Category Archives: November 2016 Reads

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

all-the-birds-in-the-sky-by-charlie-jane-anders Title: All the Birds in the Sky
Author: Charlie Jane Anders
Publisher: Tor Books
ISBN: 978-0765379948
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

“All the Birds in the Sky” by Charlie Jane Anders has been the ultimate sci-fi read for me this year. It is also a fantasy read, and it is also literary. It is hard to believe that this is a debut novel by this author. She has written novellas and short stories before this one, but surprisingly before this one I hadn’t heard of her. Thank God I did now and will look forward to reading more from her.

This book is about two people – who meet as children and then again at various points throughout the book. This is a love story as well, but not the conventional kind, let me add. It is a story that is character-driven mostly. The plot is essential but somehow it felt that it was going nowhere. Now let me tell you something about the book.

“All the Birds in the Sky” is a book about magic and science and whether or not the two go hand in hand. There is destruction, magic and a lot of fantastical elements in the book. Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead are the protagonists who are trying very hard to understand their gifts, responsibilities and how they feel for each other as the book progresses.

They are oddballs to the core. Their parents do not get them at all. Patricia’s parents think of her as lazy and prefer her older sister. Patricia turns to nature and there she discovers herself and the magic she holds within. Laurence on the other hand is a tech geek who builds a two second time machine, when Patricia meets him. They both take to each other. They just want to be themselves in this chaotic world and don’t know how to. Till a mysterious teacher Theodolphus Rose enters their lives and things change. He has seen the future and wants the two to stay apart. What happens next – how they are away, meet as adults and how life changes at every step is what the rest of the book is all about.

The writing soars. There are parts where you feel you have been short-changed and want more, but Anders makes up for it more than you’d like later. It is a fast-paced book – the one you just can’t stop reading. Pages turn and fly and so does your imagination. The battle between science and nature is a real one and this book talks about it in so many metaphors – it is beautiful. Thumbs up for this book! Do read!

Advertisements

You are Stardust by Elin Kelsey and Soyeon Kim

you-are-stardust-by-elin-kelsey-and-soyeon-kim Title: You Are Stardust
Author: Elin Kelsey
Artwork by: Soyeon Kim
Publisher: Owlkids Books
ISBN: 978-1926973357
Genre: Children’s Books, Picture Books
Pages: 32
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

I read “You are Stardust” because it was the first book mentioned in “The Story Cure” by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin. This book, The Story Cure that is, is like their earlier book “The Novel Cure” but for children, their parents and everyone who has ever wondered what should I gift a child or a teenager. It is also for adults, if you ask me, to relive their childhood by reading or re-reading these gems mentioned in the book.

you-are-stardust-by-elin-kelsey-and-soyeon-kim-image-1

So now back to the first book “You are Stardust” – authored by Elin Kelsey and beautifully illustrated by Soyeon Kim. I am of the firm belief that children’s books are not only for kids or teens. They are most importantly for adults – who have lost their child-like innocence, their ability to question, to wonder or to know how the world works.

you-are-stardust-by-elin-kelsey-and-soyeon-kim-image-2

This is what the book is about – life, universe and maybe everything (or not). This is the book to cure children of what’s the world all about (that’s what the book says). The book is lovely – when I say this, I don’t mean it loosely. It really is lovely. The illustrations by Soyeon Kim are gorgeous – with every turn of the page, I was only too happy or perhaps more than the last page. This book is perfect to teach kids about the universe, the Earth and in turn about humans.

you-are-stardust-by-elin-kelsey-and-soyeon-kim-image-3

Elin Kelsey is an environmental writer (I got to know of it after I read the book) and now I can clearly see the connection that the book is trying to bring out between kids and the natural world. “You are Stardust” is grounded in science, philosophy (most parts really) and stunning dioramas by Kim.

you-are-stardust-by-elin-kelsey-and-soyeon-kim-image-4

There is also an app about the book and its creation. I for one cannot wait to download it. Being a picture book, it doesn’t restrict itself to kids. It is most certainly for adults as well. Go pick it up. Read it to your child or nephew or niece and then read it yourself. Be enthralled by it.

I read this book as a part of the reading project (one of the reading projects) I have started: To read all books mentioned in ‘The Story Cure’. It is an ambitious project and I hope to see this through at least. The next book in line for this is: The Boy with the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne.

Amir Khusrau: The Man in Riddles by Ankit Chadha

the-man-in-riddles Title: Amir Khusrau: The Man in Riddles
Author: Ankit Chadha
Publisher: Penguin Random House India
ISBN: 978-0143426486
Genre: Literary Fiction, Poetry
Pages: 96
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

I had heard of Ankit Chadha and his Dastangoi acts from a lot of friends. I am yet to witness the magic he creates though. After reading this short book by him on Khusrau’s riddles and some about his life, I will for sure watch Chadha spin his brilliant talent. I did then watch some episodes on YouTube but let me also tell you, I am sure that they do not hold a candle to the real thing.

Amir Khusrau’s life is revealed in this book “The Man in Riddles” cleverly and masterfully by Ankit Chadha. This book is also part-verse and part-mystery – a puzzle for the readers – something for them to engage in and at the same time, get to know Khusrau better. Khusrau was a poet, a strategist, a musician, a scholar, and more. His spiritual master was Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and his tomb is next to his master’s in Delhi. It is fascinating just to trace his life on the Internet and know more about this man.

The illustrations are not mere pictures or fancy art – they go hand in hand with the story that Chadha has to tell. The book is exquisite, in the sense of what is communicated and how it is done – bilingually – with both Hindi//Urdu (though he mainly wrote a lot in Persian) on one side and English on the other side.

I think the only way to experience Khusrau now would be through Ankit’s Dastangoi. I hope that works out for me really soon. I cannot wait to live it in person. When that is done, a trip to Delhi must be made to know more, a lot more than I do now.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

americanah-by-chimamanda-ngozi-adichie Title: Americanah
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Publisher: Anchor Books, Vintage
ISBN: 978-0307455925
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 588
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

I did not know what took me this long to reread this book. I remember reading it in 2013, when it was published and I promised a friend that I would get back to it soon – reread it that is. I reread it this month, after three years and was stunned yet again, just as I was when I first read it.

How do you describe a flawless novel such as “Americanah”? How do you review it? How do you describe your feelings to people as you read it, with a hunger and also knowing that you must starve yourself for it, should it get over too soon? While this book is about race at the heart and core of it, it is also a lot more than just that. May be this will be a good start to letting you know more about the book. I for one was riveted. My mind is still reeling from the characters, their lives, their perceptions, opinions, views and how it feels when you are almost an alien in another country.

“Americanah” is fodder for the mind, heart and soul. It may sound cliché when I say this, but that’s what it was for me. It is the story of two Nigerians, each trying to find their place in the world – from school to college to working in countries that they have experienced only in movies, comics, books or TV shows. There is certain neatness to the writing – it is neither convoluted, nor simple at the same time. It deals with issues; it feels personal at the same time and an all-encompassing read.

“Americanah” – the title is a Nigerian word used to describe someone who has lived abroad for so long, maybe particularly in America that they no longer understand the nuances of being Nigerian. They speak American and eat that cuisine. They are alien to their people once they are back and somehow that is the case with Adichie’s characters as well.

Ifemelu – a bright and sharp observant girl, lives her life in Nigeria, goes to America and is in for a rude shock – where race, hair and the way she is plays a major role than she thought it would. The story of Ifemelu is about her trying to fit in and then realizing that America was never for her. She sees America through her journey and life in Nigeria and is constantly on the lookout for more. Her relationships in America are not as fulfilling as they were back home with Obinze (her former boyfriend). He was the love of Ifemelu’s life before America seeped into her bones and flesh. We see love being central to the story and yet it is so distant for the two of them – things change drastically in the course of this book.

Adichie makes her characters like you and I. There is so much of everyday reality that it is heartwarmingly overwhelming. The legacy of slavery and black people and non-black people issues are at the core of this fantastic book. We see how Obinze’s life carries out in London which is very different from that of Ifem’s in America. The common thread is that of feeling like an outsider – like you will never belong.

The secondary characters in the book are not just props – they do, say and add so much gravitas to the entire narrative. From Ifem’s boyfriends and friends to Obinze’s mom and then the reaction of friends and family when Ifem is back from America – to a Nigeria that is very different from what it was when she left it a long time ago.

Ifemelu is more than just an interesting character. To me she embodied a lot of issues, confusion, heartache and more. Obinze on the other hand has so much to say and just doesn’t. Adichie has him restrained to some extent. The blog by Ifemelu on racism called “Raceteenth” and the posts in the book are insightful and brilliantly written. Maybe at some point, being a minority group, we all go through the same kind of racism (or do we?) and that’s why I could relate more to it being a gay man.

“Americanah” is a read not to be missed out on. At any cost.

Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon and Mu by Junji Ito

junji-itos-cat-diary-yon-and-mu-by-junji-ito Title: Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon and Mu
Author: Junji Ito
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
ISBN: 978-1632361974
Genre: Graphic Novel, Manga
Pages: 120
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Another cat book this month, another cat graphic novel and that too a manga which I adored to bits. I was browsing Amazon and chanced on this graphic novel and was elated on discovering it. After all, it is a real story and it is a real story about two cats, Yon and Mu and how they came to be Junji Ito’s cats – the one who did not like cats to begin with.

junji-itos-cat-diary-yon-and-mu-by-junji-ito-image-1

I have always considered myself to be a dog person and not a cat person at all. Till cats entered my life and now life is no longer the same. I could so relate to the book as I went along and even though I knew it was a Manga and it would end soon, I just didn’t want it to end.

junji-itos-cat-diary-yon-and-mu-by-junji-ito-image-22

The book is about Ito’s experiences with not one but two cats and how his life is never the same. Cats are not like Dogs and they never will be. They do what they must and when they must. They will never listen to you, no matter how hard you try and all you want to do then do is love them. There is also a portion that will shock you and move you to tears (don’t worry, this is not a spoiler).

junji-itos-cat-diary-yon-and-mu-by-junji-ito-image-3

Ito’s experiences with his cats are something else – he makes them seem larger than life of course given he is the horror hero of manga and translates that superlatively in this book as well. Cats can be full of horror if you don’t know them – Ito uses that angle to the book. The funny vignettes about his wife and the cats are heartwarming and beyond any mode of social media – Thank God for that! You need this book in your life if you love cats! That’s all there is to it.