India was One by An Indian

Upon reading the title, India was One, I automatically thought the book was about Indian Independence and Partition which took place in 1947. Was I in for a surprise!

This is Jai and Kaahi’s story; a lovely combination of friendship, love and change.

It begins with Jai looking through a pair of binoculars and finding Kaahi doing the same from the other side of India. And the chapter stops there.

The following chapters are a run down to the first chapter . We are shown how Jai meets Kaahi and are intoduced to Jai’s friends.

The first half of the book flows nicely with no dramas or tragedies and we get to experience the food, the festivities and a game of cricket, which is explained in detail.

In fact, a lot of Indian terms, languages, customs and religious and non religious festivities are explained in detail. For the readers who already know all this, it can be a chore to read but for those who don’t know, it is a real treat.

Explaining it all gives you a deeper understanding of the author’s story as it is read on. The author has written the explanations in the story, not within the story, which I would have preferred. There was a lot of telling and not showing. Writing in this way, interrupts the reading as I found.
Even so,  I was still intrigued and wanted to find out how Jai reached the point of looking through the binoculars.

One of the things I loved about reading this interesting book was that the author takes us on a travel tour to Rajasthan – India, the US and Europe. We see fabulous descriptions of the US and how it differs from India, how non-resident Indians (NRIs) find India and have adapted to living in a country which was alien to them at first.

When Jai takes Kaahi to Europe on a holiday, we don’t see the main holiday destinations but the off road little towns and cities which we don’t normally see. It was a delight to read!

This was all in the first half of the book. The second half was very different and quite shocking too.

Jai and Kaahi come back from Europe refreshed and then bad news hit them! A news flash – there is civil unrest in India! What does this mean? Without giving to much away, I will just say that India wasn’t One anymore. A felt a lump in my throat when Kaahi had to leave Jai at the airport, both going back to India but to different locations. We are thrown in turmoil as we see the state of India and it’s people and we want to see Jai and Kaahi back together.

Everything happens but at a price and we see happiness clouded by a death – a friend who gave for his country. I was devastated when this happened as I had grown to love this character (as with all the other characters).

India was One is a book to read. It is interesting and intriguing, yet original and different!

Kimi’s Secret by John Hudspith

Another story about monsters, scary things and scary people? Not quite. This delightful story brought to us by John Hudspith is original and out of this world – literally!

Kimi Nicholls is a normal girl living in a village called Mousehole, Cornwall’s south coast. It is a normal day but wait, her left hand (named little hand) gets pins and needles and this can’t be a good thing. Her mum and dad begin to behave odd and they leave her sitting at the kitchen table, after a really confusing and alarming conversation.

In the next few minutes, she sees a crow who does bizzare things and Kimi is sure she heard it speak – three heart-stopping words…   Thunder rumbles and lightening strikes, things move and open and close around her house. More bizarre happenings and then, her world turns upside down! Bentley come for her – a cleverly created character who is Kimi’s imaginary, childhood friend – her Tulpa.

Bentley takes Kimi to another planet called Heart which has the time difference  – “One Heart hour is the same as one Earth minute”.  A brilliant concept!   Following the introduction of Bentley, we are transported into a world where there are Vortex’s, Balancers, ugly aliens called Greylians, talking monkeys – the Fuzz, Famoose and of course, angry crows. Oh, and have you ever eaten a dodo? It’s supposed to taste like ”chicken, pork and beef all rolled into one”.   Personally, I love the Famoose – fuzzy and shimmery.

Kimi’s Secret takes us on a whirlwind of events that fails to tire us. The fast pace story-telling has the fascinating ability to have us want to read on and find the clues with Kimi,  to complete the mission she has been led into. We want to know the answers to the questions that have formed in Kimi’s mind: why was there a crow at her house? Why were the parents acting wierd? What did those three words mean?

John Hudspith weaves a detective story within the story with magic mayhem, brilliant creatures, some which are truly disgusting – I will never like those aliens – oops, I mean Greylians!

We travel on through, finding more clues and come to an ending which will not leave you disappointed but will make you crave for more.

Daughters of Iraq by Revital Shiri-Horowitz

A splendid read, Revital Shiri-Horowitz brings the reader into a personal weave of love and hope. The story delves deep into the heart, allowing the reader to re-live those moments of their past, when they dreamt and later, remembered those they cared about.

Violet is the mother of Noa and Guy and wife to Dan. She speaks to us via a journal. Farida is Violet’s sister and tells us about her past – of her love for Eddie and of her never ending loneliness. Noa, Violet’s daughter, speaks of her aching heart and guilt as she thinks of her dying mother and of her current life and aspirations.

The story begins in Baghdad, Iraq in 1940 when Violet was a young girl who was beaten by her then, respected father, for telling a lie and being rebellious. It then moves on to Farida in the second chapter where we see her going about her life, making okra patties for her grandchildren and contemplating her visit to the hair salon. She remembers her childhood days with her nephew, Eddie and  sister Violet and how they used to frolic around after sneaking away from school.  Noa comes next, an adult yet still a young girl at heart as she remembers her past – her mother’s cancer and her going away. We learn a bit about these three women and the story moves on.

The introduction is thought out well and urges the reader to carry on reading to the next chapter and the next, never slowing down. There is never a dull moment in this book;  the personal conflicts are vital to the stories as the reader gets to know and understand and fall in love with Violet and Farida’s family, especially Eddie.

Revital writes with confidence and smoothly, unravelling the sequences of the past and present without getting the reader confused. The chapters are short and to the point which makes reading very easy.

Of all the characters, I loved Farida the most for her sense of humour, her compassion, her witty sayings and her abundance of love and for her love for food. She is a colourful character and a lovely women.

Daughters of Iraq is a book which must be read. The sharp intelligence of these three women; their heartaches and strong emotions are reflected in todays’ men and women. It is contemporary, yet historical. I would recommend reading this book, for the beautiful story telling and for the first hand insights of the Iraqi women.

A Witch in Winter by Ruth Warburton

Two of the things which enticed me to read this novel was the word ‘witch’ in the title and the other thing was the cover look. These elements made me stop and reach out for the book which spelt out ‘intriguing’, ‘must read’, and ‘paranormal’. I couldn’t resist.   The story starts with Anna arriving in a small town called Winter. She is to start school and make new friends.   Anna makes friends quickly and meets a boy called Seth, who she instantly likes. Seth, however, is already taken and Anna is fine by this. One day, Anna and her friends try a love spell as a joke. Anna thinks of Seth although she never meant to. She didn’t believe in all this hocus pocus anyway and she thought they were all just having fun…until the next day, she realised what she had done!

Anna tries every counter spell to release poor Seth but to no avail. Instead it brings trouble and she finds out that she is a witch!

She is also very powerful.

The story takes us on a roller coaster ride of events. Anna finds out things which she thought was not possible, yet she is to fight these demons to save the town of Winter and to save Seth and her father.   I loved this story so much that I couldn’t put it down. The writing was flawless; there was no confusion and no page was boring. An original tale in it’s own right.   If there was one thing to be picked upon, it’s that I wish there were more magical elements and surprises. Saying that, I look forward to the sequel.

Navarasa by Lotus, by an author Rajiv

When I began to read this quirky collection of short stories, I was apprehensive as I don’t usually read short stories.   Well, I was pleasantly surprised. The collection is made up of nine short stories which are interlinked in plot and character in a sequence of events. The characters are diverse and there are many surprises along the way.

To write a review for a book such as this, I must talk about all nine as without, the review wouldn’t be much of a review.

SEED, is the first story which is about an Indian superstar who is known for his anger, good looks and carismatic personality. The story begins with Rajan (the star) in a fight with an inmate. What happens after is a series of flashbacks. What came to be a surprise was the ending which was totally unexpected!

RAT, the second in line, tones down to three friends who talk about life, smoking, drinking and Rajan the star. What begins as a casual conversation turns defensive. However, the first part and the last part are interlinked and I am glad to see a semi happy ending.

MUTINY. This one failed me. I didn’t relate to it at all. The story is about mosquitos and of thier livelyhood as blood seekers. Their host is one of the three friends we see in RAT. Intriguing as it may be, I failed to see the meaning of the story and skipped to the end to find it. Was there a meaning?

T20. This was one of the my favourites. It is based on a relationship between Teja and Manoj, which is on the rocks. Through Teja’s turmoil and love for Manoj, we see their ‘relationship’ from beginning to the present. Desperately wanting to amend their relationship which we see spiralling down, Teja thinks of how that may be possible. The end of the story doesn’t being us a happy ending but it does make us think ‘what if’.

LOOP. The reader will definitly be in a loop here! If you have seen Groundhog Day (1993), you will understand this short. LOOP is cleverly written, involving a girl called Lucky who thinks she is going mad as events seem to be repeating themselves over several days or weeks? She seeks the help of Dr. Guna who is a phyciatrist. But how was he to know he was in the loop too? These bizarre twists can only be broken by facing the problem!

WISH. Little Chintu is being bullied by his sister, from his classmates as well as the cruel teacher. Chintu is sad and can’t understand why everyone is cruel to him. Then he meets Rajan, the superstar and in a stroke of luck, he see’s a way to gain respect and revenge. We see two mini stories here – one is Chintu’s and one is Rajan’s. We now understand why Rajan was taken to jail and how Chintu gets his revenge.

OFFICE. Rajiv joins a new company in the hope to get his ex-girlfriend back. He realises that everyone is calm in this new office. There are no arguements or fights. He also feels changed as he has stopped smoking, drinking and leering/flirting at other women. Rajiv learns of a strange interference and confronts his boss. Does Rajiv get his girl back? Does he find out what is happening in this place? Yes and no, for in this short, a time machine is involved…

N.H. This is a continuation of OFFICE. I won’t say what happens here for it is wonderful and very entertaining. I, for one, wished I could see more of N.H.

REDEMPTION. Anand is in remorse for what he has done and he wants to show how sorry he is to the parents of the victim. This short summaries all the other eight short stories in one. We understand now and see perhaps, redemption?   So, here we have it. A collection that all readers will enjoy. It will leave you thinking about the stories and their characters long after you have finished reading. It will make you question the motives, the ‘what if’s’ and more.

A good read!