Thursday, May 30, 2019

Books of March - Book Reviews

After reading 3 non-fiction books in January and February (reviews here and here), the month of March was all about fiction and people who create fiction. March was a really hectic month at office and I was busy with A-Z daily blogging challenge in April. Finally, I found time today to share my views on the books I read in March. So here we go!

Contagion by Robin Cook had been lying on my book-shelf, unread, for the longest time ever. I fail to understand that why I never read it. When I picked it up in March, earlier this year, and opened it, I was gobsmacked. There was a small note written inside it that read, "CONGRATS! For being the best student of XII". Then it dawned upon me that I have had this back with me since 1999. I had got it as a prize at my last annual function in school. For two decades, this book has traveled with me to different cities. If this book had a voice, it would have narrated a story of its neglect that lasted 20 years. 

Naturally, my expectations from the book sky-rocketed. Also Cook is well known for his medical thrillers. This one is about a medical examiner, who is investigating the origin of several deadly viruses and infections, that have surfaced in quick succession. These infections have led to deaths of many people associated with a particular hospital. His own life comes under threat because of this investigation.

The book is a decent thriller and if you get comfortable with the medical jargon fast, it is quite a page turner. The set-up is great and piques the reader's curiosity. The build up of key characters is excellent and you really want the lead protagonist to succeed. But the antagonists turn out to be too stupid in the end. They are not as menacing as the build up makes you believe. Thus as a reader, I found the book underwhelming. 

Pyjamas are Forgiving by Twinkle Khanna, is her worst book ever. And she has written only 3 books so far. There is nothing new in the basic story line. It is as old as hills. The novel is about a middle-aged woman, meeting her ex-husband, at a spa retreat in Kerala. This simple tale seems to go nowhere after that meeting. As a short story, this might have worked. But as a 200 page novel, it is simply not engaging enough. 

The author checks all the boxes needed to make it sound like a new age and inclusive book. There is a token gay couple at the retreat. Their characters are not fleshed out properly. I didn't understand why their presence was important to the story. The author describes the ashram, where only rich people go, in detail. These descriptions sound superficial as they don't add anything to the mood of the novel. There is an incident of sexual assault thrown in. The characters involved in it are nonchalant about it and are again not important for the core story to move forward. And the author uses lot of big words, when they were not needed. Yes, there is trademark wit and humor that Khanna sees in mundane, but overall it is not a compelling work. 

An Unsuitable Boy by Karan Johar with Poonam Saxena is Johar's autobiography that is written a decade too soon. While reading it, I felt, that as a film director and as a story teller (the aspects I strongly associate with him) his body of work is very limited. Clearly, I was expecting him to talk more about his profession in this book. I expected him to give the readers an insight into his craft and his inspiration. Thus, I liked the chapters on Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (a 1995 film in which Johar was one of the assistant directors, part-time costume designer and an actor) and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (a 1998 film which was Johar's directorial debut).  In these chapters, he gives us a sneak peek into his creative mind and writing process. 

The book doesn't feel like an autobiography. It feels more like an extended, but written version, of his TV chat show, Koffee with Karan. This is because the entire book sounds like a free-wheeling interview without a structure of a biopic. In the chapter where he talks about his anxieties and depression or the one in which he talks about soul-less Bollywood of today, I connected with him. I wish he had waited few more years to write this autobiography. And I wish he directs more often.

In April I read two books, one of which was a classic. Reviews will be up soon on the blog. Keep watching this space. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Reflections #AtoZChallenge 2019

I am a survivor! I completed this year's A to Z Challenge without missing a single day (except Sundays of course). There are 26 posts on my blog in April 2019, that vouch for this achievement. This was my third year in the challenge. Third consecutive year! And I am happy to report that I have now completed the challenge in all 3 years. But the third time, it is always tough. This year was really challenging because I had to get a surgery done at the start of the second week in April. I was unconscious for a large part of the second Monday of the month. And I still managed to write that day's post in a semi-dazed state, from my hospital bed. The post was about religion and Gods in Hindi Films / Bollywood. Post surgery, I was mostly tied to my bed and was in pain for almost a week. But there were those time slots every day, when painkillers were doing a great job, and when I was able to think straight and write.

The reflection post is an A to Z Challenge tradition. It helps the participants to look back at what worked and what didn't. It is also an opportunity to thank those who supported and encouraged during the challenge.

I would like to thank all my family members, friends and fellow bloggers who encouraged me by leaving their comments on my posts and sharing my posts with others. This year my challenge was based on a tight theme, and not on personal experiences or anecdotes, like last two years. This made me research a lot about the topics I was writing on and in the process I did learn some new stuff. I loved this aspect about the challenge this year. I wasn't very happy with my post from the letter V. While it had all the elements of a good post, it lacked a cohesive structure. I wish I could go back in time and make some changes in it.

There were good moments too. My mother read all my posts regularly. And that was exciting. While most friends shared their comments on Facebook, there were few who commented on blog posts as well. The comment I got from Melanie on 'letter F' post was detailed and heartfelt. Also I discovered a new blog, authored by Vidya, which is really interesting. I think I will keep going back to it.

Among my challenge posts my personal favorites are the ones on 'Occupations in Bollywood' and 'Parallel Comedy Tracks in Hindi Films.' I felt really happy after writing them, as not only I learnt something new while doing research for them, but also both posts were structurally very near to what I wanted.

Now its time to complete my reading goals for the year. I have already finished reading 8 books this year. While three of them were already reviewed on this blog, you can expect more book reviews soon on the blog. I am definitely going to do this blogging challenge again, with a fresh theme next year. What do you think I should be writing about in next April A - Z blogging challenge?


My theme for 2017's #AtoZchallenge was Anecdotes & Stories from my Life. You can read all the posts from this challenge here.