My Top 10 Reads of 2015

Hello everyone!

It turns out that another year has come to an end. This was a tornado of a year and I’m still trying to find the scattered bits of my life and start living properly again. Of course, it wasn’t all bad; there were some lovely bits, and some of the loveliest bits were the books that I read.

It was a fabulous reading year for me and I liked nearly every book I read and some of them have become lifetime favourites that I think about nearly every week. These are the books that I would blindly recommend to everyone.

After a great deal of thought, here are my top 10 books out of the 55 I read this year (In no particular order)

  1. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  2. Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar
  3. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
  4. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  5. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  6. The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
  7. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
  8. The Firebird by Saikat Majumdar
  9. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  10. We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

A lot of women and coloured authors on this list, which makes me happy. Did you guys read diversely too this year?

I have a few more books that I adored nearly as much but these are the ones that made the final cut. Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What books would you recommend to a person who’s enjoyed these books? What are your favourite 2015 reads? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

Here are my social media links for the stalkers out there. (You know you’re out there! :P)

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/owlishwriter
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/8681585-sindhu
Twitter: @sindrao22
Email: owlishreader@gmail.com
Instagram: owlishphotographer

That’s all for today, guys.

Hoot.

-Sin

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Non – fiction Month Failures

I read fiction, guys.

I lost my grandfather, my only living grandparent, to a losing battle with Parkinson’s on the 21st of this month.

On the 22nd, I gave in and picked up a novel and read a chunk of it. I never ended up finishing it though. I never picked up any non-fiction books either, after.

On the 28th, I had a job interview that could have gone either way. They haven’t told gotten back to me yet. I got home, feeling drained, and Career of Evil finally arrived very, very late even though I’d pre-ordered it. (Thanks for that, Amazon!) 

Regardless, I was a tiny bit happy to see it.

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Yup. Just a tad.

I finally gave in on 29th, which was yesterday, and decided that non-fiction was a bust. It had drained me mentally to read Being Mortal, enlightening though it was, because it had made me realise all the ways in which we’d failed my grandfather, who was already beyond help by then.

I picked up Career of Evil and sped through it, as one always does with Cormoran Strike novels. I finished it today. Robert Galbraith continues, as always, to amaze and awe and this installment may be my favourite one yet. I am working on a review for this book, so you can look forward to that in the next few days. 🙂

I did learn something about myself during this month though. I not only stress-eat, but also stress-read. And I only stress-read fiction. Non-fiction is an enjoyable learning experience, but fiction is my second home.

Nonetheless, I read some amazing non-fiction this month, books I may never have gotten to otherwise, in my rush of reading all the good novels I can get my hands on. I’ll continue to read non-fiction,at least a book each month or every two months. And I’ll try to do non-fiction month again next year.

Until then, I would love to hear some non-fiction recommendations from you guys. I would also like to know if you guys prefer fiction or non-fiction, and which genres. Let me know in the comments, guys. 🙂

If you guys want to stalk me, you’re welcome to. I do have a glamorous and fascinating life. Here are the links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/owlishwriter
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/8681585-sindhu
Twitter: @sindrao22
Email: owlishreader@gmail.com
Instagram: owlishphotographer

Cheers,

Hoot.

Sin

Brace Yourselves: The Month of all the Non-Fiction!

Anyone who’s read my blog for a while, or let’s face it, even for a brief time, knows that I’m very much a fiction girl. I read a hell of a lot of fiction, I aspire to write fiction, and I talk non-stop about fiction.
Until a few years ago, I read close to no non-fiction, and I didn’t want to, either.
Today though, my interest in non-fiction has increased. I’ve read quite a few non-fiction books, and I’ve enjoyed them thoroughly. I’ve bought and have been gifted quite a number of non-fiction books, too. Most of these books are memoirs, but a few are not.
The thing is, though, that I am impatient and have the attention span of a sparrow, and I keep jumping from book to book when the going gets slow with the book I happen to be reading. And non-fiction is frequently a slower read, making me migrate towards fiction almost unconsciously.
With the view of fixing this, I am naming October non-fiction month. I won’t read a word of fiction all this month. I did this last year too, and it worked well, so maybe it will this year too. 🙂
I have technically already broken this rule because I finished Never Let Me Go today, Oct 1st, but there is still a lot of time left for the day to end, so provided I start reading some non-fiction today, I think we can overlook this minor transgression.

(And yes, there will be a review of Never Let Me Go, and all of you raising you eyebrows and skepically saying “Uh-huh” can eat humble pie BECAUSE I HAVE ALREADY WRITTEN IT. Yes, that’s right! I have written a review and I have scheduled it for later in the week. HA!)
Wish me luck with this reading challenge, guys!
Have you ever participated in a similar challenge? How did it go? Do you want to try this challenge with me? Let me know in the comments. 😀

I will keep you all updated on how it goes!

Here is how you can find me on social media, by the way, if you haven’t had enough of me already:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/owlishwriter
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/8681585-sindhu
Twitter: @sindrao22
Email: owlishreader@gmail.com
Instagram: owlishphotographer

Cheers,

Hoot

–Sin

Currently Reading and Other Such Things!

Hey guys!

I’m giving Writing down the Bones a little break because she says to practise what she says to write during the process of reading, which I’m slowly but surely trying to get into the habit of doing. I’m a very lazy writer, because writing makes me think and I’m not always ready to think. It’s easier to watch Monk reruns on TV and gaze lovingly at my puppy.
He gazes lovingly back so it’s ok.
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I’m trying to get back into a regular journal habit, instead of only writing when I’m bursting to.

In the meantime, I didn’t read anything else for a little over a week because Half of a Yellow Sun by Adichie really burnt me and I needed time to recover. It’s set in the 1960’s in Nigeria, during the Nigerian Civil War between the Igbos and the Yorubas. I may post a review of it when it hurts less to do so, but believe me, it’s beautiful. I loved Americanah a little more, honestly, but I think that’s just because I’m a lot like the protagonist of Americanah. I loved and cared about all the characters of Half of a Yellow Sun but I didn’t personally identify with any of them. Americanah has a very special place in my life as the first adult book with a character I see myself in. It’s important to me. Half of a Yellow Sun has a lot of difficult, poignant moments and it should not be read in one sitting. As with all books set during a war, it has more sad moments than happy, but it had a somewhat uplifting ending nonetheless. People who know me would understand why I, of all people, would finding the ending of this book uplifting, but I don’t want to give anything away.

Anyway, I’m currently reading The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. I’m unsure exactly what this book is about, so far. I gather it’s about three women whose friendship is based entirely on their hatred of a women named Zenia, thought dead, until she returns to their lives. I only began it yesterday, and I was out nearly all day, and I returned and gave Herr Terry (Geddit? Because he’s a German shepherd) some much deserved love, so I haven’t gotten very far. However, the writing is so arresting, that I just want to keep reading with no clue about where the story is going. I feel like if the writing is good enough, reading about someone’s morning routine is not only fascinating, but also extremely insightful. That’s literally what I read yesterday, a woman Tony’s morning routine, and I am hooked. Now, that’s talent. J

I start work next week, guys. So soon! Rffdkbfdivmfv! I’m very nervous. Wish me luck. And keep me motivated so that I keep blogging, on my phone on the move, if nothing else. My friend thanked the heavens for the presence of my puppy because he’ll ensure that I come home, and not become too much of a workaholic, because I have a tiny bit of a tendency to go down that road. 😛 Wish me luck so that I work hard but keep reading and writing ! 🙂

Hoot.

–Sin

Talk to me in all these new and fascinating places also because I’m so interesting! 😛

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/owlishwriter
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/8681585-sindhu
Twitter: @sindrao22
Email: owlishreader@gmail.com
Instagram: owlishreader

Hello, hello, hellooo! Keep reading. There may be cute pictures.

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LOOK! It's a cute puppy! Err...spoiler alert. :p

LOOK! A PUPPY! Look at those eyes!

My world has been turned upside down! I have returned home… for good. My entire world in college fit into two suitcases and two cartons. An end with a fizzle, indeed.
Yes, one of those cartons was books, not including the ones my parents brought home in March, and the ones I had brought back myself every vacation sneakily in my back to save luggage weight. (I do have back problems from grinning and pretending my backpack doesn’t weigh a thing. Thank you for asking. :p)
Well, that was the bad news. Moving on…
My parents knew I would be miserable to leave my home of half a decade, and some of the smartest people I have had the privilege of meeting.
And so… as the more erudite of you may have guessed, THEY BROUGHT HOME A TINY GERMAN BUNDLE OF JOY. (I mean he’s a german shepherd, guys. Keep up.) It’s the thing I have been asking for since I was a 5 year old smaller than this guy isn’t going to become in 5 months. <3333
Well, I am terribly sorry for the radio silence, guys. Forgive me?

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PWEASE?
I did read some books after my exams, (and during too. Stop looking at me like that) including Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel and Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, both of which I enjoyed thoroughly, especially the former.
I haven’t read at all since I came home because I had two papers to write and submit and a puppy to look after. I will have to try and get on top of the HUMONGOUS reading list I have pending now that things are settling down.
Here: one more cute:

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I officially introduce all of you to Terry. 🙂
I missed you guys! I will be gooood. Promise.
Hoot.
–Sin

Life without Moderation– Tales of a Deranged Reader

I finally finished reading The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing! It took me a little over three weeks, which must be something of a record for me by itself. When combined with the fact that I had a major book hangover after reading East of Eden, it meant that my reading in February REALLY suffered. I read two books and about a 100 pages of The Golden Notebook.

However, in March, I met Jeffrey Archer at a signing and bought his latest Clifton Chronicles book, Mightier than the Sword. I really didn’t enjoy the 4th installment to this series but I faithfully bought the newest installment. I also bought ANOTHER copy of Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less and got it signed because it’s my favourite book by him. I’ve always wondered, is it an insult or a compliment to a prolific author if their first book remains your favourite? What do you guys think?

Anyway, after getting Mightier than the Sword that day, I broke my rule about not reading any other books until I finished The Golden Notebook and read it. Jeffrey Archer books have never taken me long to read, and I finsihed it off that day. I must say, this is probably my favourite book in the series after the first one. Looks like the man is making a comeback! I’m glad. He was perfectly adorable at his book signing, being all blustering and British. I really do like his books, even though they aren’t “literary” or whatever.

Well, this book, which had a bit of a writing and freedom of speech and expression type theme, seemed to really inspire me to read a lot really fast. REALLY fast. The very next day, I managed to read the remaining 300 odd pages I still had left of The Golden Notebook, and I thoroughly enjoyed the book too, making the long read pretty worth it, to be honest.

Over the next week, (I finished the Golden Notebook on a Sunday.) I have absurdly read 4 more books, which is twice what I read all of February!

Granted, all of the books were only around 350 to 400 pages long, and two of them were romance novels, but I am still quite alarmed at myself. I really really enjoyed two of the four books I read, and one of them, Vanessa and her Sister, by Priya Parmar, is officially one of my favourite books of all time.

I can just feel a happy buzzing in my head as I think of the Bloomsbury Group and their goings-on which are captured so well in this book, and it just hit me that, as difficult as it is to make up characters from scratch, it is far more difficult to write a novel about persons who existed. This book is very much a novel, and it is written mainly in the form of Vanessa Bell’s (the titular protagonist) journal entries mixed with assorted communication between the Boomsbury Group. I loved the atmosphere of intellectual stimulation and sexual liberation that pervaded throughout the book. I so badly wanted to be one of them and to attend just one dinner at the Stephen household and just LISTEN.

In a way, the friendships between the people reminded me of my friendships in college, where I met more people like me, than I have met in my entire life. I adore our conversations and our time here, and the fact that I will be losing all of that in less than a month made the book all the more poignant and more enjoyable to me.

I also loved the beautiful way in which the complicated relationships in this book are depicted. (No spoilers.) I just… well done, Ms. Parmar!  I cannot wait to read her debut novel, and anything else she may ever write, as I told her on Instagram. She actually responded to me, by the way, which was the nicest thing ever!

This book also made me realise that I really need to read E.M Forster, who is one of the people spoken of in this book. In fact, the book opens right after he has his first novel published. He’s returned a neat number of books, which I can now make my way through, so I am very excited about that. Also, I’ve never read any Virginia Woolf either, alarmingly enough. So, if any of you has recommendations to make about either author, and where I may begin with them, I would be very grateful. 

I also really like J, by Howard Jacobson, which was longlisted for the Booker in 2014. I really liked his book, The Finkler Question, which is why I didn’t hesitate to pick this one up, regardless of the fact that it has terrible reviews on Goodreads, and a low rating too. The other reason I decided to get it is that it’s a dystopian novel, which is my favourite genre.

I really loved this book, which is a love story between two very likable characters, in a dystopian world. In this world, something catastrophic has happened which the government is attempting to cover up, while also doing damage control so that such an incident may not recur. This event is referred to as What Happened If it Happened, and is not directly alluded to throughout the book, and even at the end, it is only hinted at. Throughout the book, there was an air of mystery and of menace which really had me hooked. I loved how there were no draconian measures to enforce the rules, but instead they use economic and social sanctions, which are far more effective.

It’s not the best book, and I was quite disappointed with What Happened (If it happened) because it was quite predictable and I don’t know why but the book was so well-written that I wanted it to be…less obvious? I don’t know… What Happened is not really essential to the characters or the world really, and something else could have happened and still led to the same post-apocalyptic world being created. I really love this one line in the book, in fact, where a character says that the violent behaviour of persons, a sign of the times, is not a indication of a looming apocalypse, because they are living in a world where the apocalypse has already occurred. That sent shivers down my spine. (Which is an achievement in Calcutta summer. Just saying.) I really loved the book overall, and I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. So yes.

It has been a good reading week, but an insane one. Next in the pipeline is I am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak, which I am so very excited for. I have exams beginning next week, so wish me luck for them, guys! I’ll try to read less and study more. Promise. I will at least try. Stay tuned to hear of my success rate. 😛 -laughs maniacally and shamelessly and flies away into the moonlight-

Also, have you guys been dreaming of being able to chill with me on social media? Hold on to your hats, because you can! –gasping and applause- Here are the links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/owlishwriter

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/8681585-sindhu

Twitter: @sindrao22 

Email: owlishreader@gmail.com

Instagram: owlishreader

Knock yourselves out, my lovelies! I’d love to hear from you. ❤

Ok, too much love is happening. Must. Control. Self.

That is all (For now. Muahahaha)

Hoot.

Sin

On Beauty | Book Review

Since I have a reading goal of so few books this year, I’ve decided to try to review every single one, as far as possible. 🙂 I’ve been good about it so far, as you can see.

I’m back in college and I started reading On Beauty by Zadie Smith on the plane. Well, in the airport, technically, but I didn’t read much in the airport. I went ahead and finished it the same day (yesterday) because apparently, I really can only read in college. I’m so screwed once I graduate! 

This book is hilarious and honest. It’s a very accurate portrait of humanity, in a way. It’s about two feuding families (as tales often are) and it begins with the son of one family falling in love with the daughter of the other. And then it goes crazy. No, really. The genre of this book is apparently ‘hysterical realism’ where things spin out of control in an exaggerated way in the narrative, while the overall story still continues to be an accurate sociological examination using characters. If that makes sense. And if I understood that right. Another book I read which seemed to be of the same genre is Identity by Milan Kundera, which is an excellent book as well. Everyone should read it.

But back to this book:

I feel like the author managed to accomplish everything she wanted to, if that makes sense. And I loved the ending too. The ending, and indeed the whole book, managed to speak of the pretensions of persons and of their weaknesses without alluding to them overtly. It also spoke volumes about love without being romantic in the least.

This book is also wonderfully feminist. The women are very flawed and positively annoying but one still loves them. That’s… well, it’s real life, isn’t it?

I like how the author was critical about almost all her characters, during the third person narrative, but it never seems unduly cruel or judgemental.It just added to the vivid imagery throughout the novel. Long descriptions usually bore me, but that was not the case in this book because she cleverly intersperses the story with the descriptions, making it interesting, and more memorable at the same time .

It was a pretty powerful book in terms of the social commentary it offers about racism, sexism, classism and so many other prejudices which we tend to carry, consciously and sub-consciously, even while seeing ourselves as morally superior “liberal” persons, but I must clarify that she in no way, is critical of the liberal socialist political ideology. The idea perpetrated through out the book is to engage in a constant self-examination to understand our own perception biases and alter them on self-recognition or if they are pointed out to us, to take them in the spirit intended and focus on self-improvement. That’s just what I got out of it. 🙂

The important and impressive thing is that at no point during the conveyance of this message does se lose herimpeccable grasp on the storyline, which makes the reading experience enjoyable in addition to educational.

Well, that’s it. I loved it, in case you guys couldn’t tell. I gave it five stars. I definitely recommend it. Like I already mentioned, I’m trying to #readdiversely in 2015, and if this is what it entails, I sure am glad I’m trying. 🙂 On that note,

Hoot

–Sin

My Reading Resolutions| THE 2015 EDITION!!!

A week before this year ends, I have decided what my book goals are going to be. They aren’t very ambitious objectively but they are when one considers everything else that’ll be going on next year. I’ll graduate. I’ll start working. I’ll move back to my hometown. I’ll be friendless… not really, but my college friends have become more like siblings since we’ve lived together for HALF A DECADE and they’ll all be in different cities and aghhhhhhhhhh… Let’s change the topic before I have a meltdown and short-circuit my keyboard, shall we?

-drum roll-

HERE ARE MY 10 READING RESOLUTIONS FOR 2015:

  1. I will be reading 30 books in 2015. It is less than a third of what I read in 2014 but I will be starting a job in the middle of the year, and I have only about 3 months to spend with my friends so I want to read less this year. If I finish reading 30 books fairly early, I’ll increase the challenge or 40 0r 50. Like in 2014, my original goal was 50 books but I finished that in May, so I kept increasing it. I stopped at 90, which I have now completed. (And exceeded) I don’t want to disappoint myself by setting the bar too high when I know I’ll have a busy year full of changes so I’ll start with 30.
  2. I will maintain the Book Riot detailed reading spreadsheet so that I remember to read diversely.
  3. I will read at least one Shakespeare play from cover to cover. Mostly Macbeth. May be more.
  4. I will read at least 5 non-fiction books
  5. I will read at least one new Classic.
  6. I will read at least one more of the Song of Ice and Fire books.
  7. I will read at least one graphic book.
  8. I will read at least 5 books by people of colour. (This includes Indians/South Asians. Yes it does.)
  9. I will read at least 10 books by women. This ought to be 15 actually. I’ll aim for 15, but try at least 10.
  10. I will make a TBR list (Maybe a TBR jar) and read at least 6 books from on there.

Currently Reading

I haven’t read for a while. Well, a week or so, maybe a little more, except for one Agatha Christie book I read in a couple of hours in between somewhere. It’s called The Secret of Chimneys. It wasn’t very good. Her international political intrigue books…aren’t the best. I think I may be running out of good Agatha Christie books to read. Anyone have any other recommendations for good mystery novels? There’s nothing like a good mystery novel to snuggle up with in the winter.

Anyway, I’ve decided to pick up pace on the reading again after my brief break to do other important things… like sleep a lot. –sheepish smile—

I’m reading A Naïve and Sentimental Novelist by Orhan Pamuk right now. I just bought it today. I’ve read a couple of his novels before and they were good, if a bit slow-ish. I think a person who writes slow-paced novels would be good at writing essays. No? Yes.

Anyway, just a little filler update before my slew of new-year posts. I have “best 14 books I read in 2014” and 2015 reading resolutions and some more stuff coming up. Stay tuned, folks! :p

That’s all for now.

Hoot.

–Sin

Poetry Recommendations? -hopeful face-

I have decided to start reading more poetry after hearing poetry being read by a visiting professor to my college. The stuff he read out got me so very excited and I wanted to read all the poetry in the world, but I realized I don’t know where to start. In fact, I know no poets except for the romantic poets we studied in school. (Most of whose poems I thoroughly enjoyed, by the way. Especially Frost, although I’m not sure if he was a romantic poet. I think I may be using the word ‘romantic’ to mean ‘old’ or ‘not contemporary’, the way most people use ‘classics’ to mean old books. Someone will have to educate me.) Anyway, what I really want is to read some contemporary or at least 20th Century poetry. Someone please give me recommendations on where to start. Or point me to someone who can give me recommendations. Thank you. 🙂

Oh, in case you’re wondering why my law professors are reading us poetry, it’s because this particular professor is teaching a course on themes of justice in Shakespeare. And yes, it is as interesting as it sounds. One of my goals in 2015 will be to read more Shakespeare, but I didn’t talk about it before because I do know where to start. I will start with Macbeth. Some thing about Macbeth has always appealed to me. And this interest only deepened after we discussed the following passage. It is his soliloquy after the news of Lady Macbeth’s death is delivered to him:

“She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
— To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.”
— Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)

i… it just… Yikes, It was the antidote I needed after reading Longfellow’s sickeningly didactic poem in the 10th grade. I forgot what it was called and had to google it. It’s A Psalm of Life and it always made me cringe. I am not against optimism but must poets LECTURE their readers quite so smugly? One can see why it was included in high school curriculum. My apologies to Longfellow fans, of course. I’m the stubborn one who throws up after being given medicine even if I know it’s good for me. I did this a lot with syrups because I found them sickeningly sweet. Turns out that my philosophy towards poetry is the same. I like cynicism. I even like pessimism.

Longfellow has some good lines though. I really like the imagery in:

“Art is long, and Time is fleeting,

And our hearts, though stout and brave,

Still, like muffled drums, are beating
 Funeral marches to the grave”
Okay enough digression and showing off of my limited reportoire of poetic knowledge.
Recommendations ok? Please.
Hoot.
–Sin