Friday, 28 June 2013

Book Haul: Books of June 2013, Part II. /// Online Bookstores Edition.

Another haul of books! June has been a good book buying month. Or bad...if you see it from the bank balance perspective :) I choose to see it as a good thing! 

I got these books mostly from online bookstores and got most of them at pretty great deals. The last book I got at an indie bookstore and it promises to be a sweet little children's book...sometimes I am just in the mood for a sweet story and to be reminded of a simpler time. 

I've already read 4 books out of this pile. :) 

There will be another book haul of the June books in the near future. I received 10 books in the mail today and another one is on it's way. I don't even want to think about the total number of books I've acquired in June! Also don't tell my parents! They will not be amused!

Review: Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi

Book: Embroideries

Author: Marjane Satrapi

Pages: 145

How long it took me to read: Under an hour. 

Plot Summary: There really isn't any, this is graphic novel about an afternoon session of tea and gossip amongst a group of women in Tehran, Iran. An afternoon of tea, laughter, gossip and stories.

Characters: There is Marji herself, if you've read Persepolis you know her and her family pretty well already. There is also Marji's grandmother (whom I love!) and her mother and a host of other women who have very funny stories to share.

What I liked: Everything!!!! The stories. The art. The camaraderie. The laughter and the very spirit of gossip. It made me crave both tea and the company of these women.

What I didn't: 145 pages?!! That's it? I needed more!

General Thoughts: I wanted this book the minute I read Persepolis. In another slightly creepy note, I had seen this book in a movie and didn't know what this book was for a long, long time. The movie was Dev D, an Indian movie (in Hindi), it's a modern day re-telling of Devdas- an Indian classic. If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend it. In the movie, Kalki's character is reading this book and I don't know about you but in any movie or TV show if anyone is reading a book, I must know what book that is. This book had me stumped. I remember coming back from the theatre and Googling the name of the book but didn't come up with anything. Then Voila, a few months ago, while ordering Persepolis from an online bookstore, this one popped up as well!!! Yay! I got Persepolis first and this month I got my hands on this.

This book is lovely, simple and sweet and funny. REALLY FUNNY! I burst out laughing quite a few time during this book. I really recommend it. You'll love it! It made me miss the women in my extended family quite a bit. I missed our sessions full of gossip and tea and samosas. Ah!

Will you love it? Hell yes!

Rating: 5/5.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.

Book: The Name of the Star

Author: Maureen Johnson

Pages: 372

How Long it took me to read: A day or two. But I read the first 165 odd pages in one sitting in 3 hours or so.

Plot Summary: Rory Deveaux moves to London for her senior year of high school from Louisiana, For Rory it's a new beginning and hopefully an exciting time in her life. But the day she moves to London, all of London is abuzz with the gruesome crime that has just occurred. A maniac is mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper murders from more than a century ago. And Rory's new boarding school is smack in the middle of Ripper's playground.

But for Rory, the Rippermania is nothing more than background noise, she is busy adjusting to her new life and schedule and trying to keep up with the demands of a British curriculum. The police are trying to find the new serial killer but have no leads. Till one night, Rory spots the man whom the police believe to be their main suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Her roommate, Jazza, who was with her at the time didn't notice the mysterious man. So why did Rory? And does this mean she is next on the killer's hitlist??

Characters: There is Rory of course, our main lead, I really liked Rory. Her reactions to situations and her feelings about boarding school came across as normal. I liked her, she seemed like the girl next door. I also really liked reading about her family in Louisiana and their little quirks and stories. They sound like such a fun bunch.

Then there is Jazza, Rory's roommate and best friend, if you move to a new boarding school, you'd appreciate a friend like Jazza. She is sweet and kind  and drinks tea and reads Jane Austen before bed. What's not to love?

There is also Jerome, the school journalist and the resident Ripper enthusiast. He is also Rory's love interest. He is nice enough character.

Once Rory get involved deeply in the Rippermania, a host of other characters join the story. Stephen, Callum and Boo are Rory's new friends and I really liked them a lot. Boo, Bhuvana Chodhari- is an Indian girl and it gave me a slight kick to find an Indian character in the book.

What I Liked: Pretty much everything- from the whole Ripper-ness to the life in a boarding school. I am a sucker for life at British boarding schools, this book, the first half pretty much exclusively dealt with Rory adjusting to her new school and her new life, I loved reading about it.

I also enjoyed pretty much all the characters. The writing in the book was great too, simple and concise. The pacing was great and I wasn't bored at any point in the book.

What I didn't Like: Hmmm..nothing really. Well, the book really kept a steady pace throughout but the last 30 or so pages went a little too fast and whole lot of action was cramped into it. Most of the book was a little slow, or action less compared to the final pages, which isn't the worst thing but I think instead of stuffing all that material in the last 30 pages the author could have had a 50 page climax.

General Thoughts: This book was on my wish list for ages and ages, I finally got it this month from Infibeam at a pretty decent rate, it took forever to get to me but it's OK. It made for a perfect rainy day read- it was dark and mysterious and perfect. The second book in the series is already out and I just might order it soon. Also my sister is currently reading it and is gripped. :) 

Will you like it? If you like serial killers, Jack the Ripper, London, Boarding Schools, Ghosts and mystery you probably will love this book.

Rating: 4.5/5

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Book: Gone Girl

Author: Gillian Flynn

Pages: 432

How long it took me to read: 2 days

Plot Summary: Amy and Nick Dunne, both out-of-work journalists/writers, who used to live in New York, are making a fresh go of their marriage in Nick's hometown of North Carthage, Missouri.  Things seem alright in their marriage- to an outsider- but then one summer morning- on the day of Nick and Amy's fifth wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne vanishes. As the cops and the media start hounding Nick and suspecting him of doing away with Amy, the true story of their marriage unfolds via Amy's diary and Nick's recollections.
So, basically, this book has all the makings of a great psychological thriller- evasive husband who is having an affair with a younger woman, beautiful, rich and intelligent wife who is missing under suspicious circumstances and a small town that is agog with curiosity and excitement and are all but openly blaming Nick for doing away with Amy. But is Amy really dead? Moreover, is Amy really who she seems via her diary? Or is Nick who he seems in his own recollections? This book raises a lot of questions about reliable narrators. Though, no where in the philosophical and beautiful way that The Sense of an Ending does.

Characters: Well, there are the key protagonists, obviously. Nick Dunne- small town golden boy and success story. He had made quite a name for himself before getting laid off and deciding to move back to his hometown to start afresh by co-owning a bar with his twin sister- Margo. Then there is Amy- the only child of two rich and successful children's book authors. Totally Type A and controlling and bizarre, and more as we find out as the story progresses.

Without spoiling the book for those who want to read it, I will say that neither Nick nor Amy connected with me. I couldn't empathize with them or relate to them or even feel sorry for them. They are pathetic and disgusting and so uninspiring that reading about them and their, fictitious lives, made me want to get into the book and slap both of them!

Well, one might say that eliciting such an intense reaction from the readers is probably a win for the book and the author. Maybe it is. If Ms. Flynn's objective was to get readers pissed off with her key protagonists, then, well, she has done a great job by writing such characters. However, call me simplistic, but I prefer books where I can connect with or empathize with, at least, one character. I like to put myself in the characters' shoes and imagine how I would react if I were do.. what would I do.. what would I say etc. However, Gone Girl gave me none of that gratification. I don't think it is meant to, to be fair, but it was disappointing. Even within the psychological thriller genre, one does find characters that one can empathize with. In this book- no one, nada, zip, zilch.

In fact, as a reader, one tends to feel frustrated, annoyed and, even, betrayed as one learns more and more about what really happened to Amy and what Nick's role in all of it was.

Other small fry characters like Margo, Amy's over-bearing parents, Desi- Amy's high school/college boyfriend- were all fairly under-developed and insignificant. 

What I Liked: Now, let me say this without confusing anyone who is still with me reading this review- I liked the concept of the book. The concept of Gone Girl is about the inside-story or the anatomy of a marriage and how no one but the people in a marriage know its truth. The story is also about two narrators that are not the most trustworthy and who keep lying about the past and the events leading up to Amy's disappearance.

Though, I will say this, the inside story of a marriage bit is scary in case of this marriage. So scary.

What I didn't like: Read the 'Characters' section above. There was lots to not like in this book.

While I liked the concept (which is what made me pick up the book), I did not like the execution of it at all. For an avid crime/thriller reader and viewer, I found the book very predictable! I knew the moment the woman vanished- she was pregnant as well- that it will not be something as straightforward as the husband offing her, because, that my friends, would make this book a re-telling of the tragic Laci Peterson story! So, it was pretty obvious what was going on.

Also, to the keen reader, there were some pretty obvious clues in Amy's "diary" that was left behind and that the police were using as evidence to nail Nick for her disappearance. So, I don't get what the big hype behind this book is. This is an obvious story with a very obvious "twist".

General Thoughts: Gillian Flynn is much celebrated because her books are "dark" and are psychological thrillers, however,  it is appalling how poorly researched they are! I mean, any avid Criminal Minds or Law and Order viewer will find some 10 rookie mistakes in this book relating to police procedure and investigation! It is a shame, really, for someone who is so celebrated to make such basic mistakes like not accounting for cell phone tracking or basic DNA analysis etc.

Will you like it: I am not sure if you will, to be honest. This is the kind of book that has highly polarized reactions on Good Reads. If you like reading dark books about dark people, you may enjoy this.

Rating: 2/5

Book Haul: Books of June, 2013/// Part I.

Oh the joys of buying books! Fewer things make me as happy. The feeling I get as I walk into a bookstore is simply the best. As much as I like ordering books online and getting a good deal on them, I just adore buying books in their natural habitat- a bookstore. 

I bought all of these books this week in one evening. Yay! 2 bookstores and 9 books and 4 little book-babies- the Little Miss and Little Mr. books. They were too cute to leave behind. Plus, they have the sweetest art work. 

I am especially excited about the last 3 books, all Penguin Library Classics. I LOVE these gorgeous covers and I cannot wait to read them. Pretty covers makes reading even more fun. 

I am also excited to read Freedom, I've heard nothing but great things. Also The Orphan Master's Son sounds incredible, I am very curious about North Korea and reading about it should be enlightening. 

But all this book buying means I really need to impose some sort of a book ban on myself...I could try not buying books for all of July...unless I come across something amazing! :) 

I am all set to get my reading on :)

Friday, 21 June 2013

Reading Resolutions 2013.

I am a resolution maker/taker. And once I put it down in writing I am pretty good at keeping said resolutions.  At least I try my level best to keep my resolutions. I also make weekend goals and week goals- about things I need to get done and things I want to try and do. Making a list keeps me on track. In the beginning of the year with the zeal of the new year and a chance of starting something new upon me, I wanted to make some reading related resolutions. With half the year nearly over (where does time fly?) I thought its a good time as any to revisit my Reading Resolutions and see how I am doing.

1. Read more classics. /// I pretty much have this on my list every single year. And I am really bad I keeping it. Reading classics is amazing. But it takes some time. And effort. Reading contemporary books makes switching to classics take some time. This year I am happy to report things are a little better. I've read 2 classics already. I also want to read different kinds of classics- including Modern Classics, American classics and Indian classics.

2. Read more Murakami. /// I read my first Murakami last year and fell in love. I read 3 Murakami books last year and this year I want to read as many as I can. I've bought 4 Murkami books and read one so far. So not bad at all!

3. Read more John Green. /// Similar to the point above, I wanted to read more from an author who I discovered last year and really loved. So far I have bought another Green book and will read it soon.

4. Read more Horror. /// I am a huge fan of horror and scary movies. Anything to do with spooks and scares and I am all over it. Weirdly enough that love and interest has never translated into horror books. I read a huge amount of murder mysteries and thrillers and serial killer type books and I LOVE those. But I haven't read a pure horror book. So this year I want to read seriously spooky books. So far I've read some and realllllly enjoyed it.

5. Don't finish books you don't like. /// This one is hard for me. If I start a book and even if I don't like it I push myself to finish it. No more! Life is too short to read bad books. So even if I feel bad about leaving a book half read, I am going to push it aside. If I don't like has got to go.

6. Re-read all the Harry Potter books. /// I used to re-read all the Potter books before the new one came out. Fun fact: I got glasses after I re-read more of book 4 and 5 in bad lighting before book 6 came out! But I haven't read any of the books since the last one came out. To be fair, the last book pretty much left me shell-shocked for a week and crying like a mad person thinking about all the people that died in it. But it's time to re-visit the world of magic and wizards.

7. Read all the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Books. /// We've had these books for nearly a decade and a couple of years ago I read the first one and loved it. Then I realised we were missing the next two books in the series and had some of the other books, a broken collection. But we mended that last year and bought all 12 books. This year my sister read them all, she was up to number 8 or something. We also got the 13th one. So we now have the complete set and I really should start reading it. My sister loves these books and did a post on them HERE.

8. Re-read books. /// I really need to do this. The whole point of buying and owning books is to re-visit them.

9. Start a book blog. /// Done! :D

10. Read more translated works. /// This is to ensure I read more world literature and to make sure I read some Bengali books, I can't read Bengali, so translation will do just fine.

11. Read the older books sitting on the bookshelf. /// I have books that we've had for over 10 years and I still haven't read them. While I am really good at reading new books, I forget to read older ones. No more! I've been routinely reading older books and feeling better.

12. Read big-fat-huge books. /// While reading books can be a pain...literally to my wrist and hand and not to mention to carry around, it doesn't mean they should be ignored. Plus there is something entirely too satisfying about finishing a huge book. Last year, I read Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy, which is a mammoth book of 1488 pages. I loved that book and hadn't read it all time because it was so huge. But last year I bought it and read and was so glad at the end of it.

So these are my Reading Resolutions. Do you have any???

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Review: The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

Book: The Forty Rules of Love

Author: Elif Shafak

Pages: 368

How long it took me to read: 1.5 days

Plot Summary: Moving seamlessly between 13th century Turkey and present-day United States, The Forty Rules of Love, tells two stories. The first is of the renowned poet-philosopher Rumi and how he met his soulmate, mentor and spiritual guide- the enigmatic and deeply spiritual Shams of Tabrizi (Shams). The second story is about Ella Rubenstein, who is 40 years old and unhappily married. Her kids no longer need her and her marriage is cold. She has started working as a reader with a literary agency and her first assignment is to evaluate a new manuscript by a man called Azia Zahara. As Ella reads Aziz's story about Rumi and Shams and the forty rules of love, she realizes that life is about more than what she has experienced or the rut that she is gotten into and that this novel and its mysterious writer will change her life and thinking just like Shams did for Rumi all those centuries ago.

Characters: In the thirteenth century story, the main characters are Rumi and Shams. Rumi is a renowned scholar and philosopher, who is respected by everyone around him. However, of late, he has been feeling a sense of ennui and been lacking in intellectual stimulation. Rumi is told that he will meet with his spiritual advisor, who will be a person who will change the way he looks at the world. Shams is a wandering dervish, who believes in universal love vs. dogmatic religion and he has these simple but profound 'forty rules of love' that he lives by. When Shams and Rumi meet, Rumi's life and worldview changes much to the dismay of his family, friends and the clerics in his city. Their story is one of Rumi learning about love and taking a much more spiritual view of life, God and religion rather than merely a dogmatic one. I loved Shams. He is so deep and inspiring and his forty rules of love are, indeed, something to live by! Here is my absolute favourite:

"Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?" 

See what I mean? These rules will change your life! :) Or, at any rate, give you excellent food for thought. 
Ella is also likeable. She is stuck in a rut and is struggling for happiness and purpose. Aziz's words (via his novel and then via email) drive her along towards finding more meaning in her life. Aziz is interesting, but a tad predictable. You almost know that he will mirror Shams in this equation and where his character is headed is also easy to guess, but this predictability does not really make a difference in the overall tale. 

Of the two narratives in this book, I really enjoyed the story of Shams and Rumi. So inspiring and every rule makes you think, nod and take copious notes!

What I Liked: I really enjoyed Elif Shafak's writing style. It is so fluid and beautiful. I also really enjoyed reading about thirteenth century Turkey, of Rumi, of the clerics who were making religion more and more dogmatic and, most of all, I loved reading about Shams. His mischief, his insight, his kindness were such a delight to read. Above all, I quite literally loved the forty rules of love.

What I Didn't Like: Nothing really. The Ella-Aziz story was a bit predictable, but I didn't really dislike it. The Shams-Rumi bits were so good that it was easy to move past the predictable love story.

General Thoughts: Typically, I am not the type to write down or highlight passages in books, but I just couldn't help it in this case! I have pages of quotes and thoughts highlighted and I keep re-visiting the forty rules now and then. I have also become an Elif Shafak fan! I have already read (and enjoyed) The Bastard of Istanbul and I have recently bought her next book- Honour. She really is a stunning, rich voice from Turkey, following in the grand tradition of Orhan Pamuk- even though their styles are different.

Will you like it? If you enjoy reading about different cultures and like books that move between two time periods. Also, if you need some inspiration and motivation in your life right now, this is a good book to pick up- it will make you want to make changes for the better!

Rating:  I gave this book a 5/5; it is a keeper!

Buy Here: Amazon | Flipkart

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Review: Oleander Girl by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.

Book: Oleander Girl

Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Pages: 304

How Long it took me to read: 2-3 days. (I had some issues with this book.)

Plot Summary: This is the story of Korobi Roy, a 17 year old who has lived a sheltered life with her maternal grandparents following the death of her mother at birth and the death of her father even before. Korobi, Bengali for Oleander, has gone to a boarding school since she was five and has only recently returned to her family home in Calcutta for college. The Roys are a distinguished family and Korobi is the apple of her grandparents' eye. Korobi is set to get engaged to Rajat Bose, a suave young man she has recently met and fallen madly in love with. Her strict grandfather has surprised Korobi and said yes to this love match. But on the evening of her engagement, tragedy befalls the Roys. Korobi's grandfather dies suddenly, leaving Korobi heartbroken.

But the worst is yet to come, Korobi soon finds out that her beloved grandparents have been keeping a big secret from her. Her father- a supposed Bengali man is not dead, also he isn't Bengali at all. He is an American and very much alive somewhere in the USA. Korobi then sets off to New York to find her father and find herself.

Characters: There is Korobi herself, our leading lady, who is a typical 17 year old in some ways- scared, in awe of her new boyfriend and his sophisticated family. She loves her grandparents yet caves a little bit of freedom from their old fashioned ways. She is well-written character but not one I identified with, she is meek, almost a little toooooo meek. Her grandparents, especially her grandmother, Sarojini was one of my favourite characters in the book. She is silent but strong. She is a good person who has been forced to live with a terrible secret. I really liked reading about her.

There is also the Bose family, Korobi's in-laws to be. Rajat was a interesting character- is is impulsive, spoilt, conflicted about his feelings for Korobi and his passions for his ex-girlfriend Sonia. I overall liked Rajat- though he is not someone I'd like to marry. I really liked Pia, Rajat's sister.

There are also a host of characters Korobi meet in the US and they are just secondary characters for most part.

What I liked: The writing. I am a big fan of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's writing and this book was just as well written as some of her other books. Some of the characters were also well-written and real. The story and the premise of the book were good too.

What I didn't like: Oh God so much!!!! The book was great till Korobi decides to go the US and no one, not her grandmother, not her fiance or his family want her go. She wants to look for her father and no one supports her decision..which I find very odd. Given that the girl wants to look for her father and not for a penpal, it is a tad surprising that not one person supports her. Also, this is, supposedly, 2002 and everyone in Korobi's life is panicking at the prospect of her travelling to America alone! All of this does not seem very coherently thought out and put together at all. It seems like Divakaruni is still stuck in the 1960s when some of her better works were set- this book really lacked the contemporary feel it should have had.

One of the biggest grouses with the book was that it was set in 2002. And for no good reason. I don't know if the author wants to maybe write a sequel in the future or not, so perhaps then it makes sense to set the book 11 years ago. But by setting it in 2002,the author has cashed in on post 9/11 chaos and the Godhra riots. I didn't like it. At all! Why set a book in a certain point in history just to cash in on two tragedies??? The book, the story could have been set in the present just as easily, so why set in at a turbulent point in time????? More so, 9/11 and the Godhra carnage do not, in anyway, add to the story. So, why set the book at this point in time? To me it seemed rather sensationalist for no good reason.

Also from the very beginning of the book we are told how sheltered Korobi is and how innocent she is, this is 2002 not 1962. Why is Korobi described like such a retro woman? Also she has spent all her life in a boarding school and that's why she is sheltered. Won't being in a hostel make you more street smart and sure of yourself if you've lived away from home??? That reasoning just didn't sit well with me. As a general thumbrule and also based on real hostellers that I know, kids who have lived in hostels or been to boarding schools are way more independent and street-smart as compared to their 'lived at home' counterparts. I am willing to bet that Korobi would have been more "sheltered" had she lived with her grandparents in their home in Calcutta. This aspect of Korobi's characterization didn't sit well with me at all and seemed highly flawed to me. Such a rookie mistake to make for someone of Divakaruni's calibre!

General Thoughts: I am usually a big fan of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's books, Sister of my Heart and Vine of Desire are some of my favourite books. But this was just a little off. This is clearly not one of her best works.

Would you like it? If you are a fan of the author, then maybe you will like this book.

Rating: 3/5.

What I Liked: The writing.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Sister Sundays | Review: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Hello, hello! This is Debs- the sister- back with a Sunday feature called 'Sister Sundays' where I talk about some of the recent books that I enjoyed reading. :) Hope you enjoy and find a new book/author to read! :)

Book: The Sense of an Ending

Author: Julian Barnes

Pages: 150

How long it took me to read: 2-3 hours. Would have taken me even less time but this book makes you think and so, I set it down a few times to do just that.

Plot Summary: Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at high school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, the boys navigated the final year at high school together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Adrian Finn was a little too serious compared to the rest of them, but they were close friends nevertheless. At the end of high school, the boys decided to stay friends for life...

The book is set several years later, when Tony is almost retired, divorced and leads a relatively quiet and peaceful life. He is at peace with himself as he feels that he has led a calm life where is has not harmed anyone. But is memory really reliable? Is Tony's version of his do-no-harm belief really true? Did he cause someone lifelong, actual harm? A letter from a lawyer with a blast from the past proves just otherwise...

What I Liked: On the face of it, The Sense of an Ending is a very simple story. An old man receives a letter from a lawyer saying that someone he knew many years ago had left him some money in their will. The story then launches into Tony's past and his brief meeting with this woman who has left him a small amount of money and Tony trying to find out in what way he had impacted this woman's life... So, though, the story itself is seemingly simple, it is the bigger questions that this story brings up, which makes this such a genius of a book.
The first theme that I want to talk about is 'memory'. Is memory reliable? Is our own memory reliable? Do we remember things exactly as they happened or do we remember it in a way that whitewashes our own involvement in the events? This book brings up several questions about how reliable memory is and why we remember the way we remember things and how it can be different for someone else. For instance, Tony's memories of a break-up with a short-term girlfriend and the events that followed are very different from hers. It is not because Tony is devious or anything, but because he simply does not think of what was said and what was done as a 'big deal'.

The second theme that the book delves into and which I thoroughly enjoyed is this whole thing about personal histories. If each of us is a story-teller, then how do we tell our stories? Are we raw and honest or do we embellish the bits we are not proud of? This book addresses this issue beautifully.

Finally, The Sense of an Ending is about responsibility and about the power of words. Do we think before we speak and write? Do we wonder about the impact of our words? Who is responsible for someone's actions? If someone takes a drastic step because of our unintentional words, then are we truly responsible? Or is the onus of responsibility on the person who took that step?

In about 150 pages, Mr. Barnes makes you think about all these things in the guise of a simple story. This is a brilliant, brilliant book!

What I didn't like: Nothing.

Will You Like It: Yes! You will like it if you like books that make you think and re-evaluate your stand on certain things. This is a quick read but the themes this book touches upon will stay with you.

Rating: 4/5

Things That Make Me Happy!

1. My beautiful, burgeoning collection of the Penguin English Library Edition books. I just love, love, love how lovely these books look. I intend on adding to my collection and reading one of these beauties per month. I read The Picture of Dorian Grey last month and really enjoyed it. 

2. Re-organising my bookshelves. I keep doing this, to accommodate my new books and  put the read books behind ones I need to read.

3. Cups of cold coffee in pretty mugs and a pretty book in hardback. 

4. Owls. 

5. Books in the mail. I received quite a few packages full of books this week and it made me a very happy girl. 

6. Cute little things. Stationery- pencils like these. They were a random present from my sister. I love these so much! 

Tell me what random things make you happy??? 

Friday, 14 June 2013

Rainy Day Reads: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, Choker, A Monster Calls and Ripper+ Mini Reviews!

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin is the story of Mara who wakes up in a hospital with no memory of the fatal accident that killed her best friend, her boyfriend and his sister. What is stranger still that she comes out unharmed in this accident. Unable to deal with this loss in memory and the loss of people she cared for Mara and her family move states to help Mara have a normal life. But things keep getting stranger..people start dying around her and Mara can't help but wonder if she is responsible? The only silver lining in this mess Noah- the one person she can count on. 

This book is pretty dark and mysterious and perfect for a rainy day read. There is a hint of mystery, supernatural and also romance. I read this book a few months ago and really enjoyed it and have it's sequel that I just might read on a rainy day. :) 

 Choker by Elizabeth Woods is the story of 16 year old Cara Lange who is a sad and lonely girl with no friends. She has been friendless since her family moved away from her old town and away from the only friend she ever had- Zoe. Cara spends her time missing Zoe and watching Ethan Gray from a distance hoping one day he will notice her. The popular girls have taken to call her Choker after an embarrassing incident in the lunchroom after Cara choked and nearly died. Cara's life is miserable. And one day she comes home to find Zoe in her room. Her best friend is back!!! Zoe is on the run from her family and it's complications. She begs Cara to hide her in the bedroom and Cara agrees. With Zoe in her life, things start to look up for Cara. Till a girl goes missing in town and things turn messy. Also isnt' Zoe acting a little strange? 

This book is short and quick read and really creepy at times. I loved this and the end had a pretty neat twist. I really recommend it and it's not supernatural but a thriller book.

Even though this book has a bonafide monster that shows up every night at 7 past midnight, this is one the most heart-warming books I've ever read. It's sweet and wonderful and just magical. I loved this book and gave it a 5/5 stars.  It starts out dark and mysterious but is absolutely lovely and emotional by the end. The plot is basically about 11 year old Connor O'Malley is visited by a monster every night and that is only one of the problems he is facing. His mother is dying of Cancer and he is being mercilessly bullied in school. Why does the monster come every night? What does he want? 

Read this book for the wonderful story and for lovely illustrations in it.

I like reading serial killer books. I am not even going to pretend otherwise. So reading about the first serial killer (of sorts) Jack the Ripper can got to make me pretty happy. Ripper is the story of Abbie, who in 1888, after  the death of her mother is sent to live with her aristocratic grandmother in a posh London neighbourhood. Soon she begins to volunteer at the Whitechapel Hospital, just round the corner from the scene of the grisly murders, Abbie finds she enjoys caring for the poor and abused woman, Soon patients start dying at the hands of Jack The Ripper and Abbie discovers she has a strange connection to The Ripper, she has visions of the killings before they occur. This makes Abbie want to investigate the killings and leads her to find scary, terrifying secrets. 

This book was an interesting read and it was a new way of looking at the Ripper murders. 

For me rainy days are made perfect with endless cups of tea, watching the rain and scary/spooky books. Give me something dark and twisted to read while it rains outside and I am one happy girl. Apart from these, mostly Young Adult type books, I'd also recommend Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier- and oldie but a goldie. I also love books by Sarah Rayne- but I'll talk about her books in detail some other time.On the telly the perfect Rainy Day spooky watch is of course X-Files. I love that show!

Do you have any books you'd like to recommend that make rainy days perfect?? Do tell!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Review: Afterlife: Ghost Stories from Goa by Jessica Faleiro.

Book: Afterlife: Ghost stories from Goa

Author: Jessica Faleiro

Pages: 158

How long it took me to read: A couple of hours.

Plot Summary: As the title suggests this is a book of ghost stories. The Foncesca family- father Savio, mother Lillian and daughters Carol and Joanna have gathered in Goa to celebrate Savio's 75th birthday. The night before the big party, the family has a visit from Savio's cousin brother Eduardo and his wife Maria and kids Susheela and Jason come and as the rain pours outside and the power goes out the Foncescas start telling ghost stories- about things that they've experienced or the extended family members have experienced.

Characters: Apart from the people mentioned above, the ones telling the actual stories, the book is full of Foncescas of the past and deceased and present- all of whom sound super fun.

What I liked: I loved the basic premise, a family sitting in the dark with the rain lashing the house and ghost stories. I love ghost stories of every kind! Some of my favourite memories of my childhood are sitting with my extended family and hearing spooky stories. I liked the atmosphere and the stories themselves were great. They ranged from a hostel haunting to possession to protective ghosts to death omens. I liked the range and I loved the many stories packed into one slender little book. Also there is a pretty decent twist in the end.

What I didn't Like: The writing was very OK, but it didn't really matter in the end.

General Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book and it kept me hooked and I loved the characters and setting of the story. I love hearing, reading and watching ghost stories, so this book is right up my alley.

Will you like it? If you like ghost stories, extended family tales, twists in the tale and Goa this is the book for you. Also it's perfect for a rainy day. :)

Rating: 4/5 

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Review: Persepolis I and II by Marjane Satrapi.

Book: Persepolis I and II

Author: Marjane Satrapi

Pages: 341

How long it took me to read: A day or's a graphic novel and you could possible read it in 2 hours.

Plot Summary: This book is a autobiographical graphic novel about the author's childhood in Tehran, Iran during the Islamic Revolution and during the Iraq-Iran war. The second book continues into the author's adulthood and return to Iran (after a stint in Austria) and her life in a very conservative Iran.

That being said that book is so much more than just this glib summary. The book is also about her family- my favourite aspect about this book- and about a country in chaos. The changing world and people holding on to normal lives the best they can and basically about the human spirit surviving in troubled times.

Characters: There is Marji herself, our protagonist, who we see from a 9 year old who wants to be the next prophet to a young woman studying art in college. I liked Marji, I liked her little quirks and her spirit.

Marji's family however is my absolute favourite. Her parents- father Ebi and mother Taji are amazing, strong and very loving and extremely supportive to their only child. They are also active protesters against the regime and try and install similar traits in their daughter. Her grandmother though just might be my absolute fave- she is funny, witty, strong and full of stories. Reading about her made me miss my grandma with a vengeance :(

There are also several secondary characters that blend seamlessly with the narrative and add to the story.

What I liked: Simply put, I pretty much loved everything! The art. The story. The people. The country. Everything!!!! I loved that even though the book covers such a tumultuous time in this country's history, it doesn't become disheartening or tragic (though it is sad in parts), the focus remains these wonderful cast of characters. The book is really about regular, everyday people- people like you and me living under a oppressive regime and still holding on to themselves. Still trying to live they way they used to. The portions about the sly parties Marji's parents threw and the dancing and drinking they did on the downlow, made me both smile and tear up.

What I didn't: Nothing really...well...I didn't really like the Austria bits very much. I liked the portions in Iran more and I liked to see what Marji's family were up to and how they were coping with the war.

General Thoughts: I cannot believe I hadn't read this book in soooooo long. I meant to pick it up for years and years and somehow I just didn't! I am so glad I read it, finally! I loved it. The art is pretty amazing but the people and their stories are stellar. I studied Iranian history in college briefly and remembered most of it, but you can read about wars and Cultural Revolution and they stay just words. Reading what the people went through just puts things in perspective. I really loved this book and I just cannot recommend it enough.  This book made me smile, laugh and cry (just a bit) and feel many many feelings and it's not very often that a book does that! It also made me think about life and freedom and choice and living freely.

Will you like it? Hells yes!

Rating: 5/5 without a doubt!