Monthly Archives: October 2013

Book Review: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes Title: The Shining Girls
Author: Lauren Beukes
Publisher: Little Brown & Co
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I can safely say that “The Shining Girls” is one of the best reads for me this year. I may be a little late on this boat, but the point is that I loved the book. It has been a fulfilling read and there are times I randomly think of it at work. Why do you ask? Well, simply because it is wonderfully written.

Lauren Beukes talks of sci-fi and a thriller and at the same time, there is a literary angle to it, which very few books or novelists are capable of. “The Shining Girls” is about Harper Curtis and he isn’t your run-of-the-mill serial killer. He kills “shining girls”. That is also quite usual. What is unusual is that he travels in time – from the 20s to the 9s0s and kills these girls. A house makes him do it. Yes, a house makes him. As every serial killer, he makes a mistake. In 1989, he leaves Kirby Mazrachi behind and doesn’t kill her. Kirby, now an adult, wants to track him down and figure about the murders. She enlists the help of a Sun-reporter named Dan and the hunt for the killer then begins. To add to this, there is another angle, which I will not give away in this review.

This is the plot of the book. It seems very simple, however it is not. The writing is razor sharp and sometimes even gruesome. “The Shining Girls” is perfect for supernatural fans. I was a little hesitant to read it at first, however as I turned the pages, I became more and more engrossed in the writing. Lauren takes readers to worlds beyond and then right back, spinning between realities and mind games. This makes “The Shining Girls” what it is. A read which must be savoured.

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Book Review: Jamali-Kamali: A Tale of Passion in Mughal India by Karen Chase

Jamali Kamali - A Tale of Passion in Mughal India by Karen Chase Title: Jamali-Kamali: A Tale of Passion in Mughal India
Author: Karen Chase
Publisher: Mapin Publisher
ISBN: 9788189995126
Genre: Poetry, Non-Fiction, Love
Pages: 80
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

There is a tomb in Mehrauli, Delhi and a mosque as well. A mausoleum or rather a twin one, belonging to two people, buried side by side. They are called Jamali-Kamali and they are quite famous in the capital city. The mosque and tomb have verses inscribed on its walls – the ones written by Jamali and the interior design is simply breath-taking.

People speculate about Kamali, since Jamali’s identity is known. Jamali was a Sufi poet in Mughal India. Babur and Humayun both were his patrons and enjoyed what he wrote. In fact, at some point, he also went to war and did them proud. That is the story of Jamali – more or less and nothing else to it.

On the other hand, there is the question of Kamali, who isn’t known at all. There is nothing said or written about Kamali. There are a lot of speculations and a lot of rumours as well. Some say it was his wife. Some say it was Jamali’s lover. Some say it was Jamali’s nom-de-plume. There is another story as well to it – that of Kamali being Jamali’s male lover. With this in mind, Karen Chase set out to write a book of poems from both perspectives – that of Jamali and Kamali and their mad passionate love in Mughal India. Where perhaps, there was no reason to tolerate love. Love was just love – in whatever form or gender.

Karen Chase’s book begins with an introduction to the legend of Jamali-Kamali, followed by her exquisite verses, to be ended with Jamali’s own poem. The combination is lethal. There were times I had to stop reading and catch my breath as I was so overwhelmed by the writing. It is about love and it knows no shame. It is about love and it knows no gender. It doesn’t ridicule nor does it judge. Karen’s imagination runs wild. She holds nothing back in her writing and that is why it is so powerful. I recommend that people with bias read this. People who are prejudiced. People who see the world so narrowly that they miss out on its beauty. And yes, next year I sure will visit the tomb of Jamali-Kamali and say a prayer for all lovers.

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Book Review: In Youth is Pleasure & I Left My Grandfather’s House by Denton Welch

Apple and Drops of rain Title: In Youth is Pleasure & I Left My Grandfather’s House
Author: Denton Welch
Publisher: Exact Change
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

“In Youth is Pleasure & I Left My Grandfather’s House” by Denton Welch is one of those books which you need to have time to reread the minute after you have finished reading it. It is one of those books that demands to be reread, I think. It rather compels you to reread it. Some books have that effect on people and those books are few and far in-between. This is one of them. I discovered this book through The Novel Cure Reading Challenge and I cannot thank Susan and Ella enough for including this in their book.

The book while about adolescence and growing-up is also sometimes a meditation on the world around us – on how we choose to see and behave in it and how it really is. To be very honest, it is but alone the descriptions that make this book what it is – a classic. Welch takes the ordinary and creates something extraordinary out of it. A simple scene becomes magical and the reader is in for a treat. There are very few writers who are able to manage that.

“In Youth is Pleasure” is definitely about coming of age, however it is also about life and all that it has to offer and doesn’t. Orville Pym is a character like none other than I have come across in fiction in recent times. It is a story of his one summer and how it changes him and the way he sees things and people. Pym is full of despair and yet there are moments that redeem him quite suddenly. As a reader, I did have a tough time sometimes reading this book, however it was only initially. Later, it was a breeze.

Most people have not heard of this gem of a book and that needs to change for sure. It is a book that needs to be cherished and savoured like fine wine. I will also go so far and say that it is a book which you will never forget after having read it.

Next Up on the Challenge: Cure for Adoption: Run by Ann Patchett

Book Review: Aisle Be Damned by Rishi Piparaiya

Aisle Be Damned by Rishi Piparaiya Title: Aisle Be Damned
Author: Rishi Piparaiya
Publisher: Jaico Books
ISBN: 9788184954654
Genre: Non-Fiction, Humour
Pages: 216
Source: Author
Rating: 4/5

I do not like books that claim to be funny. I get scared of them mostly, because I haven’t laughed out loud in a while, while reading a book. So when the author sent me a copy of, “Aisle Be Damned” I was sceptical. I didn’t know if I would enjoy it or not. In fact, it even stayed on my shelf for a while before I picked it up randomly on a Saturday afternoon and finished it in less than two hours and might I add – that I laughed in most parts. Yes, I laughed out loud.

“Aisle Be Damned” is all about air travel. Let me retract a bit. It is about and for people who do not like to travel by air and yet have to. It is about experiences that every single flyer can relate to. It is about incidents that could happen on any flight to you and me and it is also a testimony to everything that goes wrong (barely right) as you are thousand feet up in the sky, and cannot do anything about the situation.

Rishi Piparaiya makes the book immensely personal and that is what is most enjoyable about it. The anecdotes will leave you in splits. From how to win the affections of flight attendants to how to get ahead in your career to how to woo men or women during a long flight or better yet, how to make use of a water bottle for safety. I hate being on a flight and there is a chapter for people like me as well. Thank Goodness!

I did not like the additional chapter in the book. I think that was unnecessary and I almost breezed through it. Having said that, I loved the rest of the book. There is a lot of potential for a sequel and I hope Rishi writes another one. I for sure will read it and yes, in all probability laugh out loud the second time around as well.

Book Review: Who Will Run The Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital by Lorrie Moore Title: Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?
Author: Lorrie Moore
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 9780571268559
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 148
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

So I read The Catcher in the Rye by Salinger, a cure for adolescence as per The Novel Cure. There was another book waiting for me to be devoured – for the same ailment and that was also recommended by them. It is, “Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?” by Lorrie Moore. Let me tell you one thing here: If you think that Salinger had all answers to angst and adolescence, then you must read this small gem by Lorrie Moore, to really get into the skin of what it is to be young and the memory of it as it surfaces after a period of time.

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital is a bittersweet tale about growing up. It is not written in the linear format and that is one of the things, which I loved about the book. It does not sentimentalize teenage or adulthood. Moore has this uncanny ability to show things for what they are. If the characters are hurt, then the reader must feel it. If they are happy, the readers must rejoice in their moments. I also firmly believe after reading this book, that every reader who wants to read a book on teenage must start with this one.

The book is about two friends – living in small-town America, in a place called Horsehearts – somewhere on the border between Canada and the US. The friends are Berie and Sil and the story is narrated by Berie. The story moves between Paris, where Berie is with her husband and going through a tough time in her relationship, to the time she was fifteen and life changed drastically for her and her best-friend Sil. The book shifts narratives and that is what keeps the reader going. The themes of adolescence and the angst with it are touched on brilliantly.

“Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?” is sensitive and yet restrained. Moore does a fascinating job of describing the ordinary with details and grace that are nowhere close to being ordinary. Growing-up and in contrast adulthood are dealt with delicately, without overstepping on any one aspect. The characters shine through the entire book. There is not a single line or situation which should not have been a part of the book. Thank God, I got to know of this book through The Novel Cure and read it as a part of the challenge. A read for everyone who wants to read more about adolescence and be cured.

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