Book Review — Encounters Of A Fat Bride by Samah Visaria

Thank you Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Encounters of a Fat Bride unveils the humiliation and harsh circumstances that an overweight woman has to undergo in order to find a groom in India. Madhurima Pandey has learnt to set aside her complex about feeling like the quintessential DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend). While all her friends find fairytale-esque romances, Madhu has devoted her time to work and study, so as to steer clear of the reality that no man in his right mind would ever choose her. But as per societal norms, marriage is the most essential rite of initiation into adulthood. And soon, her middle class family begins to invite a bevy of eligible men in the hopes that one of them would accept Madhu into their household. Samah Visaria’s novel aptly reflects the age-old customs of dowry and arranged marriage, complete with nosy neighbors and body-shaming parents of potential grooms.

It should be noted that some people may view this novel as being offensive, but I assure you that it is not. The author, in no way, propagates discriminating against “fat” brides. She is merely trying to convey to the audience that women should be confident regardless of their physical appearances.

As lighthearted as this book is, it also approaches some very serious issues like that of fat-shaming, mental health disorder, the dowry system (wherein the family of the bride compensates the groom’s family in cash or kind for going ahead with the marriage) and gender bias. While a lot of these issues are dealt with rationally, I wasn’t comfortable with the way mental health disorders were handled. You begin to think that Madhu is a very mature and educated woman, but then her sidelining of mental instability as “retarded” or “losing it” is totally not acceptable. On the other hand, through Madhu’s strength of character, we see how other negative elements are treated strictly. Her acceptance of her body image and understanding that all genders ought to be equal attempts to remove society’s misconceptions.

What’s unique is that the chapter titles feature a countdown; so you are made aware of the ending but you don’t know how that transpires. See, there’s some mystery in there too. The author’s writing style is colloquial, humorous and incorporates few Hindi terms. There are a couple of cliches, but nothing major. She makes several references to the movie industry, juxtaposing Madhu’s behavior and feelings which made light of the situation at hand. The narration is so convincing that I’d feel just as infuriated at society as Madhu does. I mean, it is appalling that people expect you to be a certain way and if you aren’t, they rain down the most horrible comments on you. I really liked the plot because it is still so relevant. Some aspects of the story were a little over the top, but you can’t expect anything less from a dramatic character like Madhu. Her character arc sees quite a change throughout the novel. Initially, she is against the idea of arrange marriage, then tired of being lonely, she begins to crave it. Even her outlook undergoes certain essential changes. Without a doubt, Madhu’s funny quips renders the entire novel so enjoyable that I finished it in one sitting. I liked the book and I look forward to anything else the author may write in the future. You should check it out!

Ratings – 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review — Glitter and Gloss by Vibha Batra

Thank you Vibha Batra for sending me a copy of your book for review ūüôā

Glitter and Gloss chronicles the¬†love¬†and work life of Misha, a twenty something makeup artist, who unknowingly spites a MVP at an event, only to later realize who he is. Things snowball from there and somehow, her and Akshay’s relationship evolves into a close knit one. But fairytale scenarios do take place in real life too and Misha finds herself battling not only work woes but Akshay’s traditional family who is not too keen on accepting her.

Image courtesy – Goodreads.

While the issue of familial acceptance has been broached a number of times before , I was intrigued by the protagonist’s profession and how that would play a part in the story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book from the start, At no point does it get draggy or uninteresting. The narration, through the point of view of Misha, is done well. The author makes use of Hindi words to fully convey the essence of the situation through Misha’s perspective and I quite liked that. The element of humor keeps the novel lively all throughout and I was cracking up a lot. The chemistry between Misha and Akshay is great. They make an adorable pair.

I greatly liked reading about her work as it added another dimension to the story. The idea of playing with narrow-minded notions added an interesting flavor to the book. I was glad that Sammy, being a non-gay guy, was shown to be her roommate till the very end (much to the horror of Akshay’s elder sister). Cause if he had been done away with, then it would just fuel the one track mind of society. Poulomi is penned to be the elder sister – bestfriend character. There were some tropes ¬†used that I wasn’t a big fan of. Such as that of the male lead being tall & handsome; that of the conservative Indian family including gossiping aunties. Sometimes I wished that Misha would think more rationally. That way she could have avoided a lot of trouble. Nevertheless, I liked the book on the whole. It makes for a fun read. I’d recommend it to everyone who loves Contemporary Fiction.

Ratings – 3.5 stars on 5.

Meera

Manga Review — Battle Royale by Koushun Takami & Masayuki Taguchi

Battle Royale is a manga series that follows a bunch of Grade 9 students who are tricked into participating in The Program which compels them to kill each other in order to survive on the island they have been sent to. They are each given a bag with the necessities like a weapon, a map, water, food etc. But just enough to keep them going for a while, after which they have to resort to other means. Spanning over fifteen volumes, the manga explores how negative circumstances bring out the worst in people. Yet many of them are alight with hope and faith in the humaneness of their fellow classmates.

Shuuya, Mimura, Kawada, Noriko and Sugimura are the main characters who influence others and try to rebel against the Program. Flash backs help us understand who these students were and what they are forced to become in order to live. A majority of the characters are killed off in the first ten volumes until only the main ones are left. Every few hours or so, certain sections of the island are made danger zones which ensures that inactivity is just not an option. In a scenario where even the minutest of movements by one has an impact on the life of another, these barely grown ups loose every sense of childhood and become endangered by the demon within. A journey that captures loss & suffering and how people cope with them, marks this series of brutality, love and camaraderie.

I loved Hunger Games when it came out. And what drew me to this manga is that. But unlike Hunger Games, there is way to much of character overload in this series. Many a times it was difficult to keep track of who died, who killed whom. And the switch between flash backs to present wasn’t an easy transition – maybe because this is my second manga series and I am not used to reading it. I really adored Shuuya, Mimura and Sugimura’s trio. They are good friends even in school and have always stood up for what’s right. Despite the extreme violent conditions on the island, we are privy to some lovey-dovey scenes between a few couples. It may seem insensitive or wrongly place but what better time to realize/express one’s love for another than when they are surely about to die.

sleep well

Illustrated by Masayuki Taguchi.

I felt that the detailing or graphic content was too overwhelming at times – gory to be specific – complete with the split gut, blood pouring, beheaded scenes. I don’t mind some violence but almost all the volumes were filled with such bloody depictions. There is some sexual content in there too. Overall, this manga is not subtle in any way. Its a very open, straightforward portrayal of the fear and wrath that engulfs people when they are pushed beyond their limits. The story is reasonably good (in an infuriating way), dialogues are simple and well thought out. The sketches were the only major thing I had some problem with. The climax and the twist towards the end are good but not brilliant. I feel quite a lot of people could have been saved had they been given a thought. If ninth graders can wield a machine gun then they can think sensibly too. Overwhelming is not a good enough word for this manga. But if you are into Hunger Games + a lot of gore, then give it a try.

Ratings – 3.5 stars on 5.

– Meera

Book Review — Bone by Jeff Smith

A lot of graphic novels have been floating around in the past couple of months and many of the booktubers I follow are going in with the surge so I decided to give it a go. I picked by the first two volumes of Bone by Jeff Smith from my college library.

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At first I felt a little childish reading them, but the characters are so darn adorable that I had to keep going. There are 9 volumes in the Bone series. They revolve around the three Bone cousins – Fone Bone, Smiley Bone and Phoney Bone. And believe it or not, they actually do look like bones. The bone cousins get kicked out of Boneville because of the greedy tactics of Phoney Bone. He is constantly trying to make money off scamming people. Now, left to their own devices they roam from place to place in search of any town where they can seek refuge. But somehow they get separated and each of the Bones go in search of the other. Smiley Bone comes across Barrel Haven and gets a job at the bar. Whereas Fone Bone and Phoney Bone, individually meet Grandma Ben and settle down in her house. Phoney Bone’s arrogance ticks her off but Fone Bone instantly becomes a sweetheart in the minds of Grandma Ben and Thorn. And so begins their story of trying to reunite and head back to Boneville after facing all the obstacles that stand in their way.

One of the things that I really like about these graphic novels is that they are in colour and that too magazine kind of glossy page. It is so much more captivating that way as opposed to black and white. The art work is brilliant and not at all amateurish. The books are so simple yet involve elements of fantasy and adventure in them. There is a good portion of humour in these novels¬†which makes them a fun read and you can easily go through 3 volumes a day. Though somewhere around the 3rd volume, it gets a little flat. Nevertheless Fone Bone is such a cutie that I am going to persevere and read the rest of the series. Smiley Bone is one of those gullible characters and listens to everything that the manipulative Phoney Bone tells him to do. Even after being provided food and shelter by Grandma Ben and Thorn, he doesn’t get over his scheming ways. Which repeatedly lands the Bone cousins in trouble. Thorn becomes the love interest of Fone Bone which I found rather cute. It is a nice bunch of books. You should definitely read it if you like graphic novels.

Ratings – 3.5 stars on 5.

Mia

Game Review — Scuba Dupa [iOS]

Been playing Flappy Birds for far too long? Want a new addictive challenging game? Scuba Dupa is new and¬†has made it onto my list of “Most Frustrating Games”.

Controls – Functions with both tilt and tap. No other keys required to play the game. Which I think is quite amazing! Particularly for a touch phone, I don’t like games that have a lot of keys to maneuver the character.

How To РBasically the game consists of this teeny tiny, presumably, human character in a scuba diving suit. We the gamers have to direct the scuba diver through a maze like structure, collect pearls and avoid being hit by the rocks, water plants, sunken ships, boards and such obstacles. We do that either by tilting our way to success or tapping precariously, just the right bit, to not cause a collision.

I don’t see this becoming a frenzy like Flabby Birds did. Maybe it should, maybe not! Its really cute but very frustrating. Every try¬†makes me want to throw my phone across the room but somehow I gather the strength to try again. Its one of those games where you have to get habituated to using the right timing and movement in order to establish a flow of good points. Another aspect that is sort of different is that every time the diver conks his head on something, he goes “Oww!” in a very funny¬†way and its soul floats away. The whole game has a very user friendly vibe.¬†The¬†graphics too are good. I have had this game for about a week and so far, no glitches. Which is great in my perspective, because a lot of other games I’ve downloaded get really slow in response and heat up the phone really fast. This one keeps you occupied and yet has simple functions. Give it a try! There’s always some spare time to pass and Scuba Dupa is actually fun.

Ratings – 3.5 stars on 5.

Mia