Category Archives: Reading Habits

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?

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Currently Reading… An Apparently Unknown Book

I was in Delhi today for work and i had some time to kill before I had to go to the airport. So, naturally, I went to a book store.

I picked up a book called Pangea by Talaiya Safdar.From the description, it seems to be about a dystopic world set after World War III. Dystopia, science fiction, female author, South Asian author, are all my staple food, as everyone who reads this blog knows. I think that the fantasy (non-mythological) and science fiction genres are highly underrepresented in South Asia. 

Then I did what any respectable book blogger would do; I checked for the book on Goodreads to mark it as currently reading and discovered that this book has no ratings and no reviews on Goodreads! This shocks but also excites me; I will make sure to review this book after reading it and if I enjoy it, I’ll make sure it gets a bit more publicity.
I have a long flight journey ahead of me this evening and I’m glad I now have a long distraction-free agenda mapped out for my time on the plane. 
Here’s to getting excited about reviewing again after some soul-crushingly busy weeks at work! Cheers.

Hoot.

–Sin

Currently Reading

I’m speeding through books these days, depending on them in a way I don’t dare depend on any person, at a time when life seems so uncertain. 

I’m currently reading The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak. This is the third book of hers that I’m reading. The more I read her, the more I understand the meaning of the word “wordsmith”. Every other sentence of hers is moving and poetic, and yet, the language she uses is simple and straightforward. I can’t abide by flowery and convoluted sentences even for the sake of beauty, and I’m happy to forsake beautiful prose for beautiful narrative and beautiful ideas. Elif Shafak us one of those authors who gives her readers both things.

This book is supposed to be her best one so I’ll let you know what I think of it. Regardless, it brightened up a weird trip to the civil court of Doddaballapur and for that, I’ll always love this book.

Have you guys read this book? Have you read anything else by Elif Shafak? I feel like there’s always a strange charm in books set in Istanbul. I want to visit  one day. Have any of you guys been there? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

Hoot.

Sin

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

 

 

 

Currently Reading — A View from the Cheap Seats

I am sitting in court and reading The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman while waiting. God bless the day I decided to install the Kindle application on my phone

I came across a delightful idea in one of his essays which I wanted to share with you guys. In the days when I was at college, I would have run to a friend’s room and gone into ecstacies. Now that I’m an adult, I am forced to attempt coherence in my excitement

(It occurs to me that the worst thing about adulthood is not the waking up early or the responsibility but the loneliness. What do you think? But I digress.)

Neil Gaiman has a brilliantly put opinion on the differing roles of a creator and an academic. 

It is the job of the creator to explode. It is the task of the academic to walk around the bomb site, gathering up the shrapnel, to figure out what kind of an explosion it was , who was killed, how much damage it was meant to do and how close it came to actually achieving that.

I agree with him completely. What do you guys think? Do you think you’re better suited to being a creator or an academic? Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments! 

Things Fall Apart | Book Review

This is a book review of the Book Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

The language is strikingly simple and engaging. It sucks you into the story immediately. This is the kind of writing that I take to and enjoy the most. It’s the kind of writing I aspire to. Always, always write like Hemingway. Or as I shall now say, always always write like Achebe. Big emotions don’t need big words.

It’s the first book of a trilogy and I am aching to read the next two books. (The only thing stopping me from buying them immediately is the staggering number of books I’ve already bought and not read yet.) Yet, it works perfectly well as a standalone, which I really appreciate because of my exasperation with authors using cliffhangers to get readers to read the next book. And using them poorly, to boot. A cliffhanger can’t just be stopping a story mid-scene. It’s a cheap gimmick in a consumerist era. It’s so much more delightful and authorly to cause your readers to care deeply for your characters so rhat they want to know what happens to them. The impending fate of someone you care for is cliffhanger enough, in my opinion.

Chinua Achebe made me pity, love and root for his characters, even the misogynistic, patriarchal, violent protagonist, Okonkwo, which is an achievement in itself. Harper Lee said that to understand a person, you have to step into their and walk around in it. Achebe forced me to step into Okonkwo’s skin and sprint a few miles in it, until I ached with his hopes, dreamed his dreams, and felt his helpless anger. Who hasn’t felt futile rage of helplessness against people in power against whom we have no recourse? Whose eyes haven’t stung with rage at  the grave injustices we suffer at the hands of the privileged people? Okonkwo makes you relive each of those moments.

Lastly, I want to talk to you guys about a question that’s relevant to me as a book reviewer. Right after I read this book, I read the Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma. Things Fall Apart is referred to in that one. One of the characters states that the book is about the lack of unity being the downfall of the tribe which really struck me because I simply didn’t get that message from this book at all because I thought the book is about culture imperialism and the pain of becoming obsolete regardless of if you’re united. Now I can’t stop thinking of the magic of layered and nuanced books.What do they teach their readers really? Do readers see books in their own image? Whose opinion is even relevant? Is everything in literature subjective? What do you guys think?

Have you read this book, or any other book by Achebe? What did you think? Are there any other African authors I should read? Let me know in the comments!

Hoot.

-Sin

The Weight of Expectation on a Tiny Book

I’ve renewed my blog domain for another year, which is optimistic considering how little I actually post these days. I chose to take it as a promise to myself to post more often and write more often and give myself more time in general. Cheers to that. 🙂

Having read and enjoyed The Orchard of Lost Souls, I’ve decided to read more books set in Africa and written by African authors. I have a couple more books matching that description which I’ve bought during my ridiculous book hauls. 

Today I’m going to start reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. It’s a short book, clocking in at about 150 pages. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this author on Book tube and I had that in mind when I bought the book a little less than a year ago.

These days, I’m making a conscious effort to buy books and authors that I’ve heard nothing about just so that I can come to my own conclusions about them without my opinions being coloured by others’ opinions and the weight of my own expectations.I made this move after I realised that I was only reading books that others have read and that it was severely limiting me. That’s not to say that I’m not reading well-known or “mainstream”; I still am, but my reading experience is very different when I already know about the book or the author. 

When I pick up a book that I’ve heard good things about, I get in to it having made up my mind to love it. If I don’t love it, I experience feelings of guilt and i justify the perceived problems with the book because of my determination to love it. If I happen to review the book, my criticism is riddled with apologies. A decent or good book which isn’t as amazing as people have said it is remains forever sullied in my memory as the book that wasn’t good enough. Any book that I’ve heard is good both has to try harder and less to impress me because of a battle between my faith in certain reviewers and my objectivity. 

This is why I’m nervous to begin reading this book and am writing this post instead to know what you guys think about this problem and how you deal with it. What do you think? Have you read this book? What did you think of it? (Because after everything I just said, I still am a sucker for affirmation that I’ve made the right choice in devoting my limited time to a book.) Which is a book that you expected to love but hated? Which is a book that you were told you’d hate but really enjoyed (or loved)? Which is the last book you picked up without knowing a thing about it which you ended up adoring? Let me know in the comments!