Harry Potter.. Sticking with him till the end

Posted by Divya at Sunday, May 02, 2010 4 comments Links to this post
It has been a completely different experience this time ( the second time around HP Series read). Last time, it had long waits and what is termed pottermania, of which I am sure remnants still remain in each of us muggles who have been sucked into J K Rowling's world.

The half blood prince is my least favorite of the Harry Potter books. One of course we arent happy to see the most loved wizard depart, but for how she ends it on breach of trust and confoundment. Another thing that baffles me is the SuperHero status she gives Harry towards the end, when he decides that he has to endeavor it all by himself and decides a love interest would only deter him from his goals. It felt like an antithesis... Didnt we hear Dumbeldore harp on and on about the only magic that is deep enough is love? And yet Harry decides to forgo his ability to love which may be the about the only thing that distinguishes him from the dark lord? And then the almost complete lack of hilarity in her writing, which until book 5 holds her writing different from other fantasy authors; for her comedy is a class apart. But here the tone is solemn all the way.

That said, I still love the series and I am on to book 7 now.. the final saga...
Does anyone else feel the same about the half-blood prince? a little deceived, like Harry himself?

The Great Gatsby

Posted by Divya at Monday, April 26, 2010 4 comments Links to this post

It was recently that I had come across the term 'Lost Generation writers'. I must admit it was a little intimidating to brace myself to read Fitzgerald, for I had expected 'the Great Gatsby' to be a bulky classic requiring months of laboring to complete. And like a pleasant surprise (I run the risk of sounding crude saying this) - the book is small and better still an easy read as well.

The narrative is first person and told my Nick Carraway who incidentally was in the first world war, probably like the author himself. The story in itself may not be out of the ordinary, but it is the narration that sticks to 'first-person' that makes it interesting; that is, Carraway only narrates things he knows of, any speculation about someone or something is purely his point of view. The story-teller is not omnipresent, but someone like you and me.

That said, the narration is in most parts satirical. The story is set in the Jazz age and a period when 'prohibition' was in effect in America; but this does not stop the protagonists to access to  abundant liquor. The general motif seems to be to emphasize the unfairness in the world. He brings it on paper through the references to high-end parties, west-egg and east-egg lifestyles and the classes. It is easy to imagine the cruel undertone of NY which to date remains very familiar. I did indulge in some wikipedia reads to get an understanding about America during this era of 1920s, so that I could figure some of the references in the novel.

Like an immovable force is Gatsby in the book, the rags to riches lad, the stupid lover, the doormat; all of this is known from Carraway's point of view, while Gatsby's real background remains a mystery almost throughout the writing, till the end. The initial tone of sarcasm slowly gives way to disdain and gets darker as the novel progresses. One is left to distrust Carraway also at times, for he is not a reliable narrator as well, with biases, frustrations and everything human.

The end is cruel, but it leaves a piquant after-taste, something you neither pity nor find heart-breaking. And simply like the vile world he projects, close the book and get on with your life. The world that has got no time to care...


Posted by Divya at Monday, April 26, 2010 0 comments Links to this post

This is my first graphic novel of recent works. Having not read Satrapi's more popular Persopolis yet, I wasnt sure what to expect from this terse book. I had assumed embroideries would be in the lines of a quilt-club of women and I was almost right, except for having guessed 'Embroideries' completely wrong!

The setting is a tea-klatsch ; There is the redolence of tea brewing in the samovar, a gaggle of  intriguing women and the warm ambiance suited for unending talk. With the motto of "To speak behind others' backs is the ventilator of the heart" this strange clique presided by Marjane's grandmother settles to narrate stories that are even better than gossip, for they are gossip at its best.

 The main topic of conversation is surprisingly about sex, experience they have had or known others to have had. the stories flow as easy as conversations and are at the same time heart-breaking and funny. The things common to the stories are obsession to being a virgin when the woman marries and deception of men.

As the samovar warms and many rounds of tea is drunk, the stories turn to many confessions and mishaps that are laugh out funny, but equally tragic. Satrapi's ideas, and drawings are amazingly fresh. It is refreshing to see how much she depicts with the stroke of her hand and limited words. There is no real motif in the entire book but a culmination of dialogues, representing the woman's world in Teheran that is no different from the west.

It is a charming little book, with so much told and yet untold painting a vivid picture in our minds. You will love the characters and caricatures without much effort and may be even find yourself in the party.

I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.....

Posted by Divya at Friday, April 23, 2010 1 comments Links to this post
Married to a HP-series lover, didnt give my hubby much of a choice, but to be coaxed to movies he didnt make sense of or dragged to watch the Harry Potter exhibition or be prepared to hear quotes every now and then from the books....

So a few weeks back, he finally decided to give in. And we began the one movie per week saga and are down with four and two more to go... until the wait for the 7th one releasing in Nov. Let me confirm that he has turned a fan, but wouldn't admit! :)

Nothing cheers me up more than the HP series ever! Although Rowling started taking many liberties towards the last couple of books and ended up in an incrementally uninspiring writing with the bigger books.... the books are a clever revolution and I thank her for giving us a chance to discuss her world that never fail to take me to my school days and happy place....

So.. now that I have N to discuss HP with... I can say
"Mischief Managed"

The girl with the dragon tattoo

Posted by Divya at Tuesday, April 20, 2010 1 comments Links to this post

I wanted to read this book as part of Orbis 2009; but the wait at the library extended 7 months and so I finally made it for Orbis 2010!

With enough good reasons, this book is pretty sought after, although my feelings about it are rather mixed. There were instances I devoured holding-my-breath-gripping, but a few pages that bored me to yawn. All in all, the book makes a great read for someone with a liking for murder/drama/thriller genres very much in the likes of Sidney Sheldon and James Patterson.

Larsson, fills the first and last 40 pages with the the protagonist Blomkovist, the financial journalist, and his quest to oust the fraudulent business tycoon. These details seem more like fillers and are not a fully developed storyline; especially the last 40 pages rant on without structure. I believe they were simply added to give Blomkovist's character shape and purpose. Although he disappoints a tad with the libel/financial journalism side of the book, he more than makes up for it with the murder mystery that brings Blomkovist with the Salander the other protagonist together into a fast-paced, yet gripping suspenseful hunt that covers most of the book. Further the author does take liberties to introduce Salander's past in a nasty sidetrack and projects her entire character with the incident of a lawyer who tries to abuse her.

Larsson generously strews sexual libidos, casual sex and intimacy problems with the characters, never really explaining any nor letting the reader understand. Some of the relationships he spins, like the one between Blomkovist and his business partner Berger is almost fantasist and confounding; but definitely entertaining!

Aside from these intricacies he seems to have missed or didn't care enough about, the murder/missing person hunt of Harriet, the heir to the Vanger clan is a fantastic piece of writing. The way he clubs Salander's photographic mind and natural abilities with Blomkovist's investigative inclinations is a real masterpiece. When Henrik Vanger the octogenarian retired business baron hires Blomkovist for the investigation he explains that his family as - "They are for the most part thieves, misers, bullies and incompetents ", you will eventually realize that is such an understatement! The reader does take a while to warm up to the Vanger family tree and follow the investigation with constant flipping of the page to match names with the family tree; the mystery is truly intriguing, that in the middle, I found myself taking notes to solve it.

Even though the book is a work of fiction, it does throw light on the Swedish ethos. Larsson, pins on the fact  that women are often ill-treated or abused in Sweden. He doesn't help erase the image of Sweden being a nation of depressed and extremities. For a moment, it almost seems like every man in his book other than Blomkovist, who is under the age of 70 has abused a woman atleast once. Secondly, I had not known of the Nazi uprising that had silently risen and subsided in Sweden during world war 2; the author doesn't harp on this fact but mentions it in passing. Thirdly, the Swedish seem to be ardent coffee lovers; so much so that, there might be atleast as many mentions of Coffee, as the number of conversations in the book. Sometimes it is so addictive, that you might want to brew some yourself before settling down with the book :)

I would definitely recommend reading this book, even though it has its share of gore, depression and extremely dark angles. If you want a fast paced book for your long journey this one fits the bill. As of now, I am not sure, I want to read the second book in the trilogy, for fear of finding it to be on similar lines! But may be I will pick it up on a day, when I want some entertaining read, without wanting a feel-good or literary craving.

Library Love

Posted by Divya at Monday, April 12, 2010 2 comments Links to this post
This week is apprently the National Libary week in the US.

I cant but stress more on the importance of libraries for the world in general. And I am a regular at the library in my town. The public libraries are totally well connected and offer many more services than just books. The one in my town has an entire section for children and promotes reading among them by organizing story times and the likes.

So this week, why not give that book shelf a glance; dust out the books you read once and tossed to the bottom of the pile and would never be motivated to read again. Why not donate them to a library and make someone else's day by getting them to read the book?? Or simply pay the library in town a visit and borrow a couple of books.

Happy library time everyone!

Couldnt resist this one!

Posted by Divya at Tuesday, March 23, 2010 4 comments Links to this post
I know my plate is more than overflowing for this year and I havent had a head start with the challenges either... But, then how can one resist the urge to read/haunt libraries/swell at the mention of new books or new genres..? So, I am joining this challenge at 'CURIOUS' level and trading two books from across challenges -

Click on picture to participate
1. Cleopatra's Daughter - Michelle Moran
2. The Splendor of Silence - Indu Sundaresan

Suggestions are welcome for the third option. I hope I can complete all my challenges this year.
Happy Reading everyone. :)

Orbis Terrarum 2010

Posted by Divya at Thursday, March 18, 2010 2 comments Links to this post
I totally loved this challenge last year. Hence taking part for 2010 as well. It is a great way to understand other nations and I would recommend taking part! And the one for this year even has an option to participate in raising funds for clean water worldwide. Even if you dont participate, please checkout the website by clicking on the picture below -

It has a few rules changed. so please read through the link before joining. Last year I chose books based on the country they were set in! And that rule is not valid for this year. I will adding a few books which I have been wanting to read and others borrowed from other challenges as well.. So here goes my list -

1. Kafka on the shore - Haruki Marukami ( Japan )
2. I am the Messenger - Markus Zusak (Australia)
3. The girl with the dragon tatoo - Stieg Larsson ( Sweden )
4. Night Train to Lisbon - Pascal Mercier (Germany)
5. Salt and Saffron - Kamila Shamsie (Pakistan)
6.The tea house fire - Ellis Avery (England)
7. The Syringa Tree - Pamela Gien (South Africa)
8. English, august - Upamanyu Chatterjee (India)

The god of small things

Posted by Divya at Saturday, March 13, 2010 4 comments Links to this post

It is my Nth read of the book and every time I get to 'naaley.. tomorrow' the last line, it leaves a cold hurting feeling inside much like Pappachi's moth. I read the book for the first time when I was seventeen and I must admit, it took me two reads to follow her pattern of writing. Back then I was more inspired by the Kerala touch to the novel, since I am from there. However over the many reads, I have come to love the book for much beyond that!

Since I unquestionably love the book, I will split my review to be as unbiased as possible :

Why the book may be loved by many -
1. Roy's writing is a new language in itself. She creates a revolution with the innovative style of using words that paint a clear picture rather than flood it with jarring vocabulary. Some of the writing that comes to mind - house with a river-sense, Christianity came in a boat and seeped in like tea from a tea-bag, fisherman with sea secrets in his eyes, the creeper hung like half-sneeze-coming

2. The story is told through the eyes of the twins and the language is suited to depict the mind of children. Almost all the writing comes directly from the way a child's mind thinks. This adds the element of wit in book and some quips and sarcasm are laugh-out-loud hilarious. This makes it easier and at the same time difficult for the reader to grasp how the little minds can be scarred with a moment's doing or words ( like the orange-drink-man incident )

3. The story in itself is not unique; if not for Roy's shrewd looming of the motif in flashbacks and falsh-forwards, I am sure the novel is but ordinary. This style of writing in itself can make it difficult for a reader who doesn't enjoy complexity. It is more suited for someone who finds clarity in chaos.

4. The story woven like a web, with details and nuances, often strewn with questions in a child's mind (Why dont birds drop dead from the sky?) only makes it more lovable with more reads; for it is like prose, you realize you learn something new every time you read it. Even though the story stays as clear as blue sky in ones mind, a second read doesn't thwart the joy of reading.

Why the book may be loathed by some -
1. The writing is rocking continuously backwards-forwards and this can easily put certain readers off if they hate to keep track of the novel and expect the novel to keep track of them!

2. The story is like any other booker-prize material, ends in tragedy, and how a single event leads to a complete collapse. For someone looking for a unique storyline you have picked up the wrong book.

3. Roy generously uses malayalam in parts, the language spoken in the southern most state of Kerala in India, where the story is set. Although it is no different from many references of hindi words in Indian author books; for a novice reader who has no clue about this southern part of India, this reference can be irksome without a guide.

4. The end of the novel is morbid, it defies all the love-laws, as Roy puts it. And this in itself can make a reader hate the book. 

5. Her ability to create a new language in the writing mostly in jointed-words, may not be appealing to the literary-strict! She tries to bring understanding into the  otherwise illogical language..

If you havent read the book, I cannot recommend it more highly; for her writing is brilliant and you will be treating yourself to 300 odd pages of prose-wonder, innocence of children and may be even  enjoy the language of joint-words.

Have you read this book? Did you love it or hate it?

Blog hop

Posted by Divya at Friday, March 12, 2010 9 comments Links to this post
It has been a year since i started this blog and since, it has been great hopping through many wonderful book blogs and learning there are many out there sharing your love for books! It is a great way to find out about books you have never heard of and read new books because of reviews, which you wouldnt have otherwise!

I found this blog-hop party in sumana's blog and decided to get hooked on! Click on the picture to participate!

Let the party begin! :)

Classics Challenge 2010

Posted by Divya at Sunday, March 07, 2010 0 comments Links to this post

I totally enjoyed doing this challenge last year. So taking part for this year and kick start my reading drive.

I will joining at the Classics Snacks level. And here is my list -
1. Kim - Rudyard Kipling
2. The Great Gatsby - Fitzgerald
3. Gone with the wind - Margaret Mitchell
4. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

To participate click on the picture above!

The toss of a lemon

Posted by Divya at Sunday, March 07, 2010 1 comments Links to this post

I am in my slow-impatient-reader mode currently.  And hence the lack of new reviews.

It so happens that you raise your expectations with certain books and they disappoint you downright! It kind of stalls your reading-spirit and you take a while to recoup. 

It has happened to me with "Toss of a lemon". So this novel is set in south India; a difference from usual Indian author books, which are mostly concentrated in Bombay and above. The last book set in south-india which started off well and lost it half way through was "house of blue mangoes" by David Dravidar. Although, in that book I liked most of the parts.

Toss of the lemon had a greater appeal for it seemed to concentrate on the caste system from the angle of the brahmin family. Hailing from one, I was almost certain I will love the book! The story wound around three generations, customs, change of outlook, education giving way to broad-mindedness was all great on paper, but dragged in execution. I have no idea what mindset I should have had while reading this book to like it. Even though all the traditions, festivals and little nuances described were so familiar to me, the author had managed to create a lull throughout the book; a dark shroud over every character, nothing happy about any incident; almost painting a picture that being on top of the caste system means doom to your future generations. The story could have been told in a much gay manner. Although the events weren't catastrophic or sad, the author had managed to confer just the gloomy side of it. 

Most of the chapters moved  unmemorably from one generation to next. It seemed like she had confused  depicting boldness and rebellion spirit with sadness in her writing. By the end of the book, I was pretty vexed; I will not recommend the book if you are looking for a exciting read. The author has a lot of talent with writing. But channelizing it to tell a interesting tale is a whole different thing! Lets see. May be five years from now, I might give it a second read and might end up liking it! I usually don't give up on books. But this one I am surprised I managed to complete!

Verdict: Read the book if you are interested in being cognizant about south indian brahmin culture.Otherwise brace yourself for a long uneventful silent ride.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Posted by Divya at Monday, January 25, 2010 7 comments Links to this post

by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The next time I visit Europe, I wouldn’t want to miss Channel Islands or Guernsey ever! That’s how lovely this book is! This epistolary novel had me hooked from the very first letter and before I knew I wanted to dole out letters to the many intriguing and affable characters of this book.

Juliet Ashton is the gregarious protagonist, who is an upcoming writer in the post world war II era in London. She, by some bizarre work of fate, gets in touch with the members of an oddly formed book club in Guernsey. Almost like pieces of a puzzle, her quest for a topic for her book and the lives of the book club members falls into place. The friendship thus born, through correspondence of letters leads to an unbreakable bond; And it is these letters that hold the heart of this novel.

Set in a sad time when Europe was strewn in post war trauma, this book is comfortingly sunny! The Nazi occupation of the island and the multitude of stories that encompass those years are told through the writings of various dwellers, as letters to Juliet. The formation of the book club itself was one such episode, invented on spot by the silent heroine of the novel, Elizabeth.

The letters and the impact of books on people of that era is the most wonderful thing to take away from this book. While you can imagine any character simply by their way of writing letters in itself is a warming feeling. Classics and writers like Oscar wilde, Jane austen or Charles Lamb were considered precious. Books weren’t available a plenty back then and owning books and reading them was considered a genial privilege!

The book encompasses a handful of cordial countryside folk. You would love them all the way you might have adored ‘Anne of green Gables’ and you will fall in love with Juliet, almost like one of Austen’s heroines. The appeal of the novel is the genuineness of the letters, the innocence of the lovely people and the sanguinary displayed as hope in grime times!

So go ahead, grab a warm cup of chocolate milk, light a fire, cuddle on the couch with this sweet little book and I can vouch that you will not stop smiling for a long time after you are done!

Tom Marvolo Riddle returns

Posted by Divya at Sunday, January 17, 2010 0 comments Links to this post
I had mentioned a few months earlier that I am re-reading the HP series and signed up a challenge for the same. I had read the books almost eight years ago. I had never got around completing the 7th book, because, I was insistent that I should read them without a huge time gap and in succession.

I just got done with the fourth book and I can't but wait to devour the remaining three!

Prisoner of Azkaban was my first book at the age of fifteen, and I had picked it up with essay-writing-prize-money (money well spent, I say! ). However, I had picked the book, just to thwart the hype surrounding HP books and half-expecting to hate it! I can't be more glad that I didn't let the prenotion get the better of me.

Harry Potter books are a great revolution in reading and I can't be saying anything more about them than whats already lauded about! But, let me just end it saying that, I cannot but imagine being a reader and not knowing Harry.

A few bookish things

Posted by Divya at Saturday, January 16, 2010 2 comments Links to this post
I have been on a reading dawdle these days. Been spending a lot more time at work, cooking and trying to kindle a fire at the fireplace with friends! I will be returning with few reviews pretty soon (hopefully). Before that here are a few bookish things that relate to my reading habits -

* I am very apprehensive about reading new books, especially the fear of creasing them as i turn pages and open it!
* I always use a bookmark. I get paranoid whenever i see someone bend the pages of the book as a marking!
* I love books borrowed from a library; more coffee-colored and softer the pages the better. It takes me to my comfort zone.
* I always use two hands to hold a book. I hate bending it with a single hand, again for the fear of aging the book faster.
* I am not sure how i'd react to audio books or e-reader if i ever owned one. As of now, I am very skeptical.. I belong to the old school.
* no pen marks in the book please. If at all i'd like to date it, it'd be a light pencil marking in an inconspicuous corner.

All said and done, i doubt i can find my life complete without books in them!
so what are your bookish habits??

The wind-up bird chronicle

Posted by Divya at Tuesday, January 05, 2010 3 comments Links to this post

By Haruki Murakami

This was my first book by Murakami and it left a pretty strange impact much like the book itself. The book is in no way a feel good one nor easy to get through. It is mostly dark with satire and ironic parts, but absolutely enrapturing!

The story begins with the protagonist making spaghetti and humming the thieving magpie. From such a simple setting, the author spins a labyrinth tale spanning Japan’s forgotten war in Manchuria, mystery women, a lost cat, a waterless well and even a wig making company. In its complicated plot, you can almost feel the breath of a pulp fiction, but the engrossing narration, or should I say the translation, keeps it fresh and moving.

The story unwraps in the words of Okada, the hero of the story. But often the reader is thrown off guard by the bizarre stories of the numerous intriguing characters, told in first person. Sometimes it feels like an unexpected journey to unknown destinations; towards the end, the narrative is so discombobulated that it is difficult to distinguish virtual from real. And by the time the various pieces come together, the reader, like the characters themselves, would have lost all sense of perception, time and events.

Murakami’s writing is often strewn, as if finding lucidity in disorder. And if this very factor does annoy the reader, it must be understood that, if he were to tell the tale in chronological order, then you would end up with a piece of humdrum novel in its place.

Read the book for its uncanny story telling, mystifying details, the concoction of otherwise unrelated events, all making a potpourri of a thrilling read. I am definitely picking up other books by Murakami!

The holidays

Posted by Divya at Monday, January 04, 2010 0 comments Links to this post

I had a wonderful ten day break with friends and family. Lots of cooking, chocolates, games and loads of snow! Ended up with a snowman, almost 5LBs fatter and a great many laughs! Hope your new year has begun with many happy moments too!
I need to review a couple of books. Will be updating soon...

Until then, wish you all a wonderful 2010!

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