The Experience : NaNoWriMo 2015

I am not cut out for writing novels. I think that every year as November approaches. But then a wicked idea pops into my head each time. It would be unfair to the Gods of Writing and Imagination if I gave up before I even started. With that in mind, I was ready to participate this year. Not as ready as I would have liked to be but ready nevertheless. It was November 1st and I had no outline to my novel. I knew I would need one. The plot was complicated. I decided to start outlining the structure and characters of my novel. Till November 4th I did not write a word of my novel as I made use of all the imaginative juices to list down conflicts and twists amidst other details. My journey started on 4th and has been an uneven one up until the 26th (when I finished 50k words). I would call it uneven because within these 23 days, there were times when I wrote nothing and times when I was able to churn 3000-6000 words at a stretch. I bunked many days of college to stay at home and type. Writing had taken top priority. There were days when I remained in my room, typing away like a mad scientist, overcome with ideas that had to be slapped onto blank pages before they vanished.

My family has been the most supportive throughout this journey – not yelling at me for missing classes or neglecting family time. The most horrifying pothole in my way occurred when I reached 32k and finished what I had intended to write. My story had been written, with a beginning, middle and end. Yet I had to have 18k more if I were to win. Conjuring up additional obstacles for my protagonist to pave through and flashback scenes, I rowed my way to 50k. Then, I had thought I would peel off the extra during the editing process. But now it all fits. In fact, I believe there is still more potential for the story. I could add more or remove some – the essence of my plot would still shine through.

There were phases when I thought my writing style was lame or immature (not worthy of an English major student who has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember). With my parents’ kind words, I was able to get past that block. I am proud of the storyline, it was something I had been questioning about our world for long. But I still have to improve on the use of words and phrases. After all that, maybe I could consider approaching a publisher. For now, the winner’s title and certificate on my profile fills my belly, heart and mind. I am happy. As I can be.

Image Courtesy – Google

– Meera

Book Review — Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Twin sisters – Cather and Wren – have always stood by each other, whether it was their passion for the Simon Snow book series or coping with their family drama. But when they move to college, the sisters’ opposite personalities drive a wedge between them. Surprisingly, Cath who is not used to forming friendships easily, gets accustomed to her roommate Reagan fairly well. On the other hand, Wren’s new friendships begin to take up all of her spare time. Cath channels her loneliness and feelings of betrayal onto the fan-fiction that the sisters had been writing together. She gives Simon the reality that couldn’t be hers. Somehow, writing becomes her door to the outside world. She joins fiction writing class with an ambition to write to her heart’s content; she becomes writing buddies with a boy from her class and gradually grows close to her roommates boyfriend – all this while taking supreme control over the fanfic and attracting thousands of fans for her own book. What does it mean to be a fangirl? This novel throws light on exactly that. That and the drama which ensues in Cath’s life.

A friend told me that I had to read this before reading Carry On by Rainbow Rowell and that is what pushed me to open the book which had been sitting on my shelf for months. Fangirl has been written so realistically, you can as well imagine being the protagonist. Rowell’s writing style is extremely agreeable and easygoing. She makes you feel like you know all the characters personally and weaves most of them to be very endearing. Initially, I thought that Cath had Agoraphobia (a fear of venturing out into situations and places with large crowds from which escape may not be easily possible) but we learn later that it is nothing major. She displays traits of low self esteem and introversion. Her preoccupation with a fictional world results in her withdrawal from social settings. But she blossoms into a more confident person after meeting Reagan, Nick and Levi. Whether good/bad, her experiences with these people help her get out of the shell she had made for herself. Wren’s detachment from Cath and the fan-fiction they were writing is inevitable because of the nature she has. She is a person who lives in the moment, at parties and gatherings than through fiction. Levi, Reagan’s boyfriend, is shown to be an optimist. But I found his character to be a little superficial. Cath herself repeatedly emphasizes the fact that he is always smiling, even when facing goons at a party. That sort of dilutes the essence of happiness for me. How can someone be smiling all the time? Their mother left them at an early age. And so they have been living with their father. The bond they share with him is a friendly and affectionate one.

The storyline is really good, nothing too extravagant but very grounded. We witness how the sisters deal with different issues in varying ways. Moreover we learn how fans create a totally different world by situating the objects of their praise at an apex and then producing merchandise, alternate endings, costumes and fan clubs. What I didn’t like much about the book were the snippets of Simon Snow stories that were included at the end of each chapter. While I absolutely love epistolary novels, I didn’t like reading Simon Snow because I didn’t know the whole story. So I couldn’t wrap my mind around why the tidbits had been incorporated. That being said, I really enjoyed Fangirl and I look forward to reading Carry On. It is definitely a feel-good book and I recommend it to everyone.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5.

– Meera

Book Review — The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein

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

Frances and Yasha’s paths cross at the top of the world. One of them has come to Norway to get away from family troubles by immersing  herself in the Yellow Room art project. The other is here on a family mission, one that pains and disturbs him a great deal. While Frances must deal with her family splitting apart due to various reasons, Yasha has to put up with his mother’s sudden appearance with her boyfriend in tow. Finding comfort in a stranger’s embrace, the two forge a relationship that help them cope with their respective worries. The Sunlit Night is a realistic fiction about finding light even in the darkest of times from unexpected sources.

I had earlier picked up this book but couldn’t get past the first few pages because it is a bit slow in the beginning. But the synopsis is so heartrending that I had to give it another try. This book is extraordinary in its simplicity. I felt that there is no looming sense of a structured plot or characters brought to life. What I really liked about the book is the very normal and endearing way the lives of two people have been followed. You sort of forget that they are fictional characters and begin to believe in their story. The book alternates between Yasha and Frances’ perspectives. The author’s writing style is different and lovely. Not too long sentences and fantastic descriptions. The references towards the midnight sun are so mesmerizing even though you can only picture it through Frances’ eyes. I felt that it depicted their polarized states. Frances and Yasha, who lived in US, have come so far for different purposes to a common end – peace. I didn’t quite understand Nils character and Frances’ connection with him. He was her mentor but his behavior was a bit odd and the way his story ends puzzled me as it felt incomplete. The abrupt shift (uncaring to persistently pursuing) in Yasha’s feelings towards Frances also seemed rushed. Nevertheless they made sense together. Its a cute story with a different air compared to the usual contemporary book. You should give it a go..

Ratings – 3 stars on 5


Book Review — Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka

A play based on the natives of Yoruba, Death and the King’s Horseman marks the journey of Elesin Oba (the chief Horseman of the King) who is meant to sacrifice his life and follow the dead King into the afterlife. Filled with ritualistic nuances and a strong emphasis on the conflicts between colonizer and colonized, the play portrays Elesin’s conviction to perform the ritual and ultimate failure in sticking to his words. Simon Pilkings, a British Officer, not only intervenes in the sacrificial ritual but plays an integral role in sending Elesin’s eldest son Olunde abroad to study, thereby separating father and son. The ploy of the colonizers to tame the supposedly “uncivilized” natives pushes the plot forward to its ultimate disheartening end.

We had to read this play as part of the curriculum for Postcolonial Literature in college.  While the authenticity of the culture of Yoruba natives is kept intact through their dismissal of the colonizers rules, their freedom to practice rituals as per their heritage is denied because of the might of the colonizer. Apart from the theme of culture and freedom, we also witness a spark in the Women of the society who know their place and are firm in their beliefs. They are depicted to be the strong face of Resistance that is gradually building up. I found the character of Simon Pilkings to be so infuriating and that of his wife Jane Pilkings to be rather insensitive and foolish. Even though she is more docile and approachable than Simon, she doesn’t stand up for herself when mistreated by him. Her views are unworthy in his eye as he often orders her to “shut up”.

The innate tendency of the colonizer to classify what they don’t comprehend as “insane”, “barbaric” is more than evident in the manner Simon speaks about the natives.  The plot is so rich in the way it intersperses the fight of indigenous people – against foreign forces that attempt to oppress them in their own lands – with that of the ignorance of the colonizer which finally leads to dire consequences. It was very enlightening and wholesome but I had to give it a 2 star rating because of Elesin’s monologues and dialogues with others which flew above my head. I didn’t understand most of what he was trying to say as he always spoke in riddles. I had to rely on a lot of other sources to get the gist of it. And I believe that if you can’t make sense of what’s going on in a book then you can’t get the complete essence of it. So while the story is really good, I found it difficult to process a lot of the content.

Ratings – 2 stars on 5.


Book Review — Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

One of the most popular Gothic classics, Dr Jekyll & Mr. Hyde sets the mark for numerous psychological and literary studies. It is the story of a certain Mr. Hyde, cold and villainous who surfaces as a relative of the kind Dr. Jekyll, scientist extraordinaire.  When two old friends of Dr. Jekyll’s – Mr. Utterson and Dr. Lanyon – notice this absurd shift in the scientist’s demeanor, they take it upon themselves to solve the surrounding mystery about the newfound connection. Mr. Hyde’s appearance is marked by Dr. Jekyll’s tendency to become a recluse and maintain a distance from the public. This puzzling hide and seek of the two has Mr. Utterson completely befuddled. And what comes to his understanding makes the two friends wonder how Dr. Jekyll could have ventured into such uncharted territories.

A truly classic book, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde maintains its air of suspense from the very beginning. The dark and chilling atmosphere of the plot is reflected in the clime of its setting. The plot is splendid and thrilling. I would have rated the book higher if some of the content was more decipherable. At some instances I couldn’t understand what was going on. As in the author’s writing style was a little overwhelming at times. Dr. Jekyll is portrayed to be the responsible, amiable and skillful individual whereas Mr. Hyde is the exact opposite. He has no remorse for his actions, is very antisocial and not kind. I was aware that the book had something to do with split personalities but fortunately I hadn’t been spoiled with the details and so the climax did come off as a shock to me. I felt that while it was representative of the dual nature of man, this form of escapism was totally unnecessary. I understand that Dr. Jekyll, tired of always being the good guy, wanted to explore the other side for a change. But he didn’t have to invest in such a risky endeavor because that is playing with one’s life and not appreciating it as much as he ought. We all at times reach a point where our personalities change due to circumstances but I don’t believe that such a drastic change is needed to balance out the good and the bad within us. A must read classic of the epistolary kind, this book envelopes you with its stunningly eerie tone and ending.

Ratings – 3 stars on 5.



Book Review — Plum Lovin by Janet Evanovich

Plum Lovin is a short novel in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich which is centered around Stephanie’s attempts to take over Annie Hart’s business as a relationship expert while Diesel protects Annie from an irrational goon with supernatural powers. Annie, wanted for murder, is on the run and staying out of the radar. Stephanie is under orders to capture her at all costs. Only Diesel knows where she is and he drags Stephanie into helping Annie with the promise that he’ll hand Annie over after everything has been sorted. So bounty hunter turned match maker, Stephanie wades through multiple relationship drama while dealing with her own problems, hoping to solve them all.

Not having read any Janet Evanovich book before, I didn’t know what to expect. This book seemed to be more of a romance genre than mystery/detective. It starts off with Stephanie talking about her boy problems and how she is confused or juggling between three men in her life. She has been assigned the task of capturing Annie Hart for murder but somehow gets sidetracked into managing Annie’s match maker job. A good majority of the novel is spent in finding ideal matches for Annie’s clients and Stephanie herself getting drawn in by Diesel’s charm and classy nature. We are made to believe that she is pushing him away but its clearly evident that she is somewhat besotted with him.

I didn’t like it much because a lot of it wasn’t believable. And I am not even referring to the supernatural powers that Diesel and other “unmentionables” have. The power to inflict a rash, while being extremely out of the box, is surely not worth the hype. The writing style is good and easy to process. I just wish there was more content and the characters were more grounded. I don’t think I will be reading any more books from this series cause I couldn’t connect with the protagonist in this one. I highly doubt I’ll be able to understand her antics in other books. If you are into books that are tethered to the love angles between most of the characters, then this one’s for you.

Ratings – 2 stars on 5.


If Jobs Didn’t Pay..

As the earth goes round,
New professions sprout.
But what if our careers
Didn’t pay us?

A job could be to money
As a stone is to a tissue-

Perhaps then we’d earn
On our character, certain points.
To be collected, spent,
Gifted and valued.

Image Courtesy – Google

A liminal bot programmed
To grant us fair wages
Would then call, “Next!”
As every being lined up
To receive their worthy share.

Could our careers then
Be free of any hassle,
That may stoop to
Undermine its importance.

Could our careers then
Be our own and not
Tarnished by other’s opinions.

A just world that would be.
A happy realm of
Blooming passions and
Voluntary learning.

If only our jobs were to money,
What a stone is to a tissue.
If only our characters
Were more than judged.

– Meera.

Indian Epics and Questionable Decisions

Disclaimer – No offense meant to anyone through this post. If it struck you as negative or outrageous, please turn the other way and know I mean no harm. This is not some rant about how silly/bad the Indian epics are (because they are not!) but a general wondering about why people do what they do. 

Now that we have gotten to a point where we don’t need to be apologetic for questioning everything we’re told, I’d like to pose a question – What’s with the numerous Indian epics and the series of mind bogglingly daft decisions that propel the story?

Image Courtesy – Google.

We are not mindless fools and we are allowed our follies, but some of the courses of action chosen by renowned characters in the epic tales makes you wonder about their logic. Their sense of reasoning is excruciatingly frustrating, to the point where yelling at the book or TV renders you the mad one. Why in the world did the cultured, familial Pandavas (of Mahabharata) think it was okay to wager their own family members for a game? And when an entire court didn’t raise an objection to Draupadi being abused, the brothers got all riled up about their lack of “righteousness”. On the other hand we have King Bindusar of the Maurya Dynasty who, for a majority of his life, lived under the influence of his multiple scheming wives, ministers and others. He was a king loud in voice but not bold in opinion. As chance would have it, his beloved wife Dharma a.k.a Subhadrangi was estranged from him because of the looming threat on her son’s and her lives. Enter the Great Emperor Ashoka who, courtesy of his mother and Chanakya’s plotting, doesn’t know he is royalty for the longest time. Don’t you think that a lot of lives would have been saved had Dharma/Chanakya decided to come clean to Bindusar and Ashoka? Trying to protect a loved one is not silly, but when that introduces detrimental complications, its better to stray away from the “highway”.

Image Courtesy – Google

Then we have Kunti who gave up Karna, her first born son, because of the illegitimacy situation.  All his life, he was faced with challenges that could have been kept at bay had society known the truth about his biological parents. Heights of injustice are crossed when towards the end, she beseeches him to not kill her other sons (the Pandavas) and so he sacrifices himself for brothers who don’t know of the shared lineage. Whereas the banishment of Sita by Ram based on the word of a fisherman appears to be ridiculously inconsiderate when compared to his natural personality which is a lot more genteel and loving. Quizzical, isn’t it!

It’s not that any of the above mentioned characters are actually incapable of rational thought but the fact that, at a time of dire need, reason seems to evade them – just wooshes past their head. For some incomprehensible reason, withholding information seemed to be the way they rolled. That was their ultimate solution to all problems. And no, the excuse that it is all for the supposed “betterment” of their loved ones/ the kingdom is rubbish. These actions/decisions were expedient if nothing else.

I haven’t read up on all of our Indian epics. And despite the fact that such instances are nerve-grating, I absolutely love the Epics – not only because they convey our Indian sensibilities but also because they propagate values like reverence, unconditional love & friendship, immateriality, determination and conquering all evil. Reading books based on these epics and then having them  brilliantly recreated into a TV series has been a boon. If you haven’t watched/read any, I suggest start with Mahabharata. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.


– Meera

Book Review — Holes by Louis Sachar

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

Camp Green Lake is a juvenile detention center situated in a deserted landscape in Texas. Stanley Yelnats, under a case of mistaken identity, is imprisoned at the camp and must dig holes everyday to complete his sentence.  The Warden at the camp is a threatening entity – to be feared and avoided at all costs. Her motives behind making the kids dig holes seem to be fishy. Stanley soon realizes that the Warden is not the only person he needs to please in order to survive at the camp. The kids (X-Ray, Armpit, Squid) already serving their terms, also demand great compromises. Somehow amidst all the frenemies, he finds a companion in Zero. Their connection is deep rooted, only Stanley doesn’t know that yet. Holes is a fantastic tale of adventure, camaraderie, ancestral connection and fate.

This is a middle grade book that is sort of timeless in its quality. Some stories go way beyond their age barriers and become more meaningful. From a bullied kid who felt inferior to a confident braveheart, Stanley’s encounters at the camp bring out the best in him. We are witness to the gradual change in his disposition. The military rule enforced at camp is infuriating. The kids live under harsh conditions and become tough through experience. Perhaps because of the estrangement of the camp from the outside world, the Warden was able to dominate everyone to her liking. There was no legal force stopping her. Digging holes as part of a punishment seemed awfully suspicious. So we begin suspecting the Warden of having ulterior motives. The characters of the children are etched out to be independent and bold, cut off from the innocence or playfulness of childhood.

Stanley teaches Zero how to read and write, which I found to be really sweet. He gets into trouble for it too, but it remains an anchor that tethers the two to surviving the difficulties they face. The book switches back and forth between the past and present. We learn of Stanley’s ancestor and other individuals who play an integral role in the current nature of events. In the end, it all makes perfect sense. The switching of perspectives is not overwhelming but not simple enough either, that you see the ending. At times I wished that Stanley wouldn’t be as submissive, but the climax makes up for it. I really liked this book and at no point was I getting bored or feeling disinterested. Recommend to those who enjoy camp stories or adventurous ones.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5.