Tag Archives: 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!

Interview with Swati Chaturvedi

So the minute I finished reading “Daddy’s Girl” by Swati Chaturvedi, I had questions for her. I needed to know how the book come about, etc. What better place to get in touch with an author these days than social media? I for one couldn’t stop turning the pages of this book. It was classic mystery, part literary fiction and part investigative journalistic style that shone, given Swati has been a journalist for 20 years.

daddys-girl

Here is the interview with her:

How did the book come to you? Why this topic? Was it influenced by the Talwar case (sorry to ask you this, given how many people must’ve already asked)?

I have been an investigative journalist for 20 years. While I enjoyed working in TV doing my own one to one show where I was considered very nasty and aggressive after five years ennui had set in. All my life reading has been my solace, craving virtually a drug. I always wanted to write and since I started out as a crime reporter where I covered many murders including doing exclusive news breaks on the Naina Sahni tandoor murder I wanted to write a thriller a insider account of the interplay of politics, media and the police?

I think the Arushi case which I did not cover has become like the Nirbhaya rape case – a kind of touchstone of gory murder. This book is not based on the Arushi Talwar case it has elements of murder cases I have covered earlier.

“Daddy’s Girl” must not have been an easy book to write given the sub-narratives and complex threads to it. How did you manage it? Was it cathartic in a lot of ways?

Writing Daddy’s Girl was brutal. All journalists are trained to write to a world limit and a deadline. It was incredibly daunting to write fiction where the pages just seemed to menace me and find me wanting. Also as a reporter you are trained to be factual so during the process while I was still writing stories and analysis I had to re-boot for Meera and gang. It made me relive some experiences I have had as a journalist but, catharsis no. I was too busy fretting over the plot.

At some points in the book, I was beginning to doubt Meera’s intentions. Did you intend it to be like this for the reader? Meera’s character has a lot of shades of grey to it. How was writing her character then for you?

Meera is fiery, feisty and unpredictable like most human beings. She’s idealistic but, at the outset of the book incredibly naive and trusting while fancying herself very clever. The book is also a kind of coming of age of this young reporter who loves black and white and sort of realises that most of life is shades of grey. She becomes a full-fledged adult by the end of the book. But, I think her defining characteristic is an incredible hunger for the story and a huge idealism.

Do you think we need more books such as these that link closely to the political scenarios of the country? Is it because you had first-hand information to so many cases that it was easier to write this?

You are spot on as a journalist you have a privileged ring side view of what’s actually happening and access to the players because of the kind of stories and interviews I do. I find it very interesting and plan to keep on writing about it. So it was easy but, also hard to disguise the people concerned. But, as it’s fiction they are a bit of a mix of the people I know and my fairly vivid imagination.

swati-chaturvedi

Swati as a writer. What is your schedule like? Do you have any writing superstitions?

Swati the writer is as anal about writing as she is about most things. No superstitions but, a huge amount of shoulder aches and the sheer amount of time and the physical effort. Writing wrings you out and leaves you exhausted. I also hate revising here I had no choice. I can write anywhere which is a blessing after years of noisy newspaper news rooms.

Swati the reader. What are your favourite top 10 recommended reads? Tell us a little something about each of them.

I am an omnivore reader. Top ten would include:

My absolute favourite Jane Austen, I love the characters the plots and the wonderful story telling. I keep re reading them.

A Suitable Boy: I’ve have re-read it so many times that I have lost count. Love this particular book for its very Austen qualities.

Sea of poppies by Amitav Ghosh: Loved this one was rather disappointed by the sequel.

P G Wodehouse: From Bertie Wooster, aunt Dahlia, Aunt Agatha, Jeeves and the entire Blandings castle cannot get enough.

Agatha Christie: Still love the cozy, very British murders and Hercule Poirot.

P D James: Again love the suspense the plots and the very real characters.

Read a lot of history and books on architecture because I am a history student and am fascinated with design. All Mughal history is riveting.

Lionel Shriver: From double fault to we need to talk about Kevin. Amazing lucid story telling.

Antonia Fraser: Love her historical books as it’s brilliant compelling writing.

Wendy Donniger: Beautiful writing and a unique take. Plus love how it bothers the lemmings who actually don’t read.


A debut is always the toughest to venture into. Did you at any point think you would never be able to do this?

No I always finish what I start. Was terrified yes but never thought that I would not complete it. Was even more nervous about the reception. So the kindness that people have shown and the fact that it’s selling and people like it is incredibly reassuring and thrilling.

One empathizes for the Nalwas and yet this bickering sense of unease when they crop up in the book. Why do you think that happens? Was it intentional?

Yes I would say it was my intention as they represent seriously flawed and deviant people. You feel for them but, together they are toxic and resent each other yet are yoked together by this awful secret.

Do buy the book wherever books are sold. It is a great read.

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

circus-mirandus-by-cassie-beasley Title: Circus Mirandus
Author: Cassie Beasley
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-1910002575
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 306
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

The book “Circus Mirandus” has a very interesting premise. A boy who is all of ten or eleven I think – Micah Tuttle. He lives with his grandfather Ephraim. He has spent all his life till now – ten years that is, hearing tales of a magical circus. Grandpa Ephraim is now very ill. What he does is, he tells Micah that all tales about Circus Mirandus were actually true and the circus does exist. He also lets Micah know that the Light bender or the Man who bends light gave him a wish which he wishes to use now. Micah has a purpose and plans to make things happen one way or the other.

Thus begins the tale of Micah and his friend Jenny Mendoza and how they battle to get Micah’s grandfather his wish come true. At the same time there is Micah’s great Aunt Gertrudis who thinks magic is all bollocks and nothing good ever came out of it. She is one character you will not like very much. I know I didn’t.

Over all, the premise is a good one that makes you turn the pages. At some points you think the book is long and could have been cut short but maybe it is worth it as the story progresses. I am almost sold on reading only children’s fiction because it is at least feel good and doesn’t get me all wondering about the big issues of life and living. The parts of the circus are interestingly written, so much so that you just imagine you’re there or want to be there.

“Circus Mirandus” is one of those heartwarming books that make you want to believe in magic and everything nice. The book is simply magical and the illustrations are stunning. Please read this book to believe in things that you did as a child.

The Bad Guys – Episode 2 – Mission Unpluckable by Aaron Blabey

the-bad-guys-episode-2-mission-unpluckable Title: The Bad Guys – Episode 2 – Mission Unpluckable
Author: Aaron Blabey
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-1407170572
Genre: Children’s Books
Pages: 144
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

The bad guys who want to do good desperately and change their image are back. Of course the second book isn’t as great as the first book; but nonetheless hilarious and your child will finish it in ten minutes or so.

“The Bad Guys – Episode 2 – Mission Unpluckable” by Aaron Blabey is about the wolf, shark, piranha and snake wanting to save ten thousand chickens that are kept under heavy-duty lock and key. I love the pace of this children’s book. Of course it is a picture book for kids, but I think as an adult I loved it more – only because it is the perfect de-stress technique.

Aaron Blabey’s creations are hilarious, the puns are just perfect and so are some of the new characters that have been introduced in this one (I loved them and hope so do you). I honestly believe that if a so-called children’s book can also be enjoyed by adults, then that says a lot about the author and the creation at hand. I would highly recommend “The Bad Guys” series to everyone. It is a must read, which is not very well-known but I am sure will soon become immensely popular.

Hide by Matthew Griffin

hide-by-matthew-griffin Title: Hide
Author: Matthew Griffin
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 978-1408867082
Genre:Literary Fiction
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

LGBT fiction has come into its own. A lot of young adult novels are also exploring queer love as constant themes – also coming out. “Hide” by Matthew Griffin is a book that is full of wisdom, tenderness and a love that cannot be spoken of. It is a story of two men and their love – togetherness, companionship and above all hiding the truth, which is where the title comes from. Actually, to me the title is a lot more than just that and I will talk about it in a bit.

“Hide” by Matthew Griffin is a love story of two men. I can call it that – a love story or I could just say that it traces the lives of two men – but that is not what it is. Frank Clifton has returned from WWII. He meets Wendell Wilson and their lives are forever changed. Given the time and place, their love cannot be shouted out loud. They then decide to live together. Years pass. Some more years pass and then something happens which will again change the course of their lives. Frank has a stroke and begins losing his memory and Wendell is left taking care of him through it all. What happens next is for you to read and find out.

This novel is delicate and takes its time. It isn’t rushed and there is no need for it to be that as well. “Hide” is love in the shadows – a bittersweet story of restraint and to want it all. Homophobia is all around you, even today, more so in the Indian society where I come from and yet when you read books such as these, it just makes you feel that everything is possible – even queer or same-sex love, because love is love and should not be judged.

Griffin’s writing soars in most places – the piece about the fear instilled in Frank and Wendell about being homosexual is heartbreaking – not because of the phobia or prejudice but because they just don’t want to live without each other. How can you then not choke up while reading such a book? I am a gay man, so maybe I am an easy reader for this book, but I think this book speaks to everyone, irrespective of sexual orientation.

“Hide” is about love between two men – the companionship, the marriage, the need to be with and want each other. It is as simple as that. Griffin tells a tale that will resonate, that will break your heart and make you hope and pray that it is all okay at the end.