Book Blog Hop: The Best of 2012

December 28, 2012

Books have been a huge part of this year for me. They always have been, but this year, I kinda got a lot of books to slake my thirst for them (I sound like a vampire, don't I?)

I finally read Gone with The Wind this year, but frankly, I really don't see what all the hype is about. It is intense, though.

But I still haven't worked up the nerve to read Wuthering Heights. Once, when I was really small (I think around 7 or 8?), my parents had gone Eid shopping, ans my sister and I were watching the Wuthering Heights movie on television. I remember it being all dark and angsty, and since then I've always associated it with unpleasantness. Naturally, that feeling leaked onto the book, and so, I'm yet to read a piece of world famous literature. Plus, I know that they don't end up together, and being the sucker that I am for happy ending, that doesn't really motivate me to pick up the thing.

So I thought I'd try out this meme thing again (after the last one, I realised that the Random Tuesday Thoughts thingy is dead). This time I thought I join in the Book Blogger Hop. I know I'm not yet a full-fledged book blogger, and I'm just starting out, but since it about books, it's right up my lane, plus, I loved the question!

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Book Blogger Hop is the creation of Jen from Crazy for Books. Since October, the weekly hop has been hosted by a variety of bloggers. This week it is hosted by Tea Time with Marce.

Q: What were  your favourites of 2012?

I tried to confine it to 10, but it became 11. They're all totally awesome books that I would recommend to anyone who reads!

These are in no particular order. Well, there are. In alphabetical. (the images link to the Goodreads page)


Thirteen Reasons Why 
 Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher 

An Abundance of Katherines 
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

 Flat-Out Love
Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

Hopeless
Hopeless by Colleen Hoover

Wonder 
Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Liar 
Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits, #1)
Pushing the Limits by Katy McGarry

Saving Francesca
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Slammed (Slammed, #1)
Slammed by Colleen Hoover

SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance
SuperFreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
The upside of irrationality : the unexpected benefits of defying logic at work and at home
The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely

P.S. to The Aftermath and Spoken Word

December 25, 2012

This is the long delayed, supposed-to-be-introduction-but-ended-up-as-postscript, of the previous post, The Aftermath.

In the past few months, since I read the book Slammed by Colleen Hoover, I've become literally addicted to spoken word poetry. A quick word on the book: I dont really remember whether I liked the story a lot or not, but I think it was kinda nice. What really stuck in my head for a long time after I finished was the poetry in it. Let's get this straight. This is not simple, normal poetry. At first, when I started reading it, I really didn't understand how to read it. I dont know if I'm the only one who does this, but whatever I read, I kinda read with expression, and all that inflection in my voice; even if I'm reading it all in my head. Tell me I'm not the only one! Anyways, I didn't know how to read the verses in it. I couldn't find any rhyme, or rhythm to it, and what boggled my mind was all those bolded & italicized words! (is that right? 'bolded'?) I didn't know why they were like that, and if they were typos, I was getting really annoyed.  Check out a few samples of it below:

“My name is Olivia King

I am five years old.

My mother bought me a balloon. I remember the day she walked through the front door with it. The curly hot pink ribbon trickling down her arm, wrapped around her wrist. She was smiling at me as she untied the ribbon and wrapped it around my hand.

“Here Livie, I bought this for you.”

She called me Livie.

I was so happy. I’d never had a balloon before. I mean, I always saw balloons wrapped around other kids wrists in the
parking lot of Wal-Mart, but I never dreamed I would have my
very own.

My very own pink balloon.” 


and, one of my favourites from the book: (it's a little long, but it worth every word in it)

BLUE SWEATER

Bom Bom...
 

Bom Bom...
 

Bom Bom...
 

Do you hear that?
 

That's the sound of my heart beating...

Bom Bom...
 

Bom Bom...

Bom Bom...

Do you hear that? That's the sound of your heart beating.

It was the first day of October. I was wearing my blue sweater, you know the one I bought at Dillard’s? The one with a double knitted hem and holes in the ends of the sleeves that I could poke my thumbs through when it was cold but I didn't feel like wearing gloves? It was the same sweater you said made my eyes look like reflections of the stars on the ocean.

You promised to love me forever that night...

and boy

did you

ever!


It was the first day of December this time. I was wearing my blue sweater, you know the one I bought at Dillard’s? The one with a double knitted hem and holes in the ends of the sleeves that I could poke my thumbs through when it was cold but I didn't feel like wearing gloves? It was the same sweater you said made my eyes look like reflections of the stars on the ocean.

I told you I was three weeks late

You said it was fate.

You promised to love me forever that night...

and boy

did you

ever!


It was the first day of May. I was wearing my blue sweater, although this time the double stitched hem was worn
and the strength of each thread tested as they were pulled tight against my growing belly. You know the one. The same one I bought at Dillard’s? The one with holes in the ends of the
sleeves that I could poke my thumbs through when it was cold
but I didn't feel like wearing gloves? It was the same sweater
you said made my eyes look like reflections of the stars on the
ocean.

The SAME sweater you RIPPED off of my body as

you shoved me to the floor,

calling me a whore ,

telling me

you didn't love me

anymore.

Bom Bom...

Bom Bom...

Bom Bom...

Do you hear that? That's the sound of my heart beating.

Bom Bom...

Bom Bom...

Bom Bom...

Do you hear that? That's the sound of your heart
beating.

(There is a long silence as she clasps her hands to her stomach, tears streaming down her face)

Do you hear that? Of course you don't. That's the silence
of my womb.

Because you

RIPPED

OFF
 

MY

SWEATER!


Packs a punch, doesn't it? That's what's so great about spoken word!

Finally, when I couldn't take it anymore ('cause at least half of the book has poems), I looked up slam poetry in Google (I really LOVE Google! I mean, imagine where we'd all be if it weren't there!). And from there, I went to spoken word poetry, and then... I got hooked. I began searching for videos on YouTube, where I found the amazing Sarah Kaye and Phil Kaye, among other similarly amazing people (and no, they're not related. Check out their freakily awesome story here: An Origin Story). This is my one of my favourites from her:






Spoken Word Poetry is really great people.There's no rhyme, there's no rhythm, and there needn't even be any reason in it to anyone except you! You can even just put together a bunch of words, and it becomes spoken word (provided you recite it properly, that is).

Ever since I've discovered it, I've wanted to try it out. You know, go out of my usual writing style, and try something new. But I was waiting for something to come along that I felt really strongly about. 'Something' came along some weeks back, and that was how I wrote 'The Aftermath'.

It was a little hard for me not to slip into my usual style (the rhythm, the 4 verses in a stanza...), but I think I've managed a good first try. Though I do wish I didn't have the habit of literally spelling out everything without any masking using all those poetry elements, so that not every Tom, Dick and Harry knows what I'm talking about. I really love how the poet might be meaning something, but something entirely different comes out in paper, and no one except the poet know what the poem really is about. Its like a coded letter out in the open, but no one can break the code! (I know, that sounds dumb, but it probably comes from me being really into covert stuff)

So yeah, that's what 'The Aftermath' is all about, and if you had any trouble reading it before, I hope you get it now. Let me know what you think! I'd love that!

Review: Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

November 11, 2012

Title: Arranged
Author: Catherine McKenzie
Publisher: Harper Collins

Anne Blythe has a great life: a good job, good friends, and a potential book deal for her first novel. When it comes to finding someone to share it with, however, she just can't seem to get it right.

After yet another relationship ends, Anne comes across a business card for what she thinks is a dating service, and she pockets it just in case. When her best friend, Sarah, announces she's engaged, Anne can't help feeling envious. On an impulse, she decides to give the service a try because maybe she could use a little assistance in finding the right man. But Anne soon discovers the company isn't a dating service; it's an exclusive, and pricey, arranged marriage service. She initially rejects the idea, but the more she thinks about it-and the company's success rate-the more it appeals to her. After all, arranged marriages are the norm for millions of women around the world, so why wouldn't it work for her?

A few months later, Anne is travelling to a Mexican resort, where in one short weekend she will meet and marry Jack. And against all odds, it seems to be working out-until Anne learns that Jack, and the company that arranged their marriage, are not what they seem at all.



I'm really, really curious about where Catherine McKenzie got the inspiration for this book. Judging by the many references to Anne Shirley from L M Montgomery's Green Gables series (the main character is named after her, for God's sake!), it looks like she agrees with Montgomery that you should stick to writing what you know (eg - First live, then write - Rose in Bloom, and many more if you've read her books). At some point in the book, I began wondering if maybe the author had gotten inspiration from her own life maybe? Or from someone she knows? I wonder...

I just love what the book is about - arranged marriage. I'm an Indian, and a Muslim, so an arranged marriage is pretty much a given for me. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for it, especially when you consider how many couples 'fall in love' and then end up in divorce/ are stuck in a bad marriage. However, it is but natural for someone to feel skeptical and maybe a little resentful of the entire thing when everywhere you turn, the 'fall in love and live happily ever after' idea is being marketed.

But you know what? Ironically, when it comes down to the actual marriage, I sometimes see that Indian culture doesn't really consider 'love' a requisite for marriage. Perfect example is one of Sridevi's dialogues from English Vinglish - "I don't have any need for love. If there is any need, it is for a little respect only." But don't ask me why is it so. I don't know. But I digress. This is a topic for another post, another day (which only God knows if I'll ever get around to writing).

Getting back on track, I just wish it was 'Get married, fall in love and live happily ever after'. Which is why I love movies like Love Comes Softly and Magic of Ordinary Days nad books abour arranged marriages/ marriages of convenience. Which is naturally why, 'Arranged' was just the right book for me.

It a great read. Definitely chick lit. But you know how in most love stories, the girl meets her Prince Charming right at the beginning? This is different. The guy doesn't make an appearance till page 133! The focus is squarely on HER, & I liked that. It was definitely refreshing.

Oh! And this is when I got the idea to write this up. There's this line in the book where Anne says - '... now he's just somebody I knew'. I love the song 'Somebody That I Used to Know' by Gotye. I've always thought how great it would sound if someone wrote it in a book. And it does! For a few seconds after I read that line, I was like, 'Wow!' Am  I making too much out of this? It just sounds so liberating, so strong, as if  the ties that held you to that person are severed, and there's no leftover remorse lingering. And I got so excited that I knew I just had to write a review.

The story is well developed and paced perfectly - not too fast, not too slow. There's this camaraderie between them both that's just so great! They not only love each other, but they're also best friends. I love the idea of developing a strong friendship before love. Anne is also incapable of writing her articles on the computer. She just has to write it down by hand, on a paper. That happens to be a certain quirk that we share.

I think I'll stop here before I give away everything about the book. But one thing... I'm not a great fan of the front cover. The guy on the front doesn't really look like Jack. Though its only his arm that you can see.

Review: The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely

September 29, 2012

The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at HomeTitle: The Upside of Irrationality – The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Workand at Home
Author: Dan Ariely Publisher: Harper Collins

The provocative follow-up to the New York Times bestseller Predictably Irrational.
Why can large bonuses make CEOs less productive?
How can confusing directions actually help us?
Why is revenge so important to us?
Why is there such a big difference between what we think will make us happy and what really makes us happy?
In his groundbreaking book Predictably Irrational, social scientist Dan Ariely revealed the multiple biases that lead us into making unwise decisions. Now, in The Upside of Irrationality, he exposes the surprising negative and positive effects irrationality can have on our lives. Focusing on our behaviors at work and in relationships, he offers new insights and eye-opening truths about what really motivates us on the job, how one unwise action can become a long-term habit, how we learn to love the ones we're with, and more. Drawing on the same experimental methods that made Predictably Irrational one of the most talked-about bestsellers of the past few years, Ariely uses data from his own original and entertaining experiments to draw arresting conclusions about how—and why—we behave the way we do. From our office attitudes, to our romantic relationships, to our search for purpose in life, Ariely explains how to break through our negative patterns of thought and behavior to make better decisions. The Upside of Irrationality will change the way we see ourselves at work and at home—and cast our irrational behaviors in a more nuanced light.

The Upside of Irrationality is a very easy book to read. You just keep turning the pages, and before you even know it, its over. But by easy, I don’t mean that it is a light read. The author has an amazing style of writing that simplifies and makes complex concepts interesting, which if you find in your textbook, would probably drive you crazy by the time you understand it. His writing style is very conversational and in this book, he has included a lot of personal experiences, which for me, made it all that much more interesting.
The book is based mainly on behavioural economics and psychology. Standard economics assumes that people are perfectly sensible, calculating machines, and hence says that people always make the best decisions, and mistakes are not likely. In the book, behavioural economics is basically used to trash standard economics. jk :) The book is divided into two parts: The ways we defy logic at work, and the ways we defy logic at home. The book covers many of the idiosyncrasies of human life, from revenge, to empathy.
The first part deals with procrastination, high stakes and stress, labour, this little thing called the IKEA effect, ownership, and revenge. Okay, now, I’m going to try to give you an idea of how the book is without spilling the beans on it. Generally, irrationality is associated with negativity. I actually looked up its synonyms on Word, and I got ‘groundless’, ‘foolish’, ‘ridiculous’, ‘absurd’ and similar words. Dan Ariely disagrees. He says that it s these irrationalities that actually make us human and allow us to enjoy life. Sample this. Experiments conducted on both humans and animals showed that when given the choice between earning something and simply getting it free, most chose to earn it. But some other factors also played into it, like how much you enjoy the labour, and how much meaning is attached to it. When the meaning of labour is reduced, even by a small degree, the motivation to continue comes does significantly. And if you don’t like what you’re doing, it has worse effects.
There are these interesting nuggets of information interspersed though the book containing interesting bits of information relating to the topics. For instance, there’s the story of the mythical king, Sisyphus, and how he was punished for deceit. He was forced to push a large rock up a steep hill, in itself a miserable task. Every time he neared the top of the hill, the rock would roll backward, and he’d have to start again. This is what happens when the meaning is taken out of our labour. We end up doing ‘Sisyphean’ labour. What solutions Ariely gives to this, I’ll leave to you to discover if and when you read the book. I felt that some chapters are actually linked and have a similar basis. The IKEA effect talks about how we tend to overvalue things that we make ourselves. And the Not-Invented-Here Bias (No, I didn't make that up. There really is something like that!) talks about how we tend to prefer our own ideas to others. I felt that these two are sort of linked, the underlying idea being that we favour things/thoughts that we have a hand in creating. The book contains many personal experiences of the author, which somehow made it a more like a conversation, and each time after I’d just finished reading one of these anecdotes, I would sit and think about anytime that something similar had happened in my or someone else’s life. And I found loads! One of my favourite chapters in the book is the one about revenge. Revenge, apparently, might be irrational, but not senseless and is in fact useful! It maintains and builds cooperation between the people in the society. How? When we were both kids, my sister did something to annoy me. I don’t remember what it was, but since I don’t, it must’ve been something trivial. But I do remember what I did to get even. I had a glass of rose milk in my hand, and I poured it all over her hair! A perfect example of irrational behaviour. So if you knew that I can be irrational, and not always reasonable, you wouldn’t try anything shoddy with me. I’m wondering why this hasn’t occurred to my sister yet. But then again, I never said she was rational! Interestingly, studies of brain waves with a PET, positron emission tomography show that revenge activates the part of the brain associated with rewards. Come on, when provided bad service, and then faced with an automated machine or a nonchalant attitude to your woes in customer service, how many of us wouldn’t pay dearly to extract revenge? I know I would! But the important point to remember here is to get back at the right person who is responsible for it. I'm sure you people would've watched Shrek (LOVED that movie, btw). Shrek was created by Dreamworks SKG, cofounded by Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was fired from Walt Disney Company. Revenge can lead to success, but like everything else in his world, it can also bring you down. A perfect example of this is the story of the Dassler brothers, the owners of Adidas and Puma. Sometime during the WWII, Rudolf Dassler misunderstood something that Adolf Dassler said, resulting in him starting his own venture, Puma. Few years back, Puma was taken over, so in the long run, his revenge was not successful. The second part of the book deals with subjects like adaptation, empathy and emotion, negative feelings, and their effects. Adaptation. It’s irrational at its core, but it’s one amazing thing with so many facets that can be explored endlessly. Adaptation to pain and drastic, seemingly ‘unfortunate’ incidents is focused upon in this chapter. There was this one bit in it that I really loved, and I actually burst out laughing. When Ariely was in university, his psychology professor, Ina Weiner, told them that women have a higher pain threshold and tolerance than men because they have to deal with childbirth. Dan went and conducted an experiment where he asked people to immerse their hand in hot water and remove it when they could no longer tolerate the pain. The men kept their hand in for much longer. When he announced his results in class, unfazed, without losing a beat, she told him that all he’d proven was that men were idiots. ‘Why would anybody,’ she said, ‘keep their hand in hot water for your study? If there was a real goal to pain, you would see what women are truly capable of.’ The chapter on Emotion and Empathy is probably the most serious topic in the book. Probably because it shows us, in plain black and white data, how human beings are less likely to help out someone they are not directly involved with, or know at least something about. But there are also ways mentioned in which we can manipulate our emotions for the better. I just had one teeny tiny problem with the book. The subtitle says, ‘The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic’. I picked it up mainly for that reason, and I didn’t find anything of the kind mentioned except in a few cases. I just feel that the title does not properly explain what the subject matter is.
What I loved in this book was the wider range of topics it managed to cover, despite it being short, and yet do justice to each. I’m a story person, so all those real life incidences and personal experiences kept me glued to the book. Oh! And for a person who previously hated economics, I found it truly entertaining, and thank God! It’s not one of those books filled with jargon, so that laymen cannot read it. Each chapter has at least one experiment that was conducted on that topic, and I found those interesting too. Plus, being a psychology student, I found many familiar concepts, and every time, it would be like a familiar friend waving out to me and I’d go, ‘Oh! Wow! I know that!’ The Upside of Irrationality is a book that delves into all our human quirks and makes us understand what lies behind them, so that ultimately, we get to know ourselves better and live a more contented life. And no, I’m not exaggerating when I say contented. Its a fun read, that makes you smile, laugh, frown, and gives a unvarnished view of how we really are. P.S.: I have a feeling this review is WAY too long :/

Review: The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

July 21, 2012

Its been about a month since college started, and I've been pretty busy for most of that time. Which, as you probably guessed, is why I've been so AWOL for some time.

In the meantime, I've been making friends, which surprisingly, has been pretty easy, considering how reserved and all I usually am. And even more surprisingly, I haven't faced any ragging from my seniors! I not so sure about other places, but in India, ragging is the norm, and when it doesn't happen, WOW!

Other than that, I've been reading this blog that my senior has, called On books!. Its a book review blog (duh!), and its nice. It got me thinking...

I read books.

A lot of books.

I mean, A LOT!

So, I thought, why not try my hand at it? I definitely wouldn't be able to do it very often or regularly, what with college, and studies and all that, but I thought I'd just give it a try. But, like most things I say I'll give a try, it remained at the back of my mind, and I never got round to doing it.

Luckily, a few days back, I entered a book review competition at college. At first, I was pretty skeptic about entering it, because we could only review non-fiction, and my experience with non-fiction is pretty non-existent. But then I just thought I'd give it a try, a 'broaden my horizons' kind of thing.

I spent around 2 weeks pouring over the book, taking notes, marking passages, researching the people and stories in it, going through other reviews, blah blah blah, and this is what I came up with. Tell me what you think!

So, here goes


Title: The Secret
Author: Rhonda Byrne
Publisher: Atria Books Beyond Words Publishing
Publication Date: November 2006

Fragments of a Great Secret have been found in the oral traditions, in literature, in religions and philosophies throughout the centuries. For the first time, all the pieces of The Secret come together in an incredible revelation that will be life-transforming for all who experience it.
In this book, you'll learn how to use The Secret in every aspect of your life -- money, health, relationships, happiness, and in every interaction you have in the world. You'll begin to understand the hidden, untapped power that's within you, and this revelation can bring joy to every aspect of your life.
The Secret contains wisdom from modern-day teachers -- men and women who have used it to achieve health, wealth, and happiness. By applying the knowledge of The Secret, they bring to light compelling stories of eradicating disease, acquiring massive wealth, overcoming obstacles, and achieving what many would regard as impossible.



My views on The Secret are pretty lukewarm. The title of the book in itself goes a long way in selling it. It feels more of a marketing gimmick than anything else. 'Cause lets face it, none of us can resist knowing a secret. At least I cant.
So what is the Secret? The entire book is built upon one thing - 'The Law of Attraction'.
"Everything coming into your life you are attracting into your life. And its attracted to you by virtue of the images you are holding in your mind."

So basically, whatever you think, happens. No exceptions. At least according to Byrne. Doesn't it seem just like one of those super human powers you've always wanted?

She says our thoughts are magnetic, having frequencies, and they supposedly attract everything else on the same frequency.

Its like this:

You've got an excellent new job? Congratulations! It's your credit!

You've met eith an ccident and broke your spine? Congratulation! You just brought it on yourself.

Does that make any sense at all? Sorry, not to me.

The book also has the tendency to quote out of context. It quotes Winston Churchill, Graham Bell, and even the Bible out of context!

Lack of authenticity is another thing. There are a lot of statements made that lack any proof For instance,
-Your thoughts can affect quantum states.
Nope. Not gonna happen. Any day.

-Religions such as Hinduism, Hermetic traditions, Buddhism, Jusaism, Christianity, and Islam, and civilizations, such as the ancient Babylonians and Egyptians, delivered it through their writings and stories.
I am a muslim, and I can vouch for the fact that there isnot an iota of truth in that particular staement pertaining to Islam. Nowhere in the Quran, or in the Prophet's teachings is the Secret mentioned.

- A lot of views of David Schrimer are published in the book. David Schirmer is one of the teachers of the Secret. However, if you search about him on the internet, you will find that he is not a very credible person, having had a number of cases filed against him.

The Secret does not stand up against the most basic test of the Occam's Razor. Which statement is more simple and hence plausible? - 
You stay focused upon one particular thing and hence achieve it from your determination and single mindedness.

OR

Your focused thoughts, on a certain frequency, are interacting with the universe, which in turn changes things to suit you?

The 1st one, right?

The Secret mentions many real life stories where the Secret has worked. But what about the times when it just hasn't made a difference? What happens when two people are using hte Secret on two conflicting thoughts? Who wins? What about people caught accidents and natural disasters? The book says that their thoughts might have been on a frequency that attracts such things to them. Seriously?! No one is going to go around thinking, " I want to be involved in a tsunami.' or something, unless their really depressed and suicidal. Sadly, The Secret does not hold any constructive, proven answers for any of these questions.

However, somewhere within all this, there are some helpful ideas. It tells us to love ourselves the way we are, only them can we bring about any change in our lives. Focus and determination and faith in our goals is very important, for without that, nothing is possible. It talks about the importance of positive thought, and not allowing any place for doubts and negative thoughts to enter your mind. This particular advice brought to mind something that one of my lecturers said about the 'Don't Want' epidemic that we all tend to have very often. It says that the key to positive thoughts is through your emotions and feelings.

It is impossible to feel good and at the same time be having negative thoughts.... If you're feeling good, then you're creating a future that's on track with your desires.

If only the good ideas, the proven facts in the book are taken together and published, it would certainly make a wonderful book. Sadly, right now, it is just a book which promotes pseudoscience and improbable ideas.

P.S.: - Please note that I dont have anything against the author or the book. I'm just putting forward my views.
- I realise that I've been putting up posts that haven't been written for this blog oeiginally, and I feel really bad about that, and if there's anyone out there reading this, seriously, I'll get back to real blogging in a while. Till then, bear with me.
- I just realized that real soon, I'll need to change my profile. *Sigh* I'll be leaving teenage behind me soon.