Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Why I recommend reading Sophie Kinsella’s- My not so Perfect life

Last night I came across a very unpleasant news floating on Instagram about a blogger ending her life. Speculations are depression, social media pressure and similar things which I assume were related to her blogging life. Although, there is no such concrete information available on it as of now. In my heart I wished- Oh! Please let this be a rumor. I can remotely connect to her feelings, of what she must have gone through. I don't know her name, who she was and I wasn't following her too. But, this incident got me to thinking that is this what he have reduced our life to be? Taking stress about something a vicious circle called social media, the number of followers, the pressure of performing more, looking at other people’s profile and sulking at our own life and assuming stuff which might not even be true about people who we randomly just check out and for that matter our friends too. Pictures don’t speak for themselves and I think they should just be looked at rather than be stressed upon.

I thought today is an appropriate day to write about a book which busts this myth of Instagram and social media in its own light and humorous way. My not so Perfect life by Sophie Kinsella is a very good example of how wrongly we might perceive someone based on their Instagram profile and pictures. Like I said before, pictures don’t speak for themselves. They don’t speak for the life one must be living with their own set of problems, that they have an imperfect life too, that they have their share of ups and downs which the social media doesn’t reflect. Once upon a time photographs were clicked because we felt like we wanted to make memories and save them forever in the form of pictures, so when our kids grow up we can look back at the past and see them with our younger selves on a gorgeous holiday. But now, has it really become more of a social media thing? And even if it has, there is no problem sharing it with family and friends over a common platform but the real problem is we individuals assuming it for something different and giving it some extra thought.

Kinsella’s book takes us through the life of a young girl Katie, who wants to make her big career in London and is struggling to do the same. Saving money by staying in an apartment which accommodates three people with much difficulty. Demeter is her boss at work, who she looks upon for a lot of things apart from her smart work mind. Katie thinks Demeter’s life is perfect, with perfectly looking children like models, a perfect husband, the couple with a perfect job and a fabulously perfect house. But, the turn of the events are such that Katie finds herself jobless and helping her father with their new camp business. It is then, that she discovers the quite tumultuous life of Demeter; and it dawns on her that she got it all wrong. It is okay to live an imperfect life, absolutely normal. Perfection is a myth, as it is! It is a wonderfully pleasing read. It has wit and fun simultaneously giving us signals that it is just fine to hit a like on a picture and move on with your own life, rather than contemplating over it. The book is like looking into the mirror sometimes. The writing is nice to the feel. It’s a breezy book though it feels dragged and unnecessary lengthy after a major part of second half but, I would still ask you to read it. Read it whenever and wherever you can- a holiday, by the pool, while commuting to work or just before going to sleep. By the time you finish it, this simple story will convey the message I am trying to convey through my blog post.

I am myself a blogger, a book reviewer and rigorous Instagram user majorly for bookstagram. I like taking a peak at the wonderful work some bloggers are doing apart from book bloggers. And their posts do nothing but inspire at times. A competitiveness is sure to be because it is like a sea of superbly talented people out there. I am sure it bogs us down sometimes, demotivating us looking at the growth of a fellow blogger. We all have our share of bad days. What comes to respite at such times is just letting it go. Do your thing and just let it be. Speak to your family and friends. Do not keep it bottled up. There will be a time your efforts will pay you back. Even if doesn’t, is it worth enough to make it life-havocking and taking a toll of it on our minds. No! Nothing is worth the life you are living, especially not social media. 

Let's keep it Real, and not Perfect.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

All the Lives we never lived by Anuradha Roy- How it left me with questions unanswered.

The anxiety and happiness of reading a new author is an expression beyond words. And when it comes down to reading Indian authors I always have my third eye open, analysing it more like a critique than a reader. The reason is quite simple. Indian literature and books are out there in abundance, while some authors are underrated, some are overtly overrated which disappoints me, that as a reader are we doing enough to really look out and vouch for the ones who are really deserving? It was my first book from the author- Anuradha Roy and she leaved no stone unturned to impress, yet I was looking for some answers which I didn’t find.

The book is framed in the times of pre-independent India. It is primarily a story of a young boy Myshkin and his mother Gayatri Rozario. They reside in a small town called Muntazir with Nek, Myshkin’s father and dada, his grandfather who is a doctor. Being set in a backdrop of pre-independence a lot of activities appear to be conservative and staunch. For instance, the women were not given the pass of free will to pursue their wishes. The leaders being shoved to jail for talking independence, every foreigner being looked with a questioning eye and an era where art and music were given subdued importance. Gayatri often felt trapped in her own home because her passion towards painting was looked down upon by her own husband. She felt as if she wasn’t even allowed to reveal her imaginations to herself. Their never ending arguments, Nek’s and Gay’s, on right and wrong filled their dinner table and Myshkin’s head with ideas they didn’t even realise they were directing towards him. While Nek always tried to impart wisdom regarding the importance of freedom for the country and his due participation in the same, Gay always opposed him over the same. One day, Gayatri befriends Walter Spies and beryl who come looking for her in their small town. She feels happy to share her thoughts about both of them on art, culture, dance and music. It is as if being with like-minded people. Nek opposes her meets with them saying neighbours have started pointing fingers because of these low activities going on in the house. Unable to bear the burden of always being judged she escapes her responsibilities and leaves her son for a life which is waiting for her in Bali. What follows ahead are the repercussions of the movement and war which took place before India was declared independent, and how Myshkin’s and the family’s life moves on in the absence of Gayatri Rozario.

I loved the fact that how efficiently the plot and the characters gel up. It is like even if one character was amiss the story would have fallen apart. The distinct characters not only provide a firm base for the story to move on but also gives a different angle to the plot with every character holding a prime position in the book. The story covers all aspects of the family members with different opinions narrated in Myshkin’s voice. It is woven around the relationship of a mother and a son, but not missing out on the fact that Gayatri is also a woman of dreams. The sync between Myshkin’s thoughts and how the story moves on has been very well defined. Also commendable is the way in which Gayatri’s imaginations have been put forth once she dives in her world of paintings. I could really connect to them having been a painter once myself.

There were some things which bothered me too. When Gayatri Rozario decides to step out of the house is the time when the readers mind is full of questions. The answers are gradually answered in her letters which she writes to Liz describing her day, her work, her challenges and the beauty of the place where she now stays also mentioning her love for her son and how desperately she misses him and wants to bring him to her. While, Gayatri’s side was clearing up through her letters I was really more interested to read Myskin’s thoughts which felt too little considering a small boy whose mother left him and ran away. What would be his plight? There are certain places where his anger shows up but momentarily, the next day he is dreaming about being where his mother is. And, even after the years pass and he finally reads the letters where a lot is revealed about Gayatri’s identity and life unknown to anyone, he is found putting up an understanding approach; which somehow didn’t appeal to me. After most of the second half, Gayatri’s letters look dragging and I was more interested in knowing Myshkin’s front because I felt like a lot of my questions were still hanging dry, unanswered.

The writing is pretence free, sensitive and thoughtful elaborating the environment outside Myshkin’s house and inside as well. The book has been put together considering characters, plot and theme. But what it leaves behind is giving the reader a satisfied feeling at the end, which is very important for a good book to do. I would recommend this book because Anuradha Roy is one of those Indian authors whose work mustn’t be ignored.

I read this book as a part of a read along in the reader community on Instagram. It was interesting to know varied comments on the book, also resonating on some similar points. The experience was a really good one. Discussions and read along’s like these give more insight towards a book, because as they say more pair of eyes are better than a single.

Monday, 11 June 2018

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza - A review, more from my heart than my mind

My reasons to read this book were primarily two. Firstly, it was the first coming from Sarah Jessica Parker’s publication house partnering with Hogarth (SJPforHOGARTH). And secondly, when I read the synopsis I felt this was something new and fresh un-addressed before in such a subtle way. A Big Thank you to Crown Publishing for sending me a review copy.

To be honest, by the time I had started reading the book, it had already got a thumbs up from a couple of book bloggers and my anticipation and expectation both had risen up quite high. With a hyped book, there’s a fear of you not liking the book enough, which might affect the afterthoughts of reading it. But, thankfully I didn’t have much to worry about here because I really loved it. You will soon know why!

Have you ever felt that you do not belong to a place, community or belief? Questioning yourself repeatedly about it, trying hard enough to fit in but not feeling right about it? This book is everything about this and more. It is a story of a family of five residing in California, The Unites states and dealing with everything each day that a normal family deals with. Rafiq brings Layla to US after their marriage and slowly they start setting up their house and their family. Their two daughters Hadia and Huda and their son Amar are just like any other siblings in the world; fretting and fighting over small things and loving each other just the same. They have extremely varied temperaments and grow up with a different approach towards life. Amar is rather close to Hadia than Huda and looks up to her for any help or support in the family. The small instances which happen in our childhood do affect us growing up, in our behaviour. For e.g.: the father supporting the other sibling for something and denying the same to the other. Many such small incidents in the book were relatable. And, when Hadia and Amar grow up their personalities are a reflection of their childhood. In the interim of day to day activities certain saddening events take place and the story takes a grave turn; which actually kicks off the major part of the plot. Death of a dear friend and a close family member, a lost sibling, a case of young love lost, hurt and suffering is everything the book goes through. The family raises a bout of emotions when you hear each part and everyone’s perspective on some of the same circumstances. The book is about the love for your family and questioning your belonging.

For a short stint of time, roughly two years we were in California, US. And most of the times it would always weigh upon us the way we felt in a different country, not that the people weren’t warm enough or we didn’t meet enough Indians, we did and the people there are lovely and friendly but it is our heart that constantly pokes us and says-  But, is this where you belong? And the answer to it always comes in a small voice- No, I don’t. It is all about fitting in and yet not believing in the fact that it’s ‘home’ for us. Having felt the same at one point of time I could relate to this family which called this place their home and still at times had to struggle to feel at home and imbibe in their children the sacred culture of their community. I raised a question to myself when I read about Amar struggling with his understanding of faith, the prayers, the belief in his parent’s God, his community and the atmosphere he was growing up in. We challenge our parent’s belief sometimes and question them but is this required of us to believe in the same. No, it isn’t. It is the belief which could take a new turn, but the love and our acts out of love for the family shouldn’t wither an ounce. And this family touches every nerve to convey the same.

I do not want to dwell on what the plot is like because from far end it will just look like a story of a family residing out of India and parents overcoming the challenges of the kids growing up. But, from inside it is much more than that. It makes you ponder over the behaviour and acts of each family member, their personalities, and their thought process, how different they are from one another and yet so bonded. And, because it is a Muslim family, not only do you get an insight of their culture and religious beliefs but you also feel for them when a sensitive topic of 9/11 is mentioned; and the fear and repercussions of the same.

I love a book more if I like a writing that is non-pretentious, sensitive, simple and yet conveying strongly what it intends to. For me, that is nothing less than an immaculate writing. The book has been put together very skilfully with not just beautiful writing but astounding presentation as well. You will see the same incident’s being explained in the book by more than one family member which I feel was really important and well-thought of, because that’s what shifts a readers perspective and you find yourself looking at that character suddenly in a different way. The characters are strong, with diverse personalities and equal importance given to all of them throughout the book. They kept me hooked and dwelled in my mind far too longer, even when I was done reading for the day. Through out the book, Rafiq comes across as an obstinate staunch father with minimal thoughts and actions put upfront . It is only in the end when you hear his perspective, and see everything through his eyes, you understand him in full light. The bond that he always wanted to form with Amar has been put in sublime words creating a pang in your heart.  I couldn’t choose a favourite but I developed a soft corner for Hadia and it remained the same until the end.

Why one must read it?

To explore a different pious culture, to relate with certain principles which we often question ourselves for, to find yourself in the story and share the feelings the characters in the book feel, to know what it means to belong, to find a similar love in a way you love your own family and finally to experience a wave of emotions which will leave you satisfied when you finish reading it and you will adore the book a little more. It will tug at your heart hitting the right chords. 

It is a MUST, MUST read! Absolutely beautiful. Being a debut novel from a young writer, Fatima Farheen Mirza has understood readers immensely well in crafting something so touching.

Monday, 21 May 2018

The Girl in the Tower – Katherine Arden

I don’t remember the last time I read an extremely power packed Book sequel, which gave me a hangover. But, I do remember my thoughts when I read ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’, the first part of the Winternight Triology; I was in awe of the beauty of the book. And, the second part has left me just the same.

‘The Girl in the tower’ is the second part of the Winter Triology Series. It is the story of Vasilisa Petrovna and her adventures as she has set out on the road alone with her magical bay stallion, the mighty horse Solovey. This traveller Vasya disguised as a boy- because respectable girls cannot roam about openly in the 14th century Russia, is eager to see the world, fearless and determinant. She is so fixed upon her decision to wander that even the winter king has failed to alter her notions. Going to a convent is not the way she imagines her life to be. Her adventures and struggles form an interesting series of events which layer the book profoundly. They make her cross paths with her brother Sasha, brother Aleksander, the monk and her sister Olga, the princess of Serpukhov, taking her in the beautiful city of Moscow. Sasha and Olga come to know of their father’s unfortune death and blame Vasya for its happening. Tired of her ways to take troubles and put others in them they give up on her, until they are dawned upon by the truth and family-blood love for each other. With a lot of secrets opened like Vasya is not the boy Vasilli but the girl Vasilisa, the fight with the bandits for the Grand Prince of Moscow revealing Vasya as a strong warrior to her brother Sasha, the reason behind Morozko’s weakening power and the story of Kasyan and Tamara. Fighting the odds and bringing the situation in her control, Vasya finally saves the city of Moscow from the threats with the help of Morozko, the winter king; giving her fans the moment of rejoice and relief.

The plot sees a lot of new characters this time (read chyertis) and a lot of new angles to visualise the story. The immortal Morozko coming in the grasp of the feeling called love left me with a soft corner for the winter king. While ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ focused only on Vasya and she coming to know of her powers, the second part involves the other members of the family, maintaining the sync of where it left last. It reveals the blood line history which Vasya carries, the story of her Grandmother. The story does not appear disconnected to what we have read before. In fact, it only adds more to it. Picking this book as stand-alone would be a bad idea. Not only will it leave you baffled, but you will lose out on the charm of reading a perfectly articulated fantasy sequel.

The thing I love the most about The Winternight Triology Series is its writing. Katherine Arden writes with such finesse, it makes it easier for you to imagine the winter king and Vasya in their snowy world, Solovey, the mighty bay stallion galloping with ease, Vasya speaking to her chyertis and the amazing beauty of the Moscow city. If this does not speak of a skilfully written fantasy-thriller book, I don’t know what does. The events are well framed, fall-inline and give you an edge-of-the-seat thrill. You wouldn’t want to put the book down unless you know it all. The thing that matters the most in a book sequel is the flow from one part to the other. I have read sequels before and they have left me with so many questions unanswered and unsatisfied. With ‘The Winternight Triology’ series you are not only a satisfied reader at the end of it, but you start contemplating on what is coming next which leaves you at an exciting note. I have spent many nights dreaming about the Winter King and many sleepless nights lying awake to finish the book. But, it’s all worth it at the end.

Why should one read it?

Pick it up to explore a different world. A world which is Vasya’s and Morozko’s. A world of magic, charm and adventures with a beautifully presented story, characters and words. I am glad my new found love in Fantasy this year has not disappointed me a wee bit. I am sure it will appeal you as well, if you give it a chance.

'For a young woman in medieval Russia, the choices are stark: marriage or a life in convent. Vasya will chose a third way: magic..' - Katherine Arden, The Girl in the Tower.

A Beautifully crafted tale. Thumbs up!!

Flip-a-leaf book review- The Bear and the Nightingale
Like the review? order your copy here:
The Bear and the Nightingale
The Girl in the Tower

Friday, 11 May 2018

Ghachar Ghochar- Vivek Shanbhag

As an Indian, it gives me immense pleasure to take pride in Indian literature. Be it then, in any language because Unity in diversity is what India has always stood for. And, it is so good that translated literature has come into existence, it not only exposes us to a variant platform to read but also imbibes the cultural aspect in oneself. One such novel is Ghachar Ghochar and discovering it was just fabulous. Right now it sits at the top of my Favourite books by Indian authors pile.

The story starts with narrator contemplating and trying to find words to talk to this waiter named Vincent, who works at an old but very famous coffee house. He is an oracular person who speaks with such analogy that he is able to answer the questioning mind of the person he is speaking to. The narrator’s tryst with the coffee house and Vincent is an old one and he still maintains it. He starts reminiscing about his life starting from the phase where every penny was to be looked after. He takes us through the day to day life of their family, how the day would wear on, what his Appa did for his living and how chikappa took over the family responsibilities after his Appa lost his job. He talks about the power they handed over to Chikappa and never questioned it even once, for it was an unsaid thing in their family. But Anita, narrator’s wife is not a person to watch silently and keep mum over the incredulous surroundings she is living in. And what does fate and this family have in store for her because of her out rightly spoken nature?

It is a short book of exactly 115 pages with simple yet beautiful writing conveying something as strong as feminist views, the misuse of power which one takes for granted now that they are rich without calculating the time when they were once among those people living in small houses infested with ants, the silence of the family mostly men, when an innocent female is ill-treated for no good reason and finally considering yourself rightful to take someone’s life. Just like Vincent says, “Blood is thicker than water, Sir”. This family for sure sticks to this idiom.

I loved how without bragging or stretching the content, powerful words were put through. The characters are strong which the plot required and the description about each one of them helps you picture the scenarios perfectly. The character called Vincent is to look out for, his idioms have been made to co-relate the story effortlessly well. With such an intriguing book title, discovering what it actually means is like achieving the idyllic state of contentment. Vivek Shanbhag has written this miniature thing dexterously and has taken Indian writing to yet another level of poise. I cannot praise it enough.

It’s a reader’s delight!! It’s a Must Must Read, absolutely!

Liked the review? order your copy here - Ghachar Ghochar

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Men without Women – Haruki Murakami

My tryst with Murakami started when I first read his short stories online, a few years back. I remember the impact they had on me, I was hungover for a long time thinking about the story, the writing, the presentation and the ecstatic “Murakami” art that he uses to weave his content. I was floored. Fortunately, I have a reader sibling, my younger sister who shares the same passion and love for Murakami as I do. Guess, that’s one thing common between us! <wink>

Men without Women is a collection of short stories crafted impeccably to always leave your mind in a contemplative mode. Well, Murakami is very much known for its open ended conclusions leaving the reader to figure out the rest. I might be iterating this but it’s so true, writing a short story is a skill because to gauge a readers interest for a particular frame of time and conveying something strong and beautiful needs to be done adroitly. And if they impress you, you will love them all your life and if they don’t you will shy away from picking a book which is a collection of short stories.

As the name suggests, Men Without Women; it contains stories where men live a life minus the women they love and the women who impacted their lives and left unsaid. I will start by telling you about my absolute favourite story from the lot. It was ‘Kino’. It talks about a man whose wife cheats on him with his best friend and they separate. Kino, without raising a question or a fight leaves their house and starts a bar of his own. He thinks he has started anew leaving the past. But, has the past left him? His demons start calling out for him and he is petrified at the thought of facing them, as he has been avoiding them from far too long. It is written brilliantly with the prefect suspense that will not let you put it down. I couldn’t close the book until I had read it whole, even though there was a toddler gnawing at my foot. The next favourite was the story itself- ‘Men without Women’. The best kept for the last. Quoting from the book- “Once you have become Men without Women loneliness seeps down inside your body like a red wine stain on a pastel carpet”. There are many more which are worth quoting from this story. This one elaborates on the feelings of a Man, speaking on behalf of the male community on what it is like and how they become men without women. The portrayal of these feelings is so profound. While, ‘Drive My Car’ brought out the insecurity of a married man with a dead cheating wife, ‘Scheherazade’ is all about a sense of contentment in a woman who sought pleasure in breaking-in to his school crush’s house and nipping at his things in his room. ‘Yesterday’ talks about two people discussing an event of their life when they bump into each other, reminiscing a memory. And talking about it makes them feel like it was just yesterday that all of it happened. ‘An Independent organ’ speaks volumes about a loner man discovering his identity after falling in love with a woman who leaves him to die a slow death. Lastly, ‘Samsa in love’ is about the idiom- ‘beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder’ or love doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be felt, both ways.

Murakami’s style of writing is very different from a lot authors. He never gives out anything out rightly. The use of the metaphors, idioms and the layering that he does to magnify his script grabs a reader’s attention immersing him in his work. He lays the groundwork that good, for you to transport in a world he is weaving. And majorly, he has the knack of putting open endings brilliantly that they do not look bizarre. He creates masterpieces is what I can sum up for his work.

Reading a Murakami comes with a disclaimer:
A lot of readers do not connect to Murakami’s work because of some reasons I mentioned before like the open ended conclusions. And I don’t blame them for it. Murakami is not everyone’s cup of tea. Like I said before, his writing is a lot different from many authors that we read today. It will only gauge your interest if you understand what is hidden in the coats of his words. My only suggestion to first time Murakami readers would be to start with short stories which are available over the internet easily. Only if you enjoy them is when you should start picking up the complete books like Kafka on the Shore or the Norwegian Wood. What it might otherwise do is make you form your views for this brilliant writer in a not so positive manner.

Some books are just to be read and enjoyed, because sometimes you might not find the right words to describe them completely. Men without Women is one such book.

Absolutely fabulous. Must read!!

Like the review? Order your copy here: Men Without Women

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

A Man called Ove: Fredrik Backman

After having read all good things about this book, and seeing the Bookstagrammers rave about its wit, it was my turn to read it. Sometimes, it’s the hype that makes a reader and a reviewer think differently. I wonder whether one must stay away from getting to know too much about a book to form an unbiased thought, but in the #bookstagram world that’s hardly possible.

You will not like Ove. He will not appeal to you. You might think – ‘Oh What a grumpy man! Does he ever smile?’ Well, Perception is a strange thing. It might change when you least expect it to. Ove is grumpy, taciturn and a staunch person but he will make you realise it. A first meet or a first look of a person says too less of what they are like in real world. Ove was no different. He found satisfaction in very different things, like brewing a perfect coffee and similarly some minute things would irritate him as well, like people not following simple sign boards about not driving their vehicle in the residential area. He thought these were such simple things which require no brain storming and must come naturally.

At a considerably young age, Ove loses his father. The one who taught him all that he knew and all the life principles which Ove must follow diligently. His father’s loss left him alone and he was now to figure out his life. He never knew, following his father’s teachings would take him out of his job or prove him to be a dumb person. He slowly starts building his life and his house. But, at almost every stage he faces an obstacle which leaves him shattered, until he finds Her.

“Ove had never been asked how he lived before he met her. But if anyone had asked him, he would have answered that he didn’t.” 

Fredrik Backman, A Man called Ove

She brought the colours in his life and music in his ears. All that Ove thought was unnecessary, Sonja made him do it. Ove never understood why people visited café’s and he never liked going to one. Sonja made it a point to spend some time every Sunday in a café, looking at people, drawing an amusing feeling of just being there. And Ove would always accompany. Such was Sonja!

The book comes around as a warm read, with characters and events perfectly placed. While we see Ove as reserved, grumpy and no-nonsense-talk kind of a person, we see Sonja as the complete opposite- lively, social and full of life. The one thing common though is both of theirs will power. Mostly Sonja’s! For Ove drew his from Sonja’s. Her strength and zeal to live is contagious, something which even the drastic accident couldn’t take away from her. The other characters which come as you move ahead are equally pleasing. Parvaneh, who dominates Ove like his own, and loves him like his own. It’s like a small family with Patrick, Parvaneh, and their kids, Rune, Anita, Jimmy and Adrian. Lovely and funny characters which provide more cordiality to the story.

I loved how the book has been presented. A current story and a flashback with Ove’s life memories. It transports you flawlessly without losing the sync. I have a special admiration for the books written in this manner. The wit comes naturally in all situations, and later this humour feels synonymous to Ove too. The change in Ove’s demeanour is visible exponentially in the book, warming up to people around him. By the time you reach the end, you feel- Ove can love too, only he expresses it in his own lovely way.
Why should one read it?

It is a warm and hearty book with humor that will make you chuckle, with the feeling of love expressed quite differently and a pleasurableness all over. You will not like Ove Instantly, but he will captivate you and you will love him when you finish the book. It’s just adorable.

The Book is lovely in it’s “Ove” way. Thumbs up read!

Like the review? Order you copy here- A Man called Ove

Thursday, 12 April 2018

The Forty Rules of Love- Elif Shafak

I take book recommendations very seriously, and when they are from the avid readers who I follow, it’s a set rule that I have to get those books. The forty rules of Love by Elif Shafak was one such reference which came in from a book club that I am a part of. And, the decision to pick it up for Femme March fest was just brilliant. Pat on my back! To read an author whose work makes you think deeply and love more freely is a book worth cherishing.

The Forty rules of love is a mystic story of love, with more than one narratives and showcasing a character driven point of view about a man, Shams who is a Sufi is so much filled with love that emotions like hatred, jealousy and anger cannot even wander near him. He has so much knowledge about love and life that he is full with it and now needs a companion to share it with and transfer his share of wisdom. On his quest to find his companion he meets different people who see him with judged eyes, question his being and challenge his Sufi insight. He also meets people who he has been noble to, and they have seen nothing of him but kindness and compassion. But, when he does find his confidante, animosity against him is in full throttle for his better half is no one but Rumi, the great. Though at that time he wasn’t a poet but a philosopher and a preacher. He preached so well that people from all walks of life use to come to hear him in the mosque of Konya, the city where Shams meets Rumi. Aware that how all this going to end, Shams allows himself to completely immerse himself in his present life which only revolves around Rumi.

Shams is one of those literary characters who are bound to be favourites. His portrayal is compassionate, fair and fearless. He will not bat an eyelid before saying the truth, no matter if it shows him as a brusque individual; his satirical nature to people who term themselves learned of love and God but in reality know nothing except the surficial truth made up by themselves; his unbiased love towards a leper, a prostitute and a drunkard is all the same. And above all, he lives by his forty rules of love which he talks about intermittently in the book. Shams’ rules are like jewels for life. They are easy to remember, to implement and to take notice of in our day to day life.

The writing is a sublime combination of two world’s put adroitly; the world which we live in and the world which was Rumi’s. It is admirable and pristine, just what you need to set the tone of the book right. It flawlessly transports you in two eras – we read about Ella’s love lost situation and then a point of view from one of the characters which is totally in sync with Ella’s thoughts. The book flows in a smooth way nowhere giving a feeling of lost touch or loopholes. The characters are perfectly placed and the POV’s of all of them make sense and elaborate more on Shams’ character and his philosophy, each character reciting one of the forty rules which they adhere to. The rules have not been written with respect to a time in history, in fact they are timeless classics and penned down in a very customary way. I mention this because a lot of readers may feel that because it talks about Sufism and love of God and self at a mystic level, the inscription would be heavy and seem historical. However, that is what is so impressive about the writing. It is relatable to an extent of being understood and relished. It impacted me so much that I dreamt of Shams while reading the book and after finishing contemplated his rules in my mind various times. I do it even today when I weigh a state of my life in my mind.

Why should one read it?
One should pick this up because not only does it give up so much on Sufi culture but it reminds us of the love we have forgotten in the hustle and bustle of life, it talks about the God we sometimes fear and sometimes curse for its only love that will get us closer to him, it speaks volumes about what you sow, so shall you reap and so let’s just reap kindness and affection. Once in a while, picking up something to read that calms your mind and soul simultaneously questioning a lot of things around is not a bad idea at all. And, when the book is written so dreamily, you are definitely in for a treat.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

My #FemmeMarch Journey:

When the month of March is here, we know what is around the corner, Women’s day. It celebrates womenfolk in each and every form. And so, the bookstagram wave was all set to celebrate womanhood in the female writers who have given us impeccable books to read and rejoice. #FemmeMarch was originally started by Resh Susan, very famously known as @thebooksatchel and taking it forward this time with the hashtag #femmemarchfest was Aritri Chatterji aka @theliquidsunset. I really appreciate them for coming up with this initiative because not only does it make us bow to some amazing writers and their work but somehow it also liberates a woman reading a woman.
Readathon for #femmemarch was a very pleased experience for me. In this last one year I stepped in to a role of mother from wife, as overwhelming as it was, it was also emotionally challenging with a lot of changes taking place in and around. I would not be able to read as much as I liked, but ironically when I did were the moments of peace and self-care for me, feeling satisfied for whatever little time I could sneak in to read my books. Therefore, after a year I took Femme March as a challenge to test myself with reading under set targets and Time. It was all about getting back to my original reading speed, increasing the amount of reading the number of pages in one sitting etcetera. And very thankfully I can say, that I delivered what I thought I wanted to deliver. I made a comeback with an improvised version of myself, which was very redeeming.

My picks for Femme March fest:
I chose three completely different themed books. Although, now when I look back I think I could have squeezed in one more. The writing of these authors were so varied, completely different from one another but totally impressive. Penning down the mini reviews for the books below:

Ordeal By Innocence – Agatha Christie
There isn’t no book lover who is not a Christie fan. We have read her as children and we love reading her now. She is an all-time favourite and there is no bad time to pick up a Christie book. It’s evergreen.
Book review: Just as her books always speak, a great mystery with good characters and plot building. This was no different. The story kick starts with a pace but slumps down in the middle making too many repetitions about the case. It feels like going around in loops and arriving nowhere definite. Just when the second murder takes place, it becomes really easy to spot the murderer. It is very predictable and that somehow snatches away the wow moment from the thriller. I missed Poirot! And it made me wonder had the book been different if it had Monsieur Poirot in it to solve the mystery. There is no other like him in Agatha Christie’s novels.
Verdict: Not a very wow Agatha Christie book. There are better ones to pick up.

      The Heart Goes last- Margaret Atwood
She is famously known for her writing with her differently abled humour. And, boy was that true! I was floored by the plot which takes time to grow up on you. But once it does, you find yourself connecting the dots yourself and anticipating the next move in the book, only it really isn’t easy to guess what’s going to happen next. It was my first book by the author and right now if I show you my Amazon cart, you will find a couple of her books added in the list. Yes, I would want to read her again.
Book review: It is a very complex story set under a near-future dystopian theme with characters pleasing as well as questioning. In fact, in the earlier part of the book you will find yourself quizzical about a lot of things which really make sense once you dig deeper in the book. That shows, it is a very well framed plot and presented astoundingly well to sustain readers interest at every level. The book is about survival of Charmaine and Stan, a test of their love and relationship. Will they come out clean after so much of turmoil in their lives is what we see when the book ends. It is dark, but it is comic too, disturbing at times and very intriguing. I enjoyed Margaret Atwood’s writing, flawless and so much in sync with her story. The heart goes last was nothing I had read before. The newness of reading something so intricately futuristic was enthralling for me.
Verdict: Pick it up only if you think you are ready to put your imagination to use, and can absorb any level of shady culture in terms of relationships, survival and reading. If I made it sound too serious may be saying that Atwood’s stark humour will save it from becoming a totally dark novel after all will be of some help.

     The Forty Rules of Love – Elif Shafak
I have to start by saying it’s the best thing I read in last few months, except after The subtle art of not giving a f*ck. Elif shafak writes beautifully transporting you to a time of Rumi’s and brings you back to an era which is ours. But aren’t they the same because Rumi is still with us in his classic poems? Yes, except the definition of Love in our era needs a little refining, which only Shams’ Forty rules of love can do; bring back the love we think we have lost.
Book review: Because it was my most favourite, there is a detailed book review here- The Forty Rules of Love 
Verdict: Must Read!

Come next Femme March, and I am ready with the word Go and my list of books! :)

Friday, 30 March 2018

Interview with Author Ambica Uppal for her book Malhaar:

Being a reader, it never occurred to me, to be reading poetry. May be because I wasn’t inclined towards reading it, say after I finished school. The last I remember contemplating on poems were my English classes in school. Until recently, when I received a mail about her book of poems from author Ambica Uppal. May be it was time to try out the poetry after all.

I read the first segment of her poems, and some of them really tug at your heart.

I did my first ever author interview with her a couple of days back. And it was great getting to know her and her book which is just a few weeks away from the release. We could communicate only through the screen because of the geographical constraints, as she resides in Canada. Below are the fun questions I asked her:

1. Tell us something about your new book. Malhaar is a book of Poems, prose and spoken word poetry. It’s a mixed bag with Lyrical and free style of poetry. 

2. Did you always want to write poetry? I have written poems from when I was perhaps 9/10 years old! I would write poems in my diary. Then in university I shared them in the college magazine and later through email with my family and friends. So, I have been writing poems for a while, sharing on Instagram has been quite recent. 

3. Do you have a target audience? I don’t write with any particular target audience in mind, though I do know that a lot of young girls between the age 18-25 follow me. 

Tell us your favorites:

1. Favorite poet: Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Neruda, Hieu Nyugen, Salman Rushdie

2. Favorite book: hard to pick one! I like the book thief, when breath becomes air, Room 
... I can go on and on and on.

3. Favorite drink while reading:  coffee! I love my cup of coffee. There’s a Starbucks in my building. I think the Starbucks baristas in my building consider me as a family now! 

4. Favorite childhood memory: many memories, hard to pick one and narrate. Growing up in Delhi cantonment area there were a lot of pink Bougainville flowers. I love those flowers! 
(Oh! Bougainville are my favorites too!)

5. Favorite corner of your house: my kitchen, when I am in the mood to cook. 

6. Favorite things to use as bookmarks, or are you a religious bookmark user/reader:  I really like to read and also am a huge hoarder of books. I lose my bookmarks very often though! I buy many and lose many. Not very good at keeping them. 

7. Favorite Indian food: ah! Yellow home cooked daal with Basmati Rice, with ghee. (Looks like we have so much in common! <wink> )

What is it that you miss the most about India? Family and food

Any message for readers who will be reading your book?  Yes, to believe in themselves. And every phase in which life passes. So as they say, this too shall pass. 

I am really looking forward to reading all the other poems real soon and reviewing it here too. Pre-order your copy if you’d like a whiff of these poems. Leaving you all a link below to save you the hassles of searching it. Go grab your copy now!

Friday, 9 March 2018

My Sister’s keeper- Jodi Picoult

Sometimes, it’s the feeling that overpowers the words being said or heard, and when that happens words are never enough to express what you’d really want to convey. This book by Jodi Picoult raised a turmoil of emotions inside me as I was reading it and when I finished it, I was not sure if I had enough words to express the beauty of what I read.

My Sister’s keeper is primarily a story about two sisters, sharing the camaraderie just like any two sisters would, but there is much more to what they share. Kate, the elder sister is diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia and Anna, who was genetically conceived by her parents to serve as a donor for her sister, is the one who has kept her going by donating her blood, lymphocytes and bone marrow from time to time or as need be, but just like she says- ‘it never stops’. Her life is tailored completely around Kate's illness, and unlike a normal teenager her age, she is unable to take part in activities she would have wanted to or plan her own future. On a quest to find who she really is she takes a step far too bold against her parents by filing a law suit for medical emancipation when she comes to know that Kate’s kidneys are failing and it might be soon that she will be asked to donate one herself. She is adamant on fighting over it rather than putting it to rest. Though it only looks like it is the story of these two girls, there is much more to it as a family. A family of five, the Fitzgeralds have been going through this troublesome period for 16 years, in the course of which their thought process has changed, their equations with their closed ones have changed, and they have unknowingly neglected one child because they paid much more attention to the other one’s health, with the journey of the neglected child and what he has landed himself into just to crave the attention of his parents from time to time, it is a story of how they survive through their losses.

While the plot is pretty much about Kate surpassing each stage of leukaemia and the Fitzgeralds finding themselves deep in the law suit, it is really the way the situations and thoughts of each family member have been presented which bring out the best in the book. While the actions of Sara, the mother, seem to anguish us when we read about them through Anna’s point of view, we empathize when we hear Sara’s side of the story. Therefore, the moment you form an opinion about one of the characters you will soon realise that you are wrong about thinking that way about them, and this goes on until you do not know whose side to take in the debate, since all of them seem justified at their own stands. This is exactly the reason why it raises a storm of emotions within the reader as he or she keeps on diving deeper in the book. And talking about the thrill, it never dies.

The characters are strong and do complete justice to the story, no extras and none useless. The Fitzgerald family comprises of Sara, Brian and their three children- Jesse, Kate and Anna. Anna’s attorney- Campbell Alexander and Guardian Ad Litem- Julia Romano, both of which are impressive as characters and have a side story running too, but at no point does it feel that it was unnecessary. Just like a story is important for any book to be good, the weaving of the characters sometimes decides its fate from good to fabulous. And, there is no doubt that Jodi Picoult left no stone unturned here. The portrayal of each character has been done proficiently with vivid character traits which sync with their thoughts and do not feel out of place.

While everything in the book keeps impressing us – be it the immaculate writing, the presentation, the characters, the pace of the story, the suspense caused in patches; it is the conclusion which is the most surprising, shocking, heart riveting and unbelievable. I say unbelievable for two reasons- 1. It wasn’t expected, the method in which the story was moving, the death of the sister was sure, but which sister, is the question, and the answer was shocking. 2. It didn’t convince me much. No doubt, I was shedding tears at the end of the book and I loved reading it, but really, it didn’t convince me and I felt an ache in my heart for such a beautiful book to be ending like this. It was not required. The end could have been predictable and we would have still loved the book. But, looks like such extreme ends instigate strong reactions in the reader, which decides whether they love it or hate it. The end makes Anna’s fight for the emancipation and the law suit look useless, it makes her look like a selfish rebellious thirteen year old who just went against her parents for nothing at the end, the family’s survival through the law suit with their other daughter on the death bed worthless. It appears as if to keep the motive alive of Anna being her sister’s keeper, the conclusion was thus designed; because you definitely feel strongly for Anna all through the book. I was hung over it for many days until I discussed it with my sister, who is an avid reader herself. This is an interesting point to discuss with readers and I am in the hope of receiving mixed but interesting views.

It is a must read for the string of emotions expressed and presented flawlessly, and also for the love of perfect writing.

Goa- A new revelation. All credits to this dainty place- Literati Bookshop Café   The ceiling-high bookshelves I was in Goa last m...