Monday, April 23, 2018

Book Review: The Secret of the Red Crystals by Dr. Sujata Sharma




'Nature is the first scientist in the Universe. The most brilliant and intricate scientist ever.'


Some books come as pleasant surprise.

The Secret of the Red Crystals by Sujata Sharma is one such book for me. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect when I picked this book for I'm not fond of reading biographies. I didn't even like My Story by Kamala Das who is one of favourite authors. But, one thing that the author had said in the mail that made me curious --- she said, 'Though it is a story of a scientist, it can be the story of anyone who dares to dream, and makes up one's mind to achieve the dream "at any cost".'

Plus, Dr. Sujata Sharma is a professor in the Department of Biophysics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

The moment I read the first paragraph, I knew I was going to like it as I really liked the writing style. 

This book is an autobiography, a genre that I do not prefer. It's about a medico's journey of passionate research about Lactoferrin.

You may think it's not your genre, and you wouldn't enjoy reading this book. You may presume that the book would be filled with medical/scientific terms...trust me, you would be wrong.

Even though the story is about medical research, it isn't focused on heavy/intriintricate medical terms. Of course there are many scientific terms but those terms are common (Pretty common if you have a science background) or interesting, particularly the facts about Lactoferrin is very enlightening.

The story is more about chasing your dreams; about being passionate about your goals, about the idea of not giving up no matter what.

And most importantly, it is really well told. Skillfully narrated, Dr. Sujata's writing creates nice imagery. The emotions are very well expressed. The what next factor keeps you intrigued. There are so many insightful lines yet it is not preachy.

My favourite quotes:

'In science and anything else in life, if we leave something unfinished, it comes back and keeps coming back till we resolve it. If a question has arisen, then you need to answer it now.'

'Anyone can pick the low hanging fruits because it is easy to do that. Very few people aim for the high hanging fruits because it's so challenging.'

'Losing hope would be equivalent to losing the entire game.' 

I loved Dr. Sujata's passion and her stubbornness. I loved his mentor and his faith. I would like to read Dr. Sujata's next book. I'd like her to write fiction for she is a good storyteller. 

I would recommend it to every book lover. It's a quick, interesting and insightful read. So go for it.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Book Review: Stories from Saratchandra (Innocence and Reality)









Okay, so I've read Saratchandra after so many years! Thanks to Rupa Publications! Saratchandra's name brings smile and memories as I've read many novels/novellas/short stories by Saratchandra.

Also, I'm not fond of translated works, but then the books/stories by Saratchandra that I have read (and loved) were in Hindi, so of course they were translated. Anindita Mukhopadhyay, as a Translator, has done a really good job! She has managed to keep the essence, innocence & 'the Bengali feel' of the stories.

I loved the cover that seems to be inspired by the second last story, 'Abhaagi's Heaven' where a so called unfortunate woman is left alone to raise her only child.

I love Saratchandra, but I honestly believe that his novels/novellas are better than his short stories.

Stories from Saratchandra: Innocence and Reality has 12 stories, divided in two parts. You can categorize these two sections as innocence & reality (the subtitle) respectively as the first section carries light, innocent stories while the stories in the second section deal with several social issues, like superstitions, caste system, poverty.

I clearly remember the story, 'Childhood Memories'. I like this story. It's touching. There are some stories that I faintly remember. I liked Lalu stories --- full of childhood mischief, carelessness and thoughtfulness. I do not remember reading these. 

It's a good collection, but what I missed in these short stories is --- 'striking end'. They are very casual like someone is narrating his life, sometimes random, incidents.

There are so many better short stories/novellas by Saratchandra that could've been included in this collection. For example --- Ram Ki Sumati (beautiful!!), Swami (my favourite!!), Kashinath, Path-Nirdesh, Shesh Prashn etc.).

For me, reading this book was a refreshing experience. If you like Saratchandra, you should read this. If you haven't read Saratchandra (you haven't!?), then you should definitely read this! :)


Friday, March 30, 2018

Book Review: Sanjay Dutt by Yasser Usman



Sanjay Dutt by Yasser Usman is published by Juggernaut Books --- and the tagline of this biography goes as --- The Crazy Untold Story of Bollywood's BAD BOY

Yes, the book says, 'Before there was Salman Khan, there was Sanjay Dutt.'

When the book arrived, it reminded me of my school/college days when I used to read film magazines with great interest. I'm not that interested now, however, while reading this book, I realized that Indian cinema still interests me. Even though Sanjay Dutt is not my favourite hero, I liked reading this book. He was indeed a crazy man!

'When you look back upon your life, what is it that you would like to change?'

'Kuchh nahin! Given a chance, I would like to live the same life again.'

And, this is insane because this book reveals that Sanjay Dutt's life is full of blunders. 

Quoting the book ---

'Sanjay Dutt was never a great actor in the traditional sense. Yes, he was good at projecting raw primal emotions but in a career spanning more than a hundred films, Sanjay only has around ten noteworthy movies, a poor average by any standards. Then what did people see in him?'

While reading these lines, I remembered an incident. When Sanjay Dutt got arrested for his involvement in 1993 Mumbai bomb blast, a die hard Sanjay Dutt fan tried to defend him. I was still in school, and I did like him in Saajan, but I was so surprised and even argued. 

True, those who loved him, loved him truly.

As the author quotes Shatrughan Sinha ---

When he was alleged that Sanjay knew beforehand about terrorists planning to blow up the Bombay Stock Exchange, Shatrughan Sinha retorted, 'Don't be ridiculous. He doesn't even know what a stock exchange is!'

Sanjay Dutt has lived his life under the protective shadow of  naivety and childishness. The words foolish, stupid, naive have been used (for Sanjay, by several film personalities) so many times that it annoyed me. You can't be naive or childish at the age of 35-40!

This book covers Sanjay Dutt's whole life (till date). His arrogant, stubborn childhood, careless adolescence, and his irresponsible, terribly irresponsible youth (Plus adulthood). It briefly tells the love story of Nargis and Sunil Dutt. It tells about Sanjay's mother's (painfully) unconditional love and patience; his father's undying support and efforts to protect him. About his addiction, about his love affairs, his connection with underworld, his terrible mistakes --- everything!

It has some unseen pictures plus a list of several resources.

'There's old saying about addicts: the addict loves his addiction more than he loves anything or anyone else.'

And, this saying truly reflects in the chapter : Rehab.

'I don't want to come back. I want to have a life on the ranches,' Sanjay said to his father.

While I kept reading the chapters after Rehab, I kept wondering, 'What if Sunil Dutt had agreed with Sanjay Dutt's decision about having a life on the ranches. What if?'

It's a well written book. The book starts (First chapter: Guitars and Tennis Balls (!!) really well, however sometimes it's a tad repetitive (Repeated incidents that we already read in the introduction). Also, I didn't find the last chapter, his current life, that interesting mainly because we already know everything plus there was nothing to know more.

Overall, this book is a fast paced, easy and engaging read. Full of interesting, funny, sometimes lesser known (even though we know a lot about Sanjay's life) incidents and twists. If you have interest in cinema, and even if you are not a Sanjay Dutt fan (like me), you will find this book engaging and interesting.



Monday, March 19, 2018

4 Ways Writing With Pen/Pencil Helps Me



'You still use pen and paper?'

'Haven't heard anyone 'writing in notebooks' in a long time.'

Some people react like this when I say that I still write, quite often, with pen/pencil.

A large part of the first draft of my second book is written in my diary/notebook. If I try to write on a Word document without any rough draft, I find myself staring at the document or wasting time on Social Media. I always create a rough draft, making some basic points in my notebook before I sit down to type. Like I wrote this post, roughly (in 7-8 minutes) in my diary before writing it on Blogger.

And, I believe some writers still do that.

Yes, I like to write with pen, sometimes pencil (As I feel that my handwriting looks better when I use pencil. It's a writing quirk of mine. I feel uncomfortable when, sometimes, I do not like my handwriting), but, I also find it helpful in many ways.

Here, I am listing 4 ways writing with pen helps me as a writer ---

1. It's distraction free (You can read my post, 'Tricks For Distraction-Free Writing)

When I sit down to write in my notebook (I always buy notebooks) or diary (gifted by some people), I usually have a scene or conversation running in my mind, so I don't feel tempted to do anything else (Read check twitter updates), especially because I am away from my computer or phone when I am writing.

2. I don't need to open my computer every time any scene or idea flashes. I just open my notebook. Even if I know that I won't be able to write peacefully or get up after 10 minutes for some other chore (I need at least 2-3 hours of uninterrupted time when I work on my computer or else I get annoyed or don't feel like working), it doesn't annoy or discourage me. I just open my notebook and write.

If you practice even 7-10 minutes of distraction-free, but meaningful writing (using timer is even more effective), you can easily manage 350-400 words.

3. I don't bother about continuity. When I work on Word document, I seek continuity. What I wrote last time, and where to start? I have weird writing pattern. There are so many files in my 'My Second Novel (I've already decided the title though)' folder, scenes scattered here and there.

Of course, I write easily when I have the next scene in my mind, but it really bothers me when I want to write any random scene from --- say 10th chapter (I wrote the last chapter of my second book even before I completed my first draft). In this case, writing in my notebook really helps.

4. The flow of writing is better, my imagination is more vivid when I sit down to type these hand-written scenes. When typing my rough drafts, it's like re-thinking. New scenes, new ideas, various emotions or expressions or any interesting dialogues pop up when I type and then I quickly insert them appropriately.

What about you? Do you write (like writing) with pen? Or are you a keyboard writer? Do you have any writing quirks? Share your thoughts in comment section. Would love to know!





Sunday, March 11, 2018

Book Review: The Temple Bar Woman by Sujata Parashar




The Temple Bar Woman is Sujata Parashar's fourth novel. First for all, I'd like to say that it's very thoughtful of the author to choose this theme. It covers several social issues.

The title of this book is intriguing (the author is known for choosing interesting titles). Also, even though the book is published by a lesser known publisher (Vishwakarma Publications --- at least I haven't heard of this publisher), the book (page, layout, font) looks good & professional. Unlike other books, it has a cast table in the beginning.

The Temple Bar Woman tells the story of an educated and courageous woman Radha aka Rani aka Radhika Chaudhary who after being brutally tortured, ends up at an upscale brothel called 'Temple Bar'.

Rakshit Singh, a young politician and a single parent, is intrigued by Radha's behaviour and wants to know more about her and her past. He comes to know that Radha was found near Temple Bar in a distressed condition, and has lost her memory. He decides to help her and hires her (of course, after spending a lot of money) as her daughter's governess. What Rakshit does not know is that Radha is using him to avenge herself against the man who destroyed her life. 

The writing is neat, however I felt the book needs another round of proofreading as there are some noticeable writing/editing errors like misplaced words, commas & missing quotation marks. 

Descriptions are good especially Temple Bar descriptions. The good thing about this book is that even though it's predictable, I wanted to read it; wanted to know how? However, I couldn't resist wondering if the author could've made this story a little less predictable (And more shocking). The book has been told in omniscient point of view, sometimes shifting point of view. I usually do not like it, but the author has managed it well.

But when I reached the last section of the story, my thoughts about the book started to change. It felt rushed. There is so much 'telling'. I couldn't help thinking 'what is this & why?' The end of the book almost betrayed my eagerness to know the 'how' and the time I invested in this story. Last section of the story is utterly implausible (For example --- role of a prominent character, Mala in the last section).


The interconnected prologue (lengthy) and the epilogue are totally meaningless. And sadly, in the end, the character Rakshit who is so nice, looks like a stupid. 

Overall, for me, it was an average read. I liked reading the first part, but, I believe, the end of a story is very important. You must feel a sense of satisfaction when you finish a story. Don't you think so? However, you can pick this book for a thoughtful theme and strong women characters. 


I received this book from Writer's Melon for an unbiased review.


Friday, March 9, 2018

Cover Reveal: The Bodyguard by Ruchi Singh





Book --- The Bodyguard
Author --- Ruchi Singh



Blurb:


Someone wants Vikramaditya Seth Jr. dead. 

He refuses the Z+ security option offered by the government. With too many variables, trust is hard to come by…

Esha Sinha prepares for her first assignment outside of active-army service, oblivious to the fact that she has to baby-sit a man who has no respect for rules or protocol—a man who is headstrong, a workaholic and a tenacious flirt. As the attraction between Vikram and Esha simmers and sizzles, another attempt is made on his life.  

The killer is resourceful and determined. 

The motive is unclear and perplexing.

Will they be able to nab the assassin before he gets to Vikram?


About the Author:



Winner of TOI WriteIndia Season 1, Ruchi Singh is a novelist, and writes in two genres; romance and romantic thriller. A voracious reader, she loves everything—from classics to memoirs to editorials to chick-lit, but her favourite genre is ‘romantic thriller’. Besides writing and reading, her other interests include dabbling with Indian classical dance forms. 

You can get in touch with the author on her: 

                                                                           Website
                                                                           Facebook Page
                                                                                Twitter
                                                                             Goodreads


Now, I find The Bodyguard really interesting because of this truly empowered female protagonist! Also, I loved the author's previous novel, Jugnu (Also, Take 2); really liked her stories, the characters and her storytelling skills.

So are you ready?


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We Promote So That You Can Write

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Author's Interview: In Conversation With Rupa Bhullar




1. Hello. Welcome to my blog. Please tell us about yourself and your writing journey.

Thank you, Tarang. Pleasure to be a part of it.

I grew up in India and relocated to US in the year 2000. I currently live with my family in New Jersey. My field of education has extensively been business and finance and I serve as the director of finance at a technology corporation. 

Writing, for me, was a rather late discovery. At a certain stage in my life, I found myself on a similar quest to find true meaning, fulfillment and happiness as opposed to mere achievement of goals and superficial pleasures. At that point, for the very first time, I turned towards books that were insightful and sparked questions that enabled me to view the same things from a different perspective. As a result of what I read, my thinking expanded, I started to have thoughts that would come randomly drifting my way in the most bizarre situations - perfectly composed. 

As I stated to capture these, inspiration started flowing in from all directions – mundane life, ordinary people, exciting travel, vivid imagination. Pretty much everything became a medium for me to explore this story that started piecing itself together. Now the story was alive and beating in my heart so the next step - it wanted to be told. I often tried to quiet it down and even dismiss it, but it was relentless. Eventually, a trip to Jodhpur and Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha really prompted me into action.


2. Why do you write? Was it a dream you've nurtured always? 

Writing is like quenching a thirst, sort of a compelling urge that demands its fulfillment. 

When a thought or an idea comes to me, it starts to knock louder and louder until I pay attention and hear what its trying to say. For me, it is as much a journey of exploration as it is a process of gratification. 

I did not grow up reading books, so far from a dream I nurtured, this has been the most contrary and intriguing discovery of my life. But once I made that journey and discovered my love, I knew this would be something I would spend my life in company of.


3. What inspired you write The Indigo Sun?

The Indigo Sun is inspired from life in general and to a great degree my own journey. At some point in life many of us find ourselves at the place we have been walking towards, where we are told lies the promise of happiness. In reality however, very few end up finding meaning in what they see there. Most are left feeling disillusioned and empty, questioning where to from here? 

The Indigo Sun is a journey that starts at a similar place and backtracks to the source of happiness through the means of travel, relationships, experiences and reconnecting. It is life’s philosophy captured through Maya’s journey.


4. How did you choose this beautiful title for your book? Do you think title plays an important role to make a book catchy? 

One of the defining moments for this book was a trip to Jodhpur. This place left me greatly inspired and I could feel fragments of my story alive and thriving in all that surrounded me. It was this sense of belonging for the story that led me to borrow the title from Jodhpur- known as the Sun city and the Indigo city. I decided to call it ‘The Indigo Sun’. 

I believe a title carries the responsibility of containing the entire book in a few words. It has to be catchy for sure but when it is also relevant, it opens the right doors for the story to be told. It is certainly as important as the story if not more.


5. What’s your pattern of writing? Do you plan before writing or just go with the flow? 

My writings are very spontaneous. I never plan when I will write or what I will write about. It is an absolute surrender, whenever inspiration strikes, and wherever the story leads. It is a very exciting process when I open my laptop as I have no idea who I will end up meeting today or where I will end up going. Writing becomes quite an adventure and I look forward to it. 

What is also exciting is that the writer is not always in command of the story or the characters. They seem to have a mind of their own. The story then becomes a delightful dance where you suggest, and they accept, or they lead, and you follow. It’s fascinating. With the writing of a book though, I wrote whenever I found time which was mostly Fridays through Sundays. As a writer, I do feel that my writing needs to be rooted in some level of reality, an experience I have had, a place I have visited, a life incident I’ve heard. I certainly don’t belong in the space of writers who can spin fantasy worlds out of thin air. 


6. Interesting! Would you like to talk about your upcoming projects?

Absolutely. I’m planning to start my next book which would be a complex maze of human relationships and emotions. It should be a lighter and faster paced read. Set somewhere in US, Italy, Calcutta and Lucknow, this story will have flashbacks into 50s from now. Modern day relationships, present day commitments and everything that falls within the spectrum of love, life and marriage. It will be a love story at heart but not in a stereotypical sense. I am very excited about this one.


7. Sounds intriguing! Looking forward. Okay, as a writer, what you think ruins a story? 

Attachment to your own writing. Writing a book is always a learning curve but my most important takeaway from my first book is the ability to distance ‘your’ writing from ‘the’ story. It’s not what you think that’s important but what the story demands and as an author, the discipline to hit the delete key is as critical as the writing process.


8. Is there any particular genre you find difficult to write? If yes, which one?

I find myself challenged at writing about all else but what comes most naturally to me which is life, love, relationships and everything that makes us human. Writing in that sense is just an extension of who I am. I will experiment within this space, but I don ‘t see myself writing a mystery or a thriller for the life of me.


9. Getting traditionally published is every author’s dream. How was your journey of getting published by a big publishing house like Rupa? 

Certainly, it is. The journey for me was exceptionally smooth and I feel very fortunate. During a meeting with Mr. Kapish Mehra, I earnestly brought forward that while I could delegate my work skills to anyone. What I could not delegate was my experience of life and my perspective on it. Only I could tell this story the way it needed to be told. Being a visionary that he is, he encouraged me to write and the rest as they say is history. The entire team at Rupa from the editorial to design to marketing has collaborated to make this book what it is today. I’m a very small part of it and could not have done this alone.


10. Your favourite Book – Author – Genre? 

The Alchemist. Paulo Coelho. Philosophy


11. Any words of encouragement for aspiring writers who crave and struggle to get into the ‘published author world’?
When someone asks me how I did it, I say either I was too naive, very hopeful or completely deluded to think this could ever be. But it happened. All I would say is believe in yourself and in the power of stories that want to be told. Don’t overthink, don’t second guess, just keep writing. It need not be perfect, it need not be unique, it just needs to be yours and that makes all difference. 

It's a pleasure to have you here on my blog. Thank you for your time. I wish you all the very best!




Saturday, March 3, 2018

Seize The Day!





The shadow of past
Overpowering future
Still and stiff present

New day arrives with
Renewed hopes and promises
Learn to seize the day!



When you try to make your day better, it means that you have moved on and learnt from your past (That's really important), and you are focusing on a better future as your tomorrow, to some extent, depends on today's efforts. So, yes. Seize the day!


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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Book Review: The Paradise Flycatcher by Deepak Dalal





Author: Deepak Dalal
Illustrator: Krishna Bala Shenoy
No. of Pages: 128
Age group: 8 to 13 Years
Publisher: Penguin India

The Paradise Flycatcher by Deepak Dalal is, of course, a children's book. I am someone who used to read comics and children's book even in her college days. My best friend (and many others) used to laugh at me whenever she heard me talking about comic characters with little children.

It's been a very long time since I read a children's book! My first review copy in this genre is here.

It's a colourful book with lots of beautiful pictures --- apt for children. 





It's a suspense/mystery; an adventurous story about finding a squirrel (of rare species), Shikhar, and rescuing him from a terrible human trap. Of course, the Paradise Flycatcher, the exotic, breathtakingly beautiful Bird, plays a key role.

There's a very kind girl, Mitalee who truly loves Shikhar (she calls him Snowdrop), and wants him back anyhow! There's a boy called Maitreya, a foe turned friend, who helps her in this journey. And, there are lots of lovely birds who act as scouts to solve the mystery!

The writing is neat and easy to understand. At the same time, children can learn new, interesting words. Also, the story is educational in many ways as it teaches a lot of things without being preachy. 





What does The Paradise Flycatcher teach?


To be strong when difficulties hit you. Whimpering never helps. You must keep trying.

'This isn't the time for weakness. Your best friend, Shikhar, would never behave like this! If it were the other way round and you were missing, he would be scurrying everywhere and searching for you instead of crying. So, stop this moaning and help us.'


To be kind. And to accept your mistakes.

Maitreya: I made mistakes.
Mitalee: Choosing wrong friends for starters.
Maitreya: That I did.
Mitalee: And, injuring a squirrel.
Maitreya: Don't remind me. That was the most shameful deed of my life. Still haunts me.
Mitalee: It should. It was a terrible thing you did.

Greed Never Pays.

Also, there are some subtle lessons on names of rivers and different species of exotic birds!

Certainly an engaging and thrilling read for your children. Not just children, even parents can enjoy reading this. So, it's perfect for buddy-reading with your kid.

I felt that the end could have been a little softer for Chintu, the not-so-nice boy in the story. A sense of realization is very important. And, it could have been another lesson for kids and parents as well.

A delightful book!


I received the book from the publisher for an unbiased review.

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