Other Worlds

I recently read 4 books almost back to back that made me feel really low and upset. All of them were really very interesting and opened up worlds to me that I had just a faint idea about.
The first was The Truth about Me: A Hijra Life Story by A. Revathi. The title says it all. The high price you pay for breaking the rules, no matter what you are.
The second was A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. Despite all the controversy surrounding this one, the writing itself packs a punch. Straight in the gut.
The third was Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars by Sonia Faleiro. It made me so, so sad inside.
The fourth was The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad (accent on the author’s name missing). Distressing, especially the plight of the women.
These books have left little dark scars in me. However, to be fair, they have also made me count my blessings.

Not Quite Half

June is coming up and I do hope I hit the half-way mark of 50 in my Reading Challenge. I’m reading more in binges rather than consistently, so sometimes, I complete 2-3 books over the weekend, and then two weeks pass before I pick up a book again.

Here’s an update to the list:

28. The Guardians of Halahala by Shatrujeet Nath: A competent fantasy book with Indian mythology woven nicely into the plot. First of a trilogy.

29. Mahabharata Quest by Christopher C Doyle: Again, a fairly interesting thriller (I guess) book set in India, the second in a series. But it lost me in some of the technical details – it was dealt with in a heavy-handed way.

30. Hysterical by Rebecca Coffey: Interesting book on Anna Freud, daughter of the famous Sigmund Freud. I would have liked to read more about Anna’s achievements though.

31. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert: I had heard so much about this book. It didn’t disappoint, but I did feel disappointed that Alma Whitaker was a figment of the author’s imagination instead of being a real person. That makes it a great book, doesn’t it?

32. Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak: Loved the Rumi stories, but was bored with the modern day equivalent that seemed forced.

33. An Outrageous Affair by Penny Vincenzi: It was a really long time since I read something like this, so picked it up from a friend’s house. It was interesting in bits, but didn’t quite stay with me. It also brought home to me the fact that even a “bestseller” like this needs solid research.

34. Netherland by Joseph O’Neill: The blurb looked really interesting, and when I started reading, it seemed one heckuva tale. A Dutchman playing cricket in America, talking about outfields and pitches and Sachin and Afridi…what’s not to like. Writing is brilliant, but the story itself wasn’t captivating enough. I could take in only small doses at a time, which was quite frustrating, since I wanted to finish it soon and get on to the next one! 🙂

35. Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos: When I began reading this book, I just fell in love with it. The women seemed so real and familiar to me. Of course, as the story progressed, everything was too pretty, and loose ends were all tied up a bit too neatly. But I hugely enjoyed this book and read it at one shot.

36. Ithaca by David Davidar: Did not quite work for me. Though it provides a lovely insight into the publishing world, I just did not feel engrossed enough to care.

37. The Unfinished Clue by Georgette Heyer: GH was one of my favourite romance authors growing up. I loved that her heroines had such spunk and I liked her witty writing. I picked this up on a whim, and was a little bit disappointed that it turned out to be a murder mystery instead (didn’t take the title literally – duh!). But it was nice to read her writing again, and see the wit sparkle.

Still quite a bit of catching up to do, though. So many books, so little time!

Catching Up

I started quite a few books, but somehow didn’t feel inclined to finish them.

The ones I did manage to finish reading were all good reads, but I didn’t find anything particularly spectacular about them. So here goes the list:

23. Ponniyin Selvan – The First Floods, originally by Kalki, translated by C.V. Karthik Narayanan: This was an interesting read. I liked that the flavour of the original Tamil version still came through nice and strong. (I really liked the use of the word “Adada!”) The descriptions were really quaint – sometimes I felt I was reading a “Shakuntala” novel. But all in all, very nice, and I would definitely like the read the entire set.

24. Personal – A Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child: Didn’t particularly care for this one, to be very honest.

25. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story by John Berendt: I was recommended this novel in order to understand better how to do character sketches, and boy! this one rocks when it comes to characters. The story itself didn’t somehow interest me too much, but the writing was excellent.

26. Holes by Louis Sachar: Lovely book. It was well-paced, and though not too much of a surprise for me, I really liked the way the story went. Solid writing.

27. The One You Cannot Have by Preeti Shenoy: I had the opportunity to meet the author, and she came across as a sincere, down-to-earth, practical and hard-working person. So I thought it would be good to read one of her books. I can easily understand why this book is such a hit with young people. It reflects a lot of their lives and the relationship problems they grapple with. It is easy to read too, without becoming too preachy or literary. But I guess I won’t be too inclined to read more of her since I’m not particularly interested in this genre.

GoodReads tells me I am behind in my reading challenge by 2 books. I do hope the next crop of books excites me more than this one.

More Reading

I managed to do more reading this weekend than practically the entire month!

The books I’ve read so far are:

17. Gachar Gochar by Vivek Shanbhag: What a beauty of a book this is! Deceptively simple, it plumbs many depths. Beautifully written and beautifully translated, the story is about a family which suddenly finds itself rich. The details are very vivid, and I could easily relate to them. The ending leaves one flummoxed initially, but then it grows on you, and I could see how cleverly the author had built up the story to the end, leaving the reader to figure it out. I had the opportunity to hear the author speak, and I was very impressed. A must read, in my opinion.

18. Wonder by R. J. Palacio: Oh what a book this is! Again, a must read. It is the wonderfully told story of a facially deformed kid who joins school for the first time in fifth grade, and comes into his own. Very sensitively told, bringing out the best in people always, this is a very heart-warming book. I loved the different POVs and the way it tries to always present a balanced picture, even of the very worst of people.

19. Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa: I loved the author’s other book Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. This book was a well-written book, but it didn’t really strike a chord with me. I do like the way this author writes.

20. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: OK, I can’t gush enough about this book. What a beautifully written book! Every sentence is crafted with so much love and care. And what a lovely story. It brings war right to our doorstep. The characters are so wonderfully vivid. I think it deserves every prize it has been awarded so far, and then some. Absolutely fantastic!

21. Stoob – Testing Times by Samit Basu: I was swept away by Samit Basu’s Turbulence when I first read it. It was hilarious, cheeky, clever and a great read! Stoob, somewhat in the same genre as Wimpy Kid, is no doubt a cute book, though not as exciting as I expected it to be.

22. The Reluctant Detective by Kiran Manral: I’ve been a long-time reader of Kiran’s blogs and have been meaning to read her books. This book, her first, felt more like her blogs than anything else. She is pretty hilarious most of the time, but since I’ve read most of the funny things in her blog posts, I didn’t find it as much of a page-turner as I expected it to be. The detective part wasn’t much or very interesting, but her trademark wit was very much in effect.

I’m all caught up with my Reading Challenge target now. I’m really enjoying this so far!

Four Books and two Movies

A brief note on the four more books I’ve read as part of the Reading Challenge.

13. Finding Audrey by Sophia Kinsella: After the heavy underworld stuff, I was looking for a palate-cleansing light and fluffy course, and this fit the bill perfectly. An absolutely fun book that I finished in one sitting. The characters were fleshed out so well and the humour was very enjoyable.

14. The Liar by Nora Roberts: I thought this would be a quick and light read, but it kind of plodded. The main character didn’t convince me too much as a victim of abuse and I thought the whole story meandered quite a bit.

15. The Last Train to Istanbul by Ayse Kulin: Set in the midst of the run-up to the Second world war, it does a pretty decent job of portraying the plight of Turkish Jews and the efforts of the Turkish government to save them. However, I had a difficult time reading it and it took forever. It seemed to just chug along like a passenger train, never quite reaching the speed that would make the journey exciting. I read that she is a best-selling author in Turkey. I’m wondering if some of the magic was lost in translation.

16. Looking for Alaska by John Green: This is my first John Green book, and I was a little underwhelmed by it. I guess teens will find plenty to relate to, and will probably cry buckets too, but somehow it seemed a bit formulaic to me and didn’t quite move me.

The movies I saw were Room and Neerja.

I wish I had seen Room on TV/DVD. It is that sort of intense, intimate movie that keeps you completely engrossed. Beautiful movie, and from what I remember of the equally lovely book, quite faithful to the book too.

I had heard about the buckets and tissues that one needed to take to Neerja, but honestly, I didn’t feel like crying a bit during the movie, except at the end, during the mother’s speech. Sonam Kapoor, I’m sorry to say, just cannot act. The role was utterly wasted on her. A better actress could have brought such nuances to the role. Sonam was her usual pouty-little-schoolgirl self, which was a real pity.

One of the best things about the movie was what D said after watching it. She said that the movie was so useful in educating all of us about what brave people such as Neerja did, since we rarely knew much about them. She wished there were more movies made like this instead of silly ones. I couldn’t agree more!

 

Next Four

Here are the next four books that I completed:

9. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion: It was a fun read, the two main characters so completely different from each other, and yet made for each other! It read so much like a screenplay to me, and I was not surprised to learn that the author had initially written it as a screenplay. Quite enjoyable.

10. Menaka’s Choice by Kavita Kane: Very mixed feeling about this book. On the one hand, it tries to put a modern feminist twist to the Menaka story. On the other hand, there was a lot of “heaving bosoms” (as someone put it), but I don’t really blame the author for that because it comes with the apsara territory! The initial parts seemed dialogue-heavy, but the story grew on me quite a bit towards the end. A good attempt.

11. Personally I Blame My Fairy Godmother by Claudia Carroll: I did not care for this book much. On the lines of Bridget Jones and the Shopaholic series, the humour was a bit too dry and contrived. I didn’t care too much for the main character anyway.

12. My Days in the Underworld: The Rise of the Bangalore Mafia by Agni Sreedhar: Gosh! When I began reading this book, it really spooked me out. Such familiar landmarks we grew up with, all teeming with this invisible world and its members! The book is curiously devoid of emotion. The underworld dons seemed like rebellious schoolboys brawling in the playground. The unholy nexus between the cops, the underworld, and the politicians is a carefully played out game. Bangalore will never be the same now to me again. Anywhere I go, I’m looking around suspiciously over my shoulder!

Four More

Here are four more books I completed:

5. Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa – what an absolutely brilliant and splendid book this was! Very different from the usual, and what writing, so dense with imagery, so packed with detail, yet so very neat! I fell in love with it.

6. Not Just an Accountant by Vinod Rai – I normally don’t tend to read these sort of books, but both this book and Aunt Julia were presented in our local book club, and I thought it would be worth a read. It was really interesting to get a ringside view of some of the events, about which we’ve just read/heard news reports. Rai’s anguish comes across loud and clear, and it really leaves you wondering how crooked we Indians can be that we so methodically go about circumventing every safety measure ever invented! Left me feeling kind of sad, but also full of admiration for this upright, honest man, who just did his job the way it was supposed to be done. Honestly, is that too much to ask of everyone?

7. The Greatest Short Stories of Leo Tolstoy – Thought it might be a good idea to read this. His writing is still brilliant. The stories of course, are loaded with morals, but sometimes, it’s good to be reminded of the basics which hold true irrespective of era.

8. The House that BJ Built by Anuja Chauhan – This was a quick and easy read, lots of things to laugh about and nod your head at. I haven’t read Those Pricey Thakur Girls yet. I’ve read her Zoya Factor earlier, which was OK. This book was a fun read though, and I enjoyed it enough to sit up a whole night reading it! 😉