Book Review

Book Review: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

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After everything that’s happened, how can the world still be so beautiful? Because it is.

Oryx and Crake is a novel written by Canadian author Magaret Atwood first published in 2003. It’s a futuristic novel and one which was described by Atwood as a “speculative fiction”. Set in a post-apocalyptic, unnamed location, this story circles around the life of the protagonist Jimmy and how an epidemic swiped all human race.

It’s a rather long read and the storytelling goes back and forth to the past and present. The present is the post-apocalyptic world that Jimmy lives in with mutated, human-like creatures that he likes to call “Crakers”. In this life, Jimmy is called Snowman. The past is the life he led from his childhood up to the time when the epidemic started -back when everything was normal for Jimmy.

His past is our future for his past life is all surrounded by innovation, scientific discoveries and human integration. His father was a scientist who developed pigoons – pigs implanted with human stem cells to grow certain organs that can be profited from. During his adolescent years, he met Crake whom he’s had high regard for and have easily become his only closest friend. Just like any other teen-aged boys, Jimmy & Crake have discovered porn and in those discreet moments they shared watching these films did he first catch a glimpse of Oryx in a child pornography film. It would be years later before they actually meet in person but Oryx’s face was imprinted in Jimmy’s mind since that first sighting.

After finishing both their studies, Jimmy and Crake went on with their separate lives and career. Crake being the more intellectual one go on and achieved greater heights in the science and technology field, while Jimmy was left living a mediocre life. They would later work in the same company (where Crake was a big shot) and there, Jimmy will meet Oryx for the first time in person. In this company, Crake created a wonder drug called BlyssPluss which promotes health and happiness, it basically makes life easier. The pill was internationally released and was very much wanted by most nations of the world. Little did they know that this same pill will create the epidemic that will wipe human race and cause massive chaos in the world.

I love Margaret Atwood for her vision of the future depicted in this novel. I like that this book can be witty one second and emotional the next. I love that in spite of the theme of the book being all about the future and latest innovations, she still managed to appeal to our hearts and emotions with Jimmy and Oryx’s love story. I loved how characters were introduced in the story and how they evolved individually. I’d rate this a 3 out of 5 stars for it could get a bit boring especially on those parts where innovation/inventions is the main focal of the plot. They said this is a love story but I did not feel like it was, as a large percentage of it is just about scientific discoveries and human advancements. That being said, Atwood could have focused more on the story of Jimmy and Oryx to balance the theme.

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Book Review

Book Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

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You think you know someone, but that person always changes, and you keep changing, too. I understood it suddenly, how that’s what being alive means. Our own invisible plates shifting inside of our bodies, beginning to align into the people we are going to become.

Love Letters to the Dead is the debut novel of American author Ava Dellaira published in 2014. A young adult novel that circles around the life of Laurel, a teen-aged girl who have recently lost her sister to an accident. Set in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the book was written through the various letters Laurel has written to famous dead people.

Laurel is a fifteen-year-old girl bound to start her new life at a new high school in her town. Her English teacher asked their class to write a letter to a dead person and that is basically how this novel started out. Through these written letters, the story of how Laurel’s sister died and how she’s finding it difficult to deal with this loss was unraveled. The book was generally about a girl’s emotions towards losing someone important in her life and how she continue to live it after the loss.

I liked how Laurel’s character was introduced and how from every chapter, her life and personality have materialized from her written letters to the dead. Much to my disappointment, I did not enjoy this book in general . I’ve always loved reading YA novels but this one did not quite hit the spot for me. It was like reading the journal of 15-year-old emotional girl and I felt that there is nothing exciting about her story.

I’d rate this 1 out of 5 stars for the lack of depth in the story and character involvement. It was like Laurel (and her dead sister) were the only focal point/s in the story and the tone was always bleak and sad. The author could have written more events that could have shown strength in the characters and the message of the book.

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.

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.