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The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Fiction, Epistolary
Imprint: Penguin, UK
ISBN: 9780141325309

Johann Wyss was a Swiss author. I am not sure whether he has written more because when I tried to search for more of his works, nothing came up in the results except The Swiss Family Robinson, the very book I am reviewing now. Although I couldn’t find any other works of Johann Wyss, I found a trivia that he was inspired by Robinson Crusoe, written by Daniel Defoe, that he started writing The Swiss Family Robinson with an intention to teach children a thing or two through it.

A Swiss family of six – father, mother and four sons – sail to the nearest island after the crew of the ship in which they were sailing abandons them. The island has no signs of humanity. On the island, they start with a temporary home at the shores and then go deep into the forest looking for suitable places to build a permanent home. On the shores as well as inside the forest, the family of six come across different types of flora and fauna. The father teaches his children – Fritz, Ernst, Jack and Franz – about the plants and animals and their uses. Some are scary and some are pleasant. They also use the livestock they had on the ship to breed them on the island to keep a good and constant supply of their food. They pray to Jesus on the island too as they are a very pious Christian family. As the months pass, they building house and make caves for various purposes and settle properly on the island. Eventually, a crew of one of the detouring ships visit the Swiss Family Robinson. Will the Robinsons go back to the civilization with the crew? Or will they stay back on the island? Read the book to know.

I personally could not enjoy reading The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss. It is not a bad book. I felt it is too preachy at times. Johann Wyss has written the book to teach something about making a living in the nature, but he forgot to make it interesting. I listen to audiobooks for those that I can’t spend anymore time reading so that I can just listen to it and finish the book soon. I did the same for The Swiss Family Robinson too. Now I understand why some people don’t like classics.

I don’t know whether I should recommend this book to anyone in any manner.

Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge by Norman Whaler

Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge by Norman Whaler

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Fiction
Imprint: Tate Publishing and Enterprises, LLC, USA
ISBN: 9781682543054

Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge by Norman Whaler is a sequel many years into the future from the time in which A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is set.

The storyline of Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge is sustained mainly by the ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge. If you have read A Christmas Carol, then you would know that Tiny Tim is the character that melts the cold heart of the miser Ebenezer Scrooge. In the sequel that we are discussing, Tiny Tim is a grown man, who is still unmarried in the memories of the love he has for a woman who was married off to someone else because Tim didn’t have much wealth. Tim is a depressed young man. Just like the three ghosts appeared to Scrooge on the eve of Christmas to make him a better man, Scrooge’s ghost appears to Tim on the eve of a Christmas, but not to make him a better man because Tim is already a kind-hearted man, but ill-tempered. Then why does Scrooge’s ghost appear to him? Read the story to know, or not. I will tell you why.

If there was a need to write a sequel, the storyline adapted is definitely not the best as there is no story in there. Not wanting to sound cruel or rude, but the writer of this sequel probably wrote this as a tribute to his late wife. Yes, he does mention her in the dedication and in the About the Authors section. It also might be a dedication to his father who went by the same name as the author himself. Wife, the lost love, and the father as Scrooge. I am just guessing. But there are irrelevant double and single quotation marks combinations making reading a struggle. Though the story has already taken place, the narration fluctuates between past and present tenses. Also, the narrator doesn’t even mention Cratchit’s other children i.e. Tim’s siblings, not even once.

I enjoyed reading A Christmas Carol, but not Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge. I read both the books as an adult, liking one and not the other. I would not recommend this book even for a one-time read.

Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

Review by Shwetha H S

Imprint: Penguin India
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Magical Realism
ISBN: 978067088485

Salman Rushdie is an author more famous for the fatwa issued against him for writing The Satanic Verses than for any of his books. Of course, his writing is good and his books are famous too, but there is always the comparison.

There is a millenia-old face-off between dead philosophers. They just can’t leave the world alone even after their death. Then there is the jinnia princess, Dunia, who gives birth to so many children of one of the philosophers that their offspring almost single-handedly populate the whole world. They are called Duniazat. In the present day scenario, when something eventful happens and all the progeny of Dunia start displaying magical powers that were unknown to them. Ifrits, that were banished from the earth, step into the human world again. It becomes a fight between the Duniazat and the Ifrits. But what is the role of the philosophers and Dunia here? For that, you need to read this book.

Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is a mesmerizingly beautiful story. It is as mesmerizing as a magical realism story should be. This is the first book of Salman Rushdie I had picked and I was not at all aware of his style of writing. In the beginning, the story bored me. But two chapters into it and it completely engrossed me. I was raving about the book everywhere. I still do. Don’t miss reading this book.

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

Review by Shwetha H S

Imprint: Alfred A Knopf, USA
Genre: Non Fiction, Family, Memoir
ISBN: 9781524732721

Dani Shapiro is an author known more for her memoirs than her fiction works. Her other works are Hourglass, Family History and Playing With Fire among others.

I picked Inheritance without knowing what it is about. I don’t have the habit of reading about a book before reading the book itself. I didn’t check the book blurb and I am glad i didn’t. I usually avoid non fiction and I would have definitely dropped this book the moment my eyes glanced the blurb. I would have missed a fantastic life story.

Dani Shapiro, the author, is a Jew, or that is what she was taught until a DNA test reveals that she is not related to her only half sister from father’s side. This DNA test sets a lot in motion for Dani and her husband. They reach out to a lot of people to find answers for the questions that she had never thought she would be faced. She tries to get answers not only from her biological father but also from her dead parents, her social father. She herself is old. How old would be her biological father? Would he accept her? What were her parents thinking? Why did they not tell her about her origins even after she grew up? Is she still her social father’s daughter or now of biological father’s?

Inheritance is no lesser than a thriller. Only difference is it is Dani Shapiro’s real life story. She still continues to write. I looked up Dani Shapiro on Google after reading the book completely. She looks the way I imagined her while reading the book. Every person struggling with identity crisis must read this book. It is a must read for everyone.

Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy

Eat That Frog! By Brian Tracy

Review by Shwetha H S

Imprint: Collins Business
ISBN: 9781609946784
Genre: Self-Help, Non Fiction

Brian Tracy is from the field of self-improvement training, for both individuals and companies. In this book, Eat That Frog!, Brian Tracy has put in all methods to avoid procrastination. A very good read that teaches how to eat that frog.

Here, the frog denotes the most difficult task that is in front of you among many more. If someone asks you to eat a frog, you wouldn’t do it. But if this task makes things easier for other task completion, then you would do it. It is a simple concept. Finish the most difficult task first and it would make other minor tasks more easier than they are. Brian Tracy has explained twenty-one different ways to cut down on procrastination. All are proven methods, the ones that many companies and individuals have implemented in their day-to-day life.

Eat That Frog is a must read for everyone. It is not for working professionals, it is also important in domestic life. Go for this book.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Review by Shwetha H S

Imprint: Dial Press
ISBN: 1984801813
Genre: Historical, Drama, Fiction, Humour

The late author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, passed away due to cancer a few months before the book was released. Her niece and co-author, Annie Barrows, stepped into her shoes to complete the book and make it see the light of the day. I am glad it happened. If not, I would have missed one witty book by female authors.

Juliet Ashton is a writer with few books to her name. She is not the typical girl of the WW2 era. Not coy, not timid. She is a person of her own mind and that mind of hers makes her pursue things that lead to her betterment. Wow. I love her. I see myself in her. I would totally do whatever she did in the situations she faced in the book. Getting back on track, she is an orphan but has close friends to call family, Sophie and Sidney. Under certain circumstances, she befriends the members of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on the island of Guernsey under the nationality of England. When she gets to know the problems they faced during German occupation of the island and more intriguing facts about a few people, she decides to go to the island herself leaving behind a suitor, Mark, and her book publicity tour. There she finally meets her pen pals with whom she had developed a bonding over the letters. Amelia, Isola, Eben, Dawsey, Elizabeth, her daughter Kit, and Will are the prominent characters from the island. They all are present in person except Elizabeth who is in all the narrations of others. What happens between all these characters is the rest of the story. Each character in the story is different, but I kind of didn’t gel well with Isola. She was too much for me. If she were real, I would not have tolerated her bubbly nature.

I have personally never liked the epistolary format of books. Robinson Crusoe, Frankenstein, Swiss Family Robinson, they all bored me to death and I came alive by finishing them with audiobooks. But The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is different. I fell in love with the way letters are written. The narration is witty. So humorous that I want to wake Mary from her grave and kiss her and surrender to Annie for the prowess they exhibit in this book. Chuck the movie. Read the book. The movie does zero justice to the story and doesn’t even follow the same storyline completely.

In The Name of God by Ravi Subramanian

In The Name of God by Ravi Subramanian

Imprint: Penguin, India                                                                             Review by Shwetha H S
ISBN: 9780143425731

In The Name of God is Ravi Subramanian’s ninth book out of ten. He is known as the Indian Grisham of banking thrillers. True to his fame, In The Name of God is a thriller, but not completely related to banking, but is related to the treasure on which banks work.

Set in the backdrop of discovery of the hidden treasure under the Anantha Padmanabha Swamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, In The Name of God has a team of elite jewelers and bankers working on evaluating the value of the treasure. There is also a robbery in Dubai that is linked with the bomb blast in Mumbai and in turn with the temple in Thiruvananthapuram. One by one many characters die. Remaining become suspects until they die. Some of the artifacts among the treasure are under the risk of getting stole. A few get stolen too. Police obviously gets involved. Eventually, everything falls into place and all the interlinked cases gets solved. But how are the cases solved? That is the interesting part. Read the book.

The story is too complicated in the beginning to follow as it has too many characters, but you get to know them, and forget a few too, as the story proceeds. One of the characters, Ranjit Dubey, has nothing to do in the story. Seems to be created only to bring up gold plating machine. He is not even mentioned in the rest of the story. Story paces fast in the last few chapters and does manage to hold your attention. The suspects are great but the end is kind of disappointing to me, left me meh. Most of the events towards the end of the story are made a matter of coincidence for the lack of better alternative plot progress, but is at least logical.

In The Name of God is a one-time read. I don’t even remember half of the happenings in the story, also the characters.

Chipless by Kfir Luzzatto

Chipless by Kfir Luzzatto

Review by Shwetha H S

Chipless is a dystopian fiction by Kfir Luzzatto. The story is set in a dystopian society  where people are inserted with a chip at birth. This chip receives the signals transmitted by the people who are controlling this society inside a barricaded town or a city. All the people living inside this society catch the signals through the chip in them which makes them see and hear things that the control group wants them to hear and see. Though the actual situation of this society is such that they have lost all their natural resources and have destroyed nature, but through the chip people are manipulated to think that all is good and natural. But there is a group of rebels who have removed their chips and leave outside the society and can see the reality. The story involves Kal, a scientist with a chip inside him, and Amber, a rebel who has come into the society just to have some fun with the other informants in a cafe. And the story takes off when the police start to randomly interrogate, checking for the infiltrators among the chipped people. When Amber escapes the place suspiciously, Kal notices her and follows her, in turn becoming a suspect. Amber, without any other option, takes him to her rebels who show him what is the reality.

The narration seems like the reasonably fine first draft with all tell and no show leading to passive imagination. From the beginning, everything seems to be falling into place for Kal. He doesn’t face much conflict being a fugitive in a dystopian society. He is plain lucky and doesn’t work much to gain anything. Also, there are loopholes in the plot. For example, after helping Marion, another character, escape from the barn, how did Kal escape from the barn because he was pretending to be her? No explanation given there. As if he ported from inside the barn to outside.

I wouldn’t suggest anyone to read Chipless. Not worth the time.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce is the most boring book I have read in the last three years. I struggled to read. So, heard it on the audio book, but still it was painful. I have no idea why James Joyce wrote this book. Why would anyone be bothered with such a dry story? I couldn’t take it while reading. Therefore not going to relive it by writing a proper review about it.

Just happy that I got this tattered copy of the book free of cost and I didn’t spend a single rupee to read it.

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

Imprint: Grove Press, New York                                                              Review by Shwetha H S
ISBN: 9780802127358

The debut novel of Akwaeke Emezi i.e. Freshwater deserves all the praise that it has garnered. It is not your PR pumped book. Even if it is, it is not necessary for the readers to like it unless it is well written. I, a reader, like it. In fact, I love it. It had been a long time since I had last read a book that had good narration. Just like the protagonist of the story, you won’t know what is happening, what to feel, what is the right thing to do.

Freshwater revolves around a character called Ada, whose name means precious or an egg of a python. Why python? Because, in Igbo langauge, python is Ala, the mother of Ogbanje, an evil spirit. That is all the background I can give you in this book review. If I talk more, I will give out the whole story. No, I won’t do that. Because I want you to read this book. As you start reading the story, I didn’t understand what is happening, in and around Ada. After an unpleasant incident, Ada starts to behave differently, as if she is not herself. Now, the narrator keeps telling that they are Ogbanje. But I had my doubts. Whether Ada has multiple personality disorder or is possessed by the spirits. The first personality is a pair actually. Next, along with her orgasm comes another personality, a dominant one, called Asughara. This is an extremely sexualised personality that comes into picture whenever Ada is having sex with anyone. But it rapidly and completely takes over Ada, controlling her every action, better than the previous personality pair. Right when I decided that Ada had turned into a sex addict, Saint Vincent came into the picture. Until then, Ada won’t even know this personality is there inside her. Saint Vincent is the not-so-prominent low profile Ogbanje that when gets unleashed, makes Ada a bisexually oriented person, sexually feasting on boys and girls alike. In between this, another pair of Ogbanje just come and go, making Asughara, the first pair and Saint Vincent ensure that Ada goes mad, at least to the outer world. Until the end, I wasn’t sure whether I was reading about multiple personality disorder or actually Ogbanje. But how do they do this? Why do they do this? What happens to Ada? What is her story? What is the Ogbanje? Freshwater is a mesmerizing story that leaves you numb at the same time rushing a pack of emotions through you, still making you feel nothing. Until you reach the end, at least the last few pages, you won’t know what exactly is happening. Don’t worry. I haven’t given up on the story in this review. There is a lot more to Freshwater than just Ogbanje. To make things interesting Yshwa (Jesus) and the Odinani spirits have a few conversations on how to keep Ada alive or kill.

Freshwater is a must must read! You will definitely miss a lot if you are a bibliophile and don’t read Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. The books is set in many countries, not only Nigeria, native to Odinani. So, even if you can’t relate to terminologies, you can relate to the countries. I, for one, could relate to a lot of things. Author talks about sari, roti, etc., that are found in India too. By the way, the word freshwater is used only once in the whole book, except the title. That is in the end. You get that?