The bear and the nightingale: A perfect rainy-day read!

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This book is all you need on a rainy, cold evening. Snuggle with this magical tale set in Medieval Rus(Russia). It whisks you off from wherever you are, to the snowy lands of Northern Rus and it’s wild locales. With Katherin Arden’s narration, you see the dense woods, the slush on the ground as Vasya, the protagonist, scrambles about. You love the old grandma nurse- Dunya, the minute she is introduced, very early on in the first scene. The family is endearing, yet very difficult to understand at times. It is with tenderness this story is unravelled, which is what makes it magical.

Magic is forgetting that something ever was other than as you willed it.

I loved the narration and the storyline, though it felt a little dark at times. It was never dark to scare you off, just enough that you keep reading with interest as you are intrigued about what would happen next.
Little Vasya, is a wood-sprite and has always loved to wander off into the forests and wilderness of cold, dramatic northern Rus. The setting might be wild and unwelcoming to many but to Vasya, it is more than home. Little does she know that as her father calls her- wood-sprite, that she is, she also has some of the famed magic her grand-mother possessed.
With the friendly domovoys to the tree-spirits, this story is full of mythical creatures of one’s imagination and Vasya’s reality. As she comes to terms with her new-found abilities and the dangers her family faces with the addition of new members to the northern farming village of her’s, will she succeed in keeping peace and saving her haven? Does fear come with belief or is it the onset of destruction?

Some themes were a little misleading and confusing. Some additions and references were very disturbing. But, in all, this is a story that will keep you turning pages and will enchant your with it’s russian folklore backdrop.

I would give it a 4.75 or 5 for the backdrop. It was just a bit dark for me, since I expected something much lighter, so giving it a 4, merely because I wished it was more breezy than it was.

Nevertheless, an enchanting tale that is best suited for cold, rainy nights and weekends!

Sahiti's likeability rating: 4

A review of- Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

From my review on Goodreads-

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

This is not only a story of sheer grit to move past life’s dire situations, but also one that talks about the importance of a guiding hand to the disadvantaged. Though it is a personal account, it moved beyond the author’s life, explored the sociological standpoint of why the poor are thought to be destined to be poor and what actions make them rise above challenges. He explores stories, thoughts and actions of the American blue-collared, in terms of psyche. He talks about how the culture and values intrinsic into the race we are born in, the society we step in and the house we are born in, shape an individual and affect the entire demography- the hillbillies of the Kentucky hills in the case of this book.

J.D.Vance, the grand-son, the son and the brother of his hillbilly relatives. The kid who wasn’t supposed to do well, but who against all odds- poverty his family faced, his mom’s recurrent addiction, tumultuous lives of his immediate family members, somehow succeeded. His success as he concludes in the later chapters of the book, was not such a coincidental outcome. He realizes that an individual’s success is not his doing at all. It is his background, family and culture that shapes him. But for the close ties of his hillbilly grandparents, he was bound to fail from achieving the American dream.

I did not enjoy the repeated stress on religion as a means to stay focused, happy and purposeful in life. We need no reminders to stress the fact that religious indoctrination has and is causing great division worldwide.

I am surprised that race was not handled in this book, but then, I am not so surprised as well. This book is about how the American so-called white privilege is actually not a privilege at all but just a chance outcome based on the factor of financial freedom and cultural values.

The timing of this book is perfect since it reflects on the anguish and reactions small-town, blue-collared America has exhibited in the recent elections. Thus enabling readers to understand some of the reasoning behind the voters’ decision.

I like non-fiction reads like this one, that do more than just talk about one’s life. This might feel like a sociology class to some, but for me, it was an in-depth analysis of why our poor are remaining poor, in spite of opportunities being available. I pitied him as I realized his circumstances were not his doing and rooted for the poor teenage J.D throughout the early chapters of this book. It has an important takeaway for every reader, regardless of the country the reader is from- if you want to life the poor, show them a way, support them. The societal study through his own inspiring story, is profound.

This is why I completely loved the book. I rate it a 5.

Sahiti's Likeability rating: 5

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

Mantra for the day!

I have been thinking for a while about doing a section on my daily thoughts- the most striking ones and blogging on that. So here goes, my mantra for the day-

“A flower

does not think

of competing

with the flower

next to it.

It just blooms.”

Also,

Take it slow, just for today, have an extra cup of tea, have an extra cookie(!), listen to your favorite songs, give your favorite e-store a visit, read a good book.

I am doing some of these today(minus the shopping), in midst of a very hectic work week and it feels good! 😀

It’s the rainy, rainy, rainy monsoon season. Leaving all the minuses of humidity, mold, mucky, damp thoughts, this season is a beautiful one. A beautiful one to get outdoors and hike for some. For me, it is cozy enough indoors that I will give the hike a pass! Although there are millions of water-pouring-from-the-heavens-centric songs out there, these are some that to my mind:

  1. Have to list Bruno Mars ❤ the very first! When Bruno starts with this song, you just sway to the tune and can’t stop humming- It will rain, rain, rain-eh-ainnn!
  • Although this next song equates rainy days to Mondays, I would say rainy days are better ANY day! What better than Karen Carpenter’s voice to accompany the drizzle outside the window. This inevitably led to a Carpenters’ playlist run on loop for me.

 

Since it is the season of curling up reading a good book, after having a nice, hot cup of chai, I have been thinking of putting together a “monsoon to-be-read list of books”. I am so excited, compiling the list of my all-time-favourites and some newer reads that are just-perfect for this kinda weather! I will be putting up a blog-post on my Monsoon TBR recommendations but for now- just a couple of books:

Currently reading: I am reading a Jenny Colgan book, for the very reason of taking it slow and just reading something comforting, like Chocolate and Paris! I must say, I liked the previous book of hers I had read- The Beach Street Bakery, but I am going to give this book some time.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16079967-the-loveliest-chocolate-shop-in-paris

Will read next: This book- The Bear and the Nightingale, is creating a lot of waves these days and is on the “Goodreads Favourite books of 2017 so far” too. It promises you to  transport you back to Medieval Russia with it’s cold, frosty night and folklore and fairy tales to keep you company. I am looking forward to reading this, snuggled up in a warm blanket on a rainy night!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25489134

 

 

 

Weekly reads and book podcast reviews!

Listening to… Podcasts!

Who doesn’t love good podcasts? Add books to them and I am sold. I have a long list of book podcasts I love, but since most do reviews, I especially like ones which have authors coming in and talking about what they are passionate about- books and writing. This form, generates so much book-related info- good books to go onto the TBR stack, about the publishing industry, what books are in and so on. I have about two to three podcast sources that are my favorites for this type of book podcasts. But the one podcast show that I have absolutely loved listening to and that is so informative is the “Just the Right Book Podcast” by Roxanne Coady. Roxanne is the owner of the famous Connecticut independent bookstore- R. J. Julia. Aside from being a very insightful, engaging host to the many acclaimed authors she interviews on the show, she is a storehouse of book-related trivia and knowledge. I loved so many of the episodes, from the one where she interviews Ann Patchett(whose book The Commonwealth, is on my currently-reading stack), to the recent one in which she talks with the Hatchett CEO Michael Pietsch, which was so inspiring for an aspiring author like me.

If you are looking for a source of all talk related to latest and the best written books, this podcast series is surely something you just cannot miss!

Available on Itunes- https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/just-the-right-book-with-roxanne-coady/id1183164119?mt=2

Sahiti's Likeability rating- 4.5/5. Heck, I'll just give it a 5. I love it!

Reading is happiness, even when it’s crunch time!

Since last week had been a bit busy and so had the weekend, I got to read a complete book and just made through some few pages of the second. Both are current favorites in the Indian subcontinent and products of immense talent and imagination of Amish Tripathi. For a long time I had been wary of his books and then suddenly, picked it up randomly at the airport, for want of something new to read. His books, as I was soon to realise, are anything but ordinary. Who could have imagined that such a spin of fiction added to our Hindu mythological stories and scriptures, would make for such a wholesome read, filled with action, drama and yet handled with care so as to not distort facts out of proportion. I was completely drawn into it as soon I started reading ‘ The Immortals of Meluha’. The concepts and elements picked up from mythology, have been so wonderfully crafted into a tale, that everything just fits! I am now onto the second book, where the role of Nagas, the so-called Demonic, subversive creatures with disfigured and disproportionate bodies, would be unraveled. I already have a feeling it will be full of great surprises and that Author Amish has woven yet another masterpiece of a tale. ‘The Secret of the Nagas’ is the second part of the Shiva trilogy, the first of which I had read few months ago. I am yet to finish it, so more on it when I am done.

This weekend I completed reading the first of the Ramchandra series- The scion of Ikshvaku. Complete with details derived from the Ramayana and cleverly adapted to make for a tale of the ideal son, righteous man- Ram and his brothers, it starts with the premise of Ayodhya, but the situation is different. Same characters, but the insight into their fictional stories, sets a slightly divergent pace and track to our beloved Ramayana. Again, same premise but such a clever adaptation. It is but natural, to be inspired by the level of creativity and imagination the author has put into this project. I stand inspired and awed.

Amish Tripathi’s books on Goodreads- https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4343092.Amish_Tripathi

Sahiti's Likeability rating- 4/5

Voices inside my head…

Here is a poem I had written several years back, a voice of my teenage- self. The voice that only got stronger. My love for writing too, has only grown and it shall only grow. I started writing with penning down poetry one day, while walking back from school.  I think for me, it was a way to voice my thoughts. Now, writing has become much more than that-  now it is a way of being.

About voices inside my head…

Shouting, screaming,
Commands in all directions
Like the army commander
Pursuing his team
Across a war-struck battlefield
-The lashings of the Waterloo…

The voices inside my head,
Preaching, giving sermons,
Such influence,
they exude;
Like our holy father,
Almost calm like
The bible in his hands,
Yet powerful.

Those voices in my head.
Crying out in agony,
Torrents of tears streaming out,
Like the clouds in a dark ,stormy night,
pouring out tears
of rain.

Voices inside my head.
Singing songs
In joy and cheer;
Like little notes of a symphony;
Springing up, like blossoms of life…

Voices inside my head…
Laughing about
In pure glee,
Like a clown,
Dancing to his own Antics,
in pure amusement.

They laugh and talk, they cry but cheer.
But yet,
You may not hear them,
As they do not speak.
Only through me,
Do they have, The power of expression.
I cry out their sorrow, through my tears;
My laughter celebrates their happiness;
Their frustration is let out through my anger;
And yet only in my silence, you may find their quietude.

So,the next time,
You see me
Pendulating back and forth
these moods,
Do consider my plight
and remember-
That its not me but,
Only The voices inside my head,
To blame.

Of rains and hillsides…

IMG_20170612_235245_269A storm is brewing,
in the skies of tomorrow.
When it is ready steaming,
with the fragrance of the wet earth.
Then in a cup of silver clouds,
shall monsoons be served…

 

I am travelling through snaking roads along the Sahyadri mountains. This part of the express-way between the two metropoles of Mumbai and Pune open up to spectacular hills witnessing as if, our miniature lives were a tiny speck before their timelessness.

I can see small specks of trees atop the rock and sand-laden hills. In a matter of weeks, every living atom on these will spring to life. Single lane roads snake up and down the hills. Some of these lead to smaller villages, probably with their limited electricity and water and plethora of other problems but yet, peace and quiet. I think of Ruskin Bond-ish life, of myself in a small village by these hills, writing away and dreaming away.

Passing through seemingly endless tunnels, one hill paves way to the next and so, this chain of green giants, make our way from this city of Pune to the next city of Mumbai. The atmosphere is tense. The next hill I set my eyes upon after the tunnel opens up to the sky, is hugged tight by dense grey clouds. Their mist setting in, brings a cool breeze cradling the little leaves, as if waking them up, bringing them to life. Little mynas fly about the trees, busy, as if sensing the big event yet to occur.

The fields are ready though, prepared, waiting for the splatter of raindrops and the gush of water, ready to sprout. I see eager farmers, looking up at the sky briefly. Perhaps there is some anticipation, perhaps he knows it will rain anyway. Aren’t farmers the best weather predictors? We pass on, hoping the rice and sugarcane crops grow well. Clouds get lower and denser and yet the cool air escapes me, sheltered in the bus-hazards of the air conditioning that continues to pump the stale air on top of my head. I imagine my hair flying away to be caused by the monsoon-breeze- poor consolation indeed. But the bus plies on.

On the next hill pass, the road suddenly shines with the perspiration of the heavens. No salt in there, pure heaven. Then as the bus continues to roll ahead, being the fast coach it is, transporting customers faster than Fed-Ex packages, we are showered by a sudden splash of pure bliss. The rains have hit Lonavala, the spot on the map where the two cities of Mumbai and Pune forever refuse to meet. This is a part of the string of towns  in the Sahyadris, that have long been exploited of it’s lush green by greedy builders dreaming of the next big hotel chain. yet, by the spring cleaned roadside, this town looks nothing less than paradise. Greener, quieter than any city, devoid of dirt now. Even though Lonavla stands now not in it’s once pristine condition, nearby villages still seem to be standstill in a time gone past. Life there, I imagine, still goes by the hour, slow in pace and content in smiles not coins. Happy in a technological oblivion.

The world just came back from laundry and it is now dressed in it’s best pale green. The thick shower is now reduced to a slow trickle. With such a brief guest appearance, only the rains can being in so much joy to anyone’s life. A bright track plays in my ears. In it, the bubbly young village girl is jumping with joy and humming to the beat of the raindrops. The bus window is now stained with the drops of heavenly, cloud sourced water.

Moving through the busiest part of Lonavla, the eye only sees chains of hotels. Just around the corner, you quickly escape the traffic and chance on some breath-taking views of the cliff by the other side of the valley. Distant, yet so near. The free-way now skirts the edge of this hill as we glide by another steep slope. From this vantage point of the view, the eye can see only hill,s in varying shades of grey opening upto a lush valley. Give it another two corners and we are on our way downhill. The bests views here only last about a minute each, so be sure not to doze off. On the way downhill, we come across another twin valley with the views of tightly packed houses down in the village.

I pause my thoughts here, to enjoy the hill-side, view of farther hills fading away and open skies welcoming us. We are now on our way down , all the best of the views behind us. But, we do have the views of pretty farms and villages in the valley down the hill to take in, in it’s quite humdrum of life. beyond that, is the city life with it’s thrills and with home, ready to welcome us with full-blazing horns.

Isn’t life just that?

Beautiful views from the hill-tops and then the quiet, pretty villages and cities beyond them to make your veins brim with adrenaline.

Life is just that- nothing is ugly and inconsequential. Every event serves a purpose, we just have to see it and seize it. So, hop onto a bus and step out of yourself, enjoy the view!

My weekly reads: Kindle and more!

I have managed to read three books, all excellent ones, in the past ten days. One a bit dreamy, another a little quirky yet captivating and the third- a non-fictional factual read. This week has been sort of a non-judgmental, non-critiquing, reading week for me. hence, this week, you will notice the absence of any ratings on the three books. I picked up books that I could read while travelling, while rest of the extended family chatted away and while just dealing with post-travel exhaustion-laden laze, over in the farthest, cool corner of the last room in the house. I picked up books for their familiarity, for the longing of travelling to Scottish highlands and for the intrigue of times gone by in the Himalayan lands. Snuggling in a corner, with a blanket and my Kindle, I only dream of these places as they transport me to a world akin to Narnia.

This past week was all about travel:- pre-travel packing, travel itinerary management, during the travel exhaustion plus post travel recuperation. 🙂 While all this was en cours, I managed to steal some time away for my reading. What can be better on a hot saturday night, than being whisked away to Prince Edward Island in the company of dear Ann-e or embarking on a journey to the highlands, in company of kilts enjoying some spirited summer dancing, accompanying a wee lassie as she sells her beloved stash of books in her Little shop of happily ever after. 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34871476-the-book-shop-on-the-corner?ac=1&from_search=true

I did happen to read some excerpts from Virginia Woolf’s ‘A room of one’s own’, which might be one of the best feminist writings, cleverly masked as advice and essay. It offers various interesting observations on the writing career situations of the women during the 20th century. I dare say it is anything but a light read for the afternoons. So, I tend to skip through the pages now and then, whenever my mind finds itself in need of some insights into the realities of the second gender during a time when it was indeed nothing but second.

I had been wanting to see the Netflix series recreating L.M.Montgomery’s delightful read about Anne of Green gables. That is how I took to re-reading one of the beloved books of one’s childhood. So far, I am only a quarter-way through it and am looking forward to more during my pre-bedtime reading rituals. I think the way the new netflix series is picturised, it captures the poignancy of the tale and expresses it in a certain dreaminess-laden way. Everything from Anne’s smiles, to the horses , to the wild grass and the neat farmland, seem oh-so-dreamy.

“Let me float away in a mist, for I am anything but awake now. ” True words, I am rather sleepy now.

 

Books are the perfect beings that take you into a land so far away, yet within your reach. On that end, I have been fascinated or perhaps more intrigued about the story of annexation by the republic of India of the erstwhile Himalayan kingdom, Sikkim  in the 1970s. The book i am currently reading is just about that, the truth behind the strategy and clever politics of the Late Mrs. Gandhi. I have so far just been through maybe twenty pages of it and it proves to be intriguing and yet relies solely on facts and less on the drama- yet. It is titled Smash and Grab by Sunanda K. Datta-Ray.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1808778.Smash_And_Grab

Oh, this week we are all awaiting rains in this part of India! Sultry, hot days be gone!