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review 2014-08-19 06:11

Title:Wild. Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Authoress : Cheryl Strayed

Not very often do I read about travel adventures and memoirs. But a short true story of a lady in Reader's Digest about the eleven hundred miles hike all alone, compelled me to go and read this book. When I researched more on the book, I got to know that it has also won the Goodreads Choice Award in the Memoir genre. That is when I picked it up and couldn't keep it down for a bit.

This book is quite inspiring and I'm totally a fan of all those women out there who do the extraordinary things all by themselves without being dependent on anyone. Also this book talks of kindness of strangers which I thought was very rare these days. When Cheryl's mother died within forty five days of battling lung cancer, her life felt haywire. After her marriage failed and after her divorce after about three years of her mother's death, she still felt that her life was quite disorientated and she hadn't found her inner peace yet. When she picked up a book about the Pacific Crest Trail in a super market, she felt quite determined to do it so that she could find all the mental peace she had been craving for by testing her extent of physical strength.

Cheryl put in all her money she had been acquiring through waiting jobs and set up on this most physically excruciating journey for three months so that she can forget all that she had gone through for the past three years. She writes about her struggles through the journey, the various encounters with rattle snakes, bear and other non-human beings, the skip in the trails and other alternative paths due to record snowfall that year, her testing of physical limits through the cold snowy regions and the hot humid regions, her tryst with other kind PCT hikers, her experience through reading her favorite novels while reminiscing about her childhood days and all of this put together makes it quite an interesting read. There are many a times when you empathize quite well when she talks of her childhood days, her siblings and step father.

But I do have a few qualms about the author as well as the book. She almost left her husband Paul but is yet very regretful about it. She keeps cribbing about it all the time. Though she has chosen this path and hike all by herself, yet she makes you feel pity on her. Also, I disliked the way she almost falls for another stranger when one of the reasons why she hiked the PCT was her affinity towards random men. Many instances in the story where she alternates between the hike experience and her personal life stories, there is quite a disconnect of emotion. The reminiscences of the author's childhood and youth have been randomly thrown and editing could have made wonders to this book.

But my ratings are totally for the sole woman's grit and wit and determined solo hike. The book and te editing could have been much better.

Ratings : 3.5/5(Good read for a travel freak)

Source: loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/wild-by-cheryl-strayed
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review 2014-06-26 06:17

Title: Scouting for the Reaper

Author: Jacob M. Appel

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I'm very skeptical these days about the author giveaways. My past experiences have been sore but this book changed my opinion.  I'm sure I will be reading more of Appel in the future too. There are already a few on my list.

This book is a collection of 8 short stories each one different from other. Very different, some intriguing, some witty, some mundane and some other very ambiguous yet all very creative and very well written. All the stories end with the readers wanting for more. Some may not like this sort of story writing, but I'm personally a fan of this sort where you may have a lot of climaxes of your own. The language and use of words is brilliant and gives an impression that the author knows his language really well.

The stories are like never read before (atleast by me).  The author writes with both a male and female voice. I have read of a male author writing in a female voice before. He has really learnt this craft and never once did I feel it was Appel talking. Theres one about a girl who doubts her ancestry based on her blood test in her school lab, one that talks of a woman who goes to every possible extent of trying to recover the eyesight of a pet rabbit, another about an overly anxious and concerned lady who worries when her lawn mower doesn't appear after thirty-seven years of turning up regularly, a typical  business-man trying to sell a tomb stone to a customer who is dying and who is her ex-lover, a truck driver who carries penguins from one place to another,  a light maker to tries to ignite his love with his childhood sweetheart, a Jewish rabbi going to all extents trying hard to bury a neighbor's son. I see a lot of creativity in the way these stories are crafted. I like the simplicity of the stories and the complexity and various layers the characters possess.

My favourite is that of a lady who is forced to handle all the financial accounts when her husband passes away and resistingly falls in love with the accountant even though she suspects him of wrongly doing the accounts. The stories in the book are page turners not because they are great thrillers/mystery and ever surprising fantasy books. I think its the language and creative description of the daily life, very ordinary circumstances that will keep you glued to the book. The next time I will surely think twice of striking a conversation if I ever have a lawn mower.

It can be read by all and a must read if you are a lover of short stories. Some may not like the way the stories are left hanging at loose ends. There are three more books on my to-do list from the same author which I'm absorbing right away after this. Stay tuned.

Rating: 4/5(Great)

 

Source: loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/scouting-for-the-reaper-by-jacob-m-appel
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review 2014-06-17 14:55
Half a Life by V. S. Naipaul

Title: Half a Life

Author : V. S. Naipaul

I sometimes go into a phase where I feel like reading Indian authors only. I got a few books by Anita Nair, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Amulya Malladi and was looking for some Vikram Seth books and I stumbled upon this book. I randomly began reading it one day. I had read the other two "Indian" Nobel Laureates for literature: Rabindranath Tagore and Rudyard Kipling(if you may consider his birth). For me it was the first encounter with Mr. Naipaul's writing. It is said that this book is a semi-autobiography. When I started flipping first few pages I realized that the language used was rich, crisp and catchy had several touches of British literature. I was totally mesmerized.

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The story begins with the protagonist's story of how his parents named him Willie Chandran after the famous author W. Somerset Maugham had visited his idle, ambitionless father when he had taken up the role of the silent priest in the temple/ashram. The first section of the book takes us through a journey of his ancestors and talks in large about the inequality and class-based society in India. It talks about the life of his father, who dropped out from college and married a backward class girl against his parents and Willie was born out of this marriage. The period of the events are not mentioned but it seems like almost mid 20th century when there were a lot of societal events happening in India then.

I'm not sure if this is intentionally or coincidentally written in similar theme with Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage. In both the books the protagonists struggle in identifying their true self which takes them across different countries and continents, forcing them to take up varied occupations and still having a cultural/religious identity crisis. Willie Chandran then heads to London after schooling from India based on an invitation from his father's acquaintance from his silent idle priest days. There he has trouble accepting his identity and leads a life of lies and publishes a book which brings him in touch with Ana who is half African- half American. He then heads to Africa staying there for a span of eighteen years taking care of the estate which was inherited by Ana from her grandfather. There are a lot of references to the Portuguese colonization in African states. He also goes through a stage of understanding his sexuality and physical desires which I would rather skip for the review.

There are a lot of interesting and strange characters in London and African references like Percy, the African roomie Willie in London, and then the Sunday lunch friends of Willie's: Jacinto Correia the typical entrepreneur trying to venture out into any business, the untrustworthy estate caretaker Alvora, the mystical Mrs.Noronha whom nobody dares to question, the  indifferent yet sometimes sensitive  Ana who is struggling with her past, Julian, the carpenter's daughter, Graca the estate caretaker's wife who is having a drunkard of a husband to deal with and who longs for physical pleasures just as Willie and each one of these characters one would be able to empathize with and these characters appear deep and familiar. As a result of colonization and guerrillas taking over parts of Africa, all the half Africans are forced to move over to Portugal to their ancestral homes and back to their families.

That is when Willie moves over to Germany after a span of eighteen long years where his sister Sarojini stays. All these accounts of African journey is told as a conversation the protagonist has with his sister. There is some part of the description in the writer's European journey regarding art and architecture. The end of the book just specifies that the protagonist finally wants to live his own life and not someone else's. It is left to the reader's imagination as to what forty-one year old Willie chose to do later whether to live his own life or be in the shadow of others.

I liked the book for the writing, its uniqueness, the characters and Mr.Naipaul's vivid description of the trends of each of the places he goes to. I didn't like the story much. It gets a little lengthy in Willie's father's and grandfather's description and this book was definitely not a gripping page turner. I would probably suggest it to serious stuff readers but its good once in a while to be able to read such a book. I would give it a three and a half for the characters whom my heart went out for.

Ratings:3.5/5 for the love of characters.

 

 

Source: loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/06/11/half-a-life-by-v-s-naipaul
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review 2014-06-17 14:49
Review of Can't and Won't by Lydia Davis

Title: Can’t and Won’t
Author: Lydia Davis

I had read a review of the Davis’ recent book in Reader’s Digest April 2014 edition where the reviewer was all high praises for Lydia Davis and there was a special mention of the above mentioned book saying its a collection of short stories. That is when I picked up this book and started reading it.

Once I started, the first 5-6 pages I kept on turning back and forth because I couldn’t quite relate to the chapters there. So I went back to the first page and started reading it again. And that is when I realized that each page/chapter that I was seeing was a whole new different short story. After that I was totally amused and smitten. The stories in this book are all short stories which are either a sentence long, a page long or just comprise of 2-3 sentences. There are a few long “short” stories considering the length of the story the author writes. The language used is very rich and you can’t flicker your mind to wander off because either you may never get back to the story again or the story would have already been over by then.The formation of sentences are intriguing, interesting and not that easy. She talks of mundane things yet makes it seem very interesting. before you search for more and want more from the story, the author knows when to pull back.

One of my favorite stories is called “The Chair” where the author is trying to guess the relationship status of a middle-aged lady in the Prayer Room whether she is a married woman(ruled out because she cant find a Mr. with the same last Name), widow(ruled out because she isn’t sad). It ends with she must be looking out for a partner as she can see the red dye of the hair smeared on the chair from behind. It sounds much better in her words than my explanation. Another favorite of mine is “Bloomington” which reads, “Now that I have been here for a little while, I can say with confidence that I have never been here before.” But the best of all stories is the author goes on an on about irrelevant things trying to connect a lot of people with lot of things in one single paragraph and then she says “Oh, we writers may think we invent too much — but reality is worse every time!”. I personally felt it was very profound and witty at the same time.

But I have a few qualms about the book. The stories are written as “dream” and “story from Flaubert”. The ones mentioned as dreams are really boring and pointless. It is like reading Davis’s night diary which I personally wasn’t very interested in. Are they are normal things which probably each one of us would have dreamt off but trying to create a short story out of it was very uninteresting. the 13 stories from Flaubert were formed from material found in letters written by Gustave Flaubert, most of them to his friend and lover Louise Colet , during the period in which he was working on Madame Bovary(mentioned in the Appendix). These stories are derived from his letters and combination of two or more letters blended with figment of Lydia’s imagination. These are quite good.

Given a chance, I would probably never read a short story collection again from the same author if its about her dreams. Else will surely try to read. May be next time I would want to read about her “not ‘this’ short stories/novels if she comes up. Overall the book was creative and one of its kinds. I had never before read anything like that.

Ratings: 3.5/5 (I liked it but could have been better without the dreams)

Source: loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/cant-and-wont-by-lydia-davis
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