Thursday, 27 June 2013

Origin - Jessica Khoury

*4.5 stars* 

For a longest time, the book sat in my To-Be-Read shelf and finally out of boredom I decided to pick it up. And what a book it was! I so did not expect what the experience turned out to be.

I don't like calling books perfect, after all 'Perfect is as Perfect Does'. There is no such thing as perfect, as Pia learned the hard way, but this was pretty close call. It had wild speculations on future-that-could-be, the role of morality and our inner selves, of growing up and disappointment, and moreover, the inner purity and goodness that cannot be suppressed. The surroundings was well built and lively, the peace set well, not once did  have a feeling of growing tired. The characters were human, meaning life-like, not all-good.

We meet 17 year old Pia, who her whole life has spent in Little Cam, a hidden science camp in the middle of Amazon. As a result of decades of experiments Pia has reached the highest level oh human evolution, perfection, immortality. A girl, who with her perfect memory has grown up reading about genetics and solving math problems, has no connections to the outside world. But with new faces in the tightly guarded camp and coincidences, Pias whole world is turned upside down.

I loved how Pia was struggling with the question of immortality, morality and the biggest question of all, what does it mean to be a human? It felt real, seeing her dreams and understandings changing with her. The characters were well established, and I could follow the mental struggles between what you have known your whole life to be true and that little voice inside whispering there has to be more. We see the cold-blooded scientist ready for everything in the name of science. How it destroys lives or creates lives.

And I just couldn't pass on commenting the awesomeness that were the natives. I might be over-romanticizing the 'noble savage', but as a vivid admirer or anthropology, I have a soft spot for the "traditional" people. I do think it describes well our society, when so much could be saved by accepting the simple truths that have been known for the natives for generations. But it is degrading for a highly educated scientist to take the local myths and stories as truth. So, somehow it becomes widely accepted for the name of science doing things that in other contexts might be completely unheard of. Again. Where do you draw the line? Just how far can you push the limits in the name of a greater good?

In conclusion, this book touched me, assuring that once again there IS hope for the future, even if it happens to be fictional assurance - we don't need colorful explosions, violent passion or loud music and alcohol for a book to be good.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Daddy-Long-Legs - Jean Webster (Daddy-Long-Legs #1)

Wow, it has been a while. I have noticed my reading frenzies come in bursts. There are months when I spend virtually every minute awake glued to books (actually mostly to my laptops screen but the idea remains same) and then there are months I don't feel like picking up a book at all. Last three or four months have been like this for me. I have about 5 books I have started, and I will finish them, it's just, I don't feel the need to inhale hundreds of pages a day. I'm sure, the days of frenzy will return, but right now I'm just enjoying leisurely reading a chapter or two a day.

*3.5 stars*

Which leads me to an actual review, I know, I have almost forgotten how to write one, but here we go. Yesterday I stumbled upon this sweet book  of coming of age. It was my first epistolary novel, meaning the plot was completely conveyed through letters. And I loved it. It was very easy to read, I would even call it a page turner. Through the novel we follow 4 years of college life of Jerusha Abbott. Growing up and having spent all her 17 years in orphanage she is bewildered to find out that she has been picked out to receive anonymous donations from one of the orphanages beneficiaries. She starts addressing the man as a Daddy Long Legs, after a long legged shadow she once witnessed him cast from afar.

The plot is delivered to us through the eyes and letters of a teenage girl, first discovering the world and people she had no idea existed outside from her little bubble. It gives off a sense of "trueness". Even through written a hundred years ago, I can still relate to Judy. Her bubbly personality, urge to please her dear Daddy Long Legs and shine in her academic life mixed up with undeniable girly vanity of someone who grew up having nothing make Jerusha into a real girl. And even though the ways of life have changed drastically since then, it still stays charming for a modern mind.

Yet, hardly any book comes without flaws. Daddy Long Legs might just have as much good as there is of that, what made me cringe. The reason I gave it 3.5* is just that it could have been so much more.

Some slight spoilers ahead!

For a starter... calling your anonymous beneficiary slash romantic interest Daddy through a whole book, is slightly disconcerting... yet I can see how a girl might develop fatherly feelings for an imaginative figure who also is her only friend/family outside the college. Yet, neither of them should seem so comfortable with it. I really hope she isn't going to continue her letter to her loved one, starting them with "Dear Daddy!" Ugh! However, a much bigger problem for me lies in the end of the book.

When you find out the person you have become to think of as a father or family at least, and a man you have strong romantic feelings for turn out to be the same - ... A girl would be upset! Really. Especially one with Judys character. I just don't see her happily accepting it without a blink and just falling into his waiting arms. And then continuing sending letters to him in the same way! I just... can't.

End of the "spoilery" part :)

I also wish we could see at least some of the story through someone else... inevitably it stayed a bit too one dimensional. But I guess this must be the charm of the epistolary style. 

Overall. There were just so many issues with this book and the last chapters managed to tear everything even more apart, BUT the majority of the book was still enjoyable. Judy was a great character and watching her grow up and making her way in the world was very satisfactory. I do dare to recommend this book, just... don't expect the romance to blow you away, more then anything it's a coming of age story of a bright girl.

The book actually has a sequel called Dear Enemy, and even though I loved the first installment enough, I'm not sure I will be picking it up anytime soon.