Loyal Stalkers – Book Review

Last week, I was waiting for the latest books I had ordered on Amazon to be delivered, and was in for a surprise when I was greeted with not one package, but two. The other was from PanMacmillan publications and in it was Chhimi Tenduf-La’s third and latest book – Loyal Stalkers.

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I am not sure if you remember, but 2 years ago, I had read and reviewed this author’s first two books – The Amazing Racist and Panther, and they had been incredible in my view. This third book, is a collection of short stories based in Sri Lanka.

I am not a very short story person, and I had my apprehensions when I picked it up. There are more than 10 stories – telling us about the lives of people in Srilanka. These people came from absolutely varied backgrounds and situations – what with stories involving smugglers, cricketers, security guards, house-help, rich socialites and even a serial killer. The very span of the different facets of Srilanka living that you could see through these stories was downright astounding.

The highlight of the book however was that every story had some character, main or otherwise, linked to some other story in the book. This was not a surprise element, and is mentioned on the blurb itself. But I think that the subtlety with which these linkages were handled is commendable. The stories also panned across different times, and you would see the same character in a different story at a much later, or sometimes earlier phase of their life. And through this, the author ensured that he brought about some amount of closure to each character and their life, an aspect that I am immensely thankful about. Also, while I know it is not realistic expectation, but the only minor grudge I had was when there were characters I wanted to know more about, and expected them to come up in other stories, but they didn’t.

Not all the stories were your typical happy endings, but then reality never is, is it? And while some stories made me cry, some made me smile, and some actually made me cringe at the rawness, the graphic detail – the warm undertones remained through out. Yes, I do of course have my favorites in the lot, but that is more an individual opinion about the actual events that happen, rather than the story itself.

All said and done, I think it was extremely engrossing read, and I would recommend it to anyone. In terms of rating it, I might go as far as calling it Chhimi’s best work so far, more because of this unique format that offers you variety, but brings you back to the all encompassing common theme of life.

Once again, thank you Panmacmillan, and Chhimi for sending this across – I am sure everyone reading it will love it!

Fables from India – Book Review

I have hardly been reviewing books on the blog for a while now. And I have definitely never reviewed short stories, heck I don’t even read short stories. But when I came across Fables from India, by Uday Mane, it immediately caught my attention. Mainly because I am no longer the only reader in the house, and my reading time is now dominated by what I read to Zo.

The book is slim, and has 22 stories, which means none of them would be too long. The blurb spoke of a variety of stories, ranging from kings and princes, to farmers, to trees to dogs and pet lambs. The stories span over 5-6 pages each, which is just slightly higher than what would hold the attention of a 5 year old.

I started reading the book, and was not disappointed. It was fun, the stories were interesting, they all ended with a moral, some more obvious than others. All of them are set in traditional, ancient India, and will definitely remind the readers of the stories they have been told by their grandparents during summer vacations. This also seems to be the setting visualized by the author himself, going by the cover of the book, which has a story telling session on with a bunch of kids.capture

The language is very easy and clean, and made it possible for me to glide through the pages with absolutely no difficulty. The sentences are simple, again, I assume keeping in mind the target audience. At first, I tried reading out loud to Zo, but as expected, the stories were a tad too long to be read out aloud. I then switched to reading on my own and then narrated the simpler versions to Zo. All were well received!

Overall, this is a very good book for children. While each story eventually reiterates upon the learning we have all been brought up with – like the victory of good over evil – it never gets preachy, making it all the more palatable to a younger audience. The variety of stories keeps the reader interested.

I for one will keep this copy handy for when Zo moves to her next phase of reading. And that should be enough said about it.

Day 3 – (What’s the story) Morning Glory?

I started 2015 with  my first Murakami, and coincidentally, started 2016 with Murakami too. Only, in 2015 I finished the book on the 1st itself. And this year, I finished one chapter, and haven’t opened the book again yet. But I am hoping that doing that little bit I did makes this year as awesome as last year was in terms of my reading.

Last year, I was on a roll. Though I began rolling quite late in the year, once I started, there was no stopping. The only thing I have to admit is that I played safe and stuck to the genre that in itself ensures that no one stops midway through a book – thrillers. Crime fiction, to be exact. And I tried crime fiction set in Japan (Keigo Higashimo), France (Michael Bussi), London (Robert Galbraith) apart from the usual American stories – all of them amazing. The only deviation I made was for a couple of Indian authors, and for Murakami, who is provides me my literary dose.

So book wise, it was a happy year. I decided that reading indeed made me very happy and it was essential I keep it up, instead of lying on the beanbag and flipping channels, or worse still, scrolling down my Twitter, FB and Instagram feeds while the television played something random I didn’t even care about. And honestly, it needed a lot of discipline. One, because social media is way too enticing. And two, marrying a non-reader means he doesn’t get how difficult it can be to keep your book down and sleep, when there are delicious twists happening the story. But I managed!

I even tried my hand at non-fiction with ‘Blood telegram’, but I have not managed to finish it. turns out, fiction is my thing. And while I do want to ‘expand my horizons’ I don’t seem to have the ability to do it. And all those stories call out to me from the bookshelf, as I  diligently plod on through the real events which should interest me, so eventually I succumb to temptation every time.

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Then we bought our new home, and I decided I needed a dedicated book area, more than a book shelf. We have all the time in the world to decide what we want to do in this house because we don’t get it for another year. So I surfed through Pinterest and a lot of ideas caught my eye, all we needed was a spot where the ideas could become reality. And I think I found it – there is the perfect spot in the house which will eventually be my ‘Book-nook’. Ofcourse, it will take time and there might be changes to the idea, but I am really looking forward to it.

Till then, I will build my little library. Scourge through Amazon, and Flipkart, looking for the best deals. Search for my favorite authors, gorge on their writings, and then wait for them to release their next book. Sit wide-eyed late in the night, forgetting about the presentation the next day, or the fact that I need to be up early to get Zo to school. Lost in the pages, in a world unknown to me, amongst strangers who seem like I have known them forever.

If that’s not bliss, I’m not sure what is.

 

The bestseller she wrote – Book Review

So I decided to get back on the book review bandwagon once again, and picked up this title by well known Indian author – Ravi Subramanian – who has usually written Banking thrillers, and this was publicized as his first foray into ‘Romantic intrigue’. I haven’t read any books in this particular genre, and quite honestly, I have never been a big fan of the romance genre itself. But I was curious to find out how an Indian author dealt with it.

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I haven’t also read any of his older books. I did start ‘If God was a Banker’ years ago when it was released, and I distinctly remember putting it down after page three, because of a particular sentence that described a female character with the word ‘bomb’. Now I’m not feminist, but this didn’t go down very well with the little bit of literary snobbishness I am guilty of. I mean, ‘bomb’? But a long time has passed since then, I thought it was time to give the author another shot.

So here’s my two-pence. The story is about an IIM-B alumnus, banker turned famous commercial author, Aditya Kapoor, and his tryst with yet another IIM-B student, almost banker and wannabe famous author, Shreya Kaushik, some 15 years his junior. Their’s is the ‘romantic intrigue’ that was spoken of, and the story is quite a candidate for a Bollywood movie, considering it has almost all the elements we need for on – attraction, love, ego-clashes, betrayal, sentiments, ambitions, revenge and a fair bit of drama. But how well does it work is the question.

My answer is, just about ok. I got bored initially, it seemed like an unnecessary tale of infidelity and mid-life crisis. But as the story progressed, it got interesting to the extent that there were twists and things happened, the characters showed shades of grey, instead of the stark blacks and whites,  and I actually wanted to finish the story, know how it ended. And so, I kept at it, and credit to the author, the book kept me engrossed for a while.

The problem came to the fore when it came towards the end. I was left feeling betrayed – by the sheer laziness and convenience with which things were wrapped up. The characters, which seemed to be building up through the story, fell flat by the end, and I felt there was no effort at making them more realistic, more genuine. A hurried closure, a random twist, and we were done. So many parts in the story which you might have wanted a bit more closure on, were left gaping open. It was like the author realized that this had to be made into a Bollywood movie and hence the only befitting end was what was presented. As I said, absolute anti-climax.

I am not saying my expectations were high, they were not, I wasn’t expecting a literary gem when the author himself had promised us a comfortable, laid-back read; which is why I am not getting into the language used or the prose in itself at all. But when you pick up a paper-back, you want a story that keeps you engrossed, and has a justifiable end to it. In this case, the latter element was missing.

Would I recommend it? Well, not really, unless you are the kind who wants something easy to read, and doesn’t nitpick on loopholes in the story line and characters and writing. If you couldn’t care about all that and just want entertainment, go ahead. Or better still, wait for it to be made into a movie with Salman Khan starring in it.

I am reviewing ‘The Bestseller She Wrote’ by Ravi Subramanian as a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Panther – Book Review

More often than not, when you pick up a book by a particular author in quick succession to last one by him/her, which you raved about, you’re ever so slightly let down. Atleast that’s what has happened with me in the past. And that’s what I was afraid of, when I picked up Panther, by Chimmi Tenduf-La, within a month of having read and reviewed his last book here.

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Panther, tells the story of Prabhu, a teenager who is brought into the glamourous world of elite schooling, clubs and partying, and most importantly, into the world of cricket, owing to his tremendous talent in the game.  Along with Indika, rich, suave, and also a good player himself, Prabhu lives a life of a regular teenager, something he has always looked forward to. Because Prabhu has a murky past, and has seen more pain in his childhood, than most see in their lives.

The book seamlessly shuffles between the past and the present, written in different styles, demarcating them clearly. The past is dark, and the author hasn’t hesitated in bringing forth the rawness, the gore, and at times it hurts to read, and think and imagine what the child is going through. But amidst all the happenings, the focus remains on Prabhu, his emotional turmoil, his determination, his positive outlook and belief that eventually things would get better.

The present is more relatable. You root for him, as he weaves his way through the ups and downs of regular teenage life. For me, his friendship with Indika was a highlight of the book and I loved the relationship they share. There are other important characters that impact Prabhu’s life, both in the past and the present, and they range from amazing, awesome, to downright disgusting and horrible but then we cannot complain because every story needs its fair share of antagonists as well and what matters is they get what they deserve. They do, to some extent, thankfully.

The book is a smooth read, and for me it’s a positive one. Considering we have two stories running in parallel, the screen time each gets sometimes seems a bit less, you tend to want a bit more on what happened, how it did, and what was happening. But I am assuming getting all that detail in one book, and yet keeping crisp might not be the easiest of tasks. That being said, Prabhu will be a character I will remember for a long time

Thank you Chimmi, it was a pleasure reading this book, and hope you write a lot more. Perhaps even a sequel to Panther?

The amazing racist – Book Review

Last week, I received another book for a review, “The amazing racist” by Chimmi Tenduf-La. The cover had a quote that called the book “Outrageously funny and deeply moving”, and this made me pick it up in the first place, because I love my dose of humor; the more outrageous the better.

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The story is about an English school teacher Eddie, who comes down to Srilanka on a teaching assignment, and falls in love with a gorgeous local beauty, Menaka. Menaka herself comes from a powerful, elite family, headed by her very strict, very respected, adamant, and most importantly, white-skin hating father, Thilak Rupasinghe. So when the couple decides to get married within 6 weeks of seeing each other, the father is far from amused, and tries every trick in the book to not let it happen.

This, is what I thought was the whole story. You know how our English boy manages to thwart the heart of his SriLankan prospective father-in-law, and manages to have a happy ending with the woman he loves. And this is where the humor lay too. But strangely, Menaka and Eddie get married before a third of the book is over.

And honestly, this is where the story begins. This book is the story of Eddie and Thilak, not Eddie and Menaka. This book is funny, yes, but this is not a book you will categories in the humor genre. This book is what is mentioned in the latter half of the quote – deeply moving. Very, deeply, moving. The rest of the book deals with Eddie, and his life with Thilak, and a new entrant in their lives, Eddie and Menaka’s daughter, Kiki. Menaka relegates into the background, offering an occasional twist. The evolution of the Eddie’s place as an outsider in Thilak Rupasinghe life, to that of his closest confidante, the only person he trusts, the only person who cares for him, more than his whole family, keeps you glued, wanting to go on, seeing how it all ends.

The Amazing Racist managed to do something not many books have done in the recent past – it made me cry, for quite some time after the book was finished. It deals with the most basic human emotions, prejudices, insecurity, loyalty, love, and beautifully so. For a debut novel, I am extremely impressed with the author’s talent at keeping the reader spellbound.

Some books you like for how well it is written, some books you like for the story. This book, you’ll love for both. Definite thumbs up, definite must read.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Ramayana – The Game of life, Shattered Dreams – Book Review

After a long hiatus, I decided to pick up a book to review out here, and when I checked Blogadda, turned out they had Book 2 of yet another Ramayana series (Ramayana – The Game of Life, by Shubha Vilas) up for the grabs. I never read a sequel without having read the first part but I made an exception in this case, because 1. Ramayana, I mean if you were brought up in India, there’s no way you are not already well versed with this story 2. I did think I would read Book 1 but time and health did not allow me to. So I went ahead with this anyway.

Now, I have read Book 1 of Ashok Banker’s Ramayana series a long time ago, but it was so detailed, so long, that I did not dare to pick up book 2. I had the same worry with this one, especially when you know this is also going to be a 6 book series. But fortunately, it took me a day and a half to glide through this story telling. Never wavering from the plot you might have heard umpteen times in your childhood, the book retells the tale of truth, of honesty, of jealousy, of commitments, of respect. It starts with Dasaratha’s decision of Rama’s coronation as the king of Ayodhya, and ends with the beginning of Rama’s 14 year long exile.

So what is new in this version? Whenever a well known tale from the past is retold, I look forward to those little extra bits of information that surprise you, or the author’s own deductions of what would have actually happened (like Jaya, definitely my favorite rendition of Mahabharata). What was different in this case, were the foot notes, the little lessons one takes away from the epic, some insight into the actions each of the character takes in the story. What is good is these don’t form part of the narrative, ensuring that there is no break in the flow. Instead, they are mentioned as footnotes for reference, which the reader might choose to go through at his own convenience.

On the downside, some of these insights were way too philosophical, reminding me of self help books, something I am not personally very fond of. But that is a personal opinion. I chose to read this as mere information and insight into the characters in Ramayana, which was something I was looking forward to anyway. And in parts where I thought there was just too much gyan, I chose to skip it and move on with the story.

Overall, I think it is a very comfortable read, especially is someone were to ask for a Ramayana version recommendation, I would suggest this, based on this one part I read. Mainly because it sticks to the story we all know, and also because it is told so simply that you don’t have to go back to understand what it is trying to say. And also because it has just the right amount of detail one needs while reading an epic such as this.

So yes, do pick it up (start with the first though!) if you want to read Ramayana. And yes, I think I will be picking up the next part for myself.

 
This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!