Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [Book Review]

americanah-cover-image.jpgTitle : Americanah

Author : Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

ISBN : 9780007356348

Publisher : Fourth Estate

Genre : Culture

Pages : 477

Source : Self

Rating : 3 stars

This is my first Chimamanda’s novel which I picked up after fighting between this and Half of the yellow sun. It felt like she was the Jhumpa Lahiri of Nigeria with the way the story was written and the plot that moved along the political and spiritual believes of the people, Nigerians against Americans and Americans against Nigerians.

The story revolves around the lives of Ifemelu, Obinze and people around them. The story starts as Ifemelu goes to braid her hair and the flashback starts dominating most of the novel. A successful blogger who decides to let her life go in America and come back to her home town as Americanah.

She talks mainly about race, about blacks not being blacks until they are in the midst of whites, the misinterpretations of ones picture who is supposedly black when the topic in question is violence or drugs and the efforts people put in to constantly proving that they are not racists. It deals with certain aspects of a black community leaving in America and London and the struggles they find themselves in to have something a lot among them have taken for granted; survival.

I did enjoy the balance between fiction and reality, the present and the past and the path traced by the story from ‘what it was’ to ‘what it could have been’ with a poetic touch, something I found magnificent. The supporting characters around the protagonist that shape her life, giving it an edgy twist here and there and being subtle about the relationship they share against the rest of the world, did not fail to appeal and seemed to lost its entirety towards the end as new people were pushed in abundance whose part in the story, I found unnecessary.

The author is brave and blunt that can be proved in every other page who seemed to be in no rush to dilute down on the sensitive topics which, though I quite did not expect it at some of the places, I found added weightage to an ordinary story of unrequited love. One of the other highlights of the novel was the profound absoluteness that was portrayed for Ifemelu, be it her wrong choices or flaws. It is not just a story of two people who decide to be in love but also the story of worlds against each other surviving at the tips of its people, refusing to fail, fighting to stand out and determined to have their way against each other, even if it something as trivial as colour.

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Reviewed by Pavan Kumar B C

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Lockwood & Co by Jonathan Stroud [Series Review]

lockwood-seriesTitle : Lockwood & Co

Author : Jonathan Stroud

Publisher : Random House

Genre : Paranormal, Young Adult

Source : Self

Rating : 5 stars






“God rest her soul and may she never walk at night”

If you enjoy a nice rush of adrenalin from fictions, vivid ghosts roaming around, strong characters, funny dialogue and an overall well-built fantasy world in your paranormal young-adult, this is one series you shouldn’t miss.

Lockwood & Co. is an on-going series of paranormal fantasy written by Jonathan Stroud, who is also known for his Bartimaeus series. Of the Lockwood series, there are 4 books published, the latest one being just released this month.

The world of Lockwood opens up with an alternate England where the dead hardly remain under the ground. The world as we know has been taken over by the ‘Problem’ which causes ghosts and their various forms to wander around after dark. But the only people who can sense and see these disembodied apparitions happen to be children below fifteen years; once they cross this age, they slowly lose their ability and are left vulnerable to the incorporeal nastiness – a position that the adults always find themselves in. Agencies are set up with the children given training to lead the war against the ghosts, armed with salt bombs, iron chains, magnesium flares and loads of courage.

The series follows Lucy Carlyle, a ‘Sensitive’, the term used to describe a person with the ability to sense ghosts, and her joining the Lockwood agency, the smallest agency in London with only 2 other members – Anthony Lockwood and George Cubbins. Lockwood & Co., while being the smallest agency in England is also one of the few to remain independent in its functioning – no adult intervention or supervision. Upon joining, Lucy fits right in and the agency goes on to solve cases of the restless ghosts and determining the reasons of the hauntings and of the Problem itself.

While the books in the series can be read alone, it’s most fun when read in order as there are tiny details to a character that could be missed if not read. The series is rich with description, emotions, humor, wit and lots of action! While the series’ description calls it a young-adult aimed at middle graders, the series has so much to offer to any paranormal-action lover. The world is well fleshed; all the nuances chalked out and it offers a well-rounded plot-line. For instance, every apparition the agency deals with has a backstory of how it came to be – revenge or unfulfilled wish or simply a strong attachment to the object (Source, which is how the ghosts manifest) in question?

Stroud does an amazing job at imbuing the environment with everything spooky imaginable. Strong vocabulary combined with his skill at writing makes a reader imagine exactly what he wants to get across. The sense of urgency and dread is well built; add to that a sprinkle of suspense and hints of mortal danger – and there is your perfect weekend read. The narrative is usually fast-paced as Lockwood & Co. always manages to find itself in the midst of everything paranormal – the plot is ever thickening!

Of note about the protagonists (and other characters involved) is the characterization. There is nothing two-dimensional about them. They do not fall prey to the stereotyped young-adult ‘fluff’. They are strong, independent young ones with their stories, motives and abilities fueling them, making them uniquely original. Nobody is ‘dashingly’ handsome or ‘devilishly’ cool to the extent that it puts readers off. They are just kids trying to stay alive while helping people out with the hauntings. In the words of Lucy Carlyle, “I wasn’t pretty, but as my mother once said, prettiness wasn’t my profession.” 

This brings me to the second attribute of the series: the females are plain badass – which makes sense because there’s no time to be sexist with ghosts (and people) waiting to take over the world. Agents like Lucy, Holly and Flo Bones (a girl on a different level of badass) are depicted to be better and more capable than their male counterparts on certain counts. It’s refreshing to see this kind of a perspective in a children’s book, having girls head toe-to-toe with boys – equally daring, smart and unblinkingly valiant.

The development of the characters is also well scripted, with Lucy coming off as the most human, which could also be because the series is narrated from her perspective, making the readers hear her voice the most. That said, while the development of others’ might seem slow, it is definitely there. The interaction between the agents of Lockwood & Co. alone makes this book a worthy read. The banter and dialogue between them is true to a teenager stuck in a paranormal world. There is nothing extremely romantic between the characters (they are only around fourteen!). Lockwood comes off as the mysterious, optimistic, reckless and loud leader, George being the ever-required sarcastic, critical, experimental ‘researcher’ of the group with Lucy being talented, witty, emotional, and the most human of the three (and no, it’s not because she’s a girl).

One gripe I do have with the series is that it never goes into the question of the Problem itself. The author keeps referring to George working on the advent of the Problem, but there’s nothing more to add to it. Four books in, and it still feels like ghosts just started appearing out of the blue for no good reason (which is how it happened) around half a century ago. With the kind of time the agents working across the world had, it would make sense that somebody would have theories, if nothing concrete, about how the issue came to be. But nothing of this sort is mentioned and that makes the series slightly lacking – there’s a paranormal situation that people are living with for about 50 years and nobody has the slightest clue how it happened. How are people okay with that? Then again, the series is on-going, so there’s hope it will turn out to be a big reveal at the end. Fingers crossed.

To conclude this long review, Lockwood & Co. happens to be one of the better written young-adult paranormal series that I have enjoyed to the greatest extent possible (re-reads included!) It is difficult to judge which the best quality of the book is – the atmosphere, the characters, the action – because it’s all there and it’s all out there to give you a good spook!

Reviewed by Mitra Somanchi

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Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn [Book Review]

sharp-objects-book-cover.jpgTitle : Sharp Objects

Author : Gillian Flynn

ISBN : 9780307341556

Publisher : Broadway Books

Genre : Mystery

Pages : 394

Source : Self

Rating : 5 stars




“See, there I am. I told you I lived. I told you I was.”

Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects crashes into a person’s consciousness like a wave. There is strength in the dialogue and the script and she eases it home with a plot twist waiting to be unraveled.

At the outset, Sharp Objects sounds loosely like any other detective novel. Camille Preaker, a journalist, is sent to her hometown, a place she has not visited in years, to cover a series of murders. She does so reluctantly setting the plot in motion. Once there, she just remembers all the reasons why she has avoided that place like the plague. Only, being older and more knowledgeable this time around, her intuition warns her of something amiss, and that is something connected to the series of murders plaguing the town.

Written in first-person, it follows Camille’s thoughts and observations turning this into a suspense thriller of the first order. But there is more to this book than a person might gather from the summary – it is also a psychological thriller (in a weird way comparable to In The Woods by Tana French)

As any other Flynn’s books, Sharp Objects targets the ugly side of humanity, the one that people are not okay exposing, but she reveals it layer by layer, showing us how warped humanity is under all its pretenses. It is the protagonist’s inner thoughts that actually bring out the raw and real side of the book. Thoughts like “A child weaned on poison considers harm a comfort.”, and “I ached once, hard, like a period typed at the end of a sentence.” makes the reader give just that pause to understand how Camille processes things, how messed up she is in the head and the circumstances that brought her to it.

Flynn does an amazing job pulling off damaged humans and the surrounding environs, but there’s truth to it; nobody’s undamaged in this world, there’s always a certain tick that sets people apart. It’s just that some people exhibit it, some don’t. The characters introduced are complex, majorly messed up, which also makes them very real to the world. She does not mince words when it comes to describing and analyzing horrific details either, whether of the murders or of the characters. The plot itself is convoluted and fast paced so a reader would want to keep reading, with the knowledge that a lot of messy things are just around the corner. All said and done, this book is not for the faint hearted, and if self-harm disturbs you, consider this the warning.

Reviewed by Mitra Somanchi.

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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens [Book Review]

greatexpectations-charlesdickens-120523031601-phpapp01-thumbnail-4.jpgTitle : Great Expectations

Author : Charles Dickens

ISBN : 9780192833594

Publisher : Oxford University Press

Genre : Classic

Pages : 505

Source : Self

Rating : 5 stars

Sometimes we expect more from others because we would be willing to do that much for them. Expectations seemed abundant in this story and not just for the protagonist. Let’s start with the characters that showed up first and the instances that made them who they were. The seeming heart wrecking story begins and ends at the same place among the same set of people which I guess was the very first hint of everything in life bouncing back at us when we least expect it that is also the Moral of the story.

Mrs. Gargery, a cold blooded sister who was extra thorny for her brother and husband was grievously selfish from the very beginning and her expectations leaded her from a perpetual longing and suffering throughout the story. Her husband, the naive and the sweetest among all, though weak with his attributes, compensated for everything his wife ever was that includes her brother with whom he shared a senseless relationship of more than just a brother by law; friendship. Joe, Gargery, who lived as a commoner with no vivacious expectations leads a significantly comfortable life by doing good and receiving the equal share of happiness throughout, for his expectations were never too forged.

The story takes a vicious turn when the protagonist, Pip is thrown into the worlds of richness, beauty and the mere materialistic attributes and not to mention a woman’s wrath on men for her befuddling past. Yes, the expectations of Miss Havisham, carefully netted and structured to carry out from her adopted daughter is the outset for pip’s first step towards the real life which, according to Estella (adopted daughter) would mold anyone once the suffering has been stronger than all other teaching. The expectations of these two women, self-interested and dolor, lead them to an afflictive epiphany over the course of life which she believed was engineered and confounding and disastrous future respectively.

The pockets play one of the significant plays in molding pip’s dream and the most important one is Herbert pocket, who made an appearance as to not have a bright life and success in the eyes of Pip and held just one selfless expectation of growing powerful and independent. Offering his love to Clara and friendship to Pip, he executes his dream of being a valet, a husband and a greatest of friends.

Everything which is done in the present, affects the future by consequence, and the past by redemption. Enter, Magwitch. The benefactor of Pip who seized to be what he was that was made through his past and decides to replenish it by carrying out the deeds of someone else’s expectation. That involved being a gentleman for a reason of marrying a beautiful woman by snubbing whoever who held him dear. This is where the expectations of Pip and the convict intervene for one is helping another to become what he hopes for and another is helping the one in letting him, which according to him is the much needed salvation. One leading to death and another, taking a curvature and bringing him back to where he started.

Most of the plot line characters colligates with one another and that is quite amazingly lurid at the same time. The depredations were brought from all the corners of the story and directed towards Pip. Let’s go over the “what if”s postulates. What if Pip did not consent to steal? What if Provis was not the benefactor? What if Miss Havisham’s brother did not find himself conspiring against his sister? What if the benefactor’s companion did not break Miss Havisham’s heart? What if Mr Jaggers’ maid (Estella’s mother) was not a jealous woman who threatened to kill Estella when she was 3 years old? What if Wemmick had not shown his civil side? And most importantly, what if Estella did not hurt Pip when he was a kid that began the ripple effect and joined all the dots from the past, present and supposedly the future which created the greatest expectation for the protagonist that led to his life? A life, so beautiful which, for his disdain, gave him grief, sadness, disarray and kept him baffled but made him what he was destined to. His great expectations, that bent him down to be a humble gentleman though it costed him love, friendships and lives.What is beauty? A destroyer.

Reviewed by Pavan Kumar B C.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two by J. K. Rowling [Book Review]

Harry_Potter_and_the_Cursed_Child_Special_Rehearsal_Edition_Book_Cover.jpgTitle : Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two

Author : J. K. Rowling

ISBN : 9780751565355

Publisher : Little, Brown

Genre : Play

Pages : 343

Source : Self

Rating : 4 stars

Harry Potter and the cursed child had all the elements that a Harry Potter fan looks forward to. Magic, Wizards, Witches, Friends and Prophecies. Though not on the magnitude of the novels, it did deliver an unputdownable narration. Along the length of the story, I was quite confused about the protagonist of the story as it swivels from Albus Severus Dumbledore and Scorpius Malfoy.

We get to visit an alternate universe where bad has triumphed over good after the battle of Hogwarts is lost. Quite uncanny and unorthodox was the narration with the way the scenes were said, hastily if nothing else.

Though the story did not have a lot of magic that was expected out of the book, it did compensate with the way complexities of how the present, past and future come together were woven in a likely, Rowling-ish manner.

We get to know what it would have been like if Cedric Diggory was alive? If Ron and Hermione never got married? If Voldemort never died? If Snape were still alive ? The questions, the fans pondered over for years are answered in a breath taking way that is bound to leave you teary eyed. We do not get to know a lot about Harry’s first son and the first daughter as the story is developed around his second son.

Though the story seemed predictable here and there, the value added, again to the value of love, bravery and friendship outshines anything that is deemed to put you off. I would have enjoyed it more if had more substance but it is true Harry Potter story nevertheless.

Reviewed by Pavan Kumar B C.

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