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The Forest of Enchantments – Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni // Book review with a few spoilers

The Forest of EnchantmentsThe Forest of Enchantments by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 stars to this wonderful retelling of The Ramayana and exploration of the nature of love.

***MIGHT CONTAIN SOME SPOILERS, depending on what you consider spoiler-y***

Things I liked:

– I am a huge fan of Divakaruni’s ways of turning these masculine tales into a woman’s story. Like Palace of Illusions, The Forest of Enchantments gives voice to the women in an epic. The novel is not only from Sita’s point-of-view, a Sitayan, but also focuses on the several marginal female characters who are overshadowed by the four brothers, the old king, the demon king, and numerous other male characters. One of my favourite lines, for instance, is Sita’s observation of her sister Urmila’s plight:

“Forgive me, Sister, I said silently, you who are the unsung heroine of this tale, the one who has the tougher role: to wait and worry.”

– While Sita’s character and observations on love seem a bit too naive and emotional in the beginning, she visibly grows up as the book progresses. She still talks about love in the end, but it is very clearly a more polished view on the matter now, after the many challenges life has thrown at her. It includes the thorny side of love too, the dark and negative side of it.

– Ravan was probably my favourite character. Divakaruni did not turn him into a hero (that would be too predictable), but kept all of his complexities intact, making him an extremely mysterious character. Another interesting factor was Sita’s sympathy towards Surpanakha, and the unease she feels towards her husband and brother-in-law’s behaviour towards this woman.

– The feminist in me was delighted by some of the points Sita makes. For instance:

“If you reject me now, word will travel across Bharatvarsha, and men everywhere will feel that they, too, can reject a wife who has been abducted. Or even been touched against her will. Countless innocent women – as innocent as I am – will be shunned and punished because of your act. Is that dharma? Is that what you want?”

Things I did not like:

– Some parts of the novel were a little preach-y, I guess?

– I cannot help but compare this novel to Palace of Illusions, which I had rated 5 stars. I do understand thought that it is easier to write a more complex and nuanced novel with Mahabharata (which is itself more nuanced) than to write one with Ramayana (which is comparatively straight-forward).

Overall:

Despite its minor flaws, I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in retellings of Indian epics. The novel is intense and well-constructed, and the ending is absolutely glorious.

View all my reviews

Happy reading!

-Sreepurna ❤

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Girl, Wash Your Face – Rachel Hollis : Book Review

35542451Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was the first self-help book I have read, and while I did enjoy reading it to a point, it was not applicable to me and I did find some things I would consider as flaws. I had no idea who Rachel Hollis was when I went into the book, so my views are, in that respect, unbiased.

Things I didn’t like:

– The book seemed to be aimed at a very white, affluent, Christian audience. I am in no way suggesting that Hollis’ tragedies were any less real than anyone else’s, but there are several incidents she mentions that, for the lack of a better term, I must categorize as “first-world problems”. For instance, she talks about seeking professional advice regarding mental health, but that is an essentially unhelpful advice for most of the world, which does not access to such benefits.

– The language. She keeps using terms like “girl” and adopted a conversational style, which felt a little forced to me. It would work for a blog post, but in the 200+ pages of that book, those terms were too repetitive and the style too cringey.

– I am not sure if this is a flaw per se, but the book just was not exceptionally impactful for me. Perhaps I expected too much, but I felt disappointed. Or perhaps self-help books are not for me, as I have always guessed.

Things I did like:

– Rachel Hollis has courage. You might call it an attention-seeking move, a publicity stunt, or whatever you wish, but the level of intimacy she shares with her readers is praise-worthy. No matter how famous and successful you are, no matter how much your life is subject to societal scrutiny, it takes a lot of bravery to reveal the amount of things Hollis has in her book. It wasn’t necessary for her to be this personal in a self-help book, but the fact that she was, enriches this book a lot.

– The structure of this book is really nice. It is divided into short sections with appropriate chapter headers which helps you choose any chapter randomly and start reading. I personally did not feel the need to read serially, and even skipped one or two chapters that I was sure were not applicable to me at this point of my life.

– This book is Rachel Hollis’ personal mantra of success. She structures her advice as “things that helped me”, suggesting that these were the things that helped HER, and she is sharing it to readers in hope that they might find them useful too. It instantly makes her sound less preach-y, and helps you understand where she is coming from.

Overall:
Personally this book did not strike a chord with me. However, I do think it is an interesting read for fans of Hollis and anybody who is curious enough to know what worked for one particular successful woman. It is honest, if not anything else, and I would say that alone makes it worth a read for those who are interested in the genre.

View all my reviews

– Sreepurna ❤

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Girls Behind the Camera – Adèle Geras: Book Review

6 Chelsea Walk: Girls Behind The Camera by Adèle Geras

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A great read for children – sweet, quick and enjoyable. I loved the characters and I loved the overall feminist vibe. Set in Victorian England, the story appears to be quite true to its background. As an older reader, I did find it it a little lacking in character building. However, I would definitely recommend this to younger readers (around the age of 9-10 years according to me); it is one of those books that you can recommend with your eyes closed. This particular edition from Usborne is a reprint, and I like how colourful and attractive the new cover looks.

Thank you UsborneYA for the review copy.

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Happy Reading! ❤

– Sreepurna.

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The Night of Broken Glass – Feroz Rather // Book Review

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Summary:

Over the last three decades, Kashmir has been ravaged by insurgency. While reams have been written on it – in human rights documents, academic theses, non-fiction accounts of the turmoil, and government and military reports – the effects of the violence on its inhabitants have rarely been rendered in fiction. Feroz Rather’s The Night of Broken Glass corrects that anomaly. Through a series of interconnected stories, within which the same characters move in and out, the author weaves a tapestry of the horror Kashmir has come to represent. His visceral imagery explores the psychological impact of the turmoil on its natives – Showkat, who is made to wipe off graffiti on the wall of his shop with his tongue; Rosy, a progressive, jeans-wearing ‘upper-caste’ girl who is in love with ‘lower-caste’ Jamshid; Jamshid’s father Gulam, a cobbler by profession who never finds his son’s bullet-riddled body; the ineffectual Nadim ‘Pasture’, who proclaims himself a full-fledged rebel; even the barbaric and tyrannical Major S, who has to contend with his own nightmares. Grappling with a society brutalized by the oppression of the state, and fissured by the tensions of caste and gender, Feroz Rather’s remarkable debut is as much a paean to the beauty of Kashmir and the courage of its people as it is a dirge to a paradise lost.

Review:

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Thanks to HarperCollinsIndia for the review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Things I liked:

– The writing style: Feroz Rather’s writing oozes sophistication and beauty. I loved the lyrical quality of the words, and the author’s grip over the language was well established.

– The different styles of narrative: The book is a series of connected short stories, and some stories are in first person narrative, some in third, and one of them reads almost like a love letter. While it’s slightly confusing, I really enjoyed reading these different styles, and thought the author used them all really well.

– The emotions: Writing about emotions is not very easy; it can easily seem forced. But the stories here generate emotions easily. While they rely a little too heavily on incidents, there were many parts where the author uses solely his words to make you feel something, and it’s all very well written.

Things I didn’t like:

– Timeline: It was very hard for me to keep track of the changing timelines. To connect each story, you also need to figure out the time when it is set. Even within the story, there are changes in timeline as the narrator thinks about past incidents.

– Characters: There were some stories where I loved some characters, but there were many where I didn’t really form much of an opinion about them. I think many of the characters could be a little better fleshed out with just a few additional sentences.

Overall:

The Night of Broken Glass is a short and emotional read with tales that make you think. Definitely worth a read if this is your genre. It was interesting to read a book such as this. While the stories are sort of confusing at first, things more or less fall into place in this fast-paced and evocative read.

Buy the book here: https://www.amazon.in/Night-Broken-Glass-Feroz-Rather/dp/9352641612/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1533446644&sr=1-2&keywords=the+night+of+broken+glass

~ Sreepurna. ❤

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Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbon – Book Review // Strong, heart-wrenching, beautiful, like Rosie.

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Summary:

Rosie loves Jack. Jack loves Rosie. So when they’re split up, Rosie will do anything to find the boy who makes the sun shine in her head. Even run away from home. Even cross London and travel to Brighton alone, though the trains are cancelled and the snow is falling. Even though any girl might find that hard, let alone a girl with Down’s syndrome. See the world through new eyes in this one-in-a-million story about fighting for the freedoms that we often take for granted: independence, tolerance and love.

Review: 

Rating: 4.5 stars / 5

When you see a book written from the point-of-view of a teenage girl with Down’s syndrome, you can have two reactions – happiness to see such a book being written, and scepticism because you aren’t sure how well it will be written. This book is so kind and sweet and well-written, it melted my sceptic heart.

Things I liked:

  • The Down’s Syndrome rep: I had no knowledge about this condition beyond what I studied in Biology, and I am truly thankful to this book for making me see the less clinical and more human side of things. What stood out to me was that ultimately human emotions are the same, whether you are medically considered “normal” or not.
  • Rosie and Jack: When you read this book, it seems to be mostly about Rosie. But then I realised, Rosie would probably disagree. The book is called Rosie Loves Jack, and it took me a while to understand why. In a way, this journey is solely Rosie’s, and when Rosie tells Jack, “You make me strong”, my first reaction was, “Girl, you’re plenty strong just by yourself.” However, maybe discounting the importance of Jack is discounting Rosie’s narrative itself, because that is precisely what she tries to make everyone understand – that broken as Jack is, he makes “the sun shine in her head”, and you can’t dismiss that, can you? [Also, Rose and Jack? Their very names? You have to root for them.]
  • The narration: “See the world through new eyes,” says the back cover of the ARC I received, and indeed Mel Darbon did a magnificient job in showing me the world through Rosie’s innocent and brave eyes.
  • This book had such a realistic mix of good and bad people, it simultaneously scared me and restored my faith in the world? Their were good people, kind people, horrible people, sad people, grey people. A perfect depiction of the human capacity to be evil as well as empathetic.
  • Exposure of double standards: It not only showed the sort of prejudices a girl with Down’s Syndrome or some other health issue has to overcome, but also the double standards society has regarding boys and girls of the same age. There were these subtle examples that were perfectly thrown in, but you’ve got to read the book to find out.
  • Rose Tremayne: In a way, this book is a very typical example of a kind of coming of age story, and I kept thinking about James Joyce’s “Araby” when I was reading it. Rosie doesn’t lose herself, but she learns about how promises can be broken, and sees the darkness in the world. Her courage is inspiring, and she taught me so many things.

Things I didn’t like:

Nothing much. I only thought the pace of the book became a little slow somewhere in the middle, but that was probably because I was impatient to finish it.

Overall:

Rosie Loves Jack is in the same vein such as YA books like Everything, Everything, Made You Up, or When We Collided , and I highly recommend this book to everyone, irrespective of age. Because it doesn’t matter how old you are, Rosie will teach you something.

The book doesn’t release before September 2018, but I suggest you put it in your TBR right now.

Here’s the Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39313720-rosie-loves-jack?ac=1&from_search=true

Thanks Usborne YA for the ARC!

Sreepurna.

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Chasing The Sun ~ Katy Colins : Book Review

Summary:

Perfect escapism’ – Heat magazine

Georgia Green is on the conveyor belt to happiness.

Live-in boyfriend, perfect career and great friends, it seems like Georgia is only a Tiffany box away from her happily ever after. But when she arrives in Australia for her best friend’s wedding and is faced with the bridezilla from hell, she starts to realise that she might not want the cookie-cutter ending she thought.

What was meant to be a trip full of sunny days at the beach and wedding planning over cocktails, has turned into another problem for her to fix – just like the ones she’d left behind. With hardly any time for her boyfriend, let alone herself, it feels like there is just too much to juggle. It might be time for Georgia to step off the conveyor belt to find the balance in life and see if she really can have it all…

Review:

Rating: 3.5 stars

Katy Collins’ Chasing the Sun is ideal for anyone who wants a short sweet read that takes them places, and is yet finished within an afternoon. It isn’t the best romance novel out there, but it is realistic, unique, and very cute.

Things I didn’t like: 

• Some parts are pretty melodramatic

• There are parts in the book which are kind of dragging and not very relatable.

• Speaking of which, the protagonist, Georgia Green was not the most relatable character. This is mostly because of her age, her disposition, and her rambling thoughts (which you have to read because the story is in first person narrative).

• It read like a travelogue sometimes, and that wasn’t really my thing.

Things I liked: 

The present-day lingo. I read a lot of contemporary novels, but usually people conveniently forget to mention the extreme usage of technology. I love how everything is so NORMAL here, the number of texts and calls, Facetiming, discussing about Instagram hashtags, etc.

• The main romantic relationship is very realistic and healthy. 

• The drama. Oh c’mon we all like a little drama. And when there is a wedding in the story, there is ALWAYS drama.

• The beautiful Australian backdrop. While I don’t enjoy travelogue-style writings, I do enjoy a pretty and unique (relatively?) setting.

• It was really short, the book didn’t feel like a chore, and it’ll put a smile on your face.

Overall: 

This book is perfect if you like chick-lit novels with a little soul-searching and self-discovery mixed with romance and drama. Perhaps it isn’t the deepest story which will stay with yoy for years, but hey, we all love a light read sometimes! 

~ Sreepurna

💛

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How To Read Literature Like A Professor – Thomas C. Foster: Book Review

Summary:

What does it mean when a fictional hero takes a journey? Shares a meal? Gets drenched in a sudden rain shower? Often, there is much more going on in a novel or poem than is readily visible on the surface — a symbol, maybe, that remains elusive, or an unexpected twist on a character — and there’s that sneaking suspicion that the deeper meaning of a literary text keeps escaping you.

In this practical and amusing guide to literature, Thomas C. Foster shows how easy and gratifying it is to unlock those hidden truths, and to discover a world where a road leads to a quest; a shared meal may signify a communion; and rain, whether cleansing or destructive, is never just rain. Ranging from major themes to literary models, narrative devices, and form, How to Read Literature Like a Professor is the perfect companion for making your reading experience more enriching, satisfying, and fun.

Review:

Rating: 5/5 stars

Thomas C. Foster is your friend and favorite professor rolled into one. How To Read Literature Like A Professor solved a lot of my problems, and I can assure you, it will do the same for you, provided you are reading it for the right reasons.

Firstly, I’d like to mention that this book is used in a lot of colleges/high schools as a legit recommended reading. (LUCKY YOU). In my opinion, every English class in high school or an undergraduate year should use this book to make lives easier. I am not even exaggerating.

I am an English major in my 2nd year of college as an undergraduate, and this book helped A LOT (understatement). But that shouldn’t be a surprise, the book seems to have been written exclusively for English majors. Right? Wrong.

How To Read Literature Like A Professor isn’t only for us poor fellows doomed with a lifetime of overanalyzing. We learn all this in class anyway, albeit not in such a clear and fun way. This book is for anyone who reads. Any bibliophile who would like to really understand a book. You don’t need to be studying Literature to know a book, to read a book properly. This guide book of sorts gives you a completely new and enriched insight to literature.

If you are a student of literature, doing your masters or PhD, this might not be very useful to you. Foster mainly explains key concepts and tricks that help you read literature, and fill in the gaps your high school English teacher or college professor should have filled (They never do. They’ll expect you to know all this magically).

Foster uses a lot of examples in this book, but it shouldn’t be a problem, because (a) the examples are from pretty common books and (b) whenever he mentions a book, he explains the plot and other details so that you can understand the context.

Conclusion:

I highly recommend this book to all book lovers who need a little help to get to know books better. Not only is Foster’s writing witty and fresh, it also motivates you to go and read some books and really understand them.

Happy Reading!

~Sreepurna 💖