Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Immortals of Meluha

Rating: 4/5

Title: The Immortals of Meluha
Author: Amish Tripathi
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Historical
Pages: 412
Publisher: Westland
ISBN-13: 9789380658742
Hadn’t it been for the second intuitive glance at the summary behind the book, I wouldn’t have picked this one. But the summary had done its job. It had heightened my expectations and I was waiting to pore into the book and get lost in an adventurous and romantic tale.

The Immortals of Meluha is the story of Shiva, a leader of the Guna tribe in Kailash Mansarovar in the Himalayas. When they are all invited to the land of Meluha, the centre of civilization, Shiva and his people are surprised at the lavish but precept livelihood led by the Meluhans. The Meluhans (also called the Suryavanshis) have been waiting for their “Neelkanth” since ages who, they believe, will lead and help them win the war against the Chandravanshis. The Chandravanshis have been executing terror attacks in Meluha from time to time. Although Shiva is unsure if he is the “Neelkanth”, he realizes how much trust and devotion rides upon him. The story takes a romantic turn when he falls for Sati, the Kings daughter. During the course of his stay he not only tries to abolish an old untouchability custom but also saves the people of Meluha from attacks from the Chandravanshis. Shiva soon becomes an integral part of Meluha, marries Sati and helps the Meluhans fight and win the war against the Chandravanshis. But has he done the right thing?

A beautiful story with exciting twists and turns, there is never a dull moment in this book. Shiva has been portrayed as the ultimate man, but not God, as he has his own doubts and weaknesses like all humans. Sati, on the other hand, is Shiva’s equal, both intellectually and in combat. The plot set right in the middle of the Indus valley is fascinating partially due to its historical significance and also because the readers get a glimpse of the sophisticated lifestyle back then.  The story ends in suspense (sadly!), but since the next book in the series is already out, no worries!!

I recommend this book to anyone who has even a tiny bit of interest in Indian history. This is the kind of book that leaves you in a daze after you’ve finished it. I have already ordered the next book – The Secret of the Nagas- and am waiting to find out what happens next.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The All Bengali Crime Detectives

Rating: 3/5

Title: The All Bengali Crime Detectives
Author: Suparna Chatterjee
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Detective
Pages: 180
Publisher: Rupa & Company
ISBN-13: 9788129117823

I saw the cover of this book, read the summary and found it interesting enough to invest in it. I am truly happy that I did. This is the author’s first book and the story goes like this.

A theft takes place in a neighborhood in Calcutta. Four retired people, including an ex-high court judge, investigate the crime. How the crime is solved makes the rest of the story. But is also has loads of description about the neighborhood and the people of the city. Giving readers glimpses of the Bengali way of life, the book breezes through the story. The author being born and brought up in Calcutta succeeds in portraying an appealing and interesting picture about the spirit of the city. The crime takes place during “Durga Pujo” which gives the author the opportunity to explain the traditional way in which the festivities go about with a little bit of historical significance thrown in. A pretty and light story beautifully adorned by the backdrop of the exotic Calcutta city.

A good pick for a quick read. Frankly, I found the narrative and goings on of the city more interesting than the crime itself! But, not disappointing at all! This book was nostalgic too as it reminded me of ‘Byomkesh Bakshi’! Ah, fun times!

Definitely recommended.

The Rozabel Line

Rating: 3.5/5

Title: The Rozabel Line
Author: Ashwin Sanghi
Genre: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 346
Publisher: Westland

This is Ashwin Sanghi’s first book. It was first published in 2007 under the pseudonym Shawn Haigins which is in fact an anagram of the author’s name itself. Due to its bestseller status for a long time, it was revised and published under the author’s original name in 2008 and 2010.

The story is about the Rozabel Line or rather the expedition of finding it. It exists in Kashmir, India and is supposedly Jesus’ tomb. A line in the summary behind the book says, “Spanning between centuries and continents” and is quite true to its meaning. I’m not getting down to details on purpose for this book because I believe the pleasure lies in digging them out on your own!

The story begins in London where a professor’s severed head is found in a box inside a library. As a result, the journey begins to find not only the killer but also the astonishing truth the professor was in process of revealing. The book talks about the conspiracy that Jesus survived the crucifixion, travelled and settled down in India before his death and that he was buried in Kashmir. The story also revolves around Lashkar-e-Talatashar, a terrorist group which triggers a mass destruction throughout the world on doomsday.

An exciting and gripping book, you find yourself spiraling down history. From London to the Middle-East, from Europe and all the way down to India, it is packed with thrilling theories. The story has its final showdown in Vaishno Devi after travelling from Kerala to Goa to Kashmir. I love historical conspiracies and have read a few of them but this book is the mother of all! What I liked about the narration was that it was to-the-point. Literally. Short paragraphs are blended together to make a fantastic story. I cannot say it is similar to The Da Vinci Code but in fact, more complex. Good enough for us readers to want to believe in it! At the end of it all, you do wonder if all faiths are perhaps adapted and then packaged with half myth half facts to be marketed as one religion.

A thorough and massive amount of research done by the author, I must say, all thanks to his historical passion. I can just imagine how long it might have taken to get all information and facts together. Interesting narration style and accurately pieced. Highly recommended.

A book everyone should possess.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dollar Bahu

Rating: 4/5

Title: Dollar Bahu
Author: Sudha Murthy
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 142
Publisher: Penguin India
ISBN-13: 9780143103769

I had always wanted to read Sudha Murthy’s books but whenever I walk into a book store the aura of a glamorous looking mystery/detective novel always gets the better of me (even today!). But a deliberate attempt to grab this copy had me enjoying a pleasant ride from India to America and now I can’t stop raving about it!

Dollar Bahu begins with Chandru, an engineer, leaving Bangalore- his hometown- for Dharwad where he is sent on official duty. He stays as a paying guest and falls in love with Vinuta, the niece of his landlord. When he is sent to America on deputation, he reluctantly leaves Dharwad unsure if Vinuta has the same feelings for him. But going to America was a priority for Chandru as he and his mother, Gowramma, always wanted to visit the “Dollar” country.  Gowramma is thrilled and is rather pompous as his son will now earn in dollars. While he is away in America, Chandru’s younger brother, Girish, meets Vinuta in Bangalore and both end up getting married. Gowramma’s frantic search for her elder ‘bahu’ finally ends when she finds Jamuna who hails from an affluent family. The wedding is a full blown affair. But it is after this wedding that Vinuta is slowly sidelined by her mom-in-law. She is ignored and belittled and even when she is pregnant, is not shown any kindness by Gowramma. A few years and a grandson later, Gowramma is invited to America by Chandru as his wife is now expecting a child. Gowramma’s happiness knows no bound as she sets off alone to her dreamland not realizing that all Jamuna needs is a baby sitter. Initially everything seems rosy and lovely but she slowly realizes the acts of her cunning daughter- in- law and how she was deceived by her false affection.  As she meets different people in the US she is horrified by their tales and also by the huge cultural shock. Having learned the hard way, Gowramma returns back to India realizing the truth behind the glossy dollar and repenting for her unruly behavior with Vinuta.

I loved this book. I guess we can all relate to the typical Indian mentality towards the US in Gowramma and also sympathize with her when the facade of her dear”Dollar Bahu” collapses. The book also illustrates many characters benefiting from the dollars earned but it all seems to come with a price tag. But at the end, it leaves a smile on your face.

Beautifully penned by Sudha Murthy, this book is definitely recommended. Originally written in Kannada, this book is now available in all major Indian languages. It is a nice, breezy read. Looking out for another book -”Mahashweta” by the author. 

That is, if I succeed in getting past the ‘Mystery/Suspense’ racks of the book store!! ;-) 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Love Was Never Mine

Rating: 2/5

Title: Love Was Never Mine
Author: Kunal Bharadwaj
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Pages: 144
Publisher: Cedar Books
ISBN-13: 9788122311846

For a change, I decided to buy this book. The summary at the back looked interesting enough and moreover, Indian writings are always easier to relate to. So I thought to give it a try.

This book is about Rahul and his first (and last) love, Shreya. Rahul joins his dream company where he meets Shreya and instantly falls in love with her. Rahul firmly believes in the phrase”If you want something wholeheartedly, the universe conspires to bring it to you“. Keeping his faith in the Universe, he tries to impress and help Shreya in any way possible just to steer her attention towards him. He gets dejected by even the slightest disinterest from Shreya and pours it out on Riya and Hari, his colleagues. Shreya, unaware of his feelings for her, hurts him unintentionally until Rahul decides to express it all to her. But when he does he is heartbroken as he realizes that she does not love him. Despite this, he goes all lengths to help and be there for her whenever she needs him. Rahul continues to be in love with her even after she gets married. However, the book ends with rather a tragic turn of events.

The book is about the emotional journey of Rahul. Of course, there are a few incidents that did not go down too well with me. For example, Rahul believes that the outer appearance of a person does not matter; all that is important is the inner beauty. But the story goes off balance when he falls in love with Shreya the first time he sets eyes on her after a long, lingering look of her lips! Love at first sight? May be, but to such an extent described in the book… doesn’t seem realistic. Another one. Shreya is depicted as a sweet and nice girl but she continues to ‘use’ Rahul in spite of knowing his feelings for her. Either Rahul is too meek or Shreya is made of stone. Again, no balance here. The very end of the story (straight from a Bollywood movie!) implores for some typical Indian emotions but sadly, did not work. Not for me.

The good part, however, is that the story is short and to the point but not something that would make you sit up and read. As I said, it is all about Rahul’s emotions which were a little far stretched, I believe. The narration is monotonous with a few jerks here and there.

Overall, a fair read if you have a few hours to kill. But certainly not a ‘un-putdownable’ book.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Only Time Will Tell - The Clifton Chronicles #1

Rating: 4/5

Title: Only Time Will Tell
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Genre: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 388
Publisher: Pan Macmillan India
ISBN-13: 9780330535670

This book reminds me why I can never get enough of Archer’s ingenuity. Archer, as is known, is an excellent storyteller and after this book all I have to say is, there can be no one like him.

‘Only Time Will Tell’ is the first volume of the “The Clifton Chronicles” series. Harry Clifton is a child who, despite his poor financial condition, manages to attend the best schools due to his extraordinary singing talent and his mother’s hard work. People around him help from time to time with either money or advice and teach him how to handle life’s ups and downs which shapes him for his future. Like Old Jack Tar, a loner, who is particularly fond of Harry. Maisie Clifton, Harry’s mother, is a doting and hard working mom who determinately works many jobs to afford her son’s education. He meets his best friends, Deakins and Giles in school. Harry and Giles’s sister Emma fall in love and that’s when he discovers that Giles’s father, the shipping baron Hugo Barrington, could possibly be his own father. As he finishes school, the Second World War picks up steam. Harry not only has to choose between going to Oxford and the war but also has to unearth the truth behind his real father. Towards the end, the story takes a dramatic turn which leaves the readers wishing there were more pages to turn!

All characters have different shades but beautifully woven together by Archer. Where Maisie Clifton goes beyond her capability for her son, there is Hugo Barrington who despite being aware of a possible blood relation with Harry is dogmatic and insensitive.

The moment I finished the book, I was already cribbing that I didn’t have the next volume in this series. Though I love Archer, what he did in this book is absolutely cruel to his readers! He has stopped the story at such a crucial point!

This book is highly recommended. Kudos to Archer for beginning a beautiful series! Eagerly awaiting the next one!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Lost Symbol

Rating: 2/5

Title: The Lost Symbol
Author: Dan Brown
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 608
Publisher: Random House
ISBN-13: 9780552161237

The Lost Symbol is another thrilling chase for ancient secrets and unearthing startling facts on its way. Robert Langdon, the Harvard symbologist who helped solve mysteries in “Angels and Demons” and “Da Vinci Code”, stars yet again in this exciting expedition.

Robert Langdon is invited to give a lecture at the Capitol in Washington D.C by his mentor, Dr. Peter Solomon, who heads the Smithsonian Institute. Upon arriving at the Capitol, Robert realizes that the invitation was sent by Dr. Solomon’s kidnapper and that his mentor is in grave danger. What follows is the journey to not only find Peter Solomon but also uncover mysteries that, until this time, Robert thought to be a myth. The story revolves around the Freemasonary group and a hidden pyramid which apparently is a map that points to the exact location of an ancient source of power. Joining Robert in this search is Inoue Sato - the Head of Security of CIA, Warren Bellamy - the Architect of the Capitol and Dr. Katherine Solomon, Peter’s sister - a Noetic scientist who barley escapes from being killed by Peter’s kidnapper. They find the pyramid and Robert does what he does best - unlocks the inscribed code in the pyramid.

At the end of approximately 500 pages, the secret about the ancient source of power is revealed and it is a total let down. After running around Washington D.C from pillar to post, the least expected was a decent element of surprise to conclude. The author manages to keep the readers engaged throughout the story (which is interesting enough), but this definitely does not live up to the “Da Vinci Code” pattern where each time a secret is let out, it is more shocking and exciting.

Personally, I was disappointed by the book. As I mentioned earlier, the expedition is exciting but the climax fizzles out.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Chanakya’s Chant

Rating: 4/5

Title: Chanakya's Chant
Author: Ashwin Sanghi
Genre: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 448
Publisher: Westland
ISBN-13: 9789381626818

The title of the book indicated that it had something to do with Chanakya and that was tempting enough to buy the book. But the antique bronze look to the cover made it even more attractive and I quickly grabbed a copy knowing that it will be fun going through this one.

The book has two stories running parallel; one about Chanakya and how he manages to crown Chandragupta the king of Magadha. The other is about Pandit Gangasagar Mishra, a modern day Chanakya, who succeeds in manipulating the government for his own purpose.

The book begins with the year 340 BC when a young Vishnugupta, later known to the world as Chanakya, is shattered as his father is assassinated by the king of Magadha. He vows to take revenge as he flees from the city for the fear of being murdered himself. As Chanakya grows up to be this shrewd and intelligent teacher of politics and wealth, the story develops into a huge political trap that Chanakya weaves by making, changing and killing allies and enemies and playing strategic political games to fulfill his ultimate goal - to make his disciple Chandragupta, the king of Magadha and thereby satisfying his vengeance.

About 2300 years later, history repeats itself when a village teacher, Pandit Gangasagar Mishra, plays around with the government using his mean tactics to make his student, Chandini Gupta, a leader and a powerful woman in Indian politics who, towards the end of the story, succeeds in becoming the Prime Minister of India.

The story alternates between the “Present day” and “2300 years ago” taking us through two different time zones but politically similar stories. The author handles the transition between the two beautifully. Though we are fairly aware of the filth and dirt politics needs to survive, the author has further enlightened us about the extent to which it was applied way back in history. The narration is excellent and the thrilling turn of events and clever exchange of dialogues are guaranteed to keep the readers hooked.

Altogether, Chanakya’s Chant is a beautiful concoction of two symmetrical stories with interesting characters and story line.

Will definitely look out for Ashwin Sanghi’s next.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cat Among The Pigeons

Rating: 4.5/5

Title: Cat Among the Pigeons
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Detective
Pages: 352
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN-13: 9780007299744

This book comes as a surprise to the regular readers of Agatha Christie. There are many new elements that the author has brought in with this book. For example, there are plenty of different characters in this story apart from the usual butlers and servants. The story travels through different locations in bits and pieces and with that new characters are introduced. But the beauty of it all is how these bits and pieces finally come together and form the story.

As I said earlier, this book has a fresh outlook unlike a normal Agatha Christie novel. The story is about the journey of a handful of foreign jewels and the people involved and killed in the search of the same. Of course with Hercule Poirot’s inclusion, the story becomes even more interesting!

I really enjoyed reading this one because it has an innovative point of view to the story and narration. This is one of those ‘un-put-down able’ ones. A thoroughly enjoyable read, especially for those who love thrillers.

Friday, February 11, 2011

And Thereby Hangs a Tale

Rating: 3/5

Title: And Thereby Hangs a Tale
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 273
Publisher: Pan Books
ISBN-13: 9780330453141

An excellent collection of fifteen short stories by Jeffrey Archer. Again, some of them are inspired by true incidents. But this time, the stories are a step more interesting and refreshing maybe because they are from various parts of the world. There is one based in India too. Some of my favorite stories are ‘The Queen’s Birthday Telegram’, ‘High Heels' and 'Members Only'. While a couple of stories are predictable, the greater part of the book is definitely worth a read.

Last word – my favorite short story collection by Archer.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Paths of Glory

Rating: 4/5

Title: Paths of Glory
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Genre: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 400
Publisher: Pan Books
ISBN-13: 9780330511667

Paths of Glory is an interpretation of the life of George Mallory. This book claims that Mallory realized his lifelong dream of conquering Mount Everest 29 years before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay achieved their feat.

The topic has always remained a controversy since 1924 when Mallory and his fellow Andrew Irvine attempted to reach the summit of Mt. Everest but never returned alive. They were last seen by Noel Odell (another mountaineer climbing behind them) when they were around 1000 meters below the peak of the mountain before disappearing into an extreme storm heading their way. Whether they actually reached the top or not, continues to remain a mystery till date.

It was not until 1999, when Irvine’s and Mallory’s frozen bodies were found that the debate fired up again. Efforts are still underway to discover any clue or proof of what actually happened on that fateful day.

Archer, with his mesmerizing narration, does a brilliant job in bringing George Mallory alive again in print. A beautiful book and a must read for all Archer fans.

Friday, January 28, 2011

And Then There Were None

Rating: 5/5

Title: And Then There Were None
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 316
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN-13: 9780007282319

Although I enjoy reading Agatha Christie’s novels over and over again, there are a few books that fascinate me every time I read them. One of them (and my all time favorite, too!) is this particular book. From an exceptionally thought out plot to an array of interesting characters and a totally unexpected climax, it has the perfect ingredients for an even perfect story.

Twelve people are invited to a lonely island to spend a few days in a house supposedly owned by the host. Upon arriving, they realize that they have all been tricked. Inside the house they hear a voice accusing each person with an offense they had committed earlier in their lives. The story continues with everyone getting mysteriously killed, one by one until there are none. Who is the mastermind behind these murders and what the motive is, is all revealed toward the end of the book.

I have read this book around three times already and still can’t seem to get enough! This is definitely Christie’s masterpiece. A must read.

Cat O'Nine Tales

Rating: 3/5

Title: Cat O'Nine Tales
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 255
Publisher: India Book Distributors

Cat O’Nine Tales is another set of twelve interesting short stories by Jeffery Archer. As with his previous short story collections, this book too has a few stories he picked up during his prison days. Some good ones include ‘Don’t drink the water’, ‘Maestro’, ‘The Alibi’ and ‘In the eye of the Beholder’.

It is a good read although I found a couple of them too lengthy for a ‘short’ story collection. Nevertheless, Archer gives us an engaging set of stories once again.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Rating: 4/5

Title: Jonathan Livingston Seagull - A Story
Author: Richard Bach
Genre: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 96
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN-13: 9788172235789

The book is about Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a unique seagull, which aspires to learn more about flying than just to catch food. It is an inspirational story and the author uses flight as a metaphor to explain how the very purpose of life is lost in the everyday fight for food and survival. The story is about a seemingly unattainable ambition and how it is achieved, in spite of oppositions, just by keeping faith in oneself.

It is a short and nice read (might fire up your goals and dreams). Some lines in the book made me pause and reflect upon them. One of them being “Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly” and another one - “Overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now.”

My take - everyone could benefit in some way from this book. Especially recommended for young readers.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2 States : The Story of My Marriage

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Title: 2 States - The Story of my Marriage
Author: Chetan Bhagat
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 268
Publisher: Rupa & Co.
ISBN-13: 9788129115300

Rating: 4/5

The fourth book by Chetan Bhagat, 2 States is about two people who fall in love and their struggle to get married due to the cultural differences. The book showcases, in a light humored way, the resistance to an inter caste marriage in India, even today.

The story begins with Krish, a Punjabi boy and Ananya, a Tamil Brahmin girl, meeting and falling in love at the IIM-A campus. Both of them choose to get married with their parent's consent. Thus begins the herculean task of convincing the parents. Krish and Ananya take turns in winning over each other’s families. Ananya’s family has been described as the typical stringent south Indian one, as a result of which the trouble Krish goes through to woo her stubborn parents. On the other hand, Ananya comes face to face with Krish’s pompous Punjabi clan and has to overcome the resultant prejudices. How the boy and the girl gain both the family's consent, makes the rest of the story.

This book is definitely recommended for a light and a quick read. The humor and romance is quite engaging. The teasing remarks on the Indian mentality and the light humored narrative makes for an absorbing read. The story emphasizes that marriage in India is not only the union of two hearts, but also of two families. And in this case, two vastly diverse states as well.

2 States is supposedly inspired from the actual story of how Chetan Bhagat and his wife got married. I guess, that is the reason it is most enjoyable as it is written from experience and concerns the delicate matters of the heart. A delightful book from Chetan Bhagat.

Definitely recommended!

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