March Wrap up and Haul

A month of books, assignments and haul!

April is upon us.

I have a love/hate relationship with time. Sometimes I seem to float with the passing of time and on other days, I feel like I’m stuck in a labyrinth and everything is on pause. Well, that’s life. Now let’s get to business, shall we?

March was a busy month. If you’ve been reading my blog posts, you’d be aware of the humongous assignments I had to complete. Good news is I am done with all my assignments. I spent almost all my time writing each day and crying because ASSIGNMENTS ARE HARD. My reading was slow. And by slow I mean really really slow.  I read 3 books. Am I ashamed? No.

  • UNNS: The Captivation: I’ve written a detailed review. You can find it here: Review:

 

  • No Time for Goodbye: LOVED IT. You can read the review here: Review

 

  • Chameleon lights: I can’t talk about this book as of now except that the review will be coming up shortly along with some exciting news. Stay tuned.

 

If my reading was slow then my book buying habit was on an all time high. Shall we take a look?

  • The lovely folks at Writersmelon sent me a number of gift vouchers as part of their reviewing programme which I made use of by ordering several books. In my defense, they’re all part of my syllabus (not all of them). You see I think passing my MA exams would be a cool thing, no?
  1. Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand
  2. Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai
  3. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  4. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  5. Intentional Smiles by Shazia Omar and Merrill Khan ( This was sent to me by Bloomsbury India).

I am looking forward to April. It should be a good reading and writing month!

What did you guys read in March?

Review: Selfienomics

A seriously funny guide to living the good life.

Author: Revant

Publisher: Bloomsbury India

Genre: Self-help

Pages: 191

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4/5

 

What happens when you read a book that is bombarded with memes, hashtags, open dialogues, hard-hitting questions and a desire to perceive the world around you differently? You become enlightened. #Nirvana

One of my reading goals this year was to read self-help books because my life has a tendency to spiral around I decided to rely on people to do that for me. Well, jokes apart, it is a decision that I plan on implementing. I started this road to self-discovery with Selfienomics, a debut novel, by Revant which

a.) Is extremely funny. You know the kind of funny which makes you pause and laugh like a retarded seal?  No? Okay.

b.) Is informative and very well researched. Ofcourse, self-help books are supposed to be researched blah blah. It is well researched in the sense that it is relatable to everyone especially the current scenario of Indians and India.

c.) You get to make a choice. Revant didn’t shove his opinion down our throats instead he paved the way for open-end discussions where you are the sailor and you get to decide the direction. No judgement there.

Selfienomics talks about life in general. Food, Feminism, Politics, Religion and how to read the label off of a food item before buying. Reading the book made me realise that there are a lot of things i’m ignorant about or I consider it extremely trivial for an intellect like me to dwell upon. I was wrong. I think that’s what reading good books are like; you begin to develop the ‘why syndrome’. Why does something happen the way it does? Why are people so stupid? Why am I such an idiot? You get the drill. For a debut novel, Revant has managed to bring burning issues under one umbrella and has successfully tackled them in a delightful manner. I’m going to cite some of my favourite examples since listing all of them is not possible:

Since I have been in the process of job hunting and trying to make a career the idea of Personal Branding stuck to me.

There exists a chicken and egg problem today in relation to jobs and experience. You need a job to get experience, and you need experience to get a job. Don’t let lack of experience deter you from pursuing your interest. No one is born with experience. While experience may often be irrelevant and specific to an industry, your personal brand is relevant across all sectors. When your personal brand is of an individual who is honest and gives his or her best, opportunities are sure to open up. Focus on building your #PersonalBrand and experience will follow.

While we’re on the topic of doing something in life, I can’t help but mention the author’s advice on categorising our goals. Career goals, Moral goals, Bucket Lists, Financial Goals etc. Not only does it help us realise what we truly want but also helps in overcoming the identity crisis that is prevalent with the youth of today. By prioritising, we can be more productive and work towards our dreams.

If you aren’t able to fulfil your own dreams, make it your dream to fulfil the dreams of others.

Speaking of serious issues like Feminism, Patriotism, and birth control, the author tries to portray the harsh reality, the pros and cons of our current situation citing examples and showing where we as a nation stand.

It’s commendable how the author was able to merge concepts of economics and the business world with real life situations. All in all, Selfienomics delivers more than it promised and is a smart attempt at creating a world that is educated and accepting of each other’s differences.

Aim for an open discussion–which encourages criticism as well as allows mistakes.

 

Author Interview: Shazia Omar

Candid interview with author Shazia Omar.

I had the great opportunity to interview the author of Like a Diamond in the Sky and Dark Diamond, Shazia Omar, who not only has established herself as a prolific writer but is one of the most humble human beings I had the pleasure to interact with. There’s a lot more to her than what meets the eye. I was really skeptical about asking for an interview but Shazia Omar was happy to be a part of my blog. (Author goals, you guys)

If you want to know more about her novel, head back to my blog to read a detailed review.

Get to know the Author:

Shazia Omar is not only a Bangladeshi novelist but is also a social psychologist,  developmental professional and Pilates instructor. Her debut novel Like a Diamond in the Sky was published by Penguin India and Zubaan in 2009. She studied in Dartmouth College and London School of Economics and is currently residing in Bangladesh.

 

Let’s get straight to the interview: 

Hello, Ma’am, Thank you so much for taking out time to do an interview for us.  Did you always dream of becoming a writer?

Yes!  Always. I started writing stories when I was 9 or 10, in little notebooks. And I read all the time.

 

  Where did the idea behind Dark Diamond stem from?

I wanted to write a story about Bangladesh’s rich past that looked back beyond the 1971 war of independence, much further back, to a time when Bengal was at the peak of its power. My grandmother lived near the Lal Bagh Fort so I grew up hearing about the handsome Mughal Subedar Shayista Khan, who built the fort. As a child, I was curious to know more about him, but there were no storybooks or movies about his adventures.

 

dark diamond front cover.jpg

 

Tell us about your book Dark Diamond.

Dark Diamond is the story of Mughal Viceroy Shayista Khan who rules Bengal in 1685. He was not only superbly rich (a billionaire by today’s standards), he was also a Sufi poet.  He faced many enemies: Arakans, the East India Company, Marathas, rebellious Zamindars, religious zealots… Oddly, I discovered that all the enemies he faced then are the enemies we struggle with today, so writing the story felt immediate and real. Also, magic realism is perhaps my favorite genre, so I played with that a bit. 

Can you give us some tips to overcome  writer’s block?

Eavesdrop on someone’s conversation. Preferably a heated argument.
Try introducing a new character.
Read.
Turn off Facebook.

 

Writing is a solitary process and requires a lot of perseverance. How do you keep yourself motivated to write?

Coffee. Chocolate. Almonds.

 

If you were stranded on an island and you could choose only one book, what book would that be?

Dummies Guide to Build a Boat.

 

 Are you planning on writing another novel?

Yes. I have a few ideas but I’m not sure which one will finally blossom.

 

 Tea or coffee? (This question has a potential to start a war)

Ha ha, Tall, Skinny, Latte, hot. =)

 

 

Lastly, if you could, what advice would you give to your teenage self?

Learn yoga! (I did eventually, but I wish I had started earlier.)
512
A striking pose by Shazia Omar as she gives us fitness goals.

 

The author also had a really fun time answering my questions as stated by her (I am not lying, okay).

Thankyou ,Shazia Omar, for gracing my blog with your presence. We hope to see more of your writings in the future.

Review: Dark Diamond

“History is not objective. Facts are changed, truths are lost.”

Author: Shazia Omar

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury India

Format: Paperback

Pages: 229

Rating: 3.5/5

 

“Whosoever possesses Kalinoor shall suffer its curse: all that they cherish shall perish.”

Shazia Omar takes us deep into the forgotten history of Bengal, unraveling parts of the country and its heritage that have never been discussed before. She has beautifully captured the Mughal history, the neglected treasures, the lives of the people living in that period. While reading you can very well understand how detailed the descriptions are; how extensive the research is. Dark Diamond is filled with exotic adventures, brutality and drama.

From the start of the story, it becomes clear that there is a diamond, Kalinoor, that is cursed. Whoever possesses this diamond seldom survives. Lord Shayista Khan, the Mughal Viceroy of Bengal, has acquired the diamond which is slowly leading to Bengal’s destruction. Shayista Khan soon realizes that everything he holds dear is slowly slipping from his hands; his true love, his daughter and the fate of the people of bengal. Under his jurisdiction, Bengal has soared to great heights becoming a hub of commerce and culture and now he has to fight his enemies; Arakan Rajas, Hindu zamindars, Marathas and even East India Company to protect his Empire. There is a lot of magical realism in her novel. There is a vicious Pir whose main motive is to capture Kalinoor and ruin Bengal. I am not really an ardent reader of magical realism but Shazia Omar made it look real without going overboard.

“Power corrupts completely. If you want power, you have to play by power’s rules: you have to play from the head not the heart. Release the desire for power. Desire is from the ego”

The existence of the diamond soon spreads all over the country and everyone wishes to acquire it. Hence, the quest for the dark diamond, Kalinoor, begins. While Shayista Khan is dealing with loss, battles and longing for his daughter, his enemies are conspiring to posses the diamond.

There are several other equally strong characters in the novel that make it even more gripping. The female characters surely had my attention. Despite the torments and destruction, they held their grounds and kept fighting for their rights, much like the women of the 21st century.

“Lightness and darkness both exist within us.”

The author’s writing style is appealing, she takes the readers along with her on an adventure that’s captivating and informative. It is a quick read shuffling between the POV’s of the characters making it fast paced. The ending was satisfactory, justifying the fate of the characters and their journey. The political upheavals, religious intolerance, the secular nature of Bengal during the Mughal empire have been artistically narrated by the author.

I was really intrigued by the character of Bengal’s viceroy, Lord Shayista Khan, who relentlessly worked to bring about prosperity and peace in Bengal but was caught in a web of curses. Despite his forceful nature and extreme anger, the readers would be able to connect with him. Deep down inside is a man who is broken and suffers emotional trauma while on the outside is a man who is strong, brutal to his armies and devoted to the welfare of his people.

I have a thing for historical fictions and Dark Diamond was surely up my alley. Shazia Omar has a lot of potential and I really hope to read more of her works in the near future.

 

Which is your favorite historical novel?

“I wish I could show you,

when you are lonely or in darkness,

the astonishing light of your own being.”