Dec 28, 2011

The Shadow of the Wind

 

[Note - This review will not contain names of any of the characters, because I don't trust myself to not reveal the plot of the story, and I want anyone who reads this review to actually read this book]

A tale of passionate love, till the end of time friendship, ruthless hatred and extreme sorrow, the words in Shadow of the Wind wove a beautiful world of the early nineties in my mind in Barcelona.

What entirely captured my attention in the first few pages and let me read the first 20% of the book was the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. The concept. The place. Its description. How little Daniel feels as he enters it. His transformation as he reads. This is what kept me going, and am glad I did.

I can call this a love story and go on to talk about the love friends feel for each other, or what a father feels for his offspring, or what a boy will feel for a girl and how passionate each of these facets of love are, in this book.

I can also call it an almost-horror story, with its deep dark details of haunted mansions and old legends, and the chill in the spine these create as you are reading them.

But then what will I do about the mystery part of this book? Well, this is very much a mystery, thriller kind of a novel as it is a love story or a horror story.

I had not felt these many emotions while reading a single book ever, and I have to thank Zafon and Lucia Graves, the translator for not letting the essence of the book dilute.

I, now have a beautiful image of the little bookstore, the Aldaya mansion, the hospices, and the rest of the casas and the plazas. I also have an image of an entire set of amazingly-woven characters, all cursed because of their own accord and the way they dealt with their lives.

I cannot ever forget how I felt as I went on to discover each of these characters and what emotion each of them evoked in me. Deep hatred towards the main villain in the story, pity at the plight of some characters, anger at how some others have shaped their own lives, and hope that things could be alright for some others.
I went through spurts of giggles, smiles, deep pain, sorrow , fear and pity all in the duration of reading this book.

Am not a fan of epilogues, on the contrary, I hate them. Most often than not , the epilogues I have read have shattered the beautiful world the book created in my imagination and have brought me back to the earth with a loud thud.
But the last few pages of this book, well, they have made me heave a sigh of relief. I felt for each of the characters, and was glad the things turned out the way they did for them all. Every one of them.

If you are looking to read a brilliant, even-paced, love-horror-mystery story, then you should pick up this book.
If you want to understand how the Spanish lived during or after their Civil war, how affected they were because of it, and the different ways the Spanish people feel about their friends, daughters, and sons, you should read this book.
If you want to challenge yourself and see how many emotions you can feel when you read a book, pick up this one.

Even as I am typing this, I am still coming to terms with the deep sorrow I felt while reading this book, just a while ago. The words 'There are prisons worse than words’ are ringing in my head, and the feeling associated is refusing to go.

In short, just read this book. Please, will you? :)

Just to remember how I felt as I was reading the book, this is the reading progress I recorded in GoodReads.

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Dec 23, 2011

2012 Books

 

After having finished the maximum number of books I’ve ever read in one year in 2011, I am all excited to see what 2012 will bring in. So this GoodReads challenge piqued my interest and opened up a world of books for me.

These are the books I plan to read in 2012, as a part of this challenge. The hope is that they will also broaden my view on these countries and teach me a thing or two about their histories. So what if I cannot visit them, I can atleast be there in spirit! :)

1. Afghanistan:In the Sea there are Crocodiles

2. Albania:The Palace of Dreams

3. Algeria:The Lovers of Algeria

4. Argentina:Kiss of the Spider Woman

The Aleph and Other Stories

5. Belize:Wanderlove

6. Bhutan:Married to Bhutan

7. Bosnia:Twice Born

8. Bostwana:Whatever You Do, Don't Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide

9. Brazil:Gabriela Clove and Cinnamon

10. Bulgaria:The Making of June

11. Chile:Of Love and Shadows

12. China:The Good Earth

Ten Green Bottles

13. Colombia:Of Love and other Demons

14. Cuba:The Island of Eternal Love

15. Czech Republic:How I came to know fish

The Metamorphosis

16. Egypt:Woman At Point Zero

17. England:The Tea Rose

The Remains of the Day

18. Ethiopia:Sweetness in the Belly

19. France:A Very Long Engagement

You Deserve Nothing

Lunch in Paris

20. Germany:Floating in my Mother's Palm

Every man dies alone

21. Greece:Zorba the Greek

22. Hungary:Fatelessness

Sunflower

23. India:Secret Daughter

Sister of My Heart

24. Iran:Samarkand

25. Iraq:Scattered Crumbs

26. Ireland:The Picture of Dorian Grey

Two Lives

27. Israel:If You Awaken Love

The Lemon Tree

Someone to run with

28. Italy:The Enchanted April

The Name of the Rose

29. Jamaica:The Book of Night Women

30. Japan:1Q84

Kafka on the shore

31. Jordan:The Language of Baklava

32. Kiribati:The Sex Lives of Cannibals

33. Kosovo:The Road to Kosovo

34. Lebanon:Sabra Zoo

35. Mexico:Like Water for Chocolate

36. Morocco:Let it come down

37. Norway:Sophie's World

38. Palestine:I saw Ramallah

39. Peru:Aunt Julia and the scriptwriter

40. Poland:The Girl in the Red Coat

41. Puerto Rico:The Rum Diary

42. Saudi Arabia:Princess

43. Serbia:Encyclopedia of the Dead

The Tiger's Wife

44. Spain:The Shadow of the wind

45. Sudan:They Poured Fire on Us from the sky

46. Sweden:Popular Music from Vittula

47. Switzerland:A Jew must die

48. Turkey:The New Life

49. Tibet:Seven Years in Tibet

50. United States of America:The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

51. Venezuela:The Sickness

52. Vietnam:The Things they carried

After having spent around 3 hours in making this list, the theme I’ve noticed in all these books is -

1. I am still as interested in reading about the Holocaust as I was before. No amount of reading about it has satiated the appetite, in fact it was whetting it! And there is a lot of interest in stories with war as a backdrop.

2. Most of these books are still love stories, but with war as a background.

3. The thought process behind selecting every book was – Will this tell me anything about this country?

4. Another important parameter I considered was – How good are the ratings for this book? And how many pages does it have ? Anything beyond 400 pages gets too big to read and will take a lot of time to finish, thus hindering the overall progress of the book. So only those long books which I absolutely want to read are included in this list.

5. Another best practice I followed is to add books from my own To-Read list into this list, that way I can get the number reduced by a fraction, atleast. As you can see, this list is currently ~260 books strong with atleast 10 new additions every week into it. Basically, the outflow from this list is not as good as the inflow… :)

6. I’ve read a lot of Indian authors so far, but I realized I haven’t read a single book by Amitav Ghosh, Arundhati Roy, Vikram Seth and Salman Rushdie. In fact the the thought of reading a book by any of these is making me yawn. I must atleast read Seth’s Suitable Boy, may be in 2013

7. I’ve always wanted to read Borges. Marquez is a forever favourite. Murakami had to be on this list(I’ve practically been hounding FlipKart for the 1Q84 copy from the time it was released in US)

8. I’ve never realized it, but I have a great amount of interest in reading about the cultures of Middle Eastern and European countries. Must be the need to know how people survived in these stress-filled lands.

Basically, any book which talks about the country’s culture or food or political situation has caught my eye, and has made it into this list. And yet there are a zillion more books to be read. Some of them are here.

I can only say one thing now – So many books, so little time!

Dec 12, 2011

Catching Fire–Hunger Games - 2

 

Oh, what fun! Reading the second part of the Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire in just around 5 hours... Super fun. Though not as good as the first book itself, and starting on a sloppy love story theme filled with sentimentality and all such emotional stuff, this book did good for itself.

Its anyone's guess that Katniss will be safe, but I was dying to know if Peeta will live too, and if so, what would be the twist in the plot that will ensure this. Also, by the time I was done reading 60% of the book, I was also hoping that Finnick lives too, for himself, and for some drama between him and the audience in the third book. By now, Gale is beginning to be a little of a wimp with not much meat in his character, so I am guessing his is going to be a better role in the third book.

I like how these books are progressing. Some drama including romance and family sentiment at the beginning, some meat about the fights and television program related stuff at about 30%, the real games by 40%, alliances forming by 50% and half the tributes dying by 60%, and the games themselves ending by 90% giving plenty of time and space for the reader to gather what will follow in the next book, and what has happened in the games really. Its almost like a template. :)

I also like the style of writing in these books. Very simple language enabling a fast reader to finish the book in one sitting, giving lot of room for imagination for the reader about the arena, the districts, the scenery around Panem and Snow, and just enough romance to keep the reader engrossed. I also love the introduction of new words , the words mutt, district, Snow, mockingbird, jabber - none of this would mean the same anymore.

Its like the author is thoroughly influenced by Rowling's style of writing and plotting the story. There is an evil force which is tormenting the entire known population with some followers, there are a few people who want to rebel but cannot do so because of situations, there is a setting for some brave people to show their courage to the rest of the population which pines all its hope on one person who happens to be in that situation due to some co-incidence and does not really know how to live up to the image created for him/her by the suffering people but still manages to live up to it, loved ones get killed , their memories torment the living hero and how in the end good triumphs over evil.

In any case, the one reason I will rate this book 4 and not 5 on 5 is because of its slow start. I'd love to give it .5 stars lesser than what I gave the first book. It almost made me cry in disappointment till about 40%. I was literally begging for some action.

Dec 11, 2011

Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins is no JK Rowling and Hunger games is no Harry potter, but it is close. Very close. In the way it holds it excitement to the story, Collins has used many details to build a believable  Panem with the arena akin to the Pandora of Avatar, at least in my imagination.

As Collins said, this book is a true mix of a reality show and a war movie, both clubbed into one. All the flavours of a reality show like drama, adventure, romance, fights are explored, some staged and some real, and I felt like I was seeing an entire season of Bigg Boss :)

Right from reading about Katniss's struggle to keep her family fed do the point when she only thinks about whether they got something to eat or not when she is fighting death in the arena I felt that Katniss's character is well etched. So is Peeta's. It evolves from being just the boy who gave the bread to the boy who has a crush on Katniss to the boy who camouflages himself so well that  he wards off death till he is rescued , he is superb. I expected a little more of Gale but I guess that's for the second book.

After reading the first book, I cannot wait to read the second one, to see how the relationship between k and p evolves, and what happens of Katniss and Gale and how the Capitol will retaliate for Katniss's rebellion. Also for the first time in years, am waiting eagerly for a movie based on this book.

Finished the entire book in 5.5 hours, cover to cover… this is my GoodReads progress.

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And off to the next one in the trilogy – Catching fire... 

Dec 8, 2011

The Help

 

One of the best books I've read this year for sure. This has been in my To-Read list for days but when Vaish got me the hard copy of this book as a gift, and spoke highly of it,  I immediately picked it up. I was facing a kind of a reader’s block, and this book for sure jolted me out of it.

This book is a portrayal of three strong characters, all women, who do not have anything significant to look forward to in their lives, except to bring a change to the circumstances they live in. Three strong characters who looked out for each other, and had a non-conformist attitude. Three women who were the definition of girlfriends.

I’ve read Gone with the Wind and To kill a MockingBird, and have a fair idea on how bad it could have been for the African Americans to be living in a white man’s world, I’ve even compared it a bit to the Untouchability practised in India (even now in some remote areas), but what I read in this book made me think about the whole issue all over again.

My heart went awww everytime I read Aibileen’s behavior towards Baby Girl, I cried when I read the part where Constantine died just three weeks before Skeeter figured it out, I could feel the bile rise up everytime Hilly would say or do something, I couldn’t but help falling in love with Minny, feel pity for Celia, call Stuart a loser or laugh out loud at the whole pie story … In short, I went through a myriad of emotions during the 7 hours that I spent reading this book, all in a day. It was simply un-put-downable. Totally.

Here it is… my reading progress per Goodreads -

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I was left to thinking of all the maid’s I’ve had over these years (both the ones who brought me up till I was 5 and the ones whom I’ve hired) and how I’ve behaved with them and how they were with me. Was a mean person to them or would' mine be one of the good stories if they were all to write a book. :-)

One thing is for sure. Like how Skeeter’s Mom Charlotte says towards the end of the book –

Good help is like true love. You only get it once in your lifetime.

This morning as I see how my maid was helping me around the house, owning up to things and showing commitment in what she does, I involuntarily thought about these lines, and thanked Universe for making me lucky in this aspect. (Yes, I’ve been blessed with good help, all along) :-)

At the end, I cannot help but commend the way American society pulled itself together, and their change in outlook towards African Americans… Today they even have an African American president, which is such a big deal! I’ve begun to appreciate this much more after this book.

Dec 6, 2011

Yippeee… Baileys…


I’ve posted the recipe here and the pic itself here, but I am not able to get over the fact that am now making my favourite liqueur at home. :-D
And the pic itself stole my heart. The Jug is right now my most favourite item in the kitchen, and I hold it in my hands atleast once a day to feel it. That’s how much I like it. :-D
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Doesn’t this pic in particular look like its ambrosia in a jug? With all that soft lighting in the background bokeh-ed out? And the shape of the jug itself ? Well… now you know why I love this!

Dec 3, 2011

Jamie boy!

 

Hehehe… I know , he is no friend of mine in real life, but the way he writes the books makes one feel like they’ve known him for years… Love the way he has written this book.

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And when I was fiddling around with the 50 mm lens, the book was on the table and it was in such a perfect position that it had to be clicked…

Dec 1, 2011

1 down... 49 more to go... !

 

I was chatting with this friend, and telling her how its been 6 yrs that I’ve been married, and how the husband used to be a poet back then. Also that he is still a poet, just that the poetry has always been confined to one set of women – Anyone who is not a wife. In fact , he has been exercising all forms of art that I married him for, for this same set of women. Great, no? :)

During this chat session, I remembered a blog post I wrote on the eve of my first anniversary, almost 5 yrs back. I read it, and chuckled at how I wrote all that I wrote, and how that is all true. Well, there is tonnes of mush in that post which I will cut back for your benefit, but then, well… even that mush part also is still true… ;-).

Now that you’ve barfed enough, here is what I wrote 5 yrs back…

Long ago, someone wrote a nice poem to woo me, something which no one did for me ever. Though I understood that the poet is obsessed with tans and tanned beauties, which I am obviously not, I obliged to his wooing and decided that I should let myself be the object of more of such poems.

Now, not so long ago only, I met a guy who called himself a charcoal painter. He looked into my eyes deeply on one of those very romantic evenings and tried to look deeper into them and announced to me suddenly – ‘Someday I am going to paint you in the backdrop of Hussain Sagar!’. The innocent me blushed and secretly did a monkey-jig at the thought of being the object of someone’s painting. Then I gave a very shy, demure smile which was so unlikely of me.

At around the same timeframe, I happened to meet this guy who called himself a wannabe-musician because of his small stint with a few musical instruments and he was also trying to patafy me and convince me to marry him.

Oh well, that also reminds me of this guy who was supposed to be a kinda-model, whom I met. Seeing his obvious attempts to line-marofy me, I told him that I am not at all open to meeting or getting married to models and that I don’t trust the lot. This guy had the guts to look straight into my eyes and tell me what marriage and commitment meant to him and what his wife would mean to him and how close I was to being there. He also went on to tell me how he intends to keep his marriage happy and exciting and somehow got me hooked.

But then, I was also supposed to be meeting this dirty IT-geek who has been lauded as the next best thing to Hyderabad. When I told him how much I hated being in IT myself and how I had no idea to get married to someone who wants to retire from IT, he had the self-confidence to tell me that he doesn’t intend to do that either.

Now I didn’t want to disappoint any of these guys who displayed flashes of qualities that I liked, and so I ended up marrying all four of them – thankfully it was just one person! :)

God only knows where the poet flew, or where the painter hid himself or which instruments the musician wants to try next, but I got the husband part minus all these extra additions and frills. Since then, every morning I woke up hoping that today would be the day when I would become the object or inspiration to any of these art forms, and every night I slept with the feeling that ‘Tomorrow is yet another day!’ *Sigh*

I go on to talk about how marriage has made me feel complete, how true love feels and all that stuff that relationship-help books write about,  a truckload of mush which even I cannot handle now, but yes, you get the drift right? :)

By the way, just to get things straight, the husband still is all those things I mentioned, and has even gathered a few more talents under his sleeve, yet again, all of them are for the betterment of the set he is most interested in.

Am now going to show this post to the husband, just to rub it in that I’ve never been a ‘muse’, a term he uses for anything which catches his fancy, generally of the female kind and falling into the aforementioned set. And see if I can squeeze material out all this emotional blackmail I plan to do.

Note: The title of this post is same as the one I wrote back then, I couldn’t think of a better title. I will not get into the meaning and significance of this title for the readers’ safety (yes, all three of them) , but please be assured that this itself is enough to make you barf for an entire evening.

Of journals and nostalgia…

There is something about reading old journals or dairies and nostalgia, isn’t it?
While they all take us on a good nostalgic trip, the journals also remind us of what we were back when we wrote them…

Like how I am feeling right now as I am reading my journal (blog) which I wrote when I was 25….

All the songs I liked back then which I don’t like anymore, my opinions on many important things around which have obviously changed in all these  years, the things I was attached to and which do not mean a thing to me anymore, the kind of problems I had in life back then which look like child’s play now, the things that hurt me and made me cry don’t mean the same anymore…

The 25-yr-old-me thought that -

JKR would keep writing Harry Potter novels
I would be valuing the colour-wire-bracelet that the best friend made for me in the Basic Electronics Lab when I was in college
The transistor I stole from the Electronics lab would be with me forever, for all the great conversations I had with friends after stealing it
I would not ever throw away the pyjamas that I wore when lil Bro got his job
Those huge pile of Hero pens that Dad got for me claiming he ordered them to be flown in from China
And all those memories of college that I cherished and stored away so deep in my heart
I would never get over not being in the lives of some very important friends

Yes, she thought they would stay forever where they were.

And then the Law of Impermanence happened.

5 years thence, a much-more matured me will say that these things have all passed. I don’t have any of these saved anywhere. Not the Hero pens, nor the bracelets nor the pyjamas. Or the memories related to any of these. Somewhere in all these years, something snapped. I stopped holding onto these.

This person now thinks that all these have had their time, they were much loved and cherished during their day, but it was time to let go of them. They meant a lot when they were in my heart, but then their presence in my life was to end there… That’s just till where I was to have them in life. All those things, and all those people also.

As I was reading a post I wrote back in March 2006 talking about practising The Art of Letting Go, when I felt a myriad of emotions at having to move from a place I called my home for 2 yrs, my bachelor-pad to a place that would be my home forever , I couldn’t help but think of how much I’ve changed over these years. Heck, even my style of writing, the things I write about, my language , all of these have changed.