Friday, June 29, 2012

Behind the Blog # 7: Loving Animals

Behind the Blog is a meme to help bloggers connect their life and interests to the content showcased on their blog. The co-hosts, FayeKathe, andMelissa will provide a different topic, idea, or question every week that bloggers can relate to themselves and the books, films, or other media they find interesting!

Animals are everywhere and can make a large impact in people’s lives, so this week we’re asking how you feel about animals. Are you an animal lover? Do you get on with animals but don’t go out of your way to spend time with them? Do you dislike them? What is your favourite animal? Do you own any pets?

In relation to books and films, what animals have you loved reading or watching? This can include animals like werewolves, if you so wish!

When it comes to talking/thinking about animals, I'm pretty sure of what I feel about them. I love all animals and why not? Just because we've been created with far better abilities than them doesn't give us any excuse to hate them. But... and that's a big but, I still haven't got over my phobia of going within touching distance of them. It isn't that I don't like touching them, but I abstain from it because of the fear that they might bite or something because I've never had a pet and I don't know how they'll act! And it makes me sad. I mean, it's such a little thing, everyone I know is okay with it and I dream of sky diving and such stuff but I'm scared of animals because they might bite me? It's funny in a way as well and hugely embarrassing. 

I remember though, when we were kids, we built a makeshift shelter for little puppies of stray dogs in the neighbourhood. I know I was comfortable with them back then but I don't know how the aversion began. Maybe it's because I and my little brother did have stray dogs after us (and there are so many stray dogs here). Plus, once we were at a family friend's place who had two dogs as pets and when they were feeding them, I was watching them fascinated, the way their tongues lapped at the milk and the way they gobbled down the food. Before I could look away, one of them looked up and our eyes met (weird usage of words, but that's what it was) and the next instant they were barking like anything and came running straight at me. I was a kid and I guess I suffered a mini heart attack of sorts. I was later told that you shouldn't be watching them while they eat. Is that really true? Because the stray dog whom we feed with milk and bread occasionally never minds it. I watch it all the time. From behind the door. 

Let's say I did try to get over it. While in school, I visited a friend's place three or four times and she has a pug as a pet and she totally adores it. Of course I love it too, in a way. I just can't stop my heart from being terrified when they rush out to strangers (and it happens whichever place I go to), though now I've learned to be sure to be wearing full length jeans if we're going to anyone's place with a dog as a pet. As stupid as it sounds, I'm scared they might bite at my ankles otherwise. 

I hope I'm not sounding like I dislike them, because I do love them. They're fascinating, just from a distance. A stray one in our block once got stuck among some underground pipes while giving birth! There was a hole of sorts outside a neighbour's house and the dog had gone there to look for  a safe place for its puppies (apparently, another stray dog had been killing her babies previously and she needed a safe hiding place), but one of her legs got stuck among the mesh of pipes and she stayed there, crying for three whole days! I can proudly say I initiated her little 'rescue operation' when no one seemed bothered. I mean, even with all those fears, I can never see any living creature in pain. (If you really want to know the whole story, click here). I hope that made up for it. :) 

I've also never seen cats as pets where I live. The only family person I know who's had a cat as a pet lives in London. I love the stories about that cat (named Swea Pea) and I would very much like to see it for real (and pet it too, if I would be fearless enough)! I would love to have birds as pets but the idea of caging them seems revolting to me. It's just something I don't think I can do. Besides, I don't know how to take care of them. 

Apart from these, from what I've seen (real or TV) and what I've read, I think I would love to see penguins for real. And dolphins. They look very cute. I also love the peacock, which is India's national bird and I've seen them too! It's a treat to watch them with their feathers all open, which is a rare sight and I'm so glad I've seen them like that! I also like to see parrots, with their green bodies and red, sharp beaks. They're beautiful. Also, I found some spiderhunters in our neighborhood park and photographed one. They aren't here anymore though. (These three pictures have been clicked by me. :) ). And I just realized these all are birds, not animals. :|

Pretty parrots
A spiderhunter

The majestic peacock!
I also really want to go to a wildlife park or a Safari of sorts to see the animals in the wild. since I love natural, beautiful places and forests seem mystical to me (though I've never even been to a forest yet). We have quite a few famous national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India where I want to visit, like Kanha National Park (the largest tiger reserve in India), the Sunderbans (a part of the world's largest delta formed by mighty rivers Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna. We can see all great types of animals and birds there!) and Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, famous for its birds! 

Books and Movies
Since I haven't really been near many animals, I know about them through books and stories and movies. Some books are based on animals and those we read mostly as kids. I loved reading 101 Dalmitians and also enjoyed the movie. Same with The Lion King. Most of the folk tales of India, especially in Panchtantra, by Vishnu Sharma, have the main characters as animals. They're all moral stories for kids with animals to portray behaviors considered good/bad/horrible/acceptable. 

Then I found some fascination for horses with The Saddle Club series (Bonnie Bryant), which just grew when I read about special Lipizzaner stallions in The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson. (We had horse riding in school and I remember I did that, but that was a million years ago! I gave up too soon and now I have a certificate I got many years later, of participating in the school's "Horse Show". The certificate doesn't say that I was among those dancers in white gowns who performed at the inauguration ceremony). Eva Ibbotson reminds me of one of her another books, Island of the Aunts, which had different creatures on the said island; not really real animals, fantasy ones, but animals nevertheless. I also find Aslan in the Narnia series interesting (and intellectual, of course). Reading books gives you so much to think about, makes you aware of things and places you never knew existed and even gives you the power so you can dare to imagine new things too. One of the finest points in reading and one that provides that zeal to read more and more! 

I don't really watch many movies, except those based on kids. They're just beautiful. One movie that always makes me cry (admitting) is Free Willy, a story about the friendship between a small boy and a whale. I also liked Chestnut, a movie about a dog and two sisters who loved it. I'm sure I've seen more, but I don't remember them at the moment, apart from the famous ones like Stuart Little, Finding Nemo, The Jungle Book and all.

What about you? Do you like animals? Which are your favorites?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review: The Clockwork Man

Title: The Clockwork Man
Find it at: Flipkart/ Amazon
Published by: Grey Oak Publishers
Pages: 231
My Rating: 3.5/5

The Clockwork Man is the story of Ernst, a man created entirely of clockwork by a world famous clock maker, Karl Gruber. The best thing I like about science fiction is that it still seems believable. There are things we might have found impossible two decades ago, which happen as a normality now. So when you read about science exploring realms that seem impossible, you naturally get fascinated by it! 

In the town of Frankfurt, lived a world famous clock maker, Herr Gruber with many famous and intricate clocks to his credit. But his most precious creation is Ernst (made in 1887), a man made entirely of clockwork, who's been taught impeccable manners, knowledge of a variety of subjects, the power to exercise judgment and some knowledge of his own delicate workings and strength. People come from all over the world to marvel at him, such was the intricacy that it made people scared, but fascinated. Ernst is very much a gentleman and he loves his Master's family, comprising Gruber, his seventeen year old daughter Giselle, his ten year old son, Jakob and their househelp Fraulein Gruenwald.

Karl Gruber doesn't think of Ernst as a commodity, but a piece of art, so he gets offended when a fellow scientist suggests he make many similar clockwork men for commercial purposes. His aim is to keep Ernst safe and find someone trustworthy who'll understand the true nature of his creation when he's no longer alive. But does Gruber know to what extent Ernst is capable? Can he develop feelings? Ernst develops a profound love for Giselle and just as their relationship becomes intimate, tragedy strikes and the family is torn apart. Unable to bear the loss and loneliness, Ernst lets himself wind down hoping no one would wound him up again, in a kind of suicide. 

When he wakes up again after being in a museum and now sold to a businessman, he doesn't recognize the people surrounding him or the place where he's kept. Pretending to be a dummy, he notices everything around him, trying to find out what happened when he was wound down. When he finds an ally and confidante in a homeless man who's eccentric but cares for him, Ernst begins searching for books that would tell him about his hometown. Turns out the Master and his family are all long dead, since it's now 2005. Grieving over the loss of his "family", Ernst tries to begin a new life among a series of surprising, scary and heart-warming events.

My Thoughts
When I began reading this book, I was happily surprised to find that it's in the form of Ernst's diary, so everything that's happened is from the clockwork man's point of view. It gives the whole picture, about everything as Ernst understands, which is something I hadn't read in a long while. It shows the depth at which the marvelous man can understand things or things related to human behavior he doesn't really understand. While it definitely gave a unique view at things, people and situations, it became kind of depressing in the first half of the book. The reason might be Ernst's limited knowledge about humans and their behavior, or the fact that all of it was just what one person was thinking all the time. He's sometimes confused as to why some things happen, what he thinks should happen, how he feels happy or sad, though he made a point to let readers know that he's incapable of feeling emotions, but he feels them in his nickel frame nevertheless.

At first when I wasn't even halfway, I felt it's become too melancholy because of the whole plot revolving around the same characters, same place and very similar "feelings" Ernst feels and I thought I'd give it a 2 star rating. After two days I picked it up again and read through and surprisingly, it just got better! It definitely is much better when Ernst winds down, sees his Master's old face for a moment and then after he wakes up a hundred years later. New place, new characters, the probable danger he's in, his new discoveries about himself, doing things he never did before, understanding that the world's not made up of just good souls like his Master's family. 

I loved the descriptive aspect of the book, even though it's told from the clockwork man's point of view, it does the job great! Especially since the first part's based in late 1800s, that too in Frankfurt (which I've always admired in whatever books I've read about it) I loved that part; the niceties, the ancient streets and people, compared with what he sees a hundred years later in America. I loved the twists and turns (seriously, there's one such character who shows up just once and you're dying to know who that is and it only gets revealed towards the end!), the limits to which Ernst stretches himself to stop evil, to find out his Master's fate and the characters who know and understand what and who Ernst really is. I personally prefer happy endings and this one couldn't have been better! Ernst finds out someone, a descendant of his beloved family and the opportunity to get back what he had lost and was "grieving" over, but now without his Master's counsel, it is up to him to decide his own new life and the way it will be. It's a very good perspective on life, if you really think about it. I love such strong messages in books and stories! They're awesome! Before I forget, the characters' description and personality was also very well portrayed. I especially liked the homeless man, Greely and his funny antics!

Some lines from the book I liked and saved!

"If I now live in a world in which I must turn a blind eye toward evil, I do not think I shall grow to like this place."

This one shows the depth of his understanding and the feeling of loss in Ernst.
"I believe my tolerance has reached its limit. While I do not know the Master's original inspiration for creating me, I can say with certainty it was not to be a commodity, a curiosity to be gawked at and abused with the impunity for the amusement of paying clients. Though I harbored some small hope that his attitude might change, it is now clear that my new master will never value me in the same way Herr Gruber and Giselle had; perhaps I must now accept that no living person does." 

PS- The book cover says this:
Created to Fascinate
Designed to serve
Until he broke free

The point is, I don't think the last line holds if we see it from the complete perspective. He didn't "break free". It's making it sound like he escaped, but he didn't. He could very well have stayed with his Master if not for circumstances and people who took him away. Unless it means about the year 2005 when he broke free from his captors, then it makes sense!

Recommended for: Science fiction lovers, robot stories lovers and if you're willing to live through the first slightly monotonous half of the book (but the second half definitely gets interesting and makes it much better), you'd like to read this. :)

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Meg-a-readers Blog Hop! + Review: Underworld

To celebrate two new releases by Meg Cabot, who's among my top-favoritest authors ever, Mandy at The Romance Bookie and Diana at Little Miss Drama Queen have hosted a blog hop where Meg Cabot fans unite and take turns to do a special, related feature on our blogs! The latest releases are Underworld (release date May 8, 2012), book 2 of the Abandon trilogy and Size 12 and Ready to Rock (release date July 10, 2012), book 4 of the Heather Wells series! 

Meg Cabot
I'm delighted to tell you that it's my turn today! I've read Underworld and feel like sharing its glory on my blog with a review. Without any more blabbering, here it is:

Title: Underworld
Author: Meg Cabot
Price: Rs. 299 (Rs. 224 at Flipkart)/ $ 11.10 at Amazon
My Rating: 4/5

Underworld is the second book of the Abandon trilogy, the story of seventeen year old Pierce Oliviera who's had an NDE, been taken to the Underworld, had a death deity follow her around, trying to keep her away from Furies, one of which happens to be Pierce's grandmother! In a Fury attack at Pierce's high school cafeteria, Pierce has a narrow escape and that's when John takes her to his world, The Underworld! 

Pierce is in the Underworld, maybe for ever. She knows she loves John, the death deity, but is she ready to progress her relationship with him? Is she really safe in the Underworld? Maybe she is, but what about her family and the ones she loves back on Earth? Her grandmother, for one, is a fury and lives with her cousin, Alex and his dad. So when Pierce sees a very mysterious video that shows Alex in trouble, she's intent on saving him. It might be Alex's own plans that will get him into trouble or Furies might be behind it, it's not clear. Pierce just knows she has to save Alex. But is John willing to take her back to Earth and put her in danger yet again? 

There's John's mysterious past to consider as well. Pierce wonders what it possibly could be and what do those few others in the Underworld have anything to do with it. Is there any way that Furies could be destroyed?

My thoughts
An absolutely wonderful continuation to the story in Abandon! I enjoyed reading about Pierce's and John's progressing relationship, which is somewhat a major focus in this book. John wants Pierce to remain with him in the Underworld forever, not just to keep her safe, but also because he loves her too much. Both of them, in fact, are in conflicting minds over what they want. Of course they know they want each other, but is Pierce ready for what lies ahead, leave Earth and live in the Underworld, in centuries old dresses, with John forever? The way it all was written and put forth, I think is a very clever manner to talk about insecurities and confusion people face. I like the mystery about John and the way he's so protective of Pierce, how he's always present at the right time to make things right and trying to keep Pierce happy, whatever it takes. Even though Pierce's confusion is justified, I sometimes wished it wouldn't rock back and forth too much. But even then, it's alright. She did a few great things, for which I'm proud of her! 

Based on the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone, this book explores the realms of Underworld, the faint world between heaven and hell, the 'station' from where souls depart on their respective final resting places. I personally enjoy Greek myths a bit and so it was interesting to see the Underworld from this point of view. Imagination rules for me!

New characters! I must admit that I felt the book would've been mediocre if it just continued with the small amount of characters from the previous, even though the story is progressing. It was pleasant, therefore, to have new characters, especially with a mystery behind them that Pierce and the readers are not aware of. It was refreshing. It gives a lot to think about and see the amount of trouble Pierce is supposedly in, from a greater perspective of how it doesn't just concern her and her family, but the whole island of Isla Huesos! 

As I've said many times before, I love books that are descriptive and allow the reader to experience a whole different world, complete with pictures and feelings of excitement, nervousness and whatever the character's experiencing! Underworld certainly doesn't disappoint in this aspect and that's among the prime reasons I love it. There's this small video inside my head, where I've got this all pictured. The cemetery, Pierce's home, the Underworld, the palace, the Coffin Night festival and everything! What can be better than this? :)

The story seemed to be running at a constant pace throughout, but it certainly increased its pace towards the end! It was absolutely thrilling, engaging and I was hooked till I reached the end. Surprises, astounding twist and turns of events, some amazing discoveries (at one point I found my mouth slightly open. Just saying), so that I was definitely sad I wouldn't be knowing what's going to happen next! About Pierce, John, others in the Underworld, Pierce's family, her friends, Alex, Mr. Smith - the cemetery sexton and Isla Huesos! Considering her previous series that I've read, I'm sure the ending would be perfect. 

Meg retains her trademark conversational style of writing in this book too, which is what makes me love them so much! It's easy to read, understand and know what's happening and you get inside the character's heads so deep (thanks to the way it's written), you'd think all of it is happening to you. I especially enjoy the humor that's always inside Meg's characters' in some way or the other. It makes for very enjoyable reading! 

If you've read Abandon, you shouldn't be waiting to read Underworld. Grab your copy now! If you haven't read Abandon as well, but would like to red a bit on Greek myth of the Underworld, this series is recommended! Also if you love Young Adult literature.

PS- I adore the fact about Meg Cabot that she can write on a variety of topics with so much ease! I love the mystery in the Heather Wells series, which I'll be re-reading now. :D

Friday, June 22, 2012

Behind the Blog # 6: On colors!

Behind the Blog is a meme to help bloggers connect their life and interests to the content showcased on their blog. The co-hosts, Faye, Kathe, and Melissa will provide a different topic, idea, or question every week that bloggers can relate to themselves and the books, films, or other media they find interesting!  
Did you know that colors have meanings attached to them? Some say that a person’s favorite color can be indicative of their personality or things that they are striving for in their lives. What is your favorite color? Do you think that the meaning behind your favorite color reflects your personality or something that you are trying to achieve? What is your least favorite color? 
In relation to books: What are some books you’ve read that have good use of color? Are there any films you’ve seen where color plays a major role in the plot?

Ever since I can remember, I think my favorite color has always been Pink, the staple color for most little girls. Except that I'm not a little girl anymore, but I can be very stubborn when I come down to it. I guess that aspect has made its effect on my favorite color remaining the same since forever! I mean, what's wrong with liking pink? I've had people smirk at it and to tell the truth, I've grown even more attached to that color because of that! Why does it seem immature, if I like it? It isn't. It's just a pretty color! And it isn't even consciously that I find myself attracted to all things pink.

Otherwise, how would you explain this? Almost half of the clothes I own are in different shades of pink or have some little pink in them, most accessories are in shades of pink, my room's pink and not just one pink, but the walls have three different shades of pink! Obviously, to match the colors, I usually have the bedsheets, etc in a matching shade. I've got some books with pink covers just because they looked attractive. It's just a fact, I'm obsessed with everything pink! 

Now, I don't know much about what colors symbolize and why we're attracted to certain colors more than others. So I just Googled a bit and whoa! I found out so much that made me both, 'yay' and 'ouch' in equal measures. I guess there's always a positive and negative inkling with everything. Anyway, a few short points collected from different websites: (references at the end of the post).

-  The color pink usually serves two purposes.  It can be used to show childish innocence, or a child-like personality.  For example, you want to remain a child. You get pleasure out of very simple, and 'childish' things.  Even so, you also would like to grow up and become an adult woman… but you're afraid of losing your childhood innocence.  Pink is normally a color associated with girls and femininity.
You know what, just this paragraph describes me perfectly. 

Having a personality color pink as your favorite color means you are loving, kind, generous and sensitive to the needs of others. You also have maternal instincts and your deepest need is to be loved.
Oh boy. They caught me on that 'deepest need' part. I didn't even know it was true, but giving it some thought, it most probably is. Anyway, it also means I can be immature sometimes, which I admit, I can be. 

Even though I'm obsessed with Pink, I've also always been fascinated with Purple! I think I read somewhere, when I was a kid, that purple is the color of royalty. That must have been the trigger for me to love purple! I've always loved all things royal, be it princessy books or TV shows or gowns or costumes! I mean, when Prince William married Kate Middleton, I watched the whole marriage ceremony on TV, from morning till evening; every bit of it. It just fascinates me! When it comes to designing or decorating anything, my top choice for color is pink, but when it doesn't do, it has to be purple. I found this very true piece on purple:

If purple is your favorite color you have a great respect for people but can be arrogant: Absolutely true!

Mysterious is a word that describes you perfectly: Perfectly true!

You like power and royalty and wish to enlighten others with your wisdom: Need I even say anything? 

You are a faithful partner but can be cruel with your words: Damn! It's a sad fact. Not that I've ever been a partner, but sometimes I can speak harshly. :|

Others can mistake your desire for all things to be sophisticated as being intimidating: Seriously? Is there anyone who thinks I'm intimidating? C'mon, just tell me! I said, just-tell-me! NOW! :P

Creativity is something you pride yourself in, though you may not be good at artistic endeavors (such as drawing or painting): This actually cleared my thoughts. I had been wondering why I like 'uniqueness' and creativity, but I'm not exactly a person with many creative ideas.

You tend to be sentimental and have a great amount of empathy for others: Agree. 

It's not that I don't like other colors, I guess I like every other color too, just not so much that I'd want it to be my room color ;) But generally, I love color everywhere, especially when it's where it belongs. Like the different shades of green in plants and trees, the calm blue ocean, the brown and green and sometimes white in mountains, the red of love, the black of power, the yellow of the Sun (but never the harsh one. Or that of bananas), the pink covers of my notebooks ;), etc...

Pssst... Some element of pink and purple will always be on my blogs. I can't just do without them! Though, I changed the template of my other (personal) blog to something blue very recently, it was always something pink before. I've still added a few pinkish/purplish things there, though. ;)

That's what colors I usually like and what I found out it might say about my personality. 

Coming to books, the first one that came to mind was 'Pink or Black' by Tishaa Khosla. It's a high school story about a girl who's decided to understand herself deeply, though she's confused over her favorite color. She likes both, Pink and Black, but doesn't understand why. Her Mother explains something to her that I just loved! It's this: 'That is because our favorite colors have something to do with our personalities too. Pink is just one side of your personality, the side which loves life and wants to live it happily. Black is the other side of you, the stronger side which gives you hope and strength to see you through rough patches. There are so many beautiful colors, why choose only one as your favorite?'

There is this 'TRUECOLORS' series by author Melody Carlson. They're all teenage, high school stories and I've only ever read Harsh Pink- Color me Burned, which was an enjoyable read. I mean, the ones we usually read as teens. I've got 'Deep Green- Color me Jealous' too but I haven't read it yet. The stories are titled according to what the plot is all about, so it's kind of interesting. 

Though I don't have much to say about it, I recently got "The story of my life" by Hellen Keller. I guess reading about how life would have been for her when she couldn't see colors (well, couldn't see anything), it'd really give me a different perspective on things. I haven't read it yet, either.

And.... it's not very related to the topic but I'm just getting many thoughts about anything related with colors and there's a non-fiction book by Sonal Kalra, Editor, HT City, Hindustan Times, titled, A Calmer You. It's a collection of her weekly articles on calmness. Once somebody posted on her FB page asking why's the cover the way it is, and what does it signify. I was all, "Hey.. because it's blue and blue is the color of calmness! Duh!" Errr... that's it. :P 

Oh yeah, the references:

Is it evident from this post that I'm in a kinda funny mood? Sorry about that! I'm just feeling giddy, what with *new* college beginning ten days from now and I don't want to go too soon and I've got so much more *fun* things on my list I still haven't done!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review: Divergent

Book Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Harper Collins
Price: Rs. 299 (Rs. 276 at Flipkart)/ $ 9.99 at Amazon
Pages: 487
My Rating: 5/5!

Many thanks to awesome book bloggers for awesome reviews for this book and its sequel in the trilogy, Insurgent, that made me purchase this one! It’s no wonder I loved every single word of it and just don’t know how to go about telling everyone how it is such a ‘must-read’. If you like fantasy and dystopian.

A dystopian fantasy, Divergent is the story of a world that’s divided itself into five different factions, in order to stop the wars between humans. They believed that if people can be trained to stay true to their faction and help in the running of their society with the traits they inherit and skills they learn, there would be no wars. But is living in a divided society with the motto, ‘faction before blood’ and just focusing on five good traits the solution? Humans are humans, after all and it’s only a matter of time before greed and hunger for power consumes them.

The five factions are Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Dauntless (the brave), Erudite (the intelligent), Candor (the honest). Sixteen year old Tris belongs to Abnegation and has always been taught innumerable acts of selflessness and living a plain life. Every year, the sixteen year olds are subjected to an aptitude test and then they get to choose the factions they would want to spend the rest of their lives with, during the Choosing ceremony. The aptitude tests are supposed to help the takers understand which faction they’re best suited for, by throwing them in a simulation, but what happens with Tris? Is her test result Abnegation, where she already belongs or another faction where she feels she belongs? Or is the answer neither?

When she chooses her faction and struggles to get through the initiation, so that she’ll finally be accepted as a member of the faction and not just a child, there’s a lot going on. Only no one knows what, since inter-faction communication is not appreciated. Is the society at the brink of war? And what role does Tris have to play?

My thoughts
Brilliantly brilliant! First, the story, with the whole society divided into five different factions with extremely strict rules to adhere to, was quite different for me. Plus the fact that Tris, the lead protagonist doesn’t seem to fit. She’s different and her qualities are such that they scare those in power because of which she and others who’re the same, have to hide this secret, but Tris has no clue why. She doesn’t know why she’s forbidden to use the word what she is and why those few who do know that have forbidden her to use it. I loved the mystery behind it all and I especially felt my breath get caught up when the word ‘Divergent’ was first mentioned. I just knew it then that I’d be loving this book!

I like Tris. I mean, I really like this character! From what I make of it, Tris is the representative of how many of us really feel about our life. I could totally connect with her since page 1 because I think I understood how deep ther portrayal went. It’s not just about any girl who’s a misfit and a danger to those in power. She’s what we all are. She’s been brought up to be selfless all the time, in any action, and she’s learnt to be pretty good. But every human has a set of personal traits that has nothing to do with how you’re brought up. It’s just in you and whatever’s done on the outside, in whichever way you’re groomed and polished, there’ll always be some part of you that’s your true self. Tris likes adventure but it’s considered self-indulgent in Abnegation. She’d like to take the elevator but the Abnegation use the stairs so the elevator can be used by others. The personal preferences aren’t taken into consideration. That’s what happens with us too, right? I loved the way Tris gives a message of how we should be who we are, she’s brave, she can handle leaving her family behind, but she’s also a young girl who’s desperate for some love. She feels lonely without her family, but she loves the independence the other faction provides. I don’t know, I just love you, Tris!

Four (not his real name, it turns out) is Tris’s love interest. He’s the initiates’ trainer and there’s something mysterious about him that attracts Tris. He’s brave, but not really brutal and since that makes him different from the leaders, Tris wonders what the reason could be. Four is an admirable character too, protecting Tris, but mostly he acted as a guy with secrets who likes Tris and wants to keep her away from trouble. I have to say I warmed up to him a lot when he was with Tris and as their relation progressed. Maybe it was the way it was written, but I loved it! This is another love story within a story that I’ve liked!

The writing. Divergent is extremely well written, in first-person account, with perfect amounts of mystery, action, description of characters, their thoughts, the events and every single thing! It isn’t a book I’ve just read, I’ve actually lived the whole story, seen the different factions, the people and gone through the fights and sequences of action. It’s picturesque and not just with the scenery, but with everything. I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie adaptation turns out to be exactly as I saw it in my mind. I just adore such authors! <3

One thing about the whole book, that it’s so not predictable. I didn’t know what to expect, what will Tris choose? Will there be a war? Who are those who’re really dangerous? What is the matter with ‘Divergent’? Though I kind of guessed Four’s secret early on and was so pleased when it turned out to be what I’d thought it’d be, it was otherwise unpredictable and that’s why I think this book is awesome! It was quite clean and light in the beginning and for more than half of the book, in fact. When the action begins, it’s heart-stopping-thrilling and you wouldn’t feel like putting it down before it’s all over! I wouldn’t call the book fast-paced, because it was fast towards the end, but even then, the ending didn’t seem to be rushed.

There are a couple of things I’m not happy about, like the loss that two factions had to face, plus the personal tragedy that Tris goes through. I didn’t want that to happen, at all! Now I’m completely on edge and will be, until I get to read the second book in the trilogy, Insurgent. I’m pretty sure I’d love this whole series! I wouldn’t have said this a few months ago, but now I know that there are too many books I “love a lot”. Really, you cannot just confine yourself to a few books; there are just so many great ones! :D

Some lines from the book I like:

‘I believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another’

‘What good is a prepared body if you have a scattered soul?’

Recommended for: YA dystopian readers, adults, fantasy lovers.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

KOMF prompt #1

KOMF is a bloghop hosted by Kathy (Imagine Today) and Jessica (Write. Skate. Dream) on the 15th of every month. They came up with it as a way to meet new friends, help build the blogosphere and (hopefully) spark some creativity. So, here's the prompt:

Write a 200 word or less flash fiction beginning with this phrase: Her eyes shot open...

You are free to change the gender and POV if you'd like. 

Oh well, this is the first time I'll be writing any kind of flash fiction, so I know it wouldn't turn out as well as I would like, but I'd still like to participate since I would have something new to learn for myself! :)

Her eyes shot open and air filled her lungs. As she heaved her chest to breathe, she realized she wasn’t alone. She could feel someone lying a few feet away from her head, in that dark, open-air hovel, but she didn’t dare look that way. The horror of what she’d seen before filled her with a sorrow that seemed to seep into her, consuming, and made tiny sobs escape her.

She heard a moan and immediately stopped her whimpers. She didn’t want to move, to make them know that she still lived but she knew she had to escape, and fast. She needed a companion to influence her enough to run. The one behind her seemed like a man, from what she could figure from his voices of pain and heaving breaths, getting louder, trying to get up. Oh no! She couldn’t be lying there, especially with someone nearby who was probably on his feet. She braced all her energy and got up swiftly and turned around to face the most beautiful person she had ever seen! Moonlight made him look utterly, unbelievably gorgeous and she believed him with all her heart when he said,’We need to get out!’

That's it! 200 words! It wasn't very easy for me, since I have a tendency to overuse words, but it was fun! :)
Drop by the hosts' blogs if you're interested in participating, too. The entries close at 11.59 p.m. on the 15th!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Booker Award!!

*Drumroll* This blog got its first award, The Booker Award from Alyssa at Life is Good. Thank you Alyssa! It's very much appreciated. :)

To continue this award cycle, I'll write about the top five books I've read and then nominate five bloggers suitable for this award! What a tough choice it will be! I love almost all the books I read, it's so hard to criticize any of the authors. To overcome this confusion, I'll simply point out those books that immediately come to mind, which would most probably be my recent reads. 

Top favorite books:

1. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
Well, I could very well include the whole Harry Potter series, but I just loved the ending book! How beautifully all the mysteries unraveled, the perfect end of Voldemort and Snape! All my irritations with him simply vanished! And I loved the '30 years later' chapter. I was all 'awww', it was just perfect! 

2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I read this very recently, a couple of months ago and even though I liked all the three books, the first one remains my favorite. It was one that had me hooked from the first page till the end. I love Katniss, it's a great dystopian and since I love action, emotion and pacing, The Hunger Games was a perfect blend of all these and hence it's a book that's always somewhere in the back of my mind!

3. The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson

I sometimes wonder how many times I've mentioned it on my blog, how many times I've said it's my favorite, I worry if it will lose its charm. But nah! It's always on my mind whenever the word 'favorite' is anywhere near. I read this one a long time ago, but I find myself going back to it quite often. The first time I read, I was swayed by the story, the emotions and story telling was awesome! It's a must read. :) (And oh, I love all books by Eva Ibbotson. If you want fantasy for kids, check out her children's books)

4. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

This is the first Dan Brown book I read and I was stunned with the level of the book! It's mysterious, there are secrets, it's fast-paced (the whole 300 pages plus book narrates the story of one night!) and gives out facts and assumptions that we don't really already know. I came to know so much about Paris, The Louvre Museum, Leonardo DaVinci and some secret organizations. It was wonderfully brilliant! 

5. Angry River by Ruskin Bond

Okay, I read this one years ago and now I don't even have the book. But whenever I think 'Ruskin Bond', or an Indian story, Angry River is the first thing that comes to mind. I don't remember much about it except that it was a small book and deeply moving. I love emotional stuff and action, followed by a happy ending. Though there were unhappy scenes, a flood and rescue, it still simply moved me. Another must read. :)

I may have missed out on some really good books, but as I said before, I've mentioned just those that came to mind instantly. :)

Now coming to the bloggers to whom I'll be giving this award. This is even harder than listing the books! I like almost all the blogs that I follow, so it's not easy to have just 5 for this award. Also, going by the words 'The Booker Awards', I'll have to skip my non-book blogging friends (don't you worry, I'll have a separate blogging ceremony on my other blog for you!). 

So The Booker Award goes to:

1. Kathe @ Good Lit and Green Tea: For an awesome blog and for being the best book blogger buddy! :D

2. Alexandra @ Alexandra's Scribblings: I love the way you write! There is knowledge and a perfect kind of wording those thoughts!

3. Smita @ Books, Life n More: For having the first book blog I saw and took inspiration from. Your talks about everything else in life keeps me hooked!

4. Hilda @ Catch the Lune: I don't know, I just find this blog so cute! And the reviews are brilliant!

5. Rachel @ My Reading Pile: Among the first book blogs I simply loved! Rachel's kind and writes reviews on the latest of books and her blog's beautiful! :)

Dear winners, spread the love. Forward this award to your favorite bloggers! :) Thanks Alyssa, once again! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Bright Forever

The Bright Forever by Lee Martin

Author website: Click here 
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Published in: 2005
Price: Rs. 802- Imported edition (discounted to Rs. 602 At Flipkart)
/11.22 $ at Amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

From the book cover
On an evening like any other, nine-year-old Katie Mackey, daughter of the most affluent family in a small town on the plains of Indiana, sets out on her bicycle to return some library books. This simple act is at the heart of The Bright Forever, a suspenseful, deeply affecting novel about the choices people make that change their lives forever. Keeping fact, speculation and contradiction playing off one another as the details unfold, the author creates a fast-paced story that is as gripping as it is richly human. His beautiful, clear-eyed prose builds to an extremely nuanced portrayal of the complicated give and take among people struggling to maintain their humanity in the shadow of a loss.

It is a compelling and emotional tale about the human need to know even the hardest truth.
This is an awesome description as it sums up precisely what’s in the book!

My Thoughts
The Bright Forever is a tale of a small town in Indiana and its people. I got this book from the library and what really made me want to read it was its simplicity. The cover’s simple and from the description we would think it would be an effortless story. Well, the story was effortless, if you just focus on the events that happened, but the basis of the book became clear when I was halfway through. It’s basically about the way humans think and delves deep into the psychology of those who’re lonely, who have regrets and guilt, who’re scared to love. It primarily talks about things you don’t see in many books and for this, it was different and unlike many that I’ve read.

A man is a mathematics teacher and lives alone with no one to love except the children who’re his students. What goes on in his mind? How does he cope with such loneliness? How does he feel about loving a 9 year old girl as if she were his own daughter? What does the society think about it? This is Mr. Dees and the lively nine year old is Katie Mackey, daughter of an affluent family whom he teaches math over the summer. Katie is a lovely girl and Mr. Dees is immediately taken to her. But he’s worried about letting his feelings show in case her parents or other people might think he’s got a negative side to such behaviour. That’s the way we would think, wouldn’t we? As depressing as the character was, I think his portrayal was wonderful.

It’s not a happy story and the character’s lives are certainly not happy. The point of the book is to deliver the thoughts and feelings sad / lonely people might have and the way they feel when they’re shunned from the society or have no one to love. There’s Clare, Mr. Dees’s 60 year old neighbour who lost her husband Bill and then found Raymond after a while. Ray lives with her but the neighbours don’t like him and they cut off from Clare. This is another character who’s lonely, but she had someone to love and now there’s someone else. How does she juggle her feelings, how she’s innocent and wants Ray to be with her because she couldn’t think of staying alone.

Then there’s Ray, who was one character that kind of scared me. He seemed jolly and well, but when he started communicating with Mr. Dees and later tried blackmailing him and the readers don’t know what kind of a person he is, because we don’t have any background information. He was a drug addict and had a bad childhood. Ray’s character describes how hatred in childhood can distort the minds of the people, affecting the way they grow up to be. It’s not really their fault, they want to be good, but there’s always been so much of loathing they’ve seen that they can’t help their behaviour. They need help, not temptation.

The book’s written in a way that gives us the perspective from many different minds, like one chapter on Mr. Dees, how he’s thinking, what he feels happened, how he feels about Katie and her disappearance, then one chapter on Clare and things that happened, things she knows about, the next one on Raymond, next on Gilley, who’s Katie’s elder brother and has been shown as the family’s thinking-representative. This way of telling the story is different and refreshing since it gives the views from all sides, and there’s always some element of mystery, but it’s mild in the first half of the book. Once the events start rolling, it’s always there and not having a single perspective can be confusing. But overall, it was okay. If you’re looking for something that will help you understand human behaviour, this is one such book that you can go for.

Recommended for: The story isn’t a happy one and there are no happy endings. So, if you’re not interested in psychology related stuff and a story that can be a little bit depressing, you can skip this one. But if you think you’d like to understand in depth the behavioural aspects of guilt and regret ridden individuals and don’t mind a sad story, you should go for it.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Behind the Blog # 5: On Countries

Behind the Blog is a meme to help bloggers connect their life and interests to the content showcased on their blog. The co-hosts, Faye, Kathe, and Melissa will provide a different topic, idea, or question every week that bloggers can relate to themselves and the books, films, or other media they find interesting!
Because of the recent Jubilee, a time to celebrate everything British, as well as the upcoming Olympics, we’re looking at countries this week. Where do you live? What is your favorite country and why? In relation to media, what book has described a place you desperately want to visit? What film has showcased an area you someday want to go?

Well, even though I'm bad at geography, I would admit it, I've still read plenty of books to understand and know about some marvelous places I most certainly would want to visit some time in my life! I don't know a lot about many places, still, ironically, I really want to visit, see and explore every beautiful city, town, island in the world! :D

I wouldn't say my country's awesome. India has a rich culture, great history, I love the natural beauty of some places and I especially love the mountains in the north! I don't mind saying mountains are my favorite kind of landscape. I really like the sound of climbing those huge natural structures, gear and all. I don't know when it will be that I get to climb Mt. Everest someday (not exactly in India, it falls in Nepal, but still), but it's definitely on my bucket list of things-to-do-in-my-life! What I don't much like is the corruption that's literally making the country fall apart and making it less appealing to me day-by-day! I mean, I used to be such a my-country-best thinker as a kid, but seeing corrupt, sad, bad, pitiful things happening, stuff that should be illegal (and it is!) happening without any repercussions, is really affecting the way I feel. Living in a city where I can only see cement and brick buildings all around with hardly any open space to enjoy watching the stars doesn't help (which I love watching. One such experience was in Shimla, a hill station in north! It was filled with stars! Awesome!). Sometimes I wish I was in a place better suited to my interests. I would happily swap the present one with one in the mountains or with natural beauty around! I know ultimately I'll be living the life I want for myself, including the places and all, but I can't wait for it! Even then, I wouldn't say I'm not enjoying. I love my friends and we have awesome fun together. I know many great people who share similar thoughts and who're really kind. Whatever the pitfalls, it's still 'my country and my people.' :)

That's me on my first trip to London.
In Trafalgar Square. I was what?
One and a half years old!
Coming to foreign countries, I've actually only ever been to London (thrice, the last time being when I was just 12!), Australia and for a very short while, Singapore. All these trips were before I was 12, so you can guess how very bad I want to go somewhere, now! There's no saying when the next time will be, so I keep myself happy with the 'within-India' trips! I love London, though. With all that I remember, the best thing I would say is the cleanliness, which is bad here. :| It was like a life from a novel, which it would be, I realized, because I've read some with the setting over there! Australia would've been fun too, if the pictures are any indication. I was so small that I don't remember anything more than our family friend's place where we stayed, the pool outside their home, a visit to some park where there were extremely tall men walking on stilts and some fireworks! We were in Brisbane. It has beautiful landscape and I think even back then, I loved it! Dad visited Perth recently and boy, was it bea-uti-full!!! I fell in love with that place just by seeing the pictures! Hills on one side and the sea on the other. In my words, "heaven"! I really want to go there sometime! 

Venice! I want to be here!
Coming to books, I think The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson was one book that's made me really yearn to visit the wondrous city of Vienna, with it's special Spanish Riding School, the Prater (which has a once-upon-a-time world's biggest giant wheel) and the world's greatest musicians like Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Strauss have all lived and composed over there! Then of course, I want to visit Europe and its cluster of wonderful countries too (all of them, especially Venice, the city of waterways, canals and bridges). To think about it, I want to visit every place imaginable! Fiction can give us so much flexibility in our thoughts that nothing seems impossible! Another book by Eva Ibbotson, Journey to the River Sea had brilliant descriptions about the Amazon river and life of people who lived around it. In fact, among my top-favorite-things-I-like-about-books, is the extent to which it describes real places and its people. :)

So what do you think? What are your favorite places or those where you want to be?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Review: Finnikin of the Rock, Melina Marchetta

About the Author: Click here 
Publisher: Penguin books
Price: Rs. 572 (discounted to Rs. 446 At Flipkart)/ $9.99 at Amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

When I found this book in the library, I thought I’d heard/read about it somewhere. As much as the title seemed non-explanatory and I had no clue what would be inside (apart from what I inferred from the description, of course), I thought I had to read this one. There was a kind of pull that led me to have it in my hand. And I’m grateful to whatever it was, because I found a gem. A big, real one. Something that’s going to stay inside my head for a long time to come!

From the book cover
At the age of nine, Finnikin is warned by the Gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh to save his kingdom. He stands on the rock of the three wonders with his friend Prince Balthazar and Balthazar’s cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood to safeguard Lumatere. But all safety is shattered during the five days of the unspeakable, when the king and queen and their children are brutally murdered in the palace. An impostor seizes the throne, a curse binds all who remain inside Lumatere’s walls, and those who escape are left to roam the land as exiles, dying by the thousands in fever camps.

Ten years later, Finnikin is summoned by another rock- to meet Evanjalin, a young novice with a startling claim: Balthazar, heir to the throne of Lumatere, is alive. This arrogant young woman claims she’ll lead Finnikin and his mentor, Sir Topher, to the prince. Instead, her leadership points them perilously toward home. Does Finnikin dare believe that Lumatere might one day rise united? Evanjalin is not what she seems, and the startling truth will test Finnikin’s faith not only in her but in all he knows to be true about himself and his destiny. In a bold departure from her acclaimed contemporary novels, Printz Medalist Melina Marchetta has crafted an epic fantasy of ancient magic, feudal intrigue, romance and bloodshed that will rivet you from the first page.

My thoughts
On the book
There are some books that you can read through in a go, they’re light and you can easily flow along with the characters, then there are those that you like so much that you read them slow for fear of missing out on anything. Superior to these are those books that have the power to make you deliberately read slowly because they have so much to offer that you can’t just finish them in a go. You read them real slow because you want every word to make sense, every situation to stay in your head for future reference and every such moment that leaves you breathless, literally. You want to forget the world and live inside their world, for fear of leaving out or not making sense of a word or a phrase that can be instrumental in the story. Finnikin of the Rock is one such book. ‘Unputdownable’, yet you don’t want to spoil the fun by finishing it fast!
I’ve always been attracted to stories of royalty. Of kings and queens and their kingdoms and enemies, of how they train, how they fight, how they feel towards their kingdom and their people and how they live. This book was all about it, though not about the pretty picture of royal ensembles and courtesies, but about the hearts of those who love their kingdom and what they can do to bring their people back to their kingdom and help them live the wonderful lives free of misery they lived before the war. Lumatere was a happy kingdom with a wonderful king and queen, a prince Balthazar, three princesses, the king’s Guard and all noblemen, all Lumaterans living happy and peaceful lives, until the day the king’s cousin turned into an impostor king and took over his kingdom by killing the people in the palace and the Lumaterans.

I loved the story, the strength of all characters, the way the book’s written, with descriptions where they are required, the mystery surrounding the novices and the curse of the witch, Serranonna. Moreover I loved the way it ended. It isn’t like your average everyday reading book. It’s almost a classic in the way it’s been written. I really admire Melina Marchetta for the way she’s weaved a wonderful story and kept the readers hooked to her book!

On the characters
It would be wrong to point out a single character as a favourite because all of them were portrayed wonderfully, even the small, supporting characters. Finnikin was strong, aggressive and filled with love for his people. However, he’s also riding on a guilt about the way he thought as a kid. He feels the kingdom perished because of a little thing he wished gone wrong (though that’s not the case). He’s not seen his father since the past ten years because Trevanion had been a prisoner in the mines of Sorel and this, along with losing two of his best childhood companions and the beloved kingdom itself, made him hard and disbelieving in miracles or happiness. He’s seen his fellow Lumaterans as exiles living in pathetic conditions which adds to the hatred he feels for the impostors. There should be someone who could make him see reason, give him hope that their kingdom can survive, not by relocating every Lumateran to some other piece of land as he wanted, but in their old home again. That’s where a novice of Sagrami, Evanjalin comes in.

Evanjalin is by far my most favourite character. She’s immensely strong, persuasive, intelligent (sometimes reminded me of Hermione!), knowledgeable and being led by her thirst for her people and her kingdom. She’s grateful and helpful, keeps relevant secrets, knows how to fight and how to control those around her. I simply LOVED her, especially during the ending. There was something about Evanjalin that was mysterious and being the curious reader that I am, I jumped to a conclusion about her. And I was THRILLED to know towards the end, that I was right! Yay!

Trevanion is a fighter and fiercely protective for his son and I loved this about him. Sir Topher, being Finnikin’s mentor since his father was arrested, was wise, knew Finnikin in and out and used this knowledge to get him the desire to return to Lumatere, along with Evanjalin. Froi, the thief is a lost soul with no one who owns him and the way he’s been described is utterly believable. Well, that’s the whole thing in the book! Like author Kristin Cashore says in her ‘Praise for Finnikin of the Rock’, there’s fantasy and there’s realism’. It’s a difficult book, one of those you have to read more than once in order to fully understand the depth of the things it talks about. And that, in my definition, is the work of an awesome author! Needless to say, I loved every single bit of it! :D And it is worth a purchase!

Then, why is my rating 4.5 instead of a full 5? The reasons:
Once I began with it, I guess I stopped after one chapter. It was difficult to understand what’s happening, especially with the long names of characters and places. We didn’t have any sort of background info on the characters and the book began with two of them conversing and travelling, so it was hard to stick to it and read without understanding everything. But I made myself read through the second chapter and then it was easy. Then it was hard to put down!

The second reason is, there’s a lot of darkness. Deaths, torture, talks of unspeakable things done to the people, a lot of it, and for this reason I think it’s better suited for mature readers and not young teens. If you’re comfortable with the gory details, you should read this book! :D

Quotable Quotes
Lines from the book I fell in love with:

Without our language, we have lost ourselves. Who are we without our words?’

‘The Gods do make playthings of us, but we provide them with the tools’

‘Be prepared for the worst, for it lives next door to the best’

‘Circumstances present themselves and at times we have no choice’

‘But at such times (terrible times), you grab at any sign of hope. You grab it with both hands and breathe life into it, day after day. You do anything to keep it alive.’

‘Somehow, even in the worst of times, the tiniest fragments of good survive. It was the grip with which one held those fragments that counted.’

Recommended for: Young adult and adult readers and those who like stories of kingdoms and their lost heirs. 


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