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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

I recently started watching True Blood, a story about vampires. I got into vampires when I started watching Vampire Diaries. Frequenting forums, I found out that Twilight books were for teenagers, Vampire Diaries for young adults, and True Blood was for adults. I watched all episodes of VD and TB, and started on the books. My first was the classic Count Dracula by Bram Stoker – the book depicts vampires as blood-sucking ruthless “undead”. I finished it online over a weekend. Then I started VD – all the books were enjoyable reads, except for book 5 which was released this year. I could not go beyond a couple of chapters in book 5.

Then I got into True Blood series – the best of the lot. If you have to read one vampire series it should be Sookie Stackhouse books on which True Blood is based. The best part of the series is Sookie Stackhouse, who is telepathic and this skill is very useful to vampires. The vampires are so damn sexy, and my favorite is Eric, played by Alexander Skarsgard – could not have been played by a sexier guy!!! I like Anna Paquin as Sookie – if you don’t read the book and just watch the series, there seems to be a mis-match. But once you read the books, you understand her as Sookie and Anna fits the character well. Her quirkiness, ponytail jumping up and down, wild independence, courage, all fit. But the TV series does not hold a candle to the books. The beauty in the books is Sookie’s thoughts. Sookie has an awesome sense of humor, and she applies it in her thoughts. Things like “I am simple that way. All it requires to make me happy is a dead guy in the sack” after her love-making with Bill the vampire make you just love the character. Its hard to depict thoughts in the TV series – you could use a background voice, but there is only so much attention TV can hold by focusing on one character. If the TV series has to go through several seasons, other characters have to have a life beyond their involvement with Sookie, while the book is all about Sookie and other characters in their dealings with Sookie.

The sad thing is that book 9 is not as good as the first 8. Book 9 came out after the True Blood series, and the author probably wanted to keep Bill and Sookie together since the actors are a real-life couple, so wrote more of Bill into the story. Plus the book lacked the innocence, humor, and storyline that the first 8 had. I hate it when authors and their editors feel the pressure from the film or TV industry to write for TV/films rather than continue the same tone in the books – way to ruin a good book.

This is my favorite scene from True Blood – Bill is extremely sexy and both are oozing tons of chemistry in the series. But nobody nobody is sexier or more awesome than the towering 6’4″ tall Swedish¬†Alexander as Eric.

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I just completed Shantaram, a book by Gregory David Roberts. A top selling book in India. A few years back a bookseller at Mumbai airport convinced me to buy the book. It was expensive, but he kept saying that if I had to read one book, this would be it. Taking his word for it, I bought it and read it years after. I downloaded Amazon Kindle on my iPhone and purchased the digital version of the book. A long book of 933 pages served me well during my transit to and from work, and while waiting in line for coffee or lunch.

The book gives a perspective of India that I have known of, but not experienced. Gregory was a fugitive who escaped maximum security prison in Australia and found his way to India. He met Prabhakar, a tour guide, and his life changed from there. Prabhakar guides Gregory through every nook and corner of Mumbai. Gregory also meets other foreigners who have found their home in India, all of them running away from something in their country, and meddling in some illegal work in India. Gregory spends six months in Prabhakar’s village with his parents, and experiences love and guilt, guilt for his past actions that sent him to prison.

While Gregory is the hero of the book, Prabhakar is the real gem. His presence has an innocence, an endearing charm, that no other character displays. Midway, the book mentions less and less about Prabhakar. Once the book completely stopped talking about Prabhakar, I missed him sorely. I missed the charm, humor, and innocence.

Gregory befriends Prabhakar and lives in his slum. He opens a clinic and comes across the mafia don, Abdul Khader Khan. The book is about his journey through love and infatuation for Karla, tryst with Madame Zhou who sends him to an Indian prison where he is tortured, adventures while getting into smuggling fake passports for Khader Khan, and his most dangerous mission into Afghanistan smuggling weapons in and out. The book is about characters that he falls in love with – the father that he never had, lover, brother, friend – that he left behind in Australia and can never contact. A very very beautifully written book. I felt like I could really understand and picture Gregory in such situations, my being from India. I don’t know if an outsider would be able to understand the book and enjoy it as much.

The only parts that I skipped were philosophy – Gregory has long long long discussions with Khader Khan about philosophy. I found it boring because I don’t indulge in philosophical musings – they are useless, what is reality is life now – and it seemed extremely hypocritical that a mafia don would indulge in right and wrong when he is a MAFIA DON for God’s sake. Some characters seem superficial, especially the foreigners in India, who put so much emphasis on using metaphors in everyday lingo. In several instances, I felt as if the characters could not be real or some behaviors depicted must be unreal.¬†Or its just the author’s perspective of them that depicts them in that manner. Reading the book, its hard to imagine that the writer has a criminal background. Sometimes he justifies his actions, sometimes he doesn’t think about them. And you wonder, had the author received better guidance in life, would he have had a better sense of right and wrong? Then again, birds of the same feathers flock together, so somewhere inside he likes the life of crime and the thrill that accompanies it.

A wonderful book that takes you through a beautiful and yet depressing journey through India. But left me with questions — How did Gregory get caught in Germany? How did he complete his prison sentence? What is he doing in Mumbai now? Is he with Karla or Lisa?

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Chetan Bhagat

Chetan Bhagat is an IITD/IIMA graduate and the author of Five point someone, One Night @ the call center, 3 idiots, and 2 states. He is a best selling author in India, and gave up his i-banking career to write books. AM, an ex-IITian, and my brother, an ex-IIT aspirant, both lap up his books and are big fans.

IIT/IIM brings to mind a major attitude problem. Overachievers, put on a pedestal by parents and relatives for having gone to the most prestigious colleges in India, thinking they can do no wrong, opinionated people, being told they are the best all the time. Major attitude problem. Nerdy, make tons of money, work in the top companies, brilliant people (of course!).

Anyway, I tried reading his book 3 idiots. I also tried 2 states. The guy writes in a very amateurish manner. He lacks fluidity and finesse. He tries to be funny, is not, and tries too hard. But his writing is what appalled me — so amateurish!! Like in one situation he talks about how he was envied for being with the prettiest girl in class – which is completely plausible given that he was in college, but just the way he writes it and the way he moves between sentences, makes it feel fake. Like it did not happen and he is trying to make it interesting. At no point is his writing heartfelt. So yeah I could not go beyond 1-2 chapters. I tried hard, but the writing was just too bad for me.

And yet he is a best seller and is minting money on his books. Methinks because there is zero competition in that arena. Nobody else writes books about such topics, and given the numberof ex-IITians, IITians, and IIT aspirants, same for IIM, I am sure most of his books are read by them. Amir Khan is making 3 idiots into a movie — a must-watch! I am sure Amir Khan will bring characters to life in the way the book doesn’t. I cannot wait! A perfect topic too, 3 idiots in IIT. AM will relate to it. Oops! I mean, AM will relate to the life in IIT and not to the idiots.

Just read – Chetan Bhagat is being honored by the Padma Shri award. OMG!! I cannot believe what the award has been reduced too. Whatever, its just because Amir Khan is directing a movie for this guy and his books are best sellers. I cannot believe the low standards of the award. Ugh.

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