Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

33843362.jpgGenre: Young Adult/ Mystery

Date Published: September 5, 2017

Pages: 264

Source: Bloomsbury India Review Copy

Goodreads SynopsisFrom the author of the unforgettable New York Times bestseller We Were Liars comes a masterful new psychological suspense novel–the story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

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My View:  I had heard so many good things about ‘We were liars’ that when I got an opportunity to read this one by E. Lockhart, I dived at it.

Genuine Fraud pulls you right in. That was my first emotion.

And the last? After I was done reading the book – ‘What did I just read. OMG!’

Yeah, well. This book will ‘play crazy’ (insert the abusive word here) with your mind. Like really! I have never read such a creative work that takes you back. In time. Literally. No,  there’s no flashback. It’s all written in the opposite order. You go from present to the past when it all began, one chapter at a time. It’s like, wow. I really need to understand how she wrote it. Haha. Intriguing!

It’s unputdownable. I love me some crazy characters and Genuine Fraud is swarming with them. The writing is clear, precise and to the point. I finished the book in a marathon read of two days (would have finished it sooner were I at home and under usual circumstances).

Jule is my favorite character. I only wish she would have done something more, something different. But well, I didn’t write the book. And Lockart did a good enough job!

If you like a crazy, mind-boggling mystery, thriller you can finish in one sitting. This. This should be your pick.

3.5/5 stars – Somewhere between ‘I liked it’ and ‘I really liked it’.
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Author Bio:

E. Lockhart is the author of Genuine Fraud, We Were Liars, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, The Boyfriend List and several other novels.

website: www.emilylockhart.com
Liars site: www.wewereliars.com
blog: www.theboyfriendlist.com
Twitter: elockhart

 

Many thanks to Bloomsbury India for providing the review copy. All views are my own and unbiased.

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The Good Psychologist by Noam Shpancer

17679534Genre: Fiction

Date Published: Aug 3, 2010

Pages: 256

Source: Owned Books

Goodreads Synopsis: Noam Shpancer’s stunning debut novel opens as a psychologist reluctantly takes on a new client- an exotic dancer whose severe anxiety is keeping her from the stage. The psychologist, a solitary professional who also teaches a lively night class, helps the client confront her fears. But as treatment unfolds, her struggles and secrets begin to radiate onto his life, upsetting the precarious balance in his unresolved relationship with Nina, a married former colleague with whom he has a child?a child he has never met. As the shell of his detachment begins to crack, he suddenly finds himself too deeply involved, the boundary lines between professional and personal, between help and harm, blurring dangerously.

With its wonderfully distinctive narrative voice, rich with humor and humanity, The Good Psychologist leads the reader on a journey into the heart of the therapy process and beyond, examining some of the fundamental questions of the soul: to move or be still; to defy or obey; to let go or hold on.

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

My View: When you come across the word ‘psychologist’ in the book title and google the author to find out he’s a clinical psychologist himself and working in the area of anxiety disorders, your curiosity is piqued and you buy it during an online sale. The book patiently waits to be picked up for a couple of years until it’s finally brought to the forefront of the bookshelf during spring cleaning and set down by the bedside to be read.

You try not to let your expectations hit the roof and start reading without peeking at the synopsis. Gradually, you find yourself being pulled in by the setting of the therapy, the interesting client to see which direction it will take. You find yourself enthralled by the really good examples, the psychologist gives to the client and mentally make a note to add that to your therapeutic skills. And then you are put off by the casual throwing around of the client information and find yourself doing a ‘you didn’t do that!’ only to tell yourself this is fiction and perhaps the author is taking creative liberty, don’t go all ethics on him. And you read on.

The plot could have been made more interesting than it was. It did appeal to me when it began. But the only thing that held my interest steadfast was the really good examples given by the clinical psychologist to his client as well during his class. Those I intend to make use of in my therapeutic practice. I liked a bit of the unravelling but I am sure my expectations did get in the way. Perhaps I was looking for an ethical, doing it by the rules, clinical psychologist who leads the client from point A to point B but of course, this isn’t a text and not made to be taken in that way. So well, it made for an interesting one-time read but perhaps a non-psychology background reader would do it more justice by being objective about the plot and the treatment.

3.5/5 stars – Somewhere between ‘I liked it’ and ‘I really liked it’
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Author Bio:

Noam Shpancer was born and raised on an Israeli kibbutz. Currently he is a professor of psychology at Otterbein University and a practicing clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders. He is also a blogger at psychologytoday.com/blog/insight-therapy and an op-ed columnist for the Jewish bimonthly The New Standard. He lives in Columbus, Ohio.

The Nine-Chambered Heart by Janice Pariat

36682054.jpgGenre: Fiction

Date Published: 25 November 2017

Pages: 216

Source: Harper Collins Review Copy

Goodreads Synopsis: ‘You, though, are as beautiful as light splitting through glass.’ Nine characters recall their relationship with a young woman – the same woman – whom they have loved, or who has loved them. We piece her together, much as we do with others in our lives, in incomplete but illuminating slivers. Set in familiar and nameless cities, moving between east and west, The Nine-Chambered Heart is a compendium of shifting perspectives that follows one woman’s life, making her dazzlingly real in one moment, and obscuring her in the very next. Janice Pariat’s exquisitely written new novel is about the fragile, fragmented nature of identity – how others see us only in bits and pieces, and how sometimes we tend to become what others perceive us to be.

Buy it here – Amazon India | Amazon US | Flipkart | BookDepository Add on Goodreads

My View: The first I heard of this book was when I was invited to its book launch. I had never seen a performative play before and I am glad I finally did. It was really well done, intense and made me inquisitive about the book. Of course, the prior interview with the author helped. And hence I asked for a review copy.

Lo and galore, this beautiful hardback landed in my mailbox. I started reading it the same day. While reading, my mind went back to the play. I could ‘see’ the characters playing their parts, could remember their voices. They had indeed done a really good job!

About the book, I am really not sure where to begin. The words paint vivid pictures, the expressions intense, a smile here, a curious glance there. It’s like a movie running in your head. And all the while, you’re trying to picture this character, filling in the gaps, kohl’ing her eyes, painting her lips. A little by little, as you get to know her better but do you really? Get to know her better? Or is it all a mirage and you’re just looking from nine pairs of eyes and seeing someone different each time? Is it the same person throughout? Or have the layers piled on? The character has developed and is no longer who she was earlier? Such an enigma.

Truth be told, I read so much international fiction, that sometimes it takes me ages to get into an Indian-author written book. That was so not the case with Pariat’s book. It just went on, smoothly, without any bumps. Like lyrics, the writing flew by. At times melodious, at times rough. But there it was. Very vivid and striking. It follows you days after you have read it. And you wonder.

I like the way the relationships are projected. Fleeting, fragile, gone with the wind. Isn’t it how they all are? Maybe a touch of imagination, a dash of freedom has been added but the essence remains. All these relationships, they speak their own mind, tell their own story and leave for you to unravel this person, this central character who never really appears except what you know of her through others and the kind of relationship they have had with her.

Despite all the things I liked, there are a couple caveats. I understand the need to not label names, places etc and leave them as they are. That is not a problem. But if I have to read ‘city without a river’ and ‘city with a river’ 8 times (or maybe more), it irritates the hell out of me. I would rather read ‘Delhi’ or ‘Sikkim’ or I can even do without any mention of it. But that line, again and again, drives me crazy. Really!

However, if you can put this little irritant aside, there’s a lot for you here. Hidden in this gem of a book. I think I will go back to it again one day and re-read, to once again lose myself in the mystery, the way relationships work and don’t. The way in which life goes on with hiccups. The way you don’t know where life is headed and have no control over it. And maybe learn a bit or two. To add a bit of carelessness to yourself, to live a little, to throw caution to the wind, and go on living, unabashed, unfettered…

3.5/5 stars – Somewhere between ‘I liked it’ and ‘I really liked it’.
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Author Bio:

Janice is a writer based between London and New Delhi/Shillong (depending on the weather). Her first book Boats on Land: A Collection of Short Stories won the Sahitya Akademi Young Writer Award and the Crossword Award for Fiction in 2013. Her novel Seahorse has been published by Vintage, Random House India, in November 2014.

She studied English Literature at St Stephen’s College, Delhi, and History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

Her work has featured in a wide number of national magazines & newspapers including OPEN, Art India, Tehelka, Caravan: A Journal of Culture & Politics, Outlook & Outlook Traveller, Motherland, and Biblio: A Review of Books, among others.

(Thank you, Harper Collins for providing me a review copy. All opinions are my own and unbiased.)

If I Had to Tell It Again by Gayathri Prabhu

36528197.jpgGenre: Memoir

Date Published: November 2017

Pages: 192

Source: Harper Collins Review Copy

Goodreads Synopsis: Sixty-six years of a lifetime gone.

There would be no funeral. He had donated his body to the local medical college. It was part of his script, his fantasy about death. He would show his hospital donation certificate to anyone who came to our house. No rituals for me, he would announce. To his mind there was some justice in being cut up by medical students. He had wanted to be a doctor.
There is his corpse, lying on the floor, people constantly milling around, talking about his untimely, unfortunate death, while I stare at everyone in dry-eyed annoyance. He had always been a popular man, much loved, generous to a fault to his neighbours, even if angry towards his own family. I just want him gone from the house. When the van from the morgue comes to pick him up, everyone urges us to touch his feet, to ask for his blessings. It is expected from children of dead parents. Everyone watches us.

You first, an old man points to me, my father s first-born.

I bend down, my fingers touch his feet.

In my mind the words form, loud and distinct I forgive you.

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My View: That bare, sparse cover is a true fit for this book. It radiates what is within. The hazy memories of a lifetime gone by, the words disappearing before they are written. Written hurriedly without a thought given to the capitals. Flowing over the page, unbidden, unstoppable, like a river in motion.

This book is not an easy read. I cannot even fathom how difficult it would have been to write. At one point, the author explains why memoirs are less frequently written in our country. Because they will be read by relatives, neighbors, and friends. We belong to a  country in which people hide their shame and do not air their dirty laundries in public. But whose shame is it anyway?

The book transcends various forms of narratives and undergoes time lapses. The reality is seen via a play, heard by the author herself or told in the third narrative as if the author wants to distance herself from what is being said. As if it’s not her past. As if she wants to disown what has gone by. And who wouldn’t? With a life like that, anyone would want to hide the past under covers and never look at it again. But herein, the author stays true to what her father wanted her to be. Brave, unafraid, facing her demons, standing upto family, relatives and friends in baring the reality and brushing nothing under the carpet.

There it is, the stark, naked truth for you to see, feel and abhor. Everything that we hide, turn away from, refuse to believe, deny. The workings of our families, our societies, the bleak knowledge of mental illness and our ignorance.

When it began, it felt more like a book about the author’s journey with her father. It was only past page 80 when we began to get more than just a glimpse of her which is when the book took on a completely different turn. And I found myself falling into the vortex of her mind, feeling, experiencing, detesting.

The to and fro narratives, free of progressive timelines gave a disconnected, jarring feel to the narrative. But I believe that reflects the life of the narrator as it really was. It hasn’t been an easy one. So when a friend of the author tells her she is strong, I concur. It takes someone with an immense strength to undergo all that she has. No one can come unscathed from these experiences and neither did she. But to have come a long way and making the most of her life is what she has excelled at.

The lack of names in the memoir, identified usually by a single alphabet, a G, a N. It felt disconcerting. Not to know the names, not to know the characters well. Not to know about the author’s mother, her name, more about her. But I think this memoir is more a father-daughter’s story than anything else and the author wanted to stay true to it. Others are just passing characters in this real-life story and have been kept nameless so that we can bypass them quickly without sparing them a thought. They aren’t as important to the narrative, to the journey the author wants to take us on.

The writing is easy to read, flows well and helps the reader understand the dilemma, the uncertainty and the storm occurring within the author. This memoir is a testament to life’s difficulties and the odds against which a person rises despite being pulled down, over and over again. It’s a narrative of a difficult childhood, multiple instances of physical and sexual abuse, resulting depression, and a fight against all of it. It is undoubtedly a memoir worth reading.

3/5 stars – I liked it
3 stars

Author Bio:

Gayathri Prabhu is the author of the memoir ‘If I Had to Tell It Again’ (HarperCollins, 2017) and the novels ‘The Untitled’ (Fourth Estate, HarperCollins, 2016), ‘Birdswim Fishfly’ (Rupa, 2006) and Maya (Indialog, 2003). She presently teaches literary studies at the Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities.

(Thank you Harper Collins for providing me a review copy. All opinions are my own and unbiased.)

Bread and Chocolate by Philippa Gregory

161852.jpgGenre: Short Stories

Date Published: Jan 1, 2000

Pages: 256

Source: Owned Books

Goodreads Synopsis: A  collection of short stories from one of our most popular novelists – the perfect gift. A rich and wonderful selection of short stories. A TV chef who specialises in outrageous cakes tempts a monk who bakes bread for his brothers; a surprise visitor invites mayhem into the perfect minimalist flat in the season of good will; a woman explains her unique view of straying husbands; straying husbands encounter a variety of effective responses. Just some of the delicacies on offer in this sumptuous box of delights…

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My View: I am not much for short stories so when I pick one up, I am either in the mood for something short or am not in the mood for anything and can’t decide. But this, my my, was a brilliant choice. I finished it in less than 20 hours on a workday which is saying a lot for a 250 page book.

I probably read one book by Gregory long long back. Oh wait, after a quick check on GR, I apparently haven’t read a single one by her. I think something is fishy here. I have 4 books from one of her series adorning my shelves. And I thought I had read atleast one  by her and loved it to justify buying these 5 but oh well, maybe the GR reviews did me in.

The title story, which is also the first, reeled me in by its smell of warm bread fresh out of the oven and the deliciously dark, melting chocolate. Can you visualize it yet? Taste it? Mmmm.. like a beautiful sin it goes…

This book is a mix of stories with some sad like ‘The favour” or “The if game” but also several clever ones like “The visitor”, “The conjuring trick” and “Theories about men”.

One of my favorites was ‘theories about men’. It’s so clever and funny at the same time. I also really enjoyed ‘the wave machine’ and ‘the magic box’.

All in all, I would say the stories are women-centered and play on the power of females. However, I am pretty sure if you are not a staunch believer in patriarchy, you will enjoy these as a male too.

Gregory weaves magic with a solid punch packed in the stories. Her writing is delicate and fragile yet visual and emotional. She makes her women characters capable and clever, just the kind of women I like to read about (and encounter in the real world unless they are the evil sorts then I would rather they be dumb :p).

The book makes for a quick read and I highly recommend it.

4/5 stars – I really liked it
4 stars

Author Bio:

Philippa Gregory was an established historian and writer when she discovered her interest in the Tudor period and wrote the novel The Other Boleyn Girl, which was made into a TV drama and a major film. Published in 2009, the bestselling The White Queen, the story of Elizabeth Woodville, ushered in a new series involving The Cousins’ War (now known as The War of the Roses) and a new era for the acclaimed author.

Gregory lives with her family on a small farm in Yorkshire, where she keeps horses, hens and ducks. Visitors to her site, www.PhilippaGregory.com become addicted to the updates of historical research, as well as the progress of her ducklings.

Her other great interest is the charity she founded nearly twenty years ago; Gardens for The Gambia. She has raised funds and paid for 140 wells in the primary schools of the dry, poverty stricken African country. Thousands of school children have learned market gardening, and drunk the fresh water in the school gardens around the wells.

A former student of Sussex University, and a PhD and Alumna of the Year 2009 of Edinburgh University, her love for history and her commitment to historical accuracy are the hallmarks of her writing. She also reviews for US and UK newspapers, and is a regular broadcaster on television, radio, and webcasts from her website.

Philipa’s Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/PhilippaGregoryOfficial

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

35504431.jpgGenre: Young Adult

Date Published: 2017

Pages: 286

Source: Owned kindle copy

Goodreads Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

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

My View: My journey with John Green started 6 years back with Looking for Alaska  (my review) which also happened to be my first audiobook. I gushed and went ga-ga over it. It was my favorite book of 2011 and I also bought a paperback later just because I wanted that book in my possession and possibly for a re-read later. After that, I really wanted to read more by him. And so I did. Barely two months later, I read The Fault in Our Stars (my review) in a 4.5-hour reading marathon being awake until the wee hours of the morning. However, the downhill ride had started, I gave this one 3.5 stars.

Three years later, I read Paper Towns (my review) which went further downhill with 3 stars and my long rant about the book being un-John Greenish. And then a year and a half later I picked up Let it Snow which had a story by John Green (my review) – “A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle”. This story hit me hard and I felt Green was at his lowest. It was my least liked story in the book. The plot, the characters, nothing appealed to me at all. And after that reading, I had written I will be cautious in buying John Green books from hereon as he can’t always deliver what he did once. But did I remember it for long? Uh huh. That lesson kind of blew away in the wind when more than a year later, I saw this brand new book by Green and sparkling 5 star reviews and it’s getting a place in Goodreads finalists. And I fell for it. I am ashamed to say I did.

So with all that background, you are now equipped enough to understand where I am coming from and how my preceeding rant is justified. When the book began, I felt that Green wanted to change his usual choice of genre. It seemed like I was in for a mystery-thriller. A couple of pages in it felt like probably he was aiming for fantasy. And then some more and I was like yes, maybe he is after romance this time. With all these grappling to understand where the hell this book was going, I was beginning to get impatient. Half way through the book, I felt like throwing it against the wall but sadly I was reading on my phone and had no intention of breaking it. Another thought was to abandon it. But my being a John Green loyalist despite what he has led me through all these years as well as someone who hates leaving books unfinished, went on with it in the hopes that Green will redeem himself in the end. Boy, could I have been more wrong! This book just went from worse to worst. I appreciate and applaud Green for trying to spread awareness about mental illness through the book but really going on and on about it actually does not help to be empathic. In fact, it made me get tired of the protagonist and I am a clinical psychologist! I am supposed to empathize with her but I just couldn’t because he has made Aza a shadow of who she should have been despite the mental illness. I am not sure if it really gives out the right picture. Yes, OCD is horrible, really horrible illness and people have their daily lives taken over but they are certainly not one-dimensional. I did not like a single character in this book. And the amount of liberties Green has taken with his imagination this time around makes this more fit for fantasy than YA. Hundred thousand dollars and tarantua! Oh dear, what were you thinking? No, really! It took you 6 years to write this book! Even though I want to really stand by you and appreciate your hard work and patience, I can’t, I just can’t. This book just does not work. I have been a fan but I can’t be blind nor biased.

The plot, I don’t get what the plot really is about. Nothing catches my attention. I did not feel any emotions during any part of the book. The characters are not well-developed, the storyline is very shaky and the book is just plain bland.

The most scary thing this book has done is made me question my love for Looking for Alaska. I am scared to give it a re-read for the fear that maybe I was mistaken earlier, perhaps it is not such a good book. I am scared to re-read it for the fear I would hate it. And after all those hundreds of people, I recommended this book to. Well, perhaps I should let sleeping dogs lie and be content with the memory of a favorite book and not stir the graves.

Others have loved this book and you may want to give it a try at your own risk but me, I really will have to be more cautious about his books now. I still have to read Will Grayson, Will Grayson and An Abundance of Katherines. Should I? Let me know what you think.

2/5 stars – It was okay.
2stars

Author Bio: 

John Green’s first novel, Looking for Alaska, won the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award presented by the American Library Association. His second novel, An Abundance of Katherines, was a 2007 Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His next novel, Paper Towns, is a New York Times bestseller and won the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best YA Mystery. In January 2012, his most recent novel, The Fault in Our Stars, was met with wide critical acclaim, unprecedented in Green’s career. The praise included rave reviews in Time Magazine and The New York Times, on NPR, and from award-winning author Markus Zusak. The book also topped the New York Times Children’s Paperback Bestseller list for several weeks. Green has also coauthored a book with David Levithan called Will Grayson, Will Grayson, published in 2010. The film rights for all his books, with the exception of Will Grayson Will Grayson, have been optioned to major Hollywood Studios.

In 2007, John and his brother Hank were the hosts of a popular internet blog, “Brotherhood 2.0,” where they discussed their lives, books and current events every day for a year except for weekends and holidays. They still keep a video blog, now called “The Vlog Brothers,” which can be found on the Nerdfighters website, or a direct link here.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams

6632785.jpgGenre: Classics/ Play

Date Published: 1955

Pages: 124

Source: Owned Books

Goodreads SynopsisCat on a Hot Tin Roof first heated up Broadway in 1955 with its gothic American story of brothers vying for their dying father’s inheritance amid a whirlwind of sexuality, untethered in the person of Maggie the Cat. The play also daringly showcased the burden of sexuality repressed in the agony of her husband, Brick Pollitt. In spite of the public controversy Cat stirred up, it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the Drama Critics Circle Award for that year. Williams, as he so often did with his plays, rewrote Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for many years—the present version was originally produced at the American Shakespeare Festival in 1974 with all the changes that made Williams finally declare the text to be definitive, and was most recently produced on Broadway in the 2003–2004 season. This definitive edition also includes Williams&rsquoi; essay “Person-to-Person,” Williams’ notes on the various endings, and a short chronology of the author’s life. One of America’s greatest living playwrights, as well as a friend and colleague of Williams, Edward Albee has written a concise introduction to the play from a playwright’s perspective, examining the candor, sensuality, power, and impact of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof then and now. 

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

My View: I have never been a person who reads plays. I would rather go and watch one. But when it is one which has won a Pulitzer Prize, has an interesting title and pretty book cover, you end up buying it during an online sale. It resides prettily in your bookshelf until almost 3.5 years when you decide to pick it up for a Goodreads challenge to read books with pages 100-200 and it just fits in.

I know people love descriptive terms and all the words about non-verbal body cues or setting the scene so as to say. I, however, am not one of them. I will go with it for a while and then just skim over until I find the real deal. So even though people appreciate how vividly Williams has each character imagined, to the extent of how the character is walking, I tend to skip it. Don’t get me wrong. I love him for what he has done and it would come as a great help when directing the play or the movie but it isn’t so pleasant to read all that is written in the brackets. It deflects my attention from the actual story.

About the plot, certainly, Williams has a lot going on in those short 91 pages to be precise. So much of societal oppression and themes to do with greed, animosity and loads about human nature, truth be told. He brings out the characters to be in-your-face. They aren’t hiding their faults and human vices but it is there for everyone to see. And that is what strikes me most, not the human nature per se, which we see around ourselves day in and day out but the alarming presence of it amidst everyone for all to see. And it is then that it hits you hard, for what we are. It’s clever, the people, the play. It comes rushing down on you with so much going on in such short a time and the play ends before you have time to grapple with them all.

The book presents two versions of Act 3 and I am tempted to go with Williams on his version. It seems truer to fact. I agree with his observations and why characters are behaving in the way they are.

I can guess why this won the Pulitzer. It brought on quite an uproar for its bold theme during that time. I think I should watch the movie now. The play is so short, I am sure the director would have taken creative license to extend this to movie length.

The title is very innovative but the author makes sure you get the meaning, not once but twice and it fits like a glove. A bit hillarious if you have a good visual imagination though. 😉

Apart from the play, I absolutely loved Williams’ essay on author and director. It told me more about his thought process and writing than the play did. It’s beautiful and gives an insight into the author-director duo at work. This and not the play itself, makes me want to read more by him. You got any suggestions?

3.5/5 stars – Between ‘I liked it’ and ‘I really liked it’
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Author Bio:

Thomas Lanier Williams III, better known by the nickname Tennessee Williams, was a major American playwright of the twentieth century who received many of the top theatrical awards for his work. He moved to New Orleans in 1939 and changed his name to “Tennessee,” the state of his father’s birth. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948 and for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955. In addition, The Glass Menagerie (1945) and The Night of the Iguana (1961) received New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards. His 1952 play The Rose Tattoo (dedicated to his lover, Frank Merlo), received the Tony Award for best play.

Characters in his plays are often seen as representations of his family members. Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie was understood to be modeled on Rose. Some biographers believed that the character of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire is also based on her.

Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie was generally seen to represent Williams’ mother, Edwina. Characters such as Tom Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie and Sebastian in Suddenly, Last Summer were understood to represent Williams himself. In addition, he used a lobotomy operation as a motif in Suddenly, Last Summer.

The Pulitzer Prize for Drama was awarded to A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948 and to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955. These two plays were later filmed, with great success, by noted directors Elia Kazan (Streetcar) with whom Williams developed a very close artistic relationship, and Richard Brooks (Cat). Both plays included references to elements of Williams’ life such as homosexuality, mental instability, and alcoholism. Although The Flowering Peach by Clifford Odets was the preferred choice of the Pulitzer Prize jury in 1955 and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was at first considered the weakest of the five shortlisted nominees, Joseph Pulitzer Jr., chairman of the Board, had seen Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and thought it worthy of the drama prize. The Board went along with him after considerable discussion.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

11224.jpgGenre: Classics

Date Published: 1963

Pages: 325

Source: Library

Goodreads Synopsis: In this classic of the 1960s, Ken Kesey’s hero is Randle Patrick McMurphy, a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the world of a mental hospital and takes over. A lusty, life-affirming fighter, McMurphy rallies the other patients around him by challenging the dictatorship of Nurse Ratched. He promotes gambling in the ward, smuggles in wine and women, and openly defies the rules at every turn. But this defiance, which starts as a sport, soon develops into a grim struggle, an all-out war between two relentless opponents: Nurse Ratched, back by the full power of authority, and McMurphy, who has only his own indomitable will. What happens when Nurse Ratched uses her ultimate weapon against McMurphy provides the story’s shocking climax.

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My View: This book was on my TBR list for so long. The very first reason being it was set in an asylum. Being a clinical psychologist by profession, I try and read as many fiction books on mental illness as I can, a) because they interest me, b) I am hoping they give a real picture of the situation and the illness to create awareness among the laymen, c) I want to keep re-sensitizing myself so that I don’t become a technician and forget the person across the table has emotions and to empathize truly with what is going on with him/ her (though this isn’t very likely but sometimes I find that knowing how it feels like from the point of the person involved really helps keep me rooted and be motivated again and again to do my best at work). Anyhow, I had picked it up around 5 years back, couldn’t get into it. Finally gave up and watched the movie first, which is usually not what happens. I keep postponing the movie until I read the book (no wonder I watched Shutter Island last year and am still to watch Lord of the Rings and so many more movies!). But I wanted to try yet again and hence issued this book out of my library.

When I began reading, this book felt like a lot of work. I just couldn’t get into it. But I was determined to finish it this time around. The book dragged on till around 80 pages! After which it really picked up and my perseverance paid off. There really was no looking back. Am I happy to get it out of the way? You bet. Did I like it? I did, I really did. Am I going to pick it up again for a re-read? Umm, I doubt that very much. Not because it doesn’t deserve a second read but because it’s sad. In fact, I would go ahead and say this book is downright depressing. I didn’t feel this way after watching the movie (if memory serves me right). However, I understand that with a book, you feel more close to the character than a movie because you can read their thoughts and know them better than a movie ever allows. At times, I felt like abandoning the book in between, not because it wasn’t interesting but because I felt this was not going to go where I wanted it to. And I almost wanted to hold the author’s pen and drive it away from where he was taking it. The characters are so breathlessly etched that I felt so close to them. They were like family whom I wanted to save from anything and everything. No wonder after I finished reading, I just lay on my bed for 2 hours and did absolutely nothing. I felt like all my energy had drained, I felt really sad and I just wanted to move onto another book to distract myself from what this book had led me through.

Not to say, the book is all sad. There are many moments when I laughed. It’s quite funny at times, really. It’s interesting to know that Kesey got inspired to write this book after his time spent as a part-time aide at a psychiatric hospital. The book really does give you food for thought although it doesn’t represent the true picture of mental illness but perhaps it does portray the true reality of asylums during that time.

I do recommend giving it a read but not if you are already feeling low or have no intention of wanting to feel sad.

3.5/5 stars – Between ‘I liked it’ and ‘I really liked it’
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Author Bio:

American writer, who gained world fame with his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest(1962, filmed 1975). In the 1960s, Kesey became a counterculture hero and a guru of psychedelic drugs with Timothy Leary. Kesey has been called the Pied Piper, who changed the beat generation into the hippie movement.

Ken Kesey was born in La Junta, CO, and brought up in Eugene, OR. Kesey spent his early years hunting, fishing, swimming; he learned to box and wrestle, and he was a star football player. He studied at the University of Oregon, where he acted in college plays. On graduating he won a scholarship to Stanford University. Kesey soon dropped out, joined the counterculture movement, and began experimenting with drugs. In 1956 he married his school sweetheart, Faye Haxby.

Kesey attended a creative writing course taught by the novelist Wallace Stegner. His first work was an unpublished novel, ZOO, about the beatniks of the North Beach community in San Francisco. Tom Wolfe described in his book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968) Kesey and his friends, called the Merry Pranksters, as they traveled the country and used various hallucinogens. Their bus, called Furthur, was painted in Day-Glo colors. In California Kesey’s friends served LSD-laced Kool-Aid to members of their parties.

At a Veterans’ Administration hospital in Menlo Park, California, Kesey was paid as a volunteer experimental subject, taking mind-altering drugs and reporting their effects. These experiences as a part-time aide at a psychiatric hospital, LSD sessions – and a vision of an Indian sweeping there the floor – formed the background for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, set in a mental hospital. While writing the work, and continuing in the footsteps of such writers as Thomas De Quincy (Confessions of an English Opium Eater, 1821), Aldous Huxley (The Doors of Perception, 1954), and William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch, 1959), Kesey took peyote. The story is narrated by Chief Bromden. Into his world enters the petty criminal and prankster Randall Patrick McMurphy with his efforts to change the bureaucratic system of the institution, ruled by Nurse Ratched.

The film adaptation of the book gained a huge success. When the film won five Academy Awards, Kesey was barely mentioned during the award ceremonies, and he made known his unhappiness with the film. He did not like Jack Nicholson, or the script, and sued the producers.

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.

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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.

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.

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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

7035

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.

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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.

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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.