Bookworm’s Delight: And The Mountains Echoed

And The Mountains Echoed has a very promising start. A sturdy story line, strong, and lively characters, in terms of their coming to life. Pari and Abdullah are two sibling who love each to death. They live in a village called Shahbagh and barely manage to make ends meet. Trouble arises when their step uncle takes a six year old Pari away in the city. Abdullah is devastated. The foundation of the story is the estrangement of these two siblings; how a single decision can affect lives, spanning around the globe from the smallest village of Afghanistan to California and Greece.

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*spoilers ahead*

That is where the trouble comes. Hosseini introduces a horde of characters, each more forgettable than the last, their lives those small classified ads in newspapers you never bother to read. Their lives are uninteresting, boring and kept me on the verge of dropping the book.

Since there is no definite story line and each chapter tells their life, it is hard to determine what happens to those. Multiples of twists and turns that are not needed, stupidly entangles lives, uninteresting back stories. This one was a let down.

A Thousand Splendid Suns had kept my hopes up, only to see that crash like this. It was a disappointing book.

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Bookworm’s Delight: Gone Girl

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn is a crime fiction that falls short of brilliant because of it’s ending. It is a story of Nick who has a troubled marriage with his wife, Amy. On their fifth marriage anniversary, Amy goes missing in the morning. Everyone suspects Nick. Their are strange searches on his computer, things ordered through his credit card that he didn’t actually order, his wife’s journal that shows she might’ve been afraid of him. Everything is bad for him? He says he didn’t kill her. So where is Amy?

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*spoilers ahead*

Flynn has put a lot of detailing in the characters, each one more complex then the first. Nick is despicable. He is the sort of man you hate, pity and maintain a distance from. You may wonder what his story is, coming across him. Go, Nick’s twin sister, is more of a mother than a sister but possesses a motherly nature that is diffused slowly, without any extreme characterization.

The brilliance of this book is Amy, the pure evil. She’s cunning, manipulative, foxy, extremely smart. She’s s person with multiple identities, a person who has never shown her true face. She camouflages her true self, much of which was because of her parents’ business. They wrote books titles Amazing Amy, loosely based on what a perfect girl should do. Amazing Amy was always what Amy was supposed to be, but fell short of. Amy’s character has levels. She has a criminal mind, much of which has layers that never end. She is delicately complex, intricate in thinking and hard to imagine. She has a killer mind.

Gone Girl is amazing. It’s a peek into a sociopath’s mind. It’s racy. It’s a definite page turner… to disappointment. It’s a bad ending. It’s a good read it you don’t mind an upsetting ending. Still, if you like crime fiction, go for it! The story will stick with you. And movie’s come out too!

Bookworm’s Delight: Animal Farm

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Animal Farm by George Orwell is a masterpiece, and so, I was deeply annoyed when my friends said, “It’s such a children’s book.” It is a simple book, with a message that even adults fail to decipher.

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

The story begins with the Major, an old and a widely respected boar, who moments before his death proclaims that all animals must get rid of Jones, their owner, rebel to overthrow human tyranny and establish the ‘Republic of Animals’. Under the leadership of Snowball and Napoleon, two pigs, the animals begin to fight for there rights, until it’s not about their rights, but about power. Who wins, and who loses is what the entire novella narrates. It’s the story of a rebellion gone wrong.

The story-line is brilliant, the language easy, and the characters relatable, not not in physical form. It describes in true innocence the ugly truth behind power, the hypocrisy of living being, both animals and humans, and the extent that living beings can go to in order to obtain what they want.

Orwell has been a clever man, because he manages to describe, with success, the true nature of humans, with the help of simple characters.

This book ends with a simple sentence that sums up entire novel perfectly.

“Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

Bookworm’s Delight: The Book Thief

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Markus Zusac’s novel, A Book Thief is set in Nazi Germany at the brink of the second world war. It traces the story of Liesel Meminger and her life on the poor outskirts of Munich. The copy that I own has a very vague and intriguing opening that is:

This is the tale of the book thief,
as narrate by death.
And when death tells you a story,
you really have to listen.

Needless to say, it had me biting on my nails, at least on what is left of them. It is a book that reduces the stone-hearted to tears with its not so kind description of death, during those years. The Book Thief is raw, its real and its believable. It has the Fuhrer, it has hiding Jews, it has a quite a lot of deaths, and of course, thievery. It’s from the heart. It’s pure. It’s painfully angry and it resonates with people at a common level.

It transforms initial childishness to mature decisions smoothly, without disturbing the story. It is a very explicit imagery of the civilian lifestyle in the world war. It creates a very pitiable character of death. “I am haunted by humans.” Its very thrilling closing line. It made me ponder. And considering Liesel’s life, its probably the best statement you can finish a book like this. The most important feature of this book is how the author managed to retain Death’s essence throughout the story. It is felt throughout the story. Its pain at being everywhere at all the time, gently carrying the souls and trying to vindicate the assumption that even death has a heart. It’s everywhere. And finally, I’d just like to clear up, its NOT a political or a boring book, but a normal fictional book.

In all, it is a really heart touching book, which would be a shame to miss. So, grab your copy and enjoy this 580-paged novel, with popcorn and a handkerchief.

Books: The Ultimate Soulmate

“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” – Mark Twain

I like reading books. I love them. I love the idea that simple words we use everyday, can create a magical world, hidden in the clouds, or under the sea, in the forest or maybe, just inside the wall next to your bed. Your books may leave you in a world of fantasy for, maybe, a month, or may give you another reason to not read. The same books may change your entire prospective or deepen your believe further. These little words printed on paper, spin themselves to create a world from which, in most cases, escape doors are hard to find. It is the same words that made me read 5 books in 9 days. And to be truthful, I am proud of this endeavor. Yes, quite a feat actually.

I read the Hunger Games: Trilogy (which I got very cheap for just Rs.600 from Flipkart, very cheap), then I read The Undomestic Goddess, and finally, Those Pricey Thakur Girls. Frankly, I am full of surprise that someone can twist a story as well as Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games). I even enjoyed The Undomestic Goddess, but Those Pricey Thakur Girls turned out to be a disappointment. I think it was a wee bit spicy for my taste.

Before I say more, let me narrate to you, how my love affair with books started. It was the red- colored ‘Famous Five’ that caught my attention at a stationary shop in my tenth (not sure) year of existence on the earth. And down on my knees I went, begging my father to buy me the one book I wanted. Everyone at my house, my pa, grandpa, and my aunts, all read books. It turned out to be quite sorrowful for my father later, when he realized that I had not inherited a single gene from that department. So he made hay while the sun shined and bought me the book, which, of course, I read and loved. I read two more books from the same series and that is when I discovered that there is a huge world out there, with many people, who have nothing else to do, writing books. Roald Dahl, R.L Stine, Ruskin Bond were some of the early authors read. Just as my interest in books grew, so did my collection, which now covers an entire wall in the smallest room of our house (not all books are mine; some are dad’s while some are as old as my grand dad).

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This is my first love. No matter how old I become, no matter how gloomy the day may seem, no matter if the world is fighting the WWIII, these printed papers always manage to take my mind of things and carry me to London, to study at Hogwarts, or some fifty million years later to Panem, to attend the Hunger Games, of before the birth of Christ to witness the fight between Shiva and Daksha. And I might just add, even if you feel morose, and the only flicker of hope had died away, the yellow, rusty and smelly old pages of your favorite books will surely make you smile and crinkle up the edges of your eyes. Books are that escape from the world that even a migration to, say, Pluto, won’t provide.

You may not have any money in your wallet, but books travel with you, along with all the characters in the story, and don’t ask for payment.  I know this sounds insane, but I can tell you exactly where the Starbucks in London is, or how large is the Central Park in New York and where the lake is, or maybe, where Rusty had his first kiss, in Dehra. It’s all because I read stories based there (God forbid, my father plans a trip there). Books, like people, don’t ask favors, but just keep unrolling the stories they carry, collected from many places, without  a stop, and without any moment’s hesitation grab your hand and mind and pull you on board in this journey called Life. Books are companions for life, just as C.W.Eliot says:

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

For people, whose lovers betrayed them, for husbands, whose wives are dead and wives whose husbands have gone the same way. For children who could never meet there parents, or to parents whose children have stopped caring for them, books provide the ultimate retreat. The people feel the connect to characters like Harry (orphaned), Rusty (abandoned), Katniss/Peeta (uncared) or going into old classics, Romeo and Juliet (loved, hated and finally killed) or the ancient mariner (whose regret was much harder to carry than to live life) or Ullin’s daughter (whose father failed to understand her love for the chieftain) are just to name a few. People reach out at an emotional level with character so heart melting and thus, feel the need to not just read, but also know more.

And you know, the best things about books? They let us create our world. They don’t dictate our imagination. For instance, Rowling’s description of the castle, “Hogwarts a vast stone castle, with many turrets and towers. It sits high on a cliff, overlooking the grounds, the lake and the forest. The ceiling of the Great Hall, where the students and staff gather for meals and other events, is bewitched to look like the sky outside,” shows that the person is free to image that the ceiling to be ten stories high, or twenty stories high and so on. The person is free to picture that the ceiling may be wooden or plastic or steel, or may be none at all and just pure magic that doesn’t let rain wet the seated. And also they make good bathroom reads.

So be it sunshine or rain, droughts or flood, happy times or sad times, books survive all. So whenever you are feeling blue, just remember that you always have someone to turn to. Because, nothing is better than having a hot coffee mug in your hands, perched up on the big armchair, and smell and see and feel and read you favorite book and move on.