Posted in Fiction, My Bibliothèque, Romance, Women's Fiction

{ Book Review } – Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge

Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and SensibilityJane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility by Hillary Manton Lodge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jane of Austin is a wonderful, contemporary spin on Jane Austin classic ‘Sense and Sensibility’.Jane and Celia Woodward find themselves uprooted from their recently settles lives running a tea shop in San Francisco due to unforeseen circumstances. In the aftermath of their father’s business scandal, they again face a sad prospect of disturbing their barely settled lives and are forced to move to Austin, Texas. The duo packs up their kid sister Margot and Jane’s tea plants, determined to start over yet again. They do so grudgingly, but the developments in their lives are not all smooth, When Jane meets and falls for up-and-coming musician Sean Willis, the relationship between the sisters’ strains which is surprising considering how they have held on to each other all these difficult years. Also attracted to Jane is retired Marine Captain Callum Beckett. Callum never meant to leave the military, but he holds back his feelings because of his disability and also certain personal circumstances, he is bitter about his return not just because of his scars from the war but also the scars of his past.

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Posted in Fiction, My Bibliothèque, Romance

{ Book Review } – A Man called Ove by Fredrik Backman !

A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Call Ove ( pronounced as a soft ‘ooh’ + ‘ve’ as in vegetarian, it tried my best but I am not so good with Swedish pronunciation ) a curmudgeon, a grumbler, or a Grinch, but I bet he will have you loving him like your own loved one by the end of this book. Because he is the Grinch with a “large” heart (both literally as well as metaphorically). This book is full of dry humour and dull prose for most of the part, both of which I stay away from when I select books. I know it is not a very good analogy, but the prose in the book reminds me of Ikea furniture, straight lines, right angles and simple form. It is most definitely not an easy book to start. You might want to give up after a couple of chapters, but if you persist, you are in for a treat. Midway in the book, the curmudgeon will stop appearing irritating to you, I promise. Instead, he becomes someone you are scared of turning into as you grow old. And by then, it will make you hug your loved ones tighter, that’s guaranteed.

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Posted in Dystopia, My Bibliothèque

{ Book Review } – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood !

The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This has been a difficult book for me to finish, took me quite a long time to finish. I suspected as much, and therefore, instead of reading it on my own, I read it with a Book Club / Facebook Group. The thing is, I rarely pick up a book which is outside my comfort zone, by which, I mean that I mostly pick up books which comfort me, make me feel happy. If I pick it up, there is no guarantee that I will finish it. And I knew that this wasn’t the feel-good kind of book I choose most of the time. I might have put it down out of the sadness that this book brings, but reading with a group brings a wafer thin layer of accountability, and so I persisted.
The book is odd. Not in the sense that it’s overly complex or uses obnoxious or pretentious language, but rather in the sense that it is scary and emotionally taxing from a woman’s perspective. It is set in a Dystopian state of Gilead. There are too many adjectives that one can throw here – Dystopian, futuristic, dark and worryingly prophetic.

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Posted in Gujarati Literature, My Bibliothèque

{ Book Review } – Krishnayan by Kajal Oza Vaidya !

KrishnayanKrishnayan by Kaajal Oza-Vaidya

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don’t know why but I felt like reading a book in my mother tongue, Gujarati, and so after minimal scouting, I picked this up thanks to rave reviews from friends. Krishnayan is in a way, a retelling of a lifetime that Lord Vishnu spends walking this earth as a mortal. It mainly focuses on his relationships with the three important women in this life, Radha, Rukmini and Draupadi. And yet, most surprisingly, the relationship between a middle-aged Radha and her teenage daughter in law is my favourite, despite being only briefly described. The good thing about the book is that it doesn’t attempt to paint pictures of what happened in Mahabharata for the reader. It rather deals with a wide range of human emotions of love, desire, jealousy, dissatisfaction and finally settles on talking about a sense of detachment that Krishna aims to develop. If you are looking for what happened, how it happened and why it happened, you might be in for some disappointment.

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Posted in Fiction, My Bibliothèque, Mythology, Women's Fiction

{ Book Review } – The Rise of Sivagami by Anand Neelakantan !

The Rise of Sivagami (Baahubali: Before the Beginning, Book 1)The Rise of Sivagami by Anand Neelakantan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Have you come across books which are pure temptation? I mean, I knew that the book I was then reading, A Man called Ove, was a much better book in all respect, but somehow, was rendered helpless against the lure of this one. 😬 I am a Bahubali fan, not a supremely crazy one, but a fan nonetheless. So, I bought this after a brief wait. The miser than I am, I usual don’t buy new releases, but then it was Bahubali. I started the book with the misconception that it would start at the birth of Sivagami, and merge with the story at the beginning of the movie. A little later I learnt that is a part of trilogy that maps the kingdom of Mahishmathi, as a extension of the Bahubali universe. The story begins with a young Sivagami and you suddenly notice all the streaks of the character in the movie. ( Although I admit, I just kept seeing an image of Ramya, younger, I don’t think I can separate that from the character, just yet ). From a childhood where she witnesses her father being awarded a death sentence for treason, to a teenaged orphan, the transition is subtle and natural. However, she is not the fundamental character of the book.

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Posted in Fiction, My Bibliothèque, Women's Fiction

{ Book Review ) – Ladies Coupé by Anita Nair !

I find rating books in stars a little difficult these days. Probably because I don’t have a clearly etched benchmark of what a 5-star rated book should be like. It happened that way with this book. This is my second book by Anita Nair, the first being Alphabet Soup for Lovers. Parts of this book were brilliant, especially the initial 150 pages or so. It begins with Akhilandeswari, a 45-year-old, single woman who works as an income tax clerk, buys a one-way ticket to Kanyakumari. When she steps into the Coupé ( this Coupé thing itself sounds so romantic and beautifully fictional because I have never travelled by a Coupe ), she meets and talks to six women, all from different walks of life, and listens to their life stories as narrated by them. In parallel, her thoughts take us through how she has become what she has become.

(10/36 of 2017 ) FR – Ladies Coupé by Anita Nair. I find rating books in stars a little difficult these days. Probably because I don't have a clearly etched benchmark of what a 5-star rated book should be like. It happened that way with this book. Parts of this book were brilliant, especially the initial 150 pages or so. It begins with Akhilandeswari, a 45 year old, single woman who works as an income tax clerk, buys a one way ticket to Kanyakumari. When she steps into the Coupé ( this Coupé thing itself sounds so romantic and beautifully fictional because I have never travelled by a Coupe ), she meets and talks to six women, all from different walks of life, and listens to their life stories as narrated by them. In parallel, her thoughts take us through how she has become what she has become. Her childhood and the part which describes a weekend from when her Appa was alive is the part of the book I didn't want to move on from. I silently judged her mother, just like Akhila did, from dissolving her existence in the pool that was nothing but her husband. I am not particularly impressed with the characters of Akhila's family, but they are quite realistic. But some parts of the book are magical. It is probably the hapless romantic in me but it was like I stood on the other side of the curtain of steam that rose from a mound of white, glistening grains of rice her mother served her father on a plantain leaf, every Sunday. Here I quote the author: "Piping Hot, fragrant with the alchemy of steam, spices and Amma's devotion to the man who, for her sake and the children's', lunched on curd rice and a slice of lime pickle, six days a week and never complained." A few paragraphs later, I am smiling in approval as Amma makes fried, succulent, half moon Kathirikai Bajjis for Tiffin but doesn't mix filter coffee decoction until she has the Kesari ready to serve. [ Continued in the comment below ]

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Posted in Historical Fiction, My Bibliothèque, Mythology, Women's Fiction

{ Book Review } – The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni!

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni can be called a retelling or a reimagining of Mahabharata from Draupadi’s perspective. A lot of plot details are redefined with a feminist perspective often by changing a few points in the story. Sometimes it adds to the value, sometimes it doesn’t. However, as a complete book, I quite enjoyed it. It was a much-recommended book after Karna’s Wife by Kavita Kane and I can say the recommendations were justified! The blurb of the acclaimed book calls it half history, half myth and wholly magical. I enjoyed reading this book enough to wholly agree with the first 2 of the tags, not wholly convinced about the third. And I don’t find the magical tag inapplicable as a criticism, but because it sort of defeats the purpose of how the narrator, Panchaali, is depicted in the book. I personally like the part of the book where she is still, in essence, Dhrupad’s Daughter and Dhri’s sister, “The Unexpected One” or “Offspring of Vengeance” as she thinks of herself. And it’s not the daughter or the sister that defines her, it is completely her, unsure of herself, in awe of Shikandi, protective of Dhri, and who doesn’t know if she wants to be a part of the prophecy that she and her brother were born to fulfil. I love this part because it makes her real, unsheathed of any divine aura, not the golden halo-ed or wronged woman as she has been repeated called as.

( Book 9/36 for 2017 ) FR – The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni ! It was a much recommended book after Karna's Wife by Kavita Kane and I can say the recommendations were justified! 👍🏼 The blurb of the acclaimed book calls it half-history, half-myth and wholly magical. I enjoyed reading this book enough to wholly agree with the first 2 of the tags, not wholly convinced about the third. And I don't find the magical tag inapplicable as a criticism, but because it sort of defeats the purpose of how the narrator, Panchaali, is depicted in the book. I personally like the part of the book where she is still, in essence, Draupad's Daughter and Dhri's sister, "The Unexpected One" or "Offspring of Vengeance" as she thinks of herself. And it's not the daughter or the sister that defines her, it is completely her, unsure of herself, in awe of Shikandi, protective of Dhri, and who doesn't know if she wants to be a part of prophecy she and her brother were born to fulfill. I love this part because it makes her real, unsheathed of any divine aura, not the golden halo-ed or wronged woman as she has been repeated called as. While the book isn't specifically about her, her childhood is hands on the most fascinating part of the story for me. Probably because we have heard about the war a hundred thousand times over. I am not really interested in knowing anymore about Krishna or the Pandavas or Bheeshma. They don't have the same enigma surrounding them. Take, for example, Shikhandi, who tells Draupadi, "Wait for a man to avenge your honour and you'll wait forever." After she morphes into Panchaali, the book moves a decently engaging pace. The Maya Mahal that the demon Maya conjures up for them in the forests of Khandaav Pradesh is again very interesting. I didn't want this book to be another discourse on Mahabharata, and in about half of the book, it didn't fail me. About the second half, well, you cannot write a book on one of the characters of this epic and not talk about the war, it is unavoidable. All in all, it is most definitely one of the better books on Indian Mythology I have read, although I haven't read too many of them. Most certainly recommended!

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While the book isn’t specifically about her, her childhood is hands on the most fascinating part of the story for me. Probably because we have heard about the war a hundred thousand times over. I am not really interested in knowing anymore about Krishna or the Pandavas or Bheeshma. They don’t have the same enigma surrounding them. Take, for example, Shikhandi, who tells Draupadi, “Wait for a man to avenge your honour and you’ll wait forever.” After she morphs into Panchaali, the book moves a decently engaging pace. The Maya Mahal that the demon Maya conjures up for them in the forests of Khandaav Pradesh is again very interesting.

Her relationship with Krishnaa is also wonderfully etched out. He is not a confidante, not the way I felt. In her own words, in Krishnaa, she had found her match. He often served as his eyes and ears to the world, not like a spy, more like someone who brought her the news from the world. I also like how her perception of the queen mothers of Hastinapur changes over time. At first, of irritation but later it changes to admiration and source of strength. All of this brings a very humane touch to the epic, unlike the divine way it has always been narrated to us!

I didn’t want this book to be another discourse on Mahabharata, and in about half of the book, it didn’t fail me. About the second half, well, you cannot write a book on one of the characters of this epic and not talk about the war, it is unavoidable. All in all, it is most definitely one of the better books on Indian Mythology I have read, although I haven’t read too many of them. Most certainly recommended!