Awesome! That's this book summed in one word. I've been meaning to read this book for ages, but never got down to it. And I picked it up today and fin...moreAwesome! That's this book summed in one word. I've been meaning to read this book for ages, but never got down to it. And I picked it up today and finished it. I decided to put it on my list-to-read for 2009 and this is the first book from the list that I read.
I could easily identify with the depression of Holden. Every once in a while, I go along the same conflicting feelings. I liked how Salinger wrote the boy's feelings with such a pessimistic/depressed outlook. It felt very real. And how, Holden hated almost everything at the point of the story. And how he was always thinking of running away, meeting people but not really identifying with any one.
I very much enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone going through a phase of depression, and to every one else. Salinger does a really good job on this book. Although it's written at a time period 50 years prior to mine, it's not hard to identify with the teenage problems that Holden is facing and the flighty feelings he keeps getting.(less)
Where's that "I finally did it" cap? I probably need to celebrate reading this book by wearing that cap for a week. I know this book was required read...moreWhere's that "I finally did it" cap? I probably need to celebrate reading this book by wearing that cap for a week. I know this book was required reading for many of you (in high school? college?) but back in India, very few students had heard of Fitzgerald. So I never heard of this book until a few years ago, after I first came to the US. But it wasn't until Leonardo DiCaprio was cast as Gatsby that I really gave this book my attention. The short length and fast pacing of the book were bonus points, in my opinion.
But the Jazz age isn't a period I like reading about. I prefer to stay away from books about riches and lavish lifestyles - they disgust me, irrespective of what the author's intent is. I recently started another Jazz age book, only to give up on it, about 100 pages short of the end. I could have finished it, but I was bored of it and wasn't even interested in the characters.
During the first 30 pages of The Great Gatsby, I came close to putting the book down, but the idea of not having this book on the wish-I-had-read-it-by-now list was enticing. Good for me, because after the initial boredom, The Great Gatsby began to get more intense and almost suspenseful. I had no idea what would happen and wanted to turn the last page to find that out. Nick Carraway moves to the Long Island to try to make a living in bonds after the World War II. He meets and comes to know Jay Gatsby, who is his neighbor. Gatsby isn't at all like he seems to be - he is quite restless and behind his cool, rich and I-love-my-party-guests demeanor, there seems to be something urgent stirring him. We come to know what that is midway through the story and that secret sets the theme for the rest of the book.
I can't say I liked any of the characters in this book. Except for Nick, and occasionally Gatsby, none of the characters grew on me. I wish we had less Daisy and more Jordan in the book - Jordan seemed mature, Daisy very impetuous. But I liked that the characters carved their roles well, even though the book is pretty short. By the end of the book, it wasn't hard to describe each character with a few adjectives - they definitely made their mark.
What bugs me about books like these is the lack of personal feeling evoked by the writing. The characters almost feel like cardboard props because their language doesn't quite express themselves, instead everything they say feels forced. Daisy's frequent exultation was quite annoying but her friend Jordan helped provide the balance whenever the duo were together. The narration also, while mostly giving the impression of being fast-paced, occasionally made me feel that I missed something crucial. I had to reread parts to understand what happened. At one point, I totally got the wrong dead guy, and it was a few pages before I realized my mistake and had to go back. I can see why this book is on the school reading lists. I could get a kick out of asking my students to paraphrase some passages.
Ultimately, I'm glad I read this book but I don't think I ever got the whole appeal of it. I can see that it is a good study of that time period and symbolically, there are a lot of things to talk about (if you read the book slow enough). I do want to watch the movie though - I can see this book being something I could enjoy on screen.(less)
Manor Farm is home to a bunch of downtrodden animals, who one day gather together to hear the speech of an esteemed colleague, Old Major, a boar, who...moreManor Farm is home to a bunch of downtrodden animals, who one day gather together to hear the speech of an esteemed colleague, Old Major, a boar, who calls them for a meeting in the barn. He tells them of a dream he had in which animals live together with no humans to rule over them. He then teaches them the song, The Beasts of England, which feature many times throughout the book. Inspired by his speech, three pigs, Snowball, Napoleon and Squealor make a plan to overthrow their master, Mr. Jones, which they manage to do. Then follows what usually follows a revolution - a means to reconstruct their lives, with plans to be self-sustaining and strong. Several rules are laid out and an order maintained. And of course, the bad decisions, power-control and political bad-mouthing also follow.
I've heard so much about George Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984, but both sounded very academic to me, which made me not want to pick them while I was doing my Masters. And I was kind of right in assuming that they were of academic merit, but very wrong in implicitly taking that to mean that the books would be hard to read and understand - at least Animal Farm was definitely not that. I listened and devoured Animal Farm on audio, and just couldn't stop laughing so many times. The book was hilarious, but it was also a very clever take on human nature. It is satirical, and the resemblances made me chortle so many times.
So let's see, we have a bunch of animals, who succeed (of course) in overthrowing their farmer, and then the pigs come out as the natural leaders, because only they knew how to read. This was very interesting, because even in real world, the ones with plenty of degrees to their name (though not necessarily more intellectual or wise), were usually the ones who won the posts to control a whole group of people. The pigs used that cleverly even insisting that none of the animals could possible do a proper thing, because they weren't learned. Hence, knowledge = wisdom.
The leader pigs, Napoleon, Snowball and Squealor, laid out seven commandments, which are rules that have to be abided by the animals at all times. The basic motif was no association with two-legged creatures (yeah, that's us) at all, and no killing the four-legged ones. As in any government, the rules get twisted and contorted to suit the needs of the leaders, till in the end, they become of the opposite of what they started out as. Don't we see that always? But of course, the subjects do not have a way to protest, because 1. they can't read, and 2. the pigs as extra precaution, keep rewriting the rules on the wall where they were originally published. So, knowledge = take advantage of others.
Initially, the animals bonded well, but then the autocratic nature of Napoleon, the "nominated" though actually "self-proclaimed" leader started showing out. Napoleon's assistant, Squealor did most of the talking on his behalf. He was a smooth-talker who knew exactly how to influence his fellow animals. So, dump your dirty laundry on your juniors.
That's only a portion of the lessons from this delightful book. Since we see all such drama every day, it was quite funny to read about it. The interesting attribute of Animal Farm, was how George Orwell easily created different kinds of human characters in the animals - the one who looks for materialistic prizes, the one who wants power, another that blindly obeys the master, yet another who is willing to see the good in others, the smooth-talker who plants ideas in the subjects' minds, the spy, the bodyguards, and so on. Animal Farm is not meant solely for enjoyment. There are oodles of lessons in the quirky animals' interactions. It shows how revolutions rarely set in motion something much better. Although the rebels start off with a lot of just plans and hopes, slowly the corrupt way of living turns to be the easier path, till eventually, they become their old rulers.
I'm not sure why I never had this book to read in school. This is a great book with lots of valuable lessons, because of the parallels to human life. But of course, there is a bit of gore and violence, which is not gory to me at all, but I can see the censor board sniffing its way through. Oh right, this book, its introduction and several plays have already gone through the ritual of being banned several times, but it doesn't yet fall into the usual basket of banned books. This book wasn't hard to read at all. Or listen either. In fact, I never had to look at any annotated notes, though I'm sure doing that would give me more insights - whatever I missed. I can't wait to read 1984 now.(less)
Ever had a book that you would go to when your brain's all fried and tensions are high? No matter what you set your mind to, you can't...moreRe-read thoughts
Ever had a book that you would go to when your brain's all fried and tensions are high? No matter what you set your mind to, you can't concentrate, and then you pick that one book. Much like having a glass of wine. Or going shopping. All those tensions just ooze out of your self. The Harry Potter series does that to me. Ever since I first read a Harry Potter book, I have always returned back to them once a year. Or at least to most of the books of the series, if not all.
The first book of this series that I read is actually the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. That happened after I caught the first raving waves about this series in the newspaper. I ignored the series. The news persisted. Every day, I would hear some gossip or the other about this series. I still ignored the series. After all, the idea of me @ 16 years of age reading this book that I branded "children's book" is indeed laughable! (You can see how obnoxious I was then!) And then, as things usually go, in to this picture comes the proverbial cousin with a copy of the book, literally. He wouldn't take "no" for an answer. So to appease him, I decided to bore myself for a few days with the book. The rest, as they say, is history.
So now, I am re-reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone after more than two years. Believe it or not, I think I became an adult only recently. The last time I read this book, I lapped it happily. This time though, I got bugged by small nuances that a teenager wouldn't complain about.
- Such as, for the first time, I realized that this book is not written for an audience like me, but for those more than half my age. Which is to be expected, seeing as the protagonists are 11 years old! It's amazing though comparing the first and last books of this series - both in writing quality and in their darkness. The dangers surrounding Harry are only felt tangentially in this book.
- J.K. Rowling's writing is nowhere near as captivating as it is in her later books. That's to be expected, of course, but I had never noticed that before. The ever-prevalent humor still makes me laugh! This series has some very unforgettable humorous quotes. Fred and George are as funny as ever!
- The story rushes through certain parts while strolls lazily through others. Previously, I thought the supporting characters had a great depth! I couldn't feel that now though. That could be because each time I re-read, I was going into the book, already knowing the supporting cast well. Moreover, my first time with this series was with the fourth book, which is the first coming-of-age book in my opinion. When I was reading this time, I made sure I wasn't biased by any of my earlier knowledge. So I can't really blame Chris Columbus for not giving much character to the supporting cast!
- For the first time, I gave it only 4 stars. I had never given it less than 5. I wonder how my ratings of the remaining series will be affected!(less)
Guy Montag is a fireman. Not a fireman that put out fires and rescued people from crumbling rubble, but a fireman who burnt books and even people who...moreGuy Montag is a fireman. Not a fireman that put out fires and rescued people from crumbling rubble, but a fireman who burnt books and even people who chose to be burnt with their books. That's what their system dictated. That's how things have been for as long as he could remember. He's never questioned the system or entertained any curiosity towards books and their contents. That is, until a sixteen-year old girl stops him one day and asks him a lot of questions that are beyond him. These questions make him both curious and angry because he never thought about them before but he didn't want to feel cornered by her questioning either. But then a few days later, he never sees her again and something he does as part of his job (something he has done for many years) makes him pause and question the status quo, thus opening a can of worms.
Fahrenheit 451 is yet another book that a lot of people have read in school but I am only now reading it for the first time. And just like many books that are read by the younger population (Brave New World, Animal Farm, The Fountainhead), I wonder if perhaps I might have identified with it more then.
I've always wanted to read this book, because one of the commonest references to this book that I come across is the idea that - if you could save a book, which would it be? There are plenty of challenges around this question and plenty of bookish games as well. The last 40 or so pages of the book are what addresses this question, and when I reached that point, I tweeted this:
The last 40 pages of this book are so worth sitting through the stream-of-consciousness in the first half!
And that's exactly what I still feel. Not that the ending was eye-popping-worthy or shocking. It was just impressive and satisfying. It oozed a feeling of respite coming a world that was bent on destroying books. There are plenty of passages that condemn books and even more that indicate the ignorance of the people who question the value of books. Unlike in the other "utopian" societies I have read about, Fahrenheit 451 didn't arrive at its bookless state through the evil State's draconian laws or after some insensible war. People slowly stopped being interested in reading, and began entertaining themselves in front of the television. When the State saw that people were happier without books, they decided to ban reading completely and that's where the definition of firemen changed. Even to firemen in the present world of Fahrenheit 451, the idea of stopping fires is laughable.
Although I enjoyed the concept of the book, and would definitely recommend it to any one, I had issues with the preaching and the stream-of-consciousness flowing through most of the book. Those two aspects sorely reminded me of Brave New World, and while I get the need for the authors to preach to get the point across, I guess I can simply not stand any form of forceful advising. I could also see how the stream-of-consciousness was necessary since Montag gets a shock of awakening and all he could think of was why some people protected books. But his transition from the I-don't-really-care to the Books-are-important felt way too abrupt and unconvincing to me. And that's the other reason why the narration bugged me initially.
Oh, and what's up with all those horrible metaphors that made me cringe terribly?
Her face was fragile milk crystal with a soft and constant light in it.
There were quite a few like that which didn't make for pleasant reading. Despite the issues I had with this book, I do feel that it is one that people should read. Honestly, I don't think such a world would ever come to pass, but I liked the concepts that were explored in this one, even if the book felt poorly executed.(less)
Sophie Kinsella writes in a way that you quickly identify with. Becky is probably an extreme character, with her inability to control her...moreI loved this!
Sophie Kinsella writes in a way that you quickly identify with. Becky is probably an extreme character, with her inability to control her shopping desire, but that addiction is not hard to "not-understand". Especially for book-lovers, who can't keep from buying or borrowing more books, even if your shelf is stuffed with to-read books.
I didn't think it started well. It was a bit slow. But 50 pages in, it picked up the pace and got really riveting. It was really humorous getting into Becky's thoughts, especially when she was denying the reason for the things she do. I enjoyed how she tried to pay for her debts by sending post-dated checks (as in 2200!), offering free subscriptions of the the magazine she works for, giving weird excuses! I particularly enjoyed her scarf episode with Luke and his parents. It was very amusing.
All in all, I would recommend this to anyone who likes chick-lit, and someone appreciates "girl" obsessions with shopping!(less)
It's as different as possible from the Twilight series. But it still has Meyer's style and elements in it. For instance, a lot of poignant scenes late...moreIt's as different as possible from the Twilight series. But it still has Meyer's style and elements in it. For instance, a lot of poignant scenes later being set right in a Happily-ever-after manner. It's written well though, but it is a slow start, will take some time before you get the drive to sit through the book. I liked the ending and how things worked for all. If Meyer comes up with a sequel, I will probably be reading it.(less)
A bland read, as opposed to the typical emotional roller-coasters that Jodi's books are famous for. I can't decide if I should feel sympathetic toward...moreA bland read, as opposed to the typical emotional roller-coasters that Jodi's books are famous for. I can't decide if I should feel sympathetic towards Trixie for being victimized and ostracized, or with Jason as he watched his dreams slowly slip away from me, or with Daniel, as he tried to fight his demons a second time, or with Laura as she tried to recreate a semblance of familiarity in her life. I didn't quite like the way it ended. I was expecting that, but somehow I still didn't like it much. I also found it very ambiguous as some things are never proven, and the reader is left confused about certain happenings. Maybe Jodi wanted us to decide for ourselves the guilt of the characters and have a discussion in our minds but it definitely felt like reading an incomplete novel!(less)
Nice book. At the core, it deals with notions of beauty and its importance in society. I liked how it was packaged in a sci-fi genre. Not really one o...moreNice book. At the core, it deals with notions of beauty and its importance in society. I liked how it was packaged in a sci-fi genre. Not really one of my better reads, but definitely well worth the time. And as most YA novels go, things don't always go HEA. I liked Scott's use of language here. Although it's a young adult fiction, the language is definitely great. Not that YA fiction authors write well, but most such novels I've read are either immature or too simplistic for the likes of me.
I also appreciated how well Scott has described Tally's dilemma, her mixed emotions and her desire for being pretty while not wanting to do the assignment she's being tasked with. I liked it that it was not so black-and-white as most YA novels liked to define, but something more realistic.(less)
I just couldn't connect with this book, no matter how much I tried. I found some actions of Hanna too gross and Mike's infatuation and initial actions...moreI just couldn't connect with this book, no matter how much I tried. I found some actions of Hanna too gross and Mike's infatuation and initial actions too sick for thought. This story really sets you thinking on several levels, like is Hanna to blame for Mike's confusion in life, what caused Hanna to make her last decision, why was Mike so embarassed with her later once she no longer looked as beautiful as she initially was, and many others. It was too sad, admittedly. I so wished things turned out different. I wouldn't say this book is bad. I do see the questions and the consequences of Hanna's and Mike's actions, but it just did not work out for me.(less)
Over the past fortnight, I re-read the third book of the Harry Potter series - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. For the first...moreRe-read thoughts
Over the past fortnight, I re-read the third book of the Harry Potter series - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. For the first time, as I read these books, I pause to think. I've been reading with breaks in between and also writing up posts on my re-read experience, while also marking out my favorite quotes from the books. (Previously, I just raced through the pages. It's hard to slow down.) It's been a thrilling ride!
The third book has always seemed to me the "coming-of-age" book. The series is beginning to take shape slowly. Some of the principal characters of the rest of the series (Lupin, Sirius, Wormtail, Buckbeak, Trelawney, Dementors) make their first appearances here. The relationships between the characters are defined strongly. In addition, we are introduced to the Knight Bus, Divination class, Hogsmeade and the Marauder's Map.
Moreover, this book had some of the best magical vignettes ever. I enjoyed the DADA class the best of all. It is interesting that this would be the only enlightening DADA class that they would ever have, in the whole series, not considering the meetings of the Dumbledore's Army in the fifth book. Another interesting feature was Quidditch! I loved the extensive coverage that J.K. Rowling devoted to this fun sport. Three games! Harry's receiving the Firebolt only added to the excitement!
On the other side, I admired Hermione's role in this book. I feel she totally came into her own. Her desire to take every class offered by Hogwarts was endearing. But when she cracked due to the workload, I was relieved. It felt good to see that she had human limitations too. When I first read the Harry Potter books, I was studying. Hermione's total dedication would in turn inspire and intimidate me. Like Harry, I could never fail to marvel at the amount of effort she put into her homework.
The best part of this book, though, is the Patronus and Harry's attempt to conjure one. I truly enjoyed the idea of a bright glowing guardian that is unique to the wizard or witch that conjures it. The Patronus charm would be making many appearances in the remaining books of the series, and one of my best scenes is the patronus charm training that Harry gives in the fifth book. I would love my patronus to be a cute little elephant - not huge but small, cute and cuddly. I guess because they are my favorite animals.(less)
This weekend, I re-read the second book of the Harry Potter series - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This has always been my...moreRe-read thoughts
This weekend, I re-read the second book of the Harry Potter series - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This has always been my least favorite book of this series, because of which I never read this book too many times - in fact, probably only slightly more than the number of times I re-read the last two books of the series. When I scouted for opinions of other Harry Potter fans, I heard the same feeling echoed by most. What is it about this book that has made us like it less than the others? Is it because it is geared towards a much younger audience? But the first book is also geared to the same crowd. Is it because there is lesser humor in this book than there are tragedies? If you like this book the least, I'd like to hear your thoughts.
I'm not sure why this was my least favorite either. (Yes, I say was. More on that later.) I guess it had something to do with Aragog and his clan, or even the Basilisk. These are the creatures I was least impressed with in the entire series. There is also not much "variety" as there is in the other books. It's mostly the attacks and the voices.
One thing I decided when I started re-reading this series, was to walk into the adventure with no prior biases. That helped greatly this time. When I closed this book, I was surprised to see that I actually enjoyed this book much more than I ever did previously. That was one of the biggest surprises to me this time. I like it when re-reading brings to my attention things I missed earlier. Though, truth be told, there really isn't anything I've missed in this series, having re-read it too many times.
I had forgotten that this book introduces so many firsts. It gives us our first glimpse to the Burrow, the gnome hunting, Harry's connection to Voldemort via his ability to speak Parseltongue and similarities in upbringing, Dumbledore's impressive office, Dobby - my favorite elf, Lucius Malfoy, Ginny. I think that's why I liked it a lot this time. This is actually the first book that's setting the stage for future events (Riddle's diary, Harry learning how to do the disarming spell - Expelliarmus at the Dueling Club, Dobby's obsessive dedication, are just some of them).
Don't you just wish the Burrow was your home? I can very much understand Harry's love for that place and how much he wished he could stay there. The ghoul in the attic, the talking mirror, the gnomes in the garden, the crooked house, a vociferous family, Fred and George (who wouldn't love to have them as brothers!). Another scene I re-enjoyed in this book is Lockhart's Valentine's Day celebrations. All those dwarfs running around all day, interrupting class to deliver valentines.(less)