Book Review : Alchemist Of The East

alcofeastBlurb View:

The Alchemist of the East is an enchanting saga of gaining wisdom, following one’s heart and, above all, chasing one’s dreams.
This is a story of Sushyo, a toy maker from Mesopotamia who wishes to travel all over the world and spread the message of peace and joyousness.
From his home in the city of Nineveh, on the banks of river Tigris, he voyages to the land of seven rivers, Melhua.
What unfolds is an adventure of epic proportion with his destiny throwing at him, one challenge after another, probing him in the most frightful manner.
An apocalyptic encounter with the Alchemist of the East prepares him for the road ahead.
As events occur rapidly, the boy finds himself a part of a legacy for which he will have to face up to the ruler of Arianna, Queen Kassandrra, in an epic battle on the banks of river Helmand.

Review: 

I’ve read Aporva Kala only once earlier and the best thing I like about his works is the simplicity in writing. There isn’t a barrage of difficult-to-pronounce words or complicated sentences that send you in a tizzy for the dictionary. While Life…Love…Kumbh was more of a journey than a concrete story, Alchemist of the East is a full grown novel that blends history with mystique.

The book begins with Sushyo, a teenage toy maker from Mesopotamia tragically losing his mother. He embarks on a life altering journey, one that is essential for his survival and evolution as a human being. Sushyo sails on a ship to a faraway land, gets into a confrontation with the Captain of the ship and finally wins his trust. Fate takes him to a gurukul where he meets his calling of toy making. He learns the art and the fine tunings of it. And yet, there’s something else in store for his future, something from his past that suggests he could be the next king of Alexandria. Will Sushyo be a toy maker when he becomes an adult or will e really be the king, defeating Queen Kassandra in an epic battle and avenge the death of his parents?

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Book Review : 03:02

0302Blurb View:

At 03:02 on a Sunday morning, the world as we knew it came to an end. Mumbai suddenly went black — no electricity, no phones, no internet and no working cars. It was as if someone had turned off the master switch of our civilization, turning us back hundreds of years overnight. We learned that it was not just Mumbai, but much of the world that had been impacted. We also learned that it was no accident. A deadly enemy was behind it. An enemy that was now in our midst, seeking to conquer us and destroy our way of life. This is how our war for freedom began. A war that was to be waged not on the borders or by the Army, but in our homes and streets, with us as the soldiers. This is our story. ’03:02 celebrates fictional heroes who fight for our freedom, but to give back to the real heroes who do so every day, for every copy sold, a contribution from author royalties will be made to the National Defence Fund, which takes voluntary contributions to help armed forces service members and their families.’

Review: 

Mainak Dhar’s previous book Chronicler of the Undead is the only dystopian novel I had read in a long time. His latest offering 03:02 seemed a tad different, moving to the thriller and mystery genre. That was reason enough to pick it up for review as I’ve been a fan of Mainak’s writing. It’s always perspicuous and pleasing to read. From what I’ve read by him so far, I surely can’t complain about the form of writing. It might be the content that varies from each book to the other and creates a difference in quality.

03:02 is an interesting take on a thriller, blended with mystery and most importantly, terrorism. The protagonist, Aditya, is on the verge of turning into a corporate robot and deserves the promotion he receives. There’s a party in the evening and he crashes onto his bed later that night. Something happens at 03:02 in the morning and there’s a blackout. Aditya is oblivious of the situation and wakes up to realise something serious has happened. He goes out, scrutinises his neighbourhood and learns that nothing is working – phone, car, electricity – all dead. His neighbours are as baffled as he is. The scenario unfolds gradually, the horrors are peeled off in layers and people face the stark reality of living a life without modern facilities. Aditya takes control of the situation for the lack of a leader and starts restoring life.

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Book Review : Jao Pakhi

jao pakhiIf you have read any of my reviews on Bangla books, you might be aware that Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay is one of my favourite authors. My admiration and awe for his writing cannot be described by just ‘favourite’. The author’s USP is his characterisation – you’d be amazed to get into their psyche peeling off layers from apparently mundane characters. They are people around us, but each with a different story to convey through their eyes or words. Have you ever read an entire novel on dialogues, without a single paragraph of narration? I’ve been learning not only the nuances of fine writing, but more about life in general from this octogenarian author’s works. There’s rarely been a story where he has failed to impress me as a reader.

Jao Pakhi (Fly away, Birdie) is one of the more tender stories with lesser shock value from its characters. It’s the story of a young man named Somen. He’s a rookie just out of college with his dreams still shaping up. His father, a man ruled by his ideals, lives in a village building his own hut and growing his own crops. His mother, however, didn’t leave the city as she raised her two sons and a daughter, married them off and still lives with her family. She wants Somen to begin working and establishing himself in the world like his elder brother Ranen. She wants their father to hand them his money from a policy that is going to mature soon.

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Book Review : Kachher Manush

51EJsNCuFkL._SX400_BO1,204,203,200_It’s not everyday that I sit down to write about a Bangla book. There are a few that not only tug a few strings at the heart, but pull them hard enough to inflict pain. Kachher Manush (The Close One) by Suchitra Bhattacharya is an epic work in contemporary Bangla Literature. SB was an immensely popular writer over decades until she passed away untimely last year. Her stories have always been as close to our middle class reality as they could. She wrote almost solely about the average Bengali family, one you’d spot around you daily with all its problems, undercurrents of tension and occasional bursts of joy. Kachher Manush was written in the eighties, quite early in SB’s career and yet it portrays the mastery that she had in her craft. The writing waned later though, stories became repetitive, plots became a little mundane, but she produced occasional masterpieces like Kancher Dewal, Neel Ghurni, Dahan and Parobash. Among the good, bad and ugly ones, Kachher Manush is the one I love the most.

The opening pages are laced with hope and anticipation. Titir, a teenager in full bloom in the eighties Calcutta has just appeared for her Secondary examinations in school. She awaits her alcoholic father Aditya’s homecoming from a hospital. SB does a wonderful, rather wistful job in narrating the ambience around Titir as she waits for her mother Indrani to fetch Aditya home. She lives in a huge house, in a ‘joint family’ that we were so familiar to in the previous century. Titir’s family comprises of little islands, bound loosely together by her ailing grandfather. Her paternal uncle Sudip and his wife Runa have aptly named their son Atom, probably in apprehension that they would live as a nuclear family sometime in future. Aditya’s youngest brother Kandarpa is a wannabe actor who lives in horns of dilemma, tethering between right and wrong. SB describes these islands through the eyes of Titir’s elder brother Bappa, who admits being the smallest isthmus, waiting to sever his ties with the dysfunctional family soon by applying for a sailor’s job.

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Book Review : The Honest Season

the honest seasonBlurb View: 

Sikander Bansi, an unlikely political heir in Delhi, secretly records politicians in Parliament as they haggle to become cabinet ministers, bag defense contracts, dodge criminal charges and collect corporate largesse. Among them is a rising leader of the People’s Party, Nalan Malik, whose success has come through unscrupulous means. When Sikander suddenly disappears, Mira Mouli, a newspaper journalist with an unusual gift of knowing people’s thoughts, receives the controversial Parliament tapes along with clues to find him. She is attracted to Sikander’s principles and is wary of Nalan’s deceit. But her powers of knowing tell her a different story, one that she can unravel only at the cost of her life. From the bestselling author of Shoes of the Dead, this is disturbing political fiction that reveals why Parliament functions behind gates closed to the public.

Review:

It gives me immense pleasure to let you know that I’ve read one of the finest books by an Indian writer in 2016. Yes, it’s a political fiction and I’m quite wary of politics in India. Yet it is the apprehension that egged me to pick up this book. A Twitter chat with the author prior to start reading the book confirmed that her novel is worth every minute. In this month of Assembly elections in four crucial Indian states, the book comes as a necessity. It aims at exposing what happens inside the ominous white Assembly buildings – the shady dealings, the breach of trust, the whispers that never escape those marble pillars into commonality.

The story begins with a glimpse of the protagonist Mira’s super powers. She can read thoughts while listening to a person and knows what they’re thinking. So she’s a know-journalist. The book is based on utilizing her powers, but never misusing them. Mira is involved into a dangerous game of hide and seek by politician Sikander Bansi that spills the secrets of the Parliament. She can’t escape without solving the clues and in the process only gets hurt. The author has made great efforts to build the character of Mira, word by word, and we are let into her dark and gloomy world. There are other politicians like Nalan Malik who is hard to gauge, Sikander Bansi in his various avatars, Mira’s boss and editor Bidur Munshi, her colleague Salat Vasudev, and the rain. I think it’s the rain that drives the story forward and gives it such a poetic aura.

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Book Review : The House That BJ Built

Blurb View: 

the-house-that-b-j-built-400x400-imae6zqyqg4tnprf“I’ll make my sisters squirm like well-salted earthworms. I won’t sell. Even my jutti wont sell. And if I die na, then even my ghost won’t sell!”

The late Binodini Thakur had been very clear that she would never agree to sell her hissa in her Bauji’s big old house on Hailey Road. And her daughter Bonu, is determined to honor her mothers wishes.

But what to do about her four pushy aunts who are insisting she sell? One is bald and stingy, one is jobless and manless, one needs the money to ‘save the nation’ and one is stepmother to Bonus childhood crush-brilliant young Bollywood director Samar Vir Singh, who promised BJ upon his deathbed that he would get the house sold, divvy the money equally and end all the bickering within the family.

The first word baby Bonu ever spoke was ‘Balls’ and indeed, she is ballsy, bs-intolerant, brave and beautiful.

But is she strong enough to weather emotional blackmail by the spadefull? Not to mention shady builders, wily politicians, spies, lies and the knee-buckling hotness of Samars intense eyes?

Sharply observed and pulse-quickeningly romantic, this is Anuja Chauhan writing at her sparkling best!

Review:

Picking up a book by India’s one of the most popular contemporary authors, Anuja Chauhan, was a mighty task. I hadn’t read her before, but knew that her novel ‘Those Pricey Thakur Girls’ has been adapted into a television show. ‘The House That BJ Built’ is presumably the sequel of Thakur Girls.  The blurb seemed quite grippy with catchy lines and the promise of a ‘joint family’ story. So I began reading the book like unwrapping a lovely glitzy Diwali gift.

Few pages into the story and I was growing a fondness for Bonu. She’s fierce, that’s probably the best adjective to describe her persona. She’s an entrepreneur, in whatever crooked way it might be, and is making her mark slowly into the lives of people she has employed. She lives with Bauji, taking care of him in a huge dilapidated house, with very occasional visits from her four aunts and his hotness, Samar Vir Singh. Now about Samar – he’s the stepson of Bonu’s eldest aunt, and an epitome of hotness, besides being a young filmmaker in Bollywood. The aunts arrive after Bauji’s death, each of them with their kitty of problems and a common cause – to sell the house.

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Book Review : God is a Gamer

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

Blurb View: 

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CROSS GAMER, BANKER, POLITICIAN AND TERRORIST WITH VIRTUAL MONEY?

From the bestselling author of If God Was a Banker comes the first ever bitcion thriller. God is a Gamer is a world where money means nothing, martyrs are villains, predators are prey, assassination is taught by the ancient Greeks, and nothing is as it seems.

Moving from Washington’s Congress to Delhi’s finance ministry, the beaches of Goa to the corporate boardrooms of Mumbai, this is Ravi Subramanian’s most gripping novel yet.

Review:

Ravi Subramanian had already raised all expectations with his banking series. Though I haven’t read any of his previous books, ‘Bankster’ is on my To-Read pile since long. ‘God is a Gamer’ being India’s first ever bitcoin thriller, had garnered hopes and thrills from readers in belonging to a niche genre. Banks, currencies, virtual banking, gaming and eventually the introduction of bitcoins should have been more interesting than it turned out to be.

The book began well, I must say. It hooked my interest into the world of bitcoins and virtual money transfer, interspersed with a murder and lot of suspense. Swami, Aditya, Malvika and Sundeep had all started as bankers and diversified into different fields after awhile. Aditya owns a gaming company that Sundeep has helped him build up. The tussle between Malvika and Swami in their banking operations has been pulled off well, though it turned out to be a sub-plot. Then enter Varun and Tanya, the two key protagonists of the story. We see whirlwind romance between them and it is structured pretty well to fit into the story.

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Book Review : The Winds of Hastinapur

Blurb View:

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

‘My hair is white and thin now. In a few moons, the Goddess will claim me, and I do not have a fresh young virgin by my side to absorb my knowledge and take my place when I am gone. The Mysteries of Ganga and her Sight will vanish with me, and the Great River will become nothing more than a body of lifeless water… It is my intention, therefore, to tell you the story as it happened, as I saw it happen.’

The Winds of Hastinapur begins at the point when Ganga was cursed and sent to Earth. She lives among the mortals and bears Shantanu, the King of Hastinapur, seven children, all of whom she kills. With the eighth, she leaves. That boy, who returns to Earth, will prove to be the key to the future of Hastinapur. The story, as told through the lives of his mother Ganga and stepmother Satyavati, is violent, fraught with conflict and touched by magic. 

A lady of the river who has no virgin daughter to carry on her legacy, Celestials who partake of a mysterious lake they guard with their very lives, sages overcome by lust, a randy fisher-princess – these and other characters lend a startling new dimension to a familiar tale. Sharath Komarraju does not so much retell the epic as to rewrite it. 

Review:

Another Mythological fiction. Another Mahabharat. Although the epic seems to be the flavour of 2013-14 with a range of books on its characters, Mahabharat never gets tiring for some of us. We’ve had Arjun, Draupadi and other characters adorning our bookshelves these days, but Sharath Komarraju presents us with two very interesting and often neglected characters – Ganga and Satyavati.

The book begins with Ganga reminiscing about her life, her mother and the influence of Gods on her. Most of us have known Ganga only as a river and mentioned in Mahabharat, but her history and the course of her life is as interesting as other women in the epic. Ganga’s identity is primarily showcased as the mother of Bhishma who also bore other children to his father Shantanu. Satyavati is Bhsihma’s stepmother whom Shantanu married after he got besotted with her. Ganga and Stayavati make an interesting pair of women to be compared with each other.

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Book Review : Mistress of the Throne

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

Blurb View:

1631, the Empress of India Mumtaz Mahal has died. Yet, rather than anoint one of his several other wives to take her place as Empress of India, Mughal King Shah Jahan anoints his seventeen-year-old daughter Jahanara as the next Queen of India. Bearing an almost identical resemblance to her mother, Jahanara is the first ever daughter of a sitting Mughal King to be anointed queen. She is reluctant to accept this title, but does so in hopes of averting the storm approaching her family and Mughal India. Her younger siblings harbor extreme personalities from a liberal multiculturalist (who views religion as an agent of evil) to an orthodox Muslim (who views razing non-Muslim buildings as divine will). Meanwhile, Jahanara struggles to come to terms with her own dark reality as the daughter of a sitting King, she is forbidden to marry. Thus, while she lives in the shadow of her parents unflinching love story, she is devastated by the harsh reality that she is forbidden to share such a romance with another. Mistress of the Throne narrates the powerful story of one of Indias most opulent and turbulent times through the eyes of an unsuspecting character – a Muslim queen. It uses actual historical figures to illuminate the complexity of an era that has often been called India’s Golden Age.

Review: 

Historical fiction is one of the most difficult genre to delve into. You can’t have too much of history or too much of fiction. Any extreme will turn it into a drab history book or a complete fiction. Much kudos to Dr. Ruchir Gupta for choosing a very unusual subject – Jahanara Begum for his book. A quick recap into history and you’ll find that Jahanara was the daughter of Shah Jahanand Mumtaz Mahal, elder sister of Aurangzeb and the first crown princess of India.

The book covers Jahanara’s journey from teenage till her last days. It is a very comprehensive account, more intriguing as its written in first person. The reader feels like residing inside Jahanara’s heart and brain all the time. I must say I’m very impressed in the way Dr. Gupta has approached the subject. The fine line between fact and fiction is so well blurred at places that readers would doubt their own knowledge of history.

Jahanara Begum has been a fairly neglected character in history. Many of us might not have heard her name at all. But her importance in Indian and Mughal history is brought up beautifully in this book. Readers traverse through Jahanara’s life with each important incident beginning with her mother’s death. After Mumtaz Mahal’s death, Shah Jahan was devastated and became a loner. Jahanara held the family, her brothers and father together, and as a result was crowned the Princess of India, on the throne of the dynasty. Her life became important than anybody else in the kingdom, but at the same time, she was forbidden to marry any man according to Mughal rules.

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Book Review : Once Upon The Tracks Of Mumbai

Blurb View:

Image Courtesy: Flipkart

Image Courtesy: Flipkart

Autistic. Schizophrenic. Psychotic… 

They use these words to describe Babloo the doctors, his family, his teachers everyone except Vandana. She treats him the way he wants the world to see him. 

Mumbai the city that defines his ultimate desires. Will it allow him the love and normalcy he so craves?

Vandana yearns for a soul mate to rescue her from the confines of the Railway Colony they all live in. Is she looking in the right place?

Rail Man a fearless, real-life hero who succeeds in doing all that Babloo secretly wishes to do is Babloo his inspiration or is it the other way around?

A random twist of fate on Mumbais endless, serpent-like, jangling local train tracks ties all these characters together in a complex weave of love, heartbreak, and courage. 

Babloo draws the reader into his fascinating, heart-rending journey through the twisted, choked lanes of Mumbai, into an open space where he can finally exhale, be born again.

Review:

Babloo Srivastav is not your usual colony guy. Bandra Railway colony, that is. He wakes up with the vibrations of the first train in the morning and explores the railway tracks which are his own. He feels more at ease with the tracks and trains than his kin and kith. He doesn’t have any friends but is devoted to his lady love, Vandana. There are mysteries in his life that he isn’t much aware of.

Sounds good enough for a thriller?

The book cover and blurb suggests a love story, probably a one between Babloo and Vandana. But I would surely label the book as a thriller, not a romance. The adventures of Babloo are more important than his obsequious love story. He struggles to find a meaning to his caprices and is guided by an inner voice. Compared to his younger and efficient brother, he’s nothing, really. And yet his steely resolve and demeanour is frightening even to his parents. I can’t reveal the story here, but it is about Babloo turning into a different person altogether to prove himself to his lady.

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