Posted in 4 stars, Book reviews

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami

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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.

Buy it here – Amazon India | Amazon USThe Book Depository | Flipkart |

 Add on Goodreads

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

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 Uncategorized

Let’s get you published!

Lets Get You Published Updated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in 2 stars, Book reviews

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