Sunday, April 14, 2024

A novella I loved: The Exception to the Rule by Christina Lauren

“Do you ever have a feeling about someone? Like they’re your safe space and, I don’t know, like someday it could be more?”

―from the book.

It's so fascinating how some books instantly draw you in. I was reading the sample of this book on Kindle, and by the time I reached the ending of the sample, I knew I had to read this novella.

I keep talking about Love Virtually and Every Seventh Wave by Daniel Glattauer. They're my absolute QQfavourites, of course. I recently reread these books and loved them again (and I just learnt that there's a film called ‘The Space Between the Lines’, which is based on the novel ‘Love Virtually’ (my favourite), and I'm not going to watch it) because I fear it might ruin my imagination.

So, I mentioned these books on Twitter recently and Pratibha (who also loves Love Virtually) recommended a novella 'Exception to the Rules’ by Christina Lauren. The reason why she recommended this novella was that just like Love Virtually, it's written in an epistolary (emails) format. However, unlike Love Virtually and Every Seventh Wave, ‘Exception to the Rule' is not entirely epistolary, as the last couple of chapters are told from a dual point of view, along with the email exchanges. 

And I have this thing for texts/emails/notes exchanges. In books, I mean. I usually like such books.

'The Exception to the Rule' the first book in the 'Improbable Meet Cute Series', which I enjoyed thoroughly.

(Sadly, none of the other books in the series worked for me. So, I basically didn't read them).

Two teenagers accidentally get in touch via an email on Valentine's Day. And then they made a rule to write to each other every Valentine's Day, just once a year, without revealing any information about them (that's the main rule). They continue to do so for 10 years, and then finally they decide to meet up.

It's a 100 page book. And so adorable. The 10 year span is not tiring at all, in fact you see them becoming friends and then developing a crush on each and then eventually falling in love. Well, Love Virtually and Every Seventh Wave (its sequel) remains my favourite; that story is more mature, much deeper. But this novella, too, was a lovely, entertaining read!

Have you read it? Do you enjoy reading epistolary novels?

Written for Blogchatter's TBR Challenge

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Book Review: The Lies Among Us by Sarah Beth Durst

Book: The Lies Among Us

Author: Sarah Beth Durst

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Source: Netgalley

Genre: Women's Fiction/Drama/Paranormal Fantasy

Short Blurb: After her mother dies, Hannah doesn’t know how to exist without her. Literally. In fact, Hannah’s not even certain that she does exist. No one seems to see or hear her, and she finds herself utterly alone. Grief-stricken and confused, her sense of self slowly slipping away, Hannah sets out to find a new purpose in life—and answers about who (and what) she really is.

Opening lines:

'It’s quiet inside my mother’s casket. Also, dark. And it smells of wood and the thick, cloying gardenia perfume she always used to like. I think they doused her body in it to disguise the odor of the chemicals they used to embalm her. Or maybe they knew she would have liked to wear her favorite scent, even now.'

The beginning is so mysterious and intriguing. So, it started really well, then became a little slow. I was beginning to lose patience but somehow didn't feel like leaving the story unfinished. There is something about the writing. And I'm so glad!

Somewhere out in the world, there must be countless albums that were never made, books that were never written, symphonies never played. Is there a library somewhere filled with stories never imagined? What about a school of facts never learned? A museum of treasures never saved? A theatre of plays never performed?’

One of the most unique books I've ever read. It's eccentric, weird and fantastic! A well written story, told from a very unique, kind of unimaginable perspective. The best thing about writing is that it creates glorious imagery. 

‘She didn’t want to forget memories she had; she wanted to forget memories she didn’t have— the ones she should have made if her life had been different.’

It's about a dysfunctional family, siblings bond that could have been, friendship, purpose and lies. 

I loved Hannah. I loved Sylvie. And their friendship. The idea of the mysterious man in white aka white rabbit, was so intriguing. I found Leah, Hannah's sister a little annoying, sometimes. However, as I neared the ending, her behaviour, her feelings became par for the course. 

The ending is so good, poignant. It conveys an important message, without being preachy (not at all preachy).

My only problem with this book was that it meandered at some points, got repetitive. Leah's point of view is important, sometimes very interesting, but many times, it felt unnecessary. which made me restless. given the subject of the story. I wanted it to be crisp. Could have been a couple of chapters shorter. 

Nevertheless, I loved reading this book for its unique story idea, for good writing and engaging writing style. Read (it's free for Prime Reading, I think) if you're looking for a different read.

Shaing with 
Bookish League hosted by Ritu.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Movies That I've Recently Enjoyed.

I don't usually sit down to watch TV, watch whatever I catch while having my meals or anything. But, recently, I have been watching films regularly. I'm leaving those that I didn't like. Sharing  that come to mind as I type. Interestingly, they were never on my to-watch list.

Labor Day (2013): Directed by Jason Reitman. Based on a book 'Labor Day' by Joyce Maynard. 

A single mother, almost a recluse, Adele (Kate Winslet) and her 13-14 years old son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) are returning from a departmental store when a dangerous looking, wounded man (Josh Brolin) forces them take him to their home just for a day. Later, she learns that the man, Frank, is a fugitive, charged for a murder. Left with no choice, Adele keeps Frank at home and nurses him. Turns out Frank is not as frightening as he looks. 

This movie was sitting there, as I scrolled past several times, but I never wanted to watch, until I clicked as I didn't know what to watch. And I'm glad. It's a gripping film, beautifully told from the child's point of view ―his confusion, his dilemma, his fears; heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. Now, I really want to read the book!

Merry Christmas (2024): Directed by Sriram Raghavan. Based on a novel 'Bird in a Cage’ by Frederic Dard, translated by David Bellos.

Albert (Vijay Sethupathi) is back in the city (Mumbai, when it was Bombay), still mourning the loss of his mother because for some reason he couldn't attend the funeral. It's Christmas Eve and everybody is celebrating out there. So, he goes to a restaurant and there he meets Maria (Katrina Kaif) and her daughter Annie. And thus begins a crazy, mysterious night. 

Very good filmmaking, I would say. A very well executed, gripping and mysterious movie. My first Vijay Sethupathi film, and he is a natural. Katrina Kaif is at her best, I think (after Zindagi Na Milegi Dobaara, but that was a small role, this one meatier). Won't say her performance is brilliant (I don't think she is a great actor, her emotional scenes look sketchy), but she is perfectly suited for this character ―a woman so beautiful, delicate, mysterious. I liked their chemistry.

I loved how objects used as props play significant roles, for example the paper swans, the cage toy etc. Again, I really want to read the book even though now I know everything.

Is Love Enough, Sir? (2018): Directed by Rohena Gera.

Okay I think everybody has watched this movie, a uninamously loved one. 

It's a love story Ashwin (Vivek Gomber) who just called off his wedding for some reason, and his househelp Ratna (Tilottama Shome), a widow who wants to be a fashion designer. 

There's not much to say about the plot. It's fairly simple. Loved the slowly burgeoning bonding of the protagonist. Very natural performance. Their conversations, the silences in between, the decency…everything was so lovely. One of those movies that I'd like to watch again. 

The Noel's Diary (2022): Directed by Charles Shyer. Based on a book 'The Noel Diary’ by Richard Paul Evans. 

Jake (Justin Hartley) is a best-selling author who returns to his estranged mother's house after her death to sort things out. He gets acquainted with a sweet and caring elderly next door neighbour Ellie (Bonnie Bedelia). Suddenly, a woman named Rachael (Barrett Doss) visits him, who is looking for her biological mother Noel who used to be Jake's nanny many many years ago. Thus begins a journey to find Noel, and reconnect with his estranged father. 

It's a lovely Christmas time romance movie, which I really enjoyed watching.

Mimi (2021): Directed by Laxman Utekar. 

Mimi (Kriti Sanon) is an aspiring actress who wants to go to Mumbai to make it big in the film industry. She accepts an offer to become a surrogate mother to earn a hefty amount. And then, her life turns upside down. Pankaj Tripathi as Bhanu Pratap and Mimi's friend, Sham ((Sai Tamhankar) play a significant role. 

An engaging watch; heartbreaking and heartwarming at same time.

Gehraaiyan (2022): Directed by Shakun Batra.

Alisha (Deepika Padukone) is a yoga instructor. She seems to be in a strained relationship with Karan (Dhairya Karwa) when she meets Zain (Siddhanth Chaturvedi), fiance of Tia (Ananya Pandey) who is Alisha's cousin. Battling with anxiety because of a childhood trauma, she finds comfort in the company of Zain. They fall in love and then begins a crazy ride of business and relationships. 

I never wanted to watch this film, mainly because of negative reviews on Twitter. I presumed it to be an ultra-modern, erotic kind of meaningless movie. But it turned out to be an interesting movie; good filmmaking, beautiful cinematography. A good story, smartly executed. It's modern but not meaningless. 

12th Fail (2023): Directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra. Based on a non fiction book '12th Fail' written by Anurag Pathak.

So, it captures the strenuous journey of a 12th fail boy, Manoj Kumar (wonderfully played by Vikrant Massey), who comes from an unprivileged background and is determined to become an IAS officer. It's also a love story ―a very decent one that doesn't affect the main subject of the film. I particularly liked the moment where Shraddha (Medha Shankar) tells Manoj that she loves him. His friend, Pritam (Anant Joshi) plays an important role. 

The Weekend Away (2022): Directed by Kim Farrant. Based on a novel of the same title, written by Sarah Alderson (also the script writer of the movie). 

A woman, a new mother, Beth (Leighton Meester) travels to Croatia for a weekend getaway with her best friend Kate (Christina Wolfe), who is a bit erratic by nature. On the very first day, Kate goes missing. They were drunk so Beth's memory of last night is fuzzy, but she can't leave the city without finding her, so seeks help from the local police and a Syrian, mysterious taxi driver Zain (Ziad Bakri) to unveil the truth. 

It was an engaging thriller. I liked the setting, and the subtle bonding between Beth and Zain.

Have you watched any of these? What's the most interesting films you've watched recently?

Best Movies I Watched in 2016

Best Movies I Watched in 2017

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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Book Review: Rossogolla Murders by Debeshi Gooptu

Book: Rossogolla Murders

Author: Debeshi Gooptu

Pages: 243

Genre: Murder Mystery

Price: ₹200 (Kindle copy. Also available as a paperback)

Rossogolla Murders by Debeshi Gooptu is the second book of the Dragon Aunty Series. I read 'The Mangar Mayhem’ ―the third book in the series (the books in the series can be read as standalone novels) and really liked it. So, I wanted to read The Rossogolla Murders, and before I could buy it, the author sent me a copy of this book. However, this (and the fact that Debeshi is a dear friend) does not affect my review; it's totally unbiased.

Mini (Mrinalini Sen) is in Calcutta, visiting her parents, when one day she suddenly finds someone she was least expecting to be there. The gorgeous Dolly Luthra ―Mini’s old friend and neighbour from Gurgaon. Dolly is staying at her brother-in-law's place ―Sanjay Kapoor, a successful businessman who owns a company called 'A Sweet Affair' that makes exotic fusion desserts, for example chilli flavoured rossogolla! 

Sanjay Kapoor is having a grand party to celebrate the opening of his 10th shop and Dolly invites Mini to the party.

So, it all starts in the party ―a retired judge, affluent and fashionable, Mallika drops dead at the party after eating a rossogolla. The suspicion points at Dolly Luthra because she was the one who brought the plate of rossogolla for Mallika. 

Now, Mini ―absolutely sure that her friend is innocent ―dons the hat of a detective to clear her name. 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! It’s not your hardcore, gruesome thriller with gory details and all that; it's a cosy murder mystery with many well placed humorous moments that doesn't affect the seriousness of the story. 

I have read almost every book and short story by Debeshi. She is a very good storyteller who creates relatable characters and situations that help me connect with her stories immediately. She has a very easy, lucid and engaging style of writing. 

The Rossogolla Murders is gripping right from the beginning; very well executed and unpredictable till the last chapter. The revelation was actually a surprise, the motive convincing. 

And Mini and Dolly ―as different as chalk and cheese―are a fun pair of detectives. It's one of a kind; I don't think I have ever read a story with two female detectives. 

Here, investigating officer Satyajit Saha also plays an important role, who instantly catches Mini's detective, hyperactive mind, and strictly instructs her to stay away from the case, but of course Mini (and Dolly) won't listen to him. 

I loved Satyajit-Mrinalini's inexplicable bonding. (Too bad Mini is married) It felt like a breath of fresh air amidst the serious atmosphere of murders and investigation. I found myself smiling whenever they were together. It's actually cool how the author managed to evoke that feeling without really making it romantic. 

I am very fond of stories with a Bengali background. In this book, descriptions of the settings and food seemed rich and authentic. 

Overall, it was a mysterious, interesting, entertaining and very engrossing read! 

Monday, February 5, 2024

Saving Books for Later? (+TBR List)


Photo: Asal Lotfi, Unsplash

‘Have you ever looked forward to reading a book so much you can’t actually start it?’

This is a quote from ‘The Flatshare’ by Beth O'Leary. And when I read it, I was like ki 'arrey haan! This is what I do. And I am not the only one.’

That's the thing: no matter what we do, think, feel or go through, we are not the only ones. 

There are so many books on my bookshelf (including kindle shelf) that I bought because I really, really wanted to read them, but have been saving them for later, to read it 'aaram se'. I don't know why. Maybe because I fear I might not like it?

But then I realized that tomorrow is not promised, so I decided (I decide too many things every other day) that if I really want to do something like reading that particular book or watching that movie, I’ll always choose my first preference.

I finished reading 'Aapka Bunti’ by Mannu Bhandari. She's one of my favourite Hindi writers. And that was a poignant, well written and heartbreaking read. Currently, I'm reading 'Put Asunder' by Lynn Bishop (Madhulika Liddle). It's a period romance set in Spain. I love Madhulika Liddle's writing.


Books I am looking forward to reading in February/March (books that I've already bought; one of them is a gift):

I am planning to focus on Indian Writers (Hindi/English/Translation)

'It Ends With Us’ by Colleen Hoover. Okay, I purchased it on an impulse. :) Heard a lot about this book. I read somewhere that it's like Me Before You, so I really wanted to read. 

Kuntiby Koral Dasgupta (I loved Ahalya and Koral's lyrical writing style so I want to read other books in the Sati series) would be my first preference. 

I've never read any story or novel by Amrita Pritam, so I bought 'Ek Khali Jagah’. It's a very short Hindi novella. 

'Rossogolla Murders’ by Debeshi Gooptu. Debeshi is a dear friend, and she gifted this book to me. I read Mangar Mayhem, the third book in the series, in January and enjoyed it. I connect with Debeshi's characters and writing style immediately (And my views about her writing/stories are not biased). Plus, Rossogolla Murders is set in Kolkata, and I'm fond of stories set in Bengal.

Bombay Balchao by Jane Borges: I bought this book a long time back. I even tried reading once but left after first chapter. So, I'm going to read it, as it's a well loved book, plus I have this inexplicable fascination for Bombay even though I've never been to the city.

‘Songs of Lost Things’ (Sonata for the Sun) by Monica McCollough. It's a Netgalley review copy that sounds interesting. 

'In the City, a Mirror Wandering by Upendranath Ashk. Translated by Daisy Rockwell. I bought this book mainly because of its title and Daisy, of course.

(The Ruskin Bond book ―beautifully illustrated ―is especially for my 10 yo)

I hope every book I pick/buy turns out to be a wonderful, unputdownable read. 

Have you read any of these books?

This post is part of the Bookish League blog hop hosted by Bohemian Bibliophile

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Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Book Review: Kashmir by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar

Book: Kashmir (the partition trilogy)

Author: Manreet Sodhi Someshwar

Genre: History/Politics (a blend of creative nonfiction and fiction)

Publisher: Harper Collins India

Pages: 294

Price: ₹ 324 (on Amazon. Kindle version available)

Kashmir by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar is the conclusion to the Partition trilogy. The preceding titles are Hyderabad and Lahore, and although it has some references of Lahore, you can read it as a standalone novel. 

It captures the final parts of the period of partition and its aftereffects (From October 1947 to December 1948). The delay and dilemma of accession, the confusion and politics, the havoc it caused among common people. It is a smart blend of creative nonfiction and fiction. You will find real people like Maharaja Hari Singh (the ruler of Kashmir), Nehru, Sardar Patel, VP Menon, Lord Mountbatten, Jinnah, Liyaquat Ali, Indira Gandhi etc. And then there are some fictional characters (common people) like Zooni ―a Kashmiri young woman, her husband Masud Ahmed, Koko Jan ―Masud Ahmed's first wife, Jugnu ―a young boy, Margot Parr ―an American journalist etc.  

'The crisp autumnal air smells spicy sweet. The land is dressed in red, gold, mauve. The men in lorries, ancient trucks, juddering buses, lying on the roofs, sitting on the engines, hanging on to the mudguards, armed with rifles, daggers, axes widen their eyes and begin to sniff like hounds. They register the change…..

But this, this earth dressed as a bride and smelling like a houri, intimate, inviting, this is what they have been promised? The fertile valley of Kashmir, bounteous and beautiful?’

This is the opening paragraph of the book. And then it goes on to tell the story of Kashmir's ―a princely state like ― accession to India. From two angles: one, the political―military angle, the other is the social angle. Political angle, which is creative nonfiction, is obviously informative and straightforward, but the fictional (which might be real in many ways) angle is an imaginative take on history. I liked reading the latter section more (as I, as a reader, like fiction more than nonfiction, however creative). It tells about the common people who were subjected to heartbreaking atrocities and terrifying situations. 

‘The Chinar trees had turned russet, living up to their name (Chinar is a word of Persian origin, which means 'What a fire!’), setting the whole of Kashmir ablaze. This year though the metaphorical fire ―which had greeted invading Persians the autumn they entered India, duping them into thinking they were riding into a blaze ―was literally raging in the state.’

Zooni is an interesting character. Her relationship with Koko Jan ―her saut, her bonding with Jugnu, her overall personality catches your attention.  

It is my first book by the author and her writing is very neat and taut. The chapters are short which makes the book easy to read. The writing captures the beauty of the surroundings without being too descriptive, which creates lovely imagery. 

This book is informative, very well researched and interesting, and it could be enlightening for those who want to know more about the partition and the history of India. 

‘The invaders always arrived in Kashmir and never left. Some stayed as lambs, others as wolves. It is for a shepherd, however, to ensure that his sheep can graze safely.’

You should read this book if you like History, Politics, historical fiction and enjoy nonfiction. You'll like it.

This review is powered by Blogchatter's Book Review Program. You can buy the book HERE

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

My English Translation of Manjul Nigam's Beautiful Poem

Image: My Painting (acrylic on canvas)

Top post on Blogchatter

So I found this beautiful poem on Twitter, beautifully recited by Sanjeev Paliwal Ji, and felt like translating it. You can listen to the rendition HERE)
So, here it goes:

मंजुल निगम जी की कविता:

अलसुबह मुझे जगाते हैं
तुम्हारे ख़्वाब, 
मेरी उम्मीदें
मेरे ढेरों अरमां
और हौले से ले जाते हैं मुझे

तुम्हारी प्रतीक्षा के द्वार तक। 

मैं आँख बन्द कर 

हो जाता हूँ 


जैसे कोई भक्त 

करता हैं निर्जला व्रत 

और फिर आहिस्ता-आहिस्ता 

बजने लगती है 

तुम्हारी पायल

जैसे मंदिर की घण्टियां 

मैं अंतर्रात्मा से 

महसूस करने लगता हूँ

तुम्हारा अहसास,

तुम्हारी सुगंध, 

तुम्हारा सानिध्य

लेकिन डरता हूँ 

आँखे खोलते ही

कहीं तुम हो न जाओ 


इसलिए तुम्हें महसूसते हुए ही

हो जाता हूँ तृप्त 

तुम्हारे मिलने से

तुम्हारे पुन: मिलने तक....

My English translation:

Your dreams,

my hopes and myriad desires,

wake me at the break of dawn.

And usher me gently

towards the doorway

where I wait for you.

I close my eyes 

and stand waiting,

like a devotee

observing a stringent fast.

And then,

your anklets chime delicately

A melodic tune,

like bells tinkling in a temple.

My soul senses your presence,

your fragrance,

your closeness…

But I fear

what if I open my eyes

and you vanish?

That's why I let this feeling

linger and gratify my senses.

Until I meet you again…

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