The Peshwa: War of the Deceivers

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Tell me that a 400+ paged novel about politics, war and strategy will have me rooted to the spot for over 6 hours and I’d probably have laughed in your face. Well, I’d have done exactly that before having read The Peshwa: War of the Deceivers by Ram Sivasankaran. Set against the backdrop of the Mughal Empire and the increasing agitation of the Marathas against the Mughals, this second installment in the Peshwa series begins with a sense of alarm as someone from the royal family meets an unfortunate end. It then picks up the pace, touching upon the conquests of Peshwa Bajirao Bhat as he tries to weed out the Mughals from his homeland. However, a secret group of assassins, known as the Scorpions, continue to pose a serious threat, ravaging villagers and disrupting Rao’s attempts to bring the Emperor to his knees. It falls on him to capture these elusive hitmen before they get to his family and lay waste to the Maratha Empire.

Ram Sivasankaran’s writing equips you with the tools for imagining exactly what he is trying to convey. I was glad to see that it didn’t focus too much on nature imageries, rather chose to spend all its powers of persuasion in delivering crisp scenes, with an equal amount of dialogue and description of the happenings. The cruelty with which the assassins and tyrants dealt a blow to the Marathas and Sikhs is absolutely horrendous. But the author had the good sense to depict it in a subtle manner and not get into the gory details that would’ve been entirely too harsh on young, impressionable minds.

Interspersed throughout the narrative are several words in Hindi, Marathi and Sanskrit – all of which have been explained in the glossary. Something that aided in making this book extremely gripping is the fact that each of the chapters (sometimes the subsections too) followed different storylines. So you could be reading about Bajirao or Emperor Muhammad Shah or Kashibai or Nizam Ul Mulk or any of the several other characters that are featured in this adventurous, action-packed story. While the illustrations that intervene the writing are simple, they reinforce what is being told and so were a welcome distraction.

Oscillating between pride at the depicted valor of some heroic historical figures and exhilaration at the pace with which the plot of the novel advanced, I couldn’t believe how genius some of the plot points were. It truly takes a mastermind to weave such intricate designs into a tapestry borrowed from Indian history. Speaking of history, I’m not sure to what extent some aspects of this novel are true and where exactly the author’s imagination steps in to add some seasoning. But collectively, this was such an impactful and awe-inspiring account. I took a peek at the Goodreads page and was so disheartened to see that a third book in the series hasn’t been announced yet. But be sure that the moment it is out in the market, I’m going to bring home a copy. Meanwhile, you should pick up The Peshwa: War of the Deceivers for a gala time. Take my word for it, you won’t be disappointed!

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

★ ★ ★ ★.5


Book Review — Land of the Living by Georgina Harding

Georgina Harding’s war narrative seeks to remind us of the debilitating nature of such crimes against humanity. By positing a husband-wife duo at the centre of her novel, Land of the Living, the author allows us a glimpse of how intricately the trauma following war permeates a relationship.  Charlie’s experiences in the Battle of Kohima haunt him till date and Claire’s attempts to get through to him, comfort him remain futile. This unforgettable story takes on more meaning with the recurring themes of memory and grief.

My foray  into WW2 fiction has been very limited and as with any book containing sensitive topics, I didn’t know what to expect. But from the very beginning we get familiarised to Georgina Harding’s feathery writing style. It focuses quite a lot on elements of nature in a way that is meant to add to the ambience of the novel. And that was one reason I wasn’t hooked to the book. This kind of ambient writing is not for me. The chapters aren’t very long and are split into separate sections, each of which are different observations or happenings. So there isn’t a linearity to the narration.

I particularly enjoyed reading about the Naga tribes. The parts where those instances were being recounted added some flavour to the book. It is interesting to observe how these people take on roles of healers and nurtures immediately without a care for treating him as an enemy or being hostile towards him.

It is also heartrending to read about Claire, because she is shown to be a supportive wife, who doesn’t demand a great deal from him and is always trying to be understanding. But her affection is not really reciprocated, since Charlie is still battling with his own emotions and thoughts.

I felt that the strong imageries of the environment sort of overshadowed the important parts – Charlie’s memory, his connection with other characters. Another note you should keep in mind is that the dialogue in this book, although very minimal, is not put in quotation marks. So that was a unique reading experience. It is left to you to realize at what moments a dialogue would pop up in between observational passages. On the whole, it is definitely worth a read because of the subject matter that is dealt with and the way it has been written. The writing style may or may not suit your tastes, but give it a try!

Rating – 3 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? An atmospheric narrative about how war affects people who’ve had first-hand experience, as well as those who know the survivors.

Book Review — Jasmine Days by Benyamin

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Jasmine Days tells the story of Sameera as she gets accustomed to living in a Middle Eastern city with her father and relatives. This shift away from home and her new job as an RJ brings her closer to assimilating with people of different backgrounds. Her friendships take on new definition when the city gets torn apart by religious conflicts. In this contemporary fiction, the author draws up a raw and gritty picture of the effects of communal tension and violence.


This novel surpassed my expectations and grew on me rather quickly with its unusual style of narrative and the subject matter it dealt with. Politics and religion are not themes that make for an easy read, but Jasmine Days has the power to keep you hooked to its pages. The apprehensions of being an outsider, the inevitable culture shock and the patriarchal notions concerning gender roles are all aspects of the plot seen through Sameera’s perspective. The style of writing in this translated work is crisp and not flowery. Many disjointed events and instances are strung together to form the overall story. There are no chapters, only subheadings within broad sections.

In a way of recounting incidents that gave rise to the growing rivalry between communities, the novel draws your attention towards the Arab Spring. Themes of corruption, religious intolerance, women’s rights and protest culture are explored in this novel. It also addresses the topic of media transparency during conflicts; how people in power become gatekeepers of news. There are a lot of characters in this novel, only a couple of which take precedence over the others. Sameera has firm opinions about what’s right or wrong, she enjoys music and has never really considered what her religious identity might mean on a larger scale. Jasmine Days brings out the jarring truth about revolts; how innocent people have to bear the brunt of the actions of a few. I CANNOT STRESS THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS BOOK ENOUGH. Highly recommend reading it!!

What do you get out of it? A moving story about individuals caught in an uprising, not knowing if they are safe within their own homes.

Ratings – 4.25 out of 5 stars

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

Book Review — Small Acts of Freedom by Gurmehar Kaur

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“I don’t fear this place that people go to and never come back. I fear this place where people have to survive each and every day on memories of two and half years, holding on to them for the rest of their lives, however long they live.”

Small Acts of Freedom is a testament to the strength that binds families together. Three generations of women who’ve had to fight their own battles resiliently display the very qualities in their roots and upbringing that makes them so. Dating back to 1947, Gurmehar recounts stories about her family, as they wade through the loss that follows war, Partition and the uncertainty of their future. This nonfiction narrative beautifully captures pain and the innocent musings of a child who is yet to come to terms with the reality of our world.

In the introduction to this novel, the author briefs us about the violent clashes that took place between students of Ramjas College, Delhi and an All-India student organization, ABVP. It is the sheer courage, the need for change that resonates in her writing that had me glued to the book from the start; it also provides context to this book. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but if they are anything like this one, sign me up! The timeline of the stories shuffles back and forth over the course of many years. A majority of the chapters are from the perspective of a three year old Gurmehar, so the writing style is very crisp, coloured by the curiosity and innocence of a child. Once you begin reading those chapters, you simply can’t look away because of the stark honesty and sometimes, astonishing clarity you’d find there. Some of the thoughts that take shape throughout this book are so raw that they pierce your heart.

This is in no way a depressing book. The reason why I found myself tearing up quite a bit was because of the pain and loneliness that permeates the writing. And it’s so much more impactful coming from the voices of little children. It addresses very important themes like communal animosity, war and freedom. It builds a story around these themes, urging you to reflect at the state of our world and not stay silent in the face of adversity. This had been one of my most anticipated reads of 2018 and I loved it so much! It spoke to my heart. I would recommend Small Acts of Freedom to everyone! It releases on Amazon India on 15th February, 2018, so keep an eye out for it.

If you’ve read it, let me know what you thought? 🙂

Ratings – 5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A heart wrenching story about how families shape us and give us the very essence of life to keep persisting.

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

Book Review — Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6) by Sarah J. Maas

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

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Summary – When Captain Nesryn Faliq and Lord Chaol Westfall made their way to Antica, seeking the help of the Great Khagan Urus, they did not know the full extent of the trouble brewing in the horizon. In order to protect their people from demon kings, they must convince the royal family to join forces and employ their armies against the common threat. Unfortunately for them, persuading the royals to give up their resources for the protection of another kingdom proves to be a task; one that isn’t helped by Chaol being confined to the wheelchair. Nesryn takes it upon herself to find an alternative path, while Chaol receives the healing that only the healers of Torre Cesme in Antica can provide. In doing so, Nesryn embarks on an adventure of her own with an unforeseen ally to far away lands in search of other potential allies. Due to a traumatic childhood experience, Yrene Towers, Heir of the Healer on High, can’t ever fathom helping an Adarlanian soldier, let alone one that has a temper as Chaol does. Healing him goes beyond her sense of compassion. Whether she lets the festering bitterness break her oath as a healer is yet to be seen. But she is no less a formidable player in the war that threatens to submerge all the kingdoms.

Review – No part of this review will ever be able to encompass or properly convey just how exceptional this book is. No words of praise are truly sufficient for the magic that Sarah J. Maas creates. Tower of Dawn is a chunky book at 600+ pages, but not once did I get bored or feel like it was lacklustre. Even though there aren’t a lot of cliffhangers within the book, it had enough WOW moments that I found myself squealing with joy or gasping at the story progression. The author masterfully creates a web of anticipation that keeps us hooked till the very end. The writing style is idiomatic and picturesque. You can’t help but be transported to the archaic infrastructures described so vividly. I personally would love to live in the Torre. While the plot is interesting and basic, it is the mind-blowing characterizations and themes that make this novel a home run. Every once in awhile, Sarah J. Maas would incorporate idealistic themes of a utopian world that would strongly juxtapose the world we’re living in.

Matters of disability are dealt with carefully and in a manner that rightly exposes  the sentiments of a person who has to undergo such trauma. Chaol isn’t shown to be pitiful or whiny. Instead, he takes matters into his own hands, living his life in the best possible manner from the wheelchair. That was actually very refreshing to read.  Coming to characters, there wasn’t a single one that was flat or useless. They were all brilliant beyond means and each having powerful storylines. The representation of the royal family was one of my favourite aspects of this book. When it comes to cliches, I was glad to see that the princesses and other female characters were not shown to be shy or all that benevolent. Hasar’s character is unique because she is feisty, rude and yet selectively amicable. Each member of the royal family makes for an intriguing addition. There were just so so many fantastic relationship equations that had me grinning from ear to ear. I’d definitely love to read more about Borte and Yeran, not to forget Nesryn and Sartaq. This entire book is a rollercoaster ride, one that I’m going to re-visit several times in the future. It has become one of my top favourites of all time. There’s just so much more about this book that leaves me utterly speechless. Please, I URGE you ALL to READ Tower of Dawn; it’ll steal your heart and never give it back.

What do you get out of it? Major feels. This book is all smoke and cause for hyperventilation. It presents great, wholesome characters, commendable parallel storylines and majestic airborne creatures known as ruks. What more do you want?

Rating – 5 out of 5 stars

Book Review — Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

“Now and then, in this workaday world, things do happen in the delightful storybook fashion, and what a comfort that is.” ― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women follows the life of a family smiling their way through poverty and war in a materialistic society. Four March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy – with their unique, and at times conflicting, personalities strive to make their mother and neighbors happy; be it charity or socializing with the quiet Laurie. They have their own bothers to deal with but that has never stopped the March family from looking for the silver lining. A truly captivating and motivational tale of life in the Victorian times.

This book has a halo around it. Period. It is so beautiful and heartwarming that your everyday obstacles seem trifling. The mature and sensible manner in which  the March family deals with their poor state is commendable. I loved how they would stage plays for each other and base their efforts around making the best of what they had. Since they couldn’t afford tickets to musicals and such. There’s a great deal you realize after reading this novel. You learn how not to blow things out of proportion. You learn how the bonds between family members cannot be ruptured by mere sibling rivalry/misunderstandings. There are certain temporary characters who try to discourage the sisters carefree nature. But their attempts are in vain. Mrs March’s upbringing has taught the girls to not feel inferior regardless of what anyone implies. It often reminded me of the care with which my parents brought me up. Romance is not an integral aspect in it and still the novel is rich in morals and good living.

Not only is the writing fascinating but I have always been fond of the Victorian setting. There isn’t much of the fanciful living like balls and jewelery that you associate with the time, but somehow it wasn’t needed to make it a whole. Since the very beginning I was rooting for Jo and Laurie to get together. Their relationship is what I’d call effortless and smooth. There’s no awkwardness because of Jo’s boyish nature or Laurie’s shy manner. He is a very helpful character who had the misfortune of making a slight err in judgment which leads to a rough patch, but he and the family get past it. Meg is the epitome of grace and pleasant conduct. Unlike Jo, she doesn’t speak her mind bluntly. There were some moments that took my breath away, and I’d wish with all my heart that things would get better. All in all, its a classic read; sweet and inspirational. You must read it atleast once.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5.


Korean Drama Review — Gu Family Book

Here’s a headstart – If you are an emotional person, you are going to be bawling your eyes out, by the time you finish this show.
Gu Family Book is a drama featuring Lee Seung Gi and Suzy who bring to life the characters Choi Kang Chi and Dam Yeo Wool. Though the drama is a lot about other subsidiary characters as well, these 2 are the thread that brings the whole show together. It starts with a flashback about Kang Chi’s  father, Wol Ryung, a 1000 year old mythical being (gumiho) and how he finds love. Fast forward to the present and 20 year old Kang Chi was adopted by a noble man Park Mu Sol when he found Kang Chi abandoned (as a baby) in a river. Kang Chi grows up to be a fine man under the loving guidance of Park Mu Sol who is more than a father to him. Mu Sol’s 2 children Chung Jo  and Tae So share a very close bond with Kang Chi and all’s well except for the mother who dislikes Kang Chi. The secret being that the monk who convinced Park Mu Sol to adopt Kang Chi had told him to ensure that the bracelet doesn’t come off until Kang Chi is 20 years old. This was to prevent the mythical gene from surfacing and so Kang Chi could remain human. But ofcourse that doesn’t happen!
By some unfortunate incident, Mu Sol gets killed by the former Assistant Minister Jo Gwan Woong who is the villain.  Now Mu Sol was well acquainted with the former Sheriff Dam Pyeong Joon who undertakes to train Kang Chi. A devastated Kang Chi seeks residence in the sheriff’s Martial Arts School, trying to keep his mythical side under control and take back all that is lost. In the time being he becomes close friends with Dam Yeo Wool (Pyeong Joon’s daughter). From there, begins a journey of love, indecision, patience, rejection and judgement.

This is not even half the story. When I sat down to review the drama, I realized how difficult this task is. There are so many elements in this drama that it’s not easy to cover everything in a somewhat-short review 😛 I tried to bring out as much without a spoiler in it. Every character, every sub-plot was crucial to give the show a more thorough meaning. If I could sum up this show in one word, I’d say it was BEAUTIFUL. I loved every aspect of it. At the end, I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I couldn’t figure out if anything was lacking/wrong in the show. It literally tugs at your heart strings and leaves you bewildered at the magnanimity of ideal love portrayed. Suzy is one of my favourite Korean actresses and she plays a very cute-yet-fierce character in this one.  Yeo Wool’s bold and sacrificial nature is truly inspiring. And oh! The love triangles. OMG. There are so many love triangles!! At times, it’s so sad, the fact that love is not reciprocated.

There are many twists and turns. You would not believe a lot of stuff that happens! They just keep adding spice to the story at all times. Its well paced and spread out – not too rushed or anything. Especially for the complicated plot, 24 episodes is a job brilliantly done! I wish I could say more about the characters and story. However I don’t intend to write a book so I shall stop here and urge you to watch it ASAP! 😀 A MUST WATCH!

Rating – 8.5/10


Book Review – The Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus 2) by Rick Riordan

Goddess Hera has implemented an exchange of leaders between Camp Jupiter (Roman) and Camp Half Blood (Greek) in order to prevent Gaia from destroying Olympus and taking over the world. Where the first book (Lost Hero) focuses on Jason Grace – praetor of Camp Jupiter as he makes his way to Camp Half Blood – the second book in the series is all about Percy and the 2 new demigods (Frank and Hazel) . Just like Jason, Percy finds himself in an old worn out mansion under the captivity of the wolf Lupa. He remembers nothing about himself except one name , Annabeth. He is certain that she is a part of his past. A part he doesn’t want to leave behind.

Unknowingly he lands in Camp Jupiter, with Hera’s  assistance. There he befriends Frank and Hazel. Being the son of Poseidon was never an easy task. Here in Camp Jupiter, it appears to be even more difficult, as Neptune (or Poseidon) is not one of the most preferred Gods. Apart from that, after witnessing Percy’s control over water bodies, the demigods become wary of him. Soon he, Frank and Hazel are sent on a quest to free Thanatos (Death) who has been captured by Alcyoneus. Alcyoneus is the eldest giant, born to overpower Hades and take his place. Since the Doors To Death have been forced open, none of the monster stay dead for more than a minute. With so much going on, the 3 demigods must complete the quest and return by the Feast of Fortuna as an army of Cyclopes, Polybotes, wild centaurs, basilisks, karpoi and several Earthborn attack Camp Jupiter. The chances of victory seem slim but you  never know!

I think I am going to start worshipping Rick Riordan as of today. He ought to have a wax statue made of himself. He deserves to win every award EVER made for authors. Oh my gods!! This book has been the most impressive! Every time I pick up a new book, I keep thinking that I would get bored of it half way through, but that has never happened. Rick Riordan establishes new standards of imagination, innovation, creativity in terms of plot, description, uniqueness of characters and so on. I especially liked the chapters from Hazel’s POV. Despite being a 13 year old (and the youngest among them all) , she is very brave, strong and mature. She has gone through a lot and I guess that has made her more tough. She deals with obstacles and troublesome times much better than you’d expect. Frank is well built, sort of like a bull, but he is a very sensitive character. He cares deeply about his friends and family. Initially, he did underestimate himself but that changed when he learned the whole truth about the origin of his family and their powers. As always there is a huge battle towards the end of the book (I particularly look forward to these climax parts) and I couldn’t have felt any more proud of all the characters. It was as if they were all part of my family (insane right?!). I’d take up the duty of a cheerleader, urging them to slay the monsters. They all fought like a hurricane and put in their best efforts. Perfection! This book is perfect in every facet. 😀

Rating – 5 stars (on 5)