Saturday, July 29, 2017

#BookReview: Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

On the jacket:

'I find writing novels a challenge, writing stories a joy. If writing novels is like planting a forest, then writing short stories is more like planting a garden.'

Across seven tales, Haruki Murakami brings his powers of observation to bear on the lives of men who, in their own ways, find themselves alone. Here are vanishing cats and smoky bars, lonely hearts and mysterious women, baseball and the Beatles, woven together to tell stories that speak to us all. 

Marked by the same wry humor that has defined his entire body of work, in this collection Murakami has crafted another contemporary classic.

Review:

I love short stories. To read, to write, to review and to gift. However, I have never been a great fan of Murakami's. The last time I'd read a book by him was a few years ago, and though I have a few of his unread titles at home, I never went back to them. I will now, and the review of Men Without Women will explain exactly why. 
Men Without Women is every bit a Murakami, except his trademark weirdness, if I can take the liberty to call it that. As the title of the book suggests, the theme of the stories is - men coping without women. Murakami has stuck to the theme with a fine grace, not delving too much into emotions to make the stories forlorn, and not making them too harsh either. What I particularly liked is how true the plots are. For instance, I have known men who have had to live life without their women - some widowed, some divorced, some single and having lost their mothers and some, after a break up. We don't talk much bout how men grasp such situations and deal with them. We forget that men are not actually taught how to deal with such loneliness. But they do, in their own way and Men Without Women  brings that out in different stories and situations, beautifully!
Earlier, Murakami's style of writing had bothered me. But I learnt to appreciate it while reading this book. Don't pick it up if you want to known what his style is, though. 
The stories are around male protagonists who are living rather lonely lives. But these are not very simple stories. While in one, the protagonist learns that an old lover had killed herself, in another the main character is a roach. Yes, a roach who wakes up to see that he is a human. This particular story has been haunting me for a while - I've been thinking since the last few days - how even did this idea come to the author's mind! Reverse Kafka-esque. 

A wonderful read.

Rating: ****/5

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

#BookReview: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

On the jacket:

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness takes us on an intimate journey of many years across the Indian subcontinent, from the cramped neighborhoods of Old Delhi and the roads of the new city, to the mountains and valleys of Kashmir and beyond, where war is peace and peace is war. 

The tale begins with Anjum—who used to be Aftab—unrolling a threadbare Persian carpet in a city graveyard she calls home. We encounter the odd, unforgettable Tilo and the men who loved her, including Musa, sweetheart and ex-sweetheart, lover and ex-lover. Their fates are as entwined as their arms used to be and always will be. We meet Tilo’s landlord, a former suitor, now an intelligence officer posted to Kabul, and then we meet the two Miss Jebeens. The first is a child born in Srinagar and buried in its overcrowded Martyrs’ Graveyard. The second is found at midnight, abandoned on a concrete sidewalk in the heart of New Delhi.

As this ravishing, deeply humane novel braids these lives together, it reinvents what a novel can do and can be. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness demonstrates on every page Arundhati Roy’s storytelling gifts.

Review:

I had barely entered my teens when I'd laid my hands on The God of Small Things. I will be honest, it didn't make much sense to me. I won't be harsh on myself for not understanding the brilliance of the story, because I'd tried to read it at a wrong time. A decade later, I'd read it again, and the story became a part of my life. I wouldn't say I was impatiently waiting for The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, because all the positive and negative news that had built around it, had left me a tad worried. It's a story - why not read it as one? Then the reviews came and all views were so extreme. That is when I decided I wanted to read this book and find out for myself.
I took a week to read The Ministry of Utmost Happiness and I wouldn't have had it any other way. Because, a story like this needs to be savoured. Also, because there are parts where I could not distinguish between fact and fiction, and needed to take time off from reading.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness begins with talking about Anjum who lived in a graveyard. She was an outcast of the society and the only respectable human interaction she had was with the maulvi who'd come to meet her. The first few chapters tell us about Anjum's life from birth. The third born to her parents, Anjum was born as Aftab and for years her mother had hidden the fact that she was born a transgender, from the world. Long story short, her parents tried a lot to 'cure' her physical situation but Anjum was not to be tied down - she flew the nest and went to live in the House of Dreams and finally sheds the garb of being Aftab. How Anjum reached to a graveyard from the House of Dreams has been told in an engrossing tale.
Anjum is not the only protagonist in the story. A few chapters down, we are introduced to an illegitimate child, Tilo and her relationship with Musa. Shortly after the time these characters in introduced in the story, the plot involves a lot of social-economic-political events and factors which connect fiction with reality. To be honest, this is were I would get slightly confused and even wonder if I should continue but curiosity got the better of me and I crossed this part to reach a beautiful end.
I will not rate the book. Not because I have any biases. But let's be honest, my rating would not affected a book written by someone of Ms Roy's stature. Too much seems to have been said, and lot of it is biased. Ms Roy is an activist and the book shows dark shadows of being written by one, at some stages. At other stages of the story, you can see a wonderful writing traversing through the plot, creating a beautiful and heartwarming tale for you to read. Pick it up with an open mind and see how you interpret The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.



Monday, June 12, 2017

#CoverReveal : AGAINST ALL ODDS by Danielle Steel

Taking chances is part of life,
   but when you bet your future against the odds, it’s a high-risk game …

AGAINST ALL ODDS 
by Danielle Steel


Featuring an exclusive foreword by the author.

Kate Madison's stylish second-hand clothing shop has been a big success in New York, supporting her and her four kids since her husband's untimely death. Now her children have grown up and are ready to forge lives of their own. They all choose to play against the odds, much to their mother's dismay . . .

Isabelle, a dedicated attorney, is in line to make partner at her Wall Street firm, when she falls for a client she represents in a criminal case. She tells herself she can make a life with him - but can she? Julie, a young designer, meets a man who seems too good to be true and falls under his spell. She marries him quickly, gives up her job, moves to LA to be at his side, ignoring the danger signs. Is all what it seems? Justin is a struggling writer who pushes for children with his partner before they're financially or emotionally ready. Will the strain on the relationship take too high a toll? Willie, the youngest, a tech expert, makes a choice that shocks them all, with a woman fifteen years older . . .

Kate - loving, supportive and outspoken - can't keep her children from playing against the odds. Can the odds be beaten? No matter how much she loves him, in the end, the risks are their own and the hardest lesson as a mother is that she can't protect them from the choices they make.
---
Danielle Steel has been hailed as one of the world's most popular authors, with nearly a billion copies of her novels sold. Her many international bestsellers include Property of a Noblewoman, Blue, Precious Gifts,Undercover, Country, Prodigal Son, Pegasus, A Perfect Life, and other highly acclaimed novels. She is also the author of His Bright Light, the story of her son Nick Traina's life and death; A Gift of Hope, a memoir of her work with the homeless;and the children's books Pretty Minnie in Paris and Pretty Minnie in Hollywood.

Monday, May 29, 2017

#BookReview: Baaz by Anuja Chauhan

About the book:


Why do they call you Baaz?  It means falcon, he replies solemnly. Or bird of prey. Because I swoop down on the enemy planes just like a Baaz would.  Then he grins. The grey eyes sparkle. It s also short for bastard.   1971. The USSR-backed India-Mukti Bahini alliance is on the brink of war against the America-aided Pakistani forces. As the Cold War threatens to turn red hot, handsome, laughing Ishaan Faujdaar, a farm boy from Chakkahera, Haryana, is elated to be in the IAF, flying the Gnat, a tiny fighter plane nicknamed Sabre Slayer for the devastation it has wrecked in the ranks of Pakistan s F-86 Sabre Squadrons.   Flanked by his buddies Raks, a MiG-21 Fighter, Maddy, a transport pilot who flies a Caribou, and fellow Gnatties Jana, Gana and Mana, Shaanu has nothing on his mind but glory and adventure until he encounters Tehmina Dadyseth, famed bathing beauty and sister of a dead fauji, who makes him question the very concept of nationalism and whose eyes fill with disillusioned scorn whenever people wax eloquent about patriotism and war...   Pulsating with love, laughter and courage, Baaz is Anuja Chauhan's tribute to our men in uniform.

Review:

With Baaz, Anuja Chauhan has moved to newer territories. In her previous books, she has won hearts with her relatable stories and simple, flowing language which most Indian readers identify with.
One thing I have always loved about Chauhan's stories is how she brings people from very different backgrounds in each story. Here in Baaz, we have Ishan Faujdar and Tehmina Dadyseth, both from worlds completely different, but whose paths cross because of one common string - the Indian Defence Service. While Ishaan, who has grown up knowing that he was a bastard, yet in the middle of a loving family, joined the Indian Air Force because of his love of the uncertainty and playing daredevil, Tehmina, on the other hand came from an Army family and had lost family member to war. He hated the neighbouring country we are never at peace with, while she hated war because it killed people. I must add that this angle and the way Anusha has treated it, is very well done keeping in mind the current situation in India. 
As a story, Baaz is a great attempt. Baaz here comes from more than one thing; not just the bird. The war scenes are decently executed and I must say that Chauhan has braved and written a story surrounding quite a volatile plot. 
What didn't work for me was that I felt Chauhan was trying too hard. This is a personal opinion, but when I am reading in English, I am reading in English. Yes, the characters and the story are India, but the medium of writing is English. Though it is largely accepted these days, Hindi words peppered in places specially where expletives need to be used spoil the experience for me. I'd feel the same if English was used in any story written in one of a regional languages. When a character is abusing in raw Hindi, and then the rest of the sentence is completed in perfect English, its unsettling and very forced.
While I keep suggesting and gifting Chauhan's books all this time, this one didn't make the mark for me. The plot takes quite a while to pick up and the romance is pretty bland. Also, I am still not sure if the story wanted to say that humanity is above all or if, for the nation, every other moral can be compromised. Lastly, the ending disappointed me, to be honest. 

Rating: ***/5




Friday, May 26, 2017

#Review : Pocket Mummy - an ode to Motherhood!



Pocket Mummy- an ode to Motherhood!


Nitesh Ranglani's short feature, Pocket Mummy, produced by Suburban Diagnostics, released digitally by Humaramovie, on occasion of Mother's Day. The film features acclaimed veteran actress Madhoo Shah as the Mother and Parzaan Dastur as her son.

Pocket Mummy is a story about a single mother, and the bond between her and her son.

Pocket Mummy is Nitesh Ranglani's directorial debut  and he says “Pocket Mummy is a very simple story, between a mother and a son, that everyone will relate to. I couldn't have got anyone better than Madhoo Ma'am and Parzaan to play the parts. Madhoo Ma'am had earlier worked with my dad on Yeshwant and it's a great feeling directing her today. Parzaan fits the character perfectly and both have done a wonderful job. Digital is a big medium today and we're hoping to reach out to many with our labour of love''


Actress Madhu said "I am very excited to work on this project. I've always been a very emotional person and I believe a lot in  connections. I have earlier worked with Mr Vijay Ranglani, he was the producer of my film Yeshwant with Nana Patekar and now his son Nitesh is directing me. It is a beautiful feeling to associate with them. Also I love being a mother and as a woman I have a lot of things to say and I'm sure this film will be adored and loved by all"


Review:

Pocket Mummy is a short film I saw after quite some time and was delighted to see Madhu and now a grownup, Parzaan Dastur. A beautiful film of only 6 minutes, but it managed to managed to convey some most important emotions and messages.
Paizaan is Madhu's son and they share an extremely loveable and fun relationship which includes a lot of fun and comfort between them. Both brilliant actors, who have been brought together by a director who shows definite signs of making it very big, soon, have played their roles with absolute elan. Brilliant direction, with a very fine eye to detail.
I wouldn't delve much into it, rather, here is the link for you to watch! Show it to you mother too; the film being a beautiful tribute to all mothers. Give your mother a hug; and sit up. It's time for you to give back to the one person who has loved you selflessly from even before you were born!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Les jus not be only friendz (1) by Vikash Sharma



Les just not be only friendz (1) is the first story of what is to be a trilogy and is written by debut author Vikash Sharma. The story is a part of everybody's life and come to think of it, all the characters are relatable.
Aakash and Dhiru's friendship took me to a time when friendships were more important than ideologies, until you reach a stage where you stand up for what is right. The story is set in NCR and the characters are of similar social-economic background which in the story has been dealt with well.
Life in college, life outside college, falling in love, fights in love, friendships, relationships - the story covers everthing in the lives of the people the story revolves around. The second part will give a reader more insight and it would be interesting to know how the plot takes shape.

The characters seem to have shades of people the author has known which is evident from how nicely he has gotten inside their skin. While reading my emotions towards the characters started changing from like to dislike and again back to like, time and again.
Vikash has a very raw and in your face style of writing which youngsters, specially from non-metro cities would identify with a lot. The story goes in a manner which two people might be conversing or telling a story to each other, which makes it more relatable to Indian youth.


About the book

Les just not be only friendz (1) is based on relationships and various phases of a graduate student’s life. The novel is set in Noida (NCR) in the time-period of 2009 - 2011.
The novel tells the story of a young, average performer and simple middle-class guy, who in desperate bid to not join his father's profession of selling mechanical spare parts in a small town, comes to Delhi after graduation to study in a Film school, hoping to make it big and become successful in a short time span.
Aakash opts to stay with his old school friend Dhiru and his trouble making friends, who were perusing engineering from Noida. Before he could sink with the feel of Delhi NCR, he falls for a girl named Neha and finds him swept away by love and varied emotions. Dhiru does not like the progress in Aakash and Neha's blooming relationship and consistently tries to act as second fiddle.
In order to save his friendship with Dhiru and in seeking Neha’s love, Aakash goes through various troublesome phases, which test him over time and eventually changes him from a shy and simple person to a completely different kind.
Towards the end, in order to prove his true love to Neha, Aakash accidentally ends up doing something that he had never dreamed of. The incident terribly jeopardizes their relationship. Will they ever get back to each other?

Buy the book on Amazon here.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Cover Reveal : Les Just Not Be Only Friendz (1) – a novel by Vikash Sharma

Les Just Not Be Only Friendz (1) – a novel by Vikash Sharma is set to have its digital launch on March 18, 2017. The paperback will be hitting the stores in the month of April.
About the book:

Les jus not be only friendz (1) is based on relationships and various phases of a graduate student’s life. The novel is set in Noida (NCR) in the time-period of 2009 - 2011.
The novel tells the story of a young, average performer and simple middle-class guy, who in desperate bid to not join his father's profession of selling mechanical spare parts in a small town, comes to Delhi after graduation to study in a Film school, hoping to make it big and become successful in a short time span. 
Aakash opts to stay with his old school friend Dhiru and his trouble making friends, who were perusing engineering from Noida. Before he could sink with the feel of Delhi NCR, he falls for a girl named Neha and finds him swept away by love and varied emotions. Dhiru does not like the progress in Aakash and Neha's blooming relationship and consistently tries to act as second fiddle.
In order to save his friendship with Dhiru and in seeking Neha’s love, Aakash goes through various troublesome phases, which test him over time and eventually changes him from a shy and simple person to a completely different kind.
Towards the end, in order to prove his true love to Neha, Aakash accidentally ends up doing something that he had never dreamed of. The incident terribly jeopardizes their relationship. Will they ever get back to each other?

About the author:

Vikash Sharma was born in Haryana in 1987. He has travelled various states of India, to explore about the lives of people, places, languages, cultural differences, festivals, religions, and the rest.
He currently lives in Mumbai. He is a freelance writer, photographer, traveller, producer and a filmmaker. He believes in wandering, seeking happiness in small things, and sharing it with people.
‘Les just not be only Friendz (I)’ is his first novel. He is currently working on the second part of the trilogy of ‘Les just not be only Friendz.’
Read more about him here.

#BookReview: Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

On the jacket: 'I find writing novels a challenge, writing stories a joy. If writing novels is like planting a forest, then writin...