Book Reviews: Discworld 36-41

And we’re back! This is the final installment of my Discworld reviews. I set out on this mission in January 2016. Between life, work, and reading other books, it’s taken me two years to go through the entire Discworld series. It’s been a fantastic journey, filled with laughter, lessons learned and some bittersweet moments too. I will take a break from Discworld for a bit, but I’m sure it’s something I can return to, time and time again…

Earlier installments: Books 1-4, Books 5-10, Books 11-15, Books 16-20, Books 21-30, Books 31-35

Making Money: Discworld, #36

Moist Von Lipwig returns in this book, which many might assume (somewhat correctly) is a repeat performance of Going Postal. Well, it sort of is. After his success with changing the fortunes of the post office, Lord Vetinari ropes in Moist yet again – this time to fix the fortunes of the Bank. There’s a rather old, wicked woman, golems (obviously), and a few strange characters in the bank. It’s a typical Pratchettian Discworld novel, and while some may feel like there’s a sense of repetition, it’s actually still ridiculously enjoyable.

Unseen Academicals: Discworld #37

While this this is part of the Rincewind series, I was thankful that he wasn’t the central focus in this book. Rather, the focus is on all the wizards at the Unseen University, who might have to resort to leaving their comfortable space to engage in…physical activity *shudder* – football. And while this is ongoing, a Romeo/Juliet is playing out against the background of this sport, unbeknownst to the wizards. And then there’s Nutt…who is he? Or rather, what?! I found the book slightly long in places, and some jokes a bit flat – but it’s still an enjoyable read.

A Collegiate Casting-Out of Devilish Devices: Discworld #37.5

This is an online-only piece, and can be accessed here. I was a little confused by the appearance of the Dean, since he was absent in the last book (#37) due to his defection to another university. A short read, but entirely missable – really not that entertaining, and slightly pointless.

I Shall Wear Midnight: Discworld #38

The fourth Tiffany Aching book shows her grown-up (I think she’s 15 or 16 in this book?) and as the Witch of the Chalk takes care of many people. Roland is also back, but what’s this? Their relationship has slightly changed, because he’s engaged! Letitia is his fiance, and there’s more to her than anyone thinks – and Tiffany can’t help but like her when she meets her. I have begun to love the Nac Mac Feegles more than ever before; I initially found them annoying but I’ve found them more and more endearing as the books went by. Not my most favourite Aching, but a good one.

Snuff!: Discworld #39

Ah Vimes. A really good, satisfying Vimes adventure – and his final one. Sybil finally manages to drag Vimes off to her ancestral home, which he, of course, now commands. He hates it but Vetinari signs it off, and off he goes. While there, he feels like something is afoot, and he gets embroiled in an adventure involving goblins and shady landowners. What I loved about this book was the continuation of themes of acceptance and diversity. Vimes fighting for what is right, rather than following the status quo. I found the river climax fairly lengthy but once that was over it got interesting again.

Raising Steam: Discworld #40

The final Moist Von Lipwig adventure, this one was pretty satisfying. The railway is here, and it’s ready to power its way through the Discworld. Connecting Ankh-Morpork to Quirm, to Uberwald, and beyond… I enjoyed reading of Moist’s adventures beyond the Ankh-Morporkian borders, and it was nice to see yet another species – goblins – continue to make their mark felt in the series. Plus, the appearance of characters like Nobby Nobbs, Colon, Cheery Littlebottom and so on on the side are welcome. Loved the ‘reveal’ at the end, although I’ve suspected it for a while, this is definitely one to read and cherish. Ties up the Watch/Moist side of things nicely enough… considering it’s the last we will see of them…

The Shepherd’s Crown: Discworld #41

Finally… the last Discworld novel. It’s not his best book, but it’s a pretty near perfect end to the series, even though, as the afterword reveals, we will now never know about the new adventures he was clearly planning. The book has some goodbyes (keep tissues handy), and some new characters creep in. I’m grateful to have been able to read this book, because it brings together so many beautiful elements across the entire Disc-verse. Thank you Sir Terry Pratchett ❤

Note: there is a 39.5, called The World of Poo but I wasn’t able to obtain a copy, so haven’t penned anything on it.

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Reading Discworld Books 16-20

Welcome to the next installment of my Discworld adventure… 

Earlier installments: Books 1-4, Books 5-10, Books 11-15

Soul Music: Discworld #16

The third in the Death series, Susan remembers the grandfather she forgot: Death. Upset after his daughter and son-in-law die, Death disappears (again). This time, instead of zombies, his granddaughter takes on the mantle. But during her work, something strange happens. One human doesn’t die. Music takes him over at the time he was meant to die. And then Music With Rocks In is born. This music is alive, and it’s determined to make its way. In a way, this book reminds me of Moving Pictures, which annoyed me ever so slightly. However, the book manages to hold its own.

Troll Bridge: Discworld #16.5

This short story with Cohen the Barbarian is a lovely little treat! Cohen wants to fight a troll to the death, just like the old days. But what he finds is that trolls are dealing with the passing of time, much like himself. The bridge troll and Cohen have a bit of a chat and find out they have more in common than they realise… a quick read, one for Discworld fans.

Interesting Times: Discworld #17

I first read this book in 2012, and gave it three stars on Goodreads. And you know what? I enjoyed it much more the second time around – four stars,if not 4.5. In fact, I’m not sure I remember the book as much as I did this time… The fifth in the Rincewind series, this one follows the hapless wizard (or wizzard, as it were) in his next adventure, where he is reunited with a friend from the past, along with a few barbarians. Maybe even Luggage. Sent to the Counterweight Continent, he’s thrown into a situation where people assume he’s the “great wizard” and barbarians are trying to take over. Guest appearance by Death at one point, wahey! Genuinely enjoyed this one, it really helped to have read the other books in the Rincewind sub-series, to really get into the zone with this one.

Maskerade: Discworld #18

The fifth in the Witches sub-series, this book is the first one where Magrat Garlick (last seen in Lords and Ladies) is absent. Having become Queen, she’s busy ruling Lancre, and the coven of three is now two. Sensing Granny Weatherwax is dipping into depression (and potentially turning bad), Nanny Ogg is keen to get that number back to three – picking Agnes Nitts (or Perdita) as a successor. But Agnes/Perdita has run off to Ankh-Morpork to become an opera singer, and she’s been thrown in the midst of a Phantom of the Opera-style murder mystery. The witches, naturally, arrive to get Agnes back … and then they have to figure out who the phantom really is… I’m really liking the murder mystery style of Discworld books, definitely a good read.

Feet of Clay: Discworld #19

A wonderful City Watch series book, this is third in the story of Captai Vimes and his band of merry men. This is a murder mystery, and Vimes and his team has to figure out whodunit – and who’s also poisoning Lord Vetinari! Throw in a few characters like dwarf Cheery Littlebottom, and you have a winner. We also learn more about Golems, made of clay, and their standing in the social confusion that is Ankh-Morpork – a lot through the eyes of Dorfl. A few places in this book made me want to tear up, but that’s just the nature of something written by Pratchett.

Hogfather: Discworld #20

I first read this in 2012, and picked it up again for my Discworld journey. It’s the fourth in the Death series, and so marks the return of my favourite character (Death FYI). This one marks the return of Death’s granddaughter, Susan. She’s trying to live a ‘normal’ life – as much as a Duchess and the granddaughter of Death can live a normal life – as a governess. But some things are trying to kill the Hogfather, the merry figure who appears on Hogswatch, and they’re nearly succeeding. And Death has stepped in… HO HO HO. The wizards make an appearance too, and what a merry bunch they are. All in time for the season.

Stationery I love: Surat Journals, your little blank book

Stationery I love: Surat Journals, your little blank book

On December 13, 2014, I stumbled across a little pop-up market at DUCTAC, Mall of the Emirates. I’d just gone there to return books to my library (it’s called The Old Library, if anyone’s interested, and it’s fabulous). While I browsed the stands, this one caught my eye. Books – an easy way to get my attention.

It turned out to be blank books (‘little blank books’, even) created with leather from the Philippines, and recycled paper. Shut with a strip of leather, I thought the books were stylish, eye-catching, and an attractive companion for people who take notes, and enjoy stationery. Very affordable too, as you can see from the pictures. The one I picked up was AED 80, and it was to be a Christmas present – and the recipient seemed to love it, so that’s a job well done! I now regret not getting one for myself, so that’s on my to-do list.

The founder is a man named Ken Surat (hence the name Surat Journals) and here’s the Surat Journals Facebook page if you’re interested in getting a book for yourself.

Massive book giveaway – any takers?

UPDATE: I will strike-through books that have been claimed. Books need to be picked up from Dubai Media City OR if I’m already meeting you at some place, some time, some event, then that’s sorted!

UPDATE 2: WOW, so many people want most of my books. PEOPLE STILL READ, YAY!!!

I love books and I love reading. I’ve amassed a ridiculously large collection of books over two decades. I’ve found that I’ve grown out of many of those books and recently I’ve bought some, read them and realised I don’t like them OR while I liked them, the chances of me reading them again are next to none.

I’ve just pulled out all the books I plan to give away to charity or a library that needs donations, somewhere they will find a loving home. However, before I do that, if anyone wants any of the series mentioned below, let me know. I have more random one-off books so will try my best to list everything. I plan to have given these away by the end of January 2014.

My books are in excellent condition… at best, some may have slightly faded pages because that’s how old they are. I’m not asking for money for any of these.

Books/series/authors:

If any catch your eye, buzz me on Twitter or leave a comment here if you want something or have a question about exact titles from some of the series.

What I’m reading #5

(Note: this one is more like a what-I-was-reading-and-just-forgot-to-post)

I also feel like I should explain these excerpts; I’ve chosen to share them because it highlights the prevalent opinion of the Indian community about marriage and its sanctity. ‘You aren’t happy in your marriage? Well bloody well adjust because you’re a woman’ is the general consensus, especially amongst the older generation, for whom the d-word is totally dirty and blasphemous. I don’t agree with that viewpoint, and I hope women (AND men!) realise that being unhappy for your whole life is no way to live, just to keep “society” happy. Society be damned, they are not living your life for you.

Anyway, read on!

Book: One-And-A-Half Wife
Author: Meghna Pant

Excerpts:

“Biji dismissed her concerns, saying, as if the crime had been pardoned before trial, ‘Marriage like that only. Don’t be asking more than you deserve. And don’t be talking bad about new family in front of me or other.'”

“She chanted the marriage mantras that Biji had taught her: ‘Don’t expect anything. Don’t say anything. Your husband is always right.'”

“Love? What love? Marriage is not love. It be duty. Love is meaning you pick one person and no one after him,’Biji replied acidly.”

“Why blame country? It is our daughter. She have let us down. Woman must adjust in marriage.”

“… those are the people who left India thirty or forty years ago. They’re still holding on to the cultural norms of an India-that-was.”

What I’m reading #4

Book: The Liar
Author: Stephen Fry

Excerpt:
‘…I’m talking about love! You know what it does to me? It shrinks my stomach, doesn’t it, Tom? It pickles my guts, yeah. But what does it do to my mind? It tosses the sandbags overboard so the balloon can soar. Suddenly I’m above the ordinary. I’m competent, supremely competent. I’m walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls. I’m one of the great ones. I’m Michelangelo, moulding the beard of Moses. I’m Van Gogh, painting pure sunlight. I’m Horowitz, playing the Emperor Concerto. I’m John Barrymore before the movies got him by the throat. I’m Jesse James and his two brothers – all three of them. I’m W. Shakespeare. And out there it’s not the school any longer – it’s the Nile, Tom, the Nile – and down it floats the barge of Cleopatra.’

‘Not bad,’ said Tom, ‘not bad at all. Your own?

‘Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend. But he could have been talking about Cartwright.’

‘But he was talking about alcohol,’ said Tom, ‘which should tell you a lot.

Book review: 50 Shades of Grey

Twitter alerted me to the “50 Shades” phenomenon, mostly with jokes. I held out against the trend until I thumbed through a copy and found some ridiculous lines staring at me. I was tempted: I had to read it and see if it was as bad as the random lines I read were.

And yes it was.

The back cover says: “Romantic, liberating and totally addictive, this is a novel that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.” HAHAHAHAHHAHAHA.

Anyway.

Here’s the basic story: Anastasia Steele is this insecure woman who is a virgin (OF COURSE SHE IS!) and has never been interested in any man until Christian Grey, a dashing tycoon, walks into her life.  All we know about how they look is that Anastasia has hair that doesn’t behave (tough shit, get a straightener) and he thinks she’s beautiful…and that Grey is hot and has a big p*nis, and is into BDSM. Yay?

They seem to have no personality whatsoever and there is absolutely no explanation of why they even like each other. She’s this moron who wants to work in publishing because she loves English Literature. And what exactly does Grey do as part of his business? I HAVE NO IDEA. He’s like one of those men in Indian TV serials who carry random briefcases and files around and announce pompously to their wives: “I’m going to the office.” Yes, but to do what, smartass?

Christian Grey… he’s the Edward Cullen of the non-vampire world: broody, sullen, powerful, and breathtakingly handsome. And all the while you have no bloody idea what he’s really about. BDSM is one thing, I mean that’s a lifestyle and personal choice, but his need to control her every single move, and quite literally stalk her… that’s ridiculous and sends the completely wrong message. No honey, it’s not romantic if he stalks you. It’s not romantic if you feel scared that he’s going to hit you. That is NOT BDSM (or so says my Google research). It’s messed up, is what it is.

Yes this book is about BDSM – when one of my friends found out I planned to read this book, she cautioned me against it, saying the scenes were graphic. Well, let me tell you… that’s not true. One of the truths about the s*x scenes in this book are: they are nothing special. I read Mills & Boons sometimes, and those have better intimate scenes than this pile of boring crock.

Anastasia is also a yo-yo. At one point she’s all, yeah I’m going to do everything I can to please him, how can I do better… and then she gets upset for all the pain he’s putting her through. Make. Up. Your. Mind. And she seems to be crying more after she met him than before! Abuse victim much?

The author also keeps repeating some phrases so many times, I could predict by the end when those damn things would rear their ugly heads on the page. Anastasia says the phrase “Oh my” so many times, I wanted to shoot her. And then she kept going: “Holy crap!” or “Holy shit!” or “Oh crap!” or “Holy f*ck!” or “Holy Moses!”… Every. Few. Paragraphs. For an English Literature graduate, she sure has a limited vocabulary.

I need to dedicate a paragraph to Anastasia’s inner goddess, whom I have taken a pledge to hunt down. Just some examples:

  • “My inner goddess is jumping up and down, clapping her hands like a five-year-old.”
  • “My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves.”
  • “My inner goddess has stopped dancing and is staring, too, open-mouthed and drooling slightly.”

Her inner goddess is a moron and needs to be put down.

The writing is, quite frankly, appalling. To borrow inspiration from the book, my inner editor was holding a red pen out and making horrific slash marks across the pages.

And there is very little plot. It’s like any random excuse to throw sexual scenes in … fine, but there still needs to be a story! All in all, Anastasia comes across as a super-confused, dependent, whiny moron. She’s the classic example of the emotional abuse victim btw: “I CAN CHANGE HIM! I JUST HAVE TO PUT UP WITH HIS SHIT FOR A LITTLE WHILE!” Ummm. No. Girls who like this book and think they can change their man ‘for the better’… yeah, that’s not going to happen. If they’ve lived a certain way for decades, the chances they’ll change because you’re putting out? Nada. Zilch. NONE! ZERO! GET IT?

The ending of the book is ominous because it alerts me to the fact that there are two more books out there in this series. TWO MORE!

I might do what I did with Lauren Kate’s series (my reviews here) and read on and stay appalled at the stupidity in this world. This is me putting myself through the torture of reading insane things so you don’t have to.

Oh. By the way…there’s going to be a movie.

Also read the review of 50 Shades of Grey by Savannah on her blog, Easy as Pie in Dubai, and this review on Kimi Who, which is from the perspective of someone from the world of BDSM (and they hate it too apparently).

What I’m reading #3

Book: One & A Half Wife
Author: Meghna Pant

Excerpt:
“It was as if immigrants transported the soul of their culture to the skeleton of another culture, and then plastered the former so it couldn’t come in contact with the host culture.”

—————–

There was something else I identified with, and laughed at a bit. There’s a line in this book where the protagonist, newly arrived in the USA, addresses her teacher by prefixing “Mrs” to her last name. The teacher then tells Amara (the main character) she can call her by her first name, and Amara is shocked.

We (I guess I mean desis) have always been taught to give due deference to our teachers by calling them Ms XYZ, Mrs ABC and so on. The thought of using first names of someone older than we are, and in a position of respect, does not even come to mind. Such a cultural difference, isn’t it? When I was studying for my Bachelors degree, the teachers were happy with the usual Mr and Mrs method (I was based in Dubai), but when I went for my Masters in the UK, I had to get used to the idea of referring to my lecturers by their first name. Since I was 23 though, I felt less guilty than I would have 10 years younger!

Even when it comes to friends’ parents, for example: my instinct would be to automatically call then “Uncle” or “Aunty”. But in Western culture, those titles are only reserved for family and they would be, to say it casually, weirded out, if we started doing that. I suppose having a system like “Chaacha”, “Fui”, “Mama” and so on denoting each uncle’s and aunt’s relation to us make “uncle” and “aunty” useless to us in a familial setting, making it a way for us to show respect to non-relations. Ah, culture. I once met a friend’s parents and faced with the prospect of calling them by their first names or referring to them as Mrs XYZ and Mr XYZ… I chose neither. I honestly felt I was being disrespectful whatever method I chose, so I stuck with making sure I had eye contact with either the mother or father before talking to them! I do realise there is no way they would think I was being disrespectful but I guess the (desi) concepts of what is respectful and what is not were deeply ingrained in my mind.

Adjusting to “desi” mode and “international” mode is a bit of a struggle for some. Some just get swept away in refusing to change with the world, while some go all the way and forget where they’re from.

Anyway, I’m enjoying this book because of the ability to identify with all the little things. Will keep updating as I read!

What I’m reading #2

Book: The Master and Margarita
Author: Mikhail Bulgakov

Excerpt:
“But this is what disturbs me: if there is no God, then, the question is, who is in control of man’s life and the whole order of things on earth?”
“Man himself is in control,” was Bezdomny’s quick and angry reply to what was, admittedly, a not very clear question.
“I’m sorry,” replied the stranger in a soft voice, “but in order to be in control, you have to have a definite plan for at least a reasonable period of time. So how, may I ask, can man be in control if he can’t even draw up a plan for a ridiculously short period of time, say, a thousand years, and is, moreover, unable to ensure his own safety for even the next day?”

What I’m reading #1

Note: I read so many books and right now, with my Goodreads challenge to myself being 100 books in one year, I’ve definitely gone through a lot this year. Many lines leap out at me or interest me. I’m going to start sharing those on my blog.

Book: Under The Hawthorn Tree
Author: Ai Mi

Excerpt #1:
“The world exists objectively. but every person’s experience of the world is different, and if you use a poet’s eyes to look at the world, you see a different world.”

Excerpt #2

“If life is lived in a single file, please walk in front so I can watch you all the time;
if life’s road is walked in two lanes, side by side,
let me take you by the hand, so when we walk through life’s sea of people,
forever you will be mine.”