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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Bookshelf’d part IV and meet Renita D’silva at work

I have always been fascinated by the places where writers toil and sweat a novel out. Initially when I started out reviewing books, I had no clue how difficult writing a novel was. I just assumed that when a writer sat at her desk and started writing , words  flowed seamlessly onto the page. Little did I realise then that every word that is there on a book has a reason for being there and the writer often polishes, and re-polishes her draft till it shines 🙂  

Author at Work Part I 

Let’s go find out where Renita D’Silva author of Monsoon Memories and The Forgotten Daughters writes her masterpieces (new segment on the blog called  Author at Work). And of course, we are going to ogle her book shelves  and listen to her bookish musings 🙂 I must say she has a bunch of books that I have caught my fancy.. ***Sighs!*** 🙂 Over to you, Renita..  

Buy Monsoon Memories here 

Renita at her work-place 🙂
This is a picture of me at my ‘office’ which is just a corner of the sofa with my trusted Dell. I am lucky in that I can write anywhere and in any amount of noise, so the kids will be playing, my husband will be watching television and I will be writing, lost in a fictional world with my characters dictating their story and me their conduit. 

Some interesting titles here!

The old bookshelf we had in our room broke from the sheer weight of the books I had accumulated and refused to get rid of despite my poor husband’s pleadings, just before your request. The new bookshelf was arriving this weekend. It’s come and fixed and I have arranged my books- well, what few I managed to keep after hubby convinced me to give most away and move the rest which I couldn’t bear to part with to the loft- on the new bookshelf and now I can sleep properly again. ( The bookshelf is at the foot of my bed and I go to bed and wake up looking at my beloved books. When I did not have a bookcase, I missed this sorely.) I do borrow quite a few from the library as I read voraciously and cannot afford to buy all of them to feed my habit. One day perhaps. 

I once visited a house where an entire wall was given over to books. This is my dream: To live in a house with a room where every wall is a bookshelf. 



The picture titled ‘Writers and Artists’ has the Writers and Artists Handbook that I bought when I completed the first draft of Monsoon Memories. From it, I obtained information on how to write a query letter, how to send off a manuscript and also the list of agents and publishers to which I sent off my manuscript. Nestling between the Writers and Artists Handbook and Patrick Gale’s ‘Notes on an Exhibition’ are the anthologies and magazines where my short stories are published. 





 Nestling between ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Everyman’s Dictionary of Quotations and Proverbs’ are my books, Monsoon Memories and The Forgotten Daughter.

Pickwick Papers.. yay! 


Kate Atkinson and Alice Munro along with some interesting books

My collection of the Mslexia magazines for women writers that I subscribed to snuggle next to ‘How to Breathe Underwater’. It was through Mslexia that I found my wonderful publisher Bookouture- they had put an ad in the magazine asking for submissions.

Peekaboo.. The Forgotten Daughter 🙂 
You had fun looking at Renita’s shelves ? Mail me at writetobedazzled@gmail.com if you want me to feature your book shelves too. You don’t fancy books but collect something else? No hassles , write in and I’ll feature you.  
Connect with Renita 

Bookshelf’d Part III: Peek into Falguni’s library

Falguni Kothari is the author of two books, It’s Your Move, Wordfreak and the recently released Bootie and the Beast. No more words.. Just pictures will do the talking 🙂  
Buy Booty and the Beast here

Connect with Falguni 


Stay tuned for the Next Bookshel’d post 🙂 If you want your book shelves to be featured write me a mail at writetobedazzled@gmail.com 
 

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.  

View all my reviews

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. 


Bookshelf’d part 2 – Peek into Ridhi’s personal collection

Ridhi Malhotra blogs at http://randomrings.wordpress.com/ and is a super sweet person. She is a book lover and has some reading quirks as well that are oh-so-endearing! The sweetest ones are that she picks up bookmarks of the same colour as the cover  of the book  and that she starts reading the last chapter of the book and progresses to the beginning. She jokingly says , ” What if I die in between , I should know how the book ends.” Delightful , right? Here’s a pic of Ridhi’s prized collection.

I spy  Jane D Suza’s The spy who lost her head which was a rip-roaring fun  read.

Do drop by her blog and read some of her lovely posts.

Do you want to flaunt your book shelves? Aye? Mail me at writetobedazzled@gmail.com

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Finally..after years of dilly-dallying,i managed to read Murakami. I don’t really know if i am a fan of his writing yet ,but i have to accept that i am slightly rattled. After Dark is a deeply dark novel about a bunch of people and the things that happen to them in a span of 7 hours of the night.

Mari sips her coffee in a diner and has a book for company.Soon, a young musician joins her and they realise that they are acquainted through Mari’s sister,Eri. After the young man leaves, Mari is jolted from her book by a lady who wants her help in translating the words of a Chinese prostitute who has been beaten in a hotel.The prostitute can’t speak any Japanese and Mari can speak Chinese.Mari decides to accompany the lady and help the prostitute.Meanwhile,Eri is sprawled in her bedroom in deep sleep and strange things happen in the room. Actually,Eri is gripped by a strange illness-she has been sleeping continuously for the last 2 months.

As the night unfolds,Mari has several conversations with the hotel manager,the helps and the young man.Everything is so surreal and unsettling that you really start wondering whether some part of the book is fantasy-especially the part where the narrator describes the scenes where Eri is sleeping. This is most definitely not a book for someone who puts the plot ahead of everything else in a book.It is for someone who likes meandering words .A huge part of the book is devoted to vivid descriptions of simple human actions like brushing teeth or unbuttoning of a shirt or some other arcane detail which we normally wouldn’t give too much importance to . Infact,the whole book is like some really slick art movie in black and white with the lead characters moving around with bone-wrenching slowness.

Of course,you have huge doses of philosophy thrown in and most of the book is in the form of dialogue between people.I really didnt want to like Mari or Eri or the young man or the other characters.But at the end of the book,I realized that my involvement with the characters had grown and I found myself wanting some form of closure for the feelings and emotions the characters go through.That is probably the strength of the book-it just grows on you. The words are beautiful and pull you into deep pools of contemplation.

Despite the slowness and the gloom,i think i enjoyed the book. Yet a deep,unsatisfactory feeling is lingering on even several hours after i finished reading the book. 4/5 for the master of gloom and surrealism.

Quickees..

Have you read the book,Twitterature?-it describes plots of books for the Twitter-generation. Meh!,if you ask me.But i am technology challenged-so i really don’t get warm and gushy about twitter. Now for some quick reviews of books i have read in the last few months.

1. Keep the Change by Nirupama Subramanian

Chicklit.Chitlit.Chicklit- Screamed the cover of the book.I loved it!. Story of B.Damayanti who is sick of her life at Amman Kovil street in Chennai and her employment with SSV and sons. She decides to chuck her job in chennai and get herself a new lifestyle in Mumbai.Makeovers,f new riends and love follows.Plot was cliche,but sometimes,its the execution that matters and Nirupama’s book is a breezy ride thats been executed very well. The book is set in a bank and the plot something i could relate to having worked at a bank myself.Purists might pan the book saying it was brainless,but i think i was refreshing breath of fresh air.

2. If it is sweet by Mridula Koshy

GOSH.Thats the only word i can think of after reading a ghastly set of stories that won a spate of awards.Of course the GOSH was accompanied by wrinkling of the nose and was not uttered extolling the virtues of the book. Seriously,if you want to read some spaced out reading,you need to pick up this book.Right from a monkey that is a companion to an old lady to the story of a jeans,the book was a total let down for me. I must give Ms Koshy this much credit- Her words are luscious and the descriptions very visually potent.Other than that, a complete tangential,weird collection of stories.

3. Chai chai by Bishwanath Gosh

The writer visits some imporant train station junctions that are never final destinations for most people (like Jhansi or Jolarpet)and attempts to find out what these places look like beyond the stations. a very interesting idea,if you ask me!But the execution is shoddy and the writing very ordinary.The author made the destinations sound as if there was nothing worthwhile or remarkable to share about them..In the end it seemed like he wanted to do nothing more than get sloshed and stay inside hotel rooms.Even the random exploring he does gets boring after a few chapters.DRIVEL.DRIVEL.DRIVEL.Hubby said that the book put him in a nice holiday mood,but other than that it didnt work for him too. The languorous pace almost killed my brain-cells.

4. The Blaft anthology of Tamil pulp fiction- Pritham K chakravarthy

Mad scientists,avenging robots and cleavage touting detectives-what’s not to love ?. Translated works of some of the best known Tamil pulp fiction authors. Like any anthology,there were a few odd-balls that were bland and unduly preachy,but on the whole the stories were good fun to dig into.Some of the stories i loved were by Indra Soundarajan and Rajesh Kumar Incidentally,Rajesh kumar has written over 1500 novels and is trying to get into the Guinness book for the most number of novels written by a single author.Find generous servings of sexual fizz in the stories. After all, whats pulp-fiction without a little harmless fun ? 🙂

I am currently on the second Blaft anthology and starting Life and times of a thunderbolt kid by Bill Bryson next..Whats on your bed stands?

Blast from the past..


When other children my age were busy trawling the neighborhood and indulging in games of hopskotch,“four corners” and “lock and key” on a gloriously sunny days,I amused myself with the books of every size and shape.My mother’s pleas to get out more and play with “normal” kids most often fell on deaf ears as I remained buried in my favorite books.There was never paucity of books to keep myself occupied with as dad is a book lover himself and our shelves always bulged with books which I lapped up with wide-eyed fascination.These were mostly books for grown-ups ,but that started a habit that I am thankful for. Books were my sanctuary -my private little secret garden I could escape into and be what I wanted.I could be a fairy,a princess or even a one-eyed monster if I wanted.

During summer holidays every year, dad used to take me to the Landmark book store and let me prowl the aisles of the shop.My heart almost always lept (still does) at the sight of all the books stacked neatly in front of me.During one of the trips to the store(this should have been at least 22 years back),I set my eyes upon a collection of Illustrated Classics.The compact pocket size books were neatly shrink-wrapped and sat alluringly on the shelves,beckoning me pick them up.As I ran my fingers over the shrink-wrap, I felt a strange feeling gripping me- I wanted to touch the books with my bare hands.

The titles that were in the collection: Little women,Black beauty,20,000 leagues under the sea,Kidnapped , The Wizard of oz, Around the world in eighty days,Heidi,The adventures of Robinson Crusoe,A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s court,Three musketeers,Sherlock Holmes and the case of hound of Baskervilles and Treasure Island. But one look at the price got me misty eyed- it was way to expensive. An assistant caught me looking longingly at the books and whispered conspiratorially “ Every other page is an illustration. It is selling like hot cake-only three more left.”

I decided that minute that I had to have it and thus started a love affair.

As I gazed at books, the red, pink, blue, violet, yellow inks of the shiny book covers merged into a hazy cauldron of colors, leaving me week-kneed and breathless with anticipation. A messily executed tantrum later,I was the proud owner of 12 books.It was the first set of books that I can truly call my own and I was proud of my new acquisition.My folks tell me that I wiped the books clean every week with a dry cloth and even fiercely guarded it from my little brother,who was a toddler at that time.I remember not letting my cousins and friends if their hands were dirty .

In the years that followed, taking the book out of the glass cupboard and re-reading them with friends was almost a weekly ritual. I routinely escaped the mundaneness of school curriculum by secretly slipping the books between the covers of my science and maths textbooks.I got caught several times and that was probably when my parents realised that their daughter wasn’t going to grow up into the next Ramanujam.

Sometime later, a bunch of us at school decided to have a library and circulate our books.I don’t remember what made me sign up, but I did.Everything went smoothly for a few months and then I realised that some of my books had disappeared from circulation.I couldn’t trace the person that had borrowed the books because the entry register disappeared as well ,mysteriously. Five of the books from that collection disappeared into a blackhole and I remember crying over the loss for days. I went back to landmark to replace the books-but could never find another set again with all the books again.Over the years, I have acquired the titles I lost, but these were normal paperback versions. That day I made a decision never to part with the rest of the books EVER.I balk and refuse if someone asks me if they could borrow them.

Over the next 15 years, I moved 4 times for college and work and every time the books traveled with me, across land and seas, cloaked in my mother’s old sari. Whenever I missed my family, I whipped the books out and got lost in the worlds of Jules Verne or Louisa Mary Alcott or the other authors.I almost always cheered up after thumbing through the familiar pages filled with illustrations. And then there was that sweet ester-y smell that I loved burying my nose into.As the books get older,the sweeter they smell- like old wine tasting better then freshly made one.

Currently, the remaining seven books sit on my shelf, yellowing with dignity and age. Sometimes when I open a book, loose pages fall down and the paper crumbles at times in my hand, but I know that I’ll hold on to these pieces of my past as long as I can.I can’t think of lending them out to anyone, considering how fragile they are.I treat the books like some favorite great grand aunt who cant gallivant around the world with her aching knees and joints.

Someday, when I have children, the books will become part of their collection- a blast from their mother’s past, which I hope they will love and treasure as much as I do. Till then, I will amuse myself and re-read these books for the hundredth time.When I think about the five books I lost,I still feel guilty and sad.Sometimes I wonder where they are- in some raddi shop,rotting unloved or if they have been crushed into pulp and recycled into something new and shiny or if they are amidst book-lovers who treasure them. Where ever they are, I’ll miss them!. And this makes me hold on to the rest with fierce determination and resolve.

PS: The photo shows only 6 books,but there is another one safe with me that i missed out.(The wizard of Oz).My camera’s conked off ,so i couldn’t take another pic.

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Parthiban’s dream and my project

I technically have the ability to read Tamil.But even on my best days,i don’t think i could manage a page of Tamil prose without making my brain go bonkers.Obviously, i am not proud of this as Tamil is my mother tongue and I have studied it as my second language for a decent period of time.My reading habit started courtesy random books available at home. It is a little surprising that i have to slave over a passage of Tamil when both my parents read quite a bit of Tamil literature and we had tonnes to Tamil novels at home.

I had bought an English translation of “Parthiban’s Kanavu”,a very famous Tamil historical novel sometime last year and promptly forgot about it.A few days back, i decided to read something different and picked up the book.I must say the book has opened several doors for me.For one,i realized that translations and transliterations cannot do complete justice to the original.The lushness of words and the original import gets lost in many ways.In the next one year ,i plan to teach myself to enjoy Tamil literature .And “Ponniyin selvan”(another very famous book by Kalki) is going to be my guinea pig !.It’s a huge body of work and has 6 bulky parts to it.But everyone who has read the book tells me that its a masterpiece that has to be read in the original language.

Coming back to Parthiban’s dream, the Tamil version was translated by a 15 year old girl,Nirupama Raghavan.Commendable effort,i must say.The translation is not lucious enough when it comes top the choice of words,but despite the simplistic writing,the plot keeps you immersed in it at all times.Ok,let me tell you more about what the book is all about…

Parthiban is a Chola king.His empire is heavily marginalized with the Pandiyas,Cheras and Pallavas pressing into his territory from all directions.Pallava ruler,Mamalla Narasimha Chakravarti is the most dominant king in the southern lands and makes all other rulers pay tax to him.Parthiban refuses to pay up and decides to go into a war against the Chakravarti ,knowing very well that his troops are nowhere comparable to the Pallava army.Before marching into the battle ground,Parthiban unveils his dream(Chola kingdom becoming the strongest in the region) to his son ,Vikraman.

Vikraman is but a boy at his stage ,but decides to make his father’s dream a reality. Parthiban goes into war and is killed.However,before he dies ,a Shivanadiyar(Shaivite devotee) promises to help Vikraman realise his father’s goal.The rest of the story is about how Vikraman realises Parthiban’s dream.He is aided in his quest by several people like Ponna,a boatman,his wife,Valli ,Siruthondar and the mystery Shivanadiyar.

Vikrama has a love interest as well-Kuntavi,who is the daughter of the Chakravarti.And a bunch of villains to foil Vikraman’s resolve.The main supense aspect is “supposed”to be the identity of Shivanadiyar.However,the narrative gives you enough clues early on to figure out who he is.So that is not exactly too surprising when at the end of 250 pages the Shivanadiyar reveals himself. I have no clue whether the subtelity got lost in the translation or whether Kalki’s work is liberal with the clues too.

Its a highly entertaining read that rarely sags and almost every page has something wild and racy happening.People who like stories of kings and conquests will definitely like this.I am a history junkie,so i am not really surprised that i liked the book despite the very ordinary language.But one can’t deny the fact that the abridged translation is neat and edited tautly.

I have also bought myself the blaft anthology of tamil pulp fiction and am super excited about reading it.. There is a whole world of popular writing in vernacular languages that i have never considered before and regret not having considered them before.My only brushes with translated writing has been a few Tagore novels and i wasn’t too impressed with the quality.And oh,please do share your recommendations on good translated books.

Wish me luck on my quest.I wish i had a Shivanadiyar like Vikraman had to guide me through my project.