Lets take a poll !

I just added one more book to my did-not-finish shelf on Goodreads this week. That makes it 2 books this year – Catch 22 and English,August. I’ll definitely write a detailed post on why I took the call but before that I want to know what all of you feel about just leaving a book halfway (although in the 2 cases above, I read only around 100 pages).

So spare a few minutes here and take the polls. In a few days from now, I’ll put up the final results 🙂

Vote away !! Oh and I have deliberately left out options like “Maybe” and “I don’t know” – I’m forcing you to choose 😉 😛

<The polling has been closed but you can check out the results here if interested 🙂 > 

Thank you guys !! 🙂 Lets see what results we get !! 

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The Ultimate Book Tag !!

I feel miserable for not reading or blogging as much as I want to but the past few weeks have been frustrating with work, studies, confrontations with friends, etc, etc. I have read only 1 book in February but have started 4 others and just left them hanging at various stages 😦 It has also been weeks since I posted anything but I hope to start posting again soon.

I was tagged by the wonderful Belinda to do this – make sure you check out her post here ! Thanks for the tag and sorry for delaying it for this long !!

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1. Do you get sick while reading in the car?

Yes. Forget reading, even if I look at my phone for an extended time I get dizzy. Straight routes are ok but otherwise I just avoid.

2. Which author’s writing style is completely unique to you and why?

I recently read an excerpt of a book by Virginia Woolf and found it quite unique. I finished a book by Tagore in January and it was the first time I read something so heavy on poetic descriptions – not saying I liked it 😉

3. Harry Potter Series or the Twilight Saga? Give 3 points to defend your answer.

*cough* Neither

Ok if I definitely have to choose then I’d rather go with Harry Potter. Here is why its not Twilight

1. I don’t like the idea of humans romancing across species
2. If the books are similar to the movies (I’ve seen one), then the writing is quite mediocre
3. If you take away all the fluff, its as cliched as stories can be.

4. Do you carry a book bag? If so, what is in it (besides books…)?

I usually carry quite large handbags and if I feel I’m in for a long wait somewhere, I may just carry a book. Apart from that, I’ll just have a notebook, plenty of pens, a neat looking clutch (bought 2 new ones recently 🙂 ) and some cosmetic stuff.

5. Do you smell your books?

Not really … no.

6. Books with or without little illustrations?

Without … don’t gang up on me now !!

7. What book did you love while reading but discovered later it wasn’t quality writing?

I used to love bulky spy/murder thrillers as a teen – I don’t think they are considered quality writing now. Who cares though !

8. Do you have any funny stories involving books from your childhood? Please share!

I don’t think there are any “funny” stories … is not returning a library book because it completes a series funny ? 😐

9. What is the thinnest book on your shelf?

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

10. What is the thickest book on your shelf?

Glimpses of World History by Jawaharlal Nehru

11. Do you write as well as read? Do you see yourself in the future as being an author?

That would just be tragic 😀 I don’t write fiction – I enjoy writing essays/articles on technical or general topics but I’m useless when it comes to story-writing.

12. When did you get into reading?

I started very young – credit to my parents for that. They bought me a lot of Amar Chitra Katha, Jataka Tales and Panchatantra comics when I started school and its been going on since.

13. What is your favorite classic book?

Jane Eyre and White Fang – I cried for both. I read The Catcher in the Rye recently and liked it and of course there is To Kill a Mockingbird. Don’t worry, I won’t discuss the sequel now 😉   

14. In school was your best subject Language Arts/English?

English was surely a strong subject – I topped the class *shameless gloating*

15. If you were given a book as a present that you had read before and hated…what would you do?

I would keep it anyway – I am sentimental about gifts that way. Just keep it tucked away in some corner of the house.

17. What is a bad habit you always do (besides rambling) while blogging?

Repetitive usage of words and phrases seems to be a problem. Most of the time I am fumbling for the right word to express my thoughts and I end up writing unnecessarily convoluted sentences.

18. What is your favorite word?

Right now its “bokeh” 😀 Foodie favourites are “ganache” and “praline”. I use “absolute(ly)” in conversations a lot.

19. Are you a nerd, dork, or dweeb? Or all of the above?

What is the finer distinction ? I have no clue !! Lets just go with nerd for now ….

20. Vampires or Fairies? Why?

Fairies …. why ? I guess I like anything better than vampires.

21. Shapeshifters or Angels? Why?

Shapeshifters … who wouldn’t want that ?

22. Spirits or Werewolves? Why?

Werewolves …. I read a book once on how werewolves could actually be victims of a disease and how they were wrongfully persecuted. So I’m sympathetic 😉

23. Zombies or Vampires?

Oh come on ! I wish I could copy Belinda’s answer here 😀 Ok I have to go with vampires this time – don’t dare ask me why !!

24. Love Triangle or Forbidden Love

Forbidden love. Because there is only so much that can be done with a love triangle storyline – invariably most of the stories fall into love triangle templates like the hot guy/girl vs. the do-gooder best friend. I feel forbidden love can be portrayed in more nuanced ways.

25. AND FINALLY: Full on romance books or action-packed with a few love scenes mixed in?

The latter definitely  !! I love action, mystery, thriller, etc. I don’t enjoy full on romances all that much. Most of the poetic writing is just lost on me 😀

Feel free to take up this tag – I would really like to see all the serious book bloggers attempt this !! 😉 🙂

Disgrace by J.M.Coetzee

I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars in Goodreads after a lot of thought. I say this because the writing was wonderful yet somehow I didn’t fall in love with the story. In all fairness, it is also possible that I completely missed reading between the lines. Its one of the problems I face when I read highly acclaimed works – the minute I start disliking them, I get the feeling that maybe I have missed something.

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The Blurb …

A divorced, middle-aged English professor finds himself increasingly unable to resist affairs with his female students. When discovered by the college authorities, he is expected to apologise and repent in an effort to save his job, but he refuses to become a scapegoat in what he see as as a show trial designed to reinforce a stringent political correctness.
He preempts the authorities and leaves his job, and the city, to spend time with his grown-up lesbian daughter on her remote farm. Things between them are strained – there is much from the past they need to reconcile – and the situation becomes critical when they are the victims of a brutal and horrifying attack.

Like I said, the writing is brilliant and its enriched by the fact that David Lurie is in fact a professor of Literature. Here is one such discussion on Wordsworth

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I also the way Lurie’s stand before the tribunal was phrased

“Manas, we went through the repentance business yesterday. I told you what I thought. I won’t do it. I appeared before an officially constituted tribunal, before a branch of the law. Before that secular tribunal I pleaded guilty, a secular plea. That plea should suffice. Repentance is neither here nor there. Repentance belongs to another world, to another universe of discourse.” 

If you are wondering why there is a dog on the cover, its because it is one of the central issues the book deals with. These parts make for really tough reading since the gruesome and inhumane killing of dogs is described in detail. I guess that is one of the “Disgrace” themes along with the more obvious ones outlined in the blurb.

None of the characters are close to being likable but that isn’t the objective here either so I won’t crib about that.

My only problem was with the continually shocking decisions taken by the daughter Lucy and her irritating way of communicating them. I’m not going to dismiss those decisions since I have no understanding of South African society during that period. But the way the decisions were presented wasn’t convincing at all.

If you have read the book, let me know if I am missing something. Especially if you have an understanding of South Africa.

January Books Wrap-up

Time for a brief recap of the books I read last month. I read a total of 6 books and I must say I am quite happy with that. I am hoping I can sustain this even though I have to get back to my studies – can only ignore it for so long 😀

With the help of Goodreads, here they are neatly presented

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I have only written about 3 of them so far – the rest are sitting as drafts waiting for some coherence. Hopefully I’ll get them done by this week.

  1. Sybil, Flora Rheta Schreiber
  2. That Long Silence, Shashi Deshpande
  3. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, John Le Carre

Of the 6, I think my least favourite was That Long Silence. It was a major disappointment and I think what added to the disappointment was the fact that I started it with very high expectations based on the blurb. Every Goodreads review is going on and on about how it is about feminism,etc. but let me tell you – it has no such higher motives. It was just a rambling tale of quite a selfish woman.  Ok let me not get into that now ….

Top reads were probably The Catcher in the Rye followed by Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Sybil.

Based on Goodreads stats, it turns out that none of the 6 books were published post-2000. I mean it was obvious for some of them, but I had somehow assumed that Disgrace by Coetzee would be more recent but it was first published in 1999. The oldest is Home and The World by Tagore published in 1916.

Also, I took a call and gave up on Catch 22. The writing was quite enjoyable but it became a tad monotonous beyond a point and I don’t feel like going back to it at all. If you have read it fully, let me know what you thought of it. Is it worth giving it another go ?

How was your reading in January ? Link up your posts !

Sorry Not Sorry – My Unpopular Opinions

This post has been inspired by the one at the Eleventh Stack – make sure you check it out !

So here goes ! And to quote the folks at Eleventh Stack “Grab a bushel of rotten tomatoes and get ready to pelt us, because we’re sorry-not-sorry about the following things”. At least they have safety in numbers 😀

1. I am not a fan of Harry Potter – there, I said it ! I read 2 books from the series and I decided it wasn’t for me. In fact, I am not a major fan of anything in the fantasy genre and haven’t been since childhood. I’d rather read a gruesome murder mystery over fantasy any day. The same applies to the whole Vampire – Werewolf sphere of fiction out there.

2. If someone around me over-hypes a book, I avoid it. A recommendation is welcome with open arms and even a nudge in the direction is ok but if they start going “OMG It is amazing ! What do you mean you haven’t read it ?” and repeat that a 1000 times, I will just skip the book. It irks me when people over-react and act as if life is not worth living if you haven’t read the book. Example of above is Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

3. Although I haven’t read many romance novels, I like some of the romance/rom-com movies. Examples – Four Weddings and a Funeral, My Best Friend’s Wedding, PS I Love You and Jerry Maguire (for obvious reasons).
Recently I saw The Notebook and One Day on TV and I just do not understand how they became hits ! Even A Walk to Remember for that matter. I just believe that they are a case of hype over substance.

4. Continuing on the subject of movies, I am not a fan of Hitchcock. I figured out the major “twist” in Psycho and I hold that one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my life is The Birds.

I don’t know if the following are “unexpected” opinions but anyway …..

1. I love watching food shows on TV – Top Chef, Masterchef, Hell’s Kitchen, Eat Street, Food Safari  – I don’t even eat half the food they show on there but I like watching them anyway.

2. There are some movies I have seen a dozen times or more but I still watch them every single time they are on TV – The Godfather, The Dark Knight, Rush Hour, Inglorious Basterds, Shutter Island, The Departed, etc. etc. 🙂

3. I collect notebooks of different shapes and sizes. Some of my favourites include a cloth-bound one with embroidery and one made with recycled elephant poo  😀

I guess that wraps it up. What do you think ? Are we still going to be on friendly terms ? 😉

Reading Plans for 2015

I realized only now that I haven’t shared anything about my reading/bookish plans for 2015. Time to rectify that !

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I have decided not to set a Goodreads target this year. I was really struggling to decide on the issue but my decision-making was hastened by my dad who said “reading should be fun – don’t put yourself under more stress than what you already have.” I have to say I agree with him. So no targets this year – the aim is to read as much as I can without fretting over numbers.

What about the actual reading ?

This year I want to strike a balance between Fiction and Non-Fiction.

I really want to focus on non-fiction and that is also one of the reasons why I don’t want to set a goal. Most of the titles I want to read are technically heavy and hence naturally take more time than reading fiction. Take my current read, The Thistle and The Drone, for example. Its brilliance lies in its technical analysis.  Since these are the kind of subjects I am interested in, I have lined up more such books in my TBR and hopefully I am able to do justice to them.

When it comes to Indian writing, I also want to read more translated works along with the English ones. There are a ridiculous number of languages in India and I’ll be taking my first step towards translated works this week with Tagore’s The Home and the World.

I am not reading through any fixed lists although I am always on the lookout for some titles from the Sahitya Akademi Winners list. Two of my recent reads – India After Gandhi and That Long Silence were from it. The more popular titles are available in my library but the rest are either unavailable or outrageously costly. So I’m still figuring that one out.

Of course there has to be a mystery or a thriller every once in a while – what is reading without that ? 🙂 Just today my mom was asking me to get her a serial killer mystery book 😐

That just about sums up my plans (or the lack of them) for 2015.

What are your plans for this year ? Are you reading through any specific book lists ? Let me know !

Darkness At Noon by Arthur Koestler

Darkness at Noon (from the German: Sonnenfinsternis) is a novel by the Hungarian-born British novelist Arthur Koestler, first published in 1940. His best-known work tells the tale of Rubashov, a Bolshevik 1917 revolutionary who is cast out, imprisoned and tried for treason by the Soviet government he’d helped create.

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Its pure chance that I got my hands on this book. I was searching my parent’s bookshelf for something to read and found this – it was a 1960 copy dated and signed by my late grandfather. Once I searched the title online and found out about its iconic status, I had to read it. I’m glad I did. Here is how my copy looks though 🙂

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Understanding this book requires a knowledge of Russian history since the setting is the Moscow Trials of late-1930s. Frankly, I had no idea about this so after a few pages into the novel, I had to stop, read about the Trials and then resume. I would recommend doing that since nowhere in the novel is there any mention on Russia or Russian leaders. Without knowing the backdrop, the effect is lost.

The novel has an interesting history like that of the author

Koestler wrote the novel in German while living in Paris, from where he escaped in 1940 just before the Nazi troops arrived. The text was lost. Darkness at Noon owes its publication to the decision of his lover in Paris, the sculptor Daphne Hardy, to translate it into English before she herself escaped. Koestler, having deserted from the French Foreign Legion, fled to Portugal, where he heard a bogus report that the ship on which Hardy – and his manuscript – were travelling to Britain had been sunk. He attempted suicide (with pills purloined from Walter Benjamin). [Guardian article link] 

There are 2 main threads in the story – Rubashov’s own introspection about the revolution and the ‘hearings’ where Rubashov is interrogated by officers Ivanov (his contemporary) and Gletkin (the new guard).

Rubashov’s character contemplates extensively about politics and ideologies and about questions about whether it is ethical to sacrifice a few for the greater good and whether the end justifies the means.

We seem to be faced with a pendulum movement in history, swinging from absolutism to democracy, from democracy back to absolute dictatorship. The amount of individual freedom which a people conquer and keep, depends on the degree of its political maturity

When the level of mass-consciousness catches up with the objective state of affairs, there follows inevitably the conquest of democracy, either peaceably or by force.

From the third hearing conducted by Gletkin till the end, it is a tough read since you sympathize with Rubashov and have a premonition of what is going to happen.

Overall, it is a wonderful read especially for those interested in history and politics.

The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly

Jack McEvoy is at the end of the line as a crime reporter. Forced to take a buy-out from the Los Angeles Times as the newspaper grapples with dwindling revenues, he’s got only a few days left on the job. His last assignment? Training his replacement, a low-cost reporter just out of journalism school. But Jack has other plans for his exit. He is going to go out with a bang — a final story that will win the newspaper journalism’s highest honor — a Pulitzer prize.

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This is the first Michael Connelly novel that I have read so I can’t offer any comparisons with The Poet or the Harry Bosch series.

I enjoyed The Scarecrow quite a lot actually. As I have stated many times on this blog before, thrillers and mysteries are my favourite genres. When I am reading them, its almost like I am in some kind of bookish comfort zone. Thankfully, this did not disappoint.

The identity of “The Scarecrow” is revealed in the 1st few chapters itself. So the book is more about how McEvoy uses his limited time as a journalist and limited resources to track down a suspect and how the Scarecrow is always a step ahead.

But the main reason why I liked it was the climax. It wasn’t predictable. Well, good does win over evil as always but it isn’t in some silly hero vs villain knife fight so that was a relief.

There is also a love interest which I guess is from the previous novel. Is a romantic angle really necessary in a thriller like this ? I don’t know but I’m guessing its a template of sorts. Even if the hero has to prevent some nuclear explosion thing-y and thwart World War 3, he still has time for romance. Personally I’m willing to overlook this cliche as long as it doesn’t hamper the flow of the narrative.

So if you like thrillers, give this a shot.

Let me know what you think !

The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G.Wodehouse

I guess most of you will already be familiar with Jeeves and Bertie Wooster. This book is centred around Bertie’s friend Bingo Little who falls in love with every girl he meets. How he keeps getting into trouble and how Jeeves bails him out is the book in a sentence.

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I’m surprised it took me this long to read Wodehouse since almost everyone in the family is a fan. My dad and uncle have read all the Jeeves books and have gone one step further to read the Psmith series as well.

But in a case of the apple falling far from the tree, I must confess that I’m not a fan of the book. I had to labour hard to finish it and it took me months.

I have always held humour as a genre in high esteem whether it be books or movies. And even in this case, I admire the writing and there were places where I did laugh out loud. Here are some of my favourites ..

Everything seemed to be going right. On three separate occasions horses on which I had invested a sizeable amount won by lengths instead of sitting down to rest in the middle of the race, as horses usually do when I’ve got money on them.

“Have you told her ?”
“No . I haven’t the nerve. But we walk together in the garden most evenings, and ti sometimes seems to me, that there is a look in her eyes”
“I know that look. Like a sergeant major” 

 He appeared a trifle reassured and lowered the umbrella. But just then the most frightful shindig started in the bedroom. It sounded as if all the cats in London, assisted by delegates from outlying suburbs, had got together to settle their differences once and for all. A sort of augmented orchestra of cats 

What then was the problem ? There is no plot or storyline at all. It is just a collection of circumstances that could almost pass off as a collection of short stories. One chapter isn’t connected to the next and I suspect that even if I change the chapter orders or delete a few, it wouldn’t make a difference. The effect is that it makes for excruciatingly slow reading. As someone who likes fast-paced novels more, I found this really irritating.

Whether you like the book or not will therefore depend a lot on your personal taste in novels. If you give importance to writing over everything else, you will love this. If you are like me, you may not.

Don’t forget to share what you think ! Should I have started with some other title ?

More importantly, is it ok to not like classics ?

The Books of 2014

I’ve only managed to read 20 books in 2014. It is kinda sad but I’m not going to get all mopey about it and ruin my New Year. Hopefully I can read more in 2015 and set it right 🙂

With help from Goodreads, here is an overview of my year in books….

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I’ve read a total of 7312 pages this year with the longest book being India After Gandhi at 893 pages.

Here they are – the humble 20 🙂

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Yes ! Read them definitely !

Our Moon has Blood Clots , Rahul Pandita

The Rainmaker , John Grisham

A Death in the Family ,James Agee

The Sense of an Ending , Julian Barnes

To Kill a Mockingbird , Harper Lee

The Lives Of Others, Neel Mukherjee

Em and the Big Hoom, Jerry Pinto

India’s Struggle for Independence, Bipan Chandra

India After Gandhi , Ramachandra Guha

The Scarecrow, Michael Connelly

Darkness At Noon , Arthur Koestler

Hmmm….depends

The Dark Crusader , Alistair Maclean (if you are a fan)

Don’t Go Away, We’ll Be Right Back: The Oops And Downs Of Advertising , Indu Balachandran (if you are interested about the ad world and can take unlimited puns)

The Kaoboys of R&AW: Down Memory Lane, B.Raman (if the history of R&AW interests you)

The Unreal Elections , CS Krishna and Karthik Laxman (if you like satire and are in tune with the politics in India)

The Sceptical Patriot, Sidin Vadukut (if history + humour works for you)

The Inimitable Jeeves, P G Wodehouse (if you are a fan/ if you would like to give Wodehouse a try to see what it is all about)

From one bookworm to another – skip it !

Deja Dead , Kathy Reichs

Four corners of  night ,Craig Holden

The Kill List , Frederick Forsyth

What about 2015 ?

Do I go ahead and set a higher reading goal and see how it turns out ? Or do I just read and see how many I manage without a specific goal ? I haven’t been able to decide yet.

What do you guys think ? Help me decide !!

Also

HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone !! 🙂

Heres wishing that 2015 turns out to be a much better year than 2014 for all of you !!! ❤