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Book Review: Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra by Ruskin Bond

EtherealJinxed | Book Review | Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra by Ruskin Bond

Genre: Short Story
Book Name: Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra
Author: Ruskin Bond
Pages: 108
Publication Year: 2000
Publisher: Penguin Books

What do you do when you visit a place for holidays? Do you search for books? Then welcome to my world!

I visited my in-laws place last month and at first glance, all I noticed in the book shelves were bulky and thick books of war and bygone eras which got me intimidated. For your information – I am the one who usually prefers to read light fiction unless it is a murder mystery. However, my holidays are supposed to be perfect only when I complete at least 3-4 books. And lo and behold, there was this book Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra by Ruskin Bond. And out of all points already mentioned, just imagine my happiness since I was reading this book in Dehradun itself.

Even though I had heard a lot about Ruskin Bond, I had somehow never read any of his books. So without further ado, I picked this light book (weight-wise) and immediately gave it a go. And what an absolute delight this was to read. I completed it in 3 hours straight. This book, in fact, reminded me of Jungle Book series I had watched as a kid.

Tell me what do you know about award winning writers – that they write in such complicated statements and using such vocabulary that one has to definitely read the book in Kindle, a paperback or hard bound copy will definitely not do. Ruskin Bond writes in such a language which will directly speak to you heart and remind you of your own childhood days.

A must read book for all!

Excerpt from the back cover of the book:
Fourteen engaging stories from one of India’s master story-tellers.

Semi-autobiographical in nature, these stories span the period from the author’s childhood to the present. We are introduced, in a series of beautifully imagined and crafted cameos, to the author’s family, friends, and various other people who left a lasting impression on him. In other stories we revisit Bond’s beloved Garhwal hills and the small towns and villages that he has returned to time and again in his fiction. Together with his well-known novella, A Flight of Pigeons (which was made into the film Junoon), which also appears in this collection, these stories once again bring Ruskin Bond’s India vividly to life.

About the author:
Ruskin Bond is an Indian author of British descent. He is considered to be an icon among Indian writers and children’s authors and a top novelist.

He wrote his first novel, The Room on the Roof, when he was seventeen which won John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957. Since then he has written several novellas, over 500 short stories, as well as various essays and poems, all of which have established him as one of the best-loved and most admired chroniclers of contemporary India.

In 1992 he received the Sahitya Akademi award for English writing, for his short stories collection, “Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra”, by the Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Letters in India. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1999 for contributions to children’s literature.

Rating: 9/10

 

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Book Review: Yes Please by Amy Poelher

EtherealJinxed | Book Review | Yes Please by Amy Poelher

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
Book Name: Yes Please
Author: Amy Poelher
Pages: 329
Publication Year: 2014
Publisher: Dey Street Books

Bubbling with positive energy, is the book Yes Please by Amy Poelher. Do you know who Amy Poelher is? Truth be told, I was not aware till I started reading this book.

This book was gifted by my friend Sneha who had high praises for this book and that she loved reading it again and again. And yes, I too loved the book when I started reading it. And guess what, I have never seen a single episode of SNL (Saturday Night Live) because of which Amy is most popularly known for. Funny, right? Ok, I have since watched “one” episode of SNL.

Treat this book as a light self help book or to know more about Amy. In the latter case, you might get disappointed because she doesn’t tell the too-personal tales. But I guess that is fine since she never popularized it as a book on herself or an autobiography. As a self help book, Amy gives examples in each chapter from her personal life. However, at times, it seemed like she wrote this book as a way for her to come clean on certain instances/mistakes of her life and apologize to the concerned parties.

There are many funny instances. For example, the difficulty she faces about writing, especially when one is not a writer. Sample page:

EtherealJinxed | Book Review | Yes Please by Amy Poelher

But after some time, only cribbing about not being able to write got a little too monotonous. Only if the book could have been less heavy and had lesser number of pages, it would have been perfect!

P.S – I gave up the book midway. Will visit again in a few months when I have watched more episodes of SNL to understand the reference of various names.

Book blurb:
Do you want to get to know the woman we first came to love on Comedy Central’s Upright Citizens Brigade? Do you want to spend some time with the lady who made you howl with laughter on Saturday Night Live, and in movies like Baby Mama, Blades of Glory, and They Came Together? Do you find yourself daydreaming about hanging out with the actor behind the brilliant Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation? Did you wish you were in the audience at the last two Golden Globes ceremonies, so you could bask in the hilarity of Amy’s one-liners?

If your answer to these questions is “Yes Please!” then you are in luck. In her first book, one of our most beloved funny folk delivers a smart, pointed, and ultimately inspirational read. Full of the comedic skill that makes us all love Amy, Yes Please is a rich and varied collection of stories, lists, poetry (Plastic Surgery Haiku, to be specific), photographs, mantras and advice. With chapters like “Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend,” “Plain Girl Versus the Demon” and “The Robots Will Kill Us All” Yes Please will make you think as much as it will make you laugh. Honest, personal, real, and righteous, Yes Please is full of words to live by.

About the author:
Amy Meredith Poehler is an American actress, comedian, voice artist, producer and writer. Raised in Burlington, Massachusetts, she graduated from Boston College in 1993 and moved to Chicago, Illinois, to study improv at The Second City and ImprovOlympic. In 1996, she moved to New York City after becoming part of the improvisational comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade, which later developed into an eponymous television show that aired on Comedy Central for three seasons.

Poehler was also one of the founding members of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in 1999. Poehler was a cast member on the NBC television show Saturday Night Live from 2001 to 2008. In 2004, she became the co-anchor of the Weekend Update sketch along with her friend and colleague Tina Fey. Poehler’s work on SNL earned her two Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. She is known for voicing Bessie Higgenbottom in the 2008–2011 Nickelodeon series, The Mighty B! and Eleanor Miller in the Alvin and the Chipmunks CGI films. Since 2009, she has starred as Leslie Knope in the sitcom Parks and Recreation, and received the 2014 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Musical or Comedy Series. She is also an eight-time Emmy Award nominee.

Poehler is currently starring in the new Swedish-American sitcom Welcome to Sweden along with her brother Greg Poehler.

Website: amysaysyesplease.com

Rating: 8/10

Book Review: Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

EtherealJinxed | Book Review | Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

Genre: Memoir
Book Name: Angela’s Ashes #1
Author: Frank McCourt
Pages: 368
Publication Year: 1999
Publisher: Scribner

This is a short story on how I started reading this book. I was traveling multiple times within a month, and the starting few times, this book stood out for the name and book blurb. And every time I gave my best effort on turning the pages. Even though I somehow found the book really tough because the language and tone was totally different from what I am used to reading, I did not ditch the book and continued reading – at times only 10 pages a day. I believe completing 25% of the book is when I finally found myself eager to to read the book. Funny though!

Is the book funny? Or depressing? Well, you need to find amusement in the horrible life situations else you will perish and that’s what the author Frank McCourt does by narrating the sordid, heartbreaking and a tale of sickness and death through this book of his. Makes me wonder if Limericks are based out of a place in Ireland where McCourt grew up, the way witty poems are written after every few pages!

The book Angela’s Ashes is so named because of McCourt’s mother Angela who had to suffer even more because of unwanted pregnancies, drunkard husband, no money to feed the kids, sick children, and life slowly turning into ashes (metaphorically, death).

Excerpt from the back cover of the book:
A Pulitzer Prize–winning, #1 New York Times bestseller, Angela’s Ashes is Frank McCourt’s masterful memoir of his childhood in Ireland.

“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”

So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank’s mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank’s father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy—exasperating, irresponsible, and beguiling—does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story. Frank lives for his father’s tales of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, and of the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings his mother babies.

Perhaps it is story that accounts for Frank’s survival. Wearing rags for diapers, begging a pig’s head for Christmas dinner and gathering coal from the roadside to light a fire, Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors—yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance, and remarkable forgiveness.

Angela’s Ashes, imbued on every page with Frank McCourt’s astounding humor and compassion, is a glorious book that bears all the marks of a classic.

About the author:
Francis “Frank” McCourt was an Irish-American teacher and author. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Irish immigrant parents, grew up in Limerick, Ireland, and returned to America in 1949. His first book, “Angela’s Ashes,” won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the L.A. Times Book Award. In 2006, he won the prestigious Ellis Island Family Heritage Award for Exemplary Service in the Field of the Arts and the United Federation of Teachers John Dewey Award for Excellence in Education.

Rating: 10/10

Book Review: Code Name Papa by John Murray

EtherealJinxed | Book Review | Book Review Code Name Papa by John Murray

Genre: Biography, Memoir
Book Name: Code Name: Papa
My Extraordinary Life while Hiding in Plain Sight
Author: John Murray as told to Sharon Murray with Abby Jones
Pages: 313
Publication Year: 2015
Publisher: Archway Publishing

Ever wondered how people like you in your school or the ones you knew turned out to be so heroic in their real life (not reel life, mind it!) post they joined Army, Navy, NSG etc. This book just gives a glimpse into their life and the pressures they face even after they have left the services. With John Murray visiting each act of the past, it felt like he was going through a bad trauma of the past, with jokes in between just trying to ease off the situation. There are so many people in India too still living under such sufferings – physically and mentally and they are still brave enough to face the bombs and guns again.

Code Name Papa is a biography of a war veteran and that too of a covert affair for which even the government cannot possibly claim of having such people on their payroll. Engaging, short dialogues with scenes unfolding across countries, the book is a delight to read. Reminds me of a Bollywood movie Baby in some scenes. However, it is written in a stuttering way, which hampers the tone and flow for the reader.

Recommended for all those willing to work for your government in extreme situations. All the best!

Excerpt from the back cover of the book:
Who’d have thought a bright, but fairly ordinary young man from middle class America who got just above average grades, dated the same girl throughout high school and went to church most Sundays, would grow up to eventually head a very secretive band of brave individuals – both men and women – who regularly put their lives on the line because they wanted to protect the rest of you. Yet that’s what we did, often sacrificing our personal lives (four marriages for me, all in the book) and our health (countless broken bones, major surgeries, even death) to do it.

Meanwhile you’re just going to have to call me “Papa” like everyone else around the globe has through most of those wildly unpredictable and dangerous years.

About the author:
John Murray is a Vietnam veteran who spent most of his adult life working as an undercover agent for the United States, Canada, and various European governments. He lives with his wife in a small, rural Western town, but he remains haunted by the visions of what he saw, tried to prevent or rectify.

Sharon Murray is a retired business executive who has lived in the United States and abroad. After helping John write his memoirs, she convinced him that they were worth sharing with the world.

Abby Jones is the author of several books and has written for numerous magazines. She lives on the West Coast and has traveled extensively.

Website: codenamepapa.com

Rating: 8/10

Book Review: The Painting and the Piano by John Lipscomb and Adrianne Lugo

EtherealJinxed|Book Review | The Painting and the Piano by John Lipscomb and Adrianne Lugo

Genre:  Biography, Memoir
Book Name: The Painting and the Piano
Author: John Lipscomb and Adrianne Lugo
Pages: 312
Publication Year: 2016
Publisher: ALJ Marketing LLC

There are times when you pick a book, start reading it, and then keep it aside since you did not like the starting pages. Later, after a few months, you quickly finish it from the start again till the end. That’s what happened with this book – a non-fiction genre and a true story, which I do not usually select for reading of my own volition. However, the narration of addiction and abuse has been dealt perfectly well by the authors in telling their story. It reminded me of the numerous stories which we read in the inside pages of our daily newspaper but for which we never get to know the true picture.

It’s rare to see people agree that they were wrong. And this was probably both the authors’ way of coming to full light, of admitting their mistakes and offering apologies to all those people they would have hurt in the making. However, the major part of the book was focused on the childhood trauma which resulted in adulthood crisis, and only in the last few pages do we come to find out them overcoming their all-so-consuming addiction.

This is the story of survival and hope and never to lose hope for the end is yet to come even after things seem all unfavorable and pitch dark.

Excerpt from the back cover of the book:
The Painting and The Piano is an improbable story of survival and love. Growing up more than a thousand miles apart and worlds away from each other, Johnny and Adrianne seemed to have all that a child could ask for. However, the demons of their respective mothers would tear their fragile young lives apart.

Eventually, destiny would bring Johnny and Adrianne together, but first they had to endure the painful toll that alcohol, drugs, and a negligent court system would take on them. With parts of Adrianne’s story ripped from national news headlines, their story takes them from the depths of despair and near to their first serendipitous introduction and the moment beach knew they were finally safe.

Filled with hope, inspiration, and humor, The Painting and the Piano is an unforgettable story of pain, loss, and the undying human quest for happiness.

About the author:
John Lipscomb and Adrianne Lugo reside in South Florida with their Yorkie, Holly. Both are involved in the AA/recovery community. Adrianne currently helps out at a recovery house, and Johnny continues speaking, sponsoring, and helping others in recovery.

Website: www.paintingpiano.com

Rating: 8/10

Book Review: Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

EtherealJinxed|Book Review | Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Genre: Memoir, Self Help
Book Name: Tuesdays with Morrie
Author: Mitch Albom
Pages: 210
Publication Year: 1997
Publisher: Hachette

Tuesdays with Morrie is neatly arranged in chapters and quips about the lessons of life. It closely describes the relationship between Morrie and the author Mitch. This is unlike the Self-Help books where the lessons are told first and then several examples are mentioned to explain the focus point.

Morrie must indeed be inspiring for the author to dedicate a complete book on him. However like all Self-Help books, I preferred to speed-read this book and finish it off in a dash.

Since this is a real life story, all those who came to know of Morrie (since he had a big list of friends, student and followers which incidentally, not many people command in our present times) will be touched and wanting to know more.

Recommended for those looking for Self Help books to find a meaning in their life and not be part of rat race.

Please note that I do not like Self Help books. Hence, my review is biased.

Excerpt from the back cover of the book:
Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher, or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and impassioned, helped you to see the world as a more profound place, and gave you sound advice to guide your way through it. For Mitch Albom, it was Morrie Schwartz, the college professor who had taught him nearly twenty years before.

Perhaps, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as the years passed, the insights faded, and the world seemed colder. Wouldn’t you like to see that person again, to ask the bigger questions that still haunt you, and receive wisdom for your busy life the way you once did when you were younger?

Mitch Albom got that second chance, rediscovering Morrie in the last months of the older man’s life. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final ‘class’: lessons in how to live. Tuesdays with Morrie is a magical chronicle of their time together.

About the author:
Mitchell David Albom is an author, journalist, screenwriter, playwright, radio and television broadcaster and musician. His books have collectively sold over 35 million copies worldwide; have been published in forty-one territories and in forty-two languages around the world; and have been made into Emmy Award-winning and critically-acclaimed television movies. He lives with his wife, Janine, in Michigan.
Website: www.mitchalbom.com
Twitter: @MitchAlbom

Rating: 7/10

Book Journey: Yes, My Accent Is Real

EtherealJinxed|Book Review | Yes My Accent Is Real by Kunal Nayyar

Genre: Autobiography, Memoir
Book Name: Yes, My Accent Is Real:
And Some Other Things I Haven’t Told You
Author: Kunal Nayyar
Pages: 245
Publication Year: 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

To be frank, The Big Bang Theory is my “the favorite” TV series. Be it Sheldon, Leonard, Penny, Howard or Raj, I await every week to watch it religiously, or just a repeat telecast of previous episodes. So here comes the book on the Indian lead character written by Kunal Nayyar aka Raj Koothrappali.

Haven’t heard about The Big Bang Theory, hey which planet do you live in? Just kidding! 

This book will be an easy choice to go for, for a fan like me and not so difficult, even otherwise. Nothing in life comes easy and his journey towards landing a role in this series and struggles to find the perfect fit is amusing and a pleasant read, to say the least. You could hear it in the voice of Raj, when he tales his tale from start to (no end); it’s still a journey, he is just 34. The lessons of life got too mechanical after a certain point in time, but still worth a read.

Skip the last chapter on the Big Fat Wedding with ex-Miss India (if you are more for Big Bang Theory type story-line) and you have a good book in your hand.

Excerpt from the back cover of the book:
Of all the charming misfits on television, there’s no doubt Raj from The Big Bang Theory—the sincere yet incurably geeky Indian astrophysicist—ranks among the misfittingest. Feeling like you don’t belong is something that Kunal Nayyar, the actor who plays Raj, can relate to.

This revealing collection of essays, written in Kunal’s irreverent, hilarious and self-deprecating voice, traces his journey from a young boy in New Delhi who mistakes an awkward first kiss for a sacred commitment to the grown man who meets and marries a former Miss India in an elaborate seven-day event. In between, he grapples with feelings of loneliness and being an outsider; audition triumphs and catastrophes in the showbiz Mecca that is Boise, Idaho; telling his parents he wants to be an actor and offers a bold new theory to explain to a sceptical world why being Indian is cool.

Full of heart but never taking itself too seriously, this funny, sweet and often inspiring collection of underdog tales follows a young man an earnest well-intentioned young man as he traverses two continents in search of a dream, along the way transcending cultural mix-ups, romantic misunderstandings and professional missteps that somehow miraculously prepared him for the role that would change his life..

About the author:
Kunal Nayyar was born in London and raised in New Delhi, India. He first came to the United States in 1999 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business administration and went on to receive an MFA in acting from Temple University. Playing the character of Raj on The Big Bang Theory, he has been part of the ensemble since the show debuted in 2007. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Neha.

Rating: 8/10
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