Thursday, 30 July 2015

#3. Update + Reading Challenge 2015 book reviews!

My vacation comes to an end today, tomorrow marks the day for a new school year! Am I excited? I am going to miss the holidays, yes, but I can’t wait to plunge into new law subjects (does that make me a nerd?).I had been worried that I didn’t have time to do some art, even that was rectified! 

So, this is a young version of my brother. I’ve let this sketch go cold many a times before which is why I wouldn’t call this my best work. However, I’m glad I finally got done with it! 

Over to the reviews!

A Pulitzer Prize-winning book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
A book of short stories: Malgudi Days by R.K.Narayan

A book with a love triangle:The Selection by Kiera Cass
A book by a female author: The Elite by Kiera Cass

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Harper Lee's coming-of-age tale, To Kill a Mockingbird, is set in the Deep South, and is a searing portrayal of race and prejudice told through the eyes of a little girl. Filled with atmospheric evocations of life in the 1930s and a moral and caring sensibility,To Kill a Mockingbird is both a brilliant rendering of a specific time and place as well as a universal tale of how understanding can triumph over old and evil mindsets.Most of all, To Kill a Mockingbird is a modern-day morality tale of how prejudice must be met, fought and overcome--no matter where it is present or how difficult that task might seem.
My god, what a book! I’ve had this book with me for some months now and every time I tried to get around to it I never stepped over page two. And then I watched the first ten minutes of the movie and realized that it had kids in it XD With renewed motivation I set about to reading the book and never could stop. It truly deserves the reputation it has. Six year old Jean Louise Finch aka Scout is the protagonist and seeing things through her eyes gives everything a new perspective. She is a tom boy, quick to lose temper, but smart with things. Being the only girl in a family of two men/boys, her father and brother are the people she looks up to the most. You can see how they influence her character, how she wants to be like Jem and how she tries to inculcate her father’s teachings. What sets her aside is how she views people. Though she is unable to understand why people behave as they do, why they deal with hypocrisy, her innocence and people instinct makes it possible for her to reach them on a different level.
The other character that I loved is Attikus, the father. He is easily a powerful character, even with his simple ways. Without his wife he is left to bring up his children but he does it rather well. He gives them a free rein, allows them to think for themselves but he is always there to correct them and refine them. He has deep rotted principles to which he does justice. I love the kind of respectable, inspiring man that he is. If there was a character I would consider my model, he would one of them.
I want to keep talking about this book, analyze each character. I loved it from start to the end- with all its stories, philosophy, messages, humor and moral.

Malgudi Days by R.K.Narayan

Malgudi Days is a captivating novel comprising three interesting stories based on the life in the small South Indian town of Malgudi, located on the banks of the river Sarayu. Malgudi Days is a novel that revolves around the happenings in a small fictional village named Malgudi, which is located on the banks of the river Sarayu in South India. This book is a collection of 32 short stories that are highly amusing. The remarkable feature of the stories present in this book is that they are all centered around the lives of mere commoners as they go about their daily routine - See more at:
I’ve been meaning to read this book for a long time now. It is one of India’s popular books that people have been reading for generations. It seemed time I did too.
R K Narayan has created a masterpiece with his Malgudi Days. Each story is unique – they mostly deal with the life of a common man, his struggles, his aspirations, his view of life, his family and his happiness. The writer gives this peek into people’s lives, people who could easily be me or my neighbors. His simplistic writing holds the book together throwing more light on the story rather than the writing itself. Each tale stood out for me, my favorite will always be the first of the collection, called The Astrologer’s Day.

The Selection  series by Kiera Cass

The Selection, The Elite, The One
Book 1- For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.
But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.
Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself—and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.
Book 2- Is it with Maxon, who could make her life a fairy tale? Or with her first love, Aspen?
Book 3- The time has come for one winner to be crowned.
As the end of the competition approaches, and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose—and how hard she'll have to fight for the future she wants.  (

The book cover made the girl in me interested and I wanted to see what was behind the pretty cover picture.  I read all three books in a day (yeah, it was quite a feat) so the story sort overwhelmed me (in a good way!). The book is set in a dystopian world where people are divided into classes based on their talent and they are restrained to the work, benefits of the class. America belongs to the class made of people who sing or do art which is not high in the class hierarchy.
I liked the character America, she is someone who can think on her feet and is useful in situations. What makes her likable is that even in the face of luxury, she doesn’t get carried away and tries to remain true to herself. Off all the girls, that is what makes her special and reason Maxon takes to her. She is honest, maybe a tad bit straightforward, and doesn’t let people bully her. She kind of reminds me of Katniss, a girl who adapts to situations.
Maxon v Aspen. I like Aspen for the reason that he goes all out when he does something. He doesn’t stroll around in the middle ground for long and he is honest about what he feels. Maxon is still trying to figure out the world and his place in it. He is slowly overcoming his father’s intimidation and trying to be a better person in America’s eyes. His desire to use his power and influence to make the world a better place  coupled with his charm makes him a character you take to.
Overall, the series was a good. Nothing exceptional but it makes for a relaxing read. Sometimes, that is just what you want!

Monday, 27 July 2015

A P J Abdul Kalam

A P J Abdul Kalam - 1931- 2015

There are not many living people I consider my role models. Since the day Kalam became India's President, I've looked up to him as my source of inspiration, of strength when I needed it, as the man to learn from when I first formed my principles. The image of India and the image of the man who dedicated all his living days to a better India and Science has always intersected for me. Days I feel I cannot keep with the world I think of him, the young boy who sold newspaper to make a living yet climbed the ladder to greatness with sheer determination.

 When I was ten I wanted to be a pilot and when I read he wanted to be one too, I thought 'I'll become a pilot for you.' My ambitions changed along the way, but never what I learnt from his story. There was a day few years back when I lost an opportunity I had pitted all my dreams on. And the first person I thought of was him and I mailed him a letter. I never got a reply but knowing he was on the other side was enough to gather myself up. I loved him. I love him.

Things Kalam had done in his life time. He is India's proud proud son. He loved children and he went out of his way to assist the young minds. He even died when he was giving a speech to students. That is how dedicated he was - a man with a singular vision of development.

His soft voice is in my ear as I write this and I realize my dream of meeting him, of finally having the day when I bow down to touch his feet as a student does to her teacher in Indian tradition, is never going to happen. I want to cry, to fight the truth he is dead. He always seemed like a man death will be scared of. It makes us aware that time is not always enough and that we need to make each moment count.

I love you, sir. Nothing can make you less alive for me. No even death.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

#2. Reading Challenge 2015 books' reviews

Back again for more book reviews!

I picked these for this time -

A book with more than 500 pages: Pandora by Jilly Cooper
A classic romance: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

A book that became a movie: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling

Pandora by Jilly Cooper. 

No picture ever came more beautiful than Raphael's Pandora. Discovered by a dashing young lieutenant, Raymond Kelvedon in a Normandy Chateau in 1944, she had cast her spell over his family - all artists and dealers - for fifty years. Hanging in a turret of their lovely Cotswold house, Pandora witnessed Raymond's tempestuous wife Galena both entertaining a string of lovers, and giving birth to her four children: Jupiter, Alizarin, Jonathan and superbrat Sienna.

Then an exquisite stranger rolls up, claiming to be a long-lost daughter of the family, setting the three Belvedon brothers at each other's throats. Accompanying her is her fatally glamorous boyfriend, whose very different agenda includes an unhealthy interest in the Raphael. During a fireworks party, the painting is stolen.

The hunt to retrieve it takes the reader on a thrilling journey to Vienna, Geneva, Paris, New York and London. After a nail-biting court case and a record-smashing Old Masters sale at Sotheby's, passionate love triumphs and Pandora is restored to her rightful home. - See more at:

Jilly Cooper
I found this thick book with an interesting cover lying in the second hand book store and I thought Hmmm…should I get it? I’m really glad that I did. This was the first time I was reading something by Jilly Cooper and after Pandora it is not going to be the last.

The book is set during the 19th century and revolves around a painting called Pandora by a famous painter Raphael. The painting is the pride of the Cotswold household, a family of artists and art dealers. The seven sins that Pandora releases in the painting find their way into the plot, ending with Hope finally being restored. There is no one dull moment in the book, absolutely none, it is that interesting! I love the world of artists and paintings and this book had me drunk on it. The multiple mysteries, suspense, adventure, twists, romance (sex is something Jilly is not shy about, everyone has done it with everyone in the story!), dramatic moments and even a legal moment for a law student like me keeps the pages turning. The characters are crazy and individual. You begin to like a character but soon find out their dirty secrets and you go…What!? I hate you now! and the kinda characters that appear despicable happen to be the ones you fall in love with. I think that is genius plotting!
After I turned the last leaf of the book, I was consumed by this crazy desire to paint and maybe create a masterpiece? I did draw but it was no painting or no masterpiece. However that is how addicting the book is. I couldn’t stop thinking or talking about it for days! I would definitely recommend this book.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte 

I found this summary online thought it apt to describe this book. –

Wuthering Heights,  published in 1847, revolves around the passionate and destructive love between its two central characters, Emily BrontĂ«'s headstrong and beautiful Catherine Earnshaw and her tall, dark, handsome, and brooding hero/devil, Heathcliff.
Many people, generally those who have never read the book, consider Wuthering Heights to be a straightforward, if intense, love story — Romeo and Juliet on the Yorkshire Moors. But this is a mistake. Really the story is one of revenge. It follows the life of Heathcliff, a mysterious gypsy-like person, from childhood (about seven years old) to his death in his late thirties. Heathcliff rises in his adopted family and then is reduced to the status of a servant, running away when the young woman he loves(Catherine Earnshaw) decides to marry another. He returns later, rich and educated, and sets about gaining his revenge on the two families that he believed ruined his life.
I’ve heard much about this book and Bella is obsessed with this in Twilight, I thought why not read it for the challenge. I don’t know what I was looking for…I knew it had to do with an unconventional love story but this story was just disturbing. How does one call this a romance?
Heathcliff  is sadistic, dreadful, and evil. Catherin is someone I thought I should like but her character never connected with me. In fact, I completed the book with no favorite character, even the protagonist, Mr Lockwood, who I thought was being overly interested in the dead Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine’s daughter Cathy, Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff.
The writing itself was good and that was the only think that made me finish the novel. Also, my curiosity to know just how twisted and dysfunctional the characters will get. How did Bella even compare Edward with Heathcliff?
The ending is something I was pleased with. I had liked the character of Hareton, he seemed to be the only sane man (or at least the least insane) in the whole drama, and I was glad he got to start his life fresh and Cathy got freedom from Heathcliff. I closed the book happy, but that didn’t made it a pleasing read.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling

Just how many times am I going to keep re-reading Harry Potter. Maybe forever, it seems. This is my third time reading Half Blood Prince and I still couldn’t put down the book. This book was my exam breather. After long hours of looking at my law notes, Harry Potter was the relaxation.
Half Blood Prince always made me sad. It is where Dumbeldore dies and going through his death is fresh each time for this Potterhead. But it is also now that Harry realizes that defeating Voldemort is no easy job, even for a great wizard like Dumbeldore, and that his near future is decided in respect to the job he has to do. Off the series I feel this is one of the most important, for it gives all the vital details that holds the entire plot together. It never ceases to amaze me how great a story weaver and story teller Rowling is!

Happy Reading!

note: images don't belong to me!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

#1. Reading Challenge 2015 books' reviews

Taking hiatus from my blog is becoming a habit. Never before has writing and school hoarded my time as now, but I shouldn’t complain because both have been very productive. A short story of mine got published in an anthology called In Rain We Met. And four of my poems are also set to get published in another! And I’m currently interning under a Judge in the High Court so that is something I couldn’t be happier about! I finally feel I’m going somewhere instead of just hoping I am, that is a good feeling. Something else I’ve been keeping up with is the Reading Challenge. I’m reading Gone With the Wind and wow, what a book! It got me thinking that I had better get around to writing out those reviews of the books I’ve read towards the challenge. I decided to do short reviews of three/five books each post, that way I’ll have something to keep my blogging up.

I’ll start with these-

A book you started but never finished: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

A book based entirely on its cover: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
A book with a one word title: Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
A book set in a different country: Specials by Scott Westerfeld
A book by an author you have never tried: Extras by Scott Westerfeld

A book set during Christmas:  Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

A Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire) by George R R Martin.

There is no more popular a person that George R R Martin. The HBO TV drama set on his books had become an addiction and I who love the show wanted to see just how well the show was keeping up with the books. So, in spite of its scary thickness, I set about reading the book. I already knew the story and it seemed to make the book come more alive for me. Martin is an exceptional story teller and I didn’t find a dull moment. The characters are so well rounded and the politics in the story cannot be more thrilling. As compared to the show, the gore and sex scenes didn’t affect me as much but they are definitely more gruesomely defined.
His writing is so honest and bland in its facts; there is no hiding behind pretty happenings, no evil thought gone unrecorded, no scene beautified. The characters are candid – with no clear distinction between good person, bad person (as it so less often happens in life) – that you get to see why they do what they do. You have to accept a reluctant respect for even the vilest of characters (Cersie Lannister, for instance) because you get to understand them. I think that is what makes his story so powerful.
If you have watched the show, you know how well the Game of Throne world is created. The book has created a place as tangible as the Harry Potter world is to Potterfans. I love that he has so many dominant female characters. There is something gravitating about bad-ass female characters and the book definitely feeds that need.
It is definitely a powerful book. If you have loved the show, you need to give his book a read to understand the bits and pieces the series has left out. 

The Uglies series by Scott Westerfield.

I came across Uglies when I found a link for books one who like if they enjoyed the Hunger Games. The name coupled with the cover made me curious so I tracked down the ebooks.

The story is set in the future where once a person turns sixteen they undergo a surgery that makes them “pretty”. Those under sixteen are called Uglies. The “Pretties'” only job is to have fun and party is their way of life. Tally Youngblood, the protagonist, is an Ugly waiting to undergo her surgery. She has been waiting for the day all her Ugly life and then she meets Shay who introduces thoughts Tally has never had before. Shay doesn’t want to be a Pretty but remain as she is. This idea goes against everything Tally had believed so far and is the seed that initiates a series of rebellious acts. Shay tells Tally about the Smoke, a hideout settlement where the those who prefer not to have the surgery run away to. When Shay disappears the Government recruits Tally as a spy and asks her to locate Shay and find out the secret place of the Smoke. But when she reaches the Smoke Tally sees a world that is both frightening and alluring. She meets David, head of the Smoke, and everything changes for Tally. She sees the beauty in remaining as one is born and living in a world that doesn’t involve all round the clock partying. But things go wrong and Smoke is invaded by the authorities.
In book two, Tally undergoes the surgery and is now a Pretty. Tally discovers that by becoming Pretty an aberration is introduced in their brains that prevents one from having clear thoughts. Tally finds a loop hole, by keeping one high on adrenaline, she is able to think clearly. Zane (her boyfriend) and she self induce pain/hunger/thrill to keep their mind from going hazy to think their way through this life and to find the relocated site of Smoke.

Book three is when I started to lose interest in the story. The plot started to gain a routine. Go to Smoke- get caught- get a surgery- try to beat the authorities again. In book three Tally gets a special surgery that makes her something of a superhuman and is called “Specials”.

Book four’s protagonist is no longer Tally and is set in a world after the revolution Tally Youngblood had caused. Yet, even this world has its weirdness and shortcomings.

Overall, if you are really into YA fiction, maybe you will like the book. I soon got tired of the story but sat through the rest to complete what I started. Book Four felt like the author was trying to drag the story longer than needed. I would give the series two and half stars.  

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

Luther and Nora Krank are fed up with the chaos of Christmas. The endless shopping lists, the frenzied dashes through the mall, the hassle of decorating the tree... where has all the joy gone? This year, celebrating seems like too much effort. With their only child off in Peru, they decide that just this once, they'll skip the holidays. They spend their Christmas budget on a Caribbean cruise set to sail on December 25, and happily settle in for a restful holiday season free of rooftop snowmen and festive parties.
But the Kranks soon learn that their vacation from Christmas isn't much of a vacation at all, and that skipping the holidays has consequences they didn't bargain for...
A modern Christmas classic, Skipping Christmas is a charming and hilarious look at the mayhem and madness that have become ingrained in our holiday tradition. (From the publisher.)

I truly enjoyed Skipping Christmas. I wasn’t looking for the Christmas magic so I was not disappointed with this plot that dealt with the mundane of Christmas rather than the fantasy and elves Christmas is usually about.
Grisham’s writing had a humorous touch that kept me reading. I like that Luther Krank was bold enough to come up with the idea of “Skipping Christmas”. It’s funny to see the society’s reaction to it. And the Krank’s reaction to that reaction. Luther comes across as a Scrooge but with his reasons. He breaks tradition and deals with the criticism from neighbors with a determined(almost) outlook. He almost accomplishes this when his daughter calls up and tells them that she is coming home next day for Christmas with her fiancĂ©. Then there is a dramatic rush to prepare for Christmas and putting off the Caribbean cruise. The Kranks soon realize that this last minute preparation is impossible; that is when the entire neighborhood, amused by the Krank’s predicament, chips in to help. Here is where the spirit of Christmas plays its role-the spirit of helping, of giving and of forgiving. When the daughter arrives, she finds her home brimming with people, with food and the atmosphere of Christmas.

That's a warp for today! 
Have you read any of these books? 

note: images don't belong to me!

#social-icons { margin-bottom:-30px; height:50px; width:100%; clear:both; z-index: 2; position: relative; } .social-media-icons { display:table } .social-media-icons ul { text-align:right; padding:5px 5px 0 0 list-style-image:none; list-style-position:outside; list-style-type:none; } .social-media-icons ul { margin-bottom:0; padding:0; float:right; } .social-media-icons li.media_icon { margin-left:6px; padding-left:0 !important; background:none !important; display:inline; float:left; } .social-media-icons li:hover { -moz-transform: rotate(360deg); -webkit-transform: rotate(360deg); -o-transform: rotate(360deg); transform: rotate(-360deg); -moz-transition: all 0.5s ease-in-out; -webkit-transition: all 0.5s ease-in-out; -o-transition: all 0.5s ease-in-out; -ms-transition: all 0.5s ease-in-out; transition: all 0.5s ease-in-out; }