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.

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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

Revelations of an Imperfect Life by Sankhya Samhita | Book Review

One of my favourite quotes I learnt growing up, is that Home isn’t a place; it’s a feeling. It is the people who you live with, amidst those four walls of your house, who provide a sense of belonging.

What, then, is one supposed to do, when the feeling of home is no longer there, and the people whom you regarded close, seem far, far away?

One utterly ordinary day, thirty-three-year-old Tanaya realizes that she is stuck in a perfunctory marriage, nursing a resentment at having to live life like a rolling stone and in an impulsive moment, decides to leave her indifferent husband and uninspiring apartment to go back to where it all began: the sleepy town of Tezpur, Assam.

Back home, in the company of family, friends and unavoidable wagging tongues, Tanaya is forced to face her indecision and confusion, even as she tries to find answers to the unsettling questions running in her mind. Dealing with the aftermath of a decade-long heartbreak, coming to terms with new revelations, when she reaches the fork on the road, will Tanaya be able to make the right choice?

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Revelations of an Imperfect life is a book that evokes memories of idyllic life, of growing up in simpler times, of roots, and of being home. The story is one you would want to read over and over again, for it imparts the feeling of being snuggled inside a warm blanket on a cold, rainy day.

The author starts off with a delectable description of maasor tenga (the signature Assamese dish), and just as your mouth starts to water from the flavour of the tangy gravy, she decides to jolt you from your reverie with the hard-hitting monotony of a life that is far from what one would desire.

Her protagonist travels to a time and place in her past, as a way to move forward, and along her journey she is reminded of the things that she misses today – Little gestures that would go a long way in bringing joy to her life.

Samhita’s characters are delightful, whether it is Dueta, Ma, Aita (one of my favourites), or Nobou Mami from across the fence, Nila (the sister who, for all you know, could be your kindred spirit) and even Nibir (whom one only hears on the phone for most of the book).

She writes them all with such perfection, despite each of their flaws, that after a point you can feel them being a part of your life. They hold on to you and gently pull you in, tugging you along into every memory and conversation.

The plot builds around recollections of growing up as a young girl within and around the walls of her family home, which then connect with the present-day events like a natural flow of the river current.

Her prose reads like a song – every note mellifluous with picturesque descriptions. Her expressions captivate you with the gorgeous play of words she weaves.

She brings Assam to life through the food, the clothes, the festivals, the seasons, and the wonderful people, right before your eyes.

The buildup to the climax and the end leave you amazed at Samhita’s talent and finesse which is akin to that of a seasoned writer. It seems impossible to believe that this is indeed her debut novel.

Tanaya’s account, as described here, may all be about the revelations of an imperfect life. However, as the author remarked at the end of her book launch: No life is imperfect. Your life is your own perfect, as long as you find what makes you happy.

That is really the essence of the book –  to know where and how to find what makes you happy. And for that simple reason, amongst the many others I described above, this book will be endeared by all those who read it.

Title: Revelations of an Imperfect Life
Author: Sankhya Samhita
Publisher: Readomania
ISBN: 978-93-858544-2-2
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction/General
Pages: 270
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Born in a small sleepy town in Tezpur, Assam, rebelling against the name her Dad had given her in the hope of turning her into a mathematician, Sankhya Samhita fell in love with words from the moment she realised that syllables make up a word, words make sentences and sentences are basically magic. Despite a short-term affair with Physics and Computer Applications, she refused to give up on words and started her blog seven years ago. She was a part of the editorial team of the online magazine Fried Eye for five years and responsible for the feature articles and music reviews, a role she relished. She even dabbled in teaching the English language to adults in far-flung Vietnam and Malaysia after her marriage, until she settled down for the more challenging role of a stay-at-home-Mom to her daughter.
She currently lives in Singapore with her husband, her daughter and more books than she can ever hope to finish reading.
To connect with her, find her on Twitter and Facebook, or follow her blog https://ssamhita.wordpress.com/ for more of her delightful writings.

UPDATE 8th Aug 2017: This review is now also published on womensweb.in

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The Tree with A Thousand Apples by Sanchit Gupta | Book Review

Noted Historian and Travel Writer, Jan, Morris said of Kashmir: Kashmir has always been more than a mere place. It has the quality of an experience, or a state of mind, or perhaps an ideal.

It is no wonder then, that the author, Sanchit Gupta, dedicates this book ‘To the people of Kashmir—
those who live there,
those who used to live there,
and those who will continue to live there…’

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Inspired by true events, the story follows the lives of Deewan Bhat, Safeena Malik and Bilal Ahanagar, three innocent children growing up together in the Kashmir Valley. Amidst cups of spicy kahwa, and cricket matches paused by a broken antenna, they live in and around the protective shade of the tree with a thousand apples, whose roots and branches spread in peaceful coexistence. Until the night of January 20th, 1990, when insurgency destroys the tranquility within this beautiful valley.

Deewan is forced to flee his home, leaving only with a memory of the tree that still bears a thousand apples. Safeena’s mother becomes collateral damage, and Bilal finds himself in a life of poverty bound by fear. Overnight, paradise becomes a battleground and friendships struggle with fate as they are forced to choose sides against their will.

Twenty years later, when the three friends meet again at the cross roads, an exiled pandit longs for his home, an innocent civilian fights for justice, and a ruthless rebel aches for redemption.

At a time when all sense of right and wrong is lost, will these three friends choose to become criminals, or saints?

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

Title: The Tree with A Thousand Apples
Author: Sanchit Gupta
Publisher: Niyogi Books
ISBN: 978-93-85285-51-6
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 284
Source: Writersmelon.com
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Born and brought up in the hills of Himachal Pradesh, Sanchit Gupta began his career as a part-time copywriter with an advertising agency in Mumbai. He went on to co-found his own theatre group, worked as a freelance film screenwriter and as executive producer – fiction for a leading television network. His short stories have been published in several esteemed publications and literary journals and have won acclaim in leading literary festivals and online forums. One of his film scripts (fiction) has been long-listed in a globally reputed screenwriters’ lab. He has worked with All India Radio as a talk show host and regularly features in poetry recitals at Prithvi Café, Mumbai. This is his debut novel.
Apart from being a writer, he is a brand management professional with a wide range of brand building and communication development experience across FMCG, automobile and media industries. His works explore his fascination for global cultures, societal structures, vagaries of the world and the human mind.
He welcomes interaction on Twitter @sanchit421. Find out more about the author and his work at http://www.sanchitgupta.in.

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

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Confessions on an Island by Ayan Pal | Book Review

I once read somewhere that holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Anger generates negativity. It does not have the capacity to be positive. And this anger is what leads to Confessions on an Island, both literally and figuratively.

An abducted woman trapped on an island is given a chance to escape, provided she tells stories emerging from the stories her intriguing abductor tells her. Clueless about why she is being forced to participate in this game of Russian Matryoshka Dolls, the woman, a bestselling author, decides to play along. And therein begins a thrilling tale, narrated in part by an island while also seen through the eyes of the abductee. The tale of a man and woman consumed by the power of their imagination and truth, even as the stakes are gradually raised. Soon the only way out is in – into the past, heart and mind. The island is ready to confess. Are you ready for the truth?

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I was lured by the title of the novel. Confessions on an Island has a unique format to it. The story is revealed through different characters: The island which is a silent spectator to the events unfolding before its eyes, the woman who finds herself trapped on an uninhabited island in the middle of nowhere, and the stories themselves as narrated by the abductor and abductee in a twisted game of Matryoshka. Every chapter moves in sequence between its three protagonists.

In the course of these stories, the author lays out myriad human emotions which are inexplicable in the normal course of events. His characters display shades varying between greys and black as he reveals a dark psychological game of thrill and torture leading to an unexpected climax.

In my reading of the book, while I found the concept intriguing, the plot did not resonate with me as I expected it to. I was unable to connect the events as they moved from one story to the next. The character sketches appeared to have lost their way in the goal of creating dark players of this torturous game. Editing was another area which I felt was not as clean and crisp as it could have been.

However, knowing that the author has planned two more books, I gather this will intrigue readers of this genre and pique their curiosity enough to find out what happens next.

Title: Confessions on an Island
Author: Ayan Pal
Publisher: Readomania
ISBN: 978-93-858541-3-2
Edition/Year: 2016
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 192
Source: Author’s Copy
Rating: 3 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Ayan Pal is a Kolkata-based IT professional and author who has received several accolades in his career so far. These include the honour of his book being a record holder in the Limca Book of Records, the title of ‘Distinguished Toastmaster’ from Toastmasters International for demonstrating outstanding communication and leadership skills, and a ‘Brandon Hall Award’, considered as the ‘Academy Awards’ by Learning, Talent and Business Executives worldwide.
He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from VTU, Karnataka and has completed a course in Education Technology from SDSU, California.
As an author, he is known for his acclaimed short stories in the Amazon bestsellers ‘Chronicles of Urban Nomads’, ’21 Tales to Tell’, and ‘When They Spoke’. He has also contributed to India’s first composite novel, ‘Crossed and Knotted’, ‘Upper Cut’, ‘Her Story’, ‘Rudraksha’, ‘Arranged To Love’, ‘Tonight’s The Night’ and ‘Long Story Short’. He is a columnist of lifestyle magazine ThnkMkt and blogger at Open Road Review.
Passionate about public speaking, Ayan also loves reading, creative writing, watching and reviewing films, listening to music, and binge watching his favourite TV shows. ‘Confessions on an Island’ is his debut novel.
To connect with him, find him on Twitter @ImAyanPal and Facebook @AuthorAyanPal.

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

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Cantilevered Tales by Jayant Kripalani | Book Review

This is not a Builder v. Helpless Citizen epic. In fact that is the least important part of the book. This is about a group of inept people who you want to reach out and protect but you discover are more than capable of taking care of not just themselves, but of you too.

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In the voice of his protagonist, the author decides to answer what was meant to be a rhetorical question, by launching into the history of the Howrah Bridge – the third-longest cantilever bridge at the time of its construction, thereby alarming his mostly quiet co-passenger and colleague of ten years.

From there, he delves into the back story of said colleague, winding his way around to the various other people who form the narrative of the book. Like his slow journey through the bridge traffic, he takes his time to unfold their stories and build them up as the eccentric characters they are meant to be.

He paints each scene with bright shades of tongue-in-cheek humour, paired with the most colourful Bengali phrases that dazzle his prose. I am not familiar with the Bengali language, thus the glossary at the end of the book was most helpful in deriving a full reading experience. It wouldn’t be the story it is, without the originality of the language, which proves its own inherent role.

The pages turn themselves at a foot-tapping pace as the reader gets wound up in the hilarious turn of events created by the seemingly ordinary Chingdi Kaka, Banshi Mama, Ashutosh Babu, The CM, and many more entertaining people.

I also couldn’t help but notice that the book is edited extremely well, absolutely flawless, something that I have rarely seen from Indian publishers. I only recommend that the glossary be more extensive to include other Bengali terms and phrases which are currently missing explanation. It would make a world of difference for readers who do not understand Bengali.

Cantilevered tales is a story about the quirks of ordinary citizens and their response to situations around them, which in turn makes them the people they become. All laid out with generous servings of wit and humour.

What Author Kripalani has created here is a literary masterpiece, as evident from his writing style that spotlights the sociopolitical theme he has chosen. Right from the pond caretaker, to the members of the Bird Witchers (you read that right) Association or the outrageously comic Oleek Babu, every person you come across is endearing.

Cantilevered Tales is clearly my choice for must-read novel of the year and goes right up to the top of my list of favourite books.

Title: Cantilevered Tales
Author: Jayant Kripalani
Publisher: Readomania

ISBN: 978-93-858542-7-9
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 250
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Jayant Kripalani is an Indian film, television and stage actor, writer and director. Known for his performances in television series such as Khandaan, Mr. Ya Mrs. and Ji Mantriji, he graduated from Jadavpur University with a degree in English Literature. He has played character roles in movies like Heat and Dust, Rockford, Jaane Tu. . . Ya Jaane Na, 3 Idiots and, most recently, Hawaizaade and The Hunger.
He had directed and produced a number of films and is actively involved with theatre. He wrote the screenplay for Shyam Benegal’s film Well Done Abba.
He is the author of the heart-warming and nostalgic New Market Tales, set in the historic New Market area of Kolkata in the 1960s and 1970s. His recent foray into writing performance poetry has brought him acclaim in poetic circles around the country.
When he is not in Calcutta, he is either fishing in Himachal, pfaffing in Bombay or being a beach bum in Goa.
To connect with him, find him on Twitter @JayantKripalani.

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Unns: The Captivation by Sapan Saxena | Book Review

Much has been said and written about love, the most profound of emotions known to God’s creations. I believe French Novelist and Memoirist, George Sand, wrote it best – “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved”.  

While love may provide an all-encompassing feeling, its quest and fulfillment cannot be experienced in this one emotion alone, but in stages. The mystical philosophy of Sufism describes seven stages of love – beginning from Hub (Attraction), moving onwards to Unns (Infatuation), Mohabbat (Love), Aqeedat (Respect), Ibaadat (Worship), Junoon (Obsession), to Maut (Death).

Some may know of these stages, fewer may have lived through them. With his new book, Unns: The Captivation, Author Sapan Saxena takes the reader on a journey through these seven stages of love.

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Atharva Rathod and Meher Qasim meet as adolescents and are drawn to each other, only to be separated by circumstances shortly thereafter. Many years later, when they meet again, Atharva is on a covert mission. Caught in the battle between circumstances and destiny, willingly or unwillingly, Atharva and Meher transcend the seven stages of love.

Unns is a quintessential tale of love and romance, set against a backdrop of international espionage.

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

Author: Sapan Saxena
Publisher: Inspire India Publishers
Edition/Year: 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Romance Thriller
Pages: 244

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Sapan Saxena is a software engineer by profession and an author by choice. Born in the city of Nawabs, Lucknow, he earned his Engineering degree from MNNIT Allahabad. Sapan started writing when he was coding for a complex algorithm and found that a fictional story would at least make some sense.
Currently based in Nashua, New Hampshire, he is the author of Finders, Keepers. Unns-The Captivation is his second attempt at writing fiction.
To connect with him, visit him at facebook.com/authorsapansaxena or follow him on Twitter @sapansaxena.

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

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Finding Juliet by Toffee | Book Review

When you’re young and beginning to grapple with emotions which until now had been unknown to you, it may seem difficult to find your way around them and emerge victorious. Put to test, you then do what seems best – use analytics and reasoning, and by a trial & error method, attempt to deal with it.

Alas, when the heart is naïve and the mind has not quite found its way, logic rarely makes sense, as the protagonist of Finding Juliet finds out.

Arjun is a simple, straightforward guy who believes cupid’s arrow will strike him when the time is right. The arrow strikes him all right. Not once, not twice, but three times. But when he starts to believe that this might be his true love, he finds himself rudely pushed away.

Dejected, he decides to move from Bangalore, in order to put the heartbreaking episodes behind him, and seeks strength from his childhood friend, Anjali.

In Hyderabad, Arjun meets Krish – an irresistible flirt, who claims to have deciphered the most complicated species on Earth – Women. Using Arjun’s past experiences as case studies, Krish teaches him the code to understanding them.

And then, Arjun enters a new phase of his life.

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Will Arjun also become a flirt like his mentor, or will he manage to find true love? Will his goal of everlasting happiness remain, or change track along the way? Finding Juliet is Arjun’s journey to discover the meaning of life, love, and lust, like he has never experienced before.

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

Author: Toffee (The Alter Ego of Taufeeq Ahmed)
Publisher: Srishti Publishers & Distributors
Edition/Year: 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction/YA Romance
Pages: 224

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Toffee is a simple guy who loves the complications of life. Earlier, he wrote code by day and books by night. Currently he is busy writing assignments and chasing deadlines in his Master’s in Business Analytics from the University of South Florida.
Toffee loves narrating interesting stories with subtle insights. Through books he wants to share beautiful stories, reach out to people and touch their hearts. Finding Juliet is his second book, written specially for India’s Generation-Y.
To connect with him, visit him at facebook.com/ToffeeIdiot or follow him on Twitter @ToffeeIdiot.

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

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Lanka’s Princess by Kavita Kané | Book Review

Those familiar with Valmiki’s Ramayana will recognise Surpanakaha as Ravan’s sister, who chanced upon the Ayodhya Princes in Panchvati during their exile. While she was smitten by Ram’s youthful good looks, he spurned her advances, claiming his faithfulness to his wife Sita. Rejected, Surpanakha approached his younger brother, Lakshman, who reacted in a similar manner. The brothers began to tease her and, upon realising she was being humiliated, she attacked them. Ram recognised that she was in fact a rakshasi (demon woman) and promptly ordered Lakshman to maim her. Thus, Lakshman cut off her nose and ears and sent her away.

Few know that Surpanakha, which means the woman as ‘hard as nails’, was born Princess Meenakshi – the one with beautiful, fish-shaped eyes. Growing up in the shadow of her brothers who were destined to win wars, fame and prestige, she instead, chartered out a path filled with misery and revenge.

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Ugly, untamed, brutal and brazen – this is how she is often perceived. Accused of manipulating events between Ram and Ravan, which culminated into a bloody war that wiped out her family, Surpanakha is often the most misunderstood character in the Ramayana. But was she really a perpetrator of war? Or was she a victim? Was she ‘Lanka’s Princess’? Or was she the reason behind its destruction?

Kavita Kané picks up yet another enigmatic woman from the pages of history and tells her story leading to the more familiar events of the Ramayana.

The book opens with Krishna, who upon seeing Kubja, the hunchbacked woman of Mathura, recognises her as a reincarnation of Surpanakha. He reveals to her that he himself is Ram, now born as Krishna (Ram was the seventh incarnation of Vishnu and Krishna his eighth) and has come to her to rectify the grave misdeed he committed in his previous life – of rejecting her.

He begins to narrate Surpanakha’s story from the time she was born as the youngest child of Rishi Vishravas and his second wife Kaikesi.

I can’t say I have much knowledge of ancient Hindu scriptures, other than the more commonly known events of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. However, while reading Lanka’s Princess, I was curious to know if this was a retelling of actual events, or a fictitious representation. I noticed later that the copyright page, which I had skipped in my hurry to start reading this mesmerising novel, clearly listed the disclaimer that this book is a work of fiction.

The author appears to have done extensive research as she combines the events of different versions of the Ramayana and other supporting texts (so revealed by a quick google search), to unfold the life of Princess Meenakshi a.k.a. Surpanakha. With deep mahogany skin and eyes blazing gold, she was a handful from the very beginning. Her character develops as the rage filled princess, hated by her mother, who would bare her sharp claws when someone tried to hurt her.

Alongside, the reader is taken through events leading to the rise of Ravan as King of Lanka and the ensuing effect it brings on his family, more predominantly Surpanakha’s life. The reader may sympathise with her for being the neglected child, while at the same time despising her for her vengeful tactics. The author portrays her not as a good or bad character, but simply as a misunderstood woman who, in her own eyes, is merely righting the wrong done to her when her one chance at happiness has been taken away.

The timeline moves fast enough for the reader to be absorbed in the events and not lose interest. In true Ramayana style, the author raises underlying questions about right and wrong, good and evil, gender discrimination, and women’s rights.

I was disappointed with the editing of the book. It probably needed one last round of proofreading to correct print/typeset errors. The author and publisher might want to correct this in the next print run.

To summarise, Lanka’s Princess may be a mythological retelling of events. However in today’s day and age, when women are still subjected to various forms of discrimination, the author puts the spotlight on a woman’s fight against injustice,  no matter how unjust the fight itself may be.

Having read this book, I am now curious to read her other stories of similar strong female characters.

Title: Lanka’s Princess
Author: Kavita Kané
Publisher: Rupa Publications
ISBN: 978-81-291-4451-5
Edition/Year: First Edition 2016
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 312
Source: Writersmelon.com
Rating: 4 Stars

Available on Amazonand Flipkart.

About the Author: A senior journalist with a career of over two decades, which includes working for Magna publication and DNA, she quit her job as Assistant Editor of Times of India to devote herself as a full time author. A self-styled aficionado of cinema and theatre and sufficiently armed with a post-graduate degree in English Literature and Mass Communication from the University of Pune, the only skill she knows, she candidly confesses, is writing.
Karna’s Wife her debut novel, (2013)was a bestseller. Her second novel – Sita’s Sister (2014) also deals with another enigmatic personality – Urmila, probably the most overlooked character in the Ramayan. Menaka’s Choice(2015) ,another best-seller, is about the famous apsara and her infamous liaison with Vishwamitra – the man she was sent to destroy. Lanka’s Princess (2016) is her fourth book.
Born in Mumbai, a childhood spent largely in Patna and Delhi , Kavita currently lives in Pune with her mariner husband Prakash and two daughters Kimaya and Amiya with Chic the black cocker spaniel and Cotton the white, curious cat.
To connect with her, visit her at facebook.com/authorkavitakane or follow her on Twitter @kavitakane.

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

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Birds of Prey by Archana Sarat | Book Review

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We, as humans, take form from what happens to us. Every incident we experience – be it of joy, sadness, or simply contemplation on the events around us – shapes us into the person we allow ourselves to become.

There are some who choose to walk with the flow of these events and let nature take its course. There are others who find the strength to fight the natural flow and use their experiences to change the norm.

Ex-ACP Anton Pinto reluctantly joins an investigation into the mysterious disappearances of men from affluent families in Mumbai. Despite the lack of any connection between victims, all clues indicate a similar pattern of abduction. However, with few witnesses and no ransom demands, the trail has long gone cold.

As Anton starts following the clues, he discovers a common link between the victims. Further investigation misdirects him to a few dead-ends, until another man is reported to have gone missing.

Driven by rage at not having his head in the game, he races between schools, old-age homes, illegal dingy hospitals, and dilapidated bungalows, in his quest to find the perpetrator. New leads take him through a labyrinth of incest, abuse, torture, and suffering, spanning decades, that makes his hair stand on end.

Will Anton uncover the motive behind the crime? How is the seemingly harmless, yet mysterious old woman connected to this case? Can justice be served before it is too late?

Birds of Prey is a thriller that leaves a deep impact on the reader. The unfolding events are narrated from two different points of view standing at opposite ends of the spectrum.

With each clue, the author peels back the dark, untold horrors of child abuse plaguing our society. Her treatment of the subject urges you to pause every now and then – to introspect on the harsh realities it reveals. As the story progresses, the reader can’t help but get emotionally tangled in the riveting plot that gets your heart racing.

Archana’s writing style is simple, with a clear line of thought maintained throughout the book. She switches effortlessly between the two points of view to create drama and build suspense. The protagonist and antagonist have been written with strong personality traits to fall in line with their role in the plot. Supporting characters are also etched and added with the precision of a near perfect recipe.

I did feel the Criminal Profiler seemed more whimsical, rather than an analyst of behavioural psychology as I expected him to be. Nonetheless, with his small role in the play of events, it was not something that would bother one very much. Besides, it was probably all the episodes of Criminal Minds I have binge-watched, that made me even notice it in the first place.

I also noticed a few sentences seemed grammatically incorrect. In the first couple of instances I thought it may have been deliberate on the author’s part, but later I realised it was more likely an editing oversight.

Birds of Prey throws light on the lost innocence of victims who are haunted throughout their lives by the psychological trauma of the crimes they are subjected to. However, when trauma sets out to seek justice, the fight sometimes gives rise to a form of misdirected vigilantism that could well turn into crime.

David Rains Wallace, a writer of Conservation and Natural History, wrote in this book ‘The Untamed Garden and Other Personal Essays’ – “Every time we exterminate a predator, we are in a sense creating a new predator.”

Rarely have I come across a novel which is as horrific in the crime it reveals, as it is subliminal about the state of our society.

Archana has handled the subject with the tenderness and sensitivity it craves. I expect her work will receive many accolades in the coming year.

Title: Birds of Prey
Author: Archana Sarat
Publisher: Readomania
ISBN: 978-93-858542-0-0
Edition/Year: First Edition 2016
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction – Crime Thriller
Pages: 192
Source: From the Author
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Archana Sarat is an Author and Poet for the last ten years. She shuttles between Chennai and Mumbai and loves both cities passionately. Her works have been published in various popular newspapers, magazines and anthologies like The Times of India, The Economic Times, the SEBI and Corporate Laws Journal, the CA Newsletter, Me Magazine, the Science Reporter, the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, the WRIMO India Anthology, the Glo Mag Literary Journal and many more. She is popular in the online world for her flash fiction that appear every Saturday, called ‘Saturday Shots’. Though she is a Chartered Accountant by qualification, she took up her childhood love for writing as her vocation. She has a Diploma in Creative Writing from the Writers Bureau, UK. She lives with her husband and two sons in Mumbai.
Birds of Prey is her first novel.
To connect with her, visit her webpage – http://www.archanasarat.com or follow her on Twitter @archanasarat and facebook.com/archanasaratauthor.

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

Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com