The Thursday Morning Breakfast and Murder Club by Liz Stauffer – An Excerpt

The Thursday Morning Breakfast (And Murder) Club by Liz Stauffer is a debut mystery novel, published by Sartoris Literary Group. It is murder mystery which follows Lilly Mae and other ‘breakfast club’ ladies, who help the police in tracking down a killer.

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 Book Cover

Here’s a short excerpt:

“Clare’s dead!”

When she spoke the words, her voice was so low it was barely above a whisper. The sturdy woman with short, curly red hair dropped the handset back into its cradle and began to pace, the phone still ringing on the other end of the line.

Lillie Mae Harris stopped at the front window, taking no notice of the white buds that were just opening on the two Bradford pear trees in her front yard, or the spring flowers peeping through the freshly hoed soil in the close- by flower bed. Her thoughts were of Clare.

She had the best view in Mount Penn from this window. On a winter’s morning she could see for some thirty miles out over the valley with the big blue sky as the backdrop. The night view was even more amazing, offering a shower of dancing lights in the distance competing only with the brightest stars.

It was now early spring and the vista had already begun to shrink even though the trees were just beginning to bud. Once the trees were filled out with big green leaves the view would pull in even more until fall when the colors exploded and the view once again took one’s breath away. But today the scenery did nothing to still Lillie Mae’s pounding heart or quell her shaking hands. She couldn’t stop worrying about Clare. Rushing back to the phone, she scooped it up, and punched in a familiar number.

“Hello.” Alice Portman answered in her sweet Southern drawl, after just one ring. Her Jack Russell terrier, Alfred, barked in the background.

“Clare’s not answering her phone this morning,” Lillie Mae said. “I’m so worried about her, Alice. I’m not sure what to do.”

“Settle down, Lillie Mae,” Alice said, shushing Alfred. “Why are you more concerned today?”

“You were at the water meeting last night,” Lillie Mae said. “You saw how Roger was acting. Yelling and screaming like an idiot. When he’s gotten that riled up in the past, Clare’s been his punching bag.”

“Well, yes,” Alice agreed, deliberately slowing the pace of the conversation. “But, Roger was just being Roger last night, dear. Just showing off. I didn’t see anything unusual in his behavior. Certainly nothing to make you so worried this morning.”

“He was acting worse than usual,” Lillie Mae insisted, still pacing the living room floor. “And I’m sure he drank himself crazy when the meeting was finally over. That’s the real reason I’m worried, Alice. You know how he is when he drinks. What he does to Clare.”

“Roger playacts, you know, when it suits him, Lillie Mae,” Alice said, her voice still soft and cool. “He knows he’s going to make a lot of money hooking people up to the public water in a few short months, but he wants to come across as the good guy to his neighbors, not the money grubbing fool that he is. He’ll use every wile that he has to seduce the community. If the project fails, which it won’t this time, he looks like he’s the man who stopped it. If it passes, he wins big time.”

“You’re probably right, Alice,” Lillie Mae said, calming a bit. “I know Roger is shrewd. If he wasn’t always out there trying to make a deal, he wouldn’t be Roger, I guess.”

“So, stop overreacting, Lillie Mae. What’s brought all this on anyway?”

“I’ve been calling Clare’s house all morning and nobody answers the phone,” Lillie Mae said. “It’s stupid, I know, but I picture Clare lying on her kitchen floor, needing my help. Dead, even.”

A sigh escaped Alice’s lips. “You’re way over dramatizing this morning, Lillie Mae,” she said. “Roger’s not even home. He drove by me in that stupid yellow Hummer of his while Alfred and I were out on our early morning walk.”

“That’s good to hear,” Lillie Mae said. “Stop imagining the worst, Lillie Mae. Clare’s probably out, too. It’s such a warm spring day. Doesn’t she usually go grocery shopping on Wednesday mornings?”

“Maybe,” Lillie Mae conceded. “Or she could be in her garden, I guess.”

“She’ll call you back when she gets to it,” Alice said, a hint of impatience in her voice.

“I doubt if she does.” Lillie Mae’s voice broke. “She rarely calls me anymore. We’ve been such good friends for so many years and I miss her, Alice. I wish I knew what I did wrong.”

“Clare’s changing, Lillie Mae. She’s getting stronger. Give the girl some space.”

“I’ve noticed a change, too,” Lillie Mae said, “since Billy went off to university. She does have more confidence, I’ll give you that.”

“Have you written your article on the water meeting for the Antioch Gazette, yet?” Alice asked. “I thought it was due today.”

“Not yet,” Lillie Mae confessed. “I’ve been too worried about Clare.”

“Maybe being busy will take your mind off things that are not really any of your business,” Alice said.

“I guess you’re right,” Lillie Mae said. “Clare’s a big girl and can take care of herself.”

“I know that well,” Lillie Mae said, then suddenly turned serious again when her thoughts returned to Clare. “I’m walking down to Clare’s to check things out before I start on the article. I need to make certain she’s all right, or I won’t be able to concentrate on my work. Do you want to come along?”

“No, you go on, if it’ll make you feel better,” Alice said. “You can fill me in on the details at dinner this evening.”

About Liz Stauffer: Website | Twitter | GoodReads

Book Review: Hitched – The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage by Nandini Krishnan

The question of marriage hovers threateningly over every woman in India, as much as she may want to avoid it. Every single person in our society thinks it is their duty to make sure every single girl gets married (either that or sympathize with the parents of an unmarried girl). With more girls stepping out of homes and giving equal priority to a career and family life, it gets increasingly difficult to find a suitable boy. Hitched : The Modern Woman and Arrange Marriage is a collection of stories about real life women (and some men) and how they have maneuvered the difficult lanes of arranged marriage. It is also something like a how-to with different women giving advice.

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The author, Nandini Krishnan (Image Source)

The author has spent a lot of time in talking to women from different backgrounds and religions and with different expectations of the kind of life partner they wanted (and luckily got). It also features stories of women who have not been very successful with arranged marriage which they ventured into for entirely wrong reasons. The author tries to put rest all the worries that a girl might have when contemplating arranged marriage.

What the book says seem very authentic and a reader would connect as it indirectly comes from the mouth of various couples that the author has interviewed. It’s also witty as it talks about funny first meetings and strangely behaving prospective grooms.

The book will make you laugh at some places and encourage you at another. It may seem at some point that women take marriage as something you can’t avoid and make your best with whatever you get. That is because of the wide spectrum in which the author has conducted her interviews, with only one thing in common- they are all modern women who are independent and don’t wish to compromise their happiness any longer for the sake of ever complaining parents-in-laws or the pressures of conforming to standards of society.

About the book: Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage | Nandini Krishnan | Random House India | Non Fiction | 253 pages | Rs. 299.

Note: A copy of this book was provided by the publishers, Random House India, for review.

Book Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon is an interesting book. It caught my attention when I read somewhere about Shannon being the next J K Rowling. It also led me to interview her and she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, in the middle of her graduation and the book release. The Bone Season also got a mention in another piece on this website, called August Book Releases. I was extremely delighted when Bloomsbury sent me the book! And now, I have finally finished reading it!

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The Bone Season is part of a seven book series with Paige Mahoney who is the main character. Paige is a dreamwalker and she has the ability to delve into the minds of other people. In the dystopian world that Shannon has created, all clairvoyants are outlawed and their abilities are termed as ‘unnatural’ which leads to persecution. However, Paige gets abducted after an accident one day and transported to another city where Rephaites, creatures from another world, reign supreme. It is also a place where, seemingly, clairvoyant abilities are prized, although for entirely different reasons. But still, Paige is not truly free and is assigned to a ‘Keeper’ called Warden.

I love it when authors use a lot of musical references to set the scene. Samantha Shannon has used a lot of interesting songs in the background to set the proper mood. These are the ones that Warden plays on his gramophone. You can find the playlist on her blog. This is one of my favorite songs. 

The relationship between Paige and Warden is interesting but I wonder how that’s going to turn out in the next book. I am still not sure about the intentions of certain characters in this book who profess to be ‘good’. Sometimes, things seem to be too easy for Paige (of course she’s a prodigy but yet). There are so many things that I would like to say about the plot and the characters but I would then be giving it all away, which would completely destroy the whole experience of reading The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon.

Through this book, Shannon also explores the true meaning of freedom. Which is better? Living in a world where there’s always a risk of being hunted down? Or living in a world where you are essentially free to walk anywhere and yet, there are boundaries you cannot cross and self-respect goes for a toss when you are essentially a slave to the whimsies of another race of people. Another theme Shannon explores is the politics of ‘protection’, or the heavy price of ‘being protected’ by another race.

The Bone Season is neither Harry Potter nor is Samantha Shannon another J K Rowling. You can’t really compare J K Rowling with anybody. However, Samantha Shannon creates her own unique space with this book. The magic is in the world that she creates. It is fascinating yet an equally frightening dystopian world and Shannon brings out human fallacies very well.  

And thus, I wait anxiously for the second book in the series.

About the book: The Bone Season | Samantha Shannon | Bloomsbury Publishing | Fiction | 463 Pages | Rs. 499.

Note: A copy of the book was provided by the publishers, Bloomsbury Publishing.

Book Review: The Competent Authority by Shovon Chowdhury

The current status of our chaotic country seems to be an extremely fitting time for this book to be written. With our country riddled by dishonest, utterly inept politicians, a failing bureaucracy, a police willing to act only at particular instances, a media perpetually high on steroids, shrewd spiritual leaders (better to call them businessmen, no?) and people divided by stupid things like caste and religion, the book ‘The Competent Authority’ by Shovon Chowdhury is a commentary on the prevailing social and political conditions in India.

With 452 pages and a small sized font, at first this book seemed to pose a challenge to me. Lately, things have been hectic and I have found it hard to sustain the energy to write on this blog, after a long day and the commute in the metro. However this book is anything but boring.

The book The Competent Authority is a witty take on life in the year 2050 in a scenario when cities like Delhi and Mumbai do not exist (at least not in the same form we know them today) because of a war with China (they got nuked). Bengal has declared itself to be a Chinese protectorate and India is controlled by a bureaucrat known as the competent authority, with the PM only being a figurehead(Oh well, not that it is quite different in real life too). The competent authority is invisible to the public and is a megalomaniac with a desire to go down in history as the one who successfully spurred economic growth and reconstruction. Not satisfied by the ongoing reconstruction efforts which have managed to do little ‘re-construction’, the competent authority wishes to ‘re’-start the ‘re’-construction process completely. This, he aims to do so, at great cost, even if you disregard the whole madness of his scheme. Essentially, this is a story of how he is stopped from carrying out his mad plans.

There are many interesting characters who join him, especially Ali – an Al Queda member who isn’t much of a terrorist, Banani – a school teacher who is not as helpless as her husband seems to think, Pande – the epitome of the paunchy Indian policeman or Pintoo – a character without whom the book would be incomplete. Actually, the book would be incomplete even if one of the other characters were to be removed.

The writing is funny and simple, neither compromising on the laws of language (or the ‘literary’ quotient, if you may choose to call it so) nor becoming obtuse to the reader. At the start, one may get a little confused when so many characters are introduced at quite the same time. However, the author has listed all the characters in the book at the start, describing them in a short and funny way.The Author has made fun of everybody, whether it be spiritual leaders running a business in the name of faith, bureaucrats, Bengalis, communists, capitalists, dynasty politics, right wing fundamentalism and even Honey Singh (Yey!).

This is a satire but at the same time, the book becomes sensitive at certain places, giving time to the reader to meditate and take it all in, the whole meaning of life, hidden somewhere in between the different layers of sarcasm, speculation and irony. Extremely poignant are two scenes, one in which Gandhi talks about himself and what’s he done, to Chatterjee, who’s been sent into the past to save Gandhi. The other scene has one of the central characters losing his hand. The book also leaves you with a positive message, albeit a little cliched.

About the book: The Competent Authority | Shovon Chowdhury | Aleph Book Company | Fiction | 452 pages | Rs. 495.

Note: A review copy of the book was provided by the publishers, Aleph Book Company.

Debut Author Interview #3: Shovon Chowdhury and The Competent Authority

I had started the Debut Author series so that the readers of the blog could get to know about the authors also, apart from new books. At the same time, it is important to talk to debut authors who are unique just because they bring something new to the table. I have been trying hard to talk to interesting debut authors and I hope you are liking this feature till now.

Today, we learn more about Shovon Chowdhury, new author on the block. Chowdhury does not seem to be one of the new (and typical Indian MBA/Engineer) authors who ‘write’ books to satisfy a particular segment of the population.

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Image Source

Shovon Chowdhury is at his witty best when he answers some of the questions I pose to him. Do read my review of his latest book ‘The Competent Authority’ before reading this.

1. Tell us something about yourself.

I was born in the UK, and came back to Calcutta when I was 10, because my parents wanted me to be an Indian citizen. So I’m a reverse immigrant – the opposite of Jhumpa Lahiri, or Shilpa Shetty’s husband. I didn’t run away. They made me run back. I had to take a crash course in Bengali. I think I know Hindi as well, but other people don’t always agree. 

We’ve lived in Delhi for the last twenty years. I know it has its problems, but I’m very fond of it. When people complain about Delhi, I always think, they should have lived in Calcutta under Jyoti Basu. It was a place were you couldn’t breath without Party permission, and anyone who did any actual work was viewed as an enemy of the people. Also they painted the tip of the Shahid Minar red, lending a whole new meaning to the term ‘erecting a monument.’

2. What inspired you to write this book?

The news, mostly.

3. Is the Competent Authority based on a person in real life?

I’m not supposed to talk about that. I could be arrested for sedition, or under Section 66A of the IT Act for ‘causing inconvenience’. But he’s real, alright. Who do you think comes up with all the procedures for spectrum allocation? Who was in charge of disbursing Rs 70,000 crores in Maharashtra for irrigation, leading to a 0.1% increase in irrigated area? Who declared Section 144 for 30 days in the town of Thiruvananthapuram, to prevent Dengue? Who do you think makes sure Durga Shakti Nagpal’s transfer orders are properly drafted? He’s all around us.

4. The ending seems a little abrupt? Will we ever come to know what Banani manages to do? Are you going to write a sequel?

I always wanted to end it that way, from day one. Don’t ask me why. I know it’s very simple, but sometimes, life is simple.

I think that’s it for Banani. But you shouldn’t worry. She looks like a delicate flower, but she can take care of herself.

Regarding the sequel, yes, but it’s more of an equel. It describes events that happen at the same time, in Calcutta. That’s where Sanjeev Verma the mining magnate disappears to. I caught a lot of flak for poor writing and loose ends, because he vanished suddenly. I was hoping people would miss him. Apparently some people did. Next time I’ll add a footnote.

I thought Calcutta under Chinese rule might be a fun place to visit. Both parties are equally horrified. Plus there’s the Kolkata Knight Riders under Chinese management, and the lamentable imitation of a Royal Bengal Tiger.

5. What happened to Ali?

He’s roaming the villages of Bengal, spreading the songs of Bob Marley.

6. Was this book difficult to write?

Not at all. I finished it at least six times.

7. The book has released at quite a fitting time. We have Loksabha elections coming soon and everything seems so wrong with the world. Was this release date deliberate?

I took eleven years to write it. The timing had nothing to do with me. I was still messing about with it, because it needed improvement. David just snatched it away from me and sent it for printing. It’s like an exam. At some point, they take away your answer script.

His answers are much like his debut novel, The Competent Authority- witty, playful and yet say a lot. Order a copy now and read this book!

The author on social media-

Follow on twitter: @shovonc

Blog: www.shovonc.wordpress.com

Debut Author Interview #2 & Book Review: Supriya Dravid – A Cool Dark Place

A Cool Dark Place by Supriya Dravid is a very interesting novel. Essentially, it is about Zef and her family. No, wait. It’s about Zef’s family and how she comes to terms with her family and it’s history. Like they say, you can never truly escape your past. It’s about Don, her grandfather who’s charming and at the same time, notoriously selfish in the way he wants to hold on to his daughter, who is Zef’s mother. It’s also about her relationship with Gravy, a man she’s always thought of as her father. Most of all, it’s about finding yourself through the past as memories keep traveling back and forth.

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Supriya Dravid says, “I’ve been writing all my life. It is the only thing I don’t fear. I wanted to write this book as I was coming out a tough relationship, and I wanted to create another future that I would be happy to look forward to. And this book was just that. It gave me something to wake up for, and gave me a new drive to live, breathe and engage with these characters at all hours of the day – when I was awake and even in my dreams. I wanted to create this parallel universe that I could escape into and this book did just that. Even though the book has a dark tone, it was a happy preoccupation for me.”

Zef, the main protagonist (No, wait, that would be Don, he manages to be omnipresent, much to his daughter’s annoyance) is a young girl with a family which undergoes a series of tragedies. Mostly created because of one man that is Don. The book starts on a somber tone with Gravy’s death and her mother is severely heart broken. This is when the both of them really start talking and her mother walks into the past, narrating bits and pieces to escape the void that has been created by Gravy’s suicide. But wait, let me not give away the whole book because there’s a lot of things that both the reader and Zef discover as the story moves on.

I asked Supriya, “Zef is an interesting character but we learn more about her family than her. You haven’t really shown us her life apart from that with her family. Was that deliberate?”

She answers, “Yes, that was deliberate. Mostly because the book is not about Zef, it is about her family as seen through her eyes. It is about how she makes sense of her world through the chaos that descends in their lives, and its impact on her. The madness that ensues does not allow her to escape her family’s past – at least for the moment.

I loved the characters in the book. They are all eccentric and endearing at the same time. I really liked Zef’s mother. She loves with no holds barred. That is primarily her philosophy of life. Gravy is a sweet character about whom you learn a shocking secret. Zef’s grandmother is another curious character in the book. But the one guy who beats them all is Don, Zef’s grandfather. I think he is the reason Zef narrates this tale.

“Yes he is so bloody psychotic, isn’t he? Some aspects of Don’s life are loosely based on my maternal grandfather. But a lot of it is also imagined and inspired by many other interesting people I’ve met”, says Supriya Dravid.

I wonder if Supriya Dravid will write a sequel to this book. I sure would want to see Zef again, but this time with her future as the main theme of the book rather than the past.

“The thought did occur to me and a lot of people have asked if I will do a sequel. To tell you the truth, I haven’t really thought of Zef’s future. A lot of it has to do with allowing the reader to imagine the impact on what she has learnt and what she has chosen to keep as a secret will have on her future. I think some stories should not be meddled with any more. I want to let it lie (for the time being at least). They need to breathe and exist just as they were meant to be. I’d like to explore another story with a different tone, texture and a narrative that stretches and terrifies me at the same time.” says Supriya.

Dravid’s writing is beautiful. There is a natural flow in her words and her descriptions are profound. There are some books you read just because you want to appreciate the beauty of the written word and this is one of them.

Random Trivia: Supriya David’s favouri authors and books are Dom Moraes, DBC Pierre, Jim Carroll, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith, Truman Capote

About the book: A Cool Dark Place | Supriya Dravid | Random House India | Fiction | 256 Pages

Note: An advanced review copy of the book was provided by the publishers, Random House India.

Lady, you’re not a man !

I finished reading ‘Lady, you’re not a man’ by Apurva Purohit, on a journey back from Mumbai.

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Image: Source

I went to Mumbai as I was one of the 25 shortlisted persons for Bloomberg TV’s show ‘The Pitch’. The fact that I didn’t make it to the top ten meant that I did not have a return ticket planned and paid for. There was also the possibility of staying an extra day in Mumbai, the next day being a holiday for ‘Rakshabandhan’. It also meant a chance to meet up old friends, make some new ones, spend some time watching the waves lash on to the shore at Marine Drive,most importantly a break from the ‘adult’ world that I suddenly felt thrust into, after my post graduation, which sometimes felt a little stifling after all the freedom I got at MICA. Hence, I was looking forward to spending time in Mumbai. Mumbai, that supposedly safe and sound place. The city that never sleeps.

And while I was re-blogging a poem called ‘Free’ (oh, the irony!) on this website on Independence Day, a journalist was being gang raped in the city that never sleeps. The fact that she was a photo journalist assumes more importance than the person she is. Why? Because, most of the times, our professions define us, some thing without which we’d be quite lost. Your profession gives you independence and a lot of times, it becomes a quiet source from where to derive strength and confidence. But what if our identity gets lost some day? What to do, if it’s just not safe any longer? Do you sit at home, ‘protected’ ? Of course, that would be an equally foolish thing to do, considering the number of rapes that happen AT home.

This was supposed to be a straight forward review of the book ‘Lady, you’re not a man’ and a Q&A with the author, Apurva Purohit, CEO of Radiocity. However, after hearing the news about the recent gang rape in Mumbai, I guess this has turned out to be something more.

The book Lady, you’re not a man by Apurva Purohit is about how women face a lot of challenges both at home and at work. Prime among them, are concerns of the glass ceiling, stereotyping of women, safety of women in the workplace, handling both domestic and professional life at the same time, etc. Apurva Purohit regales you with witty stories which illustrate her reasoning. Her writing is smart, crisp and funny. She tells you how you can succeed even if there are some odds stacked behind you. It’s also how, as a woman, you need to realize that even men face stereotyping and certain things are unfair to men too.

The book is quite relevant to women like me who are working and especially to others who are  both married AND working. If you take me for an example, I work in the FMCG Industry. It being only 4 months since I joined, I am at a Management Trainee position, at a stage where I am expected to learn the in and outs of the market, work in the same way that my sub ordinates would work, till I am deemed ‘ready’ to be given the responsibility of managing people. It’s not a proper ‘corporate’ job (the definition of ‘corporate’ being a job in an air conditioned office), according to my mother, much to her annoyance. It involves  getting your hands dirty handling distributors, salesmen, store owners every day and not to forget, travelling to all sorts of neighborhoods in Delhi. But wait, I like my job. It’s challenging and I get to see lot of places that I would never normally visit. I am also learning things about marketing and consumer behavior which I never would in a class room. To tell you the truth, I get some kick out of trying to prove that I can do it too, in spite of being a female and hence, ‘the weaker sex’, although it’s a little unfortunate that there’s a need to prove this. (Blah 😛 )

After reading the book, I got in touch with Apurva Purohit by email and asked her some questions. Being a true professional, she got back to a lowly blogger (It’s not like this blog is the ‘Time’ magazine) like me, quite quickly.

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Apurva Purohit

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The first question I posed was, “Somehow, at the workplace, I have felt the need to work harder than the men around, as if to prove that women can also be professional. Isn’t it unfair that stereotypes of women ‘not being serious about work’ and only interested in ‘talking on the phone’ exist and we need to doubly work to overcome them?”

Yes, firstly stereotypes do exist and we all have to work hard to overcome them. So the hysterical female boss, the kitty party attending housewife, the over protective mom are images that we need to deal with. Having said that I think society stereotypes everyone , so even men have stereotypes operating against them. I think we just need to recognize that women haven’t been specifically singled out for this dubious honor!”, she answers.

But at the same time, I face a risk everyday (as do so many women), just because of the fact that I am a female and the next person on the street could be a potential rapist/molester (although I do still have more hope from men that not everybody is bad after all).

She continues, ‘I see a lot of women today enthusiastically picking up the gauntlet of entering male dominated industries. Working with the organization to neutralize external negative factors is one way to tackle this issue; so asking for pick-ups and drops to ensure safe travel, ensuring the organization is taking necessary precautions in selecting the right travel partners etc are some of the things women in these industries should certainly push for. I think today there are very few jobs that women cannot do because of physical limitations and those jobs in an innovation or knowledge based economy are becoming fewer in any case.”

She is right in what she says. Organizations need to step up the way they treat their female employees and the facilities they provide. And it is probably up to us to demand for them, although in certain cases, it feels stupid doing so. I am not sure whether any grocery shop owner, out of the 20 shops that I visit on a normal day, would take me seriously me if I were picked and dropped at each place. And very unfair to my male colleagues who do the same job and get the same pay. At the same time, I don’t want to be ‘protected’ all the time. Rather than me always worried about how I will reach home late at night, I want the men on the streets to be afraid of me and the police.

My mother has palpitations when she comes to know I am going to come home late. My father conveniently (and very diplomatically) disappears behind the newspaper when we have a fight, as to why I can’t sneak out from work and go shopping with her. She has come to terms with my job now but she is always worried. I don’t blame her but I wish I could allay her fears and wish for a safe place to live and roam around.

My next question is, “Sometimes, parents seem to be the biggest obstacles to a career when they prevent you from doing things which may not be ‘safe’ but are still important for you to do your job properly. How do girls deal with them?”

“I think we all need to co opt our family members into our careers so that they become equal partners in its success and failure . This can happen only if we discuss everything about our jobs with them and ask for help . I see many young girls today don’t want to tell their parents things in a false sense of protecting their privacy and the poor parents are unable to judge what is required to do a job properly . As parents they will worry about safety and such issues especially with girls. It is the women’s job to allay this fear”, says Apurva Purohit.

‘Lady, you’re not a man’ is an interesting and quite apt title for the book. The title feels like an extremely sarcastic male (or female) telling you that you can’t do shit because you’re not a man.

Apurva Purohit explains, “Through this title I am trying to say two things  1 ) I am telling the women that you don’t have to be male like to succeed and 2) I am equally telling society and people who have often taunted women that you can’t do this because You are not a Man, that we women can do equally well just the same.”

I ask her about the hardest part of writing this book. “I have been used to writing a blog which is actually an exercise in saying the maximum in very few words ( 300-400 words) so actually writing a full chapter around one message  which required  more verbosity without becoming boring was the biggest challenge”, she says.

She has managed that quite well. This book says what it wants to say without boring you. There are enough real life stories, in her witty voice, to make you identify with the woman. What I liked most was that she encourages women not to feel guilty about their life choices, whether you are working or not working, having a baby or choosing not to have one, going to the post office party cum networking event or staying home to look after the ‘home’. We are not superwomen and we don’t need to constantly feel bad about not being able to fulfill everybody’s expectations. At the same time, she asks women to behave like true professionals and not expect to be treated with extra ‘care’ something I agree with. How can we expect to be treated as equals if we demand special privileges (passed on as a result of our conditioning in a patriarchal culture) which are not really required?

I tell Apurva Purohit she’s come a long way. To lighten the Q&A, I ask her if there were to be a movie made on her, who would she cast as herself.

She appears to be humble as she says “I don’t think I have come a long way or anything. I got into leadership roles very early in life and as they say you become competent through practice and 10000 hours of doing something.  Having run organizations or departments for the last twenty odd years has made me good at what I do ! I can’t think of  a film being made on something like this but I like the strong Hollywood actresses like Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon and Sandra Bullock .. so possibly them…”

I ask her what she does in her spare time. “I am very  much a homebody and I like spending as much time as I can at home with my family and some very few close friends. I enjoy reading a lot, specially crime fiction which is my passion, and love travelling. My holidays with my family are my one big luxury and I also have a weakness for heritage jewelry.”

This is where I stop talking about ‘Lady, you’re not a man’. Every time there’s a rape, I feel uncomfortable and disturbed. I can only hope that things will be better one day and we won’t have to feel scared most of the time, irrespective of whether we are doing our jobs or having fun roaming around in the streets. At the same time, a salute to all the women who want to make a change by fighting back, whether it is the 22 year old photojournalist or a friend who ‘accidentally’ gives a whack (I am hoping it was at a place where it hurts the most) with her umbrella to the man who passes by and calls her ‘mast’ (nice). Kudos to all the women who brave the streets every day. A change can only come when we go out into the streets instead of ‘safely’ sitting in our homes.

I am hopeful of a change. Till then, as my friend Hirak keeps telling me, ‘Chin up, be brave, be beautiful!’

(Beauty is often a reflection of what you are feeling inside yourself, not your face or your figure.)

Note: A copy of this book was provided for review by the author/Rupa publications.

‘I’d much rather the book was viewed in its own right’ – An Interview with Samantha Shannon

Very rarely, does a 21 year old manage to get a break in the Literary world. A three book deal (out of a seven book series) with Bloomsbury Publishing is what has shot Samantha Shannon, a student of English language and literature at St. Anne’s College till recently, to sudden fame. Out of all the books releasing in the month of August, the first book of the series, The Bone Season (releasing on 20th August, 2013), seems to be most eagerly awaited by literature lovers around the world. On top of it all, the movie rights to the book have already been bought by Imaginarium Studios. And yet, Samantha has just graduated from College.

Very kindly, Samantha answered some questions in an email interview to Books and a lot more.

Source: The Bone Season Facebook Page
Source: The Bone Season Facebook Page

 “It’s such a huge relief. There was a point at which I was worried I wasn’t going to pass my degree — my mind was often on the book, not my studies — but fortunately I ended up getting the grade I wanted,” said Shannon, on being asked about how it feels to have graduated.

No doubt, she is relieved, having done with graduation and now, she has the release to look forward to. There are also enormous expectations. She had been touted as ‘the next J K Rowling’, even before her books have released.

On being asked about it, Samantha said, “The ‘next JK Rowling’ tag originally came from the similarity of the book deals: seven fantasy books with Bloomsbury. There’s really nothing more to it than that. I don’t think The Bone Season and Harry Potter are particularly similar — I’d much rather the book was viewed in its own right. Besides, why do we need a new JK? The original is wonderful as she is.”

What she says is true. Every book has a right to be viewed as a piece of unique writing. No doubt, The Bone Season promises to be unique and magical. I ask her how her writing was discovered by Bloomsbury.

“The Bone Season got some attention at the London Book Fair 2012; my agent took it there shortly after he took me on as a client. He also sent the manuscript to Alexandra Pringle, who is editor-in-chief at Bloomsbury. Alexandra doesn’t normally publish fantasy, with the exception of The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, so when she offered me the deal it was a huge surprise — I couldn’t quite take it in. It’s still overwhelming over a year late”, she replied.

Samantha continues, “It doesn’t really stick to one genre — I just wrote the story I wanted to write, regardless of what I call ‘genre etiquette’. I think boxing books into categories discourages experimentation in fiction.”

The Bone Season, is essentially a series about Paige Mahoney, who works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The year is 2059 and a security force, known as Scion, controls most of the major cities of the world.

The work Paige does is not ordinary. She breaks into the minds of others to look for information. She is what is known as a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and clairvoyants are outlawed in this world. But then she is kidnapped and arrested, and the prison is a separate city-Oxford, not on the map and an otherworldly race known as the Rephaim. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army and Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. If she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

I am curious about the main character, Paige Mahoney. I ask her whether she’s a strong character and if she’s been modeled on somebody in real life.

“No, I didn’t — she’s completely imaginary. Paige came to me very suddenly; her voice just appeared in my head and flowed on the page. She is ‘strong’ in that she’s relatively independent, plucky and has a powerful sense of what she perceives as right and wrong, but she’s also very vulnerable — she has a lot to learn, both about others and about herself. Under all the bravado there’s a young woman who isn’t sure of her place in the world,” says Samantha.

I ask her about her favorite parts of the book.

“I have a few favorite parts, but the one I most liked imagining was when Paige enters a butterfly’s dreamscape. I also really love the dialogue between Warden and Paige. They’re polar opposites in many ways, but it’s one of my great pleasures to write the interaction between them. “

I wanted to know about her, what made her tick. “If I’m not writing I’m usually reading. I’m very book-orientated”, she says.

It’s not easy to be a published writer by the age of twenty-one. Many people harbor a dream of writing a book someday but never really sit down and write. Instead, they wait for that ‘perfect’ moment when a great plot line will strike and words will automatically flow. Some who do write, lose heart when publishers do not think the writing is worthy enough to be published.

Samantha advises, “Don’t be afraid to experiment, be open to constructive criticism, and most importantly, don’t give up at the first hurdle.”

Now that she is free from college and studying, Samantha has already started work on Book 2 of the series.

She informs, “I’m working on Book 2 in the series at the moment. I want to give my full attention to The Bone Season and its sequels for the foreseeable future, but I do have a couple of other ideas for novels up my sleeve — but I’m unlikely to write them until after this series is complete. “

It looks like we’ll have to wait a while for those other ideas from this talented writer. But thankfully, we have a whole new series from her to look forward to and devour!

If this interview with Samantha Shannon is not enough for you and you want to know more about her, you can follow her on Twitter (@say_shannon) or on her blog. Her Pinterest page is also quite interesting, with information about her characters in the book!

The Bone Season, releases on 20th August, 2013. Check out the trailer of the book below:

You can also pre-order the book using the links below:

 
 

Books releasing in August 2013

July’s gone and August has already started! It’s that time of the month when you are no longer broke. It’s that time of the month when you get that long awaited SMS on your mobile. It’s that time of the month for which you slog the whole month. Finally, you don’t need to gaze wistfully at the glass front of your favorite book store, which you pass by everyday while going to work. And of course, since it’s pay day, it’s time to BUY MORE BOOKS !

And here comes BOOKS AND A LOT MORE to the rescue ! Check out this list of books releasing in August !

1. THE WHITE PRINCESS by Phillipa Gregory, Simon & Schuster

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Phillipa Gregory is famous for historical fiction, especially ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ which also got adapted into a movie, starring Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. ‘The White Princess’, the latest novel by Gregory is part of ‘Cousin’s War’ series. Philippa Gregory has a reputation of breathing life into female historical figures who would otherwise never get any space in popular media.

Buy The White Princess from Flipkart.com

2. THE CUCKOO’S CALLING by Robert Galbraith/J K Rowling, Hachette India

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J K Rowling, who needs no introduction, wrote this novel under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith to publish without hype or expectation, till the truth was inadvertently revealed, after which it topped the best seller lists. Having finished reading this book, I can say that this is a MUST READ (Full review here). I hope to read the next book in the series and wish it comes out soon. The book releases in India on 5th August, 2013 (Tentative).

Pre order The Cuckoo’s Calling on Flipkart | Amazon

3. THE BONE SEASON by Samantha Shannon, Bloomsbury

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‘The Bone Season’ is a story set in 2059 with a female lead, Paige Mahoney. This is the debut novel of Samantha Shannon, who signed a six figure book deal with Bloomsbury, to publish the first three books in a seven book series. Film rights for this book have already been optioned by Imaginarium Studios.

Pre Order The Bone Season 1st Edition from Flipkart.com

4. CROWFALL by Shanta Gokhale, Penguin

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Shanta Gokhale, a novelist and an art critic, narrated the conflict between tradition and contemporaneity in her marathi novel ‘Tya Varshi’ (In That Year) published in 2008. Crowfall is the English translation of the same work. Steeped in sensuous detail, ‘Crowfall’ takes in art and identity, music and communal madness, and the clash of the old and the new to etch a finely nuanced portrait of contemporary Mumbai.

Pre-order Crowfall on Flipkart | Amazon

5. THE COMPETENT AUTHORITY by Shovon Chowdhury, Aleph Book Company

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The book is set in India, a few decades into the future, when all is not well. Mumbai does not exist on the map, Chinese have nuked large parts of the country, with Bengal being a protectorate of China, etc. The book is a funny satire on Indian Society and as per reports, it is “a superlative feat of the imagination that is unlike anything you have ever read before and will appeal to readers of literary fiction and avid fans of timeless, wildly satirical, comical masterworks such as Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut and Animal Farm by George Orwell.”

Pre-order on Amazon | Flipkart

6. THE ORCHARD OF LOST SOULS by Nadifa Mohamed, Simon & Schuster

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Mohamed’s debut Black Mamba Boy was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and many other awards back in 2010. Her latest is set against a backdrop of political upheaval in late 80’s Somalia and follows the stories of three different women, whose lives are thrown together as their country descends into a state of civil war.

Pre-order The Orchard of Lost Souls on Flipkart

7. A COOL DARK PLACE by Supriya Dravid, Random House

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This is Supriya Dravid’s first novel. A mother daughter bond formed in the afterlife, memories stored in Ziploc bags and the horrific struggle to piece together a past that’s been through the shredder, A Cool, Dark Place is all of these plus the unsettling realization that one’s life was ghost-written by two drunks.

Pre-order on Flipkart | Amazon

There are also other books that are expected to create some noise in literary circles being released in August, which aren’t going to be released in India as of now. Only imported editions will be available online and probably in certain book stores. They are as follows:

1. The Glass Ocean by Lori Baker, Penguin

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The Glass Ocean’ is Lori Baker’s first novel although she has three short story collections to her credit. In the novel, 18-year-old orphan Carlotta Dell’Oro imagines the story of her parents and her own existence. The writing has a dreamlike and lyrical quality and is expected to delight connoisseurs of literary fiction.

Check out the book on: Amazon | Flipkart | Goodreads

2. Necessary Errors by Caleb CrainPenguin

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Crain is a literary critic and journalist. ‘Necessary Errors’ is his debut novel. It is about the lives of 20 somethings living in Prague. In Harper’s Bazaar, Emily Cronin describes Necessary Errors as “a sparkling first novel by the literary critic Caleb Crain about youth, ambition, and self-invention in early-’90s Prague.”

Check out the book on: Flipkart | Amazon | GoodReads

3. The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara, Knopf Doubleday

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In 1950, a young doctor called Norton Perina signs on with the anthropologist Paul Tallent for an expedition to the remote Micronesian island of Ivu’ivu in search of a rumored lost tribe. This book is an anthropological adventure story and a thriller, all rolled into one.

Check out the book on: Flipkart | Amazon | GoodReads

4. The Color Master by Aimee Bender, Hutchinson Press

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Aimee Bender is the author of the best selling book ‘The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake‘ and she returns with this collection of short stories. She has proven herself to be among the most imaginative, exciting, and intelligent writers of our times and is known for her surreal plots.

Check out the book on: Flipkart | Amazon | GoodReads

5. After Her by Joyce Maynard, Harper Collins

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‘After Her’ is a coming of age story of Rachel and her sister Patty along with being a thriller about a serial killer. Joyce Maynard is an American author best known for her memoir ‘At Home in the World’ and a short affair with J D Salinger. ‘To Die For’, a movie starring Nicole Kidman, is based on her novel with the same name.

Check out this book on: Amazon | GoodReads

6. The Good Lord Bird by James McBride, Penguin

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The book is about a slave boy who disguises himself as a girl to escape the pre-civil war unrest and joins John Brown‘s anti-slavery crusade. He is the author of the American Classic ‘The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to his White Mother‘. James Mcbride is also a rockstar in the Rock Bottom Remainders, a band consisted of acclaimed writers.

Check out the book on: Flipkart | Amazon | GoodReads

There are a lot many books releasing in August but mind you, only the books bound to be good have been mentioned here. Cool

This shall now become  a regular feature and other posts COMING SOON are:

1. Book Review of ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ by J K Rowling/Robert Galbraith

2. Top Non Fiction Books releasing in August

3. Books with Indian Authors releasing in August

Expect a lot more in the coming weeks !

Note: All images in this article have been taken from different sources and none of them belong to me. Dates mentioned are tentative and may change.

Book Review: Boomtown by Aditya Mukherjee

The review of the newly released debut novel Boomtown by Aditya Mukherjee is finally here! I wanted to read this book for namely two themes that I am always interested in- food and entrepreneurship.

Source: Boomtown: Facebook Fan Page
Source: Boomtown: Facebook Fan Page

About the author: Aditya Mukherjee is a recent graduate of IIM Bangalore and currently working as a strategy consultant in Delhi. He has studied computer science, economics, had a start up and been, very temporarily, a published cartoonist. Boomtown is his first published novel. Read more about him in an exclusive interview given to Books and a lot more.

Boomtown by Aditya Mukherjee is a book about JJ, Roy, Jaaved and Sheetal, young people who get running to start a chain of fusion restaurants. This is a story of these folks and the problems each of them face in accomplishing the same. Much of the book revolves around food and life in the Delhi region.

JJ is eccentric but an endearing character. The credit for successfully starting the venture ought to go to him, as he is the one who recognizes Jaaved’s potential and bring all of them together. The last chapter where he is the sole actor is emotional although very short. I thought it could have been better.

Jaaved never fails to surprise. As the plot develops, you realise that he is not your simple boy from Chandni Chowk. He is rebellious but controlled, a contradiction itself.

Roy is the archetypal Engineer who doesn’t know why he studied engineering, with archetypal parents who believe in white collar jobs and how only professions like engineering, doctor, MBA, etc can bring success and respectability for a person in society.

Sheetal is a brave single mother, who is bored of her job and begs to do something different. She appears confident but in the end, seems quite desperate for some happiness in her life. And starting this venture is exactly what she needs.

Although the plot is quite predictable, it is funny and a light, breezy read that does not fail to entertain. People in the Delhi Metro (that’s when I get the most time to read) stared at me when I would frequently smile or laugh a little bit too loudly, quite frequently, I might add.

This book is full of lovable characters, especially Dara and who walks in and out of the book repeatedly and JJ’s cousin who doesn’t seem to have enough clothes (or doesn’t seem to want to wear them, anyway). Shareef bhai has impeccable comic timing and you can’t help but love Saraiya, Sheetal’s mother. It is aptly named ‘Boomtown’ as it also silently pokes fun at hurried development in a city like Gurgaon. On the whole, it reminds you of how you need to follow your instincts, sometimes. It makes you think of that idea you always had for starting your own business but never quite got around to doing something about it.

Other details about the book:

Publisher Rupa Publications
Publication Year 2013 July
ISBN-13 9788129124074
ISBN-10 8129124076
Language English
Binding Paperback
Number of Pages 123 Pages
Book Type Novel

Note: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.