Saturday, September 27, 2014

Review: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

J.K. Rowling
Title: The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2) 
Author: Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
Published: 2014 by Sphere (Hachette)
Pages: 455
Find it at: Amazon / Flipkart
My Rating: 4.5/5!

Goodreads Blurb!
Private investigator Cormoran Strike returns in a new mystery from Robert Galbraith, author of the #1 international bestseller The Cuckoo's Calling.

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days—as he has done before—and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before..

My Thoughts!
The Silkworm, the second book in the Cormoran Strike series takes off some time after the first book introduced this ex-army-super-intelligent-guy-now-a-private-detective. Apart from his turbulent relationship with his long-term girlfriend, getting a new assistant, Robin Ellacot, who's been quite an excellent apprentice, the first book, The Cuckoo's Calling, had ended with Strike solving the famous Lula Landry case - a supermodel who apparently jumped to her death, but Strike proved that she was killed. So now with The Silkworm, we see how Strike got all popular because well, Lula Landry was a real big star, and now he's having a long waiting list of clients wanting to avail his services. Robin is busy working out her own priorities, as well as handling Strike's office deftly. Strike is somewhat bored of tailing unfaithful wives and husbands, so when a simple woman, wife of a novelist called Owen Quine, comes to ask him to locate her husband, Strike couldn't refuse.


It had to be a simple case. Owen Quine was used to performing such dramatics, running off for days on end, not telling anyone where he's gone. Just this time, his absence was longer than usual and it had upset his wife. Strike finds an overwhelming honesty in Leonora Quine, and sets on solving the mystery, trying to find the real criminal while simultaneously trying to protect Leonora from false accusations from something that you might expect to have happened in a crime novel - Owen Quine was found murdered. And very brutally. 

The Silkworm has gruesome detailing, twisted minds, incredible plot, clever detection and a lot more beyond an ordinary crime thriller. It's J.K. Rowling all over again: characters you can't seem to get enough of, moral messages hidden even in the worst of crimes, an acceptance of all sorts of people. The novel explores different themes and situations with the help of intricately developed characters, who're shown reacting to varied situations. The book also talks about 'behind-the-scenes' talk of the publishing industry, often including character traits, metaphors or dialogues pointing to something eye-raising. The mystery is well-woven and unpredictable, making readers throw themselves at different suspicious characters and then being provided teasing clues from time to time, making one question their choice of criminal! Just like in the previous book, I loved the way Strike solves mysteries. It makes one think. True, there's less action, but there's a lot more thought. And I love it!

I did like the ending as well, feeling it was elaborate enough to guarantee understanding, but for someone who wants to do a double-check on any character's actions in the previous pages of the book, it demands a re-read. All things bright and wonderful here, but there is one thing I was slightly put off with. Surprisingly, it's the writing style somewhere in between the book. I couldn't comprehend why it became the way it was, because it was not good. The first book seemed a lot better with respect to how it was narrated. This one needs work. Not the descriptions and all - those were as good as they could be - but something like Strike's thought process. The sentences just seemed off at some parts. Besides that, the book has graphic detailing of gory murder scenes, and let's just say that Owen Quine's novel, because of which he was killed, isn't really a children's book. 

Another thing that I really like about this series is that the characters are just so realistic that you can't help thinking of them as real people, and that you're reading a real life story. It makes the story so much more engaging to see Robin and Strike develop themselves as characters, get their own personal lives sorted (or get worse) and really grow as people, just like in real life.

To fulfill your desire for some mind exercise, or a really involving mystery, I'd recommend The Silkworm, but I wouldn't recommend it to younger readers.    

Some quotable quotes from the book!

“...writers are a savage breed, Mr. Strike. If you want life-long friendship and selfless camaraderie, join the army and learn to kill. If you want a lifetime of temporary alliances with peers who will glory in your every failure, write novels.”

“We don’t love each other; we love the idea we have of each other. Very few humans understand this or can bear to contemplate it. They have blind faith in their own powers of creation. All love, ultimately, is self-love.”

“Like most writers, I tend to find out what I feel on a subject by writing about it. It is how we interpret the world, how we make sense of it.” <-- ^_^

“You are not writing properly unless someone is bleeding, probably you.”


Friday, September 19, 2014

Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Author R.J. Palacio
Title: Wonder
Author: R.J. Palacio
Published: 2012 by The Bodley Head (Random House group)
Pages: 313
Find it at: Flipkart / Amazon
My Rating: 5/5! <3

Goodreads Blurb!
I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

My Thoughts!
The use of words here might seem lame, but Wonder is a wonderful story. August (Auggie) Pullman is a ten year old kid with a facial deformity (craniofacial abnormalities). That shouldn't be something to define him by, but it's also something that cannot be ignored, not at first anyway. It's hard for him to deal with it and within the carefully presented story in Wonder, we live through a year in Auggie's life as he makes a major transition - going to school for the first time in fifth grade, after having been home-schooled for years. It's not a sad story, but it's a lot about dealing with problems. It's about friendship, love and kindness and all the human things that take time to develop, but develop they do. He's most certainly not disabled, so his parents choose to send him to a regular school. It's hard for August to initially find himself the center of attention for so many people at once. He's used to being stared at, or perhaps the quick saw-you-but-ohmygod-I'll-look-away kind of awkward look, but definitely not coming across a huge group of middle schoolers who could be mean, awkward or totally kind. 

Pic credit: Mr. Solarz
Wonder is August's story, but it's also about his family. His mom, dad and fourteen year old sister, Olivia, all of whom love him to bits. You'd think having an unusual face would be hard, and it sure is, but the book also explores how people around August deal with it. It's quite heart-warming to see how much his family loves him, and how the problem makes some of their habits different from other families. One of the best things about this story is that it is full of optimism. Auggie's family, his teachers and the friends he eventually makes, all learn to love him and make him feel confident of his abilities. He's a normal kid with a classic reverence for Star Wars and love for his dog, Daisy. He's smart, intelligent, sometimes witty and honestly sincere. And let's face it: very, very brave.

The book explores not just August's life, but also those of other characters, which is again, one of the coolest things about this book. It's been written and presented just so well. You wouldn't really get to judge anyone, because just when you are about to form your opinions of a character, bam! You'd get their side of the story. When Olivia (Via) does something you'd be inclined to say is wrong, she'd put in her story, and then you'd think even more broadly and look at Auggie as a normal dude. I think the writing style does something to the book's overall feel. It doesn't ask you to pity a boy with a haphazard face, even when it talks about his problems, because it shows how people do try to deal with it, how they themselves learn a lot and how it is possible to get over anything with love and kindness. It is very much capable of instilling in hope. Like Auggie's mom says, "there are always going to be jerks in the world. But I really believe that there are more good people on this earth than bad people, and the good people watch out for each other and take care of each other."

I loved all the characters, with the slight exception of Julian, the mean kid who bullied Auggie, but now since in the latest version of the book, the author has included a chapter on Julian, I'm looking forward to reading it! Perhaps that would explain things from his point of view, just like it was done with others. I loved the girl called Summer too. We so need more kids like her! And like Jack. Apart from the emotion-invoking writing and complete, lovable characters, Wonder is also a great example of a really good book. Maybe now that my work involves looking at these sort of things and that's why I'm observing it, but it has many elements that a budding writer could make use of. But coming back to the story, another thing that struck me were the dialogues - it was like each character spoke on its own, in their unique voice. Those are capable of making a reader laugh, smile, giggle, feel anxious, whatever, on their own accord. The ending is brilliant! I couldn't have been more satisfied, although I didn't want the book to end either. Oh, Mr. Tushman (yep, that's his name!), I liked you in the beginning and all through, but you took all the love with the ending! :')

I can see many re-readings in the line! Wonder is recommended to everyone. 

Some quotable quotes from the book:

“If every person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary - the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.” 

“Do people look the same when they go to heaven, mommy?"

"I don't know. I don't think so."
"Then how do people recognize each other?"
"I don't know, sweetie. They just feel it. You don't need your eyes to love, right? That's how it is in heaven. It's just love, and no one forgets who they love.”


“The things we do are the most important things of all. They are more important than what we say or what we look like. The things we do outlast our mortality. The things we do are like monuments that people build to honor heroes after they’ve died. They’re like the pyramids that the Egyptians built to honor the pharaohs. Only instead of being made out of stone, they’re made out of the memories people have of you. That’s why your deeds are like your monuments. Built with memories instead of with stone.”

“Here’s what I think: the only reason I’m not ordinary is that no one else sees me that way.”


Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: George and the Unbreakable Code

Stephen and his daughter,
Lucy Hawking
Title: George and the Unbreakable Code
Authors: Lucy and Stephen Hawking
Published: 2014 by Doubleday
Pages: 315
Find it at: Flipkart / Amazon
My Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads Blurb!
George and his best friend Annie haven't had any space adventures for a while and they're missing the excitement. But not for long . . .

Seriously strange things start happening. Banks are handing out free money; supermarkets can't charge for their produce so people are getting free food; and aircraft are refusing to fly. It looks like the world's biggest and best computers have all been hacked.

George and Annie will travel further into space than ever before in order to find out who is behind it.


My Thoughts!
Eleven year old George is sure that he loves machines more than people. Except perhaps his family, however annoying they might be, and best friend Annie. In this fourth book on space adventures, George and Annie are facing a world that has suddenly gone berserk! Banks are showering money on people, supermarkets aren’t charging for food, airlines are giving free air tickets and people are swarming in groups, looting whatever of value has remained. In such dire circumstances, Annie’s scientist dad has been called by the national authority to look into the matter and it is up to George and Annie to find out who’s behind this crazy, humungous hacking scheme. Their theory and ideas lead them into another trip(s) to space using their dad’s supercomputer, Cosmos. But wait, if all the computers in the world are malfunctioning, how could Cosmos have been spared? It’s suddenly dangerous to trust even their beloved computer.

George and the Unbreakable Code is about science. Kids who love science and readers who’d love to read about make-believe, but informative, adventures around science. The illustrations add fun and interest to the text, totally supporting the story. One of the unique things about this book would be the pages of factual information on different science topics, inserted in between the story at relevant pages. If in the story, a robot android is introduced, you’d find a few pages of factual data of interested related to androids. You’d also find computers, algorithms, Jupiter and Saturn and their moons, our Earth’s moon, stars, Boltzmann brains and 3D printing. Although initially I thought it’d perhaps be breaking the flow of the story, but I guess it did the opposite. Not only was it informative, but also presented in an easy to understand language, which, for a young reader, might help develop a keen interest in science.

I mean, it speaks of topics we hear about, but hardly bother to know in detail. Knowledge is important. It is capable of making one develop an interest in something, and even though my field of education and work is far from science, it was a pleasure to read it. You might skip the details about computers and algorithms, but I’d highly recommend reading the last chapter titled ‘life in the universe’ by Stephen. It talks about how life, and we, were actually formed. ^_^

Apart from being interesting, the book is fun to read. I especially loved the dialogues between George and Annie, with Annie being the one I totally love. She’s smart, brave, proud of her high IQ and yet, incredibly sweet. These kids are not scared of mad scientists, for they have enough interest in science and computers to know what they might be up to, and in the process, crack what would be otherwise, unbreakable codes. The story for me seemed to fall flat in between, but the second half of the book and facts in between make up for it. The writing style is simple, yet fun, even quirky to some extent. 

If you’re interested in science and want to read a kids’ story by Stephen Hawking (like I did), it’d be worth a read. If you know a kid who’d be interested in space adventures and is curious about the universe, this book (and the series) is recommended. It’s fun and interesting! You could skip it if these topics don’t interest you, because it’s totally around science. And yep, friendship. :)


Thank you Random House publishers for this book!



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