Fiction

Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss

Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? By Dr. Seuss

Review by Shwetha H S

Title: Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?
Author: Dr. Seuss
Imprint: Harper Collins, UK
ISBN Number: 978-0-00-824000-4
Genre: Children’s Book, Onomatopoeia

Most of us don’t need an introduction to Dr. Seuss, but I will still give a brief introduction to this great personality for the benefit of others who are not aware of him. Dr. Seuss is a pseudonym or pen name of Theodor Seuss Geisel. Apart from being a writer, he wore many different hats like animator, political cartoonist and poet to name a few. Even if you have not read his books, you would have definitely heard of or watched the movie based on his books Horton Hears a Who!, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, and The Lorax.

There is no story in Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? It is more of a booklet to help children learn to read and progress with their pronunciation skills. While reading this book, I couldn’t help singing along. Why? Because all the lines in the book rhyme!

I recommend Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? to parents who are reading to their children who have begun to speak now as well as to children who have learnt to speak/read on their own. Enjoy the book!

Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu

Review by Shwetha H S

Title: Carmilla
Author: Sheridan Le Fanu
Imprint: Pushkin Press, UK
ISBN Number: 978-1-78227584-8
Genre: Classic, Fiction, Horror, Gothic, Vampires, Sapphic/Lesbian

Sheridan Le Fanu is an Irish writer, who lived in Dublin in the 1800s. He is touted to be Stephen King of his times. His work, Carmilla, is said to be the cult classic that inspired Bram Stoker to write his cult classic, Dracula.

Young Laura and her father live in a schloss (German for castle) in a place called Styria where families live very far from each other, but would like to visit each other. Laura doesn’t have any friends of her age, except her governesses who are of course older than her. She awaits visits from her far away neighbours hoping they would bring in their young nieces or friends with whom she could be friends. One such visit of an elderly neighbour with his niece gets cancelled at the last moment due to sudden death of the niece, for reasons unexplained to them by the neighbour. One night, in an accident outside their schloss, an injured girl of the age about that of Laura, is taken in after a lot of discussion with a lady who claims to be her mother. Joyed to have a friend at last, Laura spends a lot of time with her new friend, Carmilla, who is always tired, languid and tantrum-throwing. As Laura becomes closer to Carmilla, the more the former girl becomes weak. Unable to understand why Laura is weakening and getting nightmares, her father searches for answers. What answers does he get? What happened to the neighbour’s niece? Who is Carmilla? What happens to Laura? Read the book to get your answers.

If you have already read Dracula by Bram Stoker, you will find Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu a little pale. But, on the other hand, Carmilla is an easy read compared to Dracula. I personally don’t like epistolary novels. Dracula took me a very long time to finish reading. I struggled with it. Although Carmilla is in a similar form, it is a short read and hence tolerable. But, that is just me. Apart from this, I must acknowledge the fact that while writing one of the early fictions of vampirism, Sheridan Le Fanu also included homosexuality in it. Must have been too much to handle for the people of his era. However, it is very subtly handled in the narration. That might have avoided any furore. We don’t know what might have happened at that time. Sheridan Le Fanu is more dead than Carmilla now to answer our questions.

All in all, I neither recommend nor reject Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu. You are on your own with this.

Days In Pair by Om Raj Shrestha

Days In Pair by Om Raj Shrestha

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Fiction, Psychological Thriller
Imprint: Kindle Direct Publishing
ASIN: B088YLGXSQ

Days In Pair is a prelude to His Virtual Reality, both books coming from Om Raj Shrestha.

Sam is a teenager who has a set daily routine. Not just because he is disciplined, but because from infancy his routine has been set. Eli is his young, single, windowed mother. She doesn’t talk to Sam about his father, but both mother-son duo are happy living with her meager earning. Things start to get weird when Sam’s days start to happen in twos (attributing to the title of the book). His days are filled with déjà vu and he is not able to figure out whether the first day he experiences is the original and the next day is the duplicate or if the first day is a premonition and the next day is the real one. What does he and his mother do about his condition? You will not get your answers in this book as this is only a prelude. Read the book, or not. I will tell you my opinion.

The storyline is intriguing, but the narration fails it. It shifts the tenses so suddenly that it was difficult for me to grapple with it. As it is a psychological thriller, I wasn’t sure whether the shift in tenses is intentionally done or a mistake. But I understood as I continued to read the book further. The narration is also very childish and could have been well-developed. At many points of the story, the events are not even make-believe for a genre or a theme like this. Although the author says this book needs to be read with his next book, His Virtual Reality, and not as a stand-alone, I can see myself holding myself back from reading the next book.

I would not be recommending this book at anyone.

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.

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.

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.

The Son by Jo Nesbo

The Son by Jo Nesbo

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Thriller, Drama, Fiction
Imprint: Alfred A Knoff, New York
ISBN: 9780385351379

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.

Elixir by Sinjini Sengupta

Elixir by Sinjini Sengupta

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Fiction, Drama
Imprint: Readomania
ISBN: 9789385854545

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.

Birds of Prey by Archana Sarat

Birds of Prey by Archana Sarat

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Crime Thriller, Mystery, Fiction
Imprint: Readomania
ISBN: 9789385854200

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.

The Lively Library & An Unlikely Romance by Niranjan Navalgund

The Lively Library & An Unlikely Romance by Niranjan Navalgund

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Children, Young Adult, Fiction, Fantasy.
Imprint: Readomania
ISBN: 9789385854156

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.