Two romances and some catching up

Chicklit

So I woke up early this month, figuratively of course, to find that I was five books behind in my Goodreads Challenge. All through this year I had maintained a steady pace and kept a book or two ahead. But these last few months had been exceptionally trying and I lost touch.

I was pretty freaked out, I do hate backing out on a commitment even if it is to myself. And so I went on a reading frenzy. I am so very glad I took up the Challenge. It proved a great way to get my reading back on track.

I’d set aside a pile of books to read but I put them all away in favour of something light and happy. Something that wouldn’t demand much from me in terms of attention because the children were home and I knew I’d have to be on random call. So I picked up my favourite go-to comfort genre – light romance.

I began with two books I’d picked up during a Books by Weight sale. They’re both fan fiction in a sense – one on my all time favourite book, Pride and Prejudice and the other on a television series I loved, Downton Abbey (My ringtone has been the theme song from the show for a long time). Interestingly, both brought together American and English sensibilities that was fun to read.

While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax

… is the story of three women living in an upmarket apartment building but very different in their circumstances as well as attitudes. The concierge is a fan of the show  and organises a screening of the first two seasons. He invites the residents for an evening of sampling not just the show but also a bit of British culture. That’s where three women end up connecting and sorting their lives.

Although this is definitely chicklit, it isn’t about twenty something women complaining about bad dates. The women are older, Brooke is a single mom to two kids, finding her feet after her recent separation from her husband, Claire is an empty nester struggling to write a novel while Samantha is someone who marries for security and money and is trying to understand her relationship with her husband. Those individual stories were  interesting. And there was romance too, so that was a bonus.

However the story had nothing to with the series so I was a little disappointed. The title lead me to believe there would be some kind of a connection. Conversely, having watched the show isn’t necessary to enjoy the book, so that could be a plus. As a standalone book, it was a decent enough read.

Me and Mr Darcy by Alexandra Potter

..is my other read. It is the story of a 29 year old American girl Emily who runs a book store. I loved that bit. Any self-respecting female runner-of-a book-store has to be in love with Mr Darcy and so is Emily. The yearning becomes stronger as a result of scores of really bad dates. It’s Christmas and everyone is going away for a holiday and on an impulse (which might have been a nudge by her fairy godmother) she takes up a Jane Austen guided tour. On the bus she realises she’s the only young person around among a sea of silver-haired women other than the rather obnoxious reporter, Spike. He’s out to discover why Mr Darcy remains the heart-throb of women across ages.

While on the tour, Emily encounters Mr Darcy, the real Mr Darcy. The difference between real and fantasy blurs as Mt Darcy begins to fall in love with her.

This is a light easy read if you have nothing else to do. There’s enough humour to keep you going with some really sweet bits. However there’s a supernatural element that didn’t come through and in the end the book ended up as a rather confused mix. It remains a forgettable read.

Oh my one source of annoyance was an Indian character called Parminda. Please, it’s ‘Parminder’. And she’s into yoga. In Goa. Such careless stereotyping puts me off, even though it’s just a small side character.

After these books I went on to read a bunch of others:
Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies by JK Rowling
Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbagh
Rekha, The Untold Story by Yasser Usman
Letters from Kargil by Diksha Dwivedi
Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult
Origin by Dan Brown
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

That’s nine books in a month! I didn’t even know I was capable of this. And with that I’m all caught up with my challenge. I can now relax and read at a steady pace through December.

So what have you been reading? Did you take up a reading challenge? How’s it going?

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Linking up with #Chatty Blogs from Shanaya Tales

And with My Era’s #BookTalkbooktalk-badge-2

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Colours of Friendship

ShortFiction

‘You draw a red arc like this,’ said Sita, taking Anjali’s index finger in her hand and tracing out the shape on the drawing book, ‘and then inside it you make an orange one, then yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet and Voila! you’ve made a rainbow.’

Anjali tried to dredge out some memory of the colours from the cobwebs of her childhood, when she still had some vision. ‘Violet, Indigo, Red, Blue,… Rainbow,’ she repeated after her friend, wonderingly. She savoured the words on her tongue, like the flavours of a delicious new dish – so very different yet beautiful together.

Smiling, Anjali took out her box of colour pencils and handed them to Sita who picked out the colours for her one by one, as they bent together drawing out the rainbow of their friendship.

Written for the following prompt from Write Tribe

rainbow

A Man Called Ove – A Review

Title: A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman

Some books leave you in a warm fuzzy haze that stays like a happy feeling in your heart for a long time. A Man called Ove did that to me.

AManCalledOve

This is the story.. 

…. of 59 year old Ove. He is the quintessential angry old man, a confirmed cynic who trusts few, believes in nothing and loves no one – or so it seems. The one person he loved was his wife. He talks to her at her grave as he waits to joins her in the next world. Even as he is planning to hasten his entry into that next world, a young family comes to stay in his neighbourhood. That’s when his plans begin to go awry and suddenly he seems to have no control over his life. He doesn’t change. Men like Ove never do. So how does an irritating, unpleasant, foul mouthed old man find himself, not just friends, but an entire family who refuse to leave him alone?

What I loved

I’ve seen old men like Ove – men who are forever critiszing the ‘system’, writing lengthy complaint letters, pulling up people for not doing things just so. I’ve seen them. And yet Ove is special because beneath the constant grumpiness and the name-calling lies something else – something so endearing and kind and funny that you cannot but love him, perhaps like a beloved angry old grandfather.

I’m gushing, I know, but I did like him. I loved Ove’s love for his wife. That’s what got my attention first. We get to read their story much later, but I liked that he talks to her all the time. All he does is complain, of course, but he talks. He haggles obstinately with the flower seller but he never fails to take her flowers.

Other than that, what made Ove likeable is that he has a kind heart. He might curse and rant but he cannot stop himself from lending a hand when people need him. He cannot bring himself to be outright cruel even to the dog who pees at his door step everyday.

What’s more, there are other characters to love and hate in the book. There’s the very bossy and very pregnant Parvaneh, her extremely clumsy husband Patrick, Ove’s neighbour, friend and enemy, Rune, and so very many more. Ove makes up his own rude names for people he meets – The Lanky One, The Pregnant One, the lunchbox eater, Blonde Weed and so on.

The writing is beautiful – in bits insightful and funny. You want to read, re-read and savour bits of it. I ended up highlighting and saving away half the book. Do read the lines I’ve picked out and you’ll know what I mean.

On Ove and his wife:

“People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had.”

On his falling out with his best friend

Maybe their sorrow over the children that never came should have brought the two men closer. But sorrow is unreliable in that way. When people don’t share it there’s a good chance that it will drive them apart instead.

True, isn’t it?

And a funny one:

“He must be close to six and a half feet tall. Ove feels an instinctive skepticism towards all people taller than six feet; the blood can’t quite make it all the way up to the brain.” 

And I’ve saved the best for the last.

Her laughter catches him off guard. As if it’s carbonated and someone has poured it too fast and it’s bubbling over in all directions. It doesn’t fit at all with the gray cement and right-angled garden paving stones. It’s an untidy, mischievous laugh that refuses to go along with rules and prescriptions.

Final thought:  Gladly, unhesitatingly five shining stars to this one. Do read it.

 

The man behind the book

Like I do for most books I fall in love with, I looked up Fredrik Backman, the Swedish author of this book. In case your curiosity is piqued too you can check out this article here. It’s worth a read.

When you forget

I fell in love with its cover design when I first saw it and had been planning on reading A Forgotten Affair by Kanchana Banerjee for a long time. Finally, I’m doing just that. Here’s a bit from the book for Teaser Tuesday – the brain child of Should Be Reading.

Do watch out for the review.

aforgottenaffair

‘I’ve forgotten everything…… maybe that has happened for a reason,’ she said. ‘Maybe I needed to forget it all, so that I could see something else clearly. Sometimes… sometimes you need to forget everything to recognise what matters most.’

 

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If you fancy joining in, here’s how…
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
• Share the title and author so other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

Jugnu – A Review

Title: Jugnu
Author: Ruchi Singh

jugnu

 

Jugnu by Ruchi Singh reminded me what absolute joy a well-written romance can be. Yet, to call this one just a romance would a bit of an injustice. While a love story is central to the narrative there is lots more to enjoy and savour.

The story

Out on parole Zayd Abbas Rizvi heads off to Kasuali with his laptop for some peace and quiet. The plan is to keep to himself and avoid trouble of any kind. He finds lodging at a guest house run by the petite, ghost-chasing, sad-eyed Ashima, mom to a delightful three year old. Soon enough he forms bonds not just with Ashima but also with other residents of the guest house. And then quite unavoidably, he gets embroiled in their affairs even as he tries to figure out the truth about Ashima’s husband.

My Review

To begin with I loved the setting of the book – the quiet, picturesque hill town of Kasuali. I find the setting matters to me… a lot – it  predisposes me to like or dislike a book and here it is just perfect for what the author has in store.

Like I mentioned, Jugnu isn’t just a love story. It is also the tale of two individuals with each of their stories so well written that you would want to reach out for a prequel, or maybe two. I would have liked to know the Ashima before she met Zayd, her life with Rohit and also the Zayd in his earlier life, his troubled childhood, his life with his girlfriend and his prison experiences. However, all we get are intriguing mentions that leave us asking for more.

Other than the protagonists, there are a host of other characters, each lovingly crafted, each likeable and/or relatable.

What I liked best about the book was that unlike most new age romance novels with their insta-love tracks, the love story here builds slowly and steadily. Stilted conversations move on to shared silences and from there to a gradual appreciation of each other – from indifference, to friendship to love. That is perhaps what made it believable. And of course there also was just the barest touch of romantic magic. The love story retains its charm without taking away from the intensity of either of the protagonists’ previous relationships – that couldn’t have been easy to write.

Beyond the characters there are enough twists and turns in this well-woven story to keep you happily turning the pages.

Endnote: This one is a refreshing wholesome romance perfect for a rainy day. I say pick it up.

Disclaimer: I was given a kindle copy of the book by the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

An unlikely friendship #Teaser Tuesday 7

Joining in for Teaser Tuesday after a long time, hosted by Should Be Reading. Here’s an excerpt from my current read Jugnu by Ruchi Singh. I’m almost done with the book and it’s proving to be a good one. I hope to have a review up before the weekend. Do drop by for a read.

jugnu

Can’t we talk?” he said after a couple of minutes of staring at the twinkling lights in the village. An urge to talk to a living being who was not a fellow prisoner or a sneering guard took him by surprise.

 

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If you fancy joining in, here’s how…
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
• Share the title and author so other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

Books and Memories

reading childhood

Books and reading formed a huge part of my childhood and for that I shall always be grateful. I had no clue then, that my stolen moments with this favourite hobby would one day offer me a second chance at a career.

To our extreme good fortune our father was friends with the owner of Universal , the biggest bookshop of the city back then. So we would get brand new books on loan, to be read and returned. I lost myself in those large glossy pages or the super glamorous pop-up books. I had one of Goldilocks that I haven’t been able to get over even now. Reading them once always left me wanting more. I didn’t want to let them go. I wanted to keep them with me forever.

Perhaps that’s where the itch to buy and own books was born.

Between our school and home lay the poshest market of the city with our dream bookstore. Hobby Corner. Nope, this wasn’t the one that belonged to our father’s friend but another one that sold books and then bought them back, at a small discount.

So some days (and I hope the children never ever read this bit) we’d sneak off the school bus mid-way, my sister and I, and we’d go to this book shop and indulge ourselves. Those days we didn’t have helpers in the bus to keep an eye on us so it must have been easier. Even so, this was a rare treat because we hardly ever had any money – even the two or three rupees that we would have had to pay up. Besides, there was also the issue of getting back home without the bus (for which we had a pass) and that also meant money for private transport. We managed it on some very lucky days and our parents never knew.

Long summer holidays were painful because with no access to the school library we were left bookless. Lending libraries were a dream in our city back then. Once we heard of one close by and I jumped and joined it only to find it was one of those that only stocked books on subjects like ‘meditation’ and ‘finding the true meaning of life’. I have nothing against all of that, but it most definitely wasn’t what my young teen self was looking for dreaming as it was of Heathcliff and Rhet Butler and the like.

I never did develop a taste for non-fiction.

In hindsight, I remain grateful for each of those childhood memories. Books and reading became that much more precious. Each time the Amazon delivery person knocks at my door even today, I get a happy thrill. While I constantly bemoan the lack of space in the house, I never want to part with my books, nor put them away in cartons, as the Husband once suggested. *Shudder*.

What are your earliest reading memories?

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Linking up with Amrita for #ThankfulThursdays.

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And also with  with Tina’s Mommynificent for the Booknificent Link-Up
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