Book Review: Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Why Not Me Mindy KalingTitle: Why Not Me?

Author: Mindy Kaling

Series/Standalone: Standalone

Genre (s): Autobiography

Over the past few months, I’ve been moaning in reviews such as this, complaining that I haven’t had the time or opportunity to read let alone write reviews on them. I put this down to the type of material I was reading; for instance, focusing too much on “chick-lits” rather than exploring alternative genres. Which is why I chose an autobiography to ease me back into my reading schedule. And it appears non-fiction (ironically) worked its magic.

Why Not Me? Is an anthology of essays by actress and scriptwriter, Mindy Kaling, as she navigating her way through career success and downfalls, glamour, relationships and body image issues. As The Office alumni and executive producer of comedy The Mindy Project, I expected the book to be a little funny, if not hilarious and as Kaling shares her anecdotes, there are definitely laugh out moments, although they may not be the most obvious, there’s a subtly to her humour, making it an even more appealing read.

I found her honesty when she discusses being snubbed for an Emmy, or her odd complex of wanting to be liked by everyone extremely refreshing. Whilst one would assume that she’s exactly like her characters Kelly Kapoor and Mindy Lahari, in a number of chapters she admits to her superficiality , much like her characters Kelly Kapoor and Mindy Lahari, however, its clear the memoir is written by a highly intelligent, analytical and funny individual, and not the vapid “LA-type” woman that Kaling so often comes across.

Kaling also delves into her more creative side, offering a chapter on her “alternative life” which is told in epistolary form, offering a glimpse into what her life would have been like if she had not moved to LA but instead became a Latin teacher. Unsurprisingly, the whole story ends up being a rom-com, again demonstrating her obsession with the genre.

It’s an interesting memoir, with Kaling concluding that it acts as an expose. Despite thoroughly enjoying reading the biography, I couldn’t help but think that is most definitely NOT an expose. Whilst Kaling seemingly bares all, there are still certain topics she tends to avoid delving too deeply into, including breaking into showbiz as a young, inexperienced minority. Having said all that, this is the perfect “chick-lit” for all those avoiding the genre, but still wishing to get sense of romance and humour. 

The bug’s verdict: 7.0/10

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Quote of the Day: “There are only the pursued, the pursuing…”

“There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is one of my absolute favourite novels. It contains so many incredible passages so don’t be surprised if another line from this amazing novel pops up on my Quote of the Day. But for now, I want to focus on this short yet very effective line.

Having just recently graduated from university, I’m in the midst of pursuing a career, one in which I simply wish to be happy in. It got me thinking that at times we are all of these things, pursuing our dreams, whether it is a job, wealth or even love.  Whether we ever reach those dreams is another question. And from pursuing these dreams we become busy and tired. So what’s the point in it all? I’ll leave that up to you to decide, my dear readers…

And that concludes todays session of reflection and pessimism.

B xx

Book Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Eleanor & ParkElenor and Park Review

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Series/Standalone?: Standalone

Genre: Romance

Yes, I’ll admit it, despite that we’re taught to “never judge a book by its cover” from pretty much the day we are born, I did exactly that with this particular novel. I am often left disappointed and disgruntled at how deceiving a book cover is as it usually disguises terrible writing and a drab narrative. In this instance however, the charm and beauty that is so appealing on the cover reflects that of its writing and characters in Rainbow Rowell’s gorgeous and heart-breaking story of first love in Eleanor and Park. I’m astonished at how intense the novel actually is, something I had not anticipated it to be. When I bought this I felt I was just buying yet another typical YA romance. How wrong I was.

Eleanor is the new girl in school, shunned by the other pupils for her odd appearance. She meets Park when he reluctantly allows her to sit next to him and a friendship soon develops from a love of comic books and music.

One of the defining characteristics in Rowell’s debut novel is its realism. The characters are not described as models; instead, they are rather ordinary which certainly makes them much more relatable. Realist issues that are brought up include broken or abusive homes to race and the novel, surprisingly, highlights the impact domestic abuse can have on a child. Although this is clearly a very adult theme, I’m very impressed by the way Rowel handles it and brings this difficult topic to the fore. Additionally, class boundaries is another theme that is apparent within the novel and Rowell effectively juxtaposes Park’s loving middle class family to Elenor’s broken and tragic home life. Another issue that is also touched upon is racial matters as Park is depicted as half Korean. However, at times this topic seems merely glossed upon and it would have been nice if this was developed further.

Although I’ve raved about how Rowell has managed to effectively handle adult themes, there is one aspect in which she falls short in; the romance. Yes, to begin with, the romance between our two protagonists is sweet, naive and raw, making me smile throughout. However, by the end of the novel, Rowell seems to have fallen back on the “Romeo and Juliet” type complex many writers fall victim to. It is here that the characters are less developed which is disappointing in a novel that has so much promise in comparison to its contemporaries

That being said, I found I was grinning from ear to ear at times and at other times frowning and feeling heartbroken and this is definitely one to read to be reminded of what a decent YA book can be.

Book Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner 

The Maze Runner ReviewTitle: The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner

Series/Standalone?: 1/4 in the Maze Runner series

Genre: Dystopian, SciFi, YA, Post-Apocalyptic

The Maze Runner is a novel that has been receiving a lot of buzz lately. Despite initially being released almost five years ago, it has gained a revival in popularity, probably due to the impending release of the movie based off the novel starring Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’Brien and Skins veteran, Kaya Scodelario. It boldly claims on the cover “for fans of the Hunger Games”. Those two combined, I obviously had to jump on the bandwagon and read this.

The story’s “hero”, Thomas, awakens, disorientated and recollecting nothing but his name. He finds himself surrounded by other boys, inhabitants of a courtyard known as the glade. He also discovers that he now lives on the outskirts of a huge maze alongside other “gladers” who have been attempting to solve and escape from the maze for years whilst also fighting off “grievers”, robotic insects that pose a danger to the Gladers. Thomas finds himself a calling to be one of the “runners”, a team of boys who attempt to break their way out of the massive maze. With a sense of familiarity, maybe Thomas can solve the Maze and perhaps he may discover answers to the questions of the glader’s pasts

To start off with, the novel is pretty difficult to get to grips with. Initially, I was bored reading the novel and found myself reading the same page over and over again. Dashner’s writing feels plain and non-descript, failing to draw me in. This seems to be a recurring problem as later on I felt the pacing between the action and suspense was erratic, which could have definitely been better constructed. It’s frustrating to enjoy a read when it’s too slow for too long and there is little action to keep a reader engaged.

I’ve not read anything in a while that was written by a male and contains a primarily male cast which is interesting. Yet this is not really used to Dashner’s advantage as I found that I wasn’t truly invested in the characters. The story follows the “hero” Thomas, yet I felt little to no connection with him emotionally. The characters are truly one dimensional. Other supporting characters could have been fleshed out even further such as Newt and Minaho. Dashner touched upon a little of their complexity but this was passed over to continually TELL us rather than let us feel Thomas’ emotions.

The writing was mediocre at best, like the pacing; it was a little all over the place. The balance between suspense and humour etc could have been better dealt with. Perhaps if Dashner had used a 1st person narrator rather than a 3rd person, both the disconnect from the protagonist and the pacing issues might have been resolved.

However, the concept is brilliant. I feel that the metaphor of the maze perfectly reflects Thomas ‘ own loss of self and a self-discovery, whilst also demonstrating how humanity can get lost, in a similar fashion to the maze. At first I was confused by the slang the gladers had created, but like Thomas, I soon became familiar with it and this perfectly demonstrated how the boys created a society for themselves. It’s refreshing to read a post-apocalyptical novel where characters have created a mini safe haven in a post-apocalyptic setting as opposed to other dystopia where societies are continuously fighting against one another rather than work together. What really sold me on the book was the tantalising cliff-hanger at the end of the novel which sets up for what could potentially be an incredibly exciting sequel.

Yes, at times this could be a thrilling read. Unfortunately, a promising premise is let down by the dry writing of Dashner. If you’re looking for something that is more plot-driven than character-driven, I would recommend this, but don’t expect you’ll get anything more or even end up liking it. An interesting concept is let-down by Dashner’s writing. In the right hands of the right writer, this could have been absolutely amazing.

6/10

Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Title: The Fault In Our Stars

Author: John GreenThe Fault In Our Stars Review

Series/ Standalone?: Standalone

Genre: Realist, YA, Romance

I thought I would take a break from all of the dystopia/sci-fi/fantasy I was reading and go for something a little more different. This book has been on my TBR list for so long and I am so glad that I took a risk to read it. It has won so many awards and was number one on the New York Times list, an achievement definitely well deserved.

The story is basically narrated by Hazel, a terminally ill cancer patient who meets fellow cancer patient Augustus or Gus as he is later known. Together, they go on a beautiful road of philosophical and self-discovery. Whilst this concept sounds boring, completely unoriginal and a plot out of a Nicholas Sparks novel, it is anything but that.

What really makes this novel is Green’s incredible writing, He manages to be simultaneously humorous, smart, philosophical and thought- provoking, definitely not an easy feat when he tackles such a difficult topic. The approach to cancer and death using a combination of humour and sorrow results in a beautiful, complex story.

Green’ elaborate ideas of life, existence and his concept of “the side effect” is embodied by the complexity of the two protagonists who are both easy to empathise with. Hazel struggles to form and maintain a variety of relationships because of her illness and the idea of her impending death.  In contrast, Gus who appears to be so sure and confident actually ends up being the most vulnerable, making the story even more tragic. How can you not fall slightly in love with Gus? I found him to be a much more intriguing character than Hazel as he broods over clever metaphors, and to some extent, he is one himself.

A lot of people have been saying “it’s not a cancer story”, well in all honesty, it kind of is. It’s the fact that it’s not just a cancer story, it’s so much more than that. On one level, the novel is an exploration of what life is and the way death affects life and vice versa. This is seen even further with the fictional book “An Imperial Affliction” within The Fault In Our Stars “written” by the character Peter Van Outen, the book that Hazel and Gus connect over. “An Imperial Affliction” ends mid-sentence, which perfectly reflects the death of not only the story, but Peter’s own life and how it appears that it ends although he is not the one who has technically died and he has been affected by a cancer case. Wouldn’t it be amazing if John Green did a Jo Rowling and actually wrote the book within the book?!

I honestly don’t think my review can do this book justice, from its writing, narrative, plot, characters and how much it moved me. This is a read that has to be experienced first-hand so definitely go read it!

My Rating: 9/10

Book Review:City of Bones

City of Bones book review

Title: City of Bones

Author: Cassandra Clare

Series/Standalone:1/6 in The Mortal Instruments Series

Genre(s): YA, Fantasy, Romance

I am determined, I repeat, determined to keep my reviews to an acceptable length, unlike my The Great Gatsby movie review. Oops. So… here we go. I had actually read City of Bones five years ago when I was in my “Twilight is amazing and I’m in love with Edward!!!” phase (I laugh now at the stupidity of my fifteen year old self). I was desperately looking for something similar and came across City of Bones. Initially, I didn’t like the book, the plot, the writing or the characters and believed the book could never compare to love I had for Twilight (oh God). Re-reading the book, I’ve actually come to realise, that I found it thoroughly entertaining and captivating.

The narrative follows Clary Fray who coincidentally encounters a mysterious and handsome boy named Jace. After the presumable kidnapping of her mother, Jace leads Clary on an adventure into a fantasy underground world she never knew existed filled with demons, vampires, fae, werewolves, all in a bid to find her mother, and discover the true nature of her past and identity.

As you may have come to realise, I love strong female protagonists who aren’t a cliché of females. Clary does fall under this category to some extent. She matures from a naïve little girl to sophisticated and level headed. However, I still feel there is room for further development, which is something we will perhaps see in the sequels and see her transform into a fully-fledged badass. The character development is not just restricted to Clary but also extends to love interests and supporting characters such as Jace who appears to be another typical tragic YA hero, but I enjoyed the way he was characterised in this as he transforms behind the mask of annoyingly arrogant teen and. Even Simon, Clary’s best friend who will be forever be friend-zoned. Poor Simon. Furthermore, I usually find supporting characters dull, inconvenient and used purely as plot devices, but this was not the case as I and found characters such as Simon, Isabelle, Alec and Magnus them as equally as enjoyable as the protagonists.

Originally, when I had read this at the age of 15, I thought the language was too simplistic, now however, I enjoyed its simplistic and holistic approach, finding it quite relaxing. It wasn’t overloaded with rich language but I enjoyed Clare’s writing style, its effortlessness mingled with numerous metaphors and similes. I was immersed into the fantasy world and found Clare’s descriptive language a delight to read. Even though it was a re-read, I still enjoyed the plot twist towards the end of the novel and was looking for the clues leading up to it.

My only qualm had to be the length. Surely for a YA it could have been shorter? Nevertheless, still a very enjoyable read and in a world where we are able to delve and discover the fantasy world that inhibits our own.

If anything, this has reminded me the importance of re-reading and always with the attitude of giving something the benefit of the doubt. I’m definitely adding the other sequels from The Mortal Instruments series to my reading list and looking forward to room for the expansion of such an exciting, fantasy world.

My Verdict: 9/10