Friday, January 31, 2014

January in Books

The list that follows is proof enough that I went on a HUGE reading binge this month. I’m more or less trying to compensate for the lack of reading that could happen (God forbid) in the next few months (our semester just started – no one’s tail is on fire yet). And I read some really good books this month, so-

1.        In the Shadow of Blackbirds – Cat Winters
The year started off beautifully with this book.  I’ve read few books (read that as none) set during WW1. I’ll throw you some key words: Spiritualism, dead boyfriend’s ghost (sans the sappy romance in the Dead Boyfriend’s Ghost genre), science geeks, plague, war, survivors. If you still don’t want to read this book, go read Breaking Dawn (my favourite method of torture).

2.        Cut – Patricia McCormick
I was introduced to my Author of the Month through this book. It’s a small story about a girl who cuts herself, a self-inflicted mute, a resident at Sick Minds (sorry, Sea Pines).

3.       Sold – Patricia McCormick
A thirteen year old Nepali girl gets sold for 800 rupees by her stepfather into a prostitution ring in India. Lakshmi happily goes along with “Auntie” thinking about the tin roof she can buy her mother with the money she gets by working as a maid in “The City”. This novel traces her loss of innocence with a narration that doesn’t give a lot of morbid details but is still harrowing. Some chapters are bookmarked material. 

4.       Never Fall Down – Patricia McCormick
Set during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, it tells the story of Arn, how an ice-cream selling boy morphed to a gun-wielding man-boy. The horrors that are described are numbing. I didn’t know till the epilogue that this was a true story, so it was enough to drive me into a hangover I desperately wanted over with. Proud at Arn’s courage to speak out.

5.       What Was She Thinking? (Notes on a Scandal) – Zoe Heller
Barbara takes it upon herself to give an unbiased account of the scandal that branded her best friend Sheba a whore – for sleeping with a student at the school where they both work as teachers. I expected the story to be wholly about the affair, but Barbara’s possessiveness of her friend shares the limelight too. It’s a funny account (of friendship really) with Barbara’s thoughts on the scandal.

6.       A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki
Ruth finds a diary about a girl Nao among the flotsam (or maybe jetsam) on their beach. Nao starts off by saying that she has decided to die. The novel then shifts between diary pages and Ruth’s life – telling us all about Buddhist nuns, her great grandmother in particular, some Buddhist teachings, her suicidal father (who attempts suicide many times – “Why can’t he get it right?”), the bullying at school (which makes you feel really sorry for her), her tryst with YouTube, Schrodinger’s cat, and a lot about time and time – beings.

7.       The Invention of Wings – Sue Monk Kidd
Like it says, it is about the invention of wings in America before the abolition of slavery. It’s about Sarah and her sister Angelina as abolitionists and feminists, the criticism they faced from family, their town, and even fellow abolitionists. The chapters are alternately handled by Sarah and Handful, who’s legally Sarah’s maid (long story). Handful is endearing inspiring with her tongue, thoughts and her capacity to love. Although it’s fiction (Handful is sadly too much so), it’s actually a liberal account of the Grimke sisters. Bear that in mind if you think the novel should have a stronger story (which I initially did and I’m still beating myself up for it).

8.       Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes
Charles Gordon has an IQ of 68. 32 years old. A simpleton. Lovable.  He is offered a chance to increase his IQ through surgery (with a high risk percentage) in the name of science. He accepts. Through a series of progress reports that he is made to write (“I cant rite good but he says it dont matter he says I shud rite just like I talk and like I rite compushishens in Miss Kinnians class”) we get him. We really do. I can’t say anything more without giving out too much.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

REVIEW: Beautiful Music For Ugly Children

When you see this title in a bookstore, would you pass on without flipping to the backside and reading the blurb?  10 on 10 for the title alone.

Gabe is a guy. But he was born as Elizabeth. A radio show that started out as a pursuit for the sake of his love of music conquers a fandom. A radio hosted by Gabe who is Liz in school. An audition for a radio station seems like his chance for a big escape but then his secret gets out. And not everyone likes it.

So I plopped on the bed and started reading. I’m not a big fan of pretentious language so I liked the honest writing. And the characters were real. My music preferences clashed with the Beautiful Music but I’m fully willing to accept that I have sucky music preferences.

And Gabe. A guy with a Mango. Who is in love with his BFF. Who cheats on her lips by checking others out.  A dude with a coochie snorcher who stole someone else’s girlfriend. How do you not like him?

It’s not a REMARKABLE novel, but a must- read all the same.

Verdict: 3.5 stars.

Oh all right, 4 stars (Note to self:  Stop being so miserly. It’s not like you can write anything half so good.)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Ode to a Washing Machine

Till a couple of years back, almost every home appliance in working condition (and those who weren’t, may they rest in peace in our flat aka Those-Can-Be-Repaired Cemetery) were at least older than me, or older.  You come in to our humble abode, and I would introduce you to Oven Chechi, TV Chettan, Fridge Chettan, and Washing machine Chechi.  TV Chettan became a martyr in the LCD/LED revolution, and we got rid of him (no! sorry Papa, he expired). My other older siblings were going on strong, you could hear them grumbling and bickering and pinging and buzzing. My dad kept saying it’s because he knows how to show them love and treat them like the people they deserve to be. Amma couldn’t have cared less. She would dump the laundry into the spin dryer, he would scream IS THAT HOW YOU DO IT WOMAN and she would scream back THEN WHY DON’T YOU DO IT and he would take it from her and lovingly curl the clothes along dryer wall. Even when she (Washing machine Chechi) threw tantrums, Papa would be patient with her.

Needless to say, none of us could find it in us the patience necessary to handle our extended family.

Now this bout of reminiscing was brought on by the news that Washing machine Chechi had committed suicide. Papa had loaded the dryer when all of a sudden she groaned and puked out the laundry. And moved no more. IN PAPA’S PRESENCE (note the point). When Amma pointed out this fact to him, that never once had this happened when she did it, he meekly tried to impress upon all of us (all this was conveyed over the phone to me – including the NO GIVE THE PHONE TO ME HUSBAND/ DON’T BELIEVE A WORD SHE SAYS ANETA squabble) that Chechi had finished her time on earth, he had no role in it, and that the fact that she stayed alive so long - EVEN WITHOUT THE HELP OFA REPAIRMAN MIND YOU – was because of him.

Amma, my sister and I merely clapped hands and made him order a brand new one.

I just got off the phone with him. He’s reading the instruction manual. Apparently, SHE’S RUSTPROOF ISN’T SHE BEAUTIFUL?

On a totally unrelated note, I can count the number of times he has called me beautiful on one hand.   
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