Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Book Review: Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen

Book: Playing With Fire

Author: Tess Gerritsen

Pages: 250

Read on: Kindle

Read in: 3 hours

Plot Summary: The first time Julia Ansdell picks up The Incendio Waltz, she knows it’s a strikingly unusual composition. But while playing the piece, Julia blacks out and awakens to find her young daughter implicated in acts of surprising violence.

And when she travels to Venice to find the previous owner of the music, she uncovers a dark secret that involves dangerously powerful people—a family who would stop at nothing to keep Julia from bringing the truth to light.

Things I Liked: Quick List: 

1. I have read many books by Tess Gerritsen and I even enjoy the TV show Rizzoli & Isles, which is loosely based on the characters of Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles created by her. If you don't know much about Tess Gerritsen, she is a mystery writer with a sharp focus on the medical aspects of the case, given Gerritsen's background in Medicine. So, this book was a bit of a pleasant surprise because this is a historical fiction. In fact, the first historical fiction piece written by her. I really enjoy historical fiction and this was a pretty well-written book which covered a pretty different aspect of World War II. 

2. The book is very fast-paced and there is nothing superfluous in there! No fluff chapters, no events that don't have a bearing on the overall narrative, no fillers. I love my thrillers to be tautly written page turners and this book delivers that in spades! 

3. The characters, both in present day and in the 1940s, are lovely and well-etched. Julia is someone who is kind and is struggling because of her family history of mental illness, but she is also resilient and willing to take risks to find out the origin story of the Incendio waltz. Lorenzo, the mysterious composer of the waltz, is a wonderful, caring, kind and prodigiously talented young man. Laura, the love of Lorenzo's life, is brave, outspoken and helpful. These people showed extraordinary courage and humanity when the world around them had lost every shred of kindness. 

4. The circumstances under which the Incendio waltz was created by Lorenzo is so despairing and heart-breaking. Like so many tragic stories that have come out of World War II, this is yet another one which makes you wonder how human beings can do such awful things to one another?! Truly devastating and, yes, the circumstances are all real. Tess Gerritsen has done her research on the specific places and events that she mentions that led to Lorenzo composing this piece of music. 

5. The story is set in Italy during WWII and it is quite interesting to see how different Italy was compared to France and Germany during that time, especially, with regard to how long it took for the Germans to get the Italians to ostracise their Jewish citizens. Also, how in spite of the new anti-Semitic laws and such, there were loads of Italians who hid and helped their Jewish friends and neighbours. Like Gerritsen says in the Afterword, we need to celebrate the victims and the heroes. 

6. The mystery behind the music evoking something violent in Julia's daughter is also explained satisfactorily. 

Things I Didn't Like: Nothing as such, though, I wish there was even more of the 1940s (there already is quite a bit) in the book.

Rating: 4.5/5

Monday, 30 May 2016

Book Review: Strangers to Ourselves by Shashi Deshpande.

Book: Strangers to Ourselves

Author: Shashi Deshpande

Pages: 365

Read On: Paperback

How Long it Took Me To Read: 3 days

Plot Summary: She is an oncologist whose days are driven by the desire to alleviate pain. He is a rising star in the musical world, whose life is governed by his art. Yet, all it takes is one meeting for everything to change.

Set in Mumbai, Shashi Deshpande's new novel tells the story of an unlikely love between two unusual people. Tender and tempestuous by turns, it draws you into the conflicts, languid pleasures and sharp sorrows of falling in love with a stranger who can never entirely be yours.
General Thoughts: I really enjoy Shashi Deshpande's writing. Even though her books are often drenched in melancholia. But I love the way she writes and the people she writes about. This is her newest book and I liked the sound of it. Also this seemed almost like a love-story, so I was curious to see how Shashi Deshpande treated a love story.

Things I Liked: 

1. The writing and the style of story-telling was superlative as always.

2. The main premise of the book is the falling in love of two very different people. A jaded and love-weary oncologist and a rising star in classical music, who is optimistic and simple in matter of the heart. It was interesting to see how two such different world views come together and fall into a relationship.

3. The book being centred around an oncologist, there is a lot of talk Cancer and it's treatment and the toll it takes on the patient and the human body and how much survivors fight to battle this disease. This too was handled brilliantly by the author.

4. The best part of this book was the story within the story. There is Ahalya's Story interspersed with our love story and I loved it. A woman who lived over a 100 years ago and lived a hard life. It was just such a treat to have her life story as a bonus in this book.

5. The book apart from our main narrative and Ahalya's story, also had so many other wonderful characters and each of them have their own story and journey and I really enjoyed all of these snippets.

6. There are so many wonderful families in this book. Families of all shapes and sizes and across time periods but families that love and support each other. I absolutely loved this aspect of the book. I love reading about families and this book being full of them made me very happy.

7. I loved how Aparna thinks and mulls over her new relationship. It was shown so well, her being unsure and questioning her feelings for Shree Hari and even her future with him. This was shown in the most real way.

8. The people in this book and how wonderful and warm and kind they are was such a treat to read about them and get to know them. Especially the women in this book, Aparna, Jyoti, Mira, Taimavshi and of course Ahalya, are just wonderfully crafted strong women characters.

9. There is a wonderful little twist in the end which I simply adored.

10. There is a lot of classical music mentioned in this book and it made me want to delve into some raagas and alaaps and learn more about Hindustani Classical music.

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. Well...I didn't like Shree Hari. He is the most un-leading man leading man character I've ever read. He isn't vile or anything like that. He is perfectly alright and really nice in some parts. But overall I found him very clingy and needy and him falling in love with Aparna was instantaneously and slightly creepy. Also the way in which he 'courted' her was just too much and to me, felt suffocating.

2. The love-story aspect was thus my least favourite bit in the book. I didn't hate it, it was perfectly readable and largely enjoyable but....it wasn't the thing that kept me hooked!

Rating: 4.5/5

I really loved, loved this book. And I highly recommend it.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Book Review: The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos

Book: The Mystery of Hollow Places

Author: Rebecca Podos

Pages: 304

Read on: Kindle

Read in: 2 hours

Plot Summary: All Imogene Scott knows of her mother is the bedtime story her father told her as a child. It’s the story of how her parents met: he, a forensic pathologist, she, a mysterious woman who came to identify a body. A woman who left Imogene and her father when Imogene was a baby, a woman who was always possessed by a powerful loneliness, a woman who many referred to as “troubled waters.”

Now Imogene is seventeen, and her father, a famous author of medical mysteries, has struck out in the middle of the night and hasn’t come back. Neither Imogene’s stepmother nor the police know where he could’ve gone, but Imogene is convinced he’s looking for her mother. And she decides it’s up to her to put to use the skills she’s gleaned from a lifetime of reading her father’s books to track down a woman she’s only known in stories in order to find him and, perhaps, the answer to the question she’s carried with her for her entire life.

Things I Liked: Quick list:

1. The book’s premise seemed really interesting. A missing father, a mother whose identity is shrouded in mystery and a daughter who is trying to find her dad by learning more about her past. What’s not to like, right? Exactly. That’s what drew us to this book on Amazon and we picked it up thinking it would be a good mix of family secrets, mystery and some investigative action. There were bits of these elements, to be fair.. but, well that’s for the ‘Things I Didn’t Like’ section of this review.

2. Imogene’s journey to find her father is fairly interesting. She puts together clues, seeks people out and goes about following leads in a very realistic what-you-and-I-would-do manner. There were no over-the-top cutesy shenanigans or some major detecting, which would seem totally unrealistic for an seventeen-year-old to pull off on her own.

Things I Didn’t Like: Quick List:

1. This book lacked a soul. That’s the best way I can put it. For a book with such an inherently emotional premise, the writing and lack of depth leaves the reader very disconnected and unmoved with the narrative. The characters are hollow (hah! Now the book’s name makes sense!), the relationships lack any true warmth.. basically, you don’t connect with anything in this book. It’s a superficial rush job of a book and it leaves you unmoved. Sad.

2. This may sound repetitive, but none of the characters had any depth and were not people you could relate to or care about as a reader. Even Imogene, our protagonist, seems very superficial. We don’t really get to know her. She seems like this paper character and the only thing we know about her is that she is super-awkward and does not like people. Also, she seems like a bit of a bitch, given the way she treats the only person who wants to help her- her childhood friend, whose name, I can’t for the life of me, remember!

3. The big mystery- her mom’s story, where her dad is- is so super-duper lame!!!! It’s not worth reading the 304 pages!

Rating: 2/5


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Book Review: Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli.

Book: Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

Author: Becky Albertalli

Pages: 303

Read On: Paperback

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2-3 days

Plot Summary: Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
General Thoughts: This book got a massive amount of hype last year when it released. And I only heard amazing things about it since then. Obviously I had it on my TBR but I was a little apprehensive to read it. Often with books with a lot of hype surrounding them they turn out to be a little letdown-ish.

Things I Liked: 

1. I loved the writing. It was easy and engaging and really enjoyable.

2. Simon...oh Simon! He was such a fun and memorable character and just an all around good person to get to know and spend time with. He was real and immensely likeable. You immediately found yourself rooting for him and wishing him well.

3. LGBTQ books need to read and we as readers must strive to read about the lives of those who might seem different but are really going through the same things we are, only their love is frowned upon by society and close minded people.

4. The love aspect of this book, the emails going back and forth and the banter is just so fun.

5. The friends circle in this book, Simon's group of friends was so refreshing to read about. They were just regular and normal teens. And not insanely cliquey like so many YA books make high school seems like a war zone where people with different interests just can't hang out together.

6. I loved that there was so much family in this book. Normally parents and siblings do a vanishing act in YA books and it was so nice to see Simon's family in so much of the book.

7. There was also this little mystery of who Blue was. And it was nice to make guesses along the way.

8. This was overall such a wonderful and lovely and heart-warming read. I really enjoyed my time with this book and the people in it.

9. There was a school play that was in the background of the this book and I really loved it. It reminded me of being a part of so many school plays and the fun we always had.

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. Hmm...very minor but I didn't quite like how Simon didn't want to come out to his parents because he thought they'd make a big deal out of his being gay. They would approve and try to be supportive and for some reason he wasn't feeling it! Really? I felt like he was making a big deal out of the best possible outcome. Shouldn't he feel super blessed to be in this family. So many teens are abused and shunned for coming out and Simon was worried about being loved the heck out of??? Really!

2. At some point in the book Simon gets really friendly with his blackmailer...which just didn't feel right and I found it a little hard to believe.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Travel Diary: Landour Day- 3, Dhanolti Eco Park.

Day 3 in Landour began with delicious coffee and fantastic views. 
A cozy breakfast nook at Rokeby Manor.

Hike Trails. 

Reading Ruskin Bond in the woods! 

Shades of pink.
My floral backpack and my pink Vans. 

Day 3 was spent in Dhanolti Eco Park, a beautiful hiking trial/ woods. 
I loved my time here. I walked and hiked and took a million pictures and took deep breaths to just soak up the clean air. 
It was blissful being surrounded by nature and trees and just so much greenery. 

Even the drive up and down to Dhanolti was splendid. And I especially loved seeing kids on their way to school. Seriously children in the hills walk such distances to go to school. And I thought I had it bad walking to school in the Bombay rains. 

This was yet another lovely day in the hills! 


Book Review: Ambushed by Nayanika Mahtani.

Book: Ambushed

Author: Nayanika Mahtani

Pages: 155

Read On: Paperback

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days

Plot Summary: 10-year-old gadget geek Tara braces herself for the dullest summer ever when her father whisks her off to a sleepy tiger reserve in the Himalayan foothills, where Nothing Ever Happens. She couldn't have been more wrong.

A walk through the woods sends Tara on an adventure of a lifetime, as she stumbles upon a gang of poachers. A tigress and her cubs must be saved and Tara's only accomplice is her mysterious new friend, Satya. But can she trust him? And will this unlikely pair save the day?

General Thoughts: The author very kindly sent me this book for review. 
While I did receive this book for free, this has no bearings on my thoughts on this book and my overall review. 

Things I Liked: 

1. The writing was good, engaging and the author did a great job at both getting inside the head and heart of a 10 year old city girl and painting the jungle and it's rhythm. 

2. Summer holidays have always had a special place in my heart. And any book that deals with summer adventures is always something I am drawn to and will enjoy. This book was no different. I adored reading about Tara's summer holiday and all the adventures she gets up to. 

3. There are so many memorable characters in this book and all of them are extremely well crafted and come across and real and genuine. 

4. Tara's character in this book goes through so much growth. Even though the book is only 155 pages long, Tara goes from being a typical city kid who abhors the idea of spending time in nature to a person who is on the cusp of growing up into a caring young girl. 

5. I also liked how Tara's mum went from being fairly vapid in the beginning of the book to someone who cares and has more depth. 

6. All the things that happen in this book seemed believable and not at all far fetched. 

7. I loved the setting of this book. The jungle and it's serenity was a good place to spend time in...even via a book! :) 

8. A book perfect for summer reading. For hot summer afternoons...curl with this book and take a memorable trip to the jungle. A great book for a kid in your life. 

9. Also an enjoyable read for an adult who wishes to spend some time reliving their childhood and it's many adventures. 

10. Tiger Conservation is an important topic that needs attention and needs people to take a stand against poaching and killing of these magnificent creatures. This book does a great job of talking about the need for tiger conservation to a younger audience. 

Rating: 4/5 

A really enjoyable and fun read! 

Monday, 23 May 2016

Book Haul/// Books of May 2016.


Back with another little-ish book haul.
I haven't quite been binge book buying lately and that is totally fine by me. 
But I found myself at Crossword last week and couldn't resist these titles. 
Some of them I've wanted, while others were more on the whim purchases. 

Let's see what I'v added to my bookshelves this month. 

Books Bought: 

What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor 
Primal Woman by Sunil Gangopadhyay 
Temple and Mosque by Munshi Premchand 
An Unrestored Woman by Shobha Rao 
The Best Bengali Stories Ever Told Edited by Arunava Sinha 

My sister spotted this book and read a bit of it in the store itself.
Sound adorable and cute and should be a fun read. 

Sunil Ganguly is an author I've read very little of. Like one book and some short stories here and there. 
My whole family recommends his works highly and I want to delve more into his writing, this collection of short stories seemed like a good place to do just that. 

About time I read more Premchand. Ideally I would love to read them in Hindi but I haven't any Hindi since first year of college. So it will be slow and tedious. But I really do want to read them in their original form.  

How gorgeous is this cover? 
I won't lie, this might have been a cover buy. 
Plus I am always up for a short story collection. 
A great way to try a new author. 

This is the book I wanted!
And went into the store looking for. Ah! What a little beauty! 

I am so in love with these new books of mine. 
Some of them I intend on reading very soon. 

Happy Reading Folks! 

Friday, 20 May 2016

Friday Favourites: Piggy Bookmark + Tea + Kurta + Socks + Coffee Shop!

1. Piggy Pigloo Bookmark/// I am in love, in love with this delightful bookmark from Haathi Chaap. It's made from recycled Elephant Poo. I've had loads from things from them over the years and this newest addition. So freaking cute! 

2. Summer Style/// Come summer and all I want to wear is cotton, muslin and easy breathable fabrics. I wore this very orange and yellow soothing number this week. I wore some of my favourite silver jewellery to accompany the kurta. 
Kurta- Fabindia 
Rings- Bangalore 

3. Dachshund Socks from Forever 21/// Got these babies yesterday and I am in love.
I have a thing for socks. I can never resist a cute and quirky pair of socks. 

4. Peach Ice-Tea + Mason Jar/// I've been loving making my own ice-tea this summer. I brew a large batch of tea in the morning, cool it down and put it in the fridge. And for the rest of the day I have delicious tea on hand. :) 

5. Reading and Journaling in Coffee Shops/// This has got to be a lifelong favourite. 
A cozy and hopefully not too loud coffee shop, a good book to sink my teeth in and a journal to jot down thoughts. 
My idea of heaven. 
And of course delicious coffee. 

Hope your Friday has been nice and have a lovely weekend ahead. 


Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Book Review: After The Crash by Michel Bussi

Book: After The Crash

Author: Michel Bussi

Pages: 432

Read: The paperback pictured above

Read in: 5 odd days (the book was a drag)

Plot Summary: On the night of 22 December 1980, a plane crashes on the Franco-Swiss border and is engulfed in flames. 168 out of 169 passengers are killed instantly. The miraculous sole survivor is a three-month-old baby girl. Two families, one rich, the other poor, step forward to claim her, sparking an investigation that will last for almost two decades. Is she Lyse-Rose or Emilie?

Eighteen years later, having failed to discover the truth, private detective Credule Grand-Duc plans to take his own life, but not before placing an account of his investigation in the girl's hands. But, as he sits at his desk about to pull the trigger, he uncovers a secret that changes everything - then is killed before he can breathe a word of it to anyone. 

Things I Liked: Quick List:

1. The premise of the book was interesting, if slightly farfetched! The sole survivor of a plane crash was a little baby girl and no one could be sure whose child she was. (Please note, this was in the pre-DNA test era). Also, Michel Bussi is supposed to be one of the top mystery authors in France and there was quite a buzz about this book, which is one of his first works to be translated into English. So, all of that made me pick this book up. 

2. The tenacity of the detective (Grand-Duc) to pursue one thin lead after another to determine the child's paternity is awe inspiring. To have one mystery like this consume your whole life is really quite something and the author does a good job of translating his obsession, frustrations and happiness at the little wins that come his way. 

3. The characters are interesting. Both he families- the rich one and the middle-class one (forgive me, it has been a while since I read the book and, frankly, I don't remember any of the names!) are chockfull of interesting, weird and very determined characters. The families are full of people who will do anything and sacrifice anything to prove that the baby is theirs, often to their own detriment. This whole desperation was also well captured by the author. 

Things I Didn't Like: Many things! Here's the list: 

1. The premise, while interesting, was actually entirely ridiculous! As I read about the crash, I kept thinking- how did a small 2-3 month old baby survive this thing? The plane crashed on a snow-capped mountain and blew up, so, how did this baby survive? Every misgiving I had about this basic premise comes true at a crucial point in the book.

2. The events in the move are spread over an 18-year period, from the early 80s when there was no DNA testing to the late 90s, when there was.. So, at some point in this interim, the baby's DNA was tested and the rich family has known the result. A big deal was made of the matriarch of the rich family not letting anyone know the result of this test. Utterly pointless! 

3. There is too much time spent in the book going over the child's life and those of the families over the years. Too much detail than is required for a mystery book. It is not like there are any breadcrumbs from those events, which are required for the final outcome of the story or like pieces of the jigsaw that all need to be there to complete the full picture. It was a drag to read about random things like Grand-Duc's obsession with the middle-class family's matriarch's huge boobs or whatever. Super irrelevant to the whole story and just weird! 

4. The actual mystery was very predictable and easy enough to guess, which made me all the more mad about labouring through 400 plus pages of boring details. I had pretty much guessed how the baby had survived and it is so glaringly clear! GAH! 

5. There are no real red herrings and some of the ones that make their way in the narrative that are so obviously red herrings! The lack of any real alternative theories makes this an overall dull book to read. The author has tried to make this slightly literary fiction-like and, in my opinion, has failed. 

6. The eventual outcome of the book is so LAME. LAME! What really happened on the night of the crash is SO UNREALISTIC and implausible! Utterly ridiculous! 

Rating: 2.5/5 
Avoid. Just read a review with spoilers on Good Reads, if you are curious about the outcome of this miracle survivor baby and whose child she really was! 

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Stationery Sunday: A6 Starry Nights "Artori" Traveler's Notebook

Van Gogh's Starry Nights is one of my favourite works of art. To me, the painting always seemed to imply the infinite scope of the universe and the infinitesmally tininess of our human existence. It was to my utter delight that I found a Traveler's Notebook (TN) artisan, who re-created this painting onto leather notebooks. The artisan is Nicole and her store on Etsy is called Crazy Organized. Nicole can pretty much paint anything onto leather. You can see her beautiful work on her Facebook page as well. When I discovered her work, I simply had to order one of her notebooks with Starry Nights on it! :)

Here is what my A6 "Artori" (that's what Nicole calls her notebooks) looks like! Starry Nights is painted onto an outside pocket, which is handy for keeping stencils, stickers and other bits and bobs. Nicole also kindly sent some stickers along with the notebook and I love the water bottle ones! And the laundry ones! :)

Let's take a closer look.

Like I mentioned, Starry Nights has been painted on the external pocket that wraps all the way around the notebook. 

The TN also comes with co-ordinated beaded bookmarks, which are really handy! 

Here is a quick look at what's inside. The notebook on the left is my daily art journal and the one on the right is for grocery and other chores-related lists. I love this marbled-looking pastel gel pen. It's so smooth and dark! It's from PaperGeekCo on Etsy, in case you are interested. 

Hope this was fun!

Have a great week ahead!

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Mini- Book Haul/// Classics!


This might be the shortest book haul in the history of this blog! 
Believe it or not I am not quite feeling the insane urge to buy books. Not at this moment. 
These books arrived in the mail a few weeks ago. 
My sister was getting a few things on Amazon and asked if I wanted some books.
I had these two sitting in the cart and got them.
These Rupa editions of Classic Short Stories are so beautiful.
Simple and elegant and so affordable too.
Quite lovely! 
They have so many authors to choose from.
I started with these and might get a few more as time goes by. 

Aren't these gorgeous? 

I started with D.H Lawrence and Honore De Balzac since I haven't read anything from these authors before and it seemed like a good place to  start. 

I am excited to read these books. 

Another little book mail I had recently, last week is Ambushed by Nayanika Mahtani.

The author got in touch with me soon after I came back from Landour and seeing how much I loved Ruskin Bond and Landour, she thought I'd like her book set in the jungles in the foothills of the Himalayas. 

I started reading this book this morning and I am really enjoying it. 
It's about summer holidays, adventure, travel, making friends in unexpected places and Tiger Conservation. It's such good fun and I'll do a proper review once I done with it. 

Have a great weekend folks.