Summer reading watchlist – with mini reviews

How is your summer going? Mine is going great and I am using all the extra sunny hours in the evening to read books, books and more books and I am here for you with a round up of reviews of books I enjoyed reading recently. These books from different genres by writers from different countries and perspectives. Let me know which one would you like read?

Such a Good Girl by Willow Rose:

This story, based on real-life experiences, is about the dark reality of sexual abuse that exists in corporate world and no matter how many times we read such stories before, it never gets comfortable. The issue needs solution and possible way to give it the attention that is due is by talking about it, presenting the narratives, showing the victims that they are not to blame themselves and to work with system, supporters, confidants to bring down the perpetrators.

I admire the courage and gumption of Willow Rose to take this topic and present it as a fast-paced, addictive and page-turner fiction with complex characters, unexpected twists and turns. I read this book within a day. I couldn’t stop myself. I love the fact that the writing is gripping, chapters are small and pace is swift.

Kudos to the writer and whole team for bring this book forward. Definitely recommend it to all readers who enjoy this genre!

The Damage by Caitlin Wahrer:

This book is astounding. I am not exaggerating when I say that there are some sections in this book where I stopped reading for a while because I wanted to breathe out, calm down, collect my thoughts on what just happened and what will happen next.

This book is a thrilling debut by Caitlin Wahrer and this is the story of a vulnerable younger brother (Nick), protective older brother (Tony) and supportive, smart and empathetic sister-in-law (Julia). I got hooked to the story from the first chapter. This powerful story was narrated in two different timelines covering real but unfathomable topic of sexual assault narrated with poise, empathy and sensibility, from the perspective of all the family members and few other characters in the story. This would be a great read for pride month and I would recommend this book to all fiction lovers who have special fondness for suspense filled family stories.

Piranesi by Suzanne Clarke:

This fantasy book should be on your to be read list.

I finished reading this book today and I am still in a state where I am trying to imagine myself in a house like the one Piranesi stayed, with endless labyrinth of halls of halls and vestibules. It will not make you feel claustrophobic. It will make you lose hope or fear for future. The house Piranesi lives in makes you inquisitive with intriguing visitors, surprising things to discover, protect and keep track of.

This story is puzzling, mind bending, philosophical, mythical, intriguing and the writing is gripping, impressive. This book has a deeper meaning than what it looks like, if you take time to read slowly and think about all the contexts and references.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi:

The story started with a simple and believable statement that there are no more monsters left in the city of Lucille followed by assurance that the mayor of the city is ensuring that it stays so. All looks good and the story starts unfolding as Pet emerges from Jam’s mother’s painting with the sole purpose to hunt down a monster. I will not reveal what happens next.

This genre defying young adult fiction has got me hooked from the first page. The message of the book on how to deal with monsters, real or imaginary, though told from the perspective of young girl rings the bells for readers of all ages and is worth reiterating.

The writing is poetic, smooth, mesmerizing and I can’t wait to read more books from the author. In short, I am so glad that I read this book 😊

People we meet on vacation by Emily Henry:

I want to end this post with a book that you all would definitely love, if romance is your genre. Alex and Poppy are opposite personalities, who meet in college, becomes friends, stay connected for almost over a decade with texts now and then but a vacation together every summer to catch up with the time lost. Their travel stories are swoon worthy, chemistry is amazing and their adventures together made me long for a vacation as soon as I can plan one. In short, I loved this book and it deserves all the hype it is creating on bookstagram.

What books are you reading lately? Do you have any favorites?

100 faces – sketching faces

I have started this project long time back, may be more than 6 months ago with a goal to complete drawing 100 faces, to practice my sketching skills.

I made one post per each face back then and I have drawn and completed only 7 and posted them on blog so far. So, in this post, I made the format simple and made my drawings based on avatars. Today’s count is 12 faces.

Here it is. Faces #8 to #19.

Just a good pen and paper is all you need and there is lot of inspiration online and I found mine on Pinterest.

12 faces of very different personalities but it is easy to spot the similarities too. Tell me which one is your favorite. Mine is the the boy with curly side swept hair. I would like to meet a person with such personality in real 🤞🏻

I am not a professional artist but I would like to draw as a hobby and I frequently share the pictures of my drawings with friends and family. My kid is picking up this habit from me but I noticed that he is far more dedicated than me to his practice. I adore that about him. He loves creating fantasy animals, taking inspiration from Pokemon. So drawing, sketching, colouring in its it’s multiple versions and formats is a hobby that we both enjoy together. He his, me mine, immersed in our own little world.

Impactful books from my June reading list

We are half way through June and I am very happy with all the books that I am reading this month and my TBR list is forever growing, which I am very happy about.

I came across some pretty impactful books that I got a chance to read recently and I immediately thought I should share them with you. These are not the books, I feel, that we can read and forget. These are the books that you read once but remember for many moons. Disclaimer again that these books may not be your typical summer reads. The genres are varied, covering motherhood, adventures and business and the narratives elaborated and perspectives shared are diverse. Here are my thoughts and reviews on this unique booklist that I am able to put together. I hope you like them.

Let’s dive in!

Little Bandaged Days by Kyra Wilder

This is a book that says nothing and everything about motherhood and the myth of perfect life. This gripping story of a young mother of two kids who supports her husbands career by moving to another country only to be found with a cramped little parement with two young kids and almost non existent husband because his work is calling. The husband always has more meetings, dinners, office parties and of course frequent travel. With no friends or family or not even affable neighbors to connect with and having to deal with consistent demands of raising two young kids takes a toll on the mental health of the mother and this novel is a gripping, deep- dive narrative on what motherhood and loneliness entails. Although the outlook of the book is not positive, you will not be able to put it down once you start. The writing is gripping and you would want to know what is next and there is a great chance that all the mothers can relate to this story when they reminisce their own early motherhood days.

My rating – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Genre: adult fiction, motherhood

Maiden Voyages by Sian Evans

Cruise trips are fun, pampering and rejuvenating when we sip drink and sail smoothly on the waves. Has it always been like that? How did it all start? How did these facilities evolve? What circumstances created the need for on board photographers, grand staircases, chefs, stewardesses, royal decor, non-stop entertainment and first class parties that we expect on a cruise trip? You can get all the answers and many other details in this book along with illuminating stories of women who set themselves for transatlantic travel during the first half of twentieth century. The intentions and interests for travel are as diverse as the people who travelled during at era.

This book I feel is well researched and it was eye-opening on many aspects of long voyages in those early years where women weren’t openly accepted to find jobs, much less to be travelling on sea, delivering duties as efficiently as many men, capable of dealing with storms, icebergs, sea sickness and all other inconveniences while the ships were at the mercy of the wide oceans.   The stories of many great women, famous personalities, artists, writers and businessmen who saw trans-Atlantic travel as their ticket to new ideas, exposure to new culture, means to generate new business, get popularity and many other new life changing avenues that these voyages promised is illuminating. I enjoyed reading these stories and I am hoping you would too!

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Genre: History, Collection of Stories, Non-fiction

Fearless by Rebecca Minkoff

I loved this book.

This is a book on fashion, business, entrepreneurship and all the fun, fancy stuff, definitely, but it is also a book on drive, perseverance, determination, hard work, taking risks, dedication to the dreams and endurance to keep the balls moving even everything seems to be stacked against you.

Rebecca Minkoff, in this book, shares her story of making a name for herself in the hyper competitive and ruthless fashion world, as an outsider who started with nothing. Her journey from her toils as an intern to becoming an independent designer to becoming a global brand to her current vision as a mentor to support fellow female founders is truly inspiring. Her insights on how to figure things out, how to communicate, how to take chances, and especially how to ask for help are going to stay in my memories for a very long time. A must read for any career or business oriented woman (or man) who is keen to learn from one of the best.

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️ (and I would give more stars if I can)

Genre: Autobiography, Memoir

Did you read any of these books? What is your favorite recent read? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy Weekend!

Finding moments of peace

Where are they?

The days are getting longer and I getting a lot more sunlight than what I had few months back. My mood is better and I feel like I have a lot of time and I am doing a little bit of everything everyday, cooking, cleaning, working, workouts, eating, sleeping, watching a show or two. I sure do. There is nothing in particular that is stressing me right now nor there is a major life goal that I is making bite my nails or loose my sleep. I made peace with pandemic as well. But, somehow, I am not feeling peaceful.

The days seem to be drifting away and weeks are vanishing into nothing in a blink. Overall I am happy, in I am OK and so I am happy kind of way, but I am yearning for more. I am looking for moments of absolute contentment and peace.

I have gathered my thoughts on ways I can create such moments in everyday life and started implementing them, gradually and I have started filling the details of what worked and what didn’t in my journal.

If you are also looking for ideas, here is the list, my list, of things that are helping me create my own pockets of peace throughout the day.

1. Meditation: I have reached a stage where I feel I am missing something major when I don’t meditate for a couple days in a row. The easiest way I get this done is by waking around 15-30 minutes earlier than my family does. I will have the whole silent home for myself. I generally drink a glass of water and that is my trigger to pick my phone, put on my headphones, sit in my favorite chair, to close my eyes and drift into calmness with help of a short guided meditation.

I feel calm and relaxed after that and I will be ready to hop onto the chores. On days where I have extra time, I will extend the duration of my meditation to 15 to 20 mins.

2. Walking (or running): Sunlight feels like a blessing to me. Especially since moving to Canada, every sunny day is a great day in my books now. I am taking some time during the evenings to go for a walk or run, to enjoy the fresh air and rays of sunlight on my body. It is invigorating. This may not work for everyone or everyday, but when I can, I will go for a walk or run alone, spend some time, either sitting in a park or walking on the trail. Not talking to anybody, not even listening to music and just watching the swaying grass or blooming little flowers on the sidewalks or hopping squirrels or drifting clouds is a bliss. There, right there in those moments, is my moment of peace.

3. Journaling: Creating to-do lists or writing emails or creating impactful presentations can all include writing but the kind of writing that we do while journaling is quite different. It is a practice, that once we get a hang of it, that will lighten our mind and heart, and gives our random thoughts a form and clarity. It is a no pressure writing, nobody to correct or critic it and sometimes, I spill all my deepest fears there and also find my way out of seemingly complicated issues there, on these pages, while scribbling and dumping all my stray thoughts down on to those blank pages. Somedays I carefully choose every single word I write in my journal and would barely write a half page in 20 minutes and somedays, I finish writing 5 pages before I even finish my cup of coffee that kept on the side table, for use if need extra motivation.

4. Silly things: There are lots of other little (seemingly silly) things that I enjoy doing and find peace in. Counting the leaves of my house plans, making patterns out of stars at night, drawing and coloring an Instagram picture that liked a bit more than usual, slowly reading a book and playing all those scenarios in mind on how I would feel, what I would do without a rush to turn a page or change the chapter, playing random notes on keyboard (I have started this recently but have been enjoying it thoroughly).

That is my list. What is on yours? How are you creating your moments of peace? Let me know in the comments below.

Marilla before Anne by Louise Michalos

I hope you are using the lockdown time to read more books. I am doing that a lot and was glad that I came across and completed a lot of great books lately.

The list is definitely long and I am hoping to share more book review with you in future. For today, the book I am going to talk about is “Marilla before Anne” by Louise Michalos.

I think I am leaning towards historical fiction stories a lot these days. Modern days are filled with Pandemic anyway. I think my brain picked up this logic in the background and was sending me back to a world that was there or imagined to be there a century back, or may be two. This book that we are talking about is set in 1840s.

Before picking up this book, I remembered all the fan fiction that I read from my Harry Potter days. Some were amazing while some felt very flat. I didn’t know what to expect from this book.

Classics are classics for a reason and they have that charm that is hard to describe. “Anne form Green Gables” is one of my favorite Canadian series and although the story was about Anne, there is something magical about Marilla as well. You may not like her at the first site but she will grow on you. I wasn’t sure if this new book by a debut author will make me love Marilla more or not but I was hoping to get to know her better.

I picked up the book and I am glad I did it.

Marilla was dreaming about marriage. She was 18 and rebelling against her mother. She was going to church, jumping walls, sneaking away from home, meeting Rachel and planning a future. Louis Michalos has used brilliant imagination to weave a beautiful story about my favorite characters like Marilla, Matthew, Rachel whom I though I knew so well without changing anything about the future we are familiar with. I was amazed and I was turning page after page after page to know what happened next.

The letters Marilla wrote, the choices she made, the struggles she faced, the resilience she showed and the path she chose in the end were all shaping the Marilla I knew when she was 52.

I enjoyed reading this book and I would recommend it to all “Anne of Green Gables” fans. And If you don’t know Anne much, turn on your Netflix and search for “Anne with an E”. You can thank me later!!

Stay safe.

Welcoming Spring

The air around us has definitely changed. After few spring rains, we are having consecutive sunny days this week and that is a definitely a reason to celebrate. Welcome spring!

Walking slowly on the fresh grown grass, watching the buds develop into beautiful flowers, listening to the birds chirping around through out the day, early sun rises and longer days – I love them all.

I wasn’t feeling well lately. Not from Corona. Nothing to do with my own physical health but it may be emotional. Something doesn’t seem right. The news about India, the severity of the spread and constant updates from friends and family on how many were effected, the stories of the lives lost while battling, was heart breaking. I couldn’t pull myself up together to do anything cheerful. I was praying silently for this to pass.

After the many weeks of staying low, I realised that this is not how I want to respond. This is not helping anyone, including me.

I want to stay positive. I want to spread hope, send positive vibes to the friends and family who have suffered but stayed strong and recovered from the infection. I want to do the little things that I can do. I want to change my thinking. Thoughts has power and I want to spread some positive thoughts around.

The journey may be long but we will get there. May be slowly, but surely.

We will overcome this pandemic, together. Until this is over, I think our job is stay home, take care of ourselves and loved ones, stay connected with friends and family who were facing tougher times, offering emotional support and helping in any way we can.

I wanted to come back here and say hello to every one, to connect with you and to share my hope and thoughts, to see how everyone is doing. How are you doing? What is helping you cope with this? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Here are few pictures of Spring from my phone, to see if they cheer you up a bit.

Take care and stay safe. I wish you have a great weekend, with your loved ones.

Making to do lists fun!

Do you remember the homework that we used to get in school, especially in high school, with lot of essays to write, projects to complete, material to read, reference lists for extra reading. Yes, we all had them and that is exactly the time I started using checklists.

We used to note down homework in a dairy and keeping a little dot to the left side of each homework task on the list as soon as I completed it was one of my first memories of ever using checklists in my life. I used to show my dots proudly to my mom, to announce that I am done with school work for the day and I am technically free to meet friends, ride bicycle or play tag or hide and seek with my friends to my heart’s content.

And then, I grew up.

Got a Job. Got Married. Had a Kid.

I think I now need at least 5 to 7 separate dairies to keep tab on all the areas that I need to work on. Family, work, friendships, self care, finances, shopping, meal planning and all the fun little projects that go on the side, almost all the time.

I needed a system and I looked back at my old friend, making lists. Making a list, picking the priorities, making progress, marking the tasks complete, along with the feeling of joy that I get when I swipe my pen to cross the tasks. Huh.

Here are few ways to make the lists for you to work in case you need a little with making lists and tackling them as well.

  1. Make the list short: A good rule of thumb is to not to make the list longer than 8 items. 10 seems long and we are more likely to put the list away even before we start taking. Try to make your list short and sweet. If you have so many things to do, you can always start a new one tomorrow, or afternoon after you completed this list
  2. Make the tasks clear: Cleaning home on a task list is a big bummer and I will get tired even before I start it. Instead, when I write down clean the kitchen counter or clean bed room or organize one closet, the tasks seems easy, clear and doable. And even when the actual big picture task was to clean the home, dividing it into smaller, clearer tasks will make the task doable and less dauting.
  3. Give them a date when you can: Somedays, the lists that I make are not targeted to be done in a day. For example, when the goal is moving to a new city or planning a holiday, we can easily come up with a task list for all things that we need to do before the D-day. In such cases, give them dates, choose your priorities based on your schedule, your energy levels, mood and enthusiasm. That way, we can still keep a tab on things, take breaks as needed and still get everything done as time.
  4. Keep a diary: If you are like me, you will loose the loose papers where we randomly write down lists easily. So, I bought a good handy pocketbook few years exclusively for lists and I have been using it to keep all my lists in one place. For big plans, I broadly divide the tasks into groups and each group gets a page in my book and then I list all tasks that come under that group. For travel plans, the task groups can be booking, packing, reservations for local activities. Customize it and make it fun. I prefer to put a bit of time in making these task groups and lists so that when the time to act comes, there isn’t much deliberation required and all I need to do is to just get the things done. And with my little pocket book handy, I am not missing any lists and even my kid know where my list book is.
  5. Celebrate: This is the best part of making lists. Completing the tasks on list (even crossing off things when we feel that somebody else completed it for us) gives a sense of accomplishment that is unbeatable and also give us confidence to tackle more in future. Try a little celebratory dance move or eat your favorite cookie or even give a high five to your kid.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash