Neither a borrower nor a lender be

I recall getting one of my first autographed books in 2013. It was from Yasmeen Premji, the wife of billionaire Azim Premji. It was at the book launch event of her ‘Days of Gold and Sepia.’ That year, I would also get the autographed copy of ‘I’ll do it my way’ by Christina Daniels and ‘Men on my Mind’ by Radha Thomas. But I would foolishly (a few months later) lend these autographed copies to someone and never get them back.

After this incident, which still rankles, and several others where people I know have borrowed books, only to never return them or returned them in a damaged condition, I’ve become absolutely blunt (if necessary) with them that my books aren’t for lending. On rare occasions, I have deviated from this principle, but in general, I realize that people don’t value my books the way I do. And drawing boundaries with people is the only way I can have any kind of satisfactory friendship with someone.

Speaking of boundaries, I recently bought a copy of ‘Set boundaries, Find Peace’ by Nedra Glover Tawwab. I got this book recommendation from Melody Wilding’s newsletter. I have spoken about Melody Wilding before on my Instagram here. Nowadays, there is more awareness about HSPs or highly sensitive people. About 20% of the world’s population consists of HSPs. Coach Melody Wilding’s work will resonate strongly with you if you belong to this section of people. So do let me know via comments if any of what I said struck a chord. Ciao.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

The books I have been reading

  1. I’m 71% through with ‘The Murder at Lemon Tree Grove: Iqra Investigates ( Aunty Millennial Book 1) by Andaleeb Wajid. I’ve been taking my time with this one ‘coz I’m simultaneously reading other books. I love the romance between Iqra and her husband Saad. Also, I find the book a light read so far.
  2. Out of the blue the other day, I received a copy of ‘Inferno’ by Dante Alighieri, so I read 25 pages of it.
  3. I bought and read my first ‘Hole’ book by Lesley Denise Biswas with illustrations by Anupama Ajinkya Apte. The story is about a grandma who has Alzheimer’s, and this serious topic is explained in such a way that little children can understand what it is. The book also shows us how in villages, sometimes people are labeled “mad” due to a poor understanding of mental health matters.
  4. I also read ‘A Christmas tail’ by Sudesna Ghosh on Kindle Unlimited. Engaging writing, cats, and nice people make for a short story that puts a smile on one’s face. I recommend it to cat lovers! Check out my interview with the author.
  5. I have a number of new books I’ve bought recently. Will get to them in due time and post about them after reading.

There’s so much to read; so little time! What have you been reading these days?

Photo by Praveen Gupta on Unsplash

#BlogchatterBlogHop – A genre that I don’t usually read and why

First, I’d like to preface this with “Never say never” to anything. A genre I don’t usually read though is dystopian fiction. I don’t usually read it ‘coz the ones I have read so far in this genre have been bleak, depressing, and have messed with my mind. I remember proclaiming a few years back that I would never read ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood. I’d said that due to the reasons I mentioned here. But just a week ago, I was *considering* peeking at it. Which is why I say, ‘Never say never’. 😀

This post is a part of Blogchatter Blog Hop.

Book Blogger Hop

Hello Everyone!

The Book Blogger Hop is now being hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer. Every Friday, a new question is posted for bloggers to answer during the week. The purpose of the Book Blogger Hop is to give bloggers a chance to follow other blogs, learn about new books, befriend other bloggers, and maybe even receive some new blog followers.

This week’s question is:

Have you ever switched reading genres? If so, why?

(submitted by Billy @ Coffee Addicted Writer)


This is Aishwariya Laxmi’s answer to the question: (That’s me, y’all)

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

I switch up my reading genres every now and then ‘coz else I get bored, LOL. It gets monotonous to read in the same genre. I need a palate cleanser after each book, just as one needs to smell coffee beans after spritzing on some perfume. Since I read more than one book at a time most days, this switching happens automatically. What about you? Do answer the question, too.

The Bookish Blog Tag

The Bookish Blog Tag

I follow @BooksAre42(on Twitter) and subscribe to her blog. Today she tagged her readers, so since I’m one of them, I’m taking up the tag.

What are 1-3 of your favourite books of all time?

Gone with the wind by Margaret Mitchell

The Harry Potter series

Rosy is my Relative by Gerald Durrell

What are 1-3 of your favourite authors of all time?

Enid Blyton

Jeffrey Archer

Sue Townsend

Who is your favourite female character of all time?

It has to be Scarlett O’ Hara. She was brave, bold and beautiful but was also coquettish and not without her flaws. She was a human being.

Who is your favourite male character in a book?

Call me crazy, but it’s Rhett Butler.

What is your favourite mythical world?

Potterverse

What book has your favourite cover?

Any of Sharanya Manivannan’s books.

What is your favourite book-to-movie adaptation?

The Great Gatsby

If you could make any book into a movie, what would it be?

More cosy mysteries should be made into movies. Preferably with cats in them.

What was your favourite childhood book?

The Magic Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton

Fantasy or sci-fi? (Or neither?)

A little bit of fantasy and a little bit of sci-fi.

Now, tag you’re it! Do tag me on social media if you decide to take up these questions. I’d love to read your answers:)

Please help prevent the pulping of books

Hey, everyone! So, have you read Fahrenheit 451? If you haven’t, look it up.

In today’s post, I’d like to call your attention to a nationwide volunteering project started by writer Sharanya Manivannan and Asian College of Journalism alumnus Sowmya Swaminathan to get as many people, bookstores and libraries to buy Westland stock before the titles go off the shelves.  They will be pulped by month end if customers don’t show interest in these titles so we are using social media to generate interest as well as individual calls to librarians and indie booksellers. The last date for bookstores to order/buy stock is February 15, not sure if it’s the same for libraries. There is real urgency about this either way. Would be grateful for your suggestions on how the pulping of books can be avoided and the copyright protected for the creators (authors).  

Interview with Author Rajasekar KS

  1. Could you tell us what your book ‘How to read your husband like a book’ is about?

It’s about understanding the “inner mind” of husbands through everyday situations. The way they think and act and what it means is revealed through illustrations and little nuggets of insights. It’ll throw light on the behaviour of husbands and is aimed at helping married women understand them.

2. What prompted you to write a book on this topic?

An incident during my college days in 1989 triggered the idea for the book. An aunt in the neighbourhood was telling me one day, “Raj, why is your uncle non responsive when I want to discuss something, on weekends it’s difficult to get the TV remote from him, and he’s forgetful of important things…” This left an indelible mark on me. It cropped up now and then, but finally in 2015, I began to write ‘How to Read Your Husband Like a Book’.

3. When did you start working on this book? How long did it take for you to finish writing it?

As I said, I started penning this in 2015. It took me six years. I had to observe and pick the right situations that resonate with married women, so that it helped them enrich their relationship. 

Author Rajasekar KS and the book cover of his 'How to read your husband like a book'
Author Rajasekar KS and the book cover of his ‘How to Read Your Husband Like a Book’

4. What do you have to say about the institution of marriage?

Marriage is beautiful and everyone must experience it. It has stood the test of time. It’s natural for man and woman to come together but it’s nurturing when we come together and start a family. We’re made that way and I guess will stay that way.

5. What part do you think humour plays in a marriage?

Humour is an important part of the everyday wife-husband relationship and one can laugh away the worries when a spouse has a sense of wit about them. Without humour, marriage could turn out to be rather serious. But on the lighter side, marriage is also fodder for a million jokes.

6. Do you vary your style for writing different content formats? How so?

I chose short form prose laced with humour because the subject is important, the time demands it – reels, shorts, TikTok; and audience attention spans are dipping. Moreover, I chose illustrations and single page nuggets because one should be able to just open the book and read any page. I choose formats based on subject, form, platform etc.  

7. Who are some of your favourite authors?

I loved RK Narayanan, Somerset Maugham and Shakespeare. Even author P Raja, from Puducherry, my professor at college.

8. What advice do you have for newbie authors looking to get published?

Research and find the right kind of publisher who specialises in your genre. An author is a marketer, too, so create plenty of content around the subject of your book and be ready to fire on all cylinders on social media, blog, video, webinar, and more. Find where your audience is and choose the platform to connect with them. Be consistent, but more importantly persistent. It’s a 5-day match, so be ready for the long haul. Don’s lose steam, ever!  

9. Which books on writing would you recommend?

I’ve been writing since the age of seven and I didn’t really read much on writing. I just work on my craft every day, even at 54. But I’d recommend choosing some books/ courses on the art of writing better, signing up on copyblogger, following writers you like.

10. Do you have lessons to share from your own writing journey?

When I was at school, I used to keep a notebook by my side, even when I went to sleep. A writer needs to have some discipline and rigour, so write regularly. That’s something I learnt early. 

I fell in love with the Internet medium when it arrived in the world. I built Zodiacs4u, an astrology blog with 250K page views a month. 13 months later, in 2008, I sold it to a US content company. 

When Slideshare was new, I leveraged it for Impiger Mobile, where I worked for a few years, I grabbed 2000+ leads and 144k views in two years, with 25 decks.

The reason I’m saying this, writers should be curious to test and try new platforms and formats of content. Writers should explore life.

Pick up a copy of ‘How to Read Your Husband Like a Book’ on Amazon

10 classics with less than 200 pages

Some readers get put off by tomes. Some people have lost the habit of reading books and are looking to get back to it. For the benefit of these readers, I’ve compiled a list of 10 books having less than 200 pages each. Happy reading.

  1. The picture of Dorian Gray- Oscar Wilde – 165 pages

This is Oscar Wilde’s only novel. Wilde combines elements of the Gothic horror novel and decadent French fiction. It is a portrayal of the effects of evil and debauchery on a young man in late 19th-century England. The premise of the book is that as Dorian Gray lives a life of crime and decadence, his body retains its youth while his portrait reflects his debauchery

2. The wind in the willows-Kenneth Grahame- 172 pages

Four friends – the mole, the rat, the badger and the toad – go on a series of adventures. They explore the mysteries of life in the Wild Wood. They end up in a car crash, in jail, and a battle with weasels. A tale of wanderlust, this book will appeal to several generations

3. The painter of signs – R.K. Narayan- 183 pages

The painter of signs is the story of Raman, who paints signboards in Malgudi, R.K. Narayan’s fictional town. Daisy is an attractive young woman who engages Raman to paint signs advocating two-child families. This bittersweet tale of love in India reveals as much about the country as it does about its lead pair

4. The thirty-nine steps – John Buchan – 133 pages

This is the first and arguably the best of John Buchan’s Richard Hannay thrillers. Scudder, who is being chased by deadly traitors, seeks refuge at Hannay’s residence. He is soon found dead with a dagger driven through his heart. Accused of his murder, Hannay flees his home and takes on the culprits after being cleared by law

5. Bonjour Tristesse- Francoise Sagan – 113 pages

Cecile leads a hedonistic life with her father and his young mistress. When she is on holiday in the south of France, she takes a lover. However, when her father decides to remarry, a tragedy takes place

A picture of the 10 classics mentioned in the blog post

6. The prince and the pauper – Mark Twain – 190 pages

Two boys – one an urchin from London and another, a prince from a palace unwittingly trade identities. The urchin finds a life of riches while the prince is reduced to a life of rags

7. A streetcar named desire – Tennessee Williams – 142 pages

It is one of the most renowned plays of our time, winning a Pulitzer prize. Blanche Du Bois, a southern beauty meets a tragic end brought on by her insensitive brother-in-law, Stanley Kowlaski. The movie of the same name starred Marlon Brando as Kowlaski and Vivien Leigh as Blanche

8. Of mice and men – John Steinbeck- 121 pages

This novella is about two drifters – George and simple-minded Lennie. They start working on a ranch and George must keep his friend out of trouble. It is a powerful tale of friendship.

9. A room of one’s own – Virginia Woolf- 117 pages

This essay by Virginia Woolf was first published in 1929. The author develops the idea of what would have happened to Shakespeare’s sister, arguing for the value of independence for any creative writer.

10. The outsider – Albert Camus- 111 pages

Mersault is a non-conformist. When his mother dies, he refuses to show any emotion. He commits a random act of violence and again lacks remorse, which compounds his guilt in the eyes of the law and society. This portrayal of a man confronting the absurdity of human life is an existentialist classic.

My 2021 Reading List – Part 1

I’d read 55 books last year, so this year I set myself a low target of 12 books since I was experiencing eye issues. However, it is July, and I’ve already read 32 books. Here is a list. I have hyperlinked some of these books to reviews I’ve written of them.  I’ve also hyperlinked my interviews with the authors of a few of these books. How many of them have you read? Do let me know in the comments.

  1. The midnight library – Matt Haig
  2. The introvert’s edge to networking  – Matthew Pollard
  3. Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka
  4. To be or not to be a writer – Sweetycat Press
  5. Strangely familiar tales– Vijayalakshmi Harish
  6. The anatomy of scars– Arjun Raj Gaind
  7. Hate that cat – Sharon Creech
  8. Isolocation – Various poets
  9. Vignettes – A slice of life – Chandrika R Krishnan. Here’s my interview with the author.
  10. 23 letters of love – Suchita Agarwal
  11. Writing flash fiction- Carly Berg
  12. Moonletters- Dr. Saumya Goyal
  13. Women Mutiny- Various authors
  14. The adventures of the JP family- Radhika Acharya. Read my interview with her here.
  15. Three is a lonely number – Baisali Chandra Dutt
  16. Eating sugar, telling lies – Kuzhali Manickavel
  17. La Douler Exquise – Kavya U Janani
  18. Anthology of short stories- Volume 1- Edited by Jilly Snowdon and featuring my chick lit story ‘Snapshots of a single girl’s life’. It is available on Smashwords here.
  19. The cursed stone – Ushasi Sen Basu
  20. Raising Capable Children – Sakshi Varma
  21. Good Morning, Monster – Catherine Gildiner
  22. Who’s who of emerging writers 2020.
  23. The Lucy Temerlin Institute Guide to Starving Boys: Their Salient Features, How to Find Them, How to Care for Them after They Die, and Four Considerations … on Cryptodiversity and Decoherence – Kuzhali Manickavel
  24. ‘Who’s Who of Emerging Writers 2021’ featuring my bio as well! The book is available here.
  25. Side Effects of Living – Edited by Jhilmil Breckenridge and Namrata Kathait
  26. Jaya – Devdutt Pattanaik
  27. Death is my beloved – Laudeep Singh
  28. Chasing Sunsets – Vaibhav Dange
  29. Kintsugi – My flash fiction story ‘Mended and Precious’ is included in this anthology available on amazon! Do read it and let me know what you think.
  30. Tickled Pink – Five of my poems are featured here as a result of winning a competition and my content was declared “the best content”.
  31. Misters Kuru – Trisha Das
  32. Teachings of Bhagavad Gita– Richa Tilokani

“Tick-tock, we’re 30” by Milan Vohra

In yet another book club meet at Urban Solace, I met India’s first Mills ‘n Boon author who has also written  the novel,“Tick-tock, we’re 30”.

The book is about a group of friends who are turning thirty. It’s a book about love, friendship, growing up, and dealing with the demons within. So the author is quick to point out that she is not comfortable labeling it chick lit. The term ‘chick lit’ immediately brings to mind a story around two or three women characters and slots the book as a beach read. Milan says she wanted to fight the stereotypical pink cover that goes along with chick lit books and asserts that it’s more than just a light read.

The book deals with twelve characters, each of whom has a definite vocabulary, so you know who is talking without having to check the name. Difficult situations do occur in some of the characters’ lives—while one character is grappling with her sexual identity, another is facing a troubled marriage. It also explores the tenuous relationship between six women.

When asked which character she was most like, the author revealed that she was probably a mix of Nanhi and Lara. Nanhi was who she would have liked to be, while Lara is like a younger Milan, although the author is quick to add that she is more hyper and not as chilled out as Lara. Milan says that although the characters are Indian, the theme of turning thirty is a universal one that everybody the world over can relate to.

One of the working titles for the book was “O teri, we’re thirty” with the Hindi-ism in it. The author says that since the story is set in Delhi, there are Hindi words sprinkled throughout, and some people may not get it, but she’s okay with that. In fact, several international reviewers gave the book a 5-star rating, which is the highest rating one can get on Goodreads or Amazon. One reviewer from New Zealand commented that Milan really “got” the characters; if there was one teeny suggestion she had, it was that Milan include a glossary of Hindi terms in the book’s international edition.

Milan says that in real life, she and her friends had planned a reunion, but it never took place. So she joked that her book was her revenge for the reunion that never happened. Talking about the writing process, Milan says she “thought she knew where the story was going” as she was writing it, but halfway through the book, she started hating one of the characters who the girl was supposed to end up with and fell in love with another character instead. Milan says “you have to be the boss of your characters”.  Her favourite character in the book is one of the minor ones named Sita who gets “serially infatuated”.  As for the character Kalyani, Milan threw in everything that irritated her about all the women she has ever met and infused those qualities in Kalyani. Kalyani has a small role in the book, but she is one character who is truly over the top, says Milan.

One of Milan’s favourite scenes in the book is where the gang goes to see a movie, and it is set in a women’s loo. One of the characters pretends to be Vidya Balan when she overhears two women talking in the loo.

When asked whether she faced any specific challenges while writing about this popular theme of turning thirty, Milan said she was clear the book wasn’t going to be about one’s biological clock ticking. The subject of needing to get married ‘coz one was of a certain age wouldn’t be an issue in the book.

When asked whether the line between fact and fiction ever blurred in her book, Milan said “As a writer, one lives twice—once in real life and the second time, through your character.” She also points out that if you make your writing autobiographical, you can write only one book. You can’t have ten books that tell the story of your life, she quips.

Talking about how she re-energized herself while writing the book, Milan says she once took a break for two months during the writing process. She says writing makes you draw on your emotions until you feel “naked”.

She says her next book will probably not have so many characters since she found it “agonizing” to do justice to so many characters.  She took about a year to write this book and a good two-three months of it involved the “plotting stage”. 

Talking about the editing process, she said her editors removed two scenes that they found “politically incorrect”, but the rest of what she wrote has found its way into the book.  She said her advertising background helped her stay deadline driven.  Talking about the different approaches she had to adopt while writing the Mills ‘n Boon vis-a vis this novel, she points out that in an M ‘n B, there is one hero and one heroine and the ending always has to be a “happy” one. In a Mills ‘n Boon, the emotional graph of the characters is very deep. They go through intense emotions —“high highs” and “low lows”.

Some of Milan’s favourite authors include Jill Mansell and Marian Keyes.  Some of the classics she likes include Shakespeare’s King Lear, Kafka and Ayn Rand (that she read in college), and Spike Milligan.

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