Book Review: The Forbidden One, by Zaarra Khader

the_forbidden_one_zaarra_khaderIt’s quite nice to see short story anthologies getting the spotlight nowadays. It brings new authors to the forefront of the publishing industry, and brings some fresh stories too. Even short stories by a single author seem to be coming into prominence. I am happy that this book, “The Forbidden One, by Zaarra Khader”, made its way into my collection.

My favorite story in the book is “Om Namah Shivaye”. It’s about a young devotee and her favorite god, Lord Shiva. I like this story a lot because of the child, and her love for Lord Shiva, the way she expresses it and how the people around her know that love and affectionately nickname her for it. But it’s not just that. It’s also about her mother’s love for her which is so well expressed towards the end of the story.

Another one that appealed to me was the first story, “Love is not All Black or White”. I liked it not just for the simple love story that it was, but that it felt realistic. It showed how the worst situation brings out the worst in us sometimes, but the worst can be solved by being better. Interesting, how this story ended, but I’m glad it ended that way when another seemed more likely.

The book of short stories begins with a bang, but don’t know why, the stories become less interesting to me after that. It becomes expected. Stories like “Coffee and Cake” were nicely written, but I could know where it was headed. That doused some of the interest for me. Another thing I would suggest to the author is to have a glossary at the end, if needed, to explain the Hindi terms. Having it immediately in the sentence with brackets didn’t work for me. Also, if the book is going for a second edition, I’d suggest a different cover. I didn’t find it that appealing.

What helps the book is that the stories are different and have a message to say, but it is brought down by some things like pace and editing in some places.

The Bookworm Rates This: 3/5
The Bookworm Rates This: 3/5
Book Details
Title: The Forbidden One
Author(s): Zaarra Khader Genre: Short Stories
ISBN/ASIN: B00ROTQMD4 Publisher: Frog Books / Leadstart
No. of Pages: 188 Price: Rs. 105

Reviewed for the author, who gave me a soft-copy of the book. The views expressed here are my own, frank and uninfluenced.

(© 31st March 2015)



Book Review: Love Across Borders, edited by Naheed Hassan and Sabahat Muhammad

love_across_borders_anthologyBorders… we create them, we live by them and within them, and we’re not interested to breach them. It’s not just in countries but in our thinking too, I feel. But this book is not about breaching borders, but about bringing two countries together. The power of the written word to unite people is something I’ve believed in always, and this book “Love Across Borders” is an effort towards that.

The story “Serendipity” follows the love story of a couple Neha and Riyaz. Yamini’s narration held my interest, and I liked seeing little bits and pieces like Neha’s thoughts on a coffee date, and how the love story develops. The ending line left a big smile on my face, and made me wonder if such love stories are there in the real world too. There might be.

The story “Anjum” shows friendships can blossom between strangers, and how one can help each other irrespective of country or religion. The friendship between Vandu and Anjum is such, and it’s not split by distance when the former moves abroad. The character of the cheerful, bubbly, positive Anjum was a delight to read, and stayed in my mind long after.

“Dressed to Kill” is one of my favorite stories in the collection. It is about an unexpected friendship that is formed over the matter of a dress, not just any dress but one for the most important occasion. What delighted me in the story is the character of the two girls, so contrasting to each other, and to the mothers’ character too. The words of Sejal to her mother just before the epilogue paragraph are just wonderful.

“Lost and Found” is a story that spans generations. It showed the power of memories and the eagerness of youth too. A friendship forged between two men from different countries and warmth in the ending paragraph just made this story happen. And I hope such stories continue to happen.

I liked most of the stories in this book. They’re beautifully written, meaningful, engaging, emotional and thought-provoking. There were odd typos here and there, but nothing that disengages the reader from the tale. I think I can safely say this book will stay in my favorites always.

The Bookworm Rates This: 4/5
The Bookworm Rates This: 4/5
Book Details
Title: Love Across Borders
Naheed Hassan
Sabahat Muhammad
Genre: Anthology
ISBN/ASIN: B00GKA1CVU Publisher: Indireads
No. of Pages: 91 Price: Rs. 99

I have a copy of the book. The views expressed here are my own, frank and uninfluenced.

(© 24th March 2015)


Book Review: Breach, by Amrita Chowdhury

Cyber thrillers are a genre new to my bookshelf. Only recently, I had read Ravi Subramanian’s latest book which was kind of in that genre. But I love thrillers, so I had no hesitation in taking this book for review.


“Breach” happens in different parts of the world. It starts off at Acel, which is a pharmaceutical company developing and looking to patent a wonder drug for cancer, Colare. The scientists there find some error in the data, which could be from the India lab of their company, a new branch headed by Dr. Udai Vir Dhingra. When it is confirmed that it was indeed the Mumbai data centre which was hacked, Vir is blamed for being negligent, and he must find out who is behind the hacking to save his career. But in cyber world, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Firstly, I loved the cover design. It was impressive. I’ve seen this style of writing in Ravi Subramanian’s book too; the short crisp chapters which help move the story along quickly. Here too, it is no different. Once we’re into the essence of the novel, it’s fast paced and nicely written. It’s not an out-and-out thriller, because it has a fair share of drama too. The characters are well thought of, and they felt real, and sometimes scary. I liked particularly, the characters of Madhu and Raghu and the conclusion given to their story.

You know how they say “On your mark, get set, go” at the start of the race? In this novel, the getting set part takes longer than I expect in a thriller, because it involves getting to know the umpteen characters and settings that make this book, and putting in a bit of the drama too. Any cyber thriller will have a lot of technical terms relating to that industry, and there were some that went over my head. I don’t think they mattered to the story in a particular way, but it kind of slowed the read for me.

While I wouldn’t say “Breach” was the best thriller I’ve read of late, it was definitely engaging, once the pace picked up. Quite a nice book.

The Bookworm Rates This: 4/5
The Bookworm Rates This: 4/5
Book Details
Title: Breach
Author(s): Amrita Chowdhury Genre: Thriller
ISBN/ASIN: 9789350098554 Publisher: Hachette India
No. of Pages: 337 Price: Rs. 350

Reviewed for the author/PR, who gave me a copy of the book. The views expressed here are my own, frank and uninfluenced.

(© 20th March 2015)


Book Review: Rise of the Grey Prince, by Arka Chakrabarti


The expectation about a book is different when it comes to books in a series. The second book is judged by the quality of the first. If the first was up to the mark, the expectation from the second is that it’ll be equally as good if not better. If the first was below par, the expectation from the second is that it addresses the flaws of the first while making sure it is up to the mark. The first book in the Saga of Agni was one of my favorite reads, and the first from this publishing house that I had read. The sequel taking two years kind of makes this read almost standalone, because the plot and characters of the first were beginning to fade away. It helped that there was a recap, but would’ve been brilliant if it had come a little sooner.

Let me try to give you a brief idea of the book. It happens in two kingdoms, Land of the Rising Sun (LRS) and Land of the Setting Sun (LSS). We pick up from the prequel, and join Agni and Vrish on their quest to cross from the former into the latter. Agni is still haunted by the loss of the girl he loved, Vrish’s sister Malini. Yani, son of King Adhirath is trying to understand his own past. On another side, there’s the Princess of Leu, Lysandra and her battles, both for Leu and to prevent her uncle’s elder son Demetrius from taking the throne.

I stick with what I said in my review of the first book. One of the strongest points for this book is Arka’s narration. It has just enough in it to traverse the line between plain and magical, which is good for a fantasy. I like the characters and the choice of a courageous princess too. The book does its part to answer some questions which are left open at the end of The Secrets of the Dark. And it does justice to keeping both kingdoms LSS and LRS involved well. Expectedly, with Agni’s quest, most of the action is LSS oriented, but I liked the splits as opposed to that in the first book. On a side note, if the publishers are planning a reprint of the first book, I would definitely recommend they stick to the cover style of this book for that reprint. The cover design of The Rise of the Grey Prince is beautiful, much better than the prequel’s.

On the flipside, I felt the book to be confusing. This, I feel, is because of two reasons. First, as I mentioned earlier, the first book was released two years back, and the scenes have begun to fade. It’d be good if the two books are read back to back. It’ll sit much better than reading this book alone. The second reason is that there are parts where the storyline goes into what feels like a flashback. It’s much unexpected, and leaves me wondering what is happening. The ending is slightly abrupt as well. The list of characters at the end of the book could’ve been fully done, rather than give only the characters newly introduced. It’d help a new reader know a bit more of each character. And I’d definitely say the book can be edited much better.

Read the story for the story, forgetting to notice the small details, and you’ll enjoy it. I’d say, in all honesty, that the caliber of the book has dropped down a notch from the first book, so I hope the third one in the series brings a wonderful conclusion. And I hope, for the ease of the readers too, that it comes sooner than two years down the line.

The Bookworm Rates This: 3/5
The Bookworm Rates This: 3/5
Book Details
Title: Rise of the Grey Prince Series: The Saga of Agni #2
Author(s): Arka Chakrabarti Genre: Fantasy
ISBN/ASIN: 9789382665311 Publisher: Srishti Publishers
No. of Pages: 230 Price: Rs. 150

Reviewed for Book R3vi3ws, in exchange for a review copy. The views expressed here are my own, frank and uninfluenced.

(© 14th March 2015)