The Stargazer’s Embassy: Another take on aliens

The Stargazer's Embassy

The Stargazeer’s Emabssy

By

Eleanor Lerman

I got this book from NetGalley, and this was the pleasant surprise. My selection of this book was based on the quirky name it has and the description given on the book cover. I mean The Stargazer’s Embassy sounds like an odd concept! I  actually did not even know what to expect, but in the end, it was good that I did not have any preconceived notion. The book is of-course about the aliens, but more than aliens, it felt like a peek in the brains of the different stories that float around the aliens. The book’s heroine, Julia, is an oddball who can see the aliens everywhere. They are the part of her life, but they have always been on sidelines. Julia meets a professor cum the practioner of psychology named John, and that is how she gets sucked further into the aliens.

The books is a different take on aliens. I have read quite a few alien books, but most of these books have been in the field of the romance or intergalactic war. I do carry my towel with me as well for hitchhiking. 😉

But all this paints a picture in the mind where we are able to communicate with the aliens, some establish relationships too(friends, family, romance etc.) But this book is making me think differently. The book talks about a situation in which a few people are abducted, and they carry with themselves the trauma of that experience. The book treats the abduction by the other race in such an other worldly manner. There is a psychiatric treatment for these people, support groups, books, theories etc.

I have always thought about the aliens as a race–either in their romanticized form or probably in their enemy-who-are-going-to destroy the earth form. This book doesn’t take any midway. It is so realistic in its description of the confusion about what the aliens want that I am also with the characters in the story, confused as to where all this is leading to.  I don’t know how the book is going to end, but it has made a home in my mind for now. We all talk about aliens, but we rarely talk about the victims who have to go through the experience of trying to decipher what these aliens are actually looking for and want.

There are so many frightening aspects this novel brought to forefront.

Here is the official summary of the book.

The Stargazer’s Embassy explores the frightening phenomenon of alien abduction from a different point of view: in this story, it is the aliens who seem fearful of Julia Glazer, the woman they are desperately trying to make contact with. Violent and despairing after the murder of the one person she loved, a psychiatrist who was studying abductees, Julia continues to rebuff the aliens until her relationships with others who have met “the things,” as she calls them, including a tattoo artist, a strange man who can take photographs with the power of his mind, and an abductee locked up in a mental hospital, force Julia deeper into direct alien contact and a confrontation about what death means to humans and aliens alike.

What I liked about the book

  1. Characters and idea: The book is filledd with quite interestng characters. I mean, apart from the title, there is a character which can actually click actual pictures of vision in someone’s mind. There are aliens who are so out-of-place in the dimension that they don’t know how to behave like humans.
  2. Details and writing: I generally do not know much about alien abductions, fictional or non-fictional, but the way this book gave a perspective, it was a way which I found quite realistic. I  mean, of course, I don’t know the people who believe in that, but the details were so beautifully woven in the story that it never felt unreal. There was the direct connection in the story.
  3. The plot: If it is not clear till now, I enjoyed the plot a lot. Although I was not much into the ending that the book had, I still was won over by the plot. It is a mix of intrigue, psychology, sci-fi, and language. It just had me there. There were times when I felt that the book was going too slow, but I just could not keep it down because I wanted to know what is going to happen next.

What I disliked

  1. The ending: The ending of the book just did not resonate with me. I have no idea how the book could have been ended in any other way, but that ending just felt a bit forced to me.
  2. The uneven pacing: There were few sections when there was nothing happening. I knew while I was readig the book that things were happening, but it felt a bit dragged because I could not understand why they were happening. There were moments, small ones, when I thought about keeping the book down because I just could not understand what was happening. But I’m glad I did read the end. And if I try to recall those moments when I wanted to stop reading, I cannot recall them.


Final Verdict


The book is definitely worth reading. If yoou start the book, do preverse till the end. You won’t be disappointed. The book is novel in its plot, characters, and writing.

Four Stars

 

 

 

 

FrostBite by Joshua Bader

Frostbite (Modern Knights #1)

 

Books’ Name: FrostBite

Author’s Name: Joshua Bader

Publisher: City Owl Press

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Colin Fisher is a young man with a lot of problems on his plate: a dying father, a dead car doubling as a home, and a mysteriously disappeared fiancée. You’d think with a magical inclination he’d be able to turn it all around, but not so much.

Yet his bad luck appears to be on the way out when the CEO of a multinational corporation offers him a job. It’s a sweet gig as a personal wizard with a fat paycheck. It just has one catch. The paranoid CEO isn’t a mere hypochondriac, he’s been hexed with an authentic ancient curse.

Now Colin is the only thing standing between his new boss and a frozen bundle of fangs, claws, and rage. If he can’t stop the cannibal ice demon in time to save his new boss, it’ll be back to living out of his dead car. That is, if he even survives the battle.

 

Frostbite was a netgalley book—and a very interesting one at that. I was attracted to the book because of its blurb. I mean how cool it is to have one’s personal wizard? If I had one, I would make him/her do all the work of cleaning, washing etc. (Okay, I do have a maid for all that), but a personal wizard will be far more interesting. So, I wanted to see what does the personal wizard do in the book.

But in reality, this story is more than the story of a personal wizard. The story is fast-paced and quite interesting journey of a vagabond wizard to the realization of why he became the wizard. The story has a lot of world-building which happens along with the story as we discover the new world with the Wizard Colin Fisher himself.

What I liked

Fast-Pace: The story is written in quite a fast pace. This fast pace keeps the readers engaged throughout the story. You won’t feel that the story is dragging too much.

World-Building: Very few books are able to make the reader believe the world they are building is possible. This story truly does establish that belief and hence it made the book more interesting for me.

Magic: The interesting way the magic is used made me smile in the book. It is creative and innovative.

What I disliked

Unanswered questions/underutilized characters: There are some characters which just touch and go like the lake faerie. I wish there was more to these characters and their roles in the story Probably the reason for these characters are in the coming novel, but for now they feel underutilized and fillers (which one doesn’t notice because of the pace of the story, but I still wanted to know why they were in the story like what is their long-term purpose.)

Overall opinion

It is an interesting book which sets the stage for the coming sequel. You won’t find the main story incomplete in this part of the book, but it leaves the readers with enough thirst to wait for the next part and see what exactly is going to happen. It is like you have decided to enter a dungeon and this is the first room, and you are really curious to know what was the reason author pulled you in this dungeon.

Definitely a must-read for the fans who enjoy such fantasy.

My ratings:

Four Stars

Wheat, Not White– A Book Club Review

Only Wheat Not White 
by 
Varsha Dixit 
 

It feels weird to be in a reading slump– to not be able to concentrate on reading, forget about writing. I attribute all this to change of city. I don’t know why but everything makes me feel like I am an alien here, a foreigner (I am not! I am in the same country and in a city where there are many good things happening). I spent my time moping around over the fact and listening to foreign-travel songs. And then I realized how stupid I was being.

I was not going to pick up this book. When the mail for the book came, I passed it on. But then Rubina said that she can personally guarantee that the book is well-edited and well-written. I needed something to come out of my stupid mood swings, and hence I picked up this book. Before I write the summary for the book and elaborate its beauty, let me tell you it was a perfect book to get out of the slump– not too heavy–a beautifully written romance.

The Blurb

What if the one you completely love is the one you simply can’t! Twenty-six-year-old Eila Sood moves to America to mend fences with her estranged older sister, Sheela. Eila and the rest of the family in India had cut off ties with Sheela after she married Steve Jacobs, ‘out of caste, and out of color’. Elia soon realizes that Sheela’s marriage is on the rocks. To help pay Sheela’s household bills, Eila takes a second job at an afternoon strip club. When she crosses paths with the owner, the handsome Brett Wright or ‘blue-eyed ogre’ as Elia calls him, he both infuriates and fascinates her. Brett turns out to be her reluctant and unquestionably sarcastic knight in shining armor. As Eila and Brett spend more time together their desire for each other builds. However, when Brett discovers the true reason for Eila’s refusal he storms out of her life, accusing her of being a prejudiced coward. Will Eila find the courage to break stereotypes and embrace her love? Will Brett find solace in the arms of his ex-girlfriend Cate? Will Sheela and Steve divorce? All of these questions and more are answered in Varsha Dixit’s latest and humorous and steamy love story.
The book is the story about Eila who has traveled to US in order to act as a peacemaker between her parents and her sister .  Her sister, Sheela, married a white man which had severed her ties to the family. Eila has come to US in order to help Sheila reconcile with her parents. But all is not well in US. Sheela’s married life is not the same, and Eila ends up (working in a strip club) falling in love with an American. The story is how both Sheela and Eila comes to term with the fact that the color does not decide the person, but the nature does.

Although the book is mentioned as a steamy romance, it is just a love story. I did not find much “steam” into it, so don’t be afraid of diving into the book because of that.

What I liked:

A perfect blend of American-ness and Indian-ness:  I think this is the biggest weakness of the Indian novel. The novels either end up losing the Indian values and beauty while writing in English, or everything is so much explained that a reader gets bored reading about all the things they know. This novel did nothing of the sorts.  The story had perfect balance between the two cultures. She neither ignored the American culture, nor did the author explained or justified the Indian culture. That probably was the biggest USP for me.

Romance: The story kept true to the nature of the characters and has a romance which made me “feel” the love being developed along with the feeling the connection in first sight. It is not a racy novel, but then there still that aroma of romance and “touchy” feels to make one realize that we are reading about a different culture.

What I did not like

Some Plot Points: There is a point which indicates that the company that hired Eila is reducing the number of hours, and I was left wondering what kind of company hires a person and reduces their hours instantly. Probably that is how recession was in US, because my industry never saw such drastic effect in a day. In our case, it was the slow buildup of the recession things, and there were no recruitment at all. But that as a plot point rankled me a bit.

Overall Opinion:

It definitely is a book worth reading. Beautiful language, amazing chemistry and interesting weaving of the two cultures adds to the beauty of the story. A perfect read!

Four Stars

Thoughts after reading the book:

The subject of an Indian women falling in love in a foreign country with a white man has intrigued me quite a lot. This has nothing to do with the color and even the country, but more about the openness of the culture. I know there are many Indian women and girls who are forward and are open in dating, but till date there is a section of female population of the country who truly are quite subdued when it comes to the sexual desires or simply dating.

And when it comes to western culture, men are perceived as someone who are quite promiscuous (I know this is not true in every case, but still the perceptions are not always true).

It makes me wonder about the courage it will take for these women to shed their inhibitions and date such western men. Same way, it will take huge amount of understanding on the male’s part as well to fight with the preconceived notion of the women. And the signals– I think it will be so difficult for them to translate those signals as well for both males and females.

I have seen this problem occurring in case when both male and female are from the same country, but the female has lived in a reserved environment.

And when families are involved– it turns into a battle on both the fronts. The book did justice to this fact, but I was left wondering for a long time how difficult it is to shed the inhibitions and to trust someone. I probably won’t have that courage(but then I have not even fallen in love with such a person yet!) Probably that is why it is said that the love transcends boundary. Having that kind of affair and developing that kind of trust will be too difficult.

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Breach- A Book Club Book Review

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Breach Cover

 

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When this book was put for review, I was told that this is the book by the woman who leads Mills & Boons in India. Of course, since I live under the rock, I had never heard about the author Amrita Chaudhary. The only reason I picked up the book was I wanted to know was how a famous publisher writes and why was the whole Indian reading community knew about her except me (I already told the reason for this. I live under the rock! :P) And the book didn’t disappoint me. I planned to read one hour daily, but once I started reading, I was so engrossed in the book that I couldn’t keep it down. I finally rested my eyes  when I finally finished the book i.e. after five and a half hour of reading.

Book Summary

Breach is about the cyber security crime. It starts with Acel which is ready to file the patent for cancer-curing drug in the market. The data and all the details are taking place under the observant eye of Uday Veer in India. But everything goes haywire when some data gets corrupted and the whole Indian team is blamed for their ineptness. The book is about the search for the culprit through the maze of masked online identities. Introduced are a range of characters from teenagers to the local goons who are either the party to cyber crime or victim to cyber crime.

What I liked

1) The Intricacy of the Cyber Crime: That was the first thing that pulled me. I am an engineer but I am not tech savvy in the field of software or hardware or internet general. My knowledge is pretty basic when it comes to the online things. That’s why I enjoyed reading all the things that were shown. I am not sure how much of that can really happen (I do think that most of it can happen!) but it was interesting and a bit fearing to read about all the cyber crime thing.

2) Characters : I think this was the strongest part of the book for me. There were quite a number of characters in the story, but none of them was painted white or black. They were neither good, nor bad. I actually sympathized with all the villains and shook my head at some stupidity of the heroes.

3) Teenagers: The teenager characters of Raghu and Madhu deserve a special mention here. I absolutely adored their story. I don’t have any reasons for it, but these two were my favorite characters in the story.

What I Disliked

1) Small Errors: The book was quite well-edited but still I found some small errors in it. I would not have mentioned these anywhere else, but this is a publisher-written book. At least this book should have been error-free, although I wonder if there really are error-free books.

2) Too many characters in the beginning: There were just too many characters introduced in the story in the initial chapters. This made the beginning a bit slow, but the story finally caught the pace in the middle.

Overall Summary: It was an interesting book. I usually don’t enjoy thrillers too much, but this book was fun. A good read after a long time.

My Rating:

Four Stars

Meet the Author

Amrita Verma Chowdhury is the author of Faking It, an art crime thriller about fake modern and contemporary Indian art.
She holds engineering degrees from IIT Kanpur and UC Berkeley, where she was a Jane Lewis Fellow, and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon (Tepper Business School). Her work as an engineer in Silicon Valley led to seven US patents for semi-conductor fabrication – something to show for those bad-haired days. She has done Strategy Consulting and Board Effectiveness work in the US and Australia and has spent long nights fitting five-syllable words inside two-by-two squares. She has worked in the rarefied bastions of Ivy League education bringing together ideas and people. She currently works in publishing.
She lives in Mumbai with her husband Sumit, their two children Shoumik and Aishani, and an assortment of pets including a cocker spaniel, a guinea pig and two turtles. She loves travelling, baking cupcakes with her daughter and hearing from her readers.
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Landline By Rainbow Rowell : A Book Review

I was wondering where to start my reading journey of 2015 from. That was then I remembered Landline in my TBR list. A Goodread winner always incites the curiosity but if it’s from the author you’ve read before, the excitement to read the book doubles up. Same thing happened with me too.

LandLine Cover

Author’s Name: Rainbow Rowell

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Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble;it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

This book is the story about Georgie and Neal who have been married for many years and their marriage is on rocks. The time comes when Georgie decides to select her career instead of celebrating Christmas in Omaha. When Neal leaves, Georgie is left with the question whether the relationship is over. And then she finds the old landline phone which help us communicate with Neal of the past. It’s fantasy mixed with romance and reality.

What I liked

1) Non-stereotypical characters: It’s not a book which portrays men as the bread earner and the women as the home-maker. Georgie is the kind of career oriented women who struggles to juggle the time between the families. I loved that Georgie is shown with not traditional-motherly habits. There have been many books with perfect women but there are very rare books with imperfect women.

2) Time Jumps : This was a bit difficult to navigate style but in the end, it gave me glimpses of both past and present and immersed me in the story.

 

What I did not like

Slow Plot: This is not really a complaint because, in a way, this made the book more intense, but somehow, I wanted the book to move faster. I’ve no idea how she could have achieved that, but that is what I wanted in some sections of the book.

 

Final Thoughts

I know many people who don’t believe in fate, but the way this book portrays magic and fate made me feel happy. There is a kind of satisfaction in even imagining that despite of all the mistake we make, we’ll be able to reach a path designated for us.It might sound like a lazy way out, but sometimes, our 100% is not enough, and happiness still seem like a distant dream after our efforts. There is some peace in knowing that fate will take its course.

Of course like all stories of Rainbow Rowell, this book will absorb you in itself, but this is kind of hit or miss book. Either one will associate with it, or one will find it complete drivel. In my case, as you might have guessed, it was a hit. I enjoyed reading through ups and downs of Georgie’s life. Although I won’t call it the “best fiction of 2014”, it was an interesting read.

 

My Rating

Four Stars

The Ekkos Clan– Book Club Review

 
The Ekkos Clan 
by 
Sudipto Das
 

What attracted me towards this book was its root in time of Partition of India!

When India was partitioned, there was a lot of bloodshed, lot of scars. It was a very black period of communal and political riots. My grandparents were one of the survivors of those riots. They came from Pakistani Punjab hidden in the drums and tempos. I grew up hearing how partition affected their life, so I was aware about one part of it. But I never thought about Bangladesh-Calcutta partition. Bangladesh which suffered twice—once when it became East Pakistan and secondly when it became an independent country in itself. Twice the pain, twice the fights—getting borne is a messy project.

Moreover this books promised history of Aryans and Rig Veda, which I can’t get enough of.

The Blurb
“The Ekkos Clan” is the story of Kratu’s search for the killers of his family, his own roots and the mystery behind his grandmother’s stories.
It’s the fascinating account of Kubha and the basketful of folklore she inherited from her ancestors. The eventful lives of Kubha and her family span a hundred years and encompass turbulent phases of Indian history. The family saga unfurls gradually, along with Kubha’s stories, through the three main characters – Kratu Sen, a grad student at Stanford, Kratu’s best friend Tista Dasgupta, and Afsar Fareedi, a linguistic Afsar hears about Kubha’s stories from Kratu in a casual conversation, but she figures  that these stories are not meant to be mere bed time tales – they contain rich linguistic fossils and layers of histories.
In a bizarre incident Kratu miraculously survives an attempt on his life. His sister and uncle had not been so lucky. Were these murders acts of revenge, or a larger ideological conflict connected to Kubha’s stories which conceal perilous secrets that should be suppressed?

Afsar, Kratu and Tista travel across continents to unravel the mystery of Kubha’s roots and the origin of her stories.

At a different level, the novel subtly delves into the origin of one of the oldest civilizations of the world and the first book written by mankind.

 
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What I Liked:

  • Partition tales: The author did justice in explaining us the pain of partition. Through various characters, backflashes, and the elders’ stories—it carried that nostalgia of uprooting one’s home and settling in some unknown place for safety. It depicts the horrors committed during that time quite well.
  • Innovative take on history: I’ll say that although the portion of the story felt a bit incredible, they were able to capture my interest. I was amazed at the interpretation of Vedas and how the simple stories were depicted. I’ve myself wondered many times about how the stories in our vedas and granthas originated.

What I disliked:

  • Too many characters: There are quite a lot of characters in the story. I felt so lost in the initial chapters that I had to resort to making a tree of characters to keep track of them. And I’m talking about the first and second chapter in itself.
  • History Lessons: There were sections in the story which felt like a lesson of history textbook. I was so tempted to skip those sections.

Final Thoughts

The book might feel like “Da Vinci Code” because like Dan Brown’s different take on Christianity, this book focuses on Hinduism. But don’t set the bars too high and try reading the book with a clean slate and you will surely enjoy it. It’s quite different kind of story.

Meet the Author

 

Sudipto was born in Calcutta to a family which fled Bangladesh during the partition riots of 1947. He grew up listening horrid stories of the partition, something which he has used extensively in his debut novel The Ekkos Clan. He completed his engineering from IIT Kharagpur in 1996. He lives in Bangalore.
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           Wikipedia Media Mentions 


“A promising debut in the growing realm of modern Indian fiction” – Jug Suraiya 
“An Indian thriller inspired by Dan Brown & Harrison Ford!… fast-paced thriller, replete with murder and miraculous escapes” – Telegraph 
“If you are a history buff and a thriller aficionado, then [it] might just be the book for you” – The Hindu 
“A tale of the Indian civilization and culture… takes you on a roller coaster ride” – The New Indian Express 
“An interesting read for an afternoon… One feisty woman’s partition story” – Bangalore Mirror 
“Should be read for its sheer aspiration and the intelligent handling of historical material” – The Sunday Guardian 
“Is essentially a mystery novel, but is grounded in a substantial base of research and exploration into our past” – newsyaps.com

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Where Even the Present is Ancient: Benaras (A Book Club Review)


Summary

Where Even the Present is Ancient: Benaras is a book that seeks to tell the little stories that make us who we are. The author believes that Benaras resides in all of us Indians, in some beautiful often-unknown way. The author is the Sutradhar, in that she attempts to connect an India that many do not realize exists, in that it is everybody’s story. Radha, Krishna, Ganga, Benaras and Me are all characters in this deluge of poems.

This attempt at telling the story of the ancient, of love and of faith is to instil the confidence that poetry exists in all of us, everywhere, all that is needed is to smell its fragrance.

To those outside India, the book does not seek to be a representation of what India is or was, but a whiff of what it also can be. It is an attempt to ask people to see the little stories that govern all of our lives, stories that we often don’t see, but those that are important.

The audience for this book might be strewn across the globe, for faith is not religion-centric, it is people- centric and often without dimensions.

In poetry there is no beginning, no middle, nor no end. Like faith it is everywhere, it is omnipresent. The book affords no answers, nor no questions, but if you listen and read carefully you will see new things, a new beauty perhaps, one that has been silent so long.

 

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My Thoughts
Poetry is the sublime power which can show the stark truth in few strokes. This book is collection of such poetry. The book is inspired from Benaras or Varanasi, and mostly is the juxtaposition of life and the scenes of Benaras. But it’s not merely the story of experiences of the poet in Benaras; it’s the acceptance of many facts and lies we speak about life. Poet has captured the moments she saw and her understanding is reflected in these verses. As she says in her first poem:
Sometimes Benaras seems like a poem,
A long lost one, at that.I see it from a distance,
Walking across time and space,
On the edge of tomorrow
painted in history.Stories hovering in time,
Lost somehow in the lanes
And hovering as if
Just beyond the surface.

I am a Hindu, but then there are many things which make me question the traditions we follow. The poet, at times, seem to be similarly perplexed by those rituals (or maybe it was just my interpretation of the words fueled by my own confusion.) while at other moments, she was completely satisfied to bow to these rituals.

Like in poem ‘To Vishvanath’, these simple four lines capture the crowd vying for entering a temple. I haven’t been to Kashi Vishvanath temple (or Benaras), but then this crowd is one of the reasons I haven’t.
‘Vishvanath’ I had come
your doors were closed however-
With people, full of you
and yet themselves.
Another line which describes Hindu rituals so well is:
Divinity is cheap, I think
And so is living-
It is only the dying and the dead,
That become priceless.
I think my favorite lines in the poem were which describes the face of “religious” places like Benaras:
In Benaras,
you open a gate,
a God pops out.
You touch a wall, a God stares back,
nameless, faceless,
Orange and passionate.
The poet has traveled and captured Benaras at all moments, 1:30 a.m., 3:00 a.m.,5:00 a.m. She has captured myriads of emotions as well: death, religion, love, heartbreak, poverty, contentment; all of them beaded with the thread of Ganga.
What I loved

I loved that author hasn’t shied away from the reality of the place. She hasn’t tried to glamorize the place or show only the positive points. She has shown the place as she saw it– sometimes a solace, sometimes a pain.

What I didn’t like

 The poems have descriptions in the end to explain the meaning of Hindi words used. Although the meanings indicated are correct, I don’t think they are sufficient for somebody who doesn’t know anything about these rituals/customs/traditions to understand the poem. Since I’m aware about all these things, I could get what exactly the poet is saying, but not everybody will get all the poems.
Overall Opinion
 These poems touches the heart and leave one wanting to read them once more. It’s a thin book of only 78 pages, but you’ll want to read these 78 pages again and again

About the Author 

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Maitreyee B Chowdhury is a web columnist and creative writer. She is author of Reflections on My India, a book of Indian traditions and spirituality in parts. Maitreyee is also author of Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen- Bengali Cinema’s First Couple and Ichhe Holo Tai, a bilingual muti media presentation of poetry. Maitreyee is featured amongst other Indian writers such as Gulzar, Shashi Tharoor and Deepti Naval in an anthology of Indian writers Celebrating India.

 

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