The Dutchman in 18th Century Japan

Tags

, , , , , ,

Sometime, actually, depending on your taste and choices, you come across a book, that moves you and leaves you completely and totally breathless. At the ending of the book, you feel like have to part, you know you will part and while a part of you rejoices because you can now focus on other reads, there is yet another part of you that feels like something deep has been wrenched away from you! Without getting too maudlin, it is bitter sweet to say the least!

There are very many books, that provoke such emotions in all of us and personally for me, the older I get the more I am inclined to agree with my blogging friends who to quote live by the principle of Marcel Proust that “On the whole, though, the wisest thing is to stick to dead authors.” Very few new age authors impress me and with a few exceptions like MM Kaye ( she can hardly be called new, but her books were published in 1980s, so relatively new!) JK Rowling and couple of other, most books fail to touch anything inside me. They are not bad books, in fact some of them are very good; it just that I do not feel that, they have managed to touch a chord deep within me! In fact, most new age authors while being good reads, were exactly that, good reads! I had resigned myself and happily resigned to reading the dead folks whenever I needed some enrichment of the soul; until one day causally browsing I stumbled upon and brought on a whim  – The Thousand Autumn of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell.

Its 1799. a young Jacob De Zoet is crossing the ocean to reach Japan, the tiny island of Dejima to be exact, as a clerk of Dutch East India Company, to investigate the corrupt practices of the previous resident of Dejima. Jacob has a lot on his mind, he wants to distinguish himself in the service of the company and most importantly build a fortune, so that he can return home to Holland to marry his sweetheart. In the same island, there lives an old Japanese Doctor, whose disfigured daughter, Orito Aibagawa is a talented mid-wife. As a reward, for saving the life of his new born son, the Japanese Governer, had allowed Orito Aibagawa to study at Dr. Marinus’s Academy. Dr. Marinus is an European and a man, and this exception granted to Miss Aibagawa is not something she takes lightly and all her focus is on becoming more proficient to help women needing help! Jacob takes up residence next to Dr. Marinus and soon becomes acquainted with Orito Aibagawa and becomes attracted to her from the start. However there are many other matters that need to be attended to and Jacob is soon involved in unvieling the corruption of the previous resident, only to realize that he has been trapped in an compromising position by his own chief, Vorstenbosch for the latter’s own greed! In the meanwhile, Miss Aibagawa’s father dies, leaving the family in deep debt and her step mother strikes a deal with the powerful monk Enomoto to sell Orito to his  monastery deep in the Japanese mountain country as a payment for him paying off her husband’s debts! Orito on realizing the kind of card has been dealt by her mother, decided to seek a life as a “Japanese wife” with Jacob, whose attraction for her, she had always been aware off. However before she can achieve her end, she is spirited away by Enomoto’s men and Jacob caught in his own problems, is unable to rescue her! Now both, must use their own wit, to fight conspiracies, threats and even war to survive and seek out and finally achieve their ultimate life aims!

What can I say about the book? Critics will say it is linear and the characters are kind of uni-dimensional and for the western reader, there is an onslaught of Japanese names and practices!  Some have even called it a romance. It is  perhaps, all this, but it is still beautiful and so much more. David Mitchell in this sweeping tale weaves in History, Politics and trade and human emotions/relationships of all kinds!  Japan in all her beauty and grandeur comes alive in the hands of David Mitchell and all her secrets, while remaining carefully hidden, are nevertheless given a glimpse off to help readers understand, how the land must have fascinated to Western world when they sought her out from 16th century, in turns being welcomed and the shunned.The history is deeply embedded in the narrative and in one of the most well crafted marrying of fiction and history, the history prods the narrative forward, instead of just serving as an interesting background. The customs and practices are clearly laid out and exceptions clearly explained! The characters are all well rounded and they stand their in all their glory of being good and bad. Jacob de Zoet while being a quintessential hero, honest and brave, is also given to lust and mopping. Orito is honorable but rational enough to know not all can be compromised at the stake of personal suffering. Dr, Marnius, Enomoto and so many other provided a living breathing ensemble of characters that evoke all kinds of real emotions within the reader. The beauty of the book however to me was in the very end, where instead of striving in a cliched end of improbabilities, David Mitchell, writes out a practical, sensible and heartbreaking end, in an ultimate testimony of art imitating life – life being of course practical and good, nevertheless, heartbreaking!

Wonderful wonderful book…I strongly recommend at least one read by one and all!

Advertisements

Here Comes May….

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

The much dreaded Indian Summers are here and much as I would want to hide away and never really come out of igloo styled hibernation, there are bills to be paid and work to be done! So May, do thy worst, I shall live for October!!

First thing about May was changing the theme of my blog; I was tired of looking at Classical libraries and dark paintings, which while look very cosy and comfortable in Winters, they make me feel hot and stifled in summers. Inspired by O and Cleo, I decided to finally get around to changing the theme, archiving old posts and setting things up in simpler, whiter, and less cluttered theme! I know that the banner painting is still on darker tones, but it’s one and its got color so it stays! The white background, trust me does wonders as the sun beats down on everything, outside!

I will drink lots of water, nimboo pani which is an Indian version of lemonade only more sweet and spicy, stick to cold soups and dream of cooler weathers that October will bring! In between, hopefully around end May, I plan to go running back in the welcoming and cool arms of the Great Himalayan range; now that a close friend has opened a cafe in the Dhauladhar Range, Himalayas are actually a second home, which I plan to utilize the most, especially as the plains burn in the sun, as we head towards June and July!

Anyway, so much about themes and weather, the point is what reading is happeneth this month? While I know you all must be bored of listening to me go on and on about this one book, but I shall finish one day and until then, it stays put in my reading plans; naturally I am talking about The Histories by Herodotus. As the entire, universe must be aware by now, I was reading this with Cleo and Ruth as part of The Well Educated Mind Reading Challenge. Speaking of Cleo, I am also reading Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, with her. And again with Cleo and O, I continue the serialized reading of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, as part of O’s brilliant and innovative Reading Event.  I am also reading The Patriot by Sana Karsikov with Brona and this is one book, I am seriously excited about!

The change in the blog theme, also brings forward a resolution about something that has one been on my mind for a while! Like in many other things, here too, I am inspired by Stefanie ………so what is this big resolution you ask? The resolution is (DEEP BREATHE)  –  I will not buy any new books until I finish the ones next to my bed side table and those on my writing desk. This means I diligently stick to finishing The Instance of the Finger Post by Ian Pears, The Last of the Mohincans by James Fenimore Copper and finish the three Terry Pratchets, The Fifth Elephant and Snuff. I also have several unread volumes lying dormant in my Kindle and its high time I finished what I bought! That is the resolution as of now…of course everyone knows of my will power and how I cannot be tempted and I always stick to my goals, especially bookish goals! Yes, you can stop laughing now! Ok…I will try, that is all I am committing to now! And I am allowed to borrow from the library! Ok…that seems reasonable, now to actual READING!

The End of the 2nd Madness….

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

How much I had looked forward to the Dewey’s 24hour Readathon and now, its all over! Like always, it was a brilliant, exhilarating experience of reading non stop and bonding with a tribe that slept, ate and dream books! I call them my tribe, because only spirits that felt so closely to books could have participated and enjoyed this mad rush of 24 hours of reading and more reading and yet more reading! I know so many who remained sleep deprived and many who had to change their personal life schedules and routines to be a part of the event and yet many others, who though they tried hard, could not join because of some pressing commitment!This tribe of bookworms, brings such a wonderful sense of belonging, of being a part of larger geekdom and just being ok about being passionately fond of books! The Dewey’s 24hour Readathon epitomizes this sense of bonding of book readers across continents and oceans!

So how did I do? Well I still finished 2.5 books, the same as last time, a cumulative of 800+pages. But unlike last time, I loved all my 3 selections  – Bones of the Hills by Conn Iggulden, Men at Arms by Terry Pratchet and The Histories by Herodotus. The first two I finished and the latter, well I am still trying! I unfortunately could not make any headway into either Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol or The Instance of the Fingerpost by Ian Pears, but there are more weekends ahead and I hope to conquer more! I loved all the three that I read. Conn Iggulden made History of Mongolia come alive and made the historical characters, humane with deep insights into the culture and the history, that went into making the Mongol Horde. Terry Pratchett is Terry Pratchett; Captain Vimes is off to become a gentleman, but he cannot stop being a Copper when there are murders and lost kings of Ankh-Morpork to be found. With deep understanding of human nature. and dwarfs and trolls and an amazing sense of humor, Sir Terry wove another tale of brilliance and satire! Herodotus continues blending History and myth to take us across to ancient Greece, Persia and introduce us to long lost races like Scythian’s and Phoenicians!

Needless to say I had awesome fun in this April Readathon. I was really looking forward to it and now wait with bated breath for October! I want to take a moment and give a shoutout to our amazing hostess at Dewey’s @estellasrevenge and @capriciousreadr for your energy, encouragement and sense of fun!! Thank You guys and the entire team of Deweys! Look forward to chatting with you all again, come October!

The Return of the Maddness – Updates on 24 hours of Non-Stop Binge Reading

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

Here we go –

Update 1

Hour 1  –  05:27 PM IST

The Pile –

IMG_20170429_171343_897

Let’s Start!!

Opening Survey from Dewey’s 24hour Readathon

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

India

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Toss up between Bones of the Hills by Conn Iggulden & Men at Arms by Sir Terry Pratchett

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Something I make myself – Chocolate Fool; a concoction of Greek Yogurt, Cream and Chocolate
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

Full Time Project Manager, Part Time Writer (wish it was in reverse) constant reader, frequent traveler, occassional cook, daughter/sister/friend and trying everyday to be a decent person
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I participated in the 2016 October Readathon. The one thing I did do differently was while I still have a motely crew of books, I kept the number of books in the list on lower side, so as to not confuse myself and lose precious time in deciding what  to read next!

Update 2

Hour 4 – 08:49 PM IST

Books – Switching between Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett (Page 70) and The Histories by Herodotus (Page 255)

Take on the Books –  Herodotus is brilliant as he takes on a sweeping narrative, part history and part derived from myths, across ancient Greece, Persia, Libiya and India. I am fascinated with the descriptions of the Scythians and think they may be closely related to present day Mongols. Will look it up later. In Men at Arms, Lance Corporal Detritus (Troll), Lance Corporal Cuddy (Dwarf) and Lance Corporal Angua (Werewolf) join Vimes, Carrot, Fred and Nobby to find out what really happened the Assassins Guild! Brilliant, funny and idealistically real, Sir Terry as always takes my breathe away – I am still laughing aloud at head honchetta/honcharina/honchessa!!

Snacks Update – Dinner – Tuscany Chicken & Pasta Salad

DSC02112

Update 3

Hour 8 – 00:36 AM IST

Books – Bones of the Hill – #3 The Conquerer Series by Conn Iggulden (Page 106)

Take on the Books –  One of my all time favorites! I love this entire series that Mr. Iggulden has written about the rise of Chengez Khan and his dynasty. Stripping away commonly held myths, with deep research, this historical fiction constitutes everything that a good historical fiction must have – powerful narrative that mixes easily with the time it was set in, with great story telling and accurate history! This volume is an especial favourite – the first that I ever read, and was mesmerised by he brilliant writing as I rode with Chengez Khan to conquer Persia and Europe. It also has one of my biggest book crushes of all time – Subutai is right up there is my pantheon of bestest bookboyfriends, along with Fritz William Darcy, Captain Alex Randall and Ari Ben Cannon!

Snacks Update – Water & now Coffee

IMG_20170429_223732_475

Update 4

Hour 12 – 04:31 AM IST

Books – Bones of the Hill – #3 The Conquerer Series by Conn Iggulden (Page 249)

Take on the Books –  Still loving the read. Though the change in the character of Changez Khan from a far seeing ruler to someone blinded by personal prejudice is a bit difficult to digest, but then sometimes success does change a person completely. The narrative is still brilliant and I who usually skip battle scenes, is hooked on page to page. Subutai still rocks!

Snacks Update – Sandwich and Rose Tea to fight of slight onset of sluggishness!

IMG_20170430_044254_517

Mid-Event Survey!  
1. What are you reading right now?

Bones of the Hill by Conn Iggulden

2. How many books have you read so far?

Half way through two different books

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

Reading till the end with minimum or no sleep…can my body do it? that’s the question!

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

Some, but good interruptions; using them as breaks!

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

How much I still enjoy the event! Also trying to keep up on social media can be a tad taxing!

Update 5

Hour 19 – 11:46 AM IST

Books – Bones of the Hill – #3 The Conquerer Series by Conn Iggulden (Page 260)

Miscellaneous Note – no traction as fell off to sleep for 5 hours! 😦

Snacks Update – Masala Tea to get the day going!

Update 6

Hour 23 – 04:01 PM IST

Books – Bones of the Hill – #3 The Conqueror Series by Conn Iggulden (Completed) Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett (Page 107)

Take on the Book – As always, Bones of the Hill leaves me speechless. The rise and the betrayal are overwhelming and it leaves much to ponder over, especially when one cannot really dismiss the thoughts under the guise of fiction. The rise of the Mongols did happen and what the great Khan went through despite all the negative history surrounding him, cannot be evaded Mr. Iggulden tries to give Subutai the due he deserves in the books of history – unfortunately, the Mongols produced a host of brilliant men 800 years ago and giving space to all of them is an ask. Despite the author manages to etch out the great General’s character and bring in the more humane side of him, especially when he leaves for his final command under Chengez Khan; your heart torn as you see one of the best General’s is history of warfare struggle to keep his loyalty to the Man who had raised him and to the boy who looked up to him. One of the best pieces of historical fiction, where Mongols, come alive and you can hear the war cries assaulting you from the pages of the book!

Snacks Update – Lunch – Traditional Indian Dal (Legumes) Rice & Saag baji (Spinach fry)

Update 7

Hour 24 – 05: 28 PM IST

Books –  Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett (Page 213)& The Histories by Herodotus (Page 321)

Take on the Book – Brilliant, intuitive, kind and hilarious – simply put. vintage Terry Pratchet

IMG_20170430_171832_944

Snacks Update – Tea

Closing Survey

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

Early morning – around 6:00 AM

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a reader engaged for next year?

  • Historical Fiction – The Conquerer Series by Conn Iggulden
  • Fantasy/Humor – The Discworld Series, especially the Vimes & The Witches novels by Terry Pratchet

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season?

I think you guys are just perfect! Though I think the Goodreads page could be simplified instead of multiple threads!

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

I think the Mini Challenges were awesome!

5. How many books did you read?

2.5

6. What were the names of the books you read?

  • Bones of the Hills by Conn Iggulden
  • Men at Arms by Terry Pratchet
  • The Histories by Herodotus

7. Which book did you enjoy most?

Bones of the Hills by Conn Iggulden

8. Which did you enjoy least?

NA…I chose well this year! I loved everything I read!

9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

I repeat, once again, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest, I would say 20! Role would be a Reader, maybe even a host!

The Return of the 24 Hour Madness….

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I have not been keeping well for sometime now, sleepless nights due to sever bronchial asthma. The biggest project of my career goes live on May 1st and it could set me up for next 3 years or make me look up other jobs! Minor domestic crisis continue to plague me. Life can hardly be called a bed of roses; but do I care? Am I really worried that my life is falling apart?!?!?! Nope…the only thing I give a damm about at this point is that the Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon is BACK!!! April 29th, 8:00 AM EDT the non-stop reading binge starts!!! Wooohooooo……I CANNOT wait!

readathon5

My first Readathon was last year in October when I stumbled on Brona’s post on her Readathon prep. This is exactly why you need friends…..to drag you and tempt you into madcap adventures! Of course, not that I really need tempting to read a new book or participate in reading events! Anyhow, I attempted it last year and had a ball! Scratch that, I had a ball time 10! There is no way I was passing the April event up, even if it meant working late into the night to ensure Project launch on Monday goes smooth and I have the weekend to READ!!!

Now to proceed to matters, of actual importance – what do we read??!!! That, delicate and difficult question, that haunts each reader’s life; such a wonderful pain! I have my list all set, though again, I am not really sure, if I will be able to cover all or some or even in the end, throw up all the careful planning, to re-read Harry Potter, but for now this is what it looks like

  1. The Histories by Herodotus – Many of you are aware that I am reading this with Cleo and Ruth as part Reading The Histories for The Well Educated Mind Reading Challenge. Both Ruth and Cleo have finished while I lag woefully behind. Having said that, I am loving this narrative and I hope to cover some significant portion, through the Readathon
  2. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol  – This comic satire of Russian feudalism and bureaucracy set in 19th century is an absolutely wonder to read. Again, this is something I am reading with Cleo and again while my progress is slow, I hope, seriously hope to make some progress over the weekend!
  3. An Incident of the Fingerpost by Ian Pears – A whodunit is a must to break the monotony, especially if it’s a whodunit set in medieval England! Really looking forward to this one!
  4. Bones of the Hills – #3 The Great Conquer by Conn Iggulden – Can I possibly do any reading event, without atleast on hardcore Historical Fiction. The answer naturally is a big NO!!! This time I revisit and re-read an old favorite; Conn Iggulden’s marvelously researched tale of Chengiz Khan and his army is a fascinating read, away from all incorrect myths and gory descriptions. I finished Part 1 & 2 over this last week and now move on to part 3.
  5. Men at Arms by Sir Terry Pratchett – Could I possibly consider any reading event as complete, without one homage to a comic and humane narrative of mankind and its his frivolousness? Nope!! We go “detectoring” with Commander Vimes and his crew in the greatest city of Discworld, Ankh-Morpork!

My update style will remain same! I will have a 24 hour open blog update which I will try and update every 3 odd hours. I will also try to be more diligent and in fact use the Twitter and Goodreads pages for well needed breaks!

My cheering squad, I look at the same two – Brona & Cleo – some serious cheering required!!

This should be yet another restful weekend, which  should ensure I am all ready for the big launch come Monday! However, Monday is still far and for now, LET’S READ! Counting down the last few hours!

When Alice Went Wondering

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Everybody knows that I often keep **complaining** about all the reading adventures Cleo gets me dragged into! But heart of heart, I know that life would be one mundane boring reading if it was not for friends like Cleo, who make you read everything from Beowulf to The Histories to The Metamorphosis. Naturally, this year is no different, and after swearing off on doing any read along on account of being crazy busy at work, I was soon signing up to read with her several works!! What do they say about, road to hell being paved with good intentions??

Anyhow, Thanks to Cleo, I got to know that Amanda at Simpler Pastimes, is hosting the Classics Children’s Literature Event 5 and not only that, the suggested book was Alice Adventure in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll! Now I have always wondered about Alice in Wonderland; as a child when my Dad got me that huge pop up book with some lovely illustrations, I remember loving the colors and pictures but not putting in too much tuck with the story! As I grew up, I read a lot of Carroll’s limericks and puzzles and I was moderately impressed but hardly blown away, As a student of English Literature, I read a lot of “analysis” on Alice in Wonderland and when this event came along, it was as good a time as any to revisit the book and decide once and for all, do I like Lewis Carroll or not??!!

alice-300

The story is too well known to everyone; nevertheless, here goes a brief summary. One summer afternoon, Alice finds herself bored and drowsy, sitting by her elder sister who was reading, near the riverbank, when she noticed a rabbit in a waistcoat and a pocket watch hurrying off. She follows the rabbit and falls a long way, until she reaches a hall with many doors. She spies a beautiful garden beyond the doors, which she wants to visit, but is to big to get through the door. She finds a drink which shrinks her to enable her to get through the door but then she realizes that the key was still on table and now she was too tiny to get it. Thus begins her adventures of growing big and small and of meeting rabbits and the Duchess and the Cheshire cat and the King and Queen of hearts. She drinks tea with Mad Hatter and his friends and plays croquet with flamingos, until she ends up in a most strange court room case!

I have read a lot of essays attempting to de-code this tale. Its been called a sarcastic commentary on  the education system of 19th century to the author’s word play with French. I am sure there are other many interesting interpretations – but to me it is still a very good yarn for the children. Imagination and fun flows through the tale. It’s like an adventure where you let go of reality and let the author take you places for he would. I loved the quirky crazy sense of humor. I loved how from one tale to another, we jumped characters and situations without any need to justify the previous occurrences. I loved the characters – Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat were my most favorite, but I quite loved the King of Cards trying to run the court! I thoroughly enjoyed Carroll’s mockery of “moral tales”. But it was Alice herself that left be in her language “Curiouser and curiouser”. I am not sure what to make of her – true, she is only a 10 year old but I found her quite annoying 10 year old and while she does display a lot of spunk, but she seems to come across as someone completely oblivious of others. I get it 10 years old is very young, but 10 year olds can be as sensitive and kind as any adult, in fact more so. While Alice seems to be just a bratty kid!

Overall I am so very glad I re-read this book! I am still not too fond of Carroll, but that still did not diminish my complete and thorough enjoyment of the book!

All About the Ladies from the Choir

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Everybody and by that I mean EVERYBODY who reads my posts knows that I have a blind spot for Historical Fiction. And historical fiction that is set in the backdrop of a small English village, during the early years of World War II – well, there is no way I am going to pass up that book! Hence, I was supremely satisfied to find The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan, when one day browsing through bloggingforbooks.com.

Jennifer Ryan

The novel opens in March 1940, with England beginning it’s initial foray into World War II and the Ladies of Chilbury Choir realizing that their singing in the church has come to an end, since the men, so very necessary to produce the right balance in the choir have left to join the armed forces. Each member of the choir has her own thoughts and reservation about this ending of their Choir singing. There is Mrs. Tilling, a widow and a nurse and one the premier members of the troupe; her concerns are divided into the worry of her son leaving for the front, the horrors that war will bring and of course the demise of the beloved choir which brought much peace to her. Then there is Edwina Paltry, the village mid-wife, guilt ridden by her past conduct that robbed her sister and herself of a good life; she is now desperate for a fortune, to ensure she can get away from the village and re-posses her old home with her sister and whose only motive of joining the choir is to use it as a means to her ends. Kitty Winthrop, the talented and precocious 13 year old daughter of the local gentry Brigadier Winthrop, who dreams of becoming a famous singer and leading a happily ever after life with the much older Henry Brampton-Boyd, who in turn seems to be infatuated with her elder sister, Venetia. Venetia, yet another member of the choir is a willful, pampered and bereft of any worries, 18 year old, seeking adventures and entertainment. Finally, there is Sylvie, the 10 year old refugee form Czechoslovakia who is troubled from the memories of a Nazi occupied homeland and a constant yearning for her family. The ending of choir leaves all the members at lose ends, with a sense of loss of something comfortable, in absence of singing when the new Music Teacher in the town,  Miss Prim starts the  revolutionary idea of  a women’s only choir, forcing the members into life changing situations, forcing them to confront their long held believes and do things that they never quite thought possible. As they all try and grapple with these changes, the meet and are forced to shape their lives around strangers who pour into the village, like the mysterious painter Mr. Slater, Colonel Mallard and the London evacuee, Tom.

This is a wonderful and delightful tale told in the form of diary/journal entries and letters exchanged and the narrative is well woven among the characters and the historical backdrop. Ms. Ryan is able to deftly portray the impact of the war on a small village community, balancing it well, with the more immediate concerns of its inhabitants. The life and concerns of the small community is extremely well captured. She creates some wonderful characters in Mrs. Tilling and Miss Prim and Sylvie. The way her characters evolve as the war goes on is very well done, especially when the way she manages to convey the changing belief system of her characters, from denial to tolerance to respect.  The slow sense of empowerment that comes through to the women of the choir as they stand up like never before is very well captured! I loved the way the author was able to intersperse the whole book with hymns and songs that were so apt for the occasion! The only call out I had was some of the events, which I thought were cliched and could have been managed better – for eg. from the moment, Kitty mentions Mr. Slater, I knew what he was about, as well as the way it would finish off. Similarly, I knew how Colonel Mallard would end up in the narrative, from the very moment he was introduced. Some of the interactions depicted are kind of jerky and jump from one emotion to other without sufficient reasoning of why it was happening and how did  the change come about; like the one between Mr. Slater and Venetia. The end also seemed to suddenly tie up neatly in a package, leaving one wondering about where did that come from. However despite, some of these flaws, the book remains a good read – a perfect anecdote to a hectic day, in the accompaniment of some good tea!

I understand from her website that the novel was based on the experience of Ms. Ryan’s grandmother who lived through World War II and shared her stories with the family.  The author does a wonderful job of taking these real life stories and turning them into fiction with enough dash of reality to make it believable and readable!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

And Now for April….

Tags

, , , , , , ,

While my friends in the Northern Hemisphere rejoice the Spring, here’s the sweltering unrelenting heat of the Indian Summers are beginning to be felt. It is already miserably hot and I shudder to think of the next couple of months that lay ahead of us! And while the future does seem bleak – I mean it’s summer; what can one expect? And work (I know I have been cribbing a lot lately about it) is getting even more horrific by the minute, I will take solace, that are plenty of books to keep me company and one day, there will be no summer and long vacation, at the end of this trial!

Reading Plans as we all know have been a bit haywire lately, thanks to all the long work hours. I have receded to light reads and mostly Sir Terry Pratchet’s work to make some retain some hold on my sanity  (Yes! My alternative sanity is much more interesting than most people’s reality!) I did manage to procure a couple of reads over the last couple of days and I hope to get some reading time in-between to really do some justice to these books. To begin with I have the extremely intriguing, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, by David Mitchel. The story is set in end of 18th century Japan and that is enough to get me hooked! I then have a Restoration period who-done-it, An Incident of the Fingerpost by Ian Pears. I also  yet another historical thriller in The Alienist by Caleb Carr. If reading historical fiction was not enough, I also have started reading Land of Two Rivers – History of Bengal by Nitish Sengupta. Dr. Sengupta narrates an interesting history of Eastern India, the land I ethnically belonged to and naturally I am curious to say the least. I also think I am reading Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, if I can push myself to push Cleo. Again thanks to Cleo, I came across Amanda at Simpler Pastimes Classic Children’s Literature Event, and will be reading, rather re-reading Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol. Finally I am making slow but steady progress with Herdotus’s The Histories with Cleo and Ruth, both of whom have finished the book, while I am plodding through Book 3 only!. I am also having oodles of fun reading the monthly installments of The Pickwick Paper by Charles Dickens. Finally I hope to complete, The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper that I started in March.

And while that’s is the plan for now, but there there is Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon coming up this month, April 28th to be exact and since I had a blast, the last time around, no way in the world I am giving this one up. I just have to sort out chores and work and other such inconsequential details before that so that for 24 hours I can read in peace!

So here’s to some interesting reads, this April!

Help Needed…

Tags

, , , , , ,

I know I have been more often than not missing in action lately and I know many of you are wondering what the hell happened here…let me just start by saying, NOTHING even remotely exciting. As I had predicted at the beginning of the year, it is a BRUTAL work year and while I am extremely blessed to have an awesome team and a wonderful leader, it is still work and it’s getting crazier by the minute! Therefore when I finally get some time, which is far and few, I am too busy playing reading catch up and then there is simply no time left to post about what I have read! However I am trying to find a balance and hope that I will back to my normal weekly posting self soon!

Anyhow some urgent help is required which brought be trotting back to this post. I have always wondered if there was anyway I could do a little more than, you know make a rich company richer and in recent years I have been very fortunate to not only be led by some amazing woman, but with promotions, I have started the process of mentoring some wonderful talents. Many of them also happen to be women and as I mentor more and try and help them, I realize that despite all their advanced degrees and relatively successful positions, many of these extremely talented woman struggle with self confidence and putting themselves out their and just simply  knowing their self worth. As I try to help navigate this journey of self confidence and leadership development I often naturally quote books and authors as illustrations. As the process grew, many of them expressed an interest in reading books again (Yes…some of them have not read anything remotely intellectual since college and some, HAVE NOT read anything at all!) Thus evolved the idea of small book club focusing on women and gender issues and corporate leadership. Naturally because I spoke the most I was tasked with the honor of compiling a list and here is where I am stumped!

There are many many books of leadership and women in leadership and coaching women for leadership and yada yada yada! But I do not think that focusing on leadership or the management aspect alone will lead to a whole rounded and a more deep level development, so I am trying to find books between that and you know hard core Simone de Beauvoir and Gloria Steinem, for which I know these readers are not ready yet. So what I want is an intelligent, relatively deep insight into women and leadership. Do you know how many books I could find? NONE!! And no while I think Ms. Sandberg had many valid things to say, her book is epitome of deep thoughts!

So help….tell me what all would you read or ask your peers to read in similar circumstances? I need all your suggestions and I am open to modern/historical/fiction/nonfiction….all genres! So tell me and tell me all!

The Great Day…

Tags

, , , , , , ,

As many know, on 8th March diligently I do a post dedicated to Women’s Day. Mostly I review fictional characters who are the very role model of strong women and so forth! However today I wanted to take a bit of a different route and instead share a factual tale. It is a true blessing when you have a sisterhood of women, supporting and cheering you through the journey called life! This becomes even more precious, when your boss and peers are women, who also are part of you sisterhood. And all of this becomes exceptional when they sit nearly 28000 km away from you.

I know I have been raving about my long hours recently as well some personal stuff that I am working through. Recently another friend and peer, of mine. CM, visited our US headquarter on a business trip, where she met my boss , AB and my peer, AG. They sent a whole truck of gifts for me, but what was perhaps the most wonderful gift, was a handmade mascot that they created for me for”the project” that is taking 28 hours of my 24 hours . Knowing how stressed out I was, they spent a lot of time in this cheer-me-up mascot, so that when I feel down, I have a pick me near me. CM on returning told me of the kind of hard work that AB and AG had put in to make that mascot and after a bit of nagging, AG put down the story for me. I present the same, deleting out the specifics.

Here’s to the two brilliant woman, who truly inspire and uplift other women!! Thank You for being such an awesome cheering squad!

CM arrived in sunny state of _ US, to spend some time in the  _ Center. Little did she know, she would be a part of a grand plan to transport the Mascot back to its PMO Owner India. On the morning of March 3rd, 2016; AB and AG thought of a genius plan to give life to the Mascot of “the project”. Before they set out to collect the materials needed, they assessed if the fuzzy cactus was the optimal platform for the mascot. AB said, “I like the concept of the fuzzy cactus because it is a true representation of the tool itself.” AG replied, “I agree! But what should we make it out of?” They both thought about it for 23.4982 seconds and all of a sudden you could see the invisible lightbulb appear over their heads.

Off they went, down the stairs, past the cafeteria, through the turnstiles in the breeze way, out through the perimeter gate and across the street to Ml’s Craft Store. There they collected all the necessary materials and scurried back to their desk to begin the operation.

Gloves, check. Paper as a barrier, check. They were ready to rock and roll. AB began applying the green coats of paint to the wooden body until the optimal coverage was reached.  Next came the full assembly process. AB yelled, “Green Body!” AG handed it to her. AB yelled, “Flower Pot!” AG handled it to her. AB yelled again, “Super Glue!” AG handed it to her.

Image 1

Next came the facial recognition of the mascot. AG asked, “Is this a happy mascot or a sad mascot?” AB confirmed, “Definitely a happy but goofy mascot.” So they continued the assembly operations with an image in mind.

Image 2

AB and AG stood back and reviewed the mascot so far. Scratching their heads they said in unison, “Time for the fuzzy part?” Turning towards each other they yelled, “Yes!” and high fived. So off they went, adding more and more fuzzies all over using clear nail polish until the desired amount was added.

Image 3

After adding the final touch of a mouth, they both looked at the mascot, tilted their heads to the side until AG said, “He is cute. He has a weird resemblance of George Washington, but I like it!”

AB probed, “Well do you think it is time to name him? What shall we call him?” AG thought a moment before speaking, “What about Prometheus?” AB replied, “What the heck! Does that have anything to do with “the project”?” AG advised, “I don’t know…I guess Prometheus was the protector of mankind so isn’t that like “the project” and it starts with ‘Pro’?” They both went back to thinking of a name. Then it came to them, “let’s call him ‘H’ they agreed.” AG started on the letters and started from the center to ensure perfect symmetry was achieved while moving to the right. AG thought to herself, Wow this looks great! She continued now from the center to the left. AG pulled the marker away from the flower pot to admire her perfect penmanship. Frightened, she said, “OMG AB I messed up!” Instead of writing there was no H and she instead had created a whole new word! AB busted into laughter. Tears ran down her face as AG began to laugh as well. After a full 60 seconds of laughter they both said, “Well! this will be his name since we cannot erase marker.”

So, ZZZZZ was born instead of “the project”.

AB said, “I love how cool he looks”, touching his fury little head. And then with a blink of an eye, Mascot was accidentally bummed and was falling slowly, rotating over and over until he made contact with the carpeted floor. There he lay with his body separated from his flower pot and his flower pot cracked in 3 different areas. In slow motion, AB reached down and picked him up and they both had gears turning in their head thinking What are we going to do? AG said, “We do have some super glue, I think that will work! Engineering at its finest, we fix things!” Within 28.76501 seconds, it was back in full form.

Image 4

AB said, “You know, his pot actually looks like it has some real character now!” They both sat back and admired Mascot. Then something crazy happened! Mascot came to life!!! He said, “Hey AB! Hey AG! Can I borrow your cell phone? I would like to take a selfie of myself to send to my friends.” AB and AG looked at each other timidly and handed Mascot the phone.

Image 5

Next, AB and AG packaged Mascot up for his trip to India and they said their goodbyes as they wiped away a few tears.

Remember, when things get tough with “the project”, just look at the mascot. He also had some struggles along the way but with a little super glue and ingenuity, he still was ok and made it to his final destination. Which will be the same for our project journey.

I have no words to describe how touched I am. The kindness and their support is beyond comparison and they both truly represent the strength and the generosity of women!

I would like to end with a big shout out to all my women readers/blogging gang and all those brilliant, and wonderful men, who enrich our lives every day!’

Happy Women’s Day you all!