Exam Warriors by Narendra Modi

There are several puzzles, brain teasers and games centered around the examinations. The idea is to make taking these exams casual though they are much anticipated and a matter of stress. They determine the streams the students will be able to take up depending on the scores they attain.

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Title: Exam Warriors

Author: Narendra Modi

Publisher: Amazon Asia-Pacific Holdings Private Limited

Date of Publication: 3 February 2018

Rating: 3.7/5

exam

Dedicated to the youth of India who comprise almost two-thirds of the population under the age of thirty five, Exam Warriors is written in a workbook style. It is an interactive and interesting book written with the annual Indian Board Exams in focus. Almost 2.824 million students will be appearing for the grade X and XII board exams in 2018. (CBSE class 10, 12 board exams to begin from March 5.) It serves as an extension of the February 2015 ‘Mann Ki Baat’.

The book is a unique experience and also highly engaging if used through the Narendra Modi Mobile App. The book has about 25 chapters which are short and are periodically interrupted by unique activities that include students to express themselves through writing, poster designing or drawing images. There are several puzzles, brain teasers and games centered around the examinations. The idea is to make the preparation for these exams casual though they are much anticipated and a matter of stress for both students and their families. They determine the streams the students will be able to take up depending on the scores they attain.

The colourful illustrations are done well and add to the interest of the book and function as stress busters. The book cover shows the Prime Minister waving the National Flag making the kids empowered with their weapons like pens, pencils and other stationery in hand. They skate and glide on segways to the finish line. The back cover also has a real photograph of the Prime Minister being greeted by young students and shaking hands with them. Though the book is highly interesting, it is difficult for a young and playful mind to stay away from the rat race that lies immediately ahead after the board exams.  With sky rocketing cut offs each year, eligibility for higher education is largely becoming a matter of fortune telling.

The book is highly relevant considering the time of release and also very technologically advanced. It has frequent QR codes presented in the book that can be scanned and uploaded to the Prime Minister’s Office directly. The tips are more or less what is usually told to students in terms of mental health, sleep, maintaining a schedule and being organsied with their study and exam day plans such as keeping their hall tickets and stationery in place. Most of it is presented in a fun manner. Along with the moral lessons stating examples of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, Rani Laxmi Bai and Subhas Chandra Bose there is almost a mini yoga book in the end with some easy to practice and simple asanas explained with illustrations and simple steps. It is almost a back to school experience (for those who’ve not revisited their school in a long time) as one makes their way through the tasks. Keeping the cost of the book in mind, the quality of glossy pages is amazing.

The Prime Minister’s usual charisma is maintained and reflected which is undoubtedly the reason behind the book’s warm reception especially among the student community. It is definitely the first of its kind but how far it will sustain amidst the re-examination hullabaloo is hard to determine. An audiobook to go along with the paperback is a personal suggestion.

Interview with Rich Marcello

I write every day for five or six hours, mostly in the morning.  I find I do my best work when I go from one kind of dream time ( sleeping) right to another( writing). 

Rich is a poet, an accomplished songwriter and musician, a creative writing teacher at Seven Bridges’ Writer Collaborative, and the author of three novels, The Color of Home, The Big Wide Calm, and the forthcoming, The Beauty of the Fall, due out in 2016. Previously, he enjoyed a successful career as a technology executive, managing several multi-billion dollar businesses for Fortune 500 companies.

The Color of Home was published in 2013 by Langdon Street Press, and melds together honest generative dialogue, poetic sensory detail, and “unforgettable characters who seem to know the complete song catalog of Lennon or Cohen.” The Big Wide Calm was published in 2014, also by Langdon Street Press. The US Review of Books stated, “Marcello’s novel has a lot going for it. Well-written, thought-provoking, and filled with flawed characters, it meets all of the basic requirements of best-of-show in the literary fiction category.” The Beauty of the Fall will be published in 2016. Faulkner Award Winner Mark Spencer commented, “Few novels are as intelligent and relevant as The Beauty of the Fall. Almost none is as eloquent, compelling, heartbreaking, and ultimately, uplifting.”

As anyone who has read Rich’s work can tell you, his books deal with life’s big questions: love, loss, creativity, community, aging, self-discovery. His novels are rich with characters and ideas, crafted by a natural storyteller, with the eye and the ear of a poet.

For Rich, writing and art making is about connection, or as he says, about making a difference to a least one other person in the world, something he has clearly achieved many times over, both as an artist, a mentor, and a teacher.

Rich lives in Massachusetts on a lake with his family and two Newfoundlands, Ani and Shaman. He is currently working on his fourth novel, The Latecomers.

Commercial Photography

 

Tee: Firstly, talk me through the exquisite book cover.

Rich: Well, for my other book covers, Langdon Street Press did most of the work, but for this book, I had a clear idea of what I wanted.  Several years ago, I acquired the rights to the photo that eventually became the cover.  What I loved about the photo was the image of connected branches opening up to the sky.  I thought that image mapped well to the theme of The Long Body That Connects Us All, so I submitted it to Langdon Street and they took it from there.  I love all of the covers to my books, but I am particularly fond of this cover.

 

Tee: What does the title of the collection actually signify to you?

Rich: In general, I tend to not talk about the meaning of my titles mostly because titles can mean different things to different people, and all of them are equally valid.  Of the people who’ve read the book, the title has signified a number of things.  One interpretation is that we are all connected by the long history of the human race, and though we sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture, there’s wisdom in our connected history if we look for it.  Another interpretation is, at its most fundamental level, being human, being a good woman or man, is about learning to see another person clearly and about being vulnerable enough to be seen by the person you are trying to see clearly.  If we could all do that not so simple thing, the world would be a fundamentally better place.  I like both of those interpretations.

 

Tee: How long did it take you to compile this collection? Which are your favourite poems from it?

Rich: I worked it for two years, and I’m really proud of how it turned out. I love many of the poems, but if I had to name three,  I would say, “Passing,” “The Blue Line,” and “Belong to No One.”

 

Tee: What are your previous books about?

Rich: My books deal with life’s big questions: love, loss, creativity, community, aging, self-discovery. My goal is to fill my novels with rich characters and ideas, to continually improve my craft as a storyteller, and to tell my stories with the eye and the ear of a poet. For me, writing and art-making are about connection and making a difference to a least one other person in the world.

 

The Color of Home was published in 2013 by Langdon Street Press, and melds together honest generative dialogue, poetic sensory detail, and “unforgettable characters who seem to know the complete song catalog of Lennon or Cohen.”

 

The Big Wide Calm was published in 2014, also by Langdon Street Press. The US Review of Books stated, “Marcello’s novel has a lot going for it. Well-written, thought-provoking, and filled with flawed characters, it meets all of the basic requirements of best-of-show in the literary fiction category.”

 

The Beauty of the Fall was published in 2016. Faulkner Award Winner Mark Spencer commented, “Few novels are as intelligent and relevant as The Beauty of the Fall. Almost none is as eloquent, compelling, heartbreaking, and ultimately, uplifting.”

 

Tee: When did you decide you wanted to venture into poetry?

Rich: I’ve written poetry all of my life, but I didn’t get serious about until a few years ago. I had a dear friend encourage me to publish, and I took it from there.

 

Tee: How would you describe your writing style?

Rich: I write every day for five or six hours, mostly in the morning.  I find I do my best work when I go from one kind of dream time ( sleeping) right to another( writing).  My style is an interesting question.  I’m most interested in writing in a way that emotionally resonates with my readers.  Sometimes that means writing poetic passages. Other times it’s about character voice. Other times it’s about the story itself.  But overall, the more psychologically honest and emotional work is, the better. So I guess that’s my style.

 

Tee: How do you go about the process of writing poetry?

Rich: Typically, I get an idea for a poem or a single image, and then I develop it from there.  If I started with the idea,  I spend my time making the poem more physical and concrete.  If I start with an image, I spend my time working on the poem’s thematic payoff.

 

Tee: What are your upcoming books about?

Rich: The Latecomers is about aging in America and about how we as a society have systematically devalued the pursuit of wisdom.

 

Tee: How can readers get in touch with you?

Rich: The best way is through my website www.richmarcello.com

Alternately, people can find my work on any of the following websites:

Amazon

Goodreads

Instagram

 

Read the review Here

A Better Ten Commandments by James Miller

The ten chapters cover ten different topics beginning with ways to be the best version of oneself. All chapters begin with some quotations by famous people of history such as Mahatma Gandhi, Henry Ford, Goethe, Epictetus, Swami Vivekananda, Jesus Christ, Charles Dickens to name a few.

Title: A Better Ten Commandments

Author: James Miller

Publisher: Amazon Asia-Pacific Holdings Private Limited

Date of Publication: 4 September 2017

Rating: 4/5

ten

Contemplating of ways to kill himself with his father’s pistol at the tender age of nineteen, Miller felt like a social outcast with no life goals or hope in the future. A Better Ten Commandments does not wish to insult any believer or follower of any faith or religion. Miller only wishes to keep all the timeless lessons of humanity including those of faith. The guide is meaningful and lives up to being a useful book to illuminate humanity’s path to success.

Intended as a guide to living life with and on purpose, the book is instructive and enlightening. It provides some uncanny advice on several life events and issues that we all have to endure. Beginning with the talk of indoctrination, the book draws several anecdotes from Christian religious events specially the ten commandments and the difficulty of being right. Miller argues about the importance of objective truths and the need to evolve a science of morality. The origin of ethics is an interesting read.

The ten chapters cover ten different topics beginning with ways to be the best version of oneself. All chapters begin with some quotations by famous people of history such as Mahatma Gandhi, Henry Ford, Goethe, Epictetus, Swami Vivekananda, Jesus Christ, Charles Dickens to name a few. Loving selflessly begins with Charity as miller mentions ‘Zakat’ from Islamic principles. The other chapters include tips on practicing positivity, finding perspective, being grateful, cultivating a rational compassion, choosing growth, balance and living in the present. The advice is drawn from various religions, philosophies and ways of thinking. The writing style is easy to follow and the book is organised well. There is an attempt to unite all of humanity and their various modes of looking at life regardless of differences.

Miller perpetuates the idea of listening to everyone and every viewpoint and then to choose the best possible for oneself.

Educated by Tara Westover

Her mind that receives first impressions about the world wherein people can live other realities very different from her own. It doesn’t seem normal to her.

Title: Educated

Author: Tara Westover

Publisher: Random House

Date of Publication: 20 February 2018

Rating: 4/5

educated

Belonging to a conservative Mormon family of several brothers and sisters, Educated is a coming of age story of a young girl’s struggle to want to attain education in the face of several odds. Tara is a young girl who is a part of a family whose father is a devout Mormon and strictly adheres to the scriptures. They know that they’re to prepare for Y2K and other apocalyptic End of the World happenings. Her mother has to work as a midwife not just for the practical reasons of making ends meet for the family but also as her father believes that midwifery is a way to serve God and is a duty that is to be fulfilled by every woman. Tara is one of several siblings stuck in this enclosed set up. Tara knows from a very young age that what sets her and her siblings apart from other kids their age is that they do not go to school. It is her father’s innate belief that home schooling is the only way to learn, as public school and other government systems or constructs are all channels of the Devil and serve satanic means.

Amidst this cocooned life is a young girl wanting to be set free. But freedom comes at an expense. Sometimes at several unaffordable expenses. Following suit of her elder brother Tyler, she dreams of  going to school. Working as an assistant to her mother, she helps in delivering children by the day and the income allows her to buy books by the night. She has rebelled on the outside but sustaining the same conviction on the inside is not an easy task. Her acceptance into a university of her choice floods her with emotions of guilt and fear. She immediately regrets her disobedience to her family which in turn is a disobedience to God. She feels sinful and worthy of punishment.

Though the book is largely about human reasoning and how far it can take a person to seek understanding of themselves, their society and the world on the whole, it doesn’t miss out on the ill effects of over conservatism or extreme critical mindedness that hampers affective logic and thinking. However, it is not a book about patriarchy working under the garb of religious conservatism. Tara’s father is a person who merely keeps reiterating the things he’s known to be right. For him things are either true or false. There is only truth and lies and nothing in between or otherwise. Yet it is his misunderstood idea that what he’s wishing and commanding them to do is a mere reminder of the path that should be followed for the great things that it has in store. He only wants the best for the family no matter how oppressive or narrow minded that may seem. Yet, it is only much later when Tara attends a class of psychology in University does she realise that her father suffers from bipolar disorder which her mother is well aware of but has hidden from an already muddled up family all along.

University not only challenges Tara’s academic abilities but also her understanding of the world and the people in it. Her mind that receives first impressions about the world wherein people can live other realities very different from her own. It doesn’t seem normal to her. It is quite unimaginable to the reader as well, that individuals like Tara and her family can be living such a detached and isolated life in such a fast tracked world. But what seems strange is that despite landing scholarship after scholarship and getting into top notch schools she is unable to overcome the sense of guilt that she feels in terms of having betrayed her family and God. She all along remains a victim of family feuds that rattle her emotionally. Despite becoming well educated by sheer means of her own merit, the story is inspiring but not awe inspiring. She gets her degrees, gets herself educated and builds a position for herself in the society but she feels the need to reconstruct and hide her past and family backgrounds which shows that she hasn’t recovered at all. Educated is the story of every emotionally deprived child wanting to belong and feel loved. Westover uses simple language and the book is fairly easy to read though largely episodic and repetitive. The repetition is mainly due to the similarity of occurrences with the same kinds of things happening between her and her mother, schizophrenic father and abusive brother. It is also an eye opener about the importance of family as a moral support and backbone to any person’s growth. It is about the hollowness one feels upon the loss of familial affection which has also never been experienced in the first place. It is also a commentary on the notion that when a man rebels from his family (as is the case of Tyler) and attains any form of worldly success then he is beheld as an achiever whereas in the case of a woman she is merely a rebel who has gone way too far and needs to return. From a feminist perspective, the novel only depresses with a sorrowful inconclusive ending but does not empower.

Interview with Zeenat Mahal

Honestly I can never really recall how I started thinking of any setting or novel but my clearest memory is usually of my main character’s voice.

Zeenat Mahal has written 7 books. All of them are available on Amazon. She has an MFA in creative writing and all her books have been in the top ten Amazon bestsellers list. Her book She Loves Me And He Loves Me Not debuted at number 1 on Amazon Asian books category in 2015. Her books have featured in Bookriot lists of must-read books and also in other must-read lists in magazines and online platforms. She has also been featured on Mangobaaz.
zeenat
Tee: When did you begin writing and in what genre?
Zeenat: I began writing seriously in 2012 when I finished my first novella Haveli and it got published with a Canadian e-publishing house. I have written contemporary romance so far. The Historian and the Hunter is my first urban fantasy novel.
Tee: Who are the writers that inspire you?
Zeenat: I enjoy reading Barabara Tayor Bradford, Judith McNaught, Julia Quinn but my favourite is Nora Roberts. She is super savvy and inspiring as a writer and as a business woman.
Tee: How did you come up with the idea of The Historian and the Hunter?
Zeenat: Honestly I can never really recall how I started thinking of any setting or novel but my clearest memory is usually of my main character’s voice. TH&TH is about the relationship of the sisters as well as monster hunting.
Tee: Who are the writers of recent day who you feel stand out amongst the others?
Zeenat: I really enjoy Reet Singh, Falguni Kothari, Sonali Dev, Adore Banerjie, Jazz Singh, Preeti Venugopalia and Sara Naveed.
Tee: What are your previous books about?
Zeenat: Haveli is about a young woman who resists an arranged marriage and a greedy father. It’s a coming of age, what distance does to lovers book. The Contract is a second chance, marriage of convenience plot. She Loves Me and He Loves Me Not is a contemporary take on Beauty and the Beast. The Accidental Fiancee is a short story of what life does to lovers, a pair of university fellows who meet after years. Twice Upon a Time has two stories. One from Jazz Singh and one from me. They’re about young love and growth.
Tee: What books are you working on next?
Zeenat: I am working on a series of wedding and marriage theme based novellas. They will be five books in the series. The first one will come out is September. Their themes will vary from second chances to revenge and marriage of convenience. These are some of my favourite romance tropes.
Tee: How do you describe your writing style?
Zeenat: I think it’s contemporary with a heavy mix of irony and humour. Some books are less so, of course but I really enjoy writing banter between my protagonists.
Tee: How can readers reach you?
Zeenat: Readers can find me on https://m.facebook.com/zeenatmahal.author/
Read the review of The Historian & The Hunter Here

The Historian & The Hunter by Zeenat Mahal

Full of allusive ideas, the pace of the narrative is moderate and smooth. There aren’t too many ups and downs or sudden revelations.

Title: The Historian and The Hunter

Author: Zeenat Mahal

Publisher: Amazon Asia-Pacific Holdings Private Limited

Date of Publication: 28 February 2018

Rating: 5/5

historian

‘We are the guardians of Good. We are the Paladins. We are the Majlis-e-Shamsheer, the Secret Council, and we guard the world against monsters.’

 

Lahore. The city of Gardens. The marble cupolas of the Lahore Fort and the Badshahi Mosque add to the night time beauty of the city that was once dear to this dark male figure. Destined to live in exile paying the price of the choice that one man made eons ago, he broods over his fate as the last of the blood line.

Shirin, a hunter is on the trail of a nau-guzzah; a giant since the first child had gone missing. With a swish of her sword she chops its head off and Shirin and pehelwan understand that this is a giant people have not seen in many years and that it fed on children. They pack it up and take it with them.

The gruesome incident leads to a council meeting of various members from different religious and ethnic backgrounds regarding the issue of nau-guzzah graves and the discreet events of animal or child sacrifice caused by rampant giants. Laila and Shirin are the only female duo in this profession and it is delightful to see them working their way out of the mysteries with wit, intelligence and grace. These daring sisters are upfront in their task of catching death red handed.

Laila’s thirst for knowledge combined with Shirin’s thirst for thrills lead to a deadly combination of adventures that make up the rest of the plot of the novel. With an unusual education and upbringing, it is revealed that these sisters are also twins who’ve grown up in a brothel. Despite their differences Laila does share a taste for adventure and Shirin is equally knowledgeable too.

The language of the novel is simple and though it is a full length novel, it is a fitting read for young adults too. Through the bed time stories they hear, they learn of several different places and people, the noble men and warriors of the past and these historical events lead them towards the hidden histories within their own city. The book beautifully carves out the various places and sights in and around Lahore. Like in any other city across the world, Lahore has several haunted sights, spooky rooms and narrow alley ways.

The girls carefully and slowly discover all these places and their significance while learning a lot about themselves, their place and the world on the whole. These discoveries make them mature and shape their growth as individuals. Full of allusive ideas, the pace of the narrative is moderate and smooth. There aren’t too many ups and downs or sudden revelations. One chapter flows into the other with several small climaxes that culminate into the epilogue. There is unity in the narrative and the circularity within the story returns to the battle of bloodlines but this time with a male set of twins: Shameer and Rustam Khan. The book also comes with an index of all the Urdu words that have been used in the story alongside their English meanings.

From the the #1 bestselling romance author of She Loves Me He Loves Me Not, Haveli, The Accidental Fiancee, Twice Upon a Time and The Contract comes yet another enthralling story revolving around two dynamic female protagonists.

Intense, valiant and delectable.