Monday, December 30, 2013

Review: Teardrop by Lauren Kate

Lauren Kate

Title: Teardrop
Author: Lauren Kate
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Published: October, 2013 by Doubleday
Pages: 441
Find it at: Flipkart / Amazon
My Rating: 4/5!

From the Book's Cover
Never, ever cry... Seventeen-year-old Eureka won't let anyone close enough to feel her pain. After her mother was killed in a freak accident, the things she used to love hold no meaning. She wants to escape, but one thing holds her back: Ander, the boy who is everywhere she goes, whose turquoise eyes are like the ocean. 

And then Eureka uncovers an ancient tale of romance and heartbreak, about a girl who cried an entire continent into the sea. Suddenly her mother's death and Ander's appearance seem connected, and her life takes on dark undercurrents that don't make sense. 

Can everything you love be washed away?

My Thoughts!
Teardrop in its very essence is fantasy-based but talks mostly about humanness through its protagonist and many characters living in and around New Iberia. Just that Eureka and her mother Diana, are closely linked with an ancient, almost-forgotten myth. Eureka was nine when she, disturbed by her parents' squabble, shed tears and cried bitterly. That was also when Diana had slapped her for the first time and asked her never again to cry.

Eureka hadn't. Not even after losing her mother to a rogue wave that washed her away, a wave from which she had been miraculously saved, leaving her alone and devastated. She withdrew from the things she loved and desperately sought an escape. Ander, a mysterious boy with eyes like the ocean, bumps into her and she feels drawn to him, more than she'd like to accept. A few months later when Eureka inherits three items from Diana's will, she's confused, but holds them dearly: a book written in a language she cannot read, her mother's locket and a thunderstone wrapped in white gauze. 

Oh the gorgeousness of the cover *_*
The story moves at a gradual pace, introducing all characters, complete with their personalities and quirks, moving through the days as Eureka sees them pass by. She finally finds a seer-like woman who is capable enough to translate the book (titled, The Book of Love). Eureka's desperate to understand everything that links her to Diana and the mysteries of what she didn't know. She's also torn between Brooks, her childhood friend and Ander, the mysterious boy she can't help thinking about. 

The author's writing style is no doubt, gripping. It's a book very well written, though I found the beginning to be quite slow. But the book paces up as it reaches the halfway point and that is when I was hooked on to the book. The events became mysterious, there was action and unfolding of new ideas, and the best of all, it was not at all predictable. I mean, I wasn't personally trying to foresee or guess what the story might turn out to be, but whatever happened was not what I could have imagined. And this unpredictability is scattered everywhere, not just at the end. You cannot predict the fate of any of the characters, you don't know why a certain character is behaving in a certain weird way, it's hard to guess. And you're anyway so into the story that you wouldn't really stop to imagine or predict. 

This also could be because the main myth that is at the helm of everything, is revealed a lot later in the book, so readers have no idea beforehand as to where the story's being led. The basic storyline is something I found to be unique, although if you come out of your fantasy-induced mind and look at it from a practical view, you might find the idea a bit absurd. Eureka never cries, her tears are too important to be shed, and maybe too dangerous. She went through things too much for any one person to handle, yet she's been so strong as to never cry (apart from almost shedding a tear when Ander first bumped into her), but it's not that weird, because in the end she does, and it's explained quite well, and reasonably. We can just accept the story for what it is and bask in the emotions it makes us go through. :)

I also loved the portrayal of all characters, they just seemed 'complete', although Brooks seemed more mysterious than he should have been, but then his mysteriousness was important in the story. Still, a little more about the kind of relationship he shared with Eureka could have been explained through the narration of an incident or something. I was quite confused whether or not to trust him. Rhoda, Eureka's stepmom was just mean Rhoda, but someone who seemed mean to Eureka, and was otherwise a normal mom of two four-year old twins whom Eureka loved. This was what I found to be great, the characters' image is not shadowed by how Eureka sees them, giving them more depth and personality for the readers.

Overall, the book is worth a read, although it almost pains me to wait for the second book! I don't even know when it'll be out. The story's interesting, it grows a lot more as the book progresses and it has some beautiful lines, some of which are mentioned here: 

'Suffering is wisdom's schoolteacher' ~ Madame Blavatsky 

'Love. That which makes a life worth living. That which arrives to carry us where we need to go.' ~ The Book of Love

'"You think this is real?" Eureka asked.
"Nothing is real. There is only what we believe in and what we reject."'

'But sometimes, trust struck the intuition like a thunderbolt, fast and deep. Trust was mutual'

'Love was a dance floor, where everyone you loved left a mark behind.'

Recommended for: Fantasy lovers, YA readers 

Thankyou Random House publishers for this book! :)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Recent Book Grabs (#5) and Winter Reads!

It feels like I'm doing such a post after ages, which might be very near to being a 100% true statement. Well, 2013 was comparatively a very hard year for me when it comes to reading and writing. A lot many reasons and a lot many stories, about which I talk on my personal blog, but all that is for later. Officially, my winter break starts from tomorrow (*officially* because we still have to go. Almost all days. College stuff. Life can be hard. :| ). But anyway, there is that feeling of being free! If only figuratively. At least I can read my books more than usual! I've had quite some amazing titles adding to my pile recently, and since I haven't made a Recent Book Grabs post since forever, I can't mention all of them, so I'd be keeping with the very recent ones. 

Here goes! Ta-tadaa!!

1. Teardrop by Lauren Kate: I remember thinking 'I should read the Fallen series' all throughout last year, but I just could not. So when Teardrop came by, I could not say a 'No!' :D I'm reading this presently and I'm liking the gradual suspense it builds up as well as the storyline. 

2. Allegiant by Veronica Roth: My birthday (which happened last month) was awesome! This beauty was gifted to me by a friend-who's-gone-to-study-in-the-US. How ah-mayzing is that? :D I've kept this for a holiday time, since I prefer being in a peaceful place while experiencing heartbreak-cum-awesomeness!  

3. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith: We all know by now Robert is not really Robert, but our beloved J.K. Rowling ^_^ This was also a birthday gift by awesome reader friends! Thanks guys! :D I'd read this one once I'm done with my winter reading list. 

4. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini: I've been keeping reading this off till I read the other two books, but I started with A Thousand Splendid Suns and just the first 30 pages were heartbreaking and I'm not in a state to read too much of sadness right now. But I can and I want to read this one now. I can read the other two later, right?

5. Fida-e-Lucknow by Parveen Talha: A friend's copy, this book is *very* promising when it comes to beautiful, simple and moving Indian tales. So gonna read it. Very soon! 

6. The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka: Dad got this a few weeks ago. I thought I'd add it to my Classics-to-be-read-very-soon pile, but that stack has a lot of books already, so I don't know when I'm gonna read this one. 

7. The Timekeeper by Mitch Albom: Again, gifted by a friend who desperately wants me to read this, since it was something she loved! I am already intrigued by the concept and she's in for a discussion very soon, since it's on top of the reading priority list. ;)

8. The Hundred Names of Darkness by Nilanjana Roy: If I had to put a finger at the most anticipated book for this year, this book would steal that trophy! This was released last week and I, along with two of my reader friends, attended the book signing and reading of this book. Considering how I am a fan of Ms. Nilanjana, I was positively hyperventilating and beaming seeing her live and talking to her <3 (I'd make a post about it soon. If I post it on the personal blog, I'll link it here!)

Now coming on the the reading list for the winter break time! (And beyond :P )
I have to read 5 books before the year ends, so okay, I've chosen mostly books that I would be able to enjoy in a lesser time. (Okay smarties, you guessed it. Books with less number of pages :| )

1. Teardrop: This is not a small book, but since I'm in the midst of it, and I'm "kinda" hooked to it, I'd finish this first!
2. Fida-e-Lucknow by Parveen Talha
3. The Timekeeper by Mitch Albom
4. Awaken by Meg Cabot
5. Manto: Selected Short Stories by Saadat Hasan Manto

By this time I hope my Reading Challenge would be complete! I did not want to lose that challenge and I am giving myself the luxury to reduce the previously set goal to 45 books, since I really had a hard time balancing my life this year. Next year onward:

6. The Hundred Names of Darkness by Nilanjana Roy
7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Then there are the review books I'd have to put in between, and they are selected on a random, mood-basis so I can't list them right now, though Teardrop and Manto belong to that list. 

Would you like to say something about these books? Read any of them? What books are in your reading list? :D 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Review: Fooled by Randomness...

Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Title: Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets
Pages: 368 (262 for the main text)
Published: in 2004 by Random House
Price: Rs. 340 at Flipkart
Genre: Non-Fiction
My Rating: 4/5!

Fooled by Randomness was a book I had been putting off reading in favor of the attractiveness and pull of fantasy genres. I mean, just look at the yummy YA books out there! If you have issues with holding and containing your impulses to just read YA, books like these might be sidelined, but that's just me. For anyone even remotely interested in understanding the dynamics of our psychology, luck, chance and randomness in life and how it applies to what we do everyday (especially what traders in the stock market do everyday), this might be a book you'd quite enjoy reading. I got down to it finally when an assignment required me to read and review a book based around the financial markets and I figured it'd be cool to read this one! It was just worth it.

Blurb from Goodreads!
The word-of-mouth sensation that will change the way you think about the markets and the world.This book is about luck: more precisely how we perceive luck in our personal and professional experiences. 

Set against the backdrop of the most conspicuous forum in which luck is mistaken for skill–the world of business–Fooled by Randomness is an irreverent, iconoclastic, eye-opening, and endlessly entertaining exploration of one of the least understood forces in all of our lives.

My Thoughts!
I often used to think that books that belong to category of Non-Fiction would be interesting, yes, but not as gripping or telling me stories like the fictional ones do. Probably Fooled by Randomness didn't really tell me a story as such, but it did suggest and explain the theories the author wished to explain, along with his interpretations and understanding about the role of luck and chance in life, with the help of interesting instances, examples, and real life facts. The book basically says, "it is more random than we think, rather than it being all random." At first glance and read, the book seems to suggest that everything in life, especially successes are the result of some kind of randomness, and it seems to bash every kind of 'success', by attributing it to randomness rather than skills. The author by that quote wishes to convey that that is not really what he means, but simply that randomness has a greater role in life than what we give it credit for.

The author has drawn conclusions about a lot of things, especially successes and patterns observed in the stock market based on his experience in Wall Street and taking examples from his colleagues. He's used numerous well established theories (Alternative History, Monte-Carlo Simulations, Nonlinerarities in life, Skewness and Asymmetry, Induction, Survivorship Bias, etc) and based them around stories of the lives of traders, and also ancient stories (like that of Solon, the Greek legislator and poet), to give substance to his interpretations:

- Human beings are unable to handle randomness by intuition, they tend to have explanations even when there are none (like how we actively provide a critique for literary and art works)
- We tend to attribute an extraordinary success to strategy or leadership or (ha ha) intelligence, while most often it is just dumb luck
- Past performance cannot be blindly used to estimate future performance (things in the past might not happen now because they might have been just random!)

This is kind of hard to review, since it is more like a collection of essays based on different themes and theories and stories, mostly revolving around statistics and probability and drawing really interesting conclusions. What's good about this book (and what made it an engrossing read for me) is that it isn't too technical. Yes, there are terms you might not be familiar with, but there are explanations. And the even better thing is, you can simply not focus too much on the jargon and just read the interpretations and you'd understand it all. It's been made quite an easy read with this kind of writing style. Although if I have to talk a bit more about the writing style, I'd have to say the author's been a little too critical and bold in his criticisms of pre-established thoughts. It's like he's downright attacking what you thought with little kindness to go with it. That might hurt traders and people who might just 'look a little too deep' into meanings, like the author says they do. ;)  

He's not that brutal, either. At the beginning of the book somewhere, he says, "It certainly takes bravery to remain skeptical; it takes inordinate courage to introspect, to confront oneself, to accept one’s limitations- scientists are seeing evidence that we are specifically designed by mother nature to fool ourselves" so you know, you don't need to feel too bad about being a fool of randomness. :P

I'd like to mention some lines I really like from the book:
“Heroes are heroes because they are heroic in behavior, not because they won or lost.” 

"Somehow words and reason became ineffectual in front of an oversized diamond, a monstrous house and a sports car collection"

“We favor the visible, the embedded, the personal, the narrated, and the tangible; we scorn the abstract.” 

This, for when you need some inspiration!
“Those who were unlucky in life in spite of their skills would eventually rise. The lucky fool might have benefited from some luck in life; over the longer run he would slowly converge to the state of a less-lucky idiot. Each one would revert to his long-term properties.” 

Actually, there are a lot of quotes I've marked. I'd be writing them down for a friend. If you want to know them, just email me and I'll send a copy across. ;) 

Recommended for: He says MBA students read this book the most (simply because they think it applies to other MBAs and not them :P ), but yeah, it'd be a nice read for them anyway, especially since you'd get an opposite perspective to everything you thought holds true. I'd also recommend this book to anyone who's interested in studying 'randomness' and looking at the application of statistics around the stock market, or simply for a mind-stimulating intellectual read, if you're willing to skip the jargon and read his observations! :)

Thank you Random House publishers for this book! :)


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