Book Review: October & November Reads

I read four books from completely different genres in October and November. It was interesting because I enjoyed my to-read list better than ever before. 

I have listed the books, along with their reviews, in no particular order.

1. Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King & Owen King

Rating: 3.7/5

Warning: This review is full of spoilers.

Before you even start reading Sleeping Beauties, you know that the story is going to speak indirectly for some of the things happening in the world.

I didn’t really have a problem with the length of the book, but I found myself forgetting the backgrounds of 40% of the characters. Which is surprising because the book includes a little too much detail for every person that exists in the story.

I enjoyed the book and it didn’t bother me that the authors chose not to explain what Evie was and where she came from. However, the conclusion is the part that I wasn’t satisfied with. I guess it isn’t a happy ending when you read about some of the people (Lila, Norcross, etc.). But I kept expecting a twist or something unusual to take place.

Sleeping Beauties begins a promising journey but gets distracted within its world in the middle. Its ending sort of reminds of the English lessons we were taught in high school: don’t include new information in the conclusion. I am referring to the part where Lila can’t stop thinking about shooting Jeanette. That part was sort of … random? I understand the motive behind shedding light on an important movement, but it felt forced with the way it was written. The book took on one social issue, it didn’t need another one randomly placed in the end.

2. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Rating: 3/5

(Unabridged Edition)

Charles Dickens is a talented author and I have always enjoyed reading his books. But I almost lost my patience while reading David Copperfield.

It took me around two weeks to complete the book and I feel no desire of picking up any other novel. I am tired and it isn’t something which should happen after reading a book. I heard such wonderful things about it and I was able to see why: Dickens is invested in this story. But his attachment to the novel is the reason why it didn’t reach my expectations.

The novel was too long — I love Dickens’ writing but it was just too long. Sure, there are many quotes that will stay with you forever. Altogether, the story is interesting. But even then, it is difficult not to wonder when the novel will end.

I am not sure how to further explain my confusion because this book is a fan-favorite. All I have to say is that finishing it will seem like a heavy burden. Meanwhile, I’ll go re-read some of his other books.

3. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Rating: 3.5/5

Crazy Rich Asians is a light-hearted and entertaining book. It isn’t a page-turner — but it’s not a story that will bore you either.

I can see why this book has received so much attention. It differs from the usual romantic storylines because it introduces you to a completely different culture. Here, your mean girls are none other than the family members themselves: Youngs, Shangs and Tsiens. 

But the main characters, Nick and Rachel, aren’t the ones that will convince you to be on their sides. Reading their chapters would have been a tedious task, but Kevin Kwan managed to avoid it by telling us about Singaporean cuisine and atmosphere through their eyes. 

There are a lot of relatives and you may find yourself trying to remember who belongs to which family. But even then, I praise Kwan for making sure each character’s backstory was added into the book. From the lavish parties and extravagant dresses to the whispering campaigns, this book is an Asian version of Gossip Girl.

Crazy Rich Asians is a book that you can pick up and read whenever you want. It’s the perfect novel for when you find yourself struggling to pass time without worrying about getting lost in the story.

4. Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose by Constance Hale

Rating: 4.5/5

I am terrified of writing a review for this book. I keep thinking about the words and phrases Constance Hale warned me about. 

I write something and read it out loud — It sounds generic, so I erase it quickly. This is exactly why I loved this book. It made me notice the little mistakes I make in my sentences every day. 

I think every writer should try to read this book. It will help you remember the differences between who, whom, like, as if, that, and which. You will also read some wonderful passages from different books. One of my favorite pieces was from the story “Girl” written by Jamaica Kincaid.

In Hale’s words, in order to start writing well, “you must stop reading”.

What did you think about the books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Book Review: The Shadow of the Wind

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Rating: 4.2/5

Warning: This review is full of spoilers.

The Shadow of the Wind is the kind of book that makes you want to read more mysteries. It’s filled with characters that develop in front of you, thus bringing you closer to the story.

We are introduced to ten-year-old Daniel Sempere who, upon learning about the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books, picks up a novel which quite literally changes his life. Our protagonist vows to protect the book from disappearing as well as finding out more about the author, Julian Carax.

I was instantly drawn into the novel due to the dark and captivating setting of post-war Barcelona. Readers will also feel a connection to the book because the story is built on one element we all love: books.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón is extremely talented; when I was reading the book, I could imagine Daniel’s world as my own. Every little thing that came into Daniel’s vision, also came into mine. Although, the book is a little wordy, I felt that it made the mystery more interesting.

The similarities between Julian Carax and Daniel Sempere were quite obvious, but I enjoyed the way Zafón showed us Julian from different perspectives. Some people remembered him as an eerie child while others saw him as a charming young man.

The entire idea was dramatic, plain and simple, but it didn’t weaken the storyline. After leaving a trail of crumbs in the entire novel, Zafón revealed the mystery in a rather long letter. By that point, I had already guessed who Lain Coubert was, but the letter is the reason why I wasn’t able to enjoy the major revelation.

I also noticed that whenever anyone was describing Julian’s story to Daniel, everything would be explained in details. Considering the fact that Daniel wasn’t present in those scenarios, he wouldn’t have known explicit details of their surroundings.

I was also not a big fan of the love story between Bea and Daniel. It felt a little rushed and tame compared to Julian and Penelope’s tragic ending. But I certainly wasn’t expecting the latter to end up as siblings. That was definitely a disturbing surprise.

Other than that, my last impression of the book is similar to my first impression: the story seems unique and remarkable.

The Shadow of the Wind cleverly shows us that we never know what people are trying to hide from plain sight, and that we may never know what mysteries remain unsolved in our lives.

What did you think about the book? Let me know in the comments section below!

Book Review: The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Rating: 4/5

Warning: This review is full of spoilers.

The Kite Runner has been a part of my bookshelf for over 8 years, however, this is the first time I read it.

Every single review challenges you to complete this book without shedding a tear. So, as soon as you are introduced to Amir and the kind-hearted Hassan, you expect the worst to happen.

I felt that the first half of the book was powerful yet heartbreaking. I found it difficult to accept certain situations, not because they were unbelievable, but because the story broke you down. Hassan’s character showed us how happily he accepted the good and bad things in life. Even though, it was becoming obvious that Hassan’s life would end in tragedy, I still found myself praying for his safety.

I also loved Khaled Hosseini’s writing – some of the sentences in The Kite Runner are so incredible that you will find yourself reading them again and again.

And that’s the thing about people who mean everything they say. They think everyone else does too.

Hassan and his father’s escape to America was also an interesting part of the story. I found myself disliking Amir earlier in the book, so Hosseini gave me reasons to understand him better.

However, the second half of the book is the reason why I took back one star from this review. An abundance of coincidences, followed by a slightly unbelievable ending left me confused. The ending tied all the loose ends and even brought back some characters. I am not sure what I expected from the rest of the story, but this was certainly not what I enjoyed reading.

However, I would recommend this book to people because it’s written beautifully. It introduces you to the Afghani culture and tells you the reason behind the importance of the words “For you, a thousand times over”. I will definitely be reading the rest of Hosseini’s books in the future.

What did you think of the book? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Book Review: 1984 vs Brave New World

1984 by George Orwell | Rating: 5/5

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley | Rating: 4.5/5

Warning: This review is full of spoilers.

1984 and Brave New World are two dystopian novels which have always been compared to each other. Questions such as which book represents the current world rise frequently.

I believe George Orwell’s book was a nightmare written about the present. On the contrary, Aldous Huxley’s book was an exaggerated version of society in the future. In fact, 1984’s Appendix could be considered as the future; a future where humanity was saved.

Writing Styles

Brave New World had some extremely interesting ideas, however, Huxley’s writing made it difficult to connect with the characters. But I found it interesting that Huxley, being a poet, wrote some sentences which read like a piece of poetry.

The light was frozen, dead, a ghost.

High spurts the fountain; fierce and foamy the wild jet.

Huxley’s words were chosen to depict a happier yet unsettling world. If the reader wasn’t aware of life outside of World State, they would never know what a nightmare they lived in.

In contrast, Orwell’s writing was effortless, sinister and powerful. He allowed his words to show a glimpse of hope only when necessary. In my opinion, it was definitely better than Huxley’s:

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.

Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.

But once again, if the reader never knew about life before Big Brother, they would accept the world without hesitation.

Forbidden Love

Both worlds forbade people from falling in love with one another. Almost all dystopian novels follow a similar outline.

Love, although an abstract emotion, has the ability to disrupt one’s life. So, it makes sense for totalitarian governments to be scared of love. To be scared of the longing of love as well as the promises made to break any rules for love.

Stability vs Hatred

Huxley’s World State focused on stability — if humans are content with their life, the economy will flourish. Rightfully so, problems arise when people realize they deserve a better life. When they realize they deserve happiness, along with a financially stable life.

But the concept only makes sense if you stay away from the how’s and why’s. How else would you justify creating a drug-addicted society, where children are born through unnatural means, and forced to love their lives by brainwashing them. This is why, our sympathies lie with the savage, John, when he is unable to talk sense into anyone living in the state. In the end, he has no option but to kill himself.

Orwell’s Oceania focused on hatred — if humans are able to take out their rage on a specific individual/group, they will be controlled. Here, nobody cares about the economy. The survival of Oceania, along with the other two states, relies on a broken world.

The outside world is known to be so terrible that people would rather love Big Brother. They would rather give up their privacy and happiness, then fight back. Orwell makes us root for Winston and then shows us his chilling transition from hatred to love. He is broken down slowly, and so are we.

Thus, both the worlds rely heavily on two extremes: happiness and hatred.

Controlling the Mindset

In 1984, the concepts of cognitive dissonance ‘doublethink’ and Newspeak were brilliant. No one really understands the importance of language until they are told that they have the freedom to think as long as they have a medium to express it in. To communicate even with oneself, one needs language. Which is why, when you get rid of the freedom provided by language, you control the way people think.

Another interesting concept was the norm of rewriting history while making sure no one bats an eye. Thus, Big Brother made sure his people bore similarities to robots rather than humans. Unlike Huxley’s world, where offenders were sent to an island as a punishment, Big Brother continued to torture his people until the day they died.

In Brave New World, artificial wombs and conditioning were used to force people to accept their lifestyle. Soma was used to help them overcome their struggles and depression. These people weren’t controlled by the Thought Police, but they still had no thoughts of their own.

I do believe the world nowadays bears more resemblance to the World State. People all over the world are distracted from the bigger issues in life by mere distractions such as reality shows and viral challenges.

The most interesting part of these books is that you can analyze them a hundred times and still come up with different explanations.

Our future generations will read these books because they will always remain relevant — this is the beauty of 1984 and Brave New World.

Before I conclude, let me share a few questions I wrote for our book club meeting:

  • Which novel do you prefer? Orwell’s or Huxley’s?
  • Which world would you rather live in, Oceania or World State?
  • How accurate were Orwell’s & Huxley’s version of the future when you look at the world now?
  • If everyone is happy with their lives in Brave New World, then what exactly is the problem?
  • Do you think 1984’s Appendix proves that somewhere in the future, the world was ‘saved’?
  • What do you think Winston’s dreams meant?
  • What did you think about the Reservation? Were their lives truly better than people living in the World State?
  • What are some of the similarities in the novels?
  • What influenced Orwell & Huxley to write these novels, and in what ways do they introduce these ideas into the story?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!

Book Review: A Place For Us

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Rating: 3.9/5

Warning: This review is full of spoilers.

While promoting her book in an interview, Fatima Farheen Mirza said that when she was growing up, she never found a book she could relate to. And as a Pakistani Muslim, I completely agree.

Having read a great number of books, I couldn’t find myself reflected in any one of them. From my lifestyle to my religious background, I would often find these elements added to a character separately, but never together.

So, A Place For Us is the perfect book for South Asian children. But fear not, it is also a book that invites readers from other cultures to explore a completely different story.

The book introduces you to three Indian-American Muslim siblings: Hadia, Huda and Amar. Even though the story begins at Hadia’s wedding, Mirza takes us back to the past to make sure we understand the characters. However, Huda is the only character who is left unexplored in the entire story. Other than that, the book deals very well with family drama, broken hearts and racism.

One of the problems I had with the book was the inconsistent timelines. It was extremely difficult to keep up with the events, especially in the first half of the book. I also think the book was a bit too long. Every scene was explained in detail by more than one character. Although it fit perfectly well in some places, it bored me a little in others.

But I praise Mirza because she knows her characters; she shows us their weaknesses and their strengths while explaining the faith that brings them together. When Amar feels distant from his religion, you sympathize with him. He constantly remembers that his heart is ink-dark and that there is no hope left for him.

He had left the path. His parents had given him a map, and directions, and he had abandoned it all. Now his heart was so ink-dark he could be lost and not know it, and not care, and never know how to find his way back.

I often see that when someone goes through a turmoil or questions their identity, they are told to seek help from prayer. While it works for some people, others end up hating themselves because they think they are bad human beings. Why else are they not able to find peace in their religion.

Take depression as an example: people are told to pray and read the Holy Book to feel better. They are told that this is the only way out. However, Islam, like other religions, tells you to help other human beings instead of judging them. It tells you to listen and to make sure that others can rely on you.

Hence, Amar, who was once a part of the family, becomes a stranger.

On the other side of the story, you have the inflexible and tough father, Rafiq. But just when you decide that you dislike Rafiq, you read the book from his perspective. You find out that all this time he had been trying his best to become a good father.

Taking into consideration their feelings, who are we supposed to blame? Both the father and the son are stuck in an unusual situation: one only softens up when the other is completely shut off. The story, in turn, reflects the nature of people in real life — we can’t simply categorize someone as a bad person and the other as a good person.

The ending could have been more enjoyable if the book was a bit shorter and had fewer breaks between the timelines.

But let me congratulate Mirza — there are many children out there who will finally be able to read a story where they can identify with the family dynamics.

What did you think about the book? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Book Review: The Girl With All The Gifts

The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey

Rating: 4/5

Warning: This review is full of spoilers.

Even though I enjoy watching zombie movies and TV shows, I had never read a zombie book before The Girl With All The Gifts.

Fortunately, this book proved to be quite entertaining.

Carey begins the story by showing us a mysteriously-infected world from Melanie’s (a hungry child) perspective.

Throughout the book, Melanie struggles to suppress the urge of feeding on humans. Her love for her teacher, Miss Justineau, helps her in overcoming these desires repeatedly.

Majority of the storyline is similar to other zombie apocalypse stories. It includes a hunt, a desire to find a cure, and a journey that shows us what remains of the outside world.

However, it is the twist at the end which makes the story worth reading.

It’s always interesting to see how well a book handles end-of-the-world situations. As humans, we tend to believe that only we can save the world.

The Girl With All The Gifts uses that concept cleverly — we are convinced that, surely, there must be a cure to this world filled with hungries.

But sadly, there isn’t. For once, we must put down our weapons and accept defeat. We must let nature carry on with its work.

You can’t save people from the world. There’s nowhere else to take them.

In a way, the ending leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Should we be happy that Miss Justineau is going to help these children? Or should we mourn for her life, because apart from teaching the hungry children, she is eventually going to die?

And what about civilization? What about all these years spent in creating a world, only to watch it collapse right in front of your eyes?

Sadly, we are left to answer these questions on our own.

What did you think about the book? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

My First Shutterstock Picture Ended Up On Top Of a Forbes Article!

I love taking pictures.

I love capturing moments in a photograph so that I can look at them in the future.

When my family bought a DSLR camera, I went through the awkward phase of zooming in on plants and thinking that the pictures were breathtaking.

However, later I turned my focus towards humans, and covered bridal showers, engagements and a family wedding. I remember dressing up and trying to take pictures of the bride and groom from different angles.

That day I thought to myself: I could become a professional photographer.

Unfortunately, engineering took over my life. It was only a year after graduation that I came across Shutterstock. I knew you could submit pictures on the website, however, I personally thought I would never get approved.

But I had told myself that I would try everything that I liked. So, I created an account as a contributor and spent the next six months forgetting that I did.

I wasted a great deal of time thinking about the various things I could add to my portfolio. However, one look at the top-rated Shutterstock pictures made me re-consider all my options.

Taking pictures of flowers, landscapes and rocks meant nothing. The website had plenty of such beautiful pictures. I knew I had to find a category that was still in its infancy.

Now, I was already writing articles and news pieces on blockchain and cryptocurrency. I always found it difficult to find exact images for these topics. After all, the concept exists on the internet and has no physical form.

Suddenly, a light bulb went off in my head.


I had finally found my main subject.

Then, I ordered three cryptocurrency collectibles: two Bitcoins and one Ether. Unfortunately, the process took more than two months, and I lost my motivation during that time.

I was as tired of myself as you are after reading my continuous failure to follow my plan.

After a horrible case of writer’s block, I sat down and had a talk with myself.

It was now or never.

The pep talk surprisingly worked and I wrote a list of areas I needed to visit in order to take pictures. I went to my local cafe and the beach at night. I also created a mini photo studio for the rest of the pictures.

After a week of working hard on my ideas, I sat down and uploaded the best pictures on Shutterstock.

The road to acceptance was going to be difficult, they said.

And it was.

I got rejected the first time because I accidentally put the pictures in the wrong category. All ten of my pictures were rejected within two days!

Thankfully, my second attempt bore fruit and I could finally sit back and earn.

Wrong, again.

Two months later, I realized that absolutely no one was going to buy my pictures.

However, it would have been nice to see that someone thought my pictures deserved a home on their website.

After a long month of looking at $0, I stopped checking my contributor account. I put my collectibles and my mini studio in a cupboard.

Until now!

On July 17, I opened my account because Shutterstock had sent an automatic email regarding the tax form. And there I saw that the number had changed from $0 to $1.15!

The figure was infinitely small but at least someone had bought my picture!

I could hear the exclamation marks in my head!

I, then, rolled up my sleeves and went online to find out the article which had used the picture.

I was slightly disappointed by the money, but then I saw Forbes and I saw an article with the picture on top of it.

I couldn’t believe it.

My first ever picture was uploaded on Forbes! I kept staring at it for a while and bookmarked it as my first successful attempt at Shutterstock-ing.

So, what now?

This is the question I keep asking myself. I didn’t find it difficult to take pictures. But I also don’t think I’d be one of those Shutterstock photographers who earn $500 every week.

The reason why I took up the challenge was to see what would happen if I gave photography my best shot.

In the time that I wrote this article, another one of my picture was sold. So, my answer to my own question would be to push myself a bit harder.

How was your experience with Shutterstock? Where did your first picture end up? Let me know in the comments section below.

Book Review: Dark Matter

“All your life you’re told you’re unique. An individual. That no one on the planet is just like you. It’s humanity’s anthem.”

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Rating: 4/5

Warning: This review is full of spoilers.

You know how you read a book which messes with your mind, and you think you have understood it completely, but then it surprises you again? Yeah, that’s what reading Dark Matter is like.

We are introduced to the simple, yet balanced life of Jason. Within the first few chapters, everything is taken away from him, and he is sent to another reality by his abductor. This world belongs to the other Jason, and it feels cold and unfamiliar even to the reader.

After a series of unfortunate events, Jason runs from this world along with a new companion, and ends up visiting a lot of other realities. From the Supervolcano/Nuclear War world to a reality where they never made it out of captivity, or from a frozen world to a plague-ridden city — they visit so many versions of Chicago that you feel as helpless as Jason does.

He finally hits the lowest part of his life when he ends up begging for money. But then he comes home to the real Chicago. His Chicago. Now, this is where things get even more interesting because of a shocking twist.

There are many versions of Jason hiding around, waiting to kill each other just to get back to their original life. Imagine being scared of yourself. Imagine what you would do in times of extreme desperation. Imagine thinking of ways to be one step ahead of yourself. It seems impossible but Jason manages to find a way out.

Once he is able to rescue his family, we finally get a sort of happy ending for him. The topic was so complicated and demanding, that there was no way we could get a clean and ‘proper’ ending. But that’s one of the best parts of Science Fiction — the possibilities are endless.

The only problem I had with the book was how.







Other than that, I enjoyed reading every bit of it. Dark Matter is one of those books that will leave you thinking about the way you live your life and how much you take it for granted. Kudos to Blake Crouch for using various quantum theories to create such a compelling story.

What did you think of the book? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Book Review: How To Stop Time

“It was like being stuck in the same song, with a chorus you had once liked but now made you want to rip your ears off.”

How To Stop Time by Matt Haig

Rating: 3.5/5

I bought this book as soon as I heard Benedict Cumberbatch was going to play Tom Hazard in the movie. I was intrigued after reading its synopsis — after all, this is a topic not every author can handle well.

The most fascinating thing about books is that, anytime you think a topic has been used far too many times, someone comes up with a different way to present the idea. Which is why I truly enjoyed Matt Haig’s story about a man who ages really, really slowly.

The book, divided into five parts, presents Tom’s story in tiny snippets of his entire life. We get to see him as a child and we are able to understand his unusual struggles. But Tom is neither a bad person nor a good one — he is just someone who is trying to live his abnormally prolonged life. And so for me, his story was much more interesting than his character. When you read the book, you may even find Tom’s encounters with a lot of famous people a bit unrealistic.

But since it’s fiction, and the scenes are written really well, I enjoyed reading those parts. One beautiful addition to this book was the poem written by Camille. It’s not a spoiler but just a piece of art that certainly deserves appreciation.

The Way
That when you
On their side
Look like
A long way
Made out

The reason why I took back 1.5 star from the review was because of the ending. It all happened too fast and seemed like a far-stretched coincidence. Another thing I expected from the book was a better explanation of the rare condition anageria. In a way, the story had more potential if the author had not been in a hurry to wrap things up.

How To Stop Time is a book that takes you through different timelines and describes time exactly as it is — uncontrollable. Matt Haig is successful in combining the real and the fictional world in order to present a story worth reading.

What did you think of the book? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!