Review: A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma

In A Life of Adventure and Delight, Sharma delivers eight masterful stories that focus on Indian protagonists at home and abroad and that plunge the reader into the unpredictable workings of the human heart.

I started this short story collection a bit skeptical, since it took me nearly the whole day to finish reading just the first tale because I wasn’t vibing with the characters, premise, or writing. A retired divorcé taking advice from Cosmopolitan to get into his neighbor’s pants, while chronicling their confusing yet utterly ordinary relationship didn’t grip me at all.

“He wondered if he was sadder than he knew.”

I went on with lowered expectations, thinking this would be a similar let down as Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her, but the minuted I opened up the second story titled “Surrounded by Sleep,” I was blown away from start to finish. What pulled me in particular was Ajay, the eleven-year-old protagonist at the heart of this tale. With his love for books, superhero comics, extreme superstitions and mind-expanding talks with God, it was as if the author knew exactly what to include to win me over. Also, the mother in the story was a sight to behold, especially when she used her devotion to “shame God into fixing” her oldest son.

“Are you going to tell me the story about Uncle Naveen again?” he asked.
“Why shouldn’t I? When I was sick, as a girl, your uncle walked seven times around the temple and asked God to let him fail his exams just as long as I got better.”
“If I failed the math test and told you that story, you’d slap me and ask what one has to do with the other.”
His mother turned to the altar.
“What sort of sons did you give me, God?” she asked. “One you drown, the other is this selfish fool.”
“I will fast today so that God puts some sense in me,” Ajay said, glancing away from the altar and up at his mother. He liked the drama of fasting.
“No, you are a growing boy.” His mother knelt down beside him and said to the altar, “He is stupid, but he has a good heart.”

Another point I unexpectedly came to cherish was Ajay’s character growth and how immense it seemed over the course of this swift tale, so much so that I nearly forgot that he was still eleven by the end of it all. Truly wise beyond his years.

“He was having difficulty talking. He didn’t know why. The only time he could talk easily was when he was with God. The explanation he gave himself for this was that, just as he couldn’t chew when there was too much in his mouth, he couldn’t talk when there were too many thoughts in his head.”

Needless to say, I was spellbound by how captivating “Surrounded by Sleep” was compared to the impression left by the first one. Consequently, my expectations were raised a tenfold for the remaining collection.

So I was then sad to see that the remaining pieces didn’t live up to what I’d so loved in the second story. Reading A Life of Adventure and Delight is probably the longest it has taken for me to complete a collection of short stories. I got stuck for days on end with a tale here and there, and in the end I just had to skip some pieces altogether to get the momentum back. I think my main problem was the fact that there wasn’t one theme or arc being explored, unlike in my favorite “Surrounded by Sleep”. Usually the tales started of in one way, only to end on a completely unrelated note, which of course led to numerous loose threads that left my mind spinning.

But I will say this: All the mothers in Akhil Sharma’s short story collection were a force to be reckoned with. The author can write dynamic mother figures like no one’s business, and I’m frankly jealous. So I was quite dismayed to see that A Life of Adventure and Delight didn’t live up to my overall expectations in the end. But I am eager to see what Sharma’s future works will entail.

3/5 stars

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Review: This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

Nine interlinked short tales chronicling ruined relationships, cheating, death, family, and more. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness–and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses: artistic Alma; the aging Miss Lora; Magdalena, who thinks all Dominican men are cheaters; and the love of his life, whose heartbreak ultimately becomes his own.

“And that’s when I know it’s over. As soon as you start thinking about the beginning, it’s the end.”

This being my first read by Junot Diaz, I was in for a pleasant surprise regarding the writing and the tempo of each tale. The author specializes in making his short stories fly by. However, I had a hard time reading most of these tales of cheating and feeling literally zero remorse for it… And even going so far as to say that “it was just a mistake.” I have only one thing in mind for people that use that heinous excuse:

And I just wish the women in this collection could’ve listened to Dua Lipa’s New Rules:

Side note on the above song: I recently discovered this feminist, girl-power bop, and I’m completely digging it. It’s been on repeat for days now. Not only is the aesthetic on point in the music video (those color coordinations!!!), but Dua Lipa’s singing voice is one not to be trifled with.

Circling back to the actual story collection: While the first handful of stories were capturing and different enough to keep me interested, once the narrator became the same one for each coming tale I grew quite over it. Following Yunior from a teen to adulthood didn’t end up working in my favour, since his character wasn’t that intriguing to see developed over the course of a number of stories. And neither his family nor his romantic partners kept me intrigued enough, so I was disappointed with the second half of this collection.

This Is How You Lose Her is, however, a striking introduction to the author’s immaculately curated writing style. I’m not sure, however, if I’ll be eager to check out Junot Diaz’s other books in the near future. Mainly because the short stories left me extremely underwhelmed with the characters as a whole. So only time will tell on this one.

2.5/5 stars 

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying This Is How You Lose Her, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: Bunk 9’s Guide to Growing Up by Adah Nuchi

“The Sisterhood needs to know!”

Exclaimer: As a big sister, but foremost as a female, I’m over the moon excited that guides like Adah Nuchi’s, full of girl power, exist in the world for all to read from young to old.

Based on the lively conceit that it’s written by nine older girls at a fictional summer camp who share their collective been-there, done-that experiences, Bunk 9’s Guide to Growing Up is a puberty book with a twist, an entertaining, up-to-date, supportive guide that covers the head-to-toe changes that young girls go through as they grow up.

Bunk 9's Guide to Growing Up 1-- bookspoils

I don’t know how, but before starting Bunk 9’s Guide I’d somehow forgotten for a minute there that my little sister is set to go through puberty pretty soon, just like all the youngins, which to be frank still blows my mind. So knowing that I now have the opportunity to share this noteworthy, feminist guide to help even a little in the near future is something that definitely takes the weight off my shoulders.

“One of the best things about womanhood is sharing your experiences with other women…”

This realistic and all-inclusive read feels like a mix for fans and young readers of Judy Blume and Rookie Mag. That is to say: it’s a great way to start the conversation between parents/ guardians and their kids going through puberty. I truly wish I had something similar to rely on in my times of heavy confusion in everything relating my life during puberty. This felt like some much-needed closure. So I’m thankful for the umpteenth time for the existence of Bunk 9’s Guide to Growing Up with its pun-worthy title chapters and it being out there for readers in need.

Conversations circling the topics of puberty, hygiene, breasts, menstruation and the reproductive system, boys, health, and feelings… We also have mentions of period parties, treating pimples/zits/acne, social media, crushes and hormones, and how to “get through friendships, parents that drive you crazy, and new crushes…” Bunk 9's Guide to Growing Up 2-- bookspoilsI’m beyond excited and grateful with every fiber of my being that this fun, comforting, and enlightening read is out there ready to give you the support you need.

And to end this review, I’d like to share this fitting and hilarious Christine Sydelko vine on puberty:

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: December 19th, 2017

4/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Bunk 9’s Guide to Growing Up, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!