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Book Review — The Sleeper and The Spindle by Neil Gaiman

I received a copy of this book from Bloomsbury India in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! 

In this fantasy retelling of Sleeping Beauty, Neil Gaiman gives the old tale a splendid twist. A far off queen visits the sleeping princess accompanied by three loyal dwarfs which gives the illustrated story a touch of Snow White. Encased in a tower covered by branches and roses, the dark magic that bid the princess to sleep is spreading far and wide. Swiftly many towns and cities fall under the spell with every human and animal in a deep slumber. Before the whole kingdom bears the brunt of one witch’s arrogance, the queen must fight her way through the wall of death which no other prince in shining armor or ambitious individual has ever crossed. While something devious lurks in the horizon, just beyond the queen’s reach, the citizens so far asleep, begin to stir and chase the group of four to God knows what end.

Initially it might seem like a children’s book despite what the blurb says about a “dark magic which twists and turns”. But I assure you, it does appease to the mature mind too. This being my first Neil Gaiman book, I didn’t know what to expect. He is a much hyped author and so naturally my expectations were raised. But sad to say, I didn’t see what the others were enthusiastic about in his stories. Definitely, his writing style and adoption of a sense of doom is characteristically used to build the plot. It was nice, a little suspenseful though not thrilling enough to keep me on my toes. However I don’t deny its simplistic way of addressing that “there are greater matters than meets the eye”. Read by children, it will surely help them understand that even if something is considered negative, it is worthy of other’s speculation and contemplation without blindly adhering to such tags. The queen is portrayed as being a strong, determined woman – definitely able as a queen – who even puts aside her wedding to address the issues of the townfolk. The illustrations were so intricate and absolutely fantastic that I spent quite a bit of time going over each detail. Particularly the printing is such (on glossy page) that you can run your fingers over the drawing in a kind of mesmerized fascination. Chris Riddell – kudos to you! I will certainly be keeping an eye out for other such illustrated books by him. Also I’ve decided to give Neil Gaiman another try because I refuse to believe that so many readers would consider him great if he were not. Its a short read of 70 pages that you can finish in a day, kind of predictable but fun all the same. Recommended to fans of Gaiman and graphic novels. I am going to read it all over again some time later. Final verdict being that I liked it moderately; just didn’t find it so great as others did.

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Ratings – 3 stars on 5.

Meera

Book Review — The Trespass by Barbara Ewing

“Forgive us our trespasses As we forgive them That trespass against us.” – Barbara Ewing, The Trespass

A historical tale of bravery and righteousness during the cholera epidemic in London is captured in this novel by Barbara Ewing. Harriet Cooper and her elder sister Mary Cooper have always had a guarded relationship with their father, the MP, Sir Charles Cooper; who after the death of his wife became a hard-hearted, authoritarian figure in the house. Unable to think of the cholera affecting his beloved Harriet, he sends her away to Rusholme where she stays with her cousins. Separated from the one person (her sister) who understood her, Harriet spends her time teaching little Asobel Cooper what she learnt from her sister; thereby passing on knowledge, not considered important for a proper Lady to know.

It is in Rusholme that she finds reprieve, away from the scrutiny of her father. There she learns of Edward Cooper’s plans to emigrate to New Zealand to build a life for himself. Mary and Harriet, unlike the rest of the family, are in awe of his determination and wish they too could get away from London to fly as free birds. But soon after Alice Cooper’s wedding, her father decides to bring her back to London. Certain unthinkable events and incidents aspire a fight for freedom deep within Harriet’s heart. Gathering all courage, she attempts to run away and begin anew. She plans every step, with particular care for the details, in such a manner as to not leave any traces. And so starts a game of hide & seek wherein there’s more than one person aiming to unearth the secrets of Harriet’s disappearance and forcefully bring her back to London if it must be.

In The Trespass, we are familiarized to the mannerisms and difference of opinions shared within a society that grew increasingly conflicted about morals and social status. Even though Harriet, Mary, Edward, Alice and Richard were cousins belonging to the same Cooper family line – each of them had an opposing view about the fast spreading cholera. From the very beginning of the book, the author’s immense creativity and knowledge was reflected through phrases and references about great works of literature and artists. I usually don’t like paras and paras of description because I feel that its sensory overload but this book splurged on pages and pages of detail for a particular scene and I didn’t mind it one bit. Its unfortunate to read of the deaths and disease that ensued in London and how people regardless of class were dropping like flies. Victimized as they were not only by the cholera but also by the overbearing egotisms of the upper class, it was only the sacrifices of people like Mary Cooper who put aside their inhibitions to help out those in need that stood out like a beacon of hope. The book was a constant reminder of how little importance one’s position and power has in life and if God so wishes, there is no evading death. Isolated and deeply disturbed as Harriet was, her courage and self respect set a firm example of how a woman should care for herself and not let others take control.

This book has a vast multitude of characters – all of whom essentially fitted into the bigger picture. They are so well crafted; the storyline so beautiful and wondrous, I’m surprised I haven’t heard anything about the author or the book before. I think it is extremely underrated and should be a lot more popular than is. London and New Zealand are two places used as setting for the book and it has made me want to visit both places so eagerly. There is definitely many romance angles added to the plot which adds a sweet touch to the book. And unlike what I thought, the ending was perfect. Kudos to Barbara Ewing for this treat. I loved it so much!

Ratings – 5 stars on 5.

Meera

Nail Art – Neon Bits

Its so upsetting when you have a bright neon green nail paint and your skin tone doesn’t match it. Mine almost looks garish when I paint it as a base tone so now I have to resort to using the color only for designs. Which is alright I guess.

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RAWR! Does that remind you of a wild carnivorous plant with its mouth gaping open? No? My mom’s first opinion was such. Anyhow, I’m pleased with how its turned out.

- Meera

Digressing from Origins

Image Courtesy – Google

Omnipotent, named he, who
Meant to have begun it all.
Now struck a chord of curiosity
in disbelieving humans. Questioned
for the sake of clarity, when it was
His answers that blew apart despondence.
In this one entity, the world held importance.
In this one entity, the world saw tyranny.
Energy, form and faces unlike two. All
Possibilities they ventured to undo.
Why must definition hover over faith?
Blind faith, you say? Better it is to have some.
More than gratitude for this one,
What prevailed in the previous grows
Abundantly essential. Its a matter of estrangement
That brings us together. In this quest to seek answers
We forget those who urge us to think. We forget those
Whose questions we are here to solve.
- Meera

On Achievements, Failures and The Time in Between.

I spent the last thirty days caught up in the extremely tiresome process of shifting houses. Believe me, when you have image over 30 cartons filled with things, the process drags on and on. Albeit it was fun, to be in charge of something as magnanimous as a house. I’ve only ever had smaller responsibilities like taking care of my brother or setting the table for dinner. These times were filled with little achievements and little failures. I passed my third semester finals which wasn’t a surprise since all the exams were decent. But I’d been apprehensive about how the correction would be. I did score really well in both my Media subjects and that is all I care about at the end of the day. Don’t even get me started on the pointless tirade concerning my triple major curriculum.

Winning the Guess The Booker Prize Winner contest held by India Book Store was a highlight. Not only can I use the gift coupon for new bookshelf additions but the nominated books I chanced upon had some really nice plots and so there goes by TBR pile burrowing a deep hole towards the core of the earth. I am currently reading The Trespass by Barbara Ewing and its lovely. Every page gives you a good fill and its one of those books that will last you a long time. Its a perfect book for me – set in Victorian England.

Image My room walls are purple, so is my lamp, candle and bedspread. Did I print a bizarre, maybe even hideous, picture for you? But actually its not. The white furniture tones down all the purple-ness. I took up Event Management as an elective and so far we’ve only had two classes but I’m loving it! Had a few ups and downs with some people. But I’m no longer letting it bother me. See my Whatsapp status (in Korean) - 바람처럼 그냥 가라 – meaning “Just go like the wind”, which I cooked up on my own without using translate or google! So proud of myself – Korean language learning is finally leading somewhere…

One of my minor follies is that I couldn’t keep my book ban in check. And with the new house I almost had to get a new bookshelf. Which although a happy fact is a little disappointing especially since I already have many tens of books I havent read – some still wrapped is plastic. Self Control!

Also for some or the other reason, plans to meet up with friends keep getting delayed. Something or the other pops up and it all back tracks. Its been so long since I went out with the different friend groups that I have. Plus I feel like a sense off detachment has intervened between previously good friends. Like they no longer care enough to make an effort. Hopefully everything will sort out as the year ends. I’m turning 20 in less than five months and so its time for a bucket list. As much as I cringe to admit, letting go of this inherent childishness and stepping into the suit of a mature adult is a little bothersome. To the extent that I was deliriously happy on finding my Pokemon cards and I yearn to rewatch many animes.

That’s that and I miss writing so dearly. I even wish I could participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo because I have a solid novel plan. But there’s just not enough time. Nevertheless, I am going to write the novel later and not give up on it. If not NaNo, for the sake of writing I will complete it.

Hope y’all had a freaky Halloween and are preparing for a jolly Christmas.

- Meera

 

Book Review — And We Remained by Asad Ali Junaid

“The most telling sign of receding youth is not balding or a paunch, it is when you do not feel like laughing as much anymore.” – Asad Ali Junaid, And We Remained. 

And We Remained closely follows the lives of five good friends – Sahir, Sandeep, Gopal, Anand and David – through their years of mischief and camaraderie. The novel flips back and forth between individual POV (flashbacks) as well as their emails (present) so as to give us a thorough understanding of the events that played a significant role in their character development. These students who belonged to not very well off families spent their adolescence travelling in crowded buses; eating from roadside vendors only to later travel far and wide, earning great for themselves in terms of money, fame and self satisfaction. The novel covers a period of Bangalore battling technology and ancient values. While these boys tried to strain against the society and traditions that held them back, some inevitably fall prey. Of the five, three are awestruck with the admission of a junior, Wardha, though each of them feels differently about her. Love, heartbreak, opportunities and failures are interplayed in this narrative to give us a very realistic take on the lives of five ordinaries boys in Bangalore, India.

The synopsis is simple yet effective in delivering the message of what you would be chancing upon by reading this book. And after all the fantasy, scifi books I’ve been reading, this one was a happy change. It is an epistolary novel and that too was a good surprise as I love reading books with emails, chats, journal entries etc. There were some things that made me hesitant about continuing to read it and others that urged me on. Particularly, David’s tone of language was a little loud or bawdy and some other characters too had a one track mind. But I soon realized as growing up teenagers, its only natural. Sahir and Sandeep seemed like the typical good boys who’d think of their family, maintain good relations with everyone. What I was most enthusiastic to find out was the ending concerning their feelings for Wardha and let me tell you – it is unexpected. The book, in a true philosophical sense, portrays that life doesn’t always work out the way we want and its not one of those tales where everything is perfect. I really liked the author’s writing style which is very eloquent and shows his good grasp on language. It wasn’t all big words but very well meant and deep ones that mattered in instilling the story in hearts and minds. Another thing I was able to relate to is the email language, terms of endearment and slangs that were used because being a south Indian, I’ve heard my share of “machans”, “dai”, “poda”. Wardha, being not only a unique name, is portrayed as a different character – not your ideal female love interest. She is carefree and mingles well with people. But the status between her and the boys towards the end makes you wonder about her thought process. The highlight of the novel was Sahir’s sentiments, the form of the novel and the author’s talent for making mundane happenings special. A light and fun read. Recommended to all!

I was sent this book by the author himself in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Asad!

Ratings – 3 stars on 5.

Meera

Korean Drama Review — Dating Agency Cyrano


Seo Byung Hoon is a producer, who in an attempt to save his bestfriend’s theatre from being taken over by mortgage, starts a dating agency called Cyrano to repay the debt. He works with two others – Moo Jin and Ah Rang to pair up people; creating fake scenarios with the intent to bring out their inherent goodness. The clients who approach them are individuals smitten by someone who doesn’t reciprocate their affection. And this significant other becomes their target. During one such mission, the group crosses paths with the spunky female protagonist Min Young who works for another such dating agency. And their mission ends up ruining what Min Young had planned for her client.

At first she is furious but soon learns that their technique fits her fancy better than her current job and so she gets employed with them. Now this team of four brushes through missions swiftly and successfully. In between all that Min Young begins to like Byung Hoon who has eyes only for his high school crush (also his dead bestfriends meant-to-be wife). While Seung Pyo who owns the restaurant adjoining the agency befriends Min Young and falls for her. He seems to be hiding something that has a lot to do with Byung Hoon’s past and adds the mystery to the drama. With their good intentions, Cyrano Agency never thought that people were out to get them. But their efforts are overlooked when an unknown person kidnaps one of them in order to bring the agency to the ground.

This is my new favourite drama as of now! I don’t usually watch a lot of cheesy romance kind of shows so I never thought I’d love it so much. I don’t know why its so unheard of. It deserves a lot more hype and is one of those underrated dramas that only few know about. The casting was amazing – all people I’ve unheard of but will be looking forward to each of them in new dramas. Lee Chun Hee who plays Master a.k.a Seung Pyo was my favourite. He would make a really good lead actor in a show. Initially I thought the concept of a dating agency was so corny and that it would be one of those shows I’d give a 6/10 but it picked up pace and I liked everything about it. Byung Hoon is a very guarded character who doesn’t open up about his feelings to anyone. He tries to push aside his worries about Min Young and focus on the task at hand. They fight and argue so much its actually funny! Not to mention that Min Young is a very chirpy yet ballsy female who doesn’t like to take no for an answer. She persists and persists to the very end. The drama is not only about their clients but also how each of them grow and mature through each mission, learning more about themselves than they would’ve otherwise. Some of the missions involve their own emotional attachment for various reasons. Moo Jin is the silent and intelligent one who helps out with all technological aspects of the mission whereas Ah Rang is very happy-go-lucky like Min Young. There’s quite a bit of mafia action in the drama too. You might think that the show is just about their various projects/missions but its a lot more than that. Totally worth the time! I spent two and half days continuously watching it, which says something cause I don’t normally do that. Two thumbs up and just like like like. Do give it a try.


Ratings – 9 stars on 10.

Meera

*All images courtesy of Google.

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