Book

Notes on “The Fault In Our Stars”

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I hate hospitals, the smell of medicine, and everything that has to do with the themes of sickness and death. When I realized that “The Fault In Our Stars” was a book about two teenagers with terminal cancer, I was like “Oh, cr*p! What did I get myself into?” But I kept going on because I’d promised to read the book.

As I advanced in the reading, however, I found myself indulged in John Green’s sharp, crispy, witty and funny writing style. I particularly loved the bits of the book that are garmented with a touch of spicy sarcasm and enchanting metaphor. I also enjoyed the language of the book. The coinage of words such as “uncancery,” “Breakfastization” and “unlove” is typical of contemporary pieces, and it witnesses the fact that Green could be anything but a vocabulary Nazi.

The story of Hazel and Augustus is heartrending, though. Both teenagers suffer from cancer; a curse that many people would make use of to fish for sympathy and attention. However, these cancer-struck kids do teach us valuable lessons on life, death and love. From where I see it, their struggle is not meant to tell us how cancer patients go about their daily lives, but to show that they are not less normal than any other person. Did Green make an allusion to Orwell’s “Animal Farm?”. Maybe. However, this probably explains the abundance of instances of ups and downs in Gus’s and Hazel’s lives.

The main message in the book, among others, is twofold; (a) “the world is not a wish-granting factory,” and (b) “some infinities are bigger than other infinities.” I thought it was a so powerful message to tell the readers that not all of their wishes shall come true, but Green was bold enough to do it, and I think the outcome has been very positive. Furthermore, the idea of  relativity is heavily influencing. Green is transmitting the idea that small things can mean a lot if, and only if, they come from deep within the heart.

Among other attributes, it’s the blend of delicate and shocking storytelling that makes the reader wonder if the book is destined to make you laugh, cry, sympathize, think, or feel. For me, it was a bit of everything. So, if that’s how you define a good book, then “The Fault In Our Stars” is a must-read.

A dramatization of the novel is to be expected very soon.

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My Very Informal Reaction to: “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert

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Elizabeth_Gilbert

A “neurotic freak” would be an honest description of Elizabeth Gilbert. If she happens to have any reservations about this description, she might want to reconsider some events in her memoir “Eat, Pray, Love.”

Don’t get me wrong. I really do see the good in Gilbert’s journey of self-discovery and reunion with the divine. Nevertheless, being a man of a considerable amount of common sense and logical thinking, I find it hard to be 100% compassionate with her.

It’s not the fact that she wants a divorce from the man she has vowed to love till the end of time that makes me angry. It’s actually the fact that she’s angry with him because the poor thing “didn’t see that coming!” She’s angry because he chose her as his ultimate dream. She’s angry because he didn’t want everything they struggled for to collapse in a glimpse, and without a prior notice. How inconsiderate of him, right?

Moreover, she feels like she needs a break from her life to start anew, and what’s better than a PREPAID vacation to Italy, India and Bali to do that? She goes on a “cleansing” journey by money from her boss who is expecting a report about the journey in return. Doesn’t this sound like BUSINESS to you? …It does to me! Therefore, I find the authenticity of Gilbert’s work to be highly questionable.

eat_pray_love

However, the book is not totally useless. I mean, if you’re bold enough to discard what’s been mentioned above as unimportant details, you can still enjoy the funny style, the imagery, the irony in Gilbert’s life, and you can even identify with her as she indulges in a bumpy search for everything.

Moreover, the book proposes a variety of scenery from different countries and cultures. Add that to Gilbert’s craft in storytelling, and you’ll end up traveling with her through the food paradise that is Italy, mystic India and exotic Bali.

If you’re into meditation, this book can be inspiring. Gilbert’s time in the Ashram in India, her maddening struggle with all the Mantras and Sanskrit, as well as the sleeping until the ungodly hour of dawn can be relatable in our daily lives.  Maybe not necessarily in that same order, or with those very same items, but it’s relatable, still.

So, if I am to give a final verdict, I’d just cut it short and say that if you enjoy shows like Sex and The City, then this book is for you.

Reading Several Books At Once.

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STUCK!

“Stuck” is the word to use when all you can do to face your inability to cope with your several readings is goggle your eyes. Books of different shapes and languages are scattered around you, and they only accentuate your dilemmas about what to resume reading first. Is it this book in French by that very prominent sociologist, or is it this one in Arabic by this great Egyptian novelist, or maybe you should continue reading either one of those three English novels you started last week…

A Stuck Reader

Finally, you make up your mind and grab either one of those books. However, somehow, the words get blurry and the characters start jumping from one book into the other as if they were circus artists doing amazing confusing stunts! 

You might still want to focus. You’d probably start pondering about the merits of every book and author at hand for some minutes to make a final decision. But if you’re like me, you’d most probably just grab the remote and watch Mr. Bean, instead.

Is this really your idea of enjoying reading? If your answer is yes, then keep doing what you’re doing, and stop reading this post right now… NOW, I said. If your answer is no, then what follows might be helpful.

Hereafter are some pieces of advice you might want to consider:

                • Do not read several books at once:

Yes. I think that for people like myself, we just cannot commit to this kind of relationships. So my advice to you is to take it slow. One book at a time shall do you good.

What we need to understand is that we’re different, and so are our abilities. Reading several books at the same time is not a healthy practice for some people. Some others can do this but some others can’t. This doesn’t imply that my breed are stupid, or that people who can read many books at once are smarter, it just means that we have different skills and intelligences. So, don’t feel bad about it.

(What?… I heard that! And no, I’m not just comforting myself?)

After all, the only good thing about being able to read different books at once is that you can switch books if you get tired or bored. However, the cons of this practice outweigh this single advantage.

  • Do not mix languages:

If you’re going to read many books. Like, if you really really have to, make sure that they’re in the same language. Reading books in different languages at the same time is confusing, especially if you’re a fast reader in some language(s) but a slow reader in other language(s). You’ll make much more progress reading in the language(s) your fluent in, while you’d be lagging behind in the other language(s), which might stir some dissatisfaction and might, in some cases, lead to low self-esteem, depression and then, suicide. Just kidding, but you got the point!

  • Get time to read but don’t force yourself into it:

Make a schedule and try to stick to it. Choose the time of the day that fits you best and plan your readings accordingly. Some people prefer to read at nights, other people prefer to read upon waking up. Don’t forget to make use of your free time and weekends, too.

  • Prioritize:

Some things in life are more important than others, so are books. Start with the book which you have a strong and fresh desire to read, when you get tired of it, try the next book you’re looking forward to read. You should always have interest in what’s between your hands, otherwise, the reading experience would be ruined.

  •  “Prioritize” doesn’t mean ignore:

 If you leave a book for too long, you’d probably forget everything about it. Picking it up again would be kind of meaningless. Hence, if you feel that one of the books your reading isn’t as interesting as the others, leave it for another reading set, or just drop it altogether, but don’t feel compelled to finish it. This will only increase your anxiousness, and we don’t want that, do we? DO WE?

  • Use a timeline:

A notepad and a pencil would be very helpful. Track down the ideas, characters and events of the book. You can add your feelings, expectations and questions about the book. It’s also important to make sure to read your notes every time you want to resume reading, it’ll freshen up your memory and put you in the right mood for that particular reading.

  •  Read (a) whole chapter(s) every time:

Don’t stop in the middle of a chapter. If you do, you’d probably be lost when you resume reading. Think of this as watching a series, what would you rather do, stop watching at the end of the episode and wait for the new one, or stop in the middle of the current one?…There you go!

  • Real readers love challenges:

Eat you broccoli, finish your dish! If you start several books and don’t manage to complete anyone of them, the effect will be very counterproductive. So, go on and finish your books, at least some of them. The feeling is really satisfying, believe me. Remember that if you don’t, you’ll probably have a very low self-esteem, depression and might commit suicide. Just kidding again, but you got the point!

  • Join Goodreads.com

Goodreads is a great reading carrefour. People write reviews and send updates about their readings. You can set up an annual goal and work on achieving it. A little competition would never hurt.

This, dear bookworms, is what I can think of for the moment. I’m sure you can have many other ideas on how to accomplish this task. So, please feel free to share them in the comment section. 

Happy reading, everyone!

Book Review: “The Gift” by Cecelia Ahern

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While telling my friend Rosana about this book earlier today, and while I was informally and redundantly trying to explain the essence of “The Gift”, she wittily managed to summarize the whole book in no more than one John Lennon quote: “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

The Gift Cover

Welcome to the hectic life of Lou Suffern, a workaholic white-collar manager who can never tolerate the trifles of everyday life to keep him away from his beloved 14th floor. Lou is a busy man, he always has to be in two places at the same time. He’s a devoted man, a friendly co-worker and a “fierce” negotiator. He can do anything for his company, and anything against his competitors. On the other hand, Lou is a lousy husband, father and son. His work comes first. There is no room for quality-time with his family. Actually, there is no room for any kind of time with his family.

Enter Gabe. Gabe is the homeless guy whom was offered a job by Lou. The new mail-person turns Lou’s life upside down. He always appears when and where you expect him the least. His questions are odd, his comments are uneasy to swallow, and he always hits a nerve to the point that Lou started to regret having offered him the job in the first place. But it was too late, now. Gabe got to know everyone in the building and became very popular among everyone there including Mr. Patterson, Lou’s boss.

As the story unravels, Lou goes in and out of many difficult situations because of his extreme devotion to his work. His relationship with his family worsens and Pud, his one-year-old baby boy, almost doesn’t recognize him, anymore.  The good news, though, is that he gets a promotion. An achievement to which his wife explodes in the following passage:

“And what was it all for? For a promotion? A pay rise that you didn’t even need? More work hours in a day that just aren’t humanly possibly to achieve? When will you stop? When will it all be enough for you? How high do you want to climb, Lou? you know what, last week you said that only a job can fire you, but a family can’t. But I think you’re about to realize that the latter is possible, after all.”

By the end of the story, Lou discovers what he’s been missing out. He understands that skating with his five-year-old daughter is more important than making unneeded extra money. He understands that holding his baby boy is worth the world. He understands that holding his wife’s hand is what it’s all about. Yet, it was too late to make it up for the family. While this stream of consciousness struck him, he drove back over-speeding and tragically lost his soul trapped inside his Porsche.

 Cecelia Ahern

Contrary to what one might expect, this book is not an average “Chick-Lit” book. The theme of love exists, indeed. However, it’s not an “I’m longing for your kiss, sweetheart” kind of book. It’s a serious book that tackles one of our major concerns in today’s modern life.

In “The Gift,” Cecelia Ahern discusses one of the major challenges 21st century citizens face; time, and how to deal with it. the message is clear. Ahern insists that time is the greatest gift we have. It is what life is made of and we have to do all it takes to reconcile work duties and family matters.

“The Gift” is a relatively easy to read book, but it’s full of unexpected twists. I had to re-read some pages when I felt I was lost. The writing style switches from funny to sarcastic, to emotional, but sometimes it becomes boring, just a bit boring! Nevertheless, the plot is intriguing, so the reader must be attentive to the details as twists change unexpectedly.

The important detail that still confuses me, is why did Ahern choose to tell a story within a story? “The Turkey Boy” story within this book was unnecessary and of very little value to the book. It felt like Ahern was  looking for a carrier to pass her message to the reader and chose Sergeant Raphael O’Reilly to do the storytelling, but I think this was unnecessary.

Also, the final page where she spoke directly to the reader, made her sound like a teacher lecturing about the importance of time. That, too, is an insult to the readers’ intelligence. Anyone can understand the reasons why the book was written without the writer screaming them at us.

Me holding my copy of "The Gift"

All in all, I enjoyed this book and I recommend reading it to anyone who still thinks family should come after career.  After all, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.