February 2019 books

The month is short, but still managed to pack in quite a few, mostly light reads.

1. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: a nicely told YA romance, which doesn’t leave you wanting to smack the characters. The teenage angst is much more real and believable. Loved it.

2. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas: An absolutely rocking page-turner, based on Beauty and the Beast, but with large doses of fantasy thrown in. Deserves its bestseller label on all counts.

3. White Magic by Arjun Nath: Heartbreaking and educative, it talks about rehab of the junkie author interspersed with the life story of Dr. Yusuf Merchant, who tirelessly works for the cause of breaking addictions. Brilliant writing, with a sure eye for lovely turns of phrases, it manages to pull you into the hopeless despair of an addict without mincing words and gives you the shivers sometimes.

4. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson: OK, it’s official, this is now one of my all-time fave authors. When I read the Mistborn trilogy, I was blown away. Then I read one book of the Arithmatist series, and I was so impressed. Steelheart reads more like pop-culture and like the superheroes we are familiar with, but the writing, the foundation, everything is so solid! The style is so much breezier than Mistborn, so it makes for a quicker read. I am bowled over by not just the range of creativity, but the range of styles and the sheer superiority of the competence with which he writes!

5. Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao: An interesting tale of two girls/women, ranging from the weaving villages in the Andhra region to the hopelessness of the sex trade in India and human trafficking to the US involving the anonymous cleaning crews. Range of the novel was good, but I sometimes lost interest in the characters themselves.

6. Nathaniel’s Nutmeg by Giles Milton: Fascinating history of how the European spice quests and wars shaped the entire world. It just boggles the mind that folks took off on voyages that lasted years, the future was so uncertain and fraught with risks and perils, and laws were made up on the go. Makes one really wonder about the world as it is today.

7. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite: Total kick-ass book! I loved the way the characters are brought out so strongly in so brief a work. This kind of writing is totally what I like. Fantastic.

8. Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Cafe by Milly Johnson: Solid writing, spunky characters, and just the right mix of romance, revenge, and redemption. Perfect for those sunny afternoons with a cuppa tea, love.

That’s it, folks. Onto my March list – what joy!

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January 2019 Books

What a fantastic start I’ve had with books this year! I read a dozen books, and I enjoyed almost all of them.

Here’s the list with as short a review as I can muster:

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett: To say I love Terry Pratchett books is an understatement. This was no exception.
Year of the Weeds by Siddhartha Sharma: This is an absolute must-read! Categorised as YA, it deals with the very serious subject of Gonds fighting for their own land very deftly, lightly, and with wry humour. Such an excellent book – can’t stop gushing about it.
Idris – Keeper of the Light by Anita Nair: The amount of research that’s gone into this book clearly shows, making it a fascinating read, though wasn’t too taken with the story itself.
Finding Gobi by Dion Leonard: What a cute and interesting real-life saga this was! Quite enjoyed it.
For Better, For Worse by Carole Mathews: A light-hearted romance that started off strongly, but petered off into some over-the-top stuff.
Jasmine Days by Benyamin: Very interesting book set in a Middle-East country, and depicts conflict at so many levels like Shia vs Sunni, natives vs migrants, and men vs women. Original is in Malayalam, translation was quite competent.
Colour of Light by Terry Pratchett: Yes, another one and my review is predictable πŸ™‚
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: Beautifully written book that doesn’t lecture on the injustice meted out to blacks, but instead focuses on the impact on everyone associated. Thought the ending was too neat, but otherwise fantastic in the details.
Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Blythell: I actually gifted this to a friend and the borrowed it right back! πŸ™‚ It’s great fun to read and has the right amount of humour with the back-breaking and annoying work that one has to put up with in order to be in the book-selling business. Am very jealous that he gets to do it.
The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen: What a book this is! A meditation in itself, I read this book so slowly because I needed to savour every moment. I teared up in quite a few places because the writing is so exquisite and the experience described even more so. Though there were some parts that made me wince a bit – the colonial kind of attitude jarred – this book is undoubtedly a treasure and a worthy candidate for several repeat readings.
Eating Wasps by Anita Nair: Beautifully told with engrossing narration, it read more like a series of short stories.
No Presents Please by Jayant Kaikini: Loved the detailed nuances of the short stories!

Hopefully, February will be equally delightful.

Unloved

When I was young, my aunt, my cousin and her twin girls would visit our home on their annual vacation to India from the US. Every now and then, my cousin would randomly call out to the girls that she loved them. I would watch on, a bit baffled and bemused. Of course we never did that at home. Wasn’t it a tad over-dramatic?

But I obviously thought it was brilliant, which would explain why I keep calling out to my daughter randomly that I love her.

That those three little words “I love you” can have such a profound effect is simply amazing. Entire brilliant and moving sagas have been woven out of them. Sometimes it appears that the entire human species is solely engaged in a quest to hear these words from someone (yeah, survival of the species and all that).

You can survive without food, money, and other stuff (ok, haven’t personally experienced it, but have read enough, I think), so long as you know there’s someone out there who loves you (though now it’s enough if you love yourself, which works for some people, I guess).

I think the most terrible thing that can happen to a human being is feeling unloved. When you feel lonely, what you are really feeling is that no one loves you enough to reach out and ask you how you’re doing. Loneliness is a scourge of the modern world – we are indeed just virtually connected, with emoji hearts and alphabet hugs and kisses. Islands of souls trying to build wireless bridges.

Once the black hole of being unloved sucks you in, there’s no escaping from its gravity. It feeds on itself, becoming stronger and stronger, till it tears you apart.

Spread the loving, people. Spread it. That’s the only way we will keep alive.

Like Harry Potter. 😊

In a Blink

2018 has gone by too in the blink of an eye. I barely remember what happened.

What I can recollect is a fun year with great friends, albeit with some rather surprising hiccups. A milestone year for my siblings and a year in which I’ve become a grand-aunt. Health issues have been minor, I think.

I’ve read some lovely books, and am ending the year feeling rather restless and hungry for some really engrossing reading. Writing has become rather incidental to my life now.

I am harboring my usual ambivalence towards the year gone by, and the year that is rising over the horizon. At least that has not changed!

A Very Happy New Year to you and your loved ones, in case you are still reading! ☺️

Back to Books

I was having a conversation with a couple of friends regarding some of the books we had read. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton cropped up, and I remembered I had written a post on that, comparing it with Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pahmuk. I searched for that post, and when I read it, it brought back vivid memories of both the books.

I have read so many books this year, and I guess jotting down my thoughts about them will keep them fresh in my mind in the days to come.

Some of the most lovely books I’ve recently read include

  • 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
  • Meet Me At The Museum by Anne Youngson
  • Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
  • Shaya Tales by Bulbul Sharma
  • Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce
  • The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz
  • Leela: A Patchwork Life by Jerry Pinto
  • The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love by Per J Andersson

…I could go on all day! πŸ™‚

The book I just finished reading is Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, a saga about the lives of Korean-Japanese folks.

It was fascinating, for it provided a glimpse of how universal the issues of migrants to a different country are. In the book, people of Korean origin are treated often with suspicion and disdain by the Japanese in Japan. Nothing they do is ever good enough to make them sufficiently Japanese. Sound familiar?

In many ways, the book reminded me of Jasoda by Kiran Nagarkar.

Both feature a strong matriarchal figure who is the rooted anchor of the entire family tree. Both feature brilliant eldest sons who hunger for more education. Both feature America as aspiration. And both showcase the strong, silent, entrepreneurial women who run families with little or no support, and do the best job they can.

Both novels are also written in solid styles with no gimmicks. They tell a competent story and enclose you in the comfort of traditional story-telling.

In short, I enjoyed reading both books.

And another year goes by

I have not visited or updated this blog for nearly a year now. I’d even forgotten the passwords! But I was determined to put up a new post on this last day. So here I am.

2017 has been a mixed bag. If there’s one lesson I’ve really internalised, it is to live in the moment. Letting go has been the only choice many times. So I’ve let go, without any qualms or regrets. So many things we don’t understand, so many things we cannot control…

Let’s see what 2018 brings. A mixed bag it will be, I think! πŸ™‚

Little Drops – 2

On a whim, I decided to join a writer’s workshop Anita’s Attic, run by author Anita Nair. It was a good experience and I met several absolutely amazing young authors, some of whom were less than half my age!

Late last year, a call came from Anita’s Attic for short stories. I quickly wrote a short story in a burst of inspiration, which I was quite happy with. I sent it off, and yesterday, it came up on Quillr, a new pay-and-read platform.

Here’s the link to the story Running, if you’re interested.