Tag Archives: John

The Wind in the Willows

Book #6: The Wind in the Willows
by Kenneth Grahame (children’s fiction)

So this was just a quicky read for fun so it’ll be a quicky review to match! When I was a kid we owned the “Four Seasons” VHS box set (boy, that ages me!) of “The Wind in the Willows” which I loved, but I realized a couple weeks ago I’d never actually read the original stories even though the book was sitting on one of the living room shelves. So I fixed that this week.

The stories are adorable, they’re quick, they’re for children, they’re sweet, they’re funny, and as an eighteen year old, I still enjoyed them! Although as an eighteen year old I instantly pictured “Rat” as Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) and “Mole” as John Watson (Martin Freeman) so…

The book follows the story of four friends, Mole, Ratty, Toad, and Badger and their lives and occasional adventures. It begins with Mole in his burrow alone, not knowing anyone, but he gets a bit of spring fever, comes out of his burrow and quite quickly thereafter, meets the Water Rat. Mole is so enchanted with The River and with Ratty’s lifestyle that he moves in with him (seeing the “Sherlock” similarities yet? ;D) and soon gets to know Ratty’s friends, Otter, Mr Toad, and Badger. They all are very merry (except Badger who sticks to himself most of the time…) and they have some good laughs, find Otter’s son when he goes missing, and try (note the “try”) to keep Toad out of trouble.

It’s very light and  easy reading, obviously directed at children, but still enjoyable for adults! (or for the young at heart or something…)
All in all, 8 out of 10. Well written, happy ending, but it’s a kids book so it wasn’t exactly intellectually challenging =D

I’ve got a trip to the library planned, got a bunch of books people have recommended I read to get! Talk to you soon!
DFTBA
– Becky

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Filed under Book Review, Fiction, Youth/Children's

The Fault in Our Stars

Book #1 (of 2012): The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green (Young Adult fiction)

How can John write such fantastically, yet terribly sad books? He must cry writing these, I don’t care that guys want girls to think they don’t cry. A guy would be INHUMAN not to cry reading this book.

My head aches from crying. Normally when I cry reading I just have tears silently streaming down my face, I exaggerate and say I bawled. This book, I don’t need to exaggerate. For the last third of the book I had to put it down every few pages to cry, to crunch my body into a tight little ball and cry and cry. But then I had to pick it up again, you can’t put it down until you’re more composed because the tears, the sadness, they are all part of the experience, part of the book; they add to it, they make it real.

The characters aren’t all depressing though, they’re not what make the book sad. They’re funny, they have brilliant personalities, they have hilarious humours and they’re fun. This is the kind of book where one page you’re bawling and the next you’re laughing through your tears =)

John writes such believable characters with Hazel, Augustus, and Isaac; they’re so human, so humany-wumany. They’re people that I would love to meet, to hang out with, to know. John has written a story about kids with cancer, but never once did I find myself pitying them because of their cancer. I felt bad for them because of the normal events that happened but not once did I think, “Oh poor Hazel, she has cancer”. It’s made them people, not their disease. This is not a book about kids with cancer, this is a book about friendship, about love, about life, oh-and-by-the-way, the main characters have cancer.

I finished the book and turned on my camera to try and record my immediate reaction. I opened my mouth and no sound came out. There is nothing to be said. This is the best book I’ve ever read. I suspect I said something similar about Paper Towns, but you see, I hadn’t read The Fault in Our Stars yet at that point.

I was unsure about buying this book, unsure if it would be a book I’d want to own. I didn’t know the basic plotline, the reason I bought it was because the bookstore near my workplace had signed copies and I wanted one.
I’m really glad I bought that pink J-scribbled book.  I feel like people who haven’t read it are robbing themselves of a wonderful experience, but like Hazel says, “There are books like [The Fault in Our Stars], which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.” (TFIOS Page 33) That is why I will impersonally advertise the book, through text on a website, it will keep the special feeling of TFIOS being my book, not to be shared.

PLOTLINE WITH SPOILERS! DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT YET READ THE BOOK! SPOILERS ALERT!

Hazel Grace Lancaster is sixteen and has cancer. It means she has to be hooked up to an oxygen tank all the time to keep enough oxygen in her infected lungs. For now she’s stable, cancer is controlled and she can live a more or less normal life. Well, for a cancer-patient. Under the recommendation of her doctor and the insistence of her mother she attends a weekly support group that meets in a nearby church. She has one friend here, Isaac. He only has one eye, the cancer took the other. One day Hazel is again forced to attend support group but comes to find Isaac has brought a friend who is a cancer survivor (although it took one of his legs), Augustus Waters, a long, lean, hott seventeen year old with a smooth sexy voice. After support group they’re introduced and Hazel ends up going to Augustus’ house to watch V for Vendetta, as he thinks she looks like Natalie Portman.  They talk about books, Hazel tells him her favourite is An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten, his favourite book is The Price of Dawn, based off of his favourite video game. He agrees to read her favourite on the condition she read his, which he lends her then and there. They’re both true to their word and end up enjoying each other’s books.
Hazel and Augustus begin dating, Isaac’s cancer returns and he ends up loosing his other eye and being left blind. His girlfriend dumps him before the surgery though, which really, really cuts him up. Hazel and Gus stick by him though and try and help him through.
The two of them both write to Peter Van Houten (the author of An Imperial affliction) about his “unfinished” books and Augustus (who emailed) gets a reply. He decides to use his cancer-Wish to take Hazel to Amsterdam, where they’ve been invited to meet Van Houten where he’s living in seclusion.  It’s all being planned when Hazel has a relapse. Things look pretty bleak but she recovers and they manage to take the trip and go (with Hazel’s mum) to meet the one and only Peter Van Houten, Hazel’s favourite author (who *SPOILER* ends up being an alcoholic jerk). While in Amsterdam Augustus tells Hazel that around the time she had her relapse, he found out his cancer had returned. Everywhere. His whole body was an inflamed mass of cancer. (This is about halfway/two-thirds through the book and, warning, this is where I started to cry. I didn’t stop until the book finished, even a little bit after it finished…)
They return home and gradually Gus’ cancer gets worse and worse. He’s dying and there’s no way around it. Hazel visits everyday, she still loves him, he loves her and he wants to write her a sequel to An Imperial Affliction after Van Houten refuses to explain the unfinished ending to them. He can’t though, he’s too weak. They both agree they want each other to write their eulogy for their funerals.
One evening Augustus calls Hazel and asks her to write a eulogy and meet him at the church where they had the support meetings. She does and finds him and Isaac there. Gus has arranged a prefuneral so he can hear his best friends’ eulogies for him. (This scene is heart-wrenching, the kind of crying where you scrunch your body up trying to make the pain go away as you’re crying in gasping breaths, trying to blink back the tears because you can’t stop reading).
Eight days later, he dies.
His funeral happens, Hazel writes a different eulogy to read, less personal. Then a while later she visits Isaac and they try to distract themselves playing video games. At some point Isaac mentions that Gus was writing something for her and she immediately thinks of the promised An Imperial Affliction sequel. She tries to find it, asks his parents about it, looks in his room, on his computer, doesn’t find anything. His parents eventually find a notebook that was by his hospital bed but the first four pages are torn out and can’t be found. When Hazel’s friend Kaitlyne calls, she suggests that he mailed the to her, or, perhaps, they weren’t for Hazel at all.
With the idea that the pages weren’t for her in mind Hazel contacts Van Houten’s (former) assistant in Amsterdam and she goes to Van Houten’s house and finds, sure enough, Augustus has sent the pages to Van Houten. Van Houten, reads them and says to send them to Hazel.
It’s a eulogy.
Augustus wrote her the eulogy she wanted. The gorgeous heartfelt, personal eulogy from her boyfriend. Gus had mailed it to Van Houten with the hope that he could turn his notes into a well versed eulogy, but he didn’t change anything, he just sent it straight to Hazel and it’s beautiful.

Overall: Ten out of Ten. So sad, and I wish Gus hadn’t had to die, but he did or the story would have been all wrong. It’s beautiful. John Green, I salute you.

DFTBA
– Becky

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Filed under Book Review, Fiction, Young Adult

Paper Towns

Book #6: Paper Towns
by John Green (Young Adult)

I want to review this book, I really do, I just, words, where are they? I’m in tears. It was sad! I didn’t think it would be sad. But I cried, I love books that make me cry. My heart hurts. I have an ache inside. My eyelashes are still wet, but I must write this while I still remember the shining glory, the fantastic sad ache I feel and why I feel it. So here it goes. Paper Towns.

This is the first John Green book I have ever read. I am a subscriber to John’s youtube channel that he runs with his brother Hank, vlogbrothers. I’ve had the book out of the library since August 3 and I had made it to page 62 as of August 18. Now this is odd, because normally I am a very fast reader. On the 18th I decided to restart and try to get back into it. I couldn’t. But tonight…tonight was different. At 8:25 I sat down to read and at 11:49 I was finished and in tears but had also painted my nails blue. (Don’t worry I didn’t get any on the book!).

This book is written in three parts and the first part was what I was dragging my feet through. I don’t know why but I couldn’t get into it. Once I hit part two tonight though, any thought of procrastination was gone. I was gonna finish this book and I was gonna finish it in one sitting. And that wasn’t because I mentally said “I can do this” it was because mentally I was saying “You need another coat on your nails? Forget it, finish the chapter! Oh you just did? Well finish the next chapter then! Screw your nails…” (I did a four coat nail painting job with my brain screaming that at me, congratulate me now if you will)

The characters are, they’re just so real. You can imagine them as real people, living real lives. They’re not romantic characters, in the sense of being unrealistically good or bad, they’re not a perfect ideal, they’re people, flesh and blood people. Not paper people.

The ending (which I will spoil after warning you in caps later) is brilliant. So sad, so heart wrenchingly sad, but perfect. It is just what you would expect after getting to know the characters, but that doesn’t make it any easier to see in print. Print makes things so much more final. You knew it would happen, you hoped it wouldn’t, but you saw it written there and John Green just killed all hope of the ending you wanted but knew would never come. But you don’t mind. In fact now you’re remembering that you saved a book store gift card for eight months until you had the perfect book to buy and you’re pretty sure that this sad story is going to be on your shelf before long with your name written inside the cover. It will be yours. Your paper book about paper towns and paper people because you can feel the pain that is written in that last chapter, and you want to keep it, and savour it, and have it on your shelf when you need to remember that not everything ends the way you wanted, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.

My eyelashes are dry now, so I will attempt to summarize this story. If you are going to read this book please don’t read my spoiler-ridden dry summary. I don’t want to destroy this beautiful piece of literature for you.

**SPOILERS** (It’s so much better than this summary can try to prove!)

The prologue starts with Quentin (Q) remembering when he was nine years old and when he and his neighbour playdate Margo Roth Spiegelman found a dead man in the park near their house. Kid-Margo does some investigating and finds that the man killed himself after a divorce. She pops up at Q’s window in the middle of the night to tell him about it and wonders aloud if maybe all the strings inside of him broke…
Back to real time, Q and  Margo are in senior year of high school and no longer friends. Margo is “cool” and Q hangs out with the “band nerds”. One night Q turns around from his computer to see Margo Roth Spiegelman opening in his window in black clothes and facepaint. She convinces him to come on a mission with her. She has eleven things to do during the night and needs Q to be her getaway man/driver. Reluctantly he allows himself to be convinced and agrees. Thus begins the most exciting night of his life as of yet. The eleven things are completed along with breaking and entering (though not together), and vandalizing. Q keeps needing to be reconvinced but he’s been in love with Margo since they were kids so he does it. They end up having a ton of fun and when they’re done and finally go home, Q wonders if maybe things will change and Margo will start hanging out with him now that she’s ditched all her old friends (those eleven things…ya). Things do change, but not the way Q imagined. Margo doesn’t come to school the next day, which isn’t that unusual, but it turns out she’s run away. Q learns from her parents that she usually leave clues behind for them to find and try to track her down with, so he starts hunting. He finds a poster, a record, does research, finds a poetry book, finds a note, hunts through numerous pseudovisions and eventually ends up pintpointing Margo’s location 23 days after her disappearance, on the day of his graduation. Some things are important, so he, and his buddies Radar and Ben, and Ben’s girlfriend Lacey (One of Margo’s ex-friends) take off in Q’s grad gift, a minivan, to find Margo Roth Spiegelman. They have 21 hours and 45 minutes until she moves on and they have to drive a distance that should take 23 hours and 9 minutes. So they start driving. By timing out 6 minute pit stops, urinating in beer bottles, and avoiding cow-blocks (as in like cows, that are road-blocks…) they manage to make it to the “paper town” that Margo has lead them to, Agloe. Once there they find the general store and spot Margo’s car parked nearby. They find her inside the building writing in a notebook. She’s quite surprised to see them all and not very pleased either. They’re all surprised, Margo is acting like she doesn’t know what the clues were. After the other three storm out Q starts talking to her and realizes that that she didn’t leave the clues on purpose. She starts getting really upset and so does he but he manages to explain how they tracked her down and Margo admits that honestly, they just really scared her. Lacey and Margo make up and are friends again but Q wants to know what Margo’s going do now. Turns out she’s headed for New York. She has planned and planned her whole trip, she planned to do it later but got some news that spurred the “eleven things night” with Q and then decided to leave town right away without warning anyone. Margo takes out the black notebook that she’s carried around since about fourth grade and begins to tell Q of the story she wrote in it and the plans she made in it writing over the story. Q convinces Margo to start caring about the people she’s left behind, especially her younger sister so she phones home and lets her family know where she is for the first time in 23 days. Q and Margo dig a grave for the Little Margo and Little Quentin of her story and bury the notebook. Q tries to convince Margo to come back home, Margo tries to convince him to come to New York. Both come to realize that now is when their paths separate (gosh I’m writing the driest summary ever and I’m still tearing up again…). They promise to stay in contact this time as Margo goes her way, and because I can’t do it justice I’ll just quote you the last paragraph (written from Q’s perspective) and be done with it:
“I feel her hands on my back. And it is dark as I kiss her, but I have my eyes open and so does Margo. She is close enough to me that I can see her, because even now there is the outward sign of invisible light, even at night in this parking lot on the outskirts of Algoe. After we kiss, our foreheads touch as we stare at each other. Yes, I can see her almost perfectly in this cracked darkness” (Page 305)

Overall: 10 out of 10 stars. I think this is my all time favourite book. Better than LOTR and that’s saying something…

My eyelashes are dry again. I’m going to go get my book store gift card ready for tomorrow’s venture.
– Becky

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Filed under Book Review, Fiction, Young Adult