Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Spy

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Title: The Spy
Author: Paulo Coelho
Genre: Fiction, Drama, Biography
Pages: 208
Publisher: Penguin Random House India Private Limited
ISBN-13:  978-0670089536

Rating: 4/5

The Spy by Paulo Coelho is based on the personal life of Mata Hari, the famous exotic dancer. The book begins with the execution of Mata Hari by the French firing squad when she is found guilty of being a spy. The story then takes us back to when she was a married woman and how she begins her journey from being a penniless new comer in Paris to a rich and popular exotic dancer who seemed to have the most powerful people at her feet. Her dancing and beauty stood out from the rest because of her independent way of life. And how, during the first world war, she was found guilty of committing treason, albeit of no fault of hers, and was sentenced to be executed.

The book is a short read highlighting only the personal high and lows of Mata Hari. The narrative is divided into two, first from her point of view and the other, in the form of her lawyer's letter that he had written, having failed to rescue her from prison.

I thought the book began fantastically with the execution and it continued to hold my utmost attention until the part where the lawyer's letter began. The letter explained how sorry he was that he couldn't save the admired celebrity from execution but, in my opinion, it was rather stretched and unnecessary. The book ends with the letter thus, left me with a bad taste but otherwise, I would say, it is a great read. I thoroughly enjoyed the personal journey with Mata Hari and empathized with the challenges that she had to face back then as an independent woman. One must read the book solely for the purpose of the depth of the emotions displayed and the directness with which the author has bared Mata Hari's life. Truly, a misjudged personality, a sad loss among the many others in the past as a result of our parochial approach.

Here are some quotes from the book that I particularly enjoyed:

"Love, that inexplicable and dangerous thing, sweeps everything you are from the face of the earth and, in its place, leaves only what your beloved wants you to be."

"Sin was not created by God; it was created by us when we tried to transform what was inevitable into something subjective. We ceased to see the whole and came to see just one part; and that part is loaded with guilt, rules, good versus evil, and each side thinking it's right."

"Love is an act of faith and its face should be covered in mystery. Every moment should be lived with feeling and emotion because if we try to decipher it and understand it, the magic disappears."

Monday, December 5, 2016

Top 5 books by Jeffrey Archer

With the Clifton Chronicles done, I decided it was time I did a top 5 post by one of my favorite authors, you guessed it, Jeffrey Archer. I must add, I haven't read all of his books but with whatever little knowledge I possess, I wish to reveal my top 5 reads and hope that this helps you, whether you are new to the author or are looking to read one of his books. Please note, I haven't included any of his short stories and plays here. They can make a different post, what say?

So, let's begin!

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1. Kane and Abel

My first pick has to be Kane and Abel. Although it is the first book in a series, it has to be Archer's finest work. The story includes everything from drama, romance, politics and rivalry and is sure to leave a lasting impression on the reader. A must read.

2. False Impression

False Impression brings a smile to my face whenever I think of it. What an amazing story line and the climax, absolutely unpredictable. A delightful read, especially for art lovers.

3. Paths of Glory

I read this book on a whim. I had no idea of who George Mallory was or what he had accomplished. This book sheds light on one of the most intriguing and debatable subject there is. An extremely powerful and heart warming read. Click here to read my review of this book.

4. Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less

This book will always have a special place in my heart as it is the first Jeffrey Archer book that I ever read. Incidentally, it was the first book by the author too. The book has a great story and a mind blowing ending.

5. A Prisoner of Birth

One of my favorite classics is The Count of Monte Cristo. I love the idea of avenging oneself and the way it was penned down by Dumas was exceptional. A Prisoner of Birth is inspired from the same classic but with a modern twist. Needless to say, I enjoyed every bit of the book and always recommend it.

So these were my top 5 reads of Jeffrey Archer. I might do an updated version of the post once I have read all his works. But for now, hope this helps.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

This Was A Man - The Clifton Chronicles #7

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Title: This Was A Man
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Genre: Fiction, Drama
Pages: 400
Publisher: Pan Macmillan UK
ISBN-13:  978-1447252252

Rating: 4.4/5

The intense Clifton chronicle continues and ends(sadly) with the last book of the series, This Was a Man. The book takes the saga forward with heart touching moments scattered across the pages of this epic series, one like no other.

Emma rises high in her carer as she is appointed the Minister of Health by Margaret Thatcher's government. But this is not the end of the line for her. Meanwhile, Harry decides to begin his final William Warwick novel which he wants to accomplish as per his late mother's wishes. Giles finds out about Karin's secret and on the other hand, Lady Virginia refuses to get out of their lives. Little Freddie is a young boy now who idolizes Giles, primarily for his flair in cricket. Seb is busy tackling Desmond Mellor and Jim Knowles as they resurface again. Jessica wins her place at the prestigious Slade School of Fine Arts but unfortunately falls into bad company and risks her career being compromised. The story reveals certain secrets of the past and slows down towards the end, where Emma and Harry become great grandparents and are now at the dusk of their lives.

The book focuses on the careers and happenings of the Cliftons and Barringtons, of course, but it is noticeable that the author has slowed the pace down, understandably so. There aren't many twists and turns as the previous installments or shocking revelations as such. But that actually fell in perfectly with the story line, meaning the thrilling moments weren't missed. There is enough happening, leaving no scope for boredom. There are more addition of characters to the Clifton and Barrington families and it is more about the relationships between them this time. 

It goes without saying that the writing and narration are truly powerful. Being the last book of the series, the author clearly wished for a smooth ending and that is exactly what we have here. A quiet but fulfilling finale. Towards the end are some touching moments as the author pulls the curtain down on his grand creation with the retreating of characters. 

A fitting end to an extraordinary series from the master storyteller. Delighted to have traveled with the Cliftons and Barringtons on such an exciting journey.

I highly recommend the entire series for any book lover. Trust me, it is worth it.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Open Eyed Meditations

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Title: Open Eyed Meditations
Author: Shubha Vilas
Genre: Non Fiction, Self Help
Pages: 280
Publisher: Fingerprint! Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-8175993907

Rating: 4/5

The author, Shubha Vilas, graciously sent me a copy of this book and I feel so privileged and honored for the same. He is a spiritual and a motivational speaker and through this book, he shares a part of his vast knowledge with us to help improve our lives.

I guess it is safe to say that this book is a self help book. It is a unique module that teaches us how to cope with our situations and come to terms with the mystery, that is life. Open Eyed Meditations talks about various vices and issues faced by us and relevant examples borrowed from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata help the readers to relate to their current situations. The book contains practical tips that can be applied to our day to day lives and different aspects, both personal and professional. 

In my opinion, this book should be treated as a self help guide that is essential for everyone, irrespective of what you do or how you live. The first thing that interested me about this book was the title itself. I am one of those people, who having tried meditating a couple times, have found it impossible to concentrate. So, you can imagine the curiosity when I read the title! After reading the book I have humbly come to realize that one shouldn't interpret the title literally, the book has nothing to do with meditation. Instead, it talks about how to control your emotions/situations in such a way that a mediation like peace surrounds you. What a fabulous thought! And yes, I might give meditation a sincere try very soon.

With topics like anger, jealousy, body image, leadership, failure, embarrassments etc. being discussed, I truly think it is a must read book, for people of all ages. I highly recommend this book, please do read it.

*** This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. This has not affected my opinions in any way.***

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Cosmic Clues

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Title: The Cosmic Clues
Author: Manjiri Prabhu
Genre: Fiction, Crime, Mystery
Pages: 324
Publisher: Jaico Publishing House
ISBN-13: 978-8184954791

Rating: 3.8/5

The Cosmic Clues is the first book of an astro detective series. The author, Manjiri Prabhu, has tried her hands at a new approach to solving crimes and I quite like that. I was curious and excited to find out what it was all about. So, here's the summary.

Sonia Samarth opens an investigation venture named Stellar Investigations in Pune. But what sets her apart from other detectives is that she uses her astrological skills to help solve cases. She and her assistant, Jatin, are successful and soon gather attention. When the popular (and good looking) TV anchor, Mohnish, befriends Sonia, they develop more than just a friendship bond. Mohnish and Sonia together discuss about catching the ever so sly criminal, known to the world only as The Owl. In the mean time, Sonia keeps receiving flowers from a mysterious admirer and is stunned when his identity is revealed right at the end of the book.

Well. To be frank, I didn't think I would enjoy this book because I myself am not inclined towards astrology. But I took a chance and I'm so glad it paid off. The book is a collection of short mysteries tied together and readers join Sonia in her journey from an amateur to a famous detective later on. The narrative is smooth. The city of Pune, the hometown of the author, is beautifully described in all its splendor and different festivities equally given attention to. Being a Puneite myself, I enjoyed following the cases all around the city.

There are a couple of cases that were too obvious, but otherwise the author manages to maintain the attention of the reader. I did notice a few spelling mistakes in the book, I thought it odd, but maybe it was just my copy. The Cosmic Clues is an interesting read, mainly due to the usage of Hindu astrology. I'm ordering the next book in the series, hence I safely recommend this to every die hard mystery fan out there. And if you are a Puneite, then you must read this one!

Friday, October 14, 2016

TATA Litlive! 2016

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'Tis the season of literary festivals all over the country. And another one is coming up closer to home. It is the Seventh Mumbai International Literary Festival, also known as TATA Litlive 2016 in Mumbai. Save your dates from the 17th to the 20th of November. Click here to visit their website for more information.

Follow them on Twitter , Facebook and Instagram.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

One Indian Girl

Title: One Indian Girl
Author: Chetan Bhagat
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Pages: 280
Publisher: Rupa Publications India
ISBN-13: 978-8129142146

Rating: 3.8/5

One Indian Girl is the latest book by Chetan Bhagat. I pre ordered it from as the summary spiked enough interest in me and I was certainly curious. Here's what the book is about.

The story begins with a wedding setup in Goa. Radhika Mehta is getting married to Brijesh Gulati and the entire clan from both the bride's and the groom's side has arrived. While Radhika is gearing up for her massive destination wedding, she surprisingly finds her two ex boyfriends, Debu and Neel at the venue, each one wanting to marry her. Debu was her boyfriend in New York, where she had first started her banking career. Radhika's hard work and diligence paid off and she began earning more than what Debu could imagine. Or handle. Due to her career oriented nature, Debu breaks up with her while Radhika is devastated. She tries to win him back but to no avail. She finally decides to transfer to the Hong Kong office of her bank and begin anew.

Enter Neel. The good looking Neel is a partner of the firm at the Hong Kong office and encourages Radhika from the very beginning. He likes her hard working attitude and the fact that she is relentless when it comes to business. Neel is married with two kids but is attracted to Radhika and they end up having an affair. Both are happy but Radhika soon realizes that she cannot move forward with Neel. And when Neel fails to acknowledge his commitment towards her, she is heartbroken, again. She moves to the London office, where after years of persistence from her mother, she agrees for an arranged marriage to Brijesh.

Now, she has three choices. Debu - her first love, Neel - the charmer and Brijesh - the sweet and humble one. Radhika is confused and overwhelmed but finally makes her decision and with that the story comes to an end....or does it?

The book is written in the first person, from Radhika's point of view. It is a quick read, most likely to be a future Bollywood movie. The usual Chetan Bhagat traits can be found here, like a Punjabi wedding, the Indian parents and their typical thought process etc. But it isn't dragging or boring at all. In fact, I like One Indian Girl better than Half Girlfriend. The story is believable. I mean, yeah there are instances where one might go, 'Really? Does that happen in real life?' Or 'That's not how it works in India.' But despite all that, I liked the book.

The story is about feminism, especially among Indians. It showcases the biased and chauvinist society where the woman has to choose between a career or a family, where if a woman earns more than a man, it doesn't go down well with the guy. The protagonist, Radhika's decision at the end reinforces the feeble prospect that women needn't 'settle'. That there is much more to her than just having to be domesticated or branded.

I really like books that break barriers and One Indian Girl is right there. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it, especially to all the men out there. I am not sure how many of you would read it without being judgmental. But do try it if you like something packed with confidence, courage and loads of girl power! 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Closed Casket

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Title: Closed Casket
Author: Sophie Hannah
Genre: Fiction, Murder mystery
Pages: 320
Publisher: William Morrow
ISBN-13: 978-0062458827

Rating: 3.6/5

Closed Casket is the latest Hercule Poirot mystery by Sophie Hannah. I wasn't impressed by the first book by the same author, The Monogram Murders, but had hopes for this one. To the review then, shall we?

Lady Athelinda Playford, a popular children's mystery writer, is hosting a party and Hercule Poirot and Inspector Edward Catchpool are invited. Lady Playford doesn't give any reason for inviting a detective and an inspector to her house but when she makes the announcement of her new will at the dining table, Poirot is confused and his grey cells, agile. Lady Playford has changed her will to leave everything she owns to Joseph Scotcher, her secretary, who has only a few weeks to live. Her children are to get absolutely nothing. The mystery further causes confusion when Joseph is brutally murdered on the very same night. As Poirot and Catchpool set about to solve this particular mystery, a lot is revealed that is both shocking and unexpected.

Sophie Hannah returns with her second Poirot book. I found this one to be far better than her previous Poirot mystery. The plot is interesting and since the book begins with an intriguing mystery, it sets the pace for the rest of the story. An array of interesting characters and ample twists and turns (with a bit of humor thrown in) ensure that the reader is hooked on to it. As the story progresses, one finds that there are smaller stories inside the original one, but those only add to the essence of the story line.

Usually, I don't try to solve Poirot mysteries myself. I eagerly await the climax when Poirot invites everyone and reveals all and I rather enjoy the theatrics of it all. But in this book, there are many instances where one could figure out the who's and why's. Catchpool is not a dull character this time, thankfully. Nevertheless, it is a more sophisticated effort than the previous book.

I would recommend Closed Casket over Monogram Murders any day. A good read.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Calling - Unleash Your True Self

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Title: The Calling - Unleash Your True Self
Author: Priya Kumar
Genre: Non-Fiction, Self Help, Motivational
Pages: 166
Publisher: Books That Inspire
ISBN-13: 978-9352589708

Rating: 4/5

When the author asked me if I would review this book, I accepted, fully aware that it was a non fiction book. It could have been the title or the summary but something made me want to read the book. I now know, that it was my calling!

I have read books like these in the past, I won't deny, but only some have the ability to make a lasting impression. The Calling is one such book by Priya Kumar, who is a motivational speaker and has authored several books. The book is described as a spiritual adventure and it does absolute justice to the title. Let us get down to the summary.

The Calling is a story about Arjun, who finds himself in an all time low in life. He is at the brink of a divorce, not to mention his challenging career. The story begins with Arjun driving to Shimla for an official assignment. En route, he meets with an accident. He is badly wounded and doesn't hope to survive when a sadhu miraculously heals him. The sadhu directs him to Hemkund Sahib, a Sikh pilgrim site, for that is where Arjun would find answers to all his problems. Badly shaken due to the accident and having nothing else to lose, he chooses to do as the sadhu directed. Arjun hires a transporter, Chandu, who travels with him on his donkey and with the majestic Himalayas for company, they set along the beautiful landscape to their destination, Hemkund Sahib. Little does he know, that he is embarking on a roller coaster ride to some stunning facts of life.

Firstly, I didn't expect the book to be in a story format, I thought it would more like an instruction book. But thankfully, that is not the case! Numerous life lessons tied together with a story makes it an interesting and uncomplicated read. There are so many instances where the reader pauses to reflect, to compare their life circumstances. In my opinion, that is a sign of a successful rendition by an author. Some examples (not quotes) from the book: 

Our problems, our failures are created by us. We, and we alone, are responsible for whatever is happening in our lives right now. As you sow, so shall you reap. If we sow sorrow, hate and negativity, that is what we'll be reaping some time from now.

You cannot stop change from happening. The world will change, things around you will change but that doesn't mean your happiness has to change with it. You can still be centered and grounded with optimism. 

Every person in your life has a significant role to play. They aren't mere relations, they have meaning, they are here for a reason. They share a space in your life.

The Calling evokes an assortment of emotions. Self realization, humility and acceptance. It is a book that imparts optimism, motivation and inspiration. But most importantly, it explains what the ever elaborate 'higher truth' means. Surprisingly enough, it is the easiest thing to comprehend with the help of this book. Personally, I was left with a sense of gratification and contentment after reading what Priya Kumar had intended to convey.

The Calling is a keeper, a treasure that helps us to become better human beings. Highly recommended.

*** This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. ***

Monday, September 12, 2016

You Will Love Again: A Guide to Healing from Heartbreak

Download this book from Juggernaut here.

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Title: You Will Love Again: A Guide to Healing from Heartbreak
Author: Dr Shyam Bhat
Genre: Non-Fiction, Self help

Rating: 4/5

You Will Love Again is a self help book for those who, unfortunately, are dealing with heartbreak. The author is Dr Shyam Bhat, a psychiatrist, who has experienced heartbreaks in the past himself. 

First things first. I love the title. It radiates so much optimism that any curious mind wouldn't hesitate to pick it up. The book begins with how people feel soon after their breakup or divorce. The author takes us through various situations (with examples) of how a human mind and body behaves or reacts to such depressing feelings. The hurt that follows can be crippling for some, even to the extent of going into depression, which is sadly so common these days. The book explains how to tackle issues related to breakups, like anger, forgiveness etc. It teaches how important it is to reach out to one's true self and realize one's self worth. There are various exercises provided in the book for the diagnosis and solutions for the above mentioned characteristics. It also talks about different steps of healing and to accept oneself as is, in order to let go. 

It is a short book, can be finished in one sitting. I found it to be useful not only for people suffering from heartbreak, but also others. Some affirmations and pointers could well apply to anyone. Here's a small example:

"... no matter how bad you currently feel, deep within you is the abiding knowledge that you are a good person, a complete person, one deserving of happiness and love. All you need to do is quiet your mind and notice."

Doesn't this apply to anyone with petty, routine issues? We all have self doubts from time to time. These affirmations give us the right kind of boost that we all need to overcome pessimistic thoughts about ourselves.

I would recommend this book to anyone who thinks that their world has come to an end following a breakup. I would also recommend that you refer it to someone who, you think, can benefit from these directions. Thank you!

*** This book was sent to me by Juggernaut in exchange for an honest review. ***

More Than Just Friends

Download this book from Juggernaut here.

Title: More Than Just Friends
Author: Faraaz Kazi
Genre: Fiction, Romance

Rating: 4/5

More Than Just Friends is a book by Faraaz Kazi, best known for his debut novel- Truly Madly Deeply. Although this is my first time experience with the author, I've no doubt that his other books would be just as good as this one. 

The book is about Preeti's life journey beginning from her childhood. She has a disturbing childhood. Preeti's dad meets with an accident and is paralyzed waist down. Due to the added responsibility, Preeti is sent away to her grandmothers along with her elder brother and he becomes her confidant, the only person she trusts. A sad turn of events breaks Preeti's heart and she loses all hope and desire to be happy. And then she meets Sameer. Preeti finds friendship and love once again and couldn't have been more content. But fate decides to play with her again. She is clearly in love with Sameer, but does he feel the same for her? Or is he in love with someone else? Will she ever have a happy life? Without any answers, she is lost. Until she decides to do something about it.

The book is a short, romantic read. A well paced story, it has all the elements right for a romantic novel. The narrative is to the point and thus, effective. Nowhere does the story feel stretched out or boring. A short, breezy read that is thoroughly enjoyable.

I would absolutely recommend it to all the romance lovers out there. Go for it!

*** This book was sent to me by Juggernaut in exchange for an honest review. ***

Friday, September 9, 2016

False Witness

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Buy From Jaico Books

Title: False Witness
Author: Randy Singer
Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Crime
Pages: 428
Publisher: Jaico Publishing House
ISBN-13: 978-8184955651

Rating: 3.4/5

It's my first time reading one of Randy Singer's books. False Witness is a legal suspense, although not entirely John Grisham-ish. Let's get to the plot and I'll share my thoughts after.

Clark Shealy is a bail bondsman whose wife, Jessica, is kidnapped by the Chinese mob. What they want in return from Shealy is to find an Indian mathematician named Professor Kumari and deliver him. Professor Kumari is the designer of an algorithm, which gives the user access to all kinds of sensitive information on the internet. Shealy reluctantly agrees fearing for his wife's life. He succeeds in rescuing her but the Chinese mafia are not done with them yet. After four years, Shealy and Jessica are on the run again and this time they drag the lives of a couple of law students into the mess. What follows is a intense chase to find the Chinese mob and make sure they don't get their hands on the algorithm, all amidst the court room drama that the characters get involved in. 

The book is divided into two main parts. In the first, the protagonist is Shealy and in the other, it is Jamie, a law student. Although the division enhances the story telling, the transition from one part to the other is slightly bumpy, in my opinion. Especially the beginning of the second part of the book where an abundance of unnecessary details reduce the pace of the story. Other than that, the character building, narration and plot were absolutely spot on. I found the writing style to be a little different. Randy Singer doesn't throw bolts on every page but slowly releases the adrenaline for the element of surprise. It is not as exciting as a Grisham story but absorbing ,nevertheless. 

I would like to mention the prologue in the book where the author recites an incident of how he came about to writing this book. Well, do make sure to go back to it after you've finished reading. It kind of puts things into a better perspective.

Recommended for people who like court room dramas and chases. Didn't exactly fulfill my expectation, though.

*** This book was sent to me by Jaico Publishing House in exchange for an honest review. ***

Monday, August 29, 2016

Chalk Dust: Stories

Chalk Dust: Stories by [Costa, Pedro Freire]

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Title: Chalk Dust : Stories
Author: Pedro Freire Costa
Genre: Fiction, Short Stories
File Size: 1777 KB
Print Length: 107 pagesPublisher: Editorial Bizancio Lda

Rating: 3.8/5

This is an e-book that I received from the author for a review. Chalk Dust: Stories is a collection of seven short stories based in Portugal. 

The stories describe the typical way of life of the Portuguese with great detail and effectiveness. They are set in different time periods and the focus is on how the slow, laid back life of the villagers can sometimes have an interesting turn of events, some sad and some fascinating. Particularly, stories namely The Private Life of Ilda Gomes, Loyal to the End, Chalk Dust and The Honour of Gamblers showcased a fine combination of humor and sentiments. But the other stories were a tad too detailed and persistent for my liking. 

Altogether, the book is a good read for most of the part. I must mention, the writing is exceptional. Attention to details, comical aspects and emotionalism being the high points of the stories through which the author has captured Portugal and presented it respectably. 

Highly recommended for fiction/non-fiction lovers who love travelling through regional nitty- gritties. 

*** Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. ***

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