The Fault in Our Stars

By John Green

(or, reading outside your comfort zone)

Mandy Wrangles_2_tnHere at Escape Club, each year we write up a wrap of our top five reads. It’s normally something I really enjoy; going back through my bookshelves and lists of reviews, sorting which of the dozens of books read will make my own list. Unfortunately, 2014 was a bit of a dud reading year for me. You know when you just can’t seem to find that book that grabs you? Or you read the first hundred or so pages of one novel, only to be distracted by something else (ooh, shiny!) and not end up completing either of them? Well yeah, that was me this year, with only a couple of exceptions.

And one BIG exception.

Green_The Fault In Our StarsI spent a lot of hours on aeroplanes this year when we travelled to the United States from Melbourne. I watched a LOT of movies on those planes – all from my usual genre of choice, which captures my book taste too. Malificent. Godzilla. The latest X Men and Planet of the Apes movies. Movies about time-travelling detectives and a heap of superheroes. Get the picture? I’m a speculative fiction gal, through and through. I don’t like watching or reading about real life, I already live that. I want fantasy and horror, science fiction and action on my entertainment menu.

And then, on the final leg of our trip home from Hawaii, I clicked the button to watch the film adaptation of John Green’s uber-selling novel, ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. I saved it ’til last because a/ not my thing, b/ it would bore me into sleep and quicken the ten hour flight, and c/ not my thing again. I was wrong. I sobbed and laughed out loud and sobbed again. It was mortifyingly embarrassing. I had to cover my face, wiping away the black-mascara tears with Qantas napkins, not able to speak to my family or the aircraft crew. And still, I couldn’t turn it off. As we disembarked at Sydney for our connecting flight to Melbourne, my sister-in-law, Kerrie (who was seated a couple of rows back from me) said: “Omg, can you tell I’ve been crying? I just watched that movie, that Fault in Our Stars”. Yep, her too.

So of course, I had to read the book. Just to you know, see which was better. I needed to know how the author, John Green, had created such beautiful characters in Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters – two teenage cancer patients – to be so witty, so clever and yet never whiny or precocious. I wanted to know if the movie was a fluke or if the book could evoke that sort of emotion from me as well. Of course, like everyone in the Western World, I’d seen The Fault in Our Stars on display in every bookshop and department store for months beforehand. I refused to buy it. Too commercial for my tastes. Too mainstream. Too soppy. Too real-life.

I’ve never, ever been so wrong. And I’m very happy to admit it.

I loved the novel version, knocking it over in two sittings and keeping me up until 2am to finish. The only reason I put it down at any time was to reach for another tissue. I forced my Mum and BFF to read it NOW with the threat of not speaking to them until they had (they did. And loved it too) Of course, I knew what happens, there were no surprises or twists for me – the movie keeps pretty close to the book – but still, Hazel and Gus’s story of love and commitment through all that is thrown at them kept me entranced. And the writing – oh, the writing! John Green the most incredible way of playing with words and tugging at your heartstrings. While the story is told from terminally-ill Hazel’s point of view, we’re not left wondering what might be going on inside the delicious mind of her beloved Gus either. These two characters could easily become boring Mary-Janes (too perfect) but they are so full of faults and imperfections, and in Hazel’s own words: Cancer Perks to be anything of the sort. Against all my preconceived ideas, they completely won me over.

If you’re one of the few people out there yet to read The Fault in Our Stars, or see the movie, sorry, but I won’t be handing out spoilers here. You MUST read it. Or at the very least, SEE it. The film adaption, while of course not quite being as amazing as the book, captures Hazel and Gus so well. Starring Divergent’s Shailene Woodley as Hazel Grace and the kinda quirky Ansel Elgort as Augustus Waters, amongst a slew of well-known actors, John Green’s characters really are brought to life.

So the moral of my story? Well, besides the fact that you must run out right now and jump straight into this very real, very funny and painful world, don’t be scared to read outside your preferred genre. You might surprise yourself, like I did. Go on, be adventurous. If you normally read science fiction, give a bit of crime fiction a go. Fantasy lover? Try some hard core space opera. Horror more your style? Who says you won’t enjoy a little high fantasy. You just never know.

 



hunter-parfizz pitchWhen Parfitt’s, the struggling local soft drink company, decides to sell to a global brand it looks as though Katie’s mother will lose her job and with it the huge rambling house that Katie’s great-grandfather built. The Old Queenslander is the only home that Katie has ever known. All of her friends live in her street and her garden is their local hang-out. Desperate to save her mother’s job, Katie recruits her friends to begin an advertising campaign that will draw Parfitt’s away from its simple roots and into the modern world.

A group of Australian teens making their own company and finding a mystery to solve in the process sounds so delightfully Teen Power Inc. that I had to check Parfizz Pitch out. It lived up to expectations in many ways – and in some ways did not.

Like the members of Teen Power Inc. the group of friends who band together to make the Mosquito Advertising agency are very different to each other and have equally dissimilar backgrounds. Katie is the only child of a single mother. Clementine is the youngest in a large family of intellectuals. Dominic goes to boarding school while his family work overseas. Their differences mean that the group does not always get along and on occasion will misunderstand one another. Though they have strong ties, they sometimes work toward opposing goals or toward the same goal but with different methods.

Unlike Teen Power Inc., Parfizz Pitch does not embrace racial diversity. The only character that is identified as a person of colour is unpleasant from his first appearance, and never redeems himself. And sure, every race has its share of terrible people but that shouldn’t be the only thing that’s depicted.

Hopefully this is something that will be addressed further as the series progresses. Adventure-mysteries for teens don’t come along nearly as often as they should and the Mosquito Advertising series has a different take on it as well as having a strong cast of female characters.

This series has been likened to the Famous Five, and it’s true, but Parfizz Pitch is modern take on the children’s mystery genre. More of a middle-grade read than teen, it perfectly captures the long, balmy days of a Brisbane summer.

 

The Parfizz Pitch – Kate Hunter

University of Queensland Press (May 31, 2010)

ISBN: 9780702237713



Kylie FoxWhen you have five children at school, the end of the year can be a hectic time. Here’s what Kylie Fox cooked up for her kids to take to their class Xmas parties.  Maybe you can draw some inspiration from her santas’ on sleighs, snowflakes, and ginger bread men. We are in awe!

 

 

xmas cupcakes 4

 

Xmas cupcakes 1

Xmas cupcakes 2

 



smith_geographyThe thought of being stuck in a lift in the middle of a black out in New York City is enough to get me sweaty and fidgety. It hardly sounds like the beginning of a romance novel. In true Jennifer E Smith style, this is exactly how Owen and Lucy kick off their relationship.

I adore Jennifer’s books. They’re sweet, and a gentle reminder that you don’t always have to be reading about zombies and post-apocalyptic stuff to be on the edge of your seat. Sure, if romance isn’t your thing then skip this one, because it’s mush central. I adore the stuff. It makes my heart light. Sometimes we just need that.

Owen, as a character, is a little like a woollen blanket; a little scratchy, and not as soft as others, but he’d keep you warm if you were to embrace him. He works hard to keep his family on top of things and is flawed, but in a way you can forgive.

If you don’t well up with tears at least once, you’re a much stronger person than I.

Geography and the other books in this…what would you call it…sequence(?) have never failed to pick me up, break a funk, and make me smile with their humour and innocence.

The next book, Hello, Goodbye and Everything In Between, isn’t due until September 2015. My gosh, that’s an eternity away. I know it’ll be worth the wait.

http://www.jenniferesmith.com/

Paperback, 337 pages

Published April 10th 2014 by Headline (first published January 1st 2014)

ISBN 1472206290 (ISBN13: 9781472206299)


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