Sunday, November 24, 2013

Most anticipated books-to-movies!

I've never been much of a movie fan. I know about movies, names of famous movies and I have watched some, but I'm not very proactive with them. Except when it comes to movies that are based on books. I love them. I know how they deviate from the original texts sometimes, shortening them, modifying them, glorifying them. But I still like those movies a lot, maybe because for me, they simply add more to the stories I've only read so far. There seem to be quite a few movies coming up, all based on Young Adult novels we've read and loved and the excitement is palpable! Watching those trailers makes me hyperventilate, drool and wish for nothing more than sitting in a theater, watching those movies!

1. Catching Fire (The Hunger Games series, Book #2)
I loved The Hunger Games and Catching Fire is the year-end movie I'm quite looking forward to. It's been released earlier this week but it'll be here in India on 6th December. 


2. Divergent 
This movie based on the super-exciting Divergent trilogy's first book, features super hot Theo James as Tobais Eaton and Shailene Woodley as Tris Prior. It's releasing in March, 2014. I watched the trailer yesterday and I think I died, went to heaven, holidayed there and then came back! Just look at it! <3


3. Vampire Academy
I watched the latest trailer this morning and went berserk. Although I think it's been more glorified than how it was, I am looking forward to Rose Hathaway! It's going to be released in February, 2014.



4. The Book Thief!
I am yet to pick up this book from the shelf, but I'm anyway dying to watch the movie. I was, actually, and then I'd forgotten about it and only remembered when I sat down to write this post. Turns out its release date was November 8, 2013. Anyone watched it yet? It's going to be released in India in January, 2014. I'm looking forward to watch this movie the most! Man, I know 2014 is going to be an amazing year. :D



5. I, Frankenstein
Based on the classic Frankenstein, this movie trailer is making me want to go and start reading the book right now! 


Now you know why I like such movies more? ;) Are you excited for any of these? :D 



Monday, November 18, 2013

Booktalk: One Click by Richard L Brandt

Richard L Brandt
Title: One Click: Jeff Bezos And The Rise of Amazon.com
Published: in 2011 by Penguin
Price: Rs. 450 (Discounted to Rs. 291 at Flipkart / Amazon)
Genre: Non-Fiction
My Rating: 4/5

One Click at the face of it seems like a book solely about Amazon.com’s business strategies and success story, talking about its founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and how the company came to be what it is today. The book delivers what it promises, but with a lot more value addition in terms of information it gives, the interesting manner of writing, the careful observations and story-telling, along with direct look into Jeff’s mindset and thinking, manner of work, situations and technology.

From the book’s cover
Amazon’s business model is deceptively simple: Make online shopping so easy and convenient that customers won’t think twice. It almost can be summed up by the button on every page: “Buy now with one click.”
Why has Amazon been so successful? Much of it has to do with Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO, whose unique combination of character traits and business strategy has driven Amazon to the top of the online retail world. Richard Brandt charts Bezos’s rise from computer nerd to world-changing entrepreneur.

Through interviews with Amazon employees, competitors, and observers, Brandt has deciphered how Bezos makes decisions. The story of Amazon’s ongoing evolution is a case study in how to reinvent an entire industry, and one that businesses today ignore at their peril.

My Thoughts!
The book begins with a positive note, describing an interesting incident about how Bezos actually thought about focusing on the customer as Amazon.com’s overall mission, inspired by a man called Richard Howorth, owner of Square Books in Oxford, who was an instructor in the bookselling course Jeff did to understand a bit about book selling. In 1994, two months after Amazon was incorporated and ten months before it was launched, Jeff was bitten by the idea of ‘customer service’ being supreme and although his idea was something that would have no real face to face interaction, he still felt customers should have it all easy and convenient. The introductory chapter(s) give an overall impression of how Amazon started out as a really ‘amazing’ company, enchanting people on the web and all those who came searching for hard-to-find books. It further talks about the 1-Click ordering system adopted by Amazon, that is considered key to its success and which was once again, based on customer convenience (they would just have to click once for purchasing books) and a software program that got patented.



The book then talks about Bezos, his personal and professional life full of allocades and excellence, his jobs and his ways of thinking about the world and perceiving business opportunities, his proactive attitude and enthusiasm and belief in himself. It’s inspiring to read about a person who’s smart, with a great knowledge base in the field of computers, software, programming and technology, along with the zest to have something ‘big’ and who trusts his intuitive feelings and goes about making a success out of something that interests and fascinates him.

A lot of aspects related to the company have been described, like how it was incorporated in a garage, the company’s work culture that was addictive yet vigorous under Bezos. The many unique and efficient technologies used have been described in a language that even a technological-terms-challenged reader like me would understand it all. The book very interestingly, also talks about the Kindle story, based on Bezos’s idea of ebooks, dealing with competition and issues and challenges in the book industry. One also sees how Jeff as a CEO was not always considered “nice”, owing to his overwhelming straightforwardness, but he is a big visionary nevertheless.

One Click is like a story on Amazon’s ride, filled with exciting information. The writing style although interesting, sometimes seems non-personal, because of which I found myself disengaged from the book. Sometimes some facts also seemed repetitive, making it the slightest bit dull, but insights into his genius mind as well as techniques used, experiences worth learning make up well for the dullness by inspiring the reader and making them look at the company with an even more admiring eye. It is an interesting book to read, immensely useful for someone wanting to take up an online business or someone looking for a different kind of interesting read.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Review: The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

Sangu Mandanna
Title: The Lost Girl
Author: Sangu Mandanna
Published: 2012 by Definitions (Random House Group)
Pages: 390
Genre: Futuristic, Dystopian
Price: Rs. 350 (Flipkart)
My Rating: 5/5!!

Starting this review with a *drool* because one, this book is amazing. Two, it is amazing. Three, it was beyond any expectations I had and so it is amazing! I can officially call this year as the Year of Discovering Awesome Indian Authors! Seriously, maybe this book isn't in the top in its category (whatever that is), but the fact that it is written by an Indian makes it all the more appealing to me because I did not think a lot many Indian authors would explore and be successful in this genre. Besides, I have certain criteria and ideas of what all a book should have if "I" were to write one, and this book had almost all those ingredients! How can someone not hyperventilate after that?

Goodreads Blurb!
Eva’s life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination – an echo. Made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, she is expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her ‘other’, if she ever died. Eva studies what Amarra does, what she eats, what it’s like to kiss her boyfriend, Ray. So when Amarra is killed in a car crash, Eva should be ready.

But fifteen years of studying never prepared her for this.

Now she must abandon everything she’s ever known – the guardians who raised her, the boy she’s forbidden to love – to move to India and convince the world that Amarra is still alive ...

My Thoughts!
The Lost Girl is based in a future time featuring The Loom where The Weavers stitch together echoes of real humans, placing a part of the human souls in them and making them live a life that echoes the lives of their 'others', the humans whose echoes they were made to be. This would give humans another chance at life, since the echoes could replace them if they died. This has been going on since the past 200 years and at present, there are three Weavers: Adrian, Matthew and Elsa. The world is aware of this, but everyone hasn't accepted the existence of The Loom to be good, and so most of the echoes are hidden from the world, and looked at as non-human creatures. The research and technology hasn't yet reached that level where the Weavers would be able to stitch an echo in the form of another body of the humans, waiting to encompass their souls, and so the present-day echoes very well have their own brains and emotions. 


But it is against the law for an echo to do anything apart from what their others are doing. Amarra, a 16 year old teenager lives in Bangalore, India, along with her parents and two younger siblings. Her echo, also named Amarra lives in England along with her caretaker, Mina Ma. Now, the story revolves around this echo Amarra's viewpoint and life, reflecting how as a man-made-'creature', she lives according to those rules and how her guardians and caretaker love her. The echo Amarra is strong, rebellious, and very curious. Her guardians love her enough to allow her a little bend of rules every now and then, but there is always the fear of Hunters, who are against echoes and hence, a threat to them. The book very successfully and from the very beginning, is able to pull the reader into looking at life from the echo's POV, to feel her anxiety, helplessness, strength, wants, wishes and dreams.

The reader is transported from one place to another, feeling all and everyone's thoughts and feelings as the echo Amarra (who has now named herself Eva, after a difficult baby elephant she saw in the zoo) experiences a painful transition in her life as her 'other', the real Amarra, dies in an accident. Eva now has to leave behind everything she has known, the boy she loves (a forbidden love) and her loving mother-figure, Mina Ma to live Amarra's life with her family in Bangalore. This part of the story talks about how she adjusts to Amarra's life, her family, her boyfriend and deals with the many troubles: not just teenager problems but also of being accepted as an echo and yes, of hunters. 

Apart from the easy, engrossing way of writing, there's such a mixed element of emotion in those words, interspersed with metaphors that sometimes don't even seem to connect, but they make you imagine and think anyway. I loved this aspect of the author's writing style. It makes the book have a lot more than just the story itself, which by the way, is unique and so creative! It's been inspired by Frankenstein, I think, which is the book that sent the author into a writing spree which turned out to be The Lost Girl and which has some references in the book too. The interesting story base compiled with the emotional, philosophical and psychological aspects make this book a complete, holistic read with hardly anything missing. 

I had put off the ending for almost two weeks since I wanted to finish it when I had enough time to contemplate. The book ends well, but I so wish it would have had more scenes, some more details!! I can't get into the details here because it'd be a spoiler, but seriously!!! I want more details!! I was almost tempted to reduce the 5 star rating to a 4.5, but I'm choosing to look beyond this flaw because one, there's a difference in the way the author thought and the way I think and two, the rest of the book more than makes up for it! And oh, I think the chapters don't really need those one-word titles. 

This is one of those books that don't reveal all their secrets at once! Or maybe since I read most of it while traveling, I missed out certain things that are roaming around in my head as intriguing questions, making me want to re-read the book again. Who is the 'lost' girl in the end? Amarra or Eva? Most probably it goes for Amarra, but since the protagonist is Eva and for me, it was the echo's story, it might have been Eva too. Let me just wait for my book-friends to read the book so I can discuss it and maybe I'll re-read it soon myself and figure it out! I'd recommend it to all teenage readers, young teenagers, YA readers, etc. I mean, everyone would love this book! :D Plus, it has a gorgeous cover, which is such a big plus too!

Some awesome lines from the book: 
'I don't think anyone ever really lets go of the people they love.'

'It's a funny sort of word to use at a time like this: lost. You lose your keys. Your phone. Your favorite shoes. And often you find those things again, days or weeks later, under the sofa or buried in the back of a closet. But it isn't quite the same for a lost life. A lost girl. Can you find those things again?'

'The simplest solutions are usually the best' 

'If you expect the worse, you're only denying someone a chance to be better'

'But maybe that's what the dead do. They stay. They linger. Benign and sweet and painful. They don't need us. They echo all by themselves.'

'What is this power the dead have over the ones they leave behind? It's strange and beautiful and frightening, this deathless love that human being continue to feel for the ones they've lost?'

Thank you Random House publishers for this book! :)


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Booktalk: One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern

Cecelia Ahern
Title: One Hundred Names
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Published: 2012 by HarperCollins
Pages: 327
Price: Rs. 299 (Flipkart / Amazon)
My Rating: 4/5!

I've read two other books by Cecelia Ahern, The Book of Tomorrow and A Place Called Here and had bought them both because I loved their attractive covers! Then there was one moody day when I prowled into a bookstore to make myself feel better and saw a gorgeous cover. I admit. I'm such a cover-lover! That is how One Hundred Names came into my possession. It had no blurb, no storyline, but the cover was too irresistible and I had good experiences with Cecelia Ahern in the past, so I wasn't too apprehensive. I figured it'd be good, and boy, was I ever so right! :D I loved reading this book!

Goodreads Blurb!
The new novel from the bestselling author. Journalist Kitty Logan's career is being destroyed by scandal - and now she faces losing the woman who guided and taught her everything she knew. At her terminally ill friend's bedside, Kitty asks - what is the one story she always wanted to write? The answer lies in a file buried in Constance's office: a list of one hundred names. There is no synopsis, nothing to explain what the story is or who these people are. The list is simply a mystery. But before Kitty can talk to her friend, it is too late. With everything to prove, Kitty is assigned the most important task of her life: to write the story her mentor never had the opportunity to. Kitty not only has to track down and meet the people on the list, but find out what connects them. And, in the process of hearing ordinary people's stories, she starts to understand her own.

My Thoughts!
One Hundred Names is the kind of book that may make you go through conflicting emotions, especially if you happen to be an emotionally sensitive person. Not that it is the kind of emotional that makes you cry, but the kind of book that makes you look at someone's life deeper, with all the nitty gritties, and the anxiety, the fear of impending, unknown implications of a mistake, the loss of friendship and trust. On a very basic level, it's a simple story. Katherine Logan in her mid 20s, is a journalist/writer with Etcetera magazine, headed by Constance Dubois, now fighting with cancer. Constance is like a bubble shield for Katherine (Kitty) as she transitions from an uncertain, doubtful girl to a more confident person, as she brings forward her stories with doubtful anticipation to confident excitement.

But then there was this time when she was also working as a video journalist in a TV show and made a blunder and was suspended. Her career was in a mess, Constance, her only support, was on the verge to leave her (and the world) and she had to face the ugly accusations from society. The only one thing that she kept close to her heart, that made her cling for support at a time when she, and her career was falling apart was a list of one hundred names that Constance left behind. It was once while visiting Constance in the hospital, a contemplative, quiet visit, that Kitty had asked her about one story she always wanted to write but couldn't. Constance asks her to fetch a file called One Hundred Names from her completely disorganized home and when after a few days, she does, Bob (Constance's husband) informs her about Constance's passing away. 

The story then deals with Kitty and the list which is just a simple list of one hundred, unrelated, what-seems-like-random names from the Yellow Pages directory. Pete, the new head at Etcetera, not-so-keen on keeping Kitty anymore, gives her a final chance, a two week deadline for her to come up with a story. It is quite complex if you look at it from Kitty's perspective. A single young woman living alone, dealing with united hatred from the public, knowing her best friend Steve thinks she's the wrong one because she's being selfish and this knowing killing her. She's still got to put up a brave face, fight with her own emotions and get up and work towards her only way to escape: work on the list. 

I won't go into the details of how she went about it, because it'd be like a spoiler, but I have to say it is something really unpredictable and when you do understand it, profound. One of the best things about the way it's been written is how it is so much from Kitty's point of view, even though it's been narrated in third person. As a reader, you're not separate from the characters. Maybe I was personally too much into Kitty's shoes because I could very much relate to her. She's a writer who used to write awesome but because of emotional setbacks, she feels her writing has lost that charm. On the face of it, it seems just like normal, her usual. But they're more like narratives, gradually missing the personal enthusiasm she infused in those words and that oozed out when readers read it. It's such a painful realization to know what you love doing isn't as good anymore, and no one's helping you get it back.

But she does. Constance not only helps her write something she has to believe in, she changes Kitty's behaviour and attitude for the better. She makes Kitty and her team look at the world from her perspective, where she sees marvelous stories in ordinariness, in everybody. She makes her look beyond her selfishness, beyond the materialistic. She makes her understand that there are many different lives and how every single person is a story in themselves. And they're all fascinating. In the whole process, she helps Kitty understand her own life and story as well. This is one theme that touched me. It's just so beautiful! :') 

One Hundred Names is beautifully written, non-predictable (though I so so so wished we'd have had a more elaborate ending, but later on as I thought over possible endings, this one seemed the most fitting. I guess it'd have been hard to end this book!), and I loved the gradual romance setting in the background. :) A few lines from the book I loved:

'Some people say that you shouldn't operate from a place of fear, but if there is no fear, how is there a challenge? Often that is when I've done my best work, because I have embraced the fear and challenged myself'

'Nobody can pretend to know what people want to read or hear or see. People rarely know it themselves, they only know it after the fact. That is what creating something original is all about'

Recommended for: Contemporary Fiction readers, Cecelia Ahern fans, those looking for an emotionally stimulating read! 

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