Book review: Murder in Matera by Helene Stapinski

Author: Helena Stapinski

Publisher: Dey Street Books

Publication date: 22 March.2018

Book length: 320 pages

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Genre: Memoir

Synopsis:

From the age of four, Helene Stapinski heard lurid yet inspiring tales about her great-great-grandmother Vita, a loose woman back in Southern Italy who fled to America in 1892 with her three children after committing murder. Gripped by her family’s story, Helene embarked on a decade-long fact-finding mission, making numerous trips to Basilicata, the rural “instep” of Italy’s boot—once known for its superstitions, criminals, and desperate poverty. It’s an undiscovered land filled with badlands-like hills, ancient caves, and fertile valleys with silver-tinged olive trees, whose isolation is matched only by its forlorn, incredible beauty. In a stunning turn of events, Helene comes to learn what really happened, sparking an upheaval of her own identity and sense of history. Deeply researched and reported, Murder in Matera is a remarkable true story about one family’s hidden secrets. It is also a powerful and timeless story of immigration and motherhood—a profound testament to how far one woman would go in search of a better life in America, not only for herself, but for her children and the preservation of her family.

Rating: 4/5

Review:

Before we start one must know what a memoir is. Though you would find it unnecessary of me to write about something you already know, I am adding it in case someone doesn’t know clearly.

A memoir (US: /ˈmemwɑːr/; from French: mémoire: memoria, meaning memory or reminiscence) is a collection of memories that an individual writes about moments or events, both public or private, that took place in the subject’s life. The assertions made in the work are understood to be factual. A memoir can also be about generations old facts, about one’s ancestors and their time. It is to be noted that memoirs often contains excerpts of one’s ancestor’s narration of their own time but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is untrue. It simply means the author had researched well and was confident enough to structure an ancient event for the better understanding of the reader. Memoir is a non-fiction though this certain structure can often to referred to as fictional representation of the non-fiction.

I have always been interested in learning about foreign lands, their cultures, their history, long forgotten strands of customary family histories, passed down generation after generation without any documented information or remains. Southern Italy has a history of being frequently invaded and considerably less noticed upon than Northern Italy leading to massive economic and resource crisis, malnutrition, disease and huge percentage of child death so much so that the children were baptised right after birth so that they didn’t die without an identity.

Matera is a city in the province of Matera in the region of Basilicata, in Southern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Matera and was the capital of the province of Basilicata from 1663 to 1806. The town lies in a small canyon carved out by the Gravina. The area of what is now Matera has been settled since the Palaeolithic. The city was allegedly founded by the Romans in the 3rd century BC, with the name of Matheola after the consul Lucius Caecilius Metellus. In AD 664 Matera was conquered by the Lombards and became part of the Duchy of Benevento. Anne Parmly Toxey writes that “The date of Matera’s founding is debated; however, the revered work of the city’s early chroniclers provides numerous, generally accepted accounts of Goth, Longobard, Byzantine, and Saracen sieges of the city beginning in the eighth century and accelerating through the ninth century CE.” In the 7th and 8th centuries the nearby grottos were colonised by both Benedictine and Basilian monastic institutions. The 9th and 10th centuries were characterised by the struggle between the Byzantines and the German emperors, including Louis II, who partially destroyed the city. After the settlement of the Normans in Apulia, Matera was ruled by William Iron-Arm from 1043.

After a short communal phase and a series of pestilences and earthquakes, the city in the 15th century became an Aragonese possession, and was given in fief to the barons of the Tramontano family. In 1514, however, the population rebelled against the oppression and killed Count Giovanni Carlo Tramontano. In the 17th century Matera was handed over to the Orsini and then became part of the Terra d’Otranto, in Apulia. Later it was capital of the province of Basilicata, a position it retained until 1806, when Joseph Bonaparte assigned it to Potenza.

In 1927 it became capital of the brand-new province of Matera.

Helene Stapinski has since childhood heard stories from her mother and other relatives about their ancestral roots at Matera and how her great-great-grandmother Vita had travelled from there to America with her two sons alone and settled down in a complete foreign land, having run away from a murder committed likely by herself and her husband, Francesco Vena. Troubled by the criminal background of her ancestors and believing her family’s s criminal inclinations to be an effect of corrupted gene, she decides to visit Matera herself and figure out the truth of the crime, with the hope that the knowledge of truth would help her prevent her next generation and the others to follow from walking the same path, to uproot the disease from it’s exact source. She travels for the first time with her mother and two children, with her husband too busy to join her and begins her search, but ends up with time running out of her hand, her children getting effected by the rough climatic and structural foundation of the place, and with threat from her possible relations there from ruining the sleep of the already dead and forgotten people. She returns home with a heavy heart only to return ten years later, fully prepared, gathering over the ten years every information about the place that she could come across, and contacting necessary people to help her out. Finally she slowly and gradually starts peeling off layers of secrets and history, which leads her to the discovery of truth behind her family’s identity, her own identity and filthy socialistic traditions and terrors. She learn about the cruelty of power and harsh livelihood, of poverty and social acceptance there in Matera. She unrobes the centuries old inhumane power-hungry manifestation and discovers the true Vita who no one ever cared to understand or believe.

Murder in Matera is an informative, well arranged and descriptive piece of work with extensive knowledge of the writer about the subjected place and true exploration. The presentation of the book clearly shows the laborious research of Helene and her hunger to know about her family history. The author has beautifully brought in the tale of Adam and Eve, winding in every vein of her story giving it a life, a life so vibrant it pokes at the reader’s mind, finding meaning to their omnipresence in every inch of a human being. Helene has portrayed her true self, neither a non-believer, not a blind believer, just a faulty human with curiosity and motherly affection.

Original, raw, superfluous, educational and intriguing, the book makes one think about lands farther from their ever wandering eyes, out from the era of technology and abundance of resources to a time of predominating hunger and regular death by starvation, which seems not to have been forgotten but prevented from remembrance for the love of one’s own peace of living. Helene brought to life the dead and their deeds and their handpicked olives, their nurtured grape wines.

Would recommend everyone to read it especially if you are interested to know about Southern Italy and the influence of the Greeks that thoroughly structured the civilisation of Matera.

About the Author:

Helene Stapinski is the author of Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History, which recounts her family’s criminal history, and Baby Plays Around: A Love Affair, with Music, which chronicles her years playing drums in a rock band in Manhattan. She has written extensively for the New York Times as well as for New York magazine, Salon, Travel & Leisure, and dozens of other publications and essay collections. On the documentary based on Five-Finger Discount, she has worked as a producer and writer. Stapinski has been a radio newscaster in Alaska; has appeared on National Public Radio; was a featured performer with The Moth; has lectured at her alma mater, Columbia University; and has taught at Fordham University. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.

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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.

COVER REVEAL + Book Description of AUSTENISTAN

Bloomsbury to release Austenistan on 16th December, 2017, Jane Austen’s birthday

A fabulous read this winter season!

Austentistan

The World’s Favourite Author Goes to Pakistan

Edited by Laaleen Sukhera

Page Ext: 164 | Price: Rs. 399 | Paperback

Austenistan is a collection of short stories by the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan

 

Description: Heiress and society doyenne Kamila Mughal is humiliated when her brother’s best friend snubs her to marry a social climbing nobody from Islamabad. Jamila Baig’s cold, unenterprising husband hasn’t planned for the future and all she can think about is how to find suitable husbands for her daughters. Roya discovers that her fiancé has been cheating on her and ends up on a blind date on her wedding day. Beautiful young widow Saira has mourned her husband but feels she may finally be reading to start following her own desires.

Inspired by Jane Austen and set in contemporary Pakistan, Austenistan is a collection of romantic, uplifting, witty and sometimes heart-breaking love stories which pay homage to the queen of romance and find their straight to the romantic in all of us.

Comprising seven stories inspired by Austen’s novels and set in contemporary Pakistan, Austenistan is a witty, sometimes savage and sometimes moving look at love, loss and second chances in the upper echelons of a society which very closely echo Regency England.

The writers, including journalists, editors, lawyers and medical health professionals, are largely based in Pakistan and are all members of the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan (JASP), whose founder, Laaleen Sukhera, is editor of this collection.

#review Sing, Unburied, Sing

Author : Jesmyn Ward

Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Publication date : 1 Oct, 2017

Book length : 304 pages

Language : English

Genre : Fiction

Synopsis :

Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. His mother, Leonie, is in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black and her children’s father is white. Embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances, she wants to be a better mother, but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary, a journey rife with danger and promise.

Rating : 5/5

Review :

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

Sing, Unburied, Sing is a book which brings in a hurricane of emotions into the reader’s mind. One time it’s sad, then hurtful, pitying, happy, longing, lone, faith, failure, jealousy and what not. It truly reflects the naked, undressed parts of a human soul. It twists and turns every inch of one’s sanity. It challenges human behaviour, duty, responsibility, ideals and most importantly, delicate choices. It boldly points out racism at it’s truest form.

Leonie, mother of two, like every other mother is expected to love her children and put their necessities first. But she is in no way near to that. In fact, it is clearly seen that she is a heavy drug addict and only finds comfort in her husband, sharing news that you all love to either of the children. It may be because of the fact that after the early death of her only brother, Given, a gruesome murder and the absence of justice done to him because of him being just another black boy killed while trying to outsmart a white guy, showed her how meaningless and utterly painful it was to take care of a little life only to one day see all of it crashing down. Whenever she looks at her children, the only feature that seems to be hers is their black skin, the one always looked down upon. Her only bliss is when she is high on drugs and can see Given.

Jojo on the other hand, finds it difficult to acknowledge his mother who never shows any signs of being one. He has grown up being looked after by his maternal grandparents while his paternal ones never seemed to love him nor his little sister. As long as he could remember, he has been taking care of the tiny human and being a constant helping hand to his Pop who would tell his storied from the time in jail. Jojo was fascinated by the tales and was always keen to know more about that one particular boy there, Richie. He always wanted to know what happened to the boy at last but was never given a proper answer until the time on his trip to Michael’s jail when only he seemed to notice Richie.

All these encounters with ghosts, both by the son and mother, seemed quite odd to me at first, since the rest of the story was very much realistic. Then it struck me that they probably saw the ghosts because they had a sort of special bonding with the ones long dead. To explain clearly, since Leonie had never really grieved or come to an understanding with Given’s death, a fragment of her mind always displayed him in front of her. She always found him when her senses were too numb to differentiate between reality and imagination. Whereas, Jojo always had this urge to know the last of Richie but since he never found the answer, the boy hovered around in his mind and thus when they came closer to the jail, his subconsciousness projected a mind formed appearance of Richie.

Then one might ask, why is there the mention of Richie’s thoughts in the book? It may be just Pop and Jojo’s minds stitching together the last pieces of Richie from their minds.

I might be wrong. I might someday find another explanation to it. I might just be overthinking. But then again everyone is allowed to interpret stories in their own way, right?

An intriguing, engrossing, unforgettable story painted all over with profound thoughts, harsh reality and heart wrenching pain.

I would recommend each and every book lover to read this absolutely amazing book at least once in a lifetime.

#review 50 Cups of Coffee

Author : Khushnuma Daruwala

Publisher : Penguin Random House India

Publication date : 15 May, 2017

Book length : 224 pages

Language : English

Genre : Non-fiction

Synopsis :

Dating is an undeniably daunting task, especially when you are looking for the real deal to settle down with. So when Dia, a 30-something woman, signs up on a dating website for people looking to get married, she realizes just how delightful, vexing, amusing and befuddling looking for the perfect husband can be. Based on her real-life experiences, this book is not a guide to dating, but rather a delightful collection of meeting potential partners, epiphanies about them and soul-searching questions that will make you see relationships without your rose-tinted glasses of love.

Particularly pertinent to this age of online dating, hilarious, honest and witty, this delicious-as-a-cappuccino book is for all those looking for love, in love or in between. With advice as sage (gained the hard way) as that in He’s Just Not That Into You and scenarios as funny and outrageous as those in Sex and the City, 50 Cups of Coffee is the perfect book to curl up with when a suitable bae is not available.

Rating : 4/5

Review :

I received the book from the author in exchange of an honest and unbiased review.

I always tend to avoid non-fictions from the fear of facing acute boredom or feeling agitated over some idea of the writer I do not agree with. But I somehow end up getting my hands on some pretty interesting ones and 50 Cups of Coffee is no exception. The very beginning of the book is filled with promises of enjoyment, refreshment and understanding. It starts with The Where, What, Why of It All where the author skilfully narrates in a casual tone about what made her come up with such a book.So apparently it was her friend, Dia’s constant search for a suitable guy for marrying and the horribly memorable & funny experiences she had while on dates which urges the author to compose the book.

I find the book to be a perfect guide to every possible type of suitorany women is subjected to face in the path of fishing out a good catch. I am impressed how casually and confidently both of the women, the author herself and Dia put forward the importance of an independent woman. Though the book is supposed to be the woes and throes of finding Mr. Right, one can’t help but bring into frontline the necessity of free speech, independence and equality for women.

My favourite chapter in the book is Mamma Mia. Though it sounds kind of edible and delicious of a topic, I say, that is not the case. Moreover, it is based on something rather sugary, one might not but fear for increasing Diabetes. This chapter is about this Puppy-faced Banker Boy, the lady’s date. Though respectable and well-mannered, he has this irritating habit on consulting everything with his mother. Respecting elders is something which comes as breathing in any generous person. But to stay dependent on them is cowardice, lack of self confidence and disturbing. One must always keep in mind, no matter how close parents are, your life’s decisions are completely your own.

I also love the fact that after each chapter, the author leaves a very interesting message and I can’t get enough of all these!! Yess!! What touched my heart was the last message floating in between the heart-shaped steams of the paper coffee.

“Not everyone married is happy.

Not everyone happy is married.”

How very true indeed! The boldness of the author publicly denying the very idea of marriage, pointing out how it perhaps is not her cup of coffee. In India and many, perhaps almost all other countries peopleseem to always glare at a woman and pass pitying remarks upon her on reaching 30 and not being capable enough to find a groom yet. They judge how her selfishness is standing between the wishes of her parents, happiness of her to-be husband and later a child. It saddens me to realise how people even today consider women to be more suited in the household and withstanding every order and disturbance from the man. I find humour, both dry and refreshing at times, pinching and poking over the revolutionary concept of equality and implementation of choice.

Would I recommend the book? If you are in for some laughing, reflecting upon own ideals to understand and breath freely, it’s a good book to read.

Cover Reveal of TELL TALE

JEFFREY ARCHER RETURNS

WITH A RIVETING COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES!

Nearly a decade after his last volume of short stories was published, Jeffrey Archer returns with his eagerly awaited collection of short stories, Tell Tale, giving us a fascinating, exciting and sometimes poignant insight into the people he has met, the stories he has come across and the countries he has visited during the past ten years.

BLURB :

Find out what happens to the hapless young detective from Naples who travels to an Italian hillside town to find out ‘Who Killed the Mayor?’ and the pretentious schoolboy in ‘The Road to Damascus’, whose discovery of the origins of his father’s wealth changes his life in the most profound way.

Revel in the stories of the woman who dares to challenge the men at her Ivy League university during the 1930s in ‘A Gentleman and a Scholar’, and another young woman who thumbs a lift and gets more than she bargained for in ‘A Wasted Hour’.

These wonderfully engaging and always refreshingly original tales prove not only why Archer has been compared to Dahl and Maugham, but why he was described by The Times as ‘probably the greatest storyteller of our age’.

PRAISE FOR THE AUTHOR :

‘If there was a Nobel prize for storytelling, Archer would win’ Daily Telegraph

‘The short story has always been Jeffrey Archer’s strong suit and here he grips you quickly, puts you on the scent of a mystery, and moves you towards a charming moment of revelation’ The Scotsman

‘Stylish, witty and constantly entertaining . . . Jeffrey Archer has a natural aptitude for short stories’ The Times

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :

Jeffrey Archer, whose novels and short stories include Kane and Abel, A Prisoner of Birth and Cat O’ Nine Tales, has topped the bestseller lists around the world, with sales of over 275 million copies.

He is the only author ever to have been a number one bestseller in fiction (nineteen times), short stories (four times) and non-fiction (The Prison Diaries).

The author is married to Dame Mary Archer, and they have two sons, William and James, two grandsons and a granddaughter, and divide their time between homes in London, Cambridge and Mallorca.

#review Second Chance

Author : Dr. Sandeep Jatwa

Publisher : Ebooks2go

Publication date: 5 May, 2017

Book length : 198 pages

Language : English

Genre : Fiction

Product description :

Shekhar Kapoor is a successful businessman who has never done a decent thing in his entire life. For him it is all about what he can get and how fast he can get it. He goes through life cheating and insulting people, even after he receives a mysterious telephone call from what is called the City of Justice. Ignoring the cryptic warnings, Shekhar continues to live his life as he pleases, until one day, shortly after insulting a beggar in the street, Shekhar crashes his car and is killed. And it is only when he is standing before the Bookkeeper, and being shown where his life had gone wrong, that Shekhar finally understands what life is all about. But is it too late for him? Can he be given another chance, to undo all the wrongs he has done? Or is there a chance that Shekhar Kapoor can find redemption where there had previously been no hope?.

Rating : 3/5

Review :

I received this book from V Influencers in exchange of an honest and unbiased review.

Shekhar Kapoor, a successful businessman and owner of Aerowalk, has done all the wrong things throughout his life. He is known to be arrogant, money loving, dirty schemer. He is used to get his way with women either by threatening their jobs or pouring out money. Mr. Balraj Kapoor, his father, a man of great personality was the one who had established the business but was now bed ridden, the only signs of survival being the sound of him breathing. Although ever since Shekhar took his father’s place, the company had been increasing and improving, the people working under him suffered his ill treatment. He appointed and promoted people based on extra service than their capabilities. But one must always keep in mind how powerful Karma is. It spares none. And no amount of money could save Shekhar from what happened next. It all started one day withan awkwardly disturbing call from so called the City of Justiceand receives his first warning to drop all misdoings and start afresh. But Shekhar was tooegoistic and ignorant to do so which ended up with him receivingmore warning and more ignorance and then finally an accident. When he opens himself dead and somewhere far from the human civilisation, he is taken to the God of Justice and Bookkeeper; he is made to rememberand rewatch all his wrong doings and punished for that.A long list of sins starting with when Shekhar was sixteen and was driving a car intoxicated. He had ran the car over someone’s leg and on opposing had beaten that poor fellow’s father. And it was only the beginning for the list goes all the way to each and every horrible behaviour –

  • he had demoted a devoted, loyal and responsible person, Kailash, from his work because of unethicalreasons.
  • He used his position to compel women to make physical contact with him.
  • He didn’t promote Unnati Sharma, despite of her deserving it just because he liked her.
  • He had wrongly seized Feetland Shoe Company from Mr. Ashutosh Upadhyay forcing him to lead life like a beggar.
  • He insulted an old female beggar and pointed out she would be of help in reducing the population just by ending her own life.
  • He was sentenced for not serving his father and not fulfilling his although he had thought to do so, he did not do it.
  • He was sentenced for not helping others, for selfish behaviour and for hundreds of other crimes.

By then he had finally understood how monstrous he has been and regretted not realising that sooner. He begged for a second chance which he got only because of the limitless love of his mother. He wakes up to find himself lying in the hospital bed and resolves to correct his every mistake. Initially when he discloses his experience to two of his closest people, one says it’s NDE or Near Death Experience while the other, a doctor dismisses the theory and describes it to be a mental illness.

Will he be able to turn every sin to help for the people? Is yes then how?What was the experience he had gone through in his 2 mins of death? What is NDE really? Do you believed in it’s existence?

I must say the concept of the book was intriguing. Thoughat some point I found it to be rather childish or unnecessarily descriptive, the changes Shekhar went through was quite inspiring. The book pulled out two contrasting characters of the human, one who works hard yet doesn’t get the deserved and the other who woos and pleases the boss to acquire high scores. But then again kamra is always there!

Karma is a very strong word. Some people believe it while some fear. Life is so very delightful to lead when in the bright side of happiness than under the choking covers of wealth.

About the Author :

Dr. Sandeep Jatwa was born in holy city Ujjain and grew up in Dewas, in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India. He is married and still lives in Madhya Pradesh today. Having attained an M.B.B.S. from MGM Medical College, Indore, Sandeep went on to secure a job in medicine and now works at the Government Hospital Sarangpur District Rajgarh. He has an amazing imagination and spends much of his free time dreaming up stories. He has been writing since 2006 and has completed two novels. The first has yet to be published, but his second one, which he self-published and is entitled Second Chance, is an exciting and moralistic tale of how one man comes to realize the error of his greed. In his free time, Sandeep likes to relax and spend time with his family and friends. He is also a food lover and enjoys trying new and exciting dishes. Sandeep’s most urgent wish is to be able to educate children who work in the street and have little opportunity to make something good from their lives. He believes that everyone’s childhood should be awesome, and not a struggle.

#review Awaken

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Author : Ashok K. Banker

Publisher : Pan Macmillan

Publication date : 13 September 2017

Book length : 192 pages

Language : English

Genre : Fiction / Fantasy

img_2151Synopsis :

The Haters are coming to destroy all life on Earth. It is not a question of if, but when.

The Brahmaand has already rung the warning bell and the awakening of the Preservers has begun. Kiara unexpectedly finds her skin covered with golden fur and her sense of smell extraordinarily enhanced; Saumya is suddenly able to go from Ahmedabad to New York in just a step; and Sia’s songs have the power to do things she had never imagined possible.

First in the thrilling Shakti Trilogy set in contemporary India, Ashok Banker’s action-packed and brilliantly imagined Awaken introduces our unlikely heroes who must discover and harness their superpowers before they can protect and preserve the Earth from the wrath of a menacing alien invasion.

Rating : 3/5

img_0967Review :

I received this book from the publishers in exchange of an honest and unbiased review.

Before I start taking about the insides of the book, I would like to share how I read all through the book in a day. So the past week of my days was marked by helping parents and idling around. It so happened that our house needed some repair and fresh coats of paint. Thus resulting in me and my parents shifting things from one room to another and then enjoy leisure hours. Then I though why not read something cause that’s the only thing I love doing. I picked up Awaken from my shelf and started reading. Oh boy! what a fast read it was. I finished reading it within an hour or two and was left with the urge to read the next part of it. This wanting is what is expecting from the first book of a series.

Now, back to the inside of the book. The story is penned in three separate parts – the lives of three Indian girls, Kiara, Saumya and Sia. Three different stories that come together at the end.

Kaira, was like any other girl, enjoying her youth and secretly in love with her geeky friend. All was NORMAL except the fact that her mother had passed away leaving with her some little fragments of memories, remembrance of caring touch, and long nights of missing. If that was not enough to take, she one morning wakes up to herself being covered in fur from head to toe and she seems to have no clue what made this happen. Incidents occur one after another. And before she understand what might possibly be happening, she is torn apart from her father, her only family, her crush, dearest friend. What might have happened?

Saumya’s house never felt like home to her. She never could find that comfortable air to breathe in while inside those four walls. Her parents made it quite unbearable for her for she could always hear resentment in their voices while referring to the fact that their only child is a girl. In present time, there are still some regions all over the world where the birth of a girl child is not acceptable. Though every nation has taken every possible step to prevent that, human behavior cannot be changed so easily. In a group of 10 people there are always that secret and unknown no.which do not agree into having a girl child. It’s both hurtful and an insult to humanity. Saumya’s part of story shows that dark side of humans. Then again, one day suddenly, with all her frustrations building up inside and a ever long desire to run away to New York, she found herself lifted from Ahmedabad and placed in New York. She soon realized she had the ability to travel from one place to another in just a few seconds just by imagining the place to reach. She found her little secret method of escaping from her house at times of pain and distress. However, not every happy time leads to a happy ending. As she found herself trapped inside her parents’ house with a strange looking man, all of them anxious of her new powers. The circumstances resulted in her having to run away from them all. What made her run for her life? How did she end up with her powers? Who was the strange looking man? What happened to her in the end? Was she successful in running away?

Sia, a beautiful character indeed, has a unique power of her own, the one she nurtures everyday silently without any expectations of acknowledgement – the power to sing, an ability so strong that she finds peace and a sort of completion of self. However, her life is not as alluring as it seems to be. There are several parts of her being that face hardship. The author also through her portrays the amount of trouble a North-East Indian has to face, adding up to the fact that she is from the Naga clan. The author boldly points out the deadly, cruel and unjustified torture over them. And Sia rises as the hero, unaware of her own ability, just with the desire to sing. When she and her friends fall in the hands of torture, the only thing he can think of doing is singing to ease the pain, her song suddenly appears to be inaudible to the normal human eye and destroys every single soldier who were attacking them unfairly. She bedazzled herself and the others over such supernatural incidents for neither of them had any clue what was happening or what might have led to this. Where from did Sia gain such power? What happened when she began to sing? Did her mother know about it all?

All these questions having put forward to you, is my approach in trying to make you understand how very interesting the book is and how thrilling the answers are. All these three women have a want for independence in them. The book, though is easily present to be a fantasy, has meanings far important and eye opening, lying deep within. The book points out the present society, the ever revolutionary youth and their evolutionary minds. The book pokes a finger at the corruption of power, the lack of understanding, the period of identity crisis of the criticized youth.

The fantasy that the writer weaves with his clean and understandable way of story telling is fascinating, intriguing, emotional and has a depth of sense and responsibility. Although I do not fancy the other two girls much, Sia is a very different person as portrait-ed in the book. When I say I do not fancy the other two much, it’s not because their part of story lacked the air of importance but due to the fact that they lacked their own depth of personality. They did not present themselves as strong characters or truly passionate about something of their own. Sia, though had to face struggle, she always had one passion, that of music and she never forgot to hold onto it. To revolt against the world in the name of gaining independence and wanting their thoughts to be heard is something very different from holding onto something you have faith in and show your independence through your works and speech.

This was my first read by Ashok K. Banker and I am looking forward to reading the next book of the series coming out sometime at the end of this very year.