Author Archives: oddvolumes

My Favourite Novels of 2017

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I read a total of 56 novels this year. In the order that I read them, here are the most memorable and enjoyable books I read in 2017 – 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This was the first novel I read in 2017. I thought I’d set myself a precedent to continue reading more nonfiction over the coming months. Paul Kalanithi’s story moved me to tears, like big ugly nasty tears. Read this book!

The Girl in 6E by A.R. Torre

A. R. Torre might be a weird addition to this list but I honestly don’t care. I loved reading the hell out of this book and the sequel. Sadly I didn’t think the rest of the series was good… but The Girl in 6E was guilty pleasure goodness.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

I’d never read a book set in Iceland, and it turns out this novel is a true historical story about the case of Agnes Magnúsdóttir the last person to get capital punishment in 1828. Fascinating stuff, and could. not. put. it. down. 

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

I’m surprised Fates and Furies made it on to this list since I gave it a low rating on Goodreads. Here’s the thing: I can’t stop thinking about the insane plot and twisted characters… I can’t let go.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant was a cozy, chicklit (ish) tearjerker with important social commentary on mental illnesses. Loved it a lot.

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

Helen Oyeyemi is my literary crush. I want to know how her mind comes up with the things she writes. Boy, Snow, Bird played elements of magical realism, fairy tales and issues of race in a way I didn’t think was possible to concoct.

Panty by Sangeetha Bandyopadhyay

Panty was one of the most exciting magical realist novel ever and it was one of the two translated novels I read in 2017. 

Beauty Is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan

This is the second translated novel. Beauty Is a Wound is a genre-bending compendium of Indonesian modern history and is a book you’ll hate or love. Obviously, I loved it. Haha.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

“I need more Austen in my life.” – Me, since 2010

American Fire by Monica Hesse

American Fire reignited (heh) my love for true crime.

The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish

Okay. So… I freaking love Tiffany Haddish. Her stand up is e v e r y t h i n g. The Last Black Unicorn is supremely funny but it’s also filled with details about her nightmarish childhood and teenage years growing up in foster care. I highly recommend the audiobook version.


Tiny side note: I might be posting less on my blog (in the coming months) because of a massive reading slump + other life stuff. In no way will i ever stop reading though, I’m trying to get into audiobooks at the moment… 😃 

Thanks for stopping by! Happy reading 📚 

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Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas (Review)

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⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

I went into this thriller with low expectations, and that at the very least I sought to be entertained even if the story was rubbish. But I was PLEASANTLY taken aback. Local Girl Missing is approved. A few months ago (or could’ve been last year) I started reading The Sisters – same author but her debut – and DNF’d it since the plot was going nowhere. I don’t remember much else. I think debuts are tricky, it’s either a hit or miss in any genre. Although I find that authors who write mystery or crime dole out books like it’s nobody’s business 📚 There’s more where that came from, so to speak.

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Local Girl Missing is about Frankie, a Londoner, who goes back to the seaside town she grew up in. What pulls her back to the town is a phone call from her best friend’s brother and news that parts of Sophie have been found. Sophie went missing 18 years ago and is believed to have been murdered. If you know anything about my reading tastes, I (capital l) Love mysteries set in small towns brimming with secrets. The story is divided between Frankie’s POV and Sophie’s diary and is thoroughly creepy as it leads up to the day when Sophie goes missing.

I enjoyed the novel a lot and flew through it. Not gonna lie, Frankie was a little annoying and immature at times. The ending was truly wtf, I didn’t see it coming at all. I’m now curious about Claire Douglas’ latest novel ‘Last Seen Alive,’ and I see it has amazing reviews on goodreads. Yay! I highly recommend Local Girl Alive if you’re going through a reading slump or just want to read a quick-paced thriller with a satisfying ending! 

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (Review)

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⭐ ⭐ ⭐ (3. 5 stars) 

This was my first Agatha Christie novel! ❤️ My brother has been recommending Agatha Christie to me since a decade – no kidding. I really wanted to watch the movie which motivated me to pick up Murder on the Orient Express.

The novel is set entirely on a train travelling from Istanbul to London. Hercule Poirot, “the world’s most famous detective,” is aboard and as expected crime and mystery follows at his footsteps. On a snowy night, a man is found stabbed 12 times. There are a dozen travellers (now suspects) in the coach. What I loved about the novel was Poirot’s witticisms, the interrogation scenes, the backstory, and the final reveal. Agatha Christie’s writing is precise and to the point. So is the structure of the book.

My preference is towards seedier crime novels with modern settings, and Agatha Christie leans towards respectable or classic crime. I’ll definitely be picking her novels up in the future when I want a cozy read. After I finished reading Murder on the Orient Express I went to watch the movie a few hours later. It was lovely! I was from riveted start to finish and even though I knew what the suspense was I was still invested and entertained. Kenneth Branagh did an excellent job at directing and playing Poirot. I have no idea why the reviews online aren’t that favourable… I was not disappointed at all, this was a clean-cut mystery with a fantastic ending.

I’d highly recommend Murder on the Orient Express, both the novel and the film adaptation.

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The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (Review)

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⭐ ⭐

Well, this was a load of crap.

I haven’t changed my mind even after sleeping on it. After reading the last page, all I could think was how unfinished the story felt. Also, plot… hello? Nada. The Book of Strange New Things is a “science fiction” novel that is about Peter Leigh, a Christian pastor, who leaves his wife Bea behind on Earth and goes on an intergalactic mission with a company named USIC. He reaches planet Oasis and is ready to spread the word of God to the native population.

There is some semblance of direction and plot in the first 180 pages but after that, it’s boring. It’s annoying. The love story between Peter and Bea falls apart quickly once they’ve separated. The emails they write one another are fucking tragic. Bea whines about earthquakes in (I don’t even remember) Nepal and tsunamis and how people are dying and there’s no chocolate in Tesco’s. Boo hoo. Peter couldn’t give any fucks either and writes back infrequently, angering his wife. At one point I wanted Bea’s character to die so the emails would stop.

Peter on the other hand is loving Oasis. To be honest, I did enjoy Michel Faber’s world building and descriptions of the new & alien planet: the days are long, the air seems ‘alive’ and moves differently, the rain travels in swirly dots, and the Oasan’s are strange looking creatures who can speak a little English. I thought Faber’s attempts to demonstrate the Oasan’s language was juvenile and stupid. The s’s and t’s were represented by weird symbols. Peter is the Oasan’s third pastor, the first two having gone ‘fully native’ and run away. I thought the story would have an element of mystery and maybe  have some sinister aspects. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.

Coming to the writing, it’s not bad. Michel Faber can certainly write. He explores ideas and aspects of humanity but that couldn’t hold the plot together, which is a complete and utter mess. From what I read online, this might be Faber’s last fiction novel. He wrote The Book of Strange New Things as a way of dealing with the passing of his wife to cancer. He felt distant and alienated, because during the time his wife was suffering he enjoyed a lot of success in his career when his novels were turned into a tv show and movie. I still haven’t changed by mind though, this was an insanely boring novel. You might want to skip this one. 

Fractured Masculinity in The Salesman (2016) & The Death of a Salesman

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The Salesman – originally titled Forushande – is an Iranian film that took inspiration from the American play The Death of a Salesman. It’s been many years since I read the play but I still think about it to this day. On a corner of the page, past me scribbled: “uplifting and off-putting at the same time” which (I think) perfectly characterises Willy Loman and Emad. Willy searches for the ever so elusive American Dream all his life and dies without ever experiencing it first-hand, and Emad searches for closure and struggles with his identity as a husband (and protector) in a patriarchal society.

The quest for middle class respectability ends with our male protagonists suffering from the hero complex. In The Death of a Salesman, Willy is in his 60’s and still struggling to have a comfortable and easy life and pay off his home mortgage. His sons Happy and Biff are struggling to find jobs. Willy is exhausted and frustrated after losing his sales job. He equates possessing wealth to happiness, freedom and being well-liked. During his lifetime, Willy doesn’t experience these. He forgets about his humanity and works like a slave in a machine that promises riches and acceptance only if you make it to the top.

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Powerlessness is the huge driving force. Emad is a teacher and part time stage actor. His wife Rana and he star in a production of The Death of a Salesman in the lead roles. One day their building (literally) collapses. They find a new apartment which was previously owned by a prostitute and, despite being aware of this, move in. Rana is mysteriously assaulted in the bathroom by a customer of the prostitute when her husband isn’t at home. She goes into shock and tries to deal with the trauma in her own way.

Emad becomes increasingly angry and paranoid. He feels humiliated because he couldn’t save his wife from the violence she experienced. Rana declines going to the police and retreats into a shell, rejecting her husband’s efforts to comfort her. Emad takes it upon himself to find the man who disrupted his peace & family life and seek vengeance. As revealed, the man in question turns out to be a sad old guy who has a wife, daughter and son-in-law. In one of the most tense and pathetic scene in my cinematic life, Emad slaps him. Rana demands Emad to let the man go after he apologises.

When masculinities are threatened, our male characters are driven to an extreme state of action. Willy drives his car into a wall and kills himself. Emad uses physical violence to counter physical violence. He doesn’t feel any less worse after that. He couldn’t singlehandedly defeat the Iranian male gaze. This doesn’t make them bad men though, they are good men who made the decision to act a certain way since society told them to. They conform and don’t want to let down the people they love. Therein lies the misfortune: the gap between reality and their versions of an ideal world. Rana and Linda (Willy’s wife) suffer silently, and they are memorable because of their endurance. They are the opposite of perfect but fully human and utterly horrified at witnessing their husbands disintegrating before their own eyes. The real tragedy is societies that extend false materialistic ideals and toxic masculinity be it in modern day Iran or America.

Mystery/Thriller Reviews #2: Her Every Fear & Friend Request

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Trashy 3-star thrillers are my jam. A few months ago, my best friend read and hated (or expressed dissatisfaction for) The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson and proceeded to spoil the whole plot for my entertainment. It was silly but I was intrigued anyway, I really wanted to read Swanson. Her Every Fear was marketed as a “Hitchcockian Thriller” and… I was sold. Think, Dial M For Murder and The Talented Mr. Ripley but not as sensational.

The story goes like this: Kate and Corbin are apartment swapping cousins. Anxiety ridden, Kate is somewhat relieved to escape from her nightmarish past in London and live in a new city (Boston). The night she arrives at the apartment complex, Corbin’s next door neighbour Audrey has been found murdered. This novel had the potential to be great noir but Swanson shoots down the suspense fairly early on and the leftover plot is predictable.

Friend Request by Laura Marshall is my more recent read and I definitely enjoyed this more. I might be biased but imho, women authors write better domestic thrillers. Friend Request – as you’d have guessed – involves Facebook. I deleted my Facebook account two weeks ago and haven’t looked back since. It honestly feels good to be rid of it & Laura Marshall is brilliant at describing just how soul-sucking social media is. The blurb on the front reads: “Maria Weston wants to be friends. But Maria Weston is dead. Isn’t she?” YES. The timeline flicks between 1989 and 2016 and is about Louise, a single mother in London, who carries a deeply tragic secret involving her classmate. There were many satisfying twists at the end which I did *not* see coming. A brilliant whodunit!

True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray by James Renner (Review)

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⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Readers, I have fallen deep inside the True Crime rabbit hole! It’s a wonderful land. True Crime Addict is part memoir and part – you guessed it – True Crime about the Maura Murray case. Infamous and eerie, Maura Murray’s disappearance has been an open investigation since 2004. In order to keep the suspense intact, I won’t focus on all the details of her disappearance in this review. Maura vanished without a trace and her story has reached a cult like status for web forums and online sleuths.

James Renner’s obsession with this case is unparalleled. He describes it as being the “first great mystery of the social media age,” Facebook having been launched during the same week she went missing. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Renner’s life story (the memoir bits) though it’s slightly relevant in the end. I feel like his avid interest and obsession with Maura Murray borders on unhealthy territory throughout the book, especially when he exposes his family to the ire he receives online.

As I said, the case is still an open investigation 13 years later. James Renner mentions the strange way Maura’s family and friends act and how unhelpful they are regarding releasing information. There hasn’t been any real resolve to the mystery but endless avenues and theories have cropped up over this time. True Crime Addict ends with more questions than answers – which isn’t a criticism. I enjoyed reading it. This is a deeply interesting case with various scenarios and possibilities: Did Maura concoct a genius plan to run away? Was it a perfect murder? It’s a quick and fun read, if that’s what you’re looking for.