Book Reviews by a Pioneer: Blue Eagle by Sharada Kolluru

Neil Randhawa, an Italian of Indian origin, finds himself in a Delhi Police station, trying to locate Blue Eagle – a wine that he lost at Delhi airport. What is special about this wine? A stranger successfully bid half a million US Dollars for the 1988 vintage, died the same evening of snake bite at the vineyard where Neil works and was also the auctioneer. The dying man extracted a promise from Neil to offer the wine to Lord Kal Bhairav in Ujjain.

Moe Kyaw Somani, a young Burmese Indian, also lands at the same police station, having lost her 12th grade certificates, without which her dream of studying in Lady Shri Ram College will remain just that – a dream, for which she has travelled all the way from Yangon.

The two narrate the stories of their lives in their birth countries to the sympathetic inspector, who decides to help them. The two young people come together in their search. Is it any surprise, then, that soon sparks begin to fly!

Sounds like another version of the Bollywood film Jab We Met, or many similar stories seen on screen. But I am not complaining. The storytelling is fast paced, the setting is different, and I just love a good old-fashioned romance – this one is inter-continental – so I got to travel a lot from the comfort of my armchair – Italy, the vineyards, Myanmar, and my favourite – Italian food. It was a magical journey expertly woven through words.

If you are looking for a fun fast-paced read over the weekend, then this rom-com is perfect. What I thought could have been toned down – a couple of pages of explicit physical intimacy. As my literary agent friend Lalitha keeps telling me, “Sanjay… show… not tell.”

Book Reviews by a Pioneer: Halfway Fates by Deepali Bajaj

Genre: Romance
Rating: 3.5/5

Suraj is a happy go lucky young man studying in college. He, Raghav – his roommate and friend, Mira – whom he loves, and Deepti – another close friend with whom he can share his secrets, are fun-filled college students. They attend lectures, sometime bunk classes, go out for parties, attend socials, play pranks, go for drives, get drunk also.

Suraj also has vivid dreams about a young girl Mithi. This girl is in love with Siddharth, and they both appear to be heading towards a forever life together. Suraj is perplexed – he has never met Mithi or Siddharth. Why does he dream about them? Is there a past connection?
The story moves in two parallel tracks – that of Suraj, Mira, Deepti, and Raghav in the present; Siddharth and Mithi in the past through Suraj’s dreams. Will the two stories merge?

This is an interesting novella, well written. I kept turning the pages to unravel the mystery. The unfolding – it comes almost in the end – was a surprise to me. I could not guess it throughout the book.

One aspect of the book is a let down – weak editing. There are grammatical and spelling errors throughout the manuscript. I hope the author takes care of this in subsequent editions, and future works.