Thursday, July 31, 2008

Booking Through Endings

What are your favourite final sentences from books? Is there a book that you liked specially because of its last sentence? Or a book, perhaps that you didn’t like but still remember simply because of the last line?

As for as endings are concerned, the obvious sentence should be ...And they lived happily ever after. It can't get any better than that or in my case, worse than that. But I prefer books with open ends. Where it is left for the reader to interpret it the way she/he wants to. Yes, feel good books are great to read. However, real life is not about happy endings. It mostly about getting on with what we have and make the most of it. So I prefer such endings. Where one can survive after enduring it all. Where skills of living are more important than mushy feelings. Maybe, I am digressing. But thats the way I think. To think out of box. I suppose I don't need to specify particular books.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Booking through beginnings

What are your favourite first sentences from books? Is there a book that you liked specially because of its first sentence? Or a book, perhaps that you didn’t like but still remember simply because of the first line?

As for beginnings are concerned, those do not make much difference to my reading. Books with good beginnings can turn out to be trash and books which are boring in the beginning can be masterpieces. A few books take a while for those to be understood. It does not mean those are bad ones.

For me the middle is more important than a beginning or an ending. My reading depends on many other things. Frankly I do not recall any beginnings. Now endings are a different issue altogether...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop

Title: Shelf Monkey
Author: Corey Redekop
ISBN-13: 9781550227666
ISBN-10: 1550227661
Publisher: ECW Press, Canada
Pages: 258

As I mentioned last sunday, this is one book not to be missed by a book lover. One you start it, you have to finish it. Very riveting. This book is a bibliophile's paradise. Need I say more?

Thomas Friesen lands up a job at READ, a hypermegabookstore. It seems like paradise to him. What more does a shelf monkey want? A working place that he loves! But every paradise has a serpent. In the form of Munroe Purvis, a talk show host, who is recommending books which are trash. But the shelf monkeys can't accept that and they hatch a plan to stop all this. This is where book lover takes a different meaning. Thomas wonders if it all worth it for books.

Redekop writes in a witty and humorous manner. Although light hearted, it has underlying irony and seriousness. All of us know that trash sells and good books seldom are read by any. One has to hunt for those. Corey has covered that aspect rather well. The prose is good and engrossing. I could relate with the madness of the characters. Many a times I have felt like thrashing a bad writer and burning trash!

The shelf monkeys are weird but very lovable. One instantly gels with them.Go for it, folks! A book lover's must read!

Now to answer a few questions as per Weekly Geeks #12:

Suey asked me:
"How did you come across it? What brought it to your attention?"

I won it in a survey for The Canadian Challenge survey on John Mutford's blog. Corey Sent it me. I was mighty glad to receive it as there is a dearth of Canadian literature in India.

Andi asked:
what did you list best about it? What didn't work, if anything?

It enlists a great number of books. It has wit, humour and seriousness all at the same time. Foremost, it has a great title. As a novel, it wholly worked for me. However, I think it could have had a better cover design.

seachanges asks:
how long did it take you to read it? what did you like about it (style, story, character depiction.....)?

It took me around three hours for me to read it fully. I liked it for what it is, a book about book lovers, books and weird characters. The story is close to our heart. Any book lover's heart.

Book Zombie asks:
I would like to know what part of the book did you enjoy most? While reading this did you laugh out loud or giggle quietly during any parts? And are you looking forward to reading more books by Redekop?

I especially liked the second half of the book. The style of writing by emails is a good one and very original. Yes, I did laugh out loud at times. And I do look forward to read more books by Corey Redekop.

Chris asks:
So why is Shelf Monkey so entertaining?

Because we can relate to it. The happiness on finding a coveted book and frustration of not finding one! Ultimate despair is when you see trash selling like hot cakes.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Booking through vacation spots

Do you buy books while on vacation/holiday? Do you have favorite bookstores that you only get to visit while away on a trip? What/Where are they?

I take along books with me. I do not go book hunting while on a vacation. However, if I see a bookstore, I do go in. If I like something, I do buy. I do not buy the usual stuff. I go in for local historical facts or flora or fauna.

As I choose new places each time, I am not aware of any bookstores before hand. Many a times, I have found quaint bookstores hidden in corners. I love browsing in those.

Lately I find I am not much interested in reading while vacationing. I prefer to walk around exploring new places.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

Title: Equal Rites
Authour: Terry Pratchett
ISBN: 9780060855901
Publisher: Harper/2000
Pages: 213

It starts with a dying wizard in a hurry to reach somewhere. He reaches Bad Ass village, into the family of a blacksmith. He is to pass on his powers to the just being born eighth son of this blacksmith, who himself is an eighth son. After he does so, it is discovered a little late that the eighth son daughter. Now it is said that a girl can't be a wizard. Nothing can be done about it. The wizard dies, leaving behind his staff to protect the girl and Esk grows up to be normal little girl amongst seven brothers until she is seven.

Although Granny Weatherwax, a witch herself, disapproves of a girl being a wizard but decides that the girl has to learn to be wizard in order not to misuse the magic passed on to her by the wizard. She persuades Esk's parents to make her learn to be a witch under her guidance. After a few years both venture out to Unseen University for her wizardry training. On the way, they encounter weird characters..

The novel has all the elements of fantasy, magic, humour, parody and satire. It keeps us hooked, makes us smile and at places the metaphors are beautiful poetry. Despite its magical element, it hits hard at contemporary society where we still have set notions that a girl is not supposed to do this or that.

I am looking out for more works by Terry Pratchett.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Booking through Doomsday

What would you do if, all of a sudden, your favorite source of books was unavailable?

Whether it’s a local book shop, your town library, or an internet shop … what would you do if, suddenly, they were out of business? Devastatingly, and with no warning? Where would you go for books instead? What would you do? If it was a local business you would try to help out the owners? Would you just calmly start buying from some other store? Visit the library in the next town instead? Would it be devastating? Or just a blip in your reading habit?

I visit many bookstores in Delhi. If one or two closed down, it won't affect me much. And I also hunt for books at second hand bookstores. Many a times, I ask my friends to get me books which are not available in India. For a die-hard reader, there are ways and means to get books. Recently I have contacted writers to send me ARCs. That helps. And also authors contact me to send their books.

Online buying s a good option although it costs the heaven to order from Amazon. We don't have Amazon India. Library is always a good option. I am going to continue to read by obtaining books by hook or crook.

Bookstores and libraries burning down is a big deal for me. I would mourn the loss of books.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

ADMIT ONE by Emmett James

Title: ADMIT ONE: A Journey into Film
Author: Emmett James
ISBN: 9781587369131
Publisher: Fizzypop Productions/2007
Pages: 197
Genre: Memoir/Travel...Non-fition

I received a signed copy from Emmett James via Lisa Roe of publicist fame. It is pegged as memoir/travel.

Initially I thought I am not going to like this very much. I changed my mind after a few pages. It is set in the 1980s in South London. The authour speaks how he escaped the daily drudgery of life by going to cinema. It started with his parents taking him to the movie theatre. With keen insight and humour, he raves about films and their impact on our lives.

He leaves England for Hollywood to realise his dreams about becoming an actor. He has many adventures on his way. He even stars in pornographic films. And finally lands up a role in the Titanic. He never loses his wit or his power of keen observation. We get some good insight about the world of film and the film industry. It made a light and fun read!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Time in Between by David Bergen

Title: The Time in Between
Author: David Bergen
ISBN: 0771011393
Publisher: Emblem Editions/2005
Pages: 273

John Mutford was generous enough to send this book to me to read for The Canadian Book Challenge. But as I received the book late, I read it for The 2nd Canadian Book Challenge, Eh? I had not read any book about Vietnam before this. Hence this was a revealing one for me.

The Time in Between goes from present to past to present. There is a novel too within the novel. It starts with Ada and her brother Jon looking for their father Charles Boatman in Vietnam. He had been a soldier there and returns to the place after 29 years.

His daughter and son Jon arrive there in quest of their father who has disappeared. Their life and thoughts get entangled in that unknown country and what do they find? How does the cultural difference between the two countries affect them. How does the chance encounter with the people of Vietnam touch their lives? What is the secret that their father had kept from them? What is the inner demon that compels Charles Boatman to revisit Vietnam?

The Time in Between is beautifully worded. It is not overtly sentimental. It speaks about the closeness of a family, the love they share. They are close yet respect each others wishes. It speaks of a journey which is emotional and touches our heart and soul. With the use of beautiful metaphors, Bergen has elevated the novel to a higher plane. And this book made sure that I read more books on Vietnam war.

The i tetralogy by Mathias B. Freese

Title: The i Tetralogy
Author: Mathias B. Freese
ISBN: 1587364042
Publisher: Hats Off Books
Pages: 365

The i Tetralogy is not an easy book. Reading it was painful. But after you start it, you can't stop. It is that compelling. It is about the Holocaust. Mathis B. Freese offered to me as I had liked this collection of short stories. I am glad I read it.

This has four parts. Part 1 told by a Jew who remains nameless. Part 2 by a Nazi guard, Gunthur. Part 3 is again told by Gunthur after he has escapd to US. Part 4 by his son, who discovers his father's Nazi past, after his death.

Looking at it from the point of view of the Jew, they were treated worse than vermins. They had no self-respect, and did whatever the Nazis told them to do. Maybe the degradation was necessary for survival. No one knew which one of them was going to die, and why. Being a Jew was enough qualification for dying. Resigned to their fate seems like the right word here. Still we see glimpses of hope. And the strong will to protect the nearest and dearest ones.

For a Nazi officer, Jew were less than animals. To touch them or to look at them was ever so painful. Killing them was a good pasttime. Jews translated into evil for the SS. Gunthur enumerates the various way they killed a Jew.

After escaping to US, Gunthur has a family but can't get over his past. He still keeps in touch with one of his Nazi friends. He still detests Jews but can't let it be known. When Gunthur's family discovers his Nazi past, they are devastated. His son tries to understand his father. He wants reeemption for his father's evil deeds.

The i Tetralogy is not just another book on the Holocaust. We cannot have enough books on the subject. It about us human beings. We are capable of going either way given the right or wrong circumstances. We can be wholly degraded or we can be wholly inhuman on treating another human being. Maybe that's what needs to be analysed. One good reason to read the book. It is a must read for each one of us. It being a painful book on a very painful topic, is no reason not to read it. Life is not about bed of roses. It is about knowing the Holocaust too.

Friday, July 4, 2008

On Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

Title: On Human Bondage/1915
Author: W. Somerset Maugham

ISBN: 055321392X

Publisher: Bantam Classics

Pages: 712

I have had it in my TBR pile for very long. I read it for the 24 hour read-a-thon. It is a big tome of a book and needs concentration to go through it. Philip Carey who is born club footed, is orphaned at the age of nine. His Uncle, a vicar brings him up. The couple are middle aged and do not have children. So they do not know how to deal with him. We see that Philip gets adjusted to his surroundings fast enough. Once he discovers reading, there is no stopping him.

He is sent to a school, where he does not finish the final year and leaves for Heidelberg and then Paris where he wishes to be an artist. He comes back to London and gets enrolled into medicines to be a doctor like his late father. Here he meets Mildred, a shop girl and is enslaved to her. His love for her is obssessive, without any rhyme or reason. She is not worth any of the anguish he goes through for her. She is exploitive and manipulative. He despite knowing the facts cannot escape his deep desire and passion for her.

This novel is about sexual obssession, a journey into self awareness and self discovery. Philip does realise his own self worth and finds true love. He is club footed. In no way it deters us from loving him. We are exasperated by his obssession for Mildred. We wish for him to get over it.

On Human Bondage is truly one of the greatest novel written in th 20th century, and is a work of genius. Any one who is in a self-discovery path can relate to this book instantly.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Booking Through Holidays

What are you reading?
Anything special? Any particularly juicy summer reading?

I live in India and teach in a school in Delhi. Our summer vacations just got over. I read a lot of books in the past two summer months. I finished 29 books. A mixed bunch. As I read most genres, it does not matter what I read. However, it need not be vacations for me to read. I can do that any time, any place, any genre. I do not stick to any particular author or issue or topic. I need constant stimulation of my mind and that is only possible with varied reading. For me every book is special...

However, Tangled in Wisteria needs a special mention. A short book of poetry written by J. Andrew Lockhart, a poet who blogs. Do check his blog. You will not be disappointed, believe me! And if you do visit, please leave your footprints there!

This book contains senryu, haiku and tankas on a varied issues. A good read. You can read the review of his book here.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tangled in Wistaria by J. Andrew Lockhart

Title: Tangled in Wisteria
Author: J. Andrew Lockhart
ISBN: 978-1-60247-852-7
Publisher: Tate Publishing & Enterprises/2007
Pages: 108

J. Andrew Lockhart is blogger poet. He lives in Van Buren, Arkansas, United States. He writes Haiku, senryu, Haiga, Haibun and Tanka. He was kind enough to send me his book Tangled in Wisteria, which contains haiku, senryu and tanka. I have been reading him for some time now, on his blog.

Andrew was an attorney when tragedy struck. In 1996 he had an intracerebral hemorragic stroke at the age of 30. He rose out of it all and became a music teacher. In his introduction, he writes that music and writing were sidelined and he went to law school.

He came back to writing. Reading his verses one can observe the beauty of nature, find greatness in mundane things and see love in a new light. Those short verses of his are loaded with so much meaning. You an see them in simplicity or the complexities....whatever way you choose to. Those contain nuggets about life and much more.

Here I quote a few of his verses:

"looking up
at the oak tree, planted
when i was young-----
there is no need
for a mirror"
"although you are
so far away from me
i feel your presence
in the cool summer night
as flowers rest"
"buying a pack
of firerackers
made in china"
"brick after brick
after brick after brick---
hidden thoughts"

This book has four parts----spring, summer, autumn and winter. I read it at one go. But I am going to come back again and again. The best part is my mom picked it up and did not put it own until she finished.

Each page contains a haiku or a senryu and a tanka. Those verses touch the soul and illuminate it. I am very glad I read it and also that I read him everyday on his blog. Please do check him out.