Saturday, 30 August 2014

August Book Read

How is it the end of August? How has my summer ended already? *insert sad face emoticon here*

Well regardless of how much faster time passes with the older you get, the end of the month spells my monthly Book Review.

The Popular Novel:

The Fault In Our Stars, John Green

You know the plot. Either you've read it already, seen the film, or at least been subject to the hype that surrounds both. Even my mother said 'I saw an ad for that' when I described the book for her.

Basic Plot: Teenage girl (Hazel) has cancer. Teenage girl meets teenage boy (Augustus) in recovery from cancer. They fall in love. But they're kids with cancer, it was never going to end 'Happily Ever After'.

I knew all of this. I didn't start reading the book blindly, in fact I knew exactly how it ended thanks to a spoiler from my loving younger sister. It also wasn't the first John Green novel I read, so I knew to expect his emotional telling of teenage love.

And Yet... 
And yet, I still cried. Okay, I'm lying; I didn't just cry. I broke down in my bed at 11pm and ugly cried. As I was coming to the end of the book I twice had to turn over my pillow as it was so soaked with tears. 
Yes, I am aware that I'm roughly a year late in reading this book. It's just one of the things I do; only read the book because the film version is finally out and I always prefer to read the book before I see a film.
Hazel is a wonderful narrator, taking readers through the highs and lows of the book with grace and ease. Augustus Waters could not have been a more admirable and heroic figure in the face of cancer, and without doubt one of my favourite literary characters in recent years.
The characters were wonderfully drawn, and lovable despite their faults. All except Peter Van Houten of course whose 'redemptive' victim of cancer story-line did nothing to ease my hatred for him. 

Top quotes
It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.
You gave me a forever within the numbered days and I'm grateful. 
 And now I'm preparing to watch the film and ugly cry all over again.

Token Irish Novel:

That They May Face The Rising Sun, John McGahan

I read McGahan's 'Amongst Women' last year as part of my course, and I honestly did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did. His depictions of rural, border-county Ireland are accurate and honest, which can sometimes be mistaken as judgmental. But at times the slow pace of 'That They May Face The Rising Sun' can feel tedious. While there was a lot of whiskey drinking and local gossiping, little else happened throughout the novel. But that is what McGahan wanted to capture in the text; the mundane life of rural Ireland as many just await the passing of time until their death. However, there a few lovely quotes I took from the novel that can really relate to every aspect of our lives:

'Happiness could not be sought or worried into being, or even fully grasped; it should be allowed it's own slow pass so that it passes unnoticed, if it ever comes at all.'

'You don't get reruns in life like you do in a play.' - This is my new life motto. You Only Live Once. 

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly:

Okay, so I read 3 Ross O'Carroll-Kelly books this month. AGAIN. BUT this time I actually read them in the order they were written which is a first for me.
Nama Mia, The Shelbourne Ultimatum and Downturn Abbey chronicle Ross' adventures in the midst of the crashing economy. The question is whether Ross can maintain his lifestyle while the country is changing around him. If you doubt whether he can then you must be forgetting Ross was a Leinster Rugby Senior Cup winner; of course he'll find a way.
Sometimes I do wonder if I'm the only person who genuinely CARES about Ross? I feel sorry for him when his friends over-react, when a prank goes wrong, or when one of his former conquests comes back to haunt him. He's a flawed character, yes, but I do still hope that everything works out for him. So despite being a loud-mouthed, ungrateful, womaniser, and someone I normally wouldn't spend my time on, Ross somehow remains likable. Damn you Ross! Damn you!

(Also, after 7 books I finally discovered Christian's surname was 'Forde'. I feel like we share a bond now...)

And Finally:

Before I Die, Jenny Downham

Despite being published in 2007, Before I Die feels like a cheap knock-off of The Fault In Our Stars (TFIOS was released in 2012).

Set in England, Before I Die (I refuse to use lowercase as the cover does) follows 16 year old Tessa in her final stages of leukemia. Tessa has a list; 10 things she wants to do before she dies; Sex, Drugs, just saying YES for a day.... As she ticks off items on her list Tessa meets Adam; No. 8: Fall in Love.

I've thought about this before - making a Bucket List; what would I like to do before I die? But the truth is that the longer you do live, the more you experience, and the more you want to keep doing. The list just gets longer and longer. Towards the end of the novel Tessa realizes she's not ready to give up and she wants to keep adding to her list too:
There are so many things I want. Ten isn't enough anymore.
Don't get me wrong, Before I Die differs to The Fault In Our Stars. The novel shows a more sexualized, less romantic side of teenage relationships. There are a lot less literary references in Before I Die too, which was one of the beautiful things about TFIOS.
Adam is no Augustus Waters, that's for sure. He's not charming and intelligent. Tessa even doubts if he's good looking more than once. Plus, he's not dying.

But there are only so many teenagers dying of cancer a girl can take in one month before she starts to ask questions.
R U ALIVE is their 'Okay?'.
Their Always. 

And I'm starting to wonder if John Green maybe borrowed a lot of his TFIOS ideas from Jenny Downham?

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