Author Websites : Fantasy

After the book, the website is the author's window to the world. Since fantasy involves flights of creativity, fantasy authors' websites are also expected to be as innovative as their imagination. I picked out some of my favorite author websites out of the few I've seen.

1. Cornelia Funke:
I am yet to read any of her books, but if they are as nice as the website, I'm sure I'll love them. The homepage is well-designed, with cute little animations. Along with the standard author bio and bibliography, there is a comprehensive FAQ section, a Guestbook, photos and a well-updated News section.

2. J K Rowling:
One of my most-visited fantasy author sites. The site works on flash, and is designed to look like a study table. A special thing about the site is that Rowling has hidden lots of clues among the items lying around, and finding the items and linking them will earn you prizes, such as snapshots of her notes, which will then be stored in your scrapbook. The site has been neglected for a long time, with no updates since the release of Deathly Hallows.

3. Ursula K Le Guin:
The queen of fantasy has one of the most well-maintained websites. There are links to her writing and her essays, interviews and onsite work. She also has a section dedicated to upcoming writers (especially those of fantasy and science fiction) where she gives insight into her writing process and tips on manuscript preparation and contracts. A website for fans and aspiring authors alike.

Special mention- Terry Pratchett:
His website is like a scroll opening into the Discworld. It follows the standard format, but I especially liked the 'Wit and Wisdom' quotes on every page. I actually kept refreshing the homepage to read more.

When I decided to write this article, I naturally went first to J R R Tolkien's page They are at present in the process of redesigning the website, but from the opening flash sequence, I have a little feeling that it will turn out to be as awesome as Lord of the Rings. Keep your eye on it.

Have I missed your favorite fantasy author websites? Sites you thought were absolutely cool? Do tell me about them. Have fun checking these sites out.

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REVIEW The Supernaturalist: Eoin Colfer


The Times called it " The Matrix crossed over with Oliver Twist". It's not very far off the mark. This futuristic novel was a pretty good read, and the open ending has me waiting for the next one, which is supposedly in the works.

Supernaturalist's hero Cosmo Hill is an orphan, used as a lab rat for dangerous products, in the Clarissa Frayne Institute for Parentally Challenged Boys, in the heart of Satellite City. He is always looking out for a way to escape, and his chance is presented by a glitch in the satellite which controls the city. He nearly loses his life escaping from a Squeers-like guard, but is saved by a trio of outcasts calling themselves Supernaturalists. His near-death experience gives him the ability to see supernatural creatures called Parasites, who supposedly suck the life-force out of injured or dying people. Cosmo teams up with the motley crew of kids to fight the Parasites, which consists of eluding weapon-toting lawyers, blasting invisble blue monsters, taking space walks and making friends for life.

Colfer takes Dotheboys Hall and throws it into a dystopian future, kicking off one cool teen sci-fi novel. The tech stuff mentioned throughout the book are imaginative, the writing action-packed, with a sarcastic vein running through. One thing I liked about the hero was that he was quite perceptive, unlike other books where I have been like, "Oh my God, you idiot! Isn't that thing like blindingly obvious?" My vote: go read it.

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And the Oscar goes to...Slumdog Millionaire

The votes are in...the result is out. Slumdog is the proud winner of 8 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. A.R.Rehman has brought joy to a billion-plus hearts by bagging Oscars for both categories he was nominated in: Best Original Song and Best Original Score.

Slumdog is a mix of Oliver Twist and Peter Pan: stark reality interposed with fairytale fantasy. Jamal's story from rags to riches is captivating, but doesn't really have repeat value (I got bored when I watched it a second time). I absolutely loved the 45-odd minutes of the story when the child actors dominated the scene. They were brilliant, realistic and cute(especially young Salim). Their introductory scene, with the 'Jai Ho' song, was very well filmed. My favourite scenes: young Jamal jumping into the shitpit, teenage Jamal conning the foreign tourists at the Taj, young Jamal and Salim snatching food atop a train. Older Jamal and Latika weren't really convincing; to me, their chemistry seemed forced.

I can't say I am totally happy with the product that Slumdog is. My complaint is not that it peddles poverty and shows India in a bad light. On the contrary, the movie just touches on the fringes of what Dharavi really is. The conditions of the beggars is a reality, and "slumdog" is a way nicer slur than some of the swearwords you get to hear on the streets. I just think that the story is way too implausible. If you show the reality in slums, you are expected to continue the realism in the rest of your story as well. You can't have one-third of the movie in Hindi, and then suddenly have Jamal switch to speaking impeccable English with a Brit accent. Jamal's answers to most of the questions were logical, but his getting the final answer right despite his not knowing it was a tad too much. But I must say, Slumdog did deserve atleast 5 out of the 8 Oscars it won. Kudos to them and three cheers to Rehman!!

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REVIEW The Broker: John Grisham


We all love Mario Puzo for his mafia chronicles, Frederick Forsyth for his spy thrillers and John Grisham for his legal dramas. So when an author decides to diversify, the end-product usually turns out to be uninspiring( codeword for lame). The book starts off with this handicap, and never really recovers.

The Broker has Joel Backman, a once-influential Washington power broker, as its protagonist. After spending six years in jail for peddling software for a powerful foreign spy satellite system, he is granted a pardon in the dying hours of a lame-duck presidency. The CIA hides him in Italy, with a plan to release his location at an appropriate time and monitor who kills him, which will lead them to the country where the satellite originated.

The book essentially reads like a travel guide to Bologna, with free Italian lessons thrown in. Backman's escape is ridiculously simple, and it is difficult to believe that he manages to flee from the clutches of the Mossad, the CIA and the Chinese. The Chinese assassin, once introduced, is left hanging in the loop with nothing to do. The whirlwind world of lobbying and cutting deals is not explored in much detail, and the ending is an anti-climax. As a humble reader, I suggest Mr. Grisham stick to the legal world and not enter the espionage one.

One advantage of reading this book: I now know what to order at an Italian restaurant (though I may not be able to pronounce it correctly). My review: a book only for die-hard Grisham fans.

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Reading on a Budget

Being a student, I can't afford to just go out and buy whatever book catches my fancy: I'd be broke all the time. But I can't let go of the reading habit as well. I had to find a balance, discover alternative reading sources.

  1. Library: By far, the best source of books, and the cheapest. This isn't working for me right now since my college library has next to nothing in terms of non-academic stuff, and a proper lending library is quite far from my campus, but my experience with British Council back home has been a good one. While scouting libraries, check out their collection before you sign up. Use family offers: they let you borrow more books along with dvds, vcds etc, with fees only slightly higher than individual borrower.
  2. Ebooks: The Internet is a veritable goldmine of books. Project Gutenberg, which has 25000 free ebooks, is a great place to start, as is the Google Books (though pages are usually missing in Google Books). Torrent sites, Scribd and Rapidshare are good places for the latest books, but may contain pirated stuff. Hostel students can check out the college LAN network for some great finds.
  3. Network with friends: Set up a book-sharing network with your friends. You'll be surprised at what you get. Some great books I got this way: Kite Runner, Catcher in the Rye, Catch-22.
  4. Second-hand stores: If you really want to buy a book, and don't really care if it's used or not, check out the roadside shops, second-hand stores, end-of-year sales etc for really good deals.
Almost all the books I have read in the last five years have come through one or more of these ways. Share your stories about reading on a budget, let me know what tips I have missed.

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NYT Bestsellers: Associate with Obama

Top of the pops on the New York Times Bestseller lists are John Grisham's The Associate and Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father. Well, there are more, but these are the ones I really want to read.

Grisham treads on familiar land in his story about an idealistic law-school graduate forced to take a job at a large law firm with a brutal work schedule. Grisham dissects corporate culture in his trademark good-vs-evil-struggle style. Gotta read the book to see if he delivers.

Obama's book is one I really want to read. His story of growing up in a cultural melting pot as the son of a Kenyan father and an American mother is much spoken about. If he writes as well as he speaks, this book is one for the bookshelf.

Now Reading: Casino Royale-Ian Fleming
The Broker-John Grisham

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A Memento of Ghajini

MEMENTO- Starring Guy Pearce, Joe Pantoliano, Carrie-Anne Moss
GHAJINI-Starring Aamir Khan, Asin, Jiah Khan

When I saw Ghajini, I found its plot with more holes than Bush's Iraq invasion plan. Then I applied the action movie standard to it, and the story started to seem plausible. The movie is about a man suffering from short-term memory loss, who is out to avenge the murder of his girlfriend. In an industry where total amnesia is the norm, short-term memory loss is a new concept and handled quite ok, but the director seems to have clubbed anterograde amnesia with retrograde amnesia. I liked the climactic scene where Aamir has killed Ghajini's henchmen, but then his 15-minute window closes and he forgets why he us there, curiously walking up to Ghajini, who is hiding from him. The love story with Aamir and Asin is fresh. Aamir's acting and his howls seemed a little demented, Jiah Khan was shrill, and the villain a caricature, even by Bollywood standards. Elements of the movie which stand out (not always in a good way): Aamir's killing machine act, his pointy ears, a fully-clothed Jiah Khan, the Behka song. I have just one thing to say: DON'T compare it with Memento. Ghajini is a regular Bollywood action-packed masala, it's just a couple of ingredients that differ.

Memento, directed by Christopher Nolan, is unconventional. It is difficult to grasp at first viewing as it doesn't follow a linear narrative. Guy Pearce plays a cop affected by short-term memory developed after being hit on the head when his wife was attacked, and maintains a system of Polaroids and tattoos to record information and catch the supposed killer. This is where similarities with Ghajini end. Pearce's 15-minute memories are depicted in reverse chronological order in colour, while black-and-white scenes follow forward narrative. Both narratives alternate, and mesh in the climax as a single color scene. I liked how Sammy's story tied in with the cop's life, and how Pearce planned his revenge. Memento is a puzzle which the viewer has to solve, and the unravelling of the puzzle is riveting.

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"Happy" Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day may have nothing whatsoever to do with the original Saint Valentine, but even he would be shocked to learn that it has been held up by a certain section of people as an "international conspiracy against Indian culture" . It was the Shiv Sena yesterday, the Ram Sene today and God knows which army tomorrow. As of writing this post, a crackdown on Ram Sene has ensured that no untoward incidents have happened, but these events beg a larger question: how come these guys are allowed to roam around even after assaulting innocent people, while the ordinary junta get arrested just for slandering Sonia Gandhi.

Animal Farm put it succintly: All are equal, but some are more equal than others. If tomorrow someone went and beat up Pramod Mutalik saying that he posed a threat to personal freedom, he wouldn't see the the outside of a prison cell for the rest of his life, but the aforesaid person can orchestrate his 'protection of Indian culture' charade without interruption. But for the really crucial issues of bijli, sadak, paani and suraksha, the lion is nowhere to be seen. Mr Mutalik, did you read the part of every Hindu text where it tells you to treat every woman with respect as you would treat your mother, or the portion where it asks you to respect other cultures? Nowhere does it give you, or anyone else for that matter, the authority to act as custodian for Indian culture. Can you blame today's youth for losing faith in the system, when the system itself is Orwellian in nature?

A large portion of the blame for the current situation can be put on the media. When the press heard of the Mangalore pub incident, they rushed to the spot before alerting the police, so that they could get the footage of the assault. The rise of Mutalik and his cronies can solely be attributed to the television agencies. Every intelligent person knows that Mutalik's actions are publicity stunts, so what is the point of throwing meat before the hungry lion by repeatedly airing his comments, holding "discussions" and garnering "expert opinions"? If half of this airtime or energy were to be spent in serious exposes... But who will chase the hidden truths, when cheap freebies are available everywhere?

Valentine's Day is also my friend's birthday, so Happy Birthday to her. My best wishes to all the couples for whom this day is an occasion to celebrate their love and togetherness. My only regret today: I won't see the Ram Sene chief's face when his pink chaddies are delivered to him.

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REVIEW The Kite Runner:Khaled Hosseini


After a couple of dreary months reading totally forgettable stuff, finally a book which reaffirms my faith in good writing. Yes, if you think I am sadly behind the times, I am. Seriously, it's not my fault. But I finally read it. And read it again. And plan to read it atleast five more times. What a book! Amir's journey from cowardice to courage mirrors the story of his country, Afghanistan, from prosperity to poverty.

For those of you who still haven't got around to reading the book, The Kite Runner follows the life of Amir, the son of a rich businessman in Kabul, and his brave friend Hassan, his low-caste servant's boy. Amir is desperate to gain the attention of his Baba, and enters the local kite-flying tournament, with the loyal Hassan by his side. The tournament affects their lives in more ways than they expect, with Amir being a silent witness to an act that leaves him shamed forever. Unable to face Hassan anymore, he frames him for theft, driving him out of their home and shattering their friendship forever. The Soviet invasion forces Amir and his father to flee to America, but neither the passing years nor his new life can assuage his guilt. A chance for redemption draws him back to war-torn Afghanistan, where he faces the ghosts of his past and tries to make amends for his mistakes.

Hosseini's writing feels like a Persian carpet- intricate and velvety. This is only the second book by an Islamic author I have read, but the similarities are distinct-subtle, vivid imagery, poetic flow of prose. His descriptions of Hassan's and Amir's friendship is poignant, the images of Kabul, then and now, are rendered beautifully. Amir's betrayal of Hassan, his final confrontation with Assef, Sohrab flying a kite with Amir, some of my favorite scenes. You feel angry at Amir's spinelessness and choke at Hassan's selfless love. To me, the story was not very novel; I have seen versions of it in many Bollywood movies. But the way he told it simply blew my mind away.

Oh, by the way, skip the movie. One, the actors (except maybe for Baba and Rahim Khan), were not how I pictured them. The acting was wooden, and grown-up Amir looked more like a Lux model. Two, lots of stuff edited out, others condensed, making you feel like you are watching a hurriedly made docu-summary. It just doesn't touch you the way the book does. Beg, borrow or buy (try not to steal), but read the book.

Read another review at: Dog Ear Diary
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?
Ramya's Bookshelf

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Vamos Rafa!!

After exams, it's usually back to books for me, the non-academic kind. But the Australian Open (which I missed due to aforementioned exams) was too good to be ignored. So it's tennis time. And Rafa time!

The Federer-Nadal final was supposed to be epic, but frankly, it didn't match up to my expectations. I came expecting Star Wars, got Hitchhiker's Guide instead. Don't get me wrong, Federer is a great player, but his greatness sort of took a vacation on Sunday. Maybe it was the pressure of Slam No.14, but whatever it was, Nadal simply outclassed him. I mean, the way he caved in during the fifth set, despite beating Nadal 6-3 in the previous set, made no sense to me. Seems that the record and ranking is going to be way out of Fedex's hands if he keeps crumbling like this, 'coz rest assured, he's gonna to come across Nadal quite a few times.

The Nadal-Verdasco semis, a wholly different ballgame there. Each made the other slave for virtually every point. Three crackling tie-breakers, and the number of deuces probably exceeded the number of curses used in Departed. Nadal's stamina is amazing; after chasing Verdasco's returns all around the court for a gruelling 5 hours, he still managed to get the upper hand over Federer, another 4-hour 5-setter. I guess the bananas help.

Roger, don't lose heart;the year has just started. Verdasco, I hope to see your forehand again. And Rafa, you are my favorite. You ROCK!!!

P.S. Laksh, thanks for reintroducing tennis to me.

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Here's where it begins

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside, it is too dark to read.
-Groucho Marx

Groucho got it right. I love to read. Anything. Everything. Yeah, I know, saying that reading books is your hobby is a cliche, much like the villains in Bond movies, but for me, it's a way of life. In this blog, you will find lots of commentary on books I read and movies I watch, sprinkled with general stuff about college, and served with sarcasm. Engineering college doesn't give much scope for reading (don't get me started on the variety, or lack of it, in our library), so posts may be sporadic, but they will be long. Stay around, see what you like.

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