Posts Tagged 'Books'

Book Review: Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince

Mahabharata is a fascinating, mammoth work of fiction with millions of sub-plots. Personally I have found Mahabharata much more intriguing than Ramayana. The sheer amount of conflicts, latent themes and contradictions engage your mind in constant debate. (The only other book that has turned over my mind such is perhaps Wuthering Heights.) No wonder dozens of variants and narratives for the same story exist. Not only variants, the whole saga has been written from perspective of so many characters such as Draupadi (The Palace of Illusions), Duryodhana (Mahabharta ki ek saanjh), Karna (Karna ki atamkatha), Bhima (Randamoozham) and so on. Arjun is a similar attempt with the third Pandava prince, Arjuna in focus (notice I do not say Arjuna’s perspective). This means, story of five brothers will be told closely as well. Even with five different personalities, the five brothers presented a single entity as Pandavas. Panchali only solidified that unit.

The language of the book is simple and does not draw away from the story, and often it feels as if this book is a collection of parables. I treated this book as a refresher of all the stories I have read before in Mahabharata. Also, book doesn’t always attempt to present the events in chronology, however, the way it was presented, I assumed that it was expected that readers are familiar with Mahabharata. This, though I gather may have been intentional on author’s part, was a mild irritant to me. In terms of narrating history and choices of sub-plots with Arjuna as focus, the book has been successful. However, did it provide occasions to pause and debate or throw a light on a philosophical perspective, or bring out innermost conflicts of Arjuna (other than those well-known at battlefield)? In that, book is wanting. Other than few notions of Arjuna – his arrogance that humanizes him, his mild indignation at what he thinks is Bhima’s naivety, and lastly, his belated realisation of everlasting love for Draupadi – Arjuna remains same character that we knew him from our earlier reads. Book doesn’t conjure anything new in in our minds. For example, Mahabharat ki ek saanjh is compelling in presenting an argument from Duryodhan’s perspective. But then, as I clarified, it is not really a perspective book. It is a re-telling,Image where Arjuna lies at the crux of it. It is fast read and worth a trip down the memory lane of your favorite epic.

P.S: 1. I noted a disconcerting gender usage. When Arjuna hits Duryodhan in his nails in the battle, he ‘cries like a girl’. Oh, no.

2. It was a relief to once again read a mythology book where the characters did not say, ‘hell, yeah’. Touche! ;) Also, unlike last few review copies I read, the editing was decent and I didn’t not find any of those punctuation issues that are eye sores when reading a book.

Book Review: The Devotion of Suspect ‘X’

This is one of those books where the meaning of the title sinks in with full force only when you have finished reading the book. But that is something I will leave you to find about yourself.

The Devotion of Suspect X is what I call one-sitting-novel, it is written by Keigo Higashimo. It is actually third book in his Inspector Galileo series, published in 2005 and widely translated and transformed into movies and TV shows.

Yet despite its suspenseful plot, this book is not a who-dunit as any decent review will tell you. A murder happens in first chapter. The murdered man is abusive, ex-husband of Yasuko who has been stalking her for years. Suspicion naturally falls over beautiful Yasuko who only wants to protect her daughter. Yasuko, once a night club hostess now works in a box lunch place. Unexpectedly, she finds an ally in her neighbour Ishigami, who is a mathematician.

In comes an observant, honest police detective Kusanagi – to his consternation even though everything on surface seems fine – Yasuko is too gentle to commit a pre-meditated murder and she also seems to have an alibi for the night of the murder – something doesn’t ‘feel’ right. There are no other leads either. Kusanagi has an intelligent physicist friend, Dr. Manabu Yukawa as a friend in Imperial college – this man often helps him close cases. Dr. Yukawa is also nicknamed as Inspector Galileo.

The next chapters unfold the plot layer by layer. Both, the police and the accused play an astute, graceful game of chess – with two characters that stand out clearly. The mathematician and the physicist, each responding other with a move . An equal and opposite reaction. As a reader, you are hooked, curious what comes next – and yet sometimes you root for few characters. Despite the fact you know that murder happened and who committed it, the details around it as much surprise you as they mystify you when they are unravelled.

The book is not intended to be a work of literature or a brilliant masterpiece in terms of plot, even though I must mention that plot has no loopholes, and all threads link together when you go back in the story. Yet I would say, that plot is commonplace, it is instead the crafty style of presenting the mystery is the disarming feature of the book. Another is its climax – it is one that I must admit I didn’t expect. It was not only a surprise but also proved rather disturbing to my ‘emotional’ sensitivities. And yet I abide by the end.

A very fast read where plot meanders and takes new course like a fast-flowing river. If you peek carefully, characters are bland and simple – Yasuko has some claim to righteousness but is meek enough to be boring, Kusanagi’s only redeeming feature is his observation, in particular observation of his genius friend (that solves cases perhaps), Ishigami is ‘Buddha’ – nothing as ‘ill-feeling’ ever emanates from him. It is just warring of wits and the way script throws surprises so often what maketh this book.

Lastly, a note must be added to acknowledge the translation by Alexander O. Smith. Though I’ve not read the original book in Japanese, but the way translated language kept up that sense of suspense and urgency – I believe translation has been a fruitful one.

Curl in bed with book, coffee on side – you should have one ‘thrilling’ ride

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Book Review: Delhi: 14 Historic Walks

They say, you learn more about a city by walking around.  You walk around Florence, Paris, Munich, Edinburgh and even New York! Delhi, a city I call home and one that is 100 years old this year, is another such city that can be appreciated on walks. ‘Delhi – 14 historic walks’ is a delightful guide book that helps you to accomplish that.

ImageFrankly, this book does not need a book review to extol its virtues. Its back cover lists its merits in simple no-nonsense words in the back cover. However, to do the book and Blogadda’s book program justice, I will first air my views for the record.

I jumped to have this book since I have been on Delhi walks (and none by INTACH to which Swapna Liddle belongs to but that I will come to later). Delhi has a fantastic cultural heritage, but most of us even while living in the city sleep-walk through it. I did.

I think I re-visited even the popular monuments Red Fort, Qutab Minar when I was studying at a college in Delhi, at least a decade after when I first visited those in childhood. That too because I had to take an NRI friend of mine around the city. I haven’t forgotten my ignorance and the embarrassing fact that I was enormously proud that I have never cared enough for these ‘cliche’ places to visit myself. And even if we deign to visit these places, we hardly see/know things. We fail to appreciate the beauty and wonder of it.

Continue reading ‘Book Review: Delhi: 14 Historic Walks’

Book Review: The Secret of the Nagas

‘The Secret of the Nagas‘, the second book  in Shiva Trilogy by Amish T takes off exactly where ‘The Immortals of Meluha’ the first book of  ends – Sati-Shiva in engaged in a battle with mysterious Naga. It starts with action and ends with a surprise (that you begin to hope for while you are half-way through this book.)

Shiva trilogy traces the story from 1900 BC, when Shiva migrates from Mount Kailash in Tibet to Suryavanshi land called Meluha. Advent of Shiva unites talented, rule-bound Suryavanshis are united with their arch-rivals – the free-willed, unorganised Chandravanshis since they both believe in the legend of Neelkanth as saviour. (Amish interestingly puts it as masculine vs. feminine behaviour contrast on Pages 49-52.) Even though a legend of Neelkanth exists, Shiva is not a God – rather a wise man, struggling with his own demons, learning to play the role of ‘Mahadev’. Mahadev, to be noted, is a designation, not a reincarnation of a God. In this role, he is aided by Vasudev pundits at various temples, who can ‘radio transmit’ their thoughts and have conversations with him via radio waves (ooh!).  ;)

In The Secret of the Nagas, Shiva realises that Nagas – the deformed creatures believed to be evil – have more role to play than it meets the eye. With the help from both Suryavanshis and Chandravanshis, Shiva is hot on the pursuit of a Naga who he believes has killed his friend Brahaspati – and everywhere he looks, he finds a new trail or connection to secretive Nagas.

Meanwhile, Shiva who had fallen in love and married Sati, daughter of extremely friendly Meluhan king Daksha, in the first book also becomes a father. The story about his first son and his turbulent relationship with his parents is the most poignant part of this book.

This books as its previous one is a page turner – the plot is smooth and all the loose ends connect to a complete pattern. Story as before is fast-paced, you are eager to know what comes next. I had my theories about the book, I am glad to confess that this book was not predictable as I had thought it to be. This I consider as an achievement of the book. Unlike first book, Shiva and his immediate family (his wife and sons) are the primary characters of this book. There are several revelations – the boundaries between good and evil seem to blur. Ganesha, the first son, is my favorite character in this book.

Other old characters such as Nandi, Veerbhadra and Drapaku have smaller roles, instead a Chandravanshi prince Bhagirath is the new character that has his own intriguing sub-plot.  General Parvateshwar, Shiva’s trusted Suryavanshi aide from previous book, a vowed celibate has fallen in love (oops, a spoiler – but now you need to find out who).

The language of the book remains a constant irritant as it was in the last book as well. Several conversations (even those of Sati-Shiva) come across as corny. Language, in a desperate attempt to be contemporary is uninspiring and a turn-off at times. There are editing errors like one on Page 50 (first sentence) – an incorrect usage of ‘it’s’. Amish as before tries to include war strategies. (I clearly remember an indignant reader of the first book who complained that war stratagem was taken off the movie Gladiator!) But, it is the elaborate description of temple layouts and structures in the book that I find incredibly boring.

However, despite its superficial style of writing, the semi-historic retelling of story in the way it weaves mythology still makes the book worth a read.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

Also Read: A Book Club Meeting in Pune that had Amish as Chief Guest

Post the Tossed Salad Book Club Meeting (another record of the same book club meet)

Book Review: Zero Percentile

fullcover

Note: This review was published earlier when the author had sent me a personal copy for reading. Now the book has been published under Rupa in November and has come out in the market and is available in all major stores.

Zero Percentile is a book that is compelling and easy read. I finished the book in a sitting in a matter of few hours.

It is story of an Indian middle-class boy Pankaj (yeah, Pankaj) who thinks education as a means of improving the financial, and subsequently social status of his family. He has his plans clearly laid out: to be at IIT.

If you think this book is Chetan Bhagat’s What Not to Do at IIT, then you couldn’t be more wrong.

Continue reading ‘Book Review: Zero Percentile’

7 Things You Need Not Know About Me

Rupa tagged me about 3 months ago to write abt 7 things you needn’t know about me.

  1. I just write about the issues. But it is my sister, who works by choice, in a reputed NGO as a counsellor. She is the real do-gooder.
  2. I am not a morning person. I hate to get up in mornings. I love to sleep late, but waking up whole night is taking my nocturnal body’s resilience too far.
  3. a_mighty_heart

  4. I am a voracious reader. I carry a book everywhere I go. Last year I read 53 books. (I maintain a reading list because I forget.) This year, I am reading my 9th book: A Mighty Heart, The story of American Jew journalist Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping
  5. I love to call and address people I like with dozen and more names. I have coined pochu, puchu, puchki for my sister and also edited her name Dolly to Dullu, Dulla, and what not. So much that now everyone says “Dullu ko bula do (Call, Dullu).”  Obviously, my sister hates me for this.  (Yeah, she returns the favour, I won’t tell you what she calls me.) :D
  6. Continue reading ’7 Things You Need Not Know About Me’

The Year-End Review

I came across this meme across some blogs last year. I changed few questions to suit me. I tag my entire blogroll to do this, if they like. I would like to know in a nutshell what happened to them. :)

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?

Don’t laugh at this one. Drive a car. I finally took driving lessons this year. Guess, it will take me another year to become a seasoned driver in the frenzied Delhi traffic.

new_year1

2. Did you keep your New Year resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

This I year I had new year resolutions for the first time. I kept only half of them, here was my half yearly update that has not changed much. :( I would not make any this year. At least, not now.

Continue reading ‘The Year-End Review’

Let’s Go Local

Links Delhi Can Use

Internet has already become a dependable resource to keep up with local ongoings in a busy schedule. We book movie tickets online, read online local newspapers or tabloids. Our banking transactions and bill payments are also done online. There are several other things you can do online locally.

I am looking for a rented place these days. There is Locanto, Indianroomates.in and click.in where I find most relevant advertisements. Though, once in a while you can come across a fool’s advertisement like:

I am male 35 year old, living in 2bhk apartment. Looking for a female partner to share my bed. Room rent: 5000k.

!!

Sounds like a dating advertisemnt straight from fropper.

I check all listings for foreign movies, plays, exhibitions, dance shows and recitals in Delhi City Limits magazine. (published by Outlook magazine group). If you are an art lover residing in Delhi and are not going to these events, I would say you are missing something. You can check all these events online here at Delhi Events Web site. This site is diligently and passionately maintained by its founder Rohit Malik at not-so-great-profit. How do I know? I read his interview in the newspaper; he says he wants to keep the site going for the love of it.

Continue reading ‘Let’s Go Local’

The Expansionist Meme

Sulz first tagged me for this meme. I got so late and then Nova tagged me today. Finally, here it is.

Please thoughtfully consider the following, and choose one item for each of the categories below. (Be sure to describe your reasons for choosing)

One religious work from a non-familiar tradition you’ll read:
Bible and Koran both. I did read parts of Bible.

One music video–that you like–from your “least likely to listen to’ genre:
I rarely listen to Ghazals. I feel kinda dragged listening to them (Did ya smirk inwardly think I do not have ear for music? Well, you are right. :P ). But I do want to listen ghazals by legendary Madan Mohan.

Notes to MyselfA book from a genre you almost never read, that you have read, or you will read (promise!):
I never read self-help or inspirational books. But I read two: Notes for Myself and The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. Notes for Myself was good but latter was hogwash for me. Sorry Robin Sharma.

Somewhere you’d never thought to go on holiday/vacation, and why it might be fun to go there?
Andamans. But I have a feeling its going to be more fun that Goa.

A specific food you’ve never tried, but will because of this meme, honest!:
Rasam, I have heard it is too sour. I have never tasted it though. I will see what to have with rasam though.

A sport or game you really hate, or haven’t tried yet, but are willing to give one more go:
Table Tennis, I don’t hate it though. But this is one game I would like to give one more go. When I was about to finish school, I tried my hand at it and then never again got opportunity to play it.

A style of dance you probably won’t try (we won’t make you promise on this one):
Samba

A career job you don’t feel you’re suited for, and why:
Any job related beauty and make-up, I suck at it.

An item that’s “thinking out of the box’ for this meme that hadn’t been included:

How come this meme forgot movies and politics. What about a question like “A politician you wanted to teach a lesson, but couldn’t?” But I am sure, you had several names in your mind.

It’s there’s one thing in life you wanted to do, and will do because of this meme, what will it be?
Snorkeling and jumping from a flying aeroplane/chopper. I can go for snorkelling in Andamans, air plane diving can be done in Thailand, Australia or other places.

I tag readers of this blog: Harsha, Nikhil, Vimal, Suda and Debjit to do the meme. Rest all who I think would have done this meme have already been tagged, so no other names. :)

Best regards,

11 Ways to Beat Your Depression

Don’t be surprised by the this post. I am not turning my blog into lifehack blog. :)

I am just writing about what worked for me when I was sad or depressed. I am not going to ask you to turn to music. Because it does not work for me. my brain completely switches off sensations to ear. Music keeps playing and I lost in my sad thoughts. Not a word goes in my ear. :(

1. Read: Read as much as you can. It keeps your mind entertained as well as engaged. An engaged mind has no time to think of personal sad thoughts. I did my maximum reading in this period. I went for happy, popular books. I read 1 Harold Robbins (too much sleaze), 1 Bridget Bardot (or whatever her name is, it was a bland book), 4 Roald Dahls, 3 Sophie Kinsellas (I can’t say I liked all of them) and 1 J.A. Konrath (I am sure you do not know him, I will soon write a review of his book.) I read more of magazines. I am picking up books from my unread book pile. I also picked up Adam Bede by George Eliot. I was not reading the book because it seems to be written in 4 point size (Though my friend says it could be size 8 ) and it (book) is also written in archaic, native English. All in all, I read obsessively because it relaxes me and makes me feel productive. Ah, what pleasure in counting the number of books you finish in few days!

2. Take a Walk: This certainly works. Before you take a decision in anger or frustration, take a walk. Fresh air cools and clears your head, frustration kind of ebbs aways. It gives you time to think over things in peace, prevents hasty decision.

3. Watch a Movie or Nice Show on TV: For a movie buff like me, it works. If it is good movie, you are completely engrossed for 2-3 hours. No time to think about your own “sorrows”. I can curl up in bed and watch movies in go. I watched Day After Tommorrow Part 1 and 2 (had nice special effects about global warming), Cast Away and Desparado. All old movies I know, but they served my purpose.

Continue reading ’11 Ways to Beat Your Depression’


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