Category Archives: Author Lovin’

Weird and Wonderful: My First Audiobook Experience

What do you get when you cross a socially awkward book blogger with a book-worshipping tech geek? Brilliant ideas, that’s what! (What, you thought I was going to make a joke? Pfft.)

My friend Tanya and I were discussing the deteriorating quality of life, you know, as one does; and we decided that our lives would be much improved if they included more reading. And we also felt like they’d be further improved if they included more reading together.

Tanya thought that we should read an audiobook together. I, of course, was hesitant. I’m a purist. If your eyes aren’t bloodshot and you aren’t hugging a book (Or Kindle: I’m not that much of a purist) and rocking in silent agony, are you really, truly reading?

Tanya finally bribed me with something that she knew can never fail to work on me:  Beautiful British voices. She told me we could listen to any one of the Harry Potter books of my choice and she reminded me that Stephen Fry, the most delightful actor/writer/multi-talented human being alive, reads them out.  I was sold. I’d get to listen to Stephen Fry be J.K. Rowling!

I chose Goblet of Fire, which is my favourite Harry Potter book for several, well thought-out, highly boring reasons that I won’t get into and we were ready to dive in! Sort of.

We had to figure out the when’s, where’s and how’s. The how’s were particularly bamboozling. We ended up Skyping with each other and staring at each other’s faces the entire time as we listened to the audio book. Tanya even had headphones over her earphones so she could hear me and her audio book at the same time.

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Honestly, for me, Stephen Fry’s voice overshadows the book a bit. I think that’s likely because I’ve read the book several hundred times before. He does excellent voices for each of the characters and he truly makes the book come alive. I spent a lot of time going into ecstacies over the way he says “broomstick” instead of focussing on the book.

On the other hand, Stephen Fry’s voice several lines from the book into fresh emphasis, lines that I’d forgotten about because I was so absorbed in the plot. It reminded me that J.K.’s not just a fabulous storyteller, she’s also a brilliant writer.

We’re still reading the book, part of it alone and parts of it over Skype again. The Skype bit was awkward but it was worth it to see Tanya smile and look worried at all the right parts and to have someone to snort-laugh with at all the hilarious bits.

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This is the first time in a while that I’ve read (listened to?) Harry Potter. I think it might even be the first time I’ve read it as an adult. This time around, my heart ached worse than ever for Harry and for small orphan children suffering everywhere. Reading children’s books as an adult is always a bittersweet experience, isn’t it?

Maybe I’ll do more posts about this reread of Harry Potter if I have more things to say. However, I’ll admit this much: this experience definitely has made me more open-minded towards audiobooks. I didn’t think anything could make Harry Potter better but Stephen Fry’s exquisite voice has.

Does anyone else read audiobooks? Has anyone else read the Harry Potter ones? Does anyone else want to cuddle with Stephen Fry’s voice? Let me know in the comments!

Hoot.

–Sin

 

 

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Book Review –Cobalt Blue

This is a review of the book Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar. Honestly, I chose to read it because it’s been translated from Marathi by Jerry Pinto. I loved his book Em and the Big Hoom. I knew nothing more about the book or the author and I like it that way. It helps me to keep an open mind while reviewing the book.

I’m swept away by this book after having read it over the course of a long day at court. It’s layered and well-written and transcends all genre. The fact that the author of this marvellous piece was 20 when he started the book and 22 when he finished it, makes me want to stand up on a chair and applaud and simultaneously to weep with jealousy.

Simply put, it’s the story of a brother and sister in love with the same man. The book is divided into two parts, each written in first person by one of the siblings. It’s a love story, yes, a love triangle if you will;  but mostly it’s a portrait. It’s a portrait of lower middle class life in Maharashtra, it’s a portrait of a generation clever enough to rubbish antiquated tradition but not strong enough to break away from regressive familial bonds. It’s a portrait about how mundane love can be, and yet so overwhelming, how it can make one forget the world around us. It’s a portrait of a society where mosr types of romantic love are forced to stay hidden, of a society where homogeneity and acceptance are the biggest aspirations.

It’s a small book, which only brushes the surface of each of the above aspects, but it’s nuanced enough that it does not remain a photograph. The work that was put into the resulting simplicity is apparent.

I love both the main characters, Tanay and Anuja. However, the seem to be caricatures or uni-dimensional stereotypes, rather than fleshed out persons.

I liked that Tanay’s part was in the form of a letter addressed to the man he loves, who remains unnamed. I like the digressions and the non-linear style of narration, and the way he circles back to thoughrs after having fleshed them out with background. I loved that Anuja kept a journal. She says that life felt like a hairball and keeping a journal helped to smooth things out. I completely agree. As everyone knows,

I quite enjoyed the fact that she’s so clueless about her brother’s feelings for her own lover because it serves to demonstrate the invisibility of minority sexualities. It’s simply inconceivable, even to the most loving and well-meaning people.

I felt that every line in this book was loaded with purpose and meaning. For instance, Tanay observed his parents’ relationship and craved a permanent relationship to “grow into” while Anuja only wondered why her mother does nothing for herself and has no space of her own.

On Goodreads, I read that the author felt that Anuja and Tanay are just masculine and feminine sides of the same person and not two separate persons at all. That confused me because I didn’t get that feeling at all, even though my reading was coloured by that quote that I read. I kept looking for signs of that being the case, and I just didn’t find any. All I saw are two siblings who were close and compatible to each other, and “different” in a family that greatly valued homogeneity. One sibling recovered and started to go down the path of redemption while the other seemed to get lost in an ocean of sorrow.

More than anything else, I saw this book as a portrait of a certain type of life in a certain type of family.  I also felt that the purpose of the third sibling, Aseem, the golden boy, is introduced only to juxtapose the reception of a conforming child with two other children who could not and would not conform to the values of the Joshi family.

I want to end this review with my favourite quote from the book, from Anuja’s journal:

Our house was big enough for middle-class dreams, but not for privacy.

Has anyone read this book? What did you think of it? Do you agree with my take on it? Do you agree with the author? Do you think this is a “gay novel”? Let me know in the comments?

Unexpected Book Recommendations and How I Deal With Them 

(Spoiler alert: I deal with them poorly.)

How have I never heard of Diana Wynne Jones?!

Some context: I am reading A View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman. I am at the part of the book where he talks (has written?) about people he’s known.

I’ve just read the one about Diana Wynne Jones.(I have also flipped to the next page and seen that the next essay is about Terry Pratchett and I’m itching to read it. But first; this post.) I read the first few lines and then I said, “Who the fuck is Diana Wynne Jones?” I almost said it out loud, which was problematic, because I was in court at the time.

Then I googled her.

Apparently,  she is wildly popular, and has written a large number of books in the fantasy genre (which I adore).  She’s been compared to J.K Rowling (whom I adore) and to Gaiman himself (whom I have stopped adoring and started worshipping.). Neil Gaiman seems to delight in her writing, and it seems to be right up my alley. But I have never heard of her!! I’m in shock, if that wasn’t already evident.

But eh. Better late than never, right? Neil Gaiman said that he read her books in his twenties and it felt like coming home. I am in my early twenties. It seems to me to be a clear sign.

So… I went ahead and bought one of her books off Amazon and will be getting on to the task of remedying my ignorance as soon it is delivered.

Yes, it breaks my oath to not buy more books until my birthday.

No, I have no shame.

No, this isn’t even the first book I’ve bought since I started reading this book. I also bought Coralline on my Kindle earlier today. Heh. Whoops.

(Should I simply stop reading non-fiction, guys? It seems to be a downward spiral of more book-buying every time. Don’t answer that.)

I think that I’ll do daily posts about The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Essential Guide to Fantasy Travel after I start reading it.

I AM VERY EXCITED.

Now I’m off to read about Terry Pratchett!

Have you guys read Diana Wynne Jones? What do you think of her? What do you think of A View from the Cheap Seats? Do you like Neil Gaiman? Do you think I’m insane for buying so many books? Let me know in the comments!

That’s all for now, guys!

Hoot

–Sin

 

 

 

Ghachar Ghochar | Book Review

This is a review of the book Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag.

This is a book originally written in Kannada, translated to English by Srinath Perur. I bought it on the recommendation of the owner of  Bookworm, which is one of my favourite stores in Bangalore. I hadn’t heard of the book or the author before. After buying it, though, I’ve started to notice this book everywhere. It seems to be gaining popularity by the day, and deservedly so.

I want to begin by saying how embarrassing and shameful it is that I read the English translation over the original text in my native tongue. The truth is, though, that I am a product of colonialism and schools that preach English hegemony like the pope preaches the Bible (I went to “good”schools, in other words.) and I am far more comfortable with English then any Indian language. My Hindi teacher told us that the key to learning a language is to think in that language and I’ve been thinking in English for as long as I can remember. I can read Kannada though, albeit far more slowly, so I am going to try and read the original text of the book at some point. Additionally, I want to read more books in Kannada. Any recommendations would be appreciated.

Now to the book: The back of he book likens Shanbhag to Chekhov. I must confess that I’ve never read Chekhov, but if his books are anything like Ghachar Ghochar, I want to read him post haste.

The book is set in Bangalore, and I am partial to books set in Bangalore, which is my hometown. It is in the first person. The narrative is non-linear, which seems to be rather common these days in all literary fiction, but which continues to be one of my favourite literary styles. It is the story of the narrator’s family.

The story starts off at a café where the narrator sits, obviously in mental turmoil. His thoughts are meandering, and naturally drift in the direction of his family. He reminisces about his childhood and his family’s sudden rise to affluence. He reminisces about his past relationship and the state of his marriage. And as he remembers and thinks, a story emerges, mundane and yet, disturbing.

This book is definitely worth a read. It captures your imagination and makes you smile and worry and fret. It makes you care for the protagonist and his family. All this is in spite of the limitations of a translated version of any book. I really want to read the original.

Tell me what you thought of this book if you’ve read it. Also, suggest other good books written in Kannada.  What do you think of translated books in general?

Let me know in the comments!

That’s all for now, guys!

Hoot

–Sin

 

The Bone Clocks| Book Review

This is my review of the book The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.

I don’t know what it is about books that have the word”Bone”in them. I always feel attracted to them. I don’t always enjoy them, but I always feel like reading them. Huh. Well, you’re welcome for the random insight into the twisted mind of the Sindhu. Now to the review:

This is my second David Mitchell book after Cloud Atlas, and I loved both even though they’re completely different books except that they both mess with your head. In a good way, of course. What even is the point of reading a book that doesn’t mess with your head at least a little? Am I right?

This book is a combination of all things good, in my opinion. It has all my favourite genres. Fantasy, bordering on science fiction; dystopic, futurisic elements; a family saga spanning generations; in one beautifully written, sophisticated brick. I read a major chunk of it over one delightfully undisturbed weekend. I adored this weekend, but it also broke my heart a little because it wasn’t that long ago that this is how I spent nearly all my weekends. Growing up is hard and painful. I’m grateful for books like this that let me in and give me a metaphorical window seat in a cottage in a meadow to have for as long as the book has pages.

The book starts with Holly Sykes, a fifteen-year old, who decides to run away from home because her mum doesn’t like her boyfriend. Simple enough, but then …it goes batshit crazy. Her running away changes the course of events completely for her whole family. My reaction through most of this book was, “What in the name of god is going on?” But when the plot finally resolved itself, oh, it was so completely delightful, I could have wept. I don’t want to give away much more of the story, though, because everything is a spoiler.

Some David Mitchell specialities that I’ve noticed in both of his books are: jumping through time in his narrative, skipping years, going into the past and the future with ease; changing perspectives from character to character flawlessly; and combining fantasy with social commentary so that you forget you’re reading fantasy until it whacks you in the face. Both of his books have fantastical elements but it’s more pronounced in the Bone Clocks.

I also really enjoyed the character development in this book. I am always enchanted by characters whom I root for despite their (sometimes) despicable flaws. I am convinced that I can never create a likable, relatable character, and that it takes skill that I simply don’t possess.

(I don’t know that you can take my word for the likability of a character, though, to be honest. I remember when I studied Julius Caesar in high school, and my professor told me that Shakespearan characters in his tragedies always had a ‘fatal flaw’ for which they needed to be punished, regardless of how virtuous they otherwise were. The way I view people and the world is somewhat different. I like most people when I first meet them. I do realise that there are bad things about them but nearly everyone I meet has that one redeeming, human quality that makes me want to hug them. Something that makes me go “aww”. People are…cute. They’re all grey and imperfect and worthy of love. I realise that this is naïve, and believe me when I say that liking people doesn’t lead me to trust them or count on them, so I’ll probably not get screwed over. So, worry not. The fact remains though, that it only takes one vulnerability to make me love a person.)

Yes. The princess of digression is back!

But, back to the Bone Clocks. Would I recommend it to other people? Hell yes. I feel like there’s something in here for everyone. And it’s a promisingly fat book, which is a huge plus. Give it a try, guys! Five stars from me.

That’s all for today!

Hoot.

Sin

Here are my social media links. I post cool things sometimes:

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

Patti Smith Tells Me What to Read

When I was a kid, before the usage of the internet was popular, I bought my books exclusively by browsing through the bookstore and picking up what looked interesting. I didn’t always buy and read books belonging to series in the right order, allowing my imagination to fill in the bits that didn’t quite make sense. But the overleaf or the last page of the book would contain the names of the other books in those series and I would keep an eye out for them. When I finally found and read the prequels of the books that I had read first, it was a cathartic experience. I’ll never regret reading my books in this strange way. But it did mean that I ended up getting stuck reading a certain author or publisher a lot.

The only reason my reading didn’t stagnate is because I tended to gravitate towards books about people that read a lot and write a lot and want to be writers or are writers, as a kid. (Whom am I kidding? I still gravitate towards such books)
In these books, there would be those treasured times when these fictional people that I felt I could relate to so much, read real books by real authors. And then I would get extremely excited and go hunt down those books. I found one of my all-time favourite children’s books, A Little Princess, this way. New books! New worlds! So magical.

To date, I adore reading books about obsessive readers and writers; about people who didn’t drop their reading habits, blaming adulthood for their default. And I adore books about writing and the writing process even more. My all-time favourite book (Spoiler alert: It may be toppled soon by a new book) Bird by Bird is about writing. And nothing– NOTHING– can beat the joy of getting book recommendations from such books even in the age of Goodreads and Booktube.

One such book that I had been reading for a while now is M Train by Patti Smith. It’s her second memoir, and it released in 2015. I took some time to get my hands on it because of Amazon’s idiocy, and it took me some more time to make myself read it because of the enormous number of unread books I have. I decided to start it over after reading about a third of it because I wanted to annotate it. After all of these obstacles keeping us apart, I finally finished reading it last morning. She reads like me, but more so; getting obsessed with authors, with stories, with the lives of the fictional people in those stories, etc. And she has made me fall in love with her and with all of the things she loves. She thinks of writing as prayer, the way I do. I feel like she just gets me.  I got so many book recommendations, so many author recommendations from her, that I felt cross-eyed. I wonder how many books I’ll own and have read by the time I’m her age.

In one part of the book, she speaks about how much she loves Mikhail Bulgakov, and I’ve had one of his books on my shelf for absolute ages and I bought another one recently. So… I’ve decided that it’s time to give this Russian writer a chance, even though I have a rubbish record of finishing Russian books. I haven’t finished anything by Tolstoy, I didn’t finish Doctor Zhivago, or anything by Gogol till date. I just think that the Russians have a style of writing that involves a hell of a lot of backstory and digression, and I’m unused to that style. Maybe once I’m accustomed to it, I’ll actually be able to read the other authors too: Especially Pasternak, because  Doctor Zhivago has such an interesting premise, which is right up my alley and I really, really want to be able to finish it.

So get tuned for two Bulgakov books in a row, and stay tuned because it’ll take me forever at the speed I’m reading these days.

What do you guys think of Patti Smith’s books? Her music? Do you like Bulgakov? Do you read any Russian literature? Tell me in the comments!

Here are my customary social media links:

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

Keeping reading, guys!

Cheers.

Hoot,

Sin

Why I Love Terry Pratchett

Yes, I finished reading another one of Terry Pratchett’s books recently, his first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic. Just some info in case any of you is new to the Discworld: Most of his Discworld books can be read in any order since they’re all set in the Discworld universe but deal with different sets of people. Some of the books are little mini – series, though.

When Terry Pratchett died last year, I was actually kind of glad that I got on the Terry-Pratchett-reading train so late because it meant that I still have so many of his books left to read and that thought makes me so happy.  It is tempting to read all of his books at once but I do have an accusing (and ever-growing) pile of other unread books staring at me that I just can’t deny. Besides, I don’t want to run out of Terry Pratchett books too early because I’m painfully aware of the fact that I live in a world where Terry Pratchett isn’t producing new content any more and if I finish all the books he’s written,  there will be no more…

After I finished reading the Colour of Magic, and after I predictably loved it, I decided to be more original than posting another rave review and analyse what it is about his books that make them so appealing and bloody hilarious.

I thought about it for a few days, and I finally figured it out. Terry Pratchett does not have heroes. Terry Pratchett does not even have anti-heroes. Terry Pratchett does not have angsty brooding “bad” boys and girls. Not one. All of Terry Pratchett’s characters are weird and flawed and not very self-aware. Like real people. And no, they don’t have lovable little quirks. They have quirks. Annoying ones.  And yet… and this is is the magical part, and yet, I want to squeal and hug the crap out of most of them. I can already see a lot of his characters grimacing and wincing but I tell myself that they secretly like to be hugged.

Besides, his storyline is humorous and original, there’s magic flying about all over the place, and there’s a colossal turtle. What’s not to love? He makes a gentle, good-natured jest out of everything. Nobody and nothing is spared. It’s how I want to live my life, you guys. I want to be happy and I want not to take anything too seriously. If anything, that’s what you learn from these books, guys. You learn to chill. And there’s no better way to chill than to read one of his books. Which is… convenient as hell, when you think about it.

Well, there you go; my two cents about why I love Terry Pratchett so much, why I named one of the most important persons in my life, my dog, after him, and why I sometimes miss him even though I never actually knew him. If you haven’t read him, read him. Trust me. Eat healthy, wear sunscreen and read Terry Pratchett. These are the three pieces of advice I would give everybody. And I often forget the first two myself, being the hypocrite that I am, but I will never, ever forget the third.

Have you guys ever read any Pratchett? What do you think of his books? Which is your favourite book by him? Let me know in the comments!

I’ve run out of clever (“Clever”) ways to tell people to go look at my social media, by the way, so I’m just going to dump the links here and let you guys go crazy.

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