Book Recommendation-The Shakespeare Curse by J.L.Carell

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The Shakespeare Curse is a great book, in every sense of the word. Thriller and story. It is a complete and wholesome book, especially thriller. It has meaty twists and secrets, misdirects, fleshed out and interesting characters and a well-conceived lore to fill the secrets in with.
Like the name suggests, the story revolves around Shakespeare and his plays, especially Macbeth. Apparently, Macbeth has a long and complicated history and mythos surrounding Macbeth, which J.L Carrell has articulated beautifully in her author’s note and in her novelisation of it as well.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the times when Shakespeare wrote. One says Shakespeare was a spy; another suggests Christopher Marlowe actually used Shakespeare as a pen name. None of these theories or any other well-known theories are used in the novel. Instead, the novel presents one of its own.
The book delves into the world of wizarding and witchery. Since Shakespeare’s works often have witches or the dark arts in some manner, the book takes the liberty of assuming he knew something intimate about it.
The importance of knowing about the controversies and what the novel puts forward is important, because it enumerated how little we know about some eras and how much could actually be.
The Shakespeare Curse has a tense narrative, even and fast paced and keeps you in the dark. Just about what every thriller must do, but doesn’t, so it’s important to articulate.
Like I said, The Shakespeare Curse is a great book, and it gets two things on point.
One, the immense lore set by J.L. Carrell. It is big enough to span 490 pages without it feeling stale. J.L. Carrell has put great insider knowledge regarding Shakespeare. Characters often quote lines from his play to move the conversation forward. Then, J.L. Carrell has filled the book with everything: Dark magic, Ancient Rites, Witchcraft and Wizardry, Secrets, Family Ancestry, A killer aiming to use these to gain power. Everything in the lore is so well though our and insanely immersive.
Second, the writing style. I love how J.L. Carrell has written every character, described every location and action, and detailed every aspect of the lore with accurate and precise history. J.L. Carrell is spot on with her writing.
I finished the novel at 1 PM. While taking out butter for lunch an hour later absentmindedly, I started remembering events of the book rather vividly, as though I had seen them all on a TV.
The Shakespeare Curse is a very fine thriller and a book. It is sharp, very well written, and littered with Shakespeare. The amount of effort J.L. Carrell has put into the book is amazing. This book is not a very grand affair, like a high budget action movie. It is a medium budgeted, well directed, fine story driven action movie.

Book Recommendation- I Will marry George Clooney (By December) by Tracy Bloom

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Marrying George Clooney. That’s the dream. And each time he ties the knot, many women’s hopes die down. Every time he separates, he rekindles those hopes. Then he shatters them again by remarrying.
This may not make much sense to the unenlightened or ignorant. To all such people, George Clooney has been voted as PEOPLE’s Sexiest Man Alive in 1997 and 2006, with his now amazing grey hair, suave charm and those big beautiful eyes. He has to be the most popular crush, celebrity and otherwise, across gender and same gender. There is no way he can’t possibly be. Just no way. At best, only Adam Levine can tie with him.
Now I believe everyone can appreciate the title of the book. It is of utmost importance to do so, otherwise it would feel incredibly silly.
At the center of this story is Michelle. She is thirty six, a single mother of fifteen year old Josie, who is about to turn 16 on Christmas Eve. Michelle conceived Josie when she was 21, after she had sex with the father; whom Josie doesn’t reveal to anybody.
At 21, Michelle was young, energetic and ambitious, all set to be a chef. She had big dreams for herself. She became pregnant, and with another incident in the family, she chose to give up on her dreams and raise the baby. She gave up on life. And fast forward, and she’s 36, working with in a chicken factory, with a fifteen year old daughter who doesn’t respect her one bit, neither does her daughter’s boyfriend; a mother who doesn’t value her and wishes she was more like her elder sister; and a father, the only bright light of support she has in her life.
Michelle’s life has become a rut and she is nothing like when she was 21. She constantly feels like a failure, gets stepped on by her daughter, has problems dealing with her mother and her life is bad. One day though, given a certain push, she decides she has to change.
The book is fresh, original and funny. It focuses on Michelle’s life, past and present and her ever present love for George Clooney; to whom she has written two letters in the novel.
It isn’t the clichéd hit the gym, get thin, get confident plot. It breaks many clichés in the genre. It is more of a face your troubles sort of transformation; written very differently from whatever I have ever read.
And it doesn’t get fake with the transformation of Michelle. She doesn’t go rom not respected mother to very well respected mother in an instant. She doesn’t stand up to her own mother with an outburst. She doesn’t go from hero to zero in an instant. It’s a book long process.
As a personal example, at my house, I’m not allowed to eat no-veg food on festivals, such as Diwali, Lori etc. My mother always enforces that. So, if by any I have a fight with my mother for not getting to eat non-veg or eggs for breakfast and I go out, even though I have the liberty to, I don’t eat non veg. My mom would never know I had non-veg, but I still don’t. And I know I won’t just one day start eating non-veg like this. It’s little things like these which this book get right.
Like I said, the book has healthy doses of humor here and there, so the book doesn’t become overwhelming with knowledge or get downright boring. Plus, it has a lot of wisdom. How, when you start following a dream, you need to take up challenges to achieve it. Those challenges change you, little by little, if you’re willing to accept them.
It’s been a month now since I first devoured this book. Honestly, I’m thinking of picking it up after my next two conquests, “The Men who stare at Goats” and “Kafka on the Shore”. This book I easily one of the funniest and lightest books I’ve read.


 

Book Recommendation-Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh

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The partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 was one of the bloodiest, brutal and harrowing events to have taken place. Hindus and Sikhs fled from their homes which are now in Pakistan; Muslims fled from their homes which are now in India.
India was to be a Hindu and Sikh state and Pakistan to be the Islamic state.
People were killed in large numbers. Trains started out filled with Islamic people in India and reached corpses in Pakistan. Trains which started in Pakistan to come to India with Hindus and Sikhs faced the same fate. Men were killed. Indian or Sikh men in Muslim areas were stripped naked and their penises were cut off. In Hindu and Sikh areas, men were stripped and every circumcised penis was killed.
Women were taken a hold of and abused and raped. Hindu and Sikh women were paraded around naked in Muslim areas before being raped by a number of men in front of a throng of onlookers. The same fate fell on Muslim women in Hindi and Sikh areas.
People killed their own children before killing themselves too. They would spare their children and themselves the horror of the Partition, where Hindu, Muslims and Sikh forgot humanity.
Nobody knows which side started the mass atrocities. But neither side stopped. Both were led by people aiming to do worse to the other side than what had been done. Fanatics with the twisted thinking to rationalise killing.
Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan revolves around a little village on the India-Pakistan border, Mano Majra. Mano Majra is in the summer of 1947, when the partition’s atrocities were underway.
Train to Pakistan is written very well. It is an old book, written in 1956(WOW!). It has various elements which were present in older books.
Train to Pakistan’s imagery is beautiful. Khushwant Singh’s Mano Majra is one of the fullest, most complete and fleshed out setting in any book I have ever read. The Fault in Our Stars, All the Bright Places, and The Shadow of the Wind have beautiful stories, but they don’t feature set locations where the story takes place, such as a city or a town.
Everything about Mano Majra is explained.
How people wake up in the morning, their morning rituals, the work they do, how and when they eat food, the interactions they have with each other and when they sleep. The structure of the village, what is at the centre, the lanes leading up to it. The world surrounding the village. The railway station, the rest house near Mano Majra, the fields near the village and the tonga used to transport people to the nearby town of Chundunnugger, where there is the police station.
The host of characters in and around Mano Majra, coming in all throughout the story are as full as Mano Majra. They are interesting, riveting and exquisitely written. You hate some, and love some. They’re all real. And depending on mind sets, everyone will love and hate different characters. That’s the power of this book’s writing.
The characters are riveting in portrayal but polarising in reception.
I curse my writing skills here. Because at times when I want to be more expressive, my skills are insufficient in completely describing my feelings.
Going on a tangent, the thing about life is that at times, things happen to people which are not fair. Maybe because they don’t have enough exposure, or maybe because there were people who were more cunning and enterprising. Such situations have happened to all of us; more often than we would like to admit. And we face these more often than the good ones.
The people in Train to Pakistan often find themselves in such situations, through no fault of their own. Due to most of our upbringing revolving around action movies and heroic caricatures of characters, we feel something heroic could have been done. But the truth is, in such situations, we all often lack the awareness, courage and spontaneity to do so.
And the ending!! I loved the ending! Another facet of life, is that in desperate times, we take desperate measures. Those desperate measures reveal who we are. The ending was perfect, so beautiful. It summed up everything, perfectly.
Like I said, my skills aren’t at the point where I can frame and tell you how much I loved the ending.
Train to Pakistan is a terrific novel. I loved it. It is a story about the Partition, people, and morality of people. It’s a book which everyone will find to be enlightening and a very fluid read.


Train To Pakistan has been the best book I’ve read in 2017 so far, which comprises of four books right now(This, A Painted House by John Grisham, I Will Marry George Clooney(by December)  by Tracy Bloom, The Shakespeare Curse by J.L Carrell), this is by far the best. And this book will continue to be one of the best of 2017 as well, no matter how many more books I read this year.
An amazing book!
Happy Reading!

The Fault in our Stars-The Best book I’ve ever read

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Ever since I’ve delved into stories, in the form of video games, movies, books and songs, I’ve had a great disposition towards stories which are real, deep and heartfelt. There is a lot of variation in the presentation of stories in all the mediums; but the emptions, or what the story makes you feel when presented to you remains constant. If a story is well executed, it will make you feel things. Make you cry, or cracking up with laughter, or put you in a deep state of thought. It could be a movie, a video game, a song or a book.
Like I said, I have a soft spot for stories which are real, deep and heartfelt. These are often stories which revolve around characters. Show them growing, having beautiful interactions. Movies about human will and love, and which tear you up or leave you with a single tear at its sheer beauty. I haven’t been able to put it exactly. But stories which leave a deep impact on you, especially emotionally.
The Last of Us in video gaming. That game is a masterpiece. I have played over 200 games by now, from 2005, on the Gameboy, Gamecube, PSP, PC and PS3. Never have I ever played a game remotely like The Last of Us. Its story, its direction, its execution. I remember applauding and having a single tear at the corner of my eye when I ended this game. Naughty Dog (the developers of The Last of Us) managed to make a game and redefine what a game could make you feel. Never before had a game left such a deep and lasting impact on me.
Movies like Good Will Hunting, Wall-E, Filmistaan, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Up in the Air, Dil Dhadakne Do, Piku, This is Where I Leave You have drawn and mesmerised me. They are beautiful films with stories about the human condition; with amazing character development and inspiring or amazingly emotional dimensions.
These movies are amazing. However my disposition for story has often lead me to alienate various other fantastic movies. Which may have amazing direction or cinematography but not so great in story, such as Gladiator, Zootopia to name a few.
In terms of books, there are only two. Two books, which have stories so powerful, so impacting, you felt for their characters and were as much a part of their problems as they were. I’ve mentioned this in a number of articles. One if A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. The second one is The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green.
I’ve mentioned in various articles before how much I love this book and the bar at which I keep it. It’s a beautiful book.
At its basest, The Fault in Our Stars is a tale about life, not cancer. It uses the background of people with cancer to shed light about life. It talks of such vivid and real concepts and describes them perfectly. “Funerals are for the living”, “Depression is not a side effect of dying. It’s a side effect of cancer”, “Pain demand to be felt”, “I’m on a rollercoaster that only goes UP”.
I cannot describe how much a lot of these quotes and concepts have impacted me. I remember, me reading to my friend (now my girlfriend) and she reading me back our favourite verses from The Fault in Our Stars. It was a beautiful talk.
Then there are the characters. The book has two types of characters: those with cancer and those without. Most of the characters without cancer are in some way related to the characters with cancer. The characters are real, their sufferings as real and painful and heartfelt as those with cancer. All the characters, with and without cancer are all reeling from the side effects of life. John Green beautifully explains that with every sentence.
Hazel’s mother was one of my favourite characters in the story. Her character was powerful. A parent whose child has cancer and she knows her child will most probably kick it from cancer. She embraces it and chooses one of the most beautiful, poignant way of reacting to it. Even though that particular dialogue is never given that much attention whenever we talk about this books greatest scenes, it is exceptionally moving and powerful.
The Fault in Our Stars also does something which happens rarely in the world. It talks about people with a disease like normal people. Not people who are less than anyone because of a disease or deserve our pity.
At the same time, it’s not a preach about cancer. It’s simply a story about people, with cancer.
The emotions of this book are very well written and powerful to say the least. It was a rollercoaster of emotions. I know a lot of friends who’ve cried at this book, who’ve sat thinking about their own feeling, while or after reading it.
I feel the same intensity of emotions on each of my five reads of this book.
While there are a lot of heavy memories for this book, there are also a lot of lighter ones associated with it. While also being one of the most emotionally intense stories, it is also one of the funniest and hilarious ever. A lot of the humor comes from Gus, with his combination of wit, spontaneity and word play. This doesn’t mean other characters don’t have their moments. They all get their moments to shine comically.
I laughed and I chuckled and I giggled a lot of the time reading The Fault in Our Stars. The Fault in Our Stars even doesn’t cheapen humor or depreciate it as a place holder or make it feel inappropriate or sheepish, which most modern stories tend towards. It has the best use of humor I have ever seen in a book. It made me laugh even at the most intense of moments without undermining the emotions or the laughter. The humor worked very organically.
With its combination of emotion, humor, reality, life and characters, The Fault in Our Stars stands as one of the most complete novels of this decade. It has a delicate sensitivity towards cancer; never mocking, caricaturing or exaggerating it.
It is a book everyone must read once in their life.
Now, most people will disagree with my next few words. Because we often reserve this word for movies, or games or novels or songs which are revolutionary, defining, usually epic in nature. Words we don’t often associate with Young Adult Fiction. We’ve used this word for The Godfather, The Empire Strikes Back, The Last of Us, Uncharted 2, and Half Life 2. The Fault in Our Stars is a masterpiece.

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I’ve had this post pent up in me since the day I revived this blog in 2016. This is the Book Recommendation I have wanted to write since the beginning, and I’ve finally found the impetus to do so after watching the terrible movie adaptation( Lol!).

But this book is amazing. Absolutely amazing. I hope all my feelings regarding this book have been properly conveyed to everyone reading this article. This one, and this book, are close to the heart.

Happy Reading!

Book Recommendation-Name the Baby by Mark Cirino

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Name the Baby is a unique book. I’ve never read a book like Name the Baby. It is deep, insightful, fast and enlightening. The narrative is extremely rough, raw. It isn’t like the usual refined narratives, where the narrator is a refined person and speaks eloquently. The narrator here, also the lead character talks like a normal person. He uses cuz for because, ‘rents for parents etc. He’s an everyday boy wandering in life and the narrative reflects that. This makes him easy to relate to.
In every first person narrative, the problem is how do you fill the blank spaces? How does the character act or talk when he is alone, maybe the few minutes before sleep hits, or travelling from one place to another, or while watching a band perform. In a third person narrative, I feel there is an easier pass by talking about things no normal character would ever notice, like the flowing stream upon which there are orangish red leaves or a fight going on in the twenty fifth storey of an apartment high rise. No lead character would probably notice such things while walking down a street, so the blank spaces have to be filled by what the character sees or what he feels about things. And it is not necessary for either of these things to be interesting enough for the audience to read. So, how do you go about it?
Simple, if reading were as easy as writing. You let the lead character talk about things which further the unique narrative style and the depth of the character. You give layers and layers, while at the same time, keeping the conversations light. One mistake I’ve seen quite a few first person narrative stories do is they make every second of the character’s life intense. Every line spoken and read is powerful. Everything is important. Frankly speaking, I can’t even remember half the conversations the lead character made in Name the Baby. I distinctly remember the serious moments and the emotions surrounding them, but a lot of the less heavy moments will only come back on a re-read.
This is a quality very essential to a first person narrative. Because it’s not as though the lead character says stupid things in between the heavier things; he says sensible things there as well, but doesn’t stress on them too much. So you remember the essence, but maybe not the words and the scene. And I believe that’s important. A too intense read would not only take much longer to absorb the words, there is a greater chance of the reader becoming irritated by all the intensity.
Name the Baby keeps it light, and most of all, keeps it moving. It doesn’t sulk on one part and keeps on presenting to you knew environments and new aspects of the lead character and his reactions to it.
With the mix of the pace and the narrative, the book is fun to read. You go through it, enchanted by the character and the odd position he sees himself in and the way he reacts. But this enchantment only lasted till about 80% of the book.
Sad part is, this book could have been so much better, but it messed up; not because of a lapse in narrative, but because of the summary written at the back of the book. So many books are guilty of what this book has done. The back summary made the story up into something it was not and hence could not deliver on. It left the story on a suspenseful end, which made you think the last part 20% of the story would be entirely different, but of a particular theme.
The book set up amazing premises and characters in the first 80%. But the things which were promised by the summary were just not there. They weren’t a part of the book. You waited for it to happen, but it never did. That disenchanted me from the last portion of the book and made it a little disappointing.
Though still, Name the Baby by Mark Cirino is a book which a lot of people will love; because almost everyone will fall in love with the lead character and his predicament and what all he has to say. It’s an old book, First Edition in 1997. If you were to find this book somewhere, and feel the price is justified, you should absolutely give it a go.


In recent times, I’ve felt too disappointed by a lot of books for somehow being too cliched or derivative or having no impact once you finish it. But Name the Baby does leave a mark, and I guess that’s why I wrote this Book Recommendation instead of the other books I finished recently!
Happy Reading!!

Book Recommendation- The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

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I came across The Screaming Staircase at the book fair, near a staircase which was screaming. Heheheheheh.Okay on to the recommendation now.
The Screaming Staircase has been one of the most enjoyable reads of this year. Beating out the likes of Alice Sebold, Eva Ibbotson, Charles Duhigg, Harlan Coben and many more. It’s not that The Screaming Staircase has a prose as powerful as A Thousand Splendid Suns or Sleeping on Jupiter, or philosophy as deep as Paulo Coelho, or insanely amazing and powerful dialogues. It’s, just a book I took up, and then proceeded to ignore the world for hours till I finished it. I had so much fun reading this book. I literally did not put this down. I went past my own bed time just to read another chapter. A book may not be very good objectively, in terms of its plot or characters or whatever, but if a book pushes you to such things, it’s a good book for you.
Just because I’ve said The Screaming Staircase doesn’t have the best prose or plot or dialogues that powerful, doesn’t mean they are no good.
The first winning point is the concept of The Screaming Staircase. In the world of The Screaming Staircase, in England, a new problem has emerged. There are ghosts that are there in the world. All the little creaking you heard at night, all the weird sightings at night. You guessed it. Ghosts. Ghosts have emerged in this part of the world and it’s up to specialised teams, made of children (because they can sense ghosts very well. And not five year old. But more of ten and eleven and early teenagers if I remember correctly.).
At the top of the book, you will see Lockwood and Co. written very magnificently. Lockwood and Co. is one of the various ghost hunting agencies in the world. It has the narrator Lucy, George, another member and the leader, Anthony Lockwood.
Another winning point about this book is the chemistry of these three together. George is the well, nerd of the group. He likes to study all cases (as in, cases of catching the ghost), read deep into the history of the case and the place (the location of the ghost haunting) and be prepared for anything. Lucy is the newbie. She doesn’t read all that much and is more hands on. Anthony Lockwood, better known as just Lockwood, is the charismatic leader of the group. He is smart, hands on, knows how to play people and get his way and always steps up to a challenge.
The three of them mesh together and form a team you root for the whole time. All three characters feel like real life persons as well, with their back stories fleshed out and their reactions being what we would most probably do in such a scenario.
Another winning point of the book is the world. Jonathan Stroud builds up a world from scratch. He details every little aspect. The types of ghosts. How the problem started. The counter measures taken by the government. The agencies and their history. Such as Lockwood and Co. and the various other agencies in existence for a long time. The weapons used against the ghosts. The tactics used at the place of the haunting. The origin of the haunting. Every little thing you could think of is there. Jonathan Stroud left no detail when describing the world.
There is however one gripe I had with the book. Like we all know, every thriller or book of this sort (I can’t put a finger on the genre), there is a mystery and then a huge climax. Sadly, the climax and the huge mystery deals with humans, rather than ghosts. There was a big battle, yes, but the main mystery was with humans. It’s tough to articulate it. But if your premise is a ghost world, then your huge issue should be related to ghosts, not an accident and a cover up by humans. That was a gripe for me.
Now, onto more winning points. Another winning point is the ease with which it is read. Like I said above, it is a book I could not put down. There aren’t any complicated plot twists or any tough words. It is a breeze to read through and a joy. It’s a simple book.
The Screaming Staircase is a book I would tell everyone to read. It’s just a simple, fun book that you’ll love from the moment go.


It’s beeeeeeeennnn a long time since my previous Book Recommendation. I’ve read a couple of books in the past week, but I can’t think of why I would like to recommend those books. I’ve read Chocolat by Joanne Harris and The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, and I’m going to be doing thorough re-reads again in order to capture their essence which I believe I missed on my first read of both the books!

But The Screaming Staircase is one hell of an amazing book. I loved it thoroughly, and while it is termed as a kids book by many people, I’d rather read this book than many other adult writers. Kids books have such hearts and souls and fun. They draw you towards them!

To everyone, do try and read this book if you get a chance. It will be money well spent! TIll my next post, Happy Reading!

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.