Review by Shwetha H S
Imprint: Dial Press
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.
Review by Shwetha H S
Genre: Thriller, Drama, Fiction
Imprint: Alfred A Knoff, New York
Jo Nesbo is a musician, song writer and economist, as well as writer. His Harry Hole novels include The Redeemer, The Snowman, The Leopard and Phantom, and he is also the author of several stand-alone novels and the Doctor Proctor series of children’s books. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Glass Key for best Nordic crime novel. The Son, known as Sonner in Norwegien, is one of the stand alone works of this multi-talented writer. It was published in 2014.
Sonny Lofthus is happily settled in the prison convicted for the crimes that he didn’t do but is getting drugs as a compensation. He doesn’t have a care for the world, but every prisoner thinks he is divine and goes to him to make a confession whenever they feel burdened by their conscience. When Sonny gets to know that his father was not a mole but was a victim of conspirers, he breaks out of the prison to avenge his father’s death and other meaningless deaths for which he was made scapegoat. In the process, he falls in love with Martha who is caretaker of the drug addicts hostel where he takes refuge. Simon Kefas, a aging but efficient police officer who was Sonny’s father’s partner and friend, starts looking for the son who ends up finally looking for the Twin who heads the mafia in Norway. With government officials conspiring against Sonny and unsure whether Simon is helpful or not, the son forges is way ahead to reach the Twin. How he does and what he does is for you to not just read but to enjoy.
It took me some time to get used to so many characters thrown at me one after other. But they all are well etched and distinct characters that are not just brought in to be props but to move story forward. Reading the novel felt like I was watching a movie. Everything was well described and was catering to my imagination.
The Son by Jo Nesbo is a must read. Don’t miss it.
Review by Shwetha H S
Genre: Fiction, Drama
Sinjini Sengupta is a poetess, columnist and a short story writer. By profession, she is an actuary. Her debut novel Elixir is based on mental health.
Manisha is an actuary in an MNC. She is married to Amit who is working hard for his startup. Theirs is an arranged marriage with no love, and no understanding from Amit’s end. Manisha feels lonely as her husband doesn’t give her any attention, and whenever she tries to tell him anything, he ignores her. Amit always takes his mother’s side though he knows his wife is right. In his ignorance towards his wife, he doesn’t notice that she is suddenly happy with her life and suddenly screws up at her job for which she was always praised. Her strange behavior catches his attention and bothers him. This even takes them on the verge of divorce. But what is this strange but seemingly normal life of Manisha that is troubling people around her? Read Elixir to get your answer. Or rather rush through it. Why? I will tell you.
As mentioned above, Elixir is a novel about mental health. But reading it will give readers a mental illness. Author has used “you see” so many times that it starts to get on the nerves. Every character talks like that as if there is no difference between one another. The writing or terrible editing has left too many commas for the readers making the narration unreadable. The narration is incorrigible. Even after three chapters can’t understand what Manisha is doing. Maybe that is what the author wants to convey; not let the readers understand the story. So much of description that cannot be understood has killed my imagination and made me turn to Facebook often. The author’s attempted sophisticated description about everything is suffocating. To top it all, Manisha is always wondering whether it will rain today or not. She has a reason, but this wondering is overdone, left me wondering why I am reading it. I understand that Sengupta was describing Manisha’s loneliness. But in that attempt, she makes the reader feel lonely with her book. The experience of reading this book was truly traumatic.
Read Elixir by Sinjini Sengupta if you have nothing better to read. Oops, you can’t read until the last three chapters. Till then, you ought to rush to keep your sanity.
Review by Shwetha H S
Genre: Crime Thriller, Mystery, Fiction
Birds of Prey is a debut novel of Archana Sarat, a chartered accountant turned writer. She is also a poetess. Her works have appeared in various magazines and anthologies.
Anton Pinto is a police officer turned tour guide in Goa. His colleague and friend, Rajesh, comes seeking his help in a case of disappearing men. Anton, who had quit his risky job for the sake of his wife and daughter, because he almost died in his last case, reluctantly agrees to help his friend and goes to Mumbai where the new case is filed. All three men, who have disappeared so far, have gone missing in the same way by following an old limping lady. Who the lady is? Nobody knows. When the dead bodies of these three men turn up in a forest area in a sack, case intensifies. At the same time another man goes missing in the same way. Anton goes looking for a common link between all these men. That’s when he comes across Swarna whose peculiar behaviour arouses his curiosity. But is Swarna the culprit or someone else? Why are men missing in the same way? What is the common link between all these men? Will Anton succeed in stopping more men from going missing? You have to read Birds of Prey by Archana Sarat to get your answers.
Apart from few editorial mistakes, Birds of Prey is an outstanding crime thriller by an Indian author. Archana Sarat couldn’t have gotten any better debut than this. The narration is superb. Superb is an understatement. Archana’s vivid narration incites such emotions that sometimes you feel nauseated and sometimes high on adrenaline. I had to go to work, so took about three days to finish this book. But my boyfriend couldn’t resist finishing the book, so took a day off and finished reading Birds of Prey in a day. This book is a definite recommendation. Don’t forget to read it as soon as possible.
Review by Shwetha H S
Genre: Children, Young Adult, Fiction, Fantasy.
The Lively Library & Unlikely Romance is an appreciable debut novella by Niranjan Navalgund, an author and a chess player from India.
Nayan, an arbiter in the chess tournaments, is now looking after a library that his father has left behind. It was Nayan’s father’s last wish to reopen the library which was very special for him. Why was it special for his father? Nayan doesn’t know. In absence of humans in the immediate surroundings, the books of the library come to life. They have their own world in which they are equipped with all the counterparts of human world. These books fall in love and get married too. Like humans, they too face curses. And they have their own gods too. Pakshi and Helmine are the cursed divine entities of this lively library. While the books are going about their day-to-day lives, they get to know of an upcoming danger. What is that danger? How did they get to know about it? What will they do to protect themselves from this unknown danger? Read the Lively Library & Unlikely Romance to decode the codes of this book world.
For a novella, The Lively Library & An Unlikely Romance does good with the brief descriptions and scenes. But as a reader, I felt that the concept of this book, though beautiful, got wasted without the elaboration into grandeur. This concept honestly had such potential. A grand fantasy world got shrunk to a tiny segment. The author could have built on each chapter with more details to cater to the imagination of the readers. I am disheartened by the shortness of this life of the lively library. The calculations in between the narration distracts the flow. And the curses could have been explained in detail too. It is such a loss to the readers! Nevertheless, whatever is narrated is enough to give you a peek into the lively library as the book also has illustrations to aid to your imagination.
Review by Shwetha H S
Genre: Dystopian fiction
Anthem is another offering from Alice Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum a.k.a Ayn Rand, the same author who gave us The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Readers who like, or at least read 1984 by George Orwell, can instantly relate to Anthem.
Anthem is set in the world of far future, where men and women don’t have a name but are designated a pseudo-right with a number as their names, where people don’t have a separate house for themselves and live in huge dormitories, where in the name of equality and justice, humans have denied themselves the right to live the way they want to. Equality 7-2521 is a promising young man who deserves and is talented but is given the work of a street sweeper during the distribution of youth to different employment. He chances upon an undiscovered underground place from the Unmentionable Times i.e., our current time. During the great shift, people completely abandoned all the technology, including electricity, and are relearning and rediscovering everything from the scratch. Equality 7-2521 falls in love with Liberty 5-3000, a beautiful maiden assigned to work in the farms. In this world, it is forbidden to fall in love with anyone because it is against the rules to prefer one person more than others in the world of equality. Both Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000 know they love each other but are unable to express their feelings as it is forbidden to use words ‘I’ and ‘love’, and talk about feelings. Quality 7-2521 finds about electricity from the undiscovered underground place and goes out to share the knowledge with the designated scholars. After listening to him, the designated scholars demand his arrest and death because a designated street sweeper thinks he is superior to the designated scholars. What does he do now? If he is arrested and killed, what happens to Liberty 5-3000? Hang in there! You can find out by reading Anthem by Ayn Rand.
While reading Anthem, initially it is difficult to understand whether Equality 7-2521 is only one person or a group of people. That is the trick of Ayn Rand’s narration. That narration of hers helps to make the reader understand the plight of humans in this dystopian world. It is difficult to find any bad point about Anthem even just to mention here.
If 1984 by George Orwell was not depressing enough for you and if it did not scare you enough to worry about the world you will leave for your future generations, do read Anthem by Ayn Rand. It will make you cry yourself sleep.
Review by Shwetha H S
Genre: Children, Young Adult, Fantasy, Fiction.
Imprint: Partridge India
Secrets of Zynpagua: Search of Soulmates is the second book in the Secrets of Zynpagua series by Ilika Ranjan. The first book, Secrets of Zynpagua: Return of the Princess, garnered great reviews and the third book, Secrets of Zynpagua: Birth of Mystery Child, is out now and is up for grabs. Ilika Ranjan is not only a children’s book author. Her first book was a fiction about corporate life called “Puppet on the Fast Track.”
Search of Soulmates starts with Anika, the princess of Zynpagua, getting a premonition that Zynpagua is going to be under a threat again soon. Her premonition turns true when Drudan, the evil scientist, returns with the support of magic of a mermaid to rule of Zynpagua and also rule over the Earth. The demon planets help the evil to reduce the goodness blessed by the good planets and everything falls into place for Drudan and his mermaid. But Anika, with the equipped with the teachings of Venus, fights Drudan, mermaid and their army of evil people and disgusting sea worms, with the support of her mother Sussaina, brother Vivian, Lady Carol – the queen of kingdom of clouds, her grandson Leo, a snake Romeo and a tortoise Mootu along with a flock of magical rainbow birds and peregrine falcons. Femina, who was turned into stone, comes back to life thanks to Anika’s uncle Frederick. To know how an eleven year old princess Anika fights evil, how Femina comes to life and whether they win or lose, read Secrets of Zynpagua: Search of Soulmates.
Secrets of Zynpagua: Search of Soulmates is a good sequel to the first book, but needs heavy editing to be done. Apart from that, the story is good enough to cater to children’s imagination. It is a good progress in the Indian scenario for children’s books. It is also an attempt to have both religion and science in one place. Children will definitely enjoy this second book in the series.
Review by Shwetha H S
Genre: Play, Fiction, Drama
William Shakespeare doesn’t need any introduction. He has numerous plays, novels and short stories to his name. There is so much of him, yet we cannot have enough of him.
The Winter’s Tale is a play by William Shakespeare telling us the story of the kingdoms, Sicilia and Bohemia through their royalties. Leontes is the king Sicilia and his wife, the queen, is Hermoine. Leontes childhood friend is Polixenes who is the king of Bohemia and is about to go back to his kingdom after a really long vacation in Sicilia. Seeing Leontes desperately trying to make Polixenes stay for more time, the very much pregnant Hermoine succeeds in convincing the king of Bohemia to stay back. This creates suspicion in Leontes regarding illicit affair of his wife with his friend. He believes the child in Hermoine’s womb is Polixenes’ and not his own. He sends his wife to prison and asks his loyal servant Camillo to kill the Bohemian king. But Camillo, who knows that his king is out of sorts, helps Polixenes escape to Bohemia and he himself goes with the Bohemian king to Bohemia. Hermoine gives birth to a baby girl, but Leontes doesn’t accept her as his. Their son, the prince, dies as he is separated from his mother. Hermoine too dies in prison. Paulina, wife of Antigonus, both loyal to Leontes, tries to convince the king, but in vain. Leontes orders Anitgonus to take the baby away and kill it. But Antigonus leaves it in Bohemia and gets killed by a bear in the process. On the other hand, Leontes learns from prophecies from the Apollo oracle that he made a mistake regarding his family and repents. What happens to the two royal families is the rest of the story.
There is no doubt that William Shakespeare has a good story in store with The Winter’s Tale. Most of the Hollywood and Bollywood movies are based on his stories. The only downside of this play is it is an unabridged version. It takes the readers some time to get used to the language and understand what is happening. Do give it a try.
Review by Shwetha H S
Genre: Fiction, Spiritual
Imprint: Good Times Books Pvt. Ltd., India
Dr. Hari Parameshwar is an India author who has written books such as Many Paths Many Answers, Chase of Choices and The Pillar Invisible. He is also a management consultant and an expert in airport infrastructure. Blinks in Blackout is his fourth book.
Vikram Purohith is a corporate bigwig who takes a long leave to go on a vacation since the last time which he doesn’t remember. Due to miscommunications and freak turn of events, he is unable to go on the vacation where he is supposed to meet his estranged wife and daughter one last time before his divorce. Back home, he slips over spilled water, falls down the stairs with nobody, even his household staff, to help him. His conscience is working, but he doesn’t know whether he is dead or just unconscious. What happens next is the story you get in Blinks in Blackout.
Though the theme is of corporate life and how it changes everything, there is a good share of spirituality, morale and ethics too in Blinks in Blackout, just like in other books by Dr. Hari Parameshwar. Narration by the author is good as usual but the book needs a lot of editing to be done. Also what might bother the reader is the elaboration of the concept or theme that could be explained in a few words or pages. All in all, Blinks in Blackout is a good one-time read.
Review by Shwetha H S
Genre: Fiction, Classic
Imprint: Arrow Books
Ernest Hemingway is an American novelist, short story writer and journalist. Though he has written many acclaimed works like A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises, it is The Old Man and The Sea that truly brought him fame with Pulitzer Award and later Nobel Prize in Literature.
As the name suggests, The Old Man and The Sea is a story of an old fisherman and his love-hate relationship with the sea. Santiago is an old fisherman who has not caught any fish in a long time. Manolin, a young boy who apprenticed with the old man before he went broke, still cares for the old man but works for another fishing boat. One day, Santiago goes fishing early in the morning into the sea after waking up Manolin. The old man catches a huge fish that starts dragging him and his skiff along with it further away from the mainland for days. When the old man finally kills and ties the huge fish to his skiff to take it back home, he is worried about shark attacks and whether he will be able to ward them off without much damage to his catch in his deteriorated physical and mental condition. Will he survive or die saving his catch? Or will he survive and save his catch? Or will he survive and not save his catch?
The whole story is about the confidence the old man exudes and the love and confidence the young boy has on the old man. The author might have other interpretations. Even the reader might find his or her own interpretations. But reading too much between the lines might strain your brain.
The Old Man and The Sea is yet another classic that you can read to tick-off from your list.