October 23, 2016

Book Review: The Monk by Akshay Shroff

The Monk

Author: Akshay Shroff
Publisher: Gargi Publishers
Rating: 4/5

“There are no wrong turnings. Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk.”
― Guy Gavriel Kay, Tigana

As readers, what do we look for in a book? Good plot, strong yet magnetic protagonists, mystery and efficient dialogue delivery, isn’t it? Don’t we often get allured to the titles too? ‘The Monk’ might sound ordinary but it is a perfect example of contradiction (a combination of statements, ideas, or features which are opposed to one another). This is definitely that one book which should not be judged by its cover.

Lakshya Gaitonde, the male protagonist, is hard-bitten by the realities of life. With a dream of becoming a successful cricketer one day, he burns the midnight oil only to suffer in the hands of his destiny. He loses his father in a terror attack in Mumbai. And the action has an equal and opposite reaction. The ambition to shine with the bat changes to a desire to curb terrorism with the gun. No sooner does he settle in the profession, than his fiancée and mother die in a train blast. That was it. He had to avenge the deaths of his loved ones and to do that he came up with a fiendish plan of putting an end to the terror attacks.

The tables are turned when Lakshya fails to realize that there are charms about the forbidden that make it ineffably desirable. In the process, he becomes a sinner. But does every sin need a punishment? What if the sin committed results in something good? But Lakshya is not bothered about the outcome; his desire to quench the life of the terrorists is bigger than anything else. But will his plan reap benefits?

‘The Monk’ definitely has a lot more to it than it might portray. The elucidation of major terror attacks in Mumbai makes one relive the trauma; it makes one break out in a cold sweat! The title is contradictory to the cover page and that opens multiple doors for the curious minds. However, I felt that the blurb said a lot. Another drawback was the lack of space on each page; there was too much text and the desperate attempt to finish the book in less number of pages was evident. This could have been worked upon. Also, I missed the English translation on many pages.

Nevertheless, Gargi stands up to its name and yet again a fine story is given to the readers.

Overall, a fun-filled, action-packed novella that will lift up the spirits of all the Indians who have the deep desire to fight the bad.

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October 18, 2016

Book Review: She Walks, She Leads by Gunjan Jain


Author: Gunjan Jain
Publisher: Penguin Viking
Rating: 3.5/5

‘Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.’
-Oprah Winfrey

‘She walks, she leads’- is the truth. This is the time where women rule their lives. They are no longer bearing the brunt of someone else’s actions; they are no longer answerable to anyone; they have a life and way of their own. Just like how Deepika’s ‘My Choice’ video went viral for days, talking about women empowerment, any venture that focuses on women empowerment is bound to be a blockbuster. Not because some celebrity has acted in it or is a part of it, but because deep within we know that this is necessary. ‘The nation also suffers from a wide gender disparity in literacy rate with a literacy rate of 82.14% for men and 65.46% for women’- as quoted by Indianonlinepages.com, clearly justifies the necessity of women empowerment in our country. And ‘she walks, she leads’ serves as the icing on the cake.

For years, I have admired ladies like Sudha Murthy, Sania Mirza, Nita Ambani and many more. But never in my wildest imagination had I given a second thought to their struggles. The progress is neither usual nor foreseeable. Every step toward the goal requires sacrifice, agony, and great effort. With this book, Gunjan Jain has made a successful attempt to expose the readers to the struggles and truth of the lives of the bright eyed and bushy tailed celebrities. The author has presented the book with such organization that every page speak volumes. With a mix of personal interviews, perceptions/ comments from closed ones and personal touch, the book doesn’t fail to impress.

Starting with Nita Ambani the way she adjusted with the elites, the way she nurtured her kids, her desperation for having kids, her problems and her desires; everything about her makes readers form a new opinion about her and that complements her. Not only Nita Ambani, but there other influential women who are a part of this book and it was the luckiest feeling in the world to read about their lives. Some of the famous names are Rajashree birla, Indra Nooyi, Sudha Murthy, Sania Mirza, Indu Jain and many more.

The book talks about women who have proved their worth in the fields of fashion, entertainment, sports media, literature, corporate and banking. Here the author’s research and efforts are worth appreciation because reading each page can make you live the hardwork done by Gunjan.

There are parts (of the lives) that can make you laugh; there are parts that can leave a lump in your throat. But haven’t there been books like ’30 women in power’, ‘Arise, Awake‘ and ‘Lady, You're Not a Man!’ that talk about motivation and inspiration? Then what is new in ‘She walks, she leads’? Well, for starters, this book is a product of one of the leading publication houses- Penguin. Secondly, the author has taken care not to present the content in form of a long monologue. The concept of putting down the interview combined with how the person-being-interviewed responded or greeted the author, is exemplary. It adds life to the narration. Another striking feature of the book is the interview/ chit-chat session with a person close to the person-being-interviewed. That adds the necessary spice to the content.

The book comes in hardback cover in the color of power-Red. On the outside, the book seems enticing; it provokes the mind to flip the pages. The organization of the content is done finely and presentation is fabulous. But I felt that there was inclusion of some big names that failed to inspire. Say, Kareena Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra, even Nita Ambani- all these were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, so their struggles did not arouse or enthuse me. There seems to be a desperate effort to pose these women as hard-bitten personalities; one should realise that it is not obligatory that the life of a famous person will be equally inspiring! Where on one hand I was keen on reading the unsung struggles of the unnamed, my curiosity killed the cat. However, I cannot forget to mention the fact that these (above mentioned) names definitely caught my attention and I did read about them.

Overall, a good read- very inspiring and a recommended read for the ones who need serious motivation so that they can walk and lead.

Best Wishes!

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Review copy: courtesy Penguin Publishers

October 12, 2016

Book Review: Panda Investigates- Two and a Half Murders by Rohit Panda


Author: Rohit Panda
Publisher: Leadstart Publishing (Frog Books)
Rating: 2.5/5

‘As long as greed is stronger than compassion, there will always be suffering.’
-Rusty Eric

It is impossible to argue the toss with people who say what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable. With time, the dark side of human nature has evolved much and has given rise to barefaced liars. Panda investigates is a murder mystery that portrays the emotional detachments within a family. The book is full of characters that are crooked as a dog’s hind leg.

Sharadi and Aditya have married against the wishes of the parents. A doting, yet possessive wife is what Sharadi is known as. But Aditya is not less; his love for his wife cannot be measured. Khushboo and Veena are Sharadi’s siblings. What otherwise should have been a happy story, turns out to be a story full of malice, avarice and deceit. Two murders take place- one of Bankim (Sharadi’s father) and the second one of Sharadi herself. The criminal leaves behind no tracks. Ronsher (the detective) is sure of one thing that the mastermind behind both the murders could not have succeeded without being in cahoots with someone else. But is finding the murderer that easy? Well, for Ronsher it is because the’ Nail Polish’ colour is what determines who is guilty (sarcasm).

The characters of Sharadi and Aditya have been portrayed finely but more details about Kalpana, Khushboo and Veena could have been better. I despised the title; it spoils the mystery. If ‘Two and a half murders’ was printed in BOLD in the center, it would have served the purpose. The punchline best suits the title when it is placed correctly. But alas! The cover, too, completely failed to excite the curious mind.

Secondly, I did not like the organization of the plot. Since the author disclosed the whole mystery in Chapter number 21, I felt stuck in the time wrap, having thrown away my time for practically nothing. A good mystery is when the secrets/ twists are peeled off layer- by- layer, not together but when least expected.

Another drawback is the frequent use of incomplete sentences; this breaks the flow. The author, no doubt, has a thinking mind and can do wonders, but had a little attention been paid on the order of events in the story, the tale would have been a blockbuster.

Overall, ‘Panda investigates’ is a book that can be picked up when in mood to read simple language and light mystery.

Best Wishes!

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Review copy: courtesy Leadstart Publishing

Book Review: Three Wise Monkeys by Jeet Gian


Author: Jeet Gian
Publisher: Leadstart Publishing (Frog Books)
Rating: 3/5

“Easy street is a blind alley”. Isn’t this true? But our ability of clear headed thinking has been disabled by the fool’s paradise we are living in. ‘Three wise monkeys’ is a light yet relatable read that is sure to send the readers on a journey filled with bouts of laughter and realization. This tale is about love, friendship and the witty brains that can (or may be cannot) have an upper hand over others.

The three wise monkeys (pun intended) are Amar, Akbar and Anthony, who believe in the rising of the phoenix and live a carefree life. With humorously witty logics, these three protagonists walk on the path of love only to find more troubles. Some might say that these three get their comeuppance, some might even empathize and some might just enjoy them as characters.

Elementary and uncomplicated narration and redundancy in the description was something I despised in the book. But just like every coin has two sides, the good side or the stronger side of the book is the plot, the dialogues and the theme. It is like a motion picture playing right before your eyes. Another plus point is the suitability of the title; it has pun in it. Since the protagonists pay no heed to the three basics of good life- see no evil, speak no evil & hear no evil, the pun in the title is too good. The blurb is just apt to disclose minute details about what is in store for the readers.

The author has done a commendable job in portraying the characters of the story. The cover of the book is catchy. However, the proofreading could have been done better.

Overall the story is entertaining and book is a light read.
Best wishes!

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Review copy: courtesy Author Paradise

October 10, 2016

Book Review: Ashvamedha by Aparna Sinha


Author: Aparna Sinha
Publisher: Srishti Publishers
Rating: 3.5/ 5

All men must choose between two paths. Good is the path of honour, heroism, and nobility. Evil... well, it's just cooler.
-Megamind (2010)

Remember this dialogue from the movie ‘Megamind(2010)’? No? Well, Google it. This animated film was not only enjoyable, but also engaging. The very first quoted lines in the blurb of ‘Ashvamedha’ reminded me of this movie. Keeping in mind the mint condition of the movie, I hoped the same for this book. And yes, my wish was fulfilled when I started reading the very first chapter.

Ashvamedha is a strong word that signifies horse sacrificing ritual. Hence, the title is reasonable. The story is about a pawn- Ashwin Jamwal, who is played upon by betrayers. His life is owned by evils until he finally decides to call quits and join the ugly and jeopardized game of Politics. He succeeds but at the cost of something. With some really thought-provoking incidents and realistic descriptions of the scenes, the story is relatable. But on top of everything, the climax made me feel like the cat that got the cream.

The plot reeks of avarice, perjury, amour, politics and rancor. With all these emotions, the story is definitely a blockbuster. Short and crisp dialogues are the strength of this book. The author has taken care to avoid lengthy monologues which can often turn out to be stodgy in such genre of books.

However, this book has a major drawback in printing and spacing. There are some errors in the language too, but are not that notable. The font is different for some of the chapters and also the page numbering has not been done in a standard format.

Overall, the story is more like a motion picture and is alluring and compelling. A good read.

Best wishes to the author!

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Review copy: courtesy Author Paradise

October 09, 2016

Book Review: An Ode To Shimla by Sanjeev Bansal

An Ode to Shimla

Author: Sanjeev Bansal
Publisher: Frog Books

Nature is like a dauntless princess who has a natural aura of her own. Once captivated by her enigmatic beauty, it is very difficult to escape the trance and not think about her. ‘Shimla’ is a name that can give a reminiscent bump to those who have been to this place and the love for this place cannot be shown in a more beautiful way. ‘An Ode to Shimla’ offers lyrical poems that describe the city life, the natural beauty and the hive of activities in the city.

The book is a collection of poems that portray the beauty of Shimla on a plain canvas. My personal favourites include- The Ranunculus and Dawn and Dusk. The way the poet has addressed the flower as ‘she’ using extensive personification and Apostrophe, is really good. The idea being conveyed through the poem ‘Dawn & Dusk’ is also beautifully expressed. All the poems follow free verse and there is no particular rhyme scheme.

However, there are several punctuation errors; majority of the poems end with a semi-colon. If there is a reason behind this, then I would be glad if the poet mentions the same in the comments section. Some of the expressions also didn’t quiet seem correct to me or maybe I was not able to comprehend the emotion behind them (like gaiety’s acoustic- the apostrophe seemed extra here).

Overall, I would say that the free verses serve ‘Shimla- the city’ in mint condition on the platter.

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Review Copy: courtesy Leadstart Publishers

Book Review: Sensual Attractions by A.J Karan

Sensual Attractions

Author: A. J. Karan
Publisher: Story Mirror
Rating: 3.5/5

There is a silver line that marks the difference between good and bad writing and the author – A. J. Karan, has successfully showcased his ability to show that difference through ‘Sensual Attractions’. The book comes with a disclaimer – Not for children below 18 years of age.

With lucid narration and just the right amount of thrill, the stories emerge as quick and nice read. The best treat for me was the continuation of the first story in the end too. It is very unlikely that this happens in a short- story collection.

Read more here.

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Book Review: Love bi the way by Bhavna Arora


Author: Bhaavna Arora
Publisher: Penguin Publishers
Rating: 4.5/5

When it comes to societal issues like LGBT, child labour, excess service tax or women empowerment, there is always a voice in the wilderness. With the changed perception of accepting bisexual people as a part of our society, ‘Love bi the way’ is not only a bold reminder for people busy in wool-gathering, but is also a delightful read.

Zara and Rihana are more like soul-sisters; they are the leads who are different from each other. But opposites attract, don’t they? Rihana’s character is strong, bold and tangible. By tangible I mean the tangibility in her thoughts. And her beliefs, too, are flexible. Zara, on the other hand, is dyed in the wool. Her hale and hearty nature is something the readers can look forward to. Rihana is more like full of piss and vinegar. But both the ladies complement each other. The only trustworthy male in their lives is Tiger, their Labrador-golden Retriever- the man’s best friend. Both the characters have their good side as well as the dark side. The secrets of the past are kept under the hat by both the characters and when they feel ready to expose each other to the darkest reality of life, they discover a new pleasure and liberation.

The story of their lives moves at a comfortable pace; one will find it difficult to leave the book and go back to the salt mines. Words in this regard play a more important role. Words full of hot air would not have served the purpose, but Ms. Bhaavna chose a plot that comprises of small threads that directly reach out to the masses. The use of friendship as the building block of Zara and Rihana’s relationship is commendable. Impeccable narration, strong and clear characterization, good hold on the plot and a gripping story make this novella a bodice ripper. Nowhere did I miss the male dominance in the book.

The authoress won my heart right when I came across the very first idiom in the book. With flawless language and suitable word selection and vocabulary, the book is a good read. Yet again, Penguin outshines other publishers (I couldn’t refrain from mentioning this). However, I felt the title gave out too much information about the storyline. Along with the blurb, it was more like a blueprint of the life journey of Zara and Rihana. This could have been worked upon.

With a hopeful heart and satiated mind, I wish the authoress of ‘Love bi the way’ good luck.

This book is definitely worth all the time.

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Review Copy: courtesy Author Paradise