Author Archives: Obsessivemom

About Obsessivemom

Mom Blogger, Book Blogger, Reader, Writer, Editor. Found at obsessivemom.in and BeatAbouttheBook.wordpress.com

Before You’re Not Little Anymore #BookReview

Book: Before You’re Not Little Anymore
Author: Vinodini Parimi

There are a million things we want to teach our children, a million things we want them to know, to learn, to remember, specially when they are flying the nest. Is it even possible to put it all down in a book? How on earth do you condense the gyan you spout liberally throughout the day when your children are near you into just 26 short letters?

Also, how do you keep your letters personal while also making them universal? Vinodini Parimi manages to do that with moderate success.

Before You’re Not Little Any More is a collection of 26 letters from a mother to a son. 

Starting off with a letter on managing anger, the book goes on to touch upon topics like handling emotions, loneliness, friendships, infatuations as well as tougher topics like seeking happiness, the true value of trust and that of life.

What I loved

The book is divided into 26 chapters, each a letter on a single topic. The chapters are short, easy to read and digest.

The author picks instances from her own life and uses them to pass on these valuable lessons. She talks about friends and relatives, perhaps some of them who are known to her son, which adds to the authenticity of the letters. Yet she doesn’t make the reader feel like an outsider perhaps because we’ve known similar people and can identify with the situations.

I specially loved the letter on friendship, probably because my own children are just entering the phase where friends are beginning to play larger roles in their likes and dislikes. She talks with amazing clarity on the importance of having boundaries with friends, or learning to appreciate different traits in different people rather than completely idolising a single person and trying to become him/her. She also talks about how friendships change and how it’s okay for you or your friend to move on. 

She includes some very practical tips too, simple things like keeping a pocket diary to avoid overwhelm and help one prioritise, or ideas to cheer oneself up should one feel sad and depressed. I would have loved more of these coping strategies.

What could have been better

I have already said that writing a book like this is a bit of mammoth task. And that’s where it falters. In its bid to pack in a lot, some lessons get lost in the telling. Some posts meander and overlap, though I do get that that is inevitable.

Last thought: One mustn’t attempt to read the book in a single sitting. These lessons are best read one at a time, slowly, over days, in order to fully appreciate each one. The book works better as a sort of ready reckoner. Each lesson will make sense at a particular juncture in life.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of the book in return of an honest review.

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Faces in the Crowd #BookBytes 16

I have come to realise that one of the best places to look for book recommendations is my children’s English textbooks. They curate excerpts from some of most wonderful reads. I have been doing it for the longest time actually – since my own school days. I’d read an excerpt and find it so engrossing that I’d go looking for the book.

That’s how I chanced upon The Little Prince. I first met this book when I was a tween and I remember being rather unimpressed, probably because I couldn’t get much of the hidden meaning between its pages. When I recently stumbled upon an excerpt again in the twins’ text book, I simply reached out for my phone and ordered it.

Reading it now, as an adult, I find it loaded with profound wisdom. Before I get lost in more nostalgia (something that’s happening very often these days), let me get to the passage I’m sharing today:

“…. What does that mean — tame?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.” 
“To establish ties?” 
“Just that,” said the fox.
“To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world….” 

– The Little Prince By Antoine de Saint-Exupery

We’re just random people in the crowd till we form ties and then we become special and unique for each other. Making friends and forming relationships is as much an act of choice as it is that of fate. The ‘fox’ goes on to add that one needs patience and effort and understanding to build a friendship.

Do you agree? Do you think one needs to make an effort to form a friendship or do relationships happen because they are ‘meant to happen’?

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If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared join in with #BookBytes.

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. Do join in.

The next edition is scheduled for October 1st.

Chai and a book with a dash of nostalgia #WordsMatter

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

It’s a wet wet day but I’m not complaining. I like this respite from the sun. Besides, when it rains, the balcony beckons, the tea tastes better and a book looks ever more inviting. Giving in to temptation, I drag out a bean bag, grab a cup of tea and pick up a book from my nightstand resolutely pushing away thoughts of unmade beds and messy rooms. Just this once, just one hour I promise myself as I settle down for a read.

‘What are you reading?’ did you ask? Here take a look.

Yeah, I recently started re-reading Gone with the Wind as part of a buddy-read.

I pick it up now running a hand over the plastic cover that has turned translucent with age. I imagine myself covering it lovingly, possessively (and numbering it too). It has been a long time since this book came to me, and I mean a really really long time.

As I open it to the first page I find a simple inscription from my aunt.

My aunt marked it is as a gift for my birthday even though it was some six months later.

Reading those well-loved lines brings a smile and a deluge of happy memories. Despite the rain around me it transports me to long hot summer days, of noisy coolers that blasted air along with occasional drops of water and the delicious smell of khus khus, and noisier cousins who played, fought, chatted all day.

Each vacation my aunt would come visiting along with my cousins. Before she left she would get us a gift. Each time she would ask, ‘Do you want a dress or a book?’. Each time, without fail, I’d say, ‘a book’.  And off we’d go to browse and buy.

Books were precious treasures back then. We read a lot yet owned a few unlike now when parents start building a library even before their child is born.

Gone with the Wind was the most expensive book I’d ever wanted. Our budget used to be somewhere around Rs 50 but this came at 60. I well remember standing in the bookstore staring at it, knowing it was beyond reach, too embarrassed to tell my aunt just how badly I wanted it, yet unable to tear myself away from it. And so I stood there, desperately wanting to wish away those ten rupees standing between me and my happiness.

I am not even sure my aunt noticed my dilemma. All she said was, ‘You want it? Okay.’ And just like that, in a heartbeat, the book was mine. I cannot even begin to describe what that meant to me. Not only did I get to read the book but I also got to own it! I went through it at breakneck speed, sitting up late into the nights. I strutted about school for days magnanimously lending it to everyone who asked for it.

As I leaf through the yellowed pages now, I notice a few are coming loose from the binding, some evil silverfish have dug in fine holes too. And yet, each page is more precious than the freshest, crispest, whitest pages I will find in any new edition. So no, I won’t be ordering a new one. I’ll sit down with tape and put the pages together, I’ll leave it out in the sun to get rid of the silverfish and I’ll read it multiple times. I’ll preserve it for as long as I can because, more than a book, it’s a cherished memory.

Do you have a book that evokes a special memory for you? A person who was instrumental in igniting a love for stories?

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I am participating in the #wordsmatter bloghop. I received this tag from teacher and writer Jyotsna Prabhakar who blogs at  Jonaatbest. I’m passing on the tag to the very artistic, very humorous Rajlakshmi at Destiny’s Child. Do follow the #WordsMatter Blog Hop for some interesting reads.

All for the Perfect Match #BookBytes 15

Hola folks and welcome to another edition of #BookBytes. I’ve been re-reading Gone With the Wind and what a nostalgic trip it is proving to be! I’ll probably need a whole series of posts to explain what I’m feeling as I go over the familiar words of Margaret Mitchell.

That’s where I picked my quote for this fortnight.

It gives an idea of what women endured during those times only to snare a man. They all did it, some gladly, others grudgingly.

In the passage here Scarlett is being forced to eat before she heads out for a barbecue so she wouldn’t have an appetite and could pick at her food delicately rather than exhibiting a healthy appetite, which was considered unladylike. It’s so bizarre, it’s comical.

“I wish to Heaven I was married,” she said resentfully as she attacked the yams with loathing. “I’m tired of everlastingly being unnatural and never doing anything I want to do. I’m tired of acting like I don’t eat more than a bird, and walking when I want to run and saying I feel faint after a waltz, when I could dance for two days and never get tired. I’m tired of saying, ‘How wonderful you are!’ to fool men who haven’t got one-half the sense I’ve got, and I’m tired of pretending I don’t know anything, so men can tell me things and feel important while they’re doing it… I can’t eat another bite.” 

Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

My heart goes out to this 16-year-old Scarlett , bursting with verve and vigour, who has to constantly restrain herself to appear delicate and docile in order to be desirable. It’s another matter altogether that a few pages later she’s glad she’s not married and can preen with her bunch of beaux rather than being relegated to the sidelines. But then teenagers are allowed to be fickle.

Mercifully we’ve come a long way since this, and women are getting comfortable in their own skin. They are looking for their real selves and taking pride in them for where’s the point of losing yourself in order to find a husband?

More importantly, it is men who need to learn to be comfortable around smart women, to understand, love and respect them. And they’re getting there, albeit slowly.

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If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared join in with #BookBytes.

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. Do join in.

The next edition is scheduled for September 17th.

The Bastard of Istanbul #BookReview

Book: The Bastard of Istanbul
Author: Elif Shafak

I’d recently finished The Forty Rules of Love and loved it. The Bastard of Istanbul was already waiting on my bookshelf.

The story

This is the story of two girls Asya, who is Turkish, and Armanoush, aka Amy, who is Armenian American. Asya, the bastard daughter of Zehila, is brought up in Istanbul in an all-women household with her aunts, grand mom and great grand mom. Though Armanoush lives in Arizona with her mom and step father, her birth-father’s household in San Francisco is also predominantly female, quite similar to Asya’s.

Asya is the quintessential rebel. Armanoush on the other hand is a ‘good girl’. Her Armenian roots intrigue her as does the Turkish-Armenian conflict. In search of the Armenian side of her identity she makes her way to Istanbul and the two girls meet.

So what happens then? Do they connect? 

Above all, there’s the secret of Asya’s birth. Who is her father? What will happen when the secret is revealed?

What I loved

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – the more I read the more I am made aware of my ignorance. I had no clue about the Turkish-Armenian conflict. I hadn’t heard of the Armenian genocide. It was horrifying yet fascinating to read about it. 

The interesting bit is that the Turkish Government still refuses to acknowledge the genocide while the Armenians have never forgiven them for it. The antagonism has festered for decades.

That is why I enjoyed Asya and Armanoush’s interactions. Armanoush is skeptical of going back to Turkey, apprehensive of some kind of a violent reaction, while Asya is completely unaware of her feelings. That’s just how resentment brews till people meet each other and then it magically falls away and love and warmth take its place.

At one point in the book Asya asks Armanoush’s Armenian friend: 
Tell me, what can I as an ordinary Turk in this day and age do to ease your pain?
And he replies: Your State can apologise. 
Then he goes on to say: You yourself can apologise.

That conversation is one of the best parts of the book.

There are other good bits too.
If you’re looking to get to know Turkey, specifically Istanbul, this is the book for you. Shafak’s tale is rich with descriptions of busy Turkish streets. She brings it all alive from rain-filled potholes to sounds of street vendors, the famous hammams, the curious customs and above all the food – delicious glorious food. I was constantly looking up dishes and their recipes, trying out the unfamiliar names and salivating as I mentally sampled them. Do keep google handy when you read this book.

There’s a bit of magical fantasy element too, which I liked.

The beginning is slow but the book gets interesting in the second half. I loved the way the lives of the two girls entwine and the end reveals a secret so horrifying one is blown away.

What could have been better

The book opens with Zehila (Asya’s mother) trying to get an abortion. She sounds like a wonderfully colourful character and the opening completely reeled me.

Within a few pages however the book changed course. It proceeded to loose its way, getting disconnected and mixed up and the first 150-200 pages proved to be a struggle to get through. Nothing much happens and Asya’s ennui and existential angst rubbed off on me making me restless with the book. So don’t pick up this one if you’re looking for a pacy read. It isn’t.

I like women protagonists but The Bastard of Istanbul had just too many making it difficult to keep track of all of them, specially on Armanoush’s side.

Shafak also states a few ‘rules’ along the way, a bit like she did in Forty Rules, but they dodn’t come together coherently in any kind of pattern.

I wish it were a shorter book, written/edited better. Oh and I want to read Zehila’s story. She is, by far, the most interesting character in the book. It was disappointing to see so little of her.

Last thought: Take on this trip to Istanbul with loads of patience and in close collaboration with Google.

Of Roasted Apples and Warm Winter Evenings #BookBytes 14

Here’s my pick for this week’s Book Bytes.

“I know the look of an apple that is roasting and sizzling on the hearth on a winter’s evening, and I know the comfort that comes of eating it hot, along with some sugar and a drench of cream….. I know how the nuts taken in conjunction with winter apples, cider, and doughnuts, make old people’s tales and old jokes sound fresh and crisp and enchanting.” 

Mark Twain’s Own Autobiography: The Chapters from the north American Review

I have never had a roasted apple. Definitely never with sugar and cream. In fact I’ve never had a cooked apple apart from an occasional apple pie or the apple stew I used to make for the children before they started off on solids. And yet this quote makes me yearn for one.

It’s not just the apples, right? All the author does is mention a hearth, a winter evening and the sizzling apple. That’s all it takes to tempt my imagination and it rushes up eagerly to fill in details. It conjures up soft yellow lighting (to complement the fireplace), bright fluffy rugs and soft sink-right-in cushions. I’d also include my grandma and a bunch of my cousins to make this scene picture-perfect for she’s the one who would probably be telling those tales and roasting this apple I’ve never eaten.

It’s even more fun to think that reading that passage (without context) can conjure up a completely different image for someone else. He/She might imagine sitting before a fireplace in an old-fashioned pub telling tales with friends, or maybe roasting s’mores at a campfire.

That’s the power of evocative writing – it takes us to our own special place.

On a side note, do make time to read the excerpt from Mark Twain’s autobiography where he talks about the time he spent at the farm with his cousins. It reads like an Enid Blyton book and makes you long to be there.

Is there a passage from a book that stands out in your memory because it made you nostalgic for an experience you might never even have had?

Before you leave:

Do check out  this post by Anamika, where she picks an interesting quote from The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.

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If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared join in with #BookBytes.

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. Do join in.

The next edition is scheduled for September 3rd.

You Beneath Your Skin – #CoverReveal #BookReview

I am happy to be part of the cover reveal for Damyanti Biswas‘s debut crime novel, You Beneath Your Skin to be published this September by Simon & Schuster, India. I’ve known Damyanti for some time now and have admired her commitment to the written word as also to social causes. Her blog is a valuable resource for aspiring writers.

So, without further ado, here’s it is!

The red and black cover with a partly visible face in the background promises a crime story with plenty of intrigue. One cannot help but wonder who that face belongs to and what story she might have to tell.

Sample the blurb here and get set to be further intrigued.

Lies. Ambition. Family. 

It’s a dark, smog-choked New  Delhi winter. Indian American single mother Anjali Morgan juggles her  job as a psychiatrist with caring for her autistic teenage son. She is  in a long-standing affair with ambitious Police Commissioner Jatin Bhatt  – an irresistible attraction that could destroy both their lives.

Jatin’s  home life is falling apart: his handsome and charming son is not all he  appears to be, and his wife has too much on her plate to pay attention  to either husband or son. But Jatin refuses to listen to anyone, not  even the sister to whom he is deeply attached.

Across  the city there is a crime spree: slum women found stuffed in trash bags,  faces and bodies disfigured by acid. And as events spiral out of  control Anjali is horrifyingly at the centre of it all.

In  a sordid world of poverty, misogyny, and political corruption, Jatin  must make some hard choices. But what he unearths is only the tip of the  iceberg. Together with Anjali he must confront old wounds and uncover  long-held secrets before it is too late.


Since the blurb gives a fair idea of the story and also because there’s only so much one can reveal when it’s a thriller I’ll skip right over to what I thought of the book.

It’s definitely a fast-paced read and it keeps one hooked throughout. I read it in one go.

The narrative etches out the characters so effectively that one begins to care for them pretty early on in the book. Not just the protagonists but also a host of side-characters are all very real. Whether it’s a child from the slums or a teen from upmarket society – the voices are authentic and believable.

Although the book is a thriller I loved how it also touched upon a number of social issues and wove in the complexities of human relationships as well. Most of all as a parent I was shocked and horrified to see how a well-meaning parent can go all wrong simply by not keeping in touch with one’s child’s thoughts and feelings, how strongly peers influence children and how unaware parents often are of what their teens are up to.

Do check out this book if you like pacy reads that also engage with various social issues.

Pre-order YOU BENEATH YOUR SKIN here.

For You Beneath Your Skin, all proceeds to the author would be divided between Chhanv Foundation and Project WHY.

About the author:

Damyanti Biswas lives in Singapore, and works with Delhi’s underprivileged children as part of Project Why, a charity that promotes education and social enhancement in underprivileged communities. Her short stories have been published in magazines in the US, UK, and Asia, and she helps edit the Forge Literary Magazine. You can find her on her blog and twitter.

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.