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! 😉

2016 Reading Challenge

I’ve decided to join the GoodReads 2016 reading challenge this year. I’ve setup a target of 100 books. About 2 books a week is easy, no?

I’ve decided that if I really, really enjoy the book, I’ll blog a separate post about it, else, will just mention it in my periodic updates.

So, the first four books I’ve read in 2016 are:

  1. A Series of Unfortunate Events (Book #3) by Lemony Snicket
  2. Life Before Man by Margaret Atwood
  3. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
  4. The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov

The choice of the very first book for the year is pretty ominous, right? 🙂 However, I absolutely enjoyed it (talk about schadenfreude!) and the last one too a great deal.

So what do you plan to read this year?



More than a few years ago, when it was the latest new thing, my niece sent me a Kindle from the States as a gift. Some registration issues and complications ensued, and the little device was relegated to a forgotten corner shelf, never to be used. Not sure why we didn’t pursue it to ensure that I used it, but at the end of the day, it was an unfortunate  stillbirth.

This Diwali I bought a Kindle Paperwhite after much hesitation. I wasn’t really sure if I would take to the device. At the same time, I had practically stopped buying books for both want of space and environmental concerns. The local library was not enough. The Kindle seemed the most appropriate way to go.

Well, the upshot is that I love my Kindle. I love the ease with which I can buy books that catch my fancy at any time, and read them without moving from my seat. The reading is not difficult – I’ve set the font to larger than normal, so it doesn’t strain my eyes. The device is so light and easy to handle, unlike physical books that can sometimes get quite uncomfortable, especially if you like reading in bed. I love the way I can get back to the page I was reading without having to mark the page somehow (the bookmark’s never around when you need it, right?)

The lower price of Kindle books is something that makes me feel better, not to mention the promos and bargains from Amazon. The fact that I’m not scrambling for storage space is also great.

I guess the toughest part is not to go overboard and buy books by the dozen. I’ve been careful and have been restraining myself. But it’s such a delight to have a new book in my hand at the end of a few clicks and spend the whole day (and night) slurping it all up!

What more could I ask for? 🙂

Some Books and a Movie

Brief thoughts on some books I read and a movie I saw recently.

Villages by John Updike: The sentences were so convoluted and long, I had very little sympathy for the main character, and I felt restless reading this book. I could only think: OK, people like this also exist. It isn’t a book I will remember too fondly or go back to, at least at this stage.

The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks: I loved Word & Void by the same author. I waited for long to obtain The Sword of Shannara from the library, but ran out of patience and picked up the second book in the trilogy. I liked this book too. It was classic fantasy. I’m going to try and read all the Shannara books.

Chanakya’s Chant by Ashwin Sanghi: I wanted to read this book ever since it came out, since it received pretty rave reviews. I did like the book, but I honestly felt a bit let down. I thought it would have been great if he had stuck to just one of the stories (preferably the older one). Trying to thread the two stories together felt a bit awkward to me, and distracted my reading. But it’s a nice book and worth a read.

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough: What a lovely read this was! Gave me a ringside view of the events and personalities of the Wright brothers. So awed by the way they worked with such single-minded determination! I guess some people are truly gifts to humanity. I enjoyed the book a great deal.

Kaaka Muttai: An absolutely delightful movie, worth all the praise it’s received. Everything revolves around money, but money doesn’t get you everything. I loved everything about this movie, from the writing to the visualization to the characters. But what I loved best about it was that there was no moralizing, no preaching, and no condescension. It treated the subject very candidly, with absolutely no judgement and just the right touch of humour. Performances were superb, and I actually clapped along with the audience at the important climactic scene. This was a movie that I had wanted to see for a long time since I had heard so many good things about it. So very glad I caught it!


My ideal holiday is one where I hole up in a hotel room, order room service all day long, and read the stack of books I have brought along with me.

Being an avid reader all my life, it was somehow disconcerting and disheartening to suddenly come across speedbumps that almost threw me off-course. For the past couple of years, I’ve had such trouble reading books that I had kind of given up on them. Most of them just bored me. Nothing, not the story, not the language, absolutely nothing seemed to keep me interested enough to complete the books I brought home from the library. I even joined the local book club in an attempt to revive some interest.

This weekend, however, was as close to Utopia as I could get. Perhaps it’s just a cycle that I was going through, but this time, the books I lugged home on Friday evening kept me engrossed the whole weekend. I just loved all of them, and I count them as successes because they got me lost in their world, and left lingering notes for me to feast on.

Stephen King goes to the Movies: Stephen King reminds me of Ray Bradbury, in the way the words just tumble out. It might be careful work by these two writers, but when you read them, you get this sense of breathlessness, the sense that they are just unable to contain the flow of words, they will just explode if they stop writing. One of the stories was ‘Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption’. I loved the movie The Shawshank Redemption, but reading the story as written by King gave me a different vision, and it definitely didn’t bring Tim Robbins to mind as Andy Dufresne. That was also the night after the heavy rains in Bangalore, so when I stepped out for a cool walk in the night, King’s words circled me like a pet dog wagging its tail, and all at once I was inspired. A long-forgotten idea surfaced and clicked into place beautifully, and I’m excited to see how that story will turn out.

Running with the Demon by Terry Brook: YA novels have long fascinated me. I am a bit taken aback by the violence in many of them (Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner), but I love that age (in stories that is), the confusion, the maturing, oh so many things. Any book that has within the opening para, this wonderful sentence — ‘His voice cut through the cottony layers of her sleep with the sharpness of a cat’s claw.’ — can only get better as it goes along. Such a beautifully written book, though a bit predictable given the YA genre, yet the ending is so perfect, just the type that makes you heave a big sigh of relief after holding your breath through all the battles.

Bodily Harm by Margaret Atwood: Margaret Atwood is easily one of my favourite authors. She makes the story of just one woman so compelling. You can feel the heat of the tropics, the anarchy of her surroundings, the confusion in her head, the desperation of the search for that elusive something — she does it all so well. Every word is so carefully picked, not a comma is out of place, meticulous is the word that comes to mind. Rennie came with me on my walk last night, and I wanted to hold her hand and say that it’s going to be ok.

I’m currently reading the last book in that pile from the library, Solar by Ian McEwan. So far I like it.

I love that I’m reading again, and I love that I love what I’ve read. There’s no better feeling than to come away with the stain of the book on your fingers.


Have been reading this really interesting book “The Underground Girls of Kabul – The Hidden Lives of Afghan Girls Disguised as Boys.”

Though it is focuses on Afghanistan, the truths it touches upon are universal.

One passage particularly resonated with me:

“Freedom is an interesting concept. When I asked Afghans to describe to me the difference between men and women, over the years interesting responses came back. While Afghan men often begin to describe women as more sensitive, caring, and less physically capable than men, Afghan women tend to offer up only one difference, which had never entered my mind before.

Want to take a second and guess what that one difference may be?

Here is the answer: Regardless of who they are, whether they are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, Afghan women often describe the difference between men and women in just one word: FREEDOM

As in: Men have it, women do not.”

Budding Writers

I was invited by the children’s book club in our apartment complex to give a talk as a “writer”. I am still not at all comfortable with that designation, though I can claim to have books in my name! 🙂

Preparing for a talk with kids is always a challenge. The sheer unpredictability of the audience is what makes it so worthwhile. This was no different. I prepared a fun hand-out, and read up on the most popular authors that kids adore — Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, and J K Rowling.

There were about a dozen kids (including Lil D, who joined the book club on her own, much to my surprise!), and my introduction was typical — I was introduced as Lil D’s mother 🙂 (She is more popular in the apartment complex by far)

I began with introductions and from that moment on, there was no stopping. The kids were so lively, so full of ideas, so keen on everything, and most important, so passionate about books. It was so heartening to see the way they devoured books, absorbing and internalizing every little detail. They were bursting with information, especially about Roald Dahl.

There was a memorable moment when one boy just stood up, picked up a book, turned to the right page, and read out a complete episode about Roald Dahl in connection with what we were discussing! The kids needed absolutely no prompting, and the hour passed by so quickly that I was surprised.

I was happy that I was able to contribute in some small way, but I must say that kids these days (yeah, that cliche!) are just too cool. One girl had this book where she had neatly written down her stories complete with gorgeous illustrations. I was so impressed!

Every single one of them wanted to be a writer. When I asked them to imagine their names on books, you could see their eyes sparkling with dreams. I do hope their passion remains strong and it would be so grand if one of them (or all of them!) does turn out to be a successful writer!

The entire encounter warmed my cynical old soul. The icing on the cake was the fact that so many kids waved hello to me when I went for my evening walk a few days later! Such a lovely experience, all in all.