Posts

Showing posts from July, 2013

A Blink of the Screen by Terry Pratchett

Image
I was so thrilled when I saw this at the library. As if it were not enough that it was a book by Terry Pratchett,  it had an introduction by A. S. Byatt. I got it immediately and spent the next couple of weeks reading the many pleasing stories in it. I have to admit though, the introduction was a bit disappointing.
I am a firm believer in the fact that very few authors can write good short stories, ones with a plot (unlike those of Byatt, which are nice but pretty vague.) The first story delighted me, because Pratchett had written it at the age of thirteen. While it was nothing like what he's written now, it was entertaining finding that voice in him that is so familiar. Most of the stories were based on various prompts, which he has elaborated on at the beginning of each story.
One of my favourites was The Sea and Little Fishes, starring Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg. A coalition of witches, led by self-appointed organiser Lettice Earwig, asks Granny Weatherwax not to particip…

Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura

Image
Summary (from Goodreads): Isaku is a nine-year-old boy living in a remote, desperately poor fishing village on the coast of Japan. His people catch barely enough fish to live on, and so must distill salt to sell to neighboring villages. But this industry serves another, more sinister purpose: the fires of the salt cauldrons lure passing ships toward the shore and onto rocky shoals. When a ship runs aground, the villagers slaughter the crew and loot the cargo for rice, wine, and rich delicacies. One day a ship founders on the rocks. But Isaku learns that its cargo is far deadlier than could ever be imagined.
Who knew it was possible to be more depressing than Thomas Hardy! Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura is now the bleakest thing I have ever read. I really wanted to like the book and searched in vain for a silver lining. Isaku's life was terrible and terrifying. Though some of the village customs were interesting, I would've been happier left in the dark. The dull repetitiveness …

One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Image
Wow. I don't know just what to say, except maybe that I am eternally thankful for having given so many Indian authors a try in the past year. I did not expect to like this book, but I suppose I shouldn't trust my biased expectations any more. It is a fabulous book. And it certainly won't be the last I read by the author.
One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni opens with Uma, a Medieval Lit student and someone I could instantly connect to, sitting in the lobby of the Indian Consulate Building, waiting to get her Visa done. It is dull and slow, the employees in no hurry to get things done on time, a typical Indian office maintaining its charm even in the middle of America. There are a number of people there, a Chinese woman and her granddaughter, an African American man, an old couple, the Indian staff and others. Everything is dull, that is, until an earthquake strikes and the group is trapped in the building, which soon becomes a suffocating cage and there's t…

Ring in the Dead by J.A. Jance

Image
I can't believe I had never heard of this series. When I got this, I browsed through a neverending list of books by New York Times bestselling author J.A. Jance and was fascinated just by the popularity. The book certainly lived up to my expectations. If not anything else, I'd recommend it as an introduction to the Jance's writing style. Being a novella, it's a quick read and the characters keep you involved. There's little suspense and the plot is pretty straightforward but it doesn't spoil the book's charm.
J. P. Beaumont is an old detective now, who stars in his own series, of which this book is the 20.5th installment (that adds twenty books to my TBR list!) When he is visited by the daughter of an old partner, Milton 'Pickles' Gurkey he remembers the case that brought them together. One day, at the end of Beaumont and Pickles's shift, a stop at the Doghouse restaurant quickly turns deadly. Not feeling well, Pickles steps out into the parkin…

Language Freak Summer Challenge

Image
The Language Freak Summer Challenge is hosted here. It ends at the end of August, so I'm joining in somewhat late.


The goal is to read books in any foreign language you know, and review them in that language. A little bit about the languages I do speak: My mother tongue is Marathi, which is an Indian language. I also speak Hindi and of course, most books I read are in English. Neither of these counts as a 'foreign language'. That language, for me, would be German; I've been learning it for four years, give or take. I have reviewed many German books on this blog, some of which I actually read in German too. But I've never really written a review in German, so this seems like a good chance to try that!
Of course,  I can't wait to read what other German reviewers write, either. The German books that I have lined up to read include one by Cornelia Funke and another by Joseph Roth. If you're a foreign language learner, make sure to check out this challenge!

The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey

Image
The Widows of Braxton County is written by Jess McConkey (aka Shirley Damsgaard.)

It is about two similar murders, that take place over a hundred years apart. When Kate moves in with her husband, Joe Krause at his farm in Braxton County, Iowa, she's looking forward to a fresh start, a new home and a happy married life. But she finds a world full of gossip, lies, and a century-long family feud that started with the mysterious murder of Jacob Krause. As she deals with judgmental, meddling neighbours, a disapproving mother-in-law and a bad-tempered husband, Kate uncovers a long-kept secret. Making unlikely friendships along the way, Kate struggles against the curse of misfortune on the Krause family.
The ending is great. The suspense is of the right kind: the answer is in front of you all along, you just don't see it! I read the book in two busy days; putting it down only when I absolutely had to and when I did, looking forward to reading it the whole time. With the feuding fami…

Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier

Image
I am not so unfamiliar with William Blake as to not know what the title of this book refers to. I picked it up at the book sale because I like the poem The Tyger. I haven't read many of Blake's works, though, which are quoted a lot in this book, nor do I know his history, so I paired this book with a heavy dose of Wikipedia to get the full effect. I do believe Chevalier has done her research well. I love the way she has blended all her carefully collected data subtly into the story, avoiding information dumps.
This is the story of Jem Kellaway, who has moved to London from Dorsetshire (still has the accent) with his family and the street-wise Londoner Maggie Butterfield. The children form a bond, while getting to know their curious neighbour Mr. Blake (that's right, the then-quite-under-appreciated poet we've all heard of today.) Another major historic figure starring in this book is Philip Astley, the charming circus owner who offers Jem's father a job as one of …

The First Bird: Episode 2 by Greig Beck

Image
So, here's my review of Episode 1. Do check it out. The series just keeps getting better and you'd want to have read the first two, when the third episode comes out in August.

The First Bird is like a modern version of The Lost World, while still being entirely original and unique. Here's what happens in Episode 1:Somewhere in the deep jungles of Brazil, a social anthropologist discovers something extraordinary. The fame-hungry scientist brings back to LA a live specimen of an Archaeopteryx (the eponymous first bird) and with it, a deadly infection that flays its victims alive. So, while the disease spreads, a team of experts sets out to Gran Chaco to find a cure; a team which includes Professor Matt Kearns, an expert in archaeology, old languages and adventure.

"The red-twilight jungle had lulled them with its paradisal beauty. They knew there had to be predators. Stupid, Matt thought. They should have known better. There were things down here that were waking nightma…

Death in Midsummer by Yukio Mishima

Image
Death in Midsummer and Other stories is a short story collection by Japanese author Yukio Mishima. The first story gives the book its title. I've only read the first story and I loved it. I'll write about the other stories, updating this post as and when I read them.

Death in Midsummer is translated by Edward G. Seidensticker. On a family vacation at a beach resort, while Tomoko Ikuta is taking a nap in her room, her three children and their aunt Yasue are on the beach. A freak accident leads to the death of Yasue and two children. The story is about what's left of the little family dealing with their sudden loss.

The story is frank and simple. It is more like a chapter out of someone's life; without a real plot but in a way, complete. In contrast to the helpless feeling that Ishiguro's stories brought, Death in Midsummer is precise. The way the characters deal with death and family is very real. The relationships between the characters, the husband and wife are at…

Under the Dome by Stephen King

Image
I never actually believed I'd finish reading Under the Dome in the time decided for the read-a-long, but it seemed like a good idea to try. I've discovered, though, that I don't really like read-a-longs. Recording my opinions about the book every few hundred pages in a little blue diary, I realized that they fluctuated a lot. They went something like:  1. this book is so exciting, what a great start.  2. okay, things are going way slow, too much dialogue, don't you think? 3. BAM, that was awesome and so unexpected.  4. this may not be as cool as The Stand or IT.  5. No, no, it's better...!  The last one, had I kept on keeping notes, would have said: Now, that was a great book.
Goodreads has this summary:

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester's Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener's hand is…

Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra

Image
You know how you read this enormous book and when you're finally done, you still don't want to put it down? I went back and re-read my favourite parts, savouring them just as much, all over again. Very few books have that effect on me.

Set in the criminal underworld of Mumbai, the book is the story of the intertwining lives of Marathi gangster, later dubbed the 'Hindu don', Ganesh Gaitonde and Sikh inspector Sartaj Singh. The book opens with Sartaj Singh, who has only ever heard of Gaitonde and the G-Company getting an anonymous tip-off of Gaitonde's current location. On reaching there, Singh finds Gaitonde in an inaccessible bunker. After a quick chat, as Sartaj tries to get inside, Ganesh Gaitonde kills himself. Inside the bunker, the police find, along with the dead man, a woman, also shot. The investigation that follows is led by Sartaj Singh, who has to report to a mysteriously large national-international agency. The narrative is divided into the current inv…