Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cooped Up

It's that time of the year where we crane our necks looking at the handful of clouds that have migrated next to each other and strain our eyes trying to catch that first droplet of rain. So far, nothing. But then again, we haven't had much (any) rain in the past three years. Why do people claim that speaking about the weather is a downer of conversations? It's not. It's such a great opening that would lead you to things like "One time, I slipped on the rain stained marble at my university and broke my ankle" and from there, onto other escapades.

For disclosure's sake, I haven't slipped on any rain stained marble at my university. Well, at least haven't slipped and broken my ankle.

I have been reading lately, quite an erratic list. Several non fictions that I glide through, and read what marks my interest. And several fiction books that happen to be on my bedside table, or father's desk, or kindle's storefront. I'd like to try out an audiobook before the end of the year, so now I'm focusing my energies on searching for the best audiobook out there. Yesterday I read a whole book - Heads in Beds - on my iphone. Yes, apparently, you can read on that small screen, but you'll get tired switching the pages because there's just so little that you can display on that kind of screen. Speaking of Heads in Beds (My Review), I finally understand why my darling mother would always make a point of washing the glasses in hotel rooms before pouring water or drinks. And, I wish I had not read what happens to toothbrushes. Disgusting. 

My current kindle reading list

Here's my review of Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby. His other book that I've read, About a Boy, had left quite an impression on me previously.

Juliet, Naked marks my second Hornby book, and while it was enjoyable enough, I liked the first one I had read - About a Boy - more than this. In Juliet, Naked we meet Annie & Duncan a couple who have been together for 15 years, and who reside in a small seaside English town, adequately named Gooleness. Duncan has always been obsessed with Tucker Crowe, a singer who stopped recording songs and went into 'hiding' many years ago. And while Annie appreciates Crowe's music, she has not yet reached nor wants to reach Duncan's level of obsession. Annie's relationship with Duncan leaves a lot to be desired, and now that she's 39 she invokes on a self reflective trip.

A period of self reflection is what Annie & Tucker seem to be going through, with a dosage of guilt thrown in Tucker's conscience. All three main characters regret a phase of their past, or all of it, and are coming to terms on how to handle the aftermaths of past decisions. I did not especially like any of the characters, but thought they were realistic. Duncan's character showed the least growth, and I personally wanted to clap a pair of drums on his ears to wake him up from his stupor.

Peppered with some witty dialogue, and writing that's engaging, it wasn't hard to read this book and for that I'm giving it 3 stars.

**SPOILERS**
Right, so from the very beginning it's apparent that Annie & Duncan are not fit for each other and yes, a lot of couples go through a phase where they hate each other (as Annie points out), but in this case, the hatred Annie feels stems from bigger issues (Duncan not wanting kids, for example) that can overshadow everything else. She has probably known for a long time that they don't quite click together, but stuck it out.

Duncan came across as very annoying, very lazy, very complacent and ho hum about everything except Tucker Crowe. People are obsessed about things, and will always be obsessed about things, but Duncan judges every one else through his obsession. When Annie wrote that scathing review, he started doubting how well he knew her, for example. He distances himself from other instructors at the college because he perceives himself a cut above the rest since he knows so much about Tucker. He cheats on Annie, but doesn't really feel any guilt. Just a sense of slight annoyance that his life would change from what it was.

Tucker's self reflection on how he wasted so many years and so much time was interesting to read. His lack of parenting skills and acknowledgement of that showed internal growth in his personality, but there was no reaction to that knowledge. It was like his thought process went from "Oh, I'm a horrible father" to "Well, who cares, no matter what I do it won't make a difference, so let me just go on as usual".

**END of SPOILERS**

Well, I would say that's enough reading for a day. Or reviewing, rather. I wish I was one of those folks who wrote reviews on the same day they finished the books. But I'm not. I review every couple of books together. The thing is, I review in my mind, as I read, but by the time fingertips come to contact with keystrokes, all the witty and quite intellectual sentences I had strung together seem to no where to be found.

Oh. Speaking of witty, there was a line in Juliet, Naked where Annie realizes her London friend and Duncan have a lot in common. It was quite hilarious.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Rules of Civility

Sometimes, I come across a book that I get lost in, and even days after I've finished turning the last page I find myself reminded by a scene or chuckling over a joke. Rules of Civility was such a book this year, I first heard about it in January and it's been on my radar ever since, but I only got around to it this month when it fit the tag the book group I'm in chose for October.



It's very rare that I start a book with high expectations and find myself star struck at the end, wanting to give it another whirl, just for fun. This is definitely going on my top five for 2012. 

Kate and Val attend a photo exhibition in 1966, and there she recognizes someone from a photo that takes her back to 1938. In the New York of her twenties, Kate celebrates the new year with her room mate Eve, and Tinker Grey, a banker whom they've just met. Through Tinker, Kate & Eve step into a different society in New York and their friendship takes a turn for something else.

This is a book that could just as well be a time machine. The descriptions are very much alive and can effortlessly take you to the time, and place. I loved the way the dialogue was written; I felt that the lack of quotation marks made everything just blend wonderfully, and made the reader blend in with the story if that makes sense. 

It's a story of friendship, and love, and yes, a city. It's coming of age in a way, and observations in retrospect. Kate's voice came across very clearly and I really did not want to finish this book. I had several things to do this week and my reading time was chopped up, but this was just perfect for this book. I did not want to finish it in a day or two, and now that I've finished I suspect it's the kind of book that would have me walking around aimless for a few days before picking something else. Some books just do that to me!

On a side note, did anyone notice that a lot of cars made an appearance in the book? My knowledge of cars is absolutely zilch, so goodness knows if I've imagined them correctly (I have a feeling I'll be researching 1920's bentleys and mercedes' just for fun sooner or later). After the first two or three cars were mentioned I found myself doubting that Katey with her background, her literary dreams, and apparent non driving skills could make out so many models. But then again maybe not everyone is as car blind as I can sometimes be. Not that all the car descriptions took away from the enjoyment of the story!

I liked how Kate's personality developed, and how she always seemed to stay true to her character but was willing to try new things. Her observations on people's actions and her ability to read people. I liked Wallace too, and like how his friendship with Kate seemed to make her more open to things, and sort of more understanding of herself and others. Eve, on the other hand, I found to be too selfish and spoilt. Even though she wanted to be independent and did not accept help from her parents, her actions were not in line with her ideals. 

Tis a book I'll be recommending right and left. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Psychotic People

The past few books I've read have been strangely disturbing. Most dealt with psychotic characters, dysfunctional families & homicide. And no, I did not pick them up based on these very enticing criteria! Not to say that I did not enjoy them, I loved some of them but I haven't binge-read certain genres like these before.


I picked up 2 Shirley Jackson books because I read somewhere that she inspired quite a few authors, Stephen King included. Now, 11/22/63 was a favorite this year so I thought I'd give her a chance. Then one day, I was at Kinokuniya and saw a yellow cover with bright pink fonts yelling "Hello Kitty Must Die". I picked it up without even reading the back cover. It was certainly nothing like I expected. Next was Gone Girl. I downloaded a sample on my kindle, and a day later had finished the book. Mama mia, talk about what goes behind closed doors.

I was out today and bumped into a really old althetics-mate of mine. You meet people, keep in touch with a few, loose touch with most and then you bump into them from time to time, even if you don't even live in the same city or country anymore. It's a small world after all, right?

A few weeks ago, I was in MCC and entered the Marina furniture store there. I wasn't looking for something specifically but wanted to be inspired, and then I spied a furniture set with very familiar words scrawled on them. I noticed "and don't make dreams your master". I went around and found a few other pieces with Kipling's poem printed on them. It just made me wonder whether the furniture designer was a Kipling fan, or just chose the words because Kipling lived in India, and the furniture was made there.


Thursday, July 05, 2012

Contemplate


The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
4 Stars

Physicist Paolo Giordano weaves a hard to put down, binding tale that is intricate, and yet simple. It transcends beautifully into English, having been written originally in Italian. The story covers a number of years, but is very fluid and smooth. Alice Della Rocca suffers a skiing accident because of her overbearing father, at age 10, and is left with a permanent limp. Her struggle to fit in with her classmates and be like them is a daily battle, and anorexia is her escape from her reality. 

Mattia also suffered a traumatic experience in his childhood. Born a twin, he was the brilliant one, whilst his sister was born with a mental disability. Being forced to have her around him all the time makes him an easy victim for bullying in school, until one day his decision leaves greater consequences, and the guilt and responsibility he feels mark him for life.

Mattia moves to Alice's school in high school. She finds herself attracted to him, and a friendship blossoms. Mattia the mathematician likens their friendship to prime numbers (numbers that are only divisible by the number 1 and themselves), and twin primes: a set of close prime numbers that are separated by one even number (like 3 & 5). Things change after high school. Both leave things unsaid, simply because they are twin primes and can not cross that space between them. And yet, they still make appearances in each others' lives, now and then.

There's an air of melancholy throughout the book, but it is also a very contemplative book. It's serene, in a way. The experiences both Alice & Mattia went through for example, could have not been so self destructive had they had different environments. An experience could be nudged to take a different path by many other variables and factors, i.e, different school/parents/etc.

I picked this book at the Emirates Literature Festival  earlier this year - I think the author was present - but unfortunately didn't hear him talk. I am always on the look out, however, for literary mathematicians. I love the blend of math/science & literature, and after reading this book, I couldn't help but imagine that Mr. Giordano has made up several stories about all things physics. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Paper Towns

Paper Towns by John Green
3.5 Stars  
Margo Roth Spiegelman has been 17 year old Quentin's crush for a long time; she lives next door, used to be his childhood friend, and they both go to the same school. However, they're in different cliques, and travel in different circles, although Quentin suspects that Margo is the sole reason why his band stopped being the school's bully target.

One night Margo climbs through Quentin's window and demands he accompany her - in his car - in order for her to finish accomplishing 11 items on her list. He agrees, although he isn't told what exactly it is that Margo intends to do.

After their spree, he looks forward to seeing Margo at school but finds out that she ran away from home. Because she had turned 18, she isn't considered missing, and her parents have had enough of her disappearances, and do not bother looking for her (I found that unrealistic, but it didn't really take away from the story for me).

Quentin's sees it as his mission to find Margo and enlists his friends for help. Margo usually leaves clues when she runs away and Quentin is set on finding her. He becomes obsessed with the thought and tries to crack the few clues she left behind, one of them being papertowns -fictitious towns. This part of the story was kind of slow, but otherwise, I enjoyed reading my second Green book. It was less dramatic than Looking for Alaska, but quite enjoyable.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sweetshop of Dreams



Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan
3 Stars
This was the perfect book to shake me out of my lack of reading stupor (I blame The God of Small Things for that). Rosie Hopkins is an auxiliary nurse who lives in with her boyfriend of 7 years, Gerard, in London. She gets a call from her mother, Angie, who's moved to Australia to be with Rosie's brother's family. Angie tells her that she must pack up and go to her grand aunt, Lillian, who lives in the village of Lipton and runs an old fashioned sweets shop. Lillian has had hip surgery and needs help - and will probably have to move to a home, so Rosie is expected to handle the selling of the shop, and the move to the home.
Mainly set in present day England, the book flits to the 1940s to connect us with Lillian's story as well as Rosie's. Rosie's move to Lipton seems to be exactly what she needs to get perspective on how her life is moving on with Gerard. And Lillian's story - this is where it gets the 'war' tag - is moving. I loved both parts (the past/present) feel of the book.
I was browsing this bookstore that I rarely go to nowadays - it was where I used to get all my books from when I was a kid, when I found this book. I couldn't wait to finish the book that had been taking so much of my time..and this was just perfect for those lazy hazy days, when you're in-between books.
Having sweets at hand will not be such a bad idea whilst reading...

Monday, April 09, 2012

Incredibly Tired & Extremely Sleepy

When you're sick, you start appreciating the small things in life. Like the ability to sit with a straight back and not fidget because every muscle is having a little dance. Or even the art of walking from place to place without feeling like your bones are going to poke out of your foot. I entertained the idea of heading out to the gym, but the image of me actually jumping or running sent shivers down my spine. You also appreciate things you take for granted, like your health; and how every little bone, muscle and fibre make a huge difference. That line of thought usually ends up in a dark territory for me - the people who can never have their full health back because of an ailment, or impairment, and I'm grateful for all that I have.

What started with a horrible three day migraine turned into flashes of on going and off going hot and cold fevers, muscle pain and sever back ache. I've taken lots of panadol pills, but I have finally mustered up enough courage for a doctor's visit. I only semi trust two clinics in my city, but will venture out of my comfort zone and try a new clinic. Unfortunately most of my personal experience, and my family's experience at the so-called well known hospitals in the area have been atrocious; which is sad. But I am too tired to venture out to the good places outside the city - an hour saved, an hour well spent. Hopefully, I'll be feeling like fine in no time, and will not wince at the thought of gym. 

To better healthcare services worldwide!