Book Review — Legends Over Generations by Ashraf Haggag

Legends Over Generations is a nonfiction book that highlights the contributions of various global leaders in fields like art, literature, science, human rights, politics etc. Each chapter is dedicated towards bringing to light basic facts about the life, upbringing, education, career and legacy of these revolutionary personalities.

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I found this book to be extremely insightful. There’s not a lot of information, just the necessary facts about all the individuals. That said, in certain chapters, the narrative was fluid and story like, whereas in some others it felt like a research report because of the chunks of factual information put together paragraph after paragraph. If you want to make the most of this book, then read it slowly, maybe a couple of chapters a day. That way you’ll retain maximum information.

Some interesting additions to each of these chapters were the quotes section and the signature. Looking at the signatures of so many influential people made me feel like I was going through historical documents at a museum. I understand that it’s never easy to compile a list of important historical figures because there are way too many of them, but I wish the author had included a couple of Indians who have been prominent in the arts and literature fields.

My favorite section was the one about human rights activists. If you wish to brush up on some basic G.K, then this a perfect book, give it a try!

Ratings – 3.5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? Basic knowledge about some trailblazers like Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King Jr., Ava Gardner and more.

Thank you Blue Rose Publishers for sending me a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review. 

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Book Review — The Soldier Prince by Aarti V. Raman

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In The Soldier Prince, we come to read about Prince Alexander Heinrickson of the Royal House of Stellangard, who is not in the least bit interested in putting on the princely attire and carrying out the duties of the royal family. The loss of a loved one pushes him to swap that life for one in the military as a soldier. But when a fated catastrophic encounter with the attractive Sasha Ray threatens to expose his true identity to the world, he must rush back home and let his family handle the matter. Sasha is a waitress who, apart from being curious about her regular customer, has no clue as to what she is dragging herself into when she jumps at the chance to save Alexander from a possibly fatal incident.

I actually really enjoyed this book, more so than I’d thought I would. It’s much more than just a romance. It’s about one’s duty to their family, their nation. It has a couple of action scenes as well. The writing style is compelling and makes use of sufficient descriptions, which had me really excited because well, a majority of the book is set in the snowy clad terrain of the Swiss Alps. We’ve seen and heard a lot about forbidden love stories and so, the main plot wasn’t very unique.

My favorite part of The Soldier Prince is not the inevitable romance between Alexander and Sasha, but the subplot involving the royal family and their lives. The setting also added to my enjoyment of the book. I even liked Sasha and Alexander separately because of their character compositions. But their relationship was not something I was entirely convinced about; parts of it were downright cliched. And while you could take this book as being just about their connection and how their relationship evolves over time, I was able to set that aside and appreciate this book based on its stories about individual characters.

I really liked the bond between the three siblings – Michael, Alexander and Lena. The little glimpse of Princess Lena that we get from this book interested me enough to want to know more about her. The treatment of the royal family is not stereotypical, which is something that impressed me. Because usually when you talk about monarchies, there’s atleast one snobby person in the family who looks down upon commoners and is arrogant, but in this case, all of them were very welcoming towards Sasha, they’re polite and respectful towards others.

Depending on how much you enjoy romance – contemporary fictions, I would surely recommend this book to you, because it’s a delightful read! I’m eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A charming story about love, family, and duty.

Thank you Aarti V. Raman for sending me an eARC 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.

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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 — Who Owns That Song? by A.R. Venkatachalapathy

C. Subramania Bharati is a renowned Tamilian poet whose works spoke of nationalist sentiments and paved the way for the future of poetry in Tamil Nadu. Who Owns That Song? chronicles his journey as an artist and how his works changed hands a few times before finally being released by the government into the public domain, free of any copyright claim. A.R. Venkatachalapathy’s nonfiction also introduces us to the early stages of the media industry in India.

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Having studied about copyright in class, I was really interested in understanding the role of copyright in the consumption of a piece of creative work. Divided into 4 concise chapters, this book tells us about Subramania Bharati’s life as a writer and then proceeds to recount events concerning the publication of his works. The writing style takes on the tone required in a nonfiction and yet possesses the quality of being fluid and engaging.

As I was reading this book, I often felt myself light up with pride on learning just how passionate he was about writing and how much he contributed to society with his writings. At the end, you’ll find some of his poems and I loved them! What I didn’t like much about the book is that I felt it clubbed together the stories of too many people involved in the process. Of course I understand that it is important to know the role they played in either purchasing the rights to Bharati’s works or striving to make them copyright free, but every chapter was further divided into sections about these people. At times, it felt a little textbook-ish because of the amount of details packed into a page.

That said, this book begets the question of whether an individual’s work (regardless of the subject matter and how much of an influence it has on society) should ever really be dropped into the public domain for people to make use of as they wish. And also, should any one person unrelated to the artist be allowed to own the rights to the artist’s works? Shouldn’t it naturally be passed down generation after generation as heritage? The character of Bharati as portrayed in this book is one of an intellectual man. I wonder what he would think of all the tug of wars that took place. Who Owns That Song? is definitely a very insightful read and I would recommend to all!

Ratings – 3.5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? Knowledge about C. Subramania Bharati as a writer and how his writings underwent copyright battles before finally being declared public property.

Thank you Juggernaut Books 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 — Hush A Bye Baby by Deepanjana Pal

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In Deepanjana Pal’s Hush A Bye Baby, renowned gynecologist Dr. Nandita Rai, who is known for her upper class connections and standing up for women’s rights, is accused of conducting sex-selective abortions. When this news spreads like wildfire, all of Mumbai is astounded. As the Mumbai Police chase leads left, right and center, they’re forced to consider what is it that the elite in society are keeping hush about Nandita’s supposed crime.

I had really high expectations from this book, especially because the plot sounded unlike anything I’d heard before. And so, when I finished reading it, I realized I had mixed feelings about it. The start developed a bad taste in my mind because, all that surfaced were just how static the characters were; many of them had morality issues, others simply couldn’t perform their jobs properly. On the whole, all of them annoyed me! But once I crossed the first quarter mark, Hush A Bye Baby showed all the promise of a fantastic suspense novel. The clues were unraveled at a steady pace. I began to focus on the story that the author was trying to convey. And I must commend her for coming up with such a thought provoking concept, interlaced into a thriller.

So undoubtedly, a majority of this novel was definitely gripping! But then after all that build up, I felt that the climax was a little underwhelming; it fell flat against the tension and intrigue that the novel was able to maintain till the end. Nandita comes across as somebody who is very sarcastically witty and detached; totally uncaring of the allegations that have been made against her. But soon, you’ll realize the reason behind her perspective. Themes of infanticide, rape, cult are explored. The deeply woven corruption within Indian society peeks out over the course of this book. Despite it’s shortcomings, I believe this book will entertain a lot of readers, and so I do recommend it to those who enjoy thrillers.

Ratings – 3.5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A medical thriller that echoes some very pressing concerns regarding the future of our country with respect to gender security.

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

Book Review — The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

It is 1785 and Mr. Jonah Hancock, a merchant trader from Deptford has chanced upon a miracle like no other. Having lost his prized ship Calliope and left with a mermaid, Hancock can barely contain his dejection. But much to his wonder and disbelief, he comes to realize what a jackpot he has struck upon when this mermaid launches him into a world of fame and wealth. It is there that he meets Angelica Neal, a renowned courtesan. Afraid that his reputation would take a nosedive, he tries to extricate himself from the company of those who engage in prostitution. Hence begins the story of a man and woman whose lives are propelled in different directions by the very creature that he has caged.

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The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock was equal parts enjoyable and overwhelming. Set in the 1780s London, we are privy to a society that is not only speckled with simplicity and sophistication but also far removed from other cultures in its mannerisms. Imogen Hermes Gowar’s writing is one with the times, ornate and flowery. Some of the phrases, although alien in today’s time, represent an era bygone. And it is because of that very reason that it took me a while to fully get accustomed to the writing style and thereby, the novel. At times I found the narration to be discursive, so focused on the descriptions of nature and setting that it drew away from the core of that scene.

The plot in itself is very rich, filled with all the likeliness of a classic novel. I particularly enjoyed reading about their avant-garde lifestyles; of gowns and social calls, marrying for stature and deriving at a sense of self through ostentation. The mermaid, while central to the progression of the story, takes a backseat and leaves the humans to their own devices. Of course there is a hint of the surreal, especially in the chapters that displayed the mermaid’s consciousness and when the mortals were within it’s vicinity. The ending wasn’t entirely clear to me, but I can guess.

Enveloped in a stunning velvety cover that has embossed oyster shells, this historical fiction displays an array of characters, some down to earth in their profession and others wanting of the highest glory. Mr. Hancock, in my mind, is a simple man, whose life becomes much more complicated than he’d like. Angelica Neal, on the other hand, is someone who doesn’t leave any leaf unturned in her attempt to be loved and come by a fortune. Apart from the storyline of the main characters, I was intrigued by that of Polly’s. What little I saw of her personality, I quite liked and I would have liked it even more if her story had been pursued to a proper end.

I also found it amusing that the mermaid captured by Mr. Hancock almost becomes their undoing. In trying to be masters of a foreign species, they themselves become puppets to its allure. This is an approx 500 paged novel, but it feels so much longer. I would suggest reading it at a comfortably slow pace and not in a hurried manner. If you’re looking to breeze through a historical fiction, then this is not the one. That said, it is beautifully written and will transport you to another world; so give it a try, if the synopsis sounds agreeable to you.

Ratings – 3.5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A surreal tale of 18th century London that has all the likeliness of a classic novel plus a hint of magic realism.

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