‘Two by Two’ by Nicholas Sparks: A book review

There is only one other thing that gives me true happiness besides writing and that is reading. And by reading, I mean fiction and by fiction, I mean the kind of books I can pick up without hesitation because I know I can trust the writing to blow my mind and that sort of confidence in somebody’s work is a rarity since I have complete faith only in a few extremely talented writers.  It has been a while since I have reviewed a novel. The last time I did it, it was forced because it was a school assignment and the painful realization that high school has now become a distant memory due to the fact that the years are passing by too swiftly for my liking, hits me now and then. Since it was for school, I had to pick a novel I thought was appropriate instead of the ones I truly liked which ranges from romantic tragedy to murder mystery but this time, I choose to maybe initiate a process by selecting the novel ‘Two by Two’ which I was dying to lay my hands on since it became available but only got to read recently. Why the eager anticipation for this particular book, one might ask and if you knew me, you would know that the author has everything to do with my relentless efforts to find it and read it, or like in the case of most Nicholas Sparks books, experience it. I’m not sure if ‘book reviews’ are going to be a part of my blogging but if it is, I believe this is the best start.
Before I begin, I must warn you that due to my inexperience in book critique and the fact that I idolize Nicholas Sparks – he is my favourite writer (without dispute), this might seem to be more of an author review than a book review and well, I could just be plain biased at some points (or most).

So, the first thought that came to my mind when I saw the book was that it was lengthier than all the other Nicholas Sparks novels (and by all, I mean every single one of them because yes, I have read them all). Maybe it was just my imagination because encountering a paperback edition of a book after a really long time of befriending e-books may have made me believe so. But this was a Nicholas Sparks book and it being huge only thrilled me! Since I had read an excerpt from the book before, the characters seemed familiar to me in the start. It was easy to get where the story was heading initially but my focus was primarily on the narration. I missed Sparks’ style of writing and as I kept on reading like my life depended on it, somewhere I just became so immersed into the story and the lives of the characters that snapping back to reality every time a chapter ended and I considered placing the book-mark and taking a break momentarily, became a difficult task. Now, you can say that I’m going over-board with my adoration but every bibliophile has a particular author they are absolutely in love with and would understand what that feels like (atleast I’m hoping!).

Developing a soft-corner for Russell Green is an automatic process since like all Sparks male protagonists, he is the guy that I’m sure is nowhere around because he is too good to be true! I find it difficult to accept that there are guys out there who could be as considerate as he is, who could be wired to make a marriage work and love his wife – Vivian, someone I grew to despise with every turn of the page. But since I’m unmarried and happen to know some guys who are pretty good but not exactly the best (because seriously, females included, who is?) and since it was supposed to be understood that it was just a novel, I tried to relax. The cracks in the marriage were frankly scary because of the realistic possibility they possessed. And for the first flaw, it was a little predictable how they would reveal themselves. Clichéd, some might say but what compensates for that is how fantastically the emotions were captured and put in words. The story was slow in the start but Nicholas Sparks knows how to keep the reader engrossed with the magical way in which he puts the right words on paper forcing one to stay in the universe he created (I’m unashamed to admit that I even dreamt of some scenarios). The highlights of the story, as is true of most of his novels, were the strong female characters- the way he portrays them makes me wonder whether he is the type of feminist I like because the women in Russell’s family- Marge, London, Liz and even Russ’s mother are so different from each other yet endearing as well as worthy of being looked up to for various reasons. The ugly side of divorce and custody battles was explored in a fresh perspective. The presence of a same-sex relationship made me want to cheer for him because I like it when writers are clever enough to write about things that are relevant and need to be addressed.  Even though romance was what I expected to be the main objective of the story, I felt that it took a backseat compared to the love that existed between family members. I absolutely enjoyed the father-daughter and brother-sister relations that were showcased because even though most Sparks novels do explore that theme, this novel did the best job. But I cannot deny that as he is the king of romance, Sparks worked his usual magic into both the romantic relationships that Russel had and even though it didn’t quite leave me feeling as mushy as ‘Message in a bottle’ did, it satisfied the part of me that loves ‘love’. The interesting part of the novel that I could have gotten bored with easily but surprisingly had the opposite effect was how Russell’s business plans unfurled. The difficulties of being a single parent were best conveyed through both Russ and Emily. The mention of my zodiac sign and a glimpse of Sparks’ letter-writing awesomeness made me gleeful. The joys of having a tight-knit family, the level of understanding both Russ and Marge had with their supposedly inexpressive father, the sudden hit of the tragedy I was expecting to strike because of how familiar I was with the Sparks way of writing, the small but sweet twist in the end (not inducing goose-bumps like ‘The last ride’ though), the importance of walking two by two because no one should walk alone – overall, the emotional rollercoaster that the story was, did not disappoint me. In fact, the reason why I picked up a Nicholas Sparks book was because I needed to feel these things and marvel at how writing could be simple yet powerful and ‘Two by Two’ fulfilled that wish.

For a writer like me who, I recently discovered, pays more attention to the language and word usage more than the story at times, reading such novels is a wake-up call. It helps me to introspect what is lacking in my writing, what I should do to improve because the dream is to go beyond the levels of the writer who continues to inspire me with every work of his. Maybe it is an impossible feat but that is exactly what will help me become better. I don’t want to rate the novel because every book one reads has a worth that is unquantifiable and the only last thing I want to say is that it is time to reconsider the writing on the front page which says, Nicholas Sparks- the author of ‘The Notebook’ because even though his first novel was undeniably amazing, there are plenty of his other works that deserve to be acknowledged as well and as a hardcore fan, I can’t wait till he publishes his next book!
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Priorities

What I loved about December was the Christmas spirit, the joy and the merriment. A chance of snowing, maybe not outside but surely in people’s hearts. The holidays when you realized who were important enough to be kept in your heart and held near forever. Where are those December days I once loved, the nights I cherished for years to come and where exactly are you, even though I see you right there, now just a skeleton of the soul you once bared to me?

What I love about February is how there is love all around even when the world is on a hating spree, hating on everybody and everything. Love does not have to be just between you and me and that is what I love about February. The roses, the kisses, all the hand holding are quite nice but when you love someone for who they are and even what they could become, maybe just reverting to who they once were, unconditional love of the kind I still feel. Alas, it could not be true for you. For me, February is about the ones I really truly need. The ones who believe in me.

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Dance of the words

​I have come to realise that poems are the best way to grab people’s attention. Put in some rhyming words, a little metaphor, repititions and alliteration and it makes the readers happy because of the rhythmic dance of the letters you choreographed. Personally, I only fell in love with poetry recently. I never considered myself as a poet because my main way of expelling emotions is through writing really long articles, compressing feelings into short stories and hating it when there have to be word limits and mostly by creating novels and novellas that stay with me atleast for a whole year because that is how long it takes for people like me with schedules of a life different from that of a professional writer’s to stick to. I believe that poetry is loved because of the lack of time. Nobody likes to spend time on extremely long passages that describe scenarios in their entirety when a small poem of a few stanzas can convey things better and leave you feeling mushy. But I am the sort of person who likes people who have reached this part of the article, knowing very well that it is going to be a long one. Of course, nobody ever said that poems have to be short. Really long poems make me extremely happy and having written a few such poems myself, I have to admit that it is difficult. Sticking to a single emotion while maintaining the rhyme scheme is definitely not easy. And discovering the variety of poems: ballads, pantoums and many others with difficult names only leaves you feeling humble. Poetry is not for someone who likes to be sarcastic all over the page. A satirical poem is something I would like to give a try though! Poetry is a cure for broken hearts certainly. And poems about love persuaded me to fall in love with these little pockets of happiness. In this time and age when people are too busy to truly imbibe the magic that comes with old-fashioned romance, poems are an escape for the poet and the readers to taste the pleasures of the innocence that comes with the daunting feeling of love. Unless they describe modern manifestations of it which are more relatable.

I am not great with numbers

But I remember yours perfectly well

All those words that I had typed and erased

Would have told a different story if I had the strength to press send

Connecting with just you through the distance

Incomplete words and late night dialing

Now I see your name in a different light

And wonder if ,on the other side, you are staring at mine too, in silence

A time existed when words were a limitation

Feelings took over in our endless conversations

When later we slipped into a phase with monosyllables

And casual greetings and formality that finally ceased

Waiting forever to hear a ring

Even an accidental blank would suffice

But will I be able to read into your emptiness

Without mistaking it for another lie

I see you properly placed on a list of familiar names

What makes you stand out is how untouched the space became

Constantly on an endless mode of typing to online and now, to nothing

Willing each other from opposite sides to stop hesitating

When finally, tired of waiting, you go back to the routine

I decide the end is near, maybe right here

Before I can force myself to release the hold on delete, just before our love becomes obsolete

I hear you call my name and finally turn away to find you standing right there
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Desperation

Why are you the unattainable? The one at sea while I’m stranded on this island you created with your animosity. Why are you unreachable to my outstretched arms when you’re standing close enough to hear me breathe? Do you hear the screams for help that I shout out when you move a little beyond over a feet from where I’m standing? I’m afraid of losing sight of you because you are a disturbing dream I can’t yet believe is real. You did happen to me but how do I know for sure? Where are you now, not within the reach of sleep? Who did you become in the pursuit of love that you turned a blind eye to when I offered to walk with you? Refusals, denials, fragile is my heart! Reigning over my life since the time we met are the words you spoke to me before you closed the curtains on our beginning. Now the birds go around singing my sorrow, looking for you in every one of my tomorrows. But you remain ice cold, at heights you know I’m too weak to climb with a soul so wounded that I can’t even manage to cry.

 

I hand over to you

The pieces of my heart

Irregular in size

The smallest one talks of your eyes

The next big piece

Holds the melodies that you hum to me

Just by breathing

An average-sized bit

Speaks of the things you say that bothers me

Just so you know

I have heard it all before but hearing them from you

Tore off another piece

Bits break down with your touch

Bursting further with the spark still existing between us

The larger pieces know of the times that I had tried and lied

To my broken heart, of making it out of this alive

And now finally

The time has come for me

To throw over to you the largest piece

The one which pleaded me to see

That loving you could make you love me

And now that you have it all

A heart that chose to live for you

Dying for a love unattainable, all on its own

I can finally walk free

With no more heaviness

Weights no longer pulling down on me

Nothing left, not even you, to make me feel incomplete

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A trail of stardust

When someone new comes into your life and you find a little more about yourself; the times you spend together, the initial hesitation to open up and surprising realisations that you have certain things in common. You make extra efforts in conversations to get to know a new person whom you would prefer to add into your life. When there are pleasant surprises when they show faith in you and your abilities, even though all you ever came across recently were people who tried to constantly pull you down by pointing out your flaws. Sometimes, the sense of duty makes you believe in their dreams too and other times, the feeling comes naturally. And slowly, the once unknown becomes the only one you truly know. Synchrony is seen in everything from breathing to walking to even blinking from staying too long in each other’s company. But of course, expectations are kept to a minimum. Past experiences have taught you too well to tone down your joy, tragedy likes to invade at the wrong moments. Later down the road, when it becomes too much, your true self bursts out and unravels the inner weakling that you are, once again. Breaking down twice in a lifetime does not seem like a good option but you accept that it was destiny to have let it all out, very clearly visible in the open. After all, you are not the only one there, scared out of your wits at the proximity you know is a necessity now. Openness sometimes paves the way to feeling something new. And this thing called love does not have to happen only one time. If it happened to you before, strong but extremely wrong, you can’t deny that you know how it feels. Love is new each time it blooms. But when it is right, it is what makes life in itself feel right. It is when being yourself with someone finally makes sense. It is when you truly understand the value of someone’s presence in your existence that only you considered insignificant. And you know for sure, why love is considered the strongest force, enough to empower yourself and the world!

 
Can you see what I am holding?
The remnant of a glistening star
Just a trail of stardust left behind
Resting on the tip of my fingers
The deception, is it convincing
Enough to spill out the moonlight in you
Without an overshadow
Of the starry light between the interlocking
The dance of the souls
Incomparable to that of our hands
Matchless is the illumination
When the epilogue becomes a prologue
To you, a ballad maybe
To me, this is a novella
A tale of faraway lands explored in the vastness of your mind
Do you see where I am going?
The remnant of a glistening star
Fades away my doubts in time
The deception, is it convincing
To let you take this love afar
Have you ever seen me waiting?
Patiently, hoping to accompany you
On the expedition they call love
How long until the journey
Becomes something I can call my own
Just a trail of stardust left behind
Until I find my own avenue
Now is the moment to hurry
Before love ceases to be in vogue

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Hymn for the year end

​It is about whose face appears when you write. When you pray, you close your eyes and imagine the presence of a higher power and that gives you strength to go on. You absorb the divinity that comes from within you and experience serenity. Writing is just like praying. The focus, the rituals that each writer has to get into the writing mode, the inspiration that comes from around, to me, it is a holy process. Alphabets and grammar command respect. And certain faces that light up the writer in my brain, they are verses of a hymn. The end product is my prayer in which I wish to include others for the sake of peace everywhere in the world.

She sleeps with dreams of creations

Her mind a house full of thoughts

Painting hearts with a stroke of imagination

A poet is born

Every face she comes across has a story

Different tales that plead to be known

Words like a river that keeps flowing

Writing even when her eyes are closed

A soulful recitation of poetry

In every one of her sighs

Her eyes travel beyond mere dreams

Moments seem to rhyme

When first love tasted like an overload of sweet phrases

And heartbreak became a well-earned gift

Emptying feelings into little pieces

Of writings that make spirits lift

Her whole life, a series of daydreams

Orderly chaos of ideas and ideals

Setting a pace with the trace the ink leaves

When she sets down her pen, the world comes to a standstill



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I remember – reminiscing in reverse

Two years ago, I gave our acquaintance a warranty of three years. Remember how I predicted you would not be around by the time I turned twenty two? Is that why you left me at nineteen to prove me wrong? Was it because you remembered how untrusting I was? Because I still remember your silence. That should have warned me, I guess.

Promises to keep in touch that we exchanged. A collective memory, isn’t it? Best friends forever, only now we know that forever does not exist. And friends come and go. The best stay, sometimes only in our hearts. Well, you have to let go! I remember our good times now and then. I hope you do too sometimes.

A love that was not meant to be. The second time I chose to let my broken heart diminish into the nothingness that now prevails. Was it on purpose you said all the right words at the wrong times? Do you remember the way you felt then? Do you remember me? Because I remember you. And every feeling that accompanies.

I remember new findings. I remember growing up. I remember the innocence that I once possessed. I remember loving art, how come I don’t anymore? It does take some struggle to remember birthday dinners and my association with coffee and chocolates. The first memory seems to fade away with time but it does still remain. The feel of sand in my hands and how distance scared me, a vivid memory that makes me question if there is a reason for things to have had changed. And beyond that, there comes a point where I do not remember anymore. But at times I wish I could go back to where I was when I had nothing to remember, when I was nothing at all.

Things that inspired this: two mistakes that I do not regret, a few life lessons disguised as people, coffee, my first memory-Goa, serious grumpy cat feels associated with the realisation of growing up too fast.

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History

​The last time that we spoke, I wish it was different. I would have preferred to end our association discussing something unimportant. Nothing life-changing, just a normal conversation with no meaning attached to it. The last time that we spoke should have been a casual chat starting with a simple ‘Hello’, ending as soon as it began, not giving room for memories to form in our minds. A dry and dull exchange of meaningless words that we couldn’t possibly remember enough to replay in our minds. Never should it have been the only regret we took to our respective beds every night. We should not have looked into each others’ eyes that day or ever, for that matter, because it was too late when we discovered why the eyes are referred to as the reflection of one’s soul. Soul gazing should not have been on the agenda when we spoke for the last time. It should have bored us out of our minds instead of leaving scars on the broken pieces of our already fragile hearts. But it ruptured something beautiful that wasn’t meant to be, didn’t it? Even now, I think of starting a conversation with you just to forget our last somehow. Maybe ask about your life, feigning interest in your interests and then backing out slowly, irreverently. But our last time was unforgivable and I cannot help but be interested in everything you could tell me so how can I talk to you first? That’s why I hope you would initiate a tete-a-tete someday, something less earth-shattering, in no way extraordinary, leaving my heart as it is. Or maybe not, because I’d rather remember you with an ache in my chest, the perfect projection of outer strength intact even when you are dying inside than think of you as just an acquaintance I could forget about easily after a departure. Or someone I wished to never have met in a thousand different ways in this short life. Because nothing you could do would ever make me do just that. Even though that is exactly what is required to restore true happiness into all my smiles.

Because everyone has a person they share a history with and such people and their memories can never be erased. No matter how easy one’s life could become by doing only that.

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Of losses

Grey’s anatomy, even after the amazing writer Shonda Rhimes (I’m not being sarcastic, I really mean it) killed off o​r sent away my favourite characters, has remained my favourite show on TV. Even though the show isn’t the same to me anymore as the last few seasons largely comprised of actors I never really liked much, it does stick to reality (because real life is depressing and filled with disasters, no argument there) and the medical aspects in the series are quite thought-provoking. But why I would continue to watch it even with the obvious absence of the characters I loved that made me an ardent fan of the show and would also rewatch the previous seasons and be astonished all over again is because of the emotional quotient it portrays. There were many episodes that thrilled the lover of Biology in me but since I identify more with my side that leans towards creativity, some brilliant instances of human sentiments have stayed with me for a longer time and below is something that came out of one such heart-touching episode of Grey’s anatomy. Based on the story of a father and daughter who come into the hospital looking for a donor heart for the father and in the end, the father having to reluctantly accept his daughter’s heart when she becomes brain-dead due to an accident; I have penned down the poem below, which, in no way, communicates in full force what I felt when I watched it on TV but well, I had to try! And since November is generally a month of losses with it beginning with ‘All souls’ day’, it seemed appropriate to post it now.


The faint sound of a heart beating 

From inside my love

An addition, nine months of waiting

And we hear your heart beat so strong

Racing up and slowing down

With laughter and while you sleep

Knowing that your heart is beating

Sets mine at ease

You grow up in size

But your heart, my dear child, remains

For me, you stay my little one

While my hairs begin to gray

When you proclaim

You have found the one

To whom you gift your precious heart

An ache arose out of acceptance

My darling has grown up at last

Roles reverse with the passage of years

When my aging heart betrays

The faintness of my existence

A cause of your distress

But never did we think

I would be the one to blink

Back my tears, before time

An ease that settles on your face

Breaks my already weakened heart

When I open my eyes to a familiar sound

A beating that you left me with

Knowing that your heart is beating

Inside me, I weep

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Diaries of somebody familiar:5 & 6

A series of fictional diary entries of people I may or may not have come across. The truth is conditional and so the option to believe lies with the reader.



The responsible one

Stolen kisses on the front porch. Mischievous pranks on people we didn’t know. Recklessness- the one word that described what we constituted. I saw him today, waiting for me like on one of those old days when I chose to be late knowing how he disrespected time unlike I did. But today, he was right on time, something that could have impressed me if it were old times. I told him how it was, my life in the right place, the right people surrounding me always. He listened, for a change, and remembered to ask questions! I knew right then how well I had trained him to be this guy. An hour later, he was back to his old self, trying to pull my leg while I failed hard at maintaining a straight face. My laughter was controlled, I feared letting go would only take me back to where I had begun. When it was time for us to take different routes, I tried to remember all the reasons I had had for breaking us up. I struggled to find something valid enough, something that stood the test of times and proved that I was right. I looked into his eyes when he said goodbye and with every step he took away from me, the list that the old responsible me had created to destroy the only special thing I had ever felt, unveiled before my eyes. But every single one of them only seemed to spell one thing- wrong.

Dedicated to the ones who are afraid of losing control by falling in love. You may have made some choices that are probably the worst and are irreversible just because life is supposed to be orderly to you. Unpredictability is often short-lived no matter how exhilarating it may be. Go on until you are ready to accept chaos as one of your own. 


The broken one

“You can’t be my first anything because all my firsts are taken.”

“I could be the first guy to not leave you with a broken heart or the first to not leave you at all, for that matter.”

How many times have I heard them promise to keep their promises? Many even offered to stitch back all the pieces and make my heart good as new. But how is it that now is the time I recognise the same tone that I use when I gather the courage to tell myself that I was indeed not being casual about all the others, that each one of them took a part of me with them and left me more broken than I initially was, when I hear him say he loves me? I have listened before, never had I stopped. Even when I knew an ending was the only place some were heading, I never gave up hope and wished something would change and someone would love me for who I was, finding me beyond all my impressive covers. And when he came along around the time I stopped pretending, yet not going back to my old naive self, I had accepted my defeat along with the fact that a happy ending was not in my destiny. Enough damage had been done by the others and that was when I took the vow of never offering my heart to another. So, now, when he asks for it, what could I possibly do but give in and pray for it to be not returned bruised and bleeding again!

Dedicated to the strong ones. The people who are not afraid to fall in love even after being treated unlovingly by many, do share the secret of your undying spirit with me someday?




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