Sunday, February 18, 2018

Book Review: The Paradise Flycatcher by Deepak Dalal

Author: Deepak Dalal
Illustrator: Krishna Bala Shenoy
No. of Pages: 128
Age group: 8 to 13 Years
Publisher: Penguin India

The Paradise Flycatcher by Deepak Dalal is, of course, a children's book. I am someone who used to read comics and children's book even in her college days. My best friend (and many others) used to laugh at me whenever she heard me talking about comic characters with little children.

It's been a very long time since I read a children's book! My first review copy in this genre is here.

It's a colourful book with lots of beautiful pictures --- apt for children. 

It's a suspense/mystery; an adventurous story about finding a squirrel (of rare species), Shikhar, and rescuing him from a terrible human trap. Of course, the Paradise Flycatcher, the exotic, breathtakingly beautiful Bird, plays a key role.

There's a very kind girl, Mitalee who truly loves Shikhar (she calls him Snowdrop), and wants him back anyhow! There's a boy called Maitreya, a foe turned friend, who helps her in this journey. And, there are lots of lovely birds who act as scouts to solve the mystery!

The writing is neat and easy to understand. At the same time, children can learn new, interesting words. Also, the story is educational in many ways as it teaches a lot of things without being preachy. 

What does The Paradise Flycatcher teach?

To be strong when difficulties hit you. Whimpering never helps. You must keep trying.

'This isn't the time for weakness. Your best friend, Shikhar, would never behave like this! If it were the other way round and you were missing, he would be scurrying everywhere and searching for you instead of crying. So, stop this moaning and help us.'

To be kind. And to accept your mistakes.

Maitreya: I made mistakes.
Mitalee: Choosing wrong friends for starters.
Maitreya: That I did.
Mitalee: And, injuring a squirrel.
Maitreya: Don't remind me. That was the most shameful deed of my life. Still haunts me.
Mitalee: It should. It was a terrible thing you did.

Greed Never Pays.

Also, there are some subtle lessons on names of rivers and different species of exotic birds!

Certainly an engaging and thrilling read for your children. Not just children, even parents can enjoy reading this. So, it's perfect for buddy-reading with your kid.

I felt that the end could have been a little softer for Chintu, the not-so-nice boy in the story. A sense of realization is very important. And, it could have been another lesson for kids and parents as well.

A delightful book!

I received the book from the publisher for an unbiased review.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Book Review: The Woman Who Saw The Future by Amit Sharma

Dreams fascinate me. And, I mostly remember my dreams. I think this is the main reason I felt connected to this theme and found it intriguing.

The Woman Who Saw The Future by Amit Sharma (Readomania) is an uncanny story of a woman called Sapna. Sapna is a normal college going girl who suddenly develops a super-power --- power of seeing future/deaths in her dreams that is making her insane. Then, a television show, Lucky People, comes her way that transforms her life. She finds solace by saving people who are supposed to die by revealing her dreams on the show. She becomes a worldwide sensation, the most powerful woman of this world. People start thinking that she is the messenger of God and start worshiping her.

But, things don't remain perfect for long time. One misuse of her powers, and things upend. A certain part of her personality turns murky. What happens when the world knows about her ugly truth? What about her personal life? You will have to read this book to know the answers (so many other answers), and I can assure you won't be disappointed.

The Woman Who Saw The Future is Amit Sharma's second book, and his writing is neat. The book is cleverly-crafted, I'd say. There are so many well-placed questions, they float in your mind and you want to know the answers.

The story has been told from every significant points of view, and here the story drags a little, sometimes. I didn't want to know about Om-Anupama's love story. We knew that they were engaged and that was enough. Also, there are some pages where Sapna talks about trivial things, maybe not trivial from her perspective, but as a reader, those things didn't matter. Stretched narration, for this kind of (intriguing) plot, made me impatient. 

And, I really wished that Kalpana hadn't said 'You know' all the time. I understand that some people have this terrible habit of saying this frequently, so it would have been okay if the author has used it in the dialogues. But use of 'you know' frequently in the narration really annoyed me!

The characters are nicely sketched. I liked the character of Kalpana and Saahil. There's a certain kind of charm and innocence in Sapna-Saahil relationship. But,the turning point of their relationship seemed a little implausible to me.

I loved the concluding scene.

But, ignoring all these minor glitches, I would say that you must pick this book if you're looking for a different, well-written story. I'd like to congratulate the author for conceptualizing this 'imaginative' theme and managing to make it really intriguing and engrossing.

I received this book from The Book Club for an unbiased review.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Book Review: Fear is the Key by Juggi Bhasin

I'm not a fan of crime thrillers but I enjoy it when it has psychological elements in it. Basically, I have (recently) developed a keen interest in Psychological Thrillers.

Fear is the Key by Juggi Bhasin (Penguin Random House India) is a psychological (crime) mystery. It's about Rahul Abhyankar, a fairly successful businessman, his greatest supporter Suhel and his fiance, Simone.

One controversy and everything jumbles in Rahul's company --- Yummimages. Rahul throws a party in his house to calm things down. Also, Suhel and Simone --- two most important people in Rahul's life --- are at loggerheads over the unexpected controversy. Rahul badly wants to get things right for he can't choose between his childhood best friend and his love of life.

The party is in full swing, things seem under control, and suddenly Simone is nowhere to be seen. Rahul gets a bad feeling about Simone's disappearance. When all the investigations seem to fail, Rahul takes the command; tries to find the suspects and connect the dots.

What happens next? Where is Simone? Is she alive? Who is the culprit? You will have to read this book to know the answers.

'A bitter winter wind blowing outside spoke to me. There was no one else. And then it struck me. She might have truly disappeared! Sometimes, you get a sense of these things . . .'

The story starts well. Some odd incidents that Simone experiences before her disappearance create intrigue (but they remain unexplained). That eerie feeling that Rahul gets as some weird voices, visions and familiar smells disturb him right after Simone's disappearance has been described well.

But then, the story sags in the middle. The annoying investigator seems to be doing nothing. There are so many characters, so many points of view that I got confused. It gets complicated, and I was not able to connect the dots. However, I can't say they were unnecessary characters as I believe crime thrillers require a number of characters. 

Thankfully, the story picks up and gets really gripping towards the end. The end --- the disclosure is something that you can't predict easily. And, as a reader, it was a good thing for me. 

The writing is neat and main characters are well-crafted, however, there are no strong female characters except Simone, but she has apparently nothing to do in the story. I liked the character of Tanya, the psychologist and her interaction with Rahul. 

One thing that I really disliked was several erotic elements. A particular reaction in an official meeting seemed totally unrealistic and odd. Plus, I did not like the character of Fredo and Janki. I thought these elements were completely unnecessary.

Overall, it was an interesting read. If you enjoy reading crime fiction, if you like psychological elements in a story, you can pick this book.

I received this book from Writer's Melon for an unbiased review.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Book Review: The Indigo Sun by Rupa Bhullar

'Home—neither a place you live in, nor a place you arrive at. It’s where you belong, and ultimately return—a return to the beginning, a return within.'  

(From Goodreads book description)

The Indigo Sun by Rupa Bhullar (Rupa Publications) has many positives --- it has got fabulous reviews. The cover is gorgeous! It has a catchy title, and above all, good writing.

The Indigo Sun tells the story of Maya, an NRI, who visits her home-town after a long time. Set in Rajasthan, it tells about Maya's loss, self-discovery as she meets different people in this new journey of her life. There's a little boy, Ananda, a mystic gypsy woman, Leela, and a reputed entrepreneur, Veer. They all together embark on an inspiring journey, helping each other to evolve.

The book is rich, in terms of descriptions --- descriptions of beautiful surroundings, the heritage, the culture, the gist of life. They create nice imagery. Also, the messages/lessons (about life) that Maya receives are insightful.

Sharing some quotes ---

'You plan too much and live too little.'

'The greatest comfort is found in hearts filled with love, not rooms filled with luxuries.'

'The deepest realizations and true awakenings emerge from our darkest moments and greatest challenges.'

But, there's a thing. Despite all these positives, the book didn't really work for me. I'd tell you why.

Mainly for two reasons ---

1. The book is very slow. No, don't get me wrong. I like descriptions, they are important but they must take the story forward. And here, at times, I felt that story was not going anywhere.

2. And then, dialogues. They are preachy, sometimes, 1.5 page long without any breather. Ananda's dialogues are too mature for a little boy. It was tiring and it disturbed the flow of reading.

Because of these two reasons, this book turned out to be an okay read for me, like an insightful account of self-realization and transformation.

But, we have different reading preferences, right? If you like descriptive writing, if you like reading inspirational stories with thoughtful quotes, pick this book. You will like it.

I received this book from the publisher for an unbiased review.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Newbie Writers! 5 Things You Must Do.

'I am a writer. An author.'

Yes, I am. But, it took me long to tell that (unapologetically) to people when they asked, 'What do you do? or Do you work?' People don't really consider writing as a proper job especially when you work from home, but now I don't really care. In fact, I feel good when I say, 'I'm a writer.' These days, some people look impressed and ask what do I write.

So, first of all, let me tell you what do I write. I am a freelance writer and author of We Will Meet Again, a mature love story. I write for magazines and my writings have appeared in magazines like Woman's Era, New Woman, Good Housekeeping India, Child India and Alive.

Being a writer is exciting because you constantly play with beautiful thoughts and vivid imagination. But, it's tough at the same time because it's a constant learning process (but, learning is beautiful, isn't it?) and you will have to work hard, face rejections and criticism.

So, if you are still reading this post, I assume you're a new writer. You love to write. Want to get published. So, here, I am offering you a few writing suggestions. Something that I have learned in these years. However, I strongly believe that there's only One rule for anything you want to do --- Rule that works for you! 

So here it goes ---

Write. Your prime job is to write. Writer's block is a myth. Try to write daily even if it's just 300 words. However, it's perfectly normal if you don't feel like writing at times. You can do these writing related things instead. 

Read. Read extensively. Not just for entertainment but to study. For a writer, reading good books is vital. It can be a learning experience. However, don't regret reading not-so-good books for they teach you 'what not to do.'

Do Not Rush To Get Published. I understand that getting published is every writer's dream. But being published means bringing yourself to the public domain. So, before you do that, polish your writing. Learn. Practice. Recently, someone asked me on Twitter that 'Will it be right to just write with writing/editing errors. Do publications/editors go through rectifications to make it interesting?'

Yes, they do! But, it's certainly not a good idea to send a piece full of errors. Editors don't like it. So work on your writing and writing style first.

Also, never hit send before revising 2-3 times. Revising and careful editing are the essence of writing. I re-wrote my manuscript (made major changes and re-worked on my writing style) after I realized it was not good enough to be published.

Do not try to make your writing impressive by using complicated and flowery language. Writing lyrical prose doesn't mean you should ruin the readability and relatability of your writing. Simple (and error-free) is beautiful!

Do Not Give Up! This would be the most significant part of your writing journey. Don't let discouraging people diminish your enthusiasm. Don't get disheartened by the rejections (Sometimes, series of rejections). Believe in yourself. 'You' know your craft better. Don't hesitate to experiment. People may laugh at you in the beginning but if you work hard, polish your writing, you will have the last laugh.

That's all from my side. Now, it's your turn. Share what you have learned/what worked for you.

Writing this post for Blog Chatter Weekly Blogging Exercise

Prompt for this week – Advice you’d give a newbie blogger / writer / entrepreneur

Friday, January 19, 2018

Best Books I Read In 2017

Okay, this is my first post of 2018, and it's about books. When I don't know what to write, I write about books. I have been very slow when it comes to blogging, not that I have been a fast reader lately (I've decided to be a better reader this year), but I have read some good books last year. So here I'm sharing my best reads of 2017.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie 

This was my first read by Adichie, and I instantly fell in love with her writing. It was one of the rare occasions when I liked the slow narration (in the first half) because the emotions of Kambili is so beautifully expressed. The narration is beautiful and authentic. I felt connected with the characters.

For me, Purple Hibiscus is a memorable book. Certainly the best of 2017. I have already bought Adichie's another book, Half Of A Yellow Sun.

Someone To Love by Ruchita Misra

This was my second book by the author. I had read 'The Ineligible Bachelors' and liked it but I was pleased to see the growth in the author's writing in this particular book. It's a beautiful portrayal of true love and childhood friendship. I loved the bond Koyal and Atharv share. If you love reading romance, you must pick this book.

Kissing The Demons by Amrita Kumar

This is an 'On Writing' book, obviously non-fiction. Even though I don't like reading fiction, I love reading anything related to 'writing'. This book is a must have for (new/aspiring) writers. I reviewed this book for Writer's Melon. You can read it here --- 'Kissing The Demons --- 6 Reasons Why It Is A Must Have Book For Writers'.

Jugnu by Ruchi Singh

This book falls under my favourite category --- romance! But, it's not a simple 'boy-meets-girl' kind of romance. They of course meet but the presentation is different. It's a pleasant, meaningful love story. I loved the male protagonist Zayd --- flawed yet intense and sensitive --- and his very special connection with Ashima. I liked the writing style --- smart and entertaining. So engaging that I managed to read it on Kindle (I find reading e-books really difficult). So again, if you like reading romance, pick this book!

Dilli Darbar by Satya Vyas

This, as the name suggests, is a Hindi novel. This book is about a (supremely) careless and a flirt Rahul Mishra and his best friend (the narrator and my favourite character), Mohit. It's about love, friendship and finding your motive. It's funny, witty and entertaining!

Empire & Raavan Leela get the special mention here.

Empire by Devi Yesodharan is a very well researched Historical fiction. It's not my favourite genre but I enjoyed reading this. Mainly because of its strong female protagonist, Yavani, a warrior who qualifies to become the throne guard of the King of Chola dynasty.

Ravana-Leela by Radha Vishwanath is a mythological fiction from Ravana's point of view. I liked this book for its different approach and several lesser known anecdotes.

That's all from my side! Now it's your turn. Come on! Tell me about your favourite reads. Or what are you reading currently (I'm reading 'A Man Called Ove')?

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Best Movies I Watched in 2017

Whenever I watch television, I prefer to watch movies. I seldom get peaceful, uninterrupted time to watch television (I like watching movies alone. What about you?) so, I prefer English (or foreign language) movies channel. Not because I don't like Hindi movies or all Hollywood movies are great, but because English movies are quick and you just don't have to sit for 4 hours (including ads) to watch the complete movie.

Last year, I did this Best Movies I Watched in 2016 post. So, I thought to do it again. So here it goes.

Me Before You – the book was a poignant and disturbing read for me, I loved this book for it had evoked my deepest emotions, then. Me Before You –  the movie stirred the emotions yet again.  

The movie is a very simplified version of the book. Obviously, it's difficult to capture the depth and emotions of 300-400 pages in two hours. But, what makes this movie lovable is its spot on characters. Mostly, the actors playing the book characters terribly disappoint and that's why I avoid watching film adaptations. But both Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke playing Will Traynor and Louisa Clark are just bang on! Especially Sam Claflin. Will Traynor is a character who is very close to my heart and I love Sam Claflin for playing the character so beautifully –  just like I had imagined while reading the book. It breaks my heart when Sam Claflin says, 'So, this is it.' 

It doesn't happen with me often that a fictional character makes so much impact. Is there any fictional character that has affected you so much? Have you ever written or thought of writing fan-fiction?

This book and movie made me write one (I thank Namrata for her encouragement). Please read my fan-fiction, Me Before You - How About A Different Ending?, here on Open Road Review. Kindly leave your feedback. 

The Book Thief – another film adaptation. But, I haven’t read this book, but I really liked this movie and the characters, especially Liesel and Max. And, I think I’d like to read the book just to experience the joy of beautiful writing (as the fabulous reviews say) as I have realized that if you like a film and the actors playing the book characters (so that they don't spoil your imagination), you should read (if they’re not suspense/mystery) the book as books are always better, deeper and richer (see how perspective changes).

The Boy In Striped Pyjamas – a film adaptation yet again and I haven't read the book, and oh, it broke my heart. 

If I don't pay much attention, this film doesn't have my favourite elements. It's a children story, set in World War (historical) and doesn't star any of my favourite actors. I just found it on TV, and once I started, I couldn't stop watching. It tells about the friendship of two children who are not supposed to be friends. Both the child artists are adorable. It's horrifying and heartbreaking.  

Tomorrowland – I have stopped reading science fiction long ago but while watching this film, I realized that it’s still an interesting genre for me. Plus it stars George Clooney. The actress Britt Robertson looks like Alia Bhatt - her expressions, dialogue delivery, behaviour everything. Have you seen her movies? Do you feel so?

A Separation  it’s an Iranian drama film that has won  Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2012. It’s an intriguing film about a couple who separate and things turn weird when the husband hires a female caregiver to look after his father who suffers from  Alzheimer's disease. The film is intriguing, however the end left me a little confused. But, I liked it.

Have you watched any of these? Share your favourites.

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Book Review: Hell! No Saints in Paradise by A.K. Asif

Hell! No Saints in Paradise  (Harper Collins India)  by A. K. Asif is a political satire. It tells the story of Ismael, a Pakistani American student who ventures into a spiritual journey (even though he is a non-believer) that takes him from New York to Pakistan (to his estranged father), and then his life just jumbles. 

The opening line of the book is interesting:

'I met Petra on a Friday night in late October, 2050.'

I picked this book mainly because of really good reviews it has got. The blurb seemed intriguing and I thought it would be a different read, but for me, it turned out to be a difficult read. I'd tell you why –

First of all, the book cover. It’s so irritating. Doesn’t reflect anything about the story. It may sound odd, but book covers matter to me.

The story: It actually started off well. But then, after some pages it felt like ‘what’s going on!? And why?’ It doesn’t feel like it’s 2050 and it doesn’t feel like a satire. I was expecting some bizarre situations (As it’s 2050?) and witty dialogues. That’s missing. However, I liked some conversations between Ismael and Laila. For example –

‘What’s your name?’
‘You know what that means?’
‘Darkness,’ she replied.
‘Night,’ I corrected.
‘Same thing.’
‘No, not at all.’
‘Why not?’
‘Night is not darkness.’ I longed to see her face.
‘Do you want to see my face?’ she asked softly, as if reading my mind.

This was interesting, and it made me know more about Laila and her connection with Ismael, but this character vanishes for a long time.

Also, there are several things and terms that I struggled to understand maybe because of the difference in the culture or something, but that was another difficult aspect of the book.

I didn’t get the purpose – basically, after some time, I didn’t really care about the story.

On a positive note, the writing is neat (Obviously, it’s from Harper Collins), but as a reader, for me, story, its execution and character development are also important, in fact more important.

But, as I said (or you can see on Goodreads), it has got some nice reviews, you can pick this book especially if you like to read satires and dystopian fiction.

I received this book from Writer's Melon for an honest review. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Book Review: The Goat Thief by Perumal Murugan

This is my first book by Perumal Murugan, a little controversial yet highly acclaimed author. The Goat Thief (Juggernaut Books) is a translated work of fiction, a collection of short stories. I'm not a fan of translated works, mainly because the translated language often lose the essence of the storytelling. But, kudos to N. Kalyan Raman – the translator of this collection – for maintaining the original voice.

There are 10 well written, unique and sometimes strange stories in this collection. Strange because in some stories the core and active element of the stories are strange – like toilet or well or tumbler.

While some stories are strange, some stories are realistic like ‘Musical Chairs’ that tells about the feelings and dilemma of a lonely house wife. And, ‘An Unexpected Visitor', my favourite story in this collection. It beautifully tells about the tender, burgeoning bond between a little boy and his great-grandmother who was once a stranger. I adored Paati, the grandma. 

The most interesting thing about these stories is that they cover so many different perspectives. Some stories have even supernatural touch!

I really liked the opening story 'The Well' – mainly because it’s a very well crafted story. ‘The Wailing of a Toilet Bowl’ is a gripping story but honestly, I did not get it. ‘The Night the Owl Stopped Crying’ is one of my favourite that tells about Raju, a night watchman who feels terribly lonely and finally finds a companion in a ghost. ‘Mirror of Innocence’ is a simple yet nice story about a wailing child.

The title story, ‘The Goat Thief’ was a story that did not interest me. Other three stories were okay.

I felt that the writing has this distinctive tone of folktales, which is good because the blurb says, 'Set in the arid Kongu landscape of rural Tamil Nadu, these tales illuminate the extra-ordinary acts that make up everyday lives.' It’s commendable how the author manages to find striking stories in simplest and commonest things.

If you have read and liked this author, you must pick this one. If you haven't read this author, you should read this collection. 

Thank you Juggernaut Books for sending me this book (Paperback) for an unbiased review.