Book Review: Unlocking Worlds by Sally Allen

Unlocking Worlds

Genre: Non Fiction
Published: 2015
Country: USA
Format: PDF
About the Book: iRead Book Tours | Goodreads

I think that we can all unanimously agree that reading is no longer only a solitary past time for stereotypical ‘book worms’ as it used to be labelled years ago. It has become a community activity thanks to literary websites and book blogs. Not only do books enrich us and become a part of our lives but book readers all over the world are able to connect with each other and develop a meaningful relationship based on shared literary experiences. That is the real power of literature – to bring people together and add rainbow colours to our lives through a series of words written in black on white.

Unlocking Worlds is a book about books – written by a book-lover, for a book-lover. I am always looking for good book recommendations and this one really gave me some very interesting ones.

The author has written a whole chapter in the beginning on how to let a book change you. In it, she explains that it is not imperative that a reader necessarily has to connect with a good book but it is totally okay to be able to relate to a book that is usually not considered such a literary masterpiece. Reading is very personal and subjective. The books she personally considers good in this manuscript have been classified more or less on the basis of five qualities – a compelling narrative, purposeful shaping of words, purposeful ambiguity, emotional truth and wholeness. I found it interesting because I usually tend to read a book in its entirety using only the basic elements of plot, characters, setting, conflict and resolution without delving much into nitty-gritty details and this has caused me to think more carefully about reading and reviewing.

The rest of the book is divided into several chapters that follow themes and genres – of family, time travel, war, tragedy, children’s fiction, memoirs and epistolary novels and many others. It is a well structured book where each chapter begins with a personal anecdote, usually from Allen’s childhood, and contains 10 book recommendations that not only give a brief description but also the author’s personal insight into why she was personally able to connect with them. Here, Allen’s writing, English literature and communication background has helped her to delve deeper into the meaning of each story and find the reasons why these books have moved her. She has beautifully been able to extract the essence of each book and her words have made me want to explore many books that I might not even have considered before.

I found the watercolor painted cover, the most attractive feature of this book. I honestly loved the simplicity as well as the colors used that brought out an old world charm that is sometimes missing in even the most brilliantly graphically designed books today. The little illustrations with the quotes at the beginning of each chapter were cute too.

I was able to connect with Sally Allen’s book-related experiences in many ways that a reader is able to relate to another. Books were always such a huge part of my childhood and like Allen, I often read (and re-read!) deep into the night by flashlight under the blanket after everyone had gone to bed. As the author relates in one of the latter chapters which is aptly titled ‘Books for Book Lovers’, books have sometimes played the role of ice breakers and for developing an instant connection between two individuals who might have never met before. This has personally happened to me twice on the metro as well where I was reading two different books on separate occasions and a couple of fellow commuters asked me about them. In those moments, I was completely able to relate to a stranger even if I shared only a couple of sentences with them. I have certainly not found this connection possible with any other material possession.

I think Allen has really hit the nail on the head in one of the last few chapters where she has expressed how difficult and overwhelming it can get for a reader nowadays to keep up with all the books that come out by the hundreds and thousands. I can completely relate to that feeling. It’s like a rat race that I feel I must keep up, only to realise that really reading is ultimately for my pleasure and enrichment and not for any other reason. So it’s best to really choose the books that you can personally connect to or learn from.

I would consider Unlocking Worlds to be the perfect holiday gift for a book lover who loves reading a variety of genres and you aren’t sure what book to gift them. It’s also the perfect compilation of recommendations to keep on one’s bookshelf for the next time you’re just not sure what to read next.

Book Rating : 4.5 stars out of 5

Note: I received a copy of this book through iRead Book Tours. However, the opinions expressed here are entirely my own. If you would like to read more author interviews, guest posts and book reviews of Unlocking Worlds, please have a look at the book tour schedule here.

Sally Allen

Award winning writer and teacher Sally Allen holds a Ph.D. from New York University in English Education, with an emphasis in writing and rhetoric, and a M.A. in English Language and Literature. She teaches writing, literature, and communications, leads book group discussions, and is the founder and editor of Books, Ink at HamletHub.

Connect with the author:  Website  | Twitter

Thank you for taking the time to visit this blog, I always value your encouragement and support! If you liked this blog post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help spread it by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Thank you!

If you’d like to contact me for enquiries or just to say hello, you can email me at or even connect with me on Facebook , Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads and BlogLovin’

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Author Interview : Unlocking Worlds by Sally Allen

Unlocking Worlds

Award-winning writer and teacher Sally Allen knows that good books don’t just draw us in; they talk to us, shape us, and transport us to times, places, and minds different from our own.

In Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers, Allen deftly weaves personal stories with fifteen thematized, annotated, and illustrated reading lists for what to read next. By sharing some of the treasures in her library and the secret lives they reveal, she gives us permission to embrace the shameless book lover inside each of us. Unlocking Worlds is a testament to how reading passionately—and compassionately—can unlock the world beyond our back yard. Celebrating books and those who read them, Allen shows how the solitary act of reading can be a powerful thread that creates community and connection. Thought-provoking and eloquent, Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers is a must-have for anyone who can’t leave the house without a book in hand.

Here’s a quick Q&A session with the author Sally Allen:

What genre do you write and why?

I write nonfiction about books. When I was younger, I enjoyed writing fiction. During and after college, I’ve written essays and done reporting and other journalistic writing. In recent years, I find my favorite subject to write about revolves around my favorite pastime, which is reading. Books give me so much to think about, and writing helps me work out what I’ve learned and valued from my reading experience.

Where do you write?

I do a lot of my writing in my walk-in closet, which doubles as my home office. I live in an old home, and my closet, which probably wasn’t a closet when the house was built, has a large, lovely window. I put a small desk under it, and it’s a surprisingly cozy spot where I can sneak away when I want to write without being interrupted.

As a mom writer, how do you balance your time?

The biggest thing I had to learn is how to write productively in small bursts. Before I became a mom, I assumed I needed long, uninterrupted stretches of time to write. After I became a mom, I realized this was no longer possible. So I had to retrain myself to take whatever time I could carve out, even if it was just fifteen minutes, and make those minutes count.

What is a book that inspired you to be a writer?

One of my favorite books growing up was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. Claudia and her brother, Jamie, run away from home and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a place I’d spent a lot of time in growing up in New York. Reading that book inspired me to write my own Claudia-and-Jamie-style adventure, though mine was set in Williamsburg, Virginia, where my family had recently gone on vacation. Though I don’t write fiction anymore, that is definitely the first book that inspired me to write.

Name a quirky thing you like to do.

My absolute favorite place to read is on airplanes, especially on evening flights. Anytime I’m booking a flight, I’ll opt for an evening one if at all possible. Something about being 30,000 feet above the earth’s surface in the dark facilitates getting lost in another world. My secret fantasy is to be given an airplane ticket around the world so I can finally make a serious dent in my massive to-be-read list.

If you would like to read more author interviews, guest posts and book reviews of Unlocking Worlds, please have a look at the book tour schedule here.

Sally Allen

Award winning writer and teacher Sally Allen holds a Ph.D. from New York University in English Education, with an emphasis in writing and rhetoric, and a M.A. in English Language and Literature. She teaches writing, literature, and communications, leads book group discussions, and is the founder and editor of Books, Ink at HamletHub.

Connect with the author:  Website  | Twitter

Thank you for taking the time to visit this blog, I always value your encouragement and support! If you liked this blog post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help spread it by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Thank you!

If you’d like to contact me for enquiries or just to say hello, you can email me at or even connect with me on Facebook , Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads and BlogLovin’

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2015 Reading Challenge – Book #17 – Lavender and Old Lace

Book #17 – A classic romance – Lavender and Old Lace by Myrtle Reed
Genre: Classic Romance
Published: 1902
Country: USA
Book to Movie/TV Adaptation: Adapted for film in 1921

Source: Etsy (I do not own this image)

Ruth Thorne, an independent, city girl of twenty-five years and nearly-exhausted due to her stressful job at the city newspaper, jumps at the chance to look after her eccentric aunt’s house on top of a hill in a small seaside village while her aunt is away. When she arrives, her aunt whom she has never met before, has already left for Europe for six months, leaving Ruth only a letter handed to her by young housekeeper Hepsey. The letter has some instructions (but no explanations) including a strange request to light the lamp in the attic every night before bed. Ruth’s reporter instincts immediately come alive – why does her aunt light the lamp every night? Who lives in the house at the foot of the hill where there is a similar lamp burning? Who was Mr. Charles Winfield? While searching for answers to the many questions that keep popping up, Ruth also finds true love on the way.

There’s only one word I will use to describe this book – charming. No, make that three – very very charming. There’s not much I didn’t like about this book. I think the only other classic romance I have really loved is Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster and this follows right after.

This Victorian romance is truly timeless and each and every character is lovingly written – from the strong, independent career girl that is Ruth, Hepsey, the very curious housekeeper,  Miss Ainslie, a lady with an almost divine and ethereal presence to Mr. Carl Winfield, a young man of about thirty with a mischievous and endearing charm that quietly steals Ruth’s heart. The other characters which reveal themselves towards the latter half of the story were very nicely sketched too.

Despite being a classic romance, the book’s element of mystery created the main crux of the story. Even though Ruth’s wild imagination makes her cook up different stories about her aunt’s past, she finds herself utterly bored within the first few weeks of her arrival for lack of anything productive to do. Eventually she finds great friendship in her aunt’s old friend Miss Ainslie’s calming presence and later in Carl, who is also from the city and on vacation for six months to heal his tired eyes. Carl, who is her future colleague at the same newspaper, annoys and aggravates her but slowly proves to be her dearest friend and constant companion and gradually, the love of her life. I loved how Carl and Ruth were total opposites of each other but Ruth’s feisty nature attracted Carl and his boyish but caring nature won over Ruth. Their cute, teasing and witty banters were the highlights of their friendship although I didn’t like it much when Ruth slowly changes from being a strong feminist woman, to turn into a much docile version of herself. That was the biggest moot point for me that I didn’t care for.

Towards the end when the mysteries of the past unfold themselves, the book’s tone changes from being light and humourous to a bittersweet one leaving you with a heavy feeling in your heart and a sense of melancholy.

Myrtle Reed’s writing is beautiful – descriptive but simple and not at all over-pretentious. She shares some lovely life wisdom about happiness through Miss  Ainslie’s enlightened self. It is ironic however, because Reed tragically committed suicide in real life at the young age of 36. Still, her legacy lives on in her wonderfully penned words and this book is a priceless gem which I would recommend to any lover of classics.

Book Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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2015 Reading Challenge – Book #14 – No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom For Life

Book #14 – A non-fiction book – No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom For Life by Thich Nhat Hanh
Genre: Non-Fiction/Spiritual
Published: 2002
Country: USA

No Death, No Fear
I came across this book at my aunt’s place many months ago and opened it up to a random page in casual interest to find words that made a lot of sense to me. Intrigued, I downloaded this and many other books by Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh to read “later” (How many of you can relate with me? I download hundreds of interesting books to read “later” and never end up reading them!)

We all go through personal loss, fear of death and grief at one point of our lives or another. Everyone rejoices at the birth of a new being but none of our emotional faculties can really ever prepare us for death, no matter how sudden or impending it may have been. Buddhism has a very profound yet scientific explanation regarding birth and death, one which is logical at the same time comforting.

No matter how open-minded we may be, some of the notions, concepts, beliefs, prejudices and biases that we have been brought up with always form the basis for many of our decisions and judgements. The Buddha observed that the ultimate goal of life is to achieve nirvana which can only be achieved by breaking the bondage of all concepts and notions in our minds that cause us much distress and keep us from our true reality of complete happiness and freedom. One of these is the concept of birth and death.

The Buddha said the nature of your reality is the nature of no birth and no death; no coming, no going, no being, no non-being, no same, no different. The teaching sounds as though it contradicts the teaching that everything that is born must die, the teaching that we cannot escape death, sickness and old age. Practice looking deeply. You will realize that birth is a notion, death is a notion, coming is a notion, going is a notion, being is a notion and non-being is a notion. We have to remove all notions concerning reality. Then we touch the ultimate reality, or suchness. 

Nothing is created, there’s only a transfer of energy from one form to the other. This is something we’ve studied in physics at school but maybe never thought about it carefully in life. Buddhism talks about applying this scientific fact and calls it manifestation. The book mentions several examples one of which is that of a cloud that changes its form into rain that subsequently gets transferred into our body in the form of food and water and repeats its cycle. Similarly, so does the manifestation of life.

Nothing has a separate self, and nothing exists by itself. If we examine things carefully, we will see that all phenomena, including ourselves, are composites. We are made up of other parts. We are made up of our mother and father, our grandmothers and grandfathers, our body, our feelings, our perceptions, our mental formations, the earth, the sun and innumerable non-self elements. All these parts depend on causes and conditions. We see that all that has existed, exists or will exist is interconnected and interdependent. All that we see has only manifested because it is a part of something else, of other conditions that make it possible to manifest. All phenomena are neither produced nor destroyed, because they are in a constant process of manifesting.

We are also guided to open our eyes and see that our historical dimension (or the reality that we have been led to believe) is different from our ultimate dimension (the reality that is our true nature). There are detailed examples that help us think outside the box and remove many mental barriers regarding everything in life. The book talks about simple ways of Buddhist meditation and practicing looking deeply in our daily lives and being aware to really awaken ourselves. Although these new and alternative thoughts are not easy to comprehend, practicing mindfulness can slowly help us rewire some of our preconceived notions.

I found myself asking several questions regarding pain and suffering. How can we justify suffering if there is no death, no fear, no coming, no going? There is an answer to that in the book as well. Your actions cause ripple effects around everything else. What you do or don’t do decides the course for others. Although the examples made sense, the justifications were still a bit difficult to take in.

How can I be happy? It’s simple, the Buddha says. Live in the present moment. In other words, be thankful of what you already have in your life.

Please take a pen and a sheet of paper. Go to the foot of a tree or to your writing desk, and make a list of all the things that can make you happy right now: the clouds in the sky, the flowers in the garden, the children playing, the fact that you have met the practice of mindfulness, your beloved ones sitting in the next room, your two eyes in good condition. The list is endless. You have enough already to be happy now. You have enough to be free from coming and going, up and down, birth and death. Nourish yourself every day with the wonderful things that life has to offer you. Nourish yourself in the present moment. Walk in the kingdom of God.

Finally, your own experience is the best teacher. This is what Buddhism is all about.

The Buddha has advised us that we should not accept any teachings as true just because a famous master teaches them or because they are found in holy books. This also includes the Buddhist canon. We can only accept teachings that we have put into practice with our own awakened understanding and that we can see with our own experience to be true.

I highly recommend this book. It’s a huge eye-opener. The philosophies are practical and the spiritual teachings of Buddhism are simple ways of life, the basics of which anyone can practice in their daily lives no matter what faith they follow or even if they don’t follow a faith at all. It’s all about the mind, soul and awareness of the self and waking up to the ultimate reality.

Book Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Happy Belated Top Ten Tuesday!

I’m a day late for this week’s TTT hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, but I just could not help myself when I read the topic for this week ! Top 10 Books From My Childhood (or teen years) That I Would Love To Revisit.

I love my childhood bookish memories. I read voraciously during the day and couldn’t stop even during the night when I would sneak under my blanket and read by the light of a big black rubber encased torch.

Most of these books that have been a huge part of my childhood are second or even third-hand copies that my father bought for my elder sister when she was a child or a teen. Considering the fact that she and I have a huge age difference, some of them are at least three decades old ! This mélange of books were a huge part of my growing up years after my sister had already grown up and gone away to college.

Here are the top ten books I would like to re-visit from my childhood and teen years:

1. Girl’s Adventure Stories


These short stories for young ladies were quite fun to read. A different female protagonist in each short story finds herself in the middle of an adventure most of the time in a new place. There is no mention of the author nor the publication date but my guess is they were published in the early 80’s. These books are originally a part of my sister’s collection and we have four out of the six in the collection.

2. Girl’s Mystery Stories

Look at the 80’s look on these young ladies! Handed down to me by my sister, we own four of the six stand alone full length novels written by different authors. Some of these are a bit spine-tingling but my favourite one is Dancing with Danger.

3. Hamlyn Story Library Collection


There were many books published in this particular collection for young adults including adventure, mystery, spy, supernatural, animal, fantasy and horror stories but my sister and I just have the 1980’s editions of these three beauties. My special preference is the Adventure Stories for Girls which are charming in their own right.

4. Kay Tracey Mystery Series by Frances K. Judd


I just found out that the Kay Tracey series of 18 books was originally published from 1934 until the 1940’s ! My sister passed me these 1980’s editions that had four books out of which we have these three. The series is very similar to Nancy Drew. Sixteen year old Kay, an amateur detective, lives her mother and a lawyer cousin Bill and goes to high school with her two best friends Betty and Wilma who are twins. A good old-fashioned mystery is right up her alley. My favourite one is The Six-Fingered Glove Mystery.

5. Miscellaneous Mystery Stories


Hurrah for more female protagonists!  Same overall theme of a cozy mystery but of course with different ladies and different plots.

6. The Three Investigators by Robert Arthur


Finally, some boys! Until a couple of months ago, I thought that these books were written by Alfred Hitchcock himself as he was featured in each book as the mentor and friend of the three investigators – Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews. I used to think it was pretty pompous of him to write his own character as “the famous Hollywood director” in the books. Turns out the series was written by a huge fan of Mr. Hitchcock, a writer by the name of Robert Arthur. My favourite out of the four we possess is The Mystery of the Fiery Eye.

7. The Babysitters Club by Ann M. Martin


Now, we finally move onto my personal collection! Who can forget these lovely young and enterprising ladies who weren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves for the love of kids and some extra pocket money? I wanted to start a club (any club!) or be in one so bad because of them. I also longed for my own phone line because they had their own number for clients to call them on! My favourites are the Super Specials and the scrapbook of chain letters and cards. I read a lot of these from our local library too. Good times.

8. Sweet Valley Twins by Francine Pascal


Another very popular series that I have personally collected is about the pretty twins – nerdy Elizabeth and party-animal Jessica. I loved reading about their school, high school and university lives, right to the point where Jessica gets married to this really bad boy and has to face the consequences. This series dealt with a lot of teenage issues including bullying, teen pregnancy, drug abuse and a whole lot of other stuff.

9. Sugar Secrets by Mel Sparke

Sugar SecretsI don’t remember a whole lot about this series of 20 books but I remember being captivated by them and reading all of them one after the other from my neighbourhood library. They also dealt with a lot of problems and difficult circumstances that a lot of young adults face in their teen years.

10. The Enid Blyton Collection

IMG_20150325_133504I was saving the BEST for the last! How can I forget the books that got me hooked onto reading as a very young child? Secret Seven, The Famous Five, Mallory Towers, St. Clares, The Naughtiest Girl, The Five Find-Outers – Enid Blyton has written the world’s famous characters and series’. My favourite in this whole collection that is a mixture of my sister’s and my books is the 1967 edition of The Mystery of the Tally-Ho Cottage, the old and tattered pages of which literally crumble to dust upon touch!

My sister and I have read, re-read and then re-re-read our personal collection until they have become shabby and their covers and pages have fallen off. Despite their wear and tear, they still retain their inherent charm. Inside each yellowed book is a bit of my past that I have left behind – dog-eared pages, scribblings, doodles and comments written here and there. I haven’t paid these gems a visit in a long time but just knowing that they are always on my bookshelf, is of great comfort to me. Some of them are so rare that I can’t find proper details of them anywhere online. I love ’em and couldn’t do without any of them! 🙂

Have you read any of these books I’ve featured? Which books led you to take a trip down memory lane? Let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear from you. 🙂

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2015 Reading Challenge – Book #11 – Almost Perfect

Book #11 – A trilogy – Almost Perfect by Julie Ortolon (Perfect Trilogy #1)
Succeeded by: Just Perfect and Too Perfect
Genre: Romance/Chick Lit
Published: 2005
Country: USA

Almost Perfect by Julie OrtolonI’ve fallen in a bit of a reading and blogging slump recently. I finished this e-book about two weeks ago but just got around to reviewing it (I blame it on the lazy spell that’s hit me). I also think it’s because I really had no thoughts about this book.

The reason I chose this series was because I felt it was necessary to have some light-hearted reads in between heavy ones. Hence, I chose not to read all three books in succession but reach out to them whenever I fell into a reading slump, much as one reaches out for some chocolate to get a bit of a ‘happy kick’. If you haven’t guessed already, chick lits are my candy.

The premise of this trilogy attracted me. Three best friends – Maddy, Christine and Amy – in their early thirties, get very miffed when they find out that their very successful old college flat mate has used them as examples in her best-selling book How to Have a Perfect Life of people who did not face their fears and settled for less. The three make a pact amongst themselves that they would prove their friend wrong by doing the very things that scare them and complete them in a year’s time.

The first installment of this trilogy, Almost Perfect is about Maddy, a widowed artist who tries to face her fear of rejection by setting out to sell her work to art galleries in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As a first step to achieving this goal, she accepts a job offer to be an Arts and Craft Coordinator at a summer camp in New Mexico. The catch? The offer was sent by the matchmaking adoptive mother of her ex-childhood sweetheart who now owns the camp.

But what happens when two exes – a woman who doesn’t trust her own abilities and a man who doesn’t trust anyone else – come together? Fireworks, of course! Maddy doesn’t trust her own talent because her father belittled her as a child and made her lose her self-confidence. Joe doesn’t trust anyone because he had a hard time growing up in foster homes and trusts Maddy even less because she had broken his heart fifteen years ago. Things get very awkward when Joe finds out she is his new staff member and is going to work with him for two whole months. They agree to a truce for the sake of a working relationship and eventually give in to the attraction that never died down even after all these years.

Maddy is a cheerful, free-spirited, gypsy-like woman who wears impractical shoes and colourful clothing whereas Joe is a tough ex-army guy who strives for order and control in his life. The only thing they have in common is their love of art and their battered and bruised souls.

This book is a classic example of the ‘trust issues’ cliché in romance novels that has been done to death. The book was not a terrible read per se, however the theme was nothing new barring the ‘completing a challenge’ aspect of it. There were a few cheesy dialogues, some double entendres, lots of things-said-in the heat-of-the moment and explanations and justifications that had me rolling my eyes each time.

The main reason I was instantly hooked onto the premise of this trilogy was to read the writer’s take on how the three overcome their fears and complete their challenges while having fun and unexpectedly finding love. I didn’t expect it to be anything like a self-help book obviously (and it wasn’t!) but the almost-overnight success of Maddy in the art world was surreal and unbelievable. It all seemed so easy and effortless that the challenge part of it was completely non-existent. Yes, the story focused on the root of the cause – Maddy and Joe’s trust issues – but I just wasn’t convinced.

I also found it silly that Maddy and Joe were able to easily pick up their love life where they left off fifteen years ago only for Maddy to screw it up again towards the end. Those trust issues just kept getting more and more complicated.

However, the only part I sort of liked was that she was in touch with her best friends Christine and Amy via email whenever she needed any advice and the two would virtually dispel her self-doubts. From their brief conversations, I gathered that Amy was the cautious, sensible and staid one and Christine was the slightly more adventurous and reckless kind.

I was bored by this one but am more keen on reading the third installment, Too Perfect when I get to it and hope it lives up to its more exciting synopsis.

Book Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5.

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Guest Post: 5 Bookish Goals by Sophie

Hi, Hey, Hello!

I’m Sophie and I am hopping on over to this blog to share a little something. The lovely host of this blog Thistles and Whistles and I, through Blogging 201, got together (via the beauty that is the internet and e-mail) and started brainstorming ideas for both our blogs. The result is this, 5 bookish related goals. They are not so much about books themselves but instead are inspired by a love of them and all things literary.

Thistles and Whistles’ list can be found over here and this is mine:

1) Attend London Literature Festival – This happens in the autumn time and I have always intended to go but the timing has never really been right and this year it seems like it could be, even if it is just for a day. I have always loved the Southbank and there is always something kind of awesome going on down there, so I would quite like to experience the buzz that comes with events being held there.

2) Acquire and organise a bookshelf – Currently all of my books reside under my bed in a huge, completely unorganised pile. There are books from my childhood and literally every book I studied at uni with everything else in between. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, I want to be able to organise them and stare in wonder at all the book spines in their various, beautiful states of wear and tear.

3) Visit various author museums/houses etc – So confession time, I live with relatively easy access to places like Stratford-Upon-Avon and the likes and have never actually been to them. It’s probably about time that I change that. (And I might just drag my best friend along to some when she has stopped being all fantastic and studying medicine.)

4) Re-visit Harry Potter Studios – I don’t really hide the fact that I am a Harry Potter fan. Fun fact, it was a huge bonding topic with my best friend and I. I have been before, but it was a) a fairly hot day so everything seemed kind of sluggish and parts were overly hot to deal with and b) so oddly overwhelming that I didn’t really take it all in. There is just so much to look at and so many details to notice that I really want to appreciate more. So a re-visit is definitely necessary.

5) Get an actual first draft of my 2014 Nano novel finished – I have talked about this beast in a few posts over on my blog and I have yet to finish it. There are many reasons for it, for example I have been more inspired to write other shorter pieces because I know I can get them finished and also because they aren’t set in that world that I lived so intensively in for 30 days. So I aim to try get it to a complete state, mainly for myself at this point, by the end of summer…that may be too ambitious, we’ll see. Definitely before November though because there is a chance I am made enough to do it all again.

So that’s my list. Do any of you guys have any bookish goals? Leave your comments below and let us know!

(Parentheses count: 3.)

2015 Reading Challenge – Book #8 – Poor Little Rich Slum

Book #8 – A book based entirely on its cover – Poor Little Rich Slum by Rashmi Bansal and Deepak Gandhi
Genre: Non-fiction
Published: 2012
Country: India

Poor little Rich Slum

Rashmi Bansal has some great books to her credit. Her Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish, Connect the Dots and I Have a Dream are all books that contain a wealth of wisdom and inspiration through real-life stories of enterprising and entrepreneurial people that she has met and interviewed.

Poor Little Rich Slum, a collaboration between Rashmi Bansal and Deepak Gandhi is no different. Except for one important element. It’s about Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum area of around 500 acres in Mumbai with a staggering population of more than a million residents. It’s this hard-to-miss arrangement of tightly squeezed huts covered with tin roofs and blue canopies that you see just as your aircraft is approaching Mumbai airport. The inspiration behind many films, including Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, Dharavi is a myriad of cultures, religions, classes and in this case, ideas.

Most Dharavi residents are immigrants from other states, who came to Mumbai with big dreams of earning more money so they could support their families back home and found themselves welcomed by this place with open arms. This book tells their stories – from the twelve-year old boy who slept on the streets when he first came to Mumbai and went on to own an export business with an annual turnover of 120 million rupees to a teenage ragpicker who goes to school in the morning and supports eight of his family members by collecting plastic waste in the afternoon. Every real-life story in this book teaches a deep and profound lesson that when you are at the bottom, the only way to look is up.

Despite the filthy and crowded surroundings, the spirit of Dharavi is unshakeable because of the strength of millions that rely on each other’s support to survive. Alone they are nothing, but together they make a huge difference. And each time the government has failed, self-reliance has kicked in. Enterprising individuals, groups and NGO’s have set up schools, clinics and educational programmes that provide some much-needed support to slum residents at little or no cost.

I love that the focus of this book is not on the poverty and inhumane living conditions of the slum dwellers, but on how industrious the people are, despite their circumstances. They have no time to sit and feel sorry for themselves, instead they are constantly on their feet figuring out new ways to be more productive, resourceful and helpful to each other.These hardworking folk are doing the best they can with what they have and trying to uplift themselves in this fast-paced, madcap of a city.

Like past experiences, I was bowled over by this edition of Bansal’s book as well. The co-authored book with everyday stories of hope and the right amount of human touch strikes a real cord. You do not, at any moment of your reading experience, feel pity for the slum dwellers, instead you feel happiness and pride in their accomplishments and how they are all trying to help each other out of the quicksand of poverty and despair. Each story is packed with some powerful last sentences that remind us how supremely blessed we are and have much to be thankful for than we care to think.

What could have been better about this book was that none of the photographs were captioned. Some were pretty self-explanatory but in most of them I was trying to find out who the main person being interviewed was because there were multiple pictures in each story.

Dharavi has witnessed and borne the brunt of many a difficult time from epidemics to other calamities. Nevertheless, the soul of Dharavi is eternal and has forever found a way to bounce back and rise again like a phoenix from the ashes.

“We can be happy, we can be hopeful, we can be enterprising – no matter where we are.

The question is – are you?

If Dharavi can, so can I.”

Some other lovely parts and quotes from this book:

1. Economies are not built on capital alone. They are the products of human intent. Dharavi is what you get when a million people hold a common intention. To rise above their circumstances, and make the best lives possible for themselves.

2. Dharavi should be celebrated and replicated.

Because every human being has the potential to be ignited.

Poverty is nothing but a state of mind.

3. “Aage main ek bada insaan banna chahta hoon,” says Afsar. “Bada aadmi ban kar jhopad patti walon ko building mein ghar dena chahta hoon.” (Translation: “I want to become a big man in the future. I want to give the hut dwellers a home in buildings.” says sixteen year old Afsar, a ragpicker.)

Because a life lived for oneself is the biggest waste of all.

4. Ranis of Jhansis astride horses of valour. Charging through the narrow bylanes of the mind.

Which are as difficult to redevelop as Dharavi itself.

Book Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

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