House of Discord by Sadiqa Peerbhoy | Book Review

There is an anonymous saying that family problems come in all shapes and sizes; some are short-lived and easily managed, while others are more chronic and difficult to handle. Somewhere, between these two ends of the scale, is where the story of Barrot House begins.

The Deshmukhs, residing in this rambling house in the heart of Bombay, are barely surviving. An effete father who shrugs reality, a rebellious son who marries a Muslim girl, a spinster daughter depressed with her flawed life, a resident ghost who is known to forewarn impending danger, and family secrets buried for decades that are clawing to get out. All of whom are bound together in a taut hold by a tough matriarch.

Outside Barrot House the post Babri-Masjid Bombay of 1992 is a city wallowing in hate, and when violence comes knocking on the Deshmukhs’ door, they find themselves in the eye of the storm.

Will the famed spirit of Bombay eventually rediscover the healing magic of communal tolerance? Will the Deshmukh family be able to bring down the walls they have built around their hearts and find the love that will help them survive?

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House of Discord begins with quite the thrill when a young boy sneaks into his house in the dead of the night, and the resident family ghost chooses that moment to make her presence known. From thereon, members (living and otherwise) of the Deshmukh family are introduced one by one, along with snippets of their family history thrown in for good measure.

The author unravels, layer by delicate layer, every fabric fold of Barrot House’s present and past, such that the layers appear almost fluid in their movement. She weaves her characters seamlessly into the story, taking time to acquaint the reader with each one of them.

While we learn about the turmoil in each of their individual lives, there appears to be a storm brewing behind the action, slowly and gradually making its way to Barrot House. That, coupled with the tensions in the Deshmukhs’ lives breaking surface, the story takes on a momentum making your heart beat faster as it lodges itself in your throat.

The city of Bombay plays an important role in the narrative. Known for its tolerance, its resilience is tested in the wake of the riots arising from the communal violence and the Deshmukhs find themselves surrounded. The scenes from this part of the story are described in vivid detail and bring back memories as if it all happened only yesterday.

The author has invested deeply in her characters and it shows in the way the unfolding events bring out their humane side despite their rebellious or antagonistic nature. One can’t help but fall in love with them for the sometimes subtle and sometimes grand change of heart.

The prose is picturesque and expressive; the language fluent and metaphorical. The narrative moves at a leisurely pace, bubbling slowly to a point where it suddenly bursts, turning the entire plot on its axis. It is the kind of writing a reader would undoubtedly enjoy losing themself in.

House of Discord is not just a saga about a family breaking apart in a city that is burning. It is a story of bonds that run far deeper than blood. Bonds that build love and compassion. That unite us in the face of adversity. No wonder they say, problems are like washing machines. They twist us, spin us and knock us around but in the end we come out cleaner, brighter and better than before.

House of Discord is a heartwarming story of just how that is possible despite the harsh, cruel, and turbulent world we live in.

Title: House of Discord
Author: Sadiqa Peerbhoy
Publisher: Readomania

ISBN: 978-93-858544-6-0
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 298
Source: Publisher

Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Sadiqa Peerbhoy was born in Hyderabad, grew up in Mumbai and lives in Bangalore. She has been an advertising professional all her working life and is the creative force behind many Indian and international brands. She started writing a humorous topical column in the local papers to keep her sanity in a deadline-ridden career and wrote it for thirty years, collecting a huge fan following in Bangalore. She has also scripted serials for television, scripts for BBC, short stories for the weekend papers, has four published books and many creativity awards. She ran a British college, Wigan and Leigh, in Bangalore and has taught advertising, brand building, life skills and lateral thinking in corporates and colleges.
Sadiqa is married to advertising legend Bunty Peerbhoy, is the mother of two, and remains an ardent student of Hindustani music.
She can be contacted on social media via Facebook and Twitter.

Note – I received this review copy from Readomania in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com

 

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2017: One Year One Hundred (108) Books

As 2017 draws to a close, I can’t help but wonder at how amazing this year has been for me in terms of books. Despite a more than erratic reading schedule, which was pushed back time and again to accommodate other things, I did meet my reading target of 108 books. But that’s not all. In addition to all the wonderful books I discovered and read, there are three things that happened for me, specifically around books, that call for special mention this year.

The first is how, by a genius stroke of luck, I won the Stacy Alesi & ITW International Book Giveaway which delivered seven new International thriller releases (translation – not yet released in India), all signed by the authors, at my doorstep. To know more about what it is and how it happened, click here.

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The second was the joy I discovered in adult coloring this year and how I was able to pair it with books. It all started with a book in which blue roses featured almost as prominently as a character in the story and I was so fascinated that I had to colour them. And almost suddenly, I turned into, what I call, a colouring addict.

If you’ve been following me on this blog and/or on Instagram, you would have seen that most of my posts on books are paired with a colored sketch of something that matches the book’s theme. Now, I’ve read enough posts and articles on the internet on how adult coloring is lame and if at all one wants to do something creative, Bullet Journaling is the trend. I, however, beg to differ. As much as I enjoy the beauty of BuJo, I love the therapeutic calm of colouring. I have also paired books with some papercrafts, but colouring is what I enjoy best. Do drop by for a visit here and let me know what you think.

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The third and most recent reason of joy was my experience at a books-by-weight sale. A friend convinced me to accompany her to one, even though I wasn’t too keen. But I decided to check it out anyways. Long story short – I went and bought a truckload of books. Yes, a truckload. No exaggeration. (If you remember my Instagram post: that number listed there was accompanied by another bigger number that was added later and not disclosed on Instagram).

So, while I now have a roomful of books that would fulfill at least the next three years of my reading requirements, I have also, sadly, blown away my entire book budget for these next three years. All I can hope now, for buying new books (because I can’t stop myself from doing that, no matter what), is the mercy of book gifts and gift vouchers. If you don’t know, my birthday is in March,  but I accept gifts all year through 😀

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With all this bookish amazing-ness, I am now ready to reveal the books that made it to my list of favourites this year. But before I do that, I do ask for your patience because there is one important thing I need to get out of the way. Statistics.

Of the 108 books I read in 2017 – I have collated some reading statistics from my list of books. Why, you ask? Well, because I love doing this. Naturally, I had help getting some of these figures from Goodreads’ Year in Books.

So here we go:
Total number of books read = 108
Total number of pages = Approx. 30,606 pages. It shows a drop by about 1,800 pages from last year.
Shortest book = Tit for Tat by Archana Sarat (an ebook of flash fiction) at 36 pages
Longest book = Holly’s Inbox by Holly Denham at 736 pages. Surprisingly, I read it in a few hours and it was amazing. An entire story told by way of emails only.
Most popular book = The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Number of Non-Fiction books = 16. Up 4% from last year.
Number of books by Indian/Indian Origin Authors = 48. Up 10% from last year. This is a conscious effort on my part to read more such books.
Number of books translated to English from other Indian or Foreign languages = 8. Down 1.8% from last year.
Number of books by debut authors (fiction novels) = 15. Of these, 4 feature in my list of favourites this year.
Number of books reviewed = 17 with detailed reviews on the blog. There were 19 others whose Instareviews were posted only on Instagram. But Goodreads carries short reviews of all 108 books.
Number of physical books read (paperback/hardcover) = 57
Most books read in a month = 18 in November. With only one month left, I was desperate to catch up.
Least books read in a month = 1 in February. I was too busy writing, I think.

Brunch Book Challenge 2017 Landscape Resized

And now, once again, for the third year in a row, I pick my favourite books of the ones I read in 2017. Here is the list, categorised by Indian and International authors, in Fiction and Non-Fiction:

Indian Fiction (in random order)
1-In the Light of Darkness.jpg1. In the Light of Darkness – Radhika Maira Tabrez
I loved how the author brought this heartening story of Susan and Meera to life . The struggles and sacrifices the characters endure should be a reminder to all women that they always have the strength inside them to fight their way towards a better life. That the struggle will only heal them and make them stronger.

28-Baaz - Anuja Chauhan

2. Baaz – Anuja Chauhan
She has been my favourite author ever since I read her first book and this time she wows with a story set during the ’71 war, starring a determined young woman, and a hero who, beside being deliciously swoon-worthy is an Indian Air Force pilot. Pulsating with love, laughter and courage, Baaz is Anuja Chauhan’s tribute to our men in uniform.

3. The Association of Small Bombs – Karan Mahajan32-The Association of Small Bombs - Karan Mahajan.jpg
The book begins with a bomb blast in a South Delhi marketplace in the late 1990’s, and in it’s aftermath, folds within itself the lives of various characters.
The author’s prose is captivating, despite the grief and agony his characters experience. He presents a perspective that is evident and yet so easy to disregard. The book makes you introspect about why things happen and how they impact an individual’s decisions.

34-Cantilevered Tales - Jayant Kripalani4. Cantilevered Tales – Jayant Kripalani
The author says, he overheard a group of people talking about saving a water body from some unscrupulous builder and started keeping tabs on them. This is not a Builder v. Helpless Citizen epic. In fact that is the least important part of the book. This is about the quirks of ordinary citizens and their response to situations around them, which in turn makes them the people they become. This, is a literary masterpiece, laid out with generous servings of wit and humour, as evident from the writing style that spotlights the sociopolitical theme chosen.

40-Revelations of an Imperfect Life - Sankhya Samhita5. Revelations of an Imperfect Life – Sankhya Samhita
A young woman finds herself stuck in a perfunctory marriage and in an impulsive moment, decides to leave her indifferent husband. The characters are delightful, written with such perfection, despite each of their flaws, that after a point you can feel them being a part of your life. The prose reads like a song – every note mellifluous with picturesque descriptions. The expressions captivate you with the gorgeous play of words.

63-I Quit Now What - Zarreen Khan6. I Quit! Now What? – Zarreen Khan
This story of a young, single woman, going on a sabbatical, is a fun read, with the perfect mix of dreams, fantasy and practicality. In addition to her overt subtlety, the author writes with a definite flair for humour. It comes naturally to her and she infuses it at the right places, often coupled with eye-rolling sarcasm that makes you roll on the floor from laughing so much it hurts.

65-‎The Windfall - Diksha Basu7. The Windfall – Diksha Basu
Diksha Basu presents a hilarious tale of a middle-class Delhi family struggling to fit into the mould that comes with their new-found wealth. A tug of war between values and aspirations. If you’re looking for a better-than-good book that will spread warmth in your heart after reading it, I recommend this one.

97-When I Hit You - Meena Kandasamy8. When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife – Meena Kandasamy
When I Hit You is seething with rage. It is painful and devastating. It is also powerful, courageous and inspiring. It is a lesson. Of the signs that should be identified. Of hope. Of strength. Of being the woman not the world wants you to be, but what you want to become.

International Fiction (in random order)

Thrillers Square Resized.jpg1. Gregg Hurwitz, K. J. Howe, Brad Parks, David Baldacci, Lisa Scottoline, Ben Coes, Joseph Finder, Michael Connelly, Nelson DeMille, David Lagercrantz, Reed Farrel Coleman, Andrew Gross, David Ignatius, Matthew Dunn
This selection of thrillers writers has been my favourite this year, some of which I have been following closely and others that I discovered thanks to TheRealBookSpy. (For more, read all about my #RealBookSpyReadingChallenge here.)

66-Britt-Marie was Here - Fredrik Backman
2. Britt-Marie was Here – Fredrik Backman
This Swedish author who first wrote A Man Called Ove has been another favourite for the eccentric, yet endearing, characters he writes. His books are my sunny stories, for they warm my heart.

David Walliams Resized.jpg3. Grandpa’s Great Escape, The Boy in the Dress, Gangsta Granny, Billionaire Boy – David Walliams
I came across this children’s author on Twitter and, out of curiosity, picked up Grandpa’s Great Escape. I loved it so much that I got seven more titles by him. But since I have to choose, these four are my favourite. And yes, I do occasionally read children’s fiction as well. We are, after all, only kids at heart.

73-‎The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
I read this for a book club meeting and found it to be immensely hilarious and surprisingly relevant for today’s time, despite having been published in 1979. With a dry and subtle sense of humour, this books takes its time but eventually grows on you when you realise it is not a book but a way of life.

102-‎The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson.jpg5. The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
I have come to realise, after reading all of Jonas Jonasson’s books (another new favourite Swedish writer on my list, that there is a world out there where things happen for a reason, or for no reason at all. His characters are charming and his plots are preposterous. But, you see, things are what they are, and whatever will be will be. And for that reason alone, I can’t help falling in love with his books. Do also check out The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden and Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All.

101-Holly's Inbox - Holly Denham6. Holly’s Inbox – Holly Denham
This is a one of a kind novel which I discovered in the non-fiction section of the books-by-weight sale I went to last month. It is a light hearted page turner with a narrative that is completely written by way of emails. It is an absolutely delightful read and I am now looking to get my hands on its sequel.

Indian Non-Fiction (in random order)
4-Kohinoor


1. Kohinoor: The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond – William Dalrymple and Anita Anand

An intensively researched account of the story of the world’s most infamous diamond which has been shrouded in a fog of history and mythology for centuries.

27-Bag it All - Nina Lekhi.jpg2. Bag it All – Nina Lekhi (as told to Suman Chhabria Addepalli)
The journey of the woman behind Baggit, the famed eco-friendly handbag brand, who planted the seeds of a tiny project at the young age of 18 when she failed her First year of Commercial Art. What started in one half of the children’s bedroom in her parents’ house, only as a means to move forward from her failure and to prove herself, has today grown into a 100+ crore company.

52-Sonal Mansingh - Sujata Prasad
3. Sonal Mansingh: A Life Like No Other – Sujata Prasad
A mesmerising account of her passion to dance and to life, her worship and also her struggles, to achieve all that she has. Reading her biography makes you feel that hers is really a life like no other.

72-Kissing the Demon - Amrita Kumar
4. Kissing the Demon: The Creative Writer’s Handbook – Amrita Kumar
With the repertoire of her experiences spanning four decades, the author lays out a simple and effective method to traverse the seemingly arduous path of pursuing Creative Writing, either professionally or as a hobby.

International Non-Fiction (in random order)

55-Why Won't You Apologize - Harriet Lerner1. Why Won’t You Apologize? – Harriet Lerner
It explains how a wholehearted apology means valuing your relationship and accepting your as well as the other person’s responsibility without any hint of evasion, excuse or blame. It teaches you to lead with your heart, have the courage to apologize and the wisdom to do it meaningfully.

61-Rich Dad, Poor Dad - Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter.jpg
2. Rich Dad, Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter
Using simple examples, the author explains the fundamentals in making money work for you, instead of you working for money.

76-‎The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love - Per J. Andersson3. The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love – Per J. Andersson
This is an inspiring account of PK’s journey through life, of overcoming obstacles that began with being born an untouchable in India, amidst hunger and poverty, to travel 7000 miles to find and marry a Swedish woman of noble descent whom he loved.

92-‎The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A Fck - Sarah Knight
4. ‎The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F*ck – Sarah Knight
In this book, the author helps identify things we don’t care about (Step 1) and shows how not to spend time, energy and/or money on them so that we can use those finite resources in what we really do care about. (Step 2). A simple concept to separate Annoy from Joy.

If you want to check out the complete list of books I read in 2017, you will find it here.

My review and rating for these books is available on my Goodreads account.

I also tweet about the books I read, in as much as 140-280 characters allow. You can always find me writing about the latest book to catch my fancy at https://twitter.com/AshieJayn.

For books with detailed reviews published on the blog, check out the links in the above mentioned list carrying all 108 names.

As for 2018 – I am all set for a brand new year of joy and have my bedside TBR all set to begin reading at the start of the new year. But another, more important target I have this year is to start setting up our family library. All these books I have read or am yet to read (from the truckload collection) do not deserve to be put in storage. They need a proper home and that is what I intend to do. Hopefully, 2018 will be the year for it.

If you like the selection of books listed above, do share with your reader friends and write to me, in the comments below, about your favourites. Let’s share some book love!

Here’s hoping you have all had an amazing 2017 and I wish you a Bookish 2018, full of love, joy and some great books. Remember, read for yourself. Not to conform to other’s expectations. Most importantly, read books that make you happy!

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


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The Woman Who Saw the Future by Amit Sharma | Book Review

Dreams. The result of our subconscious thought. Generated from the blankness of our mind. Disintegrated into the vast nothingness of our lives. We hope for them to be a peak into our future. We see them as a window to our past. They are manifested into our intuitive power. A gut feeling, a sixth sense, a premonition.

Khalil Gibran said, Trust in dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity. But can dreams tell us the truth? Can premonitions show us the future?

Amit Sharma, in his new book: The Woman Who Saw the Future, spins an intriguing story around the concept.

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Sapna Vaid, a timid, wide-eyed, college-going girl, has lived with a unique power for a decade; a power that has turned her into the most influential and powerful Goddess on Earth. Sapna can see the future by way of premonitions that haunt her at night, where death and blood await her in her dreams. She saves thousands of people around the world every year through her record-breaking, popular show ‘Lucky People’. The show has given Sapna’s life a meaning and gives her the courage to sleep every night.

Even though the world is at her feet, this power costs Sapna her personal life. Broken relationships and separation from her son bring her unbearable pain. Her parents and the thousands of prayers that come her way every year are her only solace, her only reason to live. When blinding hatred leads to a desperate act of revenge, a single misuse of her great power triggers a reversal of her fortunes. Now she must decide the path she has to take to preserve her unique gift and her fame, even if it turns her into a murderer on the brink of insanity.

To find out more about this unusual book, read my detailed review as published at Writersmelon.com.

Bonus: Checkout my interview with the Author, here.

Title: The Woman Who Saw the Future
Author: Amit Sharma
Publisher: Readomania
ISBN: 978-93-858545-5-2
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 276
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Amit Sharma is an IT slave (read professional) since the last twelve years. He lives with his family in NCR but his work does take him to foreign lands. His wife was a teacher till she gave it up because of sheer exhaustion of answering questions of their four-year-old daughter all day.
His first fiction book, False Ceilings, a family saga spanning one hundred and thirty years, was published by Lifi Publications in 2016. The book garnered many good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and critical acclaim.
Amit’s hobbies include reading, watching world cinema, travelling, digging into various cuisines, cooking, listening to music, painting, blogging, making his daughter laugh and helping his wife with her unnecessary and prolonged shopping.
To read more about him, visit http://amit-sharma.co.in/ or connect with him on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Elixir by Sinjini Sengupta | Book Review

It was at a creative writing workshop earlier this year, where I first met Sinjini Sengupta, the author of this novel. She had written a short story which her husband had picked up to make a short film. The film was travelling across the globe, being screened at various International Film Festivals at that time, and collecting accolades. Meanwhile, the author herself was busy working on its full length novel.

Since the moment I first heard about the idea behind Elixir, at that workshop, I had been curious to read it. I remember she had described the story in a way that sounded almost magical. Many months later, when the book’s cover was launched and I read the tag line below the title, my interest was piqued yet again:
A Dream of a Story
A Story of a Dream.

Manisha leads a normal life. She is celebrating her wedding anniversary with her husband of ten years and is achieving success in her career which is taking her to new heights.

On one such normal day, she wakes up from sleep and goes to work. On her way back home, she walks into a coffee shop. The cafe is empty but for an old man behind the counter, and another man at a corner table. Later in the night, this man comes back to her in her sleep, and then, every night thereafter. A new journey begins, and a transcendence.

Manisha is well on her way to building a whole new life. The kind that is made of dreams. For it is, truly, made in her dreams. A story weaves itself around a life unfulfilled, and a destiny, beautiful and fated. But… where does this journey lead her to? Will Manisha be able to find her way through these parallel worlds?

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When I started reading Elixir, what first caught my attention was the imagery Sengupta has created with words. It reads like poetry,  with a breathtaking visual impact. Her writing has a certain rhythm to it. It brings movement, such as in music – with high and low notes, with breathless continuation, with broken pauses, all of which evoke a range of emotions.

On the surface, Manisha is a woman who has all the pleasures and luxuries of life. But does she really? Why does she appear to consider herself unimportant, unwanted? Why does she feel wrong to want something, to expect it? It is in the way Sengupta builds the character sketch of the protagonist that the author displays her deep understanding of human emotion. She peels away the glossy, albeit weak and thin, layers shrouding the reality of our lives to deliver a relevant social message.

As Manisha balances herself between her dreams and wakefulness, the fine line between imagination and reality is blurred, lost in its own definition. The nuanced transition from one to the other is what sets a benchmark in writing literary fiction.

Elixir is a journey into a magical world, one that is beautiful, heartbreaking and deeply emotional. As the name implies, it is both magical and medicinal for the beat of your heart. So read it. Read it for the thrill and read it for the salve. You won’t be able to free yourself of its hold on you.

Title: Elixir
Author: Sinjini Sengupta
Publisher: Readomania
ISBN: 978-93-858545-4-5
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 264
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: An alumnus of the Indian Statistical Institute, Sinjini spent several years of her working life as an Actuary, clearing difficult exams and designing, pricing and reserving for insurance policies, before she took a career break in 2015 to revive her long-dead passion for writing. Writing didn’t disappoint her, either.
Within just a year or two, Sinjini went on to win quite a few coveted national and international awards. As a poet, Sinjini won the National-level English poetry contest—Rhyme India—hosted by Times of India in 2016. Several of her poems got selected and published in the poetry anthology She—The Shakti. One of her short stories themed on Nature writing won the prestigious South Asia FON contest and is soon to be published in an international anthology.
The screenplay of Elixir won her the Best Screenplay award from among 550-plus films internationally. As a columnist, Sinjini was awarded the coveted Orange Flowers Awards 2016 (Runners-Up) for her social columns. She writes mainly on gender issues, social reforms and sensitive parenting in a plethora of publications, such as the Huffington Post, Youth Ki Awaaz, Anandabazaar Patrika, Readomania, Feministaa, Women’s Web, MyCity4Kids, SBCLTR, Bonobology and several other popular publications. Sinjini was conferred the ‘Iconic Woman’ award at the international Women Economic Forum in May, 2017. She serves as the Gurgaon Chairperson for Readers and Writers of All Ladies League. Sinjini was recently featured by ICICI Bank as one of the ‘Inspirational Women of India’ in the Fund Your Own Worth initiative.
Sinjini lives in Gurgaon with her husband Anirban Guha, a banker by day and a filmmaker by night, and Roopkatha, their six-year-old grandmother-cum-daughter cum-spiritual guru.
To read more about her, visit https://sinjinisengupta.blogspot.in/ or connect with her on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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When I Hit You: Or, a Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy | Book Review

One can beat around the bush as much as one wants, but the fact of the matter remains: Violence against the women and girls is considered to be one of the most prevalent human rights violations worldwide. The United Nations Population Fund, in a 2015 report, states that “one in three women will experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime”.

I have always been troubled as to why women suffer from domestic violence. Why do they need to stay in such a relationship? Why don’t they just walk out? What holds them back?

Meena Kandasamy, in her novel – When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife – writes a hard-hitting account of a writer’s marriage in an effort to lift the veil on the silence that surrounds domestic violence and marital rape in modern India.

She addresses compelling questions in her lyrical style of writing that is poetic and draws you into it’s prose. The incidents she describes play havoc with your mind, and they are not even a fraction of what the victim would have experienced.

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A fictional novel, When I Hit You is inspired by the author’s personal experience. Nonetheless, despite all that she has been through, the narrator does not lose her faith in love. She continues to believe in it, albeit brokenheartedly.

When I Hit You is a lesson to not let your loyalty become slavery. Any relationship, when becomes overbearing, needs to be terminated. One always needs to remember that one can always get out.

And when you have gotten out, then, as Rumi said: “You have escaped the cage. Your wings are stretched out. Now fly.”

To find out more about this book, read my detailed review as published at Writersmelon.com.

Title: When I Hit You: Or, a Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife
Author: Meena Kandasamy
Publisher: Juggernaut Books
ISBN: 978-93-862283-0-7
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 272
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Meena Kandasamy has actively sought to combine her love for the written word with the struggle for social justice through poetry, translation, fiction and essays for the last fifteen years. Her debut collection of poems, Touch, was themed around caste and untouchability, and her second, Ms Militancy, was an explosive, feminist retelling/reclaiming of Tamil and Hindu myths. Her critically acclaimed first (anti)novel, The Gypsy Goddess, smudged the line between powerful fiction and fearsome critique in narrating the 1968 massacre of forty-four landless untouchable men, women and children striking for higher wages in the village of Kilvenmani, Tanjore. When I Hit You: Or, a Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife is her second novel.
She grew up in Chennai, India where she lived most of her life before moving to London in 2016.
She was a fellow of the International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa in 2009, and a British Council Charles Wallace India Trust Fellow at the University of Kent in 2011. She holds a PhD in sociolinguistics. Her work has appeared in eighteen languages.
To read more about her, visit https://www.kandasamy.co.uk/ or connect with her on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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The Amazing Story of the Man who Cycled from India to Europe for Love by Per J Andersson | Book Review

The title screams it is a love story. Of one man fighting against all odds to travel seven thousand miles over land and be with the woman he loved.

In reality though, this book is far more.

This is the story of a man, Jagat Ananda Pradyumna Kumar Mahanandia, born in a remote village on the edge of a jungle in Orissa, who experienced crushing hardships during his childhood as an untouchable in the early years of Independance. Forced to sit outside the classroom, he would watch his classmates wash themselves if they came in contact with him. He was pelted with stones when he approached the village temple, for the priests said he dirtied everything pure and holy. But as PK later realised, his life would have turned out very differently had he not been an untouchable.

PK, as he was fondly addressed by his friends, was inclined towards the Arts, while his father wanted him to become an engineer – a career that promised bright prospects for his future. However, after a disastrous term struggling with Maths, Physics and Chemistry, PK applied to art school and was later accepted on a scholarship to continue studying in New Delhi.

It was here that he met Lotta, a young European woman of noble descent who had driven from Sweden, in a beat up VW bus, with a couple of friends. He had a chance encounter with her on a cold December evening, amidst a queue of people waiting for PK to sketch their portraits for a paltry sum of ten rupees, which was to change their lives irrevocably.

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Since this is a true story, it wouldn’t be fair to assess and review the author’s work as is done with most fiction and non-fiction writing. I rather see it as the passion in his endeavour to bring PK’s story out into the world in a way that is endearing, inspirational, and, most of all, authentic.

The story begins when PK was born and the village astrologer made the prophecy that he would “… marry a girl from far, far away, from outside the village, the district, the province, the state, and even the country”. He had looked straight into PK’s eyes and  whispered to him that he wouldn’t have to go looking for her, she would come to him. The prophecy, as scratched on a palm leaf with a sharpened stick continued that she would be musical, own a jungle and be born under the sign of Taurus. PK grew up believing his fate was written in the stars, as for all newborn children, and he carried these stories in his heart.

What follows is PK’s struggle to survive amidst poverty and hunger, without a roof over his head. It was when he decided to become a commercial artist and set up shop by the fountain in Connaught Place Park that his fortune began to take a turn for the better.

Andersson has written a memoir on PK’s life which shows how his experiences shaped him into the man he was to become. It was these experiences that would be his strength on the long journey he was to eventually take across continents and cultures.

About a third of the book describes the actual journey from India to Sweden, via Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Austria, Germany and Denmark.

PK had decided he would take a month to travel on a bicycle from India to Sweden, but it took him four months. He ran out of money for food and shelter fairly quickly and would earn his way by painting portraits. His charming personality ensured he made many friends on the way. He carried with him an address book of travellers on the hippie trail he had met in New Delhi and would look them up on the way. He soon realised this was the warmest community of people.

When he finally arrived in Sweden, he wasn’t sure if Lotta would still want him. Another man was already vying for her affections and one evening he came to Lotta’s home, upset that she was living with PK.

PK realised this man was the perfect match for Lotta and he was wasting his time here if there was no love. He needed a home, security, a place to build his life. He decided he would cycle back to New Delhi.

The following night, Lotta cried when PK refused to budge on his decision. She said to him, “…I don’t want you to buy a bicycle and leave. … I want to be with you, together in one big mess. For life.”

PK took a four month course in Swedish for immigrants and worked hard to fit into his new home country. He started teaching art at the local high school. Exactly two years after they were reunited in Sweden, PK and Lotta were married. The children, Emilie and Karl-Siddhartha arrived a few years later.

PK has since travelled back to his birth-place with his family and built a house between the mountains and the river where he grew up. From here he co-ordinates his charitable work – the water-wells, the school and the activity centre for women.

PK’s story is not about the pursuit of love. It is about his journey through life that unravels the psychological layers of the man who decided to rise by getting past the obstacles that lay on his path. It is a testament that nothing is impossible and that despite the flaws, there is love and beauty all around us. It is this narrative that makes his story truly amazing.

Title: The Amazing Story of the Man who Cycled from India to Europe for Love
Author: Per J Andersson
Publisher: One World Publications
ISBN: 978-1-78607-207-8
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-Fiction / Travel-Memoir
Pages: 304
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Per J Andersson is a writer and journalist. He is the co-founder of Sweden’s most well-known traveller’s magazine Vagabond, and has been visiting India for the last 30 years. He lives in Stockholm.

About the Translator: Anna Holmwood translates literature from Swedish and Chinese to English.

About PK and Lotta: PK and Lotta have been happily married since 1979. They have two children and live in Borås, Sweden. PK is an Art and Culture Adviser for the Swedish Government, and also the Oriya Cultural Ambassador to Sweden.

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Kissing The Demon by Amrita Kumar | Book Review

If you have decided to embark on a writing journey, either professionally or as a hobby, you will soon realise it is a feat akin to kissing the demon. Fortunately though, Amrita Kumar, with the repertoire of her experiences spanning four decades, lays out a simple and effective method to traverse this seemingly arduous path.

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She starts from the absolute beginning – why one should write, for that is the most important question a writer must be able to answer. Not to anyone else but to the self.

Once that is established, she goes on to explain the integral elements of creative writing: plot, characterization, narration, setting, dialogue, that help form a compelling story. She explains with examples which are relevant to the aspiring as well as the seasoned writer. Kumar draws parallels from notable films as well as award winning and popular books to drive the point.

What is most important, however, that sets this book apart from almost all others on the subject of writing, is that she dedicates an entire section to the publishing process, specifically tailored for the Indian writer.

Starting from when, how and where to look for a publisher and/or agent, pitching your manuscript, waiting for a response, negotiating a contract, understanding advances & royalties, to the actual editing, and finally publicity/marketing, she brings focus to an otherwise blurry image that few debut writers can claim to have fully understood.

Last but not the least, she also helps with tips and tricks to manage the complicated balance of dealing with everyday life, and staying fit while indulging in an altogether sedentary writing habit.

You may choose to read this book before you start writing, or after you have written a first draft, nonetheless it has a wealth of information on both creative writing and publishing that you would otherwise rarely come across. One you cannot afford to miss.

Title: Kissing The Demon
Author: Amrita Kumar
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers India
ISBN: 978-93-5264-303-5
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 268
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Amrita Kumar is an anthologist, novelist, writing-mentor and creative writing teacher. She began her career in the godowns of Daryaganj to select books for a chain of bookshops, moving on as research writer for the Department of Culture, Government of India, then on to publishing as associate editor, Penguin India; editor-in-chief, Roli Books; managing editor, Encyclopedia Britannica; editor, Indian Design & Interiors magazine; and vice-president, Osian’s Literary Agency. In addition, she has freelanced for Rupa & Co., HarperCollins India and Oxford University Press.
She lives in New Delhi.

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The Windfall by Diksha Basu | Book Review

I had been seeing this book pop up on my Instagram and Twitter feed every now and then and had made a random note of it somewhere on my TBR list.

Then, I landed at the bookstore to pick up a few books that had been out of stock when my trusted bookseller pulled out a book from the large display table on his right and placed it in front me. “Read this,” he said, his gaze pointing at the copy of The Windfall by Diksha Basu. His recommendations having always been spot on, I couldn’t refuse and returned with a book that was to soon become one of my favourites.

The Windfall begins by introducing Anil Kumar Jha who has worked hard and is now ready to live well. Having sold off his website for what he thinks was an unbelievable price of twenty million dollars, he and his family are moving out of their modest flat in East Delhi, that had been their home for thirty years, into a spacious bungalow in upscale Gurgaon. But, his wife, Bindu, is heartbroken at the prospect of leaving their neighbours and doesn’t want to wear designer sarees or understand interior decoration. Meanwhile, their son, Rupak, is failing business school in the US and secretly dating an American girl. He has still not summoned the courage to talk to his parents about either of these developments.

Once installed in their mansion, the Jhas are soon drawn into a feverish game of one-upmanship with their new neighbours – the Chopras. When an imitation Sistine Chapel is pitted against a crystal-encrusted sofa imported from Japan, and each couple seeks to outdo the other with increasingly lavish displays of wealth, Bindu begins to wonder where it will all end.

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Diksha Basu presents a hilarious tale of a middle-class Delhi family struggling to fit into the mould that comes with their new-found wealth. Their discovery of a lifestyle they have never known, one which Mr. Jha is determined to embrace while Mrs. Jha is fearful of accepting, highlights the insecurity that plagues us all.

Basu’s prose is simple and easy going, much like the family whose story she tells. She infuses a sense of humour in her writing which makes one laugh out loud at every page. The novel is paced exceptionally well, discouraging the reader of any urge to pause. She weaves a captivating narrative of the Jhas’ new lifestyle in Gurgaon entangled with the confusion Rupak experiences in the face of his parents change in mindset.

The Chopras play their part as supporting characters to perfection. Dinesh Chopra, the new neighbour, is as nosey as they come. Watching every move the Jhas make, he is determined to prove he is better and richer.

I particularly loved the nuanced character of Mrs. Ray, the 37 year old widow who is Mrs. Jha’s best friend. Basu loops her story in the narrative effortlessly, and draws attention to the meaningless stigmas associated with being a young widow in India.

The Windfall is a tug of war between values and aspirations. As Michael Mandelbaum said, ‘The windfall of great riches can, if mismanaged, make things worse, not better, for the recipients’. This book simply shows the reader how, albeit with dollops of humour.

If you’re looking for a better-than-good book that will spread warmth in your heart after reading it, I recommend this one. I guarantee it will make you laugh so much that you will cry.

Title: The Windfall
Author: Diksha Basu
Publisher: Bloomsbury India
ISBN: 978-93-86606-62-4
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction/General
Pages: 304
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Diksha Basu is a writer and actor. Originally from New Delhi, India, she holds a BA in Economics from Cornell University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times , Cosmopolitan , Buzzfeed and the BBC. She divides her time between New York City and Mumbai.
To connect with her, find her on Twitter.

This post is participating in #MyFriendAlexa because I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter.

UPDATE 14th Nov 2017: This review is now also published on womensweb.in

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Jukebox: A Short-Story Anthology from Writersmelon | Book Review

There are these lines in the song All I Want by Joni Mitchell, from her album Blue:

I wanna be strong, I wanna laugh along,
I wanna belong to the living.
Alive, alive, I wanna get up and jive,
Wanna wreck my stockings in some jukebox dive.

This is as close as it gets to how I feel when I read the stories in Jukebox – Writersmelon’s newest anthology – a product of fifteen best short-stories handpicked from Melonade 5, their annual nationwide writing competition.

Each of these stories is written by a fresh, new voice: The story you wish was never narrated to an eight-year-old. A cold December morning and a lone gravestone that changes a woman’s life. A teenager who, struggling to deal with the challenges in her life, believes she is cursed. An ageing alcoholic superstar who finds a magical cure for his baldness. The love story linked to a missing earring. A teacher’s faith in her student that bears fruit fifteen years later. These are just a sampling of what the book has to offer.

Categorised in three sections – Suspense, Humour, and Romance – these stories take the reader on a journey where the characters’ lives would have been very different, were it not for the choices they made. They display the protagonist’s strength in drawing courage from within. To do the unthinkable, the supposedly taboo, or to simply follow their heart.

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I can’t deny the fact that I was caught in the web of this jukebox right from the first page.

Abhishek Mukherjee’s ‘Story’ had me biting my nails from the sheer anticipation of what his protagonist was unravelling. His pointed questions to his mother, about his father’s murder, were something you wish no child had to ask. Mukherjee narrates it with the innocence and curiosity of an eight-year-old.

In ‘A Deep Fried Love Story’, Diptee Raut weaves an interesting tale of fat, fried, and love on fire. A woman’s chance sighting of a delicious snack in the hands of a man, puts both man and woman on the fast track to love. The absurdity of such a normal encounter is what endears this story to you.

Purba Chakraborty describes a teacher’s affection for a student unlike others in ‘Her Favourite Pupil’. Her leap of faith in pushing him to test his limits backfires and she ends up losing him. This story is as inspiring as beautiful, and reading it brought tears to my eyes.

‘One Day in December’ by Deboshree Bhattacharjee Pandey is so full of spine-chilling suspense that I am still reeling from the shock of how it turned out in the end.

Avishek basu Mallick begins ‘Lizard Grass’ with a disclaimer that is difficult to ignore. His tongue-in-cheek humour and the obvious reference to reality makes this an absolutely hilarious read.

I could go on to review every story but it wouldn’t do justice to them. There is something unique and special about each one of them.

I did feel that some of the stories could have been edited better, though Priyanka Roy Banerjee has done a remarkable job with most.

Even so, once you pick it up, you will find yourself lost within its gripping tales, losing all sense of time. This jukebox sure carries a delectable selection for aficionados of all genres.

Title: Jukebox
Author: Various
Publisher: Readomania
ISBN: 978-93-858543-3-0
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 176
Source: Writersmelon.com
Rating: 4 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About Writersmelon:  They are a leading community of book lovers, constantly buzzing with ‘real conversations’ around Books, Authors, and Writing.
Budding authors & bloggers can explore interesting writing opportunities to review books, contribute articles, or cover a book related event in their city.
Writersmelon has a unique approach for new release books, combined with other professional services which have been widely appreciated with glowing testimonials from authors, their agents, and reputed publishing houses.
They also run a nationwide writing competition – Melonade – which is an attempt to provide a platform to young and upcoming writers from all walks of life. It gives them an opportunity to get judged & reviewed by some very respected & widely read authors and  showcase their stories.
With hundreds of entries received every year as part of Melonade, the best stories are published as an anthology, the first of which was First Brush on the Canvas.
Jukebox is their second anthology, edited by Priyanka Roy Banerjee and with a Foreword by Preeti Shenoy. 
Follow Writersmelon on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Also check out their website http://www.writersmelon.com/wm/ for some great articles.

Note – I received this review copy from Writersmelon.com in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

This post is participating in #MyFriendAlexa because I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter.

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I Quit! Now What? by Zarreen Khan | Book Review

I remember reading a quote by John Ortberg which said, ‘I have always heard that you need to give yourself a long time to unplug when you do a sabbatical. I unplugged so fast I was a little concerned that I was losing brain capacity.’

I couldn’t help being reminded of his words when I started reading I Quit! Now What? by Zarreen Khan:

As the title explains, Nimisha is exhausted. Of endless weekdays, working weekends, making presentations, working with complicated Excel sheets, handling a boss with time-management issues and the general politics of the workplace. Sigh! After eight years of this life, her only personal insight is that she’s terribly unambitious and constantly struggling to be an average performer in the competitive corporate world.

When a colleague flashes the glint of a golden sabbatical, she catapults into it headfirst. After all, one has to find one’s calling at some point in one’s life.

So, will the sabbatical miraculously change her life forever? Or will she go rushing back to her pocket-money-generating job?

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Khan, having chosen a single, twenty-something female professional as the protagonist, speaks for all the unmarried women today who are looking to take a break after a seven-to-ten year career track.

The fact that Nimisha is inspired by a colleague who is four months pregnant, itself speaks volumes. I, for one, have never understood why it is considered normal for a married woman to take a break from work, but when a single woman decides to take this step, everyone – from her company’s chief (insert name of your company’s top honcho – man or woman) to the chaiwallah outside her office building – has an opinion; her own relatives included.

The first obvious question is what said single woman will survive on, without the luxury of a regular salary being credited to her account. The author tackles this in an understated way. She lands a sharp punch on the nose of all those who think a single woman sitting at home is only living off her parents money. (Hello Uninitiated! Are you familiar with the term ‘Savings’? No? Look it up!)

In addition to her overt subtlety, Khan also has a definite flair for humour. This is evident from the opening scene and is carried throughout the book – Only one of the many reasons I ended up reading this through the night. It comes naturally to her and she infuses it at the right places, often coupled with eye-rolling sarcasm that makes you roll on the floor from laughing so much it hurts.

The story is told in two parts – The Corporate Life and The Sabbatical. And these pictures couldn’t have described it better. (Kudos to whoever came up with the idea….I love them!)

When she does eventually bite the Sabbatical bullet, and begins her quest to discover a new passion, Nimisha is supported by a loving family, two adorable nieces, a gang of 2:00am friends and, last but not the least, the quintessential best (boy) friend.

Wait, don’t start jumping in excitement just yet. There is a (boy) friend, yes, but this is not a romance novel. So, don’t pick this up if that’s all you’re looking for. You won’t find it here.

What you will find though, is a lot of cupid confusion, which is just about the amount of romance I can handle. 🙂

As Nimisha soon finds out in her preparation to dive into this new phase, armed with a list of activities she has been meaning to pursue, it turns out there really is a technique to live and enjoy a sabbatical. No wonder John Ortberg said what he did about the time needed to unplug.

I Quit! Now What? is a fun read, with the perfect mix of dreams, fantasy and practicality. Zarreen Khan has definitely made her presence felt with her strong writing and should consider making this a series. I will surely be lining up to get hold of her next book.

Title: I Quit! Now What?
Author: Zarreen Khan
Publisher: Amaryllis – An Imprint of Manjul Publishing house

ISBN: 978-93-81506-97-4
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction/General
Pages: 296
Source: Author/Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: The author, Zareen, is NOT on a sabbatical. She is a mother, cook, maid, doctor and magician for her kids – a very demanding job! And when she gets time off, she works as a marketing consultant.
Zarreen loves writing and has been secretly maintaining piles of self-written storybooks since the age of eight. I Quit! Now What? is her first novel.
She lives in Delhi with her husband, Moksh and children, Zayn and Iram.
Follow her on Facebook to know more about the author and her writing.

Note – I received this review copy from the Author/Publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

This post is participating in #MyFriendAlexa because I am taking My Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter.

UPDATE 3rd Oct 2017: This review is now also published on womensweb.in

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Picture2 Courtesy: Amaryllis - An Imprint of Manjul Publishing house