Category Archives: Reviews

Book Review: shades of love

Shades of LoveBook: Shades of Love

Editor: Ankit Mittal

Publisher: Grapevine India

Price: 100

Year of Release: 2013 (expected)

‘Shades of Love’ is an anthology of short stories written by Indian writers, many of them quite young in the world of storytelling on a topic that has seen significant amount of literature being dedicated to it since time immemorial. Writers across geographies and periods have been enamored by it, trying to capture its essence in the maze of their words. And this precisely is the reason why a rather novice attempt at capturing this emotion appears all the more painful to read.

As is the case, most of the stories read as if they are written by teenagers with interpretations of love that range from thought-provoking to amateurish. Baring a few stories, others are ill-constructed and poorly depicted with plots that might interest only beginners to the world of love stories. In its attempt to capture love in all its manifestations, it often meanders into fantasy, revenge, crime and eeriness. The language is simple and racy and makes for an easy read. Most of the conversations are in English that is more spoken than written and hence makes for easy comprehension. While the book provides a chance to young writers to put their expressions in front of a wider audience, it could have definitely done better in choosing its contributions. I would like to believe, for the sake of young Indian writers and literature enthusiasts, that there are better writers than the ones presented in the collection waiting for their work to be published.

Be very particular about what you are looking for in the book. The stories, baring a few, are uninspiring and might interest only very young readers looking for an easy read. Most of them might come out as seriously disappointing. There is no dearth of literature on love. I would recommend you choose a better title.

Best part of the book: The Remedy by Sachin Garg was brilliant!

Worst part of the book: The stories, baring a few, are very amateurish and very teenage like.

Final Rating: 2/5

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Book Review: the krishna key

Book: The Krishna Key

Author: Ashwin Sanghi

Publisher: Westland

Year of Release: 2012

Price: 250

In the recent few years, the Fiction Section in book-stores has seen a deluge of books that are borrowed heavily from mythology. Hugely popularized by Dan Brown and his cult novel ‘The Da Vinci Code’, the trend has fascinated fiction-lovers all over the world; to see characters and plots picked up from religious books and folklore and adapted into the present. Back home, after two very successful novels in the same line – The Rozabal Line and Chanakya’s Chant – Ashwin Sanghi has come up with his third offering – The Krishna Key.

‘The Krishna Key’ draws from the four thousand year old Krishna’s folklore that says that the Blue God would return in a fresh Avatar when needed in the Kaliyug. The problem begins when a little boy starts believing that he is that avatar and starts killing in the name of Krishna. A historian is accused of one such murder and has to outwit the cops after him and the people who have been plotting the murders and bring an epilogue to baffling questions that have been troubling intellectuals and historians alike. Sound like ‘The Da Vinci Code’? Well, the plot is not exactly that but you cannot help noticing the obvious similarities, every now and then.

For someone who has read The Rozabal Line and Chanakya’s Chant, The Krishna Key would across as a bit of disappointment. I for one, felt let down considering that I was reading Ashwin Sanghi. Do not get me wrong, this book is probably a lot better than the average Indian literature crowding the fiction section of book-stores but it definitely does not exude the kind of quality in plot that Ashwin Sanghi is known to deliver. Also the presence of a few irrelevant references to mythology and quite mundane editing errors bring down the reader-experience that I had anticipated from The Krishna Key.

The book maintains the thrill that it promises and would keep you intrigued. The English is simple and once you get a hang of the characters, reading is easy. The plot unfolds gently, better in the first part than in the second, and would definitely keep you engrossed. The plot takes you to a lot of places but the drift of the plot ensures that you are not distracted.

The Krishna Key is not a classic. It is a good one-time read. And that is my biggest bone of contention. You expect more from Ashwin Sanghi than good one-time reads!

Best part of the book: This is no Amar Chitra Katha but mythology never looked so fascinating!

Worst part of the book: ‘The Da Vinci Code’ is all over the plot and yet the plot is nowhere close to it!

Final Rating: 3/5    

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

Book Review: circle of three

Book: Circle of Three

Author: Rohit Gore

Publisher: Grapevine India

Year of Release: 2012

Price: 100

If you could predict the future by what had happened in the past, present would have no meaning left. The above statement, though easy to understand, is one of the most difficult ones to realize. And yet, life always finds a way to tell it to us – a way which is distinct for each one of us in its approach but common enough for all of us to understand the universality of the same. ‘Circle of Three’ is a story that depicts how three people, each coming from a different walk in life, with parallel pasts that are dominated by the loss of near and dear ones to death, ego or callousness, come together in the present to draw inspiration and hope from each other and in the process learn life’s aforementioned lesson.

Ria is a famous scriptwriter who has lost her husband and son to a tragic accident. Her melancholy is compounded by the fact that she comes to know, after her husband’s death, that her childhood sweetheart had been cheating on her for long. Having lost all that she had lived for and unable to vent her anger against her dead husband, she shuts herself from the rest of the world contemplating suicide.

Ranasaheb is a novelist who used to be famous once. However, his books are no longer in print and people barely recognize him now despite his efforts to remain in vogue through digital media. He lives on the money bequeathed to him. His children have left him for his parental royalty and the only woman he has ever loved had died long ago. A melancholic old age coupled with a resent that he has developed for life has turned him into a grumpy old man who whiles away his time drinking and looking for a story for his next novel.

Aryan is a thirteen year old boy who has adjusted himself to a set of parents who are either quarrelling or are busy or are too drunk to register his presence. In the process, he has grown beyond his age. He has already written thirty-thousand words for his novel, is trying to fight recession so that it does not hurt his parents and has a very-uncharacteristic-of-13-year-old dressing sense and hair-style. However, he is still not done with problems that 13-year old teenagers face in real life like bullies in school, facing his fears and finding a place that he belongs to.

And then they meet.

What follows is a story of hope, inspiration and survival! Over story-telling sessions in a coffee house, they come close to each other, reluctantly at first and with great alacrity later, to form a support system that each of them falls back on in his/her moments of despair. They learn to forgive others as well as themselves and to give life another chance.  In a year’s time, from one birthday to another, the story moves from cynical endings to new beginnings. It is a little clichéd that they all find what they were looking for in the end but then it would have been poetic injustice to deny them the same after making them live through the ordeal of transformation.

The book is brilliant in parts and a pretty decent read otherwise. The language is not racy but it is not incomprehensible either. The characters have been sketched brilliantly – few in number and very relevant to the plot. The story meanders in some parts but quickly gets back to the basic plot. The author has a penchant for narrating death scenes and describes way too many but his detailed narration is a delight otherwise.

This book is no ‘God of Small Things’ but then not everyone is looking for one! Grab a copy and let Rohit Gore tell you an exquisite story of metamorphosis. For a new writer, he has done an amazing job to deserve that chance!

 

Best part of the Book: The character of Aryan, the little boy who is a part of the ‘Circle of Three’. His dialogues and emotions, reflecting his childlike innocence, make for a delightful read.

Worst Part of the Book: There are too many narrations of unnatural deaths in the story, some of them unnecessary.

Final Rating: 3.5/5

 

I am thankful to Grapevine Publications for the free copy and the chance to review the book! 

Book Review: shades of life

Book: Shades Of Life

Author: Vasundhara Ramanujan & Mohammed Akmal, MD

Publisher: Westland

Year of Release: 2012

Surviving a potentially terminal sickness or seeing someone close fighting through one is a life changing experience. Not only do you start valuing your life more but also you tend to observe pretty interesting things about the otherwise mundane moments of life. Longer the ardor to live amidst declining chances and negatively favored history during the course of the sickness, more keen and fundamental the observation. Hence it is not surprising that when people who survive such sickness or see someone close survive such sickness pen their memoirs, they make for beautiful books.

‘Shades of Life’ is the story of a fifteen year old boy who is diagnosed with complete kidney failure and yet fights his way through the disease and the consequent difficulties posed in his life, as has been penned down by his mother and doctor. It is chronological and starts from the time when Aditya, the protagonist, first sees the symptoms of the sickness and continues till his lived-happily-ever-after ending. All in all, it covers a period of around 13 years, from 1996 to 2009. It may sound like a very insignificant duration of time but imagine living through a sickness that throws up a new challenge to handle every day; that keeps recurring every 6 months with new complications; that takes away the stability in life that we all seek leaving with us a tomorrow that is far more uncertain than what it usually is. And among all these is a teenager, supported by his family and friends, trying to steal a few more moments from his own life and in the process grow up. How ironic!

The book is an easy read and the narration flows quite smoothly. Except for the part when the story digresses a bit towards a simultaneous ailment that the mother of Aditya and the narrator of the story faced, the narration sticks to the plot (The ailment of the narrator is crucial to the plot but the timing of its appearance in the story breaks the flow). The narrator does get philosophical at times but she does not get preachy. The narration is more or less factual and follows a timeline. There are few major characters in the plot and all of them are well sketched.

‘Shades Of Life’ is my second book in this genre. The first being, the ever-fascinating classic ‘It’s Not About The Bike’ by Lance Armstrong. I could not help but wonder that the timing of my second book in this genre coincides with the time when the hero from the first is going through a professional crisis. A comparison between both these books is unwarranted but what amazed me is that there is a common pattern in both these survival stories. In both the cases, the patients had a unidirectional treatment approach. They took their time in deciding their doctors but once they did they followed his advice to the hilt.  Both Lance and Aditya did not get bogged down by the magnanimity of the situation. Instead they were in complete control. They avoided negative thoughts by keeping themselves busy in learning the nuances of the disease and drew inspiration from medical success stories that preceded them. Both had the privilege of an excellent support system and a very involved family. As this pattern started shaping up, I began to wonder, if there exists a universal formulae that unites all survival stories. Two stories are too few to draw such a generalization but somewhere deep inside me I believe it does!

Best part of the Book: Chapter ‘Sense and Sensibility’. The author’s point is beautifully conveyed in this chapter.

Worst Part of the Book: The story-telling could have been better. The narration is very factual.

Final Rating: 3.5/5

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

Book Review: the devotion of suspect x

  Book: The Devotion of Suspect X

  Author: Keigo Higashino

  Publisher: Little Brown

  Year of Release: 2011

Almost all murder mysteries open with the murder scene. Not many would tell you who the murderer is though, right in the beginning. ‘Where is the mystery then?’ you may ask. Well, that precisely is the beauty of ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’ by Keigo Higashino. As the story unravels, you find out more and more about a murder that appeared pretty banal when it happened. The author does not leave much to guess as to who the perpetrators of the crime are. However, the cat and mouse game that follows, as the detectives try and put the pieces of the puzzle together, makes for a very interesting read.

The story is basically a battle of wits between two college friends – a mathematician and a physicist – each trying to outsmart the other as detectives investigate a murder which prima facie appears as a simple case with the exception that the clues around the victim, many though they are, do not lead to anyone in particular. They explain the murder but reveal nothing about the murderer. As per the nature of their professions, the mathematician formulates the equation and sets the puzzle rolling. The physicist, on the other hand, observes the puzzle and uses his logic to draw an inference. Aptly put by what the mathematician tells the physicist during one of their conversations:

“It’s a famous one, the P=NP problem. Basically, it asks whether it’s more difficult to think of the solution to a problem yourself or to ascertain if someone else’s answer to the same problem is correct.”

I would leave it to the readers to find out who wins this battle of the wits and how.

The character of Ishigami, the mathematician, is very well sketched. His genius is well demonstrated and that makes him a formidable person when he draws up the plans. Yukawa, the physicist, on the other hand, is pretty loosely sketched. Except for the scenes when he tries to counter the mathematician’s arguments, he does not appear very impressive. The other characters just fill up the narration.

The book is written in easy English. I did take some time to get a hang of the Japanese names and the locations (Yes, the story is set in Japan) though. The story moves forward at a very comfortable speed except for the last three chapters which are pretty fast paced. The plot does not waver and remains focused. All the clues finally fall into place but quality deduction from the clues at hand, so essential for a good murder-mystery, is found lacking. The clues are logically connected but a stronger connection would have been better. Somehow, I fear, that this might leave the reader with a little empty feeling at the end of his reading.

Best Part of the Book: The plot does not digress a bit and it manages to maintain the intensity that every murder-mystery must.

Worst Part of the Book: Nothing in particular. Just do not compare it to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes!

Final Rating: 3.5/5

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Book Review : love, life and all that jazz…

Book: Love, life & all that jazz…

Author: Ahmed Faiyaz

Publisher: Grey Oak in association with Westland

Year of Release: 2011

But the truth is that critics are by definition critical. That’s their job.” – Frank Blank

Ahmed Faiyaz attempts to tell a very contemporary tale of four friends – Sameer, Tania, Tanveer and Vikram – since they graduate from college to the time they settle down into ‘happily ever-after’ lives. Personally, I do not believe that a term as ‘settle down’ really exists, or for that matter ‘happily ever-after’, but there are just too many books (and movies), that end in this fashion, to ignore it completely. The story traces their lives from 18 July 2003, when they are raw, fresh graduates experimenting with their careers and love lives, to 20 April 2009 when they are wizened, successful and married or almost married. The story is set in and around Mumbai.

Through its characters, the story seeks to bring forth the various issues that trouble a twenty-something in today’s time. Sameer and Tania are college sweethearts who fail to make their long distance relationship work when Sameer leaves for his MBA to UK. Post their breakup they try to find love in someone else, only to realize that they are incomplete without each other. Obviously their respective lovers had to be wife-beating, abusive scoundrels and I-Just-Met-This-Guy-And-Slept-With-Him bitches! Sameer’s character also introduces issues related to successful, young, working professionals in foreign countries – (had it been Punjab instead of Mumbai, Yash Chopra would have definitely considered it for his next ‘absolutely fresh’ movie) – but the importance given to the problems in his love life far outweigh any other issue that his character was supposed to bring forth.

Vikram is the spoilt brat of a rich and famous family in the first part, whose only objective was to fire cheeky lines and get more and more women to his bed, and the completely changed, suave and socially responsible corporate scion in the second part who shuns his father’s business to start off as a venture capitalist. And in that process he finds a model whom he ditches because she decides to shoot for a men’s magazine, a lot of other girls, and finally an air hostess whose description reminded me of the heroines of the late 90s – a hot babe who is also a very nice person inside (I know of a lot of hot babes and also a lot of nice people. It is the count of the intersection set that worries me.)

Tanveer is the typical stereotyped middle-class guy with a family that does not approve of his love for his landlady’s only daughter – who by the way is also beautiful and a very nice person inside. Like all middleclass guys – in our literature and in our movies – he sacrifices his love for his parents and family responsibilities till life teaches him to stand up for his self, courtesy a 9-5 job, an evil manager and the melancholy of his life post his breakup.

The book promises to deliver a lot. It raises many issues that bother the young generation of today but explores none. It just revolves around the love lives of four graduates who, as it may appear from the story, have nothing better to do than fall in and out of love and sleep with others in between. They live a rich sophisticated life, dine at expensive restaurants, get quality foreign education and, when they become serious enough, start their careers at top of the corporate ladder, thanks to their established businesses and angel investments. (Tanveer was not rich but gets the post of CEO, thanks to his friends, anyways). A book dealing with them hardly gets to explore the real issues that a twenty-something faces in today’s time.

The book is not refreshingly different from other literature in its genre but is a nice read. The story chugs at a comfortable speed for most part of the book. The characters have been portrayed well and their lives unfold slowly but surely making them into what they are at the end. The camaraderie between the friends and their reaction to the conflicts that they face are well depicted. The dialogues are a little lame but there is not much digression from the topic. The book is well divided into parts. The English is racy and it makes for an easy read. If you are looking for a light read on a lazy afternoon or a big fan of current-generation of Indian novels, here’s one that fits the bill perfectly.

Best Part of the book: The quotations at the start of every chapter. They made for an interesting read. (Hence, I put one for the review!)

Worst Part of the book: As you would have realized by now, the book is only about love. There is very little mention of life beyond it. And there is hardly any jazz.

Final Rating: 3/5

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

Book Review: i’m not twenty four… i’ve been nineteen for five years

Book: I’M NOT TWENTY FOUR…

Author: Sachin Garg

Publisher: Grapevine India Publishers Limited

Year of Release: 2011

I belong to the category of people who are still in doubt as to whether the recent spike in the number of Indian authors and their 100-rupee publications is a good thing or a not-so-good-thing for Indian literature in the quality of the content that it provides to its readers.  My reading of Sachin Garg’s ‘I’m Not Twenty Four… I’ve Been Ninteen For Five Years” did not do much to help make my mind on the earlier dilemma.

The book, in first person, narrates the story of a girl Saumya  Kapoor, who after her MBA is posted to a small town called Toranagallu in Karnataka, as a manager for a steel plant. The book revolves around how she is completely depressed with her posting, having been brought up in a well to do family in Delhi, how she adjusts to the change in her lifestyle as demanded by a small town, how she copes with the grotesque work that is assigned to her in the Safety Department of the steel plant and as all stories of these kind do, how she finally finds the love of her life. Add a little bit of references to shoes and fashion, a small dose of male bashing, ill-researched mentions of life in a small town, a couple of friends – one is a geek and the other a smart greek-god, a hippie who has travelled the entire world and is a benefactor of the poor in disguise, lot of testosterone filled roving male eyes and one night of passionate sex – and there you have it.

The book does have its pros – it starts off well, the characters are few and well organized, there is very little digression from the original plot and is written in racy English. It is also a very easy read (I completed the entire book in less than five hours). However, it definitely missed out on the content, the research that should have gone into it and quality storytelling. But what mars it most, and that is what I fear about most Indian novels these days, is the fact that there is nothing new or refreshing that it offers.

My Best Part of the book: The cover page. The red stilettos made for a very interesting cover.

My Most Annoying part of the book: The chapter titles. They seem to be there because they had to.

Final Rating: 2/5

Thank you Sachin Garg for the autographed book and BlogAdda for a chance to feature in top 50 blogs that get to review this book. This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!