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

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!

The Virgin Suicides| Book Review

This is my third Jeffrey Eugenides’ book. I read them in reverse order of publication, just like I did with Adichie’s.
This was Eugenides’ debut novel.
I really enjoyed his other two books, The Marriage Plot and Middlesex.
Both were completely different in genre, content and style of writing, which is kind of mindblowing when you think about it. And both were thoroughly arresting.
I didn’t get through this book on my first try, but I never hold that against the book since I am a mood reader.
As it turned out, I really liked this book when I gave it a second shot. 
This is an odd book.
It’s about 5 sisters whom we never meet firsthand, the titular ‘virgins’ which is more an allusion to their mystery and perceived perfection and purity rather than their sexual activities.
The entire book is from the perspective of a group of boys, now middle – aged men who are inexplicably obsessed with these blond sisters with their strict, overly religious mother and  hen-pecked father. 
The book takes the form of reminiscences of the men themselves, extracts from interviews they conducted, and assorted documents that they accumulated over the years. And they are all concentrated on one year of their teenage years during which all five of these sisters commit suicide, apparently for no reason. 
The format of this book gave it a hazy quality, overflowing with naiveté and nostalgia.
The style of writing was very lyrical, which was true of Middlesex as well. However, both books strike very different chords in one’s mind.
The Virgin Suicides is filled with overtones of longing for the girls, which blends in with the men’s longing for the old days, and allusions to a bleak future due to urbanisation and environmental damage, an apparent metaphor for a world sans the freshness, innocence and beauty of these girls. 
The level of obsession of these men is disturbing as is the level of… well, not objectification, but rather idolatry that these girls are subject to. The reason for the obsession, which predates the first suicide attempt is unclear.
I figured it was probably because they were unattainable, because of their strict upbringing, but that’s a fairly flimsy reason in my eyes for such a level of preoccupation.
It made me uncomfortable, but it also made the book more interesting. It’s supposed to be a look into the girls’ suicides but it read like a long love letter to all five of them. 
The only thing that I can conclude is that this is one of those books, rich with imagery, ideas and excellent narrative that has been written for the sake of a story, and nothing more than that.
There is no character development, there is no real beginning, middle and end, and there is no greater message. There is only pure narration… and it works. The girls are one dimensional because that’s how the boys saw them.  In an irritating way, it makes perfect sense. 
This is an extremely quotable book, which deserves a reread at some point, just for the clever lines that make one close the book, look up at the ceiling and smile.
It truly invokes all five senses and leaves one with a not entirely unpleasant bittersweet taste in one’s mouth.
Sorry if my review is meandering, because the book is too. 
It’s a unique and enjoyable read, I thought, and I would definitely recommend it to people.
Have you read this book? Have you read any of Eugenides’ other books? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.
Here are other places you can go find me if you want:
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

Landline | Book Review

Hello everybody!
Yesterday was my birthday! I had an amazing day, ate ice cream cake (Which is easily the best culinary invention known to man), spent time with people I carew about, went shopping, and did all of those great things that make a birthday fun. Most importantly, I also spent the first hour or so of my birthday reading because it’s kind of the point of life and living and other such things to be able to read in the night on your birthday. It eliminates that bitter taste in your mouth left by the not-so-perfect things. We’ll always have books. ❤
The book I read was Landline by Rainbow Rowell. This is the first book of hers that I’ve read. It’s her newest novel, and it released in 2014. It’s her second book that’s written for adults, the other being Attachments I think.
The storyline of this one and another of her books, Fangirl, have always interested me the most. Recently, I’ve been finding her books in the bookstores I frequent, which is great. In fact, I’ve already bought and shelved Eleanor and Park, but I’ve gotten an inkling that it doesn’t end happily, so I haven’t read it yet.
That may make no sense to anyone because I read a lot of books about abused people, and books set in war-ravaged third world countries, and a lot of psychedelic mess-with-your-head books. My favourite genre is dystopic, for God’s sake! It’s really stupid to be scared of a YA book with a cute cover because it may not have a happy ending. Well, here’s the thing. I like my love stories happy. I like it when people end up together. If I’m to read a person-meets-person story that deals with their relationship almost exclusively, they better make it worth my while by ending up together!
Errr… As you can see, I have strong opinions about this topic. (As I do about every other topic under the sun.) Anyway, I’ll wrap this up because it isn’t what my post is about. People who’ve read Eleanor and Park already, let me know if it’s worth reading sooner rather than later. Thanks! 🙂
Now that we’ve all understood my stand on a completely pointless topic, and also heard me rant about it, tradition demands that I actually talk about what I intended to talk about. Yes?
So. Landline. I liked it overall. I like stories with magical realism in them, especially when they aren’t rationally explained. That’s what stories are for, right? In this book, Georgie is an ambitious, focused woman, determined to succeed in the male-dominated field of comedy writing.
Her husband stays at home to look after their two adorable girls, and it’s seen later in the book that he’s tried a number of career-paths, but didn’t actually enjoy any of them.
I wasn’t too hot about him at the beginning of the book. He seemed distant and nasty and I kept placing myself in Georgie’s shoes, because law is just as time-consuming a profession, and I wouldn’t want to come home to cold anger. Through the book, though, I found myself warming to him, not because of any great personality transformation, but because we get to see their relationship develop. More than anything, I saw him through Georgie’s eyes, and it’s so plain to see that she loves him that I started liking him too. That’s a pretty skilful thing to do. Kudos to Rainbow Rowell for that.
The story starts with the saturation of their already strained relationship when Georgie has to work during Christmas. They had plans to visit Neal’s mom and Georgie suggests cancelling, but Neal says he and the kids are going to Omaha without her. Things are very nasty between them before Neal and the kids leave and Georgie works herself into a state about it. Her mom assumes that their marriage is over and has Georgie come over because she thinks she can’t be alone. Georgie’s iPhone is screwed up so she calls his phone from her old landline and she ends up speaking to a younger version of Neal, from before they were married.
This bit is what attracted me to the story, actually. I’m only 23, but I’ve been in a relationship for five and a half years, and a LOT of it was long distance because I went to law school in a different city. We were young and we ought to have broken up and seen other people because long distance is hard, and 18 is too early to close down all your options. But the fact is that we didn’t want to break up. We DID break up, a lot of times, but we didn’t want to stay broken for longer than a day or two. We couldn’t have survived it if we didn’t have telephones, so don’t tell me they aren’t magic. They are! And potent magic too! Jokes, aside, it’s a very interesting premise, and Rainbow Rowell does make it work, with an interesting twist at the end, no less.
This doesn’t mean that the book is perfect. The level to which Georgie fell apart was inexplicable. I couldn’t see it or relate to it. I’m pretty sure that it’s possible to be more responsible and sensible than that! And this is coming from the least responsible person. (Ok, not the least responsible, but I’m in the top 100 in the world.)
Also, the story dragged on a bit towards the middle, or at least that’s how I felt.
Overall though, this was the perfect birthday read, interesting and unique, and fun to read. I really want to read Fangirl now, but I can’t because I don’t have it, and I’ve bought way, way, way too many books this year. I made ANOTHER exception for my birthday because I’m secretly insane, apparently. Fun, isn’t it? No more books till the end of the year! And possibly more. We’ll see.
Good book, this. A fun read. Give it a read if it’s up your alley.
Have you guys read this or any other Rainbow Rowell book? How did you like it? Have you read similar books that you think I’d enjoy? Remember, owls love book recommendations!
Cheers.
Ohhhh don’t forget to stalk me if you want to know about my life and what I’m into and stuff.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/owlishwriter
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/8681585-sindhu
Twitter: @sindrao22
Email: owlishreader@gmail.com
Instagram: owlishphotographer
Love you guys (Especially if you comment! :D)
Hoot,
Sin

How do you convince people of the value of fiction?

I’m going to quote what Salman Rushdie said about this topic in this interview because it really appealed to me as the right approach when people refuse to take your hand and enter the worlds that mean the most to you:

If you were stuck in an elevator with a person who refused to read fiction, how would you change his or her mind?

Oh, no. I’d just get out of the elevator as fast as possible. One of the things I’ve learned is that you don’t change people’s minds. There are people who love fiction and there are people who find it stupid. “What’s the use of stories that aren’t even true?” as Haroun asked his father… And unless they’re fortunate enough to stumble upon a book that opens some door in their head that hadn’t been opened before, you can’t change it by arguing. So my view is you know, thanks a lot, I’ll get off here.”

There it is. Short, truthful and effortless, if a little snarky! Clever, isn’t he?
He has another novel out. Go check out the original interview for more details.
In other news, I’m considering giving Midnight’s Children another chance. I didn’t like it the first time I tried reading it, even though the premise did appeal to me. So I’m thinking about picking it up again now because I think I’ve become a different person and a different reader.
What did you think of Rushdie’s opinion on people who don’t read fiction? Do you think he was rather too disdainful? Do you think the uphill battle to get someone to read fiction is worth it? I personally have fought that battle and lost every time.
Also, do you guys think Midnight’s Children is worth my time? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments.