Friday, March 30, 2012

Review: Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief

Rick Riordan
Author: Rick Riordan
Publisher: Puffin Books
Price: Rs. 299 (discounted to Rs. 209 at Flipkart)
Pages: 375

I found this title as a movie first, which I greatly enjoyed watching. As if on cue, I saw a book with the same title in a crowded stall at the Book Fair and immediately picked it up! If there's anything that makes me yearn for a book like mad, peculiarly, is the movie adaptation. I don't know why. The same thing that happened with Twilight. Anyway, as soon as I started reading Percy Jackson, I knew it's a one-of-a-kind book, something I'm going to absolutely love and that's going to hit my 'Top Favorites' list! And it did! :) I read the book in a trance, forgetting everything else in the mortal world, it was SO enchanting. Based on Greek myths, the book (the whole series, rather) is based on the life of Percy, who's the son of Poseidon!

Percy Jackson is a dyslexic twelve year old, with a weird affinity for funny events that happen with him, events that cannot be explained. He's changed six schools in the last six years, and now is at Yancy Academy, where he finds a faithful friend in Grover and an encouraging presence of Mr. Brunner, his Latin teacher. All's well until he's cornered by Mrs. Dodds, who turns into a Fury and tries to attack him. That's when things begin to really change and he finds out who he is- a half-blood. A demigod. Grover's a satyr and had been keeping an eye on him since some time and Mr. Brunner is actually Chiron, the wise centaur.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief book cover!

Percy's taken to Camp Half-Blood, where he finds out he's the son of one of the Big Three- the son of Poseidon, the God of Sea. However, Zeus's lightning bolt is missing, and he suspects Poseidon to be the thief and Percy, his accomplice. There's a threat of a war among the Gods if Percy doesn't return the lightning bolt by the summer solstice, which is ten days away! Percy's sent on his first quest, along with Grover and Annabeth, daughter of Athena, Goddess of wisdom, strength and strategy, to find out the lightning bolt from the Underworld (since they suspect Hades has stolen it) and return it to Zeus at Olympus (which is at the 600th floor of the Empire State Building!).

It's a thrilling tale as the trio set on the quest, encounter Furies, the stone-turning Medusa, Ares- God of war, a hotel that traps them inside for five whole days, Hades and the Underworld creatures. Percy's successful at the end, finds out who stole the bolt and why, dutifully returns it to Zeus, has a small talk with his father and helps his Mother get out of the Underworld and start living the life of her dreams! Happy ending! :)

This book's a great way of introducing Greek myths in an interesting manner to anyone who wants to know more about them. Written in an amazingly simple language, with elements of fun and humor, Rick Riordan fills the reader with the yearning to keep reading! I loved the plot, the characters, the simple way everything proceeded and the emotions enthused within the pages. Some reviews say there are similarities between this book and the Harry Potter series and I guess that's kind of true, but that cannot be held against it in any way. The similarities are just minor and there are a million other things that are unique to the series. I know I'm going to read every other book in the series too! :D

<Quotable Quote from the Book: "The real world is where the monsters are. That's where you learn whether you're any good or not"- by Annabeth>

In short, a truly enchanting, gripping and 'unputdownable' read! Recommended for teens, middle-schoolers and well, for anyone who's interested in Greek myths. I would also recommend it as a book for stubborn people, like those who aren't yet into books- they might just get into reading!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern

Cecelia Ahern
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Publisher: Harper Collins
Price: Rs. 250 (discounted to Rs. 231 At Flipkart)

I admit. The bea-uti-ful cover made me pick this book up from the Harper Collins stall at World Book Fair, Delhi. And the fact that I have an uncalled-for bias for all things in the shade of pink (and purple), just added to the voice in my head that said, ‘beautiful! I HAVE to have it!’ Thank You weird instincts; it’s because of you I got a chance to read this book, which I would sum up as – Fantabulous!

Storyline (Summary of the Book)
The Book of Tomorrow is the story of sixteen (check, seventeen) year old Tamara Goodwin, who has it all. A rich dad, stately mansions and holidays, equally rich friends and a hell lot of attitude. She believes in living today, with no thought what-so-ever to what tomorrow might bring, till the tragedy affects her family. Her perfectionist dad commits suicide (unable to pay piling debts) and leaves Tamara and her mom in shock, and unfortunately, without their home and money.

They decide to stay at Jennifer’s (the Mom) brother’s place- a gatehouse in the countryside, with a ruined castle and church with graveyard nearby, and hardly any person in sight. Rosaleen is Arthur’s wife and both warmly welcome the duo to their home, but Tamara hates it there. She’s cut off from friends and her Mom’s grieving wasn’t getting any better. She just stayed in her room, sleeping or staring out the window all day. A little change came when a moving library came by. Tamara, though had no interest in books, longed for some change and found a leather bound book- padlocked. The friendly (over-friendly?) driver-cum-library-keeper let Tamara keep it. Meanwhile, Tamara feels uneasy with Rosaleen’s behaviour, who found out excuses to keep Tamara’s mom in her room and did a good amount of cooking. She feels reluctant to let Tamara out of her sight and keeps a close eye on her. During one of those forays, Tamara ran into Sister Ignatius, an old nun who seems to be a pleasant lady and they become good friends. They succeed in opening the Book’s lock, but found it empty to Tamara’s dismay. Sister urges her to write in the Book and keep it as a Journal.

The Book of Tomorrow book cover!

Tamara had come to love the ruined castle. Though creepy, she felt connected to the place and one day, sat down on the stairs to begin to write in the Book. However, she found the first page was already written in, in her own handwriting. The date was of the next day! She realized she was reading her diary entry for the next day itself! Perplexed and refusing to believe at first, she noticed the series of events the next day- and saw things falling into place exactly as was written in the Book! She starts using the Book to know the next day’s events and simultaneously used the information to her advantage- she wanted to find out what Rosaleen was up to and why Arthur didn’t help much. Once, Arthur had tried to tell Tamara something, but Rosaleen had made sure they were never alone in a room, even for a second.

It wasn’t long before Tamara got the opportunity to get around the house across the gatehouse. It was where Rosaleen’s arthritis- ridden mother lived and where Tamara was forbidden to go. That day Tamara saw a garden full of glass ornaments and delicate pieces and surprisingly on her seventeenth (eighteenth?) birthday, she got a glass ornament, a tear-drop shaped piece. When she shows the beautiful piece to her Mom, she sees a spark of life in her. That day the Book didn’t show her the diary entry- rather it curled up as if it were on fire and stayed that way. The next day, her Mom was heard shouting to Rosaleen and demanding if he was still alive! Seeing her condition, Arthur and Rosaleen take her off to the doctor and Tamara, accompanied by Wesely (a friend she made during her stay) decide to dig things out.

Among astounding revelations in the home across the road, they figure out the truth at last- that the castle belonged to the Kilsaneys and Arthur and Rosaleen were part of the name. Another Kilsaney, Laurence, who was supposed to have died in a terrible fire that broke out in the castle, was still alive and living hidden in the house. He was married to Jennifer and Tamara was his daughter. A year after the fire, George Goodwin, a millionaire, wanted to marry Jennifer and Rosaleen urged her to go ahead. George loved Jennifer and Tamara with all his will and kept them happy and safe, everyone unaware of the secret. When finally all revelations were made, Tamara understood the reason the Book had showed burnt pages. She looks up and sees Rosaleen’s house up in flames, though everyone was safe.

The ending was good (just the way I like it), with a whole chapter devoted to more things revealed and questions answered. Some books just end up abruptly, where the reader’s left to figure out some parts of the mystery themselves, which is kind of irritating, if you ask me. But not this one. This goes into a full account of events, answering all possible questions in the reader’s mind and filling all the gaps. The primary message it carries is that no one should be left unloved, for those who’re ignored as if their existence is a burden, can succumb to their inner desires to get things their way and literally destroy others. As in this case, the Kilsaney’s cook’s little daughter, Rosaleen wanted to befriend the Kilsaney boys- Arthur and Laurie, but Laurie was drawn to Jennifer. This led Rosaleen to ‘accidentally’ create a fire that destroyed the Kilsaneys and the Goodwins, in fact.

Apart from the strong message, I loved the way it wonderfully describes a teenager’s feelings and emotions Tamara goes through- when she feels desperately lonely, when she craves for friends and her former lifestyle, how she’s worried about her Mom (who by the way, was being given sleeping pills by Rosaleen, who disliked her), how she feels Rosaleen’s hiding something, and how she feels after finding out the truth. Tamara’s eighteen after all, having never been told that her real father was Laurie and that she was a Kilsaney too!

It’s quite innovative, though I was a tiny bit disappointed that the primary object in the book- The Book of Tomorrow, though served its purpose well and had a role to play, it was more dominated by Tamara’s story in the beginning, which turned into a family story towards the end. Kind of chaotic, but I wouldn’t complain, for the simple reason that it was somehow one book I couldn’t put down. I really wanted to fight my drooping eyelids, but since I like reading good books slowly, it took three days to read and absorb it whole! And of course, the cover! (It’s actually not a complete cover, the yellow part is the next page and the light purple folded up thing works like it’s actually folded. If that makes any sense! :P). The book was filled with beautiful lines I call “Quotable Quotes”, and one such quote was this: ‘I think that most people go to bookshops and have no idea what they want to buy. Somehow, the books sit there, almost magically willing people to pick them up. The right person for the right book. It’s as though they know whose life they need to be a part of, how they can make a difference, how they can teach a lesson, put a smile on a face at just the right time.’ (Fantastic!)

<This was quite some long review, but hey, it’s today that I’m finally able to breathe for a while, free from silly exams. And I so loved this book, recommended to every single person on Earth!> 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

In My Mailbox # 1 !

In My Mailbox is a feature hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, as a way to blog about the books you've received over the week. So many book bloggers (about 200, to be precise) participate in this feature and fascinated by it, I thought I'll post my own IMM too!

A rather hurried (and harried) trip to the 20th World Book Fair at Delhi added a few books to the pile, though they're not new releases. The kind of books that are popular and those I hadn't a chance to read yet! I had initially planned on making another trip, but thanks to exams (just a week ahead), I'm sitting here, blogging about it instead of being there, grabbing books (and discounts!). 

Anyway, I have these particular four recent purchases- three from the Book Fair and one from Flipkart.

A Place Called Here and The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern- Attractive covers and bestselling status automatically act as motivators! Besides, when people know so much about some particular books and I don't, it kills me, hence the purchases!

Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan- I should have read this a long time ago. It's about a young teenage boy who finds out his normal life isn't that normal after all, and he's the son of Zeus! Based on Greek mythology, this book's been made into a movie as well (in fact, I saw the movie and then came to know about the book!). Plus it always feels good to read young teen reads every once in a while. :)

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma- Motivational book about finding inner peace, knowing yourself and achieving your dreams, in the self-help category, appealed to me when readers praised Robin Sharma's books a lot! Hence, I ordered it from Flipkart!

Front covers of the books. (ignore the background.. that's a part of the bookshelf!)
I got a few more books from the Sunday book market at Daryaganj, Delhi (where they mostly sell books second hand at dirt cheap prices, but if you dig a bit, you can find out awesome bargains). There I picked up books for light reads (some light mysteries, a couple of books by Jeffery Archer, and some chick-lit). Another trip to the place is due (and to the library too), which will take place after two weeks (thank you exams).

I will be away from the blogosphere for a couple of weeks, again, thanks to exams, so won't be posting here before 18th of March! Though, knowing me, I guess I'll put up a random post on my other blog whenever I feel like it, because well, that's what I mostly do there! 

Happy Reading! :)

PS- (I would like to check out your IMM. If you have one for this week, please leave a link!)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Review: Urban Shots- Crossroads

Publisher: Grey Oak Publishers
Price: Rs. 199 (discounted to Rs. 149 At Flipkart)
Authors: 26 authors of the 30 short stories in this book. Edited by bestselling author Ahmed Faiyaz.

What attracted me to this book when I was going through the books available for review at, was its title. Urban Shots totally lives up to its name, comprising 30 urban stories (by authors both, bestselling and debutante, and popular bloggers) about all kinds of people in urban India- a yoga loving doctor, a mysterious kid with a fancy bike, a security guard who befriends a little girl, the ordeal of a man trying to get off at Borivali from a Virar Fast in Bombay and similar stories about quirky people and people just like we see every day. Those who’re either very similar or completely distinct, having their lives criss-crossing each other, mingling with the lives that are socially forbidden or with their soulmates after years of wait, hence, the subtitle- “Crossroads”.

Urban Shots book cover
About the book (and review)
The 30 stories differ with respect to the protagonists, their cultural, social and financial backgrounds, their troubles ranging from an overstuffed train to the demise of a close friend, and the final outcomes of their actions. Some are mysterious stories that remain a mystery even at the end, some are clear cut, some have cheerful anecdotes and some are totally depressing. The book’s a mix of all these genres and I would say I found that quite fair, since it would appeal to all kinds of people living in urban areas (or otherwise), who can relate to these stories, having seen or experienced similar situations themselves (or not. Even then, the stories are fascinating and the whole collection, commendable).

I personally found a few stories exceptionally good, and those that left me thinking about it a long time after I had finished reading. 

- Hako (by Chandrima Pal) was a mysterious yet profound story of a young boy who lived in a formidable house, but had a bike that other kids envied. The little desires of children have been beautifully portrayed in this story. 

- Getting off a Virar Fast at Borivali (by Vinod George Joseph) was a hilarious account of a man who boards a Virar Fast knowing well he should have taken another train for his destination- Borivali. Fantastic and realistic description of the crowd, cunning men and the desperate attempts of the protagonist to get off at his destination. 

- Song of the Summer Bird (by Anita Satyajit) is a story of love and innocence. The security guard of a library becomes friends with a little girl whose father runs that library, and teaches her all about nature and things he knew and things the girl wanted to know until one day it was so late that the girl’s parents thought he kidnapped her. 

- The Gap (by Saritha Rao) characteristically illustrates the difference or ‘The Gap’ in the thinking of a mother and her daughter over the issue of crank calls. 

- Paradise (by Anitha Murthy) talks about emotions a house maid goes through when she decides to opt for the promises of a life like ‘paradise’ by the house’s driver, Hari, being an accomplice in planning to loot the house and run away! (Yikes!). 

- Baba Premanand’s Yoga Class (by Paritosh Uttam) narrates the story of an obstetrician who gets into news for allegedly making lewd gestures to a woman (hyperactive, according to me), when all he was doing was practicing Baba Premananda’s hand yoga at a red light! He loses his repute and clients and later the lady who accused him comes to apologize, saying she saw the same hand yoga on TV! Tells how fickle minded people are, how we tend to believe anything that’s hyped and of course, the disadvantages of media! 

- Rajasthan Summer (by Ayesha Heble) worked best for me. A tired and stranded passenger in a small town in Rajasthan, is directed to a hotel by the stationmaster. The man sees a brightly lit and well furnished hotel, celebrating a typical wedding function and is told that they have no room. He makes his way to a scarier looking and dark haveli-turned-hotel and realizes in the morning that the bright hotel was supposedly closed down last year when a huge fire broke out after a wedding function! :P

What’s special
Almost all accounts have been simply narrated, with intense details that make the readers automatically visualize the situation and immediately feel connected, since we can easily relate to the situations that belong to a typical India. As I mentioned before, the stories are a combination of a variety of genres, such that you finish a sad story of a middle aged man and begin a cheerful incident about a little kid! This can work well for some readers who dislike monotony, but can be slightly irksome for some, since there are many fluctuations. ‘A breezy read’ would be apt for this book.

Recommended if you want to read about the actual India, like short stories, are an Urban Indian or looking for a light read!

This review is part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!
(And hey book lovers, it's World Book Day today! Read and enjoy!!!)


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