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.

10 Day ‘You’ Challenge : 4 Books

 I am truly grateful that I love to Read. With a book in hand you’re never alone. I believe that certain books come to you, almost always at the right time, just when you need them. My list of favorite books is long. Like, really long. But I could safely say that these 4 books shall continue to top the chart in my list every time .

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini  is the undisputed 1st place winner in my list of favorites. I have lost count of how many times I have read it, but it manages to make me cry each time I re-read it. 

The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak was a tough book to read, and I put it away midway many times, but was drawn to it every time and as I continued reading it cast its magical spell on me and I was smitten.

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Divakaruni Banerjee – who is one of my all-time favorite authors. A fictional tale narrated through the eyes of Draupadi. A special mention to the gorgeous cover!

Dying to be Me by Anita Moorjani This is not the kind of genre I read or thought I would. But something compelled me to buy this book and boy, was I glad I did! A positive, enlightening read that answered many questions I was seeking the answers for.

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

The Bride Who Would Not Burn – Rajesh Talwar

51vapslo0cl

Ravinder is an eligible boy who manages a shop along with his father in Ghaziabad. He and his family are extremely impressed by the wealth and lavish lifestyle of Poonam, a girl he is shown for an arranged marriage. They have secret expectations of a fat dowry from her widowed mother, Mrs Bajaj, and hope to use the dowry to set up another shop in a posh, commercial area of Ghaziabad.

But Mrs Bajaj has deliberately hidden her true financial status from them.

Post marriage, when expectations are not met and the truth about Poonam’s financial status tumbles out Ravinder’s mother hatches a plan to set her daughter-in-law on fire and pass it off as an accident, and after a decent mourning period marry Ravinder off to another richer girl.

In an entire list of books up for reviews this book caught my eye and the title and cover both made me want to read it. As soon as I received the Kindle version of the book I began reading it and finished it in one go.

The Bride Who Would Not Burn is written in a play/drama format, which I found a tad annoying in the first few pages but the story and writing had me so engrossed that I started enjoying this unique form of writing a book.

My guess is that the book is set in the 90’s, and Talwar’s writing transports you there. With his smart writing and humor he has cleverly shines the light on the typical Indian Hypocrisy, especially when it comes to judging women and when it comes to dowry. Each well etched character stands out and stays in your mind, and I would go so far as to say that you are likely to find shades of people you know in the characters.

Most writers know how difficult it is to write simply and Rajesh Talwar is a writer who has aced that with this book. Take a bow, Mr Talwar!

I won a review copy from The Tales Pensieve as part of the Reviewers Programme. Register on #TTP for lots of book fun and activities.

 

screenshot_2016-11-02-09-26-17

Book Review: Cabbing All The Way by Jatin Kuberkar

hym27jatin-book_jp_2752640g

 

img_20161114_140203

 

12 People. 1 problem. 1 solution.

A dozen office goers decide to cut out the misery of the daily to and fro commute from their homes to their far away from civilization office by deciding to carpool. It seems like the perfect idea until they realize that 12 different people equate to 12 different temperaments.

Fasten your seat belts as Jatin Kuberkar makes you the 13th passenger and takes you, the reader, along with the Hyderabadi Dozen.

You are introduced to the varied characters, their quirks and temperaments and you can’t help but start forming likes and dislikes and pick out favorites. Just when the book starts getting predictable, Kuberkar gently steers it in another direction.

This is Hyderabad based Jatin Kuberkar’s 3rd book. A Software Engineer by day and a Writer by night, Jatin enjoys writing and is a keen observer of human behavior, both of which are amply evident from how he uses autobiographical incidents to flesh out fictional characters.

Cabbing All The Way is a feel-good book, which you would like to read on the way back home from a tired day at work or on a flight between destinations. Jatin Kuberkar’s writing style is easy and flows naturally, and he is not out to impress you, he just wants to share a slice of life with you.
Hitch a ride, folks!

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

 

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.

Book Review: The Namesake


I ruminated for almost 2 years, over reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s debut novel ‘The Namesake’ after her Pulitzer Prize winning book of short stories ‘The Interpreter of Maladies’ disappointed me big-time.

The Namesake, now having being filmed and releasing soon, got me curious and I finally sat down to read the book I now wish I had picked up 2 years ago.

The book begins with Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli, Bengali immigrants in a new country strangely awkward around each other after an arranged marriage, welcoming their son into this world. Ashima’s great-grandmother, who has named most of her great-grandchildren, encloses a name for Ashima’s first born in a letter that never does make the long journey from Calcutta to the U.S.A.

Hospital formalities require a name on the birth-certificate without which the baby cannot be discharged. And so, in the absence of grandmother’s letter containing the baby’s name, Ashoke christens his first-born Gogol. Named after Russian author Nikolai Gogol whose writing Ashoke has admired greatly from childhood and who had impacted him in a life-altering experience.

In an almost ritualistic Bengali dual-name tradition of a home-name (pet name) and a ‘good-name’, Gogol, a home-name, soon sticks till it almost becomes his ‘good-name’. Admitting him to school, Ashoke and Ashima realize that they do need a ‘good-name’ after all and rechristen their son Nikhil, something he refuses to accept quite content being Gogol.

So, Gogol happily remains Gogol till he steps into his teens and is suddenly embarrassed by his name. More so when he understands that it wasn’t even a name, but a surname that he was named after to begin with.

His exasperation at his name just scratches the surface of his exasperation and resentment at his Bengali/Indian culture. At his protective parents who resolutely refuse to move with the times, his lifestyle and the sheer Indian-ness of everything that he tries to shrug off at every given opportunity, by defying his parents will and drifting away from them mentally and physically.

Gogol officially changes his name to Nikhil. Nikhil goes through life, graduating, working, falling in love and falling out of it, fighting everything Indian and embracing everything American, till he recognizes he cannot change his past, his roots. And life comes a full circle and along with Ashima and Gogol you too are left introspecting if getting all that you wished for is worth it in the end.

Lahiri’s excellent command over language, well etched characters, graceful and confident writing style and detailed, researched knowledge draw you in and keep you hooked as she seamlessly glides through decades starting from 1968 till 2000 and from Calcutta to Boston.

You grow, age and tire with Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli as they progress from awkward newly weds in a foreign land, as foreign to each other as the country is to them, to concerned parents (Gogol is later joined by his sister, Sonia) fiercely sticking to their roots and forcing their unwilling children to do the same. You meet and mingle with all the people who pass through Gogol’s life and impact it in various ways.

Emotions wash over and sometimes overwhelm you as you share Ashima’s empty isolation, Gogol’s constant internal conflicts and resentments or Ashoke’s quiet acceptance.

You smile through celebrating Bengali rituals and traditions with ‘mashi’s’ (aunts) and ‘mesho’s’ (uncles) and feel uneasy at the twists and turns that come up expectedly in the lives of the Ganguli’s.

From the first line through all 290 pages of the book, each of the finely etched characters draw you in till you feel one with them and when the book ends you are left strangely bereft, like standing all alone in an empty house after all the people you spent time with have left.

‘The Namesake’ is a richly soul-satisfying, introspective, multi-layered and intellectual read that lingers in your thoughts long after you’ve turned the last page. Take a bow, Ms Lahiri, for you have proved that when beauty and brains go together, it makes for a stunning combination.

Book Review : The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner-Khaled Hosseini

In his debut novel, Khaled Hosseini takes us to Afghanistan. An Afghanistan untouched by the Taliban, where we weave through crowded streets, climb poplar trees, nibble on dried mulberries and walnuts and spend lazy holidays readings books with 12 year old Amir and his servant boy and best friend, Hassan.

To gain the approval of his silently critical father, motherless- Amir is desperate to win a prestigious, local kite-flying tournament. Hassan loyally promises to help his friend, little knowing how this one day would change the course of their entire lives.

‘The Kite Runner’ is about friendship and brotherhood and fathers and sons. Of relationships that strain against the boundaries of trust. Of circumstances and personal devil’s. Of unconditional love and unsullied trust. Of redemption and guilt and the power of freedom and forgiveness. Of the mistakes we make and the mistakes that make us.

A credible story that comes full circle across continents, from an unblemished Afghanistan to modern America and back to a war-torn, Taliban ruled Afghanistan. A story that reminds you how one moment can change your entire life. The simplest writing that you can come across, which reminds you how difficult it is to write in simple words.

There are books that punch you violently and you are left reeling from the blow for a long, long time (The Fight Club-Chuck Palahniuk)
Books which impress you with exquisite language and minute detailing (Shantaram-Gregory David Roberts)
Classics that can be quoted by generation after generation (Gone with the wind-Margaret Mitchell)
A ‘bible’ like ‘The Godfather’ which is treasured like a family heirloom.

And sometimes there comes a book that quietly seeps into your entire being and stays there forever. A book that is so simply written, that it can only be felt. That book is, ‘The Kite Runner.