Book Review — Cold Truth by Nikhil Pradhan

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Sakshi Prakash is a 10-year-old girl who goes missing from East Delhi. While the police are making zilch efforts to uncover the mystery behind her disappearance, a journalist follows the trails left behind by other such possible child kidnappings, and ends up unveiling an international conspiracy that’ll take the world by storm. Written in an epistolary format, Cold Truth packs a punch with its emphasis on corruption and the possibilities of the unknown.

While I’m always ready to devour a good mystery novel, it soon became apparent that Cold Truth was not what it looked like. It’s not a basic suspense fiction. The search for Sakshi spirals out and we come to realize how other cases, governments and agencies are involved in covering up certain life-altering mistakes. Amidst themes of conspiracy, experiments and the pursuit of truth, the plot execution has been managed splendidly. I would give brownie points to the author for thinking of such an intriguing plot.

As for the writing style and language, I’d say this book is apt for intermediate readers. Conveyed through chats, newspaper articles, voice transcripts, official documents and other different elements, the story is pieced together by the journalist’s narration. There are portions where the writing makes use of some medical jargon, but apart from that, the style is quite straightforward. If you’re not used to reading many jaw-dropping books, you should prepare yourself for the insane amounts of gaping-mouth scenarios that are inevitable once you begin reading this novel of Nikhil Pradhan’s. It is simply mind-blowing!

One issue I have with the book is that at times, I felt that the narrative would digress from the focal point of the scene/the chapter. The unnecessary bits could’ve been done away with. But on the whole, it is a spellbinding tome of 200 odd pages, which I finished in a sitting. This is one of those books (right up my alley!) that I’m not going to forget anytime soon. So highly recommend it!

Rating – 4.5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? An unputdownable thriller that not only explores certain serious themes but also has a peculiar ending.

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


Book Review — Swear You Won’t Tell? by Vedashree Khambete-Sharma

It was supposed to be one press release. That’s all the tolerance Avantika Pandit, Bombay based journalist, had built up towards her school time archrival, Aisha Juneja. But that one event exposes her to the astounding news of her old bestfriend’s death. This discovery sends Avantika hurtling towards the people from her past, whom she had been glad to see the end of. And as she gets closer to understanding how Laxmi Swaminathan passed away, she begins to comprehend just how far from the truth she had been straying, inevitably placing herself in grave danger. Vedashree Khambete-Sharma has spun an engaging tale of women who still carry the scars from their younger days.

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With a protagonist as sarcastic and unapproachable as Avantika, this book could easily have been one of those cases where the plot is great but the main character spoils all the fun. However, that is totally not what happens. A couple of pages in, I was already inching towards disliking her for her callous behavior, when the author takes us back to the 1990s i.e. Avantika’s childhood. We come face to face with a character whose experience with bullies has compelled her to build an armor of steel as a defense mechanism. And all throughout the book, the narrative alternates between the present and the girls’ school years.

Being a media student and a 90s kid, everything about this book appealed to me. I could relate to the references made about campus culture, the lingo used in Indian English medium schools etc. Something I particularly loved about this book is its tone, that is the narrative through Avantika’s voice. It is colloquial and upfront, witty and attuned to Indianness. Undoubtedly, there will be moments when you can’t help but crack a smile at the humor imbued in the writing. I felt strongly about Avantika’s past, having had to deal with girls like Aisha who are drowning in their sense of entitlement and corrupt mind.

A couple of things I wasn’t a big fan of were Avantika’s possible chemistry with Aisha’s brother, the high school clique representation where one of the girls had to be shown as daft, gullible and Laxmi being given this clean chit for never standing up for her former bestfriend (Avantika). Of course, at the root of it, this book is a mystery fiction. And it’s no wonder that I finished it in a day. Fast paced, thrilling and finally, surprising, because that’s an ending I would never have thought of, even though it makes some sense. I really enjoyed reading Swear You Won’t Tell? and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to miss it! So pick it up now!

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A suspenseful story explored through the perspective of a snarky journalist.

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

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

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Ismael’s disbelief in the existence of Hell and Paradise is contested by otherworldly beings who require him to play a part in their revolution. He is the key to upturning a futuristic, dystopian society, a place of extremist power; so that it may once again revert to normality. The path to fulfilling such a responsibility is one filled with great restraint and dedication. He leaves his home in America, only to head back to his birthplace and realize just how depraved it has become. Trying to set aside his rational thinking, Ismael finds himself in parallel realms, surrounded by oddities and species as mind boggling as the other.

The plot was intriguing enough to make me want to read it asap! For the longest time, I believed that this book could end up as a great success, but somehow along the way, the character of Ismael ruined it all. I loved how imaginative and descriptive the writing style is. Although the ideals of Hell and Heaven are cliches, they are portrayed with such emphasis that you begin to absorb it easily. Even the plot is extraordinary and brave. To take a concept that could very well be considered sensitive or problematic and turn it into a story of magic realism is applaudable indeed. Since I have a keen affinity for that which challenges the notions of normal and acceptable, I was really hoping to love this novel. You get certain Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood-esque vibes in the beginning, which was what kept me going. The elements of a dystopian society were penned down exceptionally well, to such a degree in fact as to warn the readers of what could possibly occur in the future.

This novel has some very strong themes, such as intolerance, gory violence, sexual content. Moving on to the aspect of the novel that prevented me from finishing it – Ismael. Initially, his character is depicted to be just like any other protagonist, suffering from family and financial troubles, opinionated and skeptical about strangers. On a whim, he happens to sign up for an Ayahuasca ceremony (a drug induced “trip”) that introduces him to an agent of another realm. Fast forward a few days and Ismael has followed instructions by an anonymous person, asking him to move back to his childhood home. It is from there, that we get the glimpse of an inconsistent character. Just his thoughts and actions didn’t really line up, therefore making him rather unlikeable. I found myself trying to set aside my thoughts about Ismael, just so I could get to the end of the book, but after a point it got too much. I seem to be amongst the very few who couldn’t digest this story, so by all means, give it a try.

What do you get out of it? A glimpse into a scary future. It also encourages thinking outside the box, which is essential in order to have a broader mind.

Ratings – 1 out of 5 stars

Thank you Writers Melon and HarperCollins India for sending me this book in exchange for a review.