Book Review: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli


Any book that makes you wanna rush home so you could resume reading is a good book. This was mostly a fun, heart-warming read and Simon is just so adorable as a person that it’s hard to not empathise with him, and actually wish that you knew him. I mean, he wears a freaking dementor costume for Halloween!

But the bigger point is this; even though I wasn’t really on-board with the narrative from the get go (I’m nearing my 30s and nowhere in the head space to go through a YA coming-of-age story), but there are a few books that always breakthrough, due to the larger picture that they paint. And this book grew on me with every page – Simon, his friends, his school, his parents – and I realised that’s because everything feels so genuine and relatable. And as someone who’s experienced this often, coming-out is not just about your sexuality, we come out everytime we don’t fit into the boxes that the society puts us in. And this all the more special because at its core it’s not really about Simon being gay, there are so many other battles that he’s fighting every day.

And it just hits me while I’m writing this that there’s so much that this book addresses in the short span. How to stand up to bullying, how to be more inclusive, more accepting, and how to be better parents even.

And last but not least, Becky’s superb prose! The language is fluid and it does read like a 16 year old’s inner monologue, but there are some really curious phrases that I enjoyed e.g describing someone’s voice as “thin and high like Voldemort”. It’s simple but effective.

Overall, this was time well spent. Would I read the sequel? Not unless there’s one from Simon’s POV again.


Book Review: ORIGIN – Dan Brown

The Line:

Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. (from Goodreads)

But this is a Dan Brown novel and you know how it’s gonna play out.

See the source image

What I thought:

How effortlessly is Dan Brown able to take the same characters and narration, put them in a different location, slap a new controversy/premise, furnish some Wikipedia-esque details about famous people and their art, and voila – call it a new installment! If that sounded like praise, it definitely isn’t.

Because I, for one, really wish Robert Langdon retires and settles down (let’s get him hitched with Elizabeth Sinskey), just so we wouldn’t have to read another book where he has to play the I-know-stuff-and-I-see-what-you-don’t symbologist with a *cough* good heart *cough*. I mean, can we just collectively accept that we’re five books down already, and yet if asked to write a character analysis, most people wouldn’t go beyond Mickey Mouse and Claustrophobia.

But let’s give credit where it’s due, Brown actually choses a pretty compelling topic for Origin i.e the origin of life itself; which piqued my interest as a skeptic. While I did not walk away with much to muse on, I’m hoping this book will at least help a few to question their own religious orientation. There are always people who would ask what is the point of life if there is no god? Why am I here? Where am I going? But is a supreme being really essential to explain life? To explain us? And what if someone were to tell you that life needed no designer after all? Would that be enough to crumble the foundations upon which most of the world’s religions lay? Or would it be business as usual? That people are ultimately gonna believe whatever gives them a sense of comfort?

All those questions the book does pose and if that seems like a worthy exercise, by all means go ahead and read the book! I’m sure you’ll come out a little wiser.

Where it falters is pretty much everything else, the formula is still intact. There is a murder, there’s people on the run, there’s a secret organization, and Robert Langdon is unwittingly dragged into the mess plus he has codes to solve while marveling at art and architecture! If you see, those were the exact same things that made Angels & Demons such a fantastic read and left a lasting impression on me as a teenager when I read it. But now, you just keep flipping the pages wearily, rolling your eyes at regular intervals.

The brighter points, then? The philosophical discussion, for sure. But also, the art! Here we’ve moved past the Renaissance period onto the modern art eraThough I will have to agree with Langdon and say that I’m much more at home with Michelangelo and Da Vinci and Botticelli. Origin is set in Spain, and we start off at the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao with its esoteric displays of modern art. Then we meet Antonio Gaudí(an architect famous for his spectacular modernist art) in Barcelona where things get much more intriguing. Sagrada Família, in particular, stands out for its sheer ambition and is soon to be the largest church in Europe. Brown does know how to set these great action pieces in epic locations, that’s his USP after all.

I’m not gonna touch upon the finer points of the plot, because that was a source of my constant chagrin. It’s 2017 when this book came out and most the plot devices and twists that the author employs have been done to death with. Even that final twist, which I saw coming from miles ahead, and was somehow hoping is just a red-herring. But no, Brown succumbs to the clichés because he apparently cannot do any better. There’s a sect of Brown-heads who will argue that one mustn’t judge his books for the prose or the plot, rather we should point our attention at the topic that is discussed. I get that, I do, and I enjoyed Inferno for the ethical dilemma it posed around a real issue. Origin lacked direction, and by the end I wasn’t sure if the book really achieved what it set out to do.

Where do we come from? Where are we going? These are the existential questions that frequently pop up in the book. I think it’s time Dan Brown asked those questions about himself.


Robert-Langdon, Spain, Artificial-Intelligence, Primordial-soup, Darwin, creationism, modern art, Barcelona, Winston Churchill, family-drama, science-vs-religion

Book Review: Call Me By Your Name – André Aciman

The Line:

Call Me by Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliff-side mansion on the Italian Riviera. (from GoodReads)

See the source image

What I thought:

If there are books that make you literally grope for words (and breath), because you don’t think that anything you’re ever gonna say could truly encompass what they made you feel, this is definitely one of those!

Call Me By Your Name is a prime example of what could be achieved when the author lays his soul bare on paper. And if this is purely fiction, Andre Aciman is truly one of the most brilliant writers around. A first person account of a 17 year old might sound a little trite to the unawares, but Elio’s relentless dialog with his desires, his dreams, his destiny is nothing short of a revelation, both in terms of the matter at hand and the craft. What a great character study too, when you reach into such depths of his personality that authors usually aren’t capable to letting you delve. And there is acumen, oodles of it. The characters all display a heightened sense of perception, a delight! But predominantly it’s Elio and his mind that I fell in love with, if that is even possible!

Before my mind goes off in tangents, a word on the prose too. In a lot of ways, what makes this book special is the language. It’s beautiful, poignant, heart-wrenching – without being overtly dramatic. Most of the sentences that hit you hard are the simple ones. A sea of emotions conveyed at the economy of a few words. So I lingered on each page a little longer, contemplated Elio’s own thoughts as if it were mine own. I wasn’t eager to finish reading his story, yet I couldn’t put the book down.

The final chapter was bittersweet. The movie ended where it did for cinematic purposes, but the book goes a little further and there’s an open ending, joy!

Now excuse me while I go find someone to call them by my name. Later!


Italy, old-world, queer, protagonists who read books, love, sensuality, longing, coming-of-age

Book Review: Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe


I have always asserted that books could never drive me to tears. But that is until now; because Uncle Tom’s Cabin came close, very close. And if it could have such an effect on me, after all these years when slavery is pretty much done and dusted with and everybody acknowledges it for the abominable act that it was, I cannot even begin to ascertain the way it would have moved the population that was directly or indirectly a part of it, back when it was originally published.

Much of that can be credited to the author’s devastating portrayal of the black families: what they were in the eyes of the slave-keepers and traders, what they had to endure, and ultimately, what they had to lose. It almost feels ridiculous to say this in retrospect, but the book’s raison d’etre is to show that the slaves were just people, after all.  We, in the current world, have the privilege of history. We know how ultimately slavery was abolished under Lincoln in 1865, but at the time that book was published, things were still under steam. A group of people would vehemently hold on to their belief (based on their holy book) that the slaves were better off under their masters, that they needn’t be free. And I suppose this book served as a bird’s eye view to finally see the issue of slavery as a humane problem. That every man was equal under the eyes of God, to quote the Bible.

Christianity, indeed, is one of the bigger themes of the book. And one that Harriet uses to drive her point home multiple times. It begs the question of whether it would have been impossible to make people see the good side without bringing God and salvation into the picture, but as was evident, it did serve her purpose. Take Tom for instance, our lead character, who is a man of integrity, compassion, courage and just what you’d call a “really good fellow”. It is frequently implied that Tom is the person that he is because of his faith and his joyous submission to God. So much so that his unwavering faith helps him even in death. He knew that he was going to a better place. And he makes it clear to the people around him, and by extension, the readers.

The other political and civil messages are delivered through various characters such as George Harris for instance (an industrious man who flees to Canada with his wife and child to attain freedom from his abusive master). Even otherwise, Harriet populates her book with characters who fall under every corner of the moral compass. It’s through these characters that we see the plight of the slaves and also of the keepers. One of my favorite sections of the book are the debates between Augustine St. Claire and Miss Ophelia. Two people who are on the same page about slavery, but for totally different reasons.

It’s all these ideas and contemplative remarks bouncing off the pages that make this book such a thrilling read. There’s hardly ever a dull moment, because even when nothing of import is going on, the narrative still keeps you mulling. And while this is not a book that one praises for its prose, I will say that it was pretty functional. The fact that she even went as far as to get the voices distinct is no small achievement.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is an important book; not just for what it stands for, but also for what it was able to achieve. In Abe Lincoln’s own words, Harriet was “the little woman who made the great war”.

Score Saturday: On the Nature of Daylight – Max Ritcher

“If you could see your life from start to finish, would you change things?” 

Been a while, folks. 🙂

But today I’m back with probably one of the best pieces of music I’ve heard in a long while. It all started with the arrival of Arrival in my life. Yes that 2016 sci-fi movie that turned out to be something much more than a mere sci-fi movie. I found the movie, and the short story that I had read later, to be both extremely sublime pieces of art.

Anyone who has seen the movie will remember this soul-penetrating piece of music that is played at the very beginning and then at the end of the movie. In a way, it binds the story together in a musical continuum. At the surface, it seems very simple. It’s mostly the same melody playing over and over again, intensifying as time progresses.

But it speaks to you and in a way only music can, you suddenly find hope in the enveloping canvas of melancholy.



Unsaid things…

All the things you will not say,
because you’re too scared to
show me
what you really feel

All the things you will not say,
because you’re too hesitant to
that you care

All the things you will not say,
because you believe
it’s pointless
to talk about something that can never be

And all the things you will probably never say,
because you rightly assumed
that I would not want to hear them

But maybe, just once,
I would want to hear you say them,
somewhere other than my head.


I guess we all have moments in our lives that make us bleed poetry. And I know that my skills are yet rudimentary and I can only manage a freeverse. The above is still probably only the first draft and I might improve it in future. But for now, it has served its purpose.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Book Review



The author dedicates this book to all the boys who’ve had to learn to play by different rules.

Little wonder, then, that this one moved me to bits, resonated with my soul on different levels, made me look back on my own life as a round peg in a square hole!!

Aristotle(aka Ari) is quite unlike the every day 15 yo teenager. Introverted and troubled and yet wise and loving, he lives in a cocoon, observes details that nobody seems to care about, and frequently wonders why he doesn’t act like people his own age. He’s got virtually no friends but that is until Dante comes along. Dante is the dreamer, the artist, the kind of an angelic soul with just the tinge of naughty undertone that it’s hard to not fall in love with him.

The friendship between Ari and Dante is so beautifully etched that I started to feel a little envious by the end of it. When people speak their minds without any ego or other kind of bullshit, it’s such a delightful thing, really. And this book embraces it whole heartedly. A lot of dialogues made me go ‘oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh!’ and that’s no small achievement.

It was both scary and thrilling just how much I was able to relate to both Ari and Dante.

“I want people to tell me how they feel. I’m not so sure I want to return the favor.”

The above line by Ari seems like a very simple observation about himself but it struck me deeply as I echo the same emotion. There are a lot of these little drizzles of almost cathartic insights into an introvert’s psyche which I was constantly agreeing with.

The prose is simple, just like how a 15-17 yo boy would think. The books feels like more of an inner monologue; there are no heavy conversations and most of it feels like how you’d talk in real life. And like I said before, sometimes all it takes is a couple of words to trigger a deep response within you.

There’s naught much else that I will say here other then, GO READ IT! This is the best coming-of-age story I’ve read in years. And for a change, I cried because I was happy not sad!

Score Saturday: Paint It Black – Westworld – Ramin Djawadi

Westworld is probably one of the best things I’ve seen in 2016. With a premise that gets to seamlessly fuse the past and the future, the music too gets to be as inventive. Case in point is the totally amazing modern rendition of the Rolling Stones classic – Paint It Black.

Ramin Djawadi is fast becoming one of my favourite composers. I loved his work in Person of Interest, and of course we all know he totally rocked Game of Thrones with his music, and now Westworld! I love how he plays with different genre music, and his unconventionality.

The piece intensifies as it progresses, finally reaching a goosebumps inducing epic high. This is the kind of music that you want to pump through your speakers at full volume 🙂



Score Saturday: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them – James Newton Howard

I’ve seen this film a couple of times now (hurray!) and hoping I’ll get to see it a handful times more before it leaves the theaters. And while we are on this matter, an amen for the IMAX in Hyderabad. I’m glad you exist.

Moving on…(oh waitttt…where’s the movie review you ask? Well at this point in this all I can say is it’s coming! 🙂 )

So let’s talk about the music! But before that, a word about John Williams (the one who scored for the first three Harry Potter films). Every memorable musical piece from the Potter films – be it the Hedwig’s theme or Harry’s Wondrous World or my personal favourite Leaving Hogwarts – have been John’s creations. Yes, there were other composers after him who have done some splendid work but if you notice closely, they all still take off of what John has established. He was the one to lay the musical foundation for everything that was to follow.

But when I heard that James Newton Howard would be scoring Fantastic Beasts, I had my hopes high since he is somebody who always seems to have a trick up his sleeve. The big challenge now is do something entirely now, and not making it sound like an extension to the Potter scores, and to that effect I think James has indeed succeeded very well. And this becomes evident when you listen to the opening theme itself, which instantly registers as something new and yet carrying the same magical air. Go on, give this a go! (Note: This score makes more sense after you’ve seen the film.)

The delightfully magical sound continues in my next favourite piece (I’m going in chronological order). We are given the very first glimpse of MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America!) headquarters in this one and I instantly fell in love with the motif that plays as the camera pans around and rises to give us a breathtaking view of the atrium! (starts at 00:51)

Oooh, this next one is grand! And for this, we need to enter Newt Scamander’s magically extended suitcase that is also an animal preserve. And at this point,  I was completely swooning over the three-note violin melody that may sound simple but captures that essence of adventure and “experiencing something for the first time” so damned well.

Now moving onto something a little more soul-stirring. If you’ve seen the film, this is the one that plays when Queenie asks Newt about his ex-lover Leta Lestrange. I know we’ve barely scratched the surface of Newt’s past here and there’s definitely more of Leta and Newt in the sequels. I wish they reuse and expand this theme into something more as what we’ve got right now is a smidge of a lot of things, with heartbreak and nostalgia topping the list. And I’d love to drown in this a little deeper.

(Try this: Put this on loop for about 5-6 times and tell me if it doesn’t do anything to you.)

An utterly sad one, the next. My heart went out for Credence. This piece didn’t register much in the theater, as I was probably already too overwhelmed by whatever was unfolding but listening to it now, damn, this is beautiful music!

Ooh we’ve reached the climax (of course you weren’t expecting me to cover the whole album, were you? :P). BUT, this is where it gets better!! And I think “Newt Releases The Thunderbird” (skip to 5:00) is gonna become my next favourite score from the Potterverse. And just the way everything comes together in this scene, tying multiple threads together neatly, is so classic Rowling that you can’t help but feel a sense of wonder.

The ending bits of this belong to Jacob Kowalski, oh you delightful being you. Obliviate!

Now we’re saying goodbyes and to new beginnings! My favourite motif repeats again, mellower this time. And the movie leaves you right here with a bittersweet smile on your face.

Well now I’ve taken you through a musical journey of some of the best scores from the movie, but ain’t no album without a kickass End Titles score. And James tries to do a John Powell and pulls it off neatly too! Equally magical and epic, this one.

Have a great day, no-majs! 🙂