Feb 16 Reads

February was cold but pleasant in Cali, and R & I were exploring the beaches along the Central Coast for some weekends. We also had the opportunity to visit Yosemite to witness the rare phenomenon of the fire falls (an event that depends on a lot of factors coming together at the right moment) with thousands of photographers from across the globe. So as you can predict, I didn’t get through very many books. Here’s the list –

  1. Indian Vegetarian Feast by Anjum Anand – In this book, Anand repurposes the classic and timeless recipes to include the vegetables and roots commonly found in UK and US. She also provides helpful hints for creating variations of a recipe. The instructions are comprehensive and clear, and most are accompanied by a good visual representation. I haven’t tried any recipes yet but made note of quite a few, which I look forward to trying out soon.
  2. St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves – I came across this title while looking up Karen Russell’s short stories fiction titled Vampires in the Lemon Grove. To my surprise, St Lucy’s was rated higher over Vampires but I found that I enjoyed reading Vampires in the Lemon Grove over this book. So the title story is self-explanatory in the sense, wolf cubs born in humanoid form are taken away from the werewolf parents to be raised as human children in order to be fully integrated into the human world. The children have no say in the matter but the ones who learn fast are rewarded while the stubborn ones are reprimanded and isolated from their brothers/sisters. I don’t believe I enjoyed reading any of the other short stories within this compilation. It truly is a book that can be immensely enjoyed if you enjoy Russell’s stories.
  3. Thor Visionaries Vol 1, 2 and 3 by Walter Simonson– Having enjoyed watching re-runs of the Marvel movies this January, I was trying to get my hands on some of the comics to test the waters so to speak. My local library has a very limited selection where Marvel comics are concerned, so I was able to borrow Thor Visionaries volumes 1, 2 and 3. These volumes introduce Beta-ray Bill, an alien guardian whose mind has been transferred into a carnivorous beast (looks hideous) who Thor encounters on his mission to intercept an extraterrestrial spaceship of unknown origin on Earth. Bill impresses Odin with his prowess so much so that Odin confers the Asgardian citizenship upon him and gifts him with a garb and hammer identical to Thor’s. The subsequent volumes follow Bill’s adventures on Earth and in space with Sif, the Asgardian’ battle with Surtur, the fire demon and Thor’s journey to Hela’s realm to rescue innocent Midgardian souls.
  4. Thor: The Deviants Saga is about Thor’s journey to the cities of the Eternals and their enemies, the Deviants to retrieve a stolen Asgardian artifact. The stories also features a brief venture into the Savage Land, a land rich in Adamantium.
  5. The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett (link to review)
  6. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (link to review)


The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book book was long due in my TBR pile…partly due to lack of motivation and partly because I watched the awesome televised series during school days, and which I thought is more interesting than reading the book. With Disney’s live-action film due for release this April, I felt it might be best if I read the book in order to gain some context on the story.

Mowgli, the central character of this story, is found abandoned in the outskirts of an Indian jungle thanks to the tiger Sharekhan’s hatred yet lust for human meat. Adopted and raised by the wolf pack who call themselves the Free People, Mowgli grows up lazy yet resourceful, follows the laws of the jungle taught by Baloo the wise bear and spends most of the time learning from Bagheera, the shrewd panther. The novel is comprised of a series of short stories that chronicle the adventures of Mowgli as he explores different parts of the forest which also brings him into contact with a number of animals.

Kipling doesn’t leave it at Mowgli, he tells the stories from the animals’ perspective…often highlighting their interactions with humans and  experiences they gleaned from those interactions. Kipling’s description of every sound, every whisper and every thought while mesmerizing, made it quite hard to get through the book at normal pace. So I speed read some parts while making sure I didn’t miss out on references to Mowgli. In the end, I was happy to cross The Jungle Book finally off my ever-growing TBR pile.

Rare and Obscure readings in 2015

These are books I picked up in the British Library sales years ago. I consider these rare and obscure because – a) I haven’t come across these titles in years in any lists or references and b) The books are out of print in Amazon and other sites. While I managed to give away quite a few of them over the past couple of years, the following books survived the clean up only to be given away this year –

  1. Beyond the Blue Mountains by Penelope Lively – Published in 1998, this short story collection is abound with themes which include marriage and human relationships interspersed with stories on caution, all of which are given just a touch of magical realism. The principal story is set in Australia was interesting while the rest of the stories based out of England were politely engaging.
  2. The Lotus House by Katherine Moore – Published in 1985 and set in England, the Lotus House details the memories of an old woman named Lotty who buys and renovates a dilapidated house in a desperate attempt to save it. The house holds good memories for Lotty and in hopes of keeping them alive, she goes about acquiring tenants whose lives are not quite what she imagines them to be. The reluctant residents are united and possibly given new beginnings with a bit of nudge from the cleaning lady. A light and quick read!
  3. Laura by GMT Parsons – A totally obscure tale with a deceptive book cover. Laura and her sister Fanny are two orphans, who are taken in by an uncle from their father’s side. Used to frequent house moves, a delicate aunt and an eager governess who’s determined to please, the girls uneventful lives are livened up by their latest move although Laura’s quiet demeanor hides a disturbing secret, capable of causing tragedy.
  4. Diary of a Misplaced Philosopher by Joseph North – Quirky and humorous, this diary/novel is one year worth’s account of the author’s life. The author’s doctorate in philosophy has no relation to this profession but bears heavily on his musings and observations. The entries speak of his friends, flat mates, the old dear and her feline companions whose eccentrics border on the improbable. The only flipped was as the pages progressed, it became a clear case of mundane monologue with predictable repetitions. Nothing like EM Delafield’s works!
  5. Big House – Helena McEwen explores life’s tragedies through her protagonist Elizabeth’s musings as she attempts to come to terms with the sudden deaths of her siblings – James and Kitty. While the memories masquerade a happy family, they convey the image of a family plagued with alcoholism, marital discord and childhood disturbances that cause her family to crumble. Definitely a book that deserves patience!
  6. The Duchess of Castile – Julian Fane’s The Duchess of Castile explores the consequences of one woman’s ambitions as she sets about manipulating a naive upper class Englishman whose resentment of his older brother leads to tragic endings. Thoroughly gloomy and psychotic to the point I was happy to be rid of it.