Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book #50: LibraryLove December 8, 2010

Life of Pi: The Unabridged Audiobook by Yann Martel

Book description~ Pi Patel, a God-loving boy and the son of a zookeeper, had a fervent love of stories and practices not only within his native Hinduism, but also Christianity and Islam. When Pi is sixteen, his family and their zoo animals emigrate from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship. Alas, the ship sinks–and Pi finds himself in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi. Can Pi and the tiger find their way to land? Can Pi’s fear, knowledge, and cunning keep him alive until they do?

What a curious and fun book! Sharing a life boat with a Bengal Tiger? No problem! Learning how to fend for himself? No problem! In a more modern version of Noah’s Ark-meets-Jungle Book-meets-Madagascar-meets Castaway, Life of Pi marks the second Man Booker Award Winner that I’ve read, er listened to, this year (Room, the first). If you are an animal lover, you’ll be fascinated by all the zoological (no, it’s not pronounced ZOO, it’s pronounced ZOE-uh-logical) references and whimsy of this novel. Son of the Pondicherry zookeeper, Pi comes of age as he learns from his family just how truly wonderful zoos can be, if run properly. He learns an appreciation and understanding for animals unlike most young boys, AND an appreciation and understanding of many religions that prepares him for his life’s journey.

“Just beyond the ticket booth Father had painted on a wall in bright red letters the question: DO YOU KNOW WHICH IS THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL IN THE ZOO? An arrow pointed to a small curtain. There were so many eager, curious hands that pulled at the curtain that we had to replace it regularly. Behind it was a mirror.”

The Patel family pack up their zoo animals on a Japanese Cargo Ship to emigrate from India to North America. When the boat sinks, Pi the castaway is left to fend for himself and you won’t believe what happens! I found myself laughing out loud throughout my morning commute listening to this audiobook. This is one of those books that everyone should read before they die, it’s very existential…IF you can get past some of the more graphic survival scenes midway through the book. Martel’s writing style is both artful and humorous.

Although this book is told in a non-linear way which I normally like, because I listened to this one, I’d want to go back and re-read this again in 2011 when I have time to read the print novel. The author’s structure was a bit distracting on audiobook whereas in print I think it’d be a nice palette cleanser in between Pi’s adventures. This audiobook also took me longer to finish so I would have enjoyed it a bit more having more solid time to devote to it. If you’re going to listen to this audiobook, I recommend you save it for a roadtrip so you can listen to it without interruption to keep the momentum going.

The elements of fantasy make Life of Pi really fun for all ages, yet also make you appreciate and view your world in a more detail-oriented way. I highly recommend this book for both young and old if you need a stocking stuffer for your young adult or friend, and look forward to revisiting this again next year. From friends of mine who have also enjoyed this novel, it’s even better the second time around.

4/5 stars

Almost finished Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet; stay tuned for my review later this week!

50 down, 2 to go! Hallelujahhhhhhhhhhh!




Book #35: LibraryLove July 9, 2010

The Blue Notebook by James Levine

Book description~ A haunting yet hopeful story of a young Indian prostitute who uses writing and imagination to transcend her reality. An unforgettable, deeply affecting tribute to the powers of imagination and the resilience of childhood, The Blue Notebook tells the story of Batuk, a precocious 15-year-old girl from rural India who was sold into sexual slavery by her father when she was nine. As she navigates the grim realities of the Common Street–a street of prostitution in Mumbai where children are kept in cages as they wait for customers to pay for sex–Batuk manages to put pen to paper, recording her private thoughts and stories in a diary. The novel is powerfully told in Batuk’s voice, through the words she writes in her journal, where she finds hope and beauty in the bleakest circumstances. Beautifully crafted and deeply human, The Blue Notebook explores how people, in the most difficult of situations, can use storytelling to make sense of and give meaning to their lives.

So I did it. Yep. What’s done is done. I broke my book buying ban. BUT with good reason, I promise. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that Fabookulous and I get our books for this challenge from the library, Paperbackswap or from friends on loan. The only time we buy new books (with a coupon I assure you) is for author friends of ours who come to our area for book signings. Even then, many of those books are gifted to our friends or family.  The Blue Notebook was just released in paperback on July 6th and I read it in preparation for my book club’s July discussion. What made me more than happy to buy this book, was knowing the author’s royalties from U.S. book sales are all being donated to the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The beauty of this challenge is in books like The Blue Notebook. This book captivated me, saddened me,  and hooked me from the first sentence. I’ve been so sleep deprived, preoccupied, in the midst of catching up with family and friends, being out-of-town two weekends straight, trying to get things ready to entertain the entire month of July preparing for our guests. Are you exhausted yet?? Great- now you can understand that by the time my head hit the pillow, I’d read a page or two and my eyelids closed. I actually think I’ve mastered the art of sleeping w/ my eyes open. Yes, I have many quirks! I digress…

I picked up two “light reads” that I’d been waiting for from the library and I just couldn’t get into them. I have a rule that if by 50 pages in, I’m not invested in the story or the characters, I simply move on. This year is flying by and there’s no time to waste on mediocre books.  I jumped into reading this month’s book club selection as soon as it hit bookstores in paperback and I was glad to have gotten into a GOOD, albeit sad book!

“When clay dries in an oven, it is changed from a soft, malleable form to a solid, defined one; once baked, the hardened clay can never be molded again, only broken. A few hours earlier I had entered Gahil’s house as a soft glob of warm clay. I would leave there a hardened, useful vessel.”~ Batuk

I’m very much looking forward to our book club get together in a few weeks to hear what my fellow book babes think of Batuk’s story. It’s pretty impossible not to feel changed and with a new perspective on your own life after reading about Batuk’s daily struggles. She somehow maintains an optimistic outlook and generally happy existence. How on earth she does this is definitely worth reading. You will not be able to put this book down. This quick read shares the power of the written word and crosses culture, race and geography. Using pencil or pen, her blue notebook (or whatever blank paper is accessible) as her diary, and her vivid imagination, Batuk finds escapism in using her gift of imagination. The artistry, imagery and metaphors used to describe Batuk’s circumstances are amazing. They also become her coping mechanism in putting her mind elsewhere than feel the pain inflicted by men like Uncle Nir and Master Iftikar.  The author’s ability to evoke naiveté yet worldliness at the same time, as if we were truly inside the head of a 15-year-old , is breathtaking, captivating and emotional. If you liked Memoirs of a Geisha, I think you will understand how socially important this novel is.

“True regret is a veil, and like all human emotions it serves to soften the impact of reality. It is a failed belief that we cannot experience the true brilliance to the light, but it is through fear that we veil ourselves from that brilliance. We cloak ourselves in layers upon layers of regret, dishonesty, cruelty, and pride.”~ Batuk

In reading The Blue Notebook, my eyes are open wider to a topic that is near to me already. This novel is based on a real girl, who doctor-turned-author James Levine encountered in Mumbai.  Batuk’s story is a testament to human strength. We simply cannot close our minds, or ignore the inadequacies in our society and abroad.  One of my best friends is affiliated with Made By Survivors, an organization part of the Emancipation Network. The Network is managed by a woman who advocates against human trafficking. They give survivors of human trafficking an outlet for making their own income so they can escape the persecution and poverty they once knew. Their mission is to “improve the lives of slavery survivors through empowerment and education, to assist rescue shelters by offering job programs and funding, to improve rehabilitation and reintegration, and to prevent trafficking in high risk communities”. Made By Survivors programs are supported not only by donations, but also by the efforts of survivors themselves, who design and create unique fair trade jewelry, bags and gifts. 100% of profits are donated to survivors and shelters.

I hope you will buy this book and read Batuk’s story in The Blue Notebook. I hope it raises your awareness about the horrors of human trafficking. I hope you will re-evaluate the minutiae you complain about on a regular basis because let’s face it- if you’re reading this blog, you’ll agree we have it pretty damn good here!!

For more information on this book, please visit www.

5/5 stars

35 down, 17 to go!




Book #25 LibraryLove May 10, 2010

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Book description~ On the eve of the monsoons, in a remote Indian village, Kavita gives birth to a baby girl. But in a culture that favors sons, the only way for Kavita to save her newborn daughter’s life is to give her away. It is a decision that will haunt her and her husband for the rest of their lives, even after the arrival of their cherished son.  Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor, decides to adopt a child after making the wrenching discovery that she will never have one of her own. When she and her husband, Krishnan, see a photo of the baby with the gold-flecked eyes from a Mumbai orphanage, they are overwhelmed with emotion. Somer knows life will change with the adoption but is convinced that the love they already feel will overcome all obstacles. Interweaving the stories of Kavita, Somer, and the child that binds both of their destinies, “Secret Daughter” poignantly explores the emotional terrain of motherhood, loss, identity, and love, as witnessed through the lives of two families – one Indian, one American – and the child that indelibly connects them.

Gowda’s debut novel, Secret Daughter, follows both The Merchants, Indian family in Bombay and The Thakkars, a blended Indian-American family in California, spanning 25 years of global struggle. Both families’ struggles are so different yet as I read on, became so intertwined they paralleled one another. The shear THOUGHT of Kavita Merchant having to give up her daughter, Usha, because the poverty-stricken India in the 80s favored sons, made me sick to my stomach yet intrigued me at the same time. The bond a woman shares with her unborn child she nurtures in her body for almost an entire year is an intense one unlike anything else. I can’t imagine what Kavita went through. Then, Kavita struggled through the ‘unspeakable’ with her first baby girl, before Usha, and a tough first trimester with her third pregnancy waiting to find out the gender ultimately learning she was carrying a boy she could keep. We also follow Somer Thakkar, an American doctor who is married to an Indian man. They try and try but cannot have children. They decide to adopt and, as you can guess, end up adopting Kavita’s daughter, Usha, unbeknownst to Kavita.  The older Usha gets, the more and more she seeks answers and acceptance. Usha never quite felt bonded to Somer- she longed to know about her biological family and never felt like Somer embraced the Indian side of their culture. Usha found it easier to assimilate with her Indian classmates because they taught her more about her own culture than her parents did. It made her seek out an opportunity to go overseas even more as she grew up and matured. The turning point in the book happened when Usha earns a journalism fellowship in India for an academic year. Usha is excited for the possibility of finding her birth parents but finds much more along the way. Somer realizes the err of her ways and hopes to patch things up with Usha before it’s too late… I won’t give away the details of what happens next so you’ll have to pick up this book and find out.  Gowda does such a great job artfully developing the rising action, wrapping things up with a fantastic ending.

Secret Daughter is a thought-provoking and emotional read spanning decades, cultural identity, redemption, and women’s roles. Having read this book the week of Mother’s Day, I felt for Somer who so desperately wanted a connection with Asha, but it just wasn’t time yet. It made me think about how tough the “teenage years” were on our parents, how tough it was for them to see us growing up and changing before their eyes while struggling for independence and acceptance to make a life for ourselves as young adults, and how tough it was for us to carve our own place in this world. This book made me appreciate my mom and the new friendship we’ve cultivated over my adult years.

I enjoyed learning about the Indian culture and family ideologies. It makes me realize how much the American culture lacks.  My one criticism and a big roadblock that prevented me from truly committing to the characters and plotline– Gowda overused Gujarati words, terms and slang phrases without defining them in English. I could only interrupt my reading so many times to grab my phone and google the foreign words before it became too laborious and disruptive. I felt like an outsider at times, whereas the reader should be let into the curious worlds of each character as their story is told. I often feel a bit removed when I read books written in third person narrative but hoped for more out of this book. Only when I finished the book did I come across the Gujarati glossary of terms on the last page…ok, seriously? I’m not rereading this book! I felt like Gowda could have annotated the first page, or given us a forward to share the glossary’s location. What good is the glossary at the end when I don’t know it’s there?! I bet if Gowda had bloggers to read this book before it went to print, she would have gotten similar feedback to either put the glossary first or at least let us know it exists! All in all, I definitely recommend you read this book, and when you do, please be aware of the glossary BEFORE you begin your reading so you’re not in dark like I was 🙂 I finished this book feeling satisfied with a contented grin.

4.5/5 stars

25 down, 27 to go!

In progress, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt