books

The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Jeckyll and Hyde relationship is one that has been read and watched and reread and rewatched and referred to and used as adjectives for years.

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#theguywiththebookreview presents The Strange Case is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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This is the type of Classic That can get you excited about the genre! Very strong use of sentence structures and dialogues; is spooky yet almost poetic in places which sounds ironic even to me while I write this. But it’s true, every word, period and exclamation point in this book is measured and has an impact. Similar but a more detailed example would be Dracula which had me surprised with the complexity in its writing.

What I liked most is that it takes place in basically a couple of streets and isn’t unnecessarily spread across locations. Very much focused on the characters and their relationship dynamics, a great example of how how Sci-fi isn’t just about, scientific fiction.

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I was heavily invested in the tug of war between Jeckyll and Hyde and at multiple levels I felt it to be an artful social commentary by Robert Louis Stevenson that’s valid even today and well human nature can’t escape from itself until the end of time and this book’s core will always remain applicable to us.

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A brilliant book and I can safely say, they don’t write books like these any more.

books

A New Years Reading Resolution you can still keep!

3 Years ago when I joined Bookstagram, I had no idea there were reading challenges. I was overwhelmed by the choices! But some of them were simply impossible for me to join as they included many types of books and I did not have access to a lot of them. In any case, reading challenges were something I never really participated in.

But there was one challenge that seemed to have taken everyone by storm, the good old Good Reads Challenge. For those who do not know, the Good Reads Challenge is an undertaking by readers each year on goodreads.com where they set a goal of number of books to be read in the coming year.

So, being the sheep that I am I joined the challenge as well and set my 2017 reading goal as 52 books, a book a week, which seemed easy to accomplish. The problem was that life kept changing and I was over optimistic near the New Year, in 2017 I read around 35 books. With work and travel and life’s challenges I found there were patches in my year where I just couldn’t read and this frustrated me since I wanted to but alas, this is life…

In 2018 I set my GoodReads Challenge to a more realistic 36 books. But, I traveled to India for a couple of weeks in the beginning of February and by the time I returned home I was already catching up on the Goodreads challenge. By March I found myself lagging way behind and feeling helpless since I knew the amount of time I would get to read even in a calm and quiet month, I knew I wouldn’t catch up unless I’m extremely organised. The general feeling was of dismay and by mid year I stopped updating my goodreads account (I’ve still not updated it)

I found that good reads was no more my happy place. I needed an alternative and I searched in the last week of December for challenges that would suit me. Unfortunately many of the challenges were amazing but not practical for me. (You guys should check #ReadingWomenChallenge)

So, finally I decided to start the #BetterReadsChallenge

This had been going on in my mind for a long time and here’s how it works:

Objective: Read every single day of the year, that’s it.

How to participate:

1- Keep track of each days reading, just that you read or not. It can be 10 pages, it can be 100 pages. You get 1 point for each day.

2 – You can add the hashtag along with your current score on your social media captions/Tweets (Instagram, Facebook, twitter, whatever)

3 – You can dedicate 1 line of your Instagram/twitter bio to it. Currently i have a line that says “#BetterReadsChallenge – 3/365”

And That’s it! You can set a goal of 300/365 but the ultimate challenge is to read every single day!

If you are reading this a few days or weeks into the new year, no worries, just check the number of days left to 2020 and set that as your target. So on first of february its 365 – 31 = 334 days.

In the first 3 days of the year, I’ve been so motivated because of the challenge, I woke up early on the first 2 days of January just to put in half an hours reading in (I ended with 45 minutes on both days) then on day 3 I woke up late so I decided to read during lunch hour. I read 45 minutes again. and i’m happy to say i’m already almost through the first book of the Year 🙂

Tag me on instagram if you join the Challenge!

My name is Faroukh and I am @theguywiththebook

books

Hello Publishers…

‘Just because I’m passionate about something doesn’t mean I need to do it for free.’
– Faroukh Naseem

Yeah, I finally have a quote to my name (Somebody please add it to Goodreads.)

For best results the writer recommends you read this with the calming voice of Morgan Freeman in your head.

A couple of days ago I posted a twitter thread which I later shared on Instagram as well. Here’s the post if you’re like me and love to read 300+ comments about a topic which hasn’t been openly discussed much.I’ll go through each tweet and try and elaborate as much as I can.

But before we get into it, let me briefly talk about Content Creation which seems to have been misunderstood by a lot of people.

Content creation takes time and effort. It also takes a lot of understanding of what our audience likes. If today I post an absolutely amazing drone shot of a city, it probably will not do well because my audience has not followed me for such content. If I suddenly post a very different style of photo, my engagement will be lower even if it is related to books. Content creation around books is not easy at all and is very limiting too. Plus it is not limited to the visual aesthetic. Captions can be an important part of the bookstagram experience but the engagement around books isn’t easily created and not everyone reads captions since Instagram is primarily a visual platform. When you have accounts following hundreds of pages, you do not get special treatment unless you are really liked by someone following you. So if someone thinks content creation is child’s play, they probably have a private account with pictures of their breakfast, lunch and dinner with the captions Yummy, Yum and Burp on them.

So here are the tweets, broken down one by one

1 – When will publishers stop thinking that advertising their books in front of thousands of people after creating content for them is payable by free books?

This point has been misunderstood by most. Especially accounts which have started out recently. I think most skipped over the ‘thousands of people’ part. Free books do hold a lot of value; I happily receive them and post about them on my page. They are usually a new release or pre-release copy and they give us an opportunity to create a post around something new and share it online.
I did not receive a single book from a publisher until i was well over 20k followers and had a genuine organic audience on the platform. I had to fill out a form and share what I had to offer in terms of influence in exchange of these free books. Publishers need something in exchange of the book mail they send and since they are a business they aren’t sending them just because we are readers. We are readers with an audience who create content. 


2 -Book accounts are a very specific and concentrated niche. I’m being conservative here by saying 99% of those who follow book accounts are interested in books and are potential customers for these publishers. 

This potential buzz a book blogger can generate for a book is huge. This is where readers come for their book related news, new release dates and synopses. Bookstagrammers have built an audience which trusts them after years of work and it has not come easy for any of us. I speak for myself when I say that I do not promote books I do not like or expect to like. I have promoted books for authors directly too but only after I felt that these are books that I would be interested in reading as well. Not just because they were willing to send me a free copy.
Bookstagrams are not like a cat account or a lifestyle account. Cat accounts are followed by people who might be allergic to fur and probably will never in their lives buy a cat related product. Lifestyle accounts might be followed by people who will never travel to that country, go to that restaurant or wear such clothes. These are very diluted niches. So if you have a book account with 10,000 followers it’s probably a more powerful selling window than a lifestyle account with 100,000. That’s one reason there are probably only a dozen book accounts on Instagram with more than 100k; not every random person follows a book account.

3 – I think publishers have become very opportunistic and are using so many book bloggers to get almost free publicity. It starts with the book mail IGstory, followed by a summary on the timeline and if the blogger is reading it, probably an update Current Read Post and a review.

Most of us do not get free books with any obligations apart from making sure we mention that we’ve received a free book in the caption. Publishers do not guide the narrative of our captions and they do not get a say in our reviews. If they tried, I along with many other accounts I have spoken to would not agree to do them. People might not realize how much a review that is not genuine can affect our credibility. Fortunately, I learnt this very early on before I had truly understood how bookstagram works. I had reviewed The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak and given it a 1 star rating and readers commented that they were so happy for my honest review (I was naive enough to not even think there could be a dishonest review). That point onward I had promised myself I would make sure to be as truthful as possible without demeaning an author or publisher. That is what I have continued to do and that is what I always will..

There have been some comments from people who do not seem to understand Bookstagram and how things work on the platform. Some think that if we get paid for a post (an advertising space) we will end up talking positively about them. Most promotions are just that, promotions. They include a picture/video centered around the book and a caption which shares the synopsis and release date information. Think of it as adverts in a newspaper (you know, that thing you see old men holding rolled up under their arm). They offer information on the product; nothing more, nothing less. They don’t take away from the credibility of the newspaper itself or from any of it’s articles. Instead they are merely a way for the newspaper to support their publication. That’s exactly what paid promotions are for an Instagram page.

I am all for supporting Indie publishers and will continue to accept books I’m interested in in exchange of posts. I have no problem in not charging for books I get which I will post about in my own time without any obligations apart from making sure I mention I have received it from the publisher.

But when a publisher contacts me for a campaign to promote a book, and it is a known publisher who sells millions of copies annually and has budgets allocated for promotions on traditional media, I better be offered a fair incentive as well. I do not get free books just because publishers like me, my influence is linked to them sending those books.

Its about time big publishers stop hiding behind “Publishing is becoming a dying industry”.
We are here and we are reading.

Laura who runs Whatshotblog.com has written 2 articles on this topic that I recommend:
It’s Time For Book Bloggers to Get Paid.
Book Bloggers Share Their Thoughts on Influencer Marketing

Last point is that our reviews are NOT FOR SALE.

p.s: I hope you didn’t forget to read this in the calming voice of Morgan Freeman.

My name is Faroukh and I am @theguywiththebook

books, REVIEWS

A Long Walk to Water By Linda Sue Park

edfThe last few pages of this book gave me multiple goosebumps. Linda Sue Park takes us on a couple of walks, one to survival and the other figuratively to survival (to water).

The narrative alternates between two eleven year old’s: Nya and Salva. Nya is a little girl who makes two trips to a drying pond to fetch water for her family. Her only break includes drinking a little water when she reaches the pond and the other is between her two daily trips back home for a few minutes. Nya’s narrative is very innocent which is intertwined with Salva’s coming of age narrative which also starts at the age of eleven. Salva is at the center of the book with Nya lending short breathers in between. Salva’s story starts in 1985 when South Sudan is under attack which leads him to abandon everything and head for Ethiopia under the unwilling watch of random strangers also heading to the same place.IMG_20181017_171059.jpg

What Salva goes through during the course of this ‘walk’ is horrendous and almost unbelievable, and when I finished the book, I turned the last page to a note from the author saying that this is all based on a true story. (I really need to stop this habit of not reading summaries of books I pick up!) Everything I read had a much deeper impact on me after I found this out and this has to be one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read in a long time! (Closest to it is Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini)

At the end of it all, I had so much more appreciation for what we have been blessed with in our daily lives, something like water which we don’t even think about. We complain if edfthe water we drink isn’t as cold as we want it to be not thinking twice there are people even today who would thank God for giving them even boiling hot water to drink. This book has the capacity to humble us and be thankful, and for that reason I recommend it to every single one of you. I think this should be required reading in schools and a book that should be reread every year.

A Long Walk to Water has a 4.24 rating on Good reads (30,000 reviews). If you’d like to order one, here’s my bookdepository affiliate link

Hope you guys enjoy it! Do let me know if its something you’d pick up? If there is any book you’d like to recommend, I’m all ears!

books, REVIEWS

WARLIGHT by Michael Ondaatje

I’ve been sitting with my laptop open since half an hour trying to figure out how to start talking about this book. I recently heard a literature critic share that one of the things we need to figure out while reviewing a book is the intention of the author with the letters bound into words strung up together to tell the story. And that’s exactly what confuses me about this book. What was the point? WAS there even a point?

IMG_5357.jpgAt the center of everything we have Nathaniel who seems to be around 30 years of age when he is recalling what he went through since he was a teen with his sister. Nathaniel and Rachel’s parents leave them in the care of a very shady individual who the siblings nick name The Moth. Their parents are off to Singapore from London. But things get slightly confusing when they find their mothers packed suitcase at home a few months after she’s apparently left.

The book is set in the years following Worldwar II and it does add to the overall mood, but it doesn’t seem as effective as you’d expect, the effects linger in the subconscious but its not what the book is about so the war-like rustic feeling fades quite early (Just an observation, neither a good or bad thing, I guess)

Ondaatje has worked a lot on the character development and you can tell he has been meticulous with the editing of his early drafts, you do not get any information which doesn’t play a part in developing the narrative. Every character has a part to play in the overall narrative and they all come together by the end, except one, the shadow, the father.

I feel that Ondaatje wanted to keep a secretive and out of reach narrative when it came to the father but it frustrated me because the way each character is brought to a closure by the end you expect/almost want him to do the same with the father. Doesn’t happen and its very disappointing.

Another tool used with the characters is he’s given them nicknames (The Moth and TheIMG_5070.jpg Darter) which make them seem more than ordinary, its a smart thing to do and it definitely is effective in giving them an added dimension.

Nathaniel doesn’t have a regular childhood obviously but some of his reactions are very unusual. When they find their mothers suitcase, you’d expect them to have a million questions but they seem to just accept the fact and go on with their lives. Rose on the other hand does have a lot of issues making her seem more human than him. His character fueled sometimes by his quiet and nonreactive nature seems very bland and inhuman (Although he definitely is not). I think if there were more one to one conversations between the siblings, it might have changed the feeling of Nathaniel’s impersonal and robotic aura.

By the second half of the book we do find a change in narrative and its more focused on the mother and her relationship with Nathaniel. There are some passages where you just want them to connect more and feel some emotion towards him. But in the end its just not effective, and leaves a pretty hollow feeling.

One thing which I was absolutely stunned by in some places was Ondaatje’s writing IMG_5255.jpgmasterclass! There were several passages I read and reread and read again! Absolute genius!

I’d recommend this book to people who like character focused books with a hint of mystery or basically just love great writing! As for the book critics suggestion to understand why an author has written a book, I guess while writing this review I seem to have figured its a story Ondaatje wanted to tell, a story which has no fancy objective, a book where you sympathize with someone who has had a broken childhood. I’ll be honest in saying that when I finished this book, I barely gave it a 3 star but now I’m leaning towards a 4.

If you’d like to buy this book, please use this Affiliate link, it helps me too!

books, REVIEWS

So Lucky by Nicola Griffith

IMG_4884Since the past year or so I’ve been hearing a lot about Own Voices and their importance. So I was really interested in reading So Lucky by Nicola Griffith sent to me by @mcdbooks
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It’s a book about Mara Targelli who you might call the ideally empowered woman in today’s world. Head of a huge company, a martial artist and fierce and straight forward in her dealings. Mara finds out she’s suffering from Multiple Sclerosis and things start to go south for her.
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You can read the summary for broad details of the book, I usually don’t get into those in the review so I don’t take away much from your experience.
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This book is not just about MS and what people go through when they suffer from it. It’s more of a social and political commentary on what happens with the disabled in society IMG_4934.jpgat large.
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Mara doesn’t want to be called the victim of her circumstances and wants to take hold of her life without the help of anyone, she readjusts her home to be self sufficient for her and starts an online campaign to help other people like her. Nicola Griffith gives a really good insight on how everyday life is affected by MS and it’s really helpful in educating us about it. I personally had no clue about how MS affects someone and this book made me research a lot about MS and I can say I do have a general understanding about it now.
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It’s also an interesting reflection on Social Media and how it can be empowering and can sometimes even a negative effect.
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Mara’s character is what holds the book together as the rest of the characters aren’t as involved and could be thought of as props to tell Mara’s story. The writing is very IMG_5191.JPGcomforting and not too complex. There is a certain hint of suspense in the second half of the book but it’s never the focal point.
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Overall a very good experience and maybe an important one at that. I’d urge you to pick it up, I think we could all benefit from reading about such topics. I’ve added HILD by Nicola Griffith on my TBR as well, its a memoir focussed on her experiences with MS.

What do you think? Would you read this book? If you have any good recommendations for books dealing with MS, I’d love you to comment below!

For a link to buy the book from Book depository, click here

 

 

books, REVIEWS

Book Review: Eve of Man by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher

Giovanna and Tom Fletcher collaborate to bring us the story of Eve and Bram.

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The premise:

img_1679The premise is very interesting, Eve is the first girl to be born in 50 years and obviously all eyes are on her in hopes that she can carry forward the human race once she comes of age. Eve is taken care of by a corporation based in a tower where she lives in ‘The Dome’ and is disconnected from the outer world. The only friend she has is Holly (An AI bot controlled remotely by ‘pilots’, one of them being Bram.)

 

The world:

The planet is drowned in water and the world outside the Tower is in shambles. There is a huge disconnect between what goes on inside it and what’s on the outside. The outside world barely gets mentioned until we reach the latter part of the book, which seemed like a big mistake.

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World building:

Normally when it comes to the dystopian genre you would expect efficient world building. But since the first half of the book is based inside the Tower and what’s outside img_3773it only comes in play in the second half, there is a huge disconnect. We’re kept in the dark (probably unintentionally) and it doesn’t work. Unless you’re only interested in what happens between Eve and Bram, you’d want to know more about this dystopian world.

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Narration:

Chapters are divided between Eve and Bram and it seems like each author wrote one of the characters chapters, there isn’t any cohesion between the two. This isn’t that bad a thing because each of the characters chapters is easily distinguishable and you could say each character has a voice of its own. I’d have enjoyed it a lot more if the tower and what’s outside had alternate chapters.

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Characters:

The characters are all extremely predictable. There’s no depth to any of them. Character img_3862development is non existent and sometimes even forced. I think there wasn’t a single one of them that had a distinct identity, it seemed that all of them were set to default character settings and let go.

The execution:

I expected this to happen and the answer is yes, the book turns into a Damsel-in-distress-where-is-my-savior plot. It was almost unbearable in the last 100 pages where every movement was thoroughly explained and there was nothing left for me to think about. Every thing was extremely dramatized and the one time something was kept a secret, it seemed forced and well, it wasn’t really a plot twisting secret.

Over all, I think I’d have enjoyed this and maybe even recommended it if I was a teenager. Unfortunately I’m no longer one.