Flowered Bytes by Anand Narayanswamy: Book Review

Title: Flowered Bytes

Author: Anand Narayanswamy

Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir

Flowered Bytes by Anand Narayanswamy is a collection of musings, memories and viewpoints threaded together by the author’s unique perspective and experiences.

Book Blurb

Flowered Bytes is all about stories, which captures your mind. The book is not a big novel with lengthy pages but it includes crisp, concise and succinct short stories with a wide range of themes.

About the Author

Anand Narayanaswamy works as a freelance writer, blogger, reviewer and social media influencer and is based in Kerala.
Anand is the recipient of Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award from 2002 to 2011. He has his own blog and has worked as a social media influencer for several brands.

Review

Flowered Bytes reads like the memoir it is supposed to be, with incidents and impressions making their way into the book. It is a collection of 16 anecdotes, succinct and driving home the point without much meandering.
There is some very sensible advice in Building a Healthy Lifestyle. It’s true that a positive attitude along with proper diet and exercise works wonders.
The author mentions the songs that are close to his heart in Relax your Body explaining how music can be therapeutic.
My Memorable Vacation Trip talks about visits to his native place and how various modes of transport gets him there. Flights, trains, rickety bus rides take him to the peaceful destination that he escapes to every year to unwind.
Combating Women Violence, Honest Civil Servant, Dream of a Clean India are some of the chapters that talk about social menances and how these can be countered.
There is a mention of career and the ups and downs he faced in his chosen field but he persevered against all odds and even against the advice of the people around him. It is inspiring to read about his conviction and how walking in faith and hard work eventually lead to success.
Optimism for the Future, Overcoming Fear with Confidence close the book on a positive and upbeat note.

What works well

The writing style is candid and the stories/incidents are honest. It is a narrative that is from-the-heart and gives a real glimpse into the author’s life and beliefs.
Since the book is a collection of musings, you can pick the chapters at random to read. I also had no issue going away and getting back to the book because it did not affect the flow of my reading. Every story/chapter is complete in itself.
The book cover is interesting and attractive to look. In fact, it was the cover that prompted me to pick the book to read because I was intrigued about the content.

What does not work so well

The book is a collection of incidents and opinions but at times it seems to jump from one topic to another. It would have worked better if the book were divided into sections like personal musings, travel anecdotes, societal issues etc.
The title of the book does not give anything away. Even after reading the book I was not clear about the meaning of the title. This leads to a certain disconnect of the content and the presentation to the reader about that content.

Verdict

Read Flowered Bytes for a relaxed, candid read about the author’s life and viewpoints.

Download the book from the virtual library at the Blogchatter website. Free for a limited time.

Three Thousand Stitches by Sudha Murty: Book Review

Title: Three Thousand Stitches

Author: Sudha Murty

Genre: Non fiction, Memoir

Book Cover of Three Thousand Stitches
Three Thousand Stitches by Sudha Murty

The book, Three Thousand Stitches is a collection of non fictional pieces, snippets from the author’s own life and from other people whom she encountered.

These are 11 true stories, many of them Sudha Murty’s experiences as the chairperson of the Infosys foundation. A few talk of her childhood and early adulthood and of her educational background.

The stories have an overarching theme of empathy and service to the society.

The title story, ‘Three Thousand Stitches’ is a moving account of the Devdasis and their plight. Their rehabilitation was the first social service/impact project Sudha Murty took on and she talks of her initial failures quite candidly. However, the difference the foundation makes in the lives of this marginal group is noteworthy and Sudha is presented with a very touching memento that reflects the gratitude of the Devdasis towards her.

How to beat the boys‘ is a spell binding account of Sudha’s engineering days where she was the only woman in the entire college. It is clear that she was a trailblazer and an independent thinker from her formative years.

Three Handfuls of Water‘ is the most vivid account of her early life, her childhood memories of her grandparents and their religious beliefs. When Sudha visits Varanasi in her adulthood, she feels as if she is fulfilling her grandparents’s wish of pilgrimage to this holy land.

Cattle Class‘ is a hard hitting reality of economic snobbery and way Sudha metes out justice in her own way.

No place like home‘ talks of expatriate women and their difficult, abuse riddled lives and highlights the freedom that we enjoy and the little liberties that we sometimes take for granted in our own country.

I Can’t, We Can‘, is the account of many individuals and their families who have been adversely affected by alcoholism and the way Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) helps them rebuild their lives.

A Day in the Infosys Foundation‘ was the account I was waiting to read, my curiousity sufficiently aroused to wonder what constitutes the day of the head honcho of the Infosys Foundation managing the Corporate Social Responsibility.

I liked the simple narration of the book. There is an honesty that shines through the telling of the stories. With an undercurrent of an emotional strength and the desire to uplift others, the writing touches the reader with its sincerity.

Snowflake Obsidian by Sage Steadman: Book Review

Title: Snowflake Obsidian: Memoir of a Cutter

Author: Sage Steadman

Genre: Memoir

Snowflake Obsidian is a very honest book, ‘beautiful and sincere’, as the main protagonists are. It is the story of Willow, her seemingly picture perfect life with her relationship and identity issues forming a backdrop. My ‘word’ for this book is ‘Redemption’ which is what I felt when I closed the book, having read it in a few breathtaking swoops.

The Book Blurb

Willow’s your basic potty-mouth Mormon hippie with anger issues. Despite her parents fighting, her life is seemingly perfect. She has lots of friends, little responsibility and a stunning collection of sequined pillows. But everything changes when she and her best friend fall for the same guy. River is sexy, mysterious, and likes to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But there is something more behind his troubled jade eyes that draws Willow in. Relationships are tested and Willow ends up friendless and alone as she navigates the rough waters of a fiery first love. Soon, the illusions of her perfect world crumble and Willow must reexamine the beliefs that once built her rocky foundation. This quirky coming of age story follows Willow and River’s unlikely romance as they battle their own inner demons and struggle to find themselves and their place in the adult world.

Review

Willow describes herself as a Mormon Hippie who has a wonderful life. She has a good social circle, with a loyal gang of friends who seem to be hanging out with each other forever. Heck, they even have regular sleepovers, drifting in and out of each other’s houses without much hesitation. Parents or any kind of adults are strangely absent through these interactions. Even when these teenagers/adults face aggravated conditions like sexual assault, drug use or mental health issues the adults are in the background, sympathetic but not really playing an active role in their children’s lives.

The protagonists are on their own mostly, with their doubts, insecurities and identity issues, looking for guidance and support through their friends. And yet, this is the chronicling of a different kind of struggle where the protagonist, Willow, reaches the end, not just ‘whole’ but positively glowing.

Snowflake Obsidian touches on the difficult topics of drug use, depression and self harming behaviour like cutting oneself and dies do with a great amount of sensituvity. I had expected to feel repulsed by the cutting but I felt a lot of sympathy towards the main characters. Therapy is mentioned in some detail and the entire process of healing through thinking, understanding, analysing and getting there takes some time and false starts but they get there, the protagonists do.

In the middle of all the teenage angst, multiple relationships and manipulative people, is a light of rare sensitivity and beauty, through art, through genuine expression and the voicing of deep felt emotions.

I was intrigued by the name of the book and when the stone, Snowflake Obsidian takes an important place in the book, I had to look it up. It is a rock, used for healing purposes to help balance body, mind and spirit. Willow keeps this rock with her all the time when she is in the depressive phase of her life and trying to find balance in her emotions.

Even though the language is unpretentious and casual in places, the narration is never rambling. The pacing is also good, with short and long chapters, which move the story forward fast.

In midst of all the teenage-and-beyond troubles, there is real beauty of expression and language.

“I … realised that loving was easier to do than not loving, and not loving only led to suffering.”

The redemption of the book is not just about messy relationships and getting back to a place of love. It is also about self acceptance and openess.

There is also a quirky sense of humour, an ability to laugh at oneself.

“Every thought I had came with its own editorial on the subject. As if I had my own gossip column running in my head, complete with wild assumptions, scarring opinions, diluted facts and unwavering criticism.”

And then, there is the peanut analogy that kept getting funnier with each unpeeling layer.

Verdict

Don’t miss this gem of a book. Snowflake Obsidian is a real book with real issues and it shows the way to light and peace.

How I Wrote my Comic Book by Priyanka Vermani: Book Review

Title: How I Wrote My Comic Book: The Journey

Author: Priyanka Vermani

Genre: Memoir

How I Wrote My Comic Book is as bookish as can be. It is a book about the creation of a comic book- the fulfilment of a long cherished dream and the culmination of an often arduous journey.

Review

Priyanka, the new Mom, has a dream. She wants to create a book that serves as a guiding light and legacy for her one year old daughter, Samaira. And thus starts the journey of creating a graphic novel or a comic book, with limited resources but with limitless imagination and creativity.

This book is a chronicle of all the stages of creating the book, right from the conceptualisation to the finished book.

It is an exhilarating read for creative people, for designers, for artists dabbling in the visual arts and for writers. Each chapter is a gem, touching on one or the other part of the book’s creation process.

What works well

The cover art is lovely. Much work has gone into designing it to showcase what the book is all about. In fact, an entire chapter has been dedicated to how it came together.

The format is well suited to the story of a comic book. The colour scheme and the fonts were a definite change as were the two column format.

There is also a lot of learning if you are into writing. The chapters talk in detail about the conceptualisation, about the innumerable rounds of editing, about the challenges of collaboration, about the hurdles and the self doubts. There is plenty of encouragement too, from the little victories, the undying commitment and the unconventional way Priyanka sets out to achieve her dream.

On the other hand…

I did wish that more care had been taken in proofreading this book because there are many references to the A to Z challenge. Also, a couple of chapters were a little out of sync with the rest of the book like the mother in law’s illness.

About the Author

A Content Marketer with a creative streak, Priyanka has written content for corporate films and many kids learning applications. Based on her experience of her stay in London, she has authored a comic book – ‘Samaria and the Gang in London.’

Verdict

How I Wrote My Comic Book is a behind-the-scenes book about a creative process. Read it for the vicarious pleasure of being part of this journey.

Download this book here.

The Life Lived by Preeti Negi: Book Review

Title: The Life Lived… Memories of an Ordinary

Author: Preeti Negi

Genre: Memoir

The Life Lived is a lovely memoir, a collage of memories from various stages of the author’s life. The simplicity and the candid emotions are touching and the incidents are very relatable.

Review

The Life Lived is a collection of true stories from the author’s life, arranged alphabetically through A-Z. These memories range from her childhood, spanning her adolescence, young adulthood and her recent past.

The stories are very interesting; some are quite unexpected and others made me think of similar things happening to me.

I fell in love with farmhouses and secret places in Attic Raiders. Birthday on My Own showcases a child’s vulnerability. Reading of Preeti’s friends, I almost started missing my own circle. There are mentions of sibling love and rivalry. I also enjoyed reading about the festivals and the celebrations.

The places are brought alive in the book, be it her hometown or her maternal grandparents’ farmhouse or her paternal grandparents’ house in the hills. There are places that she has traveled to. I really enjoyed reading about the Kedarnath Yatra in Om Namah Shivaya.

Questions that I Never Asked made me think of all the times I have been at that kind of crossroads. I also loved the Tiny Tales of the ‘Baby Lions’. The Youngest Memories made me cast around in my own mind for mine.

What Works Well

The cover art is very good and quite suited to the content of the book.

Preeti’s writing style is very clear and she has a knack of bringing situations and incidents to life for the reader. The emotions are so candid that I felt an instant connection with her memories. There is also a thread of hilarity in many of the situations which made me enjoy reading about the incidents.

The best part is that the book is a bunch of stories, that you need not read alphabetically or in a sequence (even though I did go chronologically). Read the first few chapters and you can ease into her life, the main people and the flavour of her childhood and adolescence.

By the time I finished reading the book, I felt that I had known Preeti for a long time, such was the relatability of the book.

About the Author

Preeti Negi belongs to the beautiful state of Uttaranchal, India. Born and brought up in a small town of Uttar Pradesh, she discovered her love for books at an early age. Her love for reading enhanced her day-dreaming habit and she eventually started weaving stories in her own virtual world.

She can be found occasionally tweeting @preetispanorama or visiting her page
on Facebook. You can definitely catch her at Preeti’s Panorama.

Verdict

A collection of memories, some sweet, some tangy, making up a life lived fully. Read this well written memoir to relive your own memories.

Buy The Life Lived…Memories of an Ordinary from Amazon.

Taboo: A Book Review

Title: Taboo

Author: Thomas Piggott

Genre: Non fiction, Memoir. 

Publishers : Wallace Publishers 

Synopsis 

Set in the Midlands during the 1970s, Taboo tells the harrowing true story of the brutal abuse Thomas Piggott suffered and the childhood that was so heartlessly stolen from him as a result. It also follows him into adulthood, highlighting how the pain and the emotional damage caused by these attacks blighted his relationships, his career and his life in general, long after they had stopped. 

Review

Taboo is a book that delves deep into the mind of a child abuse victim and traces the ramifications of that traumatic experience into other areas of his life. It talks candidly of abuse, depression and mental illness. A true story, it can inspire other sufferers to speak out and seek the justice and the care that they deserve. 

Thomas Piggott wrote the book to share his story. He wanted to exorcise the ghosts of his past and come to terms with the negative influences that nearly destroyed his life. He also wanted to lay to rest his painful memories and to encourage other victims to talk about their abuse and to seek help so that they do not have to spend years feeling guilty and humiliated. 

It is a poignant memoir and the sincerity with which Thomas narrates his life’s events makes the reader sympathise with him. The book and the narration of the events is peppered with aphorisms and the learnings that he has culled from his experiences. 

Beginning right from his childhood and leading on to adulthood, Thomas describes the abuse and how the trauma later on leads to depression and mental illness. His marriage falls apart, as does his sanity.

An Acute Psychotic Experience brings forth fully the demons that he has had to battle. It is an eye opener in that it helps the reader to understand the despair and the helplessness of someone who is suffering from mental illness . 

The book is in a conversational style, which means that sometimes in the middle of the scenes, the writer digresses. It also seems like there are journal entries that have been put in the book, making certain events seem disjointed. 

The author’s time at the mental hospital takes up a large part of the book and in talking of his experiences as well as of the people he encounters, it makes for an interesting read. 

When the story ends where it does, there is plenty of hope that the author hands out, yet I wished there was more about his struggle to come to terms with ‘real life’ after spending time at the hospital for mental illness. 

In the end, there is hope and faith and a belief in the human spirit that can overcome all odds. In spite of being on medication, Thomas keeps his chin up and tries to redeem his life and dignity as best as he can. 

Verdict 

The book is a sincere and sensitive portrayal of child abuse and mental illness and the effects it has on the psyche of an individual. In talking of experiences that are considered Taboo by the society, the book attempts to destigmatise them. It exhorts the victims to come forward, talk about their experiences and to seek help so that they can be healed. 

The grammar in the book is jarring at times and the flow of the narrative is punctured by digressions into the author’s viewpoint. 

I rate this book 3 stars. 🌠🌠🌠 

I received a copy of the ebook for an honest review. 

Witness

The witness to my creative process is also the reason for my block. One moment I might be writing, thinking over the words and the next I am engaged in an imaginary conversation with my reader. I explain this and that, things I might have wanted to elaborate upon but left out for the sake of brevity. Sometimes, in my writing I tend to ramble on; I love to digress really, for that is how the mind works but I cannot let the structure of the written piece be influenced by my whims.

There are times when the future reader is pushed back by the ghosts of my encounters with people talking of their own memories and experiences that have shaped them. It is especially true when it is a memoir I am writing and I am recreating events and places from snatches of conversations I have had with people.

The contributor to my stories turns into the reader in my mind. I remember his raw emotions as he talked, that kept bubbling up and how he tried to put them down, hiding behind a veneer of sanity and maturity. I can think of the way it would move him when he stumbles on my piece and reads and remembers that he told me all that. I hope then that I have done justice to him.

When I write or capture a scene, I know I am almost looking over my shoulder for a critical look from the masters looking at me trying to attempt what I am learning to be good at. I think and try to imagine the helpful suggestions and the critical explanations.

Sometimes, in the middle of a conversation with someone I have just met and getting to know through tentative questions, my mind thinks in a parallel mode of what I could really tell her about following dreams and aspirations. She, then is the witness to the hacks and the advice pieces I have.

My creative block also comes from the ways my witnesses expresses themselves. I compare myself to them and feel daunted by the ease of their expression. If I could express myself in a vacuum, being just at home with the muse and letting it flow, I might be prolific but I would miss a crucial link in the chain of my expression.

Confessions of a Memoir Writer

Confessions, you say? From a memoir writer? Isn’t writing a memoir actually a confession of how things happened… to you or observed by you?

Writing a memoir is like diving deep into your psyche, examining your perception of events and people from a relatively safe distance, because of the passage of time.

A memoir is not an autobiography. It is not the entire story, starting from the beginning and ending with the demise. A memoir is a piece of the whole, cut deliberately, dressed with words of choice and served to fulfill. It is not the meal, it is just one dish.

Why write a memoir, I am asked by the sceptic in me. Because I want a piece of immortality, just for myself. Because I want to live on in my words. I am unlikely to produce a masterpiece for the world, but I can bring forth from my pen some memories, some snatches that make sense to my loved ones, to my children and maybe their children.

I can even connect with others, with people I do not know much about who I feel may be just as moved by my recounting for there is a universality of experience running through mankind, across continents and cultures. What I have to say may resonate with a lot of people.

How to write a memoir, is the next pertinent question that arises. I must first decide on the event I want to recount. Think about the critical choices I have made over the years, the people, and events that have influenced me, my beliefs, the challenges I have faced and the mistakes I have made. Find the one story that needs to be told. Then, bring forth my unique angle to narrate the story. Lend texture to the narrative by involving all my senses…

And now for the confession. I write memoirs, but I am in the closet. I cannot bear the thought of my friends and relatives looking over my shoulder, recognising themselves. They would get to know who I am, by my narrative. I feel too scared to hand out snippets of my life to others for them to examine. They would be read by my descendants, when I am long dead and gone.