Friday, June 1, 2018

Book Review: The Ammuchi Puchi by Sharanya Manivannan





Book
The Ammuchi Puchi
Genre
Children’s Book (3-8 years)
Author
Illustrator
Nerina Canzi
Publisher
Penguin India
No. Of Pages
32
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?


Sharing with Chatty Blogs





Saturday, May 12, 2018

Book Review: Swear You Won't Tell? by Vedashree Khambete-Sharma





Dead body, check. 
Disillusioned reporter, check.
Dark and sinister secrets, check.

How about a Murder Mystery with a touch of effortless humour? It's a very interesting combination because humour, no matter what's the genre, always works.

'Swear You Won't Tell?' (Plus, an intriguing title) by Vedashree Khambete Sharma (Published by Harper Collins India) is about Avantika Pandit, a highly inquisitive reporter whom nobody takes seriously. His boss sends her to attend fashion stylists' press conferences while she thinks she can solve mysteries. Nobody understands her except her friend, Uday (Who never misses a chance to tease her).

Now, she has to meet her school classmate, Aisha Juneja who is the last person Avantika wants to meet. But, in the course of unwanted meetings, a terrible news hits her. Her former best friend (whom she hasn't met in last 15 years), Laxmi is dead! Avantika keeps telling herself that it's none of her business, but her ever curious mind just refuses to mind its own business.

So, what's the mystery of Laxmi's death? Who could be the murderer? Would Avantika be able to solve the mystery?

To know the answers, you will have to read the book.

The best thing about this book is author's 'conversational' writing style and her well-placed, effortless humour. It makes this dark story an interesting ride. The author occasionally takes us to Avantika's childhood, her school, and it makes sense as it somehow makes the present --- Avantika's indifference for Aisha and other girls from the group --- clearer.

Characters are nice, their conversation seems natural. Even the childhood incidents are quite relatable. I liked Avantika. Dhruv's character seemed a little vague to me. Uday was adorable, and my favourite character!

Even though I half predicted the story, it was an engaging read (barring a couple of flashbacks). Overall, it was a quick and refreshing read. If you like murder mysteries, if you like humour, go for it!



I received this book from Writer's Melon for an unbiased review.




Thursday, May 10, 2018

I have no complaints but ---


Image result for release your emotions




I have no complaints  but ---
It's okay to set my emotions free
Like a free flowing water 

I have no complaints but ---
It's okay to fell angry, sad, frustrated
And seethe in a gloomy solitude, for some time

I have no complaints but ---
It's okay to curse the unfairness of life
Screaming silently -- why me?

Yes, it's okay as ---
I don't stay in the pool of misery for long
I rise and shrug it off, feeling light and say ---

I have no complaints!


Sharing with Poets United



Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Author's Interview: In Conversation With Debeshi Gooptu



Debeshi Gooptu, author of Gurgaon Diaries & Dragon Aunty Returns, is a wonderful storyteller. I am yet to read her novels, but I have read her short stories recently on Juggernaut Books, and loved them!  

The Girl at the Yellow Door, A Strange Connection, Don't Stand So Close To Me, A Chance Encounter --- these are some of my favourites. I have saved her other stories on my app and looking forward to reading them. 

Her stories, writing style, her characters and their situations are so relatable. Stories are very engaging, mostly open-ended with interesting twists. And, guess what? She has published 20 short stories! 

So, if you like quick, light, well crafted, relatable and engaging stories, you can read her stories HERE. 

But, don't go now. Today, I am having a candid chat with her.





1. Tell us about your writing journey. How easy or difficult it was to be chosen by two big, traditional publishing houses?

Even though I’ve been a journalist all my life (from the time I was 21), the realisation that I wanted to be an author came to me rather late. My first pitch for a book was rejected by all the leading publishers in 2012. I was really disheartened. My husband told me not to take the rejection personally and to begin a blog instead. Blogs were becoming popular those days. So I started a blog, Gurgaon Diaries, and maintained it for nearly five years. The blog was about my experiences of living in Gurgaon.

My first book was a collection of short stories from the blog that I self published on Amazon. The book did so well that I got an offer from Rupa who wanted to publish my blogposts in print. At the same time, I had sent a proposal for a novella, Dragon Aunty Returns, to Juggernaut Books who had just launched. They loved it. Things sort of fell into place after that. Getting there was not easy, but it was worth it.


2. You have published two full-length books and twenty short stories. Where do you get your ideas from? 


My mind is constantly buzzing with ideas. Mostly, they just come to me, in the middle of something I’m busy with. I may be at the bus stop waiting for my daughter to get home from school or even at the neighbourhood supermarket buying groceries. A face, a smile or the tring of the rickshaw puller’s bell sets me off. My mind is always wandering. But that’s a good thing, in my case! There’s a little bit of me in all my stories. I guess you can say that I’m really old and have lived through a lot of things. Good and bad.


3. Can you please share some time management tips for writers. How to be more productive?

Writing is like any exercise. You need to practise every day to build up stamina. Just a little will do. I think one should set aside time every day to write. Some people write at the crack of dawn, others at night. Some work in coffee shops, some in their homes. Whatever works for you. But you must write every day or you will literally lose the plot!


4. Tell me about your writing process. Do you plan and plot before writing or just go with the flow? Do you follow any writing schedule?

I’m not a terribly disciplined person when it comes to writing. I have a noisy mind, random thoughts running parallel to one another at any given point of time. Most of them have nothing to do with writing – mundane, routine stuff such as buying groceries, planning meals, running errands or even the washing. 


But there are sparks of inspiration in between. I do have a rough plot in mind before I get started. For instance, the short stories were commissioned by Juggernaut and I wrote them during the summer vacations. So I got up really early to do my writing every day. Normally, I write during the day, between 9 am and 2 pm. But there are a lot of distractions! 


5. Your stories are intriguing and engaging. What do you keep in mind while writing a short story? How to create intrigue and keep your readers engaged?

I enjoy writing short stories. I find them really challenging as one has very little time and space (words) to grab the reader’s attention. I have to have the entire story mapped out before I write it. Plot, characters, story arc. There’s a piece ---  
Writing Short Stories: The Long and the Short of it --- I wrote on the Juggernaut blog.


6. What kinds of books/stories do you like to read? Is there any book or author who inspired you as a writer?

Detective/crime fiction/regular fiction/drama/humour/short stories. 
Little Women which I read in school. Wanted to be like Jo who became a writer


6. Would you like to tell us something about your next book/short stories?

I’m excited about my next book. It’s with the publishers now. Don’t want to talk about it till it comes out. All I can say is that it’s something I’ve never done before. I’m terribly superstitious!


7. What would be your advice to new/aspiring writers?

Never take rejection personally. Just be focused, disciplined and keep writing. If you are a good story teller, someone is bound to notice you.



Friday, May 4, 2018

Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas



Book:            The Hate U Give
Author:          Angie Thomas
Genre:           Young Adult
No of Pages:  438
Publisher:      Walker Books
Price:             INR 359 (On Amazon)



Once upon a time there was a hazel-eyed boy with dimples. I called him Khalil. The world called him thug. He lived, but not nearly long enough, and for the rest of my life I'll remember how he died.

Starr Carter, a sixteen year old black girl, lives in two worlds --- her home in a poor, highly sensitive Garden Heights; and Williamson, her posh high school in the suburbs. She has a loving family, a normal stable life.

'Keep your hands visible.'
'No sudden movements.'
Only speak when spoken to.'

One fateful day, she witnesses such a dreadful thing that upends her life completely. While returning from a party, a police man shoots his best friend, Khalil, a black boy, without any reason, right in front of Starr and she couldn't do anything. Unfortunately, she has seen this before. Her friend, Natasha, dying right in front of her when she was just twelve.

Khalil's death creates riot like situation in Garden Heights. News channels are talking about a witness --- sixteen year old black girl. But nobody knows who that girl is.

Starr and her family are living under a constant fear --- what if the world knows that Starr is the witness?

'I always said that if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew what went down.

Now, I am that person, and I'm too afraid to speak.'

Would she be able to beat her fears for her best friend? Would Khalil get justice?

Angie Thomas' first book, The Hate U Give, focuses on racial discrimination and cop's brutality in America. The story is written in first person, and the narration skillfully captures the voice and the dilemma of a sixteen year old girl. Starr's (and her family's) fears and struggles are expressed well.

I really liked the characters! They look so natural, their conversation sounds so natural. Starr's father --- the way he tries to prepare her for every situation.

'Get a good look at the cop's face. If you can remember his badge number, that's even better.'

Or 'Don't let them put words in your mouth.'

Her strict yet loving mom. Her protective half brother, Seven. And her uncle Carlos who is like a father figure; who literally raised her, is trapped in a strange kind of dilemma as he is one of the cops investigating this case and knows the killer cop closely.

My only problem with this book was that it drags at some places. For example, I was not really interested in Starr's school life, her friends or boyfriend or their leisure time right before an important interrogation. Maybe, you wouldn't mind if you are a teenager. But, I felt the story could have been a little fast paced.

Overall, it's a powerful and enlightening book. Give it a read.





Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Book Review: Hush A Bye Baby by Deepanjana Pal





Hush A Bye Baby by Deepanjana Pal (Juggernaut Books) is a thriller that is based on Feticide. This, of course, is a different plot/idea.

Dr. Nandita Rai is a reputed and extremely popular gynaecologist and a feminist who regularly appears on TV/radio shows. Every woman wants her to be their doctor. And, out of a sudden she has been charged with sex-selective abortions. At least 24-25 women have made complaints to the Mumbai police helpline number. It's hard to believe, but Mumbai police needs to investigate (Even though these are high-profile people).

Hadpude, Lad and Reshma are trying hard to solve the case, but unable to find any lead. The investigation is going nowhere. Then, curious Sub-Inspector Reshma Gabuji decides to delve deeper and discovers a secret online forum where Nandita Rai is a prominent member.

Is Dr. Nandita Rai really guilty? If yes, why is she doing this? What is that secret online forum called "Kalisthenics"? What would be the destination of this case? To know the answers, you'll have to read the book.

The book starts with an urgent call to a helpline number. It was intriguing. Then it moves to a talk show where Dr. Nandita Rai answers an odd question, odd because it's too personal and nothing to do with gynaecology. Maybe, it was to show that Nandita Rai is a bold feminist. But, I found it odd.

About the characters --- Even though the story is about Dr. Nandita Rai, Reshma Gabuji is the most prominent/important character of this story, and my favourite too. I liked her curiosity, her courage and her presence of mind. While I liked the way Dr. Nandita Rai has been described, we hardly get to know anything about her. She makes occasional guest appearances where she just speaks, like an unaffected VIP. I was unable to make any opinion about the doctor, there's no connect, and I won't say it was a positive thing.

The book is fast-paced and so many things happen. There are many twists and turns, so it keeps you engaged most of the times. It kept me thinking because, well, it cannot be the obvious (why Dr. Nandita Rai would commit such a heinous crime).

The conversations seem natural. The dialogues are nice. For example:

'Interviews are suitcases. They'll go where you take them.'

Still, I have some problems with this book. What? Since it's a suspense thriller, I can't say much, but I'll try.

The outcome of the events. They don't lead the case to anywhere. So many things and their roles are left unanswered, and it scattered a good plot.

No matter how engaging the story is, it's annoying if the end or the revelation is not justified or convincing. And, I didn't find the revelation, 'the reason', convincing or plausible or justified, and it left me confused and somehow frustrated. It's an open-ended story, so we can expect the sequel.

If you enjoy reading thrillers, you can pick this book especially for its unique plot or interesting women characters, however, for me it was a little disappointing and confusing read.


Monday, April 23, 2018

Book Review: The Secret of the Red Crystals by Dr. Sujata Sharma




'Nature is the first scientist in the Universe. The most brilliant and intricate scientist ever.'


Some books come as pleasant surprise.

The Secret of the Red Crystals by Sujata Sharma is one such book for me. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect when I picked this book for I'm not fond of reading biographies. I didn't even like My Story by Kamala Das who is one of favourite authors. But, one thing that the author had said in the mail that made me curious --- she said, 'Though it is a story of a scientist, it can be the story of anyone who dares to dream, and makes up one's mind to achieve the dream "at any cost".'

Plus, Dr. Sujata Sharma is a professor in the Department of Biophysics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

The moment I read the first paragraph, I knew I was going to like it as I really liked the writing style. 

This book is an autobiography, a genre that I do not prefer. It's about a medico's journey of passionate research about Lactoferrin.

You may think it's not your genre, and you wouldn't enjoy reading this book. You may presume that the book would be filled with medical/scientific terms...trust me, you would be wrong.

Even though the story is about medical research, it isn't focused on heavy/intriintricate medical terms. Of course there are many scientific terms but those terms are common (Pretty common if you have a science background) or interesting, particularly the facts about Lactoferrin is very enlightening.

The story is more about chasing your dreams; about being passionate about your goals, about the idea of not giving up no matter what.

And most importantly, it is really well told. Skillfully narrated, Dr. Sujata's writing creates nice imagery. The emotions are very well expressed. The what next factor keeps you intrigued. There are so many insightful lines yet it is not preachy.

My favourite quotes:

'In science and anything else in life, if we leave something unfinished, it comes back and keeps coming back till we resolve it. If a question has arisen, then you need to answer it now.'

'Anyone can pick the low hanging fruits because it is easy to do that. Very few people aim for the high hanging fruits because it's so challenging.'

'Losing hope would be equivalent to losing the entire game.' 

I loved Dr. Sujata's passion and her stubbornness. I loved his mentor and his faith. I would like to read Dr. Sujata's next book. I'd like her to write fiction for she is a good storyteller. 

I would recommend it to every book lover. It's a quick, interesting and insightful read. So go for it.