Passenger to Frankfurt

This book was a total disaster. Which is surprising, since this is an Agatha Christie. I guess it was one of the few that bombed but it was so far from what you would expect.

Obviously, she was out of her depth when she wrote this. It was meant to be a sattrical spy thriller. Unfortunately, it was just a bore. The cover may be beautiful, but the contents were far from it. So much so that as soon as I closed the book (and I remember I was on the verge of abandoning it), I promptly forgot everything about it. I don’t even remember the characters, the plot, or anything else about it.

I guess I am writing this review so that somewhere down the line, when I feel like re-reading some books or reading Agatha Christie and come upon this book, I remember I wrote this review and decide against re-reading it.

Dark Matter

Nothing exists.All is a dream.

God – man – the world- the sun, the moon, the wilderness

of stars – a dream. all a dream; they have no existence.

Nothing exists save empty space – and you….

And you are not you – you have no body, no blood, no

bones, but you are but a thought.

Mark Twain

This was a decent book. The premise was interesting enough and most of the book was a mild read. Nothing earth-shattering. It had some good bits but most of it was just bland. I’d read it if I couldn’t find something spectacular to read. I don’t know if what I say from this point onwards is a spoiler or not, but how the plot was going to unravel was pretty obvious to me from the beginning.

It’s about a guy who gets kidnapped by some other version of himself that has managed to invent a machine that can allow him to cross over to parallel universes because he didn’t like the life he was leading in the other universe. Some things in it made sense. Some just got lost in translation from science to fiction. Read it if you wish. Everything was pretty bland from my point of view.

Golem & Jinni

For a book with such a cheesy title, this book really surprised me. It really wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be and there was a quiet pleasure in reading it. Admittedly, the title WAS the reason I was attracted to it and wanted to read it. The word “Jinni” just has such a pull to it, at least for me because of the mystery surrounding the legend rooted in our culture and religion. Regaled with stories from our parents and friends as kids about these mythical creatures that are made of fire and have powers that could allow them to rule the world if they so wished, our level of interest just got wired at the very mention of the word “Jinni” making us hungry for more information, any story that could reveal the nature of these beings so hidden from us.

The myth of the Golem was not something I have heard of. From what I read and will now research, it is a Hebrew legend. Beings made of clay as opposed to the Jinni being created from fire. In my religion, humans are made of mud and clay too. Does that make humans a form of Golem too? Hmm. I wonder. It’s unfortunate that Wikipedia doesn’t have the answer to life. It would make my life so much easier.

Anyways the book read like an epic and in a good way. The language was expansive enough to keep it interesting and not formal enough to be a difficult read. It was poetic and yet easy to make it an enjoyable read. The ideas were there, woven together and just like in life, some characters didn’t play an interesting enough part or have much of a role in the overall story and it seemed like it was close enough to real life and how some people just don’t play an important enough role in your life to make a lasting impression.

Her future unrolled before her like a dreadful tapestry, its pattern set and immutable. There would be a wedding, and then a house somewhere nearby on the avenue, with a nursery for the children that were, of course, mandatory. She’d spend interminable summers in the country, traveling from estate to estate, playing endless games of tennis, chafing under the strain of being constantly a guest in someone else’s home. Then would come middle age, and the expected taking-up of a cause, Temperance or Poverty or Education—it did not matter so long as it was virtuous and uncontroversial, and furnished opportunities for luncheons with dowdy speakers in severe dress. Then old age and decrepitude, the slow transformation into a heap of black taffeta in a bath chair, to be displayed briefly at parties and then put out of sight; to spend her last days sitting bewildered by the fire, wondering where her life had gone.

It’s true isn’t it? Sometimes I feel like we are all following a script and we are expected to play the roles that we are supposed to. Our entire lives are planned out by our society and we can’t choose a different life for ourselves. If we want something different for ourselves, we have to fight for it every step of the way.

She didn’t have the stomach for prolonged family strife, nor the fortitude to make her own way in the world.

And that brings us to this quote. Who has the strength to extend wars we have to fight to live the life that we want, that may be different from what others want for us.

The Shadow of the Wind

This book was horizon-expanding. There is no other word for it. Originally in Spanish and written by Carlos Zafón, it was translated by Lucia Graves into English in 2004 and what a gift it was to the English-reading world. The English version being such a pleasure to read, I can only imagine what reading the Spanish version must leave you feeling.  I felt entirely absorbed, enthralled and stimulated intellectually after having read it. Most books I read, usually just have short passages that I feel speak to me, which I proceed to extract, share and/or save for later deliberation. Reading this book made me want to use the book cover-to-cover as one super-long excerpt but that would defeat the purpose. Haha. I had to be really picky but I managed to find some passages that truly resonated with me and saved them here to see if they held any meaning for anyone else besides myself.

The story was beautifully woven; yes that is what it felt like, that the story was a beautiful tapestry and you were being handed the strings it was made of one at a time and you could feel the thick verbose coarseness of the words used to weave an image so vivid, it left you breathless and wanting and needing more. It left you appreciating the essence, the soul of the book as you still managed to appreciate the overall narrative.

“Presents are made for the pleasure of the one who gives them, not for the merits of those who receive them,’ said my father.”

“One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn’t have to understand something to feel it. By the time the mind is able to comprehend what has happened, the wounds of the heart are already too deep. ” 

“A secret’s worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept. ”

“The words with which a child’s heart is poisoned, whether through malice or through ignorance, remain branded in his memory, and sooner or later they burn his soul.”

“Don’t be offended, but sometimes it’s easier to talk to a stranger than someone you know. Why is that?”

“Probably because a stranger sees us the way we are, not as they wish us to be.”

“But if there is real love, the sort you don’t go around telling everyone about, the sort that is felt and lived…’

‘You’re a changed man, Fermin.’

‘I am. Bernarda has made me want to be a better man.’

‘How’s that?’

‘So that I can deserve her. You cannot understand such things right now, because you’re young. But in good time you’ll see that sometimes what matters isn’t what one gives but what one gives up.”

“Few things are more deceptive than memories”

“to whom she would give all the love with which God had poisoned her soul.”

“Their lives were ruled by chance. They met in corridors, they looked at one another from opposite ends of the table, they brushed silently against each other, they felt each other’s absence. They exchanged their first words in the library of the house on Avenida del Tibidabo one stormy afternoon when

‘Villa Penelope’ was filled with the dim light of candles –

only a few seconds stolen from the darkness in which Julian thought he saw in the girl’s eyes the certainty that they both felt the same, that the same secret was devouring them.

“God gives us life, but the world’s landlord is the devil.”

I’m sure I have misplaced a whole bunch of other excerpts I grabbed from this book. In the meantime, enjoy these.

 

Blindsight

I’ll be honest with you. This book was so smart, I have a feeling it rang circles around me and I missed a lot of its genius. This book I’m going to have to read at least twice to extract every chunk of its awesomeness.

This book was brilliant. It was a lesson in neuro-psychology and I could definitely see so much of the information being pulled from cognitive psychology and books like The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. It talked about a lot of the strange unexplained neurological and psychological disorders that we can’t imagine but that exist in real life. This is what real hard science-fiction is and this is what I was looking for after going through a bunch of shitty Young Adult pseudo-science-fiction novels.

It was refreshing. Intelligent and full of mind-numbing information; it’s the type of book that will force you to improve your mind and do your own research and learn something. It had me googling, sticking my nose back into my Cognitive Psychology text book, constantly looking stuff up on Wikipedia. I loved every minute of it. Another thing about this book that I loved was that it made no excuses. It assumed its audience was smart enough to get everything it was talking about and didn’t stop to explain anything. Honestly, when you live in a world in the future, no one is going to stop and explain to you what new technology is. You’re supposed to know it right? It was a great experience. It didn’t explain or wait for anything or anyone. It just whizzed through and expected you to learn and pick up all the tidbits of information it dropped in its wake.

This book dares to make you look at things from a different perspective. Forces you to step out of the comfortable bubble most of us live in and the assumptions we make when we think of “aliens”, it makes you imagine what real alien life will actually be like (something so different we can’t easily even fathom it). Unimaginably indescribable but worth an attempt. Carbon-based? Could be. Breathe oxygen? How bout no? Something so alien, it truly deserves the word. Most people imagine aliens to be in our own image. But, what if they’re not? I sometimes wonder. We are limited by our senses. We only see what we are capable of seeing. What if the world is truly and completely different from what we perceive? What if the way we see things is only limited because of our senses? What if aliens were living on our planet with us, but we couldn’t even sense them because they were so different?

I would recommend it to anyone looking to take a breather from books being churned out in the name of science-fiction but are nothing more than young-adult romance. Honestly, those books are useless. Read this one. Its worth every minute.

The Help

So what can I say to possibly justify the awesomeness of this book!? Possibly nothing new. But I shall try. This book is not the kind that I would usually read but seeing as it had won numerous awards, I went and bought a copy. Of course the amazing book cover also compelled me to finally get it. I didn’t regret the decision. This book is amazing. It makes you cry, it makes you laugh, sometimes at the same time. Really the book is an emotional roller coaster. Its set in a time where the African American race were enslaved. As with real life drama, there are good people and bad people on both sides of the fence, but the way this story has been told is heart rendering. I loved every minute of it and contrary to the impressing it gives of (a very intense and serious impression really) the book is written in a very light-hearted and funny manner even while its addressing such serious issues as racism and slavery. I think everyone should read this for sure.

Book haul!

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I looooove buying books to the point where it leaves me destitute by the end of the month. But that doesn’t stop meeee. This is my most recent haul. I bought these books from various stores. Half of them I found waiting for me at a clearance sale at Liberty Books in the Agha Khan Hospital branch (the only reason why I would deem to go to a hospital). The rest I found at this used-books website http://www.kitabain.com . This is an amazing website I stumbled across a while back. I’m their most regular customer. Its a place where apart from their own huge inventory of books, normal people can come and sell off their books and other readers can come and buy them at dirt-cheap prices. And the best thing about them (apart from the books being really cheap) is that they have some of the rarest books that you will have some trouble finding elsewhere.

I’ve already read a couple of these books so I’ll be reviewing them soon!