Sunday, July 7, 2019

#648 : The Antagonists by Tina Biswas : Review

                                                  
Political stories are something which I don't pick up often. Living in a "developing country" filled with an average political system and below average politicians, a fictional account of politics often pales in comparison with what happens in reality. This story turned out to be a bare, blunt and raw take on the political system in place. The dynamic yet dark side of the system consisting of people who believe in sticking to their principles which hinder growth, or worse, promote oppression has been portrayed vividly.

The protagonist (or should I say antagonist,) the chief minister of the Bengal state, Devi, is hell bent on ensuring that the coal mining project in Balachuria is not executed since it is handled by the "Marwari" Lohia group. In another thread, Anima Acharya, a neurosurgeon who returns back from the UK discover that her husband is cheating on her. Unable to handle it, she goes back to her ancestral town of Balachuria where she spent her childhood. 

With rich literary narration and an engaging style of writing, the book turned out to be a complete page turner. Having raised by a father who is a lobbyist, I could associate so much with the thread of the plot where one set of people were lobbying to get the coal project done, while the other set, namely Devi's side was lobbying to ensure it does not happen. 

The book turned out to be a pleasant surprise in terms of plot and characters. 

One engaging read!

Thanks to Fingerprint! for a review copy.  
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Sunday, June 30, 2019

#647 : Eternally Artemesia by Melissa Muldoon - Review


Having read this writer's previous book, I was utterly confident that this story would end up increasing my desire to visit Italy and soak in it's culture. The writing and the story ended up exceeding my expectations. 

The story goes back and forth between two different yet very similar strong woman across different timelines with a beautiful converging point. Maddie, an art therapist is drawn to Italy by the art and culture the country has to offer, while Artemesia was a bold 16th century painter who was brutally raped and faced trial and was finally made an outcast for standing up for her rights. While Maddie has an inkling that she has lived a previous life, the proof to it just seems too far to reach until she moves to Italy to meets Camilla, an descender of the noble Crociani family who is a part the sexual assault and abuse survivor group who is counselled by Maddie. Camilla invites her to a family gather and "the past" of which she has an inkling blends with her present. 

The writing and the story was such an absolute delight to read. The writer has beautifully woven an intricate tale with multiple tones which perfectly captures the strength and determination of women who thrive brilliantly in testing times. Sadly, the book has been very aptly titled as "Eternally Artemesia" for all the trials that she faced, the rape, the abuse, the gross injustice, seems to be meted out to women of today's times as well. It literally feels like an "eternity" of  problems for women. 

With a perfect blend of history, art, romance and a bit of gore, the book was an absolute delight to read. 

Thanks to Laura of Italy book tours for picking such a book yet again! 



Meet the Author:  

Melissa Muldoon is the author of three novels set in Italy: “Dreaming Sophia,” “Waking Isabella,” and “Eternally Artemisia.” All three books tell the stories of American women and their journeys of self-discovery to find love, uncover hidden truths, and follow their destinies to shape a better future in Italy.

Melissa is also the author of the Studentessa Matta website, where she promotes the study of Italian language and culture through her dual-language blog written in Italian and English (studentessamatta.com). Studentessa Matta means the “crazy linguist” and has grown to include a podcast, Tutti Matti per l'Italiano and the Studentessa Matta YouTube channel, Facebook page and Instagram feed. Melissa also created Matta Italian Language Immersion Programs, which she co-leads with Italian schools in Italy to learn Italian in Italy. Through her website, she also offers the opportunities to live and study in Italy through Homestay programs. Melissa has a B.A. in fine arts, art history and European history from Knox College, a liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, as well as a master's degree in art history from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

She has also studied painting and art history in Florence. She is an artist, designer, and illustrated the cover art for all three of her books. Melissa is also the managing director of Matta Press. As a student, Melissa lived in Florence with an Italian family. She studied art history and painting and took beginner Italian classes. When she returned home, she threw away her Italian dictionary, assuming she’d never need it again, but after launching a successful design career and starting a family, she realized something was missing in her life. That “thing” was the connection she had made with Italy and the friends who live there. Living in Florence was indeed a life-changing event. Wanting to reconnect with Italy, she decided to start learning the language again from scratch. As if indeed possessed by an Italian muse, she bought a new Italian dictionary and began her journey to fluency—a path that has led her back to Italy many times and enriched her life in countless ways. Now, many dictionaries and grammar books later, she dedicates her time to promoting Italian language studies, further travels in Italy, and sharing her stories and insights about Italy with others. Melissa designed and illustrated the cover art for Eternally Artemisia, Waking Isabella, and Dreaming Sophia.

She also curates the Dreaming Sophia Art History blog site and Pinterest site: The Art of Loving Italy, where you will find companion pictures for all three books. Visit MelissaMuldoon.com for more information about immersion trips to learn the language with Melissa in Italy, as well as the Studentessa Matta blog for practice and tips to learn the Italian language.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Pinterest  ~ Instagram
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Sunday, June 16, 2019

#646 : Mystical Tales For A Magical Life by Shuba Vilas : Guest Review by Vignesh RL



Mystical tales for a magical life – a book by Shuba Vilas is a collection of 11 short stories from the Puranas. The author has tried to relate some incidents from these stories to today’s life. The learning from these stories will definitely shape a man into a good human being. In the book cover – A guru teaches a king and his family and also being listened to by others sitting in front of a cave in forest attire. The guru in this book cover wears a tiger skin that depicts Lord Shiva sitting in the Himalayas and teaching his disciples. The book is aptly titled as ‘Mystical tales’ as some of these stories may not be accepted in today’s scientific world. For an atheist, the mystical stories in this book will remain a mystery. The transition from Dhvapara yuga to Kali-yuga and the characteristics of Kali-yuga has been explained in an effective manner.

The author claims that these are unheard stories of. However, with an orthodox and traditional upbringing like mine, I have been fortunate enough to have learned and enjoyed oral versions of these very stories narrated by my grandparents and parents. One minor difference of version I noticed was that Lord Indira has been portrayed as King of Gods; Lord Indira, according to the versions I know of, is the God of heaven. The book focuses on good moral thoughts and will serve as an apt primer for parents who strive to inculcate these values in their children from a very young age. After each story, the author explains the context and relates it to today’s life. There is a belief that if you chant the Rama Mantra ‘Srirama Rama Ramethi’ three times, it is equivalent to reading complete VishnuSahasranama. In a similar manner, the two to three pages of explanation after each of these 11 stories, serves as a perfect gist of the entire book. However, it is solely in the perception of the reader to accept and imbibe learning from the book. The stories in the book can certainly serve as a refresher in times of crisis.. On the whole, the book is a good read.

Thanks to Fingerprint! publishing for providing a review copy. Do buy this book on amazon here.


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Monday, May 27, 2019

#645 : The Seduction Expert by Saya Lopez Ortega : Review


The Seduction Expert is the story of a young woman who choose to call herself "The Baroness". Labeling herself to be a hard core proper feminist, the baroness deals in helping women finding about their partner's unfaithful activities. She also helps love stuck women (wealthy teenagers) "achieve" men of their liking by training neurologically to reach their target.  She is essentially a dominatrix who believes in destroying the men who cheat their partners. While her own "love life" has just got interesting, her to be mother-in-law quickly becomes her arch enemy. She treats her own "love" Louis as a case and trails him just like she would do for any other man who is her target. 

While the lead character, "The Baroness" does feel a lot like Miranda  from The Devil wears Prada initially, she is nothing like that as the story progresses. The premise of a feminist victory of sorts by outing a cheating man did seem exciting initially, but as the plot progressed and her "love life" came in to play, it felt cold and bitter. The book ends with such a smart and powerful cliffhanger that the readers would surely be prompted to pick the next. However, I personally felt that the writer might as well have finished the book. As such with satirical writing and sharp humor, the story was a pretty good read!

The writing is a bit odd in a way that it reads like as it if it were a work of translation. That's explicitly not mentioned anywhere though!

This book is strictly for people who enjoy satire and mild drama. 
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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

#644 : Beast by Krishna Udayasankar : Review


Indian fantasy thrillers are always a bit of a gamble to pick up. It's a rather a matter of preferences than the actual writing in question. With such prejudices and apprehension in mind, I decided to pick up the book and I didn't come to regret my decision. The pacing, the structure, the characters and the most important of all, the plot by itself made this book one good read. The story, which starts off being like a mystery at the slightest morphs into a fast-paced thriller as the plot moves along. 

Set in a typical Indian backdrop, Beast is an urban fantasy thriller. Incorporating interesting elements from Indian mythology, the story which starts off as a simple mystery quickly becomes an interesting adrenaline-pumping thriller. 

The female protagonist, ACP Aditi Kashyap is called in to solve a gruesome murder. The whole murder scene looks like as if it was handiwork of a ferocious animal. In parallel, an "enforcer", Pritivi, is called upon to solve the case and hunt the murderer. Together they embark on a dangerous journey involving werelions (or Saimhas) who have co-inhabited with humans since ancient times yet are hidden in plain sight. 

The writing was an absolute delight to read with rich detailing and crisp dialogues. Though the story initially did sound like a cliched werewolf kind, it was far from it as the plot thickened. The story is certainly very well laid out with no characters out of point or purpose. 

A good fantasy thriller after a long time! 

Do buy the book from Amazon
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#643 : Ate! - An Incomplete Short Story

Maya stood next to the picket fence gasping for air. After all, she managed to escape being caught by Nirmal. That was no ordinary feat. She looked around,expecting him to surprise her by pouncing from behind and getting her out of the game. She scanned the yard for places to hide. They always played in Nirmal’s backyard, but today they decided to move to Ami’s house. Nirmal’s mom wasn’t keeping well. This backyard was trim and clean unlike that of Nirmal’s. Mr. Ashok,Nirmal’s dad, loved bikes and cars, hence his yard was bare with various vehicle parts littered all over the place. Since she was the smallest of her friends, physically, she could hide behind one of those mammoth engines or door frames that were there on the yard. If Nirmal was chasing, he would always catch her by surprise in spite of her not making any sound. 

Today, she had no such thing to hide behind. Ami’s yard was filled with potted plants all arranged neatly. She had managed to reach the far end of the yard without tripping over the pots. She turned back and looked at all the plants. They were in varying stages of growth. There were flowers of all colors and sizes. A strong scent of wild Jasmine hung in the air. A slow smile crept to her eyes. There was rectangular patch towards her left. Four long wooden poles stood rooted in rectangular form, covered with vines and leaves. A small wooden horse lay rocking gently inside. She tiptoed towards it and sat on the horse. If felt a size smaller for her frame. That didn’t really prevent her from gripping the handle and rocking the horse gently. For a moment she forgot all about Nirmal and their game. It felt so nice to be in the garden and enjoying a rocking horse. She lived in one of those tall buildings with glass lifts. Her house was on the 7th floor. She hated that she couldn’t go out and stand on the balcony like her brother Rajesh did. He was taller than her and older too, though by just two years. This whole place felt dreamy to her. May be, she could persuade the gang to play in Ami’s house often. Ram came running out screaming and kicking down many pots in the process. Nirmal followed him laughing. At least he was careful enough not to step over the fallen plants. 

Maya sulked and stood up. It was time to end the game.She would walk straight to Nirmal and ask him to get her out. She wanted to stay in the garden taking in the scents and sights. She was bored of the hide and seek game. Her gang of 9 kids from her school almost always played this game for a year now. They had all joined the Sunny brook school in their kindergarten. Now they were all in the third grade. As she walked to towards Nirmal who was now in the floor tackling, a small figure appeared suddenly in front of her. It shot out of nowhere with a low swishing sound. It looked like it was some kind of a creature cut out from a tree. Two tiny black eyes blinked at her as she looked at it with curiosity. It reminded her of that woody thing from the movie her dad had watched on the TV few days back. She scratched her nose to try remember it’s name. It slowly stepped forward towards her. She looked at with curiosity. Were such things even real, she wondered? She stepped forward. It stood still and blinked at her.
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Writer's Note - I had begun writing this short story on 8th Feb 2018, it's May 2019 and I have lost both the story and the drive to complete writing it. Wondered what I'd do with an incomplete story. Thus the decision to throw it out in the open and "crowd-source" ideas to complete it or invite co-authors to complete it. Just so you know, the above piece is un-edited.

If you are interested in writing this along with me, please shoot me a mail - shreejanani@shreewrites.com or if you wish to give me an idea to complete it, please write to the same ID. 

What do you stand to gain? - I cannot afford anything monetary, however, visibility and good credits will certainly be given. 
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