Book Review: Eleanor and Park

Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is a much talked about book, narrating a teenage love story, where the two central characters are portrayed as misfits in their high school. The book tries to focus on certain issues related to race, gender roles and identity, with a certain focus on abusive and disruptive families.

In a few words, my views do not correspond with that of Mr. John Green (an author I admire) in his New York Times review of the book.

The book is set in 1986 in Omaha, Nebraska. To summarize, the book begins promisingly with a half-Korean teen boy, Park, who is fed up of the “morons” at the back of his school bus, when a new girl (dressed in some ways like a guy or rather as someone seeking attention), Eleanor, boards the bus. She fails to find a seat for herself and ends up sitting along side that “stupid Asian kid”. Sharing seats soon transforms into a friendship, and furthermore into a romantic relationship, as Park begins lending his books and starts making mix tapes for her.

Eleanor comes from a troubled family, living in fear in the shadow of her abusive stepfather. And thus, she begins a relationship with Park in private, with all her insecurities bound within. Thus begins long monologues which are supposed to make teenagers teary eyed and make them feel warm and fuzzy. With anecdotes like, “I want to eat his face”, “He is so pretty”, “She has freckles even on her lips”, etc., the book, without any attainable pace, moves on, until Eleanor finds out something terrible that she makes a decision to run away. Park comes to her rescue.

To add into the mysterious note (which this book is not supposed to create, but I would, so as to make the review a tad bit more interesting), what would happen next? Will her stepfather catch her? What would happen to the relationship? Will hearts be broken?

This book is appealing to the fans of authors like John Green and Sarah Dessen.

What I liked about the Book?

1. It is an easy read, and thus, I found it alright to read, paying only half my attention to what was going on.

What I didn’t like about the Book?

1. The entire setting and development is flawed. The narration, whether of school life or Park’s internal discord, whether of Eleanor’s tragic home or of the romantic development, never becomes concrete. An attribution to reality is what this book lacks in. And that is something important for YA and coming of age books. I would put this book in the category overflowing with Nicholas Sparks’ works.

2. The book fails in addressing social issues which it only strives to achieve. The racism is only referred to in sidelines. There is no difficulty faced by Park as such on being half-Korean. Bullying and abusive parents are the issues that might evoke a small response on the part of the reader.

3. The intimate scenes/passages in the book are quite cheesy. The writing is only half good. The back and forth point of view is distracting.

4. The ending is a little abrupt but that is alright. The problem is that it is done in such a way to make the readers swoon and eager to know what happens next. If the author actually wanted to keep the ending abstract, the book could have finished a few pages short of the actual ending. It was deliberately done to evoke discussions on social forums and to add into the charm that teenagers find in such books.

I would recommend fans of YA only, to read this book. This book is not for the readers, seeking a coming of age tale or an adult romance. This book is only good as long as you want a peaceful, simple and uncomplicated reading experience. This book just won’t make you think. And so, if you want a distraction from your thoughts, you might want to give it a try.

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(My review might sound a little blunt but that is how I felt about the book. I failed to empathize with the characters. Many would call me heartless, to which I would reply that my heart works in correspondence with my mind.)

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Book Review: Red Clay and Roses by S.K. Nicholls

Red Clay and Roses by S.K. Nicholls

Red Clay and Roses is a historical fiction based on true stories, by S.K. Nicholls, majorly dating back to the period between 50’s and early 70’s. It is a story based on the lives of people, particularly women, of the small town of LaGrange and the circumstances that they deal with everyday, with the racism prevalent against the African-American citizens in Georgia, similar to the situation in many other Southern states, at the time when there was being seen a radical change in some areas of the country. However, the story starts in the year of 2012 and ends in the same year as well, but the entire basis of the story lies during the time when equality did not prevail and some relations could not succeed because of the racist notions of the society.

This is a tale, of love, loss, family, friends and the entire society and how concrete certain believes were etched in the mind of the people, because of what was familiar to them and what was made known to them by the previous generations.

Viewpoints regarding the book:-

1.The plot line is good which focuses on the lives of both fractions of the society during the period the book is set.

2. The characters are interesting and they would not bore you, until the very end. Once you get into the flow of the story, it is as if you want to know more and more and you would not be able to stop reading unless you have reached to a point where another segment of story starts.

3. The structure is quite confusing towards the beginning. It takes time for the reader to understand the significance of the events happening in the story. But every thing which would seem apart comes out to form a complete circle finally.

4. The emotional factor of the novel is good, you would feel a little sad at certain stances, and you would sympathize with the characters.

5. The division of the story is done quite cleverly and it is easy to jump from one part to another.

6. It is a sort of drama of the lives of the common folks. There are certain issues like rape, abortion, woman empowerment and taboo relationships, raised in the book and the writing is quite successful in putting forth the information regarding what the things were like back then.

7. The editing and grammar is such that you would have a nice reading experience.

8. The title of the novel is quite apt, creating an image in mind, which recurs in the story.

I would highly recommend this book to those who like reading about the lives of people and those who enjoy historical fiction for its facts and realities.

About the author (from goodreads):

Susan Koone Nicholls authored a Southern Fiction based on a true story, “Red Clay and Roses”, and has two other works in progress. She is an R.N. who lives in Orlando, Florida, with her husband, Greg. She was born, raised and educated in Georgia, where she also raised her family. She has three children, a stepson, and two grandchildren. Orphaned from her mother at an early age, she spent time in foster care and in a children’s group home in the North Georgia Mountains, The Ethyl Harpst Home.
You may reach her at redclayandroses1@gmail.com, or visit her at www.redclayandroses1.wordpress.com

Note: I am glad to tell you that we will have a guest post by the author in which she discusses about the book, a little later. Do not miss it and definitely grab a copy of this book online, which would soon be available as a paperback also. For more information, you can contact the author at her blog or her e-mail id, as mentioned above.

Book Review: The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

The Bourne Identity (Jason Bourne, #1)The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Original Rating- 2.5

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum is the first book in the three-book Bourne series (original). It tells the story of the protagonist Jason Bourne who finds himself in an island near Marseilles, amnesiac, having been recovered almost dead, by a fishing boat. But he comes to know, with the help of the island doctor, his skills which are combative in nature.

This story is a search for identity of Jason Bourne as he faces deadly situations in which people are trying to kill him. He is striving to find out about his past, which takes him on a journey to Zurich, Paris and New York. With the help of his ladylove Marie, he is struggling, he is fighting and he gradually comes to know of his persona and his identity. There are two organizations- one of an assassin, Carlos and another of the US secret agency, and he is trying to run from both of them, while trying to figure out what he has had to do with them.

It is a thriller ride involving mystery, adventure and conspiracy. I have conflicting views about the book as the protagonist was, throughout the story.

Positive points:-

1.The writing is quite good at certain stances of the novel and you remain engaged.

2.The reader can easily understand the protagonist’s confusion. Thus, the character development is strong. There is a diversity of characters, which keeps you interested.

3.The plot line is quite different and full of suspense.

Negative points:-

1.The book gets boring a lot many times. You get tired of the story and you want it to move ahead; meaning to say the story becomes stagnant at many places.

2.Some characters are useless. Many words could have been saved if they were not introduced.

3.The story has certain high points and certain as low as a deep valley with many theoretical paragraphs and statements; a reader won’t be interested in.

It is not a bad book and it has kept me interested enough that I want to read its sequel. I would recommend it to anyone who likes suspense/thriller series and those who are patient enough to get through the tedious parts of the story. Also, those who like reading about spies and detectives would certainly enjoy reading it.

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Book Review: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

And the Mountains EchoedAnd the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (originally reviewed on 20 July’13)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“And the mountains echoed” is a compelling story or rather it is a collection of such stories which would leave a mark on you after you have read them. Written by Khaled Hosseini, this book takes you on a journey from Afghanistan to France to Greece to the United States. But in the end, it all comes to one thing; it is a search of a lost family through the distances, separated due to the situations which can turn around not only a single life, but many lives.

Positive points:-

1.Character development is really strong. Every character stands on an individual level.

2.The plot is good. It might seem impossible but we are talking about fiction over here. So, that must not matter.

3.I liked the writing and the narrative style of the author.

4.Emotional sentiments are engraved in the story but that doesn’t mean you will shed tears reading through it.

Negative points:-

1.The story sometimes appears to be a little far-fetched. The length of the novel could certainly have been a little shorter.

2.The beginning and the middle of the story is good but the end is not very convincing.

It is a good read according to me. I would recommend it to anyone who likes reading family drama and of course, the regular readers of the author. They would surely have a pleasant experience reading it.

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Book Review: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Remains of the DayThe Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

My rating: 4 of 5 stars (originally reviewed on 27 July’13 on goodreads)

The Remains of the Day is a Man Booker Prize winner(1989)  book by Kazuo Ishiguro. It is a tale of an elderly butler who gets the opportunity to take a vacation, travelling through the English country side on his employer’s motor. This is indeed quite a journey for him because during its course, he recollects his life events devoted to providing services to his employer and his qualities as a butler.

He shares his opinions on various matters from talking about what a great butler is to discussing the rightful meaning of dignity. This novel is based in the month of July’56 but tells you the story of how he used to think about the events that took place at his employer’s house from as early as the 20’s.

And it is also a journey through which he meets the housekeeper friend he once worked with and speaks of their encounters during that time but most importantly, he learns how he is going to spend the Remains of the Day.

Positive points:-

1.The first-narration is brilliant. It is a journal actually of the butler Mr. Stevens, that you get to read.

2.The opinions provided are something we could relate in our daily lives. Even at this advanced age, some notions do not change.

3.The character development is strong. The protagonist is an intelligent person, but always devoted to the area of his expertise, always concerned regarding things that came under his realm, which included providing services to the English Lords. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t opinionated. He put forth his opinions about many other areas of life, including a little bit regarding politics. But it was always in the shadow of what his lordship believed.

4.It is a quick read. Even though it is not mystery/thriller, it is still a page-turner. Because you want to know more and more about the protagonist, who has indeed left a mark on me.

5.You get an idea of life in the Great Britain during the years spanning from 1920-1956. So, it made it quite an intriguing read.

Negative points:-

1.There are certain paragraphs when it seems you are reading an essay, but for a story. But it is only a little bothersome.

Character sketch of the Protagonist:-

1.A devoted manservant, as being suggested already.

2.He is a little contradicting. But that could also be taken as open-minded; that he is ready to change his views about a specific thing.

3.He is not sentimental; not capable of showing his emotions or even empathizing with others.

4.He is pretentious, as being suggested by one another significant character in the book. He pretends a lot many times, that is true.

5.He is definitely an interesting person; a true English Gentleman, who takes pride in his work.

As you must have gathered from my review, I enjoyed reading this book. If you have read Never Let Me Go, then don’t worry- both the stories are completely different. And I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who likes to read about people, their lives, their work and their thoughts. But it is not for those who seek romance or thrill in reading. It is a plain novel which was quite an appealing read for me.

Note: The synopsis considers it to be a love-story, but in my eyes, the love in the story is pure that of respect towards a fellow human being you work with. Thus, I won’t consider it a romantic tale.

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Book Review: Inferno by Dan Brown

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)Inferno by Dan Brown (Originally Reviewed on 10 July’13 on goodreads)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Inferno, as one can guess from the name, revolves around Dante’s The Divine Comedy. It is the fourth book by Dan Brown which portrays Robert Langdon as the protagonist. Here, the book starts with Robert finding himself in a hospital bed in the beginning, having forgotten all the events of the previous two days because of the retrograde amnesia.

And then as usual follows a fast running tale into another world where there is a conspiracy, there are officials, some good and some bad and our hero is running to stop a catastrophe(in this case, plague) within a single day. You then get to travel to certain culturally-affluent locations to solve the riddle, which is necessary for the mission. In simple words, the plot line of this book is very similar to that of other such creations by Dan Brown.

Positive Points:-

1. The author took a slightly different turn in the starting.

2. The writing-style is quite good. The book indulges the reader to continue till the very end.

3. There were certain good thriller and suspense parts.

4. There are no brutal murders of priests/scientists in the book.

Negative Points:-

1. It is nothing new; it is now quite boring to read through the usual general plot.

2. The symbolic references in the book are very rare. This was one aspect I was looking forward to in the book but I was disappointed in the end.

3. Robert Langdon’s character sketch has really gone morbid.

4. The female lead of the novel is a worthless character. Her attributes are not at all clear.

Overall, it was not a bad read. But again, it was nothing new. The story was alright but there were many things that a reader could easily figure out even before the conception of related events in the story. I would recommend it in case you are impressed with Dan Brown’s writing skills and particularly for those who haven’t read other books by the author; I guess they will enjoy it.

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Book Review: Life of Pi

Life of PiLife of Pi by Yann Martel
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Life of Pi is a fantastical tale of courage and bravery and survival instinct, in the time of such hazard when a young man is left all alone with a Royal Bengal Tiger in a lifeboat; his family being perished in the ship wreck, they were travelling on. He was, by mere luck, saved but how long would luck help him survive? This story is well acclaimed and has been adapted into a popular movie.

Positive Points:-

1.The narration is strong. The main protagonist is an intelligent person, who comes out to be quite the power-house of the novel.

2.The biological references make it quite an interesting read.

3.The first-part is an enjoyable read. Learning about the protagonist and his family and his life in Pondicherry is something which is quite appealing to read.

4.The sea ordeal is quite frightening to read. And the story of killing for hunger makes you believe that we humans are also indeed animals. That came out to be quite intriguing part to read and understand.

Negative Points:-

1.The writing style is good but it is sometimes flawed because of over-exaggeration.

2.The emotional sentiments do not provide the story with an appropriate kick. Otherwise, a tragedy like this must have been able to make a reader burst into tears. But extra emphasis was made on the practical aspect, hence the novel failed to provide an emotional enriching experience.

3.It looked like a tale. A fictional story with nothing to back it up. The alternative story told in the third part of the book, seems to be more truthful than the actual one. I saw it as a flaw. I understand that the author provided it for a specific reason to point out what we are going to believe and what we could not believe because we believe in what we see and what we already know. And a fantastical tale always raises questions. But the author was not successful in providing the desired effect.

Overall, the book is readable, but it could not match up with the hype it had created, in my eyes. I would recommend it to anyone who likes to read adventurous fictional tales, while I would reprimand those who do not like gore or bloody chapters in the book, from reading it and also those, who want a book they could read in two-three days. This is a book you have to give some time to, otherwise, you are not doing justice to your already, a little deprived reading experience, you get from this book.

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