Books

September- Monthly Recap

Book Reviews:

         

Author Interviews:

Shweta Taneja

Essay:

Reading Books in the Digital Age

Guest Post:

How Numbers Can Tell Stories by Aubrey Leaman

Book Lists:

5 Books to Feed Your Brain

Five Books to Read in Gothic fiction

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Books, Crime & Mystery, Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

Blog Tour Banner“NOTE: THE LINK TO THE GIVEAWAY IS BELOW”

GirlSpidersWeb_Poster_F_OPT copyA few critics are claiming the new addition in Stieg Larsson’s famous Millennium Trilogy, The Girl in the Spider’s Web as controversial. Written by David Lagercrantz who previously had two titles named under him: a non-fiction and a fiction, both translated in English language. Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy is a huge success worldwide and adaptions are already out there. The previous three novels are gripping, rich in thrill, and intelligent. One who has read any of the three, knows very well what I am trying to express here. And he must be excited about this new addition.

There were no pre-review copies or excerpts of this novel, The Girl in the Spider’s Web. It was released earlier this month. Like countless readers, I have been waiting to get my hands on it, find out myself the standard set by Larsson, will it be matched? Of course not! Stieg Larsson’s writing is exceptional. The way he conveyed his ideas in those three books, only he could do it. Though, as a writer of this book, David Lagercrantz does a good job in maintaining those characters, putting some more insight which continues to make the Millennium trilogy interesting.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web looks deeper in the world of hackers as it is all about them. It share a similar starting point as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Mikael Blomqvist’s is in search of a story, a cover story, and the situation is an intense one. From the previous three books, we learned that the pierced Lisbeth Salander was a formidable hacker, and in a world of warring hackers, she is the unquestioned genius. Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz”

Guest Post

GUEST POST: How Numbers Can Tell Stories by Aubrey Leaman

How Numbers Can Tell Stories

by Aubrey Leaman

So let’s talk about math! I know, I know…as readers we tend to hate math, right?  But Francie Nolan (from Betty Smith’s novel, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”) has a passion for both words and numbers and in fact combines the two in creative ways: 
 
“When Francie added a sum, she would fix a little story to go with the result…The figure 1 was a pretty baby girl just learning to walk, and easy to handle…Each single combination of numbers was a new set-up for the family and no two stories were ever the same.”  
 
When I read this passage (of which I’ve only quoted a small amount here), I was blown away by the wonder and magic of it all.  In effect, Francie is like a Victor Frankenstein who imbues life into the meaningless, dead conglomeration of body parts around him.  Now those numbers that were once “dead” are living and breathing people who have unique personalities and ways of life!
 
Then when she adds these numbers/people together, depending on what numbers she’s using and what number she ends up with, she imagines a story: “If the answer was 924, it meant that the little boy and girl were being minded by company while the rest of the family went out.”  The whole thing is a lot like the joke that asks why 6 is afraid of 7 (because 7 8 9)—but on steroids.  

Continue reading “GUEST POST: How Numbers Can Tell Stories by Aubrey Leaman”

Book List, Books, Goth

Five Books To Read in Gothic Fiction

Gothic Fiction is struggles and conflicts. It may be largely dominated by its sub genre, Gothic horror, but this genre is equally dominated by romanticism. The name Gothic refers to the medieval buildings in which many of these stories take place. This extreme form of romanticism was very popular in England and Germany. I exhibit a list of books down here in this genre I think you should take a look.

Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

THE MONK by Matthew Gregory Lewis was first published in 1796. It is an early gothic novel and despite being written over two hundred years ago, now considered under the classification of classic, it is a real page turner.  This book has many typical elements of Gothic Fiction, and is a daring tale written accordance to time in which it is published due to the themes of murder, rape, incest, violence, torture, and can be a reason why Lewis was charged for blasphemy.

Continue reading “Five Books To Read in Gothic Fiction”

Books, Fiction, Reviews

BOOK REVIEW- The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

The Pale King is David Foster Wallace’s posthumous unfinished book, first published in 2011, still hard to find a paperback copy. It is set in an IRS (Internal Revenue Service) office in Illinois, America. The book is about boredom or how the meaningless rules and regulations in an organisation, added up with monotonous and dullness, fills a person’s life with boredom.

After reading Infinite Jest, I was impressed by the writing nonetheless it was a bit disappointing as the whole book. The Pale King on the other hand is altogether a different book. Not only the versatile writing, the in-depth knowledge on the topics such as IRS, the description and build of various characters and their personalities, the tedious routine of the IRS employees is defined exquisitely by Mr. Wallace.

The book will take some commitment from the reader to continue reading it and I think reading books like this, one should prosper in providing such commitment. Many people say, they left Infinite Jest after picking it more than twice, but I would say to them only one thing which though I had not realised at the time of reading Infinite Jest: commitment. Commitment towards the extraordinary mind of Foster Wallace. His writing indeed is rich with ideas.  Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW- The Pale King by David Foster Wallace”

Book List, Books, Non-Fiction

5 Books To Feed Your Brain

There are different ways to simulate one’s brain. Reading books is one. Reading books about your brain is another. These books listed down below will help you understand your own mind, some might help to understand your brain better and others might help you to make it function better. I love reading books about our brain and in a specific way they do make me understand the working of my brain better. These books are entertaining in their own way.

The Power of Habit

 Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation.

Incognito

David Eagleman’s book takes us to a voyage into the inner cosmos includes stopovers in mate-selection, synesthesia, beauty, free will, infidelity, artificial intelligence, visual illusions, dreams, and the future of criminal law. Eagleman helps us understand how our perceptions of ourselves and our world result from the hidden workings of the most wondrous thing we have ever encountered: the human brain.

Continue reading “5 Books To Feed Your Brain”

Books, Fiction, Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: The Color of Water in July by Nora Caroll

I did not remember how I stumble upon Nora Caroll’s The Color of Water in July. I think it was featuring in the kindle application which I had downloaded recently. But I clearly remember reading it. The smooth and calm beginning. Some might consider it under the genre Romance, but I think it will be a fit under Historical Fiction.

The story is about Jess, a young woman who returns to a place where she spent the summers of her youth. She finds herself remembering her childhood memories and along with them a twisted and knitted family secret that changes everything, including her own self.

The narration is quite exquisite and as the story progress the reader will understand and realise the calmness offered by the writer in her words. One can never be sure of oneself, and that is what a reader will realise after reading this book. Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: The Color of Water in July by Nora Caroll”

eReaders, Essay

Reading books in the Digital Age

I’d like to thank you guys for sharing your experiences with reading ebooks on your e-readers in the post, Buying an EReader, Worth? Two weeks back, after taking in full consideration that an e-reader will be good for me, I finally got my hands on Kindle Paperwhite 2015. It’s good, lightweight, lighter than my smart phone. Reading continuously for hours, doesn’t strain my eyes any more and I am very glad with features distraction free-reading. No more email or messages to interrupt me if I am reaching a climax of some mystery.Twitter113961e

There are a lot of free ebooks available on websites like Project Gutenberg. Then there is an option for NetGalley lovers, to send the books they have been approved of, directly to their Kindle(s). Having multiple dictionaries on the go is a good option. Battery life is good, haven’t really tested it. The testing part is still in progress but I have read five books on it since the day I have bought it and got it fully charged before doing any reading and the battery bar is still there, hanging around 20 to 25 percent.

Another feature that fascinate me is the “Reading Time”. The device calculates the reading speed, taking into account, how many words you read in a minute which may vary depending on the complexity of the text, (like reading Milton’s Lost Paradise or Dante’s The Divine Comedy) but there is an average that it will continue to do so. If the book is in Kindle Format, that is azw/azw3 or DRM free like mobi, it will show the time remaining in completing the chapter and the book separately along with amount of book you have read in percentage.  Continue reading “Reading books in the Digital Age”

Books, classics, Fiction, Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy

You can go on reading books after books for fifteen days or you can read Tolstoy’s undoubtedly masterpiece: War and Peace. How was it, you ask? Easier than I expected. Choosing the right translation plays a major role when you are reading books written in languages you are not familiar of.  We will talk about that more, later.

Saying that I haven’t read Tolstoy before will be an understatement since I remember my failed attempts with Anna Karenina, twice I think. The Confession is a petite novella and is lying on my shelf just like that for months. Not a single attempt-to-read yet. War and Peace is humongous. Lots of characters introduced in first few chapters will seek you attention. Don’t start this book before going to bed. Especially before going to bed when you are starting to read it. The characters introduced in those first few chapters may help you doze off to sweeter dreams, thus you might end up loosing any interest that was the result of earlier motivation.

With lots of characters comes a lot more story lines. Tolstoy does a fantastic job in describing those story lines along with timeline of historical events, recounting them deeply and the blending of the fictional characters along with the historical ones. In short I can say, War and Peace is about five families during Napoleonic War in Russia. But that doesn’t satisfy me at all. It is about a lot more than that. It explores of human emotions during various circumstances including, war, patriotism, money, love, marriage, betrayal, forgiveness, gossip, et cetera.

The book is divided into five volumes. First one starts in 1805 when Russia is at war with Napoleon Bonaparte’s France. Tolstoy introduces his list of characters at an evening gathering held by a socialite. This party introduces us to many of the characters such as Pierre Bezukhov, and Prince Andrei are major ones. The major part of the story is either played in St. Petersburg or in Moscow. Rest are shown in various fields and outposts where the French and the Russian army are getting net to neck. Tolstoy makes the reader familiar by indulging some of the major characters in war at this time. The war is interesting if Tolstoy is describing it to us. At some point in the book Tolstoy arguably defies historians and the events described by them. He certainly disliked their way of forging with historical events. He also denies the fallacy that history is a production by some great men, instead suggesting it is the result of minute moments and decisions made by a large number of men and women. Many of the events described by him are graphic and you will end up visualising them in front of your eyes just as you see reality merely by reading Tolstoy’s words. Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy”

Interviews

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Shweta Taneja

Hi Shweta and thank you for agreeing to this interview. Congratulations on your book, CULT OF CHAOS. Tell me a little about yourself and your background?

Thanks for having me on your lovely blog. I am a writer and journalist based in Bangalore. I’ve been writing articles, books, comics and blogs since twelve years now. My published novels include: Ghost Hunters of Kurseong and the latest one, Cult of Chaos, an Anantya Tantrist mystery. I’ve also written two graphic novels: Krishna: Defender of Dharma (part of CBSE’s must-read list for schools) and The Skull Rosary (nominated for Best Writer in Comic Con 2013). I continue to write articles for Mint, Discover India, Huffington Post, Swarajya Magazine, DailyO and Scroll. When I am not writing, I either go on long walks, runs, or sit and have a cup of tea with friends.

What was the genesis for CULT OF CHAOS?

Anantya emerged from my first attempt of a novel, a fantasy saga in which a young girl is abused and seeks vengeance from those who’ve wronged her. The story failed, perhaps because I spent a lot of time building the world and not the story itself. But Anantya remained, a remnant of a failed novel, an angry protagonist.

She was there as I explored the possibility of combining two genres I love the most—fantasy and detective in some way. I didn’t want the usual vampires and witches stuff, which is quite European in its origins. Instead, the fantasy I wanted to explore needed to come from the roots of our country, its belief systems and its core. Not from Indian mythology either as there’s so much of that around already. So I decided to jump into the folklores, the occult and oral histories seeped in our villages. After I’d taken that decision, writing on tantriks was an obvious choice. I am amazed at how everyone you talk to, in cities or villages, anywhere in the country have a tantrik story with them or know a person who has employed a tantrik for a problem. They’re not talked about in the mainstream but at the edges, in hushed conversations, one to one.

Then one day, I was sitting in a corner of my husband’s rather comfy office and reading a book when it all came together and I suddenly found out that Anantya is an occult detective. Once I knew that, the ideas came so fast that I couldn’t even find a paper and pen and instead scribbled it on the whiteboard in front of me, taking a photograph, rubbing it off and scribbling some more. Eleven scribbles later, I had the beginnings of Cult of Chaos.

I really like your writing style. It is interesting, appealing and adaptable to any reader. So according to you, which area should be more emphasised: the plot or the characters?

Thank you so much! I’m definitely plot driven. While writing, I am breathless, moving from scene to scene, sometimes skipping description to rush from one action scene to another. Long haul descriptions, atmosphere, lingering on things, bores me. I design each scene to have an up and down, a constant rollercoaster ride, so that by the end of it, you have a slight dizzy feeling in your gut. That’s the kind of thrillers I enjoy creating. The characters, any of them, are funny, weird but also there to push the story forward in some way.

What about the ‘supernatural’ genre? Is it your favourite? 

I love the speculative genre overall, to read as well as to write in. I remain fascinated by how authors explore our own quirks, attitudes, ethics and moralities through the concept of ‘others’—be it alien, supernatural or paranormal. Through these alternative worlds, we try and look critically into our world. And that’s what fascinates me about fantasy and science fiction the most. That and of course I’m living lives of other creatures, monsters, things and aliens, which is just so much fun! What do they wear, who are they? What kind of language do monsters speak? Why do ghosts attack humans walking alone at night on the road? What makes these monsters and aliens and rakshasas and yakshas scary for us humans? How do they have sex? Do they burp? What kind of bodies and shapes do they have? What are their moral values, ethics, language and culture? These questions burn me every day about non-human creatures. I love to poke into their territories and worlds through speculative fiction.

When did you decide that you want to be a writer?

It was just another day. I was sitting in my office (I used to work in Femina then), procrastinating on writing an article (I assume you meant fiction writer, when you asked that question) and suddenly, just like that, I wanted to write fiction. I suspect it was inception by an alien or a fairy or an asura. Someone. I will find out in future. Maybe. Hopefully. I have to, don’t I?

What about the craft of writing? How do you approach your writing?  Do you have a writing routine? 

Let me get some tea first. Once I get an initial idea, it’s all hard work. I begin a story by fleshing out the plot and figuring which medium it’s meant for—graphic novel, novel, short story or game. Then I develop the plot on little chits of paper, spread across a table. This plot keeps on thickening till I am satisfied and want to begin the story. The writing of scenes itself is magical and creative but I stick to the plan of writing a particular section per week. If I miss a week, I write two sections in the following week. This disciplined approach has helped me to finish books and be more efficient before I get bored of them. The first half of my work day goes into writing and the second into answering emails, researching, relaxing. I take the weekend off  only if I’ve finished my week’s work! All the time, I sip on lots of tea.

What do you prefer: Pen or Computer? And how do you stay organized (any methods, systems, tools you use)?

A blank notebook with a pen for jotting down raw ideas. Small chits of paper to develop the plot.

A whiteboard for jotting vague things. A laptop for writing and editing. I use Microsoft Word for writing my books.

What motivates you to write?

Stories that come to me. Characters that drop into my head. I love building up these stories, figuring out what is happening to these characters in their world. Everytime I finish a book, I think that’s it, now I’ll get a job, earn money and travel the world instead of the perennial struggling that is the profession of a writer. And then another character or story comes in my head and I am just too tempted to write them too!

How do you decide on the settings for your story? How do they come to you?

Each book is different and I remain fascinated by the process of it. I think what you have to do is push an idea once you get it. Read certain books, research on certain topics. It’s like groping in the dark, in a cave full of skeletons and rotting flesh. You have no idea what might touch your fingertips.

For example with Cult of Chaos, which is a tantrik detective mystery, I read up a lot of books on occult, tantrism and dark magic. I decided to set it in Delhi for the city has layers of history and modernity and both interact with each other in a fascinating way. But I didn’t know the characters as I was writing. They came from NatGeo’s television shows, bits from history books I was reading, movies I was seeing, real news I was reading. With Anantya, it was completely different. She came together in one go. I knew her voice. She’s such a distinct character that it’s hard not to, but I’ve gotten to know her better while writing two of her novels.

I also feel, there’s nothing better than daily news to give you ideas. It has enough horror, disgust, hatred, violence, evil in its pages to keep your creativity flowing. There were so many scenes in the book that have been inspired by real incidents, things that I’ve read in the news. Not only about superstition or witch hunting, but also something that a crass politician would’ve said when yet another woman got raped. Everyday domestic violence, which is reported in a single paragraph, taken verbatim from police notes or crimes of caste and religion which are all about power. There’s no dirth of inspiration in our country, especially when one is writing a thriller.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I like to hike and do birding, though I am pretty bad with remembering names of birds. I just like to look up in the sky, notice flights of birds and if it’s night then at the stars. Crunch of leaves under my footwear and a breeze. Weekends are usually spent outdoors, hiking, walking, running or just sitting in the park with a book. Bangalore’s weather is perfect to spend a day outdoors, so most of my weekends are spend like that. I also like live music, so spend a lot of evenings in a pub listening to indie music. Or I watch violent, bloody movies or TV series—the darker they are, the more I enjoy them. Other than reading books, which I squeeze into the weekday, terming it research, I don’t really do much else.

Are you working on anything at the moment? When can we see your next work?

I’ve just finished the second adventure of Anantya Tantrist series, so am taking a break. It’s to do with the Delhi’s rich socialites abusing a supernatural species for immortality. Quite violent and fun as usual. Other than this, I have almost finished a novel for young-adults based in Manipal, which is a rivalry between two paranormal investigation groups. I am hoping to start on a comic project soon. And I’m also helping out an NGO with their communication and social media plan.

Do you have any advice for aspiring/emerging writers?

I know you’ve heard it enough, but write. There’s something magical that happens to you when you start putting word after word after word. You can think on a story, but nothing will give it wings as words. The process of writing, putting one word after another, will help you bring the story in your head onto paper. Write. If you can’t do it well, keep doing it. Read the masters, the accomplished novelists to see how they express the world around you. Your control over language as well as your finesse in expressing an idea will improve only through the process of writing. One word after another. You can see some detailed blogs on this on my website (www.shwetawrites.com/writing).

About Your Reading Life:

What do you prefer while reading: paperbacks or ebooks?

I read on both. Ebooks and pads are for out of print books or scholarly books that I read for my research. I make it a point to buy all paperbacks of Indian authors that I want to read since I love getting their signatures in their books!

Do you re-read books? One book that you would read again & again?

Yes. I’ve gone back multiple times to Kahlil Gibran, Ursula Le Guin, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. In comics it is Neil Gaiman and Asterix.

Your favourite author(s)?

A few of my current favourite writers: Ursula Le Guin, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, Samit Basu, Jim Butcher, William Darlymple. Currently I am exploring a sub genre of science fiction called feminist science fiction. Each book you read influences your story in certain ways. I’ve learnt mysterious style from Gaiman, humour from Pratchett, and a way mere words can touch your soul from Le Guin.

What book(s) are you reading at present?

  •  Life, The Universe and Everything – Douglas Adams
  •  Delhi – Khushwant Singh
  •  Doctor Dread – Ibne Safi
  •  Unlocking the air and other stories – Ursula K Le Guin
  •  Lajja – Taslima Nasrin
  •  The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

What can I say? I am a scattered reader (and writer).


 

Read more about her on www.shwetawrites.com