Saturday, July 30, 2016

BOOK REVIEW : SECRETLY YOURS



Romance is one genre that has been explored endlessly by almost all authors; and when a little bit of supernatural element is mixed with romance, the results are nothing but endearing.
Author Vikrant Khanna’s latest offering “Secretly yours” is one such endearing novel.

PLOT

Set in the backdrop of the picturesque city of Shimla, “Secretly yours” talks about the life of Sahil, an orphan who lives with his brother, grandma and his uncle’s family. Things change when Anya arrives in his life. On the other hand, there is a serial killer on the loose who is wreaking havoc in the usually quiet hill station. Who is behind the killings? What is the mystery behind Anya and her friends?

Vikrant Khanna weaves a thoroughly engaging plot with the right ingredients for a romantic as well a suspense thriller novel. There is a certain freshness in the plot which seems creative and yet highly believable.


WRITING AND POSITIVES

The writing is pretty simple and easy on the readers. The language is kept simple and the writing witty and to the point.

Vikrant does his characterizations beautifully. The characters of Sahil and Anya are done very nicely and in depth. Be it the mysterious Mayur and Sameer or that of Aditya or Monica, all the characters are written very well.

Secondly, keeping Shimla as the place where the entire novel is set up, is a lovely idea. There is always a different aura and beauty when a hill station is involved. Somehow I wouldn’t have loved this book so much had it been set up in a bigger city.

Lastly, the chemistry between Sahil and Anya is wonderfully done. Be it their initial interactions or the ones after the secrets are shared, everything is superb. One can feel those sparks of romance when these two hold the centre stage.

Also, the ending is done well. I was expecting something similar since the beginning. I kept guessing as to how the book would end, and I finally was proven right.

NEGATIVES

The climax is pretty hurried. I would have loved if the book would have been 50 pages longer but had a more elaborate and more believable climax.

Secondly, the entire revenant lore seems convincing, and yet the author fails to evoke that enmity between the revenants and the brothers. There is a lack of tension that should have been present. Ultimately, it all leads to a weak climax.

Apart from these few glitches, I have no complaints with the novel.


OVERALL, Vikrant Khanna’s “Secretly yours” is a breezy romantic supernatural thriller which can be easily finished off in one sitting. With easy English, crackling chemistry between the lead pair and an intriguing plot, this book is definitely a one time read. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

BOOK REVIEW : THE THIRTEENTH DAY



Attempting a partially fictionalized account of the greatest saga of our country is indeed a brave thing. And to come out of it with flying colors is even greater an achievement. Debutant author 
Aditya Iyengar joins the list of the authors who have tried re-telling the Mahabharata from different angles. Does he succeed in creating an engaging book?

PLOT

No one is unfamiliar with the plot of the Mahabharata; and yet Aditya’s unique narrative makes this book a lovely read.

The story unfolds on the tenth day of the war in Kurukshetra, leading to the events that ultimately led to the death of Abhimanyu. The entire plot is narrated from the point of view of three key characters – Radheya/Karna, Yudhishthira and Abhimnyu.
Out of the mammoth Mahabharata war, Aditya chooses to focus only on these 4 days that defined so many things and people.

POSITIVES

The simplicity in the language is one big plus point of this book. At times a bit more casual, Aditya’s style of writing is simple, appealing and caters to all audiences.

A lot of research has gone behind this book, and it definitely shows. An in-depth information about combats, formations, different war weapons and instruments has been provided. This is one aspect relatively unexplored previously.

Secondly, the characterizations are superb. The way Aditya develops each character, makes us feel as we know them personally. All three – Yudhishthira, Karna and Abhimanyu are characterized brilliantly.
Yudhishthira’s character is lovely. I loved how he is shown to be vulnerable, unsure, and insecure. He is the most humane character in the plot.

Our heart goes out for Abhimanyu’s character. However, my personal favorite was Karna’s character.
It is also a relief to see few of the central characters take a backseat – including Krishna, Draupadi, etc. Draupadi’s take on Mahabharata has already been described in the novel “The palace of illusions”.

Also, what attracts our attention is also how Aditya develops the other characters. There is Krishna’s son (Pradyumna), Suyodhana’s son (Laxman). Also, Shikhandi’s characterization is very well done. Arjuna and Bhima are depicted aptly too.

NEGATIVES

Aditya’s style of writing might not appeal to few hardcore Mahabharata fans. Despite the painstaking detailing, there are instances when we feel few superficial moments in the writing department.

Also, this book is a strict no no for those who don’t find the Mahabharata interesting. Those guys can very well give it a miss.

OVERALL, Aditya’s narration of the events from Bhishma’s death to Abhimanyu’s death is a must read for all those who love Mahabharata. I mean, is there anyone who doesn’t love it?

A fresh, different and well written novel, I would definitely recommend this one to all mythology lovers!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

BOOK REVIEW : THE HONEST SEASON



Making films on politics has always been the fancy of many directors. It is a genre which is loved by people. However when the same comes to books, it doesn’t always hold true. There are very few novels on politics which manage to remain gripping till the end. Most usually sink into deep depression and lose track midway.

Fortunately, Kota Neelima’s latest offering “The Honest Season” manages to stay above all these clich├ęs and turns out to be a page turning novel.

PLOT

It all happens in the city of Delhi where politicians reside, where the country’s most renowned news channels have head offices and where all the leading newspapers have their reporters vying to outdo each other.

Amidst the rivalry, the novel focuses on the life of “Know journalist” Mira Mouli. Along with a detailed offering into her personal and professional life as well as her thoughts, we are also introduced to the two main male characters Sikandar Bansi and Nalan Malik.

Both have their own traits, plusses and minuses. When Sikandar Bansi disappears and starts sending tapes to the news company, hell breaks loose. Each tape consists of hardcore evidence of corruption within the entire political system – be it the ruling party, the opposition party or even the country’s defence system.

With each tape, Sikandar sends a clue specially addressed to Mira, in order for her to find him.
What happens next? Does Mira succeed in finding Sikandar? Will she be able to fight her own inner demons and find that man who seems to know her inside out?

WRITING

Unlike Kota Neelima’s previous novel “Shoes of the dead”, this one is more pacy. She gets a brilliant grip on the entire political backdrop, effectively creating the right and apt amounts of tension whenever needed.

She also shows why journalism and politics are so interconnected in today’s world. She tells us that even today, there are both good as well as bad people in journalism as well as politics.


POSITIVES

The characterizations are superb. The characters of Mira and Sikandar are brilliantly sketched. That strong affinity between them is brilliant. The tension is so real and palpable. You almost want Mira to come out from that rented flat and meet Sikandar.

The other characters too are well done – Nalan Malik, Munshi, Bhaskar, Salat Vasudev, etc.
The monsoon is depicted so well by Kota Neelima. It is my favorite season and she only enhances my love for the rains. The title of the book is so apt. there is no season as honest as monsoon.

The ending of the book is perfect. With a Christopher Nolan like ending, the author leaves it to the readers’ imagination and intelligence as to what Mira actually does.


NEGATIVES

This is a near flawless book. The pace is good, the content is very good, but there are portions when the romantic angle gets too much. Priorities shift and the focus shifts from politics to a little too much of indulgence.

Apart from that, I hardly found any minuses in the novel.

OVERALL, Kota Neelima’s book “The Honest Season” is for those who love political fiction works. Along with being a fictional work, it very deftly exposes the loopholes in our own political system. It shows us that inspite of being the world’s largest democracy, we are miles behind when it comes to having a clean, moral and ethical political system.
It does require a lot of efforts. The cleaning up process is not so easy. But atleast people are being made aware – be it by a novel or by any other means.


Great work, Kota Neelima!!!     

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

BOOK REVIEW : SHE - EKLA CHOLO RE

Sometimes simplicity is all that is needed to touch the heart. The more uncomplicated a story, the better it penetrates within.

Santosh Avvannavar and Shayan Haq pen this poignant short story called "SHE - EKLA CHOLO RE" which can be easily finished off in a single sitting of about half an hour and yet move you.

PLOT

Set in the 1990s, this story revolves around 2 characters- renowned Dr Rajendra Mukherjee and a female called Kusum. The authors delicately talk about homosexuality and gender changes and how stupidly the society reacts to such things.

At one point, the authors write- "Real love and truth go together."
I couldn't help but agree to what they wrote.

The entire Bengali setup is very beautifully done. The overall plot is pretty simple - a man giving a lift to a lone lady on the highway. But what follows is very beautifully penned.

There are simple things which touch the heart - Kusum getting reminded of her own mother on meeting Raj's mother, Kusum remarking at how all men think alike and about the same thing.

What struck me was the ease with which the authors conveyed a very important message.
"YOU ARE WHAT YOU CHOOSE TO BE." - such a beautiful line.

Also, Rabindranath Tagore helps make the story into an even more beautiful one with his immortal poems.

There is one more line that I loved. It is relevant even today in any random scenario - "It is very natural for a person to get attracted to the opposite sex on hearing to his/her emotional story."

OVERALL, this is a very well written story. Uncluttered, uncomplicated and inundated with simplicity, this is a must read for everyone.

Monday, March 14, 2016

BOOK REVIEW : LIFE MANTRAS




Not all works of nonfiction are dull. I admit I myself am not a very hardcore fan of nonfiction, although I do occasionally read some beautiful works.

“LIFE MANTRAS” cannot actually be categorized under the category “Nonfiction”. It would be better to call it a book that teaches you a lot about life.

There are so many things in our daily life which we all know, and yet we always learn something new about it from someone else. This book is full of such lovely examples.

“SAHARASRI” SUBRATA ROY SAHARA talks about love, respect, admiration and all other virtues and characters of a human being with finesse.

He talks about marriage, about a husband  - wife relationship, about hard work, honesty, truthfulness, trustfulness, about a mother – child relationship, and what not.

The best thing however is that he cites hundreds of examples from daily life to prove his point – examples with which all of us can relate.

He tells us that apologizing is NOT a bad thing. It will NOT make you inferior to others. It will NOT hurt if you put aside your big fat ego for sometime. The world would be such a beautiful place if people understood these small things.

He tells us that working hard alone doesn’t serve the purpose. It is the quality that counts, not the quantity or number of working hours.

He gives us a very important lesson of never misusing your status.

He beautifully depicts the Indian woman, and even how “sex” is interpreted all over the world.

There are two wonderful chapters on “EGO” and “SANSKAARS”.

OVERALL, this is a book that is to be cherished. It is difficult to actually write a proper review because there is so much to write about. But it is a book that will be your guide during your bad times.

It is a book that preaches no doubt, but all the correct things.

It is a book which will improve the quality of your thoughts.

I read a lot of negative reviews of this book online stating that a person who has been jailed and been corrupt has no business writing such philosophical things.

Hello, who are we to judge any person? It is immaterial who the writer is, as long as he writes the truth. After all, he didn’t create “Sahara” in just one day.


Go for this book. It will change your perspective of life. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

BOOK REVIEW : RAAKSHAS




There is something insanely enchanting about serial killers and the story surrounding them. Organized crime with a motive has always been thrilling, but when there is a lack of motive and only a DRIVE that urges one to kill, it becomes even more fascinating.

Piyush Jha’s latest offering “Raakshas” is one such novel. Describing the parallel lives of a serial killer and an investigating officer, this novel is racy, thrilling and keeps you hooked till the end.

PLOT

His name is unknown. We know him simply as RAAKSHAS. He aspires to be India’s most dreaded and famous serial killer. But how did he reach this stage? What was meted on to him during his childhood and growing years that ultimately made him reach the heights of insanity? Was he actually insane or was he a sane, cool, composed, calculated and cold blooded murderer? The plot describes all the above questions.

On the other hand, we have the ACP of Mumbai police Maithili Prasad, who is hell bent upon catching this raakshas. But she too has her own scars and childhood nightmares which still haunt her. Will she be able to overcome her own inner demons and catch this raakshas?

WRITING STYLE

Piyush Jha’s unconventional writing style makes a lot of difference. Most of the passages and portions are in indirect speech, with less dialogues. This reduces the intensity at times but creates a rather eerie atmosphere at times.

The killings are described vividly and in the most gruesome way possible. But Piyush does that with conviction. There is a finesse and subtlety even in that. The weak hearted might find the killing descriptions nauseating, but then what did you expect in a novel based on a serial killer?


POSITIVES

As I said earlier, the writing style is very good. So are few of the sequences. For instance, the entire chase sequence set in Pune which ultimately fails is very well done. The childhood plots of both the key characters are very convincing and terrifying.

Also, the entire sequence regarding the killer calling while travelling in local trains is superb.
The icing on the cake is the finale. For a climax, it builds up rather slowly and you begin to feel that this is going nowhere. But the masterstroke is brilliantly played.


NEGATIVES

As I mentioned before, a lot of the portions are sans dialogues and in indirect speech. They do reduce the intense feel of the plot. You feel that had there been a more detailed description with dialogues, perhaps there would have been a greater impact. All said and done, the overall result is very good.


OVERALL, “RAAKSHAS” delivers as promised. A taut, gripping, on-the-edge thriller about a serial killer, this one keeps you engaged till the last page. Considering the fact that a film is being made on the book, it would be highly interesting to see the plot of the book transformed into a cinematic picture.

Recommended for people who love thrillers.      

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

BOOK REVIEW : RIVER OF FLESH & OTHER STORIES



As I start reading the novel, I go through the preface. I know there and then that this book is going to be a hard hitting one. And so with each story I read, I simply grope on to the next one, wanting to discover one more aspect of prostitution in India.

Women have NEVER been treated with the desired respect in our country, be it currently or centuries ago. They have been mistreated, abused physically as well as mentally, manhandled, neglected, underestimated and most importantly taken for granted.

This book is for those readers who like some serious non fiction. I call it non fiction because all the stories are true. This is only the tip of the massive iceberg of women trafficking and prostitution.

PLOT & CONTENT

A variety of celebrated as well as less known authors come together and contribute a total of 21 short stories painstakingly compiled by Ruchira Gupta from the nook and corners of India.

Each story depicts the tale of a woman troubled by her own problems.

We have a woman who willingly works as a maid for her owner, satisfying her physically as well as emotionally, only to end up getting married and later divorced by him.

We have an egoistic clash between a man’s wife and lover, beautifully depicted by Premchand.

We have a heart wrenching letter written by a prostitute addressed to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, educating him about the rampantly spreading prostitution in Mumbai and India.

We have a wife who sells herself just so that she can buy some milk gruel for her injured husband.

We are introduced to a word used commonly all around – “COMING?”

Overall, each story is a gem in itself. There is an overall morose feel to the book. You can feel that air of helplessness around you but can do nothing to reduce it. This only makes you more engrossed in the novel.


POSITIVES

The translations are beautifully done. Be it Urdu, Bengali, Marathi or Hindi, every story is brilliantly translated into English without draining away the emotional quotient from the story. This is a big plus point as I have read various stories whose inference and emotional connect gets lost in translation.

Secondly, the characters in each story are very well sketched. Be it Jugnu in “The river of flesh”, or Kusum in “Heeng kochuri” or Lata in “The kept woman” – every single character stands out. Your heart goes out for them irrespective of their intentions.


NEGATIVES

There were one or two stories which exactly didn’t appeal to me. Nothing wrong with them, they just didn’t click.
Apart from that, this book is a perfection of sorts.


OVERALL, this novel is a must read for those who wish to know the extent of spread of prostitution in our society. Reading all the 21 stories, I realized one thing – very few of these women did it out of choice. Infact, no one ever did it out of choice. It was always compulsion that led to them taking this path. They simply didn’t have any other choice.
We ought to feel really privileged and lucky that we were born and brought up in an environment where we atleast had the liberty of choosing what we liked and what we didn’t.


A book which should be read by every single Indian, this one is definitely recommended!