Book 5 : Dora’s Storytime collection

Book name : Dora’s Storytime Collection

Synopsis (from Goodreads )

Dora and her best friend, Boots, go on more adventures than you can count. Now Dora fans can enjoy many of their favorite Dora stories all in one book! This best-selling collection includes:

Dora’s Backpack
Little Star
Happy Birthday, Mami!
Meet Diego!
Dora Saves the Prince
Dora’s Treasure Hunt
Good Night, Dora!

We we thought: 
Beanie is a big big fan of Dora. She loves watching the Dora shows on TV and I must admit that I have found them adorable at times as well. She started jumping around when she spotted this really worn and misused book at the library. Now who is to argue with a three-year-old with an iron will? 
I was pleasantly surprised at how engaging the book really was. All stories are constructed like tasks where Dora needs to follow three steps for getting a goal accomplished. I have seen this format on TV on another show – the Mickey Mouse Club , but  have never encountered it in a book. All stories were loads of fun and involved some form of counting. I am not sure this series will appeal to her six month down the line now that she can count upto thirteen. The best story was the one that had them counting in Spanish! With a little prodding , Beanie can count upto six in Spanish now . I learnt a lot of Spanish words – like Vamanos (that means let’s go!).  I have realized that she has a flair for languages. We were at a restaurant eating, when she suddenly quipped ,”Excellente!” Both hubby and I couldn’t stop laughing. Sometimes she says hola when she is meeting someone new.Thanks to Dora, she now acts like some precious little European princess and uses a lot of these words she learnt in her everyday conversations.  We have read the book three times in the last ten days That’s how much she likes it ! 
 She keeps repeating the word ‘Quatros’ and breaks into peals of laughter every time I say it the way she wants me to. It was almost like a new ‘Ickky word’ that kids this age love laughing to (for the uninitiated the Ickky word is  stuff like burp or it’s more offensive cousin ;)) By the way , this is more like the 20th book we’ve read for this challenge. Lots of books remain to be written about ! We picked up a few basic books from Pratham and LLLOOOOVVEED it . We also went second-hand book shopping and we(more like I) got overboard by picking up 30 odd books. There were a few copies of books on nursery rhymes and fables from the 70’s in the bunch! Will share the pics some other time 🙂 
 I  know I am not a Parent-zilla , but sometimes I wonder if I am thrusting my unfulfilled ambitions on her. It’s just that I realise that 90% of a child’s potential is realised by the age of nine and I want to make sure that she is not lacking  in any opportunities.The thing with my generation was that we weren’t exposed to so many things and didnt miss anything because we were just blissfully unaware. Playing outdoors sufficed.Things werent so cut-throat back then. Kids were still kids. Things are so much more different now. There is so much more pressure on these kids to ‘learn stuff’ and do well. I see so many career-mamas who are hell-bent on making sure that their child goes to every single class available on earth. Which is why the activity classes of the world are flourishing.  Poor things, these kids are! 
Anyway, back to the book. Overall a slightly formulaic volume, but extremely enjoyable for both the parent and the child. Great for early learners who are just mastering counting skills.  
Verdict : 
Bedazzled: “Vamanos!” 
Beanie : Can we read it again , Amma? 

Book 2 Bookathon ; My Mother’s Sari by Sandhya Rao and Nina Sabnani

So I thought I would regularly blog for the next fifty days , but couldn’t! When school’s out , it is practically impossible to find time to pen thoughts down. So I am going to try to be as regular as possible. We’ve read more than a book a day , but none of them stood out and spoke to us :). Which is why I have decided to only chronicle the books that we enjoyed, and not everything that we picked up.  
Today’s pick is a lovely book that is also one of my daughter’s favourite.

Book name : My mother’s Sari
Writer and Illustrator : Sandhya Rao and Nina Sabnani
Appropriate for age : 2+

What the book is about :

One long stretch of cloth is what Mother always wears–“elegant yet so graceful. The mystery of the sari can be magic for a child, winding and weaving, just like the connection between a child and its mother. The style, the motifs, the interplay of children, colors, and textures, create the rich, mood-filled, and dreamy world of
Our thoughts 
This is one of the earliest books that Beanie started liking. The book starts with pictures of a lil girl  telling us how a saree is wrapped.  The sentences are simple and short. Perfect for young readers starting out or also for read aloud with your babies. For the longest time , Beanie couldn’t relate to the fact that moms wore sarees and  thought that  the book was talking about her grand mom’s saree. Now, she is big enough to understand that mom could wear a saree if she wanted to 🙂 The story line is pretty simple- a child pictures a saree imaginatively as a lot of things – like a sling , slide, a river and many more.  The child in the illustrations is cute and looks impish , but I am not a great fan of the artwork as it seemed a little too amateurish for me. No complaints from Beanie.
The best part of the book for me was the different ways that a saree can be used.  Another important aspect is the ‘Indian-ness’ of the book. Tulika and Karadi are doing a fab job by coming up with books that are extremely Indian in their content.  It does help that it is a hard bound book , as toddlers have a way of putting a book through a lot of wear and tear 🙂  
Bedazzled : “Sweet lil’ book that reminded me of my mother’s saree :)” 
Beanie : “I want to wear a saree, ma!”

Stories Of Hope by Kirthi Jayakumar

Stories of HopeStories of Hope by Kirthi Jayakumar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a brilliant bunch of stories! I have become a huge fan of this young  author whose writing is just plain unadulterated ‘awesomeness’. Kirthi’s language flows beautifully, serenading us into the exquisitely  worlds she paints for us with every single story.I don’t normally read short stories, but I was excited to read this book when Kirthi asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing it. The prose is lush, poignant and  breathtakingly beautiful. I loved the range of stories Kirthi has presented in this collection. The stories paint myriad shades of human emotions, often sad and gut-wrenching, yet always compelling.

My favourite was the story Flowers from Andromanque which was spooky and fun at the same time. My second favourite was The Watchmaker , which is a heart-wrenching story of a beautiful relationship between a boy and a watch-maker. Kirthi goes futuristic with her story ‘Remorse’, which was also an interesting premise. Many stories have been narrated in the first person , which makes reading them all the more compelling. But more than the language ,I think what comes across clearly is Kirthi’s  understanding of human emotions and her compassion towards people in less-fortunate circumstances. Most stories end with their protagonists finding new ways to tackle their demons. Most accept their predicament , some don’t , but almost all the protagonists move on in one way or the other.

Overall an awesome book that will leave you yearning for more. Full length novel, please:)  

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The Cosmic Clues by Manjiri Prabhu

The Cosmic CluesThe Cosmic Clues by Manjiri Prabhu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rating : 3.5

This book was a lovely cosy read and had many mini-mysteries strung together. The premise is extremely interesting : that horoscopes and Vedic astrology could be used to solve mysteries. I also liked the execution to a large extent. Manjiri’s language has a quaint ,old-worldly feel to it. It’s been written well , and paints a lovely picture of Pune, the city in which the book is set in. The mysteries themselves were pretty intriguing, and while I could a guess a few of them , most were fresh and  clever. I liked the fact that Sonia relied on basic gathering of facts and logic as a primary means of solving the mysteries and only relied on astrology to complement her observations in most cases.

Somehow I found Sonia too  uptight and really didn’t connect with her. I just found her characterisation too odd ( like the way she dances to get into the ‘mood’ of investigating a crime). This book would have been a 4 star  for me if I had found Sonia slightly more likeable. I liked how the author has woven description of festivals in the narrative. It did seem like the book was being targeted at a Non-Indian reader by the words that have been used and the way some Indian stuff have been described. The mystery about the Owl was totally rushed and made me feel a little cheated. I frankly skipped through the parts where Sonia talks about the placement of planets on the horoscopes when she explains the cases.

But , there are so many things that I liked in the book. The book reminded me a lot of Agatha Christie’s writing. Mma Ramotswe popped into my mind several times while reading the book. Will I pick-up the next book in the series? Definitely! If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, this book isn’t for you.If you are looking for a nice cosy read , look no further!  

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The Madras Mangler by Usha Narayanan

The Madras ManglerThe Madras Mangler by Usha Narayanan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading this book which has five pretty girls, all with different problems and hang-ups  who study at a college in Chennai. Add a mean serial killer who kills girls and dumps them into the coovum river , a few gundas and college rowdies , a bumbling police officer  and a delicious criminologist, and you have the recipe to counter boredom. The Madras Mangler is all the more closer to my heart as it is set in a city has been home to me for so many years. I  liked the references to the local places in the book.The best parts of the book, according to me were the parts in which Vir and his hi-fi team tries to make sense of the profile of the killer.The gadgets and the technology mentioned by Vir and team is exhilarating , and one realises that a lot of research has gone into writing the book. I loved how the author has sneaked in references to pop-culture in the narrative.The writing is young:  the swear words the girls use, the music they listen to , the books they read – all captured very well.When one reads the book, one cannot guess the fact that the author is not in her early twenties 🙂 All these things that worked for me.

Even though there is enough banter between the girls, I thought a lot of portions where the girls were involved were rushed. Before I could think about one girl’s problem, the next girl hurls herself (and us) into another soup.I would have liked a slightly slower pace that would have made me invest in every girl individually, to care about them later(why? I am not telling you why.. you have to read the book for that!). The five girls blurred into one single entity for me , after a point.I felt that there was too much of tell, than show. But considering the fact that there were so many characters to cover and a word-count to adhere to,I can understand the author’s reasons for rushing through certain parts.

The only reason the book was not a 4, but a 3 for me was because I found the narrative a little choppy . Out of the 3, I’ll give 1 star only for Vir 🙂

Usha mam, sequel please. Vir is too good a hero to be wasted on a single book!

Overall , a nice book to settle in with on a Sunday afternoon. Its got all the elements young people would want in a book.

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Stay tuned to the next author post in a few days 🙂

The divorce papers by Susan Rieger

The Divorce PapersThe Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have always loved epistolary novels, and jumped at the opportunity to review one. The premise was exciting : what happens behind the scenes of a high-profile divorce case. The book told only in the form of memos, letters  and emails is an extremely erudite piece of writing with references to literature , movies and the performing arts. I didn’t know that Shakespeare died on his birthday! (23rd April).

Having seen the ugly repercussions of divorces of a few friends , I was curious about the nitty-gritties of negotiation and divorce settlement. The book offers a generous peep into all those areas.It was interesting going through the memos and the paperwork that gets generated during a divorce. However , I just found the book too long (over five hundred pages).Somehow the exchange between Sophie (the divorce lawyer, who also happens to be one of the lead characters)and her friend, Maggie was just too boring.

The book had too many memos and lawyerly papers containing barely understandable legalese, that I found myself skipping a few of them because it was just so tiring wading through all those jargon-filled pages. Thankfully , the most relevant passages were highlighted ,and I found myself skipping the document and reading just those highlighted parts. Maybe the reason I couldn’t connect too much with the characters was that the book was too long. Best character was  Mia , whose random acts of meanness towards the husband was quirky and funny.

Overall , a  clever decent read , if the size of the book doesn’t deter you.

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Thank you Crown publishing for sending me this book to read and review. 

Cut like Wound by Anita Nair

Cut Like WoundCut Like Wound by Anita Nair
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Its not a classic who-dun-it, but Anita’s words bring alive a side of Bangalore that not many of us would know.The pace is a little slow , but  atmospheric, making it an an extremely clever book to spend time with. Though Inspector Gowda is no heart-throb, Anita has chiselled his character well.Lots of research has gone into the making of this book , and it shows. But a word of caution: do not pick this book up because you liked Ladies Coupe and be willing to give a slow police procedural book a chance, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you end up liking the book.

Overall,Literary popular fiction(the book reads like literary fiction in bits , and like popular fiction sometimes) for people who don’t mind slow murder mysteries.  

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Pyar aur poetry by Roopa Menon

Book name : Pyar Aur poetry 
Genre: Romance 
Publisher : Indireads 
Copy source : Author 
Rating : 3.5 ***

Synopsis from Goodreads 

College beauty Arundhati Basu would rather stick her head in the proverbial oven than host this year’s Founder’s Day event with tongue-tied nerd, Nikhil Menon. Compared to the brilliant but elusive poet, D. G. Beckett, Nikhil is a green toad.

As Arundhati gets to know him, however, she finds herself oddly drawn to the shy geek, and he, in turn, grows in confidence as he spends more time with her. His hopes for a lasting relationship with Arundhati seemed to be within his reach.

If only she could forget D. G. Beckett!(less)

My review 

Sweet and intelligent , Pyar aur poetry isn’t one of those novels where the hero and heroine fall in love/lust- quarrel at the drop of a hat- patch up again-they live happily ever after. The protagonists , Arundathi and Nikhil have been conceived thoughtfully and are as different as chalk and cheese.Yet they share the love for words and literature. Arundathi’s snobbish attitude towards all things ‘Indian’ is the perfect foil for the very grounded Nikhil. What I also appreciated about the book was that the basis of the duo’s love is not infatuation or something superficial , but something deeper and more substantial – love for words and a respect that is born out of something more than just physical attraction.

At the core of the book is the question Nikhil raises – Why isn’t Indian writing considered on par with the Western literature? Why do people relate to scones, rather than the bhakarwadi? In a lot of ways Arundathi is a metaphor for a lot of Indian readers who are snobbish about their reading preferences.Wish there were more Nikhils in the real world to help them realise the value of Indian writers. I really liked Nikhil’s grandma’s character- what a bindass grandmom to have! Being a novella, one can easily finish the book in a few hours.Roopa writes beautifully and has a lovely command over the language. 

Overall , an intelligent enjoyable read with characters you can relate to.

About the author

Roopa Menon is a dreamer. Ever since she could remember she has been dreaming and imagining stories, conversations and characters. Her earliest memory is of leaving cups of cream for elves and pixies in her house. This was based on one of her most favourite books of the time- Enid Blyton’s Book of Fairies. She was 5 years old.
As for writing, it just happened to her one day. Is that possible?

Roopa Menon believes that she has some stories that she would like to tell. And some of them perhaps only she can.Pyar Aur Poetry is her first published work of fiction since 2001. It is, as she would like to call it, “a tapestry of youthful quests, longings, and arrogance.” Loosely based on her college experience in India she has ensured that she has remained faithful to fiction and her imagination. 

"Expected a little more fire in the book!" says Sarada Sukhavanan

Technically , the first I-didn’t-like-the-book review is up on Goodreads.  The barometer was that it would have to be from someone I didn’t know personally and it wouldn’t talk about a single redeeming feature of the book.  People who know you are never 100% honest when it comes to such endeavours, and often end up saying luke-warmy-I-loved-it  thingees ( which btw are fun to read on a day when you are feeling like the world is out to get you ).
Strangely, I didn’t feel like I was the worst writer on earth when I read the review – just disappointed that someone had been disappointed after parting with hard-earned cash. I just left a message saying I would do better in the next book. Infact , I am motivated to do better in the next book 🙂 I know we can’t please everyone and that reviews are never to be taken too seriously , but I want to take this seriously because I really want to be a better writer- both for my sake as well as my reader’s.

Anyway,here’s the review( and several others that have come in since the last time I posted)..

“It is still a mystery if Anu found her way to do what she loved to, was becoming an entrepreneur her discovery into life or her passion for books? The book started off with a storyline where in Anu would find her inner calling or what she is passionate about doing, but I felt the end was not powerful enough or resonate what she actually wanted to do. Expected a little more fire in the book !.” 

Review by Sarada Sukhavanan on Goodreads 
Rating : 3/5 

“An easily flowing narrative of Sri Anu Prabha, a Chennai-based married girl who is uncertain about what she is doing with her life and decides to do something about it and finally does it. 

After Indian writing in English came of age a few years back, South Indian writing in English is coming to the fore with the works of authors like Bhargavi. It is certainly interesting to read works with familiar locales, regional sentiments and local slang.

A very insightful book in which the protagonist expresses herself very honestly. I could relate very well with Anu and her experiences. 

Sometimes humorous, sometimes serious and sometimes very deeply philosophical, the book makes me want to read more of the author.

Waiting for more…” 

Review by Menaka Sankaralingam on Goodreads 
Rating : 4/5 

The book has been written in first person and that makes it all the more relatable. I loved the gift voucher she receives from her husband, actually a very novel idea. Her checklist for a Tam-Brahm wedding was very fascinating and important.
The only negative I felt was use of abbreviations, some understandable and some not.
If you want to enjoy and laugh on a leisurely weekend, this is the book for you.
Review by Arti of Metro Reader. Read the entire review here 
and on Goodreads. 
Rating : 4/5 

Review from Otee..

Posted on : Goodreads
Rating : ****/5

Disclaimer: this isn’t a proper review – it is a presentation of jumbled thoughts that I had about the book in no specific order (though I tried to organize it somewhat). It might resemble a badly organized bullet point presentation.

Overview: I’ve read “The Crossover Year” and enjoyed every bit of it.

The story is about the life of Sri Anu Prabha at that point in time when a girl heading towards discovering her life’s purpose.

The story narrated in first person, describes the events and dilemmas that one comes across in the course of their life.

It is authentic in the situations described, the dilemmas faced and the insights that one has in life, that it is relatable by any reader.

The pace though sedate is gripping enough to keep one absorbed throughout the book.

There are no exhilarating highs nor depressing lows in the book.

It is a humorous and a semi-light read.

It is difficult to assign a specific genre to it; it is much more than “chick-lit” and is not heavy on introspection to be classified as “contemporary literature” and certainly not “Romance”. It can perhaps be classified as a “coming of age” story.

The writing style and the language is, as usual, very good.
This is the 2nd book of Bhargavi’s that I’m reading and I can state authoritatively that it is miles better than the first book – Seven Across.

I’m putting down this book of Bhargavi’s as “Promising” and strongly recommend buying it – you won’t regret it.

Good luck with the launch Bhargavi.