Posted in 4 stars, Book reviews, children's

I need to pee by Neha Singh, Meenal Singh, Erik Egerup

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Neha Singh (Story)Meenal Singh (Illustrator)Erik Egerup (Illustrator)

Genre: Children

Date Published: 2018

Pages: 32

Source: Penguin Random House India

Goodreads Synopsis: Rahi simply loves slurping refreshing drinks, and so she always needs to pee. But boy, does she hate public loos! On her way to her aunt’s in Meghalaya, she has to pee on a train as well as stop at a hotel and even the really scary public toilet at the bus depot! And when those around her refuse to help her with her troubles, her only saviour is her Book of Important Quotes. Travel with Rahi and read all about her yucky, icky, sticky adventures in this quirky and vibrant book about the ever-relevant worry of finding safe and clean public restrooms.

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My View: Such an innovative book, this, I just had to read it! What? Don’t judge me! I am a kid at heart, you know. And I am sure looking at those brilliant illustrations, anyone would scream with delight. I might have, just a little bit. And so did my three year old niece, with her eyes round and curious and gleaming when she took the book from me.

I am glad someone has written a book on this very important topic. What? Stop laughing! I am serious here. Humph. It’s such a good book to educate children on the laws regarding emptying their bladders in a restaurant or hotel without having to pay or buy something. I love Rahi’s book of important quotes, such a testament to children’s innocence.

I really enjoyed reading this book and so did my niece who learned a lesson or two from it. The beautifully etched illustrations are a delight to behold. I know my niece would be after my life to read and re-read it to her until she has got it backwards (the process has already begun). Get your hands on this, all you parents and uncles and doting aunts. Your kid is going to love it! (And you will too. Shhh.)

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

Thank you Penguin Random House India for the review copy. All opinions are my own and unbiased.

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Posted in 3.5 stars, Book reviews

Still Me (Me Before You #3) by Jojo Moyes

36598421.jpgGenre: Fiction

Date Published: January 23, 2018

Pages: 480

Source: Penguin Random House Review Copy

Goodreads Synopsis: Lou Clark knows too many things . . .

She knows how many miles lie between her new home in New York and her new boyfriend Sam in London.

She knows her employer is a good man and she knows his wife is keeping a secret from him.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to meet someone who’s going to turn her whole life upside down.

Because Josh will remind her so much of a man she used to know that it’ll hurt.

Lou won’t know what to do next, but she knows that whatever she chooses is going to change everything. 

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My View: I am glad I don’t read the first book in the series the moment it is out. It gives me the privilege to read the series back to back. I think that’s helpful as I have a terrible memory and I need to read the next book right away. This was one of those series that I read back to back. And boy, am I glad?

After reading not so good reviews of ‘After You’, I still decided to listen to it as an audiobook and happened to love it. So when I saw ‘Still Me’ was up for review, I snagged it right away from Penguin Random House.

And that was when I decided to sacrifice my four night’s sleep. Not like four full nights but a couple hours every night for four consecutive days. Although I didn’t regret that behavior when I kept telling myself, just half an hour more, just an hour more. But did I regret it when I had to wake up for work in the morning? Ah, yes! But did I repeat the same thing for three more days? I sure did. Call it crazy, call it insane. But I had to know what was going to happen to Lou. She no longer was a mere character. I had got to know her intimately for so long. I couldn’t just let it unroll slowly. That would have been painful. So for four nights, every couple of hours, I was in Lou’s world, getting better acquainted, crying with her, smiling with her and just being there. Moyes captivated me with Lou and her family. Oh, I do love her family. And Lou. She’s just one of a kind. I wonder if someone like her exists. I think I would want her as a friend. She’s that kind of a girl.

Yes, the plot goes from A to Z, there are way too many twists and turns. Some I like, others I just go along with to see how things will fare for Lou. But hardly at any point was I tempted to keep the book down or take a break. Nah. Joyes had my attention with every word. I just couldn’t look away except when the clock struck 1am and I had to, without wanting to, shut it down and get some winks.

There are new characters in this book, several of whom I love and some I hate. Each of them holds their own and are adequately etched for the reader to feel like we know them personally. Lou’s family, ah. I do love them, I really do. And Lily. Lily is amazing even though she has a very minor part to play in this book. Her actions made me laugh. 😀

I think Moyes is done with the series. To be honest, I am a little sad. I was mesmerized with Lou and her life. And after reading the three books, one after the other, there’s a gaping hole in me which wants more of Lou. I know many readers are quite done with her. But I liked knowing Lou and her character has developed by leaps and bounds with each book. That sure is something to enjoy.

I think you should get this one if you are following the series. It won’t disappoint you.

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

Jojo Moyes is a British novelist.

Moyes studied at Royal Holloway, University of London. She won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to study journalism at City University and subsequently worked for The Independent for 10 years. In 2001 she became a full-time novelist.

Moyes’ novel Foreign Fruit won the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) Romantic Novel of the Year in 2004.

She is married to journalist Charles Arthur and has three children.

Thank you, Penguin Random House for the review copy. All views expressed are my own and unbiased.

Posted in 4 stars, Book reviews

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

99664.jpgGenre: Classics

Date Published: April 1925

Pages: 246

Source: Owned paperback

Goodreads Synopsis:

Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s, The Painted Veil is the story of the beautiful, but love-starved Kitty Fane.

When her husband discovers her adulterous affair, he forces her to accompany him to the heart of a cholera epidemic. Stripped of the British society of her youth and the small but effective society she fought so hard to attain in Hong Kong, she is compelled by her awakening conscience to reassess her life and learn how to love.

The Painted Veil is a beautifully written affirmation of the human capacity to grow, to change, and to forgive.

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My View:  Ah this book! *Sigh* I am so glad I bought a copy of my own. The book had me in its clutches from page 1 and never let go. This is such a beautiful piece of literature. The plot is worth swooning over, the characters real and fleshed out, and the writing is beautiful.

Kitty is a marvellous character. There are so many shades to her. The book is adequately paced making you want to go on reading. There are heartbreaks and reality-orientation moments which devastate you as a reader. And that, I believe, is one of the signs of a good book. You’re so invested in it, in the characters that you feel their pain, you feel their sense of loss and are bereft.

I wish it had ended differently but then it won’t have been the book it is, now. It’s not at all classic-y in that going-on-forever and hard-to-hold-interest-at-times kind of book. It’s a quick read. I wonder if the movie is as good. Have you read the book, seen the movie? What do you think?

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

Author Bio:

William Somerset Maugham was born in Paris in 1874. He spoke French even before he spoke a word of English, a fact to which some critics attribute the purity of his style.

His parents died early and, after an unhappy boyhood, which he recorded poignantly in Of Human Bondage, Maugham became a qualified physician. But writing was his true vocation. For ten years before his first success, he almost literally starved while pouring out novels and plays.

During World War I, Maugham worked for the British Secret Service. He travelled all over the world, and made many visits to America. After World War II, Maugham made his home in south of France and continued to move between England and Nice till his death in 1965.

Posted in 4 stars, Book reviews

After You by Jojo Moyes

25041504.jpgGenre: Fiction

Date Published: September 29, 2014

Pages: 353

Source: Library (Audiobook)

Goodreads Synopsis: “You’re going to feel uncomfortable in your new world for a bit. But I hope you feel a bit exhilarated too. Live boldly. Push yourself. Don’t settle. Just live well. Just live. Love, Will.”

How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?

Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.

Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future…

For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.

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My View: Me before you broke my heart. And I wanted to repair it somehow. When I read the reviews of this one, they weren’t very promising but I needed something to fill that gap in my heart and immediately decided to listen to this on audio. Best decision ever!

Of course, there is no Will in here and that is sad. But the turn this book takes left me gaping. Very ingenious of Moyes to say the least. This book was so addictive. I wanted to listen to it all day long. No wonder I finished the 10-hour audiobook in 3 weekdays!

I am not sure if it was the medium but I found myself much more invested in this book even more than I was in Me before you. And I cried, twice, in this book and not once in Me before you. Yeah, how could I not cry about that! I know, I know. I just didn’t. I have a feeling it was a job well done on the part of the narrator, Anna Acton. She was marvellous. I couldn’t listen at my usual 1.5 speed because British accent is difficult for me to grasp at normal speed let alone the faster one. So I went slow with it but perhaps that is why I could feel and be one with all the emotions Lou was undergoing.

Yes, there are twists and turns in here which will sometime frustrate you and it does seem like a really long book but nevertheless, it was worth it. I know many people have been criticizing Moyes for writing this one and wanted it to end with Me before you but I am one of those that disagree. I think despite it being a series, we should look at each book on its own merit. To be frank, I liked this one more than the first one!

Just keep an open mind and you will love it. Don’t go comparing it to Me before you. Get to know Lou a bit better, understand her changed life circumstances, empathize with her and let her take you over completely. 🙂

Oh, and my advice, go for the audiobook.

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

Author Bio:

Jojo Moyes is a British novelist.

Moyes studied at Royal Holloway, University of London. She won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to study journalism at City University and subsequently worked for The Independent for 10 years. In 2001 she became a full time novelist.

Moyes’ novel Foreign Fruit won the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) Romantic Novel of the Year in 2004.

She is married to journalist Charles Arthur and has three children.

Posted in 3.5 stars, Book reviews

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

15507958.jpgGenre: Romance

Date Published: December 31, 2012

Pages: 369

Source: Library

Goodreads Synopsis: Louisa Clark is an ordinary young woman living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A love story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

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My View:  Wow. I am still reeling from the after effects. This book sure had a lot going for it. I mean, look at the concept. It’s so fresh, hasn’t been done earlier. I really applaud the author for taking on such a sensitive yet risky plot and bringing it to life.

Lou and Will shine as characters. You get to know them intimately. But my favorite characters were Lou’s family. They sure are a riot!

Although the book is full of sad moments, it still retains a sense of humor and I love that about it. I love the fact that despite the overall sadness of the plot, the author ensured the reality of life showed through. Humor does seep in, in real life scenarios, sometimes in the toughest of situations.

A huge sigh of relief was also the relationship between Lou and Will which was given just the right amount of leeway and it was closer to real life than all the insta-love I usually get to read (insert eyeroll here).

Overall, an innovative plot with vividly etched characters and a true to life depiction. Well worth a quick read.

Have you read it? Did you watch the movie? Should I watch the movie? Let me know.

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

Jojo Moyes is a British novelist.

Moyes studied at Royal Holloway, University of London. She won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to study journalism at City University and subsequently worked for The Independent for 10 years. In 2001 she became a full time novelist.

Moyes’ novel Foreign Fruit won the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) Romantic Novel of the Year in 2004.

She is married to journalist Charles Arthur and has three children.

 

Posted in 4.5 stars, Book reviews

At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches by Susan Sontag

903115.jpgGenre: Essays

Date Published: March 6, 2007

Pages: 235

Source: Library

Goodreads Synopsis: “A writer is someone who pays attention to the world,” Susan Sontag said in her 2003 acceptance speech for the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, and no one exemplified this definition more than she. Sontag’s incisive intelligence, expressive brilliance, and deep curiosity about art, politics, and the writer’s responsibility to bear witness have secured her place as one of the most important thinkers and writers of the twentieth century. At the Same Time gathers sixteen essays and addresses written in the last years of Sontag’s life, when her work was being honored on the international stage, that reflect on the personally liberating nature of literature, her deepest commitment, and on political activism and resistance to injustice as an ethical duty. She considers the works of writers from the little-known Soviet novelist Leonid Tsypkin, who struggled and eventually succeeded in publishing his only book days before his death; to the greats, such as Nadine Gordimer, who enlarge our capacity for moral judgment. Sontag also fearlessly addresses the dilemmas of post-9/11 America, from the degradation of our political rhetoric to the appalling torture of prisoners in Abu Ghraib.

At the Same Time, which includes a foreword by her son, David Rieff, is a passionate, compelling work from an American writer at the height of her powers, who always saw literature “as a passport to enter a larger life, the zone of freedom.”

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My View:  I don’t really remember how I heard about Susan Sontag except it was in one of my bookish whatsapp groups (umm yeah, they exist, I am a part of two). And I tucked it away in the back of my mind. On my visit to the library a couple of months back, I stumbled upon ‘In America’ by her but the title didn’t interest me much. What did I have to do with America anyhow? And I put it back on the shelf.

And then I came across this book by Sontag on my recent library visit. I contemplated keeping it back. I wasn’t sure if I was in the mood for essays (I usually never am. Those were things written and memorized in school and never read again.) but I decided to bring it home. It sat beside my bed while I read fictional works I had issued. And finally I decided to atleast get a flavor of what it was about. The introduction by Sontag’s son, Davie Rieff piqued my curiosity. And thereafter I didn’t look back, turning page upon page until I devoured it, albeit a bit slow in the beginning and faster at the end.

It was a brilliant read. I think I am in love with Sontag. And I deeply mourn her loss. I wish she was alive now. I am sure she would have so much to say about Trump’s win and the state of America now. She seems very vocal and unfazed by critics and people in the power. I admire her tenacity and bravado. We need more people like her.

My favorite essay in this book was on Pasternak, Tsvetayeva and Rilke. How she talks about their personal and professional lives giving us a peek into their private lives. Mesmerizing!

I deeply appreciate her insights into books, the lives of authors, political situations and almost everything under the sun. She’s well read, thorough in her research, and her writing just pulls you in and keeps you focused. I could feel the time she has taken in penning down each and every word. I totally am with her when she says not many writers today are knowledgeable. They don’t know about the world they reside in. I agree when she says it’s important as a writer to know what’s happening around.

Ah. The feeling. The aftertaste this book leaves in your mouth. You feel like just sitting for a while, letting it all sink in. To not let that get murky by reading another book. *Sigh*

I need to pick up another book by her. I am gravitating towards ‘Regarding the pain of others’. Have you read Sontag? Which book of hers do you recommend?

4.5/5 stars – Somewhere between ‘I really liked it’ and ‘I loved it’.
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Author Bio:

Susan Sontag was born in New York City on January 16, 1933, grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and attended high school in Los Angeles. She received her B.A. from the College of the University of Chicago and did graduate work in philosophy, literature, and theology at Harvard University and Saint Anne’s College, Oxford.

Her books, all published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, include four novels, The Benefactor, Death Kit, The Volcano Lover, and In America; a collection of short stories, I, etcetera; several plays, including Alice in Bed and Lady from the Sea; and nine works of nonfiction, starting with Against Interpretation and including On Photography, Illness as Metaphor, Where the Stress Falls, Regarding the Pain of Others, and At the Same Time. In 1982, FSG published A Susan Sontag Reader.

Ms. Sontag wrote and directed four feature-length films: Duet for Cannibals (1969) and Brother Carl (1971), both in Sweden; Promised Lands (1974), made in Israel during the war of October 1973; and Unguided Tour (1983), from her short story of the same name, made in Italy. Her play Alice in Bed has had productions in the United States, Mexico, Germany, and Holland. Another play, Lady from the Sea, has been produced in Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Korea.

Ms. Sontag also directed plays in the United States and Europe, including a staging of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in the summer of 1993 in besieged Sarajevo, where she spent much of the time between early 1993 and 1996 and was made an honorary citizen of the city.

A human rights activist for more than two decades, Ms. Sontag served from 1987 to 1989 as president of the American Center of PEN, the international writers’ organization dedicated to freedom of expression and the advancement of literature, from which platform she led a number of campaigns on behalf of persecuted and imprisoned writers.

Her stories and essays appeared in newspapers, magazines, and literary publications all over the world, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, Art in America, Antaeus, Parnassus, The Threepenny Review, The Nation, and Granta. Her books have been translated into thirty-two languages.

Among Ms. Sontag’s many honors are the 2003 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the 2003 Prince of Asturias Prize, the 2001 Jerusalem Prize, the National Book Award for In America (2000), and the National Book Critics Circle Award forOn Photography (1978). In 1992 she received the Malaparte Prize in Italy, and in 1999 she was named a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government (she had been named an Officier in the same order in 1984). Between 1990 and 1995 she was a MacArthur Fellow.

Ms. Sontag died in New York City on December 28, 2004.

Posted in 3.5 stars, Book reviews

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.

Posted in 3.5 stars, Book reviews

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.

Posted in 3.5 stars, Book reviews

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.)

Posted in 3 stars, Book reviews

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.

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

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.)

Posted in 4 stars, Book reviews

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…

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

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

Posted in 2 stars, Book reviews

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.