Koi Good News? by Zarreen Khan | Book Review

Marriages, they say, are made in heaven. Well, so are thunder and lightning.  A wise woman once remarked: whether you’ve been married a year or several, it is an Indian marriage that is most frightening.

When Mona Mathur of Dehradun married her college sweetheart, Ramit Deol of Amritsar, there were two things she wasn’t prepared for:
1. The size of the Deol family which put any Sooraj Barjatya movie to shame.
2. The fertility of the Deol family which had them reproducing faster than any other species known to mankind.

It has now been four years since their wedding, and Mona and Ramit have done the unthinkable – they have remained childless. Of course, that also means that they’ve battled that one question day in and day out: ‘Koi Good News?’ It doesn’t matter that they have been happy to be child-free. They are married; they are expected to make babies. After all, there are grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles, aunts, and even colony aunties in waiting.

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Now, the truth is, Ramit and Mona had been trying to conceive for the past one year. But having a baby isn’t as easy as it’s made out to be. Finally, aided by the wine at their highly glamorous neighbours’ party, Mona gets pregnant. And so begins a crazy journey – complete with interfering relatives, nosy neighbours, disapproving doctors, and absolutely no privacy at all!

Can Mona and Ramit survive The Great Indian Baby Tamasha or will their carefully built tower of marital joy crumble to the ground?

To find out more about this book, which some bookstores have been found to also categorise under pregnancy self-help, read my detailed review as published at Women’s Web, here.

Title: Koi Good News?
Author: Zarreen Khan
Publisher: HarperCollins India
ISBN: 978-93-5277-905-5
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction/General
Pages: 388
Source: Author/Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: After working for Pepsi, Hindustan Times and ACNielsen for ten years, Zarreen Khan decided to take a break and raise two children, who are sometimes kind enough to let her role-play as a marketing consultant. She lives in Delhi with her husband, Moksh, and children, Zayn and Iram, dealing with the craziness of being half-Muslim and half-Punjabi, which is detrimental to her weight, sanity, and sense of humour.
Zarreen’s first book, I Quit! Now What?, was published in 2017. Koi Good News? is her second book.
Follow her on Facebook to know more about the author and her writing.

Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com
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How I Became a Farmer’s Wife by Yashodhara Lal | Book Review

In an interview, many years ago, Bill Gates remarked: “I know there’s a farmer out there somewhere who never wants a PC and that’s fine with me.”

At the time he said this, Gates probably didn’t take into consideration the rapid development of technology and, more importantly, our dependence on it. Nor did he account for Vijay Sharma’s determination to venture into farming and rely on the now omnipresent network-connected device as a valuable resource to aid his endeavour.

Can you blame him? Who in their right mind would’ve thought, back in 2006, that an educated man would contemplate giving up a successful corporate career to become an urban dairy-farmer? Even today, it all seems a little far-fetched, but Yashodhara Lal’s latest offering narrates the story of just such a hare-brained idea.

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Mild-mannered Vijay is the perfect Indian husband – responsible and predictable. Well, at least he was, until he decided to turn Farmer! Vijay’s unsuspecting wife Yashodhara is caught off guard when, tired of the rigours of city life, he actually rents land and starts dairy farming! As if Yash didn’t have enough going on already, what with her high-octane job, three children and multiple careers. As Vijay dives deeper into his quirky hobby, the family is plucked out of their comfortable life in the steel-and-chrome high-rises of Gurgaon and thrown headfirst into a startlingly unfamiliar world – complete with cows and crops, multiple dogs and eccentric farmhands, a shrewd landlady and the occasional rogue snake. Will these earnest but insulated city-dwellers be able to battle the various difficulties that come with living a farmer’s life?

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

Title: How I Became a Farmer’s Wife
Author: Yashodhara Lal
Publisher: HarperCollins India
ISBN: 978-93-5277-585-9
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 328
Source: HarperCollins India / Women’s Web
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Yashodhara Lal is an author, mother of three children, marketing professional, and fitness instructor. She lives in Gurgaon with her family, her husband Vijay and three kids – Peanut, Pickle and Papad – who never fail to provide her with material for her blog.
To connect with her, find her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com

 

In Conversation with Jayant Kripalani

If you’ve been around since the 1980’s, then you would need no introduction to Jayant Kripalani. In fact, you would most likely have admired his various onscreen performances over the years. Nonetheless, I can’t stop myself from sharing a brief introduction of him, with you.

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An Indian film, television and stage actor, writer, and director, he is known for his performances in television series such as Khandaan, Mr. Ya Mrs., and Ji Mantriji. He has played character roles in movies like Heat and Dust, Rockford, Jaane Tu. . . Ya Jaane Na, 3 Idiots and, most recently, Hawaizaada and The Hungry.
He has directed and produced a number of films, is actively involved with theatre, and has also written the screenplay for Shyam Benegal’s film Well Done Abba.

He graduated from Jadavpur University with a degree in English Literature and worked in the advertising industry, before moving to film and television. He has authored two books – New Market Tales (2013) and Cantilevered Tales (2017). His recent foray into writing performance poetry has brought him acclaim in poetic circles around the country.

Earlier this month he launched his first book of poems titled Some Mad Poems Some Sad Poems Some Bad Poems and A Short Story in Verse. It is a collection of wonderful poems that he has written over time. The poems, sometimes satirical, sometimes allegorical reflect the times we live in. The book has two parts, the first being a collection of general poems and the second being a short story narrated in verse.

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I was, of course, delighted to have the opportunity to interview him ahead of the book launch. My joy knew no bounds when he went as far as to email a copy of the manuscript (a document that now holds pride of place on my bookshelf) to read, before we sat down for the chat. I have always been a great admirer of his work and the admiration has only increased ever since I met him personally.

So, read on to know what he had to say during our conversation that has got me fangirling:

Ashima Jain: Who is Jayant Kripalani today? Is he an actor? Or director? Or writer? Or poet? Or a beach-bum? Or is he someone who enjoys juggling all these different hats together, on his head?

Jayant Kripalani: If I had an answer to even one of those questions I might be a more settled human being today. I am not even sure I know if I am all of those things or whether I have the talent to wear all those rather lovely hats. In my rather checkered career I have also lived in the corporate milieu for a bit where I came across the work of a gentleman (a rather famous psychologist) whose name I can’t pronounce – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. (I am sure he won’t be able to pronounce my name either.)

In his studies he showed that what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness called ‘flow’. In this consciousness one ‘experiences deep enjoyment, creativity and a total involvement with life’.

I think that is something I knew without being able to articulate it as well as he did. So, whether I’m acting or bumming, I do both with complete abandonment and enjoyment. In the ‘flow’ as it were.

Ashima: I gather this ‘flow’ was what brought you to writing and, like your acting career, this too has been an enjoyable journey for you. Your last book, Cantilevered Tales, has done extremely well. Your third book is all set to be released – A collection of poems that has no title but a description of what lies between its pages. What is the Mad, Sad and Bad of Jayant Kripalani’s poetry, and what inspired it?

Jayant: “Your third book is all set to be released” – you say. It has been released and here I owe you an apology. I should have sat down with you much earlier to answer these questions, but travel, prior commitments, and a minor bout with a malignant little tumourous bastard delayed everything a bit. So, apologies for the delay.

What inspires my poetry? I couldn’t say. An incident here; a stray thought triggered off by a rude politician there; a bridge falling; an encounter with a disgruntled cop – any little thing that drives pen to paper. If it writes itself in verse – blank or rhymed – it calls itself a poem. And of course, sometimes it’s Mad, or Sad or just plain Bad. Once I’ve written it, I don’t touch it. I call it ‘hit and run’ verse, because I don’t like spending too much time on it.

Ashima: You have strong views on politics and religion which you share on social media. The same is seen in these poems as well. Do you believe there is hope for change? For improvement?

Jayant: People have often complained that I am an incurable romantic. Where they get these strange ideas from, I don’t know. I guess I am an eternal optimist and dopes like me never lose hope.

I don’t hope for change though. I watch it happen. There is never a static or dull moment in this world. Swirling changes happen all the time. We are in a constant state of ‘samudra manthan’ and I just love the churn.

Ashima: What prompted you to write a short story in verse? Tell us more about Shakuntla and what lies behind her door.

Jayant: If you read between the lines, you’ll discover that Shakuntala is Calcutta. My love affair with Calcutta has been a long one. I did desert Calcutta for 30+ years but the love and warmth I got from the city never wavered and when I decided to come back, it enveloped me in its arms and I fear I might never be able to leave again.

Ashima: There seems to be no set formula to your writing. You have experimented with almost everything under the sun in this book – the range of topics, the sentiment, the humour, and even the language. What makes it all work as well as it does?

Jayant: Go with the flow. Live in the moment. Live THE moment. You can’t go wrong.

Ashima: You have always entertained your audience and readers, be it with your acting or writing. What’s next that your fans should await from you?

Jayant: Death. A fun one I hope. One surrounded by laughter, music, and drama. Of course drama. But a comedy. If anyone sheds a tear at my funeral I’ll come back and haunt them.

Ashima: It can’t be the end of the line. Not when you’ve only just added another exciting new hat to the collection. Surely you have more stories of your everlasting romance with Calcutta?

Jayant: The fact that I think about death seems to worry you? It doesn’t worry me. When I was very young (and believe it or not, I was young once) I read somewhere that if you see danger or death approaching, rush towards it. By and large, both are rather polite and step aside when they see you coming. It’s one helluva rush!

I think the thought that I might die at any moment is what keeps me alive. Alive in the truest sense of the word.

Take this whole cancer business. It’s a laugh a minute. I tried getting depressed about it and failed. So I wrote a poem in hospital. Unfortunately, the book was already in print when I wrote it, so here it is:
Colon v Colon
Two dots that don’t stand on ceremony
As each exercises its hegemony
Sometimes it precedes a long list of items,
Or before a quotation that heightens
An expansion, or an explanation
Of a mathematical equation,
Or in a numerical statement of time
Separates hours and minutes – that isn’t a crime.
A minor little asset to our grammar
One that is needed but lacks any glamour.
If the lower dot is replaced by a comma
It doesn’t cause too much of a trauma
And without offending either you or me
Becomes a colon that is largely semi
The other colon is a bit of a beast
Five feet or more at the very least
The very last part of the GI tract
That traps all the water and all the crap
Before they’re evicted from the base of the bum
From the hole that we politely, call a rectum.
And if you’re having a problem with humour
You’ll have more of one when it grows a tumour
Which if it decides to be malignant
Will make you feel more than just indignant.
Life can become a terrible drag
As you carry around a colostomy bag,
It’s hugely offensive for both you and me
That this colon too, has become a semi.

Note – Look at the bright side. I Do Not have a colostomy bag. See what I mean?

Ashima: I think I do 🙂 . Thank you so much. It was wonderful talking with you. I wish you good health, and much success with your new book. All the best for wherever the ‘flow’ decides to take you next.

Mad Sad Bad Front&Back Cover
Some Mad Poems Some Sad Poems Some Bad Poems and A Short Story in Verse is published by Readomania and is available at all leading bookstores, as well as on Amazon.

Caricature by R.K.Laxman as done for Ji Mantriji courtesy: Jayant Kripalani
Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com
Book cover courtesy: Readomania

Looking Forward to Spring | Short Story on Juggernaut

Whenever one of my stories get published somewhere, I start jumping with joy. Today, I have exactly one such reason to dance a little jig.

Looking Forward to Spring is a short story I wrote some time ago which has been published on the Juggernaut Writing  Platform.

It is a story of a young widow who is unsure how to answer her six year old son’s questions on bringing home a sibling and completing a family that has forever been left incomplete.

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The story is available to read for free on the Juggernaut website or mobile app here.

Do stop by to read and leave a short review. I hope you enjoy it 🙂

Book Announcement | When Women Speak Up

I am bursting with joy as I type this post to announce the release of a book that carries my name. This being the second such publication, in a span of a little over a year, I do believe the news accounts for a wonderful beginning to 2018.

This new book has been published by Women’s Web – A digital media platform that began with a firm conviction that women were more interested in the world around them than conventional magazines gave them credit for. They enable women to tell their stories, inspire other women, and be inspired by them too.

If you may recall, Women’s Web launched their first book – Kunti’s Confessions and Other Short Stories at the start of 2017 which featured my short story, ‘Personal Effects.

This year, they have launched another collection of inspiring stories titled When Women Speak Up and includes two short stories written by me:
A Step Out of the Box
A Matter Of Style

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Raised as ‘good girls’, we are often told that we must know our place, we must stay quiet to ‘avoid trouble’, and of course, that men don’t like women who are ‘too bold’.

Indian women today are breaking all those norms and stereotypes! This powerful collection of short stories will show you exactly how.

From re-imagining characters from India’s best loved epics, to utterly relatable stories set in urban bedrooms, kitchens and offices, these 19 stories capture the angst, the struggle, and the joy, of women speaking up. Sometimes, when you have trouble finding your own voice, you may even want to look back to them for a little dose of inspiration!

The book is now live on Amazon and you can buy it here: When Women Speak Up: A Women’s Web Collection of Inspiring Stories

I would love for you all to read it. I guarantee these inspiring short stories are highly readable and will have you rooting for their protagonists.

Please, do also leave your reviews on Amazon and Goodreads so others may be inspired to read it too 🙂

Image Courtesy – Women’s Web

 

2017: One Year One Hundred (108) Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brunch Book Challenge 2017 Landscape Resized

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

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

28-Baaz - Anuja Chauhan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Fiction (in random order)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

International Non-Fiction (in random order)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note: This blogpost was a top post on Indiblogger.in and appeared on their homepage.Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Kissing The Demon by Amrita Kumar | Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Available on Amazon.

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

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#MyFriendAlexa – A Wrap-Up

The month of September passed by in a frenzy with the multiple activities I decided to squeeze into my schedule for these thirty days. My Creative Writing classes picked up pace with quite a few recommended reading and writing assignments. Then I had my own reading to catch up on (especially since I am running way behind schedule) and some much needed writing.

Out of everything, one activity I was most looking forward to was the second season of #MyFriendAlexa – a campaign run by Blogchatter that I signed up for in August. The aim of this campaign is to help participants improve their Alexa ranking by following a dedicated blogging schedule which includes reading a variety of blogs and posting new content (a minimum of eight posts) on your own blog in a span of one month.

However, I soon realised that as excited as I was to be a part of this and pick up some tips and tricks to the secret of blogging on the way, this was going to be a lot of hard work.

Despite the blog reading and posting schedule I had mapped out for myself at the onset of the campaign, I found myself falling behind even before the first ten days were up. I did somehow manage to pull through the first two weeks by putting up four blog posts and following the recommended reading list.

By the time the third week rolled in, I was so caught up with everything happening simultaneously that I could barely manage finishing my daily blog reading. Putting up my own blog posts seemed far from possible.

So, I gave up on Week 3 and decided to step back. There was absolutely no way I could turn this into success. But then, at the end of that week, I felt terrible for not standing up to the challenge I had signed up for. I decided it was time to take the bull by its horns in Week 4. That meant covering up for the time I had lost, by posting four new blog posts in the last week.

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Today, I feel thrilled that I was able to complete my challenge successfully, even it it meant putting up the last blog post on the last day.

I started the campaign with a Global Alexa Rank of 11.83 million and no India rank. At the end of the month, the campaign has shown a 90% improvement in my Alexa rank – As of 1st October 2017, my global rank was 1.27 million and India rank at 41,876 and this is continuing to drop with each passing day.

MyFriendAlexa 31stAug17  MyFriendAlexa 31stOct17

This is how the ranking changed during the course of the campaign:

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My experience with the Alexa campaign has been very informative and entertaining. I have learnt much along the way and discovered some wonderful blogs. Of course, Blogchatter has been a great support in help me blog better.

I now look forward to using the knowledge I have picked up during this campaign in taking Aquamarine Flavours to new heights. Here’s to a new beginning of better blogging!

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The Windfall by Diksha Basu | Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Available on Amazon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Available on Amazon.

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

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

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

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