(Voxspace)Book Review: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is dedicated “to the unconsoled”, but it is about the “unconsoled” and for the ignorant (both intentional and unintentional) and deluded. It shows us that we are as good as our reality, which fortunately or unfortunately, we create in our minds.

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Follow the link:

http://www.voxspace.in/2018/05/15/ministry-of-utmost-happiness/

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Book Review: The Winner’s Curse

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It’s been exactly a year since my previous book review. A fine coincidence. So, I thought I would resume reviewing books with the book that prompted me to begin in the first place.

PRELUDE:

The Winner’s Curse is the first book of a fantasy, young-adult trilogy written by an American professor of literature Marie Rutkoski. It came out in 2014. I don’t think the trilogy is available in Indian bookstores. You would have to order online and the book would cost almost Rs. 700. I had read the free ebook initially; may be it is still available, I wish I had a link to share.

I can’t understand the steep pricing but when I bought the trilogy 2 years ago, the price was close to Rs. 1000. When I had read the books, I was disappointed that not many people knew about it and people have to read this gem of book. IT’S GORGEOUS, do read. Please. From all the young-adult novels I have ever read, this is my absolute favourite…nothing has topped it so far.

CONTENT & CHARACTERS:

The premise is a Medieval world of lamps, carriages, cannons, slaves, ballrooms and empires. Valoria, an ambitious, warring, uncultured state had conquered, in a bloody war, its peace-loving, unprepared neighbours, Herran, and claimed the culture, commodities, art, science and fruits of the territory, 10 years ago. However, a quiet resignation has been shaping into a war cry and the Valorians are just as unprepared as the Herrani were.

Kestrel, the daughter of General Trajan, is not the kind of warrior she is made out to be. She is not the Valorian conqueror she is expected to be. She plays the frowned upon Herrani music. She loves her Herrani nurse. She can barely stand the imperial ways thrust upon her. And she would not have staked herself at a game she began unwittingly, if only she knew that Arin is not the kind of Herrani slave he is supposed to be.

Winner’s Curse is about two enemies in love who will never have a clear win. However, both need to win. Both can see the cards in the other’s hand. The only way to win is if the other one lets them win. They let each other win, they protect each other, strengthen each other while they plot against each other; their ultimate choice being their at-war empires.

The plot unfolds and the narrative progresses from Kestrel’s and Arin’s perspective. Kestrel and Arin are very strong characters. Have them unfolded in the book the way they do, is one of book’s greatest merits… so I am not going to reveal much of them here. Their chemistry is explosive, and how and what it tempts them to do often, is also the part of the novel I don’t want to corrupt for you.

WRITING:

Marie Rutkoski has blown me away by her figurative language. It’s soo beautiful that I have to at times set the book aside and let those images, the lyrical emotions behind them sink in and linger in my thoughts a little longer. I am not going to give an instance, I really want you to read the book.

Even after 5 years the imagery, the dialogues, the beautifully weaved phrases have not left me. Everything written can be so subtle, sensuous and sooooooo true to life. It makes it unforgettable.

It doesn’t have much of info-dumping as in the usual fantasy novel (infact, many of its features are very unlike Fantasy) may be because the premise is very familiar and devoid of anything magical or mystical, and regardless of that the writer creates very interesting societies, circumstances and consequences. The romance is not redundant or dragged, its exciting, manipulative, stategizing and basically so different… so new.

Marie Rutkoski’s style is that of a blooming flower – steady, serene and seductive. I love that initially it doesn’t rush into things. It takes time to build up and dvelves so deeply in characters, the way they form relationships, the way they operate and the way the world operates around them. Plot and characters would have seemed frivolous if not infused with subtlety and bold intelligence.  And everything becomes bigger later as promised in the initial chapter.

The other thing I like about the novel are the military strategies when a full blown conflict errupts.

CONCLUSION: 

I love everything about this trilogy. May be because of my preferences but you gotta be blind to not see its merits. If I gave out any spoilers, sorry but I know you’ll get over it. Please read now… I don’t what the hell you’re still doing here. But remember, I banged my head on walls  for a long time after finishing the book; the loose ends, the cliffhanger or just the craving for the author’s writing style could be madenning and the tipping point was the author took time to publish the following books. So buy all the books together.

Also, I HATE….ABSOLUTELY HATE the way this book has been marketed. The covers are bad, blurbs not good enough and they are misleading with an ill-suited genre. This is hardly a fantasy.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I bought this classic from a book sale last year. As a writer, you learn a lot from this book. Also, as this genre has come a long way since the early 19th century, and as we are often subjected to modern-age movies, novels or series that have much gory, gothic and horrifying stories than Frankenstein one might not be able to appreciate it entirely.

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Frankenstein is a science-fiction novel belonging to the Romantic Era*, written by Mary Shelly and published in the year 1818. You can buy from any bookstore and online shop or simply download a PDF file.

Prelude:

Mary Shelly is one of the earliest writers of the science fiction genre, and Frankenstein is probably  the first book in the genre to lack magic or fanciful elements and to be based on science alone. In fact, Frankenstein is also a progenitor to the horror genre in films. There is a lot of backstory to this particular book, also a few controversies, huge pile of speculations and the book had garnered a lot of rejection in the literary circles as well as the then society in general. Surely its Wikipedia page is worth the read…

Fun Fact: Mary Shelley was only 18 years old when she wrote this book from which probably spawned the modern science fiction genre.

While you read the book, it is apparent to you why it is regarded as a Classic; it’s perfect in so many aspects and as I have emphasised earlier, original in its idea. The prose is unexpectedly beautiful for a book whose subject is gore.

Content:

Victor Frankenstein is introduced to the world of alchemy and natural science by a few theoretical books written by scientists who lived thousands of years ago. He has marvelled at the wondrous workings of nature from a young age and develops a deep awe for these old-age scientists and their methods.

In his pursuit for knowledge, our genius scientist becomes a pioneer for a lot of things. His knowledge, his capabilities increase and with that his ambition too. He remains unrestricted and forays into different fields of science like chemistry and anatomy.

While working on dead bodies he figures out the secret to life. I am leaving out many details here but ultimately Dr.Frankenstein brings his vision to life. He is about to fall in love with his capabilities when he notices the hideousness of his creation, and is revolted by it.

The monster, upon realising that he has been shunned by his creator, sets out to hurt Dr.Frankenstein in every way that he was hurt, snatch away everything  from Dr. Frankenstein that he was denied.

Characters:

Well, you already know Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his Monster. The third main character is Robert Walton. Walton is a traveller, an explorer to be precise, and it is through his letter’s to his sister that we hear the story.

There is Dr.Frankenstein’s family, his love interest- Elizabeth, his friend- Henry, and a family in a remote village which are all secondary characters that drive the sub-plots.

I love how Mary Shelly brings every character to life; she describes their mannerisms, portrays their nature. You connect with them, you like them and you feel bad when she kills them off ( oopppss!Spoiler.My bad).

In fact, the only characters that are truly unlikeable are our tragic heroes Dr.Frankenstein and the monster. This book comes from the Romantic Era; the significant characteristics of this age were, firstly,the authors dwelled more on their character’s emotions & thoughts than their actions. Secondly, they had atleast one tragic hero, a guy who through his own tiny flaw or misjudgement or tiny misfortune ends up losing every good thing. The readers are left feeling sorry for him because apparently he paid a lot more than he should have.

Our hero and anti-hero are no different. I am sorry if I sound condescending. I personally feel the concept of a tragic hero, though interesting, the portrayal is shallow and at the end of it I just think- ” Bro, you had it coming…”

I am yet to meet a tragic hero that I really sympathize for. If you happen to know any, tell me about them.

Writing:

The prose is smart, eloquent and the imagery is…you see for yourself!!

“I [roamed] through the valley. I stood beside the sources of the Arveiron, which take their rise in a glacier, that with slow pace is advancing down from the summit of the hills, to barricade the valley. The abrupt sides of vast mountains were before me; the icy wall of the glacier overhung me; a few shattered pines were scattered around; and the solemn silence of this glorious presence-chamber of imperial Nature was broken only by the brawling waves, or the fall of some vast fragment, the thunder sound of the avalanche, or the cracking reverberated along the mountains of the accumulated ice, which, through the silent working of immutable laws, was ever and anon rent and torn, as if it had been but a plaything in their hands. These sublime and magnificent scenes afforded me the greatest consolation that I was capable of receiving. They elevated me from all littleness of feeling; and although they did not remove my grief, they subdued and tranquillised it”

This is where Victor is right before he is going to confront the Monster. His state of mind and his emotions are often weaved in the writing compelling the readers to feel what the characters feel.

 

Conclusion:

It’s surprisingly refreshing. It dwells on emotions but hasn’t got an ounce of drama. And like I said earlier, it deals with gore and horror, but somehow is beautiful.

 

 

 

 

THE TIME-KEEPER by Mitch Albom

A penpal of mine introduced me to this book and the author. It sort of had a calming effect on me, like that of sea waves.

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The Time Keeper is an inspirational fiction novel written by Mitch Albom. It was first published in 2012 and has been in  reprint ever since. You can easily find the book anywhere in any part of the physical or virtual world.

Prelude:

Mitch Albom says that he wants to “provide hope and inspiration to his readers as they have provided to him.” And hope and inspiration are the essence of this book. With The Time Keeper he tries to discover the meaning of time.

When we think of inspirational books,whether fiction or non-fiction, we expect them to be preachy, unsparingly philosophical or downright unrelatable. I put the book down initially thinking it would be filled with cliches that mock the genre , vague reflections and rootless insights. I have read inspirational novels that made me feel like I have been listening to a self-important jerk for hours.

Well, we might even take it to be like one of Paulo Coelho’s books. But don’t. His books are sort-of mystical while The Time Keeper is magical.

Content:

The story is essentially about Father Time- the first person on Earth to measure time.who began to count everything from his own breathe to pebbles, sticks etc., and who eventually  ended up counting hours and minutes.

An Old Guy in long, white beard(read: Supreme One) is keeping a close watch on Father Time[DOR]. When Father Time, out of deep remorse, tries to turn back Time, The Old Guy strikes and locks away Father Time in a cave where he is to wait until a certain time. Ages and ages pass and he has filled the cave walls with his story and listened to billions of voices seeking more of time or less time., until one day he hears two voices[SARAH and VICTOR], both of them are trying to make the same folly as he did- alter time. He is released and has to save them so that he may be saved.

Writing:

In terms of flow of text and clarity it is just ten on ten. The book is shifting perspectives, it is moving back and forth from past, present and at times future too, but not in one instance it seems incoherent. What I truly love about Mitch Albom’s style; that which makes me read more of his work is this subtle and simple thing he does. He puts the wisdom before you just as it is. Just one simple sentence and it unleashes a stream of thoughts in your mind.

For example- “But a desperate heart will seduce the mind.”

Yeah, these are very obvious but presenting it in a way that is not explaining or persuading  but simply telling is what makes it impactful.

Coming to characters. Dor, Sarah and Victor are all complex and relatable. You may love them, dislike them or pity them, but you will feel connected to them.

Conclusion:

Overall, it is an engaging plot. You won’t probably come out of it with more appreciation for time, but you will love the time you will have spent on the book.

 

 

 

Spoiler-Free Book Reviews

I got books…as you can see… 
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I am reading them all the time. So, I thought I will review them.

Yup, as simple as that. I will try to be as critical/ analytic/ commentative {and at times expository too}  as possible, but I might be rabid and annoyingly “fangirly” for certain books. So, don’t mind please.

I speak about the style, their merit and the plot too. But not so much about the plot, after-all these are spoiler-free book reviews. Some reviews concentrate a lot on the plot, which kinda takes away the fun.This is what I am trying not to do- I am not going to rehash the story. What exactly do my book reviews do then? Well, you’ll have to read them to find out!:):)

Anyways, I hope you like. I would love you to leave your reviews about my book reviews!( No, do’t worry. I will avoid all lame jokes in the reviews. In fact, I will tie up my funny instincts, put a gag over it’s mouth and lock it in the closet.)

Have a good day!