Thursday, March 31, 2016

Our Trees Still Grow In Dehra by Ruskin Bond : A Review


BOOK TITLE: Our Trees still grow in Dehra

ISBN/ASIN: 9780140169027

AUTHOR: Ruskin Bond

GENRE: Non - Fiction / Semi autobiographical essays

NUMBER OF PAGES: 108

FORMAT: Paperback

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: A timely gift from a fellow bibliophile, this book was the Book Of The Month in a book club I belong to. Some gifts are precious because they arrive at the right time, bringing with them immense joy. A Ruskin Bond classic from a great friend? I am more than happy.

SUMMARY:

Fourteen engaging stories from one of India's master story-tellers Semi-autobiographical in nature, these stories span the period from the author's childhood to the present. We are introduced, in a series of beautifully imagined and crafted cameos, to the author's family, friends, and various other people who left a lasting impression on him. In other stories we revisit Bond's beloved Garhwal hills and the small towns and villages that he has returned to time and again in his fiction. Together with his well-known novella, A Flight of Pigeons (which was made into the film Junoon), which also appears in this collection, these stories once again bring Ruskin Bond's India vividly to life.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

The book was small, comfortably small. The print was small and had very less paragraph spacing, but all those minor issues did not matter. The mere excitement of holding a Ruskin Bond book, a gift at that, compensated for just about every thing. I found faults, those that I will carefully record here, but then the overall effect of a fan girl did not fade. The majestic cover, of a tree silhouette against a darkening twilit sky was the perfect cover for the book. 

REVIEW:

Some book demand reviews to be written, not only for praises, but also for thrashing. But then there are some other books that make you want to shout out to the world, tell other readers and maybe casual passers by why you liked it so much that you would want others to read it too. Then there are books that will give you quotes to take back with you, those snippets that you will remember long after the book has been read and take back with you, to be remembered at different moments, making you realise that some books are forever. The review for this book is going to be in parts, one for each anecdote.

From the first quote, the book attracted me.

"The town's grown hard, none know me now or knew my mother's laughter. Most men come home as strangers."

More was said in this quote than in any other part of this book. This book is about Bond's memories, those that he treasures and brings back from his childhood and early adulthood. Each anecdote is a gem by itself.

Maplewood : An Introduction

'If it has gone, don't write and tell me. I'd rather not know.'

In these words, he expresses the pain of someone who has grown out of his old native town and is ruing it. Though it is called an introduction, this clearly shows that the author pines for Maplewood the place, as much for the people.

Escape from Java

The story details Bond's escape from Java during World War 2. He speaks about how he and his father escape Java and how the war changed the outlook of the Javanese people.

'Although the Dutch were unpopular with the Javanese people, ther was no ill feeling against individual Europeans. I could walk safely through the streets.'

One of his biggest concerns about evacuating Java was leaving behind Sono, his best friend. The childish enthusiasm and innocence is evident in Sono's words.

"We will go everywhere, and no one can stop us."

The Bent Double Beggar.

The story of Ganpat, who has words of wisdom to give. The story of how he got his wealth and subsequently his bump. This keeps the folklore and legend alive, reveling in the simple beauty of the tales native to a village. The bent beggar gives more wisdom and profound words than most philosophers.

'They didn't believe the truth (who does?), but it gave them something to think about and talk about and they left me in peace for a few days.'

'It is difficult to love your enemies. Much simpler not to have enemies.'

'If all the troubles in the world could be laid down in one big heap, and everyone was allowed to choose one trouble, we should end up by picking up our old trouble again.'

'In this life, all our desires are fulfilled, on the condition that they do not bring the happiness we expected from them.'

Untouchable

A story where we get a glimpse of untouchablity from the eyes of a ten year old. In the author's own words, this was his first short story, written when he was sixteen. A tale of how little kids are taught prejudice, rather than be born with it. The story of a 'cleaner boy' who is an untouchable and how Bond ends up befriending him.

All creatures great and Small

An engaging narrative that speaks about how Bond's grandfather raised exotic pets in the house. Bringing about the brilliance of those old days. His love for animals and where that came from is quite evident in this narrative that won my heart. It is, by far, the most interesting story ever, and one that made me smile more than once.

'Mail ponies, he [Grandfather] told me, were difficult animals, always attempting to turn around and get into the coach with the passengers.'

The episode with the ticket collector tickled my funny bone, while the one with Aunt Mabel and the python amused me.

'Aunt Mable had another set of hysterics when she saw him [the python] admiring her from under a cusion.'

'... Then he [the python] was back on the dressing table, admiring himself in the mirror.'


Coming Home to Dehra

Having read about Bond's childhood, this story that dealt with his experiences in boarding school and how the death of his father affected him, was a sad and poignant one that made me hate his headmaster as much as he did, just with his words. This is easily the saddest story, with the tale of a small boy who had lost his only caring parent and had to live with a mother and a step father who couldn't care less.

'I suppose if one is present when a loved one dies, or sees him dead and laid out and later buried, one is convinced of the finality of the thing and finds it easier to adapt to the changed circumstances.'

What's your Dream

A very short story that speaks about dreams and the importance of having them in moderation. An English speaking beggar approaches Bond and talks about having a dream. Bond, whose biggest dream was to have a room of his own at that time, responds so and receives one of the best life lessons of all time.

"...because it's so easy to lose it all, to let someone take it away from you. Or you become greedy, or careless and start taking everything for granted, and - Poof! - suddenly the dream has gone, vanished!"

The Last Tonga Ride

His innocent account of his life with his grandmother and his tonga rides with Bansi, the tonga man and his 'dost'. Bond's classic writing is evident in the way he talks about Ayah, and seriously declares that she is jealous about his friendship with a lowly tonga driver because she did not have a tonga for herself invokes a smile that only a child could bring. He also talks about his friendship with inanimate objects, the first being a tree.

'The tree made the first move, the first overture of friendship. It allowed a leaf to fall.'

Calypso Christmas

Bond's celebration of Christmas in his lodgings, with his friend George from Trinidad brings to mind the scenes as they would have happened. The first kiss he shared with Lucy and how she subsquently moved off gave a strange magic to the title and made it much more memorable.

'Little did I realise that an invitation to George would be interpreted as an invitation to all George's friends and relations - in fact anyone who had known him in Trinidad - but this was the way he looked at it.'

The Last Time I saw Delhi

This story brought back favorite memories of developing photographs from negatives and how Bond gifts a developed photo of his grandmother to his mother while she is in the hospital, dying. He speaks about the charm of Delhi and the story of its Punjabi folk in the slightly amused tone he takes. His conversation with his mother highlights the feelings of a child of separated parents in a subtle, seemingly dispassionate manner.

'In Delhi there is a feverish desire to be first in line, the first to get anything... This is probably because no one ever gets around to dealing with second comers.'

The Good Old Days

A nostalgic tale of 'the good old days' everyone likes to reminisce about. Bond visits Miss Mackenzie and gets talking with her, carefully gossiping about people they knew. His interest in listening to stories is quite obvious and makes the reader wonder that maybe, just maybe, that was why he was so successful as a writer too, one that managed to pen beautiful stories that held the imagination of many people captive.

"Fatal", I said, "Never admonish a drunk."

Miss Mackenzie ignored me and carried on.

Binya Passes By

The quintessential 'music in the hills' story where the author is captivated by a song he hears in the hillside, sung by a simple village girl. The story brings out the beauty of the hills and has every element to make it one that everyone will relate to. Of how a totally unexpected person would make a huge impact in your life that you will never be able to forget them.

'Binya... I take your name again and again - as thought by taking it, I can make you hear me, come to me, walking over the moonlit mountain.'

As Time Goes By

A story of Somi and Dal, of diaries that had memories and little boys who go on sneaky midnight adventures and revel in them. Bond sees someone who brings his childhood to his mind, and it shows just how suddenly these memories could surface and how they are all just under the surface.

'7th September : 'Do you like elephants?' Somi asked me. 

'yes, when they are tame'.'

From Small Beginnings.

A beautiful quote by Rudyard Kipling began this story. In this story, we get to know about Prem, who, we know from previous accounts, was an important part of Bond's life and therefore deserves a story of his own. Bond is so moved by his presence that he writes poems, verses that would speak volumes about friendship.

If I am not for myself,
Who will be for me?
And if I am not for others,
What am I?
And if not now, when?

Death of the Trees

Short, shocking and moving - about how building roads for comfort and convenience would destroy trees and the quiet of a village as it is. But the life moves on, people get used to the comfort. Perhaps Bond ended this story the best.

'Never mind. Men come and go; the mountains remain.'

The Bar that Time Forgot

The beginning of the story confused me for a moment because I had gotten used to the first person narratives. But starting like the account of a Maharani frightened of cockroaches. It talks about one of Bond's favorite haunts and how it lay forgotten after years.

'The word gay had yet to be used in any sense other than happy in those days'

Desert Rhapsody

Bond's experiences in Jodhpur, on deserts and snakes. A fitting end to a beautiful book.

WHAT I LIKED:

  • The stories and the language
  • The simple tone and the casual narrative that has the moving power to take the reader back in time.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:

  • The font size and typeface are a bit straining on the eyes
VERDICT:

A book that stays in with me, in more ways than one. A brilliant read, gives me the satisfaction of having read a nice book after a long time!

RATING: 5/5


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ruskin Bond's first novel, The Room on the Roof, written when he was seventeen, won the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957. Since then he has written several novels (including Vagrants in the Valley, A Flight of Pigeons and Delhi Is Not Far), essays, poems and children's books, many of which have been published by Penguin India.

He has also written over 500 short stories and articles that have appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies.

He received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1993 and the Padma Shri in 1999.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle and Paperback

PRICE Rs. 161.50 for Kindle, Rs. 170 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Guest Post by Marcia Wieder : Juggling Many Dreams

Visionary Wisdom Tour – Juggling Many Dreams
Some of us are challenged in finding the right dream while others work to manage many at once. Hear one inspiring leader share how he makes it all work.
What risks are you willing to take right now on your dreams? What are you grateful for?
Leave your comments/questions below today and as our journey continues!

Dream by Marcia Wieder: A Review



BOOK TITLE: Dream: Clarify and Create What You Want

ISBN/ASIN: B016Z18N2Y

AUTHOR: Marcia Wieder

GENRE: Adult Non Fiction / Self Help, Personal Development, Dreams

NUMBER OF PAGES: 232

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank iRead book tours for this review copy

SUMMARY:

Do you dare to dream? If so, you are a results-oriented person. Dream is designed to help you both transform your own life and contribute to making the world a better place. Dreaming is something you do—or should do.

You were created to create, and your ability to dream is paramount and fundamental when it comes to living a dream-come-true life. Dream will help you design a life that is the highest expression of your purpose by creating dreams in every area that matters to you, both personally and professionally.

This book will help you take real steps toward creating and achieving the dreams that matter to you most. It will help you to uncover, or recover, your purpose so that you can live with purpose—and there’s nothing that will bring you greater fulfillment.

Reading this book will help you to fully understand:

• Who you really are

• How you want your life to be

• How to develop dreams that inspire you

• How to look at your life with a fresh perspective

• How to remove fear, doubt, or other obstacles

• How to implement shortcuts and the techniques you will learn

​Dream will teach you exactly how to do these and so much more.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

The first thing I noticed in the digital copy I received for review were the excellent reviews from various well known people across the world. The reviews were for this book and that has, to some effect, affected how I approached this book. I knew this book was of the self help genre and I have read quite a number of them in recent times. So picking this up was natural because the bullet list in the summary attracted me more than anything else. Dream - is not about those visions that occur during sleep. It is more about what you envision. 

REVIEW:

That the author has knows what she is talking about is quite evident from the first page. The book has a clear logical sequence of content and it follows a holistic path. The book combines (as is the norm) events from real life mingled with the theory and simple 'to-do' lists that one can tick off and write in to make a note of the progress. I really liked how the book seamlessly integrates both, without having the need to highlight either part or put it into little 'to note' boxes. Dreaming in life is something similar to having an incessant urge to succeed - the only thing that differs is the goal each person has.

The book is not about how to dream. It talks about CBA - how to dream perfectly and make it come to fruition. Talking about how effective a dream could actually be, I enjoyed the way the three parts of the book carefully segregated the dreaming process into such an elaborate one that half the content amazed me at times. How could a simple step have such a deeper meaning and how could it have so many possible outcomes in achieving the dream we have set out to follow? Brilliantly infused with real life examples, this book guides each person on making their dream come true.

What I liked the most was how this book spoke about the importance of dreaming clearly. Vague, directionless dreams are ones that would surely be dissipating under the first sign of failure or pressure. When a dream has a shape, a clarity, it develops into something more solid. Dreaming and believing oneself and being sure of our own abilities and means to achieve the dream are also highlighted. The book scores in saying actual ways to act upon the dreams and make them come true. Psychologically effective practices are discussed at length making it a good read while also giving valuable information, tips and inspirational examples.

Not once in over 200 pages did the book take on a preachy tone of 'do this', 'do that'. Thankfully it is like the gentle nudge towards what the human mind hesitates to do and that makes it all the more likeable. This book is a make or break. If you really wanted a book that would help you on the path to achieving your dream, this fits the bill. If you would rather stay away from this genre, this book is not for you because though this tells stories, this book is mainly focusing upon the simple things that one must do to dream, believe and achieve.

VERDICT:

A thoughtfully written non preachy book.

NOTE: This review is solely based on how good the book is and how well it becomes a part of the genre it represents. There is a widespread common misconception that self help books rarely do anything to help people other than tell them what they alread know in fancy words. While a part of it might be true - that people do know what they are supposed to do, the other major part is false. Self help is fit for those who want to help themselves. Self help books rarely are rated for the content compared to fiction. The book is what it claims to be. It is helpful, simple and clearly written. It definitely gives the impression that the author is an expert in whatever she is doing. But it appeals to only those who want to read it and get whatever guidelines or help they can from it to get better. In that regard, all self help books are either make or break. Either you like it or you don't. Ambiguity is seldom welcome.

RATING: 4/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dream University’s CEO, Marcia Wieder is a long established thought leader on visionary thinking. As Founder of The Meaning Institute, she teaches people to create and live fulfilling lives. She’s been a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, writes for Huffington Post and is the author of 14 books. She appeared often on Oprah and was featured in her own PBS-TV show called Making Your Dreams Come True. She has taught at Stanford’s Business School and as president of the National Association of Women Business Owners, she assisted 3 U.S. presidents. She is a member of the Transformational Leadership Council and on the advisory board for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Hardcover

PRICE $5.99 for Kindle, $15.97 for Hardcover

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Finding Lyla by Cate Beauman : A Review


BOOK TITLE: Finding Lyla

ISBN/ASIN: B01A69ED5M

AUTHOR: Cate Beauman

GENRE: Fiction / Romantic Thriller

NUMBER OF PAGES: 430

FORMAT: Digital / Kindle

SERIES / STANDALONE: Bodyguards of LA County #10

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank the author for this Kindle Copy

SUMMARY:

Principal Dancer Lyla Markovik-Avery is always on the go. Grueling practices and endless performances rule her busy days—and things are about to get more hectic. Russia is rolling out the red carpet for their beloved star, despite the string of violent terrorist attacks that have rocked the nation.

Bodyguard Collin Michaels’ life is falling apart. His long-time relationship recently ended. He’s trying to start over, but that’s easier said than done. Luckily, Collin has a new assignment on the horizon: keeping a beautiful ballerina safe for the next three weeks.

Collin finds comfort in Lyla’s easy friendship, but that all changes after a night out on the town. Simple feelings become complicated—something Collin can’t afford, especially when tragedy strikes and Collin realizes Lyla’s caught in the middle of a dangerous plot for revenge.

Collin and Lyla are forced to flee. They need to reach the border before it’s too late, but the odds are stacked against them in a country that wants them dead. With time running out, Collin formulates a risky plan that might be their only chance of making it out alive.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

Since I had already read 3 books from this series, the 'First Impression' was sort of non existent for this book. What I did expect, though, was a book mainly focusing on a troubled but powerful female protagonist and a knight in shining armor who both refuse to acknowledge the affection they feel for each other. Amidst high on adrenaline chases and near death moments. This book did not disappoint me in the least.

REVIEW:

The book starts with an emotional and touching chapter. Diplomat Avery has his wife admitted in the hospital. Markovik is a ballerina, Russia's Prima Ballerina. She gives birth to Lyla, and consequently dies in childbirth. The next chapter quickly charges 25 years ahead, with Lyla practicing hard in the US and being trained in Ballet. The thoroughly different scenes, set years and continents apart, held my interest. Lyla is a ballerina, a star, but she stays away from Russia. Born to a Russian mother and an American father, Lyla is goaded by a press interviewer to return to Russia and perform, amidst unrest and life threats. The short interview that perfectly captured the unrelenting doggedness of the media and the troubled life of celebrities offstage set the pace nicely.

But then the book traversed towards a 'race against time' format, with threats hanging over Lyla's head. In comes Collin from Ethan Cooke's (those who have read the previous books would know this man) security team. He pretends to be Lyla's boyfriend for their entire trip to Russia, acting as her bodyguard. He has a past of his own, and her troubled presence makes him forget to sit in repentance and remorse, keeping the adrenaline spiking. In close quarters with her, he realises that there is more to the fancy ballerina than her poised exterior. Camaraderie turns to friendship turns to something more than that. With the powerful forces from a country that wants them dead to seal information hot on their trail, they try to flee the country against mounting difficulties.

The short summary of the book intrigued me enough. What I liked about the book were the parts that highlighted the inner lives of glamorous people and how the relation between countries would affect ambassadors and envoys. But the strong heroine falling for her knight in shining armour protector invokes a strange sense of deja vu and by this time sounds like something I have read previously, by the same author. The story comes a full circle in some senses. Previously introduced characters make an appearance, bringing with them a sense of familiarity with the series and the writing. The ending that follows the same protocol as its predecessors makes it, at least in parts, predictable. But at least this has more action (not the steamy kind) than the ones preceding it.

Tragedies abound in this thrilling tale of love and loss. But ultimately all is as well as it could be. Cate Beauman does it again. Yet again.

WHAT I LIKED:

  • The concept and execution of this novel
  • The writing holds the readers' interest
  • Lyla as a character attracted the reader in me from her first appearance
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:

  • Sometimes the stories seem formulaic
  • Lyla's indecision at times becomes frustrating
  • For a good beginning and a fair ending, the book faltered in the middle
VERDICT:

Thrilling tale of yet another high profile chase - this time across borders

RATING: 3.75/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

International bestselling author Cate Beauman is known for her full-length, action-packed romantic suspense series, The Bodyguards of L.A. County. Her novels have been nominated for the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, National Indie Excellence Award, Golden Quill Award, Writers Touch Award, and have been named Readers Favorite Five Star books. FALLING FOR SARAH received the silver medal for the 2014 Readers’ Favorite Awards and SAVING SOPHIE was selected as the 2015 Readers Crown Award winner for Romantic Suspense.

Cate now makes her home in North Carolina with her husband, two boys, and their St. Bernards, Bear and Jack. Currently Cate is working on Deceiving Bella, the eleventh novel in her popular bodyguards series.

For information on Cate’s new releases, monthly giveaways, and upcoming events, sign up for her newsletter at: http://www.catebeauman.com/author/hom...

Cate can be reached at www.catebeauman.com and www.facebook.com/catebeauman.

You can follow Cate on Twitter @CateBeauman

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback

PRICE $3.99 for Kindle, $14.49 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Spotlight! BookGrabbr - discover new books and marketing tools!



​BookGrabbr: A
 great way for readers to discover new books and an innovative marketing tool for authors. 
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​For Readers:


BookGrabbr is a social media-marketing tool that allows authors to share both full books and previews of their books with readers. Readers, you can have access to these books by signing in through Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn and using their ability to share as a form of currency. The “Share” is the payment! Share the book, and it will allow you to read it. Just click the “Grabb this book” button next to the book and our system will prompt you to share in exchange for reading!

BookGrabbr contains books of many genres, so visit today, "grabb" a book that catches your eye and start reading!


For Authors and Publishers:

Through their unique marketing tool and platform, BookGrabbr helps authors connect to readers that they wouldn't generally be able to connect to through their friends and their friend’s friends. The noise in the marketplace is deafening, and at times can be a bit overwhelming for authors trying to promote their books.

BookGrabbr created a way to generate some more buzz by harnessing the power of each individual author’s social media platform.  Once you create your profile on BookGrabbr it allows potential readers to read a preview of your book or the full copy and then directs them to your site of choice to purchase your book in the format that you desire. And since BookGrabbr doesn’t make any money on book sales, you can send them to a retailer, or to your own personal page or wherever you choose! BookGrabbr's purpose is to help you sell more books, gain momentum and generate exposure.


See how it works:

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​How does iRead Book Tours help?



For Readers: 

We help you discover new authors that have put their profile and books on BookGrabbr through our BookGrabbr Promotion Service.

For Authors and Publishers:

Don't have time to dedicate to yet another marketing campaign? Let us take care of it for you. Through the BookGrabbr Promotion Service we create your profile, help you share your books on your social media and ours too, of course. In addition, we provide you with ideas and the support on how to best use your BookGrabbr profile. This is a cost-effective, efficient way to publicize your books! Contact us to see how we can help you spread the word about your book through BookGrabbr.

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Not an author? You can still win the $100 in cash.


Giveaway starts March 14 and ends April 15, 2016.


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Color Me Rich by Mohan Deep : A Review


BOOK TITLE: Color Me Rich

ISBN/ASIN: 978-8192678528

AUTHOR: Mohan Deep

GENRE: Fiction / Thriller

NUMBER OF PAGES: 189

FORMAT: Paperback

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank The Book Club and the author for this review copy.

SUMMARY:

Akash Saigal, a starving painter, paints a large canvas hoping for a rich buyer. He finds a buyer and love in beautiful Zenobia, a rich art collector and painter. 'Color Me Rich' is about what the big money can do for a painter and the conflict between his past and present. ... And then Akash is charged with the murder of his rich wife!

FIRST IMPRESSION:

The author sent me a review copy with an attached letter. The first thing I noticed was the cover. A girl with a dreamy expression dominated what was otherwise a simplistic cover. The book was small, and had less number of pages. The summary, short and lacking details, was an indication of how the story was going to be.

This was the first book of the author I am reading. The book had a bigger than usual font and that when combined with more than a quarter of the paragraphs indented within the few pages, promised a short read. 

REVIEW:

Color Me Rich - A title that combines the 'color' in the art of Akash Saigal's life and the 'rich' of Zenobia's life and how these combine to make either one or both lives better. The outset is simple. A struggling but talented artist paints a picture that impresses a rich maiden, who appreciates art for art's sake and not just to decorate the dry wall at one of the big rooms of her house. Admiration of talent quickly turns to attraction and affection. A starving painter comes in contact with money and that has its effects on his life. The conflict between the painter and the artist soon turns to turmoil, and Akash's life takes a twist. He is charged with the murder of his rich wife.

The casual reader might observe that the summary yields more than it conceals and jump to conclusions about how the story would pan out. And also assume the outcome based on the stereotypes of the poor turned rich painter and the born rich wife he seemingly uses as a latchkey to get him into the world of the rich and famous and once that initial magic is over he becomes free of her. While the scene is plausible, the book differs. There is the actual love, not mere attraction but then there are conflicts - not strong enough to be motives but still worthy of notice. The casual reader would then, realise that the apparently multilayered plot actually hinges on that single focal point devoid of any twists.

The story is narrated in alternating view points. 'Yesterdays' and 'Today' meaning a time from the indeterminate past and the current. While this narrative works if the book is set over a long period of time, the slightly vague 'yesterdays' do not actually give an accurate sense of timing, a crucial element in murder mysteries, and whodunits that need to be accurate about when exactly the scale tipped in favour of, or against the victim. The book begins with Akash being acquitted and that, in my opinion, sets the stage for the climax more than the narrative or the guessing. The book begins and ends in the today, with an epilogue that is short, and reveals that life goes on, no matter what happens to predict otherwise.

The book works mainly because of its length. The short book makes sure the readers attention is intact because they might want to see through to the end. It is short, crisp and brings only a few main characters and makes the rest just parts of the story as it progresses. Where the book falters is the plotline - predictable twists sometimes ruin the story, and the beginning did not hold much interest for me, until I had gone about twenty pages into the story. Thankfully, I read the note before I read the book, realising that this was not the debut book of the author. While I was not sure if this was a story based on real events (nothing came to mind) this did remind me vaguely of an old Tamil movie I had seen. Maybe stories do converge beyond borders and across platforms.

WHAT I LIKED:

  • The book's length kept me going. I finished it in one sitting.
  • The title works accurately for the book's content.
  • The cover image, though unrelated, provided a nice touch
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:

  • The language - inclusion of many Hindi colloquial phrases with no explanation whatsoever.
  • The plot could have been a bit more tighter and had some twists
  • There were a few crucial missing details that would have given more credibility to the story if added
VERDICT:

Color Me Rich - short, quick read.

RATING: 3/5

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Paperback, Kindle

PRICE Rs. 200 for Paperback and Free on Kindle Unlimited

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Sunday, March 27, 2016

That Woman You See by Sujata Parashar : A Review


BOOK TITLE: That Woman You See

ISBN/ASIN: 978-9383938193

AUTHOR: Sujata Parashar

GENRE: Fiction / Short Stories

NUMBER OF PAGES: 120

FORMAT: Paperback

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank Writersmelon for this review copy

SUMMARY:

The book attempts to explore the heart and mind of the modern Indian woman; who is tired of suppressing her true nature, dreams and desires (in the largely patriarchal society) and wishes to express herself and do her own thing even at the cost of appearing odd and unconventional in front of her family and society at large. The flavour of each story is different. And the author has experimented with narrative style and form. The themes in the book include: humour, pathos, love, infidelity, arranged marriage, colour bias, hope and joy. Giving it a whole new twist, the collection ends with a poem titled - 'That woman you see,' which is also the title of the book and gives out a brief description of the collection.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

When I received the book and held it for the first time, the first thing I noticed was the book's slim size. Wondering how much power could such a small book pack, considering the theme it was supposed to be dealing with, I went through it. To say I was intrigued would be an understatement. The book had a simple and alluring cover that worked well for me. The black and pink tones seemed fitting for the theme of the book.

REVIEW:

Women centric books are rare, and those that glorify women are rarer. It is hard to find a well written book that does not
  • make a woman a man's (sometimes powerful) sidekick
  • stereotype women and make them follow certain 'traits' - women are weaker, are compulsive shoppers etc.
  • objectify women into mere mindless of desire and attraction
  • write about 'women protagonists' who fall in love with that arrogant man and wait for him to reciprocate (hate / love stories)
  • become a mushy romance where damsels in distress wait for their (dark, black, sad, brooding) knight in shining armor to save them
Yes, that above list got increasingly horrific on purpose. Many 'novels' today fall into either one of these criteria. Which was why it was a plesant experience to read 'The Woman You See'. Not because it did not make women impervious to the above mentioned things but at least tries to show the forever hidden 'other side'. Special thanks to the author for this particular reason. The collection of nine stories, each in a different flavour managed to hold my attention. Some worked, some didn't. Which is why I am going to comment on each individual story rather than the book as a whole.

Ganga - she who is pure

It is a simple but powerful story. Not unique, and definitely not the best start for the book. But the name and the tagline, referring to the holy river and the underlying euphemism about how a purity of a woman is not in her body but in her soul is the highlight of this story. The end that captured the selfishness of the male mind was written well but the story fell flat in the narration at places. Ganga was not as strong as I expected her to be.

Gauri - she who is fair

A brilliantly crafted narrative. A really welcome change from the monotonous, boring common saas - bahu sagas 'with the evil mother in law trying to kill her daughter in law and the younger woman trying to one up the older one'. This story deals with one of the most important problems women face even in modern society - their skin color. Excellent imagination, a fair mother in law and a wheatish daughter in law and how the women interact. Lack of quotation marks that made me confuse between dialogues and narration was my main complaint.

Radhika - she who is successful

A story that would have worked wonders if it were dealt with rightly. Women in politics are always so versatile and give more material to ponder. But though Radhika was a successful woman who teaches the men who ruined her a lesson, the story loses its impact because of two major things. One dimensional characterisation where Radhika talks about her suffering and the decisions leading to it - without talking about the man who was responsible for it does not help the reader sympathise with her. A little more detail about the man would have connected well with the story. The decisions she finally takes aren't what you would expect a strong woman to take - especially one who has been through all that and then some.

Riddhima - she who is full of love

Simple narration, but a powerful point about how most women seldom realise that they are lovable and worth every bit of affection they get. The 'good for all' happy ending makes this a likable read but the length could have been easily reduced by making off with few characters (like Hema - whose main purpose was to introduce us to the fact that Riddhima was lovable but she did not realise it. I was expecting more to her role and was disappointed to know it was not the case). If it were not for the roundabout approach, this story would have become one of my favorites.

Sheeba - a promise

Dealing with the evergreen office politics and betrayal theme, this talks about a woman who holds a man to his promise. Subtly hinting about how women are taken for granted in most workplaces even nowadays, and carefully hinting at how a strong willed woman could sidestep backbiting and slimeball flattery and get what she needs is what makes this story a good one. Lack of quotation marks, yet again, is the reason why I got really confused between Sheeba's thoughts and the story - so much so that at times I was confused if it was a first person narrative.

Shikha - she who is powerful

A good story that thankfully deals with the most neglected segment of womenfolk - the housewives. While the crux itself reminded me of a famous tamil / malayalam bilingual movie that released last year, the narration made it passable. Points given to the theme - not so much for the content. And of course, there was the confusion between Rishi and Ritwik, making me wonder if the story must have been proofread some more.

Shivangita - she who has courage

Everything from the story's narration style to the content to the crux is unique and this story will remain in my memory mainly for its boldness. Written in the form of a dead mother's letter to her son, and his reactions to it, this story deals with the ultra sensitive issue of dissatisfaction in marriage and how a couple might go in search of other avenues and why a marriage doesn't necessarily mean compatibility. I liked how Shivangita as a character made an impression on me without ever being present in the story. No real complaints in this story.

Shruti - she who hears

A first person narrative with a surprising twist. Again a bold story, of longing, yearning and how love can be found in the most unlikely of places at the wrongest of times - in a client meeting when it has become too late to love. An office romance style of story that happens in a coffee shop. Transient life at the parting of ways, with nice narration.

Sona - she who is valuable

Again a letter or a heartfelt story written from a lady to a man. Bittersweet love clearly based on memories and how a woman's love is deep and sometimes unreciprocated. Given all the other stories in the book, this one gave a smooth ending to the book as a whole but failed to show why exactly Sona was valuable.

Finally, the poem that sums up the book and its purpose, impacted my review in more ways than one. My favorite verse, something that I take back from this book would be:

The woman you see
is not the woman you know
for the woman you know
has sides you've yet to see

Overall comments:

The collection of stories has different flavors and realistic characters. Some make an impact, some don't. But the book is in need of some real proofreading. While the language is good and pleasant to read, the lack of punctuation seriously ruined my enjoyment of the stories. Missing quotation marks that separated dialogues from the story passages, sometimes even sentence fillers hamper the smooth flow of words, making me wonder if the printing of the book would have an impact of how readers perceive it, and take the focus away from the brilliantly crafted and painstakingly collated stories.

WHAT I LIKED:

  • The theme. Special mention to that
  • The simplistic narration - attractive to even casual readers.
  • Writing about normal everyday women instead of superheroes and concentrating on their lesser known sides was a great idea
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:

  • The book needs some serious proofreading to correct obvious printing errors
  • Certain stories fail to make much of an impact but are still likeable
  • The summary could have given a bit more detailed idea of what was inside.
VERDICT:

A book for people who want to read women centric stories that aren't objectifying mushy romances about 'apparently strong' weaklings. A nice break from monotony.

RATING: 4/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sujata Parashar is a novelist, poet, short story writer and social worker. Her bestselling debut novel, ‘In Pursuit of Infidelity,’ explored the man - woman relationship outside the institution of marriage from a modern woman’s perspective. The second in the series, ‘In Pursuit of Ecstasy,’ studied the youth – parent relationship in modern times and made an attempt to portray how the seeds of dissension between the two impacts society at large. The book was long listed for the Economist Crossword Book Award 2012. Her latest novel, the third in the “Pursuit” series, ‘In Pursuit of a Lesser Offence,’ was released in 2014 and explores the relevance of the institution of marriage in current times. Her first short - fiction, ‘Wake me only when the Sun is high’ (2011), and her first book of poems in the series, ‘Poetry Out and Loud’ (2012) have won awards. She is active in literary circles and contributes to literature as a member of the planning board of the Kumaon Literary Festival (KLF) and Delhi Poetry Festival (DPF).

Sujata holds a Masters in Human Rights and is a certified Travel and Tourism professional. She also has a rich and diverse professional portfolio: She has worked for a European airline, a business hotel in India and a seaside resort in Singapore before joining the social sector as a social worker and trainer. She is currently on the board of Empowering Minds; a national level NGO located in Delhi.

This is her first collection of short stories. The nine stories in the collection focus on the modern Indian woman, who is bold, aspirational and expressive. The themes vary from office politics to colour bias, love, marriage and modern day relationships et al. Sujata loves to travel and unwinds by watching a period film.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Paperback, Kindle

PRICE Rs. 195 for Paperback, Free on Kindle Unlimited

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Morals Matter : Guest post by Dwight Johson

Morals Matter

“There are some things that money can’t buy…like manners, morals and integrity.” Unknown

It doesn’t matter how much money you have if you have no moral compass to guide your decisions. They say lead by example and that notion rings true. If your peers see you as a great ethical and moral leader they will be inclined to follow your lead.
There are many ways we can live a moral life, some of which are listed:
  • Respect others no matter who they are and expect the same from them
  • Be helpful to others and to ask for help when I need it
  • Honor promises and obligations, and apologize when I can’t do so
  • Stick with honesty and expect the same from others
  • Acknowledge, validate or say thanks – whether in person or online
  • Assume goodness in others and know they’re doing their best
  • Remove myself when someone’s best isn’t in my best interest
According to an article from the Huffington Post, all of us have the foundation for building a strong moral compass and there are many benefits to having this. It gives people a sense of integrity, which is a tool for having a sense of self-worth and self-confidence. A sense of self confidence that is not dependent on the outside world but an internal feeling.
“Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners.”- Laurence Sterne


The Ethical Coach Leader by Dwight Johnson: A Review



BOOK TITLE: The Ethical Coach Leader

AUTHOR: Dwight Johnson

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1681020709

GENRE: Adult fiction

NUMBER OF PAGES: 110

FORMAT: Digital / PDF

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

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

SUMMARY:

Ethics are a growing concern in all sectors of American culture. From businesses to all levels of schooling, as well as nonprofit companies, the values that guide business and teaching criteria are under scrutiny. But, does it take a scholarly textbook to understand how to create an ethical culture? No, Dwight Johnson has delved into the problems and presents practical solutions in his easy to read book, The Ethical Coach Leader: Developing Honor and Integrity.

A fiction book that has universal application, Johnson creates an intriguing story about a college coach who finds out that his star athlete failed a steroid test, putting the coach in the cross hairs of an ethical dilemma. During a couple of restless nights of sleep, Coach is visited by five ghosts: the Ghost of Example, the Ghost of Education, the Ghost of Experience, the Ghost of E-information, and the Ghost of Environment. Each has different advice for Coach on how to resolve his ethical dilemma. With the dreams haunting his every waking moment, Coach also seeks advice from two of his former mentors. The lessons Coach learns can be applied to any industry, business, school or individual life.

The Ethical Coach Leader challenges cultural mindsets and introduces new ideas on how to apply desperately needed teachings in ethics, integrity, honor and good character. This is a must read book for anyone who has influence on others or is in a leadership role.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

Ethics - the word itself draws various emotions these days. Drastic lifestyle changes and morality has changed the definition and limits of many codes of conduct, and one of the first codes to change as per need is Ethic - something that has no solid, clear, definition and can be moulded according to will in modern days, to suit the needs of the person and their perspective.

Which is why it is doubly hard to write a book on Ethics, risking sounding preachy and managing to convey the content in as clean and entertaining a way possible. In competitive fields, ethics have become so volatile that using sports as an example to talk about ethics immediately piqued my interest.

The book's cover held my attention with a single whistle, or as I would like to think, an universal symbol for coaches all over the world. The summary is concise and intriguing too.

REVIEW:

A sports coach from a college finds out that one of his students has failed a steroid test. While this might seem like a normal issue that could happen to anyone these days, the coach is troubled because the potential star player has ruined not only his future in sports but also the morals of his team mates. While he is mulling over the right way to deal with this issue, he is restless and plagued by confusing thoughts. Enter five ghosts, as named in the summary, a la Charles' Dicken's Christmas Carol. They show the coach the right path by pointing out incidents from the past and his own life when he should have done what he could have done and clear the mind.

A simple story like this had a great chance to attract the attention of the reader and get the point across rather than long winding stories debating the possibilities and difficulties in following a code of ethics. The illustrations add a charm to the simple narrative and the book comes across as a piece of well meaning fiction rather than a preachy monologue. Blending fiction with life lessons is tricky business. Most often, importance is given to the development of the characters that are the backbone of the fiction and still manage to convey the life lesson without eliciting contradictory reactions from the reader.

Johnson has managed to pen a story and keep it moving. The coach and his students seemed more like point place examples to simplify rules that can be applied anytime, anywhere. Ethics are universal and a way of life rather than just a bunch of codes that define conduct. In the time when more and more people are losing sight of what is ethical and unethical and heated debates are begun at the drop of a hat regarding one person's right ethic becoming another person's cause for discerning, this book is as good as (and even better than) any self help book or righteous code of conduct book that tells the reader how to behave. By using a relatable story, the parable has become a solution that is shown rather than advised.

Ethical and Moral dilemmas are faced every day in almost every situation nowadays and maintaining a neatly ethical path is difficult for anyone. But with the right attitude, a fine balance can be struck between both, managing to maintain those that are common to every human, devoid of religion, race, gender, politics and nationality. Kudos to the author for writing a simple, clean easy to read book.

Am I going to complain about having to remember too much of Ebenezer Scrooge while reading this? Nah, not really. The story is worth the read.

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The concept of the book
  • Usage of an age old classic's inspiration for a modern tale
  • The illustrations


VERDICT:

A modern day parable about ethics and their application in day to day life. Good thinking to mix fiction and reality.

RATING: 4.2/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dwight Johnson resides in Colorado Springs where he works at the United States Air Force Academy. He is a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel who was a Squadron Commander three times and a Division Chief twice. He also served as the Department Head of Services at the Air Force Institute of Technology, where he taught Customer Service and Total Quality Service.

​In 2012, Dwight was awarded the General Billy J Boles Mentorship Award for the Air Force Academy for mentoring cadets.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Paperback

PRICE $12.95 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Friday, March 25, 2016

Guest Post by K N Smith, author of Urban Boys

What Makes The Urban Boys Different by K.N. Smith


I think the lyrical writing definitely sets this book apart, as well as the diversity of the characters, both ethnically and gender-wise. I also believe I have a responsibility to transport the reader into the scenes. Just reading a book is one thing, but feeling it and experiencing it is something different. I try very hard to provide a great level of detail so that you feel like you're there. Of course, we all have humorous situations in our lives, and others that are more serious. This book covers it all. There are funny parts amongst the boys, and other parts that are extremely dramatic and emotional. This mirrors our real lives so readers are able to relate in many ways. The thing that creates contrast between this book and other books are the paranormal elements. There’s all of the common goings-on amongst teenagers, and the adults in the story, but when the paranormal comes into the story, all heck breaks loose! This is where their everyday way of life becomes mysterious, and intrigue chases the boys from chapter to chapter. They find themselves twisting and grinding through an action-packed, mysterious mess, which eventually needs to get sorted out. Bring some popcorn and clear your schedule before you start reading!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


K.N. Smith is an American author and passionate advocate of childhood and family literacy programs throughout the world. She continues to inspire students of all ages to reach their highest potential in their literacy and educational pursuits. Her creative, lyrical flair sweeps across pages that twist, turn, and grind through elements of paranormal and action-adventure in diverse, exciting, edge-of-your-seat narratives. A gardening enthusiast, she lives with her family in California and is currently working on her next book.

The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses by K.N. Smith : A Review


BOOK TITLE: The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses

AUTHOR: K.N.Smith

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0989474757

GENRE: Fiction / Thriller

NUMBER OF PAGES: 302

FORMAT: Digital / ePub

SERIES / STANDALONE: The Urban Boys (Book 1)

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank Laura Fabiani of iRead book tours for this review copy.

SUMMARY:

The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses is an action-adventure story about five teen boys who are mysteriously exposed to a foreign energy source that gives them extremely heightened senses. Sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell become hypersensitive gifts that forever change the world. The story chronicles their effortless interrelations and later exposes the testing of their deep bonds. It introduces the reader to an array of supporting characters who alter the boys’ lives forever. The Urban Boys offers young and mature readers central themes of loyalty, responsibility, honesty, fear, and triumph, which become artfully integrated with cinematic-level action and high drama. The story twists, turns, and grinds through elements of paranormal and action-adventure in a diverse, exciting, edge-of-your-seat narrative!

Overview: 

The story’s small town of Danville Heights, a carefully crafted universe, contrasts with the dark, gloomy town of Sandry Lake, where evil abounds. Upon the boys’ mysterious incident with the energy source, they’re instinctively called to Sandry Lake to root out evil. Their senses guide them each time. However, secrecy about their mission, furious battles with evil thugs, extreme fatigue, and stress and pressure soon overwhelm the boys, but they must find a way to embrace their fate. A lurking, Dark Stranger seems to know their plight, and a strikingly beautiful, fearless girl lends way to heightened confusion. Shocking details about these two characters, and the evil antagonist, the dreaded Druth, twist and grind the story even further. Despite tension and fierce battles, will the boys hold it together long enough to fulfill their destiny? Intriguing, intelligent, and full of action, The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses offers a memorable, emotion-packed, thrilling ride for young and mature readers alike!

FIRST IMPRESSION:

A coming of age story. Five teenage boys exposed to something mysterious and they receive super powers (heightened senses) and they are called to fight eveil using those. While maintaining a facade of normalcy in their day lives. It had been long since I had read anything properly classified as YA, and this short summary seemed just like the thing that would interest me. The cover was dark, and suited the sombre mood of the summary.

REVIEW:

Whenever I take up a YA book to read, there is this mild expectation in me. The right book of this genre should walk a very narrow path to be just right. There is always the thin edge. If the book is full of childish stories / narration, it becomes a children's story. On the other hand, if it deals with a subject alien to teens, it isn't suited to be filed under YA. Very few books actually make a successful impression based on the genre. While I am going to write my review objectively, based on the book's story, its adherence to the summary, my comments are directed towards the style of narration too. Usually, a book's content value is graded based on what it says it must be versus what it actually is. A subtle shift appears and either hooks the reader or ruins the moment.

Now for the review.

Five teenage boys have a perfectly normal life in a perfectly good town. They are exposed to a mysterious energy source and gain heightened senses as a superpower. The catch? They have to (get to?) fight evil in a dark, frightening place called Sandry Lake. This sounds like a typical YA fodder and it is amazing how detailed the book actually is. Starting from the moment the boys lead normal lives to getting exposed to the powers and finally fighting evil, the descriptions have been very generous. Some parts of the book including the actual crux of the plot might sound stereotypical, but then how the author further develops the whole story decides whether or not the book is enjoyable. I enjoyed the book in parts.

There were portions of the book where I loved the descriptive flowing prose that actually managed to take me into the quiet Danville Heights and Sandry Lake. But then there were moments when I needed the story to just get on, without knowing about people's hair color and other details. It was easy to lose track of the actual story and get distracted by the how instead of the what. This book has some amazing narration - it just would not quite hold the attention of modern day readers, or those who aren't used to reading many words to actually get a feel of how things are.

These little negatives aside, the story by itself is good enough for me, having held my attention with a clear cut narration and well defined characters. (Considering the fact that I love detailed descriptive books - and forgot that this book is actually YA and from the 21st century). Ideal parents who don't flip a hair when they learn that their kids are on dangerous missions, exciting night time adventures for teens to get into, the age old but never boring good vs evil story line - this book is a treat for people who like their books to be detailed and written in lilting prose. If you are able to hold your attention to it, this book has a great story you wouldn't want to miss. You get what you expect.

WHAT I LIKED:
  • It has been so long since I read a complete, clear, black and white, Good Vs Evil book instead of one with grey shades. This book is one such and that held my interest.
  • The very vivid description worked for me sometimes. I liked having little left to imagination in certain parts
  • The story and the overall concept was very YA based, amidst books that claim to be so and veer off genre. And it followed the summary well too.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • The poetic prose, though nice to read, is not suitable for a book that is supposed to be a thriller and that makes me doubt if the target audience of this book, teens, would have the patience to read through it all.
  • I am waiting for the next book to explain, in detail, how the heightened discovery of five senses was
  • The parents are every teen's dream. A bit unrealisticly created though.

VERDICT:

A book that took me back a few years - based on both the genre and writing!

RATING: 4.0/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

"The Urban Boys - an energetic YA adventure debut with stellar action sequences. Smith's writing is intelligent and often lyrical. Her exuberant prose never fails to dazzle." - Kirkus Reviews

K.N. Smith is an American author and passionate advocate of childhood and family literacy programs throughout the world. She continues to inspire students of all ages to reach their highest potential in their literacy and educational pursuits. Her creative, lyrical flair sweeps across pages that twist, turn, and grind through elements of paranormal and action-adventure in diverse, exciting, edge-of-your-seat narratives. A gardening enthusiast, she lives with her family in California and is currently working on her next book.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Paperback, Kindle

PRICE $3.98 for Kindle, $11.54 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon