Category Archives: Book Reviews

I remember long ago my grandmother (now dead) once challenged me to keep a record of all the books I have read. I’m an avid reader and I have a few books that I’ve recorded this. Nowadays I get really irritated with my diaries, because they take up too much space. So I figured I might just as well put them on my blog. The “Books I’ve Read” category will depict mostly the back covers or excerpts from the books and a personal rating I’ve given the all over reading experience.

Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

It felt like forever trying to finish this book. But I daresay it’s my own fault. The only time I give myself to read is just before I go to bed every night.

With these classics I find it harder to keep an attention span. Have you ever noticed how these writers never can seem to get to the point? Blah, blah, blah I would read two pages and end up falling asleep and the next night I would do it all over again. Except, that I couldn’t remember what I read the previous night!

And no, I did not watch the film first so I didn’t really have a clue what the book was going to be about.

What I did like: This book has some wonderful ideas of which I’m not going to go into right now seeing as I do not want to spoil anything except… I wonder if the website Yahoo got it’s name from the book?

I’m not really sure why though, but this book kind of reminded me of “The Phantom Tollbooth”.

Back cover:
When a kindly ship’s surgeon, Lemuel Gulliver, sets on several voyages from England, he has no idea of the fantastic adventures – and misadventures – he will have. Violent storms, shipwrecks, mutiny and pirate attacks lead him to remote places populated by strange and amazing beings.

During his travels, Gulliver discovers that these incredible creatures are very different from anyone he has met before. He soon wonders whether he’ll fit in or feel at home in any of these astonishing places.

Join Gulliver in Lilliput, where he finds himself held captive by a race of miniature people; in Brobdingnag, a country populated by giants; in the little island of Glubbdubdrib, where historic figures like Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar talk to him; and in an unknown land that’s ruled by the Houyhnhnms, a breed of superior horses who find humanlike creatures repulsive.

By turns funny and frightening, Gulliver’s Travels will introduce you to some of the most outlandish and memorable creatures ever invented.

First published: 1726

Rating: 4/5

The Shack – William P. Young

I think the first time I’ve read this book was in 2009. One of my friends lent it to me.

Last year, I noticed a copy for sale at our local library. I bought it and lent it to the guard at work. He loves to read and he loved this book.

I then decided to reread it, because I could only remember snippets of the story.

Unfortunately, not everyone will like this story. My grandfather hated it, because he couldn’t accept that God may take on the form of a black woman.

I’ve also noticed they’ve turned it into a movie. Wonder how that turned out?

Backcover:

Mackenzie Allen Philip’s youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his ‘Great Sadness’, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.

Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.

In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant ‘The Shack’ wrestles with the timeless question, “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?” The answer Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You’ll want everyone you know to read this book!

What I liked about the book: The book is essentially about forgiveness. God, in the story, wants to save Mack from himself, from his bitterness. He wants to release him from his burden, his ‘Great Sadness’.

It teaches us that forgiving someone doesn’t mean you forget or that you have to trust that person again. ‘Forgiveness does not establish a relationship’ (p.225).

Forgiveness is also a journey, it’s not instant and you may need God’s help to forgive.

What I didn’t like: When I first read it, I believed it was based on true story. When you read the story, you really want it to be real. But when I found out it was just fiction, I was disappointed.

First published: 2007

Rating: 5/5

 

Slaughterhouse five – Kurt Vonnegut

I was somewhat disappointed. Maybe it was the title, but I expected it to be more horrific, gory even. I never imagined that it would read like a science fiction novel.

What I found interesting is the fact that the book is a meta-narrative semi-autobiography, because it is based on author Kurt Vonnegut’s own experience in Dresden.

I was confused and kept thinking that maybe, perhaps I had the wrong book in hand. But what are the chances that there are two books called ‘Slaughterhouse Five’?

It was hard to tell when the Billy Pilgrim character was telling the truth or hallucinating. Was he really abducted by aliens, was he really a time traveller or was it just all in his head?

I also kept thinking why ‘Billy Pilgrim’? Pilgrim creates the idea that the character is on a journey to discovery.

Backcover: Billy Pilgrim returns from World War II to a comfortable life and loving family, but the damage is already done. Unable to reconnect with his life, Billy has become “unstuck” in time and bounces from one decade to another, reliving moments of his life, unable to control where he will end up next. Slaughterhouse-Five treats one of the most horrific massacres in European history—the World War II firebombing of Dresden, a city in eastern Germany, on February 13, 1945—with mock-serious humor and clear antiwar sentiment (Source: sparknotes).

First published: 1969

Rating: 3/5

 

Women who run with the wolves – Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Back cover: The writer is a Jungian psychoanalyst and cantadora (keeper of the old stories), of many years standing. She reveals how within every woman there lives a Wild Woman, filled with passionate creativity and ageless knowing – but repressed for centuries by a value system that trivializes emotional truth, intuitive wisdom and instinctual self-confidence. Dr Estés’s extraordinary and enriching bestseller shows how, through her foremost interpretation of story and her psychological commentary, we can reclaim, and rejoice in, our true feminine power – how we can awaken within the depths of our souls one who is both magic and medicine.

Someone recommended this book to me, because of one of the stories that features in the book: The Skeleton Woman. She also told me to watch this adaptation of the story.

The first time I saw it, it was very spooky and unnerving. It’s almost as if something deep inside my soul was stirring and awakening. I dare you to watch it!

Some of the other stories that Estés touches on also feels somewhat familiar. Bluebeard is very similar to the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast”. Not the Disney version though.

Also The Red Shoes also seems very familiar almost as if I’ve heard or seen the story before. Or maybe it is because when I was a little girl I had a pair of red boots once. I loved those boots. In The Red Shoes the herione becomes obsessed with a pair of red shoes, mostly because it is taken away from her.

Estés uses the wolf as a methaphor because according to her “healthy wolves and healthy women share certain psychic characteristics: playful spirit, devotion, strength but also hunted and harassed.”

The only thing that bothered me about these types of books is that with the last 100 pages you start resenting it. There is just too much information to work through. It took me a month to finish this book.

Apparently this book is meant for a study group or a book club, something you can read and reread over a long period of time.

First published: 1992

Rating: 5/5

 

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

I always wondered what the fuss was all about when people talked about Moby Dick. I also wondered why would anyone call their book by that name. It is only later when I found out that it is the name of the whale.

I took out the book last year during vacation and it wasn’t what I expected.

I can understand why most people find this book so tiring. There are just an endless supply of poetry in the prose. What I mean by that is there is descriptive language everywhere. Most of the time I zoned out wishing the author would get to the point. Dialogue only starts on page 13!

Honestly I can’t remember the last time I hated reading a book so much. I just wanted to finish it. Sometimes I couldn’t figure out who was telling the story. The moment when Ishmael steps upon the whaling ship it’s as if he just disappears.

Then some chapters actually read like a biology book: going into detail about the anatomy and history of whales.

If you don’t care to know how they used to hunt, catch and slaughter whales then this book is not for you.

You get the sense that when Captain Ahab and Moby Dick the White Whale meet again it will lead to everyone’s doom.

What I did like about the book: I liked Ishmael’s first meeting with Queequeg, the cannibal harpooneer. Those chapters plus the last three were really the only parts of the book I enjoyed.

First published: 1851

Interesting fact: Turns out the fictional white whale got his name from a real notorious albino whale known as Mocha Dick.

Rating: 2/5*

*note: Really well-written, but I struggled to work through all those descriptions and detail.

Conclusion: Herman Melville was a dick and his book a pain in the ass.

 

Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup

This is the most complete book I’ve ever read. Every possible angle the story could take is covered.

What’s it about: 
‘ There’s a caste system – even in murder.

Vicky Rai, the son of a high-profile Minister, has been shot dead by one of the guests at his own party. They are a glitzy bunch, but among them the police find six strange, displaced characters with a gun in their possession, each of them steaming with a secret motive.

India’s wiliest investigative journalist, Arun Advani, makes it his mission to nail the murderer. In doing so, the amazing tender and touching, techni-colour lives of six eccentric characters unravel before our eyes. But can we trust Advani? Or does he have another agenda in mind…?’ (Backcover)

First published: 2008

What I liked about the book: The ending will blow your mind! Characters, the way the book was written each chapter dedicated to a different character.

Rating: 5/5

Q & A – Vikas Swarup

qa

Most of you will know this book by another name. “Q&A” was the original title of the book and when they adapted it into a film they changed the name to “Slumdog Millionaire”. But it’s not just the title that they have changed.

Much of the plot differs, the names of the characters are different except for Salim.  In the film the hero is called Jalim and his love interest is Latika. In the book he is known as Ram Mohammed Thomas and his woman Nita. In the film it is Who wants to be a Millionaire? In the book it is Who wants to be a Billionaire? Remember, it plays off in India. The big prize is a billion rupees.

I recently lent this book to someone and realized I couldn’t remember what happens in the book. I mean, I know the plot more or less each chapter ends in a question asked on the show and everything before the question explains how he knew the answer. I couldn’t remember what happens to all the characters, does he get to keep the money?

This is what the book is about: 
‘A former tiffenboy from Mumbai, Ram Mohammed Thomas, has just got twelve questions correct on a TV quiz show to win a cool one billion rupees. But he is brutally slung in a prison cell on suspicion of cheating. Because how can a kid from the slums know who Shakespeare was unless he has been pulling a fast one?

In the order of the questions on the show, Ram tells us which amazing adventures in his street-kid life taught him the answers. From orphanages to brothels, gangsters to beggar-masters, and into the homes of Bollywood’s rich and famous, Q & A (Slumdog Millionaire) is brimming with the chaotic comedy, heart-stopping tragedy, and tear-inducing joyfulness of modern India.’ (Back cover)

First published: 2005

Vikas Swarup is an Indian diplomat and once worked in South Africa. In 2006 his book won South Africa’s Book Prize.

What I liked about the book: I’ve mentioned the plot, each chapter revolving around each question. I liked the characters especially Salim and Shankar.

Rating: 5/5

 

 

The life-changing magic of not giving a fuck

I’m not one for self-help books but this one takes the cake. For all you strange, weird, pathetic people pleasers out there, this is for you!

I really needed this book, because for too long I cared too much what other people think of me. All that time, energy and money I could have saved not seeking others’ approval… Well, no more!

Sarah Knight is here to change your life forever!

Backcover: The surprising art of caring less and getting more

Are you stressed out, overbooked, and underwhelmed by life? Fed up with pleasing everyone else before you please yourself? Then it’s time to stop giving a fuck.

This irreverent and practical book explains how to rid yourself of unwanted obligations, shame, and guilt – and give your fucks instead to people and things that make you happy.

From family dramas to having a bikini body, the simple NotSorry Method for mental decluttering will help you unleash the power of not giving a fuck and will free you to spend your time, energy and money on the things that really matter.

First published: 2015

What I liked about this book: Like I said, I really needed this book. This book was a life saver. This book teaches you not to feel guilty about (possibly) hurting other people’s feelings, it teaches you to be assertive without being an asshole and it teaches you about healthy boundaries.

Sarah Knight will show you ‘How to stop spending time you don’t have doing things you don’t want to do with people you don’t like’.

Rating: 5/5 Live saver!

Spider’s Web – novel based on a play by Agatha Christie

Spiders_Web_First_Edition_Cover_2000

Originally a play by Agatha Christie in 1954, it was adapted by Charles Osborne into a novel (2000).

Back cover: “Clarissa, the wife of a Foreign Office diplomat, is given to daydreaming. ‘Supposing I were to come down one morning and find a dead body in the library, what should I do?’ she muses. Clarissa has her chance to find out when she discovers a body in the drawing-room of her house in Kent. Desperate to dispose of the body before her husband comes home with an important foreign politician, Clarissa persuades her three house guests to become accessories and accomplices. It seems that the murdered man was not unknown to certain members of the house party (but which ones?), and the search begins for the murderer and the motive, while at the same time trying to persuade a police inspector that there has been no murder at all.”

First published: 1954 (play), 2000 (novel)

Rating: 5/5 No Hercule Poirot for a change. The main character reminded me of the one who cried “Wolf!” too many times. Clarissa is a master of spinning the web and telling lies.

“Appointment with Death” – Yet another novel by Agatha Christie & Hercule Poirot

I must confess I feel a little annoyed with Agatha Christie and her character Hercule Poirot after reading this book. Why mus they drag it out and make me feel like an even bigger idiot because I couldn’t figure out who the murderer was? Poor me!

Backcover:”And among the towering red cliffs of Petra sits a woman’s corpse. A tiny puncture mark on her wrist is the only sign of the fatal injection that killed her.”

First published: 1938

Rating: 3/5

Appointment_with_Death_First_Edition_Cover_1938