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Breaking Challenges :(

I caved and have had to give a temporary hiatus to the Indian authors thing I was to do this month because all the books I’d wanted to read are so heavy and I had a reading slump and I wasn’t reading ANYTHING so I just picked up a light read to ease me back in; something I was almost certain to like: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins. I adored the other two books in this companion novel series, though I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that.

They are: Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. Super fun books, both of them.

And John Green liked Anna and the French Kiss. Just sayin’. (Defensive? Who, me?)

Sad hoot.

–Sin

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30 Day Book Challenge– Day 1 — Best Book I Read Last Year

Hello! Welcome to Day 1 of the 30 Day Book Challenge!

The book I need to talk about today is the best book I read last year.

 Full disclosure, guys: I spent a full 10 minutes wondering whether this question means best book I read in 2014 or best book I read in 2013 and I finally decided that it meant the best book I read in 2013 because 2014 isn’t over yet. It also made sense this way because I’ll be revealing the 14 best books I read in 2014 at the end of the year. Then, of course, I spent 20 minutes scouring Goodreads because I couldn’t for the life of me, remember which books I read last year. (Thank God for Goodreads!)

The best book I read last year was…

I can’t decide!

Ok, let me tell you the shortlist so you can understand why I’m struggling.

-Book Thief by Markus Zusak

– Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

-I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

All three of these books have entered my list of all-time favourites and are all very different and excellently written and I simply cannot choose between them.

On one hand, Book Thief moved me to tears. (Tears, snot and a damp pillow, actually.)

However, I’ve reread my favourite parts of I Capture the Castle many, many times which shows how much I adore it.

Yet, Cat’s Cradle left me with a long-lasting book hangover and I couldn’t stop thinking about it (Or talking about it) for days. Besides the dystopian/post-apocalyptic genre is hands down, my favourite genre to read. In fact, an idea for a dystopian novel has been floating around in my head for over a year and I will eventually write it. (Uh…Maybe. If I can get off Youtube.)

This is all very subjective, of course. Objectively speaking, I can’t help thinking The Book Thief was the best-written. It was written from the perspective of Death, for God’s sake! And it was just beautiful, heart-breaking and overwhelming.

So…yes! That’s my answer to today’s 30 book challenge! The best book I read in 2013 (and probably one of the best books I’ll read ever) is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Next year, I am going to get my hands on and read I Am the Messenger because I’ve heard it’s just as good, even though it has a completely different premise from the Book Thief.

If you haven’t checked out Markus Zusak, or for that matter, Kurt Vonnegut and Dodie Smith, please do. Dodie Smith wrote 101 Dalmations, by the way, if you haven’t heard of her.

Note to self: Must read more of Vonnegut. His writing is insane and amazing.

See you tomorrow with the next post. 🙂

Hoot.

Sin

P.S: I’d like to give an honourable mention to The Shining by Stephen King. I skipped a day of work to read this and was rocking in fear on my bed in the middle of the afternoon because I was so invested in the characters and I did not want bad things to happen to them but I knew they would and I was already frenzied because of that and the writing style… it just blew my mind. (Which is the cool way to say it freaked me the f*#k out.) I feel like this is especially relevant this month because so many people are doing Halloween themed reads and Stephen King is the king of horror, I think.

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30 Day Book Challenge

I came across this while blog-hopping and it sounds like a fun idea, so I think I’ll do it.  (If anyone’s wondering, I was on wantoncreation.wordpress.com. My favourite thing to do when I can’t go on Youtube is to go on his blog and hit ‘random post’. He’s posted so consistently for so long and is so entertaining that it’s basically unlimited fun.)

I’m having a bit of a reading slump, like I said, and I won’t be able to post too many book reviews as a result, so I’ll do this challenge so that I stay don’t lose touch. THAT’S HOW BLOGS DIE, PEOPLE. 

So the thirty day day book challenge works like this: I need to post everyday for the next 30 days (Duh) answering and writing a short note about the following to explain my choice. 

Day 01 – Best book you read last year

Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times

Day 03 – Your favorite series

Day 04 – A guilty pleasure book

Day 05 – A book that makes you happy

Day 06 – A book that makes you sad

Day 07 – Most underrated book

Day 08 – Most overrated book

Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving

Day 10 – Favorite classic book

Day 11 – A book you hated

Day 12 – The first novel you remember reading

Day 13 – Your favorite writer

Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer

Day 15 – Book that should be on hs/college required reading list

Day 16 – A book you would recommend to an ignorant/close-minded/racist person

Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book

Day 18 – A book that disappointed you

Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie

Day 20 – Book turned into a movie and completely desecrated

Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood

Day 22 – The book that made you fall in love with reading

Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t

Day 24 – A book that you wish more people would’ve read

Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most

Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something

Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending

Day 28 – Favorite title

Day 29 – A book that makes you cry

Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time

I also have another motive for doing this challenge: I don’t know what my favourite book of all time is, and this way, I get some time to think about it and figure it out. (YOU HAVE EXACTLY 30 DAYS, SINDHU. TICK TOCK TICK TOCK. Once you choose, you’re bound by it and can never go baaaack. Ok, that’s not really true. But yes. I will have to think about this a lot.)

Anyway,

That’s it for now. 🙂

Hoot.

–SIn

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We Need to Talk about Kevin|Book Review

The book I’ll be reviewing today is We Need to Talk about Kevin, by Lionel Shriver. I read it earlier on in the year, I think, in early September, but I wasn’t blogging then, and I really want to talk about this book.

I read about it in John Waters’ memoir, Role Models, ((If anyone is wondering, it’s a crazy-ass book with laugh-out-loud moments and I recommend it to anybody who isn’t conservative in their tastes because yeah, calling it off-beat would be a bit of an understatement, guvnor! ßThat was an Easy A reference, just FYI) in a chapter dedicated solely to book recommendations. I have often found that if memoirs have chapters dedicated solely to book recommendations, or favourite books, my liking for said memoir goes up exponentially. And if I happen to like any of the recommended books, my liking for the writer of that memoir goes up exponentially. Strange-ish coincidence I think? But I digress.

We Need to Talk about Kevin is one dark, effed-book, which obviously means I thoroughly enjoyed it. (This may not be obvious yet, since this is a new blog, but it will be. Especially after I post my 14 favourites of 2014.)  It’s very well-written and it just sucks you in and makes you feel the bleakness that the narrator feels throughout the book. I was very sad for the one and a half days I was racing through this book and for a bit of time after. It gave me a book hangover. (This term, for those who are unfamiliar, refers to a phenomenon where a book is just so good that you can’t pick up another one for a while, during which time you marinate and think about just how good (and terrifying) the book was.)

This book is about a boy named Kevin who, 3 days short of his 16th birthday, commits a mass massacre at his school and is then convicted and imprisoned for it. As I said before, it’s written from the perspective of Eva, Kevin’s mother who is attempting to come to terms with the incident almost two years after it occurred.

This book gives us the unique perspective of a mass murderer’s family, and how they deal with this terrible thing that their offspring has done. We see that Eva is also ostracised for Kevin’s behaviour within the community where they live, and that she even gets sued by one of the victim’s mothers for negligent parenting. This is a side we never get to see, I think and it really fascinated me and drew me in.

The book is very one-sided in a way, because one only gets to see Eva’s side of things, and never Kevin’s. She’s a very atypical mother who seems to distrust and almost dislike Kevin from the start, and her descriptions of him are terrifying, because he honestly sounds like the world’s worst baby and toddler. I kept telling myself to take it in with a pinch of salt especially because Eva was a person who never wanted to be a mother, and felt that she lacked the maternal instinct since before she got pregnant, throughout her pregnancy and even after giving birth, but talked herself into doing it anyway, because of what can only be described as a whim.  But then, I remember that he actually killed a bunch of people and then I wondered, what if Eva’s descriptions are accurate and Kevin was actually born being a so-called ‘bad person’? Throughout this book, I wondered, did her lack of affection make Kevin the way he is, or is he just born an unlovable child? Of course, I can never make up my mind, because all we have is Eva’s point of view. It left me in a state of limbo throughout the book which added to the feeling and confusion and tension in the book. And it interests me greatly that Kevin’s shooting is not the climax of the story and the climax is something completely different, which is both amazing and terrifying at the same time.

This is an amazing book, even though the ending was a little weak in my opinion. I still gave it 5 stars on Goodreads because it really had a massive impact on me. I actually wondered what it would be like to have a child and to know that there’s something severely, terrifyingly ‘off’ about them and being completely helpless to do anything about it.

Read it when you’re relatively cheerful and read it slowly, in small doses, but definitely read this one. 🙂

Ooh and this book is perfect for the Halloween themed reads everyone has been doing.

On that note,

Hoot

-Sin

 

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Past Continuous | Book Review

I’ve only read two books so far this month, and that’s quite slow by my standards. The worst part is, I’ve read so little despite having a lot of time because I’ve spent a lot of time on Youtube trying to work up the courage to start making videos of my own.

I’ve just finished Past Continuous by Neel Mukherjee and it’s left me quite unhappy, not because it isn’t good, but because it’s disturbing. Which obviously means that I loved it! I will post a review, or try to, because I have no idea how to dissect this book, and it is a book which requires a lot of dissection.

For starters, it tells two stories, one of the main character Ritwik, reading English literature in England and the other, the story of a British lady in Colonial India in the 1890’s, which Ritwik is writing. This book terrified me because the tool employed was that of the ‘unreliable narrator’ because the life Ritwik is leading has strange echoes from the novel he’s writing. Their stories intertwine in mind-boggling ways which make you question Ritwik’s reality, which the author has no trouble whatsoever in convincing the reader to accept as her own reality too. That effect is disquieting, to say the least.

Additionally, this book also deals with themes of child abuse, the effects of growing up in poverty, sexual abuse, etc. But that’s not the main reason I wanted to read this book. I’ve owned this book for about a year already, and I’d bought it on a whim without knowing anything about it.

It was not on my original TBR list for this month, as you’d know if you’ve seen that post. And then I read an excerpt of an interview of the author (Who’s just been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for his second book, The Lives of Others. Yes, I own that one as well) and I discovered a crucial fact: The protagonist Ritwik Ghosh is gay. I am a huge LGBTQ supporter and I feel like gay protagonists are hugely under-represented in literature, especially in Indian literature, but in general too. I wanted to see how Neel Mukherjee manages his representation, so I picked up this book, off-schedule, since it still went with my Indian authors theme for the month.

After reading the book, I found the fact that the novel wasn’t about his homosexuality pretty refreshing. I feel like gay(or bisexual or lesbian or transgender) persons can’t be seen to be accepted as such if their sexuality continues to be the main ‘theme’ of any pop-culture of which they are a part. I feel like this dehumanises us somehow. On the other hand, Ritwik is depicted as a person with very real struggles, ideas, needs, distinct from being gay. I love that. Despite this, it still made a reasonably accurate representation of the furtive struggles and fears of a closeted gay man trying to find a sexual partner in the 1990’s in England.

However, this aspect isn’t the focus of this novel. The focus of the novel of Ritwik’s journey into life as an illegal immigrant from being a scholarship English Literature student. It’s about his relationship with his dead mother who still haunts his thoughts with the burden of her all-consuming, dependent love which leads her to become abusive. It’s about his frustration at the seeming opacity of the character of the protagonist in his novel, which is a frustration everyone who writes knows so very well. It’s about his friendships with people, which are necessarily transient due to his illegal immigrant status.

Ritwik, in my opinion, is one of the most real, most relatable, yet complicated characters I’ve ever had the privilege of reading. He’s a character I’d be proud to have written. I dream of writing about a contradictory character like him all the time, but I’m too scared to because I feel like I may step into the realms of the absurd.

I almost gave this book five stars of Goodreads, but I haven’t because of a couple of loose ends, including a couple of characters on whom I didn’t get enough closure. The novel doesn’t aim at closure, of course, quite the opposite, but the author’s treatment of a couple of characters, like Aritra, Ritwik’s brother was just not believable to me. I don’t want to give anything else away so I’ll leave it at that. 🙂

I’ll think about this book and about Ritwik for a long time yet. I feel like my review didn’t do justice to all of the various layers in this book, but I could write a thesis on it if I tried, and this isn’t the appropriate forum to post that!

I’ll stop here, hoping that I piqued the interests of at least one person to read it!

That’s all I guess.

Hoot.

-Sin

 

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Em and the Big Hoom | Book Review

The book I’m going to review today is Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto.

I have not written a book review in so long. My previous blog (Yes, I’ve had several blogs that I ground into obscurity every time I emerge from a fresh bout of writer’s block.) was to consist primarily of book reviews and that was its undoing, I think. I read a series of books which overwhelmed me and I just did not know how to review them without spoiling them and without sounding repetitive about how much I love them and then I just stopped reviewing books, and panicked at the thought of reviewing one. This particular doozy took me a full 3 days to write to my satisfaction, and it’s still halting in parts… I’m just going to go ahead and post before I change my mind. In the future, may be I’ll do wrap-ups in the style of booktubers to talk about what I’ve been reading briefly. 

</end typical long winded rant>

In my last post, I had said that I was currently reading this book and that I loved it so far. News Update: I do love it!

Okay, I’m going to be honest with you guys. This is one of the best books I’ve read by an Indian author. Not that I’ve read too many books by Indian authors, but I’m remedying that now.

Anyway, this is also the best book I’ve read representing somebody with a mental illness after The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. (If you haven’t read it yet, why the hell not?! Go go go. Read it right now. My blog isn’t a quarter as interesting)

I’m not saying that the books are similar; they aren’t—at all— (For starters, they deal with different mental illnesses!) but this book is reminiscent of that one in its kind and balanced approach, which doesn’t sugar-coat the toll mental illness may take on the affected person, and their family, but that also doesn’t demonise the person. In fact, Pinto probably faced a greater challenge doing this because this book wasn’t from the perspective of the person with the mental illness, Imelda Mendes, ‘Em’ to her children, ‘Beloved’ to her husband, but that of her son, from the time he is around 10 years old, to when he is in his early 20’s.

The book consists entirely of remembered conversations between the boy and his family, letters and journal entries written by his mother and his actual thoughts about these which makes for interesting changes in voice throughout the book. I liked that.

It is written retrospectively, and has a hazy, reminiscing quality to it, but at the same time, it truly describes the narrator’s dominant feelings of pity, fear and frustration in equal measure, as well as the suffering he saw his mother go through. In the true style of reminisces, it is written in a non-linear fashion, each story, each incident, weaving together seamlessly, giving an actual glimpse into the claustrophobic one-bedroom house in sweltering 1980’s Mumbai.

My favourite character in the book is the titular Big Hoom, the father, the husband, the family’s rock. He’s a little two-dimensional but reading about him made me feel warm inside.

This book is so honest and uncensored, it broke my heart. The ending soothed and moved me at the same time. I do so love a book that is set in India but that isn’t about India or about living in India… if that makes sense. I also love books about living in India, but I love these more. I actually do so love a well-written book about anything set anywhere, to be honest.

I don’t even know why I need to say this at this point, but I highly recommend this book. Read it. And yes, you can thank me in advance. 😛

Hoot.

–Sin

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The 25 Books which have Impacted Me the Most… Like in Life

There was a tag going around Facebook to make a status listing the 10 books that you thought had the biggest impact on you. It was later termed the #bookbucket challenge, which is…just… what?!

I made a list and I immediately regretted every single thing on that list and I thought of a large number of other books that impacted me more. I zeroed in on the reason, and it is that 10 is just too small a number. I So, I’ve given it a great deal of thought and decided to list the top 25 instead.

Here’s that list:

  1. Five Run Away Together by Enid Blyton
  2. The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters by Enid Blyton
  3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K Rowling
  4. Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  5.  Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery
  6. Matilda, by Roald Dahl
  7. Secrets by Jacqueline Wilson
  8. Ready or Not by Meg Cabot
  9. Rage of Angels by Sidney Sheldon
  10. 1984 by George Orwell
  11.  Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  12. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
  13.  Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  14. A Little Princess by Frances Hogdsen Burnett
  15. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  16. One L by Scott Turow
  17. Bossypants by TIna Fey
  18. This is Not the End of the Book by Umberto Eco
  19. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  20. A Palace of Illusions by Chitra Divakaruni
  21. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  22. The Shining by Stephen King
  23. Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
  24. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
  25. Bitter Chocolate by Pinki VIrani

Uhh… If this list seems random, it’s because some of these are books that just showed me what writing can do if the author is good enough, and nothing inspires me more to do what I really want to do, which is to be a writer.

So there we have it. No changes. No takesies-backsies. Promise.

Hoot.

Sin.

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My October TBR and a HUGE announcement!

Err… The announcement is coming first. Just roll with it okay? Okay.

Okay, I have an announcement to make to all my numerous (splutter) readers. I will almost certainly be taking up booktubing. I’ve created my channel, I’ve obtained a nice-ish camera. (Dad’s old one) And I’ve readied all my social media accounts… One only minor thing left to do: Record.

I’m very self-conscious, and even though I love books and I love…talking, I’m terrified! I’ll get to it eventually. I’ve set myself a deadline for the end of my holidays, which is Oct 27th so it’s happening. Very soon. THIS MONTH. Gahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

-hyperventilates-

I’ll still keep blogging though, may be even more frequently than usual. Maybe. No promises, unfortunately. (Yes. I know. This is what one wants to hear from a blogger they follow. :P) I’m LOUSY at motivating myself to do anything. I need to work on that. I will. THAT’S a promise.

In other news, I’ve read a lot more books this year than I intended to. My goal for the year was 50 and I’ve read 77…so far. So around March, I decided to make certain months category months, like in March I only read Classics, and in July, I read only non-fiction. It broadened my horizons of reading and made me slow down a little.

My point is, is that October is going to be one of those months. This month I’m only going to read books by authors who are from India or the Indian Sub-continent. I looked through my shelves and I discovered than I have a lot of books by Indian/Pakistani authors that I haven’t read yet so I’ve decided to make a TBR for this month, based on how much I think I can read.

Here it is. (Strictly tentative, okay?)

Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto (Currently reading and LOVING)

Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra

The Wishmaker by Ali Sethi

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

I’m also thinking of buying A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.

I think this is all I can do because I’m also interning and Sacred Games is massive (947 pages)! If anybody has any suggestions, please let me know in the comments.

Thanks!

Hoot.

-Sin