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

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Amit Sharma’s The Woman Who Saw The Future is a feast in its entirety. The plot delves into the lives of the Vaid family after they discover that their daughter, Sapna, has premonitions of impending doom. She gets nightmares about all sorts of disasters leading to people’s deaths around the world, whether they are terrorist attacks, accidents, killings etc. As time passes, the intensity and frequency of these visions increase to such an extent that it jeopardizes Sapna’s mental well being. In order to appease her frazzled mind, she agrees to do a reality show called Lucky People wherein she puts her powers to good use and saves thousands of people from imminent death. But as we all know, “with great power comes great responsibility”, and somewhere along the line, Sapna loses focus on the bigger picture. That marks the deterioration of a once innocent and frightened girl.

I want to give this book all the stars in the world. It blew me away, like winds on a dandelion farm. But it’s very disheartening that I can’t give it a full rating. So I’ll start off with the minor points that I didn’t really like. The writing style, although punchy and well articulated, had some repeated usage of word(s) that bothered me. For example, Sapna’s mother Kalpana uses the words “you know” way too often! Similarly, with Mehak, she says “Lord” as a way of exclamation too often. And it doesn’t really gel with what’s happening. So these two occurrences stood out like a sore thumb. Secondly, there are sections in the book where either Sapna or her mother or some other character recounts the various calamitous incidents that Sapna has helped prevent. Those sections weren’t seamlessly embedded in the narrative and felt a bit like they were being presented as bullet points. Finally, a couple of instances were a bit hard to believe.

Now, lets get to all the good stuff. And there’s a lot! So bear with me as I rave about how fantastic this book is. (This review is going to be a long one.) The plot is very unique, not because of the “premonitions” aspect, but because the author introduces a reality show as a plot point. This very fact allows us to glimpse how thirsty the society is to revere someone, to idolize a person and place them akin to God. And also, how fragile that belief is. The part that takes the crown is how this story unfolds. It is told from the perspective of atleast 9 characters; that’s something I’ve never encountered before. You’d think that it would get overwhelming, but it doesn’t. And even in those chapters, what every character divulges is carefully tailored so that bits of the story wonderfully unravel at a time. Moreover, the narration jumps back and forth between the past and the present, which adds more substance to the novel.

There’s barely any stereotyping or cliche. From a heartrending contemporary fiction with supernatural elements, this novel hurtles towards becoming a thriller. There’s a bit of sexual content and profanities used, nothing too extreme. One of the highlights of this novel, for me, has to be the characterization of Sapna. The arc is so impressive! You can’t help but be bewildered as you watch her turn from a stubborn, strong daughter to a scared, unsure girl and then a cold, pompous maniac. Believe me when I say that these aren’t just adjectives. These parts of her personality surface at different parts of the book. The ending couldn’t have been better. I just really wish that those tiny flaws had been smoothed out and I didn’t find anything problematic. Nevertheless, I’m certainly going to recommend this book to everyone. And hope that for the sake of such excellent plot execution, you can ignore the small issues.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? Tears. Joy. A package of a book that highlights the suffering of a family burdened by loss, reflects Indian society, brings out interesting supernatural elements and is ultimately a really good thriller.

Thank you Writers Melon for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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Book Review — Austenistan [edited by Laaleen Sukhera]

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Austenistan is a compilation of seven short stories that, in true Jane Austen fashion, comment on the nature of society and revolve around the lives of modern women. Based in different cities of Pakistan, these stories are as immersed in Pakistani culture as they are tweaked to accommodate the whims of 21st century folks.

I had such great expectations of this book, particularly because it was inspired by Jane Austen’s writings with the promise to feature Pakistani culture. Unfortunately, I didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped. Now, the writing style (of the different writers) is colloquial and easy to get accustomed to, which was an interesting change from Austen’s very ornate and wordy style. Most of the stories had some element of a wedding celebration or a party, the vibes of which were aptly conveyed through the use of imageries and cultural references. You’ll also find empowered women refusing to bow down to society’s ridiculous expectations. Clichés like insta-love, brooding men and marriage-fixing-aunties notwithstanding, I really liked reading about how different female protagonists reacted in different circumstances.

My problem was with certain characters and value systems that overshadowed even the simplest of stories. In Begum Saira Returns, Saira’s plight is heartrending! She is bullied by society for being open-minded. BUT THEN, the turn of events at the end is bewildering. How is it okay to let go of your morals, especially when doing so could hurt a loved one? Many of the stories emphasize superficial standards, when it comes to arranging a marriage or fixing a date, by placing those with a better outward appearance, money and stature at a pedestal. In Austen’s writings, these aspects could be justified because the time was such. But the same is not an overarching truth of today. Certain parts of the stories do get predictable after a point, but because they’re cutesy romances it’s not really bothersome. My favourite has to be The Autumn Ball by Gayathri Warnsuriya. The disconnect between a couple is heartbreakingly sketched in that story. All in all, the book had it’s good and bad aspects. I enjoyed reading most of the stories. It’s just a couple of them that irked me.

Ratings – 3 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A few entertaining stories which attempt to reflect prevalent ideals about marriage, womanhood and society.

Thank you Bloomsbury India for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a review. 

Cover Reveal – Love in Lutyens’ Delhi by Amitabh Pandey

Craving a romance contemporary fiction? Well, you’re in luck! Releasing on 22nd December 2017 is Amitabh Pandey’s Love in Lutyens’ Delhi, a novel that aims to portray the realistic highs and lows of being in a relationship in this 21st century, within the context of Indian society. Here’s the cover for the novel released by Pan Macmillan India, and I must say, it’s gorgeous! The soft-colored backdrop instantly envelops you with vacation vibes, reminding you of carefree times. The overall feel of the fonts and color play is very light and pleasant. And I hope that the book reads like a mesmerizing tale. 

I can’t wait to read this book as it promises a much better take on modern relationships, when compared to the idealized fairytale-esque romances. What do you think?

Book Review — One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus

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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.

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. 

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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. 

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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.

Book Review — Glitter and Gloss by Vibha Batra

Thank you Vibha Batra for sending me a copy of your book for review 🙂

Glitter and Gloss chronicles the love and work life of Misha, a twenty something makeup artist, who unknowingly spites a MVP at an event, only to later realize who he is. Things snowball from there and somehow, her and Akshay’s relationship evolves into a close knit one. But fairytale scenarios do take place in real life too and Misha finds herself battling not only work woes but Akshay’s traditional family who is not too keen on accepting her.

Image courtesy – Goodreads.

While the issue of familial acceptance has been broached a number of times before , I was intrigued by the protagonist’s profession and how that would play a part in the story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book from the start, At no point does it get draggy or uninteresting. The narration, through the point of view of Misha, is done well. The author makes use of Hindi words to fully convey the essence of the situation through Misha’s perspective and I quite liked that. The element of humor keeps the novel lively all throughout and I was cracking up a lot. The chemistry between Misha and Akshay is great. They make an adorable pair.

I greatly liked reading about her work as it added another dimension to the story. The idea of playing with narrow-minded notions added an interesting flavor to the book. I was glad that Sammy, being a non-gay guy, was shown to be her roommate till the very end (much to the horror of Akshay’s elder sister). Cause if he had been done away with, then it would just fuel the one track mind of society. Poulomi is penned to be the elder sister – bestfriend character. There were some tropes  used that I wasn’t a big fan of. Such as that of the male lead being tall & handsome; that of the conservative Indian family including gossiping aunties. Sometimes I wished that Misha would think more rationally. That way she could have avoided a lot of trouble. Nevertheless, I liked the book on the whole. It makes for a fun read. I’d recommend it to everyone who loves Contemporary Fiction.

Ratings – 3.5 stars on 5.

Meera