Thursday, December 7, 2017

#BookReview: An Awfully BIG Adventure by Aniesha Brahma

On the jacket:


Seventeen-year-old Yoshita Ray has stopped believing in happily ever after and fairy tales ever since her mother abandoned her. But now that her father’s married again, Yoshita’s world is turned upside down by her new stepbrother, the ten-year-old true believer, Tanay Mukherjee. 



On his tenth birthday, Tanay makes a wish which whisks them away to a magical land where all the fairy tale characters are real! While Yoshita wants to do nothing but leave this place behind, her stepbrother wants to stay. 

Will the rather unfortunately timed adventure tear the stepsiblings apart or will it play a hand in bringing them closer together? 

Join them on An Awfully BIG Adventure to find out!


Review:

It is not unknown that I have great faith in the stories Aniesha writes. I know they will touch my heart.Still, with every new story comes an anticipation of what this will be about and will this book keep up to the expectations. Same happened with An Awfully Big Adventure.

Irrespective of my age, i dig children's stories and enjoy reading and re-reading them. An Awfully Big Adventure also came with a very interesting blurb and an attractive cover pic. Story of to step-siblings, this is different from the ones we are accustomed to reading. While Yoshita has grown out of fairy tales, Tanay is in the ripe age of believing in them. He makes a wish which take him and his sister Yoshita to a land of magic.

Aniesha has taken a story of two siblings who are put together by fate, and then taken on an adventure against the wish of one of them, put them inside a fairy tale and included real time situation of there relationship being tested. Not a very long read, the author has put together a story all lovers of magical tales will devour. Going by the kind of weather there is across the country these days, An Awfully Big Adventure is an ideal read for this holiday season.



Aniesha Brahma wanted to be an author since she was six years old. She was born and raised in Kolkata, India. She studied in Dolna Day School and completed her college degrees (including MPhil) in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University. She works as a social media strategist/marketing executive, is the founder and editor of BUZZ Magazine and blogs (almost) regularly at www.anieshabrahma.com. Her debut novel was The Secret Proposal. It was followed by The Guitar Girl, When Our Worlds Collide and All Signs Lead Back to You. She has also worked on children’s books like P.C. Chandra’s Awesome Four and General Press’ Children’s Classic Stories. She was part of the UK-India 2017 India Wales’ The Valley, City and Village (VCV) Project and a speaker at Hay Festival 2017. Aniesha is extremely active on social media and you can get in touch with her by writing to her at contact@anieshabrahma.com.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

#BookReview: A House for Mr. Misra by Jaishree Misra

On the blurb:

‘Whatever came over me? Agreeing to move to the other side of the world was mad enough but to build a house slap bang against one of the widest, wildest oceans in the world?’
And so begins a journey of hope and anxiety as the author and her husband, the phlegmatic Mr M, set off to build their beachside home in Kerala. The obstacles are many and mostly unexpected, like neighbours waving cutlasses over the wall, venomous snakes and mercenary union men at the gate, not to mention a large and complicated piece of legislation called the Coastal Regulation Zone.
Obstacles, however, are meant to be overcome and so they are, with some quick thinking and a few helpful friends, an honest cop and an equally straight-talking scientist, and Excel sheets pulled up on demand to outwit corrupt builders. All of which make for a great story, filled with laughter and despair, and sharp yet good-humoured insights into the Malayali way of life.

Review:

I'd read Jaishree Misra a few years ago and quite loved the book. i've often wondered if she'd written more but never got around to read any more of her work. Recently, I saw the cover of A House for Mr Misra and I was sold. What a beautiful cover. Not only is it attractive, if made me wonder and wonder what the story is about!

Coming to the story, it begins with a couple who have come back to live in India and are on a lookout of a house they'd want to buy and make their own space. The story has been written in an autobiographical manner and revolves around the Misras - the author and her husband, and their house in Kerala. 

Back to India from London, the couple decide to settle in Trivandrum, the author's hometown. The house they fall in love with and want to buy comes with a lot of baggage and issues. The story goes back and forth in time and a lot of if from the past, the present if when the house is being bought and remodelled as per their requirements. From resistance coming from local goons against buying the house, to rules and regulations regarding construction they were to undertake to remodel the house - the story takes you through life in Kerala in a very beautiful manner. 

A short, breezy and entertaining read this book is something I'd happily refer to someone as a sunny, winter afternoon read.



Tuesday, November 14, 2017

#BookReview: Turtles All The Way Down

On the jacket:


Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. 

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

Review:

“The worst part of being truly alone is you think about all the times you wished that everyone would just leave you be. 
Then they do, and you are left being, and you turn out to be terrible company.” 

I love how John Green writes. He is one of my writer goals. While I love his style of writing, I must also admit that his stories leave my exhausted and overwhelmed. Yet as it happens every time  book of his releases, I must read them, to soak in his style of writing. Like all the books I have read before, Turtles All The Way Down too left me anxious and stunned.

Th cover of the book is unlike any John Green book, while his overs usually are really attractive. What made up for the unattractive cover is the  jacket poster on the inside of the jacket. However, as you read the book, you begin to realise why the cover looks like it does and after some time it starts to make sense. 

Aza and Daisy, her best friend, on Daisy's insistence embark on a journey to find  Russell Picket whose son, she'd studied with. Teenagers with eloquent vocabularies with lifelong friendships, fighting existential crisis are common to John Green novels and here too we have Aza, trying to deal with her issues.  She and her best friend decide to take part in finding a rich man who seems to have disappeared. The characters are relatable and the friendships enviable. Aza Holmes are her fight with mental illness, trying so hard to be the best she could be - I wish I'd read both her when I was 16. 

It's been a day since I've finished reading the book and I am still overwhelmed. If you are a John Green fan, you must've already read the book. If you haven't, go grab it. The six year wait has been well worth it.



Monday, November 6, 2017

#BookReview: The Boys Who Fought: The Mahabharata for Children by Devdutt Pattanaik

On the jacket:

‘When you can fight for the meek without hating the mighty, you follow dharma.’
In the forest, the mighty eat the meek. In human society, the mighty should take care of the meek. This is dharma. A hundred princes should look after their five orphaned cousins. Instead, they burnt their house, abused their wife and stole their kingdom. The five fought back, not for revenge but, for dharma. What came of the hundred’s fight against the five?
India’s favourite mythologist brings to you this charmingly illustrated retelling of the Mahabharata that is sure to illuminate and enthrall a new generation of readers.

Review:

My oldest memory of the Mahabharata was a picture book, sort of a comic with pictures and text next to them, which my father used to read out to me when I couldn't read. It was a post lunch ritual. It was read out to me so many times that I remembered the story by the pictures and if he even skipped a page or two out of boredom from reading it every day, I knew he'd skipped a part! I still remember all the pictures of the book - it, along with few other such books, was my first introduction to Hindu mythology.
That was in the 80s. Ever since, I've never seen the great stories simplified for children, or maybe children now aren't read the stories any more. Either way, Devdutt Pattanaik has made knowing, reading and enjoying these stories easier and more enjoyable with his art of precise storytelling and all the artwork.
In The Boys Who Fought, Pattanaik has told the story in his signature style with animated sketches which not only enthral but also captivated. Each page also has important tidbits and information which, because written separately, have more impact on the mind. Pages also have these boxes where children will derive basic yet important moral science lessons from. Pattanaik has also included in the book, information pertaining to different versions of the Mahabharata wherever applicable. The story is told in its broad sense and is ideal to acquaint children to the crux of the story. As they grow older, they can be introduced to the finer sections of the story.
Rating: 4.5/5




Sunday, November 5, 2017

#BookReview: Murder In Paharganj by Kulpreet Yadav


On the jacket:


On a cold December morning, a white woman is found murdered in a cheap hotel in Paharganj, New Delhi. Vicks Menon, an out-of-work journalist, is tipped off by the hotel's receptionist and is the first to arrive at the crime scene, where he discovers a lead. It's the bus ticket used by the dead woman two days earlier. But Vicks is battling personal trouble. He has no money, an alcohol problem, and a nearly broken relationship with Tonya, his estranged live-in partner, a clinical psychologist who specializes in profiling hardened criminals. Moving in and out of the shadows, Vicks pushes his investigation harder as it takes him from Udaipur to Bangkok. On his side, for resources, he has a nameless intelligence operative, and to read minds, a lover who is beginning to trust him again. But above all, his instinct to stay inches ahead of death will be the key to his survival. If Vicks lives, this is one story that will change his life forever.

Review:

Anybody who knows my reading habits knows how much I love a good mystery. Leave me in a bookstore and I'd walk towards the mystery/thriller section. While there is an abundance of good mystery novels in the global market, I'd love to see Indian authors making their mark in the  genre as well. If we look at present day authors, it would be wrong to say that some aren't trying to disrupt the trend and create a stable position for mysteries and thrillers, because they are.

When I chanced upon the opportunity to read Murder in Paharganj, I said yes without reading the blurb. This was to be my first read of Kulpreet Yadav's work as well. I usually don't dissect stories too much and write my reviews on broader points, but hey, a murder mystery is all about the layers to come out, right? 

Jokes apart, while reading Murder in Pahargnj, I was quite stupefied when the killer was revealed quite early in the book. Let's start from the very beginning, where a white woman was found dead in a hotel room at Paharganj, with nothing else missing in the story. The hotel's employee who found the body, called his out-of-work journalist friend Vicks Menon. Vicks is trying to resurrect his career and had left a word with all his friends to be informed of any newsworthy incidence first. A few chapters later, the author reveals who the killer is, but here is where Vicks life turns into an adventure. 

The story travels across countries, to come back and settle in the Indian soil. The plot is gripping, no doubt. A lot keeps happening while different characters (and there are quite a few) move countries and have conversations. Religion, national security and fugitives - all comes out in the open, behind the death of a foreign national in India. The mystery isn't who killed, rather it is something the investigators land upon quite by chance and is something they never imagined it to be, all the while, chasing the murderer.

While I kept wanting to know what happens next, I also found something unsettling in the story. Probably, too many characters, all of whom are important to the story. There are quite a few sub-stories as well, all fit in 274 pages. While this was not the best mystery novel I've read, I cannot deny that Murder in Paharganj is a good step in the Indian literary scene. I hope there will be a series in the Vicks Menon Thriller.

In the end, I must add one thing I loved. The entire book had fresh characters which were creations of the author. Mentioning this, because I see many Indian authors name their characters/places/brands on existing prominent names/brands (parodying on the names) which takes away from the fictional flavour for me and honestly affects my reading experience. 

Rating: 3.5/5

Thursday, October 26, 2017

#BookReview: Corporate Avatars by Disha

On the jacket:


If you have ever worked in a corporate world, you are likely to have been confounded by some of its more curious characters – the sentimental dame with her sappy reminiscing, the bumbling accountant who can never seem to figure it out on his own and the freshly minted management graduate who is a walking encyclopedia – to name just a few.


Getting along is not always easy. But don’t lose hope just yet. Corporate Avatars tackles the oddities at the workplace in an exhilarating read, giving you just the smart essentials you need to survive such folk and make your way up the ladder.

Spirited and saucy, this undeniably helpful book reveals the quirks of more than 40 colorful personalities you are likely to meet at the workplace. It is the perfect compass with which to navigate the rough seas of the business world.

Disha is an IIM Calcutta alumnus and has spent over a decade with corporate giants like Paytm.com, Yatra.com and Mentor Graphics. She is currently a senior leader with Amazon India. Besides her corporate career, Disha loves to write and has authored many books.

Review:

For a fulltime freelancer, Disha's Corporate Avatars was a walk down memory lane. She's brought back so many memories in her book and in some way even reassured me of what all I am happy without!

Corporate Avatars was like moving back in time and remembering all the different kind of people I've worked with in the past. For those who are still living the corporate life, the book will be a different kind of amusing - for they could probably spot themselves amongst the pages of this book. Disha's always written books which readers can identify with and take inspiration from, this one sets the exceptions higher.

Each chapter in the book discusses one kind of character present in every office (e.g.) the micromanager, the whiner, the one who always calls for a meeting, the one always ready with excuses, the one who makes more noise than the work s/he does, and so on. I tried to think but couldn't think of any that she could have missed expect the pervert, but then all of them could be that or none of them.

Disha's style of writing is witty and simple, and she's kept the jargons limited so that even those who have never been a part of the corporate sector too could read and enjoy the book.

****.5/5


Friday, September 29, 2017

#BookBlast: Lean Into Relationships by Rishabh Jhol

About the Book:
Doubt has pivoted many a relationship across the centuries. Whether it is Othello suspicious of Desdemona or through the rise of paranoia as a trope in twentieth century writings. While paranoia naturally suggests the vulnerability of individual mind to social rhetoric, it is also the space for deep interrogation of the individual that renders him/her to paranoia. This novel presents that doubt has the potential to be a space of liberation.

Madeeha works in Jordan to rehabilitate Syrian refugees. Zehen, a political analyst from India, meets her in the US during their social impact program. He is intrigued and charmed by her, and falls deeply in love. But the world political climate, with its accompanying cultural narratives about terror and pain, infects Zehen’s mind. Zehen begins to suspect Madeeha as a possible mujahid. Will he find his truth?

Fear doesn’t devastate; it stirs the inner pot. It is a tender love story that triumphs heartbreaks and sets the foundation of deep lasting future relationships - a delightful emancipation from social intrigues and cultural constraints.




Read an Excerpt:

Zehen was experiencing sweet joy in his heart. Memories bustled in the head.

When did he first see her? Zehen searched his head madly. Orientation session? Corridor to the classroom? However, he tried, he couldn’t pinpoint the moment. A whirr of images, of moments, yet-to-be collaged. And a heart that already had a narrative, waiting to be inset.

We imagine that all romantic stories will have a sigh-worthy romantic beginning. But beginnings are when the heart awakens, when the soul remembers. A presence stills and emerges from the shadows of time.

His first memory was when she introduced herself in the class. They had gathered at Presidium University for a one-year course on Social Impact Leadership. Outside, the white fringe tree was laden with its grape-like fruits. The pine, oak and spruce waited for winter to tell the world how unchangeable they were. And the old Redwood stood proud like the institution itself. Inside, in the warm classroom, students from various cultures across the world had gathered. Icebreaker session was on and the usual round of introductions.

Introduction is a ritual. A cumbersome ritual. How does one reduce the tapestry of one’s entire existence, the colors, and the many weaves into a single palatable thread?


The Book is Free on Amazon on 29th & 30th September. Grab it here: Amazon

Anecdote

I published my first book in 2015 and my second book in early 2016. I was single at the time and using dating apps to meet other single people. I met a girl in mid-2016 who took fancy to my dating profile, especially that I am an author. After a couple of meetings, She demanded that I write about her. I jokingly told her that I am a Phoenix writer, i.e., I fall in love, get dumped, and write about my failed relationship. She broke-up with me, and still invariably pings whether I am including ‘her and our relationship’ in my upcoming book(s).

———————-

The genesis of this book came about while I was on a cross-country train ride in the US. I met Mark who had been a successful marketing professional with considerable international marketing experience. He had travelled to all of Asia and understood the regional peculiarities.
He was later diagnosed with lung cancer. By the time, it was detected, it was stage 3. He was put under radiation and intensive chemotherapy. He went in for three other opinions. All of them agreed that the cancer was aggressive and spreading fast. He searched for the latest treatments and sought to enter clinical trials. The process lasted for two years.

In the meantime, the cancer advanced. The doctors said the cancer was incurable and he didn’t have long to live. It took him weeks of denial to come around to the truth – he didn’t have long to live.

He returned home from a long walk one evening and asked himself a crucial question: “If I am going to die, then I might as well die straight away. What is point of waiting for death to show up?”

That evening he ate well, watched a movie with his girlfriend, poured himself a rare scotch and sat at his study. It was time. He wrote out his letter – love and wishes to his family, loved ones and friends, his last wishes about funeral, information on his will, and a general note thanking all. He placed it in an envelope. He planned to kill himself early morning. He finished his scotch, brushed and went to bed.

In the middle of night, he woke up to a noise. The light was on in the study and he could hear sniffles. He walked cautiously up and there in the study, his girlfriend was holding his suicide letter and crying. He watched her as her body crumpled and sink into chair. Her face contorted in agony. In her face, he saw what was the consequence of his action. The penny dropped.

I paled and listened in horror. Mark continued, “I realized that our life is never ours. We are nothing but a bundle of emotions for the people who love us and the people we love. The meaning of life is to optimize for the happiness of such people. There’s nothing more to living.
That day on, I have been living for maximizing the happiness of my loved ones”

That’s how I stumbled on lean in to relationships; it has become my life philosophy.


About the Author 


I was born into poverty. At the time of my birth, my parents shared a one -room hut with six other family members in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Delhi.

It was a hot day in the month of March 1995. I was in standard 4th and had an examination the following day. As was regular in that locality, we didn't have electricity that day. I couldn't study or sleep properly. One of the watershed moments happened when I came back from school the next day. We had an inverter installed at home. I knew we couldn't afford an inverter. But my dad was always convinced that the way out of poverty for our family is through education. 

Despite an interest in creative writing, I chose to study a subject that society values more – Finance.  Later, I got into one of the top colleges for finance in the country. My first salary out of college (in 2007, when I was 20 years old) was higher than that of my dad's salary at the time.

When I was 24 years old, I had everything that makes one happy – loving parents, great partner, close-knit group of friends, and career path that exceeded every goal. Yet, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t sad either; but it never felt like my life. I had carefully and meticulously built that life though. Contextually, it was the safe thing to do.

Following year though, I had to deal with the loss of my 7 year old relationship and of my 5 year old job. My identity was crushed. My biggest lesson was that you can fail at what you don't want, and what you consider safe; you might as well take a chance at what you truly want.
Next year, I got my ‘ideal’ job but walked away from it. Failure had taught me to be more ambitious and audacious. I had reached a point in my life where I wanted my work to have more meaning; and to stand for something more important than myself.

I started a political consulting company to maneuver social ascendance of marginalized communities by equalizing access to political capital.  I primarily did topical research for MPs for their debates in the parliament and on TV shows.  Partial project list includes:

1.   Providing 108 rape survivors with medical, legal, financial, and social support over six months through one of my client's NGO
2.   Getting amendments passed in the communal violence bill that tackle systemic bias towards Muslims
3.   Helping three social entrepreneurs raise a combined total of INR 43 lakhs from their MP for community initiatives

Along with running my own company, I focused on my passion for writing and traveling as well.  I solo travelled to all seven wonders of the world, and did two-cross country trips by train in India and in the US.  I have also written and published three fiction novels.






#BookReview: An Awfully BIG Adventure by Aniesha Brahma

On the jacket: Seventeen-year-old Yoshita Ray has stopped believing in happily ever after and fairy tales ever since her mother aba...