4 stars, Book reviews

Far From the Madding Crowd

by  Thomas Hardy

Genre: Classics

Date Published: 1874

Synopsis:

Independent and spirited Bathsheba Everdene has come to Weatherbury to take up her position as a farmer on the largest estate in the area. Her bold presence draws three very different suitors: the gentleman-farmer Boldwood, soldier-seducer Sergeant Troy and the devoted shepherd Gabriel Oak. Each, in contrasting ways, unsettles her decisions and complicates her life, and tragedy ensues, threatening the stability of the whole community. The first of his works set in the fictional county of Wessex, Hardy’s novel of swift passion and slow courtship is imbued with his evocative descriptions of rural life and landscapes, and with unflinching honesty about sexual relationships.

Buy it here – Amazon India | Amazon USThe Book Depository | Add on Goodreads | Flipkart | Audible

My View: I am doing #TheGreatThomasHardyReadalong2022 along with @annathebooksiread and @pezzasclassicbooks on IG. Here’s my second read after A pair of blue eyes last month.

Hardy has a knack of keeping you hooked and although sometimes I am tempted to skim the description paragraphs, his plots keep you on your toes. It’s almost like if you blinked, someone could die, or you know, a major plot twist might happen. There’s no giving warning with him. Here you were thinking, ah finally, there seems to be some stability, and then boom. I love how Hardy managed to make a romance feel like a thriller and it was. Oh, I really did enjoy reading this book.

Before you think the plot is all there is, oh no, not at all. Hardy got his charcters etched to a tee. A strong female character as the one whom the story line revolves around and I am half way there already, patting the author on the back.

Unabashed, not to be bullied and the one who stands up for herself. You got me swooning right there. I am going to gloss over a few not so good decisions coming up. “Oh, Bathsheba, what in the world were you thinking?” But when you have been driven to the brink of emotion, you know you got a winner in your hands.

This book takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions and reminds me of Hardy’s ‘The Mayor of Castorbridge’ which I loved so much, precisely because of all the drama. It’s just life on a farm and a couple of suitors, you say, who’s creating all this drama? Well, humans, as usual. Who else?

Here’s how it’s with Hardy, “A-turn-at-every-corner plot, beautifully etched characters so that you can know them intimately, and absolutely emotionally inhibited personalities of the characters, some side characters to produce humor”, and tada, you got a winner in your hands.

Have you read the book? What did you think of it?

4/5 stars – I really liked it.

About the Author

Thomas Hardy, was an English author of the naturalist movement, although in several poems he displays elements of the previous romantic and enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural. He regarded himself primarily as a poet and composed novels mainly for financial gain.

The bulk of his work, set mainly in the semi-fictional land of Wessex, delineates characters struggling against their passions and circumstances. Hardy’s poetry, first published in his 50s, has come to be as well regarded as his novels, especially after The Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

The term cliffhanger is considered to have originated with Thomas Hardy’s serial novel A Pair of Blue Eyes in 1873. In the novel, Hardy chose to leave one of his protagonists, Knight, literally hanging off a cliff staring into the stony eyes of a trilobite embedded in the rock that has been dead for millions of years. This became the archetypal — and literal — cliff-hanger of Victorian prose.

3.5 stars, Book reviews

The Makioka Sisters

by  Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, Edward G. Seidensticker (translator)

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Genre: Cultural Fiction (Japan)

Date Published: September 26, 1995

Synopsis:

In Osaka in the years immediately before World War II, four aristocratic women try to preserve a way of life that is vanishing. As told by Junichiro Tanizaki, the story of the Makioka sisters forms what is arguably the greatest Japanese novel of the twentieth century, a poignant yet unsparing portrait of a family–and an entire society–sliding into the abyss of modernity.

Tsuruko, the eldest sister, clings obstinately to the prestige of her family name even as her husband prepares to move their household to Tokyo, where that name means nothing. Sachiko compromises valiantly to secure the future of her younger sisters. The unmarried Yukiko is a hostage to her family’s exacting standards, while the spirited Taeko rebels by flinging herself into scandalous romantic alliances. Filled with vignettes of upper-class Japanese life and capturing both the decorum and the heartache of its protagonist, The Makioka Sisters is a classic of international literature.

Buy it here – Amazon India | Amazon USThe Book Depository | Add on Goodreads | Flipkart

My View: This book is an easy, cozy read. There’s no thrill or drama. The book follows the life of four Japanese sisters in the 1930-40’s and gives a deep purview into how life looked like, then in the country.

You get a glimpse into their lifestyle, their thinking, their day to day struggles and relationship with each other.

If you’re into cultural reads, you would enjoy this. The personality of three sisters shine through while the fourth one remains more into the shadows. They are markedly different from each other and you see it in their beliefs, personalities, and lifestyles they keep. The reserved, tranquil one happy with the littlest of pleasures life has to offer in marked contrast to the rebellious, outgoing one who wants to break free from traditions and live life her way.

We are also made aware of the circumstances catching up on them (the upcoming war), the international friendships they keep, and how the world and society around changes with time.

It is a long albeit interesting immersive read. Just don’t come looking for action or drama, and you will like it.

Have you read the book? What did you think of it?

3.5/5 stars – Between I liked it and I really liked it.

About the Author

Jun’ichirō Tanizaki (谷崎 潤一郎) was a Japanese author, and one of the major writers of modern Japanese literature, perhaps the most popular Japanese novelist after Natsume Sōseki.

Some of his works present a rather shocking world of sexuality and destructive erotic obsessions; others, less sensational, subtly portray the dynamics of family life in the context of the rapid changes in 20th-century Japanese society.

Frequently his stories are narrated in the context of a search for cultural identity in which constructions of “the West” and “Japanese tradition” are juxtaposed. The results are complex, ironic, demure, and provocative. 

Month TBR Pile, Month Update

Month Wrap-Up: September 2021 and October TBR

Read in September 2021: 3 books

Book(s) of the month: I know there’s a lot of controversy regarding this book but it was really good so I have mixed feelings.

October 2021 TBR

I am snailing my way through War and Peace.

2021 Challenge Updates

  1. Read atleast 50 books – 43
  2. Read more classics (at least 10) – 9
  3. Read more owned books (at least 20) –20 (8 newly acquired)
  4. Read huge books (at least 4) – Shantaram, Gone with the wind and one more – 0
  5. Re-read  books – 2
  6. Read more non-fiction (atleast 10) – 11
  7. Total Stories read – 87

Total number of Pages read: 15262

How was your September reading-wise? Leave a link to your wrap-up post and I’ll come visit.

Month TBR Pile, Month Update

Month Wrap-Up: August 2021 and September TBR

Read in August 2021: 7 books

Book(s) of the month: Both hard-hitting non-fiction.

September 2021 TBR

Have you read War and Peace? This book has been on my shelf for more than 14 years now. About time!

2021 Challenge Updates

  1. Read atleast 50 books – 40
  2. Read more classics (at least 10) – 9
  3. Read more owned books (at least 20) – 19 (7 newly acquired)
  4. Read huge books (at least 4) – Shantaram, Gone with the wind and one more – 0
  5. Re-read  books – 2
  6. Read more non-fiction (atleast 10) – 11
  7. Total Stories read – 87

Total number of Pages read: 13449

How was your August reading-wise? Leave a link to your wrap-up post and I’ll come visit.

Month TBR Pile, Month Update

Month Wrap-Up: July 2021 and August TBR

Read in July 2021: 3 books

Book(s) of the month: Didn’t like any that much.

August 2021 TBR

2021 Challenge Updates

  1. Read atleast 50 books – 33
  2. Read more classics (at least 10) – 8
  3. Read more owned books (at least 20) – 15 (4 newly acquired)
  4. Read huge books (at least 4) – Shantaram, Gone with the wind and one more – 0
  5. Re-read  books – 2
  6. Read more non-fiction (atleast 10) – 9
  7. Total Stories read – 87

Total number of Pages read: 11649

How was your July reading-wise? Leave a link to your wrap-up post and I’ll come visit.

Month TBR Pile, Month Update

Month Wrap-Up: June 2021 and July TBR

June has been a busy month so reading hasn’t been that great. What about you?

Read in June 2021: 4 books

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Book(s) of the month: 4 stars to 

What a Brilliant Audiobook! Highly recommend!

July 2021 TBR

2021 Challenge Updates

  1. Read atleast 50 books – 30
  2. Read more classics (at least 10) – 8
  3. Read more owned books (at least 20) – 14 (3 newly acquired)
  4. Read huge books (at least 4) – Shantaram, Gone with the wind and one more – 0
  5. Re-read  books – 2
  6. Read more non-fiction (atleast 10) – 9
  7. Total Stories read – 87

Total number of Pages read: 104507

How was your June reading-wise? Leave a link to your wrap-up post and I’ll come visit.

Month TBR Pile, Month Update

Month Wrap-Up: May 2021 and June TBR

Been such a dismal month reading wise. Was yours better?

Read in May 2021: 6 books

Book(s) of the month: 4 stars to 

June 2021 TBR

2021 Challenge Updates

  1. Read atleast 50 books – 26
  2. Read more classics (at least 10) – 5
  3. Read more owned books (at least 20) – 13 (3 newly acquired)
  4. Read huge books (at least 4) – Shantaram, Gone with the wind and one more – 0
  5. Re-read  books – 2
  6. Read more non-fiction (atleast 10) – 9
  7. Total Stories read – 87

Total number of Pages read: 9803

How was your May reading-wise? Leave a link to your wrap-up post and I’ll come visit.

Month TBR Pile, Month Update

Month Wrap-Up: April 2021 and May TBR

April has been a difficult month for India and especially, the latter part of the month, I have been distressed or been trying to find COVID resources for friends and strangers. No end seems in sight. I try reading to distract but it seldom helps.

Read in April 2021: 4 books

Book(s) of the month: 4 stars to 

May 2021 TBR

2021 Challenge Updates

  1. Read atleast 50 books – 26
  2. Read more classics (at least 10) – 3
  3. Read more owned books (at least 20) – 10 (3 newly acquired)
  4. Read huge books (at least 4) – Shantaram, Gone with the wind and one more – 0
  5. Re-read  books – 2
  6. Read more non-fiction (atleast 10) – 7
  7. Total Stories read – 87

Total number of Pages read: 8511

How was your April reading-wise? Leave a link to your wrap-up post and I’ll come visit.

Month TBR Pile, Month Update

Month Wrap-Up: March 2021 and April TBR

I know. I know. A little too late but you can’t blame your girl for traveling the moment she got an opportunity. The world we live in, that’s a priority. So here I am a little later in the month, telling you all about what I read which frankly wasn’t much.

Read in March 2021: 4 books and 22 short stories

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Book(s) of the month: 4 stars to

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 41sczq0gr1l._sx365_bo1204203200_.jpg

April 2021 TBR

2021 Challenge Updates

  1. Read atleast 50 books – 22
  2. Read more classics (at least 10) – 2
  3. Read more owned books (at least 20) – 6 (3 newly acquired)
  4. Read huge books (at least 4) – Shantaram, Gone with the wind and one more – 0
  5. Re-read  books – 2
  6. Read more non-fiction (atleast 10) – 5
  7. Total Stories read – 87

Total number of Pages read: 7575

How was your March reading-wise? Leave a link to your wrap-up post and I’ll come visit.

Month TBR Pile, Month Update

Month Wrap-Up: Feb 2021 and March TBR

Read in Feb 2021: 8 books and 29 short stories

and Three Days and a Child

Short Stories

Book(s) of the month: 5 stars to

March 2021 TBR

2021 Challenge Updates

  1. Read atleast 50 books – 18
  2. Read more classics (at least 10) – 2
  3. Read more owned books (at least 20) – 6 (3 newly acquired)
  4. Read huge books (at least 4) – Shantaram, Gone with the wind and one more – 0
  5. Re-read  books – 2
  6. Read more non-fiction (atleast 10) – 4

Total number of Pages read: 5784

How was your Feb reading-wise? Leave a link to your wrap-up post and I’ll come visit.

Continue reading “Month Wrap-Up: Feb 2021 and March TBR”
1.5 stars, Book reviews

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman

Genre: Romance

Date Published: November 17, 2020

Synopsis:

A trio of second-born daughters set out to break the family curse that says they’ll never find love on a whirlwind journey through the lush Italian countryside by New York Times bestseller Lori Nelson Spielman, author of The Life List.

Since the day Filomena Fontana cast a curse upon her sister more than two hundred years ago, not one second-born Fontana daughter has found lasting love.

Some, like second-born Emilia, the happily-single baker at her grandfather’s Brooklyn deli, claim it’s an odd coincidence. Others, like her sexy, desperate-for-love cousin Lucy, insist it’s a true hex. But both are bewildered when their great-aunt calls with an astounding proposition: If they accompany her to her homeland of Italy, Aunt Poppy vows she’ll meet the love of her life on the steps of the Ravello Cathedral on her eightieth birthday, and break the Fontana Second-Daughter Curse once and for all.

Against the backdrop of wandering Venetian canals, rolling Tuscan fields, and enchanting Amalfi Coast villages, romance blooms, destinies are found, and family secrets are unearthed—secrets that could threaten the family far more than a centuries-old curse. 

Buy it here – Amazon India | Amazon USThe Book Depository | Add on Goodreads | Audible

My View: For a monthly challenge on my fav GR group, I had to read a book with ‘star’ in the title. I zeroed it down to three books and then chose this one because my friends voted for it. I mean, Tuscany!!!

A few pages in, I felt I was being set up for disappointment but all those 4-5 star reviews made me feel it would only get better from here on. Ummm… Before I begin with my rant, let me jot down the good things.

That first page, ah! It made me hungry. The two really good things about this book- Italy and the description of food. I was constantly googling recipes. Oops!

There were about three quotes in the book which I highlighted and shared. I liked those life lessons.

And therein end the good things about the book. Here begins the rant.

I HATED the plot. I didn’t like a single character and I was constantly verbally abusing the characters in my head. That’s supposed to be good, right? Feeling so strongly for the characters. Not really. Not when it feels like the book should have been written in 1950s or about the 1950s. It just didn’t belong in the present era.

My feminist self was screaming out loud. Why, you ask? Let me count the things.

  1. The MC and her sister drool at every guy that comes along. I mean really(?)
  2. They are livid because they won’t get married! Or there’s a ‘curse’ that tells them so. Are we in the 21st century or am I mistaken?
  3. Most characters are people everyone walks over.
  4. The moral of the story is they finally decide to stand up for themselves. Like finally!
  5. Bitchiness is counted as ‘oh poor thing, she was going through so much’. I can’t tolerate this!! So not okay with me!

I think I might have liked this if I was born in the 1920s and was reading this in 1950. It’s way too late for now. Like what were you thinking, girl(?)

This was going to be a 1 star but because of those three quotes and all that food, I will give it a 0.5 extra. There, I said it.

Have you read the book? What did you think of it?

1.5/5 stars – Between I didn’t like it and It was okay.

About the Author

Lori Nelson Spielman is a former speech pathologist, guidance counselor, and teacher of homebound students. She enjoys fitness running, traveling, and reading, though writing is her true passion. Her first novel, The Life List, has been published in over thirty countries and optioned by Fox 2000. Her second novel, Sweet Forgiveness, was also an international bestseller. Her third book, The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany, releases November 17, 2020. She lives in Michigan with her husband and their very spoiled puppy

3.5 stars, Book reviews

Stepping Beyond Khaki by K Annamalai





Genre: Memoir

Date Published: January 18, 2021

Source: The Good people at Bloomsbury India 😀

Synopsis:

How did the rape and murder of a young girl transform a rule-obsessed officer to take on a more humane approach?

Why did people start calling him Singham just a few years into his policing career?

What is it that made a shy, simple village boy dedicate himself to a lifetime of commitment towards public service?

Stepping Beyond Khaki: Revelations of a Real-Life Singhamis a tell-all memoir by celebrated former police officer K. Annamalai. With a career spanning a decade in the state of Karnataka, he earned the respect of the people with his humanistic action and his style of leadership focusing on empowering subordinates. Further, Annamalai pitches significant questions that rarely get discussed-are politicians bad? And is politics a place where good people fear to tread?

By stepping away from the spotlight and bringing out the real heroes whom he had encountered in his policing journey, this is unlike any other policing memoir. Truthfully told with a dash of idealism, it also prescribes changes that are much needed in politics, policing and in our daily governance mechanisms. It brings out the inherent goodness of the common man and the role the general public play in keeping this democracy functioning.

Buy it here – Amazon India | Amazon USThe Book Depository | Flipkart | Add on Goodreads

My View: Up until early last year, I held a common view of the police: they can’t be trusted, don’t go to a policeman even when you need to, they are unfit, take bribes, and are dangerous to your safety (especially as a female).

This changed in March 2020. March 2020, I shared space with constables, and I talked to senior superintendents while on COVID duty for those quarantined after traveling abroad. And that changed everything. My perception of police emerged from that of what I held above, to them being humans who work more hours than normal, are underpaid, hardly get time to spend with family, put their lives on the line, and are hated by the public. During the span of a month, I was also witness to the loss of a young constable who was going home after finishing his duty at 3am and in order to save a drunk person on the road, he swerved and lost his balance, and died. He was 23. Last March made me know more about the police than I ever had before. It gave me a real picture, away from what I had been told, and what media told me.

So when I got a chance to read this book, I grabbed it, wanting to know a first-hand account. I am embarrassed to say I hadn’t heard about Annamalai before but I am glad to have gotten to know him through this book. He’s a marvellous person, reaching where he did on his own abilities. Reading this book was a breeze and I got lost in his life story, admiring his courage, his long-term vision, and his methods. While reading this book, I was made aware of (by someone who did better on current affairs than me) some things about him that are against my own views but the author hasn’t mentioned them in the book so I will put them aside.

Annamalai goes into the minute accounts of a daily life of a policeman and all that they sacrifice and go through. He talks about the grassroot level and helps bring awareness to aspects of a policeman’s life that go unnoticed.

This book is an eye-opener. It is revealing, humbling, and brings to you the other-side view most people are not privy to. It seems like an unbiased account of the real deal.

Towards the end, the book becomes a little dry when delving into the political arena albeit Annamalai has mentioned some really good measures that the govt needs to take to ensure smooth functioning of the police and be able to provide help to those who need it. If only someone on the political level reads this and takes a step in the right direction.

It’s a great book to give you a glimpse into the life of a policeman.

Have you read the book? What did you think of it?

3.5/5 stars – Between I liked it and I really liked it.