Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why I Loved... Hop, Skip & Jump!

Why I Love Wednesdays is a meme hosted on every Wednesday at Reflections of a Bookaholic! Today's topic is our favourite childhood books.

My favourite childhood author was, of course, Enid Blyton! My love for her started with her various books about Fairyland, and weathermen who answered toy phones and bad tooth-faries! I went on to read and love her Five Find-Outers mysteries, followed by the Famous Five series!

The Book of Brownies was one of my most treasured books as a kid, handed down to me by my older sister! It was a story of three naughty brownies called Hop, Skip & Jump. One day, at the King's party, while pretending to do a magic trick, the brownies accidentally send the little princess into an evil witch's lair. They are banished from the Kingdom until they rescue the princess and bring her back.

On the way they meet the strangest creatures, worms and giants and people who only talk in poems. They are trapped in the cruel Red Goblin's house and they rescue a saucepan-man from a tower of chocolate! And finally they use bottled luck to rescue the princess from the evil witch's lair and bring her back home! Exciting, right?

Well, I happened to adore it. Actually, only a few months ago, I gave all my childhood books to one of my younger friends, and this makes me wonder if she enjoys them just as much! I do hope she does.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

TT - Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted at MizB's Should Be Reading.

"Thus far I have gone, tracing a secure way over the pathless seas, the very stars themselves being witnesses and testimonies of my triumph. Why not still proceed over the untamed yet obedient element? What can stop the determined heart and resolved will of man?"

- Robert Walton (Frankenstein by Mary Shelley)

Frankenstein's one of those books that everyone has heard of. And, Frankenstein's monster, like Dracula, is one of the most famous monsters in pop culture. Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley is my first in the list of always-wanted-to-read classics. I have just started reading it, but I'm already loving it!

TTT - To-Be-Read List for Fall

Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and The Bookish. This week's topic is, "Top Ten Books that are on the top of my TBR List for Fall!"

I've decided to go a bit classic time of the year. Catch up on all the famous literary works that I should have read by now, and a bit of serious-ish fiction that is lying around on my TBR pile for just too long. I need a break from fantasy fiction. I generally referred to the Wikipedia "100 Classic Book Collection" to pick out my classic reads.

Here are my top ten fall reads: (in no particular order!)

1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - When I read Dracula, I actually wanted to read this one. But I read Dracula instead and never got back to Frankenstein. So this one has been on my TBR list for a really long time, just dying to be read.

2. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by R. L. Stevenson - It's crazy that I haven't read it yet and more so because I have wanted to read it for as long as I can remember.

3. Time Machine by H. G. Wells - I can't say exactly why, but I think I will (most definitely) like it.

4. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain - I completely adored The Adventures of Huck Finn. So, I can't wait to get my hands on this book.

5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - I have heard much too much about Heathcliff, so I want to read this more out of curiosity than anything else. I am just hoping to avoid a Jane Eyre fiasco!

6. Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger- Even though I wasn't the biggest fan of Catcher in the Rye, I do want to read this one. I have read too many good reviews not to!

7. The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Guevara - I have been recommended this so many times, I have lost count! I do want to read it though - it should be one of the firsts on the list!!

8. The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald - I am guilty of reading this only halfway through. I loved it though, so I do want to finish it!

9. Perfume by Patrick Sueskind - Another recommendation, though I am still not sure I want to read it - maybe only when I run out of all other options (which is another way of saying probably never!)

10. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens - That would be "New York, New York" and oh.. "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" :) I haven't read many Charles Dickens books since I was a kid, I want to start by reading this!

What are your fall reads?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Musing Mondays

Musing Mondays is a meme hosted at MizB's Should Be Reading. This week's musing is... a book meme!

What was the last book you...

1. borrowed from a library? Stories and Short Pieces by Franz Kafka

2. bought? Stardust by Neil Gaiman. Although I just ordered Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and it's on it's way!

3. cried over? Make that almost cried, and it would be The Book Thief by Markus Zusak!

4. disliked and couldn't finish? Actually: Didn't like much and couldn't finish because it wasn't mine and I had to return it - One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

5. read and loved? Blaze by Stephen King (as Richard Bachman) - it is fun to read something other than horror by Stephen King!

6. got for review/got in the mail? I haven't been doing any reviewing lately, and since the last time was too long ago, I can't remember which!

7. gave to someone else? Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, I lent it to a friend!

8. stayed up too late reading? Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare - actually, I didn't sleep the entire night!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Loving books... all over again!

Do you remember the first book you read? Or the first book you read in just a day? The first story book I remember reading as a kid was called Mickey's Christmas Carol (Dickens' A Christmas Carol, only with Disney's characters. Very cute.) And then, I remember the first actual mystery book I read. It was from the Five Find-Outers series by Enid Blyton, called the The Mystery of the Hidden House. There is no "I saw it across a crowded bookshelf" story to go with it; just a simple my sister forced me to read it. It was love at first read, though.

People who read books armed with dictionaries and all that to learn new words are crazy. Then again, the best part about reading books in a new language for the first time, is the fun of understanding new polysyllabic words all by yourself! I remember feeling quite elated whenever I discovered a new word and pompously showing it off in class. Oh, come on, everyone's done that. As you read that first book, you feel yourself getting more and more involved with every line and with every word, the writing style seems more familiar. Before you know it, you are deeply immersed in the book, loyally chuckling at all the typical jokes and running gags.

I knew I loved reading when the back of a packet of chips seemed like an interesting dinner table read. But I never actually realized how amazing it felt to be able to read! To read a thousand pages at one go and look back, totally exhausted and happy! Every new book you read is a wonderful experience, true; but nothing can beat those fine first memories.

Unless you get to do it once again, with an all new language. I read my first real German novel the other day. I could write about the book and how great it was, but that is really not the point! I enjoy reading books even now, obviously. As I read that book, though, I realized with horror and pain that reading has become sort of an ordinary habit now. Well, I intend to change that. I loved learning German, for the words and the grammar and the lovely feeling of being better at it than most people; but I never really experienced it. As I held that little German novel in my hands, I knew it was worth learning a new language just to experience that first-book-excitement, all over again.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Reading Shakespeare

"In nature's infinite book of secrecy
a little I can read - Soothsayer"

That's right. I am doing the unimaginable; reading a Shakespearean play. I don't even know how I got here. It started when I read two German books in one night, desperately wanting to read something English next. And I have always wanted to read a real play. Two days alone at home (no one to disturb me, no errands to run) seems like the best time; the coffee and rain being added advantages.

So, here I am, reading the Antony & Cleopatra by William Shakespeare. Why this play? Firstly, I wanted to read a tragedy and I wasn't too keen on reading Romeo and Juliet, somehow. A few years ago my sister forced me to watch a documentary on Cleopatra, and I remember being completely fascinated, in spite of myself. There isn't anything not fascinating about Roman history, anyway.

I haven't ever read any plays and this isn't particularly easy for a first-time-play-reader. But although finishing it seems like a terrifyingly daunting task, I do love what I am reading right now. I'll get back to you once I'm done!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Characters or Plot?

Musing Mondays is a meme hosted at MizB's Should Be Reading. This week's musing asks:

Do you prefer character-driven stories or plot-driven stories?
I always get more involved in a book that has good, engaging characters. But I also don't like books where you can't make head or tail of what's going on, or worse, when nothing really happens. Honestly, neither extreme is desirable. But if I had to give a preference, I'd give it to the characters. A bad story line can't spoil the book as much as bad characters can.

It would be hard for me to name my favourite book plots, but I can easily name favourite book characters! One of my favourite authors (and I have mentioned him too many times in this context) is Stephen King - I know very few authors, who write can characters like him.
When I can relate to the characters, or when they seem real - the plot doesn't matter so much. Which is also why I have come to enjoy reading short stories this much.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Dog's Tale by Mark Twain

For Short Stories on Wednesday (hosted at Risa's Bread Crumb Reads) I was planning to read and review a vampire short story by Anne Rice. Which I did, and it did seem exciting for about the first two pages.

"Julie!" he whispered, in a voice so low that it seemed my own thoughts were speaking to me. But this was no dream. He was holding me and the scream had broken loose from me, deafening, uncontrollable and echoing from the four walls.

The story is called The Master of Rampling Gate and it is a vampire 'love' story, which is something they had forgotten to mention where I first read about it. It was such a grave disappointment, that it didn't make much sense to review it. Let's just say that it's a story Stephanie Meyer would adore; take that whatever way you want.

So, instead, I am reviewing a very beautiful and touching story I read by Mark Twain, titled A Dog's Tale (1903). It is the life story of a loyal pet dog, told from her point of view.

The story begins in a way that is quintessentially Twain - "My father was a St. Bernard, my mother was a collie, but I am a Presbyterian. This is what my mother told me, I do not know these nice distinctions myself. To me they are only fine large words meaning nothing."

The dog talks about her life with her mother, who was a favourite among the other dogs and about her puppy-hood adventures. She then goes on to tell us about the sorrow of her separation from her mother, the following joys of the nice, new household, until the day she has her own puppy.

The story is crude and cruel, and it is the story of so many other loyal house pets who don't deserve the treatment that they get from their "masters". It is a silent, confused cry for help, and it really affects you. That's great writing for me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Only Love by Erich Segal (Mini Review)

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at MizB's Should Be Reading. My teaser this week is from Erich Segal's Only Love.
"There is a popular legend about a graduate student who entered the genetic engineering lab at Harvard twenty years ago and has never emerged. Some say he is still there, eyes welded to an electron microscope, desperately seeking a particularly fugitive gene."
The story is about two doctors, Matthew and Silvia, who fall in love in Africa. It is a reality of their own, away from the rest of the world. Their perfect illusion breaks when they are driven apart during some bloodshed, and Matthew is left alone to mourn. Even today, Matthew Hiller, one of the best neurosurgeons ever, is haunted by the memories of his lover. He faces the worst time of his life, when he realizes that his new patient, a dying woman with a brain tumor is no stranger, after all.
I always stayed away from romance as a genre for fear of pseudo-intellectual, mushy, dramatic writing, designed to make people cry. Only Love by Erich Segal is the first love story I have ever dared to read. And I have to admit, I was mildly surprised. It didn't have any of the drama I was expecting. It is a quick read. The book is funny and romantic and quite believable. I actually loved the fast paced writing style and the fact that it didn't bring me to tears. This is what all love stories should be like, instead of the usual raging sob stories!

Top Ten Books that make Great Gifts

I was away for a couple of days and couldn't find time to reply to the comments on my previous post. I'll get to that a bit later, along with some serious blogging that I dearly missed. But let me start with a Top Ten Tuesday post - a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new topic every week and this week is a freebie.

I have always considered books to be the perfect kind of gift - there's hardly anyone who totally hates reading. Many of my friends' birthdays are coming up, not to mention, my own birthday is less than a month away. So, this week I'm going to list ten books that I think would make perfect gifts for everyone (no matter what age they are or genre they prefer!)
1. Life of Pi by Yann Martel - Despite the Booker prize, I think this book is seriously underrated. My sister received this as a gift; she loved it and so did I! In fact, I don't know anyone who hated this book. It's unique, well written, exciting and also very moving. I think it makes a perfect gift!
2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - This book is amazing. And if you're going to be skeptical about that, I have to say I was doing just that until a few months ago. The book is brilliantly written, with an intricate plot and fascinating characters! I would gift it to any of my friends and would love to have it gifted to me (say...for my birthday?!)

3. The Godfather by Mario Puzo - The Godfather is another one of those books that (almost) no one actually hates. In fact, everyone I know, girls and guys, love this book. It would be a great gift, and I actually remember having given it to someone as a birthday gift.
4. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome - This book is hilarious; one of the funniest books I have ever read. It is situation comedy, written in such a simple manner that anyone who reads it is bound to love it. I can't think of a book I could relate to more. It would be a great gift, for all ages, really!

5. Love Story by Erich Segal - I guess this one is sort of a "love it or hate it" kind of book. It's just I know more who've loved it than hated it. Maybe it's just a you-want-to-read-it-once kind of book. Either way, it might be one of the okay-ish love stories I've read. And I just know too many people who love love stories.
6. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein - I gave this book to my best friend on her birthday. I didn't love it when I read it, but she totally did. I'd also given her a Harry Potter book, but in retrospect, I think this one made a better birthday gift than that. Mainly because it is sort of an introduction to the Lord of the Rings series; but unlike Harry Potter, it's also a stand alone book.

7. Agatha Christie - Although I have hardly read any books by her, I think she has written the sort of detective fiction that is loved by everyone. Her books are funny and smart, and not too Sherlock Holmes-ey either. I love Hercule Poirot, though Christie's books without her usual protagonists are also nice. Many years back, I had even given one of my friends And Then There Were None on her birthday.
8. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov - I think fans of science fiction will love this book for how awesome it is, and non-fans will like it because, well, it is kind of amazing and at the same time, it isn't too Sci-fi-ey for beginners. This collection of unique, funny short stories would make a great gift!

9. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon - This is a beautiful and touching tale of a young autistic boy, from the point of view of a young autistic boy. It takes you to a place where very few books can. In case of this book, I am somehow not sure many people would buy it for themselves, which makes it a perfect gift.
10. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman - This great combination of fantasy and humour is one of my favourite reads. I might be a bit partial when it comes to this book, but you can't blame me. It is two of the best fantasy and humour authors together - and it may not be the perfect gift for you - but it's definitely the perfect gift for me!!

Stardust on the road!

Starting with this poem, which I'd first read in a Diana Wynne Jones novel, I spent the better part of a fourteen hour journey reading another simply amazing book by Neil Gaiman; Stardust.

When I was reading Stardust, I was actually transported back to my childhood. It is a fairy tale for adults, and a great one at that!

"A philosopher once asked, "Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?"

Pointless, really..."Do the stars gaze back?" Now that's a question."

Stardust is a fantasy novel written by Neil Gaiman in 1998. It is quite different from his usual books, written in a more traditional fairy-tale-like style.

Stardust is the story of a young man named Tristan Thorn. He lives in Wall, a village situated on the border of our world and the realm of Faerie. The village is separated from Faerie by a long and high wall, which no one crosses. One day a distant star falls down to the earth, and Tristan Thorn sets out into Faerie to retrieve this star for the one he loves. But as fairy tales go, this adventure isn't very easy, and Tristan Thorn certainly isn't the only one looking for the star.

"It was a violet, and it chinkled and sang as he held it, making a noise similar to that produced by wetting a finger and rubbing it, gently, around a wineglass."

I absolutely adored the way this tale was written. I was reminded of a quote from Stephen King's On Writing - you must be able to describe things in a way that will cause your reading to prickle with recognition. I think Neil Gaiman does just that.

I liked getting to experience another one of Gaiman's amazingly unique worlds. Faerie is nothing like you expect and everything that you want all at the same time! It is a wonderful play on all the cliches in fantasy. Not to mention, that subtle, makes-you-chuckle humour made this book all the more enjoyable. It's another Gaiman novel that I'd recommend in a heartbeat!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Follow Friday & Book Blogger Hop

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Rachel at Parajunkee's View and Alison at Alison Can Read, which is a great way to meet new bloggers.

This week's question is:

How has your reading habit changed since you were a teen? or If you're still a teen, what new genres are you in love with currently?

Until a few years back, I didn't read a particular genre as much. I read dystopian novels, historical fiction, popular science, mysteries and philosophical books of sorts. Whatever fantasy fiction I read back then was Harry Potter.
A year ago, I started reading a variety of fantasy fiction. Right now, my favourite genres are fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, satire and science fiction - I also a read some YA books, but not primarily. And my favourite authors are Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Diana Wynne Jones, Isaac Asimov, Mark Twain and so on! Of course, I am open to try new genres too!

Book Blogger Hop is hosted at Crazy for Books. This week's question is:

Let's talk crazy titles! Highlight one or two book titles that have the most interesting titles:

One of my favourite book titles is The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente - the title alone makes you want to read this book!
I also like The Unadulterated Cat by Terry Pratchett. The title makes you laugh hard, and the book makes you laugh even harder - just as I had expected!
This last title isn't exactly crazy, but I liked it - Nightmares & Dreamscapes by Stephen King.

What are your favourite book titles?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays is a meme hosted at MizB's Should Be Reading. To play along just answer the following questions:
1. What are you currently reading?
2. What did you recently finish reading?
3. What do you think you'll read next?

I am reading too many books together right now. And this week I am going to have a lot of free time on my hands. So I decided to participate in this meme this once!

1. What are you currently reading?

I'm reading John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things - it's the first time I've read anything by him, and I think I'm definitely going to read more books by him. I'm also reading The Killing Floor, the first book in the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child - I had heard a lot about Lee Child before I picked up this book, but it isn't quite up to my expectations yet. I am also reading a book of short stories called Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King.

2. What did you recently finished reading?

I read Stephen King's Cujo last week. I loved the book, which is no surprise, as it is Stephen King we are talking about. And finally finished reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - I am still ashamed I never read Mark Twain till now. The last book I read was Bossypants by Tina Fey.

3. What do you want to read next?

Now that I am finally completely free for a week, I've decided to read three books that have been sitting in my TBR pile for a long time - Terry Pratchett's Nation, Neil Gaiman's Stardust and Diana Wynne Jones's Cart and Cwidder. That sounds like an awfully ambitious plan, I know, but I am hoping I can at least finish two of the three! I am particularly looking forward to reading Cart and Cwidder - it's been such a long time since I read anything by Diana Wynne Jones!

Popsy: Nightmares & Dreamscapes

Popsy is a short story by Stephen King published in the collection titled Nightmares & Dreamscapes.

While it certainly isn't my favourite from the book (a review of my actual favourite coming up shortly) I did love it compared to most of the similarly themed stuff out there.

Sheridan is a pitifully disgusting man - a gambler, who is paying off his debts by abducting children and "delivering" them to a certain Mr. Wizard. Even as he does it, Sheridan tries to convince himself he isn't doing a bad thing. (You begin to loathe this guy right from the first line of the story.) This story starts when Sheridan sees a pale white, green eyed kid crying in front of a mall. The kid is looking for his "Popsy", who has apparently went off to get the kid something to drink. Under the pretext of helping the kid, Sheridan puts him in the car and sets off. Though the boy seems a bit odd to him, he has no idea what he is in for.

"You'll be sorry." The kid elaborated, "When my Popsy finds you, you'll be sorry."

This is the sort of story that you enjoy more for the scenery than the plot - because the plot is pretty obvious. The way Stephen King writes, it is almost as if you are there in that car too, along with Sheridan and the child; only unlike the poor man you know something is coming your way. And you are terrified. I love Stephen King for the way he manages to make me pity even the worst of the characters - if you are a Stephen King fan, you'll love this story!

Like I said before, the story is awfully predictable, though. Too bad they didn't have the Twilight mania back then; if they had, I'm sure poor Sheridan would have guessed in less than a second what he was getting himself into.

Short Stories on Wednesday is a meme hosted at Risa's Bread Crumb Reads.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

The Book of Lost Things is a fantasy novel by John Connolly. The story is about David, a young boy, struggling to cope with his mother's death. Soon his father remarries, and his family as he knew it falls apart. This is when David begins to hear his books whispering to him, and soon the walls between fantasy and reality begin to blur.

I am reading the book right now. Though the idea is far from new, I think I might enjoy this book just for the way it is written. Here's my teaser, from right after David loses his mother:
"He sat up late into the night, squashed into a corner of the living room while the grown-ups exchanged stories of a mother he had never known, a strange creature with a history entirely separate from his own. (...) And when at last he fell asleep, David dreamed that he was part of these tales, a participant in every stage of his mother’s life. He was no longer a child hearing stories of another time. Instead, he was a witness to them all."
Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Grab your current book, open to a random page and share two teaser sentences!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Happy "Friendship Day"!

You know, over the years, I seem to have convinced myself that I don't make friends easily. The truth is, I just don't think of friends as "people you only hang out and have fun with." Those can be called 'acquaintances' or just that: 'people I hang out with'. Maybe it is because I am actually lucky enough to have a few real friends who mean so much more than that! While we did have a card-making trend going on for a couple of years, with them 'friendship day' are just two random words. I love them no matter what day!

Anyway. I am going to continue my self-established tradition of posting lists of favourites on all the "Days". These are some of my favourite book friendships:

1. Harry, Ron and Hermione - Harry Potter series (J. K. Rowling)
You can't think of friendship without thinking of the three of them!

2. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn - Adventures of Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)
With Huck's practical humourlessness and Tom's mischief and imagination; they are very different from each other, which makes their friendship uniquely comical. Plus, I love Mark Twain.

3. Liesel Meminger and Rudy Steiner - The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)
This is one of the very few books that have almost made me cry. And you can't completely say they were 'in love' either.

4. Aziraphale and Crowley - Good Omens (Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman)
An angel and a demon! As Crowley puts it, "an enemy for six thousand years now, which made him sort of a friend."

5. Moony, Padfoot and Prongs ('cause Wormtail was.. well, a rat.) - Harry Potter series (J. K. Rowling)
Of the dozen combinations of friends in Harry Potter that I can come up with, the one that stands out from the rest (apart from the obvious) is James, Sirius and Remus! You don't see people turning into animals for their werewolf-friends every day!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Too highfalutin for my palate!

"One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed."

- Stephen King (On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft)

I couldn't agree more. Unless it is absolutely essential for you to write a word that most people would need a dictionary to understand, you're only dressing up your language. And by absolutely necessary, I mean, when there is no other word in the English language that conveys exactly what you're trying to convey.

If you're one of those people, who insert big words in their writing and convince themselves that those few words show what a wonderful writing style they have, allow me to tell you it that doesn't work that way. The only thing it does show, is how incredibly ordinary the rest of the writing is!

Don't use words like 'perspicuity' where a simple 'clarity' would suffice, and I won't call your language 'magniloquent' when I can just call it 'pretentious'.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Night of January 16th by Ayn Rand

I don’t have the kind of interest in Ayn Rand or objectivism any more that will make me want to read any of her non-fiction books. I read all of her fiction novels in high school, other than this one play, that I actually didn’t know existed – along with the Virtue of Selfishness from her non-fiction. The play is called Night of January 16th.

Bjorn Faulkner, the heart of the gold industry of the world, meets a gruesome death by falling/jumping off the top of a building. Karen Andre, his secretary and mistress is on trial for his murder. The entire book is a courtroom play, with the two sides represented by Karen Andre and Bjorn Faulkner on the one hand; and Mrs. Faulkner and her father, John Graham Whitfield, a prominent banker, on the other.

To someone who hasn't read Ayn Rand before, it might be hard to figure out Bjorn Faulkner – the hero whom we actually never get to meet. To those who have read Ayn Rand before, every character including Bjorn Faulkner is like every other character of hers.

But, this book isn't about Bjorn Faulkner as the ideal man. In fact, Bjorn Faulkner is not the ideal man. The story is about Karen Andre – his secretary-mistress, and what she feels for her ideal man.

Ayn Rand’s characters are black and white – so, even as I was reading the prologue of the book, I knew the end. The end of the play is the verdict: IS Karen Andre guilty or not? And the entire play is written in a way to convince the reader that she is not. Though the factual evidence for and against seems to have been “approximately balanced”, the writing clearly suggests that Andre should end up not guilty. When the play is performed, however, it will be entirely dependent on the credibility of the actors. Which brings me to the reason I would want to watch this play, rather than read it: the jury gimmick.

Most people I know either like Ayn Rand or they don’t. There’s usually no halfway. I guess that’s the reason why the “jury gimmick" worked, during the performance of the play. The jury was actually picked out every time from the actual audience, and the verdict was in their hands. Depending on the outcome, guilty or not, the end of the play was performed. But, of course, whatever the verdict, Karen Andre came off looking stubbornly “not guilty”.

Actually this play would have worked for me much better, if it had a story preceding and following it - like Roark's trial in The Fountainhead or Rearden's in Atlas Shrugged. Also, I'm no expert, but I don't think Rand pulled off the courtroom action all that well.

The play had its flaws, yes – but I still found it pretty okay. It was also the first play I have ever dared to read, and if not anything else, it did ensure that I'll read other plays, now that I managed and liked reading one.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Short Stories by Mark Twain

This week, I read two stories by Mark Twain: Extracts from Adam's Diary (1904) and Eve's Diary (1905).

Extracts from Adam's Diary is a wonderfully hilarious story - told, of course, by Adam, right from when he first meets Eve in the Garden of Eden and is incredibly annoyed by her, till he eventually falls in love with her. It is in the form of "entries" he writes in his diary (which Twain claims to have translated from the original manuscripts by deciphering Adam's hieroglyphics!)

The same is the case for Eve's Diary - right from her first day on earth when she sees "the man" for the first time, till forty years later, after the fall. The story ends with Adam's speaking at Eve's grave, "Wherever she was, there was Eden."

Mark Twain is indescribably amazing. Reading Adam's Diary is a colourful experience; something you would have never thought of - the day-by-day experiences of the first man! It is amusing in most parts and absolutely hilarious in some - especially when Adam tries to figure out what species the little baby, that Eve claims to have found, belongs to (his guesses range from a fish to a talking parrot!) I also love how annoying he finds Eve - especially when she starts crying!

Eve's Diary, on the other hand, was something completely else. It is humourous right from the start; but along with that it's also a wonderful story. She is fascinated by everything she sees and everyone she meets and simply loves to talk! Twain has written beautifully from the point of view of a woman. And call me crazy, but it's actually easy to relate to her. This is, without a doubt, one of the most amazing stories I have read in a while.

Last week, when I posted about the short stories that I read by Kafka, I came across Short Stories on Wednesday, a meme hosted at Risa's Bread Crumb Reads. I'm going to take part in the meme and so, read at least one short story every week!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cujo by Stephen King

"They began to back up, and as they did, the dog began to walk slowly forward. It was a stiff walk; not really a walk at all, Ronnie thought. It was a stalk. That dog wasn't fucking around. Its engine was running and it was ready to go. Its head remained low. That growl never changed pitch. It took a step forward for every step they took back."

Cujo is a psychological horror novel by Stephen King. It is the story of a rabid St. Bernard. It is also the story of a little boy and his nightmares, a mother and a child, and an almost broken marriage.

Rating: 3.5/5

Summary: Cujo is a big, five year old St. Bernard, owned by the Cambers; a family in the town of Castle Rock, Maine. Cujo is a good, loyal dog; he loves his owners and they love him! That is, until he gets scratched by a bat and becomes infected with rabies. The dog soon loses touch with reality and turns into a crazy killing machine.

Four year old Tad Trenton lives in the same town with his parents, Donna and Vic. The little family has problems of their own - the scariest being the monster that seems to appear in little Tad's closet at night. A frightening, wolfish animal that haunts Tad's nightmares.

Fate brings the two together, when the only thing standing between the rabid dog and the mother and child is the broken down car they are trapped in.

My thoughts: Each book that I read by Stephen King, gives me one new reason to love him. This is not your typical thriller, and there are definitely some side-plots that seem unnecessary. The horror doesn't start till halfway through the book and when it does start, not a lot happens. Still - I loved the book. For two reasons.

Firstly, as usual, Stephen King never disappoints you when it comes to the lives and the thoughts of the characters. Their stories are so intricately built - it is very fascinating. Even without the dangerous dog, there is a lot of evil in the town; just in the ways that people think, what they do. Each of the side-plots is a message on its own.

Secondly, what I love about King's novels is that the monsters themselves are victims of circumstance. I pitied Jack Torrance (in The Shining) and I definitely felt horrible for ol' Cuje when he got infected. I love that King has written parts from the point of view of the dog - the helpless creature, who hurts all over and doesn't know who else to blame but the humans. The animal lover that I am, I really appreciated that King ended the book saying something positive about the poor dog. He wasn't trying to be a monster, he was a good dog.

Book Trends I'd like to see More/Less of

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week there is a new Top Ten list and everyone is welcome to join. All you do is link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

This week's topic:
Top Ten Trends You Would Like to See More or Less of

Less of:

1. Human girl - Supernatural guy - No more vampires or werewolves falling in love with innocent human girls, please. I'm dying for this trend to go.

2. Covers like these - I don't judge a book by it's cover. But I don't really see the purpose of having different cover designs, if all are going to be so similar, and so similarly tacky. I haven't read these books to know/like them, but I am tired of even looking at such covers!

3. Self-publishing - As much as I like to try new authors; and some of these self-published books can be really good, I do think that self-publishing ("at a very affordable price") has reduced the competition and made it very easy to write books! You don't just wake up one day and decide to publish a book. Self-publishing does produce piles of books that could use more work, which isn't to say that traditional publishers produce genius.

4. Journal/Diary format - Don't you get tired of people (mostly troubled teenagers) pouring their hearts out left, right and center? Something really needs to be done about that.

5. Dialogue - I always consider too much dialogue as a draw-back in a book. If you cannot convert a page long conversation into a paragraph, you can't write all that well!

6. Series that go on forever - There are so many book series, where you just know the writer is planning the story along the way. And by the time you reach the end of the series, it's hard to believe how it started off. Twilight, for instance. A series should either be like Harry Potter, connected from the start to the end. Or like Discworld, where only the setting is common for all the books and you can pick any book and start reading the series there!

More of:

1. Longer books - Most of the books I have read lately aren't longer than 200-250 pages! Of course, there are long books too, I just think there should be more of them. The book shouldn't end right after you get really into it!!

2. Translations - I know that translations sometimes lose the magic of the original book. But I would definitely like to read more books from the non-English speaking parts of the world!

3. Book to Television - Following the news about an American Gods (Neil Gaiman) HBO series and the fact that I really don't think movies do justice to books, I think there should be more television series based on books - and really good books - not just Gossip Girl or the Vampire Diaries!

4. Humour - I would definitely like to see more humour. And by that I mean more of actual sharp makes-you-chuckle-at-every-line wit; and less of situational comedy!