Sep 17, 2012

Respite from BIF... :)

You know about m y BIF days, don't you? (Nope? Read Here.) Despite my bad running in the past with Bad Indian Fiction; I couldn't say "No" when the newbie author Smita Shetty approached me for a book review. She contacted me with a reference from my best friend, Hemant, for a review of her debut "chic-lit"  novel "Untruly Yours". More than anything else, I accepted her request coz HK said the book sounds interesting. (That coming from someone who was introduced to Chic-Lit by me, meant it was time to check how my training had paid off :P hee hee hee...)

I was also waiting for receiving a book from Blogadda during the time. As luck would have it, Kranthi Askani's Fractured Legend and Smita's Untruly Yours both arrived on the same day, and I faced the dilemma of choosing between both. I'm really not sure why I picked up Fractured Legend first, but I'm really glad that I did it. Coz if I was subjected to the trauma of reading the mind-numbing Fractured Legend after reading Smita's novel...I surely would have done some bodily damage to myself, and anyone who dared to enter the war zone. You can read my review for Fractured Legend, here.

Frankly speaking, after Parinda Joshi's disastrous Live from London; I was a bit skeptical about reading another 'so called' Chic-Lit from another NRI author, AGAIN revolving around someone settled abroad returning to India and finding life here in contrast with their rosy memories. And it was with Live from London at the back of my mind, I picked up Untruly Yours to read. This was a HUGE mistake... I shouldn't have assumed anything. And to correct those assumptions, Let me start with commending the creative team who has put together an excellent cover design for the novel. It's refreshing to see the pink lettering on a kulfi colored background; while the lady in lavender dress with Coffee cup in her hand, offers the visual appeal that would make sure the novel is picked up by even a casual browser in a bookstore. For that matter, when I picked up the novel for the first time, for a  brief moment, I thought it was a "Little Black Dress" publication. (Those who know LBD will know why its the hallmark of a good chic-lit...for those who do not know... well, "it's a girl thing")

Coming back to Untruly one word, the novel is "SASSY". It reminded me of "Almost Single" by Advaita Kala. It is times the novel made me giggle hysterically in public transport. It has a great mix of a lot of elements that makes it a fun chic-lit and a very engaging read. Its light, springy and interesting enough that you start to identify with the protagonist. You laugh at her neurotic obsession with cleanliness and her passionate dislike for her mother-in-law. You laugh at her furtive tries to teach discipline to her son and the universal struggle to enlist her husband's help in household chores. You feel her yearning for that misplaced passion in her decades old marriage and you identify with her wishes to help out her friend in need and even understand (if not agree) with her emotionally unbalanced moral swaying. Even when you identify with her moods and emotional turbulence; you secretly wish that she will not really take "that" step. And while you are in middle of all that wishing, you realise that you have crossed the line between fiction and fact. That even before you realise; you've already started thinking of her as your friend. Someone whom you wish to talk to; share a laugh with...Someone to whom you would like to advice and possibly see happy in the end.

And THAT, I believe is the sign of a good author. I hope to see a lot more fun, bouncy and happy tales from Smita. I would definitely recommend Untruly Yours to anyone who is in mood for some belly shaking laughs and silent smiles. (Rather, I've already handed over my copy to a colleague of mine for reading). So, to answer Smita's question (the one that she had asked in one of her mails)... YES, you should continue writing. People will DEFINITELY take you serious as an author... and I will always be ready on this side of the sea to read and review... :) Great start Smita...Keep it up.

Sep 12, 2012

Fractured... well everything

Warning: This is continuation of my earlier rant about having a dry spell with Indian Authors.

Why do you read books? For me, I read them coz I believe they are the perfect stress busters. They take you from the mundane everyday life and show you worlds and worlds of wonder. Places, people, situations and countries that you personally could not meet, books take you to them. Your world expands to encompass everything and everyone when you read.

What do you read? A lot of people read fiction, some prefer autobiographies, some prefer financial while others rely on self-help books. What do I read? I read EVERYTHING...though my fav genre will always be fantasy, I don't confine myself to it. So, when I saw blogadda offering a fantasy fiction sort of novel, I jumped at the opportunity. I read through the introduction for the novel and loved what I read there. It was intriguing. I mean won't you be intrigued if you read "His fictional style integrates magical realism with Gothic elements."? What's not to like in that combination?

Well, let me tell you what's not to like...false promise.

The back cover creates a picture in your mind about this new world of magic and mysticism that would haunt you with its preciousness and sharpness. Into the world where sadness,and mystic is at war for peace and hope...where you will be offered a gripping tale that would take your breath away, and heart pounding... Sadly, it is not so. The only thing that novel delivers is overload of arcane words and lengthy, unending confusion that some might mistake as a story.

It is not my intention to stir trouble with those who might have liked the novel...neither am I looking to start a war like the one here. I'm simply sharing my views. And I did not like this novel.

Why? You ask...well, here you go.
1. The back cover: It creates a false expectation in your head. It leads you to believe that you are getting into something that the novel is clearly NOT. Now, whether this was done intentionally by the publisher and Author (I believe he does get a say in whats printed on back cover)... I will never know.

2. Vocab: I couldn't really get past the overload of vocabulary in the book. For some time, I actually felt like I'm reading those Word Power books people read for appearing for exams like GRE and TOEFL. The words that author uses are too cumbersome, for no apparent reason. It reminded me of the episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. where Joey writes a recommendation letter for Monica and Chandler to help them with adoption. And to sound smart, he uses a thesaurus for EVERY word in the letter. Of course while on F.R.I.E.N.D.S. it was funny... while reading the novel, it simply put me to sleep. I should possibly thank the Author for the amount of sleep I manged catch though.

3. Story: Was there one? I mean, nothing happens in the book...and even if it had happened, I didn't really understood. Possibly coz my head started swimming if I continued reading more than 5 pages in one sitting.

4. Language: Descriptive is such a tiny word to express the writing style of author. I have to give it to him that he is very observant and was very engrossed in his own novel that he thought the reader should know absolutely every minute detail of the scene he was writing. At times, I moved from top of the page to the bottom without anything happening, but knowing all the surrounding the characters.

5. Characters: There are a lot of them in the novel, But none of them clear, none defined properly... in short the characterization is non-existent. Which is a sore, coz why would you wanna read 200 pages if you don't know, don't identify with those who you are reading about?

I could go on and on about what I did not like and how utterly bored I was while reading this novel. But I think that would simply be too much time to spend on a novel that I did not like. So, I'm gonna cut this review short....for ratings... I don't wanna write down a number, coz the number might feel bad about being rated. ... Moral of the story: Don't read unless you want an alternative to Word Power books while studying for your GRE and TOEFL.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at
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Sep 10, 2012

The thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls...

Afghanistan... my first memory of the country is associated with the movei "Kabul Express". I'm not sure what your views about the movie are, but for my it was a numbing experience. Even today, the one scene that defines the movie for me is the one where John Abraham offers to play football with  kid on low wall and then the kid turning around to reveal a beautiful smile on his face and have only one leg... What you see on his face is a simple joy at being called to play, like any other child would feel....and you realise that he's OK with having only one leg...that is the chill factor of the movie...this tragic acceptance for a life that's less than perfect...

I was angry for a long time after watcing the movie. I could not find any rhyme or reason behind all the violence. I could not justify the destruction of a BEAUTIFUL country. Could not fathom the "why's" behind all the "what's". It broke my heart. It devestated my to know that all my anger and anguish was impotent. That I will not be able to change or alter anything. That I could not do anything to make it better. That options like joining peace corps or UN missions required a certain type of mindset and decision making powers that I do not posses.

Its been long since I saw the movie. almost half a decade now. The feeling has gone blunt. The coutry now at a far corner of mind as mind became occupied with other things to feel outraged about...and that's when Khalid Hosseini happened...

A Thousand Splendid Suns (hereon referred as ATSS) has been on my "to read" list for quite a while. I've been postponing it for a myriad of reasons...inavailability of paperback, time and lack of occassions to read it in softcopy versions were just a few of them...(somewhere deep down, I guess I was just scared of what might unfold) I finally picked it up last week on my Kindle, for I had no better option. And I'm glad that I got around to read this one...

If you want a one word review of the should most definitely be "turbulent". Reading ATSS is a turbulent experience, on ALL levels. For a female, for a home-maker, for a mother, sister and a daughter. For a female with her opinions and freedom to express them. For a person who had been given all changes and oppportunities to learn, excell and earn her keep. For a human being who was born and raised in a FREE country. Whose biggest concern in a day revolves around "catching a bus such that she reaches on office on time" or "what new to cook for dinner tonight". Reading ATSS makes you feel previledged to be born in a country where it is safe to sleep in your bed at night; where if you fee like you could keep your lights on and windows open all through the nght; where you know your husband / wife/ sister/ brother / mother / father will be back home for dinner post their day in office EVERYDAY; Where if need be you can walk up the market to buy whatever you want; Go out and dine if you feel like it; Where going to a doctor is as simple as switching on an electric bulb....

But thats not all... ATSS is also turbulent because it makes you see, feel and experience a range of emotions that you could rather live without easily... Mariam's rebelliousness, her affections for her father, resentment towards her mother, her dreams, her wishes ad her respectful love for Mullah Faizullah... Laila and her predicaments, her wishes and wishful longing for her mothers attention, her respect, love and protectiveness towards her baabi, her joys and smiles with friends and in Tariq, their games and dreams, pland for a future none of them is sure about.... Two lives, two dreams, two females from two very different times and so very different families with different values and mindset...thrown together by fate, uncertainty of life in a war riddled Afghanistan and one man... Rasheed.

Where Mariam and Laila are the white end of the color spectrum, Rasheed is the stark opposite white of it. He is the embodiment of corrupted Islamic ideals. Who believes the rightful place of a female is at his feet. Who believes and enforces the tradition of burqua on both Mariam and Laila. He has no quelms about raising his hand on his wife, or rather who believes that it is his right to do so. There are times where you want to object, do something to affect or change what is happening in the narrative, and THAT should tell you everything about the narrative style and power of words of Mr. Hosseini.

Somewhere between pages 1 and 5; you simply forget that you are reading a novel. You are dragged into a life and time that is effortlessly built around you and consumes you soon after. ATSS has all that makes it a memorable and impactful (if thats even a word) novel. The language is simple and flow is effortless. Events straightforward and entirely plausible. Characters believable and narration simple and smooth. It takes you through the times and life of not only of the Protagonists Mariam and Laila; but also of Afghanistan. For the country, its history, politics and sociology plays as vital a role as either Mariam or Laila. You not only bear witness to the ups and downs of Mariam, Laila, Rasheed and Tariq's life but also of Afghanistan. You see it fighting USSR, Rebel factions, emergence of Taliban and aftermath of Twin Towers and US insurgence. Step by another step, you witness the changes, the rise and fall of hopes and dreams, properties and cities, of values and cultures. You witness and feel for the country and the countless, heartless violence that country has suffered. It makes you thingk and it makes you restless... Isn't that EXACTLY what a great novel should do?

To end this review I'm using the verse which inspired the title of the novel... The title comes from the Josephine Davis translation of the poem "Kabul", by the 17th-century Iranian poet Saib Tabrizi:

Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye
Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs
And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls