Friday, August 31, 2012

TGIF # 3: Book choices!

TGIF is a weekly feature hosted by Ginger of GReads, where she proposes a bookish question to which we reply on our blogs! This Friday's question is,

Choose Your Next Read: How do you go about choosing 
what you read next? Do you have a schedule you follow, or do you read whatever makes you happy at the moment?

As you might have noticed, I haven't been participating a lot in TGIF, but this week's question is so good, I couldn't help posting my response!

I usually buy books that somehow catch my fancy. Maybe if I bought them from a bookstore (impulse purchases), I'd have liked the cover and description and that would have been the factor for selection. Otherwise I buy them online based on recommendations, personal taste, great reviews on other book blogs (oh yes, that's a major factor!). Then comes the task of choosing which one to read, when you finally have them on your shelf. I guess I choose the ones I'd been the most excited for, first and read the rest in the same way. If it's a series, it goes one after the other (unless it's so boring that I'd have to take a break in between!). 

Otherwise, if I just feel like reading something and go up to the shelf with a lot of options to choose from, I'd pick up whichever I think I'd find the most interesting. Or the one that had many great reviews! Also, if I have books from the library, I'd rather finish them first because one, I hate giving fines, and two, I hate returning books without reading them! 

Then, if I have a book received for review, I'd always try to go for them first. Makes sense, right? I don't like putting off things that need to be done asap. But yes, I do tend to get swayed by emotions and grab that book I've been wanting to read, hoping I'd finish it soon and get back to the required ones! (Admitting!) I'll tell you what's happening with me these days. With the new, busy schedule (okay, I promise this is the last time I'm saying this, won't mention it again! :P) I'm honestly having less time to read books than I'd have liked, as there isn't a single freaking day we don't have homework! But I somehow do manage to get around to reading. (Or seriously, how would I be breathing? or acting like a normal person. Okay, almost normal person!). It's also very recently that I've started receiving books for reviews, so I'm actually spending time with those, rather than the ones that have been there on the shelves for a while, however much I'd love to. Because well, priorities! ;)

At this point of time in my life, I'm reading the ones I'm supposed to review first and if that list exhausts before I receive more, I might get to my shelf and read a bit of fantasy that I'd wanted to read for so long! How do you choose which book to read next? Do you have priorities, or you get swayed by 'feelings'? Tell!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Recent Book Grabs # 3!

You would probably know by now I've been blogging irregularly the past two months. I'm still trying to figure out how to cope up with all the work and reading and blogging! I've read books but haven't been able to review them yet. *sigh* I'm just hoping I can do a lot better soon. Anyway, the funny thing is, I tend to get a lot more books than I normally do when I don't have the time to read them! Seriously! You just need to take a look at the books I got in the past month. These include books bought, borrowed from the library and those received for reviews. This time I bought books that have been recommended by people, rather than going for my own preferences. Though, I'm super duper happy with the loot! Now I actually need a real bookshelf to accommodate them. ;). (The books at present, are stuffed into the study table racks).

Anyway, ta-da!
(Click on the titles to go the book's Goodreads page)

I know it's not a great picture, but I've included a better pic below!

1. The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Recommended by a fan of Russian literature. This one will be on the shelf for a while unread, though. I'm anyway hardly getting the time to read and I need to start with the ones received for review first. 

2.  Dracula, by Bram Stoker: Recommended by the same person, too. And yes! I'm very much interested in reading this. I mean, the first, real vampire story ever written, first published in 1897? I so want to read that! And just look at the cover!  

3. The Immortals of Meluha by Amish Tripathi: Recommended by a lot of people, actually. The first book in the Shiva trilogy, based on ancient legends and set in India.

4. The Secret of the Nagas by Amish Tripathi: The second book in the Shiva trilogy. The third book hasn't been released yet. (And I'm hoping to read these two before it comes out :P)

5. Gagged and Bound by Natasha Cooper: Welllll, it so happened that I went to the library just to return and borrow books (obviously) and guess what? It had this mega sale, giving out old (and some new, too) books the library doesn't need, at very low prices! I bought four books from there, one of which is an academic book (Operations Management. I figured it wouldn't look good among these beauties ;)) and one other that I left at my friend's place my mistake.

6. Earth and Heaven by Sue Gee: Another one from that library sale! :D Total impulse purchase. 

7. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain: Just thought an introvert like me should read this book. I've read just a few pages, but it does seem very interesting. :)

8. The Secret of Teams by Mark Miller: This is a forced purchase! Okay, that's too harsh. We need to do a book review on a management book and our group chose this one. I just might get to keep it afterwards. 

9. Blood Promise by Richelle Mead: Okay, I was gifted this one. My brother thought I'd like books as a gift on the festival of 'raksha bandhan' (he knows me so well!). And so he saw the list of 'books I want' tacked on my study table and went to a bookshop. However, he got confused (courtesy my clumsy handwriting) and ended up getting book 4 and 6 from the Vampire Academy series. But hey, I'm not complaining! Now I have a solid reason to purchase the other 4! ;)

10. Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead: Book 4 from the VA series. I know I should have read this sooner, but it's never too late. ;)

(from the library)
1. Handle With Care, by Jodi Picoult: It's just amazing. I had read My Sister's Keeper by this author and after this one, I'm a fan! :D

2. Summer Sisters by Judy Blume: I had heard so much about this book and the author, but I haven't gone past half of the book. I guess it's because it's just not my type of book.

3. Silhouetted by the Blue by Traci L Jones: Seemed interesting so picked it up. Haven't read it yet.

4. Jump by Elisa Carbone: I picked this one up on the basis of the cover. Kids climbing mountains! And I just love mountains and thought I'd read a book that would give me an idea of the experience of mountain climbing. Just stared reading this, seems interesting. :)

Received for review
1. When the Snow Melts by Vinod Joseph: A thriller about the al Qaeda, diplomats, spies, IAG! Interesting book. Read review here.

2. Love, Peace and Happiness: What more could you want? by Rituraj Verma: Received today. Hope to read and review soon!

3. Legally, Lovingly Yours by Abhishek Bose: Received yesterday. Hope to read it soon too!

1. "Chosen" Dark Passage by ML Wooley: It's an e-book, haven't read yet.

There were some freebies from too, which I'm not posting. Anyway, it's a good enough haul. I just need to find out enough time to read them. Good luck to me! ;)

PS- Amazon Kindle is now available in India too! (Croma stores!) Can't just wait to get one!! 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Review: When the Snow Melts

Author Vinod Joseph
Title: When the Snow Melts
Author: Vinod Joseph
Price: Rs. 195 (FlipkartInfibeam)
Publisher: Amaryllis
Published in: 2012
My rating: 3.5/5

When the Snow Melts is a thriller, based in London, about the activities of spooks and spies and agents in the Intelligence Assessment Group (IAG) and the al Qaeda! It was a very different kind of read for me, the likes of which I've never really read before and I'm glad the author was kind enough to send me a copy. Thank you sir!

From the book's cover
Veteran spook Ritwik Kumar is sent by the Indian government to the Intelligence Assessment Group (IAG) in London, where intelligence agents from all over the world work together to fight global terrorism. The IAG has a few pet projects. Nabbin Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar is one. Purging Pakistan's secret service agency, the ISI, of rogue elements and fundamentalists, is another.

Despite years of working in Central Asia and Afghanistan, things don't go well for Rikwik at the IAG. Addiction to alcohol and gambling drive him to borrow heavily from loan sharks and even misappropriate office funds. When Ritwik's senior officer, General West, gives him only a fortnight to return the money he has stolen, Ritwik defects to the al Qaeda. But he is a man who doesn't really fall in line and doesn't share al Qaeda's ideology.

Events take a turn for the worse not only for Ritwik but also for all those who come in contact with him. Even the beautiful Nilofer, who is married to the al Qaeda fanatic and one-man army Junaid, is not spared. When the Snow Melts takes you through a dangerous world of diplomats, spies and fanatics, where appearances are deceptive, and danger lurks around every corner.

My Thoughts
Like I mentioned before, this book was 'different' for me, in the sense that I'd never known stuff the author talks about, example, what do diplomats really do? How do people turn spies? What religion means to one may be totally different to another, that betraying your own side and getting to the enemy is called 'defecting', all interesting stuff. Add to it the very mysterious characters. I guess it comes from the story line that requires the characters to be and act like someone they're not, since they're spies and all and you can't really wear your hearts and minds on your sleeves when you're in the intelligence or in the al Qaeda, for that matter. It did get frustrating at times, but that's how it's supposed to be. Keep secrets- till the very end.

The story starts with Ritwik getting into debt, followed by loan sharks and then defecting to the al Qaeda for safety, though obviously it's not that easy. It's heavily mysterious in the beginning for one, since you don't know exactly who Ritwik is following, who's leading him where and why. Two, there are a lot of activities happening, the kind of which we could never dream of! When Ritwik defects, he's held almost captive in a house that's used as a shelter or workplace of sorts for a few al Qaeda members, since they're not yet sure if he's a double agent or not. A series of events take place, verification, arguments, fights, patching up, information, secret messages, mysterious characters, new places, new people, inkling with newer agencies! Literally a roller coaster ride, as the book moves from one scene to the second to the third. 

Apart from the events, it's the people and their behaviour that really baffled me! I was all, 'really? That's how diplomats have to be? If it's like that, people have a really subtle definition of 'being diplomatic' in their minds', if that's how the word's derived, that is. They're so like chameleons, you can't point your finger to any one single person in the story and say for sure, 'I know who he really is'. It's not a negative thing though, as it adds a dimension of keeping the reader's interest. Even though yes, you sometimes feel you've been betrayed by the characters, since you start feeling in a particular way about one character and the next thing you know, they're just the opposite of what you thought they were. But as I said, it's how it's supposed to be. Those guys have to behave like that! Like, beating up someone and still staying in the same place, eating together, talking the next moment. Feels kind of weird, considering how we never ever can do stuff like that, but then, those people aren't us. It's all about pretends, spying and getting information for the right people, keeping the rest informed on just a 'need-to-know' basis. Surely keeps you awake all through!

The other interesting thing person is Nilofer, the wife of one of the al Qaeda spooks, Junaid, whose house was being used for their stay. The more interesting thing is the budding love between Ritwik and Nilofer, starting when Ritwik sees her without her standard burkha, finds her incredibly beautiful and it just builds up as Nilofer helps him after all his beatings and stuff. Ritwik plans to put his real motives into action and rescue Nilofer from her husband's beatings, which she doesn't resist for fear of having to go back to her family in Pakistan. But lo and behold, there's a twist here as well! Ha! I really didn't see that one coming. 

Now, the first thing I read by this author was a short story titled, 'Getting off a Virar Fast at Borivali' in the book, 'Urban Shots: Crossroads' and the reason I liked that story was the descriptions. It was simply, only about a passenger's ordeal in getting off an overfull train, pretty ordinary stuff, but the author made it really interesting and picturesque. That descriptive aspect was very well visible in this book too. From that point of view, I think it's just as how it's supposed to be, neither too less nor too much. :) 

All in all, the book's an enjoyable read, recommended for mystery and thriller lovers and those who read about all these intelligence agencies and spies. It's mostly on how these guys operate, their behaviour and description, their activities and people. Interesting stuff.

More links: Vinod Joseph's blog: Winnowed


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