BTT: What is Reading?

Booking Through Thursday. (Suggested by Thisisnotabookclub.)

What is reading, anyway? Novels, comics, graphic novels, manga, e-books, audio books — which of these is reading these days? Are they all reading? Only some of them? What are your personal qualifications for something to be "reading" — why? If something isn’t reading, why not? Does it matter? Does it impact your desire to sample a source if you find out a premise you liked the sound of is in a format you don’t consider to be reading? Share your personal definition of reading, and how you came to have that stance.

Novels and ebooks are the formats that qualify as reading as far as I'm concerned. In case of comics, graphic novels and manga, I feel that the images play a greater part in the storytelling than the words themselves. Audio books certainly do not fall into the category of "reading" material. I mean, how can listening and reading be the same thing?

Novels, of course are the most important form of reading for me. And also the most comfortable. I guess nothing beats the feeling of holding a book in your hands.

A lot of people might disagree with me about classifying ebooks as reading. Staring at the computer screen for hours isn't nearly as good as curling up with a novel. But living in a place with a not-very-good library and not even one bookstore that sells novels means that I do sometimes have to resort to this format. If it hadn't been for Project Gutenberg, I'd never have been able to read so many books by H Rider Haggard or Jules Verne. Most of the classic books in the library look like they were bought at the time when the books were written. (I even came across a 75 year old copy of an H G Wells book once.) I'm much better off sitting in front of the monitor than trying to make sure the book I'm reading doesn't fall into pieces.

I might sound a bit opinionated here, shrugging off graphic novels, audio books and comics as not being reading material. No offence to people who love these formats. I've never read a graphic novel or listened to an audio book and I haven't read comics for some years now. Maybe I'll change my opinion once I've had an opportunity to sample these formats, but for now I won't say I've "read" a book if I've only "listened" to it.

I can't really give a proper definition for reading, but the most important conditions for something to qualify as reading is that it should use words to convey information and that the person "reading" it should be well... reading.

By my definition, then, a lot more things could be added to the list. Magazines, newspaper, Google Reader, blogs. I feel all these can be called reading too. What about you? Would you call this reading? What's your definition of reading?

Review: Honeymoon (James Patterson & Howard Roughan)

I discovered James Patterson from his book Lifeguard and became an instant fan of his. So, when I saw Honeymoon on the library book-shelf, I didn't hesitate.

This book, which Patterson writes with Howard Roughan has a fast moving storyline, and the fact that its a typical Patterson book with small chapters, makes it a page turner. It tells the story of Nora, a beautiful enigmatic woman with a tragic past and a dangerous present. Nora is beautiful, rich and successful, a combination that makes it hard for her to go unnoticed. Her back story, although filled with shocks, is too thin and her mother Olivia makes her appearance in the story to link her present with her past, and to add a little surprise of her own. After all, she's Nora's mother.

Nora calls it 'man management' as she maintains warm (or maybe hot) relationships with more than one man, and swiftly travels between the lives of these men, making the necessary adjustments. And this makes it difficult for the readers, certainly lesser individuals than Nora, to decide whether to love or hate this woman. And this exactly is the problem that James O'Hara has, as he investigates why terrible things happen to men associated with Nora Sinclair. Craig Reynolds is an insurance officer while Susan is O'Hara's boss in the FBI. To tell something more about their personalities would spoil the surprises and twists that await you as you read this incredible book.

To make matters more complicated, the storyline gets a little confusing and convoluted with a subplot involving the 'Tourist'. Nora would do anything to make money and O'Hara would do anything to stop her, but couldn't stop himself when Nora plays the psychological game with him. The undercover FBI agent virtually goes 'undercover' with her and seriously damage the 'hero' image thereby strengthening his 'human' image. Nora wins that part of the battle but loses in the end to O'hara. She should have known he's the hero... Ok, bad joke.

Throughout the book you'll find that things are not what they seem to be. Even the title of the book is a bit misleading. The ending of the book also seemed a little abrupt and flat, but satisfactory, with some unexpected twists. It wouldn't be my nomination for the 'Thriller of the Year' award but it is one of the better books I've read and is certainly a must read.

Rating. 8.5/10

In case you were wondering about the name, Nithin hasn't changed his name. My name is Aravind, and I'm a co-author on this blog, but you'll see me more often posting about football, and more specifically about my favorite club Chelsea FC on my blog, Living True Blue.

BTT: Books vs Movies

Another interesting question on Booking hrough Thursday, suggested by Superfastreader.

Books and films both tell stories, but what we want from a book can be different from what we want from a movie. Is this true for you? If so, what’s the difference between a book and a movie?

The best thing about books is that they give so much freedom to the readers to interpret the events and characters whichever way they want. Because so much is left to the imagination of the reader, we feel a lot more involved with the plot.

A movie adaptation, on the other hand, is other people's interpretation of the book -- the directors interpretation of the plot or the actors' interpretation of the characters. I often end up liking the movie adaptation even though I didn't like the book very much.

Take Pride and Prejudice, for instance. I didn't really like Austen's novel very much but enjoyed the 2005 movie. Sometimes the opposite is the case. You could call me a fan of both H G Wells and Steven Spielberg, but I hated Spielberg's interpretation of Wells' classic, The War of the Worlds. And on many occasions I have liked both the book and the movie even though the movie's plot was a little different from the book, like in Jurassic Park or The Bourne Identity.

For me, books and movies are two very different forms of storytelling, but what I'm looking for in both of them is the same -- that I be entertained for the duration for which I am reading the book or watching the movie.

Review: Sunset In St. Tropez (Danielle Steel)

I read my first Danielle Steel novel, Miracle, (review) a couple of months ago and surprised myself by liking it. No such luck with this book, though. I'm not writing a proper plot introduction here, but this description that I borrowed from the back cover of the book (and edited slightly) should be enough for the purposes of this review:

Spending New Year's eve together was a sacred tradition for Diana Morrison, her husband of 32 years, Eric, and their best friends, Pascale, John, Anne and Robert. The future looked rosy as the longtime friends sipped champagne and talked about traveling together to the South of France.

Just two weeks after New Year’s, tragedy strikes the heart of their close circle, as Robert Smith suffers a sudden, unexpected loss. Without hesitation, Diana and Eric, Pascale and John rally to his side, united in their support, love, and shared grief. Convinced that a change of scenery is just what Robert needs, they urge him to join them on the Riviera in August. But as they soon discover, the ramshackle old mansion they rented in St. Tropez--sight unseen--is far different from the exquisite villa and sun-drenched gardens touted in the brochure.

But the biggest surprise of all is the woman Robert invites to the villa as his guest--a lovely, much-younger and very beautiful film actress whom Diana and Pascale hate her on sight. But the men are dazzled. And amid the crumbling furniture and the glorious sunsets, the strained relationships and the acts of forgiveness, more surprises are in store for the villa’s occupants. With the last days of summer fast approaching, each couple finds themselves changing in unexpected ways, as old wounds are healed, new love discovered, and miracles unfold... all beneath the dazzling sun of St. Tropez.

There are such strong similarities between this book and Miracle that I just got tired of reading a book that sounds so much like another. Just look at how the two plots are built: man, aged around 60 -> woman, aged around 40 -> loss of a loved one -> caring friends -> a house by the sea -> ships/yachts -> romance -> live happily ever after.

The two books I just compared aren't exactly identical -- there are six main characters here instead of three, this one is set in France instead of California and there is a gorgeous actress here instead of a reclusive schoolteacher. Okay, I was being ironical about those differences... There can only be so many stories about a recently widowed older man falling for a younger woman as he comes to terms with his loss, but two such stories by the same author? NO WAY!

This book is readable but you can safely skip it, especially if you've already read Miracle. There are too many good books out there waiting to be read, and too little time to read two very similar books by an author who seems to be plagiarizing her own plot ideas.

Rating. 3/10

Review: Vital Signs (Robin Cook)

The prologue of this book was classic Robin Cook. As Cook described a bacterial infection that is taking place inside the body of one of his characters, I allowed myself to hope that finally I was reading another one of those great medical thrillers that once converted me into a Robin Cook fan. And after that... nothing. There was absolutely nothing that could make me say, "Yes, I'm still a Robin Cook fan!"

Dr. Marissa Blumenthal, who was first introduced in Outbreak, is now in her thirties, married and has a successful pediatrics practice in Boston. Marissa is unable to conceive and is therefore trying to conceive by In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). After she finds out that the cause of her infertility is shared by an unusually large number of women in the clinic, she gets supicious and starts investigating.

Robin Cook's ability to create interesting characters has always been limited, but after reading Outbreak, I would have rated Marissa Blumenthal as one of his better efforts. Which is why I am completely baffled by what he has done to this character. The Marissa in this book is shown to be so insensitive and reckless (qualities that I wouldn't attribute to the old Marissa) that I almost ended up hating her. The husband too was thrown into the plot with absolutely no hint of an introduction.

Except for a cameo for Cyrill Ducheck, none of the characters from the previous book return here. I can't understand why Cook used Marissa here if he didn't want her character to look anything like her old self. He would have been better off creating a new set of characters for this book.

Like I just said, one thing Cook will never be famous for is creating memorable characters, but here he seems to have put in too much effort, which is just as bad. In trying to create a "real" Aussie character in Tristan Williams, he uses so much Aussie slang that even Australians might find it hard to follow the lingo.

Another thing that Cook isn't really good at is writing in any setting outside hospitals or research centers. In this book, he takes us all over the world -- Australia, China, Hong Kong -- but these trips add almost nothing to the story. His research about the medical aspects of his books may be outstanding, but doesn't get close to convincing me about his knowledge about Chinese triads.

The ending too was terrible. It almost seems as if the author suddenly decided, "Hey, I've had enough of this. Lemme finish the story right here!" The loose ends weren't tied up properly and the ending was very abrupt. Overall, I would say that this was a poor effort from Robin Cook. He really should have focused more on the medical side of his story.

Rating. 2/10


I just crossed 50 posts in this blog. Wow! Congratulations, me! :-) And I posted my first review on this blog May 15th last year, which means it's twelve more days before this blog turns one year old!

Review: Bel Canto (Ann Patchett)

Bel Canto is about a hostage situation that develops in an unnamed South American country. The story of this book is based on the Japanese embassy hostage crisis of 1996 when militants took hundreds of diplomats, businessmen and government officials hostage during a party at the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima, Peru.

The vice president of the country is hosting a party on the birthday of Katsumi Hosokawa, an influential businessman from Japan. Towards the end of the party a group of militants enter the building to kidnap the President. The president, however, had decided not to attend the party and so the militants take the entire party hostage. Later they decide to keep only those hostages likely to receive large ransoms. Mr. Hosokawa's assistant and translator, Gen Watanabe, Roxanne and Mr. Hosokawa himself are among the people who remain in the house after the others have been released.

As the crisis drags on for months, bonds of friendship are formed all around, even to some extent between the hostages and their captors. Katsumi Hosokawa and Roxanne Coss fall in love with each other despite being unable to speak in each other's language. Gen also falls in love with a beautiful young terrorist, Carmen. The whole book is about the microcosm that the hostages and their captors together create in the house. There is almost no interference from the outside world during the months for which hostages are held captive and throughout the book, we hardly step outside the house.

At times, I found the story a little bit unbelievable especially the behaviour of the hostages. I would have expected them to be a lot more scared than they are shown to be. After the initial panic they settle down comfortably in the house pretty fast without much fear of their captors. I happen to know almost nothing about opera and music, so I did have some trouble understanding the passages about Roxanne's music. Except for that, the book was great to read.

For a book that maintained such a pleasant atmosphere all along, the ending came as a rude shock. Before I read the book, I'd seen quite a few book bloggers complaining about the ending and now I know why. It was too brutal and too inconsistent with the rest of the novel. But then, the entire story was a bit too good to be true. Something unpleasant was bound to happen.

Bel Canto is an operatic term meaning "beautiful song" and Patchett uses this theme very well to bring this whole group of people together. Interestingly, Patchett didn't know much about opera before she wrote this book and she had to read books about it and listen to opera so she could gain some understanding about it. This novel won both the Orange Prize and the PEN/Faulkner award in 2002.

Rating. 8/10


Review: Firefly's Book Blog
Review: Great White North
Review: My Year of Reading Seriously
Review: The Orange Prize Project
Review: Shh... I'm Reading

Books: April 2008


  1. A Painted House (John Grisham) [8/10]

  2. The Parsifal Mosaic (Robert Ludlum) [4/10]

  3. Ombria In Shadow (Patricia A McKillip) [2/10]

  4. Crooked House (Agatha Christie) [7/10]

  5. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (J K Rowling) [7/10]

A Painted House is the one books that stands out in that list. Grisham's proved once again that he's just as good (if not better) when he's not writing legal thrillers. I've really got to read more non-legal books from Grisham.

I liked Crooked House to some extent, but Christie's used her all too familiar murder method -- poison -- once again. It's getting irritating to see all those old men getting poisoned all the time, but the ending was pretty good. Fantastic Beasts... is strictly for Harry Potter fans, because much of the charm of the book lies in the doodles in the margins, and people who haven't read the Potter books wouldn't understand them.

Ombria In Shadow was the one I really didn't like. Even after finishing the book, I don't have a clue about what was happening. As for The Parsifal Mosaic, it's typical Ludlum stuff, all cloak-and-dagger. Disappointing.

My list for April looks like the one for the previous month -- 5 books by different authors and nothing that deserved a 10/10 rating. Now I'm behind in reviews by 9 books, so I'll have to skip maybe 4 or 5 of them. I really should try to keep up with the reviewing.

Stats: 5 books, 5 authors (1 new), 1936 pages, 5.6 avg rating.