My philosophy on reviewing books.

When I review a book, I like to keep in mind that a human wrote the book. It sounds obvious but I have read many reviews where the author is criticised inhumanly.

Disclaimer: I am another hobbyist blogger, which means I don’t get paid to review books or blog. All opinions are my own.

Everybody knows that reviews are biased according to the reader’s preferences. When I am criticising a book based on its plot, I am not talking about the author. Neither do I think my review matters. It’s not complicated to understand that everyone has very different tastes and opinions, so what I find distasteful isn’t necessarily the same for another.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik is a very popular science fiction standalone novel. While I did enjoy many aspects of the plot, I can’t say it was perfect. I thought Sarkan’s dialogues were repetitive and the portrayal of Agnieszka as immensely flawed was almost forced. Kasiya’s individuality declined with every page. (Spoiler alert) The relationship between Sarkan and Agnieszka felt unnecessary beyond words. It seemed like it was simply there to appeal to romance readers.

But it was very close to being the winner of BEST YOUNG ADULT FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION category in goodreads for 2015. That must mean I am of the minority with a somewhat ‘negative’ opinion. My point of sharing these thoughts aren’t to say that the author is awful. She isn’t. The book was written well, although it was quite clear that Ms. Novik fell in love with the word rivulet. Which I completely understand, sometimes when I fall in love with a word, I irritate the shi* out of my sister by repeating it continuously.

Reviews are like passing down information through a lineage of readers to help them make decisions. One will come across positive reviews and negative reviews and eventually a decision of their own. It also arises from a desire to share our thoughts and opinions. Why does this desire arise?  That I can’t answer.

When I am criticising the way a book is written, it is not to say that I am better at writing or the author is incompetent. Usually, it is the Editor’s job to ensure that the book is flawless. At least, in terms of spelling and grammar.

Looking for Alaska by John Green is a book with over seven hundred thousand reviews in goodreads. A majority of which is five stars. I disliked it. Alaska seemed flat, though she was a ‘smart feminist.’ But that’s not why I disliked the book. I was really looking forward to reading the book. Mostly because I loved the cover of it. I know, don’t judge a book by its cover. But this was almost three years ago.

I found that the writing both bored and irked me. It seemed trying too hard/lacking in flow. I liked the philosophical discussions it had but it just didn’t appeal to me. This is not me saying he is an awful writer. On the contrary, a majority of people did love it. I share my disappointment to inform another reader of the flip side of the reviews.

Reviews are important because they help to spread the word. Although, one shouldn’t take a review personally. Usually, my book reviews are positive. When I appreciate something, I want to share that piece of treasure with my fellow readers who might stumble across my blog. When it is disappointing, I also want to inform my fellow readers before they come to a decision.

It is the art of being a human who reads, you see. Not to be taken at heart.

 

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Recommendation and review

Our book exchanges were kind of like drug dealing, minus the secrecy. My sister was the medium, her friend the dealer and I, the customer. Of course, I only borrowed. Bibliophiles everywhere understand the reluctance of parting with one’s books.

This friend of my sister’s introduced me to Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple series quite a few years ago. I have read more books with Hercule Poirot as the protagonist, but soon that will change.

July was a really good month for me. I have read Jane Eyre, Uprooted, On Writing, Misery, And Then There Were None, Murder On The Orient Express, The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, Death In The Clouds, The Mystery Of The Blue Train, Peril At End House, Dead Man’s Folly, The Murder On The Links, (reread) Night Of The Living Dummy II and Why I’m Afraid Of Bees. 

The ones in bold are written by Agatha Christie. I used to read a lot of crime fiction once but then my taste changed. The last one I read was The Book Of You which I received as a gift. It was engaging but nothing I ever want to read again. I am also not a big fan of the type of stories that involve a murder/serial killer, a romance, some sort of backstory of the detective/protagonist. I understand this kind of story is popular but everyone has different taste.

The books written by Agatha Christie are mostly crime centered. We get to know Poirot as an individual with a distinguished personality without chapters being dedicated to his backstory. The only book that managed to actually give me that feeling of ‘I was not expecting that, at all!’ was The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd. This is not me saying I guessed who the murderer was for every book, I didn’t. But that raw feeling of awe was a welcome effect of The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd.

Some people say that her books are similar which I didn’t agree with. As many opinions as there are people. One thing is same: the characters associated with the victim always have some secret. But it is applied in different situations and doesn’t lose its magic to keep the reader engaged. I guess it depends on what type of story is your cup of tea.

 

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

I imagine, if you have been a reader for a few years now, you must’ve heard of Jane Eyre. It is “one of the greatest and most perennially popular works of English fiction” (to quote from the synopsis) for a reason. Perhaps, its popularity makes it uninteresting to some. Or maybe the story is known all too well. Regardless, I shall try to convey my thoughts on why this book should be read anyways.

Jane Eyre has an autobiographical touch to it. It is the autobiography of our protagonist Jane Eyre. We follow her around from childhood to adulthood learning about herself and her tragedies. It sounds like a simple work of fiction, in some ways it is.

We (my friends and I) read the easy english version of Jane Eyre when we were in Year 7, around 14 years old. We usually slept through the reading during that class but not when it came to Jane Eyre. Even the easy english version was gripping and engaging. Mostly, the mystery kept us going.

I remember thinking: Janet feels so real. It’s silly, I know. But I find that it’s easy for fictional characters to be flat, especially when the author really tries hard to make the characters seem flawed and ordinary. As much as I like ‘human’ characters, the author shouldn’t have to say it out loud.

Jane, although portrayed as a flawed being, is a very ‘three-dimensional’ character. Her narrative is engaging and while I vaguely dreaded the childhood part of her story, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the more I read, the more I wanted to know what was going to happen to her even when she was a child.

I must say, I am not a big fan of Mr Rochester. He does come around near the end when, you know, something happens. I am not keen on spoiling, so we will stop there.

Enough with the character analysis. Out of all the classics I have read, Jane Eyre was the easiest one to read. I haven’t read many classics, only some of the more popular ones such as Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations etc.

It is obvious by now that I knew what the story was about before reading the original version of it. I even watched the movie long before reading the book. I still found myself mesmerised by the narration and the story and found myself rooting for Jane and sometimes getting cross at her, but mostly rooting for her. It’s a great book, really.

It has an air of tragedy and melancholy. Tragedy isn’t necessarily my thing, but an air of melancholy is much loved. It might seem like a large-ish book but I don’t see why it shouldn’t be read by people who want to get into reading classics. You may like it too, why not give it a try?

While there’s a fair share of tragic events, Jane does have a few ‘victories’ here and there. I didn’t really like St. John’s lack of understanding at times and the whole page on their conversation about a certain thing bored me, so I ended up skipping that page. A book cannot be perfect, I suppose.

Regardless, if you are thinking about reading Jane Eyre, I suggest you give it a go. It’s worthy, unlike loads of new fiction that end up being repetitive and painful to read.