Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Chronicles of Urban Nomads, An Anthology of Short Stories

Short story anthologies make for good reading because you can read one story at a time and each story has its own theme. You don’t necessarily have to look for continuity from story to story either. The Chronicles of Urban Nomads by Readomania brings nineteen such short stories that try to wow you, the reader with their variety.

The anthology has two parts: Imagine and Musing

From the “Imagine” section, my favorite stories were “The Wait” and “A Little Nugget of Fear”. I liked the former for it made us feel the anxiety and the wait along with the character. I’d have loved it more had it been from the perspective of the other character. I wouldn’t say the ending was unpredictable and left me wowed, but the story worked for me. The latter story is one I loved for the perspective. The author chooses to take us on the journey from the point of view of something which is inside most of us, but in particular inside a young woman. I’d have liked it if it ended some other way, because it felt too common.

From the “Musing” section, my favorite stories were “Bachelor and Baby”, “The Last Letter” and “Rendezvous”. Each of these stories had a simple narration style, which I like. It makes for easy reading. The first one wowed me with its storyline and character which left an impact; the second one with its ability to make me emotional; and the last one for its narration and sweetness, though it wasn’t unpredictable as such. They didn’t evoke any strong images as the first part of the book but then again, they weren’t meant to.

General thoughts:
Firstly, I’d like to mention the cover design, which I liked a lot. The stories were interesting and memorable, which is why am not pointing out stories which didn’t stand out as much as the five above did for me. Some stories that made me want to know more. Like for e.g. “The Blue Slippers” while talking of a unique friendship from the view of a camera (it’s not difficult to know this immediately at the start, so this doesn’t qualify as a spoiler), left me wondering who held the camera that captured this friendship, how come they were looking at the two friends so much. “Confessions of a Benarasi Sari” made me wonder if liking a saree picked by someone is really that important for a marriage to survive.

A better way to generate more interest in these stories would have been to mix them up randomly. The sections, while helpful to divide them by a factor, killed the curiosity. After the third story, I started to try and guess the point of view from which the story was narrated. Overall, it is an enjoyable collection, which could have been so much better.

Rating: 3 Stars

Book Details:
Title: The Chronicles of Urban Nomads
Series: N/a
Anthology by: Readomania
Genre: Short Stories
ISBN/ASIN: 9788192997506
Publisher: Kurious Kind Media
Price: Rs. 225

Reviewed for the publisher, in exchange for a review copy. The views expressed here are my own, frank and uninfluenced.

Reviewed by Vinay Leo R.
31st December 2014.

Goodbye 2014 : The year end giveaway

It's the season of joys and to bid 2014 goodbye!
It's the time to look back on the books we read and more that we could not.
It's time to spread some gifts and smiles within whatever capacity one can.

Here is the year end giveaway from ALOP for all you readers.

Just tell us ( in no less than 80 words ) , what was your favourite Indian book in year 2014.
Any genre or language , but the publication year should be 2014.

Have fun !
Good luck :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 29, 2014

Mini Review:Netagiri by Cyrus Broacha

Author:Cyrus Broacha
Price: 250 INR/-
Pages: 240+
Source:Personal Copy
Publisher:Random House India 

          ‘Netagiri’ is the third book by VJ-turned-author Cyrus Broacha .I haven’t had the chance to read his first two works, but after reading this one, I can confidently claim to  have got a somewhat rough idea about what to expect from those two.’Netagiri’ is a wannabe political satire which is as amusing as getting yourself a root canal (without the local anaesthesia,obviously!).
          Set in a fictional country called Gyaandostaan, Cyrus narrates the political events unfolding in the nation following the accidental death of Jay Huskee,the grand patriarch of the Huskee Clan.His grandson,Paul Huskee quite legitimately stakes claim of his legacy and is made the Financial Minister of the Country,which incidentally is in deep debt.The book is all about his efforts to save his ‘country’ from the tyrannical rule of Lt Col Jagee,the President ruler of Gyandoostaan.
          The basic and the most important issue with this book is that it’s not as funny as it was intended to be.Hilarious sequences are far and few and whatever little potential the book had is spoilt by bad writing and un-necessary word play.The book mostly reads like a script written for a stand up comedy show and as a (humorous) novel, it doesn’t work at all.Wordplay and verbal jugglery might work in a T.V comedy show, but not in a 240 page book,definitely! Replete with silly situations and flat jokes,’Netagiri’ is too long and ultimately turns out to be a massive disappointment.You can easily give it a miss!

Verdict- Wasted Opportunity! Rating-2/5


Friday, December 26, 2014

Rabda: My Sigh . . . My Sai by Ruzbeh N Bharucha

Rabda has attempted suicide and chances are that he is going to die. Sai Baba of Shirdi enters the hospital room and awakens the spirit body of Rabda. The two, Master and musician, begin to converse about life, death and everything in between.

Set in the present, Rabda takes the reader to the past, to when the Sai lived in His physical body. The life and philosophy of Sai Baba of Shirdi are revealed, often in His own words, and questions pertaining to Him and spirituality answered.

Nimue Says :

“Sometimes books don't find us until the right time.”
—Gabrielle Zevin, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Long before I read his , I believed from all my heart that we often read what we most need. And probably for this reason , I know that Rabda came to me at a very appropriate time. Rabda is story and teaching of Sai baba as narrated to Ciaz ( known also as Rabda ) who is a world famous musician , currently in a hospital after yet another failed suicide attempt. It is little heartening to read that he did not want to die 'cause he was unhappy but just that he did not find any purpose strong enough to live for. So Rabda tries to die , with chanting Sai and listening to his own song; and is blessed by visit from Sai who takes his spirit along him to a faraway cave where the men share their love , life and more importantly , the lessons of and for a beautiful life.

There might be many a books on life of Sai baba and many more about his teachings. But this book is not either or both. This is more like a dialogue between Sai and Rabda where Sai is at his casual best and Rabda too is not a star struck devotee but a curious , carefree and yet devoted and faithful companion. The life story moves in a linear format with certain events mentioned randomly in the conversations. Sai talks about his life, first as a novice on the path to meet the One, and later as a guide to others walking the same path. and in between we get to read of all that we have been taught and told in different ways but perhaps have forgotten the reasons and implications.

What I liked about the book is that some of the examples and simple ways the writer has used to explain serious stuff. Sample the talk about going through hard times. We all hear "As you sow, so shall you reap". The writer further explains it like going to a fine dining restaurant. You know the price of the dish before you order, and also you order the quantity yourself. Now when the bill comes, you cannot fight with the manager telling the bill is too much. You pay for what you order. Same with your life. You pay for all the bad actions and are protected and rewarded for the goodwill you spread and share.

And yet, the flow of the book was interrupted at times ( many times) by the repetition of certain phrases that Sai uses for Rabda. Certain swear words do not work for me at all, specially not my God saying those. Are we not supposed to have a clean language too ? Also, some concepts of the spiritual growth and journey are beyond my complete grasp. I am glad that the writer at times presented the same ideas in different ways and summarized them in the end so I have some half cooked idea of my own but I will still have to read those chapters again, perhaps when I am mature enough.

The scenes of Sai leaving earth and trying to help every and anyone he could in those last breath too , was touching. The way he spent all his life in making people love God and seek him for the same; and still humans kept going to him for selfish purposes , made me feel so guilty. As I finished the book , I felt tears in my own eyes and that for me , was my love for God , the super power I feel in the very fabric of life around me. In all, I liked the book and would recommend this to all God-loving folks. As for the non-believers, I had a talk with a few close friends and I realized that even they believe in the goodness of humans and loving the creations on Earth. Just that , they focus more on living in the moment and have problems with next birth or the spirit life. Well, they can still like the book for the teachings of Oneness of God ( no religion) , Being good , passing kindness , Living comfortable yet not with too much wastage and never refusing anyone for help you can give easily.

My rating : 4/5

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happily Murdered by Rasleen Syal

Who killed Gulab Sarin?

The radiant new daughter-in-law of the influential Mehta family dies mysteriously on the very next night of her wedding. The murder is an inside job, the police are certain. It could be anyone, the adulterous husband, conniving in-laws, jealous friend and the love struck ex-fiance. With an aim to save themselves and incriminate others, it is not long before these suspects turn into amateur detectives, hunting for clues and delving into hidden secrets only they can unearth. They coerce, pry and blackmail in an attempt to get to the bottom of this mystery. 

Will one of these nine unlikely sleuths finally unravel the mystery behind Gulab's death and avenge it? Or will the truth die as viciously as Gulab?

Nimue Says : There are some books you read not for the end but for the story behind the end. A lovely damsel in distress who built her world around the people she loved and watched it crumble bit by bit at every turn ,is killed on the day of her wedding. What was supposed to be her happiest day , turns out to be the last. And so start Gulab's story , her past in her voice and the present case of finding her killer. 

Happily murdered has the perfect mix of characters ; lovable , unlikely ,honest ,cunning , resentful , innocent ,loyal and a few self centered too.  Every one has an alibi for the night and also a reason to hate Gulab. Some for her money , some for her lost love and some were jealous of her for their own weird reasons. Well , this is weirdly familiar and engaging tale of Gulab ,Dullas and the Mehta family.

It has all ingredients of family histories , politics , love , unfulfilled desires , friendship and Gulab trying to make sense of her life and reasons for everything. 

The writing is so endearing and fresh that you feel like a mute spectator in the book, like peeking into a room full of stories.

I totally enjoyed reading this book. 
I loved Gulab Sarin.

My rating: 5/5

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wild Woman Waking, by Morgan Dragonwillow

“Sleeping isn’t possible once you explore the inner and outer world of poetry; transformation happens and your eyes open wide.” – Morgan Dragonwillow.

Truer words have not been said for the power of poetry. Being a poet, I can understand it, having traveled through the lanes of my imagination, exploring verse, and letting it explore me whenever it wants to. It must have been kismet that this book fell into my reading path, for I’ve not read a collection of poems lately that has spoken to me more than this one.

“My Words”, a poem in the collection so effortlessly says what I go through as a poet, what words do to me at times, how they escape from my hands and spill onto paper. In life, a lot of times, I’ve been “Hiding from the Pain”. It’s a lesson that most of us learn the hard way I suppose, and some of us not at all, even though it stares us in the face. We “Fall” to realize who we are, “Haunting” us till the words come out and another poem is written.

Reading her words, I wonder at times “What Happened” to our lives, when making money became more important than making moments to remember, when hearts that mattered became “Neglected”. It makes me think of “Anger” in a different, almost “Unforgiving Light”. It takes some words out of me, leaves me “Shouting” silently and “Grasping Air”.

Whatever I’ve put in quotes here are the titles of some of my favorite poems in the book. There are more that I love, some that I don’t quite get. Another thing that makes this book beautiful is the image with each poem. I’ve seen acrostics and cinquains in this collection. But mostly, it’s just fabulous free verse. It is a collection that, as a poet, I will return to reading often.

Title: Wild Woman Waking
Author: Morgan Dragonwillow
Genre: Poetry

The Governess, by Noorilhuda

The Governess is a story set in nineteenth century England, and follows the life of Jane Adams, divorced by her husband and disinherited by her father. The circumstances force her to seek employment as a governess. She finds someone who employs her despite what has happened, and even with her former husband trying to influence her present life. Jane works and saves money, enough to try and clear her name. Other than this, each character seems to have their storyline, quirks and such.

Historical fiction… the genre and I have a love-hate relationship I suppose. The same holds true for this book. The language it is written in feels like it was from that era, and the characters feel the same too. The dialogue seems real and believable. You feel some pathos for the main character and her circumstances. Even the male character John Lockwood feels interesting. The narration tends to be long and drawn out mostly. Whereas it works in bringing a historical feel to the novel, I personally felt it to be boring, and didn’t retain my interest. I don’t expect the pace of a thriller, but I don’t expect it to be so slow either. Having not read much books set in this era, I felt I needed a dictionary to follow certain parts of the book.

For someone who actually enjoys historical fiction, I think the book will hold merit. It is complex and deep and whatever I’ve heard makes a good historical fiction. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the story a lot, but even in its drawn out detailed storyline, it has the potential for a story, and I recognize that. One-time read for me.

Title: The Governess
Author: Noorilhuda
Genre: Historical Fiction

The author gave me a copy of the book for review. The views expressed here are mine, and unbiased.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The One Who Stood Against Shiva, and other stories — Siddhesh Kabe

Mythology is a genre I’m very fond of. I’ve told it many times before, that I’ve grown up devouring tales from Indian mythology, so it holds a special place in my heart. So when a book comes asking questions like “What did Bhisma had to say about Krishna before the Mahabharata war?”, “Why did Shiva get defeated by hands of a child?” and “Do you know what the snake mother had to teach before the Gods were born?”, it definitely intrigues me, because I know the answer partly, if not completely.

“The One Who Stood Against Shiva, and other stories” brings six stories into focus. The first of the six deals with Bhishma and his words before the war. The story would make those familiar with the Mahabharata turn their heads. The second story deals with the Ramayana and corruption in the kingdom of Lanka, and the wisdom of Vibhishana. The third story is “The Story of the Goose” which was one I didn’t know. I won’t tell what it is about, in case you don’t know it either. The fourth story brings the birth of Lord Ganesha into focus. That’s one I knew and loved reading. The fifth story is the story of Kadru and Vinata. This again turned out in a way contrary to what I have read before. The last story is another that I didn’t know of, and as such, won’t discuss here.

What I love in this small book is the mythology. Tales that are familiar, yet have a bit of mystery to it. What I wish was that there was more to these tales. It starts to build up the fun for that mythology lover in me, and then it just ends. It needs more magic, more substance. It left me with a feeling of “there, yet not there yet”.

Book Title: The One Who Stood Against Shiva, and other stories
Author: Siddhesh Kabe
Genre: Mythology
Price: INR 51

Monday, December 15, 2014

Your Dreams Are Mine Now by Ravinder Singh

Title:Your Dreams Are Mine Now
Author:Ravinder Singh
Publisher:Penguin Metro Reads
Price:175 INR
Source: review copy via Think Why Not

         Ravinder Singh’s latest novel ‘Your dreams are mine now’ is a teenage love story set in the backdrop of DU politics. The author is known for romantic tales with a tragic end.This one too,doesn’t defy the formula.While his first two novels were either auto-biographical or partly inspired by his personal experiences,’YDMN’ is a fictional tale which draws inspiration from a real life incident that shook the nation by storm a couple of years back.

Arjun is the typical rough guy who is the leader of a student’s union in DU.Rupali is the epitomical small town girl who comes to Delhi in search of a bright future.(thankfully,both of them are quite comfortable with the Queen’s language and Rupali doesn’t agree to be his half-girl friend or anything of that sort!)Saloni is Rupali’s roomie and best friend who is the rich girl with a heart of Gold.Now don’t get me wrong,this is not a triangular love story.Rupali falls in love with Arjun and they soon become the face of the DU politics not before making their own share of enemies in the process.What happens to their love and their political future is the crux of the story.

Ravinder Singh has never been known for his literary skills.More than anything else,it was smart marketing and his ability to narrate love stories catering to the taste of the ‘whatsapp’ generation in a simple and effective manner that made him an instant success.Here too,Singh hasn’t tried anything drastic and  pretty much follows his time tested, successful formula.The English is pretty simple and the book is quite undoubtedly an easy read.If you are a teenager and plain, candy floss teenage love stories are your forte,there are chances of you actually liking this campus story. But if you are expecting something new or innovative in this tale,I’m sure you will be disappointed.The characters(except that of the protagonist Rupali,to an extend) are poorly developed which is a pity because it could have been done in a much better way.The supposedly  menacing Villain(who happens to be a professor in DU)is nowhere to be seen for a large portion of the narrative and makes an appearance again only towards the end of the story (the ending,I felt was more like a writing of convenience than anything else!)

As expected ,Ravinder Singh touches upon topical issues which have the potential to strike a chord with it’s target reader group(the Young Urban Indian Reader).So there are references to the skewed reservation policy,corruption,the racial discrimination against  north east population in the Capital and above all the rise in sexual crimes against women. I recently read in some interview that ‘social change’ is something which  Ravinder Singh wishes to achieve through his latest work.Well,there lies the exact problem with this book.In his half hearted attempt to sound ‘socially aware’ or politically conscious,’Dreams are mine now’ ends up being a rather half baked affair.It’s neither a heart warming love story nor a socio-political commentary on the present day life in DU.There is a lot of ‘fake activism’ and pseudo anger thrown in which seems forced and pointless,after a point.

In short,though the dreams are mine now doesn’t have anything new or earth shattering to tell,might be lapped up by the romantic fiction loving teenagers.My Rating-2.5/5


Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Nidhi Kapoor story by Saurabh Garg

Two dogs and a cat are butchered at the home of Nidhi Kapoor, a leading Bollywood actress. Left behind is a mysterious letter threatening Nidhi and her family. Nishant Kapoor, Nidhi’s father and a superstar of the yesteryears is confined to a retirement facility in the hills. Tormenting him are his recurring dreams of someone trying to hurt him and his family. A film set where Nidhi Kapoor is shooting for her much anticipated film goes up in flames. Trapped inside are Nidhi and her sister, Payal.

ACP Prakash Mohile is forced to take up the investigation. Rujuta Singh, a photojournalist chronicling the lives of policemen in Mumbai and shadowing Prakash, gets embroiled in the case. The answers however continue to elude Prakash and Rujuta.

What is it in their past that Kapoors are hiding from the world? 
What grudge does the assailant hold against the Kapoors?
And, can they save Nidhi?

Nimue Says : First thing ,I loved the cover of the book. And then the plot had enough to intrigue any reader. The opening chapter of the book set up the base of a dysfunctional family and the roots that Nidhi Kapoor comes from. The book then alternates between the past and the present randomly but always linked to one of the sins that humanity is plagued with.

Prakash Mohile is your hard working , never-at-fault ACP whose only relationship seems to be with Tambe , the inspector who follows all commands and knows Mohile best. Then there is Rujuta who is an independent photojournalist who is initially unaffected by Prakash's waysand work but once she witnesses the crime scene at Nidhi Kapoor's home , she is hooked to the investigation and is determined to be useful in solving this mystery.

The characters , are well sketched and the research done for the sketch and development of all people mentioned , shows in the book . My favorite is Tarana whose philosophies I so well relate to.Some descriptions seem a little cliched but the overall effect is never lost. The writing is simple and without much frills which do not take attention away from the story at any given moment. The story has a good pace that does not feel forced or bores with a stretched timeline. The switch between the present and the background story is neat and helps the reader make sense of the now and s dread for tomorrow.

And yet , Some times you close even a wonderfully penned book with mixed feelings – Happy that it had a proper closure but still not satisfied with the way it ended. “The Nidhi Kapoor Story” for me was somewhat similar in effect. While I liked the plot and the way the layers of the story reveal themselves as the author conducted his orchestra with the plots , I felt the layers needed to be reshuffled a bit. The answers were all out there for the keen reader and it felt that the last few pages were not needed at all or perhaps they should have been in some other place !

Overall , a very engaging and thoughtful read.

My Rating : 4/5

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Carbon Conundrum by Adit Ambani

From the narrow streets of London to the unexplored tropical rainforests of Africa, to the misty hills of South America, Alvin and Jett get sucked into a fantastic hunt for the world s largest vivid yellow diamond. Along the way they unearth the ancient secrets of its mystical past and discover its links to a hidden treasure and unimaginable wealth that had once sealed the fate of a mighty kingdom. Legends come to life from within the burning heart of the diamond as Alvin and Jett face hostile situations and search remote corners of the world while competing against some of the most powerful men from the pages of history.

Nimue Says : The book starts with the robbery of Royal Incan diamond from the British Museum and though it was a replica , the real one is missing too.

Alvin , who has recently inherited the museum after his dad's death had to ask his uncle to keep the diamond safely who is killed protecting it. He hides the diamond and leaves behind a cryptic message for Alvin and Jett. While Alvin decides to recover the diamond in London , Jett decides to search for the other diamonds that were supposedly split from one big diamond and hidden in different corners of the Earth.

As much I liked reading Jett's adventures in the jungles and mountains of South Africa , I enjoyed how Alvin cracks the puzzle. But what he does after that to get to the diamond is product of an over stretched imagination. Add to that the part historical , part fantasy tale thrown into this mix, the book becomes a little hard to digest.

The writer seems to erase the lines between possible and the over dramatic twists a bit too often. If you overcome that , it is quite a decent read with good thriller scenes and lot of heroic escapes for both the guys.

My Rating : 3/5

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Dancing Within Shadow, by Morgan Dragonwillow

Poetry of a known person is always wonderful to read. You have a sense of their muse, even if it is an incomplete one, and that sense helps to understand that poem a little more than reading the poem of an absolutely unknown poet. Of course, it helps if the poetry is understandable and not too deep. I’ve known the poetry of Morgan Dragonwillow only through her blog and through the OctPoWriMo writing challenge. So when the opportunity came to get her eBook for free, I grabbed it.

Section 1 of the book is titled Darkness, and true to the title, the poems in the section are dark, poignant and thought provoking. I think the poem I could relate to mostly was “I remember me”, for I have seen a similarity to my life and that of the comic character she mentions in this poem.

Section 2 of the book is titled Rebellion, and it’s about standing up for what you believe in. The poems in this part were about strength, and somewhat about other’s opinions. My favorite from this part of the book was “Out loud”, which is about laughter, and laughing out loud even when others try to stifle it.

Section 3 of the book is titled Love, and the poems in the part are about love, and feeling it. Though I liked most poems in this part, the one that I loved the most was “Grandpa Joe”, for I could relate to it easily, my grandfather having taught me a lot of things even though his ideas were mostly inflexible.

Section 4 of the book is titled Light, and the poem I loved is “Peace”. A palindrome poem that felt as peaceful as the title. And she ends the book with a poem that ends with the lines “Who I really am… is me” which felt just wonderful.

There are poems in this book which I do not understand as easily, but some that I really like and relate to. But none of the poems deter me from trying to understand it. I would rate this book a 7 on 10. And yes, I would read it again.

Book Details:
Title: Dancing within Shadow
Author: Morgan Dragonwillow
Genre: Poetry

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Unravelling Anjali: Diary of an Immigrant Bride by Nim Gholkar

1998 Australia. Anjali Jathar is looking forward to life as an immigrant bride following her arranged marriage to ambitious divorcee Ravi. Settling in, she explores not just a new culture but also her new found freedom. But life is less than perfect. Ravi’s constant travel and preoccupation with work leave Anjali feeling increasingly unloved and lonely.
Enter Jake Ellis. Charmed by Anjali’s exoticism, he finds himself gradually falling in love with her. And so begins an emotionally intoxicating roller-coaster ride.

‘Unravelling Anjali’ is a cross cultural tale delving into love, lust and relationships. What happens if a woman meets her soul mate after marriage…and it’s not her husband?

Marriage is one serious business , my mom used to comment every time she started with the monologue on "what Not to do once you are married". An year of being married and living with my in-laws , I can actually appreciate some of the "gyaan" I got from her while growing upI re lived some of it reading this book.

Unravelling Anjali promised to offer me glimpse into two of the scenarios I have often wondered myself - How is it to live with some one whom you do not know , whose habits are so alien to you and secondly , what if you meet your soul mate after wedding. Even when I am happily married to the love of my life , I have often created many hypothesis on the scenario of meeting my husband in a situation where I am married to some one else !

And the book does not disappoint on any front. Wither it is Anjali's life in Sydney as some one who has stepped out of her comfort zone and into a new country for first time or her struggles with making her marriage work , the descriptions and the images are so alive in writing that I did not pause the reading any time myself. For Anjali , It is not just the geographical change that is bothersome but more so the change in ideas and opinions. Suddenly she is surrounded by new people with different ideologies and some where in between all this , her own feelings go through fundamental shift. Some times we learn the differences between right and wrong from others. some times we learn it by living in the grey areas our self. Love , trust , secrets and our personal goals are always different from others. When two people's lives come together under a roof , it is a pull and push game of expectations and understanding each other's needs. It is part of growing up and learning in life and this book gave so many glimpses into that.

Anjali's friendships , her desires and her resolve to make things better and comfortable for everyone around her made me adore her so much. I loved the various shades the writer wrote for all characters , subtler showing that true identities are not type casted but more fluid than it appears to our eyes.

Anjali's interactions with Jake Ellis reminded of the movie English Vinglish. I so understand why Sridevi thanks her friend for making her feel attractive and worthy in her own eyes. Loving yourself and affirming that you mean something to people known to you is a feeling we live and strive for continually.How much it affects Anjali is something i was curious about. To be fair, i would have accepted any of the possible outcome of this affair.

The writing is very clear , detailed and simple . There is a flow to the story and the presentation of emotional scenes is never over the top.

All in all , Unravelling Anjali is a very balanced book , quite warm and fun in equal parts.

My rating : 4/5

Monday, November 24, 2014

Gifts with no Giver, by Nirmala

To read poetry is easy, to understand poetry is a little more difficult. Spirituality and poetry have always gone together. A casual look into Indian history and mythology will show the same. Meera Bai or the sage Narada, they have composed poetry in dedication to the gods. Those poems cover the aspect of love and truth often. It is with a mix of alacrity and anxiety that I began to read this book of poems.

So, what are the poems about? In the poet’s own words, they are an attempt to capture the undying presence of love. They are to touch our souls, the words of a lover drunk with a passion for the truth.

Do they work? I suppose to each person, the understanding of a poem varies. I did enjoy and understand a few of the poems. Like one that speaks of being satisfied in the moment that is now; or the one that talks of the good things in “not knowing”. They carried meaning, and they were beautiful.

But, for the most part, these poems were confusing. Yes, I could sense that the poems were talking of love. But to me, they spoke in riddles that were too hard to unravel.

I’ll not be re-reading it. But I feel, if the reader can unravel those riddles, they might enjoy it enough to read them again.

Title: Gifts with no Giver
Author: Nirmala
Genre: Poetry

Saturday, November 22, 2014

#BookReview : Sambhala: The Journey Begins (Sambhala Trilogy #1) by Shariful Hasan , Arindam Mukherjee (Translator)

In a small village somewhere in rural Bangladesh, an old man starts behaving in bizarre ways.
Rashed, an undergraduate in Dacca, comes under police suspicion: presumed guilty of murder.
A thousand year old book goes missing from a house in Shantinagar and a group of Satan worshipers are let loose by their leader to retrieve it.
Nikolas Carson, a world renowned archaeologist willingly steps in his kidnappers' car.

Who is this strange old man? Why was a boy-next-door like Shamim murdered? What is Nikolas Carson's interest in a legend that has no factual evidence? What is 'Sambhala'?

As the story unravels from France and Rome to India and Tibet, each of the characters cling on to their mission, unaware that their fates are mysteriously intertwined.

Nimue Says:  What intrigued me about the book was its name and the lovely designed cover. In case you are not already aware , Sambhala is supposedly the Buddhist Pure land , also referenced in old hindu texts as the birthplace of last Vishnu avataar Kalki. This trivia with the key on its cover , the book seemed to be a journey to reach this land of ultimate nirvana. But is it really possible for some one to undertake such a journey and attain such wisdom and spiritual power ? 

In another interpretation , writers emphasized on the concept of a hidden land inhabited by mystic monks who live and work for good of humanity. Imagine the knowledge these monks would have and the burden of the mistakes and mis judgments too !

The book traces not the journey in the book#1 , but more so the roots and footprints of the seeker and his interactions with various people who shape his choices and decisions over the years. In this regard , 
The setting and character development is immaculately done from the beginning to the(ir) end. there are no over the top action scenes thrown here and there and neither did I feel the disconnect in the visuals. 
Of all the characters that Shariful juggles with his able pen , the seemingly ageless old man is one of the most intriguing and charming character I have come to like among few other fantasy characters.

While Shariful deserves praise for the story , I liked the way Arindam has translated it in English. The language is easy and later part of the book is actually more fun reading , with some nice modern references added in the dialogues.

My only complaint from the author ( and translator) is that some chapters change too abruptly and jump a lot between locations. this makes it a little upsetting until you get a hang of it.

All in all , a really entertaining tale. Awaiting the sequel now.

My Rating : 4/5

Friday, November 21, 2014

Long Journey Home, by Lucy Lipiner

One of the torrid historical events I have read about, and researched for a school project, is the Holocaust. Whereas the information I put into the project remains forgotten, the event itself resurfaces to mind with books on the topic. No book better than Anne Frank’s diary to touch on the topic. It was recently that I came across another book on it, and I thought I’d give it a go.

Long Journey Home is the memoirs of the author Lusia (Lucy) Lipiner. She returns to Poland and her native village of Sucha Bezkidzka there, to try and find a picture of her mother’s family. She wants to give it to her mother as a gift, the best gift she can give. The journey is not only about traveling the physical miles, but also the emotional miles that seem much more, because she left the country when she was a child. She finds one, of her parents’ engagement, and it opens a path back to her past, and to this memoir. She takes us back to her childhood, introduces her family, and tells how her uncle got caught by the Gestapo. She visits her ancestral home, and takes us along with her. She takes us back to the time when war first came (on a Friday, which she remembers because of Sabbath candles) and how they ran, almost toward the Germans. She tells us how they hid, how they were captured and taken to Siberia. The memoir is about them fleeing one country to another, in a bid to remain safe.

As with any memoir, there is sadness. It makes me feel sad, feel sorry for those families that had to run from one country to another to survive. Some things bring a smile, even though the moment that follows is a sad one, like Lucy unwittingly giving away her relatives’ hiding place because of her concern that they’ll be left behind. There are those moments of wonder, of near escapes. It has photos that tell a tale in itself; that was good. The writing here, perhaps because the book is a flashback, doesn’t manage to bring out that emotion strongly. You know it’s a troubling tale, and you feel glad that Lucy and her family survived, but the narration feels very plain to me.

I don’t think I can read it again. It’s not because of that plainness, but because of the setting of the tale. But it’s worth reading at least the once, because it is a tale of survival, and that’s an inspiration in a way.

Book: Long Journey Home: A Young Girl's Memoir of Surviving the Holocaust
Author: Lucy Lipiner
Genre: Memoirs

Monday, November 17, 2014

The One You Cannot Have, by Preeti Shenoy

Some authors leave a mark on your reading. Though the stories aren’t absolutely amazing, they still have those drops of brilliance that linger after the read; something that makes you eager to pick up the next novel of that author and read it. One such author, in my opinion, is Preeti Shenoy.

The One You Cannot have is a love story. The story mainly follows Aman, Anjali, Shruti and Rishabh. There are other characters too, each with their own importance but I feel it is these four who make the tale. Like the title says, it’s a story about the one person each cannot have. And the storyline I feel does that justice. Aman and Shruti were once inseparable, but when the latter left suddenly, the former, to recover, goes abroad. So what will happen when Aman returns to India years after? There are two girls in his life… Anjali, who is in love with him, and Shruti, who he has a hard time letting go of, even though she is already married. Throw in characters like the flirting friend Mark, and the husband Rishabh, and you know you’re in for a quick, yet enjoyable read.

What makes this book worth reading? It’s the characters. To me, they feel real. The way they react seems real, like hiding an old suitcase or jumping at the chance of finding love again. Or even the way they accept certain things. The book also has some subtle humor. The narration is simple, yet has the pace to keep the reader hooked. The alternating character narration helps to get into the skin of the character too.

What doesn’t work? The ending is predictable. I suppose the genre is one that doesn’t necessitate unpredictability, but still, I’d have liked a little suspense. Another thing I didn’t like was that once the story of the main characters is completed, the book ends with an epilogue. Some things end suddenly with that epilogue, and some aren’t ended at all. In a series, that’s kind of acceptable, but not in a standalone book.

The book is one that will take hardly a few hours to finish, and it is a one-time read. But like I said earlier, it was an enjoyable read. And would pick up her next book when it releases as well.

Book: The One You Cannot Have
Author: Preeti Shenoy
ISBN: 978-93-83260-68-3
Publisher: Westland Books

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Whisper of Worms by Marcadian

Book Cover
Title:Whisper Of Worms
Publisher: Cactus
Source: review copy via Tales Pensieve

         Being a book blogger, I have had the chance to read and review a good number of books in the past few years. In my initial years as a blogger, I never screened the review requests and used to accept whatever books that came my way. As the years passed by, I figured out that it made sense to accept only the books which I would potentially like reading. So when this book my ‘Marcardian’ (I guess it’s a pseudonym) came up for review, I was in two minds initially. I had never heard of this title before, the publisher was little known and the ‘author’ was virtually unknown. Still, I decided to give it a try, more out of curiosity than anything else.

To be very frank, I am confused what to say about this work. Where will I start?
To which genre does it belong?

 Is it a thriller? Hmm…, though it has traces of one, it never elevates itself to become a nail- biting experience.

Is it a love story? Partly yes, but terming it a love story will be like calling Rahul Gandhi a full time Politician.

Then is it a revenge saga/crime thriller? Definitely Not.

         May be, I can term ‘The Whisper Of Worms’ as a brutally honest, satirical account of a Man’s (Thobias Mathai) life as a banker and his rustic, eventful days in his native-the imaginary land called ‘Marcadia’. In the beginning of the story, Mathai who is recently diagnosed to have Cancer in the United States decides to come back to his native place to spend his final days there. The initial chapters are more of Mathai’s nostalgic trip down the memory lane and the reader is introduced to his childhood friends and the bonding which he had with them. These portions are sure to remind you of Anita Nair’s ‘Better Man’ and ’Mistress’, nevertheless are fun to read. As the plot unfolds, we get to know about a financial fraud which had happened in the bank for which Mathai was working. The remaining part of the book is all about the investigation of this fraud and has been narrated narrated in a humorous and satirical manner by the first time author.

        This one can be a decent read if you are someone with a lot of patience. It’s slow paced but once you get used to the mood of the book, I think it won’t be much of a problem. The language is plain and simple but sentences often feel like they have been translated to English from Malayalam. The writer definitely has got good ideas but he has to really work on his writing style. The problems which I felt with the book were the poor design of the book, formatting and typesetting (though the author cannot be blamed for it). The cover design is not at all appealing and I still cannot fathom why a title like this was given for this work. The pricing is okay. 

To Conclude, I feel Marcardian's debut work as an author is an okay read. It’s definitely not run-of-the-mill stuff. Pick it up, you may actually like it.

Verdict-A decent debut. I’m giving it a 2.6 out of 5.

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


Spotlight: Beyond School by Chitra Anand

Category: Fiction
Publisher: Leadstart Publishing
Date: 2014
Price: Rs 124
Pages: 201

About The Book:

Beyond School centres upon the weeks leading up to 17-year-old Shail s final board exams, as his world becomes a pressure-cooker and the weight of preparing for the exams sends him fleeing rebelliously in the other direction. Along with Shail s journey from boyhood to manhood, Beyond School vividly weaves between the narratives of four main characters, seamlessly uniting the past and present of Shail, his parents-Urmila and Sushil and his mentor-Gladys, in a story that is honest, funny, heartbreaking and ultimately, incredibly human.

About the Author:

Chitra Anand was born in Mumbai. She is a postgraduate in Physics and holds an Education degree. Beyond School is her first novel inspired by her journey as an educator.

Copies Available at all online stores:

1.    Flipkart:

2.    Amazon:

Know More Inside Stories, Connect with The Author:

Twitter: @chtranand

Read the book? Write a review on Goodreads:

Monday, November 10, 2014

Happily Murdered by Rasleen Syal

Title:Happily Murdered
Price:195 INR

Set in the small town of ‘Ratnagiri’,’Happily Murdered’ is a neatly executed murder mystery by first time author,’Rasleen Syal’.

Plot: GulabSarin, the bubbly bahu of the Mehta family is found dead, the very next day of her marriage. Since the possibility of a break in in the heavily guarded ‘Mehta’ Palace is zilch, the Police believes the murderer is one among the Mehtas.As it plays out, it becomes clear that every member of the Mehta household, right from Gulab’s adulterous husband, Sid to her Grand mother-in-law,Biji had something to gain from her death.To save their own skin, each of these potential suspects turn into amateur detectives and start unearthing vital clues which takes the story forward before it culminates in an interesting and well thought out climax.

Characters: There are quite a number of characters in ‘Happily Murdered’. The writer gets full credit for making each of them believable and unique. Be it the adamant and astute, K.D, who is more bothered about the pristine public image of the Mehta family than finding the real culprit behind the murder or the na├»ve and vulnerable,Sid, each one of these characters stands out and play their own part in making the narrative fast paced and intriguing.The book also has a parallel narrative through which the reader gets to know the ‘real’ Gulab(the victim),her life story, herlove, ambitions and weaknesses which is a rarity as far as books of this genre is concerned where very little will be revealed about the victim till the fag end of the story. The other principal characters in this novel are Monica,Vikram(Gulab’s business partner and the second son of K.D.Mehta),Sara(Gulab’s sister-in-law and the primary suspect),Yuvi(the youngest son of Mehta and Gulab’s best friend).

Language, writingstyle: The writing is flawless and easy to relate with. Though there is nothing new about the setting and the overall storyline (Rasleen seems to be heavily inspired by her ‘guru’ Christie), it’s the execution which makes this book an engaging read. Usually in crime thrillers like this, the author chooses the easy way out to narrate the story through the eyes of the investigator thereby making the peripheral characters uni-dimensional and lifeless.Thankfully, inRasleen’sworld, there is no Poirot or Miss Marple (or their desi clones) to take the story forward. In fact she has chosen a character driven narrative for her first work. The writer deserves a pat on her back for choosing this interesting but more difficult path to narrate her tale.It not only proves that she is confident with her work but also emphasises that she is a genuine story teller.Not everyone will like the way,Rasleen has concluded her murder mystery, I’m pretty sure. Butthat doesn’t take the sheen away from this beautifully crafted work of fiction.

Overall Layout and Cover Design: The overall layout of the book is quite decent but I feel the cover design could have been much better. The book has occasional typos and grammatical errors which I hope they will correct in the subsequent editions of the book.

Pricingand Marketing: At 195 INR,’Happily Murdered’ is quite modestly priced and not a very expensive book by any stretch of imagination. (I have just discovered that this website called ‘CupoNation’ has listed all the deals available for this book and a couple of other desi thrillers at Amazon coupons.Even if you are an amazon hater, there is a reason to cheer. They have also listed some deals for rediff books in their site.Do check out their website for availing these coupons and buying this work).I think the book is marketed well for I have seen its copies everywhere, be it the online stores or their offline counterparts.

What I liked the most about the book:
1. The writing style
2. The Characters

What I didn’t like:
Nothing Much

Verdict: On the whole, ‘Happily Murdered’ is an engaging read. I’m giving it 3.5 out of 5.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Ultra-short Book Review: Love Stories that touched my heart

'Love Stories that touched my heart' is an anthology of (obviously) love stories,edited by Ravinder Singh (and published by Penguin India ,2012) whose 'I too had a love story' was a huge marketing success.This compilation has twenty five stories by mostly first time writers and tries to tell contemporary tales of Love in a realistic and believable way.

The good thing about the book is that it is a simple,breezy read and can be easily done with in a couple of hours.The few ones which stand out are 'Heart Strings' by Roshan Radhakrishnan,'Flirting' (Vinayak N), 'A Love Story In Reverse'(Sujir Pavithra Nayak) and 'May God Bless You,Dear'(Yamini Vijendar).

Though the authors have tried to explore the various shades of love and longing with the recurring themes being senility,alzheimers disease and dementia,it's a pity that none of these 25 writers have touched upon taboo themes like homosexuality /same sex love in their stories.Majority of the stories in this anthology are mediocre and shallow and offers nothing new in terms of content.

On the whole,'Love Stories that touched my heart' ends up as an average compilation,at best! Rating-2.4/5


Monday, November 3, 2014

'Tips' to become a succesful book blogger

Image Courtesy-Fast Company
"Sir, I am the fan. Reading your book reviews. Me likes you.Want to write blog-bookreviews blog.What to do? How to get free review copy books?                                                   -Kuldeep (name changed,obviously!),via e-mail

                       I will be bluffing if I say that I wasn’t surprised when I read  this mail for the very first time.Infact, like flocks of pigeons getting back to their favourite coops,a myriad of permutations and combinations flew in to my mind,once I was finished reading it; the most rational ones among them being-
  • Someone loves me so desperately that he/she wants to start a blog and  immortalise our laila-majnu love story in the virtual world.
  •  The awesomeness in my writing  is so  irresistible that even  something as inanimate as my ceiling fan has started singing praises (in this case,typing e-mails) acknowledging my sheer genius!
  •  My collection of personalised spam mails has just touched the magic figure of 10,000

             Usually in situations like this which warrant a socially astute and intellectually precise analysis,it’s my chechi who comes to my rescue .This time too she didn’t disappoint me.It took her a while to decode the cryptic message and convince me that what we were staring at wasn’t a cute little gay love letter (as I initially feared), but a certificate of appreciation from a good soul ('God bless him') who was mighty impressed with whatever crap I was writing here @ RT and was actually asking me for some pearls of wisdom (read tips on writing a book review) before making his/her baby steps in the big,bad world of book blogs. So I, nikhmenon, the most awesomely awesome blogger and love guru that the blogosphere has ever produced have decided to enlighten you all with my wildly original and stupendously fantabulous tips on how to become the Chetan Bhagat among the book-bloggers.

                  Well,before actually proceeding with the gyaan,I think it will be better if we look into the most vital part of Kuldeep’s question first - i.e. the bit about getting free review copies.-

      Let me be honest.You are no James Wood (atleast, not yet) but a newbie book blogger and there is every possibility of you and your family members being the sole readers of your initial posts.So don’t delude yourself into thinking,even if for a split second ,that publishers or PR agencies are going to pamper you with free review copies and review requests straight away.In other words,for getting books initially,you’ll have to rely heavily on the local library or buy them on your own .Now,don’t get me wrong.I can totally understand that books are pretty expensive and buying them at their cover price (of 399,250,499,599 INR) may not be financially viable all the time.These days,online stores are offering books at affordable prices and you can give them a try. 

So guys, here comes nikhimenon's golden tips to become a superstar book blogger-
Be organised: no one likes to read a review written in a haphazard manner.There may not be a definite format for writing one, but it will be better if you stick to a basic template which covers the important aspects of a book-plotting,characters,writing style,writing etc.

Keep away from spoilers : a review is not synonymous with  a  synopsis.So,while writing a review you are neither required nor expected to give away the whole plot and each and every plot twist and also,don't post something just for the sake of it.

Be Polite: good or bad it may be,every book is the result of someone’s passion and hardwork.You may totally hate a book,but be polite and not too harsh in expressing your views.

Make it simple and crisp:Remember this cardinal rule-People read blog reviews because they want to know whether a particular book is good or bad without having to go through blocks of prose replete with intellectual pretensions and heavy duty literary jargons.Respect your reader and make your reviews  crisp and easy to read.

Be Patient: No one has become a superstar blogger overnight.Recognition in blogosphere takes time and there are no short cuts for achieving instant success as a blogger.Read like there is no tomorrow and pen down your sincere thoughts in a lucid, organised and unpretentious manner.Your work will definitely get its due.

(The second part of this post will be published soon)


Saturday, November 1, 2014

#BookReview : Seven Secret of the Goddess by Devdutt Pattanaik

Within infinite myths lies the Eternal Truth?
Who sees it all?
Varuna has but a thousand eyes
Indra, a hundred
And I, only two.

Since I started reading preface /Author's note of the books , This is the quote that I admire the most.This is a humble opening to all books by Devdutta and it eloquently sums how every myth must be treated in all fairness. That is in terms of many truths or many versions. Devdutta Pattanaik is one author whose books I await eagerly. Thejourney that started with "the Pregnant King" is perhaps my initiation into reading mythology and acknowledging the fact that it is a definitive factor that shapes us and the society in general.

Seven Secret Of the Goddess starts with the differences between goddess and Goddess , devi and Devi. The subtlety yet the significance of the differences set the tone of the book for me. It prepares one to be concious and aware during the reading else one might miss something. The book is divided into seven sections - Gaia (the Greek Goddess of creation), Kali, Gauri, Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Vitthai (A female form of Lord Krishna). The first section talks of mother of Gods and how in each religion / mythology , the female domination turned into trading first and then into male domination and ownership as we see today. It nowhere says the merits of one over another but presents the truth as it is, leading the reader to question the way we treat women today.

Many of hindu readers are already aware of some of the Devi forms from the frequently read "Durga Stuti" so it was quite relatable and interesting to know of other versions and stories popular in different parts and communities of the country.From the wild and powerful Kali to the domesticated and docile Gauri, the book covers all moods of the devi and the women in general emphasizing that since long, all variations of devi have been present and worshipped by human. All the forms are as important as the Devi from who they emerge.

Another reason that I love this book (and others by Devdutt) is for the mention of source for all the tales. Even in this book, all the scriptures from which the stories have been picked are mentioned so that any reader with further interest can refer them any time. Linking the stories not just across geographical boundaries but also across cultures in different centuries has been done flawlessly.

Every page of the book has the images / artforms depicting the stories and hence is so easy to relate with the text. The images are from all over the country and some from old texts and paintings , each with captions making it really engaging read for anyone.

My rating : 5/5

This is a book that can be and should be read by every one interested in mythology or history or society.

You can buy the book from flipkart

Also try the flipkart e book version of the book here

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 ...