Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Book: Home - A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews

Home: A Memoir of My Early YearsHome: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews Edwards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn't realize there was so much more sorrow than music in the childhood years of "The Sound of Music" and "Mary Poppins" star. In this engrossing memoir, Julie Andrews chronicles a hardscrabble yet happy childhood spent taking care of the household expenses amid attempts by her stepfather to molest her. Things get better for Andrews in her late teens, eventually leading to a starring role for the young singer in Broadway's "My Fair Lady". Initially, Andrews was hopelessly out of her depth but director Moss Hart bullied, cajoled, scolded and moulded his Eliza Doolittle over one weekend. There was no looking back. This is a treasure trove of anecdotes about her family and career, and there is no doubt Andrews is a natural writer. Waiting for Andrews to finish writing the second part that focuses on life after "Mary Poppins".

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Monday, April 02, 2018

Books: That Smell, The Idiot, and two Will Graysons

That Smell and Notes from PrisonThat Smell and Notes from Prison by Sonallah Ibrahim
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think I expected too much from this novella. While important in the context of Egypt's political history, there is little about prison life in this book, which was banned in 1966 immediately after publication. Sonallah Ibrahim is obviously a fan of Hemingway but when sparse prose meets stream of consciousness - and random people keep walking in and out of the narrator's life - it's no wonder I began to lose interest. The introduction to the novella did help me understand the context, but I am not sure if the autobiographical elements are enough to keep the readers hooked.

The IdiotThe Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Prince Myshkin, the protagonist of my first Fyodor Dostoyevsky novel, is a good-hearted simpleton. But he is a misfit in a society where no one can be trusted. The two women in this novel are conflicted characters who make life miserable for Myshkin. You start rooting for him to return to the Swiss sanatorium where he spent his formative years away from the world and its vices. His goodness is mistaken for his being an idiot. Dostoyevsky can occasionally be a tough read, but he has a profound grasp of the human condition. “The Idiot” could lose its 19th-century Russia setting and still resonate with modern readers.

Will Grayson, Will GraysonWill Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two teenagers meet at a Chicago store at night. They have nothing in common except for their names. This novel unfolds in alternating chapters with the point of view of each Will Grayson, brought to life separately by authors John Green and David Levithan. This is an interesting experiment that works quite well, as the reader is drawn into how the lives of both Will Graysons intersect. A high school musical is thrown into the mix and I found it to be the only implausible element of this otherwise gripping young adult novel.

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Books: Between the Assasinations, The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam, The Summer Book

Between the AssasinationsBetween the Assasinations by Aravind Adiga
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aravind Adiga brings to life a fictional town in south India with this 2008 collection of short stories about the residents of Kittur on the country's southwestern coast. Set between the assassinations of Indira Gandhi in 1984 and Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, this follow-up to Adiga's Booker-winning 'White Tiger' contains vignettes and memorable characters from different strata of society.

View all my reviews The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam (Good Thief's Guides Book 1)The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chris Ewan's debut novel, the first in a series of 'Good Thief's Guides', is witty crime fiction at its best with its protagonist a professional writer who moonlights as a thief. The setting here is Amsterdam, with a mysterious death and three monkey figurines. But Ewan's humorous take on events never lets the proceedings turn morbid. Each chapter ends on a cliffhanger, and you just can't stop reading.

View all my reviews The Summer BookThe Summer Book by Tove Jansson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finnish writer Tove Jansson, best known for children's fiction, wrote 'The Summer Book' (1972) for adults. Written in deceptively simple language, the book contains vignettes about a young girl and her grandmother living on a remote island for the summer, with the author's own deep love of nature seeping through the pages of this slim volume.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Book: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project (Don Tillman #1)The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A genetics professor with Asperger’s Syndrome is trying to find a life partner by handing out questionnaires. Despite failing his compatibility criteria, Rosie turns Professor Don Tillman's life upside down - as he helps her uncover the identity of her biological father. This is a charming, feel-good romantic comedy that Bill Gates included in his list of "Six Books I'd Recommend". A Hollywood adaptation is in the works. Recommended.

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Book: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar WaoThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The protagonist of Junot Diaz's Pulitzer-winning first novel is an overweight Dominican-American nerd who finds himself caught between two cultures. The coming-of-age novel also traces his family's history, life under dictator Rafael Trujillo, and a curse that has haunted his ancestors. Diaz occasionally sprinkles Spanish words in his work, along with a wide array of references that I believe enhanced the reading experience. Take it slow and immerse yourself in Oscar's life.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Book - Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century

Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth CenturyFarewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century by Sergei Kostin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Vladimir Vetrov, a high-ranking KGB spy in Moscow during the Cold War, was assigned the code name 'Farewell' by the French intelligence service that recruited him. This is the true story of Vetrov, presented with balance and objectivity, and the Farewell dossier handed to U.S. President Reagan during the Ottawa G7 Summit by Francois Mitterrand, the newly elected president of France. A 2009 French film was inspired by the 1997 French book, while an updated account was translated into English in 2011, a quarter-century after Vetrov’s death.

"Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century" is an otherwise pacy thriller that occasionally falls victim to its own verbosity. Yet, the writers succeed in painting a vivid picture of Vetrov from the accounts of his family, acquaintances and handlers. Does the KGB discover the mole? No spoilers here, go read the book.

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Books: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive KitteridgeOlive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first story in "Olive Kitteridge" is spell-binding and is among the best things I have read. Elizabeth Strout won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for this novel of 13 vignettes featuring the inhabitants of Crosby, Maine and linked by the title character, a retired math teacher. The other vignettes never match the brilliance of the first, but serve to breathe life into the characters in the lead-up to the final story, another masterpiece. Recommended. Yet to watch the four-part mini-series starring Frances McDormand.

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Thursday, November 02, 2017

Book: The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

The Days of AbandonmentThe Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a short but powerful novel about a woman who is deserted by her husband and how her life goes to pieces. Olga the protagonist is trapped in a visceral struggle, even as her children and the family dog get caught up in her delirium. At times, I wished I could be there to shake Olga out of her stupor, to forget her unfaithful husband and start life afresh. Easier said than done, and yet, I couldn't help rooting for her to survive and move on.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Bigg Boss 11 recap: (Day 29) Luv the new captain and love is in the air

[UPDATE: This is my last post with recaps for the current season of Bigg Boss 11. Too few people are reading the recaps to merit my writing about each episode. I'll continue watching, of course, but I no longer have to worry about having to write about it. Catch the latest on Colors TV or on ]

The overnight captaincy task continues despite Bihari lass #JyotiKumari's exit from the house. Folk dancer #SapnaChaudhary is chosen by the housemates to join #LuvTyagi and #BandgiKalra in being tethered to a semi-circular contraption.

Whoever stays attached to it till the end will be crowned the next captain of the #BiggBoss household.

Sapna doesn’t last too long and gets disconnected when she is trying to pick up a pair of socks for the night. Queen bee #HinaKhan stays up to ensure the task gets done and tells the contestants to try harder to loosen the other person’s hold. Finally, at 5.45 a.m. Bandgi gets detached from the contraption and Luv is declared the next captain of the house.

It’s not a result that rapper #AkashDadlani is comfortable with. After all, he’s had captaincy aspirations of his own. And he hasn’t forgotten Hina didn’t vote for him. Both Luv and Hina become subjects of his improvised rap. His child-like antics irk #DhinchakPooja as well. She loses her temper, but Akash is quick to apologise, and all’s well that ends well.

Sapna and bhabhiji #ShilpaShinde are criticising #ArshiKhan’s "provocative" dress and bare legs. The latter is not talking to them either. But it’s Shilpa/Sapna 1 - 0 Arshi in this round. They move away from the kitchen when Arshi walks in and wonder aloud where the bad smell is coming from.

#PriyankSharma hasn’t learned his lesson from the weekend scolding he received from host Salman Khan for revealing personal details about the housemates. This time he’s talking about something that appears to involve #VikasGupta. Vikas tried to make Priyank understand; Priyank walks off at first but later agrees he’s in the wrong and apologises on camera.

It’s nomination day and the housemates are called in pairs to the confession room where Mr. Bigg Boss tells them to decide in secret which one of them will be nominated while the other stays safe for the week. The mutually agreed decision has to be announced in the confession room itself and not revealed outside. Captain Luv is safe and cannot be nominated by the housemates.

#SabyasachiSatpathy sacrifices himself for #MehjabiSiddiqui, probably sealing his fate in the week’s nominations. He seems to be a decent fellow, but is rarely in the spotlight. Was this the right move?

Shilpa does Akash a good turn by agreeing to be nominated. Priyank and #HitenTejwani are both OK with nominations, but TV actor Hiten convinces him to stay safe for a week. Of course, his efforts come to naught later in the day when Mr. Bigg Boss punishes Priyank with a nomination of his own -- for revealing personal details of the housemates as also the nomination task when he asked audiences to safeguard Hiten.

Vikas and Sapna both offer to be nominated when their turn comes, but Sapna has the upper hand. Vikas warns her that indifference to being nominated could be a sign of her over-confidence, but Sapna doesn’t change her mind and keeps Vikas safe from the week’s nominations.

Hina and #PuneeshSharma are up next and I was surprised by how Puneesh begged her to safeguard him from being nominated. He even jokes about getting a Hina tattoo on his chest, but Hina is unmoved. It looks like a stalemate until Puneesh apologises for inadvertently abusing Hina the previous week and promises never to get personal with anyone in the house. A teary-eyed Hina then agrees to be nominated, dedicating this decision to her parents - of giving the guy who abused their daughter a second chance in the house. Bringing Puneesh to his knees is something Hina feels strongly about and she recounts the incident with great pleasure to her friends later in the garden.

Arshi and Dhinchak, who seem to be on friendly terms, are called to the confession room and Dhinchak is quick to nominate herself. Over-confidence again? Maybe, but I was disappointed Arshi accepted it so easily, even though Arshi later tells the cringe-pop sensation she shouldn’t have been so quick to get Pooja nominated in her stead.

VJ #BenafshaSoonawalla and model #BandgiKalra are the last remaining pair and neither is ready to make the other safe. In the end, Mr. Bigg Boss nominates them both for failing to come to a decision.

Love is in the air in the #BiggBoss house. Sabyasachi tells Priyank he really likes him, causing Priyank to blush. Sapna, who appears to be unaware of the concept of homosexuality, tells Sabyasachi he should have been born a woman.

Meanwhile, Dhinchak Pooja has apparently told her friends she loves captain Luv. The lights are off, but that doesn’t stop the news from spreading from wildfire from bed to bed. Cupid sure is in overdrive.

Who will be evicted from Bigg Boss this weekend?

Bigg Boss 11 recap: (Day 28) Jyoti is out and Priyank gets a scolding

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