Tag Archives: william morrow

America for Beginners by Leah Franqui

America for Beginners

Title: America for Beginners
Author: Leah Franqui
Publisher: William Morrow, HarperCollins
ISBN: 978-0062668752
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

Now, I have read a lot of books about immigrants and their lifestyles and what happens when you move countries or come to America, as they say. But this is not a story of an immigrant. In fact, it is just a story of a mother who has to come to terms with her son’s sexual preference and lifestyle, after his death. This struck a chord. It hit home and stayed there for a while. I was constantly thinking of my mother and what was she going through when I came out to her and could relate her thoughts and emotions to that of Pival’s. But “America for Beginners” is not just Pival’s story. It is the story of Pival, Satya and Rebecca – each trying to find something or the other – some big meaning in their lives and happen to do it together.

“America for Beginners” is not sentimental. It is for sure an emotional piece of work. It is also compassionate and funny where it needs to be and that is also something I found extremely liberating about the writing. It doesn’t get bogged down by the intensity of the story. Franqui finds humour where she can. A Bengali widow Pival comes to the US of A, to know more about her son Rahi, after a year of his coming out, and in the wake of his death. She has never travelled alone and all she wants is to fit the missing pieces of her son’s life – the son she never knew, also through his partner Jake (you will get to read more about him. Not saying a word for now). Here but obviously she meets Satya, a guide who has never left the five boroughs – an immigrant who doesn’t have a clue where life is headed. Then there is Rebecca – an aspiring young actress with demons of her own to tackle. These three are headed for a road-trip (that again makes it all the more fun) they will remember forever.

This has all the makings of a movie. In fact, I think it is also written to be made into a film. Having said that, I for one did not get bored or did not face a reading slump at all when reading this book. There are also some stereotypes the book is ridden with, and yet I did not have a problem with that as well. There are perspectives, lives, emotions and how we deal with each other as human beings which is most important – than just being a mother, friend, or son.



The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

The Book of M Title: The Book of M
Author: Peng Shepherd
Publisher: William Morrow, HarperCollins
ISBN: 978-0062669605
Genre: Literary, Post-Apocalyptic
Pages: 496
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

I am ecstatic that I read this book. At the same time, I am devastated that it ended. A book that was dystopian, post-apocalyptic, a romance and even literary at that. I really can’t place it anywhere but it is post-apocalyptic for sure.

The M in the book title could very well stand for Memory as the book is about that and its loss. The world is now the one in which people’s shadows start to disappear, without any reason. The only problem is that their shadow is linked to memory, which means that even memory then goes out of the window. Simple memories are lost – skills to begin with – how to open a door, how to brush one’s teeth, etc. The more complex memories (the ones related to the heart) go right after. The world spins out of control. There is chaos everywhere. Nothing has prepared the world for this and people fear that this is going to be the end after all.

Shepherd’s book is fascinating. It touches on memory so closely that it almost frightens you with the thought: what would you do if you lost your memories? Or were on the road to rapidly losing them? Then what? Memory is something which perhaps we take for granted all the time, till we start forgetting. Shepherd plays on that aspect cleverly throughout the book. Each character is struggling with his or her demons and the beauty is in Shepherd tying all the loose-ends superbly. I normally do not enjoy “battle scenes” (no spoilers really) but in this book I didn’t mind them at all. In fact, if anything, I enjoyed them and Shepherd has written them accurately.

“The Book of M” draws you into its world. You want to know the whys and hows and whens of it all. Peng Shepherd creates characters you feel for intensely and cannot do anything but pray it will all work out for them. I was reminded of Emily St John Mandel’s “Station Eleven” while reading this, primarily because of the emotions and the richness of characters and secondary given both are set in post-apocalyptic worlds.

“The Book of M” is deeply moving. It is daunting as well, given the scope of writing and the setting of the novel. It is one of those books that sneak up on you and become popular through a lot of word-of-mouth, say for instance like “Homegoing”. This one is a firecracker of a read. You must read it. You just must.


The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn Title: The Woman in the Window
Author: A.J. Finn
Publisher: William Morrow, HarperCollins
ISBN: 978-0062678416
Genre: Literary Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 448
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

I am not a fan of thrillers. I do not read them so often, however, I wanted to read “The Woman in the Window”. Although it would be shelved under thrillers or mystery, it is definitely more than that, according to me. It is extremely literary and not in the hard-kind-of-way-to-read literary. It is a very easy read but it keeps you engaged. Pages may not fly as they do when you read a thriller but let me also tell you that you have to immerse yourself in about one hundred and twenty pages or so till you get to the juicy parts and it is worth every turn of the page.

“The Woman in the Window” also has an unreliable narrator and I am for one not big on this form of writing, however, this might it seemed to work for me. Dr. Anna Fox is a psychologist (child psychologist) who peers through her camera at the neighbours in 212, stuck in her agoraphobic world in her very expensive apartment, estranged from her husband, Ed and young daughter Olivia. She also plays chess online and is a part of an online forum to help other agoraphobics. She goes by the ID thedoctorisin.

At the same time, Anna isn’t one of the most reliable people you know of (that’s why the unreliable narration). She drinks red wine and in copious quantities. She also overdoses her medication. Her psychiatrist Dr. Fielding, comes to check in one her once a week and all her time if not spent snooping in others’ lives, is spent watching old crime noir films. Till one fine day, Anna notices something happening in 212 and life is never the same.

A.J. Finn creates a sense of claustrophobia most of the time (guess it is intended) for his readers and that lends extremely well while reading the book. I often found myself looking over my shoulder to see if someone was around and most often just to breathe, as I thought I was out of breath. Having said that, the writing is light but not without being intelligent and witty (in some places).

The entire book almost feels like a Hitchcock film – you can almost visualize it and to add to that there are these references (and sometimes scenes as well) of the movies Anna loves to watch and watches when the action is going on. I loved the references! What I also liked about the writing is that A.J. Finn doesn’t spoon-feed you with the sub-plots or characters. It flows as the story ambles along. The pace I did have a problem with initially, but that sorted itself early on.

“The Woman in the Window” is a thriller that will make you fall in love with the way characters are sketched, plots are intertwined and unravel and the overall plot structure. A.J. Finn has created a book that is clever as it shows itself to you, page after page. A read not to be missed out this year.


Book Review: Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire

Title: Out of Oz: The Final Volume in the Wicked Years
Author: Gregory Maguire
Publisher: William Morrow, Harper Collins
ISBN: 978-0-06-054894-0
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 568
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

When Gregory Maguire started writing the Oz series, I am sure he must have known how big this would be and it turned out to be just that – one big success, rippling through with excitement and sardonic humour and tragedy in almost every volume. The last volume in the series, “Out of Oz” is as addictive as the rest. Gregory Maguire writes in a lyrical manner and that is what I love the most about his writing, besides his ability to infuse evil in Oz and the ability to scare you as well. The plot in this one is well-paced and very exciting. The war between Oz and Munchkinland is at its height and that is the core of the book.

In this book, we get to know Rain who is Liir’s daughter (this is not a spoiler). She is odd and wistful and I loved her character and how it shaped throughout the book. The other usual characters are present in the book – Glinda, Liir, Cowardly Lion and of course Dorothy, who is not making a cameo this time. Dorothy’s character has been extended and it is beyond belief what shape it takes towards the end and throughout. Some brilliant thinking from Mr. Maguire here.

Over the past three books, there has been a lot of build up to the characters and the setting and that’s why one can see and relate to this book and its track. With “Out of Oz” he brings all the characters (though briefly) to tie the story to its end. Dorothy is back after having killed Elphaba (Wicked) and as I mentioned her role is not limited in this book. The questions of home and loyalty are also well-tackled in this one.

The book is enjoyable even before the adventure begins and that’s the power of Gregory Maguire’s writing. It will but obviously make no sense to you till you read the other Wicked books. Not everyone gets a happy ending and not all are supposed to also. Loose ends are tied as expected (thank god for that) and also ones that the reader can infer on his/her own. For me I loved the conclusion. Gregory Maguire’s writing charmed me with this one even more so and I would recommend that you also read his stand alone works on his own take on fairy tales. A brilliant conclusion to a fantastic series.

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Book Review: Reamde by Neal Stephenson

Title: Reamde
Author: Neal Stephenson
Publisher: William Morrow, Harper Collins
ISBN: 9780061977961
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 1056
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5/5

I had not read anything by Neal Stephenson before reading, “Reamde”. Hence this book managed to have that kind of effect on me. Neal Stephenson has done something marvellous in this book. He has managed to capture it all – explosiveness, madcap intensity, different threads, violence, family drama, Russian mob story, to a computer hacker plot, to terrorism – this book has it all and it is the sheer volume and size of it that makes it such a magnificent read.

Reamde’s size that runs into almost 1100 pages might put off readers, however don’t be intimidated by that. The story is based on the Forthrast Family – Richard Forthrast, an ex-small time drug runner, haunted by the Furious Muses (echoes of his previous girlfriends), now the owner of T’Rain, the world’s most successful online game; his younger brother Jacob “Jake” Forthrast, a born again Christian and Survivalist; his elder brother John Forthrast, Vietnam veteran with two high-tech artificial legs; his sister Patricia, killed by a bolt of lightning, and his adopted niece Zula Forthrast who walked to Sudan from Eritrea to escape a war.

Normal they might not be, but when Zula is kidnapped by the Russian Mafia after her boyfriend failed to deliver on a dodgy deal, they react as any family would and pull together to try and find a way to rescue her.

The Forthrast family isn’t your typical American family. Nowhere close to that and Neal Stephenson ensures that with every page. At the same time the unusual events that happen to them are contrasted with the more ordinary side of American life, including things like shopping at Wal-Mart, RVs, Starbucks, family reunions, Thanksgiving, gunshops etc.

The story is believable to some extent and the characters are beautifully developed. There is fast action, a superb plot, tongue-in-cheek humour and also so many stories that are within stories that I just don’t want to give away right now.

Stephenson is capable of writing great stuff and this I got to know only as I turned each page. Reamde is an excellent techno-thriller that is well worth your investment. It just means that you have to commit to it a lot given its size and twists in the tale.

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