Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Awards Shower!!!

So many bloggers have been so kind the past couple of months! I've received more awards than I could have imagined and wanted to create posts for each of them, but as you might have noticed, I'm posting a bit too less these days (read hectic college life). I'll combine it all in one post, hope it's alright! :)

1. Liebster Blog Award by :

Thanks Priya, Alyssa and Melissa for this award. :) Liebster means 'lovely' or 'beloved' and is awarded to bloggers with less than 200 followers. 

Rules for Liebster Award:

1. Each person must post 11 facts about themselves

2. Answer 11 questions the tagger has given you, and give 11 questions for the people you tag.

3. Choose 11 people and link them to your post.
4. Tell them you've tagged them.
5. Remember no tag backs.
6. This award is meant to  be given to blogs that have under 200 followers

Okay, 11 random facts about myself:
11. I still don't know what my favorite genre for reading is, except that I don't like the mushy romance kind.

10. I'm too possessive and dreamy.

9: I love a lot of, different kind of scents and smells, so much that I think I just might be a smell elemental ;) (the sweet scent of a lot of plants and trees nearby, that of wet earth and freshly watered plants, mild perfumes, the wafting scent of your much-awaited-dish on its way and many more)

8: At this moment, I'm obsessed with the idea of mountaineering. I just want to do that so very much!

7: If people would start getting award for clumsiness, I'd win it in a second! God took special care in putting dollops of clumsiness in me, so that I'm just incapable of moving around without at least doing a little bit of harm. I mean, when in a new place where I need to make new friends, the only thing I pray for is to keep this characteristic at bay, at least for a while :P

6: I love eating, but hate to cook. I especially like potato patties and popcorn. 

5: Sometimes I just hate having to Google up things. Too much of information, too much of headache :|

4: I love branded clothes. As much as the local ones are good, I'd still prefer branded ones. Brand Fetish :P

3: I'd like to live somewhere in/near the mountains, without having to worry about mundane things we city people have to think about. 

2: I love the cartoons we watched as kids, but totally hate the ones on TV these days. I actually feel sorry for the poor kids who watch that. 

1. I just love dreams. The ones we get while sleeping! I usually get vivid ones and I greatly enjoy being there in a different, parallel space, watching unbelievable things happen! 

Now, answering all the questions by these three bloggers!
Asked by Priya:

1. How long have you been blogging?
For more than two years, but this one is almost 8 months old. 

2. What's your most anticipated read of 2012?
Ah, The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling!

3. What are you reading right now?
Oh, three books side by side. The Rope Walk by Carrie Brown (it's so long, I think I'll be postponing it for now), Desperately Seeking Paradise: Journeys of a Skeptical Muslim by Ziauddin Sardar and When the Snow Melts by Vinod Joseph.

4. If you could meet any author, which one would it be?
J.K. Rowling anytime, over anyone. Just love her to the power infinity!

5. Which book or book series would you like to be turned into a movie?
I think most great books already are being made into movies. Sometimes I read a book and then find out it's also got a movie based on it! I'd like to see a movie version of Divergent, though I guess it's already in talks. 

6. From where do you mostly buy your books?
Easy. Since I discovered Flipkart.com, I've been into purchasing books more than ever! Though, I do sometimes buy from bookstores when I get into one.

7. Harry Potter vs. Twilight vs. The Hunger Games?
Harry Potter! If I have to give a sequential list, it'd be Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight.

Asked by Melissa:1. What is the first book you fell in love with and absolutely had to read?
2. Do you have to have silence to read or can you read with music, tv, or other noise?

1. What is the first book you fell in love with and absolutely had to read?

I guess it'd be 'Angry River' by Ruskin Bond. I read that when I was very young and totally felt overwhelmed by it.

2. Do you have to have silence to read or can you read with music, tv, or other noise?

Silence, please! 

3. What's the best book you've read this year?

That's hard. But I'd go with 'My Sister's Keeper' by Jodi Picoult. Loved it!

4.  What is the meaning behind your name? 
Ashna is an Indian (Urdu, exactly) word meaning 'friendship' or a friend :) 

5. Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world?
Hmm.. maybe Vilcabamba in Equador also called as the 'land of eternal youth'. I recently read about this place and was fascinated with the way people there live a healthy, happy life.

6. What one thing makes you happy no matter what?

Smiles everywhere :)

7. What is/was your favorite subject in school?

English, undoubtedly. 

8. What genre of books is your favorite to read?

Like I said, I'm still not sure, though I definitely love fantasy a lot.

9. What do you want to be when you grow up?

I have a lot of things on my mind, what I want to do. I just want to do all those and stay happy all that while. :)

10. What is the most challenging book (emotionally or intellectually) that you've ever read?

I'd say intellectually, it'd be the Dan Brown books! I really have to stay awake word by word and sometimes reread and recap to completely understand the whole if it!

11.What is one special passion or talent that you have? 

The ability to not be motivated by materialistic things, maybe. I work through emotions and this contributes a lot to my happiness.

Asked by Alyssa:

1. What's your favorite sport?  (To watch or to do.)
I'm not into sports too much, but I do love all the adventure sports and really want to try out each of them. Also, my current obsession, *Mountaineering*!

2. What genre do you write in?  And if your not writing a book, what genre do you like to read in?

Like I said, not sure. But fantasy is something I love a lot.

3. What's the scariest movie you've ever seen?

I'm not into movies either (Yeah, you can imagine how boring a person can be :|)
4. What was the happiest moment of your life?

There are a lot of them, mostly the little things that make your heart jump. 

5. What is your favorite holiday?

I'd love to have a holiday with a beautiful natural landscape (the mountains or the sea), and a small cabin where we'd be staying, not a hotel. 

6. What book are you reading right now?

Answered above!

7. What superpower do you wish you had?

Just the ability to speak with my mind, at will. I mean, I usually don't talk much and sometimes I really don't want to! Those times I wish I could just make people know what I want to say without having to speak.

8. What is your favorite drink?

Water! Or litchi fruit juice. 

9. If you could make a wish come true what would you wish for?  Be honest.

Just to make all my wishes come true ;)

10. If you could be a character in one one of the books you've read, who would it be?

I've always wanted to be Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. She's smart, intelligent and incredibly brave. Besides, her characteristic of getting angry at the drop of a hat matches mine. ;)

Phew! Now, The 7x7 Link Award! by Nick Wilford at Scattergun Scribblings. Thank you Nick! :) 
Tweaking the rules a bit, I wouldn't be tagging my blog posts under various heads (like it's required) due to lack of time. 

Anddd the Fabulous Blog Ribbon Award and The Versatile Blogger Award by Kathy McKendry at Imagine Today. Actually, we had an option of choosing either award or both. I chose both :P Greedy, huh?
Thank you Kathy for these awards! :)

Now, coming to the ones whom I'm passing on the awards! 
You can choose either of these three awards, or any two of them: Liebster Blog Award, Fabulous Blog Ribbon, The Versatile Blogger Award.

Rules for you:
1. Post 7 random facts about yourself.
2. Answer these questions:
- Favourite color?
- What's the best book you've read?
- Do you like adventure sports? Any favorites?
- What is your blog about?
- If you could get to meet any person from the world, famous or not, friend or not, for about an hour long chat, who would it be?
- What do you like best about the blogosphere?
- Have you made any friends through your blog?

3. Pass on this award to other bloggers, with your own questions! (No specific number, just as many as you want)

This took up so much of time! Next time I get an award, I'll try posting about it then and there! ;)
Hope you're having fun!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Review: A Step from Heaven

Author: An Na 
Publisher: Penguin Putnam Inc.
Pages: 154
My Rating: 4.5/5
'Winner of the 2002 Michael L. Printz Award' (and a lot of other awards too!)

With such a cute-looking little girl on the cover, who can possibly miss this book? I usually pick up books with interesting covers/names, so A Step from Heaven came right into my bag while I was browsing in the library. These days I'm being so lucky in getting my hands on great books! Seriously! A Step from Heaven is a beautiful story of transformation, adjusting to a new culture and a way of life, dealing with domestic problems, all told from the perspective of a child, Park Young Ju.

From the book's cover
When four year old Young Ju Park first hears the words Mi Gook- Korean for 'America'- she is sure that they mean "Heaven". But when her family moves to Southern California the following year, she finds the transition from life in Korea far from easy. The countless unexpected challenges facing the Parks- from learning English, to finding work, to attending school- start to splinter the family's fragile construction. Soon they are simply four people in one house who put on a front for outsiders. Still, as Young Ju grows from child to adolescent in her new home she finds a surprising new voice- neither purely Korean nor American, but uniquely her own- which allows her to speak the truth that no one else in her family dares to say.

My Thoughts
I usually love books with kids as protagonists, it's so interesting to see the world from their point of view, how they see limitless possibilities and the innocence with which they perceive things. When the story begins, Young Ju is four years old and lives in Korea with her family, her Uhmma (mother), Apa (father) and Halmoni (grandmother). She notices a certain excitement in her parents when they talk about 'Mi Gook', which Young Ju thinks must be heaven. What else could have so many possibilities and promises, that made her parents so happy? When she's told they'll be moving to Mi Gook, she thinks they're going to heaven. 

Mi Gook is the Korean word for 'America' and the story kicks off when this family of three arrives in the US, with Young Ju now having terrible curls to look American. She certainly doesn't like the place much and wonders why they haven't reached heaven yet. Now she has a new baby brother, Park Joon Ho. The way she thinks of everything that's happening and all that she couldn't understand, is very well written. How she feels sad when she sees her Apa loving and cooing to Joon so much (whom she refers to as 'worm'), while her Uhmma tells everyone how he never even picked up Young as a baby. How she feels when he makes great expectations from Joon, but nothing from Young? 

As years pass, the family faces a lot of problems, money crunch, the father turning alcoholic and abusing his wife and children at home, a Korean family's hard struggle to live a life in America, which is certainly not how they envisaged it would be. The first chapters are written with extremely small sentences to completely show it from a four year old's perspective. The sentences grow longer and opinions and facts clearer, as Young Ju grows up. Needless to say, I love the way it's been written. It's different, breaks the norms of 'descriptive' long sentences, but still is amazing! I mean, this is one book where the author succeeds in conveying a whole picture, describing everything, with limited words. Also, there is no use of quotation marks all through the book, but we still know what anyone said, it's written that way. :)

The issues addressed range from domestic problems, children's adjustment to a new place, poor family ties, teenage issues, but they all revolve around this family and all its aspects. Young's father is shown as a bad character, yet you understand what his problem is, he used to be a good man, someone who taught his daughter to rise on waves, who laughed and loved. However, in America, he has trouble understanding English and does odd jobs, and even with his wife's earnings they don't manage to make a house, which makes him the depressed and abusive man he became. During all this, readers see and 'feel' the transition of a family that used to be something else being turned into something that isn't very pleasant. When Young starts college, there's hope for the future (I won't reveal what happened!) and the book ends on that hopeful note.

Apart from striking an emotional chord and the uniquely wonderful way it's written, the book also explores the various facets of Korea and its culture. How boys are generally more loved, how kids are submissive and not supposed to question their parents, the way their names are formed and pronounced (they use surnames first and given names second) and many other things! I'm generally interested in different cultures these days, so I enjoyed reading this and knowing about Korea through such a heart-moving story. By the way, this book is partly based on the author's life as well. She was born in Korea and then migrated to California, US. Click on the author's name at the beginning of this post to know more about her.

Just a few lines towards the end of the book that talk about what Young's mother wished for when she saw a future in America. 

Uhmma said her hands were her life. But for us, she only wished to see our hands holding books. You must use this, she said and pointed to her mind. Uhmma's hands worked hard to make sure our hands would not resemble hers.

Recommended for: Teenagers, school readings, Young Adult readers, Adults. Well, basically, everyone! ;)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Review: Size 12 is Not Fat, Meg Cabot

This review is a part of the Meg-a-Reader's Blog hop hosted by Mandy at The Romance Bookie and Diana at Little Miss Drama Queen where Meg Cabot fans unite and take turns to do a special, related feature on our blogs!  This is my second feature, the first one being review of UnderworldI had initially planned on doing something else, but with crazy amounts of college work, I can only review Size 12 is Not Fat, the first book in the Heather Wells series, which I've re-read recently.

Title: Size 12 is Not Fat
Author websitehttp://www.megcabot.com/
Price: Rs. 295 at Flipkart / $12.39 at Amazon
My Rating: 4/5

I'm generally a mystery lover, I love books that deal with solving mysteries and crimes, and when it's Meg Cabot writing a book based on that, you can be sure it'd be fun mixed with suspense! I usually don't enjoy chick-lit that much, but Meg Cabot books are the only exception. I love the flow of her writing, so easy and conversational, you could read them in a go! I discovered the Heather Wells books about 2 years ago and have read all three previously released books. Now, the fourth book in the series, Size 12 and Ready to Rock has been released on July 10, 2012. :)

Blurb from Goodreads!
Heather Wells Rocks!

Or, at least, she did. That was before she left the pop-idol life behind after she gained a dress size or two — and lost a boyfriend, a recording contract, and her life savings (when Mom took the money and ran off to Argentina). Now that the glamour and glory days of endless mall appearances are in the past, Heather's perfectly happy with her new size 12 shape (the average for the American woman!) and her new job as an assistant dorm director at one of New York's top colleges. That is, until the dead body of a female student from Heather's residence hall is discovered at the bottom of an elevator shaft.

The cops and the college president are ready to chalk the death off as an accident, the result of reckless youthful mischief. But Heather knows teenage girls . . . and girls do not elevator surf. Yet no one wants to listen — not the police, her colleagues, or the P.I. who owns the brownstone where she lives — even when more students start turning up dead in equally ordinary and subtly sinister ways. So Heather makes the decision to take on yet another new career: as spunky girl detective! 

But her new job comes with few benefits, no cheering crowds, and lots of liabilities, some of them potentially fatal. And nothing ticks off a killer more than a portly ex-pop star who's sticking her nose where it doesn't belong . 

My thoughts
Welllll, sometimes I'm at a loss for words when it comes to reviewing a book I found really good. It's happening again. Size 12 is Not Fat is very entertaining. You'd think what could possibly go wrong in a residence hall for students in New York city, most of all with Heather, who's been a teenage pop star and gets people wondering if "they've seen her before", now in her 30s and working as assistant director at Fischer Hall. As the story begins, we're introduced to Heather's pet peeve, that Size 12, which is her size, is the size of the average American woman and those who think it's fat, are well, wrong. What's wrong with loving ice cream and soda?

The plot begins to get interesting when there's a death in the dormitory residence hall (as Heather keeps reminding us) and Heather has a feeling that it can't be accidental. People are convinced it was because the deceased was elevator surfing, but Heather knows teenagers. Girls like the one who died don't do silly stuff like elevator surfing, that too all on their own. When there's a second girl dying in a similar fashion, Heather wants to investigate. She seeks Cooper's help (who's her ex's brother and whom she fantasizes about), but he's not too willing to let Heather get involved. They do a little snooping anyway and discover a similar trend in the deaths of the two girls. Cooper's convinced they must let the police do their work, but Heather 'feels' a responsibility towards her residence hall and its people.

Heather is a likable woman, especially with all her funny thoughts about every single thing, about Cooper, about different people, which adds a lot of lightness to the story. That's what I probably like best, I guess. More than the plot and the way she uncovers the secrets, it's the manner in which it's all written. Filled with humor, in first person, Heather's comments about everything, it adds another dimension to it all. That's what makes the book 'unputdownable'! Cooper is a mysterious character, but the way Heather loves him, it automatically makes readers believe he's an amazing person. I mean, considering how I've always loved mystery and at some point of time, wanted to be a detective too, Cooper seems so adorable, with all his private investigation work! 

I enjoyed the chemistry between Heather and Cooper. Okay, it was heavily one-sided, but you can't help wish they'd get together soon, and show that Jordan Cartwright what he's lost! I also loved the twists towards the end, the different kinds of kids and practices that they do, what they feel and how things really work. Even if you're reading fiction, there's always some element of truth involved. Though I have to say it was kind of scary at the end when things started heating up. Wonderfully written! And the descriptive aspect is great too, apart from the plot being unpredictable, which is among the best things a book can have! Once you read this book, you couldn't wouldn't stop yourself from getting the next books in the series, Size 14 is Not Fat Either, Big Boned, and the latest release, Size 12 and Ready to Rock!

Recommended for: Chick-lit lovers, Young Adult readers, those looking for a fun, light read!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

KOMF Prompt # 2!

Knights of Micro Fiction is a bloghop hosted by Kathy (Imagine Today) and Jessica (Write. Skate. Dream) on the 15th of every month. They came up with it as a way to meet new friends, help build the blogosphere and (hopefully) spark some creativity. So, here's the prompt:

Write a flash fiction in 200 words or less, using the phrase: The sky darkened...
Then for an added challenge, include a sound that surprises one of your characters and a foul smell.

This seemed so interesting, I really wanted to participate! I did last month and it was so much fun! I'm usually someone who uses a lot of words, so it's like a challenge for me to write something in a given word limit. Here's my entry! :)


The sky darkened, sheaths of black clouds covered the sparkling blue expanse, too early in the summer time. Gripping the uneven rock jutting out from the sloping mountain, I looked up and immediately felt dizzy. “Don’t lose it!” Henji called from below, climbing near me, heaving breaths and sweating. I checked on our green and saffron flag sticking out from my backpack, found another piece of rock and climbed higher as the sky grew darker and my field of vision reduced considerably. I could no longer see our destination, the summit our trio would be the first to reach.

“I can’t see Morris!” I said. We were almost there, oxygen masks secure, flag in hand, but Morris was behind us and now I couldn’t see him at all. An extremely loud thunderclap sounded, like an explosion and I hugged the terrain for life, Henji cursing beside me. Almost immediately afterwards, a pungent burning smell came rushing through our masks, rendering them useless. With great effort, Henji pulled me up to the summit and we watched with pangs of agony and horror as a lone blazing figure rolled down the dull slope far below our reach, covered in flames.

Phew! I started with something else in mind, but my own fantasies took over, which then turned into something nasty. Tee hee. Anyway, hop over to the hosts' blogs and see if you wish to participate too! 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Recent Book Grabs # 2!

My books list has been growing a bit and I thought it's about time I put down this post after all! The last post was 1 and a half months ago, so the books I'm listing are the ones I've grabbed in the past month! I'm actually very happy with the haul, since most of them are pretty awesome! Tell me if you've read any of these as well, and what you think about them! :)

Wow. They look amazing, right? I loved each of the ones I've managed to read. Most of them are from the library and they were the awesomest ones! Here's the list! (Click on the titles to go to the books' Goodreads page)

Angels and Demons, Dan Brown: The only one in the Robert Langdon books I hadn't yet read. I know it's really great and nominated as the best one by some friends, so I picked this one up! Haven't read it yet, though.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach: Recommended by a great lady in Chandigarh who loves reading too. I liked this one. It's really simple, has great depth of meaning and is different from the usual motivational books. 

Easy Marks, Nancy Drew Case Files, Carolyn Keene: Hehe.. let's just say I like revisiting this series. I think I pick up a Nancy Drew book wherever it's on sale. ;) I love it like anything! Did I mention I wanted to be Nancy Drew when I was a kid? 

The Story of My Life, Hellen Keller: (Non-Fiction) I really want to know more about this amazing woman! Not read this one yet.

Iliad by Homer: I hadn't ever read it, but wanted to try it out. Turns out I ordered a book that's filled with critics' remarks and interpretations, while I was looking for the complete, original version. Anyway, next time. 

How to Read Faces: (Non-Fiction) Impulse purchase, since it was on a great sale and I thought it'd be cool to know 'how to read faces'. It's so thick a book, I haven't gotten down to reading it yet! I mean, if I have fiction as an alternate choice, I always pick that first! 

P is for Peril & O is for Outlaw, Sue Grafton: I had read a Kinsey Millhone mystery earlier and liked it, so picked these up when I saw them at a thrift shop. Haven't read these yet, either. (If you missed it earlier, I've started with my Post Graduation college and it's extremely hectic).

A Little Princess, F.H. Burnett and Rip Wan Winkle, Washington Irwing: Again, hahaha! But I really loved these when I read them years ago, so I picked 'em up from the thrift shop too!

Made a collage of the books!
Witchlanders, Lena Coakley: A fantasy, YA book about two classes of witches, the Witchlanders and the Baen. It was interesting, though it got better only towards the second half of the book. 

Belle Teal, Ann M. Martin: A book on racism, told from the perspective of a ten year old girl. A deeply touching, heart moving story. Loved it totally! 5/5 stars!

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd: Just an amazingly amazing, highly recommended book! Read my review here.

The Ghost's Child, Sonya Hartnett: Liked the cover and description and it's a small one! Haven't read this either! 

My Sister's Keeper, Jodi Picoult: I can only say it's a must read. It moved me, turned my insides out, flipped the way I knew things and made me cry (admitting. Really) towards the end. It's awesome. 

The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri: I realized I should at least have read famous Indian authors! 

The Kashmir Shawl, Rosie Thomas: I was getting my library membership renewed and there was this 'rotate the wheel' thing for new memberships and renewals and guess what I won? Yeah, a book! :P

Received for review:
The Clockwork Man, William Jablonsky: Received from blogadda.com! A story of a man made entirely of clockwork. Read my review here.

Poor Little Rich Slum, Rashmi Bansal and Deepak Gandhi: A non-fiction book on entrepreneurship, exploring with clarity the truth about Dharavi, considered Asia's largest slum and how its residents are  people with a motive. Read review here.

Underworld, Meg Cabot: The second book in the Abandon trilogy! Read my review here.

There were also a few freebies I grabbed from Amazon.com, which I'm not mentioning here! Time constraint! :| So, which books did you get? I'm at a point where I've to really struggle for time to read, and this has been affecting my blog too. I might not be very active, but I'll try my best in keeping up as much as possible! :)

PS- I hope that collage picture doesn't make you want to beat me up. I seriously wanted a quick fix, instead of putting up individual pictures.

PPS- I received a few blogger awards recently, including three Liebster blog awards!!! I know I haven't posted about it, answered the questions and nominated more blogs for the awards. Makes me sound like an unworthy candidate, but I promise I'll do that soon!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Review: Poor Little Rich Slum

Authors: Rashmi Bansal and Deepak Gandhi
Publisher: Westland Ltd
Pages: 185
Price: Rs. 175 at Flipkart
Genre: Non- Fiction

About the Book
Poor Liitle Rich Slum is a book that explores a well known slum in Mumbai, Dharavi. It's a big community, a settlement in place since many generations and has people making their living over there. But what's really interesting is the love the residents have for Dharavi and the contentment they feel while living and working there. 

How is it that Dharavi has so much when it comes to being considered as a 'community'? There are almost all kinds of shops, people doing all kinds of work, kids going to school in Dharavi, social activists and doctors, teachers and shoe makers. Why isn't the redevelopment plan the Government made decades ago, not even starting? The authors explore the area, talk to people and come up with astonishing facts. Facts that everyone must know, facts from which we all can learn, learn how to live a satisfied life.

My Thoughts
The setting is the area of Dharavi, considered 'Asia's largest slum' in Mumbai, yet this isn't fiction. Every story about every person is cent per cent true and actually, very inspiring. Dharavi isn't new to 'visitors'; the curious  guys who want to make documentaries, NGOs, people looking for a place to stay, tour guides giving visitors the 'Dharavi Slum Tour' (really). The residents of Dharavi are very busy in their own lives, living in 10 x 10 ft houses and 1,400 people sharing a common toilet. The interesting point is, those who've made Dharavi their home, can never think of leaving it. Even if they do so physically, they're always connected with their hearts. That's what fascinated authors Rashmi Bansal, Deepak Gandhi and photographer, Dee Gandhi, who went and explored Dharavi for all its fascinating aspects and to understand what makes Dharavi the workers' hub that it is.

When you read about what the residents feel about their 'home', you cannot help feeling all warm inside, even if they're talking about a place that's surrounded by huge garbage dumps and perpetually smelling of something unpleasant. But that's how it is, it's their home, the place where they've learned to live and to work. Many who came to Mumbai from other cities in search for work found a home in Dharavi, with its cheap accommodation and work. There's work for almost everything. From recycling to making dancing shoes, from running a gym with more than 300 members to a company that exports stylish clothes, everyone's made their thing in Dharavi. 

This is the thing the authors wish to convey; how we must take inspiration from the slum dwellers who're motivated enough to start and run their own enterprises, in their own place of dwelling. How the 'bottom of the pyramid' concept works in Dharavi. No one's idle, they work, they live, they teach their kids the trade and provide them education, they accept and move on to new, available technology. They're happy. 10 x 10 ft houses stacked one over the other with ladders for upper floors and 8 people in a house, they're still happy. Quoting the authors, 'Is this enough, we wonder? We can't ask these questions because they are stupid. Life is thriving here, obviously people somehow adjust.
They adjust to lack of privacy.
They adjust to lack of hygiene.
They adjust to lack of progress.'
After knowing about them, we really have to wonder, 'Is the middle class way of life really better?' 

There are stories about some residents who've done really well, like a boy who was homeless and had run away from home in some other city, Jameel Shah now makes dance shoes and has Katrina Kaif, Kylie Minogue, Priyanka Chopra and others as clients. Or Rani Radar, who runs a tailoring center and sends both of her girls to study, one in school and the other in college. There are many more inspirational stories, of these small entrepreneurs who made it to what they wanted, and working for more.

Apart from what residents do and their way of living, the book also has stories about different kinds of people and workers who've come to Dharavi from other places and made efforts to improve the situation. Be it volunteers for 'Teach for India', who've found innovative ways to encourage people to send their kids to school and have taught them English, or an acupuncturist who set up his clinic in Dharavi, seeing how he's been able to treat the residents effectively and with a nominal fee. 

When you look at it from a larger perspective, you see a fully functioning society content with their state, yet striving towards personal perfection. No one's really bothered if the Government hasn't yet begun with the redevelopment, they're happy with it as it is. Because it's a place they call their own. The book has been written in a way that's very engaging, since it includes dialogues and parts of conversations with people and that is something that makes it very interesting. The best part about it all is, there are pictures of those people in Dharavi, their places of work, the products they make, their homes and the structures, the schools and the shops. The pictures really add a very interesting dimension to the book's theme. The thoughtful lines at the end of each chapter really make you think about entrepreneurial possibilities, inspire you with the zeal and zest to live and work among the residents of Dharavi, about how we can work to make a difference, about how one can learn a million little things from a million little people in the marginal sections of society. It's something that gives us, the 'middle class', hope, helps the budding MBAs and other professionals see an alternate way of working. 

Recommended for: It's a must-read for youngsters, to-be entrepreneurs, business personnel and everyone, really.  

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

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Secret Life of Bees

Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Pages: 302
Published in: 2002
Publisher: Penguin Group
Find it at: Flipkart/Amazon
My Rating: 5/5 or more, if I could say that!

I hadn’t heard of this book before Alyssa at Life is Good mentioned that it’s among her top five favourites! (See how awesome book blogging can be?) While searching the shelves in the library I found this title and got it home. I’m so glad I did! I’m buying my own copy because this is one book everyone should read at least once in their lives.

Summary from Goodreads
In Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees, 14-year-old Lily Owens, neglected by her father and isolated on their Georgia peach farm, spends hours imagining a blissful infancy when she was loved and nurtured by her mother, Deborah, whom she barely remembers. These consoling fantasies are her heart's answer to the family story that as a child, in unclear circumstances, Lily accidentally shot and killed her mother. All Lily has left of Deborah is a strange image of a Black Madonna, with the words "Tiburon, South Carolina" scrawled on the back. The search for a mother, and the need to mother oneself, are crucial elements in this well-written coming-of-age story set in the early 1960s against a background of racial violence and unrest. When Lily's beloved nanny, Rosaleen, manages to insult a group of angry white men on her way to register to vote and has to skip town, Lily takes the opportunity to go with her, fleeing to the only place she can think of--Tiburon, South Carolina--determined to find out more about her dead mother. Although the plot threads are too neatly trimmed, The Secret Life of Bees is a carefully crafted novel with an inspired depiction of character. The legend of the Black Madonna and the brave, kind, peculiar women who perpetuate Lily's story dominate the second half of the book, placing Kidd's debut novel squarely in the honored tradition of the Southern Gothic. --Regina Marler 

My Thoughts
I wasn’t even halfway through when I was sure this book is fantabulously awesome and deserves a 5/5 rating! I was hooked to it and totally into the story from the very beginning, what Lily remembers about the “incident” when she was four and her Mother passed away, how bad, resentful and confused she feels over how T.Ray treats her and eventually the readers would move along with her as different events happen that change the course of her life. Lily is easy to like, but at some places you might think she should be more mature, but even then, you think back to what all she’s endured and considering all that, you might find her even well behaved sometimes. I like her nevertheless, what with all the wondrous things happening around her, like she says in the book, “I wake up to wonder each day.”

The story’s focused on a number of things. Childhood and how parents’ problems and misbehaviour affects the children. That was Lily’s case. How children feel the need to know the truth, no matter how harsh it is, how they sometimes have to live with facts that even adults find hard to bear. Then there’s racism, Rosaleen’s case. She gets in trouble just because she stood up for herself in front of the three most racist men in town, how she lands in jail and then in hospital. Even later when Lily’s living with four black women whom she adores, the policemen advise her to stay away from ‘bad influence’. The book definitely gives the message that color has absolutely no role in what a person is from the inside, which is just so true!

I loved the story when Lily and Rosaleen were in Tiburon with the ‘Calendar sisters’, especially August, who’s a really respectable character. I would love to have a relative like her! :P All the parts about bee keeping were also interesting. You just realize there’s so much you don’t know, like how we get the honey we spread on our breads; how those bees are reared, how they live and their habits. The book also covered Christianity, primarily the sisters’ belief in black Mary. All the stories about her and her powerful aura and spirituality were so overwhelming! Also the way Lily felt connected to her and respected and grew to love her was simply heart warming, since she was always remembering, rather, fantasizing about her mother and found a mother figure in Mary and all the women in the 'pink house' (The Calendar sisters' house).

Needless to say, the book is extremely well written! And it’s the author’s first book! Totally amazing! I wish for this kind of talent, one where the first book itself is mind blowing! It’s also been made into a movie, I discovered. I would love to see it sometime! There are a few lines from the book I saved, which I really want to share!

The world was really one big bee yard, and the same rules worked fine in both places: Don’t be afraid, as no life loving bee wants to sting you. Still, don’t be an idiot; wear long sleeves and long pants. Don’t swat. If you feel angry, whistle. Act like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t. Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved.

This is by far my absolute favourite! ‘Some things don’t matter that much, like the color of a house. How big is that in the overall scheme of life? But lifting a person’s heart- now, that matters. The whole problem with people is they know what matters, but they don’t choose it.’

‘There’s a fullness of time for things. You have to know when to prod and when to be quiet, when to let things take their course.’ Aww... this one is so good too! 

Drifting off to sleep, I thought about her. How nobody is perfect. How you just have to close your eyes and breathe out and let the puzzle of the human heart be what it is. Oh God. This is awesome too. I just love each word of this book. *Insanely brilliant*

And you know the best part? It comforted me the most when I needed something so bad! I almost had a mini anxiety attack a couple of days ago thinking over new college beginning the next day and new faces and finding out and making new friends. Then I picked The Secret Life of Bees and it showed me how tiny actually, the problem with me is, if I compare it with what people have to suffer from. When I read about how Lily was feeling sad, I could connect with her feelings so strongly and then all those pages talking about how she finally got over it, found happiness and a very happy ending to the story.

“If you think you have problems, read a book”

Recommended for: Everyone!

PS- I typed this review in over three days. What exactly my life with this hectic college schedule is going to be, I have no clue. And believe me, if I could, I would pick reading and blogging over college any day, but I can't really do that. :| Anyway, I would try my best to be as regular as I can!


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