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.

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.

#review The Tree with a Thousand Apples

Author: Sanchit Gupta

Publisher: Niyogi Books

Publication date: 15 Nov, 2016

Book length: 284 pages

Language: English

Genre: Fiction

Synopsis:

Inspired by true events, this riveting narrative traces the lives of Safeena Malik, Deewan Bhat and Bilal Ahanagar, three childhood friends who grow up in an atmosphere of peace and amity in Srinagar, Kashmir, until the night of 20 January 1990 changes it all.

While Deewan is forced to flee from his home, Safeena’s mother becomes ‘collateral damage’ and Bilal has to embrace a wretched life of poverty and fear. The place they called paradise becomes a battleground and their friendship struggles when fate forces them to choose sides against their will.

Twenty years later destiny brings them to a crossroads again, when they no longer know what is right and what is wrong. While both compassion and injustice have the power to transform lives, will the three friends now choose to become sinful criminals or pacifist saints?The Tree with a Thousand Apples is a universal story of cultures, belongingness, revenge and atonement. The stylized layered format, fast-paced narration and suspenseful storytelling makes for a powerful, gripping read.

Rating: 4/5

Review:

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

As a child I had always heard stories about the beauty of Kashmir, a piece of heaven on Earth. I have had always dreamt of visiting it but till date haven’t had the chance. With passing time and gaining more knowledge about reality, I came to realise, even Heaven has it’s part of chaos and Kashmir is no exception. Being the borderline of Pakistan and India, though an essential part of India is often debated by the Pakistanis to be their region. Kashmir has for many years been facing torture and torment, the people are exposed to disturbing situations and suffer to the extreme. It is quite normal to see any article on Kashmir’s condition on paper almost everyday. While we sit with the paper in our hand, thinking of the hardship of those people, there’s not really many scopes of finding a solution.

Authors throughout India have tried quite a no.of times to compose stories based on this condition of Kashmir but not many have such an expressive impact on readers like me than this book “The Tree with a Thousand Apples” has. It may be because of the three protagonists and their lives.

The story begins with two people, Safeena and Bilal rescuing Deewan from a police minibus. And with a jolt we are brought many years back into the childhood of the three where we see two happy families, Muslim and Hindu, eating, smiling, enjoying life together. But life is not always happy-go-lucky. For the struggles of Kashmir reaches the three children soon enough. To a point where they had to struggle between deciding whether to be sinners or tainted saints.

‘Stand for your rights’,

You tell me,

And when I do

You beat me down

Break my bones

And crush my soul?

I nay raise my voice

Close my fist, and demand;

Or seek and desire

With polite words and a patient heart

So that you and I can live in peace

Forever, I wish;

You should pray

I choose the latter.

This little poem got me goosebumps. Such an intense, bold and challenging one. Generally when I read a storybook, if any poems in between, to me they do not seem to be much of importance. But this very poem had my blood boiling and you might thing I am exaggerating but if you read through the story, you will be saying the same thing like me.

The author has done an outstanding job in presenting a well formed story, based on true events and incidents that at some point even I could relate to. The book was impossible for me to put down ti the very end (and I have exams so…). The whole journey of the three protagonists from their childhood to maturity with time and experience has been portrayed beautifully. Though a big no.of characters within a story can sometimes confuse a reader, the accuracy and individuality of each character was written down so distinctively that I never had problem understanding.

Overall, the story is unnerving (in a good day), bold, extremely realistic, heroic and makes one question the boundaries between sin and sane. The book is like a carnival of emotions from the first page till the end. With the cover presented the richest fruit of Kashmir, the very first look of the book is the accurate representation of the thousands of lives woven into the roots of the land.

I would absolutelyrecommend everyone to read it.

About the Author:

Born and brought up in the hills of Himachal Pradesh, Sanchit Gupta began his career as a part-time copywriter with an advertising agency in Mumbai. He went on to co-found his own theatre group, worked as a freelance film screenwriter and as executive producer–fiction for a leading television network. His short stories have been published in several esteemed publications and literary journals and have won acclaim in leading literary festivals and online forums. One of his film scripts (fiction) has been long-listed in a globally reputed screenwriters’ lab. He has worked with All India Radio as a talk show host and regularly features in poetry recitals at Prithvi Café, Mumbai. This is his debut novel.

Apart from being a writer, he is a brand management professional with a wide range of brand building and communication development experience across FMCG, automobile and media industries. His works explore his fascination for global cultures, societal structures, vagaries of the world and the human mind. He welcomes interaction @sanchit421. Find out more about the author and his work at http://www.sanchitgupta.in

#review Wheels of Wish – (Book 1 – Wish Trilogy) : The crime planned 800 years

Author: Bidhu Datta Rout

Publisher: StoryMirror Infotect Pvt. Ltd.

Publication date: 1 Jan, 2017

Book length: 212 pages

Language: English

Genre: Fiction/ Thriller

Synopsis:

Imprisonment of a couple in the Dwapar Yug and the creation of magnetism at Sun temple in Konark has a great deal of linkage to a missing boy in the 13th century carrying the mightiest power of the universe that transcends in time across generations leading to an alleged rape and murder accusation to the story’s protagonist, an investment banker Shashank Chaudhary in 2008 who flies from New York to Odisha to find himself trapped in an 800 years old enigma. A biological allegory that unfolds a historical and mythological mystery that counts back in time as far as the epic Mahabharata. One that surpasses time and the material world with its mathematical calculations within physical elements. Unexplainable evidences, puzzling data, conspiracy theories and unheard secrets intermingle with one another to create plots in the history of time that have been startling scientists and mythologists to date. It’s now in the court room that he must face his worst fears and probably the world’s greatest held secret, a rare phenomenon of a chromosomal defect, from an unexpected guest.

Rating: 3/5

Review:

I would first and foremost like to thank Brandedgupshup.com for sending me this book in exchange of an honest and unbiased review.

I would like to start my review with explaining how absolutely fascinating I believe the whole idea of the book is. The story in divided into four parts in three different periods starting with March 18, 2008 when a woman reaches out Sidharth, a dropout engineer and qualified lawyer with the case a renowned NRI investment banker Shashank Choudhury, who has been arrested for Rape and double Murder.

Then the next chapter shifts to another period line of the story – 1120 AD. Here we are introduced to the Kalinga king Indradyumna and the history behind the construction of the Fourth dham of Lord Vishnu in Puri. The story of him meeting Lord Vishnu in his dream which lead to the search of the blue mountain.

Then we see another shift in the story as we travel to another timeframe – 1976 where we meet a classroom full of children engrossed in listening to their replacement teacher, Pariniti Mam, narrating the story of The Sun Temple. A little of mother-daughter love is seen with Pariniti pampering her little “genius” as she calls her child, Roohani.

Through Pariniti’s story we are taken back to 1250 AD, the history of talent and sacrifice of 1200 men for 12 years in building the magnificent Sun temple under the rule of King Narasingha Dev.

These completely different stories involving numerous people along a timeline of 800 years comes together through Shashank’s court case. The story unravels how the accused is Siddharth’s college friend and the rape victim, Roohani’s (yes!!the daughter of Pariniti) childhood sweetheart. She demands that the two of them were forcefully drugged and Shashank is not guilty of any charge. No one seems to believe her. How then will the innocent be freed from the jail? Why is Siddharth so willing to defeat his opposition lawyer? Just for his friend’s justice or do they share a long dark history?

Now as I have described before, the whole concept of the book is pretty interesting and informative. However, what I didn’t like was the author’s choice of words in writing. Not only the words but the writing pattern itself seems to be missing the punch of a strong thriller. Even though the writing was tolerable at first with the beginning of the 1250 AD episode it made me cringe. It cannot be classified even as erotism. It was plainly disturbing to read and nasty. After reading the storyline I had high hopes for the book but after reading a few pages disappointed arrived quite fast. Also the ending of the book was a bit disapproving with the finale of the court case appearing to be utterly stupid. The author has made a futile effort to bring together a huge amount of excessive and unreasonable information into one case and that did not fit well. What I had believe to be well researched and informative at first turned out to be just fruitless mumbling and disturbing storytelling. I gave 3/5 just for the effort the writer has put on the book and his inexpressible but vast imagination. The storyline had the potential to become an iconic part of literature but the elements within and everything else was not worthy enough to be properly called a “good book”.

I look forward to betterment in the next book of the series.

About Author :

Bibhu Datta Rout is an Indian novelist and investment banking professional and now an entrepreneur. Born in Odisha, Bibhu spent his childhood in Bhubaneswar, and most of his twenties and thirties in the cities of New Delhi, Singapore, Detroit, Tokyo. He has been working as a banking professional for last 15 years. During these period he has worked for companies like UBS, Barclays, Citi and Credit Suisse. Algorithms trading, High Frequency Trade and quantitative analytics are his core skills. He is currently living in Mumbai.

#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.

#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 You Never Know

img_1990Author : Akash Verma

Publisher : Penguin Random House India

Publication date : 18 Sep, 2017

Book length : 240 pages 

Language: English

Genre : Fiction/ Romance

 

Synopsis :
There will be times when you feel you have the best relationship, ever There will be times when it will be the worst that has happened to you There will be times when you know you are getting into something terrible; something that will not stop till it destroys you And yet . . . You will be pulled into it so inextricably, unstoppably . . . Dhruv knew Anuradha was his true love. So, despite being married with kids, he still went ahead with their affair. He hid it from his wife and his colleagues. He told lies so he could be with her-it was that amazing! But he couldn’t save himself from the dark secret she was keeping. It pulled him into a vortex of danger so deep that he lost all he had. It happened to him and if you think it can’t happen to you-think again.


Rating : 4/5

Review :

The first time I read the blurb, the book gave me that Savdhan India (Beware India) feels. It’s a show which airs negative incidents happening all over India, acted out by different actors to make India aware of the different ways some people can burn down your peaceful, happy life while some can save and at the end of the show the narrator gives a speech on how to stay alert and prevent such incidents. Well, I do not fancy watching such shows but my mom is prone to watching them mainly because I stay long hours outside and watching this she gives me lectures on how to stay safe. Though I scold her for building high tension watching all these, she is a sweetheart.

Now, back to the story. When I first started reading the story, I realized one thing. I was finding the whole idea of falling in love with your own office’s junior while till then you were happily married to a super talented and caring wife, once your girlfriend, and have two children, a little bit disturbing. All right . . . Not little, very much disturbing. But then again I cannot possibly blame the author for thinking of such a story because it happens all the time and is so true.


The story is about how Dhruv, happily married to his once girlfriend – Shalini, falls in love with this new girl in office, Anuradha. From the first moment he saw her he found himself getting drawn towards her; he knew for sure, she was his true love. He fell deeper and deeper into the dark and dangerous game of extra marital affair. He always had this feeling of Anuradha being sad at times. Soon he came to know the reason – her boyfriend had committed suicide, living her all alone and lovelorn. Dhruv couldn’t help but get closer & closer to her. They end up making love and then when problems dawn into his life. If lying to his “beloved” wife and children wasn’t enough, he is blackmailed to bring a secret video which is believed to be with Anuradha. All these leads to Dhruv ending up in the place where Sid, Anuradha’s dead boyfriend, had committed suicide and then he learns of a spine chilling secret which changes their relationship forever. 

Who were the blackmailers? What video were they looking for? Why did Dhruv end up in Sid’s suicide site? What was the secret Dhruv came to know? What happened to their relationship? Lastly, why did he do such injustice to Shalini? 

To uncover all these questions, all you have to do is pick up the book. 

I must say I enjoyed every bit of the book. Though it was disturbing and frustrating at times, I couldn’t just put it down. I had to read on and on till I reached the very end. This whole idea about finding “true love” seems very thoughtful. Maybe Anuradha was that other half of his incomplete wholeness which he had never noticed till meeting her. Maybe that’s why he felt so complete when with her. Then again, was it right? No. To lie to Shalini, to keep her in dark, to make himself understand that he loves both the women, it sounds wrong. Dhruv sounds like that idiotic guy who is bound with his wife out of long familiarity and responsibilities while he is in love with another woman. I would have loved if the author had given a further insight to Shalini’s character and how she understood whatever was happening and how she felt about it. I liked the ending but then again it seems Dhruv was that desperate guy who though showed he felt guilty towards his wife, he really was not at all that much sorry and till the very end all he could think about was Anuradha. 


The writing pattern is skillful and form of story telling, very much attention grabbing. The writer has the great ability to give visual effects to the reader.

I received a copy from Writersmelon in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author :


Akash Verma is an entrepreneur. He is the co-founder of two internet start-ups in the fashion and food sectors. Prior to this, he was in the corporate sector, in organizations such as Coca-Cola, Big FM and Red FM. His work has taken him across the country and he uses this experience to give context to his stories. He has authored three books till now: It Happened That Night, Three Times Loser and A Broken Man. Akash is currently based out of Gurgaon, India. He is also interested cinema, literature, history and travel.