Literary Grand Rounds

Books, graphic novels, movies and television

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

A J FikryThe Storied Life of A J Fikry is a book for book lovers. It’s about books, book stores, book clubs and book people. The best kind of people if you ask me. Filled to brim with literature, this is a must read for all you bookish people out there. Too much of ‘books’ did you say? That’s exactly what the book is all about. BOOKS.

A J Fikry’s Island Books, on the fictional Alice Island, isn’t doing well. Even though it is the only book store in town, with A J’s standoffish and sometimes snobby attitude, the future looks bleak. Can’t blame him much. He lost his wife recently and has never been much of a people person. Books are all that matter to him. That is until his prized possession, a first edition Poe, is stolen and in a short duration of time, another bundle is dropped off at this book store. A determined reader with strong likes and dislikes, two year old Maya might just be the making of A J Fikry and Island Books.

I loved reading the way A J’s reader and book seller mind worked. He stocks books that he likes. Which means, no YA, especially no vampire books and a really small selection of children’s books. Isn’t that how we fill our home libraries? Why would we buy an erotica or poetry if we do not read them? While that may be bad for business, AJ’s logic is understandable. He may not be much of a sales person but A J Fikry is an epitome of all the book reader quirks.

For those of you who may have read a review or two, yes, it’s somewhat close to Silas Marner in its basic plot. It has the look and feel of it until you get so engrossed in the story of the bookseller and his daughter that you forget where the resemblance ended. A J’s letters to Maya are observant and critical pieces on literature (short stories in particular). Some of which are funny and some of which will leave a mark.

To me this book was more like a biography of a book lover. Perfect in every sense. I have read a few YA titles by Gabrielle Zevin but this book falls in a different league entirely.  I do not know the reason why the titles are different for the US and Indian edition but that hardly makes any difference for the reader. Right?

Rat Queens – Vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery

Rat QueensRat Queens was an accidental discovery while browsing the inter-webs for my next read. Though the reviews for Rat Queens were highly positive, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

After I caught the Saga bug1 last year, the wish to find another comic book series with diverse characterisation and mind-boggling plot twists led me to try any thing that showed promise. I discovered many good series this way but it was Rat Queens which came anywhere close to Saga, especially in the story and art department.

Writer Kurtis J. Wiebe and artist Roc Upchurch have created a sensational bunch of characters who make the reader happy just by existing. It takes about two or three panels to warm up to the mayhem created by these Rat Queens and then it’s just the wait between two issues that is hard to bear. The sassy dialogues are another thing entirely. These women are smart, brave and complete adrenaline junkies. When they are not totally drunk they go on adventure quests. Usually they succeed in their quests but if they do face trouble they know how to get out of tricky situations, one way or the other.

Their friendship isn’t all sunny and adorable. They have issues, personal ones, with each other, with their families etc. They know how to handle them and if they don’t, then there’s always booze that can magically solve everything.

I love the direction in which the story is moving. Wiebe is giving his readers ample amount of time to get to know the Rat Queens. Slowly the major story arc is creeping into the picture and if the first volume is any indication, there are interesting times ahead.

Also this TPB cover was designed by the phenomenally talented Fiona Staples of Saga fame. Another reason to go and buy it NOW!

  1. That shift in paradigm is what happens after you have read your first issue of Saga. It is an amazing  series and if you haven’t read it yet, you should consider doing that straight away []

Graphic Novel – Comic Books Update #3

Last week was a busy one.  I hardly got time to read but I did squeeze in an audio-book. Cooking and work outs become so much more interesting if there is a good audio book to keep you company. I am currently listening to Shane Kuhn’s The Intern’s Handbook: A Thriller. Based on this enjoyable experience, I am considering splurging a bit on audio-books real soon. My Audible wishlist has way too many titles, so I’ll definitely have a tough time deciding.

I also have some great books lined up for reading this week especially graphic novels. A good book mail always ensures that fab reading material is always at hand. Here’s what I received courtesy First Second Books

On the comic book front, I have gone back to reading some of the older issues of Fantastic Four and X-Men. They may not be as flashy as the newer versions but I can certainly see what made them such a hit with the readers. Also noticeable is the fact that the storyline was much simpler back then.

Also reading Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. This book has forever been on my Wishlist. I am somewhere in the mid third of the book and let me tell you, it’s a really good read. If you have ever read Marvel Comics, you shouldn’t miss out on this book.

That’s it from me. What are you reading this week?

Reado – The Audiobook Store

Reado is an online audio book store based in India and I have frequented the website for my audio book cravings for a while now. They have a range of titles from Indian as well as international publishers and their catalogue grows each day. There is some thing for everyone. I especially like their Fiction and Memoir sections which have some great titles. The navigation is smooth and they bring out some amazing deals from time to time, which is an added bonus.


What makes me really glad about Reado is that they have titles with Indian narrators! If I am listening to a Ruskin Bond book it only makes sense to have a narrator who can get the pronunciation of Deoli or Garhwal right.1

Go and have a look at their catalogue. You might find something that would make your work commute enjoyable. Did I mention they have One Free Audiobook offer on signing up?

  1. The Night Train At Deoli is a delightful audiobook. You should give it a try. []

The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R.Carey

the girlWhen there’s a book that is universally liked, it’s not easy to write a review.  Also how does one write a spoiler free review for such books? I have been through multiple drafts of this review but every single time I ended up writing a little about the plot which as a reader you would be better off not knowing. For a book such as The Girl With All The Gifts, the less you know, the better. Don’t go by the cover of the book or the blurb. This is not a book about talented little kids. It’s sinister and all sorts of messed up world from the first page.

Why is a little girl Melanie placed in a cell? Why would anyone need to point a gun at her just to move her around? Also, why is there a sudden increase in apocalyptic/dystopian fiction with kids, with power shudders down your spine? While the last question needs further analysis, the answers to the other two are what makes for a gripping introduction to The Girl With All The Gifts .

It’s given that characters are secondary in this genre. Plot always trumps characters. Characters get sacrificed to make for an appealing plot. Sometimes the focus is so heavy on the thrills that as readers we do not connect with the characters on any level. Knowing this well, I prepared myself to be blown away by the plot with all the gore . Surprisingly, I came to care about these characters,a lot.

Somewhere in the first third of the book, there comes a point when the lead characters are right in the middle of nowhere. It is in this chapter that Carey makes it a point to give us a play by-play of what’s running through their minds. Thoughts full of fear, guilt, anger, confusion and utter surprise. This chapter humanized the dystopian thriller. Made it all the more interesting.

It has been a good year for dystopian/apocalyptic/horror genre so far. M R Carey’s The Girl With All The Gifts is no doubt one of bests.

A Must Read

Review copy provided by Hachette India

Movie that makes me happy – Sleepless In Seattle

A couple of days back Flavorwire did a story on Nora Ephron, which reminded me that it’s been a while since I had my Ephron movie marathon. You’ve Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, Julie & Julia and Sleepless in Seattle- I watch them back to back on my laptop with headphones on and a box of tissues by my side, to see me through the trials and tribulations in the lives of the characters that Ephron created.

Of the many, many movies that I like for various reasons, Sleepless in Seattle is one movie that makes it way to the top on all of my best movie lists. There is something about the story. Ironically for a romantic movie, the lead pair ( Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks) hardly spend about 10 minutes together on the screen, in the same frame, but it ends up lighting your heart like thousand light bulbs. That is my dear friends is movie magic. Absolutely optimistic approach to love and all its friends.

Sleepless in Seattle

Performances were stellar while being very understated. Music was perfect, which is a rare affair in movies these days. There are scenes in it that are so freakingly amazing that you’ll laugh and cry at the same time. Yes, that’s possible. Like this one where Annie (Meg Ryan) & her friend Becky (Rosie O’Donnell) are watching An Affair To Remember with lots of pop corn and tissues. Annie goes on and on about love in olden days all while watching Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant fall in love and Becky very matter of factly says this

Also Sleepless in Seattle  had THE MOST PERFECT movie ending of all time. Don’t trust me then go have a look at the Buzzfeed article that might convince you a little more.


If I Stay – Movie Trailer

The only 2014 movie I want to watch, first day first show. Because ‘If I Stay’.

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