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Many things are happening for the Thakurs of Hailey Road: Justice LN Thakur's brother is having troubles with his wife, said wife has moved in with Justice Thakur and family, three of the five Thakur daughters may or may not be having romantic problems, and the Justice isn't on speaking terms with the third daughter and close to doing to the same with daughter #2.

The main plot of the book mostly focuses on Debjani (the fourth oldest daughter), who has just begun as an anchor at DD, the primary news channel in India at the time. This puts her in conflict with her father's card buddy's son Dylan Shekhawat, an investigative journalist trying to implicate high-up politicians for their role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and rather looks down on Debjani for spouting government propaganda.

This is my favorite out of all of Anuja Chauhan's books and feels very much like what I've been waiting for. I love that this is in third person POV, compared to the first person of her past two books; I felt I got a much better sense of Debjani's community and the various family dynamics (in two families! that was nice). I did like the romance a lot, especially Dylan, but like her other books, I also really like the non-romance relationships. And my favorite bits were actually the investigative journalism. Another plus was that the Debjani/Dylan relationship got much further before undergoing the usual relationship crisis: families met! And the crisis was in part based on a big misunderstanding, but at least with more of a twist than the usual.

Spoilers )

Other random bits: I REALLY want to know about sister #3. I was kind of confused about Eshwari's maybe romance; at times I thought Chauhan was telegraphing that no, you don't always have to return someone's crush on you, but I wasn't completely sure that was what the book ended on. Also saw that there is a sequel about Dabbu's nephew (by marriage) and niece, which I really want to read. I'm also not talking about various little moments, like Dylan's parents' romantic anniversary or Debjani always being overshadowed by her oldest sister or how the rocky bits of Debjani and Dylan's relationship really affects their families, especially their fathers.

And I very much liked the look at 1980s India, the sense of things changing and bringing with it more access to foreign goods, the changing role of the press and the gradual loss of government control over said press. It feels very real, how the characters all react to some of that without the book just being about social change, which is something that many authors have a difficult time balancing... either it feels like the characters are a bit out of place in the supposed historical setting, or that there is too much "look how much I researched xyz!" Also, some of it is a bit nostalgic for me, particularly things like finding local versions of foreign imported junk food in corner stores or trying to emulate clothes. I don't really remember a lot of the details of political change going on in Taiwan because I was a kid at the time, but a lot of the KMT stronghold on Taiwan was lessening right around me being in high school. And ditto the flood of imported goods and whatnot.

Anyway! I very much enjoyed the Anuja Chauhan book club, and thanks to [personal profile] deepad for organizing the entire thing. And I hope I can get my hands on an ebook, or a US publisher decides to bring her over here or something, because I really want to see grown-up Thakur kids.

(Also, apparently Chauhan wrote a short story prequel to Zoya Factor for Valentine's Day!)

Reading Wednesday

Wed, Jan. 15th, 2014 01:40 pm
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What I've read: Finished Anuja Chauhan's Those Pricey Thakur Girls! It's by far my favorite of her books, and now I kind of wish there were a version of Battle for Bittora done in rotating 3rd person POV, because I would have LOVED to see Pushpa Pande's sections. Hopefully a longer review to follow soon!

Also finished Chi's Sweet Home volume 2, which is just as cute and full of cat as the first volume. Definitely comfort reading for me, and I laughed especially hard at Chi getting mad at people ignoring her, climbing up on the table, and sitting down on the postcard people were looking at instead of where their attention should rightfully be focused (Chi, obviously).

What I'm reading: I finally started reading comics on my tablet! I say "finally" because that was the original reason I wanted a tablet in the first place. Anyway, I'm in the middle of the Greg Rucka Wonder Woman run (I blame [personal profile] chaila) and generally enjoying it. There are WAY more women than I usually see in superhero comics, though I am super skeeved out by Doctor Psycho and all the rape stuff he jokes about. I mean, you are supposed to be skeeved out, but given that the art is still male-gaze-y, it feels like one of those having your cake and eating it too things.

Also, totally get the appeal of Diana. She reminds me of why I like Captain America, at least in the MCU, and I really like that mostly her idealism and desire to do good and be good are genuine and not made fun of. It's so hard to find depictions of nice and good people who are interesting and have depth; most writers seem to save that for the morally ambiguous characters. And I looooove that she just goes ahead and makes decisions and her staff has to flounder to figure stuff out in her wake, and while she might apologize, she never angsts about it or questions her choices.

The art is mostly okay, given the genre? I think? I've never followed superhero comics closely, so I am not sure. I do love that Diana so far has very consistently been drawn with really broad shoulders and narrow hips; it's a silhouette I don't see very often on women. Still a lot of the twisted torso poses to get T&A in, and I rolled my eyes when one villain stepped out with her face entirely in shadow... but her naked body was of course visible!

It's also always weird getting into a new superhero/team and figuring out who the standard villains and secondary characters are. Various wiki articles help, but because comics is so convoluted, I hit a point when my eyes just glaze over as the details of betrayal! new allegiances! resurrection! secret identity! world resetting! and whatnot go on and on and on.

This is also interesting because it's my first foray into the DCverse that isn't centered around Gotham and its ilk.

What I'm reading next: Probably a lot more Wonder Woman.

Reading Wednesday

Wed, Jan. 8th, 2014 12:51 pm
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What I've read: Haven't done this for a while, so I actually have read things! I got CB the Pusheen the Cat book and volume 1 of Chi's Sweet Home for Christmas, so I read those and was suitably bowled over by the cute. Pusheen is great, but I really love Chi's Sweet Home, which is just so cat. Possibly people might get annoyed by Chi's baby talk, but given that she is a kitten, I am okay with this. Also, CAT!! (Also also, I love the fact that Konami Kanata's entire career is basically cat manga.)

I also read Allie Brosh's book, which I think I laughed at less than a lot of people? It's not that it isn't hilarious, because it is, it's just that after reading her depression posts, some of the ones on procrastination and self sabotage and etc. make me wince more than laugh in that painful, looking-in-the-mirror way. All the entries about her dogs totally crack me up, the entire thing is very worth reading (even if I do wish the one about her dead fish made it to the book), and I would have paid the same price just to get her two posts on depression in print. I'm also really impressed by how spot-on the expressions she draws are.

What I'm reading: I started Anuja Chauhan's Those Pricey Thakur Girls and have been enjoying the third-person narrative voices... I like the first-person narrators of her first two books as well, but they did sound a bit similar at certain points. Really looking forward to an expanded cast of characters, because I love Chauhan most for her various character dynamics, especially of people in small communities and large families, and read her more for that than the romance. I also started Jessica Snyder Sachs' Corpse: Nature, Forensics, and the Struggle to Pinpoint Time of Death as my own brand of pick-me-up reading, and I should get back to it because it's gruesomely fascinating.

Random book-shaped space: This cover alone makes me want to read Max Gladstone. Also hoping that adding "reading" to my Dailies for HabitRPG helps me get back into it.

Next: Chi's Sweet Home, vol. 2!
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Another entry for the Anuja Chauhan reading club!

Jinni (formally "Sarojini") Pande is mostly happily working as an animator, though she wishes she could animate something other than bacteria and bugs. And then her formidable grandmother Pushpa Pande sweeps in to announce her return to politics, and before she knows it, Jinni is running for MP in her home region. Complicating things is sexy childhood friend Zain, who is also running, but for the opposing party, as well as scandals, empty campaign promises, bribery, turncoats, electioneering, and all those other good things that come with politics.

I was completely unsurprised to read the author's note in the back and discover that her in-laws are a big family in politics, much as I was unsurprised to find that the author used to be in advertising for The Zoya Factor. They aren't fields I know very much about overall, especially how they work in India, but all the details felt so real, especially the ones that are almost too much to believe in and therefore probably are the bits taken right from real life. I am guessing these are the kinds of books that are even funnier if you actually know the topic, as opposed to the ones that make you roll your eyes because all the details are off? Yes? No?

Anyway, it reminded me most of Taiwan election season, albeit with less acrimony, and I love how Chauhan is totally making fun of the ridiculous things going on while also taking Jinni's idealism and desire to change things seriously, as well as the various issues that Jinni will have to tackle if she's elected.

As pretty much everyone else who has read this has said, the key relationship isn't the Jinni-Zain romance, but rather Jinni's relationship with her larger-than-life grandmother, who is bigoted, wily, unscrupulous, completely unmoveable, and absolutely awesome.

I also loved the overall look at growing up in a political family. At first, I didn't quite buy Jinni just taking off from work to help with a political campaign at the beginning of the book, but after reading about her memories of various campaigns, her grandfather's political legacy, all of her grandmother's work, and her own idealism, it made so much more sense. That said, I did want to see more of Jinni shifting from running just for her grandmother to running for her own sake and for the desire to have the power to make the changes she thought should be made. It's definitely there in the book, from her daring midnight rescue to her observation of how so many politicians made people promises and still the schools weren't fixed, the roads sucked, and the wells got co-opted, but I would have liked that more in the forefront. I also wanted more of Bauji, Jinni's freedom fighter politician grandfather, and her memories of him, as well as the complicated relationship he and her grandmother had, and I especially loved the bits we see of her mother.

I feel like there's an entire novel there as well, being the daughter who abandons the family legacy and takes off only to have your own daughter return to the fold. And it was really refreshing to have Jinni's mother be the NRI living happily in Canada and Jinni herself being the one to return to India, at least when compared to the prevalence of "conflicted identity hyphenated USian teens battling their immigrant parents' expectations" books I've read. (Don't get me wrong, I love it too, especially since that is a big part of my own experience, but it's always nice to have different narratives.)

If you can't already tell, I liked this a lot better than Chauhan's first book, which didn't deviate enough from chick lit tropes for me. Unsurprisingly, the Jinni-Zain romance is actually my least favorite part of the book; I like the childhood memories well enough, and the whole "can I trust him? Is he just messing with me?" back and forth makes a LOT more sense when it comes to your election rival, but Zain kind of loses my interest in comparison to the Pande family dynamics.

Spoilers )

Anyway, definitely recommended, and in case I made it sound serious and unfun, it is hilarious and includes a scene with Jinni putting a condom on a large wooden penis. For politics, of course.

(And I want a book about Munni.)
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Zoya Singh Solanki was born the exact moment India won the Cricket World Cup in 1983. Her next fateful encounter with cricket happens when she is assigned to work with India's cricket team for a Zing! ad for her agency, and soon, the team begins to win whenever she eats breakfast with them. Before she knows it, she is annoying the handsome captain of the team, getting a free ride to Australia for the World Cup, and being hailed as a cricket goddess by some people.

I don't usually read chick lit all that often because of the frequent focus on things like brand names and shopping, and because while I can deal with annoying gender roles in historical romances, it's much more difficult to brush them aside in contemporary romances. This book does have some of the things that annoy me—Zoya's initial stint in the ad company is obviously very conscious of brands—but it wasn't too bad. Also, you can tell where my priorities lie: I was incredibly annoyed at Nikhil Koda, the love interest, until he and Zoya went to a street market and had food. As Nikhil was a fan of the food, I decided I liked him a lot more.

I thought I would actually be more bored by the cricket than I was, seeing as how I am not a big sports person, but all the snippets from the articles from India and the overall excitement reminded me a lot of being in Asia during South Korea's run in the 2002 World Cup. By the end, I was enjoying the cricket bits more than the romance bits.

Unfortunately, the book is at least 100 pages or so too long; in order to stretch the story out, Chauhan basically has a ton of Not-Too-Big Misunderstandings get in the way of Zoya and Nikhil's happy ending. Zoya had decides to ignore Nikhil based on suspicions from gossip rags, her brother's speculations, her own doubts, and various other things that might have made sense the first two or three times, but have gotten incredibly boring the ninth or so time around.

That said, I do actually like Zoya and Nikhil, and I particularly like Zoya's family and friends. And I laughed so hard at Zoya wondering how on earth monolingual white Australians got by with only one language (what do they do when they are in a different mood?), along with the weirdness of being in a place so full of white people. I so sympathize. And there's just something really fun about Chauhan's narrative voice, from the toinnnnngggg commercial to the two sports announcers and the assorted excerpts from gossip magazines.

Anyway, it's definitely uneven, especially when it comes to the romance, but it felt a lot more familiar than almost all chick lit and/or contemporary romances I read, which is usually split between glamorous big city or small-town (very white) America. So, looking forward to reading her next two books, especially since it sounds like they have plot elements and/or settings that differ even more from standard chick lit/contemporary romance.

Links:
- reviews from the Anuja Chauhan reading club (also, thanks to [personal profile] deepad for setting it up in the first place!)

Reading Wednesday

Wed, Sep. 11th, 2013 12:29 pm
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Whoo, I have stuff to post on!

(I have been greatly enjoying everyone's resolve to post every day for a month, and then I feel like I should as well to hopefully clear up book backlog, but the daily happiness posts (opt in here) are already kind of hard and I feel so spammy despite knowing people actually signed up for the filter and knowing that I enjoy seeing other people's posts!)

What I've read: I did more reading for the awards jury I am on, yay.

Aside from that, I went on a completely unexpected detour into the land of reading nostalgia: Terry Brooks. His Shannara books (back then only the original trilogy and Heritage of Shannara) were my introduction to fantasy as a genre; I had read a lot of middle grade stuff of course, but I wanted something just like Tolkien after my headlong fall into Middle Earth, and Shannara was right there. Anyway, I reread The Elfstones of Shannara and The Elf Queen of Shannara, and then did a mostly-skipping-Par's-POV reread of The Scions of Shannara.

They held up better than expected? But I also wasn't expecting much. There's the argh of the Rovers, which fit all the Roma stereotypes, way too many bland young men wandering about, and the world building is pretty sparse in terms of cultures and extremely high fantasy derivative. On the other hand, I remember so much more of them than I had expected, even specific chapters and lines I had liked. I am amused that even back in sixth or seventh grade, I was completely bored by the typical young white male savior figure (Par, Shea, Wil, Jair) and very much into the women or the older, more cynical men who weren't such blank slates. Alas for the lack of older, cynical women. And that the Frodo-and-Sam journey parts of the narrative never interested me nearly as much as the epic battle and war strategy bits. The women aren't the best—too many love interests inexplicably interested in the boring main characters, too many "too good for this world" women—but I remember liking things like Eretria helping out Amberle and especially Wren's relationship with her grandmother in Elf Queen. (Also, Eowen Cerise/Ellenroh, slashy like whoa.)

Anyway, definitely not something I'd rec, but it was an enjoyable dalliance! (Also, I totally wanted to be a Druid.)

What I'm reading: I tried starting a novel for awards reading (mostly I have been doing short stories, since they are so fast); hopefully I will stick with it. I also started Anuja Chauhan's The Zoya Factor per [personal profile] deepad's impromptu Anuja Chauhan book club. Not very far into it yet, but the voice is very breezy and enjoyable. Also, Shah Rukh Khan's abs have already made an appearance, which is never a bad thing imo.

What I'm reading next: More of The Zoya Factor and more awards reading, hopefully! Though I will probably end up doing the no-Par-POV reread of Heritage of Shannara....

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