Day 163: Stop chasing shadows, just enjoy the ride

All of May went by without a book post. That should tell you how slow I’ve been going. I’m not someone who can snatch pockets of time, all the time, to finish up what I’m reading. Even when I do, it isn’t focused, so I prefer to read when I have time and mind-space to give. Add to it a string of not-so-great books that have really not presented me with any opportunity to just throw myself and be completely absorbed by them. And so, it has been oh so slowwwww. But, I did manage to read a fair bit on holiday, even though it was mostly very meh reading.

Here’s what:

Starting with the excellent book that killed the bad book streak!
The Language of Baklava, Diana Abu Jaber

A recommended this book to me over breakfast last month. We were vehemently complaining about the paltry state of food writing in India, when she strongly recommended this book, telling me it would convince me to finish my half-written food memoir. I read it over my holiday, but only managed to finish it yesterday. But just a few chapters, I knew why A said what she did.

This book is just so simply evocative. Without that typically unnecessarily flowery curly language that one tends to lean to when writing about food, the books serves up an ample dose of nostalgia, culture, immigrant stories in several essays dotted with recipes, as told by Diana Abu Jaber — born to a Jordanian father and American Mother. Diana’s writing was just perfectly nostalgic, without going into raptures, measured, beautiful writing that evoked oh so many feelings in me.

This one is a keeper. And if you love food, nostalgia and stories of culture seen through the lens of food, you will love this one too.

Ballad for a Mad Girl, Vikki Wakefield
I was in the mood for something utterly light and breezy, when I reached out to P in April only to discover she was in the same mood. So we threw a bunch of titles at each other, nothing either of us had actually read so we could recommend. Just titles that we’d found interesting and bookmarked. This was one of them.

YA meets murder mystery that also flirts a little with a quasi-paranormal-semi-mystic sort of territory. This book also skirts around mental health issues. It is the story of 16-year old Grace Foley who accidentally embarks on a paranormal experience that sets her off on an unexpected path of solving the mystery of the murder of Hannah Holt.

Despite that exciting premise, this book did not hit the spot for me. It had its moments — interesting characterisation, unexpected plot twists, complete zany story itself — but all of it just felt very fragmented and sorely missed that something to tie it all together.

Landline, Rainbow Rowell
After Ballad for a Mad Girl, I really wanted something light that I could read while in Goa. Having previously loved Rainbow Rowell, I thought I couldn’t go wrong with Landline. And so I picked it up.

But. I was wrong. This book didn’t just not cut it. It was downright terrible, and a solid waste of my holiday reading time.

Workaholic Georgie and Stay-At-Home-Dad Neal are having marriage trouble. And when Georgie bails out of the annual Christmas holiday at Neal’s parents home, the cracks really begin to show. Except it’s all very unconvincingly told.

The stupid landline is such a force-fit. Georgie’s mobile phone is always running low on battery or some such, making her resort to using a yellow landline to call her husband. Which, hold your breath, is a portal into the past.

*eyeroll*

The story plays backwards, with the details about their love story, how they met and ended up marrying, up to where they are now, is revealed in subsequent chapters, as Georgie makes calls to the Neal of the past, via the magic landline.

Sorry, maybe I just don’t have the imagination for this. But this book irritated the heck out of me.

All the Good Parts, Loretta Nyhan

Leona Accorsi is single, studying to be a nurse, living in her sisters basement and moving between several temporary jobs. She is 39. And she has suddenly been told by her gynaecologist that if she ever wanted to have kids, now is the time to hurry up and do it.

This is where the book begins. And proceeds to set the tone for the rest of it — a process of going through the should-I-shouldn’t-I rigmarole of embarking on motherhood. With far from perfect circumstances, absolutely no male persons of interest in the offing and time that is running out, Leona makes out a list of “prospects” who she can ask for “help”. These prospects range from her patients, to her nieces tutor to a fellow nursing student she knows through the online chat program her class is on.

The book is a rollercoaster ride of her figuring out which one to go with. Along the way she tests some of the important relationships in her life — with her sister, her patients, her brother in law — to the brink and back. Several seemingly odd and unnecessary side plots emerge, which constantly left me wondering where it would all end up. At the end, when I realised where they do end up, it just very very contrived and convenient.

The premise had so much promise, but I felt quite let down and found the book to be just lacklustre. Meh.

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