Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This was a gift from Bindu, and one that I have to say, I absolutely LOVED.

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Set in Nigeria, fifteen year old Kambili lives in fear of her dad. Her father is a pillar of the society, a generous, much respected and revered Catholic patriarch. While the community looks up to him, his family is petrified of him. His fanatically religious mindset ensures that his son daughter and wife have no real freedom. Their lives are bound by the schedules he draws up for them. Failure to follow rules come with a heavy price as Jaja, Kambili’s brother has learnt.

Kambili’s father, being so close minded about religion, has also disowned his own father for still being a ‘pagan’ and refusing to accept Christianity. The children are allowed to visit their grandfather but have strict rules on what they are allowed to do there, and the amount of time they are allowed to spend there.

Having lived such a life, they are suddenly taken by surprise when they go to their aunt’s house.
Their aunty, Ifeoma, is as different as possible from her fanatic brother. She somehow managed to convince her brother to let the children come with her for a few days. Her house was full of laughter and happiness. They did not have too much money but they made up for it in spirit. She is Christian as well, but not in the fanatical way her brother is. She accepts her father’s right to believe in what makes sense to him, and as a daughter does what she can for him, despite her own cash-strapped life. Her three children are happy, content and forever questioning their mother, while contributing to their household in whatever way they could. Jaja, fit into the household beautifully, enjoying his time there, soaking in the atmosphere. Kambili, on the other hand, is terrified that her father’s rules are being flouted. She lives in fear that they would have to pay for not obeying their father.

When they return back to their home, Kambili misses the simple easy life there, despite all the material comforts her parents’ house had. Jaja shows a few signs of rebellion that irks his father.
Some sudden changes and incidents ensure that the children end up in Aunty Ifeoma’s home again.

Nigeria, is in the middle of political unrest and their father is affected by it, because he was such an important figure of the community.

As Nigeria goes through the upheaval, Kambili and Jaja’s life changes drastically.

A poignant, and hopeful story that keeps you rivetted. A story of childhoods coming to an end, of control, of religious fanaticism that we see so much around us, emotions, and primarily, hope. Of better things to come.

Some books transport you to another world. You are right there, with the protagonists, feeling their fears, worries and joys, this is one of those books. The characters come alive, you feel Kambili’s fear, confusion, Jaja’s need to rebel, her aunt’s struggles, her mother’s pain… A beautiful book. It also makes me want to look up about Nigeria, a country, I realize,I know very little about. An absolutely recommended read.

A Maverick Heart: Between love and life by Ravindra Shukla

A long due review. Loads of reasons why I haven’t been able to post. More on that coming in another post.

This is an author requested review.

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Richita, Rahul and Neerav meet while doing their graduation at IIT Bombay. Rahul and Neerav were already friends, while a close frinedship springs up between Rahul and Richita. Both of them had similar ideas, and similar objectives in life. Towards the end of their days at IIT, Rahul and Richita had been clear that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together.

But fate had other plans. Things changed, circumstances changed. They realise that life has a way of changing everything in seconds. Everything Rahul and Richita had planned for meticulously meant nothing anymore. Mainly because society had a different standard of measuring things. Especially the standards of success. Soon the three friends go their separate ways. Each to try and make a life of their own, making the most of their circumstances.

As they enter the ‘real world’ both Richita and Rahul learn to live their lives, and Neerav pursues his dreams in America. So do the friends meet again? Does life give them another chance at happiness? Well, you will have to read the book to find out.

The story is interesting, not the regular run-of-the-mill sorts, but has a direction and it makes you want to know how it all ends. The characters are well defined. Richita’s compulsions, Rahul’s motivation, and the way each character responds to the challenges life throws them, is well-thought out. There are a few stereotypes, but not so much that it puts one off.

All in all, an interesting read. And I think a book in which the author has touched on issues that matter to him as well.

Arranged Love by Parul A. Mittal

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Suhaani is enjoying her independent status in the US and her sexy Indian American boyfriend, when suddenly she loses her job to recession. And she¹s forced to move back to India where her father has selected a boy for her from his guitar class.
Suhaani doesn¹t know how to tell her Internet-savvy dad and Farmville-addict mother that she¹s not interested in an arranged match, especially to an IITian. She decides to dislike the guy.
Except that he’s not too thrilled about her either.
Even when they end up working together,
Suhaani decides she will not fall for this guy.
But before she can turn him down, he rejects her!

It would have made for an interesting story had it been better treated. In this case, the story gets predictable, and the main characters are so inane. Suhaani comes across as someone obsessed with the idea of a ‘love marriage’ and Facebook. Nothing else seems to matter. The whole manner in which she deals with her boyfriend, is just unbelievable. And every character, absolutely every character puns, plays with words, which would have been fun, had it just been one of them, but when every single character does it, it gets a bit much and way too predictable. For a book that was supposed to be romantic fiction, the romance, well, to put it lightly, did not come across as very romantic. It might just be me, though, with a very different idea of romance.

None of the characters seemed well developed, and most if them came across as either silly or shallow.

In my opinion, this would be a book, I would happily give a miss. From the constant Facebook presence, it might have been targetted to appeal to a younger audience, but if you ask me, I am not sure that even a generation that lives their lives on Facebook, might find it all that very appealing.

This is a author requested review.

May You be the Mother of a Hundred Sons by Elizabeth Bumiller

Another Goodreads recommendation, one that both husband and I loved.

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‘In a chronicle rich in diversity, detail, and empathy, Elisabeth Bumiller illuminates the many women’s lives she shared–from wealthy sophisticates in New Delhi, to villagers in the dusty northern plains, to movie stars in Bombay, intellectuals in Calcutta, and health workers in the south–and the contradictions she encountered, during her three and a half years in India as a reporter for THE WASHINGTON POST. In their fascinating, and often tragic stories, Bumiller found a strength even in powerlessness, and a universality that raises questions for women around the world.’, says the blurb, and it had me hooked from the first page.

Elizabeth Bumillier’s husband’s foreign assignment in India, brought her to New Delhi in 1985. She writes about how she came to write this book, going from a person who knew little about India, to someone who travelled through India, lived in villages and came to understand the lives of women across India. Absorbing it all in, and writing about it in the most non-judgemental manner possible. She writes about the dowry burnings, female feticide, the complex hierarchy that exists, the condition of women in both rural and urban areas. The ironies that is India. Despite the powerful women in the political arena, women, are still facing issues with the most basic of things, health care,safety, basic equality and social freedom. The traditions that bind even the richest families in India to patriarchal norms that have resulted in the deep-seated lack of gender equality in India. Women who make the most of their lives despite all the challenges that they might face, women who adjust, accept their fate, and some who succumb to the challenges they face.

Although it was written over two decades ago, the book is still relevant in so many ways. The way in which women’s lives have not changed at the rate at which one would have expected it to change is evident when we read the book. She explores the lives of successful, independent women in India, socialites, feminists as well as women bound by traditions, and rules, for whom life hasn’t changed much from the time of their grandmothers’. The manner in which she writes, the way she sees it, without being judgemental, or stereotypical makes it a great read. Her observations of life as it is in India for women, across all strata of society, the difference in lifestyles and expectations that could vary so much and at the same time be so similar for women across India. My husband read it. He rarely reads a book these days – he finds reading on the Kindle much more easier,he just couldn’t put it down.

For a book, on a subject that can be sad, and heavy, it was a surprisingly quick and interesting read. A book I would definitely recommend.

Henna for the Broken-Hearted by Sharell Cook

I am an occasional silent reader at Sharell Cook’s blog, and when I found out that she had written a book, it came onto my wish list. A few weeks ago, I managed to lay my hands on the book.

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How far would you go to change your life?

Sharell Cook is 30 years old and living a privileged life in Melbourne’s wealthy suburbs. She has it all: the childhood-sweetheart husband, the high-powered job and plenty of cash to splash.

And it’s not destined to last. Sharell finds herself in a broken marriage, and everything she had taken for granted seems to have changed. Impulsively, she decides to take a break and go to India to do some volunteer work for a few months. Living in Calcutta, a life which was totally different from the time she traveled in India with her ex-husband as a tourist, Sharell grapples with life in India, the frustrations and joys, the unexpected and the normal. She also meets her future husband in India. Reading her book, you start to believe in destiny taking you where you belong.

The book is her memoir of her time in India, the way it changed her, and the way she now leads the urban life of a white Indian housewife. Her journey from what she was, to what she becomes, as she lives in a different culture, which she accepts so open-heartedly. Her transformation, as she calls it. Some of things which even, us, Indians would balk at, she calmly accepts and lives with them. It was fresh take, devoid of the stereotypes one would expect, and without any undue glorification of India either. She writes it as it is, and that in itself is very refreshing.

I loved reading her experiences in India, as she travels through India, lives in various parts, lives a life which is different at the same time, similar to locals. Washing clothes by hand, living through water shortages, temperamental landlords, nosy neighbours, part and parcel of middle class living in India, and accepting it all in a very matter of fact way. I absolutely love her attitude.

What really stands out is the risks she takes, probably because all that she considered familiar had changed after the breakdown of her marriage. The risks she takes in coming back to India, living with the man she would later marry, and her willingness to make the most of her situation, to accept what life has in store for her. It’s not something what most of us would find easy to do. And her attitude towards the changes in her life. Her open-hearted acceptance of the confusion that India can be, and her willingness to be a part of it all.

She literally taker us on her journey, through India, with the wonderful companionship she shares with her husband, and their adventures of various kinds. Living in different parts of India, until they reach the place they end up settling down in – Mumbai. Her husband’s family comes across as such wonderful people, accepting her a part of their family, and doing what it took to get her comfortable. The wonderful bond that she shares with them comes out loud and clear in the book.

If I had to describe the book in a few words, it would – honest and captivating. She keeps the pages turning, you want to know more, and you actually feel sad when it ends. A book I would definitely recommend.

Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River by Alice Albinia

I’ve come to really enjoy travelogues. Of all sorts. This was another Goodreads recommendation, based on the books I have read and rated. The description had me hooked.

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‘One of the largest rivers in the world, the Indus rises in the Tibetan mountains and flows west across northern India and south through Pakistan. It has been worshipped as a god, used as a tool of imperial expansion, and today is the cement of Pakistan’s fractious union. Alice Albinia follows the river upstream, through two thousand miles of geography and back to a time five thousand years ago when a string of sophisticated cities grew on its banks. “This turbulent history, entwined with a superlative travel narrative” (The Guardian) leads us from the ruins of elaborate metropolises, to the bitter divisions of today. Like Rory Stewart’s The Places In Between, Empires of the Indus is an engrossing personal journey and a deeply moving portrait of a river and its people.’ says the blurb, and I just had to get hold of it.

Albinia, a British journalist, fascinated by the River Indus, and the civilizations and religions that it spawned around it, travels up the river, from its delta in Sindh, to the place of its origin in Tibet. As she travels through Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Tibet, she also narrates history, and links it up to the present world and culture. The Sheedis in Pakistan, who could trace back their ancestors to Africa and to the first African disciple of Prophet Mohammed, the life, and hierarchy of Pakistani society after the Partition, the Aryans and India as it had been. The way of life in India a few centuries ago, when religions co-existed, peacefully. Fascinating tidbits and facts – both historical and contemporary ones. There is a lot more of Pakistan than India, in the book, but that is of course a given, since Indus is almost completely in Pakistan now, but she still manages to link the common history of the region with the mighty river flowing through it, really well. A wonderful mixture of history and culture with Indus as the ever-present protagonist. The river which is mighty, deep, mysterious, divine and a lifeline to those who live by it. For centuries, Indus was more than just a river. At one point in history, conquering the Indus was equivalent to conquering India. The books spans from the Vedic times to today’s world, touching upon Kargil, the demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas amongst other important recent developments that impacted the subcontinent.

The author’s meticulous research is evident in the book. And her evident interest in her subject. Conversant in Urdu and Hindi, she is able to converse with the locals, and live like them, fasting during Ramzan, living in their houses during her travel, almost becoming one of them. The author’s enthusiasm, and zeal left me amazed. The journey that she undertook, couldn’t have been easy by any standards, through one of the world’s most volatile regions, potentially one of the most unsafe regions for a woman to travel alone, is one of the bravest things to do. A lot of travelogues have the authors being enraptured by the subject, in this case, she is utterly fascinated and yet objective, fascinated enough to have researched her subject thoroughly, and objective enough to analyze it all, so very well. I just did not want it to end. I wished she could go on and on, I wished I had learnt history reading books like these.

A totally recommended read for anyone who loves travelogues and history – such a marvelous combination, handled in such a wonderful manner! Another Goodreads recommendation, that I absolutely loved.

Wrong Means Right End by Varsha Dixit

Blogadda came up with this review just at the time that I was yearning for a book of this sort. After loads of heavy reading, this was fit the bill perfectly.

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Sneha is a hard-working single mom, living in Mumbai with her little son, Advey. Her best friend forever, Nandini, newly married and deliriously happy, is busy trying to arrange blind dates for Sneha. Sneha ends up the guinea pig for Nandini’s experiments in getting her hitched, at almost party that she throws.

Nandini is married to Aditya Sarin, an industrialist, and is currently working in his organisation to find out what works for her. Sneha is busy juggling her career and her son, supported by her help, Amla. Their friendship goes way back, and they have been together through all sorts of trouble. Both of them are very protective towards the other. Now, all that Nandini wants is for her friend to have the same sort of bliss that she shares with Aditya. Sneha’s ordered life goes up in the air when she comes across Nikhil, with whom she shares some unpleasant history. And he doesn’t come alone, he comes with Aditya’s ex-fiancee Gayatri, who, apparently, is still hung up on Aditya.

Before she knows it, Sneha is in the middle of all sorts of chaos. Nandini and Aditya’s marriage seems to be unraveling, Hers and Nandini’s friendship seems to be history, and the only person who can help her is Nikhil. Nikhil who can’t stand her, Nikhil, who, she will do anything to avoid. They need to forget their history and egos, if Nandini and Aditya’s marriage has to be saved. Of course it doesn’t help that Sneha ends up in places where she has no business being, only to add to the complications.

A light and fun read. Perfect if you want to leave your brains behind and read. A Mills and Boon sort of romance, with a few additional twists thrown in. And all that goes with tales of this sort, two people with incredible chemistry, but seem to rub each other the wrong way. Sneha and Nandini’s friendship was something I really enjoyed reading about. That added some freshness to the tale. The twists and turns were, well, predictable, but the book is quick-paced, so you don’t really get bored. The background tale of the antagonism between Sneha and Nikhil was rather tame as well, and in some ways a little disappointing. The descriptions were very stereotyped. I mean, can someone tell me what exactly hooded eyes are? Of course, all the men were gorgeous and super rich. The amount the characters curse, was, a bit of a put off, for me, but then, that’s just probably me.

The one place it was surprisingly not stereotyped was Sneha, with her independence, and her need for speed, was a welcome change from the usual stereotypes. So was Nandini’s expectations from her marriage. It gave the book, the much-needed depth. In fact, I wish the book had explored more of these, it would have been a little more interesting, in my opinion. As such the book has more of the chemistry between Sneha and Nikhil than anything else. Although, It might work well for a younger/different audience, I suppose.

A light, quick read, perfect for a light afternoon read or a holiday read, when all you want is something nice and light.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com . Participate now to get free books!

Night Road by Kristin Hannah

A book that was recommended by Goodreads. An author I had never heard of, but I guess, now on, I will be keeping an eye out for her books.


For Jude Farraday, a mother of twins, the last eighteen years of her life had been around her children. Mia and Zach, the twins were different personalities. Zach was the super confident boy with all the girls fawning over him. Mia was a shy teenager, who some girls made friends with just to be able to get close to Zach. They lived a seemingly perfect life, in a perfect community.

Lexi Baill, a former foster child moves into their community and ends up as Mia’s best friend. Jude takes Lexi under her wing and tries to make up for the unfortunate life that she had, in whatever little ways she could, without making Lexi feel like a charity case. For the first time in her life, Mia has a friend she can count on, someone who she trusts. Zach and Lexi end up falling in love, which initially upset Mia, but she manages to overcome it, and the three become close buddies.

It is senior year of high school, and the three of them, are in the process of applying for admissions into colleges. Jude starts to feel her control over the twins slipping, she starts to get worried about how close Zach and Lexi seem to be getting. The foreboding of danger that she had, turns into reality when one night, everything changes for the Faraday family and Lexi. A nightmare that they never would have imagined in their wildest dreams. One that shatters them and overnight, from a loving close-knit family, they become a shell of a family.

Jude is in put in a position of having to forgive someone who, in her mind, is the reason for her loss, her tragedy. Jude has to forgive, or live in bitterness. Her sadness and bitterness transforms her into someone totally different from what she had been. It was almost as if her capacity to love had been turned off. All the characters in the book are believable, real and people we start empathizing with.

A beautiful book, am absolute page turner. A book that explores the situation from all view points. From the teenagers(in different situations), from the mother’s when she is unable to let go, and when tragedy strikes. Of love that can be enduring, and lifelong. Of times when forgiving can get one the peace that one longs for. A book that pulls at your heart-strings, and makes you wish that you could just make it all perfect. The pain that the protagonists go through, and the hope that it ends with. An absolutely lovely book. A recommended read.

A Breath of Fresh Air by Amulya Malladi

My first book by this author. I picked it up based on recommendations on Goodreads. Now will probably be a good time to talk about how much I have come to love Goodreads. Especially the recommendation section. I’ve come across interesting books, and new authors. I think I log on to goodreads more than I do on to Facebook, and that is probably a good thing too.

On the night of December 3, 1984, Anjali waits for her Army officer husband to pick her up at Bhopal Railway Station. The delay in his picking her up changes her life forever, when the catastrophic gas leak poisons the city. She manages to survive but her marriage does not. That night in the poisonous city, changed her life in more ways than one, and as she later came to realize, in ways that would affect her lifelong.

Years later, remarried to Sandeep, and mother to Amar, a young boy who is severely affected by the ill-effects of the gas his mother inhaled, life is tough, but peaceful and she finds happiness with what she has. Until the day, Prakash, her ex-husband re-enters her life. Prakash, the husband who is the reason her son is so very ill, Prakash who married her for all the wrong reasons, does that Prakash still have a place in her heart?

Narrated by 4 charachters, it is a beautifully told story. Emotions, insecurities, expectations and even our cultural baggage which moderates the way people think and behave is brought out really well. A poignant tale, beautifully told. The title is especially relevant too- through out the story, even at the very end.

I really liked Anjali’s character who after her initial conformation to tradition, and expectations, decided to chart her own way, despite the resistance from her own family. Fighting the odds, she lives her life, in the best way she can, without the bitterness that might have come with the trials she faced. Her husband Sandeep is another character you start feeling for. A book that had me crying.

I would heavily recommend this book, and would be looking out for her other books.

Mayil Will Not be Quiet by Niveditha Subramanium and Sowmya Rajendran

I need to first thank RM for the book :) She gifted it to Daughter, and then told me to read it first, because her mum said it might not be appropriate for a 6-year-old. Am I glad or what? I might have ended up not reading the book if Aunty hadn’t said that – and what a loss that would have been! RM, thank you :) and thanks to RM’s mom :)

Mayil is a spirited, 12, going on 13-year-old girl. Full of life, opinions, witty, mischievous, she just cannot be quiet. Mayil dreams of being a writer when she grows up – Mayilwriter, and her dad gets her a diary to practice her writing in and to try and be quiet.

‘Mayil will not be quiet’ transports you into the life of a pre-teen, in today’s world, which while being similar in emotions and feelings that we had while growing up, also has today’s distractions and problems that a child might face. Mayil’s sibling rivalry with her brother Tamarai, her love-hate relationship with him, her mother and father’s parenting styles, teenage emotions, crushes, friendships and disappointments – what a read it was. Mayil is smart, sensible, sensitive while being naughty, trying to test her boundaries when she can, even though she knows she shouldn’t be doing it. In other words, a normal pre-teen/almost teen. She was smart without being patronizing and understanding – her jottings on her grandfather’s love for her grandmother are so touching, and the way she over hears parents discussing a serious issue, and tries to do her bit, without making them aware that she knew. I wished I could hug her then. It took me back to my childhood, and in a way prepared me for whats coming up for me.

All the characters are fantastically etched. While I loved Mayil’s character, I just adored her mum. Such a sensible, pragmatic lady, and such a role model for Mayil. I especially loved the way she parented Mayil. Sensible, gave her space and was around when she needed her. So many issues that were brought up and addressed in a wonderfully sensible way. There was no shying away from issues like gender discrimination or sex education. The book was completely devoid of gender stereotypes – loved it! Mayil, also packs in a powerful punch, and Thamarai likes dolls – and why not! The best part was that the book really does feel as if it were a diary written by a 12-13 yr old. It feels so natural, not a note out of sync.. The illustrations were super cute too.

If I have a problem with the book, its just that it ended too quickly. The book left me yearning to know what happened next :) I can only hope that they come out with sequels, because, I for one, haven’t had my fill of Mayil! Probably one of the very best books I’ve read in recent times. One that both children(above the age of 10 perhaps), and grown-ups can enjoy in equal measure – that’s not easy to achieve, is it?

Just have to add -Mayil and Thamarai – such imaginative names! Can I say that I loved the book – just one more time? Can’t wait for daughter to grow up to read this book!