387 Short Stories : Update: Day 237 to Day 254

A long round-up of 387 short stories, which will soon come to an end on December 31, 2014. I will for sure miss it.

Here is the list this time round:

Day 237: 3rd of August 2014: Ping by Samuel Beckett
Day 238: 4th of August 2014: The Burning Baby by Dylan Thomas
Day 239: 5th of August 2014: The Enigma by John Fowles
Day 240: 6th of August 2014: In the Hours of Darkness by Edna O’Brien
Day 241: 7th of August 2014: Weekend by Fay Weldon
Day 242: 8th of August 2014: Structural Anthropology by Adam Mars-Jones
Day 243: 9th of August 2014: Flora by David Rose
Day 244: 10th of August 2014: The Pensioner by William Caine
Day 245: 11th of August 2014: Broadsheet Ballad by A.E. Coppard
Day 246: 12th of August 2014: A Hedonist by John Galsworthy
Day 247: 13th of August 2014: The Song by May Edginton
Day 248: 14th of August 2014: Seaton’s Aunt by Walter de la Mare
Day 249: 15th of August 2014: The Christmas Present by Richard Crompton
Day 250: 16th of August 2014: The Olive by Algernon Blackwood
Day 251: 17th of August 2014: Bedbugs by Clive Sinclair
Day 252: 18th of August 2014: My Wife is a White Russian by Rose Tremain
Day 253: 19th of August 2014: The Rain Horse by Ted Hughes
Day 254: 20th of August 2014: More Friend than Lodger by Angus Wilson

The Lunar Chronicles : Cinder: 1 by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer Title: The Lunar Chronicles: Cinder: 1
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Puffin Books
ISBN: 9780141340135
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tales Retold
Pages: 400
Source: Product Manager
Rating: 3/5

I have never been a fan of fairy tale retellings. Something just does not seem right in them. Something always seems amiss. More so, because of the different perspectives that are always trying to battle it out in the novel. It just does not seem right. However, when I heard of “Cinder” and how everyone was raving about it outside of India, I decided to give it a shot.

“Cinder” is the first volume in “The Lunar Chronicles” and the debut of Marissa Meyer. For a debut novel, it sure has got all the attention and acclaim which has surprised everyone. Now to talking about the book. “Cinder” is a retelling of “Cinderella”. It is set in the future. The story unfolds in China and Cinderella is Cinder, the cyborg. The world is where humans, androids and cyborgs co-exist. Earth is now a different place. Though some things still remain the same. There is the step-mother, the step-sisters and of course, the prince, Kai. Their love is forbidden, but of course.

And then there is the twist in the tale – the ruthless Lunar people want to take over Earth and everything then depends on Cinder (as usual, the heroine will save the day) to make things alright. There is a secret running throughout the book, which you will guess soon enough.

Meyer’s writing is fast-paced. You literally turn the pages and get absorbed in what she has to say. Moreover, at some point you distance yourself from the original fairy-tale and become a part of Meyer’s story. To me, that was enough to go on and start reading other books in the series and they are all inter-linked with different fairy tale characters making an appearance in each of them. “Scarlet” is about Little Red Riding Hood and “Cress” about Rapunzel. There are other two books as well, to be released next year.

All in all “Cinder” is a book meant for teenagers and adults alike. For people who have already discovered their fairy tales and for those who could also do with a retelling or so.

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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami Title: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Author: Haruki Murakami
Publisher: Harvill Secker
ISBN: 9781846558337
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5/5

There will always come a time in a reader’s time when his or her favourite author diverts a little bit from the writing style and the reader will not appreciate that move. There will also be a time when the reader will start reading the book, leave it, be riddled with preconceived notions and come back to it eventually. Reading is a love-affair, between the reader and the author at so many levels. The reader bickers. The author retorts. The reader loves. The author returns the favour. There is so much going on between the two and what conjoins them of course – the written word. I felt like a jilted lover mid-way of “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” by Haruki Murakami. I had a love-hate relationship with it to suffice the least.

“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” sustain most elements of Murakami’s writing and yet seems to move away from them. While I appreciated that, there were times that nothing would make sense (not in terms of plot) and even that was alright, till it reached a stage when everything that I read felt like I had already read before. Maybe even that was alright, but somehow the pace could not keep me attached to the book after page seventy or so. I left it. I was angry. I had fought with the book.

After about a week or so, I went back to it. I pleaded with it. I wooed it. I wanted to love it. I wanted to be loved by the book. I took off from where I left and somewhere down the line; I began reading it with an open mind more than anything else. Some parts I had to underline – I loved them so much, while others, I could not care for much. And now to the plot.

Tsukuru Tazaki is not someone special. He is ordinary. He loves trains and train stations. He works with trains. He is away from home and does not miss them. This is typical of a Murakami novel. Well, at least so far it is. He had his friends once upon a time. The five of them were inseparable. Till they decided one fine day to cut all ties with him. Tsukuru did not know why and he never asked. He moved away from his hometown and began living life differently. Something changed within him and now after all these years, he wants to know the reason they drifted apart, and that stimulus has come in the form of someone who he is currently dating.

The title comes from all his friends’ last names representing colors, while Tsukuru’s last name is colorless. The years of pilgrimage represents something else, however I shall not reveal it for now. The book is linear (for some time) and then it goes into Murakami territory – where dreams mingle with reality and nothing is what it seems. The range of emotions is wide – from envy to love to lust to everything possible, Murakami looks at it all.

For me, the connect came with the friends leaving bit – it hit hard and I could not stop thinking about my friends. The parts I was disappointed in: Too many subplots, too many themes running wild in the book, with no closure at all. But of course that is what one expects from a typical Murakami novel, isn’t it? Perhaps. But for me the expectations from this one were very high and I am also glad to say that the last two chapters of the book make up for every disappointment. There are magnificently written. The words, the expressions and Tazaki’s thoughts and dreams are succinctly put for the reader to just soak himself or herself in them.

“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” is a book that maybe is not like other Murakami books; however he does manage to stir emotions. It was a mixed read for me, as I have said before. It is mostly confusing in parts, but if you let go of those notions and read it the way it is meant to be read, then you will get to see the other side of Murakami.

Here is the trailer of the book:

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A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear by Atiq Rahimi

A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear by Atiq Rahimi Title: A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear
Author: Atiq Rahimi
Publisher: Other Press
ISBN: 9781590513613
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 176
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

So reading, “A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear” by Atiq Rahimi was a part of my reading project – “Around the World Reading”. The series of books that I plan to read first are either based in Afghanistan or written by Afghan origin writers, this being one of them. I had read “The Patience Stone” by Atiq Rahimi last year and loved it. This year it was this one, another novella by Rahimi, set in Afghanistan.

“A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear” is set in 1978-1979, Kabul, Afghanistan. It is just on the brink of the Soviet War in Afghanistan. The novella is written from a stream-of-consciousness perspective and yet it is just not the narrator’s version or his take on things. There are more layers to the story.

A man is found outside a woman’s house – beaten and bruised. The woman takes him into her house. She has a child and another man whose identity is not revealed for a while. The entire drama unfolds in the lady’s house and in the mind of the narrator.

The stream of consciousness is strong throughout the novella. The past and present intertwine beautifully in Rahimi’s words. The plot is threadbare and yet holds so much action in it for a novella. The reader wants to know more and is at the same time satisfied with what is served.

“A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear” is complex most times. It will not be an easy read. The story elucidates the concepts of freedom, hope, and love. It might take you some time to get into the book, but once you do, it will want and demand complete attention. I highly recommend this read if you want to know more about Afghanistan’s political landscape.

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Blow Fly by Patricia Cornwell

Blow Fly by Patricia Cornwell Title: Blow Fly
Author: Patricia Cornwell
Publisher: Sphere, Hachette Books
ISBN: 9780751544930
Genre: Suspense and Thriller
Pages: 528
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

Thrillers and mysteries somehow are not meant for me. Though I love reading them, it is way too agonizing to wait till the end and figure what happened and why. More so, also books that reveal the killer right at the beginning leave me a little confused. I mean, then why should the book merit a reader? But there are some books, where even if you know of the killer right at the beginning; you continue reading it, because there is so much more to the book. “Blow Fly” by Patricia Cornwell is one such book. There are several plots running in one book and I absolutely loved the way it is written.

I had heard of the book through my The Novel Cure Reading Project. It was listed under “B” – the first book in “Fear of Balding”. There is more than one bald or balding character in this book and not to forget that since this book deals with forensics – there is but obviously a lot of hair. Hair, hair everywhere – unfortunately for some, not on the head. “Blow Fly” is a Kay Scarpetta novel. Scarpetta is Cornwell’s most famous medical examiner and forensic expert. The book takes off as being the fourth in a series on the side. There are a lot of other books featuring Scarpetta; however, this one is the fourth in a separate series.

Kay Scarpetta is dealing with an old enemy, an old lover, and a brutal murderer. The action spreads across Florida and sometimes also in flashback in France (though not many moments there). It was a bit difficult to get into the book, given that I had not read the other three. Kay is grieving for Benton Wesley. On the other hand, there is her niece Lucy who has her own agenda and own past that comes to light. Then there is Jean-Baptiste Chardonne, in prison, awaiting death row. Not to forget the strongest of them, who is out, on a murderous spree with his own motives. Jean wants to see Kay about the murders and he is the only one who can help. That is the plot of the book.

There are a lot of characters that enter this book, from the other three books. So this book cannot be read as a stand-alone for sure. I tried and now to get some context I need to read the other three. The writing is slow in most places, but somehow the plot makes up for it. You might think of it to be a fast read, however it is not. What got me on with the book was the uniqueness of the story in most places and the language Cornwell uses, with the good dose of emotions and feelings.

All said and done, “Blow Fly” sure is one of those night time reads that requires a big hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate, the rain lashing against the window and a killer on the prowl, searching for his or her next victim.

Next up in the Novel Cure Project:

To cure Baldness again:

Sun Dog by Monique Roffey.

Just ordered it. Cannot wait for it to be delivered.

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The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi Title: The Complete Persepolis
Author: Marjane Satrapi
Publisher: Random House USA
ISBN: 9780375714832
Genre: Graphic Novel, Biographies and Autobiographies
Pages: 341
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I always thought graphic novels were an easy read. At least, in my experience they always have been. Till I reread “The Complete Persepolis” and realized that it could get tough, rereading a graphic novel as well. “Persepolis” is a story which has so many layers to it.

“The Complete Persepolis” is the combination of two books – The story of a Childhood and the story of a Return. The story is of Marjane Satrapi (the author), growing up in war-torn Iran, from the Shah’s regime to the Ayatollah’s Iran, and finally living her life in Austria, till she returns home – only to see that things have only become worse.

The title of the book is taken from ancient Persia’s capital. “Persepolis” is autobiographical and hits the spot very hard. While it speaks of cultures and war and fundamentalism to a very large extent, it also draws on the concepts of alienation and the need to be home. I think this reread was in many ways most important for me, as I am away from home, so the connect was very strong. Perhaps not the same, given that I have not seen wars. But, nonetheless, one can empathize with Marjane and her family and her mental and emotional state.

The book doesn’t seek validation. Neither does it seek sympathy or empathy. It is just an honest account of life and how it goes through various stages and how sometimes in times of adversity, there is only humour and hope to live by. Marjane characterizes herself as an outsider, throughout the book. As a young girl, when her parents are revolting against the system to when she is an adult living in a different land, and when she is back in Iran to when she leaves for France for good.

The Islamic revolution in Iran is depicted truthfully through the black and white illustrations. My heart went out when people were executed for no fault and to think that people lived through all of that is something which you and I cannot even begin to imagine. The illustrations are stark and true, without any fluff or sugar-coating. “Persepolis” is a gem of a graphic novel – the kind that you do not forget at all and also the kind that you keep going back to time after time. Also, do watch the movie if you have not already. It is simply super.

Here is the trailer:

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2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino Title: 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas
Author: Marie-Helene Bertino
Publisher: Crown
ISBN: 978-0804140232
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 272
Source: Blog For Books/Publisher
Rating: 5/5

This is one of those books that stun you. They take you by surprise and you do not really know what got into you. You do know that you loved reading it and cannot stop talking about it to people. “2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas” is a book that demands your attention and once it has it, it does not let go, till you have finished the book.

I remember reading about this book somewhere and I so wanted to read it and when I did, I fell in love with it. Marie-Helene Bertino writes with such simplicity and makes you want to believe in all things nice and hopeful. Her characters are despairing, but never let go of hope and what it takes to be alive. There are odd moments in the book and yet what they only do is uplift you.

“2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas” is a magical story. It is a story of three lives, colliding by coincidence; chance, by serendipity on Christmas Eve eve. The action takes place in Philadelphia. We all know how a city becomes a character in so many books and it is the same in this one as well.

There is a nine-year old Madeleine, who has recently lost her mother. She is clueless in the world. She smokes (yes for a nine-year old, I was taken aback but then got in the groove of the book). She wants to sing. She is obsessed with Jazz. At the end of the spectrum is her teacher, Sarina, who is recently divorced and something is soon going to happen to her. The third character is Lorca, the owner of The Cat’s Pajamas – a legendary jazz club, which is soon going to slip away from him. These three characters come together to discover love, life, happiness and hope.

The characters that meet each other in the course of a day and night are marvelous. There are other characters as well besides these three that add to the plot and drive the story forward. What struck me the most about the book is the honest voice in which it is written. The book is told from the third-person perspective and rounds up every emotion and scene very well. Bertino sets the story in such a way that everything is told or not told till 2 A.M, which in more than one way is the crux of the book.

“2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas” is a charming, little book that makes you reinstate hope. As these three go through the day, and you with them as a reader, your spirits are lifted, you smile and laugh with them and feel a sense of melancholy when they are sad. Sometimes, it is also necessary for a book to have those brilliant fantastical moments (like Mark Helprin’s books do) to reinforce the magic of living. “2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas” is a perfect book for the time when you are down and about.