Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Shadow In The Mirror by Deepti Menon: A Review



Shadow In The Mirror 
by
Deepti Menon

Publisher: Readomania 





Blurb

It all begins with a death. Nita, a pregnant woman falling from her balcony becomes the string that unravels the plot. Her death casts a shadow over many lives; her heartbroken father, her husband and Vinny, a young journalist, drawn in by the whiff of foul play and murder.

What follows are stories within stories, eras and worlds colliding with each other, leaving behind splintered relationships and mesmerizing slices of lives that appear to be drawn together and driven apart by the whimsical threads of destiny.
As events cast their shadows ahead to link the stories of Vinny, Kavita, Roma, Krish and Nita in an unrelenting knot, a journey starts to uncover the truth. What is the secret that links Nita’s death to the other characters? Will Vinny be able to unravel the mystery of Nita’s death?

From intimate diary entries and letters, to bantering over a meal and sharing memories while spring cleaning, this novel de-familiarizes the ordinary, presenting a kaleidoscope of our own pasts, broken edges and pulsating hearts. 

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FIRST IMPRESSION: 

This book has the curious distinction of arriving at my hands both as a digital copy and as a paperback. The digital copy came as part of a review tour, and a paperback copy came from a friend who had attended the book launch. I took this as a testament to how much the readers loved the book and its style. It came highly recommended and naturally I was intrigued. 

The cover image is stunning and the soothing blue tones and the mysterious face with a huge Bindi captured my attention immediately. The summary was short, though it seemed like a listing of important characters in the book (not the style I could relate with) and the last line , especially the last ten words, made sure I opened the book as soon as I got a chance to read it. 

REVIEW: 

As far as 'beginnings' go, this book had the right tone - it began with the death of a pregnant woman, Nita, who falls from the balcony of a house. Other characters are introduced quickly, each person contributing, in some way, to the narrative in their own style. The plot of this book is about understanding the secrets behind the supposed suicide, and in certain places, though few parts are a bit predictable, the book cinches the show in the ending, completely. The plot and its development are what make the book interesting, and despite the handling of an age-old concept, keep it a completely entertaining page turner. 

The book's strength is in its narrative. Those who do not like the descriptive style of narrative, those detailed explanations that bring the scene alive in the eyes of the reader, would not be able to enjoy the book much. But to someone who likes English narratives of the likes of Christie, this was a major positive side of the book and one of the reasons why I kept turning the pages. The importance given to the descriptions about the characters makes the book slower but more interesting in my eyes. The reader must get used to reading the names of each character that play a role in the overall story, and understand the significance and their backstory to be able to grasp the plot better. The placement of these backstories can be made a bit better, and they are almost the single main contributor for the uneven pace of the narrative. But they gave the much needed details and left a longer lasting impression. 

At face value, the story of Nita's death that seems to be a suicide affects her spouse and immediate family. But as the story digs deeper, the bubble of loss and suspicion covers a larger set of people, with each person's entry into the transparent dome demanding that the reader keep all of them in focus to fully grasp the enormity of the plot. For a character who dies early on, Nita remains etched in my mind through the eyes of other people, as a realistic character, enthralling in life as well as death, giving more material for consideration with every new view that opens up about her. 

There are plot holes, a few I could mention. And some characters seemed mere additions for diverting the focus of the reader in points during the story when the narrative came close to revealing the main twist. All the characters, though described in detail, do not have equally important roles to play, and this might be a deal breaker for today's fast paced readers. (They each play some role. Just not the strong defined roles we would expect them to play). The climax did leave me wanting more - be it in the terms of a proper closure or some glaring loose ends. It should have been thought out better, but that again, is not a total letdown. 

Menon's narrative is twice as attractive in the way it captures the emotions of even the secondary characters perfectly, often giving the reader insights into their persona. Despite the descriptive nature, a lot is left to the understanding of the reader that is based on the perception they have towards the story. This can either be a hit or miss, and it solely depends on the readers' grasp of the story. Be it the dead woman, or the bereaved husband or the father, or the numerous other characters, even those who are seemingly unrelated to the main plot have a small role to play in the overall story. The main USP of the novel is keeping the suspense alive till the last few pages. The book is a treat for fans of this genre. 

WHAT I LIKED: 
  • The words are so potent, so descriptive and captivating.
  • The narrative is reminiscent of the English novels of the ones from few decades ago, long winded but rich in text
  • The book keeps the interest alive by the pure force of content, and fits the thriller genre very well
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: 
  • The descriptions are a bit on the longer side, often catching one off guard
  • The subplots can take the focus away from the main narrative if you aren't paying attention!
  • The book's pace is uneven, and it might give the readers a break in between
VERDICT: 

Loved this book, mainly for the elegant and captivating narrative. 

RATING: 4/5 



About the Author



Deepti Menon has always believed in the power of the pen. Having done her post graduation in English Literature and her B.Ed. in English, she had the option of teaching and writing, and did both with great enjoyment. She started writing at the age of ten, long before she acquired a Diploma in Journalism. She also had the advantage of being an Army kid, and later an Army wife, and loved the idea of travelling around India, meeting new people and acquiring new skills. She firmly believes that much of her personality was honed during those travels.

In 2002, her light hearted book, ‘Arms and the Woman’, depicting life as seen through the eyes of an Army wife, was published by Rupa Publishers, Delhi. This was written mainly to reveal the warmth and camaraderie within the great institution. She is now working on her second book that is a work of fiction, and not- to-be divulged yet! 




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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay : A Review


BOOK TITLE: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them - The Original Screenplay

AUTHOR: Joanne Kathleen Rowling

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1408708989

GENRE: Fiction / Fantasy / Screenplay

NUMBER OF PAGES: 304

FORMAT: Hardcover

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone. (But Screenplay of probably first of five movies)

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: A timely gift from a friend in search of the original Fantastic Beasts (Hogwarts Library Copy - which has not come, yet!)

SUMMARY:

• J.K. Rowling's screenwriting debut is captured in this exciting hardcover edition of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay

• Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay is an entirely new and original story written by J.K. Rowling for the screen

• The screenplay will be brought to life in Warner Bros. Pictures' upcoming feature film and was inspired by the Hogwarts textbook of the same title, which was written by J.K. Rowling's character Newt Scamander and published in 2001 in aid of Comic Relief.

• The published screenplay will comprise J.K. Rowling’s full script of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

• It is a feat of imagination and an exciting adventure, featuring an array of magical creatures and characters

• It will be published both in print and digital editions in line with the UK and US release of the feature film from Warner Bros in November 2016

When Magizoologist Newt Scamander arrives in New York, he intends his stay to be just a brief stopover. However, when his magical case is misplaced and some of Newt's fantastic beasts escape, it spells trouble for everyone… Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them marks the screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling, author of the beloved and internationally bestselling Harry Potter books. Featuring a cast of remarkable characters, this is epic, adventure-packed storytelling at its very best. Whether an existing fan or new to the wizarding world, this is a perfect addition to any reader's bookshelf.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

I had expected this book to be the original Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Hogwarts Library Book when it was ordered. The description on this particular link on Amazon did not mention it was a Screenplay. Overjoyed at having to lay my hands, finally, on the original book written by JKR, I was indeed surprised to have the hardcover edition of the Screenplay.

But the book attracted me immediately. It was love at first sight, and the screenplay book captured my attention completely the moment I removed the protective plastic jacket. The navy blue jacket of the hardcover and the gold embossed letters took me back to the magic of the Potter Universe and I wasted no time in opening it and reading.

P.S. : I have seen the movie on big screen. The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them original movie starring Eddie Redmayne was an instant hit as far as I am concerned. And this book had to live up to that expectation.

REVIEW:

There is undeniable joy in reading a book that belongs to your favorite series, or is written by your favorite author. Joanne Rowling was not just a favorite author. She has been an inspiration since I have known about the world she has created and it was no secret that I loved every aspect of it, despite the many complaints I will have. The last book I read from the series was Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, the play about Harry's life after Hogwarts, and focusing on Albus Severus Potter, his son. Touted to be the eighth book in the series (the original of which has seven books), The Cursed Child came as something of a surprise and was the first full length book I read as a script, a play and not as a fiction novel.

Maybe it was that experience that had prepared me to read and navigate through this screenplay with ease. I could understand the dialogues and the scene placement much better than I did when I was reading The Cursed Child, and the terms specific to plays and movies, like 'POV', 'Pan', 'Ext' , 'Int' made sense. Of course, it helped that I had seen the movie previously and I could assign faces to the characters. I should admit that Jacob Kowalski and Newt Scamander dominated the scenes, with Queenie giving tough competition. It also helped that I had the frames of the movie memorised, making the visualisation very easy and the book infinitely more enjoyable. Did you just see me say that I liked a movie and that helped me read a book? Yes, you did. It is a screenplay after all, and it is all about being able to give faces to the characters and directing the movie inside our head.

The story itself is simple. (Not reviewing the movie here). Newt Scamander arrives in Early twentieth century New York, with a case full of 'fantastic beasts'. He passes the customs by making his case 'Muggle Worthy' and enters into the city where some dark force has wreaked havoc and destruction. We are quickly introduced to the main characters in the book, and it was easier to read through the dialogues knowing who spoke them. An investigator belonging to the MACUSA, Tina Goldstein, takes Newt Scamander into custody for interrogation as he searches desperately for his escaped Niffler. Yes, the very same Niffler that stole our hearts, emoting as well as the shy Newt did. From there the movie is about two major things - exciting chases after the beasts that escape, and trying to make sense of the dark force that is destroying the city, posting a serious threat to the International Statute of Secrecy.

We are introduced to the concept of an 'Obscurus' - the dark, black physical form (barely above a stormy wind) that is actually the form the oppressed magic of kids takes. Die hard fans of the series immediately remember the sweet little Ariana Dumbledore, the girl who was an important turning point in the original series, possibly an obscurus who had suffered the fate of suppressing her magic. This also explains the interest Gellert Grindelwald had on her, and the place where he appears in this new book makes complete sense. And in JKR's inimitable style, the pieces fall into place almost miraculously.

Maybe because it spoke about the world of magic but with different characters, leaving the original set untarnished, or maybe because this book was closer to the actual style of the author, or probably because I was, by now, used to the concept of screenplays / scripts, Fantastic Beasts appealed to me a tad more than The Cursed Child did. There were confusions, however, and a lot of them. It took me a long time to get used to 'No-Maj', MACUSA, Madam President and the likes when I had spent more than a decade talking about Muggles, Ministry of Magic and Minister for Magic. These terms seemed to be simplifications and acronyms, pertaining to the area it was based in but they did not hamper the reading once I got used to them.

I loved the book overall, having loved the movie in the first place. I have gotten used to reading the screenplay style of writing and it was made easier by the glossary of terms that explained the scene setting better. I read the book in one sitting, start to finish, miraculously never even having to keep it down and that was a main contributor to the list of reasons I really enjoyed this foray into the magical world. I still would not call this style of writing my favorite, (it will take a little more time to get used to it) but I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the journey on the whole. 

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The different scene settings - the book about a Hufflepuff, set in the USA, and spoke about a different controlling authority.
  • The illustrations were the highlight of the book. They helped in the understanding of the story and kept the interest alive. Special thanks (as mentioned in the book) to the graphic designers who were instrumental in the graphic design for the movies, and had illustrated this by hand.
  • The character of Jacob Kowalski, the one person who stole my heart besides Newt Scamander. They are perfectly defined and are etched in my mind.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • The slight disappointment in the actual description in the link - it did not mention the screenplay and that was misleading.
  • The book could have explained the rules of the new (different) society a bit better. It would be harder to follow were it not for the movie.
VERDICT:

Potterheads will love this book, but a lot depends on the acceptance of an entirely new side of the Potter Universe.

RATING: 4/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

J.K. Rowling is the author of the bestselling Harry Potter series of seven books, published between 1997 and 2007, which have sold over 450 million copies worldwide, are distributed in more than 200 territories, translated into 74 languages, and have been turned into eight blockbuster films. She has also written two small volumes, which appear as the titles of Harry's schoolbooks within the novels. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through The Ages were published by Bloomsbury Children's Books in March 2001 in aid of Comic Relief. In December 2008, The Tales of Beedle the Bard was published in aid of the Children's High Level Group, and quickly became the fastest selling book of the year

As well as an OBE for services to children's literature, J.K. Rowling is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees including the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, France's L├ęgion d'Honneur, and the Hans Christian Andersen Award, and she has been a Commencement Speaker at Harvard University USA. She supports a wide number of charitable causes through her charitable trust Volant, and is the founder of Lumos, a charity working to transform the lives of disadvantaged children. For further information about J.K. Rowling, please visit her new website: www.jkrowling.com

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Hardcover

PRICE Rs. 232.80 for Kindle, Rs. 349 for Hardcover

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

No Good Deed Left Undone by Ginny Fite : A Review


BOOK TITLE: No Good Deed Left Undone

AUTHOR: Ginny Fite

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1626945210

GENRE: Mystery / Thriller

NUMBER OF PAGES: 267

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Sam Lagarde Mysteries (Book 2

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank Laura Fabiani of iRead Book Tours for this review copy

SUMMARY:

“He had an itchy feeling, something he had seen that his memory had recorded but that he wasn’t paying attention to…”

When a man has everything, he can afford to be generous. Lawyer, philanderer, and horseman Grant Wodehouse is generous to a fault—until he’s stabbed to death with a pitchfork in his barn. The killer could be anyone—his lover’s husband, his troubled son, the homeless guy he lets sleep in his barn, his unscrupulous partner or even his wife.

Methodical Detective Sam Lagarde doesn’t miss a clue as he questions an ever-growing list of suspects, only to discover the killer has been hiding in plain sight the entire time. Always one step behind the killer, finally Lagarde’s only recourse is one he never wanted to take.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

The first line of the summary completely floored me. The first line resonated with me and I loved the short and succinct summary. It created just the right amount of interest and was enough to set the tone of the story. The cover itself was simple and elegant. I read more into the misty scene, but it fit with the theme of the story so well.

REVIEW:

There are two types of murder mysteries

Those where the killer is either revealed at first and the book is about the chase to catch him before he kills many people.

Those where the killer is hidden, even if in plain sight, and the race is about finding out the person responsible for murders.

In both these types of mysteries, the suspense is broken only at the last, keeping the reader guessing and trying to fit in the pieces of the jigsaw together. No Good Deed Left Undone keeps the guessing game alive and manages to hold my interest completely including those parts that were gory and vividly descriptive. Detective Sam Lagarde is called on to investigate the death of Grant Wodehouse, who seems to lead a life with no problems until someone actually stabs him with a pitchfork. The more Sam Lagarde tries to eliminate the suspects one by one, the larger the list keeps growing. But all this while, the killer is hidden in plain sight, testing the resolve of the reader to turn back to the last few pages to know the secret.

I liked the procedural way Sam and Lawrence follow the case in, and it showed me yet again why I am partical to police procedure thrillers. The author has written it well and has managed to give enough details to keep the interest alive, but not sound like a protocol announcement manual. Carefully isolating suspects and identifying clues, Sam leaves no stone unturned and the methodical way he approaches the whole thing is excellent. There is no clue in the summary but the story is set in rural America and the author has done justice to the settings. I really loved the writing which is a major positive point for the book.

The book is the perfect example of how even an excess of motives and suspects can ruin the case and make finding the real culprit harder. If the lack of suspects or motives stalls the case, an excess of it confuses the case and delays the solution. Trying to match the suspects and clues up and managing to do it to the readers' interest is a really great thing to do. It takes a little time to get used to the characters and understand if the really less amount of descriptions are a matter of choice or if they have already been described in book one. But other than that, the book will work even as a standalone and fans of the detective are sure to enjoy it.

VERDICT:

Brilliantly plotted thriller with smooth writing.

RATING: 4/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Ginny Fite is an award-winning journalist who has covered crime, politics, government, healthcare, art and all things human. She's been a spokesperson for a governor and a member of Congress, a few colleges and universities, and a robotics R&D company. She earned degrees from Rutgers University and Johns Hopkins University and studied at the School for Women Healers and the Maryland Poetry Therapy Institute. No Good Deed, published by Black Opal Books in 2015, is her second Sam Lagarde mystery/thriller set in Charles Town, West Virginia.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback

PRICE $3.91 for Kindle, $13.99 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Cabbing All The Way by Jatin Kuberkar : A Review



BOOK TITLE: Cabbing All The Way

AUTHOR: Jatin Kuberkar

ISBN/ASIN: 978-9385854064

GENRE: Contemporary Fiction

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank Debdatta Sahay of b00k r3vi3s for this review copy

SUMMARY:

Twelve people agree to an idea of running a shared transport service from a common residential locality to their out-of-civilisation office campus. Twelve different minds with equally diverse personalities gel with each other to fulfil a common need. At first, the members collide on mutual interests, timings, priorities and personal discipline, but in the course of their journey, they become best friends, make long-lasting relationships, mentor and help each other on various mundane matters. The journey goes on fine until one day some members try to dictate terms over the group. The rift widens with each passing day, the tension surmounts and finally all hell breaks loose... Will the journey continue? Fasten your seatbelts for the journey is about to begin...

FIRST IMPRESSION:

The cover is the first thing I noticed about the book. With good caricatures and bold colors, it caught my attention immediately. The summary was short and intriguing and conveyed the point of the story across. With such a quirky title and short summary, I expected the book to be a read peppered with humour and wry philosophy. The book was short enough to be read in one sitting.

REVIEW:

I want to begin this review by appreciating two things about the book. The author's attempt at penning a book that does not conform to the common 'bestseller' genres that are currently trending. The unique concept and narration

What struck me first about the book was the way it dealt with a topic everyone could relate with. Cabs are some of the most popular vehicles on Indian roads right now, for the convenience they offer and the 'welcome break' they give from autorickshaws that cannot ply to the offices that are located a long way away from civilisation. A lot of employees working in the various IT offices would immediately relate with the need for a special vehicle that would ease the long trip, helping people reach their out of the way office without worry. Though there are organised buses, cabbing all the way will immediately strike a chord. We all have our own special travel stories, those we will cherish. And everyone who is familiar with regular long distance commute will have a co passenger turn from stranger to friend. The connection between these two people will be quite strong and they may even turn into life counselor if they are like minded and willing enough. This is why you will resonate with this book.

Cabbing All The Way works because of three reasons:
  1. (i) It talks about how necessity will make people think creatively and find out ways where none exist.
  2. (ii) The book is also about how though people are reluctant to conform to rules initially, they all get together to a proper routine that is beneficial to all over time.
  3. (iii) It reinstates the fact that man is a social animal, and forcing people together would eventually end up in either a good rapport and newfound closeness or ego clashes. Both these facets of the people have been brought out well.


Each of the characters are very relatable and are the representations of people you may see every day. The absolute normalcy of these characters and their realistic descriptions will make sure that the characters resemble someone you know, but are not very memorable. The book has its moments, with wry humour and witty one liners in places. But it did not sustain its name as a good read because the humour either became flat or was, in places, forced. The story itself has a good premise but while reading the book, one does expect a stronger plot to accompany this beginning. There is a plot, but only barely so.

The book did surprise me in many places.

I was initially wary about the introduction of twelve characters being an over kill but the author has not wasted any time on giving detailed descriptions and character sketches of each person. He has carefully crafted the story and events such that only some description is actually given. The rest is let to implication and inference. And I believe that is a beautiful way to not take the focus away from the story (or in this case the task) at hand. The author gets a special mention for not conforming the readers' imagination to certain features of the characters and making it impossible to budge away from that, forcing the reader to follow the descriptions closely instead of understanding of their own accord.

But, like most books these days, a generous dose of localized terms and descriptions are used in the narrative. While this might not be a hindrance for someone who knows the area, this might reduce the speed of the casual reader who has to pause to let certain sentences sink in before proceeding. The terms have been added, no doubt, to give the book the right feel because no one actually speaks in formal English amongst friends, but there is a slight risk of some references going over the head of anyone who has no idea about them. This has become a trend in many books in India nowadays that not many people bother about raising a complaint. There are no other major complaints about the language but it cannot be stressed enough that the book would have been better with crisper editing, and by avoiding certain obvious errors. Better English would have made the read an even more engaging one. I might be a rare reviewer who finds a fault with the nitty gritties in the language but I really cannot understand the need to make a book more 'Indian' by infusing it with vernacular terms and sayings.

Cabbing all the way began well. It had great potential and I really was looking forward to reading it to the end, seeing what it was actually all about. But instead, the book falls flat in between for many reasons. Over time, the names begin to get confusing, and only very few characters out of the twelve stand out. (Though I am still sure the additional descriptions would only have increased the length of the book with no actual purpose). The names tend to get confusing over time and fade into the backdrop as part of the narrative. The problems are built up beautifully, making the reader wonder what the solutions might be, but the solutions, if and when they do come, seem surprisingly impossible or so conveniently placed. This is where the book veers away from the angle of realism. The book did board all readers into the cab, but the bumpy ride on a never ending side road off the highway quickly came to an end in the middle of nowhere and the reader was magically transported back to civilisation in a 'climax'.

The book won my heart for many reasons - mainly the idea it set out with, trying to talk about something everyone will relate to, but something no one has talked about yet. It also began well, with the author not wasting time on unnecessary details or descriptions and instead giving the reader a realistic account of what would happen if twelve people were put together for one cause and how they would find a solution. The book seemed well on its way to a good plot when it spoke about the disagreements that crop up and how some people take up the megaphone and try to 'rein the others in'. (Yes, this does happen a lot among groups of people where self appointed leaders try to bring order). And it was also amazing how the characters gelled well and came together to solve issues and sort things out. The characters had all the shades and were common, everyday people.

But the book failed to engage me into reading when it gave quick patches and solutions in a language I was not comfortable with (yes the book is in English - and that is not what I mean). The weak plot and purpose is a dampener to my reading and is one of the reasons why I file this under 'a one time read'. The author gets a special mention for writing a book that has so much of promise and could inspire a changeover from the romances flooding the market, but if only he had taken it all the way and ended it equally well, this book would have been so much more memorable. 

WHAT I LIKED:

  • A really great attempt in a completely different genre
  • Liked the emphasis on how necessity makes people imaginative and cooperative
  • A cover design and summary that will entice the reader into reading the book - that is a major plus.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:

  • The lack of an actual plot is a thing that sticks out noticeably.
  • The book has certain parts in the middle that seem stretched out and do not lead the story anywhere. These could have been avoided / edited out
  • Though I did not expect this book to have a moral lesson, I did expect a closure or conclusion that never came.
VERDICT:

A bumpy ride

RATING: 3/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

For the mortal world, I pretend to be a Software Engineer who works hard (or hardly?) in the hours of a day. I am the guy next door, a hard core Harry Potter fan and a movie buff. I literally ‘live’ every movie, I have strong opinions about its content and I hate it when a movie based on an interesting concept is messed up for the sake of commercial value. I enjoy watching cartoon shows (doremon, dora and Choota Bheem) with my son. I never get bored of listen to the endless chatter of my wife. When I’m not writing, I make toys for children.

But beyond the boundaries of this ‘cholesterol rich’ coil, I am a rider of rapturous thoughts. I am a thinker, a philosopher, a seeker, a story-teller, a writer, a wanderer and every other thing that a thought can be. At times some of these figments fire out of my thoughtful bowl and command me to write, muse, create, recreate, destroy…EXPRESS!

Who Am I? I have been asking this question to myself since 33 years, and I got a different answer always. Sometimes I get confused and think, am I asking the right question to seek the correct answer? or may be that am I missing the whole fantastic universal drama around me while I am busy finding an answer to an irrelevant question?

Does the answer even matter?

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback

PRICE Free on Kindle Unlimited, Rs. 100 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Stages of Grace by Connie Ruben : A Review


BOOK TITLE: The Stages of Grace: Life and Love in the Face of Alzheimer's

AUTHOR: Connie Ruben

ISBN/ASIN: B00MV1QUM8

GENRE: Non Fiction / Memoir, drama

NUMBER OF PAGES: 149

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank Laura of iRead Book Tours for this review copy

SUMMARY:

This book was written out of a desire to share with others who have loved ones with Alzheimer's disease what I have experienced as Grace' caregiver and friend. I wanted to capture the emotions, the expected and the unexpected issues, the painful times as well as the humorous and loving moments that Grace and I have shared as a result of this disease. This is not mean to be a handbook for dealing with Alzheimer's disease, but I hope that by sharing my feelings and experiences, readers may recognize they are not alone on this particular journey.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

Memoirs have never been books I really look forward to reading. Especially those about haunting ailments and the loss of loved ones. But as a book lover, and someone who looks at diversity in the genres I read, I sometimes sit down to read a memoir / autobiography. Somehow, knowing that I am reading about real people, who have lived real lives, long or short, that has in some way been noticeable enough to write a memoir about changes my whole perspective while reading the book. This was no different. The cover (and the image) looks stunningly simple and graceful (not a pun in anyway). By the author's own admission, it is not the best individual picture of either of them but there is something so beautiful about it that it works well as the cover image. The summary was short and to the point, and spoke volumes about the relationship between the caregiver and the patient.

REVIEW:

The first thing I will note about memoirs is the sincerity of the tone in which they have been written. This is purely a subconscious habit but to me, a honest book written in simple language works better than a book that uses words with a flourish, adding more drama and trying to make the book more memorable / quote worthy. I read Stages of Grace in one sitting because it was simple, it was beautiful and very heartwarming. It does help, though, that Connie Ruben is an amazing narrator, trying to find a fine balance between telling the story as it is and including the details that will make it not only understandable but also enjoyable to the reader. Yes, enjoyable - I use this word because it is hard to stay with a book if the author doesn't manage to interest you. Not to be confused with using more of the drama element, writing a book that is interesting is more about the straightforward and simple style.

Connie Ruben has managed to pen down her experiences with her mother in law Grace Ruben (and now we know how apt the title is) as she watched her be affected by Alzheimer's and gradually become increasingly worse by the disease. She has done so in an interesting manner, and for many reasons, this book is memorable. I have not had to face the painful feeling of watching a loved one become incurably sick, but I have known enough people who did to help me empathise with what I was reading in this book. I could understand, at least in parts, what Connie would have felt while writing the book, trying to relive, many times over, each of those painful little incidents that happened during her time as a caregiver.

The book works because it is written well. But it also is from the heart and I can understand how much Connie loved Grace as a friend, a mother and a mother in law with the way she talks about Grace. The depth of the bond is quite visible in the words Connie chooses to describe Grace and there is a simple, almost humorous honesty in the way she talks about herself and the beautiful years they shared together. I have always admired the courage it would take for someone to relive, in writing, what was probably the most trying and testing time of their lives. But those who have the courage to do it - maybe to help someone else who might be just as confused and lost as they were or to just speak about their experiences - are exceptional people.

Stages of Grace talks about all the emotions the family of the affected person might feel. The discomfort, the denial, the shock at seeing a strong, witty, talented beautiful person losing their essence, the despair at the diagnosis and ultimately the resigned acceptance. The sooner this phase gets over, the better for everyone involved. It is not an easy task to see a loved one suffer, and it is harder still to have to stand by them, seeing them become a shadow of the person they once were. There are times when one would get angry, at the drab hand fate had dealt them with, or be reduced to tears, unable to pour out what the emotions are when they have to understand the extra care and affection the patient needs. It is hard to classify a loved one as a 'patient' who needs to be cared for, and not show them that aspect. Connie's honest account speaks not only about her stages of acceptance but also about how her mother in law Grace reacted at every juncture.

This is in no way a guidebook to dealing with Alzheimer's but coming from a person who has seen the effects of the disease from close quarters, this book (probably even inadvertently) gives tips on dealing with the same. The tips are not always about finding the right way to behave around the affected person, but also about how they themselves are handling the disease. There are some beautiful quotes from the book (I have chosen very few of some exceptionally good ones that impressed me) that gives the reader an idea of how the book is.

On her initial impression of Grace Ruben

Her kind manner is not a behavior she works to maintain; the naturalness of it cannot be learned or emulated.
On not always knowing the best thing to do
Hindsight can be disingenuous; it suggests that there was a path to be followed even when we couldn’t see it.

On handling the devastating diagnosis

Grace deserved my best support, my confidence and assurances. She didn’t need my fear.

We were nervous, and nervous people find a lot to be afraid of.

Finally, summing up the disease and the frustration.

It seems so unfair that Grace has to endure this and that those of us around her have to witness it.

VERDICT:

A beautifully written, emotional account of dealing with Alzheimer's from someone who knows how it is.

RATING: 4.5/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Connie Ruben is an entrepreneur with well developed management skills. She has run several large companies, and prides herself on empowering others to work to their full potential. Connie also has an intimate knowledge of the challenges and joys of caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease, as her mother-in-law Grace was diagnosed with advanced Alzheimer’s disease in 2003. While Connie still struggles to balance her work life and home life, her understanding of this disease has made it easier for her to negotiate the demands of being a caregiver, as well as a wife, mother, and employer. She has written this book in order to share the insights she has gained as Grace’s primary caregiver and friend. Most importantly, Connie wants this book to assure others that caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can be enjoyable, life-affirming, and emotionally significant.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover

PRICE $9.35 for Kindle, $14.99 for Paperback, $29.99 for Hardcover

BOOK LINKS: Amazon