Author Archives: Obsessivemom

About Obsessivemom

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

What is 'Natural'? #BookBytes 25

I just wrapped up Elif Shafak’s 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World and while I still have to make up my mind about the book but some of its quotes were too good to not be shared. And so I’ve been sharing them on social media all this past week. Here’s one that took my breath away with its simple wisdom.

D/Ali said that, as a rule, people who overused the word ‘natural’ did not know much about the ways of Mother Nature. If you told them how snails, worms and black sea bass were hermaphrodites, or male seahorses could give birth, or male clownfish turned female half way through their lives, or male cuttlefish were transvestites, they would be surprised. Anyone who studied nature closely would think twice before using the word ‘natural’.

– Elif Shafak, 10 minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World

Food for thought, right? How quick we are to label people, thoughts, behaviours unnatural, abnormal when ‘natural’ is way stranger than we can ever imagine.

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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 of BookBytes goes live on 3rd March 2020.

City of Girls #BookReview

Book: City of Girls
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

This is my second book by Elizabeth Gilbert. I read Eat Pray Love and I didn’t much care for it. I then tried liking the film but I just about managed to get through it only because Julia Roberts is one of my absolute favourite actresses.

So it was with much trepidation that I picked up City of Girls, on the assurance that it wasn’t like her previous work at all. That did prove accurate, for this one really is very different.

The story

19- year-old Vivian Morris arrives in New York to live with her aunt Peg who owns and runs Lily Playhouse, a theatre company. From her small town existence, Vivian is pushed into this new exciting world peopled with amazingly colourful characters – actors, script writers, musicians and the most magnificent showgirls. Being an extraordinarily talented seamstress she fits right in. She falls in love with New York and with this new life of hers. She cannot have enough of it. Every night she traipses through it in a haze of men and alcohol savouring every moment of this new found freedom far from her parents and her small town upbringing.

Then one night she makes a mistake. A mistake so huge that nothing can set it right. Not only does it cause a massive scandal but also changes her life completely.

It brings to Vivian, a maturity as well, and a new understanding of herself and of what she wants from life.

What I liked

The book traces Vivian’s journey through life. In that sense it can be termed a bit of a coming-of-age book, only it goes much beyond, following Vivian into old age. It is also a bit of historical fiction with the backdrop of WWII during part of the narrative. Most of all it describes New York City and its growth over the years in fascinating detail.

However, for me, the best part of the book was the Lily Playhouse. Quite like Vivian I was taken in by running of a theatre company and the people who inhabited the world. Each character big and small added to the setting making it come alive, while retaining a special place for herself/himself. 

I loved the bits where Vivian scouted for clothes turning them into beautiful creations and the way the entire team at Lily Playhouse comes together to put on a hit play. I loved Aunt Peg. New York of the 1940s was enchanting and I could see exactly why Vivian was so enamoured of it.

What could have been better

The first half of the book, though fast paced had pages and pages of descriptions of Vivian’s night-outs and that grew tedious – sex and alcohol and then some more sex, till I grew tired of it. The book slows down in the second half and then it tends to drag.

The saddest part though was that I couldn’t warm up to Vivian. Oh there were many pluses to her character – she was spunky and adventurous and a good enough friend, but she was annoyingly immature. Perhaps that was the way her character was supposed to be in the beginning but I didn’t grow to care for her even in her grown-up avatar. Her obsession with having a ‘good time’ continued to irk me, quite similar to Liz of Eat Pray Love.

I couldn’t even connect with the great romance/friendship Vivian finds towards the end of the book.

All in all Gilbert’s heroines don’t seem to be on my list of favourites.

Joining the #TBRChallenge2020 hosted by @shalzmojo and @she_booked_it for the ‘free hit’ prompt.

Last thought: A racy read yet pretty meh. Avoidable.

Memories #BookBytes 24

After a very satisfying January where I managed to read five books (I wrapped up the Lunar Chronicles) I’ll be slowing down this month. With that thought in mind I picked up Elif Shafak’s 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World. I’ve read two of her books and really enjoyed them. If this one is anything like them I know I’ll want to read it slowly, savouring every page, every word.

Here’s a quote I loved.

“But human memory resembles a late-night reveller who has had a few too many drinks: hard as it tries, it just cannot follow a straight line. It staggers through a maze of inversions, often moving in dizzying zigzags, immune to reason and liable to collapse altogether.” 

– Elif Shafak, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

I’m just about fifty pages into the book and I’m loving the way Shafak uses her analogies. I specially liked this one, apart from that last bit about ‘collapsing altogether’. The memory box is easy to open but tough to close and it doesn’t really ‘collapse’ for me.

I am, however, in whole-hearted agreement about memories zigzagging all over the place. They never do follow a simple pattern. In fact, the same memory may take two very different directions if it comes to us at two different times. In one of my earlier posts on my other blog I’d said I store memories in my head the way I store my earrings – in one big jumble – so that when I pick out one I have no clue which ones may come out dangling along with it.

Have you come across an unusual analogy during your reading?
Have you read any of Elif Shafak’s works?
Do share the quote if you have, and join me for #BookBytes.

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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 of BookBytes goes live on Tuesday, February 18th.

The Lunar Chronicles #BookReview

So I am done with the Lunar Chronicles. Finally! What a ride it has been! A tiny bit lengthy towards the end but all in all a fun enjoyable adrenaline pumping adventure.

For those of you who haven’t heard of this series Lunar is a set of four young adult futuristic novels – Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter – loosely based on four fairy tales.

I was done with the first book last year but I read the other three in quick succession over a week. In my mind this is a single long story, which is why it makes sense to review the books together. I promise to keep it short.

First, here’s what the books are about:

The Setting

The stories are set in the future. Earth is tormented by a plague that threatens to wipe off the entire population.

Meanwhile, the Moon has been colonised, is called Luna and is inhabited by Lunars. Peace between the Earthens and Lunars is a tenuous thing with the powerful Lunar queen wanting to take over Earth. With that in mind she is looking for an alliance with the Prince (later King) Kaito of the Eastern Commonwealth (China). Lunars are adept in the art of mind control which makes them formidable enemies. There is also a dead/missing princess believed to be the true heir to the Lunar throne.

Cinder

The story begins with Cinder (obviously Cinderella), who is a Cyborg (part human part machine) and lives with her adoptive mother and two step sisters in New Beijing. She’s an exceptionally talented mechanic and meets Prince Kai when he comes to her to get his android repaired. Then on, secrets are revealed and Cinder has a confrontation with the Lunar queen resulting in her imprisonment and subsequent escape.

Scarlet

The book opens with Cinder, who’s on the run along with an accomplice from the prison, Thorne. The story then moves to a small farm in France where we get to meet Scarlet Benoit. Her tale meshes seamlessly with that of Cinder as they get ready to take on the Lunar Queen.

Cress

Cinder is still on the run and is slowly building a team to help her. Cress, a Lunar, computer whiz, joins her in this book. 

Winter 

This last one is the culmination of the series and we meet our last protagonist Princess Winter, step daughter of the Lunar Queen. The book spirals towards a showdown with between Cinder and the Lunar Queen and the inevitable happily ever after – just as a young adult adventure series should.

What I loved

Books set in the future are my newest obsession. Needless to say that I enjoyed the setting of future earth as also Lunar colonisation which gave a Hunger Games kind of a feel but then the story was so very different that it didn’t get tedious.

The fairy tale twist

I adored the way the fairy tales were integrated in the stories. Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White – I loved them all.

The characters

Were the bestest part of the books. They were all adorable and very differently so. If I had to choose a single strongest feature that endeared the series to me, it would have to be the characters. And if I had one complaint, it would be that some of them didn’t get enough space in the book, specially Princess Winter.

The humour

Humour, if done well, can uplift most genres of story-telling and Meyer uses it so well here. When the narrative begin to lag, and there are bits when they do that, it’s the humour that carries the story through. (Thorne and Iko remain my favourite characters, for that reason. You’ll know what I mean if/when you read the books).

The issues thrown up

The books talk about discrimination, about cyborgs being look down upon, about the transience of physical beauty and about the stupidity of judging people based on stereotypes. All pertinent issues in the current times.

What could have been better

I have no complaints from the first two books. 

Cinder was absolutely smashing. It did a wonderful job of setting the scene and building the story, leaving the reader at a cliff-hangar, craving for more.

Scarlet was good too with the introduction of endearing new characters.

Cress, however, grew tedious in bits, a case of ‘too many twists spoil the plot’. You just wanted to skim through the pages fast and get to the inevitable end.

Winter, despite being a mammoth read, didn’t have much about Princess Winter. Also, the layout of Luna and the Lunar palace, described in much detail during the chase sequences, grew cumbersome. It had me completely lost and I zoned out in a haze of doors and archways and escalators of the Lunar palace. Perhaps it should have been broken down into two separate books – one on Winter and one to gather together the grand finale.

That said, I’d definitely recommend the series. It’s a glimpse into a new world, coupled with the fairy tale twist and a page turning story.

Joining the #TBRChallenge2020 hosted by @shalzmojo and @she_booked_it. And with this I’m done with three prompts:
A Book that’s part of a series
A Book set in the past or the future
A YA Book

Last thought: A must for readers of fantasy fiction.

City Vibes #BookBytes 23

Hola folks! 

It’s #BookBytes time and today we’re talking cities, through book quotes, of course. The best way to get to know a city, other than actually living there, is through a book. If only geography was taught through fictional tales I’d have absolutely fallen in love with it. The sights, the sounds, the streets, the markets, pubs, bistros, coffee shops – an author has the power to bring it all alive for us making us live the city with his/her characters.

I recently finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s The City of Girls and it gives a wonderful feel of New York of the 1940s. I have travelled to Istanbul with Elif Shafak (The Bastard of Istanbul), Afghanistan with Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner) and closer home I roamed the lanes of Malgudi with RK Narayan (Malgudi Days), the streets of Mumbai with Rohinton Mistry (A Fine Balance), and Calcutta with Dominique Lapierre (The City of Joy). What an absolute delight these books have been!

I’ve picked a quote from Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, a book I read long time ago that describes Bombay with accurate poignancy.

“Mumbai is the sweet, sweaty smell of hope, which is the opposite of hate; and it’s the sour, stifled smell of greed, which is the opposite of love. It’s the smell of Gods, demons, empires, and civilizations in resurrection and decay. Its the blue skin-smell of the sea, no matter where you are in the island city, and the blood metal smell of machines. It smells of the stir and sleep and the waste of sixty million animals, more than half of them humans and rats. It smells of heartbreak, and the struggle to live, and of the crucial failures and love that produces courage. It smells of ten thousand restaurants, five thousand temples, shrines, churches and mosques, and of hundred bazaar devoted exclusively to perfume, spices, incense, and freshly cut flowers. That smell, above all things – is that what welcomes me and tells me that I have come home.

Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram

Have you read a book that brought alive a city for you? A contemporary read?

If you had to describe your city in a word, or a sentence maybe, what would it be?

As always, thoughts from fellow Bibliophiles brighten my day. I’d love to hear from you.

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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 of BookBytes goes live on Tuesday, February 4th.

The Crimson Meniscus #BookReview

Book: The Crimson Meniscus
Author: Jason Werbeloff

The Crimson Meniscus is a set of six dystopian sci-fi short stories.

Before I go on to tell you what the book is about let me talk a little bit about the setting. So sometime in the future there’s a place called The Bubble protected by and separated from the rest of the world by a force field. The Bubble is the land of plenty with wine fountains and automated hover cabs where the inhabitants live a luxurious life. 

Then there’s The Gutter, home to the poor and destitute who struggle for survival. They are beholden to the state for their very existence. Their organs are routinely ‘harvested’ for the inhabitants of The Bubble, and replaced by low-quality generic ‘printed’ organs. The Bubble isn’t even visible to the Gutter inhabitants without special glasses.

The divide is complete.

It is in this setting that Jason Werbeloff weaves his stories – dark, twisted and gory.

What I liked

I like books set in an alternate universe. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I find it intriguing how an author sets out to build a whole different world limited only by his imagination and yet manages to make it plausible for the reader. Here he does it deftly, meticulously and I was drawn right in.

Also, the stories have unexpectedly twisted ending. They talk about how the world is being taken over by technology and the dangers therein. They talk about the frightening results of meddling with the natural order of things. I specially liked that most of them present the reader with a moral dilemma of sorts with grey areas that keep one trying to figure the right from the wrong.

Most of all, even beyond what the individual stories talk about, the book brings home in horrifying reality how terrible the world can become if we shut ourselves in our own small secure ‘bubbles’ of existence. In the alternate universe created by the author the rich struggle with problems that come with privilege, problems of excess – a lung gone bad, a heart that’s dying out. They proceed to buy organs without a twinge, without for a moment wondering what happens to the people from whom the organs are harvested. They are completely indifferent to the people from the Gutter and unaware of their own privilege. Because, to them, that’s just the way life is.

That was my biggest takeaway from the book, a shocking realisation of what the world can become if the privileged continue to apathetically cordon themselves off from the underprivileged.

The one thing I didn’t quite like ..

….was the gore and I skipped paragraphs to avoid it. That said, I have to add that I have an unusually low tolerance for it and I do get that it was perhaps required in order to shock and appal the reader. And it did that with success. 

Joining the #TBRChallenge2020 hosted by @shalzmojo and @she_booked_it. This is my book for Prompt 1 – a book from a genre I usually avoid.

Last thought: If you like dark, twisted dystopian stories, this one’s for you.

Tackling the TBR #TBRChallenge2020

This year, with the idea of keeping life simple and uncomplicated I had no book-reading goals except to make headway on the ones I already have. With that thought I stayed away from all reading challenges except the one on Goodreads only because it gave me the freedom to choose my own books. I’ve pledged to read 36, like last year. Three books a month is ambitious enough.

Then Shalz and Soumya came along with a challenge with an almost similar goal – to make a dent in your TBR pile. I went through the prompts and managed to fit almost all the prompts with books I have – 20 out of the 24 required. Can it get any better? This challenge might actually help me stick to my TBR. Also, I have the freedom to read 12 other books to make up my Goodreads Challenge. Sounds like a win-win.

Here is my (almost final) reading list:

  1. A book from a genre you generally avoid
    The Crimson Meniscus by Jason Werbeloff
    I once had the notion that science fiction would be boring but one short story changed that for me. Now I’m looking forward to exploring more in this genre. 
  2. A book that’s a part of a series
    Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
    Last year I read Cinder and completely loved it. I am now dying to get through the rest of the series and am trying to pace myself, reserving each book for days when I can read it at a stretch. Yeah, that’s how much I loved Cinder. 
  3. A book you started but never finished
    One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan
    I haven’t quite made up my mind about this one. I liked it but didn’t absolutely love it. But I do plan to go back to it.
  4. A book by an author you have been meaning to read but haven’t dared to so far
    Letters from a Father to His Daughter by Jawaharlal Nehru
    I’ve heard so much about this one but have dismissed it as boring. I hope to give it a shot this year.
  5. A book written 100 years ago/Classic
    A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
    I’ve been meaning to read this one for ages and yet Dickens’ style of writing is proving a bit much for me. I’ve read him earlier – Oliver Twist, Great Expectations but I just don’t seem to have the patience any longer. Hoping I’ll get thought this one. Maybe I’ll settle for an abridged version. It would be pretty weird though, graduating from originals to abridged versions.
  6. A book picked up after reading a favourable review on a book blogger’s site or a recommendation from a book obsessed friend/relative
    The Book of Fate  by Parinoush Saniee.
    This one was recommended by my sister-in-law, who is an avid reader. Also, she’s completely off social media so her recommendations stem purely from book-merit, not media hype.
  7. A book set in the past or the future
    Cress by Marissa Meyer
    That’s book three in the Cinder series – Scifi, set in the future.
  8. Re-read an old favourite
    Love Story by Eric Segal
    What can I say about this book. I just want to re-read it.
  9. A book to be read on a vacation or the plot is based around a holiday (could be a travelogue) – Down Under by Bill Bryson
    He’s an author I love for his humour. Looking forward to this one.
  10. A free hit (choose any book you wish here)
    City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert.
    Giving a last chance to this author, despite DNFing Eat Pray Love.
  11. A book that would be a foodies delight
    The Lemon Tree Café by Cathy Bramley
  12. A book with the cover in your favourite color
    The Blue Between Sky and Water by Susan Abulhawa
  13. A book with a love triangle. TBD
  14. WWI or WWII drama (could be a true story or fictional)
    All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr/ Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
    I have had Catch 22 with me for ages. 
  15. A book written by a famous personality (could be an autobiography/memoir or just fiction) – Dopehri By Pankaj Kapoor
    I stumbled upon this one pretty recently recommended by Shalini and I had to read this because it’s set in my hometown. I’m still trying to decide if I should go for the original Hindi version or the English translation.
  16. A book gifted to you
    10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak
    This one was gifted by Shalz and is by one of my favourite authors. A must read.
  17. A YA book
    Fairest by Marissa Meyer
    Told you I want to finish the series! That’s the last of the Lunar Chronicles.
  18. A book based on mythology (Indian, Roman, Greek etc)
    The Baramullah Bomber by Clark Prasad.
    This is ‘a science fiction espionage thriller and India’s first mythological thriller’ according to an online description. Doesn’t it sound intriguing? 
  19. A book that’s been on your shelf for more than 5 years
    Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez
  20. An award winning book
    Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Bonus Prompts (Optional):

21. A self help book. TBD
This is not my favourite genre. I thought I’d slot ‘Who Moved my Cheese’ but that has less than 200 pages so I’m still looking for options.
22. A book by an author whose name starts with the first letter as your name
The Bones of Grace by Tahmima Anam
23. An Audiobook/e-book or a PDF read
Anne of Green Gables LM Montgomery
24. A crime fiction
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Everyone seems to have read this and I shall get to it too.

So that’s it. Have you read any of these books? Got a better recommendation for any of the prompts? Do share. Also, drop by here if you find the prompts interesting and want to join in.