Friday, October 28, 2011

Conversations by Rajeev Nanda - book review

I received this book in exchange for an honest review through Blogadda.

At first glance, the book seemed wonderful. The pleasant cover page has a picture of three coloured chairs, in front of an old, patchy wall. It reminded me of a painting I'd seen a long time ago, of an old man sitting outside his old house, with a cane in his hand, and a dog at his side. The title Conversations stands out against the pale background. And the effect told me what the title meant to me - conversations, yes, but with yourself.
Conversations is a book by Indian author Rajeev Nanda. The author is an IT professional and is also the author of How To Map Out a Viable E-Strategy, along with various articles, both technological and academic. His new book Conversations is a collection of thought provoking short stories and poems on various aspects of life. The basic underlying theme of the stories as well as poems is, of course, what gave the book its title - discussions and conversations.
As I read the introduction, I was sure I would like the book. The book turned out to be quite unlike what the introduction suggested. This sort of reading isn’t usually my cup of tea, and I think this book proves why not. At the risk of sounding judgmental, I would label the book pseudo-intellectual.
“The stories and poems in the book have resulted from my years of observing people around me and then mulling over various challenges and dilemmas we face in life. Therefore, I think it is better for this book to introduce me to you rather than me trying to introduce this book. I will consider it as the success of this book if it makes you think, reflect and develop new perspectives.”
Quoting just what the author says in the introduction, I believe he should have mulled over just a tad bit more. You see, the emotions discussed in the book, the challenges that were uncovered weren’t deep enough. The poetry seemed child-like. The stories touched me, but they didn’t give me a perspective that I haven’t already read in a thousand other self-help books, that I haven’t seen in a thousand other movies. Like I mentioned before, this isn’t my kind of book - but I chose to read it, because people do surprise you sometimes.
I would have liked to read a book that retells normal incidents, narrates normal stories; that end up being something more than just normal. Instead, what I get is a collection of stories planned to impress; planned, even, to preach hefty life lessons. This book is nice. But it could have been one that stays with you for a long time, after you’re done reading it. The feelings mentioned in the book didn’t keep me awake in bed. I can’t say I even thought about the book once I put it down. I only really liked a couple of stories, a few poems here and there; that’s it.
That being said, I liked the writing. The author has a good command over the language, the wording is simple but effective - and there isn’t any slang or teen-talk. There were some obvious clichés, but what I called ‘pseudo-intellectual’ never got too cynical. The writing is humble, and the book is honest. It is clear that the writer means what he says, and that’s more than I can say for most authors.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Dead Smile (Short Stories on Wednesday)

I have read mostly horror novels this month, and not only for the R.I.P. Challenge and Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon! So to keep up with the Halloween spirit, I read a short story by American author Francis Marion Crawford. It is a gothic tale called The Dead Smile.

"It was a low-moaning voice, one that rose suddenly, like the scream of storm. Then it went from a moan to a wail, from a wail to a howl, and from a howl to the shriek of the tortured dead. He who has heard it before knows, and he can bear witness that the cry of the banshee is an evil cry to hear alone in the deep night."

The themes of the story are lies, secrets and forbidden love, combined with the supernatural. The story is wonderfully written and has in every way the aethetic beauty of gothic literature. The descriptions are so vivid and at times, gruesome, that you can almost see the scenes unfold before your eyes. That being said, the plot is awfully predictable and riddled with loopholes. As long as you don't try to make sense of every action, the story is a beautiful and touching read.

You can read it here. Short Stories on Wednesday is a bookish meme hosted at Risa's Bread Crumb Reads.

Monday, October 24, 2011

R.I.P. - Ghost Story by Peter Straub

"We see things, but we don't believe them; we feel things—people watching us, sinister things following us—but we dismiss them as fantasies. We dream horrors, but try to forget them. And in the meantime, three people have died."
- Ricky Hawthorne (Ghost Story by Peter Straub)
Over the weekend, I read five horror novels, but none of them managed to frighten and disturb and fascinate me as the one I finished reading only a few days earlier, as the fourth and the last book for the R.I.P. Challenge. Peter Straub's Ghost Story is a homage to the best novels of the horror genre, and an amazing one at that.

Summary: The book opens with a man driving a strange little girl in his car, in the middle of nowhere. He seems to have kidnapped her, but is more scared of her than she is of him. Right when he is about to kill her, about to drive his knife through her... the scene changes.

Milburn is a fictional small town in upstate New York. An ageing bachelor, Sears James and his friend Ricky Hawthorne are attorneys. They also form half of what is now left of the Chowder Society. The Chowder Society is originally a group of five friends, who gather every month to drink and talk. That is, until one of them, Edward Wanderley, dies under mysterious circumstances, exactly a year before this story takes place. What is left now is the two attorneys, a doctor Joseph Jaffrey and Lawrence Benedikt. The Chowder Society meetings are private and the four don't talk about business or politics. They tell stories. Every month, one of them tells a ghost story - the scariest thing that ever happened to him. That is, until, one day that scary thing returns and their past comes back to haunt them.

My thoughts: Ghost Story is a huge book, not only in size. 'Vast' may be a better word to describe it. It has numerous back-stories of numerous characters intricately woven together to form one novel. The book is not about one vampire, or one ghost - but the whole idea - the thing that takes on different forms to make us afraid, the thing that has lived in every culture in every country, and prevailed through all these years. The original evil.

What I really like about the book is that it is more like a psychological thriller than a story with slimy white ghosts and creepy noises. I have never been more terrified of descriptions of fear and I've never been more certain, that someone's following me.

The characters are wonderful. It's a long story and you have a long time to get to know them. By the end of the book, I was almost in tears when anything happened to my favourite people. It is amazing to get so involved in a story, and to be able to relate so closely to something about ghosts and demons!

The book is a recommended read for anyone, even those who haven't read the genre before or don't consider themselves horror fans. Believe me, once you read this book, you'll want to read more horror fiction; I know I did!

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon Wrap Up

The Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon was hosted at Kindle Fever and My Shelf Confessions for the weekend (October 21st - 23rd). With Halloween coming up, I decided to read only books from the horror/thriller genres.

Since it is now the 24th on my side of the world, I have decided to do a wrap-up post. I finished reading five books; i.e. one more than my set goal.

Reading Stats -

Books Read: (Total - 5)
1. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
2. The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker
3. I am Legend by Richard Matheson
4. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
5. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H. P. Lovecraft

Total Pages Read: 1103

Total Challenges completed: 5

This was my first read-a-thon and I have to tell you, it was a huge success. After reading five horror novels back-to-back, I can't look in mirrors, be alone in stairways in my own house and sleep with the lights out.
My eyes are so swollen, I have had a number of people asking me if I was sick for the past couple of days. Now when I close my eyes, I see words floating around in my head. And I am so tired that I am afraid that if I let myself fall asleep now, it'd be impossible to ever wake up. I love this feeling! I am looking forward to taking part in many more read-a-thons.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon Update #3

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon is hosted at Kindle Fever and My Shelf Confessions for this weekend. With Halloween coming up, I decided to have a horror/thriller reading list (Though that is not a must for the read-a-thon.)

Reading Stats:
Total Books Read - 4
Total Pages Read - 973

Last Book(s) Read: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson - This is definitely one of the best horror/thriller novels I have read. It's eerie and creepy and really just a classic ghost story

I am Legend by Richard Matheson - The story of a the last man surviving in a strange, new world, where every other creature is a vampire. If the "apocalypse due to a disease" theme sounds too cliched too you, you ought to keep in mind that this book is one of the books that introduced the theme. Cool, huh? This makes me want to read books about zombies.

My (tentative) to-be-read list: (I can definitely manage one more book)
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H. P. Lovecraft

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Persepolis - Reading a graphic novel

One of the many things I am unduly critical about is graphic novels (or comic books.) I wasn't very fond of either, as a child, when the only comic book I ever owned starred Donald Duck.

I recently read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, a beautiful and touching autobiographical comic book. The author shows us the memories of her childhood and adolescence, in the form of simple illustrations, just like a child would. Originally written in French, it has two volumes (The Story of a Childhood & The Story of a Return) which are illustrated in a charming black and white. The story is set during and after the Islamic revolution and the Iran-Iraq war.

Brought up in Tehran, Marjane dreamed, as a little child, of being God's Prophet and later, during the revolution, dressed up and pretended to be the likes of Che Guevara. While she grew up in a relatively independent and liberal family atmosphere, the world around her turned into something entirely different. The book deals with themes like war, discrimination, religion, politics; all from that little girl's point of view. I never imagined a comic book could handle such a "grown-up" topic in such a "grown-up" way. You can't blame me, though; I actually don't know any one who reads comic books of any genre other than fantasy.

What I loved the most about the book, is that it captures a youngster's perspective perfectly. I always think that when writing about his childhood, an author writes what he feels retrospectively (or what he thinks he must have felt back then.) Because of that, autobiographies tend to exaggerate a child's capacity to express or understand emotions.
On the other hand, once you're in your forties, twelve-year-olds and eight-year-olds all seem about the same. So some authors make their younger characters too, well, childish. This comic book displays the little girl's innocence wonderfully - and without making her seem naive. And as the girl grows up, you grow up with her!

Now, I am not claiming that I am suddenly a fan of comic books about superheroes or Japanese animated characters with uncharacteristically huge eyes. I'm just saying, I'll try not to be so judgmental the next time; because this particular comic book (Persepolis) is certainly one of my favourite books!

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon Update #2

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon is hosted at Kindle Fever and My Shelf Confessions for this weekend. With Halloween coming up, I decided to have a horror/thriller reading list (Though that is not a must for the read-a-thon.)

Reading Stats:
Total Books Read - 2
Total Pages Read - 400

Last Book Read: The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker (detailed review coming up shortly) - I loved this book. It is actually the novella on which the movie Hellraiser is based (I haven't seen the movie, though.) In fact, I am wondering if I should add another Clive Barker novel to my weekend read-a-thon reading list!

My (Tentative) To-be-read List:
I am Legend by Richard Matheson
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon Challenge

So far, the Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon is going way better than I would have imagined! This is a challenge hosted at LovelyLit as a part of the Read-a-thon.

"For this challenge you will be making one sentence using only book titles. You can't add or leave out any words. You can use as many books as you like. Your sentence will probably be silly but that makes it even more fun! Just make sure it's a real sentence. Subject & Verb!"

Well, I used six books (pretty long, I know, but it was fun. And kind of crazy!) Here's my sentence:

Only time will tell, if on a winter's night a traveller abandoned the time traveller's wife forever in the land of winter.

And the books:

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon Challenge

This is a challenge hosted at Book Briefs as a part of the Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon.

"Ok, so how does this work? First you pick a book. Then you find pictures to represent the words in the book title. Then you put the pictures/clues together and try to guess what the book title is. Get creative and make it as challenging as you want. Make a post with your Book picture puzzles and go around to different blogs and try to guess some of the puzzles."

Here's mine.. I suppose it's easy to guess...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon Update #1

My first ever read-a-thon kicked off to a great start; I did almost nothing else but read.

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon is hosted at Kindle Fever and My Shelf Confessions for this weekend. With Halloween coming up, I decided to have a horror/thriller reading list (Though that is not a must for the read-a-thon.)

Reading Stats:
Total Books Read - 1
Total Pages Read - 291

Last book read: The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (a detailed review coming up shortly) - I did not find the book as horrifying as I thought I would. Although all the obvious horror elements are present, it just doesn't seem like the creepiest of books. I guess the spooky figures and their crazy behaviour just isn't as frightening to read as it is to watch. I haven't seen The Exorcist movie, though, so can't comment on that...

My (Tentative) To-Be-Read List:
The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker
I am Legend by Richard Matheson
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Happy Reading! ;)

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon


I came across this great read-a-thon at Aeicha's Word Spelunking. This is my first time participating in a read-a-thon, but since I am leaving for a short vacation on Monday, it seems like a good idea to get some reading done before saying bye-bye to books altogether! I'll post updates as and when I can and take part in whichever challenges I can!

The Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon is hosted at Kindle Fever and My Shelf Confessions for the weekend. The read-a-thon kicks off today, but you have until tomorrow to sign up!
Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

R.I.P. - The Warlock's Hairy Heart by Beedle the Bard (by J. K. Rowling)

I have been reading less and less short stories lately (and not liking it at all.) So this is may be a day late, but I am participating after two weeks in Short Stories on Wednesday, a bookish meme hosted at Risa's Bread Crumb Reads. (This is also a part of Peril of the Short Story for the R.I.P. Challenge - I suppose it fits the theme.)

My story this week is a wonderfully gruesome tale from J. K. Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard, and my favourite one of the five popular children's fables of the Wizarding World. The Warlock's Hairy Heart is a dark fairy-tale with a tragic ending, resembling a Brothers Grimm tale! In a way, the story has the strongest message.

A handsome and skilled young warlock, who has all the riches of the world, views love and vulnerability as a weakness. So he finds a way to escape it. The warlock uses Dark Magic to lock away his heart in a dungeon. But separating his heart from his body doesn't make him more powerful like he wishes; instead he turns inhuman and is either despised or pitied by everyone else. The heart itself, locked away from its natural place, turns black and shrunken, covered with hair - like a beast. The savage heart seeks what it can never gain, a whole human heart. The warlock tries to correct his mistake, but it is too late by then. The warlock's secret ultimately leads to his own destruction, along with a poor young girl who falls in love with him.

In his notes, Dumbledore aptly describes this story to handle "one of the greatest, and least acknowledged, temptations of magic: the quest for invulnerability." By dividing what is clearly not meant to be divided (Body and heart. Rings a bell, doesn't it? It's similar to separating body and soul, and we all know where that gets you!) and by going against nature, the warlock loses his chance even for redemption.

This is the only story from the book that I found more fascinating than Dumbledore's notes of it. I would have loved it so much more as a kid. I mean, what's not to love about a bedtime story that can give you nightmares?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

About the book: So, I only managed to read three of the six Booker Prize shortlisted books. The other day they announced the winner - The Sense of an Ending by English author Julian Barnes. I'd read that one. It's no Life of Pi, but it's certainly the best out of the three that I read.

Summary and theme: The narrator, a man in his early sixties, talks about his life. He has had a good career, a marriage followed by an amicable divorce; some achievements and some disappointments, and of course, some mystery.
The main theme of the book is memories. It's about what you think when you grow old and look back at the life you've lived; what you do when you realize the truth of what you have done; when you see your actions in a different, grown-up light and realize your mistakes; what you do when you can't take those actions back.

‘I don’t know, sir.’
‘What don’t you know?’
‘Well, in one sense, I can’t know what it is that I don’t know. That’s philosophically self-evident.’ He left one of those slight pauses in which we again wondered if he was engaged in subtle mockery or a high seriousness beyond the rest of us.

My thoughts: I think what held the book so wonderfully together was the dry humour; especially as the narrator recounts his story, you see that he finds it immature, funny even, and you tend to agree with him! 

The characters are very engaging and each one unique. The relationships and the bonds the narrator forms over the years (with his four childhood friends, with his divorced wife) are all too realistic not to be true. The book being a narration, the author has a lot of chances to indulge in long monologues about life and such, and he uses these opportunities to the fullest.

The one problem I had was that there is very little focus on the plot. It all seems very loosely tied together. There is no direction, no focus... and the twist ending came more as a shock than a good surprise to me! It is very unpredictable and very irrelevant and kind of ludicrous.  Retrospectively, though, isn't that how life is, anyway? (Maybe I like my fiction to stray from the reality and stay fiction-like. It's not an autobiography, after all.)

Overall it is great one-time read. Not close to perfect. And it was bound to win the 2011 Man Booker Prize, whether I liked it or not. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Books I read because of the Cover/Title!

Well, I try not to judge a book by its cover or title. Mainly because a lot of books I like have pretty dull titles or covers. But there are exceptions to every rule ;) Top Ten Tuesdays is a bookish meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic:

Top Ten Books You Read Because of the Cover or the Title:

1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - I love this cover; a lot more than I like the book, in fact. I love the colours and how mysterious it looks.

2. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M Valente - The title reminded me of all my favourite childhood fairytale stories and I just had to read it! The blurb by Neil Gaiman - "A glorious balancing act between modernism and the Victorian fairy tale, done with heart and wisdom" - on the cover page made me pick it up.

3. Papillon by Henri Charriere - I love the book cover. I love how it is so related to the plot, with the tarnished old lock and key being a symbolic prison and the butterfly being the fugitive nicknamed Papillon because of the butterfly tattoo on his chest.

4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon - I love the book's title; it made me very curious about the incident with the dog. The book is so great too. And after I read the book, I loved the title even more because it is so exact, and yet so much different from what you could have imagined!

5. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke - The cover is so magical. I love the colours and the fairy-tale-like look with the green lizard and the little winged fairy. And it does look like someone is climbing out of a window from a different world into our own; which is sort of how the story goes!

6. The Unadulterated Cat by Terry Pratchett - The title just made me want to read the book. Of course, the fact that it was written by Terry Pratchett helped. I was kind of eager to find out what my favourite author had to say about my favourite animal. I am glad I read it, it's one of the funniest books anyone acquainted with cats can read!

7. Room by Emma Donoghue - The cover makes the book seem so eerie and mysterious and that is just how it it. Normally I hesitate before reading books by authors I don't know; but I am glad I read this one. Just like its cover, it's a really beautiful book. I even like the other cover, the white one, but nothing compares to this pretty blue!

8. If On a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino - My first reaction was "if on a winter's night a traveller... what?" The title sounds so unique and incomplete that it just made me want to read the book to find out that "what"! The book is even more unique. I love it.

9. Marley & Me by John Grogan - How can you possibly resist the cute little face looking up at you with twinkly eyes filled with innocence? It makes my heart melt.

10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - I know it was really all the hype and the great reviews that made me check out the book. But I read it because I loved the title. I mean, isn't a book thief exactly someone, whom bookworms like you and I would like to read about?

So, is it only me or do you choose (judge is strong word) books by their covers and titles as well?

Monday, October 17, 2011

My bookish story

Do you remember that one book that really turned you into a bookworm? I can't say that I do. But one book always stands out in my memory - it was one of the few good novels in my school library. It was a book by Robert Ludlum and I loved it. It might have been the book that turned me from the 'likes-to-read girl' to the 'never-stops-reading girl'! But the story neither starts nor ends there!

I was always sort of a bookworm; but I was never too eager to get out of my comfort zone. I always read the same genres and even the same old authors. So, when I randomly borrowed this book from the school library, I didn't read even a single page for two entire weeks. On the last night, for God knows what reason, I started reading the book. I read late into the night and woke up with the book next to me. I read throughout the morning, thoroughly enjoying the experience. I never finished it, though. And I had to return it the same day.
Here comes the crazy part. All I could somehow remember about that book was that it was written by Robert Ludlum. How I could have forgotten the book title, I don't know! Or the plot, for that matter. I read many Robert Ludlum books after that, bought and borrowed, and I liked them. But I never did find that one. That is, until now.

You know that feeling, when you are trying hard to remember something and it constantly keeps nudging the insides of your brain making sure you are unable to concentrate on anything else? The battered old book has been doing that to me for the past... about six years. No kidding. When I somehow ended up on Robert Ludlum's Wikipedia page today, it got me wondering how long it would take to skim through the summaries of Ludlum's 23 thriller novels and find out that mystery book, once and for all. Well, it takes two hours and a bout of scolding from your mother for staying up too late.

As it turns out, it is a spy-thriller novel called The Scorpio Illusion (the name sounds strangely familiar now; you know, as if I had known it all along.) I can't wait to buy it and read the whole book and you know, re-discover why I fell in love with reading in the first place! So, do you have a bookish story of your own?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

R.I.P. - The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

While I do like reading horror, I am still not quite sure about watching horror movies (without, that is, freezing of shock.) Which is why I decided to watch only animated (and hence, not scary) movies for the R.I.P. Challenge for now.

After watching Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas, I was thinking of re-watching Corpse Bride. Instead, someone recommended this movie to me - Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. It is an Academy Award winning horror-comedy flick, starring (the voices of) Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes. I loved it!

"Something wicked this way hops."

Wallace, the cheese-loving inventor, and his intelligent but humble pet dog, Gromit run the pest-control (well, relocation) service "Anti-Pesto". They get rid of the town's worst and peskiest rabbits, and are loved by the townspeople. Only days before the town's famous Giant Vegetable Competition, the most prized vegetables start mysteriously disappearing. It is up to Anti-Pesto to save the townspeople from what appears to be a giant monster of a rabbit.

I adored the clay-mation. The characters were simple but charming! Gromit is officially one of my favourite cartoon dogs. He is quiet and faithful and incredibly patient (considering that he is far smarter and better at his job than the incompetent Wallace.) And just look cute he is! Having no voice, he only consists of a few extremely expressive pieces of clay.
Aside from the wonderful animation, it was the silly, cheesy British humour that I loved. The plot is slightly overdone; and the movie could have been shorter. Still, being a witty parody of almost all horror and thriller films, it is a great source of entertainment!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Books I Wish I Could Read Again For the First time

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted at the Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is:

Top Ten Books I Wish I Could Read Again For the First time

(I am going to keep this list simple. These are, in no particular order, some of my favourite books ever; that were either my firsts by that author, or my firsts in that genre, or I read them in just a couple of hours and was hooked from the first word. I still clearly remember the first time I read these books and I wish I could re-live it.)

1. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

2. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

3. Misery by Stephen King

4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

5. The Chronicles of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones

6. Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

7. If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino

8. Dracula by Bram Stoker

10. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Killing Floor by Lee Child

I thought: should I be worried? I was under arrest. In a town where I'd never been before. Apparently for murder. But I knew two things. First, they couldn't prove something had happened if it hadn't happened. And second, I hadn't killed anybody. Not in their town, and not for a long time, anyway.

About the book: Killing Floor is a crime thriller novel by Lee Child. Published in 1997, it is Lee Child's debut novel. It is the first book in the Jack Reacher series.

Short summary: Jack Reacher is arrested for murder, almost as soon as he enters the tiny town of Margrave, Georgia. But the tough ex-military policeman has been through much worse. Unable to convince the cops of his innocence, Jack Reacher decides to take matters in his own hands. As he tries to uncover the truth himself, he stumbles across a much deeper conspiracy in Margrave.

My thoughts: It was a good read. With the fast paced action, the twists in the plot, the strong (albeit stereotypical) characters - it was a really good read. It was the sort of thing that I'd very reluctantly add to a list of 'Guilty Pleasure Reads', though. What I didn't like was the drama. The first thing I thought was it would make a good movie (I don't know if there already is one..?!) At times I found it too brutal, I found some dialogues kind of cheesy, and I didn't like the fact that most of the core happenings in the book were shaped by some pretty huge coincidences.
It felt almost as if the writer had planned the ending first, and wrote the book backwards. So when I read it from the starting, it was hard to believe how the characters guessed and assumed all the things they did; it was almost as if they knew the end. The plot holes were a huge disappointment.
I thought of the book as something written to attract a huge number of fans - which it rightfully did. It was a fun read, but I also thought it could have been much better.

German Literature Month - November

After seeing this on Vishy's blog, I immediately decided to take part in it; I hardly have anything to do this November and it is about time I caught up on some German Literature.

German Literature Month is hosted by Caroline @ Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy @ Lissy's Literary Life.

The weekly schedule for the month is -

Week 1 - German Literature

Week 2 - German Crime Fiction

Week 3 - Austria and Switzerland

Week 4 - Kleist and Other German Classics

Week 5 - Wrap up

I haven't found the time to make a complete list of the things I would like to read. In fact, that's good, because every time I make a reading list, I end up reading something entirely else. But there are certain German books, which I always wanted to read - these include Patrick Süskind's Perfume, Max Frisch's Mein Name sei Gantenbein, Michael Ende's The Neverending Story, and Kafka's the Trial. Along with that, some Bertolt Brecht, some Günter Grass, Ingrid Noll and something (anything) by Goethe.

Of course, I couldn't even dream of finishing half this stuff. But you can call it my tentative list. Let's just see how much I actually read. I'm definitely looking forward to November!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Audiobooks vs. 'the Real Thing'

I never did like the idea of listening to books. At the risk of sounding kind of poetic, let me just say, I like the process that goes on in my head when I read - letting the words sink in, hearing them in my own voice inside my head. Going back and reading that last line and understanding it better, knowing what happens next. It's a great experience. And something I get to enjoy without having to meet/talk or listen to other people.

Being read aloud to was fun only till I couldn't read myself, and the one reading to me was my grandmother. When someone reads aloud to you; they are interpreting the lines in their own style. They might not pause just right or chuckle at the right time. As a reader, I like the freedom the author gives me in a book; the chance to use my own imagination. I'd rather not have a narrator steal that from me.

On the other hand; there are those practical, non-poetic advantages of an audiobook. You can read it while driving, while standing in queues, when you're forced to go shopping with your friends. An audiobook can come in quite handy when you're at a family function, gloomily listening to your relatives gossip. Which is why I decided to skip the skepticism and actually listen to an audiobook first. I chose to 'read' Mirrormask by Neil Gaiman, narrated quite nicely by Stephanie Leonidas.

Would I have liked it more had I actually read it? Probably not.
Mirrormask was a beautiful book, very imaginative and it had the kind of story that works better as a movie, anyway. The narration was great, and since you do not require too much concentration for a fantasy story like that, I'd say an audiobook worked quite well.

Does this mean I now like audiobooks? Not really.
There are a thousand things that could go wrong - one of the worst being an incompetent narrator. Another thing I'd hate is if the book were abridged - even by a sentence.
I also think the first person perspective played a big part in making Mirrormask good. One point of view, one voice. When there are too many dialogues and too many characters; each with a different voice, I would find it very distracting to have to figure out who is speaking every time. If one person pretends to be seven different characters with seven different voices; don't even get me started on how wrong that could go.

Listening to an audiobook is like watching a movie without the video and reading a book, without the, well, pages - neither of which I'd be particularly eager spend money on!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

R.I.P. - The Nightmare Before Christmas

"It was a long time ago, longer now than it seems, in a place perhaps you've seen in your dreams. For the story you're about to be told began with the holiday worlds of old. Now you've probably wondered where holidays come from. If you haven't, then I'd say its time you've begun."

I first watched a Tim Burton film ages ago - the animated musical Corpse Bride, which I remember loving. Much recently I read an adorable book of short poems also by Burton called The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories. So, as a part of the R.I.P Challenge (Peril on the Screen) I decided to see another of Burton's animated movies that I never got around to watching till now - The Nightmare before Christmas.

In the unique reality where every holiday has its own world, we meet Jack Skellington of Halloween Town. The Pumpkin King, the brains behind the festival of Halloween, once stumbles across the world of Christmas. A misfit in his own world, Jack now believes it his sole purpose in life to improve his festival by merging the worlds of Christmas and Halloween. What follows is a wonderfully funny tale of twists and turns, when the monsters of Halloween Town start preparing for Christmas. It is on the night before Christmas, when Skellington kidnaps 'Sandy Claws' to replace him, that our world sees what has become of Christmas.

The movie is for 'kids' of all ages. It's awesome. The detailed animation, of course, is what makes the movie so great. The wonderful cartoons reminded me a lot of the thin, dark, stick-like creatures in Corpse Bride. The characters are unique and the dialogues are genuinely funny (well, most of them, anyway.) Even though the story is kind of ridiculous, I think I would have pretty much loved it when I was a kid. If it were a little funnier and made a little more sense, I would have enjoyed it even more. If not anything else, though, the movie does get you in the holiday spirit!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Musing Mondays

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

What are you most excited about reading, right now? (can be a book you're currently enjoying, or a book that's yet to be published, etc.)

This question could not have showed up at a better time. The book I'm most excited about? The upcoming sequel to my first and favourite Stephen King novel, The Shining.

I'm serious. It's a book titled Dr. Sleep, and King is currently working on it. It is the story of the very same Danny Torrance, only forty years old this time. He works in a hospice, helping patients, until he comes across a tribe of psychic vampires who feed on people's energies... or something like that. It sounds awesome, right? I did love King's vampires in Salem's Lot, and I can't wait to read what became of little Danny; I did always wonder...

While the release date is far from out, it is confirmed, as of September 26th, that King is working on this book. If you're as excited as I am, you can listen to this video of him discussing the idea behind the book!