Category Archives: little brown and company

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere Title: Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celeste Ng
Publisher: Little, Brown
ISBN: 978-1408709726
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

I knew exactly what I was getting into as I started reading “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng. I had read her first book two years ago called “Everything I Never Told You” and couldn’t wait to start her new one. I can for sure say that I enjoyed “Little Fires Everywhere” a lot more (sorry for that Celeste, though I also enjoyed your debut novel a lot as well). The prose, the description and more than that how life in America is when it comes to consumerism and parenthood at some point mingling together is brilliantly depicted in this novel of dysfunctional families, twisted minds and family ties.

“Little Fires Everywhere” begins with a house burnt down in a closely tight-knit planned community where nothing of this sort would be dreamed of happening by its residents. The idea of well-gated community called Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997 says a lot about the Utopia and unwelcome change and how all if it disrupts the Richardson family’s seemingly happy life, when Mia (a charismatic artist) and her shy fifteen-year old daughter Pearl, move to the town as tenants in the house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents.

This triggers events – mainly the differences in their lifestyles and also what is the attitude of the Richardsons when old family friends on theirs decide to adopt a Chinese-American baby – that would one day lead to the Richardson’s own house burning. I am not giving away anything, don’t worry, but all I can say is that this book kept me up longer than I intended those two nights it took me to finish it.

Celeste Ng has this amazing quality of going easy on the reader mostly and then out of nowhere, she shows you the cracks in relationships, the changes as people interact with each other and how explosive it all is under a calm surface. I loved the writing. It is fast and yet bringing out the details of every character – the Richardson family (mother, father and four teenage children), Mia and Pearl (who I loved as the book moved along) and also the other couple – every detail, every sentence is in place when it comes to “Little Fires Everywhere”. The title is so layered – depicting the fires within and the ones that we see. The ones we also feel but deny and move along in life. If you have to read one book this October (while there is still time), make it this one.

 

Advertisements

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

the-underground-railroad-by-colson-whitehead Title: The Underground Railroad
Author: Colson Whitehead
Publisher: Fleet Books, Hachette
ISBN: 978-0708898390
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I love the choices made by Oprah for her book club. She does a brilliant job of it. I also think that single-handedly she has had a huge role to play in getting America to read. I remember it was 2000 or something like that I when I was first introduced to her book club. Internet was in the very nascent stages in India and we had Star Plus though (it had not become Star World yet I think) and there was the Oprah Winfrey Show that would air every morning at 6 am and I would watch it religiously. That is when I was introduced to her book club and since then I have been a fan. From what is been told, Oprah actually got the publishers of this selection to sort of push the date of publishing right back so she could announce it on her network. I am mighty impressed and she is one of the few people who can pull this off.

The latest book (not Love, Warrior) that I have read from the stable is “The Underground Railroad” and I must say that I was mesmerized by this book. I have not read any other work of Colson Whitehead and always wanted to start with Sag Harbor but I am glad that it was this book that started it for me. “The Underground Railroad” is brutal. It is fictitious but I am sure that most of it has happened – and perhaps it is easy to talk about suffering in fiction than it is in the form of a memoir or biography. I honestly believe in this. I think that when you speak of human redemption, suffering or something that is so heartbreaking, fiction will get more people to connect to it.
So what is the book all about? Why am I raving about it?

The book is the story of Cora, the young runaway slave from Georgia. It is also about Caesar and how they both flee the Randall plantation and head north via an actual underground railroad. The story is set in 1812 and must I say that this book is not for the weak-hearted. There is a lot of violence and emotional torture but it had to be told because there is no escaping it. You cannot and must not sugar-coat sorrow. So Cora and Caesar are on the run and while that happens, Cora manages to kill a white boy who tries to capture her. From there on they are hunted endlessly and how they manage to do what they want to makes for the rest of the story.

Colson’s writing reminds me of Morrison. There are passages and sentences that will leave you breathless and you will reach out for that glass of water. It will happen. You will get angry because slavery is just not what should ever exist. You will also cheer for Cora and for some people she meets along the way. You will mainly hoot for the perseverance and courage of the protagonist and want to change things in your life. “The Underground Railroad” is not just a book about slavery, it is also a book about humanity and how there is always a way out. A must read this year and it will not disappoint you at all.

Book Review: The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin Title: The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
ISBN: 9781408704615
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 243
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There comes a time in everyone’s life when a book truly speaks to them. It talks and you cannot do anything but listen and wonder what happened to all those dreams and hopes that were once present. Books do that. They have the power to communicate. They also have the power to heal a broken soul, no matter how broken or damaged. I think for me, books have always been that. An antidote to everything that is wrong with the world and everything that can be made right, with just the turn of the page.

So when I knew that my next read was going to be about books and reading, I could not contain my joy. I love books about books and reading that centre on the theme of a reader or two. It fills my heart with immense warmth. This is exactly what happened as I read, “The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin.

The book is a story of a bookstore owner and how his life transforms completely, through reading and the people he meets in the course of his life, or rather those who enter his life involuntarily and change it completely. The bookstore is called Island Books and is on a small town called Alice in Staten Island. A.J. Fikry’s wife died recently in a car accident and he does not know what to do with his life. Books and his store are the only things that keep him going.

On the other hand, there is Amelia, a book representative who is leading a very lonely life and has a big heart. She too loves her books and reads with a passion. Needless to say, her life intersects that of A.J. and things take a dramatic turn. Amidst all this, there is a two-year old baby Maya, who is left at the bookstore’s doorstep one fine day and A.J. has no clue what to do with her.

In all of this, A.J’s first edition of Poe is stolen and he is immensely heartbroken about it. There is no way he can get it back, try as he might. It just vanished in thin air.

If the plot does not compel you enough to go out and read this book, then maybe my experience while reading it should, or so I hope. The book made me laugh. The book made me cry. Books that do that to you have a power which cannot be defined. Zevin’s writing is marvellous. She takes the emotion – lays it bare and then gives it her own touch of empathy and unique voice. There are times when I had to keep the book down, take a breath, or perhaps not choke with emotion and get back to it.

A.J. Fikry is one character who will not be forgotten by readers who read this gem of a book. Zevin has created characters that are loveable and what binds them is their love of books and the written word. I could not stop reading this book. In fact, I also remember telling a friend before watching a movie on Saturday night that I would rather be home, finishing this book and this is exactly what I did once the movie got over. I rushed home and finished this book, only to find myself crying at the end of it and fully aware that I would reread this magical book and cry and laugh all over again.

Book Review: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes Title: The Shining Girls
Author: Lauren Beukes
Publisher: Little Brown & Co
ISBN:
Genre:
Pages:
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I can safely say that “The Shining Girls” is one of the best reads for me this year. I may be a little late on this boat, but the point is that I loved the book. It has been a fulfilling read and there are times I randomly think of it at work. Why do you ask? Well, simply because it is wonderfully written.

Lauren Beukes talks of sci-fi and a thriller and at the same time, there is a literary angle to it, which very few books or novelists are capable of. “The Shining Girls” is about Harper Curtis and he isn’t your run-of-the-mill serial killer. He kills “shining girls”. That is also quite usual. What is unusual is that he travels in time – from the 20s to the 9s0s and kills these girls. A house makes him do it. Yes, a house makes him. As every serial killer, he makes a mistake. In 1989, he leaves Kirby Mazrachi behind and doesn’t kill her. Kirby, now an adult, wants to track him down and figure about the murders. She enlists the help of a Sun-reporter named Dan and the hunt for the killer then begins. To add to this, there is another angle, which I will not give away in this review.

This is the plot of the book. It seems very simple, however it is not. The writing is razor sharp and sometimes even gruesome. “The Shining Girls” is perfect for supernatural fans. I was a little hesitant to read it at first, however as I turned the pages, I became more and more engrossed in the writing. Lauren takes readers to worlds beyond and then right back, spinning between realities and mind games. This makes “The Shining Girls” what it is. A read which must be savoured.

Affiliate Link:

Buy The Shining Girls from Flipkart.com

Book Review: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler Title: Why We Broke Up
Author: Daniel Handler
Art: Maira Kalman
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 978-0316127257
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 368
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

I had bought this book last year and since then was struggling with it. I would read fifty pages or so and give it up for another read. It happens most of the time and that doesn’t mean that the book is bad, maybe the timing for sure is. It has happened to me in the past, so I do not think much of it. So when I picked up “Why We Broke Up” again this time, I was enthralled by the plot and more so by the art by Maira Kalman, which by the way is beautifully done throughout the book.

For every time a couple breaks up there are things that are returned. That is almost the unwritten law of breaking up, of ending it all, of finding the so-called state of “closure”. We return things because they are memories – of times of happiness and now evoke only sadness, which is the truth. Min and Ed, two teenagers whose relationship has ended are at the heart of this novel. They are an improbable couple, who had nothing in common and yet they fell in love. They split ways and the story is narrated from Min’s perspective who is now returning “stuff” that she collected (or stuff that was given by Ed to her) during the course of their relationship, explaining why they broke up and what happened between them.

Min is studying to be a filmmaker, so the entire process and atmosphere of the book is rather dramatic, but only fair, since it is about heartache. There are a lot of references to old films which is brilliant, because I now have to watch most of them. Love also needs so many mediums to speak through. In this case, it is movies.

Heartache at any age is counted for and should be. It is not easy, more so when you are young. I found the story a little too biased, as it was only from Min’s perspective, but that was compensated more so by the plot and writing. What will take you in the most about the book is also the illustrations, which are beautifully and masterfully done so by Maira Kalman. I loved the book so much in most parts and I also thought that maybe I would have loved to hear Ed’s point of view in all of this. After all it is only fair. The secondary characters – the best friends and ex-lovers make for some quirky characters in the book as well. Ed’s sister Joan is a vital character and it is not difficult to fall in love with her.

I do not like reading Young Adult fiction all that much, however as I have said again and again in this post, I loved this book. It is but the nature of love and heartbreak, its universality that would resonate and strike with anyone who reads about it. One more thing: You cannot read it in an electronic book format. The effect and sentiment will not be the same, given the illustrations and also the quality of paper. I recommend you read it, get your heart broken, mend it and then read it all over again.

Affiliate Link:

Buy Why We Broke Up from Flipkart.com