Friday, March 31, 2017

Book Review: Finding Juliet by Toffee

Name of the Book: Finding Juliet 

Author: Toffee

Publisher: Srishti Publisher 

Star Rating: 4 stars 

My Review: 

‘Every time I tried kissing happiness, it came very close to me and then pushed me away,’ I said, looking at the glass of vodka in my hand..."

The above lines set the mood of the story. You already form an opinion of what lies ahead. You already get a glimpse of the characters you will be traveling along within these pages and you already know that this is a post-Devdas story...

Wrong.

This is the window to the world of Arjun. Where you glimpse an innocent boy, standing at the thresh hold of his virginity, confused by the confusing emotions playing around him. A boy who had to grow up when disaster strikes and rips his world apart.

Toffee is one writer who is very sure of his audience. The young college going crowd who are victims of their own confusion. Yet that is just one part of their personality. They have so much inner strength that you can but only marvel at their tenacious nature. Their bouncing back in life. And this novel is all about that.

Arjun has a weak heart. And by that, I don't mean in the medical sense. He falls in love very quickly - every time. To give him his due, it's mostly the girls who are ditching him but he is not one of those guys who will be lost in memories. I like that - a good lesson for the young Romeos out there. Finding Juliet is almost like a journey. A journey to find one's true love. Often we are searching for things out of our comfort zone, forgetting to look around us. But where love is concerned, destiny plays a very important part and Toffee has used it very effectively to bring together the two lovers.

Arjun and Shraddha...
That is the first love story. I liked Arjun a lot. His innocence was quite touching. An innocence which reminded me of my own 20's when the people around us start shaping our lives. Even I was surprised regarding the outcome of this love story but like I said before, destiny already had set the wheels of their life in motion and however much Arjun tries, he could not escape it.

In this section, I found the author's narration very filmy. His comparison of the protagonist's life with movies like 3 idiots and Dil Chahta hai makes you wonder how much influence the Bollywood movies had on the author. But that is the phase which we all have gone through. So keeping the age factor in mind, I thought it was very well projected.

Anjali...
The anchor in Arjun's life whom he had met when he was four years of old. From childhood love to escaping commitment. But throughout the story, Anjali remain his conscious. So what makes Arjun commitment phobic? Sometimes I found him downright idiotic who went about life crying over people whom he had lost rather than appreciating the one's he had at that point in time.
The main disappointing phase of Arjun's life was when he met the girls after Neha. One after the other proved his character to be very shallow. There was no hero like quality which made me want to read them. The guys any college going girl will meet in a canteen, who either will whistle at you or turn into a roadside Romeo. Love without dignity does not fascinate the reader in me.

But let's not forget the title - Finding Juliet. It's after all the protags journey in finding love.

Author's style:
Toffee comes across as a very bold writer and I like his writing style - young and peppy. But don't go about searching for literary context. It's a romance in which you will see the growth of a protagonist and that to me, as a reader, is very important.

Would I recommend it?
A one time read which will make you smile at places and grit your teeth at a few crude scenes. This is a raw romance, not a story of a dashing hero and damsel in distress. It's the story of the youth of today.

















Thursday, March 23, 2017

Magazine Review: YuGen: Universe Is In Your Hands


When Rishikesh Pande, Co-Founder of Artists' Syndicate And Managing Editor of YuGen magazine approached me to review their newly launched magazine, I was a bit skeptical. I am not a huge fan of online magazines. How can one beat the crisp feeling of new pages and the warmth that a paper magazine fresh out of the press? But reading this one has been an interesting experience. 

The magazine is divided into the following sections:
Fiction: Poetry: Essays: Spotlight: Reviews: Writer's Guidance. What exactly the magazine is about, you will get a clearer picture from the following lines:


- words of Akash Rumade, Editor-in-chief

Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, though does not make mankind intellectual, yet providence says that we fall in love with our eyes first. And in this case, the artwork of Ekta Ray is really eye catching. Haunting. And throughout this issue, this haunting echo has been maintained. 

You can see the minds of the youngsters of today working furiously, trying to keep the tapestry of literature kindled in the minds of the younger generation. And with that, I do hope Mr. Rumade realizes how much of a responsibility he is shouldering. For such articles as this magazine boasts of are about motivation, direction and spreading the love of words. I wish him all the best for the forthcoming issues. 

This issue is studded with a myriad of articles dedicated to different forms Art. Most of them are about the pathos of unfulfilled dreams. A dirge for unrequited love for the medium of art. Be it a short fiction of Rishikesh Pandey aptly titled 'The Artist' or 'Fair Darkness' by Sneha Pandey, both have a similar ending which rattled me up. In the midst of this darkness, the silver lining is no doubt the man in the spotlight - Paresh Tiwari. 

The Haiku section deserves a special mention. I'm not an expert in any form of poetry but these lines had maintained the 'mood' of the magazine. The Haikus by Akash Rumade are emphatic and intense. 

The Review section was good with the movie Pink being the flavor of the year. Rightly deserved too. 

Most of the authors of this magazine are young and idealistic - as you can make out while reading the article. I do hope each one of them finds their haven. For as this magazine has aptly caught the mood of every artist - 'Outsiders' don't understand our colors. 

As a reader, I just have one request, since this magazine is targeted towards the younger generation, can we also have a huge dash of hope and getting 'there' even if we face loads of hurdles.  No one is encouraged to live life holding a pen or a paint brush, yet many of us have broken the rules and lived the life we want. I do hope all artists realize that- we paint our own canvasses and every negating experience should make us more determined to achieve our goals.

My love to all the young budding artists out there. 

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Spotlight: 1857 Dust of Ages by Vandana Shanker



1857 DUST OF AGES VOL 1:
A FORGOTTEN TALE
by
Vandana Shanker



Blurb

1857. The rebellion erupts in India. Despite its attempts to stay aloof, NAVGARH, a small town near Delhi, is drawn into the conflagration. And at its heart are Princess Meera and Captain Richard Smith, with their strange alliance made for the throne of Navgarh.

2016, Shiv Sahai, a young Indian art historian and Ruth Aiken, a British scholar discover an excerpt from the journal of an anonymous British soldier, searching for his wife in the chaos of 1857 Delhi. As they begin investigating the scandal, they become aware of the vague rumours that are told in the bylanes of Navgarh – about a princess who married a British soldier to save her kingdom.

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Read an excerpt from the book...

Prologue

Camp, Delhi Cantonment, 16 August, 1857.

Things have changed forever. A day spent in the company of my old friend Knox made it clear. These distances can never be bridged.

The pole of his tent snapped in the storm yesterday; and for the sake of old friendship, I offered Knox my humble abode. But his rancour was jarring. His determination to teach the enemy a lesson, the unshaken belief in the rightness of our mission– such bitterness asks too much of friendship and duty.

Earlier we went over the battlefield. One of our regiments was destroying the village near the bridge to prevent the enemy from getting cover in it. Elephants were pulling down the walls. The villagers stood by as their houses turned into mud while the monsoon clouds gathered on the horizon. Unfortunately, they were the Jats, who, for the most part, are our friends. We decided that the destruction of their homes and fields was necessary. Twenty-three men – their countrymen – were lying together in the ditch at the back of the village; we weren’t sure if they were the rebels. A party of Rifles killed then en masse, just to be sure.

We left the village with our bags swollen like raisins in water. And who can blame our light-fingered gentry? Armies are said to travel on their stomach.

At some distance from our camp, I can see the sun setting over the fort of Delhi. It isn’t much different from the first sunset I witnessed here years ago. How things have changed! We came with a mission – to know this exotic land, to bring the light of knowledge and civilization to its darkness. Now the memory leaves me embarrassed. These massive red walls made me uneasy even then. Today they mock our camp again. Whatever be the outcome of this devil’s wind, it has revealed the banality of our mission.

Knox’s bitterness is an expression of the anger in the camp. When the cannons are quiet, the silence resounds with confusion, with terror, with rage, but most of all with the question ‘Why?’ As we sit around a small fire every night, the question rages in every mind. ‘Why the mutiny? Haven’t we brought the glory of civilization to this land of superstition?’ These thoughts simmer as we deal with hunger, heat and rain.

But soon these questions will be forgotten. The winners will annihilate the other side. Already I see the madness in the eyes as rumours reach us from other places – Cawnpur, Jhansi, Lucknow. Madness will soon be let loose.

I often feel that the answers that elude me today were within my grasp a short while ago. They are somewhere near, yet unreachable, like the time gone by.

I promise to look for them once I have found her again. For she, I feel, holds a part of it.

So every evening, I try to escape this madness by thinking about her, Princess Meera of Navgarh, a rebel soldier and my wife. It is the third year of our marriage. Three years of tenuous links and fragile understanding. It was only a matter of time before an explosion happened. And it happened that eventful week when Navgarh too burnt in the fire raging all across India. The news that the sepoys in Meerut had rebelled spurred both of us. Did I expect Meera to be a dutiful wife when all her beliefs, her convictions pulled her in the opposite direction? Was I surprised on knowing that she was in Delhi, amongst the rebels? Would she be surprised on knowing that I have followed her as an enemy… a British officer? And as I follow her, I stand here once again, after five years, outside the walls of the Red Fort in Delhi.



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About the author







Delhi-born Vandana Shanker is the author of the series 1857 Dust of Ages, a historical fiction set in the year of the great uprising in India. A PhD from IIT Delhi, Vandana is passionate about history, storytelling and art. Apart from writing, she teaches literature and creative writing in Malaysia. She has also taught in Universities in India and Vietnam. She currently lives in Kuala Lumpur with her family and wants to travel the world. 

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