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.

 

Book Review — One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Five students with distinct identities are seemingly tricked into detention, but what comes after that is no joke. One of them is dead and the four who walk out aren’t exactly blameless. They all have an ax to grind with the dead boy, Simon. You see, he was to set in motion a series of events that would threaten to ruin their lives. But now, they’re doomed to a fate of harsh judgment, discrimination and possible social isolation. While their world is being ripped apart by the police and media, they find solace in unexpected ways. The truth about Simon’s death is a lot closer than they think.

The premise of this book is so fantastic that I knew I’d love it. You couldn’t possibly go wrong with a mystery like that. But unfortunately, it all fell flat after the beginning. The initial couple of chapters are interesting because we are slowly submerged into their world, trying to understand the characters and the storyline. After that I felt like the story wasn’t progressing AT ALL. Almost three forth of the novel comprises of the students being questioned time and again by detectives, with no leads whatsoever. And that was frustrating. The only saving grace in 66% of the novel was Bronwyn and Nate’s chemistry. That being said, the rest 34% of the novel was as mind blowing as I’d hoped the whole novel to be. It was fast paced, the characters were actively contributing to the plot, the mystery was getting solved, additional themes were being established.

The author’s writing style is great, because it builds the right kind of atmosphere, encouraging you to try to put the pieces together. I just wished that a majority of the novel had as much depth. Because the synopsis is evidence to how much potential this novel had. It resembles Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game to a great extent and I loved that quality! The novel follows some tropes like that of the bad boy lead, geeky girl protagonist and high school hierarchy. While it addresses important issues like that of peer pressure, bullying, depression etc, it doesn’t add much value in terms of how to tackle those concerns. On the other hand, it’s treatment of gay sexuality is commendable. I liked how the climax played out and little else. I’m one of those few people who didn’t really love the book.

Rating – 2 out of 5 stars.

TV Show Recommendations – If You Like Jane The Virgin…

TV series’ like Jane The Virgin are full of feels. They bag the family drama, romance and self-growth aspects like a pro! JTV, in particular, is one of my all time favourites. Not just because Jane’s character is super easy to relate to, but because of how well Gina Rodriguez brings that character to life and makes you want to be a part of her family. Watching the three (extremely short for my liking) seasons was a journey full of retrospection and wistful musings, for a TV show junkie like me. The manner in which her attitude towards life, passions, morals have been delineated allows us to believe in the power of perseverance and unity. It mirrors the success she ultimately experiences, while teaching us how wonderful it is to aspire. Hell, she doesn’t even let an unplanned insemination get in the way of her becoming an author! You couldn’t possibly have a better excuse than hers.

Here are some other television shows that grant us our daily dose of dramatic goodness, while urging us to follow our dreams:

  • The Carrie Diaries- Carrie Bradshaw knows how to take risks. When her law internship appears bleak in comparison to the job next door at Interview magazine, she jumps at the chance. With her charm, diligence and wit, she persuades Larissa, the editor to give her a full time job. Living the high life in Manhattan, Carrie comes to terms with making difficult choices with regards to education, friendship, love and family. The Carrie Diaries makes you fall in love with life all over again.


  • Younger – This is an endearing story of 40 going on 20. Liza, a divorced mother, realizes that while she was living her life as a wife and a mother, her career slipped out of her grasp. Now that she is ready to resume work in the publishing field, nobody wants to hire a 40 year old. So what does she do? She rebuilds her identity as a 26 year old, trying to fit into a world she had left behind. Her zeal for life is magically renewed donning this “younger” skin. Younger is a hearty TV series that explores the publishing industry through the eyes of Liza’s double persona.

  • Girlboss- Sophia is an eccentric character, barely surviving on her own. She has cut off all ties with family and friends alike, keeping only Annie (her bestfriend) by her side. She lucks out when a thrift shopping episode opens her eyes to the world of vintage fashion. After much deliberation, struggle and self-doubt, her eBay store gains momentum, with her refurbishing and selling vintage clothes. In the span of the 13 part series, we see Sophia unfurl and become a much better version of herself. She is a testament to what dedication to one’s job looks like. There’s a good deal of humor, sass and fashion in this show to make you want to binge watch.

  • Famous in Love – Paige, an ambitious college student, swings by a movie audition simply because her bestfriend insisted. Now, she has landed the lead role in the movie and has no idea how to juggle between her normal life and the one behind all the glitz and glamor. Friendships fall through the roof as new ones reserve a spot in her life. Does following one’s heart have to be so expensive?


  • The Bold Type – Three bestfriends, Jane, Sutton and Kat work for Scarlet magazine as an article writer, social media manager and fashion aspirant respectively. In a highly competitive and talent-driven world, these women experience the highs and lows of baring their soul to the society. You see, the devil may always come to collect his prize, but the social media trolls make life in hell look like a vacation. Filled with work woes, swoon-worthy relationships and mesmerizing shots of NYC, The Bold Type is quickly making its way up my favourites list.

There’s more than two months left for Jane The Virgin’s next season; enough time to indulge in the above mentioned lovelies. They are overflowing with empowered women and drool-inducing career paths. As a media graduate, writer and avid reader, these shows are my calling; their locations are undoubtedly made of Siren songs. Let me know if I’ve missed out any other TV shows that inspire you to give your absolute best each day. We all need such feel-good, quality content!

Book Review — Encounters Of A Fat Bride by Samah Visaria

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

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Encounters of a Fat Bride unveils the humiliation and harsh circumstances that an overweight woman has to undergo in order to find a groom in India. Madhurima Pandey has learnt to set aside her complex about feeling like the quintessential DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend). While all her friends find fairytale-esque romances, Madhu has devoted her time to work and study, so as to steer clear of the reality that no man in his right mind would ever choose her. But as per societal norms, marriage is the most essential rite of initiation into adulthood. And soon, her middle class family begins to invite a bevy of eligible men in the hopes that one of them would accept Madhu into their household. Samah Visaria’s novel aptly reflects the age-old customs of dowry and arranged marriage, complete with nosy neighbors and body-shaming parents of potential grooms.

It should be noted that some people may view this novel as being offensive, but I assure you that it is not. The author, in no way, propagates discriminating against “fat” brides. She is merely trying to convey to the audience that women should be confident regardless of their physical appearances.

As lighthearted as this book is, it also approaches some very serious issues like that of fat-shaming, mental health disorder, the dowry system (wherein the family of the bride compensates the groom’s family in cash or kind for going ahead with the marriage) and gender bias. While a lot of these issues are dealt with rationally, I wasn’t comfortable with the way mental health disorders were handled. You begin to think that Madhu is a very mature and educated woman, but then her sidelining of mental instability as “retarded” or “losing it” is totally not acceptable. On the other hand, through Madhu’s strength of character, we see how other negative elements are treated strictly. Her acceptance of her body image and understanding that all genders ought to be equal attempts to remove society’s misconceptions.

What’s unique is that the chapter titles feature a countdown; so you are made aware of the ending but you don’t know how that transpires. See, there’s some mystery in there too. The author’s writing style is colloquial, humorous and incorporates few Hindi terms. There are a couple of cliches, but nothing major. She makes several references to the movie industry, juxtaposing Madhu’s behavior and feelings which made light of the situation at hand. The narration is so convincing that I’d feel just as infuriated at society as Madhu does. I mean, it is appalling that people expect you to be a certain way and if you aren’t, they rain down the most horrible comments on you. I really liked the plot because it is still so relevant. Some aspects of the story were a little over the top, but you can’t expect anything less from a dramatic character like Madhu. Her character arc sees quite a change throughout the novel. Initially, she is against the idea of arrange marriage, then tired of being lonely, she begins to crave it. Even her outlook undergoes certain essential changes. Without a doubt, Madhu’s funny quips renders the entire novel so enjoyable that I finished it in one sitting. I liked the book and I look forward to anything else the author may write in the future. You should check it out!

Ratings – 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review — Against All Odds by Danielle Steel

Thank you Pan Macmillan India for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Against All Odds comes together in the most seamless manner, portraying all the sentiments and decisions that knit a family close together. Kate Madison, after the death of her husband, has adeptly managed bringing up 4 children. She has also made a name for herself in the fashion world with the success of her clothing resale store, Still Fabulous. Now that her children are all grown up, she is more worried than ever, for they seem to be testing fate and making irrational decisions. Izzie, Kate’s oldest daughter, has fallen for a drug addict, with no job and no sense of responsibility. Justin, one of her twins, is planning to have children with his gay partner outside of wedlock. Whereas his sister, Julie can’t fathom the change in tide that threatens to rip her apart from her family. Willie, the youngest of the four leads a sparkling life, disparate from his family, who know nothing about his whereabouts. Despite her warnings, Kate’s children are hell bent on having their way and pay no heed to her. How she manages to protect them is a tale told in delicate and homely fashion in this novel by Danielle Steel.

Family drama is a genre right up my alley and this one was no different. It has all the makings of a winter, cozy read, while still exposing you to the alarming nature of some people in this world. It brings to light the woes of a single mother, who stops at nothing to prevent her children from making mistakes. Danielle Steel’s writing style is very comforting and easy to grasp. Her descriptions aren’t heavy, but just right. One thing I found odd is the repetitive sentences, i.e. a single sentence would be written in two different ways back to back, which made the paragraph a little monotonous. Some scenes weren’t as fluid as they could have been. Apart from that, I have no complaints. The way this story is narrated is quite different from Danielle Steel’s other novels.

The plot is wonderful and circles three generations of a family, along with their differing perspectives. Grandma Lou is a fun-loving character, without a worry and brings to life the term “wanderlust”. While she shares her daughter, Kate’s concerns occasionally, she has a more modern approach to parenting. Kate, on the other hand, takes way too much stress. I guess, it’s understandable. But at times, she’s bit of a hypocrite. Izzie and Julie’s characters were beyond my comprehension. They failed to see what was right in front of their eyes, particularly for girls of such high caliber jobs. I wished they had been smarter in dealing with their personal lives and had been more open with the rest of the family. I liked the section’s pertaining to Justin’s story a lot. His determination to start a family of his own perfectly reflects the values that were passed down to him. I loved the bond that all six of them share. It was the highlight of the novel. Willie doesn’t make much of an appearance in the book, except for the last couple of chapters. Initially, you are wont to think that Kate’s fears are irrational. But as the story progresses, I began to wonder if she was a psychic or not. There’s nothing extraordinary about this book, but the emotions that hold it together, makes it so endearing. I definitely enjoyed reading it and I’d recommend the book to all those who like Contemporary Fiction.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars.