10 years of BookMark

Photo: Tills Bookshop, Edinburgh

A wee celebration is in order as my blog is 10 years old. I remember setting it up on a cold Delhi winter morning. I wrote about the book I had just finished re-reading at the time – Lolita. My writing was a lot less nuanced then, and I had a certain stubbornness of opinion that comes with youth.

Since then, life has taken me on some of the most delightful adventures with books, writing, critiquing, and bookshops. I am proud of myself for having made time (through some very busy years) to write a post or two about the books devoured through the years. Through that process, my writing has improved, as has my tolerance and open-mindedness about the world. Reading is such a fundamental part of who I have always been.

Thank you to all the authors, friends, subscribers, and strangers from the web – for your indulgence, challenges, and words of reflection through the years.

Probably a good time to add – for smaller byte-sized reflections on books and reading, follow me on Instagram (@cup.and.chaucer)

The magic never ends. Cheers to CupAndChaucer.

The Librarian of Auschwitz … a review

It’s Day 10 of social distancing and isolation because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. So of course, I have turned to books. Literature to me is not only a means of escape, but also a way in which I absorb and process things. I find reading extremely relaxing. However, having said that, a Holocaust book is perhaps not the most obvious of choices to pick up at a time like this.

I’d been wishing to read this copy I picked up for a while now. And I somewhat enjoyed it. The story is based on the true account of Dita Kraus – a Czech Jew who, along with her family, spent most of the Second World War in various concentration camps. She was a fiesty, spirited teenager, and ended up being the book ‘keeper’ of her block, hiding her treasure from the Germans, and using books as a means to learn and to escape.

The novel is a good read, but I felt that it was a hard one. There was something in the storytelling that made it a bit stilted. Of course, I haven’t read anything else by the author, Antonio Iturbe. So I find it hard to compare. But it took me a long time to get to the halfway point. The second half of the book is more exciting, the characters had grown on me and as a reader, I felt invested in their stories. This is not just another Holocaust book, because the weight of true experiences is heavy. Overall, I would recommend it for its honesty and its ability to shine a light on the indomitable human spirit. A good read in these trying times, hope you are all safe wherever you are…

Three Hours … a review

This book was a Birthday present, so I had neither heard of the book, nor the author. Turns out the author comes from British nobility, and studied Literature at the finest of places. Let that not cloud your judgement of her writing though, it is down-to-earth and entirely relatable.

Three hours is the story of a high school shooting in England. It is told from a number of views – a mother whose son is at school, the police officer, a couple of teachers, and a young primary school student. Through the various narratives, the whole picture emerges, and it is one of horror, every parent’s worst nightmare. Everyone thinks that this is the sort of thing that will never happen to them, but only to someone else. But Lupton’s close to home writing makes for a riveting read. This is also unusual because I haven’t come across a book on this topic in particular. And having never been to America, I haven’t even followed any of these happenings very closely.

The book derives some inspiration from the Columbine High School shooting. Apparently, it did spawn off others, which is so horrific when you think about it. I have lived in 2 countries where owning a gun is just a bizarre notion, so I appreciated the insight through Lupton’s fiction. I absolutely recommend it, topical albeit a disturbing read. I will look out for her other works as well.

Anatomy of a Scandal … a review

I picked up this book because I was travelling a lot and looking for something fast-paced but also not too taxing to read. This fit the bill perfectly in the form of a travel read. One of the first things that struck me about this book was the number of female characters in it. There’s the protagonist’s wife and ‘the other’ woman, but also the prosecuting and defence attorneys who are both women.

The novel follows the high profile case of a politician, James, who is accused of rape. It turns into a classic ‘her word against his’ type case where as soon as the trial starts, it is easy to see that all fingers are pointed at the victim. Case is reminiscent of the infamous Monica Lewinsky scandal which basically destroyed her life and career, but did almost nothing to Clinton. This, event though he was the perpetrator and should have been the more responsible adult.

But back to James, the book does a great job at portraying the ramifications of the trial on his marriage and his relationship with his wife. The prosecuting counsel Kate is our other powerful woman, who is convinced James is guilty and has a single-minded determination to end him and his career. What will happen of James? Will there be justice? And how will his marriage cope with it?

This is a really enjoyable read and I would recommend it if you are looking for something to get you through all your summer travels.

Under the Harrow … a review

This book by Flynn Berry was a quick read. I picked it up because it was on a list with Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. The novel is about a girl who is about to go visit her sister, but when she gets there, finds her sister and her dog both brutally murdered. I enjoyed how the author had described the crime scene very graphically, I do like that in crime novels, it sets a strong scene.

Turns out, the sister Rachel had also been brutally attacked in the past (and nearly died) but the perpetrator was never caught. The book is then the protagonist’s attempts to find her sister’s killer. And in true, crime fiction style, there are cops with personal issues of their own. Rachel’s past begins to surface, and we find that not a lot of people knew many things about her and many suspects with strong motives begin to emerge.

Overall, the book did not impress me. I found the revelations from the past rather predictable (perhaps I have been reading too much in the genre)! I also found the ending rather bland. The initial excitement of the plot did not carry through and the repeat crime sub-plot quickly lost steam. So I’d give this one a miss if I were you, but it isn’t a very long read either way, so it was okay.

Read Into 2016

This idea came from BOOKERTALK, and I am a bit late to the party. The full details can be found if you follow on to the link, but in brief this is a post about what I am reading to start 2016 off!

My book is Trigger Warnings by Neil Gaiman, an author whose books I have been meaning to read for a while now but haven’t quite got around to. This book was sent to me as a Christmas present by one of my very good friends. Later on, I also found out that this book was a topper on one of Goodreads’ 2015 readers’ choice lists.

I am still reading it. But as it is a collection of short stories, it has been quite a dip-in dip-out experience. Verdict so far? Surreal…