Book Review: Prem Purana: Mythological Love Stories

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Title: Prem Purana: Mythological Love Stories

Author: Usha Narayanan

Pages: 272 pages

Plot: Stories of love and extraordinary devotion

No one is untouched by love, not even devas and asuras, kings and nymphs. And when they face life’s unexpected tribulations, their love also undergoes trials. Read how Ganesha took myriad forms to please Riddhi, Siddhi and Buddhi, how Ravana shared an unbreakable bond with his true love, Mandodari and how Nala and Damayanti’s relationship was tested till almost nothing remained.

Tormented by passion, wracked by betrayal, torn by the agony of separation, love in its many splendored forms is the origin of these incredibly endearing stories of Prem Purana.

Thoughts:  As the name suggests, ‘Prem Purana’ is a book that comprises of three mythological love stories. This book portrays Gods and Deva’s in a different light, highlighting the tale of their passion, love, longing, wooing and betrayals, making them almost human. The theme of the book was quite intruding and I dived into reading it right away.

The first story is about the beloved elephant God Ganesha and his quest to marry Riddhi, Siddhi and Buddhi. The story is not only limited to their love story but also includes various other interesting stories from the treasures of mythology. The second story is about demon kind Ravana and Mandodari. There is a lot of twist in this story when compared to the Ramayana we know, it might not sit very well with fanatics, but I kind of liked the correlation portrayed between Sita, Ravana and Mandodari. The third story is about Damyanti and King Nala’s love story, a story that was completely new to me. The story is both heartwarming and heart breaking.

The title is apt and the book cover is quite appealing. Over all, the book is well synchronized, well written and intruding. If you like reading mythological tales and love stories, this one is definitely for you.

Ratings: 3/5

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Book Review & Giveway: Sugar and Spice and All Those Lies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Sugar and Spice and All Those Lies

Author: Evy Journey

Pages:  181 pages

Plot: Cooking a wonderful meal is an art. An act of love. An act of grace. A gift that affirms and gives life—not only does it nurture those who partake of the meal; it also feeds the soul of the creator. These are lessons Gina learns from her mother, daughter of an unfortunate French chef.

Gina is a young woman born to poor parents, a nobody keen to taste life outside the world she was born into. A world that exposes her to fascinating people gripped by dark motives. Her passion for cooking is all she has to help her navigate it.

She gets lucky when she’s chosen to cook at a Michelin-starred restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area where customers belong to a privileged class with money to spare for a dinner of inventive dishes costing hundreds of dollars. In this heady, scintillating atmosphere, she meets new friends and new challenges—pastry chef Marcia, filthy rich client Leon, and Brent, a brooding homicide detective. This new world, it turns out, is also one of unexpected danger.

Can the lessons Gina learned from her mother about cooking and life help her survive and thrive in this other world of privilege, pleasure, and menace?

Thoughts: First of all, a very Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you.  I hope you are celebrating love and life with your loved ones not just today but every day. Today I have chosen to review a contemporary romance novel which is little sweet and a little spicy.

We follow Gina an aspiring chef who is a cook at one of the best restaurants in the Bay Area. She has had a very modest upbringing. But what she has received the art of cooking from her mother. She is passionate about her work and is focused on making things work for her.

The restaurant Gina works at is often visited by the elite of the town. One fine day Leone arrives on a date, who happens to be Gina’s childhood friend, Christi at her restaurant. Gina’s dish and Gina herself catches Leone’s fancy. After dumping Gina’s friend, he peruses Gina endlessly in various ways to go out with him. A crazy argument between Gina and her friend leads to involvement of a police officer and the story picks up from there.

What I liked about the book was the pace and the concise narration. I felt the characterization was a bit loose and I didn’t connect to any of the characters much. Gina’s character had great potential of connecting with the readers and it did at the start of the book but as the book progressed her character became a bit vague. The story was quite predictable but the good prose made the book a good read.

Overall, the book was an easy breezy read with some crazy fights, torn love, revenge, jealousy, romance and lots of food.

Ratings: 3/5

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About the Author:
 

Evy Journey, writer, wannabe artist, and flâneuse (feminine of flâneur), wishes she lives in Paris where people have perfected the art of aimless roaming. Armed with a Ph.D., she used to research and help develop mental health programs.

She’s a writer because beautiful prose seduces her and existential angst continues to plague her despite such preoccupations having gone out of fashion. She takes occasional refuge by invoking the spirit of Jane Austen to spin tales of love, loss, and finding one’s way—stories into which she weaves mystery or intrigue.

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Book Review: Asura: Tale Of The Vanquished

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Title: Asura: Tale Of The Vanquished

Author: Anand Neelakantan

Pages: 504 pages

Plot: The epic tale of victory and defeat… The story of the Ramayana had been told innumerable times. The enthralling story of Rama, the incarnation of God, who slew Ravana, the evil demon of darkness, is known to every Indian. And in the pages of history, as always, it is the version told by the victors that lives on. The voice of the vanquished remains lost in silence.

But what if Ravana and his people had a different story to tell? The story of the Ravanayana has never been told. Asura is the epic tale of the vanquished Asura people, a story that has been cherished by the oppressed castes of India for 3000 years. Until now, no Asura has dared to tell the tale. But perhaps the time has come for the dead and the defeated to speak.

“For thousands of years, I have been vilified and my death is celebrated year after year in every corner of India. Why? Was it because I challenged the Gods for the sake of my daughter? Was it because I freed a race from the yoke of caste-based Deva rule? You have heard the victor’s tale, the Ramayana. Now hear the Ravanayana, for I am Ravana, the Asura, and my story is the tale of the vanquished.”

“I am a non-entity – invisible, powerless and negligible. No epics will ever be written about me. I have suffered both Ravana and Rama – the hero and the villain or the villain and the hero. When the stories of great men are told, my voice maybe too feeble to be heard. Yet, spare me a moment and hear my story, for I am Bhadra, the Asura, and my life is the tale of the loser.”

The ancient Asura empire lay shattered into many warring petty kingdoms reeling under the heel of the Devas. In desperation, the Asuras look up to a young saviour – Ravana. Believing that a better world awaits them under Ravana, common men like Bhadra decide to follow the young leader. With a will of iron and a fiery ambition to succeed, Ravana leads his people from victory to victory and carves out a vast empire from the Devas. But even when Ravana succeeds spectacularly, the poor Asuras find that nothing much has changed from them. It is then that Ravana, by one action, changes the history of the world.

Favorite Quote: “I had lived as Ravana and I would die as Ravana. I did not intend to become Rama, the perfect man and God. There was no dearth of gods in my country. It only lacked men.”

Thoughts: This book has been on my TBR for a long time. I love reading retellings of old age epics from different perspectives. It is always intruding to read a story from the voice other than the one popularly heard. ‘Asura’ is a retelling of Ramayana from Ravana’s point of view. I was sold by reading the premise itself. I had to read it.

In this book we follow two protagonists, Ravana, the great evil king, savior of Asura race and Bhadra, a loyal servant of Ravana. The book is narrated from both their perspectives. We follow Ravana from the time he was an angry child to the time after his death. We follow Bhadra from the time his village was attacked by the Deva warriors until the end of the book. The story is something that every Indian has been hearing since the childhood. But what sets it apart is the perception and a little twist added by the author.

The book justifies Ravana’s action and treating Asuras as the oppressed and Deva’s as the oppressors. I must say the author to quite an extent achieved this. There were parts where the plot of original epic is really challenged so brilliantly that it is almost believable. I am talking about the part where Ravana’s and Sita’s relationship is concerned. (I don’t want to give out spoilers so this is all I will mention) It is well narrated with an explanation that actually makes sense.

I literally had a love-hate relationship with this book. There are parts that I absolutely loved reading and parts that I didn’t. My favourite part of the book is where Ravana having ten heads is explained and the part which proves that Ravana is more human than Rama. I thought the book was too lengthy and at times the dialogues and descriptions too. I had to read this book taking a lot of breaks because it was difficult to read it at a stretch. The flow of the book was patchy and writing inconsistent.

Overall, I would say the premise was well carved but the writing could have been better. I would suggest you to read this book in breaks and only if you love reading retellings where villain is portrayed the hero and his actions are justified.

PS: I loved the cover!

Ratings: 3/5

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Book Review: Deceived

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Title: Deceived

Author: Heena Rathore P.

Pages: 350 pages

Plot: How well do you know your loved ones?

A girl struggling to cope with the murders of her mother and five-year-old brother.
A journalist chasing the ghost of a potential serial killer.
A thirteen-year-old girl who slaughtered her parents.
And a revenge-driven psychopath who is about to destroy everyone’s life.

After 9 years, a young writer is still coping with the brutal murders of her mother and five-year-old brother, as she moves into a house of horrors, to start a new life with her lover. Will friends and family be able to redeem Ally out of the impending doom in time? Will her infallible love become the key to the destruction of her already fragile world? Will madness prevail over love; true love over revenge?

Deceived is a gripping psychological thriller that mazes through the deepest, darkest emotions of human mind through the story of a vulnerable girl who treads in the mist of deception bred from a long unforgiving betrayal.

Thoughts: Let me start by saying that this is Heena Rathore’s debut novel and I was blown over by the plot, the writing and the suspense build up. ‘Deceived’ is a psychological thriller tracing the unsolved murders from the past and the recent ones. The story starts with a news article from the 1970’s about a missing teenage daughter who is the prime suspect of her parents’ murder. In present, the story revolves around Allison, whose mother and brother were brutally murdered when she was a child. She lives with her roommate Sam and her well trained pet dog Max, until one day when she decides to move in with her boyfriend Danny. Steve, Allison’s cousin who is also a journalist decides to trace the recent murders with a motive to find the killer of his aunt and cousin. The more he finds out the dangerous it gets…

At the beginning of the novel the author has given clear distinction in traits of a psychopath and a sociopath that helps a person with a non psychological background like me to distinguish the trait of the characters in the book.  I simply loved the way the story was narrated from different perspectives. The journal entries from the psychopathic murderer were the most chilling part of the book. The outcome of the darker side of love, obsession, betrayal and revenge makes the book a must read for all the psychological novel lovers. . This book couldn’t have had a more appropriate cover. I simply loved it. I was expecting a little more from the ending since the buildup was phenomenal. Never the less the book was a page turner and I could barely put it down.

I would recommend this book to all the people who love psychological thrillers. I am sure this won’t disappoint you.

Ratings: 4/5

PS: – Thanks to the Citrus Publication and the author for sending a copy of this book for an honest review.

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Book Reviews: The Girls

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Title:  The Girls

Author: Emma Cline

Pages: 355 pages

Plot: Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

Favorite Quote: “…I was confusing familiarity with happiness. Because that was there even when love wasn’t…”

Thoughts:   There was a lot of hype around this book and it was a close winner of the Goodread  Readers Choice Awards 2017 for the Fiction category. I finally got a chance to read this book this month.

14 year old Evie, daughter of a divorced couple seems to lead a rather dull life until one day she spots a group of unkempt girls in the park. They are confident, carefree, with no care of being accepted, just being themselves, everything Evie is not. Suzanne from the group particulary caught Evie’s fancy and her obsession begins. She starts mingling with the cult which the society dreads, spending more and more time with them, filling the void. Over the period of time her obsession with Suzanne intensifies to the level where there is no line between right or wrong.

This is not a regular teenager coming of age novel; it is much deeper and intellectually well rooted. The plot is based in North California in 1960. The author has done a commendable job in bringing this era to life with her narration. The book unveils from Evie’s point of view transcending between the past and the present seamlessly. The book is very well written but at few places like description of a simple meals, etc is overly written.  The pace of the story is a little slower than it should have been. The characters were well carved but I honestly could not connect to any of them. I found Evie’s character annoying at the beginning and later her choices made me roll my eyes, but I really didn’t sympathize with her at any point. But I loved the parts where Evie nails the worlds perception about girls in genral and their illusionary love that fixes things.In all the book didn’t really impress me but few parts made the read worthwhile.

Ratings: 3/5

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Book Review: The Legend of Laxmi Prasad

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Title: The Legend of Laxmi Prasad

Author: Twinkle Khanna

Pages: 233 pages

Plot:  A collection of utterly magical stories that will leave you crying, laughing and wholly enchanted.
A gangly young girl transforms her village with a revolutionary idea. Sixty-eight-year-old Noni Appa finds herself drawn to a married man – ‘Why do people have to define relationships, underline each word till the paper gives way beneath,’ she wonders. Bablu Kewat becomes obsessed with sanitary napkins much to his family’s horror, and a young woman keeps checking the weather forecast as she meticulously plans each of her five weddings. Funny, observant and wise, this is storytelling at its most irresistible.

Favorite Quote: “Life is but a play of chance in the game of choice.”

Thoughts:  I am a fan of Twinkle Khanna’s quick wits, her sense of humor and her unapologetic views on various issues. She dares to bare her thoughts to the world which is visibly evident in her tweets and columns for TOI.  The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad is the second book from the author. I quite enjoyed Mrs Funnybones which was classified from A to Z taking us through various facets of her life.

This book is a collection of four short stories with lead protagonists breaking the ideologies and societal norms and bringing transformation in the society in their own ways. The first three stories have a strong female protagonist and the fourth one is a male character, inspired from the real life, who is working against the tide to help female hygiene and sanitation. Let’s dig in a little more into these characters.

Laxmi- Laxmi had always seen that women were treated as a burden in her village. Birth of a girl child brought a hefty load of dowry. Until the time Laxmi decides to bring a change and comes up with an idea so simple but so meaningful that the birth of a girl becomes a reason to celebrate. I loved Laxmi’s character and the fact that how simple thoughts can change lives of generations to come. I especially loved the note on which the story ended.

Noni Appa- 68 year old Noni Appa is a lonely widow, whose only daughter is settled in London. Her only support system is her younger sister Binni. Noni Appa and Binni both decide to take up yoga classes with Anandji. Noni Appa finds herself drawn to her yoga teacher and dwells on the thought ‘log kya kahenge’ until she breaks free. I loved the relationship Noni Appa and Binni shared and how supportive Binni and Noni Appa’s daughter was of her decision. I loved the fact that Noni Appa broke free from “log kya kahenge’ and set an example for the society.

Elisa Thomas- Elisa was married for five times with five weird men. Sooner than later she got back to her parents house leaving her marriage behind. Her well educated father always said that ‘a man is a man is man’. The story intended to bring out the fact that according to the society, independent, well-educated women need a man to survive in the society even if the man in her life is insane or just for the namesake.

Bablu Kewat- Inspired from the achievements of Arunachalam Muruganantham, the man famously known as the man who wore a sanitary pad. All Bablu Kewat wanted was to make a low cost sanitary napkin which will benefit the women who cannot afford the expensive sanitary napkins sold by the big conglomerates. Little did he know that his noble intentions would be misread and he will lose his friends, family and respect? But this didn’t stop him until he achieved his goal. This story stood apart in the book because it was the only story with a male protagonist thriving to make a change for the female sanitization which was considered a as a female problem, a taboo to be spoken about.

The stories are simply narrated and various issues are highlighted. There are times where Khanna’s cynical narration makes the reader grin. It is a quick read for all the Twinkle Khanna fans.

Ratings: 3.5/5

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Book Review: Soulless

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Title:  Soulless

Author:  M.V.Kasi

Pages: 303 pages

Plot: They say when you take revenge you lose a part of your soul.

But Sia hadn’t felt her soul in a very long time. She only knew the feeling of soul-crushing fear and helplessness. Especially during the nights, when she fought an invisible enemy that terrorized her during the nightmares. Her days weren’t any better either. She spent them desperately trying to gain control of her life while battling her various fears and addictions.
She was only twenty three, but she had resigned herself to live the rest of her life that way. Fearing the unknown.
Until it all changed one day.
Now she remembered. And she knew. She knew that the monster from her nightmares was real. And also that her soul had been ripped apart from her.
The memories brought in fear, rage and pain, along with a strong craving for a swift payback.
But revenge was a dish best served cold. And it required a complete absence of emotion.
So now? Now she plotted. And she schemed. She prepared herself in every possible way to hunt and destroy her enemy.
But every mission, however well planned can go awry. Sometimes it’s because even though one can be soulless, there is always the heart. A very weak and desperate heart that was being stolen by a man.
A man who was like a bright spark of vivid colors in her otherwise dark and dreary life.
A man who was only supposed to be collateral damage in her ultimate war.

Thoughts:  Soulless is a revengeful tale that brings out the psychological repercussion of unresolved traumatic childhood issues with a lot of jaw dropping twists.

Sia, our protagonist is an heir to a successful empire, Blush International. She is a strong, ambitious and talented with severe psychological issues that keep her up at night. She is a girl with a revengeful mission whose soul has been ripped out as a child. She moves to Hyderabad from Boston to accomplish her operation when she meets Ajay, a handsome and successful young entrepreneur who is bent upon taking Sia out on a date in spite of her repeated cold detached refusals.

The story is well narrated and fast paced. I was looped in right from the beginning till the end. The narration maneuvers interestingly between past and present, unveiling the plot twists little by little. The name of the book and the cover are totally apt for the plot.  I loved the characterization since I was able to empathize and sympathize with both Sia and Ajay. I loved their sizzling chemistry, the way they try to one up the other each time.

I did feel though that Jo and her family accepted things too easily which seemed a bit unrealistic to me. I absolutely despised the way the book ended abruptly at the turning point. Hopefully the story will pick up right from where we left in the sequel titled ‘Ruthless’.

Overall, this book is quite an interesting read with ample of twists and a strong characterization.  Eagerly looking forward to read the sequel.

Ratings: 4/5

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About the author: By day, MV Kasi works for a software company. She currently lives in Hyderabad, India with her husband and son. By night, she gives in to her fascination to explore the human psychology and the various facets of life in her writing. She has particular fascination with successful people who are not considered ‘normal’ by society’s standards. Her love for reading has led her to start writing on her own. She likes to add depth to her characters and explore their psychological motivations. Due to the nature of topics and plots, she does not shy away from writing about sexuality or violence. Despite covering some heavy topics, she likes to infuse humor into her writing.

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Book Review: Behind Closed Doors

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Title:  Behind Closed Doors

Author:  B.A. Paris

Pages: 304 pages

Plot: Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace’s friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn’t Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?

And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?

Thoughts: Behind Closed Doors was a semifinalist in Goodreads’ best mystery/thriller 2016 category. I would start by saying sorry for subtle spoilers in the review, but I had to let it out.

The book is about a married couple Grace and Jack, who are perfect in the eyes of the world but have a very unusual dimension of life inside the house. Grace is an epitome of a perfect wife for the world, but she is carrying the burden of secrets she dare not share with anyone. Jack is a handsome and a successful lawyer, who specializes in defending victims of domestic violence. But appearance can be deceiving.  Grace had a younger sister, Millie, who was born with a down syndrome. She was soon going to move out of the boarding school and move in with them. But Jack has some special plans that give Grace nightmares.

Bravo to B.A. Paris for writing such an amazing debut novel.  The plot was unlike any other suspense novel I have read and I loved the narration, flow and the characterization. The narration was fast paced, gripping and consuming. It was so well plotted and narrated that shivers and panic ran down my body a couple of times.  I simply loved the characterization. I loathed the psychopath Jack’s character to the core and felt protective about Grace. I loved how seamlessly the story swirled between the past and the present creating a confluence in tale at a point.

I especially loved the end conversation between Esther and Grace. How understanding and sharp Esther was. Also, even Mille could identify Jack’s evilness and how her act instilled fresh hope and courage in Grace. I read this book over a period of two days and I must say that my heart was at peace only when the book ended. The book left me with a lot of after thoughts mainly if Grace could have planned an escape sooner?

All the mystery/suspense lovers watch out for this one.

Ratings: 5/5

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Book Review: Multitudes of Ripples

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Title:  The Multitudes of Ripples

Author:  Vaachakmitra

Pages: 276 pages

Plot: The novel is a first person narrative of an entrepreneur who struggles to make sense of his life. He reconstructs his memory while recuperating from a nervous breakdown. The distortion in his narrative is not only the manifestation of psychopathology of his mind but also an exploration of human values. The novel demonstrates how optimism incorporates meaningful semantics even in the face of psychopathology. The dualism of hope and pathos creates a touch of absurd, almost reminiscent of Kafka and Camus

About the Author: The author is a research scientist by training. He is a technical consultant who works in an advisory capacity to the pharmaceutical industry. He specializes in intellectual property, technology up gradation and information technology. He is a science writer specializing in theoretical and philosophical foundations of modern scientific thought.

Thoughts: The book is a tale of a person who is trying to make sense out of his life. The narration is in the first person and more autobiographical in nature. The story unveils in-detailed incidents that take place in the life of the protagonist right from childhood and then on.

The plot is based in Mumbai and the city of ‘Mohmayi’ which is a parallel universe created in the author’s imagination. Our protagonist seemingly has alter egos, Manas in Mumbai and Nachiket in Mohmayi. The story efficiently highlights the psychological and philosophical state of a person who has lost a loved one and the emotional turmoil.

The cover and the blurb itself were intruding enough to make me pick this book, but I was a little disappointed with the slow pace and excessive detailing of the story. The book could have been much crisper enough to hold the readers interest till the end.

Ratings: 3/5

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Book Review: By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

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Title:  By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

Author:  Paulo Coelho

Pages: 208 pages

Plot: Rarely does adolescent love reach its full potential, but what happens when two young lovers reunite after eleven years? Time has transformed Pilar into a strong and independent woman, while her devoted childhood friend has grown into a handsome and charismatic spiritual leader. She has learned well how to bury her feelings . . . and he has turned to religion as a refuge from his raging inner conflicts.

Now they are together once again, embarking on a journey fraught with difficulties, as long-buried demons of blame and resentment resurface after more than a decade. But in a small village in the French Pyrenees, by the waters of the River Piedra, a most special relationship will be reexamined in the dazzling light of some of life’s biggest questions.

Favorite Quote: “Life takes us by surprise and orders us to move toward the unknown -even when we don’t want to and when we think we don’t need to.”

Thoughts:  By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept is a tale of spiritual journey of love, sufferings and relationships. Just like most of the Paulo Coelho books, this book too projects things which have a greater meaning in life.

Pilar our protagonist is an independent woman whose expectations from life are getting a job, marrying having kids and living a normal life. Until she meets her childhood love who is a spiritual leader, who sees the world with a different perspective. He has the power to heal the pain and his destiny is to serve the world.

The narration of the book is very poetic and dreamy; the words pierce right through your soul making it a surreal reading experience. The story is average but the mystical narration makes up for it. I love that God is believed to be a female figure. I did miss out on a lot of Catholic references made in the book since I don’t understand Catholicism much but I could quite connect with the explanation of accepting, loving, surrendering, suffering and losing.

I would recommend this book to all those who are firstly Paulo Coelho fans and secondly interested in a well narrated story.

Ratings: 3.5/5

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