Book Review: A Perfect Murder: and Other Stories by S.R. Nair

perfect_murderI’m a big fan of short stories and I feel sometimes short stories could convey a whole lot more then hundreds of pages in a novel.

A Perfect Murder: and Other Stories by S.R. Nair got me intrigued, for the title and due to short stories.

Murder mysteries are good but need to be handled very well. I did go through the entire book and it failed to impress me.

Rating

★★★ (3 out of 5)

The Storyline

A Perfect Murder is a story of a divorcee who plans the murder of her father and blames a local guy for the same. And there are other stories like Salma’s fate where she is raped by her father in law and she decides to take him up. There are in total 14 stories which takes on different aspects of human life. Where on one end it deals with life in India and other an Indian living in US and trying to get married to an Indian girl who turns out to be a fraud.

What I Think

For me to get impressed with Short stories they need to be real good and alas I didn’t find this book good enough. Unfortunately none of the stories impressed me including the main one The Perfect Murder. It was anything but a perfect murder and I didn’t even think the story made a lot of sense. And I get the feel that mostly the stories are just written for the sake of writing and there was really not much to write about.

The writing is simple and some of you might even like the stories but for me none of the stories worked and I was disappointed.

Last Words

I always think that not all the stories are meant to be told. Sometimes there is just no meat in the story or the way they are told is not good enough. And I feel you are equipped to write short stories when you have mastered the art of writing long stories or novels but that’s just me.

This is one book where I feel some of the readers might also like few of the stories.Do give it a try, if you don’t like a story or two, you can always skip them without losing much.

You can buy this book at low price from Amazon.in

 

PS: Thanks to the author for providing a complimentary copy.

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Book Review: Kohinoor: The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond​ by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand

kohinoorThere are names that you have heard multiple times in your life but know a little about them. Kohinoor is one such name that fascinates many of us and I knew very little about it, so when I saw this book I wanted to know more so picked up this book.

Kohinoor: The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand is one book that you would like to read if you want to know more about Kohinoor or if you would like to cross check your facts about Kohinoor. A very well written book which gets the history right (as far as it could be) and great story telling without boring you with the unnecessary details.

 

Rating

★★★★ (4 out of 5)

The Storyline

The book succinctly tells the story of world-famous gem Koh-i-Noor or ‘The Mountain of Light’ as meant in persian. It traces the history of one of the biggest diamond in the world.

It starts the journey from Mughal court to Persia to Afghanistan to Punjab to ultimately London where it reached as part of a treaty between East India Company and Maharaja Duleep Singh.

The diamond first came in possession of Mughals (the exact source is not known) and was ‘the jewel’ in crown of Shah Jahan in his peacock throne. Then it passed on to many other rulers like Nader Shah to Maharaja Ranjit Singh and when he died it passed on to his son Duleep Singh.

East India company always had its eyes on the coveted diamond and in the guise of protecting Punjab and Duleep Singh forced him to sign a treaty which gave the Kohinoor to the British along with many other things.

The diamond was also assumed to be cursed that whichever ruler had it met a deadly end. It was also at one time considered to be the fable gem Syamantaka as mentioned in Puranas.

In the end the diamond found its resting place in London museum and still there are many claims made on it by different factions and nations.

What I Think

I’m not a history buff and moreover historical and ancient books haven’t gone down well with me in the past. I was skeptical when picking up this book but the inquisitiveness about Kohinoor and the fact that I know so little about it made me pick up this book.

And after finishing this book I was like “WOW”, history could be made so interesting. The book although deals with historical facts and stories is very much kept alive and moving at all times. The book doesn’t bore you with the unnecessary historical details and maintains a fine balance between a good story telling and facts.

I particularly liked the fact that in addition to knowing about the Kohinoor I got to know so much more about the Mughals, Durranis, Sikhs, etc. The major historical events are also covered at one end and on the other hand the story of Kohinoor continues at a good pace.

The book is written in two parts, the first part by William Dalrymple tells about the history of Kohinoor and its time with Mughals and in Iran, Afghanistan etc. and the second part of the book is written by Anita Anand which deals with how the diamond found its resting place in London and how did the monarchy reacted to it.

The book also provides a lot of other valuable and interesting historical information around Mughal era and also gives a glimpse of how East India Company  began the wealth drain from India.

Last Words

If history can be dealt in this way, I promise to read more of it. But I guess the bigger credit goes to the authors whose mastery over the subject and their intense research and  powerful writing made this book worth a read. You will find a lot of information that you might have never come across and will enjoy it.

The only thing I would have liked is that it was shorter by a few pages but then again adjusting so much history in one book is a tough job.

I strongly recommend this book to everyone, be it that you are interested in knowing about Kohinoor or you are only looking for a good read, this book will live up to your expectations.

Kohinoor: The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand is available on www.juggernaut.in and in bookstores.

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Book Review: Yama’s Lieutenant by Anuja Chandramouli

yamaThis is the fourth book by author Anuja Chandramouli and I’m on track with reading all of them courtesy the author.

And although I have read a few books in past 6 months but couldn’t get back to writing a review for them. The last review posted was also for the same author’s previous book “Shakti the divine feminine“.

Readers who have read my earlier reviews of the author’s work knows what my impression of author’s work is and which league of authors does I compare her with.

My review of her work is never in comparison with the Nagarkar’s and Shenoy’s of Indian new gen authors.

So the following review could be termed or interpreted as harsh but let me say that it I don’t mean to take anything away from the writing prowess of the author.

Rating

★★★ (3 out of 5)

The Storyline

The story begins where all hell has broken loose (literally) . The different inhabitants of hell governed by Yama are loose and want to create havoc on earth teaming up with Naganara, a necromancer. Joining him in his devious plans are hatakas and narakmayas.

The protagonist Agni Prakash who is trying to cope up with life after the death of his twin sister Varu is chosen by a silvery goddess to fight this devious plan as Yama’s lieutenant.

He gets the help of Yama’s danda, the power of fire and also the help of a woman with magical powers. His quest takes him to goddess Ganga where he asks for the girl who is to be Yama’s consort.

on the other hand, another plot written by Varu about a dysfunctional family of Yama and Yami continues.

How Agni (aided by others like Taravarsha, Minothi, etc.) help avoid the destruction and does he understands the manuscript left by his twin sister is depicted in the remaining book.

What I Think

First things first, the things that I dislike about this book:

  1. The cover image: – Could have done much better. The protagonist looks like an animated character. I would have never picked up this book from a bookstall with this cover image and title.
  2. The book title:- Again “Yama’s lieutenant” seriously?
  3. The protagonist:- Oh boy, Agni Prakash sounds like a name from 90s Hindi novels. At no point in the book, he was portrayed in a stronger light. Heroes are flawed and messed up, I get that but there should be some element of heroism to the character, some level of charisma, which is totally absent.
  4. The character names:- Some of them are difficult to even pronounce forget remembering them. Try some of these hatakas, Minothi, arakshas, Dharami,Ananthamma, Yatupava and more. By the end of the book I could only remember the names of a very few characters.
  5. The complicated and unnecessary usage of words to adorn the writing (examples: “When runaway emotions spewed forth like a bout of virulent diarrhoea..“, “..he was so myopic that he would have trouble finding his own butthole with both hands behind his back.” and more like this). A similar note I mentioned for her previous book as well.

Now you might be getting the impression that if so much is wrong why even 3 stars?

What I really like about the book is the author’s courage to take a plunge into writing a story so different and daring to be different than her earlier works. I always thought she would do good if she tries a different genre then mythology and although this is not a different genre altogether but it’s a pretty good attempt at fiction.

When you read it, you shall get a feeling that she is trying to create some sort of a Harry Potter work which remains with the audience and in Agni Prakash, she is trying to create a hero with whom she can write a series (which however I do not agree with).

It takes a master to understand the intricacies of mythology, build characters and weave a story around it. And that, the author has done remarkably well. There really is a story (if you like the blood and gore or not that’s different) and a decent one too. And where the book began between the love and connection of twins, Agni and Varu was actually quite nice.

There are also a few chapters or scenes such as about Sivagami Math which are good in pieces.

Last Words

The idea of the book is so powerful, the author has all the arsenals and talent to write a great story. When I sit and think after finishing this book I strongly feel this book could have been a game changer in the fiction world, if handled better.

Often writers do a mistake of telling the story they want to tell in the manner they want to tell without stopping and thinking for a while that are the readers getting the story in the same spirit as they want to tell it.

And this is what I think the undoing of this book is.

However, I recommend you give it a try and see for yourself if Yama’s Lieutenant tastes right to you.

 

 

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Book Review: Shakti The Divine Feminine by Anuja Chandramouli

IMG_20160116_111539_HDRI finished this book sometime back but couldn’t get to writing the review until now.

Shakti: The Feminine Divine by Anuja Chandramouli is the third book by the author after Arjuna saga of a pandava warriror prince and Kamadeva the god of desire. Luckily I have read and reviewed her earlier books as well. After I have finished reading this third book how I wish she would have stopped mythology right after Kamadeva and have taken a detour to another genre.

Rating

★★ (2 out of 5)

The Storyline

Shakti tells the story of devi that is known in Hindu mythology by different names such as Durga, Kali, Parvati, etc.

The story starts with the Shakti’s first avatar (or birth) as ‘Usas’ where she is humiliated and killed by devas lead by jealousy of Indra’s wife Sachi for her ‘free’ lifestyle. She gets a rebirth in  a much stronger avatar.

There are other aligned stories that continue along with this where Devas under the leadership of Indra keeps on fighting Asuras with the aid of Vishnu and Shiva to save Amravati. And in the process Indra does many wrongs prodded every time by her wife.

The story also narrates how the cult of Devi aka Shakti grows among divine and human alike. And how Shakti also plays other roles such as Parvati with Shiva and better half of Vishnu as well. Both Shiva and Vishnu understand Shakti and her powers and the wrath that she can bring.

When Asura Mahisha is undefeated and creates havoc then Shakti adorns the avatar of Kali and kills Mahisha and company. Also captures Indra to deal with his wrong doings.

What I Think

When I saw the cover of the book and the title I was very intrigued (more than I was with her previous book Kamadeva). But unfortunately this turned out to be a big let down. The female character Shakti is probably the most revered and considered most powerful in Hindu mythology. And I was very much interested to find out what new author brings to this character as she has a flair of treating these mythological characters differently then what we have been reading about them since ages.

Author in her note in the beginning makes it clear that don’t fret about what is real and what is fiction in the book and that gives her the liberty to weave the story to her liking and that’s what I thought was very encouraging for me as a reader and thought I would in for a treat.

But she couldn’t take the story very far. The story seemed pretty boring to me there are stories within stories and then unnecessary stories and at times you don’t even know what this book is about, as Shakti is lost somewhere in between.

There were just so many shades of Shakti that were mentioned as Usas, Kali, Parvati, etc. that in the end it was all very confusing as to how the author wants to portray the protagonist.

To top it all this was the  difficult language that the book is written in. I have praised Anuja’s writing in the past but how Shakti is written makes me rethink about all her previous books. It seems that the author has deliberately tried to write difficult, unheard of English words just to showcase her mastery over the language. On top of that there are such absurd conversations and sentences that just evoked neutral or yucks (for the writing) emotions. Once such example from the book:

“When he drew back the eyelids, Kali was squatting in front of him, it seemed, to take a dump.”

An average reader would not be able to finish reading this book.

The beauty of good writing is in it’s simplicity and that has been forgotten by several new gen authors. They think that adorning the writing with never heard of words is going to make them look like a ‘better’ and more ‘learned’ writer, which is totally wrong.

I could go on and on about how wrong the book is and what a lost opportunity it has been for the author. Shakti could have been written in a much better way and you could have written volumes without the reader getting bored.

Last Words

The author looked promising to me in her first two books but this book has been a let down to me as reader and admirer of her earlier works. In the earlier review of Kamadeva also I mentioned that I would rather see her write a book of different genre. But yes if the writing is going to be so complicated and indecipherable then none of the books can succeed.

But that’s just my view if you are interested in mythology or have read and liked Anuja Chandramouli before go give Shakti: The Feminine Divine a try may be you will like it.

You can buy this book at low price from Amazon.in

 

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Book Review: The Small Big: Small Changes that Spark Big Influence By Steve J. Martin, Noah J. Goldstein and Robert B. Cialdini

the small big

This was another book that was sitting on my shelf for almost a year and I finished reading it a couple of weeks back. Due to time crunch these past couple of weeks couldn’t post this review earlier.

The small BIG: Small Changes that Spark Big Influence by Steve J. Martin, Noah J. Goldstein and Robert B. Cialdini is a very interesting & powerful book. The authors are all behavioral scientists and have written books earlier as well on this or related subject, specially on science of persuasion. If human behavior or persuasion strategies interests you this book is a goldmine.

Rating

★★★★★ (5 out of 5)

The Storyline

The authors talk about how bringing small changes in the way we do things can bring about BIG difference in its outcome. Hence the title The Small BIG: Small changes that spark big influence. Also the changes that the authors suggest costs very little or nothing at all and they have backed up their suggestions with case studies and scientific findings.

Some of the examples or case studies are pretty impressive. The first one shows how a small change in the letters sent to the tax payers in UK resulted in a greater number of people paying taxes.

Another good example is how a small change in the way the appointments are booked at doctors resulted in a considerable number of people turning up for their appointments. The authors earlier mentions that people not showing up for appointments when clubbed together for a country amounts to losses in billion dollars. So even a small change done resulted in saving of millions of dollars.

Authors go on to suggest many other such small changes that can drastically improve the productivity, procrastination, the precision in doing things, etc.

There are 52 such small changes divided into 52 chapters that can have a big influence and as mentioned earlier it costs almost nothing (even if they don’t work for you).

What I Think

I have earlier read  few such books on behavior and habits and how altering them can benefit you. This books joins the ranks of those top books. The best thing about this book is its simplicity or the simplicity of the methods or changes suggested, which can be implemented by anyone. If you are a sales rep, a computer professional, HR executive or an entrepreneur. These “pearls of wisdom” can help you in all walks of life. Although the authors can’t be credited for all these findings (and they give due credit and references to the scientists who did actual studies and findings) but they can definitely be credited for bringing these changes up to a wider audience and writing it so simply.

Each small change has a chapter of its own. So if you are in a hurry or some changes don’t interests you, you can simply skip to the chapters you want to read without losing the ‘plot’ anywhere.

After reading the book I did realize that some of the changes are ‘common sense’ (or so I think) and a few of them I already follow in my life or work and they were logical deductions on my own after experimenting and experiencing. I am sure many of you will have the same findings.  Nevertheless there are a lot of things that I or you wouldn’t know without reading this book.

Now all the changes may not work for you, it’s basically a pick and choose according to the situation which even authors suggest in the book. But I would recommend going through all the chapters just to get a feel of how small those changes are and even you can start observing and changing a few things not mentioned in this book which can work for you.

One such small change from the book suggests that if you want people to really follow up on their promise “ask for a plan”. So if your friend has promised you that he would get you that book you asked for ask him how do he plan to carry the book to you while he rides that motorbike. This will improve upon the chances of fulfilling his commitment and you getting that book.

Last Words

It’s a very powerful book and the thing I like about it most is its simplicity. The case studies or findings are also written in an uncomplicated manner.

If human behavior interests you or you think about how better you can do things or communicate with people you should definitely read The small BIG: Small Changes that Spark Big Influence
However if you are looking for a quick fix like ‘5 steps to a happy life’, ’10 steps to be an effective communicator’ or any of those sort of books, don’t bother. This is definitely not for you.

You can buy this book at low price from Amazon.

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Book Review: Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain by Ryan Blair

nothing to lose by ryan blair

Last week was kinda great to me I was able to read 2 books. I finished reading this book on last Wednesday. The book was sitting on my shelf for over a year.

Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain by Ryan Blair was a book which was recommended on some site as an entrepreneurial read. The book is slightly different from the self-motivational types and a tells a slightly different story too.

Rating

★★★★ (4 out of 5)

The Storyline

It’s the story of the author himself how from a life full of problems he went on to become a successful entrepreneur.

The book tells the story of Ryan who had a troubled childhood , his father succumbed to drug addiction and his mother raises him in a troubled neighborhood where he gets entangled with criminals and becomes a gang member. But around the age of 21 years his mother marries a small time businessman who inspires Blair to turn his life around and he goes on to start his own business. He later goes on to do many successful businesses and sold many as well. He narrates his experiences from his journey to be an entrepreneur and also tells what worked from him and what were the mistakes that sometime costed him millions.

What I Think

To be very honest I found the book to be good but not a life changing or anything out of the ordinary. The differentiation (and good too) was how at one time in his life the author was at the bottom and from there he was about to turn his life around. The title is well thought out too, when you really have nothing to lose you have a very different take on the situation and things around you. That’s how Blair started his career and many times practiced in negotiations or to build his business.  There are many things he mentions about “doing business” which I personally do not agree to, for instance he stresses a lot on having a good business name and not your “porn name” but I personally don’t think a business name however weird that is (and now a days weird is better) is going to be a big differentiate. There were a couple of chapters which I found uninteresting (may be its because I really am not interested in those topics as of now) like the home based business and cashing out.

In other chapters he raises or reminds us of the benefits of networking, getting a good mentor, selling first and asking questions later mantra and many other small nuggets of useful information for the new entrepreneurs to keep in mind. He also makes it plain and simple that if you are not comfortable with uncomfortable, entrepreneurship is not for you. The best I liked was his million dollar mistakes chapter.

All in all a pretty decent read but it fell short of my expectations. The title was very interesting and it has set my expectations a little different. Somehow I got the feeling that it is not a very honest book which I was expecting it to be. At many instances you get a feel that someone is pitching his business before you (and may be that could be the case).

Last Words

It’s a decent book that new entrepreneurs can read and gain something from. But it’s definitely not the bible of entrepreneurship (for that matter there is no bible for that). There are many things that Blair reminds about entrepreneurship and many experiences that he narrates afresh. You don’t have to agree or disagree with him but just read it for what it is without expectation.

If you are an entrepreneur or thinking of becoming one you can give it a try otherwise you can skip reading it.

You can buy this book at a low price from Amazon

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Book Review: Business As Usual by Deepak Chawla

business as usual

business as usual by Deepak Chawla

I have become very cautious when it comes to book review requests. I have hardly taken any since last few months for the sheer reason that the book titles or blurb just have no appeal or nothing new to offer.

Everyone wants to be a writer, no one wants to write anything worth reading that’s pretty much what’s happening in India today but often I am surprised.

Business As Usualby Deepak Chawala is one book that I agreed to review after a long time and was very skeptical to begin with. In the end I agreed as it mentioned short stories, so I can still leave after a few pages without the guilt of not finishing the entire book.

Rating

★★★★ (4 out of 5)

The Storyline

The book is a collection of 5 short stories and these stories get covered in 300 odd pages.

The first one “Journeys Beyond Destinations” tells the story of Gautam and Shama, who used to work together at a Infrastructure firm run by Kulbushan Kapoor and had great chemistry between them and a good working relationship. Gautam relied on Shama and shares everything with her. When the firm is split between their sons Gautam leaves to be part of Lalit Kapoor’s firm to Shama’s dislike. Why Gautam leaves Shama and the firm, how their lives go on from that point onwards is covered in the remaining story.

Another one which I actually liked was “Balance of fate”, Sudeep is manager in a tea plantation and receives the news that he is getting fired. He has been at this plantation since last 5 years away from his family as a penance for the death of one of his employee during his job. Aisha his protege shares good equation with him keeps giving him wisdom of life. Her outlook towards life in general affected Sudeep in a good way. He is not prepared to go back home but he has to as he has no job. Back in kolkata he finds another job only to leave it in a few days. The reason and his take on life is tested. He is confronted with a question that has he really done justice to his life till now.

I also liked the last one “More wishes than stars” which deals with Kunal, who is unhappy with his job and is trying to find a meaning of his life. He tries his hands at entrepreneurship but fails, lands another job but dislikes it. He keeps on cribbing and on the other hand finds his friend Mira, an entrepreneur happy with what she does. The author raises a good point that there is a difference between making a choice and the way you want to live your life.The inner calling is probably what everyone wants to listen to but very few can hear it and heed the advice.

What I Think

This book is a very good collection of short stories. The best thing that I liked about the book was that none of the stories has love plot in it. There are men and women sharing good chemistry, good working equation with each other and just real good friends. And this is such a normal thing that happens in the world out there.

The stories are new and fresh. I don’t consider them stories, I don’t even consider them leanings or anything like that but a “matter of fact”. What author tells you is this happened and this is how it happened. No preaching, no moral high grounds, not the usual boring stories.

These stories were really a breath of fresh air in this “macchi market” of new books and new Indian authors. And I was pleasantly surprised.

The title of the book is also apt “Business as usual” although it could have been used a little less throughout the book and should have been left to readers to realize that it was business as usual.

The only thing that I was not fully satisfied was quality of writing. Not that it is bad but if that was up by a couple of notches than this book would have been even better. But as it is the first book by the author I will give him a pass 🙂

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Last Words

I am happy that every now and then I come across good writings by new Indian authors amongst the garbage that is being dished out. It is not mythology (which seems to be everyone’s forte now), it is not those non-nonsensical love and friendship shit. These are some real good contemporary stories with which you can relate to. Very fresh, very well thought.

I am happy to have gone through this book and I congratulate the author Deepak Chawla for it and will look forward to his next book.

I strongly recommend Business As Usual to anyone who loves good short stories or simply who likes a good read.

You can buy this book from Amazon

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