Loads to read before I sleep, Loads to read before I sleep

SPOILER ALERT!

Fade into Red by Reshma K. Barshikar

Thanks to the authoress Reshma K Barshikar for having sent across the book in exchange for an honest review. I have been waiting to review this ever since I started reading.

It is a lovely book based on the life story of an independent woman who is passionate about art history and is a banker by profession. She thinks her life is just perfect with the perfect job and the perfect set of people around, until she embarks on a journey which takes her to Tuscany for a deal as part of her job but it completely changes her life for good. This book gives you a Devil wears Prada or a Sophie Kinsella book feeling which is again reassured by the cover page of the book which is lovely and it also has a handsome hero in it.

The story is about Ayra who is sent to Tuscany to help a client buy a vineyard in Tuscany  and she leaves to Tuscany the same day she gets engaged to her childhood friend Karthik who is a very endearing character in the book. For quite a while I thought the climax made me sympathize with Karthik. There she guides the Malhotras in checking with various vineyards along with Ishaan Malhotra who is the main head honcho in this vineyard acquiring stint and Celio, the expert in wine making process. The descriptions in Tuscany about the nature as well as the wine making process is probably the best and my personal favorite parts of the book. I had never thought that it would get me really interested in the whole wine-making process, but I was totally glued when these things were described in the book. It also compelled me to google so much about wine. The authoress has really done a fine job here.

Then the story of course deals a bit about finding the true calling, friendship, following one’s passion, office politics and stuff which was quite predictable. But at the end, it was totally a surprise for me that Ayra didn’t choose to go with Ishaan but there is a hint of possibility in that last sentence which can give an opening to a sequel to follows this(Barshikar, are you listening?!!!!). It is quite difficult to choose a particular genre for it like romance, woman fiction. So I would put it into Chick-Lit. Yes, it falls in that category. There are many endearing supporting characters in the book of whom Narina was my personal favorite being Ayra’s best and ever-willing-to-help friend. Her parents, Aunt Ramya, Celio, Kartik all these characters bring out the best in the story.

I would give it a three out of five stars and would recommend it to all those who are fans of this genre. Its a fairly familiar themed novel yet delicious just like the vanilla icecream. If Reshma K Barshikar chooses to write a sequel to this one, I definitely don’t mind relishing it too :)

Source: http://loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/fade-into-red-by-reshma-k-barshikar

The Half Mother by Shahnaz Bashir

I’m writing a long pending review and I wanted to write this as soon as possible so that the flavor of the book still lingers in my brain. I got this book as a giveaway on Goodreads and I was quite amazed with the speed with which it was delivered just after two weeks of the winners’ announcement. After reading this book, I’m glad that my expectations from the book weren’t shattered. Probably this is the best book I have received so far among the freebies for first-reads.

The author from Kashmir speaks for the million innocent Kashmiris who would have faced the atrocities in the hands of Kashmiri militants while their government has been a silent puppet in the hands of the militants. This is told in the form of Haleema’s story who loses both the men in her life to these heinous acts by the militants.

Haleema is a woman who has divorced her husband and is staying with her father Ab Jaan and her son Imran leading a very normal life until it changes all at once when the militants began occupying the beautiful land and begin making it as a land of mass destruction with weapons and bankers everywhere. They behead all those who protest against them or question them and thye do so public so that nobody dares repeating it again. Haleema loses her father Ab Jaan who gets killed by the militants and one day she loses her son as they come and ask about him and Imran never returns.

Then follows the frantic search of the mother to find her son or rather the search for an answer if her son is alive or not. Through various contacts in media and government officials she goes to the media, various jails, military offices and enquires in vain turning her an orphan. And the descriptions of her search and emotions and everything that Bashir describes, reader can feel it coming straight from  the heart. The various descriptions of Kashmir in the eyes of the author, and tiny details like the walls of Haleema’s house are so picturesquely described. I’m sure my review will not make nay justice to the book. One has to read it to fell it.

The various stages of life in Haleema like youth, adulthood, orphan, her stages of emotions like happiness, sadness, loneliness, horror, discomfort, helplessness, faith, strength, hope are described beautifully and readers get to experience all in this book. The remotest idea I had of the situation in Kashmir was only what I had seen in the movie Roja but this book expanded my knowledge about the beautiful land but its band conditions. The only qualms I had about the book was the overuse of Indian words which were quite unfamiliar and the absence of an Appendix at the end to give the meanings. At times I was left to imagine the meaning and context and I would have definitely liked a reference to go with these words. Otherwise I can truly say Shahnaz Bashir is a very promising author to look for.

Thanks Bashir for bringing the story of missing people to the world which would have otherwise been buried only in Kashmir. All the while in the book I was hoping Haleema find Imran so that she may never get to be lonely. My prayers to all those real Haleemas. Rating a book like this is injustice but I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Hence I’m giving it a 4 out of 5 stars.

Source: http://loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/the-half-mother-by-shahnaz-bashir

Arranged Marriage: Stories by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Arranged Marriage: Stories - Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Sometimes it so happens that when you read too many books from the same author, you begin to easily feel too comfortable with the theme and you can end up even predicting the end and can easily sniff what is happening after having just read a few pages. I had the same feeling with this book. After having read atleast four books prior to reading Arranged Marriage, I was not quite impressed with the theme and emotions as there was nothing new and fresh and it was the same glorified versions of tyrannical husbands holding captive of women, women trying hard to struggle after having left India as immigrants, women confined to the kitchen trying to bail out Indian curries reminiscing their hay days when they would have delicious Indian cuisine at their hometown Calcutta. I badly need to read something different from authors like Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Amulya Malladi and Jhumpa Lahiri. Am I asking for more?

Arranged Marriage is a collection of short stories written to speak the conditions of Indian women who have been married off in an arranged manner by their parents and who are trying really hard to adapt to the new family conditions or even immigrant experiences(Yes, a million times you see them reminiscing the curries and Bengalicuisine memories) and their whole life depends on tending to their husband’s and childrens’ needs. I believe these experiences of traditional tyrannical husbands and conventional suffering housewives may have happened around 50s and 60s and they don’t seem real at all. We have progressed and gone farther upto the Mars It is actually hard to digest the fact that the person who wrote The Palace Of Illusions has not tried to cover the nice things about arranged marriages like adapting to the other side of culture, the bonding between strangers who become partners. This book could have been much better had it not been for cliches in the stories.

I would like to highlight the fact that there are two-three stories with strong women characters but what happens to them later is left for the readers to imagine. I liked the two stories particularly-one of the woman whose husband runs a supermarket and the other is that of a girl wanting to adopt a son. They were different. Also there is a story here is ditto as the book by the same author Sisters Of My Heartand this part is exactly annoying that the story also ends on the same lines. For a new reader of Divakaruni’s may find it gripping and a page turner, but for me it was a very sore book. And for the same reason I may probably not pick up another book by her for the next one year atleast.

I will give it a generous two out of five stars for the writing. If you really want to read a book of this author, my hands up to The Palace Of Illusions. It is far far away from that gem

Source: http://loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/arranged-marriage-by-chitrabanerjee-divakaruni

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

I had been wanting to read this book since it appeared every time among the most favorites in the pop-ups of various e-commerce sites. It has also been read by at least a quarter readers out there and at least five people in my Goodreads friends list. I was previously not too keen thinking this book as just another from Young Adult Love genre with a very tragic end. I finally made up my mind and began reading it and realized my prejudice completely shattered. This book has also won the Goodreads Choice Award in the category Young Adult Fiction in 2012(OK,  Now I HAD to read it).

The narration in the book is by the sixteen year old protagonist Hazel Grace who is suffering from thyroid cancer which has spread to her lungs. She is kinda witty and very normal and not too much of an ideal girl as they sometimes portray in those Mills and Boon series. She attends a support group for cancer patient where she meets Augustus Waters who also supports from osteosarcoma due to which one of his legs is removed and thus their bonding gets strengthened when he invites her home after the support group meeting for a movie where he thinks Hazel resembles the actress in the movie. Subsequently they keep meeting and thus their relationship begins and the reader never realizes how their acquaintance turns to relationship.

The book conversations and the video game sessions between Hazel and Gus(this is how he is referred most of the places) are their main relationship boosters and this is further strengthened when Gus gives fulfills Hazel’s wish of questioning the author of An Imperial Affliction which is her most favorite book about its incomplete end and the characters in the book. She also undergoes her first date, first kiss and first love during this trip and they realize their true love for each other.

However my most favorite character in the book remains Hazel’s mother who is constantly caring for her daughter never once feeling saddened or cribbing and finally deciding to move on with her career whilst caring for her daughter which is mentioned at the end of the book. Many conversations and quotes in the book are quite philosophical and for the thoughts alone I’m giving 3 stars out of 5.

This book never talks of the sad ending or about deaths and tragedy but reflects on surpassing all of that and talks more of living. Another one star for this. There are a lot of references to moving on and rays of hope and that is what makes this book very different from the other ones which talk of the sad things related to cancer. I would give it a 4/5 and to those who have refrained from reading this book due to the genre its associated with, its definitely worth a try.

Rating: 4/5(Philosophically Good)

Source: http://loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/the-fault-in-our-stars-by-john-green

Together Tea by Marjan Kamali

The authoress of the book Marjan Kamali was born to Iranian parents in Turkey. This is the first book I'm reading of an Iranian author and I thoroughly enjoyed reading every tiny bit of Iran mentioned in the book. Well, there are a lot of themes interwoven together. Through a mother-daughter relationship, the author tries to describe the history of Iran, the revolution, pre-revolution, post-revolution societal changes, freedom of women,  chasing your dreams and finding true happiness, and the dichotomy that lies in the character's hearts about where they truly belong to. There is a romantic subplot too but not very capturing.

Darya's is an immgrant who has shifted to United States during the Revolution with her husband Parviz in order to provide better lives to her three children-Hooman, Kavyon and Mina. Though she would want to go back to Iran any given time having struggled in US to adapt to its fast paced life, she knows the difficulties she would have to face there and also is quite skeptical to return. Her life comprises of her job, taking care of kids, her math club and finding the right husband for her daughter Mina for her twenty-fifth birthday. 

Mina is an MBA student whose true love lies in art. She is willing to take it up as a profesion but succumbing to parental pressure, she sticks to her MBA classes. In her mid-sem vacation she decides to make a trip to Iran to find the true Iran her mother boasts of. Her character is very endearing and through her trip with her mother, she realises and connects more with her mother. Her trip gets more cherishable with each passing moment as she learns to respect her Iranian roots and values, culture, tradition and history and when she meets her family after a gap of fifteen years after having fled to America when Iran was taken over by the revolutionists.

All is not the great in the book though. The romantic subplot of Mina with a stranger during her trip in Iran was unnecessary. Even the subplot of Darya's crush in one of the classes didn't add much to the plot. The description about places like Persepolis and other places at Iran could have been more elaborate. The section that talks of Revolution that took place in Iran and the society and rules that changed is my personal favorite.

I have read many books on immigrant experiences by various author who really struggle to keep your interest for long. But Marjan Kamali has done a great job with her debut book and  not one percent of the book feels like a sore moment. looking forward to read more by the author.

Rating:3/5(It is good and one-time read)

Source: http://loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/together-tea-by-marjan-kamali

Like it happened yesterday by Ravinder Singh

This is the third book written by Ravinder Singh of I Too Had A Love Story fame. Though this was a very famous book, the second book Can Love Happen Twice? was equally sore. The third book not a part of the above series is varied in theme. It talks more about childhood days and makes you feel nostalgic.

Ravinder, a Sikh from Punjab who was brought up in Burla talks of his childhood days in Burla, a town in Orissa where his father used to work in a Gurudwara and Ravinder's family stayed in a small house provided to his father in the Gurudwara compound and Ravinder's life completely revolved around Burla, the Gurudwara compound, his tuition and school.  He talks of his parents' sacrifices to strive to get good education for their children since it was a privilege they themselves were not equipped with. Rest of the chapters follows his high school days in Sambalpur, his first crush, first movie, new set of friends, school's annual day celebrations, the competition for the board exams and somewhere through his description even the reader feels a sense of nostalgia. Through this book, the author doesn't try to give a moral to ponder over. He is just writing a chronicle of various childhood days so that reader is taken back to his old memories.

Just two words to describe this book: honest and simple. For that alone, I think one should read this book. Somewhere between the chapters and the descriptions we can relate to what Ravinder talks when he takes you through his childhood and teenager days. Each one of us must have felt the same during the first movie in a theatre experience and the excitement of school day participation. While one may be able to relate to first crush on a teacher, some may be able to relate to rat race during board exams while some other reader may relate to the curiosity of reproduction process in human beings that one experiences during growing up days. There is no complex setup or use of ingenious words and it is brazingly simple to read. Something that regular readers may not like as there is nothing creatively great about the book but beginners can definitely start with this book. It is a book of hardly 216 pages one can finish in one sitting.

I'm going with 2 out of 5 starts for this one plainly for its simplicity and honesty. It is a one time read and beginners may like it and others may take it up if they have nothing else to read.

Rating: 2/5(It was ok)

Source: http://loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/like-it-happened-yesterday-by-ravinder-singh

Princess Sultana's Daughters by Jean P. Sasson

Title: Princess Sultana's Daughters

Author: Jean P. Sasson

This is part of the Princess trilogy and is the second book in the series which follows the after the first one named Princess which I had read four years back. I was really touched and it was quite heart wrenching book which explained in detail the atrocities faced by women in Saudi Arabia in the hands of the men as described by Sultana who is a princess from the royal family of Saudi Arabia. That book is one among many which will remain forever in my heart. However this book failed to impress me in the same manner.

 There are many reasons for this. First of all it is not a chronological story but random chronicles of events which are to be written as part of a diary that Sultana would keep for herself. Secondly there are unnecessary mentions of wealth and jewels possessed by Sultana and the extravagant vacations and luxurious apartments owned by them which made me quite uncomfortable. Thirdly she says that she is indirectly helping to create social stature for women through her books but at various times it feels like the theme just doesn't submerge with the whole scheme of events in her childrens' lives. 

Her elder daughter Maha who seems to be quite rebellious since childhood falls for a girl after seeing how women are treated in the land of men. While her other daughter Amani turns spiritual and becomes a religious fanatic after the journey of Haj. I don't see a point how is this related to women stature in Saudi Arabia. At times Sultana gives an image of a parenthood gone wrong when she is being negligent about the whereabouts of her daughters: Maha who keeps a weapon without telling her parents and another who runs a religious extremist group at home and yet Sultana blames it all on sufferings of women in Saudi Arabia. Also I feel a sense of disgust towards Sultana when she was amused when her daughter fed dog licked biscuits to her uncle and also when Sultana laughed hysterically at the death of man by stampede at Haj realising its not her husband!

The climax of the book is also totally unrelated to the whole theme of the book. Her husband Kareem and son Abdullah seem more sensible and wise in their deeds than what Sultana seems like. I was awed by her first book but when I consider this one, it failed to grip my attention miserably. Few of the things like Haj experience and Muslim life in Egypt explained are done well and those are probably the only positives in the book. Instead of going ahead and writing these chronicles of events, she should probably have gone ahead and helped the grand daughter of her maid who was a victim of female circumcision because the royal family has all the powers in Saudi Arabia to make a difference.

I would like to rate it a generous 2/5 and stay miles away from the last book of the triology Princess Sultana's Circle.

Ratings: 2/5

Source: http://loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/princess-sultanas-daughters-by-jean-p-sasson

The Unwanted Shadow by Bhaskarrya Deka

Title : The Unwanted Shadow
Author : Bhaskarrya Deka

I won this book as a part of giveaway on Goodreads and I’m happy to be reviewing it. This book is written by a young debutante author and considering that Mr. Deka has done quite a good job.

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It is a very short book of roughly about 170 pages and can be read in one goal. The theme of the book changes from fiction to thriller to psychology to murder mystery all too fast. I am personally not a fan of these shifting genres and I would like it if they are part of different books and not stuffed all into one.

The book starts of with the story of Mohan who is from a small town in Assam who dreams big of going to Delhi for his further studies. The first half of the book is quite slow paced defining the intricate details of Mohan’s parents and siblings. Later it describes his student life and love story woven around the college premises and this doesn’t contribute much to the larger scheme of things. Also he meets his wife and then everything moves on frequently when suddenly there is a murder and Mohan moves to prison. The prison life is described in detail here. Yes! The theme keeps shifting like crazy and then Mohan is put into an infirmary where again lives of mentally affected people are given. There are two murders in the story. The intention behind the first one is quite convincing. But the second one was a little too much to digest. The plot failed to impress me in that part.

The cover page looks quite interesting and in the course of the story you realize the importance of two people in the book and the title seems just apt. If a Bollywood movie can be made out of this book, I can totally imagine Salman Khan playing such a kind of saviour like role. But for a debutante author, I appreciate him taking the plunnge to describe issue like child abuse in his first novel. The language used in the book is better than most of the IIT, IIM pass-out authors and you can surely spare a day for readng this out. I would give it a 3 on 5 stars for the effort of the author in his first book.

Rating: 3/5(You can surely give it a chance but you won’t miss out on anything if you skip it.)

Source: http://loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/the-unwanted-shadow-by-bhaskarrya-deka

Title:Wild. Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Authoress : Cheryl Strayed

Not very often do I read about travel adventures and memoirs. But a short true story of a lady in Reader's Digest about the eleven hundred miles hike all alone, compelled me to go and read this book. When I researched more on the book, I got to know that it has also won the Goodreads Choice Award in the Memoir genre. That is when I picked it up and couldn't keep it down for a bit.

This book is quite inspiring and I'm totally a fan of all those women out there who do the extraordinary things all by themselves without being dependent on anyone. Also this book talks of kindness of strangers which I thought was very rare these days. When Cheryl's mother died within forty five days of battling lung cancer, her life felt haywire. After her marriage failed and after her divorce after about three years of her mother's death, she still felt that her life was quite disorientated and she hadn't found her inner peace yet. When she picked up a book about the Pacific Crest Trail in a super market, she felt quite determined to do it so that she could find all the mental peace she had been craving for by testing her extent of physical strength.

Cheryl put in all her money she had been acquiring through waiting jobs and set up on this most physically excruciating journey for three months so that she can forget all that she had gone through for the past three years. She writes about her struggles through the journey, the various encounters with rattle snakes, bear and other non-human beings, the skip in the trails and other alternative paths due to record snowfall that year, her testing of physical limits through the cold snowy regions and the hot humid regions, her tryst with other kind PCT hikers, her experience through reading her favorite novels while reminiscing about her childhood days and all of this put together makes it quite an interesting read. There are many a times when you empathize quite well when she talks of her childhood days, her siblings and step father.

But I do have a few qualms about the author as well as the book. She almost left her husband Paul but is yet very regretful about it. She keeps cribbing about it all the time. Though she has chosen this path and hike all by herself, yet she makes you feel pity on her. Also, I disliked the way she almost falls for another stranger when one of the reasons why she hiked the PCT was her affinity towards random men. Many instances in the story where she alternates between the hike experience and her personal life stories, there is quite a disconnect of emotion. The reminiscences of the author's childhood and youth have been randomly thrown and editing could have made wonders to this book.

But my ratings are totally for the sole woman's grit and wit and determined solo hike. The book and te editing could have been much better.

Ratings : 3.5/5(Good read for a travel freak)

Source: http://loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/wild-by-cheryl-strayed

The Prediction by Darren Sugrue

Title: The Prediction

Author: Darren Sugrue

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Its been a while now that I have been getting really good books as part of giveaways just when I had started giving up hopes on these free giveaways by authors.

I got this book from the author through a giveaway listed on Booklikes. Its a thriller/mystery book which talks of a PhD aspirant and now a crane operator Daniel who had worked on predicting the most dreaded problem in the world, the death based on various conditions like response to stimuli, genetic tests etc. This whole theme itself captures one’s interest throughout the book and keeps you glued till the end.

Daniel was a PhD aspirant at Trinity College twelve years back and his thesis was on predicting the most difficult date i.e. the death of the person. His thesis was rejected as he hadn’t got any support from his professors. He had cut off all his relations with his classmates and had become a crane operator not looking back. But when one of his volunteers who had participated in the experiment dies on the exact date that Daniel would have predicted, his professor John comes back to his life convincing him to return back to research so that he can warn his other volunteer, his ex-girlfriend Grace  of the death date which is just a few days away.

Daniel goes all the way to Netherlands to warn Grace and tries to protect her in his own way by being with her around on the day of prediction date. To review too much in the review would be to shout out the suspense. There is also another story revolving round John’s family and ex-girlfriend Grace’s family and the characters are quite complex too. They all have layers of personality and never once do you feel bored while reading about these supporting cast.

Every page offers you with a very mysterious turn and twist. There are things you would have never expected and it happens as he story passes. Also the reference in the book makes you feel that the author is quite geeky and I love that part of any author.  The cover page is also quite geeky.The climax is kind of horrifying but the end gives you a reason to smile too. For a debutante author, I must say he has done quite a great job. I would give a four and a half out of five and would definitely read any book of Sugrue in the future.

Rating: 4/5 (Must read for a thriller fan)

Source: http://loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/07/26/the-prediction-by-darren-sugrue
SPOILER ALERT!

Danika's Planet by Debbie DiCaprio

Title: Danika's Planet
Author: Debbie DiCaprio

I received the author signed copy of this book on Goodreads. It is a short read which can be finished in one or two sitting as it is quite gripping and is 217 pages long. It talks about a girl's adventure out on another galaxy/universe/planet.

This is the first time I'm reading a partly sci-fi book by an authoress. I call it partly sci-fi because at times it becomes a fantasy book, sometimes christian fiction and sometimes it feels like a scene straight from Home Alone or Baby's Day out.

The story in the book occurs in the year 2030 where people are looking out for a better place than Earth to stay. Looks like a scene from the movie Avatar/Elysium. The story talks of an intelligent, resourceful, curious yet innocent girl Danika who is the daughter of spaceship scientists. She has literally been brought up on the Colo Colui spaceship of which her parents Adam and Brenda Trew are the chief architects. So when they have to leave on a space voyage with 10 other people for a period of ten days, in order to avoid staying away from her parents, she sneaks on board and it turns out that there are some hijackers as well who have sneaked in order to take control of the ship and send out the space scientists on the jetter after drugging them.

Then follows Danika's adventure where she handles the situation like an intelligent child but you can also sense her innocence in many situations. Danika is very endearing and you tend to empathize with her and her emotions.After she fights out the intruders she is forced to leave the Colo Colui on a vehicle named Piethos. On this she travels to various other planets and finally arrives at Daneecha's Planet where the prophecies have been written that an orphan girl will arrive to solve an untreatable disease and will settle there for a span of seven years long.

On the other hand there is a lot of disagreement among crew members regarding plan of action whether to search for the girl or return back home to their families. Finally three crew members stay onto search for the girl. Meanwhile one crew member Pepe just separates from the entire group and nothing is spoken about him so far. It is unclear whether he returns to Earth or hovers in the space and why he is doing so when he could have easily stayed on with the other crew members. There are a lot of loose ends like this in the book. It is also unclear what Danika decides to do whether stay in Daneecha's planet and her course of action there or just returns after a specified time. But she really means to help the people seek enlightenment and the love of God. All these open ends leave a scope for another book which can describe more of other planets, the crew members who are searching for her or some new elements to the character of Pepe.

What I personally didn't quite like was the mixture and sudden jump of genre from sci-fi to fantasy and then some christian fiction beliefs thrown in here and there. I found a few parts very repetitive like the conversations said from one to another about the brief summary Danika has been to. There are not many notable characters worth remembering other than the person who helps her get to Daneecha's Planet. Apart from my qualms about the book, it was a good read which can be enjoyed by all age groups and I would surely pickup the second in the series if at all the DiCaprio decides to write a sequel.

Rating:3/5(It was an OK read)

Source: http://loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/danikas-planet-by-debbie-dicaprio

The Test of My Life by Yuvraj Singh, Sharda Ugra & Nishant Jeet Arora

Title: The Test of My Life
Authors: Yuvraj Singh, Sharda Ugra, Nishant Jeet Arora

Disclaimer: I will be a little biased towards this book because I personally am a fan of Yuvraj Singh and the game of cricket.

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I read this book not as a memoir or a book of autobiography genre. I read it solely because I like Yuvraj Singh and have been a fan of his sixes. I read it just like an Indian who can go crazy by an Indian win be it ODIs, tests or T20s. I read it as an Indian who went crazy on the day of 2nd April 2011, when Dhoni lifted the ICC Cricket World Cup after 28 long years. I read it as just another cricket fan in India who rejoiced along with million other Indians on that Saturday night. I picked up this book to know more about the man of the series of this tournament. It was an amazing experience just going through those balls and runs through Yuvraj's voice and the memories came to picture again.

In this book, Yuvraj Singh talks to you. Though there have been editing done by the Sharda Ugra of CricInfo fame and help from Yuvraj Singh's manager and friend Nishant Arora, the reader feels connected to the voice and experience of Yuvraj Singh. Yuvraj Singh was diagnosed with seminoma, a rare form of germ cell cancer and Yuvraj Singh takes you through this journey of recovery from the day of his symptoms showing up, his struggles, diagnosis, procedures, recovery after the tumor was removed, and his struggle back again to form and to be a part of the Indian Cricket team.

This book is divided various sections. In the first section, he talks of his heavy cricket training under the tutelage of his father and cricket background during his early growing up days. This was a very touching section. There is a continuous reference to running, falling, dusting off and running again.Second section talks of his days when he played for India and how he became a heartthrob for a lot of cricket fans. The third section is the main section which talks of  his journey and how C changed from cricket to cancer. Even though he knew something was wrong with his body, he kept procrastinating as playing for his country was on the top of his list. The later sections all talk of his ways to recovery and his mom's struggles and prayers.

When Yuvraj Singh was down with cancer, he had picked up book by Lance Armstrong and had been very inspired by the book. So he wrote this book to serve as an inspiration to another suffering cancer patient who would have been emotionally suffering too. I'm sure anyone who has read it may surely have been inspired and his purpose is truly served. Hence I would like to ignore the editing which may look disfigured to just any other memoir reader. Also the  sequence of events may seem too confusing to some. But I'm going to intentionally ignore all that for I have been truly inspired. Also I would like to mention that Yuvraj after his battle with cancer and coming out of it triumphantly found YouWeCan an NGO which helps in early detection of cancer and already has plans to take it to remote village level. It is managed by his manager and the co-author of this book Nishant.

Another notable thing about the book is its Acknowledgement List which runs on and on. I'm quite awed that Yuvraj has not forgotten to mention any person whom he is truly grateful to. It is a must read if you are a fan of Yuvraj or the game of cricket or if you were also one among the billion Indians who wept when Dhoni scored that winning six to win the most prestigious World Cup title.

Rating: 4/5(Must Read)

Source: http://loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/the-test-of-my-life-by-yuvraj-singh-sharda-ugra-nishant-jeet-arora

Title: Scouting for the Reaper

Author: Jacob M. Appel

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I'm very skeptical these days about the author giveaways. My past experiences have been sore but this book changed my opinion.  I'm sure I will be reading more of Appel in the future too. There are already a few on my list.

This book is a collection of 8 short stories each one different from other. Very different, some intriguing, some witty, some mundane and some other very ambiguous yet all very creative and very well written. All the stories end with the readers wanting for more. Some may not like this sort of story writing, but I'm personally a fan of this sort where you may have a lot of climaxes of your own. The language and use of words is brilliant and gives an impression that the author knows his language really well.

The stories are like never read before (atleast by me).  The author writes with both a male and female voice. I have read of a male author writing in a female voice before. He has really learnt this craft and never once did I feel it was Appel talking. Theres one about a girl who doubts her ancestry based on her blood test in her school lab, one that talks of a woman who goes to every possible extent of trying to recover the eyesight of a pet rabbit, another about an overly anxious and concerned lady who worries when her lawn mower doesn't appear after thirty-seven years of turning up regularly, a typical  business-man trying to sell a tomb stone to a customer who is dying and who is her ex-lover, a truck driver who carries penguins from one place to another,  a light maker to tries to ignite his love with his childhood sweetheart, a Jewish rabbi going to all extents trying hard to bury a neighbor's son. I see a lot of creativity in the way these stories are crafted. I like the simplicity of the stories and the complexity and various layers the characters possess.

My favourite is that of a lady who is forced to handle all the financial accounts when her husband passes away and resistingly falls in love with the accountant even though she suspects him of wrongly doing the accounts. The stories in the book are page turners not because they are great thrillers/mystery and ever surprising fantasy books. I think its the language and creative description of the daily life, very ordinary circumstances that will keep you glued to the book. The next time I will surely think twice of striking a conversation if I ever have a lawn mower.

It can be read by all and a must read if you are a lover of short stories. Some may not like the way the stories are left hanging at loose ends. There are three more books on my to-do list from the same author which I'm absorbing right away after this. Stay tuned.

Rating: 4/5(Great)

 

Source: http://loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/scouting-for-the-reaper-by-jacob-m-appel

Serving Crazy with Curry by Amulya Malladi

Title : Serving Crazy with Curry

Author : Amulya Malladi

 

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Its the third book I'm readingof Amulya Malladi's,the other two being The Mango Season and A Breath of Fresh Air. One thing is obvious that some writers like Jhumpa Lahiri, V S Naipaul and now Amulya Malladi can never stop themselves from writing their immigrant experiences about the Indians moving to US and trying hard to adapt there. Also another obvious thing is her love for food which became evident through the recipes she writes between chapters just as she penned various Mango dishes in The Mango Season. I read of this book in particular on one of my favorite food blogs Monsoon Spice.

This book talks specifically of Devi Veturi and in general of Veturi household who are Indians staying in US Bay area. Devi has been quite unsuccessful in her life with respect to love, career, relationships and tries to commit suicide and is being saved by the person she resents the most i.e. her mother Saroj. After this "incident" she is forced to move in with her parents and under their constant vigilance she stops talking and takes up cooking which has been very alien to her. Everyone in the house is quite appalled by this but as she has been the suicide escapist, they do not want to say anything to her. She cooks food based on her mood. She makes hot, smoky, spicy food when she is really angry whereas churns out desserts when she is happy. Yes!! I know that sounds interestingly weird.

She tries to take control of the kitchen which has been under sole supervision of her mother Saroj who reminded me of  stereotypical South Indian/Punjabi mother in Indian soaps/films and I could totally imagine Kirron Kher from Dostana playing this role. She is like the typical, constantly nagging Indian housewife who is struggling to adapt to US lifestyle and would wish to go back to stay in India at the drop of a hat. Through cooking, Devi secretly triumphs in empowering her mother's ways. She begins to appreciate all that Saroj has been doing for her.

Then there is one-armed, ex-army man Avi who is always supportive of his daughter Devi, the career-oriented, totally opposite in polarity with Devi, her sister Shobha and her husband Girish who all try to do the best they can to ensure that she finds peace within. Overall the family is quite psyche and never in my life would I want to be part of such a household who secretly resent themselves in every possible way they can. But the "incident" as a whole, tries to bring them as a close knit family. The book is quite predictable. There is one more secret that Devi hides within which is revealed in the mid of the book but surely you can guess about it by the way the characters behave in the story.

The only sane person in the whole story is Devi's grandmother Vasu who is a strong-willed woman who has lived her life in her own terms never once bothering about what the society thinks or talks of her. She is very close to Devi who shares most of her secrets with Vasu who is also quite terrified by the "incident". She is not in good terms with the loud Saroj who is quite disturbed and thinks that Vasu doesn't love her enough. In general, all the characters are trying hard to be loved by everyone and I believe the secret dislike and resentment is due to this.

It was an ordinary immigrant experience kind of read which I cannot say I thoroughly enjoyed. But I liked the various recipes the author has penned down and also the last section where there is an imaginary interview Malladi has with her characters in the book. That piece was much more interesting and creative than the book. I would suggest it for a casual, weekend read but not for those who love serious stuff.

Rating: 2.5/5 (OK once in a while for non-serious stuff readers)

Source: http://loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/serving-crazy-with-curry-by-amulya-malladi

Is this Love & Autumn - The Last Leaf by Arti Honrao

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Title: Is this Love & Autumn - The Last Leaf

Author : Arti Honrao

I got it as a part of a giveaway by the author on Goodreads. This book is a short, one time read for beginners which can be read in one sitting. It is about 160 pages and it is written in simple English that we generally use in normal daily lives(Infact much more simpler). I would have preferred the literature being richer than the language used. 

Coming to the book, it comprises of two stories - "Is this Love" and "Autumn - The Last Leaf" . The central theme of both the stories is love and friendship. Both involve triangular love stories. The first one i.e. Is this Love talks of pure friendship between Sheetal and Vishaal who live together  but later fall in love with each other but do not confess. Sheetal ends up marrying Aman and the story leads to misunderstandings. The second tale talks of a girl Neha whose dreams come true. But the main theme is friendship and obsessive love by Neha who is finally ready to move on with her life after Kedar marries Samiksha. The author also discusses the havoc caused by obsessive love  from both Kedar and Neha's side. The climax came as a bit of surprise considering the way the story moves. The protagonists in both the stories end up making bad decisions which lead to misunderstanding.  

I liked "Is This Love" better than "Autumn- The Last Leaf" because I didn't like the dreams coming true concept in the latter. The characters in "Is this Love" are endearing. In between I also felt that there were repetitive sentences and circumstances mentioned by the author. I found it hard to connect to the characters in "Autumn- The Last Leaf". Neither could I sympathize nor empathize with them.

Ratings:1/5(It was OK, actually bad. Wouldn't suggest it to anyone)

Source: http://loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/05/20/is-this-love-autumn-the-last-leaf

Half a Life by V. S. Naipaul

Title: Half a Life

Author : V. S. Naipaul

I sometimes go into a phase where I feel like reading Indian authors only. I got a few books by Anita Nair, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Amulya Malladi and was looking for some Vikram Seth books and I stumbled upon this book. I randomly began reading it one day. I had read the other two "Indian" Nobel Laureates for literature: Rabindranath Tagore and Rudyard Kipling(if you may consider his birth). For me it was the first encounter with Mr. Naipaul's writing. It is said that this book is a semi-autobiography. When I started flipping first few pages I realized that the language used was rich, crisp and catchy had several touches of British literature. I was totally mesmerized.

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The story begins with the protagonist's story of how his parents named him Willie Chandran after the famous author W. Somerset Maugham had visited his idle, ambitionless father when he had taken up the role of the silent priest in the temple/ashram. The first section of the book takes us through a journey of his ancestors and talks in large about the inequality and class-based society in India. It talks about the life of his father, who dropped out from college and married a backward class girl against his parents and Willie was born out of this marriage. The period of the events are not mentioned but it seems like almost mid 20th century when there were a lot of societal events happening in India then.

I'm not sure if this is intentionally or coincidentally written in similar theme with Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage. In both the books the protagonists struggle in identifying their true self which takes them across different countries and continents, forcing them to take up varied occupations and still having a cultural/religious identity crisis. Willie Chandran then heads to London after schooling from India based on an invitation from his father's acquaintance from his silent idle priest days. There he has trouble accepting his identity and leads a life of lies and publishes a book which brings him in touch with Ana who is half African- half American. He then heads to Africa staying there for a span of eighteen years taking care of the estate which was inherited by Ana from her grandfather. There are a lot of references to the Portuguese colonization in African states. He also goes through a stage of understanding his sexuality and physical desires which I would rather skip for the review.

There are a lot of interesting and strange characters in London and African references like Percy, the African roomie Willie in London, and then the Sunday lunch friends of Willie's: Jacinto Correia the typical entrepreneur trying to venture out into any business, the untrustworthy estate caretaker Alvora, the mystical Mrs.Noronha whom nobody dares to question, the  indifferent yet sometimes sensitive  Ana who is struggling with her past, Julian, the carpenter's daughter, Graca the estate caretaker's wife who is having a drunkard of a husband to deal with and who longs for physical pleasures just as Willie and each one of these characters one would be able to empathize with and these characters appear deep and familiar. As a result of colonization and guerrillas taking over parts of Africa, all the half Africans are forced to move over to Portugal to their ancestral homes and back to their families.

That is when Willie moves over to Germany after a span of eighteen long years where his sister Sarojini stays. All these accounts of African journey is told as a conversation the protagonist has with his sister. There is some part of the description in the writer's European journey regarding art and architecture. The end of the book just specifies that the protagonist finally wants to live his own life and not someone else's. It is left to the reader's imagination as to what forty-one year old Willie chose to do later whether to live his own life or be in the shadow of others.

I liked the book for the writing, its uniqueness, the characters and Mr.Naipaul's vivid description of the trends of each of the places he goes to. I didn't like the story much. It gets a little lengthy in Willie's father's and grandfather's description and this book was definitely not a gripping page turner. I would probably suggest it to serious stuff readers but its good once in a while to be able to read such a book. I would give it a three and a half for the characters whom my heart went out for.

Ratings:3.5/5 for the love of characters.

 

 

Source: http://loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/06/11/half-a-life-by-v-s-naipaul

New Math is Murder by Jo-Ann Lamon Reccoppa

Title: New Math is Murder

Author: Jo-Ann Lamon Reccoppa

I got the copy of the book on an online ebook site Pixel of Ink. I don't follow the rule "Don't judge the book by its cover". Nice cover pages do attract me a lot. I have a lot of unread books in my Kindle, but this book's cover page tempted me to read this.

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The book falls in mystery genre bit a bit of funny statements thrown in here and there. The story revolves around the life of Colleen Caruso, a journalist who has a lot of problems in her personal life. Her husband who has an extra marital affair is about to divorce her without leaving much of finance for sustaining. She writes low profile columns on the paper like some restaurant reviews, memorial or fundraiser events for a living.

One day she decides to go on a jog and trips over a dead body which happens to be that of Colleen's daughter, Sara's algebra teacher Jason Whitley. This adds more trouble to her life. What happens later is a complete mysterious detective adventure for Colleen when her newspaper editor Ken Rhodes asks her to cover up the story on a regular basis in order to get more advertisers and readers for the newspaper.

During this assignment, she goes through a lot of trouble herself when she gets hit in a supermarket, her car sinks by the bay, her house is burglarized. Little does she know that her life is in danger too. At some point she plans to give up writing about the column in the newspaper but gets back to do it to prove someone innocent which is revealed in the middle of the book.

The suspects of the story are the Jason Whitley's colleagues in the school who are competing for the award they are nominated for the best teacher category, his wife, his ex-lover, principal of the school, his current lover. There are totally 3 extra marital affairs which made me wonder about the sanctity of marriage. Also strange thing is that all the teachers including the principal of the school were from the same batch in the same school which was a little too much to comprehend.

But it was totally a page-turner.  There is also an unspoken friendship/relationship between Ken Rhodes and Colleen Caruso about which nothing much has been explored in this part of the series. The climax also came as a bit of surprise not for the killer but for the reason behind the murder. Saying more about the book would be revealing too much. Its a cozy weekend read. I would definitely want to read another book of the author if it comes up any time soon.

Ratings: 3/5 (Liked it)

Source: http://loadstoread.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/new-math-is-murder-by-jo-ann-lamon-reccoppa