books, REVIEWS

The Man-eater of Malgudi by R. K. Narayan

Probably one of the most famous fictional cities in India, Malgudi was a little part of my childhood too!

#theguywiththebookreview presents The Man-eater of Malgudi by R.K. Narayan.

Set in Malgudi (based somewhere in South India) we have Natraj, a very hardworking owner of a small 2 man printing press which is also a daily place to socialize for a couple of local men. Sastri is Natraj’s assistant and the book sets off in a very relaxed pace until Vasu, a taxidermist moves to town and somehow manages to rent out Natraj’s attic but never pays him a dime.

Vasu has ironically a very straight forward approach when it comes to getting things done but has no problem twisting things when it comes to being responsible for his own actions.

The Malgudi series of books seem to have been a very genuine commentary on Indian culture and way of life. Through the inclusion of a ‘loose’ woman and the different reactions of men to her presence Narayan manages to seamlessly navigate through and deconstruct the thoughts of different people.

Midway through the plot picks up pace and the final 25 pages take a very intriguing turn in events and the book is no longer just a social tale.

I think the brilliance with Narayan’s approach of using a fictional town is to detach the characters and events from any particular place and via fiction make us all look into ourselves transparently. (I don’t know if this makes sense but it’s been 5 minutes and I don’t know how to say this any other way)

Pick this up! Rating 🐘/5

Click HERE to buy. (This is linked to a 2 in 1 book which also includes A Tiger for Malgudi)

books

Book Mail: April 2019

Hey guys!

Been a while, I know…

I thought I’d share bookmail on the blog as well.

If you’ve come here from Instagram, HIGH FIVE!! Please don’t forget to subscribe! PLEASE **inserting super duper crying emoji**

Here are the books I received in April:

1- After the end by Clare Mackintosh from Little Brown.

From New York Times bestselling author Clare Mackintosh, a deeply moving and page-turning novel about an impossible choice—and the two paths fate could take.

Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They’re best friends, lovers, unshakable. But then their son gets sick and the doctors put the question of his survival into their hands. For the first time, Max and Pip can’t agree. They each want a different future for their son.

What if they could have both?

A gripping and propulsive exploration of love, marriage, parenthood, and the road not taken, After the End brings one unforgettable family from unimaginable loss to a surprising, satisfying, and redemptive ending and the life they are fated to find. With the emotional power of Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, Mackintosh helps us to see that sometimes the end is just another beginning.

Click HERE to buy!

2- Call Me Evie by JP Pomare from Little Brown.

In this propulsive, twist-filled, and haunting psychological suspense debut perfect for fans of Sharp Objects and Room, a seventeen-year-old girl struggles to remember the role she played on the night her life changed forever.

For the past two weeks, seventeen-year-old Kate Bennet has lived against her will in an isolated cabin in a remote beach town–brought there by a mysterious man named Bill. Part captor, part benefactor, Bill calls her Evie and tells her he’s hiding her to protect her. That she did something terrible one night back home in Melbourne–something so unspeakable that he had no choice but to take her away. The trouble is, Kate can’t remember the night in question. 

The fragments of Kate’s shattered memories of her old life seem happy: good friends, a big house in the suburbs, a devoted boyfriend. Bill says he’ll help her fill in the blanks–but his story isn’t adding up. And as she tries to reconcile the girl she thought she’d been with the devastating consequences Bill claims she’s responsible for, Kate will unearth secrets about herself and those closest to her that could change everything. 

A riveting debut novel that fearlessly plumbs the darkest recesses of the mind, Call Me Evie explores the fragility of memory and the potential in all of us to hide the truth, even from ourselves.

Click HERE to buy!

3- The Watermelon Boys by Ruqaya Izzidien sent to me by the Author.

It is the winter of 1915 and Iraq has been engulfed by the First World War. Hungry for independence from Ottoman rule, Ahmad leaves his peaceful family life on the banks of the Tigris to join the British-led revolt. Thousands of miles away, Welsh teenager Carwyn reluctantly enlists and is sent, via Gallipoli and Egypt, to the Mesopotamia campaign.

Carwyn’s and Ahmad’s paths cross, and their fates are bound together. Both are forever changed, not only by their experience of war, but also by the parallel discrimination and betrayal they face.

Ruqaya Izzidien’s evocative debut novel is rich with the heartbreak and passion that arise when personal loss and political zeal collide, and offers a powerful retelling of the history of British intervention in Iraq.

Click HERE to buy.

4- Heartstream by Tom Pollock sent to me by Walker Books.

I just wanted to see you. Before the end. A taut psychological thriller about obsession, fame and betrayal, for fans of Black Mirror.

Cat is in love. Always the sensible one, she can’t believe that she’s actually dating, not to mention dating a star. But the fandom can’t know. They would eat her alive. And first at the buffet would definitely be her best friend, Evie.

Amy uses Heartstream, a social media app that allows others to feel your emotions. She broadcasted every moment of her mother’s degenerative illness, and her grief following her death. It’s the realest, rawest reality TV imaginable.

But on the day of Amy’s mother’s funeral, Amy finds a strange woman in her kitchen. She’s rigged herself and the house with explosives – and she’s been waiting to talk to Amy for a long time. Who is she? A crazed fan? What does she want?

Amy and Cat are about to discover how far true obsession can go.

Click HERE to buy!

5- Malamander by Thomas Taylor sent to me by Walker Books.

Nobody visits Eerie-on-Sea in the winter. Especially not when darkness falls and the wind howls around Maw Rocks and the wreck of the battleship Leviathan, where even now some swear they have seen the unctuous Malamander creep…

Herbert Lemon, Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, knows that returning lost things to their rightful owners is not easy – especially when the lost thing is not a thing at all, but a girl. No one knows what happened to Violet Parma’s parents twelve years ago, and when she engages Herbie to help her find them, the pair discover that their disappearance might have something to do with the legendary sea-monster, the Malamander. Eerie-on-Sea has always been a mysteriously chilling place, where strange stories seem to wash up. And it just got stranger…

Click HERE to buy!

6- The Parisian by Isabella Hammad from Vintage Books.

As the First World War shatters families, destroys friendships and kills lovers, a young Palestinian dreamer sets out to find himself.

Midhat Kamal picks his way across a fractured world, from the shifting politics of the Middle East to the dinner tables of Montpellier and a newly tumultuous Paris. He discovers that everything is fragile: love turns to loss, friends become enemies and everyone is looking for a place to belong.

Isabella Hammad delicately unpicks the tangled politics and personal tragedies of a turbulent era – the Palestinian struggle for independence, the strife of the early twentieth century and the looming shadow of the Second World War. An intensely human story amidst a global conflict, The Parisian is historical fiction with a remarkable contemporary voice.

Click HERE to buy!

7- Cygnet by Season Butler from Dialogue Books.

Seventeen-year-old Kid doesn’t know where her parents are. They left her with her grandmother Lolly, promising to return soon. That was months ago. Now, Lolly is dead and Kid is alone, stranded ten miles off the coast of New Hampshire on tiny Swan Island. Unable to reach her parents, and with no other relatives to turn to, Kid works for a neighbor, airbrushing the past—digitally retouching family photos and movies—to earn enough money to survive.

Surrounded by the vast ocean, Kid’s temporary home is no ordinary vacation retreat. The island is populated by an idiosyncratic group of elderly separatists who left behind the youth-obsessed mainland—”the Bad Place”—to create their own alternative community. These residents call themselves the Swans. Kid calls them the Wrinklies. Even as Kid tries to be good and quiet and patient, the adolescent’s presence unnerves the Swans, turning some downright hostile. They don’t care if she has nowhere to go, they just want her gone. She is a reminder of all they’ve left behind and are determined to forget.

But Kid isn’t the only problem threatening the insular community. Swan Island is eroding into the rising sea, threatening the Swans’ very existence there. To find a way forward, the Kid must come to terms with the realities of her life and an unknown future that is hers alone to embrace.

Season Butler makes her literary debut with an ambitious work of bold imagination. Tough and tender, compassionate and ferocious, intelligent and provocative, Cygnet is a meditation on death and life, past and future, aging and youth, memory and forgetting, that explores what it means to find acceptance—of things past and those to come.

Click HERE to buy!

books, REVIEWS

A place for us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

I have always been secretly proud of my ability to express my thoughts on books in concentrated ways enabling readers of my reviews to decide for themselves if they would like to read them or not. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can or want to do that with this one, you HAVE to read it.

I’m going to stick to three main points of the book:

▪️The Storytelling

▫️The Characters

▪️The Relatability

▪️What struck me most within the first 50 pages of the book was how expertly the plot is handled and weaves around the characters. The narrative jumps ahead and around multiple times and it doesn’t take much effort to know when it’s taking place. I noticed subtle hints are included within the first few paragraphs of each new timeline and I’d automatically readjust the ages of each character to fit the narrative.

▫️At our core, we are all flawed and most of us try our best to do what we can to improve ourselves and adjust to our surroundings; to embrace our traditions and yet accept new ones. Writing such characters never seems like an easy task, but to write such characters and join their lives together in a way that compliments and completes them is exactly what Fatima has accomplished. There isn’t one character I could clearly point out and say was right or wrong. They all had their reasons behind their words and actions.

▪️Having been born in a foreign country and then lived almost all of my life outside of my own, there are things that I know and understand and experience regularly but have unfortunately never had the privilege to hear out loud. A Place for Us became my little place where I found solace in the five days I took to read it. It’s going to remain with me for a very long time and perhaps finally become the first book I might revisit year in and year out.

I had the privilege to talk to Fatima right after I read the book, it reminded me of what JD Salinger wrote in the incomparable voice of Holden: “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” Well, it happened! Thank you Fatima!

You can buy the book here

books, REVIEWS

Anne Frank’s Diary (the graphic novel) adapted by Ari Folman, illustrated by David Polonsky

“How wonderful is it that nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world”

Thank you @aaKnopf for sending the book!

#theguywiththebookreview presents Anne Franks Diary : Graphic Adaptation.

The biggest tragedy with reviewing this book is I don’t remember if I’ve actually read the original version as a kid or not. I think I have, but my memory fails me once again.

Nevertheless, I picked it up and a couple of days later I realized that it has been one of my most surreal experiences with a book.

As with all graphic novels, the focus is on the illustrations but I was happy to see that several pages worth of original texts were copied to it as well.

If you didn’t know Anne and her family with a few other people were hiding from the Nazis in an Attic in Amsterdam. They hid for 2 years.

Anne starts writing in her Diary (she names it Kitty) The book is full of her diary entries or ‘conversations’ with Kitty.

She is brutally honest and questions whatever she can. She is rebellious as well as thoughtful. It’s a book which shows how the human spirit can break and did break during under the Nazi regime.

What I didn’t remember was how the book ended, and ended it did with a lot of emotion. I had almost forgotten that this book is not fiction and was written not by an adult but a teenage girl coming to terms with life and how hers isn’t normal.

I’m pretty sure there is not much I can add without repeating other readers, I don’t think I need to review characters or pace either. This books isn’t about them, but it still somehow excels in them! The hardships of having to live in hiding isn’t just the claustrophobia but also the several impossibilities to life which includes getting enough food to eat, medical attention and simply fresh air.

I think this graphic version might make it a perfect stepping stone to reading the full version.l, especially for teenagers.

You can buy the book here

books, REVIEWS

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Excuse me while I try to make sense of this book and my thoughts around it which not only I, but many others who have read it will remember for a lifetime.

#theguywiththebookreview presents Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

BLRW is an adventure fantasy which keeps moving across its massive size, there are not many pages where you don’t find Marlon James building the world around us. Crazy good part is that the places and characters he has created are not over defined and he leaves a lot to our imagination. The descriptions are part of the story and he doesn’t pause the story line to build the environment.

Second thing or probably the first thing that will come to your mind is the richness of the characters. There are almost no two similar main characters. The ease with which he introduces new types of characters is something I have not seen before.

With BLRW, MJ has blurred the lines between X-Men and Game of Thrones, mashing them together to give an experience unlike any other. The inclusion of Giants, Shape Shifters, Siamese twins, Smoke girl, Witches and many more is done with expert precision.

This has a very interesting effect of the era in which it takes place seeming to stand still, which was mastered by George RR Martin in A Song or Ice and Fire. MJ does the same and you get a sense of stillness in the world he takes you into.

The biggest challenge for me was trying to keep track of the names as well as type of the characters. It gets much easier halfway through once you’re acquainted to most of them. The other thing which might take a little effort is keeping track of the slangs and unique style with which many characters speak.

I think there are a lot of African references and styles used in the book which were lost to me, but I think would be much more appreciated by people having roots there.

Overall, I’m going to be recommending this to everyone. If you’re looking for a book which will take you to places you probably could never imagine yourself, this book is for you. Also, it’s the first in the Dark Star Trilogy, better read it now!

Thank you @PenguinUKbooks for sending me a copy!

Here’s the affiliate link to buy the book!

books, REVIEWS

A Long Walk to Water By Linda Sue Park

edfThe last few pages of this book gave me multiple goosebumps. Linda Sue Park takes us on a couple of walks, one to survival and the other figuratively to survival (to water).

The narrative alternates between two eleven year old’s: Nya and Salva. Nya is a little girl who makes two trips to a drying pond to fetch water for her family. Her only break includes drinking a little water when she reaches the pond and the other is between her two daily trips back home for a few minutes. Nya’s narrative is very innocent which is intertwined with Salva’s coming of age narrative which also starts at the age of eleven. Salva is at the center of the book with Nya lending short breathers in between. Salva’s story starts in 1985 when South Sudan is under attack which leads him to abandon everything and head for Ethiopia under the unwilling watch of random strangers also heading to the same place.IMG_20181017_171059.jpg

What Salva goes through during the course of this ‘walk’ is horrendous and almost unbelievable, and when I finished the book, I turned the last page to a note from the author saying that this is all based on a true story. (I really need to stop this habit of not reading summaries of books I pick up!) Everything I read had a much deeper impact on me after I found this out and this has to be one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read in a long time! (Closest to it is Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini)

At the end of it all, I had so much more appreciation for what we have been blessed with in our daily lives, something like water which we don’t even think about. We complain if edfthe water we drink isn’t as cold as we want it to be not thinking twice there are people even today who would thank God for giving them even boiling hot water to drink. This book has the capacity to humble us and be thankful, and for that reason I recommend it to every single one of you. I think this should be required reading in schools and a book that should be reread every year.

A Long Walk to Water has a 4.24 rating on Good reads (30,000 reviews). If you’d like to order one, here’s my bookdepository affiliate link

Hope you guys enjoy it! Do let me know if its something you’d pick up? If there is any book you’d like to recommend, I’m all ears!

books, REVIEWS

Chapter 7: Argentina. The Traveling Biblio Chronicles.

A few months ago I approached Carolina to write an article for this series. And I was really happy when she messaged me about my piece on representation It was an interesting discussion which led me to revisit my stand on representation. After all, we are all a product of a number of variables viz. culture, family background etc. Because of this I was even more happy that I had included her to write a post for Argentine representation. I knew she wont just randomly recommend a book and will stand with full force behind her choice, I’m sure you’re going to love her recommendation!

Carolina can be found at the following links:

Instagram Twitter and she writes for Book Riot under Carolina Ciucci

Over to Carolina now!

It is said that every country has a body of literature that is so distinctive, it captures the spirit of its people. I don’t believe that’s true.  A country’s “people” is such a vague notion, after all. What people are we talking about? Gender, racial and class differences, among others, all come together to shape multiple communities within a nation’s borders.  So when Faroukh asked me to recommend one Argentine book for his blog, I immediately asked him if I had to choose only one. Unfortunately, he said yes. But he gave me the leeway to add some extra books as a footnote, so that’ll have to do.

To many people, us included, Argentine literature immediately brings to mind the Gauchesque genre. And the one work from this genre known to everyone, even those who don’t know or care about it, is El gaucho Martín Fierro. Published in 1872, it became a smashing success, to the point where author José Hernández included a second part, La vuelta del Martín Fierro (The Return of Martín Fierro), in 1879.

1534264445881-02.jpeg“El Martín Fierro”, as it’s typically known here, is an epic poem composed in the tradition of folkloric literature. Hernández was not a gaucho himself: as an educated man from the city, his story of Martín Fierro, a man belonging to an oppressed class who after much hardship becomes an oppressor himself, is told from imagination and research, not experience. Jorge Luis Borges and Leopoldo Lugones (do yourself a favor, read their work but steer clear of their politics) later deemed it the ultimate Argentine work of literature. Borges himself wrote some excellent short stories inspired by it.

What makes this poem so beloved in this country? A big part of its appeal lies in thesearch for a national identity. Argentina had only become an independent country in 1816, and was still struggling to distance itself from its colonizer’s culture. Add the 1880s immigrational wave, and the need for a national canon became imperative. The gaucho was a purely Argentine figure: he didn’t exist in Spain, Italy, or in any of the countries whose people were currently settling down here. That consideration contributed to its importance, to the point where Tradition Day was set on November 10, Hernández’s birthday.

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Ironically (or maybe not), Hernández became the spokesperson for gauchos despite being a moderately wealthy landowner of Spanish and Irish ancestry. It opens the door for discussions about cultural appropriation, the absurdity inherent to the concept of a single narrative, and the way that immigration is seen, depending on the ethnic and national identity of the immigrant – both back in the 19th century and today.

Other authors and books you might like to read:

Jorge Luis Borges: basically everything, but my favorite is his short story collection El Aleph.

Julio Cortázar: again, everything. But Rayuela (or Hopscotch) remains my favorite.

Victoria Ocampo: founder of iconic literary magazine, Sur, Ocampo wrote poetry and short stories in the same vein of Borges and Cortázar.

Silvina Ocampo: See above.

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Alejandra Pizarnik: Poet and translator, Pizarnik’s writing is among the most beautiful I’ve ever read. I’ve tackled a good chunk of her poetry, but as a friend recently reminded me, I have yet to read her journals. I can’t wait.

Rodolfo Walsh: the true founder of the non-fiction novel (sorry, Capote. Walsh got there first), he was a complicated, controversial figure that remains in the collective mind decades after his forced disappearance and execution at the hands of our last military government.

Ernesto Sábato: another controversial figure, albeit for more mundane reasons, his novel El túnel (The Tunnel) is a masterpiece of literary realism. The rest of his work isn’t too shabby, either.

María Elena Walsh: a children’s writer, she played a big role in little Caro’s love of reading. I can’t remember much of her work anymore, but there is one poem I can recite from memory, twenty years later.

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That’s it for now! I hope you enjoy digging into some of these authors’ backlog. Let me know if you’d like any more recommendations – this is only the tip of the iceberg. Happy reading!

Thanks a lot Carolina for the recommendations!

For a direct affiliate link if you’d like to order El Gaucho Martin Fierro via bookdepository, click here

This was Chapter 7 of the traveling biblio chornicles by Carolina Ciucci!
This book travel series will continue next week when our next guest takes us on a little bookish journey to a new place!
If you liked this post, please subscribe here
Do consider sharing this with your friends who might like to read more from our hopefully growing diverse list over the next weeks and months.

Check out Chapter 1: Australia here

Check out Chapter 2: Afghanistan here

Check out Chapter 3: Egypt here

Check out Chapter 4: Palestine here

Check out Chapter 5: Kenya here

Check out Chapter 6: Pakistan here