Sunday, December 27, 2015

100 Books Pact 11-20

11/100 The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelley.
This is one of those books that make two voices scream in my head, each louder than the other. "I want to write like that!" and "I want to read more books like this one!" This is a sequel to "The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate" which I enjoyed equally. This is a book for children, actually, but Puttachi is not old enough to understand or appreciate it. I can't wait for her to discover these two books when she is a little older. A must-read!

12/100 "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
This book has jostled its way into the top ten list of my favourite books of all time. But what is it about this book? The format is unique--written entirely in the form of letters. The characters--Each one so clear and well-defined, that they are etched into my mind, and I feel that I know each one personally. The theme--one that I find endlessly fascinating--stories of what wars do to common people, and how they inevitably rise above tragedy and resume their lives, scarred, yes, but alive in every sense.
After a long time, I shed tears because a book ended, and I felt a sense of loss!
Can't recommend it enough. 

13/100 "The Mystery of the Runaway Ghost" - The Boxcar Children series - by Gertrude Chandler Warner
I had asked around for recommendations of mystery books for kids, in the Famous Five genre, and had been recommended the Boxcar Children Series. Had never heard of this series before. Puttachi found some titles in the library, brought them home and loved this one. And naturally, she held it at my throat until I read it. This is a good alternative to Famous Five/Find-outers, especially when one is *sniff* missing Enid Blyton books (Why, again, isn't Enid Blyton known at all in the US?)

14/100 Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins.
This book literally fell into my hand at the library. I was trying to pick up another book from the shelf, and this one slipped and I had to catch it to keep it from falling down. When I read the title, I did a double-take--I had just read that Duckbill had published this book in India, and this was the US edition of the same book. Of course, I had to bring it back home.
Puttachi read it first, and liked it. She gave it to me to read, saying, "The first two chapters are boring, but don't give up. You'll like it. It's a good book." I dutifully followed her advice, and she was right.

15/100 Beagle in a Backpack by Ben M Baglio (Animal Ark series).
I had only vaguely heard about the Animal Ark series before Puttachi brought some books home from the school library. It is about a girl whose parents are vets, and their clinic is called Animal Ark. Perfect books for kids who love animals - simple, engaging reads filled with action, adventure, and overflowing with animal love. One thing that stood out about this book is that the author doesn't hesitate to describe an animal's condition, and its treatment/surgery/diagnosis in detail, complete with technical terms.

16/100 Geronimo Stilton - Creepella von Cacklefur #4 - Return of the Vampire
The fascination with Geronimo Stilton still doesn't make much sense to me. In Puttachi's school library, a condition is imposed upon the children, that when they check out two books each week, only one can be Geronimo Stilton. That itself speaks for its popularity. Puttachi regularly brings one Geronimo Stilton home each week. She knows that I don't care for it much, but she pressed this book in my hand and said, "I won't ask you again, but please read only this one, please. There are some cute monsters in this story. I just want to share them with you." How could I say no? I read it. The things we do for our children! :)

17/100 Cinderella ate my Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
A study into the girlie culture that has gripped our society. Deals with all those things I've been fuming about ever since I had Puttachi - the early sexualisation of little girls (including item girl frocks in shops and provocative dancing on talent shows) and the Pink madness, and the Princess craze and beauty treatments for little girls. Different packaging and marketing for little girls, separate aisles in shops with "girl stuff" and "boy stuff"... The book didn't really give me answers - it just told me that the situation is much worse than I thought! It scared me a little.
It is a good read. I recommend it to all parents of little girls.

18/100 Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
They call it literary crime fiction. This book is a series of seemingly unrelated cases, all of which come together at the end. (Kind of.) If not for the deep sense of mystery in the beginning, I am not sure I would have finished this book. That is, it had some good writing, and some compelling action, but it didn't grip me. If it hadn't been a crime thriller, if I hadn't been keen to know what would happen, I would probably have abandoned it (like I do so often with books these days - yes, the ones that make it here are the ones that haven't been abandoned).
So do I recommend this? Yes. I have a strong feeling that I would have enjoyed this book much more if I'd read it some other time, in a more receptive mood.

19/100 Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka.
I picked this up because a friend recommended it. I just finished it five min ago and I wanted to put this up when I am still feeling the buzz of the book.
This is the story of Japanese Picture Brides, who came to the US in the early 1900s. It is not a story in the sense of a set of characters going through a series of experiences. Written in the First person plural (We, us) (Think of it as a bunch of narrators, but no narrator st...ands out, we don't know their names) it is a series of scenes, each expressed in a single, concise sentence. Almost like poetry. And so vivid and compelling. Each scene is so clear that I felt like I was in it. Like it was happening to me.
Another thing about this book is that it is set in California, and it is more or less about the American Dream. So it hit me on multiple layers.
Reading the first sentence of the book was like being sucked into a whirlpool. I found the book really hard to put down, and read it more or less at one go.

20/100 Up at the Villa by Somerset Maugham
I have read lots of short stories and novellas by Maugham before, but hadn't heard of this one. Yesterday, at my sister's place, I was unexpectedly faced with a few minutes of time and no book in my hand. So I raided her bookshelves for something small and light to read, and came up with this. After a mini-panic-situation when the book went missing (and was found neatly placed at the bottom of my niece's tub of toys, still in great condition) I finished it. A simple story of a woman and three men, all very different from each other. Contains many truths and spot-on observations of life and love.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


Growing up, Toblerone was one of the highlights of our lives. Back in a time when chocolate itself was a rare treat, a bar of Toblerone was right up there, at the pinnacle of all our wishes and desires.

A bar would make its appearance every once in a while at home, mostly as a result of my father's official trips. We would watch with bated breath, waiting for the gold and yellow triangular pyramid to slide out of his suitcase. My sister and I stored it with great care, eating only one little triangle at a time, sometimes breaking each triangle into two to make it last longer. And when only one piece was left at the end,  we would offer it to everybody at home, and gape in wonder and pleasure when our parents said, "We don't want it. You can eat it," and shake our heads over how anybody could even refuse Toblerone. And then we would break it into two equal pieces (we would have weighed it to ensure fairness if we had measuring scales) and then we would savour it till the last chocolatey crumb.

So, when I saw this, I chuckled, imagining how Child-Shruthi would have reacted at the sight.

The sad part is this. As it is with so many things in life, now Toblerone is within my reach, but I don't have any particular craving for it. The irony!

Monday, December 07, 2015

Bangalore - Nostalgia

Two or three years ago, I wrote a piece on Bangalore, overcome by nostalgia for the old  Bangalore. It was lying in my folder, until now. Spark Magazine has published it in the Dec 2015 issue.

Do read.

The 100 Books Pact

There was a hashtag going around on Facebook, called #100sareepact where people wore sarees, and took pictures of themselves and posted them, with a little backstory about that particular saree. The idea was to make sarees popular for daily wear again among urban women. Taking a cue from that, someone else started a #100bookspact, for the book-loving population on Facebook.

I'm taking part in it, and just so that the list doesn't fade away into oblivion on Facebook, I'll be posting the list on my blog also, 10 books at a time.

Here are the first ten:

1/100 Jumping right into the ‪#‎100bookpact.‬
I'll start with Chimamanda Adichie's Americanah. Because I just finished reading it. And because I wish there were more books out there like Americanah. And because Adichie is my favourite author. And because I want to write at least half as well as Adichie does.

2/100 - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling.
When you have a voracious reader for a child, most of the books in your reading list will be children's books--books that the child has finished reading and forced you to read. And some of them will be books that you've been reading out to the child. And the current book falls into that category.

3/100 I finished reading The Lighthouse by PD James last night. Anurupa Rao, thank you for lending it to me. It turned out to be educative for me.
I've read only 2 Adam Dalgliesh books. The first one was The Black Tower, and it was set on an isolated, forbidding island with a few cottages, and featured a tower as the scene of action. The second was this one, The Lighthouse, and it is set in an isolated, forbidding island with a few cottages, and features a lighthouse as the ...scene of the action. So yes, they were far too similar, and yet, because these books were written 30 years apart, it was interesting to see how the author's style has changed, and how the popular culture references and settings are dealt with differently in each book.
However, I don't see myself reading any more PD James, in the near future at least.

4/100 The book with no pictures by BJ Novak.
Puttachi's teacher read this to her at school. And then their librarian read it to them during library hour. When the kids told the librarian that their teacher had already read it out to them, the librarian said, "See how different it sounds when I read it out." And it was.
The next step for Puttachi, was, of course, to check the book out from the public library--she read it out to me, and then I read it out to her, and each time, she laughed non-stop. The book is just a bunch of nonsense words, really--and kids love it. I think this is good for kids (and adults) of all ages.

5/100 Gargoyle Hall (Araminta Spookie) by Angie Sage
Since Puttachi is a fan of Angie Sage, thanks to Septimus Heap, it stands to reason that the moment she heard of the Araminta Spookie series that Angie Sage has written for younger readers, Puttachi had to get her hands on it.
And of course, since she loved all the books in the series, she had to get me to read them too. Ages: 6+

6/100 Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.
Considering that this is the kind of book I love to read, and considering how famous this particular book is, I have no idea why I had heard of neither the book nor the author until recently.
(I like to read books that tell me how people live, and so I am partial to books set in places like Africa, South America, Japan, China, Eastern European countries, etc, in addition to books set in lesser heard of places and communities of India.)
Things Fall Apart checks all the boxes for me on how a good book should be. Subtle, smooth narration, unpretentious, a gripping story, great characters.

7/100 When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr.
Puttachi read "Number the Stars" by Lois Lowry a while ago, and asked for more books that talk about the holocaust. She was already clued in to WW2, thanks to the latter half of The Sound of Music. Anu Jagalur recommended When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. I read it first, and then Puttachi read it. It is gently told, and though it doesn't shy away from telling the child about reality, it does it in a way that a child can understand. This, and Number the Stars are good books to introduce a child to the holocaust.

8/100 The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
It's been a while since I read a book that made me laugh out loud and squirt beverage from my nostrils (The last ones that had that effect on me were Bill Bryson's Walk in the Woods and Neil Patrick Harris' autobiography.) It had also been a while since I read a book that made me want to grab every single minute I could get to continue reading it.
It made me laugh and cry and think. Thanks.

9/100 Beastly Tales from here and there by Vikram Seth.

10/100 - Diary of a Wimpy kid: The Long Haul - because Puttachi's recently discovered this extremely popular series (and was upset with me because I hadn't told her about it before even though I knew of its existence) and I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Well, it is a fun book, but I don't see myself reading any more in the series.

Want to join? Here are the guidelines. Please copy into your first post as a participant....
-To show case your love for reading.
-This is not a competition.
-There is no strict timeline.
-As you read, you post the picture of the book you read with hashtag #100bookpact.
-You get to know what your friends are reading and pick up recommendations. Yes, we do have apps and websites with the same intent and purpose, but hopefully this is something light and motivating as FB makes sure that it is right in your face all the time.
-You can include books that you have already read too. It does not have to be, from now on. If so make sure that these book have been something that fundamentally touched you in some/many ways.
-If you have a child, you can post your child's reading updates also.
In that case there can be repetitions too. My children take pleasure in reading the same book again and again and I believe that they dig deeper with every repetition.
-Here is the format(1)add #100bookpact mark the book as 1/100, 2/100..etc(2)Post front cover of the book(3)Add review - optional(4)Tag people who you would think would enjoy the book - optional(5)If it is your child you are posting for do #100bookpact 1/100 nickname/name of child. ‪#‎100bookspact

Thursday, December 03, 2015


One morning, on my walk, I happened to walk under a tree and look up at it. Autumn (or Fall, as the Americans call it) was here, and the leaves of this tree had started changing colour. It looked striking in contrast with the bright blue sky, and I whipped out my phone and took a picture.

A few days after that, I walked under the same tree again, it occurred to me that I could document the change in colour of this same tree as the days pass.

So here are the results:

October 13

 November 3:
Add caption
 November 11:

November 16:

November 18:

December 1:

And here are pictures of the same tree in Spring
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