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

Review: Kingdom Above the Cloud by Maggie Platt

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