ARC Review: The Historian & The Hunter by Zeenat Mahal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 




 

Author: Zeenat Mahal

Pages: 272

Rating: 4.6/5

Format: ebook

Source: ARC by the author

Blurb:

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

 

Get to know the Author:

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

 

 

In Conversation with Faiqa Mansab: Author of This House of Clay and Water

I recently had the opportunity to ask, Faiqa Mansab, one of my favourite authors a bunch of literary questions and her answers are everything a book lover would want to hear!

When I read This House of Clay and Water a few months back, I knew I had stumbled upon a story that would stay with me for a long time. I devoured the book within a day, and struggled to come up with a review that would do justice to the book. It was a book that made me realize why I love reading, and why the written words will never fail to leave me breathless. When you read a book that speaks strongly to you, you can’t help but get inside the head of the author who wrote it, and therefore, I had the honor of interviewing Faiqa Mansab, author of This House of Clay and Water. Absolutely honest, insightful and full of literary wisdom, the author tells us what it’s like to be a writer and much more!

 

INTERVIEW:

Thank you so much for taking out time to answer my questions and gracing my blog with your presence.

Thank you for having me. I really enjoy interacting with readers and bloggers like you make it possible.

  • I’m sure you’ve been asked this a lot but did you always want to be a writer?

I enjoy answering it every time because each time I think about it, the memory becomes clearer, or perhaps my own attitude towards what it was that led me here, clarifies. See, there was a time when I felt I wanted to be a writer because I wanted to give readers the kind of joy and comfort I received from books, but there is also that feeling that perhaps a writer doesn’t decide but discovers that she is a storyteller, because when not writing, when not spinning stories, they’re not very happy people. Reading is my first love and writing is my second love and one without the other seems impossible to me.

  • What was your inspiration behind your latest novel, ‘This House of Clay and Water’?

It’s a story that had been brewing within my consciousness for the longest time, even before I went for my MFA in London, where I finished it. I think Lahore is always my inspiration. The character I’m writing about may be another. The very idea of writing, is a huge inspiration. It’s such a quiet process, lonely even, and yet it’s a powerful declaration. Language is an inspiration. Words are actions, I believe. I enjoy the process of wordsmithing and it inspires me daily.

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  • What was your favorite chapter or part to write?

I enjoyed writing all the characters very much. They’re all so different from each other. Their voices, circumstance, choices are so different and they managed to surprise me. However, that chapter about Zoya and Idrees was very painful and difficult to write for me.

  • What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

It was reading books. I could forget everything, all kind of hurts, loneliness, disappointments, when I was immersed in a book. I realized how important books were to me at an early age. I grew up on books more than anything else. Books were my compass and my North Star; my steadfast companions and my solace. The words written in books so long ago could comfort me and that was so liberating. I understood early that language is indeed power and a storyteller wields that power.

  • What does literary success look like to you?

Like it’s still a long way off. I want a lot from life.

  • How hard is it to establish and maintain a career in fiction writing?

Quite hard. You have to have total commitment, and be willing to work hard, have discipline and to throw away months and months’ worth of work for the sake of art. Your art should come first. Fiction is harder to write and sell than non-fiction. Fiction is truth told as if it isn’t. That’s a tough one to pull. Publishing isn’t such a walk in the park either. It’s a business and just because you’ve written a good story doesn’t mean it will sell. No one owes you anything. A writer shouldn’t feel that because they’ve been slaving away in the store-room writing for months, publishers will be lining up to sign them on. A good story doesn’t necessarily guarantee that it will be published. It’s a tough business.

  • Have you read anything that made you feel differently about fiction?

The kind of fiction I read only makes me want to be a better writer. The language in Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient is just beautiful. Patricia McKillip writes magically, no pun intended. I love fiction, reading and writing it, and I read everything.

  • What’s your ideal writing space?

I’ll tell you something I’ve never told anyone. I was quite young when I read the story of the discovery of the Rosetta Stone from Egypt and how the hieroglyphs were a code that was needed to decipher everything that had been discovered before. Without the Rosetta Stone so much of the Egyptian civilization would have been lost to us. The story reminded me of all the books I’d ever read that had helped me discover a little bit more about me.

The very first time I went to the British Museum in 2001, I bought a little paper weight of a Rosetta Stone. It stays on my desk as a sort of reminder. I want to write books that are like the Rosetta Stone for someone somewhere. A code to some kind of discovery—of self, a bit of life, some element of humanity.

  • What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Helen DeWitt’s The Last Samurai. Not as many people know about it as should. It’s a wonderful, lever novel. I highly recommend it.

  • Tea or Coffee?

Coffee. Always.

  • If you could, what would you tell your younger self?

Have courage, you’re going to need it.

  • Lastly, are you currently writing any book? If yes, what’s the genre going to be?

I write fiction. I don’t think of the genre. I just write the stories I must because a certain character at a certain time compels me to write their story. I’m always writing something or the other. Sometimes I have to abandon a story after 50k, like my current WIP because I lose interest in that particular story, usually because I’ve taken too long to capture the first draft. When you’ve written a first draft then you can tinker with the story as you like, but if the first draft is incomplete, I feel one often outgrows the characters.

 

 


About the author:

Faiqa  Mansab earned an MFA in Creative Writing with Distinction from Kingston University in London in 2014. She has been published in various academic journals and newspapers including an excerpt of her new novel in The Missing Slate. She has been a teacher and school administrator for ten years and conducts creative writing workshops at universities. This House of Clay and Water is her debut novel published by Penguin India. 

 

You can read my review of This House of Clay and Water here: This House Of Clay And Water by Faiqa Mansab: A tale of forbidden love, freedom and the need to belong.

 

 

The Tree With A Thousand Apples by Sanchit Gupta: A story of war, bloodshed & fight for Justice.

A story of tormented Kashmir, of love, loss and terror.

If you could name heaven on earth, what would you choose? For Bilal, Deewan and Safeena, it was their Home, their safe heaven; Kashmir. A place where the skies looked like they’ve been constructed by a painter, where the mountains and rivers danced in their own rhythm and where trees have the gift to bore a thousand apples. Little did the three friends know that their innocent and fairytale life would be snatched away in the blink of an eye? Welcome to Kashmir, Srinagar, which is now a battleground, a place where ‘azadi’ has cost the lives of many and where peace is a distant dream.

The Tree with a Thousand Apples by Sanchit Gupta is a blood-curling testament about the lives of people living in war-torn Kashmir. It’s a chilling account of Bilal, Deewan and Safeena, who lose their family, turn into people they had sworn they would never turn into and who face adversity at the heart of it all.

Before the insurgency, Deewan Bhatt, Bilal Ahnagar and Safeena Malik were living a very normal life as friendly neighbors and friends. But the night of the insurgency changed everything. Deewan had to flee his home since he was a Kashmiri Pandit while Bilal and Safeena spent their lives living in terror and death. Bilal becomes a product of his circumstances and does what most youth of Kashmir did; pick up the weapon and fight for ‘Azadi’. Safeena, on the other hand, suffered terrible losses, became a nurse but eventually did the unthinkable. They meet again, after 20 years. Their lives have been turned upside down. Will they give in or will they fight for what’s rightfully theirs?

The novel is a socio-political thriller, covering the lives of the three friends as well as the transition of Kashmir from 1990-2013. It’s a coming of age story which talks not only about the political setup but also about the breaking apart of communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims, the clashing of ideologies, the broken children and the need for unity. A Tree With A Thousand Apples is a sad tale about humanity. The price children, youth and adults pay when harmony refuses to co-exist.

Throughout the novel, there is a deep sense to belong somewhere, anywhere. There’s an isolation of sorts one that runs deep down your soul and there’s nothing you can do about it. Helplessness and anger at the top of it all. It’s a cry for peace; a cry to be together. The Author has woven magic with his unique and beautiful description of Kashmir. No other writing could have done justice to the magnificence that was once Kashmir. I loved the narrative technique, the writing is simple yet enthralling and the novel overall makes for a great,fast paced read.

The novel has been written in a time where hues of cry and justice are reverberated everywhere, where anger rides a human mind and the ability to live together is lost. If there’s one novel you should read, it has to be A Tree With A Thousand Apples.

 


Author: Sanchit Gupta

Publisher: Niyogi Books

Pages: 279

Rating: 4.2/5

Format: Hardcover

Blurb:

If the criminal was once a saint and the saint was once a criminal, then who is a criminal and who is a saint?

Inspired by true events, this riveting narrative traces the lives of Safeena Malik, Deewan Bhat and Bilal Ahanagar, three childhood friends who grow up in an atmosphere of peace and amity in Srinagar, Kashmir, until the night of 20 January 1990 changes it all.

While Deewan is forced to flee from his home, Safeena’s mother becomes ‘collateral damage’ and Bilal has to embrace a wretched life of poverty and fear. The place they called paradise becomes a battleground and their friendship struggles when fate forces them to choose sides against their will.

Twenty years later destiny brings them to a crossroads again, when they no longer know what is right and what is wrong. While both compassion and injustice have the power to transform lives, will the three friends now choose to become sinful criminals or pacifist saints?The Tree with a Thousand Apples is a universal story of cultures, belongingness, revenge and atonement. The stylized layered format, fast-paced narration and suspenseful storytelling makes for a powerful, gripping read

Reading Update.

A quick wrap up on what I’ve read and what I plan to read.

I AM BACK.

I have been avoiding writing blog posts and at first I was genuinly busy but then I didn’t feel like writing. I mean, I don’t even have a legit excuse for being below average at blogging and I have no remorse. But heyyyy, I am here now so let’s catch up?

My reading has been like Kolkata’s weather. Warm & sunny followed by incessant rain, thunder & lightning. It has ranged from reading 8 books in a month to barely managing one book. I was also the lucky recipient to uninvited reading slumps which as you might have figured hampered my reading. Since I’ve missed out on posting monthly wrap-ups, I’m going to briefly tell you what I’ve read and what I am currently reading.

May:

  • Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai: I loved this book. It was part of my MA syllabus and I was so glad I got to read it.
  • Baaz by Anuja Chauhan: You can read my review to know what I think about this one. Review: BAAZ

June: 

July:

  • Glitter and Gloss by Vibha Batra: Glitter and Gloss by Vibha Batra
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin by Mark Twain
  • The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  • The Ice Twins by S.K.Tremayne

August: 

  • A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashmi: Easily one of my favourite books of the year.
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
  • What Kitty Did by Trisha Bora: What Kitty Did by Trisha Bora
  • A Torch Against The Night by Sabaa Tahir
  • Three Psychos by Yash Pawaskar

 

I am currently reading Mr.Mercedes by Stephen King which is my first novel by the author. I understand I am late to the King bandwagon but it’s better late than never, right? I will write a review once I am done reading it. I am hoping to start with IT by King since the movie releases this friday and I want to read the book and prepare myself before watching the movie. It’s unlikely that I’ll watch the movie in theatres since the book is a 1000 pages long! I don’t even remember the last time I read such a thick book. It’s going to be a task, a difficult one. Other than that, I have no set TBR pile since I never follow it. I have a problem with sticking to rules even if I set them myself. I do, however, like challenges which brings me to my Goodreads challenge. It gives me great pleasure to announce I’ve read 34 out of 50 books so far with 4 months still left. I think I am pretty much on track and I MIGHT finish reading all 50 books before the year ends but let’s not get too ambitious.  I also got done with MA exams and I’m awaiting results. It feels oddly weird not having to worry about exams or anything yet feels so incomplete. Being a student sucks but it also has its own charm.

That’s all from my side. Here’s to hoping you hear from me soon.

Also, what are you currently reading?

Three Psychos by Yash Pawaskar

Three Psychos narrates three different stories from three different point of views. Each bizzare and unique.

When I read the blurb for this particular book, the stories seemed bizzare and completely out of the box. Three Psychos seemed too complicated and I wondered if the author would be able to engage its readers. A few pages in and I was quite impressed.

Three Psychos by Yash Pawaskar narrates three chilling stories, each unique and twisted on its own. The human mind has the habit of playing scenarios that are often a series of illusions. The protagonists in each story are living in their own bubble, often away from reality. Psychology is the study of human behaviour but how can one study such extreme behaviours? Is there one methodology or technique? That’s where we hit a dead end. Because believe it or not, humans are unpredictable and a tad bit crazy. And in the case of Three Psychos, completely crazy. I felt a series of emotions ranging from utter hate for the protagonists to empathy to denial.

The narrative technique of the writer is commendable as he was able to blend fantasy, psychological thriller and romance under one umbrella. Such qualities in a story is difficult and challenging. The writing style is easy flowing with the author giving philosophical and profound insights about life and death. Here’s one such quote:

Death teaches a lot about life. I don’t understand why people are afraid of death. It is just another part of life, albeit the last part of life as far as we know. It is just like any other phase of life: you are born, you grow up, go to school, go to college, get a job, get married, have kids and..die. We are scared when we approach all these stages, and overcome the fear when someone who has faced it tells us that it is all right, that they have experienced it too and that you can sail through it.

However, no one has shared their after-death experience. Thus, the fear of unknown is what scares people. Who knows? Maybe it is not that bad, maybe it’s all sunshine and rainbows.

A naked man stuck in a white box, a hospitalized patient who talks to aliens and is apparently on a mission and a teenage boy who is on a killing spree make up for the three psychos in Yash Pawaskar’s novel. You will be hooked right from the beginning and will only stop when you have all the answers. If psychological thriller is your genre, then Three Psychos would be a great pick.

You can buy the book from here: Amazon


Author: Yash Pawaskar

Publisher: Dimple Publication

Rating: 3.8/5

Format: Paperback

Pages: 157

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Blurb:

Three Thrilling Stories, One Gripping Novel. In the first tale, a naked man is trapped inside a white box. His only company: ‘DE22912’. How long can he survive? The second story, ‘Patient Number 9’, is about a hospitalized patient who must save Earth from an alien attack by blue pig-like creatures. The countdown has just begun. In the third narrative, an angry sixteen-year-old gets hold of a loaded revolver and is determined to make use of all ‘Six Bullets’. And no, it’s not a toy. The three psychos are part of a connected universe, set in a novel with innovative storytelling, witty narration and an entertaining mix of thrill, humour and drama.

What Kitty Did by Trisha Bora

A clever, witty and delightful take on what it’s like being an adult.

I started reading What Kitty Did after hearing only praises about the genius that Trisha Bora baked. Upon reading a few chapters, I knew why. The novel is cleverly written, it has an element of suspense and drama without being serious. It’s packed with wit and sarcasm and occasional puns that make it a delightful read. For a debut novel, Trisha Bora was successful at bringing a fresh take on the life of a 20-something year old..

Meet Kitty aka Ketaki Roy, a millennial, who is freshly out of college with an English Literature degree, trying to make a real cut in this fast-paced, utterly uncompromising world. Working in a fashion magazine named Poise, our protagonist struggles to live up to the demands of her work. Kitty comes off as irresponsible and rather below average at her job and making terrible situations when it comes to the matter of the heart. She struggles to manage a decent job, her relationships whilst drinking at the drop of a hat and partying. Despite her outrageous lifestyle, Kitty comes off as highly relatable. There’s something about her that attracts the readers’ attention.

No one tells you how things actually work out. No one writes a children’s book warning kids about how shit life can be.

Assigned to work on a piece about the late celebrity, Roxanne, Kitty unintentionally dives straight into what could be called a potential murder. Not realizing what she’s gotten herself into, Kitty decides to take up the challenge and find out who murdered the famous actress. Here starts the real fun. From trespassing to late auto-rides, to practically putting herself in the mouth of danger, Kitty battles it all. The novel becomes a page-turner when Kitty starts unfolding the mystery leading to the murder.

The references in the novel are any Literature student’s dream. If you’re someone who has a passion for the written word, you’d understand the analogies. There’s a lot of shade being thrown at Lit students and being one myself, I couldn’t stop laughing at the harsh reality. Take for instance,

Journalism has ensured I will never ever live in such places. If only I had Tiger Mother-ed my brain and done an MBA or some such….Not only does English Lit offer pathetic career choices, it also ensures total cock-blocking to wondrous real estate.

Kitty ‘s sense of humor is self-deprecating, she tries to hide behind a mask of sarcasm and wit and tries to escape situations much like the rest of us. Always relying on her best friends, the protagonist sees through life’s trials and tribulations, stumbling but eventually rising up again. What Kitty Did is refreshing as it takes on a whole new perspective about what it’s like stepping into “Adulthood”.

 


Author: Trisha Bora

Publisher: HarperCollins India

Rating: 3.9/5

Pages: 305

Format: Paperback

 

Blurb:

Kitty Roy has more troubles than she can count on her fingers. Her love life is wonky, her paycheck is shit. She has badly behaved hair and struggles with a sugar addiction. To top it off, her pushy mother has set her up with a gorgeous but stuck-up guy who is sending her mixed signals.

When a diplomat’s celebrity wife, Roxy Merchant, falls dead during dinner at their posh central Delhi bungalow, Kitty’s boss gives her a chance to write a profile piece and the hint of a promotion. As she works on her article, Kitty realizes there’s more to Roxy Merchant’s death. She’s on to something big, and it can, perhaps, change her current life forever. But Kitty also has a knack for bungling things up majorly.

Set in the winter of her discontent, What Kitty Did is an irresistible caper zipping through the streets of Delhi.

Glitter and Gloss by Vibha Batra

A romantic comedy that is funny, contemporary and sharp.

 

A makeup artist working day & night, living life on her own terms, making decisions for herself suddenly lands up in a situation where she is constantly trying to prove her worth, juggling between work and social life. The cause of her distress and the reason why she sees stars in the daylight is Akshay Agarwal, the man of her dreams.

Misha, our protagonist, is a fun-loving, cheerful girl, who is trying to pursue her dream of being a professional make-up artist. After several failed relationships, Misha finally meets Akshay, who unlike other boys is everything she could ever dream of. Owner of the Aggarwal Jewellers, Akshay is a hot-shot who has a lavish lifestyle and his clothes along with his smell, reek of expensive brands that you can’t even pronounce. He falls in love with Misha’s unconventionality, her quirkiness and upfront attitude. Despite belonging to the elite class, Akshay is humble and down to earth. The chemistry between Misha and Akshay is sizzling. They’re an embodiment of young love, passion and desire. However, as John Green once said, ‘Life is not a wish-granting factory’, our loving couple, face tough time ahead.

Enter, Didi, Akshay’s third parent. Misha soon realizes that pleasing her sister-in-law is more difficult than she imagined. She has to live upto the unbelievably high standards set by Didi, follow the traditions of the Aggarwal family and give up on her dream to become a make-up artist. Will Misha succumb to the demands and sacrifice her life & career to be the ‘bahu’ of the Aggarwal family? Or will she pursue her dream regardless of the societal standards forced onto her? That’s for you to read and find out!

Vibha Batra’s writing style is smooth, simple and extremely fun to read. It’s safe to say the book is a laughter riot. Several instances in the novel are quite hilarious. Misha’s references to bollywood, Big Bang Theory are sure to leave you in splits. Apart from that, Vibha has pointed out a rather gloomy picture of Indian standard for women. The judgemental nature and superficial display of affection is deep-rooted within the Indian families even today. Women face a lot of pressure to give up their jobs after marriage and working women are considered a failure when it comes to maintaining their personal life. Why, after so much progress and empowernment, women are still not able to decide for themselves? Why can’t women have a steady job AND a happy personal life? The reality is distressing. However, one can only hope for a more progressive mindset. The author also tackles a number of inhibitions about an independent working girl. Vibha shares her flat with her friend, Sammy, who belongs to the opposite sex. This is met with shock and disbelief by Didi, who resents Misha’s life choices and living arrangements.

Akshay also represents a man with strong beliefs and ideals, one who never backs from lending his full support to Misha and encourages her to work hard for her career. He refuses to conform to the rules and norms of his Sister and the Indian society at large. He is a full blown Feminist.

(Just when I thought i’d not swoon over a fictional character, Akshay pops up, eh.)

Another important and recurring theme in the novel is self-love, one that most of us overlook. Misha might come across as an independent-confident girl but deep down inside she suffers from low self-esteem and insecurities. She isn’t happy with her physical appearance or her distraught relationship with her parents. She is too harsh on herself and needs constant validation to feel accepted.

From Manish Malhotra and Sabyasachi to wearing the latest collection of M.A.C lipsticks, to a high-end lifestyle and sizzling romance, Glitter and Gloss has it all! I am not one to read Rom-com but this particular novel is fresh and crisp despite having a few cliché moments.

Lovers of contemporary romance and YA, would find themselves flipping through the pages and smiling a devilish smile at having come across a book that’s oh-so-relatable!

What are you waiting for? Grab your book now

 


Publisher: Bloomsbury India

Format: e-book

Rating: 3.9/5

What are you waiting for? Grab your book now

Window Seat By Yashluv Virwani

A collection of short stories that speak of lost love, failed marriages, harships and life.

The smell of coffee, the hustle and bustle of a busy street, the touch of someone you love coupled with moments that seem like a dream along with literature and poetry are only a few of the serene experiences that have been narrated in Window Seat. It is an anthropology of short stories that has portrayed human idiosyncrasies in its purest form.

Debut author Yashluv Virwani has weaved beautiful stories in his novel Window Seat that transcend beyond boundaries, race and religion. There are 8 stories in the novel; each distinct and profound yet hypnotising making the readers come back for more.

The author has played with words in a way that casts spells on the reader. His words are soothing, hit right on the spot and add life and meaning to the characters. Speaking of which, characters in Window Seat are different from each other, their imperfections have been brilliantly played. The characters are you and me, they’re every person walking down the street, sitting in cafes, going to movies. The characters are us. And that’s what makes them so relatable. You can almost see your reflection in them and wonder how the author penned you down.

From poetry to detailed descriptions to breathtaking characters to burning passion and love, Window Seat is everything a good novel is made of. It’s a quick read and I’m sure you’d complete it in one sitting.

 

Blurb: What does a Window Seat remind you of? Your apartment in a high-rise building, in the lap of your couch, a cup of chai in your hand, a song on your lips, as you watch the world outside, with its share of glittering streetlights, honks and smoke, flow? Or the incessant journeys you undertake, in buses or trains, with music digging deep in your ears, as you see miles and miles of untamed wilderness ? I want you to go back to your childhood, in the cosy arms of the eldest member in your family, who, using the threads of magic, weaved a parallel existence around you, transporting you to a place away from all the things that bind you – because that is the land where stories work – a land that has no cages, only freedom.

Publisher: Half Baked Beans

Pages: 110

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4/5

 

You can buy the book here: Amazon

Disclaimer: Received the copy from Half Baked Beans. Views are my own.

Book Review: Option B

“Seeking joy after facing adversity is taking back what was stolen from you”

Author: Sheryl Sandberg

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Pages: 176

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4/5

I don’t know anyone who has been handed only roses. We all encounter hardships. Some we see coming; others take us by surprise. It can be as tragic as the sudden death of a child, as heartbreaking as a relationship that unravels, or as disappointing as a dream that goes unfulfilled. The question is: When these things happen, what do we do next?

Life, as we know it, is unpredictable. You’re walking down the road in your freshly cleaned and ironed white shirt only to have mud splashed across your entire body. You’re standing on the road, hailing abuses at the vehicle who did it, but there’s only so much you can do. Or maybe accidently dropping the scoop of icecream you’d been wanting to savour. These are small almost unimportant terrible things that happen. What does one do when they fail at an important phase of their life? How do you react when you lose a family member? Where do you go when you’re fighting to live?

You want to give up. Leave everything. And escape. But you don’t. You wake up every day, confused, miserable, but still ready to move on. When there’s no Option A, you kick the shit out of Option B. That’s exactly what this novel by Sheryl Sandberg is all about. To find the light at the end of the tunnel, to find the silver lining and learn to live some form of Option B.

The sudden death of Sheryl’s husband turned her world upside down. It came as a blow, one she thought she could never recover from. To make it worse, she couldn’t think of a life where her children would grow up without having a father. Happiness seemed like a distant dream. Sheryl feared her children would never find happiness again. They would never be normal. She would never be normal. Adam Grant, psychologist at Wharton and a dear friend of Sheryl jumped to the scene. Together they discovered how to cope with adversity and build resilience. Talking about Resilience Sheryl says:

I thought resilience was the capacity to endure pain, so I asked Adam how I could figure out how much I had. He explained that our amount of resilience isn’t fixed, so I should be asking instead how I could become resilient. Resilience is the strenght and speed of our response to adversity–we can build it. It isn’t about having a backbone. It’s about strengthening the muscles around our backbone.

So began a lifelong journey of Sheryl coping with the loss of her husband, maintaining her job as the COO of Facebook and ensuring her kids grew up to be strong and resilient. One of the foremost principle’s used in the book are the 3Ps that stunt recovery. This was formulated by psychologist Martin Seligman when he was studying how people deal with setbacks.

  • Personalization: The belief that we are at fault
  • Pervasiveness: The belief that an event will affect all areas of our life.
  • Permanence: The belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever.

Studies have shown that the minute adults and children accept that they’re not in control of every situation, that they’re not to blame and that these hardships won’t follow them everywhere and will not affect all aspects of life, they recover quickly.

The book follows Sheryl’s everyday struggles which included attending her children’s school events alone or celebrating birthdays without her better half. One of the important points mentioned in the book which I personally found interesting was ‘focusing on worst-case scenarios’. Adam went on proposing that instead of trying to find the positives in an utterly miserable situation, one should think of how worse the current situation could be. I mean, come to think of it, you’re alive and reading this review right now( well, I hope you are). And the gift of life is probably the biggest gift ever. In Sheryl’s circusmtances, Adam reminded her that her husband, Dave, could have died while driving their children to school. His statement sent chills down her spine overwhelming her. She realized her children were still with her and that gratitude took over grief.

Option B is a sum total of not just Sheryl’s loss. It has tremendous stories of people from all walks of life who have defied all the odds, survived at the face of adversity and have overcome illness, job loss, sexual assault, natural disasters and the violence of war. Not only do these stories inspire they also teach us how to persevere in times of hardships. They reveal how strong human capacity is and that pain usually bows down when faced with people who refuse to beaten by their circumstances.

I learned that when life pulls you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again.

Failure can either make you or break you. It’s easy saying you learn from failures. It’s difficult being on the receiving end. Talking about failures, Sheryl says, “Not only do we learn more from failure than success, we learn more from bigger failures because we scrutinize them more closely”. Imagine if we’d stop walking when we were little because we kept falling every time?

The measure of who we are is how we react to something that doesn’t go our way. There are always things you can do better. It’s a game of mistakes

—-Greg Popovich

I spent most of my time underlining and making notes because Option B does offer deep insights and there’s so much to learn from the book. The writing style is simple, it’s not preachy and Sheryl has described her emotions in a raw and unfiltered way. You can feel the emotions deeply but at the same time there’s a sense of hope and faith that pain is temporary.

We all live some form of Option B. This book will help us all make the most of it.

Sometimes it takes going through something so awful to realize the beauty that is out there in this world.

April Wrap Up + Birthday Book Haul

A month in reading, birthday gifts and beach-ing!

I begin every post by expressing how utterly overwhelmed I feel at the pace time is running. Today is just the same. April has been the dullest month for me. Other than that, I spent most of my time sulking, putting off reading and writing. Or studying. But like I promised, I’m going to talk about my failures as much as my laurels(if any, lol). Oh, I also went for a vacation with my family which is probably the highlight of the month. So, YAY.

I managed to read 3 books. In terms of blog posts, I wrote 4. Let’s take a look:

  1. Iridescence: A poetry book with pictures which I absolutely loved. You can find the review here: Review: Iridescence
  2. Intentional Smile: A girl’s guide to positive living. Again, another book that’s written simply and has important things to ponder over and understand. Review: Intentional Smile
  3. Handmaid’s Tale: I’m sure most of you have been watching The Handmaid’s Tale series directed by Bruce Miller. Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t quite like this book. I had huge expectations with the book and the plot but it failed to make any impression on me. I think I had trouble getting used to the writing style and the way the story was crafted. Again, cheers if it’s your favourite book or if you’re loving the TV adaptation. Not a book I would read again.

 

I started reading The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin by Mark Twain. I am still in the process of completing the above mentioned novels and safe to say I’m struggling. That’s the thing about classics; you have a love/hate relationship with them.

On to the exciting part. I received SOOO many books this month since it was my birthday and my sister and lovely bookstagram friends ensured I was stocked up.

  • A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashmi (I’d been whining over getting my hands on this book since as far as I can remember)
  • The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
  • Night by Elie Wiesel
  • Mr.Mercedes by Stephen King( My frist ever King novel)
  • The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R.CAREY
  • The Ice Twins by S.K.Tremayne
  • The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Looking forward to reading all of the books. My excitement level is over the roof.

 

How did your reading go? Let me know!