Book Review — Awaken by Ashok K. Banker

Thank you Pan Macmillan India for sending me a copy of this book for review. 

Summary – Three female protagonists with different superpowers form the premise of Ashok K. Banker’s Awaken, the first book in the Shakti trilogy. Kiara, a resident of Delhi, is bewildered by the sudden growth of golden fur and heightening of her senses. Not far off, in Ahmedabad, Saumya is delighted by her newfound ability to teleport anywhere just by visualizing the place. And Sia, hailing from Nagaland, hasn’t fully come to terms with how powerful her singing is. Connected by a common thread of an ancient race, these women find themselves tasked with the responsibility of protecting all of mankind from the Haters, a species hell bent on destroying Earth. This dystopian fiction that mirrors the reality of a nation is simply a prequel to the major showdown inevitable next in the series.

Image courtesy – Google.

Review – Having been really eager to read this book, my expectations were a lot higher than what the book delivered. In fact, there was so much underutilized potential in terms of characters and plot that I really hope the next book picks up. The author’s writing style is a bit discursive and fluid. He makes use of Hindi language phrases occasionally to emphasis a character’s frustration. The chapters shuffle between the three protagonists’ perspectives. Despite that, it wasn’t difficult to follow the story lines of three characters simultaneously at all. I felt that Sia’s story was a lot more gripping because we are exposed to a culture that doesn’t usually fall under mainstream. Moreover, she is a transgender character and there’s a lot of clarity in how her story plays out. I was quite confused by Kiara’s superpower. For the longest time I figured she was a werewolf, but the cover displays something else. Perhaps because it is such a short book, I felt that the characters weren’t very impactful.

There were a few things that I couldn’t get past. First of all, the introduction of the characters goes on till half of the book. The plot only progresses towards the end. Secondly, some aspects of the story weren’t as realistically portrayed. I was surprised by the strong negative representation of Indian society and culture. Not to say it isn’t true. But this novel dives right into our backward thinking, extremist outlooks and polarizes it with the protagonists’ modernist views. Ashok Banker has outstandingly conveyed where exactly we are going wrong as a country of diverse groups. And I’d like to commend him for the same. I appreciate the fact that the author places great importance on women in this novel. Moreover, he has mastered the art of cliffhangers. At the end of every chapter I was keen to read the next immediately. On the whole, the book was unputdownable because of the idea underlying it, except for a few glitches. It is short and can be read in one sitting. If the story appeals to you, you should give it a try!

What do you get out of it? A captivating fiction that highlights the need for social reforms by positing modern women as the harbingers of peace, equality and justice.

Ratings – 3 out of 5 stars

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Book Review — How To Be A Bawse by Lilly Singh

Image Courtesy – Goodreads.

Summary – Lilly Singh’s How To Be A Bawse is as much an honest representation of the star as it is a well guided recipe to cure oneself of the blues. Her words of wisdom, courage and understanding fill us to the brim with the zeal needed to pick ourselves up and keep going. Split into 50 chapters and other sections, this book takes us on a journey of revelation as to how she rose to power and popularity – none of which came easy. As consumers of media, our perception of celebrities can be deficient if not entirely skewed. Lilly opens our eyes to the gritty truth of it all. Through the course of this book, she sets us on the path towards becoming change-makers, influencers and sculptors of a better world. Glossy pages, bouncy colors and a great sense of humor make this tome much superior in comparison to other self-help books. If you wish to conquer every aspect of your life, you’ll find a whole lot of inspiration and motivation here.

Review – Ever since I discovered her YouTube channel, I have been devouring any content that she put forth. So it was but natural that I would get a copy of her book for myself. At first glance, this book appears to have been manufactured by Skittles. No, really. There are four sections, each of which are done in a particular color. Within each of these chapters contained in these sections, there are page length photos of her as well as quote prints, and chapter-end tasks. This makes it a delightful reading experience because you’re able to apply the lessons to your life actively. Her undeniable sass and wit, which we are familiar with through her videos, translates perfectly into the narration. The writing style is colloquial, emphatic and humorous. What makes this book endearing is the inclusion of personal anecdotes in plenty. In fact those were my favourite parts!

I’m super lazy and I procrastinate a great deal. Reading this book has made me less of that person. And every chapter I re-read chisels away a bit more of the lethargy. The content is so inspiring, that I no longer think of my role in this world as a minuscule one. I know for a fact that I, too, can bring about a great change. Recurring themes of this book include positivity, self-control, hustling, being grounded etc. Some of her guidance overlaps across chapters, so occasionally you find yourself reading the same thing again. But that’s actually quite necessary to drive home the point. People are familiar with iiSuperwomanii who has done great deeds, but only few know of her insecurities and concerns. It is very evident that she has poured her heart and soul into this book, to encourage other’s to not give up on themselves. The chapters speak to people suffering from lack of self-esteem, depression, despondence and heartbreak. The lessons she has learned on her journey would be useful to anyone, regardless of their stature. That being said, I didn’t agree with some points in the book. But to each their own. I would absolutely recommend How To Be A Bawse to every one. I’m going to re-read this book again and again in the future. Lilly, you’re a gift to humanity.

What do you get out of it? Unicorn kisses. Haha, just kidding! HTBAB has a feel-good factor in it that convinces you of your greater potential in life. It makes you want to dream big and then act on it. And it shows you exactly how to do it.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars.

Why I Would Move to Bangkok at a Moment’s Notice.

Recently, I had the good fortune of traveling to Thailand. It was a long due family trip and we tried to make the best of our 7 days in Thailand by visiting Bangkok and Phuket. Now, the two couldn’t be more different from the other. The former is a city paradise and the latter is a mountainous getaway island. Both, however, offer a great many things to do. I’m more of a city girl, enjoying the fast paced life. Brooklyn, Seoul and Bangkok are the places my dreams are made of. So, when we landed in Bangkok for our three-ish day sojourn, I was totally mesmerized. It’s seamless merging of the high and low life reminded you of what’s most important in life – experiences. You’d see some of the most expensive boutiques and restaurants interspersed on a lane that offers fantastic street food and light on the wallet shops.

A still of infrastructure on Thong Lor road in Bangkok. (c) 2017 Meera Nair

The crowd and cleanliness of a place is always in question when it comes to a metropolitan city. Bangkok is not as crowded as some other major cities, but at any given time, you will find a decent amount of people on the road and in the eateries. They may be leisurely strolling on the well maintained pavements or cruising the city on sleek/ worn out automobiles. You’ll find a good mixture of attractive two wheelers as well as cars. The locals are very polite and respectable. Some of them tend to get very chatty and it makes you feel like they are super welcoming towards foreigners. Bowing and joining hands in appreciation are finely ingrained into their culture. I’ve lived in a couple of different places during the course of my life so far, but I must say, Bangkok is spick and span! There’s no litter everywhere and the place definitely scores a lot of hygiene points.

Their clothing style is in keeping with trends, but also perfectly comfortable. You’ll see a lot of halters and dresses, in addition to elegant palazzos. Another thing I really like about Bangkok is that people enjoy the freedom to wear whatever outfit they want to; nobody really stares or makes you feel uncomfortable. I packed light and so most of my tops had spaghetti straps and a majority of the bottom wear were shorts – something I wouldn’t do in India very often. Bangkok has malls as well as sites of historic preservation. It’s culture shines through these temples and old ruins, wherein you’ll find information pertaining to the country’s past. If you do visit any such places of worship, make sure that your attire is respectful.

The Grand Palace in all its glory. (c) 2017 Meera Nair

Thai cuisine can be extremely spicy or even sweet sometimes. But most importantly, the aroma that wafts from Thai rice is simply irresistible. Rice and noodles are integral components of their diet. That being said, in every dish you’ll find an assortment of vegetables and meat (for those who enjoy non-vegetarian food). I found their portions to be much larger than what my appetite could handle, but that’s no problem. Tod Mun Goong is a Thai shrimp cake dish accompanied by a fantastic serving of palm sauce. I’m definitely going to try to recreate that sauce. Here’s a travel tip – Visit one of the department stores and pick up some different snacks. You’ll get to know what works in the city.

Pad Thai with prawns. (c) 2017 Meera Nair

Two of my only concerns about staying in Bangkok are language barrier and cost of living. Provisions and clothes aren’t expensive at all; you can buy good looking outfits and all the grocery you may ever need for very little Baht (Thai currency). But the real estate business is sky high. Buying or renting a place in Bangkok won’t be easy. Moreover, we encountered great difficulty in communicating our needs to some of the service providers like taxi drivers and hotel staff. It’s entirely too arrogant to expect that the people of a different country would speak English. English is not their language. So, the next time I go to Bangkok, I’ll be sure to learn the basics of their language beforehand. It also gives them (the locals) a sense of joy because you’re making an effort.

If you’re planning a trip there, don’t rush it. Enjoy a good week or so, because there’s plenty to do. I loved everything that the city had to offer and would be ecstatic to make it my home someday. But until then, my memories of the trip will hold me aloft.

Cover Reveal of Awaken by Ashok Banker

If you put together a Werewolf, a Teleporter and a Siren in circumstances that require them to battle the bad guys to save the world, what would you have? The kickass plot of Ashok Banker’s latest novel, Awaken. With over 60 published books, the author has planned his next trilogy, Shakti, a fantasy thriller based in India. It has three main female characters, and takes on the concept of alien invasion. Here’s what the cover of Awaken looks like.

There’s a fascinating icy tone to it, which makes me wonder what other plot points are incorporated into the story. I’m really looking forward to how the idea of girl power plays out in this novel. Awaken releases on 1st September and you can get your hands on a copy of the same at Amazon. So click on the link and pre-order if the story intrigues you even a little. I’ll be sure to post a review of the book once I get my copy!

It Has Been 5 Years.

Five years have passed since I started this blog, since I battled indefinite bouts of laziness. Five years of unimaginable change, not just in myself but in my surroundings. I’ve grown accustomed to this change; to never declaring any possibility as absolutely improbable. For I’ve turned the tables more times than I’d thought myself capable. But amidst all that change, there’s one thing I’ve ascertained – my love for reading and writing is entwined into my being. It gives me such joy! A part of me applauds that I haven’t given up blogging (With two previous failures and a mastery of procrastination, what else could I expect?) But writing has always been a balm, a friend like no other. I could lose myself in analogies and alliterations all day long, immortalize my concerns and curiosities. I can’t get enough of the joy of explaining my writings to those who’ve just skimmed the surface of it. I can’t get enough of putting my berserk ideas on an online platform, even if nobody truly understands it. Maybe the magic of writing is just that. It doesn’t expect anything of you. In fact, it is the one true thing that embraces who you are.

I have been blogging about books and writing poetry for a long long time. There’s more to me than that and I’d like to be consistent with introducing new elements on my blog. But until then, I’m glad I have this… The fifth blog anniversary.

29th July

Book Review — The Sacred Sword by Hindol Sengupta

Thank you Penguin Random House India for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Summary – The Sacred Sword chronicles the rise of Guru Gobind Singh, a Sikh warrior to be reckoned with. At the prime age of 9 years, Gobind Rai’s childhood came crashing down when his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, was assassinated by the Mughals. In order to restore the Sikh faith in the minds of thousands of people, Gobind assumes the position of guru and begins to train villagers. He builds the Khalsa, a group of extraordinary warriors who mirror the values of Sikhism and fight to defend its honor. Despite all of his successes, the northern kings underestimate his power, plotting with Emperor Aurangzeb to defeat the guru. But they too learn by experience, what it is to cross Guru Gobind Singh. Hindol Sengupta’s novel merges history and fiction to create an empowering tale.

Review – Historical fiction is one of my all time favourite genres. I have never read anything by Hindol Sengupta, so this one was a pleasant surprise. Even though the author forewarns us that there’s a good mixture of fiction in the novel, I found myself rooted to the spot with all of the events I was learning about. I have never been exposed to stories about the Sikh community. And I felt like this book was great in conveying their values, mannerisms and other sensibilities. The fact that their sayings or proverbial phrases were even translated in English was a wonderful addition. You get to understand their religious texts and their perspective about God. Naturally, religion is a major theme in this novel. It poses quite a few questions about the clashing of two religions. In light of their outlook, you find yourself evaluating certain perspectives of yours. Further, the novel also explores elements like war, blind faith etc.

The writing style is refreshing and vivid. For a majority of the novel, I was so inspired by the portrayal of Guru Gobind Singh that I could almost imagine myself as a character in the story. Aurangzeb’s depiction did him no good. I wanted to punch him every time his narcissistic persona made an appearance. The battle scenarios were invigorating to say the least. All those who aren’t familiar with Hindi or Punjabi terms, fear not; there’s a sizable glossary at the end. While the story reflects Guru Gobind Singh’s expertise, we are not made privy to how he became so well versed. I would have liked to know about his upbringing and training. That would have made the story more realistic. Some of the poetry included is truly splendid. I really enjoyed reading The Sacred Sword because it was a worthy history lesson devoid of the monotony of textbooks. It is told from the point of view of Gobind and that makes it more special. If you enjoy historical fictions, PICK UP this novel.

What do you get out of it? Invaluable lessons about loyalty, bravery, the Sikh faith and the tyranny of the Mughals. Overall, a good update on Indian history.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars.

Only One Definition

Words and asterisks,
They go together.
Bleeding, draining
The page of colour.
Judge, judge, judge
They do
Till their belly bloats
And their mind gloats.
Behind a screen,
Safe and cowardly,
They fill up their tanks
With other’s misery.

We’re asked to
Hush, hush, hush.
Haters gonna hate.
To do anything,
It’s too late.
Spreading, changing
These stories of mine.
Gives you a good laugh,
Then is it fine?
I’m not the me
You’ve painted.
I’m not the me
You’ve underrated.

I’m all that I believe
And all that I know.
Tsk tsk tsk, there’s
Only one definition
With which I glow.
Mine.