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Book Review: Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

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Does the name of the book bring an epic bedtime story to memory? It did to us as we picked this novel by Helen Oyeyemi. is a retelling of the classic fairytale Snow White. Apart from this title, the author has written many other books based on famous folklore and fairytales like Gingerbread, Mr. Fox and White is for Witching, among others.

The Story

Boy Novak is the name of a 20-year-old girl! Yep, that’s where the strangeness of the book begins. Boy lives with an abusive father, a rat catcher, in New York’s Lower East Side. She doesn’t know anything about her mother, and her father refuses to divulge anything about her. When her father threatens to treat her like one of his rats on her repeated questioning about her mother, she does the thing that everyone facing adverse circumstances does. She runs away. The hideout is Flax Hills.

There, she finds a best friend in Mia and gets introduced to a man named Arturo Whitman. Whitman is a widowed father living with his daughter Snow, a beautiful white-haired child. Boy doesn’t love Whitman but is fascinated by his pure soul and charming goodness. And she has taken a great liking to his daughter, mostly because she too, like her, is motherless. So, Boy and Whitman get married and soon become parents to a daughter whom they name Bird. But after her birth, the story reveals deeply put on masks of some of the characters.

The story then takes you on a magical journey with talking spiders, secrets, mirrors that don’t reflect some people. Through this story, Helen Oyeyemi wants to convey what drastic effects discrimination based on skin colour, gender, etc. can cause. The basic idea of the whole story is how looks and appearances can fool us.

Boy, Snow, Bird is mostly led by strong women characters, which is the highlight of the book. Helen Oyeyemi narrates the story through different characters. This gives the story a newer, fresher feel. Boy, Snow, Bird is a brilliant retelling of a much-loved witch tale.

Verdict

We give Boy, Snow, Bird 4/5 stars. This book is recommended for all those who like reading about magic and folklore.

The Rhino in Right Field – eBook Review

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The Rhino in Right Field is a comic novel aimed at young readers. This novel is written by Stacy DeKeyser. She is also the author of bestselling series The Brixen Witch and One Witch at a Time. Read our review of this comical novel by Stacy DeKeyser.

Story Plot

“Everything started on the day I had that close call with Tank.
Tank lives two blocks away, so I see him almost every day, but he usually ignores me. This is probably for the best since Tank is a rhinoceros.”

The story is set in 1948. Nick, a school going boy, needs a breather. He has immigrant parents who like working hard. Nick’s father runs a shop where he is required to work every Saturday. Adding fuel to his big American dreams is the local baseball batboy contest. He is determined to play and win it. But the match is on Saturday when he is supposed to be in his father’s shop. But that’s the least of his problems.

Nick, ever hopeful, practices the game with his friends in the city zoo. And living beyond the right-field fence is Tank, the rhinoceros. The ball naturally doesn’t know where it should and shouldn’t go. It lands right into the fence. Nick manages to take it just in time before being hit by the charging animal. Now, this one incident has made him stand still whenever a ball comes flying towards him. This has hampered his practice sessions and made him a lousy player. Now he has not only his parents but also a big rhinoceros to dodge to not only be able to play in the contest but also win it. Is his dream of living a large life going to be just that, a dream?

The story of The Rhino in Right Field scores a goal without being stopped by the goalkeeper of mediocre writing, uninteresting characters, or boring parts. It is sure to tickle your funny bone; it did ours!

The writing by Stacy DeKeyser is superb. She is telling a tale that is inspired by her father’s and his friends’ baseball playing days. So the narrative is rich with nostalgia and laced with humour and sprinkled with fast-paced twists.

The charming and likable characters are what add more appeal to the story. There’s Nick, through whom you get to read the story. Then there’s his best friend Ace with whom he practices baseball. Penny, his new neighbour, joins them and soon surprises everyone with her game. There’s also an irritating Uncle Spiro to watch out for in this story.

Verdict

Everything about this book, right from the cover to the story, is to laugh out loud. So who is this book for? People who love baseball. School or college going students. And whoever is looking for a laugh out loud treat. In short, it is recommended for everyone! We rate it 3.5/5 stars.

And Then There Were None – Book Review

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We don’t know about you, but we are die-hard fans of Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries. And, And Then There Were None is among our favourites.

Damn, we already gave our verdict, right at the start of the review!!

Story Plot

The story of the novel is as mysterious and haunting as the title of the book. Rightly named And Then There Were None, this Agatha Christie creation will make you shudder. No, there are no ghosts in it. But the murderer operates much like a ghost throughout.

It’s set in the year 1939 when Europe is about to be engulfed in World War 2. But before the war, there is something strange happening on an isolated island near the Devon coast. 10 people receive invitations to come to the island. Each one accepts and reaches only to find their hosts, Mr. and Mrs. U.N. Owen, missing.

All of them, strangers to each other, react to the situation differently. Then, no sooner had they landed on the island, a recorded message accuses each one of a crime and why they were invited on the island. They will be punished for the heinous crimes that they escaped from the law. And one by one, the murderer kills all of them present. You keep guessing about the mystery of each death and who did it till the very end. The end is baffling.

Writing

It’s Agatha Christie. You cannot pick any fault in her writing! But that’s just us fans speaking. The writing style of Christie is mysterious; it conceals a lot in its depth than meets the eye, creating the perfect nail-biting setting that is such a high requirement in crime novels.

Verdict

A full 5 stars! If you haven’t read any Agatha Christie novel yet (seriously, how could you?!), we strongly recommend starting with this one. This is one of her most unusual work. You can then move on to her novels featuring the famous detectives Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple and Tommy and Tuppence and other non-detective ones.

Book Review: The Art of Hearing Heartbeats (Novel)

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Before anything else, the title of the book made me pick it up. In the hope of learning something new about love and being transported to another magical tale of love, I started reading The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker. It’s a piece of German literature translated in English by Kevin Wiliarty. Here’s presenting The Art of Hearing Heartbeats review, straight from the heart.

Story Plot

The old man’s eyes struck me first. They rested deep in their sockets, and he seemed unable to take them off me. Granted, everyone in the teahouse was staring at me more or less unabashedly, but he was the most brazen. As if I were some exotic creature he’d never seen before.

These are the opening lines of The Art of Hearing Heartbeats. That’s the thing about this book. It hooks you and stops your mind from diverting with every word. The character speaking these words is Julia Win. This story is about her and told by her. She is on a hunt, searching for her lost father. Her search leads her to the tea house where she meets the old man staring at her. He knows things about her father and promises to share it with her as long as she listens. The old man goes on to tell her tales about her father, right from his childhood that makes Julia see her father in a completely new light, even as a stranger.

The book celebrates the purest form of love- all-consuming, conquering, and uncorrupted. The journey of Julia Win and her discovery of her father and his past and secrets has already won many hearts, and this time, mine too!

Writing

The point behind writing this novel for Jan-Philipp Sendker was he wanted to establish the idea of true love in whoever reads it. He had once revealed in an interview, “If our life as humans shall have meaning, we need to love and need to be loved no matter where we live. That’s what my book is all about.” And so the writing, like the book, is sentimental, powerful and magnetic. Kevin Wiliarty has done an expert job of translating the beautiful work. Though I read the translated version by Kevin Wiliarty, one can see it is Sendker, who is talking to us through a different language than he wrote in.

Verdict

Whether you are a fiction or no fiction reader. A lover of love stories, history, thrillers or science. Go for The Art Of Hearing Heartbeats. You won’t regret it. For me, it is 5/5 stars.

 

The Bread Bible – eBook Review

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The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum is a cook’s bible, literally. This book has been featured in the top ten list of books by Publisher’s Weekly and Food & Wine and one of the top 12 by Fine Cooking. The book has also won Gourmand World Cookbook Award.

The Bread Bible is filled with around 150 recipes and useful techniques for making different types of bread. The author is in love with bread baking and in this book, shares her complete knowledge about it. In the words of the author, “What I love to make most of all is bread. No matter what else is swirling around me, when I’m making bread, it puts me in a Zen state of peace and contentment.”

The book lets cooking enthusiast bake rich bread recipes like focaccia, crumpets, challah, pizza dough, flatbreads, biscuits, Parker house rolls, bagels and many more. With this book by your side, you will never feel the need to order your favourite bread dish, as you can bake a delicious one any time at home.
There are not just recipes and techniques in this book. Rose also explains the art of baking and educates the reader about the ingredients and their role and importance in the recipe.

Verdict

4.5/5 stars – The Bread Bible has everything from easy recipes to techniques and pointers, educating the readers about the art of baking. A must-read for cooking enthusiasts.

Greek by Theo Dorgan – Book Review

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Poetry is the queen of writing. It gives a melodic and magical touch to everything it touches. And that is true to every sense of the word for the Greek by Theo Dorgan. This compilation of poems and verses makes it a delightful read for lovers of this style of writing.

The book is about Orpheus, a popular musician, poet and prophet who appeared in Greek mythology. The beautiful thing about the book is that Theo Dorgan has merged the mythical world with the current one, giving it an alluring feel.

His Orpheus is not the mythical one but one who belongs to this generation. Orpheus expresses his heart’s emotions to his love interest, Eurydice, who is frozen in time in the past. The book explores their passionate and tortured love affair through mystifying poetic lines.

The sorrows, pain and passion experienced by a lover are beautifully declared through vivacious, soothing and even sensuous writing by Theo Dorgan in this collection.

The cover of the book might strike you as odd but is quite tasteful if you look at it closely. It brilliantly connects with the theme of the book that is a mix of mythology and contemporary.
Some of the other notable works by the same author include What This Earth Cost Us, A Book of Uncommon Prayer, Nine Bright Shiners, Time on the Ocean: A Voyage from Cape Horn to Cape Town and Rosa Mundi among others.

Verdict

We rate Greek with 4/5 stars. Greek by Theo Dorgan is for anyone who likes reading poems about love and its many emotions.

All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel – eBook Review

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Till this time, we had postponed reading All the Light We Cannot See. We were a little apprehensive about giving it a shot as it is a classic and people who have read it have loved it. Owing to some of our past experiences of reading classics, we were worried about what if we didn’t like this one too? Would we lose faith in fiction termed classic by the masses and critics alike? Finally, we gave in to the temptation to read it and, well, here are our thoughts on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by author Anthony Doerr.

The novel is set in 1944, France and Germany, at the time of World War 2. WW 2 has just ended. And people are left to struggle amidst the devastation it has caused. The story revolves around people affected by the war and how they are coping with it by looking for ways to survive.

One of them is a blind girl named Marie-Laure, living with her loving father in Paris. But the father-daughter duo had to run away from their abode as the Nazis take over Paris. But before running away, they took with them a precious and secretive thing. It belonged to the Museum of Natural History, where Marie’s father worked.

Then there is Werner in Germany, an orphan. A mine worker, Werner, is gifted with the talent of engineering. This talent makes the Nazis take notice of him. They send him to join a brutal military academy. He travels through the war and reaches the place Marie-Laure is taking refuge at a tall walled house by the sea.

Doerr’s uses words and sentences that have more meaning than just one. The writing is engaging, enthralling and at times, energetic and intense, just like the story.

Verdict

We give All the Light We Cannot See 4/5 stars. We are so glad we gave this book a chance to rekindle our love in classics. It is a stunning book. We couldn’t stop reading it once we started. It lived up to our expectations and surpassed it in some places too.

A People’s History of the United States – Book Review

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A People’s History of the United States is a classic. The novel by Howard Zinn was termed iconic right from the time it was released back in 1980. It still holds popularity for its compelling story about the history of Americans through voices that were long oppressed in the name of a class, gender and colour.

A People’s History of the United States is literary that- the account of the history of the people of America. Howard Zinn tells the story of past America and its people without glossing over the truth or concealing facts. He has written a straightforward account of what it was for a financially poor or lower-class person to live in the US some decades ago. The book is about how the power of some people over the others and how they ruined a society as a whole and disrupted the harmonious balance we are all supposed to be living in.

We don’t know how accurate the facts presented in the book are, but we do know this, Zinn’s book is a lesson on how greed, power and the sense of pride of some people can make most of the society suffer.

Though America may have left its past behind, oppression still is a reality in some parts of the world. We still get news of people being bullied and harassed at workplaces, households, on the streets at the hands of people who think themselves to be in a dominant position.

The author offers a solution to fighting oppression. In his opinion, oppression of the weaker or vulnerable section of the society will only subside when all the people are put on the same level. He states the powers need to be distributed among all equally. The book details his vision to which many people agree and some don’t. You decide after you read the book.

Verdict

We would like to give A People’s History of the United States 3.5/5 stars. If you are a history geek and like reading about people from other countries and human greed and aspirations, it is an excellent book to spend your free afternoons with.

Sofrito by Phillippe Diederich – Book Review

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Sofrito is a 2015 novel by Haitian-American writer Phillippe Diederich. If you are wondering the meaning of the word Sofrito, it is the name of a sauce made from garlic, onion tomato and cilantro. It is an essential ingredient in Cuban delicacies. That’s how this novel is too — a mixture of things like in a recipe- philosophical, mysterious, historical, sensory.

Sofrito is about Frank Delgado, a restauranteur. He co-owns the restaurant with his brother Pepe and family friend Justo. After five years of successful running, the restaurant serving excellent Cuban food is now facing a threat of shutting down due to low business.

Now to save the once-popular restaurant from shutting down, Frank and the co-owners have just one solution – to get the unique recipe created by Frank and Pepe’s grandfather generations ago. The story follows the journey of Frank to his native land in search of the restaurant saving recipe.

It may seem a light and fun story about a man’s journey to save his source of bread and butter. But it touches depths as the story moves forward, marveling both Frank and the readers with the secrets waiting to be unearthed.

Phillippe Diederich’s writing and drafting of the characters is top class. We loved the way the writer narrated the whole story, the characters, what defines them, their journey- both past and present, about food and how it evokes a memory in a person.

Verdict

Sofrito gets 4/5 stars from us. It is a delightful and gripping read. We recommend this book to everyone.

The Distant Marvels: A Novel – eBook Review

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The Distant Marvels is a gripping novel written by the author of many award-winning books, Chantel Acevedo. This book is the meeting point of many genres and emotions – Historical account of a struggle, a family saga, a love story. There are so many reasons that this stunning novel needs to be widely read.

Story Plot

Maria Sirena is a storyteller. Beautiful tales woven out of her past are not only her favorites but also the listeners’. The novel is set in 1963, Cuba. The worst hurricane – Hurricane Flora, hits the region.

All the women living on the island have been evacuated to a former governor’s mansion. Now with no work to do, nowhere to go, the women are all huddled up in a room at the top floor of the mansion. Maria grabs this opportunity to tell gripping stories. Her stories about her childhood in Cuba’s Third War of Independence, her rebellious father, her fierce and loving mother take on a life-changing form for both the teller and the listeners. The stories are all very engaging and meditative.

The Nostalgia Factor

This book not only tells incredible stories. It also makes you remember the good old days when you rested on your grandmother’s lap and her stories filled your ears and heart.

The book is like sunshine; it hits you like the soft rays of the morning sun, just when you are thinking the world around you is getting darker. The book is like a rose, it speaks of pure love and the heartbreak that comes with it, just like the thorns attached to the delicate flower. The writing by Chantel Acevedo does excellent justice to the beautiful stories it is telling. Acevedo has given the story a lyrical touch, which makes reading it so much more joyful.

Verdict

We give 4.5/5 stars to The Distant Marvels. This story within a story is a marvelous read and deserves a special spot on every reader’s bookshelf.

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