My Rating Scale

This seems horribly backward! Why haven’t I posted my rating scale yet? Obviously, because I temporarily lost my mind. (yeah right- for one and a half year?)

This pitiful human heaps a dozen apologies at your sacred feet. She is so sorry you have suffered and been totally clueless because of her absent-mindedness.

I plan to make amends now. <Insert mental drum roll here> Presenting the  long-awaited rating scale:

1/5- Yuck! I didn’t finish this book. I don’t even feel guilty about leaving it. It’s a terrible waste of time and will kill your brain cells. Read at your own peril. I will not be responsible for the results.

2/5- I really, really disliked this book. It’s possible I didn’t finish it. But I did see something redeemable in there, and/or I have heard great things about this book from other people.

(Note: When is it okay to just stay ‘stop’? When do I stop reading?)

3/5-  I like this book. It was cute. Possibly sweet. But there was at least one major thing I didn’t like about this book.

4/5– This book was amazing! You can thank me after you’re done reading the book. A few minor issues that you probably won’t catch during first read anyway.

5/5- This book is manna from heaven! (or ambrosia, if you’re more comfortable with that word). I’m stingy with my 5’s so sit up and take notice!

Also, go ahead and take a look at which criteria I consider when I rate books.

Newspapers: Online Versions, What?

I’m going to go ahead an be a bit unpopular and say that I prefer E-books to real books. Why the heck not? They’re more convenient (I can open them up while riding in a bus or while I’m waiting for something to happen), more portable (yes, they go everywhere with me) and I can carry around a whole bunch of them (this is invaluable when you finish books as fast as I do).
In my opinion the invention of the epub is one of the best things to happen since the invention of the printing press to the book world.

Until recently, I was an ebook sceptic, see; one of those people who harrumphs about the “physical pleasure of turning actual pages” and how ebook will “never replace the real thing”. Then I was given a Kindle as a present. That shut me up. Stock complaints about the inherent pleasure of ye olde format are bandied about whenever some new upstart invention comes along. Each moan is nothing more than a little foetus of nostalgia jerking in your gut. First they said CDs were no match for vinyl. Then they said MP3s were no match for CDs. Now they say streaming music services are no match for MP3s. They’re only happy looking in the rear-view mirror.”
― Charlie Brooker

…But I can’t really say the same for newspapers.

Maybe this is a bit weird (especially in this day and age, when everyone knows you’re not supposed to believe anything you read in the papers), but I like reading the paper.

As Aneurin Bevan (the post WW2 health minister of UK) said,

I read the newspapers avidly. It is my one form of continuous fiction.

There is something very sacrosanct and sacred about opening the neatly pressed and folded pages of a newspaper…and something even more special about trying and failing to put them back just as neatly. (There are two kinds of people: those who leave a newspaper slightly less organised then when they picked it up, and those who leave it in complete shambles).
I love skimming over the headlines in a single 10-15 minutes, putting aside a little time to read the front page and then the editorials. If I have time after, I read any other articles that caught my attention.

However,  online versions of the newspaper just don’t work like that. They absolutely insist that once you open an article, you read the whole thing.
Besides- where is the addictive smell of cheap, freshly printed ink?

Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.

-Thomas Jefferson

I can write it out in black and white: The online versions of newspapers confuse me.

On a somewhat unrelated topic, can someone recommend a newspaper in the US that I might enjoy reading? I liked the Economic Times in India (which is less about finance than you think), but the Wall Street Journal here sort of bores me.

Real Vampires Suck

When it comes to vampires, I’m a bit of a purist.  They are things that go bump in the night. They suck blood. They have fangs. They can kill you. They’re monsters.

I’ll tell you what they are not : misunderstood human-beings who lounge around in black silk writing poetry and sipping animal blood from wine glasses. They’re also not that stand-offish guy in bio class who sparkles (yes, Twilight I’m looking at you).

I really hate how the whole concept of vampires has been romanticized and glorified. Vampires are not supposed to be sexy. They’re not supposed to be caring or even protective. If you go by traditional myths- vampires are selfish, soulless creatures who feed on other people’s life because they don’t have any of their own. They’re never something to be pitied or befriended. If you tried that, well- you’d probably end up with a gaping hole in your neck.

A vampire is a mythical being who subsists by feeding on the life essence (generally in the form of blood) of living creatures. In folkloric tales, undead vampires often visited loved ones and caused deaths in the neighbourhoods they inhabited when they were alive. They wore shrouds and were often described as bloated and of ruddy or dark countenance, markedly different from today’s gaunt, pale vampire which dates from the early 1800s.

Even more, I hate how they’re made into untouchable heroes. Whatever happened to vampires weakness to sunlight or to garlic or holy water? In fiction, these days vampires are more like zombies; they never seem to die. They’re indestructible. Not only is that deviating from canon, it’s also bad story-telling. Who likes a character without an Achilles heel? No one- that’s who.

In hindsight, I think that on an average I deduct almost one and a half stars from the overall rating if the book includes vampires. Maybe that’s why I rated the Morganville Vampires series (by Rachel Caine), House of Night (by PC Cast)and the Night Hunteress (by Jeaniene Frost) series. None of the books in these series scored more than a two from me, despite the high ratings given to it by other readers.

Does that mean I think that all vampire books are terrible. Though I may be tempted to answer this question with a yes at times, I can’t say that entirely honestly. At the risk of sounding judgemental and stereotypical, I can enjoy a good, blood-thirsty, manipulative, possessive, evil-ish vampire. Yes, even when they’re not in the role of a protagonist. A good example of some books with such vampires would be

  1. Dracula by Bram Stroker (If you’re a fan of the classics)
  2. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
  3. The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

I guess, for me the key is that the vampires be at least somewhat true to the myths. The myths are in all sorts of cultures- German, Slovakian, Russian, Indian, Japanese, British, etc. I think it’s only fair that we remember that vampires look like this:

and not like this:

And with those lovely images, I guess I’ll leave you guys.

Love you 🙂

Getting Personal with Book Reviews

A book review -done right- can be one of the most personal things written. Most of you are probably making a move to X out this post. If you’re the type, you’re probably rolling your eyes and scoffing at this no doubt overly exaggerated and ignorant statement. But in all seriousness, I mean it. Reviews aren’t something for the emotionally stunted. Each sentence in a review is supposed to be deeply personal. Each word is supposed to be carefully chosen to bring out the opinion, taste, feelings and personality of a reviewer.

When you say you like a character in a book, it means that there is some aspect of their personality that you really respect and wish you could emulate. When you say you can identify with a character, it means that you saw something in their characteristics which reminded you of yourself. When you say you hate a character, it may be because he/she had traits which you absolutely despise in real life or it might be because the author uncomfortably hit a sensitive spot and the character reminds you of someone you find absolutely revolting.

It’s not just with characters- it can be with a plot or even a setting of a place. When you have strong feelings (whether positive or negative) for anything and you express it in the form of writing, the writing gets personal. And a book review, as a rule is the expression of opinions that the book evoked. When I put it like that, how can it not be personal?

I’ve always made it a point to post personal reviews on this blog. I choose only those books which evoke something out of me. It doesn’t have to be tears. It can be a sense of peace, or laughter, or even several eye-rolls or anger. Even if a book doesn’t appeal to me, I can appreciate it for being written in a way that forces me to feel. Over the course of the past 11 months (yep, my first blogversery is coming up soon), I’ve been forced to dive deep into my inner psych and figure out why I like certain stuff and why I don’t like other stuff. I’ve shared information on this blog that I’ve never told anybody in real life (sometimes when I think about people who I know reading this blog, I feel queasy). After all, being self aware can be uncomfortable- having other people be aware of your sense of self encroaches on the awkward territory.

An hour or so on this blog and you’ll probably have a good idea of my sense of humour, my darkest fears, my biggest ambitions and my stance on most issues. The idea of that is terrifying. When I first opened this blog, I purposely avoided using my name and face to stop this from getting too personal (maybe also to avoid identification and judgment on my writing). I’m beginning to think that was a pointless move.

I used to think I was the type of person who wasn’t very good at sharing my emotions through writing. If that were true, I should have never started posting book reviews because it’s true-  Book Reviews can get very personal.