My first book club meeting on ‘The Jasmine Bloom’

A fun evening, discussing the storyline, the process of writing and characters finding their own voices! Vienna, Fairfax, Virginia.  Many thanks to the book club members.

Book club 2Book club 1


Lilac Girls: Martha Hall Kelly


Another WWII story, Lilac Girls, traces the lives of three very different women affected by the war.  Kasia, a Polish young woman, spends the best years of her life in a Nazi concentration camp.  Caroline, an American philanthropist falls in love with a French Actor and tracks him down in Paris only to lose him again.  Herta, a German doctor of humble origins, carried out horrific acts on the prisoners, without as much as a prick of conscience.  The horrors of the Nazi concentration camps: the indiscriminate killings, the medical experiments on prisoners, and the inhuman living conditions of the inmates are captured in their ugly nakedness.  I believe I have read too much of WWII to be shocked any longer,  but the story still touches you nonetheless. What I thought would be the strength of the book – the narrative continuing after the end of the war, including the Russian occupation of Poland – turned out to be the weak link.  The characters, particularly Kasia’s – gets a bit mixed-up and irrational.  The writing is not very attractive but the starkness of the story reigns supreme.

Read, if you are not saturated by WWII books.

My first author interview with Debdatta

Author interview with Debdatta.

Full interview at

Book available at

A Man Called Ove: Fredrik Backman


A sad-funny account of a lonely old man who wants to die, but can’t kill himself for one reason or another.  Then, a pregnant immigrant woman and her family move in the neighborhood and give his life a meaning.  It is a touching story for the most part and Ove’s loneliness is heart-breaking.  The writing is witty, and humorous in parts.  What I particularly enjoyed were Backman’s conjectures of what the cat might be thinking when it gives certain looks.  Along the way, towards the second half of the book, the book gets a bit predictable, as Ove adds a bunch of characters to his team.


A Gentleman In Moscow: Amor Towles


An aristocrat, Count Alexandre Rostov, is put under house arrest in Moscow, in Hotel Metropol, after the Bolshevik revolution.  He learns to live there and makes the hotel his world.  It is an interesting premise and the novel begins promisingly.  A cheerful middle-aged man easily making peace with his much-diminished status.  The first half has mystery, philosophy (after an encounter with an actress, he gets treated with disdain and becomes invisible), and pace.  However, the second half is disappointing.  Whereas his interactions with Nina, a little girl living in the hotel, were heart-warming, the story of Nina’s daughter being raised by him, the admiration she receives from his colleagues is a bit pollyanish.  There is a stray chapter on Andre with no follow-up.  The end is not quite clear – his motivation in getting Sofia to France and himself to be out of the hotel is not etched clearly.

Don’t bother.

Born A Crime: Trevor Noah


Trevor Noah, the host of the Daily Show, and an irrepressible comic, tells us of his growing up in South Africa.  Born a crime, refers to his being the son of a white man and a black woman, a crime in the apartheid in South Africa.  It is an interesting story of never knowing where he belonged in a very race-conscious country that views everything from the race lens.  However, Noah is not particularly funny in narrating the story.  There are a few comical situations (as in most people’s lives), but the writing is ordinary.  South Africa is a fascinating country and I enjoyed learning more about the country.

Read, if you want to learn more about South Africa.

Sick In The Head: Judd Apatow


Judd Apatow, the creator of movies like ‘Knocked-up’ and ’40 Year Old Virgin’ – who is also a stand-up comic, explores what makes the comedians funny through interviewing many of the all time greats including Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Stephen Colbert, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and Jay Leno.  The book is a compendium of sixty such interviews – some done when Apatow was still in high school, and some after he became a successful director.  Sick in the Head is not a funny book.  If you are looking for clever interactions with comedic geniuses , there are few of those.  However, the book does tell you a bit about comedians you have admired.  Why they turned to comedy, and how they honed their craft.

Read, if you are a comedy nerd and want to know more about your heroes.