Book club, Book review

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle) PicsArt_08-18-03.09.33-min

Length: 378 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction, Mental Health

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

Date of Publication: 6th January, 2015

Rating: 5/5 stars


All the Bright Places was one of the BOTM for the Book Club. I love reading for bookclubs and readlongs because it is an almost sure thing that the books are going to be great. WE also find a lot of different interpretations of a story which makes for interesting discussions.

The book is apparently also being adapted into a movie which will be interesting. I am always on the look out for more books that deal with mental health because it cannot be talked about enough so I was very excited about reading it.


The Blurb

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
 
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
 
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

The Book

On the surface, All the Bright Places is a tried and tested story. A troubled boy and a sweet girl with a tragic past are brought together for a project and each one helps the other in ways that they do not understand and they fall hopelessly in love with each other. We have read hundreds of books and watched thousands of movies with the same plot. What makes this book different is the way each issue was handled. Mental health was not made trivial nor was it romanticized. It was reiterated that professional help is required and an individual cannot fight his way out without a strong support system.

I loved the character of Violet. She was not inherently good or bad. Her shades of gray made her endearing. Her struggles with guilt and trying to put on a brave face for her parents were moving. I did not take to Finch’s character so easily. I did not like the way that he expected the world to dance to his tunes while he did what he pleased. This issue cropped up again when Finch threw rocks at Violet’s window and threatened to wake up the whole neighbourhood if she didn’t go out in the middle of the night with him to god knows where. I wish authors would stop turning situations like this into something desirable. It sets a bad precedent when a girl who is clearly not comfortable with a situation is coerced into doing something because ‘it is good for her’.

I was glad that the author stayed true in descriptions of depression and manic. She did not try to miraculously find a cure for it nor suggest that falling in love with Violet and having those feelings reciprocated could cure Finch of his disease. I grew to like his character towards the middle of the book especially with the running for flowers scene. Having said that, I must applaud the author for painting this realistic picture and showing that dealing with mental illness is no joke.

The Author

All the Bright Places is Jennifer Niven’s first book for young adults. By the time she was ten, she had already written numerous songs, a poem, two autobiographies, a Christmas story, several picture books, a play, a series of prison mysteries, a collection of short stories and a partially finished novel.

In 2000 she started writing full-time, contributing to her web magazine and dabbling in TV. Although she grew up in Indiana, she now lives in Los Angeles.

Her work include:

  1. The Ice Master (2000)
  2. Ada Blackjack (2003)
  3. The Aqua Net Diaries (2009)
  4. Velva Jean Learns to Drive (2009)
  5. Velva Jean learns to Fly (2011)
  6. Becoming Clementine (2012)
  7. American Blonde (2014)
  8. All the Bright Places (2015)
  9. Holding up the Universe (2016)

TL;DR: A beautifully written book that made me cry and put me in a big time book-coma


What are some of the books that you liked that dealt with mental health?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

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Book review, Received for Review

Horse Town by Moshank Relia

Statistics

Format: Paperback IMG_20181016_130023_580-min

Length: 74 pages

Genre: Children’s fiction

Publisher: Pigeon Post Literary Press

Date of Publication: 1st October, 2018

Rating: 5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review


I love reading children’s books. They have an innocence about them that is always missing in every other genre. I had heard good reviews for the author’s debut book so I jumped at the chance to read this one when the author offered a review copy.

The Blurb

Horse Town is a story of two boys who are brought together by chance and bound together by their willingness to make sacrifices to each other- and strangers. The young boys, Arjun and Maruthi, live together in a single room, scraping together a meagre living by doing odd jobs.
Beside their residence looms the mansion of the reclusive Uncle Grim, a mysterious man who inexplicably receives free food and services from the townspeople. Uncle Grim is even rumoured to practice magic!
When two other boys from the town go missing and Arjun’s hard-earned coins begin to disappear, Arjun and Maruthi search for answers. Something has to explain these strange events. Could it be the peculiar and private Uncle Grim?

The Book

Horse Town is a short but sweet read. The book has beautiful illustrations both on the cover and on the inside by the author. It is a story of trust, friendship, and bonding. The story revolves around two orphan boys who have only each other to rely upon. Arjun has been living on his own for three years and his heart goes out to Maruthi who seems abandoned on the streets. He takes on the responsibility of creating a respectable life for the younger boy even though his efforts seem to be in vain.

The character of Uncle Grim gives the story a much-needed oomph. What was a simple story until then, takes a turn towards a mystery. We find ourselves rooting for Arjun at every turn. I was heartbroken when he believes that his trust was misplaced.

The story has you on your toes right until the end wondering who the culprit really is. It has naivety, intrigue, mystery and lightheartedness that make it a very ‘feel good’ book. It highlights the human nature of suspicion and showcases how important it is to trust your gut.

The author kept in mind the age of the book’s audience. The font is comfortable to read and the illustrations are simple to understand. The book can also be used as a readalong in schools or for parents that want to introduce the concept of trust, hard work, and friendship to young readers.

The Author

Moshank Relia is a graduate in English literature and has earned certificates in creative writing, sketching and theatre. He also holds a diploma in photography and has worked as a fashion photographer. He has trekked a number of high-altitude ranges in the Himalayas, including the mighty Rupin Pass (15,250ft.), Kedarkantha (12,850ft.) and the Kuari Pass (12,516ft.). His love for adventure, his deep affection for kids and his wide-ranging creative experiences drove him to write children’s fiction. Even though he is based in New Delhi, he can often be found sauntering along Camel Back Road, Mussoorie, where he spent most of his teenage years.

His work include:

  1. Adventures in Farland (2017)
  2. Horse Town (2018)

TL;DR: A short but in no way simple read that introduces concepts of trust, friendship and hard work to young readers


What was your favourite book as a kid?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Book review, Received for Review

Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar by Kochery C. Shibu

Statistics

Format: Paperback

men and dreams in the dhauladhar

Length: 283 pages

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Niyogi Books

Date of Publication: 3rd August, 2015

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review


I had seen this book doing the rounds on Bookstagram and was curious. When the author asked me if I would review the book, I was a bit apprehensive with all the warnings that I was given regarding the technical aspects in the book. But I was also curious since I have been known to end up liking technically sound books.


The Blurb

A hydro power project in the remote Himalayas.
Three people brought together by fate. Nanda, an engineer from Kerala at the dam construction site hiding from his past, from the law, torn between the love of his dear ones and the traditional kalari code of revenge.
Khusru, a boy displaced from his native village in Kashmir, a gambit in the terror plot threatening to blow up the dam, working as a labour at the site.
Rekha, a Kathak dancer in heart, a doctor by profession, arrives at the campsite as the consort of Khusru.
A village that accepts the dictates of modernity with a heavy heart, its population steeped in superstitions and religious beliefs.
All throng the camp site like moths to a flame. Some escape untouched,successful; some miss a step and perish.
Each has a story to tell and a dream to realize. The fury of nature and hardship of project life has no mercy for the weak and time for the dead.
Like an eternal spectator the Dhauladhar watches as men risk their limb and life in their quest to full fill their dreams.

The Book

The book is divided into chapters that describe the life of different characters and how the choices of each person lead them towards a common destiny. I love books that take what look like random strangers and build the story in a way that their life decisions interconnect them with each other to form a common story. It was nice to see the book achieve this goal towards the end. The beginning of the book was also intriguing where the author gives us backstory to each character. The middle of the book though felt a bit too long.

I always prefer dialogue and action over description. That being said, I have liked descriptive books when the descriptions help make the story. Unfortunately, in this book, I felt that the descriptions did not do much to further the story. Had all the part of dam building and interaction between the workers been removed, the story would not have really changed. It just felt like fluff that the author added to increase the number of pages of the book to an acceptable amount. Had he concentrated more on the military aspects of terrorism or just concentrated on the intricacies of each character like he did in the beginning, it would have made for a better reading. I was surprised to find that I almost liked the actual technical aspects of building of the dam. It was the frivolous conversations between the labourers and the mundane details of their lives that got to me. The random use of vernacular also felt unnecessary. The author may have tried to bring in authenticity to the story by incorporating slangs but it did not flow smoothly and made for a very jarring reading experience.

The descriptions of the mountains, the terrains, and snow-capped peaks reminded me of my own trip to Kashmir, Darjeeling, and Gangtok. The premise of the terrorist with good intentions, the brilliant girl with a wild heart, and the simple man forced into a family feud were believable having grown up watching Bollywood movies in the same vein. I would have loved to read more on each character in order to make them feel more real. I would also have liked to see what happened to the terrorists’ plan and to know the reason for them picking the Dhauladhar dams as their site of terror attacks. It felt like the book ended a tad too abruptly.

The Author

Kochery C Shibu graduated from the prestigious National Defence Academy in 1981. He has served in the Indian Navy and commanded two warships. Post his retirement he has executed hydroelectric projects in the Cauvery river basin in Karnataka, Beas river basin in Himachal and Teesta river basin in Sikkim. He holds a postgraduate degree in Defence Studies from Chennai University, and MA in English literature from Pune University.
Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar is his debut novel. The technical content of the novel, namely the setting up of a hydro-project is drawn from his experience in these projects since 2005, as are many of the characters inspired from those whom he encountered on site.
Kochery C Shibu was born in Kochi and now lives in Bangalore with his wife and daughter.


TL;DR: A book with very detailed descriptions of events that is sure to be liked by people who like description over dialogue


What do you prefer?

Description, dialogue or action?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Book club, Book review

All About Love: New Visions by Bell Hooks

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle) all about love-min.jpg

Length: 240 pages

Genre: Self-help, Non-fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins

Date of Publication: 30th January, 2018

Rating: 2.5/5 stars


All About Love was the book of the month for September in the book club hosted by Rashi. We read woman-centric books and focus on non-fiction as much as fiction. In August we read THUG and in July, When I Hit You. As a person who needs an extra push towards the non-fiction genre, I was glad that I found it here.


The Blurb

“All About Love offers radical new ways to think about love by showing its interconnectedness in our private and public lives. In thirteen concise chapters, Hooks explains how our everyday notions of what it means to give and receive love often fail us, and how these ideals are established in early childhood. She offers a rethinking of self-love (without narcissism) that will bring peace and compassion to our personal and professional lives, and asserts the place of love to end struggles between individuals, in communities, and among societies. Moving from the cultural to the intimate, Hooks notes the ties between love and loss and challenges the prevailing notion that romantic love is the most important love of all.

Visionary and original, Hooks shows how love heals the wounds we bear as individuals and as a nation, for it is the cornerstone of compassion and forgiveness and holds the power to overcome shame.

The Book

I am not usually a fan of self-help books and non-fiction does not usually excite me. This book is a combination of both of those genres and reiterated to me why I prefer to stay away from them. The book is divided into thirteen chapters on different kinds of love and how they play a role in the growth of a person. While this concept seemed interesting to me, I was sorely disappointed in its execution. The author was repetitive and self-centered and I was tired of all the self-praise that I saw throughout the book. I do realise that the book is the manifestation of the author’s life experience but I would have loved to read more of the author’s loses and not just her triumphs. It would have definitely made the book more believable to me.

In the introduction, the author says “When a woman over 40 talks about love, the sexist thinking is that she is ‘desperate for a man'”. I see this in every walk of life. Any woman who does not have a man in her life after a particular age is dubbed ‘frustrated’ and her every action is linked to not being happily in love. When was it decided that a woman requires a man in her life for happiness? Not everyone’s goal in life is to snare a man. This kind of thinking needs to stop before the society can make any real progress.

Later, in the first chapter, the author says “learning faulty definitions of love when we are quite young makes it difficult to be loving when we are older”. This is one of the chapters that I liked in the book. It opens a lot of dialogues like the counter-productiveness of teaching children that a boy who pulls a girl’s hair or pushes her down in the playground is only doing it because he likes her. Both boys and girls must be taught the right way to express their feelings and to stop the destructive behaviour before it becomes the norm. I liked how the author explains that when we invest feelings and emotions in a person, we form a cathexis which makes us believe that we love them even when they hurt or neglect us. The thought of ‘I have invested so much time and energy into this relationship to just give up on it’ is one of the reasons that many people stay in an unsatisfying relationship. The quicker the people realise that time is wasted in such relationships the better.

My favourite thing in this chapter was when the author said, “care is a dimension of love but simply giving care does not mean we are loving”. Care is just one of the properties of love and not love itself. It is very important to realise this especially when faced with a narcissist who appears to be caring but in reality, is only manipulating the expression of love.

What I did not agree with is the author’s claims that two parenting figures are necessary for the child to appeal to the second parent regarding any misunderstanding or miscommunication. But this goes against all the popular parenting theories which claim that the parents need to present a united front when making any decision for the child. If we are to use the author’s theory, how does one parent not undermine the other? I also did not like how the author gave an example of fixing the problem regarding a friend’s daughter’s allowance. It was an isolated and rare incident that not many others can emulate. Not every mother would allow a friend to determine things like giving an allowance to her child. This is another example of how the author used exemplary instances of her life to generalise rules for the readers.

I loved how the author pointed out that the power and privilage are accorded to men simply because they are males with a patriarchal culture. With the very essence of feminism being threatened every day, this is a very important statement that all of us would do well to remember. However, I certainly did not agree with the author when she claimed that women gossip more than men. Even with the reason that she gave, it does not give her the right to make such claims especially when surveys like the ones conducted by Telegraph and Daily Mail in the UK say the opposite.

The concept that most workers do not do the work that they love but we can all enhance our capacity to live purposely by learning how to experience satisfaction in whatever work we do was interesting. I will try to emulate it to my work but I think that it will be easier said than done in the present day work culture and the pressure that we are all under.

The Author

Bell Hooks (born Gloria Jean Watkins) is an African-American author, feminist, and social activist. Her writing has focused on the interconnectivity of race, class, and gender and their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and domination. She has published over thirty books and numerous scholarly and mainstream articles, appeared in several documentary films and participated in various public lectures. Primarily through a postmodern female perspective, she has addressed race, class, and gender in education, art, history, sexuality, mass media and feminism.


TL;DR: A thought provoking read which you will need to take your time with


What are some of your favourite non-fiction reads?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Book review, Received for Review

Brandon Makes Jiao Zi by Eugenia Chu

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle) brandon-min.JPG

Length: 27 pages

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Realistic Fiction

Publisher: Outskirts Press

Date of Publication: 27th June, 2017

Rating: 5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review


I love reading children’s books. They have a sense of innocence about them that is sorely lacking in every other genre. I have previously reviewed Great Grandma Joins the Circus, Police Officer Penny, Operation Pied PiperThe Adventures of Tootsie Lama, and Bill the Jungle Octopus and loved them all.

When I saw on a Facebook group that Eugenia Chu has a book for children, I asked to review it.


The Blurb

Mommy surprises Brandon with his grandma from China, Po Po (婆婆), when she picks him up from school one day. When they get home, the adventure begins! While Brandon and Po Po (婆婆) are making Chinese dumplings, called jiǎo zi (餃子), Brandon makes a mess and he and Po Po (婆婆) have a good laugh! They chat and bond over the experience. Then Brandon eats and eats and eats and makes a surprise at the end that delights the whole family! This adorable story includes some conversational Mandarin Chinese (including Pinyin – pronunciation) and is written the way a real Chinese grandmother and her Chinese-American grandson would speak with each other. It is a fun read for families with children who are learning, or are interested in, Mandarin or Chinese culture.

The Book

The book begins with an introduction to the intricacies of Mandarin Chinese, the various characters and symbols and how they are spelled and pronounced in Pinyin. It made me go on YouTube and search for the right pronunciation of words. Anything that makes me want to go and research more on it is a win in my books. The book also has a glossary in the end for the reader’s reference.

The story centers around Brandon who is ecstatic that his Grandmother (Po Po) is visiting him. They get together to make dumplings or Jiao Zi which Brandon loves. We are treated to both the English and Chinese variants for words. The sentences are written first in one language and then in another so as to familiarize the reader with various expressions. The family dynamics were sweet and the Chinese-American characters could be a point of reference to the many children who do not find books that are inclusive of the Asian culture in everyday literature.

It is a simple story that is beautifully illustrated by Helena Chu Ho. The repetition of sentences and words are sure to be useful to new learners of the language. I was glad that the author saw the lacunae in literature and took matters into her own hands and came up with a creative solution. I wish that there were such books in the various regional languages of India to help young readers familiarize themselves with their native tongue.

The Author

Eugenia Chu is an attorney, turned stay-at-home mom, turned writer. She is a first generation Chinese-American citizen and lives in Miami Beach with her husband and son, Brandon, who is the inspiration for her stories.  When Brandon was very little, the author couldn’t find children’s storybooks to read to him which touched upon Chinese culture and which included some Chinese (Mandarin) words to teach and/or reinforce his Chinese vocabulary, so she started writing her own.


TL;DR: A short read that is sure to capture the hearts of any reader who yearns for the representation of varied culture and heritage in literature


What languages do you speak?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Book review, Received for Review

A Flight of Broken Wings by Nupur Chowdhury

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle) IMG_20180928_131021_747.jpg

Length: 313 pages

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Self-published

Date of Publication: 18th August, 2018

Rating: 4/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review


I enjoy reading fantasy and was pleased when the author asked me to review the book. It is the first book in the series- The Aeriel Chronicles and I look forward to reading more from the author.


The Blurb

Six hundred years ago, humanity rose up in revolt against the Aeriels, who were driven from earth and back into their homeland of Vaan after a bloody and glorious war.

Eight years ago, Ruban’s home was destroyed and his family murdered by an Aeriel. 

When a new Aeriel threat looms over Ragah, the capital city of Vandram, Ruban Kinoh must do everything in his power to avenge his family’s past and protect the future of his country. 

Which is hard enough without being saddled with a pretty and pompous aristocrat, who seems as useless as he is vain. Faced with a conspiracy that might cost humanity its hard-won freedom, and accompanied by the bejeweled and glitter-clad Ashwin Kwan, Ruban begins his journey into a land where the past and the future intertwine.

The Book

The book begins with the Emancipation Day celebrations where we are given a hint to the state of the Earth after being freed of the dreaded Aeriel rule. Ruban is the world’s best Hunter and is tasked with a mission to protect the reinforced weapons and to hunt rogue Aeriels but also to his chagrin, to babysitting the aristocrat Ashwin from Zain. Ashwin appears to be the typical royal with his charm and pampered upbringing. He does not seem to realise the importance of keeping state secrets and loves to be the center of attention, giving TV interviews without consulting anyone. While Ruban laments his bad luck, he finds that making new friends may not be as bad as he thought. It certainly has its advantages, like his life being saved by the naive Zainian.

The descriptions of the Aeriels reminded me of my favourite TV series- Supernatural, with their white feathers, energy blasts and their ability to appear almost human. The author is very descriptive which lead the first couple of chapters to feel a tad long and winding. However, when the action began in the third and fourth chapters, I couldn’t get enough of the book. The relationship between the Hunting partners Ruban and Simani was very balanced and friendly with mutual love and respect. It was great to see that the author did not feel the need to add a romantic angle to the relationship as most authors are wont to do. It reaffirmed my belief that a book with a platonic relationship between members of opposite genders works just as well, or better than a book with a romantic theme. I also enjoyed the witty banter between Ruban, Vikram, and Ashwin. The conversations throughout the book were light and breezy and felt very real.

I was happy to see that there were no technical loopholes in the story even though the author had the task of keeping all the abilities of the Aeriels and their history straight. The powers of the sif and the energy beings were satisfactorily explained although I did spend the best part of three chapters wondering what a sif was. The only problem that I faced with the book was the lengthy descriptions towards the beginning and the end.  That however, is a personal opinion since I prefer dialogue and action over description. I am sure that readers who love descriptive writing will love these parts of the book. The middle third of the book was fast paced and kept me on my toes guessing what was going to happen next. My favourite character was Ashwin and I would love to read more of him in the next books of the series. I pat myself on the back for correctly guessing the perpetrator but that might just be the result of me having read too many books in the genre.

The Author

Apart from novels, Nupur Chowdhury enjoys writing poetry and the occasional short story. She was four when she started writing. Now, some 20 years later, it’s more an addiction than a hobby.

Nupur likes coffee, street food, fanfiction, and sleep. She dislikes yogurt, slow internet, unnecessary cliffhangers, and being woken up in the morning. You can find her on Facebook, Wattpad, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Her work includes:

  1. The Classroom Effect (2015)
  2. A Flight of Broken Wings (2018)

TL;DR: A fun fantasy with lovable characters that will make you want to keep reading till the very end


What are some of your favourite fantasy series?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

 

Book review, Received for Review

Pimp in the Pulpit (Books 1 and 2) by Thomas Leslie McRae

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 35 pages (Book 1), 42 pages (Book 2)

Genre: Satire,

Publisher: Eber & Wein

Date of Publication: 2nd December 2016 (Book 1), 2017 (Book 2)

Rating: 3/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the books in exchange for an honest review


I am always on the look out for books that are unusual. When the author asked me if I was willing to review the book, I was intrigued by the blurb and decided to give it a read. The author warned me of the harsh language in the book and I was glad that he did.


The Blurb

Pimp in the Pulpit is a short story filled with unique characters. Each has a different outlook on life and how they treat family and friends. What is acceptable to some is nothing more than the devils work to the others. The large family has met on several occasions for gatherings, parties and reunions, some went OK but most didn’t. Nobody was sure what went wrong to cause such chaos when the family gathered. There was speculation that when Minister Tierra Joy become involved in any family event planning it quickly turned into a hot ghetto mess.

Well it’s time for another gathering. Lillian McBride, affectionately know as Lucifer is turning 95. Lillian has four children, a son, Tony McBride. She also has three daughters Viola McBride, Minister Tierra Joy and Cleopatra Jones. Will this special occasion bring the family closer or drive them further apart? How will they finance the gathering? How much money that is raised will be stolen or used for other means? Will the huge clan from Texas show up? What about the food, will they have enough? Will the relatives go nuts eating like they are on death row and this is their last meal, consuming it all in fifteen minutes or less? How much of the buffet will they steal and take home? Who will drink too much and act up? Has Cleopatra and her family learned from their previous gatherings? Will they even attend the bash?

Cleopatra is married to Marcus Jones Senior. They have two kids Marcus Junior and Edward (Eddie) Jones. Eddie is a hardworking man and is perplexed about his family’s actions towards his family, immediate and distant kin. He has trouble understanding even his Dad’s outlook on the birthday party. He begins questioning family loyalties, their love for one another while at the same time remembering the advice his Mom and Aunt Gladys told him several years ago. Will this gathering, compounded with the events of the other ones finally open Eddie’s eyes?

The Book

The book begins with a phone conversation between Eddie and his mother, Cleopatra that gives us clues to the state of dysfunction in the family. The author gives a detailed introduction to the various sisters, brothers, cousins and their extended family and friends throughout the book which got a bit tiring. We are then made privy to the various shenanigans of Lucifer a.k.a Lillian McBride who is the reining matriarch of the family. Lillian along with Minister Joy and her family look for ways to swindle the others for money and goods.

Through the entire length of the book, the author gives examples of various family gatherings and functions where the Joy family has invited itself over in order to sample free food. They never seem to bring anything but negativity to these events. They even plan and host events in the hopes of making some extra cash. The Jones family is their main target, owing to the forgiving nature of Marcus Senior. While Cleopatra is smart as tacks, she is helpless against the barrage of schemes that her sister and her family cook up.

While the various altercations were funny in the beginning of the book, I found them to be a tad repetitive in the second part. There was no lesson to be learnt, the nice guys were always suffering at the hands of the Joy family but never seemed to do anything about it. The foremost emotion that I felt was pity towards the Jones’ but I was also frustrated with the way that they let everyone walk all over them. I could connect with the character of Marcus Senior when he said that the family was just beginning to like him and he did not want to do anything to jeopardize it. This is something that all of us feel when we are a part of a new family. I liked the author’s style of writing, with each chapter describing a different incident or story. The fact that it was not chronological did not effect it in the least.

I was warned about the harsh language in the book before I received it. Once I began to read it, I realized that no amount of warning would have prepared me for the amount of profanity in the dialogues. I was surprised that families could talk to each other in such a way but if your family was anything like the Joy family, you would be reduced to such language too.

The Author

His work include

  1. Personal Financial Planning: An Introduction (1997)
  2. Poetry 4 the Soul (2009)
  3. The Soul of a Poet (2010)
  4. Pimp in the Pulpit (2016)
  5. Pimp in the Pulpit Volume II (2017)

TL;DR: A quick and humorous read that will make you feel grateful for the family that you have.


Do you like satire?

What is your favourite read in that genre?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Book club, Book review

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

eleanor oliphant is completely fine.jpeg

Length: 299 pages

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary

Publisher: Harper Collins

Date of Publication: May 18th, 2017

Rating: 5/5 stars


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and All the Bright Places were the books of the month for a book club that I was a part of for the month of August. I love reading in book clubs because it guarantees discussions. I had been meaning to read this book for some time now and was glad to have got a push towards it.


The Blurb

Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live.

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

The Book

There are some books that you grow to love as you continue to read and then there are some that grab you and pull you along right from the first sentence. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was the latter for me. I cannot explain what exactly it was about the beginning but I was hooked!

Eleanor is a thirty-year-old woman who has learnt to live alone and she loves it on most days. I instantly connected with her even though (or because?) she is a bit weird. She takes things literally and does not believe in small talk. I could totally understand where she was coming from and wondered what it said about me. Isn’t that one of the best things about reading though? You identify with characters and thereby manage to understand yourself a little better. What other form of entertainment lets you do that?

I loved the character of Raymond. He is non-judgmental and supportive even though Eleanor insinuates that he disgusts her on more than one occasion. He gets that she does not mean for it to be mean and that is just who she is. It is wonderful when you have someone like that in your life, someone that you can be yourself with. It was also nice to see that her co-workers mean her no harm even though she makes it perfectly clear that she thinks that they are all intellectually inferior. The scenes with the counselor felt a bit too fast to be believable but that is a creative liberty that the author is allowed. It was necessary to keep the story moving and it did not take anything away from the story. I really appreciated the way that mental health issues were portrayed in the book.

I was very moved by Eleanor’s backstory. I did predict the ending but that might just be a result of me having read a bit too many books in this genre. The book put me in a book hangover for an entire day and my emotions were in a turmoil all through its reading. That, in my opinion, is the proof of a well-written story by an accomplished writer.

The Author

Gail Honeyman lives in Glasgow and wrote her debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, while working a full-time job. It was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize as a work in progress. She has also been awarded the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award 2014, was longlisted for BBC Radio 4’s Opening Lines, and was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.


TL;DR: A moving story that is sure to pull you along for the ride right from the very first page


What are some of the books that you have read which deal positively with mental health?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Book club, Book review

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

Length: 322 pages

Genre: Historic Fiction

Publisher: Knopf publishers

Date of Publication: 7th June, 2016

Rating: 5/5 stars


I read homegoing as a part of a readalong on Instagram along with Nikhat, Nikita, Unnati, Orishtha, Vasudha, Geethika & Debbie, Aanvi, Miss Literateur and The Book Knight.

I love readalongs and book discussions because it opens your mind to other possibilities and interpretations of the same written words. It always amazes me that the same sentences could mean so many different things to different people.

Historic fiction is one of my favourite genres and the growth of a culture is always interesting to read. African history is steeped high with the intermingling of cultures and races and it is tragically beautiful while being infuriating at the same time. I have previously read books on the same subject and was curious to see what this book held and I was certainly not disappointed.


The Blurb

The book begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indeliably drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.

Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

The Book

A sentence that makes sense even now with all the oppressors and the religious wars-“The white man’s god is just like the white man. He thinks he is the only god, just like the white man thinks he is the only man. But the only reason he is god instead of Nyame or Chukwu or whoever is because we let him be. We do not fight him. We do not even question him. The white man told us he was the way, and we said yes, but when has the white man ever told us something was good for us and that thing was really good? They say you are an African witch, and so what?”

“The white man’s god is just like the white man. He thinks he is the only god, just like the white man thinks he is the only man. But the only reason he is god instead of Nyame or Chukwu or whoever is because we let him be. We do not fight him. We do not even question him. The white man told us he was the way, and we said yes, but when has the white man ever told us something was good for us and that thing was really good? They say you are an African witch, and so what?”

Homegoing covers the lives of eight generations of Gold Coast residents in West Africa. It begins with the arrival of the whites for trade in the form of barter of goods and continues to show the brutality of the slave trade, the atrocities of the whites over the blacks and finally the life of blacks in segregated cities after the Civil War. I had recently read The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas where she shows how much of inequality still exists in the world based on skin color. To read about the reason for the development of that racial discrimination was enlightening. I had previously read Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs and watched Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino, both with brutal visuals of the plight of slaves and this book reminded me of some of those scenes that I had trouble getting out of my head again.

The book is written from the points of view of various characters, some powerful men and women, others helpless slaves. I love books that discuss a situation through all the different characters who have been affected by it. I loved how the author linked every chapter to something that happened in one of the previous chapters. It gave the book a continuity that made reading it a treat. The brutality of the living conditions, the whippings, the burnings and the very concept of owning another human being were gut-wrenching. I had to stop reading a couple of times because the imagery was so powerful. It was great that I had the other girls reading along with me to discus what we felt and to just be there for each other.

The book is divided into exactly two halves though I do not see the necessity. The last quarter of the book was not as powerful as the rest of the book but I attributed it to the fact that it covered parts of history that I already had read about. It was a beautifully written story with complex characters and it is one of my favourite reads of this year.

The Author

Yaa Gyasi was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a BA in English from Stanford University and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she held a Dean’s Graduate Research Fellowship. Her short stories have appeared in African American Review and Callaloo.


TL;DR: A powerful book that takes the reader on a journey across generations and continents and challenges some of the pre-set notions in history.


What is your favourite book in the historic fiction genre?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Musings, Wrap-up

Book Haul

Statistics

Number of Books: 9 IMG_20180811_102028_844

Date of Acquisition: 4th August, 2018


I had a weekend trip to Bangalore last month and it was the perfect opportunity to meet some of my fellow bookstagrammers. We call ourselves the Bookdivas and have wonderful discussions on things both related and unrelated to books, authors and stories. I got to meet Anupama and Nisha and we had a great time catching up.

What is a bookstagrammer meet without book exchange and book shopping? I brought books for my buddies while they had done to same for me. I gave Anupama Agatha Christie’s The Murder on the Links to help her complete her Agatha Christie reading goals while she gave me quite a few of her review copies like Yoddha- The Dynasty of Samudragupta by Rajat Pillai, If I Had to Tell it Again by Gayathri Prabhu, Harappa Trilogy by Shankar Kashyap and When the Lion Feeds by Wilbur Smith that she had received from another Bookdiva, Chitra. I had taken The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy for Nisha but she had already read it so I gave that to Anupama as well and bought Goad Days by Benyamin for Nisha since she wanted to read more books by Malayali authors while she gave me The Wizards of Once by Cressida Coswell because I love fantasy.

We next set out to raid Blossoms Book House for more book shopping. Blossoms has been the go-to destination for all books, new and old, for decades. No trip to Bangalore is complete without a trip to Blossoms. I bought three books for myself keeping in mind the space constraints of storing them all. I had always wanted to read Salman Rushdie so I bought Shalimar the Clown. Book Thief by Markus Zusak had been on my TBR since a long time so I bought that as well. I had been feeling that I should read more of classics so I also bought Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I thought I would be meeting another member of the Bookdivas group, Unnati while in Bangalore so I had bought for her Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman which I will now keep for myself because I love mythology.

I haven’t bought physical copies of books in a long time and it felt good lugging those books across town. I wish book sales come back to my city like they used to when I was young. But I now have a large number of physical book copies thanks review requests, my birthday book mails and books sent across by Chitra and I look forward to reading them all. I also look forward to meeting the other Bookdivas, the ones that I haven’t mentioned- Sneha and Jaanaki.


What was your recent book haul like?

How do you manage to find the space to store all of them?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life