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Friday 13 April 2018

Book Review : Vicious by V.E.Schwab

So unfair to be literature snob when we know how many male authors have enjoyed decades of fame by writing about troubled women - fictional and nonfictional, both.  It's been years since I picked up any YA novel solely because I wanted more than just a tight plot, unbearable slang and lack of emotions.

I'm probably vastly generalizing here.

I knew of Vicious by VE Schwab years ago. Back in 2014, book bloggers and Booktubers raved about its awesomeness and I snootily dismissed it as another YA amidst millions of YA novel etc.

Well, Victoria Schwab is total game changer and I'm here for it (late, but here for it nonetheless)

The storytelling layout in the book is fantastic, to begin with. Open the book and we have one of our main characters Victor, who had just escaped prison with his cellmate, digging in a graveyard with his young accomplice. Schwab sets the mysterious atmosphere right away and the reader is hooked from page 1.

The next chapter goes back to ten years ago where we are introduced to Eli, Victor's former best friend, and present-day archnemesis. From the way, we are introduced to present-day and decade ago college-going Eli and Victor, the reader quickly begins to formulate opinions on who is good or who is bad. You begin to see what might have caused friction between the two, how their friendship begins to strain under their obsession of being ExtraOrdinary or EOs and what has ensued in all that time that has passed to make them such deadly foes.

Believe me, when I say this, you will spend several hours pondering over who is good and who is bad. Since all characters are EOs possessing exceptional abilities, it all boils down to one who uses it for good and the other who considers himself superior to others. We have siblings, Sydney and Serena, both of whom possessive incredibly powerful abilities but are split to be on either sides of our antagonists - Eli and Victor.

There are some graphic segments in the book that I thought was awesome since most YA authors shy away from including such elements. The language is perfect with no slang whatsoever (the primary reason as to why I stopped reading YA). The pacing is spot on, the anticipatory build-up to the final showdown is perfect, the bone-chilling end;  I loved it all!

The problem though.......

I did not feel the incident that made Eli and Victor such big enemies was strong enough or valid enough. Right from when we are introduced to young Eli in the book, you can kind of, sort of, tell that he has an evil streak in him somewhere deep inside, but not near close to provoking Victor to have this bloodthirst that they had going on.

That's all I can complain about. If you think you're a nerd who would appreciate an anti-hero novel with lots of crazy super abilities, mystery and ALSO want to support a badass female author then Vicious is the book for you.

Final Rating: 4/5

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Monday 26 March 2018

Book Review : Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

I have taken pride in saying that all my book reviews, for the most part, have been spoiler free. And today I am preparing to violate that.

It genuinely serves twice as hard to review a book like Forbidden when the reader feels a multitude of emotions on a particularly taboo subject. I scoured Goodreads reviews, blog reviews, Booktube reviews and debated whether writing about this book would make me seem like a lunatic to my readers or would they be intrigued.

All I can say at this point is to proceed with caution and with a good measure of open-mindedness.

This book is about incest. Well, not really but it is about an incestuous relationship between 17-year-old Lochan and his sister, 16-year-old Maya. Tabitha Suzuma is brave to take on such a taboo subject and pushes the reader to challenge their morals on this truly 'Forbidden' case.

Our young characters are placed in a tumultuous family setting - their parents' marriage has fallen apart, causing their father to completely abandon them with no support or communication, we learn that he has re-married and moved to Australia with his new family; their mother is an obvious alcohol, absent from their lives while she spends all her time (and money) with her new boyfriend, as the book progresses, her appearances are scarce. So Lochan and Maya assume parental roles for their 13-year-old angsty brother Kit and the little siblings Tiffin and Willa. (ALL the characters in the book could do with better names, let's not fool around and admit this fact already.)

So you can kind of see how psychologically this proves to be a dangerous environment for all five of the kids - Lochan, with his deep and extreme anxiety leaving Maya as his only friend and confidant and Maya, who has to mature rather quickly in order to handle everyone's issues including Lochan's.

Now we know incest is bad. It's very bad, it's illegal and it's not normal. But as you begin to read this book, you just never see them as siblings at all, compared to the creepiness i.e Flowers in the Attic. The incestuous part only kicks in well into the second half of the book, both Lochan and Maya are tormented because they know its wrong, it's not normal and if anyone found out anything they would be at the risk of being separated by the state, serve jail time etc. The book by no means propagates the idea of incest but you also feel like you don't want to use the word incest for what Maya and Lochan have.

The interesting observation here is that while society accepts abusive relationships, broken homes, and abandoned families etc; is incest really the worst of the lot? (I swear I am NOT crazy). Like I mentioned, when you do read the book you also desperately want them to find a way to be together, also knowing the fact that it could never happen and its plain absurd. I just love it when books have that kind of power over the reader.

*The Spoilers*

It was not very long before trouble finds them and the consequences are grave. At this point I had semi-predicted the outcome, however, I was not prepared to read a complete, play by play suicide in the first person. And that is quite traumatic. Lochan gives up his life and takes the reader with him on how ends it all. This will physically shake you. It almost feels like all the happiness is sucked out of you.

You could see why he took this route as the only option to keep the family together but at the same time, you feel angry at him for leaving the family behind, for Maya to deal with this pain and for Kit to deal with the unbearable guilt. That would start a whole new argument about suicides and I'm not going to get into that.

A multitude of emotions, right there.

The problems: 

Overall I felt character development was poor. We know a lot about Lochan, what he feels and how he thinks but none for Maya and Kit. We don't know what Maya is like, what she thinks or feels, how she behaves etc. Same goes with Kit. We only see him as a sort of troublemaker and that's it; which I felt was not fair since being the middle child in a broken family is difficult.

The pacing is off for me. We have no idea what Lochan's and Maya's childhood was like, what kind of dynamic they had growing up, so it does seem very sudden that these feelings for each other erupt.

Since Lochan is 17, his development in terms of attraction to women seems late. Was there no other girl he ever got close to in his early teens? Same goes with Maya, surely there had to be some flirtatious encounter with boys her age other than the two set-up dates.

Regardless of all the flaws, I will still applaud Tabitha Suzuma for taking on her chances and writing this book.

Final Rating: 3/5

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Friday 2 March 2018

Book Review : Raj Quartet I, The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott

Let's just begin by saying that your new yardstick for excellent writing has to be Paul Scott and it's a sentiment well echoed by various reviewers on Goodreads.

Pushing aside all the Rudyard Kipling novels, Jim Corbet, Salman Rushdie etc,  Colonial India couldn't be more descriptive than Paul Scott's Raj Quartet and none other (I will fight you on this).

It's not an exaggeration. Scott's impressive knowledge of India is multifaceted, inter-sectional and dives vertically. I am amazed at the mammoth and detailed understanding of caste, religion, communities, landscape, politics; all craftily woven into a magnificent quartet.

At the heart of the story, we have Hari Kumar or Harry Coomer, alien to India and Daphne Manners, who desperately tries to make India her home. Both of our protagonists pursue a  frowned-upon friendship that quickly turns problematic during the dying days of the British rule. Daphne Manners is violated by a gang of hooligans and the suspicion falls on Hari Kumar.

Through their forbidden romance and  cruel love triangle, we come face to face with the riot-ravaged India. Get ready to let your heart bleed for Daphne Manners and the forged criminality of Hari Kumar.  The plot then takes an ugly turn with Daphne Manners was soon shamed by people of her own color and ranks. Scott's deft writing builds the tension yet manages to retain sensitivity of this cursed affair.

My attempt at reviewing this book in relation to its towering magnificence is feeble. There are delicate subtleties in Scott's allegory and the reader is swift ushered into darker days, lighter times, is familirised to the smells and sounds of the country, riots, war, love, and friendship.

the indigo dreams of flowers fallen asleep

It's a tragic oxymoron to have a story so searingly painful to be laced with poetic delight.

For a humble reader, The Jewel in the Crown would stand as a challenge. The timelines of incidents bounce back and forth, we are introduced to characters one after the other only for their relations to be revealed much later on, it could prove quite complicated to find the association of all the individuals mentions. I did catch myself skimmy through the politics to get to the more paced bits and this is the only reason I would cut points for.

I was introduced to this poignant Quartet when my father was watching the televised series, complete with a commentary on Paul Scott's life and work. It's a pity recognition wasn't rendered any sooner.
Both books and series are highly recommended for their skillful depictions and varied sentiments of the imperialist rule, the tragedies amidst and the ultimate demise.

For a literature lover, the Raj Quarter is a wonderful treat. Like the sweet sorrow of a lullaby.

Final Rating : 4/5

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Friday 1 December 2017

Book Review : Summer Crossing by Truman Capote

A shocking end to an awry romance and a romance that you perhaps wished, never ignited in the first place.

If like me , you too were allured by the rosy cover, dreamy title and the credible author then perhaps our sentiments would match.

After the raving success of his Non-Fiction Crime novel, In Cold Blood and the darling endeavors of Breakfast at Tiffany's, one hardly expect anything less from Mr. Capote and his ability to enrapture you in a tale simple yet magnificent.
So just like me, you pick this book excitedly dreaming of another masterful story that leaves you longing for more, only to have your expectations sorely hurt.

Feel free to weep your disappointment or swear profusely if you must - I'm not ready to do that just yet.
It's not long before the reader understands the difference between Grady McNeil and Clyde Manzer. A young high society girl and her steamy affair with a working-class gentleman, set in New York soon after World War II (honey, it's never going to work).

Obviously, their relationship is rampant and reckless with barely any room (left) for character development or any ambition. Clyde Manzer seems insipid, Grady made me roll my eyes and before you know it, disaster has struck speedingly chased by tragedy (quite literally).

At this point, every Capote fan would be shaking their heads in disapproval wondering why would anyone want to publish this?
Don't dismiss it just yet. As many flaws and faults, there may be, this is where we see the literary skill of  19-year-old Capote and some skill did he have.

It's simple, well-strung and absolutely gorgeous if you pay attention to the language.  Capote knows how to convey sentiments and emotions with just the right adjectives and trust me when I say, it's a real treat. You can almost see why Capote would have been ashamed of this book since it doesn't really live up to the mark as some of his most renowned work.

For no real reason, I found myself oddly comparing Summer Crossing to Brooklyn by Colm Toibin - both the female leads were filling the empty voids in their lives with, let's say, romance from men not quite from their alley and life doesn't seem to get better from there for either.

My suggestion would be to hang on until the end of Summer Crossing if you could endure it. An author's maiden novel almost always says more about themselves as individuals than the story itself. It's almost like a quick glimpse into their own character before they pursue more successful ventures and I'm certain genuine Capote fans would appreciate this little insight.

Overall Rating: 3/5

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Thursday 5 October 2017

Book Review : The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Feeling a tad bit rusty on revisiting my blog exactly a year later. Forgetting your login credentials is a big enough indicator to how long I have been away. 

Trust me when I say I am reading great books and as the year progressed I found myself gravitating towards feminine themes, female characters, female authors and everything that came with that package. It was exciting! 

After 23 years of its existence, Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides finds it way in my  GoodReads Challenge last year.  The fact that this review is way overdue is epically understated. It took me a while before I latched onto the play in the book title but let's just begin by acknowledging a glaring fact; Eugenides knows prose. He lets literature carry on this grim subject with poignancy in this gut-wrenching and heartbreaking narrative of the Lisbon sisters. There is no room for mindless dilly dally nor any sympathetic romanticised idea of the tragedy that occurs.  

The book starts with death, teases you with the idea of young long, the kind that has sunflower fields, sunsets, power ballads and then all of sudden, in one swoop takes it all away. In all of that time, the five Lisbon sisters were forced to live a life they never wanted, find the kind of love that their families never understood and stay locked in like caged birds never to see the outside world again. The choice was obvious to them and with their actions, the impact last 20 years on the neighbourhood boys, the only people they remotely considered as friends.

It's sad, it's disturbing, its mesmerising. It's also only 250 pages. 

Honestly, it is indeed quite difficult to describe the way The Virgin Suicides makes you feel. How do you recommend a book on suicide to someone? Yet, this is one book that leaves you with a lull and a want to read more it. After the tragedy occurs, the book does impart the idea that the Lisbon family fogged and disappeared little by little before the all eventually vanished with no trace.

Aside from the suicides, Eugenidies subtle commentary on the sleepy oblivious town and the marred memories of the neighboorhood boys are worth note. How does no one see the Lisbon's sister isolation as a plea for help? How does no one reach out to them with a second chance at life? A counter-argument would say how is it fair to the rest of the town, the schools and their lovers to proceed with their lives with all the trauma that left deep dents for years to come.

In the end, we had the pieces of the puzzle, but no matter how we put them together, gaps remained, oddly shaped emptinesses mapped by what surrounded them, like countries we couldn't name." 

This quote from the book sums it up accurately.

 If I was to take a highlighter to choose all of my favourite lines in this book, I would probably end up with neon pages. Every single sentence is well constructed and supported by strong theories to thoughts being delivered here. Sofia Coppola does a smashing job on the film as well. The AIR's soundtrack is one of my favourite albums till date. 

This book is by far unbeatable on the subject of suicide and I can't wait to re-read it again.

Overall Rating: 5/5

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Saturday 22 October 2016

Book Review : Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

:  250

Read on : Kindle

Review:  All the wonderful things in life are often obscure. We try our best to disintegrate them into little meanings that would or could make sense to our lives not realising that such things are best admired when left as is. 

I compare Murakami's work to this theory. May be it was the timing in my life that made Sputnik Sweetheart hit the soft spot and every page was like lyrics to a background melody of an episode that was detailed but got over way too quickly. 

The whole book is rather small and feels like poetry, with the delicate balance of reality and magic that laces the plot so perfectly. The descriptions of the characters emotions are well reflected by the atmosphere around them, the time of the day and other inanimate objects that are within their parameters. 

We don't always make the smartest choices with the people we hold most dear to us and our actions towards there are clunky even though in essence they were/are good intentions. Sumire is puzzling and nothing short of an interesting study, someone I would observe from a distance with minimal words exchanged. Miu is as charismatic to me as she is to Sumire and I'm sure her grace would intrigue a cat-like interest in me, where I would just move around her feet and gaze at her wide-eyed. K, our narrator is who sets the mood of the whole ordeal. There's a slight wiff of pity for him and the gentle, bruised pain from his unrequited love that he harbours so deep. 

The three of them are bound by baffling circumstances. The three of them love so desperately. And lose so painfully. It feels like waiting at a train station with all the trains whizzing past and K is stagnant.  

By saying goodbye to Mui, K knew that it would mean that everything was lost, over and he had to accept it regardless. Seeing Mui's face for the last time is what hurt most because it reflected everything that was gone. This was most definitely a part of the book I cherish with all the feels. I'm not going to ruin it for you by telling you what happens next but it's exactly what one would do in real life. Being able to capture all those sentiments and actions in such a small book is a feat and Murakami has to be applauded for that. (A Noble prize would be nice).

I hold this book close to my heart and will look forward to revisiting it with the same feeling when I'm old.

Final Rating : 5/5
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Saturday 18 June 2016

Like Oil and Water

'What is meant for you will reach you even if it's beneath two mountains. What isn't meant for you, won't reach you even if it is between your two lips'

This is the verse I remind myself when I run into bad times. It comforts the anxiety of the pits of my stomach, it makes my heart breathe a little easier.

Trials and tribulations of life will not cease as you get older. At times even experience, the 'big there, done that' jargon fall short to rescue you. It's not the situation but more how you react to it, is what matters. Or so I've been told. And react I did.

A puzzling situation,  unforgivable to most, stood right in front of me and stared at me in the eye. I shrugged my shoulders and tried to do the right despite knowing my inevitable pain. Probably out of defeat or being well aware of the fact that there really was no way around it. Damage it is, I was the one picking up the pieces and getting cut at the same time.

Strange people happen in your 20s. They drag you into stranger situations and before you know it, you're entangled in that web. You question the point and purpose to no end. No answer is an answer by itself.  You know cobwebs. Invisible. You walk through them and it clings to you. No matter how hard you try to pry it off you, you can still feel the remains.

I was in such a web about a month ago. I let go and almost instantly found my sorry self leaning on a shoulder that I didn't notice was there. One that lurked in the shadows. I was grieving and still hadn't noticed. There were black clouds looming over me, my feet dragging that abominable lull like chains. So easy to destroy something so fragile that nursing it back means more aches and pains. You wince at the thought of it. Forgiveness is no longer an option, It's a choice one has to make. Reaching that choice would only further your pain. A little suffering to ease your selfish soul is most likely a sin itself. Again, there was no giving more than I already had. I chose to be greedy for my betterment.

Some one opened a door behind me, grabbed my hand and yanked me through. Funny, the way things work, you miss a chance so closely while only later on you realise what was right in front of you. May be the door behind me was what I was meant to stop and look at. I smile meekly in an attempt to repair myself from the cords that unravelled. But I was already feeling better. Relieved precisely speaking, I could breathe again without being choked up.

I know that I am safe. I know that I will be okay.


To all those who are worried about my well being or were wondering about my absence from the blog, I'm absolutely fine. Took a break to clear my head and heart of some emotional turmoil that took momentum couple of weeks ago but thankfully that has ebbed. I'm recovering fast and well. I'm blessed with well-wishers, friends who are family to me and of course, family itself. Hope this Ramadan is treating you all well. 

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