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The January Reading Month….

Many moons ago, when I was still young (relatively speaking) I used to do these round up posts for the month. Then life and its complications intruded and everything including my regular blogging commitments fell apart. However, the thing about life is it passes and like I said previously, the only way to normalize things is to go back to the simpler tasks and do it again, as much as possible. So here I stand with a round up of January readings!

Personally January and I am knocking on the wood as I say and write this saw a whole lot of improvement from December. Yes, things continue to be tough, but I felt a growth and a letting go and learning of new lessons, which hereto I was not completely aware off. You would think at the advanced age of 37, I would know it all, but I did not and this month has opened up my mind to new ideas and thoughts and interesting revelations that I never thought existed and it’s all been very educational. With Dad’s health a tad improved and some brighter things on the horizon from the professional front, I can say, that January has been a good start to the year! (Knocking really hard on the wood!)

Reading in Winters

Summer morning by Robert Vonnoh, 1895

From a reading perspective, it seems like, while I have read quite a bit (GoodReads says I am 2 books ahead of my 2020 reading challenge !) it has mostly, actually, completely, been a re-read kind of a month. As I previously stated, I am picking thing’s up on a whim, reading what I feel is entertaining or enlightening and not worrying too much about what-should-be-read! Considering the kind of stress life has lately been under, the joy of reading old favorites has especially been comforting and in some cases even inspirational. I continued on my “selective” Harry Potter journey; while I have read and own the entire series, there are certain parts that I like more than the others and those I re-visit more than often. I managed to re-read The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Half Blood Prince in January. The Prisoner of Azkaban is my most favorite; and among various reasons, this is book that kicked of my Harry Potter love affair! Speaking of fantasy and inspirations, no one did it better than Sir Terence David John Pratchett aka Terry Pratchett. His Discworld series are one of those very few books that teaches all of us to be better, kinder and more generous to our fellow creatures, all the while making us laugh till we ache and also telling us a highly entertaining story in the process. (If you want more details, please read my dedicatory post to him, here!) He was a genius and his words gives many of strength and courage and in year where things were more dimmer than brighter; re-reading Maskerade and Men at Arms was a good reminder of courage, honesty and doing the right thing, even if it’s the hardest thing to do! Vi Va Sir Pratchett, gone too soon! If you have never read his work, please go ahead and buy some, not all books are great, and some are for sure better than the others, but they all teach us something! Finally with all the hype around the new Little Women film, I kind of ended up re-reading this wonderful classic again. And once again was left in awe of the quiet courage of Mrs. March and the sheer goodness of Beth who has always been the role model since I was 11 and read the abridged version. All my friends wanted to Jo, but I always aspired to be Beth, albeit wanting to lead a happy boisterous life! Beth’s death always moves me (Yes! I cry every time!) and I picked up a little know but very funny novel for variation – Kissing Toads by Jemma Harvey. While this book has very few readers and it is easy to categorize it as a chick-lit, 10 minutes into the book you realize that it is anything but one. Sure, there is romance, but it is primarily about friendships and sisterhood and friends who are family that this book really touches upon!

That was my January reading! For February, I already started on Carpe Jagulum by Terry Pratchett ( because once you start, you cannot stop!) Also, I have almost completed this wonderful selection of essays on literary woman and woman authors by Elizabet,h Chadwick called Seduction and Betrayal. Kaggsy introduced me to this brilliant collection and I am ever so grateful to have read this volume. I also have the new Jeffrey Archer novel, Nothing Ventured lined up and while my chunkster reading – The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton has hit a slump, I hope to get started again!

That is all I had for today! Happy February everyone!

P.S. Does anyone know the artist who painted the picture I have incorporated. I have done all kinds of searches but cannot find the author of this wonderful piece of art and I really really want to give the due credit and learn more about their work!

P.P.S. Kaggsy to rescue again; Painting identified and updated with due credits.

 

Once Upon 7 Years Ago Time…..

Many many moons ago, when the world was still young and so was I, circa. 2012, in a fit of absolute outrage at abundance of everything red and white and fluffy, I took to writing a blog post sharing my disdain at the circus called 14th February, and Mockingbirds, Looking Glasses and Prejudices was born! It seems like yesterday, that I tentatively started figuring out what I should write about, feeling conscious when I began following some of your blogs and commenting on your posts and constantly wondering if I can really do this long term. Ah! well!

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This blog was supposed to encourage me to write and develop a more polished way of communicating through words, which in turn would help me pen my novels, essays and many other literary adventures! I have really not done much in that respect; I have gotten the one odd short story published in some journal or other, but beyond that, while I have sought publishers, nothing has really come of it! But then I have gained so much more, especially in terms of things that are so intangible but so very valuable. I have made friends, across the world, who are so much part of my life without having ever met them in person. Through all my lows and personal challenges, this blog has given me an outlet to share my grief and helped me heal. I have shared and celebrated my triumphs and all my travels, making those moments even more memorable! I have had the extreme good fortune of talking to authors and sharing and exchanging ideas with them about their works, opening my mind to whole new way of thinking! And then, I have read – I have read books, I never would read, I have read works which I never knew existed and I have had the courage to reach out and read those genres which I was sure I will never like, completely thanks to the bookish family that I have developed via this blog over the years!

There is so much for me to be grateful for; this blog which now is an essential part of who I am, is more than just a literary outlet – it is that key part of my life, whose absence  is sorely felt and which is an inherent fabric of my existence. Like every other valuable part of our life, I have not always been consistent to this blog, often sacrificing a post, at the alter of a “more pressing” needs, always to realize later, that the sacrifice was truly not worth it and the “more pressing” need could have been accommodated along with a blog post! But such is life, and despite my carelessness, I cannot help but acknowledge the inevitable,we made it to 7 years now and I think I can safely say, I am here for some more time, to put it mildly! Thank You to all my wonderful readers and friends, who have shared this journey, which has enriched me, empowered me, evolved me and made everything so much better! Cheers to all of us!

The 7 Views of the Death

Mary Robert Rienhart defined the genre of detective/mystery novels as  two stories, saying – “The mystery story is two stories in one: the story of what happened and the story of what appeared to happen.” As I read through the Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, over the Christmas weekend, I could feel all the truism of this statement and more. It seemed to be a regular whodunnit from the era of Golden age of mystery; the very usual setting of several guests, visiting over the weekend, in a English Country House in the initial decades of 20th century where a murder happens and there are the usual suspects, with a plausible back story, linking each guest to the victim in one way or another, until the protagonist finds the actual murder. Usual stuff, except Mr. Turton, takes all of these ingredients, and turns everything on its head an to write, what I can unequivocally say is one of the best mystery novels of modern times!

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Lord and Lady Hardcastle, the owners of Blackheath, an estate, in England, have invited several guests, over a weekend, to celebrate the return of their daughter, Evelyn Hardcastle, to England after her 19 years stay in Paris. The guests are all friends of the family and the only unusual fact of the celebrations is it’s dated on the 19th anniversary of the death of Lord and Lady Hardcastle’s elder son, who was killed as a boy of 7, by the then gamekeeper of the Estate, after he was fired by Lord Hardcastle. The other strange fact, is that all the guests invited are the one who were present 19 years ago, on that fated day and while the then children have now become adults, and the adults, now senior citizen, in essence most seem to stay the same. There is also one uninvited guest at the gathering, unrelated wholly from the family who, is also seeking a closure on an injustice. Then there are maids, butlers, gamekeepers and host of other who live in the premises and who all are in some way connected to the murder that is going to happen.This then is the background of the event, which will see the death of Evelyn Hardcastle, and the quest to find the killer.

My friend Helen, when reviewing this book, wrote that she could not even begin imagine how much time and effort must have gone in writing this book! I not only agree with her, but add that as an aspiring writer, I cannot even begin to fathom, how I will keep track of the times, the threads and the characters. Very often, we find novels, with great style but no real plot or a great plot, but a dull narrative, that it simply does not come together! It is a testimony of the incredible brilliance of the author, that not only could he manage to create a narrative, that is absolutely unique and totally untested until now, but somehow hold on and make all the voices come together, all the while, sticking to the basic ethos of writing a cracking good thriller! At the core, there is a murder, but whose murder and how do we find the killer and the journey with author through the eyes of several characters and their own histories, makes for a fast paced read, where, each page gradually unfolds and adds anew new layer to the story. This plot as it evolves is anything but normal, and makes the mind do all kinds of gymnastics, without slowing for even a minute, and each chapter closes with one shocker after another, each exceeding and heightening the excitement from the previous chapter! In fact, the reader from the very beginning joins the journey in the middle of the events and therefore is able to join in the narrator’s confusion and agony, as they try to piece together, the full picture. The scope of the novel, the richness in the details and how the details, integrated further and further to become one new whole, is simply scintillating. Even in mapping out the characters, nothing was left to the chance. They are all full flesh and blood creatures, who while not being all good, have their own redeeming qualities and despite not liking them, you cannot help but feel empathy and even respect for many of their qualities. This ability of the author to be able to build a connection with not wholly positive characters with the readers, in yet another point, in praise of this work! There is so much, simply so much I can write about this book, but one must read it, to actually understand what I am talking about. It seems like a chunkster, but once you start, there is no way, you cannot finish it in the earliest possible manner, in the way it draws you in!

I had read somewhere, that all stories are the same after a point; on on surface, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle does seem like that,  but with it’s narrative style, the fine tuning the nuances of the usual Golden Age mysteries and a wholly innovative perspective, Mr Turton has taken a “same story” and made it into a masterful, ingenious, novel.

The Archbishop of New Mexico

Yet another late post; a book that should have been read & reviewed in April, finally trundles into mid May and I go with the philosophy, that truly, some things are better late than never! As part of The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge, an event hosted by Adam, Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather, was my TBR book for April, and though I managed to finish the novel within the month, but just never got to posting a book review!

Death Comes

Death Comes for the Archbishop chronicles the life and works of Archbishop Bishop Jean Marie Latour and his Vicar, Joseph Vaillant , as they attempt to establish a Catholic Diocese, in the newly captured New Mexico territory of United States. The novel begins with the Bishop and the Priest travelling from Ohio though difficult terrain to establish their Diocese in New Mexico. After some initial setbacks, including a trip that took a year and on arriving, realizing that the local Mexican Clergy, refuse to recognize the authority of Jean Marie Latour, the two worthy settle down to tame the wild elements of the Church which so far had been in lackadaisical fashion managed by the Mexican priests, and bring true piety and relief to the inhabitants, whether European or American or Indians. Over the years, they develop friendships with the local Indian leaders as well the American Businessman and Mexican Ranchers; they rescue an abused woman from the tyranny of a violent husband and convince yet another, to give up on her pride and declare her true age, so that she does not lose her wealth. They try and overcome the acrimony that exists between the local Mexican Priests and the new wave of leaders that Vatican was sending forth and enable the building of  a Romanesque Church. Finally they both end their days, in this land, Father Valliant pre-deceasing Father Latur, as the Bishop of Colorado. Father Latur now retired chooses to stay in New Mexico instead of returning to his homeland in France, dying in the company and service of the people with whom he worked and whose devotion to him till the end was unstinting and complete.

Ms. Cather remains as usual her brilliant self. The dry, difficult land of New Mexico, with its parallel institutions of the Indians, Mexicans and Americans cultures and politics comes alive in this slim novel. In sparse, but succinct prose, Ms. Cather manages to convey, not just the atmosphere, but also the depth of the characters and their past history, all the while, moving the plot along, in such magnificent manner, that leaves you in awe both as a reader and a writer. The lives of Father Latur & Father Valliant, Wikipedia, advises is based on the life and times of Jean-Baptiste Lamy & Joseph Projectus Machebeuf respectively and I am not sufficiently well read to comment on how true to life the portrayals are; however in the characters of Father Latur & Father Valliant, Ms. Cather, created the epitome of spiritual leaders, who like all humans were beset with doubts and weaknesses, but still lead their people, providing comfort, support and spiritual guidance as and when needed, with minimum interference and with a lot of respect for different cultures and practices. The ensemble cast is equally good, providing much needed “materialistic” and “earthy” props to the religious/spiritual narrative of the main protagonists. The thing that really stands about Ms. Cather’s writings is her sense of humanity; writing in 1927, she made it clear in her quiet writing style that the government’s practices against the Navajos, who were exiled to the Bosque Redondo, killing many of its population was unacceptable and defined the very principles of humanity! To end, I can only say, this is a beautiful, lyrical book, that seems to sings songs of the land and lives of the New Mexico Deserts!

A Year In First Lines….

Among the many awesome things that I have learnt from Jane, this is one of my favorites. Based on the idea of the The Indextrious Reader, Jane shares with us “the first line of each month’s first post over the past year and see what it tells you about your blogging year”. Her lovely post is here and I now follow her excellent example; though in my usual way, I go overboard and do paragraphs instead, but nevertheless –

January :: Ah! Well, the much looked forward to December is now gone and January beckons! Without breaking into my usual song and dance histrionics about the misery of getting back to routine and moaning the loss of much beloved vacation time, I must say, I do not feel too bad, not too perky either, but more like zen, knowing that this too shall pass!

February :: The first month of 2017 is now over and to think 2017 had started! Time flies when you especially need more time! Don’t ask me why!

March ::Winter in this part of the world is officially over and the brief Spring is here. I can like this season had it not been the harbinger of the terrible Indian Summers!

April ::While my friends in the Northern Hemisphere rejoice the Spring, here’s the sweltering unrelenting heat of the Indian Summers are beginning to be felt. 

May ::The much dreaded Indian Summers are here and much as I would want to hide away and never really come out of igloo styled hibernation, there are bills to be paid and work to be done! So May, do thy worst, I shall live for October!!

June :: As I read other posts, on glories of Summer, I am hard pressed to find one good thing about this damm season in this part of the Geography! Heat, dry and unceasingly stifling beats, down on all in the Indian sub continent and those of us able to afford air conditioning count our blessings. But what of those who are barely able to manage a roof over their heads, let alone any cooling instrument to give relief?

July ::Finally July…Fall is only 3 months away and I survived yet another horrid Indian Summer. Actually, there are 3 more months to go, but these are technically the Monsoon months, where it rains and floods and while it is quite pleasant when it rains, immediately after that the humidity soars and the baking heat now with high humidity, makes life, well miserable to say the very least!! But like my oft repeated motto, as long as there are books, life will always look up!

August:: I think this recent hiatus from the world of bloggers has been my longest. Unfortunately work and more work and now an added certification for which I signed up is taking up 37 hours of the 24 hours!  My reading is down to a crawl and to say I am neglecting housework is the a mere understated understatement. Oh! the joys of adulthood!

September :: September is here, which means, October and by that extension, Fall is around the corner and atleast for next couple of months, Winter, lovely Winter is in season!! Yay!! Another Summer gone and another year is coming round! Time does fly , but I honestly cannot say that I want to go back to January 2017 and would much rather move to December 2017!

October ::In the words, of L.M. Montgomery, via Anne of Green Gables “I‘m so glad I live in a world where there are October“. I cannot think of a more perfect way to show gratitude for the month of October…fall is here and winter is on its way. It means relief for the searing heat of Indian Summer, wood fire smokes, festivals and celebration and finally a year end, where for the mad year of 2017, I can slow down a bit and take a breathe to read and write!

November ::Ah!! November, glorious November, how I look out for thee, every year! It is in thine hope that I passeth months, that be March to September!! Finally, cold weather, holidays and celebration; what I ask is not like about winter coming? Atleast, winter in my part of the world!

December ::December, glorious December! How I love thee! You are the only month in the calendar that helps me survive, January to November! Ok, maybe not November, but for sure January to October! And finally this glorious, wondrous, joyous month is upon us, and boy! do I have plans!

A Very Special Date

Raahrarraaahhhh!!! Tara Dum! Tara Dee!!! Roll the drums and bring on the fanfare, for today, ahem! ahem! we celebrate the 5th Anniversary of Mockingbirds, Looking Glasses and Prejudices!!! (Virtual confetti being showered!!!) Yay!!Its the big 5 blogaversary!

It’s been 5 years since I started this blog after being rather disgusted over a over-hyped thing I saw at the mall on Valentine’s Day. As most know, 5 years down the line, my thoughts have not changed much as was evident from my last post. Oh! Well…everything changes and nothing does. But not really!

Over the last 5 years I have gained so much that I could scarcely believe was possible when I started out that February morning of 2012! I have written more blogs not only for myself but also for many other sites. I have felt myself improve as a writer and in the process become a more evolved individual. I have a read more books and ventured into literary spheres which I would have scarcely ventured into had it not been for all of you opening up the erudite vistas for me. I have read such a variety of non fiction, classics and poetry than I would have thought possible in February 2012, forcing me out of my comfort zone and making me look at the world at large in whole different perspective! I have read Metamorphosis by Ovid and Bewoulf because of Cleo. I have read science fiction because of Stefanie and found innumerable lost authors, thanks to Jane who has a knack for finding these authors. There are sooooo many others who have made me read so many different things! You all have helped me not only read more but also do things that I would have not thought possible from participating in marathons to cooking yumilious carrot ginger soup!! You have made me grow in all possible ways! Most importantly, I have made some awesome friends – friends I have not met, but who have stood by me through thick and thin, through deaths and dumpings and cheered me on when I was promoted or took one an adventurous road trip. Through 1000 miles of geography and cultures that separate us, they came together as a bunch of kindred souls while helping me navigate through the choppy waters of life! Finally my readers, thank you for sticking around and reading my blah-blah. I am sure you do not always like what I write and may often be bored, but thank you for sticking around and reading anyways!

Since I was/am feeling all sentimental anyway, I thought I will complete the trip to the very end and feel nostalgic as well. Therefore I went back and read some of my older posts and thought I will share some of them with you, especially the ones which most seemed to have enjoyed and were also kind of personal blogging milestones –

  1. Satire be my song….List of 10 best satires from all time – February 19th 2012 – One of my very fast posts, about things which I liked the best – books!
  2. Love and Mutiny in the Time of British Raj – July 1 2012 – I begin to get into the groove of book reviews.
  3. The Year Through Posts -December 7th 2014 – Inspired by Jane, this seemed a perfect way to wrap the year!
  4. Defining Style – An Alternative Perspective – February 17 2015 – Where I venture out of bookish blogs and start posting for other sites!
  5. Celebrating Freedom – The Home and The World Read Along – July 19th 2016 – I host my very first Read Along!

It’s been such wonderful 5 years of learning, fun and cherished memories! Thank you for being part of this wandering with me and for enriching my life with your ideas, enthusiasm and thoughts!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The First of the First….

Ah! Well, the much looked forward to December is now gone and January beckons! Without breaking into my usual song and dance histrionics about the misery of getting back to routine and moaning the loss of much beloved vacation time, I must say, I do not feel too bad, not too perky either, but more like zen, knowing that this too shall pass!

And while it passes, it’s time to make plans for 2017. The plan for 2017 is to have no plans! I mean it!! I have huge mammoth work effort coming up that will test my organizational and project management skills and this project could make or break my career. Therefore for this year alone, the only place I want to focus on planning is at work! That’s it! Everything else I will take it as it comes; the idea will be to continue improving myself, like run more marathons and maybe do a trek and of course, write more; but outside of that, there is flow chart and project plan to stick too!

This campaign naturally extends to my reading plans for the year! I decided late in 2016, I was too involved in trying to track reading plans and this year with work going through the roof, there is no way I will be able to do justice to any reading challenges or plans. Instead I will read like I used to initially, picking up what I like and joining my friends when they read something really interesting or host an event that really gets me excited! Therefore in a stark departure to several years of define reading challenges, this year, I stand independent and do not join any!

Having said all of that, as far as books and temptations are concerned, I will always be TEMPTED to join some or the other reading event. In that spirit, I will be joining Dolce Bellezza as she hosts the read along for Captivity by Gyorgy Spiro for this month. It’s a historical chunkster set during Roman Empire, narrated from the point of view of a Roman Jew as he captures the time between Christ’s death and the outbreak of the Jewish Wars. With such a premise, can I but say, that I am really really excited about this one!! Jane is hosting Margery Sharp Day and since she introduced me to this brilliant author last year, I have become a Sharp devotee. Naturally, there is no way I will miss this event to celebrate her works and I will be joining Jane and other to read Britannia Mews by Margery Sharp. If life seemed simple, so far, I have a tendency to make things a twinge more complex and therefore I will be joining Ruth and Cleo as they navigate The Well Educated Mind Histories Reading List and kick start the project with reading Histories by Herodotus. There is no way in the world, I will finish this book in January alone and I am sure, I this reading project with my ideas of reading some Eastern histories will turn into a 10 year effort! Like I said, complication is my middle name! Besides all of this, I have finally gotten around to reading All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I have also started on Ravenspur, Part 4 of the War of Roses Series by Conn Iggulden. Finally, I still continue with the serialized reading of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, as part of O’s brilliant and innovative Reading Event.

So much for not having a plan….if this does not look, challenging, I am not sure what is. But then the idea was to read good books, and good books are never easy to read. Therefore, without further ado, let’s get started!

Happy Reading All!

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