Unlocking The Lockdown Stories

Author : Juhi Jaisinghani

Genre : Short Stories

Publisher: Notion Press

Pages : 123

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“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is what the author Juhi Jaisinghani believes in. When everybody is talking about the uncertainties happening during the lockdown 2020, she tries to show you another side of it.

A software engineer losing his job with no clue about his passion, a couple trying to revamp their almost broken marriage, a police officer on the verge of forgetting his old dream, a girl cheated on by the love of her life still looking out for love, a couple about to get married with everything planned, an orphan guy desiring solace, a girl waiting for her childhood sweetheart, a high-profile journalist considering love for granted, an airhostess in hope of the biggest opportunity of her life, a struggling actor almost always making the wrong choices and regretting about it―life indeed gave them lemons they would be able to make lemonade of, or they would give up against time.

Beyond Wonderland Regular

I’ve always been a fan of short stories especially the ones with some life lessons. Unlocking The Lockdown Stories is a collection of 10 short stories which will make you face the different impacts corona had on our lives.

” I did take a lot of time to realize that life should not be lived as per any plan. Life should be explored as it comes. Whenever your heart says let us do it, it is the right time for you whether you feel ready or not.”

During the time of corona, we all have faced uncertainties whether it’s in terms of our lives or our passion. But one thing we got in plenty was time. The time to introspect ourselves and bring out the best in us. The author has written the stories based on the topics which the world was/is facing during the testing times of corona.

The stories are of people who have found a new hope, a new life during the times of pandemic. The stories focuses on different emotions of – grief, happiness, family drama friendships, pain, freedom,etc. Each story forces you to ponder on your thoughts, feelings, emotions as you go through it. My favorites were – “Lost & Found” and “Unfolding a Dream”.

Though the topics chosen were very apt but the stories weren’t well crafted. They missed the element of curiosity. The climax of the story was predictable and had no surprise element to keep me hooked.Though some of the stories really made me think but the others were dull . The language is easy and simple and it’s recommended for those who would like to read about how corona has impacted lives.

Beyond Wonderland Regular
Beyond Wonderland Regular
Beyond Wonderland Regular

*I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review*

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The Henna Artist

Author : Alka Joshi

Publisher : Harper Collins

Genre : Historical Fiction

Pages : 384

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Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…

Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.

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Since this book was all over bookstagram, I really wanted to read it and to be honest it did fulfill all my expectations. A beautiful story with Indian representation made it more interesting for me.

” So often I’d begged my namesake, the goddess Lakshmi to hear my pleas- I’m hungry for the knowledge of three Swaraswatis! Let me see the wider world before shutting me inside a small life. But, as always, she’d held up her delicate hands in apology: It’s the way it has always been.”

Set in the time of 1950s India, the story follows the life of Laxmi, who had made a niche for herself in the beautiful city of Jaipur as a henna artist. She was living independently and her only dream was to buy herself a home. But with the sudden entry of her estranged husband, her life turned upside down. The character of Laxmi’s sister was introduced, which was a shock for her.

Further the author took us on to the journey of Laxmi and her sister, and how they survived in the society. Even when Laxmi had a well established name she still feared about rumours which could spoil her hard earned reputation.What ensues is a compelling tale of family, tradition, secrecy, revenge, and second chances.With the perfect setting and description of the historical India, this book doesn’t fail to capture the readers.

I absolutely devoured this one. The story is woven so intricately, explaining each and every thing in detail – neither too much nor too less but just perfect. The characters are well thought of and I absolutely loved each of their personalities and how they were all bound together.

My favourite was the character of Laxmi. She was too courageous and patient. She had endured so many hardships in life but still was able to live her life on her own terms. She was the epitome of a strong woman. I’m absolutely in love with her and her determination towards her life goals.

The twists and turns and the writing style of the author kept me engaged throughout. I didn’t wanted it to end. The plot was amazing, the narration was smooth and well paced. The language was easy and understandable . Reading this book was so refreshing for me, I hardly got hold of the time since it kept me hooked till the last page. Waiting for the next book by the author.

Definitely Recommended!

Beyond Wonderland Regular
Beyond Wonderland Regular
Beyond Wonderland Regular

*I received a free copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review*

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Maroon In A Sky Of Blue

Author :Girish Dutt Shukla 

Publisher : Self Published

Genre : Fiction

Pages : 322

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What happens when you start questioning beliefs founded in your sanity?

Withdrawn and reticent, Onir had troubles growing up. He has only two friends; Lavin, who finds solace in Onir’s Zen profundity, has stood by him for 8 years, and Palchinn, who he secretly loves. As Onir starts to come out of his shell and shares his feelings with Palchinn, she embraces him and they settle into a doting relationship. The blossoming young love screeches to a halt when Palchinn ends up in a horrible car accident. Her harrowing death pushes the teenager into a state of suffering.

He tries to get out of this rut and meets Ziya who has suffered a similar loss in the past. As they start bonding, he starts healing. But, Onir’s world comes crashing down when Lavin finds out about the two of them. Is Ziya not who she seems to be or is Onir mistaken about her identity? Is reality just a version of events? 

Beyond Wonderland Regular

Mental health is no more considered a taboo now and has become an important issue to deal with today. We come across a number of books on mental health now a days and this one is among them. Beautifully written, it explores the mind of a person suffering from mental health issues.

The story follows the journey of Onir, the protagonist, who was bullied throughout his childhood and hardly had any friends. Lavin and Palchinn were his only true buddies. Palchinn and Onir were madly in love but one unfortunate incident, separated them forever. Onir was not able to recover from this loss but then Ziya entered his life for good. He was able to keep himself happy around her but something about her was amiss.

What was Ziya’s secret? Will Onir be able to cope up with the loss?

I actually loved reading the book.The author has discussed the most important issue here- mental health. I liked how he brought in the issues faced by people suffering from mental illness which felt so real while reading the book. The twist and turns, the secrets revealed changed the whole plot in the end. The story was a bit slow and dragged in the start but after a few pages, it was unputdownable. The plot is definitely intriguing and well written. The language is easy and understandable. The narration is smooth and the story is well paced.

Definitely Recommended!

Beyond Wonderland Regular
Beyond Wonderland Regular
Beyond Wonderland Regular

*I received a free copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review*

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The Blue Elephant: Why India Must Boost its Soft Power

Author : Rahul Das

Publisher : Notion Press

Genre : Non Fiction

Pages : 228

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How can India and the rest of the world use culture as a tool for shared progress? In The Blue Elephant, Rahul Das, a reverse migrant, consultant and backpacker explores Soft Power, an abstract topic in International Relations, by weaving together his experiences with relatable ideas.

Beyond Wonderland Regular

Not a fan of non fiction much but reading something relevant in today’s time is really important and this book covers the relevant aspects. A book about how India can benefit from it’s soft power.

In politics, soft power is the ability to attract and co-opt, rather than coerce (contrast hard power). In other words, soft power involves shaping the preferences of others through appeal and attraction. India being a diverse country with a huge population, has a lot of capacity and ability to generate benefits by using it’s soft powers to have a global reach.

In recent times of falling GDP, increasing unemployment and poverty, a country like India needs to focus on eradicating the evils instead of focusing on religion and politics. The author has described each and every area, like Art, Travel ,Sports etc from where India could generate benefits – focusing on it’s history, limits, potential and his own experiences.

The government needs to utilize it’s youth and educate them on the ways of how India can become the next USA if the resources are used right. The mention of recent controversies of CAA and NRC, gives a brief insight into what our country has come down to. There’s hate spewing everywhere which needs to be curbed and the main focus should be on uniting the people and using it for the benefit of the nation.

I enjoyed reading the book since it was very informative and the topic of ‘ soft power ‘ is very new to me. Though it did feel as if I was reading essays on different topics, the author had written it so beautifully that I wanted to grab every piece of information available. The language is easy and understandable. The author has thoroughly researched each and every fact, which is a plus point for me.

Definitely Recommended!

Beyond Wonderland Regular
Beyond Wonderland Regular
Beyond Wonderland Regular

*I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review*

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The Legend of Amarnis

Author : Tanvi Jha

Publisher : Notion Press

Genre : Fiction

Pages : 158

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In a world where magic is feared and an evil sorcerer has captured the ancient kingdom of Myddryl, a sixteen year old princess discovers that her entire life has been a lie. Now, she must leave behind her home and family, to save the lives of thousands of people, whose salvation depends on her survival. Celestine must make a terrible choice and lose everything that she holds dear in return.

Beyond Wonderland Regular

The story follows the journey of Celestine, the princess of Aggyria who barely had any princess like traits. She was more happy in breeches than in pretty dresses. She was a chirpy little girl who loved freedom more than the castle life. She fell in love with her childhood friend but on the occasion of telling their families about their love, they were told the truth about Celestine’s life, which changed her life drastically.

A 16 year old became a queen overnight. She was burdened with all the responsibilities of her new reality and had to leave all of her past and loved ones to destroy the evil. She was all alone when she started her journey but eventually found out her blood relations in strange circumstances.

Will she be able to finish the curse? Will it be the beginning of a new life for her?

I enjoyed reading this book. The story was too engaging and fast paced. I barely got the time to keep it aside. I finished it in one sitting and I’m not guilty of leaving all my work for it. The characters were amazing – Especially Celestine. She was a strong girl who was determined towards her goals and I loved her transformation into a fierce character.

The language used by the author is simple and understandable. The narration is smooth and the book is fast paced. The book has all the elements of a good story, it is full of twists and turns and will keep you hooked till the end.

Definitely Recommended.

Beyond Wonderland Regular
Beyond Wonderland Regular
Beyond Wonderland Regular

*I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review*

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Paperboats

Author : Tanvi Jha

Publisher : Notion Press

Genre : Poetry

Pages : 126

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A collection of poems about dreams, writing, childhood, wonder, growing up, love, heartbreak and reality.

Beyond Wonderland Regular

Paperboats is a collection of 100 poems which are full of emotions and beautiful poetry. I picked this book because of it’s simple and beautiful cover. The book is based on real life experience of the poetess and is full of mixed emotions.

” There were days when she was tired,

so tired of being a woman.”

Tanvi has aptly penned down her thoughts behind every topic she chose beautifully in the form of poetry. The poetess, with her lines and musings is able to connect with the readers. The thought behind each poem is so meaningful and touching. The poems are bases on topics like love, heartbreaks, reality, fairytales etc.

” She wondered each day,

wondered what it felt like to be able to fly,

to be able to stretch her arms wide

and embrace the sky.”

The language used is simple and understandable. Each and every poem is beautifully written & very well expressed.The poems definitely left an impact on me. The poems are raw and that’s what I liked the most, felt as if I was living the experiences of Tanvi.. I really loved reading this book, I’ll recommend you too read the same.

Beyond Wonderland Regular
Beyond Wonderland Regular
Beyond Wonderland Regular
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Premeditated Myrtle

Author :Elizabeth C. Bunce  

Publisher : Algonquin Young Readers

Genre : Middle Grade, Mystery

Pages : 368

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Twelve-year-old Myrtle Hardcastle has a passion for justice and a Highly Unconventional obsession with criminal science. Armed with her father’s law books and her mum’s microscope, Myrtle studies toxicology, keeps abreast of the latest developments in crime scene analysis, and Observes her neighbors in the quiet village of Swinburne, England.

When her next-door neighbor, a wealthy spinster and eccentric breeder of rare flowers, dies under Mysterious Circumstances, Myrtle seizes her chance. With her unflappable governess, Miss Ada Judson, by her side, Myrtle takes it upon herself to prove Miss Wodehouse was murdered and find the killer, even if nobody else believes her — not even her father, the town prosecutor.

Beyond Wonderland Regular

‘Premeditated Myrtle’ is the first book in the series of ‘ Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries’ . With an unpredictable ending, the book will definitely keep you engaged till the end.

Myrtle Hardcastle, a twelve year old was blessed with a sharp mind and a passion for justice . After reporting the death of her neighbour, Ms. Woodhouse to the police, she became suspicious that it wasn’t a natural death. She was sure of her murder but no one believed the 12 year old, not even her own father. So she along with her governess, went on the mission to uncover the mystery behind Ms. Woodhouse’s murder.

Will she be able to prove her stand?

The perfect book that you need to read if you’re searching for a story with a perfect blend of mystery and thriller. Myrtle’s growth as a character was something I adored and absolutely loved reading about her. She was so intelligent and keen on solving the mysteries that she had learnt all her father’s law books by heart. Her governess was equally amazing, such a supporting role she played in Myrtle’s life. And adding the fact that the characters were so diverse, it really felt good reading about Indian origin characters.

Written beautifully, I loved how the author entwined everything. I loved her writing style, it really made me suspicious of almost every character until I finished the book.The principles of Investigation were like a cherry on the top. With the twists and turns, the book kept me hooked till the end and the climax was something unpredictable.The emotions of characters were so very well portrayed, that nothing felt unreal. The language used by the author is easy and understandable . The narration is smooth and the book is well paced.

Can’t wait to dive into the second book in the series.Definitely recommended!

Beyond Wonderland Regular
Beyond Wonderland Regular
Beyond Wonderland Regular


*I received this book from the author in exchange of an honest review.*

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The Shrike & The Shadows

Author : Chantal Gadoury , A.M. Wright

Publisher : The Parliament House Press

Genre : Fantasy

Pages : 365

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Men have gone missing before.

The village of Krume is plagued by a haunted wood and a hungry witch. It’s been that way for as long as Hans and Greta can remember, though they have never seen the witch themselves; no one has.

When men start to disappear once again in the cover of night – their bloody hearts turning up on doorsteps – the village falls into frenzied madness.

Hans and Greta, two outcast orphans, find themselves facing accusations of witchcraft and are met with an ultimatum: burn at the stake, or leave the village forever. 

With nowhere else to go, they abandon their only home.

As they venture into the strange forest, their path is fraught with horrific creatures, wild and vivid hallucinations, and a mysterious man tied to the witch’s past.

The Shrike is watching, just beyond the deep darkness of the woods. 

Beyond Wonderland Regular

I don’t know where to start from. This book has my heart. I’ve been reading about Hansel and Gretel in my childhood and now being an adult, reading the retelling feels so good. And the authors absolutely did justice to the story.

The story is set up in the village of Krume, where young boys and men went missing and only their hearts were found by the villagers. There was a fear in the minds and hearts of the villagers that there’s a witch in the woods who was upto this dreadful deed. Hans and Greta, the twins were orphans who lived in a secluded area and because of some rumours they were hurled abuses and blamed for witchcraft and were told to leave the village and venture into the woods or bear the brunt of the villagers.

With no option, Hans and Greta left the village to begin their new journey into the haunted woods. The path is not easy and is full of mysterious creatures.

Would they be able to survive the haunted woods?

I’m a big fantasy lover and I absolutely devoured this one. The story is woven so intricately, explaining each and every thing in detail – neither too much nor too less but just perfect. The characters are well thought of and I absolutely loved each of their personalities and how they were all bound together.

One thing which I loved was the character of Great. She was too caring, selfless and patient. The twists and turns and the magical secrets kept me engaged throughout. I didn’t wanted it to end but then I found out that it has a sequel to it. The plot was amazing, the narration was smooth and well paced. The language was easy and understandable . Reading this book was so refreshing for me, I hardly got hold of the time since it kept me hooked till the last page. Waiting for the sequel.

I’ll definitely recommend this book to everyone.

Beyond Wonderland Regular
Beyond Wonderland Regular
Beyond Wonderland Regular

*I received a free copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review*

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How It All Blew Up

Author : Arvin Ahmadi

Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers

Genre : Fiction, LGBT

Pages : 288

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Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda goes to Italy in Arvin Ahmadi’s newest incisive look at identity and what it means to find yourself by running away.

Eighteen-year-old Amir Azadi always knew coming out to his Muslim family would be messy–he just didn’t think it would end in an airport interrogation room. But when faced with a failed relationship, bullies, and blackmail, running away to Rome is his only option. Right?

Soon, late nights with new friends and dates in the Sistine Chapel start to feel like second nature… until his old life comes knocking on his door. Now, Amir has to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth to a US Customs officer, or risk losing his hard-won freedom.

At turns uplifting and devastating, How It All Blew Up is Arvin Ahmadi’s most powerful novel yet, a celebration of how life’s most painful moments can live alongside the riotous, life-changing joys of discovering who you are. 

Beyond Wonderland Regular

Being a Muslim comes with its own stereotypes, and the very common one is a terrorist tag which of course is very prejudicial to their interests.

So the story begins with – Amir Azadi, an 18 year old Muslim boy held at the US Customs office with all of his family members for interrogation. There he tells his story of how he ran away from his home because of being blackmailed by his classmates for being gay.

Belonging to a traditional and conservative Muslim family, Amir was very much scared of coming out to his parents as gay, because in their religion there’s no term as homosexuality. He was on the verge of telling them the truth, when one of his classmates started blackmailing him for money. He felt stuck and thought of running away so that he could save himself from the judging eyes of his family when they would get to know the truth.

He landed in Rome, where he met new people who were totally different from him. They were so open and confident regarding their identities and hardly cared what people thought about them.Amir was getting used to the life in Rome and was enjoying the time of his life. He was going on dates and found love. But life ain’t the same every time.

Will he be able to face his parents? Will he be able to come out?

“Life’s not about keeping score like that. It’s just not. It’s about finding people who see you, because the minute they do, everything else goes away. All the points even out.”

I loved reading this book. This was quite refreshing to read after all the serious books I’ve been reading. The characters were well developed and I loved knowing about each and every one of Amir’s friends. They all felt so relatable and I loved how each of them had their own little story of their own. I loved how the author discussed the sensitive issues of homosexuality through different characters.Also while reading the book I was drooling over the mentions of Pizzas and Pastas. And the way the author described Rome, I fell in love with the place. I so want to visit it now LOL.

Though I wanted to read more of Jackson, since he was the very first love interest of Amir, but the author didn’t develop his character much.Overall it was an engaging read and I was hooked to the book till the end. The book is well paced and the narration is good too. The language is easy and understandable.

If you are looking for a own voice book, then go for it.

Beyond Wonderland Regular
Beyond Wonderland Regular
Beyond Wonderland Regular

*I received a free copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review*

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RAW: A History of India’s Covert Operations

Author : Yatish Yadav

Publisher : Westland

Genre : Non Fiction

Pages : 400

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The Research and Analysis Wing, India’s shadowy external intelligence agency, is one of the country’s least understood institutions—at least in part by design. Perhaps fittingly for a spy agency, there is very little information about R&AW in the public domain. What is this organisation, its structure, its role and vision? Why was it set up? Who are the people that run it?

Set up in 1968, as a reaction to India’s massive intelligence failure during the war with China, R&AW played a crucial role in the formation of Bangladesh. It has since carried out highly successful covert operations in Fiji, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, and has countered and foiled Pakistani spy agency ISI’s machinations in the subcontinent. R&AW has operations in other parts of the globe too; it played an important role during the Iran–Iraq war, for instance.

No country can increase its global reach without intelligence support. That India has made enormous strides in its stature and influence is testimony to R&AW’s success. Yet, public accounts of its work exist only in highly romanticised fictional stories. Investigative journalist Yatish Yadav follows the lives of real agents and maps their actions in real situations. His conversations with Indian spies provide insight into how covert operations actually work. RAW: A History of India’s Covert Operations is the first comprehensive account of Indian spy networks and their intelligence gathering, and their role in securing and advancing Indian interests. 

 

Beyond Wonderland Regular

I’m a big sucker for real life stories of the Indian heroes and reading about the unacknowledged heroes working for the safety of our nations being under-covered was a big yes for me.

The book is a collection of stories of different operations undertaken by the RAW agents in different countries. The author is an investigative journalist who has collected these stories first hand by personally talking to the agents. I had been expecting a good storyline with thrilling incidents but all it contained was reports and letters which were sometimes hard to understand. The stories were a bit dragged and it became boring at some point of time.I had to skim through some parts in order to finish the chapters. Though there were some parts that gave me chills because of the dangers the agents faced. But in the end it all felt like I was reading a history book with all the monologues.

Though descriptive and informative, I found it to be a bit dragged and boring, since I had great expectations from the book. Overall, It was an okeyish read for me.

I’ll recommend this book to people who would love to know about the RAW and it’s workings.

Beyond Wonderland Regular
Beyond Wonderland Regular
Beyond Wonderland Regular

*I received a free copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review*

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