a blank slate

a blank slate

Month: October 2011

Conversations by Rajeev Nanda – book review

I received this book in exchange for an honest review through Blogadda.

At first glance, the book seemed wonderful. The pleasant cover page has a picture of three coloured chairs, in front of an old, patchy wall. It reminded me of a painting I’d seen a long time ago, of an old man sitting outside his old house, with a cane in his hand, and a dog at his side. The title Conversations stands out against the pale background. And the effect told me what the title meant to me – conversations, yes, but with yourself.

Conversations is a book by Indian author Rajeev Nanda. The author is an IT professional and is also the author of E-everything.com: How To Map Out a Viable E-Strategy, along with various articles, both technological and academic. His new book Conversations is a collection of thought provoking short stories and poems on various aspects of life. The basic underlying theme of the stories as well as poems is, of course, what gave the book its title – discussions and conversations.
As I read the introduction, I was sure I would like the book. The book turned out to be quite unlike what the introduction suggested. This sort of reading isn’t usually my cup of tea, and I think this book proves why not. At the risk of sounding judgmental, I would label the book pseudo-intellectual.
“The stories and poems in the book have resulted from my years of observing people around me and then mulling over various challenges and dilemmas we face in life. Therefore, I think it is better for this book to introduce me to you rather than me trying to introduce this book. I will consider it as the success of this book if it makes you think, reflect and develop new perspectives.”
Quoting just what the author says in the introduction, I believe he should have mulled over just a tad bit more. You see, the emotions discussed in the book, the challenges that were uncovered weren’t deep enough. The poetry seemed child-like. The stories touched me, but they didn’t give me a perspective that I haven’t already read in a thousand other self-help books, that I haven’t seen in a thousand other movies. Like I mentioned before, this isn’t my kind of book – but I chose to read it, because people do surprise you sometimes.
I would have liked to read a book that retells normal incidents, narrates normal stories; that end up being something more than just normal. Instead, what I get is a collection of stories planned to impress; planned, even, to preach hefty life lessons. This book is nice. But it could have been one that stays with you for a long time, after you’re done reading it. The feelings mentioned in the book didn’t keep me awake in bed. I can’t say I even thought about the book once I put it down. I only really liked a couple of stories, a few poems here and there; that’s it.
That being said, I liked the writing. The author has a good command over the language, the wording is simple but effective – and there isn’t any slang or teen-talk. There were some obvious clichés, but what I called ‘pseudo-intellectual’ never got too cynical. The writing is humble, and the book is honest. It is clear that the writer means what he says, and that’s more than I can say for most authors.
This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

The Dead Smile (Short Stories on Wednesday)

I have read mostly horror novels this month, and not only for the R.I.P. Challenge and Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon! So to keep up with the Halloween spirit, I read a short story by American author Francis Marion Crawford. It is a gothic tale called The Dead Smile.

“It was a low-moaning voice, one that rose suddenly, like the scream of storm. Then it went from a moan to a wail, from a wail to a howl, and from a howl to the shriek of the tortured dead. He who has heard it before knows, and he can bear witness that the cry of the banshee is an evil cry to hear alone in the deep night.”

The themes of the story are lies, secrets and forbidden love, combined with the supernatural. The story is wonderfully written and has in every way the aethetic beauty of gothic literature. The descriptions are so vivid and at times, gruesome, that you can almost see the scenes unfold before your eyes. That being said, the plot is awfully predictable and riddled with loopholes. As long as you don’t try to make sense of every action, the story is a beautiful and touching read.
You can read it here. Short Stories on Wednesday is a bookish meme hosted at Risa’s Bread Crumb Reads.

R.I.P. – Ghost Story by Peter Straub

“We see things, but we don’t believe them; we feel things—people watching us, sinister things following us—but we dismiss them as fantasies. We dream horrors, but try to forget them. And in the meantime, three people have died.”
– Ricky Hawthorne (Ghost Story by Peter Straub)

Over the weekend, I read five horror novels, but none of them managed to frighten and disturb and fascinate me as the one I finished reading only a few days earlier, as the fourth and the last book for the R.I.P. Challenge. Peter Straub‘s Ghost Story is a homage to the best novels of the horror genre, and an amazing one at that.

Summary: The book opens with a man driving a strange little girl in his car, in the middle of nowhere. He seems to have kidnapped her, but is more scared of her than she is of him. Right when he is about to kill her, about to drive his knife through her… the scene changes.
Milburn is a fictional small town in upstate New York. An ageing bachelor, Sears James and his friend Ricky Hawthorne are attorneys. They also form half of what is now left of the Chowder Society. The Chowder Society is originally a group of five friends, who gather every month to drink and talk. That is, until one of them, Edward Wanderley, dies under mysterious circumstances, exactly a year before this story takes place. What is left now is the two attorneys, a doctor Joseph Jaffrey and Lawrence Benedikt. The Chowder Society meetings are private and the four don’t talk about business or politics. They tell stories. Every month, one of them tells a ghost story – the scariest thing that ever happened to him. That is, until, one day that scary thing returns and their past comes back to haunt them.
My thoughts: Ghost Story is a huge book, not only in size. ‘Vast’ may be a better word to describe it. It has numerous back-stories of numerous characters intricately woven together to form one novel. The book is not about one vampire, or one ghost – but the whole idea – the thing that takes on different forms to make us afraid, the thing that has lived in every culture in every country, and prevailed through all these years. The original evil.
What I really like about the book is that it is more like a psychological thriller than a story with slimy white ghosts and creepy noises. I have never been more terrified of descriptions of fear and I’ve never been more certain, that someone’s following me.
The characters are wonderful. It’s a long story and you have a long time to get to know them. By the end of the book, I was almost in tears when anything happened to my favourite people. It is amazing to get so involved in a story, and to be able to relate so closely to something about ghosts and demons!
The book is a recommended read for anyone, even those who haven’t read the genre before or don’t consider themselves horror fans. Believe me, once you read this book, you’ll want to read more horror fiction; I know I did!

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon Wrap Up

The Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon was hosted at Kindle Fever and My Shelf Confessions for the weekend (October 21st – 23rd). With Halloween coming up, I decided to read only books from the horror/thriller genres.

Since it is now the 24th on my side of the world, I have decided to do a wrap-up post. I finished reading five books; i.e. one more than my set goal.

Reading Stats –

Books Read: (Total – 5)
1. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
2. The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker
3. I am Legend by Richard Matheson
4. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
5. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H. P. Lovecraft

Total Pages Read: 1103

Total Challenges completed: 5

This was my first read-a-thon and I have to tell you, it was a huge success. After reading five horror novels back-to-back, I can’t look in mirrors, be alone in stairways in my own house and sleep with the lights out.
My eyes are so swollen, I have had a number of people asking me if I was sick for the past couple of days. Now when I close my eyes, I see words floating around in my head. And I am so tired that I am afraid that if I let myself fall asleep now, it’d be impossible to ever wake up. I love this feeling! I am looking forward to taking part in many more read-a-thons.

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon Update #3

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon is hosted at Kindle Fever and My Shelf Confessions for this weekend. With Halloween coming up, I decided to have a horror/thriller reading list (Though that is not a must for the read-a-thon.)

Reading Stats:
Total Books Read – 4
Total Pages Read – 973

Last Book(s) Read: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – This is definitely one of the best horror/thriller novels I have read. It’s eerie and creepy and really just a classic ghost story

I am Legend by Richard Matheson – The story of a the last man surviving in a strange, new world, where every other creature is a vampire. If the “apocalypse due to a disease” theme sounds too cliched too you, you ought to keep in mind that this book is one of the books that introduced the theme. Cool, huh? This makes me want to read books about zombies.
My (tentative) to-be-read list: (I can definitely manage one more book)
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H. P. Lovecraft

Persepolis – Reading a graphic novel

One of the many things I am unduly critical about is graphic novels (or comic books.) I wasn’t very fond of either, as a child, when the only comic book I ever owned starred Donald Duck.

I recently read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, a beautiful and touching autobiographical comic book. The author shows us the memories of her childhood and adolescence, in the form of simple illustrations, just like a child would. Originally written in French, it has two volumes (The Story of a Childhood & The Story of a Return) which are illustrated in a charming black and white. The story is set during and after the Islamic revolution and the Iran-Iraq war.
Brought up in Tehran, Marjane dreamed, as a little child, of being God’s Prophet and later, during the revolution, dressed up and pretended to be the likes of Che Guevara. While she grew up in a relatively independent and liberal family atmosphere, the world around her turned into something entirely different. The book deals with themes like war, discrimination, religion, politics; all from that little girl’s point of view. I never imagined a comic book could handle such a “grown-up” topic in such a “grown-up” way. You can’t blame me, though; I actually don’t know any one who reads comic books of any genre other than fantasy.

What I loved the most about the book, is that it captures a youngster’s perspective perfectly. I always think that when writing about his childhood, an author writes what he feels retrospectively (or what he thinks he must have felt back then.) Because of that, autobiographies tend to exaggerate a child’s capacity to express or understand emotions.

On the other hand, once you’re in your forties, twelve-year-olds and eight-year-olds all seem about the same. So some authors make their younger characters too, well, childish. This comic book displays the little girl’s innocence wonderfully – and without making her seem naive. And as the girl grows up, you grow up with her!
Now, I am not claiming that I am suddenly a fan of comic books about superheroes or Japanese animated characters with uncharacteristically huge eyes. I’m just saying, I’ll try not to be so judgmental the next time; because this particular comic book (Persepolis) is certainly one of my favourite books!

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon Update #2

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon is hosted at Kindle Fever and My Shelf Confessions for this weekend. With Halloween coming up, I decided to have a horror/thriller reading list (Though that is not a must for the read-a-thon.)

Reading Stats:
Total Books Read – 2
Total Pages Read – 400

Last Book Read: The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker (detailed review coming up shortly) – I loved this book. It is actually the novella on which the movie Hellraiser is based (I haven’t seen the movie, though.) In fact, I am wondering if I should add another Clive Barker novel to my weekend read-a-thon reading list!

My (Tentative) To-be-read List:
I am Legend by Richard Matheson
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon Challenge

So far, the Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon is going way better than I would have imagined! This is a challenge hosted at LovelyLit as a part of the Read-a-thon.

“For this challenge you will be making one sentence using only book titles. You can’t add or leave out any words. You can use as many books as you like. Your sentence will probably be silly but that makes it even more fun! Just make sure it’s a real sentence. Subject & Verb!”

Well, I used six books (pretty long, I know, but it was fun. And kind of crazy!) Here’s my sentence:

Only time will tell, if on a winter’s night a traveller abandoned the time traveller’s wife forever in the land of winter.

And the books:

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon Challenge

This is a challenge hosted at Book Briefs as a part of the Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon.

“Ok, so how does this work? First you pick a book. Then you find pictures to represent the words in the book title. Then you put the pictures/clues together and try to guess what the book title is. Get creative and make it as challenging as you want. Make a post with your Book picture puzzles and go around to different blogs and try to guess some of the puzzles.”

Here’s mine.. I suppose it’s easy to guess…

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon Update #1

My first ever read-a-thon kicked off to a great start; I did almost nothing else but read.

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon is hosted at Kindle Fever and My Shelf Confessions for this weekend. With Halloween coming up, I decided to have a horror/thriller reading list (Though that is not a must for the read-a-thon.)

Reading Stats:
Total Books Read – 1
Total Pages Read – 291

Last book read: The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (a detailed review coming up shortly) – I did not find the book as horrifying as I thought I would. Although all the obvious horror elements are present, it just doesn’t seem like the creepiest of books. I guess the spooky figures and their crazy behaviour just isn’t as frightening to read as it is to watch. I haven’t seen The Exorcist movie, though, so can’t comment on that…

My (Tentative) To-Be-Read List:
The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker
I am Legend by Richard Matheson
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Happy Reading! 😉