ARC Review: The Historian & The Hunter by Zeenat Mahal

Two ordinary girls, Shirin and Laila, live a life that’s quite extra-ordinary. They hunt monsters no one knows exist.

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Meet Shirin: strong, courageous and determined. Meet Laila: smart, sensible, and a scholar. They’re identical twins. One is the hunter. The other is a historian. They’re part of the Majlis-e-shameer, the Secret Council, and together they protect the city of Lahore by fighting evil and slaying monsters.

The Historian and the Hunter by Zeenat Mahal is an urban fantasy novel about two young girls, Shirin and Laila, who have sworn to protect their city from age-old monsters, and anything that can be a potential threat to the lives of the people. They lost their parents when they were young, and have been brought up by Madam Ara, who has been looking after the girls. Living in the Red-light District Area, both Shirin and Laila, live not-so-normal lives.

In the beginning of the novel, we find Shirin, who is the Hunter of the Secret Council, fight and kill a nau-guzza(monster) that emerged after 50 years. She is accompanied by Emir, who is not just her companion but more like a mentor. Laila, on the other hand, is the Historian who unearths several hidden mysteries, and guides and helps her sister to deal with the monsters. She’s a recluse, often finding solace in the written word. The world around her doesn’t make much sense but when she’s surrounded by books, she feels powerful and strong. Whereas Shirin is more physical and outdoorsy and extremely protective of her sister, Laila finds comfort in a book.

Shirin and Laila, soon find themselves amidst chaos as monsters keep attacking their city, and they realize that the council has been compromised. At the same time, the existence of a werewolf starts haunting Laila, and she makes it her mission to discover the truth.

The novel surprised me in ways more than one. To start with, I was completely blown away by the concept of a fantasy novel based in Lahore. The setting of the book made me want to dive deeper into the story. The characters in the book are unique in their own way. Both Shirin and Laila, are strong and empowering. They don’t back down nor compromise on their values. They’re direct and not afraid of demanding for what’s rightfully theirs.

The author has crafted the novel intricately, making the readers be at the edge of their seats throughout. The light banter among the characters makes one laugh and flip through the pages easily.  I personally feel it’s really hard to pull off conversations between characters without making them forced. But here, the author made the camaraderie and jibes look effortless. I really love the author’s writing style. The descriptions are beautiful and they make you want to visit the city of Lahore. That’s what good writing does; it makes you abandon the life you have and embrace the one in the book.

I am incapable of appreciating novels that have romance in them but Zeenat Mahal’s book made me think otherwise. I might have also developed a slight crush on one of the fictional characters and I have no regrets.

If you’re into fantasy novels, The Historian and the Hunter by Zeenat Mahal is right up your alley. Even if this isn’t your genre, I would urge you to give it a read. You won’t be disappointed.

There is no evil worse than a human heart that is corrupt.

The book is available for pre-order. Click on the link to get a copy: Amazon

 




 

Author: Zeenat Mahal

Pages: 272

Rating: 4.6/5

Format: ebook

Source: ARC by the author

Blurb:

Laila and Shirin are ordinary girls living in the old city of Lahore just like millions of others…except they live in the Red-light District area, and they’re identical twins. Also they hunt monsters no-one knows exist…Okay so, maybe not quite like millions of other girls…

 

Get to know the Author:

Zeenat Mahal is the #1 bestselling romance author of She Loves Me He Loves Me Not, Haveli, and The Contract. She has an MFA in creative writing from Kingston University London. She writes and teaches creative writing in Lahore. she likes to stay in touch with her readers via instagram, facebook and twitter.

 

 

A Quest for Spring by Monica Mujumdar Dixit:

A story of heartbreak, reconciliation and betrayal.

A Quest for Spring is a novel of friendship, of betrayal, and most importantly, of love. Raehan and Amolika, although polar opposites, find themselves being drawn to each other more and more as time passes. What started as a college friendship soon turns into sincere affection for one another. Despite belonging to different religion and social strata, Raehan and Amolika, are caught in a web of uncertainty regarding their future. Underlying their love is an ulterior motive, which prevents them from being together. Raehan and Amolika, separated by destiny, are reunited once again after sixteen years. One is going to become the Chief Minister, and the other is already a renowned journalist. Their meeting will unearth layers of the past which were buried deep within. Will this chance meeting bring back bitter memories or will they see through the storm?

I really enjoyed the beginning of Raehan and Amolika’s friendship during their college days at St.Pauls. Through the entirety of the novel, I was drawn to the character of  Amolika. She is driven and highly ambitious and is always up for challenges. Raehan, on the other hand, became an interesting character in the later part of the novel. The author has smoothly incorporated the role of other characters which sometimes came across better than our main characters. I really wanted to read more about Dhruv and his life. What really appealed to me were the plot twists. Since I had ventured into reading a romance novel, I was expecting cliche moments and unnecessary display of affection but here, none of that took place.  For someone who isn’t into romantic novels, I was glued to the story for most parts.

Coming to the details, the author has penned down several moments that took place in 1990s, such as the mentions of SRK movies or Titanic or Princess Diana’s death.  The political backdrop of the novel makes it all the more interesting. The novel is divided into 4 parts, each taking us through Raehan and Amolika’s transition. The storytelling has been commendable.

Despite the good story line, there has been lack of attention given to punctuation and grammatical errors. There are way too many exclamation marks, and in most of the places two words have no spacing between them. This made it difficult to go through the book. I really wished more emphasis was given on editing. The climax was also predictable.

For a debut novel, Monica has presented to us a romance that stood all the hardships and emerged victorious. Lovers of the romance genre will really like the book.


Author: Monica Mujumdar Dixit

Publisher: Notion Press

Pages: 402

Rating:3.5/4

Source: Review Copy

Blurb:

Raehan and Amolika come from two very different worlds. And for the time that their worlds overlap and stick to one path, life seems beautiful. Between projects at college and hanging out with friends, the two of them come to a startling revelation that involves a bond of love between them.
Unbeknownst to the both of them, there lies a leviathan of espionage that eventually consumes the bond they share, driving them apart by force.
Sixteen years pass, when fate decides to rekindle their bond – only this time, the challenges are exacerbated by the unresolved baggage of the past. Do the two of them find each other? Does the dull, grey, long-standing spell of winter rise to give way to spring?

 

 

Genuine Fraud by E.Lockhart- Story told in reverse

An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.

 

A story told in reverse. A story where our protagonist is both a hero and the villain. A story about dysfunctional, and disturbed teenagers. A story about murders and maybe some more. A story about friendship and the lack of it. Meet Jules who often identifies herself with Imogen, her best friend. Jules, who is not like a regular teenager but has a lot of special and dangerous skills. She’s great at pretending to be someone she’s not. She’s alone, but not afraid.

Genuine Fraud by E.Lockhart is a book that’s narrated in a different chronological order. We know the climax in the middle, and then the story of how the events played out keep unfolding. At first, I was confused with the order but eventually things started making sense. I can understand why E.Lockhart ‘s book has appealed to readers in ways more than one. For starters, she is able to hold the attention of the readers, and manages to create suspense. The writing style is fast-paced with each chapter ending on a cliff-hanger.

The story, however, didn’t strike a cord with me. Towards the end, I wanted to get over with the book, partly because there was no element of suspense left for me. The ending felt too rushed. I appreciate how unique the story-writing is and the drama, the book entailed. But somehow, it didn’t work for.

This was my first E.Lockhart book and I’m adamant on reading her most famous work, ‘We Were Liars’ only because I know how capable a writer Lockhart is.

You can finish this book in one sitting, and if you’re new to the genre of psychological thrillers, you’d really enjoy Genuine Fraud.

Have you read Genuine Fraud? What did you think of it?


Author: E.Lockhart

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Rating:3.5/4

Pages: 264

Format: Paperback

Source: Review copy

Blurb:

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

Favorite Quotes from Matt Haig’s ‘Reasons To Stay Alive’

Some of my favorite quotes from Matt Haig’s book, ‘Reasons To Stay Alive.’.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig was my first read of 2018. I was scrolling through Goodreads, and stumbled upon this gem. Matt has penned down his journey of recovery from depression, separation anxiety, and panic disorders. He went through a series of turmoils, of helplessness and frustration, and after struggling for a few years, finally found a way out. What appealed to me the most was his honesty. There was no sugar-coating. He wasn’t being preachy or pompous. He was just describing what it’s like living with mental illness.

Throughout the entirety of the book, I came across several quotes that were profound and telling that I kept underlining and marking. (As is visible from the picture)

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So I decided to compile a list of my favorite quotes and maybe, you too, can pick up this book in the future. (One can hope, right?)

  • It is invisible. It is not ‘feeling a bit sad’. It is the wrong word. The word depression makes me think of a flat tyre, something punctured and unmoving. Maybe depression minus anxiety feels like that, but depression laced with terror is not something flat or still. At its worst you find yourself wishing, deperately, for any other affliction, any physical pain, because the mind is infinite, and its torrents– when they happen–can be equally infinite.
  • The weird thing about depression is that, even though you might have more suicidal thoughts, the fear of death remains the same. The only difference is that the pain of life has rapidly increased. So when you hear about someone killing themselves it’s important to know that death wasn’t any less scary for them. It wasn’t a choice in the moral sense. To be moralistic about it is to misunderstand.
  • I think life always provides reasons to not die, if we listen hard enough. Those reasons can stem from the past–the people who raised us, maybe, or friends or lovers,–or from the future–the possibilities we would be switching off.
  • From the outside a person sees your physical form, sees that you are a unified mass of atoms and cells, Yet inside you feel like a Big Bang has happened. You feel lost, disintegrated, spread across the universe amid infinite dark space.
  • Life is hard. It maybe beautiful and wonderful but it is also hard. The way people seem to cope is by not thinking about it too much. But some people are not going to be able to do that. And besides, it is the human condition. We think therefore we are. We know we are going to happen to everyone we know, everyone we love. But also, we have to remember , the only reason we have love in the first place is because of this. Humans might well be the only species to feel depression as we do, but that is simply because we are a remarkable species, one that has created remarkable things–civilization, language, stories, love songs.
  • Everything is slippy. Life is so infinitely hard. It involves a thousand tasks all at once. And I am a thousand different people, all fleeing away from the center.
  • Nothing lasts forever. This pain won’t last. The pain tells you it will last. Pain lies. Ignore it. Pain is a debt paid off with time.
  • What doesn’t kill you very often makes you weaker. What doesn’t kill you can leave you limping for the rest of your days. What doesn’t kill you can make you scared to leave your house, or even your bedroom, and have you trembling, or mumbling incoherently, or leaning with your head on a window pane, wishing you could return to the time before the thing didn’t kill you.
  • Depression might be a hell of a price to pay for waking up to life, and while it is on top of you it is one that could never seem worth paying. Clouds with silver linings are still clouds. But it is quite therapeutic to know that pleasure doesn’t help compensate for pain, it can actually grow out of it.
  • One cliched attached to bookish people is that they are lonely, but for me books were my way out of being lonely. If you are the type of person who thinks too much about stuff then there is nothing lonelier in the world than being surrounded by a load of people on a different wavelength.
  • The best way to beat a monster is to find a new one.
  • Sometimes, simply doing something that I had dreaded–and surviving–was the best kind of therapy. If you start to dread being outside, go outside. If you fear confined spaces, spend some time in a lift. If you have separation anxiety, force yourself to be alone for a while. When you are depressed and anxious your comfort zone tends to shrink from the size of a world to the size of a bed. Or right down to nothing at all.
  • We might be stuck in our minds, but we aren’t physically stuck. And unsticking ourselves from our physical location can help dislodge our unhappy mental state. Movement is the antidote to fixedness, after all. And it helps. Sometimes. Just sometimes.
  • Fear makes us curious. Sadness makes us philosophise.
  • Depression is also smaller than you. Always, it is smaller than you, even when it feels vast. It operates within you, you do not operate within it. It may be a dark cloud passing across the sky, but — if that is the metaphor–you are the sky. You were there before it. And the cloud can’t exist without the sky, but the sky can exist without the cloud.
  • Sometimes on the rocky, windy path of recovery, what feels like failure can be a step forward.
  • If the stone falls hard enough the ripples last a lifetime.
  • You need to feel life’s terror to feel its wonder.
  • Pain lengthens time. But that is only because pain forces us to be aware of it.
  • The key is in accepting thoughts, all of them, even the bad ones. Accept thoughts, but don’t become them.
  • Remember that the key thing about life on earth is change. Cars rust. Paper yellows. Technology dates. Caterpillars become butterflies. Nights morph into days. Depression lifts.
  • Be brave. Be strong. Breathe, and keep going. You will thank yourself later.

That’s all, folks.

What are your favorite quotes? Let me know in the comments.

Murder In A Minute by Shouvik Bhattacharya

When a young girl is murdered in her house, everyone speculates it’s her college sweetheart, but the tale is more complicated. Is it an inside job, and if so, who’s the murderer?

Esha Arora, a dynamic, driven and ambitious girl is found dead in her cottage side apartment, lying in a pool of her own  blood. Present at the time of the murder are people she calls family including her boyfriend and a few colleagues. Each of them have an alibi. Yet the killer is mysteriously lurking around the house in broad daylight, deceiving everyone. It’s clear that this murder is an inside job. The question then arises; who killed Esha? And more importantly, WHY?

Murder in a Minute is Shouvik’s debut novel, and it hits all the right spots. Right from the start, you get an eerie sense of foul play, the tension starts building up, and when the story unfolds itself, you realize there is way more to the story than what meets the eye. After Esha is found dead, her step-brothers, Rishabh and Arya, are shattered. Having a fond relationship with their elder sister, this loss almost breaks them. With the help of the investigating officer, they set up on a journey to find out the truth and find the murderer. Slowly, the real characters of the family members is brought to light, and it’s understood that the holier than thou persona of the people present in the house is just a means to cover their doings. All evidence points towards Esha’s boyfriend. He is the lead suspect. But there are other family members who are equally guilty. Power, jealousy and greed are monsters that have the potential to wipe out relationships. Was Esha the victim of a family dispute?

We find out gradually that Esha was distressed, and unhappy. But again, we’re left with the haunting question; WHY? What was the cause of misery for her? She had taken Arora Cements to new heights, overtaking other companies, and at the same time giving her workers the wage they deserved. She was far ahead of her competitors, and yet somehow, her heart wasn’t in the right place.

There are several plot twists. The author has crafted the story rather creatively. Each chapter has a unique title, almost playing hide and seek with the readers. All throughout the reading of the novel, I kept placing bets on who the murderer could be, and every time I was proved wrong. And that’s exactly what I loved about the story. The unpredictability of what could happen next. The writing style of the author is simple and easy to read. You can flip through the pages and devour the book in one sitting.

I wish there was more backstory about the characters since it’s all about the psychological and mental attitude of the characters that were of main importance in the story. I wanted to read more about them, individually. I really enjoyed the ending, but it was a little far-fetched. Up to a certain point, everything was moving perfectly but then it took a different turn which didn’t appeal to me as a reader.

To be honest, I am quite impressed considering this is the author’s debut novel, and on top of that, he has managed to pull of a thriller so effortlessly and with the ability of an expert storyteller.

Murder In A Minute is engaging, fast-paced, and is sure to give you a satisfying reading experience.


Author: Shouvik Bhattacharya

Publisher: Bloomsbury India

Rating: 4/5

Format: Paperback

Pages: 228

Blurb:

“People are essentially good, until they are caught.”

When a young woman is found lifeless in a pool of her own blood, everyone is convinced that it is her college sweetheart who murdered her.

The victim’s step-brothers, Rishabh and Arya aren’t so convinced. They embark on a journey to unearth the truth, a journey riddled with fallacies and conspiracies, planted intentionally to trap them.
Is there a connection between a missing blue envelope, a misplaced sweater and stray footprints in a room? Could those people they thought they knew so well be hiding dark secrets about their past? Or did their dead sister have more to hide than anyone involved?

With pressures mounting and suspicions looming, love will lose to ambition, greed will trump responsibility and deception would be common. Will the duo succeed in muddling through the convoluted clues on time, or will their first wrong step be their last?

Find out in the pulse-pounding suspense thriller. 

 

A big thanks to the publishers for sending a review copy. 

Tiny Little Flames

In this post, I talk about what it’s like being a teacher, and finding yourself doing something you never imagined doing.

I’m greeted with enormous smiles, twinkling eyes, and expectant faces every time I enter a class. In front of me are 50 odd students waiting to listen to their weekly lecture. Every time, I take a class, the experience is different from the one before. It’s like the children have their own way of steering the class in any direction they please.  For as long as I can remember, I have never considered teaching as a career. I want to become a book-editor someday, and plan on writing a book in the future. However, there’s a plot twist. I’m currently working as a personality development trainer in schools and I have a lot to narrate.

On my first day of school, I was overwhelmed. More so because I had to teach students of class 1, who if I may say, are quiet a handful. You see little minions running around here and there, tugging at you, wanting your attention, complaining about a missing eraser or color pencil or refusing to sit in their place unless you promise to play games with them for the next forty minutes. I love kids, and teaching standard one appeared like a piece of cake till I stepped into the classroom.

To say I struggled would be an understatement. Managing a class seemed harder than I had ever imagined.  I wanted to run and scream along with the children.  I left the class feeling defeated. No one wants to be a crybaby at the first day of their job. But there I was. Being a crybaby.

It’s been 8 months since my first day as a teacher, and safe to say, I look forward to it with every passing hour.

So what changed, I ask myself. Have I come to the realization that there’s no hope for me to ever edit a manuscript, and so I’m being complacent and doing what’s being offered or have I developed a strange attachment to the children? I think it’s neither. I’m going to sound extremely cliché but I’m going to say it anyway; I feel a sense of purpose whenever I’m walking up & down the noisy hallway, strolling down the corridor with the air reverberating with a cacophony of “good mornings, and good afternoons” and the occasional smiles passed on by the students. It helps me focus on the bigger things in life. It also helps me focus on the little more significant things in life-like the way a child’s face lights up when they receive a compliment or when asked to rub the board as if it’s the only big responsibility that matters, or the way their faces droop when you stop them from talking or in the way they look at you as if you contain all the secrets of the universe. It’s surprising how such tiny hearts can contain so much love for someone they might not even see in the future.

I often find myself replaying scenarios of what the students told me, their expressions playing vividly in my mind, their gestures striking a chord. I only recently stopped being a student and it’s funny how the roles have changed.  It’s even more strange finding myself on the other side of the spectrum looking at things from a different perspective. Without realizing, I have a routine, one that keeps me on edge most of the time.

Robert Frost in his famous poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’ writes:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I’ve been contemplating on the above stanzas which further led to the realization that teaching has made a lot of difference. It hasn’t been very long but maybe just maybe it’s exactly what I need. I don’t know if I’ll continue being a teacher but what I do know  is that sometimes the road less traveled leads you to places you never expected to go. You experience things you never did before, and you transform into someone you never thought you could be.

And sometimes, tiny little flames, create enough light to kindle your spirits.

 

 

Complete Guide to Writing a Smashing Book Review.

Writing a book review is not as daunting as you think. Follow these simple steps to write a perfect book review!

DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL BOOK REVIEWER( IF THAT’S EVEN A THING?) NOR AM I CLAIMING TO BE ONE 🙂

With the start of 2018, I want to introduce you to a few tips on ‘How to write a book review’. Since the only thing I can consider myself competent in is reading and writing reviews, I thought I’d take the bait and write a blog post. If you’re in school or college, and are required to write a book review for your English paper or if you’re thinking of starting a blog or a page dedicated to reviewing books, then keep on reading. (Also, please overlook my sense of humor and sad attempt at sounding smart).

Let’s clear a few things right in the beginning. There is no ‘right’ way to write a review. Books are highly subjective and a review is not a testimony to the credibility of the said book. There are a number of books I loved which didn’t get GOOD reviews or in fact quite a number of books I HATED  with a passion that went on to becoming International bestsellers, but that’s the whole point. One shoe doesn’t fit all.

Now how I see it, there are two ways of writing a review;  Personal and Formal. Let’s understand what both formats mean.

  • Personal:  Here, you write whatever you feel about the book. You express your love for the characters, your admiration at how the plot was crafted and genuine applaud to the author concerned. In short, letting your emotions do the reviewing. Now you can do this either on your blog or Instagram page or your Facebook page. You’re taking a more informal approach to the book. Nothing is wrong with using this format. If this is how you’d like to review the book, then go ahead. YOU DO YOU. Of course, you will not be getting into the technical details of book reviewing i.e commenting on the narrative technique, plot, theme, writing style etc. You only focus on how you felt when you read the last line of the book.

Many people who don’t review books as a hobby or as a book blogger, adopt this format.

  • Formal:  Here, things get a little tricky. (Don’t worry, it’s easier than math, I promise). When you’re writing a review as a blogger, you need to be careful of not bashing the author’s work just because the book didn’t appeal to you. By this I don’t mean you should lie or sugarcoat information but instead use a more constructive approach. Let’s take an example:

    You were disappointed at the climax and you were expecting a different result but at the same time you found really interesting quotes in the book, and were impressed by the writing style. You then go on to mention what you didn’t like about the book, your concerns and tips on what could have been different while simultaneously praising the author for what worked for you.

    It’s really important to understand that authors are humans, and cannot produce work that’s going to be liked by everyone especially since we’re dealing with something as subjective as art.  If you’re a book blogger, you’ll get books for review by various publishers and even authors. Remember, constructive criticism goes a long way.

The following points should be remembered while writing a formal book review:

a.) Try to introduce the author and the premise of the novel in the beginning of the paragraph.  Preferably, a short summary of what the novel is about and what you thought of it. The reason behind this is that people are busy and no one really has the time or patience to read through an entire review.  As sad as this might be, with the onset of online reading and social media anything exceeding one paragraph is too much reading material.

b.) The second paragraph should be a more in-depth analysis of the book; what are the characters like, what problems they’re in, and how they try to overcome their problems, etc.

c.) The third paragraph should be about the narrative technique, plot, writing style and theme of the novel including other details such as how the author managed to put together important pieces of the puzzle and present a masterpiece or how it was inspiring or moving to you as a reader.

d.) By the fourth paragraph, you should be on your way to wrapping up your review. It’s more like a conclusion. Your final thoughts and the kind of reader base the novel can appeal to. For instance, if readers of historical fiction would enjoy a YA novel or not, or if crime mystery lovers would like to read a romance novel. Give a heads up to your readers of what they might expect from the book.

Now let’s talk about the format of this particular way of reviewing:

  1. You can either start the review by writing down the essentials i.e Author’s name, publishing house, rating etc followed by the blurb of the book. After you’re done filling in the above mentioned points, you proceed to write the review.  You can take a look at this post to get a clearer picture: Book Review: Option B
  2. OR after you’re done writing the entire review( taking into consideration all the technical aspects), you can write a short paragraph at the end narrating your personal thoughts about the book. I’ll give you an example:

All in all, the book appealed to me in a number of different ways. I could relate to most of the characters and their situations. Although, I was left disappointed by the ending, I think the book as a whole is a good read.

3.) Another way of writing the review is by filling in the details (author name,                           publishing house , blurb etc) at the end of your review.  This means your review starts in the beginning and then towards the end you mention the details. I personally prefer writing reviews this way and have only recently adopted this method.  Click on this review to get an idea: Remnants of a Separation by Aanchal Malhotra: If you could read just one book, let it be this one.

4.) Usually the blurb for the book is written at the back. You can copy-paste it directly to your review or you can write a blurb of your own. To be honest, writing a blurb of your own requires practice and takes time. This, however, does not mean you shouldn’t do it. It’s credible if you can come up with your own blurbs.  It definitely adds a more personal touch whilst maintaining a formal approach. (The only time I wrote blurbs were when I was interning at a publishing house. IT WRECKED MY BRAIN)

These are some of the tips  I have learnt over the years. Like I said, there are many ways to write a review, but I tried to narrow it down as much as possible. Just keep in mind that you don’t have to follow these steps. You can mix both the formal and informal formats as and when you like 🙂

Please let me know if this was helpful or if there are other ways you like to write reviews. I’M ALL EARS.

Also, happy new year. 🙂

 

Remnants of a Separation by Aanchal Malhotra: If you could read just one book, let it be this one.

Digging into the past, through material objects carried by people at the time of Partition.

There have been countless books, articles, documentaries and journals written and published about the Partition that shook millions, and uprooted the very foundation of the people, its government and the country. But none comes closer to tracing the lives and emotions of the people present at the time of partition like Aanchal Malhotra’s book, Remnants of a Separation does. The novel in its entirety consists of 19 stories about people who were severely affected by the Divide that took place in 1947, and the aftermath of which, can still be felt by the people who were witness to the mass displacement. Aanchal through her book has presented a unique way of preserving and storing the memory of people from both sides of the border through objects carried by them at the time of Partition. Who would have imagined that a maang tikka, a ghaz, a set of kitchen utensils, a shawl or a peacock-shaped bracelet would be a testimony of a life that existed in an Undivided India? How a tangible object had the power to survive through years and years of dust, struggle, and loss? It’s unreal how the memory works. And it’s even more baffling how simple objects hold so much history in them.

Aanchal Malhotra in the introduction to her book writes, ’what is important and what I have attempted to do through each chapter, is to weave together a cohesive narrative of personal experiences vis-a-vis the past as well as the present. Memorialization is not a passive practice but an active conversation. By studying the evolution of personal histories from that period, we allow ourselves to unravel further and understand better the legacy of the Partition”.  After reading the novel, you understand the history and the real scenario of the Partition. We all know, how the seed of partition was planted, and how it was finally implemented but little do we know about the lives of the people caught in either side of the border. Mass killings that led to dead bodies being strewn across the floor like carpet, religious intolerance, loots, rapes, heavy displacement of people and property and the emotional upheaval faced by many have been articulately described in the book. The author herself encountered objects that had been carried by her grandmother over the years since partition and that lead to the unraveling of stories that were hidden in the minds of the people. She then searched for other migrants with similar stories and objects to share which then led to the making of this book; a first of its kind that uses material memory and objects as testaments to the lives of the people who owned them.

Remnants of a Separation is like a treasure-trove of stories, each unique and painful in its own. Aanchal’s writing is lyrical, woven delicately and carefully, lest the effect is lost.  The interviewees are all people belonging to India or Pakistan, their history of who they are and how they re-shaped their lives in the event of the Partition will make you realize the struggle and hardships of the refugees and how painstakingly they survived with little or no money in a country they couldn’t recognize as their own.

An oral historian and artist herself, Aanchal, has evoked deep rooted sentiments and emotions about one of the greatest tragedies to hit mankind and has portrayed it in a beautiful storytelling format that demands attention and recognition.

Aanchal says, “I realized that the Partition wasn’t just about those who crossed the border, but also about those who remained behind. It affected even those who never moved and never had to. It consumed even their lives, because they had remained amidst the chaos. They too had seen the riots, the violence, the disorder, but from a different perspective.

The events described by the people are extremely powerful and strong. The atmosphere at the time of Partition was that of uncertainty, fear, anger and of course hate of a different kind.  But amidst the rage and vengeance, are also heroic stories of Hindus putting their lives in danger for their fellow neighbors and Muslims ready to save their Hindu friends in times of need. In one of the stories named, ‘The Maang Tikka of Bhag Malhotra’, the author’s grandmother, narrates how at a time when the air was filled with intolerance, her Muslim helpers, would accompany them to school, even if that meant putting their life in danger. It’s just one of the many instances where humans defied religion and nationalism to put humanity first. Most of the refugees experienced horrific circumstances, which left a deep scar, one that never really fades but chooses to be a reminder of what was and will never be.  The Partition affected all those who had to flee in the dead of the night as much as it affected those who stayed.  As Mian Faiz Rabbani puts it, ‘Aap agar ek paudhe ko apni zameen se nikal kar kisi aur zameen mein daalenge, toh panapne mein samay toh lagega na? (If you uproot a sapling from its natural habitat and try to transplant it elsewhere, the chances of it growing and thriving are slim–and perhaps it may not live at all.)

 

Final Thoughts:

I think writing a review is narrowing down Aanchal’s years of painstaking research and hard work, and the only way to do justice to it is by reading the book and then re-reading it all over again. I had finished reading the book a few days back but was short of words to pen down a review. With a new perspective on the history of Partition, unique storytelling, and emotionally packed stories, Remnants of a Separation, is a book that you MUST read.

Human memory is fragile. We mentally store our experiences as memories. However, it is important to understand that our memory is not a recording device. It cannot be assumed that whatever one experiences will be stored as an exact and precise mnemonic trace of that moment, especially when time gradually begins to wear it down.

 

 

 


Author: Aanchal Malhotra

Publisher: HarperCollins India

Pages: 366

Rating: 5/5

Format: Hardcover

 

 

Love is Never Easy by Donna Dias Manuel

A tale of strong friendship, loyalty and courage coupled with inside jokes, leg-pulling and late-night gossip sessions make Love is Never Easy an engaging and compelling read.

A tale of strong friendship, loyalty and courage coupled with inside jokes, leg-pulling and late-night gossip sessions make Love is Never Easy an engaging and compelling read. It’s a story of three friends; Nina, Aisha and Rhea who have sworn to have each other’s back till eternity whilst struggling to keep up with the difficulties in their own lives.

The novel is about childhood friends who meet after years in Goa to attend their school’s centenary year. A lot has happened since they last met; Nina is married and is now heading the marketing department of her firm, Aisha is regarded as one of the top architects and Rhea with her passion of dance has opened her own dancing school. Like most friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time, they’re all pretty excited. But amidst their excitement, each one is trying to cope up with troubles in their life. Nina, for once, is struggling with her marriage, Aisha is caught up in an affair and is pregnant and Rhea is about to come out to her parents and her two friends. Will this meeting break  the Wolf Pack (as they call themselves) or make their bond even stronger? And even if everything goes down well, Nina has been smacked hard with another obstacle. Will she overcome it like she always does or will she give in?

I enjoyed reading Love is Never easy more so because I could picture myself having a gala time with my friends and laughing and dancing the night away. Donna’s writing style is simple, fast-paced and is able to hold the readers’ attention. However, there are a few cliché moments in the book that seem a little over the top. The ending was predictable for me and I really wanted to read more about Rhea and Aisha as these two characters lost their charm towards the end.

All in all, the book showcases the power and strength of women who despite all the odds emerge victorious. Women are and have always been capable of handling every setback life throws at them and they do it very graciously. The story is as much about self-discovery as it is about friendship. The characters experience some life-changing events and through introspection and soul searching finally discover themselves and embrace who they really are.

If you’re looking for a book that you could finish in one sitting and be satisfied, then Love is Never Easy by Donna Dias Manuel would be a good pick.

Blurb:

Nina’s perfect professional life takes a toll on her marriage. Aisha is pregnant with her secret lover’s child. Rhea is trying to come out to her family. In the midst of all this, life throws yet another curve ball at Nina. Will the three friends overcome their troubles?

 


 

Publisher: Juggernaut

Pages: 364

Format: e-book

Rating: 3.9/5

 

Austenistan: Paying homage to Jane Austen, one short story at a time.

Paying homage to one of our most favourite authors, Jane Austen, one short story at a time.

Austenistan is a collection of short stories that is highly inspired by Jane Austen. Set in contemporary Pakistan, the stories revolve around the present-day scenario of young Pakistanis. Edited by Laaleen Sukhera of the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan, the book consists of multiple stories by Pakistani women writers who often find themselves in Austen’s shoes. The humour, the romance, the drama and the reality of living in a world that still continues to be superficial, arrogant and boisterous and where marriage proposals and wedding receptions are larger than life are fine examples of how the society still functions.

Jane Austen’s works albeit few, still linger and are referred to by many. Her books are immemorial, holding a special place in the literary world. Therefore, reading the stories in an Austen-inspired style was refreshing, and a unique way to keep Austen’s legacy alive.

Every chapter in the story starts with a quote from Austen’s novels which I personally loved. It was like a clue to the story making the reader curious right from the start. The stories have a female protagonist who despite her struggles and shortcomings, eventually takes charge of her life, struggling yet getting back up, and maybe, finding her happily ever after or in this  case finding a Mr.Darcy? The writing style of every writer is simple, easy to read and the stories are in no way conventional. The characters mirror the ones in Austen’s novels. From mothers who are worried about getting their daughters married off like Mrs.Benett in Pride and Prejudice to Lady Susan who comes out of her sadness, despair and mourning to once again start her life, Austenistan has effortlessly captured it all.

Although the novel is filled with humour, one can’t ignore the social message being sung in hushed but impactful voices. The heroines in Austenistan surpass social boundaries, break stereo-types and decide the course of their life. They’re not bogged down by societal pressures of marriage, and are not afraid of voicing their opinions. The themes in each story revolve around marital abuse, gay men being married off to straight women, and forced marriages, all of which are harsh realities in today’s society. Pointing out the double standards in a comical manner is one of the many plus points of this novel.

If you’re looking for a refreshing and light read and are an ardent Austen fan, Austenistan is a perfect choice.


Publisher: Bloomsbury India

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4.5/5

 

Blurb:

Heiress Kamila Mughal is humiliated when her brother’s best friend snubs her to marry a social climbing nobody from Islamabad. Roya discovers her fiancé has been cheating on her and ends up on a blind date on her wedding day. Beautiful young widow Begum Saira Qadir has mourned her husband, but is she finally ready to start following her own desires?

Inspired by Jane Austen and set in contemporary Pakistan, Austenistan is a collection of seven stories; romantic, uplifting, witty, and heartbreaking by turn, which pay homage to the queen of romance who lives on among us.