30 April, 2019

#BookReview :: Zero Day (John Puller #1) by David Baldacci

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When a family is murdered in West Virginia, John Puller is sent to investigate it because of the military connection of the family. John arrives in the area and starts stirring up trouble along with the local homicide detective Samantha Cole. What was meant to be a simple murder investigation turns into something much more with different agencies watching. With the rising body counts, will John Puller be able to solve the case?

The plot was interesting. The author unveils the different layers of the plot in instalments in order to build up the tension in the story and the thrills for the reader. There are so many angles that the plot converges from that it is at times overwhelming. The other thing that I enjoyed about the book was the way that the author has described everything in details; from the characters to the setting to the plot elements. He discusses social issues with same fervor as he describes the military. This may be an issue for some readers, but I love details when delivered properly. 

Now here’s my issue - I tried my best to get into the story with an open mind, but the parallels between the Jack Reacher and John Puller were uncanny. Physically big, good at throwing punches and travels light – these describe both Reacher and Puller! (If you didn’t catch the two names before, you should now!) Add to it the complicated father-son relationship and a brother who had an influential and important job that was cut short. Only thing that differentiates the two characters is that John Puller has PTSD and Jack Reacher doesn’t. Having read 23 Jack Reacher novels before picking this book up, it was really difficult for me to reign in my disappointment in John Puller because the author failed to develop the character’s individuality even with the different styles of narration.

Jack Reacher was first published way back in 1997 while John Puller was released in 2011.  People who have not read Jack Reacher Series may be able to enjoy this book. But being a Jack Reacher fan, I do not think I can recommend this book to others.

This post is a part of A to Z Challenge and BlogchatterA2Z

29 April, 2019

#SpecialFeature :: #Interview with Ruchi Singh, #Author of Undercover Series

*** Special Feature - April 2019 ***

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, 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?

Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon

Interview with the Author:

Welcome to my Blog! Tell me, what is the first book that made you fall in love?
RS: ‘The Reluctant Widow’ by Georgette Heyer was the first book I had read which had such a poignant and playful romance that I could never forget the story even after three decades. The protagonists are thrown together by some unusual circumstances and they fall in love as the situation is untangled.

What is the first book that made you cry?
RS: There are many. But I don’t remember the first one. I remember crying during ‘The Roots’, a Alex Hailey novel and of course ‘The Thorn Birds’ by Colleen McCullough. Both made me cry and there were some lesser known ones’ too, but these two definitely standout.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
RS: As far as I remember I have always choosne a novel by looking at the reviews and word of mouth. So nothing pops up readily on the memory lane. 
Please don’t think of me a narcissist, but I think ‘Jugnu’ comes into that category. As far as the emotions and romance is concerned I think Jugnu is far better than others in my portfolio, but sadly it didn’t get the kind of reaction I hoped it would. Maybe I should change it’s cover.

What did you do with your first check from your books?
RS: Well, I took my family for dinner. 😊

Have you ever been on a literary pilgrimage? Do you plan to?
RS: No. I have no plans as of now, but may plan in the future.

What part of the publishing process excites you the most? Which part do you like the least?
RS: Editing the first draft of a novel is very exciting because the story is complete. There is a sense of accomplishment, and excitement of presenting it to readers. I don’t like marketing my books and hate blowing my own trumpet, but I guess one can’t do without it.

How many drafts do you usually write?
RS: It depends on the genre. If it is an emotional romance it takes me at least 6 to 7 drafts. For a thriller I am usually done by the 4th.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while creating your books?
RS: I still have trouble believing that I am capable of writing 60K+ words.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
RS: No.

If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?
RS: Don’t be too honest and open with everyone. People judge very fast.

Who do you personally favour more and why?
· Vikram or Nikhil 
· Esha or Ayesha
RS: Very difficult question :) thinking… thinking… 
It’s not fair, all of them are my creation! Amongst the four I’ll choose Esha and Ayesha. lol… 
On a serious note, if I have to choose I’ll choose Nikhil for his fierce loyalty, and Ayesha for the courage she shows despite being a rookie.

What are the most unethical practices in the publishing industry?
RS: Publishing house taking money from the author for publishing their book. I have also seen that personal friendship/ acquaintance play a major role in getting one’s book published. I guess this happens in every field. Basic human nature is to favor a friend.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

RS: Yes, I do. I read all of them. The best way to approach the reviews is with a dispassionate mind and look for pointers where one can improve. Do not get swayed with a very positive one and do not get de-motivated with a bad one. Its’ okay, not everyone is going to like your book/work, so treat a bad review as a mismatch between the book and the reader.

About the Author:
Author of the bestselling romantic thriller ‘The Bodyguard’, Ruchi Singh is an IT professional turned novelist. Her other published novels are ‘Take 2’, ‘Jugnu (Firefly)’ and the recent one ‘Guardian Angel’ a spin off from ‘The Bodyguard’. Winner of TOI Write India Season 1, Ruchi has also published short stories under the collection, ‘Hearts and Hots', besides being a contributing author to many anthologies.

A voracious reader, she loves everything—from classics to memoirs to editorials to chick-lit, but her favourite genre is 'romantic thriller'. She has also reviewed many contemporary works of authors. The reviews are published on her website www.ruchisingh.com

Besides writing and reading, her other interests include dabbling in Indian classical dance forms.

Contact the Author:


  • Rs. 250/- Amazon Gift Card + Kindle Copy of The Bodyguard to the first lucky winner
  • Kindle Copy of The Bodyguard to the second lucky winner

a Rafflecopter giveaway

#BookReview :: You Belong To Me by Mary Higgins Clark

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Dr. Susan Chandler is a District Attorney turned Psychologist who hosts a radio show. When she invites people to engage about women who went missing and later on turned up dead, she has no idea the hornet’s nest she was stirring up. A caller provides information about a lady who went missing from a cruise ship; a chain reaction is set in motion. Soon there are bodies dropping in order to stop Susan from investigating further. But Susan is determined and realizes that she could be on the killers list next.

I found the character of Susan Chandler to be really interesting. To have served as a district attorney says a lot about her determination and talent. The fact that she then turned to Psychology and hosts a radio show, further intrigued me about her. It is an interesting set of skills that she has and as such it moulds her into a character that was just perfect for this case. Armed with knowledge of both the law and the human psyche, she embarks on a journey that not only tests her skills but also her grit.

Mary Higgins Clark has a style of storytelling that one can always depend upon; every time a book disappoints me, I go back to read one her books to get me out of the funk. This book was no exception. She has cleverly woven a story with drama, mystery and action that keeps the readers turn the pages right till the end. You Belong To Me offers up quite a few red herrings to the readers in order to keep them guessing. While I found every element of the book interesting, I have to say I was slightly disappointed by the antagonist’s motives. While the book rounds up well enough, the actual motive bothered me for a while. And that is the only reason that I am not rating this book a complete five stars.

If you like mysteries and haven’t read Mary Higgins Clark, you definitely should.

This post is a part of A to Z Challenge and BlogchatterA2Z

28 April, 2019

#Interview with Alexander McCall Smith, #Creator of Mma Precious Ramotswe

I first met Mma Precious Ramotswe in 2002 when I came across a copy of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency at a local lending library in Kolkata. I fell in love with the character, the country and the written words of that book. Over the years the series has been a constant in my life and Mma Precious has been a ray of hope with her understanding of human nature, her generosity and kindness towards the people around her. 

So, when I got an impromptu opportunity to talk to the creator of Mma Precious, I grabbed it instantly. As I was headed to the meeting, if anyone had stopped and asked me to spell my own name, I would have failed miserably. I met with Mr. Alexander McCall Smith with shaky legs and trembling voice, convinced that I was making a complete fool of myself. 

Alexander McCall Smith, humble and always a gentleman first, put us at ease with his jolly nature and his ever present smile as we discussed his books, the present publishing scene and how we all need a bit of ‘more time’ for reading in our lives!

On Mma Precious Ramotswe:

Mma Precious Ramotswe is a wonderful woman. I wanted to write about a woman living in Botswana and I wanted to capture just how intuitive and how pleasant many such people are. So, I invented the character of Precious Ramotswe, who is a very kind woman and she is very forgiving. Those are her main traits. She is generally the sort of person one would like to have a cup of tea with. 

The important thing about her is that she is very positive and takes a positive view of life. That is something that chimes with people because the world can be a very upsetting place; it is full of confrontation and conflicts. People like to spend time in company of a character who believes in treating other people with respect, decency and indeed kindness. And that… is why she is quite popular with readers.

On Mma Precious Ramotswe’s detection methods:

Detection is a secondary part of her. She works as a detective and calls herself a Private Detective. It is not really crime that she works with. She works with little mysteries in people’s lives, psychological problems, maybe a bit of bad behavior here and there. But effectively she is concerned in helping people with the problems in their lives. It is more about human nature and it is also about the place. I think the place often very important in such novels

On Botswana:

I have lived in Botswana and worked at the university there. It is a very peaceful and attractive place. I thought that it was just a very interesting country and I liked the people there. So, it was the desire to share my fondness for the country that made me write about the country.

On Publishing Scene in India:

The publishing scene in India is very healthy.  Just look at the variety of titles that are being published here. It’s brilliant.

On Jaipur Literature Festival:

This is a wonderful festival. It is absolutely one of the top literary festivals in the world. So many things about it are so good; the fact that this is a free festival and nobody is stopped from coming for financial reason. The fact is that there is such a wonderful atmosphere here and there’s a buzz about it. The events are so interesting; so many different authors, so many different voices and so many different subjects. It is marvelous.

What’s coming up:

I have just started working on the 20th Volume of No.1 Ladies Detective Agency. I am writing the next volume of my children’s series, the Tobermory series. And I am also working on the 13th volume of my Scotland Street Series. During this year, I plan to publish six books… So more books, expect more book!

As we walked out, I realized that the author is one of those rare personalities whose mere presence could teach you something of value. 

If you are someone who would like to know more about the author and his books, aside from the Author's Personal Website, here's where you can dig around:

The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency 
44 Scotland Street Series 
 Isabel Dalhousie Series

Special Thanks to Jaipur Literature Festival & Teamwork Arts for making this possible. 


27 April, 2019

#BookReview :: X (Kinsey Millhone #24) by Sue Grafton

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Set in the 1980s, Kinsey Millhone is the protagonist of Sue Grafton's Alphabet series. As a private investigator with a very practical outlook towards life, when she is approached by a lady to find her son, Kinsey feels that it would be an easy case and few easy bucks. Then she finds out that she was paid with marked bills and the client is nowhere to be found. At the same time, while trying to help a friend’s widow, Kinsey stumbles upon a coded list which leads her towards a sociopath. Maybe Kinsey has bitten off more than she can chew this time. Or maybe, Kinsey is the only one who can solve these two cases and come out on top.

What I enjoyed about this book was the multiple storylines that are followed in this story book. Aside from the two main cases demanding Kinsey’s attention, there is more going on in the book. It may feel like filling to some people, but I enjoyed that there were so many things going on in the book. It kept me involved along with Kinsey. Some had easy solutions and one needed more attention than the other.  I kept asking myself if these were all somehow connected throughout and got the answer towards the end.

I liked the character of Kinsey quite a bit. There is no doubt that she is smart and intelligent – she had to be in order to be able to make a name for herself in the field that she had chosen for herself. She is also very practical and has a no-nonsense attitude that I liked. The way she observes rather than just seeing things reminded me of the conversation that Sherlock and Watson had in ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’. 

Even with so many things running parallel, and with a protagonist like Kinsey Millhone, the book had a few places where I could feel it drag a bit. That coupled with a predictable ending, the book just missed the mark by a bit. But yes, I would certainly like to read more of this series and Kinsey Millhone.

This post is a part of A to Z Challenge and BlogchatterA2Z

26 April, 2019

#BookReview :: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

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August “Auggie” Pullman was born with certain facial differences that needed a lot of surgery and yet his looks are not what ‘society’ would term as normal. He had been homeschooled by his mother for so long but it is time for him to step out of the cocoon and face the real world. With his family at his back and the option of leaving if he feels too uncomfortable, Auggie steps into the real world by enrolling in the 5th grade of Breecher Prep School. Navigating school life with all the rules and bullies is hard enough for every kid, but Auggie has it slightly harder because people cannot seem to get past his looks.

I hardly have the words for this book. It was hilarious and depressing at the same time. As a reader I could not help but FEEL the highs and lows right alongside Auggie. The book covers a lot of elements including friendship, sacrifices, the superficial outlook of the society and actual struggle to fit in.

Auggie is smart, he is witty and he is compassionate and yet all people see is the deformed face. Some kids are downright mean, some avoid him and some are pretend friends. Who do you think is the worst of the lot? That just makes you stop in your track and think. Sometimes it is best not to say anything when you have nothing nice to say. Sometimes looking away can hurt more than anything else. And being kind never hurts anyone but uplifts everyone around. 

The book also offers different perspectives through other people around Auggie that helps the reader understand the struggle of people around Auggie as well. Some do shock you but some help the reader empathize and some help get to the core to understand the society’s reactions. And there are some that surprise you in a good way. But each perspective adds up to tell Auggie’s story without wavering. 

This is one book that needs to be read multiple times by everybody to help remind us that being kind is so important in this unkind world.

This post is a part of A to Z Challenge and BlogchatterA2Z

25 April, 2019

#BookReview :: Verdict of Twelve by Raymond Postgate

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In Verdict of the Twelve, author Raymond Postgate tell us about a murder case through the different participants at the trial.

The book is barely 250 pages long yet offers so much to its reader. On the face of it, the book deals with a murder case and the trial after. But the way the author has presented it to the readers makes it so much more than a murder case or a trial drama. In the first section of the book, the author takes his time in introducing each of the twelve jurors in detail with details about their lives and their backgrounds. That is when we realize the diversity of the society we live in. The second section of the book deals with the murder case and its representation in the trial. This is where the readers get to consider the nitty-gritties of the evidence and motives of the case. The final section of the book we see the jurors as they deliberate and reach a verdict. Will you agree with it or will the ending drive you crazy?

The wide variety of characters involved keeps the book interesting as the readers are kept on their toes by wondering how each piece of information is being received by each individual and how that would affect the big picture. The case itself was interesting as it could be seen as open and shut case and yet leave you wondering if there was something more going on. The author’s language and style of narration is in line with that of typical British crime classics and build up a feeling of nostalgia at the same time.

Have you ever considered how you can experience something that millions other have before you, yet the way you experience it is never exactly the same with any of them? Have you ever realized, while in a crowd, that you may have nothing in common with any of the others? Have you ever considered why you think the way you do or how you react to a situation can be a culmination of several past experiences or how you can build up prejudices or mistrust of some people or something without even realizing it? These are just some of the things that the book will compel you to think about long after you have turned the last page.

I recommend this book to all crime genre enthusiasts and to people who like books that highlight various aspects of human nature.

This post is a part of A to Z Challenge and BlogchatterA2Z

24 April, 2019

#BookReview :: The Undoing Dance by Srividya Natarajan

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The Undoing Dance by Srivisya Natarajan tells us the story of not only Kalyani, but also the story of the Devadasi system that prevailed in our society.

Set in southern parts of India, post-independence, the book starts off with Kalyani’s story. Born into a family of devadasis, she is forced to cover up her lineage and marry into an influential family. Her day to day struggles caused by the conflict that she feels within herself.  But how long can she keep her roots a secret? Will her inner turmoil be replicated in her real life as her secrets are threatened?

Traditionally, the devadasi system was revered. Girls were married to a deity and would then dedicate their lives to the temple and learn the religious rituals and rites attached to it. They would also learn and perform various cultural dance forms like Bharatanatyam and Oddissi as a part of their devotion. Yes, they would bear children of influential people and priests – but there was no stigma attached to their lifestyle. The sex was just an accepted part of their lifestyle and they were well respected and even revered for their status and talent. The problem arose when people stopped differentiating between devadasis and common prostitutes. People started exploiting the system to push girls into prostitution and once the Madras Devdasi Act was put in place, it was difficult for the system to survive as they lost the patronage of the wealthy and were financially crippled. 

The book covers the predicament of the devadasi system. Some of the women in the system who were pushed into it were not happy living that lifestyle and that is a fact. But the fact is also that there were women who embraced this lifestyle and even thrived in it. They were free to explore their art and had a level of freedom and respect that the average women of that era usually did not command. They were welcomed at societal functions and their presence was considered as a good omen. 

The author has done a good job of portraying different characters and their plights and intentions distinctly. For instance I could understand the conflicts that Kalyani felt and at the same time I could also understand the conflict that Kalyani’s mother-in-law felt. Yet there was a feeling of wrongness at places. Covering a system that has been highly debated about and an art form that can always be interpreted in different ways can be a daunting task. And the only negative aspect of the book is that at most places the author has ended up ‘telling’ us her point of view instead of ‘showing’ us the bigger picture. 

The book had me feeling really involved at places and unsettled at others. I take the fact that the author managed to invoke such reactions through this book, for whatever reasons, as a good thing. I’d recommend this book to people who like to read fiction that closely reflect our reality and to those who have an interest in knowing more about the devadasis with a note to read it with an open mind.

Review Copy received from Juggernaut

This post is a part of A to Z Challenge and BlogchatterA2Z

23 April, 2019

#BookReview :: Travails with the Alien by Satyajit Ray

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I have been a huge fan of Satyajit Ray since I could read on my own and has been an influence on my reading habits ever since. Mystery has been my favourite genre because I started reading with Feluda. My interest in SciFi is primarily because of Professor Shonku while my interest in supernatural is mainly thanks to Tarinikhuro.  Besides being a prolific author, Satyajit Ray was a talented screen writer, lyricist, music composer, graphic artist, calligrapher and one of the best filmmakers the world has ever seen. 

‘Travails with the Alien’ is his journey of trying to get his script about a friendly alien to come alive on screen.  Ray wrote the script of the film based loosely on his short story ‘Bonku Babur Bondhu’ hoping to make the-first-of-its-kind movie in India. Encouraged by the famous sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke, Ray pitched his screenplay to Hollywood. What followed was described ‘ordeals with the alien’ by Ray himself. Numerous visits to US, UK and France and countless meetings and correspondence resulted in nothing. What was probably Ray’s most ambitious project, never took off.

Failures and disappointments are part of an artist’s life. And Ray knew that well enough. His project never seeing the light of the day was one thing, but seeing the plot similarities in E.T. and the physical appearance of the alien in Close Encounters of the Third Kind had uncanny resemblance to his sketches for The Alien. While the world welcomed, praised and applauded these two movies by Steven Spielberg about over a decade later, Ray’s own hopes of his project ever taking off was quashed forever. The resemblances and the similarities are well known by all Satyajit Ray fans and it bothers me still that no credit was ever given to him for it. This book brings forth the original script by Ray and his correspondence over the period as kind of a proof of the claims of the Ray fans.

Aside from the original script and the collection of correspondence the book also offers the translated version of ‘Bonku Babur Bondhu’, translation of an epic interview of the author on All India Radio and also traces the Maestro’s love and affinity for science fiction.

This book should be of interest to sci-fi lovers, film enthusiasts and is a must have for Satyajit Ray fans for being the bonanza that it is.

Review Copy received from Harper Collins India

This post is a part of A to Z Challenge and BlogchatterA2Z

22 April, 2019

#SpecialFeature :: #GuestPost - Written Words - The Past and The Present by Ruchi Singh

*** Special Feature - April 2019 ***

About the Book:
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, 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?

Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon

Written Words - The Past and The Present

As far as I remember, I have always been reading… and reading a lot. My mother used to threaten that she would burn the books one day, and my husband is still jealous of the time I spend with them.

When I look back at my reading history I realize I have always loved fiction, be it any genre; romance, suspense, crime, mythology, fantasy or a mix of any of these. It has fueled my imagination and entertained me immensely. 

Major contributors and influencers have been my school library and my father’s collection. I read both in English and Hindi.

The magic must have been in the air when I found Nancy Drew ‘The Mystery of 99 steps’. Though I don’t remember the entire story, I can still feel the lingering euphoria when the mystery was solved. Nancy Drew was my first mystery/ suspense heroine. 

The second wave of magic weaved its spell when I issued Georgette Heyer’s ‘The Reluctant Widow’ from the senior library, which was the only novel in the library apart from classics. With Lord Carlyon the handsome hero and Miss Rochdale a courageous heroine, I was hurled into the world of adventure, suspense, and romance, in that order. 

I was addicted!

When there were no books available I read Daphne Du Maurier, Prem Chand’s novels in Hindi, from my father’s collection, and ChandraKanta Santati (the first fantasy series for me).

As the time went by I came across two authors Jeffery Archer (Prodigal Daughter) and Frederick Forsyth (Day of Jackal) and read all the books published by them wherever I could lay my hands on them. I came to realize I am loyal to one author at a time.

So, after my reading affair ended with the above two, the sequence of my author-fan phase went something like this; Mario Puzo, Ayn Rand, Robert Ludlum (great writer), Sydney Sheldon, John Grisham, Harry Potter series, Dan Brown, Judith McNaught, Meg Cabot (courtesy my daughter) Georgette Heyer, Nora Roberts, … the list is endless.

As I switched to the other side without any credentials (I am an IT professional) and won a few story contests, I realized storytelling came naturally to me. When I began to get good reviews for the novels too I knew its all because of my multi-genre reading spree. And the credit goes to the authors who have showed me how to weave a motion picture with words. I salute them on this day for painting such a rich story-world for me to absorb, learn and put the knowledge to my writing.

Needless to say, I strongly believe a person who wants to be a good author has to read a lot. The knowledge on pacing and structuring of a story comes only with reading good stories, thereby getting to know the nuances of storytelling.

The power of written words is to fire up the imagination of a reader, and that is what I plan to do with my stories and novels.

And read I will…

Till we meet next…

About the Author:
Author of the bestselling romantic thriller ‘The Bodyguard’, Ruchi Singh is an IT professional turned novelist. Her other published novels are ‘Take 2’, ‘Jugnu (Firefly)’ and the recent one ‘Guardian Angel’ a spin off from ‘The Bodyguard’. Winner of TOI Write India Season 1, Ruchi has also published short stories under the collection, ‘Hearts and Hots', besides being a contributing author to many anthologies.

A voracious reader, she loves everything—from classics to memoirs to editorials to chick-lit, but her favourite genre is 'romantic thriller'. She has also reviewed many contemporary works of authors. The reviews are published on her website www.ruchisingh.com

Besides writing and reading, her other interests include dabbling in Indian classical dance forms.

Contact the Author:


  • Rs. 250/- Amazon Gift Card + Kindle Copy of The Bodyguard to the first lucky winner
  • Kindle Copy of The Bodyguard to the second lucky winner

a Rafflecopter giveaway

#BookReview :: The Seven Year Dress by Paulette Mahurin

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I find the subject of holocaust to be fascinating and depressing at the same time. Every time I read a book that covers holocaust, whether real or fiction, it leaves me drained for days. The Seven Year Dress is the story of a real survivor presented in a fictional form.

The story starts with a young girl looking for accommodation and meeting Helen Stein. She feels that the questions asked by Helen were very personal and though she feels uncomfortable, she ends up renting from Helen. The readers then find out more about Helen who was born and brought up Germany in 1930s. She grew with love from her family and seeing hatred on the streets. This book is her journey from being a young carefree girl to ending up in Auschwitz.

The author has done an impeccable job of painting the character of Helen. The character grew through the book from a young soul to that of an old soul through her experiences. Through the protagonist, the author has painted a picture of what life was like for the common people and the Jews in that period.  What I liked the best about the book was the part in Auschwitz that portrays human bonds at its rawest form. The fact that there was hope and kindness in a camp like that is unnerving yet optimistic.

The author has also explored the idea that sexuality is a part of one’s identity with the backdrop of the war. On one hand, we see Helen’s rollercoaster journey taking her to places she couldn’t have imagined all the while growing into and accepting her sexuality irrespective of the situations that she was in. On the other hand, through her best friend we see the plight of a gay man during the Nazi reign.

The title of the book, which originally confused me in the beginning, comes from a dress that Max had gifted Helen. What that dress stood for and why it meant so much to Helen will be clear once you read the book and in turn help you understand the title. All in all, this was an interesting book to read. Depressing at times, this only goes to show how capable an author Paulette Mahurin is, it is a heavy book that needs to be given time and attention.

Review Copy received from the Author

This post is a part of A to Z Challenge and BlogchatterA2Z

21 April, 2019

Stealing a moment from the #Author of The Book Thief

It is testament to the power an author’s words wield over his audience when he draws the one of the biggest crowds. We reached the venue of the session half an hour before, and were able to get a front row seat. As the crowd increased, book lovers even sat on the warm grass of the lawn. When we looked behind, we could see the audience standing even outside the hall, quite happy to even hang on to his words, if not be blown over by the smile he had as he spoke. Perhaps some of the organizers and volunteers may have been surprised, but knowing the author’s most celebrated work, we weren’t surprised to see so many bibliophiles waiting to steal some moments from Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief, I am Messenger, and his most recent work, Bridge of Clay.

A book lover who sat nearby narrated her experience to us. She had met Markus wandering in the book shop at the venue, and approached him for an autograph, and he had not just signed the book but personalized it for her. We knew at that moment he was humble, approachable. This was assured when we saw him at the other end of the venue as he waited to go on the dais. While the organizer assigned to the session requested fans to be seated and not approach for selfies with the author, Markus himself was as calm as a cucumber, not losing that charming smile of his for even one moment. We record his session for a while, hearing him express his gratitude for accepting his work The Book Thief, and taking it to the heights to which it has gone. He even jokes about the cricket between Australia and India, immediately putting the audience at ease, if they weren’t already. After that, we go away from the video, and just listen. One can’t help but be captured by his words. 

It takes us a while, a day in fact, before we can get that chance of a lifetime. An interview with an author we have admired. We know we are nervous, but it is a happy nervousness. As we try to break the ice with an apology for the nervousness, he just shrugs it off calmly. He talks with us as if we’re three friends catching up over coffee. For us, though, he’s a superstar. 

Markus Zusak’s latest offering Bridge of Clay is a novel that has a constantly shifting chronology. That in itself offers a challenge, but to add to that, the book has a lot of characters and is narrated from the point of view of a single character. We thought this might have made the book difficult to shape. 

When we ask him about it, he doesn’t seem to think about it before he replies. “I wanted the book to feel tidal”, he says, “like the tides going in and out. For Clay, water is important in the book, because he is building a bridge. I always wanted that idea, that the waters then come together. Yeah, it was hard, but I guess then it is a different way of writing, and the struggles are also good struggles.In the end, I just stuck with a present-past-present-past kind of structure, and the things come closer and closer and closer together.”

Any reader who has read The Book Thief would know that Death plays a big part in the novel. While Bridge of Clay doesn’t have Death as a character or narrator, even this novel has death in a significant way. A heart-rending subject but put in a distinct manner in both books, we wondered if that has an impact on the reception of the book from his readers. We asked him about that. 

“I try not to think about it. I love all my readers and they have been quite good to me, quite generous, on the whole, but sometimes they can be punishing when they don’t like the book, or they can be quite dismissive. I am grateful to the readers for taking The Book Thief to where it has gone. I think there comes a point in every book where you cross a line, or two different lines, one that says I’ve been trying to look after you for this long in the writing of this book to keep you reading this, to keep you loving this. The second line is that you are always trying to please the readers, and you’re trying to make them happy, but then there comes a point when you say, I’m writing this book for the characters in the book, and that’s who I write for in the end. When I’m writing the end of a book, I’m writing for Liesel and Rudy and Max and Clay and Penelope or Michael. When I read for someone and they say, why are you crying they’re not real, I say they are real to me coz I’m inside them.”

As readers, we can understand that last part. We’ve fallen in love with the characters too, so in a way, we too feel they are real, and we feel the sting of their departures at the end. 

Even though we try not to do it, at times other books do influence our perception of a book. If that’s the case, we wonder if an author’s style is influenced by the script of a movie based on his book. We ask Markus about this, if his inputs were sought on the script of The Book Thief, and if it was, did it have an influence on his writing style for Bridge of Clay. 

Not at all,” he replies. “I didn’t do any work on the script of The Book Thief. I think that is a good thing that I don’t have control of the movie.” We share that we thought Sophie Nelisse was the perfect fit to play Liesel Meminger in the movie. “It was the one thing I found for that film, I found Sophie. I looked through thousands, and I suggested her to the movie company, and she ended up getting the role. 

Having heard Markus Zusak talk earlier, we thought that he felt Bridge of Clay was his magnum opus. Readers worldwide might consider The Book Thief to be that magnum opus. We asked him about his thoughts on that.

“I think they are different from each other. Bridge of Clay is going to be a tougher book for people to read. The Book Thief has a lot of exuberance and a lighter touch. Bridge of Clay doesn’t depend on Death as the narrator, it’s an epic of a book. With The Book Thief, I feel like I went too far sometimes, though I don’t regret that because I look back and think that was better than not going far enough. Bridge of Clay is a book that demands more of the reader, but I also think the rewards are greater for that. I can’t decide on that. To my mind, Bridge of Clay is actually the better book and its purely because, at least from a writing point of view, but doesn’t mean the world has to agree with me. There’s this idea now that The Book Thief is universally loved, but when I go back and look at the early review, even the local Sydney Herald didn’t necessarily give it a favorable review. Over years, and years, it found the heart of so many readers, even some critics. Readers might forget all that stuff, but the writer never forgets.”

In an earlier interview, MZ had said that all he wanted to do was write someone’s favorite book. There’s no doubt that he has done that, with so many across the world embracing The Book Thief as they have done. We wondered if that was still a factor that drives MZ to write. 

“I think it’s the ambition I have when I sit down to write,” he says. “But it is not front and centre. With Bridge of Clay, you could say it was the opposite. Many have come to me and said that The Book Thief was their favorite book. So this time, I thought I had to write with the idea that Bridge of Clay would be nobody’s favorite book. Am I still gonna have the courage to write, and write it the way I have to write it? Because ultimately, you cannot sell someone their favorite book. You gotta write it first, and write it for what it is, make it beautiful within itself, and as I said earlier, write it for the characters within the book, and forget the reader. The irony of that is that’s the only chance you have of writing someone’s favorite book. You have to try, and that’s the hard ambition, but falling short is no surprise."
We ask MZ if writing Bridge of Clay has changed him as a writer in some way. 

“Absolutely, and in one thing, it stands very small. And that is, up until Bridge of Clay, that I thought I really loved writing. When I wrote Bridge of Clay, I had lot of problems, lot of hardships writing that book, in the actual writing, you know. All the rest of my life is going really well, and so my love for writing was really put on the line hundreds and hundreds of times. Matthew, the narrator in Bridge of Clay, I think writes that book to understand his brother and in the process he realizes how much he loves im and misses him and wants him to come home. I think that’s what writing Bridge of Clay was for me. I was waiting to come home again to the realization of how much I loved writing only to discover I loved it much more than I originally did. I’ve come out of that book really understanding how much writing means to me.”

We ask him, “There has been more than a decade between TBT and BOC. And you just spoke about how you love writing and discovering what writing means to you. From a reader’s point of view, is there already a book in your mind to write next or is it something that might still take a while to come out?” 

He contemplates a moment, and replies, “We should never say never. But one thing I can say for sure is that I will never write a sequel to The Book Thief. It’s just that I can’t. It’s not even an idea of perfection, it’s just that it means so much to me, and it means so much to a lot of people, so I’d have to be an idiot to try and write a sequel. Whereas Bridge of Clay is different because of the way it is written, and because The Iliad and The Odyssey run through the book. And as we know,  The Iliad is the war, and The Odyssey is journey home. Bridge of Clay in a way felt like the war, but there’s a story about coming home I reckon and a story of another time which has always sort of been there so I’m starting to think about that possibly. Few fiction ideas and also a non fiction idea. So I’m not sure just yet, it’s sort of like a barren wasteland out there, in the distance it says in big letters OTHER IDEAS and all these things start to shoot up, so waiting to see which one grows the fastest.”

Special Thanks to Jaipur Literature Festival & Teamwork Arts for making this possible. 


20 April, 2019

#BookReview :: Romanov by Nadine Brandes

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There had been so many theories and rumours about Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna while I was growing up that her story intrigued me. I was one of those who hoped beyond hope that she had escaped and the kid in me hoped that she ‘had a great adventure’ while being on the run. I have read quite a few articles on her before and this is the second fiction book that I have read based on her character.

“No amount of age, pride, or maturity could stop me from loving my papa with the heart of a little girl.” ― Nadine Brandes, Romanov

Romanov by Nadine Brandes follows the history of the Romanov family as they are taken hostage till their execution and then it takes on a fictional journey with Anastasia as she escapes the Bolsheviks. The first half of the book portrays the story and the different personalities of the Romanov family. The author has tried to stick to facts for most parts, but I found that she has painted the family with rose tinted colours to make them a bit more likeable to the readers. The family dynamics and the interpersonal relationships are developed well. Once the execution takes place and Anastasia manages to escape, the book takes on a complete fictional turn and the author introduces certain element of fantasy in it.

I liked the way the author has portrayed and developed the character of Anastasia. We see the rest of her family through her eye and her love for them is very evident. There are moments when she comes off a bit naïve, especially when it comes to her views about her father, yet she grows throughout the book. Love and betrayal, moments of happiness followed by hurt and anger, she emotes it all with sincerity. 

There were moments in the book that were unbelievable even if we account for the fantastical element. That was the only thing about the book that put me off a bit. For instance, someone suffering from hemophilia cannot survive the type of injuries mentioned in the book and no amount of adrenaline can account for the stunts that Anastasia pulled off. 

Overall, quite an enjoyable book while it lasted though I cannot guarantee that I would pick it up a second time.

Review Copy received from Netgalley

This post is a part of A to Z Challenge and BlogchatterA2Z