Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The fault in our stars

  • Pages: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Juvenile; First Edition edition (January 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525478812

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars. But in ourselves 

With a title inspired by Shakespeare's famous quote, how do I even begin describing this book. Immediately after reading it, a hundred thoughts raced through my mind but the one that screamed loudest expressed the deep sadness I felt at having finished the book. Considering the main issue that the book is based on, it is difficult to write a review that will do it justice, but I'll try.

At first glance, Hazel Grace appears very much like the typical 16 year old teenager. Bright, angsty and with an unconventional sense of humor, it's heartbreaking to read that she has terminal lung cancer with her cancer being suppressed by a particular drug. At a Support Group for Cancer victims, Hazel meets 17 year old Augustus Waters; handsome, athletic and perfect if you ignore the prosthetic leg his osteosarcoma left him. Together, Hazel and Augustus form an unlikely pair who fall in love and face life's most merciless killer : cancer. Like all good books, this one has a jarring twist that eventually left me sobbing and breathless. 

John Green takes a very realistic approach by baring a truly honest account of cancer stricken children. I found it particularly moving to read about the tangled emotions experienced by the parents, friends and of course the kids themselves. This is not a book about brave battles against cancer, and of survivors. Ultimately, it is a book about death, love and most of all living.

The Fault in Our Stars made me question a lot on the values and priorities we have in life. It's a jolting reminder of how fragile and precious life is. Seeing these very real issues through the eyes of teenagers makes the honesty even more heartbreaking. Throughout the course of the book, I asked myself if I could ever fall for a person who's terminally ill, if I could be as strong if my bright, young child were to be diagnosed with cancer, and would I have been able to make any decision at all if faced with those circumstances. 

The book has been categorized as YA fiction, but I think it's something relevant for adults as well. With characters that will resonate with me for a long time to come, I'm sure I'll be reading this book over and over again. You'll laugh, you'll weep, you'll hurt, but most of all you'll definitely remember Hazel, Gus and everyone so perfectly portrayed in this little book juggling huge issues. 

You have a choice in this world, I believe, about how to tell sad stories, and we made the funny choice 

John Green is a wonderful writer. He has the ability to use simple words to express really strong emotions.

" Sometimes people don't understand the promises they're making when they make them " I said. Isaac shot me a look.
" Right, of course. But you keep the promise anyway. That's what love is. Love is keeping the promise anyway " 

It looks like 2013 has kicked off on a reasonably good start book-wise, with 2 authors that are new to me ( Jojo Moyes and John Green ) making it onto my list of Must Read authors. Have you read The Fault in Our Stars or are you planning to ? What did you think ? 

You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful 

My Rating : 5 / 5 stars 

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

*Read on the Kindle

Now that sure is a book with a long title ! Upon reading this in a flurry, I found it quaint and charming, yet biting and sarcastic in wit at certain parts. Comprised of an unlikely cast of characters, the story takes wild turns of imagination, with flashbacks of the now 100 year old Allan's life, and what an interesting life indeed. From chance meetings with the President of the USA, Winston Churchill, Stalin and Madam Soong May Ling, you know you're in for a ride.

I've been trying to come up with a proper way to introduce Allan, but words evade me. On the whole, he is quirky, eccentric and has a tendency to make very matter-of-fact statements. There are lots of funny parts in the book because of his affinity for telling the blunt truth.

At one point, the story seemed too ludicrous to be realistic, but for most parts, the main character seemed devoid of all normal emotions, taking things in stride as they came. However, it is this unfeelingness that leads to pretty straightforward observations such as these : 

" Revenge is like politics, one thing always leads to another until bad has become worse, and worse has become worst "

Another interesting point to note is that the book had vague references to history, after all, it is the recount of a 100 year old man's life, so there is bound to be mention of the key events that have happened in the past. It is a cheeky attempt at looking at history in a light hearted manner, but what I liked was the 'alternative' scenarios that the author cleverly included as part of the story.

I'm not sure if this is a book that I will read again, but it wasn't a bad way to kickstart the year.

Rating : 3.5 stars 

Monday, December 31, 2012


And thus we start writing 2013 whenever we sign the date. 2012 has been slow in terms of reading, but the only resolution I have for this blog is to be more disciplined in my reading habits. 

Happy New Year dear all !! May the year be wonderful in all bookish sense and charming in everything else ! 

xoxo ! 

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Publisher : Michael Joseph ( 2012 )
Pages : 528 pages 
ISBN : 978-0718157838

I'm not quite ashamed to admit that I'm writing this review through red-rimmed eyes and a snotty nose, but I feel like I have to capture all these emotions whilst they're still fresh in my mind. Me Before You is quite possibly simultaneously one of the best and worst books I've read this entire year. I mean worst in the way that it made me bawl like a baby and best because it is definitely a book I'll remember in days to come.

First off, I picked up the book wanting a light read before the end of the year, but boy was I in for a rollercoaster ride of a surprise. Jojo Moyes is wonderful in the way she makes her characters jump out of the pages and before long you find yourself identifying with them. 

I initially assumed that I would be reading something funny and easily digested but I soon realized ( somewhere past the 2nd chapter ) that the book was going to be dealing with some really heavy issues. The two main characters of the book were really interesting to start with. Louisa 'Lou' Clark spent her entire adult life caring for her family, and sacrificing a significant part of her youth helping to make ends meet. One day, she loses her job and finds herself desperate for anything that could help her current financial crises. Reluctantly, she signs up as a carer for the handsome, enigmatic Will Treynor. The twist is, Will is a quadriplegic who's made a deal with his mother for 6 months after which he'd go to Dignitas in Switzerland to end his life. Then it's up to Lou to convince him that life is still worth living. Determined to change his mind, Lou comes up with a list of adventures her sister calls " the antibucket list " and thus follows a series of hits and misses and poignant discoveries.

Now the context of the story sounds harsh and cold, and I had trouble accepting the fact that anyone would voluntarily allow their loved ones to kill themselves. However, over the course of the book, Moyes spins a beautiful tale of love, of selflessness and understanding. It is an understanding that wrenches at the heart of the reader, a love story that extends beyond the regular horizons but also a gorgeous tale of new beginnings, self-belief and questions the right to making choices. The heavy context is lightened by the playful banter between the characters in the book, and I found myself laughing out loud in certain parts. Nonetheless, this is a book that has touched me and impacted me in a way that I never expected. It is as much a tale of letting go as of holding on. 

At its core, Me Before You is a wonderful story, a 'romance' novel but not in the traditional sense. I wanted so much for things to work out at the end for the both of them, and in retrospect, things did work out, just not in the way I would have envisioned. Moyes successfully crafted the fine balance between jarring reality and surreal make-believe, and the fact that it so delicately deals with the taboo subject of assisted suicide and the delicately sensitive way in which the story was written makes this book worthy of many re-reads, boxes of tissue and sleepless nights. 

" You only get one life. It's actually your duty to live it as fully as possible " 

My rating : 5 stars 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Publisher : Mariner Books
Pages : 336 pages ( paperback )
ISBN :  978-0547848419

I must be one of the last persons to read this book but for posterity's sake, I thought it worthwhile that I jot down my initial thoughts before I forget them. Rife with powerful passages, the simple way in which the author phrased his sentences masked the much heavier meaning behind the words. More than just an intricate plot, the story unfolds with very cleverly written analogies of human natures and the strength of survival. 

The book on whole was a pretty fast paced read, and I found myself racing towards the end, just wanting to know the famed 'twist' at the end of the story. No spoilers here, but for those who've watched the movie, perhaps you'd agree that the twist added a much applauded punch to tie up the entire story. Equal parts vivid imagination and clever messages, Life of Pi was a delight to read, and a literary sensation that will last for a long long time. 

I liked how the book delicately questions issues on life and religion. 

And that wasn't the end of it. There are always those who take it upon themselves to defend God, as if Ultimate Reality, as if the sustaining form of existence, were something weak and helpless. These people walk by a widow deformed by leprosy begging for a few praise, walked by children dressed in rags living in the stress, and think " Business is usual ". But if they perceive a slight against God, it is a different story. Their faces go red, their chests heave mightily, they sputter angry words  ... These people fail to realize that it is in the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside. 

I particularly loved a paragraph written close to the ending. 

It's important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse. 

I have yet to watch the movie, but for now the imagery so excellently painted in the words of Yann Martel more than suffices to make this a memorable read, and it's safe to say it's one of the best books I've read this year.