Thursday, October 29, 2009

Awesome Author Challenge (2010) - Edited to Add my Choices!

This is officially the first thing I've planned for the new year. And I think its great. Alyce at At Home With Books is hosting a wonderful challenge - the Awesome Author Challenge from Jan 1, 2010 - Dec 31, 2010. As she puts it:

The idea behind this challenge is to read works by authors who have been recommended to you time and again, yet somehow you haven't managed to read any books by those authors. These are the authors that everyone else tells you are awesome, thus the "Awesome Author Challenge" title.

The Levels:

Easy: Choose three authors and read at least one title from each author.

Moderate: Choose six authors and read at least one title from each author.

Challenging: Choose ten authors and read at least one title from each author.

Over-Achieving: Anything over ten authors.

I'm of course, picking Moderate, having my unpredictable work schedules in mind. It's a great way to finally try out those authors my friends have been recommending and hopefully, to find a new set of favourites! 

The authors I'm choosing to read are:
1. Virginia Woolf
2. Lucy Maud Montgomery - Done 
3. Frances Hodgson Burnett
4. Tracy Chevalier
5. Georgette Heyer
6. Daphne Du Maurier - Done

P.S. It is entirely coincidental that all the authors I've chosen are women =)

Emma - BBC style

Yet another testament to the fact that I can and will watch anything Austen. And try my best to enjoy it. I didn't try too hard in this case. BBC's latest version of Emma, though not their greatest work, is a visually pleasing watch for any Austen fan. Honestly, the first thing that strikes me when I sit to review Emma is the fact that the cinematography was beautiful. And the music. And the costumes.

The actors now: Romola Garai - I think she made a brilliant Emma. Very close to the feisty, very flawed yet lovable Emma that I imagined when reading the book ( After watching this film, a reread is in order!). Jonny Lee Miller's version of Mr. Knightley is quite endearing and I think he can safely pull-off 'chivalry', while Louise Dylan's Harriet is apt. The best performance in my opinion, came from Tamsin Greig as Miss Bates - she was perfect. I didn't particularly like Frank Churchill or Jane Fairfax, but I can put up with them. The Eltons are fabulously comic while the Westons are great in their roles.

Every version of an Austen novel has its own special scene. If I had to pick my favourite scene from this version, it would definitely be Mr. Knightley asking a lonely, deserted Harriet to dance with him. You know what's going to happen, of course, but I thought that scene was set up beautifully and continued very much 'in character' as Harriet jumps up, rushing to dance, a broad smile on her face, while Knightley pulls her back and asks her to wait for their turn =)

I haven't seen the other versions of Emma so I cannot pick a favourite, but this one was definitely worth watching and I enjoyed it. Even if there wasn't anything that stood out for its brilliance, nothing quite does it like a good old, Austen romance, BBC style.

This makes it 7/12 in my Extended Austen Challenge

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pemberley Ball RSVP

Greetings! I'm Lady Cromwell of England. My father, Lord Cromwell travels extensively; his most recent sojourn was in India. Back after his long voyage, he is very much eager to be part of a ball in Pemberley where a Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy will play host. My father is equally anxious to have me attend the ball and make me part with my library and those books that I so inexplicably adore.

As befits any 'young lady' in England, I am expected to make myself presentable for this supposedly grand event and make new acquaintances. I've heard that the beauty of Pemberley is unmatched by any house in the vicinity. So that's one thing to look forward to, along with the much-appreciated collection of books in the famed library there.

This is my gown for the ball:

My Mr. Darcy:

To RSVP for yourself please head on over to Velvet's blog vvb32 reads !

Teaser Tuesdays - October 20

Grab your current read and let it fall open to a random page. Post two (or more) sentences from that page, along with the title and author. Don’t give anything vital away!

I'm now reading: 'India: From Midnight to the Millennium' by Shashi Tharoor

" How can one portray the present, let alone the future, of an ageless civilization that was the birthplace of four major religions, a dozen different traditions of classical dance, eight-five political parties, and three hundred ways of cooking the potato? The short answer is that it can't be done - at least not to everyone's satisfaction. "(Page 8)

119 pages into the book, I'm so impressed by the writing and the brilliant, optimistic, yet honest perspective that Shashi Tharoor offers. Its always exciting to find and read an author whose thoughts and opinions are so close to your own. Reading this book makes me even happier that the author, Tharoor, is part of the Union Cabinet.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Books are the best gifts!

Candle-lit dinners, moonlight strolls, night-outs are all fun, but when it comes to me, nothing does it better than a book. On my birthday today, I got 5 books and I have gift coupons left for any other book that I could want.

Each book that I got/bought today has a story to say. The story of how they got to me, that is.

Less than a week ago, I went along with a couple of friends, to a bookstore here. While looking through the exhaustive collection and continually wondering about the fact that 'there are just so many books out there and so little time', I got hold of Shashi Tharoor's The Great Indian Novel. Now, Mr. Tharoor is one of my favourite people on Twitter - an excellent writer, be it in 140 characters, or one large book. The book's back cover quoted someone saying ' Perhaps the best work of fiction written by an Indian ' while another reviewer remarks - 'Every sane Indian should buy a copy of this book'.

Perhaps the second comment hit me most, since I went to my friend and told her about how we'd missed out on such a great book. Voila, today, I open the gift my friends give me, and there's the book. A beautiful moment of bliss when I saw the familiar cover. I told you- books make my day.

And then, my Mum gave me the most wonderful gift of them all - a gift voucher worth quite a lot of money and asked me to buy as many books as I want. That was bliss. My weakness for political, India-related books is quite well-known to anyone who knows me. Predictably, I picked M.J.Akbar's biography of Nehru- Nehru: The Making of India. Both of these men are people I love to read/read about. It's a huge book and I hope it is a fitting tribute to a leader of Nehru's stature.

India After Gandhi was the next book I picked. Another HUGE book. Written by eminent author Ramachandra Guha and praised as the 'Book of the Year' by the Economist, Wall Street Journal, Outlook etc, this book, I think, should be bought by every Indian. I'm looking forward to reading it.

I bought Jane Eyre. I've read it before, of course, but it's been quite some time and I need a reread, so I figured that I should buy the book for myself. Ever since I saw BBC's version of Jane Eyre ( yes, the one starring Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochestor), I've wanted to read through the book again.

Finally, the most expensive book that I bought today: India Remembered by Pamela Mountbatten. I just couldn't resist buying the book. It's an insider's view of the last days of the British in India - one subject that I find myself absolutely addicted to. It has valuable letters,a treasure-trove of beautiful photographs of moments that made India what it is. I decided this book is any collector's 'must-buy'. I'm no great collector of artifacts, books related to that period, but flipping through the pages of the book, written by the daughter of India's last viceroy, I couldn't help but get the book for myself. I think its one of those books to be preserved and handed down from generation to generation.

And what's the irony of all this? I can't read all this now because I have some excellent books waiting to be read, books that need to be returned to the library. I'm reading Tharoor's India: From Midnight to the Millenium and I'm looking forward to reading the much-acclaimed book by Markus Zusak - The Book Thief, as well as George Orwell's epic Nineteen Eighty-four. I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing them all!

P.S. If you have a friend who you know is a book-lover, gift them books. Nothing can make them happier. Seriously.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Emma (2009) BBC version

I just watched the first episode of the BBC's new version of Austen's eternal match-maker Emma.

The beautiful locales, gorgeous cinematography, the lovely costumes( beautiful use of colours!) are the things that stand out about this version after the first viewing. So does that mean I didn't like the cast, their performances, the script or the direction? No, not at all. I enjoyed the first episode though it did drag in places. It moves leisurely, as it probably should. After all getting the atmosphere right is exceedingly crucial for period pieces. I'll reserve my final judgement about this version after I see a few more episodes.

Romola Garai as Emma is interesting and I think she does fit my mental image of Emma, though sometimes, especially when she widens her eyes in surprise, bewilderment or excitement, I think she goes overboard. She does have a confident air though and I think she'll get better as the episodes pass by.

Jonny Lee Miller is not the Knightley I had in mind, but having said that, I'm willing to let him grow on me. I think he's one of those actors who you need to watch for a while before you can actually adore. I still like him and he's done quite a good job so far.

Prof.Dumbledore..sorry.. Michael Gambon is a great Mr. Woodhouse ( especially when he says 'No cake' for the wedding) and Louise Dylan playing Harriet Smith is excellent casting.

The surprise package: Tamsin Greig as Mrs. Bates. She plays her supremely annoying character to a tee!

In all, I'm looking forward to the rest of Emma. It's worth a watch!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah: Tragic Hero of Kashmir by Ajit Bhattacharjea

Rating: 8/10

Review: Ever since I read M.J.Akbar's book Kashmir: Behind the Vale ( My review of the book is here), my fascination about all things Kashmir has just reached an apex point. This book, obviously, was my best bet.

Released recently by a reputed journalist Ajit Bhattacharjea, it seemed to provide a comprehensive biography of the intriguing personality that is Sheikh Abdullah.It does justice to that first impression.

The book is obviously well-researched and is neatly presented(foot notes abound). The story of a young man belonging to a poor family of weavers growing up to be an inspirational teacher, later standing up and fighting against the autocracy of the Maharaja, making a clarion call for unity and secularism in a troubled valley, developing a strong relationship with fellow Kashmiri and Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru( The book does great justice to the relationship, examining it beautifully ), being jailed and undergoing great struggles to pick between accession and autonomy and his final place in power as CM of Jammu and Kashmir, is a story that legends are made of.

This book is typical non-fiction. Strong in facts, presenting a hundred references, making it evident that a lot of work has gone in to come up with this biography. But there's something missing in the book. There isn't any sparkling witty remark or comment a la Alex von Tunzelmann or Shashi Tharoor. There isn't any tongue in cheek observation- the writing is old school.

What hits me most though is the lack of emotion in the most important parts of the book. I'm not sure about other readers of non-fiction or biographies, but, for me, the emotion that the author brings in to the biography is very crucial. After all, without that emotion, isn't the biography a mere compilation of facts?

The life of Sheikh Abdullah was tumultous and certainly very emotional. I expected several parts to make me teary-eyed, but they didn't. In comparison, the relatively small chapter about Abdullah's death in M.J.Akbar's Kashmir: Behind the Vale had me in tears, while this book did absolutely nothing to me emotionally, though it is most certainly a rewarding academic exercise.

Finally, to the thing that irritated me most in the book: editing or the lack of it. I can quote one dozen examples of grammatical errors, bad punctuation and basic spelling mistakes! It is such a shame that such a painstakingly researched book has to suffer from lackadaisical, abysmal editing. If I, while reading the book without any intention of finding mistakes, can come up with an entire list of errors in a single reading, what happened to the copy editor, whose job it is to find these mistakes?

Over all it is an excellent contribution to books about Indian political figures, though one wishes that issues like editing had been better taken care of.


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