The Queen’s Last Salute by Moupia Basu | Book Review

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The year is 1842 and an ageing king has brought home a wife – a young bride, all of fourteen years – whom the townsfolk are eager to catch a glimpse of. Word is that she is a strange girl, one who wields a sword and is a trained horse-rider. More bizarre is the fact that she has grown up playing with boys and is smart, witty, maybe even a little cheeky.

While people begin to gather in the Diwan-E-Aam, ten-year-old Meera is arguing with her mother, Saanvali, in the zenana, about why she needs to dress up to meet the queen. At the same time, she is curious to learn how this peculiar girl, only a few years older than her, has managed to accomplish things unheard of for women, and how her arrival will change their ordinary lives.

When Saanvali brings her daughter up to the dais to meet Queen Lakshmibai, Meera, finally getting her chance to satiate her curiosity, looks straight into the queen’s eyes and asks, ‘Is it true that you ride horses?’ Even as the durbar hall lapses into silence, stunned by Meera’s insolence, the queen simply asks her name. Meera seems to remind her of a peacock – slender and graceful, with a hint of arrogance. But it is her large dark eyes that sparkle with innocence. The queen rechristens her Chandraki and announces that henceforth, Chandraki will be her companion.

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Drawn from her travel experiences and subsequent research around the rich folklore and history of Jhansee, Moupia Basu spins a fascinating historical thriller inspired from the life of the Rani of Jhansee, leading up to the events of the 1857 Mutiny. While Basu loops in all major historical events and characters of the time, starting from when Manikarnika married Maharaj Gangadhar Rao Newalkar and made Jhansi her home, the axis of this narrative is the relationship between the Queen and Chandraki. As I see it, more than Rani Lakshmibai it is Chandraki who is the lead protagonist, for it is through her eyes that we watch the events of Maharani Lakshmibai’s life unfold amidst the pages.

Read more about this heroic queen and her equally courageous lady-in-waiting, in my detailed review of the book published on Women’s Web as a Featured Post, here.

Title: The Queen’s Last Salute: The Story of the Rani of Jhansee and the 1857 Mutiny
Author: Moupia Basu
Publisher: Juggernaut Books
ISBN: 978-93-5345-024-3
Edition/Year: First Edition 2019
Format: Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Women’s Web
Rating: 4 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Moupia Basu has a master’s degree in English literature from St Stephen’s College, Delhi University. She grew up in the Delhi of the seventies and eighties. She has worked as a journalist with Times of India, Economic Times, Indian Express and Business Today and has written on a variety of topics including business, education and travel. Her debut book, Khoka, was published in 2015. She lives in Pune.

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Ten Years and An Overdue Intervention | Winner for January 2019 Muse of the Month | Women’s Web

The first short story I have written this year is for Women’s Web’s Muse of the Month. As always, they bring back their successful monthly writing contest with a fresh perspective in 2019 (read about it here).

January 2019’s writing cue is these lines from the inspiring African-American writer Maya Angelou, taken from her poem Phenomenal Woman

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed

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My story is titled Ten Years and An Overdue Intervention and has been selected as one of the five winning stories for this month.

It is about a young women who discovers her true ‘financial independence’ despite having been financially independent for a decade.

The story is published online at Women’s Web as a featured post and is available to read here.

the intervention - ashima jain (muse of the month - january 2019)

I imagine many women would relate to having experienced this at some point in their lives, as did I, in my professional surroundings, which is how I was inspired to write it.

Do take a few minutes to read the story and leave your feedback. Thank you!

Picture courtesy: womensweb.in

All About Love | Unbound Issue #5 – Shape of You

I haven’t written a lot in the past year but one of the pieces I did write was on the theme of body positivity. It was for Unbound Emagazine where entries were called for via a writing contest.

Well, my short story on this theme was selected and the magazine launched at the end of December 2018. However, with the New Year and the scramble to put together my posts on reading reflections, the news about being published took a backseat.

So, this comes two weeks late, but I am no less excited to share that the 5th Issue of Unbound, which includes my short story titled ‘All About Love’, is now available on Amazon.

(You might recall that I was also a part of Issue #3 which was themed The Child In Us and included my (much appreciated, if I may add 🙂 ) short story ‘The Girl in Number 315’.)

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For Issue #5, contributors were asked to write on the subject of physical appearance, body-shaming, society’s perception of the less-than-physically-perfect, and the impact of our appearance-conscious society on its individuals.

‘All About Love’ is a thoughtful journey through the travails of a dark-skinned, overweight girl raised in a misogynist environment.

It is now available to download to your Kindle device/App.

Click here to buy.

I’m sure you will enjoy reading this issue and I await your feedback on it.

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Book Reflections of 2018

Note: This blogpost is a featured post on Indiblogger.in and has appeared on their homepage.
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I began this year by reading two books that were a gift from my mother. Knowing my obsessive compulsive need for books, she had selected these because they are about books and bookshops. To be precise, they are about the Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, which is also exactly what the book’s title is (that and More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops). With a start like that, it was evident 2018 had to grow into another awesome year of reading.

At the first BYOB (Bring Your Own Book) meet this year, I remember we were discussing reading targets for 2018 and I quoted mine at 108 books – same as the previous three years. Someone pointed out that like business targets, I needed to show a 20% growth rate in my reading potential. The comment, though made in jest, made me gasp, prompting me to think how that was even possible. Even so, I silently thought I could manage an official target of 108 and strive to read a few more books. Little did I know, then, that my annual reading target would have a friendly companion joining it this year.

By the time I finished reading those first two books, I was dying to share my experience. The books turned out to be absurdly hilarious in a way that book lovers everywhere would relate to. I thought a bookstagram would be ideal for this purpose, like the ones I had posted for a few books I reviewed in 2017. Well, the first bookstagram led to a second, then a third and before I knew it, I had resolved (something I resolutely avoid doing) to post an Insta-review of E.V.E.R.Y book I read in 2018.

I was clear I didn’t want to post generic pictures of books photographed in eye-catching locations. Instead, I wanted to continue from the craft and colouring experiments I had started in 2017. Thus began a journey of creativity during which I rediscovered a new-found passion for art and craft after nearly two decades. I added many more techniques to the basket, such as drawing, painting, paper-folding, Origami – both traditional as well as 3D Chinese Origami, paper-model building, and various other types of paper-craft. Feeding this passion also called for a substantial investment in art & craft supplies, as well as shelf space to store them. But the book and crafts partnership was a go.

And so, every book I have read this year, whether standalone or a series, is supplemented with a review – either in long form on the blog or in short on Instagram. For each of these posts, I have created an art project keeping to the book’s theme.

To know more about these 108 books, or to read their reviews and see the projects I paired them with, click here.

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Of course, if you have been following my reading, you would know how much I love collating reading statistics at the end of the year. These are also my way of taking stock of where I want my reading to go the next year. So, once again I am sharing a few figures from my 2018 reading challenge:

Total number of books read = 108
Total number of pages = Approx. 30,347 pages (big thanks to Goodreads’ My Year in Books for this). Almost the same number as last year, which is surprising since I read quite a lot of children’s fiction this year. Even then, an average book length works out to 281 pages which is very reasonable.
Longest book = Airport by Arthur Hailey at 522 pages. This was my introduction to Hailey and his best of the ones I’ve read so far.
Most popular book = Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. As far as I recall, I had never read a Roald Dahl before this year.
Number of Non-Fiction books = 21. Up 5% from last year. This genre has seen a steady growth in my reading list over the last four years.
Number of books by Indian/Indian Origin Authors = 41. A 7% drop from last year but still a comfortable number.
Number of books translated to English from other Indian or Foreign languages = 16. Up 7.5% from 2017. I also read a book in Hindi this year – something I haven’t done since college.
Number of books by debut authors = 21. Up by 5.5%.
Number of books by Women authors = 38. This makes 35% of my total reading and could definitely do with an increase.
Number of books reviewed = 108 (that’s 100%) with 15 detailed reviews on the blog or on Women’s Web and balance as Insta-reviews on Instagram. My Goodreads profile also carries reviews of all 108 books. I consider that a personal achievement.
Number of physical books read (paperback/hardcover) = 79. That is a massive 20.5% increase from last year. I do confess that I prefer to pick up titles by Indian authors as physical books.
Most books read in a month = 27 in April, of which 15 were Roald Dahl titles from a box set.
Least books read in a month = 2 in August. It was a time I was severely ill, catching one infection after another and was just not upto reading.

Now that the business side of reading is done, let’s move on to the side that offers pure joy – the act of reading itself.

In line with Aquamarine Flavours’ annual reading tradition, the start of the new year also means it is time to share with you a list of my favourite books from the ones I have read this past year. These are books that have sparked joy (how Marie Kondo of me!) and continue to remain close to my heart.

As before, I have categorised these favourites into Fiction and Non-Fiction, under Indian Authors and International Authors for easy reference.

If you want to know my review of the book, click on the book’s title or photo.

Note that this list is in no particular order.

Indian Fiction
1. IMG_20180409_132645_583Operation Jinnah – Shiv Aroor
Picking up a military thriller by an Indian author is not easy when it comes with expectations piled high after reading innumerable international thrillers over the years. But this one is an absolute treat and even has two women commandoes who go toe-to-toe with the best of the best. (Buy here)

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2. Koi Good News? – Zarreen Khan
An insanely hilarious peek into a couple’s mind-journal before and during pregnancy, taking you through the changes that a soon-to-arrive baby brings in their lives. (Buy here)

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3. Two – Gulzar
A translation by Gulzar of his novella originally written in Urdu – a painfully tragic story of many lives thrown about by the tornado that cut a sharp line dividing a land and its people – not once, not twice, but over and over again. (Buy here)

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4. The Girl in the Garden – Kamala Nair
A story within a story about a little girl desperate to unravel the messy tangle of secrets that plague her childhood. (Buy here)

International Fiction
IMG_20180109_135956_9731. ‎Bad Dad – David Walliams
This was my first children’s fiction of the year and of the many I read, I particularly loved this one. It is a heartwarming story of a father who does some bad things, only to save the good in his life. But when, suddenly, things begin to go awry, help comes most unexpected. (Buy here)

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2. Fredrik Backman – This year I finally read all his remaining books on my TBR which include:
Two novellas –
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer (Buy here)
The Deal of a Lifetime (Buy here)
A series – 
Beartown  (Buy here)
Us Against You (Sequel to Beartown) (Buy here)
He continues to remain a top favourite and I am waiting with bated breath for the 3rd book in the Beartown series.

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3. Still Me – Jojo Moyes
The third book in the Me Before You series that finally brings Lou full circle in her journey to discovering herself. I thought the end for this trilogy was most fitting. (Buy here)

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4. The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan
A story exploring the complex mother-daughter relationships between these two sets of women born in two different worlds, along with their secrets and conflicts. This is Classic Asian-American Literature that will continue to be relevant for a long time to come. (Buy here)
A special shout-out to my friend who recommended it (you know who you are) 🙂

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5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A young author stumbles upon a book club formed during WW2 for a few stolen moments of peace in their warn-torn lives. A tale told by way of letters that describe the simplistic beauty of Guernsey, and a love story that very nearly breaks your heart. (Buy here)

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6. Airport – Arthur Hailey
This was my first Arthur Hailey novel and while I’ve read others too, this is clearly my favourite – a nail-biting thriller set at a fictional Chicago airport in the middle of a raging blizzard that shows exactly how the aviation industry functions. (Buy here)

Thriller Favs.jpg7. Thrillers call for their very own list so I am listing my top picks here:
Hellbent – Gregg Hurwitz (Buy here)
War Shadows -Brian Andrews & Jeffrey Wilson (Buy here)
The Woman in the Window – A. J. Finn (Buy here)
Deep Down Dead – Steph Broadribb (Buy here)
The Trapped Girl – Robert Dugoni (Buy here)
The Terminal List – Jack Carr (Buy here)
Skyjack – K.J. Howe (Buy here)
The Word is Murder – Anthony Horowitz (Buy here)
Bloody Sunday – Ben Coes (Buy here)
After Anna – Lisa Scottoline (Buy here)
Button Man by Andrew Gross (Buy here)
Dark Sacred Night – Michael Connelly (Buy here)

Note: Check out my thriller reading challenge which I undertook as part of the #BookSpyChallenge2018, run by TheRealBookSpy, here.

Indian Non-Fiction
IMG_20180213_140309_7391. ‎In Hot Blood – Bachi Karkaria
A meticulously researched account of the Nanavati case from 1959 where the author has tracked down people and corroborated events to put together a comprehensive account of this true-crime. Not to be confused by the events of the movie which are largely fictional. (Buy here)

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2. ‎Mothering A Muslim – Nazia Erum
An eye-opener on how, in today’s political environment, children perceive religion and the segregation that adults have knowingly let creep into their young lives. This book forces one to look at themselves and start questioning what values they want to raise their children with because those values are what are becoming the changing face of our society. (Buy here)

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3. ‎Remnants of a Separation – Aanchal Malhotra
The author retraces the lives of 19 families from both sides of the border who hold their deepest, darkest memories of the partition in the objects they carried across with them as well as those they left behind. (Buy here)

IMG_20181019_142624_5734. Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan – Ruby Lal
A remarkable biography of the woman who was the twentieth and most cherished wife of Emperor Jahangir, and later co-sovereign and ruler of Mughal India. One who proved to be a feminist icon in the days of 17th century Mughal India and yet, accomplished what no other woman in the history of Mughal India, neither before or after her, would ever hope to. (Buy here)

International Non-Fiction
IMG_20180430_092803_9541. The Bookshop Book – Jen Campbell
This book is nothing short of magical where the author takes you around the world on a journey to discover rare and unique bookshops. From the oldest, to the smallest, to those in unused barns, disused factories, old run-down railway stations, in buses, on boats, undercover, and even booktowns – she tracks over three hundred weirdly wonderful bookshops across six continents to learn what makes them so special. (Buy here)

IMG_20180606_104121_7732. Get Your Sh*t Together – Sarah Knight
Sarah Knight means business. And she does not care what anyone thinks of how she gets her work done. As long as it gets done. Here, she breaks down existing rules of time-management into smaller, more manageable chunks of information which make them easier to assimilate and incorporate into your daily routine thus helping you achieve Work Life Balance. (Buy here)

IMG_20181116_091223_4583. Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges – Amy Cuddy
You’ve all heard of the phrase ‘Fake it till you make it’. Well, Amy Cuddy teaches you how to ‘Fake it till you become it’. A life altering book that shows how behaviour can be altered subconsciously by tweaking the mind and nudging your body language to power-pose and in turn creating a more honest and meaningful impact, or presence, on your audience. (Buy here)

I have often been asked why my target is always 108 books and not 100 (a nice round number) or 104 (52weeks x 2 books per week). To be honest, I don’t have an answer. It’s just something that happened once and carried on.

Then, a few weeks ago, a friend pointed out that reading 108 books was like chanting the 108 names of God and we both ended up laughing at the absurdity of that analogy. Since then, I’ve decided this will be my official explanation (let me clarify here that I am not overtly religious). So if you’re curious why 108 books, there’s your answer 😁

My reading target for 2019 is 52 books (one per week) even though Brunch Magazine upped their target for #BrunchBookChallenge to 60 books this year. But Week One of 2019 just went by and I am already two books down on my reading challenge, so I don’t trust myself to maintain it. Which direction the scale finally tips is something we will have to wait to find out at the end of the year.

Meanwhile, I am heading over to the New Delhi World Book Fair this week. I am on a strict budget and the bigger challenge at the moment is to make sure I stay within its constraints. Hopefully I will and my family won’t be compelled to throw me out of the house for bringing in more books. Besides, I do have a library membership now which doesn’t exactly justify new purchases and I intend to make good use of it.

Here’s wishing you all a bookishly happy 2019. I’d love to hear from you all about the wonderful books you found this year and the ones that found you. So if you’re reading this, do take a moment to jot down your favourites in the comments below.

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Happy Reading!

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The 2018 Reading Challenge Part-2 | #BookSpyChallenge2018

Note: This blogpost is a featured post on Indiblogger.in and has appeared on their homepage.

Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

I started a reading challenge back in 2015, primarily to make up for the lost decade of books, and set the number at a comfortable 36 books – three a month. Interestingly, that target was met sometime between April and May, prompting me to keep at it, reading whatever books I came across. By the end of that year, I had ended up reading over a hundred books – a tradition I have joyfully maintained for four years now.

It is no mystery that a considerable chunk of my reading is consciously comprised of thrillers – a genre I like to call my bread-and-butter reading 😀. Even within the larger category of thrillers, I enjoy indulging in all their sub-genres. Action, Spy, Military, Crime, Psychological, Legal, Mystery – these are just some, from a much longer list of thriller genres, that I’ve read this year.

A couple of years ago I stumbled upon the twitter profile of TheRealBookSpy, thanks to one of my favourite thriller authors – Joseph Finder. TheRealBookSpy is considered an authority on thrillers and is now also recognized by Amazon as an online influencer. He continues to be my go-to source for discovering new authors and getting the latest on existing favourites. In 2017 he started his own reading challenge which I undertook successfully and decided to take it up again in 2018.

How the challenge goes is that TheRealBookSpy releases a reading list every month, of the books being published. You have to read at least one book from each month’s list, covering a minimum of eight months, and tweet about it.

Given below is the selection of titles I read as part of this year’s challenge. To know more about my views on these books, click on the book title.

If you are curious to see the complete list of 108 books I read this year as part of my main reading challenge, including a total of 23 thrillers (of which only twelve are listed below), click here.

Also, per the Aquamarine Flavours annual tradition, I have selected my favourite books from these 108 and compiled them into a list segregated by Fiction and Non-Fiction for Indian and International releases. Click here for this curated list.

For now, here is my list of books from the #BookSpyChallenge2018:

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1. Hellbent – Gregg Hurwitz (January)
2. The Woman in the Window – A.J. Finn (January)
3. Sirens – Joseph Knox (February)
4. The Terminal List – Jack Carr (March)
5. Skyjack – K.J. Howe (April)
6. Reaper: Ghost Target – Nicholas Irving with A.J. Tata (May)
7. The Word is Murder – Anthony Horowitz (June)
8. Bloody Sunday – Ben Coes (July)
9. After Anna – Lisa Scottoline (April)
10. The Fallen – David Baldacci (April)
11. Button Man – Andrew Gross (September)
12. Dark Sacred Night – Michael Connelly (October)

Are you a thriller aficionado yourself, like me? Yes? I would love to know you and find out who your favourite authors or serial characters are. Drop me a message here so we can exchange notes. One can never have enough thrillers to read, right? 😃

The 2018 Reading Challenge Part 1 | #BrunchBookChallenge

Note: This blogpost is a top post on Indiblogger.in and has appeared on their homepage.

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

The year 2018 has bid goodbye and with that I have wrapped up my 2018 reading challenge in which I read 108 books. This makes 2018 my fourth consecutive year of One-Year-One-Hundred-Books which originally began from the Brunch Book Challenge, run by Hindustan Times’ Sunday Magazine HT Brunch.

If you’ve been following me on social media, you would have noticed that a large part of my reading activity this year was supplemented by writing a review for every single book I read. This was posted either in long form on the blog or in short on Instagram.

I also decided to take forward the creative streak I re-discovered last year and create bookstagrams to complement these reviews. However, instead of posting generic photos of these books, I used various art and craft techniques to pair with the book’s title or theme, some of which included drawing, colouring, painting, paper-folding (both traditional Origami as well as 3D Chinese Origami), paper-models, and various other types of papercraft.

So, as per tradition, I share below the list of of all 108 books that kept me busy in 2018. If any of these piques your curiosity, click on the name in the list below to read my review.

Also, as before, I have selected my favourite books from the ones I read this year and compiled them into a list segregated by Fiction and Non-Fiction for Indian and International releases. Click here for the curated list.

There is also a separate list of thrillers I read as part of the #BookSpyChallenge2018, run by TheRealBookSpy, which you will find here.

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1. Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops – Jen Campbell
2. ‎More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops – Jen Campbell
3. ‎Bad Dad – David Walliams
4. ‎House of Discord – Sadiqa Peerbhoy
5. ‎And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer – Fredrik Backman
6. ‎The Deal of a Lifetime – Fredrik Backman
7. ‎The Midnight Gang – David Walliams
8. ‎The World’s Worst Children – David Walliams
9. ‎The World’s Worst Children 2 – David Walliams
10. ‎The Doodler of Dimashq – Kirthi Jayakumar
11. ‎Tinted Glasses – Mansi Laus Deo
12. ‎The Perils of Being Moderately Famous – Soha Ali Khan
13. ‎Lovers Like You and I – Minakshi Thakur
14. ‎Marital Advice to my Grandson, Joel – Peter Davidson
15. ‎In Hot Blood – Bachi Karkaria
16. ‎Mothering A Muslim – Nazia Erum
17. ‎Hellbent – Gregg Hurwitz
18. ‎Little Maryam – Hamid Baig
19. ‎Some Mad Poems Some Sad Poems Some Bad Poems and A Short Story in Verse – Jayant Kripalani
20. ‎Gurgaon Diaries – Debeshi Gooptu
21. ‎Remnants of a Separation – Aanchal Malhotra
22. ‎Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? – Raymond Carver
23. ‎What We Talk About When We Talk About Love – Raymond Carver
24. ‎Grubbipus Maximus and the Magic Mirror – K.E. Priyamvada
25. ‎Operation Jinnah – Shiv Aroor
26. ‎The Epic City – Kushanava Choudhury
27. ‎Scene: 75 – Rahi Masoom Raza (Translated to the English by Poonam Saxena)
28. ‎Sanjay Dutt: The Crazy Untold Story of Bollywood’s Bad Boy – Yasser Usman
29. ‎War Shadows -Brian Andrews & Jeffrey Wilson
30. ‎Clear by Fire – Joshua Hood
31. ‎James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl
32. ‎Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
33. ‎The Magic Finger – Roald Dahl
34. ‎Fantastic Mr. Fox – Roald Dahl
35. ‎Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator – Roald Dahl
36. ‎Danny the Champion of the World – Roald Dahl
37. ‎The Twits – Roald Dahl
38. ‎George’s Marvellous Medicine – Roald Dahl
39. ‎The BFG – Roald Dahl
40. ‎The Witches – Roald Dahl
41. Boy – Roald Dahl
42. The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me – Roald Dahl
43. ‎Going Solo – Roald Dahl
44. ‎Matilda – Roald Dahl
45. ‎Esio Trot – Roald Dahl
46. Still Me – Jojo Moyes
47. The Woman in the Window – A. J. Finn
48. The Bookshop Book – Jen Campbell
49. How I Became a Farmer’s Wife – Yashodhara Lal
50. The Light We Lost – Jill Santopolo
51. To Hell and Back – Anurag Anand
52. Deep Down Dead – Steph Broadribb
53. The Trapped Girl – Robert Dugoni
54. Genuine Fraud – E. Lockhart
55. Great Textpectations – Ruchi Vadehra
56. Get Your Sh*t Together – Sarah Knight
57. Pieces of Me – Róisin Ingle
58. Uncommon Type – Tom Hanks
59. The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan
60. Airport – Arthur Hailey
61. Calling Sehmat – Harinder Sikka
62. The Good Indian’s Guide to Queue-jumping – V. Raghunathan
63. Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty
64. Koi Good News? – Zarreen Khan
65. Hotel – Arthur Hailey
66. Wheels – Arthur Hailey
67. The Nine-Chambered Heart – Janice Pariat
68. Two – Gulzar
69. Spirits in a Spice Jar – Sarini Kamini
70. An Evening in Lucknow-Selected Stories – K. A. Abbas (edited by Suresh Kohli)
71. Beartown – Fredrik Backman
72. Us Against You – Fredrik Backman
73. The Boy Who Loved Trains – Deepak Sapra
74. The Girl in the Garden – Kamala Nair
75. Lessons in Forgetting – Anita Nair
76. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
77. Job Be Damned – Rishi Piparaiya
78. Out with Lanterns – Alisha ‘Priti’ Kirpalani
79. Seven Sixes are Forty Three – Kiran Nagarkar
80. Charlie Next Door – Debashish Irengbam
81. Khushwant Singh Selects Best Indian Short Stories-Volume I – Edited by Khushwant Singh
82. Khushwant Singh Selects Best Indian Short Stories-Volume II – Edited by Khushwant Singh
83. Who Stole My Memories – Maitrayee Sanyal De
84. Pyjamas are Forgiving – Twinkle Khanna
85. Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan – Ruby Lal
86. Ishq Mein Shahar Hona – Ravish Kumar
87. Those Children – Shahbano Bilgrami
88. The Pilgrimage – Paulo Coelho
89. The Valkyries – Paulo Coelho
90. By the River Piedra I Sat Down & Wept – Paulo Coelho
91. Veronika Decides to Die – Paulo Coelho
92. The Devil & Miss Prym – Paulo Coelho
93. Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges – Amy Cuddy
94. The Fifth Mountain – Paulo Coelho
95. Eleven Minutes – Paulo Coelho
96. The Zahir – Paulo Coelho
97. The Witch of Portobello – Paulo Coelho
98. Sirens – Joseph Knox
99. The Terminal List – Jack Carr
100. Skyjack – K.J. Howe
101. Reaper: Ghost Target – Nicholas Irving with A.J. Tata
102. The Word is Murder – Anthony Horowitz
103. Bloody Sunday – Ben Coes
104. Daughters of Legacy – Rinku Paul & Puja Singhal
105. After Anna – Lisa Scottoline
106. The Fallen – David Baldacci
107. Button Man – Andrew Gross
108. Dark Sacred Night – Michael Connelly

What do you think? Did any of these titles tempt you to pick them up? Or have you read any of these which you absolutely love and can’t stop raving about? I’d love to share notes with you. Do drop me a line and let me know.

Oh, and Happy 2019 to you and yours! 🙂

Daughters of Legacy by Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal | Book Review

There is a tremendous amount of history behind successful businesses which have continued for generations and time has shown how it has brought its share of challenges and perks in running them. Included in that history is the fact that these age-old legacies were handed down through the male line of succession – from father to son – who, born into privilege, automatically gained a position of power.

Today, however, there are increasing examples of daughters taking the reins in their hands and steering these businesses to newer and greater heights. They have had their share of struggles in navigating the challenges and scaling new peaks, the greatest of which is proving themselves as women in a man’s world.

Rihanna said: “There’s something so special about a woman who dominates in a man’s world. It takes a certain grace, strength, intelligence, fearlessness, and the nerve to never take no for an answer.” The question remains – why are legacy businesses still considered a man’s world?

In Daughters of Legacy, authors Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal show how a new generation of women is redefining India Inc.

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The book features twelve women from illustrious families such as the Future Group, Kirloskar Systems, Emami Limited, Parle Agro, Nalli Group of Companies, and MBD, to name a few and have been chosen from a wide cross section in terms of scale of business, roles and hierarchy. These women have not only kept the legacies alive but have also gone on to carve a niche for themselves as individuals beyond their famous last names.

To know more about these path-breaking women and their inspiring stories, read my detailed review published as a Featured Post on Women’s Web, here.

Title: Daughters of Legacy: How a New Generation of Women is Redefining India Inc
Author: Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal
Publisher: Penguin Random House India
ISBN: 978-0-143-44158-8
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 224
Source: Women’s Web
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Authors: 
Rinku Paul is an internationally certified life coach and a proponent of women leadership and an inclusive work environment, and has brought together her love for entrepreneurship and writing in her published works. Her previous books – Dare to Be: Fourteen Women Who Gave Wings to Their Dreams and Millionaire Housewives: From Home Makers to Wealth Creators – were released to acclaim. Her passion project is ‘Dare to Be Conversations’-a podcast series and a platform for women to be a part of stirring stories and breakthrough ideas.
In her previous avatar, Rinku has had a corporate career spanning over sixteen years with the news channel Aaj Tak, a part of the India Today Group, till she decided to pursue her dream – impacting people’s lives.

Puja Singhal, having spent more than a decade living the corporate life, strategizing on how best to marry business and people as an HR specialist, decided to take a break to focus on her family and other love, writing. Having co-founded a writing studio, The Muse, and published two books, Dare to Be and Millionaire Housewives, along with Rinku Paul, she is now back to juggling corporate responsibilities along with family duties and, of course, writing. Puja holds an Honours degree in political science and an MBA in human resource management.

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Who Stole My Memories? by Maitrayee Sanyal De | Book Review

I strongly believe memories are the treasure and guardian of all things. They are the filter through which we look back on our lives. I distinctly remember reading somewhere that memory is the fourth dimension to any landscape and I, for one, couldn’t agree more. It is memory that has allowed us to progress as a species, something many other species are not known to possess.

We understand that memory is subjective and, like the cogs in the wheel can disengage – with age, trauma or other conditions, we can just as easily lose it. However, is it possible for someone to steal our memories?

Anu is leading a normal life with her husband in her suburban home in Johannesburg when she wakes up one day to find the police knocking at her door. She is arrested and things get complicated when she fails to recall her name. Soon, she discovers her name is not the only thing she forgot. Everything about her seems blurry  – her house, her life and her loved ones.

The next day, upon discovering drugs hidden in her cupboard, and receiving an anonymous message telling her to run, Anu flees her house, only to find herself alone in a foreign land where she has no one to rely on except strangers. Slowly, she discovers that the life she was leading was a lie and the people she trusted are not who they appear to be. With all that she holds dear at stake, will she be able to save herself and her memories?

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Who Stole My Memories? is a thriller exploring the dark underbelly of one of the world’s leading financial centres and the darker shades of grey that hide behind seemingly innocent faces. How the two entwine forms the basis of the novel.

The author adds a twist to the idea of memory loss with her choice of title for the book and you soon begin to understand the direction this story is taking. While it seems all too predictable at first, the science behind memory theft makes for some interesting reading.

Anu’s path crosses those who, like her, have been wronged by their loved ones and are looking to erase their painful memories and start afresh. Listening to their stories infuses confidence in her, but sadly, there isn’t much that she is able to change about her situation. It is the supporting cast that turns the wheels to uncover the dirty game in play.

As the protagonist, Anu’s character does not check all the boxes, nor does that of her husband, Aman. On the other hand, characters such as Dr. Edeson, Hussain and Mosa offer a far more colourful personality to engage the reader. It is really their story that adds the element of mystery and thrill. I must mention here that the book needs to be edited with a sharper pencil. Many expressions tend to fall flat amidst the errors, thus losing the impact they are meant to make.

Even so, the book is a quick read. As Tennessee Williams said – Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going.

Fans of crime thrillers may enjoy what the book has to offer.

Title: Who Stole My Memories
Author: Maitrayee Sanyal De
Publisher: Readomania
ISBN: 978-93-858546-9-9
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Author
Rating: 3 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Maitrayee is a lifetime writer but a debutant author. Her love for writing blossomed at a young age and she has filled several diaries with her poetry and short stories.
She started working in the corporate world first as a Content Writer and then as an Instructional Designer at a reputed firm which finally emboldened her enough to come out to the world as an author.
Besides writing, Maitrayee enjoys travelling and photography.
Who Stole My Memories is her debut novel.
To connect with her, find her on Facebook.

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Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan by Ruby Lal | Book Review

A few years ago, Hillary Clinton, speaking to a women’s magazine, said: “Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world. It is past time for women to take their rightful place, side by side with men, in the rooms where the fates of peoples, where their children’s and grandchildren’s fates, are decided.”

While she was spot-on in her observation in the wake of 21st century’s rising wave of feminism, I doubt she was aware of the dynamic woman who did all that and more at a time when it was absolutely unheard of. A woman who proved to be a feminist icon in the days of 17th century Mughal India – a time when the term Feminism had not yet been coined (it would take nearly two hundred years for the world to first hear what Feminism was). And yet, this astonishing woman accomplished what no other woman in the history of Mughal India, neither before or after her, would ever hope to.

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Ruby Lal, in this remarkable biography titled Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan, traces the rise of Mihr un-Nisa, born to a Persian noble and widow of a subversive official, who became the twentieth and most cherished wife of Emperor Jahangir, and later co-sovereign and ruler of Mughal India.

To know more about this phenomenal woman with a fascinating history, read my detailed review published as a Featured Post on Women’s Web, here.

Title: Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan
Author: Ruby Lal
Publisher: Penguin Random House India
ISBN: 978-0-670-09062-4
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Non-Fiction/Biography
Pages: 328
Source: Women’s Web
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Ruby Lal is an acclaimed historian of Mughal India. Her previous books are Domesticity and Power in the Early Mughal World and Coming of Age in Nineteenth Century India: The Girl-Child and the Art of Playfulness. She teaches at Emory University and divides her time between Atlanta and Delhi.

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The Boy Who Loved Trains by Deepak Sapra | Book Review

If any fans of The Big Bang Theory are reading this, do not be misled by the title. This book is not about Sheldon Cooper.

This is a book about a boy who fell in love with trains at a very young age, so much that he had the entire railway timetable memorised – for every train, at every station. A boy who stumped his college interview panel with his fascinating knowledge about trains and went on to study at the Indian Railways Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering (IRIMEE) and then was commissioned to work in the Indian Railways Service. This is the story of that boy who loved trains.

As a young officer posted in India’s Eastern Railway, Jeet Arora is responsible for running trains on one of the densest train routes in the country.
In doing so, he encounters pretty girls and thugs, shares space with buffaloes and goats and finds himself in the midst of oil spills and fires.
As he stumbles across several unexpected, hilarious and entertaining adventures, can he keep trains, and his sanity, on track?

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Deepak Sapra uses his experiences earned during his career in the Eastern Railways to take you on an exciting train journey unlike any other. From his stint at the IRIMEE where he earned his engineering degree, to the challenges of working in an establishment of this magnitude as the Indian Railways, he keeps his readers engaged with a delightful story.

In addition to the insight that this novel offers on life within the IRS, generously flavoured with anecdotes on the mechanism of a government operation, there is also the subtle, often dry, humour that Sapra brings forth – of Jeet working amidst dust, oil and grease – which is extremely entertaining.

Amidst all this is Jeet’s family, who assume he must either be a Ticket Collector or Train Driver and can supply them with free train rides for the rest of their lives. Then, there are his own aspirations as a young man, doggedly vying for the romantic affections of his lady friend and hoping to put down some roots between the many directions that the train tracks follow.

After having read this novel, I wonder why more Indian authors do not write such pieces of fiction with a backdrop of the workings of large scale Indian industries. I believe they could be real entertainers, despite including what many would (incorrectly) assume to be mundane details.

As Jane Smiley wrote: Sometimes, a novel is like a train: the first chapter is a comfortable seat in an attractive carriage, and the narrative speeds up. But there are other sorts of trains, and other sorts of novels. They rush by in the dark; passengers framed in the lighted windows are smiling and enjoying themselves.

There couldn’t have been a better metaphor for this novel about the boy who loved trains.

Title: The Boy Who Loved Trains
Author: Deepak Sapra
Publisher: Readomania
ISBN: 978-9385854644
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Deepak Sapra is a former Indian Railways Service officer. He is an alumnus of IRIMEE, Jamalpur and IIM Bangalore. He travels, blogs and writes on places and people. His diaries have been published by the Outlook Magazine.
He currently holds a very senior position in an MNC and lives in Hyderabad with his family.
To know more about his life in the railways, connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

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