The Mind Game: Master your emotions to achieve success, Devika Das, 2016

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Publishers: PepperScript

Synopsis:

Crests and troughs, ups and downs, joys and sorrows are a part of everyone’s lives. While many choose to simply succumb to bad times, the winner is the one who remains strong, successfully wades off negativity and rises, unbound.

All of us, at some point of time, have experienced situations involving emotional outbursts where we have, albeit unknowingly, hurt others or even our own self and have only ended up regretting our actions. Wouldn’t it be great if we could somehow become mindful of our current emotional state and maintain equilibrium in our personal and professional lives? Moreover, mindfulness helps us realize what we really want from life. It helps us to first think, then act and not vice-versa.

The Mind Game is a self-improvement guide that talks about how to manage emotions wisely, and lead a powerful, but stress free life.

Reviews:

“As a Career & Life Coach, I’d rate the book 5 stars. It is a brilliant piece of work! Devika Das was able to take an everyday subject which is generally taken for granted by us and turn it into a compelling read. I definitely recommend ‘The Mind Game’ for all, and especially for the participants in my workshops.” -Aditya Sisodia (Co-founder- Recruit Wheels)

“Devika really writes things from a practical point of view. She is one of the most evolved woman I have met who thinks of life deeply. We all are following the heard, without questioning the reasons to what we do and why we do. She finds the right answers. Devika’s writings always give you a sense of freedom while reading. This is one amazing book I have read!” -Sahiba Sethi (Founder- Hello Meets)

My review:

I would like to begin by giving a spoiler: this is the best self-improvement book ever. The author, in a previous interview with yours truly, has spoken quite extensively on her project. Click here to see the author’s interview.

The Mind Game is a self-improvement book no doubt like so many others in its genre, but what it contains inside, is perhaps like no other. The first thing that really affects a self-help book is, I think, the mode of narration. This book has mastered that, but what’s more important is that it is not at all preachy. Using a very factual and matter-of-fact tone, tinged with empathy at times, this book will prove really very useful for those who wish to know their own selves as well as for the various counsellors all over the country. I may be even bold enough to say that this can also be used as a guide for basic classes such as Behavioural Science, Communicative English etc.

Separated and grouped into different segments, the author speaks about relevant issues of everyday life, right from those one faces at home- to the workplace, ranging across the feelings and issues one faces within oneself, and with others in a social environment as well. This book also covers anger and stress management, depression and how to recognize that one may be depressed and so on. I also truly advocate for parents to read this book as well. It has truly opened my eyes. A self-help book like no other, The Mind Game: Mastering your emotions to achieve success is a masterpiece and one that is very informative as well as interesting enough to keep the reader gripping till the end.

Verdict:

I personally rate this a 5/5 stars. Wonderful work!

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Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar, Kochery C. Shibu, 2015

Publishers: Niyogi books

Synopsis:

A Hydel project in the remote HImalayas- three people brought together by fate.
Nanda an engineer from Kerala at the dam construction site, hiding from his past, from the law, torn between the love for his dear ones, and the kalari code of revenge.
Khusru, a youth displaced from his native village in Kashmir, a gambit in the terror plot that threatens to blow up the dam, working as a labourer at the site.
Rekha, a kathak dancer at heart, a doctor by profession, arrives at the campsite as the consort of Khusru.
A village that accepts the dictates of modernity with a heavy heart, its population steeped in superstitions and religious beliefs.
All throng the campsite like moths to a flame, some escape untouched,successful;some miss a step and perish. each has a story to tell and a dream to realise. Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar is about the aspirations of these people, with their cares and worries woven to the site life. The fury of nature and hardships of project life have no mercy for the weak and no time for the dead.
Like an eternal spectator the Dhauladhar watches as men risk their lives and limb in the quest to fulfil their dreams.

My review:

The first thing to be noted and applauded, is the amount of research that has gone on for the construction of this book. It is clear that the author has done a lot of study and research data analysis for this. There are a lot of details regarding the construction process, the lives of the men associated with it as well.

The author has also beautifully brought in the natural aspect as well, offering soothing calm to the readers. It’s a travel book at times and I felt as if I myself was there amidst all the cool beauty.

The characters were well made as well. Nanda was a realistic and round figure portraying all the factors of his life, and of so many others- be it in his past trials and tribulations, or his present apprehension. When we see his journey throughout the novel it is clear that it is so much of a bildungsroman in one- his realization that in the end it I only love that is healthy for us- that vile ideas of revenge and such are not only repugnant but also harmful. His relations with his family was also beautiful. When it comes to Khusru however, I found his emotions all over the place. He was too flighty a character for me and definitely not a likeable one. Moreover, being very much career oriented myself, I did not like Rekha’s decision of leaving everything behind for her true love. Yes, it’s personal and that’s why perhaps, it irked me so much. Especially when the revelations were coming up. There were also a lot of characters overall, and the author’s introduction of them was too early and I was flitting back and forth, confused with who was who.

In terms of plot, I felt that it was a bit dragging in some places and some parts were very monotonous- when the author describes the machinery and the processes and such. It was too technical and too long at times. Without giving a spoiler, I personally felt that the end was not to my taste. Definitely was expecting something different. The language used was pretty easy and the jargons were explained which was a plus point. The narration was compelling as well, overall.

The cover was really great and apt- relating to the story and that in itself is great. I personally don’t see the point of having a cover that does not resonate with the story inside.

Many thanks to the author for providing me with the book in exchange of an honest review

Verdict:

I rate this a 4/5 stars. However seeing as to how it is quite an intense read, I would definitely recommend to pick it up at your own expense.

Looking Through a Telescope for Love, Himanshu Goel, 2018

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Publishers: Self-published

Genre: Poetry

Illustrated by: Arushi Gupta

Synopsis:

“I’m just
a little boy
looking through
a telescope
trying to find
love in the sky…..”
Looking through a telescope for love is the second in the poetry collection series A Rational Boy in Love. There is more than one path to love and the rational boy tries to use the tools of science to deal with questions of love he can’t understand.

My Review:

The book is a collection of 50 poems, all about love and its beauty. Divided into four sections- Looking through a telescope for love’, ‘For love’, ‘Daughter of the moon’ and “Runaway star’ this collection is a beautiful and calm read. These short poems are accompanied by some simple and minimalistic illustrations by Arushi Gupta.

The language used is pretty simple and I could hardly find any grammatical errors. Despite this, I found the overall subjects very simple. Written in the modern style of blank prose without rhyme, like Rupi Kaur and Lang Leav’s works, Looking Through a Telescope for Love is a decent read for any reader’s initial forays into modern poetry. The poems also revolved around women and I personally liked that.

Verdict:

I rate this book a 3/5 stars and shall definitely recommend it to others.

First Breath, R. Kumar, 2018

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Publishers: Self-published

Genre: Poetry

Synopsis:

“First Breath” is the collection of poetries which are not written, they are lived; which are not on papers, they are in hearts. This book is result of author’s passion towards writing which he started unintentionally at the difficult verge of life. This book is example of fulfilling one’s goals, fulfilling one’s passions. This book contains poetries about LOVE, BETRAYAL, TRUTHS OF LIFE and PERSONALITIES WHICH INFLUENCED LIFE.

My Review:

First Breath is the debut work by its creator, R. Kumar. It has four sections containing poems about love, betrayal, influencing personalities and the face of truth. These four sections are named as Rain of romance, Ember of love, Thunder of magnificent creature, and, Cloud of screwing truths.

Now I have to admit that the subjects the poet has chosen are very relevant- like depression, family, relationships etc., he the overall work needs a lot more finesse. However the execution has left a lot to be desired. There are a lot of editing and grammatical errors. For instance the name of a poem- the title itself is wrong- ‘decesion’. And the words become very repetitive at times as if the poet is actually writing a song. And yet, I found no tune or flow in the words. The author is obviously an amateur however it doesn’t have to imply that the work is bad- though a lot of editing and proofreading nod drafting have to be done. The poet also uses some very strange comparisons at times, and they hardly make any sense. There was a poem ‘Be Mine’ where I was wondering if it was a poem or rather a song.

Verdict:

I didn’t really enjoy this book unfortunately and can’t say that I will recommend it to anyone else. For the value of the subjects only I give this book a 1/5 stars.

The Woman in the Window, A. J. Finn, 2018

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Publishers: HarperCollins Publishers

Synopsis:

What did she see?
It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.
Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.
But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

My review:

The protagonist is almost like an anti-heroine and that’s the one thing that really attracted me- the unreliable narrator aspect is one trope that is very often used in case of women in psychological thrillers. In this novel too, I really like it. Moreover, the fact that she being a psychologist is undergoing a psychological problem herself is quite poignant- though she has been trained to help such children, she is unable to help herself. The agoraphobia theme is also something new that I have come across and in this way definitely learnt something new. Anna Fox is a really likeable character despite her many flaws. She is so realistic and relatable that you just cannot help but almost reach out to her as she despairs her situation and the believability that people have when it comes to her authenticity.

The other characters too I feel were well developed, though none as well as Anna, obviously. The whole story took quite an unexplainable turn in the end as anyone can expect in a novel as such, and yet this twist is completely twisted and not something that one could have even imagined. It’s wilder than wild horses running in your dreams.

The whole book, though seeming quite long, was actually very easy to cover- probably because of the short chapters. The reader is kept reeling as the shocks come, one after the another. However, I have to admit that I found the beginning very slow and I hardly ever favour slow-paced books. I had put down the book I admit, but somehow decided to take it up again because of the fact that I hate to DNF it.

This psychological thriller was really an interesting one for me. Having read The Girl on the Train as well as Gone Girl, I loved this opportunity to be able to read another such exciting and fun read.

Verdict:

This was a 4 star read for me undoubtedly. The one star I do not give- it’s only because of the unsatisfactory and slow paced beginning.

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, 1818

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Often regarded as the mother of modern science fiction, Frankenstein is a chilling tale of man’s quest for dangerous knowledge and the wish to gain the power of the laws of nature. This novel is a compilation of Romantic and Gothic elements combined into a singular work with an unforgettable story. It follows Victor Frankenstein, a student of natural philosophy, as he creates his greatest creation- the Frankenstein monster, made from the part of 7 other male dead bodies. Just the thought of raising the dead is gruesome enough. Shelley takes full advantage of this literary device to enhance the strange feelings that Frankenstein generates in its readers.

The themes of dangerous knowledge, sublime nature, monstrosity and creation. An aspect of Gothic literature, the search for illicit truth and magical mysteries is seen in the character of Victor Frankenstein as well as Robert Walton. Victor Frankenstein, of course, engages in a quest to push the realms of science to their limits and even go beyond by his creation of the monster. Nature, on the other hand, is used to depict the moods and situations of the characters in the novel- as a mirror of their innermost thoughts and feelings. Particularly in Frankenstein’s narration, the description of scenery often reflects his mental state at the time of the scene. Nature as a force is often personified in the text.

Gothic novels also have multiple levels of narration, which is done by using a framing device. We see this in Frankenstein, where the story of Victor Frankenstein and his creation is framed by the story of Walton. We hear Frankenstein’s story told Walton, who is narrating the story to his sister Mrs Margaret Saville and through these letters, to the readers. At times, the narration is even further removed, such as, when the monster tells Victor Frankenstein his story. Foreshadowing is ubiquitous and throughout his narrative, Victor uses words such as “fate” and “omen” to hint at the tragedy that has befallen him.

Also known as The Modern Prometheus, Frankenstein is a reference to the Promethean hubris. The story is true to this moniker: in Greek mythology, Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to humanity; he was subsequently bound and punished eternally for his crimes. Similarly, Frankenstein discovered how to give life to things — a power thought divine — and is subsequently punished by the endless tragedy delivered unto him by his creation.

I will end this long review by stating that I truly loved this book and grant it a 5/5 stars! Marvellous work!

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, 1813

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“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”. And with this, perhaps the most famous ironical sentence ever, begins Austen’s masterpiece. First published in 1813, it achieved instant success and its popularity has endured till this date. With a working title of First Impressions, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen has remained an evergreen favorite among all in the literary world. Every English major has read it and moreover, there are so many others who aren’t majoring in English, but are still among this classic’s ardent lovers.

Pride and Prejudice follows the trials and tribulations of the five Bennet sisters- Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia, with all their various quirks and mannerisms. It is a truly funny and satiric novel in the sense that it subtly pokes fun at the various stereotypes in Regency Era England.

We see the irony in appearance and character- for instance, in the fine-bred Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her condescending manners, Mrs. Bennet with her silly and loud ways as well as Mr. Collins who surely loves to hear his own voice. There is also a comparison made between simplicity and intricacy in between Jane and Mr. Charles Bingley, and Elizabeth and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. The novel’s title may be a reference to Mr. Darcy’s pride and Elizabeth’s prejudice against him; however, it goes both ways.

Since Pride and Prejudice can be classified as a novel of manners, we can also see quite a few social themes that haunted every action and thought of people in 19th century England. Reputation is one major theme in this novel, but it comes into prominence with Lydia’s elopement with Wickham. At the base of the story, we can say that Pride and Prejudice is a story of two young people coming together, as love inexplicably binds them together. It is thus no wonder that love should be one of the major themes of this novel. Financial status or class is another recurring theme- it is what drives Mrs. Bennet with the threat of the entail hanging of her head, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh when she visits Elizabeth towards the end, and expresses how unfit any union of her and Mr. Darcy would be. In the same vein, social appearance, humility and prejudice are also among the few other themes.

Personal growth is quite a major theme throughout the novel- it takes place in the two major characters of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Taking this factor, Pride and Prejudice can also be classified as a bildungsroman. A lot of the storyline is also taken forward through the medium of letters- among Jane, Elizabeth, Caroline Bingley etc. thus we see an effective use of the epistolary form as well.

I remember that that first time I read this, was back in 2012 when I was perhaps in the eight standard. I had loved it then and I loved it as I possible read this for the hundredth time this semester. It truly is a wonderful experience every time I read it and one of the obvious choices when people ask me for classics recommendations. I rated it, as usual a 5/5 stars; I do not know anyone who would grant it any less!

Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift, 1726

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First published in 1726, Gulliver’s Travels was an immediate success and as a powerful satire as well as an adventure story, continues to ensnare readers of all ages. Categorized into four parts, Gulliver’s Travels follows Lemuel Gulliver, (Gulliver is a word play on the word “gullible”) as he travels accidentally to four amazingly strange and exotic places. The first is the country of Lilliput where people are 5-6 inches tall, and then he travels to Brobdingnag where the people, this time, are giants at 60-70 feet. On his third journey he ends upon the flying island of Laputa which is inhabited by the absurdly impractical scientists, and lastly, perhaps also the strangest, he goes to the land of the Houyhnhnms- the civilized horses and the filthy, uncivilized human-like Yahoos.

Although this is a satire, Gulliver’s disgust for humans is scant in the first two books but increases in the third and becomes extreme in the fourth. It is a commentary on mankind, and Swift uses this exotic imagery to mock the hypocrisy and underhandedness in the morals, social habits political events and ideas, of the people. He is portrayed as a man who loves to travel and meet new people and connect with them, but the apparent uncaring attitude he has for his wife Mary is very unsatisfying to read about.

However great this book may be, there were points when Gulliver was rambling on and on about futile things. But nonetheless, it is a book that I would greatly recommend to all lovers of travel. This book is so resplendent that I would even dare to suggest parents let their children read it, albeit an abridged version. This is the first time I read this book and I cannot say I hated it, but I did not love it either. So I rate it 4/5 stars and hope future readers will only grant it more for in this regard, I do not think I did it justice.

You Cannot Have All The Answers and other stories, Deepa Agarwal, 2018

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Publishers: Niyogi Books

Synopsis:

Some stories begin at the beginning and some at the end. And in some, it’s hard to say where the beginning is and where the end.’ You Cannot Have All the Answers, a collection of fifteen short stories, offers a glimpse into the conflicting emotions that define the human condition, and portrays characters who attempt to seek answers to a variety of existential questions. Including The Asian Age short-story competition winner, Cradle Song, these narratives deal with issues like trauma, sexuality, prejudice, family relations, and the recklessness of youth.

My Review:

You Cannot Have All The Answers came as a beautiful surprise to me. It is a collection of 15 short stories- set in India, mostly during the late 20th century, and it powerfully describes certain incidents in the protagonists’ lives.

Foraying into the areas of societal pressures and expectations, hidden desires, sexuality, love etc., this book makes the reader inevitably introspect about similar incidents in their lives and in this, one finds the realistic element twined with the intangible, almost illusionary thoughts. And like the title of the highlighted story, there are many questions that are still left unanswered in our minds. This book was a beautiful journey for me- one that I shall recommend other people on too!

Verdict:

I rate this book a solid 5/5 stars. Really loved it.

Raw Silk, Anne Mather, 1994

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Publishers: Mills and Boon Limited.

Synopsis:

Virgin or wanton…?
Oliver Lee is a man with a shadowed past. He is suspicious of everything and everyone…so when he meets Fliss, he thinks her innocence is an act. Fliss may be innocent, but when Oliver’s around she can’t help behaving as if she is a woman of the world. Fliss is tempted to throw caution to the winds, because life with Oliver seems to offer such exciting possibilities. The passion he inspires in Fliss is just like raw silk–beautiful, unique and desirable. But like raw silk, it is fragile…. Only love will help it survive.

My review:

As far as a Mills and Boon goes, I believe this one was pretty well constructed. The author has nicely embedded an intricacy through the mystery element in what is otherwise a bland plot line. I think this is the one thing that actually kept me stuck till the end.

Fliss as a character is not someone I admired; I found her too weak-willed and without a spine. And her reaction whenever Oliver was near was too overrated; I know certain things have to be a bit overrated in any romance novel but this, I believe, was just too much. I did enjoy Oliver’s character as well as Rose Chen’s. They were both powerful personalities worth admiring.

Verdict:

I rate this a 2/5 stars. It’s not something I’ll pick up anytime soon!