Book review, Readathon, Received for Review

The Speaking Stone by Ratnadip Acharya

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 294 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction, Indian Literature

Publisher: Akshora Publications

Date of Publication: 28th July, 2019

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review


Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres to read. There aren’t many Indian authors who have written in this genre so I was really curious to see how this book would turn out.

The Blurb

Mumbai, December 2016: A young man found an ancient-looking piece of stone with strange images and Sanskrit inscriptions. A quest to know the origin of the stone brought him to the distant part of the country. Chandannagar, December 2016: A young vivacious historian woman read an old book on a century-old secret story about a little known part of the country. Her curiosity got the better of her as the book disappeared mysteriously before she could complete it. She reached a sleepy quaint state of the country to satiate her curiosity. Eventually they both met and their search began from the city museum to a far-flung rock mountain which revealed a century-old story of a seductive danseuse, her enigmatic lover, a string of her admirers, a painter with a photographic memory, a bird that could speak in many voices, a benevolent king and a gruesome conspiracy. And the most important clue to decode the final secret was with the missing part of “The Speaking Stone” But in the process of unearthing old secrets, their life was also in danger.

The Book

The book follows the recent trend of multiple timelines to tell the story. We are transported between the British colonised India of the 1900s and the 21st century India. The book also has multiple points of view, one of our present-day hero, Saikat and one of Indrajit, the villain in the past. We also have supporting characters that have similar-sounding names and similar characteristics both in the past and in the present. I did not think that this was a necessity but was curious to see how the author would tie everything together in the end.

The story begins with Shuvashini, an aspiring Ph.D. scholar getting her research proposal rejected and looking for a more interesting topic. Parallel to this, we have Saikat finding a mysterious stone and being intrigued by the images on it. They conveniently get together in their quest for knowledge and adventure. Unfortunately, Shuvashini now forgets that she is an intelligent, self-sufficient and strong young woman and is content to play second fiddle to the new and ‘amazing’ man in her life. Saikat insists on calling her “stupid girl” which I think the author meant as a term of endearment but did not read that way to me. Shuvashini willingly accompanies Saikat, a man who was practically a stranger until a few days ago, at any time of the day, even without knowing where he was taking her. Shuvashini, who is described as a girl who does not care for people’s opinions on subjects, suddenly needs Saikat to explain simple things to her and is okay with pretending to need a strong man to help her understand obvious clues. Meanwhile, the author is hellbent on telling readers that Saikat is essentially unemployed with the sole goal in life of ‘wasting his father’s money’. How a girl like Shuvashini who places knowledge and hard work over everything else falls in love with a man like Saikat is a mystery that one must solve on their own.

While the present-day story did not impress me, the story of the past was fun to read. The descriptions of the grandeur of the palace, the skills of the dancers and sculptures were a pleasure. I wish that the book had been edited to get a crisp reading experience and to avoid the multiple regressions in grammar and punctuation. Most of the sentences that were unnecessarily long. There were a lot of instances where multiple words that mean the same were used in succession making the page read like a thesaurus. I appreciate the author’s dedication to getting an illustrator to draw things that he describes in the story but it seemed a bit redundant. I wish he had spent a bit more time and effort on ensuring the scientific accuracy of hibernation patterns of reptiles and the fluorescent/phosphorescent nature of rocks instead.

The Author

Ratnadip Acharya is the author of two successful novels, Life is Always Aimless… Unless you love it and Paradise Lost & Regained. He is a columnist for the Speaking Tree in The Times of India. He contributed many write-ups in different collections of Chicken Soup for the Soul. He lives in Mumbai with his wife, Sophia and son, Akash. He is a voracious reader who felt a deep urge within his being to narrate his original thoughts

This work include:

  1. Life is Always Aimless (2013)
  2. Paradise Lost and Regained (2015)
  3. The Speaking Stone (2019)

TL;DR: A book with a good premise that would have done better with a crisp editing process

Have you come across any Indian historical fiction work. I’d love some recommendations

Tell me on the comments below or on my Instagram @thefoodandbooklife

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Advanced Review Copy (ARC), Book review, Received for Review

The Monster who Wasn’t by T.C. Shelley

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 271 pages

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishers

Date of Publication: 8th August, 2019

Rating: 4/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received an uncorrected copy of the book in return for an honest review


When Bloomsbury offered a choice of titles for review, I was drawn to this book. As an avid reader of Fantasy, I sometimes feel like I can predict the story when I read the blurb. This is one of the few books where I had no idea where the author would lead us to and that made me want to read the book at any cost.

I like reading uncorrected proofs sometimes. They give an insight to the author’s creative process as well as an idea of what goes into editing. But with this book, I have a feeling that the published book would have had a lot of cool artwork which was missing in my copy. I hope I get to see them some time in the future.


The Blurb

It is a well-known fact that fairies are born from a baby’s first laugh. What is not as well documented is how monsters come into being …

This is the story of a creature who is both strange and unique. When he hatches down in the vast underground lair where monsters dwell, he looks just like a human boy – much to the disgust of everyone watching. Even the grumpy gargoyles who adopt him and nickname him ‘Imp’ only want him to steal chocolate for them from the nearby shops. He’s a child with feet in both worlds, and he doesn’t know where he fits.

But little does Imp realise that Thunderguts, king of the ogres, has a great and dangerous destiny in mind for him, and he’ll stop at nothing to see it come to pass….

The Book

The book hooked me in right from the beginning. The technicalities of the birth of a monster had enough of realism mixed with the fantasy aspect to feel like its something that could possibly happen. I wasn’t sure if I liked the protagonist in the beginning but as the story progressed I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. He is sweet, loving and innocent and all his decisions are based on what his heart tells is right.

As soon as the Gargoyles came into the story, I fell in love with them. I am a sucker for characters with a gruff exterior and molten chocolate insides. I kept waiting for one of the ‘good’ characters in the story to betray the Imp because they gave off that kind of vibes. It is a reflection on the author’s storytelling prowess that she kept me guessing who that character would be till the very end. I was curious to see how the author would handle introducing multiple fantasy creatures and if the story would get lost in the details but that was not the case.

I loved how unpredictable the story was. Although it has been categorised as ‘Middle Grade’ it could very easily sell as Young Adult and wow the target audience. The concepts of loss and guilt, of the need to belong and the camaraderie shown by the characters will definitely interest a wide age range. The book is equal parts funny and sad. The dialogues are witty and sassy. It was a brilliant read especially as a debut novel and I can’t wait to see what the author comes up with.

The Author

T.C. Shelley studied Creative Writing and Literature at University. She has been teaching English for over twenty years and her first school was classified as the most remote in Australia. She loves an audience and long before she took up teaching was writing and performing her poetry and short stories. 

Shelley began writing novels to entertain her daughter, who wisely suggested that she try to get them published.

She lives with her husband, her daughter and two dogs in Perth, Western Australia. She loves to travel and isn’t frightened of being lost. 


TL;DR: A brilliantly written debut that keeps you on your toes


Have you loved any grey character that can be classified as ‘the monster who wasn’t’?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Book review, Readathon, Received for Review, Regional Language books

First There was Woman and Other Stories: Folktales of the Dungri Garasiya Bhils by Marija Sres

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 82 pages

Genre: Folktales, Indian Literature, Short Stories

Publisher: Zubaan

Date of Publication: 1st December, 2007

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review


The month of August is dedicated to ‘Discovering India Readathon’ on Bookstagram. One of the prompts was to read folktales from any part of India which I thought was really interesting. Coincidentally, Zubaan contacted me to ask if I would like to review any of their books and when I saw that they had a collection of folktales, I knew I had to read it this month.


The Blurb

It was a time when girls were as desired as sons. A time when girls beat boys in games and races. A time when there was no gender divide. And so also in these stories it is the women who are stronger, wiser, faster, sharper, and certainly far more beautiful than their men. It is they who think out of the box, who are imaginative and creative and full of wise ideas.

From tales of ghostly possessions to magic mantras, from kings and queens full of passion to village youth bursting with sexual ardour there timeless folktales are full of the joy of being alive, of sensual enjoyment and pleasure. While Kudrat (God is imagined as being feminine) and Deva conspire and wreak havoc on their people, the dance of live continues with naked young maidens swimming in the streams or being courted by dark handsome youths amidst much laughter and teasing. The forests are full of birds and beasts and fish, and life for the tribals is for the most part simple and innocent, truth and right always prevail and defeat the forces of darkness- be it a scheming stepmother, a murderous wife or lover or a cruel and lustful kind.

The Book

The book is a collection of 14 tales of the Dungri Garasiya tribe. It begins with the author coming to India and studying Gujarati and later the dialect of the Tribal people. It talks of how she learnt the ways of rural India and how she worked at empowering these women. It was heartwarming to see her refer to the women as ‘my’ women. It is the selfless dedication of such people that helped the downtrodden women find a sense of independence and financial security.

During Marija Sres’ time, the women of the Dungri Garasiya tribe were not the strong women that their ancestors were. The tribe began from a single woman that Kudrat created to complement the beauty of the Earth. It was only from her need that she created man. The women then had autonomy in the selection of their mates and were considered equal to the men in all walks of life. Like the author describes, ‘they walked neither behind not in front of the men but alongside them as equals.’

Some of the stories are tales that the author heard from the tribal people and some of them are songs that have been passed on from one generation to the next, written down in the form of prose. The author’s picks are all centered around women and the tribe’s close connection with nature and animals. The people lived in harmony with nature, helping animals and birds, and the creatures helping the people in return. It was a time of abundance and love that was later destroyed due to commercialization and deforestation. After the insurgency of the British, the tribal people were taught to integrate themselves into mainstream life, taught to abhor their traditions and their language until they began to refer to their dialect as ‘kali boli‘. This was the perfect read for Indian Independence month.

The Author

Marija Sres (bn 1943) is a religious sister from Bratonci, Slovenia. For thirty years she has worked with the Dungri Garasiya Bhils of Gujarat. Marija’s previous books on Gujarati tribal women have been translated in English, Slovene, Spanish, Gujarati, and Marathi.


TL;DR: A well compiled collection of folktales from people that we hardly hear anything about


Do you have a favorite folktale based in the place that are from?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Book review, Readathon, Received for Review

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 339 pages

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Fiction

Publisher: Hachette India/Orion

Date of Publication: 15th July, 2019

Rating: 5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book for a read-along from the publisher


Psychological thrillers are my favourite! It had been quite a while since I read any book in the genre so when I saw that Hachette India was publishing this book, I knew I wanted it. I was lucky to have been invited for the read-along that ran from the 17th to the 31st of July 2019 and I devoured the book in a record two days!


The Blurb

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.”

The Book

I started reading the book wondering if it was going to be something similar to Gone Girl. It was the mention of the diary at the beginning that led me in that direction. I had loved Gone Girl but what I found in The Silent Patient was something much better! I wouldn’t have believed that it was the author’s debut book unless I had heard his interview before-hand. The book is well researched, brilliantly written and crisply edited. There are no unnecessary details but the world-building is spot on. Although the timeline shifts constantly, the narration is so seamless that you do not get confused. You are strapped in for the ride and you don’t want it to end.

My biggest pet peeve is how writers take creative liberty a bit too far when it comes to the field of medicine. But in this book, I was pleasantly surprised that the author speaks from a position of knowledge when it comes to theories of psychoanalysis and treatment plans for mental illness. The characters were well developed with a bit of backstory for each of them so I could connect with them all. I was constantly trying to nab the suspect but my suspicion kept shifting all over the place. This was reminiscent of all the amazing Agatha Christie books that I devoured in my teens, trying to identify the suspect before the story revealed it. I was thrown by the twists that the author has incorporated in the story. I did not see it coming and I had to put down my book for a minute to let it sink in. I finished reading the entire book in a record 2 days and I was blown away by the author’s talent. If this was his first book, I can’t wait to see what he comes up with in the future.

The Author

Born in Cyprus to a Greek-Cypriot father and English mother, Alex Michaelides studied English literature at Cambridge University and got his MA in screenwriting at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. He wrote the film The Devil You Know (2013) starring Rosamund Pike and co-wrote The Con is On (2018), starring Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, Parker Posey and Sofia Vergara. The Silent Patient is his first novel.


TL;DR: A fast paced story that will have you suspecting every single person and turn of events till you won’t know which way is up


What are some books that have kept you up at night wondering about the story?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Book review, Readathon, Received for Review

Circus Folks and Village Freaks by Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal

Statistics

Length: 156 pages

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Poetry, LGBTQ+

Publisher: Vishwakarma Publications

Date of Publication: 20th September, 2018

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I receiver a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review


When the author contacted me about reviewing the book, I was amazed at the beautiful cover. The concept was intriguing and it seemed like an interesting read. I usually research a book before accepting a review opportunity but something about this book had me saying yes almost immediately.

The Blurb

Meet the beautiful people of the Circus, and the freaks who live in the Village next to them. Mangled, jangled, misunderstood, all find place in the rich tapestry of this book.

Siamese twins separate to lose half a heart each, and find snake-man and tiger-taming lovers. A man bitten by a crocodile becomes a God, and a Devadasi woos the entire countryside with her culinary artistry.

Fates intertwined lead sometimes to tragedy, sometimes happy summits of fame. A clown finds his place in Hollywood and mute animals break unspeakable chains. A twisted man falls in love with a mirror and a white man is unmade by the Indian sun.

In this book are tales for every season and every reason. Tales of human depravity that take innocent lives, and of a murderers’ insanity that follows, a fitting revenge by nature, red in tooth and claw.

These stories are told in the form of narrative poems in rhyming couplets.

Look inside and you will find, you have been to this Village. Surely, you have been to this Circus too.

The Book

I always consider myself as a ‘prose over poetry’ sort of person. I was apprehensive about how I would react to this book. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the author knew what she was doing. The lines were wonderfully symmetrical and lyrical and the icing on the cake was that they rhymed perfectly. 

I was glad that I read the book in June since it contributed towards my Pride Readathon. The book consists of short poems based on quirky characters. We see children born in affluent families who are discarded because they do not conform to society’s idea of perfection. We see husbands and wives come to terms with their differences. We see greedy landlords and circus masters get their comeuppance. We see individuals from the fringes of the society find acceptance and also individuals who are banished or killed for their difference in appearance, behaviour or sexual orientation.

Even though the book talks about freaks and oddities of nature, the general feeling is one of positivity and humor. The women in the stories are strong and independent and find their place in the world and enjoy what they are doing despite being despised by a select few. I enjoyed how the author connected a story towards the end of the book with one in the beginning. That goes to show how much planning actually went into writing and editing.

The Author

Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal holds an MA from Kings College, London. She is a recipient of the 14th Beullah Rose Poetry Prize by Smartish Pace. She was shortlisted for the Third Coast Fiction Prize, 2018. She is featured on the Masthead of the Songs of Eretz Poetry Review as a Frequent Contributor. A popular Spoken Word poet, she performs at events across venues in India. Her page poetry is featured in reputed international literary journals such as Smartish Pace, Dunes Review, Typehouse Literary Review, SOFTBLOW, Broad River Review, Gyroscope Review and many more. Her poetry will be anthologized alongside the work of renowned poets such as Gulzar and Piyush Mishra in 2019. She lives with her 4-year-old son, husband and two dog babies in Pune, India.


TL;DR: A well written book that will have you wondering at the behaviour of the society even while chuckling at its eccentricities


Do you like reading poetry?

What are your favourites?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Book review, Received for Review

Lady Diana: The Queen of Hearts (A 03 part play) by Dr. Ramnath Sonawane

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 66 pages

Genre: Play

Publisher: Dattsons Publishers

Date of Publication: 20th April, 2019

Rating: 3/5 stars

Disclaimer :I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review


Since the time I can remember, my mother was a fan of Lady Diana. She collected pictures and postcards of her and watched her reverently on TV. The Princess passed away while I was still young and as I grew up, I started following the lives of her children and their family. Now with social media, gathering information has become a breeze and not a day goes by where I don’t see posts or news about the British Royals and I lap it all up.

When Dattsons Publishers approached me with a review request for a play set on Lady Diana, I knew I could not resist. Although I am not a big reader of plays or screenplays, I knew that it was story that I would enjoy. I was curious to see how the story that I have grown up reading would be interpreted by the author.


The Blurb

This play is about Lady Diana. It depicts some real life incidents and some imaginary scenes to sound it more dramatic. There are six main characters from the Royal Family. The fairytale marriage between Princess Diana and the Prince ends with divorce due to his affair with his first love Camilla. When Diana discovers this, feels distressed and betrayed, she tries to find solace in the charity, the purpose which was dear to her heart even before her marriage. The sub plot relates to the marriage and divorce between the Duke and the Duchess. It is a perfect foil to the main plot as it depicts the estranged Duchess seeking divorce from the Duke who is tolerant enough to accept her extra marital affair for the sake of Royalty. On the other hand, in the main plot, Diana takes a conscious decision of divorce, sacrificing her title and even the right to Queenship. The dictum of the Shakespearean tragedy, that “character is Destiny; that we are ourselves the makers or the destroyers of our own fortune” is thus proved through the personality traits of Lady Diana.

The Book

The story begins with the dream wedding of Diana and Prince Charles told from the point of view of a couple of stable hands. The public adoration of Lady Diana begins early in the relationship and continues even after its termination. We see how her beauty and charitable nature makes her a darling in peoples’ eyes. I could not help but draw parallels between Lady Diana and Princess Kate in the way the public loves them, their natural beauty and compassion, their love for their children, their need to create as ordinary a life for the children as possible and the importance that they give to charity work.

The unfortunate events that turn the tide in the marriage begins with Diana learning of the affair of Prince Charles and Lady Camilla. We have all seen this played out in the news. To read it from the point of view of the people involved in the scenario made it more personal. We can only assume that these were the kind of conversations that occurred based on the interviews that were given by everyone involved. I wasn’t sure how I felt about such assumptions but it can be chalked up to creative liberty that authors deserve.

I wish we got to read more on the relationship between Lady Diana and Prince Dodi and also Diana’s relationship with her children. With the famous interview by Prince William and Prince Harry on the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death in 2017, there was a lot of personal stories that could have been used to spin this tale. I also wish that the author had avoided mistakes like referring to Prince William as ‘Williams’ everywhere in the book. For a true Royal fan, this slip up was not acceptable. The author tried to incorporate the British way of speech in some places like the use of ‘lad’ and ‘dear Sir’ but it wasn’t consistent throughout the story. Apart from minor transgressions of this sort, it was a nice and quick read of a story that we all know.

The Author

Dr. Ramnath Sonawane is well known for his administrative acumen. He is a result oriented individual with a strong analytical, communication, interpersonal and negotiation skills. His professional career as an administrator spans more than 30 years of experience in urban management. He served an a municipal commissioner for cities. He is currently working as chief executive officer in Nagpur and has published books, bhajans and a collection of poems.

His work include:

  1. Capsule- a collection of poems in Marathi
  2. Administrative Communication Strategies
  3. Bhajans in Hindi

TL;DR: A quick read of a story that we all know and love, written from the characters’ point of view


Do you read plays?

What are your favourites?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Book review, Received for Review

She Wants Out and Other Stories by Kiran Jhamb

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Genre: Feminism, Short Stories

Length: 70 pages

Publisher: Dattsons Publishers

Date of Publication: 2013

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review


As a part of the review program by Book Pitaara, I received She Wants Out and Other Stories as a review copy along with Pride March. I like reading short stories as a break between heavy reads.


The Blurb

Being a woman at some stage or other you realize how you were coaxed and coerced to become a round peg to fit a round hole. You couldn’t be allowed to turn into a square peg because then you wouldn’t have fitted into the slot which the society allows you. Everyone embarks on a quest for happiness and harmony. One has to make choices, provided one views oneself as having choices. These stories are about women – some, who were content to drift and others who tried to usher in a change. They have an appeal for every reader. They can be read passively or actively – passively for entertainment or actively for reflection. They stress on the need of independence in a woman’s life – a freedom from stuck-up cultural norms because the old rules are not always right.

The Book

I loved how small each story was but how much emotion was packed into each of it. Most of the stories could be read on a short coffee break but you cannot read the entire book in one go because the stories make you think.

I find that short stories are a gamble. When they are well written, you don’t want them to end but with others, the lack of depth is glaringly obvious. I wasn’t sure what I would find with She Wants Out and Other Stories by Kiran Jhamb but since it was women’s month and this was a book that dealt with women and the reality of their lives, I thought it would be appropriate to read it then. And boy, was I glad that I did!
The book describes the lives of women that we all know and commiserate with. The reason that I loved every story was that there are certain aspects in each female character that I am sure we could all identify with. I loved that the author provided a realistic and often humorous look at everyday situations and managed to weave intricate stories in just two or three pages. I enjoyed each perspective and was glad that there was a representation of women from every decade of life. We see women dealing with the loss of their freedom and their right to choose, having to put up with inequality and abuse because the perpetrators are ‘family’ and having to live up to other people’s expectations even though it might not be the right thing for them.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved the book and would love to read more of the author’s work.

The Author

Dr. Kiran Jhamb is an Associate Professor and the Dead of the Department of English in JMT Arts and JJP Science College, Nagpur. She has more than a hundred stories, poems and articles to her credit which have been published in different newspapers and magazines. She has also written two books.

Her work include:

  1. Wise to be a Fool
  2. Family Dustbin
  3. She wants out and Other Stories

TL;DR: A book filled with interesting short stories that deal with important social issues in a concise manner and leave you with enough emotions to last the entire day


What are some of your favourite short story collections?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Book review, Received for Review

The Pride March by Dr. Efthikar Ahamed

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 40 pages

Genre: Drama, Play, LGBTQ+

Publisher: Dattsons Publishers

Date of Publication: 19th September, 2018

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review


Book Pitaara began as a subscription box service but has now grown, acquired plenty of loyal subscribers and has branched itself to related business as well. I had a wonderful time representing them in the months of October, November and December 2018 and when I learnt that they had collaborated with publishers for book reviews, I knew I had to get myself associated with it.

The first review copies were from Dattsons Publishers and I received two books that dealt with LGBTQ+ issues. I first picked this book since I haven’t read much in the genre until now.


The Blurb

The Pride March is a drama about the plight of the transgender humans who are appallingly marginalized all over the world and about the social conditions prevailing in some parts of the globe which even lead them to get executed in the name of honour killing. Subtitled as “A Theatrical Journey into the Lives of LGBTs in 3 Scenes & 2 Verbatim” the play narrates various phases of Mohini, a young researcher who later becomes Mohan, the Transgender. A woman transforming into a man, after chasing her dream of becoming one and her espousal with the pain of wounds, the pleasures of pain, the pleasurable transformation, and the confrontation with the wrathful societal agencies form the plot of the play. It also discusses the issues of the lost honour – the anger of the patriarchal lost pride – through some memorable characters and incidents. The play sharply problematizes the honour killing committed by a father against his daughter which is a display of indignation by murder to protect one’s honour. The locale of The Pride March is anywhere in India and its time may be any year after 2015.

The Book

Although The Pride March is a book that is only 40 pages long, it tries to address a lot of important issues that are relevant in the society in the present day. The story follows Mohini, a transgender who aspires to complete his transformation to a man. He has a group of friends who understand the issue and are supportive to the point where they accompany him to the doctor for the gender reassignment surgery and the post-operative care. I was glad that he was surrounded by people who cared and who understood what he was going through especially since we later learn that his family was not supportive of the transformation.

However, certain parts of the story did not sit well with me. I did not support the way the medical issues were dealt with in the story. The depiction of a doctor who was openly smoking while consulting on a case as sensitive as gender reassignment and one who did not take care about the confidentiality of the patient was not believable now when the laws are strict about the patient being treated right and doctors being educated regarding these issues. I was also surprised with the way the post-operative instructions were supposedly told to the patient’s friends. But the book needs to be read, not as a medical novel, but as a slice of life in the LGBTQ+ community and these lapses may be forgiven by the casual reader.

The social issues were dealt with with a realism that is sometimes sorely missing in literature and I was glad for it. Although the end was predictable, it carried with it the anguish of two characters who failed to reconcile until it was too late and the verbatim at the end was moving. I found that while the author tried to maintain a certain level of believability with the characters, they were all dramatized to suit the theatre. I am not sure if I am a fan of the genre but it was an interesting literary adventure in the end.

The Author

Dr. Efthikar Ahamed currently works as an Assistant Professor in the department of English and Comprehensive Literature in Kerala. He was awarded PhD in English for his research work in the area of poetry and comparative study. He has presented various research articles in national and international seminars and conferences. His publications in different peer reviewed research journals and periodicals, both in English and Malayalam put him in the main list of much-sought-after academic creative thinker and writer in the region.

He has two books to his credit in Malayalam and two in English. The Pride March is his debut play in English.


TL;DR: A quick read that focuses on important social issues


Do you like reading plays?

What would you recommend to me in the genre?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Book review, Received for Review

The Code of Manavas by Arpit Bakshi

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 280 pages

Genre: Indian Literature, Mythology, Science fiction

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Date of Publication: 10th July, 2018

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review


The Code of Manavas is the first book in the Maha Vishnu Trilogy. It has been quite a while since I’ve read any sci-fi and Indian mythology is always fun to read so I was very excited to read the book.


The Blurb

Book one of the Maha Vishnu Trilogy, The Code of Manavas, is set some two million years past ad 2050, when earth as we know it ceased to exist and so did mankind. A new race, the Manavas, now exists on Bhoomi, the erstwhile Earth, which is divided into two cities—Madhavpur and Ayudhpur. In the quiet and peaceful city of Madhavpur, a reclusive Krishna is busy with an immense task. He has to prepare a new abode for the Manavas before an impending apocalypse destroys them. He knows something that nobody else does—the Manavas are running out of time faster than they can imagine and there are no inhabitable planets to escape to. To make matters worse, there is someone in Madhavpur who wants to destroy Krishna and subjugate each Manava. The Manavas, it seems, are doomed. Yet Krishna knows there is a slim chance of survival for the Manavas, although there is a huge price to be paid for it. Will the various factions of the Manavas unite for the greater good? Will Krishna, who saved them during the turn of the last Yuga, be able to save them now? What will be the price to pay? Enter the mythical world of Maha Vishnu and get swept up in a fast-paced suspenseful narrative.

The Book

The book is set in the future and begins with the description of an advanced group of people called Manavas who have evolved from humans with the help of a mysterious element, Bhoomodium. Bhoomodium increases the cognitive efficacy of the people and also renders them immortal but it has other consequences that they discover as time progresses. The author’s research on cosmic phenomenon and scientific facts regarding brain functioning is apparent throughout the book. The Krishna in the Swarnim Yuga and the Krishna that we all know from the Dwapara Yuga have been connected to each other in a variety of interesting angles but I wish that they had been explored more.

While the first couple of chapters were engaging, the book started to veer off into expected tangents as the story progressed. The introduction of a tragic love story and a partial love triangle seemed unnecessary seeing that it did not play any role in plot development. It seemed half-hearted with the introduction of the characters of Vallabha and Meera who was created just to satisfy the author’s need to introduce female characters into the story. The lack of representation of women as lead characters or even as council members irked me but what really upset me was how the other women were depicted. The so-called ‘guide’ who knows the lay of the land ends up twisting her ankle and having to be carried by the man, she does not notice that a Leopard is stalking her even though it is her job to collect samples and must always be aware of her surroundings. She is then again rescued by the ‘hero’ of the story. The woman who claims to be strong and is outdoorsy falls off the boat at the beginning of the journey and needs to doze and rest while the man who hardly ever ventures out of his lab gets them to their destination. A very obvious ‘damsel in distress rescued by the brilliant man’ theme was apparent throughout the book. The women were all portrayed as having only romance on their minds with both Vallabha and Radhika needing validation of their feelings from Krishna.

The book was slow in some parts but skipped over details in others. The sentence flow did not seem consistent, almost like it was edited by multiple people at multiple places and it was not brought together in the end. The plot was pretty much see-through throughout the book and none of the characters were particularly likable to me.

The Author

Arpit Bakshi studied electrical engineering and has an MBA in finance from the University of RPI, Troy, New York. He now works for a prominent Indian bank. Arpit initially wanted to pursue a career in theoretical physics, but ended up opting for engineering (as most students of science in India tend to do). Since his childhood, two things have never failed to amaze him—the vast expanse of the cosmos; and the unfathomable depth of Indian mythology and spirituality. He believes that one should never stop learning and it is his love for science that has gravitated him towards writing this mythology-inspired science fiction. Arpit is based in Gurgaon, India.


TL;DR: A book with a promising premise that unfortunately does not deliver on its promise


What is your favourite science fiction?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @thefoodandbooklife

Book review, Received for Review

The Lively Library and an Unlikely Romance by Niranjan Navalgund

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 96

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Readomania

Date of Publication: June 2016

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review


The author is a professional chess player which intrigued me since I played semi-professionally for about 7 years. The author also promised that I would love the smattering of words in my mother tongue, Kannada. I never find books with Kannada words in them so I was very excited to begin reading.
The book is curated and edited by Readomania, an independent publishing house who support new and up-coming authors.


The Blurb

Unknown to Nayan, the library he inherits from his deceased father, is a mysterious place. Hiriya Halepu, Pu.Nayaka, Kapshi and and many others live there. They have a secret world with celebrations, romances, pangs of separation and conflicts. This is the Book-World. As two souls in this world fall in love, they encounter a strange predicament that separates them from each other. Things go from bad to worse when an unknown enemy sends a threat of destruction to this whole mysterious world. They call their resolute protector, Helmine, who unravels many unknown facets of this world, in an attempt to save it from the danger. The lovers struggle to find each other, and Helmine tries hard to decipher the threat messages. But will she be able to save this world from destruction? Will the two souls in love be united? There are no easy answers. Because, this is no ordinary Library, this is the place where books come to life.

The Book

The Lively Library and an Unlikely Romance is a short read that started out promising. It is the story of a library that comes to life after sundown, something similar to The Night Museum movies. I was curious to see how the author would adapt the concept to a library. An unwitting son inherits a library full of very special books. They have leaders among themselves, they have books that are noble and books that are mischievous, they have a network similar to our internet, they have means of communication similar to our text messages. They form an entire community of their own.

Unfortunately, as the story progressed, I had to deal with quite a lot of disappointment. The characters that were introduced in the beginning were not developed later in the story. The owner of the library and the two young children who I thought would play a role in the story were only randomly seen. With a multitude of new concepts and characters, the book was too short to do any of them justice. The ‘unlikely romance’ also did not feature much in the story.

Another thing that irked me was that the author gave spoilers to a lot of books in the process of describing them. He even described how some books end which is just not cool. The entire story of Fahrenheit 451 was revealed. I bought the book just a couple of months ago and was excited to read it and felt betrayed by the author.

On the positive note, the book was excellently edited, had no grammatical inconsistencies and had no typographical errors.

The Author

Niranjan Navalgund is a young chess professional who derives great pleasure in learning about life through the game of chess. He is a former National U-17 Chess Champion and a Commonwealth Silver medalist in the U-18 Category. He has been conferred with ‘Indradhanushya’ (2007) ‘Giants International Award’ (2009), ‘Kreeda Ratna’ Award (2010) and ‘Belgaumite of the year’ Award (2012) for his achievements in the field of Chess. He is a lover of words and occasionally tries his hand at writing stories and poems. He believes that writing is a wonderful exercise for the soul. Being a bibliophile, he harbours a special interest in the New Age Philosophy. Unusual stories excite him. He hopes to visit the Panda Zoo, someday. Niranjan lives with his family in Belagavi.

His work include:

  1. Chronicles of Urban Nomads (2014)
  2. A Little Chorus of Love (2015)
  3. A Lively Library and an Unlikely Romance (2016)
  4. Over a Cup of Chai (2018)

TL;DR: A quick read that introduces quite a lot of interesting concepts but needed more pages to truly explore them


Do you like reading children’s fiction?

What do you most like about them?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @thefoodandbooklife