Sunday, 14 December 2014

Have you ‘Book’ed your holidays yet?!

Image Courtesy- Shutterstock

The holiday season is near, and I am sure everyone has a plan at the back of their minds, be it a holiday with family, venturing out with friends or a silent holiday doing their favourite things. As kids, it used to be our (my sister’s and mine) much loved holiday, more so because our Mum would bake a cake for us, and we would assume that Santa would give us gifts as always, whatsoever! As Christmas would creep closer, we would start anticipating our gifts for the year. The one kind, which we got repeatedly, and which have heavily encouraged our reading habit, were books.  We just went excited at the sight of them, and with much fondness I say, I have still preserved them as our Christmas memories.

So with those memorabilia moments, I bring to you a list of books which could make your holiday worthwhile if you plan to tuck in your blanket with a book, if you need a companion for travel or if you are looking for a bookish gift.

These books won the Goodreads Choice awards 2014:
  • Landline by Rainbow Rowell (Fiction)
  • Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Mystery and Thriller)

Personal Favorites:

  • To kill a mocking bird by Harper Lee- A timeless classic!
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen- Something more than only cult romance
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn- A page turner to keep you well engaged
  • The Hungry Tide and Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh (Fiction)

Image Courtesy- Shutterstock

Hunger Games (Fantasy) – Now that the second part - Mockingjay is also out, it’s a must read for those who follow the series.

For sports enthusiasts and Sachin Tendulkar fans, the autobiography would do complete justice.  Also a new release, grab your copy now to know this legend inside out in Sachin Tendulkar’s Playing it My Way.

Hippos Go Berserk will make a great gift for your little one as the kid learns to count travelling through a funny story about hippos, and you might enjoy reading it along with him/her.

Pick Wodehouse for the ultimate humour.

Unlike me, many prefer reading e-books, so Kindle could make a great gift for those ‘bookaholic’ loved ones.

I hope this list will make your holidays merrier, until we return with some more book reviews and ideas.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Railonama - Unforgettable train stories by Anupama Sharma

My memories of trains travel several years back into childhood and college days, just like everyone else’s probably do. Those were the days when I travelled annually, sometimes even more frequently, and a rail journey was not only the most convenient and financially viable mode, but also eagerly anticipated. I regained that excitement back again after 5 years when I took a train journey with my husband almost a year back. It was totally enthralling and full of all the usual fun filled moments, from sipping the extra sweet tea to playing cards. These memorabilia moments added up to the enthusiasm of reviewing Railonama.

What made me want to get my hands on this book was its name- Railonama, and as I love to travel, I was sure something in this travelogue would interest me. When I started reading, I knew for the fact, the anecdotes might connect to a train journey and cover up tiny things like hurriedly catching a train, waiting for the TTE to confirm your RAC ticket or sipping on to a varied tea cuppa which changes with every other station, and to my bewilderment, I have found each element present. The stories are diverse; some are very emotional and make you feel connected, some funny and light hearted and some simply bizarre. To break the monotony of the narratives, there are poems, short but conveying something very tender, that you feel amazed of how perfectly a feeling has been wrapped up in some lines. 

I surely have some favorites this time too, not characters, but the stories. 'Morning magic', filled me up with the exact feeling of how I would want my train mornings to be, it was descriptive enough to shift me in that zone where I actually understood what the feeling would be like if my mornings were as perturbed as that of Renuka'A very special passenger' left me patriotically excited at the thought of seeing Mahatma Gandhi. Just when I was reading through the pages, in my sub-conscious mind I thought- how come there is no story about an army man- and there it was- a calm army personnel taking a long journey to Ahmedabad in 'The passenger to Ahmedabad' , having a different companion throughout the travel and the solitude when he gets off at his destination. 'The human face of the Indian Railways' totally showed me a mirror image of myself in Dilshad, who desperately waits for the tea vendor, and continuously keeps asking the attendants of his arrival. One such description was totally unbelievable -'A forgetful mind and unforgettable journeys'- I was amazed at how a particular journey earns you friends special enough to care and maintain the camaraderie throughout life. Leaving aside the Indian railways, the picture was well painted for the Mumbai locals too; the lifeline of the city, and it definitely reminded me of my days of travel in the bustling city. While these stories impressed me and I could connect to something or the other, some others left me completely blank, not because of the incidents but various other reasons- either the emotional quotient was missing, literary upbeat was required or they were less expressive. 'Jab we met' had a very sweet plot and I was looking forward to it but before I could start connecting to it, it ended, whereas I really wanted to read the expressive prose of it. Overall, while some stories have struck the right chords, some have disappointed as well, but the connection to the Indian Railways was apt throughout the book, which keeps the book on the right track.

I certainly recommend Railonama as it is a light read, but you will unquestionably find yourself connecting to it, and end up thinking in your mind- "Oh! This has happened to me." with a content smile, reminiscing your rail travel days. Anupama Sharma, the author, has excelled in trapping the appropriate emotions and sentiments towards Indian Railways in the form of stories, so the readers will associate more with the journey of reading the book, instead of reaching the end, and read from heart rather than mind. So, go grab your copy now!

It is good to have an end to the journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.

- Ernest Hemingway

With this note, I am looking forward to my rail journey which starts in next 2 days. Also, I will be happy to contribute if there is ever a sequel to #Railonama.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Gone Girl – Gyllian Flynn

I had not thought that I would review this book, but it persisted on the NY bestseller list at #1 position for months in a row, and this was enough to beckon me to read this pacer novel. Then the news about the upcoming movie adaptation spread like wildfire, and it proved to be one of the best movie adaptations of a novel. I loved both of them; however the movie did not stop me from completing the book. That’s the power it holds- to trap the reader.

So, I will start with the dynamic characters that are the heart and soul of the book and make the plot very well lit and gripping. First on, the protagonist Amy Elliot, an amazingly perfect woman, beauty with brains, obsessive and ‘disciplined’ in her actions, comes across as a very strong and dramatic character, her various faces and up-tones are successful enough to drag you in ‘her’ mode and you are forced to think what she wants you to think. She has a racer mind; she is an epitome of perfection, it makes you believe it is her game. Her loving husband, Nick Dunne, is a casual guy, not ideal with words or emotions, although he is a writer. His true temperament is captured when he is besides his twin sister Go (Margo) in the portrait, the camaraderie they share of frank, true-to-self yet loving siblings. Nick's casual behaviour is captured on the Polaroid when he is caught smiling with Amy’s poster at the conference, or clicking pictures with the volunteers who have offered to help find Amy. None other than Ellen Abbott (an ex-prosecuting attorney turned talk show host) sheds him into pieces for these careless acts on the part of a man whose wife is gone, with seemingly no concern whatsoever over her disappearance. And now, America is against this husband who is as normal as ever- quite unlikely for someone with a missing or murdered wife. Then there is Amy’s diary, with some dark secrets about her husband. Is Nick really what he shows himself as- an innocent loving husband trying to find his wife?

What did Nick and Amy do to their 5 year long marriage that Amy goes missing on their 5th Anniversary. Did Nick kill her? What happened to Amy? These are some questions whose answers you might find yourself seeking as you dig into the book. Amy’s disappearance brings into the picture a very smart police person Rhonda Boney. She is a sharp minded cop, intricately noticing and highlighting the details of the case. Seriousness is what her profession demands and she is smart-witted enough to extract the information she needs by hook or by crook to move the case forward. Another impactful character is Tanner, Nick’s lawyer. He’s an expert with his words, appearing in the second half of the story, but leaving a mark, so when you finish the book you’d remember him.

Why I lay emphasis on the characters more this time is, because for this mystery thriller book the plot could not be justified if it did not possess characters of such depth. While, Gyllian Flynn has done a commendable job with her words showcasing each persona as variably different, especially Amazing Amy; I can’t think of the imagination level she must have reached to create that perfect character which continuously allures you, it is entirely her presence which reflects in the book, and the reader is glued to it with only one question in mind- What is next in line? I was really impressed by the complex detailing of every scene, the upturning of events while keeping the mystery intact. It is a sign of a narrator who knows exactly what she has to give out to the readers.

This book will not only trap you in its thrill but will also give an insight of relationships, being obsessive, being cheated, being loved, not-being-perfect all the time, to communicate and sometimes to just let things be, a mature take on marriage, a perfect marriage gone wrong.

DO read the book, even if you watch the movie!

To know more about Gone Girl- the book, check out the Goodreads Interview with Gyllian Flynn.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Cutting Chai and Maska Pao- The way it is said in Mumbai Only

So its raining outside now, and what runs in my mind is a lovely brewed tea cuppa, the tea lover that I am..! And what I pen-down now is a coffee table book with a similar tempting name- Cutting Chai and Maska Pao. I just loved reviewing this one probably because of two reasons, the name dragged me totally in; and second, It features Mumbai at its best. Though well-acquainted with the city and Mumbai life, there are a lot of things I could relate to personally, and some which go in my Mumbai-bucket-list, and I want to definitely try.

It starts with the spicy Pav Bhaji , moves on to Irani Cafe's spread in South Mumbai, elaborates the chawls, unwinds the belief of nimbu-mirchi, and does not forget to include the most loved commuting means of the city, the BEST buses and the local trains, city lifeline, as they say!!

Like a perfect coffee table book, it does not make you monotonous at any point , and you can pick it up from where you left, as fresh in your mind. The pictures are beautiful and make the content more lively and explanatory. I am sure you might feel like getting a Bhel, or a Maska pao, generous with butter and a cup of tea to dip it in! The pictures are that tempting! 

The young talent, Mithila Mehta, Priya Sheth and Digantika Mitra, have shown a creative team work, in putting up a project which showcases the never sleeping, fast, dynamic and enigmatic Mumbai, clubbed in 100 pages! Thumbs up!

A must read for a Mumbaikar, to cherish all that their city offers and be proud of,for others to explore and a guide to who is new in the city. 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Half Girlfriend - Chetan Bhagat

Chetan Bhagat is the most loved author in India, and more so because Young India really looks forward to reading him. He created waves with his earlier novels, making people read and inspiring to write- as frequently said, he is the idol for many young boys and girls, and they want to write like ‘him’. This time, his book was even more eagerly awaited than his earlier ones thanks to all the pre-release hype and promotion. As such, I HAD to pick this one for my review!

Getting started, the first thing that caught my attention was the name. Long before the book got released, Half Girlfriend was in news and trending on twitter, and one of the biggest reasons for it was the name. It is a weird name- I had thought and wondered what kind of story lay hidden behind it. Upon reading the book, the name and the story attached to it got a ‘thumbs down’ from me. Bhagat has a peculiar style of writing, being simple with words and the flow, and use of more colloquial flair, which bonds to masses well, hence the fan following, but what has now become repetitive are his characters. I see Madhav, and it reminds me of Krish (of 2 States), a shy guy, questioning himself in girl-matters, giving a gaping expression on seeing a pretty girl, trying hard to make friends with her, and all of a sudden he is the girl’s favorite guy. Coming down to the pretty female we just talked about- she’s a perfect girl, with the most beautiful features, confident, and everything nice from the way she talks to the way she walks. Ananya was the same, don’t you think so? The meeting order has not changed- they meet, buddy-up and after some days, the girl lands up in the boys’ hostel and in the guy’s room. These are the anticipated set-sequences, not coming as something new and fresh.

What I was really looking forward to, was a mind-blowing plot with a heart and some solid new characters. The plot disappoints to a great extent- Bill Gates visiting Bihar!! Now really! The pre-releases emphasized on the English being the new caste-system, highlighting the rural-urban India, while the fact is appreciated that the rural India needs development on all fronts including English education, the plot reflected a minimalist approach towards the same. The whole plot looks like a chase-love story. I could foresee some emotional writing after the mid part completes, and a big climax opens up, but it fades with the way the plot moves ahead. And after that, you just want to get done with the book and make it rest on your book-shelf forever.

I would have loved to see a more matured love story, if it had to be one rather than a dwindling one. When I look back, I see 5 Point Someone giving me a lively look of college life with friends forever and the funny incidents which college people relate to, moreover emphasizing on some facets of career-planning and faults of our education system;  3 Mistakes Of My Life put me through a story of three different people, highlighting some serious issues and making some pertinent points as well, 2 States convinced me of a successful love story despite religious differences, but Half Girlfriend gives me nothing, there is no content which you can take back and keep in your mind once the book is over. India was waiting for Chetan Bhagat’s next but has he delivered the same rage which his books have done in the past? Not for me. It missed out being the bang-on flipbook- the wait was really not worth it.

India Today calls him the ‘Torch bearer’ of new India- yes, because he has the power to connect with the masses, with his audience, and his writing splurges it efficiently. The easy flow of the writing, not too heavy on your mind, lingual punches in between and a very honest way of putting words and framing sentences make him India’s most famous author, whose books are readable across all age groups and people with basic command over English. But then why not use this in a direction from which the youth can benefit, putting across something strong in an entertaining way, the way he has done before.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Animal Farm – George Orwell 

A couple of days back, after finishing Adultery, I got super busy with my new project at office. The entire day I was either on my toes or behind my computer digging into some training program, so by the end of the day I really missed something- reading. I was not even reading myself to sleep, and so I decided to pick up a short and interesting book, The Animal Farm (A fairy story). And it served its purpose.

Have you ever imagined animals talking? What would a pig say? How does a sheep react? Are donkeys really that dumb? Well, this little story about a farm will take your mind on an imagination trip, making you picture the scenes as you read. It’s like following a fun-routine. So there’s a farm loaded with animals- pigs, dogs, cat, cows, donkey, horses and more- and like any other farm, there is a master, Mr. Jones. The story revolves around a group of pigs who lead a revolt on Manor farm and chase Mr. Jones away because he is an evil master who just gives them sufficient food and water to survive. They say - ‘Four legs good, two legs bad’!

Napoleon and Snowball decide to take the responsibility of managing the farm. They are different, so are their ideas, and so are their methods to manage the rule on farm. While Snowball is a good morally upright pig, Napoleon is a dictator, narcissist and authoritative. His team runs on corrupt political power, the victims being the farm animals. The allegory here is that the story is based on the famous Russian Revolution of 1917. The characters fit really well in this drama and Orwell’s simplistic writing makes it even more impactful to measure not only the small story of the animal farm but gives us a bigger picture, like the use of political power to mould the victims by diplomatically telling them that this is for their benefit.

Orwell has painted the plot really well, keeping each animal-character in mind, and it is enthralling to see pigs talk like diplomats and leaders. The sequences of events fall wonderfully that make Snowball the culprit in the animal’s eyes. Squealer was a delight, little cute one with sharp mind games, playing his moves well. Whenever there is a change on the animal farm commanded by Napoleon, Squealer the pig would reach out to the masses and justify the same, telling the animals- It’s for your good and then adding overtly sentimental dialogues about how difficult it is to be a leader. Not even once did I feel that I am reading an animal-oriented book, the characters as animals, give us glimpses of human traits at various points in the scene- The commanding Napoleon, The animal’s guy Snowball, The sharp-minded Squealer, and the meek animals left with no choice but to agree to the superior and most of all- whatever the original nature of a man, it intends to change with power and greed.

It would have been fun to see some more dialogues though. It was pure narration, but a narration so straight that there was no beating around the bush with extra information and no dwelling of the plot, rather simply creative. I say creative, because visualizing a whole lot of animals and forming up a story from history is an innovative mind.

I would recommend this book for it will surely give you a playful reading experience, keeping you connected with the message George Orwell intends to pass via Animal Farm. (It surely is a fairy story)!!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Adultery – Paulo Coelho

I was quite excited when I ordered Adultery, because it looked like it was going to be one of Paulo’s best works after Alchemist. There were a couple of things which led me to think that way- the interview of Paulo Coelho with Goodreads after release, the female protagonist in drapes of infidelity and adultery and assumption of a pleasing climax (Which he succeeded in, to some degree). Not to forget... I loved the cover page!

So, as I mentioned earlier, the protagonist is a female in her thirties. Linda, a journalist by profession, runs a family with two kids and a wealthy, loving husband- in short a perfecto life. The pace builds up the character interestingly and keeps you glued to her persona. As a female, you might relate closely to a lot of points highlighted by her as her ‘problems’, and there are moments when you might feel ‘Oh! This happens to me too’. The pace drops once her husband’s politician friend comes into the picture and she runs into a dilemma after meeting him and exchanging physical intimacies. The story goes hay wire after that, looks directionless for a while until they confess their love for each other but are still in two minds about their relationship. Initially the novel looks and gives the feel of a story of a woman who is lost and wants to discover herself as a person and who she is (Which is actually what it should be), but irrationally it skips to infidelity and adultery. Knowing the tight spot she’s in, thinking of her family and her supportive husband, what choices will she make? Has she really discovered herself by taking the route which is ideally wrong and sinful?

Thursday, 21 August 2014

A Farewell to Arms- Ernest Hemingway

There’s a little story about what poked me to pick up this book to read and review. So here it goes: When I saw Silver Linings Playbook, I really loved Pat’s character (Bradley Cooper) and his first reaction to a leaflet he reads is fierce. That really got stuck in my head and I wondered which book it was. I loved the movie and I definitely wanted to read what Pat was reading. A Farewell to Arms has been on my reading list since then.

When you flip through the initial pages, you discover that the story is set in the backdrop of World War 1- the circumstances, the armies, worried viewpoint of army men, frightened civilians, and some inquisitive audience always wanting to be educated with the news at the front. Moving ahead, you will discover that it is not a war saga totally, rather it is a love affair set in those turbulent times. The novel is divided into five books, or rather parts. The first book introduces Frederic Henry, serving as a lieutenant in the ambulance corps of the Italian Army and Catherine Barkley, a British nurse. They realize their liking for each other and fall in love, but the lieutenant gets injured at the front and is sent to the hospital in Milan, Italy. Fate re-unites them again in Milan, with Catherine being sent to the same hospital in which Henry is recovering. They spend good time discovering their relationship and falling more in love each day and soon it is time for Frederic to return to the front. The characters have been defined as opposites- while the protagonist; Fred comes out as a bold war-repellant character, displaying his brutal honesty, Catherine is portrayed as a simple (sometimes funny with her dialects) lady passionate for her love. But, their conversations do not remind you of their peculiar personality traits; it rather convinces you of a deep and fervent relationship they share. But, does all go well, bearing in mind Fred comes from an army background in times of war? What happens upon his return to base? Does Fred escape from war unscathed? Is the couple able to have a peaceful reunion? What is that unacceptable moment which leaves Henry alone, stooping and walking in the rain? What is his pain? What is his loss?

I will not run around the plot this time, not the slightest idea for you! And moreover, rather than the plot, it is Hemingway’s writing- bringing a humane touch when speaking about war, describing the scenario in a very gallant manner, understated at a lot of times- which is the highlight of the book. He plays around mostly with dialogues and conversations, but not forgetting the sharp eyed details. It is not a very appealing writing for the masses who are reading Hemingway as their first. You might feel lost, but it is only after fourth section that you start relating to the characters, the design and the melancholy it brings ahead. It sinks in and leaves you with a heavy heart. 

A farewell to arms comes out of the disgust to end all wars, of the life-after-war anticipation and from Ernest Hemingway’s own experiences, when he was in ambulance service in 1918. It is listed as a popular classic from the times of First World War. 
It’s moving! 

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Love thy nature..

I am on a vacation, pampering myself to some lovely sights in north. The day we were about to leave from Pune, the hurry freak that my husband is and the forgetful chap that I am I forgot my Hemingway back home, and travel without a book, not-so-good! So, while we were waiting to board our flight and there was still sometime, I checked out a bookstore at the Pune airport, caught up on a Wodehouse book, the review for which you might expect soon on my blog. 

After we reached Manali , I was spellbound by the beauty and the lovely picturesque surroundings. We covered rohtang pass, and it was the most awesome experience ever! It is a must go place in India, you have missed out on a lot if you have missed this snowy adventure. By now I am just loving every bit of the trip. Enroute McLeod , it was a lovely drive.
Walking the steets of McLeod, I find some small book shops, 10-15 years old with cult books of all time, Coelho's series and not to forget my favorite Alchemist on the shelf, the Tibet books, good fat stock of Dalai Lama books. Definitely, a stop over if you are in McLeod streets and hunting a leaflet to satiate yourself.  I spoke with the person attending the counter and came to know it is a very old book shop. Also found a new bookstore, with all classics lined up and of-course the Tibet books of all times.

It gives a pleasure to cover and capture some of these bookshops, small and big! It only speaks of the many readers present all over the world. Nice to know! 

While I enjoy my hot momos and vacations for now, I shall be back with reviews soon! 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The White TigerArvind Adiga

I remember reading this book in shifts, swinging between my office work and the ebook, and not even once did I lose a grip on the story, the plot and the humour.  It gave me the same allured feeling when I resumed reading from where I left. This cover’s going to hook you real good!

‘The White Tiger’ kicks off with the protagonist, Balram Halwai telling his success story in the letters he  writes to Mr. Premiere- his story of becoming an entrepreneur, the highs and lows, the efforts and the paths he took to come out of ‘the darkness’-the impoverished areas of rural India. It all starts from a village named Lakshmangarh,where at
first he is a nameless chap studying in the village school and feeling good about it, and moves forward with him leaving the school because his granny doesn’t want him to study anymore, becoming a tea vendor, aiming to become a “uniformed” professional and persuading his brother Kishan to allow him to learn driving, so he could become a driver in the city. Finally, when he’s a trained and learned driver, he starts working for a rich family settled in Dhanbad who are based out of his own village, Lakshmangarh. Learning the life of servitude and moving to Delhi with his master unfolds life’s lessons for him. Climbing the social ladder, time and again, he finds himself being a dutiful servant and succumbing to situations, which lull him to conclude that he is destined to be a servant all his life, being loyal to his Master, New York returned Ashok Sharma, whose throat is eventually, and in a shocking twist slit by him one fine night, a deed for which he holds no guilt. Why does he respect and kill his master at the same time? Why is there no guilt? Why does he still bask in his own success glory? Because, it is all about breaking free from the social shackles of a powerful man, something that this cover puts across very well.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

To Kill A Mocking Bird - Harper Lee

It is a mandate for the lovers of classics, and the most intriguing one I have ever come across now(Not that the list ends here). It is the perfect blend of humour alongside addressing societal issues of rape, racial injustice and class distribution. Also, Thumbs up to the pace and turnover of the events! It will challenge your own instincts of being in a society where racial discrimination still persists.

The story revolves around two kids, their growing up journey and a well-wisher, protective, unseen friend Boo-Radley, with all the rumours going up in the Maycomb County about Arthur Radley (Boo), who never showed up on the street out of his boarded house, Jem and Scout were always very keen to see him “once”. Their million plans with Dill (their childhood bestie) to see Boo were always near to completion, when Atticus would catch them red-handed. Atticus Finch, a lawyer, father to Jem and Scout and a responsible citizen of the Maycomb County who without believing in apartheid gives a fair and tough fight for the innocent black man Tom Robinson, who has been charged against rape to a white woman. The efforts that he puts in go wasted for; Tom Robinson is announced guilty for a crime he has not committed. But, this case takes a toll over his family, for Atticus is accused of demeaning words like Nigger lover, and bringing a bad name to the finch family, not even sparing the kids of its repercussions. As the years pass by we see the two kids grown into young adults, developing a principled thinking like their father. The line-up of the events are so meaningful which eventually lead to exposing of the mockingbird, Boo Radley, the silent keeper to the kids.

Shoot all the bluejays you want if you can hit’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mocking bird.
                                                                                                 -To kill a mocking bird

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