Thursday, October 31, 2013

Combat Of Shadows by Manohar Malgonkar

The best part of reading a book which narrates a tale of pre-independence era is the whole experiencing of witnessing the part of India we have never imagined.
The best part of "Combat of Shadows" written by Manohar Malgonkar is that it narrates the story of an Englishman who lived in India and the entire book is structured around the beautiful Assam mountains before the Independence. "Combat of Shadows" is one of the fine novels i have read recently. This novel talks about the whole influence of the western culture into our indian society.

Henry Winton is an English Manager stationed in the Silent hill and is slowly making a positive influence on the people as well as the company. He meets Ruby Miranda, a beautiful Anglo-Indian girl in a gala night and its an instant attraction. He appoints Ruby as a teacher in the plantation school and then he uses her as a mistress more to edge out his loneliness. Ruby on the other hand dreams of becoming his wife and break the shackles of her life and escape into the world where Henry belonged. When Eddie Trevor, lover of Ruby Miranda applies for a job on Silent Hill henry becomes suspicious that Ruby has a hand in giving out information of a vacant post. Furious of knowing that Ruby might still be in love with him he abandons Ruby and goes for a vacation in England and marries Jean. Ruby seeks revenge for his infidelity. Meanwhile the war has enveloped the british empire and Henry seeks desperation to join the war so as to serve his country. And one final task lay before him before he could join forces which is killing an elephant. Eddie trevor and Jane falls in love with each other while Henry could still not tae Ruby out of his mind who is still devastated.

The novel seems to be going in one smooth flow. The command of English portrayed in the book is just a stroke of brilliance. What sets off the most of the book is the unnecessary storyline that is sketched parallel to the tale. The relationship between Jane and Eddie is not explored much and the books seems to be hurried through the last 40 pages. But the stage was set to deliver one of the most clever ending a book can have.

This is book of multi layered romance and lust happening simultaneously. Emotions are strongly depicted and the characters are well sketched. There is an incomplete story of Jugal Kishore which does not adds much worth to the book. The book also points to the many aspects of how the western culture has altered the views of Indian Society. Ruby Miranda does not openly expresses her desires to mend into the english ways and become his wife and uses lust and sex to influence harry into marrying her. Edie trevor seems to be romancing the english man's wife. Many such aspects seems to be so modern now and yet it has been depicted in a tale stretched out in the colonial India period.

At the end of the book i was pretty much impressed with the story and the way it was written. At no point of time it was dragging and many times it was just too flawless to be reading continuously. In a genre of Interracial romance and intercultural relations this book sits on the top like a cherry on a cake.

Also I am thankful that I received this book from Rupa Publications and they gave me a chance to review it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Meri Aankhon Mein Mohbbat Ke Manjar Hain by Dinesh Gupta

Poetry is the exact opposite of writing novels. What poet says in a few stanzas, an author has to say in thousand words! Because of this reason poetry becomes much difficult to master and also difficult to deliver that pleases people. Dinesh Gupta, with his debut novel tries to do so.

He is a poet who describes the beauty in his own way.  It might not only be for a beloved but can be the beauty of anything or anyone. As the description at the back says that the book contains poems, shayris, articles and songs on topics other than “Love”, I went on reading it. There were some lines that captivated me and some which made me move ahead.

I love romantic songs and most of us do. The way words flow and make us remember of the past or the present. It is rightly said when you are happy you enjoy the music, when you are said you understand the lyrics. The same goes for the poet and writer, Dinesh Gupta. He is cut from the same cloth; he loves to read romantic poetry. His favourite is Kumar Vishwas and his admiration can be seen through the book.

Back to his book and the poems he has written. It is divided into five parts: Romance, Patriotism, India against Corruption, Problems that plague our Society and Dreams. All have poems ranging from few lines to 3-page long poems.

It is a nice experience to read poems from a person who is from the similar age group and understands what the youth wants. All his poems are worth reading one time but one that is the most praised and loved poem of his is ‘Diya Antim Aas Ka’ and I realized why it was so. The poem describes the last few minutes of a dying solider, how he feels about his impending death and with courage he faces it, for his country.

Apart from this I liked “Main Anna Bol Raha hun’, which was a poem under the category of India against corruption. Since the book was a Hindi poetry book, it is special for me. The time when I see all of us vying to be modern and which leads our inclination towards English, it is good to see people still wanting to write in Hindi and giving books worth reading.

I will give the book three stars for the poems, and one star for the courage of the author for being different.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It's kind of a funny story - Ned Vizzini

~ Back cover summary ~

Like many ambitious New York City teenagers, Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan's Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. Determined to succeed at life-which means getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job-Craig studies night and day to ace the entrance exam, and does. That's when things start to get crazy.

At his new school, Craig realizes that he isn't brilliant compared to the other kids; he's just average, and maybe not even that. He soon sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. The stress becomes unbearable and Craig stops eating and sleeping-until, one night, he nearly kills himself. 

Craig's suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, isolated from the crushing pressures of school and friends, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.

~ My Review ~

Craig Gilner's story, at the roots, is something almost everyone can relate to.. Sometimes you work your ass off for something and having achieved that, in the end, feels so ordinary.
It reminds me a bit, of John Green's writing although when the two of them co-wrote 'Will Grayson, Will Grayson' the end result is two distinct wonderful writings. 

~ The Merits ~

It doesn't treat a mental breakdown, the wanting to commit suicide or eating disorders with a surrounded air of stigma. In fact, this book kind of puts it into better light, the fact that everybody is messed up and just deal with things differently. The book is also not overly optimistic, conducting miraculous recoveries overnight and I'm thankful for that, because it makes the end so much more believable.

~ The demerits ~

Both the female leads in this novel, the ones who appear to be whole people, are treated by the protagonist often as just objects of his lust, and not affection. I didn't really get convinced that what he feels for them was more than just attraction, or a crush. Also, sex is hyped, boobs!!!! panties!!!!!
Overall, you do connect with the character and you realize that these things happen and it's alright to ask for help.The fact that the author himself has spent 5 days in an adult psychiatric certainly helps and that's what makes Craig's entire experience in the facility extremely believable, sheds a new light on the on-goings, the patients and the care taken and gathers understanding, not plain sympathy. The reactions of all his co-patients as he's leaving are beautifully put, especially Bobby's & Johnny's because that's what makes this book real.

~ Excerpt ~

"I'm not better, you know. The weight hasn't left my head. I feel how easily I could fall back into it, lie down and not eat, waste my time and curse wasting my time, look at my homework and freak out, and chill at Aaron's, look at Nia and be jealous again, take the subway home and hope it has an accident, go and get my bike and head to the Brooklyn bridge. All of that is still there. The only thing is, it's not an option now. It's just ... a possibility, like it's a possibility that I could turn to dust in the next instant and be disseminated throughout the universe as an omniscient consciousness. It's not a very likely possibility."

~ Final Verdict ~

It's not the funny funny, if that's what you're looking for but it makes for an intriguing read, although you might find it a bit too teenish at some points.

(2010 movie trailer)

[ Flipkart link, ebook download link]

The Disappearance of Tejas Sharma... and Other Hauntings by Manish Mahajan

The steps spiraled down into the pitch darkness of the well’s gaping mouth. He could see the reflection of the moon as his iris adjusted to the dim milky illumination inside. Step by step, he climbed down the well holding on to its lichen-laden, cold stone wall with his hands. He was only halfway down when he heard the sound he had dreaded the most-of ripples on water. Something meant to come out of the water. Slowly, very slowly, a figure in the shape of a woman emerged from the water…

'The Disappearance of Tejas Sharma…and other hauntings’ is an anthology of 12 ghost stories mostly set in India, and is meant for an audience with a penchant for the supernatural. Even with the constraints of a short story, each tale is rich in details and these dozen stories cover all the time tested classical elements of supernatural fiction. From the story of the young man who inexplicably vanishes to the epic tale of the haunted Peepal tree in Rajasthan; from the true story of a ghost station in West Bengal to the medieval legend of the scary well on a remote island; from the mysterious tick and cross markings in a graveyard to the haunting music coming from a locked room… this collection of supernatural tales serves to be a perfect literary cocktail for night time reading.

Who does not love a good horror story while you are travelling among unknown roads or in the dead night when the silence is so numbing yet creepy too. And if you happen to get hold of a book like this , I bet any one would not want this to be over soon. I took my own time , keeping the book away from my day time reading pile and picking it each night , to read in the light of my lamp shade , feeling the excitement and the thrill in my head. 

This set of 12 stories will leave you satisfied yet craving for more tales. One of the best thing that happened while reading this was the fact that I got reminded of all the tales I have ever heard in school or college days , from my granny or the gossips in neighborhood. I realized India has such rich history in tales we pass from city to city , generation to generation , and the same in a way has been done by Manish. 

Writing a horror story is indeed a challenging task. It not just has to excite , but also be mysterious and challenging enough to keep you reading. I wanted to keep reading this one and yet , for my own sake I took 4 sittings to finish the book.

This one is perfect for a lonely cold night , provided you do not have to ask a friend to come to you in case you get too scared ;)

Another thing worth mentioning here is that the stories being set in different times , different places , all showcase the unique plot settings by Manish. It not just bring variety to the book but a much wider set of people can relate to the tales that way.

Rating : 4/5

PS : I loved the personal note on the book. 


The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Devil is Waiting by Jack Higgins

There are certain characters that are quite well known in crime fiction. It's Jack Reacher for Lee Child, Alex Cross for James Patterson, Shane Schofield for Matthew Reilly and Cotton Malone for Steve Berry. In the same way, it's Sean Dillon that is the principal character of action thriller series books authored by Jack Higgins. I'm quite a fan of the character, that no-nonsense, ruthless, carefree killer who is a protector of justice and part of the Prime Minister's personal army, so to speak.

This book however wasn't one of my favorites, so to speak. This is the first book that I've picked up where a main character is missing. On checking, I found she had been killed in a previous book that I missed. Guess the dialogue from the series Castle comes to mind. Perhaps the author got bored of the character. Maybe Hannah Bernstien started to become a little predictable to him. It was sort of a repetitive character, with Dillon's affection for her and her affection for the rules dominating almost every novel's plot and character sketch. That being said, the new characters of Daniel Holley and Sara Gideon were quite interesting. The war background, the similarity in character to Dillon and the love angle between the two new characters was quite nice to read.

The villains Mullah Ali Selim and the Frenchman Henri Legrande were ruthless too, the former especially. The action shifts from the USA to London to Pakistan, and then to Persia etc. much like a Jack Higgins novel usually does. The old known and loved characters like Roper, Ferguson, Blake, Lacey and Parry, all return and play their parts seamlessly. It's a thriller alright!

Did I love it? Yes, I did. Not the best, but it's got quality. Here's to more of Sean Dillon and his antics.

Book Details:
Title: A Devil is Waiting
Author: Jack Higgins
ISBN: 9780007479870
Genre: Action Thriller
Publishers: Harper Collins
Price: INR 299

Reviewed by Leo

Come on Inner Peace, by Sachin Garg

Sometimes, I don't know what to expect from a novel. It usually happens when the cover is comical, and the blurb reflective, thoughtful and pointing to a more emotional drama than the cover indicates. Not judging by the cover or anything, I promise. This book found its way into my bookshelf after a struggle. It seems to have traveled the city before it reached me. In that interim, more books came to read. So I guess to begin the review with an apology for the delayed review would be appropriate.

"If a book can change lives, this one definitely will."

Not sure if it has changed my life after reading, but the story definitely touches a chord with me. Perhaps a more on-target observation would be that the book would make you ponder about life, rather than change it. I could relate to the main character Samar a little, and the first person narration is definitely successful in drawing the reader in during the initial parts of the book. The language the author uses is very simple and effective. I would have liked it if the book kept my interest throughout, but it unfortunately doesn't. The ending, though very different, was somewhat predictable.

Did I find a thing or two about myself through reading the book? Yes and no. Like I said, it provokes thought about myself, but it doesn't make me find anything I already didn't know. I did however find a few memorable dialogues. That's always a good thing!

Is it worth reading? For me personally, it's a one time read. It's not a masterpiece, but not a total waste of time. It was engaging to a certain extent for sure.

My rating: 6.5 / 10

Book Details:
Title: Come on Inner Peace
Author: Sachin Garg
ISBN: 9789381841303
Genre: Fiction
Publishers: Grapevine
Price: INR. 100

Reviewed by Leo

Shared with

  1. First Reads Challenge at b00kr3vi3ws
  2. Indian Quills Review Challenge at The Tales Pensieve

Monday, October 21, 2013

Arjuna - Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince

Author: Anuja Chandramouli
ISBN-13: 9789381576397
Binding: Paperback
Publishers: Leadstart publications
Copy source: Publishers
Pages: 364
RATING: 2.5/5

Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book. ~ Cicero M Tullius

If Cicero was to say this today, he'd have modified that last bit to ...and everyone's writing a book about the Mahabharata. After Ashok Banker, Devdutt Pattanaik and Amish Tripathi, India seems to be mass producing contemporary Indian English authors of mythology. Can’t blame them, really. Our epics are so rich and endless in their inspiration that any wannabe author without an original story turns to them for a reinterpretation, a retelling.

The Mahabharata, in particular, with its myriad characters, is a favourite and stories from the points of view of individual characters are flooding the market. It probably started when Prem Panicker translated Vasudevan Nair's Randaamoozham, a retelling of the Mahabharata by Bheema. Panicker’s book was called Bhimsen. Next was The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, which came out in 2008. The last couple of years have seen books like, Mrityunjaya (a story about Karna) by Shivaji Savant, Women of the Mahabharata by Chaturvedi Badrinath and more recently, even Karna’s Wife, the outcaste’s queen by Kavita Kane! There may be many others I’m not aware of, but one of this genre recently landed on my table for a review.

Arjuna – Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince by Anuja Chandramouli tells the story of the Mahabharata from the perspective of the most illustrious of the Pandavas. While the book focuses on the important milestones of Arjuna's story, especially his 12-year exile, the story is essentially that of the inexorably connected Pandava brothers. Either it is impossible to separate the five, or the author hasn't done a good job with the single perspective. Because I've not read any of the books mentioned above yet, I do not know how they compare. But if an author decides to pick one character, as a reader, I would expect a more fleshed out one than what Chandramouli has presented here.

The language is also simple to a fault. Its plainness doesn't make the book easy to read; instead it makes it dull. For a tale as amazing as the Mahabharata, it is sad if one doesn't feel like reading more than a few pages at once. For me as a reader, the language neither induced great visuals, nor was there any music in it. I remained impassive to the protagonist and the plot right through the book. The author fails to make Arjuna memorable for me any more than he already is. But the book will serve as a good refresher for anyone looking to brush up their Mahabharata trivia.

While this book was a little bit of a disappointment, I welcome this wave of Indian English books on our greatest epic. The Mahabharata belongs to everyone and its rich lessons ought to stay with us. It is only with such books that the newer generations will take interest in and take forward this fantastic legacy. I certainly look forward to reading many more from this genre of books.

Karna's wife by Kavita Kane

My interest in Mahabharata started with the book "Illusions" Little did I realize that my love was not for the story but the emotions that the people feel and how it shapes their story. How it led to the epic battle in the end.

Also, I felt that the female characters in the story would have more to offer than they are credited for. Apart from Kunti & Draupadi , are the others merely flesh and have no feelings or choices ?

And so , when this book came to me , I was overjoyed. I frankly did not know Karan's wife name ( or that he had two ) and certainly did not expect his married life to be such an engaging tale to know.

Karan is one of those characters in this Epic saga that you think you know , hear about often , but do you truly know about him as a person ? Kavita has portrayed his life in such heartfelt and honest colors that one definitely will fall in love with him.

You would say , the book is named Karan's wife so she should be in limelight. Uruvi sure is , but Kavita has managed to use Uruvi's thoughts and conversations with other characters to bring about a unique retelling of Mahabharat.  One of my favorite conversation is between Uruvi & Draupadi following Draupadi's humiliation at the Raj Darbaar. More than any other book , this part of Kavita's book shows us Draupadi's character and her destiny charted by not her choice but other forces. There are lot of "what if" is Mahabharat and Kavita has traced each to its source and probable reason too. Kunti's tale , Draupadi's role in making the war happen , Karan's sacrifices and his loyalty to Duryodhan - everything gets a more depth after reading this book.

I can go on about a lot of other parts which totally moved me and made me love this book so more but I hope , you would sure pick this one for a beautiful tale - a tale we know , yet not.


This book was sent to me by Rupa Publications for review and I am glad I had the chance to do it. 

My Moonlit Pilgrimage by Sasiprabha Ps

These are the times when internet has taken over everything. From the way we shop to way we meet people. Everything is online and so is love. The feeling that we all want to conquer and win over and have a happy endinge live in our love lives, Sasiprabha takes the notion of virtual love and find the essence of it spiritually, to write her first book.

This book is about a girl’s journey that falls in love with a guy she meets online. The book is in two parts. The first part where the girl learns to love someone and how their love develops over the course of time and in the second half where her lover betrays her and she seeks the true meaning of love by going back to all the memories.

Coming to the novel, Sasiprabha has tried to capture the spiritual and true meaning of love. She has given a novel which is poetic in both the narrative as well as the crux of the novel. Since the novel is not very lengthy, it can be completed in a short duration of time but given the way the author has written the novel, you can take time to appreciate the poetry and the way she has written the description of the scenes that take place between the lead characters.

Sasiprabha is from Kerala and the book too is based from the city she belongs. The beauty of the city and the love between the protagonists have been penned with much adroitness. The fact that she is a motivational speaker and has been well versed with the classics is seen with the way she has written her novel and the poetry the marks the beginning and the end.

With debut novel, like Sasiprabha’s My Moonlit Pilgrimage at a young age is that they have some inherent flaws that are evident from the way the story has been told.  Here also, there is ambiguity in the narration when the author fails to provide the distinction of the genders. Also the novel although has a poetic narration, sometimes it leaves you with a sense that it is poetry collection rather being a novel.

The novel could have been better in terms of the presentation of the story. The prose is worth reading but the dialogues and the story flows,
sometimes leaves the reader feeling confused. Read the book for its beautiful poetry and a love story that might be modern but also has an ethereal touch to it.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Oops! I fell in for Don’s Daughter: Piyush Naik

Writing about your college life has become a trend that very few newcomers break. They all have their eyes on the goal to sell as many copies as they can. Very few of them do try to change the fact that romance not only happens in colleges but schools, offices and what not. Piyush Naik has written a novel that is set against the backdrop of school and how sparks fly.

Oops! I fell in for Don’s Daughter is about a young lad, Piyansh Nigam who joins tuition to cure his ailing Math and bring pride to his family by scoring good marks. As nothing goes as planned, he too looks at a girl and falls in love madly. Luck can never be on the sides of the lovers and he too faces competition and also a chance of serious trouble as the girl’s father is a Don.

The story is about how he woos the girl, makes friends, loses friends and at the end if he does get the girl. The book is not thick and can be completed in 4-5 hours. It can be your traveling
companion if you don’t like thick books. Personally the book was that for me. I took it in the metro and read it for the fun I missed after leaving school and the friends that I will never meet.

Piyush has written a story that has essentially friendship as its protagonist. There is a group of around 6 people and all are couple. They enjoy, hang out and make the best of their school days. The problems are also of today’s youth—parents scanning through phones and asking endless questions, the report card carrying your test scores that can never be made public and what not.

He gets the school part right, what troubles me is the way the story goes from being a romantic comedy to a emotional one in a span of seconds. I would have liked a more fluid transition. The characters motivation sometimes seems unreal and you just don’t get it why he would that or this. Some of the quotes about love or school at large are funny and memorable.

The only drawback of the story is that the language is amateurish and also that Piyush Naik is still a kid. Most of the novel seems like a teenage diary where endless scribbling has been done to justify the story. Even though with the flaws Piyush Naik gives a novel which is funny, at times romantic but mostly it is about school and how much better the life was back then.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tall Man Small Shadow by Vipin Behari Goyal

Salil loves a shadow which transforms into many characters to reveal the secrets of life. Aalya, his neighbor, is doing research in English literature. Her guide Seema is a childless lesbian. Paul, husband of Seema, is a drama director. I am the protagonist, who coins philosophies for day to day events and my wife Sulekha is the second protagonist who makes coincidences happen with her artful manipulations. Read on to learn what happens next ..

Nimue Says : Vipin bihari's debut novel deal is a story based on "existentialism" which I came to know later means that the "individual" choices  , living and thoughts define his place and role in society. 

So we have the author introduce us to a voice [ I often assume it to be the author himself / an extension of his thoughts ] of a man who lives with his wife and daughter. Salil is the guy next door who is both intriguing and a bit mature beyond his years. We meet Alya , the daughter who secretly likes Salil . Now , you can imagine the reason for the cover design !

Before this book , I was reading this book which had a story on shadows. How shadows love to hide and be left to plot their own life rather than being dragged all places with the binding human. This book again talked of shadows and in a much amusing way. I loved the scene where Salil asked Alya to give him her shadow in return for a favor she asks.

The story plot is quite simple for this 152 pages book but what made it a long read for me was the need to pause , ponder , assimilate the philosophy and wonder if this is how the threads tie each one of us to number of people in real life. I can mention a few of the conversations and the gist here but that will ruin the beauty of the thought process you might be engaged into when you read. I shared a few with my best friends and it was so nice to have that perspective in life. 

Each character has his /her grey shades , the curiosity , the knowledge and the wisdom to use that knowledge to best is something the author and his wife are most capable of. We hear the wife's voice and ultimately know the name of the old guy. It is amusing to know the story from her point of view and that kind of fills a lot of holes in the narration too.

The book is a different read , an interesting one too. Definitely recommended by me.

Rating : 4/5

Review: Kingdom Above the Cloud by Maggie Platt

Blog Tour @ Fantastic Flying book Club What if the nine Fruit of the Spirit and the Seven Deadly Sins were locked in a battle for c...