JAYA: AN ILLUSTRATED RETELLING OF THE MAHABHARATA by DEVDUTT PATTANIK(book review)

July 8, 2011 § 2 Comments

Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling Of The Mahabaratha

image from here. 

Crisp, precise, informative and gripping!

While Vedas and Upanishads are the ‘backbone’, epics such as Mahabharta and Ramayana are the nerves of our ‘culture’. In his telling of Mahabaratha as ‘Jaya : An Illustrated retelling of the Mahabharata’,the author informs, educates and makes sense of the massive story in a little over 350 pages.

The book has each of the important events in simple paras with the author’s interpretation(and two cents)  following it. The book moves along nice and quick with the events that have the major baring on the great war.

Don’t expect to be enlightened the book is lesser about that and more about giving a quick account of the epic to people who haven’t heard about the epic. One nice thing about the book is that the author has collected tales from different regions of India and other countries such as Indonesia and included them in his ‘explanation’.

The book is also  illustrated(by the author himself), but it probably would have been a better idea to have images from famous artists, considering the book is a 2 minute version of the epic probably aimed to impress.

Personally, I liked the book, it was like brushing up through the Mahabharata. The tales from across the country and abroad add value to the narrative. The book is pretty much no frills and does not try to glorify the Pandavas overtly. The author stays true to being impartial and provides a balanced view of the epic. It is easier to see cause and effect, especially with the author reminding us of the same, time and again.

The book was a gripping read no doubt. It had been a while since I read anything regarding our mythology and thus it was a reminder of the moralistic uncertainties and the essence of the epic. Read it if you want to remind yourselves about the Mahabharata. A quick and effective version of the epic, it cuts straight to the point albeit with some of the magic being lost.

Rating:- 7/10

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

Bookin’ it

May 23, 2011 § 8 Comments

I love reading. Bur very rarely do I keep a tab of the books I have read over a period of time. But a tweet by qtfan on twitter prompted me to make a list. Well without further ado, here is the list:-

1)The Catcher in the Rye by J.D.Salinger – A light and thoroughly enjoyable read. Narrated by Holden Caulfield, the book is about a guy who keeps getting kicked out of school. I guess the book captures the mood of that generation.

2)Catch 22 by Joseph Heller- Possibly pointless, but isn’t war pointless anyway? It makes a point by being pointless, Catch 22.

3) Trapped wings, Open sky by Nisha Arppit – Received for review but did not publish the review. Still laying in my drafts, did not enjoy the book.

4) The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga- Overrated.

5)Demian by Hermann Hesse – Review. I love Hermann Hesse’s writing.

6)Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse – Tale of a lonely middle-aged man, who opens himself up to new ideas. A bit of a drag, but meaningful and probably a Roman a clef of the author.

7)Hickory Dickory Shock by Sundip Gorai- Review. The author spammed my comment section because of the review had to delete the comments.

8)Chanakya’s Chant by Ashwin Sanghi- Review.

9)Fate, Fraud and a Friday Wedding by Bhavna Rai – Review.

10)1984 by George Orwell- Review

11)The Metamorphoses by Kafka – Weird, deep and very depressing.

12) The Old Man And The Sea by Ernst Hemingway Engaging, Simple and Beautiful.

13)Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen by P.G.Wodehouse – You should have read the book already.

14) Mayil Will Not Be Quiet by Niveditha Subramaniam and Sowmya Rajendran – Review by sister on bookrack. Oh! and Sowmya is none other than Gounder Brownie 😀

15&16)  I read the entire Hitchhiker’s Guide in one go. So probably, I read the last book or two in early January. Now that I look back, think it was the last two books.

So well that’s 16 books which I remember reading. Then there is “The Brothers Karamazov” By Dostoevsky, which I never seem able to finish. I do pick up random books laying about the house, read a few pages and drop it.   Generally I tend not to read while travelling, as I prefer to observe what is happening around me. Right now, I am reading Overland by Mark Stephen Levy. I also have Stilettos by Rashmi Kumar waiting to be read next. While Overland was sent by the publishers, Rashmi sent me the book personally for review.

I generally don’t like to set targets. After all, I read to learn, understand and appreciate the world. To me each book is a journey. I let the book set the pace. For example, the books by Hermann Hesse are slow-moving and spiritual whereas Chanakya’s Chant is fast and thrilling. Of the list I would suggest you read 1984 first, if you haven’t already.

So what have you read this year?

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 TIME MACHINE by H.G.WELLS(book review)

December 7, 2010 § 28 Comments

The Time Machine by H.G.Wells

What a book! Crisp and fascinating!

You can’t help admire, imagine and feel inspired by the book. This first person narrative(we do not know the name of the narrator) tells us about the time-travelers journey into the future.

In the year 820,701 humanity has divided into two spices- Murlocks and Eloi.The Elois are a childish, androgynous and small people, who live in what seems like a perfect communist society. The Murlocks are the labour class transformed- they live underground, provide for the Eloi and eat them(cattle class, anyone?).

The Time-traveler’s time machine is stolen by the Murlocks and he goes about trying to recover it. He rescues Weena from drowning and with her explores the London landscape. In the end, he falls for what surely is a bait, but reacts fast enough to escape.

I love the concept, the thought and the representation of the future humanity. I used to shy away from fantasy and Sci-fi, but now I have come to love them! The authors use the setting to talk about their times, the socio-political, religious, economic and scientific climate. Empirically, we still face many of the problems faced back then. No wonder this is a classic!

A must read!

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.

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