Monday, July 21, 2014

Books I have read recently - #2

Guess what the bolded and underlined headings are? Platform nine and a three quarters!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's stone:
I took a long time to get here. I've also avoided watching the movies so I could do the book and the movie side by side. This book was written by Rowling when she had her back to the wall - or burned all bridges so to speak. The most impressive aspect of this book is that it conjures up a parallel universe, a universe which wizards inhabit and us commoners are "muggles". It should have taken enormous working out. Even the subtle undercurrents of such a life are brought out to the surface wonderfully. But being the first book, it could have even succeeded by the element of surprise. But to sustain it through a septology is no mean feat. 
I am glad the entire septology of both books and movies are out before I started on these. No frustrating waiting time!
Ok, the movie next before the chamber of secrets!

The Elephant Whisperer: 
I paused for a long time after finishing this book. I didn't want it to end. Almost desperately, I was flipping pages forward (this is Kindle!) and as an appendix I found pictures from the book. To think I almost missed them! You can't read this overnight (well most can't), so you can get a synopsis of the book here. Well its more like a segment of a chapter, but its a good precursor. It also includes color photographs that I found at the end of my book.

Most of us are either prudish or are driven by apathy. It takes a different kind of person, one who has the necessary courage, passion and endurance to walk the distance and take difficult decisions even if they may be heart-wrenching. This is an account by such a man. And the story is nothing short of extraordinary. There are so many "OMG" moments that the review in itself would be very long to highlight these moments. I will save you the ordeal and just say - please read the book!

Its very difficult to articulate the amalgamation of emotions criss-crossing inside once I finished it. I will just say that the desire to visit Thula Thula is very strong now. Hopefully in the near future, when the finances allow (gulp!). Its a very steep ask at this time. Its also inevitable that I am going to pick up "The Last Rhinos" soon. The title of that book sounds ominous - I should keep my heart from sinking.

Post Note:
I was browsing through and there was this reading challenge for 2014. "I will read xx books this year". You can plug in your xx. I punched in 10 and then realized the number was ridiculously small. I might have hit that number this year already. In fact, I don't have the time to do any kind of intense reading. Its just one hour at night before sleep and I see books finishing by themselves. A reminder I can bring to other activities - that small steps go a long way.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Books I've read recently

If movies can take up review space, books should too right? And if movies promote attention deficit, books should promote attention? I hope they do! I want to make a slight transition from being a primarily non-fiction reader to a combination of both - like 70-30 with bias towards non-fiction. And with the Kindle proving to be very vital with space and as a bookshelf, I think paperback's will be very infrequent for me. I am sort of reorganizing my reading culture around the Kindle now. The Kindle has some important draw backs but it is on-the-dot as a paperback substitute.

Eat Pray Love:
One vital thread was missing when I started reading this book - actually until I was 90% through with this book. I made the mistake of browsing through some reviews.

I have no problem with the narcissistic undertone. Or with how elaborately she engages with trivia - like eating gellato at 9am in Italy. Or that she wanted to leave her marriage. Or that she broke up with her post-divorce boy friend. I was actually quite impressed with the candidness. However, in one of the reviews there was a seminal bit of information. She was paid $200K as an advance (keeper, not required to be returned) to travel and write about her journey. That sort of turned my entire perspective upside down.

It was like somebody took out a pink lens in front of my eye and replaced it with a blue one. I don't have an issue with the money as such. Its just that money is a great neutralizer of discomfort. The initial view of a woman going out on a limb, burning all her bridges not knowing whats next morphed into a woman going on a vacation with a $200K budget. Importantly, this sort of retrofit writing definitely impacts the quality and the actual events as well. I am eating gelato with a friend I got introduced to in Italy - the perspective of the a woman enjoying this precarious moment not knowing her future versus a woman for whom this is a petty indulgence and jotted down on her little notebook remembering to include this in her novel - *very different*.

Another problem was with honesty. She's candid with everything - heck she is happy to admit on record she m*********d. But she didn't think it was appropriate to announce she has an advance that amounts to lifetime savings for like most of the world populace. I should have seen it coming as one incident in the book gave it away. I just assumed unabashed honesty and a pre-established rapport with the author from an earlier TED talk.

I eventually went ahead and finished the book - because I was 90% done. But it made me very sad!
I suggest that you skip the book.

Killing Floor (Jack Reacher #1):
I wanted to read a Jack Reacher book after watching the character's debut movie. This was also my first Lee Child book. This was also Lee Child's first book. This was also the first Jack Reacher novel. I will just say that this book is one of the reasons I want to increase my fiction quotient in reading. The writing style is casual and nonchalant, yet explosive. I couldn't put it down.

Die Trying (Jack Reacher #2):
Guess why I picked this up? For some reason, this book switches to a third person perspective compared to Jack Reacher's perspective from book 1. May be because the author wanted us to have a ringside view of other events in the story. Again, couldn't put it down because of the story and the writing style. But the first one was better. This is certainly not my last Jack Reacher book, but I am pausing for now.

Hat tip about Jack Reacher: He's like Jason Bourne. Doesn't rely on luck. Expert in many things. Finds a way out of nothing. Is astute with an eagle like sharpness into events. If it is all too cliche for you, you might find it over the top, but not boring. For me, these are character traits I want to pickup - especially the multi-faceted talents and the depth of insight. So it was engaging and inspiring as well!

Next, I want to start and go through the Harry Potter septology.
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