Review: UNNS: The Captivation

A secret Mission. A childhood love affair. Death and Revenge.

Author: Sapan Saxena

Publisher: Inspire India Publishers

Pages: 244

Genre: Thriller/Romance

Rating: 3.5/5

Blurb:

“Of course you know about the seven stages of love, but have you ever lived them?”

Atharva Rathod and Meher Qasim.

Lovebirds since adolescence. Bonded by love, separated by circumstances. They part ways only to meet again. But this time, he is on a secret mission…

Are they in control of their own destiny, or its their destiny which is making them dance to its tunes? Only time would answer, as Atharva and Meher unwillingly and unknowingly transcend the seven stages of love.

A quintessential tale of love and romance marked beautifully by its own rustic old school charm.

 

My Review:

Caught in the midst of childhood love and innocence, Meher and Atharva, fight against all odds to defend what’s right to them. Atharva is a RAW agent, one of the best the indian government has ever seen. Meher, on the other hand, is working against the indian government who were responsible for the death of her father. Their paths cross but are they meant to be?

UNNS: The Captivation is a story about childhood lovers who take separate paths but destiny binds them together under circumstances that changes their life forever. Atharva, is on a mission and meets Meher after 15 years. Little does he know that the love of his life will eventually lead to his doom. The story keeps getting complicated as Atharva tries to decipher what’s happening to him. Suffering from a rare disorder, Atharva, despite his pain, keeps his eye on the mission till Meher arrives and ruins everything for him. Just when he could trust her, Meher, siding with the anti-national forces cons Atharva leading to his arrest on the charges of treason against RAW and India. A failed secret mission that lead to the compromisation of several other RAW agents. All this because Atharva was blinded by his childhood love. His credibility as one of the best RAW agents is on the line and there’s nothing he can do but surrender. His only regret: Why would Meher take advantage of his love for her?

The story does not end there. Infact, it keeps getting complicated. They meet again. Under different circumstances. But will Atharva’s love fool him once again? Or will he see right through Meher? That’s for you to read and discover.

The writing style is pretty simple. Sapan Saxena didn’t lose grip of the plot and was able to create suspense without making the reader pull their hair out. Although, there were a few errors as far as writing was concerned but since the story is indeed captivating one can skim through easily. I think novels that are a blend of romance and thrill go a long way in receiving readers’ attention and bringing parsie to the author. I really enjoyed the climax because it wasn’t cliche at all and did justice to all the characters.

If you’re into novels that have a bit of romance but at the same time are filled with suspense and thrill, then UNNS: The Captivation would be a good choice.

 

Review: Good Times Bad Times

A story about the significant wisdom of living life to the fullest and, above all, rising above ones fear by facing them.

Author: Chetan Dalvi

Publisher: Half Baked Beans

Genre: Contemporary

Pages: 120

Rating: 3/5

What happens when you’re forced to live under circumstances that suck the happiness out of you? What happens when life keeps throwing curve balls at you? You persevere. You face the storm and you liberate yourself. Such is the story of Jonathan, whose life is turned upside side before he finds peace and unearths the true meaning of life.

In the quest to fufill his father’s death wish, Jonathon, leaves the comfort of his Mumbai life, quits his job and takes on a journey that is filled with uncertainties. At this point, he is clueless. He has no idea how he would complete his father’s wish. He has no financial help, no job to fall back on and hardly a shoulder to cry on. The novel talks about the wisdom of living life to the fullest, believing in the good and understanding that life with its ups and downs is beautiful.

Jonathon encounters several people on his journey who without even trying teach him lessons he can never forget. He learns that no matter how small a job is one should always do it with respect and integrity. I think one of the fundamental ideas reinforced in the book is to embrace the bad times and accept it to be a stepping stone towards a life filled with potential. Towards the end of the novel, the author spoke about a simple rule of life:

We cannot ignore fear. We can just learn to face it each time, as fear is never ending. The more you face it, the bigger it becomes the next time.

The narration and writing style is simple and is quite relatable. All of us at some point in our lives have gone through pain and hardships. We’ve been in situations where the light at the end of the tunnel seemed like an illusion. The author has penned down various aspects of life and how time plays such a crucial role in healing scars and giving closure.

Life, as we know it, is a series of events that either make you or break you. It’s upto you to face it with your head held high or let it shatter your soul. Good Time Bad Times is a novel which makes you believe that there’s always a silver lining, if you refuse to give up.

You can buy the book on amazon: Good Times Bad Times

February Wrap Up

A month in books and reviews.

I hibernated in the month of february. Not much happened in terms of blog posts. I almost forgot I have a blog. (Sorry for the exaggeration). I suffered from lack of motivation and I decided no blog posts were better than poor quality content. BUT I did read 5 books, more than I read last month. Let’s take a look:

  • The Catcher In The Rye: J.D.Salinger’s novel talks about teenage alienation, a sense of abandonment, identity crisis and longing to find onself. It’s part of my second year syllabus and I personally didn’t like the book much. I know it is regarded as one of the finest pieces of literature the world has seen but it just didn’t resonate with me on any level. I had difficulty getting used to the writing style and I legit forced myself to read. It’s okay if its your favourite novel. No judgment. It didn’t appeal to me.

Blurb:

The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children’s voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden’s voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.

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  • The Boy In The Striped Pajamas: I think its one of those rare books that stay in your mind long after you’ve read it. I knew it would be heart-breaking the minute I started reading it. The writing is simple and easy flowing. You’ll get it done in just one sitting. I was devastated towards the end and I don’t think I will ever recover from the heartache. Also, I plan on watching the movie in a day or two. Hoping it lives upto the book.

Blurb:

Berlin, 1942 : When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move to a new house far, far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different from his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences

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  • The Color Purple: Alice Walker is one of the finest writers the world has ever seen. The book is set in rural Georgia and is a story of a woman named Celie who is abused and beaten when she was a child and raped by her father. It is her story of self-discovery and her triumphs and joys. It’s heartwarming to say the least. I highly recommend reading this book.

Blurb: 

Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on the life of women of color in the southern United States in the 1930s, addressing numerous issues including their exceedingly low position in American social culture. The novel has been the frequent target of censors and appears on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2000-2009 at number seventeen because of the sometimes explicit content, particularly in terms of violence

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  • An Ember in the Ashes: Where do I start with this one? I think it’s definitely one of my top favourite reads of all times. I am not even kidding. An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy novel written by former American Washington Post editor Saba Tahir. Fantasy novels have never been my go-to genre ever. BUT I am so happy I read this book. It’s the first book in the An Ember in the Ashes series. The second book A Torch Against the Night was released last year in August, 2016. And guess what? The book will be made into a movie and is in development at Paramount Pictures. Guys, we’re in for a treat. I ordered the sequel the day I got over with AEITA because I needed answers. Please read this book. (I’ll post the review of both the books when i’m done reading them).

  Blurb:

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

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  • Animal Farm: I guess most of you have read this masterpiece by George Orwell. It is an allegorical novella that was first published in England on 17th August, 1945. According to the author, the book is a reflection of the events leading to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Stanlisnist Era of Soviet Union. It was chosen as one of the 100 best English Language novels by the Time Magazine.

Blurb:

“All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.”

One night on an English farm, Major the boar recounts his vision of a utopia where his fellow creatures own the land along with the means of production and are no longer the slaves of humans.

Before long his dream comes true, and for a short while all animals really are equal. But the clever pigs educate themselves and soon learn how to extend their own power, inevitably at the expense of the rest of the community.

This well-loved tale is, of course, a satire on the Soviet Communist system that still remains a powerful warning despite the changes in world politics since “Animal Farm” was first published.

This production is based on Orwell’s own radio version which was first produced in 1947.

 

What did you read in the month of Feb? March looks like a productive month. I also hope I will be writing more. See you. 

Exam Tips: Last minute study hacks.

Last minute tips and tricks to ace exams.

It’s that time of the year again.

Last year I wrote a blog post on acing examinations which was not very specific but aimed solely on how to study. Today I am going to attempt to write and explain to you some of the last-minute exam tips and hacks I’ve learnt over the years and I’m still learning. Since most of you will be appearing for your University and Board examinations, I thought I’d help you ease off a little. And as I always say, do not let these marks define who you are.

  • LEARNING: Most of you might be at the revision stage right now (kudos to you, I have no idea how that feels) but I’m sure or I hope some of you still have to learn the subject material. So how do you do that when you’ve got revision to do?
  1.  You start by picking one topic a day and scheduling it with other topics you have to revise. Don’t learn every thing on the same day. If you’re short on time and studying one topic a day wont cut it then use what I call, “Divide and Conquer”. This means that you study a new topic in the morning and take up another new topic sometime in the evening/night. You revise your subject material in between the ‘learning’. This avoids cramming. Your brain needs time to process new information so be kind and revise instead of continuously hammering your brain to function.
  2. Before you start a chapter, go through the previous years question papers and see if the chapter is worth spending time on. Since time is paramount, you can’t waste it on a chapter that’s only going to amount to 2-3 marks. Don’t come at me, nerds, I know even 1 mark is extremely essential. But you’d rather lose 10 marks than 1, right? Prioritise what’s important. You’ll realize that you’ll be feeling less stressed and are able to study more. If you find some extra-time, go ahead and tackle the 2 mark chapter.
  3. DO NOT STUDY THE ENTIRE CHAPTER. When I gave my boards, I was of the opinion that I HAD to study everything. Every chapter has certain topics that are more important and always have a chance of being in the question paper. Focus more on them.  If you’re certain about a particular question, practice writing down the answers. You’ll be surpised how much time you save in the exam hall. Which brings me to my next point:
  4. Practice writing. I have always advocated using a pen and a paper while studying. Really, it works wonders. Keep making sub-points while you’re studying. Seeing answers written on paper have a higher chance of staying in your mind. I don’t know how it works but recalling answers become 10 times easier. Be creative, use diagrams, flowcharts, acronyms, anything that will help you retain information. You might feel you’re wasting time writing down answers but then when you sit down to revise, it’ll take you less time.(If you followed my advice of writing answers, you’ll already have a set of notes prepared. SEE WHAT I DID THERE? HA!
  5. Something I discovered this year was studying using Youtube. I gave my first year MA exams and was OBVIOUSLY behind schedule. Since I was required to read a lot of plays and novels and all that cool stuff, I realized watching videos on certain dramas helped. For instance, I read and watched, Dr.Faustus. I was not very sure of the context of the play and watching Youtube videos helped. Visual learners are in for a treat with this. I’m sure there are several videos on various subjects out there. Check out Salman Khan Academy, CrashCourses if you’re short on time and can’t find a quick fix.
  • ORGANIZE: I am still understanding what organization stands for. But I’ll try to break it down.
  1.     To-do-list: Make a list of the things you have to study for the day as soon as you wake up. This helps a lot. You kind of get an idea of where you stand and what you need to do. Also, ticking off things from the to-do-list is the single most best feeling in the world. Take it one day at a time. You have to try to stick to the list you’ve made if you want to avoid wasting time. BUT and there’s a big but, do not make a list that’s ambitious. I know you want to make the most of your day but always keep sometime for relaxation. Being well prepared is not directly proportional to 16 hours of studying. Even if you study for 4 hours with breaks in between, you’re doing fine.
  2. Test yourself. I think the best way to find out what you’ve learnt is to attempt question papers right after you finish a chapter. This works pretty well for me. You can dig up previous years’ question papers and see if you’ve understood the material. Again, this might not be the case for you. Maybe you’re better off answering questions after a revision. Great, do that.
  3. Study with a friend. I remember studying with my best friend for my 10th boards and during under-grad and we used to update each other on what we studied. Not only does it give you the encouragement you need, it also makes studying fun. And if you’re someone who is competitive, you’ll make sure you study way more than your friend does.
  4. Take regular breaks. Since you’re studying a few days before the exam, it might not be possible to take breaks often. What you can do is study for 2 hours and take a break for ten mins. No matter what you do, your brain needs time to process. Jumping on to different topics won’t help. I’d rather spend 10 mins watching cupcake videos then cram. (At least, I’ll learn something). I don’t think I need to say this but keep yourself hydrated at all times. Keep snacks and drinks at your disposal to avoid wasting time.
  5. If you’ve been trying really hard to study and are not able to focus at all, leave it for the time being. Just go for a walk or listen to music and come back to it. Forcing yourself is never going to work. If you find yourself still struggling, move on to the next chapter or a different subject. Tackle it again the next day or after a day or two. Sometimes you have to take a detour to find yourself home. *mic drop*
  • FOCUS ON YOUR WEAKNESS:  We all have THAT one subject that makes our insides curl and gives us nightmares. For me it was maths. I HATED IT. I no longer have to study numbers( Thank heavens for that) but I still get jittery when I think about it. Try to devote each day on such a topic. I know it’s hard but that’s the only way you’ll be able to score well. If it’s maths for you, then practice maths more than you would normally do. If it’s history or geography, study half a chapter or a full chapter everyday. The idea is to stay in touch with the subject so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming a day before the exam. If you score very well in all other subjects but don’t score well in one subject, your total goes down drastically. That’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid.
  • STOP COMPARING:  I cannot stress how important it is to realize who you are and what your battles are. Your dreams are different from your friends. You’re not the same. Don’t get bogged down by what your friend is accomplishing or plans on doing. It’s easy to feel lost but losing yourself in the process sucks more. Just do your thing.

Please remember, these exams don’t carve out a future plan for you. Sure, it helps you get into a good college et cetera but they’re not everything. Don’t burden yourself with what others expect of you. Focus on what you want the most and never compromise on your mental state over something as trivial as exams. I say this from experience. Most of the things you’re worrying about won’t even matter in the future. Give your 100%. That’s all.

The above tips are very subjective. One formula does not work for everyone. I hope It was of some use to you. Do you have a study hack I could use? Let me know!

 

January Wrap Up

A month in books, blog posts and author meet ups!

Don’t you think the month of January stretched for far too long? Despite that, my reading was poor. I have no excuse except that I procrastinated heavily to a point where I was procrastinating procrastination. I could manage to read 3 books. However, I did write 6 blog posts which is black magic IMHO. I hope I continue being consistent here. Let’s see what January was like:

  • Selfienomics by Revant: A pretty promising debut novel on life, politics, emotions and health. I liked how the author opened room for discussion, citing important facts that we otherwise ignore and giving us a bollywood-ish feel. If you’re looking for a light, self-help book, Selfienomics would be a smart pick. You can read the review here: Review: Selfienomics

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  • Lanka’s Princess by Kavita Kane: A retelling of one of histories most epic tale, Ramayana. I absolutely loved this book. I wrote a detailed review which you can read here: Review: Lanka’s Princess. I also had the honour of interviewing Kavita Kane. The interview is here: Author Interview: Kavita Kane

 

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  • The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night Time by Mark Haddon: I LOVED THIS BOOK. It’s one of those books that’s rewarding, a story that’s going to stay with you for years to come. Mark Haddon’s portrayal of a boy with Asperger Syndrome and his disassociated mind is so well captured. It’s funny, wise and griping right from the start. The author gave us an insight into an autistic mind where emotions are absent and the world is based on number and logic. I have to write a review for this one. (Remember what I said about procrastination?)

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I attended the Kolkata Literary Meet 2017 and met Shazia Omar and displayed sheer awkwardness and lack of emotion. (WHY AM I LIKE THIS). The author, however, was really warm and welcoming. Her book Dark Diamond was the topic of discussion at the Lit meet. You can read the review here if you’re interested in reading historical fiction: Review: Dark Diamond

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Took this picture at the Western Quadrangle of Victoria Memorial. 

Can we talk about what I plan to do in the month of February( I SPELT FEBRUARY WRONG 5 TIMES, MAYBE I SHOULD LEARN SPELLINGS FOR A START)?

  • Reading at least 6 books including a classic because I plan on passing my  exams, so yeah. I also have to study and work on assignments. I have no idea how that’s going to happen.
  • Writing reviews. I suck at this.
  • I have been meaning to do blog posts on studying, writing cover letters, applying for jobs etc. Although I talk about books here, I want to diversify a little. Let’s see how that goes.

Well, those are a few things I plan on doing in feb.

What did you do this month and what are you planning for the next month? Let me know!

Author Interview: Kavita Kane

Meet the queen of Indian Mythology.

No other way to celebrate my 5Oth post on WordPress than to have the versatile author and senior Journalist, Kavita Kane talk to us about her love for mythology, what inspires her and a little something about her no one knows!

You can read the review of her latest book Lanka’s Princess here: Review: Lanka’s Princess

Get to know the author: 

A senior journalist with a career of over two decades, which includes working for Magna publication and DNA, she quit her job as Assistant Editor of Times of India to devote herself as a full time author. A self-styled aficionado of cinema and theatre and sufficiently armed with a post-graduate degree in English Literature and Mass Communication from the University of Pune, the only skill she knows, she candidly confesses, is writing.
Karna’s Wife her debut novel, (2013)was a bestseller. Her second novel – Sita’s Sister (2014) also deals with another enigmatic personality – Urmila, probably the most overlooked character in the Ramayan. Menaka’s Choice(2015) ,another best-seller, is about the famous apsara and her infamous liaison with Vishwamitra the man she was sent to destroy. Lanka’s Princess (2016) is her fourth book based on Ravan’s sister, Surpanakha, the Princess of Lanka who was also its destroyer…
Born in Mumbai, a childhood spent largely in Patna and Delhi , Kavita currently lives in Pune with her mariner husband Prakash and two daughters Kimaya and Amiya with Chic the black cocker spaniel and Cotton the white, curious cat.

 

 

Interview:

  • Did your career as a journalist somehow inspire you to become an author? 
As a journalist I had written non fiction for more than two decades! I wanted to test my creative writing skills and gathering enough courage, ventured into writing a novel. That’s how my debut book Karna’s Wife came about. It was more about testing myself.
  • Did you always want to write on Indian Mythology? What has been your experience like as an author of Mythology?
Mythology as a subject greatly fascinated me while I was studying English literature when I came in contact with Greek, Norse and Celtic mythology besides the fact that I grew up on a staple diet of Amar Chitra Kathas! Another favourite subject was history so I guess somewhere down the line I unconsciously leaned towards mythology as a genre when I decided to write my first novel.
Mythology is a huge canvas where you can add colour without damaging the whole picture. It’s not about retelling ancient tales of God or simply about  good vs evil : mythology is a lesson in knowing about Man and his follies and fallacies. Holds true especially now.
I receive so many questions on my books and our mythology from readers aged 18  to 30 and I realise they want to know so much more. It’s a void they want filled by writers of mythology.
  • Tell us a little about your latest book, ‘Lanka’s Princess’.
As the title says it’s about Surpanakha, Ravan’s sister whom we rarely see as Lanka’s princess. She is that ugly woman whose nose got chopped off. Yet she is the one who started the war. She is the turning point in the plot and pushes  forward the second part of the narrative of the epic. Also, besides Ravan,  she is the antagonist of the latter part as was Manthara and Kaikeyi in the earlier section of the Ramayan.  Yet what do we know of her?
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  • Your books are always well-researched. So what’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research online for your book?
While researching,  I often find the way the stories in our epics and mythology are woven within another and this interweaving is truly amazing. It is like a maze and connecting the dots  is a challenge. For instance I just realised Shishupal and the Pandavas were maternal cousins! It keeps coming and I have to make a concerted effort to stop reading and researching and get down to some writing!
  • Of all the characters you have written about, which is your favourite and why?
Urmila! My first book was to be about her but not having enough research material on her, I started on Karna’s Wife instead. But Menaka was one of the more difficult characters to sketch, adding to her shades of grey yet not to make her dark and negative. She was a temptress, a consummate seductress who used her wiles to succeed, she was a mother who abandoned two daughters- certainly not the perfect woman, is she? Yet she fell in love with the man she was meant to destroy. She was the reason for the downfall and rise of the most powerful man. Must have been a remarkable woman and that’s how I portrayed her in my book Menaka’s Choice.
  • Describe your ideal writing space. 
Physically I don’t like to write on a desk. I find it confining. I just need a quiet room with lots of sunlight and greenery. Also I never write in the night. That’s when the ideas rush in!
  • What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?
Each time a reader gives his feedback, I am truly touched. The most humbling moment was when Karna’s Wife was compared favourably to the classic Mritunjay. Or the moment when I received a hand written letter by a 90 year old fan hand delivered by his grand son! It was incredibly heart warming.
  • A book that had a deep impact on you.
Most books do so in some way or the other and  it would be unfair to name one.
  • Million dollar question, are you working on another book?
Yes!
  • Lastly, tell us something about yourself no one knows. 
I hate chocolate!
I feel extremely honoured to have Kavita Kane on the blog and had a great time interviewing her.

Get Interview Ready!

Cracking interviews is hard but preparing in advance is half the battle won.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert. I am still learning how to adult. Whatever I say in this blog post is just a sum total of my experiences while giving interviews. Call it a case study. (You can call it whatever you want).

Congratulations! You finally got the interview call you’ve been waiting for or in other terms losing your sleep over. You’re excited and nervous. While it’s not rocket science that you should prepare yourself before an interview, it is also essential to keep certain little things in mind before your big day. Following aren’t tips but just a few reminders that in my opinion set you apart from other candidates. (You see I spend a lot of time observing people because a.) I’m easily bored. b.) I get good material to write on):

  • Appearance: From what I’ve seen, there are two kinds of people. Those who dress for a red carpet event and those who look like homeless drug addicts. It’s not wrong to dress either way but since we’re trying to make a statement by not drawing unnecessary attention, we should stick to basics. The idea is to look professional. (Put on those nerd glasses for special effect). You might wear something that’s in vogue but if you end up looking like you slept in those clothes, it’s not going to work. First impression is HIGHLY important. Choose subtle, warm tones and if you cannot wear heels do not wear them. You wouldn’t want to trip right in front of the interviewer. (I’ve seen this happening and it wasn’t a good sight). Unless, you’re interviewing for a fashion magazine or something in that field, you’re allowed to be creative.
  • Being on time: I’ve already mentioned the importance of giving a good first impression and punctuality is one of the prerequisites to that. For once in your life, start early. The advantages of reaching early are plenty:  a.) Since there are a number of external factors involved such as weather, traffic, your car breaking down, your uber driver being an idiot etc you have to play it safe. Now is not the time to take risks. So in case something goes haywire, you can still make it on time.  b.) You get time to compose yourself. Go through your notes. Look around. Soak in the vibes. Do breathing exercises. Whatever it is that helps you calm your nerves. c.) You can interrogate the person before you who came out of the interview. It’s enlightening to say the least. You get a gist of what’s about to hit you and you get time to mentally prepare yourself. I think it’s one of my favourite things to do. (Also, when you’re waiting for your turn and it kind of gets dry, you can start clicking selfies. #Adulting  #IHaveNoIdeaWhatImDoing #SoNervous).
  • Organise yourself: We’re all a mess. Well, I am. I never have anything sorted. It’s not humanly possible to have everything in control but there are a few things we can take control of. The company you’ll be interviewing at will give you instructions about the documents you should be carrying. Here, make sure you have everything organised in a file in a chronological order. Get photo-copies of all your documents and certificates just in case they need to keep it. What happens is when you’re inside the interview room and you’re being grilled, you can’t spend time thinking which certificate is where. Not only do you look clumsy searching for the document that should be in your file, you come across as being unprepared. If you know where your documents are, you can easily present it when asked. ( I once dropped the entire file inside the interview room and well the rest is history).
  • Don’t talk too much: No, really. Just answer their questions as articulately as you can. If they ask for an explanation, you can drop that thesis you’ve prepared. There’s a difference between being confident and being cocky. It’s okay to brag here and there as long as you can support your statement. For instance, you might be asked to describe yourself (I loathe this question), don’t say you love food and you can eat 10 chicken nuggets in a minute. No one cares. What you can say is you love food and you love trying out different cuisines and you would like to be a food blogger someday. Avoid giving vague answers you can’t account for. DO NOT say you’re a voracious reader if you’ve only read Twilight or 50 shades of Grey .While I was giving interview for The Telegraph You internship programme, I mentioned being an avid reader and my dream of wanting to author a book someday. I got asked a lot of questions about the types of books I read, the genres I liked and if I wrote a book what would the title and genre be. Employers are smart. They can look right through you and won’t hesitate in calling you out. They are looking for people who can contribute to their organisation and prove to be an asset. Keep this in mind.
  • Prepare some basic questions: 1.) Describe Yourself. 2.) Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (Reading a book and crying over the death of a fictional character) 3.) What are your hobbies? 4.) Why do you want to work in our company? (Because you’re hiring?) 5.) How can you contribute to our organisation? You get the drill.

Since I love embarrassing myself on public platforms, I’m going to tell you one of my interview stories. So this HR of a reputed company asked me, ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’. My reply will make you cry,’Urm..I haven’t thought of it’. I never got a call from them after having cleared all the rounds. In my defence, it was my first ever interview and I wasn’t too keen on having a future. The question hit me like a ton of bricks and I didn’t know what to say. I mean, I don’t know what I’m going to do after I write this blog post, leave alone thinking in future tense. Alas, that’s life. We have to make scenarios in our heads of all the things that MIGHT happen. Jokes apart, I learnt my lesson the hard way and I’ve got no regrets. Things happen for a reason.You might not have a clear idea of where you’ll be after 5 years but just imagine how you see yourself. Employers love asking this question.

  • Stop trying to be different: Logically speaking, you’re not the first person the employer is interviewing and you won’t definitely be the last. Employers have seen it all. Trying to be someone you’re not is digging your grave. You should just have confidence in who you are and believe in giving the best. At the end of the day, you’ll know you got that job because of your competency and personality. And that, my friend, is the single most best feeling in the world.
  • Do your homework: Study about the company, their clients, their strategies. Another thing you can do is present to them an idea of what you would do had you been in their place in terms of marketing strategies or launching new products etc. This shows that you’re passionate about working in the said company and you’re willing to go the extra-mile without them asking you to. (I haven’t yet tried this but I will when I get the chance). Try this and let me know?

I love this quote from Jim Lehrer:

There’s only one interview technique that matters… Do your homework so you can listen to the answers and react to them and ask follow-ups. Do your homework, prepare.

  • Zero-Expectations: I hate to break it to you but try to be realistic. Don’t get me wrong, you should have huge expectations but only of yourself. You can’t vouch for anything else. Life is not a wish granting factory and somethings don’t go our way. You might have given your best and still you weren’t selected. Don’t lose heart, keep trying. There’s enough sun for everyone. You have something in you to have gotten this far and maybe better and bigger things are in store. This way when you do get the call, you’ll be happier.

There is no specific rule to cracking an interview. It depends on the employer and the interviewee. Subjectivity is a prominent factor dominating interviews. No two people will have the same experience giving interviews at the same company. It all boils down to what you have to offer. The above points are only for reference. Some may work for you, others might not.

If there’s something I really believe in, it is working hard to get what you want. Nothing in the world is out of your reach. You need to be willing to grab it, you need to be ready to sacrifice your sleep, you need to show up everyday. It won’t be easy but it’ll be worth it.

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them“- Walt Disney

Review: Lanka’s Princess

“Words once spoken could not be redeemed, they were like inflicted wounds, the imminent scars lingering long.”

Author: Kavita Kane

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 298

Format: Paperback

Rating: 3.8/5

Kavita Kane’s novel, Lanka’s Princess, narrated from the POV of Ravan’s infamous sister, Surpanakha is a retelling of one of histories most epic tales, Ramayana. It is a story of war, death, hatred and vengeance. There are several questions that come in one’s mind. Was Surpankha an evil, blood thirsty woman who led to the tragic death of her own brother or lack of acceptance and love transformed a once meek and shy girl into a living monster? The answer lies at your understanding of the novel. I think books such as this one, leave so much to the imagination. I guess that’s what the author meant to do. Show us the state of the misunderstood Suparnakha.

Surpanakha’s childhood has been dealt with extensively, what she was like being born into a family of rishis and asuras, the circumstances that led to her change, and her ongoing battle with her mother that ultimately instilled revenge and hate. When reading the book, I felt various emotions for Surpanakha. It’s not whether her actions justified the bloodshed and loss but what forced her to take such drastic steps. In retrospect, she suffered a lot. Right from being neglected by her parents and brothers in her childhood to always competing for her parents love. Constantly trying to prove her worth but failing each time. People who were close to her left her. Her father left her after Ravan captured Lanka. Her grandmother whom she had immense respect for was killed. She lost her husband. Her son was killed. Her face was maimed by Lakshman. Suparnakha lived a life of pain and loss.

The writing is beautiful. The book is well researched and the descriptions are vivid making the readers travel into the ancient times. Kavita Kane is no doubt a prolific writer weaving intense emotions throughout the book. Although at one point the story reached a dry state but it was soon replaced with fast actions and the story kept moving forward. I haven’t read Indian Mythology much but it was a different experience. The characterisation especially those of the female characters was pretty impressive. The author through her powerful words made suparnakha speak out against the injustices. It was empowering considering the status of women in those times.

“Words once spoken could not be redeemed, they were like inflicted wounds, the imminent scars lingering long. A curse could not be renegaded: not even the mightiest spell could allay the power of the uttered word.”

Most people aren’t what they seem. History has always been a subject to fabrication. You can no longer decide what is wrong or right. Everyone is a victim of circumstances and what they choose to do is a reflection of their surrounding. Indian Mythology has considered Suparnakha to be the untamed, rebellious sister but the reality is very different. Kavita Kane’s novel delves into the psyche of Suparnakha and various other characters.

If you’re looking into reading Indian mythologies, Lanka’s Princess is a good book to start with.

Which is your favourite Mythology?

 

 

I received a copy of Lanka’s Princess from Writersmelon in exchange for an honest and unbiased review”

 

 

Author Interview: Nishant Kaushik

Meet the author.

When I read ‘My father is a Hero’ I was awed by the author’s ability to capture elements in his novel that usually go unnoticed.The contribution and sacrifices that go in nurturing a child by a single father has been beautifully written. And what better way to know more about the author than to hound him for an interview? (I AM KIDDING, OKAY). The author was extremely kind and generous to offer his time to do an interview for The Literary Cat.

You can read the review of My Father is Hero here: Review: My Father is a Hero

Get to know the Author:

Nishant Kaushik is the author of six published novels. He also keeps a day job as a business, IT, and something-of-everything consultant in Melbourne. Along his journey as a novelist he has interned as a screenplay consultant, a comic book co-writer, a columnist for journals like Yowoto and Mildred – essentially, he loves experimenting with genres ranging from full-length novels to guest articles. He lives in Australia with his wife and son.

Interview:

  • Hello, Sir. Thank you for taking out time to do an interview. When did you first realise you wanted to become a writer?

NK: There was no single trigger. My interest in writing evolved over years, from spot-storytelling and essay writing competitions in school, to articles for the college magazine, followed by a couple of poems for newspaper supplements. As far as I can remember, the idea of my first novel finally occurred to me when I was 19. It was finally published when I was nearly 24.

  • What inspired you to write your latest novel, “My Father is a Hero”?

NK: My inspiration lies in my own and many other wonderful fathers I have met in my life. Unlike a mother’s love that is much talked about, a father’s love is rather understated. One often has to peel through their tough, terse exteriors to understand their love. Even today when I talk to my father, we exchange few words. But he has always shown through his actions that he has a heart of gold. This golden heart is the basis on which I fashioned my central character.

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  • Tell us a little about your book.

        NK: My Father Is A Hero is a fictional account of a single father’s determined journey towards seeing his daughter emerge as a successful, confident girl with the passion to pursue her passion. It also speaks of the struggles of a middle-class family and how love trumps all troughs that are associated with a mediocre career, self-conflicts during adolescence, and the regret of an unfulfilled dream.

  • What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

NK: I have specific requirements on the ambience around me. I cannot write at home, I must find a café that stays open until late in the night. It must be crowded enough for me to observe people, but not too crowded to find a seat. And the table must NOT be rickety!

  • Where did your love for books/storytelling/writing come from?

NK: I will attribute that to the several books written by Enid Blyton, Charles Dickens, and Mark Twain I read when I was a young boy. I wish I had sustained this habit of reading.

  • What does your family think of your writing?

NK: They are very honest about what they feel, and I guess that is how it should be. They praise my work where it is due, but also warn me against mediocrity. I recently canned a manuscript I had been working on, because my mother read a draft and felt it was going nowhere. I always rely on them for feedback.

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Nishant Kaushik with his son. ADORBS.
  • Are there any new authors who have grasped your interest?

NK: As I said I haven’t maintained the reading habit much. But Khaled Hosseini and Aravind Adiga are among a few authors whose recent books I have enjoyed reading.

  • How is Nishant Kaushik like when he’s not writing?

NK: A regular office goer who struggles to make time between daily chores, family duties, and sleep that I am always in dire need of.

  • If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything about any of your novels?

NK: I would un-heed all advice I got during my early years as an author that told me I needed erotica and cuss words to make my work commercially viable.

  • A piece of advice you’d like to give to budding authors.

NK: The best advice I can give to anyone who wants to write is to not seek advice. Writing is an experience unique to every writer, and we all discover in our own ways what makes our work work. This journey is sacrosanct and we should not tamper with it too much by looking for templated tips on dos and dont’s.

 

I hope you had as great a time reading the blog post as I had writing and interviewing. Stay tuned for more interesting interviews!

Top reads of 2016

Some of my favourite books of 2016.

By now you must have already read a thousand posts on top books of 2016 and won’t care about what I have to say. But let’s just pretend you were waiting for this blog post? Okay?

2016 was a good year for me in terms of reading. I read some really great books while a few weren’t up my alley. 2016 was also the year I discovered what genre sparks my interest the most. I explored a number of psychological thrillers and historical fiction. I completed my Goodreads Reading challenge of reading 30 books “flips hair.”. Well, I know some of you nerds are going to be like, ‘Haha, I read 100 books last year, such a loser’. But for the first time in years I stuck to my plan. THAT IS LEGENDARY. This year, however, I have upped my game and I’ll try (emphasis on TRY) reading 50 books. If I fail, i’ll talk about it here on my blog because what’s better than public humiliation? To be honest, it is doable if you really want to read. Time management is tricky but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy. I’ll talk about time management in my next blog post.

The books I read were in no particular order of publication. I randomly chose to read them. Here we go:

  • The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga: Never have I ever read a book that is brutally honest, irresistible and merciless. Aravind Adiga is a master storyteller. He painted a true picture of India’s poor, a brilliant satire on the miseries of the privileged and less fortunate. His story is well-crafted and has been narrated in retrospect. This book was published in 2008 and went on winning the 40th man-booker prize. White Tiger is a book I often think about. It’s not a love story, it’s not a psychological thriller, it’s not about magical realism. The story only tells the truth. The truth, however, can be right or wrong. But as one of my professors’once said, “There is no right or wrong, there are only consequences.”

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  • Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn: Speaking of psychological thrillers, you gotta love Gillian Flynn. I think she’s a brilliant writer, one of the best of our times. If you like dark, twisted, unreliable narrators, then Sharp Objects is the one. Bonus: You can also read Gone Girl, Dark Objects and The grownup by Gillian Flynn. I think I’ll read anything Flynn throws at me. Total fangirl.

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  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak:  This book will haunt you and it’ll make you cry. It did haunt me and I cried. Words fall short whenever I try to talk about The Book Thief. It’s a historical fiction set in Nazi Germany. Throughout the book I was in fear. Fear of the inevitable. I knew what was going to happen and I wasn’t prepared for it. Sometimes you read a book which takes away a part of yourself. The Book Thief is one of those books. Highly recommend.

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  • Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh: Shortlisted for the Man-Booker prize 2016, Eileen deserves all the praise. It’s a psychological thriller with a character that’s no where close to normalcy. The unreliable nature of the protagonist made the read even more interesting. It’s sad, weird, traumatic and fast-paced. I loved it. You can read my review of Eileen here: .Review: Eileen

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  • Before I go to Sleep by S.J.Watson: By now you must have realised my love for psychological thrillers. Well, this one is as good as the rest. It is now a motion picture starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth and Mark Strong. The book keeps you on the edge and it can be the most annoying thing ever but also one of the best reading pleasures for someone who mildly suffers from ADHD (kidding). I wanted to know what would happen. My mind makes scenarios of the ending and i’m usually always right. BUT THIS GODDAMNED BOOK PROVED ME WRONG. I slept like a baby that day. You should definitely pick this one up. You can read my review here:  Review: Before I Go To Sleep

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  • On Two Feet and Wings by Abbas Kazerooni: One of the most underrated books of the century. I think it is a powerful memoir of separation, loss, heartache and uncertainty. I feel really privileged to have read this book. The story of a 9 year old who due to tragic circumstances has to live alone in an alien country. His struggles, presence of mind and resilience help him survive. There’s just heartbreak written all over it. I wanted to give the book 10 stars. Just a pro tip: Keep tissues boxes handy. You’ll need it. Review is here: Review: On Two Feet and Wings

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  • Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda: Easily one of my favourite reads of the year and for the years to come. Set in post-war Nigeria where religious intolerance and fanatisicm  coupled with social unrest were at an all time high, Ngozi painted a dark picture of the lives of people living with domestic violence. Chimamanda is a gifted writer and this being her debut novel marks her as one of the best women writers the world has ever seen. I can’t wait to read more of her books. Americanah is my next pick.

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  • The Secret Scripture by Barry Sebastian: The Secret Scripture is a beautiful poetic novel about a 100 year olf woman, Roseanne, who has been in a mental hospital for almost 40 years. The events leading to her psychotic disposition are unknown, but as Roseanne writes her tragic story, her psychiatrist, Dr.Grene tries to unravel hidden parts of her life which leads to a shocking revelation. The poetic style of writing truly makes Sebastian Barry an expert in storytelling. No wonder this book won the Costa Year Award in 2008 and was also shortlisted for the Man-Booker prize.

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  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte: 2016 was the year I plunged into the beautiful world of classics. Wuthering Heights is hands down my favourite. I don’t think I need to say anything more about this novel. You probably have read it by now. If not, then stop what you’re doing and READ.

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  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens: Another favourite classic. Dickens is a maser storyteller and it’s safe to say it is one of Dicken’s best novel.

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Excited about 2017? I have a feeling it will be a year of great books! Do you see any of favourites here? Let me know.