Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Deal Me In 2017: In which I will be reading 52 essays at the very least!

About two months ago I had got ready a list of short stories and poems I wanted to read for Jay's Deal Me In Challenge in 2017. However, since then I have been struggling with my final decision as I have been wanting to read a bunch of essays as well. After much internal debating I have decided to go with the essays instead, and to keep the first list in reserve for the following year (perhaps). 

So, for the upcoming Deal Me in Challenge, I have decided to read 52 essays. I have chosen lists for three suits from A Book of English Essays published by Penguin Classics. This book consists of pieces from well-known essayists of the 16th century up to the early 20th century.  The final thirteen I have chosen from The Literary Network

I am quite excited about this venture, and look forward to sharing my views on these essays too, should I feel up for it, that is. For the most part, I have decided to at least share my favourite quotations. 

And now for the list! 
Note 1:1 = Ace, 11 = Jack, 12 = Queen, 13 = King
Note 2: I have allowed myself two wild cards


  1. Of Travel by Francis Bacon
  2. On Death by Jeremy Taylor
  3. A Citizen's Diary by Joseph Addison
  4. Recollections of Childhood by Richard Steele
  5. The Man in Black by Oliver Goldsmith
  6. Old China by Charles Lamb
  7. On the Ignorance of the Learned by William Hazlitt
  8. On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth by Thomas de Quincey
  9. Getting up on Cold Mornings by Leigh Hunt
  10. Walking Tours by Robert Louis Stevenson
  11. A Defence of Nonsense by G. K. Chesterton
  12. The Crooked Streets by Hillaire Belloc
  13. The Maypole and the Column by Maurice Hewlett
  1. A Funeral by E. V. Lucas
  2. The Defects of English Prose by Arthur Clutton-Brock
  3. Broken Memories by Edward Thomas
  4. Likes and Dislikes by James Agate
  5. The Darkness by Robert Lynd
  6. A Village Celebration by A. A. Milne
  7. Wild Card
  8. A Defence of Shyness by Harold Nicolson
  9. 'W.G.' by Neville Cardus
  10. A Sentimental Journey by Ivor Brown
  11. On Doing Nothing by J. B. Priestley
  12. Tragedy and the Whole Truth by Aldous Huxley
  13. The Dean by V. S. Pritchett
  1. The Tombs in Westminster Abbey by Joseph Addison
  2. A Party at Vauxhall Gardens by Oliver Goldsmith
  3. Poor Relations by Charles Lamb
  4. On Not Being a Philosopher by Robert Lynd
  5. My First Article by J. B. Priestley
  6. On Familiar Style by William Hazlitt
  7. Wild Card
  8. A Piece of Chalk by G. K. Chesterton
  9. Seeing the Actors by J. B. Priestley
  10. Why We Hate Insects by Robert Lynd
  11. Imperfect Sympathies by Charles Lamb
  12. National Prejudices by Oliver Goldsmith
  13. Ladies' Head-dress by Joseph Addison


  1. On the Writing of Lyrics by P. G. Wodehouse
  2. The Critic as Artist by Oscar Wilde
  3. Reflections on Gandhi by George Orwell 
  4. Concerning the American Language by Mark Twain
  5. A Letter to a Hindu by Leo Tolstoy
  6. On the Duty of Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau
  7. The Spirit of Japan by Rabindranath Tagore
  8. To Chekhov's Memory by Aleksandr Ivanovich Kuprin
  9. Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard III by Horace Walpole
  10. Old English Poetry by Edgar Allan Poe
  11. How I Became a Socialist by Jack London
  12. The Decline of the Drama by Stephen Leacock
  13. A Letter to Lord Chesterfield by Samuel Johnson
I will be updating this post with links to my thoughts/quotations/reviews on these essays. :)

Monday, 26 December 2016

I haven't disappeared! I've simply been disconnected these past two weeks.

Our city experienced quite the cyclone after decades just two weeks ago. Winds rushed passed us at 130km/hr. We saw quite a bit of destruction; but perhaps most upsetting was the number of trees we lost. On my drive to school we pass through about 2km of forest area. Not any more. All the trees are down now. Our networks were also down, so we had lost contact with the outside world for over a week before we learnt that our city had lost 60% of its trees to the cyclone!
It's on everyone's mind now to plant as many saplings as we can. Summer is usually scorching, but there was always the ever present shade of trees to stay cool under. Not this coming summer though. We will be reluctantly awaiting its arrival with much nervous trepidation. We've hardly had any rains this year either. Quite ironic considering the flood we had last year at around this time. For a few weeks our city was called the Venice of the East because one could travel no distance without a boat!
I find it hypnotically fascinating, the extreme changes in our weather and seasons. Sometimes I feel like I am a bystander, looking in on something bewildering but incredible. I believe I could so easily be a nervous wreck. But the simple knowledge that the Lord is in control of everything is comforting. Whilst neighbours were imagining the foundations of our building rocking in the midst of the cyclone, my husband, little boys and I had our faces pressed against the closed window panes, as we watched the wind take on a shape and force we have never witnessed in our lives before. It filled us with awe, and may I say?...a sense of peace. Only that morning, when the cyclone warning was going out, my husband's mother called him and told him to read Job 38:11. That whole chapter is beautiful, and this particular verse talks about how God has set a boundary even to the winds and the seas. Nothing can go past the limits He has set. Amazing, isn't He!?
Now, after two weeks, I have borrowed my husband's laptop as we sit in his hometown, and using his data card I've decided to dash off a post in here to let my fellow bloggers and readers know that I have not forgotten this little bit of space, only that I have been unable to log on for this while. I should be back at a fairly decent pace now.
To those of you who have been showing interest in the read-alongs I am hosting, welcome! I am very excited to be reading with you all in 2017. I shall have a starting post for each come January. Until then I hope you are all having a lovely end-of-2016 week!!:)

Thursday, 8 December 2016

I am reading the entire Bible and some Christian non-fiction in 2017.

Becky over at Operation Actually Read Bible is hosting three challenges that fall in with my reading plans for 2017, so I have decided to sign-up for them. 

Cloud of Witnesses Challenge - Where we read works of Christians of the past. This list may grow.
  1. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
  2. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
  3. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  4. Paradise Lost by John Milton 

Operation Deepen Faith 2017: Christian Non-Fiction - Where we read any kind of Christian non-fiction. I am sticking with books by Christians who are still alive, so as to distinguish this challenge from the previous one.

  1. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi
  2. The Real Face of Atheism by Ravi Zacharias
  3. Chopped, Sprinkled and Ready to Serve: Spiritual Memoirs by Anita Lazarus 

Operation Deepen Faith 2017: Wonderful Words of Life - Where we simply read the Bible setting our own pace and limit.

Back to the Classics in 2017

I've been waiting for this challenge to come up! I've decided to stick with 6 categories for now. I don't want to make too much of a commitment, you see. However, I do have books in mind for 3 more categories should I find I have finished this lot early. So, to the list!

Click on the banner to get to the host site.

2.  A 20th Century Classic -  Asterix the Gaul by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo

4.  A classic in translation - The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Matsuo Basho 

5.  A classic published before 1800 - Cymbeline by William Shakespeare

7.  A Gothic or horror classic - The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

8.  A classic with a number in the title - Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome

10. A classic set in a place you'd like to visit - The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

I have tried to put down titles that will not overlap with books planned for other challenges. With too much overlapping I suspect the challenges become rather pointless, don't you think? I suppose the one challenge that will definitely overlap with others is the Mount TBR one that I have already signed up for on Goodreads. But then there does have to be an exception to every rule, so...yep!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Not really my top ten, but my top two this year, so far...

Click on the picture to go to the host site.

So, which new authors did I discover this year whom I have decided belong to my favourites list?

Only two come to mind:

1. Lindsay Buroker with her The Emperor's Edge series and The Fallen Empire series. The latter being one I am in the middle of reading right now. I am enjoying her characters, snarky banter, and action-packed novels. The first book in her The Empire's Edge series is free on Amazon.

2. Matsuo Basho, Japan's Shakespeare. I absolutely loved the translation I read of his The Narrow Road to the Deep North. It is a beautiful travelogue, and the haiku sometimes sent a shudder of delight through me. 

Apart from these two, I discovered a great many authors this year (which is actually quite unusual for me), but none others that I particularly care to mention under a list of favourites.

Have you read any new authors this year? Would you recommend them? What types of books do they write? Which one would you recommend I read?

On shoe flowers: a haibun

A photo taken by Chevrefeuille.
Heeding Haiku with Chevrefeuille - In which
we write a haibun based on the given photograph.
Hibiscus sounds rather boring, doesn't it? Back when I was a wee lass running about our neighbourhood in a smocking frock and sniffing the flowers, the shoe flower, as we love calling it, always beckoned me. I loved their colours -- yellow, red, pink. They burst open onto our front yard from the neighbouring plot, and often, when my adventurous cousin came to visit, we would snatch one off the plant and run. I didn't have much hair back then (not that I do so now either) but it was definitely a flower I liked to tuck in behind my ear while traipsing about. I always thought, when I had a home of my own, I would grow a shoe flower plant. However, I have yet to realise that thought. I don't really have green fingers, you see. It would likely wither away and die under my careless ministrations. My husband always says I torture my plants by showing them immense love for awhile and then neglecting them for a while longer. Sounds dreadful. But he looks after them. However, he isn't one for flowers; it's the leafy plants that survive in my little apartment. But some day I will grow a shoe flowering plant.

a thought, a dream
that slowly but surely blooms
in a red shoe flower

Friday, 2 December 2016

I suspect this might be my first Sci-Fi novel...

... and there are two reasons why I picked it up:

  1. one of the tasks for a challenge I am participating in asks that we read a sci-fi novel
  2. this one was by Lindsay Buroker
- action-packed, humorous,
adrenalin-pumping -
4/5 on Goodreads
I discovered Lindsay Buroker sometime around the beginning of this year. I was just looking for some good fantasy and happened upon her Emperor's Edge series on Amazon that had rave reviews. I took a chance on what she called her high fantasy, steampunk novels and I found I couldn't put them down until I was done with the last one. It was fast-paced and action-packed. But most of all I enjoyed her characters. So when the challenge task called for a science fiction novel, I thought of Buroker's Fallen Empire series. 

Star Nomad is the first of the lot, and fairly short with just under 250 pages. As I have come to expect of Buroker, it is a blur of action right from the very first page. Alisa Marchenko is a former Alliance pilot who is trying to get back to her little daughter after the war. She salvages and fixes her old ship, the Star Nomad and with her engineer, a former imperial cyborg, her hired bodyguard who loves to barbecue, and a couple of unsuspecting but interesting passengers, she sets off into space and finds herself heading straight into trouble after trouble after trouble...

If you're not a fan of action, this can get quite exasperating. However, it does set your adrenaline pumping, and your eyes can't help but move swiftly across the pages. As I mentioned before, one of Buroker's strengths is her characterisation. However, I felt rather let down with this book when I found Alisa was an almost exact replica of Amaranthe (the lead protagonist in The Emperor's Edge series). They both have a cleanliness fetish; they both talk nineteen to the dozen and a lot worse when they're feeling nervous or afraid; they both have the exact same sense of humour (which is quite disorienting when you've moved from the other series into this one); they both have a soft heart; and they both have a thing for men with steely dispositions. Only the frills are altered to suit circumstances and the genre. But at their core these two women are essentially the same character. 

However, once I told myself to stop comparing and contrasting the two protagonists of these two series,  I was able to get into the book and enjoy it. The mining ships reminded me of the Romulans from Star Trek, and what do you know? The author admits to being greatly influenced by that television series when she came up with this part of her plot. Like I said in the title, this is my first sci-fi novel, not counting dystopian fiction, so I cannot compare it to others of the genre. However, I have seen a few sic-fi movies, and think Star Nomad works fairly well within this genre.

Have you heard of Lindsay Buroker? Or are you into Sci-fi? Would you like to give this series a try?...In case you do, I suggest your first read The Emperor's Edge series. Not that you need to in order to read the Fallen Empire, merely that it came first. :D

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

What is not to like in a Literary Christmas?

I was just mentioning over at Hamlette's blog how only this morning I was reminded of the couple of books I had planned to read during the Christmas season. I thought it would be nice if there was some challenge around... not that I need a challenge to read them, but to be a part of a group that is specifically doing some Christmassy reading. 

Well, it would appear that this fleeting wish has come true as The Girl in the Bookcase is hosting A Literary Christmas. It is only required that you read at least one seasonal book and share it with other participants. Easy peasy.

A Literary Christmas: 2016 Reading Challenge //

So, I've decided I am in with the following:

1. This is a little treasure I picked up for a song at a little bookstore over a year ago. It is a collection of three christmas stories  by Louisa May Alcott -- a "newly discovered literary treasure". It's a tiny book, no more than 122 pages long.

2.  A good friend of my leant me this book earlier this month. He picked it up believing this was the sort of thing that was bound to capture my interest. And he is right!  It is a family advent reader, and I am so looking forward to it.

3.  I only just discovered this at the blog of the hostess. She has this in her reading list, and I thought it sounded very interesting. It looks to be a short read as well -- about 160 pages. I would like to be able to finish this one as well.

Are any of these titles familiar to you? Have you anything planned solely for Christmas?

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

What I am reading in 2017.

2017 is fast approaching and it has been three years since I last made a bookish list for the new year. I am not looking to join many reading challenges. I am currently in the middle of one with my best friend, and even that one I am not entirely sure I will be able to complete given my recent reading trend. However, I would like to finish about fifteen to twenty categories on the list of thirty. I am also looking forward to seeing what categories are up for Back-to-the-Classics 2017, and I just might join the Deal Me In challenge as well. Neither of them is up as yet.

So, while I am waiting for these challenges to pop up, I decided to make a TBR list of my own for 2017. I did, for a few brief hours, toy with the idea of running my own non-fiction reading challenge and Shakespearean reading challenge, but dropped the idea when I thought of the amount of commitment it would require. It is not a commitment I am willing to make since flexibility in reading whatever I want to whenever I want to is upper most on my mind.

This list is subject to change, mostly due to additions. 

  1.  Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome
  2. Keeping the Jewel in the Crown: The British Betrayal of India by Walter Reid
  3. The South Asian Papers: A Critical Anthology of Writings by Stephen Philip Cohen
  4. The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan
  5. The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches by Matsuo Basho
  6. Beginning French by Marty Neumeier (NetGalley)
  7. Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood by Jan Marsh (NetGalley)
  8. The Faith of William Shakespeare by Graham Holderness (NetGalley)
  9. How Shakespeare Put Politics on the Stage by Peter Lake (NetGalley)
  10. In Xanadu by William Dalrymple
  11. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
  12. My Husband and Other Animals by Janaki Lenin
  13. Rain in the Mountains: Notes from the Himalayas by Ruskin Bond
  14. Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow: A Book for an Idle Holiday by Jerome K. Jerome
  15. A Book of English Essays by Emrys Williams
  16. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
  17. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi
  18. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  19. The Real Face of Atheism by Ravi Zacharias
  20. Chopped, Sprinkled and Ready to Serve: Spiritual Memoirs by Anita Lazarus
  21. The Holy Bible (KJV following the Legacy Reading Plan ) 
  1. Paradise Lost by John Milton (read-along)
  2. On Love and Barley by Matsuo Basho
  3. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
  4. Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Llew Wallace (re-read)
  5. The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery (re-read)
  6. Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (re-read) (read-along)
  7. Jack and Jill by Louisa May Alcott (re-read)
  8. The Hobbit (graphic novel) by J. R. R. Tolkien (re-read)
  9. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis (re-read)
  1. Cymbeline
  2. Timon of Athens
  3. All's Well that Ends Well (the only one of Shakespeare's plays that Shaw liked)
  4. Coriolanus
  5. Troilus and Cressida
  6. Love's Labour's Lost

Saturday, 26 November 2016

If I were to describe myself with three fictional characters, who would they be?

This is a question that was posed by goodreads on twitter a couple of months ago. The first name that came to mind was Elinor Dashwood from Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility. The second to follow almost immediately was Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. It took me a long while to figure out who the third one would be. I have to admit to scoring through the 'my books' pages for inspiration when my eye fell upon The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. Ferdinand the Bull is so very me! And the more I think about it the more I identify with Ferdinand of the three fictional characters that describe me. How? I'm going to spend the next few minutes enjoying dissecting these characters in relation to my character.

Like Elinor Dashwood I value common sense
and am quite practical in my approach
to things.
The first on the list is a character I quite admire for her common sense. I am like Elinor Dashwood in that I am very practical in my nature and outlook. Sentiment very rarely plays a part in decision-making. This is, not to say, that I have no sensibility at all. Merely that I am able to look at things objectively and not let them get to me. I do not look for meanings behind things and words that aren't meant to be there. It makes no sense to read between the lines when there were not any lines to be read in-between in the first place! 

Just to make it a little clearer, I shall take a bookish example. I have a rather analytical mind that takes much pleasure in gleaning things out that do not easily settle on the surface. However, I am not curious by nature. So, when I sense that things are meant to be a certain way I don't go looking for alternatives because it just becomes a superfluous task. So, taking the example of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, many have studied it, looking for religious undertones and parallelisms in connection real world scenarios and politics. I find these studies quite pointless when the author himself has so explicitly and clearly stated that his work was never meant to be allegorical or didactic in any way. It was meant for pure entertainment. As a person writing a story it would be only natural that his story and writing would be greatly influenced by his personal background and experiences. Therefore, I wouldn't bother trying to read anything beyond what Tolkien had meant for his readers to experience. Again, this is not to say that I don't see the influences and parallelisms because my trained analytical mind cannot help it. However, I don't waste my time dwelling upon it. On the other hand, give me a piece heavy with allusions, allegory and what have you, I will have a wonderful time dissecting it until there is nothing left. I get my kicks out of it. 

But the long and short of it is that, like Elinor, I am able to view things objectively enough to understand what the opposite party is actually saying or not saying. Enough so I very rarely take offence at anything that is said to me, and I can think fairly clearly, even when I am personally affected by something. However, unlike Elinor, I am not the sort of person to hold back and to keep things hidden. For the most part, I am an open book. 

Like Hermione Granger I am a stickler for rules, love responsibility,
am cautious, hate getting into trouble, and stand up for those
who find it difficult to speak for themselves.
Speaking of books, that is not the exact reason why I identify with Hermione Granger. If the bookworm aspect was the only reason I chose her, I could have chosen any number of other characters. However, Hermione Granger and I have something else in common -- our cautious natures that absolutely dislike breaking the rules and getting into trouble. I believe that rules are there for a purpose. Breaking the rules often leaves a precedent for something more unsavoury. I also hate getting into trouble. I have also seen myself as a leader right from the time I was a little girl bossing over the tough guys in class. And much like Hermione and the elves I have been something of a champion for those unable to defend themselves. 

I recall, back when I was a little girl dressed in smocking frocks, cycling around the neighbourhood with my little sister and cousins. I was always the voice of reason and caution. My older cousin led us all right into trouble (she was the insanely adventurous one and my little sister was her side-kick), and I would have to be the one who hauled us all back out of it with a sound, "I told you so! and I don't know why I am wasting my time with you!" I sound like quite the wet blanket, don't I? I pretty much do the same even now, though I have learnt to hold my tongue about the 'I told you so' part! 

I was also the girl mammas trusted their little girls with. Back in school (I studied in an all-girls convent for most of my school-going years), when any gang of friends wanted to go out mothers wouldn't think twice about saying yes if they knew I was tagging along too. It got to a point when I was invited because others wouldn't be allowed unless I was in. It, quite naturally, annoyed me. I told them I was not a chaperone, and I preferred spending my free time reading a good book or talking books and music with a good friend, thank you very much! Much like Hermione! 

Like Ferdinand the Bull I love silence and my own company,
I have a great deal of patience until I am stung, then
I have a temper to put fear in the hearts of all who behold me!
However, I really am a person who enjoys her own company, just like Ferdinand the Bull. He is a kindred spirit, is Ferdinand. All he loved to do all day was sit under his favourite tree in the meadow and smell the flowers. I could do it too. Spend the whole day smelling the salty sea air, or the freshly wet earth after a sudden shower of rain, or the crisp scent of new paper, or the musty one of yellowed pages, anything really that can send my senses into overdrive. I could sit curled up on a chair with a book, or a paper and pen, or a running programme or simply just sit and dream, and not pine for company at all. I appreciate the silence. 

Every now and then a fly could buzz by and I would gaze at it in a daze and swish it away with a nonchalant hand. (Ferdinand would do so gracefully with his tail.) But a sudden bee sting can make me a raging bull and have fascinated people hustling me into an arena, and like Ferdinand I could stand there wondering,"eh!?" And then I would see a book, and dash over to wonder and gasp and exclaim and settle down for a read, with an entire arena going wild with bewildered fury. They would ship me right back home then, where I could sit under my favourite tree in the meadow smelling the flowers. A cow would join me then, sitting gently beside me and smelling the flowers; and after we had smelt the flowers together for days on end, I would turn to gaze upon her and smell the flowers on her. And she would look at me with a lazy smile, and we would smell the flowers together forever. (By the way, the cow is my husband. We are one heck of a laid-back couple; it is often cause for a good laugh among family and friends.)

And so there we have it; three fictional characters that describe me. What are the three fictional characters you would say defines you? 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

"Paradise Lost" and "The Lord of the Rings": Two books I am looking forward to reading through 2017.

Come 2017 these are the two books I intend taking in small doses throughout the year:

I had read Book IX of Paradise Lost back in college, and it was beautiful. Yet I have not been able to get around to reading all twelve books as I have always struggled through epic verses. It is not that I don't understand what I read, merely that prose sticks better with me. However, I am determined to read Paradise Lost and have so decided to imbibe it bit by bit. I shall, therefore, be stretching it out over the entire year -- one book per month. 

If you would like to join me, welcome! I would be delighted to read it with you. I am hoping to post a little something after each book at the end of each month. But I don't intend making it a 'have to'.

January - Book I
February - Book II
March - Book III
April - Book IV
May - Book V
June - Book VI
July - Book VII
August - Book VIII
September - Book IX
October - Book X
November - Book XI
December - Book XII

Now, where The Lord of the Rings is concerned, it has been many years since I last read it, and I've been meaning to re-read it for a long while. Nearly two years ago I bought myself a slipcase edition that has split the novel into its seven separate parts. I have decided to read a book a month starting from January 2017 through July 2017. I would love to write about each book after I am done. But again, I am not going to make it compulsory for myself, because the moment I do so I am bound not to! If you would like to join me in this relaxed re-reading of The Lord of the Rings I would be happy to have some company.

The Fellowship of the Ring
January - Book One: The Ring Sets Out
February - Book Two: The Ring Goes South

The Two Towers
March - Book Three: The Treason of Isengard
April - Book Four: The Ring Goes East

The Return of the King
May - Book Five: The War of the Ring
June - Book Six: The End of the Third Age
July - Appendices

It would be wonderful if I could stick to this schedule and complete these two books! 

Sunday, 20 November 2016

In which I have a go at a Period Drama Tag.

 I discovered this one at Hamlette's Soliloquy. I thought it would be fun to look back at the period movies I have watched over the years and see what answers I can come up with.

At the very outset, I would like my readers to know that it has been ages and ages since I have watched movies and series. Much of my favourites date back to movies from the golden years of Hollywood. I have discovered that many of them are based on books which I later read. If I were to compare them then, I would want to tear my hair out, because you don't recognise the movie in the book and vice-versa. However, on their own, these movies are lovely. 

1. What's your favourite period drama movie?
This is a very difficult one to answer. I've decided to go for one I have watched a countless number of times: Ben-Hur.

2. What's your favourite period drama series?
This one is easy, as I believe I have only ever watched one of these completely. Pride and Prejudice.

3. Which period drama do you dislike the most?
May I say all the follow-up series in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise?

4. Anne of Green Gables or Little Dorrit?
Anne of Green Gables by default.

5. Your favourite period drama dresses?
Dresses like the one below that Audrey Hepburn wears for her character, Natasha in War and Peace.

6. Who is your favourite period drama character? (Pick five.)
I think I'm going with just three.

a. Joe March from Little Women

Katherine Hepburn in the 1933 version

June Allyson in the 1949 version

Winona Ryder in the 1994 version

b. Robin Hood

Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

Cary Elwes in Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993) -
A spoof mostly based on the 1991 version below.

Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

c. Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice

Greer Garson in the 1940 version

Jennifer Ehle in the 1995 version

Keira Knightley in the 2005 version
- She's probably the least Elizabeth-ish of all the
actors who have played this character.
She lacks that twinkle in the eye,
but she is still very pretty!

7. If you could join a royal ball which dress would you wear? (Pick a period drama dress.)
My pick is from Faerie Tale Theatre's Cinderella. (It's the white dress on the right.)

I couldn't find a picture with only the dress on the right. It's beautiful! The dress on the left is golden and I loved it as a child; always wanted a golden dress because of this one. However, as an adult, my choice would be the white one on the right. I am not able to get a better picture to show the full length of the dress, but the material looks chiffon-y and gorgeous. 

8. What is your favourite Jane Austen movie?
Another easy one -- Sense & Sensibility (1995).

9. Downtown Abbey or Call the Midwife?

10. Sybil Crawley, Jenny Lee, Emma Woodhouse or Marian of Knighton?
Emma Woodhouse by default. I haven't a clue who the others are!

On a side note, the dresses in this version are incredibly pretty!

11. Which couples of a period drama do you like the most? (Pick at least four.)
I haven't the foggiest idea about this one. Sure, I like my share of sweet romance. It makes a story sparkle. But I'm not much into what they call shipping. In most of the movies I have watched it has always been quite obvious who the lovebirds are right from the start. I've just taken all the romance for granted. I really don't have the stamina to apply my brain to this one. I love them all!

12. And last, which period villain do you like the most?
I think this is a toss between Yul Brynner's Pharaoh in The Ten Commandments and Mel Ferrer's Marquis de Maynes in Scaramouche.

Brynner's Pharaoh is a powerful character, so full of hate and revenge without being overly dramatic. He is very believable in this role.

This Marquis de Maynes has a certain sensitivity about him -- vulnerability in spite of his villainy. He's a grey character. (And he looks like a he could be a hero in one of Georgette Heyer's Georgian Romances!)

Well, this post took ages! But it was so much fun. 

I am not tagging anyone. It is just something I discovered and had a go at. If you're going to go ahead and do this, please do let me know in the comments below. I would love to check out your answers!!

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Japan through the eyes of legend and antiquity.

My journey on the narrow road to the deep north is going slow. But it is a beautiful journey. Only recently I said a little about it here. But even as I am reading Lesley Downer's account of how she followed Matsuo Basho's path into the north of Japan, I find myself stopping constantly to take notes. 

Only a few months ago I read a translated version of The Narrow Road to the Deep North. For the uninitiated, it is a travelogue by the most celebrated poet of Japanese literature, Matsuo Basho. The travelogue is documented in the form of haibun, short passages of prose interspersed with haiku (a seventeen-syllable form of Japanese poetry). It is a very short tra
velogue; it number about fifty pages or less. But I took my time with it for it was worth savouring slowly and patiently. 

As I said, this was a few months ago. Now, I am reading Downer's attempt at following the path the old poet took over three centuries before, and I am plunged back into Matsuo Basho's time. It feels like I am travelling three different paths at the very same time. This is a travelogue that moves three dimensionally (for want of a better word). In reading Basho's work we are taken so much further back into Japanese history as Basho lives in his present. We feel the ancient ghosts of old Japan keenly through Basho's writing as he reminisces and considers the heroes and legends of old. 

Downer writes, 
Basho's purpose, I was beginning to realise, was a poetic one. While I wanted to see Ezo country, the farmers and peasants of the far north, Basho was visiting places which had inspired poets in the past. Many poets had written about these places, but few actually visited them; and Basho's aim was to revive his poetic spirit by seeing the places themselves. 
'Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought', he wrote.   (Location: 749)
And now, through Downer's journey we get to see the Japan of the late 1900s, of the mid-1600s, and the Japan of ancient legend as she constantly quotes Basho, and leads the reader back to the poet's feelings and opinions about the places she visits. 

Downer not only visits the places Basho went to, but makes a particular effort to go see the things Basho went to see - memorial stones, old castles, old temples that hold things of legend, and other things of this kind. And with each of these places and artefacts comes a history of the places and these things. Downer is thorough as the legends come to life on my kindle pages. I feel my heart beat with excitement and a sense of awe. I suppose the fact that I enjoy watching Japanese anime and reading Japanese manga that deal with Japanese history makes these legends all the more fascinating.

I am only 21% into the book, but so far I have revisited, with Downer, the barrier at Shirakawa, and have seen the satchel of Benkei who was the legendary Yoshitsune's companion, the Tsubo stone, and Matsushima -- the last an archipelago described exquisitely in Basho's travelogue and which, Downer informs us, has never been described in poetry by poets for words were never enough.

As you can tell, I am enjoying this exquisite trip On the Narrow Road to the Deep North. The antiquity of the whole journey is perhaps the most thrilling part about it. And so I think it fitting to end this post with both Basho's and Downer's words:
 'Mountains crumble, rivers change their course, new roads replaced old, stones are buried and vanish into the earth and old trees yield to saplings. Time passes, one era replaces the next, and we cannot be certain that anything of them will remain. But here before my eyes was a monument which without a doubt had stood for a thousand years, through which I could see into the hearts of the men  of old. This, I thought, makes travel worthwhile and is one of the joys of being alive, and forgetting the pains of the journey, I wept for joy.' 
That was one of the things I was looking for too, some feeling of 'seeing into the hearts of the men of old'. Basho himself had become one of the 'men of old'. Three hundred years before he had been following in their footsteps -- and now here was I, following in his. And what for him had been reality, the prosaic present, had now slipped as inexorably into the past and disappeared as completely as the age of chivalry, the romantic era of Yoshitsune and Sakanoue-no-Tamuramaro.      (Location: 1004)

The Harry Potter Book Tag

Whitney over at First Impression Reviews, is hosting a Harry Potter Blogathon this week. This is in celebrated anticipation of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. She put a tag for anyone who would like to answer the questions.

Before I begin doing so, I would like to post a disclaimer. I grew up with Harry Potter, and so it has been nearly fifteen years since I last read the books. It has been only a little less than that since I last watched a movie. Therefore, my memory is quite clouded over or mixed up, quite often unable to distinguish between facts of the books and those in the movies. 

So, having said that, here goes!

1. Favourite book?
I have re-read the entire Harry Potter series only once. The Chamber of Secrets and Deathly Hallows were the only ones that got an extra re-read. Does that make them my favourites? Hmmm....

2. Least favourite book?
The Prisoner of Azkaban. I believe even when I was doing that first re-read of Harry Potter, this book was the one I quickly skimmed through. I am not entirely sure why I dislike it. There was something about the atmosphere in this book that put me off. It was a favourite with both my mom and sister, though! The Order of the Phoenix was rather slow, but I found I liked it better the second time around. 

3. Favourite movie?
It would have to be the first one! -- The Philosopher's Stone. It was so, so magical! It was such a fantastic experience. The whole world was new, and I enjoyed discovering it with Harry. It was like reading the book for the first time. The Chamber of Secrets is a very close second.

4. Least favourite movie?
I don't really know. I probably didn't care very much for The Goblet of Fire after the World Cup series. It was certainly very well done. But this is the one I would be least interested in re-watching. 

5. Favourite quotation?

6. Favourite Weasley?
I don't know... Arthur? Molly? Bill?... Bill is quite cool, actually, although we don't really read/see much of him.  The twins are such fun too! Really... I don't know!

7. Favourite female character?
This seems quite an unfair is difficult not to say Hermione. But I'm going to pick another besides her -- Luna Lovegood!!...the movie Luna is firmly in my mind. She was perfect for the role. 

8. Favourite villain?
Rita Skeeter ... I love to hate her more than I do Umbridge!

9. Favourite male character?
Probably Harry. Though I am quite fond of Neville as well. 

10. Favourite professor?
I really like Prof. McGonagall.  I like her stern shell that hides a soft heart. I like her practical mind and her tendency to be as impartial as possible. She's a great, all-round teacher!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

My ten all-time movie favourites!

Top Ten Favourite Movies @ The Broke and Bookish


  1. Ben-Hur -- I hadn't reached my teen years yet when I watched this movie. It wowed me, and I have seen it so many times since then. I think what gets me all the time is the powerful acting by Charleton Heston and Steven Boyd. The rest of the story is also beautiful, and it is the reason why I finally read the book. 
  2. The Lord of the Rings -- This movie trilogy was incredible! I cannot describe the thrill that coursed through me when I watched it on screen. I have to admit, at this point, that I haven't watched The Fellowship of the Ring on the large screen. I was too scared at the time to go view it because I wasn't sure it could live up to the book. However, when I read the rave reviews and my best friend endorsed it, I quickly caught up with it on DVD before going to the theatre for the second one. This trilogy might have skipped a lot, and taken a wee bit of liberty here and there with the plot and characters, but I think Jackson got the essence of Tolkien's Middle-Earth down pat.
  3. The Age of Innocence -- There was something about this movie that moved me. I cannot pin-point what it is exactly. I only know that it impressed itself upon my senses and I loved it. It was because of this I finally tried the book. But I'm sorry to say, for me, this was one of those instances with the movie made a way better impression than the book.
  4. My Fair Lady -- I have watched this a countless number of times, and I still never tier of it. I find something new to enjoy and love about this movie each time I view it. As a child I loved Eliza. As an adult my favourite parts have to be the conversations that involve Higgins, Eliza's father, and Col. Pickering. 
  5. Equilibrium -- This is a dystopian movie starring Christian Bale. I enjoyed the symmetry and precision of the movie as well as the story line. It is a cult movie, and every time it came on television my sister and I would watch it.
  6. Batman Begins -- I just enjoyed this background set-up of Batman. It was convincing, the music was great, and I liked the cinematography.
  7. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl -- This doesn't need much explanation, does it? Period drama. Fantastic music. Great acting. Swashbuckling story-line. I didn't like the subsequent movies in the franchise, but this one is all time favourite. 
  8. The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982 version) -- Of all the movies mentioned on this list, this one is the most recent I have watched. I thought it a lovely representation of Orczy's most loved 'superhero'. Anthony Andrews is a splendid Sir Percy Blakeney / Scarlet Pimpernel.
  9. Sense & Sensibility (1995 version) -- I thought this a very charming adaptation of Austen. This was a case of watching the movie before the book, and I believe I like both the book and the movie equally well. 
  10. The Crimson Pirate -- It's been nearly a couple of decades since I last saw this one. But I remember it with so much fondness. I've spent many a pleasurable hour re-watching this and laughing my butt off the chair! I haven't been able to locate a copy of this Lancaster movie even in this time of the internet. I hope to some day! 

Sunday, 13 November 2016

The Whistler in the Wind: a powerful story that still continues.

The Whistler in the Wind,
kshay Rajkumar.
India: Ten Letter Word, 2014.
304 pp.
It was this cover and title together that caught my attention. I hadn't heard of The Whistler in the Wind until that moment. I had no clue what it was about. All I knew was that I had found it listed under the 'Christian' category on Amazon, and that the title was intriguing enough for me to wonder what it was all about. A glance through the blurb, however, rang a bell. 

It turned out, this was a biography of a well-known and respected man of God from my hometown. He was once a Brahmin who had been challenged to read the Bible. He had gone into it with a strong desire to disprove the claims of his Christian friend. But what happened instead was a slow and amazing transformation in the life of Rajkumar Ramachandran. 

This book has been written for people who are mostly familiar with Dr. Ramachandran. For someone like me, who has heard sermons by him for many years, The Whistler in the Wind satisfies a curiosity about a convert who is passionate for the Lord, and who can quote any verse from the Bible. How did a man brought up in another belief system, and who belonged to a normal and happy family, come to desire God and find Him? How has God used him since the conversion? 

Dr. Ramachandran: father
Akshay Rajkumar, Dr. Ramachandran's son, lays it all out there for the reader. He begins with a miracle mid-way through Dr. Ramachandran's career as an evangelist. From there Akshay Rajkumar takes us back and forth, weaving through his father's history as the reader is drawn further into the immense faith and journey of this man and his family. We learn of the man he was back in his college days, his marriage to the love of his life, his family, his hopes and dreams, his conversion that leads him all over the world, into incredible supernatural instances that time and time again show the power of the true, living God working constantly and tirelessly in a world that is blinded by darkness.

It is an incredible read, made all the more pleasurable in the lyrical tone and quality it takes on. Akshay Rajkumar has written this biography in the third person, and has served up a literary piece. He switches between timelines so easily and effortlessly. He drops little of cliff-hanger gems --questions here and there -- and gives the reader time to ponder over them before coming back to them with an end, an answer. 

Akshay Rajkumar: son
Perhaps my favourite chapter is the one titled "One More Thing". This is the chapter about Dr. Ramachandran's conversion, and it isn't a superficial telling. It goes deep into the evangelist's mind, sorting through his fears and doubts and bewilderment. All his questions are laid bare. And then the answers, bit by bit, surely and truly and clearly, come to light. For a person seeking to understand about the living God that the Christians serve, this chapter is the best introduction. He voices questions that are common to the reasoning individual. But he also understands, unlike many today, that there is an unseen force, that there is a God. And that is a huge hurdle to be crossed that he did not have to deal with before his questioning began.

This is an honest book. It reveals the pain and suffering that comes from being an evangelist who has barely any time for his family. The writer is frank about what his father's popularity did to him and his mother. But, he acknowledges that he too is on a journey of his own; he too had to come to terms with understanding who God was as a Person, and not just as the God his father served faithfully and unwaveringly. Akshay Rajkumar is a theologian in his own right now, and his ministry is through the written word.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes reading Christian biographies, who has heard of 'Jesus' but doesn't understand the 'why' of it all, and to those who want to rejoice in the amazingness of the living God.