Posted in 4 stars, Book reviews

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami

9833 (1).jpg
Translators: Philip Gabriel and Jay Rubin

Genre: Short Stories

Date Published: August 29, 2006

Pages: 333

Source: Library

Goodreads Synopsis: Collection of twenty-four stories that generously expresses Murakami’s mastery of the form. From the surreal to the mundane, these stories exhibit his ability to transform the full range of human experience in ways that are instructive, surprising, and relentlessly entertaining. Here are animated crows, a criminal monkey, and an iceman, as well as the dreams that shape us and the things we might wish for. Whether during a chance reunion in Italy, a romantic exile in Greece, a holiday in Hawaii, or in the grip of everyday life, Murakami’s characters confront grievous loss, or sexuality, or the glow of a firefly, or the impossible distances between those who ought to be closest of all.

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My View: Murakami. *Sigh* Here we go. After two books and two short story books, I am beginning to get Murakami. No no, don’t get me wrong. No one can ‘get’ Murakami (not me, at least). I have even come to doubt if Murakami gets Murakami! What I mean is that I have made my peace with him. So while Kafka on the shore had me pulling my hair (read more about that here) and wanting to hunt Murakami down (which I tried to unsuccessfully, on my trip to Japan), Colorless Tsukuru had me heaving a sigh of relief. Men without women had me rooting for Murakami (more on that here) and recommending the book to each and everyone I knew.

What did Blind Willow and Sleeping Woman do? It made me urge all my bibliophile friends to drop whatever they were reading and begin this with me because I wanted to talk! Which is what you want to do when you are reading a Murakami. It feels better to have some company while hitting your head on the wall. And my precious friends did give me company. Not one, not two but four friends decided to give me company. With one story a day each. 2 stories later, one dropped out. 3 stories later, another one dropped out. 4 stories later, the last two dropped out. *Sigh* It was good while it lasted. We had all these different interpretations going on. It was fun!

But I didn’t give up. That has to be something, right? I persisted. And not with a push or force. It was natural, I wanted to. I decided to take it slow and continue reading one story a day. Giving it time to find its way through the mazes of my mind, set its rhythm with my breath, and settle in somewhere deep within the recesses of my heart. Murakami weaves a net and you fall in, struggling in the beginning but the more you struggle, the more you are tangled up and then eventually you give up, you surrender. And it is then that it hits you. How good it feels not to have to struggle. Just to let go. To be. To savor the breeze in your hair, to let the world pass you by. And you’re there, entangled but content.

I have come to realize interpretation isn’t everything (grapes are sour, eh? 😉 ). Sometimes the story and the writing needs to be savored and inhaled not inspected and analyzed. Murakami is one such author. He pulls you in and doesn’t let you go. No matter if you don’t understand what just happened.

Life happened.

You should read it. Don’t fall into the ‘interpretation’ trap though and you’ll be just fine.

4/5 stars – I really liked it4 stars

Author Bio:

3354.jpgMurakami

Haruki (Japanese: 村上 春樹) is a popular contemporary Japanese writer and translator. His work has been described as ‘easily accessible, yet profoundly complex’. He can be located on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/harukimuraka…

Since childhood, Murakami has been heavily influenced by Western culture, particularly Western music and literature. He grew up reading a range of works by American writers, such as Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan, and he is often distinguished from other Japanese writers by his Western influences.

Murakami studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo, where he met his wife, Yoko. His first job was at a record store, which is where one of his main characters, Toru Watanabe in Norwegian Wood, works. Shortly before finishing his studies, Murakami opened the coffeehouse ‘Peter Cat’ which was a jazz bar in the evening in Kokubunji, Tokyo with his wife.

Many of his novels have themes and titles that invoke classical music, such as the three books making up The Wind-Up Bird ChronicleThe Thieving Magpie (after Rossini’s opera), Bird as Prophet (after a piano piece by Robert Schumann usually known in English as The Prophet Bird), and The Bird-Catcher (a character in Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute). Some of his novels take their titles from songs: Dance, Dance, Dance (after The Dells’ song, although it is widely thought it was titled after the Beach Boys tune), Norwegian Wood(after The Beatles’ song) and South of the Border, West of the Sun (the first part being the title of a song by Nat King Cole).

 

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Posted in 4 stars, Book reviews, Giveaway

Giveaway (US/ CAN): Dying Well by Susan Ducharme Hoben

39014241Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

Date Published: March 2018

Pages: 249

Source: Publisher

Goodreads Synopsis:

Dying Well is an inspiring love story telling of how a man celebrated life while facing his death with grace and dignity. His widow guides you through decisions made and actions taken on their nine-month journey from diagnosis through celebrations and goodbyes, to a peaceful death free of fear and regret. She shares lessons learned as their family came to terms with her husband’s impending death and found ways to make this last stage of his life as loving and joyous as possible. This uplifting end-of-life story offers a thought-provoking perspective on dying, one that may help you and those you love achieve what’s most important at the end of your lives.

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

My View: I haven’t been taking on review requests, for the most part, considering my reading is moody and I pick up books from the library and then I buy some to participate in buddy reads. However, when the request for review for this one came in, I immediately said yes. One reason being I am focusing a whole lot on non-fiction this year. And secondly, the book’s synopsis spoke to me both psychologically and as a person. So here I am.

It’s easy to get tangled in Susan’s life without realizing it. She weaves her life into a story, introduces the characters, makes us get a feel for them before venturing on to what happens to these characters. And this is precisely what happened. Reading ‘Dying Well’ is not just about life and death but so much more. About family and relationships and savoring the joyous moments of life.

Susan comes across as courageous, practical, well organized and someone who has her head firmly planted on her shoulders. And through her words, we get to know Bruce, her husband who knew what he wanted and how he wanted it in the face of death when most people would crumble and hang onto every thread of life left.

Reading this book is taking a journey with Susan, a difficult one but it has its moments of celebrations and joys that make us feel proud of their entire family and experience a sense of contentment about how Bruce lived the last few months of his life.

This book is about embarking on a journey with bravery and courage. It’s a lesson in dying and how to do it well; how to really live until the last moment of one’s life when death is staring you in the eyes. This ensures there are no regrets and you have lived your life well.

It’s a must-read for anyone and everyone who has a family member with a terminal illness or is undergoing one, themselves. It gives you a perspective of how until death arrives, every moment of life is to be celebrated and made use of, with friendships fostered and relationships made even richer.

4/5 stars – I really liked it.

4 stars

 

Giveaway – 1 Paperback Copy of Dying Well (US/ CAN)

Enter the Giveaway here.

Author Bio:

Author Photo color 2 High Res_03080613

Susan didn’t set out to be a writer but when life presented her with a compelling story that needed to be told, she rose to the challenge, beginning a new phase of her life. She hopes that what she learned can help the reader, or someone they love, achieve what’s most important to them at the end of their lives.

Susan Ducharme Hoben is a former executive consultant with IBM’s Strategy and Change Consulting practice. She put her mathematics degree from Cornell University and graduate studies at Georgia Institute of Technology to good use in a thirty-five-year career in information technology that began with systems engineering with IBM and ended with consulting. Upon retirement, Sue founded a travel journal about luxury barging in Europe.

Susan lives in Connecticut on ancestral land, and frequently visits her six granddaughters (and their parents) in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Nashville, Tennessee. She celebrates life every day, never turning down an invitation, especially if it involves travel or dancing. Since retirement, in addition to regular sailing trips in the British Virgin Islands and barging trips in France, she seeks to expand her horizons by exploring a new destination each year, whether on safari in Africa, trekking the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, sailing the Gulf of Thailand, or striking a yoga pose on the mountain peak that rises 850 feet above Machu Picchu.

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.

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 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…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4/5 stars – I really liked it
4 stars

Author Bio:

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in 4 stars, Book reviews

Incest by Marquis de Sade

 

16115259.jpgTranslated by: Andrew Brown

Genre: Classic

Date Published: 1800

Pages: 128

Source: Owned Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4/5 stars – I really liked it
4 stars

Author Bio:

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

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

Posted in 4 stars, Book reviews

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.

Posted in 4 stars, Book reviews

My Life as a Silent Movie: A Novel by Jesse Lee Kercheval (Audiobook Review)


Date Published: March 3, 2014
Publisher: University Press Audiobooks
Source: Review Purchase from Audible
Format: Audiobook
Narration: Rosemary Benson

Goodreads SynopsisAfter losing her husband and daughter in an auto accident, 42-year-old Emma flies to Paris, discovers she has a twin brother whose existence she had not known about, and learns that her birth parents weren’t the Americans who raised her, but a White Russian film star of the 1920s and a French Stalinist.

A story about identity and the shaping function of art, My Life as a Silent Movie presents a vividly rendered world and poses provocative questions on the relationship of art to life.

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

My View:  When I saw this audiobook up for review, there was something that appealed to me about this book (if you know me well, you know I don’t read book blurbs, so all my good books are usually either by fluke or recommendations). Well, it certainly could have been that Eiffel Tower on the cover (Side note: I love travelling and I am in love with the idea of Paris, still to visit though).

Okay, let me warn you upfront, this audiobook is almost 10 hours long. I know some are like 40 hours long but since I prefer short audios, this was huge for me. But wait, did I feel all 10 hours of it? Nope, not at all. And why would that be? Perhaps because the book pulled me in from the very first word and did not let go. The narration is good enough. But the major meat is the book! Just wow!

First, the author draws a background and you are interested in what’s going on. Mmm hmm… And then there comes the twists and the turns. And Paris! And the walks around Paris. Surprise upon surprise. I was totally overwhelmed (happily!) by the plot, the unraveling of it, the characters who I found myself rooting for. Giggling at times, wanting him to be @%^&$ alive! Woah, a gamut of emotions, all in one book.

There’s some history in there. Something I don’t really like but when you dish it out in a book, I’m all for it. A woman taking a trip across the world to unravel her past – now there’s some magic in that, right? History, art, travel, mystery, a solid plot, a good narration and there you have it, a brilliant book.

A must listen I would say.

4.5/5 stars – I really, really, really liked it! Highly Recommended. 4.5 stars

Posted in 4 stars, Book reviews, Giveaway

Gadget Girl by Suzanne Kamata & Giveaway (INT)

GadgetGirlGadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible by Suzanne Kamata
Publication: May 17th 2013
Genre: YA Contemporary

Synopsis: ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS meets STONER AND SPAZ.Aiko Cassidy is fourteen and lives with her sculptor mother in a small Midwestern town. For most of her young life Aiko, who has cerebral palsy, has been her mother’s muse. But now, she no longer wants to pose for the sculptures that have made her mother famous and have put food on the table. Aiko works hard on her own dream of becoming a great manga artist with a secret identity. When Aiko’s mother invites her to Paris for a major exhibition of her work, Aiko at first resists. She’d much rather go to Japan, Manga Capital of the World, where she might be able to finally meet her father, the indigo farmer. When she gets to France, however, a hot waiter with a passion for manga and an interest in Aiko makes her wonder if being invisible is such a great thing after all. And a side trip to Lourdes, ridiculous as it seems to her, might just change her life.

Gadget Girl began as a novella published in Cicada. The story won the SCBWI Magazine Merit Award in Fiction and was included in an anthology of the best stories published in Cicada over the past ten years.

Goodreads | Purchase on Amazon

My View: This book got my attention from the very first sentence and ensured my interest throughout. With an unusual main character, a girl with cerebral palsy, this book had a different feel to it unlike books where everyone is perfect from head to toe and insta love happens.

I have never read a manga but the way this book relies on it, I’m tempted to give them a read now. I love how unique the plot was, how different and real the characters.

I immensely loved the emotions this book brought out in me – empathy, sadness, happiness, delight. Oh, the world!

With a powerful background and brilliantly sketched characters, this book had a strong grip on the storyline and the pace, never letting go.

Add in Paris and Japan, and a travel aficionado like me is literally in heaven. Even though there’s not much of travel going around nevertheless I loved the description of places the mother-daughter duo visited in France.

Despite the fact that the book’s main character is a teenager, I believe the plot is more mature and not just YA.

Overall, though this is not my usual kind of read, I immensely enjoyed this book and look forward to more books by Suzanne Kamata.

4 stars – I really liked it. images (1)

Giveaway
5 paperback copies (open internationally)

Enter here.

AUTHOR BIO

Five-time Pushcart Prize nominee Suzanne Kamata is the author of the novels Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible (GemmaMedia, 2013) and Losing Kei (Leapfrog Press, 2008), and editor of three anthologies – The Broken Bridge: Fiction from Expatriates in Literary Japan, Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs, and Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering (Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing, 2009). Her short fiction and essays have appeared widely. She is the Fiction Co-editor of literarymama.com.

Author Links: Website | Goodreads | Twitter

Posted in Book reviews

Lord of Hawkfell Island by Catherine Coulter

Goodreads summary:
Rorik is a Viking warrior, as fierce and savage as the North Sea during the winter solstice. Mirana is a Viking woman who loves birds, is more ingenious than most men, and loyal down to her toes. Her life changes utterly one fateful day when Rorik and his men come to Clontarf, a Viking fortress on the eastern coast of Ireland, to kill her half-brother. But she is the one taken as hostage to use as a pawn against him.

Rorik is the Lord of Hawkfell, an island off the east cost of Britain. The moment he brings his captive home, it seems that everything begins to fly out his control. The women are out to teach the men a lesson with the result that food is rank, Rorik’s family is out for Mirana’s blood, a murderer is on a loose, and a huge mongrel, Kerzog, dotes not only on his master but also on his master’s captive.

Rorik and Mirana are two strong-willed people, ardent in their opinions, who will have you rooting for both of them equally.

You will discover who really rules Hawkfell Island.

My views: Well, I found this book left in the hostel room that I was to occupy. I was excited that I had found a book, no matter what it was. Even though the cover and title told me it wasn’t a sort of book I would normally read. So the book occupied my shelf for 2 full years before I ran out of paperback books and decided to give it a chance. I read the first few pages and thought to give it away, it just wasn’t my kind of book. But something made me read on and I am so glad I did.

Either the book turned out to be my kind or my preference changed but I ended up loving the book. The characters are very well developed. I fell in love with Mirana, a strong headed woman, beauty, brain and brawn, what a combination! The plot is well built and never slows down. This is a swift moving action-romance book. There were quite a few surprises in the book. And it also has lot of great humor thrown in. In all, a complete package. A surprise hit book. I would check out other books by the author now.

4/5 stars – I really liked it