by Rana Asfour
Debut novel 'Forever' by Indian novelist Rajiv Shah is a love story between Arjun and Karishma, college students in India, who meet by chance and fall in love. Everything is perfect until Karishma is found dead and an investigation is launched, led by detective inspector Rahul and his partner and love interest Susan. In a recent interview with the Khaleej Times, Shah has said that although the main characters in the novel are fictitious, some are based on real people he met during his university years at Jai Hind College.
The novel begins fifteen years after the case has been solved. Inspector Rahul is on annual holiday in Kashmir when he receives the annual letter from Arjun which the latter sends each year on the anniversary of his dead lover. However, this letter is different in tone, as twice Arjun hints at the fact that he may be dying and it is his wish that he meet the detective one last time before he departs this world to be with his Karishma.
Only when Rahul receives a phone call from Arjun’s mother urging him to visit the dying man does he decide to make the journey. Once there, Arjun’s dying request is that Rahul, who ‘has not even written articles in his life’, should write a book about Arjun’s doomed love story. And so, just like that, ‘Rahul the detective transforms to Rahul the author; a new rebirth, a new avatar, a new karma to look forward to’. And so begins the telling of ‘the love story of Arjun and Karishma as well as the most interesting and unique and life changing case of my life’ writes Rahul.
If this is sounding all too Bollywood, then you’re deliciously on track. The writer is a self-confessed Bollywood fan and as such, much of his love for these films has definitely trickled into the writing of this story. Not only does the main character Arjun seem infatuated with all things Bollywood, the novel is rife with references to Indian film stars, poems and songs – many that Rahul and Arjun compose themselves. Personally, I am now a big fan of the 'Pehla Nasha' song that Arjun refers to in one of my favourite passages in the book when he describes the moment he knew he'd fallen in love.
The novel delves into Indian culture and offers readers a bird’s eye view of a way of life that is usually very private and inaccessible to outsiders. The story also touches on the expectations of today’s youth in love, particularly the clash between tradition and modernity. I particularly enjoyed the great reveal, the missing piece of the puzzle that slots in its place at the end of the book! Brilliantly played Mr. Shah!
Most typical Indian mothers desperately care for and are concerned for their children, no matter how old the children may be. And being and Indian son, whenever a woman calls you beta even if she is unrelated to you, you become the beta and would want to fulfil the wishes of that woman. This is the beauty of the Indian culture and the bond between possibly the most holy relationship in the world, mother and son' - 'Forever' by Rajiv Shah
And yet sadly and as much as I hate to say it, the book suffers one major drawback which comes in the form of its editing. For a story about love, this point in particular, breaks my heart to pieces. I do understand that writing a book although an exciting journey is most often a stressful one too, and I do appreciate the added pressure when one writes in a language that is not the mother tongue (I do this all the time). However, for an ESL writer, diligent editing is paramount. So much so that the success of the whole project ultimately depends on it. Essentially what solid editing does is make what you have to say more powerful. And I would have loved to have seen that for Shah’s well-structured and compelling novel.
All in all, this is a promising debut and Rajiv Shah is a promising writer. I have it on good authority that he’s already hard at work on a trilogy. The book is published by Notion Press and is available at Jashanmal Stores and Carrefour. It can also be purchased online at kinokuniya.com, souq.com as well as Amazon.
Rajiv Shah, is a Chartered Accountant (CA) and a Financial Consultant. He is currently the Chairman of the CA Chapter and an Hon’ble Secretary of the Indian Business & Professional Group in Abu Dhabi. He also acts as a Director on the Board of various companies in the UAE. Rajiv found his alter ego in writing poems that soon led to writing romantic fiction.
Penguin Random House introduces #UnitedStatesOfBooks, a new social initiative and ReadDown book list series that celebrates, on Instagram and www.penguinrandomhouse.com, the literary spirit of each of the 50 states. #UnitedStatesOfBooks takes readers on a literary tour state by state, with dedicated Instagram posts that highlight a book set in each state, paired with an object that is representative of the state. Curated ReadDown book lists will offer additional reading recommendations for each state.
#UnitedStatesOfBooks kicked off in January 2017, and will run through the end of the year. The states will be presented on the site during the coming months in the order in which they joined the union, having started with Delaware, and to conclude with Hawaii. Readers are encouraged to use hashtag #UnitedStatesOfBooks on Instagram to discuss their favorite books, iconic objects, and images related to each state. Related ReadDown lists for each state can be found by swiping up on an Instagram story. The states, books, and objects that have been featured to date include:
“We invite readers to join Penguin Random House on an armchair literary tour of the #UnitedStatesOfBooks to better understand the different voices, values, perspectives, and stories that make our country a unique place,” said Kristen O’Connell, Senior Director, Consumer Marketing and Social Media, at Penguin Random House. “The #UnitedStatesOfBooks is one of the many ways we are helping readers discover their next great read and engage in discussion about the world in which we live, through books, and the sharing of them on social media.”
Source: press release
by Rana Asfour
An Afghanistan sniffer dog, now retired from the frontline is the subject of medic and author Angie McDonnell's new book 'Gun Shy: The True Story of the Army Dog Scared of War'.
Vidar, the army search dog, spent half his life sniffing out enemy weapons and bombs on the frontline of the war in Afghanistan. His keen nose saved the lives of hundreds of soldiers, finding roadside bombs which could have killed British troops.
But after two years of loyal service, Vidar became 'Gun Shy' - a term used to describe dogs who are frightened of loud noises. Whenever he heard bombs exploding or even the sound of helicopters flying above, he would curl up in the corner, shaking with fear. His army days were numbered and his future looked uncertain. Until Angie, an army medic who befriended him during her tour of Afghanistan, made it her duty to give him a safe haven at her Welsh home.
The 96-page book by Accent Press launched as part of the Welsh Book Council's Quick Reads Initiative, aims to encourage adults who struggle to read to pick up a book. It will be on sale online Feb. 17
'Quick Reads' anyone?
'Quick Reads' are a series of short books by bestselling authors and celebrities. With no more than 128 pages, they are designed to encourage adults who do not read often, or find reading difficult, to discover the joy of books.
'Quick Reads' titles for 2017:
'Dead Simple' crime anthology (Orion) - a crime collection bringing together eight writers including Harry Bingham, Mark Billingham, Clare Mackintosh, James Oswald, CL Taylor, Angela Marsons, Jane Casey and Antonia Hodgson.
'Looking for Captain Poldark' by Rowan Coleman (Ebury) - a road trip novel about four people who meet online and drive to Cornwall to the Poldark set to find Aiden Turner. Coleman, who is dyslexic herself, is the bestselling novelist of The Memory Book and We Are All Made of Stars.
'A Very Distant Shore' by Jenny Colgan (Little Brown) - a romantic novel set on a remote Scottish island, where a Syrian refugee goes to work as a doctor. The small community welcome him but can he forget his past? Colgan is the bestselling author of The Little Beach Street Bakery.
'The Other Side of You' by Amanda Craig (Little Brown) - a re-imagining of Beauty and the Beast, set in London. Amanda has written a number of very well-reviewed novels including Hearts and Minds and A Vicious Circle.
'Feel the Fear & Do It Anyway' by Susan Jeffers (Ebury) - a specially adapted book drawing on the late Susan Jeffers' landmark self-help book Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway and its bestselling follow ups.
'One False Move' by Dreda Say Mitchell (Hodder) - a gritty novel set on the Devil's Estate in London, the same setting as her recent Flesh and Blood trilogy