Sunday, 20 March 2016

Change Of Address!!!

A Big Hello to all you wonderful people out there!! As you must have noticed, there is a little bit of lull over here from the past two years!! But no more. We are moving, to a new place where you will have books as well as travel related posts. So wait no more, hope on to the new place:

Hoping to see you guys over there!! :-)

Thursday, 2 January 2014

The Other Side by Faraaz Kazi and Vivek Banerjee

Title : The Other Side
Author : Faraaz Kazi and Vivek Banerjee
Genre : Fiction / Horror / Paranormal
Publisher : Mahaveer Publishers
Pages : 264
My Rating : 7/10
Reviewed For :
The Readdicts Blog Tour


From a honeymoon in the hill that goes horribly wrong to an obsessed lover who wants his first love in life and in death; From a mentally deranged man who collects body parts of various women to stitch together his dream girl to a sceptic who enters a mansion of horrors to win a bet and much more, this book is filled with scenarios that are guaranteed to give you goose bumps and sleepless nights.

'The Other Side' is a collection of thirteen tales of the paranormal; a world that our eyes refuse to see, our ears deny hearing and our senses ignore the feel of. This is a book for someone who is brave enough to take up this invitation to journey through uncharted waters along with the authors, who were inspired by some bizarre experiences to pen down this work where the lines of reality have been blurred by the footsteps of imagination.

Each story takes you on a tour de force of unadulterated horror and draws upon the deepest fear in the human mind- the fear of the UNKNOWN!

My Review:

The Other Side by Faraaz Kazi and Vivek Banerjee is a collection of 13 short horror stories with an unique spin of the paranormal element to them. Honestly, I have never read books from this genre, so while taking up this novel I was quite apprehensive in terms of what it offered. Since the usual horror movies seem all the same, I did not want this read to be another replication of The Exorcist. But I am glad to say that this book was surprisingly well done, it was an engaging read that did not let me down.

The authors do not hesitate to pull out the big guns right from the first page, they set the ball rolling with the foreword, which for me was the best highlight of this read. It starts on a scary note (pun intended!) and is actually an introduction to Fear – Fear of the Unknown. The authors play on this Fear of the Unknown to take the readers on The Other Side – the side where the natural is supernatural!! Next comes the prelude which as the name suggests serves an introductory act to the 13 horror stories that follow. Coming to the short stories themselves, I must say they are an eccentric mix. Starting from a plain predictable story to some old-fashioned ghost stories with unexpected twists, these 13 stories are like a potpourri of tales that keep the reader absorbed. The stories aren't exactly frightening but the book (as a whole) is chilling with vivid imagery and descriptions. The authors have used seemingly plain language to evoke feelings of fear and set a mood of delicious creepiness. Needless to say that if you’re reading this book late at night, you’ll be jumping at every noise you hear.

The authors have played well with the plotline for some of the short stories – they start on a theme that makes the story seem like the “same old’ ghost story” but then as you read the last page, a sudden twist breaks the reverie. This is quite good since the stories come out to be a witty combination of the expected as well as the unexpected. While for some stories this element of surprise in the end is their only redeeming point, for others the plotline just didn’t seem to work. The good part was since it was a collection of short stories, we can always move on to the next one within a few pages even if the previous one disappoints.

Having said that I must applaud the authors for creating an entire world, full of darkness and unsated souls in this read, which makes it more than just a set of short stories. Of course, the line between the real and imaginary begin to get blurred with this one. If you hate anything scary at all, then I’d steer clear of this book.  But if you enjoy creepy stories, then I’d give this book a chance. 


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Title : Allegiant - Book 3 in the Divergent trilogy
Author : Veronica Roth
Genre : Fiction / YA / Dystopian
Publisher : Harper Collins India
Pages : 526
My Rating : 7.5/10
Reviewed For :


What if your whole world was a lie?

What if a single revelation – like a single choice – changed everything?

What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered – fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she's known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.
But Tris's new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature – and of herself – while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love.

Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

My Review:

Allegiant by Veronica Roth is the long-awaited finale in the Divergent Trilogy and perhaps the most powerful one in the series. I’ll admit it: When I first heard about this series, I passed it off as just another trilogy fitting into the currently trending YA dystopian stereotype and never had any high hopes from it. So it was with great skepticism that I went into Allegiant expecting not to like it a lot, but then 50 pages into the book and I was hooked. Very much like the first two novels in this trilogy – Divergent & Insurgent, this book too moves at a very fast pace making it difficult to put it down.

For the uninitiated, the basic premise of this series goes like this: It’s the distant future, and the world we know has metamorphosed into a different place altogether. The novel starts in the city of Chicago where the society is divided into five factions. Each of these factions is dedicated to a human virtue, a single type of behavior—those in Amity value peace, while the Dauntless are brave warriors. Members of Abnegation are selfless, while Candor values brutal honesty and those in Erudite hold intelligence dear. Our protagonist – sixteen year old Beatrice Prior (Tris) is born into an Abnegation family, however, she never quite feels comfortable in her family faction and has a hard time fitting in. On a given day each year, all sixteen-year-olds take an aptitude test that will tell them which faction they are best suited for. Tris shows equal aptitude for three factions: Abnegation, Erudite and Dauntless which makes her a “Divergent”. Much to everyone’s surprise, Tris chooses to be a Dauntless in the Choosing Ceremony and that’s where the plot in Divergent really kicks off. Divergent moves at a pretty fast pace leaving the readers breathless and Insurgent is an equally amazing follow-up to the explosive debut by Roth. Allegiant picks up right where Insurgent left off and plunges straight into the action. There’s no recapping of the events of the first two books, which means the reader should definitely be very familiar with the basic plot and characters of Divergent & Insurgent before picking up Allegiant.

Coming to Allegiant, Tris and everyone around her is shocked after the old video of Edith Prior reveals that there exists a world beyond Chicago and that the Divergent should be allowed to explore it. Also, following the video, Evelyn becomes the self-appointed leader & is forcing everyone to live without factions. Looking at the chaos that their city has become, Tris and Tobias (Four) cannot help but think about leaving Chicago to move on into the world beyond and the endless possibilities that it can offer. Meanwhile, Cara & Johanna form a secret group called the “Allegiant” and recruit Tris, Tobias and their friends. The Allegiant make a plan to send a group of people outside Chicago’s borders to explore the world on the other side of the fence. Tris, Tobias, Christina, Cara, Uriah, Peter, and Caleb successfully leave the city. Their arrival in the world outside Chicago opens a new path for Tris & Tobias but what they discover here shocks and disturbs them in equal measures bringing home the realization that once again they must take action to preserve what they hold most dear.

First of all, right at the beginning of this series Roth did a pretty amazing job in creating and building the future world. This setting is an integral part of the story and there are a lot of questions that the readers may ask when Divergent commences – “How did the world get to this point? What drastic changes occurred that morphed the society to such an extent?” Well, here is the good news – Roth continues with the amazing job and answers all the questions in Allegiant. In fact, Roth pulls in the readers in Tris’s world and builds so much anticipation regarding the outside world, that as a reader I was on tenterhooks and was racing through the story to know what lay beyond. Secondly, the major highlight of this read is Tris, she is the backbone of these books and is what makes them worth reading. At the start of the series, she isn’t perfect – she is impulsive and short-tempered, but she grows so much over the course of the book. Though there are still some shades of the impulsiveness and angst in this volume, it just makes her more realistic. In fact, by the end of Allegiant she no longer seems like a sixteen-year old; instead she seems like an old soul, matured by her past. Through the course of the series, she has lost a lot of good friends and her family and is crippled by her own guilt and self-doubt. It's easy to empathize with such a strong character who also has her own weak moments. But she also begins to realize how many more she can loose and starts picking up the pieces to build a new world around her. She becomes strong and wise but it takes a lot for her to come to that point.

Another strong highlight of this series is - Character development. Even in Allegiant, Roth continues to develop her primary as well as secondary characters consistently as well as realistically. No character goes out of their way to throw a surprise moment, everyone acts in exactly the same way had they been people in the real world. However, that in no way makes the read a predictable one; in fact that is what makes it all the more intriguing. But the ultimate redemption of this series lies in the final twist, though it was despised by a lot of fanatics but I thought it showed a certain amount of boldness and maturity on the author’s part. Also, as I said earlier, the pace of these books is incredible; Roth does not hesitate to kill off characters or spring out a twist at every turn, thus recreating the entire storyline completely in a new way. Tris’s mother’s back story adds welcome depth to the story.

Coming to the letdowns, this book introduces Four as a parallel narrator along with Tris, which should have been exciting since it gives an interesting insight into his mind. But despite providing a fresh and alternative perspective, it fell short almost to the point of being bland. Also, the pace in this read is not balanced. The first few chapters roll along smoothly and then there is a sudden flurry of activity. Sometimes, it feels as if everything is happening in a blur, which might overwhelm the reader!!

So all in all, I thought it was a pretty decent read. It’s definitely interesting, if not what you are expecting. The choices that Tris & Tobias make have far-reaching impact in this read but they it is only by making these fateful choices they come to terms with the fact that their destiny is not something hypothetical; but it lies in the choices that they make. If you are looking for a fast paced read and haven’t picked up this series yet, you should definitely do it as soon as possible.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Beaten by Bhagath!: A Tale of Two Writers by S. V. Divvaakar

Title : Beaten by Bhagath!
Author : S.V. Divvaakar
Genre : Fiction
Publisher :
Leadstart Publication
Pages : 193
My Rating : 7/10
Reviewed For :
Author / First Reads Challenge 2013 / South Asian Challenge 2013 / IQRC 2013


‘I’m sure you can do a much better job than Bhagath!’
When BB hears these inspiring words from his sexy lady boss, his staid life as a successful analyst in an MNC goes into a tailspin.
Bitten by the ego bug and smitten by her, BB sets off on his quest to write a book that’s better than India’s greatest writer Dr.Bhagath’s blockbusters. Nothing unusual about this for BB, who likes a good fight. Except that he and Bhagath had been classmates and friends at college.
What follows is a roller-coaster voyage of the debutant author and his book, with all its twists and cul-de-sacs. Brushes with publishers, celebrities, retailers, book chains, and competition with the alliances among giants, mark the challenger’s journey, upping the stakes at every stage.

Will BB catch up with his famous friend?
What will their encounter be like?

Written from inside the ring, ‘Beaten by Bhagath’ is a gripping tale ...the first-ever about the unseen side of the wonderland of Indian fiction

My Review:

Beaten by Bhagath is one of those reads that can be termed as a “book of facts” about the current and ever-expanding publishing industry in India. Through his protagonist, the author presents before us a full, if a little cynical, picture of the world of a debut author, his struggles as his book clambers into the world of fiction & publishing, every small accomplishment that seems like a herculean win, the disaster i.e. failure waiting to happen and its aftermath. S.V. Divvaakar (SVD) like many of the budding authors, muses if there is indeed a winning formula to writing fiction and if at all, it exists then what it might be.

BB, an executive in a MNC is happy spending his days on the side-lines whilst writing reports and earning profits for his company.  However, an off-hand compliment from his sexy lady boss (talk about woman power!!) on his writing skills and creativity sets off our protagonist into action. To top it up, the lady boss unknowingly sets the stakes high for BB by comparing him with the country’s most successful and prominent writer Dr. Ketan Bhagath. But what we don’t know is that best-selling author Ketan Bhagath & our protagonist, BB go a long way back. From hostel room-mates to partners-in-crime to classmates to friends in college life, BB & Ketan (K-10 as he was known then) have had a couple of colourful years together. However, in the present day, boosted by a single compliment, BB immediately takes this impulsive decision not only to pen down an entire novel but also to beat Bhagath in his own game i.e. Writing. And thus armed with an aggressive obsession to churn out a read better than K-10, BB sets off to explore the dangerous and unknown minefield i.e. the Indian Publishing Industry. What ensues is the ride of BB’s life with sharp curves and steep inclines as he moves through the various phases of his literary sojourn.

The most applaud-able fact of this read is that, SVD not only takes us through each phase of publishing – from the initial exhilaration of deciding to become an author, to going into a panic mode whilst deciding a plot, to writing down the actual book, to finding a decent publisher, to promoting it quite effectively, to the book finally making its way into the hands of the readers, to hitting the hard reality – but also lays out the facts bare – as they are – without sugar-coating them. SVD draws from his own experience as an author and has broken many myths about publishing with this read. While most of us believe that the author’s work is done after he/she lands a publication deal, SVD points out that the journey is actually uphill from here for the author. The author not only has to handle the hullabaloo around the publication and promotion of his book but also has to keep up with the latest technology & maintain his presence on the various social platforms. The readers also get a glimpse into the working methods of online stores, leading chain bookstores, the stocking & distribution of books and the advent of eBook market.

Another highlight of this novel is that it is sharply satirical with each chapter giving an elaborate view of the kaleidoscopic publishing industry.  Also, you will laugh out loud at the cleverly twisted names the author uses for different publishers & e-sites throughout the narration. This read clearly etches out the struggles of a debut author & portrays their emotions, hurdles, backbreaking work, time, patience & resources required on the author’s part quite vividly. However, SVD also provides some very useful & important tips to the aspiring authors out there.

Coming to the plot, it itself is a bit of a drag at the outset & threatens to run off its course with BB going back into the past. However, the plot picks up pace once we come back to the present before losing its charm in the end again. Most of the characters are under developed since they are created with the sole intention of providing a specific lesson and then they vanish into thin air. Also, there are a couple of parallels drawn between a book and many things, which might not go well with book lovers.

For newbie writers planning to get published and surviving in the literary world, this book is your guide. For others, this novel does take some patience at the beginning, but as you proceed, you will get to know the pattern our publishing industry.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The Redeemers by Suresh Taneja

Title : The Redeemers
Author : Suresh Taneja
Genre : Fiction
Publisher :
Leadstart / Frog Books
Pages : 229
My Rating : 6.5/10
Reviewed For : Author /
First Reads Challenge 2013 / South Asian Challenge 2013 / IQRC 2013


One bizarre vacation marked a turning point in the lives of four teenage friends. It dawned upon them that corruption and malpractices had become rampant and deeply ingrained in our culture. They felt anguished and shocked at the shameful state of affairs.

They pledged to redeem and change the destiny of the country. They had only two weeks of vacation left to take some big initiatives. The pressure on them was immense. Status quo or failure was not an option for them.

Read the inspirational story of a unique movement masterminded by youngsters through innovative ideas and creative thinking. Not a single family could escape from its unrelenting onslaught. It was a rewarding outcome for their persistence and hard work, as they nostalgically recall in 2030.

My Review:

The Redeemers by Suresh Taneja is a thought-provoking novel that focuses on a lot of issues that India faces today. In the times that we are living in, it can safely said that the state of affairs in our country has taken a turn for the worse. People responsible for country’s development are exploiting it instead. As a result, our country’s economy is taking  a regressive path rather than a progressive one. Amongst this scenario, reading a novel like The Redeemers is almost like that hypothetical fantasy that you want to happen but know that it is too good to be true. The author strongly believes in the fact that the youth of our country can play a crucial role towards shaping its future & the plot for this read is based exactly on this theme.

The book kick-starts in the future, i.e. in the year 2030, where the situation is totally and astonishingly so, diametrically opposite to what it is today. USA and India have literally exchanged places, India being a super-power & the value of 1INR being equivalent to 100 USD. We are introduced to a group of close-knit friends – G4 - Vikram, Yuvika, Manisha and Akshay. Vikram is the Indian Ambassador to America & the other 3 have gone to visit him in the US along with their families as a part of their annual vacation which is a tradition that is carried down in their families. As family & friends gather, the elders (G4) end up telling the younger generation a story that happened in one such vacation – a story about the great Indian revolution & its aftermath that changed India’s position in the history of world map. The plot then moves back to 2009 where the G4 are in their teens and have gathered with their parents for the annual vacation. On this vacation they face a bizarre situation – a situation that forces them to come out of their privileged cocoons and changes their lives altogether. They finally decide to confront the ugly side of reality & pledge to redeem the country. They launch a unique mass-movement and unrelentingly strive towards changing the destiny of our country.

As I said earlier, the author emphasizes the fact that the youth need to play a pivotal role in moulding the future of our country. Needless to say, the target audience for this read is mainly the youngsters. Through this read, the author attempts to inspire us into action so that each one of us, in our own small way, purge our corrupt system through prompt thinking and innovative ways. Also, the author highlights a very valid point - that the change which we desire might not happen overnight, nevertheless we need to persistently keep striving towards achieving it. However, the most salient feature of this read is that it will strike a chord with every Indian reading this book. Suresh has written in a way that arouses the otherwise dormant patriotism in us albeit it just falls short of bringing out the rebellion. The language is simple & the narration keeps the readers interested. The character development of all the members of G4 was particularly well done, with each of them having their own distinguishing trait & yet they all fit in together in the same group seamlessly. Coming to the downside, the plot as well as the editing could have been more taut. Also, in many instances, the author has presented the discussions & conversations with respect to the groups (G3, G4, G6..) rather than between individuals. At such places, the read seemed a bit strange and impersonal.

All in all, The Redeemers presents a hopeful story that forces us to think if we are doing more for our country rather than just sitting down with our friends/families & having conversations about the downfall & doom of our nation.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Amreekandesi - Masters of America by Atulya Mahajan

Title : Amreekandesi - Masters of America
Author : Atulya Mahajan
Genre : Fiction
Publisher :
Ebury Press, Random House India

Pages : 318
My Rating : 6.5/10
Reviewed For : The
Reader Cosmos Book Review Program / First Reads Challenge 2013 / South Asian Challenge 2013 / IQRC 2013


Akhil Arora, a young, dorky engineer in Delhi, can’t wait to get away from home and prove to his folks that he can be on his own. Meanwhile in a small town in Punjab, Jaspreet Singh, aka Jassi, is busy dreaming of a life straight out of American Pie. As fate would have it, they end up as roommates in Florida. But the two boys are poles apart in their perspectives and expectations of America. While Akhil is fiercely patriotic and hopes to come back to India in a few years, Jassi finds his Indian identity an uncomfortable burden and looks forward to finding an American girl with whom he can live happily ever after.

Laced with funny anecdotes and witty insights, Amreekandesi chronicles the quintessential immigrant experience, highlighting the clash of cultures, the search for identity, and the quest for survival in a foreign land.

My Review:

Amreekandesi - Masters of America is one of those reads that can be termed as a tell-all about Indian students living “The American Dream” & the confused life associated with it. The author – Atulya Mahajan, himself has ‘Been there, Done that’ and has wittily drawn out from his experience to portray the struggles of Indian students trying to find their feet in the foreign land whilst adapting to the diametrically opposite cultures. With equal doses of sarcasm & drollness, Amreekandesi weaves together contemporary issues of culture clash, identity crisis & the quest for survival. The plot itself revolves around two Indian boys - the protagonists - Akhil Arora and Jaspreet Singh, who not only share the same apartment but also the same dream of making it “big” in America albeit in different contexts!!

Akhil & Jaspreet (aka Jassi aka Jazz aka Jazzminator) are as opposite to each other as chalk & cheese & so is their reason to go to the States. Akhil Arora is a simple, pampered engineer from Delhi who wants to move away from his overbearing parents, stay independently and hence prove to everyone under the sun (read : nosy & snobbish Uncles & relatives) that he is capable of managing his own life. On the other hand, Jaspreet Singh hails from a small town in Punjab for whom life in America is akin to the movie American Pie and he intends to live it just like that – in the arms of Pamelaji (read : Pamela Anderson). What ensues is a series of episodes – some quirky, some hilarious, some embarrassing and some eye-opening when the horny Jassi meets the equally dorky Akhil in the States and both become roommates.

Akhil is fiercely patriotic & protective of his Indian identity. He looks at America as just a means to carve out his career while staying independently & prove himself. On the other hand, Jassi is ready to shed his Indian identity at the drop of a hat & adopt to the better American lifestyle. He changes his entire way of existence just so to fit in the crowd and be accepted as one amongst them. The author has done an excellent job of taking up these two completely opposite characters & blending them in one storyline. Also, the author gives an honest albeit interesting insight of the life that awaits the Indian students who aspire to study & settle in the States. The initial exhilaration & anxiety of settling down in a new country with an entirely different study system, the slow & tedious effort of blending in with the crowd, the typical mind set and attributes of Indian students and the thrill of visiting new places are some of the aspects that the author has hilariously drawn out in this novel. The reluctant comparisons between the American & Indian lifestyle that Akhil’s mind draws out and springs on him unsuspectingly when he comes back is something that is more and more prevalent today and the author has done an excellent job at portraying it.

At the outset, the book holds a promising note of being a rib-tickling funny read but as the novel progresses the humour quotient drops down the scale. Also, in the last few chapters, the read takes a turn which frankly, for me, was a tad too filmy. And then there is a Jassi’s lack of interest in books and preoccupation with American girls, which is amusing at the start but then only gets more & more repetitive towards the end.

The author’s writing style is simple and uncomplicated which makes this a light and breezy read. The narration keeps the readers interested, a touch of humour here and a speck of satire there make it an enjoyable read overall. Pick it up over the weekend if you are looking for some easy-on-the-senses read.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Caretaker by A.X.Ahmad

Title : The Caretaker - A Novel
Author : A. X. Ahmad
Genre : Fiction / Thriller
Publisher : Harper Collins India
Pages : 304
My Rating : 8.5/10
Reviewed For :
Publisher / First Reads Challenge 2013 / South Asian Challenge 2013 / IQRC 2013


A compelling thriller that introduces a new hero for our times: Ranjit Singh, former captain in the Indian Army, illegal immigrant in the heart of white America and caretaker to the rich and famous.

One harsh winter, Ranjit illegally moves his family into an empty, luxurious vacation home belonging to an African-American Senator. Ensconced in the house, he tries to forget his brief affair with Anna, the Senators wife, and focuses on providing for his family. But one night, their idyll is shattered when mysterious armed men break into the house, searching for an antique porcelain doll. Forced to flee, Ranjit is hunted by unknown forces and gets drawn into the Senators shadowy world. To save his family and solve the mystery of the doll, he must join forces with Anna, who has her own dark secrets. As he battles to save his family, Ranjit’s painful past resurfaces and he must finally confront the hidden event that destroyed his career in the Army and forced him to leave India.

Tightly plotted, action-packed, smart and surprisingly moving, The Caretaker takes us from the desperate world of migrant workers to the elite African-American community of Martha’s Vineyard and a secret high-altitude war between India and Pakistan.

My Review:

The Caretaker by A.X.Ahmad is a compelling read about a man who is trying to run away from the ghosts of his past but they keep following him, no matter how far he runs. In his debut work, the author has given us our very own desi yet exotic hero in the form of Ranjit Singh, who is – a Sikh, a respected and brave former captain in the Indian Army, a fallen soldier, an illegal immigrant & a landscaper trying to pass off as a common brown man in America, in exactly that order.

Ranjit Singh is a tormented man, tormented by the demons of his past. A former captain in the Indian Army, an awry mission forces him to flee from his motherland and settle down in the quiet confines of an island of Martha’s Vineyards in America. The narrative runs in two parallel tracks - one in the present where running away from a past, Ranjit is trying his best to create a comfortable life for his wife and daughter in the unknown land. However, deep down he knows that all his attempts at normalcy are failing as miserably as his relationship with his wife. The other narrative takes us in the past to Ranjit Singh’s glorious military career days where he was appointed as the commander of a squad in the Indian Army for a Top-Secret Mission. However, the mission goes horribly wrong & since then Ranjit is on the run with his family.  Fading away into anonymity, he becomes a part-time landscape worker on Martha’s Vineyard. Opportunity comes knocking to Ranjit in the form of a caretaker’s job for the house of a famous senator one winter. But what seems to be like a boon at first glance turns out to be a horrible nightmare in disguise as Ranjit realizes that there are dark secrets hidden in the Senator’s house and when he uncovers them, all that he has ever believed in his life will change forever.

If I list down the reasons to read this novel, then the first and foremost factor for me will be the protagonist – Ranjit Singh. Unlike the perfect caricatures that we come across in works of fiction, Ranjit is every bit of a flawed & complex hero as you or I can be. Tangled up in the past & taunted by the ghosts of his previous life in army, he seems to be apathetic at first glances. But as the read progresses, the author slowly chips away his hard exterior, one layer at a time, & exposes his vulnerabilities, his fears, his love, his regrets, his guilt & his emotional dependence. It is very easy to sympathize with him and keep rooting for him as the ground beneath his feet keeps slipping just when he thinks he is firm footed. Also, the flashback scenes provide a glimpse into his past and the reason for how he has shaped up today. Being in army, it is expected of him to adapt himself in any environment but even then, we see him struggling as a turban-clad Sikh in post-9/11 America who draws as much as attention as flak and suspicion for his turban & beard. Yet even in the face of these humiliating circumstances, he never loses his sense of identity as an Indian and a Sikh. He has his own flaws but underneath all of the mess that he is in, he makes some choices which define who he is & gains the reader’s appreciation. Needless to say, the author has done an excellent job of sketching and developing the character in a realistic manner.

The second best part of this read, perhaps for me, is
that this novel explores many difficult issues. The most apparent was immigration issues which might strike a chord with many of us. The unsettling idea of settling down in an entirely new country with a totally different culture, the general desperation that stems from trying your best to blend with others and yet standing out amongst them because of your colour, and in spite of that retaining your heritage, traditions and religion because that is what identifies you - are some of the cultural aspects that the author has beautifully drawn out in this novel. Ahmad’s narrative has a distinct and beautiful poetic style to it. The descriptions he offers are vivid and transport you to the different worlds described in the book. Thus, in spite of being a fast-paced thriller, the read has a unhurried tone to it. Also, Ahmad has given the readers a rare glimpse into the Sikh religion and weaving the teachings from the Guru Granth Sahib into the read. For the unawares like me, this was a rare learning experience which I thoroughly enjoyed. Another highlight of this read was the development of the secondary characters & the various sub-plots. The author has done an amazing job at  carefully constructing & seamlessly interweaving the sub-plots which might seem like a jumble at first but at the end fit together perfectly like the pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle. The political history between India, Pakistan & the US, familial relationships, emotional vulnerability and some good plot twists are the other factors that make this an enjoyable read.

It has its own highs and lows but all in all, this is a very well-written debut with beautiful descriptions, engaging characters and a taut plot. If you are looking for an excellent page-turning thriller, then this might be just the one.