Friday, November 22, 2013

Himalayan Revelation by Pankaj Misra

Title-The Himalayan Revelation
Author-Pankaj Misra
Publisher-Power Publishers,Kolkatta
Price-425 INR
Source-Review copy via Tales Pensieve

To be very frank,I had neither heard about this book nor it’s author until I chanced upon the Tales Pensieve page, which said that this book was up for review.Without a second thought,I grabbed the opportunity to review this latest novel.The Himalayan Revelation is PankajMisra’s debut work and is an attempt at historical fiction by this first time author.

The Plot-VijayaNagaraempire,one of the most prosperous Hindu kingdoms in South India is attacked by Sultanates.But before conceding defeat,it’s ruler manages to hideit’s vast treasures,somewhere.Centurieslater,Gaurav-a happy go lucky guy who is on a holiday to Leh stumbles upon something which changes his course of life from then on.

The Characters-The protagonist,Gaurav is a fun loving guy who has a passion for history.Then there is Natasha,his colleague turned lover (who has a doctorate in history and is also the consultant of Genesis 3D,the firm which employs Gaurav).There is also KunchenLama,the most revered-multifaceted spiritual healer and Tibetan doctor.There are quite a number of othercharacters like Tony Chacko,the C.E.O of Genesis 3D and Meesha,the C.E.O of Heritage Consultants to name a few, but none of them are well etched out and as a result,the reader doesn’t feel for any of them.

The Language and writing-This is the weakest part of the book.The English is pretty basic(even painfully bland at times)not to mention the numerous grammatical errors which make their appearance at regular intervals.What is more jarring is the author’s attempt to sound ‘cool’ by the throwing in the names of the many gadgets,motorcycles,cars(and what not!)at disturbingly regular intervals throughout.If you are able to overlook all these,you might be able to enjoy this novel to a certain extent.

What I liked the most about the book:
1)The concept and the story line-At a time when most of the ‘desi’ first time authors are resorting to safer subjects like ‘campus romance and similar stories catering to the  young urban readers’,Pankaj Mishra deserves a pat on his back for choosing the much more difficult historical fiction genre for his debut novel.Author definitely has a unique story to tell and the way he linked the present with the past was actually quite interesting.I particularly liked the way the story ended.
2. The book design:Thebook design was quite decent .The font (size) is also o.k.
3.The book throws light into a largely forgotten chapter in the Indian history.

What I didn’t like:
1.The language and the writing-A good dish tastes best when it is served well!Though there is an engaging story over here,it is presented in a pretty mediocre manner.TheEnglish is really bad(with plenty of grammatical errors and weird looking sentences!) which makes the book quite a difficult read.It’s the kind of book which you feel like putting down multiple times but you simply can’t as you badly want to know what is going to happen next to the protagonists!
2.The length of the book-I honestly feel that the book could have been a good 50 pages shorter.The sex scenes between Natasha and Gaurav were cringe worthy and could have been easily done away with!
3.The tone of the book-The author seems to be confused about his  target readers.The writing is pretty mediocre and the book reads like children’s literature most of the time.Some of the incidents in the book are too childish and hardly convincing.
4.The Pricing-At 425 INR,I definitely believe that the book is over priced(but I simply can’t complain as I got a review copy for free via Tales Pensieve!)

Verdict-On the whole,’The Himalayan Revelation’ was a passable one.It had a decent story to tell but was let down by bland writing.Rating-2.5/5


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

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Way Corporate Works: Review of Chapter 11 by Amit Shankar

This is always better to read books by the same author must be chronological order. I did the other way round. The first book I read was Love is Vodka and then Chapter 11. His first impression was that of a person who writes chick-lit and can write a girl’s character with such √©lan that you would doubt that the writer might be a female.

Chapter 11 is his second book and he has already famous for his debut book, Flight to the Hilsa, about a woman artist. He has indeed learned to portray his woman characters. In his book, Chapter 11, the protagonist is a male and he is looking to broaden his horizons.
He is done with his old job and his home town where everyone seems to know him. He joins a Fortune 500 Company which is in Gurgaon. From the time when he has stayed in Delhi during his college days to now, it is all different.

Disaster happens when his company files for bankruptcy or Chapter 11. He has no idea what to do and how to behave. He is idealistic in nature but his bosses and his mentor isn’t. He has to choose between the two.  The novel revolves around the concept of molarity and also how much the world has changed over the time.

Coming back to the novel, it is a narrated well. The prologue makes for an interesting read and piques the interest of the reader. The questions of faithfulness, loyalty and above all greed are answered and how important they are in a corporate culture. Does the fast life means that we skip past our morality and live a life of a person who has no values.

The clash between the old system and the new one is written in such a way that you understand bot point of views. Amit Shankar has tried to capture the essence of how in a corporate there is more than just good salary. It is not 9-6 but 24x7. The book is
relatable and the way the protagonist deals in his life is very close to reality. We all want big houses, cars and dreams also very big.

The quandary is if we can do anything for those dreams or humanity is much more important than that. Amit Shankar asks some hard hitting questions with his book. Whether it is his introspection or ours, one thing is for sure, Chapter 11 is swift, racy and a total package. 

Let's Kidnap The President - Lalit Bhatt

I got a review request from the author of this book recently, and reading the small blurb on Goodreads, it felt like just the ticket for a fun, small read. Lalit Bhatt's "Let's Kidnap the President" follows the premise that monkeys become intelligent and decide to kidnap the President of the United States of America. From life in the jungle, to their evolution, the book covers a lot of time in few pages. The author delves into a lot of things through this story. Religious beliefs, power games in a small group, the will to learn something when you feel it'll help in the long run or even in the short term... all this and little more has been covered.

A group of four Indian monkeys (literally) kidnapping the President of the United States of America... the thought in itself is funny, and the actions of the monkeys are sometimes hilarious too. I even laughed at the parts where humans reacted to the monkeys talking (yes, they become so intelligent that they talk). I liked the initial description of the jungle too. It felt like what jungle life would be. However, I wouldn't say the book in its entirety is very humorous. The total lack of editing brings it down in a big way, so much so that I kind of struggled through that. It's quite funny to read the errors, but I don't feel that's the humor the author intended to have in the book. There is a dialogue in the book itself, where one of the monkeys tell the President that they know it would be difficult for humans to acknowledge the fact that a monkey can read and write (and talk, let's not forget that part). I have no qualms in acknowledging that in a fiction, or if science should reach a stage when that can happen, I'd not mind that either. But to show that evolution so quickly in a few pages, the science that is discussed in this book... Bernoulli Principal, E=mc squared. and all such discussions between the monkeys, or delivered as a lecture by professors in a college (this was a nice way to get this part of the book done) makes it seem like a text book as well.

The book's plot is kind of fun to imagine, but reading the book, I can only say it wasn't the book for me. Some humor is definitely there, that much I can say.

My rating: 1.5 / 5

Book Details:
Title: Let's Kidnap The President
Author: Lalit Bhatt
Genre: Fiction/Humor
Type: Kindle e-Book

Reviewed by Leo

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I thank the author for the Kindle review copy.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Five Point Someone, by Chetan Bhagat

About the author:
Chetan Bhagat is one of India’s most known authors. He’s the author of five novels and a collection of essays. All five novels have either already been, or expected to be, made into movies.

Cover and blurb:
The cover is somewhat like a college notebook, and the book is subtitled what not to do at IIT. The cover talks of a college story, of three friends and the darker side of IIT.

My thoughts on the book:
Chetan Bhagat is one of those authors I’ve loved and hated. I guess not every book can be a super hit, but I’ve read four of his five novels, felt two was average, and two was way below par. I’ve this habit of not reading books in order. So when one of my friends saw that I’ve not read CB’s debut book, Five Point Someone, she gave me her copy and told me I have to read that. I decided to complete the set of CB novels and took it eagerly. I’d heard rave reviews of the book from most of my friends, and with the movie 3 Idiots being adapted from this one (loosely adapted, I might add), I thought it possibly couldn’t be worse than the two novels I’ve felt way below par.

Five Point Someone brings to us, the story of three friends and their life in IIT. These three friends are linked, not by common points, but how they don’t have much in common at all. It tells us of their studies, their friendship, their obstacles (including the teachers), the ragging and the revolt and many other aspects of college life that many of us might be able to relate to.

Is the book memorable? No. Not very. It’s a simply written simple story with not a lot of twists and turns etc. It’s a fast paced book which you might pick up on a journey and the plot keeps you occupied for a few hours, save you from boredom on that. There are various characters that you can step into the shoes of and possibly understand their life. You feel intrigued by the depth of friendship between the main trio, and you do wish for a happy ending to the novel, which does happen. This book however is not for those who are really in love with English (like me), and you wish it was narrated better. Looking at the plot more critically, the actions of the characters may not make sense at all, and you start banging your head as to why you took it up in the first place. (It’s something that has happened to me when I’ve read his other novels).

Want a book that’s a definite one-time read and has only enough to keep the imagination occupied for a few hours? Then perhaps this is a book you can try. Not one of my favorites, but not CB’s worst either.

My rating: 2.5/5

Book Details:
Title: Five Point Someone
Author: Chetan Bhagat
ISBN: 9788129104595
Genre: Contemporary
Publishers: Rupa and Company
Price: INR. 95

Reviewed by Leo

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Review of Love is Vodka, One Shot Ain’t Enough By Amit Shankar

Alcohol has never been my cup of tea or a glass or even a shot.  So I lose the analogy of why one shot ain’t enough. But then as I started reading the book and the characters were introduced, I realised that most of the book is like Vodka, there is the high you get and the hangover that follows.

The book is about a young teenage girl, Moon (I loved the name as it was different and stuck with me even after I have finished reading the book). She is a daughter of an Indian mother and French father. Her father soon left as he already had a family in France and his wife was ill. Moon has his presence only through Facebook and the gifts her sends.

Her mother is the one she wants the love of but Moon’s mother is too busy to notice. There are string of boys and men coming in her life and giving her a taste of love. From being an intern in an Ad-agency to being a model and then face of a mass protest, she does it all but love is the only thing she wants. 
Amit Shankar has chosen a female protagonist to tell his story of teenage romances and how much love is wanted in our lives but is it that easy or it is always enough. Moon’s boyfriends and her choices in boy friends always leave you with a sense of why? Why she chooses them apart from the character of Devil, her boss in the Ad-agency and her mother’s boyfriends, most of her boyfriends have the typical teenager written all over. Her romance with the guys she meet and the stories they create, get convoluted as Moon jumps from one romance to other.  

Coming back to the review, the book is a travel read. If you are looking for just something to pass your time as you go on your journey. It may not leave you with a high but it will be no hangover either. The portrayal of the main character Moon is praise worthy and the story of romance between the devil and her are the highlights of the book. It is a good effort by a serious writer to enter the world of click-lit but it could have been more.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

Love, Life and a Beer Can, by Prashant Sharma

I'm beginning to wonder why love is the "pet genre" for most Indian authors. No disrespect to Amish, Ashwin Sanghi and others who aren't authors of that genre, but love stories are dime-a-dozen in the Indian publishing industry nowadays. And the odd thing is, most of them read similar. Even the cover that says "National Bestseller" is similar. But I still pick up the novels expecting something different, something wow. I guess that's part of the intrigue that love has.

The story revolves around Raj (who manner of introduction is funny), and his journey in a society that has a soft-spot for education (the degrees and stuff). He is brought up by his aunt and uncle after the death of his parents. It starts with the Raj's early life and goes on to his marriage and life after that. 

The story somehow doesn't take off. I don't know if it is just the language or the narration (like reading a tacky Bollywood script or SMSey lingo), but it makes you want to keep it down, yet you don't want to, hoping there's something good ahead. The author has, to an extent, kept a story in the book, with some good characterization of college kids and portrayal of college life, some decent dialogues. But it gets boring after a while, almost as if the author himself got bored of writing the story. I didn't quite know whether to laugh or cry at the ending. Very Bollywood-ish, and unexpected.

Pick it up for reading on a short journey. And maybe, just maybe then it won't feel as difficult reading it. One time read.

My rating: 2 / 5

Book Details:
Title: Love, Life and a Beer Can
Author: Prashant Sharma
ISBN: 9789380349053
Genre: Fiction
Publishers: Srishti Publishers
Price: INR. 100

Reviewed by Leo

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Burn It by Jennifer Cie

A Tested Life Lesson:
Your heart can survive being broken, if you let it.

This is just one of the lessons or if you do not like a lesson book , treat it as one of Jennifer's thoughts that will make you smile , make you think , make you sad and even cry.
Every page is a memory of her life for her. But for me , it was a journey too. I learned with her , I grew up with her and I added my own memories to this experience , this book.
"Burn It" is a 60+ pages novella but when you are done , it makes an imapact like many 300 pages book could not.
The book opens with a poem "give it to them" :

Show yourself who you are when there is nothing left for them to take.
Go on.
Give it to them.

And trust me , it is an inspiring verse to read any time. 
what she labeled as Lectures on youth , love and death ; I wish she calls them letters ! 'Cause that's the feeling I get when I read those pages.

At the end , I leave you with her lines -

I am not an expert.
I am not pretending that I have any morals that merit calling me a good person.
I am not here to offer you a dream.
I don’t know what the world has to offer next, but I can tell you what has happened.
The truth is, this, is a collection of notes that I have known to be true. This is what was once going to
happen next. This is what I wish someone would have told me.

Am glad Jennifer told (wrote) some of these things and I am more glad I read them.

buy the book here :

Bombay Rains, Bombay Girls by Anirban Bose

About the author:
A doctor by profession, Anirban Bose is the author of the book Bombay Rains Bombay Girls and the short story collection Mice in Men. Other than writing, he is passionate about guitars, cricket and music. He is currently Assistant Professor of Medicine and Nephrology at the University of Rochester.

Cover and blurb:
The cover shows nuances of a city and college life. The back cover suggests such a theme, a small-town boy’s venture to the big bad city to study medicine, and the college life that follows.

My thoughts on the book:
Do you remember the first day of your college life? I remember mine. It was difficult for me to talk to other classmates, except for the ones sitting on the same bench as I was. I was from the city, and my college had more number of small town students, who probably knew each other too. But I could feel the same difficulty for them to start a conversation with me as well. That way, it was easy for me to understand this awkwardness, the one the protagonist Adi feels when he goes to Mumbai for studying medicine. This book is about his experiences, starting from how their taxi driver gets beaten up when they (Adi and his father) first visit Mumbai to get him settled in to the new life. His life goes through the mostly expected nuances in college life like getting caught not paying attention in class, solving that dilemma and thereby finding himself more popular, the popularity increasing etc. It has heartbreak and new love, new friendships. It also has a lot of decisions, and some that he takes that defines who he is. It has politics and helplessness, even a murder. So…a lot of little things.

The pace of the book is quite quick. The font is easily readable, and quite nice to read as well in this size. I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint what makes this book good. It has a good mix of emotions, and a plot that a medical student may understand more than me perhaps. It engages the reader for sure, so the narration is quite good. The viewpoints in narration were something that confused me to a little extent. And yes, a little predictable. I guess the part that felt the most natural was the nervousness that Adi feels in the initial chapters.

Overall, an ordinary book. Nothing too good, nothing too bad. Quite decent.

My rating: 2.5 / 5

Book Details:
Title: Bombay Rains, Bombay Girls
Author: Anirban Bose
ISBN: 9788172236830
Genre: Fiction
Publishers: Harper Collins India
Price: INR. 195

Reviewed by Leo

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Love & Death in the Middle Kingdom, by Nalini Rajan

There is something quite refreshing about a historical fiction that doesn't quite read like a historical fiction. I mean it does, but it feels like it is more than that. When there is drama, life, a little admiration and some nice humor thrown into the mix, the history part of the historical fiction doesn't quite overwhelm. As such, it becomes quite interesting and easy to read it.

Nalini Rajan's latest offering, her third fiction, is such a novel. Her language, quite fluid flow of events and background work have made this story quite a lovely one. The story of research student Nitya, sent by her professor (who is a renowned person in the field and quite a character), to one of his prodigees Sharat (who's built up quite a reputation himself), to find out the story of a courtier in the Vijayanagar empire, whose diary has surfaced and landed in the hands of Sharat by chance.

The story is engaging, not only from the historical perspective, but also in the lives of Nitya and Sharat as they share the story with us, and enter into its depths themselves. The cover is intricately designed, and very alluring. I quite enjoyed this book, and will read it again soon.

My rating: 4 / 5

Book Details:
Title: Love & Death in the Middle Kingdom
Author: Nalini Rajan
ISBN: 9788180460906
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publishers: Alchemy Publishers
Price: INR. 195

Reviewed by Leo

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Ajaya by Anand Neelakantan

                                  Releasing On 1st December 2013


The Title caught my attention. Jaya had put Mahabharata in a new light for me but that was still Pandava side of the story. Ajaya narrates Mahabharata in from the much ignored Kaurava perspective. 

At the heart of India's most powerful empire, a revolution is brewing. Bhishma, the noble patriarch of Hastinapura, is struggling to maintain the unity of his empire. On the throne sits Dhritarashtra, the blind King and his foreign born Queen Gandhari. In the shadow of the throne stands Kunti, the Dowager-Queen, burning with ambition to see her firstborn become the ruler, acknowledged by all. And in the wings:

  • Parashurama, the enigmatic Guru of the powerful Southern Confederate, bides his time to take over and impose his will from mountains to ocean.

    • Ekalavya, a young Nishada, yearns to break free of caste restrictions and become a warrior.
    • Karna, son of a humble charioteer, travels to the South to study under the foremost Guru of the day and become the greatest archer in the land.
    • Balarama, the charismatic leader of the Yadavas, dreams of building the perfect city by the sea and seeing his people prosperous and proud once more.
    • Takshaka, guerilla leader of the Nagas, foments a revolution by the downtrodden as he lies in wait in the jungles of India, where survival is the only dharma.
    • Jara, the beggar and his blind dog Dharma, walk the dusty streets of India, witness to people and events far greater than they, as the Pandavas and the Kauravas confront their searing destinies.

    Amidst the chaos, Prince Suyodhana, heir of Hastinapura, stands tall, determined to claim his birthright and act according to his conscience. He is the maker of his own destiny or so he believes. While in the corridors of the Hastinapura palace, a foreign Prince plots to destroy India. And the dice falls.

         Did you know that Duryodhana is worshipped in some part of the country? I was in for a surprise when I read the author's note and the book engaged me from that page itself. Moving on to the few chapters available as prelude, I was on the edge reading this book. The story for once shows Bheeshma in a human light! The gripping narrative of Bheeshma's emotions left me in awe. I can't wait for the book to release now! 

                          Click here to read the Sample Chapters

    Monday, November 4, 2013

    Arranged Marriage, by Chitra Divakaruni

    About the author:
    Chitra Divakaruni is well known for her highly acclaimed novel, “The Mistress of Spices” and her award-winning collection of short-stories, “Arranged Marriage”. She was born in India, but now stays in California. She is a teacher of creative writing and a published poet as well.

    Cover and blurb:
    Stories of Indian women who move to USA after their marriage with new dreams and then try to balance their lives between new notions and old sunken beliefs from home… the cover alone shows a bride in wedding day finery.

    My thoughts on the book:
    I am yet to get married, or move abroad. The adventure that lies in both are something that I won’t understand perhaps, but through the experiences of my friends and family, I do not, for one moment, believe that neither is a walk in the park. That being said, I don’t feel it is a walk on thorns either.

    Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is one of my favorite Indian authors. I’ve read quite a few of her books, and while they don’t always find a place in my favorites, they are good. To get an exception from that quality was quite disheartening. This book of short stories explores the lives of women who have an arranged marriage and settle abroad. Each story is beautifully written, the language is impeccable and very poetic. It makes you feel for the characters.

    What I didn’t like about the stories was that almost all of them ended with turbulence in their marriage. While I agree arranged marriage needn’t be all roses, there are couples who settle abroad and lead a happy life. The book doesn’t show the complete picture, I feel, which is a travesty.

    My rating: 2.5 / 5

    Book Details:
    Title: Arranged Marriage
    Author: Chitra Banerjeee Divakaruni
    ISBN: 9780552996693
    Genre: Short Stories / Fiction
    Publishers: Black Swan Publishers
    Price: INR. 330

    Reviewed by Leo

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    Review: A Tryst with Mahakaal - The Ghost who never Died by Tilak Dutta

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