Second Glance by Jodi Picoult and a Challenge

One thing I find I rarely do is review the books I read. Mainly because I worry if I could do justice to the books and because I get lazy. Smita’s review challenge hopefully will motivate me to review the books I read. I would like to review at least 1 book every fortnight.

So here I go, signing up for Smita’s Let’s Review More n More books” Challenge.

 And my first review before the first week of the new year ends.

Jodi Picoult is one of my favourite authors and last week I discovered a book of hers that I had missed. For some reason, I was under the impression that I had already read Second Glance. Reading through the back cover, I realised that I had missed this one.

Ross Wakeman does not want to live. Ever since his fiancee died in a car accident, he has lost the will to live, but he seems to lead a charmed life. No matter what he does, he does not succeed in dying. All he wants is to join Aimee on the other side.

In desperation, he turns to ghost-hunting. He hopes to see Aimee’s ghost and is close to giving up hope. He ends up in an Abenaki burial ground, and from then on, nothing works as it normally does.

Meredith Oliver’s daughter Lucy is haunted by inexplicable nightmares. Nothing they do seems to matter.

Shelby lives an unimaginable life keeping her nine year old son away from the sun. He suffers from a life-threatening ‘allergy to sunlight’. She will do anything for her son. Ethan, her son, longs to fit in, to be normal.

How do these come together? You’ll have to read it to find out. It combines Picoult’s skill of weaving medical conditions , genetics, paranormal occurences, nail biting suspense, and ethical issues into her  stories makes it a wonderful read.  While this is not one of her best(in my opinion), but it still is un-put-downable. I read in a days time. I would give it a 4/5 simply because I have read better books from Picoult.

Memories of books..

Do you remember books? Books that you read a long time ago? Not just the stories, you know, but things like what they looked like, how you got to read them…

I remember some.. Like the first book I owned.. The book, which in a way changed my life. You see, until Class 4, I was quite a mediocre student. My mum used to help me with school work at home, but I never did very well. Then in Class 4, my brother had some medical complications and mum and dad were busy, I started studying all by myself, and at the end of the year, I got an award – for exceptional improvement.. I think from then on, I was consistently good at studies. I think studying independently helped. Anyway, the award was a book, an Enid Blyton book, of which, funnily enough, I can’t remember the name! I used to remember it until very recently – old age, I suppose! Do any of you remember which book had 4 children, one of them named Nora? It was a series, but I can’t remember anything beyond this… and the fact that I loved it( which was true about every Enid Blyton I ever read).

Today, I had been reading Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Lives of Strangers. The book is alright, but it kind of transported me to another era, because of the colour of the pages. It had that old book feel(it was probably an older copy), if you know what I mean. All my old books back at home, used to have that feel. Especially when they were stored in a trunk. That yellow colour, which also gives the feeling that the paper will crumple under your fingers, if you are not careful.

Long back, when I was still in school, I used to raid my granddad’s book shelf. One of the books I remember from those days was A J Cronin’s Citadel. I still remember particularly poignant parts of that book. I have re-read it many, many times, but I guess reading a book that my grandfather enjoyed gave me just as much pleasure, I think, as the story itself. Once I had worked through my grandfather’s collection, his brother, my great Uncle got me some of his – his collection of PG Wodehouse. What fun! Those were the best holidays ever! I would read his collection of Reader’s Digests too. It used to amaze me how the magazines which were so very thick in the 50’s and the 60’s became thinner and thinner by the 80s! My grandfather had 4 decades or so, of Readers Digests, and I read them all 🙂

As I read through the yellowed pages of my book today, I couldn’t help be a little sad, that daughter might miss that entirely. What if only electronic readers remain by the time she gets older? Heartbreaking, isn’t it? No more thumbing through books that had been in the family for years, no more reading books that one’s grandparents might have enjoyed.. Instead brand new, soulless books on the reader.  It just makes me so sad..

Edited to add: I figured out which book it was – The Secret of the Moon Castle. How could I forget that, I have no idea 🙂 But at least ‘Googling’, reminded me 🙂

Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandanna

I picked up this book for a lark(like I pick up most books these days). Some of the books I pick up like this end up very disappointing. This one on the other hand, was anything but disappointing.

It was riveting. The story of Devi, a girl born in Coorg in late 1800s. Devi is a wilful child with her mind of her own, unlike other girls at that time. She decides at the age of 10 that she would marry the Tiger Killer, Machu, her best friend Devanna’s cousin. Devanna, on the other hand grows up, desperately in love with Devi, who is completely unaware of his feelings. Devanna is a very intelligent child and is mentored by the local Reverend. He shares a love for Botany with the Reverend, and both of them spend a lot of time together finding specimens in the rich Coorg forests. His dedication towards biology pushes him into a medical school education, which turns the tide for everyone involved.

The way their lives turn out, weaved in with what is happening in Coorg at that time, makes for a fascinating read. The beauty, traditions, and the culture of the place is brought out beautifully by the author. The book transports you to the Coorg that Devi lived in. From the older times when Coorg was untouched by outside influences, to when Eurpoean influences gets the locals to change their names from Kalamma to Kitty, just as Nari Malai gets changed to Tiger Hills.

The story is fast paced, with shocking twists and turns, making us empathize with the characters at so many levels, even when they end up doing things which are not quite right.. A story of love, unrequited and requited, a story of the things people do when consumed by emotions, a story of how normal lives can change in an instant.

A book that gripped me through it. I would not call it a fast read, but a book which refuses to let go, even after you turn the last page.

We’re jumping on the bandwagon as well.. Post 27

.. the Kindle one, that is.

After talking, and discussing, and wondering, and pondering, we decided to go in for a Kindle. I had written about how I find real books far more fun, far more my way of reading. Well, it looks like we have been converted. Actually husband was always convinced that this was the way forward, I was the clingy, ‘refusing to let go of my books’ person. And now I have been convinced too.

I still plan to read books – real books, that is. I somehow, cannot give up books for an electronic device all that quickly. Especially, since we have the most wonderful library system here. I just love the huge library, full of books, and that wonderful feeling of browsing through the library holding books in my hand.. Yes, I am old-fashioned like that. An electronic device cannot give me that happiness, or so I feel. What finally tipped the balance towards Kindle is the fact that we are returning to India next year. Which means that I would have to buy books, instead of borrowing them – most of the libraries I have been to in India had been disappointing. I am hoping that things have changed, though. So given the fact that I would be buying more than I do now, I felt that Kindle would make more sense. More eco-friendly perhaps?

Husband has already ordered the first book he wants to read. I am still in my real book mode. I do plan to make full use of it during my India holiday. Instead of carrying books around, I could download them on the Kindle. Oh, now, I am excited! I am now waiting for it to be delivered! I can’t help wonder how we are going to decide who gets the kindle. I am sure we are going to be fighting over it 🙂 Husband says he has first right on it , ‘Coz he’s the man’, and apparently men have first right over gadgets. We’ll see, shall we 😉 This gadget might be a different ball game altogether.

Why do I feel like a turncoat, though? I wish I could push away that feeling of being ‘disloyal’, about turning my back on ‘real books’…

So all you Kindle owners, how do you find it? Are you happy with it? I know I should have asked this before ordering one… better late than never? And does it really feel the same as reading a ‘real book’? And how long did it take before you stopped reading ‘real books’ altogether?


Invisible Eyes, flowers and breaks… Post 25

Daughter believes that I have eyes at the back of my head.

And I am not really complaining. One time, she was up to something naughty, and I figured something was up, and told her to stop it. She was stunned, and wanted to know how I knew. I told her I had eyes behind my head, and she believed it.

So these days whenever she wants to surprise me, she says, ‘Amma, close your eyes, the ones at the back of your head as well’. Those eyes, I have to say certainly come handy when she is on a term break. There are only so many places that I can be at a moment, but my imaginery eyes do ensure that she is not upto to many naughty things.

Talking of term breaks, I feel like we live from one term break to another. Just when we get back to the school routine, it is time for another break. It is all fine if we are on a sunny spell, but if we have the sort of weather we have these days, thundery showers which come on a moment’s notice, drenching us completely. Parks and outdoor activities are almost ruled out. That leaves playdates, or other activities to keep her occupied. We do have plans to do some gardening this week, though. We had planted some sunflowers and marigolds some time back. The marigolds have sprouted beautifully, but the sunflowers seem to have disappeared. So this time, I plan to plant them indoors and the transplant them into the garden once they sprout. Fingers crossed they will grow, daughter desperately wants some sunflowers in our garden, and we are yet to get them to grow. Any sunflower growing tips?

I love the colours all around at this time of the year. Flowers of all sorts, greenery all around, delicious summer fruits. What more could I ask for? Bright sunny days for the next week, would be welcome though. Such a change from spring break when it felt that summer was here already.

On a totally different note, did I mention that I am just not reading much these days. I seem to get no time to read. The book I am reading now, ‘The Wealth and Poverty of Nations’ is a fascinating read. I can’t just put it down. Any interesting books that you have been reading?

What a sad place, it would be..

if a home is without books..

I caught a bit of ‘We, The people’ yesterday, where they were discussing books, and how Kindle and iPads might result in books being non-existent in a few years time. Have to watch the whole programme today, if I get a chance. The first thing that sprang to my mind is how sad a home would look without books?

I have never lived in a house without books.I always have books lying around. My longest standing dream has been to have a library of my own. Walls full of books, books that have been read with love, re-read with passion, and maintained for years.. Yellowed pages, but still much-loved. As much as I understand that electronic devices are easy to read, and feel quite the same, the mad romantic in me refuses to see reason. To me, reading the book, turning pages, holding a physical book, is all part of the reading experience.

My oldest memories have books associated with them. I still remember my first ‘own’ book. And the joy when I discovered my grandfather’s collection! At first it was a whole load of Reader’s Digests from the 1950’s! I used to devour them when I went over for holidays. Nothing gave me more happiness than curling up with a book. Then it was his and his brother(my grand uncle’s) huge collection of P. G. Wodehouse books. They were old, much thumbed through, but absolutely precious to me! The fact that they gave me their books to read was an added honour.

In comparison, reading on a Kindle feels so ‘lifeless’ or bland… Or may be it is just me.

And then there are the libraries. I still remember my first library in primary school, and the massive library my school had in secondary school. It was one the best libraries, I have been to. And we had the best librarian. Ok, I am biased 🙂 But seriously, I can’t tell you how many happy hours I spent there. Which is probably why I love libraries. Everything about them. Rows of books, waiting to be browsed through. Taking my time in selecting books, reading the back cover, sometimes picking up a book which ‘looks good’.. I know, we could do all that in an online bookstore or an online library, but for some reason it still does not feel like the real thing to me.

Then again, in a few years time, I might be raving about the versatility of an online library 🙂 The one thing I am sure is, that the one thing worse that having a home without (physical)books is a home without any books. The one thing I hope to bequeath to my daughter is the love of reading. The absolute joy of picking up a book, and getting absorbed in it. Forgetting hours together, oblivious to everything else in the world, and having the best time of your life! One of the reasons I love reading as opposed to watching a movie, is the our joy of imagining things your way. My imagination used to run amok. I had these really fancy ideas of what sardines were, after reading countless Enid Blyton books, only to be brought down to earth by my grandfather, when he showed me what they actually were 🙂 Or imagining that the breakfast my mum set before me was actually something out of my books. I hate watching movie adaptations of books, to find that they have picturized it all wrong! That was so not the way they looked(or behaved) in my mind! Outrageous 🙂 Which is why, I guess, I still prefer to read, and imagine the characters, my way, rather than  watch a movie and watch them spoil it for me 🙂

When I was in school, the day when we get out new books for the year, was a magical day. I could not wait to get my hands on my English Literature and Language books. The Literature books would have loads of short stories, and the language books, excerpts from literary novels. I loved reading them, again and again. Until the teacher taught them – that made me stop reading them 🙂 So the last story in the book, I would know, every word, and every sentence – I would have read it so many times by then 🙂 And during my ICSE, the last story was ‘Remember the Roses’ – which was absolutely beautiful! I think I might still remember sentences from it .

I want daughter to have it all. I want her to love books, to love reading, to want to grab  a book and lose herself in it, To let her imagination fly, to go where it takes her. Now that she is reading, I can’t tell how happy it makes me. I can’t wait for her to read all the books that made my childhood as wonderful. I can’t wait to see her excitement when she gets hold of a book she has been waiting for! I can’t wait for the days when she recommends books that I should read.

Books are far more than information, they are far more than ‘getting to know things’, they are for me, an experience, that I carry with me all my life. They also ensure that I am seldom bored. I have my entertainment with me. I remember a discussion on BBC on how, they were worried that the number of parents reading to children at an early age is reducing, and the number of children who do not get a bedtime story is increasing. I understand why it bothers people. It might not be a huge issue for some, but for people like me, it feels sad. The bedtime story that we read together, is a precious part of her childhood. And there is nothing I would do to change it.

A life without books would be so different, wouldn’t it? Can you imagine a life without books – electronic or physical?


Princess Detox and random nothings..

More of random nothings actually.

Two weeks back, when we got back from holiday, I was bursting with energy and posts in my head were just waiting to be penned down. One busy week left me with no enthusiasm for doing a post, or even glancing at my reader. I go through such crazy phases – when I have no time to blog, I have too much to post, and at other times – it is quite the reverse!

The one thing I have realized is that one big reason why I am able to be a SAHM is blogging. It certainly has enhanced my life in more ways than one, and not being able to blog, certainly pulls me down.

One of the things that I am oh so delighted to announce is that Poohi is almost totally ‘princess detoxed’. This time in Disney, all she wanted was to do rides and roller coasters, much to her dad and my delight! When given a choice between ‘meeting princesses and fairies’ and riding a roller-coaster – she chose the roller-coaster without a second thought! I have to say that that made my day. Although she still is a bit of a moral policewoman. We saw Princess Jasmine and she ran to meet her, only to walk away suddenly. On being asked why, she says, ‘ I don’t like her tummy showing’!

I have been baking and eating – a lot, and no/t getting any exercise. I have fallen in love with melt-in-the-middle chocolate cakes and can’t have enough of them! The best part is that I can make a batch, pour them into ramekins and just bake them when we feel like it. Pictures? No, they don’t last long enough for pictures to get taken. The bad part is that I end up eating them on  regular basis. Then again, life is too short to worry about a cake or two, isn’t it?

Remember that reading challenge I took up? Well, I am happy to say that I am well on my way to reading the 10 books I had committed on. I have also added a new page dedicated to the books I read. I wanted to find out how many books I actually read in a year, so I copied Monika’s reading corner idea 🙂 Hope you don’t mind, Mon. Maybe you guys could tell me which books of out of those listed, you want me to review? That might not prevent me from inflicting my reviews on you 🙂

During our holiday in America, I had a ‘lost in translation’ moment. In a shop, I wasn’t sure if someone was in the queue to bill her stuff. So I asked her, ‘ Are you in the queue’?

She looked lost, until her companion said, ‘Oh she means ‘line’!   They say ‘queue’ for ‘line’ in some language’ and then turning to me, ‘ No, we are not in the line, which language is it in, though?’

Me, ‘ Well, I did think it was English’ 😉

The trials and joys of motherhood

There are times when I struggle hard to not be competitive with daughter’s milestones. Reading Sari’s post, reminded me of what I had been doing in the last few months.

I have been quite a laid back mother, in comparison to some of the people I know. I have normally let her have fun, learn things when she is ready for them. I knew people who taught their 9 month old, the alphabet or the numbers. I consciously tried not to do that. I mean, there is plenty of time for all that, isn’t there?

Motherhood, unfortunately comes with all sorts of self-doubts and second guessing oneself, doesn’t it?? There came a time, when I started doubting my methods. Poohi had started phonics last year in the nursery, and she had started writing her name – she knew the sounds of some letters, but refused to read. I would try to get her to read a few simple words, but to no avail. She would be too busy trying to get me to do the reading.  I would have not bothered, had it not been for some of my friends who told me that their child started reading all by themselves, by the time they turned four. Now that had me worried. None of these children had been exposed to books as much as Poohi had, and yet they seem to have learnt to read faster. She loves books, loves being read to, and yet did not want to read? What was I doing wrong? Their mums said that they would spend time every day teaching them to read. And I never did that. I was so worried that I was not helping her enough.  Husband said that I was being too hard on myself, and once she starts, there would be no looking back.

I started trying, but it never worked. She knew every story in every book that we owned and would just rattle off the story, without even trying to read it!  All she wanted was for me to read the stories to her. I was torn between trying harder or letting her be.  I did not want to be a pushy mother, but at the same time, did not want to ‘not push her enough’, if you know what I mean.  I was also scared that I might end up putting her off reading altogether, if I tried too hard. That’s when I decided to buy her a set of ‘Read at home’ books, that she had never read before. I told her that these books had to be read by her – I was not allowed to read it to her.

Every time, she expressed some interest in the books, we would sit together and look at the pages. Initially, she was more interested in the pictures, and then, when she realized that I was not going to read the story to her, started reading – just like that! She knew the sounds, and could easily read the words. I would help her with the tougher ones, but it was mainly her own efforts. Now, she picks up the books by herself, with no prompting from me, and reads, whenever she fancies it. Not just that, she also tries to read my books, and is delighted when she finds words that she knows like ‘and’ or ‘this’.I still don’t know if it was that new set of books that did it or it was just the right time for her, but I am just happy that she is reading, and is reading because she enjoys it, not because I am pushing her to read. Because she wants to, not because she has to.

There she is, grabbing a few minutes after breakfast this morning to read. I can’t tell you how much that sight gladdens my heart. I just hope that her interest in books and stories stay with her all her life.

And here is her little library that houses her books

A Reading Challenge

Books have always been part of my life, as far back as I remember. Reading is what I do. That is the one thing that always happens, irrespective of how every other variable in my life could change.

So when I came across the South Asian Challenge at Smita’s blog, all I could do was rush here and sign up for it.What could be more fun! I have been reading a lot of Indian Authors with a sprinkling of Pakistani and Sri Lankan authors. This would be a wonderful opportunity to read some more. I just love the fact that I would get to know about a lot of authors that I had no idea about, by reading others who participate in this challenge. Oh it is so exciting!

The South Asian Challenge is a reading challenge that is Blogger and Reviewer S Krishna’s brainchild, to encourage people to read South Asian books. To know more about the South Asian Challenge or to sign up, please do hop here.

I am signing up for the South Asian Challenge 2011, and am hoping to read 10 South Asian books in the next year. I don’t have a reading list as of now, but will put it up soon.











Books,books and more books..

..but it’s all about Poohi’s books this time.

Rashmi asked me in a comment here about the type of books Poohi reads .There was no way I could answer that in a comment, so decided to devote a full post to it. Nothing gives me as much pleasure as talking about books.

The first books I bought for Poohi were three Winnie the Poohi books when she was a few days old. We got something called a ‘bounty’ pack, if I remember correctly, and it had all sorts of vouchers for kids stuff, these books were part of the deal. And I used to read them to her too, right from the time she was days old. People must have thought me crazy, but I couldn’t care less 🙂 We never looked back from then.

The next purchase that I remember clearly is a red soft cloth book. It was wonderful, and Poohi loved it. It had a little story and it was soft enough for a very young child to play with. It came with a buggy clip so it kept her entertained even while we were out. I have no idea how much she understood, but she used to hang on to every word I read out to her.

Poohi with her cloth book.

She also had some ‘touchy feely books’ which lets them feel things. For instance, furry animals would have a real fur coat in the book. It is lots of fun, even for us 🙂

One of her Touchy Feely Books.

I think one of the things I did on a regular basis was take her to the library. Letting her play in the soft play area, letting her explore and look at the books around her. As she grew older, I started  letting her choose her books. And I would go with whatever she chose.  Some of the books she chose were not exactly exciting, so I would modify the story to make it exciting for her.

I also bought books that I remember from my childhood. Fairy tales and stuff like that.  Oh yes, I had picked up a Disney series, with Nemo, Incredibles and and all those stories – it is a collection of 12 books, and she loves them! And when she discovered the movies – much later, she was delighted when she realized that she knew the stories already 🙂

We also got some free book packs from the library at the ages of six months, 18 months and 3 years – I forgot to pick up the 3 years one, and I guess it is too late now 😦 She loved those books. At the age of 6 months, it was more pictures and just one or two words. At 18 months, there was a slightly longer stories, but with lots of illustration. At each stage, I think they gave away books suitable to that age group.

This time in India, she got a lovely gift of some wonderful books based on Amar Chitra Katha from Deepti Aunty, and she fell in love with them. Simple stories, easy language, and lovely illustration- she loved them. So I picked up some more panchtantra tales which she adores. As I had mentioned here, I also picked up Bhagwatham for Kids, and she loves to hear the stories about Krishna. Somehow Ramayana does not seem to interest her much, I suppose Krishna has more universal appeal because of his naughty antics.

Some of her books from India

And along with the books I buy for her, I take her to the library regularly, get her to pick up books for herself, the only problem being that she ends up picking books which have princess in them(ughhh!, there are only so many princess stories that I can read out). Some of the stories are so much fun. Some of them are a different take on the popular fairy tales/nursery rhymes that we are already familiar with. I remember one story on Dimity Dumpty, Humpty Dumpty’s little sister – I loved that one! She also gets books from school to take home, so she gets a variety of books.

Some of her books – in no particular order or preference – The Beatrix Potter is one of my favourites though.

Thanks to our nomadic existence, I don’t buy books for myself here. It would break my heart if I had to leave them here when we move back to India. So I make up for that by buying her books, and these we are surely not leaving behind ! And let me let you in on  a secret, I enjoy her books as much as she does, if not more. Every time we pick up a batch of new books, I can’t wait to read them, so I read them first 🙂 Sneaky me 🙂 I can’t wait for her to start reading all be herself and get started on all those Enid Blytons I loved! Every time I see a beautifully packaged collection of those childhood books, it takes a lot of persuasion from my practical self to prevent myself from buying them right away!