Book Reading Challenge 2017

Okay… I am 3 months late to join the bandwagon, and that makes this challenge more difficult to overcome, but here are the books that I am planning to read this year:

  1. A book recommended by a Librarian – I don’t know any librarian. So if you are a librarian, please recommend a book in the comment section.
  2. A book that has been on your TBR list for way to long  – The Vegetarian (by Kang Han)
  3. A book of letters – Berlin Diary: The journal of a foreign correspondent, 1934-1941 (by William L. Shirer)
  4. An audiobook – Enemy at the gates – The battle of Stalingrad (by William Craig)
  5. A book by a person of color – Half of a yellow sun (by C N Adichie)
  6. A book with one of the four seasons in the title – A Midsummer Night’s Dream (William Shakespeare)
  7. A book that is a story within story – Inkheart (by Cornelia Funke)
  8. A book with multiple authors –
  9. An espionage thriller –
  10. A book with a cat on the cover –
  11. A book by an author who uses a pseudonym –
  12. A bestseller from a genre you don’t normally read – You were my crush – till you said you love me (by Durjoy Dutta)
  13. A book by or about a person who has a disability –
  14. A book involving travel –
  15. A book with a subtitle –
  16. A book that’s published in 2017 –
  17. A book involving a mythical creature –
  18. A book you’ve read before that never fails to make you smile –
  19. A book about food –
  20. A book with career advice –
  21. A book from a non human perspective –
  22. A steampunk novel –
  23. A book with a red spine –
  24. A book set in the wilderness –
  25. A book you loved as a child –
  26. A book by an author from a country you’ve never visited – Band of Brothers (by Stephen E Ambrose)
  27. A book with a title that’s a character’s name –
  28. A novel set during wartime –  A Tale of Two Cities (by Charles Dickens)
  29. A book with an unreliable narrator –
  30. A book with pictures – Diary of a Wimpy Kid (by Jeff Kinney)
  31. A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you –
  32. A book about an interesting woman –
  33. A book set in two different time periods –
  34. A book with a month or day of the week in the title –
  35. A book set in a hotel – The Shining (by Stephen King)
  36. A book written by someone you admire –
  37. A book that becomes a movie in 2017 –
  38. A book set around a holiday other than Christmas –
  39. The first book in a series you haven’t read before – Guilty Pleasures – Anita Blake : Vampire Hunter#1 (by Laurell K. Hamilton)
  40. A book you bought on a trip –

So, for now I could decide only so many titles which I would like to complete this year. As I would reach closer to my goal, I will add more books for this challenge.

Are you participating in any Reading Challenge for 2017?

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A Kafkaesque Love Story

Even after all the precautions, Shruti was able to find me in Bangalore in 7 months. She was right in front of my door, banging it, calling out my name. ‘True love indeed it is’, I thought as the flimsy latch gave way to Shruti’s relentlessness.  Sitting on the only bed in the room, I looked up at her frame. My absence had taken a toll on her gentle frame. The darkness under her eyes and its puffiness had their tale of sleepless nights and sobs  to tell. ‘How could you Sambit?’ Shruti demanded to know, “How could you leave me alone?”.

Kafka…”,  I replied with great difficulty and an uneasy smile.

***** 2 Years Ago ******

The headache was almost killing me.  It was one of those late nights when I was extending my shift and working on a presentation which I was supposed to present to the clients on the next day. Totally zonked, I decided that a steaming mug of coffee would be of great help before trying to focus on the task at hand. Pushing myself away from the polished chilly desk of the centrally cooled workstation, I strolled towards the pantry.

‘Beep Beep’ … two shrill beeps granted access.  Leaving behind the sound of freedom from the chilly confinement of seclusion, I walked towards the pantry… a literally warmer zone of human interaction in cold corporate atmosphere. I met Sanjay gossiping with one of the newest interns in the office, while leaning against the water cooler in the pantry, his hands resting on the new girl’s waist. The girl too had her arms wrapped around Sanjay’s neck.  ‘Hey Sambit!’ , Sanjay waved at me, interrupting his flirtatious ramblings with the girl for a moment before being drawn into the conversation without waiting for my response.

‘Nothing much…’ , I wanted to say, but decided otherwise. There wasn’t any point after all. It was not like Sajay was genuinely interested to indulge in a conversation with me while he had this new girl all willing and eager to let him get inside her pants. I passed by them silently to the coffee machine and grabbed a paper cup. My fingers holding the cup gradually felt it, as the hot steaming black liquid poured into the white spotless paper cup.

A few days after that, I met Sanjay in the afternoon at the office cafeteria… Whoever said that guys don’t gossip was either a liar or wasn’t a guy, because office gossip was what consisted of most of our afternoon chatter during lunch. However once Sanjay had moved to a different project, this ritual had become more obscure due to more pressing matters in hand. That day Sanjay asked the same question that my relatives had asked me continuously for 4 years before giving up  – “Bhai! Shaadi kab kar raha hai?”Pressing  the butt of the cigarette between my lips and flaring up its head with the lighter, I sucked in the noxious smoke within me. Closing my eyes, I tried to feel the numbness mixing in my blood and spreading across my body, while Sanjay waited for my answer. I had to tell him that I never had much faith in the concept of arrange marriages and that I do not like the emotional drama involved in the love marriages. “In Love marriages…”, I opened my eyes. “… the love gradually evanish away like a perfume does from an open bottle. A love affair generally has one of the two fates – either success resulting in marriage with gradual loss of love till there are only two people left who wonder why they fell in love in the first place, or the love affair fails with two people getting separated from each other for different reasons. Love only exists till the end if it does not result in marriage and if the people getting separated are distressed by the idea”. Sanjay sipped the orange juice from his glass for some time contemplating on what I thought about love and marriage before he passed his judgment, ‘You’re just weird!’. I was not weird. It was just that I was the only one who had realized that Kafka was right about love.

A few months had passed after that when one day I stumbled across a woman’s purse in the bus while returning from office. I had my initial doubts if I should open the purse. But once I opened it, I realized that it belonged to one of the employees in my office. The employee had her ID card and approximately three thousand rupees in the purse. The ID card had revealed her name and photo. Shruti Pradhan was her name and she looked decently attractive in the photo.  I decided that I should handover the purse to the lost and found department of our company the next day. The next day, while on my way to office, Sanjay called me. ‘Bro, is your blood group A negative?’ , he asked over the phone. Travelling in public buses during office hours in Pune is really a feat that isn’t achieved easily. Standing in almost one toe, latching on to the rod at the top, in a bus swarming with IT people, I somehow managed to answer. ‘Yes. Why do you ask?’. ‘Bhai… come quickly to Life Plus Hospital. One of our employees met an accident and she needs A-negative blood’. Struggling in the ocean of human crowd, I answered, ‘I am stuck in traffic. I will need at least 30 mins to get there’. I forgot to ask the name of the employee who needed my blood.

I was lying on the bed. A needle was pricked into the fold of my arm.  The crimson life force was flowing through the needle and transparent tube, dripping into the clear plastic pouch. Everything around here smelled like medicine.  Soon the nurse returned with Sanjay and Rahul accompanying her.  She removed the needle and rubbed cold cotton on the puncture before folding my arm to hold the cotton between my skin. ‘Take some rest’, she said, smiling at me, before turning to my friends ‘Get some food items for him, he needs energy’. Just to make the decision easier for Sanjay and Rahul, I told them that a glass of milk shake would be preferred. While Rahul rushed to get the milkshake, Sanjay sat on the bed next to me and told me about this new intern who was in a hurry and met with the accident while crossing the road in front of the office. Her name was Shruti Pradhan.  What were the odds of having more than one Shruti Pradhan in our office? Now that my blood was rushing in her body, it was only sense to meet her personally to handover her wallet. After two days, I met her in the hospital. She was better now and was to be released from the hospital after one more day. When I returned her belongings, her eyes looked at me as if I was her savior. That wasn’t our last meeting.

Over the weeks and months we continued to meet each other in office and after office. I was charmed by her innocence. We used to love long walks in the evening, our fingers touching. I never uttered the clichéd words ‘I love you’, but she knew that I loved her. And she reciprocated. She had this innocent laughter, like an untainted waterfall that was never violated by anything artificial. I used to stare at her while she laughed, trying to capture as much of it in the film of my memories, as I could. She used to decide the plans for our wedding day, the name of our kids, the name for our house, and I used to smile some more. She never realized that my smile came with pangs of guilt well hidden as I knew that none of it would ever materialize. The truest form of love was to let go. The truest way to preserve love was to let go. I was addicted to her and letting her go was not easy. But I loved her even more than I loved myself. And finally on one day, my heart was strong enough to let the love of my life go. I disappeared. I left Pune and moved to a new company in Bangalore. I deactivated my social networking profiles and lost touch of all friends. I started a new life with just the memories of my love. This love was pure and would know no bounds. This love… would never fade away… the desire would never burnout.

*******

Shruti tried to reason a lot about Kafka’s idea of love stating that our upbringing and our social fiber was totally different from Franz Kafka’s and probably I was just obsessed with Kafka. She thought that Kafka’s idea of love was flawed. I knew true love triumphs over all odds and that I was one of the very few who had realized the truth in Kafka’s love. After several emotional episodes, Shruti accepted that probably Kafka’s idea of true love is everlasting and that probably she would need some more time to understand it completely. She even offered to prepare two cups of coffee as a symbol of truce. I told her that there is no need of truce as there was never a war in the first place but I agreed on coffee.  Sipping the steaming coffee, I stared at her once again. I believe the whole ordeal was really tough for her. But then again true love was never easy. Shruti told me that after I went missing in Pune and when none of my friends had any idea about my whereabouts, Sanjay had told her about my idea of Kafkaesque love. Her fingers dived into the depth of her wallet and fished out a red rose and a piece of paper, which she forwarded towards me.

I looked at the scribbles on the piece of paper and then I looked at her face. “I have poisoned your coffee.”. I wanted to laugh at her joke, but I realized that I was no longer in control of my left check and lips. “You believe that pain would keep your love alive till the time you die. But I love you, and I cannot let you bear so much pain. It’s a neurotoxin. You will die a painless death and but your love will not die.”, she stopped. I took a last glimpse on the paper. It read “If we value our lives, let us abandon it all… – Kafka”. Then everything turned white. The letters on the paper, the room, Shruti’s determined face, all of it mixed into the all consuming white. And then it was dark.

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Adieu 2016… Welcome 2017!

Finally another year has passed by and a I have stepped into a crispy crunchy new year which has brought with itself an inkling of new opportunities.

Year 2016 was a mixed bag. It had its ups and down – personally, nationally and globally. The year brought a lot of doubts, confusions and instability in my personal life. An identity crisis, severe health issues, financial issues. But then, the year was very helpful as I was able to overcome the financial issues and lack of job satisfaction. Health is better now, and yes, the I got promotion in office. I am enjoying the new job role –  a lot to learn, scope to meet different people and the sense of job satisfaction.

On national front, the last few months were difficult. It was expected as approximately 86 per cent of national currency had been scrapped by the Government in a bold move to curb black money directly and to control other auxiliary problems like counterfeit notes and terrorism. As a result, even though we had money in our bank accounts, getting cash was a pain. People waited in queues in front of ATMs for hours to withdraw limited amount of cash. But this was not as bad as it sounds. We are now focusing more on cash less transactions wherever possible. Since the last few months I have used Paytm and similar online money transfer apps to transfer money to shopkeepers rather than waiting in queue for hours to get cash. I certainly hope we would see the benefit of more and more cash less transactions in the new year.

On international front, the US elections made a great ruckus. I had not expected Donald Trump to be the president elect, but then… I have absolutely no say in the decision making of US citizens. Mr. Trump is a successful businessman but then again leading a nation is not everyone’s business.Will Donald Trump be able to make America great again? – We will see in 2017.

I wish all my readers a very happy and prosperous new year. May all your wishes come true and may we all enjoy the new year with our friends, families and neighbors in peace.

 

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Haunting Jasmine – an enchanting tale of second chances

Book – Haunting Jasminehaun
Author –  Anjali Banerjee
Publishers – Berkley
Genre – Novels, Fiction, Paranormal, Multi cultural, South Asian Writings

Jasmine Mistry is overcoming a bad divorce resulting from her ex-husband’s infidelity. Things are not smooth on the work front either. In such a situation she is called by her Aunt Ruma, to manage her bookstore in Shelter Island for a month. While Aunty Ruma goes on a trip to India to mend her heart, Jasmine tries to manage this old dusty bookstore filled to the rafters with out of print books. While her stay in her Aunt’s old Victorian house she realizes that this book store has a mind of its own and gets cranky if left on its own for long. While her stay, she meets a Connor Hunt, a doctor by profession who gradually helps her realize her potential.

Initially the character of Jasmine is not lovable at all. She is bitter with her heart-break and is unable to feel happiness for others. She feels that she can no longer trust or love a man any more. A women with a high flying corporate career, Jasmine is more into logics and facts and finds the life in Shelter Island to be boring.However as the story proceeds she starts to feel at home, and remembers the happy incidents from her childhood. Gradually as she spends more and more time in the book store we notice positive changes in Jasmine, welcoming changes. It is a an entertaining tale about how a bookstore and books can really help people overcome tough situations in their life and any book lover like me would fall head over heals for this story. The haunting or the spirits in the book are amusing and interesting, and not scary. For a lack of better word, the book store is more enchanted rather than haunted. The story is about life and second chances. Connor, Ruma, Jasmine all get second chance at living.

It was an easy read and I completed this book in less than 24 hours. This is the first book that I have read of Anjali Banerjee, and I look forward to read her other books now. and while the writing was mostly easy flowing, sometimes I found myself skimming through the lines. It is perfect for a lazy weekend afternoon read.

My rating : 4/5

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Submissions Open for Literary eZine

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A Tale of Two Cities – The Reading Experience

tale-of-two-cities-book-cover

Book 1 Chapter  1                                                                                         

So I decided to read Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, a novel set in the historical background of 1775 in England and France. Reading the first chapter was a pain in the bottom, for the first time, and for the second time. It demanded a lot of concentration to really grasp the social situation of the times just before the outburst of the French Revolution. After reading the First Chapter for the second time, I decided it was time to refer to Sparknotes Summary for the first chapter. And boy, that was the best thing to do. Once I was aware of the summary of the first chapter, suddenly Dicken’s lines made a lot more sense!

Charles Dickens used the first chapter of Book 1 to build the back ground of the novel, and gave us a glimpse of the times when the novel was set. The following lines (the starting lines) in fact is the best summary of the first Chapter –

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…

In this Chapter, we come to know the contrast in the life of people in France and England, For example while in England, the spiritual revelations were conceded and people enjoyed discussing supernatural events with passion, France walked on much stricter lines, and anything spiritual or supernatural beyond Church was not favored. While laws were stricter in France, and people were punished harshly for simpler things like, not bowing to a group of monks… the law and order in England was quite lax. Theft, burglary, prison revolts were common. And the punishment to petty thieves and hardened criminals was often the same.

Book 1 Chapter 2

We are introduced to one of the characters of the novel, Mr. Lorry, a banker from Tellson’s Bank amidst the eerie setting of dark night full of mistrust, suspicion and fear as is clear from the below lines –

In those days, travellers were very shy of being confidential on a short notice, for anybody on the road might be a robber or in league with robbers.

The Dover mail was in its usual genial position that the guard suspected the passengers, the passengers suspected one another and the guard, they all suspected everybody else, and the coachman was sure of nothing but the horses;

They had stopped when the coach stopped, and they kept close company with it. If any one of the three had had the hardihood to propose to another to walk on a little ahead into the mist and darkness, he would have put himself in a fair way of getting shot instantly as a highwayman.

The purpose of Mr. Lorry’s travel to France is a mystery. The message that he received from Jerry to wait for a woman at Dover is a mystery as well. And most of all, Mr. Lorry’s answer to Jerry – “Recalled to Life” is a mystery as well.

Book 1 Chapter 3

Why does Dickens use such a flowery language, sometimes flowery to the extent of being tedious? That was the question that crept up in my mind as I was reading the third chapter. In the very next moment, I realized that it was not only Dickens who used such language. For example, look at John Milton’s Paradise Lost. There is a wonderful discussion going on at Quora regarding this very question.

Anyways, in to the Third Chapter we realize that Dickens is continuing with developing the mystery and mistrust, and dropping a few clues while doing so, within the dreams of Mr. Lorry. We realize that someone is going to be recalled to life after eighteen years of being buried alive. We realize that this person is probably somehow related to the lady whom Mr. Lorry was supposed to meet at Dover.

In this chapter we witness some of the finest lines in literature about human psychology when Dickens wrote:

…every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.

…that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!

Book 1 Chapter 4

The chapter opens with Mr. Lorry reaching the Royal George Hotel in Dover in the late morning. He relaxes in the hotel, thinking about his business and waiting for the arrival of the lady with whom he was supposed to meet who arrived in the hotel later that evening. Mr. Lorry introduces himself to Miss Lucie Manette and divulges his business and her involvement in the business. Apparently, Lucie was led to believe by her mother that Dr. Alexandre Menette, Lucie’s father was dead. While is father was actually imprisoned in France by the authorities for eight years, and was recently released. Mr. Lorry’s business was to identify and ring back Dr. Manette, a client of Tellson’s Bank, to England, while Lucie’s responsibility would be to care him back to health. All this comes as a shock to Lucie and after failing to console her, he calls fall help.  A wild looking woman dressed in red runs into the room. Concerned about Lucie’s well being, she shoves Mr. Lorry away from Lucie and yells at hotel’s servants to bring smelling salt.

In this Chapter, Dickens fills us in with several physical details about Mr.Lorry’s person signifying the details of his character and importance of his business. Mr. Lorry tries to sound like a professional, insisting that he is a man of business however his concern for Lucie is apparent from the fact that he tries to explain the business to Lucie as gently as he could. Also Mr. Lorry’s dreams about digging out Mr. Manette, signifies that he was troubled with Mr. Manette’s situation as well.  Finally Dickens shreds some light on the suspense that was building up since Chapter 2, as we realize the purpose of Mr. Lorry’s business in Dover, and the involvement of Miss Manette in the business. However it only raises a new question – What caused Dr. Manette’s imprisonment in France?

Book 1 Chapter 5 (The Wine Shop)

A large barrel of wine has been dropped and broken in the street in a poor neighborhood in Paris, and it has attracted the interest of people nearby, who have stopped their business or the lack of it, to drink the wine, from the puddles of wine on the street. Men, women and children all bent over the pools of wine – using broken earthenware, handkerchiefs to sip the wine. The short lived game of wine sipping and dancing soon ended with the end of wine. People rejoined the activities they were at. And the street was cleaner than it was earlier. The owner of the wine shop, a good humored man of thirties, with a unstoppable attitude was keeping an eye on the entire scene. His wife, Madam Defarge has been defined as a woman with watchful eyes with steady face and strong features and great composure of manner, who would rarely make a mistake. As Mr. Defarge enters the wine shop, Madam Defarge signaled him about the presence of two new customers in the shop – Mr. Lorry and Miss Manette. Mr. Defarge soon takes Mr. Lorry and Miss Menette into the building where Dr. Manette was kept.

The wine shop is in the suburb of St. Antoine, in Paris. As per Wikipedia, St. Anthony is the patron saint of finding things or lost people. The titles of the chapters in this book are relevant, and going by that trait, it seems that Mr. Lorry and Miss Manette might find Dr. Manette somewhere in this suburb. Dickens uses the word Wine and Blood interchangeably in this chapter as it is clear from the following lines while referring to the revolution that was soon to occur:

The time was to come, when that wine too would be spilled on street-stones, and when the strain of it would be red upon many there.

Dickens has also personified cold, dirt, sickness, ignorance and want as powerful lords (members of nobility) and most powerful lord being the “want”, who would force the people to submit to its whims. He indicates that the times were like a grinder or a mill that grinded young people to old age and weakness, and left them without happiness. He personifies hunger as an omnipresent entity that is everywhere. It seems that people used to allow babies to drink wine in those times, probably because wine was cleaner and drinkable than water in those times. In those times, streets of Paris lacked proper drainage system, and people used to dump their wastes on the street. The fact that people were happy to drink the wine from the street where the wastes had mixed and decomposing in the soil indicated the severity of hunger people were suffering from.  We get to see the unhygienic living conditions of people in Paris, again in the following lines:

… the room or rooms within every door that opened on the general staircase – left its own heap of refuse on its own landing, besides flinging other refuse from its own windows. The uncontrollable and hopeless mass of decomposition so engendered would have polluted the air, even if pollution and deprivation had not loaded it with their tangible impurities;

 

TO BE CONTINUED

P.S. – What was your experience while reading A Tale of Two Cities? Do share.
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Kiriti Omnibus 2 – Adventures of another Bengali Sleuth

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Source : Internet

As I had mentioned in my last post, for the past few days, I have quite a lot of time at my disposal, which I am utilizing by eating sleeping, reading and blogging.

I had this book Kiriti Omnibus -2 by Dr. Nihar Ranjan Gupta (Bengali: নীহাররঞ্জন গুপ্ত) (6 June 1911 – 20 February 1986) since the last several months and this was the perfect time to dust of the book from the shelf and dive into the adventures of one of the most popular Bengali detectives that the world has seen after Feluda and Byomkesh Bakshi.

To my dismay, there were not many resources available about this Kiriti, the fabulous creation of Dr. Nihar Ranjan Gupta. Kiriti Ray is a renowned private detective from Kolkata (Calcutta) and is a combination of intelligence and physical prowess.

The first story that I read from the omnibus was  –  Holud Shaitan (হলুদ শয়তান) or the Yellow Devil.

The story revolves around a mysterious entity called Raktamukhi Dragon (blood-faced dragon) who had already kidnapped one of the rich businessmen in Sri Lanka and killed another. Kiriti Roy comes to know about this case through newspaper while in Kolkata and decides to investigate this as the mystery interests him. As a well known detective from Kolkata, Kiriti receives  full support from the Sri-Lankan police department and identifies that another businessman is being targeted by the mysteriously criminal entity.

The modus operandi is also quite strange in the case –  one of the victims dies without any physical wound except a few droplets of blood on the neck, while no one was found in the room. The other dies due to some sort of green toxic gas.

Once i complete the next story, I will add a synopsis of the same here.

Kiriti Omnibus comes under the genre of Kishore Sahitya ( fiction for teens) and should be read as what it has been intended as. This is something that Bengali guys and girs have grown up reading in weekends and vacations.

Are you a Kiriti fan? Which one is your favorite Kiriti adventure?

PS  –  Popular sleuth Kiriti Roy to debut on silver screen

 

 

 

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