Saturday, May 17, 2014

This Week In Books - 17th May

Its been a stinking bout of reading for me...not many titles that knocked my socks off this past month...but a bookworm just soldiers on doesn't she? Let me wrap up my reads from last week...

1. How It All Began by Penelope Lively
Publication: Viking Adult
Pages: 240
First published: 2011

Well, after that jump start, with the mugging initiating some changes the book takes a nosedive and becomes a complete bore fest. Probably because we have two kinds of old people complaining about their lives in two different ways, one middle-aged character going through a mediocre-level middle-life crisis, an adulterer and his psycho wife, a mistress and her failed attempt at a remodelling contract -all of them written in a way that does nothing to make you feel anything towards the characters.
Beyond a point I couldn't care less about what happened to them. Peace out!

2. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi 
Publication: Riverhead
Pages: 308
First published: 2014

This book was quite disappointing given that it has garnered terrific support in book circles. I think the 'Snow White re-telling' tag used to sell it only increased my disregard for it. I didn't outright hate it, it does have some bouts of superb writing but those clash with some really bland and illogical parts that don't make the end result satisfying. The plot deals with racism primarily, how prejudice against colored people worked in the time period this book is set in and for such a serious issue, neither the exploration nor development of characters did any justice to the points of view they were entrusted with. 

Snow just became a ruse after a point, Boy became unreasonable without solid backing and hence boring, Bird was just annoying and not quite drawn out well. I expected better.

3. Vanity Bagh by Anees Salim
Publication: Picador India
Pages: 248
First published: 2013

Which is why this book was a life-saver! A redeemer of bookwormly faith. My word the dark humour. I loved every page of it. We have one more terrific Indian writer on the scene and I couldn't be happier. 

Salim deals cheek, wit and sarcasm with an expert hand and it is the Indianness of this book that makes it brilliant and super-enjoyable. Mine was a library copy but I fully intend to buy my own and mark the hell out of those lines! Two thumbs-up dear author. Looking forward to reading more from you. 

4. The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
Publication: Scribner
Pages: 368
First published: 1993

So this book won a Pulitzer and comes from the author who wrote Brokeback Mountain which is a short story/novella that was developed into the movie. I love that movie, Gyllenhall and Ledger acted the crap out of it and I was only super excited to read a novel by the same author. 

I began reading like this.

It was nice to start with.Then came this weird kind of writing and that makes you think someone wrote the lines and cut it all up and when they put it together a lot of words went missing. And this wasn't even with good reason. I understand the urge behind complex prose. You use big words and try expressing big ideas that take a couple of reads to get through...that's fine. But missing words in between deliberately, writing like its a gimmick, making me wonder if you are hiding in my closet sniggering at my annoyance...that's just rude. I ploughed through to 50 pages. And then I did what most people seem to have done with this book.

We hear ya Bradley...
I wanted to burn this book, but you know...library copy and all that.

Coming to my current reads. After that mostly unsatisfactory list, save for Vanity Bagh, I really wish I could find my pace and bliss again amidst written pages. One of my Goodreads friends recommended this book:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

The author herself calls it a re-telling of Cinderella, except Cinder is a cyborg machine. Sounds awesome. Let's see.

I also have Lisa See's China Dolls on my list this week. Its an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) and the book hits the market in June. I like what I've read so far. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

This Week In Books - 07th May

This is technically last week's post but I'm bending some boundaries here and posting a late-last-week, mid-this-week update. Maybe I've been time travelling and have lost my grip on the here and the now. Keep guessing! Here's the fare...let me know how I fared. (See what I did there? Bwahaha)

1. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Publication: Bloomsbury
Pages: 324
First published: 2003

I finished this book as promised. Another moving, gripping read from Hosseini that details the spoils of the wars in Afghanistan, if I may describe it thus. Hosseini tends to employ the drama tactic to deliver his stories and I felt they kind of did a backfire on him in this book because they came across as a little too forced/contrived at times. He didn't have to quite literally point out certain cause and effects or hint openly at a karmic or character conclusion for a touch of showmanship. I'm glad I read his second book first (A Thousand Splendid Suns) because the narrative in that one was more rounded and gut-wrenching that this one. 

The plot has many gaping holes, a few convenient elements and conclusions but it is once again a peep into the dark quite recent history that runs through Hosseini's home country and that is never a joke, no matter how you commercialize it. Give this one a shot if you'd like to know the background behind those far-away names you heard on the news now and then.

Moving on...

2. How It All Began by Penelope Lively
Publication: Viking Adult
Pages: 240
First published: 2011

This one was on my TBR list for quite some time and I finally decided to get to it. It is loosely based on the chaos theory, how some small incident can trigger changes in many lives completely at random, or otherwise. The story sort of begins off with such a random incident but after that it dives head along into the lives of the characters it deals with so chaos is free to retire. I didn't quite get the need to lay stress on this incident that kicks off the book, as opposed to causing a domino effect. I'm still reading this one so maybe fate turns up later too. We'll see.

So far the characters have been okay, none of them have left a lasting impression on me save for Anton and his English lessons. Everyone else comes off either as too detached and bent upon screwing their lives or too obsessed with being illogical. The narrative tries too hard to make a point and its gotten a little boring right now. Hopefully, I can chug through to the end. Fingers crossed.

3. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
Publication: Riverhead
Pages: 308
First published: 2014

Ah this book. This is one of those refreshing reads that turn up just when you need them. My list has been quite heavy and dragging for the past couple of weeks and this is a welcome break.

Boy, Snow, Bird is the story of a girl named Boy (Bingo!), who runs away from her abusive father. How her life unfolds from that point onwards is the plot. The narrative, the language and the wit are delicious! Boy is a teenager when the book opens and you expect her to be dodgy and whiny but she becomes intriguing instead with a detached air that draws you in. When she runs away she is twenty and a bit of a drawl, she is one of those goth-characters who can either be super-mysterious or super-annoying, but Oyeyemi toys the line with such panache and control you keep reading on. Its a thrilling read with an ominous tone and I am loving it. Can't wait to read what happens next. 

Will keep ya posted. I'm doing this as a buddy read for May with Emily on Goodreads.

4. Vanity Bagh by Anees Salim
Publication: Picador India
Pages: 248
First published: 2013

And we come to the 4th book I am reading for this week, one by an indigenous author, and one that rightly merits The Hindu Literary Award that it won earlier this year. 

Salim's book is out and out regional.The language, the dry humour, the satire - they are done with a causal flair that pulls you into the book and if you like me read on the train, will make you laugh like an isolated loony. This is well on its way to being one of the best reads this year for me. More on this next week. For now, I leave you with one of those quotes that left me shaking with mirth. 

"Pather Pranklin frayed and frayed and 
balked and balked around the free.
- Ghulam Chacha (1902-2007)"

I mean there is a tree in this book, named Franklin really. SOLD!