Book Review — Paper Towns by John Green

Thank you Bloomsbury India for sending me a copy of this book for review :) 

Paper Towns starts off as your typical high school story, complete with parties and prom, dating troubles and unrequited love. Quentin Jacobsen has always loved Margo Roth Spiegelman, his childhood friend who grew distant after high school politics got in the way. And so when she appears out of nowhere at Quentin’s window, demanding that he help her carry out an all night revenge plan, he complies. Unfortunately for Quentin, he gets his hopes up, beginning to wonder if they will finally become the friends they were meant to be. However, the next day presents a varied truth. Margo has not only gone missing, but she’s left behind clues with which to be found. As Quentin and his friends embark on a speedy road trip, they begin to wonder if they had ever really known Margo at all.

Image courtesy – Goodreads.

Having read a book by John Green before, I was certain I would enjoy this one. But I hadn’t expected to absolutely love it. Not even three-fourth into it, did I think it would be a book worth reading again. But here’s where John Green’s writing bolsters the story. The last few chapters become so much more than a high school story. The philosophy behind it all is sure to reach out to anyone, as we are all merely trying to find our place in this world. Interspersed with several Whitman quotes and references to other literary figures’ works (which I loved reading), Paper Towns shows us that paper (two dimensional) people and paper places have a life of their own. The moment something is put down on paper it is infused with some of the creator’s soul. The idea behind the paper towns reminded me of Wislawa Szymborska’s poem, The Joy of Writing – “Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?” In keeping with this idea, Margo becomes one with her writing. Her escapades enact her, rather than the other way around.

For a majority of time, I disliked the character of Margo Spiegelman. She appeared to be insensitive to Quentin’s feelings, was rather self centered and attention seeking. And throughout their road trip, I kept wondering why they didn’t turn around. Why were all these people incessantly looking for a person who didn’t want to be found? But you come to understand, as did Quentin, Margo’s perspective towards the end. While it isn’t ideal, it is understandable. While road trips are all fun and games, it does test your strengths. This scavenger hunt of sorts definitely increased the appeal of road trips for me. Quentin, Ben and Radar’s friendship was one of the highlights of the book. They are the kind of friends who would set aside even the most important of matters when the other needs them. I wished Margo could have better understood Lacey. They could have been fast friends too, after everything Lacey did for her. There’s enough humor in the book to crack you up occasionally. It was a splendid story, one that I will read again. I recommend it to all those who haven’t read it yet.

Ratings – 5 stars on 5.

Meera

Confessions of an Experiential Vagabond

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If travels weren’t merely an exploration
Not just an addition to our repertoires.
Could they be a splintering of our souls?
We, who wander places lush with greenery
And dry with a blazing sun.
Surely a sliver of us is left behind
With the people we meet
And the lands we traverse.
For time to come, they will carry us – a spot.
A spot indiscernible to the birds’ eyes
And yet the routine continues.
The pain of separation all too familiar.
Were any harm to befall them,
Then the trauma would rush through us.
Into thousands, if our souls can withstand being split.
What else can it not endure?

– Meera

 

Book Review — Silver in The Blood by Jessica Day George

Thank you Bloomsbury India for sending me a copy of this book for review:)

Jessica Day George crafts a captivating tale of two cousins – Lou and Dacia – who, under the pretense of a family gathering, are made aware of a dark family secret. The infamous Florescus have been keeping their real identity under wraps, while they strut about in Romania as a rather influential family. Since the cousins have come of age, their dictator like grandmother Lady Ioana calls upon the entire family to set forth in motion, the supposed life purpose of the Florescus. Gradually, the cousins realize that as the head of the family Lady Ioana may lead the Florescus to partake in a horrible mission – one that could mean the end of all that is just and  natural. No longer the vacation they had intended, their time in Romania shrinks into a battle between past alliances and those with the will to protect the future of Europe. Silver in The Blood seeks to unveil the depravity of society by pitting metaphysical beings against the monstrous intentions of others.

This book was a delight from the start. The very first chapter succeeded in keeping me hooked to the story. In part it was all because of the fluid and smooth writing style of the author, wherein chapters melt into one another seamlessly and you feel spellbound to what’s happening on the pages. Precisely, it is unputdownable. Lou and Dacia share a lovely bond and the strength of their relationship furthered the plot, in addition to all that they encountered. In fact their personalities aren’t very much like the 19th century women or atleast how those women were expected to be. Lou and Dacia surpass all such expectations by growing into strong women, able to lead and defend their family. Lady Ioana’s character is extremely detestable. She is so infuriating, I often wondered how the rest of the family tolerated her. One other thing that irked me about the story is how little Lou and Dacia’s parents intervened in what they were being subject to. I found that to be very odd.

The cover of the book and the title were clear indicators of what the secret could be. And even though I had guessed it from the start, it worked in no way as a spoiler because the story is about much more than what their family was hiding. In fact it has so much to do with how the characters in the book react to it. Theo and Lord Johnny play a crucial role in the book. Apart from their purpose in the larger scheme of things, their intended equation with the girls was also predictable. This book is so riveting that I barely had any complaints. Moreover, we are exposed to some Romanian fashion and traditions. I loved the fact that the setting of the book was in the late 1800s and it also alludes to Stoker’s Dracula. Those who enjoy genres like fantasy, historical fiction and mystery should definitely give this one a try. It is absolutely wonderful!

Ratings – 4 stars on 5.

Meera

Korean Drama Review — Nail Shop Paris

Disclaimer – All the images in this post have been obtained from Google. I do not own any of them.

When amateur novelist Hong Yeo Joo, unable to churn creative novel ideas, stumbles upon a nail artist – Alex- she decides to make him her protagonist. Soon, she realizes that the Nail Shop he works at only staffs men. In order to continue being inspired, she disguises herself as a male, budding nail artist named Bunny. While she puts forth as manly an outward appearance as she can, as a women, she becomes smitten by Alex. The drama wraps up in 10 episodes and chronicles the difficulties of gender bending (love triangles included) while playing on one’s imagination with the use of a mythological creature popularly known as Gumiho.

This drama is very typical in almost every aspect. It has the love at first sight, unrequited love, love triangles, broken dreams, otherworldly creature to rescue and all that jazz. Parts of it are enjoyable but parts of it are so draggy that I had put the drama on hold for over a year before I finally decided to finish it. I found some of the dialogues to be lackluster and more often than not, I was wondering what is unique about this drama. As a gender bender, some of the scenes were definitely funny but nothing very gripping. The drama definitely showcased some rather extravagant nail art. Do people really wear chunky rhinestones on their nails? One of the things that, while it seemed unexpected, I liked about the drama was that it sends out a good social message in terms of helping those in need. Some of the customers of Nail Shop Paris had personal problems which the staff of the shop managed to solve with great persistence and affection. These parts were admirable and conveys how openly friendly their culture is.

Yeo Joo’s bestfriend Kim Ji Soo falls for Jin, one of the nail artists. There relationship too goes through rocky terrain when Ji Soo is unable to make up her mind between Jin and another man. Whereas Kay (another nail artist) begins to question his sexuality when he realizes that he has feelings for Bunny. Little did he know that Bunny was indeed a woman. There is a time leap at the end and the ending was unpredictable, so I’d give the show brownie points for that. And that ending was one of the few things which was different about this drama. Over all, it wasn’t great. It explores several concepts in the span of few episodes. I just wish that some sections of the plot had been differently done, probably then it would have turned out to be an intriguing drama. Maybe you could give it a try, but I don’t guarantee 10 hours of pure enjoyment.

Ratings – 5.5 stars on 10

Meera

Korean Drama Review — Oh My Venus

Disclaimer – The images in this post have been obtained from Google. I do not own any of the images. 

Shin Min Ah and So Ji Sub starrer Oh My Venus is a Korean romcom drama that explores the importance of outward appearances and perseverance as a determinant of success and confidence. Kang Joo Eun has always been the center of attention during her high school years. Aspiring to be a lawyer, Joo Eun grows up only to realize that her life isn’t turning out to be the way she had hoped. Having gained tons of weight, Joo Eun not only faces the stress of being an overworked lawyer struggling to find justice in the tangles of rigid laws but also is dumped by her boyfriend of 15 years. Nevertheless, luck is on her side and she chances upon world famous trainer John Kim. Together they persevere to solve their respective problems and somehow end up on the same path to recovery and bliss. Kim Yeong Ho is the next in line to take over his family business, but word is that Yeong Ho’s passions are a tad bit different from what his family expects of him. With a dark past and an even drier future, how will he manage the best of both worlds?

Shin Min Ah and So Ji Sub together in a drama? As main leads? Check and check. What more could I want out of a kdrama, especially when the plot is as heartwarming as this one. One could assume that the drama seems to advocate good looks as being essential to finding love (especially when Im Woo Sik breaks up with Joo Eun) or attaining success in one’s job but I think it places emphasis on the need for exercising and staying fit. It is a given that the two leads are meant to be but they got together rather quickly in the series and so you are left to wonder what more is in store for them. I was very apprehensive of the fact that their relationship may become draggy and extremely cheesy. But the conflicts that were introduced in the drama kept it going at a good pace and there were times when I was rooted to the spot, waiting to see what would happen. The drama has a good proportion of humor in the sense that some of the scenes are legit LOL-worthy.

The drama is an example of what motivation and support can do for a person. It proves to us that with the right dedication, one can overcome even the greatest of difficulties. Jang Joon Sung too deals with a troublesome childhood. But with the help of Yeong Ho, he goes onto become a boxing champion. Their brotherhood is shown to be unconditional. Woo Sik and Soo Jin’s relationship is very lovable. They complement each other well. Even though Soo Jin plays the anti-heroine, causing problems for Joo Eun, she is actually very sensitive. The end to Woo Sik & Soo Jin’s story was apt and I couldn’t think of a better way to wrap up things. One of the other things that stood out in this drama was Kim Ji Woong’s chirpy nature. His constant “Ma’am, Ma’am” was an absolute delight. The soundtrack of the show is too good and it mixes well with the scene to enhance the sentiments being enacted. This drama is simply amazing and has become one of my all time favorites. I would definitely recommend it to all.

Ratings – 10 stars on 10

Meera

Korean Drama Review — Pinocchio

Disclaimer – All images in this post have been obtained from Google. I do not own any of the images.

Pinocchio, aired on SBS channel, is a drama about the underlying corruption and discrimination that rules the media firms in today’s time. Albeit being set in Korea, it wouldn’t be far fetched to say that it mirrors the problems faced by reporters and producers around the world. In this case, the protagonist Choi In Ha (played by Park Shin Hye) has the Pinocchio Syndrome wherein she hiccups uncontrollably if she lies. Since childhood, In Ha has been craving to meet her mother who left her and her father to pursue her career as a reporter. Naive and innocent, In Ha believes that her mother would accept her when they meet in the future and so for thirteen years In Ha sends her mother text messages about her daily life. However, her mother leaves behind her phone at the house of a large department store owner. Seo Bum Jo (played by Kim Young Kwang) who is the son of the owner, intercepts these messages and as the years pass, grows to love In Ha. He is determined to meet her and so auditions to become a reporter at YGN.

Ki Ha Myung (played by Lee Jong Suk) is the son of a fireman who was accused of causing the death of his fellow firemen. As the reporters propel the case out of proportion, his father flees and is never heard of again. Humiliated and isolated in society, Ha Myung and his mother commit suicide. The only living member, the elder broth Ki Jae Myung is devastated and vows to right the wrongs of the reporters who pushed the family to take such drastic measures.

This drama was a treat from the start. The pain felt by Ki Ha Myung’s family is vividly portrayed and so exceptionally done that you feel for them. The plot isn’t as simple as it appears and there are so many layers to the story, each of which is peeled off one by one as the story progresses. The cutthroat environment that is created by rivaling broadcast companies is played out for the viewers to understand the functioning of news channels and the crooked tactics that they sometimes employ to obtain a story. While the character of Song Cha Ok is very detestable, Jin Kyung does a wonderful job of acting. She is so convincing in her role that even though I hated her for most of the drama, towards the end I was very glad for her. Her character development would be one of the best for the show. I also liked how In Ha and Ha Myung got to know each other and the entire process from them being friends to a couple was rather adorable.

Even though the Pinocchio Syndrome that was used in the drama is fictional, it proved to be integral to the storyline. Initially In Ha faces a lot of flak for not being able to lie, which is somehow “important” to become a reporter. As the drama draws to a close, we see how she becomes an  exemplary model of a reporter and teaches the others ideals and values to be upheld as a reporter. Being a media student myself, I loved this drama for its content and the morals that it showcased. While In Ha and Ha Myung were meant to be, I wished that Seo Bum Jo was given some importance. In fact he does serve a vital purpose in the drama and things do get resolved all due to him. But he is left behind with this unrequited love and for some reason I always wish that the main leads would pick the secondary characters. Moreover, I felt that In Ha’s behavior towards him was a little cold and she wasn’t as considerate of his as he was of her. Anyhow, the drama has been put together very well and some of the characters like Hwang Gyo Dong, Ahn Chan So were very endearing. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the drama and would recommend it to all.

Ratings – 8.5 stars on 10

Meera

Book Review — Cometh the Hour by Jeffrey Archer

Thank you Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy of this book for review :) 

Cometh the Hour, being the sixth book in the Clifton Chronicles, juggles the life and times of the Barrington and Clifton families as they undergo the hardships that come with great responsibility. Interspersed with accounts of betrayal, corruption and the fight for justice, we see how the bonds between the two families paves the way for their success regardless of the magnitude of trouble they are facing. Be it Emma Clifton, who finds herself balancing few too many tasks and must decide between jeopardizing her brother’s career or winning a case against her. On the other hand, Sebastion Clifton fights a different battle – one of love – wherein he must draft a plan to rescue his beloved Priya before she is forcefully married off by her parents to another.

While the Cliftons and Barringtons are held up with their own obstacles, Desmond Mellor, Jim Knowles and Adrian Sloane form the villainous trio who repeatedly, undaunted by the power and reach of the two families, take it upon themselves to bring them to ruins. Sir Giles Barrington faces the brunt of a truth revealed in the course of Emma’s case and participates in a rescue mission between countries. Little does he know that this mission threatens his well being more than not. Lastly, Harry Clifton having encountered the great Russion writer and poet Anatoly Babakov in prison perseveres for over a decade to free the writer and spread his work beyond the borders of Russia. Each of the battles fought by the families results in some victories and some losses.

As this was my first Jeffrey Archer book, I knew not what to expect from it. I was extremely relieved when the book started off on a good pace with the case by Lady Virginia against Emma Clifton. The conniving nature of Lady Virginia was evident from the start. But soon after the politics took over and I grew to like the book a little less. It was all too overwhelming and I didn’t quite like the chapters with Emma Clifton in them. However, at any given point in the book, there’s so much going on that you get a wholesome feel. Its not just one story or one trial, but multiple ones that are woven together to create a voluminous chunk of a book.  My favorite sections were the ones with Lady Virginia, Desmond Mellor, Adrian Sloane and Karin Brandt. They were definitely far more gripping than the other chapters and I looked forward to the stories about these. In terms of character development, there were discernible changes in Sebastion and Emma Clifton. I felt that the other characters pretty much remained the same.

The plot was great too but some parts of it were a little dull and not interesting. I took way too much time to read it because at times I felt like I couldn’t go on reading it anymore. I felt that Sebastion and Priya’s relationship was a tad bit too abrupt and forced. It didn’t feel natural. And then introducing Samantha and Jessica felt out of the blue. Many books try to correct the wrongdoings by the villain by also enhancing their personalities. But I quite liked the fact that till the very end Lady Virginia, Adrian Sloane and Desmond Mellor remained the same. Their tactics and manipulation kept the book alive. Jeffrey Archer’s writing is easy to get into and while being informative, it grasps us with the twists and turns. The ending was good, different. I expected the truth about Karin to be revealed openly. This book was enjoyable over all, but I didn’t love it as there was way too much of politics and some parts were too slow.

Ratings – 3 stars on 5.

Meera

Goodbyes Should Be Like “See You Later”s

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Christ University | TCEP | Batch of 2016 |

I immersed myself within that moment.
Soaking in all the smiles, sounds and bonds.
Aware that amidst the joyous
Occasion, lurked a bitter
Realization. We
Had known life one way.
Now we were to
Start afresh.
With the
Skin
Of
Our past
Selves, we were
To embark on
A new sail. I wished
For a time loop. One that
Would permit me residence
For a little while more, in the
Least. I stayed as long as I could, letting
Go of my bias and inhibitions.
I had grown wont to a rare kind of
Camaraderie and love, it
Had swept me up. And now I
Was gingerly being
Placed on the ground.  I
Opened my eyes.
And let them
Engulf
Me.
This
Wasn’t the
End.

– Meera

Book Review — The Following Girls by Louise Levene

Thank you Bloomsbury India for sending me a copy of this book for review :) 

In The Following Girls, Louise Levene depicts the toils and troubles of being a high school teenager who is expected to conform to conventional standards. She explores the idea of deviance and the consequent disciplining through her protagonist Amanda Baker who doesn’t show great interest in the vision or expectations of her school, Mildred Fawcett. With the other three Mandies, Baker lives on the sidelines, constantly getting reprimanded by not only the faculty but also her father. But when the once hostile Julia Smith lends a hand of friendship, will Baker’s life too take an unexpected turn?

Both the cover page and synopsis are so intriguing, but somehow, for me, the book fell flat from the very beginning. I had to struggle to read it and for atleast the first 90 pages there was no clarity or apparent direction to the story. I felt that there was too much information randomly patched together and often I had to go back and read the previous paragraph to look for a connection. In between some good, entertaining portions would surface and keep me going. I did not want to drop the book because I thought that it had great potential. While Amanda’s habits are not praise-worthy, I understand her plight at being posited in a very competitive and austere school environment where if you don’t get exceptional grades or don’t wear a particular type of footwear, you are classified as being “Unschool”. Furthermore, she gets looked down upon by other students as well which can be detrimental to one’s esteem.

The book started becoming more interesting towards the end after Julia befriends Baker, providing her with the respite that she so well needed. Another thing I found to be interesting is the fact that her three bestfriends are also named Amanda. The relationships that Baker makes or values don’t appear to me as being good enough. Her father doesn’t behave lovingly towards her; her stepmother while being more amiable, doesn’t take a stand for her; her friends behave rather odd at times. There was also the fact that quite a bit of the lingo was incomprehensible to me. Because I couldn’t grasp the cultural meanings behind certain phrases or words, I felt that I was missing out on a lot more. Overall, I didn’t like it much.

Ratings – 2 stars on 5.

– Meera

Book Review — Do You Know Any Good Boys? by Meeti Shroff-Shah

Thank you Pan Macmillan India for sending me a copy of this book for review :) 

Meeti Shroff-Shah couldn’t have better encapsulated the over-the-top procedure of Indian arranged marriages in her hilarious & heart warming novel titled “Do You Know Any Good Boys?”. Hers is not a story that follows the normative plot structure we are accustomed to. Rather, just like the experience of meeting forty odd strangers in the hopes of finding a life partner, the novel shuffles back and forth between stories recounted from her several “first dates”. While the ordeal of presenting herself with renewed optimism at each of these meetings is bothersome and debilitating, Meeti’s clever wit and sarcasm doesn’t fail to transform the entire book into an enjoyable read. Through the use of elaborate pointers, she conveys exactly what the Indian mindset – be it of a traditional or traditional-modern kind – expects out of the arranged marriage and what is then seen to be as reality. From newspaper ads to matrimonial sites to overbearing, unrelated womenfolk (who take it upon themselves to play cupid), Meeti has born the brunt of it all and narrates to us the incredulity of some.

The title of the book, while being blatant about the content, implies a deviation from the supposed desires for a”not so good” boy – as is commonly believed to be true amongst today’s youth. While there is a reference to the tall, dark and handsome dude of Mills & Boons nature, Meeti and her family meticulously narrow down the educated, cultured and sensible Gujju bachelors. Meeti Shroff-Shah’s writing style is exceptionally good, displaying knowledge of different fields and that too not in a ostentatious way. Her love for literature and skepticism with regard to arranged marriage resonated well with me. I am sure it would be relatable to many others. This book isn’t just for an Indian girl looking to get married but also speaks to the families and friends of such a person. It conveys to them the frame of mind with which the girl agrees to have her alliance made through others. Meeti explores concepts like rejection, perseverance and hope that go hand in hand with the concept of marriage. Meeti’s parents are shown to be extremely supportive of her decisions and paint a very loving family picture. Being an Indian, I have heard first hand of similar arguments made about the astrology, height, weight and income of the potential groom. With all due respect to differing opinions, I think its absolutely ridiculous to have so many check-boxes that need to be ticked before a guy and a girl can meet to converse and discover for themselves whether they fit together. The author’s sense of humor and wit would be the highest selling point of this novel. There were times I was laughing out loud irrespective of my surroundings. Then there were also times when certain sections were dragged out a bit too much. But in the overall scheme of things, the cracks are very minor. I loved this book and insist that you all must give it a go.

Ratings – 5 stars on 5

– Meera