April 18, 2018

Book Review: Race Course Road by Seema Goswami

Race Course Road
Author: Seema Goswami
Publisher: Aleph Books
Rating: 4/5

Power is contagious; power is venom. Once this silent poison gets into the system of any human, it deteriorates the ability to think and annihilates any humanity that is left within. ‘Race Course Road’ is a political thriller that reeks of hatred and deception. With distinctly etched characters, the novel is riveting and interesting. The book will be a good read for the ones who are politically well informed.

“Race Course Road” offers a miscellany of emotions ranging from love to hatred. The story elicits the conflict between Karan Pratap Singh and Asha Devi, who are bonded by blood that is not strong enough to withstand the tension between them. 

Read the complete review here.

April 13, 2018

Book Review: The Truths and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr

The Truths and Lies of Ella Black
Author: Emily Barr
Publisher: Penguin
Rating: 3.5/5

The human mind is like a huge pile of marbles on top of a waffle- order and chaos on the same plate. The dualistic nature of the human psyche is very evident. Our aim is to get the marbles merge with the waffle and taste good on the same plate. To simplify the same metaphorical expression it would be right to say that the gentle side and the diabolical side constitute one mind. It becomes our ultimate goal to balance these two.

‘The Truths and Lies of Ella Black’ is a story that pushes the boundaries of fiction genre. The different threads that weave through this book to create a close-knit and enthralling plot are incredible. Part coming-of-age, part psychodynamics of Delusion or Possession Syndrome, part family conflict/ breakdown and part background mystery, The Truths and Lies of Ella Black has it all. Ella Black is haunted by her bad side, which she calls as ‘Bella Black’. Unable to resurrect her true identity, she is mostly down in the dumps. Her savage and unlikeable-self takes turns and showcases us the rebellious and violent Bella. But before the character becomes unlikeable, Ella takes charge and pulls herself out from the mess. The first part of the story describes how Ella strives to live in a fool’s paradise by concealing her emotional and mental trauma. The first half lacks significant action but the latter half amplifies it significantly including the introduction of characters like Christian, Alex and Jasmine who are all projected in the good light.

With succinct descriptions and strong narration, the author scaffolds the characters in a way that they have several layers. Each layer is peeled off as the story progresses. We see so many sides of Ella Black herself- she is timid, she is rebellious, she is gentle and in love, she is violent, she is ambivalent about her own parents, she is impulsive and so on. As the character of Ella develops, the story digresses from the usual course. At times I found instances which did not connect well with the storyline like Ella meeting Ana Paula and Julia. Too many cooks spoil the broth and here these strangers behave like fleeting memories. It becomes difficult to remember their names at one point.

The idea is strong; it talks about how a seventeen-year-old behaves when she finds out something devastating about her past. She lets Bella take full control. Here we realize that the suspense thread of the unsolved conflict is expertly plotted. The dual nature of the protagonist has been flawlessly executed. However, the climax left me dissatisfied. Where on one hand the turmoil seemed genuine, the quest to stay hidden from everyone is illusory.

Overall, the book has an intriguing blurb that passes the muster and serves as a good appetizer. Reading is a breeze owing to fine font and print. There are places where commas have been skipped. But that doesn’t count as a major drawback. I would recommend everyone to read at least one book from the author because her writing style is very different from what we all read daily.

Best Wishes to the author!

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April 12, 2018

Book Review: The Essence of Bhagwad Gita: 70 Verses and Its Core by Atul Sehgal

The Essence of Bhagwad Gita: 70 Verses and Its Core
Author: Atul Sehgal
Publisher: RUPA Publishers

It has rightly been said in Bhagwad Gita: Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is. It is also said that since Bhagwad Gita has been spoken by Supreme Personality of Godhead, one does not need to read any other Vedic Literature. But it is practically not possible for everyone to read a thick book and get exposed to the teachings/ preachings/sayings. This is because of the lack of time. With this book, the author has successfully solved this problem.

‘The Essence of Bhagwad Gita’ translates 70 of the main verses, which the author believes translate the main teachings of Lord Krishna. This is not a philosophical book. Instead, it has enough examples to make the readers understand the importance of duty, desire, intellect, religion, self- control, knowledge and self-help. There are 70 chapters, each eliciting a different concept/ idea.

The cover of the book is catchy and perfect. The difficult topics like Karma, salvation, chakras have been dealt with intelligence and have been explained using a very simple language. Every topic is backed by a justification/ clarification and the conversation is intended to capitalize on the same. However, this approach of publishing books that summarize the teachings of Bhagwad Gita is repetitious and at one point in time, it becomes monotonous to go through such books again and again.  (Just last year Rupa Publishers published Amazing Secrets of Bhagwad Gita). It becomes difficult to compare and rate. The blurb gives out all the information, as it is excessively elaborative.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy reading it much because I have already read similar books. For those who haven’t, this might be a good choice!

Best wishes to the author!

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April 10, 2018

Book Review: The Perfect Drug by Chaitanya Saini

The Perfect Drug
Author: Chaitanya Saini
Publisher: Pakhi Books
                                         Rating: 3/5

Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic is alcohol or morphine or idealism.
Carl Jung

The presence of nootropic drugs in the market and their right utilization has been a bone of contention for quite many years. Nootropics (better known as the smart drugs) are cognitive enhancers that help augment the powers related to the mind. 4-5% of the students in almost every country use these drugs as a means to improve their cognitive functions. But these do have an adverse effect. ‘The Perfect Drug’ is a novella that presents a hypothetical concept of inventing a drug (a chemical mix) that can help achieve enlightenment. The idea is speculative yet the strong narrative and robust framework scaffold it so well that it appears admissible.

‘The Perfect Drug’ is a story of Ananya who is retrospective as well as conscious of his well-being. Assiduous and always on the ball, Ananya is well groomed and mature in his conduct. He does extremely well in school and when it is time for him to be enrolled in the college; his ability and merit pass the muster. Like a magic dust, his persona starts affecting the people around him.

The story describes the emotional turmoil within Ananya’s progressive mind when he discovers that his love interest is succumbing to the after-effects of drugs. That is when he decides to invent something that is unheard of- the perfect drug that can propel the mind towards enlightenment.

For the ones who think this plot is very new, I would advise you all to watch ‘Limitless’ or read ‘The Dark Fields’ by Alan Glynn. It is also based on the same concept. There are two drawbacks in the book: incorrect use of prepositions at certain places and presence of so many characters.

Overall, the book is intriguing yet the superfluous descriptions and lack of dialogues make the reading monotonous at times.

Best wishes to the author!

Buy the book from Amazon.

April 04, 2018

Book Review: Feast: With a Taste of Amir Khusro by Bisma Tirmizi

Feast: With a Taste of Amir Khusro
Author: Bisma Tirmizi
Publisher: Rupa Publishers
Rating: 4/5

Amir Khusro was one of the most influential poets of his time. Poignant and mellifluous, his poetry always left an imprint on the soul. A conflux of his soulful writing and piquant recipes, ‘Feast’ is not only racy but also savoury. It is not a story; it is not poetry either. In fact, it seems like a cookbook by passion and a memoir by choice. Backed up by with impressive narrative and offering a potluck of emotions, stories and characters, Feast is literally a repast for ravenous minds!

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach but Bisma Tirmizi is omniscient, as she knows the way to a reader’s mind too. She describes a very relatable character- Ayesha- who belongs to a bourgeois family. Ayesha becomes upset the moment she realizes that she has gained weight because of SNACcident! The plot explores her love for food and the way her vibrant mind defines the concept of healthy living and healthy eating. She discovers the secret recipes and the stories behind them as the storyline progresses and to quench the hunger of the readers’ mind, the authoress adds a little flavour by including those recipes too. Ayesha is keen and eager. She wants to know more about food. Hence, each chapter narrates a story of one loved one and the food that is bound to give the readers a reminiscent bump.

With a delicious cover and a luscious colour combination, ‘Feast’ is sumptuous! It gives us a chance to recall the moments spent with our family and trace back the discovery of food recipes that are an integral part of every family. Each chapter focusses on a place and the rich cuisine originating there and gives us a taste of Paradise or in Amir Khusro’s words, “Gar firdaus bar rue Zameen ast/ Hameen asto, Hameen asto, Hameen asto (If ever there is Paradise on Earth/ It is here! It is here! It is here!)”.

Buying Link: Amazon

Book Review: Kartikeya- The Destroyer’s Son by Anuja Chandramouli

Kartikeya: The Destroyer’s Son
Author: Anuja Chandramouli
Publisher: Rupa Publishers
Rating: 3.5/5

It is riveting to roll up our sleeves and research on the origins of folklore and the origins of mythology. Kartikeya, also known as Murugan, Skanda, Kumara and Subrahmanya, is the Hindu God of War. Much has been read and talked about him in theological books. Much has been hypothesized. There are beliefs and there are myths. But isn’t mythology all about studying the myths and believing the ones that sound more logical? Different folks have different strokes and thus, the life of Kartikeya has been a debatable topic since ages because everyone has a different story to tell. Amidst this ambiguity, Anuja Chandramouli presents us with ‘Kartikeya’ that offers an insight, though not in detail, into the life of this God born to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

Based on his war with Lord Indra, ‘Kartikeya’ focusses on the early life of this young, lively and suave child who becomes a God of war owing to the bitter circumstances. Backed by a strong narrative and velvety pace of the story, the book passes the muster. The story does not trace the events in Kartikeya’s life across the timeline, but instead majorly focusses on the war that freed the three worlds from the tyranny of Soora, Sinha and Taraka.

Anuja’s prowess lies in the lucid and provocative narration. The language caters to the interest of diverse readers and mythology is made interesting. Divided aptly into 24 chapters, the story delves into the birth and the incumbency of Kartikeya. The circumstance under which the protagonist was born, his intelligence, his relationship with people, his status in the society and his rational thinking- all make us coerce into forming a different perception of him. The authoress has also projected Murugan as promiscuous, which might not be liked by all. There are chapters that describe the superfluous emotions, which we believe that only the people of our kind (mortals) can experience. There has been an altercation regarding Kartikeya’s life in South and the book was expected to answer all the questions. Instead, it leaves the readers kvetching.

Joining the dots together, the book aims to bring the myths associated with the provenance, the rearing and the transformation of the God of War into the light. With powerful vocabulary, the book doesn’t fail to impress. A tantalizing cover adds on to the enticing opus.

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April 02, 2018

Book Review: An Insider’s View of Emotional Traumas by Dinesh Kumar

An Insider’s View of Emotional Traumas
Author: Dinesh Kumar
Publisher: Body & Soul Books
                                     Rating: 2.5/5

Suffering from societal stigma is equivalent to swallowing a bitter pill and expecting the magic to happen. What is the social stigma, you may ask? It is the odium incurred by someone because of something ‘not normal’. Most people who suffer from a mental illness are looked down upon by everyone else and are denied the social respect and status in the society. Little does the society know that anyone can succumb to mental maladies!

An Insider’s View of Emotional Traumas’ is a self-help book that aims to guide and teach the counsellor, as well as the patient, the basics of treating a mental ailment. Using real-life case studies as a scaffold, the author describes the pros and the cons of the healing process. Unlike the diseases that can be cured by popping some pills inside and taking precautions, mental ailments need support and guidance from family and a counsellor. respectively. Treating a mental disorder is not a piece of cake. Thus, the author tries to guide the readers and make them realize that even the most benign symptoms can trigger a more consequential ailment.

Lucid and simple language are the plus points of this book. Even a non-professional can understand the case studies and act with spontaneity. The examples are good enough to explain the situation and the treatment (in terms of action to be taken) is logical. However, abundant typing errors and incorrect sentence structure might irk the readers. Secondly, the font size was too big and it felt like a desperate attempt to squeeze everything onto one page was made. Another factor that deducts the marks is the wishy-washy cover; it is too dull to draw any attention.

Overall, the book addresses some of the most common issues like ‘good touch, bad touch’, marital abuse, arm-twisting and harassment, and sexual problems. It leaves us with one learning for sure that these problems should not form the basis of our judgement.

Best wishes to the author!

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Book Review: Nautanki Diaries by Dominic Franks

Nautanki Diaries
Author: Dominic Franks
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Rating: 3.5/5

If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine- it’s lethal. Dominic Franks, 38, believes in exploiting the limits of human mind and strength. He came into the news after his successful expedition from Bangalore to New Delhi on a bicycle. Brimming with moxie and the required fortitude, Franks set out on this expedition on his Hercules DTS (better known as Nautanki) and spent 22 days on the road.

‘Nautanki Diaries’ is a conflux of travelogue and experience. With strong and eloquent narrative, the book proves that the author is a man of acute perspicacity. A perfect companion, Nautanki, passes the muster. By the time I reached the beginning of Franks’ journey, I had already started believing that there were two protagonists of the book- Franks and Nautanki. With such apt personification and unambiguous description of the hypnagogic surroundings, this book aces the test.

This travelogue lacks superfluous soliloquy and mundane descriptive paragraphs. Instead, it offers an insight into the common human foibles. When Franks learnt that his mentor (ideal), Shikhaari, had completed a similar expedition in 1982, he made up his mind to be a witness to the 2010 Commonwealth Games after reaching Delhi successfully on his bicycle and he did it!

With an interesting cover and a precise blurb, Nautanki Diaries is offbeat yet amazingly impressive. The author’s prowess lies in narrating his experiences in form of words. Overall, a good read and an interesting literary feat!

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