Review: The High Flyer (Nicholas Shakespeare)

Thomas Wavery was once a high flying diplomat who was all set to be posted as the ambassador in Lisbon. It was a posting that he had always wanted, but an affair with a young woman dashes all his plans and now he's about to get divorced and is posted at Abyla, at the northern tip of Africa. Here he waits for a visit from his love as he spends the last few months of his career in Abyla with little enthusiasm for his job.

The book showed much promise in the first couple of chapters. Nicholas Shakespeare's description of Abyla got me interested in the book. But after that, it got hopelessly confusing with the author trying to tell the stories of every single character in detail. There are too many flashbacks without much of a hint of when the events took place. For most part the book was extremely gloomy and depressive and I couldn't really see the point of the story.

Anyway, I haven't got too much to say about the book. After the first few chapters I only read it half-heartedly, and so there isn't much I can write. I wouldn't recommend this book, but then again, it was way out of what I usually read, so I can't give a real opinion about it.

Rating. 2/10.

BTT: Defining a Reader

Today's question on Booking Through Thursday:

What, in your opinion, is the definition of a “reader.” A person who indiscriminately reads everything in sight? A person who reads BOOKS? A person who reads, period, no matter what it is? Or, more specific? Like the specific person who’s reading something you wrote?

Let me start with the assumption that I am a typical reader. What do I, or for that matter, any reader, read? Books, obviously. Textbooks (usually only on the day before exams.) ;-) Newspaper in the morning. Feed reader twice or thrice a day. News aggregator on the internet. And pretty much anything that I can read.

Now, how am I different from other people whom I'd call non-readers? I have friends who read everything on that list except for books and I don't call them readers. They read all those other things to know what's going on... they read for the knowledge that they get out of those sources. But I doubt if any of them reads the newspaper out of love for reading.

I think that's what separates readers from non-readers. That readers read not just for knowledge, they also read for pleasure. They don't look at reading as a chore that has to be done, but as something that they enjoy doing.

Books: May 2008

It's been a few days since I last posted here, and the list of books I read in May has remained in drafts for all these days. It's nearly July and here I am, posting about May. Thanks to my final semester exams, I haven't been able to read much this month, but I'm trying to catch up now that I'm finally free from college. :-)

  1. Vital Signs (Robin Cook) [2/10]

  2. One Night at the Call Center (Chetan Bhagat) [2/10]

  3. Prime Evil (Various Authors) [2/10]

  4. Sunset In St. Tropez (Danielle Steel) [3/10]

  5. Murder In Memoriam (Didier Daeninckx) [4/10]

  6. Honeymoon (James Patterson) [9/10]

  7. The Andromeda Strain (Michael Crichton) [8/10]

One Night at the Call Center was the one book I was looking forward to. I liked Chetan Bhagat's first book, Five Point Someone and I was hoping One Night... would be as funny and as realistic as that one. Unfortunately, the tone of the book was too racist for my taste with all the characters spewing out anti-Americanisms non-stop and even God joining in at one point. The book was neither funny nor realistic except perhaps for the description of lives of the call center employees.

Among the other books, I liked James Patterson's book, Honeymoon (my friend Aravind guest-posted the review) and Crichton's science fiction book The Andromeda Strain.

Stats. 7 books, 6 authors (1 new + 13 authors' short stories in Prime Evil), 2151 pages.

BTT: Trends

Booking Through Thursday.

Have your book-tastes changed over the years? More fiction? Less? Books that are darker and more serious? Lighter and more frivolous? Challenging? Easy? How-to books over novels? Mysteries over Romance?

I'm not really sure how to answer this question. I started reading when I was nine years old with Enid Blyton's mystery novels. Obviously, I'm not reading the same books I was reading back then, but I think the type of books I read hasn't changed much. My reading preference has always leaned overwhelmingly towards fiction with mysteries and thrillers being my favourite genres, and that hasn't changed over the years.

I used to re-read books very frequently earlier, but I don't do that very often now. Another thing that has changed is that I'm a lot more like to try new authors or genres these days than I would have done in the past. And, of course, the books I read have become longer, darker and more serious over the years and now I'm not really averse to trying books that I perceive as "difficult" or "challenging".

What about you? How have your book tastes changed over the years? Please do leave a comment or a link to your answer if you've already answered this question on your blog.

Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (J K Rowling)

With Fantastic Beasts..., I have finished reading all the Rowling books published so far. (Well, I haven't read Tales of Beedle the Bard, but that isn't exactly a "published" book!). Yes, I meant Rowling as in J K Rowling, the genius who wrote the Harry Potter series. I'm always surprised by the fact that so many people who follow the Potter series are unaware of the fact that there are two companion books (three, if you count Beedle the Bard) to the series -- Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

At 60-odd pages, this book is very short. It was written by Rowling to benefit the charity organization, Comic Relief. (A portion of the cover price of each book sold goes directly to poor children in various places around the world.) Those well acquainted with the Potter series will remember that this is the title of the Care of Magical Creatures textbook at Hogwarts, written by Newt Scamander. This book purports to be Harry's copy of that textbook and uses Scamander's name as the pseudonym for Rowling.

The book describes the magical creatures in Harry's world, including many that we encountered in the main series. It starts off with a foreword by Albus Dumbledore, followed by a couple of short chapters defining magical beasts before going on to describe 75 magical beasts with Ministry of Magic classifications ranging from "boring" to "known wizard killer".

The best part of the book was the doodles by Harry and Ron reminding of different incidents that took place during the series. For example, there's one doodle next to a paragraph on the ban on experimental breeding that says nobody's told Hagrid about it, referring to the fact that he broke this law in Goblet of Fire by breeding Blast-Ended Skrewts. However, the significance of these doodles would be lost on anyone who hasn't read the series (at least up to the fourth book).

It would have been much better if the book had more illustrations or if it had even more details about the creatures. It's pretty hard to imagine all these creatures without having a clue as to what they look like. In spite of that, I enjoyed the book thoroughly and found a lot of interesting bits of information about creatures mentioned in the books. And I'm simply amazed by Rowling's ability to invent all this stuff.

Rating. 7/10