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! :)


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! 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Is Fiction Real?

This might be something avid readers were asked on one occasion or more. Ever since I made it pretty evident I prefer reading in those interstices between classes in college, and during traveling, even with friends (because then apart from a few minutes at bedtime, there's just no time :/ ), people have noticed how often my nose's stuck in a book. And those books are almost always in the genre of Fiction (unless it's a college reading or a non-fiction review book). It wasn't long before people started asking why I prefer Fiction, after bluntly stating that they always prefer non-fiction for knowledge and don't want to waste time with stories. Mind you, these are people doing a Masters in Business Administration, most of them uninterested in stories per se, so I don't mind answering them back. Besides, someone has to tell them, or at least try to put forward their own awesome views, something that challenges their way of thinking. 

A couple of weeks ago in a relatively boring class, a classmate-friend passed me a sheet of paper with the same question. She was curious. She wanted to read, but she was also clouded with this pre-conceived notion that Fiction isn't useful, it's just made-up stories and not real. Her question was genuine. I wrote back a reply to her, making it as short and concise as possible, trying to fully justify the short answer. Here's a snapshot of our little 'passing-of-notes-conversation':

Please bear with the handwriting :P
Also, there's a little bit of Hindi in the question and
first line of the answer.

What I believe in, and I'm sure Fiction readers would agree, is the simple fact that 'Fiction' is just a name for something that doesn't exist as a whole in real life. The whole story may not be real, but we do know writers are amazing observers, right? What we read about in stories has some inkling to reality. The characterization of the characters, the setting, if not real, it might be built upon something that exists. The messages they convey, the relationships they show, the meanings they imply, they're all real. They also have facts spread in between. 

Among the lines I wrote in this note, were these: "The only difference is that in Fiction, you learn things in an implied manner, depending upon your perception. Non-fiction gives you straight facts. I've started reading non-fiction too, because yes it is interesting, but fiction is far more interesting, mostly because it gives you perspective and understanding".

Really. You understand. People. Behaviour. Maybe you'd know about the life of a kind of person who's totally the opposite of how you are, of people living with diseases, of people losing their loved ones, of people on the other side of the planet. Doesn't it tell you so much more than non-fiction? I won't start comparing the two because it is not the subject of this post, but I have to give my view. Fiction makes you see many realities and you do it on your own. It's not in-your-face. It's up to you how you understand it, how you interpret it. This classmate-friend later in the day met another girl who's an avid fiction reader and asked the same question. She agreed with what I'd said and also added, "fiction completely shows you things the way one person (the author) imagined them". Isn't that an amazing observation? :D I'm going to add this to my fiction-is-real supporting argument! ;)

What do you think? Were you ever confronted with this dilemma? Or this question? :)

PS- The best thing about reading is that it inspires. It totally makes other people want to read for themselves, especially if they see you engrossed in a book, lost and enjoying it! The genuine, secure-about-themselves people might even tell you they feel like reading because of you, or that they have read a book they loved, because of you, because they saw you and felt the desire to do the same. It feels just amazing when you get to know that! This blog has given me this kind of a feel so many times. I love the observed fact that one person can spread this love, or at least a curiosity and interest to people around them. There's nothing better one could do, right? :D



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Classic Talk # 3: Little Lord Fauntleroy

F.H. Burnett
This children’s classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett, published in 1886, is a very simple, beautiful story of Cedric (“Ceddie”), a seven year old boy living a simple life with his mother in New York. His father was the youngest son of the Earl of Dorincourt in England, with whom the Earl broke all ties because he married a ‘local’ American woman, a very sweet young girl (called Mrs. Errol, after ‘Captain Errol’, her husband). Captain Errol died when he was very small, leaving behind Mrs. Errol deeply loving and caring for Ceddie. Cedric is what you’d say, the ideal child. He’s beautiful, with bright eyes and golden locks, his manner of speaking honey-sugary, his questions and comments deeply innocent and sweet. From how the book describes him, you’d think there wasn’t a finer boy anywhere!

“His greatest charm was his cheerful fearless, quaint little way of making friends with people. I think it arose from having a very confiding nature, and a kind little heart that sympathised with everyone, and wished to make everyone as comfortable as he liked to be himself. It made him very quick to understand the feelings of those about him.”

And these are just a few lines in the initial chapters. The book’s full of this charm. One evening as Ceddie sat on a high stool with Mr. Hobbs, the grocer, discussing politics, he’s called home by Mary, the caretaker because they had an important visitor. Mr. Havisham, a lawyer sent by the Earl at Dorincourt wished to send for Cedric to stay at the castle, since his sons had died and Cedric was the heir. This change is immense for Mrs. Errol and Cedric, especially as the Earl hates Mrs. Errol so much that he made arrangements for her to stay at a small house outside the castle. The book deals with this change, how a little boy with a kind, innocent heart full of love and affection perceives the world around him. It’s a beautifully narrated story, showing how a well-bred child can make the world such a better place.

Cedric is now Lord Fauntleroy, the grandson of the Earl of Dorincourt. Before leaving for England, Fauntleroy helps his friends get out of financial troubles, what with all the money he’s now inherited. He’s saddened by the fact that he wouldn’t be living with Dearest (he calls his mother ‘Dearest’, catching from how his dad used to call her that. How “aww” :’) ), but Mrs. Errol manages to make him understand in the gentlest way possible. They still meet every evening. The Earl is a hard-hearted, selfish man. People in his ‘kingdom’ are aware of his selfish, uncaring nature. He never loved his sons, especially the older two, who were totally spoiled, although he was somewhat fond of Captain Errol before he married the ‘local’ American woman.

Fauntleroy thinks highly of the Earl because a grandfather who gives him the freedom to do what he likes, and hence helps people who need money to fix their lives, would have to be someone with a great, kind heart. When they first meet, the Earl’s secretly pleased with the boy’s beauty and he’s surprised that the boy isn’t afraid of him. He’s even more surprised when he realizes that Fauntleroy is the only person who ever thought of him as a kind man. It doesn’t take long for him to grow fond of the boy and gradually as he lets Fauntleroy charm him with his innocent, pleasant thoughts, the people of Dorincourt also see a change in the Earl. There’s more happiness all around as people are taken out of poverty, small kind gestures are often seen and things get so much better. Soon, the Earl gets on friendly terms with Dearest as well and it’s a charming end to an incredibly sweet book.

I never thought I’d like such books as much as I’m doing when I first thought of including ‘reading classics’ in the 2013 Reading Goals. I realized I make awesome decisions sometimes without realizing it! It’s just ‘beautiful’ to read, written in a charming language. The themes this book covers includes the power of love, innocence, good upbringing, kindness, making a difference, love melting the hardest of hearts and the power of strong relationships. It’s amazing, really. I’ll share a few lines among the many I marked in the book. They’re just overdosing sweetness!

Spoken by Cedric: “Once, when I fell down and cut my knee, she gave me an apple for nothing. I’ve always remembered her for it. You know you always remember people who are kind to you.”

About the Earl: ‘He had been so selfish himself that he had missed the pleasure of seeing unselfishness in others, and he had not known how tender and faithful and affectionate a kind-hearted little child can be, and how innocent and unconscious are its simple, generous impulses.’

Dearest to Cedric: “Be only good dear, only be brave, only be kind and true always, and then you will never hurt anyone, so long as you live, and you may help many, and the big world may  be better because my little child was born. And that is best of all, Ceddie, it is better than everything else, that the world should be a little better because a man has lived- even ever so little better, dearest.”

‘It was really a very simple thing, after all- it was only that he had lived near a kind and gentle heart, and had been taught to think kind thoughts always and to care for others. It is a very little thing, perhaps, but it is the best thing of all. He knew nothing of earls and castles; he was quite ignorant of all grand and splendid things; but he was always lovable because he was simple and loving. To be so is like being born a king.’

A still from a movie
PS- The book’s been made into movies and there are theatrical adaptations based on this as well. I’m going to watch the 1936 movie, considered to be the best adaptation so far. :D Although, I'm apprehensive because none of the pictures of the many 'Little Lord Fauntleroy's I came across so far are anywhere close in beauty to how he was described in books. Anyhow, we know movies don't match up to books. :|  


PPS- Have you read this too? I love F.H. Burnett’s books! (Read: The Secret Garden, A Little Princess and now Little Lord Fauntleroy too!)


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Jennifer E. Smith
Title: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Published: 2012 by Little Brown
Pages: 236
My Rating: 4.5/5!

This isn't a book based on a research report, which is what I understood that people thought when they asked what book I'm reading, considering the smirky smiles and raised eyebrows. Or wait, they just might be teasing. I've become really dense these days so I wouldn't even have got to know. Anyway, this is Fiction. A story of a seventeen year old girl named Hadley missing her flight by four minutes at JFK airport, meeting this charming British boy named Oliver, both traveling to London. I'm not much of a romantic book reader, but this book was recommended more than once and it would have been foolish to ignore it just because it seemed like a love story. All of them aren't overly cheesy, y'know? ;)

Goodreads Blurb!
Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. Having missed her flight, she's stuck at JFK airport and late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it. 

My Thoughts!
I think I was very comfortable with the book since page 1. Teenage characters, realistic lives, drama: perfect setting for a story's beginning. Hadley's in a hurry to reach the airport, has an argument with her mom on the way, but anyway misses her flight by four minutes. What could possibly change in four minutes of your life? The book says, a lot! Who knew Hadley would find an adorably swoon-worthy (no, I'm not drooling. Not yet) guy who falls in love with her, just because she missed her flight? The next flight takes Hadley and Oliver in adjacent seats to London. The story spans a time period of 24 hours and half the story is based in the airport and the flight, filled with interesting conversations, observations, humor, intellectual talk, personal stories, the 'falling in love' moments and sentences that made me highlight them so very enthusiastically! (Not in a real, paperbook, genius! I was reading this one on my Kindle!)

The story is beautiful. I don't think of it as just a love story, but based on family as well. How hard it is for a seventeen year old to not see her father in over a year and then to see him getting married to a woman who isn't her mom. I thought I'd always hate how she had to face this situation, but the book tackled it well, I suppose, because to some extent, it did manage to convince me how it's okay. Oliver's story made me love Oliver even more somehow! The book's very well written, not complicated, but amazing dialogues. I mean! The last book where I loved the dialogues the most was The Fault in Our Stars (Looking for Alaska too) and then this book! It's not as good as in TFIOS, but it's awesome at another level. I wish I could find a guy like Oliver, who'd talk to me like that! ^_^ (Nope, not cheesy at all. Super fun, in fact).

Needless to say, I loved the characters since they were so well described in the way they behaved and what they spoke. It's been described so picturesquely that it's not really hard to imagine it all like it's happening around you. I suppose if you can feel what the characters might be feeling, it's a pretty good indication that the book's doing well. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is one such book that made me recommend it to friends just a few pages into it. I loved the story too, mostly because of it being realistic. Even the 'love at first sight' thing doesn't seem far-fetched. And I think that is why I'm liking this book so much. It just goes against how I thought a romance book would be like, but it wasn't. It was just so cool! :D The end made me go, "Oh wow. This is nice. But it seemed to end too fast. I wished the Oliver-and-Hadley-in-the-end scene could have been extended, but it's okay. Because then I realized this book has a sequel, This is What Happy Looks Like, which I'm going to read soon! 

Here are some quotes from the book I absolutely loved! Maybe these would make you pick it up yourself! ;)

"In the end, it's not the changes that will break your heart; it's that tug of familiarity"

"There's always a gap between the burn and the sting of it, the pain and the realization"

"He's like a song she can't get out of her head. Hard as she tries, the melody of their meeting runs through her mind on an endless loop, each time as surprisingly sweet as the last, like a lullaby, like a hymn, and she doesn't think she could ever get tired of hearing it"

"After all, it's one thing to run away when someone's chasing you. It's entirely another to be running alone"

"Cheerfulness and contentment are great beautifiers"


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