Category Archives: Book Reviews

The War Blog: Glen Sobey

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GENRE: Fiction, Young adult

My rating: 4.5/5

I received this ebook as part of LibraryThing Early Reviewers copy. I thank the author and publisher for providing me the copy. This is an honest review and my views are not biased or altered by receiving a copy.

The premise of the story is rather promising and the blurb pulled me towards it. Not every day do we have someone writing about the Rape Culture prevalent in our society, or even how the culture has permeated in to the very fabric of our society.

Blurb: Crystal Rose, a 17-year-old high school junior, and her younger brother were abandoned by their drug-addicted mother fifteen years ago in an Alaskan Native village, an event which Crystal resented for years. However, when she learns that her mother was raped in high school, Crystal declares war against a society which reduces girls to their looks, forcing them to feel worthless without the approval of guys. While living in a small Alaskan town, she starts The War Blog website, along with her best friend and crush Kato—a brilliant Native boy—attacking everything promoting female objectification and offering ways to fight back, all supplemented by her original songs. Crystal rises from nothing in the wilds of Alaska to become a champion for change, risking her life against men who would force her to keep silent. She faces her parents’ abusive past and fights for a better world.

When I finished reading the book I was filled with mixed reactions; sadness, angst, disgust and yet it felt apt for current times. I applaud the author for taking up the writing of such a intense and deeply distressing topic. The story will definitely touch chords with readers if they sit down and let each incident filter through them. This is a highly sensitive story which will make you feel disgusted, sickening, revolted; yet you will nod your head at the poignant truth that is at the surface of the story. Sobey has taken the task of writing about an issue that is not only rampant but also needs immediate attention. The topic of rape is dealt head on and the author does not try to mitigate or try to take the edge off the matter. The story is from the POV of a 17 year old teenager, who finds life serving her cards unexpectedly. Before she has dealt with one, another card is thrown at other almost knocking her down. But she perseveres, and it’s her steely determination that is heart warming and gratifying. It also brings forth an important fact that if a child knows that he/she has a family to fall back on in times crisis, they grow to be strong individuals. Besides, the main topic of Rape Culture, the book also tries to bring into the open the issues of depression, alcoholism, sexual abuse, substance abuse, body shaming, obsession about body size, cyber bullying, ill effects of social media, same sex relationship and the associated taboo and the increasingly disheartening trend of objectification of women.

The author does try to moderate the harshness of the topic by the love and tenderness between the characters as well as the highly lyrical and poetic songs written alongside the main plot . The author has done an excellent job of highlighting the often feelings of  hollowness and insignificance the younger generation often experience since they feel themselves tied by the shackles of cultural norms and being criticised by how they look and whether or not they “fit in”. There are many twists and turns to the plot which would keep the readers captivated.

But I do have certain objections about the book. Though the book openly condemns body shaming and the objectification of women, there is careless use of words like ‘slut’, ‘whore’; and the ever too often mention about breast and the size. The delicate matter of gay relationship should have been dealt better, because Crystal’s idea that half brothers can be in a relationship simply because they cannot have kids seemed like mocking the whole matter. Then there this concern that every girl Crystal meets has been sexually assaulted or raped. And those who have been raped take to drugs and fall down to the pits of darkness, accepting the scums or engaging in  wanton ways since they think they don’t deserve better. This track in the book is highly disturbing and made reading difficult. These girls didn’t take their lives into their own hands rather put up the excuse of rape to their behaviour. I did not like the other girls mentioned since they seemed to have accepted that there is no life after being raped. And the author too fails to provide details that were they drug addicts earlier or was it after they were raped. The only saving grace is Crystal who stands firm to not adhere to the images society has created about women. But being a teenager she does feel the moments of insecurity with herself and her body, but makes sure not to delve too much on them.

The book needs editing to do away with the entrances and exits of characters which are way too many. It made me turn pages to check upon who was who and their story, rather annoying. It made the reading suffer at times. But as whole the book shows potential and would make a brilliant book for every teenager suffering with body image issues and sexual abuse. The book asks girls to have bigger aspirations and targets for life than worrying about external manifestations. The songs in the book are apt and make a wonderful addition to the story.

Recommended for all but do not mistake the character with the author. Feminists would not like the book. But if read from perspective of a teenager you would enjoy more.

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A Dream: Cory Q Tan

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Genre: Children’s Fiction, Picture Books

My rating: 4/5

I received a free digital copy of this book from the author as part of LibraryThing Member Giveaway. This review is my personal view about the book and does not have any bias towards the author or his work.

Plot: The story is first person narrative of a boy telling readers about the birth of his younger brother and the events thereafter. Ever since the birth, his mother frets and loses sleep over the baby’s small size. She happens to compare him with other babies his age and always seems to find him smaller than normal. This anxiety turns into obsession taking form into her dreams as well. She dreams of Giant baby, giant bunny… The events in her dreams makes her realize her folly and teaches her to be satisfied with her child.

At times the story seems reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. There are giant babies, giant animals, and food that makes you grow big.  The story seemed a bit didactic but the author brings them well subtly. The lesson at the end to be content with what we have is important in today’s highly competitive world. The mother is seen comparing her child and gets highly obsessed with size of her child. Similarly, we can see girls obsessing about their body size and body parts. None seems to be fully satisfied with the way they are born.

The book makes for an excellent bedtime story for kids and also has the lesson for them to accept themselves as they are. The illustration add charm to the text and speak for themselves. They are highly colorful and full of life. I would recommend this book for those who like quality illustrations and to parents with small kids. Its a good reminder to learn to accept ourselves and not be fixated or preoccupied with size. A good read.

 

 

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The Preacher’s Bride: Theresa Oliver

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GENRE: Western Romance, Fiction

My Rating: 5/5

I received the ARC as a Member Giveaway from LibraryThing. And I am grateful to the publisher for sending the copy. I have read romances before but this is a story quite unlike any other. The pages are filled with emotions that tie a noose around you heart and then lug them hard that it leaves you breathless. The female protagonist Mia, lives in New York and works as a dancehall girl. She barely manages enough to get through. She sews clothes as additional income but even that is not enough. In the midst of her financial struggle she agrees to be a mail order bride for Caleb Henley, the preacher at Whiskey Rivers. She hopes for a better life in the same town as her friend Ella who lives in with her husband, Colton. Mia knows how happy Ella is and wants the same thing for herself. But Caleb has set the rules for the relationship. He expects her to keep the house and look after his children, a platonic relationship. On the other hand, having lost his  wife, Caleb is troubled by his past. He agrees to marry again since he finds it difficult to strike a balance between his job as the preacher of the congregation of Whiskey River, looking after his two small children alone, caring for his farm, and attending to the needs of his congregation.

Mia really wants a husband who loves her and is devoted to her. She does her best to fight against her feelings for Caleb . She knows well that he still loves his first wife. Caleb has not overcome over the loss of his first wife and in unable to accept  Mia. But Mia loves Caleb’s children as her own and never wants to leave them. He needs to decide what he really wants with their marriage before Mia decides for them

Mia is hurting inside as she hopelessly falls in love with Caleb despite her efforts. She fears he will break her heart. Caleb having loved and lost isn’t looking for a replacement to fill his heart, but finds himself drawing towards Mia. Do they find love in each other? Will Caleb give his heart to Mia?

This is an emotional and touching love story about a woman in  love, marriage and children and a man who is hurting from losing a loved one. Readers will find themselves dabbing away tears at the tender emotions at play here. At times your anger may flare at Caleb’s callousness. But then in the same breath forgive him when he opens his grieving heart to readers.

This book has some surprises concealed for the reader, which make the reading enticing. I’m looking forward for the next book in the series and read more from the author.

Raavana’s Daughter: Nadishka Aloysius

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GENRE: Fiction, Mythological fiction

Rating: 4/5

I received this book as part of LibraryThing Member Giveaway. Of late, I have been surrounded by books on mythological fiction. I must admit, I have enjoyed them a lot. My reading has exposed me to characters and events that I have never known. The finer nuances of many characters that I came across made me rethink about them. I have been reading mostly mythological fiction based on characters from Ramayana. Having covered Sita, Mandodari, Meenakshi(Surpanakha), Urmila, Karna’s wife, Kaikeyi, the list goes on. So when I came across the title of the book, I was instantaneously hooked. It caught my imagination as to what would be the story behind Raavana’s Daughter.

The author renders her version of Ramakien, the Thai version of the Hindu epic. I had expected this to be a fully fledged novel, but was disappointed to see that it’s a quick dip, a short novel. The story begins with Hanuman pondering over his decision to help Ram. Unlike Ramayana, Hanuman here is not fully supportive of Ram’s quest. Hanuman sees the disaster in the wake of the war and wishes not to be a part of it. But it’s his respect and devotion for Ram that brings him to assist Ram and bring back Sita. Hanuman is assisted by the vanara army headed by him along with Nala and Neela. tHe other two leader are sceptical about building a bridge from Pamban island to Lanka. They perceive that it would cost a lot of destruction to natural resources.

Deep in thoughts, Hanuman sees a dream where he gets the solution. Soon the army is building the bridge and manages to complete it by sunset. But at dawn they find it ruined and in pieces. They again set to work but yet again the bridge is damaged. Hanuman sees the hand of some magical powers and keep watch. He comes across Suvaana, the Mer-queen and daughter of Ravana. The story further contains the meeting between the two and how Hanuman manages to draw her towards the good cause. But can she be trusted? Will the power of goodness break the pull of blood ties? Is she ensnaring them into further trouble or is she really helping? Will Hanuman fall for her charms?None of these questions meet an answer as the author gives a rushed ending which is open ended. A lot can happen and readers are free to decide what happened.

After the whole build up I was very disheartened by the cliff-hanger ending. It is well written and seems like a chapter books we read in our language arts text books. It contains just enough story and plot to allure the reader with its magnetism, but doesn’t actually give you the full story. There is a lot of scope for much character development or an ending. An excellent read for readers who are looking for a slice of mythology within a sliver of time. This makes for a marvellous quick read. So just bite right in.

Dear Jane: Marina Delvecchio

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GENRE: Fiction, Urban Fiction, Realistic

My Rating: 5/5

I have always been fond of classics since my childhood. My library reading time was spent devouring illustrated classics when I was young, and the unabridged versions as I grew older. In ninth grade we were asked by our English teacher to do a book review on the book “Jane Eyre”. The left a deep impression in my mind and heart with its story of isolation, abandonment, deprivation and the journey of self discovery. Jane is not your quintessential heroine who serves as an ornamental piece to the hero. She is rather independent, fierce yet gentle, humble, a lady of principles, and someone who does not compromise on her self-respect or integrity for the bait of being married.

So when I got the ebook from Library Thing Early Reviewers I grabbed at it. As a self confessed bibliophile, there are many books I turn to when I seek advice or a reality check. Thus, the idea of the book not only fascinated me but I was also intrigued as to what was held between the pages. I was left feeling sore, tender and bruised as if been beaten in my guts. Dear Jane is written in the form of diary/journal entries which renders a personal and intimate feel. The reading feels as if you are audience to the life of the protagonist. I am still reeling under the effects of the book. At times I was crying inconsolably, and then there were times when the bile rose to my mouth making every ting taste acrid.

Similar to Jane Eyre, the cover has the image of a girl’s silhouette. The image seems of a girl tightly braided which resonates with the tightly contained soul. This book does make for not a cheerful or light reading. This is a raw story of Elecktra Koutros(nicknamed Kit Kat), a girl from Greece who lives a life of deprivation, child abuse, sexual violence, domestic violence, extreme poverty, abandonment, before being adopted by a Greek American woman. The diary entries are her recounting of her life events. There are quotes from the book ‘Jane Eyre’ at the beginning of each chapter that helped Kit Kat connect to Jane through the diverse experiences of the character. Elecktra faces abuse from her own mother who is a prostitute and the man who poses as their protector is her pimp. Elecktra’s father gives up on the family when under rage his wife hits him with the heel of her sandal, fatally wounding him. He becomes partially blind. The pimp sexually abuses her mother and also Elecktra. She grows up in an environment of violence, abuse and poverty. She lives with her aunt for a while before being sent up for adoption. But the adoption is not the beginning of her fairy tale. Her new mother Ann, wants her to erase all her past and her memories. She even renames her Kathryn, trying to obliterate her past. You can mould a young child into someone you want, but the same cannot be done with a eight year old. This rebellion or defiance does not go well with Ann, and this strains the relationship. Instead of the love and acceptance she so earnestly seeks, she is further suppressed emotionally.

The story ends with a peak into harsh reality. Kit Kat moves out of her new mother’s house to create a life of her own. She decides to write her own narrative and become the author of her own story. The book does not give you happy ever after with a happy life for Elecktra, rather it ends on the note that we should live for ourselves.

“As the writer of my narrative, I write my own story, my way. Just like Jane. Just like you.”

This book has been unlike any other I’ve read. It is grave and full of brutalities, but one must admit that it’s the sad truth of many children around the world. Having read Jane Eyre I thoroughly enjoyed this books due to the literary analysis of Jane Eyre in comparison with Kit Kat’s life. Each event in Jane’s life find an echo in KitKat’s life and she finds solace in having someone who’s suffered like her. I think reading Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, prior to reading this book would be of huge help in understanding and comprehending the allusions. On the other hand, Dear Jane would make an exceptional companion piece when studying Jane Eyre to demonstrate how classic literature is still relevant in modern life. After reading this book, I think that some readers may consider reading Jane Eyre in order to find out more about this character who helped Kit Kat embrace herself and discover who she really is.

I loved the ending of the book the most. It is valid and plausible, just like the rest of the novel. Had there been a cinematic ending of happy rosy future the value of the book would have drastically reduced, and would have undermined the story. Dear Jane ends with optimism and a hope that will carve a niche for herself in this world.
As a warning this book will leave you with a feeling of loneliness and dejection. It is poignant and heart wrenching with an emotional impact, that will leave you gasping for air.
PS: PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS BOOK IF YOU CANNOT STOMACH READING ABOUT SEXUAL VIOLENCE, CHILD ABUSE, AND OTHER BRUTAL TRUTHS.

Love, Amour, Amore: A Collection of Three Love Stories from Around the World : Kaya Quinsey

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GENRE: Romance, Short Story, Fiction

My Rating:5/5

I received this book as a member giveaway from LibraryThing. From page one I was completely engaged with the words. Kaya’s writing style is simple and yet she manages to capture your heart in her own subtle ways. Love, Amour, Amore, is not just a collection of love stories, it is also contains within its pages the journey of three women to realize their own worth and not surrender themselves to something/someone below them.

The first story in the collection is Valentine in Venice. A rather fascinating title which gives away nothing about the story. I thought it must be something to do with Valentine’s day. Valentine in Venice is about a woman Valentine’s second attempt at happiness and contentment after her life slips down the gutter. Now twenty six, divorced and cautious, and having learned a hard lesson about relationships after her divorce. She realizes that she should be more aware and conscious about the choices that she had made in her life, rather than making impulsive jumps. Ten years ago, she had met Lorenzo when she went to Venice on a class trip. What followed was a whirlwind teenage romance, first love and first kiss. So desiring a break from her hectic schedule as a celebrated wedding photographer, she retraces her steps to her past and makes a trip to Venice. She expects the trip to be uncomplicated, easy, and undisturbed walk down the memory lane. Bu things never go as planned now do they? On the first day in Venice her destiny plays the game changer and she literally falls into the arms of her first love, Lorenzo. Their love is rekindled. With Valentine’s Day just  around the corner, will Valentine be another mistake in impulse or will it be her happily ever after?

The author here leaves it open ended, with the readers feeling cheated, as I felt. I was disappointed that the story didn’t carry on for a few more pages. The romance and the whole ambience had me held captive. The romance is not steamy but one that makes you smile and fills you with a warmth inside. Except for the deadly cliff-hanger ending it’s a perfect read for anyone looking for a sweet romantic short story.

The second story was A Coastal Christmas. This was definitely a page turner and like her first story was again open ended. It s story set against the back drop of Christmas. Jessica Beaton is a successful broadcaster in Manhattan, NY. She has it all the works for her:

the perfect New York City apartment, high-flying career, and a handsome boyfriend. Jessica is expecting a proposal from her boyfriend before Christmas. But she is humiliated when her co-host and boyfriend, Brett Fanshaw, almost proposes to her on-air before backing out, leaving her dumped and embarrassed on national television. Heartbroken and feeling forlorn she leaves NY to go home to Pebble Shores for the holidays for the first time in many years. While at home she volunteers to help her parents for the Christmas Carnival. She crosses roads with Dean Adams, the mayor of Pebble Shores. Still re-evaluating her life and the priorities she gets stuck in media frenzy when photographers click her pictures while she is home. Dean isn’t thrilled to have the media spotlight shed on their small town. What follows needs to be read. Does she fall for Dean or does Brett come after her?

The story is fast paced and there is never a dull moment. A story with the Christmas flavour that leaves you feeling content and in festivity mood.

 

The third story, Paris Mends Broken Hearts made me cry and also had me smiling with indulgence. I felt that unlike the other two stories, the element was romance was only in the mentioning and this was more about the three women getting together and working out their lives together.
Gwendoline Delacroix is a war widow who has lost her loving husband, Jean, in WWII. She feels haunted by the memories she shared with her husband in her French countryside chateau. She has dedicated staff that do their best to keep her afloat, but it’s not enough. Gwendoline takes off to Paris and meets her brother who takes her with him the Hotel de la Belle Paix – the hotel run by her brother and sister-in-law in the Latin Quarter in Paris. Over the summers she helps her brother and sister in law with small works at the hotel. She later lands a job at an animal sanctuary run by an eccentric aristocrat, Madame Goulet, who is a friend of Yvette, her sister in law. Her life makes quick turn from there. She makes new friends and proves to herself and everyone else that there is life after lost love.

This story collection is special because unlike common notion of a heroine(damsels) in romantic stories, the women are all strong, independent, determined, hard working and know their mind. Its a story of self discover as well. If looking for a quick read do pick this up. It will leave you feeling all relaxed and snug.

The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up: Jacob M Appel

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GENRE: Fiction, Satire

My Rating:4/5

This book is a great satire of how most Americans found their lives changed post 9/11.The book makes some incredible points regarding patriotism, mob mentality, the media, its desire to overkill for increased TRPs and sensationalism. I loved that this book managed to be a fun and interesting read while still raising some serious questions about our society and the intricate thought process of the society as a whole that seems to enmesh people rather than deliver them. Humans are social animals with the power to think for themselves, but how often is the thinking faculty put to use??It speaks of how we are expected to be always in check and use politically correct terms and be in adjunct with the government at all times. Since anything different is considered threat to the sentiments of the nation and patriotic feeling. Patriotism is no longer an individual/personal feeling, rather it’s become
a collective communal feeling and anyone who does not abide or feel alike is labelled a traitor and lives the threat of being ostracized.

Blurb: Arnold Brinkman is a shy and retiring botanist; he loves his plants more than his country. But when his refusal to stand for the national anthem at a baseball game causes a major media incident, he is thrown into a world of pushy patriots, preachers, and press. And it’s not going to get any easier when he refuses to apologize. (from the book cover)

Things go down the drain as the matter gets escalated and Arnold is accused of being unpatriotic and harboring hatred against his own country. His house is surrounded by the press, police and a religious extremist, the Reverend Spotty Spitford, who are hell bent in making Arnold  apologize. The matter could have been solved and peace would have been restored, if Arnold had apologized, but instead, Arnold refuses to do so. The situation takes a malicious turn and goes absolutely out of control thereafter. Arnold’s beautiful garden is defaced and sabotaged, and he believes it to be done by Spitford. So he goes to Reverend Spitford’s church and insults him with a racial expletives, breaking a window from the church with a bible handed by Spitford himself to teach lessons him some biblical virtues. But things do not go well. Arnold is labelled as a wanted terrorist, and must hide from society. There’s a possibility he may be imprisoned for various acts: vandalism, racial threats, terrorism, etc.

There on Arnold faces a lot of privation and is on the verge of losing his sanity. The hardships, deprivation and adversities he faces makes him vulnerable and he almost ends up having an affair with the reporter who first met his after his rise to fame. Later he also meets another wanted criminal with whom he forges a friendship for a while, only to be dumped by the latter when Arnold goes against the words of the criminal. The incidents mentioned where he goes into hiding and isolation is not only horrific but revolting also.

The book is written from third person point of view of Arnold. It is filled with discerning insightful dialogues between character that not only shapes them but also leads the plot forward. Through the conversations in the book Appel exposes the distressing state of America, and the world as well. The media with its hunt for sensational stories and need to have 15 minutes of fame, has made a farce of being a patriot. It is like a circus ring where the ring leader makes all animals perform. Similarly the media dictates how society reacts, most of the times in a numb induced state.

The story many times reminded me of one of the plays I had read in my graduate years(literature) Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. Appel has managed to create a story which is similarly absurd. But readers would enjoy the book and would be drawn to the plot is because it seems so believable. This book is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea since many scenes and dialogues might  wrench your guts forcing bile to your mouth. I think only a certain type of readers would enjoy the varied amalgamation of farce, wit, satire, irony, humour and the slightly ostentatious aura of the protagonist that make up this story. I would recommend it to those who enjoy sarcasm, cynicism at its best and have a politically incorrect sense of humor.

Prince Charming by Harma-Mae Smit

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GENRE: Fantasy, Retelling, Short Stories, Romance

My Rating: 4/5

I ask to be pardoned by all feminist readers to forgive my liking for this particular fairy tale. Unlike other tales, the female protagonist, Cinderella is not a damsel in distress. She is rather shown as a girl with lot of patience, endurance, positivism and a heart that is gracious to forgive her stepmother and stepsisters, despite their harsh and brutal treatments. She is not vindictive and is in fact generous enough to offer a home to them with her in the castle.

I received  Harma-Mae Smit’s, Prince Charming? Retelling Cinderella, ebook as part of LibraryThing Member Giveaway. First of all, I would like to thank the author for giving me a copy of this delightful book. It is an enchanting and refreshing new look at the popular fairy tale. It is simply sui generis, a retelling that is forces you to rethink about the characters and their nature.

All the characters of the original fairytale are in place: a Cinderella, Prince Charming, stepmother, stepsisters, King and of most importantly, Fairy Godmother. The characters in the books are: Prince Charming: Dmitriv, Cinderella: Vasilisa. We have a slight deviation in the tale in the form of the narrator, who happens to be Dmitriv’s sister, Anastasia. She provides the acumen, observations and the ideals that each character should possess that takes this story forward. Being a royal is not all about power and prestige and looking good. It comes with a responsibility to care for others, to show respect and honor to all people. The author knits together a convincing and persuasive story which traces the original Cinderella story.

Prince Dmitriv, is set up by his father, the King to find a bride for himself, after an old woman whom the King had offered shelter on a wintry stormy night suggested it as the only solution. A royal ball is organised for the purpose and as in the original all maidens are invited. The prince is attracted towards Vasilisa. But when the clock chimes 12, she too like Cinderella tries to flee the scene, but is caught by Anastasia. Enters the fairy godmother in anger, who lashes out at Dmitriv for being full of himself and for letting the girl flee; at Vasilisa for trying to run from the bright future that was meant for her in the first place. The fairy godmother calls it quits for having to save 53 kingdoms and all with same situations: an egoistic prince is set up with a kind hearted girl…a royal ball…dance…glass slippers..the whole paraphernalia. But Vasilisa intervenes and sets things right. She speaks up to the fiery fairy godmother and makes her realize her responsibility. Dmitriv and Vasilisa do not drive into the sunset for a happily ever after. But the author has a fascinating ending in store with a twist.

By including the prince’s sister as the narrator, the reader gets the point of view and perspective of both the prince and the charming Cinderella character (Vasilisa) from outside. The retelling makes a gripping point where readers would think beyond the fairy tale and think of the characters in terms of real life. No one is perfect. One would pause in between reading and think how is it to be a Prince/Princess? What responsibilities weigh upon their heads? Do they have free will or do they follow royal dictates?

Dmitriv is shown as a person without conscience, who has too much fun flirting with all the ladies/princesses who brood over him. It seems to boosts his royal ego and makes him feel important. But does he realize that he is hurting the sentiments and emotions of those girls with his attitude? And Vasilisa? Is she completely like Cinderella, sent to the ball by a fairy godmother to escape the hardships of the life? Is she really completely sweet, innocent and incapable of hurting anyone?

This take at the fairy tale comes as an eyeopener. It is thought provoking and at every step makes you question yourself and ponder to think within. An absolutely fun read with some serious questions about life and society interlaced in the story.

Some quotes:

You forget, dear daughter,” he roared after me, “deadly dull places are best to distract oneself with a love affair! Why else would balls have worked for all these centuries, eh?” 

“…markers of status in the endless struggle for prestige.”

” Look, I thought it was alright to let girls break their hearts over me, because when they look at me they only see my money and my power, you know? Like I could use anyone who wanted to use me. ….even if that’s what they want, they still can get hurt, you know?…”

” No one deserves the right to give up on the people around them, just on a whim. You were right before, people should stop being so selfish!”.

“Instead of more people looking out for themselves, we need more people looking out for each other!.”

 

 

Snow White and Rose Red: Brothers Grimm

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81079Genre: Classics, Fantasy, Fairy tale

My rating: 4/5(kids), 2/5(Adults)

Plot: An old widow had two daughters named Snow White and Rose Red. Both the sisters had completely contrasting personalities. Snow White was shy and gentle, whereas Rose Red was outgoing and gregarious. One day the two sisters and their mother let a big bear come to their house to get warm because outside winter was too bitter. The bear would arrive each evening and spent the nights at their home. When spring approached the bear waved departure to them to take care of his treasure. In the meanwhile The two sister meanwhile meet a parsimonious dwarf. They help him several times but the dwarf does not thank the girls for the help. One day after they’ve helped the dwarf they come upon him when he is resting. They find the dwarf’s treasure, and he gets annoyed with them. At that moment, the big bear appears and kills the dwarf . The two girls are grateful to see the bear, but the animal suddenly loses his fur and transforms into a beautiful young prince. Snow white marries the prince and Rose Red marries his brother. They live happily with their mother at the castle.

I clearly remember the cover page where two girls one dressed in red and other one in white are pruning rose plants with red and white roses. Unlike other Brother Grimms stories this tale is more sane than other stories. It is not a prequel to the Snow white story we are all familiar with. This is a totally different story of two sisters.

If seen from the POV of small children then this book puts forth the message that good things happen to good people, treat everyone with kindness and respect, even animals. The sisters help the bear and the dwarf without any motive or with the intent to get something back in return. They help selflessly and hence are rewarded in the end.

But the adult me is agitated and disconcerted when I re read it. For example, if you read,

  • They were as good and happy, as busy and cheerful, as ever two children in the world were, only Snow-white was more quiet and gentle than Rose-red. Rose-red liked better to run about in the meadows and fields seeking flowers and catching butterflies; but Snow-white sat at home with her mother, and helped her with her housework, or read to her when there was nothing to do.”

You can clearly see that female characters are set in stereotypes. Most fairy-tales (and to some extent their Disney adaptations) edify girls as passive, subservient beings who bend themselves to serve others, most prominently men are moral, upright and virtuous girl. This thought has taken seeds in unsuspecting young minds and has shaped into many a young girl’s dream: to be a little princess whisked away by a prince. In other words, a docile and homely girl who knows how to be of service to her patriarchal keeper, father at first, till it’s time to bid adieu to her parental house and then their husbands.

  • “Snow-white and Rose-red kept their mother’s little cottage so neat that it was a pleasure to look inside it. In the summer Rose-red took care of the house, and every morning laid a wreath of flowers by her mother’s bed before she awoke, in which was a rose from each tree.”

This fairy tale is no different, regrettably. The girls are set in typecast for their looks(fair, rosy cheeked, coy smiles, glossy hair), behaviour(submissive, good cooks, excellent in housekeeping).There is redundant objectification of girls picking flowers, singing songs, flitting their dresses and catching butterflies waiting for Prince Charming to take them away.
As an adult I do not enjoy stories which begins with a females who excels in wifely duties, is prim and proper and can keep the hearth warm so to say. Its rather regressive to have these tales where the girls marry boys/princes whom they’ve just met or rather just sighted. Children today do not need lessons like that, they are just not appropriate to this century. We need stories where characters irrespective of gender are able to strive on their own and meet ends. No more of damsel in distress, we need queens who can carry their crowns with head held high. Not necessarily with a king in tow always to make them feel lady like. I cannot suppose that the authors would possess a 21st century position from a conventional folktale written down in way back in the 17th century.

So the two rating, is for the difference in outlook at different ages. Thankfully my daughter too only enjoys fairy tales as one time reads and does not think much of them. I’d rather give Aesop fables if I had to teach her virtues.

Encounters of a Fat Bride: Samah Visaria

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GENRE: Fiction, Chick lit, Indian literature

My rating:4/5

We have labels for everything and everyone. Living in a highly materialistic times, we are always ready to put forward our best face. And by that I mean the best face that apps and edits can put together. When was the last time anyone of us posted a pic that was not edited and actually revealed our true selves. There is always last minute check for any blemish or acne that missed the edits. We live in a society that is constantly bombed with images of celebrities and their likes who have sculpted bodies, near to none body fat and that healthy glow which I definitely feel is sometimes photoshopped(Like seriously!!).  Girls, boys men and women alike aspire to be like them and spend agonizing hours in gyms, doing yoga, pilates, cardio, lifting weights,… the list is endless. But there is no contentment since there is no ideal figure because its all in the mind. And the end result is that they end up with faulty sense of body image and keep running after the mirage.

So, think if you weigh more than 90kgs on a weighing scale!! What are your chances of finding a groom in the Indian society amidst the petite, skinny, fair and must I add blemish free skin. Slim right??? And speaking of arranged marriage, it only leads to dread in the hearts and minds of parents with fat, sorry overweight girls. These girls are looked down upon and stand on the bottom rung of the marriage ladder. Thus parents cover the flaw(fat) with dowry,oops, did I say that?? Sorry. Parents then make up for the fat, I mean flaw by sending gifts and trying to make the life of their daughters luxurious and carefree. But then is it???

Encounters of a Fat Bride brings to light the mortification, humiliation, jibes and callous remarks and circumstances that an overweight woman has to submit herself to in order to find a groom in India. The protagonist, Madhurima Pandey is a 25 year old single woman, independent, outgoing and weighs 93 kgs. A person who has a mind and opinion of her own she too succumbs to societal pressure and desires to fit and not stand out. Madhu too has dreams of getting married, a whirlwind romance, or atleast a romance. When her best friend gets hitched, she suffers from low self esteem and the green eyed monster raises its head once in while. Madhu tries her best to be cheerful and happy but something pricks her heart when she thinks of herself.

While all best friends finds her fairy tale romance, Madhu has devotes her time to work and study, so as to manoeuvre her parents tactics in getting her married. But as with all parents Madhu’s parents too nose dive into groom hunting. Soon, her middle class family begins to invite the eligible men in the hopes that one of them would accept Madhu into their household. They do not meet immediate success and Madhu is rejected for obvious reasons. This leaves her feeling dejected and crest fallen. After a string of no’s, Madhu finally finds the one. But not all is hunky dory here. Harsh, the boy with no flaws agrees to marry her in one go. Having been rejected, Madhu doubts his reasons for agreeing. The low self-esteem makes her paranoid and she questions Harsh’s intentions, whether he’s impotent or homosexual, does he have a secret. But she doesn’t turn down the proposal immediately. In fact she gets engaged, but a series of unexpected twists and turns lead to broken engagement. What ensues later is something that will keep you entertained and also make you question the very platform on which the generation stands today, the yardsticks by which they measure themselves, and how easily he/she is outcast or ridiculed based on body image.

Samah is a gifted writer, who manages to touch the pulse of her readers with her writing. She is at once relatable and endearing. She skillfully manages to capture the nuances of arranged marriage and the hype around it. Her caricature of Madhurima is heart warming as she is real and seems like a girl whom we must have met or have an acquaintance with. She hits the mark deftly as she speaks about the pressure of arranged marriage and the size issue.

Let me make a point here, some people may perceive this book as being odious and discriminating against those on other side of the weighing scale. But its not so. Its rather a book that should be appreciated for talking about body shaming, body image issues, fat shaming, and the resultant low self esteem. Samah puts forward a warm tale with the message that women should be confident irrespective of their physical appearances(size, color of skin, height, etc).

Apart from the lighthearted moments, and topics of body image and dowry, the book also delves into some serious issues like that mental health disorder and gender bias. Its a hard hitting yet pleasant take on the society’s fixation with size zero(if there is one) or a body without an ounce of fat. You will enjoy the conversation between Madhurima and her grandmother who is conservative yet open minded and shows how to strike a perfect balance. Any girl/ woman who has experienced body issues or self esteem issues should definitely give this a read and I assure you when you put the book down, you will have your shoulders broad, chin up and a gleam of confidence in your eyes.

On an end note though, the ending could have been better and not hurried as it seems. It felt that since the book is like a countdown to the D- day, Samah somehow wanted to end the book and not sound preachy. Wanted to read more of Harsh and Madhurima’s love story though.

It is a fun easy read that will make you keep turning the pages till you find yousrself at the back cover, with no more pages to turn. It brings to picture the stark reality of many girls and guys who have complexities , self esteem issues and face criticism everyday of their lives. Kudos to them for their daily battles…