Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A Refreshingly Promising Debut

Book Review: 
Visions of a Summer Past

Author: Avishek Gupta

Rating: 4.5/5

Amazon Link: https://amzn.to/359WoRM

When I picked up Avishek Gupta’s debut novel ‘Visions of a Summer Past’, I was intrigued by the title of the book. Half way down this absorbing novel, I had no doubt that Gupta had chosen a befitting title. It is not easy to write a non-linear story with long time leaps, to periodically switch between the past and the present, and to keep the reader engrossed all along the journey. However, full marks to the author for beautifully portraying glimpses of pre-independent India as well as 21st century United States with equal élan. 

The fabulous mix of fact and fantasy add an old-world charm to this novel. This is a unique story of magic realism and I don’t want to divulge details, lest you lose the charm. But hat’s off to the author for skilfully switching between timelines like a pro. His attention to detail while elucidating the life in Dhaka is brilliant. Each time the backdrop changes, the author meticulously recreates the setting and the transition appears seamless to the reader. 

A fresh plot, neatly drafted characters, and a story that wraps mystical elements intelligently make this an engaging read. You cannot read this book in a hurry. You need to take time to understand and empathise with Prafulla, Asmani, Rohit, and Celeste as they experience a series of life-changing events. The sea of emotions that each character feels is portrayed subtly. 

The author’s writing style is poetic and graceful. Understanding the mindset of characters who lived in the 1940s and then interpreting the circumstances in a way that the reader can relate to them is no mean feat! But the author achieves that effortlessly with his vivid imagination and thorough research. Portraying so many different emotions across multiple time leaps through so many characters is incredible. 

Though the book does well in its 200 pages, I wish it was a bit longer. I would definitely like to read a sequel to this book. 

To sum up, ‘Visions of a Summer Past’ is a heartening tale of love, spiritual bonding, and deep faith. I would recommend this book to all bibliophiles.


Monday, December 30, 2019

A Dangerously Enthralling Read

Book Review: The Sinners

Author: Sourabh Mukherjee

Publisher: Srishti Publishers & Distributors

Rating: 5/5

With his new, action-packed crime thriller ‘The Sinners’, author Sourabh Mukherjee hits the bullseye once again. As the title suggests, this riveting murder mystery is all about temptations, scandals, aspirations, rivalries, mind games, lust, and sins galore. 

Set in Mumbai, this is a dark and dangerous tale revolving around the murder of Vikram Oberoi, a middle-aged, charming playboy who heads an IT firm. In an appalling turn of events, the rich and popular Vikram gets trapped in an embarrassing scandal that threatens to destroy his reputation and render him bankrupt. The story opens with Vikram’s death and in the subsequent chapters, the reader learns about his secret liaisons, lustful adventures, and affairs on the fly. The narrative is extremely interesting and I cannot reveal more because this is a whodunit.

Being a master storyteller, the author effortlessly builds a brilliant plot and firms it up with an intriguing mix of twists and high-voltage drama. The intricate complexities of the corporate world and the unspoken rivalries that sometimes have the power to make or mar careers are perfectly portrayed through the key characters and the situations they deal with. 

The author’s writing style is simple and lucid. The chapters are short and will keep you hooked till you reach the end. The characters - Vikram, Aarti, Sonal, Ashwin, and others seem real, well-rounded, and grey. The writing is visual and I hope the author writes a screenplay of this novel.

What I missed in this book was the detailed investigation which had been the highlight of Mukherjee’s earlier novels. So, even though this is a fabulous book, Mukherjee’s debut novel ‘In the Shadows of Death’ remains my favourite by the author. 

To sum up, ‘The Sinners’ is a fast-paced, unputdownable thriller to curl up with on a lazy, wintry evening. Highly recommended.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

A Soul-searching Saga to Calm Your Mind

Book Review: Karmic City- The City of Lord Brahma

Author: Hema Myer Sood

Rating: 4.5/5

Hema Sood’s thought-provoking book ‘Karmic City: The City of Lord Brahma’ is deep, soothing, and insightful. It is the author’s first book in the ‘Karmic City’ trilogy. As I started reading this inspiring tale, I was enamoured by the vastness of the subject the author has chosen and the beauty with which she has expressed her points of view on a variety of ideas. The book encourages readers to dream and exercise the inherent power of their imagination. It elucidates how tapping the energies within us and channelizing them in the right direction can lead us to unravel the mysteries that have intrigued people since ages. 

This unconventional story revolves around an entity, aptly called ‘Soul’. The Soul guides the key characters in the book – Aditi, Vaidehi, Virat, and Kartik – towards their path of destiny and encourages them to deep-dive into soul-searching. The story progresses through the spiritual experiences and realisations of the characters and their conversations with Soul. Though the Soul talks about Lord Brahma and gives references from holy Hindu scriptures, this is not a book about religion. It seeks to establish the undeniable bond that exists between an individual and their soul. Each soul has its own journey and with concentration and meditation, one can attain wisdom. The positivity in the book is sure to rub on you.

The references to the Cosmos, the seven auric layers, and the five elements was invigorating. I learned something new and am intrigued to read the other two books in the trilogy now. Though I may not completely agree with all the concepts discussed in the book, I applaud the author on her extensive research, spiritual knowledge, and impactful insights. It is never easy to write a book like this one!

The author’s writing style is captivating and her language is flawless. The writing is powerfully soothing and, in many places, it reminded me of my favourite author Paulo Coelho. I was in awe of the beautiful poetry in the book, all penned by the author herself. 

This book is a guide to positivity and can help you focus on your chosen goal in life. Apart from those interested in spiritual readings and motivational books, I would highly recommend this book to students of philosophy and psychology.

Delighted to receive an autographed copy of
the book from the author :)

Sunday, December 15, 2019

A brilliantly plotted emotional roller-coaster

Book Review: Once Upon a Reunion

Author: Nithya Sashi

Rating: 4.5/5

Amazon link: https://amzn.to/2rNK5wK

It is difficult to restrict Nithya Sashi’s brilliant novel ‘Once Upon a Reunion’ to one genre. This is a fast-paced story that starts with a hint of romance and nostalgia and develops into an intense story of love and longing. And then, suddenly, a brisk dramatic twist wrapped in a persuasively written sub-plot turns the book into a sinister murder-mystery. The author’s intelligent play of language and plot is what I loved the most about this story.

When Nirmala, an IT professional, readies herself for a reunion with her high-school friends, she is excited as well as worried. The enthusiasm of catching-up with old friends and the inexplicable anxiety of meeting an ex-beau (she secretly pines for) take her on an emotional roller-coaster, which the author portrays beautifully. While friends Aarti and Indraneel insist that she join the gathering, Nirmala is excited and undecided. 

Nirmala’s character is built around the woes of a married woman burdened with the mundane pressures that dictate her guilt-filled life. The author handles the fluctuating degrees of complication in the life of her characters with the deftness of a seasoned writer.
Nirmala joins the reunion party but is horrified when Suresh, her ex-lover is found dead. I was pleasantly surprised and totally taken aback with the mystery element in the novel. The author plaits in the suspense neatly, making the narrative gripping.  The only bit that I wanted a wee bit more of in the book was the crime story. However, it ended a tad abruptly. Perhaps that’s how the author intended it to be. However, this sub-plot has the potential to be built into a full-fledged novel in itself. 

The characterisation is another key highlight of the book. Nirmala’s relationship with her husband Sreenivas, who is once loving and then erratic, is depicted well. The friendship, bitterness, follies, and dilemmas make the characters very realistic and grey. Nirmala’s feelings for Suresh seem overwhelming at times but establish the extreme emotions she feels for the men in her life. Through choicest use of metaphors, the author shows how Nirmala is mentally trapped between her past and present and headed towards an uncertain future.
I would love to read a full-blown crime-thriller novel from the author, primarily because of her sheer brilliance in building such an intricate plot. I was hooked to the book and finished it in one sitting. 

Highly recommended for all romance and thriller lovers.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A heart-warming story of love, loss, and hope

Book Review: Love @ Air Force

Author: Gaurav Sharma

Rating: 4.5/5

Amazon link: https://amzn.to/2qDDoN4  

When I received this book from the author, I was instantly impressed by the thoughtfully designed book cover. Later, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that the cover design is the brainchild of Arnav Sharma, the author’s young, talented son. The simplicity of this powerful visualization is commendable.

Coming to the narrative, ‘Love @ Air Force’ is a beautifully woven story about two childhood friends who unexpectedly bump into each other after decades! While both of them are employed with the Indian Air Force, Sushil Awasthi is a non-commissioned sergeant, while his best friend Shabd Mishra is a decorated Wing Commander. Can they still be friends or will the disparity in ranks play spoilsport? Well, I leave that to you, to find out.
Without revealing more about the story, I must say that this tale will tug at your heartstrings and bring back fond memories of your first love. Full marks to the author on the relatable yet unique characterisation.

While Sushil and Shabd lead the story, the high point in the drama is when the 
sensible and empathetic Soumya is introduced. She enters like a breath of fresh air and shows how brilliantly delicate matters of the heart can be handled.
The author sent me this lovely autographed 
copy :)

Sushil comes across as a somewhat chauvinistic man stuck in an apparently unhappy marriage, who sometimes makes clichéd remarks about people of other communities. But what struck me was Sushil’s ability to find humour in the most mundane tasks, his fierce loyalty towards his friend, and his patriotism, regardless of the stiff personal challenges he faced since childhood.

Shabd on the other hand is the perfect gentleman with his uniformed heart throbbing faster than a teenager’s, at the mention of his childhood love. The depth of his emotions makes him stand out, apart from his magnanimous personality.

I liked Sharmistha’s character too, but she enters the story rather late. I would have enjoyed the book more if she had a meaty part, like the other characters. But the little that we know of her leaves an indelible impression in the minds of the reader. 
Though each character is different, the profundity of their friendship binds them together, beautifully. The author’s writing style is simple, lucid, and engaging. 

To sum up, whether you are aware of life at the Indian Air Force or not, this book is for you. Kudos to the author on his research and detailing of incidents of hierarchy at the Air Force. They blend with the narrative so well that by the time the story ends, you realize that while you were reading a story of love and friendship, the author gave you a whole new perspective about a life that is very different from that of a civilian’s. 

Highly recommended for everyone who has experienced unrequited love. 

Friday, May 24, 2019

A fascinating love story with a tinge of mystery

Book Review: Safe Haven

Author: Nicholas Sparks

Rating: 5/5

I recently completed reading Safe Haven. Just like all books written by Nicholas Sparks, this one too enchants the reader with its simplicity and emphasis on our purpose in life.

If Notebook redefined passion and friendship and A Walk to Remember strengthened your belief in true love, Safe Haven will show you how despite innumerable obstacles, divine intervention helps unite lovers. 

Katie is the unassuming beautiful protagonist who leaves the city where she has lived all her life, in search of peace. To add a new dimension to her life and ward off her abusive past, Katie comes to a faraway city and takes up a humble job to distract herself and keep the cash flowing. 

Having given up on happiness and love, Katie doesn’t talk much to anyone. However, she is quite amused to have a female neighbour who is inquisitive about all the happenings in her life.

Soon, Katie finds love in Alex, a widower. Their fairy-tale romance is interrupted when Katie’s abusive ex-husband reaches the new city, looking for her. What follows is a heart-warming story of love, betrayal, and hope - with several goosebumps’ moments.  

Love as a topic for a novel has been tossed over and been used by almost every second author who ventured into fiction writing. Whether it is mystery, comedy, humour, or something else, the stories usually have hues of love embedded in them. So, why is it that some love stories touch your heart and others don't? May be because of the way the author’s style captivates your mind or the characterization. I have often seen it is the simplicity and honesty with which a character is depicted that makes a story memorable. 

Probably that is the reason Sparks’ Safe Haven strikes a chord. We spend a lot of time on social networking sites these days and often meet ‘the special one’ meant for us online. However, at the risk of sounding ancient, I must admit that I still believe that a face-to-face interaction and ‘hand-written’ communication is way more romantic than any virtual interaction can ever be.  

Safe Haven is not a sloppy, mushy love story. It talks about the value of life, the price we pay for being emotional, and establishes the fact that Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. Full of interesting plot twists and surprises, this book is a page-turner. Highly recommended.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Feeling of Guilt

How often does the feeling of guilt bug you? Do you lament over the thought that you are not being able to live up to your family's expectations? Guilt enters our lives in more ways than we can imagine.
You can feel guilty if you had that extra piece of chocolate which you forbade your kid to have. You can feel guilty giving a flimsy excuse to your family and sneaking out to enjoy your 'me time'. You can feel guilty for not earning enough. You can feel guilty lying to someone just because you want to avoid them. The list is endless.
More than anything, we feel guilty when we want to do something solely for ourselves. We think a hundred times before planning a quiet weekend, sceptical that it might offend the family. I know several people who have sacrificed their dreams only because they felt guilty about putting their own interest above the others. They have let years pass by. Now in their twilight years, they regret not having done what they always wanted to do.
That is exactly what guilt does to us. It eats into our present and disturbs our future. It makes us unhappy and forces us to unwillingly make sacrifices to please others. What we don't realize is that sometimes those repeated selfless acts turn into expectations.
For example, if you are spoon-feeding someone every day, you will be loved and appreciated initially. Soon, it becomes a routine. The day you stop, you will not just annoy the other person, they will blame you for being selfish. Because, it has become a habit for them to expect the spoon-feeding from you. Similarly, if you are offering money to an able family member in need continuously, the person is slowly turning into a parasite. S/he will always be in need of money and will have a tendency to take advantage of your goodness. Just refuse them the money once and you will see their true colours. Of course, only if you are able to get rid of your feeling of guilt first.
Perhaps there is no perfect way or approach to kill that guilt-feeling.
But you can always make a beginning by setting daily goals. For example, "I will complete these 3 things today, regardless of everything and NOT feel guilty." How often do we feel guilty for depriving ourselves of the little flickers of happiness we deserve to enjoy? Rarely. Those unfulfilled desires translate into regrets later in life.
Even on this day, there are thousands of school-girls especially in villages who feel guilty for going to school and not being able to help their mother with household chores. There are 21st century superwomen who feel guilty for going to office and leaving their child with a family member or a babysitter. There are people, both men and women who stay unmarried lifelong to provide for their families. They feel guilty that marriage might change them, because they are the sole breadwinners.
It is great to help others and always be there for them. But not at the cost of denying yourself what is rightfully yours. Go dance in the rain, enjoy that cool breeze, go on that solo trip, set your eyes on the unthinkable dream and achieve it. Because no one but you and you alone can stand up for yourself and live your dream. Shed your inhibitions, kick the guilt, and enjoy life till you have it.

Photo from Pexels