Review: After You by Jojo Moyes

Review: After You by Jojo Moyes

After You
After You by Jojo Moyes

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

All the while I was reading this book I kept thinking “I shouldn’t be doing this.”
I just could not stop feeling like this was a mistake. Not only because I don’t read romance/ chick-lit books but also because even by those standards this book fell flat on its face.

This is another one of those I will list among sequels I really wish I had not read because they have tainted the first book they came from. I tried to like it I really did, mostly because the heart crushing novel that was Me Before You left me yearning for some kind of closure but after reading the sequel all I understood was that I wanted to have Will Traynor somehow magically resurrected.

It took the entirety of the book for the main character to get somewhere that supposedly was exactly where we left her at the end of the first book too. The protagonist was at times so frustrating that it actually dampered the experience of the first book and made me wish it hadn’t happened at all although there were little attempts to make you understand why:
It was like being in a little cocoon, one that, admittedly, had a whacking great elephant squatting in its corner.

There was a serious lack of character development on all fronts and the sub plots and side stories were uninteresting and non existent.
There were two main subjects in the book, Louisa’s love life and her relationship with the newly introduced character, Lily.
What I felt was that the writer tried to recreate the success of the first novel by introducing an equally difficult character in the next. Although I am not sure falling back on the tiring cliche of introducing a long lost child, especially one whom the deceased parent had absolutely no idea even existed and therefore had not one iota of feelings for, did anything to help. Where Will Traynor was likable or even lovable, Lily was just annoying and spoiled despite the many attempts at highlighting the ‘similarities’ between her and her father. And planting a garden in no way at all made up for the fact that she seemed more suited to be in juvenile detention.
As for the romance between Louisa and Sam, it seemed forced, as it was, from both the writer’s and the character’s point of view. If such an amazing love story like that which happened in the first novel was going to be followed by another, it should have been somewhat if not equally, heart warming. The only things holding these characters together were near fatal accidents followed by short emotional periods and stretches of contemplation and uncertainty. All the makings of a fine long lasting relationship. The only part of the book that was interesting which increased the rating from one star to two, was the beginning that was slightly haunted by Will Traynor who was clearly the only interesting character of this entire saga holding the story even in his death.
In short it was all just boring and I constantly felt the need to reach for any other book instead.

Favorite Lines:
1. The city, compelling as it was, felt like a glamorous couture dress I had bought in haste but didn’t quite fit me after all. (pg. 25)
2. I could hear his memories thudding down on him along with the simple fact of my name and felt oddly guilty. (pg. 108)
3. The rain ceased off, slowing and ceasing almost apologetically, as if the weather were admitting it hadn’t really known what had got into it. (pg.213)

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Review: How the Marquis Got His Coat Back by Neil Gaiman

Review: How the Marquis Got His Coat Back by Neil Gaiman

How the Marquis Got His Coat Back
How the Marquis Got His Coat Back by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Opening Sentence: It was beautiful.

How the Marquis Got His Coat Back. Already knowing what the story is about and how it ends, Neil Gaiman manages to prove that it is all about the journey indeed.

The Marquis de Carabas has just recovered from an unfortunate case of death, something told right off the bat because it has nothing to do with the tale at hand, and is on a quest to get back his coat.
Not knowing how to pronounce Marquis de Carabas is a mere technicality because between you me and the lamp post, neither does he
He was never sure, not then and not later, how you pronounced Marquis de Carabas. Some days he said it one way, some days the other.
But the magnificence of the coat can be downplayed not in the least
It had thirty pockets, seven of which were obvious, nineteen of which were hidden, and four of which were more or less impossible to find – even, on occasion, for the Marquis himself.
In addition to it’s unusual pockets, it had magnificent sleeves, an imposing collar, and a slit up the back. It was made of some kind of leather, it was the color of a wet street at midnight, and, more important than any of these things, it had style.

I love how vividly I could picture a coat the color of a wet street at midnight for the rest of the story.

Not having read Neverwhere yet, I was a first timer in London Below and newly introduced to the elegant, well spoken and calculatingly clever Marquis, as well as the Sewer People, the Mushroom People and Shepherd’s Bush, which I felt was a clever commentary on modern lifestyle.
As with every other Neil Gaiman book I read, I believe everything he’s telling me, from an Elephant man to sheep-dog men, I am on board. One of the things I enjoy most about his writing is how easily he awakens the imagination. This story like all his others did not disappoint. I think I will remember it every time I happen to see a wet street at midnight.

Favorite Lines:
1. There were just as definite downsides to having been dead, or at least, to having been recently dead, and missing his coat was the worst of them. (pg.4)
2. The paths of London Below are not the paths of London Above: they rely to no little extent on things like belief and opinion and tradition as much as they rely upon the realities of maps. (p.16)
3. Two heads were only better than one if the other head kept its mouth shut and did not start telling him things he already knew. (p.18)
4. ‘You even scream sarcastically,’ said the Elephant. (p.23)
5. The Marquis de Carabas always had a plan, and he always had a fallback plan; and beneath these plans he always had a real plan, one that he would not even let himself know about, for when the original plan and the fallback plan had both gone south. (p.32)
6. He made a small, courtly bow to the Elephant. and the Marquis’s coat, his glorious coat, caught the bow, and amplified it, made it perfect, and made it the kind of bow that only the Marquis de Carabas could ever possibly make. (p.54)

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Review: Karachi, You’re Killing Me! by Saba Imtiaz

Review: Karachi, You’re Killing Me! by Saba Imtiaz

Karachi, You're Killing Me!
Karachi, You’re Killing Me! by Saba Imtiaz

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Opening Sentence : So I’m re-reading the review I’ve written of Love At First Bite, Karachi’s latest cupcake bakery, not checking it for typos so much as wondering if my boredom, disdain, and self-loathing shine through a little too much when Kamran pops his head out of his door and yells ‘GET IN HERE NOW, AYESHA!’

I’ve never read a book by a Pakistani author. I’ve never read a book about Pakistan either. I hit both milestones on a flight back from Karachi which is, as the name implies, the city in which this story is based. And I have to say “Saba Imtiaz, you have failed this city” (Arrow reference, I’ve been binge watching that show lately.)
I wanted to write this review as soon as I was done reading it, but by the time I finished I had lost the urge, to the point that I have finally forced myself to finish this after a LOT of procrastination. This is Saba Imtiaz’s first novel. She herself is a journalist based in Karachi, which makes me wonder how much of this story is about her own life and how much of it is, I hope, badly imagined.
The novel started off with a lot of potential. I found it’s descriptions of Pakistan to be both hilarious and brutally honest and the protagonist Ayesha’s cynicism and despair a fresh change from the cookie cutter, one dimensionally virtuous and air headed female protagonists that have infiltrated Pakistani digest and magazine stories wearing their rosey colored glasses. It felt refreshing to see a realistic prespective from an imperfect female protagonist.
Karachiites have a love-hate relationship with their city, which Ayesha portrayed well in the story giving me hope that everyone out there doesn’t in fact suffer from self-inflicted patriotic blindness after all. ‘I hate living in Karachi, but it can be so heartbreakingly beautiful when it sets it’s mind to it.’
I have huge respect for people who work in the field of journalism and writing which is why I was very interested in Ayesha’s life as a journalist as presented by Saba Imtiaz who is also a journalist.
Imtiaz finds a comical way to relate the chaos that is Karachi. From it’s power outages,
The utility company shuts down the power the minute it starts raining, hoping to avoid fatalities caused by electrocution, so now one just has to worry about things like falling down the stairs in the dark and breaking one’s neck instead.,
to the mixed and varied rainbow of views on politics and politicians,
I work as a journalist, and I know today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper but as the grease saturates the newspaper, I cant help but feel that this is a message to me personally.
If there is ever anything you can count on at Pakistani cultural events, it’s that Zia- dead for longer than most people can remember- can still be blamed for everything

And the indifference that develops in people of Pakistan to everyday situations which would be considered traumatizing elsewhere like the fact that people at high end parties are discussing how entrepreneurial it is that the city has a mobile alert system for disasters and how normal it is to hide your phones when you go out so muggers won’t make off with it when they inevitably steal your handbag.
We’re in Pakistan, for the love of God, there’s always someone blowing themselves up.”
There are some references to Karachi-life peppered throughout the book that anyone who has lived there would appreciate like Imran Khan’s likability, how girl’s are willing to slit their wrists in devotion based off of the events of the latest ‘Humsafar’ episode, how put-together good looking men are most likely gay, judging girls for going to Seaview and how lavish the lives of politicians and their families are.

That unfortunately is where the likability of this book comes to an end. I feel as lazy about writing this review as the writer probably got about trying to develop the story and lead it into a worthwhile ending. My rating for this book just kept plummeting as the story progressed.
After putting such an emphasis on the girl’s journey as a journalist and highlighting her ambitions to leave Karachi and pursue her career elsewhere, the story just abruptly decides to end without anything significant happening. I prayed that this wouldn’t fall into the tiring category of stories where the girl’s life just seems to stop and everything else ceases to matter as long as there is a guy involved, but sadly that is exactly what happened. Without any development or reason the climax of the story came about in an airport (painful cliche) where her friend, an undeveloped highly shallow character with whom there was never any pretense of a relationship nor any reason for an attraction, tells her that he has feelings for her. So what? She doesn’t have a job, still has no future, her career is almost non existent even more so than it was when the story began and she is still a raging alcoholic. How is this supposed to constitute a complete novel?
Speaking of alcohol, there was a LOT of it in this book. Almost as if the writer had something to prove. The sad thing is that her alcoholic habits weren’t supposed to be part of her story, readers were actually supposed to accept it as the norm. But she was just trying too hard. Name dropping different types and playing it off as the most casual thing in a country where it is not.

What really disappoints me is that this book could have had a lot to offer. A story about an ambitious female journalist in a country with the highest death-rate among journalists and political protests and unrest around every corner could have made for an exciting thriller instead of a seemingly blog-like book about the drinking and casual sex of a girl who failed her career but walked off happily hand in hand with a guy who claimed to love her without any prelude. I completely failed to see what the writer was trying to say and what this whole story was leading up to besides completely wasting people’s time.

Favorite lines:
1. Where am I ever going to find a guy in the wasteland that is Karachi where it’s easier to hire an assassin than meet an attractive, intelligent, normal single man? (pg.15)
2. I hate living in Karachi but it can be so heartbreakingly beautiful when it sets it’s mind to it. (pg.53)

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Review: Number9Dream by David Mitchell

number9dream
number9dream by David Mitchell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Opening Sentence: It is a simple matter

David Mitchell where have you been my whole life? To think that I might never have come across a writer so brilliant if I hadn’t stumbled on to him by accident. This book was bought for me as a present from a 2nd hand book stall in Karachi by one of my relatives. I will forever be grateful to that man for introducing me to this gem.

This book completely blew me away. I was hooked from the first few pages, despite not being sure throughout the whole book how much of this was actually happening. I would be hard pressed to describe exactly what this book is about. It is SUPPOSED to be about a 19 year old kid, Eiji Miyake, in Tokyo trying to find his father, but very little of what happens in this story is related to that original purpose.

Number9Dream is a brilliant showcase of Mitchell’s literary talents. In fact most of the time it feels like he is just showing off with his elaborate prose and ambitious style of writing. So much so that the plot matters only slightly and might sometimes just be in the way. All the way to the end I wasn’t sure what kind of ride I have been taken on but I can say I don’t feel the least bit cheated. This book by all accounts gives credence to the theory that the journey matters more than the destination. I for one can say I am now an emotionally invested member of the David Mitchell fan club.

Mitchell manages to make witty commentary on a smattering of subjects while still maintaining the tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic style of narration that holds the tone of the book. From satires on god and religion to statements on music and the working class, the book is strongly opinionated while still being hilarious.

Darkly comical references to religion and god made appearances in sub-stories within the story, which were placed so ingeniously that they held just as much interest as the original story line did. In one such instance god is a man in a mental institution who claims he is now passing time there after creating a universe which is a mere 9 days old.
‘So you created our universe?’
‘Quite. Nine days ago.’
Polonski weighs this up. ‘A considerable body of evidence suggests that the universe is somewhat older than nine days.’
‘ I know. I created the evidence too.’

Now how can you argue with that? And if you claim to be skeptical, that’s okay because he made you that way too. Along with which follows an explanation of how wars in the name of religion are only good as a means of amusement for a bored god taking pleasure in the wild imaginations of human beings.

Another ideology that appeared in a side story of Goatwriter, a more than fascinating side protagonist who is a writer created by a writer in this story (stay with me here), stated that god, one of the many, claims he was forced into the profession because it “ran in the family” but got stuck in the wars and peacekeeping branch due to graduating third class:
“Daddy tired to pull strings, but heaven, ma’am’ – God lowered his voice -‘is another word for nepotism.”
Which explains the scarceness of divine intervention in the state of war
“Time was, we had a divine veto on wars, but our executive powers got whittled away, bit by bit, and now nobody even bothers consulting us.”
David Mitchell makes more sense about matters of God than any fanatic has in a long time.
Similar delightful nuggets can be found scattered throughout the book which makes it a feast for the intellect. The protagonist’s resentful opinion of the working class, which he refers to throughout as “drones”in the book is one such example :
“Now I understand what fuels dronehood. This: you work or you drown. Tokyo turns you into a bank account balance with a carcass in tow. The size of this single number dictates where the carcass may live, what it drives, how it dresses, who it sucks up to, who it may date and marry, whether it cleans itself in a gutter or a jacuzzi.”
Intelligently cynical insight for a 19 year old. But what I liked more was that this in no way took away from his naivete as a 19 year old, which in my opinion is important in order to make a story more plausible. I have to admit I find pessimistic protagonists more likable and mature than others, which is probably one of the reasons I am not necessarily a ‘fan’ of young adult fiction. I found myself feeling agreeing with Eiji even on matters which I have no knowledge of. One such instance was when a John Lennon song played in a cafe:
“A muzak version of ‘Imagine’ comes on and John Lennon wakes up in his tomb, appalled. It is vile beyond belief. Even the traitors who recorded this horror hated it.”
I am highly envious of imagination with such an acute sense of sarcasm translated by Mitchell through the protagonist.

An interesting feature of the book that caught my eye was the references to times and the look of the skies. I couldn’t help marking them down:
“As the first red light of day picks the lock of dawn,..”
“My body blazes as the sun cracks the day wide open.”
“A single night is stuffed with minutes, but they leak out, one by one.”
“Moonlight bright as a UFO abduction..”
“Fujifilm smuggled three o’clock over the border without me noticing.”
“Dawn sketches outlines and colors them in”
“The full moon is a thirty watt bulb no more than several inches away.”
“The naked eyeball of the sun stared unblinkingly from a sky pinkish with dry heat.”
“A dirty rag of bleached sky – the morning forgets it was raining, as suddenly as a child forgetting a sulk she planned to last years.”
“The bored horizon yawns.”

With morning that “plugs itself in” or “comes in for landing”, and a Tuesday that “gasps it’s last”, not to mention the multitude of interesting things the sky keeps doing, I was endlessly fascinated by how many ways the writer will portray time next. It was just one of the many interesting aspects in a book loaded with many.

Overall it was one of the best reads I have had in a long time and if you can keep up with the mind of David Mitchell I would definitely recommend not missing out on this beautiful piece of his work.

Favorite lines:
1.”I would shoot her but I left my Walther PK in my last fantasy.” (pg.27)
2. “In the event of fire, the audience is kindly requested to blacken quietly.” (pg. 27)
3. “All these people like my mother paying counselors and clinics to reattach them to reality: all these like me paying Sony and Saga to reattach us to unreality.” (pg. 102)
4. “Goatwriter picked up the pen and began to write, slowly at first, as the words spattered singly, but soon sentences flowed, filled and overspilled.”(pg. 206)
5. “The world is an ordered flowchart of subplots, after all.” (pg. 259)
6. “It is your grandfather’s hope that his grandson – you – have principles loftier than those espoused in the latest pop hit.” (pg. 274)
7. “courage is the highest quality for a soldier, but technology is a fine substitute.” (pg. 304)
8. “If binoculars were powerful enough to bring the 1940s into focus, we could wave at one another.” (pg. 400)
9. “A book you read is not the same book it was before you read it. ” (pg. 413)

Favorite Passages:
1. “My reflection plays the staring game. It wins and I look away first.” (pg.24)
2. “Where does one find pens? At the ends of sentences. Where does one find the ends of sentences? At the ends of lines.” (pg. 238)
5. “The soldiers? They never fight each other! They might get hurt! They have a gentleman’s agreement – never fire at a uniform. The purpose of war is to kill as many civilians as possible.” (pg. 226)
6. “I emerge into a library/ study with the highest book population density I have ever come across. Book walls, book towers, book avenues, book side streets. Bool spillages, book rubble. Paperback books, hardback books, atlases, manuals, almanacs. Nine Lifetimes of book.s Enough books to build an igloo to hide in. The room is sentient with books. Mirrors double and cube the book. A Great Wall of China quantity of books. Enough books to make me wonder if I am a book too.” (pg.210)

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