Tag: books

Book Review: Veronika Decides to Die (Paulo Coelho).

Veronika Decides to Die.
– Paulo Coelho.

I bought this book on a whim after reading its synopsis and Veronika Decides to Die doesn’t disappoint. I finished the book fairly quickly and it constantly kept me engaged as a reader. Now, I might watch the movie adaptation as well.

The novel is a story about a 24-year-old girl Veronika who lives in Slovenia. Veronika seems to have everything going on for her, she herself admits this but still decides to kill herself. After Veronika’s suicide attempt she is admitted to a mental institution for treatment. She develops a heart condition because of overdosing on the pills and has only a few days left to live. In the institution, Veronika meets a number of people who have different mental issues like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

At Villete, she finally feels liberated from everything that bothered her before and slowly she feels like living again. The way Veronika describes the numbness that’s a part of her life is something many of us can relate to. There is a story that Zedka tells Veronika at the institution about a mad king; that story is so applicable and in a way makes lots of sense and it was one of my favorite parts of the story. The point of views keep changing throughout the novels and it gave a lot of insight into the characters minds.

The story slowly unravels or tries to unravel the reason Veronika felt the way she did and it makes sense for her as a character. The surprise of the story for me was Eduard, a schizophrenic patient at Villete who Veronika falls in love with. Eduard’s past is also heartbreaking and how circumstances led him to Villete and their love story is really cute.

Then there is the doctor at Villete, Dr. Igor. I didn’t understand in the beginning why he had chapters from his point of view but at the end it makes completes sense. All the characters in the book, add something important to the plot and to Veronika’s journey. After a hard couple of days, Veronika’s will to live is actually renewed. In the beginning, her heart condition doesn’t bother her as it was her aim to die. As the story progresses she realizes all the things she will miss out on and all the things she could do now. Finally, she starts to feel again hatred, love, frustration, hope, everything she probably hid away in herself for years.

The story is engaging and in a strange yet relatable way. When I bought the book I thought it will be too heavy and sad given its title but its surprisingly inspiring. It is an amazing book and it keeps you on the edge till the end and that ending; I didn’t see it coming whatsoever. The book just changed my perspective about the world. It is a must read.

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Mrs. Dalloway: Book Review

Mrs. Dalloway

–    Virginia Woolf.

I have been meaning to read Virginia Woolf’s books for years and finally, I read one. Mrs. Dalloway is the first book I read written by Woolf and there is not much to say other than that it is an amazing book.

Mrs. Dalloway is the most well-known novel by Virginia Woolf. The book was published in 1925. This novel details a day in the life of the high-society Clarissa Dalloway, who is the main character in the story. The setting of the story is important; it is set in the post-World War I England. There is just one day described in the novel is the day Clarissa is making preparations for a party. All the events that take place in the book occur during this one day. I thought this set a nice pace for the novel.

Once the story begins and the plot starts to unfold the secrets about Clarissa’s life that didn’t seem probable at the beginning. It was something I didn’t exactly see coming but it was an interesting surprise. The plot has two interwoven stories; one of Clarissa Dalloway and one of war veteran Septimus Warren Smith. The narration is from a third person point of view which gave an accurate description of the emotions these characters are experiencing. The narration definitely digs deep into the thoughts and emotions of the characters and has been described really well.

Clarissa and Septimus Warren are two characters who seem unconnected in the start but their stories actually run parallel to each other. The shifts in the narrative from Warren to Clarissa gave me enough time with both characters and in a way helps to understand them. The story shifts back and forth from the past to the present. This element of time, movement from past to present is used perfectly to hammer home what the characters think about the past while in the present. It is difficult to explain but it is intriguing never the less. It made it easier as a reader to empathize with these characters.

The effects of World War I are clearly depicted through the character of Smith who is having a hard time adjusting to civilian life and is broken by his experiences during the war. Mrs. Dalloway, on the other hand, seems to have everything she could want but in reality, is clearly struggling to cope with her emotions. The themes of love, loss and mental illness are depicted in a unique and powerful way which is somewhat subtle at the time but constantly present at the same time. The end of the novel stays true to the story and in a way seems unresolved. There is no forced happy ending to this novel. I prefer a resolved ending personally but the way the novel unravels it is not that surprising.

I liked the writing; it might be the first time I read a book whose plot takes place over one single day. The pace of the story is good, sometimes it might become too much so it cant be read overnight. The story and writing are so relevant to its themes and makes them relatable. The novel is a must-read.

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Favorite Quotes from the Harry Potter Books.

My Favorite Quotes from the Harry Potter Series.

Harry Potter is undoubtedly one of my favorite book series. I pick any book from it once in a while to read it again. Re-reading these books is just as enjoyable to me as they were the first time. There are many good quotes in the books but some of them are my favorites.

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1)    This first quote is from the Philosopher’s stone or Sorcerer’s stone. The part where Harry starts sitting in front of the mirror over and over again to see his parents, it is sad. I mean he is eleven years old, so when Dumbledore says this to him it makes perfect sense in the story.

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2)    This one again is from Dumbledore but to be fair he does have many inspirational lines throughout the series. This one is from the Prisoner of Azkaban, it is quite early on in the book and it’s a part of Dumbledore’s speech at the start of the New Year. I just like this quote.

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3)    Order of Phoenix is an intense book because Harry is conflicted, sad and angry after the events in Goblet of Fire. This quote is something Sirius Black says to Harry when Harry opens up about his emotions and it’s perfectly apt for the situation. In a way, it makes Harry realize that he might have a choice.

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4)  This quote is from the seventh and the last book. Yes, another quote from Dumbledore but he has some the best lines throughout. The situation when it is said its a little of a bittersweet situation as its almost at the end. It’s funny yet thoughtful. It appeals to the dreamer in me.

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5) Hermione is such a great character. This is something she says to Harry in the first book when she is 11 years old. It kind of completes a story arc for her character. In the beginning, she is very proud of her intellect, she should be but she accepts she is not perfect during this situation. It shows character growth and that is so satisfying as a reader.

 

There are many more quotes which I really like from the Harry Potter books, the list could go on and on. These are the ones that are my absolute favorites because they fit the context so well and are inspirational in a way.

 

 

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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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Jane Austen’s Emma: Review.

Jane Austen’s Emma.

This book was a part of my syllabus for MA. I have to admit back then I didn’t read the book properly; there wasn’t much time so I simply went through it. Recently, I decided to read it thoroughly and I did. Emma is the first novel written by Jane Austen which I read. The novel revolves around the titular character Emma Woodhouse who is in a way an unlikely protagonist.

Emma is a person who thinks she has everything that she needs which she does but she believes she doesn’t need love or marriage in her life. Her beliefs are contradictory to her actions.  Emma likes to interfere in other people’s love lives; she fancies herself as a good matchmaker. When Emma meets Harriet Smith she decides to take Harriet under her wing. While Harriet is younger than Emma she in a way looks up to her.

Mr. Knightley is Emma’s sister Isabelle’s brother-in-law. Mr. Knightley warns Emma of her ways constantly; he is the voice of reason in her life but she never listens to him. I like the relationship between Emma and Mr. Knightley, it’s sort of will they or won’t they situation which is always fascinating for me. Jane is another character who is the only one Emma envies. Jane is talented, sensible, well-mannered and a bright girl.

Emma is a different novel in the sense the protagonist is not always likable. Sometimes, you can’t help but feel a little annoyed with her. The way she acts or decisions she makes made her unlikeable for me at times. It’s because of this that the novel is satisfying in the end. Emma becomes a better person and to an extent realizes her flaws. The growth of Emma’s character is natural and not forced.

Like I said before I liked the relationship between Emma and Mr. Knightley. The way Emma realizes she wants to be with Mr. Knightley is slightly funny but still realistic. As a reader, it’s always a good feeling when there is such a satisfying end to a relationship you root for. The fact that there was a happy ending for Jane and Harriet as well was a bonus for me.

I enjoyed reading this book. The story is light-hearted and engaging with unique and quirky characters. The writing of the novel is flawless; it is witty and amusing. Language-wise this book is not the easiest but not too much; it is easy enough. I was surprised by the fact that a protagonist seemed annoying to me at times, it hardly happens to me. Overall, I think it’s good. A light, fun and engaging book overall.

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Book-to-Movie Adaptations: My Favorites.

Book-to-Movie Adaptations: My Favorites.

 

*spoilers*

 

These days fifty percent of the movies which come out are based on books. Books are a great source of material. Some of these adaptations honestly don’t live up to the expectations or digress from the books so much that it becomes somewhat annoying. There are some books which are so amazing and popular which I loved seeing adapted for the big screen.

 

1) Harry Potter Series.
I know most people who read the books didn’t like the movies much because they left out scenes. I saw the movies first because I was 4 or 5 years old when the books released and then read all the books back to back after I saw all the movies. I love the books and the movies; there is a lot in the books which didn’t make it to the movies but still, I feel they tried to incorporate what was most important to the overall plot.


2) The Last Song.
The first book I read written by Nicholas Sparks was the Last Song and I really liked it. The movie adaptation does the book justice at least I think so and the main situations in the novel are maintained in the movie as well. Though they have made slight changes to some things in the movie it doesn’t seem out of place or drifts too much from the book.


3) To Kill a Mockingbird.
This book is a classic and deservingly so; it is an amazing book. I saw the movie years after reading the novel and I really liked it. The movie stays true to the book which will always win bonus points from me, and it generates the same emotions which the book did. The actors are simply perfect for the characters.


4) The Fault in Our Stars.
John Green’s book The Fault in Our Stars is one of my favorite books of all time; no matter how many times I read it I weep like I did the first time. The movie too had the same exact effect on me as the book. I loved seeing the characters of Hazel and Gus coming to life on the screen and it was exactly how I imagined it while reading their story. Yes, it is a sad movie and a sad book but it’s worth the sadness.


5) The Great Gatsby.
In the case of this movie, I did like the books more than the movie because it left an impact on me that the movie didn’t. It’s a really good movie and I enjoyed it very much. Maybe it was slightly different than what I had visualized it to be but overall I have seen this movie more than once so I guess it doesn’t matter if I liked the book better or not.

 

These five movies are the ones who are adapted from really good books and do justice to the story of these books. I am sure there are many more adaptations which are just as good or maybe even more but these are my favorite ones so far.

 

Books based on the World Wars – My Favorites.

Reading books with historical themes is an enduring and satisfying experience for me because I like history in general. I found a lot of literature based on and around the time of the World Wars and these books are some of the best books I have read. The central theme of these books might revolve around and during a World war but these books have so much more to offer.

1) A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway.

Ernest Hemingway’s this novel is set during the World War I and its protagonist is an American soldier stationed on the Italian front. Its main focus is on the love affair between our protagonist Henry and an English nurse Catherine during the times of the war. The story is unpredictable with a mix of interesting characters. Once I started reading this book I realized it is not what I expected but it exceeded my expectations. The writing is beautiful and to the point; you through every emotion along with the characters.

 

2) Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank.

I read this book for the first time when I was 15 when we studied the Second World War in history class. Reading it again seven years later there were a lot of factors which I hadn’t thought about or understood when I read it as a teen. Anne’s beliefs, her perspectives on life were so different and unique; she was far more mature for her age. It’s a beautiful book in form of letters Anne writes in her diary. The end of her letters in abrupt which makes you wonder what happened to her after that; thankfully my copy has an elaborate afterword which didn’t exactly make me feel better after reading it.

 

3) Between Shades of Gray – Ruta Sepetyus.

This book was a rollercoaster experience. The historical context of this book is Baltic Deportations during World War II; it was something I hardly knew anything about or read anything related to. The book is heartbreaking yet there is a sense of optimism especially in the characters of the story. As I said in my review of this book, for me, the characterization in the novel is something else and it makes you care about each of them.

 

4) All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr.

The book is set in Nazi-occupied France during the World War II. The protagonists of the novel are a French blind girl Marie and a German boy Werner. The book is such a page-turner, it’s hard to keep it down because you need to know what happens next. The book is slightly longer than it should have been, at least I thought so but its really good. The bond between Marie and her father is so beautiful and her connection with Werner is so strong in such a short span of time. It is just a really good book.

 

I am sure there are many more books set around the time of the World Wars which are equally good or even better. The books I mentioned above are my personal favorites of this genre though there are still a number of books on my historical ‘want to read’ pile.

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Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetyus: Book review

My review of the book,

“Between Shades of Gray” – Ruta Sepetys

*SPOILERS*

I found this book when I was browsing through the lists of War and Historical novels on different site. This book immediately caught my attention because it takes place during the World War II and it’s about a Lithuanian girl. Now when it comes to studying the history of World War II, the Baltic States were never more than mentioned in textbooks. Basically, this is a part of History which I never read or studied about before and it completely fascinated me.

The book is about Baltic Deportations with the main focus on Lithuanian citizens who were deported by the Soviet in 1941 to prison and labor camps. The protagonist of the story is a fifteen-year-old girl named Lina and her family when they are taken from their home and sent to a labor camp somewhere in Siberia. Lina and her mother and brother are together while their father is separated from them that night. The author doesn’t spend much time focusing on the lives of Lina and her family when they were still at home together in the beginning and starts straight up with the night they are taken away. The story is not by any means an easy read.

The descriptions of the treatments these prisoners were given and their living conditions are crudely depicted; there is no sugar-coating just the harsh reality. It makes you cringe while reading it. The emotions of the characters and their reactions to the harsh situation they face are very realistically and naturally portrayed. It never seems out of place or over the top because there are so many characters which are important to the plot and each character’s personality is reflected in the writing.

Lina, her mother Elena and her younger brother Jonas have to learn to survive through brutal conditions with people who share a similar faith to them. Elena is a powerful character as she holds their little group together throughout the terrible ordeal and is incredibly kind. Andrius is a guy who Lina and her family meet on the cattle train on the way to Siberia. He is sort of a love interest for Lina though that is never the main focus and he is so much more than that. Lina is a good artist and is constantly capturing their stories on paper in drawings and sketches. She draws in hope of leaving clues behind for their father to find them and also preserve their stories and sufferings.

It is unbelievable to expect such kindness and care in such situations but throughout the story, all the characters help each other survive and are always kind to one another no matter how little they themselves have. It shows that even in worst situations compassion and kindness actually help someone survive. At no point, Lina gives up or thinks that she doesn’t want to live anymore even though the circumstances keep getting worse. These characters show so much spirit and survival instinct all the while helping each other through it.

This book breaks your heart from start to finish and it is quite difficult to get through because of the powerful depictions. The plot moves ahead at a good pace with flashbacks about the life before capture which somehow is parallel to Lina’s present in the camp. Lina’s drawings in a way preserve the memories of fellow survivors and their sufferings, the stories which were unheard of for decades that followed. The stories about the Baltic states are largely unheard of and this book depicts the displacement and genocide of people who were deported by the Soviet Union. It is a hard-hitting book but it is a book which you should read, it is a part of history which is relatively unknown to many.

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Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng.

Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng

It’s a book I have been meaning to read for a while now. Finally, when I got around to reading it, I finished reading it really quickly and it’s amazing. It is a good book no doubt but it’s not exactly an easy read. The novel is about an American Chinese family. The book begins with the disappearance of Lydia Lee; she is the middle child of James and Marilyn Lee and also their favorite. The book is set in the 1970’s in a small town in Ohio. The lives of everyone in the family are turned upside down once Lydia’s body is found at the bottom of a lake. The narrative then encompasses each of the family members perspectives and it shifts from past to present.

The book is written beautifully, every single emotion felt by the characters is described so perfectly, there is never a sense of detachment towards any characters because of this. The oldest son Nath is such a sympathetic character, he is brushed aside by his parents his relationship with his father James is strained because Nath is different than the person James wants him to be. Hannah is the youngest daughter and she is pretty much neglected by everyone in the family. The tone of the book lingers in sadness from the start but Hannah’s chapters just hits you hard; she is a quiet little girl who is the most observant one in her family, she blends in the background so often that the characters don’t even know if she is in their presence.

In the beginning, I’ll admit Lydia’s character didn’t intrigue me much but as the story unravels I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. She is the sole focus of her parents, she is pressurized by her parents knowingly as well as unknowingly. James and Marilyn pin all their lifelong hopes on her without realizing that it’s crushing her. As the past of James and Marilyn is slowly revealed through flashbacks you understand where they come from; James as someone who couldn’t fit in the “American” society and Marilyn who gives up on her aspirations and lives with regret.

The novel tackles sensitive topics like casual racism, sexism, and miscegenation without actually becoming a story about either of these topics. The subtleness weaved throughout the plot makes it much more effective and dramatic. All the characters are relatable and none of their emotions seem fabricated and the flow is very natural. The minor characters too like- Marilyn’s mother and Jack also play an important part in moving the plot ahead and it all adds up to the ending.

The dynamic between this family is tangible though I thought it was dysfunctional most of the time. Relationships between the characters at times are normal and at times are not, for example, Nath and Lydia. They are close but Lydia needs Nath a lot more as a support system than he needs her and the thought of him leaving for college disturbs Lydia. The plot stays focused on Lydia’s death and explores the lives of the family past and present through this incident.

The book was emotionally draining which was the reason I couldn’t read it as fast as I wanted to. It is a beautifully written book, it moves from past to present with perspective from each of the four characters seamlessly without the plot becoming confusing. The novel keeps you guessing from the beginning and you can’t wait to find out all the answers. I think it’s a must-read.

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My Thoughts on “Eleanor and Park”

   Eleanor and Park 

                   – Rainbow Rowell

I wanted to read this book for months. Last week I finally bought a paperback copy for myself. It took me just two days to finish reading it because it was difficult to keep it down. The book is a refreshing take on a teen love story. The narration of the story is straight forward, it doesn’t digress and it’s both from Eleanor as well as Park’s point of view. Both the characters do not fit the exact mold of stereotypes shown in high school stories maybe that’s why they are so relatable because in reality very few actually fit the clichés we read about teenagers.

Eleanor and Park are two people who are very different from each other, not only their personalities differ but family backgrounds too. You can empathize with both of them but personally I felt really bad for Eleanor. Both of them have their own set of problems and an entirely distinct approach and perspective to them. All teenagers are a mess, some more so than the others; the book captures that turmoil pretty perfectly. Eleanor stands apart from the rest of the girls in school and is picked on for it but they don’t know how difficult her life is and being insensitive they just add to her troubles.

There are always such people around you especially in high school. It’s such little nuances that shine through in the book that keep you curious; you can’t wait to find out what going to happen next; it wasn’t what I had guessed. The inner conflicts the characters go through is portrayed so well that you feel all those emotions along with the characters and that is one of the reasons I liked this book so much.

There is sub-plot of identity crises in the story which as a Cultural Studies student was very fascinating to me but that might just be me overanalyzing the situation. Park struggles with his feelings for Eleanor because he didn’t think much of her in the beginning and it is a task for him to come out of that mind set. Like any teenager Park is concerned about the thoughts of his peers which prompts him to keep a distance from Eleanor which doesn’t work out. Eleanor on the other hand is guarded around people and I think she is incredibly brave in dealing with crises but she has a lot of baggage. Eleanor’s behavior stems from insecurity and anxiety that she has to live with every day.

There is a whole different dynamic to the story solely because of good characterization.  There are many popular culture references which emphasize the fact that the characters are teenagers and adds an element of reality. The serious conflicts in the story aren’t explicitly described in the novel but subtle hints are woven throughout the plot from the very beginning.

The plot of the book wasn’t overly complicated or dramatic in anyway but it leaves an impression on the reader, that’s for sure. The title of the book is the names of the two protagonists and the plot remains dedicated to them instead of going in other directions which has happened in the books I have read before. Overall I really enjoyed reading Eleanor and Park. It is not exactly a light read typical love story, there is a darker theme constantly underlining the plot and the tone of the novel. I am sure I will read this book again and enjoy it just as much as I did reading it the first time.

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