Monday Movies: Sare Kaminey

Starring: Shahid Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra
Directed by: Vishal Bharadwaj

Guddu and Charlie (Shahid Kapoor) are identical twins with a speech defect, but different in everything else. Guddu, who stutters, works for an NGO and plans to marry his pregnant girlfriend Sweety( Priyanka Chopra). Charlie, who lisps, fixes races for a band of Bengali brothers. Avenging his double-crossing at the hands of a jockey, Charlie stumbles upon a guitar case filled with Rs. 10 crore worth of cocaine, and tries to cheat the dealer out of it. Guddu learns that his girlfriend's brother is a gangster who puts a price on his head. Trying to run from the mafia and police on their tails, the brothers' lives collide. Guddu and Charlie, who hated the sight of each other, must now co-operate if they are to survive.

The movie was brilliant, one of the best Hindi movies I've seen in a very long time. Shahid pulled off his double-role so well, morphing from the quiet Guddu to the street-smart Charlie effortlessly. The scene where the two brothers first meet is very good with great direction and superb acting. Priyanka is also good, no hysterics, no over-acting. But the best of the lot is Vishal Bharadwaj. He directs this cast of top-notch theatre actors and A-class movie stars with panache, creating a film that will grip you from scene 1. He is the Indian Scorsese, he manages to tell the story of the underworld much like Scorsese told it in The Departed. The climax is reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs, a dark shootout that was awesome in its picturization. I had a lot of expectations from this movie ever since I fell in love with the Dhan Te Nan song, and it didn't let me down.

Starring: Uttam Kumar, Suchitra Sen, Bhanu Banerjee
Directed by: Nilima Dey

In the Annapurna boarding house for men, a family come to stay for a few days while they search for a house in Kolkata. The daughter, played by Suchitra Sen, attracts the attention of the bachelor men. She is headstrong and frequently gets into arguments with Uttam Kumar. But opposites attract, and the two find themselves falling in love with each other, but not before a lot of misunderstandings and confusion ensue in the process.

This is a really cute Bengali romantic comedy made in the 1950s. It stars the golden couple of Bengali cinema, Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen, and they look positively adorable. But more than the romance, it is the comedy in this movie which is par excellence. It has two great comedians, Bhanu and Tulsi Chakraborthy, who light up the screen with their performance. The comedy of errors involving Tulsi Chakraborthy and his wife, is the best part of the movie, and reaffirmed my opinion that he is one of the most under-rated actors of Bengali cinema. The songs are also very good, especially the light and frivolous Amar E Joubon (My Youth). If you are a Bengali, don't miss it (of course, if you are a Bengali, you've probably seen it already).

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REVIEW Star Trek- The Motion Picture: Gene Roddenberry


This is the novelization of the first Star Trek movie, and the only one written by the series’ creator Gene Roddenberry. I don’t think I will have the opportunity to watch the movie anytime in the near future, so I thought, why not read the book?

After the series’ five-year mission came to an end, Kirk was made an Admiral and Spock returned to Vulcan to erase his human self. But when a strange cloud with a consciousness appears to be headed towards Earth, Kirk assumes command of the spaceship and is joined by the whole team: Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov and Uhura. They race against time to find how to destroy the cloud and save Earth in the process.

This book would be a little pointless to read if you don’t have any idea of the Star Trek Universe, so I suggest you either watch the series or the latest movie before reading this. I'll anyways tell you the basic background. Enterprise is a ship whose mission is "to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life forms and new civilizations, to boldly go where no-one has gone before". Its crew comprises Captain James T. Kirk, his half-Vulcan half-human first officer Mr Spock, chief medical officer Leonard McCoy, chief engineer Montgomery Scott, weapons officer Pavel Chekov, helmsman Hikaru Sulu and communications officer Uhura. There is a lot of techno-babble in the book, all warp speeds and thrusters and controls and all, a little disconcerting to non-geeks. But it didn’t hinder my reading, but that could probably because I’ve been watching random episodes of Star Trek. I was a little worried that the book would read like an extended script, but it didn’t. In a movie, we see more action, but in the novel you see what the people undergo, their hopes and fears, and how they react to the hostile conditions. The book concentrates more on Kirk, while Spock is my favorite character and I wanted to know more about him. But there was something superficial about the book I couldn’t really put my finger on, something that kept me from being absorbed in the story completely. An interesting book, nevertheless.

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Author Feature: Frederick Forsyth

One of my favorite thriller authors, one I've grown up with. Frederick Forsyth is the author I'm featuring this month.

Brief Bio: Forsyth was born in Ashford, Kent, educated at Tonbridge School and and later attended the University of Granada in Spain. After serving as one of the youngest pilots in the Royal Air Force, he became a journalist, joining Reuters and then BBC. His first full-length novel, The Day of the Jackal, was published in 1971 and became an international bestseller. Since then, he has written many bestselling novels, some of which have been turned into movies, notably Dogs of War, The Fourth Protocol and The Odessa File.

Selected Bibliography:

The Day of the Jackal
The Odessa File
The Dogs of War
The Devil's Alternative
The Fourth Protocol
The Fist of God
The Icon
The Afghan

My Views: I haven't reviewed a single Forsyth book on my blog, but it's not for the want of reading them, but because I read every single one of them long before I started blogging. I probably will review a couple of them soon, but as of now, there are no reviews you can read.

I was introduced to Forsyth when I filched my dad's library copy of The Day of the Jackal many years ago. Since then, I devoured his books, and I loved most of them. He is usually my benchmark when I read other thriller authors, I keep comparing them with the thrill I felt as I turned each page of The Day of the Jackal or The Devil's Alternative, my two favorite Forsyth books.

What will strike you when you read his books is the amount of research involved. From money laundering to identity theft to stealth satellites to political maneuvering, every word he writes is carefully researched. The meticulous plotting and the keen eye for detail keeps you hooked. And also, almost every book has the twist in the tale, the hidden agenda which is revealed at the end which brings things to a head. His books have a heady pace, but nowhere do you feel it is rushed. Though recently, I've felt that the magic of his writing is dimming: I had a lot of difficulty finishing The Afghan.

A lot of the stuff Forsyth describes in his books have actually come to pass. For example, the technique of identity theft he describes in The Day of the Jackal was actually possible during the time he wrote it, and the bugging of IRA leaders' coffins by British agents was also confirmed by the government. Almost all his books feature fictional events happening to or connected to real life personalities. This trueness to real life is something I find awesome, it adds a touch of reality to the grandiose plot and makes you believe that the events he describes in his stories could actually be true.

If you have not read Forsyth, you are definitely missing something. Whether or not you like thrillers, I am sure you'll be hooked by the world of assassins and spies he creates.

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Monday Movies: Of Origins and Ghosts

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner
Directed by: Mark Waters

Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) is a womanizing fashion photographer. At his younger brother's wedding, he makes it amply clear that he doesn't believe in love or marriage. That night, he is visited by three ghosts, three women in his life who show him how he has treated women and what will happen if he continues on his present ways. They give him a chance to reform and reconnect with his childhood sweetheart Jennie (Jennifer Garner).

The movie was below average. I think romantic movies survive on the cuteness factor and quotable quotes, and this movie had neither. Jennifer Garner looked old, and McConaughey could not really bring out the roguish charm that his character was supposed to possess. If there was something good about this movie, it was Emma Stone as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Her high-school act was comic and endearing. Watch this if you have nothing else to do.

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston
Directed by: Gavin Hood

When James Howlett sees his father being killed by the groundskeeper Thomas Logan, bone claws shoot out of his hand to impale Logan. He then learns that Logan was his father, and flees with half-brother Victor Creed. After surviving three wars due to their regenerative abilities, Logan (Jackman) and Victor (Schreiber) are recruited by Major William Stryker (Danny Huston), along with other mutants, to form the mercenary group Team X. Disgusted by the bloodthirsty ways of his comrades, Logan leaves the team and builds a new life with girlfriend Kayla Silverfox. But he can't hide for long, so when Striker comes calling and Victor a.k.a Sabertooth comes hunting, Logan must embrace his animal side and become Wolverine.

I thought this movie was super cool. I've loved Jackman in the X-Men movies, and here he carries the story on his muscly shoulders. I especially loved the scene in Stryker's lab, when he emerges from the tank after being implanted with adamantium. Schreiber was also excellent and complements Jackman very well. Their fights are very well executed, and bring out the menacing and animal nature of Wolverine and Sabertooth. The final fight of Wolverine and Sabertooth vs Deadpool was one to die for, it was awesome. This is a classic superhero movie, it has deadly villains, the tortured hero, fabulous fights, the works. Go watch it, if you haven't already.

P.S. Here are this week's giveaways, since I missed my Sunday Salon post.
Trisha's Book Blog is giving away Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men by till August 28
Book Tumbling has Frozen Tears by Mary Ann MacAfee to give away till September 2

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Saturday Evening Poetry: Roque Dalton

I find poetry hard to understand, the subtle nuances and hidden meanings often escape me. For a long time, this has been a reason why I avoided poetry like the plague. But I realized that I am avoiding a very rich, very varied source of literature. So, starting today, I am going to devote this fortnightly to poetry, especially to poets I have never heard of, though I will definitely come back to the masters from time to time. I hope you readers will join me in this poetry reading and carry on the tradition (if you can call it that) on your blogs as well.

This week, I will start off with the Salvadoran Poet Roque Dalton. He was a political activist, journalist and poet associated with the People's Revolutionary Army, shot dead in 1975. His most popular poem is Poema de Amor (Love Poem). In this poem, originally "El Descanso Del Guerrero", he writes about the fate of the modern revolutionaries, whose deaths raise more questions than their lives.


The dead are more unmanageable every day.

Before it was easy with them:

we gave flowers to the uptight ones

we gave the relatives the names on one long list:

to these we gave national borders

to those we gave remarkable peace

that one we gave a monstrous marble tomb

Then we saluted the memory of the corpses

and went to their cemetery rows

marching to the compass of old music.

But where the dead go

is different now.

Today they ask

ironic questions.

And it seems to me that they fall more and more

on account of being

more and more

the majority.

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REVIEW Inkspell: Cornelia Funke


The Inkworld story continues in Inkspell. While I am still entranced by the world created between the pages, some of the magic and the thrill seemed to be missing.

A year after the events in Inkheart, Meggie and her parents are living with Elinor. Dustfinger is still desperately searching for a reader to read him home, Farid in tow, and finds one in Orpheus. Orpheus helps him, but he has brought Basta and Mortola with him, intent on exacting revenge. Farid escapes from their clutches and runs to Meggie, begging her to read him into Inkheart, so that he can warn Dustfinger. Meggie agrees, but wants to go with him to see the splendid things her mother has told her. Mo and Resa follow her into the pages soon after, held at gunpoint by Mortola. Thus begins a journey, an adventure that will result in disillusion, destruction and death.

The book began shakily, with Meggie dying to visit Inkworld, not really caring about how her parents will feel, but suddenly getting all sentimental and homesick once she has landed among the pages. There is a whole cast of new characters, their names as fascinating as the earlier ones: Adderhead, the Black Prince, Bluejay. But I was a little irritated with the female characters. Elinor was a flimsy shadow of herself, her sharp tongue and brains lost somewhere. But the biggest disappointment was Meggie. She is infatuated with Farid for most of the book and acts and sounds like the damsel in distress. However, the presence of Dustfinger more than made up for Meggie’s faults. He is not your save-the-world hero- he has his flaws, is sometimes selfish and scared, but summons up courage when he needs it most, and that’s what makes him human. His gesture for Farid, at the end, was noble and heartbreaking, it is my favorite bit. And I liked Fenoglio too, grumpy yet caring, trying so hard to set his story right. However, the book does become more interesting somewhere down the line, as the twists and turns start to show themselves. But some plot elements seem contrived- how did Resa get her voice back, how can Orpheus read out stuff from books without inadvertently causing things to disappear, though Mo is a better reader than him? It’s not a bad book; it’s actually a very good book, the writing quite lyrical and evocative. The Inkworld which we had glimpses of in Inkheart comes alive in this book, and is more magical than I thought it would be. I really wish I (or someone else, I'm not too particular) would read me into the Inkworld, I'm dying to go live there, Adderhead or no Adderhead.

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REVIEW Fahrenheit 451: Ray Bradbury


For a long time, I had heard how fantastic this book was and how powerful the writing. But it was not until I finished the last page that I appreciated what a truly awesome book this was. I read it in fits and starts, but never did I lose track of the story. And with this book, I restart my efforts to complete the Guardian challenge by the end of this year.

Sometime in the future, books have been banned, and every book is burned by firemen and their owners punished. Montag is one such fireman, reveling in the anarchy of book burning. The people around him are equally callous: his wife Mildred the soap-opera-addicted vapid woman, his boss Beatty the fire-loving self-hater. But then he meets Clarisse McKellan, a simple girl who jerks him out of his slumber and forces him to re-examine his life. Montag learns the value of books and life, and makes some decisions that will take him on paths he has dared not tread before.

It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. He strode in a swarm of fireflies. He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.
Montag grinned the fierce grin of all men singed and driven back by flame.

This opening paragraph may cause book lovers to shudder, but I was entranced by Bradbury’s prose, the vivid descriptions that come to mind with each sentence he has written. The scenes play out around you; I felt Montag’s agony and indecision as deeply as if they were my own. Bradbury constructs a society where free thinking and imagination, represented by books, has been burned down and replaced by homogeneity and dulling of the mind, symbolized by the parlor walls (TV). A memorable scene is when Montag reads the "Dover Beach" poem to his wife and her friends: each one is deeply affected but chooses to ignore it. And Beatty was painted in deep shades of gray; he hated books and savagely burnt them, yet quoted Scriptures and Shakespeare, showing that he was a well-read man. This is not a book to be read for story alone; it is a book meant to make you introspect, to stop and wonder what would happen if the story came true.

Fahrenheit 451 shares many thematic similarities with another of my favorite reads, Animal Farm by George Orwell. Both have a society gone wrong, and how this affects one man in particular. The issue of censorship figures largely, though I believe that Bradbury’s work is as much a condemnation of conformism as it is a criticism of censorship: Faber was scared to take a stance against book-burning; Montag was happy in his cocoon till Clarisse came; Mildred refused to open her mind to anything but the mindless drivel of the “family”. But Fahrenheit 451 is more positive in its outlook than Animal Farm; there is hope for redemption of human society, there is the possibility that the phoenix will rise again from the ashes. I’ll leave you with Bradbury’s explanation for the book-banning junta that shrieks its disapproval of every book that dares to think out of the box.

So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Read another review at: things mean a lot
Rhinoa's Ramblings
So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Steven's Library Annex

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Monday Movies: The Hulky Hangover

Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth
Directed by: Louis Leterrier

I started this blog to write about books as well as movies, but the movies part of it fell off somewhere by the roadside. I've been watching a lot of movies, but I haven't really written much about them. So I thought I'd make movies a weekly feature.

The Incredible Hulk features Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, the brilliant scientist who, due to a laboratory accident, is pumped full of gamma radiation and transformed into a superhuman green monster, The Hulk. Hiding out in Brazil from the U.S Army, led by his girlfriend Betty Ross' (Liv Tyler) father, General Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt), Bruce tries to find a cure for his condition with the help of the mysterious Mr. Blue. But circumstances don't allow him to stay hidden for long, and he has to return home to fight the Army, the Abomination and above all, himself.

The Hulk series was rebooted with this movie after the Ang-Lee directed 2003 movie didn't do well. I may be the only one who says this, but I found the Eric Bana movie better than this one. The special effects of this movie are probably better and the movie moves at a faster pace due to the numerous action sequences. The Abomination was Godzilla-like, the final Hulk-Abomination confrontation a battle of monsters. But the 2003 movie was more human, more engaging. Bruce's dilemma to stay human or become monster drew me into the story. I love action movies, the more blowing up the merrier, but nowadays I look for story as much as I look for SFX.

I like Edward Norton as Hulk, he portrays the shy, tortured genius quite well, and it was nice watching him on screen after a really long time. His performance in the lab scene, when he transforms into the Hulk and back again, was really cool. But I didn't like Liv Tyler, I thought she was too simpering, more eye candy than anything else. However, the best was Tim Roth as the vengeful, super-soldier Emil Blonsky. A superhero movie is just as good as its villains are, and he was quite the menacing one. But, to me, the Hulk is more about fighting the inner villains more than the outer ones, a topic this movie deals with but doesn't explore quite as well as the first.

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helm, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha
Directed by: Todd Phillips

Doug (Bartha) is getting married, and he and his friends Phil (Cooper), Alan (Galifianakis) and Stu (Helm) go to Vegas for the bachelor party. They wake up in the morning with no memory of the previous night, with a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet, mayhem in the suite and Doug missing. Their search for Doug leads them to the police station, the chapel and Mike Tyson's villa, as they retrace their steps to bring back Doug in time for his wedding.

The movie has like lot of profanity and vulgar cracks, and partial nudity too, so be careful about what you are getting into. I felt grossed out at some of the scenes, especially the Chinese guy in the trunk of the Mercedes. But if you manage to overlook the crudeness, it is really a cool movie. The plot starts off with so many disconnected elements that, at first sight, you feel that any way the writers would wrap up the threads would seem a little silly at the end. But it wasn't. I enjoyed the bit about the tiger in the bathroom and how they return it; it was quite dextrously resolved. It's an action movie without the action;fast-paced and not a dull moment in sight.

The best part about this bromance is that none of the humour was forced. There were none of the corny one-liners which are supposed to make you laugh, but actually make you wince. A movie that seems like one of those generic bachelor-party-gone-wrong movies, but manages to bring something fresh to the table. The actors do a really great job of bringing out the craziness in the situation. Ed Helms was too cool, as the hen-pecked boyfriend who becomes braver and smarter as the movie progresses, ending up as the guy you cheer for. Definitely a movie to watch if you are a guy (and I'll be very surprised if you haven't watched it yet), and for women, well, now you know why guys don't tell you anything about their bachelor parties.

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Random Reading Challenge

I'm right now only reading books from my Guardian Challenge, but I wanted to sign up for The Random Reading Challenge hosted at caribousmom. Here's the blurb.

"Are you stuck in a rut? Do you always find yourself reading from set lists or feeling committed to reading one book while another book screams at you from your TBR mountain? Has your reading become completely scheduled? If so, the Random Reading Challenge may be just the thing to put the spontaneity back into your reading.

For this challenge, readers will be choosing books randomly from their TBR stacks. You may select one of three levels of participation:

Level I:

You are just a tad compulsive about your reading – you love your lists and schedules. Being spontaneous is not something that comes naturally to you. To complete the challenge, force yourself out of your rut and read just six books.

Level II:

You really want to break away from all those lists, but you do still have a responsibility to your reading groups, other challenges and all those review books. Six books is too little, but twelve is too much. Stretch a little and read nine books for the challenge.

Level III:

Throw away the lists, don’t look at your schedule, bring on the joy that comes with the freedom to chose books randomly. Read twelve books for the challenge.

Rules (come on, you didn’t think I would be THAT random did you?!?!?):

  1. NO lists allowed. Books for the challenge are chosen one at a time when the mood strikes.
  2. Sign up at any time during the challenge period using Mr. Linky below. Please give me a direct link to your blog post about the challenge. If you do not have a blog, no worries. Simply enter your name and leave the URL box on Mr. Linky blank.
  3. Book reviews are not required, but if you want to write a review I will be providing a review Mr. Linky after August 1st.
  4. Books are selected one at a time using the following procedure:
  • Randomly select any number of books from either your physical OR your virtual TBR pile (I don’t care how you do this, but it must be random…no “cherry picking” allowed)
  • Assign a number to each book based on how many books you selected (ie: if you selected 14 books, assign each book a number from 1 through 14; if you selected 28 books, assign each book a number from 1 through 28…you get the idea)
  • Go to THIS SITE and use the TRUE RANDOM NUMBER GENERATOR located in the upper right hand corner of the page to randomly select the book you will read. NO CHEATING – whatever the random number generator generates is the book you must read!
  • Each time you select a book for the challenge, you will use this procedure. You many select different books each time, choose a different amount of books each time, etc…have fun, mix it up, keep it random."
I like the idea of this challenge: no predetermined list, no agonizing over what to read next. Just let fate (ok, the random number generator) decide. I'll go with Level II, that is nine books, for this challenge. The challenge runs from Aug 1, 2009 to July 31, 2010, so I have lots of time. I probably will finish my Guardian challenge before starting this one.

What are you waiting for? Sign up for this one if you haven't already; it sounds like a whole lot of fun.

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Sunday Salon: Bookish News

Well, the news that the book world has been buzzing with is Neil Gaiman's winning of the Hugo for The Graveyard Book. Now I really want to have to will read the book, after months of procrastination. I'm also super happy that Wall-E has won, I really loved the movie. Here are all the Hugo winners.
  • Best Novel: The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
  • Best Novella: “The Erdmann Nexus”, Nancy Kress
  • Best Novelette: “Shoggoths in Bloom”, Elizabeth Bear
  • Best Short Story: “Exhalation”, Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two)
  • Best Related Book: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008, John Scalzi
  • Best Graphic Story: Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones, Written by Kaja & Phil Foglio, art by Phil Foglio, colors by Cheyenne Wright
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: WALL-E Andrew Stanton & Pete Docter, story; Andrew Stanton & Jim Reardon, screenplay; Andrew Stanton, director
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Joss Whedon, & Zack Whedon, & Jed Whedon, & Maurissa Tancharoen, writers; Joss Whedon, director
Another bookish article I found was this one about bookshelf etiquette. A witty look at how to arrange your books, especially if you keep adding to the pile at a phenomenal rate. A big thank you to Susan at You Can Never Have Too Many Books for directing me to this article from the New Yorker, about seven essential fantasy reads. It's a fantasy treasure trove, for people like me who have read the standard fantasy authors and want to discover new ones.

On the giveaways side, here are a few I have found:
All About {n} is giving away Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler. Winners drawn Aug 29
The Lateiner Gang is giving away Alvor by Laura Bingham and The Maze Runner by James Dashner till Sept 6
The Neverending Shelf is giving away Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater till Aug 21.
Suzanne McLeod is giving away Fire by Kristin Cashore

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Happy Independence Day

Today, India celebrates its 62nd year of Independence. In celebration of that occasion, I wish every Indian a very Happy Independence Day.

If you have been schooled in India, you couldn't possibly have missed reading the poem "Where the Mind is Without Fear" by Rabindranath Tagore. This simple poem moves me as much today as it did the day I first read it. The plea it makes, to free our minds from the constriction of dogma, is even more relevant today, and I believe that if every self-serving opinionated Indian truly understood this poem, the unrest and mistrust in our country would diminish to minuscule proportions.


Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow
domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought
and action--
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Jai Hind!

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REVIEW India After Gandhi: Ramachandra Guha


A really nice read. Guha chronicles India’s journey from the agonies of Partition through the excesses of Emergency up to the growth of the IT industry.

Guha starts with the events leading up to Independence, then turns to the horrors and heartbreak that Partition brought. He spends a lot of time detailing the Nehruvian era, the challenges of bringing the kingdoms together, of dealing with the unrest and tackling the ever-troubling issue of Kashmir. He then passes on to Indira Gandhi’s age, the times of the Emergency and then on to the modern years.

Every year after 1930, Congress-minded Indians celebrated 26 January as independence Day. However, when the British finally left the subcontinent, they chose to hand over power on 15 August 1947. This date was selected by the viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, as it was the second anniversary of the Japanese surrender to the Allied forces in the Second World War. He, and the politicians waiting to take office, could not wait until the day some others would have preferred-26 January 1948.

So freedom finally came on a day that resonated with imperial pride, rather than nationalist sentiment. In New Delhi, capital of the Raj and of free India, the formal events began shortly before midnight. Apparently, astrologers had decreed that 15 August was an inauspicious day. Thus it was decided to begin the celebrations on 14 August, with a special session of the Constituent Assembly, the body of representative Indians working toward a new constitution.

The British departure from India was just the opposite of their arrival: abrupt and hasty. Whatever their reasons may have been, they gave India and its leaders hardly any time to adapt to the situation, to make a clear roadmap as to how India would be shaped after Independence. Guha paints a picture of a country struggling to eliminate its differences and emerging out of the maze of political and social uncertainties. He writes with a empathetic air, exploring the dilemmas of the first leaders of India and their approach to Partition, mixed economy, world affairs and of course, Jammu and Kashmir.

Guha is obviously an admirer of Nehru, and that shows in his dedicating half of a nearly 800-page book to his reign, though his admiration feels a little like hero-worship at times. I am not enamoured by Nehru's views and policies, and I felt that Guha glosses over his mistakes in his effort to show us a benevolent, well-meaning Prime Minister whose errors in judgement were solely due to others manipulative actions, and not his fault whatsoever. But the picture he depicts of a young country with a million diverse interests, struggling to stay together, touched me deeply. I was a little disappointed at the low coverage given to the 1990s, which I thought was more relevant to the current political situation. His book reads more like a novel rather than a history book, which makes it an entertaining read. He writes clearly and simply, and a lot of research has gone into the writing. I usually avoid non-fiction because they often become heavy, but India After Gandhi engages your interest throughout. It’s a refresher course in Indian history and an absorbing one at that.

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REVIEW Artemis Fowl and the Arctic Incident: Eoin Colfer


I finished The Arctic Incident in one sitting, and I loved it, quite as much as the first. Many a time, sequels fail to live up to the first installment, but this one lived up to expectations.

Artemis Fowl gets a video file showing his lost father kidnapped by the Russian Mafia, and plans his rescue. At the same time, Holly Short uncovers a smuggling racket between goblins and humans, and the fairies suspect Artemis’ hand at play. They haul Artemis and Butler downstairs for interrogation, but discover he is blameless. Artemis strikes a deal with them: he will help them find their traitor if they help him rescue his father. But things hardly go well when Artemis is around, and soon everybody is fighting for their lives and for the fairies’ future.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, the gadgetry in this book simply rocks. I was disappointed with The Lost Colony because it didn’t have much high-tech stuff, but no complaints here. The action proceeds at breakneck speed, lots of running, jumping and all, and Artemis gets his hands dirty as well. Oh, how can you not like a book where a spaceship has to squeeze through a few metres of rapidly expanding (and equally rapidly contracting) rock, with magma flares rushing behind them (which reminded me of the elevator shaft scene in the climax of Hollow Man)? I must admit there wasn’t much of complex plotting as there was in the first, not much strategizing, but it was fun anyways. The characters are well developed, though I thought Artemis didn’t get much of a chance to exercise the criminally genius brain of his. Holly Short is well on the way to being my favorite female character ever, and Diggum’s Oscar fetish will crack you up. An entertaining, adrenaline-filled read, a book for everyone to enjoy.

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Sunday Salon: Book Blogger Appreciation Week

I have been a little lazy posting this up, so here goes. The annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week is going to be held from Sep 14-18, 2009. There is a dedicated website you can visit, lots of giveaways and contests, and many bookish memes too. Here's what the official pitch is.

WHO Anyone who blogs about books is invited to participate. In fact, we want everyone who blogs about books and reading to be a part of this week!
WHAT A week where we come together, celebrate the contribution and hard work of book bloggers in promoting a culture of literacy, connecting readers to books and authors, and recogonizing the best among us with the Second Annual BBAW Awards. There will be special guest posts, daily blogging themes, and giveaways.
WHEN September 14-18, 2009
WHERE Here at the new Book Blogger Appreciation Week Blog! (Please note that this year there are three separate blogs and feeds—one for the main event, one for giveaways, and one for awards.)
WHY Because books matter. In a world full of options, the people talking about books pour hard work, time, energy, and money into creating a community around the written word. I, Amy, the founder of Book Blogger Appreciation Week love this community of bloggers and want to shower my appreciation on you!

This is my first BBAW and I'm looking forward to participating in it. I have really no clue as to what it involves, but I see a lot of enthusiasm among past bloggers. If you are a book blogger, and you haven't joined the BBAWwagon, what are you waiting for? Go check out the site, and join up.

And also, starting this week, I shall be posting on Sunday Salon about different international giveaways and contests across the blogosphere. I've found some great blogs through the giveaways they have held, but I often forget to check back. So the Sunday Salon posts will help me keep track of my giveaway entries, and thus, the wonderful blogs hosting them, so that I can visit again, and help you readers find giveaways you probably missed.

At Home with Books is giving away The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
One Persons Journey through a World of Books is giving away The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory
Peeking between the Pages is giving away Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

Update: I just found out that our mid-term exams are scheduled for the BBAW week. Talk about bad luck! But I will nevertheless try to drop in on BBAW, however short the visit may be.

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REVIEW Brida: Paolo Coelho


I have a lot of pending book reviews, but I thought I’d review this one first because if I leave the review for a few more days, I probably won’t be able to pinpoint what about this book I don’t like. This is seriously one of the weirdest books I have read. Though I got the gist of what Coelho wanted to convey, but I still think it was convoluted and strange.

Brida, a young girl wanting to learn about magic, meets a Magus in Ireland. The Magus recognizes the presence of a Gift in the girl, and agrees to become her Teacher. During the course of her travels, Brida meets Wicca, a witch, who teaches her the Tradition of the Moon. Thus advances her travel into the land of sorcery and spirits, to fulfill the ultimate quest of finding her Soulmate.

The book is essentially about searching and finding The One (as they say in chick-flicks), but it was couched in mystical terms, which I personally didn’t much like. There is much discussion about witchcraft and occult practices, but the descriptions, though wordy, are vague. Coelho’s style of writing remains nice, but the content failed to touch a chord. If I wanted to get an idea about magic, I would be left with a few rituals and not much of an insight into Wiccan practices. The book also talks about plunging in and daring to live your dreams, but as I said before, I didn’t like the mysticism surrounding it. And I also thought this book stretched a little more than necessary; near the end I was checking how many pages I still had left. I guess liking this book depends on taste: the concepts of spirituality propounded wasn’t quite up my road.

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A Halfling Already

It's been six months since I started blogging, and I'm loving every step of the way. I've met a lot of voracious readers who blog earnestly and frequently, and have introduced me to a lot of new books, most of whom I haven't managed to read yet, but have filed away in my memory. Thank you all so much!

I haven't been able to read and review as many books as I wanted to, but I implemented a little change and order in my life that'll help me do just that. Well, I have read and reviewed 31 books, which means an average of 5 books a month. I want to read and review about 10-15 books a month, and I want a little more structure in my reading. I did create a list of blogging goals a couple of weeks ago, but here I'm thinking of setting some targets for my reading as well.

1. Series: I have been starting a lot of series, but rarely have I proceeded beyond the first book. I plan to first finish all the trilogies and cycles that I started, then try to read more of the James Bond and Discworld series.

2. Challenges: I have said this before, and I'll say it again: I can never stick to lists. But I am going to put in a real effort to change that, by signing up for 2 challenges by the end of the year that will streamline my reading pile.

3. Non-fiction: I noticed a serious lack of non-fiction in my reading. So I'm now going to read and review atleast one non-fiction book a month.

4. Award winners: Another thing is that I am very reluctant to start award-winning books. You see, I have a perception that Booker or Nobel-winning books are heavy and boring, and this idea doesn't seem to come unstuck from my mind. So I will try to read a minimum of three prize-winning books in the next six months.

5. New Authors: I have a tendency of sticking to tried-and-tested familiar authors. I want to read works by debut authors, authors who I haven't heard of before. There are many debut books that have received much praise, I so want to read a few of them.

As for the past six months, there are a few books that I loved, those that are very close to my heart. I gushed about them in the reviews, and here they are, my Top 3 reads.
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Kite Runner
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I also started a monthly Author Feature where I write about some authors whose works I have loved. I probably read hundreds of reviews by fellow book bloggers, which added so many books to my TBR pile that I now have an Excel document listing all the books I want to read. That list is like a perpetual reading challenge, books keep getting added (not many subtracted unfortunately). I want to thank all the people who have visited my blog, especially those who stayed to comment, and above all, the entire book blogging community who gave me the inspiration and enthusiasm to write my views down. Thanks everyone, and


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REVIEW City of Bones: Cassandra Clare


I found that Pocket Books were offering a free read of the first instalment in the Mortal Instruments series on their website. Not being one to pass up free offers, and having heard good stuff about this book, I started on it, and finished it in one shot. If you haven’t read it, and are looking for a free copy, it’s been offered on till August 10.

When Clary follows a knife-holding blond boy in a nightclub, little does she know that she’s about to embark on the journey of her life. The boy is Jace, part of a band of demon slayers called Shadowhunters, who are surprised to discover the existence of the Sight in a mundane (similar to a Muggle). When Clary’s mom is kidnapped and Clary nearly killed by a Ravener demon, she is taken by the Shadowhunters to their Institute. There she learns about the racist evil lord Valentine, and discovers the truth about her mom and herself.

“Could I get anything for you?” he asked. “Something to drink? Some tea?”
“I don’t want tea,” said Clary with muffled tone. “I want to find my mother. And then I want to find who took her in the first place, and I want to kill them.”
“Unfortunately,” said Hodge, “we’re all out of bitter revenge at the moment, so it’s either tea or nothing.”

These kinds of witticisms are spread throughout this book, which makes it a fun read. I liked the characterization and the settings of the book: modern and hip interspersed with ancient and mysterious. The book straightaway delves into the action, and doesn’t drag at any point, so it’s a brisk, easy read. There are similarities with a lot of other books: like Harry Potter, only special people can see the demon-hunters, the vampire-werewolf conflict is straight out of the Twilight series. Some things are somehow predictable: I knew Luke was going to be a nice guy, I figured the connection between Valentine and Clary, but others come as a great shock. The Jocelyn-Valentine relationship reminded me of the Cole-Phoebe relationship in the series Charmed, you know, good girl marrying the evil one and then being disillusioned by his cruelty. The book is somewhat like a rollercoaster ride through the urban fantasy jungle, where you come across every sort of creature you can imagine.

I liked Clary, she is sarcastic, has presence of mind and doesn’t need the hero’s crutch at every instant. Jace is your devil-may-care hero, reckless and proud, the sort of hero any teen will fall for. The supporting characters are also quite well thought, and supplement the leads well. The book rushes along at a heady pace, with more twists and turns than you can imagine. The ending is all firecrackers, a tempting hook for the next book. City of Bones is a thrilling action-packed journey, one I enjoyed a lot, and I’m raring so see how it proceeds.

Read another review at: Becky's Book Reviews
Today's Adventure

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REVIEW Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: J.K.Rowling


I had mixed feelings about this book. While I appreciated all the loose ends being tied up quite well, i was a little bored with the way the story dragged, especially in the middle.

Harry, Ron and Hermione plan to leave school to search for the Horcruxes. But it's not an easy road, with Voldemort taking over the Ministry of Magic, forcing them to hide out. A secret wrangled from Kreacher renews their search, but the quest produces deep gashes in their friendship, with Ron leaving Harry and Hermione. And of course, there are the Deathly Hallows, three powerful magical objects Voldemort has his eyes on. Capture by Bellatrix, a breakin of Gringotts, discovery of Dumbledore's darkest secrets, the trio sees them all. The book culminates in an epic battle at Hogwarts, where Harry learns a truth about himself that could decide, once and for all, how the war ends.

While I enjoyed most of the book, I felt the middle portion proceeded pretty slowly. The whole subplot of the trio wandering around and Ron leaving was stretched out for a painfully long while. But I really liked the way she wrapped up the story, brought myriad threads spread out all over the entire series together without tangling them into messy knots. To tell you the truth, I had sneaky suspicions about Harry's secret and the locket's location, and I was excited to have my suspicions confirmed. The Deathly Hallows storyline was thrilling, and I admired her ability to pack in that along with the Horcruxes in the grand scheme of things.

However, there was an element of contrived perfectness in the story. I really expected one of the trio to die, I mean, that would have provided for a bittersweet ending. I was, of course, devastated at Dobby's death, I loved the dear sweet house-elf so much. A lot of other important characters also died, but I somehow felt they didn't have the same impact. One of my friends said, the story is too good to be true, and I somehow felt that way. Also, Voldemort felt so stupid, I mean, he saw nothing coming. I had expected so much more from such a smart villain. The epilogue also struck a discordant note. But if you were to ask me how the book was, I'd say it was quite a read, not as stupendous as my favorite one, but a good one nevertheless.

So, what did you think about the series finale? Did you like the way it was wrapped up?

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Sunday Salon: Reading Preferences

The Sunday
I was a little unsure about what to do for my first Sunday Salon post, so I thought I'd borrow a meme from Booking Through Thursday. It's all about reading preferences, quick answers to some questions.

  • Reading something frivolous? Or something serious? Ans:I like reading serious stuff, but usually I throw in something frivolous to lighten the mood
  • Paperbacks? Or hardcovers? Ans: Paperbacks. They're easy to hold while lying down
  • Fiction? Or Nonfiction? Ans: Fiction, mostly.
  • Poetry? Or Prose? Ans: Prose. I haven't read much poetry.
  • Biographies? Or Autobiographies? Ans: Biographies. I find the life of someone told through a third person's perspective more interesting
  • History? Or Historical Fiction? Ans: Both actually
  • Series? Or Stand-alones? Ans: I love series, because you can follow the characters in a variety of adventures.
  • Classics? Or best-sellers? Ans: I read a lot of best-sellers, but I'd prefer a classic anyday.
  • Lurid, fruity prose? Or straight-forward, basic prose? Ans: Depends on my mood actually. Sometimes I like a lot of description, but again wordiness puts me off at times.
  • Plots? Or Stream-of-Consciousness? Ans: Plots.
  • Long books? Or Short? Ans: I don't really care about the length of the book as long as the writing and story can hook me.
  • Illustrated? Or Non-illustrated? Ans: Non-illustrated. I prefer the words to create the images.
  • Borrowed? Or Owned? Ans: Owned. Actually I'd first like to borrow the book and read it, and then if I really, really love it, I want to own it.
  • New? Or Used? Ans: Used. Though I love the smell and feel of new books, used ones are kinder on the pocket, and have a charm of their own.

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REVIEW Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: J.K. Rowling


This book put me off Harry Potter for a long long time. I wasn't disappointed, I wasn't irritated, I straightforward disliked the book.

After the events in Goblet of Fire, Harry is a bitter, angry person. The wizarding world thinks he's a liar, the Ministry is out to get him and even Dumbledore is avoiding him. And, he has one of his worst Defence Against Dark Arts teachers yet, the squeaky sadistic Umbridge. Harry faces greater challenges than before, including a link to Voldemort's thoughts that could upset his life, culminating in an event that snatches away someone very dear to him.

I got so irritated with this book that I quit after Harry's trial at the Ministry of Magic, and only picked it up a couple of years later when Half-Blood Prince was released, when I thought that maybe I shouldn't leave the series incomplete. I heard that Rowling also got bored while writing the book; it clearly shows in the text. All Harry does in this book is shout, at his friends who patiently (too patiently, I thought) deal with his temper, at his sympathizers and at Dumbledore (at the end). I understand that it was the Voldemort connection that influenced his emotions, but the angst was overkill.

That doesn't mean that Order of the Phoenix doesn't have its moments. I especially loved the part about Fred and George's escape from Hogwarts, and the resulting chaos that followed. Of course, the ending was heartwrenching and affected me a lot; Harry's tragedy felt like my own. I thought that some bits shone brightly amongst the rest, much like a couple of gold blocks floating in a swamp. The swamp could have been trimmed down with some crisp editing, but that was obviously not what happened. It seemed like there was some compulsion for each book to be fatter than the other, because this certainly seemed to be what affected this book. A slimmer, tighter story would have been so much better.

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