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.)

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.

Have you been to this booklover’s paradise yet?

So I mentioned I would tell you about this super amazing place I visited last month. Same time last month I was in Japan at a place I want to scream about from the rooftop. Although I am a very planned kind of person when it comes to my trips, this time I didn’t get much time to do that. However, thanks to a friend who recognizes my hunger for books, I came to know about this wow place. The thing is she had no idea I was visiting Japan in July but something made her send this my way in May of this year. I would call it sheer good luck and destiny on my part. And that’s how I came to know about Book and Bed, Tokyo.

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That looks like a beautiful cozy library, doesn’t it? But it’s so much more than that! Right behind that bookshelf are beds. Yes! Little comfy beds, your own type of a nook inside of a bookshelf. Did you gasp yet? I thought so. I booked one the moment I came to know because I saw them filling up pretty soon. And there I was on 28th July 2016.

I arrived pretty late and it took me quite some time to find it even though it’s in a very prime location in Ikebukuro and hardly 2-3mins walk from the nearest subway. Extremely well located, with lots of places to visit nearby, this is a gem of a place.

It’s on the 7th floor, I was greeted by a receptionist who was from Bangladesh! Yeah, in Japan, you run into people from so many different countries as they work to pay for their education in Japan. She was very friendly and helped me with the formalities. And then I saw my bed. Do you see that girl up there? No, that’s not me but my bed was the one on the left of her, that night. Perfectly located!

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Later, I went around the place taking a tour. The shower was compact but comfortable. You need to make sure you open the washroom door slowly else you end up hitting the person walking outside in the narrow passing way. However, they were the least of my worries. The place doesn’t have a kitchen except you can make yourself a cup of tea or coffee for a charge. I browsed through the bookshelves and spied some English books amongst lots of Japanese ones. That was a bit of disappointment. A lot of these were Japan travel books while others were popular and not so popular English ones. I picked up this stack to read through and settled at the far end of that sofa, looking down at the road 7 floors down from that window on the right.

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I started off with The Gift of Nothing, the cute children’s book and finished it within minutes. Then I moved onto the Japan Travel guide. Flipped through it for around half hour before moving onto Birthday Stories by Haruki Murakami. I have read two of his books, Kafka on the Shore and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage. And before coming to Japan, I tried to locate him down because I had so many questions from Kafka on the Shore that I needed answers to. However, I couldn’t find his address. While reading the preface of this book where Murakami talks about his place in Tokyo and looking out the window, I was looking out the window on my left trying to find his place amongst the high rise buildings of Tokyo. It was such a surreal feeling to read Murakami in his own country where he may be sleeping just a few miles away from me. I read through a few stories before getting into my comfy bed and reading away until 1:30am when my eyes couldn’t keep open and I let myself fall asleep.

Sadly, next morning, I had to vacate by 11. I awoke late, had a shower and left, already missing the place a bit.

If you aren’t short on cash, I would recommend booking a couple of nights here. One night was too less.

Do not miss this when in Japan! Highly recommended!

Who, Me? by Tina Sharma Tiwari

Date Published: April 2015
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pages: 262
Source: Review Copy provided by Random House India
Format: Paperback

Goodreads SynopsisIs love only about how you look? Will a makeover change Tara’s life? Can it change anybody’s life? When plain Jane Tara is dumped by her fiancé at the altar for a stunning rich heiress, it shakes her confidence. However, she’s not ready to give up. She will do whatever it takes to win her Arun back. Even if it means undergoing a complete makeover!

The school reunion is her big chance. So when Tara turns up there, completely transformed glamorous and sexy-she gets more than her fair share of attention, especially from Arun. It seems her plan is working. But soon the unexpected begins to happen and Tara finds herself in a dangerous situation. She stumbles upon secrets she’d never known. Life shows her how unpredictable it is!

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

My View: If you read my blog diligently, you know my strange habit of being wary of Indian authors for the most part. I do like some of them like Jhumpa Lahiri and I did like Mohsin Hamid (read previous review). But most of them I don’t get along with in terms of the writing.

Since I had the pleasure of going to the book launch of this one, I decided to give it a go. Also, the fact that the author is a journalist helped me take that brave decision. So was my decision right? Let’s see.

I didn’t like the cover at the first glance, it was only when I held the book in my hand was I able to appreciate that dual dressing bit and realised it was very clever and tastefully done. Well done, Pia Hazarika. I wonder why her name sounds familiar. Will look that up later.

Going past the cover, as is the norm, it took me some time to settle in with the writing. Over time, I didn’t find it difficult to traverse my way through. There were absolutely no typos, no grammatical errors as was expected of a journalist cum writer and I am glad for that.

The book is set in chick lit genre and I believe I knew that when I started reading it. Over my reading though, the book seemed to have transcended its genre from chick lit to thriller. I am not sure how I felt about it though.

The things that I liked about the book includes its being error-free and some very comical situations that had me smiling if not laughing out loud. Well done on that, you author, you!

Things that I would have liked to steer clear of – I understand chick lit does assume some innocence and stupid acts on the part of the protagonists but sometimes it got on my nerves (am I becoming a feminist by the day?). I know one shouldn’t compare books but I am reminded of Janet Evanovich series and how one tends to laugh a lot when reading her books but there are no hard feelings and no way-beyond-stupid acts. I think I had major issues with the book’s plot because I see women as strong and intelligent. Although I did see glimpses of those in another character, I somehow wanted the protagonist to have those too. I wanted to shake some sense into her. But, oh well, if I am feeling strongly for the characters, the author has done her job well, hasn’t she?

Another thing that irked me was the kind of mixing of genres, not that I mind it. But in this book, it seemed more of a forced entry than casual sneakiness. And somehow the reality was lost and the book became a hugely fictional, impossible account of a main character. That was when I realised I didn’t connect with the book any more.

Fantasies are all around us and we want to live in one. But for books termed any other genre than fantasy, I expect realistic situations and thus wasn’t too happy with the way the book advanced. The plot wasn’t for me, personally. The characters, however, were well etched and thought out. And the writing was smooth and flowing.

If you’re into chick-lit and love some thrill mixed with it, you would like this easy, breezy read. I finished reading it in two days, so that’s something.

2/5 stars – It was okay. 2stars

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

Huge thanks to Random House India for providing the review copy.

Discontent and Its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London by Mohsin Hamid

Date Published: November 27, 2014
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pages: 252
Source: Review Copy provided by Random House India
Format: Paperback

Goodreads SynopsisFrom “one of his generation’s most inventive and gifted writers” (The New York Times) , intimate and sharply observed commentary on life, art, politics, and “the war on terror.”

Mohsin Hamid’s brilliant, moving, and extraordinarily clever novels have not only made him an international bestseller, they have earned him a reputation as a “master critic of the modern global condition” (Foreign Policy). His stories are at once timeless and of-the-moment, and his themes are universal: love, language, ambition, power, corruption, religion, family, identity. Here he explores this terrain from a different angle in essays that deftly counterpoise the personal and the political, and are shot through with the same passion, imagination, and breathtaking shifts of perspective that gives his fiction its unmistakable electric charge.

A “water lily” who has called three countries on three continents his home—Pakistan, the birthplace to which he returned as a young father; the United States, where he spent his childhood and young adulthood; and Britain, where he married and became a citizen—Hamid writes about overlapping worlds with fluidity and penetrating insight. Whether he is discussing courtship rituals or pop culture, drones or the rhythms of daily life in an extended family compound, he transports us beyond the scarifying headlines of an anxious West and a volatile East, beyond stereotype and assumption, and helps to bring a dazzling diverse global culture within emotional and intellectual reach.

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

My View: To tell the truth, the only reason I picked up this book in the first place was because the author was famous for having written The Reluctant Fundamentalist which went on to become a major motion picture. Otherwise, a book with a title like that would have been easily glossed over.

The book has been divided by essays into three parts – Life, Art and Politics. It’s difficult to choose which part I liked the most. But yes, I found the first two parts more easy to read and interesting while the final one was heavy and dry on the palate.

I liked the way the essays have been structured. It starts with giving us a glimpse into the author’s life which makes it easier to appreciate what comes later on. We see the world through his eyes and experiences and it lends itself a different voice than the world might see from their side of the spider’s web.

The author’s journey through his career changes, his personal life and travel within the three countries makes for an interesting narrative. In seeing the world-view through his eyes, one finds oneself wondering at the objectivity and its absence in all things meaningful.

The essays in the Art section also made for a gripping read. With my interest in all things related to books, I could identify where the author was coming from. His essays about rereading books, likeable characters, Murakami, great American novel and the change of reading experience through ebooks found a resonance within me. They made for a page turning read.

Let me now talk about the Politics section. Frankly, I have zero knowledge and/or interest in politics. But every so often, with the help of books like these, I try to keep myself abreast of the goings-on in the world. And that’s precisely where this section stepped in. The essays give a plethora of events to think about, to reflect upon. Looking at the drones and war from an insider’s perspective lends it an air of honesty and raw brutalism that makes one shudder. It’s easy to read about it in the news than to hear someone who has been through it and knows the ins and outs. It would be easier to side with the US on its drones and air strikes when its labelled as a fight with terrorism but when you hear it from the horse’s mouth do you realise it carries within it so much more than just that. The essays give a refreshing albeit heart rending stance to the whole situation. Frankly, it was difficult to go through it. It was unsettling and as is easier, one tends to pass by what is uncomfortable or evokes disturbing emotions. But I needed to know the bird’s eye view of things and not just what the newspapers tell me and hence I read it, every single word of it. It didn’t help settle my perturbed emotions but surely helped me realize that one can never see the panorama from just one side. And now that I have touched on the philosophical, let me give it a rest. And you go read the book.

Highly influential and well-written. Would definitely be trying the author again.

4/5 stars – I liked it. 4 stars

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

Huge thanks to Random House India for providing the review copy.

Power Play by Danielle Steel

Date Published: March 13, 2014
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pages: 352
Source: Review Copy provided by Random House India
Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis: Fiona Carson has proven herself as CEO of a multibillion-dollar high-tech company – a successful woman in a man’s world. Devoted single mother, world-class strategist, and tough negotiator, Fiona has to keep a delicate balance every day.

Meanwhile, Marshall Weston basks in the fruits of his achievements. At his side is his wife Liz who has gladly sacrificed her own career to raise their three children. Smooth, shrewd and irreproachable, Marshall’s power only enhances his charisma – but he harbors secrets that could destroy his life at any moment.

Both must face their own demons, and the lives they lead come at a high price. But just how high a price are they willing to pay?

POWER PLAY is a compelling, heart-rending portrayal of love, family and career – the perfect read for fans of Penny Vincenzi, Susan Lewis and Lesley Pearce.

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

My View: It had been quite some time since I read Steel and I had almost forgotten what it was like. So when I saw this opportunity, I jumped at it. Oh, a random fact that I came across, she was born a day before India got her independence. Striking coincidence.

Woah, she sure is a writing machine. She has 200+ distinct works listed on Goodreads and she works on more than one book at a time! I wish I had her brains and writing skills. She is still writing away and she’s almost 70! I hope my brains continue to run by the time I am that age.

Anyway, about the book, I am glad to have come across it at just the right time. I needed an easy read that would read itself while I lay around. It did do that for the most part except when it elicited emotions in me that weren’t so friendly. When the lazy read became an edge of the seat thriller and I was almost afraid to look for fear that something bad will happen. Yeah, it’s one of those books.

Although I was hoping for a more intense connection between the two protagonists since the writer was closely following their lives, it turned out that the reader was merely to look at the gender differences between the power roles. And that one did see. But I wish there was some connection to tie them both together somehow.

The book does seem to end on a happy note if one may call it that. There could have been a myriad set of endings going with that storyline. This was the one Steel had in mind.

I did enjoy the story for it’s being an easy read but I think my other Steel reads have been better and so I was looking for more perhaps.

Nevertheless, this makes for a good, breezy read highlighting the difference between power play among the genders. Not always true but mostly so.

3/5 stars – I liked it. 3 stars

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

Huge thanks to Random House India for providing the review copy.

Butterfly Season by Natasha Ahmed

Date Published: March 20, 2014
Publisher: Indireads
Pages: 169
Source: Review copy provided by Indireads
Format: Kindle

Goodreads Synopsis:

On her first holiday in six years, Rumi is expecting to relax and unwind. But when she is set up by her long-time friend, she doesn’t shy away from the possibilities. Ahad, a charming, independent, self-made man, captures her imagination, drawing her away from her disapproving sister, Juveria.

Faced with sizzling chemistry and a meeting of the minds, Ahad and Rumi find themselves deep in a relationship that moves forward with growing intensity. But as her desire for the self-assured Ahad grows, Rumi struggles with a decision that will impact the rest of her life.

Confronted by her scandalized sister, a forbidding uncle and a society that frowns on pre-marital intimacy, Rumi has to decide whether to shed her middle-class sensibilities, turning her back on her family, or return to her secluded existence as an unmarried woman in Pakistan.

We follow Rumi from rainy London to a sweltering Karachi, as she tries to take control of her own destiny.

Buy it here – Amazon US | Add on Goodreads

My View: As is characteristic of me, I jumped into the book without any clue to its plot. What held me on was the easy going language, the interesting plot line and the effortlessness of the story reeling me in. 

The plot isn’t very innovative or original but it stands its own in the context in which it occurs. The cultural relevance of Pakistan is another distinguishing factor. 

The writing is smooth flowing and although a couple of instances had me raising my brow in a ‘really?’, they were addressed later on and made sense. The romance is well done and not too mushy but it would have really helped had the book been given more pages and time for the romance to develop instead of looking insta-love. I hate those.

The characters were real and at times seemed hyper but I guess some people are like that in real life.

Overall, the book made for a quick, interesting read. I look forward to more substantial and lengthy book by the author in the future.

3/5 stars – I liked it.3 stars

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

Huge thanks to Indireads for a review copy.

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Date Published: April 5, 2014
Publisher: Poppy
Pages: 337
Source: Local Library
Format: Hardback

Goodreads Synopsis: Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they’re rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen’s relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and — finally — a reunion in the city where they first met.

A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith’s new novel shows that the center of the world isn’t necessarily a place. It can be a person, too.

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

My View: The author’s ‘The statistical probability of love at first sight‘ has been on my to-read list since forever. In fact, I think it has been more than 2 years since I bought it but I still need to get to it. But surprisingly when I saw this one sitting on a library shelf, I decided to read this one first. You know how it goes, you borrow books from library and they are the ones actually getting read while the ones on your own shelf sulk away. Oh, well.

As usual, I went in this book blind, no back cover reads, no reviews gone through. Just straight dunk-in. So what did I find? To begin with, I had a feeling this might be getting somewhere but then after another few pages, I thought maybe not. This seems like one of those cliche’d, been there-done that read.

I truly found love for this book in the second half. I can see you nodding your head there. You know me too well, don’t you? Wherever travel comes in a book, I am all for it. And I gobble it up like it’s my very favorite food. Well, actually, it is! Even though I would have wanted some more of that travelling and descriptions but I realized the book wasn’t about that.

As I go through some of the reviews now, I realize a lot of people didn’t like this one for it being cheesy and cliche’d and almost unbelievable. Okay, I would agree it is a bit cheesy and cliche’d and unbelievable. But then isn’t this what books are for? Sometimes life doesn’t give you what a book does. You get to believe and hope and make those dreams come true. That’s not heard of in real life. And that’s what got to me. It’s what made me love this book. The little thoughts, the similar thinking styles of the main characters. That’s not possible, I know! But still I loved it. I gorged on it like anything. It gave me my breath of air, my unfulfilled dream came to fruition. Umm, okay, I know you are thinking I have probably lost it by this time.

Some of the writing in there is truly worth savoring and I read few sentences multiple time just to let all that beauty sink in.

Perhaps it could be the stage of my life from where I’m looking at it that this book makes absolute sense. It makes me see how this book is believable, how it can happen. It makes me want to fall in love and stay there, even at a distance but still in love. Ahh, the feeling.

I think Ms. Smith has given us a fresh concept albeit with the help of some cliche’d story line and instances. I believe this is one of those books that had it come at any other time, I might have given it a pass and commented on it being cheesy but right now, it means the world. It means everything. And someday I would like to send that postcard and ‘wish you were here’.

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

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

The Mother I Never Knew: Two Novellas by Sudha Murty

Date Published: 2014
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pages: 216
Source: Review copy provided by Random House India
Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis:

What secrets lurk in a family’s past—and how important are they in the here and now?

Sudha Murty’s new book comprises two novellas that explore two quests by two different men—both for mothers they never knew they had.

Venkatesh, a bank manager, stumbles upon his lookalike one fine day. When he probes further, he discovers his father’s hidden past, which includes an abandoned wife and child. Ventakesh is determined to make amends to his impoverished stepmother—but how can he repay his father’s debt?

Mukesh, a young man, is shocked to realize after his father’s death that he was actually adopted. He sets out to find his biological mother, but the deeper he delves, the more confused he is about where his loyalties should lie: with the mother who gave birth to him, or with the mother who brought him up.

The Mother I Never Knew is a poignant, dramatic book that reaches deep into the human heart to reveal what we really feel about those closest to us.

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

My View: Once again skeptical of trying a new Indian author but always the one for taking risks, I dived in.

At the beginning, the simple writing did not impress me as such. It is one of the things that puts me off, in fact, because I find it an obstacle as it distracts me from the concept and the story. However, I soon realized that this was not the case with this book. Despite its simple writing, I could focus on the story and the writing aided in adding to the simplicity of the story.

Well, the story isn’t unique but not a mindless repeat as well. It has new facets and is told in a very subjective way. The author has made the story her own.

Although the story could have been just that, a story, instead of a novella. It could have been said in much less words and even less drama but I believe then I wouldn’t have been made privy to all the minor details that bring out the characters and their importance to the story line.

Both the stories have a Bollywood movie feel to it but I preferred the first one over the second. The second one is too dramatic for my taste, dramatic to the extent of being unbelievable. The unnecessary stretch and added drama put me off towards the end and I was just looking forward to it to end. The first story in comparison talks about families and cultures in contrast, describes the different characters in the family and their mindsets. It takes a lot of time to get to the point but that time doesn’t seem like idling away, it adds value to the story. However, the same time seems wasted to me in the second story, with incidents of no value taking place and unnecessary emotional brouhaha that I would rather stay away from.

Having read through other reviews of the book, I realize this is not Ms Murty’s most stellar attempts at writing and I would love to read Wise and Otherwise which has been more widely appreciated. However, having said that, I did not feel like this was an underwhelming performance. Since this is the first of her works I read, I had no set criteria to compare it to and no expectations. I guess that worked in the book’s favor.

Recommended for a one-time light read if you’re okay with some drama.

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

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

Huge thanks to Random House India for a review copy.

Shattered Dreams by Shubha Vilas

Series: Ramayana: The Game of Life #2

Date Published: February 4, 2015
Publisher: Jaico
Pages: 404
Source: Review copy provided by Blogadda
Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis:

Shattered Dreams is the sequel to the national bestseller, Rise of the Sun Prince, in the new spiritual and motivational series Ramayana – The Game of Life. Twelve joyful years have passed in Ayodhya since the wedding of Rama and Sita at the end of Book 1.

Now, in Shattered Dreams, Shubha Vilas narrates the riveting drama of Rama’s exile. Through tales of Rama’s unwavering and enigmatic persona, the book teaches us how to handle reversals positively; through Bharata’s actions, it teaches us to handle temptation; and through Sita’s courage, to explore beyond our comfort zone. This complicated family drama provides deep insights on how human relationships work and how they fail.

With Valmiki’s Ramayana as its guiding light, Shattered Dreams deftly entwines poetic beauty from the Kamba Ramayana and Ramacharitramanas, as well as folk philosophy from the Loka Pramana tales, to demonstrate how the ancient epic holds immediate relevance to modern life. Experience the ancient saga of the Ramayana like never before.

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

My View: Frankly, I was a bit hesitant before giving this book a nod. I only get along with the writing of very few Indian authors so I am skeptical when trying a new one. A few pages into the book and all my doubts were  put to rest. Shubha’s writing didn’t put me off. He has a rich vocabulary and the writing makes for a smooth, easy read. It was natural and didn’t grab my attention enough to distract me from the concept of the book.

I had not read the first book but being well versed with the general theme of Ramayana, I didn’t think I would feel any disconnect and I was right about that. I believe that will be for most of the readers who have a cursory knowledge of Ramayana.

What I liked about the book was that the instances are well-detailed. Some of those I was not aware of so that added to the dimensions. I especially liked the lessons that one can take from different episodes that are put up in little boxes. It also makes them easier to get back to. The author’s analysis in those instances comes handy. These lessons are applicable from a household situation to even a managerial one.

Also, if one is interested in learning the meaning of certain Hindi or Sanskrit words, they have been taken straight from the epic and then their translation is given. It makes it easier for someone who wants to go back and read the original text someday. You can start building up your dictionary right away.

What I had trouble with was that even though the footnotes had to be there to add perspective, sometimes it was cumbersome to go back and forth and also took the attention away from the smooth flowing story line. Another of my pet peeve are certain typos. And some analogies drawn seemed too general or too abstract to draw my interest. Also, certain expressions like ‘Sita giggling mindlessly’ doesn’t gel well with my conception of Sita so I had trouble imagining and believing it.

Overall, the book makes for an easy, interesting read for people who have or haven’t read Ramayana in the past. The author has worked hard to glean lessons from this epic. The lessons are of benefit to everyone from an average Joe to a marketing consultant. The book flows smoothly and makes you want to go on reading. The author’s in-depth research and analysis makes this an unabridged version. In fact, certain of the historical events or meanings of certain words were new to me and lent the story a refreshing new perspective.

Sorting down this epic into volumes makes it seem less daunting a task to read it all. The way the author has broken it down into parts and further chapters makes the reading effortless and enjoyable. The book is recommended for all those who have an interest in history-based books, epics or those who seek to learn lessons from age-old stories and apply them in the new age world.

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

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

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