Although I have had this book to review for a while, I was never in the mood to read it until recently when I craved something light, fast, and fun. SAlthough I have had this book to review for a while, I was never in the mood to read it until recently when I craved something light, fast, and fun. Sleeping Giants definitely delivered on all three fronts even if I had a few issues with it.
A little girl, Rose Franklin, was riding her bicycle one night when she fell down what appeared to be a deep ditch. Before she fell, however, she noticed a strange green light coming from the ditch. It wasn't until after she was rescued that she learned that the object she had fallen into was actually a large metallic hand. Seventeen years later, Rose is now a physicist who is tasked with understanding what happened that night and what that object is because yet another such site had recently revealed itself, this time with a metallic forearm.
Thus starts a search for more such metallic objects. A team has been quickly put together by our mysterious narrator - two pilots, a geneticist, and a linguist race to assemble the parts together and understand who buried them and why they are revealing themselves now.
Right from page one, Sleeping Giants hooked me. The idea that someone several millennia ago may have planted these devices was surprising but the team had no proofs - they were proceeding on guesswork. I initially figured this book was more alien fiction but it turned out to be more military science fiction halfway through.
This book is written in epistolary format - each chapter is either an interview with the narrator or a journal entry or a news item. It made for fun reading. But for all the intrigue it built initially, the book started falling flat halfway through. One of the main pilots, Kara, has a brash temperament and several failed past relationships. Both the male protagonists, however, felt very compelled to protect her or woo her. I guess I have a tough time with characters like that, who feel women need protecting. To me, the whole love triangle felt too distracting and I would have enjoyed the book more with less of that romance. I did like that there were several women in power but all of them had authority issues. I was tired of how often Rose Franklin was cited as being "motherly" and caring for her employees. Nothing wrong in being motherly but middle aged women surely would like to be known for their professional characteristics, especially among their own colleagues.
Ultimately, I enjoyed the book for its twists and turns but didn't care much for its characters or their relationships. Still, I am curious enough to follow the series (yeah, this is book 1 in the series) - the ending was dramatic enough to hold my attention....more
Last weekend, I finished the second half of Flowers for Algernon in two sittings, just in time to have a week to ponder the book and gather my thoughtLast weekend, I finished the second half of Flowers for Algernon in two sittings, just in time to have a week to ponder the book and gather my thoughts about it. By the end of the book, I felt as ambivalent about Charlie as I did initially, though I did empathize with him a lot more in the second half.
Daniel Keyes narrates a very compelling story by addressing the age-old question - what happens when you get something you always wanted but never prepared yourself to live with it? You may want riches but if you came into it suddenly one day, would you know what to do with it - squander it away or invest it or save it? In Charlie's case, it was intelligence. He wanted to be smart but it is not that he was incapable of enhancing his smartness, rather he was born mentally challenged.
I knew what to expect in the second half of the book, thanks to a spoiler in the Introduction. For much of the book, I was bummed out that I knew about it, but now, thinking back, I agree with Care that it helped to know what was coming. I was already looking for signs of that eventuality and it helped me appreciate some of the elements of Keyes' writing and hints that he dropped all over. It also made a few chapters very memorable to read.
I was quite bummed out that women weren't portrayed well in this book. Sure, it's the 60s and women in literature around this time were mostly sex objects or fluff characters or pawns intended to move men's stories forward. But still, they had personalities and a mind of their own, and all that was missing from this book.
But even the men in the book don't leave a big footprint behind. They certainly have more important roles but they were flat and mostly one-dimensional. That's the trouble with first-person stories, especially when they are from the perspective of someone who is mentally challenged or overly selfish.
This book is usually filed in the science fiction aisle, something I strongly disagree with. Sure, the idea of a magic pill to make you the smartest person in the world is the stuff of futuristic science fiction. But not when it dwells only on the effect it had on the recipient of that pill, as is the case in the book.
In the end, I was glad to have read this one. There is one chapter towards the end that makes reading the book so very worthwhile. It was powerful, sad, and incredibly moving. Up until that chapter, I wasn't that connected with the book, but that one chapter was super memorable....more
If you told me that I could potentially love a book that featured vampires, werewolves, and other paranormal characters, I would have smiled politelyIf you told me that I could potentially love a book that featured vampires, werewolves, and other paranormal characters, I would have smiled politely and promptly forgotten the book you were trying to recommend. (I do love Bram Stoker's Dracula though - one of the most original books I've ever read.) If I had spent any amount of time on Sunbolt's Goodreads page and saw that it was categorized under Paranormal Fantasy, I would probably not have given it even a few pages. But Jenny's review couple of months ago and my general lack of awareness regarding what the book was about worked in Sunbolt's favor. And boy, am I glad I read it!
Before you turn away, let me emphasize that although I did mention vampires and werewolves in the above paragraph, Sunbolt is less about them than it is about this magical world where many of these kinds of charactes co-exist. (Plus, no one is dating a vampire or proclaiming the many eye candy benefits of being with one.) Intisar Khanani is now on my list of of authors to watch out her. She writes a beautiful hand and a compelling tale.
Hitomi is a Promise, an untrained magician who is generally viewed with suspicion by most of the people of Karolene, where Hitomi lives. Not being native to Karolene, she tends to get picked on by people trying to cause trouble. Hitomi is also a part of the Shadow League, an underground movement whose main goal is to overthrow the corrupt and villainish Arch Mage Wilhelm Blackflame. When they get wind of a ploy by Blackflame to assassinate a leading politician, they try to save the latter and his family. But a lot of things go wrong and Hitomi finds herself captured with no chance of escape.
That, in a nutshell, is what Sunbolt is about. When I started reading the book, I found the writing very easy to get lost in and the book an addicting one to come back to every time. I wasn't quite sold on the plot initially but when I finished it, I couldn't quite stop believing that I loved it. That's a strange way to feel about a plot-oriented book that's more a novella than a full-length novel.
In Sunbolt, Khanani creates a world that feels very natural. She doesn't waste her time in world-building or introducing complex characters. She lets the plot do that at its own pace without making the reader feel lost. To me, that was one of the selling points of this book because the author takes you right into the heart of the book without running the risk of starting the book with a slow introduction.
Yes, there are supernatural characters and if you are like me, maybe you will prefer not having them in your books. To me though, these characters felt more substantial and relatable than the ones in a typical paranormal fantasy book. (Not that I have a problem with those characters - I do love the Vampire Diaries TV show, but this book is as far away from that brand of paranormalcy (paranormalism? paranormality? paranormaltion?) as possible.
Sunbolt is also super-diverse. It had a feel of being set in the Middle East and the character map could have easily spanned across the spectrum. It felt super good to read a fantasy set in a non-European, non-American locale. I'll be watching out for the next book in this series (trilogy?)....more
The House at the End of Hope Street got on my radar only recently, when Wendy mentioned the book as one of her top favorites. The premise of the bookThe House at the End of Hope Street got on my radar only recently, when Wendy mentioned the book as one of her top favorites. The premise of the book sounded fabulous and my library had a copy as well. I started reading this book shortly before leaving for my Canada trip and what I thought would be a fast read ended up taking about 2-3 weeks total. Not because the book was hard to read or boring. On the contrary, it was quite entertaining, but it was not a book I could race through.
Distraught from a tragic experience, Alba was walking through her hometown when she comes across a house she had never seen before. The owner of the house, Peggy, invites her in but tells her that she can only stay for 99 days and has to turn her life around before then. Alba is glad for the offer - she didn't think she could face her family just yet. Over the next few days, Alba finds that this is no ordinary house. Indeed, the house seems capable of sending messages to its inhabitants, hiding or revealing things depending on whether anyone in the house needed extra motivation to get their life sorted out.
Along with Alba, there are two other inhabitants who discovered the house just like she did - Greer, an actress whose acting career never really took off, and Carmen, who seems to have run away from something terrible, away from her husband. As these three women try to find out what they really need in their lives, Peggy is dealing with matters of her own. Apparently, the house wants her to retire and find a successor. Retirement usually meant death for the owner of the house but Peggy loved a man and wasn't sure how to live the rest of her life with death looming in front of her.
I picked up The House at the End of Hope Street mainly because it sounded charming. And it sure did live up to its charm. The plot is mostly predictable, at least towards the ending, and that could be part of the reason why I couldn't read more pages in a sitting. It also took a long time for the plot to develop and the frequent change of narrators didn't help it much. But, my reading experience did not suffer despite those issues. There is something to love about a house that was magical - a house that suddenly revealed a whole wardrobe full of gowns, a house that gave plenty of inspiration when the going gets tough, a house where past inhabitants lived in its pictures and often talked to Alba, a house that had its own ghosts - a cat named Mog and a woman named Stella who was bent on helping Alba. Alba had a secret ability that made her extra sensitive to the house's secrets. Although Greer and Carmen were privy to some of these secrets, they didn't really know the full gamut of the house's powers.
There is much I loved in this book - it's one of those feel-good books that leaves you with a deep contentment. The house revealed itself only to women who needed a pick-me-up, and anyone else who walked through its doors were invited by the inhabitants. The past clientele includes several incredible women - great thinkers, writers, and poets. Chief among them were Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Parker, and Beatrix Potter. Books also play a huge role in this book. I can see how you could want to read every book and writer mentioned in this book - that would make for a great women's fiction reading project. Overall, definitely charming, though predictable - this is something to read when you are looking for a whimsical read....more
Last weekend, I was browsing through my bookstore, when I came across a copy of Haruki Murakami's The Strange Library - all shrink-wrapped and lookingLast weekend, I was browsing through my bookstore, when I came across a copy of Haruki Murakami's The Strange Library - all shrink-wrapped and looking like a book-lover's toy. Seriously, how do you resist a book like that? Even if I didn't like Murakami, I would probably walk out of the store with that book.
I love books (and food) that are interactive. It feels almost four-dimensional to me. There's the mental pleasure of being lost in the book and there's the physical pleasure of just wrapping that treasure open and wading in with excitement. The front of the book has two flaps that snap together, very much like your typical cereal box. And then you flip the pages to read.
As for the plot, The Strange Library was... well, strange. A boy goes to a library to borrow some books, instead he is sent to the mysterious basement where he had never set foot in. There he meets a strange man who have some twisted devilish motivation for running that place. The boy is trapped in his evil scheme and comes across a sheep-man and a mysterious girl who sort of help him.
There is more to the story but I don't want to go too much into it because this book is a nice little gem to read. There is some strangeness to the book, and it feels more like being lost in a nightmare. But it is nowhere near strange as some of his other books. It reminded me more of Neil Gaiman's Coraline than a Murakami book. If you have been unsure about reading Murakami, this is probably the good one to start with. It has a lot of his tell-tale narrative style and some of the strange stuff he is famous for, but it is not a full-fledged Murakami book, both in size and content, so you'll probably not feel too dazed.
That said, this is a short book, more a short story than a novel. His novels have felt more complete, if you know what I mean, despite any amount of fantastical themes. This is more like a fable, so if you do want to sample a full Murakami, I would try one of his novels, maybe Kafka on the Shore, which I enjoyed a lot....more
I first started listening to The Martian on a road trip with the husband in May last year. The audiobook was around 8 hours long, and our road trip waI first started listening to The Martian on a road trip with the husband in May last year. The audiobook was around 8 hours long, and our road trip was 16 hours total. We figured we will be able to finish this book, even though we were going to have extra company on the return drive. But we only managed 4 hours of audio - blame it on the traffic, the many directions by the GPS lady, and the horrible rainy weather for a good part of the drive. We loved the book thus far but never got time to go back to the audiobook. Finally, in December, I borrowed the ebook version from my library and raced through it.
By now, everyone should know what The Martian is about - an astronaut, Mark Watney, is presumed dead and left behind on Mars after a freak storm sends the rest of the crew packing away. Eulogies are being sung everywhere in Earth and the remaining crew is distraught, but Mark is neither dead nor dying. How does a man, left for dead, on a planet that's not our home Earth, let the universe know that he is alive and kicking? Especially, when his communications systems won't work since the spaceship they all came in has left Mars boundary. More importantly, how will he survive on the planet long enough to establish contact or wait for the next crew to arrive years from then?
I loved The Martian. Mostly. If you love science, there is a lot to enjoy here. Even if you do love science, some of those facts could still be flying over your head, because there is A LOT of that. I admit to reading past them occasionally, but I appreciated that the author had all that information in there, because even if you don't understand any of it, you will 1) be wowed by how well this guy uses his brains (and just his own brains) to apply science to the Mark Watney survival project, and 2) be impressed that much of the science he applies are really basic high school science that we could also apply if only we had paid more attention in class. I don't think I would have been that impressed by Watney's daily routines, if some of those oh-so-dreary facts weren't paraded around.
The book is also very visual. I could picture most of the details in the book, and for that reason, I am super excited about the movie coming out later this year. Sure, Hollywood is going to spin it even further to make it feel more dramatic and heroic, but I can live with that after having read the book. The only problem I had with the book was the ending. Don't get me wrong - I couldn't imagine any other ending either, but it was a typical Hollywood-style ending - over-dramatic, 11th hour nail-biting moments, several edge-of-the-seat minutes. I wish the author had written the ending less like a scene from a movie, and more like a scene from a sensible book. After all the good scientific stuff in the rest of the book, the last part just felt more driven by luck and a Hollywood director than whatever set the tone in the book until then.
Despite that awkward ending, this is still a book I will strongly recommend. I didn't even mention the best part yet - Mark Watney is a seriously hilarious guy. The kind of guy you want to hang out with all day. The humor could, however, rub you the wrong way, because most of the time it is of the sarcastic kind, but hey, the guy is stuck on Mars alone, let's cut him some slack, shall we? It's amazing how despite the heavy odds stacked against his survival and all the dangerous things he does on the planet, he still manages to keep his humor hat on and say something funny....more
When he was a young child, our nameless narrator's family was pretty well-off and had a big house that he lived in with his parents and sister. But whWhen he was a young child, our nameless narrator's family was pretty well-off and had a big house that he lived in with his parents and sister. But when they hit against slightly hard times, the boy had to give up his bedroom with its perfect-sized washbasin, as tall as him, so that boarders could stay there. One such boarder was an opal miner, who fatally hits the boy's cat on the day he arrives and commits suicide the next day. This death sets in motion a very strange sequence of events - his neighbors suddenly seem to receive a lot of money, leading to a lot of ill-will, a strange family at the end of the lane seems to know everything there is to know about everything, and a malicious housekeeper-cum-babysitter arrives at the boy's house. His troubles are only beginning - he doesn't like his housekeeper, whereas the rest of his family are enamored with her; strange unsettling things happen around him (for instance, he once dislodged a worm from a hole in his feet) and his housekeeper just seems out to get him, and maybe even kill him.
Even though this book is shelved as Horror in Goodreads, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is so far away from being anything remotely horror. This short book is such a little gem that transported me to the magical world that Gaiman has built. It's one thing to enjoy such a vivid atmosphere, it's another to feel a part of it, as Gaiman manages to do.
I had read another Gaiman book previously, Coraline, which I didn't enjoy much, though I thought it very clever. Usually, that's the end of my new-author exploration, but Gaiman's books come with such strong testimonials that I very desperately wanted to read something else by him - something that, maybe, an older audience would appreciate more.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane has fantasy at its best. There are all sorts of inexplicable things happening - worms lodged in the feet? three people who seem to have been around since time immemorial, literally? a pond that may as well be an ocean? memories that can be easily wiped or modified? The best part is that you can read this book without questioning even one of those fantastical elements. I often moan in reviews of fantasies that the magical aspects of the books weren't explained well enough or weren't convincing enough. With this book, there is no explanation offered at all. You can ask ten questions for every strange thing mentioned, but the odds are that you won't think to ask - as a reader, I felt the same willingness to accept anything that children are bestowed with.
The family that lives at the end of the lane in the Hempstock farm, Lottie, her mother (Ginnie Hempstock or Mrs Hempstock) and Lottie's grandmother (Old Mrs. Hempstock), adds their own layer of charm to the story. This is a family that has purportedly been around for many years, even though Lottie is just eleven in the story. Our narrator knows enough to ask Lottie for how long she has been eleven. When the strange money-related events start happening, Lottie steps ahead to stop the "monster" responsible for it. She is confident that nothing will go wrong, except a lot of things do go wrong, some badly.
By the end of the book, my only complaint was that this book was too short. I know that I loved a book when I struggle to read anything for the next couple of days. I love how this book is written about children but is not for children. At the same time, Gaiman writes in such a way that he makes me willing to believe everything he writes. Definitely a strong storyteller....more
Set somewhere in the land of Aladdin and Sinbad, Haroun lives in a city so sad that it had forgotten its own name. The people had forgotten how to lauSet somewhere in the land of Aladdin and Sinbad, Haroun lives in a city so sad that it had forgotten its own name. The people had forgotten how to laugh or smile, and even the fish that lived in the nearby sea were called glumfish. In this land of the sad, Haroun's father, Rashid, was the cheerful storyteller, whose never-ending stream of tales made people either very happy or very jealous. One day, Rashid's wife runs away with the neighbor, leaving Rashid heart-broken and incapable of making new stories, and Haroun unable to concentrate on anything for longer than eleven minutes. On the eve of a possible career- and life-destroying performance at a political rally, Rashid and Haroun fret about their bad luck when a genie appears in Haroun's bathroom.
I had a feeling that I will not be able to even grasp the Rushdieness of this book, however innocent the title sounded. Funnily, if I were told to read the book and guess the author later, Rushdie would have been nowhere in the list of possible candidates, as this book was as different as possible from what I remember of my attempt at reading .
Haroun and the Sea of Stories felt like a whiff of lively breeze. Reading this book made me remember the joy of reading magical books like Harry Potter and The Night Circus. While not as long or as atmospheric, Haroun and the Sea of Stories deserves its own place on that shelf of fascinating fantasy books. Although the fantasy in this book does have symbolic meanings and a few "moral of the stories", one could read this book for pure pleasure and nothing more.
I loved the magical world within this book, even though I felt it a touch overdone at points. Occasionally, Haroun comes across people or things in the fantasy world that reminds him of someone or something in his real world - I loved the implication that the two worlds need not be disparate. You need stories in the real world, just as you need reality in stories. The writing slips once in a while into an awkward childish tone, but for the most part, I found it engaging. Children and adults alike could enjoy this book....more