Monday, April 24, 2023

Ahalya's Awakening by Kavita Kane (Book Review: 4*/5) !!!


12th Book of 2023

When it comes to India’s historical stories or mythology – howsoever you want to refer it – we are always provided only an overview of them since childhood. Thankfully, the world of books enables us to know more about each of these characters we want to delve into. One such character who is always referred to be turned into stone for cheating her husband is Ahalya. That is how we know her since we know about her. Kavita Kane’s latest book named “Ahalya’s Awakening” is an attempt to retell her story and let the readers know what prompted her to take such a decision which would change her image for years to come.


The book is of almost 350-pages but has been narrated in a wonderful thrilling manner which makes it a perfect page-turner. You would always want to know what next decision will Ahalya take as most of them are against her family, brother, husband or the people who wanted to confine her personality as per their convenience. This is the 1st book I have read from the pen of Kavita Kane and I must say, her command over the English language and sense of narration is terrific. The way she has written crisp sentences and powerful dialogues makes everything so imaginable and impactful that you can visualize the whole thing happening in front of you. All the conversations between the characters make you love them for what they are- right or wrong.


The story begins with lots of characters hence it is quite a slow-read in initial few pages as you want to understand background of each of them and how they are related with Ahalya. After that, the story is very interesting until her wedding with Rishi Gautam. The book gets quite slow after that but the pre-climax and climax are enough to bring you back into the story. Author has not shied away while talking in negative sense about the historical characters such as Indra, Gautam, Ahalya, her parents or anyone else. It shows her clarity towards her understanding of the tale and how she wants to convey it to us.


Kavita has tried speaking about many contemporary issues through her protagonist, Ahalya, which is quite evident right from the start of the book. The initial page focuses on how Ahalya is adamant to complete her studies rather than getting married – which is considered to be the only option for girls after they reach a respective age. Author emphasizes on the point regarding how essential it is for the girl to study than getting married early. A girl needs to have her own identity rather than always being referred as someone’s daughter, sister, wife or mother. Later, Ahalya, again stands against the society and choses to marry a rishi who has been a teacher to her rather than the boy her family preferred for her. It shows her strong character and how she took all the important decisions for herself.


The complexity in her character arises after she gets married and finds herself not getting the same attention as she deserves. Here onwards, there are many philosophical aspects mentioned in big paragraphs which discusses her dilemmas and traumas. I really enjoyed reading these sections and wanted to highlight all of them. I liked how the last chapter is based upon her conversation with Sita, another character from Ramayan who is supposedly said to be treated unfairly by her husband because of the citizens. It is one of the unexpected and unique ending to this book. The way Kavita describes the love, romantic and love-making scenes as well makes you go crazy. Haha! The book, basically, talks about women empowerment majorly and will be loved by young girls who can relate with it better.


Now, talking about the drawbacks, I must say that there aren’t too many subplots in the book for which it was needed to be spoken in 350 pages. The book could have been easily summed up within 250 pages and it would have sounded more effective. It is stretched and dragged at many instances. The book is written to woo the modern feminists for whom anything that the female gender does is right and justified even if it is completely wrong. Author has tried to speak everything from the same lenses and made all the male characters sound wrong and women characters sound extremely right even though they have made mistakes from their end too. You can always preach such social message through your book in few instances but every sentence of the book screams toxic feminism on your face which becomes irritating and annoying after a point of time. Similarly, I feel author could have restricted talking about the Sita’s part from Uttar Ramayan which is still a controversy whether it’s an original text from our history or a morphed one.


Overall, this is an interesting read and gives you insight about one of the important tales of our culture. I give this book 4 stars out of 5. Kavita Kane’s writing style is unmissable.






Sunday, April 16, 2023

In Pursuit of Ecstasy by Sujata Parashar (Book Review: 4.25*/5) !!!


11th Book of 2023

The fiction books based on college life is always a no-brainer pick-up for me. Whenever I don’t understand what to read, I try shuffling books in my shelf and find one with a college plot and start reading it without letting anyone disturb me. I am done reading another book from the same genre named “In Pursuit of Ecstasy” written by Sujata Parashar. This is the 2nd book in her Pursuit series – 1st one being In Pursuit of Infidelity. This 230-pages book is published by Rupa Publications in October 2022. The story talks about a group of college friends who are leading a wonderful life until one day they find themselves in the world of drugs. How their life changes after that and what message it gives to both- students and parents is what the story is all about.


Sujata’s writing style is apt for writing a novel of this genre. Her command over the English language is solid. Usage of good vocabulary is reader-friendly but at the same time, author ensures that readers get to learn few new words if they have picked up her book. To start with, as the book involves 4-5 main characters where their parents as well as siblings also play an important part, author has given a good description of the family tree at the beginning of the book which is very helpful. I don’t know why all the authors don’t follow it.


As I mentioned that the story has many main characters, Sujata has dedicated a good long chapter to each one of them which helps you understand their background and personality very deeply. This helps you form a connection with almost all of them. This is not an easy task for an author to achieve because rarely do you feel anything for any other character except the main protagonists. After the introductory chapters, all the characters merge together in all the future chapters and their chemistry and changing relationships with each other keeps you interested and intrigued in the story. Even though the book is not a default thriller but it still manages to be a good page-turner which keeps you waiting happily to know what’ll happen next.


The story gave me the vibes of the MX Player series – Campus Diaries. The premise is set-up so intelligently that you enjoy even that section as you are enjoying the love-hate, romantic, hatred, friendship and different kind of relationships between the characters. Finally, when the real part comes in the picture which is given a highlight in the prologue, you just want your favorite characters safe and that makes the author successful then and there. There could have been no alternate way to narrate this story. I liked how author describes the traits of both- boys and girls throughout the story without demeaning or being judgmental about any of them and their decisions during their teen age. I am glad that the same gets imbibed in your reflection while reading it and you don’t judge any of them but empathize with them in every twist and turn that takes place in their life.


Author talks about every element of college life such as – lying to parents for doing something they don’t approve of – getting a crush on your best friend but unable to express – seeing your crush getting into relationship with a friend of yours – how between two girls, one of them is self-centered who doesn’t care about feelings of other friend at all – how a boy who might look harmful turns out to be helpful in tough situation – how a course of college trip changes relationship between everyone and brings everyone closer etc. Sujata has also given a strong message about how children and parents get far away from each other during this phase which leads to some very wrong decisions on part of children whereas parents also add extra burden upon children without wanting to know what they actually want in life.


Overall, the book is entertaining and can be finished within two sittings. I will give it 4.25* out of 5. You should definitely give it a try. And I am a Sujata Parashar’s fan now.






Thursday, April 13, 2023

Body of Work by Mansi Babbar (Book Review: 2.5*/5) !!!


10th Book of 2023


Well, in my quest to read fiction books, the 3rd book in the row that I picked up was a 166-pages short thriller written by Mansi Babbar named “Body of Work”. The book is presented by Ravi Subramanian, the author, I believe to be India’s best thriller and mystery novelist. It is because of him I started reading thrillers but never found anyone come closer to him in my reading journey of 13 years. This book also has a tagline which says “Mortality is the ultimate art”. The story is about a young reporter, Raina, who attends a party of a celebrity called Hera unwillingly. She is still excited to be there as she wants to collect evidences against Hera so that she can bring her evil truth in front of the world. The whole book is all about what happens with both these main characters in that one night which changes their life forever.


Talking about Mansi’s writing style – I must say her command over her writing and editing is satisfactory. She has used some terrific ways to narrate few scenes. The way she has managed to explore Raina’s personality through her words and story tells a lot about her efforts behind creating her character. All the other characters are also appropriately mentioned in the book and has been given complete due without sidelining anyone. Not every author can manage to do justice with all the characters in such a short story which is majorly focusing on Hero vs Villain theme.


The first half of the book is quite slow which makes it hard for you to understand where the story is exactly moving. Author takes a lot of time to build the base behind that one night which then become 60% part of the book. The story actually starts moving from 70th-odd page after which you finally get interested in knowing what will happen next. The way Mansi has described the action and violent scenes are commendable as it’s not an easy task to make the readers visualize the exact state of one’s body and health after being subjected to immense physical torture. Reading all those sections were really scary and makes you think how insensitive and harsh few people in this world can be.


The pre-climax is when the exact thrilling quotient part of the book is explored when both- Raina and Hera starts talking to each other. Though the revelation is quite unpredictable but still couldn’t generate that impact which was expected. Literally speaking, I didn’t feel the urge of completing the book in a sitting or so which tells that author has not been able to narrate this thriller well to keep the readers excited. Even this being a short book, it took me 4 sittings to complete it because of its Bollywood kind of a treatment to the story. Even when a character is physically tortured for hours, he/she is able to run, fight and so everything possible. Even when they are being tied up, they are able to retort back in aggression while talking with people they know can harm them badly. All of this made me feel like I am watching a women-centric movie from the world of Bollywood where the protagonist is able to fight against the toughest villain and their team who can kill by just pressing a trigger.


Even the climax is abruptly ended where author could have played with our emotions – made us smile, cry, weep or think but it only makes you feel disappointed. Well, I had expected the book to be excited as Ravi Subramanian is presenting it but unfortunately, I can give this book an average 2.5 stars out of 5.






Friday, April 7, 2023

Zoravar by Maharsh Shah (Book Review: 4.5*/5) !!!


9th Book of 2023


As I had shared in my previous book review, I am just quite excited about reading fiction these days. Basically, those which I have in my shelf since months and I haven’t been able to pick up them due to other books in pipeline. Last weekend, I picked “Zoravar” written by Maharsh Shah. The story is part of the series called “Bollywood Saga” wherein this is just the first book. I am quite curious now as the book was released in 2020 and there’s no Part 2 yet. As I am done reading this exciting 330-pages book, I really want to know what happens further in the story of the incredible protagonist – Zoravar. The book is written in third voice which talks about the journey of a boy named Zoravar who comes to Mumbai running away from a dark past to become an actor. From here onwards, book talks about Zoravar’s whole journey from being a teenager to becoming a Superstar in the world of Bollywood.


Talking about the writing style, Maharsh Shah is an artist. It has been written in such a unique style that despite it being a fictional story, you get the vibes of reading a biographical account of a Superstar’s journey. All of us are infatuated with Bollywood and Hindi film industry hence this book covers all the aspects so stylishly that you feel as if you are in the same world as those Superstars walking around in the era of 1950 to 1980. The way author has been able to present story of those times making every detailing sound realistic is applaudable. Talking about the characters – book starts describing a lot of them which made me scared of remembering so many names but eventually, it boils down to only 3-4 specific characters which makes the reading experience easier.


You also get to read a lot of real names from Bollywood such as Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Suraiyya, Nutan, Sanjay Dutt, Guru Dutt, Yash Chopra etc. and it is very exciting to imagine how author must have taken out real incidents from past and made his fictional superstar fit into the scenes and timeline. I have read something of this kind for the very first time. The treatment given to the character of Zoravar is commendable as he has so many shades and layer to him – times when he is vulnerable – times when he is dangerous himself – ambitious – daring – competitive – selfish – egoistic-  family man – connection with wrong people etc.


Author also tries to cover city’s smuggling and mafia background which is so intelligently paralleled with this story. How the hawala’s money gets rolled into Bollywood is indirectly thrown a light upon. Several other aspects on how getting into the industry as an actor is a challenge since 1950 is conveyed very intelligently. How the nepotism has taken its root right since then is exposed. The behind-the-scenes, references, casting couch, shooting etc. has been covered very well.


Even though the book is 340-pages, it keeps you interested and captivated throughout. Not even once do you feel bored. The best thing would be to read it in breaks. I read 60 pages daily which gave me the feeling of watching a web-series. There is so much that keeps on happening in the journey of Zoravar that there’s a twist after every few pages. Author’s love for cinema is evident with the fact that he has been able to quote every studio and their creation date correctly. His research on the topic before beginning to write this book is visible in every page.


Talking about the few drawbacks – as the protagonist has a dark past, I was expecting it to return back post his success in a very outstanding setup which would make the reader in me jump off the bed but there’s nothing like that. Something sort of it happens in pre-climax but it’s written in such a rush that you don’t feel any emotion for it. Maybe, author must have planned it for future parts. Secondly, the other characters could have been given a good inclusion in the story but all of them are not even in supporting role but just small multiple cameos. Lastly, a lot could have been done if there were conversations mentioned whenever characters met with each other but author has used it very minimally. It is written more in narration-form than conversational format.


Except few points mentioned above, the book is a wonderful rollercoaster ride and you will enjoy reading it. It is a perfect page-turner and nostalgic for all the movie lovers. I give this book 4.5 stars out of 5 – undoubtedly. Awaiting Part 2 now!






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