The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
If Wonder is heart-warming, then The Fault in Our Stars is the exact opposite. I have never cried so hard while reading a book. Even now, a week later as I’m trying to write a review, just thinking about it I’m welling up a little bit. What makes The Fault in Our Stars so brilliant though, is that amid the heart-breaking unfairness of it all, it is still one of the most inspiring and life-affirming novels I’ve ever read. Even more so than Wonder, and I’m glad that I read them in the order that I did, because I don’t think that I’d have enjoyed them either as much the other way around.
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Wonder – R.J. Palacio
Wonder tells the story of August, a young boy with rather severe facial deformities starting his first year at middle school, and the trials he goes through trying to become part of a society that seems inclined to reject him. Stories told from multiples points of view are often problematic, but Wonder, which while focusing on August, also features chapters from the perspective of his best friend, his sister Via, her boyfriend and her former-best friend, does so incredibly well.
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Hereward: End Of Days – James Wilde
I read Hereward: End of Days as part of Transworld’s second annual Historical Reading Challenge. When I chose it, I didn’t realise that it was the third in a series, so when it arrived and that became obvious, I was a little bit concerned that I was going to be in over my head and unable to make head nor tale of what was going on. Thankfully, that was not the case.
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The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
If I were inclined to be brief, I could probably just write the sentence “The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a Neil Gaiman book.” and leave it at that, because if you’ve ever read anything by Neil Gaiman (or blurber Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus), it’ll be enough. If I were inclined to be uncharitable, I might say something along the lines of “The Ocean at the End of the Lane is several of Neil Gaiman’s books.”, because there much of the book simply feels like a rehash of aspects of his previous works.
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The Descendants – Kaui Hart Hemmings
There is never going to be a satisfactory answer to the debate of “The Book vs. The Film”, other than a pragmatic compromise. Sometimes you get amazing interpretations of books (The Hobbit), other times rigidly faithful adaptations (Harry Potter 1), “Inspired by” (World War Z), and those that stick fairly well for most of the way before swerving off into the deep end (Scott Pilgrim). What I didn’t think existed was a film that followed the book almost religiously from cover to cover. Then I read The Descendants.
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The Madonnas Of Leningrad – Debra Dean
The Madonnas of Leningrad wasn’t what I expected when I picked it up. The blurb suggested it was going to be a tortuous first person narrative of the effects of Alzheimer’s featuring flashbacks to the Siege of Leningrad. The flashbacks were there, but the modern-day narrative was much tamer than I was expecting, as though there were scenes told by Marina, the effective protagonist, most of it was told from her daughter’s perspective.
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Help Me, Jacques Cousteau – Gil Adamson
Like some of the other books I’ve read this year, Help Me, Jacques Cousteau is a better idea that it’s execution merits. Not quite a novel, but at the same time not a collection of short stories, the book tell the story of the narrator, Hazel’s, childhood and adolescence through a series of vignettes. Very few of these are clearly related to each other, but overall they come together to form her life story more effectively than a single overarching narrative might.
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