Tag Archives: Fiction

A Bookish Thing that I’m Doing…

…That you all should do too!

So, this year, I’ve decided to do the Read Harder Challenge that’s run by Goodreads. Some of the categories of books that it requires me to read have just made me go “wut”, which is, I believe, the charm of the challenge.

Please follow the link above to get a hold of the list (and downloadable document) of all the categories of books you need to read to successfully complete the challenge. There are 24 in all, which adds up to a reasonable two a month, especially since it is permissible to read one book that fulfills multiple categories.

I always think it’s a good idea to read books diversely and outside my comfort zone and outside my genres of choice even if I’m reading for pleasure because it’s helpful to me as an aspiring writer. However, even I weren’t an aspiring writer, I think it’s a good idea to learn something about the points of view of people who don’t think the same way as me. With the world getting smaller each day, and with social media becoming an echo chamber of our thoughts and ideas, varied perspectives have become more valuable than ever before. Varied opinions are rarer still. Varied thoughts, varied priorities, varied ideas are all something that can be picked up from books. Even if I’m only reading for pleasure, and I don’t want any sort of information or knowledge from the books that I read, I feel like reading diversely makes me a different person; maybe even a better person.  Maybe.

Serious thoughts aside (Earnest is not a colour that suits me), who knows where my new favourite book or my new favourite author may be hiding, right?

 

From the comfort of our homes and cosy cafés (or taxis or metros or buses or offices under our desks or in line at the bank. Demonetisation, amirite?), let’s dive into books and go exploring in 2017. Come #readharder with me, guys. Journeys are always more fun with friends!

Watch out for the hashtag #readharder on my social media, guys.

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

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

Twitter: @sindrao22

Email: owlishreader@gmail.com
Instagram: owlishphotographer

Hoot.

–Sin

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Currently Reading

I’ve had something of a reading slump the last couple of months. It wasn’t exactly a reading slump because I did read a bit, but I didn’t finish most of the books that I started. This explains why my ‘currently reading’ shelf on Goodreads has 10 books in it, although I’m actually, really reading just the one book. The other books that have been retained on that shelf are… aspirational, shall we say? (Don’t worry. I frequently don’t understand myself so there’s no judgment if you don’t understand me.)

Anyway, the book that I’m currently reading is White Oleander by Janet Fitch. I saw a quote from the book on a book group that I’m a part of on Facebook, and I saw that several people whose taste in books I trust had commented that they love this book. So I bought it for my Kindle. I only got around to reading it a few weeks later, though.

I’m really enjoying this book, which is about a girl Astrid and her life after her mother Ingrid, is imprisoned for murder. Her mother is a published poet of some acclaim before her incarceration. 

Astrid is a child who grows up in the background of her mother’s whims and fancies and she warms to anyone who gives her some attention. She is a talented artist.

I love the writing in this book. It’s beautiful, poetic and picturesque but it’s so measured. The author never gets carried away. She is never verbose and it’s clear that there isn’t one word in here that she didn’t want there and that she didn’t put in there after much thought and deliberation.

I love how an absent mother like Ingrid still has specific ideas about what her daughter should and shouldn’t be. Her letters from prison contain quite excellent advice, actually. This book is so good of quotable quotes, and I keep highlighting them. This is a book that I need to reread. I never reread books anymore. I wonder why that is. I need to set aside days where I only reread books; lovely, heart-wrenching books like this one. 

I don’t know where this book is going, though, don’t know how it’ll end. I’ll do a full review once I understand that. Till then, I’ll just go along for the journey and bask in the language and smile whimsically to myself at intervals. 

I’m kind of glad this is likely the last book I’ll read this year because it’s frightening but kind of bittersweet, just like this year has been. I’ll do a post describing this year in review for you guys soon. 

Have any of you read this book? What did you think of it? What’s your favourite quote from this book? What is everyone else reading this holiday season? Let me know in the comments! 

Hoot.

Sin

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?

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

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

Book Haul!

Confession: I buy a lot of books! A lot more than I read these days, which makes me sad. I don’t usually do book hauls, because I don’t know if they work in blog posts as well as they do in videos.

However, I am particularly excited about this book haul because one of my favourite second hand bookstores in Bangalore, Bookworm, expanded. EXPANDED. In this day and age, when people are debating whether the time of independent bookstores and physical books is over, the owner bought a 5000 sq ft location and opened a brand new bookstore, moving from the tiny-ish basement location. I still adored the tiny basement location, of course, but this is something else!

I went at the beginning of this month and it was so beautiful, so spacious and just such a lovely atmosphere, that I simply HAD to buy a buttload of books, regardless of how many unread ones are already chilling at home. Judge me all you like, but I was helping the independent book-selling industry! What did you do with your effin’ day, huh, Judgment-face?

Anyway, here are the books that I bought, some second-hand, some shiny and new, but all discounted. Because I’m a loyal customer. And because I buy way too many books. 😛 IMG_20160410_180207710There. Books I’ve been dying to read, books I’d never heard of before, authors I’ve been dying to read… all in one beautiful picture. This picture sort of represents my reading style. A bit of fantasy, a bit of science fiction, a lot of literary fiction, a tiny smidgeon of non-fiction, a lot of humour, some Indian writing… but one thing is completely off, as I just realised: No women! I read a lot of women as a rule, consciously to be more diverse, but I also migrate towards women writers sub-consciously because I like their writing styles and the themes they write about. I’m surprised at myself.

Huh. Who knew that book hauls lead to so much introspection?

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Have you wanted to read any of them? Let me know in the comments!