The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

I was so looking forward to this book! The premise is excellent – it’s exactly my kind of Faustian story. A young woman makes a deal with a dark god – she wants to be free… escape her village and her marriage… and live forever… The devil answers her prayer. Except, no deal is quite that straightforward. And so, while she escapes from her small life, she is cursed to remain alone, forgotten. No one remembers her, and anything she says, writes or makes is wiped from the world, from memory and history. She is not only out of the grasp of time, she’s cut out of life itself. Three hundred years of anonymity until… she meets him. Henry. And he remembers her.

The Good: You know, I expected it to be as cheesy as any period / fantasy romance. A good kind of cheesy! The book did start out that way. Those sweeping parallel storylines flitting between the 1700s and somewhere close to now, 2014, New York. Rich, silken prose dripping off the pages, vivid descriptions of the city-life and art and poetry… It was all so Ooh! But Ooh! is all there was.

The Bad: Pages and pages, and some more pages, of: nothing. Repetitive lines, overused similes, cluttered ideas, name-dropping, and so much maudlin drama. Here’s what I mean. These two lines are set in 17-something Paris (I guess) –

He does not say he will walk her home. And if it were midday, she would scorn the offer just to spite him. But it is late, and only one kind of woman walks alone at night.

You know what that last line means, don’t you? You know exactly what she means by a certain kind of woman – what it says about her, him, their times, the world. And yet, what the author gives us is two more paragraphs about it:

Addie has learn that women – at least, women of a certain class – never venture forth alone, even during the day. They are kept inside like potted plants, tucked behind the curtains of their homes. And when they do go out, they go in groups, safe within the cages of each other’s company, and always in the light of day.

To walk alone in the morning is a scandal, but to walk alone at night, that is something else. Addie knows. She has felt their looks, their judgment, from every side. The women scorn her from their windows, the men try to buy her on the streets, and the devout, they try to save her soul, as if she hasn’t already sold it. She has said yes to the church, on more than one occasion, but only for the shelter, never for the salvation.

I mean why – WHY – was that needed? This happens all the time in the book. What she has already said in ten words, she dwells on for forty more, throwing in the misplaced metaphors and the inconsequential details.. why? Because it sounds good? Does it even manage that? Half the book could have easily been chopped – the great premise was throttled by bad editing.

The Ugly: And yet, the lack of editing was not the biggest of my concerns. The most annoying bit was how all the existential questions that the book raised went conveniently unanswered in the end. What was the point of this book? What was the grand takeaway? It’s not a surprise to me that the author writes for young adults, because this book reads like YA, except with sex and a 300 year old character – wait no, it reads exactly like YA.

P.S. No issues with YA, I read it – just didn’t expect this to fall into that bracket.

Understanding People Who Don’t Read Fiction: the good, the bad and the somewhat unclear

found this too in one of my old blogger drafts

Note: Migrating from Blogger to WordPress [so late] has been a lot of fun, because I keep unearthing old write-ups from my 500+ Blogger drafts! So this is an old post from 2015, which was written with an incorrigible intention of making fun of everyone; starting with myself. My reading habits have changed considerably in the last five years, but my befuddlement at intellectual elitism and the “fiction / non-fiction is not useful” tirade endures, and that’s what this post was about. Here I go:

Ever since I started Tabula Rasa, I have met, virtually of course, many fiction fanatics. In real life, however, I only know so many. My real world is filled with those who promote conscious reading of non-fiction and newspapers and real world knowledge-expanding truths. People have often scoffed at and expressed utter puzzlement over my love for stories. Biographies, some can understand, but fantasy – hell no! “What is the use of reading things that are not true?” I have been asked and sometimes, generously shown articles that answer the very question. Forced into interaction with this breed of people for over twenty years now, here are some things I have discovered about them:

The Good:

1. They are extremely well informed. Because they dedicate their reading time solely to non-fiction and factual information, they regularly fill their minds with important dollops of knowledge. Because they don’t let themselves get distracted by that which is not true and never existed, they build a good memory and possess a high recollection power.
2. They are very grounded. Unlike fiction readers, they don’t indulge in escapism and can firmly face reality, having practised it throughout their lives, on a daily basis!
3. They are time-management experts. They value time and resist the urge, if ever they have one, to escape from the real world. This is rather obvious, seeing as reading which we fiction-readers view as a hobby is actually a method of learning for them. They simply cannot help but direct all their time to a useful end.
4. They are logical thinkers. They tend not to get carried away by emotions, and when push comes to shove, are able to focus on the critical necessities of a situation than be affected by extraneous, for lack of a better term, fluff. (I have yet to figure out just how this relates to reading non-fiction, but have generally observed it to be true.)

The Bad:

1. They are uncreative. Since they only ever read non-fiction, they don’t get as much of a chance to exercise their imagination, and inevitably lead dull uninspired lives.
2. They cannot come to terms with their own emotions. Since they miss out on the cathartic relief offered to us fiction-readers, they spend their lives unable to grapple with their complex feelings. They do prefer raw facts to temperamental silliness, anyway, however, the lack of emotional self-awareness must cause problems.
3. They lack empathy. Unable to comprehend even their own feelings, they lack the compassion necessary to understand other people’s thoughts and emotions. They find it difficult to put themselves in other people’s shoes, and obstinately stick to their world-view. This may lead to inexplicable loneliness – not caring about feelings doesn’t make one immune to them, after all.
4. They make enemies. Cold, logical thinkers who cannot empathise with others, their argumentative nature often gets them into trouble. They do get along mightily with other non-fiction readers, engaging in debates and healthy competitive discussions on general know-how. But a part of me wonders if they ever make any real friends.

The Unclear:

There are other random observations I have made about people who don’t read fiction. If you, unlike me, are a non-fiction reader (in which case, welcome to my blog, hope you find something of use here,) please be so kind as to clear my doubts.

1. Language: Are readers of non-fiction less likely to sound pseudo-intellectual and do they have more of a business-like vocabulary which helps their expression stay precise and on point? Or am I being baseless and arbitrarily judgemental in this specific instance? Surely not all fiction has extravagant flowery writing! Although to be honest, the vast majority does…
2. Enjoyment: They must watch TV and film for only the aesthetic quality, because insofar as I know, stories don’t give them pleasure. Speaking of which, is it all right in their world of non-fiction for them to enjoy themselves for the sake of it? Or do all non-fiction readers naturally want to indulge in only those actions that have a purpose…? Wait, this vaguely reminds me of something I read in this book called The Metaphysics of Morals (or something like that, curse my bad memory.) Unfortunately, I can’t tell you exactly what it was. See, I quit reading after the second page when I realized it had no plot…

Disclaimer: Just in case my introduction and tone don’t make it clear that I’m kidding, leaving a disclaimer here to remind you, that I am, in fact, just as incensed as anyone else by such sweeping judgements about fiction and non-fiction readers. I was kidding here. If it wasn’t funny, well, you’re welcome to not laugh.

Identity Crisis: Musings on Changing Reading Habits and Blogging Dilemmas

I never thought I would reach a phase where my blog became so much work. It being a Sunday today, I did my usual weekend-morning round of blog-hopping. Only a few out of a very many favourite blogs had new posts up. All around me I see blogs fading away or slipping into quiet stagnation, for whatever reason, and the strange thing is, a part of me wonders if I would be anything but relieved if I quit trying to make this work.
Blogging is just a hobby, not deserving of so much drama, I am aware of that. But anyone who knew me back in 2010 can attest to the role Tabula Rasa has played in getting me from there to here. And that is not a thing to scoff at, or give up very easily. And yet, the goal for the year was to post five posts every month, and it must say something about me that on most days, I can’t summon the energy to do even that.

That being said, one cannot afford to let lack of time lead one to substandard writing. We’re better than that, the blog and I. We (yea, I just did that, don’t look at me weirdly) have been in kind of an upheaval since I moved away from home, and it is time to face the identity crisis and maybe, shoo it away..

The thing is, lately, I have vehemently avoided looking a certain truth in the eye. I am not a reader any more. At least not in the fixed one-dimensionally passionate way I used to be. The Jess-and-Rory kind of reader who would dismiss reading seven books a week with a, “That’s not much…” And that passion played such a big role in driving the blog forward, back in the day. I am not the girl who reads a hundred books in a year any more. On some harrowing days, I would gladly go back to that time and amber-fossilize myself there, because, if not anything else, that was one hell of a year book-wise. But I like who I am now, where I am, and it is silly to resist the blog transforming to go with the new-me. I mean, really, a goal of five posts a month is highly unrealistic for someone who manages to read only four books in three months (oh, how the mighty have fallen.)
I give you, some new truths about my changed reading habits. I still wonder what form these will take up in my blog, but I do hope to come to terms with them. I welcome suggestions for the former…
– I don’t insist on completing books any more, but I wrote about that already. There was a time when I would say I owe it to a writer to read his work in its entirety before forming an opinion, now I just feel in this worldful of myriad choices, it is the writer who owes me an impeccably written book. Life is too short to read a boring book.
– I love rereading now. There is so much to glean from a book when you read it for the second, and the third time. For the fresh version of this blog, I already know things I could write about books I reread that frantically-churning-out-posts-Priya did not do justice to.
– I have forty unread books on my shelf, and yet I find myself picking up more and more recommendations from friends and other bloggers. There is a beautiful comfort in buying or borrowing a book someone likes, some assurance of its worth helps me devote it my time.
– I have become less rigid, more eclectic in my tastes now. The firm opinions are dissolving, especially on genre. A weird hitherto-unrealized part of me has come to love cheesy romances, I wonder why. I read more non-fiction these days, mostly on linguistics and teaching, but even politics and pop psychology (she shyly admits.) God, I read poetry too.
– I am a slow reader this year. There was a time when I would read three books in three days, and be okay with that. Today, I see it as a waste of a treasure-chest of experiences. Do you know what I mean? I now get this feeling that I only graze the surface of a book when I read it at that hasty pace. That I miss out on the so much else that it has to offer.
– I am no longer a linear reader, either. I read a page and reread my favourite lines before moving on to the next. I highlight passages and think about them, read ahead and then revisit them to see how reading the next few pages changes my views on the ones before.
All these sound fine, you tell me. But what about this – reviews don’t make sense to me any more. I don’t like writing them. Just what I call these “random musings.” That is the crux of my identity crisis – the so-called indelible dilemma. What do you call a book blogger who doesn’t read? Moreover, what must a book blogger do when she can’t bring herself to write book reviews any more? Well?

Stop being a book blogger. I was the one who assigned myself the label, anyway. 


Which is not to say I won’t write about reading. Only that it won’t be quite so strictly defined. Through it all, I honestly would like to believe I have grown up as a reader. It is true that have officially lost the right to say, “I read a lot.” But I do enjoy reading still, there can be no doubt about that. So, I will commit to writing one post every month, which will likely not be a proper book review. Just one post. But I will make it a damn good one. Good enough for now?

Five Signs A Bookworm Isn’t Getting Enough Books

Would you keep a pet goldfish out of water? Or neglect feeding a child? In much the same way, it is your job, as a member of a bookworm’s life, to ensure that she gets a constant supply of books. If you notice any of the following symptoms in a bookworm, chances are she is not getting enough books. It is for you to discover why and rectify the situation.
Stage 1. Disinterest: If a bookworm seems disinterested in the world around her, it is because she misses the fantastical, intriguing worlds of her books. Remember, these are the ones that help her cope with the routine. Give her a book, and she’ll be back to normal in no time. 

Stage 2. Irritability: Is she annoyed all the time? A bookworm, when confined in real life for too long, begins to show signs of irritation at everything mundane. If she snaps at you, ignore her, tell her to stop what she’s doing and place a book in her hands. This is the best way to avoid further complications.
Stage 3. Over-talkativeness: Does she burst into long unstoppable monologues? Please understand, a book-deprived bookworm is likely bored out of her mind. She expects you to be the entertainment she’s missing. Either stand up to the demands of the role or give her a book to read. However, be warned that if you choose the latter and do give her a great book, she may never speak to you again.
Stage 4. Sleepiness: If a bookworm tends to doze off at even the most random times of day, she is probably trying to dream up the worlds she is unable to read about. She will inevitably reach a stage when the dreams will not be enough. A bookworm in this stage of book-separation needs immediate attention. The ideal cure is a page-turner, a mystery or a thriller, to keep her awake long enough to adjust her sleep cycle.
Stage 5. Hallucinations: Did she just call you Harry? Say something about rescuing Sirius? Is she trying to fly a broom? Lead her to her favourite bookshelf, leave the room and don’t return for at least a week. This bookworm is in need of serious help and you’re not it.
There may be numerous doubtless justified reasons for a bookworm not getting enough reading time. But just remember, no work is worth this high a cost.

“Aren’t we hooked on phonics?” – Top Ten Tuesday, Gilmore Girls and Books


I originally wrote this post two years ago. I have reposted it here, because it kind of almost fits the theme for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted at The Broke and the BookishTop Ten Books If You Like a TV show / movie / play, etc.
These are books you should read if you like Gilmore Girls, but not because they’re like Gilmore Girls. These are books referenced on the TV show. If you’ve seen it you know how literature-centric anything Rory does is. And the kind of books, movies and songs they like says a lot about the characters. So – if you loved Rory and Lorelai like I did, you’d want to read on: 
Gilmore Girls is undoubtedly the most bookish TV show I have
ever come across. While the eccentric towns-people, the best-friend Mom and the
regular small-town shindigs never fail to irritate me, I do love the witty,
pop-culture-laden dialogue and the coffee love.
Rory Gilmore has an admirable amount of books stacked on her bookshelf and is
always seen with a book in her hand. Dean liked watching Rory read and Jess and
Rory bonded largely over books. There are, naturally, many Rory Gilmore Reading
Challenges and Book Clubs out there. In fact, WB had released a list
of Rory Gilmore’s reads. I only discovered them very recently.

But I have, over time, read a lot of books and authors
because my favourite characters (mostly Jess and Rory) from Gilmore Girls
mentioned reading and liking them:
1. Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust – Lorelai borrows
this from Max Medina (Ah, Max, and his very English-Professor-ey bookshelf) Proust was a huge but definitely rewarding read.
2. Post Office by Charles Bukowski – Paris
and Jess argued over this one. According to Paris, it’s a typical guy response
to worship Kerouac and Bukowski, but never try anyone like Jane Austen. And then Jess says that he has read Jane Austen and that she would have liked
Bukowski.
3. On the Road by Jack Kerouac – Kerouac is
mentioned a lot throughout the series. According to Rory, the Beats expose you
to a world you wouldn’t have otherwise known; that’s what great writing is
about. This book was good, though somewhat pretentious, but I preferred Bukowski’s style to Kerouac’s.
4. Please Kill Me – The Uncensored Oral History of
the Punk Movement by Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain
 – The book
is just (and you wouldn’t find this word in my usual vocabulary) insane. It’s
the history of punk music written through and by people who actually lived it.
Jess recommends this to Rory.
5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – I chose
reading this book over War and Peace, of which my sister has a copy also,
because it is one of Rory’s favourite books. Dean thinks it’s impossible that
every name in the book ends with “sky”, and Rory convinces him to
read it, because Tolstoy apparently wrote it for the masses, so you don’t have
to be very literary to get it. I did love the book, but I disagree.
6. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain –
This is another of Rory’s favourites; though I don’t remember where this is
mentioned. I do remember that Rory made Lorelai celebrate Rory’s twelfth
birthday in a Mark Twain museum!
7. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens – I’d read an abridged version a long time ago, but I re-read it when I watched that Gilmore Girls episode where Rory calls Jess “Dodger” for stealing her book (Howl.) Incidentally, I also read Terry Pratchett’s Dodger, which I adored, by the way. 
8. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut – This is
the book that Jess is reading when he enters a class late, and is supposed to
be writing a test. He borrows a pencil from Lane, tilts the book and starts
writing (notes, probably) in the margin.
9. Howl and other Poems by Allen Ginsberg –
This is the first book of poetry I have ever dared and managed to read; and
only because, Jess is supposed to have read it “about forty times”,
which automatically means it’s good.
10. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway – I
read Ernest Hemingway basically because of the time Rory promises to give
“the painful Ernest Hemingway a try” if Jess finishes reading The
Fountainhead. Jess also tells Rory, “Ernest only has lovely things to say
about you.”
Some of the authors mentioned or featured on the show that I still want to read are John Steinbeck, Tom Woolfe, Hunter Thompson and Alexander Pushkin.

(“Aren’t we hooked on phonics?” is what Jess comments when he first sees Rory’s overflowing bookshelf!) 

As you can probably see, Gilmore Girls has influenced a lot
of my reading. Actually, it has also influenced a lot of my music and movie
tastes. Do you like the show or any of the books I have mentioned? And would
you recommend any other bookish television show or movie?

Do you re-read books?


The seven Harry Potter books are probably the books that I have re-read the most over the years (the third and the fifth more than the others.) So much in fact, that only the other day I realized that my copy of The Prisoner of Azkaban is so battered that not a single page is now attached to the spine. You would say I don’t handle books with care, but I usually do. It’s just that I have read this more times than I can count, taken it more places than I can imagine (also, I am fairly certain it was not that great an edition anyway.)

It’s obvious that everyone reads books, their favourites most likely, more than once. But what I’ve always been curious about, is how people re-read. My favourite chapter from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, Prongs – I can quote the part from the Goblet of Fire where Voldemort returns (The thin man stepped out of the cauldron…) – and I can describe the Fountain of Magical Brethren in excruciating detail along with all the floors of St. Mungo’s Hospital. You get my point now… I re-read parts that I liked the first time I read them. Even if I sit and try to read the entire book again, cover to cover, I end up skimming over to the good parts. Also, I have noticed that re-reading doesn’t work, for me, with mysteries, thrillers and horror fiction. I have read a couple of Stephen King books more than once, but the effect of the books is almost entirely diluted during the second or third read.

I have also noticed that after re-reading a book (especially a review copy, or any book I’ve reviewed) I tend to change my opinion of it. It may be because I’m older or have read more books of that genre or just think differently now. I wonder if it’s okay to change the earlier review later, because I keep wanting to do that… Does this ever happen to you?

And which books do you re-read? Are there any books that you’ve read so many times that you could quote entire pages? Do you re-read cover to cover or only certain parts? When it comes to re-reading, which do you prefer: eBooks or paperbacks?

Does the beginning matter?

This is something that has been on my mind, ever since that Writer’s Workshop. We discussed some of the best book beginnings and how important it is to start off the book on the right note. According to me, though, you don’t always have to shock or surprise or jolt the reader in the very first paragraph. Sometimes, slow beginnings do work as well. A beginning, for me, is just as important as any other part of the book (the ending may even be slightly more important!) Going through my makeshift bookshelf, I can say with certainty, that the books I really love have both good and bad, not to mention, only okay beginnings.

That being said, I decided to list down some random “good” book beginnings: to make this post longer than one tiny paragraph. (Also, you know how I love making lists.)

1. “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy
in its own way.”
– Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
2. “To the murder of Professor Grimaud, and later the equally
incredible crime in Cagliostro Street, many fantastic terms could be applied –
with reason. Those of Dr Fell’s friends who like impossible situations will not
find in his case-book any puzzle more baffling or more terrifying. Thus: two
murders were committed, in such fashion that the murderer must have been not
only invisible, but lighter than air.”
– The Hollow Man by John Dickson Carr

3.  “No live organism can
continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even
larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood
by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for
eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright,
bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay
steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there,
walked alone.”
– The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

4. “YOU don’t know about me without you have read a book by the
name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter. That book was
made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which
he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.”
– The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain 
5. “Everything starts somewhere, although many physicists
disagree.
But people have always been dimly aware of the problem with
the start of things. They wonder aloud how the snowplough driver gets to work,
or how the makers of dictionaries look up the spelling of the words. Yet there
is the constant desire to find some point in the twisting, knotting, ravelling
nets of space-time on which a metaphorical finger can be put to indicate that
here, here, is the point where it all began…”
– Hogfather by Terry Pratchett (Discworld series)

And another beginning I like is that of The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (about how the narrator visits the Cemetery of Forgotten Books!) I can think of two other authors, who, in their own very different ways, start their books with a bang and they are John Le Carre and well, H. P. Lovecraft. 
What do you think? Does it matter to you how a book kicks off? Do you have any favourite books with slow beginnings? And what are your favourite book beginnings?

So many books, so little time


“Sitting in any library, surrounded by high shelves of books,
I sense the profoundly rich history of scholarship as something real, and it’s
both humbling and inspiring. This manifestation of reality is true of other
artifacts as well. We can read about the Holocaust or where Emily Dickinson
wrote her “letter to the world” or where Jim Morrison is buried. We can view
online photos of all these places. Still, each year, thousands of people visit Auschwitz,
The Homestead, and Père Lachaise. I suppose our desire to be near books rises
from a similar impulse; they root us in something larger than ourselves,
something real. For this reason, I am sure that hardbound books will survive,
even long after e-books have become popular.”

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much (Allison Hoover Bartlett) 
I wanted to write a post about all these different wonderful libraries that I have joined recently; and the fact that I am finally thoroughly enjoying the library experience; when I remembered this quote. I couldn’t have said it better. For once now, there is actually a delightful stack of books piled up on my shelf; the kind of old, rich smelling books, that make reading ebooks seem excruciatingly boring; and I can’t quite find the time to read. You know, life always interrupts at the worst possible moments. I do hope you’re having a more bookish time than I… Happy Reading!

Do you read biographies?

I never imagined I would like reading biographies. That is why I never really tried. Today, I finished reading a biography of Galileo called Galileo Antichrist : A Biography by Michael White. It’s a wonderful book; which gives you a glimpse not only into the scientist’s life, but also into the society of his time. Along with telling us about his scientific achievements, the book also paints a vivid picture of his character, of the kind of person he was; using letters he wrote and the kind of lectures he gave. It’s a book I’d definitely recommend reading.

Like I said, I haven’t read many biographies. A while back, I read the biography of an Indian dancer, titled Balasaraswati by Douglas M Knight when I got it for review. I also liked it for the very same reasons. What’s ironic, is that I always hated astronomy, ever since I was a kid and I never particularly grasped the beauty of Indian classical dance. If I had sat down to read books about planets or the different styles of dance, I would have fallen asleep within seconds. Yet, I was terribly fascinated by these biographies. I wonder why that is…

Of course, reading about people as amazing, as great in their respective fields is always inspirational; there’s so much to learn. But that’s just one of the reasons. I guess, the thing I loved about reading a biography, was the feeling of actually living history; being present in those times; knowing that once upon a time this actually happened, that it’s not just fiction.

I don’t have much experience with memoirs/autobiographies, either. I have only read those by Mahatma Gandhi and well, Stephen King (odd combination.) What about you? Do you like reading biographies and would you recommend any?

Planning for the 24 Hour Readathon… not!



Ah, another read-a-thon. It’s my first time participating in Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon, and to say that I am excited would be a gross understatement. I had planned to read actual paper books, because reading e-books continuously for such a long time might actually make my eyes melt. But, as it turns out, and at the worst possible time, there is only one book left on my shelf that I haven’t read yet. And I was under the impression, that the readathon is next weekend, until, right about NOW! So I rushed out to get me some books. But obviously, as fate will have it, it’s too late and all the shops were closed. My last resort was second-hand books, you know, the ones at the roadside ‘shops’. I stopped and looked around at a few of those, but didn’t find anything that wasn’t bent or torn and that did interest me. My point being this; I had to alter my reading list quite a bit. Didn’t affect my excitement, though! Not in the least.

What do I plan to read?
1. A library book, the only single one left to be read on my shelf: The Little Drummer Girl by John Le Carre
…and that’s it. Now I’ve got to get me some e-books.
Happy Reading!