‘Catching Fire’ by Suzanne Collins

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‘Catching Fire’ is the second book in the ‘Hunger Games Trilogy’. It was first published on September 1, 2009 by Scholastic. The book picks up after 6 months have passed since the conclusion of the Hunger Games, an annual event in which each District of Panem [the post-apocalyptic North America] sends one male and one female tribute to fight to death in a televised competition to remind the Districts that the capitol can take their children and that no one is safe. President Snow unexpectedly visits Katniss on the day their Victory Tour was supposed to take place and tells her he is angry with her for breaking the rules at the end of the last Hunger Games, which permitted both Katniss and Peeta to live when only one person is allowed to live. Snow tells Katniss that when she defied the Capitol, she inspired rebellion in the Districts. Katniss and Peeta travel the twelve Districts and the Capitol.

Soon after the Victory Tour is over it is announced that for the 75th Hunger Games, twenty four victors from previous years will be forced to compete again. This is the third occurrence of the Quarter Quell, an event that occurs every 25th year of the games and allows the Capitol to introduce twist. Katniss [as she is the only living female victor] gets chosen along with Haymitch but Peeta volunteers to save him and also to protect Katniss in the arena. During the Games, set in a jungle with a saltwater lake, Katniss and Peeta form an alliance with two previous victors: Finnick, a 24 year old man who won the 65th hunger games at the age of 14, and Mags, Finnick’s 80 year old mentor, both from District 4.

The party encounters a poisonous fog in which Peeta comes into contact with the fog and cannot walk. Mags sacrifices herself to save Peeta. After Mags’s death, Katniss, Peeta and Finnick join forces with Johanna Mason, sarcastic and often cruel victor from District 7, and Beetee and Wiress, an older couple from District 3 who are said to be exceptionally smart. Wiress soon proves her genius by revealing to Katniss that the arena is arranged like a clock, with all the arena’s deadly disasters occurring on a timed chart. After Wiress is killed in a battle with the Careers [tributes from richer Districts like 1, 2 and 4, who train all their lives for the Games and are usually the winners], Katniss learns of Beetee’s plan to harness lightning in order to electrocute Brutus and Enobaria, the two remaining Career Tributes from District 2.

In the final chapters, Katniss instead directs the lightning at the force field that contains the arena, thereby destroying the arena and resulting in her temporary paralysis. When Katniss wakes up, she is being transported to District 13, joined by Finnick, Beetee and her mentor Haymitch. She learns that Peeta, Johanna and Enobaria have been captured by the Capitol and is informed that there had been a plan among half of the tributes to break out of the arena-Beetee had been attempting to destroy the force field the same way that she did. The book ends when Katniss’s best friend Gale comes to visit her and informs her that, though he got her family out in time, District 12 was destroyed.

I rate this book 10/10. Once we open the book we can’t put it down. This book is not for the faint hearted. I enjoyed all the twists and turns of the story and recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading.

Reviewed by Meera Nair     

‘The Devil and Miss Prym’ by Paulo Coelho

Image result for book devil and miss prymA stranger arrives at a sleepy village high in the mountains and shows the disillusioned barmaid, Miss Prym, a bar of gold he has hidden in the woods and tells her of another nine nearby. She must inform the townsfolk of his offer – if one person in the village is murdered by the end of the week, the village will receive the ten bars of gold.

This book is based around choices, two of them. The first is Miss Prym’s – she can choose to steal the one gold bar she knows the location of and run off to the city to pursue her dreams. This would not only help her live the life she always dreamed of, but also protect her neighbours from having to make an agonizing decision. On the other hand, the more moral choice would be to not steal the gold, and not to tell the villagers of the stranger’s offer so that all concerned could preserve their moral integrity. However, should Miss Prym start down this path, the stranger has promised that he will inform the citizens himself and they will likely resent the barmaid for hiding this information and choose her as the sacrificial victim.

The second choice is obviously that of the villagers – whether they should accept the gold offered to them to save their dying village and murder an innocent inhabitant, or let their home wink out of existence, but stay on the side of righteousness.

Paulo Coelho is an immensely talented author who somehow manages to get right inside characters. He did it magnificently with the stranger who is trying to convince himself there is still good left in the world and with Miss Prym, who is facing the most terrifying decision she has ever had to make. Somehow, nobody in the book felt to me like a bad person – some were unlikable.
To me, the essence of this book is good vs evil, and that perhaps it’s not always as clear cut a choice as it seems. There have been many books on this topic already, but not like this one. This is a very specific, very personal look at what people can do when pushed. Religion occasionally comes into it, as does the Devil, but it’s more in a spiritual way.

Reviewed by Arshia V.

‘Inferno’ by Dan Brown

Related imageInferno is a thriller fiction written by Dan Brown. Is was first published by Bantam Press in Great Britain in 2013.
The story is about a art history professor, Robert Langdon. He has been asked by the WHO to investigate about a person called Bertrand Zobrist. Bertrand Zobrist is a intelligent transhumanist who has invented a new type of plague virus and plans to release it. He believes that humans are still evolving and after many centuries a very advanced post-human species will evolve. But, he also believes if the overpopulation goes on the way it is now human species will become extinct before that. In his opinion, plagues were nature’s way of curbing overpopulation.
But, suddenly he wakes up in a hospital without any memory of the last 24 hours. He finds a altered painting of Sandro Botticelli’s ‘Map of Hell’ in a hidden pocket of his coat and starts investigating again. Meanwhile, an agent of the Consortium (an illegal association which does anything for money), Vayentha, and SRS team off ECDC after are following him. As he finds clues and moves forward, the author also describes the history and art of Italy and Istanbul. Later, Robert finds that Sienna is actually Bertrand’s supporter.
Unfortunately, they are not able to stop the plague. But, finally Sienna comes out and tells Robert the truth. Bertrand created a sterility plague which renders 1/3 of the population sterile forever. Finally, everyone accepts that even though Bertrand’s way was not right, his intentions were good.
This book is really gripping and I really like this book. I rate it 5/5 and recommend it to everyone.

Reviewed by Gayathri Sankar

‘Rusty comes Home’ by Ruskin Bond

Image result for book rusty comes homeRUSTY COMES HOME IS A FAMOUS BOOK WRITTEN BY RUSKIN BOND. THERE ARE MANY BOOKS IN THESE SERIES LIKE RUSTY THE BOY FROM HILLS, RUSTY RUNS HOME, RUSTY AND THE LEOPARD, RUSTY GOES TO LONDON AND RUSTY COMES HOME. RUSKIN BOND IS ALSO THE AUTHOR OF MANY OTHER BOOKS LIKE-THE HIDDEN POOL, MR. OLIVER’S DIARY, THE KASHMIRI STORY TELLER, THE CHERRY TREE, THE EYES OF THE EAGLE, GETTING GRANNIES GLASSES, CRAZY TIME WITH UNCLE KEN.

RUSTY COMES HOME IS THE FIFTH AND FINAL VOLUME IN THE SERIES OF RUSTY STORIES. HERE RUSTY WOBBLE AROUND ON HIS OLD BICYCLE. FROM DEHRA DUN, HE EXPLORED OLD AND NEW DELHI, LIVED IN SHAHGANJ AND SETTLED AROUND MUSSORIE. THERE HE GOT NEW COMPANIONS. THE FIRST CHAPTER IS –‘ALL YOU NEED IS PAPER’. IN THIS CHAPTER HE REMEMBERS ABOUT THE GOOD OLD EXPERIENCES WHILE HE WAS IN LONDON. THE NEXT CHAPTER ‘SUMMERTIME IN OLD NEW DELHI’ DESCRIBES HIS EXPERIENCES AFTER MIGRATING TO DELHI FROM DEHRA AND WORKED THERE IN AN INTERNATIONAL RELIEF AGENCY EVEN THOUGH HE WAS NOT HAPPY THERE. NEXT IS ‘BHABIJI’S HOUSE’. THERE HE LIVED WITH HIS FRIEND KAMAL. HIS FAMILY WAS A PUNJABI. THE REST OF THE STORY DEALS WITH HIS EXPERIENCES WITH KAMAL’S FAMILY. NEXT STORY IS ‘THE CROOKED TREE’. HE AGAIN SHIFTED FROM DELHI TO SHAHGANJ WITH A VERY SMALL ROOM. THERE HE GOT A FRIEND CALLED KETAN. THEY TOGETHER HAD WONDERFUL EXPERIENCES. ‘THE STORY OF MADHU’ DEALS WITH HIS EXPERIENCE WITH A YOUNG GIRL MADHU. SHE WAS ABOUT NINE. HE TAUGHT HER TO READ AND WRITE. HE EVEN HELPED HER TO GET PROPER EDUCATION. LATER MADHU BECAME HIS LITTLE FRIEND. NEXT IS ‘MOST BEAUTIFUL’. HE GOT A COMPANION NAMED SURESH WHO WAS A LITTLE BOY OF THIRTEEN. THE NEXT CHAPTER IS ‘THE NIGHT TRAIN AT DEOLI’.  HE MET A LITTLE GIRL WHO WAS SELLING BASKETS IN THE RAILWAY PLATFORM ON THE WAY TO A PLACE CALLED DEOLI. ‘HE SAID IT WITH ARSENIC’ IS THE NEXT CHAPTER. IN THIS CHAPTER HE NARRATES ABOUT A PERSON CALLED MR. WILLIAM JONES AND IN REST OF THE CHAPTER HE DESCRIBES ABOUT MR. JONES CHARACTER. THE NEXT CHAPTER IS ‘BINYA PASSES BY’. IN THIS HE MEETS A LADY CALLED BINYA AND GETS ATTRACTED TOWARDS HER. ‘THE GOOD OLD DAYS’ DESCRIBES ABOUT HIS MEETING WITH MISS PETTIBONE HIS AUNT ABOUT EIGHTY FIVE. THE NEXT CHAPTER IS ‘THE TROUBLE WITH JINNS’. ITS ALL ABOUT HIS FRIEND JIMMY.

‘LISTEN TO THE WIND’ DESCRIBES THE LIFE IN MARCH WITH LOT OF WIND AND RAIN. HE ENJOYED THE SEASON WITH PETTIBONE.          ‘THE LAST TIME I SAW DELHI’ DESCRIBES ABOUT AN INCIDENT HE REMEMBERED ABOUT HIS FAMILY WHILE THEY WERE GOING TO A TRIP. THE REST OF THE STORY IS ABOUT HIS EXPERIENCES THERE. THE NEXT IS ‘THE SMALL BEGINNINGS’ FOLLOWED BY TIGER, TIGER, BURNING BRIGHT. THE NEXT IS ‘WHEN YOU CAN’T CLIMB TREES ANYMORE’, AS TIME GOES BY AND UPON AN OLD WALL DREAMING. THE STORY ENDS WITH RUSTY AS A MIDDLE AGED MAN.

I ENJOYED READING THIS BOOK AS RUSKIN BOND TAKES ME ALONG TO HIS CHILDHOOD AND PAST EVENTS. HE SHARES WITH US TALES OF ADVENTURES AND LOVE. THERE ARE MANY TWISTS IN THE STORY.  I LIKED THE BOOK VERY MUCH. HOPE YOU TOO WILL.

Reviewed by Sarika P. Nair

‘The Zahir’ by Paulo Coelho

“My heart might be bruised , but it will recover and become capable of seeing beauty of life once more. It’s happened before, it will happen again, I’m sure when someone leaves, it’s because someone else is about to arrive, I‘ll find love again.’’

The Zahir is a 2005 novel by the world famous and the much loved author of The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho. This book was originally written in Portuguese by the author, but was translated by Margaret Jull Costa. The book was published in India by Harper Collins Publishers. The story mainly revolves around the themes of love and obsession, that leads the protagonist in redeeming the meaning of love, life and conversation. The book is actually a dedication to Coelho’s wife, Christina.

The word ‘Zahir’ comes from the Islamic tradition, which means visible, present, incapable of going unnoticed in Arabic. The protagonist of this novel is a world famous, successful novelist and at the same time celebrity whose name the author has not revealed. He lives in Paris with his wife, Esther, the winner of two international prizes for journalism. The protagonist’s celebrity status had affected his relationship with his wife. So, she leaves the man for the sake of her own happiness, without any message. He gradually realizes that Esther’s disappearance is a sort of message, a challenge to him, to rethink of his emotions and make them worthy of hers. She becomes the Zahir of the title, a blinding obsession. The protagonist mentions a short story by Jorge Luis Borges and says that his zahir is not a romantic metaphor, a man, a tiger, a compass, or a coin. It has a name and her name is Esther. On Esther’s journey to find true love, she meets with a Mongolian man named Mikhail, whose her friend too. They both were last met in a Café. Mikhail, the third important character of the story, is from Kazakhstan and follows Tengri tradition. Somehow Mikhail and the narrator comes together and Mikhail promises to take him to Esther.

Coelho has included multiple themes of spirituality, the author had mainly talked about the mental slavery in following the world’s rules. Reading the Zahir had fascinated me as it includes the reference of old forgotten traditions, spiritual love stories and a certain mention of the author’s pilgrimage road to Santiago. The value one reader can depict from this book is to have the courage needed to square off against all the mysteries of life and letting of ego. This book has strong autobiographical features and the characters were just real. The Zahir is anything you make it to be and there is one place you will find it, in yourself.

This book awakens the self and rekindles the lost love. I rate this book 4.5 on 5 and recommend it to all those love reading and specially to all the Coelho fans.

Reviewed by Ashifa S. S.

‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ by Conan Doyle

Sherlock HOLMES novels are the most popular detective novels ever written .It was a groundbreaking series in the field of detective thrillers .These spellbinding novels and stories were written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The Hound of the Baskervilles is the third of the crime novels written by sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes. It was originally serialised in ‘The Standard Magazine’ from August 1901- April 1902.

The story is set on a wet, gloomy place called Dartmoor in Devon in England’s West Country and tells the story of an attempted murder of Sir Charles Baskerville inspired by the legend of a fearsome diabolic hound of supernatural origin.

The story starts with Dr James Mortimer, Sir Charles’ friend asking Sherlock Holmes to investigate the death of his friend, Sir Charles who was found dead on the grounds of his Devonshire estate and now Mortimer also fears for Sir Henry who is he next heir of Baskerville hall as Mortimer is suspicious about the death of sir Charles, which is attributed to heart attack and the foot prints of a hound found near the dead body, which is associated with the curse of the Baskerville hall. So Sherlock Holmes and his companion DrWatson, who is the narrator of the story set out to investigate the mystery.

What is the secret behind Sir Charles death? Is there really a gigantic hound roaming in the dark? Is Sir Henry safe in the Baskerville hall? To solve all these mysteries, read the book.

This was the first appearance of Holmes after his apparent death in ‘The Final problem’ and the success of The Hound of the Baskervilles led to the character’s eventual revival. The novel uses many traditional novelistic techniques such as letters, diary extracts etc. It has many twists and gives the reader thrill at each moment .I rate the book 9.5/10.I recommend this book to all those who love thrillers.  

Reviewed by Nandana V. L.

‘Mother’ by Maxim Gorky

The Mother is a magnum opus work of the well known Russian novelist Maxim Gorky about revolutionary factory workers. The essence of the Mother is quite unnatural and very little world classics are so widely read as the Mother as it deeply influences the views of its readers.

This ground breaking novel was first published by Appleton magazine as a serial between 1906 and1907.

Gorky was personally connected to this novel as it portrays real life events revolving around his distant relative ‘Anna Zolmova’ from whom the character ‘Pelageya Nilovna’ or ‘the Mother’ originated and her son ‘Poitr  Zolmove’, a revolutionary leader from whom the character ‘Pavel Vlassov’ originated and the May day demonstration that took place in Sormova in 1902.  The mother is considered to be the only long work on the   Russian revolutionary movement.

The novel’s base is at Sormova, a small labour town in Russia. It is all about Pavel Vlassov, a young and energetic factory worker and at the same time an iron man who is lively, brave and philosophical revolutionary leader- a member of the socialist democratic labour party and his mother Pelageya Nilovna who has suffered a lot in her life due to her husband- Michael Vlassov. After her husband’s unexpected death she get to know more about her son and one day finds that he is a revolutionist. Being illiterate and without any political interest she is at first afraid and cautious of Pavel’s activities. However, despite of her political ignorance she starts helping him due to her maternal feelings. What will happen to their revolutionary lives and how will Pelageya overcome her fears to become a clear revolutionist? To know the answer read the book.

This novel depicts all the actions, worries and stresses that await a mother when she takes the big step of supporting her son’s way of life even though she is not fully aware of the dangers in it. It is a clear manifestation of the lives of suppressed labourers, their protest against aristocrats and the birth of leaders among workers. The novel also includes other revolutionists like Pavel’s best friend Andrei who loves Pelageya like his own mother, Fyodiar Masin, Nicolai, Wizhowisckh, Rybin, Igor, Yefim, Yekim, Ivan etc. In this novel, like the mother there are many other powerful women characters like Natasha, Sasha and Sophia who are beautiful, brilliant and bold revolutionists. My favourite characters are the brave revolutionists Pavel and Andrei because of their open hearted friendship and sincerity towards their work. I rate this book 10/10 as it gave me a clear view of what had happened in Russia during the revolution. I recommend this book to all those who love to read book that openly narrates about real life-books that touch our heart…

Reviewed by  Nayana V L

 

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