Review: The Hidden Pleasures of Life by Theodore Zeldin


The story of a search for a new art of living. How can one escape from work colleagues who are bores and from organisations that thrive on stress? What new priorities can people give to their private lives? When the romantic ideal is disappointing, how else can affections be cultivated? If only a few can become rich, what substitute is there for dropping out? If religions and nations disagree, what other outcomes are possible beyond strife or doubt? Where there is too little freedom, what is the alternative to rebellion? When so much is unpredictable, what can replace ambition?

Theodore Zeldin explores these questions and more, excavating an inner peace that can be cultivated in the future. (from Goodreads).

Personal Take: Zeldin’s tone in The Hidden Pleasures is very soothing. There is a certain meticulousness in the questions he asks and explores. He weaves in stories and statistics that are both relevant and enjoyable. It is deeply philosophical that I agreed with what he said, and disagreed with others. The one thing I found lacking while reading the book though, is a definitive stance from Zeldin on these questions. He kind of left it for the readers to decide, and while that’s not bad, I was curious to know how he, the writer, would answer these very questions that he posed to us.

This is only a minor frustration though. I enjoyed reading the book, and dwelling on what he put forth.

Audience: Older readers as it can be dense.


Other recommendations: Zeldin has written a few books about the human experience, among them Conversation: How Talk Can Change Our Lives and An Intimate History of Humanity.

Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin


Life is pretty quiet on Alice Island, but Amelia doesn’t mind making her rounds there to sell what her publishers are releasing. It doesn’t help that the only bookstore on Alice Island is owned by a bitter book seller; A.J Fikry. Bookseller A.J. Fikry hasn’t had the best year. His wife had passed away, his bookshop is failing, and his prized possession of a rare and valuable book is stolen. And then one night, he returns home to find a baby at his doorstep, with only a note. The baby, Maya, has no way of knowing the change she brings along with her and the people around her, starting with the bitter-hearted A.J. Fikry.

Personal Take: I cannot explain how much I LOVED THIS BOOK. If this book were a person, I would give it a hug. A tight, long, hug, because it is amazing and poignant and real in so many ways. Maybe it’s because I’m a book lover that I found this appealing to me, but really, with the love of books and reading, this story is gold because of the astounding characters. And the beautifully simple writing style.

Honestly, this book is laced with so much natural humor, I kept thinking how does Zevin do it? The characters were so alive, and charming and sad and complicated.And it goes without saying that while it made me laugh hard, it also crushed me hard.

But I cannot recommend it enough. It’s short and sweet and worth reading. Hell, it’s worth re-reading too.

Audience: Older teens and readers for some select word choices.



Other recommendations: Another favorite sweetheart of a book by Zevin is Elsewhere, which I really recommend. She is also the author of Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac and the Birthright series. Be sure to check out the rest of her work.

Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell


Georgie has her life figured out. After gruelling in the writers room, Georgie and her writing buddy Seth finally get their break for their own show. The only problem – Georgie is supposed to be on a plane with her husband, Neal, and the kids. Even though their marriage is in trouble, she hopes that Neal would understand when she tells him she can’t go, and it seems that he does. But she wonders as he drives off to the airport with the kids if she’s finally ruined her marriage. That same day, Georgie finds a way to communicate with Neal in the past. Is this her chance of fixing what went wrong between them?

Personal Take: It’s been a while since I read something modern that blew my mind. And seriously, Landline blew my mind.

It had everything that I loved– witty dialogue, perfectly flawed, real characters, and not once did it deviate from what the story is about. It was pristine and perfectly described a flawed but dreamy marriage.

For the start I was captivated with Rowell’s writing. The pace was managed so well, even when it alternated between the past and the present. It was concise and captured moments just right. So right that I was thrilled each time there was a new layer added about the characters.

And the characters. I loved Georgie. I was frustrated with her, but I cheered for her. I loved seeing her in the present and learning how she became who she was. She’s unique, honest and so human. And through her, we learned a lot about her husband Neal. There’s also her family, who are so wonderfully weird.

Everything about this book screamed Just Right to me. It held it together and delivered a hell of an emotional roller coaster with a realistic end.

Audience: Other than language, I think older teens can read this. And the adults will love it.



Other recommendations: Rowell wrote Fangirl, Attachments and Eleanor & Park — all on my to read list. Check out what else she’ll be writing next!

Review: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell


When Margaret Hale moves from her childhood country home to the industrious bustle of Milton after her father resigns his parsonage, the family struggles with the different life they’re faced to lead. She encounters John Thornton, her father’s pupil, and is repulsed by his views of mastership and power over labourers. But when a series of tragedies and industrial rebellion comes into play, Margaret learns the reality of living an urban life, while Thornton learns of humanity.

Personal Take: I don’t know why it’s taking me a month to finish a book these days! Anyway, on to the review.
One of the incentives that motivated me to read this was the BBC series starring Richard Armitage as John Thornton. But really, without that, the novel itself was an emotional roller-coaster. Gaskell is now one of my favourite writers. While I’d describe this novel as a cross between Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, it also had the industrialism/social classes portrayed by Charles Dickens. But unlike Dickens, the language was much simpler.
The characters themselves are so complex and just…amazing. I loved Margaret and Thornton. Especially Thornton (who’s now on my list of loveable men, with Darcy and Mr. Knightley). The emotions and turmoil these two characters faced were too much, even for me, but I loved them for every time they got through it.
It did drag up a little towards the end, but because Gaskell gave me that happy ending, I am happy. North and South is definitely one of those must-read classics.
Audience: Lovers of literature and classics.
Other recommendations: So two books I’m definitely going to read (just because there are BBC adaptations), are Wives and Daughters and Cranford. I might also pick up her biographical work of Charlotte Bronte. Check out her work!

Review: The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan

At a young age, the Bronte children discover the shocking impact and the sobriety of adulthood. As a balance, the siblings retreat to a world of words, one that sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne return to when their professions, their expectations of their brother Branwell, and their endurance for duty, fails them. This is a story of how the most celebrated sisters in literature gathered their dark stories throughout their lively hood and poured it out to the world.

Personal Take: Back when I was in high school, there was this much recommended Japanese T.V series called 1 Litre of Tears. It’s a true story about how a young school girl develops this brain degenerative disease and slowly loses all her faculties as she grows up. The show garnered the reputation that it really WILL make you cry 1 Litre of Tears. Well, the same thing goes for this book. It doesn’t make you cry, but it does give you a taste of sorrow.

This is what I love about Jude Morgan. He can pick the most uninteresting topic, and make it interesting. Not to say that the Bronte sisters weren’t interesting. There’s a lot of things not known about them, or I haven’t bothered to look too much into their history even if I did read their books. But Morgan fleshed them out so well, gave them these personalities that is just like them but isn’t at the same time. Basically, I felt like he took historical figures and made them his. It was brilliantly done. I felt so connected with them, and what they had to go through.

The writing is beautiful and very like Morgan. It’s not as great as Symphony, but he does borrow this gothic style for the book, and I find it fits perfectly. This book is not fast paced, but it also doesn’t adhere specifically to events. Morgan goes to whichever time in the future than goes back to the “present.” I can’t explain it without spoiling, but I guarantee that readers won’t get too lost. If you want to get lost and see where the tide of words take you, read it.

Audience: Older readers of historical fictions, because of some, minor vulgarities.




Other recommendations: I’d recommend all of Morgan’s books, but his best historical fiction, in my opinion, is Symphony.