Book Recommendation-The Almost Moon

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The Almost Moon is a short two ninety page novel. It’s simple to read, not very complicated. I finish books like these in two-three working days strictly (That was meant as a joke to keep up the tradition), yet somehow it took me almost two weeks to finish The Almost Moon. It’s not because I didn’t enjoy the book, but I’ve been unable to fully appreciate reading for quite some time now when compared to writing or video gaming, especially when I’ve been tired. But with The Almost Moon and now “Last Chance Saloon” (Which seems as a book good enough to command its own Book Recommendation), I think I’m coming back to the groove.
The Almost Moon is a book I have never come across before. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this before. It’s an entirely character driven affair. The whole story is set by the impulses, whims and thinking of the characters. They are irrational, fearful, scared, angry, scarred. There are no huge moments, no huge sequences where the characters become larger than life or so on, the usual schbang. There are just the characters, their pasts, which drives the present. And the past is there in massive abundance.
This is why I have never read such a story. Not a lot of story takes place in the present. Most of the story is set in the past. The past of the character(s), primarily of Claire Knightley, the protagonist, and everyone with her (the past they share with Claire for most part).
At the start of the book, bit of a spoiler here, though this does happen at the first page and the whole plot is set upon this, so not as big a spoiler, Claire kills her mother. Claire then talks about her past. All her little things, her scarring, her sufferings and all the things she went through. All her thoughts, all the oddities she encountered in her family and at times herself. The prejudices and habits she grew up with. Then it is up to you to justify Claire’s action. To judge whether she was right or wrong.
Claire’s tale is a highly jolting and beautifully articulated one. Every aspect you can possibly think of about a girl’s life has been covered. And some things that can only happen to people with a very weird parent.
Honestly, despite the fact that Claire killed her mother, I felt sympathetic towards her. The way she talks about her life, made me think had I been in her place, I would have done the same thing she did, but sooner. It’s the strength of the prose that lets you get there.
This is a fantastic piece of prose. All the while I was reading this book, I was reminded fondly of Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy, a book which I regard as having maybe one of the smoothest and well written prose, up there with A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. There are so many similarities in the prose between The Almost Moon and Sleeping on Jupiter, besides them having celestial objects in the title. They are gripping and just so beautiful. So effortless with characters so comprehendingly complicated, with the irrationality and complicatedness showing in their split second decisions.
I frankly don’t know what else to write about this book. It’s one of those things I am at a loss to describe. It’s a beautiful book that you should read. It takes some effort to get into the groove but is completely worth it.


 

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Book Recommendation-Live Wire by Harlan Coben

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Back from slumber! A new Book Recommendation! Live Wire is an amazing, and beautifully nuanced thriller. It does have some flaws inherent in modern day writing, but a great read none the less. Those who love books like No Time for Goodbye(Read my recommendation here:- Book Recommendation- No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay) will probably get a kick out of this!


Live Wire. It was only when I ended the novel when I realised the significance of the title. When I picked up the book at the store and read the title and the plot summary on the back, I put it off as another wannabe not so cool thriller. But the premise on the back was interesting enough to buy the book.
But the moment I ended the book and looked at the cover again to appreciate it, my eyes fell on the title again and I was like “Woooooooaaaahhhh!”. Live Wire. The words had assumed such grand meaning after finishing the book. Serves me right for judging a book by its title (That’s a joke).
Live Wire is a thriller written by Harlan Coben. Live Wire is a very different sort of thriller which most people who are tired by the foolish characters often in thrillers appreciate. In most thrillers, you will find a person caught up in the whole act by chance. That’s there in Live Wire as well. But the difference is, in most thrillers, the characters are sort of dumb and idiots. They usually do things that wouldn’t make sense in such a situation. They get caught off guard easily. They don’t get basic simple things of life. Myron and Win, the primary character and one of the many supporting characters respectively, are nothing like that. They are usually ready. They have the solution to every trouble. They can be forced into a situation they couldn’t imagine and have the necessary back up plans. They are always one step ahead, or try to be. Of course now people will start thinking if a thriller doesn’t have characters which are weak and rise to the occasion, the thriller is boring. That is not the case.
This thriller has thrills, but more of emotional and the sort you don’t usually see in a thriller. Instead of the high octane adrenaline pumped action, fuelled by the character’s inability to take on the situation, the thrills are abrupt, from the bluntness of the characters and the emotional situations the characters are faced with.
Like for example, in most thrillers, the lead characters let the villain live or people why can harm them live out of a sense of humanity and morality. Not in this. Just an example of why this book is different.
The book stars the lead Myron Bolitar, an ex-basketball player, now an agent for MB Reps, which represents sports stars and so on so forth. Helping Myron are his friends and colleagues, Esparanza, Big Cyndi and the enigmatic and mysterious and resourceful and smart guy you want to be, Win(His actual name is much bigger and much more grand).
In the entire book, Win is the guy you end up liking a lot (Though you fall for all the characters in the book, it’s Win’s different personality that draws you to him). He is smart, he is always one step ahead, he is always prepared, and he always has a plan. There’s this quality about Win, him always being prepared, that he cannot be taken down. Invincible. Bulletproof. Even though you can’t be Win, you imagine what it would be like. To have so much power in your hands, and the guts to back them up.
Getting back to the story, Myron is visited by Suzze T, a former sports star and a client of his one fine day. She tells him some problem of his life and he sets out trying to find a solution. And then he sees a part of his past, and the whole story is set into motion.
Myron is another character you fall in love with. Which is important, since you’ll be with him for the most part. Myron is smart, athletic and cool. He can have a gun pointed in his face and still be able to think properly. These are the outer qualities. On the inside, Myron is emotional as well. His actions in the entire book are emotionally driven, which is why you keep on reading the book. Whatever he does, he does for the people he loves. Most of the thrills in this book are his emotions. And they give you goose bumps.
This is the one thing I miss sorely in most thrillers written now a days. Goosebumps. The ability to make you hair stand, or make you distance the book away for a second to be shocked. The ability to shock you with a happy thing as well.
This book did a number on me. There are a few particular moments in this book which I still smile about, because they show the human condition. The ability of humans to care for the ones they love.
One last thing about this book, which I almost forgot to mention. Harlan Coben’s writing skills. His dialogue is amazing. It has to be one of the most amazing dialogues I have ever read in a book. In all exchanges, there are always these undertones under what the characters say. Coben doesn’t simple write dialogue to move the plot forward. He writes it to make clear some emotion or some aspect he feels about. He tries to teach you something about the world.
There was only one issue with the book. It can ruin the book for you, so if you don’t want it, skip to the next paragraph. The only issue was the starting of the book felt weird and eventually proves to be incorrect (in a way) when the book ends.
All in all, Live Wire is a live wire of a book (I thought let’s end this one with the traditional joke). It is one hell of a book. People who look for the intricate web of lies and thrills might not find it as amazing, but people open to great webs of mystery and emotions will love it!


Do let me know in the comments below about how you felt the Book Recommendation was and in case anybody has read the book, do you share my opinions?

Happy Reading!

Book Recommendation-The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

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The 1950’s in America were an uncomplicated time. People were always excited for anything and everything and at the same time, content. Their lives were different from how we live our lives today.
The people then weren’t afraid of nuclear weapons. Hell, they used to go out into the desert to actually watch nuclear weapon tests. Shoe stores had X-Ray machines to measure your foot size, which your body with radiation into a state of higher energy, which meant you would be pumped up to buy your shoes (No, it was not a marketing thing. They were just excited people keen on doing new and crazy stuff). They had atomic toilets that glowed and came in and out of the walls. Trick shops that sold porn under the counter. Scientists who came up with new and exciting ways to end the world. Children making bombs to mark their graduation day. Or almost causing a fire in their homes while playing with matches.
People had such zeal back in the 1950’s. They were easily excited by anything new, no matter how dangerous. They didn’t give a damn about radiation ash falling all over their body. They didn’t care about the amounts of radiation going into their body while getting their shoe sizes done. Then again, maybe they didn’t know about the harmful effects. Maybe they were ignorant about them. But they were blissful. And they appreciated all little things about the 1950’s that made the 1950’s what they were.
Our book, “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid” is set in Des Moines, Iowa in the 1950’s. Back then, Bill Bryson, the author of the book, was still a kid, who thought he was from a different planet, and had super powers. Which he often used to punish evil people and wrong doers.
In the process of showing us growing up in the 1950’s, Bill Bryson also sets a world of the 1950’s. And also shows how the world has changed over time. He takes up these small details of the 1950’s and juxtaposes them with today to show the contrast.
I don’t remember all the points he put up, but one point I remember vividly. It was about Des Moines. Bill Bryson talked about what made Des Moines Des Moines, and how it was different from every other city. Des Moines had its own downtown, different from every other city. It had its own range of restaurants and delis and shops that made it unique. The shops that only the residents of Des Moines knew about. Unlike today, where every city has the same global brands and stores, making them virtually indistinguishable from every other city. Hell, that’s how every other city in the 1950’s was as well.
That’s what I love about this book. It sets up this beautiful amazing world, tells us what people used to do and how satisfied they would be. And it makes you think about what is missing in our lives. Why do most of the people we know sad, or inactive, or why are so always on the move and never at ease. Maybe the picture that Bill Bryson painted was incessantly optimistic, and didn’t show all the sadness as well, but I think even then it would still be better than today.
Another aspect I love about this book is the humor. Bill Bryson describes the most mundane of things in the most hilarious of ways. And with the 1950’s littered with crazy things (Trust me, everything in the first paragraph is a mole and what I haven’t written is a mountain), there was no dearth of humorous incidents for Bryson (Such as kids stealing beer!).
“The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid” is a light read. It has no serious message. It’s just a story about growing up in Des Moines, Iowa in the 1950’s. It’s a fun book, one that you’ll find recommending to other people to read because of how amazing it is.


A crazy book you’ll find yourself quoting in a looootttt of places. Full of these stupid little things that you can use in arguements. Ask me, I reference this book a lot whenever I want to supplement how stupid the CIA has been!

Book Recommendation-The Mute Button by Ellie Irving

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The Mute Button is a children’s book. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good book, neigh a great book. It deals with a lot of issues that start developing in children at the age of nine or ten and persist for a long part of their lives if they don’t deal with it, such as their crave for love and identity or not doing something because someone is better at them at it. These are some of the issues that Ellie Irving talks about using Anthony Button, the lead character and various other issues, such as feeling left out or neglect using her other characters. At the heart of this book is the quest of a young, 10 year, 2 month and 26 day boy to find himself, his identity and be someone better.
The story focuses around Anthony Button, the 10 year child of his parents and has four siblings, Robbie, his elder guitar playing brother, his little brother Jacob who is incredibly smart and little sister Susie who is an amazing actress and his littlest sister Lucy, who is just born, and by Anthony’s accord, more talented than he will ever be.
Anthony is an average 10 year old. He has no special talents, he talks a lot (and everyone asks him to shut up) and loves cheese. Every chapter begins with Anthony relating to a type of cheese because that is how he feels. Anthony has a loving family of a lot of people, working and busy parents who are not always able to devote him enough time and a whole set of siblings who have found out what they love. Anthony lives in his own self-indulgent world where he is perfect and nice and always marginalised and not loved enough and whatever mean things he does has a valid reason, and does not want to change to be better because he believes he is perfect and people should match up to him. All in all, almost every person at some point of time, be it ten, eleven, sometime in their teens.
One day, after a certain incident, Anthony decides to stop speaking, in order to gain attention after neglect by his family. As stated finely in the book, the “Mute Button” is switched on for Anthony and the most talkative boy becomes a mute machine. At first Anthony uses it to gain attention, then to get a good holiday for his family, but when he does finally get the holiday, he questions why he is doing it? Why would he be doing it? During this period, Anthony communicates exclusively using a notepad where he wrote down things to tell other people.
His parents make him go to a children’s psychiatrist to see what is wrong with him. The psychiatrist, Jess gives Anthony a journal to write whatever he is feeling, since he won’t talk about it.
The period of muteness sees Anthony transform from an attention seeking and indulgent boy to a mature person, an ideal person we would all like to be. Caring, mature, courageous, unafraid, understanding and respectful of what he has and most importantly, kind. The mantra that leads to this transformation is this phrase:
“At the core of ethics; a command that one try to imagine what it might be like to be someone else.” – Alain de Botton
This phrase is much needed advice not for children, but everybody else as well. How often do we come across a situation where we do not consider the other person’s opinion, because we are either too indulgent, too stressed, too prideful or simply too stupid. And how often are we mean to other people and not realising how they might feel.
This phrase is almost religious to Anthony after he encounters it, and is an important life lesson to all those reading the book. It’s beautiful to see in the book how Anthony realises how other people might feel or have felt when he was a selfish brat and did something wrong. And that sets off a bell in his heart and mind and he realises he must try to do things to make up for being bad to people and must always think how something could impact somebody negatively or simply how life is for another person and sympathise with them.
It’s beautiful, extremely beautiful to see Anthony coming to terms with himself and act like a mature adult we would like to be and helping people out and finding a grip on himself and realising what family means and what love is and how life should be. Happy, without any mean-ness.
This is a book anyone feeling a bit down on life should attempt to read. It’s 296 pages and due to the large font size, a breeze to read and is truly a treasure.


Do let me know how you found the recommendation, and if you’ve read the book, how did you like it?

Book Recommendation-Ballad of The Sad Café by Carson McCullers

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Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers is an amazing story. It is just 78 pages long, and it has to be one of the most well written, emotional stories I have ever read.

Ballad of the Sad Café talks about this town, somewhere in some corner of the world where there isn’t much to do. There is no TV, you can just walk to a lake and that’s it. There is no entertainment. It’s a dreary town with a curious building bent a little to the left, boarded up and on the verge of collapse.

That curious building is where Ms. Amelia Evans lived her entire life of loneliness, except for three periods in her life. Frankly, Ms. Amelia Evans herself is a very curious character. She is a good six feet in height and very unlike a woman. She has toned muscles and enough strength to beat down a man. She has lived all alone throughout her life, except for, like I said, three distinct periods. She was young when her mother died and eighteen maybe nineteen when her father did. Then she was alone. Then, she had a brief ten day marriage, and since the unfortunate marriage she has again been alone. Till the novel takes place.

And it doesn’t seem to peeve her. She is so used to the loneliness, it doesn’t bother her. Though then again she has some odd quirks. She will sue for the littlest of things. She has money, a lot of it. And she is also a doctor who works for free. She comes off as this character that you may have never before seen in your life.

Ms. Amelia had inherited the boarded up building from her father. It wasn’t always boarded up. Before being boarded up, it was the café. Before that, it was a store where you could buy meat and staple. Beyond that, Ms. Amelia had a still where she would make alcohol. She was rich though. Very rich.

But one day, in the night, when she was outside her house, she was met by a hunchback, who stated he was her half-brother. Miss Amelia, taking some odd pity or love or sympathy for the hunchback, took him in, and then sets the bulk of the novel. And the third time in her life that MS. Amelia is not alone.

Ballad of the Sad Café talks about Miss Amelia, as well as the town she lived in. It talks about how a building became a café, and why the story surrounding the café is sad. It talks about the people around the café, the people who were in the town and how they lived.

Ballad of the Sad Café is a beautiful ride because of the way it is written. The way McCullers writes is wonderful. The way she describes people, various traits they have, little details about everything. It is perfect. I can’t really be putting up examples here, there are just too many. But this is a story that warrants a read. Even though it is only 78 pages, it is a much much better experience than various two hundred page books.

Book Recommendation-Hide and Seek by Ian Rankin

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I’ve had Hide and Seek since January and I’ve read it now. Such a shame. I think it’s because the book was playing Hide and Seek with me, not allowing me to read it. And with that, we continue the tradition of lame jokes for ever Book Recommendation.

Hide and Seek was written back in 1991, hence is free of much of the complexity of modern books. Hide and Seek follows Inspector John Rebus. It is one fine day when John Rebus finds a dead body in a squat in Edinburgh. The dead body is of Ronnie, a drug addict who apparently overdosed on a batch of Heroin, after a dry spell where he didn’t get a fix. Rebus notices the body, laid out seemingly in a satanic pose, maybe as a sacrifice to the devil himself. In another room in the squat, there is a pentagram. The body, Ronnie, is full of cuts and bruises, as though beaten up. And there is a pouch of fresh heroine with the body. It seems like any other drug overdose. Yet what Rebus discovers, in parts of his own accord, and at times being catalysed into action by certain acts.

Rebus is the main reason you will stay hooked onto this book. That’s because, the plot of the book is OK. It’s the plot you know that seems very simplistic but is not. There is a huge conspiracy surrounding it. The plot seems all over the place, with too many characters and too many stories. It’s not that they aren’t impactful, but it’s just too much. Even the climax is unable to hit you that well. There are a few moments in the climax, but it is too, I don’t know. Maybe baffling or convenient or farfetched. I couldn’t make sense out of it. The plot just didn’t work for me.

It’s Rebus. Rebus is the one for whom you’ll be reading this novel. Rebus starts off as this run of the mill, everyday cop who has nothing special about him. Pining over the fact that he’s become old. Thinking about his old lover. Being an ass to his juniors; calling them names. Showing signs of humanity and pity for other people. But a great cop. The way he works, though you might not be approving of it, he gets results. He thinks things through and works hard and gets results. He’s an ass to his juniors for a reason. And he’s sharp. And he’s experienced. He knows how most things work and how to tackle situations. But at times even he can be beaten, despite the experience. Rebus is the winning point of the book, because he comes off as a great and real cop, but most of all as a relatable human.

There were very few things that I liked about this book other than this. Maybe it’s because I didn’t read the book properly. Rushed it a bit too much for this Book Recommendation. I don’t know. But a few more things I appreciated. Such as the fact it is also a much focused book. It deals with the case. Only the case. There are no shenanigans per say and there I very little straying from the case in the narrative; though like I said, the number of stories relating to the case itself are too many.

And the narrative. Ian Rankin has written in a third person perspective. He usually follows Rebus in the narrative, but at times also follows other secondary characters, to provide more information regarding the plot. While it was fun, sometimes the fact that the portions of the narratives were too little to actually enjoy them.

All in all, Hide and Seek is not a bad book. It is a good book. Might actually be a great book. I still don’t know if I read it properly. It feels weird. I can’t think of much about the book. It’s a 250 page book, so maybe all of you can give it a steady and brisk read and tell me whether I’m right!

Book Recommendation-The Gift by Cecelia Ahern

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Continuing with the tradition of bad jokes; I never thought I would be writing a book recommendation about a Cecelia Ahern book. The first and possibly only Cecelia Ahern book I started off before this was “Where Rainbows End”. I dropped the book after thirty pages because it just seemed so, stupid. “Where Rainbows End” seemed like a drag of a book which was full of characters who made weird choices all the time. The characters just seemed to be, I don’t know, too unbelievable.

“The Gift” though, is a book that warrants a read. It has a very beautiful concept. It stars Lou as the protagonist of the book. Lou, like most people alive today, has the odd illness of being at two places at once. When he is in the shower, he is thinking about presentations and meetings he had to give in the day. When he is listening to his five year old daughter, he is also listening to the news. When he is having breakfast, he is thinking about lunch. At lunch, dinner. At dinner, after drinks. At after drinks, about something else if he is lucky enough and hasn’t had much to drink. And just like that, he is always at two places at once.

It is obviously a condition we all relate to. We’re having breakfast and we’re still tired. Thinking about how bad our sleep last night was or the drag of a day we will have to suffer. Then at lunch, we think about how much we have braved and what little is left more to brave. And when we finally reach home, we throw ourselves on our beds, confident we are too tired to do anything else and thinking about what kind of a day it was or what we will do, when we have energy or on Saturday or Sunday. Always thinking about what we can do or where we want to be without actually enjoying where we are.

The other tie in issue that crops up every now and then is greed. The want for more. Want for a bigger office, more pay, a more material life, and more extra-marital affairs. Lou is the embodiment of all this. He has affairs with his secretaries, his nanny and so many more women in his office He wants the job that was recently vacated by his colleague after a nervous breakdown. He wants the bigger office, the higher pay. And he works all the time for it. He rarely spends time with his family. His wife, his five year old daughter or his ten month old son. He thinks what matters are the car he drives, how much he earns and provides; not how much time he spends with his family. He doesn’t admire his wife, he doesn’t play with his daughter. He doesn’t know how to handle his son. Hell, Lou has never changed his diaper. Lou has forgotten what matters in life.

The plot is very hackneyed. It has been done so many times, by so many people that when you start reading the book, you can’t help but feel that this book will just be another run of the mill drama. But the first word on, this book has something you know will salvage it, even if the plot falters towards the end (even though it does not. WOOOHOOO!!). Because Cecelia Ahern does the one thing most writers prefer not to do: She takes very tough and brutal decisions for her characters.

Cecelia Ahern’s writing style in this book is terrific. The ways he describes every little detail, be it about the neighbourhood on Christmas morning, or a Police Station, or a little living arrangement in a basement is terrific. Or the way she describes greed. That is one definition you will not be forgetting for a long time. She uses beautiful similes and metaphors to make the environments most people won’t be familiar with feel instantly relatable.

The way Ahern writes about Lou, is the way a human would react in all those situations. No matter how melodramatic or whiny or loser like, if you may it feels. The way he reacts when some weird things happen and the way he is reckless and greedy and eventually reforms himself. It all feels real. At one point, I actually thought she was trying to keep Lou as an asshole. But it was only after I thought long and hard and re-read those words did I understand how wrong I was. Change in humans cannot come all at once, unlike what many stories say. And Cecelia Ahern knows that. She knows that people cannot change in a single day or through a single action. Their old habits, their pre-conceived notions and biases cannot all go away in a single day or a single act. Many books will have you that a person can change in a single day with a single act, but those books have characters who have some other worldly seeming powers. Lou has no such things. Even after he starts doing what he loves, his habits still keep on following him, and he caves in, and that’s not necessarily bad.

In all honesty, I never thought I would ever be writing a book recommendation for a book by Cecelia Ahern. But “The Gift” caught me off guard. It’s a book that I would akin to the various drama movies that pass us by in the theatres, but much better. It’s not the best, but it’s a book that is a casual read, with its simple story and simple words. A great way to kill some time and read a good story while at it.