Book Review: “Life is what you make it” by Preeti Shenoy

Life is what you make it – Well, to start with this is really one of those books which makes you restless if you don’t finish it in continuation! I started reading this book last weekend but then due to lots of other commitments both at office and home front, I could not get time to pick it back. And trust me, every night when I missed to read the book I kept on thinking about Ankita and what exactly would have happened to her perfect life which ended her being into a mental hospital? Initial few pages portrayed her life going on a smooth path – a nice student life in one of the most reputed colleges and a nice personal life with all the love from her boyfriend… Then how come she is meeting this psychiatrist described at the start of the story? Thank God, I finally got the chance to pick it up this Saturday and all the curiosity ensured that I didn’t keep the book down without finishing it completely.

As I do with my reviews, I don’t prefer to reveal much of the story or scenes from any book / movie in the interest who are yet to read / watch it. So, here goes just the brief summary of what this book is all about – It’s is the story of a young gal Ankita Sharma who is confident, smart, ambitious and is moving ahead in her life in the desired direction. The book starts with her first exposure to college life, her long distance love relationship, her changing personality in an all girls’ college, her encounter with new friends and relationship swings like most of the girls of her age. Life is going good till she realizes that God has made some other plans for her. Ankita’s life turns topsy-turvy when she is diagnosed with a mental illness. The second half of the book very sensitively deals with her anger, fear, pain and her struggle to overcome the odds of her life. What seems to be an easy, breezy read in the beginning actually turns out to be an intense and captivating story by the end.

Personally speaking, I really loved the book and it fared far better than I expected it to be. Reason for expecting it to be a general read was mainly the sentence on the cover of the book – “A story of love, hope and how determination can overcome destiny”. I assumed it to be like most of these urban English fiction these days i.e., simple love story with general highs and lows of life. But this book is much more than just another love story. More than anything else, I liked the narration of this story. Be it the joy or fun of Ankita or her strife to regain her life, almost every aspect has been presented in a simple yet gripping way. There were moments when I got so engrossed with Ankita’s pain that I actually ended up googling “bipolar disorder” in order to understand this disease better. From words to the plot, everything held my attention from start to end. As per author’s one the tweets, this book has been declared as national bestseller now. Well, it definitely deserves to be one! Overall, a very interesting read and a book which I surely recommend.

Book Details:
Title: Life is what you make it
Price: Rs. 100 (Available at discounted rates online – Flipkart, Infibeam)
Number of Pages: 209
Author: Preeti Shenoy
Like the book at: Facebook

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books! Thank you BlogAdda for sending me this book for review.

LOVE MARRIAGE : The Book

And finally I have finished reading “Love Marriage” by V.V. Ganeshananthan and this will be my first read for 2011 South Asian Reading Challenge for which I signed up last Dec. This book took me unexpectedly long to complete. Blame it on my ill health these days, other engagements as well as the fact that it is not as easy read as I had thought it to be. Maybe the perception of title which somehow made me think that it’s going to be a simple and quick read which it definitely is not. In fact the book needed a lot more concentration and undivided attention as it revolved around many characters and zoomed in different time spans. To simply put, if “Persepolis” was all about childhood of Satrapi in Iran during the turbulent years of Iranian Revolution, “Love Marriage” was all about growing years of Yalini in US during turbulent years in Sri Lanka.
Yalini is an American-born daughter of Sri Lankan immigrants Murali and Vani, she is always confused about her identity which splits between her modern lifestyle of America and her traditional Tamil ancestry from Sri Lanka. Yalini is born in July 1983, a very dark month for Sri Lankan Tamils as it was in this phase when many Tamils were killed in riots and those who survived, scattered across the globe to save their existence. Her parents had left Sri Lanka earlier considering the difficult and violent times ahead but Yalini’s maternal uncle Kumaran decided to join the group of rebels and became a Tamil Tiger. He had this motive to fight for the cause of Tamils in Sri Lanka, though at a later stage of life he had to leave due to his incurable Cancer. Yalini’s life takes a dramatic turn when she meets her uncle Kumaran who despite his grievances against Murali & Vani’s love marriage decides to spend last few days of his life with his loving sister Vani. Yalini goes through a difficult emotional struggle trying to understand her uncle’s perspective, her family background, her cousin Janani, her traditions and many other such interesting pieces which finally get woven into a very strong and poignant story.

As I always do with my reviews, I’m not revealing the complete plot of the book as it’s for the readers to read and savor those details. “Love Marriage” is touching, well written and insightful, though I must admit that it gets confusing also at certain places. With 293 pages divided between so many characters, their individual stories and the frequent oscillation between past & present leave you perplexed at times. There have been moments when I had to go back to the first page to understand the family hierarchy in order to relate to that character properly.

I think, it’s definitely a good read but do not confuse it for a romantic book due to its title, the book is more of realities of life, social and political issues facing Tamils in Sri Lanka than a typical fable of love and marriages.

About the Author: “Love Marriage” is a debut novel of V.V. Ganeshananthan. She is a fiction writer and journalist, is a graduate of Harvard College, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the M.A. program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she was a Bollinger Fellow specializing in arts and culture journalism. You can read more about the author here.

Other Details of the Book:
Pages: 320
Published in: April 2008
Price: Rs. 350, though I bought it for Rs. 291 from Flipkart.

I’m in: 2011 South Asian Challenge

Thanks Smita for informing me about the forthcoming “South Asian 2011” challenge, wanted to participate in it last year also but read it late and then only had thought to participate in it next year. This is one reading challenge which I am very happy to participate in as I just love Indian writing and South Asian literature. I have read some very good books in last few years on India, Indian contemporary writing, Pakistan and Bangladeshi themes. Will be happy to expand my reading horizon to literary work from other South Asian countries as part of this challenge.
As per the rule of this reading challenge, with this post I’m now formally announcing my sign-up & participation in “2011 South Asian Challenge”. In case you’re interested to know more about it, you can check out the FAQs here and those interested to join in this challenge can sign up for it here.

I have not yet made a list of all the books which I’m planning to cover, have started working on it and will be putting it up soon. Look forward to this reading fun in 2011!

Campfire Graphic Novels: A must try for book lovers

Me & my love for comics…ahhhhh just so difficult to put it in words (pssst: oh yes, I do read comic books till date 🙂)! Now how do I justify my comic book buying or reading habit till this age is a different story all together but the joy of reading a visually rich and graphically interesting book is something totally unparalleled. So, when I got a chance to have a look at this new series of graphical books by a relatively new Indian publication Campfire, my first reaction was a ‘yayyy’ of excitement.
Read three books by them recently – ‘Conquering Everest’, ‘The Dusk Society’ & ‘The Three Musketeers’; and loved all the three. First of all I must say that quality of presentation was just so good that for a moment I could not believe that these are from some Indian publication. I mean I have been reading Indian as well as international comics, novels & graphical books for long now, though always loved the Indian characters like Billoo, Pinky, Chacha Chowdhary or the stories of Champak, Nandan, Balhans etc. but book presentation wise somehow they could never match up to say a Tintin or Asterix or Calvin and Hobbes. Next thing which I find lacking in Indian graphical-book segment is the content, since they are targeted towards mainly kids in India, so most of the books revolve around kiddie themes unlike say a matured audience targeted Persepolis or Embroideries or a teenager targeted Archie. And both these issues get perfectly addressed by Camfire’s books now. Not only the content is great but the illustration of content is also equally interesting. Though the books are targeted towards mainly kids and teenagers but they offer variety of other options in form of graphical novels which can tantalize the reading appetite of adults as well. Their graphical books are categorized in four segments – Classics, Biography, Mythology, and Originals. Each of these categories covers a unique dimension of literature and offers exciting and educational stories to its audience. I was so impressed with their books that I took special effort to know about the team behind it, their whole catalogue and availability in different book stores.

A little bit more about the books which I read – 1.) Conquering Everest (Written by Lewis Helfand; Illustrated by: Amit Tayal) is a book on the lives of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norway and their adventure of conquering Everest. You know, the visual representation of the book is so just so breathtaking that at times when they have demonstrated the mountaineers slipping down the steep slopes of Everest, you can actually feel it as if you are watching some motion movie. And guess what, next day on KBC one of the questions was related to Everest and I was able to guess the correct answer, thanks to the minute details which this book has covered in an interesting story format. 2.) The Dusk Society (Written by: Sidney Wiliams and Mark Jones; Illustrated by: Naresh Kumar) is a story of Dracula, Doctor Frankenstein and the whole thrill around whether The Dusk Society will be able to stop Pierceblood’s evil plan? A totally engrossing thriller from start to end; just loved it! 3.) The Three Musketeers (Written by: Alexander Dumas; Illustrated by: Amit Tayal) is the same good old story which we had read in schools earlier but presented though appealing graphics.

As per me these books are must try for all those who like reading books and get specially excited by illustrated ones. Do check out their website for more details about them or their complete catalogue. What else, apart from printed versions, they also offer digital content which can be downloaded for PC/Mac, Blackberry, Android, iPod/iPads, etc. I loved their collection and definitely looking forward to reading more by them.

Long live Indian comic characters

Was off on a trip to different places up north in January & what a deadly weather it was this time! Chilling cold with dense fog leading to almost zero visibility on roads, did not see sunlight for the whole of 18 days during my trip and traveling to different cities was just so painful. Either flights / trains were canceled or were running abnormally late. One such trip was my return to Delhi from Varanasi via train. Though the train was running quite late but since I was traveling by train after a long time, I was sort of excited at the prospect of eating those station foods (esp. hot omelets & boiled eggs) and buying books from the station stalls. There is something very different about train journeys & buying books from railway strand stalls, it somehow makes me nostalgic about my childhood, hostel life, vacations when I used to go home by train and definitely – definitely used to buy books from station hawkers –comics, magazines, novels (of course only those which were affordable in my very limited budget then ;)) …aha loads of them which I used to devour on whole journey. And so when the train stopped at a small station during this trip in the morning, the first thing which my eyes started to search for was a magazine stall. Even with dense fog, it was not difficult to spot a vendor just outside my window and guess what! He was having Billoo! And Pinki! And Chacha Chowdhary too! Oh wow…ultimate delight I must say. After how long, I got to see those comics. I do get to buy Archies & Tintin while book browsing on Airports or during my occasional book shopping in Bangalore but then Billoo, Pinki and that too hindi versions are almost extinct from these big city book stores. If I’m not wrong today’s generation kids must not be even aware of these iconic Indian comic characters. In fact these kids esp. the ones from bigger cities are so Archified or Tintinised that they can’t even relate to the simple existence of a character like Billoo or Pinki. I remember few months back, one of my cousin’s son reading English Billoo and saying, “ yeh kya bakwaas hai,yeh bhi koi comic hai”! When my cousin tried to explain the fun part of it, the kiddoo replied, “Mom, I can’t laugh at these stupid jokes”. Slamming the book on table, that 9 year old kid logged onto his Orkut account and started chatting with his friends.
But for me reading those comics after soooo long was great fun. Read it at a stretch & then after seeing a Billoo in my hand, even pati ji got out of his deep sleep and grabbed the book immediately :-). Even after all these years, I didn’t get bored of even one single page. Yeah, at times did get the feeling of “did we actually read all these silly stuffs” but then honestly speaking I love such silliness till now. Long live Indian comic characters – Billoo Rocks, Pinki Rules & Chacha Chowdhary ka dimag abhi bhi computer se tez chalta hai 😛

All Roads Lead To Ganga

I just realized that there has been a silence on my blog for quite some time now and it definitely needs to be broken soon, in fact right now. Though there are many topics on which I wanted to blog but considering my time availability, I think let me keep this post limited to the last book which I read by one of my favorite authors – Mr. Ruskin Bond.

There is something magical about him which just never lets me get bored of his writings ever. Finished reading “All Roads Lead to Ganga” recently, though I never read detailed travel books but still considering the fact that it was from Mr. Bond, I couldn’t resist picking this off the shelf. If nothing else, I was sure to enjoy the Ruskinista description of hills and valleys in the book and well the book surely came up to my expectations. This is a travel memoir, wherein Ruskin Bond captures the breathtaking beauty and splendor of this magical landscape, describing with nostalgia and affection the places and people he has lived with and encountered for over forty years. In a very engaging way he describes his different stages of lives at places like Garhwal, Mussorie, Dehradun, his simple life amongst simple people and the joy of living amidst nature and mountains of India. Here are few reasons which I think makes this book a very pleasurable read:

  • It’s simply mesmerizing. The lucid way, in which he describes the beauty of nature, somehow takes you to some other world, something which you now only get either in your weekend trips or some country side breaks.
  • As is the case with all Ruskin book, this one is also yet another epitome of simplicity and exquisiteness.
  • It makes you relive your childhood days when life was far away from city madness and rush, it makes you nostalgic for those days when plucking fruits from trees was for real, when bathing with cold water even during winters used to be natural and when festivals’ biggest charm used to be those mom cooked special yummy dishes! It does make you yearn for those quaint little charms of life.
A good read if you’re a Ruskin fan and if you’ve not read it till now. Read it recently that now he is coming with another book “Five” which is on adult relationships and complexities of life. For a change this book is not going to be set amongst hills and mountains. Now I’m so eager to read this book as soon as it comes out. BTW I also managed to read some other books in last month like “The Undomestic Goddess” by Sophie Kinsella which was fun like all other Kinsella series and “2 States” by Chetan Bhagat which was also nice and so relatable. But I’ll leave my views on 2 states for some other post. Time to end this one, hope to come back with another one soon 🙂

“The Complete Persopolis” & “Marrying Anita”

Thankfully in last few weeks I have actually managed to catch up on some of the long pending readings. Though read quite a few but I think mention-worthy ones are only two – “Persepolis” for I liked it & “Marrying Anita” for I didn’t like it! And considering the reviews and hype, both these books have been there on my reading list for long now.

The Complete Persepolis, Author – Marjane Satrapi:

I simply loved this book. I had watched the movie earlier so, was aware of the story but still went ahead reading it mainly because of my love for caricatures and illustrations. And the book lived totally up to my expectations. Persepolis is an autobiography of Marjane told in a very unique way. It is the story of Marjane’s unforgettable childhood and her constrained life during Islamic Revolution in Iran; of her teenage and high school years in Austria, her dejected life followed by a comeback to Iran; of the contradictions between private and public life of people in Iran due to political influences and societal pressure; of self acceptance and denial of her own life, love, marriage, divorce and finally her self-imposed exile from her own country which she once loved a lot. Before Persepolis, I had very little idea about political conditions of Iran and its repressive environment, this book has given me a different perspective altogether about Iran and its people. In fact lots of incidences esp. the treatment of Iranian women sometimes made me think of British Raj, India before independence and suppressed lives of Indian women for ages, you suddenly find so many things relatable there. What is more beautiful about this book is the way it has dealt with such a serious topic, can you imagine a comic book on as heavy theme as this? Trust me, it’s captivating from start to end and graphics make the reading more interesting so much so that a person like me returned to certain sections just to glance at the visuals again. Kudos to Ms. Satrapi for such a great work and undoubtedly she is a great storyteller! A must read for all and highly recommended book from my side.

Marrying Anita, Author – Anita Jain:

Marrying Anita is a memoir of Anita a 30+ single NRI woman settled in US who travels to India in search of a husband. It starts with Anita’s observations on American dating system vis-a-vis Indian one and her analysis somehow makes her conclude that it would be easier for her to find herself a groom in a more conservative environment like India as against US. Thus starts her year long expedition to Delhi with one focused agenda on plate – MARRIAGE. Well, what in start seems to be an interesting journey actually ends up looking like a desperate excursion. Yeah, desperation is the apt word to explain Anita’s state, now what will you call relationship of a single woman with approx 10 guys in 12 months in a city like Delhi? And at the end none of them were successful. Page after page I kept on waiting for something different to happen but actually it was nothing more than a diary with a monotonous tone and dragging content. Forget about US, somehow description of life in Delhi too never seemed to be relatable. The theme was interesting but then the presentation was too drab, beyond few pages you almost could sense the direction of each chapter. Overall an average read with nothing much to look forward to.

Indian Writing in English

I happened to visit a prominent book store recently to buy some books as gift for a friend. After surfing around here & there, I thought of checking about latest addition through the store manager himself.

Me: Hi, can you recommend me some latest light reads?
Store Manager: Sure mam, what kind of language?
Me: English. BTW I always thought you keep only English books, do you’ve books of other languages too? I’m also looking for a very popular hindi title.
Store Manager: Sorry mam, we keep only English.
Me: Oh, so you asked what kind of language?
Store Manager: I meant you want to check out “Actual English” books or “Indian Writing in English”?
“Actual English” or “Indian writing in English”!!!
Me: Anything will do, show me some recent best sellers.

The manager showed me a stack of recent bestsellers & well the shelf consisted of maximum books by Indian authors only. Considering the fact that I’m an ardent fan of Indian writing, at one hand I was happy to listen to a separate categorization like “Indian writing in English” but at the same time this thing of “Actual English” or “Indian Writing in English” sounded nothing less than some sort of label for Indian authors. I think it was the word “actual” which created all the difference in terms of image! I was surprised to listen to it esp. because it was coming from a store manager himself!

Another incident was while chatting with this friend of mine who asked me to recommend her some romantic reads but immediately added – “don’t tell me one by an Indian author, they don’t have variety. And the language is also too desi”! “NO, I don’t agree” was the quick response which came out of my mouth.

Its years now that Indian authors have come of age. In fact as far as writing talent is concerned, India has always been a rich country since centuries. Think of the origin of the likes of Kabir, Tulsidas, Rahim, Mira Bai to the likes of V.S.Naipaul, Upmanyu Chatterjee, Amitav Ghosh & Kiran Desai, hasn’t India been there on the global literati roll forever??? Yes, a noticeable difference is definitely the trend of shifting language, thanks to all globalization & exposure to international culture that more & more Indian writers are writing in English now. Not only they are writing in English, rather they are creating a mark across continents with their stories & presentations. If you ask me as a reader, I think now-a-days every second book which I read is by an Indian author. And I totally enjoy it; I get whole lot of variety, I find the characters to be more relatable, plot to be more enjoyable & language to be absolutely at par with any other international author. To add to that in case the authors use some kind of local languages& phrases in between, then it’s nothing less than a mast tadka on dal, such seasonings give the book an additional flavor all together.

I was under the impression now that gone are the days when it was sort of uncool to read an Indian writing & if you’ve to flaunt a book you have to definitely take any other name apart from Indian one. But labels like “Actual English” and “Indian authors write too desi” leave me wondering once again. Are we still living in the age when Indian writing in English is not considered at par with other international counterparts? Do you still think of “Indian writing” as a separate label??? Well, all I can tell such people who have this opinion is to dive into the ocean of Indian writing seriously & then only you will have an estimate of the real depth of it. Yes, there are some crappy ones too but so are they there in those so called “Actual English” collections too.

The Jane Austen Book Club

Well, finally finished reading this book & it was like yawwwnnn! It definitely gets listed in my “drag-gone” category; yeah it was draaaaggggging & finally was gone after lots of effort! Uh the thought of writing about this book itself makes me feel zzzzzzz. But still I will write about it in the interest of those who can pick up this book reading all the good testimonials mentioned on its cover. In fact I had picked up this book with lots of expectations myself esp. because had heard whole lot of good things about the movie based on this book & secondly the cover page of the book really hard sells it to be a great reading. My general assumption is that if it’s a movie based on any book then generally the book is better to read as compared to watching the movie but guess I was wrong in this case. Book was definitely not worth the hype.

As the title suggest, “The Jane Austen Book Club” is a story of six members of a book club who meet & discuss Jane Austen’s novels once a month. The group consists of 5 women – Jocelyn, Sylvia, Prudie, Allegra, Bernadette & 1 man – Grigg. Jocelyn who is the initiator of this book club believes that it is essential to reintroduce Austen into your life regularly & that’s why she starts this book club. Each of their monthly book club meeting unfolds their own stories & some association with Austen’s novels.

Personally speaking I loved Austen’s novels & hence thought I might like a book which is based on a book club of Jane Auten, but then I will say I was disappointed. Mainly because this book lacked the grip to hold my attention, after a few pages itself I lost my interest & found the flow of the book to be very confusing. Till last I could not understand the main point which author was trying to make. I know it was meant to be a light & fun read but somewhere it never served that purpose. So, from my side it’s a thumbs down for this book totally.

Other details of the book:
Author
: Karen Joy Fowler
Price: I had bought it a dirt cheap price in a book sale 🙂 but think the original price of the book is Rs. 560/-
Special Note: It took me 7 weeks to drag & finally finish this 243 paged book. Reason – couldn’t read more than 10 pages at one go!

I’m off to “Marrying Anita” now, was supposed to read “Outliers” but guess I need to read a funny book after this Book Club thingy before I go for a serious read 🙂

Confessions of a Shopaholic: The Book

Well, I think a must read book for women who enjoy reading chick-lit or light flicks :-). And here is why:

  • If you are a female born with normal genes & hormones, I will assume you have the code of “I love shopping” embedded somewhere within your DNA. Yeah, I know the level of coding can actually vary from women to women but it’s definitely there in all the women at least I know since childhood. And if you are one of those normal women with this “shopping” thing in your DNA, you’ll definitely like this book or rather I shall say you’ll love this book!
  • This book is very light, witty & really a fun read.
  • The journey of main protagonist “Rebecca Bloomwood” whose life is in a mess because of her obsession towards shopping is interesting enough to hold your attention till the end of the book. Not even once while reading I felt bored of it.
  • I have not watched the movie yet but the writing style of the book is so vivid that you actually feel you are watching a movie.
  • It definitely leaves you a smile on your face & it’s one of those books which you would like to finish asap.
So, next time when you’re looking for a light casual read, do try it out please.
Other details of the book:
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Price: Rs. 261/- (I bought in from landmark 2 weeks back)
Special Note: Statutory Warning – This book is a strict NO for men! I‘m sure most of the men would not like to try anything which is even remotely related to shopping 🙂