Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Monthly Wrap-Up: Books Read in July 2013.

July was an OK reading month for me. I read a fair amount of books and even some good books. But I didn't fall madly in love with any book I read. But I like that I read a mixed bag of books. There is a classic, some young adult, Indian writing, ghost stories, steamy romances and several re-reads. So in that sense it was a pretty good month. 

I finally read Northanger Abbey and it was amazing! Simply brilliant. Loved it. If you haven't read it, read it now! Reading it began my reading all six Austen novels this year. Next on the list is Sense and Sensibility..which I intend to read in August..maybe. 

I also enjoyed Jacob's Hill (review coming soon), After Dark (also to-be reviewed shortly) and Morality for Beautiful Girls. 

Currently I am re-re-reading the first Potter book just in time for Harry Potter's birthday. A good way as any to end the reading for the month. 

For next month's reading I might try reading based on a reading theme....I am terribly excited! But more on that on the 1st of August!!!! 

What did you read this month???? 

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Sister Sundays/// Review: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling

Book: The Cuckoo's Calling

Author: J.K. Rowling written under the pen name of Robert Galbraith

Pages: 509

How Long It Took Me to Read: 2 days.

Plot Summary: On a cold, snowy London winter night, beautiful and successful supermodel, Lula Landry, dives off her penthouse balcony to a sticky end. Her closest friends cannot believe that Lula, who sounded excited and happy earlier that evening, could ever take her own life even though she had battled drug abuse in the past and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. More than anyone else, Lula's brother- John Bristow- simply cannot believe that his sister would take her own life just when she had signed a multi-million dollar modelling contract with a top designer that could jettison her career to even greater heights. It is armed with this conviction that John reaches out to a down-on-his luck private detective- Cormoran Strike.

Cormoran Strike is an ex-military man, who had served with the Royal Military Police and had been stationed in Afghanistan for a while. Now retired, with an injury, Cormoran Strike had his own private detective agency that was not, to put it very mildly, thriving at the moment. After a painful break-up with his long-term fiancee and barely any savings to his name, Cormoran is camping out at his dingy office. It is during this time that John Bristow approaches him the request to re-look at Lula's death and prove that it was not, as the police proved, suicide.

So, even though, it seemed like a pointless, futile exercise, given that the police had to have been very thorough as media interest in the case was very high, Cormoran takes up the case and along with his temporary secretary- Robin- goes about trying to find the truth of what happened to Lula Landry on that cold winter night.

Characters: This book, supposed the first in the Cormoran Strike series, introduces us to Cormoran Strike- army veteran turned private detective. Cormoran has an interesting backstory, which is well developed and gives us interesting glimpses into his personality. He is the son of a legendary rock star and of his supergroupie- born outside of wedlock- and has had a pretty unstable, nomadic life when he was a child. Even now Cormoran has several issues that he is dealing with- debt, a painful breakup and no home. All of this makes him an interesting character to read about. His methods of detection are a good mix of plain old school smarts and common sense as well as leveraging modern technology where he can. I really enjoyed him as the central character- his dry sense of humour, his no-nonsense manner of handling his personal tragedies and most of all, how he goes about solving this crime.

Then there is Robin, Cormoran's temporary secretary. Temporary because she is looking out for a better job while taking on multiple temping assignments. Robin is smart, sensible and I hope there will be more of her in subsequent Strike books.

Lula Landry- as we learn of her through the people close to her- seemingly spoilt and selfish but good-hearted enough to say 'hello' to the little people and take a struggling addict under her wing. As we learn more about Lula, we also learn more about her glittering world, her best friends- supermodels and designers, other hangers-on and her addict musician boyfriend- Evan. All these characters are well-written and don't come off as superficial. I guess, this is what you get when someone as gifted as Rowling writes a book with multiple characters and does justice to each one of them.

What I Liked: To start with, I liked the mystery itself. A successful supermodel falls to her death, everyone (after a thorough investigation) concludes it is a suicide and there seems to be no way that someone would have pushed her off her balcony and then gotten out of the high security building. So, it seemed like it was a pretty impossible crime to pull off, which made it interesting to read. Every minute aspect of why this was an impossible crime to commit has been handled very smartly and also explained very well in the end, which is always satisfying! I also really enjoyed reading about the other characters who felt real and not cardboard-ish and half-baked as they often are in some crime novels. Like I said before, the woman who gave us Harry Potter would, no doubt, do a stellar job with a vast cast of characters and she did not disappoint! Every character's flaws, eccentricities and foibles are all given a context that makes sense. I also really enjoyed the investigative process- the leads that Cormoran Strike goes after, the kinds of questions he asks, the loopholes that he finds in the police investigation etc.

What I didn't Like: Now, this is no reflection on the book or the author, but I had guessed who the killer was fairly early on in the book. There is nothing much in the book to give the game away, but as a seasoned reader and viewer of the crime genre, it was pretty easy to guess who the killer was even if it seemed impossible that he had done it. So, this did take away a bit of the joy for me!

General Thoughts: I really enjoy reading crime thrillers and any type of whodunit books and so, reading a well-written crime thriller is always enjoyable. My big complaint about a lot of books in the genre is that the supporting characters are often very under-developed. When the supporting characters are under-developed, as a reader, you simply don't understand their motivations, or as Hercule Poirot would've put it, their psychology. If the supporting characters are well etched, you can make educated guesses about why he/she would want to kill the victim and whether he/she had it in him/her to commit murder. I was so glad that in The Cuckoo's Calling, the supporting characters were well fleshed out. I do hope J.K. Rowling writes more of these books because I would love to read more about Cormoran and Robin's adventures.

Will You Like it? Yes! If you enjoy well-written crime fiction you will enjoy this book. Also, if you grew up with the Potter books and pretty much love anything that J.K. Rowling writes, then you will enjoy this book as well.

Rating: 4/5 (I took one point off because I guessed very early on who the killer was.... I would've liked being surprised...)

Friday, 26 July 2013

Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith. + A Mini Romance Rant!

General Thoughts: Something about this book made me plain mad. Not that the book had anything wrong with it. The thing is this whole meet a cute boy on a plane thing is the biggest and worst lie ever told. I've been flying alone since I was 13 years old, and not once...not one single time have I met even a semi-decent guy. The only men I find next to me on flights are old, balding, snoring and once even drooling. i kid you not, once on a flight the man next to me fell asleep and started drooling!!!! For a moment I seriously thought the man was dead and poked him in the arm and shrieked when he woke up with a start. 

So as much as I wanted to enjoy and love this story, I couldn't help think of all the flights and all the disappointments they've brought. On my last flight, the guy next to me kept fighting with me for the arm rest! He only budged when I elbowed him sharply in ribs. Romantic..NOT! 

The only time I saw a cute guy was while waiting for three hours at Calcutta airport in a somewhat empty spot...I saw this cute guy and he smiled at me. Finally, I thought, a cute guy at an airport, the Travel Gods were finally taking a shine towards me. I should have known better, soon enough a young woman and a toddler joined said guy and also smiled widely at me. The cute guy had a wife and child in tow! The Travel Gods hated me still. 

So with all these raging thoughts in my mind it's hard to read a book about a plane romance and feel connected to the story. 

Book: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Author: Jennifer E. Smith

Pages: 236

How Long it Took Me Read: 1 day.

Plot Summary: Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. Having missed her flight, she's stuck at JFK airport and late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it. 

Characters: Hadley and Oliver are the main characters. We spend most time with Hadley and inside her angsty mind. Hadley is still dealing with her parents broken marriage and the anger she feels towards her father for abandoning her and her mother for his new life in London. She is angry and unhappy for most of the book and smiles only when she and Oliver are talking. 

Oliver on the other hand is more sorted out and calm, he is slightly mysterious though and his reason for going to London is a bit of mystery. He is charming and funny and all things a good romantic lead should be. 

What I Liked: The basic premise of the book- two people meeting on a plane and falling in love. And a story told in only 24 hours. 

What I didn't Like: I wasn't a big fan of Hadley, she was whiny for most part and little to angst-ridden. 

I also didn't like most of the action happened off the plane and spilled over to the next day...not that anything was particularly wrong with it, but I had presumed there'd be more conversation and connection on the flight. 

Will You Like It? If you fancy  a quick sweet read this might be a good book to read. 

Rating: 3/5 

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Book Haul: Last Books of June// Super Sale Books!

June was a good month- full of rains and full of books! I had the most satisfying book-buying month. A little too satisfying if you ask me! I bough over 30 books in June and most of them were bought severely marked down. Yay! 

These books were bought during Flipkart's Monday Sale..where they had really great deals on books. I have read 4 out of the 9 books shown here and I have read The Help when it first came out but didn't own a copy. I had borrowed it from my library in Bangalore and absolutely loved it and wanted to own a copy for my collection. 

I had decided that July was going to be my Book Buying Ban, and I was happy with it...till I cracked and bought some more books online :( That is coming up soon. 

Friday, 19 July 2013

Things That Make Me Happy: Edition II.

1. Cute little things around the house. Especially Little Miss Naughty in her many avataars. I have a full sized one and this mini bag dangler thingie. I also have her as a bookmark and a coffee cup. Clearly I am a fan. 

2. I have to say I am not a fan of Starbucks coffee, their coffee is just not my cup of tea...if that makes sense. I am a CBTL girl through and through, but this marshmallow brownie things at Starbucks is simply amazing. I usually get this and a Hibiscus Iced-Tea Lemonade. 

3. Bombay sunsets...nowadays the rains make glorious sunsets like this a thing of the past, but I am not complaining I love Bombay rains just as much. This picture was taken a day after my birthday, I was sitting at the Carter Road promenade with my mum. :)

4. Oh Scrabble! I love board games but Scrabble is my absolute favourite! I am pretty ruthless when I am playing and the mere idea of a triple word score gets my heart racing. 

5. My MAC eye-shadows are my absolute favorites. I have added more to my collection since this picture was taken and God help me I want to add more! :P

6. Books in the mail make me suuuuuper happy :) 

7. Pretty rings, actually any kind of pretty jewellery piece makes me happy. 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Review: Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.

Book: Sarah's Key

Author: Tatiana de Rosnay

Pages: 293

 How Long it took me to read: 2 days.

Plot summary: July, 1942, Paris France: ten year old Sarah wakes up to a nightmare. The police wake her family up and want them to pack a few of their belongings and accompany them, as they go door to door arresting Jewish families. Sarah in an attempt to save her four year old brother Michel locks him in their secret hiding place, assuming they will be back soon and there was no need for him to go through the ordeal. She promises to come back for him as soon as they are released.

60 years later: Julia Jarmond is an American in Paris, a journalist she is working on an article about the round-up of the Jewish families sixty years ago. She stumbles across Sarah’s story and can’t help but find out more about the girl. Did she get to come rescue her brother? Did her family survive the Holocaust? Where is Sarah today?
The stories of these two women collide and connect even sixty years apart.

Characters: There are our leading ladies, Sarah and Julia. We meet Sarah as a ten year old stuck in a nightmare and we see her go from a regular ten year old to a tortured and broken girl. The weight of her brother waiting for her makes her grow-up in weeks. She changes from a happy, carefree child to a scared and worrying mess. I loved reading about her and her journey to find her brother. I liked Sarah’s parents, they sound like sweet people who were broken up the atrocities they were mete out.

Julia, is a forty something American with a 11 year old daughter of her own and is married to a charming albeit slightly cruel French man. Her marriage isn’t doing too well and even after spending 15 years in France she is still  having trouble truly belonging. I also really liked her daughter, Zoe, who is wise beyond her years and spunky and a great support to her mother.

There are some amazing secondary characters- the Dufaure family in particular are lovely, they adopt Sarah after the war and are kind and strong and simply great. In Julia’s world I also like her grandmother-in-law, Mame, who is a strong character.

What I Liked: Quite a bit.

The book consists mostly of alternating chapters between the two time periods. I love books that exist in the then and now. I loved that about this book as well. Furthermore, the chapters themselves are pretty short, somewhere between one to three pages, which is a good thing. When alternating between two people and two time periods, it’s good to have shorter chapters so one doesn’t get so immersed in one world that it takes time to snap out of it when it’s time to read about  the other perspective.

I loved Sarah’s portions of the book.  It was heart-breaking to read about what was happening to her family. But it was interesting to see her live through a nightmare and her quest to get back to her brother.
I also loved the history in the book. 

I am a bit of a history nerd and anything about a historic event makes for a good read in my book. Even if the event in question is a sad one. I knew nothing about the Velodrome d’Hiver round-up and this book made me aware of a really dark chapter in history.

The writing was good too as was the pace of the book.

Also there is a whole lot of Paris in this book and that is never a bad thing! Ever!

What I didn’t Like: I wasn’t a huge fan of the Julia portions of the book. I didn’t think her story and her dilemmas were nearly as critical and important as those of Sarah. Her failing marriage and her challenges didn’t hold a candle to Sarah losing her family and the trauma she lives through.

The alternating perspective chapters stop somewhere in the middle of the book, basically we stop seeing Sarah’s world mid-way and then we are left with Julia trying to find out what happened to Sarah and her family. So we have a whole lot of Julia in the second half, given that I wasn’t enjoying Julia to begin with, 

I wasn’t thrilled about being stuck with her in the second half of the book.

Also the ways in which the two women are connected is a little forced; I don’t want to give away spoilers so I won’t say much but these women are too easily and too conveniently connected.

Also Julia finds Sarah’s whereabouts a little too easily…I mean the world isn’t that small! Finding a person who was last heard of 45 years ago can’t be that easy.

General Thoughts: This was another book on my wish list for a long, long time. I hadn’t seen it in a bookstore ever and on online bookstores it was always a little too expensive for my liking. Till finally last month is was available in paperback and was affordable. Yay!

I first heard about the book when the movie based on it came out. You can see the trailer HERE. It sounded amazing and I wanted to read the book before I saw the movie, so now that I’ve read the book, I am trying to get my hands on the movie.

The book didn’t really live up all that I was expecting, in the sense I thought it would be amazing and I’d love everything about it…it wasn’t bad. Not even close, it just didn’t live up to my insane expectations.

Will you like it? If you like then and now books you probably will. Also if you like a sly history lesson in your fiction you might enjoy this.

Rating: 3/5

Monday, 15 July 2013

Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green.

Book: Looking for Alaska

Author: John Green

Pages: 231

How Long it Took Me To Read: 3-4 days.

Plot Summary: The book takes off when Miles Halter decided to leave his home in Florida and transfer to a boarding school called Culver Creek Boarding School in Alabama in hopes of making a change in his life. Miles is a loner, he doesn’t have a single friend in his present school and his main interest in life is to find out and memorise the last words of famous people. Miles hopes that moving to Culver Creek Academy will make his high school experience a better-rounded one.

At Culver Creek, Miles meets and befriends an odd-ball group of people. There is Chip Martin aka The  Captain, his roommate and closest friend who loves reading and memorising world capitals. He is a scholarship kid who has a huge chip on his shoulder. There is also Takami, who remains a secondary character at best. Then there is Alaska young, a cigarette smoking, cigarette selling, strawberry wine drinking foul mouthed feminist who has a roomful of books for whom Miles falls for at first sight. But Alaska Young is a complicated enigma.

This one year in Miles’ life changes him forever in ways he couldn’t even imagine.

Characters: There is Miles himself, our central character, the one from whose perspective we see the rest of book and it’s world. I didn’t like Miles. I really didn’t like him. There were points in the book I wanted to get inside the book and punch him in the face. I can’t even pinpoint exactly what I disliked so much but let me try. He was whiny. Oh so whiny! And so dam sensitive. And slightly selfish. Not someone I wanted to root for at all.

His roommate Captain was a much better character. He was a scholarship student from the trailer park. He was bright and fun and determined to do better in life and buy his mother a proper house and move her out of her trailer. I liked him immensely.

Then there is our tittle character Alaska Young, I liked her best. She has a roomful of books- I liked her immediately on reading that. She is building her Life’s Library- I like! She is fun, well-read and a feminist. She is clearly troubled but keeps her troubles to herself. She drinks and smokes and is no way the typical heroine of Young Adult books. I wish there was more of Alaska and less of whiny Miles in the book.

What I liked: The writing was great. I love John Green and his writing is pretty much flawless. So even though the story or the characters didn’t make my heart sing, the writing was a joy to read.

 I also really liked Alaska Young- a book collector, a master prankster and all-round fun girl. Reading about her was great too.

I loved how realistic this book was- the characters were all real, no one was a Greek God or model beautiful. They were short, too skinny, had pimples and spots and were like regular normal teenagers. I also liked they weren’t perfect kids they drank, smoked, hooked up and used bad language.

What I didn’t Like: Oh lord so much! I really didn’t like this book; hence it took me 3-4 days to read. I hated it. I didn’t want to but I did.

I didn’t like Miles. Not one bit. He could get hit by a truck and I wouldn’t care.

The whole story was a bit blah to me, really pointless.

The second half of the book was really boring and I almost stopped reading.

I don’t want to give away spoilers, so I won’t say what happened but I couldn’t care less about the aftermath of the ‘big deal’.

A real disappointment this book was.

General Thoughts: I am a fan of John Green.  The Fault in Our Stars was one of best books I read last year. I also loved Paper Towns and wanted to read more of this works. Out of the rest of his books, this one sounded the most appealing and I had heard really good things about this book. I thought I’d really like it. But I just didn’t. It was very pointless and didn’t move me like I think it was supposed to.

Will you like it? Maybe if you really enjoy books about coming of age and about life in a boarding school, pranks and friendship.This book has really high rating on Goodreads and has won a ton of awards and accolades, so clearly I am in the minority of readers who despised this book.

Rating: 2/5

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Sister Reads | Review: Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

Book: Wedding Night

Author: Sophie Kinsella

Pages: 368

How long it took to read: 2 days

Plot Summary: Lottie is a successful HR professional who has been in a long-term relationship with her boyfriend, Richard. She thinks they've been together a while and now it is time to take things to the next level. So, when Richard books them a table at an exclusive restaurant and hints that he has something important to speak to her about, Lottie assumes the obvious and sets out to buy him an engagement ring. You know, in case he gives her one, she should have something to give him in return! When the "romantic dinner" does not quite turn out to be what Lottie had imagined, she becomes distraught and decides to make some big changes in her life.

Lottie's sister- Fliss- is scared to death that Lottie will do something stupid. Fliss, a recently divorced single mom, is going through the trauma that a divorce brings and is getting used to being a single parent; she just does not have the kind of time and mental space to deal with Lottie's drama.

When Lottie's "gap year" boy friend- Ben, with whom she had spent an idyllic summer on a Greek island, returns to her life after fifteen years and makes proclamations of undying love, Lottie decides that this is a sign from the universe and that she simply has to marry Ben.

Fliss freaks out on hearing this and together with Ben's best friend- Lorcan- sets out to sabotage Lottie's harebrained plans.

Key Characters: There is Lottie, of course. She is well-meaning and all but is still sort of an air head. Basically, she is the quintessential Sophie Kinsella character. She is sweet and clearly distraught when things with Richard don't work out the way she had envisaged. Lottie is fun to read about and I found her easier to relate to (as far as one can relate to Kinsella's characters!) than, say, Becky Bloomwood!

Then there is Fliss, Lottie's elder sister, who has pretty much raised Lottie. Fliss is better etched out as compared to Lottie and has more dimensions. She is successful, she struggles with her divorce and with being a single parent and trying to let herself be open to love again.

Richard, Ben and Lorcan are the three men in the book. None of them are really toe-melting hot (well, as toe-meltingly hot as guys in books can be!) and there is nothing special about any of them, really. Ben is just annoying and silly. Richard and Lorcan are more real, solid, good guys.

What I Liked: Kinsella is great at incorporating humor in her books and this book has several laugh out loud moments. Some of Lottie and Fliss' internal monologues are hilarious! Also, the various attempts at sabotaging Lottie's wedding and, eventually, wedding night are truly hilarious (some of these other antics are downright annoying and scary!). Plus, the book is a quick read because there is so much happening in the book.

What I Didn't Like: The book lacked a soul, of sorts. It seemed all very superficial- the feelings, the angst, the hurt.. everything. It all seemed a bit silly too. I know better than to expect some sort of profound epiphany from a romance novel, but even then, Wedding Night was just way too much of a leave-your-brains-at-the-door kind of a read.

Will You Like It: If you like light romance reads and just want something breezy and occasionally funny, then this is a good pick. 

Rating: 3/5 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Sister Reads | Review: Banquet on the Dead by Sharath Komarraju

Book: Banquet on the Dead

Author: Sharath Komarraju

Pages: 276

How Long It Took To Read: 2 hours

Plot Summary: This book is a whodunit based in a small town in Andhra Pradesh. The story revolves around Kauveramma's family. Kauveramma was the matriarch of a large, influential family. One hot summer afternoon Kauveramma is found dead in the family's well. No one in that bustling household saw or heard anything. The only sounds heard were that of a splash and a scream and that too by the two workers working outside the gate of the house. The police almost rule her death as accidental, given her advanced age and the fact that she was found in the well without her glasses, without which she simply couldn't get around. Her grandson- Dr. Koteshwar Rao-however, is not convinced. Kauveramma was petrified of water, so much so that taking a bath everyday was a chore and washing her hair almost gave her panic attacks. Why then would she venture anywhere near the well?! Dr. Rao contacts the local police and insists on a thorough investigation. Enter Inspector Valmiki Nagarajan and his charming, and slightly unconventional, partner Hamid Pasha. Hamid is a reformed criminal with a sharp mind and sharper instincts and the two of them go about unravelling the many complicated aspects of this case to get to the culprit.

Key Characters: The two main characters in the story are Inspector Rajan and Hamid Pasha. There are, of course, several members of Kauveramma's household- her three children, her grandchildren and their spouses, servants and such like. None of these are particularly memorable. A few of them had potential, but were left half-baked. Kauveramma's daughter and granddaughter seemed promising, especially, the granddaughter who seemed angry and bitter for no good reason!

Inspector Rajan is a typical by-the-book cop but he is an honest man and he liked to leave no stone unturned to solve a case. Hamid Pasha is charming and his questions are insightful and smart. It was good to read about the two of them going about this case in two fairly different ways.

What I Liked: I liked the overall premise of the book. A woman is killed in the middle of a bustling household and no one sees anything. I also enjoyed the dynamics of this large family, especially, how there is so much animosity, resentment and ill-will lurking just under the surface. Old sins cast long shades, they say, and in a family, these old sins are never forgotten.

What I Didn't Like: I didn't like the actual investigative process. My whole reason for reading crime fiction is the investigation. I like to read those bits very carefully and look for clues and have my own list of suspects and such *geek alert* In this book, because the other characters (the suspects, so to speak) were so under-developed that it was impossible to make educated guesses about who the killer was! The most obvious person- in my opinion- who I had dismissed because it was so obvious, ended up being the killer. Oh well!

General Thoughts: I picked up this book because I really enjoyed Sharath Komarraju's debut novel- Murder in Amaravati.  Murder in Amaravati was much more taut and well written. The characters in the village were brought skilfully to life. It was made easy for the reader to slip into the village like they lived there and watch the whole drama unfold. Also, I liked the fact that for a writer from an unconventional writing background (Komarraju is an IT guy), the author's command over English was more than adequate. He wrote simply but eloquently. In Banquet on the Dead, this fluidity in writing was missing- it seemed more laboured.

Will You Like It?: Let me put it this way, you'll probably like Murder in Amaravati more. You'll enjoy this book if you like reading about people in small towns and about slightly unconventional detectives.

Rating: 2.5/5

Saturday, 6 July 2013

July, 2013 To-Be-Read (TBR) List.

I am a list maker. At any given time, I have five lists I need to tick things off of. It might seem chaotic but it's my way of maintaining order in my world. When it comes to reading, I like to start every month with a TBR list. This is done to make sure I read older books and I remember to read books that aren't in my sight. I've been doing this for a few months now and it's helped me with reading old and new books alike. I also love, at the end of the month, ticking off books I've read. So far I've read all books on my TBR list only once. That was March, it was a good month. I read not only books on my TBR, I also read some 5 extra books. March was magnificent.

Now, I do believe that reading is entirely mood based. And sometimes, even if something is on my TBR list I don't feel like reading it, then I don't. It's one should read something they aren't in the mood for.

Now for my July TBR...

1. Indigo by Satyajit Ray- a collection of short stories by my favourite film maker of all time. I've already read and loved this. A review might be up soon.

2. Looking For Alaska by John Green- currently reading this. Nearly almost done.

3. More Ghost Stories of Shimla Hills by Minakshi Chaudhry.

4. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell- my classic reading for the month.

5. Morality for Beautiful Girls (No.1 Ladies Detective Agency Series #3) by Alexander McCall Smith- I am reading through this series at the moment, I read the first two books last month and loved them!!

6. Such a Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry

7. After Dark by Haruki Murakami- my Murakami book for the month.

8. The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie- my Agatha Christie book of the month. I am loving these books, I can't believe I didn't read these all this time! Silly me.

9.  Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. (RR)

10. Arranged Marriage by Chitra Divakaruni Banerjee- a short story collection. (RR)

* RR stands for Re-Reads. I am trying to re-read some of my favourite books from my bookshelves.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Review: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad.

Book: 172 Hours on the Moon

Author: Johan Harstad

Translated by: Tara F. Chace from Norwegian to English. (duh!)

Pages: 368

How Long it Took To Read: An afternoon. A rainy, dark afternoon...perfect for a book like this.

Plot Summary: The book starts in 2018 (very slightly in the future), some senior folks at NASA are discussing the possibility of going back to the Moon, even though no one has gone back in decades. But going back isn't as easy as it seems. Funds are a big issue. Also, the new generation doesn't quite care about man on the Moon as the older generations did back in the 70s. With this obstacle in mind, the NASA folks decide to hold a world-wide lottery for kids between 14-18 to stand a chance to go the Moon. They think, with kids getting all excited and the attention that the lottery will get, multinationals will pour in money to sponsor this hugely expensive expedition.

 So the lottery is announced and there is world wide excitement. And in due course, three kids are selected to go to the Moon.

Mia, from Norway is entered in the lottery by her parents, who think this is a great opportunity. Mia doesn't think so. She'd much rather stay on Earth and give her band her all. But eventually decides to go thinking this is a great way to promote her band and their music.

Midori, from Japan, thinks this is a great way to get out of Japan and find herself in the world outside of her traditional country. She wants to come back from the Moon and live in New York and this chance will give her the way out of her homeland.

Antoine, from Paris, France wants to get as far away as he can from his ex-girlfriend who has broken his heart. The Moon to him is as far as he can get from her.

The three of them train for months, learn all they can about the Moon and spaceships and what to expect. Once on the Moon, things are not as they should be...things take a frightening turn and things start to go wrong...very wrong.

Characters: Mia, Midori and Antoine are main characters but Mia is more of the central character, we spend most time with her. There are portions of books from each of their perspectives, before they are selected and we get to know of their lives and their families. I liked Mia and Midori the best, Antoine was a little...insipid...also his reason to enter the contest were a little too lame.

Apart from the 3 leads characters, there are of course their families that play a fleeting part in the story. There are astronauts- five of them- that accompany the teenagers to the Moon and are part of the action in the second half of the book.

What I Liked: The writing was great, as was the pace of the book. I liked that it went from the very inception of the contest to the three teenagers to their training and to finally the Moon. It helped build up the tension and the anticipation of what was coming next.

But the best part of the book was the creepiness. I am possibly not going to see the Moon or space in the same way ever again. The way the author has described the silence on the Moon, freaked me out. I loved how scary the book suddenly got, even though there was a lot of uneasiness from the word go, it got bad very fast.

I also liked the the teenagers were from countries like Norway, Japan and France and not from the US as is the case in so many YA book, where the protagonists are from the US.

What I didn't: Hmmm....the basic premise is a bit silly, isn't it? Who would send 3 teens to the Moon? I know it sounds silly but it is sort of explained in the book. But still....really?!

Another thing that irked me was..none of these three was a space geek. None of them really cared. Each of them was there for a wrong reason. I wish there was at least one of them who was excited to be there and knew things and was genuinely interested in being on the Moon.

General Thoughts: I enjoyed this book. It had some issues but it was entertaining as hell. I read most of it in one afternoon, while it rained outside and I won't lie, I was a little bit spooked..a little.

Will You Like It? If you like getting scared, you might enjoy this. Also if you like space and Sci-fi, though this is most definitely more Horror than Sci-fi.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Review: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Book: The Thing Around Your Neck

Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Pages: 240

How Long it Took to Read: A little over a day. Some of the stories were really intense and I had to pause and think and take it in.

Plot Summary: There isn't one really, this is a collection of short stories based in Nigeria predominantly. The stories cover a vast array of subjects, from the experience of two very different women stuck together in the middle of a bloody riot. In another, a young woman moves to America after an arranged marriage and is figuring out if the man she has been married off to, is indeed the man she thought he was. There is a heart-breaking story of a mother who has lost her son due to the so-called heroics of her journalist husband. There is a coming-of-age story of a spoilt young brother, told through his sister, who sees him grow up and mature during his time in prison. My favourite story in the collection is one with a slight dark twist, about a cold blooded crime committed in childhood and it's life long consequences.

Characters: A wide number of characters live within these pages. Simple rural folks, living a hard life in hard times. Big-men, who marry pretty young girls and have numerous affairs on the side. Strong women who survive and thrive. The book is full of inspiring and real people I loved reading about.

What I Liked: The writing is really great. Simple, moving and powerful. I loved almost every single story in the book, which doesn't always happen in a short story collection. I also loved 'visiting' Nigeria. I love reading about different cultures and people. I hadn't read a book about Nigeria before this and I am so glad I started with this one.

What I didn't: Nothing really.

General Thoughts: I had heard nothing but good things about the author and this book in particular. I had been meaning to read this book for absolutely ages but somehow never got around to it. I started with this book and loved the way the author writes and the stories she tells. I followed this up with The Purple Hibiscus, a full length novel and enjoyed that as well. A review of that will be up shortly.

Will You Like It? Yes, if you like reading about different cultures and countries and wonder how people live in the world, you'll enjoy these stories from Nigeria.

Rating: 5/5 

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Review: Lola and The Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins.

Book: Lola and the Boy Next Door

Author: Stephanie Perkins

Pages: 338

How Long it took me to read? A day or so. Chick-lit if good moves along nicely :) 

Plot Summary: This is the story of Lola Nolan, a truly original and quirky girl. Lola doesn't believe in fashion she believes in costume! She dresses in elaborate costumes and wigs and get-ups and lives her life dressed as one enchanting character after another. Lola's life is going great- she is being raised by her 2 loving dads and even has a rocker, older boyfriends (her dads are not too happy about it!) but Lola is happy and life is finally looking good. Enter the Bell twins moving back in next door. Calliope and Cricket, were her childhood friends turned strangers and even though it's been a couple of years since she last saw them, seeing the shy, smart and intrepid inventor Cricket Bell is making Lola's heart flutter all over again. Will Lola fall back in love with the boy next door???!! 

Characters: There is Lola and she was a delight to read about. She dresses like no one else and is such an original piece, I love reading about quirky characters and Lola was super fun to read about. She was also real and not some typical teenage stereotype. She loves her family and wants them to be proud of her. She has the 'cool' boyfriend but still has doubts and insecurities. 

But people, the character you'll love is Cricket Bell! Oh my God! This boy is so sweet. He is also smart. Kind. Selfless. He invents things. He is just amazing. All things a boy in a chick-lit book should be and then some. 

There are also Lola's dads, her druggie birth mother, her best friend, Cricket's family and there is Anna and Etienne (I will explain in a minute but those of you who have read Anna and the French Kiss, already know.) All the secondary characters add to the story. I like books, YA or otherwise, that have meaningful secondary characters. 

What I loved: The romance. The realistic portrayal of teenagers and love. There is no love at first sight crap. These are people who've known each other for a long time and know of each others flaws and issues and still fall in love, slowly and over time. Their friendship is also pretty sweet. 

But more than anything else, I liked Lola and I just loved Cricket. 

What I didn't: I had some issues with Lola's dads, they were a little too over-protective and involved and very, very controlling. 

General Thoughts: I don't really read a lot of romance. Especially a lot of YA romance. But this book was simply amazing. Great characters and a good story. This was a great read and I haven't had a crush on a teenage boy in a while (which is a good thing obviously, since one is no longer a teen!) but Cricket Bell reminded me of being a teenager and lovestruck. 

This book is a sorta companion/ second in the series but not quite. Anna and The French Kiss was the first book and Anna and her boyfriend Etienne feature in this book as well. But this book is in no way a real sequel. Anna and Etienne are merely secondary characters in this book. You don't need to have read that one to read this. I preferred this one to Anna and The French Kiss by leap and leaps.

Will you like it? Yes, I think you will.

Rating: 5/5

Monday, 1 July 2013

Things That Make Me Happy/// Part- 2.

1. Road-trips! Blue skies and the open road are good for the soul. This is a picture from a recent road-trip to Pune. 

2. A little collection of cute little erasers that I can't resist. Also little cupcake lip-balm, the lip-balm is not that great but the little containers are too cute to be kept in hiding. They sit in my living room and add to our quirky decor. 

3. Chocolates! Always make me happy. 

4. I have slight deep..abiding love for satchel bags. Some might call it a slight addiction, but I choose to look at it as a fond love for satchel bags. This one is deep orange colour. I also love traditional/ old school notebooks like the one in the picture. I write stories in this one. 

5. Music boxes are such magical old worldly things of joy! This one was a gift from my dida (maternal grandmother). It's from someplace in London and has a dancing ballerina inside. I love it. I store my gold toned rings in it. 

6. An armful of colourful bangles. And a fun tote with little elephant bums on all over! What's not to love?! 

These are some of the things that make me happy. What's making you happy?

Sister Sundays: The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Book: The Round House

Author: Louise Erdrich

Pages: 321

How long it took me to read: 2 days

Plot Summary: The Round House is a story based in a North Dakota Native American Reservation in the late 1980s. The voice of the book is a 13-year old boy called Joe, who lives with his parents on the Reservation. His father is a Native American judge and his mother works with the Reservation's genealogy department. The story starts with Joe and his father pulling out seedlings out of the foundation of their house during Joe's summer break. While father and son are de-weeding their home's foundation, Joe's mother gets brutally raped near the Reservation's, now defunct, ceremonial structure, called The Round House. What is also interesting about the Round House is that it falls smack in the middle of Native, State and Federal land, basically, making it a no-man's land legislation-wise. This presents challenges in the investigative process as everyone and no one has jurisdiction. Joe's mother is in shock and is unwilling to speak and the investigation is not going anywhere. Joe decides to take matters into his own hands and he and his gang of friends go about trying to find out what happened to his mother that morning and who did it.

Characters: There is, of course, Joe- our key protagonist and the voice of the book- a 13 year old Native American boy, for whom this summer is when he leaves his childhood far, far behind as he goes about trying to find his mother's attacker. Then there are Joe's friends, his grandfather- Mooshum- a man who still believes in the old ways of crime and punishment and is a wonderful character to read about. Joe's dad- Bazil- presents an interesting contrast to Mooshum and even Joe's thirst for justice and revenge. Bazil is a man of the law is dependent upon the law to take its due course and his struggles in dealing with his wife's attack and its traumatizing aftermath are very real. His helplessness further fuels Joe's drive to investigate his mother's attack. Then there is Joe's mother- Geraldine- who is struggling to come to terms with her normal life post her rape and how she can't really be the wife and mother that she was before.
Other characters that are important to the plot are Linda Wishkob- a white woman, whose family had disowned her because she was deformed and who was adopted by a Native American family and whose story is so heart-breaking but also full of hope.

What I Liked: I liked the way in which the coming-of-age theme was handled in this book. It was not in the cutesy, often, sweet way in which other Young Adult books depict it, but rather in a more brutal and direct way. A 13 year old's mother is raped and he is coming to terms with understanding not only the nature of the assault but also how red tape and complicated legalities mar the investigation. As Joe unearths more of what happened that morning, the more he moves away from his world of childhood pursuits into adulthood. The writing is beautiful and so, it is great to read about the Native American community, rituals, beliefs and life.

What I didn't like: The book was a bit rambly in parts. I wish it were more taut and tight- there were way too many aunts and other random characters that didn't really bring much to the story.

Will you like it? If you enjoy reading about different cultures, then you will enjoy this book. Also, if you are looking for a slightly different coming-of-age story, then this is a good book to pick up. 

Rating: 4/5