Butterfly in a Bind (Book Review)

“Her truth was not a fairy tale.”

~Butterfly in a Bind, Sheba Ghosh

The truth is always far more bitter than what’s apparent, than what one expects. And Sheba Ghosh‘s “Butterfly in a Bind” stands to prove that once again with its spine-chilling tale of a brutal murder which leads the path towards some harsh truths and crude realities.

An idol of Ma Durga washing ashore is not an extraordinary event for Kolkata. What’s strange though is the odd timing of the Visarjan and the fact that a body of a trans-woman is found inside.

Harder is the investigation that begins with only one clue at hand–a unique tattoo on the victim’s leg, and thousands of unanswered questions. But more difficult than that is ACP Shyama’s quest to overcome her prejudices while traveling across the country in search of the victim’s truth.

But the truth is farther away. And it refuses to unveil unless Shyama look deep into the stories told by a brothel owner, an elderly Zamindar’s wife and a troubled teen, who were close to the victim at some point in her life. Running out of suspects, ACP Shyama needs to look past the obvious and catch the killer.

“I had burnt too many bridges to go anywhere but stay right here, at the gates of Hell.”

~Butterfly in a Bind, Sheba Ghosh

Woven with an engaging tone, smooth flow, lucid language and thrilling storyline, the fast-paced narrative brings in surprising twist and turns that not only spike up the thrill but also add to the subtle humour and sarcasm of the novel.

The gripping narrative oscillates between the past and the present with ACP Shyama’s investigation sandwiched between Bijaya’s story in each chapter. The voice also shifts from the third person narration in Shyama’s story to first person narration in Bijaya’s tale. The altering between two voices allows the readers to have a more intimate connection with the victim, listening to her story in her own voice while also focusing on the murder investigation voiced by the narrator.

A little back story is attached to the characters who are crucial to the novel, a technique which works to build up curiosity and explain a lot about their personality. At times, the characters are given their own voice to speak about their own struggles in life, which makes their tale more intimate, realistic and relatable.

“I smiled weakly at her, as always, trying to put someone else at ease over my pain.”

~Butterfly in a Bind, Sheba Ghosh

The name of the main characters too are carefully chosen as a means to serve the tale’s higher purpose. The trans-woman is named Bijaya, after the name of Ma Durga, given to the Goddess for her fight and victory over the Devils who raised havoc in the world. Bijaya too fought and won victory over the evils that plague the society. Also, the fierce ACP is named Shyama, which is another name for Ma Kali, the ferocious Goddess who breaks rules and goes to extreme limits to slay the demons that spill their venom into the world. ACP Shyama too is fierce, aggressive and ruthless like her when it comes to dealing with criminals.

“To her, Bijaya was a canvas of pain, torn to shreds by the world.”

~Butterfly in a Bind, Sheba Ghosh

And in the end, the book leaves certain questions unanswered for the readers to decipher by diving deep inside their own minds in their attempt to find the answers by analyzing the psychology of the characters involved in the novel.

With all that the book “Butterfly in a Bind” entails, the tale becomes more than simply a thrilling murder mystery. It becomes a story where prejudices break, reservations shatter and beliefs shake under the heavy load of emotional turmoils. It’s a novel whose ending serves to bring shock to the readers and shake them to the core.

“I was a minority in a world that was determined to make me suffer, more than it already had.”

~Butterfly in a Bind, Sheba Ghosh

Adopting a Plant on World Environment Day

Answering to the call of nature, we gathered on the evening of World Environment Day (5th June) to participate in a tree planting event at our locality in Rishra.

We had the help of a few kind people, who came together to donate a few trees from their own gardens and walked with us to plant them in different locations. Some locals have even volunteered to help us take care of the plants throughout the year.
With such benevolent people beside us, we successfully celebrated our special event “Adopt the Plant”, organized under the vision of Galileo Science Society.

But since it was a weekday, many of the office goers couldn’t join us in our endeavor, even though they wanted to in their heart. So, we have decided to continue working on this project on the upcoming Sundays and go around planting tree with the local nature lovers.

And in this journey, we are calling all the kind hearts to plant a tree in their neighborhood and help save our planet together.

A Wrinkle in Time (Book Review)

“You don’t have to understand things for them to be.”

~,A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle

There are so many things in the universe which we don’t fully understand. Magic. Miracle. Time. But then, they are also the things that fascinate us the most. And the book “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle offers one such fantasy tale where mystery, magic and miracle combine to take us on a fascinating ride through time.

On a dark, stormy night, Meg Murry, her brother, Charles Wallace and her mother comes down to the kitchen for a midnight snack only to be surprised by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger who is soon to change the course of their life forever.

“Playing with time and space is a dangerous game.”

~A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle

A light-hearted tale of a fantasy world, it’s not a story to be trifled with. For, the protagonists may be young but they are far stronger, braver and clever, who knows how to stand up to the evils and fight for a good cause. And the story may be a fantasy tale, but it’s not the one without serious implications, good values and moral lessons.

“A Wrinkle in Time” is a story that meddles with time and space to astound the readers with some innovative concepts and bring in a new angle to look at things from a different perspective.

“The things which are seen are temporal. But the things which are not seen are eternal.”

~A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle

Cinderella is Dead (Book Review)

The truth is tricky. People want to know it, but when they do, sometimes they wish they didn’t.”

~Cinderella is Dead, Kalynn Bayron

And when it comes to knowing the truth behind the centuries old fairytale with a happy ending, it’s bound to be a shocking phenomenon. The book “Cinderella is Dead” by Kalynn Bayron invites the readers to experience one such stunning journey with her unexpected reimagination of the Cinderella fantasy.

Two hundred years after Cinderella found her prince, the tradition of the royal ball for choosing a bride still continues. The teen girls need to appear at the ball to be chosen by men of the kingdom. But the fairytale is long over. For, the life of the girls who are not chosen by a man at the ball are forfeited.

Enter Sophia who doesn’t want to be chosen or even visit the ball. She would rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend. And in her desperate attempt to flee from the Annual Ball, she hides herself in Cinderella’s Mausoleum and meets Constance, the last known descendent of Cinderella.

Together they decide to bring down the king and free the kingdom and its people from the long-running tyranny. And while surfing through the dangerous journey, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than anyone every knew.

“All fairy tales have some grain of truth. Picking apart that truth from the lies can be tricky, though.”

~Cinderella is Dead, Kalynn Bayron

A fresh take on the classic fairytale, “Cinderella is Dead” cuts every Cinderella fantasy with such shocking truths that compels the readers to question everything that they ever heard about the story.

But the book isn’t completely devoid of magic, though. It does have subtle elements of fantasy wound around it and hides a very different kind of magic that’s strange, dark and utterly unbelievable.

Also, the book embraces the stories of other well-known fairytales that seep into the narrative and bring a new colour to the tale. And sometimes even present a mild clue that leads towards the harsh truths.

“Just because you don’t believe it doesn’t mean it can’t be true.”

~Cinderella is Dead, Kalynn Bayron

Another amazing aspect of the book is that even amid wildly dangerous situations and extremely precarious journey, a love story brews with all its soft delicacy and sweet tête-à-têtes which serves to brighten up the tale even during its solemn moods.

But what the book chiefly focuses on is the immense power that women lock within themselves. Narrating the story of the girls who chose to be brave in the face of oppression, “Cinderella is Dead” urges the women to rise from their subdued self, rooting for girls to break free from the social constructs, create their own path, make a mark and change the world.

“Don’t be silent.
Raise your voice.
Be a light in the dark.”

~Cinderella is Dead, Kalynn Bayron

Isle of the Shadow Souls (Book Review)

“But as they always say, in the end, goodness triumphs over evil.”

~Isle of the Shadow Souls, Elaine Cherain

Evil, no matter how strong it is or how long its rule be, will always have to bow down before goodness. The book “Isle of the Shadow Souls” by Elaine Cherain proves this yet again with its story of witches, wizards and warlocks, phoenix, mermaids and fairies, monsters, goblins and vampire.

Brought up by her father and his books, Laura finds herself in her father’s library after his death. While going through his huge stack of books, she comes across an old tattered book and instantly feels a strong desire to open it. As she brushes through the pages, she hears a humming. Then, before she can react, a cyclone sucks her into the book. And the adventure begins…

Ancient legends comes alive in the middle of the tale and old fairytales surfaces throughout the book, as does the stories from modern age and music in this short novel that intermingles fantasy with reality.

Several truths surfaces as Laura journeys into the adventure of a lifetime while learning some of the vital lessons of life on love, friendship, wit and courage. But the most important lesson that the book imparts upon its readers is how the power of love is enough to destroy any evil and defeat even the strongest of devils.

“Keep the ones you love near your heart and it will give you the power to destroy any evil.”

~Isle of the Shadow Souls, Elaine Cherain

The Witch’s Boy (Book Review)

“A word, after all, is a kind of magic. Words call the world into being. That’s power indeed.”

~The Witch’s Boy, Kelly Barnhill

Not all Magic can be contained in potion bottles. Not all Magic can be controlled with spells. Not all Magic can be streamed from wands. There are some Magic that works on the power of words. “The Witch’s Boy” by Kelly Barnhill enchants her readers with one such unruly Magic which can only be tamed with powerful words.

When Ned and his identical twin brother, Tam, tumble from their raft into a raging river, only Ned survives. And the villagers are convinced that it’s the wrong boy who lived. Living amid them with his mother, Sister Witch, the quiet and stuttering Ned too starts to believe the same. But all that was about to change…

When Sister Witch, the village keeper of an ancient store of magic, is away on a journey, the Bandit King of the forest comes to steal the magic. But the magic, which only Sister Witch can control, bolts out of its pot into the wild world beyond. And it’s up to Ned now to safeguards the magic and protect his family, friends and community.

“It’s a terrible thing to be trapped in a place you don’t belong.”

~The Witch’s Boy, Kelly Barnhill

Thrown into a wild adventure, Ned must muster his courage and summon all his strength to venture into the enchanted forest that borders the village. And there his path crosses with Aine, the Bandit King’s daughter. But the brave, resourceful, pragmatic girl is haunted by her mother’s last words to her: ‘The wrong boy will save your life, and you will save his.’

Can Ned and Aine trust each other? Can she help him find his voice and a way to speak to the magic? Can they stop the war that’s about to boil over between their two kingdoms? It’s for the book to answer…

“Not every story is true. And sometimes the things that were wicked becomes the things that save us…”

~The Witch’s Boy, Kelly Barnhill

Beaming with the richly reimagined elements from the classic fantasy tales, the book captures the story of an unexpected hero, a thief’s daughter and a very special, powerful and tricky magic. But it’s not simply a fabled tale of kingdoms, prophecies, witches and magic; rather, it’s an enchanting tale of finding one’s inner power, of discovering the magic that’s hidden within oneself.

“You have more power than you think you do. Your fear is a problem, so lose it… The time has come.”

~The Witch’s Boy, Kelly Barnhill

With a vivid setting, rich narrative style, dark tone, compelling plot and timeless themes, the novel creates a spell-binding fantasy world that entralls the readers and ties them into an unbreakable bond that goes beyond all limits. The unforgettable lessons that the readers willfully gather from this tale will go a long way into shaping their mind and ultimately end up changing the way they look at the world forever.

“Because the world is wide and nimble and rich. And full of promise. And adventure. And tricks.”

~The Witch’s Boy, Kelly Barnhill

Echoing the everlasting spirits of ancient fairytales, “The Witch’s Boy” by Kelly Barnhill drives our attention to the most powerful magic that’s wrapped all around us: the magic of words. Words, indeed, are as powerful as magic. They can make one believe in something that’s not. They can also endow one with the power to believe in something that’s yet to be. They can create an entire being, an existence from nothingness. A single word can hold the power to do great, magical things…

“A world is a magic thing. It holds the essence of an object or an idea and pins it to the world. A word can set a universe in motion.”

~The Witch’s Boy, Kelly Barnhill

The Ogress and The Orphans (Book Review)

“A lot of things are magic if you think about it right. And some things might not be magic exactly, but they’re pretty close.”

~The Ogress and The Orphans, Kelly Barnhill

Dangling on the thin line between fantasy and reality, “The Ogress and The Orphans” by Kelly Barnhill is a magical story, but one where magic doesn’t flow out of wands, spells or potions, but sparks out of love, kindness, compassion and selflessness.

Once upon a time Stone-in-the-Glen was a lovely town with kind neighbours, blossoming trees and a library filled with books. But that was before the library burned down, followed by the school and then the whole town fell into ruins.

It’s all seen as the fault of the Ogress who lives in the crooked house on the edge of the town. And the Ogress is blamed again when one of the Orphans goes missing. But the children know that there is more to the story than what meets the eye. There is definitely someone who is the real villain hidding amidst them. And it’s up to the Orphans to save the day and free the Ogress from the blames.

“They were beautiful for a moment, the town remembers, the way a heart is beautiful in the moment before it breaks.”

~The Ogress and The Orphans, Kelly Barnhill

The fantasy tale that dances on the verge of reality explores some of the toughest concept of life in such an absurd and surprising fashion that it’s sure to spellbound the readers. In a light-hearted tone, the book brings forth certain crucial aspects of life to spill out some much-needed wisdom.

The book is filled with several important lessons of life. It shows us how if we love nature, it loves us back. The story also demonstrates how the rich, greedy and evil people are always the ones who are left alone. The tale projects books, education and knowledge as the key to solving major problems and brings out the effectiveness of art and literature in imbuing people with valuable insights.

“There is a power in a book that surpasses even that of a dragon.”

~The Ogress and The Orphans, Kelly Barnhill

And most importantly, the novel exhibits how it just takes one single person to create a cascade of good deeds. The tale is also the literal manifestation of the proverb that the more you give, the more you have.

But the most prominent lesson in the book is that a single act of kindness can have such positive energy and magical power that it can change everything around. And that kindness is infectious, it spreads from one person to another and one tiny act of kindness can brew several generous acts one after the other. And through the intricate pattern within the tale that captures this theme, the book reveals how there is a great magic in kindness.

“The more the Ogress gave, the more she had. This magic was everywhere.”

~The Ogress and The Orphans, Kelly Barnhill

The book also showcases how the tyrants of the world actually work. They always wear a mask of good, benevolent spirits and exploit the innocents, creating huge drops of suspicion in the minds of people and pitting them against one another, while he himself continues with his evil works without any of them noticing as they are busy fighting among themselves and dealing with the crisis that he has created, unknown to the folks.

The tyrants attack the school and library first to curb the path to education and knowledge, so that people remain in the dark with a stunted growth of mind, which makes it easy for the tyrant to manipulate them and force them into believing whatever he says, since ignorant people are easy to control. Next, he creates a crisis, so that the people forever devote their time into solving the problems and turn a blind eye to the real devil among them.

The tyrant uses sweet talks to avoid shedding light on his own mistakes. He asks people to work hard on their own to solve their problems and make their ends meet to avoid his responsibilities towards mitigating their miseries. He uses flattery to steer away from difficult situations and save his back from the blames he deserves. He pretends to help the town and its people with his own wit, wealth and strategies, while in actuality, he is only helping himself and hoarding their hard-earned money and resources that should belong to everyone.

Every such tyrant has a way of hypnotizing the innocent folks with his sweet words and magnanimous presence that no one doubts him even for second. And even if they do suspect him, they are afraid to confront him. For, even though the good tends to outnumbers the evil, they are always so scared to speak against the bad that the evil always seem to win. But then, every such tyrant has a story of their own and a reason behind all their cruel actions.

“Every story has a villain, after all. And every villain has a story.”

~The Ogress and The Orphans, Kelly Barnhill

While reading the fantasy tale about the tyrant who captured the town and brought it down to its ruins, the readers can find similar evidences from the incidents in the real world and connect to it on a much deeper level. That’s the beauty of this amazing book!

But most outstanding is the way how the book shows that there is Magic in the simplest of things that aren’t apparently considered magical at all. There is magic in the most uncommon places which doesn’t even appear to be magical at first glance. There is magic in stories, in books, in nature, in time. There is magic in love, in kindness, in selfless acts. There is magic in myriad of things strewn across the world for us to see if we could view it through the lens of fantasy.

“If we want to know what’s true, we need to look with our minds…if we want to know what is vital, we need to look with our hearts.”

~The Ogress and The Orphans, Kelly Barnhill

The Girl Who Drank The Moon (Book Review)

“Yes. This is all one story. This is my story. I just don’t know how it ends.”

~The Girl Who Drank The Moon, Kelly Barnhill

And so begins a story of magic, a tale of fantasy, a play of mysticism with witches, dragons and swamp monsters, dancing along the magic from the moon. But “The Girl Who Drank The Moon” not simply a light-hearted fairytale, but a story that’s filled with wisdom, strength and power.

The story begins when Xan, the witch of the forest, accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight. And, Luna, the enmagicked child, is suddenly filled with extraordinary magic.

Xan can no longer deliver her to the welcoming families on the other side of the forest, like she did with all the other babies that were left at her door for sacrifice. So, she decides to raise the girl as her own. But as her 13th birthday approaches, Luna’s magic begins to emerge with thrilling but dangerous consequences…

“There is magic in starlight, of course. This is well known… Moonlight, however. That is a different story. Moonlight is magic. Ask anyone you like.”

~The Girl Who Drank The Moon, Kelly Barnhill

Embracing the elements from the fantasy tales, “The Girl Who Drank The Moon” by Kelly Barnhill, enchants the readers with its intricate connection to the real world. Behind the curtains of spells, magic and mysticism, hides a reality far to deep and dark.

And with the brush of every page, the story becomes more than just a magic tale. It becomes a metaphorical story where the wicked face of the society is portrayed in its most blatant form as against the love, hope, kindness and compassion that rules the world.

“A story can tell the truth… but a story can also lie.”

~The Girl Who Drank The Moon, Kelly Barnhill

But it sure is a magical novel. One that enmagicks the readers into surfing through its pages, enchanted by its soulful narration and lyrical passages that binds them in a spell. It builds a fantasy world where the readers want to stay forever.

The magic in the tale is not hidden behind just a wand, spell or potions. Rather, it’s ingrained within the heart and soul of a person. It’s hidden behind the love and compassion they shower upon the world and in the hope that they hold within. Magic here is not superficial but engraved deep within.

“An adult could only use magic. But a child could become magic.”

~The Girl Who Drank The Moon, Kelly Barnhill

But more enchanting than the magic are the lessons that the tale seeks to teach, the message that it conveys and the wisdom it imparts upon the readers. It unveils the dangers of sorrow and the power of hope, which are always at war with one another. And in its mystical fashion, the tale raises some vital questions that makes one ponder for a long time.

The tale also reveals how the person who often seems to be evil isn’t really as they are fabled to be. The real devil actually lives behind the mask of goodness and breathes poison into the world claiming it to be elixir. And so we must learn to seek the truth for ourselves instead of blindly believing someone who just appears to be good.

But even in its dark reality, no character is portrayed as completely black. A little bit of softness is left behind for every character for the readers to sympathize with them as they learn their back stories.

“She was hurt, but not on her body… She was hurt in her mind.”

~The Girl Who Drank The Moon, Kelly Barnhill

The highly magical story also leaves a few blank spaces for the readers to fill in, by putting their own imagination to weave out a fantasy tale of their own. It’s a story that urges the readers to explore it from their own perspective and discover their own truths from within the tale.

A spell-binding tale of love, emotion, hope, memories, compassion, courage, strength and determination, “The Girl Who Drank The Moon” by Kelly Barnhill is a journey that reaches the deepest corners of the heart and touches that curve of the soul where true magic resides.

“Magic was a troublesome thing. Foolish. And it had a mind of its own.”

~The Girl Who Drank The Moon, Kelly Barnhill

Wilderness Within Me

Society had always tried to curb
The wilderness within me,
With its civil ways;
But when did the wild nature
Ever listen to the civilization?
People forever sought to tame
The wild beauty within me
With its disciplines;
But does the untamed beasts
Ever follow the harsh rules?

They try to tempt my heart
With fleeting promises
Of faded virtues;
But can you ever entice
The fierce waves of the sea,
With your false beliefs
In vain morality?
They try to rule my mind
With momentary gains
Of dull ethics;
But how can you control
The surge of the violent storms,
With your flawed faith
In decayed propriety?

They want to put a stop to
All my midnight ventures;
But why do they always forget
Wild flowers only bloom at night?
They stand on the way to my muse of art
Whose path runs through the dark;
Do they no longer remember
The wise old Owl that owns the night?
They seek to break my rhythms
By binding my feet in chains;
But can the wide open sky
Be contained within limits?
They strive to cleave the wings
To my endless dreams;
But how can you trap
The Phoenix within its cage?
They struggle hard to quiten,
My desire to conquer;
But can bonfires be calmed
With a single drop of water?
They wrestle hard to silence
The tiny voices within me;
But can seagulls be lulled away
From their loud, wild screams?

Society intends to change
The ones they can’t accept;
They can’t endure the sight of that
Which bear no resemblance to them;
They can’t celebrate the triumph of
The ones who are born too soon;
They do not heed the opinions
Of those who are ahead of their times;
They cannot respect the individuality,
Of those who are born a little different:
They call it madness,
They call them crazy,
They call us shameless;
And in their mindless rage,
They try to pull the reins to
The spark of our wild beauty.

But we will not be tamed,
We will not be swayed,
We will not be coaxed
Into deserting our identity.
We will fight, fight against the tide:
Like the birds that soar high,
Like the fire that ignites the sky,
Like the flowers that deny the light,
Like the owl that roams at night,
Like the forest that runs free,
And like the wild untamed sea,
I rebel, rebel hard against authority;
And with the wilderness within me:
O civil society,
I now disown thee!

The Liberation of Sita (Book Review)

“Truth does not remain the same forever but keeps changing continuously.”

~The Liberation of Sita, Volga

And in the famous epic Ramayana too, there is no ultimate truth, but one that keeps changing by varying one’s perspective. Volga‘s retelling of the great epic from Sita’s view in her novel “The Liberation of Sita” invites us to look at the mythical tale through a different lens.

Valmiki’s Ramayana tells the story of a triumphant king, Rama and about his exile, his battles, his victory and his final return to the Kingdom. But Volga‘s retelling brings us to the tale of Sita who embarks upon her own arduous journey towards self-discovery and meets with the women who steer her towards her final resolution.

“There is no better path to wisdom than experience.”

~The Liberation of Sita, Volga

Told from a modern feminist perspective, the novel turns patriarchy on the head in its attempt to break through the power structure. Each women that Sita meets on her journey: Surpanakha, Renuka, Urmila and Ahalya, everyone narrates their own story. And this shifts the narrative from being shown from the male gaze to being told from a woman’s perspective.

While working its way through the shifting power dynamics, the book endeavours to humanise the characters. Steering away from the framed divinity, the characters are allowed to make mistakes and embark on their own journey towards self-reflection.

“There is something more in you, something that is your own.”

~The Liberation of Sita, Volga

All along its journey, the tale raises several questions whose answers bring forth the hidden realities and hard truths of life. And in the end, they come together to impart great spiritual wisdom to its characters and through them it seeps into us as well.

Viewing the popular epic from a different angle altogether, “The Liberation of Sita” sets on a powerful journey towards subverting the tale of morality, choice and sacrifice. And such a bold attempt on the part of the author leaves the room to open up new spaces within the old discourse, enabling women to review their lives and experiences afresh.

“Fight, meditate, look within until you find the truth that is you.”

~The Liberation of Sita, Volga