Book Review: Lanka’s Princess by Kavita Kane

My only memory of Surpanakha was from a fleeting mention of her in Mythology, The Ramayan to be precise. I knew of her as Ravan’s ugly sister who was attracted to and tried to entice Laxman and had her nose and ears cut off as a punishment and to teach her a lesson.

Kavita Kane takes this commonly known skeletal description and uses her imagination and words to paint a complete picture of the little known Lanka’s Princess.

Surpanakha was named Meenakshi – the one with beautiful, fish-shaped eyes- because of her mesmerising golden hued eyes at birth and loathed by her mother, Kaikesi, ever since. As, a daughter after 3 Sons, Ravan, Kumbhakarn and Vibhishan, was still unwelcome and looking at her ‘ugly face and prominent curved, like claws, nails’ her mother secretly referred to her as Chandranakha.

She grew up watching Ravan, her eldest brother and the apple of her mother’s eyes being cherished and applauded even as she was neglected and all that came her way were taunts and jibes. Ravan was the one who bestowed the name Surpanakha – as hard as nails- upon her after she attacked him by gouging at him with her nails for killing her pet goat, Maya. And the name not only stuck but went on to become her personality, with each passing year and incident firmly rooting her head strong and defensive temperament.

Puberty bought with it a gift of beauty and Surpanaka blossomed into an attractive young lady physically and a shrewd, manipulative schemer mentally. Armed with the knowledge of magic and witchcraft taught to her by her Asura Grandmother even as her brothers were tutored in the Vedas, Upanishads by their Rishi father, she was beautiful and dangerous. The grudge of never having been treated fairly kept growing alongside the thirst for vengeance from her family. Ravan was her special target and she secretly vowed to destroy him at any cost. Little realising that the cost she would be paying with would be immense.

Marrying her brother’s enemy, Vidyujiva, against the wishes of her family was the first step in her plan of revenge. A move that she thought was calculated and would bring her happiness and grief to her family, but did it? Did her cunning plans work, or did they backfire? Did she find love and acceptance or gain anger and bitterness which fanned the flames of vengeance even further?

Kavita Kane writes simply and beautifully. Her descriptive language brought alive the lavishness of Lanka and the many layers of Surapanakha’s personality beautifully. Kane’s words roped me in immediately and as the story progressed I found myself going through a myriad of emotions directed at, and sometimes with, Surapanakha. The story makes you reflect at what is right and what is not, and whether what you’ve believed them to be so far is the truth.  An easy and engrossing read, and a book that calls out to you with its stunning cover and a story to match.

I received a copy from Writersmelon in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

 

Book Review : Another Man’s Wife by Manjul Bajaj

Writing short stories is tricky. The story needs to be short enough to hold one’s attention and long enough to have substance. The characters need to shine and connect. The end needs to justify the plot. And these are just a few things to keep in mind while writing, or even reading, a short story.

Manjul Bajaj shows you just how it’s done, and how!

Desire, intimacy and love are the themes that run through the stories. 9 short stories, each a gem shining on its own, and all of them strung together to form a necklace of emotions.

Ripe Mangoes – A young kathak dancer trapped in a marriage of convenience to an old man chooses infidelity to make herself forget resentment and feel alive.

Crossed Borders – A Nepali servant boy steps into an occupied bathroom and the imagined aftermath sends him spiralling down a path of destruction.

The Birthmark – The desire for a male child and buried guilt surfacing at the right time makes for a deadly concoction that could save a life.

Me and Sammy Fernandez – Music, memories and abuse are the crux of this beautifully written story set in Goa.

Marrying Nusrat – Innocence which is wiped away by reality, resulting in heart break.

A Deepavali Gift – Lighting up someone else’s life is sometimes the best way to celebrate this festival of lights.

Under a Moonlit Sky –  A honeymoon on a houseboat in Kashmir, after which life happens to two young couples. Will they be able to rekindle lost love again?

Lottery Ticket – The constant hammer of monetary desire leads to fractured relationships. Who will win, money or relationships?

Another Man’s Wife – The title story and my most favourite one of the lot. A contractor at a dam site finds himself obsessively attracted to a tribal tea seller’s wife and wishes to possess her at any cost.  What price will this liaison demand, and by whom?

Manjul Bajaj is a prolific writer. Her detailed research and empathy come through in the stories set in varied locations, backgrounds and situations. Her words bring alive her characters in your imagination and you connect with them, and their situations instantly. I read this book in one go, and turning the last page left me bereft.

Book Review: Knitted Tales by Rubina Ramesh

 

32446826

Imagine that you love eating chocolates, and you get your hands on a box of assorted ones, in all the flavors you can think of. Perfect, right?

I am a voracious reader, and as I read though Knitted Tales by Rubina Ramesh I had a similar feeling.
12 short stories, in varied flavors, and each one standing out on its own.

Rubina’s stories made me go through a myriad of emotions, ranging from surprise to shock and just when I thought that the mood for the rest of the book was set her next story made me smile, while another made me go into introspection mode.

A Secret in their Closet, is a story about a Mother wanting to kill her child to hide a secret that is killing her. The story will stun you and will have you looking at parents, and human nature, in a different light.
Betrayal, a story of abuse, revenge and moral dilemma will have you wondering who betrayed whom and if one lifetime is enough to avenge it.
Chiclets, tells of fresh of the boat immigrants who find setting in a new country unnerving, till their child paves the way. The clever little story, with an important lesson, will leave you smiling and make you realize that sometimes children teach us the lessons they should have learnt from us instead.
Forgive me, for I have sinned, had me holding my breath throughout, and I gladly exhaled in the end
Lolita, a reality deftly woven into a story about a sex-symbol. It and made me pause and think of so many ‘Lolita’s’ I have read about.
No Regrets, an impish and wily wife who gets get way. In the right manner, or wrong, you decide.
SuvarnaRekha, of tribals, melas, beads and feathers and love against all odds had a retro movie feel and had me picturizing an 80s film.
The Little Godmother, sibling rivalry or just siblings? Smile through it and decide for yourself. It left me grinning, really wide.
The Missing Staircase, a Grand daughter and her Grandfather and the staircase on which they spent time on, talking and exchanging secrets will make you reach out for and cherish the relationships in your life.
The Other Woman had an unexpected twist.
Daddy, hear me out, should be made a compulsory read for parents. Between demanding marks and nurturing your child’s spirit, which one would you choose? The spirited Jaspreet tugged at my heart
Cliff Notes, well, Rubina surely did save the best for the last. A story told from the view of and observations of a Mountain, which will make you hang your head in shame for being human.

I savored each story, tasting the emotion, enjoying the fine writing and the deft editing by Inderpreet Uppal
Writing simply is the toughest thing and Rubina Ramesh has mastered that art. Her writing ensures that her imagination is presented well and gives flight to our, the readers, imagination too.

I received a copy of this book from The Book Club in return for an honest review, and here it is.

Book Review: My Father Is A Hero by Nishant Kaushik

img_20161104_170534

Vaibhav Kulkarni is a single father to his 10 year old daughter Nisha. Having buried his dreams in his hometown Akola, he lives and struggles though a middle class existence in Pune without a complain, just to see a smile on his daughter face. Nisha is most parents dream of an ideal child, the pride of her school and teachers, talented, academically brilliant, temperamentally mature and loved by all.

Things seem to be going well, with father and daughter finding small joys in things that most people take for granted, when Nisha suddenly loses her spark and along with it her brilliance. Her grades slip, she stops singing her and the usually bright and talkative child mopes around answering her, now very worried, father and everyone else in monosyllables. Things come to a head when Nisha punches a fellow student, astonishing the entire school and most of all her father.
That is when Vaibhav decides to do something for Nisha and envisions a dream, one that is too big for his miniscule bank balance but not big enough to put the smile and spark back into Nisha’s personality and take her back to being her former self.

Nishant Kaushik is the author of four bestselling novels. His easy writing style ensures a smooth read and characters that are easily identifiable and endearing. As a Daddy’s girl myself, I loved the character of Vaibhav Kulkarni, whose naivete about his fellow human beings, his excitement about a small thing as a cell phone and his awe of a something we all take for granted, the Credit Card, make him endearing. Nisha’s character is well etched too and your heart goes out to the little girl who makes do with with the little her hardworking father can provide and smiles through it all. The characters who made sporadic appearances, like Nisha’s friend Bali and Vaibhav’s only friend, Bhandari made me smile.

A simple story about simple people that is well told and well written, My Father Is A Hero makes for a good read with an unexpected twist and a little surprise as it nears the end.

I received a copy of My Father Is A Hero from Writersmelon in exchange of an honest and unbiased review.

screenshot_2016-11-02-09-26-17

Book Review – Fighting for Tara by Sunanda J Chatterjee

img_20161007_210330

13 year old child-bride Hansa is left bereft when her 60 year old husband passes away and she is ordered to kill her new born daughter, a decision forced upon her by her husband’s brother whom she is supposed to marry in the next few hours.

Helpless and scared she sits with her 3 month old daughter, Tara, debating if she should act upon a neighbor’s advice and drown her child in a bucket of water when her daughters innocent smile tugs at her heart and Hansa swears to protect her come what may.

Never having traveled outside her village, with limited financial resources and a locket gifted to her by her husband, Hansa flees in the dark of the night with Tara and the will to make life better for them both.

From her village Dharni to big city Gurgaon, Hansa fights off hunger, fear and hardships escaping all dangers till finally she decides to pretend to be Tara’s sister, so they could both be adopted by a childless couple who take them to America. Life seems to be getting kinder with Hansa going to school like any girl her age, Tara growing up well, and Anne and Liam happy to be parents at last.

But life comes full circle when Hansa has to not only face the truth again, but reveal it to all who love her and and all she could lose, to save her daughter.

Sunanda Chatterjee is a practicing pathologist and a passionate Writer. Her clear and concise language, detailed research and observation of human traits and characters make her writing a smooth and enjoyable read.
From the first chapter onwards the story has you in its grip and you feel along with Hansa. Well etched and refreshing supporting characters like Hansa’s boyfriend Wolfgang Olaf, his father Olaf, Hansa’s nemesis, Vikram Singh and Vikram’s grandmother and Tara’s benefactor, Rani Sahiba lend much needed support to the story.

Fighting for Tara is a gripping read and I was left bereft when it ended.

I received a copy of this book from The Book Club in return for an honest review, and here it is.

Book Review:The Peshwa by Ram Sivasankaran

img_20160917_121322
I first read about Bajirao as part of a history lesson in
school. Very recently Film maker, Sanjay Leela Bhansali recreated and romanticized Bajirao to etch a memory that would stay in mind for some time to come.

Now you have Author Ram Sivasankaran who makes his debut with yet another version of Peshwa Bajirao.

I loved the bright and eye catching cover of the book as soon as I saw it, and was curious to find out how Sivasankaran would interpret this hero of the 18th Century Maratha Confederacy.
The book starts with the senior Peshwa, Balaji Vishwanath Bhat, foiling the plan of Nizam Ul Mulk of the Mughal Empire and asserting the power of the Marathas. A blow that would prove to be a costly one, with the vengeful Nizam lying in wait for an opportune moment to strike back.

A terminal illness snuffs out the life of Balaji Bhat, placing the heavy crown of responsibility on the young head of his son, Bajirao who is the new Peshwa.

Will Bajirao live up to his illustrious father’s name or will his lack of experience allow the enemy to close in faster? Will Bajirao’s love for his young wife and newborn son soften his resolve to place Confederacy before family? Will he live up to the title of Peshwa?

With his extensive research and clear and concise writing Ram Sivasankaran weaves a tale that keeps you turning the pages. What I particularly liked was how the story covered not one, but two Peshwas. Balaji Vishwanath’s solid character and his tete-a-tete with his son, Bajirao, were my particular favourite parts of the book. It is during these father-son conversations that Bajirao’s character is built and he is polished and readied to prepare him to be the future Peshwa.
Another character I particularly liked was the evil giant,Bangash,or The Butcher as he was known as. A man of unimaginable proportions and intentions that turn to childlike loyalty while they remain pure evil, he was a character I looked forward to.
What I found interesting were the little illustrations dotted along the book at most crucial parts of the story.
My only quibble? If the war bits could have been pruned a little it would have made the pace of the book crisper.

The book ends with an Epilogue titled, ‘The Princess of Bundelkhand’ introducing Mastani. Do we have a sequel or part 2 in store, Mr Sivasankarn?

I received a copy of The Peshwa from Writersmelon.com in exchange of an honest and unbiased review.

Book Review – Behind The Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Not another book about the slums and poverty of India/Mumbai, I grimaced as I read the synopsis on the back of the book. But the cheerful cover and beautiful title caught my eye and I picked up the slim volume.

The book is based in Annawadi, a slum near Mumbai airport, and around it’s varied residents, all fighting for a place under the sun. Fighting for, and sometimes fighting each other for it too.

A petty quarrel based on economic envy leads a handicapped resident, one-legged Fatima, to set herself ablaze to teach her hardworking and quietly prospering neighbors a lesson, and Abdul, a teenaged garbage sorter is falsely accused of the crime, leading to a shocking tragedy.
Add global recession, suppressed tensions over religion, caste and sex and ambitions and desires that must be fulfilled at any cost, and you have a deadly cocktail of human emotions ready to erupt.

With her detailed research and exquisite writing, Katherine Boo recreates Annawadi for you. You find yourself shaking your head at Asha’s ruthless ambition to become a Slumlord and your heart going out to the quiet, hardworking and jaded, Abdul.
Sunil, the vertically challenged, and not happy about it at all, garbage sorter will have you smiling and Meena, whose spirit is broken by constant beatings inflicted by her family, will leave you misty eyed.

And and as you traverse through the narrow lanes dodging sewers and filth, you become part of the residents lives and find yourself going through a plethora of emotions along with each thoughtfully etched character. Loving them, hating them, rooting for them and wanting to help them or stop them.
Boo enthralls and even though I was sorely disappointed when the book ended, it stayed with me long after I finished reading it.

Book Review: The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

 
Ella Rubinstein is a 40 year old stay-at-home mother and wife with a beautiful home, 3 children and a prosperous husband. Outwardly, Ella has everything one could wish for, despite which she still feels an unnamed sense of discontent.
 
Agreeing to a part time job as a reader to a literary agent, Ella’s first assignment is to read a debut novel by an author called, Aziz Z Zahara.
 
The novel, titled Sweet Blasphemy, is set in the 13th century Anatolia and Ella finds herself reading about the fabled poet Rumi, whose life and views were transformed by the whirling dervish Shams of Tabriz and his forty rules of love and life.  Both characters so diverse from each other that only a miracle could have brought them together.
 
Along with Ella we discover Rumi and Shams, and the journey of their friendship and love, peppered with Shams Forty Rules and various characters, all diverse from the other, who come together to form a tapestry that reveals itself in the end, leaving you overwhelmed at the beauty of it.
 
As Ella’s reading of Sweet Blasphemy progress, she starts an email correspondence with the author. What begins with innocent emails soon turn into intimate exchanges, deepening Ella and Aziz’s bond.
 
Much like love, this book is many layered and requires patience and acceptance to be understood. Much like love, it will make you smile and bring tears to your eyes. Much like love, it will also be understood and interpreted differently. Much like love, it will simplify itself when you stop trying to understand it. Much like love, it will show you facets of yourself you never imagined you possessed. Much like love, you will realise every lesson comes for a price. Much like love, it will leave you humbled. Much like love, reading The Forty Rules of Love was a spiritual experience. One that can only be felt and one that must be felt.
 
 
P:S: The Forty Rules of Love wasn’t an easy book to read. I lost patience many times during the first 60 pages and also set it aside. But friends who have enjoyed reading it asked me to be patient and read on. And I am glad I did.

Twin Book Reviews – The Last Queen of India AND Nefertiti

Book Reviews:

The Last Queen of India AND Nefertiti
Historical fiction is not a genre that would interest me. Or so I thought, till a friend introduced me to Michelle Moran’s books. I was reluctant to start reading the first book but when I did start I couldn’t put it down!
The reason I am reviewing 2 books together is because, I read them back to back and all that I may have to say and share about one could be said for the other too. So here goes!
Jhansi ki Rani or Rani Laxmibai and Nefertiti are not names you may have not have heard of. Both were Queens who were known to have been adored by their people.
Strong women who took decisions that changed the course of history, and their lives. But what were they behind closed doors? What made them take the decisions they did? How did their decisions affect their family and loved ones? What were their insecurities and strengths, what kept them up at night and who did they trust, or not?
Rani Laxmibai had 6 personal, female bodyguards protecting her day and night. These guards had to go through various tests before they were chosen, sever all ties with their past, friends and family and promise a lifetime of loyalty to the Queen and crown. The guards were skilled in handling and using weapons, martial arts and some also went on to become confidants of the Queen. Sita was one of the Queens Guards and also her confidant, and is the narrator of The Last Queen of India.
Nefertiti was born to royalty and promised to it too. When the crown prince she was supposed to have been betrothed to dies under mysterious circumstances, Nefrititi sees to it that she is married to his successor, his younger brother. And as his Queen, she comes into her own, to the extent of shocking her countrymen and creating history by crowning herself a Pharaoh, a title akin to that of a King and only the privilege of men. Mutnodjmet, Nefertiti’s younger sister, who was always regaled to the shadows of her elder sister’s powerful aura narrates the tale of Nefertiti.
Michelle Moran loves history. And her writing assures that you will love it too.
Detailed research and painstaking attention to details weave stories that pull you in and transport your imagination to the places and people you are reading about. You become part of the cast of characters and feel the emotions they are going through, empathizing, sympathizing and even cheering them on!
Moran also seems to be pro-women, as the male protagonists in both the books I’ve read seem to come across as flawed.

But Historical Fiction is a genre you can take liberties with, and Moran seems to have taken the right ones, which enhance the story and leave a long lasting impact much after you’ve turned the last page.

This is my 2nd post for Week 1 for the Blogging Challenge #MyFriendAlexa by Blogchatter

I am taking my Alexa Rank to the next level with Blogchatter .
Current Rank (as on 1st September 2016) 

2,828,055 –  Alexa Traffic Rank

132,802 – Traffic Rank in India

Book Review : Before We Visit The Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

I have been a huge fan of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni ever since I read her first book of short stories, Arranged Marriage. Sister of My Heart and The Palace of Illusions have been amongst my constant favourites among all of her books I’ve read so far.

When ‘Before we visit the Goddess’ was released I looked forward to reading it, the title intriguing me especially.

The book spans three generations of women from the same family, connected by blood but disconnected by distance and misunderstandings.
Sabitri, a strong woman who fights all odds and emerges a winner, or does she?
Sabitri’s daughter, Bela, a problem child who resents her mother and blames her for all the wrongs in her life. Is Bela justified in doing so, or not?
Sabitri’s grand daughter and Bela’s daughter, Tara, Daddy’s Girl who knows nothing about her grandmother and does not want to know her mother. Will Tara regret this distancing?
The men is their lives who keep them apart, knowingly and unknowingly.
From a small village in West Bengal all the way to distant America lives are shattered and the jagged pieces cause wounds that leave scars.

The story and writing seem haphazardly put together, like a patchwork quilt. Sadly the pieces are mismatched and don’t form a pretty picture. The story left me confused, dissatisfied and wondering if CBD had actually written it, or had it ghost written. I could not connect the title to the story either. This book lacks CBD’s trademark eloquent prose that connects you to her writing.

Here’s hoping that CBD was having a one off, after a constant string of best sellers, and is going to be back again with a bang. Soon.