This week's question from Booking Through Thursday:

Are you a Footprint Leaver or a Preservationist?

Preservationist, generally. But a footprint leaver when it comes to textbooks. I don't usually need my textbooks after the end of semester, and I mostly get them secondhand. Those books usually have all kinds of footprints on them already -- underlines, notes, doodles, everything. So I don't really feel guilty about adding to them. But even then I would never use anything other than pencil to underline something. When it comes to other books, I wouldn't even touch them with pencils. You wouldn't find anything handwritten on the book, not even my name on the first page. That's probably the reason why people often don't return books they've borrowed from me; because they can't find the owner's name. If I really wanted to go back and read a particular page, I'll write the page number on a little scrap of paper and keep it in the book. That way, I can re-read pages without dog earing the book.

Review: Chasing Cezanne (Peter Mayle)

Freelance photographer Andre Kelly sees a $30 million Cezanne painting being loaded into a plumber's van in France and just can't stop worrying about it. When the owner of the painting doesn't seem to be too bothered about the incident, he gets even more suspicious. To find out what happened to the priceless painting, he takes the help of Cyrus Pine, a wealthy art dealer who immediately suspects a scam. These two, along with Kelly's girlfriend Lucy, travel across France as they investigate the whereabouts of the painting. Along the way, they have to find a master forger and escape a very determined hit man in this charming and very funny novel.

I didn't know this kind of a book existed anymore. A book in which the plot strolls along at its own pace and still manages to keep you interested. Where the good guys have enough time for three hour meals even as they try to save the world (or rather, a painting in this case). And where the descriptions of exotic places don't really annoy me (they normally do). Mayle's effortless sense of humor kept me interested throughout and the lack of a what-happens-next kind of plot never bothered me. You know right from the beginning who the bad guys are and you know that the world's going to be a happy place at the end of the story, but you just want to read it all the way through anyway.

Another thing I loved about this book is that even though the story is set in France and many of the characters are French, Mayle avoids using too many French words in the book. A mistake that many authors make is that they assume that their readers can somehow understand half a dozen European languages, thereby leaving us poor readers with little option but to either skip those lines or look up a dictionary to translate the sentences. But this book hardly ever challenges my French vocabulary, which consists of two words -- bonjour and au revoir (both of which I can't pronounce). Even when he does use a French word or phrase, Mayle finds a way to translate it without affecting the flow of the story. And for that, he's definitely earned a fan. Myself, I mean. And maybe this book isn't what I'd rate as cent percent perfect; but it's nearly there. :)

My Rating: 9/10.

Review: Contest (Matthew Reilly)

This is one of those books that you just sit back and enjoy without exercising those little grey cells. No place at all for the brain here. Just lots of non-stop action, adrenaline, aliens and violence.

Seven warriors, one from each of seven planets that have intelligent life forms in them are teleported into a labyrinth in a contest that is held every 2000 years. The contestants then start fighting each other until only one remains alive. Dr. Stephen Swain is selected as the contestant from Earth and ends up in the labyrinth with his daughter (who accidentally gets teleported along with him) as the weakest contestant and the only one who doesn't know why he's there. From there, the plot rushes forward with Swain surviving each confrontation with the aliens simply by running away from them until most other aliens have killed each other off.

I almost feel guilty about liking this book. Had this been written by some other sci-fi author whom I read regularly, I'd have cried bloody murder for the lack of depth in the characters and the impossibility of so many alien life forms resembling those on earth. But Reilly doesn't seem to be remotely bothered about writing a believable story (yes, I feel even stories about aliens must be to some extent believable). Instead, he takes the story forward at such a ruthless pace that you hardly get the time to stop and complain. It's a pretty good effort for a debut book and his next book Ice Station is already on my "To Be Read" list.

My Rating: 7/10

Booking Through Thursday: Volume

This week's question from Booking Through Thursday:

Would you say that you read about the same amount now as when you were younger? More? Less? Why?

I've been reading roughly the same amount as I used to. My list of finished books for the last few months says I've finished reading 20 books since July -- that's one book per week. Much less that what I'd like to read, but college life's always a bit harsh on bookworms. In terms of number of books read, I might have read a little bit more back in my school days, but those books were shorter and easier to read. And I always had plenty of time. Now I have to rush through longer books in a terrible hurry so I don't have to face the librarian scowling at me for being late.

Oh, Horror!

I'm late, as usual. Nearly in time for this week's question from Booking Through Thursday, but I'll do last Thursday's meme anyway. This was the question:

What with yesterday being Halloween, and all... do you read horror? Stories of things that go bump in the night and keep you from sleeping?

Halloween was last Wednesday, not yesterday. Like I said, I'm very, very late. Okay, now coming to the question... No, I don't read much of horror. The only books that I've read in recent years that fall into the genre are Stephen King's Pet Sematary (review here) and David Moody's ebook Autumn. Pet Sematary -- although it was quite scary -- was a bit of a disappointment, since I was expecting something much better from King who's considered one of the best horror authors. Autumn, with its Resident Evil style plot and non-stop violence managed to scare the hell out of me. Of course, the fact that I was reading the ebook on the PC with the lights switched off did play a part in that. ;)

Apart from those, there are hardly any other horror stories I remember, except for Frankenstein or Legend of the Sleepy Hollow, both of which I remember more as classics than horror fiction.

I thought about asking you about whether you were participating in NaNoWriMo, but I asked that last year. Although... if you want to answer that one, too, please feel free to go ahead and do both, or either, your choice!

That was the second part of the question. And again the answer is no. Until now I never had a clue about what NaNoWriMo stood for. Well, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. So I obviously will stay a good distance away from it. Writing novels isn't my kind of a thing. It takes a lot of hard work to write a 50,000 word novel. And a bit of talent. Perseverance. Time. That's four reasons (and counting) not to participate.

But the "quantity over quality" thing about NaNoWriMo might make me reconsider this decision. I liked the whole idea behind it. Maybe I'll participate after all. And being the incurable optimist that I am, I'll even hope that I'm the next one on that list of seventeen NaNoWriMo authors who have been published so far. But not much chance of doing it this year, with nearly a week already gone. Twenty four days is too little time to do it. Nah, just kidding there. You could give me a year and I still couldn't write 5,000 words. And let's not even start thinking about 50,000!