The Witcher: The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

#Book Review
High Fantasy| Fiction| Action| Magic

After watching the TV series, The Witcher on Netflix, I was enthralled by the story and decided to read the books. And boy, I’m glad I did! It has to be one of the most interesting fantasy books that I’ve read after Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive.

The Witcher – Geralt of Rivia, is the main protagonist who is a fearless monster hunter with impressive magical powers. Along with having incredible physical prowess, agility, and extraordinary fighting skills, Geralt also looks fantastic, at least in my mind this grumpy White Wolf looks gorgeous. Henry Cavil in the TV series does complete justice to this character and looks terrific. Anyway, coming back to the book review, the Witcher earns his living by getting hired to battle evil demons in exchange for money. Many find him dangerous, many hate him or are afraid of him, many are impressed by his mastery of destroying the evil, and many like me are just head over heels over this fictional character. In the Last Wish, there are multiple stories of Geralt hunting down different types of beasts. Then some chapters bring to light Geralt’s past and how he became a Witcher. What I absolutely enjoyed while reading the book is the unique style of writing, Geralt’s short and witty dialogues and how he likes to engage in cold conversations with the antagonists, the funny banter with his bard friend Dandelion, and the gripping conflicts of the Witcher with the monsters.

It is a super entertaining fantasy series that might take a while to get immersed into if you come expecting the same plot as the TV show since it is not narrated in the same order or fashion. I definitely recommend reading the books as it is an excellent treat for all fantasy book readers.

Midnight Light by Brian Paglinco

#BookReview
Poetry|Love|Death|

Midnight Light romanticizes the concept of death, nature, love, and redemption making it a perfect pick for the season of Halloween!

The ideas presented in the book flirt with burial, guardian statues, left behind loved ones, and astronomical figures where the real ones include stars, lights, and night, and the unreal figures are the devil, god, and angels. A background theme that recurs in some poems deals with drugs and their intoxicating effects and how some lives are ended too early because of addiction. The combination of the words on the page along with the photographs that accompany them presents a vivid picture that guides you along a path to find your own understanding of each poem. 

The poems are written artistically and without hesitation about certain themes that are difficult to discuss. It is easy to fall into a world of imagination as you picturise each of these poems while reading them. While the poems are not very simple, they aren’t complex either, which leaves you longing for one more poem before you call it a night. 

This poetry book is a combined passionate labor of love by two friends Michael Pace and Brian Paglinco who share over thirty years of friendship. Michael weaves the rich and rhythmic poems through his writing and Brian has provided captivating photographs that frame the theme of this book which is mainly about love, death, and redemption. I lost track of time, at times, engrossed in the fascinating pictures and uniquely interesting poems which I’m certain many readers too will happen to experience while reading the Midnight Light. 

Also find my review on Reedsy.

The Lighthouse by Christopher Parker

#BookReview
Fiction|Mystery|Love|

This interesting story will take you on a mysterious journey into a magical realm where there’s suspense, love, & of course the lighthouse.

Struggling with the loss of her mother, Amy Tucker finds herself with her father following a case in the mysterious town of Seabrook. There, a chance encounter with Ryan sets in motion a chain of events. The long dormant lighthouse which is the centerpiece of the town comes alight much to the fascination and joy of the local townsfolk. 

Ryan, a ranch owner who also takes care of his ailing father is on the verge of financial ruin. Fate unites Ryan and Amy who look to each other to forget their woes in the festivities of the town. Their intense relationship within a short period of time culminates in a meeting of the hearts where unrevealed secrets spill out of overflowing cups. 

A series of eerie events in Seabrook leads Amy to the lighthouse where she uncovers a truth that shakes the foundations of her reality. The plot gets increasingly more layered and nuanced, brushing with themes of love, betrayal, relationships, death, and the afterlife. The enduring figure of the lighthouse is used as a metaphor for the theme of this book. Beloved yet haunted for the townsfolk, the lighthouse serves as the center stage for many pivotal moments in the story. The Lighthouse is a thrilling page turner written by debut author Christopher Parker and will keep you interested until the end. 

Also find my review on Reedsy.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

#BookReview
Classic|Literary Fiction|Young Adult|Isolation

Everyone has heard about the book, The Catcher in the Rye. It’s a classic after all! I had heard about it too but never got the opportunity to read it. When I saw this book in the library last week, I grabbed it with both hands. It is a tiny little book with hardly 240 pages and it’s that kind of a book that seeks attention. You know that feeling where you can’t just walk past the book doing other chores without feeling guilty. It’s like the book was waiting for me to pick it up and start reading. I am not sure why I am saying all this, I guess I am still under Holden’s spell. But what I’m trying to say is I was tremendously excited to read this book and when I finally sat down to read it, I couldn’t stop. The Catcher in the Rye was all that was on my mind.

The protagonist is Holden Caulfield and the book is narrated in the voice of this sixteen-year-old boy. What can I say about him? When I first started reading it, I wondered why Holden is always angry and annoyed with everything and everybody. He hates his prep school Pencey because he finds it to be fake, he doesn’t understand the point of studying subjects with which he cannot relate, he hates his roommates and their nasty behavior, and he dislikes many other things which will go on right till the end of the book. After failing in all subjects except English, in which he is brilliant, Pencey Prep expels him. Holden is a teenager who is afraid like any other kid to go back home because he knows his parents are going to be super upset. The holidays are about to begin and Holden is expected to be home by Wednesday but he finds it difficult to spend another day in the school hostel so he decides to leave on Saturday and explore New York.

Holden is a restless kid who smokes like a chimney, he doesn’t sleep, doesn’t eat, and is constantly looking for companionship in everyone. Be it a cab driver, a person sitting next to him in a cafe, or a pub. He walks around the streets of New York late at night freezing his tail off wearing his red hunting hat trying to find a place where he can find someone to have an interesting conversation with. He thinks of all his friends that he can call and speak to but is afraid he might wake their parents. So he walks around like a madman smoking and striking up conversations with random people. But every time he does that he is either disappointed or he is asked to shut up and leave. He also meets his terrific ex-girlfriend Sally but is again disappointed after meeting her. Nobody gets him.

The Catcher in the Rye is a book about teenage angst, alienation, rebellion, and depression. The style of writing is extremely unique and the narration is in the form of a stream of consciousness. Many readers dislike the frank use of language, profanity, and use of sexuality but it didn’t bother me much. I felt the book was so expressive, fluid, and descriptive that by the end of it, it almost felt like I knew the character personally. Like Holden could be your friend or that weird guy that you would have been around at least once in your life. I have always been curious to know what goes on in the mind of these ‘weird fellas’. Holden is a good kid who had to deal with a lot of terrible things at a young age, like death and suicide. He is sensitive, has a reclusive nature, and acts like he hates the entire human race. But this is a thinly veiled cry for attention as we see Holden try to create connections throughout the book and he only wants the world to be a better place. When he comes across someone smart but not a good person he expects better from them. He has an extreme personality with extreme expectations from life where he wants to experience unconditional love, real honest people, and a better world.

The character of Holden is simple yet complex, it’s kind of hopelessly attractive. We’ve all had these feelings where we have been frustrated with things that happen around us. We curb those feelings, don’t act on them, build a wall around us and surround ourselves with people who understand us and our values but we don’t do anything about the horrible things that happen outside the wall. Because what can we do, we are only a minuscule unimportant part amongst billions of other people who have their own way of thinking. J.D. Salinger has expressed these raw feelings and emotions with so much honesty that you might feel disgusted to read certain lines but that’s the truth, and the truth is often disturbing.

The Catcher in the Rye is an interesting read for adults but could be misleading to a malleable teenage mind. Ahh, the review turned out to be a lot longer than I expected. If you managed to read the entire review, thank you, really! Apologies if the writing was erratic with too many opinions. But the book does that to you, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this classic book of literary realism and definitely recommend the literary aficionados to give it a read, if you haven’t yet!

Eli And The Mystery Of The Hallowshine Dragon by Eve Cabanel

#BookReview
Fiction|Fantasy|Graphic|Children

Eli And The Mystery Of The Hallowshine Dragon is a fantasy story about a moon elf, Eli, who helps her friend Luna in solving a strange mystery of the enchanted forest. When Luna’s baby bunny transforms into hard rock candy, she runs to Eli for help. This transpires into a tale full of bravery, friendship, and the healing power of love.

What makes this book so fascinating to read is the interesting mystery tale accompanied by strikingly attractive illustrations in the background. The kids can enter into a magical world of imagination which is filled with beaming crystals, cozy treehouses, waterfalls, adorable animals, fairies, unicorns, rainbows and of course our beautiful moon elf. The art is exquisitely colorful and brings the book to life where it almost feels like the images are glowing and glittering. 

Eli And The Mystery Of The Hallowshine Dragon is a picture book written by Eve Cabanel and illustrated by Ekaterina Ilchenko. This wonderful book is suitable for kids of all ages because of its positive storyline. It also reinforces a good message about being courageous and believing in yourself. It introduces fantastical characters to young imaginative minds. This book is a perfect stocking stuffer during the holidays but would also make an excellent birthday present for a young child. 

Also find my review on Reedsy.

Educated by Tara Westover

Memoir|Self-help|Inspirational|Family

Book Review

Educated, is a memoir written by Tara Westover. Before I begin the book review I have to say that I am in awe of Tara, she is my hero and I aspire to be as brave, determined, and confident as her, someday.

This book recounts Tara’s experiences of growing up in a Mormon survivalist family that is always preparing to survive an Apocalypse. Tara does not get a proper education until the age of seventeen as her father believes that the public health and education system are corrupted by the Illuminati. Stuck between the curiosity of exploring the outside world and the confusing dominating views of her family, Tara has a troubled childhood. At the age of seventeen, Tara finally decides to join school and get an education. The path of self-discovery from hereon, though not smooth, slowly brings a profound change in her life.

“My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.”

Tara’s life begins at the Buck’s Peak mountain in rural Idaho. She lives an isolated life with her Mormon family. Her father is paranoid, extremely religious and owns a metal junkyard. Her mother is a midwife and later gains recognition as a herbal specialist.

Tara is the youngest child and has six siblings – Tony, Shawn, Tyler, Luke, Richard, and her sister Audrey. The children are expected to work at the junkyard with their father from a very young age. They are loosely homeschooled by their mother. Tyler, was the first child who takes serious interest in studies and decides to leave home. Tara being close to Tyler feels betrayed when he leaves her. Soon, Tara like the rest of her siblings is expected to work at the junkyard.

The children face multiple accidents at the junkyard but they are never taken to the hospital, all injuries are attended to by their mother. Luke gets burned while working with his father, Shawn has multiple accidents at the junkyard and while riding his motorcycle, Tara injures her neck in a car accident, Tara’s mother has a serious brain injury, but every time the father refuses to take any of them to the hospital for treatment. He believes that it is all a part of God’s plan and they can only be healed by Him. Tara also faces abuse from her violent elder brother, Shawn, soon she starts believing that her actions must be sinful for which she is being punished.

“It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you.”

I often had my hand over my mouth or I found myself on the edge of my couch while reading about these horrifying accidents. But all these incidents do not dampen Tara’s spirits, she keeps going, keeps trying and believing that only she can make her life better. It takes tremendous amount of courage to continue on a path that is explicitly forbidden by your family. While reading the book, I could feel Tara’s state of mind being torn between her family and her idea that she controls her life. Tara through self-education passes the ACT examination and joins BYU. Her dedication, interest and enthusiasm to learn new subjects eventually earns her a doctorate in history at Cambridge University.

“He said positive liberty is self-mastery—the rule of the self, by the self. To have positive liberty, he explained, is to take control of one’s own mind; to be liberated from irrational fears and beliefs, from addictions, superstitions and all other forms of self-coercion.”

Not everybody has it easy. Children expect love and support from their families, they believe that their parents always know best and they grow up trusting them. But, every family has a different way of raising kids. Just because Tara’s parents did not bring her up in a conventional way does not mean they did not love her. All the tough times and trauma that the children face made them stronger. Despite the hardship, there is nothing that they cannot possibly do if they set their minds to it. The fact that Tara could articulate about the trauma and abuse that she faced in her childhood reflects how strong she is physically and emotionally. Her past experiences might have broken her many times, but she is now living her life on her terms and this is why she is a real trooper.

The reason this book feels personal is because each of us have been put in a situation where we feel like an outsider and do not know any of the rules. Her story is inspiring because of her absolute self-belief and determination to continue down the path that she has chosen. We can all draw on Tara’s strength while in a similar predicament. Educated, is a wonderfully written memoir by Tara Westover and I consider it a must-read!

“To admit uncertainty is to admit to weakness, to powerlessness, and to believe in yourself despite both. It is a frailty, but in this frailty there is a strength: the conviction to live in your own mind, and not in someone else’s.”

“But vindication has no power over guilt. No amount of anger or rage directed at others can subdue it, because guilt is never about them. Guilt is the fear of one’s own wretchedness. It has nothing to do with other people.”

Tara Westover

Snow, Glass, Apples – Neil Gaiman

#BookReview

Who would have imagined that the fairy tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs could be rewritten with a spine-chilling twist?!

Screen Shot 2020-01-12 at 5.40.51 PM

Snow, Glass, Apples is nothing that I expected it to be. It is dark, bizarre and it is a story that shows the flip side of fairy tales. Fabulously narrated by Neil Gaiman, this classic story is familiar yet so unfamiliar.

This dark-themed fantasy fairy tale is a story of a queen who tries to save her kingdom from her blood-thirsty vampiric stepdaughter. The story is grim, terrifying and gripping, making it impossible for the readers to put down the book once they get into its enchanting world.

The graphic images in the book are a work of art. They are intricate, intriguing and impressive which add more depth to the narration and captivate the reader’s imagination by bringing the words of the story to life.

This book is decorative and a stylish piece of art which is a must-read for all graphic novel fans and bookworms as it will take their world of imagination to a whole new level.

Gently Falls the Bakula – Sudha Murthy

#BookReview

If you are looking for a simple and a sweet short story to read, then Gently Falls the Bakula is a great pick for a slow Sunday afternoon. Like a breeze, this story will take you into the beautiful small town of South Karnataka called Hubli, where the childhood love of the two protagonists, Shrimati and Shrikant, blossoms under the evergreen Bakula tree.

Shrimati and Shrikant are competitive, intellectual classmates and neighbors who soon turn into friends, they eventually fall in love with each other and then get married. However, this book is not just a sweet love story. It’s also about how Shrikant being an over-ambitious husband gets caught up in climbing the ladder of success in the corporate world and ends up ignoring the aspirations and dreams of his wife. Shrimati being an equally smart and intelligent woman, gives up her career and her love for history only to support her husband, Shrikant. She silently and submissively lives her life fulfilling the demands of her husband, while pushing aside her own desires and needs. After years of dominance and neglect, Shrimati finally decides to give importance to her own life and pursues her dreams.

This book deals with the old stereotypes of male dominance, submissiveness of women, women empowerment, gender equality, and small town mentality. Gently Falls the Bakula is beautifully written by the famous Indian author, Sudha Murthy.  The book highlights how one needs to give equal importance to work and family. While pursuing ambitions and fulfilling individualist dreams, one must not go so far ahead that they end up leaving behind their family and loved ones. This book is an interesting read and I recommend that you give yourself the time to indulge in this easy to read and extremely well-written, sweet short story.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl

#BookReview

There are many self-help books and then there is this little gem of a book. Isn’t the title absolutely captivating? We all go through the phase of existential crisis at least once in our lifetime. We all wonder what is the purpose of our lives? While some of us, have it all figured out, there are some of us who still wonder what’s the true meaning of life? And, if we do not have a hand to guide us in the right direction, then the search never seems to end. I am thankful that I found this life-changing book at just the right time when I had no clue as to where I was heading in my life. I randomly picked this book during a bus journey while I was stuck in traffic and I am certain I couldn’t have picked a better book.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”

In this book, Viktor E. Frankl also talks about the concept of Logotherapy which is based on existential analysis. He explains how one can always find a purpose in life even when the circumstances are miserable.

“For in every case man retains the freedom and the possibility of deciding for or against the influence of his surroundings.”

Man’s Search for Meaning, is one incredible book and is a must-read. This book can help us feel good about ourselves and appreciate life better. It teaches us how we need to be thankful of what we have and make the most of our freedom. In the end, what truly matters is for us to never give up on love and hope.