Book Review: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

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Amazon listed Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee as their most pre-ordered book since Rowling’s final book in the Harry Potter series – The Deathly Hallows (2007) and I’m not surprised why. In fact I think it was one of the most anticipated books of 2015. So, naturally, the expectations from the book were sky high. The book is the sequel to the major American classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, which is personally one of my favourites and it drove everybody crazy when its release was announced.

Go set a watchman by Harper Lee focuses on Scout Finch who is no longer a six year old. She is now a twenty-six year old Jean Louise Finch who returns to Maycomb, Alabama from New York. The book is about her struggle to understand the perception of her home county. Just like its prequel, Go Set a Watchman raises the issue of racial inequality and talks of the political view of the city through the eyes of a young woman.

Jean Louise Finch starts to question the beliefs her father had instilled in her when she was a child and the things she learns which in my opinion, make her grow as a person. It makes her separate her conscience from that of her father and thus, helps her create her own identity.

The book starts off at a very slow pace and isn’t as captivating as one would expect it to be. Many minor characters from To Kill a Mockingbird are seen as major characters here; yet character development was rather scarce. However, the best part about the book is that it will, along with Jean Louise, make you learn something. You’re reading about Jean Louise and her problems with perceptions, opinions of her own and others, and you’ll realize that it implies to us all. Some parts in the book left me awe-struck. Like when Uncle Jack is speaking to a grown up Jean Louise, he says, “It’s always easy to look back and see what we were, yesterday, ten years ago. It is hard to see what we are. If you can master that trick, you’ll get along.” This was indeed a very wise advice. Speaking of wisdom, I was disappointed that we did not see much of Atticus Finch in the novel, but the fact that it serves a purpose in the book, makes it bearable.

In an honest conclusion, Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee is not as brilliant as its prequel and is rather slow; but it is in entirety a good book and everybody who devoured To Kill a Mockingbird should definitely read this once, however with lower expectations.

Guest Review by Sherry Verma (Instagram | GoodReads | WordPress )

About the book: Go Set a Watchman | Harper Lee | Harper Collins | Fiction | 278 pages

Book Review: Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera

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Book Cover

In the beginning, I had absolutely no idea what this book was supposed to be about. By the end of it, the purpose wasn’t clear as crystal, but I did have a slight idea as to what the aim of the book was.

The plot of Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera seems heavily based on Arnold Bennett’s The Old Wives’ Tale. It revolves around a certain supermarket, called Bains Stores, located in Wolverhampton and the family running it, taking us through two different decades. It was a bit confusing in the beginning, trying to connect the dots, shifting from the 1960’s to the 2010’s but after a few chapters, the reader gets used to it. Now, while this addition is rather intriguing, I found it a little hard to get into the book.

A lot of things in the book are stereotyped – Girls, Punjabis, Muslims, The British, etc. Basically, there might come a point where it might turn you off. Although some stereotypes literally went over my head, the book definitely did present me with staccato bursts of laughter; I laughed out real loud on a few parts. There was one quote that I liked in particular, enough to write it down – “Families are the last people who should be entrusted with the task of finding you a spouse, given that they are incapable of appreciating that you may have changed since the age of twelve.”

The content of the book reflected the extensive research done by the author, with him scouring through the archives of Wolverhampton, mentioned in the Acknowledgements section, which is commendable.  I didn’t learn anything significant from the book, but the sarcastic tone used for the present day storytelling and the ambitious, independent one used for the 1960s’ was what helped me survive the book. The ending felt rather disconnected, providing us with a suspense which didn’t really hit me hard because of the lack of an element of mystery in the entire book.
The characters I believe were realistic but not entirely likeable. Except for the character of Surinder, which saw a lot of improvement over the years, being present in both the decades the story focuses on.

Guest Review by Sherry Verma (Instagram | GoodReads | WordPress )

Sherry is a self proclaimed quintessential nomadic bookworm. She reads anything and everything and does not restrict herself to specific genres or authors. She loves how words have the ability to tell tales beautifully and is practitioner of the same. Currently, a Journalism and Mass Communication student, Sherry will be visible on this website frequently.

Note: The book, Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera, was provided for free by the kind people at Random House India.

If you want to review for this website, please get in touch with me at booksandalotmore@gmail.com.

Book Review: The Guardian Angels by Rohit Gore

I finished reading The Guardian Angels by Rohit Gore last month, I do not quite know what I feel about this book, even after one week of having finished it. It’s like I can’t make up my mind about this one. However I shall try to put it all on paper (or cyber space).

The Guardian Angels by Rohit Gore is a story about Radha and Adi, who stumble on to each other during their childhood and share a special bond. The bond remains and strengthens, whatever be the circumstances as they advance in age.

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The book seems at first to be a typical Bollywood story of a rich boy and a middle class girl. However, you have to give time to the story to let it develop. Even if you think it’s your typical story, it does keep you interested enough to continue reading. It makes for some good Metro reading but at the same time, the story and the characters are too ‘ideal’, the characters are too perfect, and don’t seem to have many flaws, making the story seem almost surreal. Not to forget the very cheesy yet profoundly tragic ending. But I have to say one thing, it feels that the author has pored everything inside to write this story. It is not a half-hearted attempt and certainly not something that you can shrug off as your regular Indian writer fare. Read if you are a sucker for romances that remain unfulfilled in theory but yet make you feel as if there could be nothing more complete than this love.

About the book: The Guardian Angels | Rohit Gore | Grapevine India | Fiction |  328 Pages

Note: A copy of this book was provided for review by Mr. Rohit Gore.

Book Review: He loves me not by Vrushali Telang

He loves me not by Vrushali Telang is the story of Jimmy Cooper and Mehroo Nasarwanji, childhood friends (sweethearts doesn’t exactly seem to be the right word). I thought it was a chick lit and was looking forward to reading it as I was in the mood for one. However, it’s not really chick lit, it’s more of a contemporary novel, that everybody is writing (and reading) these days.

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Honestly, the book doesn’t really start out very well. I don’t really know what irritates me about this novel, it’s like I expected that I would like this story but it fell short. Mehroo is a sad female who doesn’t quite have much self esteem or anything to go for her, really. She constantly obsesses about Jimmy deserving someone so much better. It is quite annoying especially when Jimmy is such a good for nothing guy. He is your typical guy next door who does not quite realize the value of  everything important in life.

The story is a coming of age novel of both the characters, Jimmy and Mehroo. But much of it centers on Jimmy. The author tried to connect with the target segment of ‘young’ people by writing about hip lifestyles and at the same being sarcastic about some of the aspects of it. I liked some of the jokes she made, especially the one about Fifty Shades of Grey and about faking sexy. But, she seemed to be in a hurry to finish the novel.

The story does justify Jimmy’s coming of age to some extent but when it comes to Mehroo, the book is sadly deficient. At the start she’s such a depressing person and suddenly she’s changed into this soul who’s so much at peace with everything around herself. I suppose, most of us have been Mehroo at some point or the other in life, but how you come out of it to be a stronger person is what was lacking in the book.

On the whole, it’s a fast read with some very witty dialogues, a sarcastic view on ‘wannabe’ behavior among the rich and the upper middle class and endearing parsi characters. It also illustrates the disconnect between parents and children and how we desperately try to fit in. However, the author failed to develop Mehroo as a worthy character.

About the book: He loves me not | Vrushali Telang | Ebury Press – Random House India | Fiction |  232 pages | Rs. 199

Note: A copy of the book was provided by Random House India.

Book Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith/J K Rowling

I was pretty excited to read this book, being a Harry Potter fan, although ‘Casual Vacancy’ didn’t really excite me. I couldn’t really control my excitement when I received The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J K Rowling, if you didn’t know!) for review by Hachette India, quite unexpectedly (I was told it may not be available in India till some time). What a pleasant surprise, it was, thanks to Hachette India!

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The story starts with a poem called A Dirge by Christina Rossetti.

Why were you born when the snow was falling?

You should have come to the cuckoo’s calling,

Or when grapes are green in the cluster,

Or, at least, when lithe swallows muster

For their far off flying

From summer dying.

Why did you die when the lambs were cropping?

You should have died at the apples’ dropping,

When the grasshopper comes to trouble,

And the wheat-fields are sodden stubble,

And all winds go sighing

For sweet things dying.

A Dirge is a song about mourning or expressing grief. The poem is a lament about the randomness with which death strikes and people we love get taken away from us. It is a perfect start to a story which starts with the death of Lula Landry, a troubled super model who commits suicide by throwing herself off her balcony. The title The Cuckoo’s Calling comes from the poem above with ‘Cuckoo’ also being a nickname of the dead supermodel. Lula’s brother, John can’t get over her death and enlists the aid of Cormoran Strike, a detective who’s fallen to particularly distressing times, to prove that his sister was murdered and find who the killer is.

Cormoran Strike is a sexy fellow. Now, he’s not particularly buff or good looking. Neither is he a suave fellow. But he becomes attractive when you read about how methodical he is in his work and of course, quite intelligent. Cormoran is partnered by his secretary Robin (who has a stuffy fiancé), with a very platonic but interesting working relationship. Strike is troubled by his circumstances. He is broke, his relationship with a beautiful woman has ended and he’s living in his office. And this case is like a breath of fresh air, or more like an influx of money that he desperately needs.

The story is not rushed. It’s not a thriller or a novel filled with loads of action. Instead, it follows a languid pace, as it deftly maneuvers through Lula’s life, intermingled with stories about Cormoran’s background. We learn much about Lula, the people in her life, the different dimensions to her personality and the things she was both happy and distressed about. Rowling puts suspicion, alternately, on all the people in her life with clues to the killer, subtly dropped in the story and they are subtle enough to keep you guessing till the end of the story. Of course, that has been a characteristic style of J K Rowling, aptly demonstrated by her Harry Potter books.

Even if you didn’t know this book was written by J K Rowling, it becomes quite clear that the author is not a novice and knows what she is doing. I do not expect people who had read this book before it was revealed that Rowling wrote this story, would have guessed who the true author is. But then when you do know, it would suddenly strike you how you never realized that. There are quite a few parallels that you can draw between Cormoran Strike and Harry Potter. Both of them have troubled childhoods and the books start with both of them living in distressed circumstances. Both of them have a strong sense of justice. Each Harry Potter book is also essentially a story where you want to know who the villain is. However, the parallels end there.

I quite liked the book and after reading this, I am taking a (very) short break as I believe I will end up being so disappointed by any book that I read after this(I usually start reading the next book the moment I finish one, if I have the time). Yesterday, I sat in the Metro doing nothing except observing people as I didn’t feel like reading anything else at all.

Are these the symptoms of a book hangover? Are you also suffering from the same, or have you recently gone through a similar experience? Let me know, by leaving a comment!

And yeah, in case you didn’t know, The Cuckoo’s Calling, published by Hachette India, releases in India on 6th August, 2013 (Tentatively). Pre-order your copy now!

Note: A copy of this book was provided by Hachette India, for an honest review of the book.