Jonathan Strange and Mr.Norrel by Susanna Clarke: A review

Jonathan Strange and Mr NorrellJonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
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The book that made me exercise my biceps. The book that made me LOL without a break. The book that is an epitome of dry humor and sarcasm.

What I felt about it
A completely unique and original story from an author who knows what she’s doing. It was a slow-burner and had lots of little tidbits in the footnotes. It is an elaborate read, but I liked it. It was a nice change of pace from all the murder mysteries I’ve been reading. I liked the fact that there were no dirty words or stuff and the story was clean of double entendres. I really wish that we can all start reading and writing more stories like this. This book is a collectible, worthy of sitting in the best bookshelf on every reader’s home library. I think that this book deserves more popularity and more praise. Amazing piece of work, Susanna Clarke. I could kiss you for writing this beautiful story.

Reading Progress

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Storytelling
There is no question in my mind about the brilliance of this book. It deserves five stars and more stars and more awards and more accolades than what it has received right now. JSAMR is the story of the titular magicians striving to bring back (lost) magic to England in the 1800s. What is not to like about this premise? It has magic, it has humor, it has elaborate narrative AND it is set in the best age of British history.

The first thing that strikes you about the book is how heavy the thing is from all of its 1000 pages and its humor. The book oozes sarcasm. The narrative thrives on dry humor. The story exudes clever witticism. Naturally, all credit goes to the brilliant, BRILLIANT author, Susanna Clarke.

I mean, if I had to talk about her narrative then I’d need a whole day. Seriously. Her use of premonition in revealing key characters, plot twists and story elements is insanely clever! The novel is rich in footnotes that tell us more about this world she is building. The footnotes give us lots of insights into our characters and many, tiny branching stories.

It’s like a thousand stories within one big story

Characters
Mr. Norrel – The one that is secretive – secretly jealous, secretly afraid, secretly sincere.
Jonathan Strange – The one who is likable, friendly, jovial and talented.
Childermass – The one who appears very rarely but the one you miss the most.
Arabella Strange – The one who sets the bar for wives all over England.
Lady Pole – The one who looks like a butterfly but stings like a bee.
Mr. Honeyfoot – The one who should have had his foot in his mouth, honey.
Drawlight, Mr. Lascelles – The ones who are supposed to be comic reliefs but whom you hate.
Vinculus – The one that shocks you with his story.
John Uskglass – The one you want more of.
The Fairy – The mean one that you were happy to see defeated.
Stephen – The one you root for.

JSAMR in short:
Length : 1006 pages (!!!)
Author : The Sarcastic Susanna Clarke
Genre : Historical Fiction
Tone : Funny-as-hell
Why you should NOT read JSAMR: Only for the plot
Why you should read JSAMR: Purely for the sarcasm

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The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: A review

The Palace Of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
My rating: 5 of 5 stars ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
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How can you tell an ancient story in new light? And how can you tell it to a generation, who as children have literally grown up with this story, and as adults will have high expectations of it?

Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni has the answer in The Palace of Illusions.

The story of Mahabharata is nothing new to me. A kingdom greater than any – cousins fighting for the throne – sacrifices, promises, boons, curses – war – bereavement – atonement. An epic. The Mahabharata is an elaborate story, which can be perceived from any character’s point-of-view and still have a rich storytelling experience. So, why not tell in from a woman’s perspective?

While I was growing up, Mahabharata was always about the virtues of the brave men who went to war. There wasn’t one story about what it was to be a woman during those epic times. This book is the wonderful tale of the woman who was the cornerstone of Mahabharata. Told in first person, this tale takes us to the depth of Draupadi’s soul and shows us her views as the events of the great epic unfurl.

THE MODERN DRAUPADI

The best part about The Palace of Illusions was that, as a modern woman, I felt very connected to Draupadi. How Chitra ji manages to walk the fine line between the old and new interpretations of the character of a ‘strong woman’ is beyond me!

The author mixes the right amount of fiction into the archaic tale without taking away its original flavor. I mean, I have never heard of Draupadi’s love story in the original. The new Draupati falls in love with Karna when she sees him at her Swayamvar. Her love for him is only intensified after her marriage and she yearns for him all her life. Here’s why I think it might be true: a woman with high ambitions would see Karna as an achiever. She would find him capable and deserving of her love not only because he is wise, brave and handsome but also because he would respect her and treat her like the Queen she is. So, despite her fate, every time she sees him her heart gives a jolt. He was her one true love, until the end. Draupadi is a fire born princess with lofty goals for her life. Sadly, none of them come true when she married the Pandavas. It is only fair that she keep thinking of where things went wrong for her and wondering if she married the right guy(s).

Draupadi’s love story arc comes as a surprise because I have never imagined this possibility before! I just assumed that Draupadi accepted her life and marriage with satisfaction. The version that we have all been given has been avoiding a crucial detail about her character – Draupadi is a woman driven by resentment and regret of her own choices. How could she be happy in that miserable married life? Have we been painting Draupadi as a meek martyr when she clearly was much more?

five husbands

It was a new take on Panchaali and I think it fits her perfectly. Brilliant interpretation Chitra ji! It might or might not be true. I don’t know if other interpretations tell the story the same way, but you have convinced me of your interpretation so beautifully, that now I begin to wonder if your version is the original version and if the truth somehow got diluted in the million re-tellings.

DRAUPADI – A CHARACTER SKETCH

Where do I begin? Wow.

Never have I ever read a story with a POV with such strong intentions and inner monologue. The story in The Palace of Illusions is the story of Draupadi from birth to death. She was a woman beyond her times. She was headstrong, intelligent, virtuous (in her own way), ambitious, proud and was a feminist believing that the place of a woman is not just in the back of the palace, but right next to her royal husband.

Draupadi bow and arrow

Emotionally, we see the bitterness that shapes up Panchaali from the start. We see her angry, we see her withdraw, we see her contemplate, we see her lash out in blind fury, we see her curious, we see her loving. As the story progresses, the insight into Panchaali’s inner doubts and fears become much our own. We see the princess who felt like a misfit at her own dad’s place but eventually found a home in The Palace of Illusions. My heart goes out to her.

Panchaali’s story is that of a woman so blindly confident of her unique destiny that she brought about her own misfortunes. Her pride fell. And then, she grew, learnt humility, kindness, surrender and acceptance. She grew to find a woman’s power in her. She grew to identify her devotion to Krishna, and her love for him which is beyond body and mind.

courtroom scene

I admit it. Usually when I think of Draupati, I only think of her shame and her terrible fate at the hands of Dushasha. I was so wrong. I hadn’t given her much credit. Understanding Draupadi’s background and her character was a privilege. It was amazing. I understood the bottled-up rage and fury against her husbands, the shame that befell the pride of the Queen of the Pandavas and the surrender that sparked from desperation and her love and devotion to Krishna.

Understanding Draupadi’s background and her character was a privilege. It was amazing to fill in the emotional blanks that I had of Mahabharata when it comes to Draupadi.

 

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Throughout the story we see other women of her age – Sudheshana, Banumati, Subadra, Uttara. None of them even compare to her. None of them even come close to The Fire Princess! Not even Kunti, who after a point accepts that it isn’t her place to rule over what the Panchali says. And that is the most inspiring part of Panchaali’s story for me.

CHITRA’S WONDERFUL STORYTELLING

The author/poet has a way with words. Her words flow like honey and read like a poem. I was completely in love with her words while reading the book.

Chitra ji’s art of storytelling comes out in the most unlikely places. Her idea to interpret Mahabharata from a new perspective is seen even in short snippets. For instance, we all know the part where Arjun and Duryodhan ask Krishna to join them in the war. In this story, this incident is told from Duryodhan’s point of view, meaning we are privy to his arrogance and utter confidence in his victory, in contrast to the third-person, moralistic tale we have been hearing so far.

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While telling a tale of this magnificent scale it’s impossible to avoid villains. Sometimes, flawed characters need to remain flawed. Chitra ji’s story had the compulsive need to seek goodness in flawed characters, and that felt far-fetched. It is okay for the characters to have chinks in their armors. I felt that the reasons the author gives to justify them were mere excuses. I just feel that when writing POV, it’s okay not to idolize everyone.

Chitra ji brings out the chemistry between Panchaali and Kunti (the original Saas Bahu drama!) in a few entertaining pages. She has an ease of telling didactic incidents with a funny twist. She just told a convincing Mahabharata in less than 400 pages. I admire that. Well done!

PROS:
1) A fresh viewpoint
2) Intense
3) Unapologetically human
4) Short, quick chapters
5) One-word chapter names (I love one-word chapter names)
6) Stays true to the original Mahabharata

CONS:
1) Difficult to read as a Mahabharata virgin. Should be familiar with the original story.
2) Glorifies almost everyone

The Palace of Illusions insures a place for Mahabharata in the modern bookshelf by baring a story that is incredibly true to humanity and intensely inspiring.

For graphic novel lovers, find a similarly intense (but not quite there) Draupadi: The Fire Born Princess

The Queen of The Tearling [Tearling #1] by Erika Johansen: A review

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #1)The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
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Genre : Fantasy, Magic
Audience: Mature (18+)
Type : Series (Book 1)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
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An incredibly intense fantasy story that is partly coming-of-age and partly magic. It has everything – adventure, thrill, mystery and a beautiful romance.

I loved this book from the first page. I just knew that any book that begins with a nice map was going to be an epic read. And I was right!

This book has all the making of the first book in a series –
1) introduces characters
2) keeps the background of characters a secret (to be revealed in book 2 and 3)
3) sets up the pre-war scenario
4) raises more questions than answers (again, to be revealed in book 2 and 3)
5) has humor

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This was not an easy read. I had to plough through chapters that spoke of some terrible things. It was definitely for mature audiences. The plot kept me at the edge of my seat because it had many unexpected and unpredictable twists. The pacing was a slow-burn. It took its own time to set-up events and introduce characters. I loved the characters especially Carlin and Barty whose characters were developed without even their presence. If that isn’t good writing then I don’t know what is! The story carried an excellent narrative that (despite its slow pace) didn’t bore me at all. There was enough history, background and mystery to keep me engaged.

My Reading Experience:

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Things I liked about the book –

1) The chemistry between Mace and Kelsea
2) The mysterious magic
3) Kelsea’s humour
4) Badass heroine
5) Badass heroine’s love for books
6) Treason (what good is a royal story without treason?)

I would say that after reading the likes of Harry Potter and The Kingkiller Chronicles, I was starved for some good magic fantasy series that isn’t fully YA and The Queen of Tearling was the perfect answer.

The Queen of The Tearling was like taking the first bite of home food after being away for so long. It satiated my hunger of magic, fantasy, historical fiction, medieval times and royalty.

Emma Watson has agreed to do a film series of the same name!! She said this back in 2013. The movie is still under works and I’m hoping it will come out soon. See what she said about this series (I couldn’t agree more)

queen

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett: A review

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, WitchGood Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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Humorous, Witty and Entertaining. I couldn’t ask for anything more from the dark-humor loving storytellers. I feel honored to have read a book that two incredible writers have penned together. I will go ahead and say that this book deserves to be on the shelves on all those who consider librarians and book enthusiasts.

good-omens-reading-progress


Other reviews:

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The Crown of Ptolemy by Rick Riordan: A review

A quick Saturday pre-siesta-brunch read.

The Crown of PtolemyThe Crown of Ptolemy by Rick Riordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
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Hilarious, as is Rick Riordan’s signature writing style. It seemed like he didn’t put any effort in the way of the plot. He took liberal references from the internet slang, like selfies and ‘Stahhp’ and made a funny story out of it. It was enjoyable and laugh-worthy.

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