Thought Process

Little pulses of activity in the CPU of a thoughtprocessor. Batteries not included.

I have a good reason…

…for my absence.

I’m now in a new job. The work hours are tough and the boss is a taskmaster with no sense of night or day. The little time I get for myself is spent on recovering lost sleep and I barely find time to check my personal email account(s). Hence the blog finds itself in cobwebs and general ruin.

I don’t know when I can repair this.

If you really care that much about this blog, please talk to my boss and ask him if he can grant me a little bit of personal time every day so I can get back to normal routines.

Here’s his pic, so you can do the needful -

Image

P.S: Yep, that’s my son,Vivan, at around 7 weeks. I’ve imagined writing a post announcing his arrival a million times in my head, these last 9 years. That post is finally here.

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Review: The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Yep, you didn’t see that wrong – I’ve given this only 2 stars. I know, I know, it’s JKR, but this is what I honestly felt after finishing the book.

I didn’t expect a lot in terms of the actual prose, so that part I guess is ok. But I did expect a great story. I mean, isn’t that the whole deal about being JKR! Unfortunately, I didn’t find the story THAT engrossing. The characters themselves are built beautifully – by the time I got introduced to all of them, I already had strong feelings on who I liked and who I didn’t. But somehow, the story was very common-place and insipid. I expected lots of twists and turns, scandals, etc, but.. well.. none of that sort here!

And the way it ended was very abrupt. I actually turned a page after the last paragraph to be sure I read till the end and there wasn’t anything left!

A British version of Desperate Housewives, is all I can say. It would actually make a pretty good drama series on TV! :-P

P.S: I don’t know if some parts of the ‘review’ could be spoilers, so I’ll just go ahead and mark it as a spoiler anyway.

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Review: American Gods

American Gods
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had heard a lot about Neil Gaiman’s books (Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, etc.) but ‘American Gods’ was my first. And boy, what a book! I don’t know if this book is like a staple Gaiman tome, but if it is, then I’m going to pick up all his other books pretty soon!

It’s the 21st century and the world is overrun with new Gods – the internet, the TV, bullet trains and super-fast highways. So where does that leave the old Gods, the Gods of myths and lore, the Greek, Nordic, Viking and Indian Gods? Well, they are also here, almost forgotten and un-worshipped. Enter our hero, Shadow. A mere mortal, but one who is soon pursued by both Gods, old and new, and he must choose sides before the impending war!

Which side does Shadow pick? What does he learn during this fantastical journey, who does he meet and how that changes his life – all that and more is answered in a fitting way by Gaiman in ‘American Gods’.

I loved the writing. The imagery, the characters – it teases one to think and put things together instead of giving it all out in one shot. It’s not a fast-paced read (at least, not for me. Not this time. I must be getting old. Dammit.) but it has its moments of pure genius in terms of surprises and twists! One thing though – you have to start with an open mind. You have to believe.

So if you think you’re capable of believing, well, what are you waiting for! Shadow is waiting for you!

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Review: Defending Jacob: A Novel

Defending Jacob: A Novel
Defending Jacob: A Novel by William Landay
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacob is a regular teen, living with his Mom and lawyer (actually, Asst. District Attorney) Dad, in the quiet suburbs of Boston. All is well until one day, one of his classmates is found brutally murdered in a park near the school. Cops find a fingerprint on the victim and it matches to Jacob’s. What follows is the tough battle for the family, both in the courtroom and outside, trying all they can to get Jacob out and prove his innocence.

‘Defending Jacob’ is something like a Jodi Picoult meets John Grisham type book. The emotional parts from Picoult and the courtroom drama from Grisham. I could have done without the former, but I guess that’s what made the book a bit different from the ones I’ve read so far.

It was a fast read, mostly because the author manages to keep the reader engaged through out, without any dull moments and general meandering. There are two plots happening at different times, but overlapping in between for the actual events. Good technique and I think it works well, keeping the narrative in tact.

There are some new perspectives I could read about in the book: about how an ADA feels sitting on the other side of the courtroom, next to the defendant; how a regular sub-urban Mom deals with the ostracism that comes with having a son accused of being a murderer and above all, how much of a part is played by a person’s genes in the actions that he/she does. [There are references to a 'murder gene' - google it up!].

I liked it. It’s one of my most-read genres (CSI fan that I am) and I wasn’t disappointed at all with this book!

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Review: The Shadow of the Wind

The Shadow of the Wind
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is not your run-off-the-mill type of book, that’s for sure. ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ is, at its very core, a story of love. The kind of love that is playful, joyous and cute. And the other kind of love, the one of pain, betrayal and sacrifice. One cannot help but fall in love with some of the characters!

I enjoyed reading this book (although when it started off, I was in two minds on whether I will like it or not) mainly because of the characters, rather than the plot/story-line. There’s so much depth to the characters and the author has done an amazing job of keeping them real, consistent and meaningful. Every one of them is there for a purpose and they come in and go only to satisfy that purpose. It reminded me of the Chekhov’s gun technique which in short says there should be no unnecessary elements in a story: if there’s a gun introduced in the first act, it better be fired by the third (or some such thing! you get my drift.). It helped this story in keeping to the thread and not straying with sub-plots and what not. Liked that a lot!

And one of my fundamental requirements in any book: it should take me to the place where the story is set. I got to travel to Barcelona with this one, folks! You can almost feel the weather and smell the streets and houses. Very few authors have this knack of transporting the reader to the place (real or imaginary!) where the story is unfolding and Ruiz Zafon has got it right. In some parts, it kinda reminded me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s style of using colors and smell to draw a picture, rather than just a description of the elements in the scene.

The story, for me, was not very new. I kind of guessed the main twist in the first half of the book (if you were following my status updates on Goodreads, there’s a spoiler in there fellows! sorry!). It’s actually a no-brainer if you’re as devoted to books as I am. [Here's a hint: No one can hate or love a book as much as the author. No one can be affected by the book as much as the author.] But still, it didn’t kill the book for me. I keep telling myself not to second guess the author, but yeah, doesn’t always work. I’ve learned to live with it.

So read this book. Take the journey with Daniel and his friends and you won’t regret knowing them. Get past the initial ‘wandering’ parts (at one point I was asking myself where the story is!) and then it’s all worth it.

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Review: Fracture

Fracture
Fracture by Megan Miranda
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In a lot of the best books I’ve read, there’s one main character that always ends up jolting me: Death. Same is true of ‘Fracture’. It’s about a girl who has a near fatal accident, but miraculously survives, despite severe brain damage. She seems perfectly normal, but deep down something has changed in her. She can sense when someone is dying.

I’m told this is the author’s debut novel. For a first-timer, Megan Miranda has got it mostly right. I personally found the young-adult part of the novel a tad ridiculous (refrain from making age-related comments about me here for your physical and mental well-being – warning!) but then, dude, I’m the one who also enjoyed Twilight (still do, actually. Ok enough.). So yeah, if you don’t mind the YA bit, you’ll probably give this book more stars than the 2 I’ve given.

The writing style was very engrossing and I didn’t feel like putting the book down. When I was leaving home for work today, I was at the 89% mark. So I actually came in to work and finished it while my e-mails and dashboards were loading up. Yep, that’s me. And it’s a very short read too, but what little it has, it makes an impact. I liked the central plot of the whole sensing-death thing, but all the juvenile stuff ended up being a distraction. At one point, I mentally smacked Delaney on her head when she was over-thinking Decker’s feelings for her. I mean, girl, you got death-sensing capabilities and all you can think of is who your crush is smooching?! Oh, c’mon.

Maybe if the blurb on Goodreads had given me a hint that it was YA, well, I would’ve still picked up the book but my expectations wouldn’t have been this high. No harm done still. Enjoyed the book during the good parts (mostly the second half) and glossed over the mush and senti. Pick it up if you don’t mind the YA-paranormal combo!

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Review: Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m this close to buying an iPad right now. And something’s changed about the way I look at my regular Windows-based laptop – it just got a wee bit ugly and cumbersome to use. Why? Because I read about how Apple products look and behave. I read about why and how they were designed the way they are. About the man who brought them into existence.

I’m not a big fan of non-fiction and/or biographies, but I just had to read this one because it was about Steve Jobs. And I was not disappointed. It was such an eye-opener of a book, into the man’s life and maybe even parts of his mind. The author has not minced words when it came to the tough topics and has been generous where praise was due. It’s not a book that glorifies Jobs unconditionally nor is it a book that paints him as a control-freak of a dictator. It’s about the man and what led him to do all the things he did.

Read the book. You won’t regret knowing that little bit more about Jobs and how Apple and its products came into being. And excuse me while I go and get myself an iPad.

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Review: Ring

Ring
Ring by Koji Suzuki
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Yes yes, this is the book on which the movie was based. And no no, I haven’t seen the movie and I don’t have any intention of seeing it either. I have strict restrictions at home about watching horror movies which will then make me get up in the middle of the night, wake up the husband and ask him to check under the bed for snakes (true story this, not kidding). So in the interests of my marriage, I try not to watch horror movies of any kind.

Ok, given the hype this movie generated, I expected the book to be a bit more scary. Not that this wasn’t scary enough though – I did hesitate for 5 seconds when I got up to get a glass of water from the kitchen and passed by the mirror. What? I was alone at home! C’mon, gimme a break.

I personally feel it’s not very easy to write a horror novel – I mean, you can only write so much that is actually scary. The rest needs to be left to the reader’s imagination and there in lies the true test for the author. Koji Suzuki manages to do it pretty darn well. There is no blatant in-your-face gore or scary faces in the book. The horror is more subtle and the author has taken pains to paint the scene and set it up before telling us the freaky part. I liked that about the book ‘coz it managed to make me scare myself. That’s the thing, you know. That’s it.

Oh, and this can so be a part of the ‘around the world in xx books’ challenges – gives one a good view of Japan, their culture and lifestyle.

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Review: Our Lady of Alice Bhatti

Our Lady of Alice Bhatti
Our Lady of Alice Bhatti by Mohammed Hanif
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first book of the author that I’m reading, so the style was a surprise. I’m still undecided on whether I liked the style or not though – in some places, it was very well written and in others, well.. I had to re-read some parts again because to figure out if it was the past, recent past, present or the recent future! I realize there’s something unique about it and a lot of authors these days do use similar narratives, but personally, I don’t enjoy it all that much. Mostly because it tends to divert me from the story and ends up highlighting the technique – it’s like a person not being able to enjoy the ride because he/she is concentrating too much on the actual driving! (Poor analogy, but you get my drift..)

I liked the plot and the characters, esp. Alice Bhatti and Noor – I thought they were portrayed really well, even if a tad removed from reality.

Good read – something unique and different from what I’ve been reading for a while now and hence, a very refreshing change!

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Review: Temple

Temple
Temple by Matthew Reilly
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book came highly recommended by friends and I realize why. It’s a rollercoaster! And therein lies my problem – I think I’m too old for this kind of plot now. If I had read this book when it was published (2002, I guess), I would’ve loved it! But the reader now is someone who’s had thriller plots as her staple food for the past few years (not to mention, reading better accounts of unlikely heroes like Robert Langdon et al). This whole Indiana Jones-y thing just doesn’t do it for me anymore. I still enjoyed the overall scheme of things – about the idol, the search, the Incan history, etc. But the common feeling throughout was me waiting impatiently for something to happen finally!

‘Temple’ was too cinema-ey for my liking. All that frame by frame description of boat chases (it was a never-ending one – I started skipping entire pages here!), this whole nick-of-the-moment thing that happens with most characters – it lacked a certain reality. I realize ‘reality’ is not a pre-requisite for any book these days, but hey! when the rest of the book deals with facts, it’s kinda weird to see Mr.Coincidence be the hero in every chapter!

I don’t know if this has been made into a movie already, but if isn’t, it should be! I would love to watch the movie version of this and I think I’ll enjoy that more than I enjoyed the book.

All that said, do read if you like thrillers about a hunt for missing idols, secret passages through underground mazes, re-incarnated heroes and crazy villains! :-)

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