Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Book Review: Inferno by Dante Alighieri

Dante's dramatic journey through the circles of hell in search of redemption—and his encounter with devils, monsters, and the souls of some of the greatest sinners who ever walked on earth—is one of the cornerstones of Western literature, the summit of medieval thinking, and arguably the highest poetic achievement of all time

I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. This book was a lot of firsts for me. This is the first book I've read in verse & the first book that has the original verse and the translated verse in it. I thought the language would be a little difficult and that I would not be able to understand a lot of what's happening as the metaphors used and the events mentioned were those of the 14th Century. But I guess I chose the right edition. There was a brief explanation of what happens before every Canto and there were so many footnotes. 

Anyway, let me tell you what I thought of the book. As you know this book talks of the circles of Hell. Basically it describes what is the punishment for every kind of sin. The graver the sin, the deeper in Hell you are. 

As you can see from the diagram, there are 9 circles of Hell on the basis of the sins committed, with the 7th,8th and 9th circles being further sub divided in to different circles for the kind of sub-sin committed. As you can tell from the illustration above, Hell is a type of funnel and at the end/center of the earth is Satan (a.k.a Dis, a.k.a Beelzebub), the fallen angel. 

Dante must have been one imaginative guy. Or he was someone who was always high on something to have described hell in such gory details.  And Dante's vision of God is one that is pretty strict. An example of this are the souls of those who were good people while they were living but were from a time before Christ. They are all in Limbo. The description of the punishments are also good enough to be on any of the horror movies in our time. I mean, the punishment for heretics is to be put in a coffin/box with  fire underneath it, those who commit suicide become some kind of plants that are attacked by Harpies and they bleed and talk through the wounds, and many more punishments ranging from being frozen to being dismembered and also being drowned in boiling tar. 

But I guess that is to be expected, Hell is something that is made to keep us on the path of the virtuous. One of the things I found interesting in this book was that the old Gods like Apollo, Athena and the other Greek monsters were mentioned in this book and were a part of this Hell. So I was a little conflicted. They were real but we weren't supposed to believe in them? Anyway I just considered it to be another novel while reading it so that I didn't analyze it more than I should. There are still parts that I am unsure of or do not understand, but that just means I'll have to reread this book again. And that is the best kind of book in my opinion, the kind that brings you back to it time after time and teaches you something new each time.

I would highly recommend this to people who have an interest in History and literature. I rate it between 3.5 - 4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Rant: Book to Movie Adaptations

I have 2 passions in life - reading books and watching movies/TV series. And these 2 passions of mine cross paths when an adaptation is made of the books on film. And being a human being I have an opinion about it.

Let me answer the fundamental question of what I think of Book adaptations - I am for them. I like quite a few of them actually. I'll explain why.

I know there are a lot of people that do not enjoy the book adaptations that are made. This is mostly because of the strongly held belief that a movie is never as good as the book. I agree with it too. But that has never stopped me from liking the movies that have been based off of books. I try to look at a movie as a different entity altogether. Of course I do not always succeed at this.

Let me take example of what  think are adaptations that suck and get them out of the way before I start stating why I actually like adaptations.

  • Let's start off with Eragon. This movie was based off of the series by Christopher Paolini. I loved this series when it had come out. I saved up money to buy the books in this series. I was so excited when I found out there was a movie coming out and then I watched the movie. I hated it. It was nothing like the book. I lost interest in the books too and have till date, not read the last book in the series. 

  • Then there's Twilight. A lot of people might say they hated the books but let's not kid ourselves. This series is one of the guilty pleasure reads for a lot of us. It is a series that has made a lot of people start reading or get back in to reading, like it did with me. But the movies did not even live up to the books. The major issue with this adaptation was the acting. 

So an adaptation might be ruined because of the inability to cover the story in 2 hours or because of wrong casting choices or even because the reworked screenplay has very little to do with the book. Sometimes the whole character gets changed or cut from the adaptations.

Now let me give examples of book adaptations that make me say that I like movie adaptations.

  • No list would be complete without Lord of the Rings. If ever someone needs to learn how to make an epic fantasy movie from a book, this is how its done. It stayed true to the characters and the world. That is not to say that a few liberties were not take with the screenplay, Arwen did not appear a lot in the book, but that was handled beautifully in the form of dreams/visions Aragorn has. There were a lot of things in the books that were left out in the movie but that was OK because the movie in and of itself was enough. This is a movie which can be watched without having read the books and that is a huge plus.

  • Another series that has to appear on this list to make it complete is the Harry Potter series. I have to admit that looking back the movies started getting better from the 3rd one onwards. The first two movies look a bit too kiddy for me now. Nut keep in mind that I am now (for all intents and purposes) a grown up now. But for those of you who like their book to movie adaptations to stick to the story in the books this is perfect. I cannot think of Ron, Hermione the Weasley twins or anyone else without associating them with the actors from the movies. This is a series that I grew up with. It holds a very special place in my heart and the movies did justice to that.

  • To Kill a Mockingbird is a movie that made me pick up the book. And this was a beautiful story. There was an element of mystery, drama, familial love and it touched upon racism too. 

  •  The Shining was a movie which chose to take a different tack than the one taken in the book. Though the basic premise was the same the story was not completely as the one Stephen King wrote. When it comes to this movie and book I look at them as something that is completely separate and different. I love both of them in their respective mediums.

  • The Green Mile and the Shawshank Redemption are other Stephen King books that have been made in to a movie (its actually a lot easier to list books of Stephen King that have not made it to the screen than the other way round)

  • 2001 : A Space Odyssey by Arthur C Clarke is one of my favorite Sci-Fi series. I reread this book every couple of years. For a science fiction movie that was made in the '70's it was very well made.

There has been a recent rise in a lot of YA books being made in to movies which is great as a lot of people would then learn of the fact that they are in fact originally books and read them. But it feels like it has become a trend to just make a movie out of the books on the best seller lists. And a lot of the movies are not made in 1 part but are made in 2 parts, especially the last movie in a series. An example being Breaking dawn or even Hobbit. I would love the movies to be made because the content is great and they actually plan on making a good movie, and not to cash in on the controversy surrounding a book or the fact that it is a best seller. 

But all in all, as in all things in life, there are good things and bad things when in comes to Book to Movie adaptations. But I tend to look at the good rather than the bad. 

Things I Hate About Reading

I Know! I Know!I just wrote a post about me Loving books, why am I saying there are some things I hate about it? Well it's more of a Love/Hate relationship that I have with reading. So after having listed down the positives I thought I'd list down a few negatives as not anyone can take the negative effects of reading -

  1. You finally find a book that you really LOVE, with the characters that are fully fleshed out and the world building that is epic and then once you are done reading it's DONE. That's it. You no longer get to know what happens with them, how the protagonist you invested so much time in lives after he/she overcomes whatever obstacles they had. I do not get to read about how they live after. I mean after having read all those pages about how the protagonist overcame his/her circumstances to live their life in peace, we do not get to see any of this peace. Especially Harry Potter. I would have liked to read about Ron proposing to Hermione, or Harry to Ginny, how George coped with Fred's loss and a lot more. 
  2. I love book series. But I also hate them. Why? Because if it is a series that is still not complete I have to depend on the kindness of the author to release the next book early. But does that happen? No. So we have to wait so loooong before a book comes out. Like the next part in the Throne of Glass series, Lunar Chronicles, Game of Thrones and many more.
  3. Finances. That's another thing. I always need to buy books but my bank balance says I can't. Partly because a lot of the books I want to read are not available here in India or are imported so I'd have to shell a lot of money for them. And not being able to buy them makes me depressed. It's kind of an addiction.
  4. Another downside of this attachment to reading is the Reading Slumps. I think it should go into the medical dictionary. It is the worst feeling ever. I am currently in a Reading Slump and I just pick up a book and not finish it. I want to read a book but my brain just will not let me. Some slumps last for a week and some a few months. Thankfully I haven't had a slump last a few months since college. 
These are the negatives of reading. There might be more but these are the most problematic ones. If anyone is reading this do tell me if you have anything that you "hate" about reading.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015


BOUT OF BOOKS IS BACK!!! For those of you who do not know what it is here is a bit of information.

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal.It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 11th and runs through Sunday, May 17th  in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 13 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog.
Bout of Books

I had a good time a few months ago while taking part in the Bout of Books Read-a-thon. I went back to my childhood books and read quite a bit of Hardy Boys. It was great fun. And I also got to interact with quite a few book-lovers. Then I took part in the next Bout-of-Books. But I was not able to be as active as I was the last time. I have been so busy that I did not even know that Bout-of-Books 13 was this week. So I do not really have a TBR.

I will probably read Dante's Inferno and one other book. But I will do my best to participate.

Rant: What Reading has done for me

I have always been a reader. When I was a kid it was books by Enid Blyton and now that I am older I still read her books along with a few other. Reading has always given me a sense of peace. My parents encouraged me to read when I was young.

I was not a child that enjoyed playing with dolls or playing house. I tended to only be friends with people that I had known for a long period of time as I did not make friends very easily (that is not entirely true today). I was never completely at home with the friends I made at school. I think they felt it too and I wasn't necessarily close to anyone in school. I don’t mean I don’t have any friends from school, I still keep in contact with quite a few of them, but none of them were my “Best Friend”. There was no one that I could really open up to. This is where reading helped me the most. I mean improving my vocabulary and giving me confidence in the language is all well and good but it also gave me the ability to create worlds in my head where I didn't feel as awkward, where even my awkwardness was a prized quality.

I do not remember the first book I read. But I think I can tell when my love for stories, which later extended to love for books, began. When I was young, maybe 3 years old or so, I remember my mother sitting me down and teaching me Shlokas (religious poems) and telling me their meanings. She also used to tell me and my sister a few years later, stories from the Mahabharatha and Ramayana. The stories were so rich with characters and the world full of great heroes and villains that I fell in love with it.

I guess I gradually went on to read fairy tales and other children’s books like the ones by Enid Blyton and Franklin W. Dixon. I read of kids my age, who were not unlike me, that went on adventures. I mean who wouldn't want to have a Magic tree in the backyard that was inhabited by wonderful creatures or find lost treasure and catch bad guys? I used to put myself in the same situation that my favorite characters were in, not as the characters but as one of their friends.

As time went on I read more books. I discovered Lord of the Rings, one of my favorite series of all time. I also fell in love with Harry Potter. I have never restricted myself to a genre. I've read Horror (mostly Dean Koontz and Stephen King books), Sci-Fi (Asimov, Clarke etc.), romance (Julia Garwood), Thrillers (Patterson, Deaver), Crime (Agatha Christie) and many more. Each book egged on my growing imagination. When I get bored I just go into a world that I had read about or even mix them up. I make up different scenarios in my head where characters from different books meet.
This love for reading that seemed like something that made me an outsider among people suddenly became something that I shared as something in common in college. I met a friend who loved reading as much as I did, though she was not necessarily someone who would fangirl. But suddenly I had someone to talk to about books. And this made reading all the more precious to me.

By the time I passed out of college and got a job I had discovered different mediums on the internet through which I could express my love for reading and also meet and interact with people that share the same interests as me. I got introduced to Booktube on YouTube, blogs and Bookstagram on Instagram. I have made great friends especially through Instagram and have finally connected (online) to people in the same country and even city as me. We might actually plan on getting together sometime soon.

This is what reading has done for me. It has given me a great imagination, albeit a weird one, great friends – in real life and otherwise and it hss also made me write, which I am not that great at but if the protagonists of books have taught me anything, it is to never give up.