Book Beginnings on Friday


Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading. If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence. (Thanks to Rose City Reader for inspiring this meme)

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth


Iam at the beginning of week 3 and I am still going with this monster of a book. I probably could read it a little bit fast but it is difficult to maintain sufficient interest to read it really quickly when you are taking so long to read just one book. I am still enjoying it though.

Rather than share the opening sentence of the book again, I will share the opening sentence of Part 6 with you:
"Arriving at the haridas College of Music, Istad Majeed Khan nodded absently to a couple of other music teachers, grimaced with distaste at two female kathak dancers who were carrying their jangling anklets into a nearby practice room on the ground floor, and arrived at the closed door of his room."
I love the gentle way in which Seth acknowedlges all the different cultural practices but at the same time their is this lightly mocking tone to the sentence.

What about you? Leave a link to your Book Beginnings on Friday post in the Mr Linky below.

 

Lights, Camera, Blog Action!

This is a special feature dedicated to spreading the word about the other great blogs that are out there! I have found a lot of great blogs through such features and I want to be able to share some book blog joy too!

If anyone would like to participate email me at pageturnersbooks(at)gmail.com

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Today I am featuring Chris from Eclectic Indulgence. I enjoy this blog because it is about the classics, books that are important and interesting but that are under appreciated in the blogging world (in my humble opinion). The reviews are also of a great quality; this is one blog that is worth following.

Tell us something about yourself

I'm the slowest reader in the history of the planet.  It partly has to do with the fact that I hear myself speaking the prose in my head as I read and when the book is not to my liking or I'm particularly busy in 'real life', I tune out quite a bit.  I have a passion for leather books and books with slipcases (the former because I like the feel and smell and the latter for the structure).

My perfect moment would be sitting in a hammock by a quiet lake, reading a book while the wind dances with the trees and caresses my skin.  There is nothing better in the world.  Add a coffee to this and the warmth of the sun and I just may cry due to happiness overload.

What was your favourite book as a child or young adult, and why?
I remember in elementary school, taking out our textbook and reading selected excerpts from popular works. Other than “Jabberwocky”, the ones that stick out in my head were Homer’s “Odyssey” (which I have yet to read) and “Riddles in the Dark”, the popular chapter where Bilbo wins the Ring in a battle of wits with Gollum. I loved the excerpt so much that I made my father buy me the novel along with most of the Lord of the Rings books that the store had (they were missing the Fellowship of the Ring, so I ended up getting a different edition – this perturbed me for years afterwards). Anyway, I remember being shocked that my father would actually buy these for me. I can’t remember him ever having bought me anything, and he has never been a fan of literature (he only reads John Grisham novels), so I must have made some sort of impression on him.

I loved “The Hobbit” the most of the Tolkien books. I have read it twice and I still have many fond memories that will never be affected by the movies. I long to attend the table of Beorn and watch him shapeshift. I would like to whistle with Tom Bombadill, roving through tall grasses and sitting by willow trees. I long to sit by the fire and eat sweetcakes with Bifor, Bofur and Bombur... and all the other dwarves. When in a rut, I’d love to go adventuring on the downs (despite the danger) and see what prizes can be found there. In short, the world Tolkien created fascinated me and appealed to me on a level that I never knew existed. It took me to places I had never been before and I continually want to grab the book from my shelves and dive back into it.

Why do you love to read?
Occasionally, I will read something that will strike such a tremendous chord with me.  It will change the way I look at life, the world, or my place in it.  When this happens, I can feel as if my life is expanding... as if I am growing in a productive manner, despite not doing anything typically termed 'productive'.  I read for these moments, and I am constantly looking for inspiration and I'd like to think in an eclectic way... something that is very unique to myself.  I have quotes on sticky notes all around my work space to remind me of things that are important.  Here are two: "Nobody promises you tomorrow" [dont' know where I got this one - it's a bit hokey, but it's holistic] and "Man is free the moment he wants to be" by Voltaire.

How do you choose your books?
I read mostly classics.  Some think this is stuffy, but my rationale is this:  I have limited time on this earth (and you all know I read very slowly now), and I would like to offer myself the greatest probability of obtaining these precious moments through literature.  I constantly feel the weight of remorse... that I will not get to read everything I want to before I leave my body.  If I read something modern, I have to really believe it will be something special because it will cause me to not have time for something else.

(Parenthetically, I never read synopsis', because I feel they will change my perspective on books).

What are you currently reading and what's been the best book you have read in the last 6 months?
I'm currently reading "The Curse of Lono" by Hunter S. Thompson.  This kind of flies in the face of my usual classics, but the book is a work of art in itself (Ralph Steadman's artistic personifications of the author's thoughts scare and teach me at the same time). 

The best book I have read in the last six months is Thomas Hardy's "Jude the Obscure."  Thomas Hardy is a genius, but he takes an emotional toll.
If you had to narrow it down - who would be your 3 favourite authors and what would be your 3 favourite books?

Favourite Authors:
Ernest Hemingway
John Steinbeck
The third is tough, because I have only read one by each, but I'm going to have to go with either Boris Pasternak or Vladamir Nobokov.

Favourite Books:
"The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger
"Notes from Underground" by Fyodor Dostoevsky
"Doctor Zhivago" by Boris Pasternak

The talent here is so dense, it is painful to pare it down to such a small list.

When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog for me... because I realized that I forgot a lot about the books I read over time.  In most cases I knew how I felt about a work, but only really select tidbits about it.  I created this blog to keep my memories in tact.  What I found out was, my experiences with books do not end.  Over time, my perceptions and thoughts about a work change and I have realized that all these experiences are floating inside my being, making me who I am.

How did you choose your blog's name?
I've always felt like an "Eclectic" person and I really LOVE this word, so it kind of stuck.  The Indulgence part just came to me one day, because really... my experiences with good books can be classified as an indulgence, like a creamy unbaked cheesecake or a coffee made of freshly ground beans on a Saturday morning.  There are no price tags on experiences like these, and the indulgences are what makes life magic.

Thus, my blog's name is "Eclectic Indulgence."

What do you love about book blogging?
Learning... about myself, others and literature out there I have yet to experience.

What tips do you have to offer to other book bloggers?
If you blog, do it for yourself first.  People will enjoy hearing what you have to say if you just be who you are and love what you do.  You don't have to be technically astute, you just have to love and be willing to share that with the world.
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I felt quite nostalgic listening to you talk about the Hobbit. I love all of Tolkien's works too, and The Hobbit was the first one I read. I read a lovely big edition that had these wonderful colourful pictures in it. I own that edition now and love flicking through it to look at the pictures. I was recently listening to The Hobbit as an audiobook and it was so well done, I was really surprised at how much I loved hearing the story being read to me.

I also like your take on why it is important to read classics. If you are a true reader and love the power of language, what better a way to enjoy books than reading those that are truly wonderful!

Thanks very much for participating!

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (an Australian contemporary classic)


There has been so much commentary about The Slap since it was published, that I have to say that I don't think that there is much of value that I can say about this book that hasn't been said before, and a lot more eloquently.

As such, I will write a little about my thoughts after reading the book, but if you are particularly interested in finding out more about Tsiolkas's brilliant novel, I recommend that you read these wonderful reviews:

The Slap explores the consequences of an adult's decision at a family bbq in suburban Melbourne to slap a child that is not their own.

The book is comprised of eight chapters, and each chapter is written from the perspective of someone who was present at the bbq at the time of this event. The book isn't focused on plot per se, in fact the main plot point is resolved approximately three quarters of the way through the book. Tsiolkas's main concern was exploring the inner working of this range of characters.

Some of the characters were more authentic than others, and some were more interesting than others. I particularly found the character of Manolis (the Greek father of the host of the bbq) to be very uninteresting. I also found the choice of Richie (a teenager trying to come to terms with his sexuality) as the voice of the final chapter a little disappointing. He was so far removed from the main plot point that I wasn't really sure what value he added to the story.

The truth is, I didn't like any of the characters. They were all selfish, racist and narrow-minded in their own different way. I was particularly frustrated by the hippie other of the child that was subjected to the slap. I would have slapped the mother rather than the child if it had been me.

Essentially, Tsiolkas paints this really depressing picture of family life in suburban Australia; rife with drug use, violence and infidelity. He also explores issues related to gender, religion and cultural differences in a way that it is so honest that it was horribly confronting.

That's what the sad thing about this book is. I suspect that it is an accurate reflection of centemporary Australian life for a lot of people. I say "I suspect", for two reasons. First, I couldn't identify with the characters of the book; who were either a lot older or younger than myself and dealing with issues that are not within my experience. Secondly, because as an Australian it is hard to be objective.

I want to say that I loved this book, but I can't. I can't say that I loved it becuase I had such a negative emotional response to it. I was disturbed by The Slap; to the extent that it actually gave me disturbing dreams. I felt depressed when I finished it and couldn't help but wonder - is this really what people honestly think?

Having said that, I acknowledge that this books ability to elicit such a strong emotional response from me is a testament to how good it is. I am pleased that such an Australian book has had such an impact around the world and I was particularly pleased to see it long listed for the Man Booker Prize. The book deserves all the hype around it and I do recommend it despite my feelings upon finishing it.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
A very Australian read; one that really reflects the experience of many Australian people. Be prepared to be emotionally confronted though.

Do I recommend this book?
Yes absolutely, I recommend it to everyone.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
I am pleased that I own a copy because I think that this will become an Australian classic. Other than that, it's up to you.


Star Rating

6.5 / 8


Brilliant, couldn't put it down. I recommend it.


Have you read this book? People either seem to love it or hate it. Have you ever such a strong emotional response to the book that you can't honestly say you love it, but you can honestly say that you acknowledge how good it is?

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling (Harry is finally growing up)

Order of the Phoenix will always have a place in my heart for being the first book where Harry really starts to grow up. 

I remember reading this of the first time and feeling rather apprehensive. Harry didn't feel like his usual self. In fact, he was behaving like a bit of a tool. Yelling at people, throwing tantrums and just behaving a lot more childishly than he usually would.

Then I realised - Harry is growing up. He has become an adolescent, and those angsty traits are starting to kick in. I think Phineas Nigellus hit the nail on the head when he said that he hated teaching because the students always thought that they knew best. Harry is so used to everything being about him, he starts throwing tantrums when he feels left out. He no longer trusts those adults that have assisted him the past. His childish behaviour just shows that he is getting older.

The other great thing about this book is that it is really when the story really become more complex. We are well and truly being given insights into the true nature of the relationship between Harry and Voldemort. There are more and more clues and things to figure out. The story starts becoming more adult in a lot of ways, especially with the evil nature of Professor Umbridge and the adult ways in which she deals with the students. 

The death of Sirius is of course sad, but it seems fitting somehow. It gives us a real glimpse of the true danger to come.

Another great book in the Harry Potter series.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
It is a kids book so it is very easy to read, but it is magical.

Do I recommend this book?
Absolutely.


Do I recommend that you buy this book?
Absolutely.


Star Rating

8 / 8


One of the best books I have ever read. Everyone should read it - it is totally amazing. I am in love.


What do you think? Did you see a noticeable change in Harry in this book as compared to the earlier ones? What do you think is responsible for this change?

It's Monday! What are you reading?

 

It's Monday, what are you reading? is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is a chance for us to share with other book bloggers what we have just finished reading, what we are currently reading and what we are reading next.

Just finished

My current read is such a big book that it is going to take around another 2 weeks to finish. I have been reading other books in the mean time, just to give myself a bit of variety. These are the books that I have been reading when I have taken a break from my current read.

Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M Auel

Clan of the Cave Bear is the first book in the Earth Children series by Jean M Auel, one of my all time favourite series of books (despite a lot of misgivings as the series progresses. It is the story of the role that one woman plays in the history of earth's people. I remember reading this for the first time as a teenager and falling in love with the main character Ayla. To this day I still love her as much as I did back then.


The Valley of the Horses by Jean M Auel

The Valley of the Horses is the sequel to The Clan of of the Cave Bear. It follows Ayla's journey away from her past and into her destiny. Chapters alternate between her story and the story of Jondalar, a man of the Others, who comes to play a role in Ayla's future.

Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden

This is the first novel in the Tomorrow When the War Began series, a popular Australian young adult series about the invasion of Australia an a group of teenagers guerrilla activities against their invaders. What I love about this book is that it has the potential to enable people to put themselves in the shoes of other people who have found their country under attack from strong forces. Australia can be a rather bigoted and racist country (Tony Abbot case in point - sorry guys, I have to say it like it is), and I only hope that books like this can give this whole offensively racist 'boat people' thing some perspective.

Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I remember watching this as a child and loving the movie but I had never read the book. It was a really sweet book for children, full of those moral lessons that parents like to teach their children.

Currently Reading



I am still reading A Suitable Boy, as you can imagine. I am really enjoying it, although I am starting to get an inkling that it might not be quite what I expected. Having said that, I am enjoying it immensely. I don't know what it is about Indian culture and society, but I find it just so complex and interesting; so steeped in tradition. I am not only enjoying this book, but I am also learning a lot from it.