Sunday, 31 August 2014

General Whimsy: Book Wishlist!

In all my life...all my bookish life to be more precise, I haven never wanted a particular edition of books more. I know one shouldn't get too invested and put all this love and lust and wanting into a book cover, but pretty! So incredibly pretty! I first saw a sneak peak at these gorgeous editions on Anna Rifle Bond's Instagram account a couple of months ago and I was in love. I may or may not have spasm-ed hard and poked my sister in the ribs!!! 

It was love at first sight! 

Finally, after months of waiting the books are out. 

And man I want them sooooooo hard! So bad. 

Aren't they just gorgeous?! 

I am a huge fan of the Rifle Paper Co. products, I have a set of notebooks from them and love them to bits. I love their aesthetic and style. 

As much as I want these books, I am going to wait and get them from Diwali or something. 

Ah! So pretty! 

Friday, 29 August 2014

Snapshots: North Bengal.

Cloudy skies. I love the storms in my little North Indian hometown. The skies turn all kinds of magical. 

A little snapshot of the family home. 

We are surrounded by tea gardens. They look and smell divine! 

The view of the valley. 

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

General Whimsy: Stuff I Watch and Love.

1. Murder in the First: A crime show essentially. It follows one case in one season, this season the case was a high profile murder investigation around a young self-made billionaire Eric Blunt. Blunt is accused of killing his birth father and his pregnant girlfriend. The show follows the case from the beginning, the trial and several twists and turns. Tom Felton (of Draco Malfoy fame) plays Eric Blunt brilliantly. I loved him in the show, in fact I am slightly ashamed to tell you, that I was cheering for him. :) I also kept expecting him to call someone a 'Mudblood'. :)

Since it has only 10 episodes and all of them have aired already, it was a great show to binge on. 

2. The Divide: Another crime/legal show but with a difference. It deals with a 14-year-old sensational murder of a black family and the two men convicted of the murder are in prison, one of them on death row. In comes the Innocence Initiative, an organisation that works hard to procure evidence to free those on death row. 

This first season, also aired, has only 8 episodes and is perfect to marathon watch. This show is very gripping and intense and raises many questions about justice, race and the corruption in the legal system. I loved this show, really loved it and I hope it gets renewed for a second season. 

3. The Strain: Creepy, scary and not for the faint of heart. Seriously, if you can't bear gore and gross things you ought to keep away from this show. Based on a series of books, this show is essentially about Vampires. And these vampires are scary as fuck. Not ones to fall in love with, these ones who want to stay away from. 

I have seen the first 6 episodes and I am super gripped and equal parts scared. If you love horror, you'll like this. 

4. Veronica Mars: I am a little late to this party but I have finally arrived and I am loving it!  The story of follows Veronica Mars who after her best friend is murdered and her father is removed as county sheriff, dedicates her life to cracking the toughest mysteries in the affluent town of Neptune.

This show is so fun! Veronica is super spunky and a bad-ass. Apart from the big mystery about her best-friend's death, each episode also includes little mysteries. 

I am a couple episodes in the first season and I am really enjoying it. I also watched the movie version earlier this week and I loved it so much and I had to jump into the TV show. 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Tag: A-Z Bookish Survey.

It's tag time again.

I am going to do the A to Z Bookish Survey that originated from this blog. It looks like a lot of fun so lets get started....

Author you've read most books from..

JK Rowling
Agatha Christie
Mary Higgins Clark
Enid Blyton

Best sequel ever...

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Currently Reading...

The Wish Maker by Ali Sethi

Drink of choice when reading...

Iced- coffee or tea.

E-reader or physical book...

Physical books all the way. But I do enjoy reading on my Kindle and iPad.

Fictional Character you probably would have dated in high-school...

Wow..I am really struggling with this one, but Ron Weasley maybe?

Glad you gave this book a chance..

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins, loads of hype around this book actually made me a little weary but I am so glad I picked this up and I loved it!

Hidden book gem...

Sorta Like A Rockstar by Matthew Quick- amazing book, I cannot recommend it enough.

Important Moment in reading life..

2011, for the first time in my life I began to document my reading life. I had a running list behind my planner of all the books I was reading. I could see for the first time how much reading I was getting done and it motivated me to read more!

Just Finished...

The Village by Nikita Lalwani, it was horrible!

Kind of Books you won't read...

Well, I am trying to branch out and read as many different books as I possibly can but I don't read anything by Chetan Bhagat. And I am not a fan of verrrryyyy actiony books and spy books and verryyy high fantasy.

Longest book you've read...

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, my edition had 1478 pages! But worth every single page!

Major book hangover because of..

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows

Number of bookcases you own...

Two, but my books are stored across 7 locations in my house.

One Book you've read multiple times....

Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone
The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Preferred place to read...


Quote that inspires you and gives you all the feels from a book you've read...

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” 
― Haruki MurakamiNorwegian Wood 

I agree with this quote so much! 

Reading regret..

Not reading all the Agatha Christie books before watching the TV shows, I still love the books but since they are basically whodunnits, it would have been fantastic to have read the books first. 

Series you started and need to finish (all the books are out)...

The Sherlock Holmes books, I know this is a cop out but I am not a big series reader and currently nothing I am reading has all the books out. 

Three of your all time favourite books...

The Harry Potter books 
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote 
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 

Unapologetic Fangirl about...

All things Sherlock. 
All things Potter. 
Penguin Library pretty! 

Very excited for this release...

The new Murakami book- Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage which is already out but I haven't bought it yet! Need it! 

Worst Bookish Habit..

Cracking spines. 

X marks the spot, start at the top left corner of your bookshelf and name the 27th book...

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie 

Your last book purchase..

Coraline by Neil Gaiman 

ZZZ- snatcher, a book that kept you way past your bedtime...

Well...I mostly read wayyy past my bedtime in any case so this doesn't really apply to me but the last time a book kept me up in spite of me wanting to get to bed was a thriller a read last month...I don't remember which one. 

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Review: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Book: Outlander

Author: Diana Gabaldon

Pages: 627

I Read: The Kindle version

I Read it in: 10-odd hours over 2 days

Plot Summary: The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon--when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach--an "outlander"--in a Scotland torn by war and raiding Highland clans in the year of Our Lord...1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into intrigues and dangers that may threaten her life...and shatter her heart. For here she meets James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, and becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire...and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

What I Liked: This is one of those books which I happened to pick up because I watched a few episodes of its TV show. The TV is quite nicely done (thus far) and so, I thought why not read the original source material, eh? On to what I liked about Outlander
  • The premise is pretty interesting. A woman travelling back in time to a tumultuous period in history and the hinted romance- what's not to look forward to? 
  • The setting- Scotland in the mid-18th century- loads of intrigue, cloak and dagger stuff and events leading to the Jacobite Rising of 1745. The history geek in me was quite pleased to read about the (highly fictionalized, though it was) backdrop. 
  • The characters were interesting enough- Claire is feisty and sassy, Jamie is heroic (slightly weird) and there are multiple supporting characters that are very likable. 
  • The book is fairly fast-paced, though there are certain sections that are annoyingly repetitive and dull. 
What I Didn't Like: 
  • Jonathan Randall- Claire's husband's look alike and ancestor. What the heck kind of a character was this guy?! Attempts to rape anything that breathes and just didn't seem to have any layers or sane motivation driving his actions! This was a bad piece of character writing. 
  • I would have wanted to see more of the politics of that period. Instead, time is spent on Jamie and his friends/ relatives rescuing Claire from her stupid, self-destructive shenanigans. 
  • Way too much "love making". Not good, just of the meh variety. 
  • This book is the first in the series of 7 or 8 books and there was no closure of any kind. 
Rating: 3/5 

I won't be reading the other books in the Outlander series, (I have read the synopses and can't bring myself to read any of them!) but I will be watching the TV show. This is one of those rare cases where I like the TV show more than its book. 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Review: A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam.

Book: A Golden Age

Author: Tahmima Anam

Pages: 274

Read On: Paperback

How Long it Took Me To Read: 1 day

Plot Summary: As young widow Rehana Haque awakes one March morning, she might be forgiven for feeling happy. Her children are almost grown, the city is buzzing with excitement after recent elections. Change is in the air. 

But no one can foresee what will happen in the days and months that follow. For this is East Pakistan in 1971, a country on the brink of war. And this family's life is about to change forever. 

Set against the backdrop of the Bangladesh War of Independence, 'A Golden Age' is a story of passion and revolution, of hope, faith, and unexpected heroism. In the chaos of this era, everyone must make choices. And as she struggles to keep her family safe, Rehana will be forced to face a heartbreaking dilemma.
General Thoughts: I read this book first in 2008, a year after it was published. I picked it up at a bookstore because it was about a period and event in history I had heard lots about from family members and I wanted to read about it.

I read the book in pretty much one sitting and loved it!

In 2012, I saw another book by the same author, A Good Muslim, and I immediately picked it up. I took it to my hometown to read over my one month long holiday. 20 pages in I realized this was a sequel to A Golden Age! I felt like such an idiot for not knowing it before. I enjoyed that book too, though it was very different from this one. I'll talk about that book later...once I re-read it.

Lets talk about this one for now.

Review: I loved this book, really loved it. I liked it then but I really appreciated and enjoyed this book more this time around. Ah! The magic of re-reading favourites.

I loved the writing, it was beautiful, powerful and striking and vivid. I could picture life in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) clearly, see it, smell it and experience it. It was a delightful read.

The characters in this book are it's strongest point- Rehana our protaganist is a strong, loving, kind and brave woman who is deeply in love with her children and being separated from them for a year has made her paranoid about losing them again. This unfortunate separation from her children shapes her and her actions to a great extent. She does anything and everythign in her power to keep her children safe and happy. We see most of the events in the book through Rehana's eyes and she was a splendid character to read about and get to know.

Maya and Sohail, Rehana's children were also very well written and I really felt like I got to know them during the course of this book. Maya better than Sohail. Or maybe I just liked Maya better, she was much more sorted and mature and clear-headed. She was focused and wanted to do something to free her motherland. I also enjoyed reading about the relationship between mother and daughter, the struggles, the fights and their issues.

Sohail remained a bit of an enigma and I am not sure if I like him or not. {You like him even less in the next book. Just saying!}

The secondary characters in this book are also fantastic and well-written and add to the story, Sohails' revolutionary friends Aref and Joy, Mrs' Chowdhury and her suddenly religious daughter Silvi, Rehana's friends, the Senguptas and The Major are all memorable characters that you grow to care about.

The balance between the story of this family and the larger picture- the change in the country at large was done so well. You got to see each aspect beautifully and didn't feel like one half was favoured over the other. You still got an understanding of the history and a look into the life of this family.

Rating: 5/5

I can't recommend this book enough. I am making my sister read this book now and will also make my dad read it once she is done. 

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Review: The Teller of Tales by Bhaskar Ghose.

Book: The Teller of Tales

Author: Bhaskar Ghose

Pages: 277

Read On: Paperback

How Long It Took Me To Read: 2 days

Plot Summary: Civil servant-turned-schoolteacher Arunava Varman is secretive and reticent. But he turns into an inspired teller of tales after a couple of drinks, especially in the company of his friend, Tapan. Arunava’s bizarre stories – involving friends, family and colleagues – add a dash of excitement and intrigue to Tapan’s mundane life of a bureaucrat. But over the years, as Tapan gets to know Arunava better, he starts discovering disturbing holes in these tales.

Elegant, wistful and full of surprises, this exquisitely crafted first novel combines the suspense of a thriller with the tender charm of a love story.

General Thoughts: I bought this book without too much of a thought. I had heard of this book in magazines and papers around the time this book out in 2012. I liked the premise of this book. two friends chatting over a couple of drinks and telling stories. It reminded me of my dad and his friends. 

Plus the cover art is kinda pretty too. 

When this book arrived in the mail, my dad saw it and recognized the author. My dad knows of the author, who was posted in my hometown. My hometown and it's surrounding area are frequently mentioned in this book and I loved reading about places so familiar to me. 

Things I Liked: 

1. I loved the friendship depicted in this book. The bonds formed over the early years of Government service when friends and family are far away, these two young men find each other and develop a close bond. And I loved how the bond grows stronger over the years. I also liked how typical this friendship was of friendships of men. They don't meet all the time, once a couple of months and later years go by before they meet again. I loved how real and genuine this friendship read. 

2. I loved the stories Arunava tells Tapan. It was like being in the room with them and hearing the stories in person. Some of the stories were really funny and there was even a ghost story! A good range of tales! 

3. I loved Arunava's character. He was a mystery and an enigma. Really interesting. I kept turning pages, hoping to figure out the truth about his life. 

4. The lying, the blatant lies that Arunava tells Tapan were very curious. There are people who like embellishing truths, who lie to make themselves seem interesting. I have known people in my life who lie at the drop of a hat and no real good reason. It was enjoyable reading about a person like that in fiction. 

5. The best thing however was the mentions of North Bengal and it's tiny towns. My corner of the world. It made me miss home! 

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. The middle portion was the book was slow and I was rapidly losing interest. The only reason I kept reading was my interest in Arunava and his back story.

2. I never warmed up to Tapan. 

3. There is a love-story thrown in the very end and I just wasn't invested in this aspect of the book at all. 

4. The reason for Arunava being the way he was...was a little silly. Not unbelievable or anything...just a little silly. 

Rating" 3/5 

Friday, 22 August 2014

Friday Favourites: Open Road, Tea, Books and Notebooks.

1. Open roads. Country roads. This picture was taken on a sunny afternoon when me and my family were driving around the forests of North Bengal. It was a great day, full of laughter, joy and good food.

2. Two beautiful handmade ceramic mugs full of tea.

3. My sister's pretty little lego-style notebook.

4. A gorgeous Atlas. Aren't maps just beautiful?

5. A few spines of some classics.

Happy Friday guys and have a lovely weekend! :)

P.S: Thank-you to anyone who has written a sweet little email to me. Your kind words and compliments make my day and touch my heart. You guys are the sweetest! Thank-you :)))) It's always a pleasure to hear from my readers. 

Review: Ice-Candy Man by Bapsi Sidhwa.

Book: Ice-Candy Man

Author: Bapsi Sidhwa

Pages: 339

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days

Read On: Paperback

Plot Summary: The 1947 Partition of India is the backdrop for this powerful novel, narrated by a precocious child who describes the brutal transition with chilling veracity. Young Lenny Sethi is kept out of school because she suffers from polio. She spends her days with Ayah, her beautiful nanny, visiting with the large group of admirers that Ayah draws. It is in the company of these working class characters that Lenny learns about religious differences, religious intolerance, and the blossoming genocidal strife on the eve of Partition. 

As she matures, Lenny begins to identify the differences between the Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs engaging in political arguments all around her. Lenny enjoys a happy, privileged life in Lahore, but the kidnapping of her beloved Ayah signals a dramatic change. Soon Lenny’s world erupts in religious, ethnic, and racial violence. 

By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, the domestic drama serves as a microcosm for a profound political upheaval.

General Thoughts: I saw 1947 Earth, when it came out in 1998 and I loved it. I can't recommend it enough. I always knew the movie was based on a book and I always intended on reading the book, weirdly it took me all this time to get around to the book! Since I loved the movie so much, I was sure the book would blow my mind, because books trump movies always. Well...almost always. 

Things I Liked: 

1. The author has done a wonderful job showing the world through the eyes of little girl. The chaos, the change, the people around her and the relationships and the grown-ups, the narrative seemed like it really came from a child's perspective. The confusion, the half-understood truths seemed genuine. 

2. The situation and the life in 1940's pre-independence India/Pakistan was also captured well. It came alive within the pages of this book. 

3. Lenny herself was a very interestingly written and very memorable. She is loves spending time with adults in her life and is oddly grateful for her Polio that keeps her out of school. She likes the special privileges her disability provides her. 

4. A lot of the secondary characters are wonderfully crafted, Lenny, her parents, Ayah, the servants and Lenny's Godmother. They are all well-written and unique. 

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. This book was a disappointing read. Overall, it just didn't match up to the magic of the film version. One of those rare instances, where the movie was just loads better. 

2. The movie ends on a pivotal point. a very powerful last scene that felt me stunned when I first watched it. In the book, this scene, this bit, comes in the latter bit of the second half and after it there are 60 or so more pages. Which to me lost the punch of that moment. 

3. There was also a lot of strangeness and sexual stirrings in this book...which to me seemed a little forced. 

4. The writing wasn't amazing either. I have read another book by the same author "Pakistani Bride" which was a better written book. The writing in this book was just...not that great. 

Rating: 2/5 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Review: Not Without You by Harriet Evans

Book: Not Without You

Author: Harriet Evans

Pages: 448

I Read: The paperback copy pictured above

I Read It In: 4 hours

Plot Summary: From internationally bestselling author Harriet Evans comes an intriguing and fresh new novel about a famous modern-day actress whose fate becomes intertwined with a glamorous movie star from the 1950s who vanished many years earlier.
Sophie Leigh’s real name is Sophie Sykes. But she hasn’t been called that for years, not since she became an A-list movie star. Living in Hollywood, she can forget all about her old life in England and the tragedy she left behind. But in the process, she’s lost something of herself, too.

Eve Noel didn’t choose her name. A Hollywood producer did. In fact, he makes all the decisions for her—what to wear, when to smile, who to love. A product of the 1950s, Eve has none of Sophie’s modern self-confidence, but she knows she must follow her heart. One day, she simply vanishes: no one knows where she went, or why…
As Sophie’s perfect-on-the-outside world begins to crumble, it seems her life might be linked to Eve’s. And when past and present collide, Sophie must unravel the mystery around Eve’s disappearance to save them both—but is she already too late? 

What I Liked: A quick list:

  • The premise of this book is interesting- two Hollywood A-listers, separated by 50-odd years- and somehow their lives are inter-connected. 
  • Eve Noel's story is just lovely. There are glimpses of old Hollywood- the good and the bad- which make for an engrossing read. I loved reading every little bit about her life. I wished there was so much more of her and her story and significantly less of Sophie! 
  • The book shifted between the two time periods quite effortlessly, so that was good. 
  • The actual mechanics of being a movie star- what is real, what is crafted and fake.. and how fickle this beast called 'fame' is- are very written and well-captured. So, well written that you begin to feel pretty disgusted reading about it. Always a good thing if an author can evoke that sort of a reaction! 

What I Didn't Like: 
  • Sophie- she was very blah! Sorry, that is not helpful at all.. but I don't know how else to explain it. There is nothing really interesting about her.. she is not particularly smart or intuitive or has a deep well of sadness or anything which makes her.. (and there is that word again!) interesting. She somehow becomes an A-list star.. does romantic comedies, which she is not proud of.. is seen as a bimbo.. which, er, um, she rather sounds like.. so, why not embrace it?! Anyway, she is not fun. I didn't connect with her and that ruined a big part of the book for me. 
  • The big twist. The big thing that connects the two actresses. It was STUPID! And so eminently guessable! 
Rating: 3.5/5 (Read it if you enjoy historical fiction and want to soak in some charming and not-so-charming tales of Hollywood in the 50s)

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Review: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Book: Life After Life

Author: Kate Atkinson

Pages: 544

I Read: The paperback copy pictured above

I Read It In: 8 hours (over two days)

Plot Summary: On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.

What I Liked: This is a fantastic book! It starts in 1910 and goes all the way upto the early 50s and takes the reader through the tumultuous War years and the gap between the Wars. In bullets then...

  • The premise of the book is so delicious! Who among us has not wondered what they would do if they could live x years of their lives over? Or just live one crucial day in their life over? Or just want some sort of erase-and-rewind thing going on in their lives? I think about it sometimes! I want to go re-live my college/uni life because they were so wonderful and I want to extract more, more, more and more out of them. Sigh. So, anyway, Ursula Todd gets to live her life over and over again; as she does, she changes the destinies of those around her as well as herself. 
  • The writing is gorgeous! 
  • The scenarios- each and every single one of them as Ursula lives and dies and is re-born- are interesting and well-crafted. The book never gets boring even though we live through the same period over and over again. 
  • The characters are also well-crafted. The Todd family, Ursula's friends- in her many avatars, so to speak- and sundry other people in her life have depth and make for interesting reading. 
  • The depictions of the War- both of them- were different. During World War I, the focus was on the Todd family and their lives in rural England. The impact of the War was seen through their daily lives and ups-and-downs. World War II was more action-oriented.. the Blitz in London, end-of-the-War Germany.. and even some Swiss Alpine resort type place told those stories. Very interesting. 
There was nothing I didn't like in this book. It is amazing and I highly recommend it! I always assumed Kate Atkinson wrote crime fiction- I have read a few books by her- When Will There Be Good News?- and also saw its TV version starring Jason Issacs (the actor who plays Lucius Malfoy in the Potter films). I was quite surprised to see this book at Crossword and picked it up because I had enjoyed her crime fiction! 

I digress! So, anyway, read this book. It is AMAZING! 

Rating: 5/5 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Review : Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Book: Isla and the Happily Every After

Author: Stephanie Perkins

Pages: 339

I Read: The Kindle version

I Read it in: 3 hours

Plot Summary: From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and √Čtienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

What I Liked: Quick List: 
  • Josh: We have met him in Anna and the French Kiss as the artist dude who ends up breaking up with Rashmi, his long-term girlfriend, as she went off to college. Josh is the typical YA romantic hero- slightly intense, slightly fun, all-heart type of a dude who is quite dreamy and eminently likeable. 
  • Kurt: He is Isla's best friend has Aspergers. Kurt is very likeable and sweet and is a nice secondary character in the book. 
  • I liked the overall arc of how Isla and Josh fall in love. 
  • I love the descriptions of Josh's art.. it sounds rather lovely. 
  • Anna, St. Clair, Lola and Cricket's surprise appearance in the end is quite nice. 

What I Didn't Like: 
  • Isla: I didn't get a handle on who she was and what she was really like in the book. At all. In Perkins' previous books, the key protagonists and their romantic interests were very well sketched out because of which one felt connected to those characters. (You can read our review of Lola and The Boy Next Door here). Isla felt very superficial and disjointed as a character. You don't get a sense of who she really is as a person and what her issues are. (TINY SPOILER) Her issues crop up suddenly, rather unprovoked, and then she freaks out and breaks up with Josh. (END SPOILER). I didn't enjoy her at all. 
  • The largest chunk of the book was dull! The Isla-Josh love story went on for about 45% of the book and then there was this massive dull center, which was really pointless. It reduced my enjoyment of the book significantly. 

Rating: 2.5/5 (This book is a good, breezy quick read for Perkins fans.. but it is not as good as Anna and Lola)   

Monday, 18 August 2014

Vignettes: My old flat.

These pictures are old. Rather old..they were taken in the end f 2011. The last few months I spend in Bangalore. I lived there for 5 years. The first time I lived away from my parents, on my own..well almost on my own. I lived with my sister and for one year we even had two roommates. 

It was a good time. A time I will always look back on fondly. 

This was the first time I could do up my space in a way I saw fit. Now I am not decor expert. My mum and sister are avid decorators. They love home decor, tweaking things now and again. Me...I am more a magpie, who likes filling up her space with interesting knick-knacks. Bits and bobs that interest me. Books all over. Colour and print. Flowers. Candles. 

My home in Bombay is still all those things. 

Bangalore I miss you :) 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Review: Tell Me A Story by Rupa Bajwa.

Book: Tell Me A Story

Author: Rupa Bajwa

Pages: 214

Read On: Paperback

How Long It Took Me To Read: 2 days

Plot Summary: Set partly in the small, buzzing town of Amritsar and partly in New Delhi, this is the story of Rani, a young woman in contemporary India. She enjoys her work in a local beauty parlour though her lower middle-class family lives in a state of constant struggle–to make ends meet, to hang on to their dreams, to keep their fragile lives from collapsing.

As their financial troubles escalate, so do Rani’s sister-in-law’s taunts, brother’s frustration and father’s resignation. Random events happen that affect each of them, changing their lives forever.

Tell Me A Story displays remarkable clarity and depth in drawing up the real semi- urban living in India. Fragile and touching, it reminds us of how thin, tenuous are the connections which bind us to our illusory, sane-seeming lives.

General Thoughts: Sari Shop by Rupa Bajwa is a fairly well-known book and I have heard really good things about. This book has a few mixed reviews on Good Reads, saying Sari Shop is a better book, I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading Sari Shop. 

Things I Liked: 

1. I loved the setting of this book, a lower-middle class home in Amritsar was depicted very well and it came across as very real. 

2. The characters in this book were nicely written. Rani especially seemed like a living breathing person. Her hopes and aspirations and her little joys were so relate-able. 

3. Sometimes it's just nice to read about good people. As much as I can understand writing and reading about flawed, 'real' and unlike-able characters, it does irk me now and again. Seriously. Why can't we just have more books about good people? There are bad people in this world, I know that, but there are more good people in this world of ours. And it is plain nice to read about them and their lives. 

4. I liked the writing- it was simple but beautiful and the popular culture mentions were good too. 

5. Most of all I just loved Rani. She didn't have much, she worked in a local beauty parlour and enjoyed her job. She loved her gentle, kind-hearted and spiritual but misunderstood father and her little nephew Bittu. She enjoyed the little joys in life, street-food, cheap costume jewellery and film magazines. She loved Shah Rukh Khan and like nail-polish. She finds her joy in small things. She has hopes and dreams and is a good person. I really liked her and rooted for her. 

Things I Didn't Like: 

I did overall enjoy this book, Rani and her family and even their financial troubles made for a very captivating read. But the last 50 pages of this book almost seemed like it belonged to another story. 

For various critical reasons, Rani has to leave her home and move to Delhi. In Delhi we are introduced to a few new characters and see Rani interact with them. 

The Rani in Delhi is miles and miles away from the girl we knew so far in the story. I do understand the changes she underwent and the new person she became, I just didn't get along with this version of her. 

I also wasn't a big fan of resentful Rani grew of the rich people she met in Delhi. How she reacted when she saw them order food for 550 bucks and spend 18,500 on parties. I am really against people grudging others their wealth. And how you spend your money should not be anyone else's concern.

The new characters had no space or scope to grow in just 50 odd pages and I just didn't connect to any of them.

Rating: 3.5/5

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Review: Inside the Haveli by Rama Mehta.

Book: Inside the Haveli

Author: Rama Mehta

Pages: 245

Read On: Paperback

How Long It Took Me To Read: 6-7 hours

Plot Summary: This book tells the story of Geeta, an urban educated young woman from Bombay, who gets married to Ajay, a man from a conservative family in Udaipur. After her wedding, Geeta leaves the carefree and modern set-up of her household and moves into a conservative haveli of her in-laws, an old-fashioned place where she must remain in purdah, a home where men and women do not mingle. In this house, she must raise her three children and learn to carve out her own identity.

General Thoughts: I don't know how exactly I came to own this book...I saw it on Flipkart and did a bit of research and found that this book was inspired by the real life of the author and was a piece of feminist writing from modern-India. Yay! Thought I and quickly ordered it and saved it to read it during my Indian Books in August

I read this book in one sitting and I have pretty mixed feelings...

Review: This was a book where I went in expecting one thing was was given something else entirely. First up...I really don't see any feminism in this book. Geeta for most part just goes with the flow in her new home and doesn't do anything to really carve out her own identity or voice her opinions. She in fact got to appreciate the life and bonds inside the haveli and began to accept the direction her life was taking. Now there is nothing wrong with that, seriously, if you want to adapt to your new home and new life situation- there is nothing wrong with that. So many women throughout history have done just that. Hell, women still do that to this very day. My issue was the incorrect blurb behind the book. I kept reading and waiting for Geeta to do something...anything to speak out and speak her mind. She didn't. This really is a book about a young woman adjusting to her new situation and for that it isn't a bad book.

The book follows Geeta from the early days of her marriage to a couple of years in..the birth of her children and the routine of her life. I didn't mind it. The life of the women in this haveli was interesting, life in purdah, being secluded and their own rules by which they spend their lives was interesting to read. I have read about purdah before...mostly in history, women who cover their faces and live only in the women's quarter and don't mingle with men, even the men from their own family. It was nice to read about purdah in slightly modern times.

The writing was strictly OK...the prose was OK at best.

The other thing I enjoyed was the many servants in this house and their roles in this household. I didn't know servants could wield this sort of power but still, the maids in this house was pretty incredibly strong and sometimes even corrected Geeta.

The was this whole upstairs-downstairs thing going on this book. The home-owners/masters and the servants of this house were all very close and the masters cared for the well-being of their staff, in turn the servants were deeply loyal and attached to their people.

But nothing really goes on and Geeta gets accustomed to this way of life.  Sometimes even finding merit in this life!

The purdah system just didn't invoke a sense of being trapped or claustrophobic in this book. Geeta complains about being covered up and under a ghunghat but only fleetingly, her day to day life just didn't come across as being stifling.

Also, we were just not told enough about Geeta's life in this seclusion and strictness had nothing to compare with. We can only imagine her life in Bombay and that she might have had certain basic freedoms but none of that is ever properly articulated.

Ditto about her marriage to Ajay, he remains at best a shadowy secondary character who we don't get to know at all and the nature of their relationship or whether this is even a happy marriage or not.

In fact, even Geeta remains incredibly superficial and by the end of the book I still didn't really know her.

Plus there was no glossary in my edition and that was a pain because Rajasthani words were frequently used and I didn't know their meanings.

There were too many characters...way tooooooo many and it got a bit confusing at times.

Overall, I didn't hate the book, I enjoyed reading about life in purdah...well when I say enjoyed I really mean it was interesting. But it certainly didn't read like a piece of feminist writing. So I was slightly disappointed.

Rating: 2.5/5 

Friday, 15 August 2014

Friday Favourites: India Edition!

On the occasion of India's Independence Day, here are some of the (out of a very long list of) things that we love about this glorious country of ours. 

Our rich handicrafts and textiles. There is just so much variety that exists in terms of textiles, art and craft in our country. We try and buy as much handmade items as possible from craft fairs to encourage and support rural artisans. 

The same goes for pretty jewellery. 

Mumbai. City of Dreams. The Maximum City. Our home. 

The humble kantha that has now, suddenly, become cool globally :) Did you know that, originally, kantha was meant for new born babies? Stitched together from soft, well-worn saris, these blankets were made to give babies something soft to lie on.. 

Block prints. So pretty and such a labour of love. 

Loads of beautiful places to see in India. We stopped on a spot on the scenic route to Darjeeling and took this picture. Lots of tea and hills. 

Brings back childhood memories... my sister and I used to count these electrical towers from the train on our cross-country journey from Bombay to Calcutta (that's what Mumbai and Kolkata were called back then). 

More prints. 

Thread bangles. And pretty rings. 

Happy Independence Day, fellow Indians! 

Let's do our bit to be worthy citizens of our nation and to fulfill the dreams of those who died for our freedom! 

Review: Fire on The Mountain by Anita Desai.

Book: Fire on the Mountain

Author: Anita Desai

Pages: 145

Read On: Paperback

How Long It Took Me To Read: 1 day

Plot Summary: Gone are the days when Nanda Kaul watched over her family and played the part of Vice-Chancellor's wife. Leaving her children behind in the real world, the busier world, she has chosen to spend her last years alone in the mountains in Kasauli, in a secluded bungalow called Carignano.

Until one summer her great-granddaughter Raka is dispatched to Kasauli and everything changes. Nanda is at first dismayed at this break in her preciously acquired solitude. Fiercely taciturn, Raka is, like her, quite untamed. The girl prefers the company of apricot trees and animals to her great-grandmother's, and spends her afternoons rambling over the mountainside. But the two are more alike than they know. Throughout the hot, long summer, Nanda's old, hidden dependencies and wounds come to the surface, ending, inevitably, in tragedy.

Marvellous yet restrained, Fire on the Mountain speaks of the past and its unshakable hold over the present.

General Thoughts: Anita Desai is another author I discovered this year and fell in love with. I feel so stupid that I hadn't read anything by her before! Stupid, stupid me! Her writing is lovely. Poetic. Beautiful and just fantastic. I am so glad I have found her at last and I cannot wait to read more by her. This is the second book of hers I've read and I am going to read another- Fasting and Feasting- later on this month. 

Isn't this cover just beautiful? 

Review: To be very honest, most of this book was a bit tedious reading experience for me. The reason being that the first quarter or more of this book is very heavy on descriptions of Kasauli, the hills, the home of Nanda Kaul and the general landscape of the place. As a rule, I am not a big fan of overly-descriptive books. I much prefer conversation and whats going on inside the heads of the characters and other aspects of books rather than knowing the lay of the land in great detail. This book has a lot of descriptions and while it was beautifully just isn't something I like. 

But the bits about the characters- especially Nanda Kaul's life, her former home and her former way of life were great. I also loved how her isolation, her disdain for family ties and how much she enjoys her life in the hills were shown. Here was a woman who had done her duty towards her family for years and years and was done with being social and was done with being needed and being surrounded by the demands of family. She enjoyed her life in the hills, enjoyed being by herself and wanted nothing to come in the way of her new life, not her childhood friend Ila Das or even her great-granddaughter Raka. 

Raka- initially, by reading the description of the book, I somehow thought (entirely my fault) that Raka would be young woman...or at least a teenager. I didn't think that she would be a little girl! It was a surprise and a wee bit of a disappointment...again this is all me. I have no idea why I was expecting a young woman but I was. That being said, I soon got over my slight surprise and got on with the book. Raka is like her great-grandmother, but while Nanda prefers being left along because of her long-life of being surrounded by people and their needs and wants, Raka prefers isolation and solitude because that who she intrinsically is. She likes her own company. Prefers being left along and doesn't want to spend any time with Nanda. I loved how  this irked Nanda even though she had only reluctantly agreed to keep for the summer. 

I loved the attempts of bonding between the two characters, the stories Nanda tells Raka about her own childhood were lovely. 

The sense of the long summer days, the wandering, the aimless ambling...was just brilliantly done. And even though I am not big on descriptive bits, the bits about Raka's daily wandering and adventures were superb.

The ending of this book blew my mind! The slights twists in the end were fantastic and seriously made me gasp! I didn't see them coming nor did I expect any twists. It was brilliantly done! 

The best part of the book though for me was Ila broke my heart. I pretty much put the book down and mulled things over. I loved, LOVED the bit with her in it. Seriously fantastic! She shows in the last 30 pages and just takes over the book. Seriously, read this it for this character. 

Rating: 4/5 

Totally recommend!