Category Archives: Flatiron Books

If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi by Neel Patel

IYSMDSH Title: If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi
Author: Neel Patel
Publisher: Flatiron Books
ISBN:9781250183194
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 stars

A short-story collection that is written well and paces itself beautifully always lifts my spirits. It is the feeling of the book never ending. A feeling that it should last a little longer, even though it might end. Some more. And that’s exactly what I felt but of course while reading If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi.

Neel Patel’s stories are quiet and tender. They pack a punch nonetheless when they have to. What lends to them superbly is the writing – the in-depth and heart-wrenching intimacy of this collection, and more than anything else, the tapestry of the lives of second-generation Indians – their lives and loves in the US of A.

Relationships are at the core of this book and no one is judged. These eleven stories pack a punch every time. The stereotypes grow with every turn of the page and then Patel shatters them with one giant stroke of the hammer. Whether it is a younger gay man involved with an older one, three women who want to defy every norm of society there is, a young couple trying to carry on with their lives amidst gossip, and whether it is standing up to arranged marriage, every story is layered and compelling.

Neel Patel’s prose isn’t sugar coated. His characters betray, regret, and realize that living is perhaps all of this and more. That makes it real and relatable, no matter where you live. The landscape doesn’t matter. The stories do for sure. They speak to you. You can see these characters around you and that’s where I guess Neel also gets his inspiration from.

“If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi” is a collection of stories that must be read this year. A debut that is so strong, introspective, and will make you perhaps see the world a little more differently than you are used to.

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Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

Girls Burn Brighter Title: Girls Burn Brighter
Author: Shobha Rao
Publisher: Flatiron Books
ISBN: 978-1250074256
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

Girls Burn Brighter is the kind of book that you are instantly drawn into. Though harrowing mostly, I thought it did have its moments of glimmer and hope. It is the kind of book that is gut-wrenching and ultimately redeems its characters in so many ways and on so many levels.

Girls Burn Brighter is about caste, love, friendship, and violence. There is a lot of violence in the book (it happens in our world and is needed to depict emotions and further the plot). The book is about two friends, Poornima and Savitha and how their lives are intertwined. I know it sounds like any other book about women and friendship, however, it is way more than that.

The book is about so much and yet there are times when Rao skillfully manages to focus on only one or two elements. The story is wrenching. A lot happens throughout the book – the women are forced into a lot of things which isn’t pleasant at all and at one time they are even separated for long, but beyond all this, is a tender tale of love and friendship.

Shobha’s writing shines. Of course there are times, when I thought it was a bit graphic and sometimes the plot went nowhere, but all of that was ignored – mainly due to the plot and the majority of writing which is so on point.

Girls Burn Brighter is the book which is most-needed for our times and I couldn’t be happier that is written. As a society, we have and will always shy away from discussing certain topics – things that are taboo, the ones that cannot be named, but once you start having a conversation, you realize that these were the very topics begging to see the light of day.

 

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Force of Nature by Jane Harper Title: Force of Nature
Author: Jane Harper
Publisher: Flatiron Books, Macmillan USA
ISBN: 978-1250191663
Genre: Thriller and Suspense, Crime
Pages: 326
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3 Stars

I have not read “The Dry” yet. Please do not make a face at that statement. Please do not be prepared to kill me either, or for that matter be a snob about having read the debut of Jane Harper. Having said this (and thank God it is now out of the way), I thoroughly enjoyed, “Force of Nature”, her second book in the Aaron Falk (Federal Agent) series. So, calm down, because I will but obviously read, “The Dry” this month itself. Now back to this one!

I am not the kind to read suspense or thriller novels, but this one sure did catch my attention with its synopsis and I knew I had to devour this and devour I did. At the same time, while I thought it was well-written, I also found it to be quite slow and dragging in most places. So, this is what happens with suspense novels: You want to know what happened so badly, that perhaps it seems that the book is slow, or it may be really is very slow. “Force of Nature” for me belonged to the latter category.

Jane Harper builds the atmosphere superbly but somewhere down the line, I thought that the characters needed some more build-up. The plot is intriguing: Five women reluctantly head out on a forest hike and only four come out on the other side. What happened on the trail? What went wrong? To add to that, these five women are colleagues and know each other and also have some grudges to bear. The hike is arranged by the company (which is family-owned) for five men and five women and in all of this, the action plays out against Australia’s bushland.

Harper is a master of description. There is way too much of it, which only means that she successfully transports you Australia and its landscape. From the trees to the local falls to the animals and birds, you end up going on the hike yourself. In all of this, is the entry of Federal Police Agent, Aaron Falk (made his first appearance in The Dry) who has a vested interest in the whereabouts of the missing woman, Alice Russell, who also happened to be a whistleblower in his latest case involving the company she is working for.

“Force of Nature” starts off fantastically and ends on a high as well, but somewhere along the middle, I really did feel it could’ve ended sooner. At the same time, there is a lot going on in the book – all the interpersonal relationships that are glimpsed into but not spoon-fed (which is again very intelligent), leave you wanting more. I will for sure pick up “The Dry” sometime soon.

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life by Annie Spence

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence Title: Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life
Author: Annie Spence
Publisher: Flatiron Books, Macmillan USA
ISBN: 978-1250106490
Genre: Non-Fiction, Books about Books, Bibliophile
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

Dear, Dear Fahrenheit 451,

You are a book about books and the love of reading. With this in mind, let me tell you how much I then love you, just by this fact alone. I loved you the moment I saw you on Amazon (you aren’t available in bookshops in India, yet) and knew I had to read you. You were sent by the publisher for an honest review and here we are!

Your author is a librarian (I think still is) and you are an ode to reading and books in the form of letters to each of them – not all books she has read – but the ones she thinks of fondly, the ones she doesn’t like all that much and the ones that really must go. It is also a book from a librarian’s perspective which I enjoyed very much. I must say Annie has written you very well. Your language is simple, and what is great is that one can discover more books through you. I love such books and in effect, I ended up loving you.

There is a letter inside of you to Grey which I thought was hilarious of the lot. Also, another one to, “To Kill a Mockingbird” about her sister’s love of reading which reminded me of my siblings and their love for books. You know the one addressed to “Fahrenheit 451” felt as though Annie knew that the end of books was near but the way she turned it on its head gave me so much hope for the future. Also, before I forget the letter addressed to the children’s section of the public library was most heartening, because if children do not read now, then how will they read when they grow up? Children must read. Don’t you agree?

Annie’s writing is funny, heartwarming and so true to the heart, given she works with books, readers and the love of reading. That is why you must know how much I love books about books. I could also understand why she broke up with a couple of books – I mean come on, we do move on in life and sometimes we just don’t have it in us to read books that weren’t made for us. You understand that too, isn’t it? Well, you are a book about that. But you are a book above all, about the joy of books, of book lists (in the last section, which I loved to the boot, by the way) and to tell the world to go away, since one is reading. You would understand that, Dear, Dear Fahrenheit 451. You so would.

I would love everyone to pick you up and read you. To chuckle at the letters to books inside of you. This is my rather insipid letter to you but I know you will not mind it. After all, I loved you and devoured you in three days!

There is a letter inside you, written by Annie to The Fledgling, where she says, “When people say books are full of wonder, we don’t take it seriously enough. You are over thirty-five years old. You smell like old paper and smudged fingertips. You’ve lain dusty and untouched for decades. And you’re magic.” This filled me with so much sunshine. Thank you for this book. Thanking Annie for this.

Yours,
A lover of books, a lover of books about books and a lover of reading.

 

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby Title: The Resurrection of Joan Ashby
Author: Cherise Wolas
Publisher: Flatiron Books
ISBN: 9781250166586
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 544
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

All Joan Ashby has ever wanted, since she was thirteen in fact, was to focus on her writing, write books and live independently without the care or concern of a husband or children. At the height of her fame and just when she is working on her full-length novel (up until now she has only written short stories), she meets Martin and falls in love with him. They seem to believe in the same things – kids are off the table and that their careers will always be placed above everything else. But of course, things aren’t what they seem. They get married and Joan accidentally becomes pregnant.

Martin then is ecstatic and Joan can sense the betrayal. The shift that takes place because of her pregnancy and how she is just there to raise a family and has to wait for years to work on her novel and what happens when she finally manages to finish the book is the plot of this book, “The Resurrection of Joan Ashby” by Cherise Wolas. It is about the small and the big betrayals of life, of hope, dreams, despair and how the choices you make end up impacting you for the rest of your life.

Let me just go on record and say this: I loved this book. I absolutely loved it. I loved the idea of a book within a book but more than anything else I loved Joan. Cherise Wolas has created a character that will be etched in people’s minds (if they read this book) for a long time. She is almost the new classic heroine who just wants to reclaim her life, one way or the other. The plot may seem pedestrian but it isn’t. Trust me, there is more to it than meets the eye.

The writing is super taut and yet with over 500 pages, it doesn’t seem too long at all. There is so much going on in the book that all I wanted to do was literally gulp all of it and could not stop wanting more. The heroine is just that – a heroine who wants to change her life – Joan wants that resurrection and goes after it at any cost, even if secrets start tumbling out of the closet. Is it a feminist novel? Sure, is and I am glad that it is to a very large extent. Wolas’s prowess is just showing and I hope her next one is out soon enough.