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

Bag it All by Nina Lekhi | Book Review

I first came across the Baggit Brand in 1999. It was at the Shoppers Stop in New Delhi – A first-of-its-kind store that had opened at the first shopping mall in the city. With all those firsts, naturally, my friends and I were curious enough to make our way over one morning, after having finished an early class at college.

Being the bag lover I was, I distinctly remember being drawn to the product displayed at the Baggit counter. I was amazed at their price tags; couldn’t believe my eyes. I came out of the store that day with my first adult wallet. It was a beige compact tri-fold by Baggit which I went on to use for the next few years. Served me well too.

When I heard about this book about the Brand and its Founder, I was reminded of that first purchase and was curious to learn more about them.

The seeds for Baggit were planted by Nina Lekhi 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.

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Along the way, Lekhi became a wife and mom, and navigated the new paths and destinations of her life. As the business grew, she roped in the support of her family who continue to be actively involved in the running of the Brand alongside her.

During her journey, she also came across Siddha Samadhi Yoga and became an ardent follower. She has imbibed their principles to maintain work-life balance as well as create a harmonious work ethic at her company, which has yielded profitable returns in both spheres of her life.

Bag it All is a management lesson that unfolds right before you on its pages. Lekhi tells her story of how the brand was created, the risks she took, and the practices she adopted.

The book is broken down into chapters that progress through the growing phases of the business, while also imparting a valuable entrepreneurial lesson at the end. She shares the practices that worked, as well as the mistakes that taught her valuable lessons.

Lekhi strongly believes that women can have it all –  A loving family, a successful company, and the opportunity to follow our passion. She reveals the secrets of her inspirational success story, that comes with a full serving of hard work and determination, along with a generous helping of good design and aesthetic which helped her take off.

In doing all this, she has created lasting business relationships with her employees, vendors, and clients, which go a long way in making Baggit the successful company it is today.

Title: Bag it All
Author: Nina Lekhi as told to Suman Chhabria Addepalli
Publisher: Jaico Publishing House
ISBN: 978-81-8495-981-9
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre:  Non-Fiction – Business, Entrepreneurship
Pages: 250
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Nina Lekhi is Founder, MD and Chief Design Curator of Baggit India, a market leader in bags and accessories. She has won several prestigious awards from the Indian government and media for her contributions. Baggit has achieved recognition from PETA for being a cruelty-free, vegan brand. Nina is an ardent follower of Siddha Samadhi Yoga (SSY) and maintains work-life balance by shuttling between Mumbai and the hills of Katarkhadak village (adopted by her to ensure rural employment and overall welfare) with her husband and daughter.
She can be reached on Twitter @ninalekhi.

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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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Managing the Obsessive-Compulsive Reader in Me

You love reading and would rather be tucked in your favourite spot with a good book, or perhaps half a dozen of them, for some quiet company.

Trouble is, you are always on the lookout for new books, even when you have plenty of unread ones to get through. You can’t help but pop into a bookstore for a little window shopping every now and then, and somehow end up emptying your wallet at the cash-counter. You struggle to keep up with all the books that you want to read. So naturally, you have a TBR that is growing every day.

If you happen to have a TBR that looks like mine, then you too are afflicted with Reading OCD.

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As any book lover would know, this is incurable. But there may be a way around it.

To find out how I manage my Obsessive-Compulsive Reading Disorder, read my article published on Writersmelon.

If you’re looking for some book recommendations, checkout my favourite reads from 2015 and 2016.

How do you manage your TBR? I would love to learn your tips & tricks. So go on, share some booklove in the comment section below.

A Bookish Love Story in 2016

Book wise, 2016 has been a great year. I have discovered and read some marvellous books that have left a profound impact on me. Books that I will continue to revisit, to refresh my memory of the stories they tell and my experiences of reading them.

Those of you who know, I read many, many books. I consider it no less than a personal achievement to be able to cross a count of over one hundred books, for the second consecutive year.

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I am often asked how I manage to do it. It’s simple, really. I make it a point to read a little every night before I sleep. 50-100 pages is more than enough for me. Unless a particular book has me in its clutches and refuses to let go. Of course, I also read whenever I can manage during the day. Which is why I always carry a few books on my tablet, phone, or as paperbacks, wherever I go.

Some may think that reading books at such an insane pace is not really reading. It is just a count. A statistic. Well, I beg to differ. For me, every book gives me an opportunity to travel into a world I may not otherwise be a part of. It makes me question myself how I would react were I thrown in a similar situation. It allows me to fall in love with some delightful characters and, at the same time, strategise my move (hypothetically, of course) when stuck in a difficult situation.

As someone once said, “It is not about how many books you read, but what you do after reading them”.

Every story has the power to make you dream and to teach you lessons you may not learn in real life. All you have to do is keep your eyes and ears open and enjoy the journey.

About the 100+ books I read in 2016 – Here is a quick overview of some interesting reading statistics upon completion of my reading challenge. (I pulled some of these off Goodreads’ Year in Books):
Total number of books = 108 (plus a short story that was a bonus read of sorts, to a thriller novel in series).
Total number of pages = Approx. 32,300 pages. An average of less than 85 pages a day. Quite workable.
Shortest book = The Lively Library and An Unlikely Romance by Niranjan Navalgund (Novella) at 96 pages
Longest book = The Sialkot Saga by Ashwin Sanghi at 588 pages
Most popular book = To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Need I say more?
Highest rated book on Goodreads = Birds of Prey by Archana Sarat. This also features in my list of top favourite books this year.
Number of Non-Fiction Books = 11. At only 10% of my total reading, I would like to read more non-fiction next year.
Number of books by Indian/Indian Origin Authors = 37. More or less, this was steady at the percentage of books read in 2016 as compared to 2015.
Number of books translated to English from other Indian or Foreign languages = 10. Definitely need to add more of these next year.
Most books read in a month = 17 in September. I was also reviewing quite a few books this month.
Least books read in a month = 3 in December. This month has mostly been taken up in meeting writing deadlines, which clearly ate into my reading time.

As last year, I again decided to pick my favourite books of the ones I read in 2016. So, without further ado, here are my top reads from this year – categorised by Indian and International authors, in Fiction and Non-Fiction:

Indian Fiction (in random order)

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1. Chander & Sudha – Dharamvir Bharati (Translated by Poonam Saxena)
This was deeply moving and intense, especially considering the era it was written in. Also, Poonam Saxena’s translation of this novel, originally written in Hindi, is exquisite in the way it keeps to that old world charm.

 

 

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2. The Private Life of Mrs. Sharma – Ratika Kapur
With a simple, realistic prose, it takes you through a woman’s mundane family life – her desires and actions, until suddenly everything gets out of hand. Then, it delivers a knockout punch that leaves you reeling with shock. I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams, that this is how it would all end.

 

63-ghachar-ghochar3. Ghachar Ghochar – Vivek Shanbhag (Translated by Srinath Perur)
The most action you get to read here is about the ant infestation in an old home where dealing with it becomes a way of life. Yet the story seems to pull you into a knot with its simplicity as you continue to read, wondering where it is heading. Until it ends with a strong note of a deep sinister reality. Ghachar Ghochar is one those books that leave you mystified and spellbound at the same time.

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4. 03:02 – Mainak Dhar
This is an action-packed thriller that starts off as compelling Sci-Fi. As you turn page after page, you forget it is written by an Indian Author. With a multi layered dimension to the unfolding mystery, it also deals with social hierarchy with respect to wealth, in the face of tragedy.

 

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5. Birds of Prey – Archana Sarat
A Debut Author’s remarkable portrayal of a subject that plagues our society, handled with the tenderness and sensitivity it craves. Birds of Prey is as horrific in the crime it reveals, as it is subliminal about the state of our society.

 

 

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6. The Bharat Series – Ashwin Sanghi
In a twitter chat, I once had the opportunity to ask the author – What brought the innovative idea of writing thrillers that travel & connect through centuries. He answered – Because historical patterns repeat themselves. And we are much more connected in the ancient than we imagine.
One has to have read his books to understand how he manifests this idea in his stories to create blockbuster mythological thrillers. Until I read his books, I couldn’t have imagined how much I would love them.

 

 

International Fiction (in random order)
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1. The Butterfly Series & The End of Innocence – Moni Mohsin
Whether it a poignant reminder of The End of Innocence or the grammatically deprived adventures of Butterfly Khan, Moni Mohsin’s writing is bound to have you hooked.

 

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2. David Baldacci, Harlan Coben, Joseph Finder, Ian Rankin and John Sandford
I need to read their books to satisfy the thriller junkie in me. They are my bread & butter of reading.

 

 

 

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3. The Devotion of Suspect X, Salvation of a Saint & A Midsumer’s Qquation – Keigo Higashino
This Japanese Author starts off his novels with a murder that almost takes place in front of the reader. Then he goes about an investigation that beats any other murder mystery hands down.

 

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4. Crazy Rich Asians & China Rich Girlfriend – Kevin Kwan
He proved that Crazy Rich Asians are the same everywhere. Be it China, India or anywhere else.

 

 

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5. A Man Called Ove & My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry – Fredrik Backman
This Swedish Author had me going back to his books over and over again despite the heartache they put me through. These books shall remain with me forever.

 

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6. The Martian – Andy Weir
If you really want to enjoy the story, read the book before you watch the movie. You’ll thank me later.

 

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7. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
A classic. I don’t know how I managed to deprive myself of it all these years. I loved everything about this novel. Can’t say so about the sequel though.

 

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8. Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
This one almost had me fooled at the blissfulness of love, before it ended with a heart-breaking reality. A truly beautiful love story.

 

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9. What Alice Forgot – Liane Moriarty
I categorised this one as devastatingly beautiful & devilishly romantic. A friend suggested it to me, saying this was a book she wished she had written. After I read it, that was exactly how I felt too.

 

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10. Orphan X – Gregg Hurwitz
Think Super Hero, think Orphan X. One man who is all your favourite superheroes combined. All I can say is that the sequel can’t come out soon enough.

 

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11. Most Wanted – Lisa Scottoline
Another terrific book recommended by a friend, it unfolds an unimaginable possibility while a woman struggles to start a family. The author narrates both the pain, and the thrill of the plot with equal finesse.

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12. Dying for Christmas – Tammy Cohen
At one point I thought I had made a huge mistake picking up this book. But once I got through the difficult part, it was an intense psycho-crime thriller that goes beyond the darkest you can imagine. Think way beyond Gone Girl and the Girl on the Train. Read only if you have the heart and stomach for it.

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13. The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware
A pure murder mystery that, believe me when I say I am not exaggerating, almost gave me a heart attack. A heart-stopping thriller!

 

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14. First Comes Love – Emily Giffin
Emily Giffin has this way of exploring relationships in her stories that make you look at your own life, and the people in it, in a new light. Another author I have come to love.

 

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15. Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple
This book is so hilarious that you don’t, not for a single moment, want to stop reading it. Told by a fifteen-year-old girl, it also reveals a poignant relationship between a family and the circumstances that lead to a mysteriously interesting turn of events.

 

104-the-chopin-manuscript106-the-copper-bracelet16. The Chopin Manuscript & The Copper Bracelet – The collaborative writings of Jeffery Deaver & Others
This was my first time listening to an Audio book. I picked it up when I read a post on Joseph Finder’s Facebook wall, of this collaborative novel he had written. I started with the Chopin Manuscript and was hooked to it. Alfred Molina’s narration is stupendous. It led me to listen to the sequel, The Copper Bracelet, also narrated by Alfred Molina. Needless to say, I am looking into getting an Audible subscription next year.

 

International Non-Fiction (in random order)
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1. If Someone Says “You Complete Me”, RUN! – Whoopi Goldberg
Now this a book I think should be mandatory reading for girls and young women. The legendary actress gives us a peek into her private life to teach some valuable lessons of life.

 

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2. Leading – Alex Ferguson (with Michael Moritz)
A chronicle of the rise of Manchester United through the practices they embraced. It teaches Leadership and Management through football.

 

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3. The Perfection of the Paper Clip – James Ward
A history of the invention, development and improvement of basic, everyday stationery items. How could a stationery aficionado like me pass up an opportunity to read this?

 

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4. Sully: My Search for What Really Matters – Chesley B. Sullenberger
With all the hype surrounding Tom Hanks’ film, I wanted to read about Sully, the pilot who landed a plane on the Hudson without any loss of life. In his autobiography, he reveals the man behind the hero and the experiences that equipped him to avert one of the biggest disasters in aviation history. Again, book before film.

 

If you’re interested, you can find a complete list of all the books I read in 2016, 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 characters allow. You can always find me writing about the latest book to catch my fancy, at https://twitter.com/AshieJayn.

This year I started reviewing books, although occasionally. These reviews are published on this blog as well as on Amazon and Goodreads. I hope to keep at it next year as well.

I was recently approached by a published author to beta-read the manuscript of her next novel. It was a first for me and sounded extremely exciting so I accepted. It’s been a few days into the exercise and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

As for 2017, I am armed and ready with a fresh new set of books to start the year with. New paperbacks have arrived and the tablet has been loaded with eBooks.

If you like this post, do share with your reader friends. And tell me all about the books that you fell in love with, in the comments below.

I hope you have had a wonderful 2016 and I wish you a Bookish 2017. Read all the books that make you happy. They don’t necessarily have to be classics or award winners!

My 2016 Reading Challenge

With the year coming to a close, I am finally bringing down the curtain on my reading for 2016.

Here is a complete list of the 108 books I read as part of the Brunch Book Challenge, run by the Hindustan Times’ Sunday Magazine HT Brunch from January to December, 2016.

To know more on the books that found a special place in my heart – click here.

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1. The Diary of a Social Butterfly – Moni Mohsin
2. The Return of the Butterfly – Moni Mohsin
3. Tender Hooks – Moni Mohsin
4. The Forty Rules of Love – Elif Shafak
5. It’s Your Life – Vinita Dawra Nangia
6. The End of Innocence – Moni Mohsin
7. The Rozabal Line – Ashwin Sanghi
8. The Year of the Runaways – Sunjeev Sahota
9. Arranged Marriage: Stories – Chitra B. Divakaruni
10. The Room on the Roof – Ruskin Bond
11. The Martian – Andy Weir
12. Chander & Sudha – Dharamvir Bharati (Translated by Poonam Saxena)
13. If Someone Says “You Complete Me”, RUN! – Whoopi Goldberg
14. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
15. Go Set A Watchman – Harper Lee
16. Extraordinary Powers – Joseph Finder
17. Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan
18. China Rich Girlfriend – Kevin Kwan
19. One Amazing Thing – Chitra B. Divakaruni
20. Trigger Mortis – Anthony Horowitz
21. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
22. Tweenache in the Time of Hashtags – Judy Balan
23. An Evening in Calcutta and Other Stories – K A Abbas
24. Before and Then After Stories – Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan
25. How to be a Literary Sensation – Krishna Shastri Devulapalli
26. Suchitra Sen: The Legend and the Enigma – Shoma A.Chatterji
27. The Success Sutra: An Indian Approach to Wealth – Devdutt Pattanaik
28. Matchbox: Stories by Ashapurna Debi (Translated by Prasenjit Gupta)
29. In Search of Mary: The Mother of all Journeys – Bee Rowlatt
30. The Way Things Were – Aatish Taseer
31. Leading – Alex Ferguson (with Michael Moritz)
32. High Crimes – Joseph Finder
33. Vanished – Joseph Finder
34. Buried Secrets – Joseph Finder
34b. (Additional Bonus Read) Plan B: A Nick Heller Short Story – Joseph Finder
35. The Private Life of Mrs. Sharma – Ratika Kapur
36. Finding Audrey – Sophie Kinsella
37. Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
38. After You – Jojo Moyes
39. The Perfection of the Paper Clip – James Ward
40. What Alice Forgot – Liane Moriarty
41. Brooklyn – Colm Toìbin
42. Orphan X – Gregg Hurwitz
43. Chanakya’s Chant – Ashwin Sanghi
44. One Fifth Avenue – Candace Bushnell
45. The Inheritance of Loss – Kiran Desai
46. The Fool’s Run – John Sandford
47. The Empress File – John Sandford
48. The Devil’s Code – John Sandford
49. The Hanged Man’s Song – John Sandford
50. Knots & Crosses – Ian Rankin
51. Destiny of Shattered Dreams – Nilesh Rathod
52. Making It Up As I Go Along – Marian Keyes
53. The Devotion of Suspect X – Keigo Higashino
54. Salvation of a Saint – Keigo Higashino
55. A Midsummer’s Equation – Keigo Higashino
56. Shelter – Harlan Coben
57. Seconds Away – Harlan Coben
58. Found – Harlan Coben
59. Guilty Minds – Joseph Finder
60. Most Wanted – Lisa Scottoline
61. The Last Mile – David Baldacci
62. The Lively Library – Niranjan Navalgund
63. Ghachar Ghochar – Vivek Shanbhag (Translated by Srinath Perur)
64. Everyone Has a Story – Savi Sharma
65. A Broken Man – Akash Verma
66. Imagine Me Gone – Adam Haslett
67. The Krishna Key – Ashwin Sanghi
68. The Paradise Guest House – Ellen Sussman
69. The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George
70. Girls in White Dresses – Jennifer Close
71. Devil in Pinstripes – Ravi Subramanian
72. Tell Me A Story (Anthology) – Edited by Ravinder Singh
73. 03:02 – Mainak Dhar
74. A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman
75. Hedon – Priyanka Mookerjee
76. Breaking Free – Neha Nayak
77. Graffiti – Joanie Pariera
78. The Accident Season – Moira Fowley-Doyle
79. #GirlBoss – Sophia Amoruso
80. Siracusa – Delia Ephron
81. The Singles Game – Lauren Weisberger
82. Dying for Christmas – Tammy Cohen
83. The Girls – Emma Cline
84. The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware
85. First Comes Love – Emily Giffin
86. The Pocket Wife – Susan Crawford
87. A Forgotten Affair – Kanchana Banerjee
88. Ms. Communications – Myra Kendrix
89. The Weekenders – Mary Kay Andrews
90. The Other Widow – Susan Crawford
91. Just Married, Please Excuse – Yashodhara Lal
92. The Ex – Alafair Burke
93. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry – Fredrik Backman
94. Dangle – Sutapa Basu
95. This One is Mine – Maria Semple
96. Desperate in Dubai – Ameera Al Hakawati
97. Nowhere Girl – Umera Ahmed
98. Dark Matter – Blake Crouch
99. Safe Haven – Nicholas Sparks
100. Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple
101. More Than Just Friends – Faraaz Kazi
102. Nutshell – Ian McEwan
103. Rekha-The Untold Story – Yasser Usman
104. The Chopin Manuscript – Jeffery Deaver & Others
105. Sully: My Search for What Really Matters – Chesley B. Sullenberger
106. The Copper Bracelet – Jeffery Deaver & Others
107. The Sialkot Saga – Ashwin Sanghi
108. Birds of Prey – Archana Sarat

Have you read any of these books that you enjoyed? What other books have you read this past year? I would love to hear about your favourites. Do share in the comments below so I can start building my TBR for 2017 🙂 .

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.

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