Sunday, July 15, 2018

Book Review: Town Is By The Sea by Joanne Schwartz & Sydney Smith

Name Of The Book                             
Name Of The Author
Joanne Sehwartz
Name Of The Illustrator
Children’s Book (5-8 years)
Number Of Pages
INR 662 (On Amazon)

'Town Is By The Sea' is a family story that tells about a boy who lives by the sea. He is a minor's son and he thinks about his father throughout the day.

'And I know my father is already deep down under that sea, digging for coal.' 

The story is narrated from the boy's point of view where he tells about his typical daily routine, in an interesting and very thoughtful way!

'From my house, I can see the sea. 
When I wake up, it goes like this ....'

This is so touching --- the way he remembers his father; no matter what he does, his thoughts wander towards his hard working father.

It's a simple story that portrays the father-son relationship beautifully. And, striking, sparkling illustrations are the icing on the cake. However, the totally black images of coal mine looks a little odd especially because the other pictures are so beautiful.

Reading this book with your child would be a great idea as it can teach them about familial bond. It can teach them to be caring and responsible.

The end is particularly poignant.

'As I fall asleep I can hear the whooshing back and forth of the waves. I think about my father. I think about the bright days of summer and the dark tunnels underground. One day, it will be my turn. I'm a miner's son. In my town, that's the way it goes.'

I read it with my 5 year-old, and he liked it so much that he asked me read it twice. However, a few things disturbed me while reading this book. The childhood of the boy seems bothered. It could be a reality for the kind of life they live, maybe, but I'm not sure how a child would feel about it (While reading the book). Also, it would've been nice if the boy had a name (along with 'Miner's son).

The most important thing; the boy does everything --- grocery shopping, going to the graveyard to visit his grandfather, playing with his friend --- but doesn't go to school or even read a book! I wondered why.

Overall, it was a lovely book, with a thoughtful story-line and beautiful illustrations. Pick it up for your child and read it together.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Rekindled Enthusiasm --- New Watercolour Paintings

5 years ago, I got really interested in Watercolour Paintings. Then I stopped for some reason. Tried some recently, and feeling enthusiastic again.

I struggled to paint this boat (I am bad at sketching). But after third attempt, it turned out okayish.

Sometimes you do funny things when you're too enthusiastic. I suddenly felt that I needed new brushes as the bristles of my old brushes were all deformed (My fault as I did not keep them carefully). So, I ordered a new set. 

'I'd paint with my new brushes.' I thought and did not paint while I waited for my new set. Childish, isn't it? But, guess what? I received a wrong item.

John Lennon has rightly said that 'Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.' 

I replaced that item and ordered another set but I couldn’t wait anymore so I painted this. 

It's not that bad, is it? I realized that sometimes, the right time to do something is the time when you actually start doing it.

I was so engrossed in watching watercolour painting videos that I almost forgot about my two articles that I needed to revise and post. It was a bit odd. I am a writer. But you see, learning is beautiful and addictive (If you really want to learn). 

Recently, one of my blogger friends, Shilpa, posted a picture on Instagram, and I felt like painting it. I knew it would be tough as I am a beginner but I tried. It didn't turned out well (as expected) but Shilpa said she liked it (So kind of her!) and encouraged me. So I thought to try again, hoping to get it better this time. And this is my second attempt.

So my rekindled enthusiasm is doing good. How do you like my paintings? Please share if you have any suggestions.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

My Favourite Author – Beatrix Potter: A Guest Post by Sudesna Ghosh

Hello! So, this is the second post in 'My Favourite Author' series that I started last week. You can read the first guest post by Mithila HERE

Today, I'm so pleased to host Sudesna Ghosh, author of 'My Perfect Newyork Christmas, My Singapore Fling, and many others. She is an ardent animal lover and write lovely stories for children.

So, here it goes. A guest post by Sudesna ---

Every time I sit down to write, Beatrix Potter quote takes me to the end of my story…

'There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they'll take you.' 

Image result for beatrix potter

My addiction to books developed from an early age. My mother is a bookworm who loved taking me to the local library every weekend. While other children played outside or hung out in cliques in their school days, I stayed inside with my stacks of books, living alongside book characters that I admired.

I started my writing career with short stories. First, in elementary school while I was growing up in the United States, and then years later at The Telegraph newspaper where I was on the team that edited the children’s weekly supplement. 

While I have written some books for adults, writing stories for kids warms up a special part of my heart. Why? Well, I don’t like the idea of growing up so fun stories about childhood let me keep my nostalgia and innocence in a way. And also because I can’t stop thinking about my idol Beatrix Potter every time I write kidlit.

Her name makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Most of my childhood books are still in my house and hers are right up front so I can touch them, see them, devour them, whenever I need extra inspiration. 

'Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.'

This quote by Beatrix won me over when I read it years ago. This intelligent woman years before our time, knew how formal education didn’t determine a person’s talent or intelligence. 

Beatrix’s first artist models were her pet rabbits. Her first rabbit was Benjamin Bouncer. Benjamin was followed by a rabbit called Peter Piper, who performed tricks and stayed with her all the time. When I read this anecdote about my favourite author, I was quite pleased as I adore all animals and spend all my time with them as well. My late dog Goti and now my cats, keep me amused and I am rarely seen without them by my side.

Annie Moore, who was governess to Beatrix, stayed in her life for decades. In fact, one of Beatrix’s earliest stories was actually from a letter (with illustrations) sent to Annie Moore’s son. Publishers did not take on her story, leading the author to self-publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1901. So you see, self-publishing is not a new phenomenon at all.

Thanks to the book’s success, a publisher who had turned it down offered Beatrix a deal. Inspiration for aspiring authors that even famous writers may have to struggle in the beginning.

Image result for beatrix potter books roly poly pudding

My first Beatrix Potter experience was with her book called The Roly-Poly Pudding. It has a mischievous mouse in it. And cats. Adorable cats wearing frocks and aprons and all that. This cat lady can visualise every page of that book. Not surprisingly, I wrote a little book about a cat expert and his cats and it was after I re-read The Roly-Poly Pudding for the hundredth time of my life.


Sounds lovely, no? 

So, who is your favourite author? And why? Please share your thoughts. 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

3 Reasons You Would Like 'A Cage Of Desires' by Shuchi Kalra Even Though You Don't Like Erotica

Frankly speaking, I am not fond of Erotica. I had read one, and decided not to go for this genre again. But there are several reasons why I picked 'A Cage Of Desires' by Shuchi Kalra (Penguin India) that falls under the category of Erotica.

First of all, I didn't know it was Erotica until it finally released. I had read the short story 'Maya' by Shuchi that was kind of excerpt of this book and really liked the idea! Plus, I have read and liked Shuchi Kalra's previous books so I was looking forward to her next.

So was it a disappointing read? No, not at all!

A Cage Of Desires tells the story of Renu, an ordinary home maker whose life revolves around her family. But she is living in a love-less marriage and that obviously suffocates her. And then there's Maya. Bold and irresistible who is famous, rather infamous, for her erotic novels but nobody knows who is she. 

How Maya's and Renu's lives are connected? Would Renu find real love and solace? Read this novel to know the answer. Apprehensive about the genre? Don't be! Here's why ---

1. The most important thing --- it's a quick and engrossing read. Something you would like to finish in a single sitting. Even though the story is predictable and the premise is not-so-uncommon, it keeps you hooked. The setting and routine of Kumar household seem quite believable. 

2. Intimate scenes are not vulgar. The book has been categorized as erotica, so yes there are some intimate scenes but they have been written nicely that they don't seem vulgar or even unnecessary. As they say, 'It's the demand of the story'. And this is the best thing about this book. There's a proper plot, a thoughtful reflection of a woman's life who is living in a love-less marriage. 

3. Writing. 
Writing is neat, emotions are beautifully expressed. There are some beautiful/insightful quotes like 'There's a kind of love that makes you go down on one knee, and there's the kind that brings you down on both. You don't need the latter because no matter what you do, you cannot make anyone love you back.'

Or 'Truth an lies are like oil and water. You can shake them all you want, but they will never mix.'

What didn't work for me?

Character of Arjun: When creating Renu's husband's character, the author plays safe. There's nothing you would like about him. And it's okay. But, Arjun's character is disappointing. As a reader, it was important to like this character but he didn't seem likeable, from the very first appearance. No matter how many times his charm/handsome-ness/caring nature has been mentioned. The letters to Arjun seem like an overdose of emotions (However it's written beautifully).

My biggest problem with this book is the prologue. It's absolutely unnecessary, and it makes the story totally predictable. Also, I didn't like the end. Again, unnecessary and stretched. Could have been used as epilogue if it was too necessary. It somehow marred the impact of actual ending. 

Overall it was a nice and engrossing read. Pick it up if you like reading women centric stories or romance or family drama. And, don't be apprehensive about the term 'erotica'. It's nothing like that. You can find such scenes in many books, not even categorized as 'erotica'.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

My Favourite Author --- Jodi Picoult : A Guest Post By Mithila

I love spending time on Goodreads (And Amazon). If you're reading this, I'm sure you are a reader, and if you're a reader, you can totally relate to this. Recently, while reading reviews on Goodreads, I found a review where the reviewer said, 'I do not have a favourite author. I have favourite books.'

It made me think. It happens. Sometimes even your favourite author fails to entertain you? Even your favourite author's writing does not touch you in a special way? But then, I realized that we all have at least one author who never disappoints you (And you don't mind even if their story does not create that magic at times). You could pick her/his book without even reading the blurb. 

So, I have decided to do a series --- My Favourite Author --- on my blog. And, this is the first post in this series. I am so pleased to host Mithila, an avid reader and popular blogger, on my blog! Guest first, right? 

She writes about Jodi Picoult, her favourite author. In Mithila's words, 'Jodi Picoult is an author who melds the intellectual and emotional aspects of reading into one.'

How beautiful, isn't it? So here it goes --- A Guest Post by Mithila!

‘You don't love someone because they're perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they're not.’ --- Jodi Picoult

I read my first Jodi Picoult on my Kindle on a cold, rainy night. It was the classic “My Sister’s Keeper”, which has been adapted into a movie I have yet to watch. It is a book about siblings and the love/hate relationship they share, and how sometimes taking a certain decision can be morally correct, yet feel emotionally saddening. Or morally incorrect, yet emotionally redeeming.

This very dilemma that Picoult creates in the mind of the reader is the reason why I started hunting for more books by her.

Why is she one of my favourite authors?

As a reader, I love the intellectual and emotional challenge of understanding characters, their intentions and trying to predict what will eventually happen in the end. Picoult provides this challenge to me. As a writer, I am in awe of the way Picoult creates such highly complicated plots and conflicting interests, and yet narrate an ending that seems fitting and just. I can only imagine the feelings of the storyboards who witnessed first-hand the evolution of brilliant plots in novels like “House Rules”, “Picture Perfect”, “Change of Heart”, “Nineteen Minutes” and who carried the weight of her thoughts.

Another defining characteristic of Picoult’s writing that I have noticed is: Many characters, main and supporting, and the intricacy with which they are interconnected to each other, leading to a domino effect of scenes. For example, “Nineteen Minutes” includes the following set of characters: the ‘criminal’ Peter Houghton, his parents and brother, his ex-best friend Josie Cormier, her mother (who is also the judge) Alex Cormier, Josie’s friends who were Peter’s bullies, Josie’s boyfriend Matt, Alex’s love interest (who is also the detective) Patrick Ducharme, and many more.

Even if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading “Nineteen Minutes” yet, I would invite you to analyse how all the above characters are related and how their relatedness is the reason why the conflicting interests arise.

Oh wait, I can’t calm my fangirl mode. And hence I will analyse an example for you, trying my best not to give any spoilers. Josie, who used to be Peter’s best friend, holds knowledge of a crucial part of Peter’s life, the part of his life that may be relevant to his descent into becoming a school shooter. She has the power to speak up and tell the court and the world everything. But she also has the added pressure of being the daughter of a judge and the girlfriend of Peter’s bully. Would she be a dutiful daughter, a loving girlfriend or a supportive friend? The more important question is: Who should she choose to be? All the roles are mutually exclusive, and selecting any role may have unpredictable consequences.

Have I charmed and teased you into reading Jodi Picoult already? I hope so. I sincerely do.
If you’re a teenage reader, here’s something for you: As I was working on the research aspect of this post, I stumbled upon this fact: Jodi Picoult has also written YA Fiction novels “Between The Lines” and “Off The Page”. No prizes for guessing what my next read (and hopefully, your next read) is going to be!


Thank you so much Mithila! Yes, you've charmed and teased me into reading Jodi Picoult. I think I'd pick 'House Rules'!

So, have you read Jodi Picoult? Who is your favourite author? Would you like to share?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Book Review: Great Textpectations by Ruchi Vadehra

Name Of The Book
Name Of The Author
Ruchi Vadhera
Rupa Publications
(Urban) Romance
No. Of Pages

When I heard about this book, the first thing that attracted me was its title. It's quirky and funny. As a reader, I really like if there are 'text exchanges' in a book. And, as the title and blurb suggested, there was supposed to be a lot of text exchanges in this book. So, I found it exciting!

Amaya Kapoor, a thirty-five-year-old, single woman, owns a publishing house and her dream is to open a book store (and MORE). Playing online scrabble is the greatest stress buster for her and here she finds Rohan Kashyap as a scrabble playing partner. Slowly they start chatting and find happiness in each other's company, however they decide to keep their relationship free of emotional baggage or any kind of commitment.

What happens next? What's the destination of their relationship? Would lack of commitment affect their relationship? You will have to read this book to know the answer. 

I would like to divide this book into two parts. 1) Amaya's Life 2) The texts between Rohan and Amaya.

As I mentioned above, I really enjoyed the texts. They were witty (especially Rohan's), sometimes endearing. But, the book is not just about texts Amaya and Rohan share. It also covers Amaya's life, and here this book disappointed me. 

Honestly, I did not want to know what was happening in Amaya's life, especially in the first half because it's too mundane for a fiction. There are so many characters --- Mihir, Tarun, Rupali, Piya, Raina etc. but I didn't find them interesting. And, that's my biggest problem in the book! 

Also, the writing --- even though it's neat, it seems plain and too straight-forward. The narration doesn't evoke any feelings or emotions, however the texts exchanged between Amaya and Rohan certainly do. 

I really liked Rohan but I liked him better in the texts. His real personality doesn't reflect that wit or charm that I found in his texts. The romance in this book is modern & quirky but it's too easy and convenient. Everything goes in a straight line, offering no surprise or twists to the readers. 

The end of the story is satisfying. 

Overall, it an easy and quick read with some interesting elements (Read 'Texts'). If you enjoy romance, if you like urban stories, this book can be a good companion.

I received this book from the publisher for an unbiased review.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Book Review: The Ammuchi Puchi by Sharanya Manivannan

The Ammuchi Puchi
Children’s Book (3-8 years)
Nerina Canzi
Penguin India
No. Of Pages
INR 159

'I knew she was our grandmother, the way I knew the tune of a song, or how to ride a bicycle, or exactly when to clap my hands and kill a mosquito, just the way she taught me.'

The Ammuchi Puchi tells the story of Aditya, Anjali and their beloved, jovial grandmother. One fateful day, their grandmother, Ammuchi, passes away, and how they miss her terribly. Her stories, the lovely time they spent together.

And then, something happens, something really mysterious! What? You'll have to read this book to know the very interesting answer!

The Ammuchi Puchi is about love, loss, and familial bond. Apt for children! Even better if opted for buddy reading --- be it with parents or siblings.

What makes this book even more beautiful is its gorgeous pictures!

It's a colourful and striking book, with a sweet story that will warm your heart. The mystery in this story would intrigue your kids. It will make them understand the importance of family and familial bond. Pick it up. It's a lovely read!

I received the book from the publisher for an unbiased review.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Learning and Fear of Making Mistakes

When I was in school or even in college, my mind was full of apprehensions. I tended to over think.

I have realized that apprehensions hinder our growth, so now when I am a grown woman, I have finally learnt to control my apprehensions or to reason with them, at least, but hesitation is still there.

I don't think there's anyone with whom I am completely, absolutely free-minded. There would be some kind of hesitation, no matter how close or dear that person is (Except my 5 year-old).

It is not a very good thing, I know. But, it's my second nature, I'd say.

What causes hesitation? Fear. Fear of going wrong. And, sometimes people's reaction. How would they react? Well, it is also a kind of fear. That is why some students (like me) won't raise their hands in the class to answer any question. 'What if I am wrong?' They would think. This is why some students won't raise their hands to ask anything that they didn't understand. 'What if they think I am dumb?' They would think.

Think, presume, without realizing that it is restricting their knowledge, hindering the process of learning (Well, these days, Google solves so many problems though. Why ask anyone if there's Google, right?)

Learning, anything new, is beautiful. Today I am going to talk about learning different languages that I find quite fascinating!

People who manage to learn different languages amaze me. One of my aunts learnt Assamese because when she studied in Assam, there were no Hindi or English books available and she couldn't live without reading. She learnt Bengali and is a fluent Bangla reader as well. She often talked about Assamese/Bengali books, and one book that I especially remember is 'Na Hanyate (It Does Not Die) by Maitreyi Devi because I came to know that the movie  'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam' was based on this book.

I found it really interesting and at the same time, I felt bad that my knowledge of language was so limited. Recently, Debeshi Gooptu, a friend and a wonderful storyteller, mentioned a short story on Twitter. She said that was one of the most beautiful stories she had ever read. I, obviously, felt tempted to read that story. But then she said it was a Bengali story. There's no translation available and I do not know this language. At least not that well that I can read a story.

But, it's my fault. I could've learnt this language. Easily.

'You are Bengali, right?' My classmates used to ask.

Some said that I looked like a Bengali girl. And, some applied this logic that just because my two close friends (These were the only girls in my school whom I could actually call friends) were Bengali, so, obviously I was supposed to be a Bengali girl. One very important thing they didn't notice that I never spoke Bangla with my friends.

I learnt Bangla alphabets, but I could never learn to speak (However, I can manage somehow if nobody knew any other language) that language.

Why? Because I felt odd speaking the language I didn't know well. I felt odd making mistakes in front of my own friends, close friends. So basically I hesitated to learn because of the fear of making mistakes.

Now, whenever I think about it, I regret it. So what if I had made mistakes, so what if they had laughed at my silly mistakes, I could have learnt a new language at least.

Of course, it's never too late to learn, but as we grow up, responsibilities, life/family related things become our priority and many other things take a back seat. Maybe, I can learn it someday (I have so many things to learn).

So, what about you? How many languages do you know? Is there anything you wanted to learn but could not?

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