Thursday, August 28, 2014

[Review] Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo


Title: Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
Author: Katherine Boo
Pages: 290
Series: //
Publisher: Random House
Date of Publication: February 7th, 2012
ISBN13: 9781400067558
Source: Bought
Format: Hardcover
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
From Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo, a landmark work of narrative nonfiction that tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the twenty-first century’s great, unequal cities.

In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human.

Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting“ in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter—Annawadi’s “most-everything girl“—will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call “the full enjoy.”

But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.

With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects human beings to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget.

My Thoughts

I read this as part of the Nerdfighteria book club. Interestingly, I had already bought the ebook of Behind the Beautiful Forevers at some point, probably because someone recommended I read it. I couldn't resist when the vlogbrothers chose this as the book to read, could I?

What can I say? It really sucked me in. I was immediately captured by the life-like characters... which could be because these characters are actual people. It's a work of non-fiction, even though it reads like a novel. I kept forgetting that these were actual people I was reading about. And sometimes I wasn't sure if that was a good thing, which is why this book gets four stars from me. I felt like it should be more obvious that these are lives we are reading about, not... plots. It made me feel very surreal at times.

I'm also not quite sure if I liked the ending. It felt a little cut-off. Maybe Boo didn't want to continue researching, or her sources quit... or maybe it was supposed to be like this, which I hope isn't true. I would have liked a little bit more closure, for myself as well as for the people about whom Boo wrote this book.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

[Review] Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs


Title: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Pages: 348
Series: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children #1
Publisher: Quirk
Date of Publication: June 7th, 2011
ISBN13: 9781594744761
Source: Bought (German Version)
Format: Hardback
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children-Duology
1. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
2. Hollow City

My Thoughts
The protagonist, Jacob, grows up with his grandfather's "fairy tales" about children with supernatural abilities like invisibilty or the ability to fly. Of course, as he grows older he stops believing in them after being ridiculed at school. As his grandfather's health deteriorates, he seems to suffer from dementia, the stories of monsters become ever present. As Jacob discovers, the monsters - and of course, the children, too - might be a lot more physical than he was convinced himself they were.

I liked Jacob. Right from the start. I think he's very likeable because he has a neutral view on things most of the time - and when he doesn't, it's easily forgiven because he might be facing his own personal nightmare. I'm not quite sure whether that makes Jacob a little too mature for a teenager (he's 17, I think?). But then, there are mature teenagers and people who are older than they physically are. So it's all good.

Something that makes this book very special are the photographs that are interspersed with the story. I would bet my left hand on the fact that the author was inspired by the photographs to write the story. As I understand it, the photographs are authentic. It helped give voice to the characters and also to Jacob's childhood. He grew up with his grandfather showing him the pictures. Of course, he convinced himself later on that everything was bogus, but alas...

I found the middle to be a tad slow. I really enjoyed the beginning and the ending. The pacing is phenomenal. But the middle part requires a bit of "pushing through" because it really takes Jacob quite a while to figure things out, mostly because a certain someone doesn't want to tell him anything. But also because he's a little blind sometimes. But in any case, if you do pick this book up, don't leave it because of the slow middle, because you'll miss a phenomenal ending!


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Thursday, July 31, 2014

[Review] Beastly by Alex Flinn


Title: Beastly
Author: Alex Flinn
Pages: 304
Series: //
Publisher: HarperTeen
Date of Publication: October 2nd, 2007
ISBN13: 9780060874162
Source: Bought
Format: eBook
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
I am a beast.

A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright--a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.

You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll stay this way forever--ruined--unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.

My Thoughts

Beastly was my first book that was selected via my new TBR-jar. Basically, whenever I finish a book, I randomly grab a piece of paper from that jar. Every piece of paper has a title on it and voilĂ ! I've wanted to read Beastly ever since I watched the movie adaptation of the same name. I have to admit that I didn't really like the movie but I wanted to read the book anyway because they're usually better than their adaptations.

In the first few chapters we get to know Kyle Kingsbury - asshole extraordinaire. He thinks he owns the world just because he's good looking and his father's wealth. He doesn't even notice his less fortunate class mates and doesn't think about much besides his favourite topic - himself. But even at the beginning of the novel it is obvious that Kyle craves attention from his father.

After he manages to turn a witch's wrath on himself, he is transformed into a beast. That is when the (liberal) retelling of Beauty and the Beast starts. The spell can only be broken by a kiss. He has to love the girl and she has to love him, which soon starts to become a little difficult.

I can't say that I didn't enjoy this book. It's pretty short and relatively well written. I especially enjoyed the chat-parts in between because I think they broke the routine nicely and it was good to be "out" of Kyle, so to speak. 

But I couldn't properly connect with Kyle. I've hated people like him all my life. I still hate them. And yes, he becomes a better person but still... I don't think he apologised for what he did in the past. Things are not just forgiven and forgotten because you suddenly know better.


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