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.

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