Paper Towns – John Green

Who is the real Margo?

My final John Green book… Having read all of his other books, I knew I had to complete the ‘series’.

Paper Towns is about Quentin “Q” Jacobsen and Margo Roth Spiegelman and their unique relationship.

The book begins with a flashback, showing the close friendship, nine year old Quentin and Margo shared, due to them being next door neighbours.

The flashbacks finishes and returns to present day in which Q and Margo have grown distant – they are still next door neighbours but mix with different crowds.

However, this all unexpectedly changes one day when Margo knocks on Q’s window in the middle of the night – the beginning of a life changing adventure. Together they spend the night committing daring deeds and getting revenge.

Q thinks this has changed their relationship and can’t wait to experience the last of his school days with Margo. Yet, the next day, Margo is missing and Q must follow her clues to find her…

This book strongly reminded me of Looking For Alaska however I still thoroughly enjoyed it. The plots were similar and the characters had the same basic traits, however there were also major differences between the two. Margo and Alaska (from Looking For Alaska) are similar personalities and as these were my least favourite characters from both books respectively, this was slightly annoying.

Q was the most likeable character and he was also easy to relate to. Margo was the focus of the novel, and as with all John Green novels, she was highly intelligent and independent, however she was also extremely selfish and self absorbed which annoyed me.

Overall, I really enjoyed Paper Towns however I would have preferred a plot line which differed more from Looking For Alaska. I would recommend the book, especially to those who enjoyed Looking For Alaska. I am glad I have read all of John Green’s books as I enjoyed them all yet I do feel that his later books are the better books.

Wonder – R. J. Palacio

WonderYou can’t blend in when you were born to stand out…

My name is August. I won’t describe what I like look. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

When I recently attended a Malorie Blackman talk, she recommended this book… and recommendations don’t come much better than that!

I had been meaning to read the book following it’s nomination for the 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards. When Malorie mentioned it, the audience responded positively which acted as the catalyst to me reading it. I am so glad I did!

Wonder follows August Pullman, an eleven year boy who has ‘lost’ in the genetic lottery. He has a one in four million facial syndrome as a result of which he has suffered through countless operations.

August knows his face marks him as different, although his parents have tried to protect him from the world. However, now they have decided it is time for August, or Auggie, to start school.

After years of homeschooling, August is reluctant to leave his comfort zone. However he is soon persuaded after meeting some of his classmates and touring the school.

The book then follows his journey through the fifth grade. During this year he learns a lot about friendship and life skills as well as the more common place academic knowledge.

The book is written from several characters point of views, however it is clear when the perspective changes. The grammar and writing style subtly changes as well as a title page for each new character – I think this demonstrates the skill of the author. It was really interesting to read the same story from several perspectives as it furthered my understanding of the characters and the plot line. The characters include August’s sister, her boyfriend and August’s friends.

One element of this book I really liked were the Precepts. August’s English teacher has a precept for every month, an inspiring phrase which he uses to encourage and educate his class. He also instructs his pupils to write or find their own precept over the summer holidays, which are then listed in the appendix. I thought this was a really great idea and one which I found very thought provoking. I will definitely be more interested in finding my own Precepts now.

I really enjoyed this book, the subject matter is so unique; I have never read a book similar which furthered my enjoyment. The book was also inspiring, not only was August a character full of determination, courage and kindness, but his friends and family were also inspirational.

This is R.J. Palacio’s debut novel, which I find shocking considering how well the book is written. Surely, with a debut novel as good as this, R.J. Palacio will go on to write many more books – all of which I hope to read.

I recommend this book to everyone – adults and young adults alike. Although the main characters are all children, there is a lot for everyone to learn from August and his story.

The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

The Fault in Our StarsI am ashamed to say that this book was sitting on my to-read pile for months, having been told it was a tear jerking book, I couldn’t quite bring myself to read it.

However, I eventually worked up the courage and I am so glad I did. This is my book of the year without a doubt.

The books follows Hazel Lancaster, a teenage girl living with terminal cancer, following her diagnosis her life changed.

She now attends a Cancer Support Group somewhat reluctantly, her only friend in the group Isaac, a teenage boy with cancer in his eye.

However, one week everything changes when Isaac brings along his friend Augustus Waters, known as Gus. Immediately Hazel and Gus grow close and share their thoughts, including Hazel’s favourite book, An Imperial Affliction – which both Hazel and Gus can easily relate to.

However, the book ends suddenly and Hazel is desperate to know what happens to the characters. Henceforth, Gus and Hazel embark on a journey to Amsterdam to meet the author.

This trip allows Hazel and Gus to grow even closer with some shocking truths being revealed…

From the start of the book I thought Hazel was a brilliant character, as it is written in first person readers immediately grow close to the character and in my case, grow to care for her. (I don’t care if she is a “fictional character”). Gus was also instantly likeable, with his humour and quirkiness I often found myself laughing out loud. Both characters had real depth and showed unusual viewpoints, for example their ongoing jokes revolving around”cancer perks”.

John Green writes this book beautifully, his prose allows readers to truly visualise the scenes which further adds to the emotions felt during the book.

With an unexpected twist that with leave all in tears, this book is  the most tear jerking and heart wrenching novel I have ever read, yet I would not hesitate to read it again.

TFIOS has secured it’s place upon my list of favourite book and the plot and characters will stay with me for a long time. It stands out from other books as it is so different, the characters seem so real and the plot line is so realistic coupled with beautiful prose this book will tug at your heartstrings.

Ultimately, I would recommend this book to all and encourage all to read John Green’s other books.

The film adaption is currently being filmed with a release date set for next year which I am awaiting with excitement, hopefully the film will live up to my expectations following the novel.

I cried and I’m sure you will too, so get your hankies ready…

Smuggler’s Kiss – Marie-Louise Jensen

Smuggler's KissIts not a crime to steal a heart

The book begins with Isabelle walking into the sea – fed up with life and ready to give up. However, when faced with the reality of her decision, she changes her mind and regrets her choice. She believes it to be too late to be saved, but fortunately for her, she is chanced upon by a band of smugglers and they drag her from the water.

A great argument then ensues regarding Isabelle’s future – they must decide whether to return her to shore, throw her overboard or keep her on-board their ship. Isabelle refuses to tell the crew her story and this encourages some of the men to distrust her, this leads to a very heated argument with Isabelle genuinely fearing for her life.

Fortunately, the eventual decisions swings in Isabelle’s favour.

Isabelle is grateful for the reprieve however she is accustomed to a life of luxury and getting her own way; She struggles to adapt to her new way of life, without extravagance.

Isabelle eventually settles into her new life and begins to interact more with the crew and make real friends. Isabelle is shocked to learn more about ‘how the other half live’ and begins to disregard the stereotypes she has grown up with. She also aids the crew in their illegal exploits when she helps to smuggle lace into the country, which she is surprised to find she rather enjoys.

Throughout the plot, Isabelle grows closer to one smuggler, Will. I thought Will was a great character, he was very mysterious and constantly kept me guessing as to his “identity”.

However, I found Isabelle annoying at points; At the beginning of the book, she was very selfish and spoilt. Thankfully though, she dramatically matured throughout the plot and she really grew as a character.

The mysterious nature of the book kept me engaged the whole way through, I couldn’t bear to put it down. The book combines so many different aspects wonderfully; Romance, mystery, adventure, intrigue and the historical detail.

I would definitely recommend this book to everyone, and now I am going to try Marie Louise-Jensen’s other books – I hope they live up to my expectations!

City Of Lost Souls – Cassandra Clare

**This is the Fifth book in the series and therefore this review will contain unavoidable spoilers for the previous books**

What price is too high to pay, even for love?

After reading the first book in The Mortal Instruments series, City of Bones, I fell in love with the complex plotline and all the characters. I then enjoyed reading the other two books in the then trilogy. However I was a little apprehensive to hear  Cassandra Clare announce a further three books for the series.

When I read City Of Fallen Angels (book number four) my apprehension was justified.  Where the previous book had tied up all the loose ends, COFA seemed to be somewhat of a filler book – however that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it but it certainly wasn’t as good as the first three.

With this in mind, I cautiously approached City Of Lost Souls – henceforth known as COLS.

I began reading and at first I wasn’t convinced, however the  book improved as the action began and the plot thickened.

COLS starts where COFA ends, this allows readers to be reminded of events of the past book without struggling.

The plot follows the characters who are introduced in the previous books. The narrative in this novel is more varied with different character’s perspectives at different parts. Cassandra Clare uses this effectively in the middle of tense, nail-biting events which means the book is nye-on-impossible to put down!

Although the book is a bit dull to begin with, readers must stick with it in order to reach the better chapters later on. So much changes for the characters during the course of this book and ultimately has set up the series perfectly for the final instalment, City Of Heavenly Fire…

I would most definitely recommend the series to anyone, especially with the City Of Bones film premiering later this year. Stick with the series and make sure you read this instalment – which is Cassandra Clare back at her best…

Dragonfly – Julia Golding

Dragonfly follows the adventures of the Fourth Crown Princess of the Blue Crescent Islands, Taoshira or Tashi to her friends. She is sent to Brigard, a distant country, very different to her home. She has been sent to marry Prince Ramil ac Burinholt, in order for The Blue Crescent Islands to become allies with Brigard.

Both Tashi and Ramil are horrified by the prospect of marrying the other. Ramil can’t believe his father is ordering him to marry this “foreign witch”.

Upon Tashi’s arrival, she tries to avoid Ramil who is also trying to avoid her. Eventually Ramil realises his responsibility to his county and in a last ditch attempt to please Tashi, the pair go on a horse ride together. This ends in disaster as the they are kidnapped by a circus act and smuggled over the border into the enemy land of  Holt.

The pair must act together in order to return to their homes, however with them both mistrusting the other, will this ever happen?

I loved this book! The characters were great and very believable, Tashi was the main protagonist and instantly likeable. She grew a lot through the book, her beliefs changed and she began to see the world a different way. She was my favourite character, closely followed by Ramil, who also learnt and matured during the plot, he grew into his position as a Prince.

These two main characters were joined by a host of other great characters – a circus strongman and a group of rebels amongst others.

The plot was great, I didn’t want to stop reading! The adventure the characters embark upon gave Julia Golding the opportunity, which she duly took, to twist and turn the plot line.

All in all, this is definitely a recommended read, as are all Julia Golding’s books. I can’t wait to (re)read The Glass Swallow, the sequel.

The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven BoysIf you kiss your true love, he will die

I first read Maggie’s book, Shiver, a few years ago. I immediately fell in love with the series, and indeed the author. I have since read all her books, which are all written so beautifully.

Whilst visiting The Hay Festival earlier this year, I was lucky enough to listen to Maggie speak and promote her new book, The Raven Boys. I was excited for the release of the book and I got my hands on a copy as soon as possible.

The books follows Blue, a teenager with a psychic mother which has ensured a somewhat different upbringing for Blue. Blue has been told countless times that she is to kill her true love, and this has left a shadow hanging over her life as she doesn’t know why or how this is to happen.

However, Blue’s life becomes more interesting when she finally tastes a bit of magic. She sees Gansey’s soul, a boy who is destined to die. Blue is told she was able see him as she will either love him or kill him.

This leaves Blue wondering how this is to happen, yet when she meets him she is disappointed. Gansey is a Raven Boy, a  pupil at the local private school for boys. These are boys who Blue has been warned off all her life. Yet when she finally interacts with them, she realises that they are not as bad as their reputation would have them.

She makes friends with a group of Raven Boys, Gansey and his three best friends. Together, they then explore the possibility of true magic in the world. This involves hard work and a lot of new discoveries!

I thought this book was written in typical Maggie style (e.g. descriptive and magical), the descriptions allowed me to really visualise the events of the book.

At the start of the book, the numerous characters confused me as I struggled to remember which character was being referred to, however this may just be me.

Also the blurb was slightly misleading – it seems to be more of a blurb for the series rather then the book, this is something that could be improved.

Overall though, it was a great book, which has left me expectant for great things in the sequel, where I hope the story continues and the characters develop further.

I would definitely recommend this book, anyone with a love of adventures involving magic should read it!