Tuesday, 13 September 2016

17 in 1: A Collection of Book Reviews | Spoiler Free

I have maintained a series of weekly book reviews and recommendations on this blog that I call ‘Reviews Day Tuesday’. At some point earlier in the year however, I stopped. My reading continued but the reviewing took a hit. And as the list of books I needed to review grew larger and more intimidating, my willpower weakened likewise. So, to start off with a clean slate, here are – 17 books reviewed in a go. 

(As usual, all book reviews are spoiler free)

Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series (5 Books) by Rick Riordan

This is a series of 5 books narrated by the protagonist Percy Jackson, who starts out as a 12 year old boy. In a Harry Potter meets Greek mythology scenario, Percy discovers his demigod status, the presence of Greek gods in the 21st century and a prophecy that contains the fate of the world. No pressure. The series itself is scatter brained and chaotic, following Percy and his friends across America. But where the book lacks in the story, it makes up in the writing. In a first person narrative, Rick Riordan has given Percy a sarcastic, genuine and funny voice that ensures that there is never a dull moment. As is the case with most fantasy fiction novels, one tends to easily get invested to the point where the characters feel like friends. 

It is intended for the pre teen age group and rightfully so. But if you are like me and have a prior attachment (I first read it when I was 13), it is always a good series for some comfort rereading. 

Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz

Teeth is a love story between Rudy, a teenage boy who has moved to deserted island with his family with the hopes of improving his brother’s health and the merman who lives in the local waters called Teeth. True to its YA roots, the story is simply in its concept and execution. It is a short read, laced with a dry sense of humour and unapologetically bisexual undertones. It is funny, sincere and in moments, heart wrenching. The characters are instantly likeable and the ongoing conflict of the story is resolved neatly. For me, Rudy’s character is definitely worth reading the story. 

The Memory Box by Margaret Foster 

Catherine’s mother Susannah died when she was very young and left her with a box of clues that seemingly end up nowhere. From the stories she hears, she grows up believing her mom to be perfect and eventually resents the idea of her biological mother. It is only when she is much older and her father and step mother pass away that she comes across the memory box. This box and retracing her mother’s disjointed past provides her with a new perspective about her mother and life. 

While the concept sounds truly interesting, the story is spoilt by Catherine. She is a whiny person and an irritating character to narrate the story. The clues that so dramatically change Catherine’s vision seem quite pointless to an objective person.  Honestly, I would suggest you read Paper Towns by John Green instead. It has a similar message that is much more coherent and put forward in a far more impressive manner. 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 

Frankenstein is at best an average book. But picking up from the low of The Memory Box, followed by the high expectations that I had placed upon this book given its reputation, I found it disappointing. Frankenstein is a scientist who gives life to a previously dead person. However, upon seeing his face, he declares him to be a monster and discards him. The story hammers in the point that it is humans who are the real monsters and is thought provoking in a manner. 

The let down is Frankenstein, the scientist. He is another character who whines a lot. He spends a lot of time in self pity than actually stopping the monster. He isn’t easy to empathise with and as was with The Memory Box, a bad choice for the narrator. 

The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh

The Glass Palace spans over 5 generations, two world wars and an integral part of the Indian and Burmese history. It is the story of Rajkumar, who starts out as a 12 year old boy, his rise to power and his family. It has multiple characters and each of their stories intertwining makes up the plot. It takes on themes of colonisation, plantation workers and their lives, war, the freedom struggle and amidst it all, love. 

It is a slow read at times but the pace never dies out for too long. It is well researched which is why sometimes it comes across as an information dump. But if you read it from a historical perspective instead of a fictional one, it is a good read.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Having read Eleanor and Park, I had high expectations from Fangirl but it falls short. Fangirl is about Cath, who suffers from depression and her entry into the college world. It talks about her struggles with making friends, boy troubles and the growing distance between her and her twin sister. And throughout it all, she makes sense of her life with the help of writing fanfiction. 

At best, it is the story of another white teenage girl and at worst, it perpetuates that mental illnesses can be cured upon acquiring a boyfriend. This book is a quick read and I would recommend it for light reading. But if you decide to skip it, you won’t miss out on anything. 

The Mortal Instrument Series (6 books) by Cassandra Clare

TMI manages to incorporate the worst features of Twilight and Percy Jackson and stir them into one mediocre concoction. During one eventful trip to the nightclub, Clary witnesses a murder that opens her to the world of Shadowhunters, her past and her origins. Shadowhunters are humans with angel blood, who serve to destroy the demons and maintain peace between downworlders. As she balances between the life she has built and the world she is supposed to be a part of, she fights for her new friends, her mother’s life and to save the world. 

The story is addictive and engaging, but the plot is predictive. The unsettling part of the story is its take on relationships, especially given that this series is likely to resonate with the preteen and teen age group. The main characters – Jace and Clary – are the least interesting characters in the book. Pretty much any other character has a more intriguing arc and yet we are stuck with Jace and Clary for the majority of it. 

For my part, I wouldn’t recommend this series to anyone but if you do pick it up, it is a quick and easy read. 

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

“What is the point of stories that are not even true?” 
That is a dialogue from the book and essentially, the book is an answer to that question. After a spell of bad books, Rushdie is the genius to put it to an end. Haroun and the Sea of Stories is the story of Rashid, the Shah of Blah, who has a knack for storytelling. One day, immediately after his wife leaves him, he loses his ability to conjure up stories. It comes down to his son, Haroun to visit Kahani, a magical land, and resume his father’s subscription to the sea of stories. 

What follows is the adventure to fulfil his quest and on a thematic level, the importance of a combination of silence and talking. 

When I read Midnight’s Children last year, I mentioned that Salman Rushdie writes in poetry and I stand by that. Haroun and the Sea of Stories is meant to be a children’s story but Rushdie’s style brings the magic to life and makes it an entertaining read for children and adults alike. It has something to offer for everyone. 

And on that note, I shall see you next Tuesday with another book to talk about. 

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