Saturday, 4 May 2019

Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Author: Gail Honeyman
Genre: Contemporary
Type: Fiction

This book is something I am glad I picked up for the Popsugar prompt 25 – A debut novel. It is not usually a genre or premise I would usually read. But I chose it through recommendations.

Eleanor Oliphant is an adult who is generally considered a social misfit. She lives alone, has a job and there is a routine for everything in her life. She doesn’t socialise. Her mother is the only person in her life she speaks to regularly. One day, she sees a musician at his band performance whom she decides is her soul mate and plans to meet him, fall in love and get married to him. Also she is introduced to a colleague, Raymond who is friendly and doesn’t see the flaws in Eleanor. The remaining story tells why Eleanor is the way she is and did her plan to covet the musician work.

The entire book is single character centric and we see a character arc in Eleanor that happens by the people she meets. You don’t see a sudden twist and turn until you know her back story. I did feel a hint of mockery on all the questions on the norms, decorum and code we follow on social behaviour. Sometimes we don’t ask questions where we need to and hide behind etiquette.

The character does grow on you as you read. Eleanor is sometimes aware of her shortcomings but she doesn’t let that bother her.

The read is a smooth ride with the ebbs and flows of laughs and grief. It can be heart-warming and heartbreaking at the same time.

This one definitely goes into my list of good reads for the year.

Verdict: Highly recommended in contemporary fiction with odd characters are odd and a warm story.

Friday, 3 May 2019

Book Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Author: Maria Semple
Genre: Humour
Type: Fiction

I had selected this book for my Popsugar reading prompt 16- A book with a question in the title. I am still not sure how I feel about this book. I will try my best to put it into words.

The whole title is a little misleading. I was expecting some search expedition for a missing person from the start. But it comes almost at the end.

Bernadette is an opinionated mother of a 15 year old, Bee. She hates her neighbourhood and does most of her work through an outsourced personal assistant. Her husband is a Microsoft employee and is almost absent physically and emotionally. Bernadette has gone through so many issues like a big hit on her career as an architect, issues with her pregnancy and Bee’s health problems. When her daily life gives her grief, Bernadette disappears. Bee, who is very close to her mom, decides to find her. The remaining story says if she finds her mom or not.

The storytelling is done through a series of letters, notes and emails and a few narrations from Bee. So it makes the reading quick and easy. It is hilarious at a few scenes. But I wouldn’t say it is a laugh out loud humour. There is a whole lot of satire and sarcasm on the suburban culture of private schools, mommy clubs and Microsoft culture. But the world and characters in which the satire is played on is too shallow. I did feel sorry for Bernadette once all the reasons for her anguishes are explained.I couldn’t care any less about her neighbours. I couldn’t pine for anyone here. That is one downside about this book.

Verdict: At the end of the book, all I felt was uncertainty. I am still a bit confused if this is satire or humour.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Book Review: Behind Closed Doors

Author: B. A. Paris
Genre: Thriller
Type: Fiction

I picked this book for their reviews and rating from different sources. The author is new to me so I started with an open mind.

The story is a about a couple Jack and Grace Angel who seem to be the perfect couple to their friends. Jack is a domestic violence lawyer and has an amazing track record. Grace who used to be a fruit supply buyer for a big department store, quit her job after marrying Jack. Grace’s sister Millie has Down’s syndrome and is attending special needs school. The couple have great looks, a cute story about their courting, amazing holidays and a gorgeous home. The cherry on the top is Grace’s cooking which their friends applaud at the dinner parties. But with all the happy couple show going on, there are some deep secrets turning their life to a sham.

The story goes back and forth between Grace’s past and present. The author does not beat around the bush and there is no suspense about the dark secrets. You are immediately introduced to 2 different worlds.  Though there was potential for dark content I am grateful that there were no rambling psycho thoughts on display. There are no vivid and graphic descriptions of the cruelty, but you do fear for the person. Sometimes you feel so helpless that it makes you want to find a way to end the horror. The story keeps flowing uninterrupted and you come to the end without realising it.

In terms of character design, I think all major characters were well defined. I see the flaws on the decisions Grace makes but you can only know how your mind works if you are in that situation . Millie is observant and clever and my favourite in the novel. If it wasn't for her I don't know how the story would have proceeded.

Once I finished I thought it fit the Popsugar prompt 4: A book you think should be turned into a movie. If not a movie I think this could make a pretty good mini web series. I also think this book has a potential for a sequel.

Verdict: An engaging and exciting psychological thriller. Must read and highly recommended of the genre.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Book Review: Master of the Game

Author: Sidney Sheldon
Genre: Thriller
Type: Fiction

This book was chosen as part of Popsugar prompt 35: A book by an author whose first and last names start with the same letter. Sidney Sheldon is one of the primary authors that I had read when I moved on to thrillers from Enid Blyton’s works and Nancy Drew and I was never disappointed with any of his novels.

The novel starts with Kate Blackwell where on her ninetieth birthday she recollects the past events of her life and history of the conglomerate she owns Kruger-Brent Ltd. The story mostly happens in South Africa when diamond mining was a booming industry , describes how her father started the company from the scratch and showcases the hunger for power, riches, revenge, passion, betrayal, manipulation spanning across four generations.

You might find yourself pining for a character and the next second hating the same person making the character more humane. In most of Sheldon’s novels we can find strong-willed female characters. One such person is Kate though I am not going to debate on if she is good or evil. Every generation has 1 or 2 central characters and the writing does not make us feel the length of the book.

The novel never slows at any point. It is entertaining, ruthless and unputdownable.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Languages and Me

Being in a country with people speaking many languages, I have encountered a few hurdles with languages and here are some incidents with how strange it can be in our country.

Case 1:

I was raised in Bangalore until I was 10 and I never attended proper tuition of my mother tongue, Tamil, in school. My parents chose Hindi as second language for me in school as it would be easy for me to if we were to move to another state in the future.

I slowly learned the Tamil alphabet from my mom, newspapers and TV. I started reading and was able to read sentences without much effort. But I didn’t have the practice of writing. Even now I can write Tamil quickly. When we moved to Tamilnadu, for a couple of years I had a school which had an option selecting second language as Hindi. But in 7th standard I changed school which had Tamil as mandatory language along with Hindi. That's when I started having problems. I had no knowledge of grammar of the language. I had to cope up with the meager knowledge I had. The first monthly test results came and my answer sheet were fully marked in red. It was not just the grammar or spelling mistake. But I had been writing the script incorrectly. Or to be more accurate I was writing in an obsolete script, thanks to the newspapers I was using for my reading practice.

Now for a little history. Periyar, a prominent and famous politician and social activist of Tamilnadu, had proposed changes in the format of some syllables of Tamil during 1950s. It was something like this.

The latter syllables were brought into effect and were been used ever since. 40 years later I had been using the former pattern in my exams, courtesy of the newspapers. It never occurred to me that none of my textbooks had the letters that I was familiar with. Maybe I thought that you can write it in either way. God only knows what went in my mind at that time. (I still don’t know why the newspapers had been using the obsolete script) Much to my teacher’s bafflement, during the paper disctribution he asked me where I learnt from my Tamil from. After that I had to unlearn and learn again the letters. My Tamil teacher was patient enough to tolerate the mistakes I made in Tamil and he is one of my favourite teachers from my school days.

Case 2:

Me and my husband moved to Hyderabad a couple of years before. My husband can speak Telugu well whereas I have just started learning the language. I can understand most of it but can’t reply immediately if someone speaks to me. The house we moved to recently is owned by a Malayali couple and they have been living in Hyderabad for more than 20 years. 

Malayalam and Tamil are very close to each other and share most words. So it is logical for us to speak to the landlady in Tamil and them to us in Malayalam. But since my husband started off in Telugu to the landlady they continue to converse in Telugu. I assume her husband is not that fluent in Telugu as he never speaks in Telugu. Though I understand most part, I stand as a mere spectator to these conversations.

It’s funny how a third language is chosen to communicate when both the parties know much similar language as each other.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Book Review: To All The Boys I've Loved Before

Author: Jenny Han
Genre: YA, Romance
Type: Fiction

This is the first book of a trilogy and I liked the lighthearted read. I chose this book for Popsugar prompt 29 - A book with 'love' in the title.

The story revolves around a 16 year old Lara Jean. In order to let go of her crushes and move on, she has a habit of writing letters to her crushes expressing all her thoughts. But these letters are for her eyes only and are not intended to be posted ever. One of her crush is her sister’s ex-boyfriend Josh who is also a childhood friend and neighbour. Lara Jean’s world turned upside down when her elder sister leaves for college and Lara has to be the mother of the house. To make things matter worse, all of her letters get mysteriously posted. How does Lara Jean confronts the mayhem after that is the crux of the story.

Lara Jean is a shy girl and shares most of her private time with her family only. She has a deep relationship with her elder sister Margot who seems to be the most efficient and responsible person of the family. And it makes sense why Lara Jean looks upto Margot for approval. It is also nice to have an understanding dad like Dr. Covey. I am simply amused by Kitty’s character. She is a kid but as the story goes, I feel she is sensible enough to be Lara Jean’s elder.

The drama between Lara Jean and Peter is cute and as the story moves along we get the sense of where this goes.

The writing and the plot is simple and quick to read. Both the book and movie are equally good. I hope the other two books are as engaging as this one.

Verdict: This is a sweet, lighthearted, contemporary fluff but adorable nonetheless. Recommended for YA romance fans.

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Author: Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: Fiction

It has been so long that I have read books that made me feel so grateful for the life we have.I am always hesitant to pick historical fiction as most of them deal with the war and its consequences. It had raving reviews and was highly recommended in a book forum. I was happy to read this book for the Popsugar prompt 21–A book by two female authors.

Set in the post-war period of WW II, this is an epistolary historical novel. Juliet Ashton, a writer comes to know about a queer little book society called the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society in Guernsey. Yes, the name is a mouthful. She is dating Mark who covets her for her hand in marriage. After learning how this society came into being during the German occupation, Juliet falls in love with the land and the people. She discovers more about them and understands how little she knew about the Channel Islands. She goes to Guernsey to collect material for her next book based on this society. How Juliet brings change in the life of the people of Guernsey and vice versa forms the remaining story.

It took me time to know who is who in the book. But once I was set, there was no stopping. With every letter curiosity keeps building up. Not many books probe into the minds of book lovers and their obsessions. I am not a person who picks on the quotes I liked. But with this book I was marking down quotes that resonated with me. It is always nice to read about people’s experiences about how books have touched their lives and turned it around.

The book recollects the gruesome and depressive period of the war but the author has managed to lace it with humour. I found it was easy this way to comprehend the incidents of the war.

The book is divided into 2 sections: Part 1 was fast-moving. I felt part 2 was a bit stagnant at places. I loved the array of characters, their back stories and peculiar connections to books. I loved Juliet and Elizabeth the best.

I also watched the movie but I liked the book better. What else can you expect from a book worm? The modifications on the story-line and the characters did not sit well with me.

Verdict: I am quite happy with myself that I decided to read this book and this definitely goes into my list of forever favourites. I think most fiction book lovers would love this historical fiction.