Monday, December 29, 2008

Orbis Terrarum Challenge - Round up

Am finally done with the OT challenge hosted by Bethany. This was my first ever reading challenges and I completely enjoyed it!! If not for this challenge, I would have probably never read books from so many different countries :)

Here's the list of my 9 books with the links to the reviews -

1. The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan)
2. Sister of my Heart - Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (India)
3. A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini (Afghanistan)
4. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov (Russia)
5. The Bastard of Istanbul - Elif Shafak (Turkey/Armenia)
6. In the Country of Men - Hisham Matar (Libya)
7. Purple Hibiscus - Chimamanda Adichie (Nigeria)
8. Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding (England)
9. After Dark - Haruki Murakami (Japan)

Here's the representation of the countries covered above

Bethany also has a small survey hosted, as part of the OT challenge round up -

Orbis Terrarum 2008 Challenge survey:

1.) What did you like about the challenge?

I loved the concept of reading different authors from different countries. I would have never picked up books from so many different countries, becoz I am quite choosy when it comes to reading books...

2.) What would you like to see change for next year?

Nothing! Love the way it is..

3.) About the rules, or the non-existent rules...did you like that?

I think too many rules make it more un-interesting. I liked the basic rules defined here and hte flexibility to change the list anytime during the year

4.) Are you going to join us next year?

Yup! Waiting to join..

5.) Pretty please give me any suggestions for changes, the betterment of the challenge, or just anything that you would like to see changed for next year.

Keeping the rules as it was during this year, and a suggestion of few books/countries for the next year would be a great idea!

6.) Would you like the challenge to be more involved? What if we read books together sometimes? Would that interest you?

I probably wouldnt go for this coz of my busy schedule...I usually tend to read whenever I manage to squeeze time out of my work..

7.) would you be interested in helping somehow next year? How would you like to help?

By blogging about the challenge so that more readers get acquainted to it :)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

After Dark

Author: Haruki Murakami
Pages: 201
My Rating: 4.0/5

As part of the OT challenge, one author I was really keen on taking up was Haruki Murakami. It was pretty tough for me to decide which one of his books I need to pick up first coz every book seemed to have great reviews. Finally I decided to read "After Dark" which is set in Japan..

The novel is about incidents that take place in one night (around midnight to 7am) in the Tokyo city. There are different people involved in different situations but somehow they are all connected. If any of you have watched the movies 'Crash (English)' or 'Is Raat ki Subah Nahi (Hindi)', the concept is pretty much the same.. it just feels really different reading it!

The book has 2 main characters - Eri and Mari who are sisters. While Mari spends a sleepless night inside a restaurant, Eri sleeps in her room furnished with just a bed and a television. She sleeps thru out the book, till the end. Her sleep doesnt seem natural.

I don't think I understood Eri's character very well. The author does indicate at some parts that Eri has some psychological issues or emotional problems that she hasn't shared with anyone in her family, including her sister. We get to know this from the conversation between Mari and Eri's friend. So I guess the author was trying to show Eri's state of mind, while she slept, using the television set as a reference to her inner self (state of her mind). Anyway am still not sure if my interpretation is right. So if you have read the book and you have thoughts on this, do leave me a comment...

Parallely we see other stories - there is a chinese prostitute who is injured and Mari goes to her rescue; a strange guy who works in a software company and prefers to stay in office thru out the night and doesnt seem to share a good relationship with his family; we also come across Eri's friend who meets Mari in the restaurant she is sitting in that night. Somehow, all these characters are connected to each other and lead into a complex story...

I really didnt quite get the ending..and tried hard to research it online but in vain. Maybe I need to read it again to understand better. But that didnt stop me from liking the book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It's a very short book, but intense, complex, intriguing and extremely well written. Definitely worth a read!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Author: Douglas Adams
Pages: 216
My Rating: 4.0/5

I have never read any sci-fi book in my life and never had the inclination to do so. I picked this up without knowing it was related to sci-fi, only becoz it was highly recommended by friends - and I dont regret it one bit!! It's one of the most hilarious books I have read so far..

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is the first book in the 5-part series which involves Arthur Dent and his friend Fort Prefect; and their journey through the galaxy. Arthur Dent is an ordinary earthman who is taken away by his friend Ford (who hails from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelguese and is also the researcher of the book 'The Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy') few seconds before the earth is demolished. They hitch a ride on one of the Vogon spaceships and meet - Zaphod, the President of the Galaxy who is travelling in one of the new spaceships - The Heart of Gold, with the Infinite Improbability Drive. What follows later through their journey is what the book is all about.

The plot and the fiction part of it is no doubt excellent and I never thought I would love it this much. What I liked the best is the way the book is written - the language, style, the sarcastic sense of humor which is intellectual and verbal rather than slapstick and cliched. Some of the lines from this book have become popular catchphrases...I never understood them till now, when people use to refer to it....things like "42!" which is the answer to every question or a simple phrase like 'Dont Panic!' (read the book and u will know what it is! :-) )

Lines from the book-

Ford stood up. "We're safe," he said.
"Oh good," said Arthur.
"We're in a small galley cabin," said Ford, "in one of the spaceships of the Vogon Constructor Fleet."
"Ah," said Arthur, "this is obviously some strange usage of the word
safe that I wasn't previously aware of."

I am waiting to read the next few books in the series.. As soon as am done with my last book for the OT challenge am planning to pick this up!

For those of you who love sci-fi - if you haven't read this you are definitely missing something really good! and those of you who have never tried reading sci-fi or think that you might hate it (just like i did) - this is a real treat!!! Try reading the first book and am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did! Once you do, dont forget to leave me a comment and thank me for recommending ;-)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The New Look

Finally managed to get the tabbed look for this blog!!
Took hell lot of an effort to edit the HTML code... but happy with the final outcome :)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bridget Jones's Diary

Author: Helen Fielding
Pages: 307
My Rating: 4.0/5

This book has been on my wishlist for a long time. Finally picked it up as part of the Orbis Terrarum Challenge (I just have 1 more book to read to complete the challenge by end of this year..phew! thought I would not make it).

Written by Helen Fielding, the book is based on a year in thirty-something-Bridget Jones's Life. I wont get into the details of the plot 'coz you can get that by googling :) The book is a very easy-read and I just couldn't put it down. One of the most hilarious books I've read this year. Though it is funny, it does not fail to touch your hearts becoz it has its own share of problems, pain, emotions, self-doubts, disgrace, disasters and victories. We've all been there at some point and we can all relate to it one way or the other; that's what makes it very appealing.Also, the story is set up in London and it has a typical British humour and lingo which is quite interesting. The characterization is brilliant and the writing is excellent!

I loved the way the book is written, in the form of a diary. The way Bridget keeps track of the amount of cigarretes and alcohol she has consumed everyday and her weight, in every journal entry shows her obsessions and fears..At one point when she goes thru a break up, she even counts the number of times she has had negative thoughts in a day! It feels like you are actually peeking into a friend's diary and getting to know all about her personal life! :) One more book that I remember of similar kind is The Diary of Anne Frank, which I had enjoyed too. Would love to read more such books...which is written in the form of journals or letters.. If you have any recommendations do leave me a comment here...

My next step is to watch the movie based on the book. Am sure the movie will not do complete justice to the book but will be nice to see bridget's character in action!.

The book is wonderfully hilarious and it is a must read!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Purple Hibiscus

Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Pages : 307
My Rating : 2.5/5

After reading a couple of excellent reviews about this book I decided to pick it up as part of my Orbis Terrarum Challenge. This one is a debut novel of a Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie, who is also the author of 'Half of a Yellow Sun' , winner of the Orange Broadbank Prize for Fiction-2007. Amazon reviews give a rating of 4.5/5 for Purple Hibiscus, but for some reason I just didnt enjoy this as much as I thought I would. Maybe I had very high expecations from it! Nevertheless I would still recommend it if you enjoy fiction a lot and you are interested to know more about the life in Nigeria - politics, social customs, food, The book also has a strong message - it emphasizes on the role of the family in the formation of children's lives, the importance of a loving and caring atmosphere in the household and the effects of monstrous discipline...

The book is about a 15-year old girl Kambili, the daughter of an affluent man who is a Catholic patriarch doing a lot for the community. There are thousands of citizens who are showered with his blessings and help and look up to him like he is God. Yet Kambili, Jaja (her brother) and their mother see a violent side of him which no one else does.
Kambili and her brother are forced to live with their widowed aunt and cousins, due to a political coup in Nigeria. During their stay, Kambili feels unexpectedly liberated and unravels the aspects of her life and personality which never seemed to have existed... **spoiler ahead ** Even after I finished reading the book, there were a lot of questions unanswered. Certain things left me confused. Am not sure if the author wanted it to be that way or if I missed out something. There is one incident towards the end where Kambili's mother poisons her father and kills him but the blame is taken by Jaja, who is driven to prison. I never really got the actual reason behind this killing. Was it because he turned more and more violent that Kambili's mom could not bear it anymore? That's the only explanation I could come up with. If you have read the book and have some opinions I would love to know your views on this..

It took me some time to figure out why the author chose the title 'Purple Hibiscus'. I couldn't draw an analogy to the story but after pondering over it for a while I realized that the blooming of the hibiscus flower is used to describe the way Kambili's life blossoms when she starts living with her aunt.. as Kambili slowly transforms from a young girl into a woman.. So that's a nice one, I liked it!

If you want another opinion on this book, here's a review by Ramya ..

If you have read this book already and reviewed it, let me know and I'll add a link to your post.