Tis The Month of Joy!

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December, glorious December! How I love thee! You are the only month in the calendar that helps me survive, January to November! Ok, maybe not November, but for sure January to October! And finally this glorious, wondrous, joyous month is upon us, and boy! do I have plans!

Unlike each December month, when I head out to some corner to find rest and recreation, I am staying put at home this year! Too many expenses and some future investment requires me to be sane and sensible about money matters! Oh! How I hate it, but if has to be, it has to be and I plan to make most of the time, while in town!

To start with, I have several social engagements planed through the month; in fact, I cannot help but think, its one too many. After all, all my weekends are BOOKED through January first week! I am either partying at someone’s place or playing the hostess! In addition to that, I am have exploring expeditions planned around the older parts of the city. There are many ruins and monuments to hike about in this town and December is the best month to do it. Since I am staying in town this year, I plan to use my leaves in hiking around the city, re-visiting  some of the old favorites and hopefully finding some new ones! I mean there have been 7 civilizations/settlements of this city and it’s takes a lifetime to cover them all!

In terms, of reading, as has been my tradition, I suspend all challenges and the more ‘virtuous reading’ this month and read everything that I want to or that which grabs my interest and attention! In that spirit of things, I started the month with Christopher Moore’s Lamb : The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal; 100 pages into the book, I realize it attempts to be ‘irreverent’ more than it is, but it is still a good, fun read and I am enjoying it immensely! I will also hopefully get to borrow an edition of Miss Buncle’s Book by DE Stevenson, which I have been waiting to read forever and am finally the next person in the Library’s wait-list! There are a couple of historical fiction – thrillers that I would like to lay my hands on this month – A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee, a whodunit based in 1920’s Calcutta, the city of my grandparents; The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, a much talked about post World War II, finding truths, kind of novel and finally, under Penguin’s First-to-Read Program, I have a copy of yet unreleased. Last Stop in Brooklyn by Lawrence H Levy, where PI Mary Handley investigates an infidelity case turned murder, in 1894 Brooklyn! I am also planning to start, Tristram Shandy by Lawrence Stern; this has been in my TBR forever and I want to get started on the same. I doubt I will finish it in December, but I do want to get started! I also carry on with my re-reading of The Brothers Karamazov by Fyedor Dostoevsky. Finally, I am also doing a virtual read along, starting in December with a dear friend cum colleague cum keeper of my sanity cum soul sister from work, EngiNerd with Origins by Dan Brown. I am not much of a Dan Brown fan, but EngiNerd loves him and says that I started off on the wrong foot with The Da Vinci Code instead of Angels and Demons and so should not judge harshly! I guess, the very fact that this one is based in Spain has its redemption so how bad can it get? Besides, the joy of reading with dear friend, as many know outweighs all other considerations.

Phew! That is my “simple” reading plan for the remaining year! I do have two weeks planned off from work, which should help me cover a lot of reading ground and the next three weeks are being spent in plans of getting most reading time, in between hectic socialization! So, I say to you all, Happy Reading and Joy to the World!

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The Cook Investigates

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Couple of weeks back, as part of Penguin’s First To Read program, I had the good luck to get a copy of Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley. The book is expected to come out next year and I was glad to get a copy of what seemed like a good, old fashioned crime thriller to take my mind off the unnecessary and pointless events happening around me!

The novel is set in Victorian England, and opens with Cook Kat Holloway, starting her first day as the cook at the Rankin household at Mayfair, London. Lord Rankin is in some kind of stock brokering business, through which he has resurrected the family’s tottering fortune. He is married to Lady Emily, and resides in the Mayfair house, with her and her elder sister, Lady Cynthia. Lady Cynthia and Lady Emily are the daughter’s of the colorful Lord Clifford, who has done away with most of his inherited fortune, by a wild living and has no money for his surviving daughters. Lady Cynthia, is a bit of an eccentric, dressing up in gentleman’s clothes and doing all kinds of activities, considered to be the domain of men! The household servants are under the tutelage of Mr. Davis, a sleek but kind, efficient and gossipy butler, Mrs, Bowen, reticent but effective housekeeper, several other maids and footman and Ellen who is the assistant cook to Kat. Kat’s first day turns out to be way more than she bargained for; first she has to help Lady Cynthia take care of an injured man, whom she accidentally hurt with her carriage. Then she decides to take up the coffee to Lord Rankin, when the latter asks for the same to be sent up by Ellen, after realizing that Lord Rankin is in a habit of getting sexually free with the maids. Deciding to put a stop to such activities with the servants under her purview, Kat takes up the coffee to Lord Rankin’s library, only to discover an angry master and his guest – the mysterious Daniel McAdams. Daniel McAdams, is a friend of Kat’s who has helped her out in past from sticky situations and is a mystery man , associated in some capacity with the Legal arm of the government, and who usually moves around the city of the London, under the guise of a delivery man and man on hire.  Seeing Daniel at Lord Rankin in formal attire, surprises Kat though, she does not give away her knowledge of Daniel to her employer and makes her suspect, that there is more to things in the household than meets the eyes. Things come to a head next morning, when going to the larder, Kat finds the dead body of poor Ellen. It is now up to her and Daniel to figure who is involved and why, before more violence is committed!

The premises of the books of course intrigued me from the go – Victorian England, a Cook and a murder mystery; what is there not to like. The characters developed by the author are quite enjoyable. Kat is an exceptionally kind, but firm and efficient heroine, who lays no tuck with nonsense or sentimentality. She does good work and takes care of people she loves and cares. The Lord and Lady Rankin are typical of their position, rich and bored and with  minimal interest in the lives whose very livelihood and existence depends on them and whose safety and security are their responsibility! In Lady Cynthia, we find a character who must have seemed at odd with the norms of the then prudish Victorian Society and she seemed capable of understanding and empathizing with the lesser fortunate, despite the difficult situation that life had placed her in. I wish Ms. Ashley had focused a little more into this very interesting character and evolved her a bit more! Daniel McAdam was ….well, Daniel McAdam. Much later in the series I realized why I was not finding much to root for the hero; Ms. Ashley is a RITA Award winning author of several best selling historical romance, and Daniel McAdam seems to have come out of those novels. He is good looking, brave, smart with smoldering attraction for Kat and yet seems to hold back some mystery and yada yada yada! Nope, he seemed to be there to add romance and I would have much preferred a tobacco chewing, fat, married Inspector with a paternal interest or something like that helping Kat out, instead of a hero out of one of Harlequin Romances! This brings me to the part of the novel that I did not like – the writing! Kat’s heart throbs or beats wildly or some such boring cliche. I could not glean any originality of thought or emotions from the novel, and once again I felt, the romantic themes of a historical romance were transplanted into this book, making some of writing, just plain, incongruous with the plot and the setting. The plot however is good and Ms. Ashley had done extensive research to get the finer details right!  One of few books, where the protagonist not only investigates, but also does his/her day job; Kat plans and cooks meals for the Upstairs and we get a very interesting insight into the food and eating habits of the Victorian England. The politics and social structure while not explored in detail, however came across as accurate and adds a fine layer, to the novel setting! The ending seemed a tad bit improbable, but I must confess, this was one of the very few modern whodunit variety, where I could not guess, who actually did it, till the very end!

Finally, to end, I would only say, it a good read, for those nights, when you need a blanket, a bowl of soup/mug of coffee or any other beverage of your choice and curl up with a book, where you do not stress your intellect, and are simply looking for entertainment and an temporary exit from the real world!

 

The Old Man’s Adventures….

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Sometimes you come across a book that initially does not seem promising at all, but because your friends kept eulogizing about it, you keep at it, all the while wondering what in the blazes did they see in the book; that is until you reach a certain section, and the dots begin to connect and by the time, you finish the book, you are a convert! This is my story of reading The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. I bought the book last year August as a gift for someone. I never ended up giving it as I found things she better liked than reading and my flatmate–sisterfromanotherlife-fellowbookreader  (mentallynailbiting) ended up devouring the book! She then kept nagging me to read it, again and again and again and I took more than 12 months, to reach that one page where the dots connected and now it’s been a couple of week’s since I finished the book, but I am still reeling from it!

The novel begins with the one hundredth birthday of  Allan Karlsson, who decided to climb out of the window of his old age home as he wants to live a little more and does not find the life of the old age home quite suiting his needs! He then ends up with bag full of cash, with a drug lord(Gunmar Gerdin) on his tail and the inspector of police (Gunmar Gerdin) wanting him arrested for what may be triple murder. On the way, he picks up a motley crew of a had been criminal (Julius Johnsson), a would have been many things but now hot dog seller (Benny Ljungberg) and his religious brother (Bosse), a beauty with a farm( Gunilla Björkund) and a dog (Kicki) and an elephant (Sonya), as they travel from Sweden to Bali in a trail of irascible adventures and fun! Along the way, we get flashes from Allan’s life as helped shape almost all the events of the 21st century and meet President Johnson and Nixon, Mao, Stalin, Franco and all the great players that shaped the 100 years and bringing the circle back to Allan and his interesting past!

This book is both an adventure tale and a social and political satire with succinct commentary on modern history! Those who decry this novel as political and say they do not like politics ….er…wake up! We live in a world, where saying that they are not political is in itself a political statement! What’s more to say, this book is political is one of the most simplistic and superficial account of the book ever! Mr. Jonnason goes out of his way to show the fragile and imperfect nature of politics and ideology and without taking any sides, beautifully shows that all a man needs to be happy is some peace, quiet, friends, food and a good drink…er..make it two drinks; ok three!  Very few modern literature, have such brilliant display of political satire, as brought forth in this novel. To quote one among my favorite phrases  in describing the politics of the Chiang Kai-shek, Soong May-ling & Mao Tse-tung – “A clown and a parasite, Allan thought, doing battle with a cowardly, incompetent figure who to cap it all had the intelligence of a cow, and between them, a serpent drunk on green banana liquor.” Wish Chinese politics course during my graduate school years had been half as interesting! But there is so much more to this book beyond politics – in the character of Allan Karlsoon, we find a the quintessential man of Zen, who is happy to be left alone with his food  and friends, no matter which country or ruler. He is brilliant but does not seek power to further his cause and will only use his willy brains to get out of tricky situations. He is loyal, and in his off hand way caring and lives with an eternal optimism of taking life as it comes and making most of it! The other cast of characters play beautifully off Allan’s scheme of things and come off brilliantly showing the complete range of mankind – the brilliant, brave and sometimes foolish sides of human nature! Needless to say the writing is FUNNY and ha-ha funny and never is there a dull moment, if you stick it through the first 30 odd pages!

To end, I would only say, READ THIS BOOK! It is one of those irrepressibly funny and brimming with positivism, novel, that stays with you for a very very long time!

The AusReadingMonth…..

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As I had mentioned in my last post, despite what can only be described as maddening work pressure, I continue to fight the twin evils of long hours and mental exhaustion with books and more books. It helps when there are events like last month’s Dewey’s Readthon and this month’s AusReadingMonth, hosted by Brona. She hosts this annual event in an effort to increase awareness about Australia and Australian literature and every time when I could participate, I was left with some wonderful impressions of that beautiful country and its amazing people. It’s a great event, and it is kicked off by a series of Q&A which aims to introduce all participants to each other. Therefore, without any further ado, I present the #AusReadingMonth Q&A

Who are you? And where in the world are you?

I am Cirtnecce, living in New Delhi, India. I like to think my day job is of a Project Leader and the night job and my secretsuper hero avatar of reader/writer. I am also a daughter, a sister, a friend, a slightly difficult leader, a thinker, a traveler!

What are your reading goals for this year’s #AusReadingMonth?

What it is everytime – to get to know the country better and learn a bit more about its history!

p.s. Also perhaps add yet another place to visit, when I do take my long awaited vacation to Australia!

Q&A

1. Tell us about the Australian books you’ve loved and read so far.

I loved when I read The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough and the novel left me heartbroken, and while I read it so many years ago, it still makes me very sad! I really enjoyed the saucy dressmaker, from The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham. More recently, as a prequel to the AusReadingMonth, I read The Ladies of Missalonghi, again by Colleen McCullough and now all I want to do is visit The Blue Mountains!!

2. When you think of Australia, what are the first five things that pop into your mind?

  1. Childhood days of collecting small stuffed dolls of Kula Bears; my father worked in the Australian – Indian Development Comission and I reaped the rewards in terms of all kinds of exotic animal collections.
  2. Again from childhood, I do not remember who the author was, but this gorgeous. absolutely gorgeous coffee table book capturing the wondrous landscape of Australia. From the green valleys to the outbacks, lovely, fairy tale like land which completely absorbed the imagination of a 8 year old!
  3. Friends – an Indian bestie. now settled in Sydney who was with me through College and grad school, sharing the same sorority house and mess hall and so many lovely memories of coming of age together! Also as I began working for my company, I made loads and loads of friends with my Australian peers, one especially who stands out as a fellow soul sister!
  4. The rich culture of Aborigines.I remember again, thanks to my father’s work, some of the most beautiful art ever, created by the many aboriginal tribes of the country. Colors and forms which left your swirling and in awe of their brilliance!
  5. Beer! I do not drink much but I am surrounded by people who do and this seems to come through in all conversations.

3. Have you ever visited Australia? Or thought about it?
What are the pro’s and con’s about travelling to/in Australia for you?
What are/were your impressions?

Thought and planned and one day shall! It’s a gorgeous country that I hope to visit one day and travel coast to coast soaking in its every changing landscape and culture. I am not sure about cons, but I do believe like everywhere else, including my own country (rolling eyes…let’s not even get started on my country, these days!) there is some discrimination that may be happening because of race and that anywhere is not acceptable. But we all are moving forward and I am hoping globally sense shall prevail!

4. If you have been or plan to visit, where will you be heading first?
If you already live in this big, beautiful land, tell us a little about where you are, what you love (or not) about it and where you like to holiday (or would like to visit) in Australia.

I think I am obsessed with The Blue Mountains for now!!! However when I actually make it to Australia, I plan to go exploring the entire country, inch by inch!!

5. Do you have a favourite Australian author/s or book/s? Tell us about him/her/it.

I love both Thomas Keneallyand Mark Zusak, for sharing two very different but important narratives of modern history with us. Narratives that are so very disturbing, but those must be shared, so that we do not make those horrific judgement errors again! Colleen McCullough for bringing Australia alive for all of us with all her beauty and history. Finally I know Gearldine Brooks seems more global in her writing, but I still lover her books and its seems apt, that I pay homage to her Australian roots.

6. Which Aussie books are on your TBR pile/wishlist?

Too many to list, my TBR is place where angles fear to tread!

7. Which book/s do you hope to read for #AusReadingMonth?

I am reading things especially for this event on the fly, but for now I have The Secret River by Kate Granville (LOVING IT!) and I am hoping to read the much acclaimed Cloudstreet by by Tim Winton which has been on  my TBR forever!!

8. It came to my attention recently (when I posted a snake photo on Instagram) that our overseas friends view Australia as a land full of big, bad, deadly animals.Can you name five of them?What about five of our cuter more unique creatures?(For the locals, which five animals from each category have you had an up close and personal with)?

I am combining this to 5 animals cute or otherwise –

  1. Kula Bear (I cannot get away from it! Whats more I recently saw a documentary where with the urbanization Eucalyptus trees are being cut down, depriving these creatures of essential nutrients including water, which I understand these bears do not drink directly but derive it from the leafs of the Eucalyptus plants! Its heartbreaking to say the least!!)
  2. Kangaroos – Think they are super cute (I know I am weird!)
  3. Wombats – CUTE, CUTE, CUTE!
  4. Snakes – Simply because while growing up I heard so many harrowing stories about snakes from my Dad’s Australian colleagues. Totally, NOT cute!
  5. Sharks …arrgh! I guess that happens when you are surrounded by ocean all round. Again NOT cute!

9. Can you name our current Prime Minister (plus four more from memory)? No googling allowed!

Malcom Turnbull ( Brona, not googling, but he was here in India, a couple of months back, so hard to miss :D)

Julia Gillard  – First Woman Prime Minister, hard to miss!

John Howard – His tenure was like never ending!!!!

Malcom Fraser  He visited India during his tenure and my Dad and Mum were part of the special invitee list. I believe or as the story goes, Mrs. Fraser really liked the Saree my mum was wearing and she gifted one to Mrs. Fraser, via the High Comissoner before they returned to Australia. Hard to forget this one name then!! lol!

5th – I concede

10. Did you know that Australians have a weird thing for BIG statues of bizarre animals and things?Can you name five of them?

No idea. This I will have to look up!

Here you go! My attempts! Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!

And Now for November…..

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Ah!! November, glorious November, how I look out for thee, every year! It is in thine hope that I passeth months, that be March to September!! Finally, cold weather, holidays and celebration; what I ask is not like about winter coming? Atleast, winter in my part of the world!

Anyhow, how do I plan to celebrate this month, you ask? Oh! there are so many  possibilities that this month opens up in this city – walks along the 600 year old ruins, explore the less traveled hikes, visit the historic eating joints whose gastronomic delights can only be cherished in the colder weather!! There is so much to do and I will be doing NONE of it!!! Oh! Ye! Gods! Why have thee forsaken me??!! Work and yet more work and yet more work that never seems to go away – are there any other Project Leaders/Program Managers, working for big Wall Street Goliath’s, who can confirm that my misery is not alone??? It would make me feel better immensely, you know, the misery loves company perspective?? Such is life, I with all my exuberance for these seasons have no option to enjoy it and then there are people whom I know; who have all the means in the world and take no pleasure in the season or nature or for anything that is intangible! In fact they seem to take no pleasure in anything at all except in being miserable, both to themselves and others!

Anyway, like I keep saying again and again, Thank God, there are books for the likes of us to make everything so much better! This month though, I have limited reading time, so I have a very short list of books as part of my November Reading plan. To being with, I wrap up the 18+ month long, brilliantly innovative The Pickwick Paper Read Along hosted by O. An amazing event, hosted by an amazing host, which I loathe to see come to an end! But things are the way they are and I am sure O will figure out something fun and unique for us to have fun with, in the near future! I had planned to begin a much anticipated Re-read of The Brother Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I read it for the first time last year with Cleo but I kind of rushed through it to get to the end. Since then, I have been wanting to go back and savor its finer points and I had decided long back that a year since I first read the book, I will revisit this marvel again! I was also under the impression that work would slow down during these weeks. Towards the end of the year, giving me ample time to get through what is for sure a big fat book! However, I propose and my company disposes, and though there will be less time, I will still begin and see how I muddle along, even it take me the whole of 2018 to savor and finish the book! I also have Winter of the World by Ken Follet, the second in his The century Trilogy; I have it so I will read it, but so far it’s very ho-hum! Finally Brona, at her awesome best, is hosting the #AusReadingMonth event. I have enjoyed it every time I participated in this event in past, and this year I will for sure take part again, if only I can decide how many and which book. I should have a post dedicated to that event very soon! Finally by way of fun reading I have Wild Strawberries by Angela Thirkell and The Semi Attached couple by Emily Eden. I got great reviews of the former, especially from Jane and I really enjoyed The Semi Detached House by Emily Eden, so I do want to explore her second and what is her last novel!

There it is then, my grand reading plans! Just to add, besides the excruciating work load, I also have some parties to attend for adults and babies (my nephew as well my God Daughter turn 1) and some other social activities which I have to accommodate, besides completing a Leadership certification course for which I had signed up for in the middle of year! Needless to say, this will be one hectic month!!

 

Dewey’s 24Hours Readathon – The After Hour Post

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Another readathon has come to an end and I must say I will miss it!! Once more I had a brilliant, fun filled time   with loads of discussion, laughter and more book added to my TBR. My best readathon so far in terms of both my social interactions as as well as the books read. I managed to complete 3.5 novels and that is something of an achievement, considering I slept off for full 6 hours!! It was an incredible time hosting Hour 6 on GoodReads and then participating in all the varied and mind challenging question that come through the 24 hours discussion hours. A big big thank you to all our hosts and moderators for once again hosting one of the largest and best Readathon’s ever!

Finally, to end this brilliant, stimulating 24 hrs, the final set of questions –

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

4:30 AM IST……I was beginning and really beginning to feel really really sleepy and despite my valient efforts, I lost the battle and slept for 6 straight hours

2. Tell us ALLLLL the books you read!

  • Lady Susan by Jane Austen
  • The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough
  • Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
  • Wild Strawberries by Angela Thirkell (Halfway mark)

3. Which books would you recommend to other Read-a-thoners

  • Lady Susan by Jane Austen
  • The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough

4. What’s a really rad thing we could do during the next Read-a-thon that would make you smile

Maybe do a readathon once in a quater instead of a twice a year (I know! I know! I am pushing it)
5. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? Would you be interested in volunteering to help organize and prep?

Of course I will participate again and Yes, me shall volunteer more next time!

Again to end, a  big shout out to the entire awesome team that put up the event and all my tribe of fellow readers, who read through the event!

Dewey’s 24 Hrs Readathon – Updates

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Update 1 –  17:00 hrs (30 mins before the Challenge starts )

Here we go again, I am all set to party at the Dewey’s 24 hrs Readathon as all preps fall into place-

  • House Cleaned – Check
  • Fridge Stocked – Check
  • Kindle Charged – Check
  • Power Nap – Check
  • Friends and Family notified about the next 24hrs DND Policy – Check
  • And finally the book pile 🙂

I think we are finally all sorted here! I am now ready to READ, especially considering I have not read the whole morning and it is nearly 17:00 hrs here in part of the world. I will do a every 4hrs update but we will see how things go! Besides this blog, you can find me at the following places twirling around –

Twitter – @cirtnecce (https://twitter.com/cirtnecce)

Instagram – jayantichakraborty (https://www.instagram.com/jayantichakraborty/?hl=en)

GoodReads – cirtnecce (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/7832287-cirtnecce)

Now can we please get going??!!

Opening Meme Update

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Delhi, India

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

The Ladies of Missalonghi  by Colleen McCullough

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Not snack but dinner – my sister is cooking some awesome Indian style mutton! (Happy Dance)

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

Sister, Friend, Daughter, Project Leader, Reader, Traveler, Reader, Writer, Cook….er…did I mention Reader??!

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

Keep the first few books short and sweet to get the rhythm going. Also drink and I mean DRINK plenty of water!

Update 2 – 20:00 (2.5 hrs since we started)

Book Update – Finished Lady Susan by Jane Austen

Snack Update – Tea

Take on Book – A much awaited re-read; one of the earliest works of Jane Austen, where you can see the promise of P&P or Emma or Persuasuion. Lady Susan is a scheming, artificial, flirtatious and materialistic woman, who is forced to visit her brother-in-law in the country, following a scandal in the family in Longford with whom she had been staying. She looks forward to the visit with little interest and only to bide time, but the arrival of her sister-in-law’s brother, Reginal De Courcy makes thing interesting for her as she is determined to make a conquest of him despite his very apparent dislike for her. More confusion is added when Fredrica, Lady Susan’s much neglected but excellent daughter joins her to add another complication in Lady Susan’s grand scheme.  Austen at her usual in the best possible representation of the society of her time. While she remains absolute in her support for good understanding and correct moral behavior, she nevertheless knows how to have fun at all that was frivolous and foolish in her contemporary society. The best thing that I like about the book is she makes no apology or explanations for the conduct of Lady Susan and in her, we find a full veined conniving vamp, who does not suffer and die, but lives moderately happily till the end!

Update 3 – 23:00 (6.5 hrs since we started)

Book Update – The Ladies of Missalonghi  by Colleen McCullough

Snack Update –  Dinner – Mutton cooked by my flatmate with Naan 🙂

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Take on Book – It’s a wonderful read so far. Australia comes alive in the hands of  Ms. McCullough. I had read that this novel had courted major plagiarism controversy on its publication as it seemed to resonate closely with The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. However, so far into the first odd 40 pages, it seems to have as close resemblance to The Blue Castle as do all books of similar nature to Cinderella.

Also I am moderating the Discussion for this hour over at GoodReads, so hop over and let me know your thoughts!

Update 4 – 4:00 (10.5 hrs since we started)

Book Update – Finished The Ladies of Missalonghi  by Colleen McCullough and started on Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (This is where I go rouge on my planned Readathon TBR)

Snack Update –  Dark Chocolate

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Take on Book – Shy and quiet, Missy Wright has lived all her 33 years under the direction of her mother and aunt, working hard and long everyday to etch out a living on the Missalonghi. Her only pleasure is reading, and the recent assistant to the Library, Una has opened her literary pleasure to a whole new world of novels of romance and adventure. But as a new stranger enters the town of Byron, long held to be the domain of Hurlingford family, of whom Missy’s mother and aunt belong too, things begin to change. Suddenly Missy is not quiet ready to accept her quiet wall power life anymore and when shares of the Byron Bottling Company start to go out of the control of Hurlingsfords and of which her aunt and mother own some shares. its time for Missy to start thinking big! The Blue Mountains come alive in this novel by Ms. McCullough. Never have I yearned to visit Australia so badly as I have in the last few hours!! The characters are wonderfully drawn out and I really liked how Missy and Dursialla’s characters evolved and the mother and daughter came to a closer and better understanding. I am have certain mixed feelings about some of the “otherworldy” interventions, which made me waver between a 4 or 5 rating on GoodReads, but despite that, the book is wonderful read!!

Starting to feel really really sleepy!!

Update 5 – 10:30 (16 hrs since we started)

Book Update – Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Snack Update –  COFFEE!

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Take on the Book – Not much to say as sleep claimed me after the initial 50 pages and I woke up after 5 hours. Still groggy! Why is it on days without the Readathons, I can read through the night and still be fresh as daisy in the morning??!!! But woe is me when the Readathon happens and I succumb to sleep!!! Arrrgggghh!

Update 6 – 1:30 (21hrs since we started)

Book Update – Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Snack Update –  Water! Had toast and tea earlier fro Breakfast!

Take on the Book – On page 142 and so far, ho hum! The children in the book come across as 10 times smarter than the adults. The modern day protagonist is a 45 year old American journalist, Julie who has been living in Paris for last 25 years; married to a French architect (how very original!) who is “charming” which is a good enough reason for Julie to be married to him for 16 years. He treats her like a peice of shit including cheating on her and all she does is act like a wet rag. Why a woman of independent means with a strong support system will put up with such a marriage is beyond me and I am out patience with Julie going about how charming Bertrand is!!! The modern day narrative is so flat that I can see the plot twist 10 pages into the book. The only thing keeping me going is the actual history of  Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup of Jews in German-occupied Paris in 1942 and the plot line around the little girl who escapes from the camp in 1942.

Update 7 – 16:30 (23 hrs since we started)

Book Update – Finished Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay; Started Wild Strawberries by Angela Thirkell

Snack Update –  More Tea and chicken cutlets

Take on the Book – I cannot honestly say I enjoyed Sarah’s Key. The heroine remained a wet rag who needed validation of worth from her 10 year old daughter (how screwed is that??!!) She flies all the way to Italy to tell a stranger something that will tear his life apart and until she has actually told him everything, she did not realize how much damage she can do to an innocent person – and this is 45 year old woman. The characters were all flat and many of them completely unnecessary! The only important thing about the book because of which I ended up giving it a 3 star was it highlighted one of the most horrific and overlooked history of World War II , where the French Police let more than 11000 Jewish children first get separated from their parents and then letting them die. The history was well researched and reminded/educated many modern readers about Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup of Jews in German-occupied Paris in 1942

Wild Strawberries is so far reading like a mad adventure into the life and times of the Leslie family, who lived in the idyllic setting of English countryside in-between the war years!

Dewey’s 24 Hours Readathon – October 2017

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Exactly a year ago, while meandering over the book blogs of my friends, I wandered over to see what Brona was upto and accidentally discovered what was to be one of the most enriching and rewarding reading events – Dewey’s 24hrs Reading Marathon! Since that fateful day, I have been devoted to the cause of readathon and have been looking forward to it with much anticipation!

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This year is especially important as I am volunteering as a host for the first time every – for hour 6. I am nervous about the whole thing and keep thinking I will blotch it up, but I  have great experts to fall back on and therefore hope I will avoid making too much of a fracas. But I am very happy to be part of the league of the brilliant volunteers who keep this event going with such enthusiasm and generosity of time and spirit!

Now comes the agony and the ecstasy part – what to read and what not to read, that is the QUESTION!! I am sure I will not be able to read all of them, but I need a variety to keep me going and this exhaustive list, on which I have been ruminating over the best part of the month, would do that at the very least if not more. So here goes –

  1. Lady Susan by Jane Austen – The wise veteran souls of the Readathon tell me and correctly so, that we must start with short books of novella variety to get us going for the long reading hours; Austen is my all-time favorite feminist and Lady Susan brings this too combination beautifully! I was planning to re-read this for a while and October seems to be a perfect date!
  2. The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough – I was planning to read this with Brona for her #AusReadingMonth; but the book arrived early and I excitement anymore!
  3. Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery – I have been re-reading through the Anne series and I hope to make a significant progress on this one.
  4. The Semi-Attached Couple by Emily Eden – I randomly started reading The Semi-Detached House and am enjoying it immensely. I am hoping to finish it by today and it makes sense to include the sequel in the Readathon
  5. Land between the Two Rivers by Nitish Dasgupta – A History of Bengal, the region of East India where I ethnically belong from and whose History keeps fascinating me.
  6. The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman –This wonderful collection brings together ideas on arts, politics, culture and everything under the sun by one of the wittiest and insightful writers of our times. I had started reading this sometime back and hope to make substantial progress through the Readathon
  7. The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Through The Window and Disappeared by Jonas Johnson – Much before this book became a much hyped best seller with all the razzmatazz of a Hollywood adaptation, my flatmate had given me a enthusiastic review of the novel, recommending strongly that I read it. Somehow I never managed to do that but I am determined to let this Readathon pass, without atleast starting on this one!
  8. Open Book – Any bookworm worth his or her book will tell you that we readers like exploring and despite all reading plans, there will be that one odd book that we will pick up randomly and suddenly get completely absorbed in. I leave this slot open in the expectation of exactly such event!

So there is my list and I hope and I really hope that I am able to make some significant movement in my reading plans for this year. As most of you know this has been yet another crazy busy year with very limited reading time, but I hope to make most of it for these 24hrs.

As always, I will keep a running update post, sharing my insights and my reading progress and what I believe to be one of the best part of the readathon – food updates. Besides this I will be on Hour 6 with all the activity and abounding enthusiasm over at Dewey’s. Finally I am hoping, my longtime partner in all kinds of reading adventure, Cleo will be able to join me this time, for what promises to be a joyride!!

Thus, without further ado, let’s hop on when the ride arrives!! 29 hrs more to go!!!

Finally, The Wonderful October!

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In the words, of L.M. Montgomery, via Anne of Green Gables “I‘m so glad I live in a world where there are October“. I cannot think of a more perfect way to show gratitude for the month of October…fall is here and winter is on its way. It means relief for the searing heat of Indian Summer, wood fire smokes, festivals and celebration and finally a year end, where for the mad year of 2017, I can slow down a bit and take a breathe to read and write! Needless to say, I am overjoyed that October is HERE!

From a bookish perspective, I am hoping to finally get going and pick the pace up! As I write this, I am conscious of the fact that every time I have made a statement like that this year, it has turned into an unmitigated disaster! So I am keeping all my toes and fingers crossed for this month and hoping things will go as planned! To begin with, I am coming at a near close of The Pickwick Paper by Charles Dickens Read Along, organized by O. It was the longest read along ever and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved this book on this revisit! I will also finish the much delayed The Raj at War by Yasmin Khan and I really have to stop procrastinating and finish Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol. In terms of new books to read, a whim took over me couple of weeks back and I started re-read the Anne of Green Gables series by the brilliant L.M. Montgomery. I am currently on Book 3 – Anne of the Island and I hope to finish the series between October and November. I am also re-reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I have no reason to re-read this novel that I have read 1236 times, except you never need a reason to re-read an Austen! Speaking of re-reads, I was looking over O’s blog and I saw she was planning to re-read The Brother Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky again; I loved the book when I read it more than a year back with Cleo and Ruth’s more recent review was making me itch to back and read it again. Therefore I re-read The Brother Karamazov again, only this time, I take my time to ponder over many instances of brilliance of Dostoevsky, something I did not do fully, the last time in my haste to reach the end! I do not see myself getting around to it till end of the month and will probably take the whole of winter to finish it!

To end, in other reading adventures, the October round of Dewey’s 24hrsReadathon is coming up – 21st October is the date. I have been having so much fun since I joined up last October, that there is no way I am passing this one up! I have yet to decide what books I will read for the event, but I am sure, I will have PLENTY to choose from! I know for a fact that The Rector by Margaret Oliphant, recommended by Jane and pending from September will for sure be on the Reading Plan, but I have yet to decide on others! This is the 10th anniversary of the event, and the hosts are running a 30 days short challenge to celebrate the occasion and you can find the details here. Finally, there are also hosting the short run up weekend challenges to the main event – this weekend (Oct 6-7), they are asking you to read a book that has been on your TBR for more than a year – considering I have endless number of books in that category, it took me some time to narrow it down and finally I decided to ease into it with a fun mystery – The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers. I loved her when I read Busman’s Honeymoon and I am hoping to enjoy this to a T! Also for the October event, in a departure from my usual Reader only participation, I have offered my self as a host for a couple of hours, so that I can help the hosts in a small way as a show of thanks for the awesome event they have been hosting for years now!

That’s that for the month folks! Happy October and lets be thankful that we live in a world with October 😉

The German Guard

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I am as many know obsessed with History and the World Wars are especially close to my heart, because, well simply because I do not understand how men and women could have been so cruel to their own kind and secondly, most importantly, I am sometimes scared, that we as a species never learn from our mistakes and we are going down the same path! This urge to read up on the subjects leads me down to various paths of Fiction and Non Fiction and sometimes, I find myself with a book, I would not usually venture to read, had it not been set on this premises so close to my heart!

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink is one such novel. I have not seen the film, but I have heard rave reviews about both the novel and the film and both were highly recommended by many people whose opinion I respect. However I could not quite bring myself to read this one; the idea of sexual relations between a 15 and 36 year old, somehow seemed to have hints of pedophilia and even my broad, live and let live philosophy had trouble digesting! So I waited and procrastinated and then one Sunday afternoon, I found myself at lose ends, challenging myself to do something different and suddenly The Reader found me!

Set in the early years post World War II Germany, The Reader, traces the lives of Michael Berg, a lawyer and Hannah Schmitz, a former guard at Auschwitz. Micheal first meets Hannah, a streetcar conductor, when he is 15 and falls ill, near her house and she assists him with aid, before sending him back home. Once recovered, he goes to thank Hannah and they begin a relationship. One key aspect of the relationship is that Hannah expects Micheal to read to her, every time he visits. One day however, Hannah abruptly leaves town and Micheal is left with the guilt that it was his conduct that drove Hannah away! After a gap of several years, while attending a seminar that follows the trial of some of the former Nazi guards and soldiers, Michael meets Hannah again, only this time she is one of the accused, held responsible for the death of many Jewish woman and children, who died in a church fire where they were being held captive under the supervision of Hannah and several other women guards, when an allies bomb stuck the church trapping the women and children in a horrific fire, killing all most everyone. As the trial progresses, Micheal realizes that the evidence is circumstantial and a good lawyer, would have disposed off the whole thing in a couple of days. However, Hannah seemed to willfully volunteer information, that held her, more of the accused guards responsible for the death of those women and children and agree on matters that may not be wholly true. As the trial progresses, Micheal wonders about Hannah’s behavior and action, until stumbling on the secret that holds key to Hannah’s action and in protecting that secret, Hannah accepts all that is thrown her way, leading to unintended consequences!

Like I said, I was not comfortable with the premises of the book, because of which I held of on reading it for a long time. There is no denying that there is streak of eroticism that is there in the book, but as I rushed through its pages, I realized it so much more than that! The guilt of the war of the post war generation of Germans, comes searing through the pages, as Michael speaks for a whole generation, that could not believe that their parents were capable of the kind of brutality that Nazi Germany unleashed. Their struggle to ‘love and respect” the elders comes clashing with the historic reality of their elders and the struggle to somehow make peace or distance themselves from that past is heartbreaking! The burden of this generation with what to condemn and who to condemn and how to make sense of it all, is tragically and beautifully described by the author, capturing the pain, the guilt, the confusion and raging anger!Hannah’s secret that symbolizes the German population during the Nazi rule, is at the very heart of the book, that questions on how the common man could turn away from what was truly an abhorrence in the name of mankind and live to exist with it everyday! This sheer negligence of moral responsibility and how that generation tackled this, forms the very essence of this novel. Sensitively written, in some of the most heart rending prose, the book offers no apology for the Nazi Germany, but rather a bewilderment of how a nation and its people can go so wrong and its consequences that echo on the future generation. With a deep understanding of his country and the people, Schlink, wrote on what can only be called a masterpiece that makes us question our sense of morality and the option of “no alternative” that hides behind it the complete and utter failure of moral courage!

I did not love this book, but I was touched by it. It remained with me for a long time and I needed to distance myself from its overwhelming difficult questions, to write an objective review. It is not an easy read; I do not mean in terms of word count, but in terms of message it brings. But it fulfills the most important criterion of a novel, the ability to make the reader hold up a mirror to his or her face and question the most important principles of life! It is a book that needs to be read, if for no other reason, than simply because we need ensure that we do not commit the same mistakes as our predecessors!