Category Archives: ABC Wednesday

The TBRs for 2017

This past week I’ve been in book paradise. I’ve sifted through book suggestions from  friends, read up booklists and blurbs and gone through Goodreads reviews to make up my TBR. I’ve stumbled across phenomenal reads – funny, suspenseful, thought-provoking, mushy – all kinds. I have been constantly amazed at the realms that the human minds can delve into, the worlds it can create, the stories it can spin.

Anyway, after much thought I have arrived at my TBR list based on last week’s Wishlist.

Here it is.

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Those are the books I aspire to read through the year. What do you think of the list?

For some genres I have more than one because I just couldn’t make up my mind. Some are by familiar authors so I have a fair idea what to expect and some will be a complete surprise.

I have favourites, of course. The Zookeeper’s Wife, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake as also The Hundred Foot Journey, The Red Notebook, The Siege at the Taj Hotel – can’t wait to get to those. Some are intriguing like The Egyptian since I’ve hardly read anything about life  during the times of the Pharaohs other than what I picked up in history class.

I know I’ve left out some good books but then the TBR list is not binding and I will add and subtract, along the way. I’ve missed out some genres too like Life in Space and Aliens as well as Spirituality as Sulekha pointed out. They’ll just have to wait.

A big thank you to Shantala, Lata , VinayVinithaTarang and Mithila for helping out with their suggestions. I shall always be grateful for the presence of friends and readers like you through my reading journey.

Even as I finalised the list I am done with my first book of the year – The Girl With Seven Names. Review coming up soon.

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I also managed to get in the BAR Wordy Wednesday prompts:

Aspire, Always, Anyway, Arrive

I know I know I should have done better with them but I was too taken up with the TBRs and didn’t want to let the prompts go. I hope to do them justice next week.

Do join in every Wednesday with the hashtag #BarWoWe on twitter.

Z is for Zoya Singh Solanki

Though Z is the last letter of the alphabet this is the first post I wrote for this series only because I completely love Zoya Singh Solanki.

It was love at first read. If you haven’t bumped into her go pick up a copy of The Zoya Factor by Anuja Singh Chauhan – one of the best ever chicklits I’ve read. If you’re a self-respecting, cricketer loving Indian girl, I guarantee you’ll love the book and of course Zoya. Even if you’re not, you might find yourself laughing out loud as you read this one. I know because I did.

Zoya works for an advertising agency and the general consensus about her appearance is that she’s ‘cute’.  She’s got a mane of curly black hair down to her back and that’s about the only redeeming factor of her appearance, according to her self-critical eye. However it’s the ‘cuteness’ that stands out. Her boss puts is pretty succinctly when he says, “Looking at your cheeks makes my thumb and index finger sort of spasm – I want to squeeze em and squeeze em and squeeze em till they pop.” Her brother has nicknamed her ‘gaalu’ (loosely meaning ‘cheeks’)

You get the picture?

She’s not too happy with this description though, as she says, “it’s okay when you’re a moppet in red corduroy dungarees…. Not so good when you’re a working woman… twenty-seven years old to boot”. People should be more interested in squeezing your butt by then, she feels.

Zoya was born on 25th June 1983 at the exact time that India lifted the cricket world cup. Whenever she backs a cricket team it always wins, always – or so it’s widely believed. It’s time for next world cup. The media is going wild promoting her as the team’s lucky mascot and the Indian Board for Cricket insists she accompany the team to Australia for the matches but the captain of the Indian team doesn’t quite like the idea. And that’s where the fun begins.

I love her because..

  • She’s the cutest, funniest most down to earth heroine with a bundle of imperfections that make her ever more endearing. She obsesses about being cool, moreso because she lives in the most uncool part of Delhi – Karol Bagh and she loves it too.
  • She thinks in Hinglsih.
  • She is movie-star hungry. Her heart beats for SRK (Just like mine) and she’s not beyond enjoying a glimpse of his ‘toasty brown midriff’.
  • She doesn’t notice cars. The best description she can come up with is (it was silver-coloured and longish-looking. That’s me! me! me!) And this was what she thought was SRK’s car.
  • She doesn’t know much about cricket but does notice that the captain has a ‘cute butt’.
  • She’s a self-confessed fireworks freak – a result of firework boom on her birthday since India won the World Cup.

She’s totally adorable. I wish someone would hurry up and put her in a film.

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday for the letter Z.

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Yertle the Turtle

Do you know Yertle the Turtle? That self-centred turtle who made his throne out of his fellowmen.. err fellow turtles?

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If you don’t, well here’s his story:

Yertle was the king of turtles, king of all he could see. One day he decided that from his seat on a stone he couldn’t see too much hence his kingdom was too small. So he ordered nine turtles to stack up one on top of the other. He would sit on them and look further and so make his kingdom grow.

Of course he wouldn’t be satisfied with that and so more turtles were ordered to stack up to raise him higher and higher. Finally, the turtle right at the bottom of the pile , poor little Mac, complained of the load. But Yertle didn’t care. He saw the moon and ranted at it because it was higher then him. Then tired Mac gave one little burp and the turtles all come crashing down along with King Yertle.

The author

If you haven’t guessed already by the quirky name, that poem-story is done by the famous Theodor Geisel. What? Don’t know him? You may know him as Dr Seuss (who, for the record, wasn’t a doctor at all!).

Our man Yertle

So what do you think of Yertle the Turtle? A nasty piece of work, he was, wasn’t he? Seuss confessed he was a take on Hitler.

He didn’t care for anyone or anything save for expanding his kingdom. So drunk is he with his power, so focussed on what he wanted that he lost all rationality. he couldn’t even perceive a threat to his power.

And he was a fascist. He wouldn’t stand even a tiny bit of dissent, just like Hitler. Mac wasn’t even allowed a small tiny sigh. After all he was just a ‘part of his throne’. When he dares to complain here’s what he is told

“SILENCE!” the King of the Turtles barked back.
“I’m king, and you’re only a turtle named Mack.”

Yertle is absolutely full of himself. Sample this:

I’m Yertle the Turtle! Oh, marvelous me!
For I am the ruler of all that I see!”
And all through the morning, he sat up there high
Saying over and over, “A great king am I!”

You can listen to the full poem here .

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday for the letter Y.

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Who is Mr X?

Beat About The Book

X is the letter of the week and I have a Quiz today.

Here are a few clues. Can you figure out who Mr X is? And also the book he appears in? (Just to clarify: His name does not begin with the letter X)

  1. Although the book is named after him, X’s name doesn’t appear in the title.
  2. X is the protagonist of a path-breaking novel first published privately in Florence, Italy in 1920.
  3. When it was published some 30 years later in Britain by Penguin Books, the publishers were persecuted under the Obscene Publications Act. They however came out winners on the grounds that the book was a work of ‘literary merit’.
  4. X works as a blacksmith till he runs off to join the war. Finally he ends up as a gamekeeper at a nobleman’s estate.
  5. The book talks of his affair with an upper-class woman.

 

Do leave your answers in the comments. I’ve enabled comment moderation. The answer will be up this Tuesday.

Edited to add: The character is Oliver Mellors from Lady Chatterley’s Lover by DH Lawrence. The book created quite a stir when it came out.
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Linking up to ABC Wednesday for the letter X. As always, grateful to Mrs Nesbitt for coming up with the idea for this wonderful meme.

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The Bear of Very Little Brain

There once was a little boy who had a favourite teddy bear. He named him after a real-life black bear he’d seen in a zoo and went on to add a surname borrowed from a swan. He spent many happy hours of play with the bear and a bunch of other stuffed toys.

Although he lived in London his vacations were spent in a holiday home some 50 kms away. The home overlooked a forest called the Five Hundred Acre Wood. This boy called Christopher Robin Milne became the inspiration for his father who wove a story around him and his bear friend including his other toys as well. He set it in an imaginary forest called the Hundred Acre Wood.

No clues for guessing the name of the bear. It’s the  delightfully loveable if somewhat unintelligent – Winnie the Pooh who was brought to life by by AA Milne.

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The boy was Milne’s son and the other characters –  Piglet, Tigger, Eyore, Kanga and Roo were all his toys. The only ones that Milne made up were Owl and Rabbit.

What makes Pooh as much a favourite with adults as the kids is the fact that he isn’t exceptional in any way (except perhaps that he’s yellow in colour and wears a red tee that barely covers his belly). And yet there’s something more – he has this amazing ability for friendship and a naive charm in the way spells out perfect life philosophies, inadvertently of course.  Above all he has his priorities right – a pot of honey and a friend by his side – and his life is sorted.

Here are some quotes that make me enjoy his stories

This one is just so ‘Pooh’

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.”

This one on being different

“The things that make me different are the things that make me ME”

On valuing an individual

“Weeds are flowers too once you get to know them.”

On Friendship

“A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey”

And this one is so ‘me’

“One of the advantages of being disorganised is that one is always having surprising discoveries”

PS: Have you ever played a game of Poohsticks?

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday for the letter W, with grateful thanks to Mrs Nesbitt who get’s me writing every week.

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He-who-must-not-be-named

My mother’s husband left me when I was an unborn child in her womb. What kind of a man does that? Isn’t much of a man at all. Does it matter that he was tricked into matrimony? My mother’s love for him must have been real for she lost the will to live when he left.  She chose to die for a man who didn’t want her rather than live for a boy who could have grown to love her.

So it came about that the two people who were supposed to love me unconditionally decided they didn’t want to. That’s how I landed up in an orphanage.

Love is a strange thing. It left me an orphan.

I never did grow to love Love. Never had need of it. Now ‘Power’ – that is something else. Power is what gets my heart beating. Heady, potent, intoxicating, empowering. Power.

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I am special – I always was. I knew that – even when I was all alone in that crummy little orphanage, even before I discovered I had special powers, before the white bearded man came to take me away to that special school. I knew I was destined to rule the world one day.

I went to the school. I won over all the teachers, except perhaps the white bearded man. I became the model student – a prefect, a head-boy. I looked and listened, asked and found, wheedled and charmed my way to seek knowledge. For knowledge is power. I learnt. I learnt all I could, secrets so sinister professors shuddered to tell, magic so potent no one dare try it. None but I. I was special. I was preparing… knowing that a time would come when I’d realise my dream – that of becoming the most powerful man on earth.

Friends, relatives, loved ones – they slow you down. I don’t want them, I have no need of them. I work best alone. But I have followers, plenty of them. They rush to do my bidding. Some come out of fear, some because they need protection and some because they want a share of my power. They swear fidelity unto death. I make sure they keep their word.

I have enemies too, I know that. Every great man does. I never forget one (I made sure my ‘father’ met his just deserts). I know they will be vicious and violent and unforgiving. They will try to kill me. But I’m ready. I’ll beat them yet. I shall be immortal. It is possible, you know. Everything is possible, if you know how. They seek my soul but never will they find it for mine is split seven times over and hidden away. Even if my body is annihilated, I shall come back, more powerful than ever.

I am unstoppable, unconquered.

I am Lord Voldemort.

Note: Just wondered what it would be like if Voldemort aka Tom Riddle ever told his story.

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday for the letter V, with grateful thanks to Mrs Nesbitt who get’s me writing every week.

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The Unnamed Heroine

This protagonist has no name – she’s the unnamed heroine of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca – an old old book.

Rebecca is the story of 42 year old Maximillian de Winter who bumps into a girl half his age, a paid companion to the the snobbish gossip Mrs Van Hooper. A quick marriage lands her at Maxim’s family home – Manderley. Not only does this new Mrs de Winter have to contend with the demands of running a large establishment but also with the ghost of Maxim’s dead ex-wife Rebecca who seemed to have been universally loved and admired.

But first, the mystery of her name or rather the lack of it.

People have often speculated why Du Maurier never came up with a name for her heroine. She couldn’t have forgotten about it, considering there are specific mentions of it at a number of places in the book. Most prominently, Maxim remarks, “you have a very lovely and unusual name” and later, “…it becomes you as well as it became your father.” Implying that perhaps she shared the name with him.

Some believe du Maurier meant to call her ‘Daphne’ but was worried that people would draw too many parallels between the book and her real life and chickened out. Oh and there were plenty of parallels. Her real life husband had once been engaged to glamorous dark haired lady and du Maurier always suspected he was attracted to her still. That’s where she arrived upon the theme of her novel – jealousy – which became its starting point.

It’s far more likely that du Maurier couldn’t settle on a unisex name that was ‘lovely and unusual’ enough. An unusual decision for sure. I am not a writer but had I been one I assume I would begin with a name before building up a character and giving it traits and deciding her fate.

The new Mrs de Winter..

…is shy and naive and easily embarrassed. There is something lovable and sweet about her, something that makes you want to protect her and take care of her. Her artlessness makes her come across as honest and genuine. It is this that attracts Maxim and of course the fact that is she is nowhere like Rebecca.

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A scene from Rebecca and one of my favourite quotes from the book

Considering the book is a first person narrative we get to see her through her own eyes only. She is overly critical of herself. Almost till the end of the book she remains unsure of herself worrying if she were being mocked or found lacking by Maxim, the neighbours and even by the servants of the house.

When she does forget to be self-conscious she makes for an interesting companion, at least to Maxim she does. “You’ve taken me out of myself, out of despondency and introspection both of which have been my devils for a year,” he says.

She is amazingly perceptive to people’s emotion specially Maxim’s. She registers each of his mood changes even though she doesn’t understand them. She loves him too and struggles to put him at ease steering the conversation away from topics he finds uncomfortable. She is almost obsessed by him and his attitude towards her, analysing it constantly (perhaps that’s how it is with young first love) and that makes her obsessed with Rebecca.

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday with thanks to Mrs Nesbitt who thought up this wonderful meme.

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An unlikely love story

She – Mary Horton – a 43 year old straight-laced spinster with two houses but no space for love or friendship.

He – Tim Melville – a 25 year old young man with Greek God looks and the brain of a child.

Tim by Colleen McCullough has to be one of the most unlikely love-stories. In this debut novel McCullough crafts her characters with meticulous care and so much love that you cannot but be moved.

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Writing about a character such as Tim is a challenging task because you have so much to say you don’t know where to start. You desperately want your readers to feel about him just as you do and you struggle to find words to say it all and worry, wondering if you will ever do it justice.

I am going to try, though.

Mary spots Tim first at her neighbour’s house where he’s part of a construction crew and is entranced by his stunning looks. Later, she calls him over to help her with her garden and then at her beach house. Thus starts a relationship that has friendship, affection and love put together in an inextricable, heartwarming mix.

For a casual observer there is nothing right with the relationship. The two are no match in physical appearance, mental capabilities, financial or social status. They bond on a purely emotional level.

When I started out reading the book, to me Mary seemed the sole ‘giver’ in the relationship. What could a mentally challenged boy offer a self-made, confident, affluent, educated woman? The only thing missing in her life, perhaps to an outsider, would be the love of family and friends but not to Mary. She fills her life with work, an extensive personal library of good books and good music. Mary Horton is satisfied, even pleased, with the way she has built her life.

Then along comes Tim. His heart winning innocence makes you love him and want to take care of him. He worms his way into Mary’s heart picking away at her defenses, setting her at ease, urging her to loosen up and awakening her dead heart without even being aware of it. He brings colour to her home as to her life. Her feelings for him change from pity to protectiveness to love.

He becomes an integral part of her life as she becomes his.

A word about Tim – he has been brought up to successfully handle his day-to-day life. He can travel on the bus on his own and earn his living as a construction worker. He is aware that he isn’t the ‘full-quid’, as he puts it. He has a naturally sunny disposition and the only thing that upsets him is when he cannot understand a joke or a remark – the feeling of being shut out because of his impaired brain. With Mary he never feels that.

In the end I think this was as equal a relationship as it can get. When Mary’s boss who’s the closest thing she has for a friend, suggests she marry him her response is, “How can I possibly marry a mentally retarded boy young enough to be my son? It’s criminal… I’m a sour, ugly old maid, no fit partner for Tim.” She doesn’t mince her words or spare her feelings.

His reply puts their relationship in perspective:

“…. I defy anyone to explain what one person sees in another…. Whatever you think you are, Tim thinks you are something quite different and much more desirable. You said you didn’t know what on earth he saw in you, that whatever it was you couldn’t see it yourself. Be grateful for that!”

Those were my absolute favourite lines.

Nope, this isn’t a story of romantic love but it most definitely is a love-story. To find someone to love you more than you do yourself – if that’s not love, what is?

PS: The book was made into a film starring Mel Gibson and Piper Laurie. I remember watching bits of it long ago and didn’t quite like it because the Tim I’d made up in my mind was way more handsome and younger too.

PPS: Read the book also for a host of wonderfully etched supporting characters and beautiful descriptions of Australia.

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday. Do drop by and take a look at what others have come up with the letter T.

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When the Help need help

You’ve read ‘Gone With the Wind’? That’s rhetorical, right? You have. So you must remember the wonderful relationship between Scarlett O hara and Mammy. Mammy is the loveable help – the one who dresses Scarlett, pulls her up for each tiny breach of etiquette and is always at hand to keep her dignity intact.

Did you ever wonder if Mammy had a life outside of Tara and the O hara’s? Yeah, nor did I. Mammy is smart and responsible and funny and yet her whole life revolves around Scarlett and her family. There is barely any ‘Mammy’ in Mammy.

Here’s a book that explores all of that, The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It tells the story of ‘Black maids who raised white children’ in Jackson Mississippi of the 60s. At the heart of the book is Skeeter or Eugene Phelan. All though she belongs to the ‘other side’ of the divide, it falls to her to tell the stories of these women.

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Skeeter’s story

Skeeter is an aspiring journalist. Fresh back from college she finds her maid of many years Constantine, has quit and gone. The absence bothers Skeeter even as she busies herself sending across job applications. She is offered work at the local paper. “Miss Myrna’s weekly cleaning advice column”, the job on offer, is a far cry from her dream but it’s a start and Skeeter is proud to be working.

Being a rich white man’s daughter, she hasn’t ever done any cleaning in all her life nor does she intend to learn. So she seeks advice from her friend’s maid Aibileen, offering to split her salary. During the conversation Aibileen mentions that Constantine had been fired (not quit as Skeeter was given to believe) and that starts off Skeeter on a journey into the lives of these women.

A book is born. A book with stories from maids, stories so real they seem unreal. It isn’t easy. First, it has to be kept a secret. Then the maids have to be convinced to open their hearts to Skeeter. However, once they do stories come spilling out including Constantine’s tale and a family secret too. The privileged Skeeter becomes the voice of the exploited maids.

Why I love her

Skeeter is a journalist and a reader. She follows her heart. I love that about her. Check out this quote from her:

“I always order the banned books from a black market dealer in California, figuring if the State of Mississippi banned them, they must be good.”

She certainly isn’t a follower of rules.

When Skeeter writes to an editor for a job she receives a reply, a line of which reads:

“Write about what disturbs you particularly if it bothers no one else.”

A perfect brief for a budding writer. Skeeter goes out and does just that. She’s a rare person with strong sense of justice and an even stronger sense of empathy. Few have the courage to stand up against people they love – friends and family – specially when it doesn’t affect them. It becomes even more difficult when sticking out their neck might lead to the worst kind of ostracism. Hilly and Elizabeth are Skeeter’s childhood friends and yet Hilly turns out to be the main antagonist.

Oh and in case you were wondering – this is not a sad soppy tale of exploited overworked women. This is a story of brave women told with a lot of spirit and barely a dull moment.

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday .  The letter of the week is ‘S’.

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R is for Reginald Jeeves

How many characters, even real ones, have the singular honour of having a search engine named after them? His name appears in the Oxford English Dictionary as a generic word for a valet/butler. Yeah, I know you’ve got it. Not much of a guess, is it? There really is just one Reginald Jeeves – but he’d much rather you just call him Jeeves.

He is the supercilious uber valet, (but he can also buttle with the best)  to the rather bird brained Bertie Wooster – both creations of the British humourist PG Wodehouse.

Where he came from

The character is based on a real life butler Eugene Robinson who actually helped Wodehouse out of trouble, once. Wodehouse employed him for research purposes. Most of you might know the name came from that of a popular Warwickshire cricketer Percy Jeeves. He and Wooster made their first proper appearance in 1916 in The Artistic Career of Corky.

Did you know?house-pictures-hugh-laurie-jeeves

  1. Jeeves’s first name was not revealed for 56 years till the penultimate novel in the series, Much Obliged, Jeeves. Bertie was apparently stunned to realize that Jeeves actually had a first name at all! But then that’s just so Bertie.
  2. Jeeves is a fish eater, which is what makes him so brainy, or so he says.
  3. Jeeves started off working at a girls’ school. He worked for over a dozen others before he and Wooster found each other.
  4. He has three aunts and an uncle and also a niece Mabel.
  5. He quotes from authors and poets like Shakespeare and Dostoevsky. He’s not above showing off his Latin too.

I love him because

– Of his oh-so-propah British ways

– He knows everything, everything. He cooks, cleans, sews, irons, mixes cocktails, makes the best antidote to hangover And he also knows all about horses, cars and women. He is bloody darned perfect at his job.

– He’s impeccably dressed, always!

– He is always in control and never forgets his manners. I mean never.

– He has a solution to the trickiest problem from avoiding an aunt to nipping a love-affair.

– He is a man of unshakeable principles. He once quit Bertie’s employment because Bertie wouldn’t give up playing the banjolele (an instrument which is a mixture of a banjo and a ukulele).

I wish he were mine.

(I do wonder if he would have survived in a household with a chaotic pair of twins. Just wondering…..)

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Linking up to ABC Wednesday the weekly alphabetical challenge where I get to reminisce about my favourite characters from books. Do drop by and take a look at what others have come up with for the letter R.

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