Korean Drama Review — Pinocchio

Disclaimer – All images in this post have been obtained from Google. I do not own any of the images.

Pinocchio, aired on SBS channel, is a drama about the underlying corruption and discrimination that rules the media firms in today’s time. Albeit being set in Korea, it wouldn’t be far fetched to say that it mirrors the problems faced by reporters and producers around the world. In this case, the protagonist Choi In Ha (played by Park Shin Hye) has the Pinocchio Syndrome wherein she hiccups uncontrollably if she lies. Since childhood, In Ha has been craving to meet her mother who left her and her father to pursue her career as a reporter. Naive and innocent, In Ha believes that her mother would accept her when they meet in the future and so for thirteen years In Ha sends her mother text messages about her daily life. However, her mother leaves behind her phone at the house of a large department store owner. Seo Bum Jo (played by Kim Young Kwang) who is the son of the owner, intercepts these messages and as the years pass, grows to love In Ha. He is determined to meet her and so auditions to become a reporter at YGN.

Ki Ha Myung (played by Lee Jong Suk) is the son of a fireman who was accused of causing the death of his fellow firemen. As the reporters propel the case out of proportion, his father flees and is never heard of again. Humiliated and isolated in society, Ha Myung and his mother commit suicide. The only living member, the elder broth Ki Jae Myung is devastated and vows to right the wrongs of the reporters who pushed the family to take such drastic measures.

This drama was a treat from the start. The pain felt by Ki Ha Myung’s family is vividly portrayed and so exceptionally done that you feel for them. The plot isn’t as simple as it appears and there are so many layers to the story, each of which is peeled off one by one as the story progresses. The cutthroat environment that is created by rivaling broadcast companies is played out for the viewers to understand the functioning of news channels and the crooked tactics that they sometimes employ to obtain a story. While the character of Song Cha Ok is very detestable, Jin Kyung does a wonderful job of acting. She is so convincing in her role that even though I hated her for most of the drama, towards the end I was very glad for her. Her character development would be one of the best for the show. I also liked how In Ha and Ha Myung got to know each other and the entire process from them being friends to a couple was rather adorable.

Even though the Pinocchio Syndrome that was used in the drama is fictional, it proved to be integral to the storyline. Initially In Ha faces a lot of flak for not being able to lie, which is somehow “important” to become a reporter. As the drama draws to a close, we see how she becomes an  exemplary model of a reporter and teaches the others ideals and values to be upheld as a reporter. Being a media student myself, I loved this drama for its content and the morals that it showcased. While In Ha and Ha Myung were meant to be, I wished that Seo Bum Jo was given some importance. In fact he does serve a vital purpose in the drama and things do get resolved all due to him. But he is left behind with this unrequited love and for some reason I always wish that the main leads would pick the secondary characters. Moreover, I felt that In Ha’s behavior towards him was a little cold and she wasn’t as considerate of his as he was of her. Anyhow, the drama has been put together very well and some of the characters like Hwang Gyo Dong, Ahn Chan So were very endearing. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the drama and would recommend it to all.

Ratings – 8.5 stars on 10

Meera

Book Review — Cometh the Hour by Jeffrey Archer

Thank you Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy of this book for review :) 

Cometh the Hour, being the sixth book in the Clifton Chronicles, juggles the life and times of the Barrington and Clifton families as they undergo the hardships that come with great responsibility. Interspersed with accounts of betrayal, corruption and the fight for justice, we see how the bonds between the two families paves the way for their success regardless of the magnitude of trouble they are facing. Be it Emma Clifton, who finds herself balancing few too many tasks and must decide between jeopardizing her brother’s career or winning a case against her. On the other hand, Sebastion Clifton fights a different battle – one of love – wherein he must draft a plan to rescue his beloved Priya before she is forcefully married off by her parents to another.

While the Cliftons and Barringtons are held up with their own obstacles, Desmond Mellor, Jim Knowles and Adrian Sloane form the villainous trio who repeatedly, undaunted by the power and reach of the two families, take it upon themselves to bring them to ruins. Sir Giles Barrington faces the brunt of a truth revealed in the course of Emma’s case and participates in a rescue mission between countries. Little does he know that this mission threatens his well being more than not. Lastly, Harry Clifton having encountered the great Russion writer and poet Anatoly Babakov in prison perseveres for over a decade to free the writer and spread his work beyond the borders of Russia. Each of the battles fought by the families results in some victories and some losses.

As this was my first Jeffrey Archer book, I knew not what to expect from it. I was extremely relieved when the book started off on a good pace with the case by Lady Virginia against Emma Clifton. The conniving nature of Lady Virginia was evident from the start. But soon after the politics took over and I grew to like the book a little less. It was all too overwhelming and I didn’t quite like the chapters with Emma Clifton in them. However, at any given point in the book, there’s so much going on that you get a wholesome feel. Its not just one story or one trial, but multiple ones that are woven together to create a voluminous chunk of a book.  My favorite sections were the ones with Lady Virginia, Desmond Mellor, Adrian Sloane and Karin Brandt. They were definitely far more gripping than the other chapters and I looked forward to the stories about these. In terms of character development, there were discernible changes in Sebastion and Emma Clifton. I felt that the other characters pretty much remained the same.

The plot was great too but some parts of it were a little dull and not interesting. I took way too much time to read it because at times I felt like I couldn’t go on reading it anymore. I felt that Sebastion and Priya’s relationship was a tad bit too abrupt and forced. It didn’t feel natural. And then introducing Samantha and Jessica felt out of the blue. Many books try to correct the wrongdoings by the villain by also enhancing their personalities. But I quite liked the fact that till the very end Lady Virginia, Adrian Sloane and Desmond Mellor remained the same. Their tactics and manipulation kept the book alive. Jeffrey Archer’s writing is easy to get into and while being informative, it grasps us with the twists and turns. The ending was good, different. I expected the truth about Karin to be revealed openly. This book was enjoyable over all, but I didn’t love it as there was way too much of politics and some parts were too slow.

Ratings – 3 stars on 5.

Meera

Goodbyes Should Be Like “See You Later”s

IMG-20160302-WA0007
Christ University | TCEP | Batch of 2016 |

I immersed myself within that moment.
Soaking in all the smiles, sounds and bonds.
Aware that amidst the joyous
Occasion, lurked a bitter
Realization. We
Had known life one way.
Now we were to
Start afresh.
With the
Skin
Of
Our past
Selves, we were
To embark on
A new sail. I wished
For a time loop. One that
Would permit me residence
For a little while more, in the
Least. I stayed as long as I could, letting
Go of my bias and inhibitions.
I had grown wont to a rare kind of
Camaraderie and love, it
Had swept me up. And now I
Was gingerly being
Placed on the ground.  I
Opened my eyes.
And let them
Engulf
Me.
This
Wasn’t the
End.

– Meera

Book Review — The Following Girls by Louise Levene

Thank you Bloomsbury India for sending me a copy of this book for review :) 

In The Following Girls, Louise Levene depicts the toils and troubles of being a high school teenager who is expected to conform to conventional standards. She explores the idea of deviance and the consequent disciplining through her protagonist Amanda Baker who doesn’t show great interest in the vision or expectations of her school, Mildred Fawcett. With the other three Mandies, Baker lives on the sidelines, constantly getting reprimanded by not only the faculty but also her father. But when the once hostile Julia Smith lends a hand of friendship, will Baker’s life too take an unexpected turn?

Both the cover page and synopsis are so intriguing, but somehow, for me, the book fell flat from the very beginning. I had to struggle to read it and for atleast the first 90 pages there was no clarity or apparent direction to the story. I felt that there was too much information randomly patched together and often I had to go back and read the previous paragraph to look for a connection. In between some good, entertaining portions would surface and keep me going. I did not want to drop the book because I thought that it had great potential. While Amanda’s habits are not praise-worthy, I understand her plight at being posited in a very competitive and austere school environment where if you don’t get exceptional grades or don’t wear a particular type of footwear, you are classified as being “Unschool”. Furthermore, she gets looked down upon by other students as well which can be detrimental to one’s esteem.

The book started becoming more interesting towards the end after Julia befriends Baker, providing her with the respite that she so well needed. Another thing I found to be interesting is the fact that her three bestfriends are also named Amanda. The relationships that Baker makes or values don’t appear to me as being good enough. Her father doesn’t behave lovingly towards her; her stepmother while being more amiable, doesn’t take a stand for her; her friends behave rather odd at times. There was also the fact that quite a bit of the lingo was incomprehensible to me. Because I couldn’t grasp the cultural meanings behind certain phrases or words, I felt that I was missing out on a lot more. Overall, I didn’t like it much.

Ratings – 2 stars on 5.

– Meera

Book Review — Do You Know Any Good Boys? by Meeti Shroff-Shah

Thank you Pan Macmillan India for sending me a copy of this book for review :) 

Meeti Shroff-Shah couldn’t have better encapsulated the over-the-top procedure of Indian arranged marriages in her hilarious & heart warming novel titled “Do You Know Any Good Boys?”. Hers is not a story that follows the normative plot structure we are accustomed to. Rather, just like the experience of meeting forty odd strangers in the hopes of finding a life partner, the novel shuffles back and forth between stories recounted from her several “first dates”. While the ordeal of presenting herself with renewed optimism at each of these meetings is bothersome and debilitating, Meeti’s clever wit and sarcasm doesn’t fail to transform the entire book into an enjoyable read. Through the use of elaborate pointers, she conveys exactly what the Indian mindset – be it of a traditional or traditional-modern kind – expects out of the arranged marriage and what is then seen to be as reality. From newspaper ads to matrimonial sites to overbearing, unrelated womenfolk (who take it upon themselves to play cupid), Meeti has born the brunt of it all and narrates to us the incredulity of some.

The title of the book, while being blatant about the content, implies a deviation from the supposed desires for a”not so good” boy – as is commonly believed to be true amongst today’s youth. While there is a reference to the tall, dark and handsome dude of Mills & Boons nature, Meeti and her family meticulously narrow down the educated, cultured and sensible Gujju bachelors. Meeti Shroff-Shah’s writing style is exceptionally good, displaying knowledge of different fields and that too not in a ostentatious way. Her love for literature and skepticism with regard to arranged marriage resonated well with me. I am sure it would be relatable to many others. This book isn’t just for an Indian girl looking to get married but also speaks to the families and friends of such a person. It conveys to them the frame of mind with which the girl agrees to have her alliance made through others. Meeti explores concepts like rejection, perseverance and hope that go hand in hand with the concept of marriage. Meeti’s parents are shown to be extremely supportive of her decisions and paint a very loving family picture. Being an Indian, I have heard first hand of similar arguments made about the astrology, height, weight and income of the potential groom. With all due respect to differing opinions, I think its absolutely ridiculous to have so many check-boxes that need to be ticked before a guy and a girl can meet to converse and discover for themselves whether they fit together. The author’s sense of humor and wit would be the highest selling point of this novel. There were times I was laughing out loud irrespective of my surroundings. Then there were also times when certain sections were dragged out a bit too much. But in the overall scheme of things, the cracks are very minor. I loved this book and insist that you all must give it a go.

Ratings – 5 stars on 5

– Meera

Book Review — Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey reflects a time during which one’s place in society was affixed by power and wealth. Into such a society descends our protagonist, Catherine Morland, whose love for literature takes greater priority than most other occupation. Needless to say, Catherine’s hunger for thrill and adventure thrust her into experiences that no ordinary day in Fullerton would provide. From vacationing with the Allens in Bath to exploring Northanger Abbey with the Tilneys, Catherine swirls in company of the more elite kind. During one such outing, she happens to chance upon a gentleman called Henry Tilney with whom she connects rather quickly. His disappearance from Bath affects her and so when she makes the acquaintance of his sister, they become fast friends. Catherine’s conviction and easy manner play an important role in the friends she makes and loses throughout the novel.

I have been in awe of Austen’s writing for as long as I can remember. Only recently did I acquire most of her books, with the plan to have read everything she has written by the end of 2016. Northanger Abbey is no exception to her prowess. Her power over the language is enlightening and commendable. Every chapter has taught me something new in terms of building my vocabulary. Moreover, her reflection of the Victorian society makes for the content of my dreams – women clad in corset gowns, dancing away to glory at balls, socializing and whiling away their time immersed in great literature. Catherine does just that. She is posited to be this Victorian women quite unlike the people of her time. Not all of her acquaintances or relations share her passion for reading or accept her brazen control over her own life matters. Unlike the archetypal Victorian woman, Catherine doesn’t submit to the wishes and dictates of others. She is seen to be a strong protagonist. who is loyal to her friends and is not gullible or easily intimidated by men. However, even though Austen highlights the flaws in a backward society, she also brings out the ill-effects of a certain kind of literature and the dire repercussions they have on one’s behavior and morality. Catherine, under the influence of gothic literature, misinterprets the actions of those around her. In those circumstances I found her to be a little too nosy and would have preferred that she mind her own business. But as she is wont to do, Catherine follows her heart – even if it lands her in some trouble. I did not like the Thorpes from the very beginning. Something about Isabella’s disposition was a little skewed. Her friendship with Catherine didn’t seem genuine by a long shot. She was rather imposing and asserted her “affection” for Catherine way too often in a loud manner. All in all, I really liked this book. Would have given it a five star rating if some parts of it weren’t as incomprehensible as they were. But that is perhaps because of my failure to grasp the nuances of English as used by older writers. The book still remains wonderful.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5

– Meera

Book Review — Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Will Grayson is overshadowed by his friend Tiny Cooper. The second Will Grayson is pining over Issac, a boy whose virtual presence is a blissful respite. Then Tiny Cooper goes and makes a play about a certain Phil Rayson which inevitably upsets Will. Simultaneously, a plan to meet Issac goes horribly wrong and upsets the other Will. Both Will Graysons, existing in a space contrary to one another, are distraught. Somehow, they meet each other and from there, it’s only an uphill climb.

This being my first John Green book was an absolute delight. The writing is hearty and while depicting very realistic people with genuine struggles, makes you fall in love with the story. David Levithan’s chapters were more blunt and unrestrained, in the sense that it portrayed the second Will Grayson as being stark, a little hard hearted. The chapters altered between both Will Graysons’ perspectives and was a welcome change of thoughts. While the theme of homosexuality is explored largely, we also come to terms with concepts like independence, unconditional friendship and irrevocable mistakes. Even though Will gets mad at Tiny numerous times, their friendship is far removed from trivial fights. In that, Will not only commends Tiny’s confidence and kind heart, but is also able to get past his annoyance at Tiny eventually. Tiny Cooper, though associated to both the main characters, shines through like a protagonist. His rapidly changing love life does not deter him in the least bit and when the time comes, does not prevent him from making a more heartfelt commitment. Both the Will Graysons are able to grow exponentially due to Tiny’s interference in their lives. The novel doesn’t speak much about their respective families and I guess its alright, because they all come together like one big family. The play that Tiny takes charge of ends on a brilliant note and is representative of the wonder that Tiny is. Will Grayson and Maura’s friendship is typical in a lot of ways and it was sort of predictable. I flew through this book and enjoyed every bit of it. I just wish the ending had been a little more elaborate and less ambiguous. But I definitely recommend this to all contemporary lovers out there. A fun, well packaged story.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5.

Meera

Legends don’t die.

I am attempting to write a new poetry form called Diamante which, written in 7 lines, juxtaposes two similar or dissimilar subjects. It was horrible to hear of Alan Rickman’s death. To know that the magic he infused into his character as Professor Snape had not sustained him longer. But death is such. RIP, Professor. You will always be remembered.

Legend
powerful, diligent
aspiring, living, believing
leaving behind moral values
undoing, recalling, changing
temporary, blank,
Death

Always.

– Meera

Book Review — The Giver by Lois Lowry

Jonas had always been content with the rigid nature of his community. A community that was devoid of color, choices and history thrived through their meticulous efforts to keep everyone in line. There was no love, no wrongs; rather everyone lived in utmost peace not knowing the thrills of uncertainty. Ritualistic practices naturalized in every family unit ensured that the thoughts, opinions and actions of individuals were as per the dictum of the Committee of Elders. But when Jonas is chosen to be the Receiver of Memory, a position of honor and prestige, he realizes the potential that mankind earlier had. He realizes how bleak and dreary their existence currently is. And so he begins to question all he has ever learnt, thereby wandering onto unfamiliar territories.

The Giver is a book that everyone should read. Even those who don’t like dystopian fiction. It reveals what our future could look like. It unearths possibilities of a life where there would be no pain, no war, no abuse, no poverty. And yet it succeeds in dissuading us from wanting such a peaceful life. Not if peace equals to having no memories. Definitely not if peace means not being able to name your own children or choose your own partners. Such is a world that the novel presents us. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it not because I liked the world it created but because it made me realize how petty our complains are sometimes. When faced with such horrendous laws and unfeeling people (as in the book), you automatically bloat with gratitude for the options and freedoms we all enjoy. Lois Lowry’s writing style is great and descriptive enough that we are able to visualize what she speaks of. It is very difficult to unlearn what you already know and describe it from a newfound perspective. But Lowry manages that perfectly well as we get the feeling that Jonas is indeed new to the concepts of snow, sunshine, love, color etc.

There are so many rules in the world constructed by the author that at times it was infuriating. The people in the book had all apparently opted for “Sameness”, i.e for everything to be uniform and hence repressing individuality or uniqueness of object or person. I found their concepts of “release” to be somewhat ridiculous. Surely, the separation and loss eventuated by release ought to be met with some grief. But there too people behaved almost robotic. The community has a multitude of Ceremonies, neither of which paralleled the joy humans can be open to. I wholeheartedly supported Jonas’ decisions in the end and felt that the climax, the resolution were all well fitting. This book makes you think and think again about your environment, your life and everything else. This being my first book of 2016, I am glad I picked it, for it was so wonderful. Even though its been tagged children’s fiction, there’s nothing extremely childish about it. Rather, it would be a good read for adults too. I recommend this book to all.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5.

Meera

Book Review — Seahorse by Janice Pariat

In Seahorse, Janice Pariat weaves a hauntingly captivating tale of a wandering soul looking to fill the void left by unsatisfactory familial relations, newfound self perceptions and a lackluster lifestyle. Nehemiah is an English Major student of Delhi University whose grief upon the loss of a loved one is swept aside through his interactions with a professor from his college. Nicholas becomes more than just a confidante to Nem and so his sudden disappearance leaves Nem devastated. Years later, an anonymous message sends Nem on a frantic chase to look for Nicholas and seek answers to questions that have been brewing in his mind all along.

I picked this up for a book club and the synopsis was so intriguing I had no doubts about starting it as soon as I got it. This book is unique in the way it is formatted as well as the writing style. It has no chapters but is sectioned into three parts. The way the novel is phrased doesn’t give you a distinct beginning, middle and end. There are tons of flashbacks used; some so abruptly placed, it took me a while to realize that it was a scene from Nem’s past. Pariat’s writing style is fluid and mesmerizing. Lines and paragraphs felt like waves lapping over my mind, receding and leaving their essence behind. Nem’s story is a tad bit draggy and simplistic. It is not fast paced or thrilling and so I had to make an effort to keep reading. But every time I thought I should take a break, some metaphoric line or philosophical quote would pull me back in. The main USP of this book would probably be that it is a retelling of Poseidon and Pelops’ myth. However, I didn’t know the backstory so I had nothing to compare this retold version with. Themes of homosexuality, estrangement, death, betrayal are explored in this novel. While I didn’t feel compelled to read the book, there was so much intensity and content in it that I wanted to finish it. Many a times I sympathized with Nem for he appeared to be so lonely and needy. His family too seemed rigid and not very loving. I didn’t love the book, neither did I hate it. Nem’s story is far removed from such matters of fluctuating choices we readers make. There was something increasingly motionless about the story – like a still lake. If you are philosophical or like retellings, you should give Seahorse a try.

Ratings – 3 stars on 5.

– Meera