Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ebbs and Flows by Amitava Chaudury : A Review

BOOK TITLE: Ebbs and Flows
AUTHOR: Amitava Chaudury
GENRE: Fiction/ Short Stories.
FORMAT: Paperback
REVIEW BY: Dhivya Balaji
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: We thank Blackbuck publishers for this review copy!
          Imagine – a person you have wronged years ago suddenly returns to haunt your life or you are faced with a situation where fate challenges you to dare follow the lofty things you had so openly preached. Or a man who shamelessly boasts of his achievements suddenly finds his lie turning into a beautiful reality. Or you discover a rather sinister side of the person you had secretly worshipped.
          These situations can be faced by any of us, correction probably by none of us. That is because we are common people, destined to lead an ordinary life. However, no power in the world can stop even the most common of common men from imagining. The answer to these imaginations is a tide of emotions some joyful, some slightly depressing but then, that is life ebbs and flows of emotion.
          The book contains a few short stories. Much like the title suggests, it deals with the ebbs and flows of human emotions. The calming book cover says it all. The emotions are subtle, like a mild melody playing just loud enough to be heard, but not too jarring.
          Each and every story deals with the flow of human emotions and memories. Some are sad, some are repenting, some are surprising, some are plain happy. All stories have both the commonalities and differences with day to day human life. Each tale is relatable; you have seen such characters in real life too. There is nothing new or unheard of.
          Instead of dissecting each story, we can say with a general assessment of the book. Read these stories with a clear mind, even if you feel like there is continuity between subsequent tales, there isn’t! Maybe this is the author’s quirk. Muted things like repeated character names that make you go, ‘oh, it might be the same person/ situation’ but end up differently make this book unique.
          The main drawback is, the stories are forgettable. Much like the emotions, they drain away too quickly, for you to grasp. None of the characters are etched deep enough to remain imprinted in our memory. Once the reader starts relating the ebbs and flows to their own emotions, the whole point of characters ceases to exist.
          Read the book if you are looking for something different, light and mostly on a travel (like I did!)
          The short, easy to read stories. Minimum use of jargon.
          Characters could have been deeply etched, and could be more memorable.
VERDICT: Go for it as a light read. If you like Indianised writing and simple stories. If you expect something big from the title, prepare to be slightly let down.
PRICE: Rs. 100 for Paperback.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Crossover Year by Bhargavi Balachandran: A Review

BOOK TITLE: The Crossover Year
ISBN: 978-81-8046-088-3
AUTHOR: Bhargavi Balachandran
GENRE: Fiction
FORMAT: Paperback
REVIEW BY: Dhivya Balaji
          The author contacted me via goodreads and sent me a copy for review. I thank her for it.
Meet Sri Anuprabha, aka Anu, a twenty-nine year-old banker who is terrified of entering her thirties. She dreams of quitting her job at the bank, sporting yoga pants and traipsing around the world. Her world turns upside down when things go awry and she is faced with the prospect of spending her days watching Tamil serials. She comes up with a five-point plan for reclaiming her life back before she hits the big 30. But things are never as simple as drawing up a flowchart in real life, are they? Especially with a ghastly recession rearing its ugly head…. Anu bumbles through the corridors of domesticity and travels on a funfilled roller coaster ride in a bid to discover her passion in life.Along the way, she meets new people, experiences crazy new things and learns some hard lessons in marriage, friendship, parenting and life. The Crossover Year is a funny, yet heartwarming story of a woman in search of her identity, and a chronicle of her hilarious quest for discovering her inner mojo. Bring out a platter of cookies and a steaming mug of chai, and join Anu on the ride of her lifetime.
          Some books promise to be great. You open them with an eager anticipation that it will somehow change your perspective on life and love. Then there are some books that are not widely publicised, and are not written by a popular author. These are the books that will surprise you out of your prejudice. Bhargavi Balachandran gave me a treat in this regard. The Crossover Year is one fun novel and it gives you life’s medicines in a sugar coated fashion.
          Anu is a banker in her late twenties, from a typical Tam-Brahm family, married and hating her job. But the self deprecating fashion in which she narrates her story is endearing. There are no larger than life characters and no unnecessary melodrama. (The author provides enough of this by her downright hilarious description of Tamil Serials. And yes, you read that right!) The journey of Anu over a year as she crosses over from stuck-in-a-cubicle-and-suffocated Anu to some woman who realises that life is not all about the rat race. (Yes, the cross over year – 29 to 30)
          What is endearing is not the fact that none of this written in a self-help book style or in a tone that evokes sympathy. It is a learning journey; a fun ride (read) that you don’t know the strain of travel at all. It is more about the writing style than the story itself. Being a Tam-brahm, the essence of the book is so relatable. And the way the scenes are written are simply awesome. You can relate to every moment of the book. From the regular Tamil practices to the tsu-maamis, (the females of the Tam-Brahm race aged above 50, who make it a point to wreak havoc in the lives of their children by maintaining the largest network of matrimonial databases) the book has it all to make you laugh out loud sometimes and nod your heads in agreement most of the time.
          Sample these two scenes:
          The author’s take on how to dance, a friend who teaches Anu the Daler Mehendi routine for most songs!
          Step 1: fly a kite for 20 seconds
          Step 2: drive a tractor for 20 seconds
          Step 3: plough the land for 20 seconds
          Step 4: alternate between the three for 30 seconds
          Step 5: (grand finale step) draw water up the well 5 seconds.
          Anu says about the ‘Three Point Check for a Nice Married Tam-Brahm girl’
o   Check thaali (mangal-sutra)
o   Check kumkum on forehead
o   Check toe-ring
          (The author of course fails the third step and gets attacked by the Mylapore Tsu-maamis for this!)
          If you are a Tam-Brahm, you will relate to every scene ever mentioned. You will understand what Anu feels while trying to fit in with the modern society and also please her parents and relatives. If you are not a Tam-Brahm, you will still relate to the difficulties a woman nearing 30 feels. If you are a man, still read it for the awesome humour and the brilliant writing. Miss the nativity of your region? Read it! Want to spend your time doing something that makes you feel light? Read this book.
          Bottom line: Read The Crossover Year, no matter what your preferences!
WHAT I LIKED: The story, the writing, the characterisation and the incredible visualisation.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: There is nothing to correct, except maybe a few parts of the story where you wish it had been crafted more perfectly. Don't expect a path breaking philosophical book. This is trying to make you think while you laugh.
VERDICT: Go for this. Definitely. (My shortest verdict so far!)
RATING: 4.5/5
Find more about the author here!
You can also find links to her blog and website.
EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Paperback, Kindle.
PRICE: Rs. 175 for kindle edition.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Aversion by Kenechi Udogu : A Review

Team Readers' Muse thanks Deepika for this splendid review! 

BOOK NAME: Aversion, Book One of The Mentalist Series
AUTHOR: Kenechi Udogu
GENRE: Young Adult, Fantasy Fiction, Romance
          Gemma Green is a normal fifteen year old girl, but the secret in her life is that she is an Averter: one who could just move your thoughts around a bit so that you don’t end up doing something life-spoiling (I hope that is a word!). She is all the more special than the other Averters because she is a girl, which is a virtually non-existent thing in Averter history. Or so she thinks until she meets Russ Tanner, the first person whose memory she is supposed to alter in order to avoid his major life turning crisis. Almost everything after meeting him goes out of her control and she learns that not everything around her is true. I say ‘almost everything’ because she there is sweet Russ to cushion the blows dealt out to her...sometimes. So does it really mean that Russ has fallen for our plain Jane or does it only mean she has somehow botched up her first Aversion and Russ is going to wake up to the truth soon? Hop on to the boat of “Aversion” for a happy reading of Udogu’s smooth writing to satisfy your curiosity!
          Let me start out by saying that, I am a number one fan of girl power fiction and am all in support of girls who keep their heads together when it comes to dealing with mess. That said, I have read SO many over-hyped books about strong female leads who are hailed to be strong and level-headed but whom I actually find so whiny (I am not naming any names now). I started out this book by hoping fervently that Gemma (the protagonist) would not turn out to be one of ‘those’ girls. And lo and behold, my prayers were answered! An added joy is that just when you think things are going to get predictable, it doesn’t and just like that we are in a reader’s heaven!
           I don’t know what I have against romance, but I actually cringed a bit when a romantic angle was around the corner (read extremely dreamy guy). I had no need to do that, since it was a pleasantly romantic twist and it actually does help move the story forward rather than proving to be just a vent for raging teenage hormones. Though the usual good versus evil is imminent, the author succeeds in leaving you hanging with a lot of curiosity towards the end (read the title! There are more to come. Yay!). And an honestly unexpected ending!!
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE BOOK: The creative concept in a beaten-to-death theme of high school romance with teenagers trying to find out more about themselves, the character development of the protagonist and the easy, crisp narrative style of the author which comes out in even such a short read.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: We realize that love is indeed the answer to everything. But c’mon, why can it not for just once be something different: like maybe just for the thrill of it or for self-betterment (without getting too philosophical)?


The Return by Carter Vance : A Review

We thank our guest reviewer Deepika Anandakrishnan for this honest review. Read along for her take on The Return! 
-Team Readers' Muse

BOOK TITLE: The Return

AUTHOR: Carter Vance

          Geoff Allen is a banker possessed by curiosity, when he comes across a book on the Templars, inside a secret library while vacationing at his friend’s place. It leads him on a wild chase through different countries, helping him to piece together several historic puzzles but also invites trouble in several forms. The story is developed on the idea that Jesus does have a family and many descendants, all of whom survived under the protection of the mysterious Templar Knights and the Founders and are living with the surname ‘Davidson’. It has a lot of information about how they all managed to survive because, history will soon repeat itself and Satan will most certainly try to take control again. This might call for Him to be born on earth again and hence the Christos couple Sarah Davidson Christos, a philanthropic socialite, and Peter Christos, a business tycoon, meet, fall in love and have the honour to be His birth parents. Satan has minions all over the world, especially in The Vatican and spreads fear mainly through one nun called Sister Regina also known as (the super-hot Italian attorney) Regina Vergen ( who she is depends on the dress she wears!) The entire book is about the events leading to His birth and how the evil forces try their best to stop His birth. Do they succeed at it? Read the book to find out. Or at least try to!
          Personally though, Geoff Allen is my idol. He is an extremely successful and stressed out investment banker who could afford to take many days out of his work to tour around the world trying to satisfy his itch and still manage to have a passionate affair with a totally hot attorney, and probably looking ruggedly handsome all the while too. I find it difficult enough to look presentable for a night-out with friends! No wonder the man dies so young. If this is the level of naivety that a successful banker is imagined to have, no wonder the author is so paranoid about every organization in the world.
          But credit must be given to His 20th century parents, who never bat an eyelid to even one part of the humongous load of information thrown at them(so we shouldn’t either I guess!). They must also be obviously super naturally equipped to respond with “Sounds good!”, “ Great, more information!” to almost everything  and to be skipping along cheerfully when their parents are terminally ill or have just given them the stunning piece of information that they are actually descendants of Jesus Christ! So the entire world is conspiring against Him, nothing is as it looks and you are actually fooled into believing that you are working for some greater good when actually you are working hard to satisfy the needs of majorly sex and money deprived Holy priests in the Vatican Church.  Imagine that you wrote a 500 page book borrowing from everything under the sun and somebody asked you to cut it down to 100-odd pages. What would you strike out? Obviously you strike out the emotions from the characters, because who needs to feel connected to the characters when you have so much backstory to catch up to?  The author had taken the time to describe what type of meat the Christos had during Christmas and the type of cutlery they used (excuse the exaggeration), but not about how the mother feels about bearing Him or even having a normal baby? Just writing “Thrilled” doesn’t cut it! I hope the Templars also tell these parents that it is important for a child to be held as much as possible when it is growing up so that Jesus does not have any emotional issues when He is fighting Satan soon.  

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE BOOK: It taught me how patient I could be.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT THE BOOK:  Under developed characters, too much backstory which never really comes together, typos and silly grammatical errors, stale dialogues, the hard to ignore resemblance of a borrowed plot and finally trying too hard to put it all together.



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Unholy - Promo post


A young curandera, a medicine woman, intent on uncovering the secrets of her past is forced into a life-and-death battle against an evil Archbishop. Set in the mystic land of Aztlan, "The Unholy" is a novel of destiny as healer and slayer. Native lore of dreams and visions, shape changing, and natural magic work to spin a neo-gothic web in which sadness and mystery lure the unsuspecting into a twilight realm of discovery and decision. PAUL DeBLASSIE III, PhD, is a psychologist and writer living in his native New Mexico. A member of the Depth Psychology Alliance, the Transpersonal Psychology Association, and the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, he has for over thirty years treated survivors of the dark side of religion.



Paul DeBlassie III, Ph.D., is a psychologist and writer living in Albuquerque, New Mexico who has treated survivors of the dark side of religion for more than 30 years. He is a member of the Depth Psychology Alliance, the Transpersonal Psychology Association and the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. Dr. DeBlassie writes psychological thrillers with an emphasis on the dark side of the human psyche. In The Unholy, a young curandera, a medicine woman, intent on uncovering the secrets of her past is forced into a life-and-death battle against an evil archbishop. Set in the mystic land of Aztlan, the Unholy is a novel of destiny as healer and slayer. Native lore of dreams and visions lure the unsuspecting into a twilight realm of discovery and decision.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Guest Post by Stacy Overman Morrison: Author of Comfort of Fences


          Since the challenges and blessings in leading a family are as varied as women themselves, I will explore the topic by sharing my own experiences. I married very young, 17 to be exact, running from a strict family and into the arms of a young man who needed a mother more than a wife.
          At 21, I had my daughter and continued to mother both my child and my husband, but I grew weary of parenting a spouse. I realized how I was letting myself down and decided to parent myself better. I enrolled in college classes and began the process in which I earned my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. I lost the husband.
          Then, my roles became single mother and college student. Many dinners were 99 cent take-out bean burritos and water at home, but my daughter and I had each other. We had time to spend together as I tootled us around in my Honda hatchback while listening to Back Street boys and car-seat dancing with my mini-me.
          At 28, I met my second husband. I was still a single mother as I claimed I would be both mother and father to my daughter before I allowed a man to step into our relationship and tell me how to raise my child. This second husband respected that and supported me to parent my daughter as I saw fit. We had a second daughter together and this fragmented family became a cohesive unit. I was now finally mother and wife, not mother-wife, and I made room for a true father for my girls.
          There is something freeing about true partnership. I will always be the mother and for me that means I am the spiritual, heart-force of my family. It is not about authority or power as much as it is about working together for the common good of each member of my family. I chose to take on my role as a carver of a sanctuary in a world that is tumultuous and rash.
          I am a matriarch. I am a loving, living, flawed, divine manifestation of female love that strives to bring soul-power and compassion to my family and to the world. From the outside, do people see me as powerful? As a life-force of matriarchal strength? I don’t know. Perhaps not. I do live what looks like a traditional lifestyle. What I do know is that being a mother is my highest calling and is the source of my authentic power.
          My role in leading my family is not the same role every woman takes, nor is it the “correct” one. For me though, it works. I am now moving into the phase where I am having to learn the art of letting go. My daughter is 19 and in college. My role as her mother is ever more evolving. As a matriarch, I hope I can model for her the courage to blaze her own path, the tools to navigate the good and the bad that will challenge her, and the grace to know when to hold on for dear life and when to let go. For mothering is not just about the birthing and raising of babies that come from my body. Mothering is the art of loving and manifesting that love so that it sends love-waves far from the hearth and into the world.


Stacy Overman Morrison was born and raised in Texas. She earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s of Arts degrees in English from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. Upon completion of her Master’s, she taught secondary English and adjuncted at the University. She took time off from her teaching career after the birth of her second daughter and has pursued her writing since. She continues to live in Texas with her husband, two daughters, two dogs, and two horses. This is her first novel and she is hard at work listening to the voices of her characters in her second.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Comfort of Fences By Stacy Overman Morrison: A Review

BOOK TITLE: Comfort of Fences
ISBN: 978-1939927569
AUTHOR: Stacy Overman Morrison
GENRE: Contemporary Fiction/ Women’s Fiction/ Family Saga
REVIEW BY: Dhivya Balaji
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: This book is a part of the Virtual authors Book tour.
Comfort of Fences explores the unconditional love between a trio of women: Ruth, the matriarch and builder of boundaries; Denise, her special-needs adult daughter with powerful secrets of her own; and Georgia, Ruth’s best friend and source of strength and practicality. The dynamics of their relationships expose the ironies that the people we love the most can also be the people we most underestimate and that the strongest of loves has nothing to do with romance.
          There are some books that give you an idea about what the author is trying to say on the jacket itself. There are some books that make the jacket blurb so intense and exciting (unfortunately if you delve in deeper, that will be the (only?) best part of the book). Then there are books that are written with a meaning. Something showing you very little of its depth on the cover but manages to draw you in slowly with the progress of the story line. Comfort of Fences is one such book.
          Love need not always be romantic. (Actually this should have been the first line of the review. The number of romance novels is too damn high, nowadays). A woman need not be a man’s doll (girls these days need to drill this into their heads). And you often underestimate the gifts you actually have (some don’t even realise it is a gift until it is gone). A decision that seems perfect to you now might actually be flawed and actually throw your life into a muddle (just because you are a parent doesn’t give you a right to ruin your child’s life). Comfort of Fences tells all of this in a poignant tale.
          An old mother dying of cancer has a challenged daughter who is an adult in her body and child in her mind. An even older woman is a friend and herds the family into proper paths during times good and bad. Three different women, three different view points on a single decision.
          Ruth thinks all decisions she has made so far on Denise were for her own good. But her very belief is challenged when cancer rears its ugly head and threatens to take her away.
          Denise adores her momma and there is no one else she’d rather be with. To the 52 year old little girl, her momma is the world and she loves her unconditionally. Though unable to understand the pain and suffering, she offers simple answers to life’s tough questions.
          Georgia, always the symbol of practicality, is a beacon of a lighthouse guiding Ruth and Denise towards a sensible direction. She is the friend who helps Ruth die in peace rather than cry over her uselessly, subjecting her to pain.
          The story and the plot are straightforward and amazingly simple. They are the basic foundation on which the rich texture of the emotions build. The characterisation gives a nostalgic feeling. The leads make all the decisions you will probably make when faced with a similar situation. There is some sort of camaraderie you can feel with all three women.
          There is no obvious drag because you see the stories unfold in first person and you feel like you have seen a movie that goes into flashbacks. Be it the mother who writes her story down for her girl or the daughter who gets ready to face the world without her momma, you will find the book touching at places.
          The credibility of the plot is also high, because it is a story that can happen to anyone. Yes, the book is heavy. Yes, there are parts which make you cry. Yes, there are a few scenes which you wish had never happened. But in the end, it is the mirror of life. Every day will not be as you wanted. And that is the thrill of it, after all!
WHAT I LIKED: The characters, and the whole concept that the strongest love is not romantic. There is more in a woman’s life than a man.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Some parts of the detailed explanation, though intended to make the reader understand, is lending a bit of a drag.
VERDICT: Every strong woman needs to read this. To all you men out there, understand that women can have a bond stronger than marriage could ever create. To all you women out there, understand that you need not always be under a man’s wing. He is a spoke in the wheel, not the wheel itself! I rest my case!
RATING: 4.6/5

Stacy Overman Morrison was born and raised in Texas. She earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s of Arts degrees in English from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. Upon completion of her Master’s, she taught secondary English and adjuncted at the University. She took time off from her teaching career after the birth of her second daughter and has pursued her writing since. She continues to live in Texas with her husband, two daughters, two dogs, and two horses. This is her first novel and she is hard at work listening to the voices of her characters in her second.
EDITIONS AVAILABLE: paperback, ebook.
PRICE: $2.99 for Kindle, $9.99 for paperback.