The Sunday Salon: On reading A Game of Thrones

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Sunday

I started reading A Game of Thrones a couple of days ago. This is after watching and loving four seasons of this crazy TV show, and attempting to listen to this audiobook in the car, months ago. I gave up on the audiobook after four hours of painful realization that the book was very slow, compared to the TV show. 4 hours of audiobook just about covered one episode in the show.

When you like a series a lot, whether it is a TV show or a book series, you will remember many details from that series for a long time. This makes it impossibly hard to read or reread it later. That feeling is especially strong with A Game of Thrones because as I read the book this week, I started to wonder whether the pictures in my head were from the TV show or from listening to the audiobook six months back. But once I am past the point where I stopped the audiobook, it should be smoother riding.

Honestly, I am not sure if I want to be on top of the books before the next season starts next year. (So far, the TV show has covered the first three books of the series.) I did that with The Walking Dead - read all the books but two to-date, and now when I watch the show, I'm not sitting as much on the edge of the seat as I did during the last few seasons. That's relieving in one way, because the kind of twists the show creators throw at us can make you scream in agony for days. But the TV show doesn't follow the books strictly - there are some core characters who aren't in the books and there are some big plots that aren't sketched either. *** MILD BOOK SPOILER START*** For instance, tonight's episode is being promoted as heartbreaking and thrilling, and since what's happening currently in the TV show doesn't feature in the books AND the three hospital characters (Daryl, Beth, and Carol) are either not featured or are long gone at this point in the books, I have no freaking clue what's going to happen tonight. *** SPOILER END *** So I will be totally on edge tonight.

The Game of Thrones show is a LOT more thrilling than The Walking Dead. I will even go far as to admit that I like the former show more than the latter. (This is where, like Roxane Gay, I'm going to say that I'm a bad feminist because I really like this show even though women are portrayed often as sex playthings and rapes don't have consequences. There are some really strong women too - it's almost like watching two conflicting tenets in this fictional world.) So one part of me would be okay reading the books ahead, because there are differences between the show version and the books, but the other part would rather read the books after, because I always enjoy the book even if I know most of the story, but I never enjoy the screen format if I had already read the books because I will keep comparing the two. And then, there is something to be said about that edge of the seat feeling - that adrenaline rush when you know something dreadful could happen now, and then that feeling of no going back, because you now wish it didn't happen but it just did and you just have to deal with it.

When do you prefer to do your reading if you wanted to watch the screen version - after watching it or before?

The weather, headaches, weather, movies, and more weather

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Now that was a disappearing act, wasn't it? Sorry for being "away" for more than a week but I have been very tired these past two weeks. It's the weather, I tell ya. Gloomy, wet, dark, it's like the end of the world outside. I know there are loads of places in the world that are perpetually gloomy, but I can just never fathom how those places can even be considered habitable. I'm battling a mild headache since morning, because it started raining in the middle of the night, after two days of beautiful 50-70 degree weather. The whole of last week, I was sleeping way too early, and even considered taking a few days off from work, but whoever heard of recuperating from the sick weather?

Picture source

The weather doesn't usually affect me. I like that there are four seasons where I live. I was born in a country where it rains six months of the year and is blazing hot for the other six months. Sweaters are novelty items there. You wouldn't step out without an umbrella - a habit I have to this day. Whether it's hot or rainy, enjoy your walks under the umbrella! I grew up in a different country where there was only one season year round; it would be 90 degree plus every day. And when it rains, the parties start because rain is a novelty there. Now you know why I was never such a big fan of summer. And so, when I moved to the United States, I was thrilled to see mild summer, followed by a beautiful Fall, then some actual snow in the winter and finally a colorful spring.

But, this year, the weather is just not agreeing with me. It was sad enough that winter pushed Fall out very early, and now I have to deal with crappy moody days with the weather all gloomy outside.

The husband just left for his month-long India trip. Yes, a month. I am super disappointed that I am not with him, as was our original plan, but something came up, so I have canceled my tickets for now. At least, we don't have to worry about boarding our dog for a month and wondering how she will fare, but I haven't been by myself for a long period since I got married. I used to enjoy being my own boss but now I look strangely at that person I used to be. That's what marriage does to you.

In other matters, I have finally finished reading The Martian and liked it a lot. It's certainly one that I will enjoy watching as a movie because Mark Watney's inventiveness would translate well on screen plus a lot of that scientific stuff would be easier to watch than to read. I'm not sure what to read next, but I am in mood for some science fiction or epic sagas. The husband and I also went and watched Mockingjay Part 1 this Saturday and I thought it was pretty good, though a bit slow, which is what you get when they decide to stretch out a book into multiple movies. Peter Jackson does a great job stretching books though - both his Hobbit movies have been very entertaining.

I took today and the rest of the week off work. So that's a really long weekend. I don't have any major plans and I am certainly not hitting any stores on Friday. Maybe the library because I think it's been 3 months since I last went to the library. I've been trying to read more from my stacks, but it would be nice to see some different stacks of books.

For those who celebrate Thanksgiving, Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! I hope you have grand plans to spend it with your family!

The Sunday Salon: Not a great day so far...

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Sunday

Today I'm home alone with the dog, the husband having left this morning to drop my family off at New York so that they can catch their return flight to India. Rue has been holed up on our couch all morning and is now in our bed, sulking. My dad used to take her for a walk every day and my mom used to give her the kind of snacks all dogs drool over. No wonder she loves them. She's going to be brooding and avoiding food for a few days, until she realizes that she is not going to see them any time soon. It bugs me that there is no way to tell something to these adorable critters, especially when they are so obviously upset.

A Very Sad Dog

Me? I'm not doing too well either, but not for the same reasons as Rue's. My brother is also returning back to India and let's just say that I haven't taken that well at all. Some of you may remember that a few years ago, he was hospitalized after getting seizures out of the blue. After two months of recovery and therapy, he was all ready to go back to school when he found that he isn't as sharp as he used to be. Even basic daily rituals would send him into one of his dangerous angry moods. His career has suffered heavily and since nothing has been working out here, we all agreed, with a lot of reluctance, that it is best for him to go back and start afresh. This post is basically a rewrite as my first stab has turned out to be a heavily depressed piece of writing. It was a therapeutic post however and it did its job - so now it can catch dust in the deep interwebs of bloglandia.

As my day so far hasn't been great, I have been filling it with classic comedies and TV shows. Nothing better than TV therapy to get your spirits up, eh?

I've been quite tired this past week. The idea of my warm cozy bed was what would get me through the day and then by 8 or 9 pm, I was either already in bed or seriously considering going to sleep. So there's been nothing creative going on this week - no reading, no knitting. I did get to about page 70 of The Book Thief and hope to make more progress with it today, but we'll see. The sad dog isn't helping my cause much either. Yesterday was a load of fun however. We went for a brunch, then spent the afternoon bowling, had caramel-flavored pretzels in the evening, did some shopping, and made some guacamole for dinner.

Since I barely slept last night and have been up since 5.30 am, I feel like a train wreck already. I can't believe it's not even lunch time yet. It's been a loooong time since I have been by myself at home and I am not enjoying it much, even though I am usually an introvert and like me some solitude. I have some grand plans for the rest of the day, which all include crossing some items off my to-do list. We'll see how many of those will actually get done today.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dark Places
I’m not someone who can be depended on five days a week. Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday? I don’t even get out of bed five days in a row -- I often don’t remember to eat five days in a row. Reporting to a workplace, where I would need to stay for eight hours—eight big hours outside my home -- was unfeasible.

Ever since I read Gone Girl, I have been looking forward to reading more of Gillian Flynn's books. Not that Gone Girl was the perfect read, but it was certainly a hard-to-put-down book with so many twists and turns that I had to see more of what Flynn could deliver. In Dark Places, Libby Day lost almost her entire family in one night - two sisters and her mother murdered by her brother. For the next twenty-four years, Libby lived on donations from people who wanted to help her and some money earned through the sales of a self-help book. But now, that money pond has dried up and Libby needs to find a way to survive. She doesn't want a job because she cannot be depended upon to do anything that involves routine or responsibility. Right when she is close to giving up, she receives a letter from someone named Lyle who has a monetary offer for her, in exchange for some help.

Lyle is part of a group of people who are like groupies for famous murders. They analyze and cross-analyze clues, visit the persons who were arrested for the crimes, and in the case of serial killers that are still at large, they try to locate where the perpetrator's next crime would be. Lyle and some of the group members have long believed that Libby's brother, Ben, wasn't the murderer that night, but Libby isn't having any of that. When the murder was happening outside her bedroom, she heard Ben's voice, or thought she did. Moreover, she doesn't want to revisit the events of that night - they have destroyed enough of her life. But Lyle has promised Libby some cash for anything Libby would do to help them solve the mysteries of that night. And Libby complies - she needs the money. But she ends up getting more than she asked for.

Dark Places has a very gruesome murder at its core. The events of that night are revisited quite a few times from multiple perspectives and they aren't pretty at all. There are plenty of twists and turns in this book too, not as much as in Gone Girl, but that shouldn't be a matter for comparison. However, the twists in this book felt pretty lame and predictable. Libby's investigation in the present and the actual events of that dreadful day are told in alternating sections from multiple perspectives. The murders happened during the 80s, at the height of the devil worship era. There is a lot of devil talk and and beliefs floating around in the flashback sections of the book. In addition, there is one ghastly devil worship scene, which I thought was even more disturbing than the actual murders. (It's a sad fact that I saw a similar scene in a movie recently. Once you read/see stuff like that, you pretty much want to swear off all meat for the rest of your life.)

Dark Places was a fast-paced book, which is usually a good thing for thrillers, but unfortunately, this book suffered because of it. For one thing, I struggled to understand why, after years of deliberately staying away from the events of that night, Libby would give in so easily and take in all the new knowledge without any hesitation. It just seemed too convenient.

The ending of this book was a big disappointment however. After all the buildup, and the possibility of something having gone very very wrong that night, it was quite angering to read what actually happened. Gillian Flynn certainly has a tendency to come up with very What? That's what happened after all this drama? endings. I won't spoil it for you, and besides, a lot of people on Goodreads have enjoyed the book, so maybe you will too. To me, however, the ending wasn't just unbelievable, it was also too convenient and too coincidental. It seemed like a bad enactment of Murphy's law. Everything that could go wrong went wrong that day, and some of the characters who were part of that day, came out of it dumber.

Honestly, I was very disappointed with this book. It made for a nice quick read and it is easily something I could read while on a plane, at the beach, or when I'm looking for something very light. But I expected something more clever and stimulating, and unfortunately, didn't get that.

This book is from my personal library.

The Sunday Salon: On watching Interstellar

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Sunday

Yesterday, we went to watch Interstellar. The husband is a big science fiction fan. Me? Not so much. I don't feel drawn to them, but inexplicably, I have enjoyed almost every science fiction movie I have watched. Go figure. So I knew that even if I didn't know anything about this movie (Fact: I actually didn't), I would be able to enjoy it. You know, it's like reading one of those books without worrying about the blurb because you are so sure you will enjoy the book because the cover is fantastic or the title is very unique.

Before going for Interstellar, I should have however checked who the director was. Christopher Nolan isn't exactly know for making straightforward movies. He is going to bend your head in a few directions, jolt your seats haphazardly a few times, and smirk at your nowhere-close-to-the-truth theories with a rebounder. Plus, if you miss the dialogue anywhere, you have just missed something crucial. For someone like me, who was born with hearing damage, following the dialogue is a big challenge. After every dialogue- or voiceover-laden movie I watch, I have to tag someone along after the movie and pound him/her with questions. It's really difficult to do this when everyone is awestruck at the brilliance of the movie and I am still asking the Whats and the Whens. But you don't get to 30 years with hearing troubles and embarrassments without learning how to be a little cunning with your questions, so that you get your answers without anyone wondering "But, didn't you just watch that whole movie with me?".

Luckily the husband knows to dedicate the few hours after any movie for my Q&A sessions. Normally, by the end of a movie, I do have a grasp of the nuts and bolts of the story while missing out on some of its salient aspects. With Interstellar, I pretty much missed out on everything, until the end, by when I figured out what the missions were about and why it was such a big deal. This is a movie I needed subtitles for. The movie starts off in a dry storm plagued-, crops routinely blighted- future society where technology and science are given no importance and people struggle to put food on the table. Cooper, a pilot turned farmer, somehow stumbles upon the coordinates of a secret NASA facility that has been sending space explorers to find planets that would support subsistence, and is just sending its fourth and last mission out. Cooper joins Amelia Brand on this fourth mission, and we finally leave Earth, about 45 minutes into the movie, and get into space. For the next two hours, they cruise through wormholes and planets that have higher gravitational force than earth thereby slowing time down heavily, and even black holes. While Cooper stays young and handsome and tries to find answers in space, his daughter, Murph, is trying to solve complex chalkboard-spanning equations so that these people can come come back to earth. Interstellar is clearly a very ambitious movie, based on several as-yet unproven scientific theories about time as a separate dimension, gravity affecting aging, and wormholes speeding travel between two different solar systems. For a good part of the movie, there is an unexplained "they" who set up these phenomena so that earth people can travel across systems, and by the end, almost three hours later, we learn who "they" are, it's either the most clever piece of the movie or the most WTH piece, depending on your outlook. I thought it was pretty cool actually, though my 1+1=2 brain is struggling to comprehend it fully.

I did put together most of the puzzles by the end. But like Memento and Inception, I would have enjoyed the movie more if I could follow it scene by scene, rather than in the drive back home. (That shouldn't be a problem for most people however.) And yet, by the time I understood the movie, I loved it. It has made me want to rewatch it once it comes on DVD so that I can actually follow the dialogue. Next time I go to a movie, I need to see if I can get one of those closed caption devices that looks like a 3D glass. I am not a fan of devices I need to wear on my ears or eyes, but I love watching movies with subtitles - I just have to remember not to laugh too early when something funny shows up as captions before I actually see it on screen.