Sunday, August 21, 2016

Book Review #48: A Window Seat

Name: A Window Seat
Author: Vishala Katta
No. of Pages: 249
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Frog Books (An Imprint of Leadstart Publishing Pvt. Ltd.)
Price: Rs. 250/-
Published in: 2016

How did I get it? From the publisher.

THE BLURB SAYS:
When a dying corporate professional escapes into a train to somewhere, he finds himself become a storyteller of old mythological tales. Tagging along is ten year old Hari who is looking for his parents he lost in the trains.

Together their adventures lead them to debating with priests, dancing with eunuchs, sharing meals and conversing casually about death with random strangers.

A runaway wife tags along with these annoying mavericks. Taking her first train she is all ready to be an actress.

That night, what begins as a harmless conversations changes their fate completely.

What makes them hold on to each other for longer? Do they find what they were looking for? What happens when they bump into each other few years later? But do all of them make it alive?
A window seat is all about those conversations with strangers that seem to change you unknowingly.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Vishala Katta writes about the untold stories that ordinary people carry on their shoulders. She finds extreme gleeful childlike pleasure in conversations with strangers and other creatures that choose to respond. Originally, an engineer, she set out to pursue her love for Communications at Mudra Institute of Communication, (MICA) Ahmedabad. She is currently residing in Delhi doing her daily corporate grind as a marketing and communications professional. While most of her day is spent on her seat at work, the rest of the time she is busy lecturing her better half about feminism and travelling to places with the sound of water.

MY THOUGHTS:
I was quite excited by the blurb. The plot seemed offbeat and interesting. The cover also looked nice with the chugging train.

Stalin is the dying corporate, Hari is the ten-year-old urchin and Kuhu is the runaway bride. The story started out well with Stalin.He is suffering from incurable cancer and so decides to travel, looking for a miracle. His religious debates also were interesting. But he didn't turn out to be the storyteller the blurb promised.

Kuhu's part also started well, but somehow some things were absurd in her story. Like she is asked to visit a dead relative's family alone, in a distant town on the very second day of her wedding. She goes to the railway station alone in the evening (it is very near from her husband's home) in a new place, dressed in an obvious newlywed's attire. Her husband sees her off from home only. At the end, I actually felt sorry for him.

How Hari lost his parents in the train is not very convincing. And nobody noticed a lost boy at the stations is also not very convincing.

The plot had potential but the story didn't turn out to captivating. I was actually a little disappointed.
 I give "A Window Seat" 2.5 stars on a scale of 5. 
This book has been published by Leadstart Publishing. If you are a new author and want to get published, send in your manuscripts at submissions@leadstartcorp.com


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Book Review #47: When Life Turns Turtle

Name: When Life Turns Turtle--Journey of a Bollywood Tramp
Author: Raj Supe
No. of Pages: 468
Genre: Spirituality-Based Fiction
Publisher: Platinum Press (An Imprint of Leadstart Publishing Pvt. Ltd.)
Price: Rs. 399/-
Published in: 2016

How did I get it? From the publisher.

THE BLURB SAYS:
Raj Supe’s fluent narrative and genuine search for truth will bring him many readers.~ Ruskin Bond

Indraneel is a young and successful film-maker, an alumnus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In an intoxicating relationship with a young and beautiful aspiring actress, his next film is being hailed as a blockbuster. Things couldn’t be going any better. Suddenly, without warning, Indraneel’s life overturns. Hurt floods his heart and soul, seemingly beyond redemption…

He arrives in Rishikesh, a mountain town by the river. The artist within him, as well as the bruised individual, senses the timeless love and solace emanating from the Ganga and the Himalayas, but innumerable whys continue to invade his thoughts. Introduced to Shaman, a bookseller with a difference, and a ‘closet guru’, the deeply sceptical Indraneel is introduced to a bewilderingly new, yet strangely magnetic world of spiritual seeking.

As the seasons pass, as pass they will…Indraneel gradually opens his mind to what he finds around him, delving step by step into the truth about spirituality and human existence. A measure of peace finally descends on his tormented mind.

But the world beckons yet again and Indraneel stands at a crossroads once more. He is asked to make a difficult choice. Will he submit to the strong current of spirituality now flowing within him? Does a spiritual life mean giving up everything else? Can he ever go back to the world? Will he find the happiness he so desperately seeks?

The world that Raj Supe creates is vividly described with a true artiste’s eye for detail. Set in the ‘belief land of Rishikesh’ on the banks of Ganga – ‘perennial river of India’s mystical past’ – his story leads the reader through light and shadow to the goal Indraneel, the protagonist, has set himself – a life of spiritual bliss…Raj serves up a rich repast from which no reader can depart unfulfilled. ~ Benjamin Gilani

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
RAJ SUPE (aka Kinkar Vishwashreyananda), is a poet, storyteller and novelist. An MBA, he has had a career in advertising, research and creative consulting, before turning to literary and spiritual pursuits. Some of his literary works include the spiritual memoir, Pilgrim of the Sky; the anthology Hundreds of Shells; and translations such as Cloudburst of A Thousand Suns, and the Sahitya Akademi awarded Rainbow at Noon. He has also worked on film scripts and plays. His writings convey the passionate intensity of a seeker and the sincerity of one who hopes for an ideal mix of traditional mythic imagery and the urgencies of modern life. In the words of a leading poet, ‘he has the anonymity of the saint-poet on the one hand and the self-expression of the modern writer on the other’. Raj is Editor of the spirituality e-magazine, The Mother [www.themotherdivine.com], as well as the co-founder of Foundation for Contemplation of Nature [www.foundnature.com]. Raj was initiated into the Order founded by Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath and met his Guru in the person of Kinkar Vitthal Ramanuja. He now leads a simple life on the banks of the Ganges.

MY THOUGHTS:

I loved the title and I loved the cover. A red hibiscus in water alongside a pair of wooden chappals, against the backdrop of hills, looked serene and spiritual. The book in my hands looks beautiful too. The plot is well-paced and it keeps you hooked. Unlike most philosophical stories, it is not boring and unnecessarily stretched at all.

The protagonist, Indraneel Barua, a successful film-maker but a unhappy personal life. An ugly divorce followed by a bitter relationship leaves him devastated. His childhood and best friend , Arunodaya, advises him to take a break and visit Rishikesh. Indraneel agrees on an impulse. As he opens up his heart and soul to Rishikesh, he founds peace. The river calms him. The intended short holiday turns into a life-long affair.

For me the beauty of the book lied in the fact that it was spiritual not religious. Even though the way of spirituality in the book is through Hinduism, it was not overbearing. It describes how amidst of nature and its powers, one realizes the true meaning of life. It talked about the philosophy of life through the story of a believable character. A character, Indraneel, who had everything in life that a common man dreams for, fame, success, wealth. Yet he is unhappy. In the pursuit of happiness in the form of love and a partner, he faces heartbreak. Every human has faced failure in some form or the other, and many of us has been devastated by it. The book gives the message that all is not lost and that if we surrender ourselves to the greater power, all will be well.

Overall, it is a calm read.

I give "When Life Turns Turtle" 4 stars on a scale of 5.

This book has been published by Leadstart Publishing. If you are a new author and want to get published, send in your manuscripts at submissions@leadstartcorp.com

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Book Review #46: Once Upon A Time In India-The Marvellous Adventures of Captain Corcoran

Name: Once Upon A Time In India-The Marvellous Adventures of Captain Corcoran
Author: Alfred Assolant, Sam Miller (Translator),
 
No. of Pages: 231
Genre: Fiction/Adventure
Publisher: Juggernaut Books
Price: Rs. 299/-
Published in: 2016

How did I get it? From the publisher.

The blurb of the book says:
It is the time of the Great uprising of 1857. India is in turmoil, Captain Corcoran, a french sailor who has roamed the world, arrives with his pet tigress Louison. And so begins the adventure of his life, as he and his tigress join hands with a Maratha prince and his beautiful daughter Sita, to fight the British.

This fast moving story, with dramatic twists and turns, combines romance, humour and edge of seat suspense.
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Alfred Assolant is a French man born in 1827. He started his career in teaching and became a freelance writer and journalist later. He wrote over thirty books over thirty years, but Captain Corcoran was the only successful one. He died a pauper's death in 1886.

Sam Miller was born and brought up in London, but has spent much of his adult life in India. He is a former BBC journalist and author of Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity and A Strange Kind of Paradise: India Through Foreign Eyes.

MY THOUGHTS: 
I found the cover of the book very attractive. A handsome hero, a beautiful princess and an exotic tiger, with a view of a palace. The book contains illustrations are typically old-fashioned, which are actually a reflection of the referred times.

I am really surprised to find out that Captain Corcoran and Louison are actually very popular and famous in their own country. But what was more surprising is that it took almost two centuries for a English translation. This book was published way back in 1867 and is the only successful book of the French author, Alfred Assolant. For at least fifty years of Assolant's death in 1886, the book was widely read and translated into varios languages like German, Spanish, Italian, Czech, Polish and Russian but never English, most probably because of its overt Anglophobia.

The story is fast-paced and indulgent. It has humour, adventure, action and romance and a vintage charm. Even though the Indian prince, Holkar, is not shown in the best of light, it was not really offensive. Holkar is depicted as an arrogant as well as a royal fool. Holkar chooses to go on a hunt when there was an impending threat on the kingdom. The English are the true villains, and Captain Corcoran is depicted as the saviour of the Indian kingdom. Well, the book is written by a French author, the protagonist is a French character. So of course, everyone else will play the supporting parts.

Louison, the tigress, steals the show though. She is the life of the story and the true hero who saves any day. She is brave, she is naughty, she is intelligent and she is playful.

There are several mismatches in the story along the way. At one point, a certain staircase was said to go downstairs. And after sometime, it was going going upstairs. The book Captain Corcoran is searching for, also changes name a couple of times. May be the author was in a hurry to finish the story.

Nonetheless, it was a very entertaining plot, that keeps the reader hooked.The book has all ingredients to become a entertaining Hollywood movie. And I really hope that it will someday made into one.

I give "Once Upon A Time In India-The Marvellous Adventures of Captain Corcoran" 4 stars on a scale of 5.



Thursday, July 21, 2016

Book Review #45: The Failure Project

Name: The Failure Project-The Story of Man's Greatest Fear
Author: Anup Kochhar
No. of Pages: 194
Genre: Inspirational
Publisher: Body & Soul Books (An Imprint of Leadstart Publishing)
Price: Rs. 299/-
Published in: 2016

How did I get it? From the publisher.

The blurb of the book says:
Failure destroys lives. It damages confidence and crushes the spirit. Throughout our lives we endeavour to manage our thoughts, actions and results so as not to be branded as failures. However, despite our best intentions, life does have a way of throwing curve balls and surprising us. Things do not always go the way we planned or wished for. Failure happens. And it will continue to happen.

For most people failure is akin to a dreaded disease that must be prevented at any cost. Certainly it can never be admitted to. Failure is like fire – it has the power to singe or destroy completely. Few of us remember that failure can also be harnessed creatively. All that it requires is a different perspective.

What do we know of failure? More importantly, how much do we know about it? The first step to overcoming our inherent fear of failure is to know the enemy – inside and out. This amazing, comprehensive and compassionate book helps us understand the anatomy, psychology and management of failure – the greatest, and often the most secret, fear of Man.
 
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
From medical school aspirant to finance has certainly been a hell of a journey, with some spectacular failures. Each milestone provided me with insights into why we fail, how we fail, and the need to get up, learn and move on. It has involved direct encounters with more failures than successes. I have been mauled I must admit, and every encounter left its mark. Looking back, I feel those encounters were necessary. Certainly no one sets out to fail, but failures do happen. Every failure was a lesson that came in handy in the next venture. Every one of them happened for a reason.’ Anup can be reached at:anupmkochhar@gmail.com

MY THOUGHTS: 
Everyone wants to be successful, in every sphere of life. Since childhood, we are taught that we have to come first. We are rebuked when we score lesser marks, when we don't get prizes in competition, when we don't want to participate in sports, and so on. The foundation of fear of failing is laid in our childhood itself. Then there are related aspects as to why such a foundation is laid, societal expectations, legacy, expectations, notions of happiness, etc.

The book is an attempt to state that it is okay to fail, that there are positive effects of failure on the human psyche. The fact that some of man's greatest discoveries and inventions were founded on failure testify this.

The book is divided into seven parts:
  1. Failure Hurts--Talks about how it hurts and feels when one fails
  2. The First Encounter--Examinations are probably our first encounter with failure. This part talks about how the changing education sector and the criteria of success is effecting the concept of failure.
  3. The Failure Factor--Failure and success are the two essential sides of the same coin and go hand in hand.
  4. The Anatomy of Failure--Talks about the different aspects of failure, what it is all about.
  5. The Psychology of Failure--Why succeeding is so important to us, why do we fear to fail.
  6. Teach Failure-The Need to Fail--Children should be taught early in life that it is okay to fail, that failing doe not mean that we are good for nothing. Small doses of failure can teach us life lessons and values.
  7. Managing Failure--How we should manage failure; instead of being bogged down, how we can use it to our advantage.
I really liked the book. I feel it is wonderful book for young people, including students and professionals.It can guide parents as well as to how to teach their wards about failure and make them successful human beings.

This book is also thought-provoking and makes us question our education system as well as the value system of our society. Are the standards and criteria that we have set for success or failure really correct? Is our educational model really practical and does it prepare our kids to face life?

Only one thing about this book disappointed me and that is the way it has been presented. I feel the book and its contents could have been presented in a far better and structured manner.
 
I give "The Failure Project" 3.5 stars on a scale of 5.


You can have a peep at this book here.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Short Story #2: Big Win for a Small Loss

 
She is walking briskly across the road. Damn, she is running late for office again. She stays just ten walking minutes away from the office, still she manages to be late. No matter how far or near we stay from the office, she thinks, we always find ways to be late. It is a beautiful morning, bright and sunny. But the Delhi pollution and traffic is already spoiling it. How she longs for her hometown. It has been a decade since she has been staying in this metropolitan, but never really felt at home.

She being the youngest in the family, was the most pampered child. Also her two elder brothers and sister doted on her. Theirs was a joint family, so there was no dearth of hustle and bustle, as well as the noise of laughter in the house. It was big house, with a big courtyard and a big garden, replete with fruits and flowers. She had just joined her first job when Sameer's match came for her. Eldest in family, Sameer was a MBA in finance and worked in a private bank. His father was also a bank official who was due to retire in a few years time. His mother was a housewife, and both his sisters were married but working women. His family was based in Delhi. And they had no problems with her choosing to work like their daughters. It seemed like a good match. But Delhi, it was so far away from her small hometown, almost three hundred kilometres away. How will she survive? The only consolation was that her elder sister, who was married, stayed in Delhi too.

Within four months of the proposal, she was engaged. After eight months, married. She was shocked when she arrived at her husband's place in Delhi. It was so small! It was in a cramped building, in a colony of cramped buildings. It is called a flat, she was told. It had just two rooms, a kitchen and a hall. It had to be a mistake. Didn't her father have good look when he came to check out Sameer's place?

Once she settled down in her new home, after the endless visits to and from relatives, she started looking for jobs. But within three months, she was pregnant and her career went for a toss. As per tradition, she gave birth to her first child in her maternal home. Ayush, her son, gave a new direction to her life, a new meaning, the joy of motherhood. And staying at her maternal home, among her near and dear ones, made her joys twofold. Soon, Aayush was four months old and Sameer and his family wanted the little bundle of joy in their home.

When Aayush turned one year old, she broached the subject of getting a job. Now that Aayush was older, she can start working again and Sameer's mother, Mummyji, could take care of him during the day. But Mummyji would hear none of it. She argued that Aayush needs his mother full-time. When she tried to point out that Sameer's sisters are working as well and they have kids, Mummyji simply said that theirs was a different situation. She responded with tears but said nothing. In her heart and mind she understood that the only difference was that she was not Mummyji's daughter. And Sameer also didn't say anything to support her case.

Slowly days turned into months, and months turned into years. She managed to meet her sister who stayed in the city once in a while. If she wanted to meet her sister regularly, it was frowned upon by Mummyji. She never got to spend the night at her sister's. Her sister understood, after-all she was a daughter-in-law too. Thankfully, festivals gave her excuses to visit her parents for a few days.

A few years more, and Aayush started going to school. By then, it had become impossible to spend the entire day with Mummyji alone in the house. She had started answering back during their occasional tiffs. Even patience has a limit she said. Little by little, she was able to persuade Sameer that for the sake of peace in the house, she should start working again. Also his father had retired and his parents can keep each other company. Reluctantly, his Mummyji agreed but with a warning that Aayush's studies and development should not suffer because of her job.

Oh! How sweet that triumph had felt. It has been three years now that she had restarted her career. Well, she was a decade behind her friends and had to start from scratch again. But better late than never, isn't it! She had been lucky to be working so close to home. But she never goes home for lunch. The family would start thinking that her job is an easy one. She is juggling work and home quite nicely. Mummyji and Papaji are also supporting her in their own ways. But Mummyji doesn't leave any chance to rebuke her regarding her working status. A few marks less scored by Ayush than in the previous test is enough to set off Mummyji's bullet in her direction. Similar is the scene in case of a 'notch below' perfect parantha for breakfast.

But she is happy. She is enjoying her work and learning fast. With time she has become an indispensable member of her team. Her performance is being applauded as well as rewarded. She has become a confident independent woman. She is now able to fulfill her material needs without being dependent on Sameer. She is able to take care of her parents' need in small ways too. She is no longer a naive young daughter-in-law. She is surprised to hear stories from her married women colleagues, far worse than Mummyji's case. Well, there are some positive stories too. They all have a laugh together, as well as help each other in tricky situations.

But she has finally accepted Mummyji, with all her shortcomings. And Mummyji has reciprocated it seems. She now looks out for the small acts of kindness Mummyji does for her. It is Mummyji's birthday today. She had gifted her a beautiful orange silk saree. In the morning, she took Mummyji to the temple and so she was running late. But the joy on Mummyji's face was worth being late today.
 
It is definitely a big win for a small loss.

This story was first published on Women's Web on 11th May 2016.

Book Review #44: Kanhu & Other Stories

Name: Kanhu & Other Stories
Author: Various (Translated from Odiya by Saroj Mishra)
No. of Pages: 109
Genre: Fiction/Short Stories
Publisher: Platinum Press (An Imprint of Leadstart Publishing)
Price: Rs. 149/-
Published in: 2015

How did I get it? From the publisher.

The blurb of the book says:
This book contains eleven short stories in Odiya translated into English. The original authors are all well-known writers, some of them winners of the Kendriya Sahitya Akademi awards and others honoured with several state-level awards.

The stories in this anthology reflect the rich and divergent cultural heritage of Odisha and the current thinking in Odiya society – varying from focus on the plight of the underprivileged to the struggles of different sections of society in dealing with moral dilemmas. The stories have been selected carefully to promote the Odiya language, with its colourful idiom, the heritage and the social ambience of Odisha, to a wider audience so that the readers can learn about its rich literature and the glorious history of Odisha.
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I took up this exercise of translating into English short stories written by popular authors in Odiya, so as to bring them to a wider sphere, where it could be read by those who love stories. These stories depict the lifestyle and culture of people native to the great state of Odisha. I hope this will be appreciated by readers. This book is dedicated to my mother, Smt. Urbashi Mishra, who taught me moral values and love of humanity. 

MY THOUGHTS:
The book consists of ten short stories written by popular authors in Odiya. The stories are off-beat and give a glimpse of Odiya lives. The only story which was not in line with the spirit of the other nine stories was written by the translator himself.
  1. Kanhu's Home: Kanhu is made to leave his home and oversee the construction of a house.
  2. Mystery of the Closed Iron Chest: An old man zealously guards his iron chest making his family curious.
  3. Last opportunity: An old couple staying separately with their children, see each other afters five years.
  4. Inauguration of the Electric Crematorium: A corpse is needed for the inaugural function of an electric crematorium.
  5. The Wound: A selfless village couple who takes in orphans come into the limelight after an TV interview. And their lives are changed forever.
  6. Mission Heart: A wife engages a young man to win her husband back.
  7. Gagan Majhi and His Kin: An exposed case of corruption makes the wife of an police officer paranoid.
  8. Drowning: A man's daylong infatuation turns into a mystery.
  9. Travel and Shoes: Tales from the lives of daily commuters.
  10. The Goalkeeper: An honest and loyal goalkeeper faces a moral dilemma.
Some stories like "The Last Opportunity" and "The Wound" seemed like incomplete. I enjoyed "Kanhu's Home",  "Mystery of the Closed Iron Chest" and "Inauguration of the Electric Crematorium".

I give "Kanhu & Other Stories" 3 stars on a scale of 5.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Book Review #43: Six Degrees

Name: Six Degrees
Author: Various
No. of Pages: 422
Genre: Fiction
Price: Rs. 349/-
Published in: 2016

How did I get it? From BlogAdda.com

The blurb of the book says:
“As part of their #CelebrateBlogging initiative, BlogAdda.com, ran the first edition of Game of Blogs in September 2014. Five characters and their descriptions were provided. The objective was to write a fictional story revolving around these characters. Bloggers came together as teams and after three rounds filled with its own set of twists and turns, three stories made it to the end.

The three stories in this book are a fascinating example of how one set of characters can have interesting lives with completely different dimensions. is a result of how collaboration can truly breed creativity in the modern day world of connected living.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Six Degrees, is the first book co-authored by 3 teams, consisting of 25 bloggers across India. For the first time in the history of Indian blogging, bloggers collaborated and worked to write a story based on the characters and twists given by BlogAdda, periodically.

MY THOUGHTS: 
The backdrop city is Mumbai. A common quote, "I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be."  The 5 common characters:
  1. Shekhar Dutta-- An unsuccessful/out-of-work writer, stay-at-home husband/father
  2. Tara Dutta-- Shekhar's wife, a successful career woman
  3. Roohi Dutta-- Shekhar and Tara's 9 year old daughter
  4. Aryan Ahuja-- Neighbour of the Dutta's
  5. Cyrus Daruwala-- A law student from Delhi, comes to Mumbai and enters the lives of the Dutta's with a purpose
  6. Jennifer Joseph-- A professional photographer, a young and beautiful Malayali girl, who gets connected to the story of the Dutta's
Story #1: THE AWAKENING
Plot: Shekhar, Tara and Roohi form a close-knit happy and loving family. Cyrus enters their home and things get disturbed. Shekhar's manuscript is getting destroyed on its own. Jennifer, the childhood friend of Shekhar, gives him groundbreaking news. Mysteries surface and the entire world is at stake.

I loved this story. The central characters , as well as the supporting characters were well-formed and pieces were connected very well. The plot is that of a sci-fi mystery and seemed like a rendition of popular sci-fi movies involving aliens. What Shekhar was seeking was right there in front of him, and later selfishness takes hold of him. With the help of Roohi and Cyrus, Tara finally re-discovers herself, and they all come together to save the world. Aryan shows that there is still hope in the human race. But their lives are no longer the way they knew it.

Story #2: ENTANGLED LIVES
Plot: Tara is successful, while Shekhar is not. Roohi loves her dad as he is always around while Tara has no time for her. Naina, the full-time maid enjoys dressing up in Tara's stuff. Cyrus comes to Mumbai with vengeance on his mind. Jennifer is desperate  to be successful. And then there is a murder.

I enjoyed this story as well. Again, the dots were connected beautifully and the characters well defined. Java, the investigating officer, was an interesting character too. But the two devils in his mind bickered too much at times. I loved the malicious poems echoing the killer's emotions from time to time. I had one doubt though. The fingerprints of the person who gets punished for the murder, were not on the weapon. So why was that point not used to oppose the arrest? But overall, it was a well-written piece.

Story #3: MISSING--A JOURNEY WITHIN
Plot: Roohi goes missing after school. Cyrus flees Delhi and comes to Mumbai. Jennifer plays a role in the search of Roohi. Shekhar and Tara rekindles their love when faced with adversities.

I didn't like this one. The blurb of the story at the start was very misleading. The central characters, except Cyrus, were not well-formed. There were many gaps in the story-line too. Cyrus's height was mentioned at two places and both were different. Cyrus heard a line about Roohi at Delhi and meets her almost immediately on reaching Mumbai; but it seems he doesn't realize it's the same girl. What he had scribbled on the back of a visiting card, was not explained properly. Why did Aryan behave in a suspicious manner when Jennifer asked him if he knew Cyrus? What had Jennifer misunderstood about him? Why people were knocking at the neighbour's door instead of Aryan when they clearly had the address.

Overall: It is really a remarkable effort and result, given that the stories were co-written by 8/9 authors. It is also interesting how a given set of characters have been used in entirely different directions. Since it is not the work of a single author, the style of writing was not entirely similar throughout a single story. Also, there were many, many typos; and typos really irritate me as a reader. ' were typed as > in most places and letters were missing from words.

As already mentioned, I loved the first two stories. They reflected that the whole assignments were well-executed. But I can't say the same about the last story.

I give "Six Degrees" 3.5 stars on a scale of 5.

6 Degrees is India's first book published through collaborative blogging, written completely by bloggers for the Game of Blogs activity at BlogAdda. Know more about Game of Blogs here. You can buy 6 Degrees: Game of Blogs if you liked the review. :)

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!


Friday, June 3, 2016

Book Review #42: A Darling in your Fifties

Name: A Darling in your Fifties
Author: Ashmi
No. of Pages: 270
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: BecomeShakespeare.com
Price: Rs. 300/-
Published in: 2016

How did I get it? From the publisher.

The blurb of the book says:
Arjun has disowned his wife, Neema. She has grown to hate her tormentor, her husband, yet knows a divorced woman in India is a scandal and she is trapped. With a malicious mother on the other end, she has nowhere to go. When Arjun, aided and abetted by his mother in law, escalates his attempts to eliminate Neema, she holds her peace, sinks into the fantasy of Bollywood movies, and later empowered by the return of her long-lost friends finds the strength to go in search of a new life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Nagalakshmi M G., also known as Ashmi is a writer, educator, and counselor. After having worked as a lecturer in English for over twenty five years in Bangalore, she took voluntary retirement in the year 2001 to pursue her passion for writing. She did her Bachelor of Arts from Kerala University and pursued a Master’s degree in English language and Literature at Jnana Bharathi (Bangalore University). Additionally, she has a Degree in M.Phil, and also went on to fulfil her dream of getting a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism and in ‘Proficiency in Counselling’ from Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan and The Theological College respectively. She has published light reads in Femina and The Indian Express. ‘A Darling in Your fifties’ is her first work of fiction. Although a staunch Bangalorean, she currently lives in Pune with her family.

MY THOUGHTS:
Cover: It depicts a pretty middle-aged woman, super-imposed by an image of devilish man.

Writing: The language was poetic and soothing. The way the author has played with words is beautiful.

Plot: A pretty young woman, Neema, is trapped in a loveless marriage. Unable to walk out of it thinking of her young daughter. Sadly, she had been pushed into this unfortunate situation by her own mother.

The story reflects the belief of our society that a woman without a husband cannot survive; that the value of a father's name attached to a child, even if his existence is meaningless, is priceless compared to a hardworking and selfless mother. It reflects the fears of women trapped in loveless and abusive marriages and why they are unable to walk away.

A jealous mother who goes to lengths to ensure the unhappiness of her own daughter. Neema spends her life wondering why her husband doesn't care for her. Both her mother and husband were confident that she would walk out of the marriage, but Neema could not do it for the sake of her daughter, Goldie. When Goldie is all grown up, Neema's friends return to her life unexpectedly. By then, her husband was planning to eliminate her for good.

I liked the plot but a little disappointed that Goldie did not act in a matured way, helping her mother to gain confidence to walk out of a unhappy marriage and leave her life on her own terms. Another surprising point was that Neema and Goldie never seemed to have dinner. Neema would come back from work, have coffee and go to sleep. Goldie would come back from school and later college, and it would be bedtime.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the writing and overall story.

I give "A Darling in your Fifties" 3 stars on a scale of 5.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Book Review #41: History Revisited

9789352015900Name: History Revisited
Author:
Nishant Joshi 
No. of Pages: 170
Genre: Fiction
Price: Rs. 175/-
Published in: 2016

How did I get it? From the publisher.

The blurb of the book says:
Meet Nishant, Suraj and Sachin, three “unlucky” guys. Finding themselves stuck in the thirty-fifth century B.C after being plunged by a near death experience into a time portal, their luck flips around. They find themselves trapped in a bloody conflict raging between two opposing dynasties. They stumble upon a dynastic princess and her new born baby and resolve to unite her with her prince from the opposing dynasty.


During their quest, they must seek a time locator that could allow them to return to their own time but not before they discover fantastical weapons which give them various supernatural powers. Overseeing the evil in the world, a demonic sorcerer wields the blackest magic and destroys the whole dynastic army.


Can the three stop him or will they, like the army, perish in the attempt?
Will they be able to finally return to their own time?

Can they overcome their bad luck or has destiny planned something else for them?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Self introduction of the author, Nishant Joshi:

"I am a final year engineering student of Electronics and Telecommunication at Mumbai University. I was born in Lucknow, U.P and since my father had a transferrable job, we migrated to various cities. From Lucknow to Bhubneshwar, then to Kanpur, then Delhi, then again Lucknow and then, finally to the city of dreams Mumbai. I have grown in an era that was full of science fiction elements be it television cartoons like Shaktiman and Dragon Ball Z, films like Spiderman and Star Wars or the never ending list of science fiction computer games. Seeing this, I was greatly inspired by them but was unhappy about not finding anything as such in my own country except a handful of such things but which were completely restricted only to epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. Would you call them Science fiction!?! Therefore, I set out on my journey to pen down sci-fi novels since our country is literally void of it. Even if you see other countries, the biggest business comes out of science fiction be it novels, films or computer games as compared to India where love and romance is the only thing. Lame isn’t it!!! The taste of especially the youth of our country is very different and the wise will see that it’s bending towards science fiction. Thus, I feel impelled to contribute as much as possible to science fiction which is going to be the landmark and milestone of the present and the coming future."

MY THOUGHTS:
Cover: It shows a soldier in the battlefield with a powerful weapon. 

Writing:  Plain and ordinary. 

Plot: Three loser friends travel back in time and recreates history.

Reading the book, I felt as if the author had some story-idea in his mind and he just vomited out his thoughts on paper. Not one character was properly thought out or introduced. The three friends were construction workers earning ninety rupees a day, ate only vada-pavs but had android cellphones. It was never really explained why they had to leave home. As the story began, immediately they traveled back in time through a portal. The threesome did a lot of irritating crying and hugging. They could execute their plans immediately and very easily; "I somehow did it" but never explained how. The book was like movie with a really bad script, anything and everything was happening.

The author had declared in his acknowledgements, "I am sure it (History Revisited) will be a n exciting and an unforgettable journey for all sci-fi fans out there. I am a sci-fi fan and I will not forget to tell my reading friends that they can gladly give this one a miss.

I give "History Revisited" 1 star on a scale of 5.


Friday, May 27, 2016

Book Review #40: The Not People


9789352016013Name: The Not People
Author:
Sonara
No. of Pages: 260
Genre: Fiction
Price: Rs. 250/-
Published in: 2016

How did I get it? From the publisher.

The blurb of the book says:
‘The Not People’ is an odyssey of faith, a plunge of deep belief into the heart of the ones who have ever dared to love unconditionally. When Parineeta decides to call it quits, her relationship with beau Atharv, with whom she had voyaged through unnumbered experiences in an ordinary life, she was sure as hell about never wanting to see him ever again, even if that meant smothering her core voice that screamed out to love and endure. Winds of change begin gushing only after a protracted length of time; almost close to a decade since their separation. She is now not so youthful anymore and Atharv’s status is unknown to her. Will she give in to her heart’s calling and set out to seek her only love? Would her intentions be bestowed by blessings from above? Will it ever rain again, as it had when she had returned once, to meet her dying mother? Are Parineeta and Atharv really, just ordinary people or Not…?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sonara (Soni Arasu) has served the Armed Forces and is a Director at ARK (Act of Random Kindness social welfare society). She is an avid blogger and is zealous about lettering her thoughts about the hinterlands she subsists in. Her resilient beliefs mirror the concept of pursuing one’s core candidly. A quintessential gypsy at heart, she has voyaged most parts of India with her husband who is a serving officer in the armed forces and her son, Aries.

MY THOUGHTS:
Cover: It shows the view of a busy road from inside a moving vehicle on a rainy day. 

Writing:  Many, many words not at all used in daily vocabulary has been used. At times, it felt as if the author is trying to show off her knowledge of words. At several places, sentences and thoughts became repetitive. Demarcations between events were missing. 

Plot: The story is about two soulmates, madly and deeply in love, defying societal norms of marriage and having a live-in relationship.

The book started well. The female protagonist, Parineeta, lost her mother and she was seeing her family after a decade. She is the only living child of her parents but chose to be disconnected from them all these years; seemed utterly self-centered to me. Atharv, her beau, portrayed as a loving, caring and considerate guy. Then suddenly, they were moving base from Northeast India to South India via road. So one-fourth of the book was about their road trip. They are not financially well-off, but they could afford the deroute road trip and build a house in Ooty. Then their handyman in Ooty lost his family and village to tsunami, so another one-fourth went into their experience in the affected parts volunteering help. What was mentioned in the blurb happened only when the book was coming to end. Parineeta tells Atharv to not come after her, so he doesn't. Then suddenly the story moves eight years ahead. Parineeta conveniently ignored her lonely and aging father till the end. Then she comes back. Didn't like it.

I give "The Not People" 1 star on a scale of 5.


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Book Review #39: Fade To White

fresh Fade and whiteName: Fade To White
Author:
Shreya Dhanwanthary
No. of Pages: 268
Genre: Fiction
Price: Rs. 285/-
Published in: 2016

How did I get it? From the publisher.

The blurb of the book says:
Who are we, really? Are we shaped by our past, by our plans for tomorrow or by life as it happens to us? Are we a result of the lives our parents led or are we an amalgamation of all of it?

This is a story of three people who are trying to figure just that. Three people whose life, as they know it, shatters after a traumatic event.

Three people who are trying to find a new beginning – a beginning away from their darkness. Three people who want to fade to white.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Shreya Dhanwanthary spends all her time conjuring up scenarios where she is heroically rescuing the world from abominable evil. When she isn’t doing that, she writes. Sometimes.

MY THOUGHTS:
Cover: It depicts the colour black dissipating into white.

Writing: A lot of uncommon words have been used. The writing is quite engaging at times, but the lengthy paragraphs spoils the effect.

Plot: The story is basically about three people. A writer who loves to travel and who hates to be a part of conventional notions. Her partner, who loves her with all her idiosyncrasies, while subduing his dreams to lead a normal, stable life. The partner's best friend, an engineer, who dreams of making his mark in the world of science, and who is also in love with the writer. And then an accident shakes them all out of their lives.

This book gave me mixed feelings. I am somewhat confused whether I liked it or not. The parts I enjoyed the most are the journal entries of the writer. The jest and the sarcastic humour was really good. Of all three life stories of the protagonists, I liked the partner's story the most. Then most parts are the conversations between the three of them, and at times a single paragraph is two pages long. Many a times, the character is just jabbering his/her (acually the author) random thoughts and I lost interest in several places. Overall, I think it is a okay read. Also I felt the connection with the title was not really established.

I give "Fade To White" 2.5 stars on a scale of 5.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Short Story #1: A New Day


She is sitting by the open window, the cool evening breeze softly caressing her tear stained face. She is back in her old room, the room she shared with her elder sister. The twin beds are placed in the centre of the room, the heads of the beds pushed towards the central wall. The broad windows are on the same wall, overlooking the home garden.

As always, the seasonal flowers as well as the perennial plants adorn the four sides of the green lawn. It is not even a year since she got married and she is back in her maternal home, perhaps never to go back to her husband again.

Her sister, Preeti, is two years older than her and had got married three years back. Like hers, Preeti’s has been an arranged marriage too. Seeing the love and understanding between Preeti and her husband, she came to believe in arranged marriages. And of course her parents’ marriage was an arranged one too, just like most of the elders in the family. There were only a few exceptions.

The proposal from Arun’s family came when she was at the final phase of completing her doctorate from one of the best universities in the region. She was also teaching in the same university. Her field of study was human psychology. The family seemed really nice and Arun came across like a decent guy. He did not speak much and seemed like an introvert. She was an introvert herself and felt that their personalities matched.

Arun was the only child of his parents and worked in a managerial position in a PSU. He was posted in Gurgaon while his parents stayed in Tezpur, a town in Assam. She and Arun got married after a year of their engagement. After being engaged, they spoke on a regular basis over the telephone and met only once before the wedding. Arun’s shyness appealed to her as she had always admired men of few words. Even her father, whom she adored, spoke very less but his actions spoke volumes.

Two days after the wedding, Arun went back to Gurgaon and she moved to Tezpur to live with the in-laws. Arun’s parents were very loving and kind to her. Surprisingly, Arun did not make any immediate plans to take her to Gurgaon. Even after the wedding, he had not shown any kind of physical interest in her. She was astonished. Since childhood, she was considered to be the prettier of the two sisters. Her beauty had broken many a heart. But Arun did not even look her in the eye. He is too shy, she thought coyly.

After three months Arun came home for the Durga Puja holidays on a week-long leave. She was overjoyed. She was hopeful that this time Arun would make arrangements to take her with him. She was hopeful that they would finally consummate their marriage. She dressed up carefully for him and cooked his favourite dishes. But Arun was indifferent to her. He even snapped at her for no reason. In bed, she felt as if she laid next to a log. She cried in silence wondering what had gone wrong. On the fourth day, she decided to confront Arun.

Shedding her own inhibitions, she asked him straightforwardly whether he found her attractive, whether she had offended him in any way, whether he was unhappy with the marriage and whether something was wrong. Arun was silent for a few minutes. But she didn’t let him go and questioned him again.

This time Arun answered. He told her that she should neither touch him nor come near him. She was taken aback. Composing herself, she asked him slowly if there was someone else in his life. He replied that there was indeed someone back in Gurgaon. And he was not interested in women, he added after a pause. She felt as if the ground had been snatched away from under her feet.

The next morning she spoke to Arun’s parents about the situation. She was shocked to learn that they had already known about Arun’s homosexuality but could not accept it. They thought he would change if he got married. Also, how could they explain it to the society if Arun didn’t get married? She could not stop the tears after the revelation. She told Arun and his parents that they had destroyed her life for their own selfish motives. She decided to leave as there was no point in her staying on in that house. Nobody attempted to stop her.

It was now two months since she had come back to her maternal home. Her parents and her sister were shocked. Was it just a year back that she she been married off with such aplomb? How would they explain it to their family and friends?

They are scared that their child will be ridiculed by society. But what will happen to their child if she is forced to go back to her marital home? No, they can’t kill her with their own hands. She is precious. She needs to regain her life.

It is almost dark. Her mother is preparing the evening tea. She will be summoned soon. Once again, her thoughts drift back to Arun. He didn’t have the courage to face her. He neither called her nor came to meet her. But he did send her an email. He apologized for not being courageous enough to be honest with her or himself, he apologized for cowering under his parents’ pressure. He wrote that he will honour any decision she makes and that he is sorry that he cannot love her the way she deserves.

She laughed at herself silently. What an irony, she thought. She has a doctorate in human psychology and yet she could not comprehend the man she married. Her trust has been broken. Her heart has been scarred for life. She might not be able to trust and love another man again. But she has made her decision. She is not going back for the sake of society. She is going to take the reins of her life in her own hands. She did not hurt anybody, it is not her fault. She will leave Arun for good and start life anew.

Tomorrow is going to be a new day, she thought, as she heard her mother calling her name.

This is my first attempt at writing fiction. This story was first published on Women's Web on 20th January 2015.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Book Review #38: Panorama-A Collection of Short Stories

Name: Panorama-A Collection of Short Stories
Author:
Shilpi Chaklanobis 
No. of Pages: 144
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Notion Press
Price: Rs. 150/-
Published in: 2016

How did I get it? From the author.

The blurb of the book says:
A turbulent relationship between a mother and a daughter takes a sudden turn when the daughter stumbles across a past that she never knew.....

The golden period of a professor’s life is tainted by questions about his purpose until one night gives him all the answers he needs........

Desperate times test us all but when hunger drives a girl to do the unthinkable, her life changes forever..........

Woven around the lives of the people around us – the shy girl on the metro, your domestic help, your neighbors and perhaps even you – this collection of short stories will take you on a bittersweet journey that explores the spectrum that is part of any human relationship and all the complexity and chaos that secretly dwell within the homes and hearts of India.

Often laced with an element of introspection, the stories are sure to change the way you see the world around you…


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Shilpi Chaklanobis hails from the beautiful city of Kanpur and has spent the majority of her adult life in Delhi. She currently heads the Digital Marketing division at an MNC. The amalgamation of her years spent amongst the quiet, calm streets of a small city and the hustle and bustle of a metropolitan like Delhi has lent her a unique perspective towards life. She aims to translate her experiences and understanding of human relationships into stories that not only move people but also resonate with them. She believes that the beauty of a story lies within its ability to be interpreted by the reader in the way they desire as is evident from her writing. Apart from writing, she spends her time devouring books by the dozen. This is her first endeavor as a writer and her writing not only shows promise, but also has a sense of sensitivity that compels you to think about the lives you touch every day.

MY THOUGHTS:
The book is a collection of fifteen short stories. The writing style is plain and at times repetitive. I enjoy reading short stories. But frankly, I was not impressed by the book. Although the plots of the stories were good and had potential, I felt they didn't mature out with proper pace. A few stories were hastened to the end and lacked insight. A few glimpses:

Wok: It is the first of the collection and the only one which I liked. It is about a little girl who couldn't eat curries because her mother couldn't afford to buy a wok.

Bribe: I found the character and thoughts of the protagonist very confusing. He loves his daughter but preferred his newspaper rather than sitting by his sick daughter. He is happy when his tired wife brings him a cup of tea but is fussy when she couldn't cook a dish he likes for dinner.

Forever: I liked this one somewhat too. A pair of young lovers who parted ways due to different goals but their paths cross ways in a unexpected manner.

Mirage: I couldn't comprehend at all how a grown-up girl, who completed her studies and started working, behave in a silly manner. She thinks winning a lottery will bring her father who left her and her mother many years back. And she hates her mother who brought her up single-handed and dotes on her.

I give "Panorama-A Collection of Short Stories" 2 stars on a scale of 5.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Book Review #37: The Great Indian wedding Conspiracy

Name: The Great Indian wedding Conspiracy
Author: Sreeju Sudhakaran
No. of Pages: 351
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Jufic Books (An Imprint of Leadstart Publishing)
Price: Rs. 299/-
Published in: 2016

How did I get it? From the publisher.

The blurb of the book says:
The Puyickal family, a reputed Mallu clan based in Mumbai, is going through a huge crisis.One of their younger scions, Neeraja wants to marry her Punjabi boyfriend.Her father wants to hear none of it. Her aunts would rather die than allow it.

Her uncles don’t care a damn about it.
And her poor cousin, idyllic existence is screwed by it…

Arjun never wanted to have anything to do with his distant and more successful cousin; Neeraja. However, her decision to marry a non-Mallu, an unheard-of scandal in her family, changes his life forever. Forced to take part in the family ‘discussions’ by his mother, he tries to devise ways to get out of this mess, when he finds out Neeraja’s beau’s sister is his college crush. Desiring to win her back, he realizes it can only happen if Neeraja gets married to her boyfriend. With no option left, he forms an uneasy alliance with his hateful cousin, as they work in tandem to emotionally manipulate the elders into making this marriage happen…until one day, a dark secret gets revealed that threatens to unravel all their efforts…


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sreeju Sudhakaran is a hotel management graduate, who never managed to show any affinity to the concept of hospitality for money. Career-wise, he has been a proverbial jack of all trades – right from working in a fast food chain, teaching, writing soothing emails to disgruntled British Airways passengers, appeasing hard-hearted insurance clients, dabbling in short film-making to finally attaining Nirvana in the blogosphere. Currently, he has set up a small production company with the help of similarly cuckolded friends, where they are working on a TV series for a renowned Malayalam channel. He is also a huge movie and book aficionado, and has a site dedicated to his love for movies (http://theunseenticketpayer.com). In between all this, the little time that he has is spent on his first passion - writing. His first book ‘Love and That Bitch Called Life…’, an unconventional romantic drama, hit the stands in 2012. Presently, he stays in Dombivli with his family. For any praises or abuses with regards his work and otherwise, you can connect with him via his personal blog - https://theconstantblabberer.wordpress.com, Or via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sreeju.sudhakaran.84. His twitter handle is @sree_thru_me.  

MY THOUGHTS:
Cover: It depicts a bride's henna-patterned hands symbolizing a wedding.

Writing: The writing style is engaging and laced with humour.

Plot: A romantic relationship between a Malayali girl and a Punjabi boy becomes a huge family drama as immediate relatives are dragged into it. Due to personal interests, the protagonist, Arjun takes part in a conspiracy to make the wedding happen but another conspiracy slowly unfolds.

I loved the humour. It is sassy and the punches leave you chuckling. The story is also well-paced and entertaining. It has included all the ingredients pertaining to any inter-cultural marriage scenario like how parents react, how relatives react, the people who enjoy the situation from the sidelines, the opportunists in it, the usual prejudices and concerns we all uphold regarding caste and creed, the open-minded advisors and so on. The climax is quite dramatic. Whatever be the obstacles, love finally triumphs.

The only letdown I feel are a few typographical errors here and there. Overall it is an enjoyable and entertaining read.

I give "The Great Indian wedding Conspiracy" 4 stars on a scale of 5.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Read Review: The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler's Wife by
Paperback, 615 pages
Published July 23rd  2009 by Vintage Books (first published 2003) 

How did I get it? I bought it.
 
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Blurb:
This is the extraordinary love story of Clare and Henry who met when Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty. Impossible but true, because Henry suffers from a rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future. In the face of this force they can neither prevent nor control, Henry and Clare's struggle to lead normal lives is both intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.
  
MY THOUGHTS:
I watched the movie based on this book in 2009-10. I had absolutely loved it. Now that the movie was so wonderful, the book had to be terrific. "The Time Traveler's Wife" had been on my TBR for a long time time. And I finally read it last week. In fact "devoured" would be the correct word.

The story spells love and only love in all circumstances. And the way the author has put together her imagination in words is simply amazing. Clare is amazing and Henry is wonderful. The love and anguish they feel is heart-wrenching. The characters around them put life into the story.

I read for a couple of hours everyday and finished the book in five days. Before even starting the book, I decided to watch the movie with my husband. And he loved it too. While watching the movie the second time now, I realised that the movie is just the skeleton of the actual book. Only a few characters were used in it and some small things were changed. Of course, it is not possible to put the entire book in a ninety-minute movie. So I gave my husband all the additional details possible.

I am still in a book hangover. The scenes from the book are still occupying my spare thoughts. If you are a sucker for timeless romance, then this is a book for you.