The Sensational Life & Death of Qandeel Baloch by Sanam Meher: A fierce and bold account in non-fiction.

A new voice in the world of non-fiction, Sanam Maher, tackles themes of honor, violence and fame.

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She rose to fame through her videos posted on various social media, often termed as vile, vulgar, and unislamic by those who kept a vigil at the online activities of anyone who didn’t conform. Qandeel Baloch soon started garnering a lot of attention, both nationally and internationally, and she was hated as much as admired for her courage to defy norms, and do what she pleased. Having been on the receiving end of exhaustive threats, and abuses, Qandeel feared for her life. She felt scared. She knew she didn’t have any support, and that her life would end. But no one knew it would be so soon.

In July 2016, Qandeel Baloch, Pakistan’s celebrity by social media was found dead in her house. Her brother, Mohammed Waseem, shamed by her ‘online presence’, and the attention she was getting, strangled her in their family home. He feels no remorse, no sorrow. He believes he has restored his family’s reputation and image. He smiles at the cameras while being interviewed,  often openly bragging about his murder scheme, not letting anyone take credit for his master-plan.  On being asked if he was ashamed, he remarks,’ No. I have no shame. I am Baloch.’  Qandeel’s parents, shocked and horrified, accused their sons of conspiring to murder their daughter and lodged an FIR.

The entire nation of Pakistan was suddenly turned upside down. Qandeel’s death sent shock waves across the country, and there was huge uproar against the bleak legislation that allowed the accused to roam freely after confessing to the murders, and their crime being waived off or forgiven by relatives of the suspect, mostly by accepting blood money as compensation. 6 days after Qandeel’s death the Anti-Honor Killing Bill was drafted and it was adopted unanimously by the Parliament within 3 months. The Criminal Law Amendment Act 2016 ensured life imprisonment as mandatory, unless a judge decided otherwise.

Sanam Maher’s bold account of life in a country which is deeply conservative of its beliefs, and values, and where a woman is not deemed worthy of living a life at her own accord is moving and powerful. Women have long been ostracized, pulled down, and threatened whenever they refuse to conform to a pre-existing patriarchal notion. Through a series of extensive research and interviews with aspiring models, activists, lawyers, police officers, journalists— Maher, has given a detailed narrative of Qandeel’s life. The author’s words flow seamlessly, and her ability to weave facts into a story has been brilliantly displayed.  Sanam’s efforts are commendable, her investigative journalism coupled with her ability as a writer make this debut novel unforgettable. The author’s work has appeared in Al Jazeera, BuzzFeed, The New York Times, to name a few.  Her honest attempt at exposing the hypocrisy and deep-rooted patriarchy, have opened gates for reflection, and debate, of a society whose morals are laced with blind-faith and dogmas, and hate for those who dare to defy.

The Sensational Life & Death of Qandeel Baloch is book that must be read.


Author: Sanam Maher

Publisher: Aleph Book Company

Rating: 4.8/5

Genre: Non-fiction

Pages: 224

Blurb:

Bold’, ‘Shameless’, ‘Siren’ were just some of the (kinder) words used to describe Qandeel Baloch. She embraced these labels and played the coquette, yet dished out biting critiques of some of Pakistan’s most holy cows. Pakistanis snickered at her fake American accent, but marvelled at her gumption. She was the stuff of a hundred memes and Pakistan’s first celebrity-by-social media.
Qandeel first captured the nation’s attention on Pakistan Idol with a failed audition and tearful outburst. But it was in February 2016, when she uploaded a Facebook video mocking a presidential ‘warning’ not to celebrate Valentine’s Day, that she went ‘viral’. In the video, which racked up nearly a million views, she lies in bed, in a low-cut red dress, and says in broken English, ‘They can stop to people go out…but they can’t stop to people love.’ The video shows us everything that Pakistanis loved—and loved to hate—about Qandeel, ‘Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian’. Five months later, she would be dead. In July 2016, Qandeel’s brother would strangle her in their family home, in what was described as an ‘honour killing’—a punishment for the ‘shame’ her online behaviour had brought to the family.
Scores of young women and men are killed in the name of honour every year in Pakistan. Many cases are never reported, and of the ones that are, murderers are often ‘forgiven’ by the surviving family members and do not face charges. However, just six days after Qandeel’s death, the Anti-Honour Killings Laws Bill was fast-tracked in parliament, and in October 2016, the loophole allowing families to pardon perpetrators of ‘honour killings’ was closed. What spurred the change? Was it the murder of Qandeel Baloch? And how did she come to represent the clash between rigid conservatism and a secular, liberal vision for Pakistan? Through dozens of interviews—with aspiring models, managers, university students, activists, lawyers, police officers and journalists, among them—Sanam Maher gives us a portrait of a woman and a nation.

 

You Can Achieve More by Shiv Khera

A self-help book on how to live your life by design and not by default.

Shiv Khera’s latest book You Can Achieve More is a self help book that aims at encouraging the potential within you, and to create a life for yourself instead of being a victim of your circumstances. Mr.Khera is not just an author but an Educator, motivational speaker, entrepreneur and Business consultant. His idea of living a successful life is,”Winners don’t do different things. They do things differently”. His book You Can Win sold over a million copies in 21 languages.

You Can Achieve More is a guide on how to take responsibility for your actions, plan and organize your life. It is about evaluating the bad, and appreciating the good. At the end of every chapter, the author has posed several questions to its readers that help them introspect about their behavior, and life. It’s an action plan aimed at a deeper understanding of oneself.  It is more of a self-realization technique that propels individuals to ponder over past situations, and self-evaluate. The questions are well-thought and often point out things one would have otherwise missed. In one of the chapters, the author talks about internal validation. In a world where we live off of facebook comments and instagram likes, it’s important to understand the need to be whole by yourself without an external validation.

However, the book appeared too preachy. Most of the quotes used have become redundant or are no longer applicable. The author’s intentions are very clear but he offers no practical advise on how to live a life by design and not by default.


Author: Shiv Khera

Publisher: Bloomsbury India

Rating: 3/5

Format: Paperback

Pages: 280

Blurb:

A person with a positive attitude cannot be stopped and a person with a negative
attitude cannot be helped. Both success and failure have a limited lifespan. Success
is neither a miracle nor a mystery. It does not depend upon special skills, formal
education or superior intelligence. It is the natural outcome of consistently applying
certain principles on an ongoing basis. The ultimate goal is to sustain success and
eliminate failure.

Acquiring facts is knowledge, understanding facts is comprehension, and the proper
application of facts is wisdom. The principles in this book can help you to:

1. Live by design, not by default
2. Gain confidence and optimize your potential
3. Become proactive and develop a winning attitude
4. Balance your health, wealth and relationships
5. Overcome day-to-day problems and make better decisions
6. Make positive choices and avoid pitfalls

The secret to a meaningful life is in your hands. Through inspiring ideas
and basic values, this book will help empower you to Achieve More and
become unstoppable.

 

 

The Aryabhata Clan by Sudipto Das

Delving deep into the past while concurrently dealing with the present.

The Aryabhata Clan by Sudipto Das is his second mystery novel after The Ekkos Clan, and it gives off a rather Dan Brown-ish feel. Sudipto’s thorough and meticulous research on ancient Indian history coupled with facts and statistics about our history some 1500 years ago are testimony to his great storytelling techniques. The author’s ability to dive deep into the meanings, and produce coherent content from every theme is commendable.

The book has various themes, and deals with a lot of topics that look intimidating at first but eventually start making sense. There’s the Islamic fundamentals who have terrorized the nation, poisoning into the country’s media and academics headed by the mastermind Shamsur Ali, ex-professor of physics at the Dhaka University and former president of the Bangladeshi Academy of Science, who aims to bring about an apocalypse. There are 1000 year old carpets with mysterious motifs, and symbols, manuscripts that are as old as time written in the Prakriti language, with cryptic messages, and at the heart of the book is a verse composed by the mathematician himself; Aryabhata. Not just this, the author has also narrated a fine blend of Indian culture and languages.

Our protagonist, Kubha, a brave and courageous 20 year old, undergoes horrible circumstances to protect her nation from an impending disaster and for the preservation of a beautiful monument. We have her mother, Asifa, a linguistic paleontologist, her grandfather, Faraz, maker of carpets with mysterious motives who was murdered suddenly.

Although I enjoyed reading the book, the information was too much for me to grasp. I was expecting it to be more fast-paced, and quick. Since the book deals with a LOT of topics at the same time, it became dry in some parts. Given the nature of the book, I understand that the technical terms were a necessity. It is an unconventional book; but if you get the hang of it, you will enjoy the read.

The Aryabhata Clan is a richly researched book; spanning across continents, ages, and cultures which emphasis on linguistics, philosophy, Indian history and archaeology. It has a murder or maybe 3, and a protagonist you will admire.


Author: Sudipto Das

Publisher: Niyogi Books

Pages: 468

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Rating: 3.8

Format: Paperback

Source: Review Copy

Blurb:

The Islamic State has spread its tentacles in India, penetrating stealthily into the academia, media and politics. The mastermind is Shamsur Ali, a physicist from Bangladesh. To destabilize India, he wants to create a sort of apocalypse, which the 21-year-old Kubha must prevent at any cost, come what may.

In a brazen attempt at legitimizing the demolition of one of the most prominent historical structures in India, someone – unbelievably, it could be both Hiranyagarbha Bharata, a radical Hindu outfit, and the Islamic State – resorts to a big deceit. Afsar Fareedi, a linguistic paleontologist, catches the fraud. In the melee, there are three gruesome murders, including that of her father, perhaps to eliminate all traces of a carpet which, Afsar discovers, has a lot hidden in its mysterious motifs. At the centre of all this is a verse composed by the maverick mathematician, Aryabhata, some 1,500 years ago.

Solitude and Other Obsessions: A Collection of poems

A collection of 73 poems written by five different authors.

I have been staying away from poetry from quite sometime now mainly because the idea of ‘poetry’ seems to be lost. With social media being the new ‘book’, our means of communication is rather short-lived. We’re always racing against time and if something takes up more than 2 minutes of your time then it’s not worth it. Modern poetry has been receiving a lot of criticism lately but I’ll delve into that in another blog post.

Solitude and Other Obsessions is a collection of poems by 5 different poets. Each poet has expressed their emotions through their unique style of writing and from, covering several themes. Uma Sudhindra, Binod Panda, Trupti Kalamdani, Dr.Shruti Arabatti and Saurin desai are the poets who have contributed in the compilation of 73 poems for this book. The title of the book is self-explanatory. It talks of solitude, and how humans have been coping up with it since time immemorial and how it shapes our personality, instills passion or crumbles our very existence.

Some of the poems are accompanied with an illustration done by the artist Shripad Bhalerao who believes humans are the most complex creatures in the universe, and who tries to decode this very belief by finding a connection between his paintings, writings, and sculpting. His art pieces are vivid, often oscillating between the real and the imaginary.

The beauty of poetry is in its subjectivity. Each poem resonates and holds a deep meaning in our lives. Some give you a warm, fuzzy feeling, others make you feel the pain. This collection of poems is a great read for people who are new to the world of poetry, and who wish to get an essence of what poetry does to the heart and mind.


Authors: Uma Sudhindra, Binod Panda, Trupti Kalamdani, Dr.Shruti Arabatti and Saurin desai

Publisher: NotionPress

Rating: 3.5

Pages: 112

Format: Paperback

Source: Review Copy

Blurb:

We are a species fueled by obsessions. Every human achievement, and every infamy, is the result of an obsession that tormented, possessed and consumed. This is a selection of poetry about solitude and other obsessions that have distracted, driven, destroyed and / or defined us. Spanning genres, styles, emotions, time & place, these works by a collective of 5 poets are a glimpse into the obsessions that have become us

Agnipariksha by Hamid Kureshi: Translated by Rita Kothari

A memoir of trauma and hope set against the 1969 riots of Ahmedabad.

Senior advocate and trustee of Sabarmati Ashram and Preservation Memorial Trust, Hamid Kureshi, penned down a detailed account of his life during the 1969 Gujarat riots. Hamid Kureshi’s Agnipariksha is a testimony to how in times of despair and adversity, kindness, unity and companionship surpass every ordeal; how it is human nature to rise after every fall, to see the light amidst darkness. The 1969 Gujarat riots are witnessed once again through the eyes of Kureshi’s personal account spanning over a period of five to seven days. The book, narrated in first person, describes the monstrosity and cruelty subjected by a section of society on to the other. Despite the rage, anger and hatred surrounding the atmosphere in the riot inflicted Gujarat; Kureshi’s personal story incites no violence or fury rather a sense of belongingness and sensitivity amongst the Hindu brothers and sisters.  As Narayan Desai writes in the preface for this book, ‘HamidBhai has presented his experiences with great restraint and yet managed to highlight acts of sensitivity and compassion in the midst of rage, hatred and suffering. This story of humanity is a welcome addition to humanitarian literature.’

The year is 1969, and Hamid Kureshi is on his way to the High Court. Little does he know that a seemingly normal day would soon turn catastrophic in the days to come. Being married to a Hindu, Hamid lived a secular life. Believing in the goodness of humanity, the communal riots that led to assaults on his mental as well as physical self left an indelible scar. For the first time, he was seen not as a lawyer or a contributing law abiding citizen of the society but as a Muslim; a target. The anger and hatred towards a minority of the society took away the last shred of hope from him.

The ideological principles governing Hamid reflect his Gandhian principles of love over hatred and peace over war. Growing up during India’s struggle for freedom, his participation in the Quit India Movement followed by imprisonment turned Hamid into an ardent believer of the Gandhian principles. His grandfather, Imam Abdul Kadir Bawazeer, was a close companion of Gandhi and was called ‘Sahodar’ by him as a term of endearment. After the death of Imam Saheb, a house was built in the precincts of Gandhi’s Ashram, which came to be known as Imam Manzil. The Kureshi family then took permanent residence in this house. In 1969, when the communal riots spread, his house in Swastik Society was burned down and the Ashram had also been attacked. Hamid Kureshi then writes, “I am thinking if the Imam Manzil in Gandhi Ashram is not safe, then where can I possibly seek shelter? I am bewildered. I shut my eyes.” This moment, perhaps, can be regarded as the most painful moment in a series of heart-wrenching events.  Imam Manzil was under-threat, challenged by those who preached violence and practiced hate. The paradox, here, is unbelievable. At the end of the day, Imam Manzil surfaced unscathed and protected by the members of the Ashram. The sheer power and support of the Hindu community at such an unfortunate time has been narrated by the author with compassion and gratefulness.

Translated from the original Gujarati by Rita Kothari, the book takes us through the riot-torn areas, lanes, and roads of Ahmedabad. Kureshi’s writing style is articulate, providing a picturesque and detailed sequence of events as they unfolded. From the minute he realizes the seriousness of the riots, we learn and experience life though his eyes. The horrified and fear-ridden atmosphere of his family members, the calm and composed demeanour of his father, the negligent attitude of the Government and police department, the places he passes by– staring as the shops are set ablaze and areas which are no longer recognizable, give us a clear projection of life in 1969 Gujarat.

Hamid Kureshi ends his memoir by focusing on the silver lining; that good that still exists within each and every one of us. By choosing joy over grief, believing in peace and harmony, we can emerge victorious.


Author: Hamid Kureshi

Translator: Rita Kothari

Pages: 84

Publisher: Orient Blackswan

Blurb:

A memoir of trauma and hope set against the 1969 riots of Ahmedabad, Agnipariksha recounts the experiences of an eminent Gujarat High Court lawyer who lived in both word and spirit a life of religious and cultural pluralism. Hamid Kureshi grew up in proximity to Gandhi in a family whose devotion to the nation and to Gandhi, was absolute. During the riots, when perhaps for the first time, Kureshi—a third-generation Gandhian and a non-practising Muslim married to a Hindu woman—is reduced to being only a Muslim, he struggles to comprehend the hatred and rage directed at his community even as an entire legacy of Gandhian syncreticism stands challenged.
In this matter-of-fact, restrained, yet poignant first-person account, Kureshi provides the landscape of a violence-ridden city, as also a glimpse into the many lives associated with the Gandhi Ashram. In an atmosphere of terrible fear and uncertainty, he recounts how his family’s struggles for self-preservation were buoyed by the constant shielding presence, concern and affection of Hindu friends and neighbours and the Ashram community. This memoir is an assertion of human kindness, friendship and dignity amidst mortal danger, hatred and fear; and Kureshi’s narration, untouched by bitterness or resentment, leaves the reader moved.
Agnipariksha is a valuable addition to Gujarati literature and a welcome companion to Gandhi and Peace Studies. This translation by Rita Kothari—a reputed cultural historian, author and translator—makes a rare document of a period, a city and inter-faith relationships accessible to a wider readership for the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena

A Girl Like That By Tanaz Bhathena is a powerful and disturbing debut, and a fresh voice that is sure to create ripples. 

One of my most anticipated reads of 2018 was A Girl like That by Tanaz Bhathena, and I wasn’t expecting it to be so emotionally devastating, and hard hitting. But, alas. Here we are.

Right in the beginning, we know that Zarin and her friend Porus have died in a car crash. Their spirits sit above the scene of the accident, hovering, and floating, looking down at their own lifeless bodies, and wondering what’s next? Everyone, from the religious police to Zarin’s classmates, are suspicious? Was Zarin having an affair with Porus? Was she trying to run away? The rumors just keep getting nasty. The story is a build up leading to the cause of their death. It’s more about what happens before then what comes after.

Set in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Zarin is an orphan who is brought up by her uncle and aunt, and is the unlucky recipient of her aunt’s physical and mental abuse. Her uncle is just an enabler, often acting as a pacifier between Zarin and his wife. Zarin, in an attempt to ridicule and mock her aunt, starts playing around with boys, often flashing smiles in malls. This soon becomes an escape for her since her family has been tainted ever since she was born. Her father was a gangster and her mother was a cabaret in a Mumbai bar. After their deaths, Zarin along with her uncle and aunt moved to Jeddah, to start a new life. But things as we find out, are only getting worse.

There are several important themes that Tanaz has covered, and all of them are substantial considering the times we live in. Bullying has become a culture, and the mental and physical impact of being bullied is catastrophic. We see how Zarin is always the topic of discussion, is slut-shamed and has her modesty questioned at every step of the way. At home, her aunt’s over-protective and controlling nature do more harm than good, and the romantic liaisons Zarin has only prove detrimental to her in the long run. Other themes such as domestic violence, sexual assault, and mental illness have been incorporated in a way that reflect the hypocritical nature of the society at large, and how this regressive nature has affected young minds.

The story has been narrated from several povs which was surprising and refreshing to read. We have Abdullah, Zarin’s ex-boyfriend, his  holier than thou sister, Mishal, who has sworn to tarnish Zarin’s reputation and  Farhan, the popular guy who takes every girl for a ride with his money and good looks. The story as a whole is narrated by Zarin and Porus, respectively. We see the life of two youngsters and also understand the story as outsiders.

You couldn’t win anyone’s approval by trying to fit in or even by doing what they expected you to.

Zarin is a rebel, unafraid yet scared, to whom love has evaded. She is terrified of loving and is in search of a home she fails to find. Porus, on the other hand, has been the hand that keeps lifting her, protecting her from every obstacle, yet finds himself in a war zone, a conflict between his love, Zarin, and the world that has other demands. However, Zarin’s attitude towards Porus often annoyed me. Her reckless nature and lack of concern for Porus, even as friend just didn’t make sense to me. This is the only issue I feel could have been dealt with in a more mature way.

Memories can be like splinters, digging into you when you least expect them to, holding tight and sharp the way wood did when it slid under a fingernail.

Tanaz’s writing is beautiful, extremely vivid, with powerful insight into the society we live in. It talks about teenage alienation, their fears and angst while also tackling issues of race, caste and religion.  A Girl Like That By Tanaz Bhathena is a powerful and disturbing debut, and a fresh voice that is sure to create ripples.

There were times, however, when stories came alive. When someone who you thought you’d never see again stepped back into your world and knocked the wind out of you.


Author: Tanaz Bhathena

Publisher: Penguin India

Genre: YA

Pages: 369

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4/5

Source: Review copy.

Blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school.  You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that.

This beautifully written debut novel from Tanaz Bhathena reveals a rich and wonderful new world to readers. It tackles complicated issues of race, identity, class, and religion, and paints a portrait of teenage ambition, angst, and alienation that feels both inventive and universal.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

A profound yet witty story about loneliness, and how people choose to cope with it.

Winner of the Costa Book Award 2018,  and a longlist nominee for Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, is Honeyman’s debut novel that has struck many a hearts with its honest writing and a character so real, that one wonders what took the author so long to pen down a novel so brilliant in its entirety.

Eleanor is in her 30s, living a life that consists of just her and maybe a pot plant at home she often talks to. She has been working as a finance clerk in a graphic design company for 9 years now, with no friends or colleagues to pass time with. Her only solace is crossword puzzles and weekends spent with a bottle of vodka and Tesco pizzas. If monotony had a name, it would be Eleanor. She is socially awkward, and doesn’t understand ‘small talk’ or other niceties. Always the subject of jokes by her colleagues, Eleanor is often regarded as the ‘weirdo’.

“A philosophical question: if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? And who’s wholly alone occasionally talks to a pot plant, is she certifiable? “

Eleanor develops a huge crush on a pop singer she sees in a concert, and decides that he’s the one for her. The singer is far from what Eleanor imagines him to be, and is a terrible singer with no respect for others whatsoever. She then goes to many lengths to change her appearance, so that their chance meeting could be memorable. Eleanor starts obsessing over the singer like a high-school teenager, and follows him around on social media. Her concept of what’s real and imaginary is blurred.

One fine day, she helps an old man who fell down in the middle of the road. She along with Raymond, the IT guy in her office, take it upon themselves to rescue the old man. This particular act of kindness opens doors for her, leading her to several other connections, and possibly towards a life Eleanor had always imagined. She has to break down the walls she’s constructed around her, and for the first time in forever, feel and experience things from a different perspective.

Although Eleanor is a loner, she speaks with her mother on the phone on Wednesday nights. Her ‘mummy’ lives somewhere far, and is a terrible mother who projects all her anger and rage at her daughter. Eleanor has spent her childhood in foster homes, and has always missed having a family. Eleanor doesn’t know where her mummy is but all she knows is that it’s a ‘bad place’.

The question then arises; why is Eleanor so lonely? The past is unravelled slowly with each chapter, and you’re able to understand the reason behind this isolation. Eleanor has had a troubled past, where she had been abused both mentally and physically throughout her life. While in university, she was in an abusive relationship with a man, who would punch and rape her. Her low self-esteem and social anxiety pinpoint to years of emotional trauma and lack of love. She lives with a scar on her face, after having survived a third degree burn in her childhood. This invited bullying in school, and everywhere she went.  Eleanor has learnt how to survive. Living, however, is still alien to her

Mummy has always told me that I am ugly, freakish, vile. She’s done so from my earliest years, even before I acquired my scars.’

Never before has loneliness been narrated in such a heartbreaking way. Humans have various coping mechanisms when it comes to dealing with loneliness. Eleanor, on the other hand, tells herself she’s completely fine. She embodies all of us, who are hiding under the garb of ‘work’ or ‘meetings’ or ‘parties’ to avoid being left alone with nothing but our thoughts; hoping that one day, the burden we’re carrying deep inside would be lifted and we could feel free again.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a roller coaster ride of emotions, and laughter, and subtle jibes at the bleak lives some humans live. It is as much about loneliness as it is about hope and the chance to love.

There are scars on my heart, just as thick, as disfiguring as those on my face. I know they’re there. I hope some undamaged tissue remains, a patch through which love can come in and flow out. I hope.”


Author: Gail Honeyman

Publisher: HarperCollins India

Pages: 383

Rating: 4.8/5

Format: Paperback

Blurb:

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

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.

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.