Review: Paper Towns

Paper Towns
Paper Towns by John Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So I actually finished this book over the weekend (Well…on Monday but that was a holiday so it was still the weekend) but haven’t quite been able to accurately decide what I “think” about it. I’d heard this book being accused of trying to be “bigger” than what it actually is so I kind of had that in the back of my head while reading it, but I gotta tell you: I didn’t get that. I don’t think John Green tries to be anything. He just kind of is. And it feels to me that without trying he says so incredibly much. I love this man’s soul, and it lives in those pages. What a beautiful soul.

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Review: Divergent

Divergent by Veronica Roth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So a kind of weird thing happened: I ended up enjoying this book. For me the story started out exceptionally slow and I kind of struggled to care about it at all for a long time. The popularity of this series kind of boggled me a little and even irritated me. I was probably a little bitchy about it. I can’t say why (and by “why” I mean why I wasn’t enjoying the book, not why I was bitchy – that I know the answer to). Perhaps it was not my scene. Perhaps I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for it. Perhaps the beginning is actually kind of slow. But something happened during the last third of the book that took my rating from a 2 to a four. I can’t even quite explain it exactly, but I think there suddenly seemed to be a point to it all. I started to understand it a little better and it even kind of made me feel hopeful. Tris grows into a being of substance which is quite refreshing. I tend to read these sorts of books with my pre-teen daughter in mind. Am I ok with her learning from the protagonist of this story? Sadly the answer to that question is often no. But today it got to be yes. And that’s pretty cool.

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Review: The Language of Flowers

The Language of Flowers
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really loved this book, which is a little bit weird because I hated the main character. I think perhaps the feeling of “learning” as I read helped to negate the fact that I could not quite get behind this woman’s treatment of people. I don’t know why but that kind of self inflicted isolation always strikes me as weak. I imagine my annoyance at this exact brand of character possibly says a lot about me as a person, and most likely nothing good, but I just can’t help it. While I did feel a certain (limited!) empathy for Victoria, I could not help but be angered by the senselessness of her situation – but then again, without her toxic persona there would have been no story to tell, would there? There would only be an unhappy beginning with a perfectly acceptable resolution that spanned over a year instead of ten. Hardly bookworthy. I think perhaps I myself am addicted to others, despite my affection for frequent isolation. Love is one thing I have never shied away from, despite having had my heart broken on a number of occasions, not only by men, of course, but by people I have trusted as well. I think a capacity for heartbreak can overwhelm all of us, but I struggle to relate to the kind of brokenness that retaliates in the harm of others. I especially do not understand the compulsion to harm myself or others in the attempt to “protect myself”. It is such a strange thing to me. This means that I am most likely lucky, which is something I know and do not take for granted. While I believe that I am personally plagued and affected (often negatively) by my own past, just like many others are, for some reason it has never shut me off to love. Love I feel and embrace with my whole being. Always. Whether I find it in a book that I love, or art, or a partner, my child, my family, my friends. It is all consuming, and the exquisiteness of love has always, and I hope will always, trump its ability to bring with it the most excruciating of heartbreaks.

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My YA Bookshelf

This here is my YA bookshelf. It’s kind of too full and I’m not sure what I’m going to do CYMERA_20140801_143010about that once I find more books to put in it. I might have to get my husband to build me that bookshelf that he’s been thinking about for a while. Poor guy — I don’t deserve him (but I will cut you if you try to convince him of that, just fyi). Anyway, I think I should make August “YA Month” for me. I find YA great for when you are feeling a little “guilty pleasure”-ish. I’m sorry if that offends. It’s not meant to. YA doesn’t demand from you what reading Atwood or Irving does. YA (often) is simple and sweet and enjoyable…and easy. I like the easy. I have to gear myself up for Irving, as I do with many “grown up” books. The intensity can be magnificently satisfying but it is also emotionally taxing. For now I definitely need a few “easy reads” so I’m going to dip into this shelf for a while before I move on to the heavier things. Now…If you’ll excuse me I’m off to make some reading choices as well as find some earplugs and make a cup of tea…

Happy reading!!

Looking for Alaska ~ John Green

Looking for AlaskaLooking for Alaska by John Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Now that I have had a few days to process this a little I think I can write a bit of a review. Or can I?

How do I put into words how interesting I find it that John Green chose to give his main character an obsession with famous people’s last words? How do I explain how much I feel like everything he chooses to say speaks so eloquently to his own personal real-ness in a way that makes me feel extraordinarily hopeful? I cannot. I cannot explain why I feel such a connection to this man. I cannot explain how much I wish he had been around for me to experience when I myself was a kid. I cannot explain without feeling a little bit stupid how grateful I am that John Green exists. Sometimes the man feels as though he is a gift, and yet I know he would sort of brush off such a statement with a humble smile and perhaps even laugh a little at the thought. I don’t know. But what a beautiful man. What an extraordinarily beautiful man. I’m so glad I picked up The Fault in Our Stars  at the airport in Bangkok. If I hadn’t, I might never have met John Green. And that, dear friends, would have been a great tragedy.


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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ~ JK Rowling

20140118_174610I have pretty much failed at my attempt to read all the Harry Potter books in one month. I blame January for this. So far 2014 sucks. A lot. Like a proper lot. Yesterday at the suckiest point, however, I kind of decided “fuck it – I’m taking a reading day” which is the only reason I actually managed to get through the fourth book at all. If I have a “worst” of the Harry Potter novels it’s this one. Perhaps because I am hardly one for organized sport? And perhaps because this one is a little long. Of course the “worst” of the Potter novels still surpasses the best of many others, so it is hardly a complaint when I call it so. What I did particularly like about this one is that life-angst kind of starts to come through on a very real level. Relatable humanity if you can call it that. All three of our young heroes start to experience the real frustrations of growing up. The dynamics between the two sexes start to shift. The agony of self consciousness. Jealousy. Self doubt. All those things which plague us as children and then intensify as we grow up. Hermione starts to become concerned with the livelihood of house elves – a concern that no one seems to share. This is where Hermione can truly be admired as a heroine worth looking up to. She holds on to her convictions despite not only the indifference of her closest friends but often despite their active annoyance. She is not only clever in a book-smart sort of way but she is wise as well.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ~JK Rowling

20140118_145702-1Time travel stresses me out. This is ridiculous I know, but it always has. It is one of those things that I have never felt capable of grasping. Funny enough, Doctor Who has recently become my All Time  favourite thing, but for some reason The Doctor doesn’t mess with my head quite like most time travel stuff does. I think after reading this book and watching the movie again I am starting to feel more confident about it. That whole “the present makes room for time travel” thing kind of fits for me now (maybe Doctor Who helped?) although I am sure I couldn’t explain it to my grandmother….which according to Einstein means I don’t really understand it enough.  But yeah whatever.  I devoured this book ages ago and am only getting around to reviewing it now. A grave mistake on my part because all I can remember from the experience is the whole time travel clicking thing. I did, once again, find myself thinking that despite my unending adoration for Emma Thompson, she was badly cast as Professor Trelawney (excuse the spelling if it is incorrect, I can’t be bothered to check right now but I am almost positive that it’s right). Usually I am not bothered by things such as casting. That is someone else’s job. But when it comes to the divinations teacher I cannot get my own picture of her out of my head. She never arrives in my mind as the frizzy haired Ms. Thompson. She is more understated. Barmy, of course. But not ridiculous. I feel exactly the same way about Mad-Eye Moody in The Goblet of Fire. Perhaps I take all of this a little too seriously?

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: The Book vs The Movie

20140118_123757Hmmm feeling a little daft right now because I am already halfway through the 4th Harry Potter book and I no longer feel confident to review this one. Typical perhaps. Well obviously it is wonderful, I just can’t remember any of the particular observations I made while I was reading it anymore. Oh well…

I can say that weirdly enough I take the books very seriously. They strike me as serious books. I read on the back of one of our tatty paperback copies of The Philosopher’s Stone that some big newspaper compared Rowling’s humour to Dahl and I couldn’t agree less. I know there are fun and amusing parts in the books, but I never ever ever received them as silly or ridiculous…which is possibly why I thought that Trelawny and Moody were portrayed, not badly, but certainly not in a way that I expected them to be – I sort of feel like the movies made fun of them which doesn’t seem right to me…anyway I digress. What was I saying? Oh yes… I take the Harry Potter series seriously, and while there is obviously a lot of “ridiculousness” that goes on I never ever feel that the books themselves are ridiculous when I am reading them. I find them very “true”. In fact the only time that I have every felt “oh don’t be ridiculous” is in the first book where Hermione talks a load of rubbish about how the boys tried to stop her from going after the troll. Why did she do that? The truth was far more acceptable than the lie was… It was weird….


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Book vs the Movie

Photo on 2014-01-15 at 6.53 PMAfter an annoying day of getting nowhere with work or school for the kids, I decided “screw life, I’m going to Hogwarts”. Why? Because I can… Or at least I’m trying to convince myself that I can. I will regret it later in the week when I have to catch up on work I should have been doing already…

I’m not sure why I chose to start re-reading the Potter series again. I have done so three times already I think. I suppose it is just something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while, and so i finally sort of got around to it.

I do, however, think it’s quite funny how many more inconsistencies I discovered while reading the book this time. Now, I must say that I am not one of those who blindly states that all books are better than their movies. For one – the first Hunger Games movie sucked significantly less than the book did. And The Notebook movie was better. Shoot me if you must, but it does happen.

I rather believe that books and movies are different, and therefore it is no big thing for a movie to be tweaked in whichever way necessary to make it more viewable than the story would be if you just blindly copied everything word for word. I am quite ok with story changes and like to judge each on their own merit.

I am rambling.

Anyway – I was a little bit disappointed to discover that my two favourite lines from the first Harry Potter movie were not actually in the book. The first being when Hermione says “What an idiot!” in that glorious way of hers (when Harry goes after Malfoy on his broom to get Neville’s remembral back) and the second being when Ron goes “She needs to sort out her priorities!” after Hermione suggests that getting expelled would be worse than getting killed.

I think I might go and watch the first movie again now. I started it the other day and fell asleep…


The Surfer ~ Linda Cargill

20131017_173956Greetings Folks! I imagine this random little book is not one that you will ever get your hands on but I’m going to review it anyway. You may have noticed that the reviews around here tend to be more about what’s available in my own personal bookshelf more than whatever the latest releases may be. Of course I do like to throw in the odd indie review too. This particular book is from my own shelf though, and I bought it about a hundred years ago when CNA used to sell YA fiction for R14.99 a pop. Guess where all my pocket money used to go?  Continue reading