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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Two mini reviews - To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Toni Morrison's Sula

Harper Lee's book has got umpteen good reviews. I had read the book when I was college age but had completely forgotton the story. I think that some classics have to be read or rather re-read once one has got older, wiser and maybe more street smart! It certainly created more impact for me at this age than it did before.

Narrated by a six year old (a bit precocious it seems right from the start) but attributed to being brought up by a "different" kind of father, no mother, and a substitute mother figure in the form of Calpurnia! Scout forgets half the time she is a girl and it is only at the latter part of the book that this realization does set in. The story set in a small town in Alabama with its deep seated prejudices and small town failings also illustrate the implacable unwritten laws in society which you would break at great peril. Very few would dare to do so. One of them is the twin's father - Atticus - who tries to right a wrong unsuccessfully in the face of overwhelming public opinion against him, of a society that thinks only in black and white literally and figuratively and cannot think of any shade in between.

For a non American, the book is an eye opener of the prejudices that prevailed in small town America. It also sets a pace of small town life and how easy it is for two happy children who grow up well cushioned from the harsh realities of life. The twins life to a great extent influenced by their father who has very idealistic ideas of right and wrong and how tough it is for children when they do realize that there is a harsher world out there.

This is a must read specially for those not born in America!!!

My next book was different - again set in a small town called Medallion in Ohio. Two young African American women face a future which is changing. A change which is huge for them - from a subservient society into which they were born, they will see the beginning of a Change. One of the girls goes away into the big world and returns ten years later to find that change has not come to Medallion as much as she expected. There is a lot of very heavy emotion in the story - a fair amount of tragedy and the effort made to maintain a friendship depite overwhelming odds. The question of morality is portrayed in different ways where one is made to question what exactly does morality mean as it means different things to different people.

This was my first foray into Morrison and this was not an easy read for me. Disturbing but not easy.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Non book blogging post - more wedding pictures

I am such a dunce where the technical aspects of blogging are concerned that I still have not got around to posting the pictures with relevant captions! so sorry that photos will be appearing without explanations.

The photographs so far relate to the Hindu function of my daughter's wedding. The Catholic part of the wedding will follow!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A few book reviews - really mini ones!. Sarah Waters, Philippa Gregory & Roopa Farooki

In the midst of wedding preparations which seem to have overtaken everything in the house more like a typhoon and a whirlwind combined, my sanity is being saved only by my reading habit.

Affinity - Sarah Waters was a book I brought back from Chennai. I am so glad I did. It took me a bit to get into the swing of the book but I never could see which way it was going to turn out. I was of course wanting a happy ending for Margaret who seemed to have got the wrong end at every turn from her family, other than her beloved father but fairy tale endings dont happen all the time. I never imagined the last few chapters the way it unfolded and this is Waters clever, clever use of plot, imagery and creativity. This is my second book of this author and both have involved me in different ways. The story lingers in your mind as the imagery is so very vivid, long long after the book is over.

The Little House - Phillippa Gregory. I have always associated this author with historical fiction. I did not even know he wrote about ordinary, normal people living in the present times! The book dealt with the relationships of families, the ties that bind and that can also destroy and how insular we can become in looking at a situation purely from an angle that would be advantageous only to us. This is a story that anyone who likes family sagas should read. Its not a big book, can be finished in one go (which I did) and its unputdownable! You want to know how it is going to finish. An unexpected rather dramatic end which solves quite a few problems very neatly!!!! I hope this is a teaser for anyone who reads this post to go look for this book.

My final book was Roopi Farooki's Corner Shop. I like stories of immigrants settling down in another country, the stories that evolve out of these uprootings and I did think that this was what I was going to get. Though the book starts with Bangladesh immigrant Zaki and Nadya the story is simply one of a young man achieving his dream of playing football for England. A very ordinary dream for so many young men and how Lucky achieves this - the family behind him, his own life and the relationships involved in reaching this milestone are the crux of the story. The book was different - it never emphasised the immigrant background - it was very matter of fact over it in fact and the storyline of Lucky's success and achieving his dream was the highlight. A different read.

I think I have done quite well with the reading but that is only because I cant sleep!! Am now in the middle of a P D James so that should be next.

Friday, August 20, 2010

This and that!

I have been sick as a dog with flu like symptoms which doesn't help when one has a wedding happening next week. On top of that the internet connection at home is just not working and that really leads to a load of blogging stuff that does not get done on time.

On a book note - I had disastrous news. For about six months I have been entering book contests which allow a US mailing address and have won over a dozen books. I entered competitions only when I was really dying to read these books and was over the moon when I won. My cousin was willing to bring the books back with her when she returned from the States after her daughter's wedding. For my misfortune luggage was overweight (no Sri Lankan can travel within the restricted amount allowed by airlines - its a genetic fault) and all my books got offloaded. So all my book wins are lying at Boston airport where I do hope someone will read them!!!!

I was featured today on Leeswamme's blog as part of her round the world blogger interviews. As a result I also got two new followers and I would love to welcome them here.

Back to blogging properly once the wedding is over.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Two mini reviews - Georgette Heyer's Royal Escape and The Conqueror

I have not been doing so well on the reading front mainly because of work involving my daughter's wedding. It has involved quite a bit of waiting around in various places and that is how these two books were read.

Royal Escape deals with the "daredevil king" Charles II. The book expects us to know some history of the period and is more or less an account of his escape from England to France in the face of adversity and secrecy - having to escape the all pervasive Cromwell spies who were looking for him all over the countryside. It depicts the loyalty of the King's followers who were willing to risk everything to assist their King.

The main character of the book is Charles who is at times shown as being brash or fearless in turn, uncaring of his fate at times and quite despondent at the other but all the time quite certain that he will escape and that he will return as King. Minor characters are shown in the form of his supporters and especially two women - one young and falling in love with Charles, the other older and a bit of a slut! The other characters of the book are loyal, die hard Royalists.

The book for me was different from the usual - more biography and historical with just a dash of romance. An interesting light read.

The next book was The Conqueror. This though set in Norman times was more of the usual style of Heyer. The story of a bastard son who made himself King and the arrogant lady who won his heart.

The book uses a lot of old style language which may be difficult to assimilate but adds to the flavor of the book. It deals with history in more detail than her other books and would be interesting to those who like historical fiction.

William and Matilde are a couple of the main characters with Raoul (a fictitious character) also being given prominence in the story. This book was a little more detailed than her others and sometimes made the following of the story complicated. It deals with William from his birth to his coronation and that is a lot of history to cover in a small book!

As usual Heyer's attention to detail is flawless. Both books are different to her normal Regency romances which are such fun to read but the books were very good in a different way.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chennai - wedding shopping and books

Returned from Chennai exhausted. It was a whirlwind shopping trip - it was very hot,
humid and very crowded. I did not know until I hit the shops that it was sale time.
Aadi is very big in Chennai - not at all in Sri Lanka - amongst Hindus that is, so it took me unawares. I was delighted of course with the discounts!!!

3 years ago my favourite shop was Pothy's - it was under construction at the time. The shop was enormous at the time and seemed to have the widest range of saris, and churidars ever. Now it is ginormous. It covers saris, churidars, lehngas (all forms of dress for those of you who dont know), mens wear of every color and style - ethnic and western, children's wear of every kind, jewellery of every imaginable kind
and so much more. I finally spent the whole day at Pothy's and collected practically
everything needed for the bride, the groom, the priests, the page boys, the bridesmaids in fact for everyone including myself!

My shopping at Landmark - the bookshop of Chennai - was for just an hour and it had to be a quick choice. I went for The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Sarah Waters Affinity and someone whom I have wanted to read for a very long time Roopa Farooki and her book Corner Shop.

Reading of course is on the backburner right now, though I am visiting blogs and reading through book reviews. Hopefully I will get back to my books and to my quilting soon.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Two mini reviews -The Amber Room - Steve Berry and Shiva's Arms by

My computer troubles still do not seem to end! I tried to upload the cover of this book and failed!!!

The Amber Room has been around for a longtime though I just read it. A sort of historical fiction thriller would be the best way I could describe the book. It revolves around a Nazi scheme of robbing/hiding antiquities - one of which is the famous Amber Room. The only people knowledgeable about its whereabouts are Karol (now an American citizen) and Chapaeva still living in his native land. Both are determined not to even think of the Amber Room's existence as so many have died in their search for this. At the same time you get a group of seven billionaires whose one job it seems is collecting antiques of every kind for their personal pleasure and in a seemingly one upmanship of getting more than you! This is the basic bones of the story.

Add to this a romantic reunion, a couple of unsolved and seemingly unrelated murders, a transatlantic chase covering several countries and you have a thriller which was very interesting.

The next book is Shiva's Arms by Cheryll Snell. This was a win from Bookloverreview and was a light read. The story deals with a traditional Tamilian boy from India who marries an American girl. The difficulties of dealing with extended families is the main theme of the book for me because there is no idea of personal space or privacy in such large extended families. The idea is so alien to them because it is the family and saving face for the family that is important. The individual works for the family good and also to better the position of those within the family. Alice the American wife seems to bend over backwards to comply with all the requests of this Indian family and especially the mother in law who until the very end gives her daughter in law a very tough time.

I do hope people who read this book do not think that the situation is absolutely typical of an Indian family because I doubt that it is so!!! Family ties (and more importantly absolute obedience to a patriarch or matriarch of a family) may be more important in Asia than in the West, but I doubt that it is so rigidly marked as it was in this book. The fact that most people think that the West is paved in gold is old hat now and I doubt that unless in a very rural area, that people would still hold on to that view.

Reading as an Asian (and just a hop and a skip away from Tamilnadu) for me the book was a very lighthearted read. Thank you Joanne for sending the book on to me.

By the way I am leaving for Chennai this afternoon and looking forward to shopping -amongst other things books head my list!