Book Blast: Lean In To Relationships


About the Book:
Doubt has pivoted many a relationship across the centuries. Whether it is Othello suspicious of Desdemona or through the rise of paranoia as a trope in twentieth century writings. While paranoia naturally suggests the vulnerability of individual mind to social rhetoric, it is also the space for deep interrogation of the individual that renders him/her to paranoia. This novel presents that doubt has the potential to be a space of liberation.

Madeeha works in Jordan to rehabilitate Syrian refugees. Zehen, a political analyst from India, meets her in the US during their social impact program. He is intrigued and charmed by her, and falls deeply in love. But the world political climate, with its accompanying cultural narratives about terror and pain, infects Zehen’s mind. Zehen begins to suspect Madeeha as a possible mujahid. Will he find his truth?

Fear doesn’t devastate; it stirs the inner pot. It is a tender love story that triumphs heartbreaks and sets the foundation of deep lasting future relationships - a delightful emancipation from social intrigues and cultural constraints.



Read an Excerpt:

Zehen was experiencing sweet joy in his heart. Memories bustled in the head.

When did he first see her? Zehen searched his head madly. Orientation session? Corridor to the classroom? However, he tried, he couldn’t pinpoint the moment. A whirr of images, of moments, yet-to-be collaged. And a heart that already had a narrative, waiting to be inset.

We imagine that all romantic stories will have a sigh-worthy romantic beginning. But beginnings are when the heart awakens, when the soul remembers. A presence stills and emerges from the shadows of time.

His first memory was when she introduced herself in the class. They had gathered at Presidium University for a one-year course on Social Impact Leadership. Outside, the white fringe tree was laden with its grape-like fruits. The pine, oak and spruce waited for winter to tell the world how unchangeable they were. And the old Redwood stood proud like the institution itself. Inside, in the warm classroom, students from various cultures across the world had gathered. Icebreaker session was on and the usual round of introductions.

Introduction is a ritual. A cumbersome ritual. How does one reduce the tapestry of one’s entire existence, the colors, and the many weaves into a single palatable thread?

Anecdote

I published my first book in 2015 and my second book in early 2016. I was single at the time and using dating apps to meet other single people. I met a girl in mid-2016 who took fancy to my dating profile, especially that I am an author. After a couple of meetings, She demanded that I write about her. I jokingly told her that I am a Phoenix writer, i.e., I fall in love, get dumped, and write about my failed relationship. She broke-up with me, and still invariably pings whether I am including ‘her and our relationship’ in my upcoming book(s).

———————-

The genesis of this book came about while I was on a cross-country train ride in the US. I met Mark who had been a successful marketing professional with considerable international marketing experience. He had travelled to all of Asia and understood the regional peculiarities.
He was later diagnosed with lung cancer. By the time, it was detected, it was stage 3. He was put under radiation and intensive chemotherapy. He went in for three other opinions. All of them agreed that the cancer was aggressive and spreading fast. He searched for the latest treatments and sought to enter clinical trials. The process lasted for two years.

In the meantime, the cancer advanced. The doctors said the cancer was incurable and he didn’t have long to live. It took him weeks of denial to come around to the truth – he didn’t have long to live.

He returned home from a long walk one evening and asked himself a crucial question: “If I am going to die, then I might as well die straight away. What is point of waiting for death to show up?”

That evening he ate well, watched a movie with his girlfriend, poured himself a rare scotch and sat at his study. It was time. He wrote out his letter – love and wishes to his family, loved ones and friends, his last wishes about funeral, information on his will, and a general note thanking all. He placed it in an envelope. He planned to kill himself early morning. He finished his scotch, brushed and went to bed.

In the middle of night, he woke up to a noise. The light was on in the study and he could hear sniffles. He walked cautiously up and there in the study, his girlfriend was holding his suicide letter and crying. He watched her as her body crumpled and sink into chair. Her face contorted in agony. In her face, he saw what was the consequence of his action. The penny dropped.

I paled and listened in horror. Mark continued, “I realized that our life is never ours. We are nothing but a bundle of emotions for the people who love us and the people we love. The meaning of life is to optimize for the happiness of such people. There’s nothing more to living.
That day on, I have been living for maximizing the happiness of my loved ones”

That’s how I stumbled on lean in to relationships; it has become my life philosophy.


About the Author 

I was born into poverty. At the time of my birth, my parents shared a one -room hut with six other family members in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Delhi.

It was a hot day in the month of March 1995. I was in standard 4th and had an examination the following day. As was regular in that locality, we didn't have electricity that day. I couldn't study or sleep properly. One of the watershed moments happened when I came back from school the next day. We had an inverter installed at home. I knew we couldn't afford an inverter. But my dad was always convinced that the way out of poverty for our family is through education. 

Despite an interest in creative writing, I chose to study a subject that society values more – Finance.  Later, I got into one of the top colleges for finance in the country. My first salary out of college (in 2007, when I was 20 years old) was higher than that of my dad's salary at the time.

When I was 24 years old, I had everything that makes one happy – loving parents, great partner, close-knit group of friends, and career path that exceeded every goal. Yet, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t sad either; but it never felt like my life. I had carefully and meticulously built that life though. Contextually, it was the safe thing to do.

Following year though, I had to deal with the loss of my 7 year old relationship and of my 5 year old job. My identity was crushed. My biggest lesson was that you can fail at what you don't want, and what you consider safe; you might as well take a chance at what you truly want.
Next year, I got my ‘ideal’ job but walked away from it. Failure had taught me to be more ambitious and audacious. I had reached a point in my life where I wanted my work to have more meaning; and to stand for something more important than myself.

I started a political consulting company to maneuver social ascendance of marginalized communities by equalizing access to political capital.  I primarily did topical research for MPs for their debates in the parliament and on TV shows.  Partial project list includes:

1.   Providing 108 rape survivors with medical, legal, financial, and social support over six months through one of my client's NGO
2.   Getting amendments passed in the communal violence bill that tackle systemic bias towards Muslims
3.   Helping three social entrepreneurs raise a combined total of INR 43 lakhs from their MP for community initiatives

Along with running my own company, I focused on my passion for writing and traveling as well.  I solo travelled to all seven wonders of the world, and did two-cross country trips by train in India and in the US.  I have also written and published three fiction novels.







Book Review: Side Effects May Vary




About the Book:


For fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell comes this powerful novel about a girl with cancer who creates a take-no-prisoners bucket list that sets off a war at school—only to discover she's gone into remission.

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs. So she convinces her best friend, Harvey, to help her with a crazy bucket list that's as much about revenge as it is about hope. But just when Alice's scores are settled, she goes into remission, and now she must face the consequences of all she's said and done. Contemporary realistic-fiction readers who love romantic stories featuring strong heroines will find much to savor in this standout debut.

About the Author:


Julie Murphy lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cats who tolerate her. After several wonderful years in the library world, Julie now writes full-time. When she’s not writing or reliving her reference desk glory days, she can be found watching made-for-TV movies, hunting for the perfect slice of cheese pizza, and planning her next great travel adventure. She is the author of Dumplin’, Side Effects May Vary, and Ramona Blue. You can visit Julie at www.juliemurphywrites.com.

The Review:


There must be an odd kind of comfort in knowing that no matter how badly you screw up, there will always be that person to be there for you. And they will continue being there for you even if you’re the biggest asshole in the face of the planet. Until one day, they wake up from their dream world and say quietly, ‘I am done with your bullshit.’ They walk away and you wonder how you could have missed the signs. You’d taken it for granted that no matter what happens they will be there in your life forever. Always in your line of sight – but not next to you!

Such is the story of Alice and Harvey in Side Effects May Vary. Honestly, the blurb had raised my expectations really high. It claimed to be about a girl named Alice who is diagnosed with leukaemia and she has a sentence over her head. But she decides to have the last word wherein she had her friend, Harvey, pull off elaborate schemes wherein she doesn’t take any prisoners. But her plans fall through when instead of dying she goes into remission and has to deal with the consequences of all that she has done.

While the story starts off with a lot of promise and the reader cannot wait to know what god awful things are on the list, it turns out to be disappointing. There were only two people who wronged her and her revenge over them is nothing but petty. Then again, Alice isn’t painted to be a Saint. She is somewhere near the popularity chain of the social ladder and she has stumbled upon secrets that she wants to use as leverage. But Harvey is the only good influence in her life. Harvey is the only thing that stops her from completely going over to the dark side. And yet since she is scared of promising him forever, since she is incapable of making a commitment, she does what any person who doesn’t want to lose the best person in their lives would do – she strings him along. She uses him and when push comes to shove, she lashes out at him. While I understand that Alice had gone through a turmoil – accepting you have no future and then suddenly being told you do – can wreak havoc in your mind. It still, however, isn’t a good enough reason to be a shitty person to everyone else around you.

Had I read this book at any other point of time in my life, I wouldn’t have liked it all that much, I bet. But I could feel and empathize with Harvey’s pain. There were times I wanted to reach into the book and shake Alice until her teeth rattled in her head. Julie Murphy’s debut certainly held a lot of promise. And while I applaud the unique storyline, I wish the revenge plot every bit has take-no-prisoners kind as the blurb had promised.

Still, I am going to read the other books by Julie Murphy. 


Rating: 3.75/5


Fave Five Friday: Lines From Literature


And this week for Fave Five Friday, an initiative by BUZZ Magazine, we are going to be sharing our favourite lines from literature. The rules said they do not have to be first or last lines. So I shall be sharing with you lines from books that have always held some meaning for me.

1. “There is always the risk: something is good and good and good and good, and then all at once it gets awkward. All at once, she sees you looking at her, and then she doesn't want to joke around with you anymore, because she doesn't want to seem flirty, because she doesn't want you to think she likes you. It’s such a disaster, whenever, in the course of human relationships, someone begins to chisel away at the wall of separation between friendship and kissing. Breaking down that wall is the kind of story that might have a happy middle— oh, look, we broke down this wall, I’m going to look at you like a girl and you’re going to look at me like a boy and we’re going to play a fun game called Can I Put My Hand There What About There What About There. And sometimes that happy middle looks so great that you can convince yourself that it’s not the middle but will last forever.”



― John GreenLet It Snow: Three Holiday


My Thoughts: I have held this quote dearly to my heart because I know from personal experience how one wrong move can ruin years' worth of friendships! And because I have always been blindsided when it comes to matters of the heart. The middle doesn't last forever no matter how much we fool ourselves into believing it does. And no matter how hard you try - once you break the wall between friendship and kissing, there is no going back. This quote made a lot of sense to me when I read the book years ago. It still does. 






2. "It is so hard to leave until you leave and then it becomes the easiest goddamn thing in the world." 



- John Green, Paper Towns 

My Thoughts: I have lived in the same house for nearly twenty-eight years now. While I am fascinated by the thought of leaving someday, I am also scared by the whole new world out there. I didn't believe this quote when I first read it. But now I do. It just seems impossible until you do it. 




3. “Perhaps when two people are exactly in accord, and always happy when together and lonely when apart, they ought not to let anything in the world stand between them.” 

― Jean WebsterDaddy Long Legs

My Thoughts: When I finished reading this book I was all of sixteen years old with a heart full of love and a head filled with thoughts of romance. I always believed in the crazy, passionate kind of love. Not the quiet, domestic, mediocre kind. I have held on tight to this quote. I haven't found anyone yet who is worthy of this quote though. 




4. “The great thing about this life of ours is that you can be someone different to everybody.” 

― Jennifer NivenAll the Bright Places

My Thoughts: I always believed this. From a very young age. It was clear when my friend and I were speaking about the same person and have two completely opposing perspectives. How befitting that years later I found a book which had a quote that perfectly summed up what I already knew?







5. “You can love someone so much,' he thought. 'But you can never love people as much as you can miss them.”

― John Green, An Abundance of Katherines


My Thoughts: This one needs no explanation. Every time I have had bitter breakups - be it friendship or romantic or otherwise, I found myself missing them and realizing that more than loving them they had become habits. I still miss some of them terribly. But that doesn't mean that I want any of them back in my life. Missing someone is not synonymous with wanting someone back. 






Book Review: Pick Lock Picks and Sequined Witch Hats


About the Book:


Seventeen-year-old Gracie Mason is homecoming queen, co-captain of the cheerleading squad, and a member of the student council. She’s also a budding burglar.

While attempting her inaugural break-in, Gracie blacks out and wakes up far away from the scene. It turns out she accidentally intruded on a male witch’s “circle of power,” and now she’s bonded to him for life. To break the bond, Gracie must delve deeper into a society of witches that involves a secret club, a shadowy council, and all sorts of magical mischief.

Gracie quickly learns that dissolving the bond with Asher, admittedly a very handsome and charming witch, is more complicated than she initially thought. And right when it seems things can’t get any worse, witches start turning up dead. It’s clear that Gracie is out of her depth as her quest to sever the bond magically turns into a murder investigation.

Filled with thrills, humor, and lots of magic, Pink Lock Picks and Sequined Witch Hats is an enthralling urban fantasy set in sizzling central Texas. Author Carla Rehse has expertly crafted a rich and unique magical world where just about anything can happen.

About the Author:


Although not a native Texan, Carla Rehse prides herself on having mastered the correct usage of the colloquialisms "y'all" and "Bless your heart."

Carla holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from Angelo State University, but her fastidious kitty rules the computer keyboard, allowing Rehse to write only when demands for cat treats are met. Carla can be found at carlarehse.com and @CRehse on twitter.

The Review:

While I have been a member of NetGalley since 2013, it wasn’t until recently that I started browsing for reads there. (Being gifted a Nook Book in 2015 really helped!) And initially no one would let me have a go at their reads. I don’t blame them. Someone with 0 reads and 0 feedback wouldn’t score high on publisher’s lists. However, when I read the blurb for Pink Lock Picks and Sequined Witch Hats, I just knew I had to read this book! I was jumping for joy when I was granted access to read the book.

I finished reading the book late last night and wanted to immediately hammer out a review. But since it was 2 am in the morning, I thought the morning was a better option. I went to sleep with my head filled with thoughts of Asher, Gracie, Willow and the Secret Witch Society that lives amongst us.
At the onset the story doesn’t seem like much to go by. Gracie is waiting to commit a crime and unknown to her Asher is waiting too to find clues about his missing brother. He has noticed her before she hasn’t had time to look up from her diamond studded mobile phone to notice him. Gracie is a self-proclaimed spoiled rotten Princess with wicked scheming skills. She had literally talk herself out of trouble, con her way out of messes and she doesn’t really like being told that she cannot do magic. Because human beings can’t do that!

Asher is comes across a sweet, charming witch who doesn’t know what he has gotten into the minute he bonds with Gracie. They obviously are attracted to each other. And together they are racing against time to figure out who is trying to overthrow their King. (Yes, witches have Kings. They live amongst us. Well, at least in the world Pink Lock Picks is set in.) I actually found myself immensely enjoying the read. I liked how Carla Rehse has painted an entire Universe with their own set of rules and regulations. I also loved the various twists she’s put into the story as well.

While I loved the Asher-Gracie scenes the most, I wish all the back story had not been given to us in dialogue. Especially during the times Gracie explains to the twins what she had her girl gang have been getting into it. Speaking of which, I wish we knew a little more about the girl gang. Not just stray comments from Gracie.

My only complaint is the ending seemed a little too rushed and the book ends on several unanswered questions. I can tell that this book was to have a sequel but maybe the author felt too discouraged to write it or share it with the world. If there is a sequel, I want to read it because I’m burning to know a few things.


Finally if you like reading fantasy, love magic and sarcastic, sassy characters this one is definitely for you. If not, stay away from it. I need the sequel of this book in my life. Right now would be perfect too. 

Rating 




I got this book from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.

Fave Five Friday: Fave Five Book to Movies/TV Series Adaptations



Fave Five Friday is a bloghop hosted by BUZZ Magazine.

I recently started working on adapting short stories into screenplays and I know firsthand that it is no child's play. We can always sigh and say that book is hundred times better than the movies (or tv series). However, sometimes, we need to see the hard work that goes into coming up with these adaptations. Here are my Fave Five Picks for Book to Movies Adaptations. (I think I'll make a separate post for TV series someday.)

1. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell




Margaret Mitchell's only novel, Gone With The Wind, had caused quite a stir when it was released. The movie was made almost a decade later and starred Clark Gable as Rhett Butler and Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara. The movie has till date remained one of the timeless classics and let us hope that no one tries to remake this.



You can watch the trailer for the movie here:


               

2. The Chronicles of Narnia Series by C.W. Lewis 






It took a very long time for The Chronicles of Narnia to be turned into a movie series. I loved watching the adventures of the Pevensive children unfold on the big screen. In my opinion, this was one of the best made adaptations.


3. Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen

 
I remember watching the movie adaptation of this on YouTube a few years ago. During the time when I couldn't sleep at night. (Which my doctor tells me has finally started showing signs of taking a toll on my health.) I had enjoyed the movie immensely and imagine my delight when I figured out that this was based on a book! It was one of those rare instances where I had seen the movie first. I loved the easy friendship between Julie and Bryce, and I loved, love how their story unfolds. The only difference between the book and the movie is that the movie is set in a far earlier time period than the book. But both are delights in their own way. Do check out the trailer:





4. The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns by John Green




John Green's novel, The Fault in Our Stars, the story of two star-crossed lovers, Augustus Waters and Hazel Grace Lancaster took the world by storm. Less than a year later, the movie was released and the world laughed and cried all over again over the bittersweet love story. Ansel Elgort brought Gus to life and especially mention ought to be made for Nat Wolff for bringing out the character of Issac.






We got to see him in a more fleshed out role in Paper Towns, as the protagonist, Q, who researches through heaven and high water for Margo, that released a year after TFIOS. And would you believe the book had been released back in 2008? Both these movies tie in the 4th spot on my list because the source is one I've fallen head over heels in love with: John Green. If you haven't seen these movies yet (or read the books) pick them up and enjoy your party of one this Friday!




5. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn




I remember sleeping through the time I was supposed to meet a friend of mine to catch the show for this movie adapted from the book. I apologized because I had overslept (health problems, hello!) And then treated her to a later show for the same.

Gone Girl is easily one of the best adaptations that I had seen in recent times. I had read the book and loved it. I couldn't wait to see what would happen in the movie. They had added quite a few layers in the movie. Nevertheless it was an amazing treat. If you haven't watched the movie yet (or read the book), you should definitely add it to your list. Especially if you like reading dark fiction.




Fave Five Friday: Fave Five Book Siblings




Durga and Apu from Pather Panchali





If you grew up reading Bengali books then I am sure you’ve come across Pather Panchali. I read this book in school as a part of my syllabus but I couldn’t shake of these characters from my mind. When I think about book siblings, they come to mind. Apu was the apple of his mother’s eyes. But he had a different bond with his Didi. That was reflected in the movie that was made. Someday I want to go back and read this novel again.  




Noah and Jude from I’ll Give You the Sun




I read this book quite recently and I loved the back and forth narration of the same. Noah and Jude had one half of the story each. I liked that despite the fact they had enough jealousy between them to tear apart several lifetimes, they were there for each other at the crucial moments. They were in the bitterest of fights but when in the hour of each other’s needs Noah and Jude stuck together like glue.




The March Sisters from Little Women




While readers would prefer one sister over the other I loved all of the four March girls. Because I read this book in my formative years and all of them had something to teach me. I could relate the most with Amy March though. As she was the youngest, spoilt little princess and she grows up during her time away from home in Europe. In the second half of the series, (released as Good Wives), I loved reading about her slow transition. I loved how the book focused each chapter on a different sister. They were my favourite book siblings growing up.






Akriti and Riley from When Our Worlds Collide




Maybe I shouldn’t be including the characters that I conjured out of thin air in this list but I cannot help it. I love the fact Akriti and Riley are step siblings but behave completely like blood related ones. Akriti feels no difference towards him and Riley returns the feeling. I loved writing their scenes. It felt pretty real to me.  







Lily and Langston from Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares



Show me a brother who would team up with his boyfriend to devise a plan to make sure his little sister finds someone interesting enough to date! He actually plants the diary at The Strand to help boost his sister’s chances of finding someone special. And he helps her unconditionally. He also helps her in the sequel. But I cannot rave about how awesome he is in that because I haven’t finished reading the book yet.


Book Review: Bookishly Ever After



About the Book


In a perfect world, sixteen-year-old Phoebe Martins' life would be a book. Preferably one filled with magic and a hot paranormal love interest. Unfortunately, her life probably wouldn't even qualify for a quiet contemporary.

Everything changes when Phoebe learns that Dev, the hottest guy in the clarinet section, might actually have a crush on her. So, Phoebe turns to the heroines in her favorite books for inspiration, but becoming as awesome as her book characters isn't as easy as it sounds.

Find out if Dev makes Phoebe forget all her book boyfriends in this first book of the Ever After Series.

About the Author


Growing up, Isabel Bandeira split her time between summers surrounded by cathedrals, castles, and ancient tombs in Portugal and the rest of the year hanging around the lakes and trees of Southern New Jersey, which only fed her fairy-tale and nature obsessions. In her day job, she's a Mechanical Engineer and tones down her love of all things glittery while designing medical devices, but it all comes out in her writing. The rest of the time, you'll find her reading, at the dance studio, or working on her jumps and spins at the ice rink. Isabel is the author of the four-book Ever After series, including Bookishly Ever After, released in 2016, and Dramatically Ever After, to be released in the summer of 2017

Isabel lives in South Jersey with her little black cat, too much yarn, and a closetful of vintage hats. She is represented by Carrie Howland of Donadio and Olson, Inc.

The Review


First of all I have to thank Debdatta Dasgupta Sahay for always recommending amazing YA reads to me! She had texted me saying that Bookishly Ever After is a wonderful read and I should try it sometime. I had read maybe 8 pages around a year ago but life got in the way and I didn’t finish reading it. Until I had to read a lot of books over the last month and I rediscovered Bookishly.

Can I please start by saying thank you so much Isabel for not stereotyping Dev as the Indian over achiever. Instead, he belongs to the drama club along with Em. And it doesn’t hurt that there are a few Bollywood references in the book too. He does try to woo her by singing and dancing but that’s barely two percent of the entire storyline.

I could relate to Phoebe Martins because she’s a bookworm and she deals with real life problems by turning to the characters in her books. When she finds out that Dev might be crushing on her, she turns to her favourite book characters to device a plan which would help her be flirty and hopefully make Dev take more notice of her. It’s funny. And honestly – I need the Golden Series in my life. I really, really hope Isabel considers writing that series once Ever After is completed.

Phoebe is rightfully a bookworm because of the several thousand books she has read. She also seems to have her nose buried in a book almost all the time. She also knits. The only thing missing from her life was in fact, a cat. But if that had happened, I guess it would have become my life. Minus the hot guy crushing on me.

I quite liked Grace’s character, and she is perhaps the only female gay character I’ve come across in recent times. I am sure there are more. I just haven’t found them yet. As for Phoebe’s best friend, Em, I didn’t like how bossy she was. But given the fact that they’re both teenagers and Em fancies herself a modern day matchmaker like Jane Austen’s Emma, I could see why her character had been built that way.

Phoebe and Dev are adorable together. I was looking forward to their scenes together all throughout the book. Especially Dev’s constant refrain of, “Am I knit worthy yet?” I loved, loved this book. And if you love books, bookish stories and like young adult novels, then this one is definitely for you.
I am looking forward to reading Dramatically Ever After

Rating: