Book Review — Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Inspired by Sophocles’ Antigone, Home Fire shows us the plight of a family embroiled in modern day politics and Islamophobia. Isma Pasha has been a second mother to her siblings after the demise of their parents. But her decision to move to America marks the beginning of the disintegration of their family. The twins, Aneeka and Parvaiz, find their paths diverging as he gets roped into joining the Islamic State, while trying to follow in his father’s footsteps. Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018, this novel brings up compelling truths about human vulnerabilities and manipulation.

This was one of those award winning books that I was slightly more hesitant to pick up, because it was apparent that it tackled a serious issue, one that wouldn’t allow for an “enjoyable” reading experience, in a matter of speaking. I couldn’t smile or laugh my way through the 260 pages that it took for the author to convey the story. Once I began reading it, my hesitation proved to have been not baseless. The writing style of the author just wasn’t for me and quite often, I found my attention diverted by the flowery language. A few portions of the book felt draggy and extremely slow. So while the book on the whole wasn’t one of my favorites, I cannot deny the power that the story in itself carries. It depicts to us the gradual process of breaking down someone’s mental faculties to such an extent that they become open to any kind of suggestion. And how easy it is then to channel their inner rage or turmoil into making them do questionable things.

The book is split into different sections, wherein the story is told from the point of view of different characters. I liked that about the novel. Since it is not written from first person perspective of these characters, I didn’t feel one with the book as I usually do in the case of books with such strong themes. But I was so astonished by Parvaiz’s decisions that it pained me to read about him. If I had to pick a part of the book that had been done well, I would choose the section about Parvaiz. What I would commend the author for is taking up such a prevalent topic and spinning a story around it in such a way that you cannot ignore what’s going on in the book. Overall, I would say that this is an integral read because of its premise, but I wasn’t a fan of the writing style.

What do you get out of this book? Insight into how young men and women get persuaded to join terrorist forces and how their families and loved ones get affected by their drastic choice.

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Book Review — Murder in a Minute by Shouvik Bhattacharya

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

The Aroras are an esteemed family in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh. When the eldest daughter and head of the company, Esha Arora is found murdered in their house, the very foundation of trust in one another starts crumbling as many of them had an ax to grind with the deceased. Shouvik Bhattacharya’s debut novel, Murder in a Minute reflects the extremely sensitive nature of the human psyche and how even the smallest of actions can have unfortunate consequences.

I haven’t come across any murder-mystery or thriller written by an Indian author that has bowled me over with the sheer brilliance of its plot like this one did. For almost two-thirds of this novel, the pace, albeit fast, is very placid; like the calm before the storm. The last handful of chapters are going to make you INSANE with anticipation. I was anxious and excited all at the same time. I must commend the author for crafting the suspense in such a way that nothing is predictable, which is an essential determinant of whether a suspense novel is going to keep its readers on edge or not. That said, I channeled the psychology student within me and from the very beginning, had stinking suspicion as to who the culprit might be. AND I WAS RIGHT! Taking apart the thought process and actions of all the characters made the reading experience so much more fun. It was an absolute delight!

The writing style of the author is punchy, interspersed with analogies and philosophical musings. The plot, much like other murder-mysteries, is the usual as someone of great power is killed off and also, the blame falls on immediate relations. What I found to be interesting is that the so many people in Esha’s surroundings are portrayed sketchily, thereby heightening your doubt as to the identity of the murderer. Moreover, the chapters give you a glimpse of the past. In doing so, it adds more dimension to the story, because you come to glean the equation that Esha had with different people. As far as the characters are concerned, there are some very disagreeable people in the novel. I didn’t really like them or care for them. But being a suspense novel, this book isn’t about character arcs and that’s totally understandable. I’m not sure exactly why, but I found some of the mannerisms of the main inspector to be funny.  Few of the themes mirrored by this book are true to the Indian society, like the pressure of following a specific educational field or being intolerant of deviance. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book a great deal and would definitely recommend it to everyone who is into this genre of writing. READ IT, PEOPLE! It’s a rather quick read and I finished most of it in one sitting.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A thriller with tons of suspects and a maddeningly good unraveling of the mystery

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

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.

Islanded.

Waves upon waves.
Rays upon rays.
I lay there,
A secluded island.
Straining out of reach,
And then springing back.
Holding myself aloft,
And then being slack.
Thoughts gently lapping at me,
The shores crept inward.
Thoughts clouding over me,
My heart stirred.
Time blurred into one,
Lost, as I was.
In the distance, I saw them,
Speaking, approaching.
Holding maps
To my deepest whims.
Wielding the power
To turn me inside out.
Thousands have come
Before them and
Thousands shall come after.
For within myself, there exists
A labyrinthine haven.
I see them.
They do not see me.

Mockery

They thrive on it.
It feeds their worth.
It riles them up.
They bleed; no mirth.
Shape, colour,
Accent, birth.
In matters of laughter
There’s no dearth.

Once, a joke,
Thence, a poke.
Amidst the folk,
In shame, you soak.

But shades emerge
From a plain verge.
So make your own,
Slights that are thrown.
Cause powers surge
When thoughts, you purge.

– Meera

 

Book Review — Hard Drive by Mary Todd & Christina Villegas

I received this book from Smith Publicity in exchange for an honest review. Thank you. 

Hard Drive is a heart rending narration of a family’s fight to unveil the truth behind the death of a loved one. Shane Toddman, an American engineer was found dead in his Singapore apartment on June 24, 2012. The Singapore Police Force were quick to conclude that his death was undoubtedly a suicide resulting from days of depression and anxiety. When his family arrived in Singapore, they found it dubious that Shane, who until yesterday was more than a happy to be returning home and highly optimistic in nature would ever think of taking his own life. With that thought in mind, Mary and Rick Todd, his parents, begin the tiresome journey of seeking justice for their beloved son. But justice in a foreign country is as fragile as a frozen lake. Particularly with large influential forces teaming up to disguise the truth and their cruelty. When the police, judicial system and their own countrymen desert the fight, the entire family is distraught with the superficiality of mankind. In a battle that brings forth clear evidence suggesting another conclusion, the Todd family will strive their best to reveal to the world, the actual culprits.

I was so happy to receive this book. But at many points throughout, it was a rather tear inducing task to keep reading despite the anguish and pain clearly etched out in Mary Todd’s and Christina Villegas’ words. Unlike any murder mystery I’ve ever read, this book takes the trophy. Not only because it isn’t fictitious but the extreme efforts put in by friends and family of Shane Truman Todd is so evident in the notes, website links, newspaper article references that have been included. It is well written and gives us readers a thorough understanding of what the Todd family were made to feel in their quest for truth. It is impressing and inspiring to know that there are families who persist regardless of the power they are going against. Reading the authors’ description of Shane, it would have been rather astounding if the truth behind his death were not revealed to the world. Whether it has been legally concluded or not is a different story. To have millions of people know the truth and have them fight alongside the family, would have been an immense source of strength though the difficult feat. The novel covers in a matter of 17 chapters, all the evidence that was accumulated by the family (even though gathering evidence is the job of the police force). I am ashamed to think that there are still institutions and people being controlled by money and status; who willingly turn a blind eye to justice for their personal gain. The book cover is made of a soft velvety material. Also at the end of the book, the authors have put in few photos of Shane through his life, which was so saddening to see. To know of such a story in depth makes one realize  how petty mankind has become. I salute the family for being so strong and persevering when many would not have. We all can gain a lot out of reading this book and I recommend it to each and everyone out there. Grab it, devour it and spread word. Pray for those who aren’t able to speak out in such loud volumes.

Ratings – 5 stars on 5.

Meera

Book Review — Different (Tainted Elements #1) by Alycia Linwood

When I came across this book on Goodreads, I couldn’t believe that I would be able to review it. The synopsis sounded wonderful and soon enough, I received an ecopy of this book from the author. Thank you so much for sending it to me. 🙂

Different by Alycia Linwood is a fantasy novel about Moira, a teenage elemental who has an affinity for air. As a newbie elemental, she is only learning the tricks and trades of manipulating air to her liking. In a place where pure, healthy elementals possess the ability to master one strong element (either air, water, fire or earth) and some elementals have only a sub-element, Moira is shocked by the sudden emergence of another element in her power. Surely, its not possible to have more than one element? For such an occurrence is unheard of. Bewildered by this new found ability, her scientist mother and magic disease carrier father plan a vacation on an island, in the hopes that they would seek answers for this bizarre happening.

On the island, Moira comes to know that there are others like her, who possess the skill and power to control more than one element. Relieved and yet curious, she begins to train with these elementals. It’s there that she uncovers a whole world of truth, to which she and her parents were oblivious. Truth that alters everything she knew about herself and the world she lived in. Truth that can very much lead to the kind of danger her parents wanted to protect her from. Governmental organizations; the dangers of mastering more than one element; a secretive team leader (Jaiden) who is never fully open with Moira are just some of the things she has to deal with. And hopefully in time to protect her kidnapped parents.

This story had immense potential from the very beginning. I feel some of it got lost in the protagonist’s tendency to overthink and her occasional naivety. This book with its superb storyline could have been read in a day but I took three days to get it done (Moira is stubborn and well her deductions, a little annoying). I loved the whole concept of elementals and magic disease. Most of it is unheard of. Atleast I haven’t read any book that talks about genetic manipulation of elemental genes or islands where magic disease carriers go to stay. So thumbs for that. Another thing that got to me was that I was confused with  the first 2-3 chapters because there were some loose ends that didn’t connect so I couldn’t process what was going on. But later on, it picked up and became more interesting. So I suggest you get past the first few chapters and don’t give up. The ending was brilliant! Never did I ever have even a tiny inclination to what would happen at the end. Another thing I really liked about this book was that, for a change, there wasn’t much (or any) romance in it. No love triangles, no jealous exes trying to get in Moira’s way. It’s a nice read if you can ignore Moira’s constant babble. I’m most definitely looking forward to the next book.

Ratings – 3 stars on 5.

Mia

Find it within.

We all have a fatal flaw that refuses to go away no matter how hard we persevere. Maybe it is the one bad quality that is programmed into us by fate. I have a tendency to over think… a lot. There are times when more than my mistakes, it is my thought process that torments me. That was one of the more difficult emotions to deal with but lately I find it easier to remain calm.

Forgiveness begins
From within. For if you don’t see
Reason to pardon yourself
You are depriving others from it too.
When your actions reflect
Atonement, it is time
To move on and feel peace.
Only those who feel sorrow
And repent, have the inner
Potential to seek forgiveness. From
Themselves and
All others.

– Mia

A bond unbreakable.

“The bond of family blesses us with an immeasurable power. But we also must accept what comes with it. It gives us a responsibility to love without condition, without apology. We can never waver from the power of that bond, even when it is tested. The bond nourishes us, gives us strength. Without that power, we are nothing.” – Elijah Mikaelson, The Originals.

The love among members of a family is one you can’t replicate, no matter how high your stature. Pretend all you might, but deep down lurks all that insecurity and dread you banished when you cast aside your family. No one is born perfect. But through the course of our life, we are perfected by our family. To mould us into our potential being. To reprimand us when we’re wrong. A family is an army that isn’t commissioned. It’s an army that doesn’t need arms and ammunitions to battle but the mere magnificence of what a family can offer – love, protection, bliss, sense of belonging and all other immaterial riches. Wealth is at the mercy of time. As time goes by, no matter how wealthy you are, either you spend all of it or lose possession of it. Unlike those people, with whom you share very close relations. They are not going anywhere. Deal with it! They are going to annoy the crap outta you for the rest of eternity 😀 And they are going to be the most precious things in your treasure chest.
You may be born into one family, you may marry into another family. But what makes you  a part of this united whole, is the willingness to cooperate and adjust. You bring yourself to care and soon life without each and every member of the family becomes a nagging pain.

They say we have no choice while selecting our family. But more than often, a family is not just about blood ties. Sometimes people who have nothing in common (not even DNA) stick out for each other, as family. A family consists of those people who’d not even blink an eye before handing their lives over to you, if the need arises. A family is one that lets no third person dictate terms. A true family is a symbol of permanence in life. Regardless of what changes may occur, life being as unpredictable as it is, a family is drawn together by a common thread of purpose – to look out for each other. Family always comes first. Always & Forever.

Mia

When You Resort to Violence

From what I’ve seen, it always starts with something small, something very insignificant. You don’t give it too much thought and it becomes easy to brush aside.

An argument that took a turn for the worse. A grave mistake. Nothing like hot temper to take it up a notch. Nothing like frustration, to lash out at an innocent.

Once said, words cannot be taken back. Similarly, once done, actions cannot be revoked. In that intense moment of uncontrollable anger, you raise your hand, slam down your fist at whatever or whoever maybe in the vicinity. Not caring, not considering.

Later you lament and you apologize. If you are a usually soft person, the guilt starts to eat you up from the inside. Part by part, it consumes you.  Like a raging wolf, it rips you apart. You lie around, unable to do anything or feel anything except the numb sensation of grief overpowering you. Now, you’d do anything to rewind and start over again.

What was the outcome of your violent behaviour? More hurt. More anger at yourself. Did anything good come out of it? Were you able to sleep peacefully after that session of venting out? I don’t think so. As a third person, who is simply observing the goings on around her, I have come to terms with the after effects of violence. Watching other people make such mistakes, I have learnt to keep my calm and to not act rashly.  I have learnt to keep my hot temper in control. Have you? 🙂

Mia