Friday, February 28, 2014

Haveli, by Zeenat Mahal

One thing that always makes me happy after reading an e-book, rare that I do read one though, is that I don’t feel that I’ve read an e-book. That is to say, it has managed to engage me to the extent that I haven’t felt the strain of reading it. I’m not a big fan of Kindle reading personally, but of late, I’ve read a couple of decent novels on my PC, so happy to note that this book is one of them.

Zeenat Mahal’s book Haveli takes us Pakistan in the seventies, a setting that I have not read previously, and the moti of that mahal is a 20 year old girl named Chandini, who oddly enough, hates her name and calls herself C. The story brews around her, her love for an older man Kunwar and her grandmother, who she unceremoniously and unabashedly refers to as The Broad. The love story is thrown helter-skelter by the arrival of Taimur (promptly nicknamed as Alpha Male) and “the Broad”’s decision to get C married to him. The story is a straightforward one, and has no big twists and turns, though a small unexpected twist does come sometime. I won’t go into even the small details, since it is sure to give away the plot.

So, straight to the heart of it. What’s good in the book is that it is pacey. You can finish it in a couple of hours and not feel bored at all. The characters are interesting and keep you engaged in their story. The main character C is portrayed nicely as well. Simple narration, nothing to make you head for a dictionary. All in all, it works well. What I felt odd was to see the nicknames taking over through the novel. Taimur isn’t called by his name, rather the nickname. Though I do agree that in context of C’s character it is warranted, it being spread throughout the story kind of felt strange. Nothing to the extent of making the book terrible, but still something I personally did not like.

One time read, but a worthwhile one-time read. Engaging and very enjoyable. This is Zeenat’s first publication. Congratulations for that to the author!

In A Gist:
Positives: Memorable characters, simple pacey narration
Negatives: Repetition of nicknames feels a little strange

About the author:
Zeenat Mahal is an avid reader and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She has an MPhil in English literature from Government College Lahore and is currently doing an MFA in creative writing from Kingston University, London. "Haveli" is Zeenat’s first published novella. Currently she is working on a literary novel with elements of magical realism, while continuing to write romances.

Book Details:
Title: Haveli
Series: N/a
Author: Zeenat Mahal
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Indireads Inc.
Price: INR. 150

Reviewed by Leo, for Indireads.
The book can be puchased via the Indireads website at

Neil Must Die by Kaberi Chatterjee

Title:Neil Must Die
Author:Kaberi Chatterjee
Publisher:BlackBuck Publishers
Source:review copy via
Price:INR 190/-

                      My expectations were quite low when I picked up this book.To be very frank,I didn't know what to expect out of this work.The cover was not very appealing,neither did the title.The blurb given on the jacket made me feel that I was going to read a book version of one of those Ekta Kapoor sagas which they air every other day on television.
                      Debutant Kaberi Chatterjee's 'Neil Must Die' is the (lovelife) story of Neil,a twenty something  lad from a conservative Bengali family.He falls in love with his bhabhi(Tuli) which sends shockwaves through the Roy household.Perhaps to get out of this mess,Neil escapes to Bombay and befriends Remo-the trusted aide of a dreaded Mafia don(-Hassan).But little did Neil know that circumstances would force him to work for the Mafia one day.'NMD' is also the tragic tale of Tuli,the eighteen year old girl who is married to the wrong guy.The other characters in the story are Juhi,the high-end call girl who develops an instant liking for Neil,Soumen-Neil's brother and Tuli's 'lawfully wedded husband',Mahamaya,Vikram Bhatt and Cathy-Neil's foreigner friend who almost convinces him to start his life afresh in Stockholm. 
                       Coming to the positives of the book,author has tried to tell a bold tale in a neat manner without resorting to much gimmicks or word play.The book uses it's 'Bengali connection' quite well,I must say.Kaberi plays tribute to the beautiful city of Kolkatta without relying much on the in-your-face cultural stereotypes to prove her point.The book is decently edited and also modestly priced.
                        On the downside,the basic problem with this book is poor characterisation.Barring the title character(that too only to an extent),none of the characters are well etched out which is a pity since this is one work which relies heaviy on it's characters to strike a chord with the readers.The reader never gets to know the real 'Tuli' and most of the time we get the feeling that she is one of those hyper-active adolescent girl who takes impulsive decisions.Kaberi might have a good command over the language but what is the point if the reader is not able to empathise or relate to the characters which she had written?Likewise,Neil is one guy who is loved by each and every other girl whom he meets in his life.Be it Juhi,Tuli or even Cathy,every XY is ready to share bed with him and he quite seems to be "living the dream",then why on earth should he die?Honestly speaking,not even once did I feel like sympathising with him.I wish the author had spent more pages trying to emphasise the intensity of the bonding or love between Tuli and Neil rather than filling page after page with Neil's sexual escapades with the different women in his life!The parallel track involving Hassan bhai,Vikram Bhatt and Remo evoked a sense of dejavu and the twists and turns seemed rather predictable.

Verdict- I am giving a 2.5/5 for this work.


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

Prisoner,Jailor,Prime Minister-Tabrik C

Title:Prisoner,Jailor,Prime Minister
Author:Tabrik C
Publishers:Hachette India

         I owe a lot to blogadda.It was through this wonderful platform that I had got the chance to read some really cool works like ,'The Devotion of Suspect X' and 'The Salvation Of a Saint'.So naturally,when this new political-thriller by Tabrik C came up for review through blogadda,my expectations were sky-high.I was almost certain that what I had got was nothing but a chance to read the next desi best-seller before the whole world would start talking about it.
         'PJP' is the story of Sidharth Tagore,the 'Harvard educated',newly elected Prime Minister of the World's largest democracy.He has his arch-rival in Rukmani Devi,who is constantly trying to tarnish his new found image among the Urban educated youth.'Prisoner Jailor,Prime Minister' traces the journey of the musician- turned- politician Siddharth from Harvard to 7,Race Course road.
          The book has got quite a number of characters(Rukmani Devi,Rubaya,Gregor,Thor-to name a few) besides Tagore but none of them except him really manage to leave an impression.Blame it on half-baked characterisation or lousy plot twists that the book becomes  boring and brutally predictable after a point.Though Tabrik's language is fine,the gaping plot holes and serious lack of editing makes the novel a tedious read.Another issue I have is with the debutant author's style of writing. Infact the non-linear type of story telling didn't work for me,at all.          
          The author tries to pack in a lot of things and as a result he totally loses the plot mid-way.There is a nuclear blast in the beginning and a murder happening somewhere towards the middle but they remain neglected till the fag end of the story.To be very frank,I think the author himself had no clear idea about what to do with the rather promising story line of this book.Instead of rushing through and getting the book released(by early 2014) to cash-in on the pre-election euphoria,he should have worked more on the story line and developed it into a more interesting work of fiction,I feel.Moreover at 325+ pages,the book is tad too long.The writer's dislike for the Bharathiya Janatha Party,Hinduism and the Vedas is pretty evident though he desperately tries to mask it using irrevelant metaphors and weird reasoning.The writer tries to take pot shots at pseudoliberals and arm-chair activists but as the plot progresses the reader keeps wondering whether the author himself is one among those 'Aam-Admi' type seculars who keep talking about their 'idea of India' on one hand and visits radical clerics to safe guard their vote-banks on the other.

Verdict-Tabrik C's debut work is a mediocre affair.It could have been a lot better.I'm giving it a generous Two out of five. 

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


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Miss Moorthy Investigates-an ultra-short Book Review

Title-Miss Moorthy Investigates
Author-Ovidia Yu
Year- 2012
First Published in Singapore(1989)
Price-INR 195 /-
    When I picked up this work,little did I know that it was first published in 1989 because had i known that before,I would have definitely kept my expectations very low(many of the plot twists had a 'dated feel' to them).Set in the Singapore of the 70's,'Miss Moorthy investigates' traces the life of Savitri Moorthy,a Singapore settled Indian teacher.Her life takes a turn when she finds out that her favourite student's dad might be responsible for the death of her colleague,Evelyn.As the title suggests,'MMI' is all about Savi Moorthy's attempts to nab the killer of her acquaintance.
             The book is an easy read but I must also admit that the investigation part and the climactic twist didn't really work for me(may be it would have worked in the early ninetees,when the book was first published!).Besides,there were far too many things which were left un-explained at the end.(like,how did the killer manage to carry out the two murders,despite his/her victims being quite healthy and well-built?)

Verdict- Not a very thrilling read.I am giving it a generous two out of five.


Friday, February 14, 2014

The Other Side by Faraaz Kaazi and Vivek Banerjee

Title-The Other Side
Genre-Horror Fiction/Athology
Authors-Vivek Banerjee and Faraaz Kaazi
Source-review copy via
Price-INR 150/-
Publisher-Mahaveer Publishers

             I'm a huge fan of horror fiction.So when this book(a collection of Horror tales written by Faraaz Kaazi and Vivek Banerjee) came up for review,I didn't have to think twice before accepting it.The Other Side is an anthology of thirteen tales of the paranormal.Even though the book doesn't really manage to take the reader on a tour de force of unadulterated horror(as it's cover claims),it qualifies as a fun,time pass read.As in the case of any other anthology,not all the thirteen tales in this bunch are refreshing.Some of these stories are really good and partly succeed in drawing upon the fear of the unknown while quite a few of them are actually too silly and even plain boring.
             Writing horror fiction can be tricky,especially in this era where the average reader is exposed to umpteen number of quality horror films from across the world.I must admit that both Faraaz and Vivek have managed to pack in the occassional twist which will take you by surprise.I would also like to congratulate the writers for coming up with innovative techniques like animated cover page for the marketing of the book.
              'That fateful night' narrates the bizarre incidents happening in the life of a young doctor and his wife while 'The Long Weekend' is about a young couple Sachin and Shikha who plan a holiday in a hill station(this story also has an Ouija board angle thrown into it which unfortunately adds little to the narrative).The basic problem with both these stories is their predictability.Be it the setting,the characters or even the twists, all reek of familiarity and leaves nothing but a sense of dejavu in the mind of the readers.'Red bangles' starts off as a romantic tale but soon transforms to something else.Bland writing and cliched ending fails to salvage this story from the pits of mediocricity to which it eventually falls into.The 'Man who didn't fear' is the type of story which could have easily found it's place in Ram Gopal Varma's 'Darna Mana Hai' series.The tale has a predictable and a bit silly climax.'Mark of the Beast' chronicles the life journey of a newly married couple who decide to have a different kind of honey moon in the mountains.It's the interesting twist in the end which makes this story the pick of the lot.'Posession' will definitely remind you of a recent Hollywood Blockbuster.Neverthless,it ends up as an interesting take of a familiar theme.In 'Muse comes calling',a best selling author is startled when his muse suddenly pays him a surprise visit.The psychopath in 'Dream Girl' has traces of 'Buffalo Bill' in him.This bizarre story tries to blend elements of crime and horror and meets with considerable success.Among the rest, 'Strangers in the Night'(the usual tale of a hitchhiking gone wrong with the mandatory twist in the end)and 'The Lady In the Pub' are just about okay.The authors have even tried to bring in some freshness to the prelude and the epilogue which I believe is worth applauding.
              Coming to the positives,this anthology is largely aimed at the young readers who don't wish to get weighed down by heavy duty literary stuff.Modestly priced at INR 150/-,I think it's only a matter of time that this book becomes the next 'National best-seller'!
             On the downside,I felt that there were far too many cliched moments in majority of the stories.C'mmon,how many times have we seen and read about that 'newly married couple who decide to settle down in a huge haveli somewhere in the outskirts of the city?The writers' over-indulgence with stereotypes and metaphors do hamper the prospects of many stories which started off well.Another issue which I have this book is the style of writing-though at no point of time either Vivek or Faraaz try to pretend that they are writing anything more than a work of mass commercial horror fiction,the plainness in writing is sure to repulse the discerning reader on atleast a couple of occassions.(Now,please don't get me wrong,I never intended to say that the writing is un-imaginative and dumb-it just happens that the writing was too 'desi' for my liking!).On the whole, Vivek-Faraaz duo's debut attempt at horror fiction is a mixed bag.

Verdict-The Other Side is a time-pass read.Neither too good nor too bad.No harm in giving it a try.Rating-3/5


Ajaya: Epic of the Kaurava Clan Book 1 - Roll of the Dice by Anand Neelakantan

Review by Nimue :

It is said that reading widens your perspective. But that will not happen unless you read all views on the topic. With that in mind , I picked “Ajay”. Initially I could not understand the reason behind the book’s name . Ajay meaning one who can not be defeated , does not suit Kaurava brothers at all. Was it a word play with the “Jaya” , the other name of mahabharat ? This I would like to ask the author some day.
It was not easy for me to connect to the book for the fact that I was too accustomed to treat Pandavas as good ones and the Kaurava brother duo of Duryodhan and Dushasan as being the notorious ones right from their bith. How wrong ! How can a child be this evil unless conditioned to be so ?  the transition of Suyodhan and Sushasan to be known by their now popular names is both amusing and little saddening. To imagine the teachers being ignorant enough to curb a child’s curiosity in name of religion and rituals rings a bell to the current scenario where religion is used to preach a lot of senseless stuff. The portrayal of the society in that era and the troubles of the lower castes and the poor bears a parallel to today’s Indian society. no wonder , corruption , crime and rebels were so convincingly used in the plot.
100 pages into the book , I kind of appreciated the fact that the author had so carefully and so perfectly turned every character into a human being. No divine powers and miracles were left assumed to be so. Every event and character had a reason and a role to play in the epic we know as Mahabharat – from the well known to the unknown people. Everything was lot more plausible than the Mahabharat based books I have read before , which always had a mythical and mystical air about the story. I liked the dialogues of Bhishma and Balaram about bringing change in the society and to keep trying as they seemed fit , in hope it would make some effect on generations to come. Personally , the meeting between Balaram and Suyodhan was very inspiring read for me.
Krishna , who is another very prominent character in this story has been painted in an entirely different light , a bit shocking at times and at others , it fits too beautifully in the plot to be even noticed until the end where I found myself asking , Was Krishna really a God or given that title by humans for their sake. Which reminded me of the part where Balaram says that everyone has god within them.
I totally heart this book and wait for the other two parts ( Oh yeah , the book is huge already ! ). This has made me look at the tale with a new pair of glasses and I hope I can get to read other such works this year.

Review by Urmi : 

let this book sit upon my shelf for a long time before I started reading it a couple of weeks ago. It sounded like one of those riding the current mythology wave, and I hadn't heard good things about it from my other reader friends. However, the huge success of Neelakantan's debut book, Asura, and the fact that this was a story of the 'other side', piqued my interest. We've read altogether too many Kaurava-bashing Mahabharatas, and a fresh perspective was welcome.

It is interesting that Neelakantan should pick a name like Ajaya for his trilogy, because to me it seems like a subtle and intentional mockery of the 'original' Mahabharata, which was called Jaya. Incidentally, popular mythology author and illustrator, Devdutt Pattanaik, has also recently wrote a book by that name, which did very well. The word 'Ajaya' means invincible, but phonetically split, A-Jaya also looks like the anti-thesis of Jaya. Neelakantan seems to have decided to be the anti-heroes' torchbearer from the word go, as he subtitles the book Epic of the Kaurava Clan. Roll of the Dice is the first of the three books in this series.

Roll of the Dice takes a little time picking up pace, which might explain the few discouraged readers I spoke about earlier. He takes his time introducing the principal characters like Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, Balarama, Karna, Parshurama, Shakuni, Ekalavya and of course, Suyodhana (Duryodhana) and dedicates entire chapters to them. But once the stage is set, the plot gathers speed and the story flows easily from one chapter to the next. The author paints detailed character sketches, even those of minor characters like Jara, Dhaumya, Takshaka and Mayasura, gently convincing the readers to empathise with the traditional villains. In fact, Neelakantan's excessive sympathy for the underdog translates into large-ish portions dedicated to the untouchable beggar Jara and his blind dog, Dharma. Jara's continued presence in the plot evokes tremendous pathos and keeps reminding the reader that this is the story of the other side, which no one has ever wanted to hear.

Neelakantan is convincing in his portrayal of Suyodhana (nicknamed Duryodhana by the Pandavas) as a kind-hearted if short-tempered soul. Karna, who is generally recognised as a noble character even in the 'regular' Mahabharatas, is shown as a valiant warrior and friend, and Ashwathama & Sushasana (aka Dushasana) as loyal friends and supporters. Only Shakuni is the pure villain in Neelakantan's book. The author also succeeds in painting the Pandavas, Kunti and Krishna in a rather vile light, portraying them as a ruthless and conniving bunch. Only Arjuna's character is shown to have some nobility. He downplays their divinity and offers rational, believable explanations instead. One of my favourites is how he explains Karna's divine Kavach (armour). He says the armour, crafted by the finest workmen, was a gift to Karna by a king belonging to a dynasty of sun worshippers. Sounds so much more plausible than a baby being born with armour, doesn't it?

Even though Neelakantan rationalises a lot of mystical elements in his book, his story remains true to the original. Although sources have not been quoted, the basic plot is the same as the Mahabharata we have all grown up listening to. It seems thoroughly researched and generally legit. Some relationships/connections such as Subhadra and Suyodhana's, Karna and Parshurma's, Takshaka and Ekalavya's may be romaticised and fictionalised, but they serve the author's purpose well in painting these anti-heroes in a humane light. He is, in fact, so skilled as an author, that in just one book, I've found my faith in Krishna a little shaken. If that's not his success as an author, I don't know what else is.
I shall definitely complete the trilogy as they release, and you should too.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Rogerson's Book of Numbers

It's hard to review works of non-fiction, especially if they're the kind that pack in trivia. But I am compelled to write some words of glowing praise for this wonderful book called Rogerson's Book of Numbers. I picked it from from the Mumbai airport and it was easily one of my best buys for 2013. Author Barnaby Rogerson collects numerical gems from around the world, across all possible subjects to compile this fantastic go-to book about numbers.

When William Dalrymple testifies for it as a book that is 'Dangerously addictive, wonderfully witty and crazily wide-ranging and erudite,' he doesn't lie. The Book of Numbers totally hijacked my time and made me put down another book I had just started. It doesn't help that I am a student of mythology and feel compelled to devour any information that is related to the subject. But this book has numerical references from not only mythology, but also literature, religion, popular culture, politics, sports, cinema, superstition and more!

The author starts with the largest numbers and goes down to zero, presenting fascinating insights into the culture of many a place through the stories about numbers. It is quite the perspective changer, when one reads about the the vastly different associations a number has in different cultures. A number that is considered unlucky in Europe, for example, might be thought of as auspicious in China. The book is full of eye-opening facts and a treasure trove of number-facts.

A work that is surely the outcome of painstaking research, The Book of Numbers is a worthy addition to your bookshelf, whatever your area of interest. Its crisp style and easy indexing makes the book a handy little guide. And with the little glimpses it offers into an array of interesting subjects, it will lead the reader on to greater discoveries.

Buy it.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Book Review: Done With Men, by Shuchi Singh Kalra

The key to any story is the plot. Some are simple and direct, some have twists, and some have morals. I feel that a simple plot is not necessarily a bad thing, but it should have enough in the story to appeal to the reader, and keep turning the pages.

The story/plot in the book "Done With Men" is, I feel, very simple. It's the story of a journalist Kairavi Krishna, who wakes up one fine (or maybe not so fine) day to find that she's in the hospital with a dislocated shoulder and fractured clavicle. She's in the care of her BFF Baani and her boyfriend Kapil. She's in Goa, on a working vacation. She's had her share of problems, which make her take the vacation for some alone time, but things don't end up the way she had thought it will.

The good thing about the story, as I told before, is that it is simple and direct; not only with the plot, but with the narration as well. The unfortunate part is that in such a case, the directness usually works against the story, and makes it very easy to know the ending. Yes, there are some bumps along the way that she must negotiate, but it's not something that affects the ending at all. Even if there are no twists, I feel the ending shouldn't be that predictable after reading a few pages.

The novella is a nice breezy read, which I feel is apt for a few hours journey. And it is a one-time read.

In A Gist:
Positives: Simple plot
Negatives: Predictability

About the author:
Shuchi Singh Kalra is a writer, editor and blogger based in India. She has been writing since 2005, and has freelanced with popular magazines. Her short stories have found a place in anthologies as well. This is her first book.

Rating: 3/5

Book Details:
Title: Done With Men
Series: N/a
Author: Shuchi Singh Kalra
Genre: Romance
Publisher: Indireads
Price: $3

Reviewed by Leo, for Indireads.
The book can be puchased via the Indireads website at
This is an advance-review. The book release is on 14/2/2014.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

AN.AL-THE ORIGINS by Athul Demarco

Title-AN.AL-the origins
Author-Athul Demarco
Publisher-Prakash Books/Fingerprint
Price-INR 250/-
Source-Goodreads Firstreads
                 Agreed,Athul Demarco’s debut novel,’AN.AL-the origins’ has got a weird or rather bizarre title but that was no reason for me to not like this refreshingly original and brutally honest tale of the ‘Man with the two heads’.As the tag- line suggests,this book is the first in the series which chronicles the escapades of the parapagus(Conjoined) detective twins-Andy and Alfie(the title being an acronym created from the first two letters of the protagonists's names).

The Plot-Andy and Alfie are two smart and intelligent conjoined twins who are ready to face the big,bad world.They stumble upon Superindentent Roth who decides to utilize their expertise for cracking difficult and 'twisted' cases.As fate would have it,the only son of the powerful and influential Costello couple goes missing in broad day light only to be found dead somewhere in the outskirts of the city a couple of days later. Roth who is vying for a life of luxury post retirement sees this case as his big ticket to the 'life' which he is craving for and seeks the help of the 'detective twins' to solve the murder.

The Characters-The biggest strength of this novel is the characterisation.As it is often said,if the character(s)is(are) poorly written and difficult to relate to,even the most amazingly written story can seem dull and boring.Though the concept of having conjoined twins as protagonists is hardly innovative,what makes Athul's efforts laudable is the manner in which he has etched out his principal characters.Both Andy and Alfie may be as different as chalk and cheese(the former being the quiet and introvert type while the latter tending to the other extreme)but still there is that bond of brotherhood and intellectual companionship which unites them whenever the need arises.Similarly the other characters,be it the Superindentent Routh or his deputy Eugene have also been written well.The writer has intentionally kept the character of Anitha a bit hazy or vague but that is understandable.(Oh!,I hate giving out spoilers!C'mmon,read the book to know more about her!

The Writing-Athul's writing is fine as long as he doesn't try to be 'super cool' by throwing in the 'F' words and expletives(which unfortunately happens quite often in the initial pages of the book).The writer has used simple,conversational English to convey his story and doesn't burden the reader by resorting to word play or other gimmicks at any point of time.  
'AN.AL',I feel is one of those works which gives more important to character sketches than the actual plot,which is okay for me.(but I'm pretty sure that this approach might not be liked by many)The reader gets to know about the killer,motive and the victim quite early and as a result the mystery element is clearly missing in the narrative.Neverthless,the writing is quite interesting and fast paced to make good for that.
The scenes which I loved the most in the book-
  • The Hospital scene in which Alfie tries to flirt with the beautiful nurse Liya  even when his brother is worried about the condition of Inspector Eugene was hilarious.
What I didn't like about this work-
  • The climactic duel between the killer and the twins was a big let down.(the dialogues!OMG!)
  • The 'Mrs Robinson episode'looked straight out of Kamal Haasan's yesteryear Blockbuster 'Pushpakavimanam'.
  • Likewise,some instances/situations in the book looked rather clich├ęd.
  • The disjointed narrative technique used by the author didn't quite work for me.Similarly I could also notice a couple of goof-ups.(how did Peter and Rita who were 14 and 11 respectively in 1980 become 'old' by 1988?Did I really miss something in between?).Moreover the core theme of the book(cannibalism)might repel some of it's potential readers.(thankfully, there aren't many violent,repulgnant sequences in the novel could have hampered it's prospects more!) 

    Verdict-On the whole,Athul Demarco makes a promising debut with AN.AL-the origins.I'm giving 3/5 for this horror- thriller.


#BookReview: Utrecht Rain by Jonathan Wilkins

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars Maaike Meijer is attacked in a senseless outbreak of violence at the Dom Tower in Utrecht. Her broth...