Tag Archives: life

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

People – His Finest Portraits by Raghu Rai

people-cover1 Title: People: His Finest Portraits
Author: Raghu Rai
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
ISBN: 978-9383064137
Genre: Photography
Pages: 184
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

A picture does say a thousand words and sometimes even more. No one better than Raghu Rai to demonstrate that through his brilliant photographs of people over the years. The portraits in this collection are mostly black and white.

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It is not a book which can be read in the technical sense of the word – but yet it is something you read. You read the faces of common people, the faces of celebrities and common people – people who come to his house, his family and people who you and I wouldn’t look at twice. Raghu Rai, being Raghu Rai manages to capture each and every face so beautifully that is feels surreal and almost magical.

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Most people might think that it would be easy to read (sic) a book of this nature. It is a fast page-turner literally and then you forget about it. If you one of those who would forget about it, then perhaps this book isn’t for you. I don’t mean it in a condescending manner. I just mean it as a matter of fact.

“People” are portraits that will leave you stunned and I am not just saying it because some of them look nice or glossy or pretty or all of them. Most of them are also just caught in the moment and you can see that – the sense of imbalance of the picture, of what it hides and what it conveys and mostly the gaze of the master photographer at work.

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I am not a fan of books such as these but this book has changed it for me. I also have his other book “Picturing Time” with me and I will get to it soon. But for now, I will bask in the skill of this book and how it has managed to convert me. And you must most certainly read the foreword by him on making pictures. It is a concise piece on what photography means to him.

Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik

Layout 1 Title: Shelter in Place
Author: Alexander Maksik
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 978-1609453640
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I thought that “Shelter in Place” would be an easy read. I thought it would not be a demanding book. I was so mistaken. “Shelter in Place” by Alexander Maksik is not an easy read, not because of the language or the complexity of the plot, but because it is scary – it is scary because at some point or the other, we have literally or metaphorically been on the brink and back. The story is about madness, love, family and deeper contemplative thoughts of everything in life and whether it is really worth it or not.

Alexander Maksik also does not give everything to the reader on a platter. The narrator does seem pretty reliable but you never know. There is always this sense of doubt and apprehension as to what will happen next but it is not that difficult to not fall in love with Joseph March.

The story begins with Joe telling us this: His mother beat a man to death with a hammer, he fell in love with a woman named Tess and he battles something black and dark inside of him. With this start the story propels to the summer of 1991 when Joe is all of twenty-one and all of these facts occur in quick succession.

The bipolar disorder (which he assumes to have inherited by his mother) hovers and engulfs him, he tends to a bar in a small Oregon town and there he meets Tess and his mother Ann-Marie kills a man to death, after seeing him beat his wife and kids. Joe leaves Oregon and Tess to be with his father in White Pine, Washington to be near the prison where his mother is serving a life-sentence. I will only say this much about the book or else I would be giving away the plot if more is added.

The book takes on from there with more incidents that span the past and present and narrated by Joe. The writing is so razor sharp that it will cut you. There are passages, more passages and some more that you cannot help but highlight while reading this book. The characters are as human and flawed as anyone you might meet in the middle of the street. From secondary to primary, all characters are often caught unguarded when it comes to their emotions and what decisions to make.

“Shelter in Place” – the title itself says so much about the book – a place of safety, the process of actually selecting a small room with no windows and taking refuge there. To my mind, all characters are looking for their own “shelter in place” – literally or metaphorically. They all want the assurance that everything will be okay and life will be led normally. Maksik’s writing is carefully orchestrated. At no point, the shift between the past and present events seem forced or out of place. The book will take you to your own deep dark recesses and bring you back – wanting to know more about the person you are.

Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá

daytripper-by-fabio-moon-and-gabriel-ba Title: Daytripper
Author: Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá
Publisher: Vertigo
ISBN: 978-1401229696
Genre: Graphic Novels
Pages: 256
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

There are graphic novels that are those which you read and forget after a couple of months, till you go back to them. Then there are those which you read and you don’t need going back to them – because they never left you. “Daytripper” by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá is one such graphic novel. I could go on, and praise it eloquent but that’s not the point of this review (well it is to some extent). The point is that very few novels or graphic novels change you or move you and this is one of them.

“Daytripper” is one of those graphic novels that could have gotten preachy but did not. It could have also gotten sentimental and quite overwhelming but it does not. It is tender and brutal at the same time – and doesn’t lose the overall plot. Maybe because it hits home so bad and so hard that you also want to just take off – for a month or two and ask yourself this one basic, simple and haunting question: How do you plan to spend the rest of your days?

This question is the essence of this book – well at least, according to me. The book tells the story of Brás de Oliva Domingos and does so in a fractured, disjointed fashion. Time bends, narratives are scattered, nothing is what it seems and we meet Brás at various major events of his life – we meet him first when he is thirty-two and going to see his father, a famous novelist receive a lifetime achievement award. We then meet him when he is twenty-one and seeking the world. We encounter him when he is eleven and then at forty something and then at seventy six – you get the drift I suppose. I must also add here that the protagonist is an obituary writer. The obits, his life, and different times that the reader is exposed to or given a peek into are brilliantly conjured and written.

What is this book about you might ask? It is a book of missed opportunities, of second chances, of life taking its own course and you having no control over it – that’s what it is about. The Brazilian twins have done a fantastic job of storytelling and pushing the story forward, and connecting all pieces, which is imperative in a graphic novel of such magnitude. I love this book beyond love I think. It encompasses every emotion – love, friendship, envy, gratitude, heartbreak, loss and above all to look inside you and actually figure out what is it all about after all.

“Daytripper” is one of those graphic novels that make you sit back and question all of it – at least in my case and that is what a good book should do. I would strongly urge everyone to go out there, pick up this brilliant graphic novel, read it, be immersed, be overwhelmed and feel the irresistible need to go and discuss it with anyone else who has read it.

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Sergio Y. by Alexandre Vidal Porto

Sergio Y. by Alexandre Vidal Porto Title: Sergio Y.
Author: Alexandre Vidal Porto
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 978-1609453275
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 160
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

It is rare you come across a book that stuns you and leaves you gasping for breath, in the happiest way possible. It is also rare that you wish the book didn’t have to end so soon and you wanted to read more and know more about the characters. However, it is true that a book ends when it does and when the writer feels that there is nothing left to say anymore. “Sergio Y” is the kind of book that says what it has to, leaves a void in your heart when you’re done with it and leaves you with a bittersweet feeling which anyway translates to life.

“Sergio Y.” by Alexandre Vidal Porto is a layered book – it is complex, surreal and revolves around the pursuit of happiness so strong that as a reader you just want them all to find that elusive idea of happiness. You want the central character and the others to be happy. You want life to give them that shot at it and let them be to their device. Alexandre writes with such conviction and skill that you want to step out, meet the first person on the street and hug him or her, because people need more understanding and some senseless mad loving in this world, now more than ever.

Armando is a seventy-year-old highly esteemed and extremely qualified psychiatrist in São Paulo and the narrator of Sergio Y. He is writing this journal or a report because years ago he had a patient named Sergio, a seventeen-year-old boy who came to see him for several months before abruptly ending their sessions. This happened without any explanation after Sergio returned from a short vacation in New York City. He just knew what he wanted and he had found it, so he deemed it only fair to end the sessions. A couple of years later Armando learns from Sergio’s mother that Sergio is happy in NYC and is a chef and soon plans to open his own restaurant.

Cut ahead to a few weeks and Armando learns of Sergio’s murder in the papers. His murder haunts Armando. He doesn’t know why he feels so strongly for this patient, whose only motive was to be happy and find happiness wherever he could. On further discovery, Armando realizes that there is no record of the death of Sergio Yacoubian, but only that of a Sandra Yacoubian. Armando is further perplexed. How could Sergio hide something so important? Where did it all begin? Armando seeks answers and all of this leads him to NYC, where it all began. He also learns of how Sandra died.

The book is all about the pursuit of happiness – of memories, migration and the need to belong. Why did I love this book? Because it shows you that you can be happy, only that you have to work toward it which Sergio did. Sergio finds happiness in Sandra. He cannot live as a man so he decides to change and be happy. The book also is of perspectives – of Sandra’s parents, of the murderer, of Armando as a husband and a father and of how cities make change possible within you as a person. Porto looks at cultures within human beings and the need for those to mingle with the outside world, which is so essential.

“Sergio Y” leaves with you with optimism, a sweet longing that things are fine no matter how long or short your life might be, and with the knowing that all you have to do is find your happiness and chase it. Alexandre Vidal Porto, thank you for this beautiful, gregarious book. I loved every word of it. Thank you again.

Hedon by Priyanka

Hedon by Priyanka Title: Hedon
Author: Priyanka
Publisher: Penguin Books
ISBN: 978-0143425953
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 312
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Hedon is a story of two people – Tara Mullick and Jay Dhillon. What’s new about it, you might ask? Well the difference is in the plot, in the brilliant nuances of the book as you turn pages effortlessly and they exist on almost every page. Hedon is the kind of book (and I say every word when I mean it) that will not let you go till you are done with it. To think it is a debut, I couldn’t believe it was one.

The book is not just about two people and their lives and how they meet on and off and what eventually happens to them. It is also about the other characters – Tara’s friends, her family, her relationship when she is at school in the US of A, Jay’s relationships and what he feels or thinks and more than anything else it is about their connection and how it plays out for them across time and distance.

Tara and Jay meet for the first time at a wedding and life isn’t the same for either of after that. Not because they met, but because of how their friendship blossoms and then the realization of love that makes you feel that void and the hurt that comes in its wake. We see life as narrated by Tara – from her Calcutta days to the time she moves to the US of A for her further studies and the back and forth that takes place – through deaths, fights, and passionate love that can only lead to the inevitable conclusion.

I think more than anything else it is the way these characters’ lives intermingle that kept me hooked. Also let me tell you at this point that Tara is but just seventeen and Jay of course is a little older – he is twenty-five. This isn’t about age as much as it is about their lives and how they come face to face again after seven years from when they first met.

The story then moves along – across time periods and hence the cultural references make so much sense and are so needed for a book of this nature. Not only that; even the secondary characters have unique voices – from Cookie and Button (Tara’s best friends – it is very intriguing to see how those relationships play out as Tara leaves the country and visits once a while – I thought even that was empathetically handled as well) to their parents and siblings views that appear once a while and the rest of the time they are in the background – maybe content being there. Also might I add the school these girls go to – that also forms a major part of the book and lends to the time from being a girl to transforming to a woman, as cliché as it might sound. It isn’t just a love story – there is more that lends itself to the story – a lot more actually – it is about the rites of passage, of growing-up, the angst that comes with it and also it is about the realization what really matters when it comes down to it – from the choices we make to what we live by as a consequence of those choices.

“Hedon” is a book that encompasses voices of times infused with waywardness, the need to belong one way or the other and most importantly of people who want to make a dent – as they go through life, love and everything in-between. To pin point and say that it is only a love story or only a slice of life story, wouldn’t do it justice. It is more than that and one can only realize that after reading it cover to cover. Hedon is a lot of randomness and somehow you see it all tying up at the end or in between, but it does come together and that is something that plays itself out beautifully.

Priyanka’s writing is razor-sharp. It is biting, juicy and makes you visualize everything that is written. She captures everything to the last detail – the food eaten at a friend’s house to how the shamiana was – sort of a festival where boys and girls from various schools participate in and gather. The minute details of youth are encapsulated to a point of evoking those bittersweet feelings in you and bring them to fore.

How else then can you define or classify great writing if not this way? There is more than one way to describe it and I shall try. It is something which you perhaps have never read before. Sure you must have read something similar, but not anything like it.

There is also the element of various pop culture references that make you fall in love with the book and relate to it at that time over and over again. Might I also add, the ending is nothing like what you might expect from a regular novel, because this isn’t a regular novel to begin with.

The language of the book is easy to read and so intense that it feels like someone punched you in the stomach and you are recovering from it. The prose is laced with irony and humour in good measure, coupled with the melancholy and the pains of realizing who you really are and what or who can you call home.

The book releases on the 26th of April 2016.

Beloved Dog by Maira Kalman

Beloved Dog by Maira Kalman Title: Beloved Dog
Author: Maira Kalman
Publisher: Penguin Press
ISBN: 9781594205941
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 160
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Dogs have always been very integral to my existence. From being scared of them to loving them unconditionally, life has come a long way. They are there, always, playing a role in some way or the other, dispensing wisdom in their own way and ensuring that they never let you know. Kalman picks on these qualities of dogs and talks about them through illustrations, her life, the dogs she has encountered and how they have featured in almost every book of hers.

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“Beloved Dog” is a dedication to our canine friends all over the world. The book is of course as usual beautiful illustrated and that is what makes it so special are her personal thoughts on dogs and how she got about getting one even though she had grown up getting scared of them.

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It all started when her husband passed away and a dog came into their lives (her children and hers) and changed everything for them. The book is a mirror of who we really are and who we become when we love our dogs unconditionally. There are so many lessons in here for all of us.

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The book is essentially New York and how we think and feel with them even more than people. If you have ever had a pet or have one, then you know this book, you know it inside out. There are poignant layers of philosophy in the book that are almost cautiously hidden by the beautiful illustrations.

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“Beloved Dog” is all about the love you have for your pet, and when the pet becomes a lot more than just a four-legged creature. Dogs do not go anywhere, even after they have gone in the physical sense, they linger, forever reminding you that it is so important to have them in your life.