Book Review

Book Review: Fear of Flying by Erica Jong

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There’s nothing good about being ordinary. People don’t respect you for it. People run after people who are different, who have confidence in their own taste, who don’t run with the herd. There is nothing gained by giving in to the pressures of group vulgarity.

Fear of Flying is a 1973 novel by American poet and novelist, Erica Jong. Set in Europe, the book was written in the first person narrative through the voice of the protagonist, Isadora Wing. It tells mainly her story and how she struggles to find her place in a world where a woman’s place was already pre-determined by most of what people think is and should be.

Isadora and her husband flew to Vienna to attend an event for psychoanalysts and there she met Adrian, an Englishman she found herself so attracted with. Adrian felt the same attraction and offered Isadora to run away and live a “care-free” life with him, one that sounded appealing to her. After hesitating between choosing to stay with his husband or to elope with Adrian, she chose the latter and together, they travel all over Europe.

More than the infidelity depicted in the novel, the heart of it all is Isadora and how she grew up to be this woman who find it hard to put a definition to love, or to life in general. She felt trapped in a marriage that for her, had lost its glory. She felt like people around her (family & friends) have been dictating her all her life. She felt like she is not living her life to the fullest.

It tells how Isadora finds it offending to go with the flow and be ordinary just like everyone else. Though there is nothing wrong with being ordinary, she believes that there is a far more greater purpose in life for her than to just simply get married, be a housewife and a mother eventually. She didn’t share that same domestic sentiment as with the majority of the female population (at that time) felt.

I loved how Erica Jong have bravely talked about these things that a typical woman is too scared to even think about. I loved how she values the individuality of Isadora and made an adventure with her struggle to find and embrace it wholeheartedly. I loved how she showed Isadora’s stubbornness and insistence to be known as her own person and not as somebody’s wife or somebody’s daughter. I loved how she openly talked about the realities of a married life and how people get through all these hurdles.

I loved this book for the message it conveyed to its women readers that it’s OK to want more and give more to yourself. I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars rating for I thought that the plot and characters were elaborately written. It easily became one of my favorite books of all time.

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Book Review

Book Review: The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

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Who knows, perhaps the will to please leads people to crime as often as evil or greed does. People want to fit in and do well, and they do indescribably stupid things because of it.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the fourth installment in the Millenium Series written by Swedish journalist and writer, David Lagercrantz. Set in Sweden, this action-packed book is a continuation of the crime-solving adventures of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist.

The book introduced a renowned Swedish scientist named Frans Balder who have invented an A.I. that could make remarkable breakthrough in the field of science and technology. Seeing how promising this invention is, a certain underground group went after him that led him to his untimely death. Hours before he was murdered, he called Blomkvist with the intent of disclosing useful information he knows and about his invention. As Blomkvist got more and more involved with the investigation, he got in touch with Salander and together, they were to unravel other more disturbing truths behind the murder of Balder.

It’s quite a lengthy read to begin with, but with Lagercrantz writing, I was able to finish this book without getting bored. Though there were a few objection about the publication of this book, I could say it has given enough justice for Lisbeth’s comeback in the literary scene. Having read the trilogy (The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) I can personally say that Larsson’s (author of the first three books) and Lagercrantz’s writing are of the same tone. The characters from the trilogy were able to maintain their significance in the story and in the lives of Blomkvist and Salander. Also, the plot was presented in an engaging way.

I’d rate it a 3 out of 5 stars because although I liked the book (the plot and everything was A-OK), I just felt that instead of re-living the story of the girl with the dragon tattoo, they could have introduced a new heroine and let Salander’s mystery be preserved with Larsson’s passing. I thought we could at least give it to Larsson to rest in peace and know that he owns the rights to Salander solely. But then again, this is just me. What do I know, right?!

Book Review

Book Review: Hector and the Search for Happiness by François Lelord

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“But, in reality, being unhappy might also teach him something about happiness.”

Hector and the Search for Happiness is a novel written by French writer Francois Lelord in 2002 and translated in to English in 2010. Set in various unnamed cities in the world, this is a story of a man named Hector whose profession took him to an adventure that would widen his horizon and understanding to that one thing his patient have been looking for: HAPPINESS.

This is a short novel written in the third person narrative that tells the story of a psychiatrist named Hector and his search for happiness. Hector have had quite a few patients and though he’s treated a few, he still finds some patients suffering with unhappiness that lies deeper into their own being. They may have a good life, with loving families and stable jobs but they still go to Hector for help. He realized he can’t help them all with his limited knowledge of happiness and so he embarked on an adventure that took him to cities in Asia, Africa and America.

We all want happiness in life and this is the reason I see why this book has sold over two million copies worldwide. The title being about the search for happiness, I’m sure readers won’t think twice of grabbing a copy. Plus, it’s just a 240 page-book, so why not, right?! On the other hand, I personally find this book a bit of a shallow read as the story itself goes on a rather straight line with obvious conclusion at the end. The lessons that Hector has learned throughout his journey are sure worth remembering but I feel that these are the only thing that kept me reading this book. I thought the writer could have focused more on complex experiences of the characters that would lead Hector to lessons about happiness. Complex background stories/experiences could have given the lessons a deeper meaning to them.

I’d rate it a 2 out of 5 stars. I thought the book was written a bit bland that I lost interest around the 2nd half.

Book Review

Book Review: Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

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But my secret is: even though I wish I could be thin, and that I could have the ease of lifestyle that I associate with being thin, I don’t wish for it with all of my heart. Because my heart is reserved for way more important things.

Why Not Me? is the second New York Times best-selling memoir written by American actress, comedienne and writer Mindy Kaling. Preceded by her first book “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), this book focused more on the success she’s gained over the years, how hard she worked for it and how she keeps herself grounded amidst all the fame.

In this book, Mindy shared some of her life experiences that have both tickled and touched my emotions. She’s written lengthy chapters dedicated to special people (ehemB.J. Novak-hem!) in her life and how they play big roles in it. She wrote about her work and how she juggles being the writer, executive producer and main star in a TV show with her name on it! Generally, the book is about the *real* life of a middle-aged successful woman and how she balance things from her love life, work life, her diet, and everything in between.

I might be a bit bias because I love Mindy Kaling so this review might be all about “I JUST LOVE HER TO DEATH”! I love her character in The Office (my all-time fave) and loved her even more when I found out that she also writes/directs some episodes for the show. This book is essential to all the girls out there who have ever doubted (still do!) their abilities and who immaculately feel the pressure from the society to fit in a certain mold. Mindy never fail to make me laugh and inspire all at the same time. I love that she continue to be an image of an independent woman who is not afraid to face her flaws and flaunt them, if needed.

I love how she’s repeatedly pointed out in this book that HARD WORK PAYS! If I would sum this book up, it would have to be “How Mindy Kaling Worked Hard For Everything She Got Now And Why You Should Too”. I believe it’s important to earn the things you have in your life through hard work and she is a living example to that. She’s also written that no matter how good you have it, it’s cool to want more. See? The tone of this review is all “I love her blah blah..”

I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars for no matter how I love Mindy, I felt that this book was just a mere continuation of her first memoir. I felt that the stories she’s written here were  extensions of the first book. In spite of it all, I still love her to death! She will forever be one of my favorite persons in Hollywood.

Book Review

Book Review: Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

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Doubt is the pinprick in the life raft.” She stepped close and we hugged. I could feel her trembling ever so slightly. She wasn’t bulletproof. I knew then that my shaky faith in myself was starting to dig a hole in hers, and Emma’s confidence was what held everything together. It was the life raft.

Library of Souls is the third installment from Ransom Riggs’ widely known book series of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children. It was preceded by Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City respectively. Published in 2015, it was narrated through the perspective of the main character, Jacob Portman and set in London, Siberia and various locations (fiction and real) through different time and era.

In this third and final book of Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children, Jacob and Emma found themselves in modern England where they must find their peculiar friends abducted by Caul (an evil man who has captured all the ymbrynes including Miss Peregrine) and his league of wights. The story immediately picked up where Hollow City ended and through the help of various characters (mostly peculiars) they met along the way, Jacob and Emma were able to find the rest of their friends and save them. Before they were able to succeed in saving the peculiars, Jacob had to go through Caul’s greedy hands and led him to the Library of Souls where Caul forced him to use his peculiarity in fulfilling Caul’s life-long desire of acquiring the most powerful soul in all of peculiardom.

Bentham, brother to Miss Peregrine and Caul, had concocted a recipe that would collapse the library. This was the key for Miss Peregrine, the ymbrynes and the peculiar children to escape Caul and his greed for power. After escaping the collapsing library and the life-threatening events that Caul has led them all, the peculiars were able to save other peculiars in Caul’s tower and settle in safely at Bentham’s house.

The book ended with Jacob going back to his parents instead of staying in Miss Peregrine’s loop with Emma and all his peculiar friends.

Having read the first two books in the series, I can say that Library of Souls was able to end the series in a satisfying note. The story was able to hold firm to its core theme and I loved how the characters, especially Jacob have matured in a span of few days that he stayed with peculiars and hollows alike. I loved that it showed how characters grew out of their childish fear and learn to fight not only for themselves but for others as well.

I’d rate this 3 out of 5 stars for I thought that Ransom Riggs could have let the peculiars explore greater heights in terms of adventure and fighting not just hollows and wights. I thought that since they were peculiar children, it would have been more engaging if their peculiarity were showcased more in the book.

Book Review

Book Review: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

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Always worth it to have tried, even if you fail, even if you fall like a meteor forever. Better to have flamed in the darkness, to have inspired others, to have lived, than to have sat in the darkness, cursing the people who borrowed, but did not return, your candle.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions & Disturbances is a collection of short stories by the master storyteller Neil Gaiman published in 2015. The book consisted of 24 short stories and poems of various themes and backgrounds. This is the third collection of short fiction from Gaiman following Smoke & Mirrors and Fragile Things.

I will try to describe the stories that were remarkable enough to me, in three to five words:

  • “The Thing About Cassandra” – Made-up girlfriend
  • “Orange” – Alien abduction. Family.
  • “A Calendar Of Tales” – Year-round Stories
  • “The Case Of Death And Honey” – Sherlock Holmes’ eastern adventure.
  • “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” – Sad Fan-boy memoir.
  • “Click-Clack The Rattlebag” – Novel/Movie-Worthy.
  • “Nothing O’Clock” – Doctor Who. Bow ties.
  • “Diamonds And Pearls: A Fairy Tale” – Good > Bad. Diamonds > Frogs .
  • “The Sleeper And The Spindle” – Snow White saves the day.
  • “Black Dog” – Shadow Moon. Murder.

This would have to be the first book I’ve read that’s made of short stories instead of a full length novel. I was delighted (as expected!) with this book and each story kept me wanting for more. I was particularly thrilled with the Doctor Who bit entitled “Nothing O’clock” as I used to watch the series a few years back. I also liked “Black Dog” which is an American Gods story with Shadow Moon in it.

On the downside, I wasn’t quite impressed with the poems. It felt weird reading them but what the hell, it’s Neil Gaiman so I can move on from that! I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars rating. This could be because I’d still prefer a novel over short stories collection on any day but I’d recommend it to anyone travelling abroad with long hours of flight ahead for it will surely keep you entertained and can while away the hours.

Book Review

Book Review: The Dark Arena by Mario Puzo

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Sometimes I wanna fight like hell against everything around me, but I don’t know what to fight. It seems like I can’t get out of a straight line to a trap.

The Dark Arena is the first novel by the renowned crime novelist Mario Puzo published in 1955. Set in post World War II Germany, the book is told in the third person narrative and evolves around the life of Walter Mosca, an American G.I. who fell in love with a German girl.

The novel started at the end of the World War II where we find our protagonist, Walter on his way back home to America. Once home, he’s gone restless and thought that he would rather be back in Germany where all the ruins, faces and memories from the now-over war is everywhere. Soon, he decided to go back in Germany and once he reached Bremen, he went and look for Hella, a girl he met during the war and the reason he is back in the land of the enemy.

Together, Hella and Walter tried to live a harmonious life as a couple in a society where a relationship like theirs is considered a taboo. They made each day count, all along waiting for the wedding ban for American-German couple to be lifted. Though the book ended tragically, Walter and Hella’s union gave birth to a wonderful son.

The book speaks with a grim tone, someone who have gone through a war just like Walter could only have. It depicts the distorted view the world had during the war and how people struggle to move on with their lives even after the war is over.

I’ve always been drawn to books/stories related to the World War II because I find the emotions, insights and overall theme to have a deep and profound meaning. With this book, there are varying emotions thrown in but the story lacked in depth. The only thing I liked about it is the fact that Puzo was able to conjure up a character so cruel that you’d think how brave it was for a writer to come up with such an idea – to offer an awfully detestable main character to the readers.

I found it boring as the events in the book didn’t get me going and there’s not much to look forward to. I kept on waiting on every chapter for a cliffhanger, or something that would spice up the story but there were none. I’d give it a poor 2 out of 5 stars for I find the plot quite shallow and a bit meaningless. I love Mario Puzo for the brilliant job he’s done with The Godfather, but this novel was a “meh”.  I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone I know. If you want to experience the real Mario Puzo greatness, go grab a copy of The Godfather.