Tag: reading

Book Review: The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway).

The Old Man and the Sea.

-Ernest Hemingway.

Ernest Hemingway is one of my favorite authors. I have read a couple of books written by him now including this one and really liked it. The Old Man and the Sea is more of a novella than a full-length novel but still just as good.

The novella is a story of an old struggling Cuban fisherman Santiago. As the story begins, Santiago hasn’t caught a fish in 84 days and he is seen as the worst form of unluckiness. A young boy is his apprentice Manolin, whom he encourages to work on successful fishing vessels instead of him. What follows is an epic tale of an old fisherman going head to head with a huge marlin fish. Santiago is so determined to catch this fish and he puts all of his strength to make sure the fish doesn’t slip away from him.

The story has classic elements when it comes to its themes and symbolism. The theme of perseverance, man versus nature, isolation, strength, and skill, past and pride all come into play in this story. Some are more explicit while the others are a bit more subtle but constantly undercurrent to the story. Santiago refuses to give up even when faced with unwinnable odds and is determined to restore his pride and reputation by catching the fish.

The narration of the story is from a third person point of view which I think enabled me to get a complete feel of the overall plot and the characters. Hemingway’s writing style is powerful and descriptive. There are no big words used, the language is fairly simple. It is one of the reasons I personally like his writing style. The descriptions in the novel really give the complete feel of the physical aspects present in the novel. For example- the smells, the rough sea descriptions actually help visualize the scenario.

An unusual tale about a man and a fish resurrected Hemingway’s career and won him awards, praises, and accolades. Hemingway through his powerful writing and timeless thematic aspects make this short story unforgettable.

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Book Review: The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold).

The Lovely Bones

by Alice Sebold.

I picked this book on a whim in the library the other day because I found the title and the blurb on the back very interesting. I didn’t know anything about the book prior to reading it except having heard the title of the book. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down and finished it in two nights over the weekend.

The Lovely Bones is a story of a 14-year-old girl named Susie Salmon who is raped and murdered walking home from school in December 1973. Susie is the narrator of the story as she watches over her family and friends from ‘her’ heaven. The first couple of chapters of the book are difficult to get through because of the descriptions of rape and murder but the descriptions play a part in the overall plot of the book. Susie’s heaven is what she wants it to be but she still she is stuck there. She watches the effect her death has on her family and feels helpless to do anything about it.

The reaction to her death is different for each family member. Her father wants the murderer to be found yet as hope that maybe Susie is alive since no dead body was found; her mother closes off and revaluates her life. Lindsey and Buckley, Susie’s siblings have to grow up way too fast and deal with whispers of people around them. The story gets a lot sadder before it gets better.

The part where Susie watches her murderer getting away with his crime is frustrating as there is solid evidence against him. Somehow, Susie makes contact with her family and friends; they see her in mirrors, a fleeting shadow and unknowingly Susie has been talking to her little brother Buckley, who is 6 at the time of her death.

In a way, Susie tries to live her life through her sister Lindsey. The things Lindsey experiences growing up which Susie will never get to live, it is heartbreaking. I think one of the main draw points of the book is maybe after death there is someplace better you go. Everyone has lost someone in their life; the notion of an afterlife in the book is in a way a comforting sentiment. The reaction of individuals during a tragedy especially in the family unit pulls at the reader’s heartstrings.

The book has multiple perspectives as Susie follow the life on earth of the people she cares about. There is almost an innocence in the narration of Susie which kept reminding me that even if it’s been years since her murder, she is still 14 because she never got to grow up.

The book doesn’t weave moral complexities but it draws out feelings of sadness, hope, disturbing images yet a comfort throughout the story. Susie watches over her loved ones for a long time almost ten years before she finally moves on. It starts with disturbing cruelty and by the end, in its own way it can be called a happy ending. 

I really liked reading the book, it makes you think about the world and pulls emotions out of you but I don’t think I’ll reread this one.

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My Favorite Fantasy Book Series

My Favorite Fantasy Book Series

I don’t read fantasy books that frequently but I have read a few fantasy book series now. This list is based only on the book series I have read till now and specifically the one I really liked. So, I made a list of the fantasy book series I have loved so far.

1) Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling.

Harry Potter was my initiation into fantasy books and also into book series. Before I never read book series preferring to read standalone works. What can I say about this series which hasn’t been said before; I can say that I love it! I have re-read the series over the years and it still brings me the same joy. The characters and the story is what hooked me when it came to these books. It remains one of the favorite books of all time.

2) The Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

I binge watched the first three seasons of Game of Thrones one summer during college. I loved the show and decided to read the book series. The pace of the books is slower in places but it is very interesting. The character insights and motives are something which is limited on screen but in the book, you get a perfect sense of the characters. It is actually my favorite thing about these books, the characterization. The books differ from the show but it is just as intriguing and wonderful experience reading the books as it is to watch the tv series. I hope the next book comes out soon, the last one ends on a cliffhanger.

3) Lux Series by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The Lux series is a fantasy book series which has five books in it. I have read works of this author before so when I read the premise of this book I picked it up. It is a really interesting read. I finished the first book almost overnight and the other four the following days. Katy moves into a new alien and meets her infuriating neighbor Daemon. The chemistry between these two characters is pretty evident from the start and I really liked the way their relationship evolved over the books, It is a teenage romance with fantasy and science fiction elements to it. It can be predictable at times but the overall experience was very enjoyable.

4) The First Law by Joe Abercrombie

The First Law is a trilogy written by the British author Joe Abercrombie and its set a mythical world. Honestly, I had never heard about this series before but the premise seemed intriguing so I read it. The books are unpredictable, violent yet maintain certain a sense of humor though it is gritty in nature. The series is a delightful fantasy series which kept me on the edge as the complicated characters draw you into their worlds. I went through this series pretty quickly and loved reading it.

5) Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

I know Twilight is kind of a controversial choice. I read Twilight when I was a teenager and I loved it. I found Bella pretty relatable with her awkward, clumsy and introverted nature. I am aware these books are not masterpieces but they hold a certain appeal especially to a specific demographic. I am fond of the series because it is nostalgic to me. I finished the books back to back and I have re-read them. I think the books are much better than the movies in comparison. Even in my early 20’s now, I still like this series for some reason.

These books are some of the best fantasy books I have read so far. I am sure there are much more amazing book series in the fantasy genre which I haven’t even read. This list might see some additions to it over the period of time.

Book Review: The Nightingale (Kristin Hannah).

The Nightingale

–    Kristin Hannah

A historical fiction, The Nightingale is set in France during the Nazi occupation of World War II. I picked up this book on a whim due to its historical setting. It is a book about the survival of two sisters Vianne and Isabelle during the war times. Its one of the first books I have read which is about women in war times.

The Nightingale has two main protagonists Vianne, the older sister and Isabelle the younger one. They had a troubled childhood after their mother’s death when their father sends them away. Isabelle’s personality and her personality has been shaped by the rejection she felt as a child that is constantly implied through her thinking. Vianne finds love at 14 and marries Antoine; she knows she neglected Isabelle for her own happiness and feels guilty about it.

 The characters are the winning grace of the story for me. Vianne and Isabelle are very different people but yet they are similar in more ways than they know. Both have a completely different approach to situations; Isabelle is impulsive and emotional while Vianne is more cautious about her decisions.

Isabelle meets Gaetan very early in the story and their meeting changes the course of Isabelle’s decision is joining the French resistance. The relationships between Isabelle and Gaetan and Vianne and Isabelle play an important part in the story but the book is so much more than a love story. Isabelle is codenamed ‘the Nightingale’ as she helps Allied pilots to get to safety from France. The story starts in the year 1995 and then it is told through the memories of an elderly woman.

 The literary device of frame story works really well for the book; as the first-person narration alternates between Vianne and Isabelle. Life starts getting more difficult for the sisters as Vianne loses her best friend, her job and she lives in a state of fear. The relationship between Vianne and Sophie, her daughter also changes as the story progresses. The loss of innocence is shown through Sophie’s character as she learns things far beyond her young age.

It became very difficult for me to read the book as it got closer to the end. It is heartbreaking and scary and sad and brave all at the same time. The ending of the book really threw me off; the author has never revealed who the elderly woman is but it was an expectation subversion for me. Isabelle is so brave and bold throughout the novel sometimes too quick to react but she is aware of the dangers she is inviting with her work. The relationship dynamics shift throughout the book. Vianne and Isabelle’s father finds a way to make up for his past neglect so does Vianne and Isabelle through all her tough exterior cares so much about her family. The ending of the story brought me to tears and I actually kept thinking about the book long after I finished reading it.

The Nightingale is an amazing book. The characters are so relatable and unique, you can’t help but root for them. The book is about the role women played during World War II but it is also about survival, family, relationships, and love. It is a must read.

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My Favorite Book Quotes.

 

My Favourite Book Quotes.

 

There are lots of quotes from lots of books which I enjoyed reading. I can assure there will be many more lists here of my favorite quotes. This is the first of many. These quotes are the one that came to mind fairly easily so I decided to go with them.

 

1)    Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

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There are many emotional extracts in the book but this quote I like the most. Catherine says this to Nelly when she thinks they are alone but Heathcliff hears her. This moment changes the course of the entire plot ahead. I couldn’t help but feel heartbroken for both of them. Catherine is right in her own way though I wish she would listen to her heart and Heathcliff is left heartbroken after hearing this.

 

2)   The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

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This made me cry like a baby. Though I knew from the beginning that this book won’t have a happy ending, I was shocked. Augustus and Hazel as characters were so endearing; it was easy to get attached to them. This extract is from the letter Augustus leaves for Hazel as a kind of a comfort after his death and it perfectly sums up his feelings for her and it is a perfect goodbye he wanted her to have. It has the same effect even after re-reads.

 

3)  The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

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It tells about the biggest sin in life according to Amir’s father and it is true. No one realizes the impact there small selfish deeds have on the people who care about them. I never realized it before I read this; that stealing is a violation to all the good things in life and it leaves scars which don’t heal easily.

 

4) Easy by Tammara Webber.

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It tells us so much about the attraction between two people in simple words. Everyone desires someone this way at least once in their life and it is scary but a powerful emotion. It is about the pure passion between two people and it is described honestly through Jacqueline’s character throughout the book. The descriptions of emotions centering around lust and love throughout the book are really to the point and simply put, they are relatable.

 

5) A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway.

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I liked this quote the first time I read this book and I am not sure if I completely understood its depth. Now, after reading the book again, I understand the emotions so much better and this quote is one of most favorite ones. I can’t exactly explain its appeal to me but for some reason or the other, I find this quote extremely relatable. A Farewell to Arms is actually one of my all-time favorites books.

 

So, these are a few of my favorite quotes from books and there are many many more to go.

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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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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