketball player, somewhat cocky almost verging on arrogant. Highly opinionated and expressive.

Character Three

Hazel’s Mother – dotes on Hazel, almost suffocating at times, but very sensible and forgiving.

Character Four

Isaac – a mutual friend of Hazel and Augustus, who has lost his eyes due to cancer and is now recovering.

Story

Hazel has cancer, thyroid stage 4, this is terminal and through a support group, she meets Augustus who is recovering from an osteosarcoma operation that has left him somewhat different to how he was before. Without giving the game away, the story is about the interaction of these characters and the growth of their relationship, mainly through Hazel’s perspective.

Themes

I would have to call this a tragedy interspersed with romance, philosophy, coming of age and real-world issues.

Evaluation

I had a lot of expectations from this book, as I had heard and read so many good reviews. So maybe this has tainted my opinion, but I have to admit, I was somewhat disappointed. Perhaps it is just the culture difference? But being British I found a lot of it way over the top. I understand the raw emotions of teenagers, I work with them and I was one, and in a lot of respects in my head, I still am one: everything is raw and intense at that stage of your life, even when you’re in good health. Time passes more slowly and things really do feel like forever. So, I totally get that if you’re a teenager whose dying, that’s going to increase at least 100-fold. But even so, there were just certain aspects that irritated me.

I thought the cigarette thing was just stupid. Every time it was referenced I cringed. I’m sorry but I don’t think it’s a metaphor, especially as even unlit there’s a lot of toxic crap in them that can harm you by putting them in your mouth! I found Hazel didn’t really have any depth to her and she didn’t really grow on me as a character. I don’t think the author quite got inside the mind of a teenage girl, Hazel’s voice wasn’t clear to me.

What it did like, was the dialogue. I thought the verbal exchanges between the characters, although sometimes over the top, were realistic and I really felt every word that was said. I thought the humour was relevant and well referenced. Subtle, yet obvious enough to be recognised. The interactions between the parents and the teenagers were really well portrayed, exactly as I would expect.

I also liked the, what as far as I could tell, sympathetic and realistic approach to the issues that were dealt with. The management and challenges faced by Hazel, because of the symptoms caused by her cancer, was really heartfelt; I developed great empathy for her, Augustus, and the parents and relatives. I think the author has taken some really sensitive, and somewhat taboo issues, and written about them really well with a balanced approach.

Overall, the book tells a heartfelt story of a teenage girl who happens to have cancer and falls in love with a teenage boy who is able to empathise with her situation. The dialogue is clear and realistic and the interaction between the characters if believable, if somewhat over the top at times. It is quite eye-opening and educational. Although I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it, I think it has a very important place amongst young adult fiction and successfully portrays what so many authors are unable to.

Rating

 

3/5

 

Advertisements

Book Review: The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

Standard
Book Review: The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

Introduction

Waterstones ‘book of the year’ 2016, The Essex Serpent comes highly appraised by several renowned authors and literary professionals, including Jessie Burton. Set in the 1890s between Essex and London, it portrays the life of Cora, a palaeontology enthusiast, who finds herself in Essex through circumstance: where she is more than intrigued by the local legend that is the Essex serpent.

Author

The Essex Serpent is the second novel written by Sarah Perry. Born in Essex, she has a PhD in creative writing and won the East Anglian Book of The Year award in 2014, along with several other nominations.

Main characters

Character One

Cora Seaborne – tomboy, strong female character before her time ‘modernist’. Palaeontology enthusiast.

Character Two

William Ransome – vicar and farmer. Typical hard outer and soft inner type who dotes on his family.

Character Three

Francis Seaborne – Cora’s son. Autistic? Peculiar tendencies.

Character Four

Martha – Cora’s companion – a very strong and feisty female character with opinions, an active and vocal socialist.

Story

To be honest, it is hard to give a traditional overview of the plot and flow of this book as it doesn’t really have one as far as I can tell. The main focus is the journey of the protagonist, Cora – from a timid wife to an independent widow, which she accomplishes by overcoming a number of challenges and new experiences. To me, Cora’s transformation told through the interactions with several characters – of which I felt there were a few too many, highlights some of the issues prevalent at that time, political, medical, scientific and religious. I believe it to be a good portrayal from my understanding of the time, but then I by no means claim to be a historian of any kind.

Themes

Historical issues of politics, medicine, science, religion, socialism and feminism from the 1890s. A portrayal of the challenges faced by widows and unmarried women, those from backgrounds of poverty and deprivation and the balancing act of newly emerging science with traditional religious beliefs, amongst others that have probably flown over my lesser educated head.

Evaluation

I am attempting a retrospective review of this book, which I read over Christmas 2016. The Essex Serpent is beautifully written with wonderful flowing prose; displaying page after page of beautiful literature. Technically, Perry cannot be faulted in as a wordsmith. However, despite this, I found myself wondering what on Earth had happened between page 1 and 300? Not a lot! Full of colourful characters all described in great intricacy; as far a plot is concerned, not very much happens. I felt that Cora’s voice wasn’t strong enough to be heard above the buzz of all the other characters and became somewhat lost amongst the hype of the Essex serpent gossip. I was disappointed by the final outcome relating to the Essex Serpent and it doesn’t really have an ending per se, it just ends with no conclusions. Perhaps it is the scientist and romanticist in me, but I like a proper ending, preferably a happy, or at least a feel good one. The Essex Serpent just left me feeling unfulfilled. As I had chosen it as a Christmas read for our book club, I was really looking forward to it and found myself rather disappointed, to be honest. It just doesn’t end up going anywhere. When I read, I love to go places, I want the author to really take me there with them and on this occasion that just didn’t happen.

I have approached this review as best as I can based on my limited point of view, but it is just an opinion. For a more in-depth and academic approach to the review of this book, please visit: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jun/16/the-essex-serpent-sarah-perry-review-novel

I am sure this fellow author enjoyed and appreciated the book far more than I ever will, though it is clear his intellectual capacity supersedes my remedial intelligence by far.

Overall, a well-written novel and a great educator in historical issues and an imaginative portrayal of realistic historical fiction (as far as my limited knowledge allows me to tell).

Rating

 

3/5

I hope you enjoyed reading this review and are able to glean at least a spec of usefulness from it. Please leave comments below if you have any suggestions or . . . anything really! Be nice though  . . . it’s my 1st one!

Pursuing Passions

Standard
Pursuing Passions

So, with my job search journey finally over (for now), I have found myself once again with time and energy to pursue my love of The Arts, in particular, creative writing. My too-long-dormant novel has been metaphorically brushed off, printed out and read through. Once again I am picking up a different book every hour and enjoying the dance of different shapes and the meaning that they form across the page. Once again I feel hopeful, ignited, visionary.

Some may be wondering, why am I not writing about the elated success of my return to employment? A good question. And my answer is, I have spent so long dwelling on it that I once again left a part of myself behind. That subject, I want to leave that for another blog post and first and foremost, focus on the real reason I started this blog. Which is to pursue my passions for all things creative! Which I feel that I am once again, now able to do.

So where to re-start? As it were. Something I have been thinking about for a while. Last year, I joined a book club and most recently, I have signed up to the Portsmouth Writers Hub which I intend to attend on a monthly basis with at least a paragraph of a piece of writing for the required subject. What I have really kicked off with though, and something I am most excited about, is I have entered a writing competition! Not only that, but it was free. I found a list of writing competitions via a quick google search and the suggestions of others. I am hoping I will find out the result in due course this coming month.

So back to the book club. I think it would be naive of anyone to think that you can become a good writer without first, becoming a good reader. And that is exactly what I intend to do. As I have been partaking in the reading and reviewing of several books outside of my comfort zone anyway. I thought I may as well publish my thoughts here. So that is my plan, each month (hopefully) I will read a book and write a review for it here; with the aim of focussing my direction for my own writing development. I am also going to publish my reviews on Good Reads A place I have left long forgotten until now. I will probably do some reflective reviewing as a start. I hope at least some of you will find this interesting.