Uncategorized, Books

My new book is coming soon!

Hi everyone! It’s been a while since I have posted as I’ve been extremely busy preparing for the launch of my upcoming book. I will let you know the details about the book—its title, its blurb, and its cover—very soon. I hope you enjoy reading my book reviews and would like to know about my book as well.

By the way, I have launched a mini-contest today. If you can guess the title of my upcoming book by filling in the blanks below, I will give you a special prize (hint: my novella—The Thirst for Intimacy). You can like and comment on this post to participate. Happy guessing!

COVER REV

 

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Book Review, Books, Uncategorized

Book Review – A Daughter’s Courage by Renita D’Silva

I have had the fortune of interacting with Renita D’Silva, author of this book, ever since I met her on Twitter while reading her book, The Forgotten Daughter. And with time, by the grace of God, we have developed a wonderful camaraderie. She sent me a paperback copy of A Daughter’s Courage all the way from the UK, and I was deeply moved by her gesture. I am honored and privileged to be one of the few fortunate ones to receive such a special signed copy. And of course, Renita is one of the kindest and sweetest people I’ve ever met in my life. However, let me be clear that our friendship doesn’t in any way affect this honest review of this book.

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When I read her second book, The Forgotten Daughter, I thought it was a near flawless book with exceptional language and a moving story, but this being her sixth book, time has matured her writing skills even more, and now, it has achieved perfection. From the very first page, the writing gripped me, and the brilliant, delectable prose ushered me along a journey brimming with intrigue.

I have never encountered a book where the characters are developed with such care and intricacy. Brilliant would be a sheer understatement. Bolstered by excellent, moving back stories, the characters are weaved with complex threads of emotions and laced with unique, adorable traits. Kavya, the feisty, young wannabe actress, Sue, the sad pregnant widow, Lucy, the immature, adventurous woman, and Gowri, the brave, unfortunate Devadasi. However, it is not just about the women. Even the men play an important part in this memorable epic. Renita has the knack of producing exceptional male characters, who are so lovable, despite having flaws. I will never forget Mr. Bell and the Market Boy. Even the smaller characters, especially Vandana Ma’am, are drawn beautifully and given their due importance. The complex bonds among family members are also portrayed with exceptional skill.

The story is structured with such careful intricacy that you always wonder what will happen next, thus preventing you from keeping the book down despite its longer length. Although the narrative alternates between present and the past, you never feel overwhelmed as it is so easy to connect with the characters. And as always in Renita’s case, the descriptions are so vivid and enticing that you feel as if you are right there in the scene along with the characters. The reason for it is that Renita not only shows you what is happening (sense of sight), she also activates your other senses: touch (e.g. the caress of the breeze), smell (e.g. the air filled with aroma or stench or a mixture of them), and hearing (all the sounds and noises that the characters experience), thus immersing you totally in the scene. Whether it is describing the clean, green meadows of England or the crowded, noisy streets of India, Renita does a stellar job. One more subtle thing I noticed was that depending upon the characters, Renita even adjusts her language and the dialogues. During Lucy’s scenes, the language takes a distinct English tone with a few typical idiosyncrasies followed by the British, and while dealing with Indian characters, Indian English takes over seamlessly.

The editing is flawless, and the language is luscious. Line after line, page after page, the prose strikes you with punches of beauty. Despite dedicating a full two weeks for this book, when I didn’t do anything else, the tasty sentences forced me to go back and re-read them until my thirst was fulfilled, thus lengthening my read. Renita, a best-selling author of six books now, is at the height of her powers in this book, wielding weapons of unique metaphors, wonderful similes, a perfectly-fitting vocabulary, and a variety of non-cliched idioms. Trust me, try this book out and you will understand the power of grand, masterful prose. This is literary fiction at its VERY BEST.

Not only is the story and language remarkable, it also lends you spurts of motivation, not by preaching about it as some immature authors do, but by showing the determination and the fighting spirit of the characters. I finished the book yesterday, and for a few hours, I couldn’t sleep. The characters appeared before my eyes, haunting me. They have etched themselves in my mind, and I’m sure they will stay with me for a long, long time.

The emotional quotient of the book is again remarkable. You feel for all the characters, despite their flaws and mistakes. I cried several times in the book, especially towards the climax. The dialogues are placed expertly in perfect places, wrenching your heart and pushing you down the lake of tears. The only two well-written books which I can call truly emotional are The Kite Runner and The Forgotten Daughter (the first book of Renita’s that I read), and although The Kite Runner was a devastating read, I can’t say that this book moved me any less. In particular, I think the depth of the characters in this epic, sprawling, unforgettable novel edges it slightly ahead to take the top spot. So, let me reiterate.

THIS IS, WITHOUT A DOUBT, THE BEST BOOK I HAVE EVER READ — A MUST READ FOR ALL FANS OF FICTION. I COULD GO ON AND ON, BUT IT STILL WOULDN’T DO JUSTICE TO THE QUALITY OF THIS GEM OF A BOOK. READ IT NOW, OR YOU WILL BE MISSING OUT ON SOMETHING REALLY OUT OF THIS WORLD. 100 STARS FROM MY SIDE.

Book Review, Books

Book Review – The Monk of Lantau by Mann Matharu

I want to begin this review by thanking Jules Mortimer, a friend and fellow book reviewer, for sending me this book for review. I had noticed this book before—Jules had nominated it as ‘The Book of the Month’ on her blog, and Renita D’Silva, one of my favorite authors, had also posted a favorable review of the book on her Facebook timeline. So when Jules asked me to review it, I couldn’t say no.

Anyway, back to the book. As it happens almost every time, once I leafed through a couple of pages, I knew that the author had class and I had made a right choice. As I proceeded, the book drew me deeper and deeper into its depths resonating with undeniable intrigue and a rare beauty. Using three main characters and a few more side characters—who have been drawn with equal care—the author constructs the story like a magician. The main characters have been portrayed with such elegance and precision that you begin to fall in love with them and pray that they find the solace they are desperately seeking.

However, the best part of the book, without a shadow of a doubt, is the exceptional, delectable prose. Every second and third sentence made me pause, go back, and re-read it to taste its breathtaking beauty over and over again until I was satisfied enough to move further. That is why it took me quite a long time to finish this shortish book. The masterly way in which the author plays with metaphors is admirable. Most sentences are longish, yet they never seem to drag and always put the point across, the elegance never interfering with the comprehension. This is, arguably, one of the best prose I have encountered in fiction until now.

The descriptions of places and ambiance is done very well, and I could not find a single grammatical error in the book. The editing is top-notch.

The characterization is marvelous, too. Every emotion is easy to relate to and is described so wonderfully that you feel it as if you are sharing the same feeling as the character. The dilemmas that they face in pursuit of their journey, their hesitation, their dark past, is weaved together with commendable skill, unlike most other debut authors. The story flows like a stream passing through a calm, breezy forest, bathing you in waves of inspiration, the winds of luscious prose soothing you all the while. Throughout the journey,  the author, using his characters and their responses to their circumstances, shows you how to improve your life, using tools like forgiveness, patience, and kindness, without sounding preachy. The relationships between the characters are also depicted with expertise, and they feel genuine and relatable. Even in the ending—despite it being a tad predictable—all the stories come together in a nice way, clearing most of your doubts, and leaving you with a smile on your face.

I really enjoyed this little gem of a book, and I think you should try it too. Not only will it give you entertainment, it will also shower you with doses of motivation that we all need in our lives.

A must read. 4.7 stars from my side.

Book Review, Books

Book Review – The One From The Stars by Keshav Aneel

When I watched the excellent cinematic trailer of this book a few months ago, I knew Keshav Aneel, the bestselling author of Promise Me a Million Times, had come out with another masterpiece.

The cover is gorgeous, enticing any potential reader, and along with the blurb, it sowed seeds of intrigue in my heart. I began reading with interest, and within a day of receipt, I finished it—the book is so well paced and captivating. When I put the book down beside my pillow after reading it, my eyes were wet and my heart was fluttering. It took me a while to rein in my emotions and calm myself.

Once again, this young author has done a phenomenal job. I must say the protagonist is one of the best characters I have ever encountered in the world of international fiction. Vishesh is extremely realistic and beautifully etched. He has some flaws and weaknesses (thus making him more real), but he is so adorable that he makes space for himself in your heart and compels you to root for him. Even the supporting characters—his parents, his girlfriend, and his friends—are well written, thus adding to the charm of the book. The emotional conflict of the protagonist with his loved ones and the struggles that he has to face while chasing his dreams is described so realistically that you can totally relate to it, especially if you belong to an Indian middle-class family.

Throughout the book, as is expected now from Keshav Aneel, wonderful motivational quotes come to greet you and teach you valuable life lessons. The language is lucid, simple, and thus perfect for a short book like this. The ending is also wonderful, and I’m sure that any mildly emotional person will be reduced to tears.

‘The One from the Stars’ is a memorable, inspirational, and emotional book, and I would recommend this to readers of all fiction. 4.75 stars from my side.

inspiration

The Need for Inspiration

Although it may sound like a cliché, we need a lot of inspiration in this brutal, competitive world of today. The burden of unfair competition and expectations falls on our shoulders from our very childhood. Fighting against that, we grow up and finish our education. Even after that, more challenges are ready to greet us. Searching for a suitable job, finding a life partner, saving your marriage, everything is a challenge. Somewhere in between, failures rear their ugly head. Sometimes they just prick you, allowing you to proceed on your journey. But sometimes, they gain such frightening enormity that they choke the life out of you, sucking all positivity from within you. You feel lost, helpless, and your will to fight disappears like a whisper in the wind.

That is when your soul needs the drink of inspiration, the touch of positivity, the voice of encouragement to help you get up and move on. That is when you need to seek out these sources rather than sitting idle and thus allowing the hopelessness to devour you. You need to talk to your friends and share your pains, let out that frustration from within you. You need to find a source of enjoyment in your life, any passion, any hobby, whatever you like doing, and immerse yourself in it. You need to look for other career options if your current one is not working. You need to try harder to maintain certain relationships, and if they are not working, brace yourself to let go and move on. You need to read or watch inspirational books or movies, go through motivating quotes and try to inject that positivity into your life. You need to understand that millions of people are out there suffering more than you are. Some are blind, deaf, disabled, some are orphans, some don’t have shelter, some are penniless. At least you are better than them in some form; at least you can treat your vision to this beautiful, colourful world; at least you can listen to a plethora of magical sounds; at least you can walk and run; at least you have enough money for a decent life.

So why don’t you buck up and try to make something better out of this precious life that God has given you? Why do you want to end it or destroy it by indulging in alcohol or drugs? Try your best to move on from your personal tragedies, your failures and try to bring your life on a right track. I know it is easy to say encouraging stuff from a third person’s point of view and sometimes it is difficult to gather yourself in dark times.

But you have no other option than to hang on to a thin ray of hope.

Book Review, Books, Uncategorized

Book Review – Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

Although I was aware of the existence of this book—I had seen it mentioned in a few articles on Facebook—it was only after a suggestion by Raman Shrestha sir, owner of Rachna Books, the local bookstore at Gangtok that I visit often, that I decided to try it out. The blurb doesn’t betray much about the story, so when I began reading the book, I had virtually no idea of what lay in store for me.

By the end of the first few pages, though, I was immersed in the story. Although the language is simple, it is laced by a unique grace and elegance. It flows so naturally; there is no pretense and effort seen in most commercial and even some literary reads. The narration is brilliant and classy. Although almost the entire story is “told” by the narrator, betraying the show-don’t-tell rule, this being a short novella, probably this was the best way to fit the story and show everyone’s perspective. Nevertheless, the scenes that are reminisced are never left incomplete or rushed. Every emotion, every feeling of the narrator, is told in satisfying detail. The humor is wonderful throughout. I even laughed out loud in several places; the wittiness of the author is admirable. This type of classy situational yet black comedy is rare in Indian fiction. I loved it.
The characterization is exceptional. The shades of gray in every character are painted with commendable expertise. I could relate with each and every one of them. They are so genuine that they bear scary resemblance with people whom I’ve encountered in real life. The adorable helplessness of the narrator is also portrayed so beautifully. I really felt for him.

The editing, as expected from a big publisher like HarperCollins, is top-notch. Although I tried a lot to locate grammatical or punctuation errors—it has sadly become a bad habit now—I couldn’t find even a single one in this book. It felt amazing to go through such a well-manicured novel.

The ending is also perfect for a mystical book like this. It is open-ended, leaving several questions unanswered, but it is still strangely satisfying, leaving you wanting for more. For the whole day after reading the book, the ending and the several possibilities that could have transpired kept haunting me. I must thank Raman sir for recommending such a wonderful book to me. This book has got an award, and deservedly so. 4.8 stars from my side.

 

Books, Uncategorized

Ten Writing Tips for Fiction Authors

I have been writing for the past few years. In 2015, I authored a novel and got it published by a small publisher. However, as I began getting reviews, I realized the monumental blunders that I had committed, as far as writing is concerned. Over the years, experience has enabled me to cultivate certain writing tips that I would like to point out so that it could be of some help to aspiring writers.

  1. Avoid big words and read extensively before beginning writing: In order to be different from other commercial authors, I committed a huge mistake in my first book: I used a lot of big words. Perhaps, it was one of the primary reasons that my book failed to be lapped up by prospective readers. The idea of using big words came to me when I read a book containing flowery language and happened to check out its review in Amazon. The reviewer stated that this is the kind of writing that young authors should emulate rather than trying to copy the bland language used by popular commercial authors. Misguided, I began to use big words, hoping publishers would be impressed by my vocabulary, but alas, it turned out to be a blunder. Later, after the debacle of my first book, I began reading some critically acclaimed books. Strangely, before writing my first book, I had not read many books. I’d just read a couple of mass market books similar to my genre, and as I had a story ready, I foolishly dived into the stream of writing. Somehow, I did manage to finish my book, but since I hadn’t read much, dangerous tips like the one mentioned above trapped me in their tentacles and thus I ended up corrupting my own book. The turning point came when I read the award-winning novel ‘The Kite Runner’. Then I realized that the key to good writing isn’t using big words, but weaving together simple words to create a magical effect, like Khaled Hosseini does. After that, I read a lot of books, which ended up influencing my writing style. So I would advise you to read a lot of books, especially critically acclaimed books before even venturing into writing. Also, while reading you should ensure that you are very observant. Whenever you come across a beautifully constructed sentence, a wonderful metaphor, or a magical simile, note it down somewhere and try your best to form a mental imprint of it. This will really help you to take your writing to the next level, as when you sit down to write next time, your brain starts suggesting those sentences when you come across similar scenarios in your book. You can then refer to your notes and try to imbibe those writing tidbits into your narrative. Once you have read a variety of books, a blend of different writing styles seeps into your subconscious, which eventually helps you forge your own unique writing style/ voice.
  2. Use fewer adverbs and adjectives: Another mistake that I had made in my first book was the blatant overuse of adverbs. As the prominent writer, Stephen King, says, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs”. Adverbs are a reflection of weak, lazy writing as they don’t form a good enough picture for the reader, thus violating the show-don’t-tell rule. For example, consider this sentence: “You are wrong,” Fred said angrily. Does this help you picture or feel anything? How was the anger? How was Fred’s voice? However, consider this alternative: “You are wrong,” Fred barked, his eyes glinting with anger. Now, with the stronger verb bark, you can imagine the rough tone of voice. Also, his eyes are shining with anger, helping you visualize the scene better. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use adverbs at all. Occasional use of adverbs, especially if it is not in dialogue tags, is alright. Also, try your best to remove redundant adjectives from your narrative. For example, instead of saying the smelly, intoxicated drunkard was walking, just say the drunkard was walking, as drunkards are already smelly and intoxicated.
  3. Show, don’t tell: This is a slightly confusing rule as, traditionally, a story is meant to be told. However, if you remember, even the good traditional storytellers made us visualize the scene, which made the story much more compelling. The reader should feel as if he is travelling, seeing, hearing, experiencing everything along with the characters. For example, instead of saying that it was a rainy day and Mary got wet while going home, show her walking towards home, raindrops flirting with her hair, her shirt sticking to her skin. The traits of the characters should be shown by their actions, their mannerisms, rather than being told in a blunt way. For example, instead of saying that Tom was a funny man and he used to make everyone laugh, show Tom cracking a joke and everyone laughing at it. Also, weave the backstories of the characters as either plain remembrances or a photograph or object taking you to the past, which helps develop the character, rather than writing direct blocks of telling in between scenes. Also, writing dialogue is the best way to follow the show-don’t-tell rule. The characters are actively involved and their expressions, actions come to the fore. It is also easier to reveal certain things (character traits, backstory) in a dialogue rather than telling it in the narrative, but you should make sure that the revelation doesn’t seem forced or else it might backfire.
  4. Don’t do head hopping: If you are writing in the third person, ensure that you don’t end up showing the thoughts of other characters apart from the main character. That ends up confusing the reader and diminishes the emotional connect that the reader has with the primary character.
  5. Ensure proper punctuation: Read about the proper usage of commas, semicolons, colons, em dashes, parenthesis, exclamation marks before beginning your project. Make sure that your dialogue tags end with a comma if it is followed by he/she said/asked, but if the dialogue tag ends with an action, ensure that you use a period. For example, a dialogue ending with he said/asked: “I will kill you,” he said. A dialogue ending with an action: “I will kill you.” He banged his fist on the table. Ensure you use as fewer exclamations as possible, as it is considered as a form of casual, weak writing. Parenthesis/brackets also should be used very sparingly in a literary work.
  6. Use proper editing tools: Don’t forget to use the grammar checking functions of Microsoft Word. It helps to identify a lot of errors like split infinitives, passive sentences, punctuation errors, and other basic grammatical errors. Also, I would recommend using the Grammarly tool, which weeds out all the bugs that Microsoft Word overlooks.
  7. Be careful with descriptions: Ensure that you strike a perfect balance between insufficient and excessive descriptions of surroundings and feelings. The feelings shouldn’t be redundant, and you should weed out any descriptions which may seem unnecessary to the theme of the particular scene. But of course, some description is necessary to create a proper ambiance, and you should not remove them altogether. It is a fine line, but you have to tread it carefully to ensure that the book turns out to be perfect or at least close to it.
  8. Write shorter sentences: The shorter and simpler the sentences, the lesser the chances of making a mistake. Short sentences contribute to easy readability, too. However, longer sentences are also necessary sometimes. You should be able to weave paragraphs with care, mixing short and longer sentences skillfully. It is an art which takes times to master.
  9. Use unique metaphors and similes: Some metaphors and similes have been so overused that they have now become cliched and should never be used. For example, metaphors like ‘dead as a door-nail’, ‘as tall as a giraffe’, ‘only time will tell’ etc. will mostly put off the seasoned readers. Instead, unique metaphors and similes should be constructed. If not, then you should remove the metaphor/simile altogether and try to frame the sentence in a simpler way. To write a simple sentence is better than to write a cliched sentence.
  10. Research and read your book’s reviews: Keep reading articles about writing tips and fuel your fire for knowledge daily. If you have already published a book, read reviews with a positive frame of mind and try to learn, even from the harshest review. Although negative reviews might dampen your spirits for some time, you should try your best to understand which aspect of the book the reviewer didn’t like and try to improve upon it in the next book.

On a parting note, I would like to say that writing is a never-ending journey. There is scope for improvement even for accomplished writers and the process of learning always has to go on. Cheers!