From my bookshelf, June’18 – Inspirational & Slice of Life books.

From my bookshelf, June’18 – Inspirational & Slice of Life books.

I hadn’t been reading for quite some time the way I was last year. Stuff got in the way and my books got sidelined. So, to get things in motion, I thought of starting this monthly feature at Metanoia–From my bookshelf’–wherein I share a short review of the books I read. This way, I will have to be on my toes and keep up with my reading. I hope you enjoy reading about the books as much as I enjoy writing about them, and take away words or thoughts that stay on with you, as much as they do with me.

This month, I read two brilliantly written books:

Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert.

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.

Let’s begin with ‘Big Magic‘.

But, first of all, I would like to thank my dear dear friend, Shailaja Vishwanath, for gifting me this precious gem. It’s now my Bible, for Life; for everything that I decide to do in my Life, be it writing, art, or just living. Thank you, my darling!

A quote on the back cover perfectly describes the author as someone to be considered as  “One’s personal life coach.” For, that’s just how I felt as I pored over every word in the book–as if it had been written just for me. As if Ms. Gilbert knew the story of my Life and wanted to reach out to me and share with me pearls of wisdom full of empathy, warmth and humour that came from her own experience, and from people she looked up to.

This book is for each one of us “creative people”, as in, not just writers, artists, singers, et al, but every person who lives on this planet. According to Ms. Gilbert, each one of us is a creative person, for living life is being creative, isn’t it?

But, often times, it’s the fear of living life to its fullest that holds us back. Our self-doubt, self-disgust, self-judgement and our crushing sense of self-protection keeps us from creative living. Unless and until we don’t believe that we are entitled to at least try, we will not be able to create anything interesting out of our Life.  And, these are her words.

I could as well quote the entire book in this review. Such is the power of, and truth in, her words. I am aware, as are you,  of the fear, the failure, the rejection, our ego, all of which stand in our way, hindering our progress.

Will we succeed? Will our work be appreciated by others? Will we find satisfaction from what we do? A hundred doubts crowd our mind, getting into our way even before we begin on the journey. And, this is where Big Magic helps us in learning to focus on enjoying the journey more than meditating upon the rewards. It’s just this message that Ms. Gilbert has attempted to send across through this book.

I would recommend this book to each one of you. And, to read it well. It not only inspires you to create, it inspires you to live, the way we are supposed to.

I have marked quite a many quote and passage in every chapter in the book, with the intention of returning to it each time I falter. How I wish I could share all of those, here. But, then one post wouldn’t be enough for it! So, I will share just some of those before I end this ‘book-talk’.

Learning how to endure your disappointment and frustration is part of the job of a creative person. Handling your frustration is a fundamental aspect of the work. Frustration is not an interruption of your process; frustration is the process.

“If you dare to create something and put it out there, after all, it may accidentally stir up a response. That’s the natural order of Life: the eternal inhale and exhale of action and reaction. But, you are definitely not in charge of the reaction–even when that reaction is flat-out bizarre.”

Whatever it is you are pursuing, whatever it is you are seeking, whatever it is you are creating, be careful not to quit too soon.”

Keep moving, keep going. Whatever you do, try not to dwell too long on your failures. You don’t need to conduct autopsies on your disasters. You don’t need to know what anything means.”

I hope these quotes spoke to you, the way they did to me; motivated you to keep going on the path you have chosen for yourself, rekindling in you the fire that threatens to die down each time the ghost of fear rears its ugly head.

Do pick up the book. I know you won’t part ways with it, ever.

 

The Help.

This is a story about the African Americans working in white households during the early 1960s. It’s set in Jackson, Mississippi, but has a Universal appeal. It could very well belong to India, where every other household employs a domestic help, who comes from the lower strata of our society.

Aibileen Clark, Minny Jackson and Skeeter (Eugenia Phelan) are the narrators, each with her own unique Life story.

Aibileen Clark is the maid who cares for a little one belonging to the Leefolt family. Minny is another maid, and a friend of Aibileen, who speaks her mind, fearlessly, which results in her losing her jobs. And, Skeeter is the daughter of a white family who owns a cotton farm outside Jackson, and someone who had been very close to her maid, Constantine.

It’s the story of Skeeter befriending the coloured maids in an attempt to investigate the disappearance of her own maid, Constantine. And, it’s during their conversations, that she comes up with an idea. She gets them to share their stories with the world and let the world have a glimpse of the life they live, serving the white households.

The maids care for the children, cook, clean and almost give their entire lives to their white employers, but fail to gain their trust and respect. Going through the pages of this book is like being shown the mirror. Do we trust and respect our domestic help? Do we treat them like family for all they do for us?

Many of us may, but most of us would think twice before trusting them with our house keys, or even allowing them to use our washrooms, isn’t it? Of course, there’s the trust issue when it comes to handing them our house keys, but feeding them, or helping them in their personal crisis is, I believe, something we can do…but rarely do so!

It’s the story of how we all could use a little more kindness when dealing with people who give up their all to serve the privileged ones. A little more understanding of their situation and dealing humanely with those who have been dealt a rough hand in Life, and yet strive to live with dignity and honesty.

Every character comes to life from the very first page. Aibileen, Minny, their employers and the little children in their care. The narration is crisp and the characters so true to life, you feel like a part of the cast, as if the story unfolds right in front of your eyes and you wish you could speak up on behalf of the coloured community!

Do pick up this book, as well. It’s one of those unputdownable books you wish could go on, forever!

Affiliate disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links, which means I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you click on the image below and use it to make a purchase. 

 

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Books to be read

B – Books and Book Reviews. #AtoZ

B – Books and Book Reviews. #AtoZ

 

Books are a uniquely portable magic!”

_Stephen King.

Isn’t it true?

You open a book and begin reading the words carefully put together by the writer and you are transported to a  world where live people leading lives you might never, or, you wish you could.

Books, for many of us, give the relief we need as we face the vagaries of Life.  For some, they are the best friends who make their need for people redundant.

But, apart from it all, books are the best teachers we could ever have. And, being writers, the need to read books can never be discounted.

Some of my favourite books are from the fiction genre, especially suspense/ thrillers. In non-fiction, I  like the real-life inspirational stories, like the ones by Dr.Brian Weiss, and Anita Moorjani.  And, it’s these non-fiction ones that have inspired me while writing my posts.

I love mythological ones, too! Jaya, by Devdutt Pattanaik,  for instance. And, some historical stories, as well. No romance, or chick-lit for me, though. Guess, I have passed that age where we know what Love is all about!

I was a voracious reader earlier,  but then, Life took over and reading became a luxury I could hardly afford. So, it was only after I began writing that I realised how important it is to read; read so that you improve your writing,  and develop your craft, rectify your syntax errors and learn the magic formula required to grab a reader’s attention.

 

Book reviews happened by chance. Couple years ago, motivational speaker, Priya Kumar had her book release. She approached many a blogger to review her book and publish the review on their respective blogs. I was one of those bloggers, too. It felt wonderful being requested to do the review by her, but daunting, as well.

Never having done a book review, I had to first learn the art of reviewing books and writing an honest, impartial review. Sentiments cannot be hurt, and yet you need to put across your views about the book – whether it is good, likable, or read-at-your-own-risk kind.

There are a few book reviewers whom I follow closely. Bloggers who have carved an identity for themselves reviewing books, and from whom I learned a lot.

So, if you wish to learn what book reviewing is all about, do visit these blogs. Just reading the different genres they have reviewed will give you a fair idea of how to go about it.

There are also some blogging communities that offer books for reviews. If you wish to try your hand at it, do visit these sites and register there to receive books. Do follow the rules they have laid out for book reviewing.

Book reviewers I admire:

Shantala Nayak

Tulika Singh

Anamika Agnihotri

Mithila Menezes

Lata Sunil

Ramya Abhinand

Community for book lovers:

Writer’smelon

The book club

Do visit these bloggers and the communities if you would like to give reviewing a try. It’s a fun way of widening your horizons!

Things to remember for book reviewing:

Read the book, thoroughly.  Of course, that’s understood! However, try not to skip the parts that seem tedious.

Write an honest review. Never trash the book, especially if it’s a début work, and do not praise it to the skies, either. 

And remember, not all might agree with your view of the book. So, do give reasons for the criticism, as well as the commendation. 

Love,

SHILPA…

Why we need books

April 2018 A to Z blogging Challenge

 

My theme for the A to Z Blogging Challenge is all about my blog, Metanoia, and my blogging journey from the time  I started, 5 years ago. The lessons I learnt, the tips and tricks I picked up from fellow bloggers and the guidelines I could have used back when I began. 

You will find all of my A to Z posts here.

The Dark Holds No Terrors.

The Dark Holds No Terrors.

Book: The Dark Holds No Terrors

Author: Shashi Deshpande

Genre: Fiction

Format: Paperback

 

The Story:

Sarita, a doctor by profession, holds on to her troubled past.  Her mother’s bitterness towards her for being unable  to save her younger brother from drowning follows her all her life. Later, as a grown woman, it continues in the form of  disownment  for choosing to marry the love of her life – a man belonging to the lower caste.

Years later, Sarita returns home – the home she had left as a young woman – to her father, to escape from her troubled marriage, wondering if it was her dead mother’s curse that her life turned out the way it did.

 

My review:

The story is about Sarita, who, as a little girl, doesn’t find favour with her mother – a resentment she vents out on her younger brother, their mother’s pet. With no friends to confide her turmoil in, the pent up feelings simmer within her for years together. To get away from her claustrophobic life at home, she decides to take up medicine at a Bombay college. Her father, much to her mother’s chagrin,  supports her in her decision and gives her the much-needed respite.

Shashi Deshpande has used the stream of consciousness to narrate the story of Sarita.  Peppered with memories, mostly unpleasant, from her childhood, her youth and  her married life, the story takes you along a journey that at once feels heartrending and perplexing.

How can a mother be so cruel towards her daughter? Why doesn’t the father find the courage to speak up against the injustice meted out to his daughter? are some of the thoughts that cross your  mind as you go further into the story. There are  moments when you wonder at the human nature – cowering in fear and at the same time cold and calculating, wicked and egotistic!

Escaping to a city to follow her dreams, falling in love with a man who, she thinks, will rescue her from her dark past,  and then realising that life’s miseries haven’t ended just yet, for the darkness has followed her in her married life, too. For how much respect and money can a poet earn as compared to his doctor wife? Sarita’s sorrow tugs at your heart strings.

Shashi Deshpande has done a fabulous job in her very first novel written in 1980. The language and the words chosen to portray the turmoil within the human mind and within the four walls of a simple, middle-class family in a small town are perfect. The atmosphere at Sarita’s home – her parents’ as well as her marital home – is almost tangible.

I liked the book, and I am sure you will like it, too. We may not have experienced the sorrow, the injustice Sarita did, but there are moments when one can relate to her story. The importance given to the son over the daughter, ego hassles that arise within a marriage, a domineering parent whose words wound the heart so, the scars stay fresh for years.  All of this and much more will touch you to the core, leaving you breathless.

 

The English Teacher – Book Review.

The English Teacher – Book Review.

 

Book: The English Teacher

Author: R. K. Narayan

Genre: Fiction

Format: Paperback

 

R.K. Narayan, famous for giving us the idyllic, fictional town of Malgudi in southern India, made his way into our hearts and our homes years ago with his simple and heart-warming story-telling.   How can we forget Swami and his friends and their stories that made for an important part of our growing up years? I remember staying glued to the tele when Swami came for a visit and took us along with him on his adventures in Malgudi; its signature tune  “ta na na na nana naaa…” comes to mind as I type this post!

The English Teacher is almost an autobiographical novel. It’s about Krishna, the English teacher, who teaches at the Albert Mission College, in Malgudi.  He lives at the hostel, while his wife and daughter live with his parents-in-law. Their move to a rented house permits the young couple to enjoy marital bliss.  But, like all good things come to an end, their story, too, takes an unexpected turn.

Krishna’s eagerness to live an uncomplicated life, and his search for inner peace and  self-development is what the story is all about.

 

My review: 

I bought this book months ago, but couldn’t read beyond a few pages then. The setting of the Albert Mission College, and Krishna’s mundane life as an English teacher staying at the  hostel failed to grab my attention. However, last week, I picked up the book again and began reading from the very beginning. It was then that I discovered its sheer  beauty hidden in the simple, everyday life of people far removed from the fast, tech-savvy world we reside in. Suffice it to say, it felt like petrichor after months of scorching summer!

The idyllic setting of Malgudi, the young couple learning to live with each other and bring up their little one, it all felt so peaceful. How I wished I could move there, bag and baggage.

The language – so fluid, unostentatious –  brings alive  the world of Krishna. His disagreement with the education system that forces the students to learn a language meant to be savoured, and literary works  meant to be celebrated, will resonate with many a teacher of today.

The ease with which R. K. Narayan weaves together sorrow and joy makes one wonder if it is really so easy – expressing the varied human emotions in words!

The atmosphere of the place grows on you, as do the characters you wish you could meet in real life.

R. K. Narayan transports you back to that time  when innocence and simplicity really existed. The book was written in around 1945, so you can imagine the life back then. No, actually, we really can not! Krishna, his wife and daughter, their lives, their world, their journey…you will wish you could walk along with them and live those moments with them.

How I wish I could give you a sneak peek into the plot, but I will leave you guessing.

Do read this book. I am sure it will make you yearn for an uncluttered life in an idyllic, small town by the river side! Oh, and without a wifi connection, as well!

 

Books and I – A Book Lover’s Tag.

Books and I – A Book Lover’s Tag.

PIXABAY

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I am a bookworm by nature. Right since childhood, my books have been my favourite companions and have played a huge role in my love for writing. No, you won’t find me with my nose in a book 24X7 (although, I wish I could do that) what with blogging,writing and art taking up a lot of my time.

But, whenever I find a good book, I find it humanly impossible to leave the book aside and complete my chores or my posts. At such times, I just wish the world came to a stand still so that I could use that peace and quiet for my reading.

Books can be a man’s best friend…after dogs! A true-blue dog lover I am, so dogs come first and books come next. People come at the end. People can be complicated.

Ahem! Just kidding!

So, my dear blogger friend, Esha  Mukherjee-Dutta tagged me in her post on books. I enjoyed reading her answers. They told me some more about this really sweet person I know online, Now, I am answering those fun questions that will tell you something more about me, in short, reveal some more of my eccentricities.

So, read on…

1.  Do you have a specific place for reading?

Earlier, I was a librocubicultarist (one who reads in bed!), but then my doctor pointed out to other more back-friendly places to sit and read, so now I prefer sitting in a chair with my legs stretched out on another chair. Actually, I can read anywhere. When you have a good book, the ‘place’  doesn’t matter, does it?

2. Bookmark or some random piece of paper?

My father gave me some bookmarks that have paintings by  artists who paint with their foot and mouth. And, my friend, Kala gifted me some really beautiful  bookmarks, too. So, I use those now. Earlier, I would use any random piece of paper.

3. Do you eat or drink while reading?

I eat or drink while reading the newspaper (a habit I picked up from hubby). But, while reading a book,  NEVER. I can not imagine spilling stuff on books. That’s sacrilege! But, if I do read while eating, then the book is placed at a safe distance, out of harm’s reach!

4. Music or TV whilst reading?

Neither. I like my peace and quiet when I have a book in my hand, so I can concentrate on the story that unfolds before my eyes!

5. One book at a time or several?

I am a one-book-woman! Hehehe! I like to ponder over the lives I read about and wonder about them, just like I do about people I know.

6.  Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?

I can read anywhere. It’s just that I forget to carry a book to places I visit, like the mall. Next time, though, I am going to carry my book along. I hate window shopping, and hubby loves it. I will just open my book and find some peace in those pages.

7. Read out loud or silently?

Silently, of course! And, that too, I read the dialogues as if I were the character! I need to feel the emotions!

8. Do you read ahead or skip pages?

I admit, I have skipped pages of many a book. When the description gets a bit too much to bear, or there is too much of romance going on (give me a break!) I skip pages.

9. Break the spine or keep it like new?

WHAT? You break the spine of your book? REALLY? Now, that’s sacrilege number 2! You will keep the book as good as new, is my order to anyone who borrows my book! God, I can’t imagine how one could  do such a horrid thing!!

10. Do you write in books?

You mean you write in books, too? And, you ruin their beauty? Sacrilege number 3!

11. What books are you reading now?

RIght now, I am reading ‘Classic Ruskin Bond, Volume 1′. it’s a collection of six novels  by the young  Ruskin Bond.

12. What is your childhood favourite book?

Oh, there are aplenty! The first is, ‘Adventurous stories for young girls’, which was a gift from my uncle when I was in school, and which awakened the bookworm in me. The others are, ‘Famous FIve’, ‘Secret Seven’, ‘Nancy Drew’, ‘Hardy Boys’…ah,  I could drown myself in all the nostalgia!

13. What is your all time favourite book?

Now, that’s a toughie. I love books. Period. But, ‘The Book Thief’ and ‘The diary of Anne Frank’ made me cry. I wept thinking about the lives that were wiped out because of the craziness of one man! No offence meant there, but, that’s how much I was affected.

Oh, and let me add something more – . If ever, you are to borrow a book from me, do remember to return it.  I won’t be able to get over my lost book if you don’t!

So, that’s all from me.

Do join me in sharing your eccentricities if you are a book lover, too!

Enjoy your weekend!

Love,

SHILPA…