Saturday, March 31, 2012

Behenji - A Political Biography of Mayawati

Author: Ajoy Bose
ISBN: 978-0670082018
Publishers: Penguin India
Binding: Hard cover
Pages: 264
Price: INR 499
Genre: Biography

UCV says: A book like this would never have found its way to my book shelf had my father-in-law not been clearing up his, and relieving it of some unworthy weight. Not that this book is unworthy, but it is definitely not a keepsake. It is no more than what it claims to be – a forthright political biography of Mayawati. Why I chose to read it? Because, doesn’t this juggernaut of a woman make one curious?

So Ajoy Bose, a seasoned journalist, ventures to write about the political life of this firebrand Dalit leader whose political overtures have generated frenetic media coverage over the past decade. Bose mentions in his introduction how the book took a long time coming, and how his friends and associates had scoffed at the idea of a book on Mayawati, who was looked down upon at the beginning of her career. But the book came to fruition around the time of Mayawati’s meteoric rise as a politician, and the author’s doubters shut up as did the politician’s detractors.

Bose begins his account with Mayawati’s humble beginnings in a Delhi slum – a shy, young girl from the lowly Chamar caste, whose greatest aspiration in life is to become an IAS officer. She believes, like all those belonging to the educated lower caste, that an IAS is the only way to social salvation. Though not brilliant, Mayawati chases the IAS dream with sheer hard work and determination. She is a young government school teacher with a law degree studying for her IAS exams on a winter night, when her life changes forever with the entry of her to-be mentor, Kanshi Ram.
After offering some background, Bose introduces us to the BAMCEF founder Kanshi Ram. He describes Ram as part ambitious leader and part visionary, who with his ability to forge alliances, moves rapidly up to power ladder. Ram sees in Mayawati an unlikely Dalit leader and thus begins that fiery relationship between mentor-protégé, which was the subject of much speculation.

The author documents the birth of the BSP, its political travails through the 90s, its many contradictory coalitions with political parties in a bid for power, and its coming of age as a major player in national politics. He records the BSP’s, especially Mayawati’s tussle with the Kalyan Singhs and Mulayam Singhs of UP’s Jungle Raj, the politician’s sometimes cunning and often brazen political ways, her astounding canvassing skills, and her single minded persuasion of the throne of UP. He mentions many an episode that showcase Mayawati’s exemplary courage as a Dalit and more so a woman in the oft-cruel male dominion of politics. While Bose tries hard to maintain his objective, journalistic stance, it is clear to see that he admires the woman. But that couldn’t get clearer than from the fact that he chose to write her biography. And that too at a time, when she wasn’t heralded as the country’s next possible prime minister.   

Despite her obscene display of wealth and power, it is hard not to admire Mayawati’s guts of steel. It is hard not to notice that even after Kanshi Ram passed away, she has borne the Dalit cause with vigour. It is harder still to not applaud her inverting of the caste pyramid by offering ‘protection’ to the Brahmins. Love her or hate her, the story of the making of Behenji is truly a remarkable one.

Rating: 3/5 

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Black Prism - Brent Weeks


Book 1 of 'Lightbringer'

ISBN - 978-0-316-06813-0
PAGES - 787
BINDING - Paperback
GENRE - Fantasy

AUTHOR - Brent Weeks

BEST-SELLERS - The Night Angel Trilogy

SYNOPSIS - Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is the high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. Yet Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live.

But when Guile discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he's willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart.

EXCERPT - It wasn't until two days later, as Kip and Liv came within sight of King Garadul's army , plopped over the plain and fouling the river like an enormous cow pie, that he realized how deeply, incredibly, brilliantly stupid his plan was.

I'm going to march in there and rescue Karris?

More like waddle in there.

At the top of a small hill, they sat on the horse, which seemed grateful for the break, then scanned the mass of humanity before them. It was immense. Kip had never tried to estimate a crowd, and never seen on this large.

"What do you think, sixty or seventy thousand?" he asked Liv.

"More than a hundred, I'd guess."

"How are we going to find Karris in that?" he asked. What did I expect? A sign, perhaps? "Captured drafter here"?

FL Speaks -
People have been recommending Brent Weeks for ages and finally I decided to pick him up. Although this was not the book they were recommending, I'm pleased that I brought this.

Gavin Guile is the Prism. {Yes, I did a double-take too, but apparently Prisms are rulers. I know you thought about the prisms you studied in physics. Oh wait for the shocker}

The people of the Seven Satrapies are ruled by the Prism. The people of the land have the ability to see and split colors. Some people can split only one particular color and use it for their work. Others called polychromats can split two or more colors. Still confused? Let me explain. A man sees the sunlight reflected off various surfaces. If he can see one color more than the other, he can split that color with his eyes and use it for various purposes. He can create an object just by splitting the light. And, a Prism can split all the seven colors.

Kip lives in the town of Rekton. His life is turned upside down when King Garadul's army ravages his town and only Kip survives. Gavin and Karris are off on their mission when they see Kip surrounded by the enemy. Gavin rescues the boy and later realizes that he's his bastard.

Prism's have a low life span. In multitudes of 7 years, in correspondence to the seven colors. Gavin's brother, Dazen also proclaimed himself as the Prism and that led to war. In the end, Gavin defeated his evil brother but couldn't bring himself to kill him and imprisoned him in a cell nobody knew about. I was cheering for Gavin and then came the shocker. Gavin guile is not Gavin. Dazen is impersonating as Gavin all these years while the original Gavin is still imprisoned.

Contrary to everyone's belief, the original Gavin is not so noble as everyone expected. And Dazen, after his rebellious war against his brother, is actually turning out to be a better man. Things gets complicated when his once allies, rises against the Prism and war is ensured. Kip and Liv are trapped behind enemy lines trying to rescue Karris, the love interest of both Gavin and Dazen and things turn from bad to worse when the fanatics send an assassin to kill Gavin.

The magic system created is fantastic. You'll immediately understand the way light and color works and yet marvel at the possibilities Brent Weeks created. This is shaping out to be one great fantasy series and I admit I simply cannot wait for the next book which will be released later this year. The characters are instantly loveable. Kip is brilliant with his one-liners while Gavin is the charming, carefree, immensely powerful ruler for whom boundaries and limits do not exist.

A good book. Infact, a great book. The ability to create luxins which can shape and make items by splitting of colors was the clincher for me. And to top it all, Brent Weeks has provided with the advantages and disadvantages of all the colors. Colors like red are extremely volatile and hence can we used to make ammunitions. Superviolet is invisible and can be used to transmit messages. Yellow is sturdy and used to build. Hats off to Brent Weeks for taking a simple concept and turning it to an excellent piece of magic system.

My Rating - 4.5 stars

PRICE - INR 415/- [Flipkart Price]

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Anansi Boys

First Published: 2005
Pages: 451
Bestsellers : Stardust, American gods

The god Anansi is dead. Now its upto 'Fat Charlie' his only son, to fill the gap of 22 years of no contact and mourn. But 'Fat Charli' is not alone in the mourning. He has a brother, who enters his life to turn it upside down.

Nightflier Speaks:
Anothe Neil Gaiman book. Another 'bizarre meets a normal guy's life' plot. How uncanny the book could be right ? With these thoughts in my head, I picked up the book.
To my surprise and delight, despite a cliched, contrived plot, Neil Gaiman gives you a riot and a fun fest. The book is so quirky and fast paced, that it never bores you. It keeps on surprising you with its genius subplots.
So before I overdo it with my praises, let me explain the plot to you.

'Fat Charlie Nancy' has grown apart from his father Anansi (Nancy from Anansi!) because of his embarrassing ways (who was a god in his life). Upon hearing of his death, Fat Charlie's fiancee (an eternal do-gooder) forces him to make his peace. On his trip to Florida, for the last rites ceremony, he learns that his dad was a god and he has a brother, called Spider. Of course like a normal human being Fat Charlie does not believe in such absurd revelations. Through some turn of events, Spider comes to meet Fat Charlie. Not only does he bring along chaos, he totally disrupts the order of life for poor Charlie. Charlie then sets out to straighten his life. As expected he does something so wrong that now everyone must face the consequences. The 2 brothers despite the differences set out to make it all right and pay an homage to their father.

This book, strengthened my belief in the story-telling being more important than the story itself. Mr. Gaiman brings us Anansi, the spider god, who is full of mirth, mischief, but never any bad intentions. The book creates that vibe. You do not feel morose even in some particularly bad situations the characters are in. In fact you look forward to everything coming along brightly. I think that is a story telling #win. Not just that I loved how a really quirky carribbean folk god has been brought to life and also how the story follows the monomyth.

Also, literature wise, I love how words just flow for Neil Gaiman. Not sure if this is great literature or not, but the book is so inventive, it does not disappoint.

It doesn't fail in any department - characters and character development, plots, subplots, tying the loose ends, and most importantly FUN.
I am feeling unusually cheerful and full of life (despite being overloaded at work). That is what Anansi (or any god?) does to your mood, I think ?

All in all a total mad-gab-riot-fun book! 

- #NeilGaimanFangirl


It begins, as most things begin, with a song.
In the beginning, after all, were the words, and they came with a tune. That was how the world was made, how the void was divided, how the lands and the stars and the dreams and the little gods and the animals, how all of them came into the world.
They were sung.
The great beasts were sung into existence, after the Singer had done with the planets and the hills and the trees and the oceans and the lesser beasts. The cliffs that bound existence were sung, and the hunting grounds, and the dark.
Songs remain. They last. The right song can turn an emperor into a laughing stock, can bring down dynasties. A song can last long after the events and the people in it are dust and dreams and gone. That's the power of songs.
There are other things you can do with songs. They do not only make worlds or recreate existence. Fat Charlie Nancy's father, for example, was simply using them to have what he hoped and expected would be a marvelous night out.

Rating: 5/5
Price: 285 [flipkart]

Rise of a Merchant Prince - Raymond E. Feist


Book 2 of the 'Serpentwar Saga'

ISBN - 978-0-380-72087-3
PAGES - 436
BINDING - Paperback
GENRE - Fantasy

AUTHOR - Raymond E. Feist

BEST-SELLERS - Magician, Shadow of a Dark Queen

SYNOPSIS - Surviving the wrath of the fearsome Sauur -  a hideous race of invading serpents - noble Erik and cunning Roo have delivered a timely warning to the rulers of the Midkemian Empire, and are now free to pursue their separate destinies. Erik chooses the army - and the continuing war against Midkemia's dread enemies. Roo lusts for wealth and power - rising high and fast in the world of trade. But with luxury comes carelessness and a vulnerability to the desires of the flesh. And a beautiful seductress with her ruthless machinations threatens to destroy everything Roo has built and become - summoning catastrophe into his future..and terror into his world.

EXCERPT - Roo groaned. Duncan laughed as he snapped the reins, urging the horses out of the city gates. Duncan , Luis, Erik, and Roo's other friends had feted their friend on the announcement of his coming fatherhood and now Roo was paying the price. He had been helped home by Duncan and had fallen into bed nearly comatose next to Karli. Without comment she had roused him the next day when, against expectations, Duncan had arrived on time.

FL Speaks - [contains spoilers]

Erik and Roo are back from the war and are free men. Erik decides to stay with Calis and rises to the rank of Sergeant in the army while Roo decides to be a trader. This book is more about Roo than Erik. Roo, thanks to his wits and close fighting skills rises to be one of the wealthiest traders of Krondor while doing the ocassional odd jobs for the Duke who's raising an army to stop the threat of the Panthanians.

This book is more of a bridge between book 1 and book 3. I don't know why the author decided to make it a separate book nevertheless its a fine continuation of the adventures of Erik and Roo. Roo goes back to Krondor and marries the daughter of a local trader to establish himself as trader. But when his father-in-law is murdered by his local enemies. Enraged, Roo takes the fight to the enemy.

But married life is never bliss unless one is in love with the other. When a beautiful seductress makes her entry into his life, Roo forgets everything that is noble and falls for the temptation of the flesh. Little did he know he was manipulated for machinations far beyond the future. As his business blooms, he is unaware of the spies among his company as they wait to strike him down.

Meanwhile Erik makes a second trip to the enemy's camp. Together with Calis, they discover a terrifying truth, that there is a third player, who is much more powerful. In the fighting that ensures, Bobby is killed and Calis injured. With half of his troop dead, Erik struggles to keep his Captain alive when Roo comes along to save his childhood friend.

My Rating - 3 stars

PRICE - INR 324/- [Flipkart Price]

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Japanese Lover: By Rani Manicka

Image Source:


AUTHOR: Rani Manicka

BEST SELLER(S): The Rice Mother, which Won the South East Asia and South Pacific Region 2003 Commonwealth Writers' Prize, Touching Earth (2004)

SYNOPSIS:                                                  AN ARRANGED MARRIAGE
"The child is destined to marry a man of truly immense wealth. But the marriage will be a disaster."
The Priest's prediction proves true: betrayed by her father and sent away from her tiny village in Ceylon, the naive young girl becomes mistress of a luxurious Malayan estate, but it is a life without passion and Parvathi yearns to love - and be loved - with complete abandon.

"If you wish to spare your daughter, you may take her place." 
When the Japanese invade Malaya, they requisition the estate and Parvathi is forced to make a split second decision to take the man who should have been her sworn enemy to be her lover. For the first time, she experiences sexual ecstasy. And gradually, her enemy becomes the lover, she has always yearned for...

EXCERPT:                                                             "He sat up. 
'In front of this empty gourd of sake, these chopsticks, and these leftover bits of food, will you marry me?'
His face was full of black shadows. She could not see the expression in his eyes. For the Japanese army it was not sex that was taboo, but love. It was the unspoken rule. They were not to take wives. They were not to leave progeny.  
'Won't it destroy your career?' 
'A woman's beauty must be judged by the men she destroys.'
She closed her eyes. But the tears squeezed through anyway.
'Yes, I will.' It was only a whisper."

MSM Speaks: The cover had believed me into thinking falsely that this was another tale of a Geisha, but I was wrong. Japan, during the World War II, in this novel, forms a very small but significant part and hence the term Japanese Lover comes in, much much later in the book. Rani Manicka narrates the story of Parvathi, a girl from a tiny village, Vathiry in Ceylon, whose future was predicted by a priest, following which she had spend the seventeen years of her life, locked up behind the high mud fences. Her childhood is set in the era of 1916. She is married off to a wealthy widower Kasu Marimuthu, one of the strongest and quietest characters in the book, by her father - who lies to him, by showing him the picture of a beautiful, fair and tall woman. Parvathi is dark, beautiful at heart and definitely petite. Yes, she gets to be the mistress of a huge mansion, but love? She doesn't. Her prayers to the Snake God haven't been answered. 

The Reader grows with Parvathi, as her thoughts and silence paint colorful picture and innocent view of a world very different from what she had grown up in. She learns to eat like the whites. She forms inseparable bonds with the servants of the mansion - Maya - Gifted and a wise, medicine woman  and Kupu - Forest is his life, his food and his death. Parvathi realizes attraction for the first time with Kupu who has a resolve of steel and later in the book, shows his love by making a Goddess who resembles Parvathi. Kasu Marimuthu eventually comes to accommodate the dark skinned girl and calls her Sita - for his first wife was Parvathi too - beautiful, sultry and stylish. Nothing like this peasant girl. At the age of 27, Parvathi is donned in the white saree as the Japanese invade Malaya and enter her mansion to requisition her estate. The General of the Army gives her a choice - to let his men have her daughter Rubini or - with a slight movement of his lips, he whispers - herself to him. The choice is instantly made, for Parvathi has never seen a need so raw, a deprivation and desire so obvious, that she agrees to the sin. The thrill of being loved by a foreigner and eventually falling in love with him, takes the Reader to a romantic story during the war. Eventually, the General has to leave, to never return - but he leaves only after marrying her symbolically and leaving with her a cherry blossom print umbrella. The story after this really loses the track and derails to crash on the Reader at the end. 

Rani Manicka could have ended the story beautifully, but she romanticizes the war, making Parvathi look like a nymphomaniac. Few characters of the story, like Parvathi's children are not given much emphasis except in few pages towards the end, where they are suddenly grown ups. The novel is very descriptive initially, not in a bad way, but becomes very choppy towards the end, which made me cringe as it was not a nice way to conclude. However, it is pleasantly written and is also fast paced. The simplicity of the character and her curiosity reaches out and therefore, the Readers can relate to her as well. A coffee table read. MSM recommends if you like to experiment. Ms. Manicka is a promising writer. 

My Rating: 3/5.
The Japanese Lover @ Houder and Stoughton (2010), An Hachette UK Company.
ISBN-13: 9781444700336, 978-1444700336
flipkart price: 295/- INR
Pages: 326 (Including Glossary)

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora

Book 1 of "Gentlemen Bastards"

ISBN - 978-0-553-58894-1
PAGES - 722
BINDING - Paperback
GENRE - Fantasy

AUTHOR - Scott Lynch


SYNOPSIS - An orphan's life is harsh - and often short - in the mysterious island city of Camorr. But young Locke Lamora dodges death and slavery, becoming a thief under the tutelage of a gifted con artist. As leader of the band of light-fingered brothers known as the Gentlemen Bastards, Locke is soon infamous, fooling even the underworld's most feared ruler. But in the shadows lurks someone still more ambitious and deadly.

Faced with a bloody coup that threatens to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in the mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the enemy at his own brutal game - or die trying ...

EXCERPT - The Red Hands led Locke up the long gangway to the Floating Grave just as the scarlet sun broke above the dark buildings of the Ashfall. The whole Wooden Waste turned to blood in that light, and when Locke blinked to clear the brightness from his eyes, even the darkness flashed with red.

Locke struggled to keep his head clear; the combination of nervous excitement and fatigue always made him feel as though he was sliding along an inch or two above the ground, his feet not quite reaching all the way down. There were sentries on the Quay, sentries at the door, sentries in the foyer - more than there had been before. They were all grim-faced ans silent as the Red Hands led Locke deeper into the Capa's floating fortress.

FL Speak - Meet master thief Locke Lamora. An orphan, brought up on the streets of Camorr, he's the infamous Thorn of Camorr. Together with his team, The Gentlemen Bastards, Locke and his crew dare to oppose the pact. The pact that the rich nobles made with the Underworld's Don, that they will never be harassed. Locke and his crew does exactly that. They steal from the rich and no, do not spend it on the poor.

Half Robin Hood, half Ocean's Eleven....this is a first class work of originality and fantasy. But the life of a thief is risky and short. Specially when a very powerful mage has his eyes on the young Locke. And no matter how much you steal and where you hide, you're never really safe.

But everything becomes personal when the attack is on his crew mates and Locke and his friends are thrust into a political war of betrayal and secrecy. Locke's life as the Thorn of Camorr while maintaining the facade with the Underworld ruler of Camorr goes for a toss, when the Grey King, an assassin, forces Locke into a private grudge between the two.

Locke will need to be his best and match wits with the Gray King to come out alive and maybe, save the city as well.

Brilliant writing. Fast paced, hilarious and thoroughly entertaining, Scott Lynch releases a scorcher of a debut. Nowhere did I feel the urge to skip through pages. The antics of Locke as a child are brilliant and I laughed at his mess and marveled at his ingenuity.

Locke grows up to be the leader of the gang and his wits and loyalty keeps the band together. Together the worship the god of thievery (which amused me immensely). Locke Lamora is described by his previous master as the guy who steals too much. Now that made me laugh out loud. He's brilliant. Locke Lamora is absolutely epic!

If you want to read a fantasy that is not an epic fantasy, this is the book for you. If you want anything else, then THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU.

My Rating - 4.5 stars

PRICE - INR 340/- [Flipkart Price]

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho


AUTHOR- Paulo Coelho

ISBN – 978-0-00725744-7

GENRE- Fiction / Philosophy

SYNOPSIS- How do we find the courage to be true to ourselves- even if we are unsure of who we are?
      That is the central question posed by Paulo Coelho’s riveting work, The Witch of Portobello. It is the story of Athena, a mysterious young woman born in Romania, raised in Beirut and living in London. Her life is told by the many who knew her well- or hardly at all.

EXCERPT- ‘No one places her dreams in the hands of those who might destroy them. No one, that is, but Athena.’ – Heron Ryan, Journalist

Whoever drinks this water once can never quench her thirst at other springs.’ –Deidre O’Neill, known as Edda

In my world, and in the world of those I lived with, this (note: Vampires) was absurd, nonsensical, unacceptable.’ – Heron Ryan, Journalist  

Because God the Father is associated with the rigour and discipline of worship, whereas the Mother Goddess shows the importance of love above and beyond all the usual prohibitions and taboos.’ – Antoine Locadour, historian, ICP, France

My child, I’ve been excluded too. It’s a very long time since they’ve allowed me in there (note: The Church).’- Father Giancarlo Fontana imagining what Jesus might have said to Athena

KOUSTABH 'QUETZALCOATL' says- I start with a very controversial doubt I have in my mind for a long time. Why isn’t Paulo Coelho getting nominated for Nobel Prize for literature??

       Well leaving all that thoughts to the genius’ sitting in the Nobel selection committee, I would come back to the book. To be very frank this book isn’t the best work by Paulo Coelho. When you have read the Alchemist, Eleven Minutes or even Veronika Decides to die (an excellent review given on that by Pulkit), this story seems to pale in comparison. The reason, if you ask me, would be that the story line is too random (it getting sllllloooow somewhere and fast in other pages) and without much evolution. For those of you, who think that this is a book about magic and witch hunting, well its not!!

       It’s a story about an orphan girl Sherine Khalil who renames herself Athena (the Greek goddess of wisdom). One would ask WHY?? But answers are not provided in the mundane realm, you have to go beyond your everyday humdrum to understand this and the whole book, a process which Mr. Coelho masters in and makes him one of my favorite authors (though here it is dragged a bit more than what’s comfortable).

       The book starts after the death of Athena, and the author is trying to form an image of her out of recollections (reminds me of Márquez’s ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’, superbly reviewed by Arpita). But what raise it to a new pedestal are the innumerable characters pitching in their opinions, even those who barely knew her and even those who hated her. Her unending search for something (which one can interpret as desires, redemption, truth, and questions like who am I or anything else for that matter) is what fuels the storyline and makes her a memorable character. From wild dance and calligraphy to achieve peace, to her search for her true mother, to learning the religion of the Goddess and then teaching others to become one of the most controversial spiritual leader in London.

       A book for all those avid fans of Paulo Coelho, and also for those who wants to open their vista to anew horizon, this novel will pinch out a little bit of your time but in return, I can assure you, will provide many eye openers in this new era of questions and answers. As the editor wrote, “Like The Alchemist, this is a kind of story that will transform the way readers think about love, passion, joy and sacrifice.”

       Though it cannot be strictly compared to books like ‘The Alchemist’, yet it definitely deserves a chance to be read, if only for the sake of something diverse from regular fiction.

       I hope you all Keep reading and commenting!!  

My Rating – 3.3/ 5 stars

PRICE – INR 239 (Filpkart Price)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che Guevara

Motorcycle diaries



Number of Pages: 165
Genre: Travelogue, non-fiction

Synopsis: 2 boys on a warm sunny afternoon, sipping on mate, spontaneously decide to travel to North America. They decide on a route which takes them through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Columbia. This is a story of travel adventures and awakening which travel brings to you.

Nightflier Speaks: 
I have always seen Ernesto 'Che' Guevara on t-sirts and caps in my brother's closet. 'He was a revolutionary' that was how my brother introduced me to him. We were teenagers then. After that it was around last week that I came across this book, and since it evoked some nostalgia, I instantly picked it up.

The fun thing about any book with travel tales is, it is full of adventures. Yes even the mundane, asking a stranger to let a broke you (che) and your friend (Alberto Grenado) spend a night at his place, is more than adventure. The sheer excitement of the unknown keeps you seek new places and people. And I think that's the most wonderful thing about travelling. It satisfies the wanderlust. The book is awesome on that front. If you have seen the map of South America, then the audacity of the travel plan will hit you first. Then imagining that the two boys did all that in the 1950s on a La Poderosa (the bike - the mighty one literally) makes you feel awed even more! They keep on going through rough terrains, bad weather, wind, rain, snow, but the aim of the doctors to visit the leper colony in San Pablo, where they are profoundly affected by the conditions of the disease and the treatment meted out to the sufferers. The book also gives one a scoop of the fascinating Inca civilization through the eyes of these outsiders.

It is said that Che was deeply affected by the poverty, suffering, he encountered during his travails. And that was a huge part of the person, the revolutionary, he became later on. Personally, I think travel does change one as a person. Everyone undergoes their own metamorphosis, be it in the form of new experiences, stretching horizons, or the universality of the human condition.

The book is a delight for all the wanderers. It made me want to pack my bags and sail away to lands unexplored.

Rating: 5/5
Price: Rs. 224 (flipkart)


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Big Sleep


Raymond Chandler’s the Big Sleep is the definitive hardboiled detective story and Philip Marlowe the perfect the perfect expression of the cynical, world-weary gumshoe. Hired by the crippled General Sternwood to shake off a blackmailer, Marlowe has to deal with the general’s two rebellious daughters, the gamblers, and pornographers they run with and, soon enough, some inconvenient murders. Chandlers’ LA and the gutter-life that populate it made crime fiction what it is today and remain unmatched.

Philip Marlowe:

‘I’m a licensed private investigator and have been for quite a while. I’m a lone wolf, unmarried, getting middle-aged, and not rich. I’ve been in jail more than once and I don’t do divorce business. I like liquor and women and chess and a few other things. The cops don’t like me too well, but I know a couple I get along with. I’m a native son, born in Santa Rosa, both parents dead, no brothers or sisters, and when I get knocked off in a dark alley sometime, if it happens, as it could to anyone in my business, nobody will feel that the bottom has dropped out of his or her life.’

Quotes I liked from the book:

“I looked down at the chessboard. The move with the knight was wrong. I put it back where I had moved it from. Knights had no meaning in this game. It wasn't a game for knights.”

“Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.” 

“It seemed like a nice neighborhood to have bad habits in.” 

“I was neat, clean, shaved and sober and I didn't care who knew it.” 

“As honest as you can expect a man to be in a world where it’s going out of style.”

Hemish’s speak:

The Big Sleep is the first hard boiled, pulp, private detective, crime fiction novel I read, and boy, am I glad to have come across this genre. Now it is my go to genre whenever I am in a mood for some kick ass entertainment and badassery :p The British might have invented the detective genre but it was American writers like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, who have made the genre realistic, gritty, stylish, and noir.  The Big Sleep is said to be the finest novel in this genre and the protagonist Philip Marlowe, the quintessential tough Private Dick.

Marlowe is the ultimate badass there is. He is cynical, mean, sarcastic and fearless –hard boiled. He loves his bottle and lives a solitary life. But he has his code which he is abides by: For twenty-five bucks a day and expenses mostly in gasoline and whiskey, he willing to put his life at risk for his client, rub shoulders with gangsters, gamblers, grafters, bootleggers and pimps, dodge bullets, get his guts and face kicked. And yeah, the beautiful, dangerous, seductive dames have nothing on him.  Love the way he handles Mrs. Vivian Regan when she tries getting friendly with him:

‘You’re are as cold-blooded a beast as I ever met, Marlowe. Or can I call you Phil?’
‘You can call me Vivian.’
‘Thanks Mrs Regan.’
‘oh, go to hell, Marlowe.’ She went out and didn’t look back.

and, when she tries to seduce him

“Kissing is nice, but your father didn’t hire me to sleep with you…… The first time we met I told you I was a detective. Get it through your lovely head. I work at it, lady. I don’t play at it.”

 The Big Sleep moves at a furious pace with surprising twists and turns. The hits keep on coming and ending is unpredictable. It is super fun watching Marlowe unraveling the case, with the odds stacked against him. Raymond Chandler’s writing is beautiful, stylish and minimalistic. It is deceptively simple, yet it packs a wallop.  Entire generations of writers have tried to emulate his style but few have come close.

The Book is also filled with sarcasm, witty one-liners, and entertaining conversations. Here is my favorite:

“Her hot black eyes looked mad. ‘I don’t see what there is to be cagey about,’ she snapped. ‘And I don’t like your manners’
I’m not crazy about yours,’ I said, ‘I didn’t ask to see you. You sent for me. I don’t mind your ritzing me or drinking your lunch out of a Scotch bottle. I don’t mind your showing me your legs. They’re very swell legs and it’s a pleasure to make their acquaintance. I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners. They’re pretty bad. I grieve over them during long winter evenings.”

Bottom line: 

If you like crime fiction, you would love this book. If you don’t like crime fiction you will still like it. It is that good.

Highly recommended!

(Rs. 169/- @ flipkart)

Book:The Big Sleep
Author:Raymond Chandler





Publishing Date:2008
Publisher:Penguin Popular Classics
Number of Pages:272

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Some of the whole by Abhijit Bhattacharya

Just like the cover ,the 10 stories in this book together make the face of our society. Part beautiful ,part shocking , part known , part surprising , part raw , part crazy , part sensible , part insane.. This book explores human emotions across a varied spectrum.

The prologue sets the mood of the book as it outlines the characters before ypu meet them in their natural setting. In the Mumbai airport lounge , everyone looks same - engrossed in his/her story and reflecting on their reasons to be here.But later as you meet each one of them, you marvel at the way Abhijit weaved their tale.

A son discovers a shocking truth about the tenant his father keeps in his absence ; A lady seeks help from an acquaintance to get rid of a stranger following her ; A person gets his beliefs about love challenged and re-inforced within the same night , A guy feels guilty for cheating on his wife  and the price he pays , A lady intent on a one night stand , A guy shattered after his wife's death , A man taking risks to revive his business , A long distance relationship ends some where ; A miraculous escape from death for another , and lastly a death justified !

I found myself marvel and even relate at times to the people in these situations , express pain and joy for some and a heartfelt sigh to others as if such people exist. I think they do.

The stories are named after popular songs and each begins with the scene before the end described first,moving into a flash back mode all time.

The writing is interesting ,simple and totally engaging in each story.

Rating : 5/5

Those Small Lil Things... In Life and Love - Rahul Saini

AUTHOR - Rahul Saini is an Indian author of contemporary fiction. His books have strong comic tones and present up-beat stories that portray the fun loving, free spirited and outgoing character of today’s Indian youth. His first book ‘Those Small Lil’ Things in Life and Love’, which was essentially a boy’s tale about growing up and his relationship with girls through the years, was published in 2008 and made it to several bestsellers’ list across the nation. He believes that today's youth likes fast paced stories which are either larger than life or which they can relate to. He avoids using themes like sex and sleaze to please the masses.

His novels have numerous references to many movies and T.V. Shows

SYNOPSIS Have you ever known a guy who would gift her girlfriend soap? Well, say hello to Raj, a young architect, who is a huge film buff and believes that life, is full of ‘filmy angles’. He hates his job and has an almost evil boss. He has a shoddy love life, is heart broken and feels that he is the loneliest person on the face of this earth.

It’s a story connecting all those small little incidents in one’s life that one never forgets.

It’s a journey through growing up. A journey from love, to out of it. Through joy, sadness and anger. About childhood friendship blooming into love. About the one you love not loving you back. About friends making each other happy, and about friends making each other sad – about friends fighting. It’s about being completely sure about things, and at the same time, being utterly unsure about them. It’s about school, college and professional life. It’s a lot about the heart, and its desires.

It’s a story about finding it tough to adjust at times, and then missing it later when they are over.

Pulkit Speaks – A simple story about simple joys of life, which in end are most important of them all

I went to receive my father from railway station as he was coming back to Kanpur, returning from a conference. His train was late and I decided to pass my time giving cursory looks to books. Those were the days, when this entire college-time-romance or u can call them coffee-table-timepass books were emerging on the scene after Chetan has already shown the commercial potential of that segment. This book has the kind of cover, that is bound to catch your eye and among all shirsti titles present with the carter, I picked up this one solely for this reason(judge me if u like)

Its a light hearted story overall...which deals with common experiences threaded together with a emotion called "Love", As the title suggests to be so. Now before I go further into the review, I would like to say that If you're a grammar Nazi or one of those people who can't bear it when punctuation goes wrong, you probably want to stay away from it. To be honest, it's not really a… novel. It's more like an extended version of a Chicken Soup story. basically tells a simple, happy and playful story of the thoughts of the protagonist wherein while on some moments you'd nod your intellect to agree with his thoughts while sometimes yearn to dive into the pages and literally slap him when it becomes repetitive and slow in some phases. However to an extent I can say that I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who wants to read some fun prose, light hearted simplistic narration (Life in itself is very serious sometimes, and even nonsensical as it may sound to literary greats, these books too can serve as a stressbuster to some)

This book is divided into three parts. It is mostly a parallel story between protagonists present and his subconscious recalling of sweet reminiscences from past.

Part one deals with the childhood of the lead character, his initial challenges of school as it began and first interaction and crushes into the co-ed life.

Second part is the journey towards the end of the school life. This was my favorite portion of the book! Certain incidences that takes place between Neelhans and Raj, as well as between Rushi and Raj are memorable and genuinely cute. I had a very fun school life, with numerous instances written in the book that took me back in the memory lane and left me missing those times. Last flashback part is the story of Raj in the corridors of his college life. The author has a sincere effort to take his readers back into their memories of the good times of childhood and adolescence gone by while using protagonist’s story as a directive push. Alongside the flashback phases of Raj, the book states protagonist’s current life at work and home, and tries to scribble office humor and frustrations of dealing with a rough boss.

Excellent read for a teen who has recently started reading books. I again mention Seasoned readers many find it amateur and kiddish. The relationships described are very simple and life does seem quite simple from the book's point of view and that to me appeared to be the beauty of it.

It is a simple tale and depending on which category of reader class u belongs to, it might give you something to muse about for the evening. This book is very much recommended for teens who have hopelessly not been able to profess their love to the ones they love.

Rating – 3/ 5

You can give it a try and have a good time reading it. Judge it on the basis of what it tries to promise and not as a work of some serious literature and you are sure to have a smile sometimes while reading it. I appreciate the debut effort of Rahul in trying to be sincere with the kind of stuff he was trying to tell in this book and to the target reader class which is losing innocence very quickly these days.

PS – There is a new cover to this book now. All in white background, it has a very sweet positive personal feel about it. It contains small-small pictures, all arranged in a collage – connecting life of the author, cute indeed.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Name- Twisted tales , HORROR STORIES
Author- Michael Cox
Genre- Novel/Fiction
Riya’s Speak-
Vampires! Zombies! Dracula! Werewolves! Mad Scientists! And Human Beasts!
Well, you want to see them everywhere! If you are a Fear Fan! Those Scary evil faces …to something crawling under your bed…… they Just don’t seem to STOP!
To all the Readers, Welcome to the GHOST WORLD! And believe me, if you are one, then This is Horror at its Best!
This Book has World’s all Famous and some Infamous horror stories retold, yes with a Difference. And they are Back with a Bang! When Zombies Walked …. And Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – well, tops the List! With all sorts of fun doo and terrifying things- this book is a Must Have for all Horror Fans.
Yes, the stories are perfectly written with- a well to attract-: comic-style , dialogue among the scary characters , some terrifying sounds and even some Mind- Boggling Exercises!
Twisted Tales, is a perfect Blend of terror and Imaginative Horror. I’d say- If you are scary- pary kid – better read some cuddly romance stories the next time. OK! And if you dare……. Get ready to get on some real Horrible Stuff!
Excerpt- YEAH! REAL GOOOOOD BABY! The care, that go with constantly having to be decent and respectable …were suddenly Gone! To be honest…. I felt sort of well, er…. Wicked! YEAH…….WELL WICKED- to look into the mirror, I did not recognize myself! I was no longer…ME? BABY! I WAS OUTTA SIGHT! HA HA! …….. Next to me, the stinkiest ever would have smelt like roses! Yes! I had become ANOTHER Person! An utterly ugly and repulsive creature. But did I care? Of course I didn’t ! become now, I could be BAAAD! OH YEAH! SOOOO BAAAAAD! OOH! OOOH! OOOH! Was I excited…? YEH! YEH! HEH HEH HEH…. Excuse me , another drink, I think. SLURP SLURP.
Synopsis- Ten of the most THRILLING horror stories are retold…with a twist! With stories like- Dracula, the hound of Baskervilles, Frankenstein…..and yes, my personal favourite- Single Man with his 2 sides – the OH SO GOOD! nd even to his…OH! THE BAAAD! SOOO BAAAD! HA HA! With many such horrible and different horror stories…retold with many effects and even DIALOGUES! HAHA! Gives you all the reasons – the GOOD as well as…. the BAAD to grab one! Ha Ha Ha!

The Rage of Angels - Sidney Sheldon

AUTHOR - Sidney Sheldon (February 11, 1917 – January 30, 2007) was an Academy Award-winning American writer. His TV works spanned a 20-year period during which he created The Patty Duke Show (1963–66), I Dream of Jeannie (1965–70) and Hart to Hart (1979–84), but he became most famous after he turned 50 and began writing best-selling novels such as Master of the Game (1982), The Other Side of Midnight (1973) and Rage of Angels (1980). He is the sixth best selling writer of all time.

SYNOPSIS At the heart of Rage of Angels stands the woman who is Sheldon’s one of most unforgettable creation…

Jennifer Parker is brilliant, beautiful and indomitable – the most glamorous lawyer in and one of the most successful.

Her life is shadowed by two men. Both of them powerful and both drawn irresistibly to her.

A worldwide bestseller first published in 1980, this novel tells the story of a successful lawyer who is loved by two men, one a politician, the other, a mafia don.

Pulkit Speaks – Enough twists and turns to keep you turning pages of it

Rage of Angels is the story of Jennifer Parker and how her life progresses as she faces ups and downs. Like most of Sidney’s books, a female protagonist, strongly and clearly sketched lies at the core of this one too.

She is powerful and solitary, self made and at the same time vulnerable to emotional trauma, danger and love. She has a fiction charm and at the same time appears to be believable, someone whom you might have come across in life may be. As you see her struggle in life and rising from the ashes, falling in love and making mistakes, coming to age and choosing wisdom… you cannot help but connect to her. With every turning page, you wish to know her more and see what life has to offer to her next.

The plot moves on something like this - Jennifer Garner's life as an attorney takes an unexpected turn when she is wrongly accused and framed of being involved with the Mafia headed by Micheal Moretti ( a character that would at times remind you of The Godfather’s Micheal corleone, specially at places where mob mates addresses him as Mikey). She makes powerful enemies in her helplessness to prove her innocence. Adam Warner who helps her in those times for reasons explained well in the book and who is running for the senator's position (later destined to become the President of United States) brings the love quotient to the proceedings. He meets her in unexpected times and finds himself attracted to the self motivated, moralistic and gullible shades of her persona. Their passion, uncomfort towards each other, discreet side of their affair (because of him being already married) is written in a seductive and engrossing manner – something which defines the categorical shade of Sidney’s pen as always visible in most of his works. Their love suffers a fate they had not planned from a person they completely misunderstood while placing their trust. Then the story takes a turn in which you find yourself closely following Jennifer, and how she makes decisions that are humane and not heroic, she chooses people that are needed and not necessarily which are right. That believable, realistic part of her thought processes is what makes her a memorable gem. In trying to save life of someone she love, Jennifer finds herself getting involved in the unlawful dealings of the Mafia and Moretti himself. This begins a love triangle that sweeps across America's political and organized crime landscape as Jennifer, Adam, and Michael rise to become the most powerful figures in the country.

Sheldon is a master of plot twists, complications, and the emotional ups and downs of people's lives. "Rage of Angels" is one of his rare stories that does not have an expected end, which can be circumstantially happy or sad but leave you with an unknown feeling. it's a fascinating journey into the complexities of crime and punishment, politics, and corruption. Sheldon masterfully portrays the brilliant legal strategies that make Jennifer Parker come to life as a fully believable criminal defense lawyer.

Rating – 4/ 5 This is the story of Jennifer Parker and her dreams of becoming a lawyer and the reality of dreams lost.

In the book she encounters the love of two men both who killed her dreams in their own ways. Enjoyed reading this one and I am hopeful you would too, if plot interests your taste.

PS – I had a different cover of this book, but chose to pick a display image of this one. Needed to catch your eye: D

Review: Kingdom Above the Cloud by Maggie Platt

What if the nine Fruit of the Spirit and the Seven Deadly Sins were locked in a battle for control?   Abandoned as infants, Tovi ...