Monday, August 13, 2018

Book Review: The Globetrotters by Arefa Tehsin

Name Of the Book
The Globetrotters
Name Of the Author
Name Of the Illustrator
Nafisa Nandini Crishna
Children’s Book
Age Group
8-13 Years
Puffin Books {Penguin}
Number Of Pages

'It's better to lose with honour than win by cheating.'

Thoughtful, isn't it?

The Globetrotters by Arefa Tehsin is a children's book, obviously. It's about Hudhud, a seventh grader, careless rather insensitive school boy, and his friend, Kilkila {a little less insensitive}. They both leave not a single chance to play wicked tricks on children, even teachers.

One day, Hudhud teases a younger boy about his dead grandmother so insensitively that his old history teacher decides to teach him a lesson. She appears, mysteriously, when he is alone at his home and curses him --- to travel the every part of the earth in different forms of living creatures. And to learn the lessons and find the answers, eventually. His friend Kilkila can join him in this journey but Kilkila won't remember anything when they come back in human form. It's Hudhud's journey.

So, what kind of journey it's going to be? Would Hudhud be able to find the answers? What would be those answers? Would he be able to learn the lesson?

'Answer...' he muttered suddenly. 'Someone told me to look for an answer. Is the answer girl power?'

This book vividly captures the animal world. 
The story carries several lessons; it's educative but not preachy. The knowledge {Mostly features of different kinds of animals} and lessons have been conveyed, in a playful manner, through entertaining stories. And the incidents that author has created are entertaining and very imaginative. Okay honestly, it might seem childish to adults but it can be exciting for kids. And, it's a children's book, right?

The book has black & white, rather rough illustrations that, frankly, I didn't like. I believe illustrations should be colourful. That can captivate children more easily, of course.

So, the Globetrotters is an exciting and kind of bizarre journey that would take you to different worlds. Overall, for me, it was a nice read. For children, it can be a thrilling, funny, educative and interesting read! 

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

Thursday, August 9, 2018

My Favourite Author: Debbie Macomber

I started this series, My Favourite Author, on my blog recently and featured three guest posts under this category. You can read them HERE. Now, it's my turn!

First of all, when it comes to reading, I, unapologetically, prefer women authors who write about strong women, women who have equal, substantial presence in the story. You can read my article 'I’m Not Afraid To Say That I’m Biased Towards WomenProtagonists And Authors!' on Women's Web.

'Be an encourager. Scatter sunshine. Who knows whose life you might touch with something as simple as a kind word.' 

Hard hitting, dark stories on social/political issues are okay, but I enjoy reading pleasant, delightful stories. And, when I think about pleasant, delightful stories, Debbie Macomber comes to my mind.

I remember that quiet afternoon when I had nothing new to read. Back then, I was not familiar with online shopping and and needed to visit bookshops/stalls to buy books.

I badly wanted to read something, so I picked 'This Matter Of Marriage' by Debbie Macomber and reread it. It was my first book by the author. I enjoyed it like I had enjoyed reading it for the first time. And, I rarely re-read books!

I had recently discovered a bookshop that sold old books at a very reasonable price. And, there I found Debbie Macomber, I mean her books. And I am so glad. What attracted me? The blurb, of course and lovely covers that looked like paintings.

After re-reading 'This Matter Of Marriage', I went to the bookshop and bought 7-8 books by Debbie Macomber. I read all of them, and realized that she never failed to entertain me.

Her stories are delightful. Her male protagonists are charming! There's a thing --- the stories by Debbie Macomber are happy stories. You won't find many twists and turns yet you would find them engrossing if you like reading romance novels. It's Debbie's storytelling and her relatable characters and situations that make her stories interesting.

A Little Bit Country was a novel that was so gripping that I stayed awake till the wee hours to finish it. The characters, their chemistry, their unexpressed feelings gripped me. In 'Moon Over Water',  Lorraine and Jack sail together, due to an emergency, in Jack’s private boat for many days. They initially detest each other but in these few days they grow loving each other immensely yet unable to express their feelings {because Lorraine is engaged}.

You see, I like this 'unexpressed feelings' thing in her stories as I do not like insta love thing. It may sound similar, but it's different in every story, in its own way.

It's been a long time since I read her novels. Back then, I was not an author, I didn't read books to review; I had just started discovering new Indian authors. My TBR was not that long; I was not on any social media platforms --- reading life was easier.

But, I've planned to buy her novels soon. I've selected already ---  Little Bookshop Of Promises, Starry Night and Dashing Through The Snow. Interesting titles, no?

So, have you read Debbie Macomber? If yes, which books did you like? If no, then you should if you like romance. And, who is your favourite author? Please share.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Book Review: Chanakya by Ashok K. Banker

Name Of The Book
Name Of The Author
No. Of Pages
Historical Fiction
INR 225 (On Amazon)

'It's one thing to stand out in a certain situation where he has to use his intellect for some purpose, and quite another thing to simply show off just to get his own way.'

'If he can't use his great intelligence to get what he wants from life, then what good is it being so intelligent?'

From this book.

I remember, many years ago, it was a day when I had nothing to read so I picked a non fiction based on Chanakya, even though I'm not fond of non-fiction. Unexpectedly, I liked it. So, I was sure if I liked Chanakya's thoughts, a historical fiction based on Chanakya would be interesting.

Vishnu Gupta is a seven years old, extra-ordinarily intelligent boy who lives in a small village, Chanak. He knows all the scriptures {Knows more than his Gurus}, remembers all the shlokas. His only friend in the village is Vaishali. 

One fine day, Vishu Gupta and his family visit Patliputra as his father, a great pundit, has been invited to attend a big conference for Brahmins, unaware that this visit is going to change their lives.

This is the first book in the Itihasa series, so it is basically about Vishnu Gupta, the little Chanakya. It's about his journey --- from Chanak village to Patliputra to Magadh Rajmahal. How he and his extra-ordinary knowledge and wisdom impress, rather surprise everyone; and how he meets 'Chandra'. How he realizes that Magadh is a corrupt/unjust state and decides to fight for justice, understanding that beating Rakshasa, the Prime Minister of Magadh samrajya wouldn't be easy.

'Every force of dharma had an equal opposite force of adharma.'

'To support oppression and tyranny is to enable it.'

The writing is neat and simple. There are so many thought-provoking one liners. Full of wisdom that doesn't sound preachy. The characters are nicely sketched. I especially liked Visnhu's friendship with Vaishali. Their conversations are endearing.

It's a very short read, and the end seemed abrupt. However, it was a nice read and I'm definitely going read the second part to know about the grown-up Vishnu Gupta aka Chanakya. Pick it if you like Historical fiction. 

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

Friday, July 27, 2018

Watercolour Paintings: Landscape and a Window

I painted this landscape two days back. One of my blogger friends, Ramya, had posted a picture on Instagram an I felt like painting. So asked her and she encouraged me. I painted in the first attempt, and I was somehow pleased.

A story lives behind this window. 

I find paintings/pictures of doors/windows intriguing. So wanted to paint. Didn't turn out well in the first attempt; the second attempt seems okay. I can't draw a straight line. I'm practising. 

Sharing with Paint Party Friday

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

My Favourite Author: Saadat Hasan Manto - Guest Post by Sona

Hello everyone. So this is the third post in the 'My Favourite Author' series. You can read the previous guest posts HERE.

Today, I'm happy to host Sona, an avid reader and blogger. She writes about her favourite author --- Saadat Hasan Manto!

Image result for saadat hasan manto books

'If you find my stories dirty, the society you are living in is dirty. With my stories, I only expose the truth." - Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-1955)

Novelist, playwright, essayist, screenwriter, short story writer, Manto is considered one of the finest in Urdu literature. His work is stark and 'uncomfortable' to the custodians of society's morality. He was reviled by the establishment in his lifetime, having been charged for obscenity multiple times. Why then, is he a writer who was considered ahead of his times?

Because Manto’s writing is realistic, holding out hard hitting facts. He chose to expose when others looked away.

He is best known for his stories about the partition of the subcontinent. He challenged the hypocrisy and the sham morality of the society.  Manto's work reiterates that literature does not need to be polite and that political satire can comment on the present day happenings.

One of his most controversial short stories 'Khol Do', is a shocking portrayal of the violence and the depravity of people at the time of the partition. The ending of the story is like a punch to your gut. 'Thanda Gosht', another intense story depicts how the rape of women was a way to punish the people of the 'other community'.

'The Assignment' is bone chilling and much as you wish to believe in trust, loyalty and brotherhood, you cannot.

Women in Manto’s Stories ---

The women in his stories were considered 'scandalous'; he drew them from unconventional backgrounds such as brothels. They were sexually liberated and showed characteristics that are mostly attributed to males: rage, vengeance, driving their destiny. I consider Manto a feminist who humanizes women through his realistic portrayal.

Manto was called vulgar because the women he wrote about were neither weak nor sexually repressed. There is a mention of lesbianism and first sexual stirrings in 'A Wet Afternoon'. 'Kaali Shalwar' features a small town prostitute Sultana, who is disillusioned by Bombay. 'Mozail', the story of a Jewish woman living in Bombay, showcases her free spirit, her independence of thought, her courage in the face of rioters and her complete disregard for the facade of religion.

One of his best known stories, 'Toba Tek Singh', based on his own experience in a mental asylum, brings out the agony and the absurdity of partition.

I don't recommend Manto to everyone, even though he is my favourite writer. Manto's work has the capability to shock, to bring you out of your being so that you never feel the same again. It takes courage to look at the mirror that Manto holds to your face. He delves into the darkest part of the human psyche. His stories are rooted in the real life incidents of the partition violence, the fake morality that people uphold and in the dignity of women, even when they are prostitutes.

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.

Sharing with Paint Party Friday

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'.