Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society

Title - The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking society
Author - Darien Gee
Genre - Fiction
My rating - I'd give it somewhere between 3 and 4 stars
 Audience - Someone looking for a light, fun read about a group of women with a common passion, who find much more than just scrapbooking in their society.

Welcome to Avalon, Illinois, Pop. 4,243
At Madeline’s Tea Salon, the cozy hub of the Avalon community, local residents scrapbook their memories and make new ones. But across town, other Avalonians are struggling to free themselves of the past: Isabel Kidd is fixing up her ramshackle house while sorting through the complications of her late husband’s affair. Ava Catalina is mourning the love of her life and helping her young son grow up without his father. Local plumber Yvonne Tate is smart, beautiful, and new to Avalon, but finds that despite a decade of living life on her own terms, the past has a way of catching up—no matter where she goes. And Frances Latham, mother to a boisterous brood of boys, eagerly anticipates the arrival of a little girl from China—unprepared for the emotional roller coaster of foreign adoption.
Enter Bettie Shelton, the irascible founder of the Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society. Under Bettie’s guidance, even the most reluctant of Avalon’s residents come to terms with their past and make bold decisions about their future. But when the group receives unexpected news about their steadfast leader, they must pull together to create something truly memorable.


For anyone glancing at this blog, it is pretty obvious that I have been in a deep reading slump for the past few months years! It’s not like I haven’t made an attempt to read but nothing seemed to hold my interest all the way to the end! When I got an email from Ballantine books about reviewing “The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Socieity” (ALSS), I was going to turn it down the way I do most times now. But I happened to read through the synopsis and something told me that this might be a light and quick read – something that might be interesting enough to hold my attention the entire time. I am so glad I agreed to read and review this book because it was exactly what I wanted it to be. 

First and foremost, I love the concept of scrapbooking. If I was a stay at home mom, I’m guessing one hobby that I would have definitely pursued is scrapbooking. I am a big fan of the concept of preserving memories and scrapbooking combines that with creativity and art (another big passion of mine). There’s so much scope to do more than just save pictures. This was one of the primary reasons this book caught my eye. And I wasn’t disappointed. The entire book revolved around scrapbooking. Old women were scrapbooking memories, widowers were scrapbooking recipes, mothers were scrapbooking incidents, etc etc.. So much fun!

Secondly, the book was well written. The language was fun and easy. The characters were well developed and likeable. The incidents were realistic. It was a good book that kept you reading all the way from the beginning to the end! And the best part? Everything ties in beautifully together at the end and it is all one big happy community! Perfect:)

And as an added bonus, the back of the book has some scrapbooking tips and some recipes for your craft related parties! 

But all said and done, the book had a few negatives too.

The story formula was a little predictable. I have read the Friday night knitting club, the Guernsey literary and potato peel pie society, the school of essential ingredients, the jane austen book club, and many many more where a group of people (mostly women) get together to pursue a passion (cooking, reading, knitting, etc) and end up getting so much more support from the group. The main theme of this book is pretty similar. A bunch of women in a small town get together to pursue their passion of scrapbooking and end up supporting each other and making lasting friendships . 

And I felt that the book had way too many characters. So many people were introduced in the first 100 pages. Interesting little personal histories accompanied the introductions. And somehow a lot of them dropped off the radar or were not as significant as I thought they would be throughout the book. A few of those were developed well to become central characters in the book but I found myself going back to read up on them quickly because I was confused. 

Apart from those minor negatives, I have to say it was a good book. If you are looking for a light, fun read, this one is definitely for you.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay

Title - The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay
Author - Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi
Genre - Fiction
My rating - Between 3.5 and 4 Stars, I guess
Audience - Definitely not for young adults. A lot of sexual references, descriptions and language that's almost cringe-worthy at times.


When photographer Karan Seth comes to Bombay intent on immortalizing a city charged by celebrity and sensation, he is instantly drawn in by its allure and cruelty. Along the way, he discovers unlikely allies: Samar , an eccentric pianist; Zaira, the reclusive queen of Bollywood; and Rhea, a married woman who seduces Karan into a tender but twisted affair. But when an unexpected tragedy strikes, the four lives are irreparably torn apart. Flung into a Fitzgeraldian world of sex, crime and collusion, Karan learns that what the heart sees the mind’s eye may never behold. This razor sharp chronicle of four friends caught in modern India ’s tidal wave of uneven prosperity and political failure is also a profoundly moving meditation on love’s betrayal and the redemptive powers of friendship.


When I started the book, I had heard both strongly positive and strongly negative comments about the book so I knew my feelings for it could go either way. What I didn’t expect was to be torn down the middle! One glaring negative about the book is that the storyline is re-used. The main story of the book is based on a very notorious, highly publicized murder trial that happened in India in the late 1990s – the Jessica Lal murder case. Jessica Lal, a celebrity model, was shot dead in a bar by a well-connected Manu Sharma. A court trial ensued and he was acquitted due to lack of proper evidence while it was common knowledge that his politician father had a hand in reversal of testimonials of various witnesses. Eventually, the case was brought to the court again and this time, the judgement was overturned and Manu Sharma was found guilty.

 Siddharth Shanghvi’s book is based on this murder trial. In the book, however, there is no re-trial and the characters are left to deal with the injustice. Even though it was a known story, Siddharth’s writing was captivating enough to keep you glued to the book. He spends the first part of the book developing the 4 main characters and delving in to the intricacies of their interactions with each other. The remainder of the book follows the murder and how the incident changes their lives forever. I loved the fact that he gave the characters so much definition that they felt real. I started feeling like I knew the characters and I could almost predict their reactions to situations.

Throughout the book, I was torn between loving and hating the writing. At some parts, the writing comes across as pretentious and it feels like he’s trying too hard. Some unnecessary metaphors seem forced; the language seems crude; the constant references to all things sexual seem tiring; the writing, unpolished. And then suddenly, when you least expect it, you’re swept away by beautiful poetic writing and very insightful passages! I almost started enjoying the unpredictability of the writing. A point to The biggest character in the book, however, was not human. It was Bombay – a city as unpredictable as the author’s writing. Siddharth was raised “by” the city (as he’d like to say) and he writes as an insider. Not as someone watching the city, but as someone living the city. And that familiarity is endearing.

I would have to accept that, overall, I really enjoyed the book. I couldn’t put it down! I had mixed feelings throughout the book but I was sad to see the book end. I was sad to move on. And in my experience, that can only mean one thing – it was a good book!

 I also live tweeted as I read this book. My twitter handle is @ramyasbookshelf. Follow me as i live tweet books i read.