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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Available on Amazon.

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

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The Boy Who Loved Trains by Deepak Sapra | Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Available on Amazon.

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

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Great Textpectations by Ruchi Vadehra | Book Review

How many of you (if you belong to that generation) remember the time when mobile phone service providers first added the text feature? When each message character was worth its weight in gold, and we were forced to develop an entire lingo meant specifically for messaging in order to have a text conversation without emptying one’s bank balance?

Today, nearly two decades later, however, texting is a much more evolved form of speech – Fingered speech, to be precise. Now, we can write the way we talk, especially when characters are not weighed by their monetary value. No wonder, then, that people are having entire relationships via texting. Whether it is a couple in love, living a few kilometres from each other, or two people sitting on different continents running a business together, texting is the new means of interaction; of getting to know each other and thereby establishing a deep, albeit largely virtual relationship.

Without the necessity of face-to-face interaction that most expect to be the framework of relationship building, new rules are being established, as the protagonist of this novel discovers along the way.

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Amaya Kapoor is a Delhi-based intellectually inclined thirty-five-year-old single, financially independent, and sexually liberated woman, who wants to open a ‘boutique bookstore’ and live life on her own terms—single and content. She comes across Rohan while playing Scrabble online, and they soon get chatting, enjoying each other’s company without the usual baggage face-to-face interactions bring. Their text conversations are fun, flirty, and become instrumental in connecting their worlds. Amaya and Rohan become an integral part of each other’s lives even before they realize it and so, eventually, decide to meet. What happens to their virtual relationship when they finally do meet in the real world? Can texting really be the key that unlocks the heart?

To find out more about this book, read my featured review as published at Women’s Web, here.

Title: Great Textpectations
Author: Ruchi Vadehra
Publisher: Rupa Publications
ISBN: 978-81-291-5183-4
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 236
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 3 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Ruchi Vadehra belongs to a family of writers from both sides of parentage. Writing is thus homecoming to her. She began with conceptualizing and co-editing a neighbourhood community newsletter which inspired her to take forward her zest for words, people and travel through fiction.
Ruchi lives with her husband and two children in New Delhi. Great Textpectations is her first book.
To know more about her book, connect with her on Twitter.

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Little Maryam by Hamid Baig | Book Review

One can’t deny that deep down we are all hopeless romantics who believe that love makes us grow stronger, which is why we have consoled our broken hearts time and again with the age old saying: ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

The story of Little Maryam begins on quite the same note and by the end one can’t help but question: How far are we willing to go, for love?

While giving a speech for his Nobel Prize nomination, Dr. Saadiq Haider, a renowned gene therapist, receives a phone call that changes his life. Abandoning his duties and responsibilities, Saadiq hurriedly boards a flight bound for India, embarking on a journey that spans thousands of miles and pulls him back into a past long-buried.

Seated next to him on the flight is Anne Miller—an intrepid journalist with a nose for headline news— who senses the reclusive genius has a bigger story to tell, and she is determined to get it. With some coaxing, Saadiq transports Anne back in time to a small, sleepy town nestled in the mountains of northern India. A time where every second of Saadiq’s life belonged to Maryam Dawood – a girl Saadiq was born to protect – his first and only love. But when the friendship between Maryam and Saadiq matured, it was tested in the face of tragedy. She was forcefully taken away from him. And now, decades later, Saadiq is finally going to meet Maryam. One last time.

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The book seems to grip you before you’ve managed to turn over the first page. It is evident there is a mystery waiting to be revealed, depending on how fast you can read to get to it. The author successfully adds a thrill, by way of conversation between an unwilling protagonist and a persistent reporter, even as he has only just begun narrating. It creates the framework that is enough to keep you hooked.

The story is divided into two parts – Saadiq’s life as it is now while he is on a plane reminiscing his past, and what is to come later when he finally does meet Maryam. In the first part, the events oscillate in a steady rhythm between the past and the present. Timelines are paced strategically in tune with the narration. The second part moves slowly, adding to the suspense.

Baig allows his lead characters to traverse the highs and lows of love, heartbreak, separation, and reunion. He brings an intensity in his writing with the way he creates conflict in person and story. Saadiq’s character is etched with a nuanced detailing that makes him endearing as a young boy, while at the same time absolutely loathsome as an adult. The transition is seamless and falls right into place as demanded by the events in the story.

The simplistic elegance of the prose comes as a pleasant surprise, unlike most books by debut authors. However, I found it to lose its crispness as the book progresses. It calls for a thorough proof-read and edit to fix grammar which seems rushed after about a quarter of the book.

Despite that, what wins you over is how the author treats the theme of friendship and love . I have always believed that there is something truly magical in the love that begins from a deep friendship. Bruce Lee explained it in its simplest and purest form when he said: ‘Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable.’

Little Maryam is just such a beautiful, yet heartbreaking tale of love and loss. The story of a deep childhood friendship that grows into a love that is powerful and intense. And when love calls to make the ultimate choice, it is the power of love itself that makes the decision. With that Hamid Baig proves the paradox that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.

Title: Little Maryam
Author: Hamid Baig
Publisher: Notion Press, Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-64249-055-8
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 296
Source: Author
Rating: 3 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author:  Hamid runs a successful market research company, providing customer insights to some of the biggest names in the industry. He is a voracious reader and has been one for as long as he can remember. He started penning short stories at a very young age, but never thought of writing a full length novel until the idea for Little Maryam popped into his head. He writes as fast as he reads, which is sometimes just a little too fast.
Apart from enjoying good books, Hamid is passionate about travel and food. He is sometimes called “the culture connoisseur” by his friends because he loves having long conversations about different cuisines, exotic travel locations, and of course, books.
Hamid lives in New Delhi with his wife and two wonderful kids.
He is active on Facebook and Twitter.

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Marital Advice to my Grandson, Joel by Peter Davidson | Book Review

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, hearts, roses, and teddy bears have already hijacked our social media timelines. While those with a special someone in their lives can’t get enough of the season of love, there are others, like me, who once again struggle to resist rolling their eyes at those big red hearts. It is only apt then that I chose to read this book in the month of February. To understand why, read on.

Being a 30-something single woman, when I see the way romantic relationships, especially those committed in marriages, function today, I can’t help but agree with British writer Rosamunde Pilcher, OBE, who said: ‘People today expect too much from marriage. Getting married is really like taking on a big new job.’

I believe it was Leonardo da Vinci though, who described it best, saying: ‘Marriage is like putting your hand into a bag of snakes in the hope of pulling out an eel.’ As off-putting as that may sound, I do think it captures the true essence of the institution.

When American author Peter Davidson’s grandson, Joel, got engaged, he decided to jot down a few words of marital wisdom for him, based on his own experiences as a husband. Then he thought, why share this wisdom with only one person when he could share it with the whole world. So, he started a blog, listing new marital advice every week. As the popularity of the blog grew, people suggested that the material be turned into a book, and, well, he did turn it into one! A book that explained to the reader – How to be a husband your wife won’t throw out of the window in the middle of the night.

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We’ve all heard of marital advice being passed down generations. Every family has their own treasure trove of wisdom that they swear by. This grandad is no different. But you can be sure he knows exactly what he is talking about. Let me share an example or two.

The first piece of advice he received when he himself was getting married was that ‘It takes a lot of effort to make a marriage work.’ Sure, everyone knows that. Okay, almost everyone. But no one told you exactly how much effort you should expect to put in. Davidson, on the other hand, gets it spot on when he explains that this advice is like giving you a rowboat somewhere off the coast of California, pointing out into the ocean and saying, “If you paddle in that direction you’ll eventually reach Hawaii”.

Another well-meaning gentleman advised him: “Measure twice and saw once.” The purveyor of this fabulous wisdom was a carpenter, he says, but in marital terms it probably means you should think twice before you open your mouth. I think most people, married or not, would stand to gain by following this.

The author starts his book on marital advice from the very beginning. As soon as the ring finds its place on the finger, it already seems too late in getting started with wedding preparations. He explains exactly what the man’s role is in his own wedding – right from deciding the date (sports lovers: you might want to pay attention to what he has to share here) to planning every little detail that goes into putting together a wedding.

Once that is done, there is more valuable advice on settling into married life, understanding your wife and other myths about marriage, being the exemplary husband she wants you to be, and last but not the least, how to make sure you’re in it for the long haul. All of his advice has simple tips, easy to understand and follow, that are explained by way of examples.

However, the one particular piece of wisdom that made me laugh like none other was his observation on the measure of being a good husband. As he points out in his book, there are few things married woman enjoy more than getting together with their friends, mothers, and other wives, and having a full-blown bitching session about what a bunch of low-down, miserable, worthless, lazy, sloppy, gross, crude, barbaric idiots their husbands are.

There is one thing though, that they like even better. It centres around the magic word B.R.A.G.. As long as wives can brag about all the wonderful ways in which their husbands help around the house, the husbands can be sure they have hit the jackpot in their marriage. Rest assured, his advice includes steps, with examples, to win that elusive jackpot.

I wouldn’t deny that much of his advice is off-the-charts wacky. Nonetheless, it is a hilarious look at marriage. Davidson’s nuggets of wisdom are as entertaining as they are insightful which makes this book a priceless find. These are things you won’t find in a book on marital relations written by a psychiatrist, nor will you learn them in a session with a marriage counsellor. This is real advice, for real people, that just needs to be followed everyday.

Whether you are married, engaged, or single, this is one book you can all relate to. Women will have a good laugh while at the same time appreciate the message because, let’s face it, we are far more attentive to detail and all we need is for the men in our lives to understand that. This book might help in using some of the ideas to our own advantage.

Most importantly, this may be the one book that helps you decide how important marriage is to you. In the author’s words, it might convince some of you to take the plunge, or perhaps confirm your belief that being single is a blessing. If you’re still stuck deciding, I strongly recommend you pick this up. It is a quick read that is sure to brighten up your day, one way or the other.

Author: Peter Davidson
Publisher: Sweet Memories Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-692-99815-1
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Kindle Edition
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 152
Source: Author
Rating: 4 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Peter Davidson is the author or co-author of twenty-nine books including fiction, non-fiction, college textbooks, and children’s picture books. His works have been published by McGraw-Hill Book Company, Perigee/Putnam Publishers, Sweet Memories Publishing, Haworth Press, and others.
Davidson is also a songwriter and one of his songs was used in a television series in the Netherlands. For more than two decades, Davidson was one of America’s most active writer’s seminar presenters, having presented over 625 one-day seminars. Davidson has been a professional recording studio owner, college professor, and retail store owner. Peter and his wife live in the Lake Okoboji resort area of Iowa in the summer and in their Arizona home in the winter.
Follow Peter on Twitter and Facebook to connect with him. You can also read his blog at www.maritaladvicetomygrandsonjoel.com, where the idea for this book began.

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The Perils of Being Moderately Famous by Soha Ali Khan | Book Review

What is it like to be known as Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi’s daughter?
Or to have a mother as famous as Sharmila Tagore?
Or to be recognized as Saif Ali Khan’s sister?
Or as Kareena Kapoor’s sister-in-law?
And where does one stand among them?

Actor Soha Ali Khan’s debut book is at heart a brilliant collection of personal essays where she recounts with self-deprecating humour what it was like growing up in one of the most illustrious families of the country. With never before published photos from her family’s archives, The Perils of Being Moderately Famous takes us through some of the most poignant moments of Soha’s life – from growing up as a modern-day princess and her days at Balliol College, to life as a celebrity in the times of social media culture, and finding love in the most unlikely of places – all with refreshing candour and wit.

The blurb (as above) is quite convincing; to the point that the reader is compelled to pick up the book. I, on the other hand, bought this on the recommendation of a total stranger at the bookstore who, when she overhead me asking the store-owner his opinion on the book (his recommendations are always spot on), jumped into the conversation and insisted that I give it a read. I confess, at the risk of sounding judgemental, that I did peek at the selection of books she was buying to make sure her advice was dependable. I wasn’t disappointed – either with her shopping list, or this book.

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Once you move past the book’s title, which raises some very interesting questions by itself, and begin to start reading, you realise that Khan writes her story with an effortless poise. Her language is simple, yet extremely entertaining; her expression fun, with a quirky sense of humour.

She makes it explicitly clear at the beginning that she is not out to create a controversy, or scandal, or reveal family secrets, as most celebrity memoirs, lately, tend to do. This is simply her story of being born a princess, raised like any other girl born to famous parents before the advent of social media, and experimenting with life’s challenges before finding her true calling.

She begins by introducing both sides of her illustrious family and their rich cultural heritage. She describes her early years growing up in Delhi and then in London. Her affinity to the performing arts, or lack thereof, in favour of a strong academic foundation to begin a career in the corporate world so as to pave her way to settle down in London, makes for quite a story.

Most people see celebrities and their lifestyles as aspirational than anything else. But underneath all the glamour and fame are some regular people living very real lives.

How that came to be for Soha Ali Khan, what changed and why, makes her seem more girl-next-door than a star, which, incidentally is also what her name translates to.

The Perils of Being Moderately Famous is exactly as the title suggests. Hilarious, honest, warm and wise. As long as you don’t expect it to be a Bollywood flavoured gossip column, you will chuckle at the author’s wit and marvel at her courage and charm with which she has written this self deprecating memoir.

Title: The Perils of Being Moderately Famous
Author: Soha Ali Khan
Publisher: Penguin Random House India
ISBN: 978-0143439967
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Personal Copy

Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Soha Ali Khan is an Indian film actor who has appeared in movies such as Rang De BasantiTum Mile and Go Goa Gone. She studied modern history at Balliol College, Oxford, and earned a Masters’ Degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is the youngest daughter of actor Sharmila Tagore and Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, the ninth nawab of Pataudi. Both her father and paternal grandfather, Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi, were former captains of the Indian cricket team. Her older brother is Saif Ali Khan and she’s married to actor Kunal Kemmu.
She is active on Facebook and Twitter.

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The Doodler of Dimashq by Kirthi Jayakumar | Book Review

How many times in a week do we crave for five magical minutes of peace amidst a particularly rough day at work? Just so we can take a step back, breathe, and jump back into action, reinvigorated.

Imagine the aching desire for those same moments of peace when you are in a nation torn apart by war. A war which brings your entire world crashing down around you. A war that consumes all that is material, all that is human, and destroys every little emotion inside of you, and reduces it to the devastating remains of blood and tears. Imagine how precious those rare moments of peace would be, if at all, and how hard would you be willing to fight to keep them close.

Caught in the cross hairs of a raging civil war in Syria, is Ameenah. Displaced unexpectedly as a child bride, she navigates out of the heart of Dimashq (Damascus), and plunges into the ancient city of Haleb (Alleppo). Her voyage of self discovery is a heady mix of the personal and the political, and the maddening noise of conflict weaves a fabric that entangles her with the lives of many around her. As missile after missile brings the city down into a hapless pile of rubble, Ameenah builds it back up with her simple act of resistance: doodling.

In The Doodler of Dimashq, Kirthi Jayakumar brings a heart wrenching tale of hope that rises from Syria’s rubble like a phoenix.

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There is a moment towards the end of the book, when Ameenah recalls a conversation with her husband. He tells her he doesn’t like the word homesick’ because it’s like saying you are sick of home. He offers an alternate instead from the Welsh language – Hiraeth – which means the bond you share with your home. It has everything, he says, nostalgia, memories, dreams, sights, smells, sounds. Everything that made home what it was for you.

Ameenah’s story does not choose to take sides between the government or the resistance. Her story is really about home and a sense of belonging. Belonging to a place, to its people. It is about finding a way to survive, to hold on to what little remains when all that is taken away from her.

As Ameenah travels through the cities on her journey, the author describes Syria in all its splendour as it once was. She unearths it from beneath the news stories we see today, to reveal a land of exceptional beauty that few are aware even existed. And then, as the cities fall to the ground brick by brick, she shows how Ameenah fights to share her strength by way of her art.

The author’s words are powerful. She captivates you with the stark contrasts between the good and bad, the past and the present, the happy and the sad, that she draws at every scene. The following lines are a brilliant example:

I was alone. Alone, as alone could be.
And then there was this girl. Alone, as alone could be.
Do two alones make a together? What is a together – a weak bond of alones held by loose filaments of fragile mortal promises that could be blatantly broken when life chose to arm wrestle with it?

Each chapter in the book is preceded by a doodle where the author picks up one simple pattern and translates it into a way of life. As Ameenah’s story progresses, the patterns become more complex, the lines taking shapes of petals and swirls, each describing their beauty in a doodle, as well as in life.

As a reader, I often found my heart in the grip of fear, beating wildly at the loneliness of a young girl’s perilious journey. I couldn’t help but shed a tear at her struggles, or refrain from rejoicing in her achievements.

In her Author’s Note, Jayakumar writes: I may not be Syrian; I may not have lived through the war. But I’m human. And I can feel. And so, I leave this peace of my heart at your doorstep and knock thrice, on your doors of empathy.

This achingly beautiful story of Ameenah will break even the strongest of hearts.

I read a quote that without peace, all other dreams vanish and are reduced to ashes. The Doodler of Dimashq may appear to be a quest for peace in a state of war. Yet, Ameenah’s story is so much more. It is an inspiration and carries in it an unbeatable strength. It is a reminder that all we need is a little hope to carry on. That when all is lost, it is hope that will take us closer to our dreams.

Title: The Doodler of Dimashq
Author: Kirthi Jayakumar
Publisher: Readomania
ISBN: 978-93-858544-4-6
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 202
Source: Publisher

Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Kirthi Jayakumar is an activist, artist and writer from Chennai, India. She founded and runs the Red Elephant Foundation, a civilian peacebuilding initiative that works for gender equality through storytelling, advocacy and digital interventions. She is a member of the Youth Working Group for Gender Equality under the UNIANYD. Kirthi is the recipient of the US Presidential Services Medal (2012) for her services as a volunteer to Delta Women NGO and the two-time recipient of the UN Online Volunteer of the Year Award (2012, 2013). “Stories of Hope” is Kirthi’s first solo book, comprising a collection of short stories. She also co-authored a book titled Love Me Mama: The Unfavoured Child, along with Elsie Ijorogu-Reed, the founder of Delta Women NGO. Her second book, The Dove’s Lament, published by Readomania, made it to the final shortlist for the Muse India Young Writers’ Literary Award. In addition, Kirthi has published a series of eBooks centered around Peace and Conflict. Kirthi was recently invited to the United State of Women Summit at the White House in Washington DC, as a nominated change maker. She is also a Zen Doodler and her works have been commissioned by corporate establishments, non-profits and art collectors world over. She runs an Instagram based project called “Femcyclopaedia” where she doodles portraits of inspiring women through the ages and from across the world and curates their stories under these portraits. The story of Femcyclopaedia won a Story Award from World Pulse in February 2017. Kirthi lives in Chennai.
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.

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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

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.

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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.Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

My 2017 Reading Challenge Part-2 (RealBookSpyReadingChallenge)

In addition to my third round of reading one hundred books in a year, I decided to take up an additional reading challenge in 2017. One conducted by TheRealBookSpy – my go-to website for discovering all the latest international thrillers – because, let’s face it, I am a thriller novel junkie and no one does it better than TheRealBookSpy – Ryan Steck.

It so happened in early January, that one of the website’s followers tweeted in jest that he was taking the “Real Book Spy Reading Challenge”, following which it was introduced as a full-fledged, official challenge by the team at TheRealBookSpy.

The challenge meant that every month TheRealBookSpy would publish a monthly reading guide with a list of new releases in the thriller genre for that month. The challenge was to pick a title from each list, read the book and tweet about it.

In order to qualify, one had to read from a minimum of eight of the twelve months in 2017.

The real challenge for me, though, was to get my hands on these books when over 90% of the titles were international releases which means they are not released in India. So I would add them to my amazon wishlists and wait till the kindle prices dropped to affordable amounts.

With all of that, I managed to read fourteen books from eleven of those reading guides. If I count only the thrillers this year from the total list of 108, I read 26 thrillers in all. I was lucky to have won some of these titles in the Staci Alesi & ITW International Book Giveaway a few months ago, all of them signed by the authors.

For a complete list of the books I read as part of this challenge, see below (the month listed against each name is which reading guide it was picked from). To know which of these made it to my top reads of 2017 – click here.

Real Book Spy Reading Challenge 2017 Square - Resized

1. The Nowhere Man – Gregg Hurwitz (January)
2. The Freedom Broker – K. J. Howe (February)
3. Say Nothing – Brad Parks (March)
4. The Fix – David Baldacci (April)
5. One Perfect Lie – Lisa Scottoline (April)
6. Into the Water – Paula Hawkins (May)
7. Trap the Devil – Ben Coes (June)
8. The Switch – Joseph Finder (June)
9. The Late Show – Michael Connelly (July)
10. ‎The Cuban Affair – Nelson DeMille (September)
11. ‎What You Break – Reed Farrel Coleman (February)
12. The Saboteur – Andrew Gross (August)
13. The Quantum Spy – David Ignatius (November)
14. Act of Betrayal – Matthew Dunn (October)

Are you also one of those readers for whom thrillers are the bread and butter of reading? If yes, well, what are you waiting for? I would love to know which are your favourite thriller novels. And they don’t even have to be 2017 releases 🙂

Before you go, don’t forget to check out my complete list of 108 books that I read this year (if you haven’t already), by clicking here.