The Faultless The Fault In Our Stars

Coincidence, on the rare occasion, knocks on my door and decides to give me a gift.
Or, you know, my laziness proves to come with some sort of reward.

Nonetheless, my John Green review series, which started many months ago, is finally coming to a close with The Fault In Our Stars, and this is (ever so satisfyingly) my 100th review.

The Fault In Our Stars is John Green’s latest book (well, until Turtles All The Way Down this October), and is by far his most successful. And there is reason for that.

Until this point I placed Looking For Alaska on a very high throne, and it appears that it has been overthrown.

Hazel Grace is a sixteen year old who has been struggling with cancer since she was thirteen. She meets Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor, and a book ensues.

It has been a while since I read a book in which, from page one to the end, I found not one flaw and instead found myself between pages of a complete masterpiece in every sense of the literary word.

All of John Green’s books have been very self-contained, geographically, but this one stretches across two continents. Yet, in terms of characters, none are as personal as this one.

This paradox is what makes The Fault In Our Stars shine (pun intended), because its themes are of incredible significance, and yet the story told is intimate. It is able to present a view into the universe through the eyes of a traveling comet.

Printed in the pages of this book is a narrative that invites you to sympathise while not restraining itself when taking a rather unique approach to describing things like disease and death. There is always something to be commended about a work of art that does not hold back.

I am a fan of a good love story. Not a fan of a terrible one. Sadly, there is usually nothing in between. Thankfully, The Fault In Our Stars is a great love story, that highlights why both main characters should not be together especially well, if only to emphasise that they should.

The Fault In Our Stars is beloved and deserves to be. What John Green crafted in these pages will be tough to match in his next book, but if quality is any indicator, he is absolutely capable of doing so.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

The Fault In Our Stars: MIHIR

To Kill a Mockingbird – A Classic Ahead of Its Time

There are a handful of modern works of literature that are as frequent in discourse as To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s classic that even today is considered a specialty.

In the outset, however, I would like to say that for a large chunk of this book, I did not see why. This book is a slow burn, and it took me twice as long to read 150 pages as I usually would.

Having said that, around the halfway point it becomes evident why this book is so beloved, because it turns into something you’d have to be a criminal to put down.

The story follows Atticus Finch, an attorney and father of two, who has been handed the responsibility of defending a black man who has been accused of raping a white woman. This book is set in Alabama in the 1930’s and so this is widely frowned upon. The story is narrated through the eyes of his second child, Jean Louis Finch, or Scout, who grows up from 6 to 8 over the course of the book.

This book was published in 1960, at the height of the civil rights movement, and so the material in this book is indeed ahead of its time. It is a very real reflection of the racism and sexism that was rooted into society and the time, and the setting and choice of narration beautifully complement the book.

The entire book is set in a small town, and there is a profile on almost everyone that lives there. While initially I felt this to be dragging the book along, eventually I did realise that all of this only aids the narrative, as it really demonstrates how different people think similarly while having contrasting views. Having the story be told through a child’s eyes is also something that greatly aids the book, as the issues that are highlighted are not born with a human being, rather imprinted on a human being from a young age. The characters of Scout, Jem (Atticus’ first child) and especially Atticus are grounded in reality, yet are interesting enough to want to know everything about their lives.

Ultimately, this book is one that will forever be in memory, because it is quite simply a work of genius. Nothing in this book is surreal, and that is the most daunting part about it. While I do feel the first half of the book really heaved itself along, there is no doubt in my mind that this a book that does not deserve to be forgotten.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

To Kill a Mockingbird: MIHIR

Will Grayson, Will Grayson – A Truly Unique Reading Experience

I haven’t read a co-authored book before, so maybe that title only applies to me. Anyway…

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a book co-written by John Green and David Levithan, which has two somewhat interwoven stories about two people named Will Grayson, the first of which narrates all the odd-numbered chapters and is written by Green, and the second of which narrates all the even-numbered chapters and is written by Levithan.

I don’t read the synopsis or blurb for almost every book I read because I try to achieve the most raw reading experience possible, so for the first few chapters of this book I was very confused because I had no idea the two Will Graysons were different people.

The first is a push-over high-schooler whose biggest characteristic is that he is a big fan of following the rules. His most important story arc through the book is a will-they-won’t-they with a girl named Jane, and I thought that was written well.

The second Will Grayson (or, considering all his chapters were written by Levithan in complete lower case, will grayson) is someone of the same age, but is suffering from diagnosed depression and is keeping his homosexuality secret from the world. His only source of happiness is a person he met on the internet named Isaac… And there’s more to that but I won’t get into it.

Overall, I did find the second Will Grayson more compelling, because there were more dynamics to the character than the first. Both characters are tied together by a person (read grizzly bear) named Tiny Cooper, and really this character is the one the entire book is written around. He is supposedly the first Will Grayson’s best friend and, after they meet, the second Will Grayson’s boyfriend.

I couldn’t stop reading this book even if I tried. I mean, I usually get tired after reading so I would have to stop, but a lot of the time I just wander off so I stop reading, but that never happened with this book. Even though two people wrote it, it’s so cohesive and very real, and as a reader you are hooked on by how much you can relate to the narrators. These are very much two separate tales, and by the end of the book, both characters have grown so much it’s a delight to read.

Ultimately it doesn’t even feel like the title and concept of the book was just a gimmick, as is evidenced by the ending.

My only negative is that on occasion, a couple of the characters in the book feel a little incomplete, which is a small nitpick, but is something I do wish could have been a little better.

This is also my fourth book in the John Green series I’m doing, and even though I have praised this so much, even this book hasn’t managed to top Looking For Alaska.

However, that is a pretty high bar, and this book is a joy to read. You can sense the distinctions between both narrators, and really, you could split this book into two – one for each Will Grayson – and they would still be great.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

Will Grayson, Will Grayson: MIHIR

Concluding The Heroes of Olympus: The Blood of Olympus

After far too long – thanks to the huge gap between The Mark of Athena and the House of Hades – my Heroes of Olympus review series has come to a close with The Blood of Olympus. Coincidentally, this is my one-hundredth post – not review – and so it comes with a sense of completion in more than one way.

After closing the Doors of Death and being reunited, the seven demigods of the Great Prophecy must travel to Athens to put a halt to Gaia’s plans once and for all, while Reyna, Nico and Coach Hedge travel with the Athena Parthenos back to Camp Half-Blood to try and prevent an imminent war between Roman and Greek demigods.

There is no doubt in my mind that The Blood of Olympus is the worst book of all five. This isn’t to say that it is great, but not as great as the other ones. It is just not great.

I read the first four Heroes of Olympus books at a stretch and actually had to wait for this book to release (that was three years ago. I’m old). The book released two days before my birthday, so it was one of my presents, and for the first time in my life I experienced disappointment in a book, perhaps because I expected too much.

There are two very big problems I have with this book, but let me talk about the good stuff first.

Jason Grace, who I felt was unbelievably the least developed of all seven heroes up to this point, finally lives up to his name and presence in this book. It is truly a delight to see Jason become what I always wanted him to be.

The same can be said about Leo. By the end of the book, all seven demigods feel as if they have achieved their purposes, played their parts and have completed their arcs.

Generally speaking, the plot of this book is inferior to the other four, mostly because they all had more focus. This book is about pay-off and sadly it does not deliver. This is my first major issue with this book. The first and second thirds are great, but the last third is a hurried mess, which ultimately is a disappointment considering the four prior books of set-up and the sense of urgent danger that was created. Sure, it was incredibly clever, the way everything was written, but it could have been told much better.

The second problem with this book is its narrators. The first time I read this book, I had to do a double-take when I saw ‘Reyna’ as the second narrator, and had to do so again later on when I saw ‘Nico’.

I like both characters and I think they deserve spotlight, but this seems wrong. They hadn’t had anything up to this point in all four books, and every time this book would move away from the seven demigods on the Argo II to Nico or Reyna, it put me off a little.

What could have been done to track the progress of Nico and Reyna is pretty simple and is a trick Rick Riordan always uses: Dreams. Every now and then a chapter could be dedicated to it through someone’s dream. Progress could have been checked in Piper’s blade Katoptris, or displayed on Leo’s giant screens in the dining room of the Argo II. But drawing attention away from the main characters really didn’t help this book.

An even worse consequence of this is that of the seven demigods that the story actually centres around, only three narrate in this book: Jason, Leo and Piper.

Look, I realise that everything in this book leads up to the three of them, but I can’t help but feel this is a poor decision. The Roman demigods get nothing, and in the last time Percy and Annabeth save the world together, we see things from neither of their perspectives. The House of Hades equally shared the glory of the book across the seven heroes (except, slightly less, Jason), but this book clearly leans towards only three. As the culminating chapter, it doesn’t feel right.

Nevertheless, the story that is told (albeit a little sloppy towards the end) is truly epic, and for Rick Riordan to be able to think of this massive spectacle across five books amazes me. It is incredibly commendable, and I do believe that he is one of the most underappreciated writers of our time.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

The Blood of Olympus: MIHIR

Considering that this is the end of this series, I’ve decided to leave links to the other four reviews in the series below.

The Lost Hero

The Son of Neptune

The Mark of Athena

The House of Hades

It feels strange that I’ve written a hundred posts. Thank you, no matter how long you’ve been here, for reading. Even if I reach one reader per post, it feels great.

Dividing The Heroes of Olympus: The House of Hades

After a long, long, long hiatus, my House of Hades review is finally here.

The fourth book in the Heroes of Olympus series, the House of Hades, as the title suggests, divides the seven demigods of the Prophecy of Seven into two and five, with Percy and Annabeth falling into Tartarus – basically the evil pit of all things evil – at the end of The Mark of Athena. As the five other demigods on the surface world journey across the Mediterranean to the House of Hades in Epirus, Annabeth and Percy must travel to the heart of Tartarus, with both groups having the same intention: finding and closing the Doors of Death in order to stop monsters from regenerating after being killed.

That is a confusing and complicated synopsis to someone who is unfamiliar with the previous three books, but that is the simplest version I could write.

Simply put, this book is the best in the series and there is nothing bad about it.

This book is my favourite Rick Riordan book to date because it is so different from the rest. There are two stories being told simultaneously and yet it all works perfectly. The time in Tartarus with the two characters that have been around the most is enthralling, as Percy and Annabeth learn things about themselves never previously imagined, and it feels like everything Percy Jackson-related to this point has come full circle. Even though I personally wish it was Jason and Piper who had to voyage through Tartarus, I can see why Riordan chose to have it be Annabeth and Percy.

The House of Hades doesn’t just separate Percy and Annabeth, it separates everyone individually at some point in the book and gives everyone time to shine. This is the only book of the five that is narrated from all seven perspectives of the titular characters (even The Blood of Olympus doesn’t do that, but more on that in my last review of this series). That makes it a long book, with a total of 78 chapters, or as it is depicted in Roman numerals, LXXVIII.

Frank becomes much more than he was (in more than one way), Hazel develops greatly as do Leo and Piper in their own ways. Perhaps Jason had the least in this book, which is really rather strange, but his relationship with Nico di Angelo in this book (and Nico as a character himself) is something valuable.

If this book is anything, it’s a character book and everyone emerges a more complete character by the end of it. There are so many revelations and arcs in this book, it’s incredible. Everyone is fighting their own battles despite being together (except, you know, Percy and Annabeth) and it is brilliant. It makes the team feel more like a unit by making them all individually greater, which sounds weird, but by the end of this book you can’t help but sense that.

The way Tartarus is depicted in this book is fascinating, and, among other things, it really puts Riordan’s world into perspective. It’s already a marvel that he has been able to craft a world in which Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Norse, and only Riordan knows what else co-exists, but the setting of Tartarus tops everything off because it expresses the sheer scale of evil that exists in this world, despite everything that the mortals and demigods on Earth have to endure everyday.

The House of Hades, to date, remains my favourite Rick Riordan book, with its simple – yet gripping – plot, mind-bending settings and compelling characters and character arcs, and it will take something special from the Myth Master to top it.

On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

The House of Hades: MIHIR

The Perks of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

When I read a book, there is a time when I leave the world as it is and enter the world of the book. Becoming Charlie in Stephen Chbosky’s masterful print was not just an experience, but a rollercoaster.

I have watched the movie adaptation of this book (incidentally written and directed by Chbosky himself) about four times because it is a special film to me. Until this point I had not read the book, mostly because I didn’t want to ruin the movie for myself.

But I did. And I can’t believe I hadn’t done it sooner.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming of age story that is told in letters the narrator, Charlie, is writing to an anonymous individual. I think this is one of the most intriguing forms of narration I’ve ever come across, because confiding in someone anonymous seems like something an insecure teenager like Charlie would do.

The main themes of this book are finding a place for yourself, being loved and valuing friends and family. The simplicity of this, although laced through with amazingly deep sub-plots, is reflected in the innocence of the narration, and Charlie’s development as a character is seen this way from start to finish.

The most striking element of this book is the realism of it, and how everything that happens in it is something that could be happening to anyone in real life. It becomes easy for an adolescent to be able to relate to, and love, this beautiful narrative.

Of course, now the movie seems a little less great, but I think that’s okay because it just proves how incredible the book is.

I don’t have any flaws to mention because there aren’t any. This book is just a touch of genius.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a guidance book to anyone who is insecure, has been through some hardship or experienced loss. It is also an eye-opener to any teenager.

On a scale where M is the lowest, and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: MIHIR

Paper Towns is a Questionable Narrative With Points of Greatness

Paper Towns is John Green’s third published novel, and is about a high school senior who runs away, and a group of other seniors who try to find her. Fairly simple.

At some point in reading this book, I realised that the attention I pay to my own blog is surprisingly subpar. I am currently running two book review series, and it hasn’t exactly been the best managed. Usually, I finish one review series before I move on to another, but what I’ve done here is finished three-fifths of one series, completely stopped, and now have completed three-fifths of the other. That would explain why my House of Hades review has been long, long overdue, but it should come soon enough.

While Looking For Alaska may be considered a mystery, it really isn’t. It only has that element in the final third, and if you really think about it, it isn’t much of a mystery.

In this, however, Green writes a complete mystery, the dark horse of book genres for me. There is nothing that can grip anyone onto a book than a great mystery. Was this a great mystery? I’ve read better. I might be setting the bar too high, considering the fact that I’ve just been through four seasons of Sherlock, but I think I’m being reasonable.

It could be argued that there is more to discover with a missing person than with a runaway, and that is the biggest defence one can have of the overall narrative of this book. The story is heavily attached to a Walt Whitman poem, Song of Myself, from Leaves of Grass, and I think this is the strongest point of this book. If it was written wrong it could be considered lazy, but the development of the story going along with snippets of the poem is intriguing to say the least.

The reason I was not completely invested in the mystery itself is because of a flaw I didn’t think I would have with this book: its characters.

In Looking For Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines, the primary character is great. They each have something distinctly unique about them, with Miles having a knack for remembering last words, and Colin, among other things, being an anagramming machine. In this book, though, there is nothing particularly appealing to me about Quentin, whose biggest characteristic I can recall is his love for Margo, the girl who has run away. Interestingly, her character is captivating, which really gives this book some points, but the narrating character fell short in my opinion.

Another noticeable problem in this book comes with its form of address. The majority of the book is narrated in the past tense, but at two instances – once in the middle and once at the end – it switches to present tense. While it certainly worked towards the end, the one chapter that switched in the middle felt awkward to read and really out of place, and I’ve struggled to find a reason for it to be in the present tense at all.

However, while I contemplated this book being lacklustre overall despite the fact that it was an enjoyable read, the ending really deserves applause because it is something special. I was waiting for the book to end until I got to the third section, at which point I really didn’t want it to end because every word I was reading was magical, with both main characters coming to realisations of each other and the book ending on a not-so-complete, tear-jerking note.

Paper Towns is not as good as Looking For Alaska or An Abundance of Katherines, although it does have its plus points. However, the flaws it has are evident and so I cannot be too kind as to give it a better rating that I had in mind when I began writing this review (I have been guilty of changing my mind mid-review in the past).

On a scale where M is the lowest, and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

Paper Towns: MIHIR

As a side note, it should be noted that the concept of a paper town is actually quite intriguing. John Green even did a TED Talk about them, which you can view here.

An Abundance of Katherines is Abundantly Genius

This review comes to you a lot later than I had intended it to arrive.

An Abundance of Katherines is John Green’s second book, and it was one of the weirdest reading experiences I have ever had in my life.

Following up Looking For Alaska was quite a task for this book, and despite what can only be seen as its best efforts, it doesn’t quite manage to come to that level. However, that isn’t to say this is a bad book, because it is captivating in its messages, that resonate explicitly and implicitly in the interwoven natures of the characters and themes this book explores.

Colin Singleton has just broken up with Katherine – or Katherine XIX – after a year-long relationship. He is a child prodigy who is struggling to find his place in the world, and, peculiarly, only dates girls who are named Katherine. His friend Hassan convinces him to go on a road trip, during which they unexpectedly receive jobs in Gutshot, Tennessee, where the majority of the book is set.

This book is nothing like Looking For Alaska, and that is a compliment. Publishing two books that are so far apart isn’t something easy to do. An Abundance of Katherines is probably the most contained book I’ve ever read, and I don’t just mean by setting, I mean by plot, characters and motifs. It also comes with the longest author’s note I’ve ever seen – and probably the most essential one – but what that note does most importantly is express the actual effort and thought that went into this book. It’s quite extraordinary.

My only issue is that it concludes rather abruptly, even though I did like the way it ended. The entire story comes to a head quite quickly, and I would have liked to be able to read more in the last few pages.

Other than that, it’s a great book that takes little thought to understand its core ideas, and quite focused thought to fully understand all that it is trying to communicate to the reader. It encourages you, sometimes in the simplest ways possible, to read between the lines. That’s something special right there.

On a scale where M is the lowest, and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

An Abundance of Katherines: MIHIR

 

Looking For Alaska is a Book Every Teenager Needs to Read

 

I didn’t particularly want to write a review for this book, and I certainly didn’t read through it with the intention of critically trying to find ways in which I can downplay it (which, admittedly, I am guilty of doing for so many things). But upon turning – or, in an old Kindle’s case… Pressing – the last page, I found myself at a state of mind in which I had to write this.

Looking For Alaska is John Green’s first published novel and is set in an Alabama boarding school. I actually read this book with zero knowledge of anything within it, and I believe this is how one obtains the optimum experience, so I will leave story details there.

What is interesting about this book is that Green has stated that his target audience has always been teenagers, and this isn’t your typical book for a teenager. But after reading through this, it really should be.

Looking For Alaska does not hold back on any page and does not consider teenagers to be too ‘soft’ for any of its content. Naturally, there is controversy surrounding its place in schools and libraries (to which I say, quoting Green himself, “Stop condescending to teenagers”), but as a seventeen year-old myself, I find it essential that I recommend this book to any adolescent. Anybody who is at the age of self-discovery should read this. It is mature and yet it understands its characters. It explores themes that could be considered unfriendly to teenagers, but it proves that books don’t have to be all squeaky clean for those at the most sensitive age.

I feel as though I haven’t properly expressed this book’s delight in this review, and I do not think that is a problem. Expressing this sort of unexpected praise is never something easy to do. There is certainly an age group which is too young for this book, but what is interesting is that there is also an age beyond which one becomes too old for this book. That is not a critique. It is a praise. As a writer – or aspiring one – myself, finding the perfect audience can be incredibly challenging, and Green did so with this book. Anybody between fifteen and their early twenties, given that they are okay with explicit content and profanity, would be able to appreciate this book in its fullest.

What it most beautiful in this book is the little things that make it feel like high school, the endless self-discovery across all pages, and the contrast between its very not-poetic setting and its very poetic context. The biggest reason I made the title of this review what it is is that any teenager would take away from this is a widened outlook on the idea of life, and a sense of virtue. Sure, any book can do that, but how many are written the way this one is? It’s a roller coaster of emotions for those who would most be able to relate to it, and as an experience of words, it is uniquely grand.

What was I doing all this time having not read it?

On a scale where M is the lowest, and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

Looking For Alaska: MIHIR

I realise just now that it has been quite a while since I’ve handed that rating out to something. I’m glad I’ve been able to do it for this.

Voyaging the Heroes of Olympus: The Mark of Athena

Having been through two books that had different sets of heroes introduced, it was time for the titular characters of the Heroes of Olympus to come together, and The Mark of Athena became the book that delivered that, and so much more.

The third installment of my Heroes of Olympus nostalgia review run, The Mark of Athena is widely regarded and the best book of the series, and there may indeed be reason for that. I can see why the majority of readers would have that view. Do I agree? Not necessarily.

The Mark of Athena centres primarily around Annabeth Chase, and it was about time. Having featured in the five Percy Jackson books, and in the Lost Hero, she needed some spotlight. For the first time ever, in this book, the story is narrated from Annabeth’s point of view, and Riordan’s readers got to experience things the way the smartest child at Camp Half-Blood did. At least in the initial parts of the book, that’s really fascinating, and it is indeed different to how chapters from other points of view feel.

The central story of The Mark of Athena (although not the only one) regards a quest Annabeth has been given by her mother, Athena, which could possibly subdue the bitter rivalry between Greek and Roman demigods, while the Romans from Camp Jupiter make their advances on Camp Half-Blood.

Having seven main heroes for the first time could have been a challenge for Riordan, but for the most part, his execution is undeniably great. More on that later. Riordan wisely chooses to have little subplots or character dynamics between specific characters that play off throughout the narrative, and adds great amounts of depth and character development.

Much like Annabeth, this is a cleverly written book, with the story moving between places really quick and little elements in the story being connected implicitly, all coming together in a satisfying circle that only excites readers for the next book.

However, as I read through this book (which gripped me more than The Lost Hero and The Son of Neptune on my rereading run), I couldn’t help but feel like Riordan’s chosen points of view in The Mark of Athena brought it down a tad bit.

Naturally, one of the perspectives is Annabeth. The other three are Leo, Piper and Percy. I don’t necessarily have a problem with this, but I do think Hazel, Frank and Jason lost a lot in this book. We are never inside their heads and able to relate to them as much as the others. At least Jason’s problems were similar to Percy’s. Hazel and Frank deserved more in this book, especially the former, considering the fact that someone close to her is an integral part of this story. In this book, Leo, Hazel and Frank and very closely tied together, so replacing Leo with Hazel would have probably been the best choice for Riordan to make.

On that note, Leo is the greatest demigod ever.

I’ll end on a high note in the same place I started: Annabeth. Any Rick Riordan fan would understand the sheer satisfaction of having her be in the spotlight after being the secondary character for so long. This was her book, and the way her character progresses in this story is magnificent. She couldn’t have been written better.

The Mark of Athena, despite being surrounded by an air of confusion in its points of view, is an excellently crafted book that captured the essence of the Heroes of Olympus and all its underlying themes. After two books (albeit good) of set up, seeing this book series kick into gear really brings it to life.

My review of The House of Hades may take quite a bit of time (Two to three weeks, maybe?), but it’s definitely coming your way soon.

On a scale where M is the lowest, and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:

The Heroes of Olympus: The Mark of Athena: MIHIR