Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What are YOU reading this week?

There are some new books on the beanbag. I'm really looking forward to reading one of the books I got from Goa; Samhita Arni's 'The Missing Queen'.

And I've also got hooked to the epic saga that is the Malazan, House of the Fallen series. I read the second book, Deadhouse Gates, for our Desi Writers' Lounge - Karachi Readers' Club and now I'm reading from the beginning this amazing fantasy fiction series. So, Gardens of the Moon is also on the beanbag this week.

In case you're interested, check out my review on Deadhouse Gates here and a pictorial of our Readers' Club meet here

One last thing - there are some new titles in the book donation drive so if you'd like a free book delivered to your doorstep, just click here

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How I lost my books to the aliens...

Or in other words, how I never managed to finish the 15/15/30 project.

It wasn't the number of books, or the number of pages, or the lack of time or motivation which led me to abandon the project. Nor was it the fact that no one was reading along with me although I had high hopes that someone might join this crazy attempt. I am now revealing the actual, real and TRUE reason behind why I lost steam. 

There was an alien invasion in my backyard the night of 11th of July and these particular aliens only wanted to read books by female authors and since they were short of time (if they overstayed there was a slight chance of detection by the dog next door. Who is actually a four legged creature, with a tail and all. No subtle references here!) they grabbed the first books which they found which just happened to be the very stack which I was planning to read. Of course you can imagine how I went into a state of misery and shock to find no books the next morning when I woke up and thus, I was forced to abandon the project. 

No? You don't believe me? 

Well, there is another reason but it doesn't sound very plausible to me. There just might be a teeny weeny chance that I sort of backed down from the project because I didn't like the quality of my reviews. And I came to the conclusion that I am a failure with words and what makes me think I can ever write?  But, the likelihood of THAT happening is so much less than aliens disappearing with my books. 

Or is it?

[In Search of Love and Beauty was the fourth and last book I read for the challenge and you can find the incomplete review here].

In Search of Love and Beauty - (the incomplete review)

Aren't we all?

If you are not familiar with any of Jhabvala's work, I'd recommend you rush off to the nearest bookstore and buy Heat and Dust. In case you only know her for her collaboration with Merchant Ivory Productions on many of their projects, you still need to rush to your nearest bookstore and buy her novel.

Jhabvala's novels are like quicksand; once you start the book you sink into its world completely. Her stories revolve around ordinary people living ordinary lives and facing ordinary dilemmas. What makes her novels an extraordinary read is the way everything is woven together. All the characters are linked in some way or the other and most, if not all, of them are in search of some sort of fulfilment. Her storyline is devoid of major twists but has very strong and well thought out characters.   The people in her story are alive; they have likes, dislikes, distinct personality traits and they change and bend according to their circumstances. While reading her novel, A Backward Place, I couldn't shrug off this feeling that these characters actually exist in people around me.

In Search of Love and Beauty is one of those books which, if you read in one day, can actually leave you a bit morbid. All the characters in the story are, as the title suggests, in search of either one or both. The novel starts in New York of the 1930s and revolves around the life of a group of wealthy European immigrants living in exile. The beauty of the story lies in the non-linear, episodic manner in which Jhabvala shuffles from past to present, explaining and revealing the lives and secrets of Louise,  her daughter Marietta, her grandchildren, Mark and Natasha and their association (and dependency) with the 'former Adonis', guru, spiritual healer, quack/genius - Leo Kellermann.

The story was absorbing but there was a feeling of gloom surrounding the novel and it came as a great relief when I finally finished it. The one thing which is common in all Jhabvala's novels is the end - it is usually very vague and almost without any definite conclusion.

[I wrote the above while going through my 15/15/30 challenge during Ramazan. Why I never completed this review and what happened to my reading marathon are questions I've answered in 'How I lost my books to the aliens..'].