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Posts tagged ‘Read Alongs’

The Year That Was….

Here we stand on the very threshold of 2017 and I must say, that while this year was good, but I am very glad to see the last of it! It brought several challenges with it, both personal and professional and while I am grateful to have survived and conquered it all, I must confess, I am glad to say, Off with the Old and On with the New!!

However, before we say a final goodbye to 2017, as goeth the tradition, I did want do a wrap up post on all the books I loved this year – books which enriched me and filled my soul and of course gave me a lot to think about. Therefore, here goes the final countdown , in no order whatsoever….

  • A Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell – This book moved me, moved my soul, Japan came alive under the lyrical writings of this author! Perhaps one of the best books, I have read, EVER!
  • Thud by Terry Pratchet –  A re-read but Sir Terry, may God Rest my soul, always captures every human action from bravery to stupidity to turn it into life lessons, only with dollops and dollops of laughter! Sir Terry, You are missed!
  • The Conquer Series by Conn Iggulden – Yet another re-read, but I cannot think of a more masterful, more evocative and more gripping narrative of the rise of the House of Mongols than the one recreated by Conn Iggulden, tracing the birth, death and the rise of new era of Mongols, under the leadership of Chengiz Khan! Moving away from myths and sifting through half truths, Mr. Iggulen shares a powerful and spell binding narrative of a tribe, who continue to resonate through History
  • Histories by Herodotus  – While I am miserably lagging behind in Reading the Histories, this is one book, I am glad I read, in the company of Ruth and Cleo! The first written History of the Western World is a epic narrative of facts, gossipy nuggets and wise words, that bring the world of 3rd Century BCE to life! This one book, I am so very glad I read!
  • Trespasses by Caroline Bridgewood – I read this little known novel when I was 16 and since then I have been searching for it! Nearly 2 decades later, I was able to own a copy and re-read this tale of cousins and a family in England, torn apart and then brought back together through the Second World War! Simple, funny and one of the few books that make me cry!
  • Shadow of The Moon by MM Kaye – What more can I say about the book that I have not said so far? My blog is filled with notes about this novel that tells the story of Winter De Balletros and Alex Randall set in 1857 India, during the Mutiny! I was honored to hold a Read Along in August and had the great pleasure of Cleo and Helen for company, which made this particular reading even more joyful and memorable!
  • Song of the Sea Maid by Rebecca Mascull – Oh!! One of the very few “new books” I read this year and, boy, did this take my breathe away! Set in 18th century Europe. the story of woman scientist is so many things at one go – an adventure, a indictment of the society, a love story, a story of a women’s journey! This book defies genre and words, except, Vi, Va Ms. Mascull!
  • The Edwardians by Vita Sacville West – Another first time read, that blew me away. Edwardian society comes alive in all its glory as well inconsistencies in this brilliant novel by Ms. West.
  • Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari – This was one book, that one very rarely comes come across – it blows away some of your existing belief systems and then sets up new foundation, that forces you to think and wonder, why the hell did you not see these things before! For me, this was the book, that everyone should read, whether they like it or dislike or whatever, simply because, history of mankind is presented in a whole new light, making us question how we interpret our past and its consequences for the future!
  • Ann of Green Gables (Series) by LM Montgomery – Who can help but not love Ann? In yet another re-read, she came in to cheer me up in some of my most exhausting work days and regaled me with the goings on of King Edward Island, her attempts at being a lady, her friends, her college and her life as a wife and mother! Simple and joyful!
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – Yet another re- read and yet another layer of brilliance that I discovered in this enduring tale of women’s right, society and love! Ms. Austen remains, masterful!
  • The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window & Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, Rod Bradbury – This is my optimistic book of the year. The book that made me smile and hope that no matter what, never give up on your life and if you are lucky, you may get some companions to make it more joyful like a would-have-been-anything-but-now-hotdog-vendor, a crook, a drug lord, a detective inspector and an elephant! My ha-ha book of of the year!

  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens – This 21 month Read Along, the brilliant idea of O, where we read the book in installments as originally published  over 2 years!! It was brilliant and one of the Read Along ever! Eternal thanks to O for hosting this!

  • A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee – I am usually wary of Indian Authors writing in English; most are not Amitava Ghosh or Arundhati Roy and the reading often writes contrived. However Mr. Mukherjee brings Calcutta of 1920’s to life in this old fashioned whodunnit with just the right mix of language, history and plot twist!
  • Murder in the Cathedral by TS Eliot – A last minute read again suggested by Cleo. While the story of Thomas Beckett is well known, the drama and language brings the whole incident to life with a very interesting ending.

That is that; a small snapshot of my reading Year! Many thanks to all of you who joined me in my reading adventures and had the patience to read through my blogs! Reading is so much more fun when shared with friends!

To end, I would just want to say in the words of great Lord Tennyson –

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be

 

The Longest Read Along – EVER!

This post is LATE! Like beyond late, it is like late to the power of infinity! However, like I say better late than never and all that! So here goes –

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More than 2 years ago, O, who always sets the bar for heavy weight as well as innovative readings, came up with the idea of doing a 21 Month Read Along of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, in the chronology it was published. She shared that a friend of hers had advised her to read in that style to grasp the flavor of the original narrative. It was an interesting idea and I was very willing to give this novel a try, since my first reading, in my teens, did not make a significant impression. Besides, I wanted to see if I can control a book binge if hooked. Thus I in the company of many others, set along the path of what could be possibly one of the longest Read Alongs ever!!

The Pickwick Papers, chronicles, the adventure of Mr. Samuel Pickwick, a mature gentleman of independent means and head of the Pickwick Club and his chums; Mr.Tracy Tupman, a contemporary of Mr. Pickwick in age, but lacking the former’s sagacity and quite capable of falling in love, at the drop of a hat. Mr. Nathaniel Winkle and Mr. Augustus Snodgrass form the remaining partners in adventure; they are younger with unique talents – Mr. Winkle is a Sportsman and Mr. Snodgrass, a poet! They set out from London to explore unique and authentic phenomena across England and report them for the club. Thus begins a journey of a thousand miles; on the way, Mr. Pickwick picks up  young Sam Weller as his valet who sticks by his Master’s schemes through thick and thin. They meet the wonderful families and good for nothing confidence men. There is imprisonment on false charges and there are elopements, but nothing dims the optimistic and honorable spirit of Mr. Pickwick and his trusty aid, Sam Weller as they over come obstacles and challenges to find the most reasonable solution for all their dilemmas!

One of his first creations, one can see the brilliance of Charles Dickens coming through in the novel, though he was only 23 when writing it. There is wonderful characterization and gentle satire and sense of fun through all the 800 pages. There is confusion, adventure and rambunctious fun! Yet, despite all this humor, there is a harsh commentary on the 18th century English society. All the laughs he wrote out in the book, cannot take away, the harsh reality of the Debtor’s prison or the horrific conditions of people living without means. The corruption of officials and politicians are clearly called out with a scathing condemnation for a society unable to take care of it’s poorer population. Dicken’s sense of justice is passionate and we see glimpses of things to come in this novel. Some of the characters are really well drawn out, like Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller and his father, and Mr. Jingle, who talks in hyphens, but others do not emerge all that clearly!  There are times, when you can make out that this was being written in installments, like, how the initial chapters have a story within a story for Mr. Pickwick to capture for the club and then there are no such episodes in the latter half. Similarly, technically, Mr. Pickwick’s chums began as the focal points after Mr. Pickwick himself, but somewhere the brilliance and sheer street smartness of Sam Weller took over and he become the second most important character of the book. Not that I am complaining, all one needs is one Sam Weller in the world, and one can fight through everything! But it does show, a bit of sketchy character development, with Sam coming through clearly and all there friends being clubbed together as muddle heads.

Like I mentioned, the first time I read the book, back in my teens, I did not get it! But sometimes the right book comes at the right time and that was the case, this time round, through it was over a period of 2 years. I could immerse myself in the book after a bad day at work or some other mental irritation and emerge happy and smiling. There were times, when after I broke off reading for one spell, it was difficult to connect the dots and remember all the characters, but these anomalies, resolved as I progressed and did not really impact my absolute and utter sense of joy when reading this novel.

All in all, I am super super glad to have given this book another try! A big shout out to O for coming up with the idea and for Cleo who always kept me on track with her regular posts!

Dewey’s 24 Hrs Readathon – Updates

Update 1 –  17:00 hrs (30 mins before the Challenge starts )

Here we go again, I am all set to party at the Dewey’s 24 hrs Readathon as all preps fall into place-

  • House Cleaned – Check
  • Fridge Stocked – Check
  • Kindle Charged – Check
  • Power Nap – Check
  • Friends and Family notified about the next 24hrs DND Policy – Check
  • And finally the book pile 🙂

I think we are finally all sorted here! I am now ready to READ, especially considering I have not read the whole morning and it is nearly 17:00 hrs here in part of the world. I will do a every 4hrs update but we will see how things go! Besides this blog, you can find me at the following places twirling around –

Twitter – @cirtnecce (https://twitter.com/cirtnecce)

Instagram – jayantichakraborty (https://www.instagram.com/jayantichakraborty/?hl=en)

GoodReads – cirtnecce (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/7832287-cirtnecce)

Now can we please get going??!!

Opening Meme Update

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Delhi, India

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

The Ladies of Missalonghi  by Colleen McCullough

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Not snack but dinner – my sister is cooking some awesome Indian style mutton! (Happy Dance)

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

Sister, Friend, Daughter, Project Leader, Reader, Traveler, Reader, Writer, Cook….er…did I mention Reader??!

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

Keep the first few books short and sweet to get the rhythm going. Also drink and I mean DRINK plenty of water!

Update 2 – 20:00 (2.5 hrs since we started)

Book Update – Finished Lady Susan by Jane Austen

Snack Update – Tea

Take on Book – A much awaited re-read; one of the earliest works of Jane Austen, where you can see the promise of P&P or Emma or Persuasuion. Lady Susan is a scheming, artificial, flirtatious and materialistic woman, who is forced to visit her brother-in-law in the country, following a scandal in the family in Longford with whom she had been staying. She looks forward to the visit with little interest and only to bide time, but the arrival of her sister-in-law’s brother, Reginal De Courcy makes thing interesting for her as she is determined to make a conquest of him despite his very apparent dislike for her. More confusion is added when Fredrica, Lady Susan’s much neglected but excellent daughter joins her to add another complication in Lady Susan’s grand scheme.  Austen at her usual in the best possible representation of the society of her time. While she remains absolute in her support for good understanding and correct moral behavior, she nevertheless knows how to have fun at all that was frivolous and foolish in her contemporary society. The best thing that I like about the book is she makes no apology or explanations for the conduct of Lady Susan and in her, we find a full veined conniving vamp, who does not suffer and die, but lives moderately happily till the end!

Update 3 – 23:00 (6.5 hrs since we started)

Book Update – The Ladies of Missalonghi  by Colleen McCullough

Snack Update –  Dinner – Mutton cooked by my flatmate with Naan 🙂

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Take on Book – It’s a wonderful read so far. Australia comes alive in the hands of  Ms. McCullough. I had read that this novel had courted major plagiarism controversy on its publication as it seemed to resonate closely with The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. However, so far into the first odd 40 pages, it seems to have as close resemblance to The Blue Castle as do all books of similar nature to Cinderella.

Also I am moderating the Discussion for this hour over at GoodReads, so hop over and let me know your thoughts!

Update 4 – 4:00 (10.5 hrs since we started)

Book Update – Finished The Ladies of Missalonghi  by Colleen McCullough and started on Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (This is where I go rouge on my planned Readathon TBR)

Snack Update –  Dark Chocolate

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Take on Book – Shy and quiet, Missy Wright has lived all her 33 years under the direction of her mother and aunt, working hard and long everyday to etch out a living on the Missalonghi. Her only pleasure is reading, and the recent assistant to the Library, Una has opened her literary pleasure to a whole new world of novels of romance and adventure. But as a new stranger enters the town of Byron, long held to be the domain of Hurlingford family, of whom Missy’s mother and aunt belong too, things begin to change. Suddenly Missy is not quiet ready to accept her quiet wall power life anymore and when shares of the Byron Bottling Company start to go out of the control of Hurlingsfords and of which her aunt and mother own some shares. its time for Missy to start thinking big! The Blue Mountains come alive in this novel by Ms. McCullough. Never have I yearned to visit Australia so badly as I have in the last few hours!! The characters are wonderfully drawn out and I really liked how Missy and Dursialla’s characters evolved and the mother and daughter came to a closer and better understanding. I am have certain mixed feelings about some of the “otherworldy” interventions, which made me waver between a 4 or 5 rating on GoodReads, but despite that, the book is wonderful read!!

Starting to feel really really sleepy!!

Update 5 – 10:30 (16 hrs since we started)

Book Update – Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Snack Update –  COFFEE!

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Take on the Book – Not much to say as sleep claimed me after the initial 50 pages and I woke up after 5 hours. Still groggy! Why is it on days without the Readathons, I can read through the night and still be fresh as daisy in the morning??!!! But woe is me when the Readathon happens and I succumb to sleep!!! Arrrgggghh!

Update 6 – 1:30 (21hrs since we started)

Book Update – Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Snack Update –  Water! Had toast and tea earlier fro Breakfast!

Take on the Book – On page 142 and so far, ho hum! The children in the book come across as 10 times smarter than the adults. The modern day protagonist is a 45 year old American journalist, Julie who has been living in Paris for last 25 years; married to a French architect (how very original!) who is “charming” which is a good enough reason for Julie to be married to him for 16 years. He treats her like a peice of shit including cheating on her and all she does is act like a wet rag. Why a woman of independent means with a strong support system will put up with such a marriage is beyond me and I am out patience with Julie going about how charming Bertrand is!!! The modern day narrative is so flat that I can see the plot twist 10 pages into the book. The only thing keeping me going is the actual history of  Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup of Jews in German-occupied Paris in 1942 and the plot line around the little girl who escapes from the camp in 1942.

Update 7 – 16:30 (23 hrs since we started)

Book Update – Finished Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay; Started Wild Strawberries by Angela Thirkell

Snack Update –  More Tea and chicken cutlets

Take on the Book – I cannot honestly say I enjoyed Sarah’s Key. The heroine remained a wet rag who needed validation of worth from her 10 year old daughter (how screwed is that??!!) She flies all the way to Italy to tell a stranger something that will tear his life apart and until she has actually told him everything, she did not realize how much damage she can do to an innocent person – and this is 45 year old woman. The characters were all flat and many of them completely unnecessary! The only important thing about the book because of which I ended up giving it a 3 star was it highlighted one of the most horrific and overlooked history of World War II , where the French Police let more than 11000 Jewish children first get separated from their parents and then letting them die. The history was well researched and reminded/educated many modern readers about Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup of Jews in German-occupied Paris in 1942

Wild Strawberries is so far reading like a mad adventure into the life and times of the Leslie family, who lived in the idyllic setting of English countryside in-between the war years!

And In 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! But there are still some months to go and some more books to read!

As I have repeated time and time again, this is has been an overworked year where work pressure and studying for a certain certification has taken away a number of reading hours from me and therefore once again my reading plans are limited and I am leaving options to read basis my mood and level of tiredness, to make some real time reading plans. Having said that there are some books, that I am already in the middle of or read alongs that need to be completed and at the very least those, I can list down to make some sort of sketchy plans!

To begin with, there is the marvelous The Pickwick Paper Read Along hosted by O, heading for its conclusion soon! When I had first read this wonderful novel by Charles Dickens, I had not liked it much; but this re-read, maybe because of the timing or whatever, I really really loved and now look forward to the last few chapters! I also continue with Yasmin Khan’s The Raj at Work  – A People’s History of India’s Second World War. Just to make things a bit more interesting, I have decided to pair it with The Rising Tide by Jeff Shaara. I also recently stated reading the much appreciated and  applauded history of mankind, Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and am finding it a very interesting read,with some very interesting and unique hypothesis. Finally, Jane as usual got me interested in some little known works and I have downloaded Joanna Godden by Sheila Kaye Smith and The Rector by the brilliant Margaret Oliphant. That is all I have mapped out as reading plans for the month.

This is the month of many Hindu festivals, so I am hoping for a little more of time off and a little more reading progress than what the previous months have shown, but knowing how things go, I am keeping this optimistic prognosis as a prognosis and we will see how things pan out as they pan out. I the meanwhile, I leave you with some shots of monsoon in India, specifically, of the grey skies and the blue black ocean, along the western coast of India, where I spent glorious, 10 days road tripping through last week!

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The Augustinian Plans….

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! Actually I take that back…I would rather be an adult anyday, than go back to being a school kid! I hear folks talk about their childhood with so much nostalgia, but me,I am glad not to do homework, not worry about being a wallflower, not go through the angst of adolescent and generally like being responsible for myself, without a zillion number of adults telling me how to do things better. The latter still happens, but atleast now I have the power to ignore without subterfuge; as a young kid I had to do a LOT of planning to get my own way which was yet another exhausting factor about being young!!!

That was a lot of procrastination from the main subject of reading plans, but considering how bad the last month turned out to be for reading, I am kind of wary about any elaborate reading plans. Besides I have a road trip planned in the middle of August traveling across the Western Coast of India and I am sure while I will really want to read between those spells of long drives, I am also sure, my friends and cousins will chatter enough to make sure I cannot concentrate on the book and instead join their mayhem! So seriously, keeping it simple for a while.

To begin with I am putting The Well Educated Mind Reading Challenge – Reading The Histories on hold till November. I am as is wayyyyyyyy behind Cleo and Ruth and rest of the group and this certification is a lot of heavy reading on Strategy and Finances and all other non fun stuff and since my company is paying for it, I NEED TO CERTIFY! Therefore all heavy reading is for this course which thankfully will be over by November! Hence, I have decided that Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War and The City of God by Saint Augustine will have to wait for now! I am not sure if I am happy or sad about this fact! Fortunately, Mr. Dickens continue to provide much needed relief for all the stress and I am happy to progress through yet another set of adventures in the company of Mr. Pickwick and friends, as part of  The Pickwick Paper Read AlongI still have left over reading from July which includes Yasmin Khan’s The Raj at War – A People’s History of India’s Second World War . which is mind blowingly brilliant and Desperate Remedies by Thomas Hardy for which I am still holding my breath. I hope to also finish Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, again a Read along with Cleo, this month, a novel that I am enjoying immensely! I also have New York by Edward Rutherford to finish. Besides these, I am sure I will pick up more and get into an even more tighter spot on finding time to manage life. But it is what it is and as long as we are having fun, that’s what counts! I mean what’s the point of being an adult otherwise!!!!!

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