Tag: book

Book Review: The Turn of the Screw (Henry James).

The Turn of the Screw

-Henry James.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is a novella. The story is about a young lady who gets an opportunity to work as a governess at a beautiful but mysterious estate. This book has gothic, horror, and mystery elements to the story. It is slightly difficult to explain the story because of the way it is structured but I’ll try to cover major points.

The story begins at a party held on Christmas Eve where one of the attendees Douglas says he has access to a governess’s account of a ghost story when she worked for a wealthy family. He starts reading the written account of the governess and at that point the narration of the story shifts to the governess’s point of view. The Governess who is also the narrator remains unnamed throughout the story. She is responsible for the well mannered young girl Flora and a 10-year old boy Miles at their uncle’s estate the Bly. The uncle is their guardian. Miles has been suspended from his school due to his troublesome behavior just days prior to the governess arrival.

One day while taking a walk, the governess notices a man looking at her from one of the towers. She spots him staring at her again through the window the next time and that is when she enquires about him. Mrs. Grose works at the Bly and becomes kind of like a confidant for the governess. The governess tells Mrs. Grose about the strange man looking at her twice. Mrs. Grose tells her about the previous governess Miss Jessel and her relationship with Peter Quint a valet both of whom are now deceased. She also finds out that Miles and Quint shared a good bond but Miles tried to lie about his relationship with Peter to Mrs. Grose. Miles’s behavior is slightly creepy at times which made you think he is up to something.

The governess sees a stranger, a woman by the lake when she is there with Flora. She believes that Miss Jessel and Peter Quint are a threat to the kids. Once Flora goes out of the house alone and she is seen talking to Miss Jessel near the lake by the governess but Flora claims to have not seen Miss Jessel at all; Flora falls ill after that is taken to London to her uncle’s place. The governess is suspicious that Miles distracted her by playing the piano so that Flora could leave. Quint is seen outside the window by the governess and she tries to protect Miles from it but then his heart stops.

The horror element is the main theme of the story. The possibility of the supernatural is left up to the readers I felt. No one sees the ghosts except the governess or at least doesn’t admit to it, so it depends on the reader to choose whether to believe her or not. The atmosphere of the story has an air of mystery and eeriness which reminded me of the gothic tradition. The governess finds the Bly and children extremely beautiful to look at but as the story progresses you can tell that the exterior doesn’t match what is going on inside. There is a lot of secretive behavior by the characters. The lying and concealing of relationships is something that happens regularly in the book. The need to repress information for whatever reasons leads to a lack of open communication which causes more problems than it solves.

The way the story ends is surprising and sad. I did not predict that the story will end abruptly in such a way. It came out of nowhere. The plot itself is interesting, starts as a haunted house type of a story but changes along the way. The story feels a little dragged in some places but when it picks up pace, it goes up a notch. Overall, I liked reading this book. It has a lot of elements to it that keep you invested in the story.

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Book Review: Bet Me (Jennifer Crusie).

Bet Me

– Jennifer Crusie

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie is a contemporary romance novel. I found the description of the book intriguing and different so I decided to read it. The book is about a 33-year-old woman named Minerva Dobbs. She decides to go on a date with Calvin Morrisey knowing he has made a bet about asking her out. Once she agrees to dinner, the story takes off and things change for her.

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The story starts when Minerva is dumped by her boyfriend David in a bar where she ends up meeting Cal. Min overhears Cal talking about a bet which involves her. Then the plot unfolds in a witty and sweet way. Minerva is such a great character. She is not the “ideal” romance heroine; she is plain and chubby which is not common for a romance novel. The struggles of her character regarding her issues are portrayed realistically by the writer. Her struggles to feel comfortable in her skin physically and mentally evolves in an organic manner. At no point, any character evolution seems forced in the story.

The underlying theme throughout the book is about body positivity. Min struggles to accept the standards of beauty set by society and her mom. In the beginning, she is constantly worrying about her eating, trying to fit in a particular dress for her sister’s wedding. As the story progresses Cal helps her feel comfortable with herself. Cal and Min are unique characters with their wicked sense of humor and quirky personalities. Cal’s character seems typical at the beginning of the book but there is so much depth to him as the story moves ahead.

The subplot of David and Cal’s ex, who is psychologist keep plotting to sabotage Min and Cal’s growing relationship. The theories of Cal’s ex Cyn were annoying after the first couple of times and it didn’t make sense to me. I felt that this subplot was not completely resolved as Cal never understands the whole reason behind Cyn’s pursuit of him. Even the supporting characters have distinctive voices and play a part in taking the story ahead.

The character interaction is so vivid and cool in the way it is written. The dialogues are sweet, funny and sometimes downright sarcastic. The outlook of Min and Cal towards love is practical; Min is more of a cynic in that case. She doesn’t expect fairytales or happily ever after and is calculative about everything she does. They both share somewhat dysfunctional relationships with their families but it isn’t over the top. The author doesn’t depend on drama for the story; the conflicts that do arise are not artificial in any way. The coincidental meeting between Min and Cal are so endearing to rea

Bet Me is the first Jennifer Crusie book I read and I liked her writing style. It is quick-paced, with no unnecessary drama and humorous. The romantic relationship between Min and Cal develops slowly and steadily; it is cute to see them falling in love. You can’t help but root for the characters and relate to them every now and then. The book is witty, sarcastic and fun to read from start to finish. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t finish it fast enoug

Book Review: We Were the Lucky Ones (Georgia Hunter).

We Were the Lucky Ones

— Georgia Hunter

The title of the book is what caught my eye and I have been meaning to read this book for months now. It is a fictionalized account of a true story about the author’s family which I found out after I was finished reading it. We Were the Lucky Ones is a book set during World War II about the Kurc family, who are well assimilated Polish Jews and their survival during the holocaust.

The story begins in the spring of 1939 in Poland and France when it seems imminent that something that has been looming for the past few years is finally here. The whole family gets a point of view, as they narrate the story through their perspectives and respective circumstances. The parents are Nechuma and Sol; their daughters Halina and Mila and three sons Genek, Jakob and Addy, and not including the spouses and extended family. Except for Addy who is in France, all the others are living in Radam, Poland at the beginning of the war.

As I mentioned before, the narrative shift from one family member to another which takes the reader to different places and times and even countries. In the beginning, it was a little difficult to keep track of the characters as each chapter has a new narrator but as the story progresses it makes sense why the author decided to do this. There is a uniqueness to each character that clearly comes through the writing and you can feel their pain and helplessness throughout. The story goes from Poland to France to Siberia even to the Middle East and South America.

The descriptions of their situations are stated more as facts that pack a punch for a reader and the characters are just reacting to their circumstances. Addy, who hasn’t seen his family since before the war constantly thinks about them, not knowing if they are alive or not and whether he will ever get to see them again. I liked the spirit and realistic emotional impact of each character as they do what they have to in order to survive and it is heartbreaking to read about their struggles.

The part of the story which takes place in the ghetto is extremely difficult to read; a lot of the story is difficult to read but that part where Mila decides to leave the ghetto with her daughter and a few others for work and what follows that decision was completely unexpected and a little uncomfortable to read. The family keeps thinking about the happier times of their home in Radom and of each other fondly which gives them a little hope in such times and its fascinating to me that no matter how bad the situation, the perseverance to survive is there

I didn’t know it was based on a true story till I got to the very end of the story where the author has written a detailed epilogue of sorts of her family and their survival and the impact it had on them. They lost a lot of their extended family during the war and everything else familiar to them but they survived. By the time I finished reading the story, the title of the novel made complete sense. It is a heartbreaking and emotional ride and even more so since it is based on a true story. I finished this book over the weekend; it is emotionally draining but I liked the book

Book Review: Only Time Will Tell (Jeffrey Archer).

Only Time Will Tell

– Jeffrey Archer.

Only Time Will Tell is the first book of the family saga Clifton Chronicles which consists of seven books in total including this one. This is the second work of Jeffery Archer that I have read after I loved Kane and Abel and I wasn’t disappointed.

The plot of the novel revolves around the protagonist Harry Clifton and it spans the time between the end of World War I and the beginning of the Second World War. The setting of the novel is in Bristol, England from 1919 – 1940. The protagonist is the character of Harry Clifton, a young boy destined to follow in the footsteps of his father and uncle and work on the docks until he gets a new direction. Harry becomes friends with a dock worker Old Jack Tar who knew his father Arthur when he worked there. Harry is a gifted singer, which opens up new avenues for him. He gets into a good school on a scholarship and his future seems bright.

Harry’s family is poor and lives in difficult conditions but it gets better when his mother finds a job at a tea shop. During the years at school, Harry becomes close friends with Deakins and Giles Barrington, whose father, Hugo Barrington, despises Harry for reasons not known to anyone. Their sister Emma and Harry get along well and eventually fall in love. The real parentage of Harry is not known to him and only his mother and a few others know about it. His mother Masie, struggles a lot to make sure her son has everything he needs.

The narration of the novel is from the point of view of six main characters – Harry, his mother Masie, Emma, Giles, Hugo, and Old Jack Tar. The different character points of view thicken the plot and each of their internal struggles, plots, and secrets are revealed some of which were completely shocking as a reader. All the characters of the story are well sketched and grounded; their actions hold more meaning when their motivations are clear in their heads. Masie Clifton is an admirable character throughout the novel even if she takes questionable steps, she knows it is not right but she does it anyway to provide for her son.

The ending of the novel is a bit of a cliffhanger which is expected since it is the first book of the Clifton Chronicles which makes me want to dive into the next book as soon as possible. The twists and turns increase towards the end of the novel and make the novel more engaging. Some things are known to us as readers but the reaction of the characters to these situations is thoroughly enjoyable. I liked the pace of the novel, it doesn’t slow down in the between and stays engaging. The six narrators of the story make character motivations and their mindset clear and it made me understand each of these characters.

I wasn’t sure if I’ll like this book as much as Kane and Abel but I must say it comes pretty close. I read this book so quickly because I wanted to find out how it all unfolded. I can’t wait to start reading the next books in the Clifton Chronicles.

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Book Review: The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini).

The Kite Runner

by Khaled Hosseini.

The book is set in Afghanistan in the year 1975 before the exile of the King Zahir Shah and the invasion of the Soviet Union. The story has two parts; one part takes place in the past while the other in the present.

The story is about a unique friendship between two young boys Amir and Hassan. The plot of the novel stays true to its protagonists and the main narrator of the novel is Amir. The story begins in Afghanistan in 1975 and later moves on to the United States of America and then comes back to Afghanistan. The plot develops on the basis of the bond between these two boys Amir and Hassan and as it progresses, it leads to betrayal. The story beautifully brings out every emotion the characters face may it be joy, guilt or redemption. It explores the different dynamics of the relationships between the characters in the novel.

In the novel, there is a stark contrast between the lives of the Afghans before the civil war and during the reign of Taliban. It was very interesting to read the descriptions of Kabul as it is not something that comes to our minds when we imagine it. The culture, people and the atmosphere of that time seems so realistic through the descriptions and feels a little reminiscent from the writer’s point of view. The descriptions in the book show a disparity between the way of life in the First World through Amir and then when he goes back to Afghanistan to rescue his nephew, through his narration we get to know the terrible condition of people in the war-torn nation.

Amir and his father are among the many that fled Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion and there are references to the kind of struggles they go through as the immigrant population of the country. The novel boasts of strong characters yet they have flaws which keep them grounded and relatable to the readers. It is an amazing book no doubt but at times it becomes difficult to read due to its heavy subject matter and themes. It is a book which gives us an insight into the lives of the Afghan people before it became a war-torn nation which is a fresh perspective for today’s readers.

The book is divided into two parts between the past and the present. The story doesn’t feel disconnected at any point even with the division. It actually shows the difference in the characters lives. Some moments stay with you for days after you have finished reading. It painted a whole new picture of Afghanistan before all the troubles. The characters are so genuine, you feel connected to their emotions and journeys from the start which makes their arcs more satisfying.

The Kite Runner is one of my favorite books of all time. It remains fresh in your mind for a long time after reading. The emotions of love for friends and family, guilt and redemption are main themes throughout the story. I highly recommend this book, it’s tragic yet beautiful.

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Book Review: Of Love and Other Demons (Gabriel Garcia Marquez).

Of Love and Other Demons

-Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

This book is inspired by a tale writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez heard from his grandmother about a 12-year-old girl who died of rabies. It is a pretty short novel in its length with elements of almost magical realism running throughout the story. The story takes place in the 18th century in South America.

The story Of Love and Other Demons is of a 12-year-old girl from decaying marquis family is bitten by a rabid dog. She shows no signs of being affected by it and thus, is declared to be possessed and sent to a convent for an exorcism. Sierva Maria is the only child of her parents. She is raised by the West Indian slaves hence, well acquainted with their customs and languages. Her demeanor and behavior are considered to be unsophisticated which leads to the belief that she might be possessed. Father Cayetano Delaura meets Sievra Maria at the convent and he is intrigued by her. Both of them develop an unlikely and forbidden affection for each other.

The novel starts off slow with lots of descriptions and back-story which makes the events that followed even more surprising for me. Sievra Maria has some sort of aura about her which is magical or supernatural but it does have some explanation which is ignored by other characters. Believing she is possessed by a demon, she is taken unwillingly to a convent. The treatment of her at the convent is horrible and can be difficult to read at times. She is traumatized and ill-treated because she is different than what she is supposed to be. Father Cayetano Delaura, is a diocese librarian who is the only one that gentle with Sierva Maria. He doesn’t believe she needs an exorcism and develops a passion for her.

Sierva Maria is almost three decades younger Fathe Delaura so their romance is today’s day and age can seem inappropriate even with a setting so rooted in magical realism. As I read further, that kind of passed but not completely. Their emotions and feelings towards each other are innocent and pure; a sense of true affection between them can be felt. The clash of cultures is a prominent theme in the story; the traditions and beliefs of the slaves versus those of the Spanish and Christians. Sierva Maria has an understanding of the culture of the slaves as she is raised by them but this is constantly questioned and believed to be unsophisticated by those around her.

The love story between Sierva Maria and Fathe Cayetano Delaura doesn’t start well into the story. Leaving the age difference thing aside, it is actually well developed. The way the characters of Sierva Maria and Father Cayetano Delaura are written, make them seem genuine and sincere which makes you root for them. The setting of the novel is so unique yet real. It seems to be a style of Marquez’s writing. As I said before, the element of magical realism is woven throughout with the use of symbols, dreams and the setting.

I really liked this book. The narration and even the setting I found it to be similar to One Hundred Years of Solitude in a way. The book is emotional, tragic and at times surreal. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s writing transports you to a completely new world yet it resembles to the world one we live in.

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Book Review: The Boy Most Likely To (Huntley Fitzpatrick).

The Boy Most Likely To

-Huntley Fitzpatrick.

When I started reading it, I had no idea it was part of a series and I simply picked it up because I thought it was interesting. So, I read this book as a standalone novel and now I will probably read the first one. The Boy Most Likely To is the first book I have read by the author.

The main protagonists of the book are Tim Mason and Alice Garrett. Tim has a lot of emotional baggage and has made questionable decisions in the past but is trying really hard to change his life and it’s actually working. As you are reading, you know Tim has made mistakes in the past but his genuine efforts to change his life makes him such a sympathetic character. He believes the worst about himself because people around him, especially his family, have always pointed out his mistakes. They constantly think he is going to screw everything up even when he hasn’t done anything.

Alice has a lot of responsibility on her shoulders. She is taking care of her younger siblings, worrying about her parents and finances and studying to be a nurse. I liked Alice’s character a lot. She is headstrong, confident and self-aware yet vulnerable; she doesn’t let anyway get away with anything and it is such a cool trait to possess. She is unsure about her feelings for Tim, who is younger than and her brother’s best friend. Even the secondary characters of the rest of the Garrets including Jase who is Tim’s best friend and his girlfriend Samantha are well-rounded characters.

The best part of the story for me was the characters. The development of the characters throughout the story seems natural and realistic. They don’t grow overnight and just trying their hardest to better themselves and that makes them incredibly relatable. All the characters seem genuine; their thoughts or emotions do not seem fabricated. I teared up a couple of times while reading. I liked the portrayal of the inner struggle these characters go through and both Tim and Alice have a different yet parallel approach to things. The list of The Boy Most Likely To which Tim keeps pinned on his fridge hits his struggle home.

The relationships in the book are my second favorite part. The relationship between Tim has with his twin Nan is the only somewhat healthy relationship he has with his family. He thinks more of Garretts as him, family, then his parents which is a little sad but the way his father treats him that is understandable. Tim and Jase are more like brothers than a best friend and the rapport between them is completely organic. Even the central romance of Tim and Alice takes a while to get off the road but it keeps you intrigued and they develop a good understanding between them as time passes.

As I said before, I read this book as a standalone novel yet I never felt that I missed anything because I didn’t read the first one. I liked this book a lot. The pace is good, it doesn’t slow down in between; its consistent throughout. I pretty much finished it in one sitting. It is genuine, funny, sweet and sad.

Kane and Abel by Jeffery Archer (Book Review)

Kane and Abel

– Jeffery Archer.

The story is about William Lowell Kane and Abel Rosnovski; William the son of a Boston Billionaire banker while Abel is an orphan, penniless immigrant from Poland. The two main protagonists have nothing in common whatsoever except the date of their birth which is 18th April 1906, born in different continents on the same day. The plot follows the lives of these two successful men and the animosity and hatred they share, spanning for almost sixty years. It’s the first book I read written by Jeffery Archer and I have followed his works since reading this one.

The narration of the story alternates between the two characters; one chapter is for Kane than the next one is for Abel. This gives an insight into the characters in detail almost simultaneously and it makes us understand these characters and their journeys. For me, it made me invested in the characters. The chapters are so interesting that you almost wish that point of view wouldn’t shift to the other character in the next chapter.

The element of ‘time’ plays a role in the plot especially the historical context. The book follows the protagonist from their birth into childhood to teenage then to adulthood. Both the World Wars take place during the time period of the book. It plays nicely into the story.  Abel, who grew up in Russia occupied Poland before the Germans captured it during World War I. While William loses his father in the disaster of the Titanic and it changes the course of his life. This setting plays a role in the way the characters are shaped; it can be clearly seen.

The heart of this book is no doubt the two titular characters who hate each other but have never met. They are unaware of the fact that they have met before and their lives have intertwined. Both the characters struggle to get where they are successful and powerful. Abel’s struggle is at times basic survival. He suffers during World War I, his sister dies in front of him and it is really heart-breaking. Kane, on the other hand, struggles with family issues after losing his father yet has some sense of security all the time. Their struggles might be different but the trajectory of their lives is in a way similar. I felt that their personalities too are very similar even if they don’t like each other which is ironic.

The book is slightly on the longer side because it does cover a span of sixty years. It remains interesting and intriguing throughout. Its one of my all-time favorite books. It made me a fan of Jeffery Archer.

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