Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Reviews of Rani of Rampur

Brings' India aliveJanuary 20, 2013
This review is from: Rani of Rampur (Kindle Edition)
If you are looking for a formulaic book set in a Western milieu, this book is not for you.

However if you are willing to be dragged out of the comfort zone of your drawing room in the Western world, then wade in.

Suneeta Misra's Rani of Rampur is the story of Rani, a young educated journalist in a small town in India. She visits her aunt to help in the wedding preparations of her aunt's son and stumbles across murder,political machinations, family secrets and cover ups.

This is an India far from the Bollywood stereotypes. This is an India in which the law treats women equal to men but society does not. An India where change is happening rapidly but deep rooted prejudices are harder to change.

Misra's book brings alive the colors and smells of life in a small India town where time moves that bit slower and secrets bubble just beneath the placid veneer.

Bravo Ms. Misra for a fantastic first book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful story, vivid settingJanuary 18, 2013
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This review is from: Rani of Rampur (Kindle Edition)
This is one of those stories I loaded on my phone to be read casually when waiting for the train, etc... I ended up gobbling the whole thing down in two sittings. It would have been one sitting, but I got interrupted.
Rani of Rampur is set in India. That alone makes it stand out from so many books out there. But you aren't just reading the story or seeing the story through the author's eyes, you are immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of India. Really vivid imagery. Suneeta Misra also gives you the language of India, in terms of how people converse, expessions, casts. You experience the setting more so than read about it.
The story itself is also fascinating. There are lots of unexpected events that keep you turning the pages. The motivations for characters feel very real and, although the dialog is more formal than it would be if set in America, it also feels legitimate for the setting.
I would recommend this book for anyone wanting a good story in a unfamiliar setting. Plus, you get to learn many of the customs and traditions of India, good or bad. Well done, Suneeta Misra! I will read more books from this author.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent readJanuary 22, 2013
This review is from: Rani of Rampur (Kindle Edition)
"Rani of Rampur" by Suneeta Misra was recommended to me by a fellow reviewer and I am glad he praised it the way he did. It is an excellent murder mystery, or at least that is how it is advertised in some places, but it is so much more. It is the story of a dysfunctional family, a story about family values and the caste system in India, about Village life, about politics and corruption.
The heroine, journalist Rani, is sent to assist her aunt with a family wedding where she gets drawn into the investigation of her uncle's murder while courting romance with the groom of the forthcoming wedding.
This book really works on so many levels and anyone who has read other works set in India will appreciate how hard it is to translate this remote way of living to a Western audience.
I loved every word of the story and highly recommend it to those already familiar with the world the story is set in and those who know little about it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rani of Rampur - Book ReviewDecember 30, 2012
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This review is from: Rani of Rampur (Kindle Edition)
Rani of Rampur is a well written debut novel by Suneeta Misra. I liked the way Ms. Misra has visualized the story. The characters come alive as the story is played out in the village of Rampur. We see this happen mostly through the eyes of Rani, a poor but educated city girl from Bareilly. The references to the politics of India, land laws, and women's empowerment come through in the story, and we understand that these subject areas are where Ms. Misra's heart lies. Waiting to see what she will be penning down next!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A story that is full of twists and turns of a family in IndiaJanuary 27, 2013
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This review is from: Rani of Rampur (Kindle Edition)
Rani was by far my favorite character. As she plays a journalist in India, she views a family who are unequal in many ways. Although the book took some time to catch on for me, when it did I could not put it down. The Grammar was very good, and the insightfullness from a womans view was good. The mystery mixed with the facts of life mixed well and made for a great read for the fictional and the non fictional alike. Great job!

It did however make me wonder if there had to have been alot of research done and if the book could have been written as a non fiction educational book rather than the fiction story it includes. Its certainly got both.

I will be looking for more from this author.
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Friday, January 25, 2013

Rani of Rampur available on Amazon.com

Rani of Rampur is the story of a young journalist, Rani, who travels to a sleepy village in the interiors of northern India, to visit her estranged aunt's family and finds intrigue, murder and even supernatural forces at play in the deceptively peaceful, rural landscape.

Interview with Chaitime

Five Questions With: Suneeta Misra

Hello Everyone, 

I am posting an interview with Suneeta Misra, the author of Rani of RampurIf you have some time, I encourage you to check out this novel, and her blog: www.suneetamisra329.blogspot.com. Enjoy! More reviews and other fun stuff coming your way soon!

1.     What is your background and how did you get involved in writing? 
      I have been a Maryland public school teacher for the last 20 years, and have always been involved in encouraging my students to write. I grew up in India, hearing folktales from my grandmothers, about the different gods and goddesses of Hinduism. In fact, in Asia, as in Africa, oral storytelling is a way of passing down cultural values. All children are told stories about the past history of their country or community. I also got interested in making documentaries on the education of lower-caste girls in India, who have been kept out of the school system for so long. While shooting for a documentary, I was humbled by the challenges that many of these girls had faced in order to complete their education. Inspired by some of the stories I heard, I decided to write a fictionalized account of a strong Indian girl who refuses to become a victim, and in fact, ends up rescuing some of those who are dear to her.

2.  Tell me more about writing Rani of Rampur, and how you developed the characters and specific situations in the novel.
      As I said before, I have always wanted to write stories with a strong female protagonist, due to  my interest in the education of lower-caste girls in India. I also have an abiding interest in the mystery genre, and so I thought that combining these two interests would make it a page-turner, and a much more interesting tale.

3.  Why did you choose to talk about the politics of India in your story, which could otherwise be categorized as a mystery? 
      I believe that you cannot separate the politics of India, which is so volatile, from any story about the interactions between the land-owning rich and the landless poor. Since its independence in 1948, India has been a democracy, and has tried to bring about land redistribution, to balance the scales between the rich and the poor. In reality, it has not succeeded, and much of the land is in the hands of a small percentage of people, in a country that still has a largely agricultural economy. Therefore, the relationship between the “landed and the landless”, especially in rural India, is  exploitative.

4.   In discussing this book with others, I have often heard the following question: Why are many of the male characters in this book evil? Please discuss your thoughts on this matter. 
      India has a patriarchal society, and thus much of the power is still in the hands of the male members of the family. Women are often viewed as minions and this is surprising in a country which has a history replete with strong warrior queens and a major religion dominated by female deities. Despite these contradictions, the relationship between men and women in India remains exploitative, with females enduring the brunt of society’s injustices.  

5. Tell me about what’s next for you.
      I am currently working on my second novel, which is again set in a fictitious village in India. It is about a much younger autistic girl. Durga, who overcomes overwhelming odds, to save her friends and family from evil. In this book, I have tried to look at the world through the eyes of this highly intelligent autistic child, in contrast to that of her sister, who is illiterate, but normal in the eyes of society.

Review of Rani of Rampur

Book Review: Rani of Rampur by Suneeta Misra

Hello Bookworms!

Today, I will review a mystery I recently read, titled Rani of Rampur by Suneeta Misra, a new author. This novel follows a young journalist named Rani, who lives with her family in Barielly, a village in Northern India. She travels to another village, Rampur, to visit her mother's estranged sister, and to help plan a family wedding. Along the way, she uncovers long-buried secrets, and encounters plenty of drama and political intrigue.

I really enjoyed this book. It is well-written, interesting, and fast-paced. The main character was well-developed and there is a colorful cast of supporting (also well-developed) characters as well. This book is a gritty, thriller-type novel, that exposes the dirty underbelly of life in rural India, so some aspects may shock those readers with more conservative sensibilities. This, however, is the reality of life in the village, and as such, is necessary for the reader to get a more complete picture.

Being of Indian origin, I was familiar with many of the terms and cultural aspects described in the book. However, a lot of it was still new to me. I have only visited the big, modern cities, such as Mumbai and Delhi, during my travels. I have little knowledge of the ins and outs of village life and its unique hardships. Learning about this was fascinating to me, and I would love to read more books like this.

My only complaint was that I wish there was more to the book! I would like to hear more about Rani's adventures, and also the other characters. The author made them very realistic and "fleshed-out". Even the minor characters (like Mr. Tramp, a stray dog) resonated with me. Additionally, the book's setting was established well. I felt like I was there with Rani, uncovering the secrets of the household. I could almost smell the spices and hear the music, so to speak.

All in all, this is a book worth checking out. The quick, fast-paced style and the grittiness of the story help make it a unique, fun read. I look forward to seeing what else the author has to offer.

My Rating: 5 stars

The link to the Kindle version of the book is below:

Happy Reading!

Interview with Matt Posner

What's your name and occupation, if any, besides writing, and where do you live? 
My name is Suneeta Misra and I live in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Besides being a writer and a documentary film-maker, I am also a teacher and I am currently in special education. I have toyed with the idea of having a pen name for my novels but decided that despite my reserve, brazening it out is the best approach. Now comes the hard part of marketing and laying my soul bare for all to see and pick at. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, is what I tell my students.
What do you write and why do you write it?
My interest is in the education and the empowerment of the girl child in India. I have made a few short films in this area and during the process of film-making, I became interested in making a feature film on a strong female protagonist. Towards that end, I first decided to write a story, which I then have turned into a screenplay. Of course, this could all be a pipe dream and I might never find a financier for turning this story into a motion picture. But one can always hope. Storytelling, in the traditional sense, is what I love to do, no matter the medium.
Describe your current book and your next project.
“Rani of Rampur” is created for a new adult audience and is centered on a young journalist called Rani, which incidentally means a queen in Hindi. She travels to her ancestral village in order to reconnect with her estranged aunt’s family and in the process, stumbles onto intrigue, brutality and murder. My next book is going to have a much younger protagonist, Durga, which is the name of an Indian Goddess who represents power and the destruction of evil. She is a high functioning autistic girl who, despite her challenges, proves to be loyal and brave in the face of danger.
Since your next book features an autistic child, comment about the top autistic fiction out there, Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
I found the book to be very engrossing and emotional. The protagonist’s (Christopher) voice was well developed and unique. Most importantly, it allowed the reader to delve into the mind of the autistic child. The specific challenges that he faces because of his inability to lie, or to make mental pictures of colloquiums such as “skeletons in a closet,” was heartrending.
What is your reaction to Temple Grandin's writings on autism?
It is an amazing insight into the mind of an autistic child from their own perspective. Special education teachers like me, are taught early on to chunk and scaffold our lessons and to also include sensory activities into our teaching. Autistic children benefit from this kind of innovation in differentiated instruction. My next book, which has an autistic protagonist, focuses on the idea that minds can work differently. As Grandin herself has said, society needs all these different minds. The fact that Grandin can think of ways to make slaughter houses more humane is not something I would be able to think of. To me, slaughter is inhumane, period. Nonetheless, in a meat eating country like America, such understanding is vital.
How is autism viewed and treated differently in India than in the United States?
In India, kids on the lower end of the Autism Rating Scale are viewed as “retarded.” The higher functioning children probably blend with the regular student population. There is little attempt even in big city schools, to differentiate instruction or to have separate classes for children with disabilities. The situation in the rural areas is even worse. These children are not allowed in most schools, even though the Right to Education Act mandates that they be included in regular classes. While making my documentary which is set in an Indian village in Uttar Pradesh, I saw government schools with few resources, and many even lacking bathroom facilities. It is no wonder that children and especially girls drop out in large numbers from such schools. There is no question of providing access to children with disabilities even in private schools frequented by the middle and upper classes. None of the schools I have visited in India even have a ramp for a wheelchair.
Recommend to readers a book by someone else including why you like it
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is a well-researched book that weaves real events with a fictionalized account of how they unfolded. The characters from the Chicago World Fair are all real, as are the murders committed by a serial killer during the same time period. The narrative is so thrilling that it makes the reader feel that they are living through the events. I highly recommend it because historical mysteries are my weakness and because this is a taut, well written thriller.
Another story I loved reading was “Half of a Yellow Sun,” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the  Nigerian Civil War. It tells us that violence can have a transformative impact on the human soul. Very much like the great book “The Things they Carried” by Tim O’Brien, it makes the observation that there is little bravery in going to war despite societal pressures that justify such an extreme option.
Tell an interesting experience from your life as a writer.
My story “Recuperation” was recently made into a short film and as I sat through the editing process with the director and the editor, I was amazed to see the characters come to life. The director’s interpretation was, however, very different from what I had envisioned in my head. It is difficult for an author to come to terms with changes that are inevitably made when translating a story to a different medium.
Tell an interesting experience from a non-writing job you've had.
When making my documentary last summer in India, I had to adjust to life in a rural area, something that I had never experienced before. I had to get used to life without several amenities that I had taken for granted, such as air-conditioning and clean water. It was, nonetheless, a rewarding experience because I was able to bond with the students, parents and teachers in that one village. This allowed them to open up to me about the challenges they face on a daily basis. Eventually this experience enriched both me personally, and my documentary.
Since we are both special education teachers,  let's talk about that. What are the challenges and obstacles, but also the greatest joys of working with special needs kids?
I have been a general education world history teacher for 20 years and a special education teacher for the last one year. It has been enormously difficult to come to terms with the challenges faced by both the students and teachers in this area. It has also been rewarding to see how much I learned by the end of the year. My greatest reward was when an autistic boy who had extremely bad handwriting, wrote me a thank you letter at the end of the 2010-2011 school year, using the template we taught him to use, to better organize his words.
What do you wish politicians properly understood about special education?
That all children can learn but they just learn differently and not necessarily to perform adequately on a standardized test. Children with learning challenges need the modifications they are provided for testing and I feel, the whole testing environment is stressful on them and on the school as a whole. Teachers begin teaching to the test because scores are viewed as a reflection of their capabilities. My school district has adopted a pilot program that provides bonuses for teachers with high test scores at the end of the year. This year, the voluntary evaluation system has become mandatory, leading to much stress across the board.
Write about your favorite teacher.
My favorite teacher was my mathematics teacher in high school, who never gave up on me, despite my frustrations with challenging calculus problems. He has retired now and was thrilled to hear from me when I called recently to wish him happy birthday. When our students come back for a visit to thank us, it gives us an opportunity to see the difference we can make. Most of my students come from poor, immigrant neighborhoods and it is very rewarding to see how much progress a student can make in one year.