Monday, November 24, 2014

The Second Coming: A Love Story

Rating: 3.5/5


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Title: The Second Coming: A Love Story
Author: Scott Pinsker
Genre: Fiction, History, Religious
Pages: 238
Publisher: Scott Pinsker Publishing

Let me begin by saying that this is my very first 'requested' review.I received a free copy of this book from Scott Pinsker, the author, and was asked for my honest opinion. So here goes.

The story is about two people, Joe and Israel, both claiming to be Jesus Christ. They are here to save mankind from the apocalypse and are forming their own group of followers for the same. But in reality, one of them is Satan. Both Joe and Israel, convince people to believe in them by presenting their own divine perspectives which, by the way, are totally opposite. The book is about how each of them represent their school of thought, one very modern and liberal, while the other with conventional theories of Christianity. When put across, both seem to be preaching the right way and the reader is left to guess which one of the duo is Satan. The book concludes with a religious war raging across America and the followers desperately fighting to bring victory to their respective camps.

Loaded with interesting dialogues, the book cruises at a fast pace. The conversations are not only witty and humorous but also contemplative. The writing style is modern and so absorbing that I made a mental note to be reading such books more often. The story, well, there is no story as such. It is a narrative of how a present day situation unfolds. The conflicting theories about religion and how people perceive it, is what defines the framework of this book.

I particularly like some segments where there are mentions of what we base our faiths on and consequently divide certain actions as good or bad which vary from person to person. There are some 'grey' areas as well (that fall neither in the 'good' or 'bad') which we aren't comfortable accepting in ourselves and others and is therefore, conveniently left out. The author isn't biased to any one side himself but explains both the good and the bad, quite convincingly. 

It is not too long a story but enough to give food for thought. A truly thought provoking book, I should say. I totally loved this book because it left me with a spiritual reflection and also compelled me to dwell on the intricacies of religion and faith. This one is certainly worth a read if you like to ponder over the existence and importance of God and other spiritual theologies. It urges the reader to examine in depth about his/her views on many topics related to the inner self. 

All in all, a must read. I'm sure the sequel, to be released next year, would be just as enthralling as this one.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Half Girlfriend

Rating: 3.5/5

Title: Half Girlfriend
Author: Chetan Bhagat
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Pages: 268
Publisher: Rupa Publication India
ISBN-13: 9788129135728

I missed out on reading Revolution 2020, Chetan Bhagat's previous book. So, I decided to preorder this one and as predicted, it was at my doorstep on the 1st of October, delivered by the ever efficient, Flipkart. Moving on from my ramblings, on to the summary.

The story begins with Chetan Bhagat narrating about a visit he makes to Patna where he meets, Madhav, a forlorn lover who urges the author to read what looks like journals of his dead girlfriend (or half girlfriend, as he describes her). Our author is intrigued and asks Madhav to narrate his love story. Riya, the girl in question, is from a rich and flamboyant background who joins college, where she meets Madhav, whose English in nowhere near perfect due to his educational background. Their common love for basketball brings them closer but since Riya wants nothing more than friendship (and Madhav clearly wanted more), she agrees to be his half girlfriend. But due to a misunderstanding, they part ways and Riya leaves college to get married while Madhav is left alone with her sweet reminisces. On returning to his village after completing his education, Madhav takes over the school that their family had been running for the local children. As fate would have it,  Madhav meets Riya again and learns that she has abandoned both her husband and home and is now working and living alone. They continue being friends and when Madhav's school gets selected for a funding from the Microsoft Foundation, Riya helps him to prepare a speech that he has to deliver in front of Bill Gates who would be personally visiting. Although Riya gauges that Madhav continues to like her, she herself doesn't display any other emotion other than friendship. When Madhav successfully gives a speech on the D-Day and his school is approved for funding, he just wants to share his happiness with one person, but Riya is nowhere to be found. All he gets is a letter left behind by Riya saying that she has been ill for some time now and since she doesn't have much time, she wants to go away, as far as possible from everyone she knows, and die in peace.

Madhav is heart broken. He finds her journals but can't bring himself to read it. And as Chetan Bhagat was Riya's favorite author, he brings those to him. But when the author reads the entire lot, or whatever was legible, he finds a twist in Madhav's love story. Apparently, Riya was never sick and wanted to get away from Madhav because she thought she was no good for him and knew that unless she disappears, he would never let her go. So, she's alive after all and when Madhav learns this, he is enraged at first but then decides to go look for her. Whether or not he is successful in finding her and do they get together at the end, you readers will have to find out. No spoilers here!

Although I like Chetan's narrations, this one in particular stood out. It is simple and conversational. Some of the slangs are really funny. The flow of the story is beautifully steady which is great and that is why we love Chetan Bhagat, is it not? He is a great story teller! The story, according to me, is engaging except for a couple of things. First, the fact that Madhav doesn't speak good English is unduly stressed in the story. I cannot fathom why. If this was an effort by the author to string it with the English speech that Madhav had to make, then it was unnecessary. It is even mentioned in the summary behind the book, which is confusing because it isn't vital to the story. Second, the ending didn't seem realistic enough (read Bollywood!) and that comes from someone who has been watching Bollywood since childhood. I mean, it is nice but I kind of expected something different than the usual, I guess.

When I finished the book, I wasn't completely satisfied because, as said earlier, it felt as if I had just finished watching a movie. Instantly, a thought cropped up. Is Chetan Bhagat now writing only for Bollywood? All his books (except Revolution 2020) have been made into movies now. Agreed, there's no better way to spin money, but I just hope that we don't lose a sincere writer in the process.

So, my verdict is that Half Girlfriend makes a nice, romantic read, especially for young lovers. And for all the romcom fanatics out there, you too should definitely try this book!

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