Books, The Saturday eReader

The Saturday eReader: When was the last time 2 million people were wrong?


Sorry folks! This one’s going to be a rant. I promise to publish a long list of recommendations next Saturday.

Ever get the feeling that you’re reading the wrong book? Like, everyone who has read it, says they absolutely love it. So you buy it and start reading but it just doesn’t have the same effect on you…

I’m reading The Devotion of Suspect X at the moment and I just don’t see what the fuss is all about. A translation of a Japanese novel by Keigo Higashino, the book is a mystery/thriller about a mathematician who helps a woman cover up a murder.

I have some issues with the language, which has grammatical errors and often jumps details. But that is probably an effect of certain things getting lost in translation. I also don’t like the characters very much. It’s hard to simpathise with them. Everyone from Yasuko, our damsel in distress to Ishigami, the genius mathematician, is unidimensional. Then there’s the amazing physicist Manabu Yukawa, also known as Detective Galileo to the detectives of the local police for being able to solve crimes they can’t.

But if you ask me, the detectives are pretty stupid to begin with if all they’re doing is following up on one suspect and her supposed male accomplice. I mean, are we in a fast-paced thriller that was lauded as a fine example of its genre and turned into cult Japanese film, or what??? The entire novel so far, I’m 70% through, focusses only on how Yasuko’s story doesn’t add up even though she has an alibi, proof and witnesses to back her up because… instinct, and yes, Detective Galileo thinks something is fishy too.

I was also waiting for more background on the murder victim, a character who is undoubtedly deplorable and definitely deserved what he had coming. But where is his motive for wanting to return to his ex-wife after all these years? He’s said to have had shady dealings in the past. Why aren’t the cops also exploring those connections?

Sure, we know this isn’t a whodunit because we already know whodunit, but I sincerely expected what followed to compliment this aspect of the plot. Instead, everything that unfurls after the murder is rather obvious.

Apparently, Higashino is the “Japanese Stieg Larsson”! Let me just break it to you right now – he isn’t. There is no similarity between him and to the author who gave us a trilogy with layers that went so deep you thought you were going to drown until he pulled you out again and threw you right back in. Larsson was a genius who had mastered the art of intricately woven, seemingly unconnected sub-plots. Most importantly, Larsson gave us Lisbeth Salandar and to place Hishagino’s Galileo anywhere around that orbit is an insult to his memory!

But then again, what of the acclaim, those glowing reviews and recommendations from so many friends who loved not just this book but also the two that followed in the series? You can see why I  currently feel like I’ve downloaded the wrong the book. A cheap knock off, that’s what my copy probably is. Mystery solved. And I didn’t even need Detective Galileo to help me.

Because seriously… when was the last time 2 million people were wrong?


Why Kindles totally rock & a small announcement


My sweet and faithful Kindle device is a third generation model that I bought when smartphones still hadn’t infected the masses, and iPad Minis were still a distant dream.

It’s a slim, sleek device that’s just the right size to emulate a physical book, and so light it’s actually better than lugging one around! It has a keypad that, even back then I thought, was rather pointless because I never really made notes in my books. It has a battery life of over a month which, you have to admit, was and still is revolutionary!

I have spent around five years fighting the ‘real’ vs virtual books debate. But nothing’s been more rewarding than watching my bookshelf (the physical one) get less cluttered.

The first time I felt love, actual real, true love, for my Kindle was when I realised just how discrete it was about what I was reading. I had actually started reading 50 Shades of Grey on my commutes to work and when I was done, I followed it up with real erotica – Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin. In fact, Nin is perhaps one of my best downloads to date as I keep going back to her writing every time I want a little date with bold characters who fearlessly embrace the carnal side of life, art and desire.

It also wasn’t long before I realised that Kindle editions of certain books were cheaper to purchase with the added advantage of instant delivery. This made me even more of a reader – one who found herself downloading two books – a long novel and a short single – every Sunday (more on this awesome practice soon); I often drunk-downloaded (it’s a real thing!) titles fresh out of drunken conversations so that I had something stimulating to read before passing out.

Having a Kindle also meant that I didn’t have to wait for the latest titles in the series I followed to release in India, which usually took at least a few weeks to a month. I received pretty much all of Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series on their release dates, at midnight, GMT.

The Kindle has opened my worlds up to multiple possibilities and I’m glad that more people are embracing it these days. It has been a wonderful companion to me these last five years and I’m sure it will be just as good to/for my fellow readers out there.

That being said, there is still merit in owning hardcovers and paperbacks. I mean, there’s only so much space on a Kindle for autographs. Beyond that, physical books still have their pride of place on a shelf, because when you truly make a connection with an author and her/his writing, it lasts forever. Like true love. My first two copies of the Ibis trilogy by Amitav Ghosh (third one’s in pre-order… I can wait) is testament to that. Why, my Harry Potters are so worn and weathered from annual readings, but I never once considered purchasing them in e-carbon ink when they finally released in e-book format.

In that sense, I think the Kindle is perfect for impulse purchases, bestsellers and fast-paced reads that you’re only going to read once. They’re also perfect for the books you’d rather not brandish the titles of for whatever reason. But they’re never going replace the ink, paper, how-many-trees-do-you-think-died-to-make-this-physical book. Not your favourite titles anyway. But yes, your Kindle will help you save time, money and a whole lot of space (especially when you lug  89 or so weightless books on holiday) like a boss!

Use it wisely, treat it well and you will never long for anything to read at a moment’s notice ever again.

A small announcement:

Starting this week, I’m going to be listing two book recommendations that make for perfect reads on the Kindle. I’m hoping to publish this list every Saturday – that’s tomorrow! – so it will hopefully be in time to make your weekend reading list.

These recommendations will come straight from my own reading history and will feature some personal notes and comments so you know I’m not just rewriting descriptions off Amazon or Bestseller back covers.

I hope this helps all my friends who’re always looking for first-hand recommendations. This ‘series’ is also for those special folk who just recently purchased Kindles and are looking for fun, easy book ideas so they can spend all their time focusing on their new style of reading.


The Unbearable Silence of ‘Snow’

pamukDo you ever get to a point in a book when you realise there’s no chance in hell you’re going to finish it? I eat such ‘points’ for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But not this time.

I’m reading Orhan Pamuk’s Snow on my commutes to work and honestly, the last two times I had to try really hard to stop myself from dozing off on the shoulder next to mine. True story.

It starts off poetic – The Silence of Snow – as we meet a poet who hasn’t written anything substantial in four years. His name is Ka and he’s going to Kars and in case you aren’t Turkish or a Wikipedia addict, the word for snow in the language is Kar. So we meet Ka (funny, the first few times I read his name I couldn’t help think of Kaa the snake from Kipling’s Jungle Book) who has journeyed all the way to Kars, a decrepit city towards eastern Turkey to cover the local elections and to investigate an “epidemic” of suicides for an Istanbul based newspaper. Or so he’d like to have people believe. In reality, he’s there to find Ipek, a woman from college whom he wasn’t in love with but remembers as being very beautiful. Maybe if he marries her he will write poems again. Or maybe he’ll encounter misery and he’ll write really beautiful poems again. If nothing else, at least the strife, poverty and the miserable beauty of snow will intervene.

Ka whispered to the girls that Kars was an extraordinarily quiet city.
‘That’s because we’re afraid of our own voices,’ said Hande.
‘That,’ said Ipek, ‘is the silence of snow.’

So where in the book am I as this feeble attempt at a rant is being written? The revolution has begun and having rested his head in Ipek’s lap for a few minutes Ka is on his way to The Rooms of Terror. I don’t know why I’m not inclined to go on. It’s not like I hate the book. If anything, I like it! It’s just that the intensity of the symbolism is getting to me. The poetry of the unfolding plot — revealing to us all those who die following their conversations with Ka about their dreams and desires blissfully unaware of what is to happen in two hours and twenty seven minutes… Then there’s the snow itself and Ka’s convoluted associations of it with God, the West, the East, love, hope, death , religion, revolution and who knows what else! It’s blanketing everything in its wake, according to the imagery, and yet it isn’t freezing anything stiff. If anything it’s serving to unify all the houses, people, themes and motifs. Maybe that was Pamuk’s intention.

Beautiful as it sounds – The Silence of Snow – I’m going to put this back on my Bookshelf because sometimes, silence can be as jarring as a five year old playing the drums! Or maybe this read requires a different setting than the one I’m in right now. Somewhere quiet where I can peacefully allow myself to be transported to Kars, to soak in the tale of the conflicted poet who hasn’t got a clue, but believes the poetry is coming out of his eyes, ears and fingers and if he doesn’t get it down in the nick of time it’ll be lost forever. Yes, I’m giving up… for now… I must… before I go Little Match Girl on myself. (*Breathes*)

First published on The Caterpillar Cafe on April 23, 2012