Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Book Review: Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh.


Book: Gun Island

Author: Amitav Ghosh

Pages: 288

Publisher: Penguin Random House

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days

Read On: Hardback edition pictured here

Plot Summary: Bundook. Gun. A common word, but one which turns Deen Datta's world upside down.
A dealer of rare books, Deen is used to a quiet life spent indoors, but as his once-solid beliefs begin to shift, he is forced to set out on an extraordinary journey; one that takes him from India to Los Angeles and Venice via a tangled route through the memories and experiences of those he meets along the way. There is Piya, a fellow Bengali-American who sets his journey in motion; Tipu, an entrepreneurial young man who opens Deen's eyes to the realities of growing up in today's world; Rafi, with his desperate attempt to help someone in need; and Cinta, an old friend who provides the missing link in the story they are all a part of. It is a journey which will upend everything he thought he knew about himself, about the Bengali legends of his childhood and about the world around him.
Gun Island is a beautifully realised novel which effortlessly spans space and time. It is the story of a world on the brink, of increasing displacement and unstoppable transition. But it is also a story of hope, of a man whose faith in the world and the future is restored by two remarkable women.

General Thoughts: At the offset I need to confess- Amitav Ghosh is one of my absolute favourite authors. I was so happy when I found out that he had a new book coming out this year and when I ordered it, I honestly didn't even know what the premise of the book was, it didn't even matter. I will read anything this man writes about. Seriously! Anything! I normally let my sister have first dibs on Ghosh but this time I started reading it the moment I got the book in my hands!

Spoiler Alert: I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book.





Things I Loved:

1. The writing was classic Ghosh, just brilliant. Within the first few pages you can feel his genius at work. Smooth, sublime and incredibly accessible all at the same time. If you are someone who hasn't yet tried one of his books and feel that his writing might be something that you'd have a hard time getting into or if you aren't someone who reads a lot of literary fiction, let me assure you this one is a perfect place to start. I'd normally recommend everyone start with The Shadow Lines when starting with Ghosh but this one will work well too.

2. Piya, if you are a true blue Ghosh fan, the minute we meet Piya will light up your day. This was such a pleasant and unexpected surprise. For the uninitiated, Piya was our protagonist from The Hungry Tide, one of Ghosh's best books and one of my favourites, to see her pop up in this book just made me so happy! It is always lovely to cross paths with a beloved character that you know and to see how life has treated them. Now, if you haven't read The Hungry Tide, it's fine, you can still read this book and you won't feel lost or anything (well, some things might be spoilt for you but overall not the worst). But if you have read the book before you get to this one it just adds a special dimension to your reading experience. I nearly squealed when I realised this was Piya, kinda spoiled it for my sister. :)

3. At the heart of this book is Deen or Dinanath Dutta, a rare book dealer. A little lonely and a little tormented by his past. He is on the hunt for the folklore of the Gun Merchant and his story and his adventures and his tussle with Maa Manasa. Deen is a regular guy but written with such sincerity and warmth, he though, nothing very special or outstanding, in fact he is sometimes very reluctant to join in and that for me was so relatable. But this ordinary older man is so real and infused with life that he is someone who will stick with you.

4. This books is a wonderful mix of folklore, myth, magic, history, memory and several other real world issues- migrants, refugees, environment and conservation. But at no point does it feel overwhelming or it's cramped full of things, in the hands of a lesser writer all of these themes might feel like a little much but not here. Every single aspect of the narrative is given it's own space and done justice to.

5. This book and some of its themes, namely the refugee crisis and the state of the environment is so terribly important and critical and something we, as a people, need to know more about and do better, be more sensitive about. Ghosh has written a lot of non-fiction around these issues, especially about the environment, but seeing the concerns of climate change, pollution and conservation being woven, and woven so well, into a work of fiction is something else and, I daresay, will bring home the point to so many more people than headlines and long editorials do.

6. The whole myth and folklore aspect of the book was something I really enjoyed. I, inspite of being Bengali didn't really know much about Maa Manasa, which is strange since I come from a long line of people absolutely and utterly terrified of snakes. Also, my grandmother was deeply spiritual and religious and my childhood was full hearing all sorts of mythological stories from her, but not this one. But a few years ago, when I was in the hometown, there was this really famous TV show adaptation (which is by the way mentioned in the book as well) of the myth and several members of my extended family were hooked and this is when I first heard of the myth and it was interesting. So to see another version of it explored here made for very interesting reading.

7. I am a huge history buff and this book was a treat! From India to Venice and all of this gorgeous 17th century history coming to life was so amazing.

8. I loved the places this book took me to- Calcutta, Brooklyn, Sundarbans, Venice, California and each of these locations adds to much to the texture of this book.

9. The book on the whole is full of remarkable and memorable characters. And it was a pleasure to get to know them and see their world and learn their background stories. Everyone from Piya, Tipu, Rafi, Moyna, Bilal, Palash and gosh just pretty much everyone else had an important story and experience to share. We also get to spend a lot of time with Deen and Cinta and see and experience their wonderful friendship. It was so amazing to be an old, deep and a platonic friendship. The kind of relationship that lifts the other person up. It warmed my heart and Cinta is such a wonderful character and someone I loved getting to know.

10. More than anything else, this book felt like a hug. A warm and safe, sometimes alarming but really a welcome to a world full of magic and history and ultimately hope. Hope of doing better, helping our fellow man and helping the environment. I loved reading this book and no matter how many books I read over the year, the sheer joy of being back with my favourite writer and being surrounded by his words and his magic is truly special. Good writing is good writing, from page one you know you are delving into a superior work. I remember sighing deeply and wanting to savour this experience.

Rating: 5/5

I told you I loved this book.
Is this the best Ghosh?
Possibly not, but it's still a treat and a remarkable book.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Monday Moods: Some Little Favourites. (Books, Backpack, Converse, & Instax.)


1. White Converses. A summer staple. 
Love. 
I have 4 pairs of Converse, a classic red from my college days. A black one from 10 years ago. A bright green one with funky laces. Plus this, newest pair. 


2. Faber Stories. 
Short stories and beautiful covers. 


3. Pictures and memories. 
Also, my gorgeous Instax mini :) 


4. My Lil Sister backpack from The Burlap People in the Tulsi print. 
Little darling. 



5. Sister of my Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, an old and beloved favourite. 
It's time to re-read it soon. 



Friday, 21 June 2019

Book Review: The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz


Book: The Sentence is Death

Author: Anthony Horowitz

Pages: 384

Read: Kindle Edition

Read in: 4 hours

Plot Summary: ‘You shouldn’t be here. It’s too late… 
These, heard over the phone, were the last recorded words of successful celebrity-divorce lawyer Richard Pryce, found bludgeoned to death in his bachelor pad with a bottle of wine – a 1982 Chateau Lafite worth £3,000, to be precise.
Odd, considering he didn’t drink. Why this bottle? And why those words? And why was a three-digit number painted on the wall by the killer? And, most importantly, which of the man’s many, many enemies did the deed?
Baffled, the police are forced to bring in Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne and his sidekick, the author Anthony, who’s really getting rather good at this murder investigation business.
But as Hawthorne takes on the case with characteristic relish, it becomes clear that he, too, has secrets to hide. As our reluctant narrator becomes ever more embroiled in the case, he realises that these secrets must be exposed – even at the risk of death. 

General Thoughts: The Sentence is Death is the second book in the Daniel Hawthorne series by the author. The first book in this series is The Word is Murder and you can read our review of that book here.

Things I Liked: 
1. The premise is interesting. A teetotaller lawyer is bludgeoned to death by an expensive bottle of wine. His last words were mysterious and yet they hinted that he knew his killer. So, who could've had a motive to want him dead?! There were little clues left by the murderer that further added to the upping the interest level in this case. 
2. There were some decent-ish red herrings in the book, which opened up a few possibilities of who could've killed Richard Pryce, which keeps you guessing somewhat as a reader. At any rate, it exposes some of the people close to Richard and their secrets. 
3. I enjoy the meta-ness of these books. Anthony Horowitz has created his own alter-ego- Anthony- as the Watson to Daneil Hawthorne's Sherlock and the mentions of his real-life projects and struggles are quite amusing. 

Things I Did Not Like:
1. This book was a let down for me mainly because it was very. very obvious who killed Pryce and why. For such an obvious motive and killer, it was a waste of 384 pages of going around in circles with red herrings that were not that strong or motivated enough to be the killers. I really wish the killer was someone else! 
2. Anthony is a crime fiction writer and so, he, obviously, fancies himself as a bit of a detective. In the previous book also, we saw that his theories about who the murderer could be were completely wrong! And he is a bit of a laughing stock like Watson or Captain Hastings. The occasional comedy at the expense of a sidekick I can deal with! However, it was much, much worse in this book. Anthony was bullied, framed for stealing a book and even roughed up by two cops! I mean, come on! He is a reputed author, he is assisting a Detective that the Met has called in and some cops go rough him up and threaten him?! Is that even plausible?! 
3. Hawthorne is quite unlikable. I didn't care about him being unlikable in the first book because the story was so rich and so many sub-plots and red herrings were getting thrown up that his or Anthony's persona didn't matter. Here, since the story is scanty, and the killer is obvious, you do end up focusing on our two heroes and neither is likeable or that interesting. Hawthorne is downright obnoxious and rude to Anthony and others in his life and I am so over rude-for-the-sake-of-being-rude characters! 
Rating: 3/5
Sigh. There is going to be a third book in this series and I hope it is much, much better than this! Please build a better mystery, Mr. Horowitz!!! 

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Vignettes: Summer 2019


Summer 2019 was a long one. 
It got warm in mid-March and stayed scorching all though April and May. 
Humid. 
Muggy. 
Sweaty. 
Summer really isn't my time to shine or feel good. In fact, I pretty much detest summer. Now, summer holidays are a different ball game altogether. The mere memories of those long gone summers make me smile. 
Playing out in the sun all day long. 
Games. 
Books. 
Afternoon naps. 
And travel. 
Mostly to Calcutta and some to the hometown. 
Long train rides full of interesting people, food and sights. 
Those trips made summer bearable. 



This summer was spent hiding away from the sun. 
Drinking cold drinks. 
Eating fruits. 
Watching TV shows. 
Cooking simple meals. 
Reading a ton of books. 
Lots of cold showers. 
Naps. 
There was no travel but that's ok. 












Today it rained, heavily with lots of thunder and lightning and the works. 
It was great. Everything that first rains of the year ought to be. Everything feels cooler, cleaner and infinitely more cheerful. I could hear kids in my opposite building hooting with joy. I nearly was out of my window hoping to catch some raindrops. 
:) 

So it's perhaps safe to say that this is the beginning of the monsoons. 
And nothing could make me happier. 
Goodbye Summer 2019, you've been OK. 
You brought joy. 
Loads of sun kissed days. 
Mangoes sweet as can be. 
Kaeri.

Thank-you and see ya next year. 

Hope summer has treated you well too. 

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Book Haul: Books of April 2019. ( All Indian Books! + Mini-Reviews.)


Hello! 
:) 

I am super late in sharing the newest additions to my shelves. It's June and I am still sharing books from April. Gah! I need to do better. 

I got these books as a special treat for Bengali New Year. I got 4 books by Bengali authors and have already  read 2 of them. This entire book haul is just Indian writers and Indian Literature and it makes me so happy. 

Let's jump into the books and my thoughts on them as well. 


I am so excited to get to this book, I started April with All The Lives We've Never Lived and really, really enjoyed it so I want to read more from Anuradha Roy and this book, about a joint family in rural Bengal sounds amazing. 


I literally, just this evening finished this book. It was a perfect read for Pride Month and tells the story of Mohanaswamy, through interconnected short stories. It's about him dealing with his sexuality and the issues it brings up in this conservative and orthodox family. I liked these stories and seeing this world but I did have some issues with the lack of consent in some instances in this book and how they weren't given adequate importance. Consent is everything! And inspite of feeling for Mohanaswamy's plight and struggles his sometimes lack of seeing consent really rubbed me the wrong way. 


This one too has an LGBTQ angle, so if you are looking for a read for Pride Month, you could jump into this book too. A series of gruesome murders of gay men has a journalist and a cop looking for the killer. 
Interesting enough premise but this was a little bit of letdown. 
:(


Another collection of inter-connected short stories set in the Bene Israel community. I liked these stories and this world and this beautiful book is a work of art! 


Set in a summer in the 90s in Calcutta, this book is a slow and steady burn. Nothing much happens, a recently divorced man comes to spend the scorching summer in Calcutta with his young son and his parents. Well-written but just not my cup of tea. 


Never read a Sunil Ganopadhyay book I didn't like. Hoping this one is no different.  


Ah! This book was stunning and wonderful and one of the best things I've read this year. So good! Set across generations from 1857 to 2000 this book was brilliant. Mainly dealt with the women in the family but it also showed the men and what I loved best was it showed two sided to the same situation. 
So good,  full review coming soon. 



Another book by Esther David that I am excited to get too soon. 

BOOKS BOUGHT///

1. The Book Of Rachel by Esther David

2. Bombay Brides  "

3. The Inheritors by Aruna Chakravarti 

4. A New World by Amit Chaudhari 

5. Wonder World by Sunil Gangopadhyay 

6. Mohanaswamy by Vasudhendra 

7. Mahim Murders by Jerry Pinto 

8. An Atlas of Impossible Longing by Anuradha Roy 

I still have 2 more rounds of books to share with you guys, all in good time. 
I am so excited for all these wonderful books I get to read soon! 

Happy Reading Folks! 
:) 


Sunday, 2 June 2019

Stationery Sunday: Botanical Notepads from Ali Express


"Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind."

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

While I no longer write letters anymore (it makes me sad), I still cannot resist little letter or notepad. Especially, ones that are so pretty. 
This haul was actually made a few months ago...at some point in February. But I didn't get around to sharing them on the blog. I figured, I'd share them today, also because I haven't done a Stationery Sunday in absolute ages. 

All of these were bought from Ali Express and I am so in love with these. 
:) 













These notepad sheets are perfect not just for making lists and notes, but also for creating collaged pages and other journaling spreads in your planner/ journal/ notebook.
My sister plans to use them to create some spreads in her Hobonichi and I can't wait to see what she gets up to!

These notepads were pretty reasonable and the paper quality is quite decent as well.

Hope you enjoyed this little look-see!

Have a great week ahead!

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Hello June 2019 + Goals and Reading Plans.


Hello June! 

Hello Monsoons! 

Hello Rainy Days! 

Hello Lightening and Thunder! 

☔🌧⛈☔🌧⛈☔

Can you tell how excited I am for June? 
And how excited I am for the rains!? 
After the hellish heat of May I am ready for gentler days and nights. 
I hope we have good rains this year, for all of us but especially the farmers! 

GOALS FOR JUNE/// 

1. Get back to blogging regularly. I have been majorly slacking on the blog pretty much all this year and I cannot tell you how much it upsets me. This year I've done the least number of posts. :( I really want to do better and starting this month I hope to get my blogging mojo back. So stay tuned for a ton of book reviews and hauls. 

2. Major planner and journal update. May was hideously busy and I need to spend some quality time with my journals in June. 

3. Make and drink loads of masala chai. 

4. Take a walk in the rains. 

5. Make pakoras. 

6. Watch scary movies on a rainy night. 

Ah! 
My goals sound good! 

~~~~~

READING GOALS FOR JUNE/// 

1. Read a fat book because I don't think I've read a book over 400 pages all year long and it's time to fix that. 

2. Re-read. Another aspect of reading I've ignored all year round. 

3. Read more physical books. Nothing against my Kindle but you guys, I have carpal tunnel syndrome that is getting aggravated by my Kindle use. How sad is that?! And the pain once it comes hurts like a mother! So I have to for most part revert back to physical books, which is not a problem at all. 

4. Read some thrillers to match the rains. 

5. Get my monthly wrap-ups back on track! 

~~~~

I hope June is kind to you and me. 
Have a fantastic month ahead you guys!