Book review: Cold Truth by Nikhil Pradhan

Author: Nikhil Pradhan

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication date: 5 September. 2018

Book length: 220 pages

Format: Paperback

Synopsis:

When ten-year-old Sakshi goes missing from East Delhi, almost no one, including the police, seems too concerned. Not until a curious journalist begins to ask questions. Soon, she cracks open a can of worms, and what started as an innocuous investigation into corruption and systemic apathy begins to reek of a larger and terrifying conspiracy, as chilling secrets and long-dead skeletons tumble out. Pieced together using police reports, detailed interviews, leaked emails, WhatsApp conversations and much more, this extraordinary debut takes you from the bylanes of Delhi and the communist bunkers of Russia to the frozen grounds of Antarctica, following a trail that will leave you questioning what is real and what isn’t.

Rating: 3.5/5

Review:

I would like to thank the publisher for sending me the book in exchange of am honest and unbiased review.

Cold Truth by Nikhil Pradhan is criminal fiction based on the mysterious disappearance of ten-year-old Sakshi from East Delhi and the complete ignorance of the police. When famous author, Gayatri Lama hears about the case and learns how she is the seventh minor missing in East Delhi this year, she takes special interest in the case and decides to make it her next book’s subject. Deciding upon this she keeps no stone unturned to get deeper into the mess only to figure out the case to be simply another large trafficking racket case but much kore horrifying and gruesome. Through her secret networks she gets in touch with a man, Abhay who starts working along with her to crack the mystery. They find out from Sakshi’s father that she has a rare form of diabetes, Type 2 Mellitus and that he had received a call few weeks before Sakshi’s disappearance, supposedly from the CDSA saying that she could be the potential recipient of an experimental drug treatment. Upon further digging Lama and Abhay learn about an experiment – Project Starfish and their informations suggest the project to have been originated from Russia and so Abhay travels there to directly understand the matter. The story continues with their adventure filled with pain, horror, struggle and lack of time towards the truth.

I dug a little to know whether any project with the same name exists and I found this,

“Based in Tampa, FL, Project Starfish is a non-profit 501c3 international organization that collaborates with healthcare providers in Southern India to provide both general medical care to rural populations, currently focusing on sustainable diabetic screening and treatment clinics.” – The terrifying realistic effect of the book and facts actually made me once again check to make sure the book is a “fiction”.

Highly intriguing and extremely, rather unnervingly detailed in the whole process involving different secretive departments and their patterns, Cold Truth gives an insight the whole process of it’s journey towards uncovering the truth. The way the book has been presented is intelligent and something fresh. The evidential and questionable touch on non-fiction deliberately to give the fiction a more “realistic” touch is interesting and intensive. What turned out to be a bit off about the book was the gradual ending with last part to be carried on by Abhay. The suspense of the whole book ends up into something very carelessly and inadequately described, far fetched. The touch of reality is completely rubbed of with the distasteful and prolonging stench of unmanageable fiction. I highly enjoyed the book throughout the whole journey with just the final revelation and ending to be dissatisfactory. However, I also think that it is my personal opinion and may vary from reader to reader. I would differently recommend it for a short and thrilling read.

About the Author:

Nikhil Pradhan is from Gangtok, Sikkim, but has worked and lived in different cities across India. He has worked in technology journalism and in advertising with Ogilvy. Cold Truth is his first book.

Book review: The Woman Who Saw The Future by Amit Sharma

Author: Amit Sharma

Publisher: Readomania

Publication date: 17 November.2017

Book length: 276 pages

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Synopsis:

Sapna Vaid has lived with a unique power for a decade; a power that turned her from a timid, wide-eyed, college-going girl into the most influential and powerful Goddess on Earth. Sapna can see the future and saves thousands of people around the world every year through her record-breaking, popular show ‘Lucky People’. The show had given Sapna’s life a meaning and gives her the courage to sleep every night, where death and blood await her in her dreams. Even though the world is at her feet, the power costs Sapna her personal life. Broken relationships and separation from her son bring her unbearable pain. Her parents and the thousands of prayers that come her way every year are her only solace, her only reason to live. When a blinding hatred leads to a desperate act of revenge, a single misuse of her great power triggers a reversal of her fortunes. Sapna begins to lose her ability to see the future.

Rating: 3.5/5

Review:

I am thankful to the author for sending me the book in exchange of an honest and unbiased review.

The Cassandra metaphor (variously labelled the Cassandra “syndrome”, “complex”, “phenomenon”, “predicament”, “dilemma”, or “curse”) occurs when valid warnings or concerns are dismissed or disbelieved.

The term originates in Greek mythology. Cassandra was a daughter of Priam, the King of Troy. Struck by her beauty, Apollo provided her with the gift of prophecy, but when Cassandra refused Apollo’s romantic advances, he placed a curse ensuring that nobody would believe her warnings. Cassandra was left with the knowledge of future events, but could neither alter these events nor convince others of the validity of her predictions.

The metaphor has been applied in a variety of contexts such as psychology, environmentalism, politics, science, cinema, the corporate world, and in philosophy, and has been in circulation since at least 1949 when French philosopher Gaston Bachelard coined the term ‘Cassandra Complex’ to refer to a belief that things could be known in advance.

The main character of the book The Woman Who Saw The Future, Sapna went through this similar condition from the time after her brother, Vikrant’s death, but in a more gruesome and spine chilling manner. She saw people dying in her dreams. Real people, in real places and though she, her parents and her boyfriend Saahil dismissed the first dream to be just a bad one with no special significance, the originality and her descriptive recollection of all of it followed by the news of her nightmare actually coming true started tormenting her.

The story is based on the life of worldwide sensation Sapna Vaid, the one who throughout her life saved uncountable lives both in and outside India through her detailed prophecies, the most powerful and loving Goddess of the whole world. Her death had come as a shock to the whole world, the saviour of all died buried under rubbles because of earthquake, pregnant with an unknown man’s child. It is ironic how her name fits perfectly to her special gift or curse (for with every great power comes unimaginable responsibility). Sapna, the word means “dream”. She was like a soothing dream, a beautiful presence of jolliness who in her middle-class days or rather “unpopular” days picked up fights wherever she thought someone was wrong and Saahil had to make sure she escaped without harm. She was a little bubbly soul who though missed her brother always kept writing diaries to him, loved her parents and Saahil with all her heart, and planned on having a normal, happy life until suddenly her dreams start running amok. She couldn’t keep her sanity seeing people mercilessly dying in front of her while she had to be someone present even in her absence and witness every bloodcurdling detail of it. If that was not enough, to later find out either through internet or news about the realistic occurrences of her dreams started almost killing her. But how was anyone supposes to believe all these? Her parents themselves are not ever sure of it’s truthfulness and effectiveness. It is pityingly laughable how a name had really become someone’s identity. A name given to a person is like physically creating the existence and applicability of a word, in this case – Sapna. But she end with a life completely dependent on her dreams, haunted and destroyed by them. The story is a sort of revelation of the long hidden, dark truth of the world’s lost treasure, their goddess through the words of all the people close to her. I do not wish to disclose further content of the book for I do not wish to give away spoiler. It is absolutely necessary for the story of a book to remain quite unknown to anyone reading reviews. Reviews are only to provide the effect of the book on that reader and that being expressed in words is a review.

So as far as it goes, I really loved the storyline and how the author has managed to cleanly and distinctively arrange the perspectives of each of the primary characters. While the repetition of “you know” during Sapna’s mother’s narration made me feel disturbed at times, it also pointed out the flaws and stress of both old age and extreme pressure of the aftermath of her disclosure, which made it more realistic. The extremity of Sapna’s fame seems a bit far fetched, mostly due to the mention of realistically existing high power of different countries and also of gruesome real calamities and devastating incidents. It’s unnerving how the story fitted inside it too much to portray calmly. The book itself throughout had excitement stitched into it’s crispy pages. The real events have been carefully arranged into the book’s timelines so delicately that you might even think if there was a story of such a woman really present at that time or not. Well researched, carefully and thoroughly thought out, this book is a very entertaining, short read which gives quite a number of details on Greek mythology, enough for those who do not have a knowledge on the subject would be triggered to dig in more. Also the book bring to light various philosophical and literary ideas and extracts. It is fascinating for it gives an in sight to the author’s own interests in the subjects. If you are interested in a short read with multiple characters, glimpses of greek mythology, extract from well known philosophers and literary pieces, the inability of science to make sense of everything with their logic, this one is for you. I would definitely recommend people to read at least once.

About the Author:

Amit Sharma is an IT slave (read professional) since the last twelve years. He lives with his family in NCR but his work does take him to foreign lands. His wife was a teacher till she gave it up because of sheer exhaustion of answering questions of their four-year-old daughter all day.

His first fiction book, False Ceilings, a family saga spanning one hundred and thirty years, was published by Lifi Publications in 2016. The book garnered many good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and critical acclaim. Amit’s hobbies include reading, watching world cinema, travelling, digging into various cuisines, cooking, listening to music, painting, blogging, making his daughter laugh and helping his wife with her unnecessary and prolonged shopping.

Book Review : The Astonishing Thing by Sandi Ward

Author: Sandi Ward

Publisher: Kensington Books

Publication date: 31 October. 2018

Format: Paperback

Book length: 304 pages

Language: English

Synopsis:

In her inventive, sometimes bittersweet, ultimately uplifting debut, Sandi Ward draws readers into one extraordinary cat’s quest to make sense of her world, illuminating the limits and mysterious depths of love . . .
Pet owners know that a cat’s loyalty is not easily earned. Boo, a resourceful young feline with a keen eye and inquiring mind, has nonetheless grown intensely devoted to her human companion, Carrie. Several days ago, Carrie—or Mother, as Boo calls her—suddenly went away, leaving her family, including Boo, in disarray. Carrie’s husband, Tommy, is distant and distracted even as he does his best to care for Boo’s human siblings, especially baby Finn.

Boo worries about who will fill her food dish, and provide a warm lap to nestle into. More pressing still, she’s trying to uncover the complicated truth about why Carrie left. Though frequently mystified by human behavior, Boo is sure that Carrie once cared passionately for Tommy and adores her children, even the non-feline ones. But she also sees it may not be enough to make things right. Perhaps only a cat—a wise, observant, very determined cat—can do that . . . Wonderfully tender and insightful, The Astonishing Thing explores the intricacies of marriage and family through an unforgettable perspective at the center of it all.

Rating: 4/5

Review:

I am thankful to the author, Sandi Ward for sending me the book, “The Astonishing Thing” in exchange of an honest and unbiased review.

The personification of cat has always been a highly interesting perspective of story telling in English literature. Such usage is prominent in the works of eminent writers such as T.S.Eliot, Lewis Carroll, Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, Edgar Alan Poe, and even J.K. Rowling, Stephen King. While the ability of a cat to think on it’s own is often considered to be humane and thus the necessity of the term personification, it can simply to termed as a cat expressing itself in the language of the humans for the betterment of their understanding. The book “The Astonishing Thing” by Sandi Ward is a fresh, contemporary novel based on a cat’s interpretation of the lives of her human family. She has always been her human mother, Carrie’s favourite who calls her “Boo”. The cat really is not sure if it’s her name but doesn’t care much because she communicated well with her mother, they understand each other so well. Boo doesn’t like his human siblings much, mostly because she only sticks to her mother, mainly Jimmy, her human brother because he keeps on trouble their mother. Boo hates him for not understanding mom’s feelings even when mom’s sick in bed for days. Boo doesn’t really understand what has happened to her mother but soon realises that Carrie is pregnant. But a few months after the nee baby is born, Carrie packs her bags and leaves only for Boo to later realise the foreverness of the situation.

The story develops on the changes that the cat undergoes in order to find the reason why her mother had left so suddenly only to realise how much Boo has missed of the rest of the family due to her complete ignorance. She slowly learns to get familiar with her mother mate, Tommy, her human elder brother, Jimmy and sister, Mary. With time, Tommy, who had always disliked Boo, softens up to her and they start sharing the mutual bonding of feeling clueless and alone. The new born little boy, Finn, highly interested Boo, who first thought that little curled up bundle of life to be the reason of her mother’s disappearance. Slowly, Boo realises that nothing is how it had seemed to her before. Her desperate need to support Carrie at all situation and blame everyone else around, made her misread situations and rest of her family. She and her family must learn how to lice without Carrie. The children must learn the whole truth of the situation. But what is it? Was Carrie just being completely selfish or there is much more to the story?

What I loved absolutely about the book was the author’s way of dealing with the subject of bipolar disorder. The book descriptively highlights the effects of bipolarity both on the patient as also on the people involved in their lives. The originality of the plot and the insight of the characters involved is terrifyingly realistic and devastating. The high ups and heavy lows, the burden of extremity, the helplessness and fear, the uncontrollable actions and the pains they bring. The book also points out the complete blamelessness of the whole family. Both sides had their own shares of sufferings and everyone must learn to deal with it rather than continuing the blame game. Tommy made mistakes, terrible mistakes, but he was not sure what else to do. Carrie took a selfish decision, but that was for the best of both her and her family. Everyone made mistakes, but no one alone is to be blamed.

A book written beautifully and precisely on the complexities of maintaining a stable balance in a family and on the turmoils of every member of the family in their own ways, all through the eyes and senses of a fat, observant family cat. The particular usage of certain terms, specifically pointing out the differenced in perceptions of life and it’s objects between the humans and cat, is delicately and efficiently used. A reader can almost forget the spectator and narrator to be a cat but the book makes one snap back to the reality of the situation. Thus maintaining an entertaining fictional world between human thinking and cat’s expression, a cat who’s loyalty is hardly earned but once she starts loving a humans, she does everything in the power of her little four-legged feline body, to support them and express her love for them. Her caring, speculative narration of a troubled family to them learning how to rearrange their lives and her constant unspoken support is not a trivial cat’s observation but a cat’s conscious understanding of being supportive to a family she has always belonged to. To be able to pen down a debut novel of such beauty is surprisingly fascinating and heartwarming. Hoping to read more works of author Sandi Ward in future.

 

About the Author:

Sandi Ward writes books about love, family, forgiveness..and cats.

Sandi grew up in Manchester-by-the-sea, MA and now lives on the Jersey Shore with her family. She received her MA in Creative Writing at New York University, where she studied with E.L. Doctorow, and works as a copywriter at an ad agency. She has a rescue cat named Winnie, who approves of this message.

Her new novel, titled SOMETHING WORTH SAVING, is available now wherever books are sold. Her first novel for Kensington Books is titled The Astonishing Thing. A third novel, What Holds Us Together, will follow in 2019/2020.

Book Review : The Skylarks’ War

Author: Hilary McKay

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Book

Publication date: 20 September. 2018

Book length: 320 pages

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Synopsis:

Shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award 2018. Clarry and her older brother Peter live for their summers in Cornwall, staying with their grandparents and running free with their charismatic cousin, Rupert. But normal life resumes each September – boarding school for Peter and Rupert, and a boring life for Clarry at home with her absent father, as the shadow of a terrible war looms ever closer. When Rupert goes off to fight at the front, Clarry feels their skylark summers are finally slipping away from them. Can their family survive this fearful war?The Skylarks’ War is a beautiful story following the loves and losses of a family growing up against the harsh backdrop of World War 1, from the award-winning Hilary McKay.

Rating: 5/5

Review:

Mostly known for her children’s books, British writer Hilary McKay has set forward a completely, intriguingly heartwarming work, last year, marking the centenary of the end of the First World War. The Skylarks’ War is based primarily on a tolerably cold, motherless house in Plymouth. The house’s “father” was Mr. Penrose who was not much fond of children, including that of his own and with the birth of his second child, Clarry followed by his wife, Janey’s death only three days later, he discards the responsibilities of parenthood of both his newborn daughter and three year old son, Peter on the hands of their Grandmother. The woman “already had one unrequested child living with her, her not-quite-seven-year-old grandson Rupert, whose parents were in India.” Leaving her husband to look after the boy in their home in Cornwall, she found it completely uncalled for and tiring, the very fact that even after her children had grown up enough to have married and have children themselves, were incapable of looking after their own families forcing their old aged parents to waste away their life long struggle for a leisured retirement. The story slowly and gradually develops from there to the growing up of the three children under the blanket of their wanton summer days in Cornwall. With time and breakout of war all there lives undergo tremendous change with Rupert joining the army, Clarry finding education for women to be necessary and fighting hard against her father’s will go get admitted into Oxford University. Peter’s first and forever friend from boarding school, Simon, gradually starts filling in the empty spaces in Clarry’s aloneness in her house and later she becomes friends for life with Simon’s sister Venessa, who leaves school to learn medicine in order to aid in the War. Suddenly Simon, unannounced, joins the army as well. Why? Clarry wonders. He was never meant for war. With everything and everyone going out her reach, Clarry’s world comes crashing down when she one day receives a telegram from the War titled to the family of Rupert, “Missing. Presumed dead.” But she is not one to lose hope. She sets out to look for him. Where will she start? How is she even going to find a man at a time where men often died without being recognised by anyone ever. Men rot at No Man’s Land. How is she even serious about looking for him? Will she find him alive?

The storyline is extremely engrossing and emotionally charging. No one has ever escaped from hearing about the horrors of the World War, all the lives that have been lost, the bloody dance of powerful countries, claiming lives of soldiers in the assurance of honour and patriotism. The plot is well arranged with a few yet prominent imageries. The characters are wholesomely developed with perspectives of different sphere of life on their own, given that fact that the story is based on the events of Clarry’s life. The book also brings to light the journey of a girl, who from the beginning knew only to be in the kitchen or sew, into a woman of dreams and knowledge, with a desire to earn her own independence and respect.

The bird Skylark has been for long monopolised poetic idolatry–a privilege they enjoyed solely on account of it’s pre-eminence as song bird. In P.B.Shelley’s “To a Skylark”, the poem begins with –

“Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!

Bird thou never wert,

That from Heaven, or near it,

Pourest thy full heart

In profuse strains of unpremeditated art”.

Shelley has converted the bird or, specifically, the bird’s song into a symbol of happiness. The singing bird is personified as a “blithe” or happy spirit in the first line of the poem. For as long as one can trace down Skylark throughout the history of literary usage, it had always been marked as the sign of hope, joy, transcendence and positivity. We see the an important appearance of skylark in Chapter 27 of the book “The Skylark’s War” with the soldiers finding it strange that they “could hear skylarks over the fields.” The soldiers found the existence of such poetic elements in between war to be highly unlikely and mishap. The very idea of the beautiful representation of poetry and innocence of childhood brought in by the skylarks confuses the patriots of land who were willing to kill and get killed in the name of patriotism and duty. But “in fact the birds had been there for centuries”. These creature are the carriers of songs. They know nothing of war, they are unaware of the horrifying shift in human advancement and policies. They had been there centuries before, they come back still today. They do not need to disrupt their lives, kill or create havoc. They have no nation to protect. Another thing created unrest between the soldiers. The very fact that the skylarks sang to every soldier “in the language of their homes” – in English, in French, in Dutches and more puzzlingly, on the other side of the trenches, they sang in German. The skylarks cannot differentiate between battling forces, they do not choose this side or that. The skylarks bring back pieces of the long left homes of the soldiers in their throats and spread out the familiarity of home everywhere. They are the parts of the men’s careless, joyous youth when there was no war, there were no killing, the men were all home, with their families, inside secure homes. It also shows the corruption of the innocence of youth through the painful journey of war. When they were supposed to enjoy their short periods of youth, soaking under the sun and listening to the songs of the Skylarks, they are here, in the fields filled with death and premonitions of many more with Skylarks approaching them, trying to fill in the very little the birds can of the remnants of youth. Also the character of Rupert highly represents that one curious skylark, who tired from being restricted, stuffed inside lifeless, meaningless pressure of education without leaving a quiet moment of leisure. He feels as if his wings have been crippled. He wishes to fly, to discover, to really go out there into the world and make something out of life. He finds this escape to be the War, at first unaware of its gruesomeness. His soft, innocent Skylark dream has been replaced by horrific massacre. His life, thoughts and feelings are all at war and there is no escape until the War itself finally ends and he keeps himself alive till the end.

It gave me immense satisfaction to be able to read the book. The way the author brought the story to an unfinished yet fulfilling ending brought blissful containment to me as a reader. The relationship between Clarry and Rupert has been so beautiful concluded that nothing else seems to have been a better ending. Throughout the story, how Clarry capably maintained her primary character of delicate curiosity and unbounded love for people she once starts to like. She seems to even find excuses to forgive her father’s irresponsible awkwardness. She keeps on fighting for what she thinks is right and does not lose faith on Rupert even after him not communicating with her for a long period of time. I look forward to reading more works of Hilary McKay in future for the only book of her’s that I have read has filled me with immense respect and gratitude for such writers who still keep alive the essence of literature.

About the author:

Hilary McKay (born 12 June 1959is a British writer of children’s books. For her first novel, The Exiles, she won the 1992 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, a once-in-a-lifetime book award judged by a panel of British children’s writers.