Even so, I have realised that something like a reading challenge (the Goodreads one in case of 2018) motivate me to make time for my favourite hobby. With this in mind, I’ve decided to sign up for some interesting reading challenges.
1. The 2019 Book Blog Discussion Challenge hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight! The idea is to write at least ten bookish discussion posts on this blog.
2. Books ‘n’ Tunes Challenge – a fun little idea where you read books which match with songs or song titles.
3. Dancing with Fantasy and Sci-Fi Challenge – This reading challenge consists of 3 sections. Fantasy, Sci-Fi and General for a total of 52 prompts which comes down to about 1 book a week. I’m not sure if I’ll attempt all three sections, perhaps only the first.
4. 2019 Retellings Challenge – I’m going for the ‘Silent Assassin’ category, which is to read 5 books. There’s a bingo of course, so it’ll be a fun way to introduce myself to books I wouldn’t have otherwise read.
Even so, feels nice and comforting to make reading goals; nearly as much as it would to scramble at the last minute to finish them! If I do participate in any more event type of things, I’ll add them to the list. Happy New Year!
Neither succeeds in their goal of suicide as a mystery takes the unlikely pair to America – to find the real reason behind the supposed suicide of Clover Adams, the wife of one Henry Adams, historian and a friend of Henry James. This leads them to a maze of secrets and scandals within the high society. From Henry Adams and John Hey to a young Theodore Roosevelt, the narrative is rich with characters plucked out of history’s pages.
“But we’re God to the world and characters we create, James. And we plot against them all the time. We kill them off, maul and scare them, make them lose their hopes and dearest loves. We conspire against our characters daily… Don’t you see, James? You and I are only minor characters in this story about the Great Detective. Our little lives and endings mean nothing to the God-Writer, whoever the sonofabitch might be.”
I’ve not read many Sherlock Holmes spin-offs to compare and contrast; but I appreciate the point of view that is not as stifled as Watson’s. James makes a refreshingly different foil to the detective. He packs more emotional insight into the story than any original Sherlock Holmes narrative. He is also not fond of the Sherlock Holmes stories – this addition compels Simmons to build a wonderful bridge between fantasy and reality.
Holmes tells us his versions of Watson’s writings (the idea being that Watson likes to tidy up the narrative, remove inconsistencies and unpalatable oddities making the stories far more simpler than the original cases solved by them.) It’s the stories of Sherlock Holmes taken a notch darker; delicious, if anything. There is a point in the story when James and Holmes sit crouched in a dark corner of a graveyard, each ruminating in his own way on death and personal loss, that sent chills down my spine.
We go into great depth about what makes America tick and James’s national identity crisis. We look at James’s minor literary successes and major literary plans, and watch through Simmons’s lens as he plans to write The Turn of the Screw, a standout moment for me as that is literally the only novel I have read by James. This book functions as a kind of skewed biography of Henry James; I don’t know how much was real but I do want to know more. The narrator appears often in first person, offering his view on the writing and nature of the book. He is cocky and seems to be having a great time telling the story – I wonder if that is Simmons himself, thoroughly enjoying his writing of the book.
America was a nation that refused to grow up. It was a perpetual baby, a vast, pink, fleshy toddler, now in possession of some terrible weapons it did not know how to hold properly, much less use properly.
A promising mystery, historical drama and a damn well written book… pick it up!
Finally, a review for the R.I.P. Challenge, just in the nick of time. Might even write one more before the end of the month!
wanted to read this book for an eternity. I was on high school when I
first picked it up, but for some reason or the other, had to return it
to the library. This topic is a happy reminder to pick it up.
The Dark Tower series by Stephen King – The other day a certain someone
told me I’m not a true SK fan until I read his “magnum opus.”
Naturally, I bristled. I like King for his characters, naturally, but I am somehow more drawn to horror.
Sandman by Neil Gaiman – My book club had a Gaiman-themed meetup once
and that was the first time my curiosity about Sandman was piqued.
Otherwise, I really don’t consider myself a graphic novels-person.
Appreciate the art, can’t get into the read.
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) – When I saw the topic, I
thought to myself, surely there must be some Cormoran Strike novel out
that I haven’t read yet. Somehow these books never produced that urgency
in me to pick up and read them. I will eventually read it. Meanwhile, desperately awaiting the Fantastic Beasts movie.
8. Call of Cthulhu by H. P. Lovecraft – This one makes me laugh! I have no clue how I could have read so many stories by Lovecraft and somehow missed this. I know the story, naturally. In fact, you know what, let me go read it right away. This is awfully embarrassing.
World Building: What makes Neil Gaiman’s writing so appealing? One reason is how he gives us brief, blurry-around-the-edges glimpses into his worlds. Carefully manicured scenes which give the faintest promise of wonders hidden behind his veils. With every new page you turn, you yearn more and more for those quick looks, begging him for scraps of new detail, which he gleefully provides peppered across the story. In her own way, J.K. Rowling also does that – that’s why Pottermore still works or we rush to watch Fantastic Beasts and glow warmly when Hogwarts is mentioned. They let on just enough about their world that we are convinced it’s complex, without ever letting on too much. It’s an accomplished story telling skill. But it’s not world building.
David Eddings does the opposite. While Rowling’s world seems to grow even today and she piles more details every passing year – Eddings’ world is all ready when he tells us this story. Each character has a story, a motive, a place in the world, or a conflict within himself – from the smallest shadow who passes by on the street to the many kings of the empires in this land, even his gods grieve and think and second guess and love – every character matters and earns your sympathy. The history is written. It is narrated throughout the story. And the detail makes it so that the world couldn’t not exist. Incredibly immersive.
Characters: The characters – the hundreds of tonnes of characters – each have a distinct personality, and with it, a voice,
which has so much to do with language. Wolf is old, cheeky, wise
but has grown weary with age; Pol is a formidable creature but at once also
motherly, caring, hence well respected; Garion is curious, innocent and
as if on principal, good. Even supporting characters like Silk and Barak
ooze their own drama and charm.
Initially, Eddings makes a biased narrator and it is quite clear whom you’re expected to like. This is typical in fantasy, so commonplace
that they’re the norm… one might even consider it wrong to expect
more? The characters of The Belgariad do grow over time and by the end
of the series, context will turn these caricatures drawn from Book 1
(Bonus: the book is also endlessly quotable.)
“Little jobs require little men, and it’s the little jobs that keep a kingdom running.”
“Why are the people all so unhappy?” he asked Mister Wolf. “They have a stern and demanding God,” Wolf replied. “Which God is that?” Garion asked. “Money,” Wolf said.”
“A day in which you learn something isn’t a complete loss.”
parents often ask me to recommend books for their children. I don’t know if
they realise how difficult it is to recommend a book to someone you know only
on the surface – I do try to get to know my students as well as I can, but it’s
hardly possible to remember their every interest and taste. Let’s face it: the
parents themselves are more likely to have a deep understanding of what their
child likes. So how does the choice go to the English teacher? It’s the
assumption that there is something mechanical about choosing a new book.
study on what he called a “home run book.” That is, a single book that makes a
reader. In a study titled, “Can one positive reading experience create a reader?”
researchers Debra Von Sprecken and Jiyoung Kim along with Stephen Krashen
present findings from a survey of over two hundred Grade 4 students in L.A. Students
were asked just two questions: 1. Do you like to read? 2. Is there one book or
experience that interested you in reading?
their interest. Furthermore, they could name it. However, the book varied across the students, even for those with
similar backgrounds. This led the researchers to conclude that while there is
such a thing as a home run book, the selection differs for every child. The
recommendation the study ended on was this: to spark an interest in
reading in children, the sure-shot way is to expose them to many, different
kinds of books, hoping to get a home run.
parents. And yet, I won’t simply give arbitrary recommendations. I do rant a
lot about books in class, and I see children note down the names of books that
they think they might like. Children also catch recommendations from peers and
usually, once a book is bought by a kid, it doesn’t rest till it has made the
rounds through the entire class. Reading spreads faster than wildfire – I quite
like that. Apart from word of mouth, though, there are other ways to look for
lists. Goodreads has many faults as a social media platform, but it
does offer reading lists curated by thousands of average readers. This makes
them far more accessible and reliable than say the New York Times Bestseller’s
List. Not to mention, you don’t have to be a Goodreads member to view these
lists. It helps that there are Goodreads lists of recommendation for the most
ridiculous things. To illustrate this, I went to the Listopia page on Goodreads
and searched for the tag, “grass.” Three relevant categories (just to name a
few): 1. Books about Plants 2. Meadows and Fields, Savannahs and Steppes 3.
Young Adult books with grass on the cover. So, even if you have a weird kid
with odd demands on your hands, Goodreads would be your friend.
sounds counter-productive. But there are so many great movies out there today
which have been adapted from books that are better. Wonder, Life of Pi, IT, The
Perks of Being a Wallflower, About a
Boy, To Kill A Mockingbird, Ready Player One – all of these are suitable, if
not excellent, reads for your teen or preteen. But the problem is, once you’ve
watched the film adaptation; the interest in the book is gone. So if you ever
see your kid begging to watch a movie, check if there’s a book version and make them experience it first as a kind of challenge/reward scheme. I’d also
suggest scouring the internet for adaptation trailers to find book
/ Libraries. An astounding number of kids in my school have Kindles.
The reading rate should then be predictably high. Am I right? Wrong. Kindles
are great, amazing even, for readers; handy, convenient, sleek and shiny (are
they?)… But, here’s the thing – they probably won’t create great readers. I
couldn’t stress this enough, the best way to introduce your kid to a lifelong
bookworminess would be to take them to a bookstore or even better, a library. Once
a month, at least. These establishments, especially bookstores, go to great
lengths to create an attractive ambience. And whether we like it or not, we do
judge a book by its cover.
take a stroll through the store and find what they like. Model the behaviour
yourself. Read. Your child sees you nose deep in a book often enough, trust me,
they’ll want to do it themselves. Don’t tell them they should read to improve
their language or expression or writing or thinking. Don’t make a medicine out
of it. Tell them it’s FUN. It’s like a mental adventure park. The benefits are
simply a by-product. They need not read a Charles Dickens, even a comic book
would work, or a picture book! You must always remember: a good book is far
more important than great literature. Expose them to a lot of different books
and hope that they find that one book that hits the right chord. There’s no
stopping them then.
– freshly minted workaholic speaking.
There are many half written posts lounging in my drafts, never know when I’ll get to them… if ever. And this blog has gone through one too many fake revivals. Yes, it’s finally been one too many. There was once a time when I used to ‘write like no one was reading’ and bask in the anonymity. When this blog became bigger than that, I had to create another one for that purpose. I suppose I want to go back to that kind of messy blogging again. Without the pressure of writing a summary or you know, a disclaimer for not writing a proper review. It’s been three months since I blogged. I don’t particularly miss the super (un)organized book reviews; and I honest to god don’t miss the update plans. But I do miss something about the whole thing. So I will get back to it. This is the first attempt.
feel shifts in stone and hear vibrations of the ground. And to control the orogenes from harming humans, we have the Guardians, who have been charged with taking care of the orogenes. The Stillness is a ravaged world, made savage through its suffering. Not unlike our world, it uses blind violence to get what it wants.
One day, a giant rift hits the ground, signalling the start of yet another Season, and demolishes many communities in the Stillness. But this is not the greatest of Essun’s troubles. For the same day, she comes home to find her husband and daughter missing and her little boy strangled to death. And that can only mean one thing: their secret is out. Essun can sense that her daughter is still alive somewhere, a mother’s instinct, and she sets out to find her husband and daughter and avenge her son’s death. But Father Earth has other plans for Essun.
The plot is complicated and the timelines could get confusing. But it will keep on the edge of your seat, that’s for sure.
THEMES: This book and the rest of the trilogy is very intelligently crafted. I had asked friends to recommend books that were ‘unputdownable’ and this series was one of the suggestions. I don’t usually read series especially when I haven’t heard of them, but man, I’m so glad I read this. While I have only spoken about one story here, it is the series I wholeheartedly recommend. It is so well bound together that I cannot think of one book without its companions, an infinity gently split into three narratives. The series is about so many things, it’s about everything – family, life, death, love, forgiveness, kindness, race, politics, discrimination, war, survival, hatred, fear – from bare human emotions to grand worldwide conflicts. And it is about time, and how it affects everything in the most epic proportions…
THE CHARACTERS: It is through Essun’s eyes that we experience this world throughout the series, told largely in second-person perspective. She is a beautiful character and the best thing about this book for me – many fantasy stories today showcase powerful and flawless heroines that seem to exist to make a stand. (Two years ago, I had many speculative fiction magazines reject my first story, The Dew Eagle, because the main character, a tribal woman, didn’t seem strong enough, whatever that means.) Essun is strong. She is also flawed, and not always aware of her shortcomings – her temper, her ideas of motherhood, her selfish pursuits. She is not always in control, of herself or her surroundings. And the story demands that you relate to her, identify with her, because she is ‘you.’
The Broken Earth Trilogy is reminiscent of Earthsea in its conspicuous lack of whitewashing. The characters, spread across different communities in the Stillness, are of different race, colour and sexuality – Jemisin takes great care in describing the characters as both individuals and representatives of their creed. And she tackles the prejudices present in the characters carefully as well – giving us a truly well-rounded believable world, not without its faults, but overall, understandably so. Perhaps the biggest achievement for Jemisin is that you cannot characterize any of her characters as inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’; that kind of black-and-white judgment absent in her writing. Our characters range from prudent and self important, to impulsive and lacking in faith – and they’re all simply trying to survive, one way or the other. This is not a moral story, not a preaching session. It’s a lot more complicated than that. Any lessons are for you to deduce.
“But human beings, too, are ephemeral things in the planetary scale. The number of things that they do not notice are literally astronomical.”