The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

This is turning out to be a year of really good reads. I cannot express enough how much I enjoyed reading The Handmaid’s Tale. This is the first Margaret Atwood book I’m reading and I started it with the knowledge of the cult fan following she enjoys. Having read it, I can understand why it is so and I am also a fan now🙂

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Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

I’m currently reading 1984 and between these two, I must confess I am getting quite freaked out. The Handmaid’s Tale is as chilling as dystopia can be and particularly at one point where Offred reminisces on and almost regrets about how she took magazines for granted, I found myself feeling quite …. what’s the word I’m looking for ? …. you get it, right ?

” …. was of the opinion from the outset that the best and most cost-effective way to control women for reproductive and other purposes was through women themselves. For this there were many historical precedents; in fact, no empire imposed by force or otherwise has ever been without this feature; control of the indigenous by members of their own group. In the case of Gilead, there were many women willing to serve as Aunts, either because of a genuine belief in what they called “traditional values”, or for the benefits they might thereby acquire.When power is scarce, a little of it is tempting.

Without much ado, let me just, in my usual style, scream at the top of my lungs that this is a wonderful read and you absolutely have to give it a go. It exceeded my expectations at being a page turner and the hard-hitting messages that need to be conveyed are done with subtlety without being preachy.

I found the best and most effective expression about this book on the back cover which was a section of the review in The Listener  — “Moving, vivid and terrifying. I only hope it’s not prophetic”.  Couldn’t have said it better !

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum ! 🙂

 

Crime Fiction Written By Women

If you are looking for a one-stop shop for an analysis of crime fiction by women and a mind-boggling number of recommendations for your TBR, this is it.

Women are writing the best crime novels, The Atlantic 

 

Poignant Reads Worth Your Time

We live in an age of information overflow. As I am typing this, my inbox is overflowing with unread emails from a dozen subscriptions, I have a substantial backlog on my Pocket account and also have a dozen random bookmarks for various articles online.

Amidst all this, every once in a while, you come across writing that makes you stop, take a deep breath and admire the sheer brilliance of the words that carry so much depth, so much meaning and insight. It is all that you would have thought about life but to put it so magnificently is quite another talent, a sign of genius.

These 2 articles are so wonderful that I have been sending it to everyone and nagging them to read it because it is truly worth it. When I’m sending it to people who are practically strangers, how can I not share it on my dear blog ?

Below are my favourite portions from both articles followed by the original links🙂

And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe.

There is much to be done, there is much that can be done. One person, … one person of integrity, can make a difference, a difference of life and death.

-Elie Wiesel

 

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Don’t aim at success — the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run—in the long run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.

-Victor Frankl

 

Links to the articles

Elie Wiesel’s timely Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech 

Victor Frankl on the Human Search for Meaning 

 

Happy Reading !🙂

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

What better way to get back to blogging than with a contrarian view ?😉

So here it is – this book was seriously not worth all the hype. I have a problem of being too generous with 5 star ratings and I’ve given it 3 on Goodreads but now that I think about it, even 2 is on the higher side.

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This is once again a classic case of the blurb presenting an interesting premise but the actual book failing to live up to it. I have already written about one such book here.

Here is a spoiler free deconstruction of the pros and cons

The writing: pretty average. I have the habit of taking photos of quote-worthy paragraphs from all books but no such inclinations here.

The characters: the protagonist is one of the most linear and boring characters you’ll find with absolutely no layers. Almost textbook black and white characters.

The length: don’t even get me started !

The actual mystery: this was my main problem – there is nothing even remotely extraordinary about the mystery here. Its half decent because of one premise but apart from that, its very old-school mystery writing of meticulously introducing all characters and making them all look suspicious. It is nowhere close to Devotion of Suspect X or Gone Girl where the mystery, when revealed, messes with your mind brilliantly and leaves you shocked.

Take it from a mystery junkie – skip it !

 

Hello , hello !

So I had given up on the blog for the simple yet powerful reason, “looks like no one is reading it anyway”. But over the past few week, I’ve had 2 people ask me why I haven’t been updating my blog and I log in to my WP account after ages to find 2 new followers as well.

The good news therefore is that there are at least 2 people taking the time out to read whatever I post. But if you are also someone reading this, lots of goodwill and hugs for you❤

Some great reading has happened over the past few months though including Serious Men, Vanity Bagh and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Yours truly also finally managed to read Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train (a bigger achievement being the fact that I successfully avoided spoilers all this time).🙂

Going to post my thoughts on all those very soon but till then here is a great article on reading from my new favourite, Brain Pickings

Why do we need the things in books? The poems, the essays, the stories? Authors disagree. Authors are human and fallible and foolish. Stories are lies after all, tales of people who never existed and the things that never actually happened to them. Why should we read them? Why should we care?

The teller and the tale are very different. We must not forget that.

Ideas, written ideas, are special. They are the way we transmit our stories and our ideas from one generation to the next. If we lose them, we lose our shared history. We lose much of what makes us human. And fiction gives us empathy: it puts us inside the minds of other people, gives us the gift of seeing the world through their eyes. Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over.

 

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

If there is one book I could recommend to everyone, this is it. Especially if you are a woman.

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This text tells the story of Marjane Satrapi’s life in Tehran from six to 14, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution & the devastating effects of war with Iraq. Satrapi paints a portrait of daily life in Iran & of the bewildering contradictions between home life & public life.

Those who have been following my blog for a while will probably not take this seriously since every time I get unduly excited about a book, this is what I say. You’re right, I do have a tendency to use this blog to scream at the top of my voice about how great some book was. But this time, it is different. I read this book months ago and since then I have had so much time to process it and revisit some sections.

I don’t think I have ever related to a character as much as this. The graphic novel format works so well for this story where so many things are conveyed in a subtle manner. Most importantly, issues of such depth are handled with an endearing sense of humour. persepolis-images

Another important point I wanted to discuss – what is it with all the negative reviews ? The only point they make is that they found the character “arrogant” or “annoying”. First of all, this is autobiographical. I really do not understand how you can dislike an autobiography purely based on your judgement of what is right or wrong. Second, have we reached a stage where only goody goody characters and stories are worth praising ?

Anyway, this isn’t yours truly getting hyper as always and trying to get you all to read it. This is a very serious me giving a very serious recommendation *hands crossed on desk , stares with gravitas*

*slow fade out*

PS: Do let me know if you read it though ! I would love to discuss it with you guys :-)

Baby Steps Back to Blogging

Hello everyone !!🙂 I’m back ! (or as the post title indicates, making a spirited effort to resume operations here). What can I say ? I love this blog too much !

So first of all, for all my usual readers and “visitors” – how have you guys been these past few months ? I’ve realized that this is one of the most important questions anyone can ask anyone so lets share🙂

Life for me has been hectic – both good hectic and bad hectic. Good because I’ve done so many different things these past few months that I’m proud and bad because there have been disappointments and potentially life-altering decisions (aren’t they the worst ?).

For the past few weeks, I have been helping out some friends with their WordPress website and that made me realize just how much I missed blogging. So I really want to get back – especially since this is one of the things that brightens up my day and motivates me to read more.

Since my last post, I have done some reading. Here is the list of books I’m yet to blog about

  1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote
  2. Karna’s Wife, Kavita Kane
  3. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
  4. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
  5. The Catcher in the Rye, J D Salinger
  6. The Palace of Illusions, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
  7. The Way Things Were, Aatish Taseer (Thank you FictionFan for convincing me to read it)

I have so much more to write about (including a surprisingly successful book-buying ban) but I’ll stop now.

If there are any wacky memes going around, link me up !😉 In the meantime, I’ll go and start adding books to the good old TBR.

Bout of Books 13 : Wrap-up

The progress report for my first Bout of Books

Bout of Books

My goals for the readathon were

To read at least 2 books such that I complete 1 fiction and 1 non-fiction

Sadly, I wasn’t able to complete the goal of reading one non-fiction but I read 2 books in total so it is kind of a 50-50 success. I’ll take it ! It is way better than my average so no complaints here.

Over the week I have read a total of 700 pages. I love how it has ended up being a round number🙂

The books I completed are

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In addition to these, I managed to finish 30% of

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So that wraps-up my Bout of Books. How did yours go ?

Bout of Books 13: Goals and Update Post

This is also my 100th post on this blog🙂 I’ve gone ahead and changed my theme to celebrate so let me know if you like it ! 

Bout of Books

Click to reach the BoB page

My goals for the readathon are as follows

To read at least 2 books such that I complete 1 fiction and 1 non-fiction

My tentative list is as follows

Does the Elephant Dance ? by David Malone

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

A Happy Death by Albert Camus

Pax Indica by Shashi Tharoor 

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi 

I will be updating my progress in this post. If you are doing Bout of Books, let me know your plans for this week !🙂 All the best !

I couldn’t read as much as I wanted to but I have started 2 books – Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Does the Elephant Dance ?

Number of pages read – 89

Total number of pages – 89

I got much more reading done and as a result, I finished Breakfast at Tiffany’s🙂 Pretty happy with that ! I also managed to power through 50+ pages of Does the Elephant Dance ? and start reading A Happy Death by Albert Camus.

Number of pages read – 156

Total number of pages – 245

Book(s) finished – Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote 9889

A slower reading day compared to Tuesday. I continued with Does the Elephant Dance ? and A Happy Death. I’m searching my shelves to see if there are any light quick reads to up my tally but no luck so far.

Number of pages read – 86

Total number of pages – 331

Book(s) finished – Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

A very poor reading day. I managed to finish a chapter in Does the Elephant Dance ? but I seem to have hit a block with A Happy Death. Since Friday is going to be a busy day, it looks like it all comes down to the weekend.

Number of pages read – 28

Total number of pages – 359

Book(s) finished – Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

I couldn’t find time to read the whole day thanks to work and studies. By the end of the day, I was too tired to pick up any of the 2 serious reads I am currently reading. But then at night I suddenly decided that I should put in more effort – it is Bout of Books after all ! So I started Persepolis and read 55 pages at 11pm after watching The Mentalist🙂

Number of pages read – 55

Total number of pages – 414

Book(s) finished – Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Saturday was the best day of Bout of Books. I managed to read over 200 pages of Persepolis. This is one book you have to read – it just draws you in and is amazing.  And since I am in love with Persepolis, it was a perfect entry to the Favourite BoB Read Challenge hosted by Once Upon A Chapter. I posted the photo on twitter and you can check it here.

Number of pages read – 259

Total number of pages – 673

Book(s) finished – Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Just managed to finish Persepolis and wasn’t too keen to read anything else

Number of pages read – 27

Total number of pages – 700

Book(s) finished – Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

My first “graphic novel”. According to Wikipedia, a “graphic novel” is

“a fictional story that is presented in comic-strip format and presented as a book.”

I’m not a big fan of comic books but I did enjoy reading this. At some points, the comic format did get to me though. But despite that, when you look at the novel as a whole, it is worth reading.

The strength of V for Vendetta lies in the fact that its themes are universal and they remain relevant till date. In fact, I think some of the ideas are becoming more relevant in this day and age.

So give this one a try even if you dislike comics. If not anything, it will give you something to think about.

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How does it compare to the movie ? Well, for one thing, I was quite surprised at the degree of difference between the two. The movie is a more toned down version and I somehow found the novel to be darker.

But where the movie scores big time is with the character of Evie played by Natalie Portman. I’m sure everyone will agree that she did an amazing job and brought strength and dignity in her portrayal. In contrast, the Evie in the novel is a perpetually weepy, confused mess who keeps saying things like “I dunno”. This gets irritating and frankly I found Rosemary’s character to be more likable.

Have you read/watched V for Vendetta ? What did you think ?