Incest by Marquis de Sade

 

16115259.jpgTranslated by: Andrew Brown

Genre: Classic

Date Published: 1800

Pages: 128

Source: Owned Books

Goodreads Synopsis: One of the most powerful and shockingly controversial novellas by Marquis de Sade.

When the immoral libertine Monsieur de Franval marries and fathers a daughter, he decides to inculcate in her a sense of absolute freedom, an unconventional education that involves the two becoming secret lovers. But Franval’s virtuous, God-fearing wife becomes suspicious and confronts him, setting off a tragic chain of events. Part of de Sade’s The Crimes of Love cycle, this shocking tale tests the limits of morality and portrays the disastrous consequences of freedom and pleasure.

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

My View: Would you believe me if I told you I had never heard of this writer nor the book when I bought it? Of course, I hadn’t read the blurb as always. Now don’t go asking me how do I choose my books without reading the blurb! It’s a secret I am not going to divulge. It requires a lot of strategizing and plotting and planning so not your cup of tea, I am sure. :p

So when a Goodreads group presented a monthly challenge to read books that have pages between 100 and 200, amongst hordes of books, this came up in my search. This book often sat peeking at me from behind the other books in my shelves (with that cover, it can’t get the front space, ya know) and I was afraid of picking it up because it looked like a classic (yeah didn’t bother to check the genre either, classic me! Pun intended). However, I believed this was the right moment to get this book out of the way. And I did.

To my pleasant surprise, it read smoothly and quickly. In fact, I started it a bit after midnight and wanted to finish it. But the thought of getting up early for work, made me give up halfway through the book. The first thing I did after getting back from work was to pick it up and read, read, read until I finished. *Sigh* The 100ish pages helped. It really is ideal to be read in one sitting.

Now, what did I think of it? Phew, tough question. Good thing I was warned a bit of strong content by the introduction. So there wasn’t much that really took me aback or shocked me. I kind of went with the flow. Of course, the subject is cringe-worthy. It may come across as downright disgusting or nauseating for some so caution is advised. Absolutely not for below 16, better 18. The subject is an interesting one. The language is simple to comprehend yet beautiful in the way it flows. I especially appreciated the debates between Franval and the clergyman. Some food for thought really. And a glimpse into the manipulating, cunning nature of humankind to get what it wants, whatever the costs be and to whomever.

It certainly made for an interesting read. It also piqued my interest in Sade. I was astonished to read he spent 32 years of his life in prisons and asylums and wrote most of his work in prison. Wow, what a sad life, really. I will definitely be reading more by him although I have been sufficiently warned.

P. S. Heard about ‘sadism’? He’s the one from where the term originated-after his name.

P. P. S Whatever the book may have you believe, no, a father marrying a daughter is not permissible on the banks of Ganges!! And to my best knowledge never was. Ugh.

4/5 stars – I really liked it
4 stars

Author Bio:

Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade was a French aristocrat, revolutionary politician, philosopher, and writer famous for his libertine sexuality and lifestyle. His works include novels, short stories, plays, dialogues, and political tracts; in his lifetime some were published under his own name, while others appeared anonymously and Sade denied being their author. He is best known for his erotic works, which combined philosophical discourse with pornography, depicting sexual fantasies with an emphasis on violence, criminality, and blasphemy against the Catholic Church. He was a proponent of extreme freedom, unrestrained by morality, religion or law.

Sade was incarcerated in various prisons and in an insane asylum for about 32 years of his life; eleven years in Paris (10 of which were spent in the Bastille) a month in Conciergerie, two years in a fortress, a year in Madelonnettes, three years in Bicêtre, a year in Sainte-Pélagie, and 13 years in the Charenton asylum. During the French Revolution he was an elected delegate to the National Convention. Many of his works were written in prison.

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The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck

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Genre: Classic

Date Published: 1961

Pages: 336

Source: Library

Goodreads Synopsis: Ethan Allen Hawley, the protagonist of Steinbeck’s last novel, works as a clerk in a grocery store that his family once owned. With Ethan no longer a member of Long Island’s aristocratic class, his wife is restless, and his teenage children are hungry for the tantalizing material comforts he cannot provide. Then one day, in a moment of moral crisis, Ethan decides to take a holiday from his own scrupulous standards.

Set in Steinbeck’s contemporary 1960 America, the novel explores the tenuous line between private and public honesty that today ranks it alongside his most acclaimed works of penetrating insight into the American condition. This edition features an introduction and notes by Steinbeck scholar Susan Shillinglaw.

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

My View:  More than 5 years ago, I happened to come across ‘Of mice and men’ while searching for the shortest possible classic (don’t judge me! :p) and happened to love it (read my review here). So it was just as well, I came across this book (which again I had never heard of before but knowing Steinbeck I thought it was worth the risk) during my monthly visit to the library.

Imagine my delight when the book had me in its clutches from Page 1 and never let go. I would read till late night, read while commuting to work, try to sneak in glances at work (dear boss, if you’re reading this, I am just making this up, ya know!), read on my way back home and pick it up as soon as I reached home and read till my eyes closed of their own accord. The result? I finished it in 3 days flat (during weekdays!) which is a big thing for me when reading a 300+ page book. But I couldn’t/ didn’t want to stop reading. It was addictive and I had to know what would happen next.

In a way, it’s a thriller because you know where things are leading to and you’re expecting it to happen. You’re lying in wait for just the right opportunity for it to happen and you’re anxious about it. You don’t know if you want to go with Ethan or steer him away from his path. In some ways, it reminded me of crime and punishment. I know I might be crazy to draw comparisons between these two books but there’s this thing about morality and honesty and what should be and shouldn’t be done and I think both books sort of have an ongoing debate on this theme (if my memory serves me right or else I am indulging in retrospective falsification).

I loved the characters from the beginning. I felt for Ethan. He made me laugh like crazy. His sense of humor is amazing. I kind of fell in love with him a little bit although he does have his faults. Mary, his wife is the backbone of the household and holds her own fort. The children have such vivid personalities. Steinbeck brilliantly sketches his characters. Each person shines through and it’s like you know all of them intimately.

Steinbeck’s writing is so powerful and thought-provoking. If I had a kindle copy, it would be filled with 100 highlights, I am sure. His words are just magic and when put on paper, they sprout wings and fly away into the eternity, resonating within the reader long after the book has been closed.

Here’s a sneak peek into his writing-

“I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen… When two people meet, each one is changed by the other so you’ve got two new people.”

“So many old and lovely things are stored in the world’s attic because we don’t want them around us and we don’t dare throw them out.”

Steinbeck, I think I am in love with you.

I will be picking up other books by him and you should definitely pick this one up! (Note to self- Need to buy this asap and re-read it sometime.)

4.5/5 stars – Between ‘I really liked it’ and ‘I loved it’!
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Author Bio:

John Steinbeck III was an American writer. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939 and the novella Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. In all, he wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories.

In 1962 Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley region of California, a culturally diverse place of rich migratory and immigrant history. This upbringing imparted a regionalistic flavor to his writing, giving many of his works a distinct sense of place.

Steinbeck moved briefly to New York City, but soon returned home to California to begin his career as a writer. Most of his earlier work dealt with subjects familiar to him from his formative years. An exception was his first novel Cup of Gold which concerns the pirate Henry Morgan, whose adventures had captured Steinbeck’s imagination as a child.

In his subsequent novels, Steinbeck found a more authentic voice by drawing upon direct memories of his life in California. Later he used real historical conditions and events in the first half of 20th century America, which he had experienced first-hand as a reporter.

Steinbeck often populated his stories with struggling characters; his works examined the lives of the working class and migrant workers during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. His later body of work reflected his wide range of interests, including marine biology, politics, religion, history, and mythology.

One of his last published works was Travels with Charley, a travelogue of a road trip he took in 1960 to rediscover America. He died in 1968 in New York of a heart attack and his ashes are interred in Salinas.

Seventeen of his works, including The Grapes of Wrath (1940), Cannery Row (1945), The Pearl (1947), and East of Eden (1952), went on to become Hollywood films, and Steinbeck also achieved success as a Hollywood writer, receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Story in 1944 for Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat.

Morality for Beautiful Girls (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #3) by Alexander McCall Smith

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Date Published: November 12, 2002

Pages: 227

Source: Owned Books

Goodreads Synopsis: Botswana PI Precious Ramotswe investigates the alleged poisoning of the brother of an important government official, and the moral character of four beauty contestants. When her business has money trouble, and problems arise at her reliable fiance Mr J.L.B. Matekoni’s Speedy Motors, she finds he is more complicated then he seems.

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

My View: This year I have been in the mood for easy, quick reads and this series fits the bill. Plus it helps me get a couple of books read from my shelf. 😉

I applaud how the author subtly sneaks in important life lessons and observations about morality without sounding preachy or judgemental. This book had a lot going in it. A mystery that I couldn’t put my finger on (which is cool considering the mysteries in this series are usually easy-going and not difficult to unveil), several laugh out loud moments, as well as touching upon an important issue.

I also really liked how Mma Makutsi’s character got further chance to develop and astound us with her capabilities. This book was comparatively fast paced and there was one thing or the other going on. It never ceased to excite my interest and warmed me with its easy flowing language and hot cups of bush tea.  😀

I think I should have picked up more of this series books for my shelf. I only have around 5, I think. I am really enjoying reading through the series especially when I want to cozy up in my blanket and read for pleasure.

3.5/5 stars – Somewhere between ‘I liked it’ and ‘I really liked it’!images-25

Author Bio:

Alexander McCall Smith is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and he was a law professor at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland.

 

Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #2) by Alexander McCall Smith

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Date Published: August 7, 2003

Pages: 217

Source: Owned Books

Goodreads Synopsis: Tears of the Giraffe takes us further into the life of the engaging and sassy Precious Ramotswe, the owner and detective of Botswana’s only Ladies’ detective agency. Among her cases are wayward wives, unscrupulous maids and a challenge to resolve a mother’s pain for her son, who is long lost on the African plains. Mma Ramotswe’s own impending marriage to that most gentlemanly of men, Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, the promotion of her secretary to the dizzy heights of Assistant Detective and new additions to the Matekoni family, all brew up the most humorous and charmingly entertaining of tales.

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

My View:  After I read the first book in the series, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency more than 5 years ago, I have been kind of collecting this series on my visit to the annual book fairs. I really liked the first one (read my review here). Even though the genre mentioned is mystery, this series is not one of those tipsy-turvy thrillers that would have you on the edge of your seat. It’s more like one which you cozily enjoy with a cup of tea. No wonder this genre has found its name as a tea cozy mystery. It aptly fits the book of this series.

Having known the characters in the first book, this one settles you down with more happening in the personal life of Mma Ramotswe rather than a whole lot of cases to solve. But that is good because we need some action to happen in the life of our favorite detective when so much is happening on the outside.

If you happen to have cake and tea (even better bush tea!) around, they would go well this book and even the entire series because the characters would make you hungry and thirsty with their constant rounds of bush tea. I always find myself having atleast one cup of green tea while reading the series! Temptations, ah. Good that green tea is considered healthy. 😉

Anyhow, the book is heavy on Mma Ramotswe with a lot happening in her life but as always she manages to work out everything. The book is a tad bit sad with not all coming to a happy end but well that’s how life goes, right?

Pick this one up for a lazy sunday afternoon. Grab your cuppa and relax.

 

3/5 stars – I liked it!3 stars

Author Bio:

Alexander McCall Smith is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and he was a law professor at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland.

Let’s get you published!

Lets Get You Published Updated

The hunt for India’s fresh writing talents has begun.

Times Internet, and star authors like Jeffrey Archer and Ruskin Bond, are all set to uncover India’s story-telling potential in the second season of Write India campaign.

Times Internet’s flagship news platform timesofindia.com has launched Write India campaign Season 2 to uncover India’s great story-telling potential. It is an unprecedented crowd-sourced short story contest for which TOI sets up an eclectic line-up of world-renowned authors to inspire, encourage and evaluate budding writers and amateurs. This year’s panel includes celebrity authors– Sir Jeffrey Archer, Ruskin Bond, Sudha Murty, Twinkle Khanna, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Anand Neelakantan, Shobhaa De, Manu Joseph, Namita Gokhale and Nikita Singh.

The entire campaign will be run for a period of 10 months, until 30 April 2018. Each month, one of the celebrity authors will share a passage for budding writers to weave a short story around, stories will be curated by Write India team and then, top winners will be selected by the author of the month. To begin the campaign on a high-note, Anand Neelakantan, author of the famous Bahubali trilogy, has been announced as the author for the month of July.

The winning stories created during Write India campaign will later be compiled in a book and published by TOI. At the end of the year, TOI will also organize a workshop for the winners where they will be mentored by celebrity authors.

Write India was created as part of the Times of India brand’s changing philosophy from just being a nationally social responsible brand to becoming a platform that provides an opportunity for young Indians to showcase their talent in various creative fields. The first season of Write India program was a grand success with around 1.5 lakh registrations and 25,000 short stories received in a span of 11 Months. It discovered top writers from across the country and 36 winning stories were published in the form of a book in November last year. So, what are you waiting for?

Log on to www.toi.in/writeindia to submit your story and live your dream of becoming a published author.

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Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

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Translated by: Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen

Genre: Short Stories

Date Published: May 9, 2017

Pages: 240

Source: Penguin Random House Review Copy

Goodreads Synopsis: A dazzling new collection of short stories–the first major new work of fiction from the beloved, internationally acclaimed, Haruki Murakami since his #1 best-selling Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

Across seven tales, Haruki Murakami brings his powers of observation to bear on the lives of men who, in their own ways, find themselves alone. Here are vanishing cats and smoky bars, lonely hearts and mysterious women, baseball and the Beatles, woven together to tell stories that speak to us all.

Marked by the same wry humor that has defined his entire body of work, in this collection Murakami has crafted another contemporary classic.

Buy it here – Amazon India | Amazon US | Flipkart (40% off on hardcover!)| The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

My View:  Ah, well, here I find myself again. Around three years back, I read my first Murakami. You can read my hair-pulling review here. And it was then I decided to take a break from Murakami until I had wisened up or tracked down Murakami and sat him down to find some answers. I did try that last year when I was in Japan at a booklover’s paradise and reading Birthday Stories by him but I couldn’t track him down. Anyhow, I did find myself with another Murakami in the beginning of last year, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage which was comparatively easier for my dull mind to grasp. So when I saw this opportunity to read another Murakami a year and a half after my last read by him, I thought it was enough of  a break (not to mention the 1Q84 which is lying in the deep, dark corners of my bookshelf waiting to be discovered but I guess it will have to wait).

This book could not have come at a better time. With my mind unable to concentrate for long right now (ah! life), I guess short stories were just what I needed. And thanks be to Murakami, he did not mess with my mind too much this time. In fact, I have to give it to him for this masterpiece (and here is when I’m rethinking the rating but let’s go with that for now). After reading Murakami you know he can’t do without his cats and they make their presence felt. In fact, a reviewer who had the chance to ask him a question asked precisely this ‘What’s with the cats?’ and he answered  that when he was a child he had no brother and  no sister, but he had a cat, and he talked to his cat, and the cat talked back to him. They somehow entered all his stories, and he felt his writing was the better for it. Ah, atleast one question answered. Woohoo!

In fact, you may draw some associations between the stories with a character being repeated in another. I could only draw one such comparison but I was reading 5 books at a time so may have missed the others. A thing which I really appreciated is that even though the theme of ‘men without women’ pervades all the stories, the meaning is strikingly different in all which is no mean feat to accomplish. All the men in the stories are in completely different circumstances and the absence of a woman is presented in a unique manner in each, with varying consequences. But the theme of each is made clear without having to say it in those many terms.

I also like how the women are portrayed in these stories (although some may beg to differ). Murakami gives them wings to fly, he sets them free. They are just themselves without having to follow patriarchal rules and be set in a mould. They are strong and do not need men to complete them. On the other hand, as the title reveals, it’s the men here who miss the women in their lives despite their not being ideal or perfect which is actually a relief!

It’s difficult to come up with my favorite of all the stories but I guess it would be ‘Scheherazade’ which was the first one I read (yeah I love to randomly open up stories and start reading). It just spoke to me. If you have read the book, don’t judge me but something about her made me feel that I would like to be free like her. Without attachments, without concern yet not without feelings. It would be a good place to be in.

Murakami does magic when he writes down his characters. It is even more evident in his stories because you have known 2 characters in just 20 pages and yet you feel for them, you want to know more about them, and to know them personally. It’s not an easy thing to do certainly. People write whole books about characters you don’t give a damn about so making you feel for someone in a short story is just wow.

‘Samsa in love’ would give a good laugh to all those who have read and re-read ‘Metamorphosis‘ (yep, that would be me). Gregor Samsa has finally found his way back as a human but how. The stories have a touch of dry humor that would sometimes make you smile and at others, laugh out loud.

Murakami’s writing is lyrical and something to savor and relish with delight. I had to sadly read this book in a few days in order to write this review but I would advice you to read a story (and not read any other book concurrently) and let it mull over for a couple of days while your brain does its own thing and comes up with themes and secrets that Murakami always sprinkles around in his books.

So if you’re still deciding on whether or not to pick it up, let this make up your mind-

“It’s quite easy to become Men without Women. You love a woman deeply, and then she goes off somewhere. That’s all it takes. And there’s very little we can do about that. And that’s how you become Men without Women. Before you even know it. And once you’ve become Men without Women, loneliness seeps deep down inside your body, like a red-wine stain on a pastel carpet. No matter how many home ec books you study, getting rid of that stain isn’t easy. The stain might fade a bit over time, but it will still remain, as a stain, until the day you draw your final breath. And you are left to live the rest of your life with the gradual spread of that color, with that ambiguous outline. “

All right so you made your decision? Go off then, buy the book and get reading.

4/5 stars – I really liked it!
4 stars

Author Bio:

Haruki Murakami is the author of many novels as well as short stories and non-fiction. His books include Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, 1Q84, What I Talk about When I Talk about Running, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, The Strange Library and Wind/Pinball. His work has been translated into more than 50 languages, and the most recent of his many international honours are the Jerusalem Prize and Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award.

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(Many thanks to Penguin Random House for sending this book my way. All opinions are my own and completely unbiased.)

Interview with Tanuja Chandra

Whoever has not heard of Tanuja Chandra? She was the screenwriter of Dil To Pagal Hai (1997) and directed Dushman (1998) and Sangharsh (1999), all of which I happen to adore and some I have watched more than once. So when I got to know that she has penned down a book, I was all ears. I was also curious to know about her journey from a screenwriter to a director to an author and wanted to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. So here it is.

Me: How did this transition from a film maker to writer come about?

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Tanuja Chandra (TC): I was a writer first. In school and college, I wrote poetry as well as small pieces for newspapers and magazines. Even after joining films, I first wrote
screenplays before starting direction. For me it was simple – as a director, I had to be a writer as well. But yes, writing a book took a long time even though I had wanted to write one many, many years ago. I guess it was just too scary! When the opportunity to do it came by, this idea of short stories of Uttar Pradesh which I had nursed for a while, seemed just the most natural thing to do.

Me: Haha, you are right, the idea to pen down a book is downright scary! Where did the idea for Bijnis woman come from?

TC: The stories I had heard from my parents as well as several members of my extended family from Uttar Pradesh, always stayed with me. They were funny, strange, bizarre, touching, but always memorable. Unique tales of ordinary people in specific situations, when life sort of took over. So appealing to me, so interesting, and most importantly, stories that would be lost in the haze of time if they weren’t recorded. Who cares for ordinary people, right? The fact that I was able to do this is wonderful and I feel lucky.

Me: I am glad you could do this because it would give us readers an opportunity to know those stories. Bijnis woman will appeal to which readers?

TC: I would like to think – all kinds! The stories are dramatic and entertaining and very unusual, they’re all about a time gone by – so I would think they would appeal to younger readers who would never be able to experience that kind of life, while for older readers, I imagine the book would be a nostalgic trip. There are several stories about women so I would hope female readers would enjoy and relate to them, but at the same time, there are some really unique male protagonists which I hope would appeal to all kinds of readers.

Me: Wow, that does take into consideration all readers. Does Bijnis woman give a message to the society? What is it?

TC: I didn’t start out writing this with the intention of putting a message out there. However, what is important to me as a writer is to look at the characters in these stories with affection. Even the most annoying, small-hearted, sad sort among us need to be looked upon as human beings, and that’s what I’ve tried to do. I suppose this also came from the narrators telling me these stories – they had a tone of affection and that is probably what percolated down to my writing. If I’ve successfully been able to do that, it would be very fulfilling to me personally.

Me: That indeed is a message worth remembering. No matter who we are, we need to be treated as humans. What is your favorite book and why?

TC: IMPOSSIBLE to put down one favourite. But if you were to ask me for three, they would be To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, and My Little Friend by Donna Tartt. Interestingly, all three female authors! It’s difficult to say why I love these books – I guess the fact that I can go back to them anytime and come away enriched is the most telling. There are plenty other books I love as well, but there’s something special about these three.

Me: Haha. I know. When I was penning down this question, I was like, Tanuja will kill me! But glad I took that chance. I still have two of them to read. *adds to TBR* What do you think are the prerequisites for becoming a writer?

TC: To live. To feel. And then, to be resilient and hard-working, because the craft of writing is a skill that you can spend a lifetime trying to master, and never be able to master. Thinking about writing is useless, one just has to get down to it.

Me: That is some really good advice right there. It is indeed a skill you can keep improving upon but one must start. Are there any other books in the pipeline?

TC: Yes, a novel which I actually began work on before Bijnis Woman. For me, that one is a bigger struggle because it’s a story that was born inside my own heart, not something I had heard from family. But hopefully, I should be able to finish it soon. (Best laid plans of mice and men!)

Me: Well, I do hope you finish it soon so that I can read it! I have loved your movies so I am sure a story born inside your heart is something I am all ears for. Thank you for being at Reviewing Shelf, Tanuja. I hope to see more of your writing out there.

Buy it here – Amazon India | Amazon US

Here’s an excerpt for you to get a flavour of the book before you dig in.

“They never discovered where Ranvir was through the night; he would step to the front door the next morning, hardly aware where he had been. He slept right through the desperate screams which went on for an hour as his family watched, shamefaced. Thakur Rajpal couldn’t help but feel pity for this girl in her crazed, unhinged state, shouting so

Thakur Rajpal couldn’t help but feel pity for this girl in her crazed, unhinged state, shouting so violently he thought she would faint. The blame would be his to shoulder if something were to happen to her; would she be at his gates still when the sun was up, wasn’t it wrong, shutting his door on a helpless girl, alone in the night? He had never faced such embarrassment. Her inconsolable, unstoppable screams unnerved him, and his own son’s doltish, stupor-filled, insensible state angered him. The family was now gathered inside the second-floor library, watching the scene at the gates below, exchanging troubled looks with pursed lips as a cluster of villagers gathered around Amrita.

All of a sudden, from behind him, Thakur Rajpal heard another loud voice. It was Jwala. ‘If anyone opens the gate for this girl, I will kill myself,’ she yelled. ‘I will kill my children and then I will kill myself. Everything will be ruined. Everything.’

Now, with their backs to the gates, they gawked at Jwala, open-mouthed. This small, frail, nervous girl, to hear whom one had to strain one’s ears even in an intimate conversation, stood there bellowing ultimatums, her body shaking with white-hot anger. ‘Don’t you dare move, any of you! Let her shout till she drops dead,’ she growled. ‘He will never hear her, never!’ And then, they heard the commotion at the gate. Everyone turned back towards it. What they saw made their blood go cold. Amrita had broken through and would soon be riding towards the front door.”

Book Launch & Review: Dark Diamond by Shazia Omar

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Date: 9th September 2016
Time: 6 PM
Venue: Oxford Book Store, Connaught Place, New Delhi

There, I was, strolling in CP, enjoying Naturals Ice-cream while awaiting the watch to indicate 6pm. However, I couldn’t wait as much and was at Oxford at 5:30. I glimpsed through books and looked around until the launch finally started at 6:30pm.

The ever-charming Willliam Dalrymple started off the event with asking Shazia Omar about her experiences of 9/11 and how they made her shift from her well-paid career in NY to social work and finally to writing books.

Shazia described being influenced by Jack Kerouac’s work. She went on to talk about how it took  her 4 years to complete her first book. Her first book Like a diamond in the sky  was a narrative about addicts in Mumbai. She also told us about how both her books have males as the main character and it’s spontaneous how that comes to her rather than being the voice of a female character.

She further told us about how 12 writers came together in Bangladesh to form a critique writing group and she was one of them.

Shazia remembered how she was aiming at bringing the perspective from a negative Bangladesh to a positive one. She elaborated that although its image may be negative now, it hasn’t always been so. She reminisced about a time when it was full of literature, culture, and deep rich history and legacy.

She talked about the main character of Dark Diamond, Shayista Khan whom she has set in the image of Indiana Jones. She went on to talk about the early Aurangjeb of 1685 and how we should take a look at history to see what it can teach us. History repeats itself. She talked about how with the radical Islam, artisans were unable to sell their goods. The battle we are fighting is still the same as the one he was fighting then.

Questioned about the title, she replied that diamonds were earlier used to trade in large measures. Heroin used to be bought in exchange for diamonds. She wanted to draw a parallel between the material and the spiritual. Kohinoor brought misery to whoever owned it and she spinned  a tale around the same.

The launch was splendidly spearheaded by William Dalrymple as he asked question after interesting question making for a lively session.

Published: August 23, 2016
Publisher
Bloomsbury
Pages
252
Source
Review book by Bloomsbury
Format
Paperback

Goodreads Summary: The hero of Dark Diamond is Lord Shayista Khan, the Mughal Viceroy of Bengal, who in 1685, during Aurangzeb’s rule, was the most powerful man on Earth. Under Lord Khan’s governance, Bengal became the epicenter of commerce and culture – a veritable treasure chest with greedy enemies: Maratha warriors, Arakan rajas, Hindu zamindars, fanatic Mullahs, a diabolical Pir with occult powers and the East India Company. Not only does Lord Khan have to keep them at bay but also he must neutralize the curse of the Kalinoor, the dark diamond sister of the famous Kohinoor that now adorns the British Crown.

Buy it here – Amazon India |  Add on Goodreads

My View: Frankly, historical fiction isn’t up my alley for the most part. However, the book launch sparked my interest and I decided to give it a read. The story flowed effortlessly from page 1, taking you along with it. The characters are well-etched and I found myself rooting for them. The parallel story lines worked wonderfully, weaving a web of mystery.

Thrill was apparent in every page of the book, making me want to read on to know what happens next. The book takes you on a journey through the lands of Bengal, mesmerising and enchanting. Shayista Khan, despite his age, appears as the charming, handsome hero he is portrayed to be. The romantic sub-plot also works well.

Some of the things that I did not like included the use of too many big looking words which seemed more to be there to prove the vast vocabulary of the author rather than serving any purpose. They seemed straight out of a thesaurus and could have easily been done without.

I did not, in particular, like the beginning of each chapter. In trying to ‘show rather than tell’, the author lost relevance for the description of a landscape in the beginning of each chapter. Its presence seemed futile and the result of a planned chapter beginning. It could have surely been given a miss.

In all, an exciting one-sitting read.

3/ 5 stars – I liked it. 3 stars

(All opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced.)

Huge thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing for providing the review copy.

Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson & Lauren Myracle

Published: October 1, 2009
Publisher: Speak
Pages: 365
Source: Owned
Format: Kindle ebook

Goodreads SynopsisAn ill-timed storm on Christmas Eve buries the residents of Gracetown under multiple feet of snow and causes quite a bit of chaos. One brave soul ventures out into the storm from her stranded train and sets off a chain of events that will change quite a few lives. Over the next three days one girl takes a risky shortcut with an adorable stranger, three friends set out to win a race to the Waffle House (and the hash brown spoils), and the fate of a teacup pig falls into the hands of a lovesick barista.

A trio of today’s bestselling authors – John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle – bring all the magic of the holidays to life in three hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and kisses that will steal your breath away.

Buy it here – Amazon India | FlipkartAmazon US | The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

My View: I have been wanting to read this book for ages. It’s no secret that I love John Green, especially after Looking for Alaska (Read my fan-girling review here). The Fault in Our Stars was nice too (Read my review here). So when I was looking for books to read during Ho-Ho-Ho Read-A-Thon, I immediately grabbed onto it.

I was almost tempted to skip to the John Green story first but I am glad I didn’t. The stories are to be read in sequence to make sense. I guess I went in with too many expectations. It was a John Green book after all! As far as the other authors are concerned, I have never read Lauren Myracle. I have read The Name of the Star (The Shades of London Book 1) by Maureen Johnson (My review here) which I thought was okay.

The book starts off with “The Jubilee Express” by Maureen Johnson which was the best of the three.  It had a good plot, believable characters, various twists and turns and a nice end. If it had been for this story by itself, the book would have gotten 3 stars.

The next to follow was “A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle” by John Green which was surprisingly the least liked story by me. It had none of the usual John Green magic. I felt it was stretched where it wasn’t necessary and cut short where it was. The plot lacked depth, the characters didn’t really get me to root for them and the story lacked lustre. A complete fail and a blow to my expectations.

Finally came “The Patron Saint of Pigs” by Lauren Myracle. First things first, I want myself a teacup pig. Well, I wanted until I read all about it. Nope, I can’t be cruel to animals and under-feed them so that they remain cute and little. Plan aborted. As far as the story is concerned, the plot had some depth, the characters although superficial were make-do and the story derived its own happy end.

Overall, my hopes from this book were dashed. I might be a bit overcautious in buying John Green books from here on. A favorite author does not necessarily lead to a good book, I have realized.

2/5 stars – It was okay but nothing special.

2stars

Dear Kalam Sir by Saji Mathew, Jubie John

31189204Date Published: July 27, 2016
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Pages: 224
Source: Review Copy provided by Bloomsbury Publishing
Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis: Based on the dearkalamsir community art project by LetterFarms, the book is an original convergence of art, articulation and passion, using the simple yet powerful tool of postcards. Inspired by Dr. Kalam’s exemplary life and words, it delves into the dreams and aspirations of contemporary India, especially the youth, uniquely handcrafted with a humane touch.

Underlining the extraordinary power that lies with ordinary people, this book is a first-of-its-kind anthology of handwritten postcard tributes for a public leader, ever.The messages are filled with endearing sentiments and echo India’s profound love for Dr. Kalam and its unparalleled unity.

Kalam sir continues to live in the hearts and minds of India’s future, and dearkalamsir is a handwritten compendium of that spirit for generations to witness.

Buy it here – Amazon India  | Add on Goodreads

My View: Dr APJ Abdul Kalam has had this unprecedented hold over everyone from children to adults to elderly. His President-ship was the most peaceful, non-conflictual one India had ever seen. He was rightly named the People’s President. He was loved and respected and endeared by all. His books were downright motivational and had hundreds of readers.

Last year, India lamented the death of Dr Kalam with waves of sorrow. It was then that LetterFarms, a Kochi-based NGO decided to pay him a tribute. An art project was launched inviting people all over India to write postcards on his 84th birth anniversary. Postcards poured in from 200 cities all over India.

The chosen few that have found a place in this anthology are mind-stirring and sentimental. Some wrote his quotes, other drew his portrait while still others expressed his ideals through pictures.

The anthology is full of colors and feelings that reverberate in your mind long after you have closed the book. Sometimes we forget the legendary figures and this book served as an awakening call for me to remember Dr Kalam and his life-long work for our nation and its people. It is a glaring testament to how motivational his life has been for the people especially the youth. The way his words have captured the thoughts and feelings of people all over is unbelievable.

The book itself along with its cover is a beautiful piece of art to behold. The star-speckled sky on the cover leaves way for so many interpretations to its relation to Dr Kalam and what he represented.

A must-read and keep for every personal library.

Here is a sneak peek-

4/5 stars – I really liked it. 4 stars

(All opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced.)

Huge thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing for providing the review copy.