Tuesday, December 20, 2016

100 Book Pact - 71 to 80

71/100 The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
Ellie's scientist-grandfather experiments on himself and turns into a young boy who is barely a couple of years older than her. As Ellie adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new (?) grandfather, she also learns about the immense possibilities of science, and about how far it can go - sometimes too far.
This book ticks a lot of boxes for me - it has science, open-mindedness, the importance of questions, strong female characters, cultural diversity -- it is even set in the Bay Area haha! So I should have liked this book better than I actually did. I have no explanation for that, though.
Appropriate for 10-14 ages, I think. Some of the ideas might be too much for younger readers to appreciate. Puttachi hasn't read it yet, so I can't say for sure.

72/100 Infinity Ring Book 1: A Mutiny in Time by James Dashner.
This is a series of books, each by different authors, about two children who live in a parallel universe, but keep going back in time to "breaks" in history, and try to set things right. In terms of literary merit, this doesn't have much going for it. But the storytelling and plot is exciting - just what a kid would want to grab and read. Puttachi is on the fourth book now, but I stopped at this one.

73/100 Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Puttachi saw this in the library of a different county, and thought it looked interesting. After all, it is about a boy who wants dogs desperately, and she identified with him :) So I got it from our county library, and both of us tried reading it simultaneously. Billy Colson wants two coon hounds, so that he can hunt raccoons. The book speaks about a very different time and life, in rural America decades ago. The book is autobiographical, and is full of hunting and killing and skinning of raccoons. It does have a whole lot of dog-love and loyalty and friendship and bravery. But the hunting got a little too much. I had gone ahead in the story, and after one point, where there was a particularly gory incident, I told Puttachi to stop reading it, knowing her as I do. She agreed with alacrity, which probably means that she wanted to stop too. I ploughed on ahead and finished it, and can see why it is a classic, but I wouldn't recommend it in a hurry.

74/100 Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

Rarely has a book been recommended to be by more people. And I can see why. Most (perhaps all) the people who suggested that I read it have read the English translation by Srinath Perur, which I've heard is very good. But I decided to read the Kannada original, because, well, why not?
It is the story of a middle-class family that attains sudden wealth. There are so many things to praise in this novella. The nuances. The details. The emotions. The depiction of the way that the nature of humans change, with variations in their fortunes. And the characters! So clear! And when they change, they do so true to their nature, making one wonder -- was that behaviour really surprising? Wasn't that characteristic present in them all this time? Didn't it just come out now, thanks to circumstances?
The sense of foreboding in the novel is a character in itself. Its presence is so slight that sometimes you wonder if it is even there. And then, the ending, which initially disappointed me. But as I dwelt on it and turned it over in my mind, I realized that this was the best ending that this story could have had. And this ending gave the story another layer. I simply have to read it again.
By the way, the Kannada book is actually a collection, and has other short stories of Vivek Shanbhag's. They are good too.

75/100 A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Short review: Absolutely loved it.
Long review: I'd placed a request on this book at the library, but knew it would be some time before I got it. So in the meantime, I got another book by him "My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry", but I couldn't get through that one at all. I almost wondered if I should read A Man Called Ove after all. But I'm so thankful I did.
Ove is a grumpy man who isn't what he looks like. That's all I'd like to say about him without giving too much away. The shades and the layers in this character are phenomenally well-done. This is one of those books that gave me satisfaction in so many respects. I laughed, I cried (while reading it in public, and got strange looks), I was touched, I was inspired. And probably another reason I liked this so much that Ove is a lot like a certain man I know, and I had to stop reading at times in order to hold my tummy and laugh at, and appreciate the similarities.

76/100 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

After a long tussle about whether to continue reading the Harry Potter series to Puttachi, or wait until she is older, I caved in, and continued, partly because more and more of her peers are finishing the series and it is becoming nearly impossible to keep her away from spoilers.

We hurtled through the sixth book, thanks to things heating up in the story, and very often, I ended up with a strained and croaking voice, reading through long passages. As I write this review, we are already on the seventh book.

*Spoilers ahead*

For Puttachi, last week was a double disaster because, within a few hours, she went from 'What? Trump won?" to "What? Snape killed Dumbledore?"

Somehow, she has always been an ardent believer in Snape. ("I'm sure he is secretly good.") So she is deeply disappointed at the turn of events. Now I can't wait for her to find out that she wasn't wrong after all.

Here's to the final book!

77/100 The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schiltz

This is the diary of a girl who escapes drudgery on a farm, to go to Baltimore to work as a hired girl. She is employed by a Jewish family who is kind to her. A beautiful, sensitive book of growing up, discovery, feminism and freedom. This is a young adult book, but I think adults will appreciate it too. Too early for Puttachi, though.

78/100 The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

I like Allende's writing. Simple and flowing, and lyrical and deep. This book speaks about the many different kinds of love. Informative too - I didn't know much about Japanese internment camps before I read this.

79/100 The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountain by Neil Gaiman

I haven't read anything by Neil Gaiman before, so I picked this up on a whim. It is a graphic novel, and the story itself is like a short story. I wasn't too crazy about the kind of illustrations, though I must say that some of them gave me creeps and I had to hide them with another book while I read the text. So they are effective, obviously, and definitely suit the text which is very dark and macabre. And yes I did like the story.
I almost gave it to Puttachi to read before I did - glad that I didn't. By no means is it for children.

We did it! My throat is raw, my jaw is stiff, but I just finished reading aloud to Puttachi -

80/100 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling

With a lot of nail-biting and wide-eyed apprehension and tumbling around the floor with joy and excitement, Puttachi absorbed the final chapters. I had to take several breaks to choke back tears all through the book, with Puttachi waiting patiently or offering to take over when I couldn't continue.

Now I can finally sit back and relax, and not worry about stifling Harry Potter spoilers that seemed to be waiting in every corner, poised to spring out at her.

Once again -- especially now that I'm making feeble attempts at writing a short novel -- I am in awe of Rowling, her capacity for imagination and her painstaking detailed planning of this complex plot.

We started the first book 18 months ago, during our move from Bangalore to the Bay Area. And now it is done.

The question now is - what next?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

San Francisco

- Have I told you that I love San Francisco? Something about it. The charming houses, the juxtaposition of the old and the new and the weird, the skyscrapers, the graffiti, the sense of vastness, the crazy inclined roads.
- It has character, something that the suburbs -- even with their wide open spaces, and the hills (green now) and even though one such surburb is home to me -- don't have.
- Going to San Francisco is a sure-fire way to recall that I am in the US. Else, most of the time, I forget ;)
- I saw San Francisco in darkness for the first time this weekend. The night lights, the skyline with those lit windows - they drive me crazy with delight.
- A San Francisco winter evening is like being in a Christmas movie. Without the snow.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Article in National Geographic Traveller India

Ever since I was a little girl, I've held National Geographic magazine in awe and respect, and so, imagine my delight to have an article published in the November issue of Nat Geo Traveller India.

You can read it on Page 32 here - https://issuu.com/11blabmagg655/docs/9scsdcs

- -