Monday, May 28, 2012

Recent book grabs!

A few books have again been added to my reading shelf! I'm including those I've got in the past three weeks, either bought, borrowed or received as freebies! It has been a pretty good three week period, especially since those exams are over and I am enjoying full liberty when it comes to reading! (The only bad spot being those glasses I've to wear for a while for my eyes now. It's hugely irritating and I really want them to get off a-s-a-p!).

Anyway, here's the haul:
Don't mind the books in the background....

Bought: (Click on the title to go to the Book's Goodreads page)

1. Magic Flutes by Eva Ibbotson : Impulse purchase, but since I love Iva Ibbotson's writings, I guess I'll like this one as well.

2. Divergent by Veronica Roth : So, SO excited to read this one! If I could, I would have done that as soon as I got my copy, but I have some library books with their due dates near, so I'll be reading those first.

(The pictures for the book covers have been taken from Google, since the ones I took are apparently not willing to get themselves posted vertically! :|)

                                          


Library stuff:
1. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta: This is supposed to be my 'currently reading' read and I've started, but stopped for a while because the names, of everything, are kind of confusing and difficult to pronounce. But I've read great reviews about it, so I guess I'll read more and maybe find out the real gem! 

2. The Bright Forever by Lee Martin: It seemed to be a simple read and I picked it up since I think I've been reading heavy books for some time.

3. Glamour by Louise Bagshawe: This one is a best seller and I was looking for a chick lit book, so I got this one! 

4. Dashing through the Snow by Mary and Carol Higgins Clark: Mystery! My all time favorite, so picking this one was natural ;) 

5. Cook Simple by Diana Henry (Non- Fiction): Those tempting easy-to-make dishes were enough to make me grab this one! Though I got it for my brother, he's the one who likes cooking. I'm just interested in eating. ;)

6. The Art and Craft of Papier Mache by Juliet Bawden (Non- Fiction): It's the vacations and I had to have something interesting to do! This book made me remember the good old school days where we did all sorts of art and craft, especially papier mache! And all kinds of techniques have been explained beautifully in this book, with easy to understand illustrations and writing style! 




                                   

Received for review: (by blogadda.com)

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino: An amazing Japanese murder mystery! Thrilling, engaging, some parts utterly unpredictable and an ending we couldn't have imagined! I loved it whole! Read my review here . It's a must read! :)



Won!!!
Thank you HT Education!! :D

Ancient Wisdom for Modern Health by Mark Bunn  (Non- Fiction): It came at a time when I was told by the doctor to concentrate on my health! And it is written so well! I mean, it's not at all boring, like the kind of boring you would think a health book would be! :D

E-books
(These are all freebies from Amazon!)

1. The Changelings (War of the Fae #1) by Elle Casey: Read it already. Watch this space for the review. Hint hint: The concept was good, but was a bit similar to a famous book.

2. Elemental by Brigid Kemmerer: It's a small book, about 50 pages, kind of like a long prologue for the main books. Will review soon!


3. Entangled (Spellbound # 1) by Nikki Jefford: SO excited to read this one! It's the next e-book I'll be reading. I mean, look at the cover! :D

4. Dimension Shifter (Dimensions saga) by T.M. Nielsen: Again, the cover and the description looked interesting and since I'm really experimenting with fantasy and YA and loving them, I've been getting these books like crazy!

5. Fateful (Fateful series #1) by Cheri Schmidt: Got this because of the wonderful description, seems like an interesting story (it's in line after Entangled).
                                                   
             


Well, to be honest, there are more e-books, but I'm just including those that I'm really excited about! (That doesn't rule out the reason being the tedious task of linking and putting pictures. You guys better use them!). 

That's all for now. I've got another trip to the library due and maybe I'll buy some more, so I'll post again when I get a few! :) What books did you recently get? 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Behind the Blog # 3! [Childhood friends]..


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!

This week we’re diving into our past and talking about our childhood friends! Everyone has a friend or two in one’s childhood who are impossible to forget and who may have set the trend for coming friends (or who was the one exception). Who was your childhood best friend? How did he/she change your life? Regarding books/films: Which pairs or groups of childhood friends do you love? What do you particularly enjoy about them?

The best thing I like about childhood is the ease with which we would make and keep friends, without any feelings of jealousy or some kind of negative intent. Looking back, I realized I’ve always had a ‘best friend’ in every different kind of phase in my life, which is funny. I mean, a best friend when I was very young, then one in junior school, then in middle school, changing all the way till college, till now. It seems I’ve had a special friend for every different phase, for every place I’ve been and I still love most of them! Most of them because one of them turned out to be a scheming one, pretending friendship while thinking of ways to hurt my reputation, that too over the marks we scored! Which reminds me of another whom I considered my “best friend”, who turned into a jealous girl with the same motive. What’s up with people like that anyway? I’m usually the forgiving kind, but I can’t just think of these two in any positive way, they had my trust!

Anyway, I’m not going to spoil it and I really feel like talking about the wonderful ones! :D Our neighbourhood was a quiet place when we were little, so there were never many kids at a time. I spent most of my time playing with my younger brother and dad, so yeah, I was into cricket and basketball! We did a lot of cycling and skating too, making use of whatever plain surfaces we could find! Then I remember once I was so bored, I was roaming around the house and the park just like that, when I noticed there were new people coming to stay in one of the empty houses! That was when I was small, I don’t remember the age (maybe, 7 or 8 or even younger) and I was very happy because I recognized the kid! She was two years younger to me and in my own school! I knew her by face! Being the ‘hungry-for-friendship’ soul that I was, I quickly went over and made friends with her! Her name’s Nishtha. We were friends for a long long time.... we practically did everything together, every day. She had a hundred or something toys and I was mostly at her place during vacations! We played in the evenings, shared bicycles, cuddled her little sister together, ran to save ourselves from an angry cow-with-a-horn once (Yikes! That was a close call) and even took up fights with the other obnoxious kids from the other street! Combined with my brother and more kids from the neighbourhood, we had a lot of fun! When she moved, I had a lot of lone time, though we still met from time to time and on birthdays. Now it’s little communication (thank god for phones!) and whenever I get her text, it reminds me of a great time in the past. :)

Pic from Google
While I’m talking about that time, I remember a girl elder to us, who taught me to ride the bicycle without any support! That’s the most I remember about her (and her name, of course: Timsy!), since they moved very soon, but I think I would have liked her a lot back then. :)

 Fast forwarding to high school, Kanika, who remains one of my best friends till now and the only one with whom I can be my best, my funniest, my weirdest, my worst and she’ll still love me like always! We were opposites while in school, she the naughty one, I the nerd and the serious one, terrified of getting into trouble (though that doesn’t rule out the times we did get in trouble :P) and still we were inseparable, learning so much from each other! We even sat together in class for three years straight! We’re in different colleges and now the sides have turned a bit.. I’m the naughty one and she’s been kind of serious in studies (at least, serious for her!), but underneath all that, we’re still the same. :)

Then in college, from the first day till the last, I’ve been with Apoorva. In our case, the closeness was not because of being different, but being similar. She knows the worst I can do and still sticks with me, sometimes defending my side and always making sure I’m in whatever our group does! I really admire her for her fashion sense (and mine’s improved, thanks to her) and being practical in situations that require us to think logically. I’m usually the one rambling and ranting, thinking emotionally, while she’s got the sight to see the ‘greater picture’ and think like a sane person. So, we balance each other out. I don’t know how I would have had any fun in college without her! Now, as we graduate, I opt for higher studies and she’ll be in a job. Different paths, but connected hearts and I hope to remain the same with her, forever! :)

All the people I talked about are very special to me, in their own way. There were more friends, but these are those who know me, my choices, my personality and I love them for being that way!

Pic from Google
Coming to books, I feel all characters in Eva Ibbotson’s children’s books have a way of displaying childhood friendships at their best! Take The Star of Kazan, for example. Annika, Stefan, Pauline, Zed and the wonderful feelings of happiness, love and care they seem to emit when they’re together! And of course, the friendship between Harry, Ron and Hermione, right from the beginning of their first year at Hogwarts till they live, is some kind of a benchmark friendship. Like the way it should be; standing with your friends come-what-may. Which reminds me about the time when Harry and Ron are supposed to follow spiders in the Forbidden Forest and Ron sticks with Harry, whimpering and cursing because he hated spiders! It’s fiction, but still. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins


Price: Rs. 295 (discounted to Rs. 221 At Flipkart)/
 $ 9.80 at Amazon
Publisher: Scholastic
Published in: 2010
Pages: 390

Mockingjay is the third and final book in The Hunger Games trilogy, continuing the story of futuristic Panem and its people ruled by the harsh Capitol. This is one series I truly loved to read; it’s written so well that I couldn’t-just-stop-until-I-read-all-three-books! The basis of Mockingjay is the war that’s brewing between the districts and the power hungry Capitol. Katniss is ready to play her part as the Mockingjay, to act as the symbol of rebellion to bring all districts on their side.....

From the Book cover
Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans- except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay- no matter what the personal cost. 

My Thoughts
Mockingjay is a book that’s fast-paced throughout. Since it mostly talks about the rebellion, there’s action everywhere: in District 13, in other districts, in the Capitol and that’s what makes this one maybe slightly different from the other two. Not that there wasn’t any action in the first two books, but that it was in plenty in Mockingjay, so that there was hardly any page going by without something happening! It might have been a put off for some readers, but because of so many things happening, I couldn’t put it down, being the action lover that I am!

Katniss is as strong as ever, just this time she’s accepted herself as the Mockingjay and understands her importance in the rebellion. I like that power that’s inside her, evident from the way she thinks and the way she acts, a strong force internal to her. There are some new characters into the story, mostly those who play an important part in helping Katniss and the rebellion in their favour and it was kind of interesting to see some people other than the regular characters. Peeta’s sad state gets kind of scary when we learn about the technique the Capitol people used on him, shocking it was and sent shudders through me. I seriously was afraid of the outcome (though I knew of course, it would be fine towards the end, or how else could the story make any sense, but still). Though, sometimes it seemed like a pain, dragging him along to the Capitol when he wasn’t totally sane yet, because he was there before and could help the others get into President Snow’s mansion; but also at the same time, gives a perspective of Haymitch’s mind and his mysterious strategies. And yes, Haymitch! No alcohol permitted in District 13, so he was usually grouchy about that fact, but otherwise is alert and “in action” throughout, which was good. I was bored reading about him being drunk and lost most of the time.

Overall, almost all characters are alive and very much have a role to consider for themselves: Katniss and her family, Gale, Peeta, Haymitch, Plutarch, Snow, Coin, Beetee (who turns out to be the wire meddling genius doing tricks to the Capitol’s system!), Johanna, Finnick and everyone who could survive the Quarter Quell. Though there’s a lot going on during their preparations, the action speeds up when the force reaches the Capitol, where there are dangers at every corner, literally! It could be a bit tiring, reading all that action in a go.

Even though it kept me hooked onto it till the end, there were a few things that were disappointing. Like there’s a lot of misery, darkness hovering all around and deaths, one of which I really didn’t want to happen and which made me really mad. Then there was the unsatisfactory ending. On second thoughts, maybe I wouldn’t call it unsatisfactory, but it could have been made better with some more explanation. It ended abruptly, with all closings cramped into a few pages. There are many questions in the reader’s mind, not only about what finally happened to the main characters, but to the other, small ones too. When those questions are unanswered, it can be disappointing, like it was in this case (though I quite liked the small epilogue :) ). There are just a few words that explain why Katniss finally chose the person she decided to be with, at the end, and those words were just beautiful!

What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again.

Recommended for: Young Adult readers, dystopian lovers and those who like lots of action!
My rating: 4/5

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Behind the Blog # 2! [Parental Influences...]

Behind the Blog is a meme to help bloggers connect their life and interests to the content showcased on their blog. The 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!


This week, because of the recent celebration of Mother’s Day, we’re looking at parents. Be free with it: Maybe write a good memory you have with them. Or ponder something like: How did your parents affect your life? What do you feel about other people’s parents? What’s it like being a parent yourself? Take it and make it your own!

I so love the topic this week!!! I’ll talk about my parents of course, but also people who’ve inspired me to go forward with whatever thing that took my fancy, who were there with me as parent figures, some for a lifetime and some for a while; those who cared and wanted nothing but the best for me, those whose faces I found whenever I saw trouble and looked up for help.

The person who’s been the centre of my own personal universe is my very dearest grandmom. With both parents working, I and my brother spent a lot of time with her and I attribute all the values, morals, ethics, love and kindness I might have, to her and her wonderful persona. She was more than anyone to me, and still is. Coming from school and finding her waiting with arms open for a hug, the always smiling face, the politeness, the way she could make every single person love her, her thoughts, her belief in religion, her confidence in me and the never ending encouragement she gave, I thought I could do anything in the world! She was the only one who, never for a second doubted my ability when I shared my secret dream with her. Losing her was never an option, never possible and when it came, it broke me. My whole family. It’s been just over a year and I sometimes hate it like this, like living alone, but sometimes I don’t even feel she’s not present. Every single thing about me, about our home, about the things we talk, belongs to her, was initiated by her. She’s there and always will be. She’s made sure I’m never alone. : )

Though Mom’s always been working as a teacher, she’s been an amazing mother too. ‘Nothing but the best’, is something she follows religiously, especially when it comes to her kids and I’ll be forever grateful for that. As I’ve said before, she’s been the one who helped spark my interest in reading, never said ‘No’ when I picked up a book and asked her if I could have it, even kept up with my bookish ramblings when she would be busy. She’s the one to accompany me wherever I want to go, on days when she’s on leave and I want to spend time with her. She’s so kind, I sometimes feel she should have been a social worker, what with all the things she does, going out of her way to help people. That’s one of the qualities I admire the most in her and I wish I could be somewhat like that. It seriously would be a worthwhile achievement! She’s also overly protective of us. It feels good sometimes when I think about the hundred things I’ve been saved from, thanks to her, but sometimes it bugs me no end. Since we can’t change anyone as a person, I guess I could live with that. :P

My relation with Dad is totally cool, the best thing being he’s unlike dads of my friends, or the general view of a dad. He isn’t strict, is always game for any kind of fun we demand, doesn’t get angry if we sleep in late or stay dishevelled all day long. He’ll still hug us and will leave no opportunity to tell us how much we’re loved. That’s one amay-zing thing I’ve noticed is actually rare. I may be wrong, people don’t generally show affection in front of others, but I’ve a hunch that he’s a unique person and I also know I’m not wrong on that part. Like Mom, he’s loving, caring, kind and most of all, totally honest. He believes in the ‘what-you-do-your-kids-do’ philosophy and he’s bent on making us learn that way, by acting the good part himself. The even better thing is, he’s got a super cool sense of humor! You can’t be staying with him for a few minutes and not laughing over something! He really makes sure his loved ones never lose their smiles. : )
The badge is so cool! I want one!

One of his philosophies (and the one I follow with full dedication!) is ‘spend a little extra, live an above average life’. I know, it sounds cool, right? You bet, it’s even better in practice! From my own observations, I’ve seen people ditching a high quality thing for something not-so-great in quality, just because it saves a few bucks. I’m not an ardent supporter of high or lavish spending, I don’t do that. It’s just that I spend more on things I like, slightly higher priced than other stuff and not spend on useless things at all. I’m not a fan of eating out regularly (once in a while is fun), or buying things that won’t last long. I see it as a waste and so the amount saved from there goes to the better things. I guess it balances it out evenly. Anyway, the point is, try it out. The feel one gets out of having/using better stuff is so good, it even makes you more confident! I know it’s a funny thing, but it’s true! I’ve learned it firsthand. :D

Just like in every family, the elders in mine have had an impact and a bearing on how I’ve turned out to be and I don’t regret a single thing. The faults are my own, from my own thinking and choices. I’m just glad they’ve all always been supportive and encouraging!

There are certain people who enter your life, make it glow and leave a lasting impression on you. You learn something so valuable from them, that you can’t seem (or dare) to forget them in a million years! They may have been a teacher you loved (in my case, my high school English teacher. We didn’t have personal talks, but I knew when it was that she deliberately picked me for certain tasks because she knew my weaknesses and worked to help me get over them. How can I not love anyone like that? And English, too, my favourite subject ever! :P) or ............ the newspaper columnist/writer whose inspiring writing you’ve been reading since for-ever! Ms. Sonal Kalra, Editor, HT City (author of the book ‘A Calmer You’), has been one such influence. Her weekly column on calmness tips for the worries in life is something you-can’t-just-miss! I was already in love with her and her writings and one day (at a time when I was broken from the inside), I got the opportunity to actually meet her!!! That was THE best day of my life so far (I know I’ve said this many times; there are so many best days!), when, waiting in the conference room of the HT building, heart pounding in anticipation, not bothering with anyone else who was present, the door opened and in walked the person who’s made me so positive as an individual. I was, literally, star struck. I guess I couldn’t have been bothered even if some movie star would have dropped by, I was so happy to see her in reality! And she’s so charming, humble and sweeeet! Thanks to that meeting and her Facebook fan page (where she interacts with all her fans, you know), I’ve got to know her even more (and hey! She knows me too. :P). She’s continued to encourage, inspire and return the love or loved more, if that’s possible, and I think she’s pretty awesome! :D

There are a few more people who’ve been incredible to me, but since the theme’s ‘parents’, I will leave it at that, with people who’ve had parental influence on me and whom I love so very much. : )
Thank you, Kathe, Melissa, Faye, for such a topic that made me even more grateful for the wonderful people in my life! : )

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review: A Place Called Here by Cecelia Ahern


Cecelia Ahern
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Price: Rs. 250 (discounted to Rs. 231 at Flipkart, )
/ $ 15.90 at Amazon
Publisher: Harper Collins
Published in: 2006
Pages: 484


A Place Called Here is one unique book. I’ve only ever read The Book of Tomorrow (read review), apart from this one, by Ahern and I think the author specializes in writing about and exploring in depth, the littlest things possible! That’s what makes the plots and stories stand out: Something that we haven’t read about quite a lot. Like in A Place Called Here, the theme is ‘lost things’. Ever wondered where the lost things go? It’s so true! We all have experienced the agony of trying to find that missing sock from our favourite pair! What about the pen we kept here just a few minutes ago? What about all the people who mysteriously go missing without a trace! There’s a difference in things being misplaced and things being missing. We can find out the misplaced things by searching for them, but missing things cannot be found.

Summary
Sandy Shortt had been intrigued by the mystery of Jenny May Butler gone missing when both were ten. Even though Jenny May had been bullying her since forever, Sandy can’t quite stay satisfied until she knew where in the world she was! That’s when her obsession with lost things began. She demanded a house-search whenever any one of her things went missing, which frustrated her parents (who tried not to show it) and made her see a counsellor when she turned fourteen. The counsellor-turned-friend came as someone who would listen to her questions and kept in touch with her till later years. Now Sandy is in her thirties and not being satisfied with her job with the Gardai, she runs her own missing persons agency. She’s been in touch with the families of those gone missing, trying to find them, supporting them throughout. More than helping families unite, she wants to just know where they are; that knowing would be enough to help her get satisfaction from her life’s work.

Jack Ruttle’s brother, Donal has been missing for over a year. Everyone in the family seems to have got over it, but he looks up Sandy’s agency and fixes a meeting. They had been talking over the phone and he was somehow sure that she would be able to find his brother. But she doesn’t show up. That morning while jogging in another city, Sandy finds an unused path in the woods and takes it. That’s when she went missing. After two days of running around in the forest, she finds out a group of people camping, now in their fifties. However, she recognizes them as a group who went missing on their school trip many many years ago! One of them, Helena, advises her to keep her identity a secret and tells her that she’s finally found the place where the lost things go! They take her to their ‘town’, with a board naming the place as ‘Here’. Many people who had gone missing, tired from trying to find a way out, have developed villages and did work to pass their time. Many have married, had children, sent them to school and tried to live as normal a life as possible. That’s why Helena asked Sandy not to let others know that she knew things about their family.


Anyway, Sandy’s still intrigued, living in ‘Here’, finding out her long lost and missing things. But she isn’t just like others. Her watch first goes missing from Here, which became an issue of great unrest! Where would the things from Here go? Helena’s husband seems to know her power and knows she’s a ‘messenger’. Soon enough, when Sandy had a heart-warming meeting with Jenny May (read the book to know how!), she stumbles out of Here and finds herself back to her city, in the normal mortal world, after two weeks. She’s completed her quest, she’s no longer uneasy and fiddling, she knows where her things and the missing people have gone. She’s finally free to go back and love her family. (And oh! Donal isn’t found. Again, I won't spill the beans on that mystery).


My thoughts
Different! The story is unlike any I have ever read. I loved the ‘lost things’ angle, the first person account of the many instances that Sandy felt intrigued about, the descriptions of people, their behaviour and expressions, the yearning for the truth about a mysterious fact! Wonderful and characteristic portrayal of the desperation one goes through in the quest to find out the missing things, multiplied by a hundred! I loved the sound, look and feel of the place called ‘Here’, the resignation that people took to, when their efforts to find a way out turned futile. The descriptions were fantastic, the basic story interesting and the author succeeded in getting readers hooked into the story.

However, if the readers aren’t able to read it in one go (as in, without many days in between), it can become a bit confusing; mainly because the chapters go back and forth, from one perspective to another. One chapter on Sandy’s remembrances as a kid, one chapter on the present scene, the next one dealing with Jack Ruttle and his attempts to find Donal and well, Sandy. That’s where it can be a bit wearing, plus 484 pages! That’s a long read! I was also a little disappointed with the ending; if Sandy finally found the place and came back just knowing they’re all okay, who would actually believe her? Why wasn’t there a way to get those people back? If Sandy goes to their families rattling about how she found out their loved ones, telling them they’re doing fine, but not being able to help them get out! Anyway, that was the way it was meant to be. It began with Sandy’s obsession with lost things and ended with the answer. Full stop.

The plus point though, was the many quotable quotes the book had! My favourites are:

Sometimes, people can go missing right before our very eyes. Sometimes, people discover you, even though they’ve been looking at you the entire time. Sometimes, we lose sight of ourselves when we’re not paying enough attention.’

‘We all get lost once in a while, sometimes by choice, sometimes due to forces beyond our control. When we learn what it is our soul needs to learn, the path presents itself. Sometimes we see the way out but wander further and deeper despite ourselves; sometimes we prefer to be lost and wandering, sometimes we find our way out. But regardless, always, we are found.’

My rating: 3.5/5
Recommended for: Teens, Young Adult, Adults, Fantasy lovers and those who don’t mind a very long book!  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Behind the Blog # 1!

A new weekly feature!!!
Behind the Blog is a meme to help bloggers connect their life and interests to the content showcased on their blog. The feature 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!
In honor of the meme’s launch, this week’s theme is beginnings. When did you start your blog? Who or what inspired or motivated you to do so? If you want to connect this to books, which book’s first line or paragraph hooked you and made sure you kept reading the whole way?
That's an interesting beginning for a new feature that's bound to bring up really interesting posts! 
Well, I've been into blogging since May 2010 (that makes it two years, in case you didn't feel like counting) but the idea for a book blog came around eight months back! Till then, I was rambling about how unfair life is, what I see around me and totally random thoughts on my first (and yes, still running) blog. The frequency of posts over there is low, about two-three posts a month and I've decided to heat things up a little, beginning with a makeover and adding new topics (goes without saying I'll do that after exams, it takes up time, you know)! 

Then one day I was on the Indian bloggers' site, Blogadda, looking up new blogs and things when I came across the blogger interviews section. The recent ones showed the blogger behind Books, Life and More, Smita, a respectable lady whose posts now I enjoy reading so much! (She was also among the very first members of this blog)! Being naturally attracted to anything with a hint of books, I explored her blog and found out a great way to share this love for books! Needless to say, I was truly inspired. I thought about the books I had read, about how sometimes I had tried to made a list of 'books read', but I had always stopped after a while or the list got misplaced. The idea that I could put it all somewhere, somewhere safe, and maybe find more people who might be interested in books, totally caught my attention. Being a midst exams and other useless things all the time, I took my time thinking about the new book blog I could create, where the initial idea was to record summaries of the books, so that when many months had passed since I had read a book and I wanted to revisit it, I could simply read my post and know what it was all about, in detail! So I began with it. 

Initially I mostly focused on summaries and less of the 'review' part, but then I came across the weekly meme, TGIF at GReads that had so many bloggers participating! That's when I actually came to know about so many book bloggers, some of whose blogs I took a fancy to, almost immediately! I gradually learned many things I ought to know as a book blogger, picking up things from others, learning, experimenting (and I realized I had been so stupid to write down whole summaries of books when I had started, endings included)! It just didn't occur to me that such a big community already exists and what things a review should, or should not have. Citing the thoughts of some very good friends and blog readers, I think I write better reviews now. ;) I always feel grateful to all those whose blogs I have followed, learning so much from them and towards those who provided well defined criticisms to help me create a better, and useful blog! I owe you all! :)

So, that's my story. That's how I started Journal of a Bookworm. Don't ask about the blog's name though. I always considered myself a bookworm (but I can assure you I'm cent per cent human and not at all creepy) and I thought this was going to be my online journal, hence, the name. 

Coming to another aspect of the topic, I would like to share how my love for books began! It was really early, my parents tell me it was as soon as I could read. It wasn't books, exactly, but they saw I loved reading. I would pick up the paper and read the name in my tiny voice, breaking up the words to form them whole. I wasn't very interested in socialization or television and passed my time either teasing my younger brother or poring over the story books mom got from school where she's a kindergarten teacher or from the bookstore. There was something in them that I couldn't resist. Once I knew I could read them, I wanted to know more about the world, their worlds and what the heroes did to save themselves from the bad guys. English was the favorite subject in school and I found it hard to resist anything related with books or the little bit of bookish knowledge I had. Not having people around who were interested in books, I sometimes felt sad and as much as I hate to admit, a little bit lonely. Relatives from the US bought some interesting and popular books when I was little and thanks to them, I had the fortune to read some books when they're supposed to be read. Studies caught up with me later on and my time with the books I so loved decreased. 

It wasn't until I was in college, when I was finally free enough to go back to the reading process. Mom accompanied me to a library, I got the best membership available and mmmm, enjoyed every bit of it! Then I explored other options to get books; from the library, finding out bookstores, thrift shops, ebooks. Somehow, borrowing (apart from the library) didn't much appeal to me so I refrained from that! And joining the book blogging community was the best thing that ever happened! Ever since I took up the Goodreads reading challenge, I swear I've never read so much before! It's such a great motivation!!! I mean, when it says, 'you're a book behind', it's as if it's stabbed me and I won't rest until it says 'great work, you're 1/2/3 books ahead!' :D 

If you liked this post and want to participate, head towards the hosts' blogs and submit your link! :)

Review: The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino


Keigo Higashino
About the Author: At Goodreads
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Price: Rs. 350 (discounted to Rs. 263 at Flipkart)/ $ 8.66 at Amazon (Kindle edition)
Published in: 2005
Pages: 374
Genre: Japanese Thriller, Mystery, Crime
Translated into English by Alexander O. Smith 




Have you ever read a murder mystery? What usually happens? There’s a murder, you know the investigator’s side of the story and their inferences, conclusions, suspicions about the possible suspects! You travel with them, marvelling over the twists, turns and revelations as and when they discover them. BUT what if you knew the criminal’s side of the story too? What if you knew how the murder had taken place, why and by whom? If you knew what they tried to cover it up and you knew how the detectives are trying to uncover it! Sounds interesting, right? That’s what The Devotion of Suspect X is like! You know both sides of the story, where the investigation’s going wrong, yet there is mystery about everything in every page. At times you even want the criminals to get away, wishing the investigation would go wrong!!! 

Summary
Yasuko Hanaoka is a divorced mother to a young girl, Misato and lives a quiet life. She’s been switching places to get rid of her ex-husband, who’s been stalking her for money. When finally she thinks he’s gone for good, he comes knocking up her door. Again. That’s when things start going totally wrong...

Ishigami, a middle aged high school maths teacher, who’s also a maths whiz, lives next door to Yasuko. They’ve never really talked except exchanging polite hellos and when Ishigami takes a lunch box from the place where Yasuko worked.

Detective Kusanagi is on a case and trying to fit together pieces of an intriguing, crazily misleading murder mystery; something that involves Yasuko and her neighbour. He’s constantly finding pieces of the mystery, but something doesn’t fit, but he doesn't know what. He consults his friend, Yukawa, a physicist who was at the same university as Ishigami and knew him to be a genius who uses logic. Being intense and observant, Yukawa gets a hint of suspicion when he goes to visit Ishigami at his apartment. He can’t get over the feeling that Ishigami has something to do with the murder and he takes it upon himself to confirm his suspicions. What follows is a battle of intellect, with Yukawa and Kusanagi working up to fit pieces together and the suspects who’ve near-perfect alibis.

My thoughts
It had been a long time since I last read any kind of mystery and never any murder mystery (I always thought it would give me the creeps!), so when I received this book from BlogAdda for review, I was already excited and a bit apprehensive. I was surprised, though. The precise details of the murder were over in about a couple of pages and it mostly was ‘trying to cover up by criminals and trying to reveal by investigators’.

The setting is in Tokyo, Japan and revolves around the lives of ordinary people. A high school maths teacher, who ate, breathed and lived mathematics, a divorced, single mother trying to sidetrack her annoying ex-husband, a research physicist with an eye for detail, all living around the city, going to work and making their living. That’s what makes it realistic and not-so-hard to believe. The descriptions of everything is just perfect- the places, the people, their behaviour, their facial expressions, the situation and its effects, the parallel experiences and moves of the criminals and the investigators. I guess I could just see a glimpse of the movie adaptation of this book and know it was based on this book! Sometimes, stories are great, but the authors fail to create an impact because of lack of descriptions. All we see is action, one scene after the other, but without lines that stall the time, it doesn’t have much of an impact. The Devotion of Suspect X, however, was totally free from this error. I LOVED the descriptions!

What made me really attached to this book, so that I stayed up way beyond my usual time and even read the book well into the other day (that too when I’m in the midst of my finals!), was the way it’s picked up on human nature, their psyche, character and the way different people think, as the basis of the mystery. What makes someone who’s just normally living, suddenly capable of murder? How do geniuses’ minds work? To what level can they take their intellectual capabilities to hide or uncover something that’s so mysterious to the ‘normal’ eye? How do the bystanders or those associated with the suspects, take it? It’s intriguing, compelling and so mysterious that I bet you would hate to leave it in the middle, what with the surprises, twists and turns thrown at you from every page! The second half of the book gave me an eerie feeling that there’s something amiss, something that doesn’t feel right, but you can’t point your finger towards it.

Apart from the mystery thing, there’s a love story. Well, not really a story but it sure plays a very important part in the mystery. There’s also something about mathematics and its beauty. Consider these lines from the book, ‘He had always thought of mathematics as a treasure hunt. First, one had to decide where to dig; then one had to determine the proper evacuation route that led to the answer. Once you had a plan, you could make formulas to fit it, and they would give you clues. If you wound up empty-handed, you had to go back to the beginning and choose another route. Only by doing this over and over, patiently, yet boldly, could you hope to find the treasure- a solution no one else had ever found’.

There were many lines in the book that left me thinking for a long time. I’ll put down a few:

‘Even if you’re at the top, there’s something even higher’

‘Some things never change, which is a kind of a relief’

‘Theories and logic are all very well, but intuition’s one of the best weapons in a detective’s arsenal’

‘They certainly had no idea what they had done. Sometimes, all you had to do was exist in order to be someone’s saviour’

‘He hadn’t realized it was possible for anyone to devote himself so utterly to another. It was as impressive as it was terrifying’

Looks like these were almost all the lines I had saved!

If like me, you were wondering what the title means, how it fits into the story, let me tell you that the meaning gets clear towards the end of the story. That’s when I thought my heart had stopped, when you read about incredible things that have happened and you didn’t have a clue! Says the Metro, ‘The ending is a killer twist’. I totally agree with that!

I received this book for review from blogadda.com. Sign up for the Book Review program for Indian bloggers and get free books! Participate now! 

Recommended for: Mystery lovers, Young Adult and adult readers, people wanting to know how the title fits and someone looking for a great mystery!

PS- I missed it in the review, but as it says on the cover, the book’s sold more than 2 million copies! And in 2006, the author won the 134th Naoki Prize for The Devotion of Suspect X!


My Rating: 4.5/5

Friday, May 4, 2012

Review: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows


Author Website: http://www.jodimeadows.com/ 
Price: Rs. 745 at Flipkart / $ 11.25 at Amazon
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers)
Published in: January, 2012
Pages: 374
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
  
Let me begin by thanking Rachel of My Reading Pile for hosting an awesome giveaway, where I was among the lucky winners! *Whoopie* That’s where Incarnate came from! Apart from the fantastic and colourful cover, the idea of souls being re-born and the story of a new soul succeeded in capturing my attention till the end of the book.

Summary
There have always been a million souls, being reincarnated again and again in different bodies. However, Ana is new. She wasn’t reborn like the other million minus one souls and that’s enough to make her an outcast. For all the others, she’s a ‘Nosoul’. Her mother, Li raised her away from the city of Heart, didn’t treat her well, her father abandoned them when she was born, too humiliated to stay. When an old soul, Ciana died, she went way beyond the usual time limit to be reborn and when the Soul Tellers declared Ana as a new soul, people thought she had taken Ciana’s place and didn’t fit in with them in Heart.

Heart is a walled city with an empty, closed temple, immaculate houses and a marketplace to trade for things. Ana leaves her home as she turns eighteen and sets off towards Heart to find out the truth about herself. However, with a faulty compass and the deadly Slyph lingering in the forests in Range, it’s difficult for her to get to Heart without too much trouble. In an encounter with Slyph, Ana is saved by Sam, who doesn’t care if Ana is the new soul they talked about.

They reach Heart where the people unwillingly accept her and Ana starts a new life. But, there are problems- dragon and Slyph attacks, Sam’s mysterious behaviour, Li’s appearance in Heart, the magical temple and some attackers who corner Ana and Sam! What’s the mystery of Ana’s birth? Why didn’t Ciana get reincarnated? Who is behind the mystery?

What do I think?
The storyline was definitely unique and new for me, so the book was quite refreshing, a break from the usual fantasy stuff. I mean, how often do you read about reincarnation as a story? I quite liked the plot, the setting and the action, especially where Ana’s bound for Heart and travels through the murky forest, meeting dangers now and then. Heart seems like a city that’s been built around a lot of rules, with a city council to oversee everything and make sure the citizens don’t step out of line. Sam, Ana’s love interest, was likeable in the beginning, with his kindness towards the nosoul, strength and bravery. But there are parts when the events themselves question his past claims/dialogues and leave the reader confused, just like Ana. He does a lot to help Ana get accepted in Heart, helps her make friends, teaches her music that she absolutely loves and even saves her life- twice. However, there are parts where he seems to be keeping things from her and I couldn’t help getting distrustful of his behaviour. Anyway, Ana doesn’t question it and it becomes clear at the end, so it was okay. Besides, I loved the way Sam seemed to make Ana believe in herself, to make her realize she belonged. My favourite lines from the book, which moved me somehow:

I let go of my wings. Not a nosoul, not a butterfly. A thousand years from now, even if I was never reborn, people would remember me: Ana Incarnate’

Even though the mystery was shown as something so strong that every soul had a view on it, the solution seemed to be unsatisfactory. I mean, we’ve been through more than half of the book learning about the characters, the problems, the mystery, the exciting and intriguing thing with the closed temple, fights and love, we need some solid ending! The mystery of Ana’s ‘newness’ was solved (though only a couple of people knew), it’s clear who was behind Ciana’s permanent death, but the reason seemed mediocre. I felt it should have been something truly heart-wrenching, but it wasn’t. Still, there’s the next book in the series to look forward to (in 2013). I will definitely be going for it to get details on the reasons and all!!!

PS- I loved the cover! Not just because it’s so beautiful, but it visually gives a hint of the theme of the book. A butterfly: that’s what Ana feels like all the time. One time here, another time there! *Applause* for the designing team!

My rating: 4/5
Recommended for: Fantasy, YA, Dystopian lovers.

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