Book Review — Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Inspired by Sophocles’ Antigone, Home Fire shows us the plight of a family embroiled in modern day politics and Islamophobia. Isma Pasha has been a second mother to her siblings after the demise of their parents. But her decision to move to America marks the beginning of the disintegration of their family. The twins, Aneeka and Parvaiz, find their paths diverging as he gets roped into joining the Islamic State, while trying to follow in his father’s footsteps. Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018, this novel brings up compelling truths about human vulnerabilities and manipulation.

This was one of those award winning books that I was slightly more hesitant to pick up, because it was apparent that it tackled a serious issue, one that wouldn’t allow for an “enjoyable” reading experience, in a matter of speaking. I couldn’t smile or laugh my way through the 260 pages that it took for the author to convey the story. Once I began reading it, my hesitation proved to have been not baseless. The writing style of the author just wasn’t for me and quite often, I found my attention diverted by the flowery language. A few portions of the book felt draggy and extremely slow. So while the book on the whole wasn’t one of my favorites, I cannot deny the power that the story in itself carries. It depicts to us the gradual process of breaking down someone’s mental faculties to such an extent that they become open to any kind of suggestion. And how easy it is then to channel their inner rage or turmoil into making them do questionable things.

The book is split into different sections, wherein the story is told from the point of view of different characters. I liked that about the novel. Since it is not written from first person perspective of these characters, I didn’t feel one with the book as I usually do in the case of books with such strong themes. But I was so astonished by Parvaiz’s decisions that it pained me to read about him. If I had to pick a part of the book that had been done well, I would choose the section about Parvaiz. What I would commend the author for is taking up such a prevalent topic and spinning a story around it in such a way that you cannot ignore what’s going on in the book. Overall, I would say that this is an integral read because of its premise, but I wasn’t a fan of the writing style.

What do you get out of this book? Insight into how young men and women get persuaded to join terrorist forces and how their families and loved ones get affected by their drastic choice.

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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

The Unpardonable Mistake.

Till today I wouldn’t have given a second thought to another’s misery at being mocked, at goofing up in front of more eyes than can count. In fact I openly laugh when someone slips, falls or jerks in fright. But imagine the plight of an individual who is expected to be flawless at all times and given a situation, her mistakes are the end of her career. The people she caters to, the platform that she respects have denied her the right to be human. Its harsh to say so, but why is it a lot more difficult to know people for the good they do than their mistakes? Why are viral videos those of goof ups?

As a media field enthusiast, and more importantly as a fellow being, it is not only alarming to know how cruel and purposeless people’s opinions can be but its a major buzz kill. When you are so passionate about your job and even the slightest mistake can result in a TC, you become so guarded that its no longer about the fun aspects but about doing it “right” at “all times” no matter what the situation. Having read and heard about the DD Anchor who is facing so much humiliation and disrespect because of her mistake, I think that all of us expect too much out of another. We aim for this image that no one really wants to uphold but we do it anyway. And when someone is unable to keep on the mask, we applaud ourselves for being superior, for not losing hold. We act to be perfect, we act to ‘survive”, we act to rise above all others. But who really wants to participate in this unending race? Were it not for her career in question, she need not care who thinks what. Cause at the end of the day, you’re going to make a lot more mistakes than you can keep tab of, actually more than the rest of the world cares to keep tab of. I know I hope to be a lot more supportive as a colleague, a student, an individual and urge people to flaunt their follies. Not for the fact of being human, but for being different and accepting it.

Cheers!

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

Abandoned.

Rusty oars caked with
Dust. Ripped sail billows in the
Moonlight. Stranded, huh?

The wayward wind, with
Its lightening speed, took o’er
The reins. Castaway.

None would come for us.
Where even the shadows, would
Not dare reach. Forgone.

And before we knew it, our link with the rest, was severed…. perhaps, forever. 

Mia

Restoring the Beauty

In today’s world where beauty is heightened with various catalysts, it is truly heart-warming to see natural beauty tampered by nothing. I have never been interested in sight-seeing before. But these scenic pictures are a treat to the eye. The fact that such God-given beauty still remains intact is truly astounding. You’d think that human habitation is enough to demolish such places.

There’s always been a part of me that feels strongly about preserving and maintaining such sights. Be it the place I’m living or any corner of the world. However just “feeling strongly” gets you nowhere, unless you are ready to act with conviction. Like the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words”. Living in India, there are times when I absolutely abhor being a part of this country. The condition of some areas is more than pitiful. Its in that state of broken down construction where nobody is interested in the plot any more. So then why cut down all those trees? And why leave it in a half-done state of rubble and garbage? Not long ago, the greenery wasn’t half as depleted it is now. The smell of wet mud during rainy season was something to look forward to. The flora and fauna (that were in abundance) would perfectly fit the frame, almost as if endorsing the lush forests and urging tourists to go click-click.

Nowadays… not so much! Its a great effort to prevent my eyes from tearing up when I step out of the house. Seeing the condition of such places, awakens the patriot in me. And she doesn’t like it one bit. I start getting absurd thoughts. Like of situations where I’d snap my fingers and all the dirt would dissipate, all the wilting plants would glow with life and all the jobless would be sufficiently employed. Okay, this is a little more than absurd. Its downright crazy, I know. Believe me, I am not welcoming thoughts of Godly power or anything. But a little change here and there wouldn’t be so bad, right?

You must be thinking, “if she feels that way, why ain’t she doing anything about it!”. Right on! Its true. Sitting at home and grumbling is not good enough. I’ve learnt to accept that. Now for the next step to actually do something and help revert back the beauty in our lands to those of the olden times. I believe the time will come. And when it comes, I won’t back down. I’ve faith in this generation, in all of us and our abilities. We’ll find a way, soon, and we’ll lead the change. To restore the beauty not only in nature but also our heart, mind and soul.

Mia

Korean Drama Review – Personal Taste

Hey you!
I’m back with another drama review. This one is also  a Lee MinHo starrer with Son YeJin as his co-actor and the leading lady. It has a rather unique plot and I was immediately hooked onto it. Its known as Personal Taste or Personal Preference. This show revolves around the 2 characters, JinHo and GaeIn. JinHo is an architect and GaeIn is a furniture designer. They both stumble into each other, one fine morning. But as fate would have it, they get off on the wrong foot. Later when JinHo realizes that GaeIn is the key to his  success, he decides to reconcile. He pretends to be gay in order to rent a room at GaeIn’s house.
On the other hand, our protagonist here, is dealing with a bad breakup. In her depressed and pitiful state, albeit a little hesitantly, she agrees to lease the room to JinHo. Oblivious to JinHo’s ulterior motive, GaeIn begins to get comfortable with him.  When JinHo (somewhat drawn to her) decides to help get revenge on Chang Ryul (her ex) she agrees. Amidst all the scheming and the etiquette lessons (that GaeIn obviously needs to transform into a swan),  the obvious happens. They begin to have feelings for each other. What will happen when they finally acknowledge their feelings? How long will JinHo be able to keep up the gay pretence?

I grew really fond of this drama since the first episode. It was hilarious from the beginning. There is no beating around the bush or dragging out scenes. The first few times they meet, their constant bickering was really amusing to watch. GaeIn is a clumsy, tomboyish, sensitive and innocent person. She forms strong bonds and gets attached to people  easily. And so when JinHo is even a little late coming back from work, she gets all tensed and worked up. Pacing in the house, sitting out on the steps. And a typical JinHo would snub her for being so “weak hearted and clingy”. But we all know, secretly he was quite pleased that a girl would do all this for him. He can’t hide that from us viewers and die-hard fans 😉

On to the other characters, we have Han Chang Ryul played by Kim Ji Seok. He appears to have a very charming personality apart from the fact that he dumps GaeIn for her bestfriend. Yet I somehow sympathise with him (idk why..). Maybe it has something to do with the super sweet smile of his. In the drama, he seems to be the kind of well brought up, mannered gentleman. So let’s set aside his mistakes for awhile 😀
Then we have Kim In Hee (Wang Ji Hye), a very very very bad person! I strongly detest that character. Cause more than a hundred times, I’ve wanted to yank her hair  for being so evil-queen like. The way she manipulates her words to get what she wants is just UN-BELIEVABLE! :O She’s the character that obviously causes all the trouble throughout the season. Butting into matters that don’t involve her and just simply being mean down to the core. 

Anyhow it is a drama DEFINITELY worth watching atleast once! You MUST! 😀 I believe I’m a little late for saying that. Probably the whole world has seen it and I’m the last person? 😛 Anyone out there? Not seen it yet? 😀

Ratings – 8.5/10

Mia

Korean Drama Review — Boys Over Flowers

Hey people! How have you all been doing? 🙂
So I am back with another k-drama review. Please enjoy it!


Boys Over Flowers is a show that revolves around the prestigious Shinwa High School’s  popular group known as the F4 (Flower Four?). This group consists of 4 very rich, very spoilt and extremely good looking boys (Goo Jun Pyo, Yoon Ji Hoo, Song Woo Bin, So Yi Jung) who consider themselves high and mighty (above all in the school). But when newcomer Geum Jan Di doesn’t comply to their orders and doesn’t submit to their torture, these boys are left bewildered! Never having seen such a courageous and upright person, leader of the pack – Jun Pyo, becomes fascinated with her and soon develops a soft spot.  Alas! The sensitive Ji Hoo is also looking out for gutsy Jan Di and they seemed to have formed a strong bond. Will Jun Pyo be able to get through to her before Ji Hoo sweeps her off her feet?!

From the first episode, I fell in love with this show. I mean, what’s not to love?! I keep wondering how lucky they are for having cast these 4 guys. Each of them is absolutely stunning! I think the TRP for the drama catapulted mainly because of the actors and the line of plot they chose!
Lee Min Ho plays the part of arrogant, egoistic Jun Pyo, perfectly. Kim Hyun Joong has nailed the part of charismatic Ji Hoo especially since in a report I read him saying he is totally different from the character. Kim Joon fit the role of Woo Bin well, though I wish they’d shown more about his life. I’d look forward to those moments when he’d go all “Yo Yo Man!” 😀 And Kim Bum couldn’t have done better justice to role of aesthetic Yi Jung. I have seen some of the bloopers and he seemed like a very humorous guy as in he would crack up in between shots. It always made me laugh. Moving on to the one girl who turned their lives upside down 😛 Geum Jan Di. She is a very strong willed character, a brave-heart one could say. She is the kind of girl who wouldn’t deal with any nonsense and believes in standing up for what is right no matter the cost. Ku Hye Sun totally kicked butt as Jan Di. She is fierce and also very amiable. Her bold nature makes her stand out in the crowd. There are times when she is caught between the 2 friends (Jun Pyo and Ji Hoo) but at end she knows where she belongs. Chu Ga Eul is Jan Di’s best friend and falls for Yi Jung. For love, she is ready to go to any extent (in a positive way!). She helps out Yi Jung as much as she can.

The storyline is absolutely wonderful! Its based on a manga and I hear, there are several versions of it in different languages. I wish they would have avoided the love triangle. Its does no justice to anyone! There were quite a few times I wanted to shake Jan Di and be like “make up your mind woman!!” 😛
I didn’t think I would say this, but I can totally watch the show all over again! Its that amazing! And there were times when the boys would swoop in to save Jan Di from trouble – I totally got into cheerleader mode, screaming and hooting. My 2nd favourite couple(1st being  Jun Pyo and Jan Di ofcourse) is Ga Eul and Yi Jung (right). They are just so adorable together. Not much action there but at the end we come to know they have decided to stick together and that’s great! She would make a very caring girlfriend.

Overall, just mind-blowing and very addicting. As the 2nd k-drama, I’m glad I chose this one! Hope you watch it.. if you haven’t already! 😀

Rating – 5 stars!!

Mia