Tuesday, December 27, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: SHADOW IN THE MIRROR BY DEEPTI MENON

Name of the Book: Shadow in the Mirror
Author: Deepti Menon
Rating: 4 Stars

The Begining...



'Shadow in the Mirror' has the quality to draw in the reader. It will suck you in with the opening scene where a girl commits suicide. At the cost of sounding morbid, I must say that Ms. Menon has done a wonderful job in ..err... killing her. The description of a girl falling down to the flow of her thoughts during her last moment has been beautifully penned. 


"The descent seemed unending and with a sinking feeling, she sensed the ground speeding up to receive her. Soon it would all be over, her life and that of the tiny one she carried within her. Her last, surprisingly calm thought was that of the man she loved, her husband who worshiped her."
​This will also attach you to the victim throughout the story. Even as you wade through the mystery and the influx of characters, Nita will never leave your side. She is one powerful character, even in her absence. 
The Characters:

Ms. Menon, like a true artist of the thriller genre, has weaved a tapestry of characters. Each taking the story a bit further. And here lies my one peeve. Till the Chapter Friends and Rival, I was lost to the world of Nita, Krish, and Aunty. I could feel my heartbeat quickening for I knew disaster would strike anytime and I wanted to get to the moment, to feel the fear that Nita was feeling. And then, suddenly in the above-mentioned chapter, Vinny and Roma are introduced. In stories, which follow the art of foreshadowing, one of the biggest problem I find, is the introduction of characters that don't go till the end. I read and re-read this story twice, just to make sure, but I could not for the world understand what one of the characters was doing in this book. Cannot give out the spoiler even though I am burning to do so. You can see how much this book has affected me. I was romancing the killer, the plot and then suddenly like an abandoned wife, I have to wait for the story to reach its full circle. This I object to as a reader.

The Plot:
Is gripping.  Deepti Menon can write. There is no doubt about the way she creates her characters. The fear factor and the senility in few of the characters have been brought out so well, that I had goosebump moments.  I could almost hear the crackling laughter and the way the title of the story has been introduced in the middle has an 'aha' moment. If I am not mistaken in my analysis, it's the two main characters walking towards each other, after many incidents occur in their life. And I am even awed at the fact that whom I thought to be the main character, is just a past in our hero's life. This Ms. Menon has done full justice to.

Thriller, Mystery, and Ambiguity...

Like many thriller writers, to keep the readers guessing, often one falls prey to unnecessary subplots. Here too has been the case. At least the subplot of Roma and Meghana and Rohit puzzled me. So though the mystery element did not work for me, the thriller did. You have got to read this book till the end to actually grasp the full essence of this story. One thing I can truly say, that there is no ambiguous ending to this story and for that I am grateful. My peanut brain could not take that after the roller coaster ride I had to go through to reach the cause of death of Nita.  :P

​Would I recommend this book:
For the beautiful language and characterization of the villain, this book is definitely worth a read. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: WITH YOU I DANCE BY AARTI V. RAMAN

Name of the Book: With You I Dance
Author: Aarti V. Raman
Star Rating: 4 Stars
I am no stranger to Aarti V. Raman's style of writing. Her Kingdom Come had left such an impact on me that it’s inevitable that I will compare WYID with KC. But her versatility as a writer makes it very difficult for me to do that.

No two books can be so different in terms of their writing style, voice, and narration. No author can depict women in so many shades. While Ziya left me feeling strong, Meera of WYID invoked the mother in me. I wanted to protect her. To take away her pain. 

As an artist, I could relate to Meera.  Can I imagine myself, waking up one morning and finding out that I cannot write anymore? Can you imagine getting up one morning and finding that the thing that makes you accept all the bullshits on this planet, has vanished? That is Meera's pain.
Of not being able to dance because a fear has resided in her heart. Fear or guilt of not doing enough, whatever you want to call it, is stopping her from living her dreams and fulfilling her ambition. Ms. Raman has really focused on the psychology of an artist in WYID.

The self-centered streak that is residing in every artist. That the world revolves around our artistic inclination. Let the emotions of others be damned. Meera does the same. Her pain is larger than life and that hides all the love and passion that Abeer has for her. She sees her broken heart, her pain but not once does she feel his. Many readers might feel that this makes Meera a very selfish person. I can assure you that no artist will find a fault with Meera.

Having read KC, I could not but observe that the author has held back in this one. Zoya is such a beautiful character and I expected more from her than just being a cause of a conflict. Meera herself comes out as a complete woman, a heartbroken dancer but the lover in her is rather subdued. While she grew as a woman with every page turn, she made me want to hug Abeer and tell him, "Dude, get used to being the second best in her life. You chose an artist to fall in love with."

The one relation that really touched my heart was that of Meera and Bullet. Ms. Raman has caught the sibling rivalry yet the complete acceptance of each other's fault. Of hating each other for just existing to the powerful protective love siblings feel of each other. I truly connected with Meera at this level. Ms. Raman has no doubt, a very clear understanding of family and friends and the different shades in a relationship. That itself will connect you to Meera.

Abeer, on the other hand, is a guy to die for. Understanding, compassionate and patient. A perfect lover, who gives the right space to his lover to heal. 

WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?

Yes. A lovely read for a rainy or a sunny day. Take your pick :D

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: THE MULTITUDES OF RIPPLES BY VAACHAKMITRA

Name of the Book: Multitudes of Ripples
Author: Vaachakmitra
Rating: 3 Stars

“What would it be like before the beginning and after the end of time?”

Beyond Time and Space

Starting on an interesting note, where the reader settles to find answers to certain discomforting questions that one does not tend to ponder about, ‘The Multitudes of Ripples’ takes you on a journey that lets you feel the rippling effect that life leaves on you.

The tale and its twist

It’s the story of an entrepreneur who attempts to make sense of his life. He reconstructs his memory while recuperating from a nervous breakdown. Set in ‘Mohmayi’, a city that draws its parallel from Mumbai, this is an interesting tale that explores the psyche of a man in different stages of his life. 

I like the way the author has narrated seemingly mundane anecdotes and plunged to the deeper level of the psyche to explore how it impacts a growing mind. “Sita was shot down behind Wadia Street. The report also mentioned that Sita’s last gesture after being shot was to salute the police. The infant, my father assured me, was picked up by the police and sent to the zoo.” The way the author breaks this news, shatters the readers too. It was as if a carefully built relationship with the character was suddenly snapped with a jerk.

The way this news impacted a young mind, leaves you thinking about the inevitable. “As that sorrow subsided a strange sadness set in. I realized intuitively that death was irrevocable for each one of us. Everybody whom I knew would eventually die someday. That I may have to live without them was unthinkable.”

Read between the lines

There are parts where the author deals with the aspirations of a young mind. Very stylishly he probes this aspect by exploring the alter ego of a child. While the book takes you on an interesting journey of the mind, at places it does keep you yearning for pace. Maybe tighter editing and a crisper pace would have worked better for the narrative.

Overall an interesting read, but a more compact version would have probably communicated the message more effectively. 

WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?

​Yes. Read it to experience the rippling effect of life.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: THE SECRET OF GOD'S SON (PRADYUMNA: SON OF GOD)BY USHA NARAYANAN

Name of the Book: The Secret of God's Son
Author: Usha Narayanan
Rating: 5 Stars

The Story
When you get to review a book penned by an author whom you admire a lot, to read the book and review it becomes a joy. The Secret of God's Son is one such book which will not only remind you of our great heroes and how they became a hero through their trials and tribulations but will also keep you grounded and away from vanity, especially when you read about the Achilles’ heel that every hero from our past had. Such narrative not only makes you take pride in our literature but also reminds you that no one is invincible and every hero had to remember this to achieve great heights.

Ms.Narayanan’s The Secret of God’s Son introduces Pradyumna, the son of Krishna, in his pacifist avatar who eases into his destiny as the story progresses. 

Along with his wife, Maya, he not only is a propagator of self-righteousness but also believes in solving most of the issues without resorting to violence. But his half-brother, Samba, who is the augmenter of the Kali yuga, would not let him live in peace.

Pradyumna might be a peace-loving man, but when it comes to protecting his family, his real persona surfaces to fight back.

The Background

Watching actors acting in the serial and painting the scene of  The Mahabharata is something most of us are used to. But to paint that same scene with words is not a small feat. To some of us, what are folklore and stories becomes a way of life to many Indians. The nucleus of our culture. Many incidents in this book will tell you where certain thoughts and culture has its roots from. 

Maya, in this part of the series, is not just a shadow of Pradyumna but becomes the voice of the future generations of women. Why did Sita tolerate such injustice and why did Draupadi have to bear such a heavy cross of obliterating a whole clan? Why was the responsibility of continuing a saga lying heavily on the shoulders of a woman?

Beautiful thoughts that satiated the feminist in me. 

The Research
I am a lover of mythology but in all my readings and research, the influx of names that Ms. Narayanan has studded this novel with is remarkable. Incidents, where the souls of the Kurus come to visit their loved ones, will bring a lump to your throat. Ms. Narayanan made me cry over Duryodhana too. Now who would have thought that? :)

There is no doubt that a lot of research that has gone into this book. And not only research but also analysis. This book is not just a fiction of what the author thinks could have happened. Nor a make-believe world where Pradyumna, like Shiva in Amish Tripathi’s novel, is born to be a man. But questions like why Ravana was born as a nemesis of Rama and Samba of Pradyumna. Each character was following the Karma Chakra, unknown to them – they all played a role in welcoming the Kali Yuga.

Gandhari’s curse which seems so dominant in the beginning of the novel is but a small drop in the ocean of tales that this novel brings to a reader.

The Oomph Factor
As the story progresses, there were many times I raised an eyebrow thinking I can prove Ms. Narayanan wrong in her research. Ah, that’s the small game I always play with myself. Thanks to ‘google chacha’, there is nothing you cannot find on the net. Except for one. Who exactly is Pradyumna’s? Kama? Vama? Or…? I am still getting goosebumps in the analogy that Ms. Narayanan has drawn regarding this. A must read only to understand this fact. 

What I liked
Maya definitely tops the list of my likes in this novel. The warrior princess. The woman who was the real ardhangini of Pradyumna. A woman on whom the future generation can look up to as a role model.  How many of us can truly say that Sita or Draupadi are our role models? I have no intention of walking on the fire pit just to please my husband and ah well Draupadi .. ah well. 

But Maya has that oomph factor. The fiery princess who can face any challenge. Pradyumna and Samba form the perfect good vs. evil in this part of the series. And for once, I saw Krishna as a human. A father caught between two sons. A beautiful thought. But yes, if he could have turned Samba into a lizard, many problems could have been solved. 

What could have been better:
The beginning. I have to mention this here for I want readers to go past the first few pages. The first few pages have too many introductions to characters and situations. Sometimes you might feel you are on a roller coaster ride but just hang on for the first 10 pages – after that, you will not regret it. Especially with the introduction of Kali, this book becomes ‘unputdownable'.

WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?

A definite yes. A must read for all mythological lovers.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: THE ORPHAN BY S.R. NAIR

Name of the Book: The Orphan
Name of the Author: S. R Nair
Rating: 4 Star

I am no stranger to Mr. Nair's writing. His style is quite interesting. I won't call it unique but interesting. He seems to have this habit of going straight into the topic. Plunging a reader directly into the plot without much padding. After reading the blurb I did get the insight where this story was leading. I was excited to know how an author visualizes what could have happened the night the 'accident' took place. Did it change the life of the individual or did he carry on the burden, which might have got diluted as he rose to his stardom? I will not deny that Mr. Nair has made a great attempt in delving into the minds of individuals and the psychology of the Indians in dealing with foreigners and the elite class.

'The Orphan' is a story of a young boy, Sid Westin, who is orphaned twice over. His fight against the corrupt system in India as a foreigner forms the backbone of this story.

“Mahatma Gandhi— a grandfatherly man with a benign, toothless smile— looked on from a framed picture that hung on the wall. In the blinking light, it appeared that Gandhi was winking wickedly in incongruous contrast to the beatific smile.”

 The above line summarizes not only the gist of the novel but also the thoughts of the author. What kind of life are we leading in India? Has our conscious been totally corrupted by our greed?The opening chapter of Mr. Nair starts with a very thought provoking message. Is the law and order of our country just a plaything in the hands of a corrupt few?

After the death of his parents, Sid finds himself a multi-millionaire and he goes to India to do the last rites of his parents according to the Hindu religion, as were the wishes of his parents. He gets to know the truth behind his parent’s death and meets the dashing Sanjay Khan.

After this point, the story becomes a narrative about Sanjay Khan – about his Bollywood achievements and his philandering ways. Mr. Nair is no doubt influenced by the SK accident and you can see many actors and producers hidden behind veiled references.

Throughout the story, the author shows the readers to the battle between the classes. The elite vs the commoners. Though the author tried to give us a balanced view of the incident but one cannot deny where his inclination lay.

Though the incidents have been presented well, I only wish the author would have diverted from the reporting style in his writing. As a fiction reader, I would have loved to have these incidents shown to me rather than reported to me. While the story of Sid had a lot of emotions, Sanjay Khan’s story sadly lacked that. Whether pride, anger or lust – I needed to be shown that to connect me to the characters.
But all in all a good read with many page turning incidents.

WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?

A one time read definitely. Especially if you are an SK fan or hater. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: NO SAFE ZONE BY ADITE BANERJIE

Name of the Book: No Safe Zone
Author: Adite Banerjie
Rating: 4 Stars

Mysteries have a tendency to wither away if there is too much built up before coming to the point. No Safe Zone by Adite Banerjie plunges the readers straight into the nucleus of the mystery and Ms.Banerjie's Qiara Rana lands up in front of a dead body, runs into her ex-lover and has many shady characters chasing her right from the beginning.

Qiara is a London-based social activist who is furious when investigating officers try to blame them for human trafficking. Qiara is still reeling in shock, when their benefactor is accused of being involved. But when she goes to find out the truth, she faces many more unanswered questions.

And a dead body!

Landing up in a wrong situation at a wrong time can be killing, but soon she realizes that there are people who are following her and she has no clue as to why and what they want from her. And in this journey lies my first peeve with the story. Her adventures had some very easy escapades. She is tough no doubt, but every time the timely arrival of Kabir stops her from being a firebrand that was part of the charm of Rayna from Trouble has A New Name, another novel written by Ms. Banerjie.

But where Qiara lacks in the feistiness, the chain of events that always follow her makes this story an interesting read. One of my favorites in this chain of unfortunate events was the broken wing butterfly tattoos. Here Ms.Banerjie uses symbolism to depict many small things. A child separated from her parents, a child marked for sale and a child yearning to know her past. This part of the novel has some major twists that would make a reader go back a few pages just to make sure they have not overlooked any clues. 

Kabir simply became a cry in her heart she never could get rid of.

Such a beautiful line and just a small example of how lyrical Ms. Banerjie’s writing is. Along with that, she has depicted a few social issues and all the while weaving the chemistry between the two protagonists. All along as a reader, I know that Kabir and Qiara had a past. But a man of Kabir’s character leaving a girl cold and dry suddenly did not make sense. I had to know why he had done such an act. 

So questions like why were these people after Qiara? And what was the picture of her father doing in the victim’s tablet and the relationship between her tattoo and a few missing girls – they sure will keep a reader turning the pages of this novel. 

WHAT COULD HAVE WORKED BETTER FOR ME:

Keeping a balance between mystery and a romance in a romantic thriller is like walking on a double edge sword. Either the mystery element dominates or the romance subdues the “aha moment” of the treasure trail. Ms. Adite has done justice to a great extent, but as a romance reader, I wanted more interaction between the protagonists. Their relationship had broken up earlier. I wanted to feel that pain hidden in their heart. I wanted to see how, despite that, they could not stay away from each other. I wanted a few more butterfly moments. Greedy me :)

WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?

Of course, I would. A very well written book with impeccable language and plots and subplots that will leave you with a few nail-biting moments.

Monday, October 17, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: A TIME TO BURNISH BY RADHIKA NATHAN

Name of the Book: A Time To Burnish
Name of the Author: Radhika Nathan
Rating: 4 Stars

After a long time, I am reading a book which gave me the same feeling that one gets after reading books like the Tomb Raider- that of an explorer. Meet our desi Lara Croft – Vidya.

What is the story about:
Two brothers Josh and Tom who are complete opposites yet their love for each other binds them together. While Tom is into ancient art and history, Josh loves hacking and other gizmos. But when Tom acquires an ancient Nataraja for the museum, he starts questioning its originality. Being physically challenged, he has to ask his brother, Josh, for help. Josh has to travel to India to check out the authenticity of the statue. There he meets Vidya and a love-hate relationship starts between them. You can say that throughout the story, Vidya is the charioteer who is showing Josh across India.
A few sweet moments:

I love the way, the author has introduced India to  the readers, through Josh’s eyes. The love story between Josh and Vidya does not overshadow the thriller aspect of this novel. There is also a background story, which had occurred centuries ago and has a lot of impact on the events that was occurring throughout this novel.

Ms. Nathan has woven a tale of intrigue and there are not many ‘whodunnit’ moments in this story. In fact, you cannot say that there are lots of suspects nor many nail-biting incidents, except one or two, in this novel. You can call it more of an exploration. Of a journey of a man who could not walk and uses the eye of another to know what is happening. Few things that make this novel a page-turner is the built-up to curiosity, to know if the artifact is indeed authentic or not.

A few tough calls
This novel forms an interesting read no doubt, but calling at the thriller will not be appropriate. When a guy is following Vidya. I expected something to happen. You can say that as a reader I’m jaded due to  a lot of melodramas that goes on in the movies. The story made me wonder that if such a situation had happened in my life, were these not the steps that I would take as a normal person? I suppose as a reader, especially of that of the thriller genre, one expects a lot of melodrama, which is lacking in this novel. Some might like it and some may not – and it entirely depends on the individualistic taste of a reader.

What I liked
Relationships are given a lot of importance in this novel. The relationship between a father and a daughter and that of the two brothers is well-written. One does not have to always agree with their loved ones to show a good relationship. The author has brought the sensitivities of their relationship very beautifully out in this novel. Let’s take the relationship between Tom and Josh. Josh did not have to do what Tom asked him to do, yet he goes all the way out to fulfill the dream of his brother.

I like the way the relationship between Josh and Vidya developed. They took the time to understand each other and it was very subtle throughout the novel.

Cultural and ideological boundaries are crossed over in this novel and it makes a fascinating read to see how each react to each other’s culture. With the world shrinking, such cases are not rare anymore and we have started accepting it to a great extent. Some of us find it cute too.

 What I didn't like
As I have mentioned before, the thriller aspect of this novel is not as fast-paced as I expected it to be. When Tom first speaks about the artifact, I had expected a lot of action to go behind in finding the truth. But nothing like that happened. It can be any guy, walking on the streets of India and searching for some truth. There was nothing extraordinary about the characters under the extraordinary situation – and this was the main problem that I had with this novel.

WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?
The language of the book is superb and the editing is very well done. For those who love a clean and a –well-written thriller, this book is a must-read.


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Friday, September 23, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: A PERFECT MURDER AND OTHER STORIES BY S.R. NAIR

Name of the Book: A Perfect Murder
Name of the Author: S. R Nair
Rating: 4 Stars

BOUQUET OF GENRES


A Perfect Murder and Other Stories by S.R Nair is more like a potpourri of different genres, rather than one theme. Starting with a murder mystery where the murderer gets away with a crime in the opening story A Perfect Murder, Mr. Nair has set the tone of the novel as an interesting, unusual and a very gripping read. Lust and greed form the background of the story as we see the innocent Hiten going towards his doom. His roving eye lands him in a bad situation. You cannot but praise the ingenuity of this crime and have all your sympathy with the actual murderer. As A Perfect Murder showcases a woman in all her seductive avatar, in the next one Mr. Nair introduces Salma.

Salma’s Fate will leave you with a bad taste as you watch with horrific fascination how a man can murder all relationships just to satisfy his lust. Rape by itself is an ugly word, but when such a heinous crime is committed by someone whom you call your father, this crime has no pardon. And while we are saluting the courage of Salma, Mr. Nair changes the mood completely and introduces, Hira Bai.

In the story iPad, Hira Bai represents the age of innocence. A breather, after the two intense stories. iPad has a lot of emotions but they are that of innocence and love. Where an old and poor woman is ready to sell all that she possesses- just to buy an iPad. Her reason for wanting one will touch your heart.

Mr.Nair has one factor appearing in most of the stories. Immigrants. Indians living in the Middle East and the USA are the main characters of his stories. And in Koya’s Story, he touches the biggest fear that many immigrants have – what if we never return home again? Heart-touching.

Seema brings out a bit of positivity again when Seema, the protagonist, is a victim of a social media mishap. You cannot call the perperator a “social media troll” since he knew her from a long time. A weakling and a fool maybe. But the way Seema’s fiancĂ©, Gautam, stands by her, makes you believe in love again.

She had accepted the abuse as her due and now paid it forward with compounded interest to her daughter-in-law.

This is one profound line from the story The Grandson. To what length we would go to have a son. Lata’s mom is a classic example of that. If you read the above lines you will see that the author has nailed it. What one experiences as a daughter-in-law, one passes on to the next generation as a mother-in-law.  While as a mother, Kanta is blind to her son’s amorous behavior, I found it acutely funny that she extended the same thing to her daughter-in-law as her need for a grandson was intense. Again I feel that the author has given the story a fitting end.

I have a small peeve with this story. Since the topic is that of respecting a girl child, why was the girl child who was actually present in the story not given any importance? Just one scene that would indicate that the author actually remembered her? Like it was done in The Stolen Child.

When Safiya finds out that her blood is not matching with her parents, she starts thinking about her real parents. She meets a lady who had been attacked by her own son and is now in a trauma ward. Do they have a connection? This story had a truly fitting end to this theme.

In an anthology, rarely will you find all the stories written with an equally strong voice. Mr. Nair’s voice faltered a bit in The Missing Wife. While a reader will be sucked into the tale to find the missing Geeta, but the straight path the author has adopted to write this story does not give too much scope for guessing. It’s a tale of deceit and lies told in a simple manner. The author could have used some strong incidents to heighten the curiosity factor in this story like he had done in A Perfect Murder.

Mr. Nair takes away my complaint of too much placidity in his next one aptly named Seduced. I don’t know whether to laugh or sympathize with Adi in this story. This one reminded me of an anecdote from the Bollywood movie, Dil Chahta Hai. How we develop a friendship with strangers is very important. Adi thought he would get free sex with a British lady. What happens is a series of funny anecdotes (not so funny for Adi) But at the end of the story, I could not but think that it served Adi right. Didn’t it?

Total Eclipse has one of the most uncalled for ending. Ramu, who is an ordinary laborer, works very hard to keep his wife and dog happy. He has some grief hidden in his heart which he could never tell anyone. So on the day of the eclipse, he does such a cruel act that brings out many secrets. But Total Eclipse left me with many questions. How did Ramu find out the truth and what happens to the characters after the secret is out. But I can assure you that the ending is the least expected one.

In Visa for America, we see another age old question arising. When someone marries a green card holder or citizen of USA, what is the real motive? Is it for marriage or going to the USA? Sam met Sandhya through a matrimonial site. After reaching the USA, she goes missing, leaving a note in which she states that she is in love with someone else and that she had only married Sam to get to come to the US. So what happens to Sam? Does he get the love of his life back and if he does can he really forgive her?

Visa for America has some unconnected dots. There is a mention about Sandhya’s parents and yet that which is supposed to form a crucial part of the story is widely neglected. As in the case of many of the short stories that you find in anthologies, many such small things are often left unsaid, leaving much to the imagination of the readers.

If I had to choose one story which I did not like, that would be The Soothsayer. It’s a story told over generations and it had nothing much to offer. Attukal Ravikrishnan was an astrologer, whose prediction could never go wrong. Now this astrologer read his own chart and came to the conclusion that he would die in a road accident. From that time onwards he had imposed a self-curfew and refused to go out of the house in any vehicle. So now the question is will he be able to prove his own prediction wrong or death has a way of finding you even when you are hiding from it?

If the characters were more involved with each other it would have made a wider impact. Or why the astrologer is behaving in a peculiar way is revealed to the family members as a mystery, it would have made more of an impact. After reading  the above stories written by Mr. Nair, I expected more.

Moving on, I did not quite understand what the title The Lost Son had to do with the story. It was a story about friendship. But the title shows that it had more to do with Ram becoming what he had become. While that is not the nucleus of the story, I could not quite place the title along with the story. It is a story about a Hindu and a Muslim, whose friendship transcends over time and many riots. But when they enter into the business world, the failure of one and the success of the other bring the crack in their friendship. Soon small incidents join up and how they part and make their way back to each other forms a beautiful story.

And the winner is Zubair. I enjoyed this story thoroughly. If the author had planned that the readers would close the book with a smile,  he has succeeded. The feminist in me cheered for Sahana as she adapted to the lifestyle of USA. What brought a smile on my face was the reaction Zubair was having. I could almost imagine Farooq Shaikh and Deepti Naval in this role. I think I can truly call this my favorite in the lot.

Crisp writing and the free flow of the stories make this anthology a wonderful read.

WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?
If you like stories that bring out the basic human characteristics and make you feel emotional – this one is a taker.

LINE THAT STAYED WITH ME
The kindly gentleman suggested that he write to the Honorable Prime Minister of India and helpfully provided him with the mailing address in New Delhi.  Zubair was not sure whether writing to the Prime Minister would help.  Nevertheless he planned to write to the Prime Minister. He had nothing to lose.

I couldn't stop laughing. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: THE MAHABHARATA CODE BY KARTHIK K.B. RAO

Name of the Book: The Mahabharata Code
Name of the Author: Karthik K B Rao
Star Rating: 4 Stars
Goodreas Link: http://bit.ly/2cVZtui

AS WE DIG UP OUR PAST. . .

Rick Riordan has really opened a Pandora's box. From Shiva to Zeus, from Arjun to Hercules and from Sita to Diana - has been told, and retold. Hashed and reincarnated. The question is why? Why are we so much into analyzing and retelling the events which have already become a way of life for an entire nation? Is there a dearth of imagination or is it the analytical minds of the writers that need to understand why Sita went under the ground or why Draupadi's clothes were ripped off her body and yet her silent spectators are given god-like respect? I think this is an era of giving answers to the questions our younger generation has been asking. No more are the words enough. Words that are parroted without understanding and cloaked with scientific explanation lose their true essence.

The Mahabharata Code by Karthik K B Rao is yet another contribution to this phenomenon called retelling of mythologies.  He has gone a step ahead by adding Sci-fi to this genre. Very innovative.

This novel is not for a rainy day. Many questions have been raised and some answered scientifically. Why did Jarasandh have such immense strength and what was the reason behind Krishna for slaying him? How did Ravana have 10 heads and what was the reason behind the monkey men fighting for Rama? I am sure many of us have asked these questions at one time or the other. Mr. Rao has almost given some believable justifications. - 

The narrative will catch your interest in the beginning when questions regarding Krishna and the whole cosmos planner are raised. A mixture of past and present, reality and surreal are blended. When past merges into the present and vice versa, forms a page turner till a certain point.

The story takes a turn when the protag is sent to another planet where the restaging of Mahabharata will take place. All the characters are already decided upon by the great maestro Vyasa and the protag along with his team are mere witnesses. 

The Mahabharata Code...

'When the earthlings get a message in the form of Hindu symbols which reads, 'athithi devo bhava' it starts a journey to the unknown. Who are the players and who play the role of spectators will be understood much later in the story. Curiosity factors are maintained till here. Even after they reach the planet the occurrences of the Mahabharata are orchestrated by whom and why also forms quite an interesting read. 

But the problems start with the winding down of the story. The ending where reality is merged with ambiguity might be a bit off-putting for some. For a more analytical mind, it might open a plethora of questions raised in this book. The author has given women a much higher place than was given during those times. There is even a Nirbhaya shot for Arjuna. 

And this is where my greatest peeve with this novel is. 

The flow of the story is full of diversions. From mythological characters to reality. From expectations of a father to being a defenseless father... I wish the author did not have to give justification for all his characters. If one character is bad then he is bad. A villain needs no justification. And this dual image of Krishna is something I accepted but still had my doubts. Krishna is one of the biggest examples of shades of gray - even if he is a god. But why he is like that and what is the difference between a villain and a man fighting for his rights, is what makes Mahabharata code an interesting read.

The Resolution ...

The resolution of the story could have been a bit earlier. If I say more on this it will have spoilers so let me just surmise that even with an ambiguous ending let there be only one school of thought. Too many resolutions gave to the same occurrence or to reach the same destination can be detrimental to the readers.

WILL I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?
Yes. For those who like questioning the roles of the mythological characters in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, you will love it. You will love to read it and debate about it for hours for this book does raise a lot of questions.

THE LINE THAT STAYED WITH ME

I even attended one self-help group therapy program where people from all walks of life would share their life experiences and then the instructor tries to resolve their problems using some techniques. It started off well and I had even begun to like that program when suddenly the instructor remarked that we are all just biological machines and our life is empty and meaningless.

Hahhaa. Now that is one heck of a self-help group.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: ANYA'S LYRIC BY NIKHIL KUMAR


Name of the book: Anya's Lyrics
Author: Nikhil Kumar
Rating: 5 Stars 
Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2j9tD0c

SOME SOUL-SEARCHING LYRIC

Have you thought how life comes to a full circle? Most of us are unaware of it – unless, we are witnesses to somebody else's. Mr. Kumar has given us, the readers, this privilege of being that witness. Anya, one of God's special children, experiences many situations which a girl of her age should never face. 

All the short stories are related to Anya and all start with a character from one of the previous stories. Might look random at first but as you go on you can but not admire the author’s mind in weaving such a labyrinth. The characters of the stories, some related to Anya and others leaving their mark on her, are the ones who act as mirrors to our society and make us feel humble as we reflect upon our blessed life.

The story of Anya

The story of Anya does not start with her birth. But it starts when a woman, not at all related to her, is left by her lover. That triggers a chain of reaction which leads to the birth of Anya.

Without a backward glance, she walked away in the darkness to a destination only she knew, unsure of what the next day would bring. At the stroke of midnight, she turned sixteen.

And as she turned sixteen, Anya is born somewhere else.

While reading the story, many things came to my mind. Is Anya just a simple girl or is she the broken representation of our society? Does her experience not relate to our morally dying society which is every day murdered, raped and plundered by many selfish people? Is Anya not in each one of us as we lay whimpering in pain when we are attacked, unable to retaliate or we consider ourselves weak? For me, Anya became our society and each character was someone I knew or may be, to some extent, a part of me.

The journey
Anya must have grown up a bit when she saw her dog lying dead on the driveway, whose life she had chocked out. But her half brain never questions why she and the father both had bloodstains on their hands. She grew up a bit more when her young heart fell in love with the boy with twisted legs. She again grew up when her father died. And again, when she had her first orgasm. She grew up a bit more when she was raped and she reached to her full potential when the responsibility of another life was thrust upon her. A responsibility which she took up willingly. This is the story of Anya for you.

Intrinsically woven characters
Have we not met many strangers in your journeys? All of us, at the same spot, at the same time; and then branching out to different areas of our lives? Do we think of those strangers again? Do they leave an impact in our lives – sometimes knowingly and sometimes fate intervened? Mr.Kumar is a weaver of such strangers who don't know each other yet leave an impact in each of the life. A small pink envelope that started its journey in a small town travels to its destination, without the knowledge of the travelers. That was the best thing I loved about the story. When the pink envelope finally reaches its rightful owner, its empty yet it's so symbolic, like a mockery that life does to people when in pain.

Hard-hitting truth
The author is very adept at using words to bring out some hard-hitting truth. Not a man to mince words definitely. He wants to paint the darker side of life and he has done a wonderful job with this. From shady places to shady characters – he has shown us the true image of humans without even lifting an accusing finger. A man, a loving father of a teenager who goes to the seedy accomplishments to rape a young girl. A man who loves his own child yet has a heart of a demon when he crawls the side lanes of the seedy part of the town.  And he is just one man. God knows how many such men exist in our society.

The Growing of Anya
Not in one place will you find Anya weak. She calls herself half brain and is often shown as a girl in rags. But her spirit is strong and that of a fighter. She won’t let you feel sorry for her yet make you cry at her pain. And laugh at her antics. Every time an irony of life passes her, you want to give her a nudge to go after it and at the same time protect her when she is faced with the masked duplicity.
It was almost evening when I felt a hand on my shoulder and a warm voice talk to me. “Sister,” said the voice. “Are you all right?”

This is what a woman can do to a woman.

The Language and writing of the Author

Is what turns this novel into a page-turner. You can rest assured that this novel will leave an impact on you. One of those novels which deserves a shelf space in your home. The writing is crisp and even while dealing with a very painful subject, the author has not let go of the humor. No characters have been named, (I wonder why) yet you will not confuse the characters. Their traits are their names. A man with a tattoo, the boy with a twisted leg and a woman with a mole. Without even naming them, he has drawn each character, with his words. Only Anya is a name we follow. Like those pictures where everything is black and white and only the main subject is colored. Beautiful.

WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?
To anyone who loves a bold subject, this book is for you. As I have mentioned before, it truly deserves a shelf place at your house.

THE LINE THAT STAYED WITH ME
She walked with her hand in mine at all times. She rarely spoke, but when she did, I would always be amazed at how sweet her voice was. We would sit on the beach on some days before the sun would rise, and I’d teach her to hum the tune of a song that I’d almost forgotten. I could feel her peace at those times.

A new beginning always touches one's heart.


About the Interviewer: Rubina Ramesh is an erratic writer and a passionate reviewer. Her reviews have found space in international magazines like Global Asia. She has authored two Book- Knitted Tales and Finding The Angel and co-authored three anthologies, Writing from the Heart, Long and Short of It and Marijuana Diaries. Founder of The Book Club, an online publicity group she finds her passion in promotion of books and authors.