Posted in 4 stars, Book reviews

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls

35996816.jpgGenre: Non-Fiction

Date Published: March 2005

Source: Online Library – Audiobook

Goodreads Synopsis: The second child of a scholarly, alcoholic father and an eccentric artist mother discusses her family’s nomadic upbringing from the Arizona desert, to Las Vegas, to an Appalachian mining town, during which her siblings and she fended for themselves while their parents outmaneuvered bill collectors and the authorities.

Buy it here – Amazon India | Amazon USThe Book Depository | Flipkart |

 Add on Goodreads

My View: This book tore out my heart and stamped on it, again and again until I couldn’t breathe anymore. Oh, the feels. And to know that this was someone’s reality, the way they were born and brought up and lived. It’s just too much.

I couldn’t help but draw a comparison with Angela’s Ashes even though they are starkly different from each other. But the pain sometimes has no identity. It meshes from one into another and goes on until you emerge out of it stronger than you would have ever been.

It’s hard to believe Walls is where she is and with every single word of the book, I commend how far she has come. The author being the narrator was the best thing ever because she knows the inflections, the pauses, the pain. This is her story and no one could have read it better than her.

This book is devastating. It would melt your heart. It would wrench at your insides. It would make your stomach cramp but you would want to keep listening, waiting for it to get better. Does it? Get better? Read and find out for yourself.

Every once in a while comes a book that makes every book before it, disappear into the oblivion. This is one such book. Pick it up. Get into Walls’ world, see it from the inside.

4/5 stars – I really liked it.
4 stars

Author Bio:

Jeannette Walls is a writer and journalist.

Born in Phoenix, Arizona, she graduated with honors from Barnard College, the women’s college affiliated with Columbia University. She published a bestselling memoir, The Glass Castle, in 2005. The book was adapted into a film and released to theaters in August, 2017.

 

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Posted in 3.5 stars, Book reviews

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams

6632785.jpgGenre: Classics/ Play

Date Published: 1955

Pages: 124

Source: Owned Books

Goodreads SynopsisCat on a Hot Tin Roof first heated up Broadway in 1955 with its gothic American story of brothers vying for their dying father’s inheritance amid a whirlwind of sexuality, untethered in the person of Maggie the Cat. The play also daringly showcased the burden of sexuality repressed in the agony of her husband, Brick Pollitt. In spite of the public controversy Cat stirred up, it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the Drama Critics Circle Award for that year. Williams, as he so often did with his plays, rewrote Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for many years—the present version was originally produced at the American Shakespeare Festival in 1974 with all the changes that made Williams finally declare the text to be definitive, and was most recently produced on Broadway in the 2003–2004 season. This definitive edition also includes Williams&rsquoi; essay “Person-to-Person,” Williams’ notes on the various endings, and a short chronology of the author’s life. One of America’s greatest living playwrights, as well as a friend and colleague of Williams, Edward Albee has written a concise introduction to the play from a playwright’s perspective, examining the candor, sensuality, power, and impact of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof then and now. 

Buy it here – Amazon India | Amazon US | Flipkart | The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

My View: I have never been a person who reads plays. I would rather go and watch one. But when it is one which has won a Pulitzer Prize, has an interesting title and pretty book cover, you end up buying it during an online sale. It resides prettily in your bookshelf until almost 3.5 years when you decide to pick it up for a Goodreads challenge to read books with pages 100-200 and it just fits in.

I know people love descriptive terms and all the words about non-verbal body cues or setting the scene so as to say. I, however, am not one of them. I will go with it for a while and then just skim over until I find the real deal. So even though people appreciate how vividly Williams has each character imagined, to the extent of how the character is walking, I tend to skip it. Don’t get me wrong. I love him for what he has done and it would come as a great help when directing the play or the movie but it isn’t so pleasant to read all that is written in the brackets. It deflects my attention from the actual story.

About the plot, certainly, Williams has a lot going on in those short 91 pages to be precise. So much of societal oppression and themes to do with greed, animosity and loads about human nature, truth be told. He brings out the characters to be in-your-face. They aren’t hiding their faults and human vices but it is there for everyone to see. And that is what strikes me most, not the human nature per se, which we see around ourselves day in and day out but the alarming presence of it amidst everyone for all to see. And it is then that it hits you hard, for what we are. It’s clever, the people, the play. It comes rushing down on you with so much going on in such short a time and the play ends before you have time to grapple with them all.

The book presents two versions of Act 3 and I am tempted to go with Williams on his version. It seems truer to fact. I agree with his observations and why characters are behaving in the way they are.

I can guess why this won the Pulitzer. It brought on quite an uproar for its bold theme during that time. I think I should watch the movie now. The play is so short, I am sure the director would have taken creative license to extend this to movie length.

The title is very innovative but the author makes sure you get the meaning, not once but twice and it fits like a glove. A bit hillarious if you have a good visual imagination though. 😉

Apart from the play, I absolutely loved Williams’ essay on author and director. It told me more about his thought process and writing than the play did. It’s beautiful and gives an insight into the author-director duo at work. This and not the play itself, makes me want to read more by him. You got any suggestions?

3.5/5 stars – Between ‘I liked it’ and ‘I really liked it’
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Author Bio:

Thomas Lanier Williams III, better known by the nickname Tennessee Williams, was a major American playwright of the twentieth century who received many of the top theatrical awards for his work. He moved to New Orleans in 1939 and changed his name to “Tennessee,” the state of his father’s birth. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948 and for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955. In addition, The Glass Menagerie (1945) and The Night of the Iguana (1961) received New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards. His 1952 play The Rose Tattoo (dedicated to his lover, Frank Merlo), received the Tony Award for best play.

Characters in his plays are often seen as representations of his family members. Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie was understood to be modeled on Rose. Some biographers believed that the character of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire is also based on her.

Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie was generally seen to represent Williams’ mother, Edwina. Characters such as Tom Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie and Sebastian in Suddenly, Last Summer were understood to represent Williams himself. In addition, he used a lobotomy operation as a motif in Suddenly, Last Summer.

The Pulitzer Prize for Drama was awarded to A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948 and to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955. These two plays were later filmed, with great success, by noted directors Elia Kazan (Streetcar) with whom Williams developed a very close artistic relationship, and Richard Brooks (Cat). Both plays included references to elements of Williams’ life such as homosexuality, mental instability, and alcoholism. Although The Flowering Peach by Clifford Odets was the preferred choice of the Pulitzer Prize jury in 1955 and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was at first considered the weakest of the five shortlisted nominees, Joseph Pulitzer Jr., chairman of the Board, had seen Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and thought it worthy of the drama prize. The Board went along with him after considerable discussion.

Posted in 3.5 stars, Book reviews

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

11224.jpgGenre: Classics

Date Published: 1963

Pages: 325

Source: Library

Goodreads Synopsis: In this classic of the 1960s, Ken Kesey’s hero is Randle Patrick McMurphy, a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the world of a mental hospital and takes over. A lusty, life-affirming fighter, McMurphy rallies the other patients around him by challenging the dictatorship of Nurse Ratched. He promotes gambling in the ward, smuggles in wine and women, and openly defies the rules at every turn. But this defiance, which starts as a sport, soon develops into a grim struggle, an all-out war between two relentless opponents: Nurse Ratched, back by the full power of authority, and McMurphy, who has only his own indomitable will. What happens when Nurse Ratched uses her ultimate weapon against McMurphy provides the story’s shocking climax.

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My View: This book was on my TBR list for so long. The very first reason being it was set in an asylum. Being a clinical psychologist by profession, I try and read as many fiction books on mental illness as I can, a) because they interest me, b) I am hoping they give a real picture of the situation and the illness to create awareness among the laymen, c) I want to keep re-sensitizing myself so that I don’t become a technician and forget the person across the table has emotions and to empathize truly with what is going on with him/ her (though this isn’t very likely but sometimes I find that knowing how it feels like from the point of the person involved really helps keep me rooted and be motivated again and again to do my best at work). Anyhow, I had picked it up around 5 years back, couldn’t get into it. Finally gave up and watched the movie first, which is usually not what happens. I keep postponing the movie until I read the book (no wonder I watched Shutter Island last year and am still to watch Lord of the Rings and so many more movies!). But I wanted to try yet again and hence issued this book out of my library.

When I began reading, this book felt like a lot of work. I just couldn’t get into it. But I was determined to finish it this time around. The book dragged on till around 80 pages! After which it really picked up and my perseverance paid off. There really was no looking back. Am I happy to get it out of the way? You bet. Did I like it? I did, I really did. Am I going to pick it up again for a re-read? Umm, I doubt that very much. Not because it doesn’t deserve a second read but because it’s sad. In fact, I would go ahead and say this book is downright depressing. I didn’t feel this way after watching the movie (if memory serves me right). However, I understand that with a book, you feel more close to the character than a movie because you can read their thoughts and know them better than a movie ever allows. At times, I felt like abandoning the book in between, not because it wasn’t interesting but because I felt this was not going to go where I wanted it to. And I almost wanted to hold the author’s pen and drive it away from where he was taking it. The characters are so breathlessly etched that I felt so close to them. They were like family whom I wanted to save from anything and everything. No wonder after I finished reading, I just lay on my bed for 2 hours and did absolutely nothing. I felt like all my energy had drained, I felt really sad and I just wanted to move onto another book to distract myself from what this book had led me through.

Not to say, the book is all sad. There are many moments when I laughed. It’s quite funny at times, really. It’s interesting to know that Kesey got inspired to write this book after his time spent as a part-time aide at a psychiatric hospital. The book really does give you food for thought although it doesn’t represent the true picture of mental illness but perhaps it does portray the true reality of asylums during that time.

I do recommend giving it a read but not if you are already feeling low or have no intention of wanting to feel sad.

3.5/5 stars – Between ‘I liked it’ and ‘I really liked it’
images-25

Author Bio:

American writer, who gained world fame with his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest(1962, filmed 1975). In the 1960s, Kesey became a counterculture hero and a guru of psychedelic drugs with Timothy Leary. Kesey has been called the Pied Piper, who changed the beat generation into the hippie movement.

Ken Kesey was born in La Junta, CO, and brought up in Eugene, OR. Kesey spent his early years hunting, fishing, swimming; he learned to box and wrestle, and he was a star football player. He studied at the University of Oregon, where he acted in college plays. On graduating he won a scholarship to Stanford University. Kesey soon dropped out, joined the counterculture movement, and began experimenting with drugs. In 1956 he married his school sweetheart, Faye Haxby.

Kesey attended a creative writing course taught by the novelist Wallace Stegner. His first work was an unpublished novel, ZOO, about the beatniks of the North Beach community in San Francisco. Tom Wolfe described in his book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968) Kesey and his friends, called the Merry Pranksters, as they traveled the country and used various hallucinogens. Their bus, called Furthur, was painted in Day-Glo colors. In California Kesey’s friends served LSD-laced Kool-Aid to members of their parties.

At a Veterans’ Administration hospital in Menlo Park, California, Kesey was paid as a volunteer experimental subject, taking mind-altering drugs and reporting their effects. These experiences as a part-time aide at a psychiatric hospital, LSD sessions – and a vision of an Indian sweeping there the floor – formed the background for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, set in a mental hospital. While writing the work, and continuing in the footsteps of such writers as Thomas De Quincy (Confessions of an English Opium Eater, 1821), Aldous Huxley (The Doors of Perception, 1954), and William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch, 1959), Kesey took peyote. The story is narrated by Chief Bromden. Into his world enters the petty criminal and prankster Randall Patrick McMurphy with his efforts to change the bureaucratic system of the institution, ruled by Nurse Ratched.

The film adaptation of the book gained a huge success. When the film won five Academy Awards, Kesey was barely mentioned during the award ceremonies, and he made known his unhappiness with the film. He did not like Jack Nicholson, or the script, and sued the producers.

Posted in 4 stars, Book reviews, movie review

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald & Movie Review

Date Published: 1925
Pages: 180
Source: Owned
Format: Paperback

Goodreads SynopsisA portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, The Great Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald’s–and his country’s–most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning–“Gatsby’s rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

It’s also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby’s quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means–and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. “Her voice is full of money,” Gatsby says admiringly. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy’s patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout.

Buy it here – Amazon India | Flipkart | Amazon US | The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

My View: Sometimes it’s just hype and at other times, the hype is just right. The hype about this one being a classic kept scaring me away, yeah, I am scared of books that take time to enter my head. And that hype was so wrong. Well, atleast in the it being classicy classic way. I took 6 months to read Crime and Punishment and not just because of its hefty size. This? This, I finished in a few hours marathon at night that ended at 4:30 am. Yeah! The hype that was right – of this being a good book. It was. It certainly was.

First few pages (make that 50), I wasn’t sure where this book was heading. And I would certainly not have said it was going great. It was easy to understand and smoothly going by, definitely. But I was curious to know Gatsby, the person the book was named after. And so far it looked that the book was more about the narrator. ‘Hurry up, will you?’, I said. This book is only 140 pages long! I want to know you, Gatsby. Come, meet me.

And then, things changed. Gatsby was being unraveled, and I was liking it. Oh, so this is what he is all about. My my! I would love to have me a man like that. 5 years, did you say! (Not revealing much in order not to give spoilers).

The writing is fluid and makes for an interesting narrative. The plot is innovative, to say the least. And I do love myself some old romance devoid of physical intimacy and sex that are rampant in the current romance genre books. Do I sound like an old lady, because I assure you I am not.

The book is easy to read and one classic you can finish in a few hours. You don’t have to rack your brains over this one, for sure. There are some strange coincidences in this book that make you wonder, ‘oh really; life is certainly a mystery’.

Although I would admit, I read the last couple of pages twice in order to push the author into changing his mind while I was reading it again. Fitzgerald, how could you? I am devastated. I don’t like you, you know? And if you do not change that ending, I may never read another book by you. Are you listening? Of course, he isn’t. Or maybe he’s smirking down at me from heavens above, thinking all the time ‘what a foolish little girl’. *snort* I didn’t like him anyway.

Would I read it again? Probably, even if just for the kicks. Or maybe I will scratch out that end and write it myself. Although it would probably stop being a classic if I did that. But really. How could he? And the narrator, the stupid narrator, worthless. Why could he not open his mouth? Huh. See what Fitzgerald has got me into? Bad mouthing him and his characters. Those are the books I love where the plot and the characters have me all tied in a knot. Although I assure you, I did not cry. I. Did. Not. My mouth could have dropped open in shock though, in all probability. That’s it.

Have you read this one? Are you avoiding it because it’s a classic? Pfft. Read it. It will take only a few hours. 3. 4 maybe. Come on. You can do it. I believe in you. It’s just a simple, little story. And oh, I liked it, in case I forgot to mention. I have a tendency to ramble on. Probably I am doing that right now. Okay, stop! Oh God.

Movie

I am devastated. I don’t know what to say. The movie has done me in. For starters, I am so glad I read the book first because the movie is no way near my imagination. It’s so different! Do you see the book cover above? That’s how my mind imagined it all, in black and white and subtle and classy. The movie? It’s full of colors, and sounds and it’s brashy. It took me some time to get used to that for sure.

And woah, it took me another good while to get used to Spiderman (Toby Maguire) and Jack from Titanic (Leonardo DiCaprio). I just couldn’t picture them together.

Once I got used to the above, I was taken in by that world – the world of color and charm and love and heartbreak. OMG, I think I fell in love with Leonardo all over again. He can say so much without even uttering a word. Oh my, those expressions! How does he do that?

And the music, woah. One of the songs I had heard in a coffee shop 6-8 months back and have been trying to find it and when it came on in the movie, I was zapped. Amazing music.

For most purposes, I think the movie did justice to the book. It took the romantic angle a bit further, rest was keeping in line with the book. But it was while watching the movie that I realised Fitzgerald wrote so beautifully. How could I have missed those lines? I think reading a classic in a 4 hour marathon isn’t the best way, perhaps. And now I feel like I should definitely re-read it. Ahh, the movie makes me want to fall in love all over again. It was beautiful, simply beautiful.

And now I just want to sob. Gatsby, oh my Gatsby. You, the epitome of generosity and love. Nick Carraway said it well, when he did, that they are a rotten bunch, every single one of them. And you, you are the one. The only one!

It’s 90 years to the day the book was written but it’s words still strike true. The selfishness and greed of people, the tendency to serve their own motive without a glance at the other. I wonder sometimes did the world never change or was it the far-seeing eyes of these profound writers?

To sum up, I upped my rating from 3.5 to 4 because this is a masterpiece!

3.5/5 stars – Somewhere between I liked it and I really liked it. 

4/5 stars – I really liked it. Recommended to be read and watched
immediately after. You will be blown away.

And now I want to change it to 4.5!4 stars

Posted in 3 stars, Book reviews

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Date Published: May 24, 2012
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Pages: 466
Source: Owned
Format: Paperback

Goodreads SynopsisWho are you?
What have we done to each other?

These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they weren’t made by him. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone.

So what did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife?

Buy it here – Amazon India | FlipkartAmazon US | The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

My View: Early 2013, I was dabbling with the idea of getting an Audible Membership. I could take two freebies for my trial version. In my search for those two free books that would hopefully make me addicted to Audible, I went around my favorite Goodreads Group asking for suggestions. And Gone Girl came up as one. I grabbed it right away. I started listening to it on March 10, 2013. It was going good but then it became too slow for me (yeah, can you believe that?). I was almost 2/3rd into the audio when I quite gave up on it.

In the meantime, I bought a paperback as well. A year and a half down the line, with the movie coming up in theatres, I was adamant to give it another try if nothing else than to see what the hype was all about. And here I switched to paperback and started from scratch. Although I could not finish the book in time and ended up watching the movie first. The movie was pretty good, I would say. I had read 1/3rd of the book, remembered the second part from the audio so it was only the last one that was unknown to me. I think they did a decent job of getting it on big screen.

This is how my reading progress looks like on GR.

03/10/2013 page 16 3.0%
05/08/2013 page 200 42.92% “Slow but it’s taking a massive turn now..hmm..interesting, very interesting.”
11/04/2014 page 1 0.21% “Starting over again. Switched from audio to paperback now.”
11/16/2014 page 335 71.0% “”Come home so I can kill you.” Classic!”
11/17/2014 page 340 72.0% “‘One should never marry a man who doesn’t own a decent set of scissors.’ Quite profound, eh?”
11/17/2014 marked as: read

After I had seen the movie, it did seem a bit senseless to finish the book but I kept at it until I was done.

So what are my afterthoughts? Well, to begin with, I would say too much hype really kills a book for me. Perhaps I would have liked it had my expectations not skyrocketed with all the good reviews. The book started off well, got a bit slow, then turned interesting again but somewhere down the line, I lost interest. I agree the plot is mind-blowing, the characters quirky and absolutely insane and the book has all details taken well care of. It was a thrilling and unpredictable ride. But somehow the last part of it didn’t go down well with me. I would have rather had a different chain of events to end the book with. It’s difficult to say much about the book without giving it away.

It’s not bad at all, worth giving a shot. Maybe the editing could have been tighter and the end different but that would have changed the book completely. Just my opinion as a reader/ listener.

What did you think of Gone Girl – the book/ movie?

3/5 stars – I liked it.download (8)

Posted in 2 stars, Book reviews

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (Audiobook Review)

18660669Series: (Vampire Academy #1)
Date Published: August 16, 2007
Publisher: Razobill
Pages: 332
Source: Purchased at Audible
Format: Audiobook

Goodreads Synopsis: St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger. . . .

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever

Buy it here – Amazon India | FlipkartAmazon US| The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

My View:  Frankly, I am really not into paranormal and would rather stay away from vampires. Twilight did hold my attention but it was more of an anomaly than a rule. But when my favorite group on Goodreads had another toppler and I got assigned the task of reading about vampires, I decided to give this series a go ahead since it’s all the rage in books and series alike.  Also, the fact that I had a lot of house cleaning to do and I had this audio on hand made matters easy. I finished this book in a 6.5 hours listening marathon while cleaning and re-organizing my apartment.

First things first, this book was easy to listen to. 2 hours into the audio, I upped the speed from my usual 1.5 to 2 and I was still able to do okay with it. The book started off well enough, pulling my attention to it. But soon I kind of lost interest hoping for something interesting to come by. Well, guess what, it didn’t. I am romantic by nature and do love romance in my books but for the first in the series, I would  have rather had more background about the world created and what was going on instead. I felt the book was stretched more than was necessary and the important details were still missing. There were more questions than answers which I guess is what the first part of a series is all about, which leads me to think that maybe I don’t do that well with series. I have started and abandoned many series because the first didn’t hold my attention. I believe for the series, the rule for the author should be – if there’s too much to tell, divide it into parts, if there isn’t, better make it a standalone instead of stretching things out in order to make it a trilogy. A good example of series that pulled me in would be Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers and Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta. I have read too many firsts in the series lately that I will not be following upon.

I have read reviews in which readers went ga-ga over Dmitri. Well, no such luck in my case. The characters did not pull me in. They did not make me feel for them. The intensity, the drama was missing. Or am I being biased because perhaps my audio lacked something? I will never know because as far as I am concerned I am done with this series. I might catch the movie though.

What did you think of this one?

2/5 stars – It was okay but didn’t do wonders for me. 2stars