Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Girl Waits with Gun
It didn’t help that Norma had all the girlish charm of a boulder.

Girl Waits With Gun has one of the most fascinating premises that I have come across. A woman made a Sheriff (US's first) after she stands up to some goons? Give me more! I'll happily drink up to that!

Constance Kopp and her sisters - Norma and Fleurette - were riding into town on their buggy (this is 1914) when an automobile driven by Henry Kauffman comes smashing into them. The rogue Kauffman denies any wrongdoing and gets his muscled henchmen to intimidate the women. Towering over most men in her town, Constance barely registered any fear and so sent letters to Kaufmann asking him to pay. Kauffman however knew where the women were staying and his threats reached their home as well. This drives Constance to complain to the Sheriff, who resourceful as he is, struggles with Kauffman quite a bit.

I don't know if that sounds like an enticing enough summary to you, but if it does not, please ignore most of it and go read the book anyway! Right from the beginning of this book, I was hooked. The three sisters - even pessimistic Norma - felt very realistic and I couldn't help but cheer them along the way.

Constance Kopp was quite a feminist especially by 1914 standards. She believed women can do anything they set their minds to. As spinsters, both Constance and Norma would have easily kicked up a scandal in any town but they didn't seem to care. Sheriff Heath was a wonderful character and a feminist too (almost but certainly exceeding 1914 standards), especially when he alone refuses to appear condescending or paternal to the sisters because they are women and don't have a man to protect them.

Much of this story is rooted in facts. The Kopp sisters were indeed involved in an accident while riding on their buggy and Henry Kauffman did indeed refuse to pay for the damages. Sheriff Heath did spend a considerable amount of time trying to establish grounds to arrest Kauffman. But there are sundry other minor characters who add plenty of flair to the novel but didn't exist in reality. Amy Stewart also includes several genuine letters and published news articles that add to the atmosphere of the book.

Honestly, my only complaint was I wish I knew Constance Kopp. To steadfastly refuse to ask a man to protect her and to stand up against dangerous men, in an age when women were considered second class citizens definitely required lots of guts. Although both Norma and Fleurette brought their own unique personalities to the book, it was Constance who won my heart - this from someone who doesn't easily identify with her bookish characters even when she appreciates them.

I received this egalley from the publisher for free for review.

Books in the bag (India trip Part 1) | The Sunday Salon

Sunday, January 31, 2016

This is where I am going to ignore the fact that it's been a month since we got back from India. Because I am still working on my posts about that trip. You know how that goes when you don't have time to even get the camera out and gather the photos.

Butttttt, I've been working on this post for a while, if not by actually writing it, then by composing it mentally. One of my plans for the trip even before leaving was to visit a certain bookstore when we were in the husband's town and grab books written by Indian authors. I had been to that store (DC books) four years ago and had a vague memory of seeing many shelves of such books. However, when we went this time, we didn't see as many books by Indian authors as I had imagined there would be. That was a bummer but we still got some good books there.

A week later, we were in Chennai when we decided to go to another bookstore (Starmark) at a mall. This wasn't in the plans so I am glad this happened because this is where I bought the bulk of my books. The book selection here was great even in the kids section - I just did not get as many kiddie Indian books as I wanted to. I think, truthfully, I didn't really have an idea about what I was looking for so that made the hunting much harder.

I counted 13 books in total, plus 6 picture books for the kid. Of these, 11 are books I bought and 2 (Aarushi and Best Indian Short Stories) are books gifted by a childhood friend of mine, who I was meeting after a decade (more about this in my next post about the trip).

Books I'm most excited about
  1. Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy: this one was in the news recently after being nominated for the Man Booker Prize. It was bumped up on my TBR when Dolce Bellezza reviewed it here.
  2. The Smoke is Rising by Mahesh Rao: Rao's One Point Two Billion is probably the more popular book right now (plus the cover of that book is one of the best ever!) but I liked the sound of this book more. Maybe I will find a way to get hold of One Point Two Billion some other day.
  3. Chemmeen by T. S. Pillai: Chemmeen is one of the most famous movies to come out of Kerala. I could never make myself watch the movie - growing up, I have seen too many people cry at the ending. I guess I am now old enough to acquaint myself with the story. No? Let me start with the book.
  4. Mrs. Funnybones by Twinkle Khanna: I had heard of Twinkle Khanna as an actress, not a writer. I don't think her acting career is going right now, if at all anywhere, but she does have several fans as a writer.  
  5. Aarushi by Avirook Sen: This narrative about the true life murder of a teenage girl and her family's servant only recently came to my spotlight. I did watch the movie about the murders and although it looks like the murders are still mostly unresolved, I am looking forward to reading about it.
  6. Shikhandi by Devdutt Pattanaik: This book has been on my TBR for a long time, ever since it was released. It's also top of my list right now to read so hopefully, I will get to it sooner than later.
  7. Honour by Elif Shafak: This is the lone book in this list NOT by an Indian author. Shafak has long been an author I want to read so I'm excited about this one.

Other exciting finds
  1. The City of Devi by Manil Suri
  2. Yasmeen by Sophia Khan
  3. Racists by Kunal Basu
  4. Best Indian Short Stories by Khushwant Singh
  5. The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
  6. Half of What I Say by Anil Menon

The Sunday 
Salon.comHave you read any of these titles? These books have been sitting by my shelves for the better part of a month and I have managed to not pick any to read until I got this post out and cataloged these titles on my spreadsheet.

Six months! | Five on Friday

Friday, January 29, 2016

  1. #Snomaggeddon! We were snowed in last weekend. I was working from home on Friday - well, working as well as I could with a feisty six month old who didn't nap as much or as long as her mom would like her to. But snow days have their own charm too even if all I like to do is stare at the snow. For all that long weekend fun, I came down with something on Sunday that shut me down for two days. So I was out on Monday as well trying to recuperate.

  2. Shreya turned six months last week! I had been waiting for this milestone from the day she was born. I knew she was going to be more interactive by then (she did start being more feisty at the four month point itself actually). Besides, the six month point was when I wanted to start her on solids (which is going shakily, btw). Now that six months is here, I do feel emotional knowing that another few months and she is going to be one year old!

  3. Two weeks back, our baby's nanny quit, with no notice and after taking an advance pay. After much hunting, we found and hired a new nanny this past week. She is amazing! She brings her one-year old along too and takes wonderful care of both of them. With the previous nanny, I had to give her multiple instructions and suggestions frequently. I haven't once had to tell the new lady anything, other than to point her to the resources. This has been wonderful - I have finally been able to head to work without worrying about Shreya. As hard and trying as it was when the previous sitter quit, I am glad now that she did or we may not have found this amazing person. Which means, I need to resist from getting super-anxious when the crap hits the fan and try to be more willing to accept that the change might be a good thing. (The problem is, sometimes it can be bad too.)

  4. I'm reading. Barely though. Just making it through. Still, I like to say that I am reading every day, even if just a few pages. Right now, I am racing through Sylvain Neuvel's Sleeping Giants. It's a fun book and a quick one too - both of which I sorely need right now. I did finish Girl Waits With Gun last week and loved it! But Train to Pakistan is not moving much, if only because I can barely find the time to hold a paperback and read it.

  5. This week, you guys! It has been intense! I've had to work extra every day and once home mostly watch Shreya then head to sleep. I was beat. I could certainly use this weekend to recover, unless I end up bringing some of my work home, which I hope not. I have also not been on top of myself for weeks now, which is definitely a sign of doing too much, so I need to try and cut down some - I just don't know where to start yet.

Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Blue Is the Warmest Color
When it comes to graphic novels or memoirs, I rarely ever read the back of the book or try to find out what the book is about. I am usually done with a graphic book within half an hour, and those 30 minutes either got wasted on a dud or spent with the most amazing comic book. Usually, it's the latter. If it's turning out to be the former, I tend to bail out very early.

I am also usually indiscriminate with graphic books. As long as they are not part of a series or are not from the manga category, they find their way to my hands. However, when it came to Blue is the Warmest Color, I found myself ignoring that book. The cover art, as gorgeous as it is, didn't fascinate me for some reason. Plus, it kinda looked manga-ish to me. I know that's a stretch but who knows what the my brain sees when it looks at a picture. It was only after coming across a few articles / reviews recommending this book that I decided to give it a try. 

The 30 minutes I spent with this book turned out to be time very well-spent.

Blue is the Warmest Color is Clementine's coming out story and subsequent aftermath. Clem realizes that she likes girls when she sees Emma while crossing the road. Punkish and confident, Emma's blue hair stands out in any crowd. Very soon, they start an electric and wild relationship, which is however secret, because Emma already has a girlfriend while Clementine doesn't yet want the world to know that she is a lesbian. The facts however have a way of making themselves known and this seems to be bringing about an end to their relationship.

The first word that came to mind after I read this book is "beautiful". That's how I would describe the artwork, the characters, and the story. There is much to love here. Emma's confidence and Clem's shyness ooze out of the book. Their love itself was wonderful to be lost in. Both girls are dealing with issues. Emma doesn't want to deal with rejection and not publicly acknowledging her love for Clem is her way of keeping the status quo. Clem is horrified by the reactions of her "friends" when they learn that she is gay, but this is just the beginning of her problems. Her parents are so anti-gay that it freaks her out.

When the book begins, we already know that Clem is dead. The rest of the book is about how the two met and parted. As beautiful as this couple was, I did want to learn more about some of the auxiliary characters, such as Clem's parents and Emma's girlfriend. Their actions did much to sway the story in certain directions but not knowing much about the motivation behind what they did reduced their importance somewhat. They felt like pawns to me. I was also not a fan of the hasty ending, which reminded me of one too many melodramatic movies.

I later learned that there is a movie based on this book and that the movie has been getting very rave reviews. I am not so sure I want to watch the movie, unless one of you can convince me otherwise. The book itself is very explicit and sexual in graphics, after all it a love story. The graphics are beautiful however - no matter what they are depicting. The font, the characters, the sketches - all contributed to the eye candy factor of the book.

I borrowed this book from the good old library.

Reading Plans for 2016 | The Sunday Salon

Sunday, January 17, 2016

I've been writing and thinking about this post for a while. At times, I was sure that I should not make any reading plans, but at other times, I craved some structure or plan to guide my reading. Initially, I started off with a bunch of goals, then later I stripped out a lot of it to focus on only what I really want to do this year. Obviously, going through half of January and not really reading much has helped put these goals in perspective. So rather than get lost in a sea of goals, I figured I could split them into stuff I definitely should do and stuff I would like to do.
  1. {Do} Start each month with a book from my shelf. Almost 28% of books I read last year were from my own shelves. That to me, is a win. I'm hoping to stay more or less around that same number or do better.
  2. {Want} Read a book from India each month. I have been very bad about reading books set in India. I do decent on trying to read diversely but not many of those books are from India. I only say I "wish" for this because even if I do this every other month or only every quarter, I'm happy.
  3. {Do} Read a (preferably horror) book by Stephen King for Halloween. This should probably be a {Want} but I'm leaving it as a {Do} because I've been saying this for three years now. To me, Fall/Winter is the wrong time to read horror and my reasons are why it IS the right season to read horror. In October (at least in the Northern hemisphere), the nights are longer, the evenings can be depressing, even the mornings are darker so reading a horror book or watching a horror movie can easily give me nightmares. Yeah, I can be a chicken sometimes. But I'm buckling up for the ride this year.
  4. {Want} I would like to focus heavily on 2015 releases during January - March. I have been mostly backlist-reading over the last year and so ended the year with a big list of 2015 books I want to read. Of course, I will read anything that catches my fancy but if I'm shopping for my next read, I will probably try to pick a 2015 book.
  5. {Do} One chapter / middle grade / YA book a month. One thing I want to do for Shreya is build her a library of diverse books. I grew up reading mostly American books (despite not growing up in the US) and as a child, whenever I wrote a story, I tended to favor white heroines. I wish I had read more Asian books growing up but even when I went book-shopping last month in India, I found these books to be hard to find. That was depressing so rather than scurry around for a book when Shreya is ready for reading bigger books, I would like to start finding those books now. (Yeah, I am trying not to plan Shreya's entire life already. :-) )
  6. {Want} I am going to try and stay away from review books as much as possible this year, unless I can start reading that book right away. This is usually somewhat difficult - who doesn't like new and shiny books? But I hate not being able to guarantee a read + review within weeks of getting a book.

The Sunday 
Salon.comI like how I thought about this. I probably won't feel too bad about not getting to the Wants, and the Dos are simple enough to do - in fact, they are something I am already doing (except #3, of course) so I won't be changing my reading styles or aiming for the moon when there is no shuttle to get me there.