09 June 2016

Kannada Books: Bettada Jeeva by Shivarama Karanth

This is honestly a re-read. But the first time I read this book, I was just a teenager, highly impressionable, so I wasn't sure I even remembered the parts correctly and, if I was right about being impressed by the book.
Contrary to my earlier, somewhat faulty belief, this is a very small book. But I was relieved to find out that I wasn't wrong at all, in assessing this book. I absolutely loved the book, all over again.

The story is about a young wanderer who happens to lose his way during one of his travels and lands up in a farmer's house on the foothills of Kumaradhara mountains. The story revolves, slowly, around the life and times of the old couple living there, and their yearning for their lost son who abandoned them for a city life.  This place is not fictitious. The experiences to a large extent is also based out of the then young author's travels.

To me this holds a very very special place because I always felt this book had the capacity to transport us to the 1930's (the period when it was written) and to the wild foothills and to the small villages that barely can be called villages with three or four families settled looking after their paddy fields, areca-nut plantations. The human emotions captured across the story are relevant even today.

I would like to call this as one of my comfort books in Kannada. (The English one being 'The Adventures of Sally by P.G. Wodehouse)

06 June 2016

Library Books - Blue Dahlia and When We Were Orphans

Blue Dahlia - Nora Roberts
I had never read books by Nora Roberts before this one. Whenever I went to book fairs, sales or bookshops, I would see a lot of books from Nora Roberts. Shelves and shelves dedicated to her books. I was curious, although I am no reader of romance novels, I wanted to try and see how these are. Blue Dahlia was a step towards this.
The story is about three women, at three stages of their lives, coming together to find love, family and companionship. A garden/nursery uniting them all in this quest.
I would not say I disliked the book. The writing is pretty decent. However, the story line is quite boring and didn't really capture my interest. A lot of attention has been paid to research on the plants, flowers, and the processes that goes in a nursery but then, it cannot be the main frame of a story. It may interest a garden enthusist, but others will find the descriptions and the exuberance of the characters towards the garden quite boring and puzzling in that order.
One thing that bores me in a romance novel is how the sexual tension between the hero and the heroine are crafted. After a point, it gets terribly boring. It could be my personal issue with the story, and others may actually enjoy all that description about sex.

When We Were Orphans - Kazuo Ishiguro
A book that disappointed and bored me no end. I had earlier read The Remains of the Day by the same author and had found it to be tender and evocative. But this one just meanders on and on and on. So much so that I just could not push myself to finish the book.

Library Books - Authors Maeve Binchy and Terry Pratchett

This post should have come long ago. I have lazed around and not done my part.
Also, my reading speed has gone down way below my desired mark.

This Year It Will Be Different - A short story collection by Maeve Binchy.
This was a surprise read. I had no clue it was a short story collection. However, the stories turned out to be pretty good. Quite soft and mushy - many of them were, but  very well written. Many of them were centered around holidays (Christmas and holidays and family ties) and the romantic in me enjoyed them quite a bit. It should be note that these are like a packet of sweets. One cannot have all of them at one go.

The Dark Side of The Sun - Terry Pratchett
I had long long ago read books from Terry Pratchett and I had enjoyed them so much that I did not think twice before I picked this book. However. This was a bit too much of science fictiony for me. I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. On the other hand, the second book was far better. The story revolves around Dom Sabalos, the future chairman of a planet 'Widdershins' who survives attempts of assassination and starts his journey finding more about 'Jokers' (a mysterious, highly evolved species who probably are equal to Gods or could be, Gods)

Strata - Terry Pratchett
Strata was far better in terms of humour, story line and made me want to read till the end.
The protagonist is Kin Arad is a senior official in the 'Company' that creates new planets and sells to various civilizations across the galaxy, enabling resettlement of species. She finds out someone has been creating fake currencies of the company, which are absolutely 'genuine' and she also learns of existence of a flat earth. She travels with two unlikely companions (Silver, a she-bear of the species Shand, and Marco, a highly paranoid and aggressive frog like creature from the species Kung)  to investigate.
The book is extremely engaging, funny and flows smoothly.


15 February 2016

Library Books - Coraline and Sharp Objects

Two books that I thoroughly enjoyed from the Library this time were - Coraline by Neil Gaiman and Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn.

Coraline is a children's book - a horror story for the kids - a delight to read. The book is about a eleven year old girl Coraline who opens a door to a closed wall in her house and discovers a parallel world where there is another set of parents, identical to hers, who want to keep her with them forever, by whatever possible means.
To be able to tell a horror story that doesn't completely psych out a child is not at all easy. This book succeeds in doing so. Apparently, Neil Gaiman began this story for his older child and ended up completing for his younger one. This was my first Gaiman book and I am greatly looking forward to reading more books from him. The story manages to create that creepy feeling without sounding childish. He has achieved that impossible balance.
A must read for all adults as well and writers and budding writers, and well, just about everyone.

Sharp Objects is a dark, disturbing book. Some parts are so disturbing that it feels completely unreal and makes it easy on the reader to go ahead with the book. A reporter who reluctantly returns to her home town to cover the death of two children, is forced to confront her past and her current family members and the secrets that are connected to them. The protagonist is a sad, moody woman, yet, one starts empathizing with her as the story moves ahead. The ending is too obviously clever, but the story is told so well, that it doesn't really matter how it all ends.
It is a good book - but one needs to have a strong stomach to digest certain violence depicted in the book. 

07 February 2016

Differing perspectives

Two books - tackling with the same topic - Immigrants to a wealthy nation (UK) with two different point of views.

It was a coincidence indeed that I ended up reading these two back to back. The first one was 'The Other Hand' by Chris Cleave, and the other was 'A short history of Tractors in Ukrainian' by Marina Lewycka. 

The Other Hand was very sombre and had a serious tone to it, where the protagonist was the illegal immigrant narrating her extraordinary journey from Nigeria to UK under abnormal circumstances. Parts of it were deeply disturbing and kept me that way for many days after reading the book. Sometimes when we read books that talk about human tragedy and the other humans who are responsible for it, it feels too overwhelming to be believable. Our lives in contrast, look so safe, stable that it appears almost ridiculous. 

A Short History.. on the other hand is narrated by an Ukrainian British woman whose father, post the death of his wife, is besotted by a much younger Ukrainian woman and wants to marry her. The younger woman, obviously, is taking advantage of this whole situation to immigrate to UK and lead the glamorous life of the West. The narration is not too heavy, and there are quite a bit funny parts in there, especially the conversations between the two worried daughters. What was not funny was the torture and the loneliness the old man goes through. It was sad, and highly reflective of older population in such highly individualistic societies. 

I liked both the books, though the first one is more serious and probably better written. 

02 February 2016

January - Books that I Read

I have surprised myself. I managed to finish five books! At this rate, I should do well for the year 2016.
January:
  1. Snake and Other Stories - Premendra Mitra
  2. Mrs. Sinclair's Suitcase - Louise Walters
  3. The Thirty-Nine Steps - John Buchan
  4. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain
  5. The Other Hand - Chris Cleave
I am quite happy with the books I read in January. I am looking forward to February now. My plan is to read another five books. 
  1. A short History of Tractors in Ukrainian - Marina Lewycka
  2. Deaf Sentence - David Lodge
  3. The Old Curiosity Shop - Charles Dickens
  4. Coraline - Neil Gaiman
  5. Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn
The last two are library borrows - so if I don't get them, I will have to change the list. 

18 January 2016

The Reading Group by Elizabeth Noble

I read this book in December - last year.

I was too exhausted mentally to write my thoughts about the book. So I decided I will take it up later.

The story is about a group of women - friends - who have formed a reading group, discussing a book every month. It is essentially about their lives obviously, more than about the actual book reading, but then, that is fine by me. However, the book hopped, skipped about so much from one character to the other that it was highly distracting. The main characters plus their spouses/boyfriends/daughters - too many people and too much importance on everything.

It seemed like the attempt was to make it more substantial than what it actually was. In a way, it was worse than being a plain chick-lit.  What I mean by that is, the issues faced by the characters were not serious for me as a reader to care about. I admit that the author very deliberately wanted to keep it that way, and that is fine, so as to not make it dreary, but it just didn't push me enough to feel for them. I know, I am being extremely harsh here. And I hope she does not mind. Perhaps these things happen in the debut novel.

Throughout the book I kept wishing the same story could have been said in a crisper form. I guess I am being the fussy one here, asking for too many things..