The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Fiction, Classic
ISBN: 0-09-990840-9
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.

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Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Horror, Fiction, Classic
ISBN: 978-0-553-21271-6
Imprint: Bantam Classic

Abraham Stoker, an Irish novelist known to the world as Bram Stoker, wrote short stories too. He is famous for his work Dracula, which was first named as The Undead.

The story is set in and written in 19th century. Jonathan Harker, a solicitor from England, goes to Transylvania to meet his client Count Dracula regarding new properties bought for the Count. Since the start of the journey until he reaches the castle, Harker is spooked by the strange things that transpire and the driver controlling the wolves. Once in the castle, the strange behaviour and looks of the old Count Dracula make him nervous. What scare him further are the ghosts that try to feed on him and his house arrest by the Count. While Harker is struggling to escape from Transylvania, his fiancée, Wilhelmina Murray also known as Mina, worries of not hearing properly from him in England. She spends her time with her friend Lucy Westenra in Whitby. Lucy starts behaving strangely at night after being found on lonely ground alone with tow marks on her neck. Lucy’s fiancé, Arthur Holmwood also known as Lord Godalming, and his two friends, Dr. John Seward and Quincey Morris who are also in love with Lucy, are worried about continuously failing health of Lucy. Dr. Seward also faces the issue of handling Renfield, a loon. Distraught by this, Dr. Seward invites his professor and friend, Abraham Van Helsing, from Amsterdam to come see Lucy. Van Helsing takes a look at Lucy and understands the reason to be a vampire. He tries to save her and succeeds to even do so, but fails when she throws caution into air. Dead Lucy turns into a vampire, but eventually gets killed. Things take a bad turn when the rescued and married Jonathan Harker sees a young Count Dracula in England. Mina and Jonathan form a team with the other four men to put an end to the haunting in England.

Dracula is written in the diary form. The day-to-day happenings are written in each person’s diary. Each and every minute detail is elaborately explained. Just like other novels written in this format, the story by Bram Stoker too bores the readers every now and then. Skip a few paragraphs and you will still be able to understand what’s going on. The reader will be desperate to finish the book. The only best part, from a movie buff point of view, is you get the origin of Dr. Van Helsing in this book. But we should applaud Bram Stoker for coming up with a vampire story back when people were still not into paranormal fantasy erotica.

Read this classic only if you have nothing better to do.

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Sci-Fi, Steampunk

Robert Louis Stevenson is known for his works that are not with the usual stories. He is more famous for Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

A new man in the town is being notorious and is instantly disliked by the residents. He is Mr. Edward Hyde. He has no regard for others. But what baffles Mr. Utterson is the link between his friend, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and this abominable man, Mr. Edward Hyde. Though the whole town hates Hyde, Jekyll likes him and this makes Utterson worry about his friend. Jekyll even writes his will in favour of Hyde. Meanwhile, Hyde murders a prominent person of the town and goes into hiding when everyone starts looking for him. With this turn of events, Jekyll revokes his own will and modifies it. He also detaches himself from his friends and refuses to see anyone. In a span of few days, the household of Dr. Jekyll is scared to the core and come to seek Utterson’s help in solving a mystery that turns out to be the shock of their lives.

As one of the firsts of its kind, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is a masterpiece in its own terms. Apart from a good story and the element of surprise, well, shock, the author has depicted diabolical nature of a human as well as his helplessness in the best way possible to cater to a reader’s mind. On the whole, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a good one-time read. Maybe you will read again and that will be only for the diary part of Dr. Jekyll which is towards the end of the story.

What’s Neema Eating Today? by Bijal Vachharajani (Illustrations by Priya Kuriyan)

What’s Neema Eating Today? by Bijal Vachharajani (Illustrations by Priya Kuriyan)

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Children
Imprint: Pratham Books

What’s Neema Eating Today? is a children’s book by Bijal Vachharajani with illustrations by Priya Kurian. It is a book that tells kids as well as adults on what to eat according to different seasons. Not only the names of tasty fruits and vegetables, the illustrations also make the book all more enjoyable. The colourful pictures will definitely make kids want to eat fruits and vegetables, especially the Neema gobbles her food in the illustrations. Apart from foods, the book also explains about different season. So, this book is good for kids, and also to adults who want to read to their kids. The author and illustrator of the book needs a huge round of applause for not using a fair skinned girl to depict Neema.

Brother Jacob by George Eliot

Brother Jacob by George Eliot

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Fiction, Drama

George Eliot is the penname or pseudonym adopted by Mary Ann Evans, an English novelist of Victorian era. She used the name George Eliot to avoid prejudices of her times against the female novelist, who were expected to write only romances. She wanted everyone to take her works seriously, just like they took male writers’ works seriously. As George Eliot, Mary Ann Evans was, and is still, largely known for her work, Middlemarch.

David Faux is a young confectioner with no good luck at anything that he does as business. He learns that his fate might change if he goes to West Indies. But to go there, he doesn’t have enough funds. So he steals from his mother. While stealing, his retard brother, Jacob, walks up on him. David distracts Jacob with candies and lozenges in his pocket, but ends up revealing to his idiot brother that he is stealing. Still, David escapes Jacob. Years later, David Faux starts a new life as Mr. Freely in a small town called Grimsworth. People of the town warm up to him and slowly accept him. But what happens to his mother, retard brother and rest of the family? Will karma strike back at David Faux a.k.a. Mr. Freely?

Brother Jacob by George Eliot is stretched until parched. It is so boring that you can predict what is going to happen in the end just by reading first few pages. It can be put in this way: It is boring for adults, but if given to kids, how David treats his retard brother, Jacob, gives a bad impression. Choose wisely.

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Biography
Imprint: Anchor Books, a division of Random House Inc., New York
ISBN: 0-307-27563-9

Mitchell Albom, known to the world and in the book, Tuesdays with Morrie, as Mitch Albom, is a sports journalist and radio broadcaster turned novelist. He has written many books related to sports, and fiction and nonfiction novels. He is most famous for his books Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet In Heaven.

Morrie Schwartz is a professor in Brandeis University and Mitch Albom is his newly graduated student, a favourite student. After graduation, Mitch is engrossed in his own life and loses contact with his “coach.” Years later, when a successful Mitch hits a road block in his work field and is made to sit at home due to worker union strike, he sees his coach on a national TV show. Morrie is diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and is sure to die soon. Shocked to see his professor in such condition, Mitch reaches out to him. Even after no communication since the graduation day, Morrie welcomes Mitch as though nothing has changed. They make it a habit of meeting every Tuesday so that Morrie can teach Mitch about different aspects of life because no one can explain life better than a dying man. Mitch, with Morrie’s approval, records their “classes.” Each Tuesday, Mitch finds his professor in a more deteriorated condition. Mitch worries but Morrie wants to serenely die. ALS consumes Morrie’s body completely and he knows that he will die at any moment. As per his wish, he serenely passes away when his family is under the same roof. After Morrie’s death, Mitch publishes Tuesdays with Morrie, which the old professor always called “the last thesis” of his favourite student.

Tuesdays with Morrie is not a self-help book. It is a book that imparts an old dying man’s knowledge about life to others. It is not preaching kind, but tells you from the view point of a person who had been there, done that. If it helps, you can imagine Morrie as Arthur in the movie, The Holiday. A dying man has courage to make fun of everything, even death. By the time you near the end of the book, your heart will be heavy, but you will wish it never ends. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom is a book that everyone should read at least once in their lives. Read the book to know what “the last thesis” has to offer to any soul that is lost in the daily humdrum.

A Pelican at Blandings by P G Wodehouse

A Pelican at Blandings by P G Wodehouse

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Humour, Fiction
Imprint: Penguin Books
ISBN: 0-14-005033-7

English humour with a heavy dose of sarcasm is what makes P G Wodehouse a favourite among readers when they want to stay away from the daily humdrum and escape the reality. Best known as the creator of Jeeves, P G Wodehouse also wrote the Blandings Castle series. He not only makes you laugh and sit back relaxing in your couch, but also makes you sit straight with surprise. P G Wodehouse was, and is, the man who tickles readers, generation after generation.

Clarence Threepwood, the ninth Earl of the Emsworth, who lives in Blandings Castle, is shocked by his sister, Lady Constance’s surprise visit. For an Earl, who prefers to be in his pajamas than uptight in suits all the time, the arrival of his sister, who insists on dressing up even for dinner, is a pain in the neck. But he is afraid of her and goes dumber than he already is whenever she is around. On top of it, Duke of Dunstable invites himself to Blandings Castle and Lady Constance is pleased. To avoid any kind of embarrassments and insults, the Earl seeks company and assistance of their brother, Galahad Threepwood a.k.a Gally. Lady Constance hates Gally. As the story takes turn, or turns, many other characters come into picture. Linda Gilpin, niece of the Duke, is in love with John Halliday, godson of Gally, but the Duke doesn’t approve of this due to selfish reasons. Vanessa Polk, a friend of Lady Constance, meets her ex-boyfriend Wilbur Trout, who is invited to the castle by the Duke. Howard Chesney, a shady young man, lurks among them. Where does the story lead the reader with half of the characters being eccentric?

Duke of Dunstable is more than enough to irk anyone. You will pity his niece, Linda Gilpin. Lady Constance and Clarence Threepwood, the Lord Emsworth are poles apart though they are siblings. Constantly pestered by others characters, Galahad Threepwood is not the man you want, but need on your side. Considering A Pelican at Blandings is the one before last in the Blandings Castle series, the reader might think that he or she might not understand anything of the story. But the genius P G Wodehouse is, he never makes the reader feel lost. There is enough explanation about each character to understand as much as required for the current story. It is difficult to put down the book unless it falls on your face when you have lost sleep trying to finish reading what P G Wodehouse has to offer.

This book is highly recommended for the sheer pleasure of humour. If you want to pick up sarcasm from this book, you have made the right choice.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F Scott Fitzgerald

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F Scott Fitzgerald

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Fiction, Short Story

F Scott Fitzgerald is an American author who had his own style of writing in retro times. He did not follow others style and his readers appreciated his ways. F S Fitzgerald is known for many works of the budding modern America, but most famous are The Great Gatsby and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Roger Button fathers an unusual child. The child is born seventy-years old with hair strands meant to be on his head on his chin. The child is lean and wobbly like an old man, and is able to get along well with his grandfather than new born babies. This bizarre occurrence rattles Roger Button and makes him try hard to show an old man as a baby. As time passes, the baby now named Benjamin Button, starts looking younger and younger. When Benjamin starts appearing like a fifty-year old man, Hildegarde Moncrief falls in love with him and marries him. His phenomenon of reverse aging makes him look younger day-by-day and his wife look like his mother. Later he even starts looking like his own son, Roscoe Button. What Benjamin does with his rare life is the story to be read.

While reading The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, leave your rationality behind. For the love of logic, you don’t know how a seventy-year old man came out of the vagina of a female human being. Apart from that, this story is a good read and can be read in a single sitting.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Historical fiction, Classic
Imprint: Puffin Classics
ISBN: 978-0-141-32554-5

Charles Dickens. The name itself brings tirade of literary works to the reader’s mind. Out of such works, Oliver Twist, Christmas Carols and David Copperfield are few.

A Tale of Two Cities is about a civil revolution, one that takes the good and the bad alike; for personal vengeance leaving rationality, and for benefit of the public without rationality. Though it is supposed to be about two cities, the story takes place in London, Paris and Saint Antoine. There are people moving between these places to bring out the story that is so magnificent and greater than life that one cannot help but sit back and revel in it.

Doctor Alexnadre Manette is brought to civilized life back by his good old friend Jarvis Lorry and daughter Lucie Manette, and brought to London from Saint Antoine. She also aids in saving life of Charles Darnay whom she marries later. Charles Darnay and Sidney Carton, a lawyer and a family friend, are lookalikes. Due to circumstances that were unanticipated, Charles is imprisoned in Paris during the French revolution. Mr. and Mrs. Defarge, the couple who once helped Manette family, now are hell-bent on prosecuting Charles Darnay due to his aristocratic connections in France. How the doctor, his friend and Sidney Carton help in getting Darnay out of prison and escaping from France is the story of this masterpiece.

The outstanding characters of this story are Sidney Carton and Madame Defarge also known as Therese Defarge. The reader will pity Carton for being a loyal person who is in love with Lucie Manette, but little can be guessed about the role he plays in her life. Madame Defarge is a sinister figure who will give you chills even on a summer noon. All other characters are important in their place. There are too many characters in the story, but they are all justified. None of them is unnecessarily stuffed to make the story grow.

A Tale of Two Cities is an astounding book that never lets the reader down and never lets the reader put it down. So captivating is this story that you will regret for not having read it sooner in your life. Love, vengeance and loyalty are personified in the form of characters created by Charles Dickens. It might even turn to be an overwhelming read.

One should never judge a book by its cover, and one should never judge a book by its title too. I thought this must be another story of how two cities tried to be better than one another, but I was proven wrong. This is much more.

If you have not already read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens as a part of your school curriculum, then this moment, right now is the best time to start reading it.

The Mind has Mountains by Elizabeth Jennings

The Mind has Mountains by Elizabeth Jennings

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Poetry

The Mind has Mountains has many poems by Elizabeth Jennings about mental illness and mental health. In A Mental Hospital Sitting-Room is about how it feels to wait there and what goes on in a patient’s mind. Diagnosis and Protest gives a glimpse of the poetess’ mind. Madness is little confusing because it leaves the reader wondering who is actually mentally ill. Reflections on A Mental Hospital tells about how a patient who is getting better feels and what it feels like for a third person to watch them. The Interrogator gives the reader an idea of what a psychiatrist does. The poetess has a thing for paintings. The stanzas of poems are abruptly broken and started anew. In Van Gogh, the poetess muses over the perks of being mad. The Jump shows how people with mental illness die. Attempted Suicide tells about how mentally ill people feel after their failed suicide attempts. Lisa is truly enlightening. Questions gives a glimpse into what goes on inside the head of a mentally ill person. Night Sister is about what hardships do to us. The Illusion talks about horrors of how and why people cope with fear. Hysteria is about hysteria in a mental hospital. There are many more poems in this collection and all are about mental health. Read this book only if you really like poems of all kinds.