From my bookshelf, August’18 – Books by women writers.

From my bookshelf, August’18 – Books by women writers.

Okay, first things first. I know “women writers” is, oh, so politically incorrect! But, frankly, I feel so so proud reading books by writers who are women!  And being a woman, I know what it is that they think, feel, and experience in order to give us some of the best literary creations. And, thus, the “women writers“. I hope you can sense the feeling of pride in my tone.

So, this month, I read two wonderful books by women writers–one suggested by my friend, Ramya Abhinand in her blog – ‘The Fisher Queen’s Dynasty, by Kavita Kane, and the other, a gift by my friend, Shalini Baisiwala –  ‘The Colour Master’, by Aimee Bender.

 

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. 

 

The Fisher Queen’s Dynasty, by Kavita Kane.

 

This is the story of queen Satyavati, wife of King Shantanu from the epic, Mahabharata. It was ‘Jaya’, by Devdutt Pattanaik that made me fall in love with the Mahabharata, so when I read Ramya’s post on this book, I decided I just had to read it!

It is the story of the rise of Satyavati from poverty to royalty, her struggle to make a place for herself in the hearts of her subjects and her desperation for an heir to rule her beloved Hastinapur.

Kavita Kane has brought Satyavati alive through her description. Satyavati’s abhorrence for the life she leads as a fisherman’s adopted daughter, surrounded by filth and stink; her yearning to rise above her poverty and her dreams of acquiring the throne, for which she is ready to use her beauty, her body.

I liked how the author has sketched Satyavati’s portrait as a dark-skinned, voluptuous beauty who awakens lust in every man who lays eyes on her. The love scenes did feel a bit out of place–rather, more Mills & Boon kind. But, I will ignore all of it because of the narration, the treatment of the story and, yes, for Bhishma–my favourite character from the epic.

The story is of people’s aspirations to achieve it all in life, dream vivid dreams for their future, make grand plans that are so against nature and then watch them all crumble to the ground. You can sense  Satyavati’s agony at Life slipping away from her hands as she loses her two sons; your heart goes out to Bhishma who, for the sake of his father, vows to remain celibate all his Life and crush his happiness for the happiness of others. Your heart just goes out to these characters–be they good or bad.

They were humans, after all, and despite being so powerful, they suffered as a result of their decisions, their choices and expectations. Human foibles have been so well portrayed in this story. It’s relieving knowing they were just like us!

 

Rating:

Just like every other book on the mythology, I couldn’t put this book down till I finished reading it. So, I will give it 4.5 stars. The love-making scenes and the very slow progress in the latter part of the book take away that half star. Otherwise, it’s a book I enjoyed reading as much as ‘Karna’s Wife‘, by the same author.

Do read the book, if you haven’t already, and let me know how you liked it!

 

The Colour Master, by Aimee Bender

 

When Shalini asked me which book I wished to read from her collection, I picked this book, for its uniqueness and its quirky stories. Shalini had done a post on this book as part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, and that’s where I read about it.

For starters, the writing is really really unlike any that you might come across. Well, I did find it unique, in that, it has this element of fantasy that I hadn’t come across ever since I read my last ‘childhood’ story! There’s magic in every story, if I could put it that way. The characters in each story come across as people from real life, looking for love, companionship, seeking pleasure through sex…a lot like the real world, but with a strangeness found only in imagination–the kind that is far removed from the real world!

It is a collection of short stories that are a mixture of emotions: humour, sorrow, intrigue, too. Most of all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the title story–The Colour Master–the story of a woman who recreates colours from nature and uses those to dye the clothes of royalty. Be it a dress that resembles a moon, or a sun or a newly bloomed rose, or even the sky.

The story just transported me to that fantasy world where the artist brought clothes to life. I won’t even be able to express what I read and what I felt for lack of the right words. The story just needs to be read to be enjoyed. The powerful imagination of the author translates into the stories that take us to a land far away from the ordinary world we live in.

There were a couple of stories that failed to evoke an interest in me, no offence meant. I failed to grasp the meaning behind their magic, I guess.

Rating:

I would give a 5 for the imagination, the vividness in expression..well, to be frank, I really have no right, whatsoever, to rate such a magical book. Have you read it? Do give it a try.

Love,

SHILPA…

 

From my bookshelf, July ’18 – Sudha Murty special.

From my bookshelf, July ’18 – Sudha Murty special.

This month began with a book I had bought for my 8yo nephew. A book on tales from the Mahabharata. He didn’t show the kind of enthusiasm for the book that I was hoping he would. Of course, it’s wrong on my part to expect such a thing from him. He prefers general knowledge to fiction.

So, the book was sitting on my bookshelf for quite some time when I decided to give it the attention it deserved. And, what should I say? I loved every story in there!

The Serpent’s Revenge. Unusual Tales from the Mahabharata, by Sudha Murty.


A beautiful book with tales that you may never have heard, unless narrated by your grandparents, or parents. Tales from the Mahabharata about characters other than the main ones. Tales that are bound to fascinate the young and the old, alike.

I always enjoyed listening to stories as a child. Mother would regale us with stories from her vast repertoire every night. And, I remember, we would never be satisfied with one story. We would always plead for “Just one more!” before we went off to sleep.

This book by Sudha Murty satisfied the curious child in me with stories that are fascinating, entertaining as well as enlightening.  I relived those childhood moments of our ‘story-time’ that hold a special place in my heart to this day.

The book is a page turner, with short stories about characters from the epic with names that can be tongue twisting, at times, and with tales that can be mind-boggling!

The curses and the boons that were put on people at every instance amused me, frankly. However, these being just stories–fiction and not real–were considered the best way to instil in people the virtue of goodness. Good deeds were rewarded with boons and wrong ones with curses that lasted a life time. So, “Do good”–that’s the message this book brings for us all.

And, at the centre of it all, is our favourite deity–the mischievous, but loveable, Lord Krishna. The kind and compassionate One who guides His children through every obstacle Life brings.

Do read this lovely book. I assure you  time well spent. Moreover, you will have a treasure trove of stories for your little ones. An unputdownable book, I finished reading it in three days. And, so will you, I am sure!

 

Three thousand stitches, is also by Sudha Murty.

 

This book is a collection of true stories from Mrs. Murty’s life.  Stories from her youth, her work for the Infosys foundation, her travel and her life have been shared in this book.

I love the way she writes–with simplicity, clarity and a warmth that every story exudes. The characters are from our world–people from every strata of society– who touched her life, shared their experiences with her and also gave back the love she showered on them through her foundation.

Not every story ends on an emotional note, but it did leave me misty-eyed at places where the actions or the words by the characters struck a chord or left me overwhelmed.

Be it the story of the Devdasi community from Karnataka, or the one with the two snobbish women Mrs. Murty met at an airport. Or, the story of how Mrs. Murty was the only female student at the engineering college she enrolled herself in with the support of her father when all others discouraged her to do so, or even the one about the biggest entertainment industry in the world–the Hindi film industry–every story left me spellbound.

The realness of the characters was brought alive by Mrs Murty’s fluid language each one of us can relate to.  The narration of every story felt more like a conversation I was having with her–the kind I really enjoy, when the writer expresses in such a way, you feel them sitting by your side, regaling you with tales from their life!

Right from the first story, Mrs Murty had me glued to the book. I so wished she had included some more such heart-warming stories about people from the real world; people we, too, come across, but rarely spare a second to understand or interact with.

Do pick it up, in fact, I would suggest picking up both these books and all the others by Mrs. Murty.  It will be an enriching experience, indeed!

 

Which books by the author have you read? Do share.

Love,

SHILPA…

 

 

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

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

This month, I read two brilliantly written books:

Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert.

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.

 

 

Let’s begin with-

Big Magic‘.

Books that INSPIRE
Image courtesy: GOOGLE

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.

Sharing some quotes from the book:

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.”

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.

Books that speak of Life
Image courtesy: GOOGLE

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!

Love,

SHILPA…

 

RECOMMENDED READING.

 

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

 

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. 

Take care not to reveal the end!

And, if there is something you wish to disclose, mention “spoiler alert”!

 

That’s it.

If reading is a hobby, then sharing reviews of books you enjoy reading is one of the best things to share on your blog!

 

Love,

SHILPA…

If reading is your hobby, reviewing a book is the best thing to do on your blog!

 

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.

 

Love,

SHILPA…

THE DARK HOLDS NO TERRORS,BY SHASHI DESHPANDE