Review: Love Letters to the Dead

Story of a 15 year-old girl who writes letters to dead people.

Author: Ava Dellaira

Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Pages: 327

Format: Paperback

Synopsis:

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person.

Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead—to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven’t forgiven?

It’s not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was—lovely and amazing and deeply flawed—can she truly start to discover her own path.

In a voice that’s as lyrical and as true as a favorite song, Ava Dellaira writes about one girl’s journey through life’s challenges with a haunting and often heartbreaking beauty.

My review:

Letters. Dead people.

The above words were enough to drag my attention to this book. Love Letters to the Dead, is in its own way, intriguing. Several questions run through your mind, possible answers to what the book could be about. I was shaken a bit after I completed this novel and I have all the praises in store for the author, Ava Dellaira.

“I think a lot of people want to be someone, but we are scared that if we try, we won’t be as good as everyone imagines we could be.”

The story is about a teenage girl, Laurel, who started writing letters to dead people as part of her English assignment. This routine assessment turns into a heart-wrenching series of emotions that the protagonist goes through. Her daily struggles, her mindset and everything else that happens in her life. Laurel started writing letters everyday and soon found parts of herself that she never knew existed. Those letters gave her comfort and she could confide in them. She never turned in those assignments.

“I know I wrote letters to people with no address on this earth, I know that you are dead. But I hear you. I hear all of you. We were here. Our lives matter.”

The death of someone you love changes you. You suddenly become a different person. You outgrow people and things but most importantly you outgrow yourself. Through these letters, Laurel finds an outlet where she expresses her innermost feelings that have been bottled up for quiet sometime. We see how slowly the letters unravel parts of her life and bring us to a tear-jerking past.

Each chapter has been written as a form of letter. That in itself is great writing. Having the ability to keep the readers’ hooked is a talent very few have mastered and Ava Dellaira is one of them. The book is profound, contemplative and powerful. It is a sad story no doubt but also moving in several ways. It showcases the eternal sister-love, the intense need to protect each other against all odds and longing to be with one another. The story is narrated skillfully weaving different aspects of the human nature and the naivety of adolescence.

“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.”

There are parts that are slow but even in those moments you’ll find a sense of anger, pain and abandonment that the protagonist undergoes. I was utterly upset with the ending but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The characters in the story seem real, each struggling differently, trying to figure out life.

“Sometimes when we say things, we hear silence. Or only echoes. Like screaming from inside. And that’s really lonely. But that only happens when we weren’t really listening. It means we weren’t ready to listen yet. Because every time we speak, there is a voice. There is the world that answers back.”

The coping mechanism one one uses after they lose someone they so dearly love is confusing and haunting. The ways in which they try to fill the void, to overcome the heart-break which ultimately leads to a sense of detachment from the world.  This aspect of bewilderment has been beautifully captured by the author.

“We do things sometimes because we feel so much inside of us, and we don’t notice how it affects somebody else.”

If you’re looking for a book that would stay with you for the years to come, I’d highly recommend reading this book.

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira is worth a read. Painful yet beautiful.

“I think it’s like when you lose something so close to you, it’s like losing yourself. That’s why at the end, it’s hard for her to write even. She can hardly remember how. Because she barely knows what she is anymore.”

Review: Dark Diamond

“History is not objective. Facts are changed, truths are lost.”

Author: Shazia Omar

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury India

Format: Paperback

Pages: 229

Rating: 3.5/5

 

“Whosoever possesses Kalinoor shall suffer its curse: all that they cherish shall perish.”

Shazia Omar takes us deep into the forgotten history of Bengal, unraveling parts of the country and its heritage that have never been discussed before. She has beautifully captured the Mughal history, the neglected treasures, the lives of the people living in that period. While reading you can very well understand how detailed the descriptions are; how extensive the research is. Dark Diamond is filled with exotic adventures, brutality and drama.

From the start of the story, it becomes clear that there is a diamond, Kalinoor, that is cursed. Whoever possesses this diamond seldom survives. Lord Shayista Khan, the Mughal Viceroy of Bengal, has acquired the diamond which is slowly leading to Bengal’s destruction. Shayista Khan soon realizes that everything he holds dear is slowly slipping from his hands; his true love, his daughter and the fate of the people of bengal. Under his jurisdiction, Bengal has soared to great heights becoming a hub of commerce and culture and now he has to fight his enemies; Arakan Rajas, Hindu zamindars, Marathas and even East India Company to protect his Empire. There is a lot of magical realism in her novel. There is a vicious Pir whose main motive is to capture Kalinoor and ruin Bengal. I am not really an ardent reader of magical realism but Shazia Omar made it look real without going overboard.

“Power corrupts completely. If you want power, you have to play by power’s rules: you have to play from the head not the heart. Release the desire for power. Desire is from the ego”

The existence of the diamond soon spreads all over the country and everyone wishes to acquire it. Hence, the quest for the dark diamond, Kalinoor, begins. While Shayista Khan is dealing with loss, battles and longing for his daughter, his enemies are conspiring to posses the diamond.

There are several other equally strong characters in the novel that make it even more gripping. The female characters surely had my attention. Despite the torments and destruction, they held their grounds and kept fighting for their rights, much like the women of the 21st century.

“Lightness and darkness both exist within us.”

The author’s writing style is appealing, she takes the readers along with her on an adventure that’s captivating and informative. It is a quick read shuffling between the POV’s of the characters making it fast paced. The ending was satisfactory, justifying the fate of the characters and their journey. The political upheavals, religious intolerance, the secular nature of Bengal during the Mughal empire have been artistically narrated by the author.

I was really intrigued by the character of Bengal’s viceroy, Lord Shayista Khan, who relentlessly worked to bring about prosperity and peace in Bengal but was caught in a web of curses. Despite his forceful nature and extreme anger, the readers would be able to connect with him. Deep down inside is a man who is broken and suffers emotional trauma while on the outside is a man who is strong, brutal to his armies and devoted to the welfare of his people.

I have a thing for historical fictions and Dark Diamond was surely up my alley. Shazia Omar has a lot of potential and I really hope to read more of her works in the near future.

 

Which is your favorite historical novel?

“I wish I could show you,

when you are lonely or in darkness,

the astonishing light of your own being.”

Review: Before I Go To Sleep

Welcome to Christine’s life. She wakes up every morning not knowing where she is or who she is next to.

Author: S.J Watson

Length: 372 pages

Publisher: Penguin India

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4/5

 

Synopsis:  

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even people you love- all forgotten overnight.

And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

Welcome to Christine’s life

My Review:

Welcome to Christine’s life. She wakes up every morning not knowing where she is or who she is next to. She believes herself to be a 20 year old but she isn’t. She is a 47 year old woman who has no idea of her past or present. The future at this point does not exist for her.

There has a been a lot of hype surrounding this debut novel by S.J Watson and it did live up to the expectations. The story revolves around a woman who suffers from amnesia due to an accident that took place years ago. She wakes up everyday unaware of her identity or the identity of the person she is living with. No matter how hard she tries, her mind is blank. It’s like her life never happened and she’s been reduced into the body of a stranger. The only person she can trust is her husband, Ben. But is Ben really speaking the truth?  As she begins to put together shattered pieces of her memory, she realises her life has been a lie.

Christine is helped by her psychologist Dr.Nash who advises her to maintain a journal where she can write down everything about her life and everything she does in a day. At this point, Christine cannot differentiate between black and white; her perception is distorted. Memories from the past hit her like a ton of bricks but she is unable to decipher whether it is a figment of her imagination or reality. She knows if she sleeps today, she will wake up tomorrow with no memory of what happened the day before. The journal is her only hope. The author takes you into the psyche of a person who remembers nothing. A person who has to start from scratch every single day.

The novel surely is a page turner although it gets a little dragging in the middle.

The writing style is impressive, simple and holds the readers’ attention. I had a lot of assumptions about the climax and had my own theories on how the novel would end. But the ending was unexpected and I didn’t see it coming.

Before I Go To Sleep is fast paced (something most mystery novels lack), it is gripping right from the start and raw. For readers who love psychological thrillers, this one is right up your alley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: On Two Feet and Wings

He is 9 years old. He has never been alone. But he’s faced with a situation he never dreamt of. His life is about to change and how.

Author: Abbas Kazerooni

Lenght: 240 pages

Publisher: Hachette India Children’s Book

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4.5/5

He is 9 years old. He has never been alone. But he’s faced with a situation he never dreamt of. His life is about to change and how.

It is the story of a boy who has to live alone in a world that is alien to him. The protagonist’s journey is depicted vividly as he tries to make sense of the events unfolding in front of his eyes.

The Iran-Iraq war is at its bloodiest and Abbas has to to flee Tehran in order to avoid being drafted in the army. Time is running and if Abbas doesn’t leave soon, he will have to go to war. This urgency forces his parents to send him to Istanbul where it’s time for him to grow up and fend for himself.

On reaching Istanbul, Abbas soon realises he is on his own and going back would be disappointing his father; something that Abbas can never imagine doing. So he faces the frightening world ahead of him and plunges deep into the abyss. With some luck, his father’s guidance and presence of mind, Abbas soon finds his way into the unknown and within no time earns applaud, respect and money. ALL THIS AT THE AGE OF 9.

Living alone in a hotel for twelve weeks, Abbas begins to live life on his own terms. He suppresses his tears even when he wants to break down , travels to different places risking his life, spends money economically and has a meal only once a day. Knowing how vulnerable he is, Abbas has to watch his back and wait patiently to get a visa to England. But waiting is hard. Especially if you’re a 9 year old.

Had it not been a true story, I would have probably closed the book by now and refused to believe in all the things a 9 year old boy in the book was doing. The tact, logic and responsibility shown by Abbas is immeasurable. Any kid his age would have crumbled under pressure. The uncertainty, solitude and sadness didn’t weigh him down. He broke down, as is expected of a 9 year old, but he also got back up.

All in all, On Two Feet and wings, is a powerful memoir of separation, anger, loneliness and triumph. You will be at the edge of your seat, turning pages frantically and praying to every powerful force to keep Abbas safe and sound.

 

 

 

 

BOOKS THAT WENT OTT

images (1)OTT- Over the Top

Apart from the books that eat up your entire soul by its enriching storyline and charismatic characters, there are some books that eat up your brain due to a not-so-promising storyline and equally dull characters. I understand that writing a novel, figuring out the plot and carefully selecting the characters to fit the circumstances without making it over-dramatic and absolutely genuine is NOT easy (No offence, writers). So, I, like many others have stumbled upon some books that we didn’t quite really erm enjoy?  I have been a part of such a sad situation before and trust me when I say this; it is definitely not an experience worth looking forward to. I mean, come on, nothing is perfect. We mess things up and so do the writers (AHEM).  These books failed to make an impression as far as I’m concerned and my reviews, although brief, are solely based on my experience as a reader.  (I might sound a little too blunt but then it’s the disappointment talking).

  • 3 MISTAKES OF MY LIFE: The greatest mistake of my life, probably. If you’re a Chetan Bhagat fan and you’re reading this then please go hide your face somewhere and do not come back. If a movie has to be described in words then it’s a Chetan Bhagat novel.  The movie ‘Kai Po Che’ was quite a success at the box office and Chetan Bhagat’s script writing skill was brought to light. He should just stick to writing movie scripts and that is it. Equally nerve-wracking was his apparently national bestseller ‘One Night at the Call Center’ and ‘Five Point Someone’. He saved himself with his book ‘Two States’ which was without a doubt a Bollywood flick but not as horrendous as his earlier works.  ‘What Young India Wants’ is a book I haven’t read and neither am I planning on reading it. In other news, I’ve heard he is FINALLY writing scripts for Bollywood directors. WAY TO GO BHAGAT!

 

  • THE ZAHIR: Quite carried away by Paulo Coelho’s ingenuity as a writer and his philosophical knowledge that was boldly displayed in his international bestseller ‘Alchemist’, I decided on reading this novel. Little did I know, I was going to be left puzzled and not very sure of where I was heading with the story or if at all I understood the story? This made me reach a conclusion that there was NO storyline. I couldn’t figure out what the whole book was about.  Was the protagonist searching for his wife? ERR. Oh and I haven’t finished reading ‘Veronica Decides to Die’ yet. No more Paulo for the time being.
  • THE ACCOMPLICE: I have no idea how and when I got hold of the book. I also have no idea what Eirrean Corrigan was thinking when she wrote the book. The plot was something that has been written and enacted in movies since time immemorial. Nothing new there. I guess it was more suited to the age group 16-17 since the story and the psyche of the characters was custom made to fall under the teenage years.
  • Oops I fell in love: Before you judge me, I got this book cause’ I really wanted to read a light-hearted story You know the kind of books you prefer reading when you’re taking a break and you want to just lie down and relax on your couch. Well, things never go as planned. It was just another failed Bollywood script. The author, Harsh Snehanshu, didn’t quite nail it. The other day I read a review on his book that said it was a cute love story and that the writing was fresh and humorous. Sorry to burst your bubble, it was anything but cute or humorous or even fresh.

(That’s it for today. I can’t recall any other novel falling under this category as of now)

“The worst memories stick with us, while the nice ones always seem to slip through our fingers”

 

On a brighter side, I’ll be posting a review on ‘The Fountainhead’ shortly which is one of the greatest books written in the history of writing books. Stay tuned!

Have you had any bad experience as a reader? Feel free to share and comment!

REVIEW: RAINWATER

Author: Sandra Brown

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

256 pages

Sometimes you read a book that completely changes the way you think, the way you would normally think. You come a cross a book which effortlessly describes every emotion, every situation in a way you had never imagined. Sandra Brown in her rather unusual novel has given her readers a taste of what it is like to survive in a time where economic depression, prejudice and racial discrimination have had people kill themselves. Rainwater is a book that teaches life lessons learnt the hard way. I have not read any of Sandra Brown’s novels and since it was my first, I was quite intrigued.

The year is 1934 and Ella who is a single mother works day in and out to take care of her ten year old son, Solly. Ella runs a boarding house, earning as much as she can to ensure her son, an autistic child, lives a hassle free life. The behavior and abnormality of Solly is misunderstood since the story is dated back to 1930s where handicaps and oddity were not known of. Solly’s demeanor becomes uncontrollable and there comes a point where you would want to reach out to Ella and help her in any way you can.

Mr.Rainwater is a boarder who comes to stay at Ella’s house. Much to the readers bewilderment, he is diagnosed with terminal cancer and does not have enough time in his hands. It is amazing how Sandra Brown has pictured Mr.Rainwater’s impeccable character in her readers minds. His arrival also marks the beginning of an untold mystery. Even with an illness, he shows great courage and grandeur. In no time, he manages to develop an unnatural bond with Solly. A bond that only the two of them can understand. Ella, surprised by Solly’s show of affection towards Mr.Rainwater comes to realize that there is something about him that is very powerful. They start sharing an intimacy that is unknown to them. Solly, if I may say, unites the two. The other characters have an important part to play and add a sense of closure to the story.

Time does not favor them, situations backfire and you will see the characters struggling through circumstances. Although the ending is extremely shocking and uncalled for, I would definitely recommend reading this piece of fiction. It is not always that you pick up a book which keeps you glued till the very end. I, for once, enjoyed reading every page. It is a perfect blend of  a love story with captivating drama, life events illustrating hazards and cruel dispositions of the earlier time. Highly enthralling and equally devastating, Rainwater is a must read.Image

REVIEW: AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED

and-the-mountains-echoed

Author: Khaled Hosseini

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Rating: 4/5

“A story is like a moving train: no matter where you hop onboard, you are bound to reach your destination sooner or later.” 

Reviewing a book written by an author as brilliant as Khaled Hosseini is nothing but narrowing down his hard work and his contributions to storytelling. I really do not intend on judging or giving my views on how he writes or what he should have written. I have been an ardent fan of his work ever since I read ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ and no matter what happens I can never forget the experience it gave me. There is an extreme sadness in his work. Everything he writes has an emotional element strongly attached to it that is forever engraved in your heart and you can’t do anything about it. It decides to just stick with you throughout. You don’t read his books because you like to read. You read because you want to and the world will only seem less cruel after you have read his book. If you haven’t read his previous book ‘A thousand Splendid Suns’, I’d recommend you to read it first before you put your hands on his latest novel.

The minute I got hold of the book, I knew I was going to get addicted to it. The story starts with a story.  The tale of Abdullah and Pari who were caught in the web of unforeseen circumstances, forced to live their lives without each other. In this novel, the relationship of a brother and sister has been beautifully narrated. The world seems to crash for Abdullah when his little sister is adopted by a childless albeit wealthy couple. The fear, anguish and anger that Abdullah undergoes when he is separated by his sister will make you cringe. He cries but there isn’t anyone to hear him.  Pari was nurtured by him, brought up by him and had in the course of time become an inseparable part of his life. Fate, as you may say, had other plans (I somehow wanted to read more of Abdullah and Pari’s childhood).  The author has tried to merge in the stories of many other people who were associated with the main characters in different ways. The storyline seemed to go a little hay wire but then it regained its force. Since Khaled Hosseini is a wizard when it comes to writing, one realizes that the words have been written effortlessly. You traverse through different journeys, experience varying emotions and ponder and think and are finally left in awe.

“Gone.
Vanished.
Nothing left.
Nothing said.” 

Half way through the book, you forget about Abdullah and Pari. This doesn’t last much longer as Khaled Hosseini manages to grab your attention to a point where you are completely hooked to the book. The characters are many but their lifestyles are surprisingly very different. You wanderlust to various parts of the world; Afghanistan, Paris and the United States.  From my personal experience I can say that you will have to unwillingly do some other work to get your mind off this book for some time.  In contrast to the popular notion, this book was not as heart breaking as his earlier work but it did leave a very strong impact. It was more of a roller coaster journey having its ups and downs and finally reaching a static point. You are thrilled by the ride and yet you want to try it one more time. That’s Khaled Hosseini for you; He makes his readers hungry. His ingenuity and skill is what makes it worthy of being read.

 

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • “They say, Find a purpose in your life and live it. But, sometimes, it is only after you have lived that you recognize your life had a purpose, and likely one you never had in mind.”
  • “The finger cut, to save the hand.”
  • “It was the kind of love that, sooner or later, cornered you into a choice: either you tore free or you stayed and withstood its rigor even as it squeezed you into something smaller than yourself.”
  • “You say you felt a presence, but I only sensed an absence. A vague pain without a source. I was like a patient who cannot tell the doctor where it hurts; only that it does.”

REVIEW : The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

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Author : Steig Larrson

Genre : Crime/Thriller/Mystery

Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. The girl with Dragon Tattoo is one such thrilling novel.To be honest i was  awestruck after I  read this MILLENNIUM TRILOGY , a crime novel by the late author and journalist STEIG LARSSON (Also, now a popular movie) . The book is highly complex , engrossing and equally frustrating because every time one mystery is solved another just crops up and leaves you wondering and wanting for more. For those of you who are planning on reading this book , there’s one advice that i would like to give.  : DO NOT GET DISAPPOINTED after reading a few pages because this book does require a lot of patience for starters. I almost put this book down so many times due to  lengthy expositions and too many details about too many characters but, and this is a big BUT, once i finished reading 45% of the book , i simply couldn’t put this book down.

The story starts when Mikael Blomkvist, the editor of an investigative financial magazine called Millennium is found guilty of libel by a Swedish court for the article he published about a shady financier. The dense back story on Blomkvist’s predicament unfortunately slowed down the narrative to the point that I began to wonder whether the book may have been overhyped. But twenty pages into the novel when the intriguing Lisbeth Salander is introduced, the story takes off like a rocket.

Disgraced and derided by the Swedish press , Blomkvist takes a temporary leave of absence from Millennium.Out of work, he is hired (enticed actually) by Eric Vanger of the venerable Vanger Corp to investigate a cold case that happened thirty years before: the disappearance of sixteen-year-old Harriet Vanger, the likely heir to the Vanger fortune. Blomkvist accepts the job and searches for an assistant to help him with his research.

Enter punk-haired and severely underdeveloped Lisbeth Salander (yes, the girl with the dragon tattoo, among her other body art), a mistrustful, anti-social, and oft-violent twenty-five-year-old woman who has been declared mentally incompetent by the state and placed under guardianship of a state-appointed lawyer. What the government doesn’t know is that Salander is highly intelligent, a kind of wonder girl, who secretly works as an investigative researcher for the biggest security firm in Sweden. Through his unthreatening wiles, Blomkvist is able to earn Salander’s trust and the two of them embark on an investigative journey that uncovers a sinister Vanger family history that eventually endangers both their lives.

This novel describes the life of a very VERY special investigator agent.
She has no sort of past high school education but has the intellect and writing skills of anyone with post college education. The name, Lisbeth Salander. one of the most interesting characters brought to the written world. She is not your typical girl, she’s a lanky young adult with an edgy style impossible to not define from miles away. She comes across as someone who needs to be attended with help, but once you get passed all the judgement and her reasoning, you begin to connect and understand her life almost like a good friend. Not only does it discuss about Salander and her life, but it also incorporates the case she has been set to do. The best part about this book is that it connects her life and Salander’s past experience with her job so much. Definitely , A GIRL OF MANY THOUGHTS.

The story that unfolds is as dark and cold as Sweden itself, but will never, for one moment, bore or cease to surprise you. There is a lot of sex and violence, often combined in graphic prose. Even outside of the main plot, Salandar’s story is a dark, intriguing enigma in itself.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is highly recommended for the reader who likes smart, complex puzzles and unusual, complex characters. You won’t quickly forget Blomkvist or Salandar.I didn’t and i often think about these characters.

Luckily, we also have The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked Over the Hornet’s Nest.