Friday, 27 June 2014

Friday Favourites: Books, Bag, Bombay Local and General Cute.

1. Cute handmade plushie dolls. I don't think that there will ever be a time where I will not love cute toys. I am a full-grown adult but I still melt at the thought of cute dolls and things. I refuse to grow-up! These two sweeties I got from Etsy a couple of years ago from a girl in Australia who makes adorable things!

2. A cute little notebook that I honestly don't have the heart to write in. 

3. Bombay Local Trains are a beast. Crowded but fast. Full of people but the best spot for some uninterrupted people watching.  I took local trains daily for 7 years of college and then Grad school. I loved it. I know how strange that sounds but I really did...

4 & 5. Scenes from a book-shop. The Tidal Waves book-shop in Bandra. I don't go here very often but when I do, I like to browse for a bit and then get some coffee at read and decide on which books I want to bring home with me. 

Sadly, I left the Bukowski book behind! Silly me! 

Book Haul: Books of June 2014, Part- III.

Another happy haul. I got these books in the mail sometimes last week. This was a my first set of books as a Flipkart First member...similar to Amazon Prime I guess. All these books arrived in one day flat! Joyous! 

Most of them are Indian books..what can I say? I love reading books from my country. 

Rajmohan's Wife- Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay 
New Girl- Paige Harbison 
The Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer- Cyrus Mistry 
Fasting and Feasting- Anita Desai 
Home and The World- Rabindranath Tagore 
The Missing Queen- Samhita Arni 
The Awakening- Kate Chopin 
The Good Earth- Pearl. S. Buck 

Happy Friday, you guys. Have a lovely weekend. I am re-re-reading Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince this weekend. If I finish that I might pick up a classic. I am really in the mood to read a classic.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Review: Blasphemy by Tehmina Durrani.

Book: Blasphemy

Author: Tehmina Durrani

Pages: 229

How Long It Took Me To Read: 3 hours

Read On: Paperback

Plot Summary: Set in south Pakistan, the novel inspired by a true story, is a searing study of evil; an uncompromising look at the distortion of Islam by predatory religious leaders. 

In prose of great power and intensity, the author tells the tragic story of the beautiful Heer, brutalized and corrupted by Pir Sain, the man of God, whom she is married to when barely fifteen. But the nightmare she is locked into is not hers alone; it affects the entire clan that owes allegiance to the pir. In the Pir's haveli, unspeakable horrors are perpetrated every day and every night, all in the name of Allah. Sucked into the fetid hell of her lord's making, Heer loses her dignity, her freedom, even her humanity, till a terrible resolution gives her back to herself.

General Thoughts: If books on sexual violence, domestic abuse and cruelty in general is upsetting to you, you might want to skip this book. Given that this book claims it's a real life story, it was even more upsetting to think that all of this inhumane things were done to a real person. I have heard about Durrani's 'My Feudal Lord' but chose to read this first because I wasn't in the mood for an autobiography. I enjoyed Durrani's writing style and look forward to reading 'My Feudal Lord'. 

What I Liked: 

1. I enjoyed Durrani's writing, the style, voice and tone of Heer, our main character, was engaging, heart-breaking but enjoyable. 

2. There are some serious horrors in this book. Like realllllly bad things happen to the women in this story but I couldn't stop reading. I was invested in Heer's life and wanted to know where her life went. 

3. I learned so much about the 'Purdah' system from this book. This was an extreme case of following the 'Purdah' and I am sure most people who still live in 'Purdah' aren't all as bad off as Heer and the women in the Pir's family. I felt claustrophobic reading about Heer's life post-marriage. She gets married at 15 and enters her married home and NEVER leaves. She isn't allowed to go out. She isn't allowed to meet any man except her husband, her sons and her own brother. She is brutally beaten for spending time with her six year old nephew! I didn't know...couldn't imagine 'Purdah' could be so severe. Her world, her life...her very existence becomes so narrow, it made me sick to think about it. Her marital home was nothing more than a prison. I cannot imagine never leaving the house....ever. She isn't even allowed to visit her mother's home anymore?! How can anyone live like this? 

4. I really appreciated that the violence wasn't graphically described. Thank-God! I don't do well with graphic details of sexual violence, it turns my stomach and I think about it for days. I was glad that all the horrible things that were being done in this book wasn't told in great detail. 

5. The clout and influence of a religious leader and the blind faith his followers have in his powers was shown so well. In cultures like our- India and Pakistan- people sometimes blindly follow the word of these so-called men of God. This aspect of the culture and the mindlessness of the hapless devotees was shown very well in this book. 

6. I couldn't put this book down and pretty much read it in one go. It was frightening and there were fresh horrors in each chapter but I just wanted to keep reading. And any book that gets me this involved is a good book in my opinion. 

7. Heer's mother is so greedy and turns a blind eye to her daughter's suffering for the sake of family honour and to some extent just plain old greed. I liked that this unsavory aspect of Heer's own family was brushed under the carpet. 

Things I Did Not Like: 

1. Everything bad that can happen to a woman happens in this book. Like REALLY everything. Rape, domestic violence, incest, death of a child, rape of child...all horrible things exist in this book. After a while I felt like I was getting de-sensitized to the violence in this book. And it made this book and it's story seem a lot more fiction and a lot less non-fiction. 

2. There were many other people/women living with Heer in her marital home. And for most part, these women remain in the shadows. We don't know who they are, what their stories fact till  the very end of the book, I didn't know who apart from her mother-in-law and children lived in this house and there were apparently many women living there. Who were they? 

3. The husband, Pir Sain was a monster. He was a terrible tyrant and a complete asshole! It almost felt like he wasn't human. Durrani does a very good job at making him into a dreaded villain but...are people really this bad? Can power corrupt so thoroughly? I am sure there are people like this...worse than this, but he came a caricature more than a living, breathing person. 

4. There were some things in this book that just made it difficult to believe that this was a real story. The convenient happy ending was one the biggest reasons. *SPOILER ALERT* Heer just happens to meet her long-lost-love and in the end goes off with him! WHAT? That seems life doesn't work like that. It was too simple. Too easy. And read too much like a romcom. 

Rating: 3/5 

Monday, 23 June 2014

Review: Beautiful Thing by Sonia Faleiro.

Book: Beautiful Thing

Author: Sonia Faleiro

Pages: 214

How Long It Took Me To Read: 2-3 hours ( I couldn't put this books down!)

Read On: Paperback

Plot Summary: Sonia Faleiro was a reporter in search of a story when she met Leela, a beautiful and charismatic bar dancer with a story to tell.

Leela introduced Sonia to the underworld of Bombay’s dance bars: a world of glamorous women, of fierce love, sex and violence, of customers and gangsters, of police, prostitutes and pimps.

When an ambitious politician cashed in on a tide of false morality and had Bombay’s dance bars wiped out, Leela’s proud independence faced its greatest test. In a city where almost everyone is certain that someone, somewhere, is worse off than them, she fights to survive, and to win.

Beautiful Thing, one of the most original works of non-fiction from India in years, is a vivid and intimate portrait of one reporter’s journey into the dark, pulsating and ultimately damaged soul of Bombay.

General Thoughts: When this book first came out in 2010, there was a lot of buzz around and a lot of people loved it. For some reason, I didn't pick it up then because non-fiction wasn't a genre I was interested in greatly. Plus I thought this would be a sob story about the exploitation of bar dancers and I didn't think this was a book for me. 

A couple of months ago, I came across this b00k on Flipkart for fairly cheap and thought I'd enjoy this now...given that I have come to enjoy non-fiction books. 

Things I Liked: 

1. Though this is a non-fiction book, it reads just like a work of fiction. Meaning the writing isn't dry or factual or in the style of a report. The writing is nice. The plot also feels like a work of fiction and the characters and their lives keep you turning pages. 

2. I loved Leela, she is unlike anyone I have read before..which makes sense since she is a real person. A person with hopes, dreams and aspirations. A person is doing the best she can in the situation she is in. She is spunky, strong, hopeful and self-destructive. A loyal friend and a tragically optimistic girl who thinks life will get better. 

3. There are a myriad of intriguing characters in this book. The people the author meets through Leela- her mother Apsara a victim of abuse herself but a horrible mother nonetheless, Priya, Leela's best-friend, a pretty girl, haughty and hopelessly in love with a good for nothing man, the Eunuchs who live and love large and many of Leela's co-workers, each of them with a story of her own. 

4. I loved the tone of this book. It's matter of fact, unflinchingly honest and free of melodrama or sentiment. 

5. I loved reading about a side of my city that I know exists but don't often think about. It's difficult to live in Bombay and not see the other side. The street-walkers, the bars, the poverty and even hear of the violence. And everyone read about the Dance Bars shutting down in 2005 and how it adversely affected the thousands of Bar Dancers. But to read about these nameless/ faceless group at an individual level was an eye-opening experience. 

6. I loved reading about the interactions between the author and many people she meets. It was sweet to see them as regular young girls interested in fashion and the love life of others and hopeful for a happy ending of their own, no matter how grim their present life-situation is. 

What I Didn't Like: 

Nothing really. I really enjoyed this book immensely. I couldn't put it down. But there some mentions and details of sexual violence that could be disturbing to some readers. So keep that in mind when/if you pick this book up. The fact that these are real instances of sexual assault made it even more painful to read. 

Rating: 4/5 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Book Haul: Books of June 2014, Part- II.

I got all of these books from Kitaab Khana on a fine Friday evening. I browsed the shelves for an hour and came home with these gems. 

I am especially excited to have found the lovely Vintage War books. 

The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter 
The Pigman by Paul Zindel 
Mirror City by Chitrita 
The Wish Maker by Ali Seth 
The Collected Works of A.J, Fikry 
All Quiet on The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks 
The Dark Room by Rachel Saiffert
A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie 

Review: Don't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout.

Book: Don't Look Back

Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

Pages: 375

How Long it Took Me To Read: 3 hours ( I read it in one sitting.)

Read On: My Kindle

Plot Summary: Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all-popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend. 

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it's one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took "mean girl" to a whole new level, and it's clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She's getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she's falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash.

But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn't just buried deep inside of Sam's memory-someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?

General Thoughts: I was really in the mood for a light, fun read. And mystery books are my idea of book candy. I love getting lost in a mystery and coming up with my own theories and possible suspects and all that good stuff. I've read two books by this author before, but they were new adult books. This is the first young adult book by Armentrout I've read and I enjoyed it more than I did her new adult books. This was a fun book. I was hooked and could not put it down, even when it was waaaayyyy past my bedtime. I read till 7 am but finished it in one sitting. I had guessed the mystery but it was still a fun read. 

Things I Liked: 

1. The writing was good and I enjoyed the first person account and seeing things unfold from Sam's point of view. The pace of this book was great too. 

2. I liked that this book had a lot of family in it, once Sam comes back home, she goes about mending her equation with her twin brother and trying to understand her parent's marriage. 

3. Sam's love connection with Carson was nice and wasn't instalove, they had history and chemistry and it was fun to read about them and their past. 

4. I liked that the young adults in this book were shown as being sexually active. Teens have sex but YA books often gloss over that fact. 

5. I also enjoyed most of the side characters like Sam's brother Scott, his girlfriend Julia, Carson of course and even the super-mean girls- Candy, Veronica and Lauren. 

6. I liked that the issues between Sam and her long-time boyfriend Del were real, in the sense big things that were specified. He was an ass. And I am glad we were given specific examples of his horridness. 

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. I would have liked a little more of Cassie. In the book, once Sam comes back sans her memories, multiple people tell her that Cassie was a total bitch. Sam, as we come to know her seems like someone who has a good heart. Cassie was the bad influence. Cassie and Sam together bring out the worst in each other and I wish we had seen more of this. 

2. The super-mean girls were reallly, really mean. Why would anyone be friends with them? Sam who is deep down a nice girl..we are told...why would she put up with these bitches? 

Rating: 4/5- purely because I was caught up in the story and found it very entertaining. 

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Review: Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

Book: Notes on a Scandal

Author: Zoe Heller

Pages: 258

Time It Took To Read: 4 hours

Read: Penguin Ink Paperback edition

Plot Summary: Schoolteacher Barbara Covett has led a solitary life until Sheba Hart, the new art teacher at St. George's, befriends her. But even as their relationship develops, so too does another: Sheba has begun an illicit affair with an underage male student. When the scandal turns into a media circus, Barbara decides to write an account in her friend's defense—and ends up revealing not only Sheba's secrets, but also her own.

Why this book is AWESOME:
1. The writing is brilliant. BRILLIANT. It's efficient and evocative all at once, which is a tough, tough thing to do and Ms. Heller pulls it off! 

2. This is a story of, essentially, two characters and both the characters- Sheba and Barbara- are beautifully etched. They are layered and multi-dimensional and you get to go under their skins and understand what drives them and makes them do what they do. It's amazingly efficient how all this layering is achieved in less than 260 pages! 

3. One often reads about these sensational stories of older female teachers having inappropriate "relationships" with much younger male students and I have always wondered how these "relationships" come to be. As in, are these women ritualistic pedophiles or is it a mere (and very unfortunate) lapse in judgement? To see the anatomy of Sheba's "relationship" with Steven, as it unfolded in the book, made for very interesting reading. 

4. The depiction of Sheba's highly dysfunctional family life was also interesting and acted as a backdrop against which her "relationship" with Steven played out. The quietly smug and superior husband, the hell-cat daughter and a young, vulnerable son, who needed Sheba. You can somehow see how tired and trapping this sort of a family life can be and what one may want to do to escape from it, even for a bit. Even if it is highly self-destructive. 

5. Barbara's character is masterfully crafted! She is a mix of plain old vulnerability, single spinsterly sadness and pure malevolence. A highly complex character, indeed. Barbara's need to be needed, to be a special person in someone's life is both scary and pathetic. You partly feel sorry for her and partly you want to punch her in the face. So, so, well written and interesting. 

General Thoughts: We are very excited to, now, watch the movie based on this book starring Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett! I am sure it will be amazing! 

Rating: 5/5 

Friday, 20 June 2014

Review: The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison.

Book: The Garden of Burning Sand

Author: Corban Addison

Pages: 445

How Long it Took Me To Read: 3 days

Read On: Paperback

Plot Summary: Lusaka, Zambia: Zoe Fleming is a young, idealistic American lawyer working with an NGO devoted to combatting the epidemic of child sexual assault in southern Africa. Zoe’s organization is called in to help when an adolescent girl is brutally assaulted. The girl’s identity is a mystery. Where did she come from? Was the attack a random street crime or a premeditated act?

A betrayal in her past gives the girl’s plight a special resonance for Zoe, and she is determined to find the perpetrator. She slowly forms a working relationship, and then a surprising friendship, with Joseph Kabuta, a Zambian police officer. Their search takes them from Lusaka’s roughest neighbourhoods to the wild waters of Victoria Falls, from the AIDS-stricken streets of Johannesburg to the matchless splendour of Cape Town.

As the investigation builds to a climax, threatening to send shockwaves through Zambian society, Zoe is forced to radically reshape her assumptions about love, loyalty, family and, especially, the meaning of justice.

General Thoughts: I am always looking to read more from places I haven't read about or from before. I bought this book while book  shopping on World Book Day. It sounded amazing and was set in Zambia and I wanted to give it a shot. My sister read this before I did and I read it soon after. 

Things I Liked: 

1. The writing and the pace of the narrative were good. It kept you involved and engrossed and this book is quite the page turner. 

2. The investigative pieces in the story were interesting and well done. Zoe and Joseph's efforts to find out about the young victim's mother's past are intense and well sketched out. 

3. The details about the justice system in Zambia were interesting to read about. Equally interesting were the glimpses into Zambian life, politics and perceptions of people, especially, towards rape victims and people battling with HIV. 

4. The supporting cast of characters- Zoe's friends from the NGO as well as the other expats who help Zoe and Joseph in their quest- were well fleshed out. The glimpses into the expat life in Zambia were also interesting to read about. 

5. The actual mystery connecting the victim's mother's past to the perpetrator of the rape was slightly predictable but nicely done nonetheless. 

Things I Didn't Like: 
1. The romance between Zoe and Joseph was a bit forced and not really needed in a story like this. Also, it comes out of nowhere. One minute they are solving a crime and the next minute Zoe is in love with him! There is no build-up whatsoever, either in terms of Joseph's character or the things about him that attract Zoe. 

2. Also, we get to see glimpses of Zoe's past and the source of her strained relationship with her dad. While these bits were useful to an extent, they just dragged the narrative and slowed the pace of the book and were not as interesting or relevant to the story. 

3. Also, Zoe's instant connection with the child who'd been raped was a bit bizarre. She didn't really spend time with the kid and she was suddenly the No. 1 champion for the kid's rights and for ensuring her safety and future. This connection between the two of them could have been better handled. 

4. The connection between what was happening in Zambia with a faux-Presidential race in the US was, again, in my opinion, not needed. There was no need to bring in this whole angle of what kind of aid should or should not be given to Africa and by whom. It was not essential to this story and it muddied the waters a bit. 

Rating: 3.5/5 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Review: Isobel Journal by Isobel Harrop.

Book: Isobel Journal

Author: Isobel Harrop

Pages: 208

How Long it Took Me to Read: 2 hours

Plot Summary: There isn't a plot here really. This is pretty much the journal of a young girl, her thoughts, feelings, first love, heart-break and her views and the things she loves.

General Thoughts: I have been trying to read more graphic novels. I really enjoy the art and unique story telling format. I came across this book on Tumblr or something and the art looked like fun. Luckily, I found it for cheap. That's the thing with graphic novels they usually cost more than regular books. Ah! But the art and paper quality justifies the price.

Review: I really enjoyed this book. I read it in bed after a particularly crappy day. This book cheered me up and was exactly what I needed. It was a happy, pretty and a fun read. The art isn't spectacular. But it is real and reading this book and flipping through the art is just like reading someone real's journal. A lot of the pages and the simple drawings about everyday things was reading old journals of mine.

While I enjoyed this book, I can see that is might not be for everyone. The art is simple. There is no real plot. No story. Just everyday life and thoughts and feelings. If that is not something you'd enjoy, then maybe give this book a miss.

Rating: 4/5 

Review: Tell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt.

Book: Tell The Wolves I'm Home

Author: Carol Rifka Brunt

Pages: 360

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days

Read On: Gorgeous paperback.

Plot Summary: 1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.

General Thoughts: I saw this book on Tumblr...the gorgeous cover probably has something to do with it. I saw it reblogged a bunch of times. Looked it up on GoodReads and liked the sound of it. Got my hands on it and read it in May. Loved it. Cried. Sobbed. Loved it! 

Things I Liked: 

1. The writing is lovely, beautiful, honest and really, really good! 

2. I love books about sibling relationships. This book has two sets of siblings, June and her sister and her uncles Finn and her mother. Both set of siblings used to be incredibly close. Best friends and then life/situations get in the way and there is a gradual drifting off. Subtle but surely a distance creeps between the siblings. And each person thinks they know the reason why and each person has a different reason. I loved this, I love relationships that change overtime and the tenuous reasons behind them. I loved reading about both sets of siblings. 

3. It's set in the 1980s! Enough said. I love the 80s and books set in it. 

4. I enjoyed (maybe that's not the right word?) reading about the AIDS epidemic of the 80s and the prejudice and ignorance about the deadly disease. 

5. The bond between June and Finn was just a treat to read about. 

6. Finn and Toby....they broke my heart! 

7. Toby....I LOVED him, more than June and more than Finn. He is pretty much my favourite thing about this book. God! He was just lovely. 

8. There are lovely portions detailing June and Finn's New York adventures which was pretty fun. 

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. I wasn't the biggest fan of June. 

2. June's inappropriate love for Finn and then Toby was just...a bit much. Finn was her uncle. And gay..her gay can you be in love with him??!!! 

Rating: 4.5/5 

I loved this book, and you really should read it! 

Monday, 16 June 2014

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

The Pickwick Papers- Charles Dickens 
Twenty Love Poems and A Song of Despair- Pablo Neruda 
Anti-Social Network- Piyush Jha 
Revolutionary Road- Richard Yates 
Hollow City- Ransom Riggs 
A Young Doctor's Notebook- Mikhail Bulgakov 
The Savages- Matt Whyman 
Rooftoppers- Katherine Rundell 
The Isobel Journal- Isobel Harrop 

I got these 9 lovely books from Amazon. And if you follow me on Instagram, you know I had some book delivery drama. I don't want to get into it again but basically this whole experience has made me go off Amazon. I am done and won't be ordering books from Amazon henceforth! So done! 

But moving on, I am so excited about these books! So many lovely new books to read. 

I've already read Isobel Journal. and enjoyed it immensely! Review coming soon! :)