Saturday, 31 May 2014

Book Haul: Books of May 2014, Part- I.

Read. Loved. Reviewed! 

Read. Adored. Loved. Heart-broken over! I cannot recommend this book enough and I am so glad I finally bought it! 

Read and HATED!!! It was terrible.

Read and loved. I love Satyajit Ray and reading the original source material behind his wonderful films was just lovely. 

Loved this book too. Spooky and very entertaining. 

I loveeeee this book. It's so interesting. Annotated. A book within a book! I can't wait to read it! 

These are all the books I bought in my first bout of book buying in May, 2014. 

I got all these books off of Flipkart. 

S- J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst 
The Complete Maus- Art Spiegelman 
Shadow Play- Shashi Deshpande 
Kabul Disco- Nicolas Wild
Lamplight- Kankana Basu 
The Shock of The Fall- Nathan Filer 
14 Stories that Inspired Satyajit Ray- Bhaskar Chattopadhyay 
Karachi You Are Killing Me- Saba Imtiaz 
Body in the Library- Agatha Christie 
By the Pricking in my Thumb- "
The Labours of Hercules-   "

Happy Reading People :) 

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith | Sister Reads

Book: This Is What Happy Looks Like

Author: Jennifer E. Smith

Pages: 416

I Read it on: My iPad

I Read it in: 6 hours, across 2 days

Plot Summary: When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O'Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds. 

Then Graham finds out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs?

What I Liked: I really liked the premise of this book- two people (from diametrically different worlds) falling in love over email. Sounds familiar? That's You've Got Mail for you, but, but, but, since You've Got Mail happens to be one of my favourite rom-com movies, I did not mind reading a book with the same core premise. 

What I Didn't Like: Well, unfortunately, I didn't like anything else in the book. Now, let's all understand one thing clearly about today's book writing and publishing game- these people seem to think that book series work. Perhaps they do, but between you and me (and the www), I am so done with book series and trilogies (you are not JRR Tolkien, so stop already!) and the like. So, I don't know whether This Is What Happy Looks Like was so half-baked and incomplete and lackluster and minus any sort of resolution of the core conflicts in the plot because the author is planning a sequel or something?! Or was it just a badly written, utterly pointless book about events over a three-and-a-half month period?! 
Allow me to explain. There a bunch of potential conflict situations in this book:

1. Hot teen movie star falls for a poor little poor girl from a tiny town in Maine: You can only imagine the possible/potential dramatic possibilities of this plot device. However, not one of them were exploited or even resolved. *SPOILER* They fall in love and the book ends with them not deciding on anything. *END SPOILER* 

2. Ellie's father: Now, I don't want to give away a sort-of major spoiler here, but there is some major skeletons-in-the-closet type of deal with who Ellie's dad is and the reason why she and her mum are so "media shy". Again, a highly dramatic situation that was in no way resolved or even dealt with in this book at all. 

3. Graham's bizarre relationship with his parents: Graham's parents don't know how to deal with his sudden stardom. They ignore him (don't mooch off of him or anything) and read about his life and activities in magazines! So, um, this again was a totally ridiculous plot device and was magically resolved in two minutes in the book. Really badly done and really pointless! 

This is supposed to be a love story. A love story where a boy and a girl email each other multiple times a day for 3 months. I wish the author had at least put in those emails in the darned book! There was barely enough of their we-are-falling-in-love-madly communication that was shared in the book! So, as a reader, you don't understand why there is this mad love between them! And if you don't feel that, then you don't connect with the characters or their stupid love story. 

Also, there are hardly enough 'moments' between the couple. There are not enough conversations or anything. You feel cheated more than anything else because you picked up this idiotic book thinking it is a fluffy romance. 

Spoiler alert- it is not. It can not be called a love story or a romance novel. This is just a badly written series of events. 

Would You Like It?: I don't think so. (Refer rant above)

Rating: 1/5 

Monday, 19 May 2014

Book Haul: Kitaab Khana Haul.

Kitaab Khana is one of my favourite bookshops in Bombay. It's huge. Well stocked. Pretty as pie and they have a 20% discount on all books! Win win win!!! I try to resist going there very often but I do try going once a month and letting myself go crazy, browse and buy a few books! 

This time around, I picked up a mixed bunch of books. 2 children's books. One Neil Gaiman book I've wanted forever. And 2 contemporary fiction titles. 

There is some happy reading in my near future! :)

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Review: The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers | Sister Sundays

Book: The Yellow Birds

Author: Kevin Powers

Pages: 226 (around 125 pages on my iPad)

I Read It On: My iPad

I Read It In: 3 hours

Plot Summary: A novel written by a veteran of the war in Iraq, The Yellow Birds is the harrowing story of two young soldiers trying to stay alive.

"The war tried to kill us in the spring." So begins this powerful account of friendship and loss. In Al Tafar, Iraq, twenty-one-year old Private Bartle and eighteen-year-old Private Murphy cling to life as their platoon launches a bloody battle for the city. Bound together since basic training when Bartle makes a promise to bring Murphy safely home, the two have been dropped into a war neither is prepared for.

In the endless days that follow, the two young soldiers do everything to protect each other from the forces that press in on every side: the insurgents, physical fatigue, and the mental stress that comes from constant danger. As reality begins to blur into a hazy nightmare, Murphy becomes increasingly unmoored from the world around him and Bartle takes actions he could never have imagined. 

What I Liked: The Yellow Birds is an unflinching and heartbreaking look at war and what it does to the men on the frontlines. It is the kind of book that packs a lot of punch, rips you apart and stays with you even after you finish reading it. It makes you sad and angry; it also makes you feel so powerless. 

At one level, The Yellow Birds is a war story- of an actual military operation and how a unit navigates the challenges that such an operation brings. At another, more interesting level, this is a story about how different people process war. It is about innocence lost and heroism and friendship and being able to retain your sense of humanity in the face of war and death. 

It is the story of two young Privates- Murphy (who is 18) and Bart (who is 21) and their Sarge, Sterling (who is 24 but comes across as significantly older and world weary) as their unit tries to navigate the unfamiliar terrain and insurgents in a Iraqi village. There are three primary characters in this book and, to me, the three of them represented clear archetypes of what war does to men. 

First, we have Murphy, the innocent. Murphy is 18 and does not know what to expect from this war or how to handle it. He is the character through whose eyes we truly process and recognise the cold horror of war and the soul-numbing process of fighting through a rain of bullets and shells from an unseen enemy. Murphy's lack of readiness makes him unravel fairly rapidly as the unit moves through the region, taking on insurgents, inflicting and suffering loses. 

Bartle or Bart, as he is referred to in the book, is slightly more seasoned and experienced in the art of war then Murphy. He is our narrator and we see Murphy, Sterling and the events in the story through his slightly world weary eyes. Though only 21, Bart has been there and back (in a manner of speaking) and has acquired this practiced distancing from the actual loss of life that every soldier encounters. He is able to emotionally distance himself, to a large extent, and, thereby, deal with the very things that makes Murphy fall apart. Bart, unwittingly, makes a promise to Murphy's mom to bring her boy back home safe and it is this promise that leads to the events that turn Bart's life even more upside-down than it already is. 

And then, we have Sterling, who, in my opinion, is the most heroic, tragic, heartbreaking character in this book. Sterling, who is the poster boy for the war hero. He is brave, decorated, has done several tours of duty and is able to stay sharp and focused in conflict situations. However, what makes Sterling special, in my opinion, is how beneath all his heroic demeanour, razor-sharp focus and general bad-ass-ness, there is, essentially, a broken man. A man who sees the futility of this war and is numbed by it, almost as much as Murphy, but who goes through the motions of combat (with what seems like relative ease), looks out for his unit and gets the job done. Sterling, to me, is what a true casualty of war looks like- you take someone good, strong and heroic and you put them in a situation where they thrive (because of said qualities) but that same situation eventually eats away at their soul and they are not allowed the time to even process this because a war needs to be fought.  

What I Didn't Like: Nothing much, really, except that the writing style in a few places (especially, at the beginning) is a bit tedious. It gets better as the book progresses. 

Would You Like It?: Yes, but you need to be in a slightly positive frame of mind, so that you can get your head out of the dark places that this book takes you to. This is a great book and I highly recommend it. 

Good to know: This book is about to be made into a movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch,  Tye Sheridan, and Will Poulter. I think Cumberbatch will play Sterling (or so I hope) and I am really, really looking forward to see how he interprets him. Much excited! 

Rating: 4/5  

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Review: Kabul Disco by Nicholas Wild.

Book: Kabul Disco

Author: Nicholas Wild

Pages: 144

How Long it Took Me to Read: 2 hours.

Read on: Paperback

Plot Summary: In 2005, Nicolas Wild, a wandering French writer, found a job and somewhere to live at the same time. The only problem was that the place was Kabul, in Afghanistan, a country left unstable after several destructive years of war. When the carefree young man arrived at a capital in crisis, his first mission was to write a comic book explaining the Afghan constitution to children. His second project was to work on a recruitment campaign for the Afghan army. Consequently, he became a privileged observer of the hesitant reconstruction of the country whilst leading the unusual life of a Western expat in Kabul. Gradually, he fell in love with the country and decided to extend his contract despite the risks of living in Afghanistan. Honest and perceptive, inquisitive and unsettling, this book casts an ironic yet affectionate look at the realities of a country that never strays far from the headlines.

General Thoughts: I am on a graphic novel kick of sorts. I read the wonderful Maus (review coming soon!) and then I pretty much got to this book! I needed a happy book after Maus and this book was a perfect pick. It's sweet, funny and the art is adorable. I don't even know where I heard of this book, but I am glad I came across it! 

Review: This book was wonderful. Funny. Yet, heart-felt, poignant and a great look into a country constantly in news for all the wrong reasons. The warmth of Afghan people came through in these pages. Apart from being about the obvious, living in Kabul in a difficult time, it was also a book about working with kooky people and living in impossible situations but still having a sense of humour about it. Trying to live an ordinary life in an extraordinary situation. 

The art is great. The writing nice and really, I just can't recommend this book enough. I can't wait to get my hands on the second book in the series! 

Rating: 5/5

Friday, 16 May 2014

Friday Favourites: Books, Jewellery and Cats and Ducks!

1. A kitty watch...really...what's not to love?! A layered necklace that I got from Forever 21 ages ago and it lay forgotten for a long, long time! 

2. Ducks in three colours. These are meant to be paper clips but come on....these are too freaking cute to just be used as paper clips. I use them as bookmarks. They look rather cute, sitting atop a page. They look like they are floating by. Oh ducks! 

3. This was a good day. Reading a good book on my Kindle at Starbucks, reading, coffee drinking and wearing pretty rings. A good combination! 

4. A pineapple tote from Forever 21. Summer. Fruit. Bright. Pretty. 

5. Some of my orange and white Penguin classics. I have I think...5 more of these books. I love how old school these books look! So pretty! 

6. I recently read and LOVED, ADORED Maus. A full review will be out soon. 

Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.

Book: Between Shades of Gray

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Pages: 344

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days

Read On: Physical copy- a Paperback.

Plot Summary: Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.

General Thoughts: I read Out of the Easy by the same author last year and utterly loved it. The writing, the characters and the setting were all fantastic and I wanted to read her other works. Sadly, it took me nearly a year to finally get my hands on this book. Ah! But better late than never. 

Review: This was a wonderful book. Hard to read. Heart-breaking. Sad. Poignant. But very, very good and so important to read. I generally believe that war books, though incredibly sad, gruesome and sometimes really heavy, should be read. We should read about difficult things. Because these horrible things happened. People lived through it. People survived them. People died. We could at least read about it and know what people have endured. 

I loved everything in this book. The writing was lovely. The characters- big, small and brief were wonderful. Lina, her beautiful and strong mother, her little brother who grows up in this wretched situation and grows up too quickly. The other people who become family to Lina through this ordeal. All these people became very real and you were rooting for them and hoped they survived Siberia. 

I loved the story- the horrors, the trials and tribulations, the surviving, putting one step in front of the other and just trying to survive one hard day after another. I loved the history. This dark, sad, shameful chapter of history. 

I really loved this book. 

Will you like it? Yes! It's hard to read in parts but it is a wonderful book. 

Rating: 5/5 

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Book Haul: Strand Books Haul.

A few weeks ago, the sister and I spent a lovely day book shop hopping, browsing and buying books. Our first stop was Strand Bookstore. A grand old bookstore, a tiny little room crammed full of books. They aren't ordered in any particular way, so browsing in there is a bit of acquired skill. Since it's organised by genre, you have to scan all the shelves to find something you love. 

I love this. It means I end up with unexpected treasures. 

On this outing, I found some lovely classics. Modern American classics and a Japanese classic I have wanted for a while! 

A very successful bookshop hop this! 

Also came back with three new Peter Pauper Press books. Love them! 

Yay to the joys of buying from a bookshop! 

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Review: Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover | Sister Reads

Book: Maybe Someday

Author: Colleen Hoover

Pages: 367

I Read It On: My Kindle

I Read It In: 4 hours (one sitting. It is that good!)

Plot Summary: At twenty-two years old, aspiring musician Sydney Blake has a great life: She’s in college, working a steady job, in love with her wonderful boyfriend, Hunter, and rooming with her good friend, Tori. But everything changes when she discovers Hunter cheating on her with Tori—and she is left trying to decide what to do next.

Sydney becomes captivated by her mysterious neighbor, Ridge Lawson. She can’t take her eyes off him or stop listening to the daily guitar playing he does out on his balcony. She can feel the harmony and vibrations in his music. And there’s something about Sydney that Ridge can’t ignore, either: He seems to have finally found his muse. When their inevitable encounter happens, they soon find themselves needing each other in more ways than one…

Thoughts and Review: Let's get this out of the way- this is an AMAZING book! It is not a cliched love triangle, though it could easily have been one; it is not a cheesy romance- it is deep and sad and uplifting and very, very good! Okay, now that we are done with that, let's talk about this book and why it is such an amazing little love story. 

First, we have Ridge (I am forgiving Ms. Hoover the throwback to The Bold and The Beautiful name only because Ridge Lawson is so lovely!), a musical prodigy of sorts, who is sweet, hot (duh!), loyal, loving and protective (of everyone in his life!). Ridge plays the guitar and he also writes songs for his band and at the beginning of this story, he is struggling with a massive dose of Writer's Block. As the story progresses, we only like Ridge more and more because he is kind, honorable and sweet and all of that good stuff. Yes, sometimes, because of circumstances, he seems confused or unfair but all that is dealt with in a way that makes sense and you still end up not hating the guy one tiny bit. 

Then, we have Sydney, who is also really sweet and mature and wants to do the right thing. She is someone who could take the easy route in life, but she works hard and stays independent to pursue her passion for music instead of taking money from her dad. She also understands and connects with Ridge and appreciates all the nice things about him that the people in life, sort of, take for granted. 

This love story is interesting because Ridge is in a committed relationship with Maggie when he finds himself getting drawn to Sydney. The two of them have open, honest conversations and try their hardest to not betray Maggie's trust. So, this makes this a love triangle where no one is the 'bad guy' and as a reader you are torn between rooting for Maggie and rooting for Sydney. Always a good thing, in my opinion, when characters are grey rather than black or white. Grey is more interesting! 

This is a lovely, often moving, really sweet love story and I highly recommend it if you are in the mood for some mushy reading. 

Will You Like It?: Yup; especially, if you love sweet love stories!

Rating: 5/5 

Review: Total Siyappa by Neha Sharma.

Book: Total Siyappa: The Sum of Two Wholes

Author: Neha Sharma

Pages: 224

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 hours.

Read on: My iPad.

Plot Summary: This is the love story of Aman (Pakistani Jazz/Sufi singer) and Asha (Indian journalist), who meet and fall in love in London. The book traces their journey from how they meet to courtship to love as well as gives us glimpses into each of their families and friends. Here is the link to the movie's Wiki page.   

General Thoughts: This book is an adaptation or rather an extended version of the movie of the same name. The movie, Total Siyappa, released earlier this year and starred Yami Gautam and Ali Zafar. I had seen the trailers of the movie online and on TV but never got around to watching it. The reviews were generally negative and that further kept me from watching the movie.

This book was sent to me very kindly by the publishers, Harlequin India, for review purposes. Even though this book was given to me for free, the review and thoughts are all my own and have no bearing on how this book came to me. In short, the review is absolutely honest.

Truth 1: I wouldn't have finished the book had it not been sent to me for review purposes. I was not really into it or enjoying it by page 48 and wanted to put it down. Put it away and not read it at all! But somehow, the idea that it was given to me to review, made me power through and see it to the end.

Truth 2: The only other reason I read it was it's length. 224 pages is not long at all.


What I Liked: 

1. The characters, both Aasha and Aman were well-etched out and crafted. You got to know them pretty well and knew exactly who they were as people.

2. Ditto, with the two sets of families, you got a good sense of the family chemistry, dynamics and history.

3. The secondary characters, even ones that graced the pages for a second, like Aasha's work colleagues and the friends circle were done nicely.

4. The Punjabi-ness of both families, especially Aasha's family was done nicely. Slightly, caricature-ish but enjoyable.

5. The romance build-up slowly and fairly realistically.

6. I liked that Aasha had previously relationships and isn't some idealised perfect Indian girl waiting for her Indian Prince Charming. She lives and loves like any other person who lives in London.

What I Didn't Like: 

1. The writing wasn't fantastic. Not terrible. But not extraordinary.

2. The bickering between Aman and Aasha was a bit off in my opinion. He kept calling her Lady Reporter, which just reminded me of Lady Doctor and she called him Sufi...which was loads better than Lady Reporter.

3. The overall plot and just the way the book was written didn't work for me. The writing made the book rather insipid and, as I mentioned above, the only reason I finished it was because I felt obligated to. The thing is, overall, the concept is good- a Pakistani guy and an Indian girl falling in love. That itself has enough fodder for sufficient drama and a lot of cultural baggage on both sides, which if handled well and sensitively could have really elevated this novel. This book seemed like a very superficial effort.

Would You Like It?: Not sure. There are some redeeming qualities there- like I have mentioned. If you are looking for something light or want to read about desis or read a story with a lot of Punjabi colour, then perhaps you will enjoy this book.

Rating: 2/5