Book review: The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani

Book Details:

Book Title:  The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani
Category:  Adult Fiction, 399 pages
Genre:  Literary 
Publisher:  Lake Union
Release date:  September 2018
Format available for review:  print and ebook (gifted Kindle copy, PDF)
Will send print books to:  USA & Canada
Tour dates: June 3 to July 12, 2019
Content Rating: PG-13 (There are some non-explicit sex scenes)

Book Description:

An Amazon Charts, USA Today, and Washington Post bestseller!

From the bestselling author of Trail of Broken Wings comes an epic story of the unrelenting force of love, the power of healing, and the invincible desire to dream.

Nothing prepares Jaya, a New York journalist, for the heartbreak of her third miscarriage and the slow unraveling of her marriage in its wake. Desperate to assuage her deep anguish, she decides to go to India to uncover answers to her family’s past. Intoxicated by the sights, smells, and sounds she experiences, Jaya becomes an eager student of the culture. But it is Ravi—her grandmother’s former servant and trusted confidant—who reveals the resilience, struggles, secret love, and tragic fall of Jaya’s pioneering grandmother during the British occupation.

​Through her courageous grandmother’s arrestingly romantic and heart-wrenching story, Jaya discovers the legacy bequeathed to her and a strength that, until now, she never knew was possible.

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Sejal Badani

Meet the Author:

​A former attorney, Sejal Badani left the law to pursue writing full time.

She is a USA Today, Washington Post & Amazon Charts bestselling author, Goodreads Fiction Award Finalist and ABC/DISNEY Writing Fellowship Finalist.

Connect with the author: Website  ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~Pinterest
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REVIEW: A heartrending and inspiring account of acceptance and hope, the Storyteller’s Secret carries you from present-day New York City where we meet Jaya, a journalist who is struggling to come to terms with three recent miscarriages to the flower-scented gardens of India where we are introduced to Ravi, her grandmother’s long-time friend and servant. Jaya’s grandmother’s story comes to life as Ravi slowly recounts events from her childhood to marriage and later work as a schoolteacher.

The truth is, I really didn’t feel an immediate connection to Jaya. When the story travels back to Raj controlled India, she learns that her grandmother Amisha is an aspiring young writer who must balance her love of writing with the responsibilities and restrictions placed upon her as submissive Indian wife and mother.

The connections that Jaya makes as her grandmother’s story unfolds provide insight to her own mother’s childhood and why she never felt the connection that should have been there. She learns of the sacrifices the women in her family made for love and this has affected her deeply.

A story of enduring love, friendship, sacrifice and hope, the Storyteller’s Secret will haunt you long after you’ve finished reading it.

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Book review: The Color of our Sky by Amita Trasi

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  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomhill Books; First edition edition (June 30, 2015)

Book description:

India, 1986: Mukta, a ten-year-old girl from the lower caste Yellamma cult of temple prostitutes has come of age to fulfill her destiny of becoming a temple prostitute. In an attempt to escape this legacy that binds her, Mukta is transported to a foster family in Bombay. There she discovers a friend in the high spirited eight-year-old Tara, the tomboyish daughter of the family, who helps her recover from the wounds of her past. Tara introduces Mukta to a different world—ice cream and sweets, poems and stories, and a friendship the likes of which she has never experienced before. In 1993, Mukta is kidnapped from Tara’s room.

Eleven years later, Tara who blames herself for what happened, embarks on an emotional journey to search for the kidnapped Mukta only to uncover long buried secrets in her own family.

Moving from a remote village in India to the bustling metropolis of Bombay, to Los Angeles and back again, amidst the brutal world of human trafficking, this is a heartbreaking and beautiful portrait of an unlikely friendship—a story of love, betrayal, and redemption—which ultimately withstands the true test of time.

Buy the book:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble 

Amita-TrasiAbout the author:  Amita Trasi was born and raised in Mumbai, India. She has an MBA in Human Resource Management and has worked with various International corporations for seven years.She loves traveling to different countries to immerse herself in different cultures and understand their history. She also regularly supports and donates to organisations that fight human trafficking. She currently lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and two cats. The Color of our Sky is is her first novel.

Connect with the author:   website   twitter   facebook

REVIEW:

आशा = hope

despair – resilience – forgiveness – hope

Amita’s first novel, The Color of our Sky was both heart-rending and hopeful. Two young girls from very different backgrounds, one the descendent of a long line of temple prostitutes (Devdasi) and the other the daughter of a middle class family in Mumbai. Tara grows up in a protected environment in Mumbai. Mukta is forced into slavery as a temple prostitute against the wishes of her mother who does not want her daughter to follow in the same tradition. Miraculously, Mukta is rescued and brought to live in Tara’s home. These two girls slowly form an uneasy friendship, neither of them realising that their need for each other’s friendship will last a lifetime. When the 1993 bomb blasts kill Tara’s mother, the lives of both girls are thrust into chaos. Mukta is kidnapped and Tara follows her father to America.

The story is told from the point of view of both girls, each chapter beginning with a quote.

“It’s a futile dream – I stand by the window and watch while a dove flies to me. The dove kisses my hands and leads me to light”. – Mukta

This book describes the condition of an important social problem in India, the sex slave industry. Although realistically portrayed, it is not graphic or detailed.

The writing was eloquent and interspersed with poetic language. I highly recommend this book.

Book review: Tiger Heart by Katrell Christie & Shannon McCaffrey

Tiger-Heart

 

Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: HCI (October 6, 2015)
SYNOPSIS:
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Katrell Christie never intended to visit India. In fact, her ideal vacation was a tropical beach where she could relax with a margarita in her hand. But when this former art student turned roller-derby rebel met three teenage girls at a crowded Buddhist orphanage in Darjeeling, she knew she had to help. What started as a trip made on a whim would prove to be a life-altering experience that would change the fate of these lost girls.
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In her new book, Tiger Heart: My Unexpected Adventures to Make a Difference in Darjeeling and WhatI Learned About Fate, Fortitude, and Finding Family Half a World Away (October 2015), Katrell tells her remarkable story – from her quirky Atlanta tea shop to her fight for her young scholars halfway around the globe. Two scholars in the program are set to graduate from college and move on to pursue advanced degrees.
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Most of the girls Katrell met in India faced grim futures as laborers or domestic servants. Some might have been relegated to lives of sexual exploitation. For them, she founded The Learning Tea, which has offered scholarships to 15 young women in Darjeeling, providing them with tuition, housing, clothing and medical care.
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Katrell has us sipping tea with her at roadside tea huts, tasting hot samosas, dodging feral monkeys, and roaming the chaotic streets of Mumbai. The smells of small villages waft from the pages as we accompany her on her riveting and sometimes hilarious adventures across the globe in her mission to empower the young women who have become a part of her family. Join us in experiencing then sharing the inspiring story of one woman and her mission to make a difference through the power of educating girls.
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Buy the book: 

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unnamed-1About the authors:

Katrell Christie is the founder and owner of The Learning Tea, a project which provides schooling and a safe haven for impoverished young women in India. Through her efforts with The Learning Tea, Ms. Christie has changed the lives of many women living in Darjeeling,
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India. Visit TheLearningTea.com for more information.
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Shannon McCaffrey is an award-winning reporter focusing on investigative stories for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  She is an avid reader, a mother, and a runner.
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Connect with the authors:   Website   Twitter    Facebook
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REVIEW:
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As a volunteer worker myself with considerable time spent with the Indian community in Canada, I was curious to read of Katrell’s experiences in Darjeeling.
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From party girl to humanitarian, Katrell’s story is one of trial and error. After surviving her initial culture shock in Varanasi and subsequent trip to Darjeeling, she learns that orphaned girls who, at 17 years of age are forced to leave their orphanages and fend for themselves without the necessary, basic skills.  Katrell is determined to give these girls the self confidence and skills they need to be successful.  I like the fact that she didn’t tell them what they were going to do with their lives, but let these girls decide on their own what they wanted to do with their future.  Part of the Learning Tea Project program was to encourage the girls to give back to the community themselves.  This pay-it-forward program allowed them to earn respect in the community (especially for lower-caste girls) and they also became role models for other impoverished women.
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The last section of the book is entitled “How You Can Help the Learning Tea” for those who wish to contribute to these projects.
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I really enjoyed reading Katrell’s experiences.  The book was a quick read with plenty of photos as well as a sample packing list for travel to India.  Get your backpack ready!
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TLC

Book review: Chloe in India by Kate Darnton

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  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (January 12, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553535048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553535044

SYNOPSIS:

A poignant and delightful story involving class, race, social customs, and a unique friendship that questions them all.
 
Though they’re divided by class, language, appearance—you name it—Chloe and Lakshmi have a lot in common. Both girls are new to Class Five at Premium Academy in New Delhi, India, and neither seems to fit in. But they soon discover how extraordinary an ordinary friendship can be and how celebrating our individuality can change the world.

Buy the book:  Amazon    Barnes & Noble

BLink_Kate_Darnton_2045224gMeet the author:

Kate Darnton is a writer and book editor from Boston. She lived with her family in New Delhi for five years. They now live in Amsterdam.

Website 

 

REVIEW:

This book appealed to me because the setting takes place in New Delhi, India.  Chloe’s family has relocated from Boston and she has been enrolled in a private school called Premium Academy.  She feels out of sorts, and is reluctant to make friends.  She’s a bit of a rebel or “firecracker” and often finds herself in uncomfortable situations.

The author lived in New Delhi for five years so her descriptions of of the city were delightful.  This is how she describes the time before the monsoon rains come:

Delhi heat is heavy and wet and there is no escaping it.  It’s all around you, every day, pushing against your skin, into your lungs. It’s like living in a greenhouse with no walls.

Having experienced this myself I could really relate to what Chloe was feeling at the time. She’s morose, lonely and envious of the pretty Indian girls with their long, black, silky hair. Learning Hindi isn’t easy for her, not like her sister Anna, her complete opposite in character. Chloe tries to fit in with the most popular girl in school (whose father is extremely wealthy) and with time succeeds.

Then along comes Lakshmi, a new girl in school who doesn’t seem to have any friends. Lakshmi is different from the other girls and as their friendship grows, Chloe discovers in Lakshmi a resilience of character and loyalty that she doesn’t find with the other girls in school.

Although this story revolves around the two girls, the plot twists and turns and evolves into other issues that affect the daily life of people in the city.  This was such a good book, I couldn’t put it down.  It should be placed in all middle grade school libraries.  I would love to see a sequel to this story!

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

Book review: The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan

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  • Series: A Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Redhook (September 15, 2015)

SYNOPSIS:

In this Indian-set mystery, Inspector Chopra inherits an elephant and an unsolved murder on his last day at work. A joyful, charming read for fans of Alexander McCall Smith and Rachel Joyce.

Mumbai, murder and a baby elephant combine in a charming, joyful mystery for fans of Alexander McCall Smith and Rachel Joyce.

On the day he retires, Inspector Ashwin Chopra inherits two unexpected mysteries.

The first is the case of a drowned boy, whose suspicious death no one seems to want solved.

And the second is a baby elephant.

As his search for clues takes him across the teeming city of Mumbai, from its grand high rises to its sprawling slums and deep into its murky underworld, Chopra begins to suspect that there may be a great deal more to both his last case and his new ward than he thought.

And he soon learns that when the going gets tough, a determined elephant may be exactly what an honest man needs…

Buy the book:     Amazon    Barnes & Noble

Meet the author:   I first saw an elephant lumbering down the middle of the road in 1997 when I arrived in the city of Mumbai, India to work as a management consultant. It was the most unusual sight Vaseem Khan author picI had ever encountered and served as the inspiration behind my Baby Ganesh series of light-hearted crime novels. I was born in London in 1973, went on to gain a Bachelors degree in Accounting and Finance from the London School of Economics, before spending a decade on the subcontinent helping one of India’s premier hotel groups establish a chain of five-star environmentally friendly ‘ecotels’ around the country. I returned to the UK in 2006 and have since worked at University College London for the Department of Security and Crime Science where I am continually amazed at the way modern science is being used to tackle crime. Elephants are third on my list of passions, first and second being great literature and cricket, not always in that order.

Connect with the author:    Website    Twitter    Facebook    Pinterest

REVIEW:

“What do you mean he’s sending me an elephant?

Inspector Ashwin Chopra (RetD) is at a loss.  He has problems with his ticker and is forced to take an early retirement.  The Unexpected Inheritace of Inspector Chopra is a madcap yet whimsical account of an unusual team consisting of a baby elephant and a retired police officer.  Chopra’s keen sense of honour and justice leads him on a dangerous mission to find a young boy’s killer.

Having personally been to Mumbai on two occasions, I was interested to read about daily life in Mumbai.  For the short time it took to read this story, I was transported back to India.  The story flowed easily with plenty of action and tongue-in-cheek humour and whimsical situations, for example, the scenes with Poppy, Chopra’s wife, rubbing Vicks VapoRub onto the baby elephant Ganesha to ease his cold and then commiserating together  in their living room watching Indian soap operas and sharing a bowl of banana chips.

The secondary characters in this book were just as enjoyable to read about as the main characters, from the tyrannical building administrator Mrs. Subramamium to the faithful sidekick police officer Rangwalla.

A delightful read.  I look forward to reading Vaseem’s next book The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown.

 

Book review: The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

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  • Paperback: 321 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1st edition (February 6, 2007)

BOOK SYNOPSIS:

The Space Between Us, Thrity Umrigar’s poignant novel about a wealthy woman and her downtrodden servant, offers a revealing look at class and gender roles in modern day Bombay. Alternatively told through the eyes of Sera, a Parsi widow whose pregnant daughter and son-in-law share her elegant home, and Bhima, the elderly housekeeper who must support her orphaned granddaughter, the two women have a bond that goes far deeper than that of employer and employee.  But Sera’s seemingly privileged life is not as it appears; after enduring years of cruelty under her mother-in-law’s roof, she faced physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband, pain that only Bhima could see and alleviate. Through their triumphs and tragedies, Sera and Bhima always shared a bond that transcended class and race; a bond shared by two women whose fate always seemed to rest in the hands of others, just outside their control.

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Told in a series of flashbacks and present day encounters, The Space Between Us gains strength from both plot and prose. A beautiful tale of tragedy and hope, Umrigar’s second novel is sure to linger in readers’ minds.

Buy the book:    Amazon      Barnes & Noble

Meet the author: 
static1.squarespaceThrity was born in Bombay, India and came to the U.S. when she was 21. As a Parsi child attending a Catholic school in a predominantly Hindu country, she had the kind of schizophrenic and cosmopolitan childhood that has served her well in her life as a writer. Accused by teachers and parents alike of being a daydreaming, head-in-the-clouds child, she grew up lost in the fictional worlds created by Steinbeck, Hemingway, Woolf and Faulkner. She would emerge long enough from these books to create her own fictional and poetic worlds. Encouraged by her practical-minded parents to get an undergraduate degree in business, Thrity survived business school by creating a drama club and writing, directing and acting in plays. Her first short stories, essays and poems were published in national magazines and newspapers in India at age fifteen.

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After earning a M.A. in journalism  in the U.S., Thrity worked for several years as an award-winning reporter, columnist and magazine writer. She also earned a Ph.D. in English. In 1999, Thrity won a one-year Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University, which is given to mid-career journalists.

Connect with the author:    Website     Twitter     Facebook

REVIEW:

Exquisitely penned. A compelling and touching narrative of two women, one living a life of privilege and the other forced to live in the squalor of a Mumbai slum. They cannot live as equals but they cannot live without each other. They are both pillars, yet their own peculiar frailties bind them together. Their two stories as well as the stories of those of their families intertwine in such a way that a dramatic turn of events may destroy them both.

If you enjoy reading world fiction, especially from India, this book will both intrigue and captivate you. Thrity Umrigar is a gifted storyteller.

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Book review: The Twentieth Wife

27298This book describes life in the Moghual court of pre-colonial India. The Twentieth Wife recounts the story of Mehrunnisa, a Persian girl that eventually marries Emperor Jahangir.  Her story is unusual in that she was a widow when she was chosen as his twentieth wife.   Mehrunnisa not only captures Jahangir’s heart but rules the empire alongside him as his equal.

I have always found Moghul history fascinating, and this book, interwoven with historical fact and fiction to bring Mehrunnisa’s story to life is magical. The story flows seamlessly, despite the fact that there are so many different characters.  From the author’s description of daily life in the Moghual court you can almost taste the different curries and sweets, smell the incense and flowers and imagine the colourful silks and jewels.  I look forward to reading more of Indu Sundaresan’s work.

You can buy Indu`s book here:    Amazon