23:59:59

Sadashiv Pradhan, in his contemporary fiction novel, attempts to familiarize the reader with the world of Business schools. In doing so, he unearths the cut-throat environment within these colleges and tells of the daunting task that lies ahead for the students. Just as there is much conjecture surrounding the pursual of an MBA degree within Indian society, this work mirrors the various thought processes with which students embark on such a rigorous journey. 23:59:59 is the story that encompasses the experiences of many, but in particular chronicles the lives of Shalini, Jay, Abhimanyu and Ishaan.

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

As an outsider who has always heard of the tribulations pertaining to being an MBA student, I was really interested to see what the author had to offer on the subject matter. And it wouldn’t be far fetched to say that it was a very insightful glimpse into the lives of these students. So, as far as the intent is concerned, I am glad to have picked it up, because you actually get to see what the lives of MBA students are like.

However, the writing style and the execution of the plot completely overturned the efforts of the author. There were too many editing errors and even in terms of language, there were considerable mistakes that hampered my reading experience. It is understandable that being well versed in a language is a continuous process, but I felt that this story could’ve been presented in a much more polished way.

Moreover, every chapter ends with one of the characters using a certain (cuss) profane phrase; it was probably meant to add some humor, but only ended up irking me more. What was interesting to observe was that unlike many novels, this one doesn’t have a distinct beginning, middle and end. There are a series of conflicts and crises that these friends go through; their determination to come out victorious is something that is captured by the author. Themes of friendship, ambition, education system in India, ragging, bullying are some among the many that you’ll read about.

There were moments when some of the characters would display problematic mindsets; slut-shaming, objectification and substance abuse were shown to be a consequence of the same. I think Jay was the only character in the book that I moderately liked. He comes across as someone who stands out because of his non-stereotypical representation. The others’ weren’t very convincing and would at times depict contradictory behavior.

On the whole, because there were quite a few aspects of this book that didn’t work for me, I would not recommend it.

Thank you Sadashiv Pradhan for sending me a copy of your book in exchange of an honest review.

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The Queen’s Last Salute

Writing historical fictions about characters from Indian history is never an easy feat. It is like treading on thin ice. While the liberty to creatively bridge the gap between the known and the unknown rests with the author, chances are that they are bound to offend someone with their interpretation of these historical occurrences. Moupia Basu’s The Queen’s Last Salute is one such novel that takes you through the inner workings of the Bundlekhand region of India during the nineteenth century. One of the most interesting dynamics at play in this book is how it highlights the power equations between the Indians, Mughals and Britishers during that time.

While the title suggests that it focuses on the life and times of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi, it actually tells us the story of some individuals who were monumental to her time on the throne. For the same reason, I was a little disappointed because I had been hoping to read a lot more about the Queen of Jhansi than we actually get to read. Nevertheless, the author has managed to neatly tie all of the characters’ stories together to form one fast paced, intriguing novel.

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

Chandraki, who is Rani Lakshmibai’s companion, comes across as the protagonist of the novel. We follow her journey into enemy territory as she sets out to the kingdom of Orchha to look for a loved one. I found her to be an unreliable main character as her actions and thoughts would keep oscillating between two extremes. Even her dalliance with Jaywant lost steam soon after it began. Towards the end of this book, another character steps into the role of her love interest – that felt really unnecessary and lacked conviction.

As far as historical fictions go, what I did appreciate about this book is the simple language it has been written in, which makes it easy to get swept up in this world that Moupia Basu describes. There’s no use of needless descriptions and flowery words. The manner of storytelling was very captivating. The chapters are short, which is something I like. In the beginning, I kept wondering why we are reading so much about Riyaz Khan, Chandraki and the Queen of Orchha, but it all makes sense post-climax. The turning point in the novel is something I had suspected, but that didn’t deter me from enjoying reading the book.

Amidst all the dramatics and political clashes, you get a glimpse of a society that has still not come to terms with the fact that women can wield swords and ride horses. So their treatment of such deviance from norms helped acquaint us with the regressive mindsets. On the whole, it was worth reading cause it had this quality of being unputdownable, but looking at it critically, there were just some aspects of the novel that could have been worked on, like certain character developments and plot points.

★ ★ ★

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

Bestseller by Ahmed Faiyaz

The publishing industry does not garner nearly as much limelight as entertainment industries do. But Ahmed Faiyaz’s Indian contemporary fiction, Bestseller, more than makes up for it by adding heaps of glitz and glamour to an intriguing premise. Kalim Publishing is a sinking ship that has been nearly reduced to the position of swatting flies because of the great paucity of titles to be published as well as motivated personnel who could make that happen. Picture a decrepit building in some corner of Mumbai and three bored-looking workers. Into such a scenario steps the savior of the day; Akshay Saxena has recently been fired from his job as an editor of a magazine in the UK. In order to be able to go back and work on starting an imprint, he is tasked with the responsibility of making Kalim a successful business once again.

All was well and good up till the first chapter of the book. Thereafter, the appeal of the book was on a steady decline, as we are introduced to character after character who hold no real significance. I didn’t find an ounce of professionalism in most of the characters and they were supposedly experienced in their own respective fields. The entirety of the novel is colored by a very carefree, “chalta hai” (blase) attitude which undermines the importance of the industry. Because it gives you the impression that all sorts of funny business are brushed under the carpet in order to push a title onto the bestseller list. There wasn’t a single character I found likeable. Zorah tries too hard and before you know it, she and Akshay have begun an office romance that is at times unreasonable and otherwise, cringe-worthy.

The plot in itself could’ve been executed better. I was really looking forward to reading a well-structured novel based on the synopsis. But it felt like the author chose to fast forward over the parts that were the most important and instead focus on unconvincing aspects of the story like:

  • Akshay and Zorah’s romance.
  • The painfully demeaning representation of writers (all most everyone who approaches the publishing company either didn’t know basic English or had some ridiculous story proposal or employed tricks like seduction, blackmail to have their books published).
  • Akshay being caught in an elaborate tug of war between celebrities and politicians.
  • His rather silly plan to make the books sell.

Peppered by a couple of sentences in Hindi, the author’s writing style is the one thing I found moderately enjoyable. It has all the qualities of being colloquial and can easily be understood. However, there were a handful of errors that had been overlooked in the editing phase of publishing this book.

What ultimately got on my nerve is Akshay’s mental commentary. It follows you everywhere from the beginning of the book till the end. During his interactions with the various characters, his clear disdain for them is evident from his thoughts. So there are comments printed in italics in between conversations that show us what exactly he thinks about the person he is speaking to. And mind you, it just all makes him look like an arrogant imbecile who can’t fathom enough courage to speak his mind to his clients. Here’s a line that’ll help paint a picture in your mind about the kind of relationship Akshay and Zorah have:

This is easy, she’ll crib, I’ll say sorry and we’ll end up in the sack.

I’m sure it is apparent from this review that I was extremely disappointed by the book. There was nothing that made me smile or feel happy about reading it.

Note – This book was sent to me by Writers Melon in exchange of an honest review.

★.5

Cover Reveal — Paradise Towers by Shweta Bachchan-Nanda

Shweta Bachchan-Nanda’s debut novel is all set to leap onto bookshelves come 2nd week of October 2018. The book already has a very mesmerizing trailer that you can watch on HarperCollins India’s Instagram page. Here’s what the cover looks like:

About Paradise Towers:
Dinesh opens the door to the Kapoor flat to find Lata, the enchantress who works at Mrs Aly Khan’s, carrying a hot case with freshly made gaajar ka halwa. On the first floor, the inquisitive Mrs Mody wipes the dust off her precious binoculars to spy on the building’s security guard. The Singhs open the doors of their SUV, their four boys creating a ruckus – they are the newcomers, the outsiders. Through the peephole, the ever-watchful Mrs Ranganekar observes their arrival. Welcome to Paradise Towers, an apartment building in central Mumbai. Everyone here has a story to tell. Or maybe they have stories to hide.
Shweta Bachchan-Nanda’s quirky, intimate debut explores the intertwined lives in this building – a
forbidden romance, an elopement, the undercurrents of tension in corridor interactions and an explosive
Diwali celebration. Shweta Bachchan-Nanda’s is a dazzling voice that will draw you into the intoxicating,
crazy world that is Paradise Towers.


Now you know what to pick up in October for a fun read. I can’t wait to snuggle up with this book and hopefully, I’ll have a review post live soon.

Book Review — A Girl, A Stolen Camera and A Borrowed Bike by Nikhil Singh Shaurya

Nikhil Singh Shaurya’s debut novella, A Girl, A Stolen Camera and A Borrowed Bike tells the story of Sonali who, upon stumbling across some photos captured by an unknown man, realizes that traveling is her true calling. She jumps at the chance to leave her mundane life behind, and dons the skin of a wanderer, moving from place to place without any planning in advance. As her journeys allow her to view life from renewed perspectives, she gets closer to learning about the man whose passion and creative output altered her life so drastically.

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

This book would’ve had so much more of an impact if it hadn’t been this short. With just around 80 pages, I felt that the potential of the theme was at a disadvantage. It was really interesting to read about Sonali’s sojourns, but I wished that the author had elaborated on the events to give us a satisfactory understanding of the story. There’s a section in one of the pages where Sonali lists out all the new experiences she’s had ever since she embarked on this journey – I would’ve LOVED to read about those in detail.

The writing style is simple and innately Indian. There aren’t a lot of complicated words used. However, the editing of this book wasn’t up to the mark and that, sort of disrupted my reading experience. I wasn’t a fan of any of the characters or their decision making capabilities. Sonali herself doesn’t make for a very reliable protagonist. We’re introduced to atleast 3-4 male characters, all of whom take on the role of being her love interests.  On the whole, it was an okay read. There were quite a few aspects of the book that I didn’t really like. If you’ve read it and enjoyed it, let me know your thoughts?

Rating – 2 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A rushed, brief account of a woman who finds meaning in life through her extensive travels.

Thank you Nikhil Singh Shaurya for sending me a copy of your book in exchange of an honest review.

Book Review — A Cage of Desires by Shuchi Singh Kalra

Shuchi Singh Kalra’s A Cage of Desires comments on the state of Indian marriages within a conventional family, while giving wings to the sexual identity of a woman. Renu is a married woman who, between taking care of her children, her father-in-law and the house singlehandedly, finds no relief for herself. Her loneliness and lack of affection in a loveless marriage urges her to get lost in the words of renowned erotic fiction author, Maya. This novel draws parallels between a woman subdued by patriarchy and a woman who is unafraid to give voice to her fantasies.

From the synopsis itself, I was intrigued by the premise of this novel because it promised a contrast in female character types that I’ve never read of before. We are introduced to the two personalities and how they differ from each other. Renu is shown to be meek, she doesn’t speak up for herself when she is mistreated by her father-in-law and husband. This habit  of hers doesn’t prepare her for the continued suffering she gets subjected to. Maya, on the other hand, is someone who knows how to put people in their place, is extremely confident and unapologetic about her desires.

I didn’t like any of the characters in this book except for Renu’s friend Akriti. From the moment we are introduced to Arjun, I knew he was a good for nothing character. All of his portrayed charm signaled warning bells in my head. Renu, to me, came across as someone very selfish and often negligent of how her actions would reflect on her children. She has no self-respect and clearly doesn’t care enough about herself to keep from going back and forth between two horrible choices. The writing style is not flowery and distracting; you can breeze through the book. The chapters are short and comprise of some colloquial usages.

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

There’s a hint of mystery in the beginning that gets resolved by one third of the book. What I liked about the book is that it highlights the plight of married women doing thankless jobs and that it also strongly puts forth the idea of women owning their sexuality. But maybe if it had done so in a more appealing and ethical manner, I would have loved reading this novel. As of now, it’s my strong dislike for the characters that left a bitter taste. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad book, but I’d hoped to enjoy it a lot more than I did.

Ratings – 2.5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A taste of hypocrisy and patriarchal beliefs held by old-fashioned Indian families; a glimpse of what women have to go through to be heard and accepted for who they are.

Thank you Shuchi Singh Kalra for sending me a copy of your book in exchange of an honest review. 

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

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

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.