Tuesday, January 25

Bling your photos..

Got some stickers,paper,loads of photos ,punches, an old desktop calendar and embellishments at hand? You can create a calendar that'll make a perfect personalized gift for your loved ones.. I saw this idea on one of the paper craft blogs I follow and wanted to make one myself.

Edit :The inspiration was from this post

My new-found obsession for all things crafty(especially paper crafts) spurred me on as I sat during wee hours of the morning snipping paper and pasting miniscule embellies on the calendar.

The first layout is for Jan and the least blingiest of all the months. I don't think I am a huge fan of bling ,but my mother thought that bling would make the calender more festive...

And some more..

Yeah,the girl in the black and white photo is me :-).Many moons ago..

I can't cut anything in a straight line-so most of my layouts turned out like leaning tower (s)of Pisa. I also went berserk with embellies,which makes some layouts look cluttered and will make sure that I go in for more streamlined layouts next time. I used the base calender from a DIY kit from Papermania that came with the dates.You can create a date layout on word and take print-outs. Also , for the first 3-4 layouts,I stuck the calender dates sheet on the calendar itself.For the subsequent months,I pinned up the date sheet, so that you don't have to put away your calendar next year. Just change and date sheet and your 2012 calendar will be ready.

Do try this out!.Apart from the fun you'll have doing the project(I did mine with my mom ),it's also a great way to flex those creative muscles that have gone limp because of non-use :-) and a wonderful opportunity to bring out those sepia-tinted photos that you have long forgotten about..Happy crafting !

Monday, January 24

Guest Post :Dhobi Ghat -Movie Review

A big thanks to everyone that voted for me.I saw Dhobi Ghat and liked the movie(a lot!).'m not sure if too many people will agree with me .The hubby is a bigger movie buff than I am, so I'm posting his views .His first review for my blog,hopefully more will follow.Read away people.

Dhobi Ghat – A review

You take a large black and white photograph of a smiling street vendor hawking vegetables in the midst of the hustle and bustle of a busy road. You put the photograph on a caravan and go town to town inviting views. Some see art in the photo, the black and white a metaphor for colorless harshness of the vendor’s life and the smile reminiscent of the endurance of human spirit. Yet some others look at the photo and see….well… a smiling vendor hawking vegetables in midst of a busy road. If you (like me) belong to the latter group of people, Dhobi Ghat is likely to leave you scratching your head, wondering what all the fuss is about. This probably explains why Aamir Khan, a savvy producer, decided to premiere the movie in the festival circuit before bringing it to the masses back home

The Plot:
An anti social artist with a troubled past, a vivacious young housewife with a troubled present, a lost investment banker with a silver spoon, the earnest young dhobi with dreams in his eyes and pain in his soul, their lives, their hopes, their muses, in a city that is always in a hurry.
The movie starts with a view of Mumbai’s sights and sounds as recorded on a handycam and narrated by a newly arrived migrant housewife Yasmeen (Played by Kriti Malhotra). You are then quickly introduced to the other key protagonists: Arun (played by Aamir Khan) a moody, temperamental artist; Shai (Played by Monica Dogra) a NRI investment banker on a sabbatical; Munna (Played by Prateik) a struggler with bollywood dreams who is a dhobi by day and rat killer by night. The film charts their lives as they intersect, form bonds, love and finally loose. Throughout the film you are treated to montages of every day life in Mumbai which comes alive as a protagonist in its own right in the movie.

My Take:
Right from the start, Dhobi Ghat has a documentary, arty house feel to it. While all the characters and their situations feel very real, the narrative as a whole is un-compelling and fails to keep the viewer involved throughout. There were several points in the movie when the focus on showcasing the everyday life of the protagonists (for instance the sequences involving Yasmeen’s narrative on everyday life in Mumbai) makes the viewing tedious. What makes sitting through such pieces possible however, is the excellent performance from the entire cast. While Aamir’s acting abilities need no endorsement, it is Prateik who delights with his standout and nuanced portrayal of Munna. Finally, for a viewer so used to seeing celluloid stories taken to a logical end, the lack of a conclusion left one wondering as to the point of it all

For a moviegoer fed on an appetite of spicy masala, Dhobi Ghat resembles a salad devoid of dressing – healthy, nutritious but unappetizing

Friday, January 21

Vote for me ,pretty please

BlogJunta has selected this blog for the final round of Best Of Indian Blogosphere 2010 under the category books. Yayyy!

Edit : The Poll has moved here. Vote for me here!.

Pleeaaasee Vote for me ,that is, if you think my blog deserves it.Polling is open till 13th Feb 2011. Thanks, guys.

How's the weekend looking,btw?. I am going to be seeing Dhobi Ghat tonite and am super excited..Loved the trailers and have been waiting for the movie to release with bated breath.

Wednesday, January 19

A Child called It by Dave Pelzer

Book name : A child called it
Author: Dave Pelzer
1558743669 (ISBN13: 9781558743663)
First published in 1992 by HCI
Genre: Memoir
My rating : 3/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

This book chronicles the unforgettable account of one of the most severe child abuse cases in California history. It is the story of Dave Pelzer, who was brutally beaten and starved by his emotionally unstable, alcoholic mother: a mother who played tortuous, unpredictable games--games that left him nearly dead. He had to learn how to play his mother's games in order to survive because she no longer considered him a son, but a slave; and no longer a boy, but an "it."

Dave's bed was an old army cot in the basement, and his clothes were torn and raunchy. When his mother allowed him the luxury of food, it was nothing more than spoiled scraps that even the dogs refused to eat. The outside world knew nothing of his living nightmare. He had nothing or no one to turn to, but his dreams kept him alive--dreams of someone taking care of him, loving him and calling him their son.

My thoughts
A child called It is by no means an easy book to read.I had read reviews about the book and had wanted to pick it up for the longest time. Now that I am done with the book,i don't know what to think about it. It is a brutal book and definitely not something I would recommend to the weak-stomached. The language is simple and the narrative linear. Dave's description of the abuse his mother puts him through is graphic and cringe inducing many times.My stomach heaved as i read about Dave's mother treating him worse than a dog by starving him and asking him to drink ammonia and other insanely inhuman things.It read like a manual on torture 101. How can someone be so inhuman to do that to her own child ,I wonder. She had to be severely damaged person .

What I also wonder about is why did it take so long for the school's management to catch up on what was wrong with a kid that routinely came into school with bruises all over him.I read elsewhere that a huge controversy was kicked up with some people accusing Dave of imagining the abuse.Whatever the truth is,I just hope that Dave has healed.
The best thing about the book ,according to me was the matter-of-fact narration .Dave story abuse and recovery has been broken up into 3 books ,when it could have been easily condensed into a single gripping book. Hope is a thread that runs through most of the book and despite the inhuman things Dave's mother puts him through,I could see his spirit shining through.

In a strange way, the more Dave's mother abused him ,the more he craved for her attention.This is something I've read about elsewhere as well as a ploy abusers make use of to make sure that the circle of abuse continues,because all he needed to do was to tell someone about his mother's abuse for his ordeal to end.
Overall,a short,gripping read.Depressing too,but definitely a book I would recommend. I'll go with a rating of 3/5 for this book and would definitely want to grab a copy of the sequel just to read about how Dave managed to put back his bad childhood behind him and forged ahead with his life.

It's also heartening to learn about Dave's efforts at educating school children about abuse by visiting schools and interacting with children. One out of five children being abused is a statistic that makes me shudder.Dave is contributing in whatever small way he can and I salute his spirit.

Monday, January 17

It's a monday !

Last week ,i managed to read only one book-Monster by J.Kellerman.I managed to go to the local book fair and another store and picked up loads of books. I managed to get the first edition of the Lollipop shoes with Joanne's autograph for a bargain and it's not even a second hand copy(yay!!).It apparently sat in the shop's storage facility for 2 years before they decided to give it away at a bargain. I guess the secret to shopping at second hand shops is knowing what you're looking for and having oodles of patience.At least when it comes to book-shopping ,I have unspeakable amounts of patience stashed up inside me :-)

I started reading this one yesterday and should be able to finish it soon. The book is exceptionally sad and about the abuse that the author,Dave Pelzer suffered at the hands of his mother.The book is very disturbing and my heart goes out to poor Dave.

I started reading Never let me go almost a week back, but had to put it away because I hought I wasn't in the right frame of mind to appreciate the book.The book has received glowing reviews and has also been adapted into a movie.I'm looking forward to finishing this book as well.

Other books i shopped last week are -The secret life of bees, Running with scissors, The Mermaid chair(also by Sue Monk Kidd), Prison and Chocolate Cake by Nayantara Sehgal,Gone with the Wind, Northanger Abbey and a book on anecdotes about writers.I also bummed The train to Pakistan by Kushwant Singh from a friend.I also have to finish two library books - The secret Son and Breathing in colour .Gosh ,so much to read and so little time!.

Have a wonderful week !

Saturday, January 15

Music from Sponge bob's gob?

Christmas is long gone,but there's this one song that I seem to be singing even in my sleep(if that is actually possible!). It all started when I saw the clipping of music made with Ipads a bunch of people from North Point Community church.There is a very high possibility that some of you'd have already seen it before,going by how popular this clip is ,but I'm sure its worth another look.

Isn't that Sponge bob square pants looking thingie cute? Now for the original song by Jose Feliciano

I am now officially in love with Spanish!.This song's somehow managed to nudge Rudolf the Reindeer off my favorite Christmas-related song/carol. Can you name all the Reindeers,btw? :-)

Friday, January 14

Monster by Jonathan Kellerman

Book name : Monster
Author : Jonathan Kellerman
Genre: Psychologoical Thriller
ISBN : 0345413873 (ISBN13: 9780345413871)
Book source: Own copy

Synopsis from Goodreads

Consulting psychologist Alex Delaware has a novel approach to crime-solving: he uses his training to unlock the secrets in the minds of the victims and jiggles the clues he finds there until the right scenario emerges. So when Alex's LAPD buddy Milo finds the hacked-up body of a woman psychologist named Claire Argent in an abandoned car trunk--the second such murder in eight months--Alex heads for her place of employment: the Starkweather State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

One of Argent's patients at Starkweather is Ardis "Monster" Peake, imprisoned for the unbelievably brutal murders of his mother and the family she worked for, including a small child and a baby. There's at least one eerie similarity between the mutilation of their bodies and Argent's: in all the bodies, the eyes were taken or destroyed. But Peake, diagnosed as schizophrenic and psychotic, is a well-behaved vegetable due to a steady diet of Thorazine, and he hasn't left the hospital since his incarceration 15 years before. How is it, then, that Claire Argent's assistant, Heidi Ott, swears she heard Peake say, "Dr. A. Bad eyes in a box" soon after he hears only the bare fact of her death? And why does Alex find Peake so empathetic, in spite of his violent past and chillingly vacant mind? When other mutilated bodies turn up, Alex and Milo begin to suspect that the real monster is very much at large.

My Thoughts
Monster is the third Kellerman novel I've read and with every book read,I like his writing even more. I picked up this book at a bargain at a second hand store as i don't normally buy my copies of thrillers and borrow them from libraries.Faintly reminiscent of The silence of the lambs and more of ,Hannibal Lecter, I found the book spine chilling and gripping.The pace is not really high-adrenaline inducing,but Alex Delaware and his LAPD buddy Milo chip away industriously at uncertainty to make sense of madness behind Monster's random babble. Narrated from Alex's point of view,Monster is 13th in the row of Alex Delaware books.I was surprised at Jonathan's style of writing -vivid descriptions and flowery words somehow don't normally get associated with crime writing,more so with a psychological thriller,but you'll find that in this book.What I find fascinating about books like these is the psychological profiling that unravels during the course of the investigations.The book gives you a sneak peak into the workings of an institution for mentally unstable criminal-Starkweather hospital in this case.It also made me wonder about the safety of the carers and the techs that man these facilities.Either they must be highly motivated or paid very well to take up a job that is fraught with so much risk.

Character-wise I can't choose between Milo or Alex and say who I liked better.I also liked the way how Kellerman lets us see a bit of Alex's personal life in between the investigations.The murders that take place are slightly disturbing and not for the faint-hearted and in most cases Kellerman describes the crime scene almost clinically,going over details of the onslaught on the victim.Almost 200 pages into the book,we get to know who the possible murderer might be and its more a question of the duo locating him.

Overall ,this might not be the best psychological thriller I've read till date, but it was good nevertheless.4/5 for this book. I recommend it to people who like reading psychological thrillers.

Wednesday, January 12

Of gaming...

Picture this- Aching joints ,croaking in misery and squealing for respite; sweat pouring from every single pore mingled with cries of misery...Sounds like some Zandu balm ad,right?.Oh,well..Life has such unfair ways of letting us know that age is catching up . I am not talking about running a full marathon or a couple of hours at the gym,but about a fifteen minute warm-up stint on my cousin's X-box Kinect.

I'm not a great fan of video games and every time my brother or friends raved about Prince of Persia and Need For Speed, I wrinkled my brows. My only allegiances were towards Mario (remember the game that had a cute guy jumping over bricks?) and strangely ,Tetris.So you can see that i am not exactly the high-octane adrenaline junkie that I sometimes profess to be.

I have played games on the Sony PS and Nitendo brigade before and must say that I loved the Kinect gaming experience.I find the concept of the human body acting as the sensor really intriguing-no crazy buttons to push or intricate maneuvering of the controls. Kinect takes gaming to the next level with their controller-free gaming environment.Imagine running a hurdle or throwing a Javelin inside the four walls of your home !Fascinating,no?.

I can see how addictive gaming can get,with kids these days preferring to play indoors on their video games rather than heading outside. I find parks and playgrounds fairly deserted ,when they should be brimming with children. All this exhilaration one can get out of a video game is fine,but is it making this generation of kids shun other forms of physical exercise?. And don't even get me started on the mindless violence some of these games involve.Even if it is just role-play ,trigger-happy kids don't spell balanced childhoods.

I shouldn't be complaining,because i found the 15 minute session invigorating and for someone who doesn't fancy hitting the gym much,this is an excellent way to lose calories.But somehow when I see my little cousins glued on to their Play stations,barely grunting in response to their parent's pleas for getting out more,I do wonder if there are more banes to this one than what meets the eye.

Thursday, January 6

The lollipop shoes by Joanne Harris

Book :
The Lollipop Shoes (Published as The girl with no shadow in the US)
Author: Joanne Harris

ISBN: 978-0-385-60948-7
Publisher : Transworld
Pages: 459

My rating : 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads
Since she was a little girl, the wind has dictated every move Vianne Rocher has made, buffeting her from place to place, from the small French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes to the crowded streets of Paris. Cloaked in a new identity, that of widow Yanne Charbonneau, she opens a chocolaterie on a small Montmartre street, determined to still the wind at last and keep her daughters, Anouk and the baby, Rosette, safe. Her new home above the chocolate shop offers calm and quiet: no red sachets hang by the door; no sparks of magic fill the air; no Indian skirts with bells hang in her closet. Conformity brings with it anonymity and peace. There is even Thierry, the stolid businessman who wants to take care of Yanne and the children. On the cusp of adolescence, an increasingly rebellious and restless Anouk does not understand. But soon the weather turns . . . and into their lives blows the charming and enigmatic Zozie de l'Alba. And everything begins to change.

My Thoughts
I started this book with a lot of expectations and i am happy to report that I enjoyed it thoroughly. Joanne Harris's Lollipop shoes is like dark,creamy chocolate with a hint of spice-totally heady and difficult to resist. Narrated from three POVs(Yanne, Anouk and Zozie), the narrative flows seamlessly. I loved how Joanne let a huge chunk of the narrative be told from Zozie's perspective- I don't really think i have read too many novels that have been narrated from the Villain's point of view.Also,even the minor characters seemed etched out and the writing exceptionally vivid.Despite being a sequel to Chocolat, this one reads like a stand-alone book.I don't think not reading the first book before tackling his one matters much.

The spells,totems,fables and stories about faeries and witches that Zozie and Yanne mention make the book more exotic and fascinating.It's no secret that I am a huge fan of magic realism-Joanne's book is a fine specimen of that genre.The writing is measured,yet intimate and warm,just like the characters in the book. There is something dangerously appealing about a slinky,chameleon-like villain and I loved Zozie's character the most(even more than Anouk and Yanne.). The bullying and name-calling that goes on in schools also forms a huge part of the story -atleast when the narration is done from the perspective of the eleven year-old Anouk.

Joanne's writing is breathtaking and flows beautifully.This has to be one of the best books I have read in a long, long time and I don't think I can rave enough about it. People who are fascinated with the art of chocolate-making will love the details that Joanne shares with us and the book is about good food as much as it is about anything else.

Sample some of her writing ..

"That red-orange flare as the fire spread ,leaping and tumbling and sommersaulting like an evil acrobat from a rail of scarves to a trapeze of dreamcatchers and finally to a stack of books."

"The problem is me.I just dont match.I'm the wrong shape,somehow the wrong colour.I like teh wrong books.I watch the wrong films in secret.I'm different whether they like it or not and I sont see why i should pretend otherwise."

Overall,an awesome book I'll recommend to lovers of good fiction.A full 5 on 5 from me.I am going to hunt down and read every single book written by this incredibly talented lady.

Monday, January 3

Mailbox Monday (1) and What's on my shelf

So,how have the first few days of the year been for all of you?.I'm having loads of fun and even surprised myself by posting a review already. This is my first post for Mailbox Monday,a gathering place for booklovers to share the books that came into their lives (:-)!!) last week. It is hosted by RoseCity Reader.

No books came in for review last week,neither did i buy anything for myself(Surprising!) .I picked up a few books from the library.My TBR for the weeks to follow:

I haven't read Chocolat,only seen the movie,which i thought was awesome. I've been hearing rave reviews about Joanne's writing and decided to pick this one up,even though it's supposed to be the sequel. 100 pages into the book,I am loving it !

I read too much of fiction and not enough travel writing.I picked up In Xanadu in an attempt to read more out of my comfort zone.The hubby is a travel-writing enthusiast and often monopolizes the book till the due day stares upon our faces,so i am not sure if I'll get time to read this book. I read Darymple's Nine lives and loved it and am looking forward to reading more of his stuff.

Breathing in Colour was picked up on a whim- I loved the cover's vibrancy. The blurb on the book's sleeve also sounded interesting-it's about a woman's search for her missing daughter.

I also have a author requested review to finish(Review coming soon).What's on your bookshelves?

Saturday, January 1

A concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers by Xiaolu Guo

Title: A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 1st 2007 by Chatto & Windus (first published 1981)
ISBN :0701180382 (ISBN13: 9780701180386)

Synopsis from Good reads

Twenty-three-year-old Zhuang, the daughter of shoe factory owners in rural China, has come to London to study English. She calls herself Z because English people can’t pronounce her name, but she’s no better at their language. Set loose to find her way through a confusion of cultural gaffes and grammatical mishaps, she winds up lodging with a Chinese family and thinks she might as well not have left home. But then she meets an English man who changes everything. From the moment he smiles at her, she enters a new world of sex, freedom, and self-discovery. But she also realizes that, in the West, “love” does not always mean the same as in China, and that you can learn all the words in the English language and still not understand your lover.

Drawing on her diaries from when she first arrived in the UK, Xiaolu Guo winningly writes the story in steadily improving English grammar and vocabulary. Freshly humorous, sexy, and poignant, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers is an utterly original novel about language, identity, and the cultural divide.

My Thoughts:

Sometimes when you read a book that makes you laugh and cry all at once and you wonder what kind of a book that is- a good one, I have realized .Xiaolu's book is a poignant ,yet funny tale of a young Chinese girl who arrives in London with shiny eyes and unending reserves of curiosity to learn English.Written in the first person narrative,almost like a diary,the first 100 odd pages almost reads like a chicklit - breezy and funny. As the protagonist, Z tackles English breakfasts,the infamous" English weather" ,dodgy lodgings,intricacies of English grammar and hosts of other "English" things, Xiaolu will enthrall you with her wit and funny observations, all written in deliberately bad English.

I fell in love with the protagonist,Z,whose earnestness made the book all the more special for me.Gradually,as Z settles into her life in London and falls in love with a man, the tone changes. What starts off like a borderline chicklit starts getting deeper and more philosophical and you can certainly sense the metamorphosis Z goes through from the wide-eyed carefree foreigner to a self-introspecting ,slightly jaded individual.Understandably, as you progress through the book,you can see the change in Z's language and her grammar.As Z discovers Sex ,love and independence,she struggles to find a balance between her Chinese sensibilities and the expectations of a western civilization.

The book took me on a nostalgic trip ,where several years ago I found myself in a strange country,struggling to grapple with my new life and battling strong feelings of "taking the next flight back home". Xiaolu captures this sentiment rather well and Z's loneliness comes across clearly. I absolutely loved the way every chapter started with the meaning of a word that Z encounters- these entries are from the dictionary she carries with her at all times.

Overall,a beautiful book that I would recommend to everyone. Towards the end,it might get a little bleak with more philosophical overtones,but on the whole you'll love the journey the book takes you on. 4/5 for Xiaolu's book.Doesn't the cover look fab? LOVE IT!!