Thursday, November 29, 2007

Booking through rolls

"Do you get on a roll when you read, so that one book leads to the next, which leads to the next, and so on and so on?"

At any given time, I am reading three books. They are as diverse as can be. However, after reading Book 4 of Harry Potter series, I did go on a roll, reading Book 3, 2 and 1, in that order! After that I read it in the serial of 5, 6 and 7. I tend to read travelogues one after the other. I suppose you can call that being on a roll. I once read three books, about Afghanistan within a span of ten days. In my younger days, I read Agatha Christies for a whole month. I have never been tempted to read a whole series at one go. I can just about start reading any.

Now I try to be more selective. I prefer my next book to be as different as it can be. Although, recently I read five Jodi Picoults one after the other. Still those were very different from each other.

Nonetheless, reading challenges are most of the times, themed. Hence one tends to read books having a few or some common threads. I wouldn't call them similar though.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Real Magic by Brian A Fowler

Title: Real Magic
Author: Brian A Fowler
ISBN: 9781432708986
Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc. /Oct 2007
Genre: Romance-Fantasy
Pages: 280/Hardcover

One of my blogger friends’ Brian Fowler wrote this book. I have known him for some months now. I like to read his poetry and short stories on his blog Truth Is Freedom. This is his first novel. I am one of the privileged few to receive a signed copy of his book. One does feel special to receive a first edition. I finished it in straight four hours. Before I pen down my thoughts, I would like to give the book blurb:

Her brilliant amethyst coloured eyes drew him in.

He had always believed that the expression, seeing stars, was merely a metaphor, but lying here on his back on the cold, wet concrete brought a unique perspective to those words. "Of all the times for this to happen! What else on earth could possibly go wrong?" he growled under his breath.

"Why don't you watch where you're going," shrilled a high-pitched voice. "It's not like you could actually miss me!"

"My apologies, young lady," he said with a grimace as he eased himself carefully upright. "I'll make sure that I'm on the lookout next time for you..." His voice trailed off uncertainly as, from the vantage point of the sidewalk, he stared up at the most unlikely looking woman he'd ever had the pleasure of meeting.

"What are you staring at? Never seen a pair of tits before?" she muttered all the while rocking frantically back and forth on her toes.

Thus begins a love story between a man and a woman. Nothing exciting here... except for the exes, family troubles, some violence, lots of sex and don't forget, magic.

I seldom read romances or fantasy. However, this book has both. This is in fact pegged as romantic fantasy. Rightfully so. What you read in the book blurb is the beginning of the book. From there onwards, one keeps reading it.

Cassie has magical powers which herself does not understand. When she meets Leo, she feels certain emotions, which she had not expected to experience. Her encounter with him literally stops the world around them. They fall in love with each other without understanding the whys and hows of it. Cassie has a past, which she is unwilling to recall. Leo has a daughter and he is fighting a custody battle for her.

When Cassie falls ill and taken to the Hospital, we see Cassie’s mother, the mysterious Lucinda coming into picture. Cassie’s best friend Firenza, along with Leo is very protective of her. Leo, Lucinda and Fire form a team and find ways to protect Cassie. We see a lot of bloodshed. Rat Bastard, that black demon has a way of tracking down Cassie and kill for her. He wants complete control over her.

All the while, Leo and Cassie want to be part of each other’s lives. There are some explicit scenes and for a fantasy romance, it does not seem out of place. Usually I skip those portions but this time I did not.

Do they succeed? Can they kill the demon who needs Cassie’s blood to survive? Is love the Real Magic, which can overcome any adversity? To answer that one needs to read the novel. For a first time novel, this is a good one. It needs to be read so that Brian keeps writing more novels for us.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Paradise Place by Warwick Deeping

Title: Paradise Place
Author: Warwick Deeping
Publisher: Pan books, London/1949

I have a very old edition of Paradise Place, which I inherited from my maternal grandfather. After reading this book, I tried to look out for more Deepings. However, I did not find any. I did get a few downloaded from project Gutenberg. Somehow, that is not same as reading a book. I re-read it recently although it is falling apart. Silver fishes have eaten up the bindings!

Coming back to Paradise Place, I find it very well written and engrossing. It was first published in 1949. One of the last novels by Deeping. He died in 1950.

John Hallifax, having committed a crime lets himself believed to be dead so that his wife can live peacefully and not endure the stigma of his disgrace. His wife Rachel, is heart broken but remarries Charles Carrington Kean, a professor to dispel her loneliness. Charles hardly ever notices her. He is too busy. Her heart craves love and he does not provide it.

A few years later, a mysterious herb doctor John Balmfield, comes to live in shabby North London in a place called Paradise Place where, what we call as scum on the Earth, reside. It is a sordid side of Humanity. The inhabitants are curious about his identity but grateful for his herbs which cures what ails them. Rachel, bored with her life, volunteers to help a friend collect rent from Paradise Place and meets the herbalist. John Balmfield tries to avoid her as much as possible. From there we see a spark in Rachel and an unusual love story emerges through many twists and turns. Is Rachel ready to give up her riches for her new found love and live in poverty?

We see Rachel breaking apart when she gets a letter from Paris telling her about the death of her husband. We watch her growing cold even after her marriage with Charles. Her heart stays broken. Slowly we see it warming after her meeting with the herb doctor.

The poeple who live in Paradise place too are shown as warm and welcoming. They come to like Bamfield and accept him. They respect him for his knowledge of medicines and his cure. No other doctor is willing to serve them.

George Warwick Deeping (1877–1950) was one prolific English novelist and short story writer. His most famous novel is Sorrell and Son (1925).He was born in Essex into a family of doctors. He studied in Trinity College and finished his medical studies at the Middleton Hospital. After attaining success as a writer, Deeping gave up his job as a doctor and become a full-time writer. He wrote Historical Romances in his initial years of writing.

Deeping is a master storyteller. His words hold interest. He can get into the heart of matter. He seems to be forgotten as of now. He is one author who needs to be re-discovered. His works need to be widely read.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Booking through connecting words

Joanna and Brad are asking about “connecting words,” and they don’t mean conjunctions like “and” or “but.” No, what they’re looking for are unique, or treasured words that we’ve found out and about in our daily travels, words that might not be common usage, or often heard, but which struck a chord for some reason.

Now this is not as easy it seems. Not even for someone who reads like mad and speaks so fast. For a while, I couldn't figure how to respond. Then it struck me! I use 'go figure' a lot.

I also say
'what are you ambling for?' if someone is in a hurry.

Recalling only a few:

good riddance-
when someone leaves the way he arrives, nonchalent.
speak up!
are you going to turn into a pumpkin?-
If any one gives excuses for going home early in the midst of work.
acting like cinderella-
if someone acts poor. A few do!
That needs no explanation!
tap away-
Type away to glory!
don't snake up like that-
if someone comes too close for my comfort. I am a space kind of person!
all dolled up?-
When someone is dressed to the hilt and nowhere to go.
Now leave the way you arrived!
when something has to be thrown out. Useless stuff.
conked out, are we?-
If someone pleads tiredness despite not doing a thing.

One of my friends uses 'actually' before every sentence she speaks.

My dad used to ask for 'rice pusher' meaning something spicy like a chutney to help him eat the plate of plain rice and curry. He is gone but rice pusher remains..

I don't know if these fit. They are not rare ones if that was the idea. However, these are the best I could do as of now!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Title: Nineteen Minutes
Author: Jodi Picoult
ISBN: 9781741750720
Publisher: Allen & Unwin/2007
Pages: 455

Nineteen Minutes is set in a small town where a horrific shootout takes place in the high school. It takes only nineteen minutes to change the whole scenario of that place. Life is never the same again for the inhabitants of Sterling. In that shootout, there are ten deaths and nineteen seriously injured.

Peter Houghton is the boy who shot at all those people in his school and is represented by the lawyer, Jordan McAfee. Patrick Ducharme, the detective tries to unravel the reasons behind the shootout but finds a dead end with Josie, who was at the shootout but was not shot at. She has that part blocked out of her mind and does not remember anything. Her boy friend, Matt Royston was also one of those killed. Her mother is the Judge who is assigned the case but is recused afterwards.

Jordan as well as Peter’s parents are the most hated persons in that town as they are seen to be siding with Peter. Lacy and Lewis are his parents and have no choice other than to love him and Jordan is his lawyer who has to believe in him. Slowly we see disintegration of relationships and also the reasons behind Peter’s actions. Nevertheless, he goes overboard. Josie has her reasons to break off her friendship with him, although they had been friends since kindergarten.

The unanswered questions of---Why is being different taken as a weakness? Why acceptance by peers is so very important? Why cannot some children cope better? Why bullying is persistent? Why do elders---teachers as well as parents—turn a blind eye when they should protect the weaker ones? What takes to tilt the balance? How much one can bear until he/she breaks?
How a loner like Peter turns out to be a killer? Initially, the accused was the victim. Most of his life, he had been bullied even when he tried to be invisible. Does this justify what he did? Does anything?

Picoult has taken all those into account and more. She has questions for the legal system, education system and students. Her questions hit hard. They make us sit back and think. She shows us all the sides. There are no blacks or whites but greys, which are more prevalent. Another captivating novel by Jodi Picoult, which speaks out about the prevalent system and its loopholes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Downsizing Your Home With Style by Lauri Ward

Title: Downsizing Your Home With Style
Author: Lauri Ward
ISBN: 978-0-06-117097-3
Publisher: Collins/2007
Pages: 164 Hardcover

I received this book free, from Collins Nonfiction via Gather some time back as I volunteered to review it. It could not have come at an appropriate time. I am on verge of moving house and the book is timely for that. As I live in India, I had not heard of Lauri Ward. I found useful ways to create space and make it functional. Lot of practical ways to improve upon the space one has. However, I am moving to a bigger house than this, so space is not going to be a problem for me. Still, de-cluttering is a must.

I even went to the extent of measuring each single space, in my new home and photograph it the way she has suggested. That way I already know what to place where and how, after I finally move in. My biggest concerns are my books and I need lots of space for those. I have even made up my mind for what kind of book shelves I would need after looking into the book. I will get the local carpenter make those for me.

I am going to discard stuff or remodel those, which can fit in. Her suggestions are down to earth, sensible and very handy. Her photograph shows us how to make optimum use of natural light, how to make a room look bigger and how to highlight certain items. What kind of shelves should be built, how the bigger or smaller pieces should be placed. Cluttering should be avoided and she even offers solutions how to go about it. She advises us to let go of things which we no longer need.

One book which everyone should read, irrespective of moving house or otherwise!

Second Glance by Jodi Picoult

Title: Second Glance
Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Atria Books/2003
Pages: 506
Genre: Fiction

Second Glance was a book beyond my imagination. It took me into an entirely different world. Jodi Picoult makes such a world possible with her words.

Ross Wakeman has a death wish since Aimee, his fiancée died. He tries to kill himself in every way conceivable but always comes back alive. He tries desperately to connect with Aimee in some way thus becoming a ghost hunter. Strange things start to happen in tiny Comtosook, Vermont as a developer wants to build a strip mall in an ancient Abenaki Indian burial ground. The inhabitants talk of supernatural forces at work and Ross tries to explain the paranormal phenomena and meets Lia, who reawakens love in him. When he tries to follow his heart, next thing he sees is beyond anything he can comprehend.

The lives of Az Thompson, Spencer Pike, Ruby Weber, Lia Beamont, Meredith Oliver, Eli Rochert, Ross Wakeman and his sister Shelby are all linked although they are not aware of it. The story goes back 70 years; Ross and Eli try to find out a murder unsolved for as long. What journey they have to traverse to reach there is what the novel is all about. Shelby’s son Ethan suffers from XP, where he cannot be exposed to sun and Meredith’s daughter, Lucy can see ghosts.

Second Glance covers a lot about Eugenics where a few so-called scientists decide who should propagate and who should undergo sterilizations. The Abenaki Indians are the biggest losers. They cannot own land in the same place, which really belongs to them by virtue of their birth.

Jodi Picoult has the ability to mesmerize the reader. Her word has power. This is a story about love beyond time, ghosts and paranormal forces. One does not have believe in ghosts to be spellbound by this book. Ross Wakeman ultimately finds the meaning of his life, his living….

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pollyanna by Eleanor H Porter

Title: Pollyanna
Author: Eleanor H Porter

ISBN: 1853261459

Publisher: Wordsworth Classics/1913

Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 188

Somehow, I had missed reading this, although I had bought this book for my niece a few years ago. Yesterday, I picked up from her place and decided to read for the Decades Challenge 2008. I am glad I finally read it at one go.

Pollyanna’s father dies and she comes to live with her aunt, Miss Polly, who takes her in as duty. She has no love for the eleven-year girl, who had lost her mother, Polly’s sister at a very young age. The little girl is unaware of her aunt’s sour nature and is very glad to be with her.

Pollyanna has the ability to adapt to any situation. She can find something positive in the most adverse of things. Her father had taught her call it the ‘glad’ game. Pollyanna's Glad Game is truly a beneficial effect. She and her father made-up the game,- which consists of always looking for something to be glad about, after their missionary relief barrel held not the doll that Pollyanna wanted so much, but a pair of crutches. They decided to be glad they did not need those crutches.

Slowly we observe Aunt Polly thawing from her coldness by her niece’s sunny nature and good humour. Pollyanna’s nature is a tonic for everyone who meets her. Those who do not, she goes out of her way to make them happy. She succeeds too until she is hit by an automobile and loses the use of her legs…her gladness turns to despair. Again, we observe a shift in her nature when something no one envisaged for her Aunt Polly, happens and brings back her optimism. Does she get better?

This book has many similarities with Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Anne of Green Gables. Still it can stand on its own. All three books reinforce positive thinking.
Although, it gets too much at times. How any one can be happy all the time? It sounds unrealistic.

After analysing it, I deduced that there is also a grim almost mocking sense of humour, significant profundity and a lot of sensible psychology. The exposé of turn-of-the-century benevolence is cutting. Pollyanna is not naive. She knows there is pain and misery, in fact she suffers for it too. She may be an angel, but she is a very perceptive angel with a true understanding of the ability of her own goodness. If we grasp that aspect, the story becomes poignant at some point. A brave little girl, forced to accept hard times as something good, which she does with much bravado.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Booking through Volume

Would you say that you read about the same amount now as when you were younger? More? Less? Why?

When I was in school, I used to read a book a day. All the local libraries knew me as the girl who devoured books. When I went to college, it lessened. What with studies, my reading was reduced considerably. For six odd years, I was busy studying for various degrees. However, I still read two books per week. After I got a job, my reading stayed steady at that for a few years.

Now I read a lot more. 4 books per week, which I think is good enough.

My reading habits have changed too. Previously, I read only fiction, but now I can read wide and varied subjects. I am in midst of three books at any given point of time.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

Title: Summer Sisters
Author: Judy Blume

ISBN: 0440226430

Publisher: Dell Publishing/1998

Pages: 399/Fiction

The story opens with a phone call from Caitlin asking Vix if she would be the maid of honour at her wedding. Then the story goes back to Vix and Caitlin's summer days, and all the events leading up to Caitlin's Marriage.

Vix is a shy and reserved girl, while Caitlin loves to be the centre of attention. Each summer, they return to Martha’s Vineyard, growing closer and they eventually call themselves summer sisters. The first real conflict between them comes up that summer, when they are seventeen. They are both at the beach with their boyfriends having a great time, but it takes a turn for the worse when something happens. Vix moves in life getting educated in Harvard until she gets that phone call from Caitlin.
Older and wiser, Vix discovers some things about Caitlin which she had not been able to see before. A few things are revelations for her. Their friendship is mended. However, they lose that closeness they had shared in their childhood years.

I found it very hard to like the characters. Caitlin is very selfish and does not even try to improve herself. Victoria too is not much better. She just does not seem to have any personality of her own. She is blindly loyal to Caitlin. With selfishness on one’s part and naivety on the other’s this friendship looked more like dysfunction to me.

In addition, there was excessive sex in this novel. Although this is pegged as a story about friendship, both girls seem unhealthily focused on sex. In the latter half of the novel, a sex scene was in nearly every chapter when it was not needed at all.

The only thing that slightly redeems this book is the interesting perspective from secondary characters. I continued reading it because I thought at some point someone would become a mature, interesting, and inspiring character, but unfortunately, that does not happen. Judy Blume might be a good writer for some but for me; I will not read any other book by her.

#Update: It is the same person who writes kid's fiction.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

Title: Crow Lake
Author: Mary Lawson
ISBN: 0385337639
Publisher: Delta Trade Paperbacks
Pages: 291
Genre: Fiction

I won this book from Framed and Booked in a book giveaway for BAFAB week. I had no idea of what kind of book it would turn out to be. As soon as I received it, the back cover interested me so much that I started reading it right away. I finished it around midnight. It kept me engrossed and I did not want to keep waiting to finish it.

The story begins with Kate Morrison. She is narrating it for us right from when she was six years old. She has two elder brothers, Luke who is nineteen and Matt who is seventeen. They have a baby sister Bo, who is eighteen months old. Right in the beginning, we see the children losing their parents in a car accident. Luke who had never cared much for his siblings gives up on his dream of becoming a teacher and brings up the younger kids with the help of his brother. Matt has always been interested to go to the University but due to some reason I need not elaborate here, he can’t. Kate follows Matt’s dream. She ends up becoming a zoologist.

This novel is set in the wild terrain of Ontario. Here heartbreak and hardship go hand in hand. The story of the Morrisons is tied up with the Pye family. The Pyes are a cursed lot where the sins of the fathers are visited on the sons. On the centre stage are the Morrisons undergoing tragedy but it is not brutal. In a way, it binds them together.

We see Kate saddened by the fact that Matt could not pursue his dreams. She shuts him from her world completely thinking it would only pain him to see her going for what he had coveted most. Kate has many misconceptions regarding her brother Matt, although he is one person she loved most in this world. No one could measure upto him. When she leaves for University, she shuts him out giving up the closeness they had shared while they were younger.

I liked reading this very much. The Morrison children are very close to each other. The bonding is palpable. They seldom show their love for each other, but are very caring. They do not want to lose each other by being apart from each other. That part appealed to me. I am very close to my siblings. I share a wonderful rapport with my brothers. May be that is why I liked the book. Family love...that is what is underlying in this novel. Finally, we see Kate coming into terms with herself and her family.

Mary Lawson can weave words very well. This book is worth reading at least once. In no way this book is depressing. It has humour going for it even in the face of adversity. The love shines through despite the bubbling arguments.

2002: winner, Books in Canada First Novel Award

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Booking through Ghoulish tales


Do you read horror? Stories of things that go bump in the night and keep you from sleeping?


When I was younger, I used to read ghost stories/spooky stories. I was not exactly scared but was very inquisitive. Horror for me is not those twilight ones but it is about the evil within the soul of a man. Oppression is a type of horror too. I prefer to read books dealing with that. These issues chill my heart and keep me awake. The terrors in the mind are much more destructive and can destroy us if we let those. However, ghouls, ghosts and goblins have amused me. Horror is indefinable. It can be interpreted in varied ways. Hving said that, I did read few horror novels for the just finished RIP challenge. I enjoyed that too.

What gives me goose bumps and keeps me awake at night? The very thought of participating in NaNoWriMo! I can write poetry. But how do I proceed to write a novel? I have signed in with no idea of a title, or topic and without any specific plot. How do I go about it?