STILETTOS IN THE NEWSROOM by RASHMI KUMAR(book review)

June 8, 2011 § 3 Comments

An entertaining and fast read.

To be fair, with so many insufferable books out there, I am happy to see that ‘contemporary writing’ isn’t about passing off some random nonsense for a book.

Stilettos in the newsroom is about, you guessed it- a journalist. Radhika Kanetkar, comes out as an impressionable person. We follow her travails, slow raise in the world of newspaper and finally witness her  wedding. The writing is tight enough to not bore you. There maybe a few similar books out there, but when it comes from an author who is also a journalist, it is worth reading- after all, we all are curious about that name which appears under an article.

Don’t expect to be blow away and you will enjoy the book.It isn’t a chic-lit but more of a dairy with ‘lessons’ at the end of each chapter. A really light read, which keeps you curious enough to turn the page. Not all journalists lead adventurous and dangerous lives, some just sit in front of a computer and write stories.

One thing which I didn’t understand was how some of the ‘lessons’ were ‘lessons’. Over all, the book probably won’t take you more than a couple of hours to read. It doesn’t blow your mind away, but that’s okay.

Rating:- 6/10

OVERLAND by MARK STEPHEN LEVY(book review)

May 27, 2011 § 2 Comments

Engaging, entertaining and thrilling.

Sometimes all you expect out of a book is to have fun reading it. You want it to pulsate, hold your attention, make sense and have an element of surprise- this book has it all.

On the last day of med school exam, Danny Benson receives a letter from his fiancée Heather. The girl he wants to marry informs him that the engagement is off. Danny isn’t satisfied and your home bird sets off on an adventure to find Heather. He takes the Magic Bus and though he finds his fiancée, he suddenly is caught in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and loses her again. Helping treat the injured in a make shift hospital, he discovers true love in the form of Emily- the girl he met during a childhood trip to Ireland.

The writing is simple and easy to read. Initially I expected the book to deal in detail with each and every destination the Magic Bus stopped at, i.e. more like a travel book(the blurb does say the author was inspired by his travels), but the book doesn’t. It is fast paced thriller.

The book is tightly packed and at no time do you feel that the author has taken liberty to make it easy(or difficult) for the protagonist- the story progresses naturally. Initially you get the impression of passing through too many places rather too quickly, which we do. The book first takes us to London and from there we transverse across Europe, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and the book concludes rather romantically and fate-slapped in Kathmandu.

The characters are easy to understand and relate to. The book does not seem boring or a drag at any point. You might have guessed the ending, but it is still exciting. You can see where the inspiration from traveling comes in. Unlike other authors, Levy does not try to paint the Orient in bright romantic hues, he stays grounded.

There is also a parallel story running along, which seems to peter out, but on the whole it is a very good read. A paperback which you can read while traveling(took me about a couple of hours to finish it), it is worth it. There are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing and immersed. I just wish the book had a better cover.

Rating:- 7/10

DEMIAN by HERMANN HESSE(book review)

April 8, 2011 § 5 Comments

DEMIAN BY HERMANN HESSE

Complete, contemplative and beautiful!

The story of Sinclair the narrator how he grew up and the influence of his friend Demian on his life. Simple yet powerful, this coming of age book is like no other.

Hermann Hesse is one of favorite authors. His writing has this force which is calm yet stimulating. While his protagonist is clever, knowledgeable and talented he is still brash, raw and innocent. One cannot but help identifying with him and in my case, this book is a landmark, just like how Siddhartha was. Like Siddhartha here too the protagonist is someone who moves from the existing conventions and lives a life of his own.

Hesse gives you hope, while reminding you that there are many obstacles you have to conquer- the biggest being yourself. The writing doesn’t merely appeal to you- it talks to you. While the book was intended to represent how a generation felt(Hesse has published it under a pseudonym as he felt that youngsters would feel that an older person will not understand how they feel), it is universal and personal at the same time.

The beauty lies in the simplicity of the writing and the depth of the theme. The book brings in art, music, writing, spirituality and religion- factors that influence and have a grip on you. The book is truthful and makes you think. To me it brought back memories of earlier times. In a way it reminded me of where I am today and because of what and gave me a renewed confidence.

I could completely identify with Sinclair, though Demian and his mother seem rather mystic. But that is part of the book- as everyone else except the author are influences that appear in the person’s life. There are some among humanity, who live with, for and because of a greater force, the characters in this book are such.

Simple and powerful, this is a must read book.

rating:- 9/10

HICKORY DICKORY SHOCK by SUNDIP GORAI(book review)

March 19, 2011 § 5 Comments

HICKORY DICKORY SHOCK

Threatens to takeoff but keeps taxing along.

“The Tale Of Techies” pronounces the book cover,the techies are there alright, but there isn’t enough about  them. A rather interesting starting and you are curious, but sadly, the book doesn’t turn into what might have been a really fun, gripping, entertaining and interesting story. The problem is while the story is good and the author is clever(what with Kamasutra cipher, Klondike etc) the book isn’t ‘tight’ enough, just when you except to be in awe and be captivated, it just fizzes out.

The story revolves around LoRD, a software which once finished will save SHIVAN computers from the hole it has gotten into(looks like Mr.Gorai has done research on the Satyam scandal) but a corporate espionage, with stops them from doing so or does it? A techie sees a conversation between a Hickory and a Dickory discussing this(er..I never got the shock part though) and then suddenly your beer sipping techie, turns into a Holmes.

The characters seem undecided. There are times when the lead character seems frail, especially with a name like 210, you just can’t think of him as a Techie and someone who would know all about Indian history and solve a case like Holmes. If you are moving away from stereotypes, it is necessary to build the characters and make them identifiable. While a mom who almost made it to the Kabbadi team for the ’82 Asian games is different, I was still stuck with a fat lady in my head, who towards the end out runs a couple of goons.

As said above, the book does threaten to excite you, but it lets you down, exactly at the moment you expect it to take off. As someone who has read a lot of mystery novels, it was just too easy to guess. On the positive side, there are many interesting elements and concepts which the author calls upon. If it had been better ‘packed’, it might have fulfilled its true potential.

There are a few glaring errors(Alphabets, really? ), which seems to suggest the editors haven’t really gone though the motions properly – probably another reason why the story leaves you wanting.

A pretty decent read, not boring or terrible, just not exciting and fun enough. I have to admit, I was looking forward to reading this book on “The Tale Of Techies”. Overall, it just lacks that bit more to get you excited. Writing paperbacks isn’t easy, specially when there are millions of them out there. Mr.Gorai has lots of potential as a writer, I am sure he will get it right in his next book.

Rating:-5/10.

P.S:- These are just my views. The book has also got a lot of positive feedbacks and reviews, you can find them at the author’s website.

FATE, FRAUD AND A FRIDAY WEDDING by BHAVNA RAI(book review)

February 23, 2011 § 6 Comments

FATE,FRAUD AND A FRIDAY WEDDING by BHAVNA RAI

Fast, exciting and thrilling!

The book begins with a flurry of activities, skipping across various places both home and abroad confusing, but nevertheless exciting. We dwell into the lives of various people and we reach the climax at the wedding. The book gives us what it promises Fate, Fraud And A Friday Wedding.

One thing I liked about the book was the simplicity. The  demography chosen is what we are familiar with Higher middle class/Rich Indians. The author has avoided long descriptions and tells the story- and pretty well at that. The beginning was slightly nebulous and confusing, but this adds to the excitement and has you wondering. The chain of events take shape pretty well, albeit the chapter where everything merges, seems badly edited(not badly written the editors could have given better spacing and had demarcations when shifting from one person/scene to another).

The style is simple and the voice suits the characters. There are times when you can feel the tension and sympathies with the characters. The book flows without any inhibition and does not meander.

A thriller which is thrilling. A book which I would recommend, if you want something light and entertaining to read, probably when on the move.

Rating:- 6/10. There are places where I feel the editing could have been better. I read The White Tiger before this book and  this book was surely more engaging(as is this book).

P.S:- The author’s website.

1984 by GEORGE ORWELL(book review)

February 2, 2011 § 11 Comments

 

1984

 

 

Terrifying, Horrific, Brutal and almost real!

Winston Smith is a rebel- but then to even think about doing anything against the party is a crime- thoughtcrime. Yet, he dares to step out of line and even starts a diary! He meets a girl- Julia and they fall in love- again something which would get them killed or worse. In the end they do get caught and are put through horrifying torture. The purpose as O’Brien says is not to merely kill the rebels, but to make them accept and love the party and Big Brother before they are finally shot.

The idea of Big Brother(the iconic leader) is based on Joseph Stalin. But unlike the latter, we do not know if he is a living person. Yet, Big Brother is everywhere, he listens to everything to you say, he watches everything you do(somewhat like God?). The world is constantly at war and though the statistics say otherwise, people’s ration are decreased almost every week. There are four ministries which rule Oceania(the world has three super powers- Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia), i.e. Ministry of Love, Ministry of Peace, Ministry of Truth and Ministry of Plenty, which deal with controlling people though constant monitoring and torture, war,  falsification and propaganda and controlling rations respectively.

You can feel a sense of despair through out the book, not only is it palpable, it starts affecting you. the arguments and ideas are driven through with pain and anguish- what if the world turns out to be like this? Or are we really heading to a world like this? Maybe not, hopefully.

The book flows much like a saw does through wood, slicing and making you question the motives of the world you live in. While it may seem the author is nihilistic- there is enough of salt in there to see what he sees. If in the last 60 or so years(since the book was written), the world hasn’t moved one bit of the knife-edge in terms of falling into a world of hatred and war, then surely there is something we need to think about.

Even in an age of democracy- you can’t but help draw parallels to the present day situation. The picture is no way pretty. In the end you are left with a damning silence, wondering what is reality. The characters are almost alive, in fact you believe they are real. You live every second of the book and know through out what awaits you. It doesn’t matter, what you know, all that matters is what ‘they’ think you have to know. 2+2=5.

A must read book, but be prepared to answer questions which you never thought you would ask yourself. There is no happy ending- there is nothing that makes you smile anywhere in the book. Big Brother is watching you.

rating:-10/10

THE RISE OF THE SWORD by PRIYA K(book review)

December 3, 2010 § 4 Comments

THE RISE OF THE SWORD BY PRIYA K

Fun, entertaining and cute!

The story starts with the protagonist Neha Sharma being enrolled into LA(lunatic Anonymous) by her brother. After all who will believe someone who claims that she is the chosen one(or Ne’ha) in a place which is underwater and no one knows exists?   Neha recounts to a shrink about her adventure in Lemuria along with her boyfriend professor Nick.

The sword is question is Ikatta, the sword of Thragone, the God of war. It looks to stir the most peaceful people on Earth to war. The hero, predictably stops it. Also predictably there is a twist to the end.

Am not a huge fan of fantasy, but this book is fun and entertaining. It doesn’t blow your mind away, but still is something worth reading. You can see that the book is written by a 19 year old, quite clearly. The way Neha takes to being the chosen one and her conversation with Xerxes and other Gods is really fun- you can see that she can’t believe it, but then convinces herself it must be true.

The writing is very simple and light. The book probably is aimed at preteens, but others will enjoy it as well, I am sure. The approach the author takes to dealing with creating a whole new world is interesting. She keeps is simple and doesn’t go into too many details(which I personally would have liked).  But she does talk about the culture of Lemurians and explains their(our?) history.

Overall, a book which you can read on the go. Also the legend/story the book is based(a conversation between Socrates, Critias and others) is given at the end. I’m looking forward to the next book 🙂

Rating:-7/10

P.S:- The author’s website.

BALA TAKES THE PLUNGE by MELVIN DURAI(book review)

October 27, 2010 § 6 Comments

image from here.

Funny, witty and entertaining!

When someone says ‘Indian Authors’  the writers who come to my mind are  Ghosh, Rushdie, Seth and the like. But this book is something completely new(at least to me) and what’s more I was really liked it!

A very simple story- Bala is a Chennai boy with an engineering degree, working in the US. He gets lonely and wants to get married(thus ‘take the plunge’). The first part of the book is about Bala’s childhood, family and the way he was brought up. The second part is about his love for America(his dog) and the search for a bride.

The Indian characters all are easily recognisable- stereotypes who are omnipresent and the ending is a given. Yet what makes the book worth it are the wit, humour and word play. The book gets you chuckling and yes the ‘mokais'(PJs or Blunt jokes) are well timed(considering it caught me off guard at a few places).

Today sexual jokes invariable form part of any writing, play, movie etc that go under ‘humour’. But the author is confident enough to stray away from this beaten path(except maybe a few innuendos, which depend on your perception). This makes the book refreshing and enjoyable. And I love the way he tries to define how people classify others based on their intellect(like scrabble being one level below Chess; And if you happen to play chess, you are seen as a clever person).

Overall, a very simple, enjoyable, funny and entertaining book. Something which you read while travelling. Of course, I’m tempted to put this under TamBram literature, but I don’t think there is something called TamBram literature.

Rating:-7/10

P.S:- It is nice to know that I happen to belong to a league of people who the author admires(people who can understand Rushdie). I would like to thank him for sending me this book(finally a book in collection which others in my house can read).

Click here to go to the author’s website

SIDDHARTHA by HERMANN HESSE(book review)

October 4, 2010 § 12 Comments

SIDDHARTHA BY HERMANN HESSE

Image from here

A book that can change you. A book that will influence you. A book that will make you see within.

Siddhartha is a contemporary of The Buddha. The book takes us through his life and quest for enlightenment.  The narrative is simple and yet involving. The author shows the thirst of a young man for enlightenment. He highlights friendship, love and most importantly the struggle of a young man to find meaning in life.

There is lot to be learnt from the book. The story is beautiful and you feel peace descending upon you, as you read the book.

We see the protagonist travel through the various stages of life-  Hesse has managed to capture in a way that  it is so natural that you might almost not notice it. We see the brahmin’s son, turn into a Samana, then into a business man and finally a ferryman. He realizes, learns and grows through each vocation and indeed every page of the book.

This is one of those books that will leave at least a footprint- one that you hope will remain for a while. To me, the message- “I can Think, I can wait, I can fast” , thought me that I need to slow down. All you need to do is a take a deep breath and watch, listen and speak to the river(as in the book).

This review is being written, some ten days after completing the book- simply because I wanted to feel its impact. Indeed, this has left a very big mark on me. I will say it is a must read.

Rating:- 10/10.

You can download the book from here.

THE ROZABAL LINE by ASHWIN SANGHI(book review)

September 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

THE ROZABAL LINE BY ASHWIN SANGHI

Image from here

Conspiracies make  good reads. They are entertaining, enchanting and enterprising.

This book is similar to Da Vinci Code in the sense that both talk about Jesus’ bloodline. Apart from that and a few more bolts and screws, this book is more engaging, conspiring and complete. The author not only makes the world look like a small place, he also makes it look young by jumping across centuries.

CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING

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