Book Review: No Safe Zone

Book: No Safe Zone

Genre: Romance

Author: Adite Banerjie

Publisher: Harper Collins

No safe ZoneAction stories, detective and spy mysteries have always attracted me. A few of them have a hint of subtle love story  too.

Author’s note says, she wanted to experiment with action genre with some romance thrown in.

Having written two books for the brand Mills & Boon (The Indian Tycoon’s Marriage Deal and Trouble Has A New Name), I guessed there would be a lot of romance with some action thrown in!

I read Mills & Boons only in college and that too because of peer pressure really…I was attracted to read books by Robin Cook, Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum. Honestly I didn’t like the Mills and Boon one bit.

And I haven’t even bothered to read the Indian editions…so this makes it the first book by the author that I have read.

This is the story of Qiara Rana, who settles in London post a heartbreak. She works for a non-profit organization. With her mentor Samira and the organization coming under investigation for all the wrong reasons, she is determined to clear the name of her mentor and the organization,  from the scandal. She travels to India and finds herself being chased by killers, kidnappers and her past life resurfacing in weirdest ways. The story is also about Kabir, an intelligence officer who is investigating the organization Qiara works for. He too has a painful past with a part of it involving Qiara. The two lovers who had parted many years ago still in some way seek closure. Coming face to face, the  dormant love flares up again.

With human trafficking as the backdrop, the story finds the two lovers fighting their past and the criminals together. The name of organization Qiara worked for is cleared and the lovers reunite.

As expected the story had quite some dose of romance and some action packed stuff. The pace of the story is quite steady and engaging. The criminal masterminds are however lost and have hardly much to give to the plot. The romantic scenes it seems are straight out of Mills and Boon only with Indian names.

I wouldn’t say I loooveed the book but yes I wasn’t bored to read it. If I had to point out thriller stories to someone, I would still go for the Robert Ludlum and the likes but for love stories sprinkled with some action, Adite Banerjie’s book is quite good.

Good to read at least once in romance genre.

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The Sentimental Terrorist

Book: The Sentimental Terrorist

Author: Rajesh Talwar

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Kindle Version

The Sentimental TerroristI have time and again made it obvious that I do not like to read kindle version of books…it somehow never satisfies me to read a digital book as much a paperback does!

Had I known before applying as book reviewer about the book being Kindle version, I probably would have refused. But once selected for review, I did not have a heart to back away even though The Tales Pensieve people gave me an option.

The name of the book is a hint enough and along with the image of a turbaned man overlooking the barren rocky terrain on the cover, the reader can very well understand who the protagonist might be but the term ‘sentimental’ is intriguing.

From what the media flashes on television screens and newspapers, terrorists seem to be a hardened cruel lot. Atrocities of Taliban make the world’s blood boil. So how can a terrorist be sentimental?

A fictional story, it is about a young Afghan, Mohsin, who despite good education and a logical head on his strong shoulders becomes associated with Taliban after giving up a decent job with French agency working for health issues of Afghani women and undergoes extensive training for launching an attack on ‘infidels’ or Americans who have again and again bombed the region many a times killing innocent locals instead of Taliban terrorists. In one such accidental bombing Mohsin’s family is wiped out.

The love of his life, to escape a monster of a step-father marries a European and elopes to France. With his world crumbling all around him, Mohsin has no desire left.

Mohsin’s aversion to activities and thought process of Taliban is quickly replaced by a hatred towards the person responsible for such mindless slaughter of locals indulging in wedding ceremony. His grief and desire for revenge opens gates for Taliban influence on his disturbed emotional state.

While he does extract a revenge but his sentiments prevent him from killing innocent people trapped in crossfire.

The author has managed to give a glimpse of the general state of affairs in the terror ravaged country where the ‘pathan pride’ is dictated by a system of an eye for an eye kind of justice, where preaching of Islam has been twisted, where women are treated as property and punished over a whim of men, where simple pleasures of watching television, listening to music that are often taken for granted by us, are punishable offences by Taliban, where people fight everyday to survive and where witnessing the next sunrise is always debatable.

Author, Rajesh Talwar, through his story has pointed out the fact that though there might be thousands in Afghanistan who would any day want to get rid of Taliban extremists but the presence of western forces has ruined the ethnicity and harmed the locals, which has turned more locals against the western armed forces. The collateral damage, in a bid to contain Taliban, has been unimaginable.

This is a story of finding love amidst destruction, of sacrificed love to escape from Taliban, of fight for survival, of ramifications of misused power and of a place which could have been a beautiful, highly cultural and ethnic province.

As a kid I had read a story of ‘Kabuliwala’ who sold dry fruits. For long time I imagined Afghans as tall Pathans with fair skin and robust health due to all those delicious dry fruits. That the Mughal Empire had its roots in Afghanistan also played a role in my imagination.

But the book paints a grim picture and makes me feel grateful to have been born in a much tolerant and free country.

The story is written well but I would have preferred a longer book with the protagonist’s turmoil of killing innocent people more defined…his conflicting sentiments described in more detail…. his decisions to join Taliban against his better judgement and logical thoughts. I feel the story falls short in bringing out the pain of a young man.

However it is good to be read at least once and keeps the reader engaged till the last page.

I won a review copy from The Tales Pensieve as part of Reviewers Programme. Register on #TTP for lots of #book fun and activities.

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Book Review: Rightfully Wrong Wrongfully Right

Book: Rightfully Wrong, Wrongfully Right

Author: Varsha Dixit

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Rupa Publications

varsha-book_1Opening with a morbid thought of death, the first few lines of story did nothing to encourage me to read the rest of the book. However the red cover of the book with little hearts, wine bottles, cupcakes and a young couple suggested that the story might be anything but morbid!

The blurb and the title did indicate that the story was about how opposites attract but I still did not like the ring of the title…

But read I did and after a slow start, I was hooked. The characters it seems were introduced in previous two bestsellers by the author Varsha Dixit. Since I have not read her earlier two books, it may be the reason I did not take to the characters and dive into the story immediately.

Gayatri, a rich well brought up girl has a domineering father who considers it his right to decide anything and everything for Gayatri. Caught between her wish to break free on her own and her father’s dos and dont’s, she often blunders in her decisions. Viraj, a young genius scientist works for Gayatri’s childhood friend who is more like a doting brother to her. Viraj, having grown up with an abusive father despises violence against women and any kind of weakness displayed by anyone.

From the moment Gayatri and Viraj set eyes on each other, an electric chemistry sizzles between them despite their much dislike for each other. Certain turn of events forces Viraj to agree for Gayatri’s employment in his laboratory and the two temperamentally opposite people hence onwards often come face to face. In their own ways, each helps the other overcome the personal demons. The attraction is magnetic and intense which evolves gradually into a torrid love story. Eventually all is well that ends well.

However I am not convinced by Gayatri’s characterisation. On one hand she is shown adept at Krav Maga, an Israeli self-defence technique and on other hand she doesn’t think twice before conspiring first against her ex-fiancé and then trying to hook up a lab technician with the scientist. With a domineering father who dictated all her moves, how come she even managed to learn the defence technique in the first place?

Usually when someone involves themselves in martial art disciplines, their mental strength is equally enhanced along with physical defence abilities. What I mean to say is, such defence techniques need a balanced approach to enable a person to excel in them. Whereas Gayatri is nothing like that…she is just a simply rich girl who loves all good things and is weak as far as taking decisions is concerned.

Krav Maga has caught everyone’s fancy and many stories by every alternate author that I have recently read have at least one character who is ace in this defence technique. Gayatri and her knowledge of Krav maga seems just that…a fad!

Viraj also could have been anybody, his being scientist has hardly anything to do with the story.

But then this is my outlook and yet I loved reading it. After all everyone loves to read about a girl who can fight eve teasers yet is  delicate, beautiful, mushy and romantic. And Gayatri is all that and Viraj is her knight who tries to fool people around him by putting on a devil-may-care attitude but in reality he is that handsome hunk who is slightly  possessive in love and yet very caring.

All in all the book is perfect for curling up with a cup of coffee in a cozy spot to fantasize about a delicious love. This story is the ‘Mills and Boon’ in Indian setting.

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Book Review: Crème brûlée

Book: Crème brûlée

Genre: Fiction

Author: Ramona Sen

Publishers: Rupa Publication

Creme bruleeWith quite an interest in baking, I am not new to the exotic names of desserts and hence the name of the book “Crème brûlée” by Ramona Sen intrigued me enough to opt for reviewing the story.

One look at the cover and the blurb and I looked forward to read this concoction of subtly brewing love, an eccentric family and a ghostly presence.

The story is centered around two restaurateurs Aabir Mookherjee who runs ‘E&B’ and Kimaya Kapoor who runs ‘The Mad Hatter’. Aabir Mookherjee, an anglicized Bengali returns from Oxford to open his Eggs and Bacon café  which is more known for its chocolate mousse. The attractive Kimaya Kapoor opens her café and her desserts gain popularity. While Aabir plans to join hands with Kimaya for his restaurant’s dessert supply, he has to fend off quite a many prospective brides launched on him by his ever whining mother. Falling in love with the quirky proprietress of the Mad Hatter, his uncertainty and dilemma about the relationship are put to rest by his grandma who resides on the coconut tree as a ghost watching over the house and its residents.

I loved the portrayal of relationship between widowed Kimaya and her mother-in-law though it was just in few lines. A loving and understanding mother-in-law who has some life of her own is anybody’s dream. Even Aabir, who though doesn’t approve of certain behavior of his mother but still does not interfere in her way of running the household, is adorable.

The story is very well written. Most of the stories that I have read recently had quite poor use of English Language and more bent upon using ‘Hinglish’ which personally is not to my liking. But this one I enjoyed  reading simply because of the language first. But then you expect a Bengali to have good command over the language…

Engaging read from the word go, the story does not lose its tempo and lucidity. The sketches in between the story seem out-of-place however, because it is essentially a fiction love story and not a recipe book. But I would have loved to see a sketch for the surprise decor that Aabir plans for Kimaya’s Mad Hatter, à la Alice in Wonderland style!

All in all a good delectable read for all ages with a seasoning of slight humor and baked to perfection.

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Open UP: #118 – Talking to an Indian Air Force fighter pilot

Talk To Tiger

talk to tiger pilot.jpgDue to security reasons, I cannot share his name of picture with you but here are the excerpts of a fighter pilot from the Indian Air Force talking to Tiger! Happy Independence Day!

What drives you?
Craving to excel in any Job at hand. While deciding to chose a profession, I wanted the one which had best mix of all good things like ‘Izzat’, glamour adventure…

Why Indian Air Force?
A quote……..”When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

What the most thrilling thing you have done?
Flew over the Himalayas in the year 1999 knowing that Pakistanis wouldn’t dare to escalate the conflict because we were there to take them on.

Top five things one should do to become a fighter pilot.
While there is no success…

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The Story of A Suicide

story of a suicideFor reasons best known to her, our neighbour, a divorcee, hung herself leaving her eight year old son in the custody of her parents. The little child estranged from his father is now without a mother too.

I had often spoken against those who chose the easy way out and committed suicide but after facing a bout of depression not long ago when I too felt defeated, unloved, scared, helpless and hopeless, my views have altered somewhat.

A feeling of incompetence, frustration, unaddressed problems all contribute to a depressed mental state which may lead an individual to take the extreme step of suicide.

The Story Of A Suicide, a book by Sriram Ayer looks into this feeling of helplessness through the story of four youngsters Hari, Charu, Mani and Sam connected to each other through friendship, love, passion, deceit and vengeance.

Each of them has some issues and challenges to face and are susceptible to give in to their troubles seeking a release from pain. Mani struggles with performance in a language which is alien to his humble upbringing. Unable to cope with academic pressures he attempts suicide but is saved at the nick of time.

Sam feels jilted by his successive girlfriends. After his first girlfriend rejects him he feels dejected but soon recovers from his melancholy. His second friend Charu, does not reciprocate physically as much as he desired.  A computer fanatic he directs his feelings in plotting revenge on unsuspecting Charu. He hacks into all devices and social accounts of Charu and hatches a plan to shame her through the world of internet.

Charu, a strong girl who speaks her mind finds herself being stalked after a hate rant on social media. Though scared and confused she seeks help with her teacher and cyber crime investigator.

Hari dealing with his sexuality and childhood trauma is unable to express his pain to his parents. He finds love and compassion with Mani. His secret is disclosed in an ugly fashion publicly when instead of Charu the hacked devices of Charu record Hari and Mani in physical intimacy.

In all the heart breaks and repercussions of the public video, Hari succumbs to depression and ends his life.

I could relate to Charu more easily as far as her thought process goes though I found her public rant on social media quite foolish and rash.

A story told in simple language brings out the perceived and real pains of the characters and gives a voice to the youth who face constant comparisons, expectations, peer pressure, intolerance, abuse, relationship demands, sexual choices, job pressures and conflicting family values.

The story though aims to highlight the many challenges that the youth faces today but I would have preferred if the story touched in more detail with issues which each character faces. The story has for major part  addressed only the stigma attached to the gay relationships.

My Take:

After reading the story, I realized how important it is to openly ponder over traumatic, stressful and depressive situations. The feelings and emotions need to be freely discussed with relevant people instead of being bottled inside.

I am a mother to a teenage daughter and it would be my naïvety to believe that in a growing up stage my daughter will never be touched by any of such stressful situations. If I had to suggest the youngsters who have already stepped into the rat race of big bad world, I would tell them to open up…seek advice from elders, from help forums, teachers.

But it is the family which needs to learn the lesson first. Usually the first ever pressure on youth comes from family. Expectations, family pride, constant reminder of ‘what the people will say’ takes a toll on the young mind who is all eager to step into an adult world with dreams and aspirations. Such pressures weigh them down and may push them to break down. The onus are on us, the parents, to see what makes our child happy and gently guide them on right path.

It is us who have to make them believe that we are open to addressing their agony, that we are there to protect them but if the need arises we can reprimand them for a misstep. Rebuking often would however never work. We don’t want them to turn rebellious but have faith in us.

‘Practice what you preach’ and the youth will respect and follow and we might just help a few misguided youngsters to live life instead of snuffing it out in desperation.

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Book review: A Broken Man

Book: A Broken Man

Author: Akash Verma

Publication: Srishti Publishers

A broken manPolitics and caste-ism are two issues where I usually go mute. One because I do not understand or rather try not to understand the way political parties function by throwing muck at each other, pulling each other down and causing furore over progressive ideas instead of uniting and making the nation a real gem in the world. And two because I am uncomfortable about the caste system still prevailing in the country.

On reading the blurb of this book sent by Writers Melon, I had a fair idea of how the story will shape up.

Set against a backdrop of caste differences, caste reservation policies and agitations, student politics and elections, A Broken Man is essentially a love story between Chhavi, a Brahmin girl and Krishna, a Dalit boy. Brought up in extreme poverty and discrimination by the upper castes in remote village of Bihar, the inner angst against his condition and towards the Brahmin community is fanned by the local student leaders. Provoked Krishna stands against Chhavi, a member of the student association which raises the issues of inconsistency in facilities for students. In a conspiracy, the student political group stages an accident to appear as an attempt of self-immolation by her. Krishna, being the eye-witness of the crime is shaken by the ugly face of the political group of students and saves Chhavi endangering his own life.

The heroic act of Krishna makes Chhavi fall for her savior. The foes turned friends become lovers soon after. The familial pressure however, forces their separation.

But love triumphs finally and the estranged lovers come together years later having fulfilled their family duties and promise to each other.

Though the story of a rich girl falling in love with a poor boy is an over-used formula which has been used exhaustively beyond its life in films and novels yet the angle of an upper caste girl getting involved with a lower caste  boy in Indian society seems like a new idea because in Hindi cinema the story usually steers clear of any mention of caste.

Cleverly, this story also does not ruffle any feathers by not painting either of the communities in too bad light and simply dwells on the love of two human beings who have been separated by circumstances. In an easy narrative the story glides smoothly from present into a flashback of college politics, family differences, separation, success story and back to present.

There isn’t any awkward gap or slackening of the pace in the narrative.

Having seen enough inter-caste marriages in my family, I am however not convinced of  a small issue….but that may be because I am being too practical or too critical of the story. For any person brought up in as much comforts as Chhavi has been portrayed, it is difficult to envision a life in as much poverty as Krishna has been brought up in, irrespective of any caste. But Chhavvi is unaffected….may be its is wishful thinking of author.

Overall a good and easy read….

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