Monthly Archives: October 2013

Review: A Cool Dark Place


A cool dark placeWhen I am trying to write a review of this book an air of melancholy is surrounding me and yet it is so soothing and I am at peace, although it has been almost a week since I put down this book called A Cool, Dark Place by Supriya Dravid.

I rarely ever have said this for a book but it is fully justified, this book reads like a poem, a poem of despair. And despair can be very rarely made poetic and the authors who have been able to successfully do it have been authors of yore or very experienced and seasoned. A first time author and such a beautiful work? If I haven’t had read the book myself I wouldn’t have ever believed it.

When I put down the book all I wanted to do was give the author a kiss. It is books like these that keep my hopes alive about the literature and which eggs me to continue reading and finding other good works.

The story revolves around Zephyr and her family, it starts when Z’s father commits suicide and she lands in her grandfather Don’s house in Madras with her mother. The dark secrets of her family starts to reveal in dozens. The totally unknown life of Don and earlier life of her mother shocks her and  pains her. It only aggravates when she comes to know that the person she called father her entire life wasn’t her real father.

The character of Don is larger than life, it’s a marvelous character and keeps you glued to the book. You just can’t make out how to react to him, you can’t hate him, you won’t love him. He is an enigma. The author is successful in bringing to life that character and as I read that book, the character played in my heart, my head and in my subconscious.  Even the other characters of her mother, Gravy, Sancho are all so finely done, each one of them seems like a polished gem.

I am running short of words to define the excellent piece that this book is and oh the title is so apt.

How I wish this book is turned into a Hollywood movie or better a series.

Thank you Supriya Dravid for bringing A Cool, Dark Place to us.

PS: This book was sponsored by MySmartPrice

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Review: Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai

Once upon the tracks of Mumbai I managed to finish another book last week Once upon the Tracks of Mumbai by Rishi Vohra, it’s his debut novel.

Now earlier  I wasn’t able to make up my mind one way or the other about this book. When I first saw the cover of the book and read the synopsis I wasn’t too interested in the book but then recently I have had some good fortunes with the first time Indian Authors so I thought lets give it a try (even if the title is cheesy).

The book is narrated (mostly) in first person by the protagonist Babloo who is autistic, schizophrenic or something of the sort. It is no where clearly reflected what problem ails him. He lives lonely life despite a family, different from his family members and (he thinks) no one cares for him except for a girl Vandana who stays in the same society. He whiles away time and talks to himself in his head and his one agenda is to be able to express his love for Vandana and be able to marry her. In the process he dons the character of a “Rail Man” and so many other things happen in the book. And yet the book reads very slow many times.

The good points: I will give it to the author that considering this is the debut book, it is well written and though I am still trying to figure out what the story really was, the characters are well written. The character of Babloo and in the first half how he conducts himself, how he explains himself, how he talks to himself and his approach towards the world in general is very well written. It’s a gem of a character. Other good part is how the writer captures Mumbai, not excellent but he does a fairly good job and it was important as Mumbai is one strong character in this book.

Not so good points:  At the end of the book I wasn’t sure what the story really was, there was the story of Babloo and equally strong story was of his love Vandana. So many issues and so many harsh realities of Mumbai are dealt at same time that it becomes difficult for the reader to sympathize with any one. There is autistic/dyslexic protagonist Babloo, his ill treatment, then Women security issues in Mumbai, sexual harassment, Mumbai’s heat, pains of Mumbai life, idiotic brother, villain who sexually exploits girls, corruption among police,etc.

This is a common problem that I have recently seen with first time authors, they try to deal with myriad issues in one book and fails to do justice to even one. And there is no need to portray characters in black or white, to extreme good or bad. If the girl is beautiful then she is the most beautiful, “bombshell of the colony” and if the brother is not good, then he is the worst, idiot, miser, pervert all mixed in one. It doesn’t read good, period.

It was a great twist that Babloo take the role of “Rail Man” (probably inspired by a few events a few years ago) and the author does well in explaining this transition but then doesn’t take it all the way to end and make a story out of it.

There are some elements of brilliance in between (character of Babloo is definitely one such thing) and the story had the potential of becoming an excellent read but it felt like the author compromised on many instances to keep it as a masala read. The consolation is that it is a different type of read than the ones in market currently. I sincerely think this story could have been developed into a masterpiece.

The end is again very cheesy and Bollywood style and author could have definitely done away with that ending.

So in the end I think its a very good first attempt but then a lot is required from the author and the author does show promise.  And the least that can be done to improve the book is change the cheesy title and Bollywood style book cover, it doesn’t do justice to the story inside.

PS: Thanks to the author for providing the copy. You can get more info about the book at http://rishivohra.com/

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Review: Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince

arjuna-saga-of-a-pandava-warrior-prince The book this week was ARJUNA Saga Of A Pandava Warrior-Prince: 1 by Anuja Chandramouli published by LeadStart Corp.

Now I am a mythology guy, I like reading it a lot and my standards are that of “Ashok Banker” the master of mythology. So when I picked up this book I wasn’t sure how yet another mythology book in the market will turn out to be (I have dared not to pick so many other floating which deals in this genre for the fear of them not meeting the standards). Although one thing that I am pretty happy about is that Indian mythology is in vogue. We have millions of brilliant tales to tell to the world and each story leaves us with some or the other lesson in life.

As soon as I started with the book the first few pages itself impressed me a lot and I was excited in the anticipation of what all the book has in store for me.

Let me first and foremost congratulate the author Anuja Chandramouli on this remarkable writing. Bravo!! Retelling an epic is a herculean task and when that epic is Mahabharata it’s all the more difficult. Every Indian has heard or read about stories of Mahabharata and we all have some preconceived notions whenever the tales of Mahabharata are retold. To balance it out and present the facts as it is, is a very big task much bigger than any Da Vinci code.

The author has based the book on a very sound research and makes the book so easy to read. Whatever praises I heap on the author would not be enough considering that it is her debut novel. I can just wonder what she will produce in future.

Now back to the book, as I mentioned the book is very well written and as simple as it can be made. The story is essentially of Mahabharata and except for a few incidences I found nothing new in the story and unfortunately that is its undoing too.

When I first read the title of the book and saw the cover (good work their too) I was under the impression that it would primarily be Arjuna’s story or Mahabharata from Arjuna’s perspective but unfortunately it is not so. It is Mahabharata retold and there are very few stories about Arjuna that are new (or new to me at least). The latter half of the book talks so much about Krishna that it sometimes appear that the book is about Krishna. Similar problems figure at different places within the book and many times you would wonder where is Arjuna in all this?

Now this is where experience in writing novel comes in to play, which the author doesn’t have. How to break the story and what to focus on and what to leave are very important traits in an author. Now we all know that there are millions of stories in the Mahabharata and each character in itself can be written about in at least one book. A character like Krishna will require many volumes and still justice can’t be done.

The author tried to include a little bit of everyone’s story and that is where it all went wrong. I didn’t want to read Mahabharata again, I wanted to read about Arjuna- the greatest warrior the world has ever produced, his personality, his traits, his rights, his wrongs that are yet unknown.

And though the writing is technically very good and the book reads very easy, the author fails to stir emotions for the protagonist in reader’s heart and mind. I didn’t feel anything for Arjuna, no sorrow, no happiness, nothing at all. It fails for a reader like me. You as an author need to make me feel it, make me happy, sad, laugh with the characters.

But yes I am not taking away any credit for retelling the Mahabharata in such a simple way and to concise it in 350 odd pages. For a reader who has no or little knowledge about Mahabharata, ARJUNA Saga Of A Pandava Warrior-Prince: 1 is an excellent book. And I will definitely look forward to the author’s future books.

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Harper 21- An Exciting Experiment by Harper Collins

Finally I saw the news I was waiting for sometime, Harper Collins the second largest English language publisher in the country has started an interesting experiment with the name “Harper 21” (I think they also completed 21 years hence the name). See the complete report here.

I got to know a little about Harper 21 through V.K. Karthika the publisher of Harper Collins India on the sidelines of Pune International Literary Festival (PILF). This is their foray into the e-book imprint and probably their little experiment in testing out if this does alter the reading habits of the readers and they ‘graduate’ to a better writings.

In short, Harper 21 available through amazon India is kindle version of e-books which will cost INR 21 only and will be less than 20 pages and will feature a range of genres from poetry to stories to graphic novels, sports, cinema etc. These e-books can be downloaded on Kindle device or Kindle software.

I am pretty excited about this experiment because I believe (and those who follow me know my take) that new-gen Indian writers are mostly writing trash and the population at large is exposed to sub-standard literature. One of the reasons why the so called ‘commercial fiction‘ books are doing well is probably the low cost and their sleek size.

So with Harper 21 both the issues are getting addressed and people will get to read quality writings and literature. And this initiative coming from Harper Collins makes it all the more exciting and has high chances of succeeding.

Now I do understand that this is an experiment by Harper Collins and may or may not work but I am happy that they are trying that and other publishing houses should follow suit so that the quality of reading can improve in our country.

I think much of the success of this experiment will depend upon how easily and on how many devices these e-books can be made available and what type of books are offered to the young adults who are always on the go.

Do checkout Harper 21 and I strongly suggest you buy a few books and try them out.

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Review: Marry Go Round


Hey Guys, hope you all are having a good weekend with some reading involved. For me, I did manage to finish the book that I started  a few days ago Marry Go Round: 1 by Sadiqa Peerbhoy. As mentioned in my earlier post I didn’t have a clue about the book or the author to begin with and was hoping for the best.

It wasn’t the best nevertheless it was pretty darn good and I am happy about reading it. My disappointment in new gen Indian writers have started to recede bit by bit (or should I say book by book) but yea still there is a lot of trash that is floating in the market and as a reader it becomes pretty difficult to find out the good writings from the ones hogging the top shelf in bookstore.

So on to the review, Marry Go Round is a simple yet intriguing story about a mother (Sartaj Begum) wanting to get his NRI Son Riaz married to continue the family lineage. As her Son is in the US for many years and doesn’t want to get married she embarks upon a plan to call him back and fix him up with a decent ‘khandaani’ girl. Riaz is already in a live-in relationship with an American girl Sarah. The girl she plans to marry Riaz with Sana is involved with a married man in his office only to realize that he is two timing her with his wife. Sartaj Begum’s plan works but not in entirety. What follows is a pretty interesting and comical events which gives a very good flavor to the story.

Now why I say the story is simple is because it really doesn’t has a whole lot to it and probably you might have read/heard/seen it some where or the other, it is pretty normal story in Indian households. But the treatment that is given to the story is good. And the backdrop of Hyderabad adds ‘char chand’  to it. I am pretty sure that the story wouldn’t have been so good if it was based in any other city other than Hyderabad. And kudos to the author to capture the Hyderabadi spirit in an excellent manner. The reminiscence of nawabi era, the pride of lineage, the changing face of Hyderabad, the ‘kasak’ of seeing the Son married & being able to continue the family, etc. has been very well written.

The characters are very well defined and each of them adds value to the story, mainly the character of ‘Sartaj Jehan Begum’ is very very very well written, hats off to the author to get it write in her first novel. Sometimes writer continue to write books after book but never seem to be able to get one character that could stay with the readers.

Sartaj Begum’s character is such a normal, well written, lovable character that most of us will be able to identify with. All other characters like Riaz, Sana, Dilawar, Sarah, Qaisar are also good and do not seem to be interrupting the story at any time. Even the professor and Colonel’s characters speaks a lot without speaking at all in the book.

The ending of the book is a little different, though not everyone might like it or agree with it but I admire the writer’s courage to be able to put the twist in the end. When you are first time writer you want it to work and you rarely do experiments but she did and at least I like it.

Not so good parts? Well there are very less, the author has kept the book very neat and slim with just the essentials, may be the last couple of pages with Naana-Naani conversation were not really necessary. And may be the title and the cover page should change, it definitely doesn’t do justice with the good story that’s inside. And a few little kinks but I’m not complaining.

In the end I would only like to say that it’s unfortunate case in our country that trash gets to the first shelf and good books are never promoted. I would urge the publishers Lead Start Corp to push this book out with more vigor and put more money into its marketing, this is a good story that needs to go to as many readers as possible. And I hope that those trashy first time writers take a cue from Marry Go Round: 1 and Sadiqa Peerbhoy about writing  good debut book.

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the book this week is Marry Go Round

So after finishing off with the last painful book for which I have seen some good/biased discussion on & off the blog I have moved on to the next book in my queue and hoping this will alleviate some pain.

The book that I am starting this week is Marry Go Round: 1
by Sadiqa Peerbhoy, this is a LeadStart Corp publication book.

Now once again never heard about the book, never heard of the author and again she is a first time author but looking at her profile she seems to have written a lot earlier as she is a Journalist.

The cover of the book seems intriguing and once again I hope the book turns out good as I didn’t have many good experiences with first time Indian authors of this genre.

Aiming to finish it by this weekend, I hope my work schedule doesn’t conflict. Hope you guys are also reading some good stuff. Will be back with its review. Till then, Happy Reading.

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Review: Wise Enough to be Foolish


Phew! what a book. Wise Enough to be Foolish by Gauri Jayaram was the book this week.

As I mentioned in my earlier post that this was the first book I was reading on my smartphone using Kindle Cloud Reader ( I read the first one a few months back using another software)  and let me tell you reading on smartphone is tougher than an e-reader but the ease is remarkable.

So when I started this book I had no clue what the book is about I just took it up as the first one to be read on Kindle cloud reader and by the time I ended up the book (even in the middle of it) I was sure this book was not for me.

The book is a total ‘chic book’ and I was wrong on picking it up. Now I can’t pass judgement as to how good or bad this was as compared to other chic books as I have rarely read them but as a book it was a total failure for me.

I saw no reason, none at all why someone would write (forget about reading) such a book which had nothing for a story and  read like a girl’s personal journal (and that too pretty boring).

Even the writing was below par in the sense that I wasn’t sure what the writer wanted to convey, characters were confused, protagonist was confused, so much of unnecessary details and unnecessary events cloud the book that on turning every page you might ask yourself why are you reading it.

The story starts with protagonist Gauri, finding herself in marital trouble, she goes on to narrate the story of her childhood till the time she landed in the marital trouble and then some more.

After finishing the book if you end up asking yourself the questions like “why was she angry with her parents?”, “when she was so conservative why did she had so many boyfriends?”, “If she was a tomboy and an athlete where did that all go and how did she become so beautiful to land up with so many boyfriends?”, “Earlier she didn’t like her siblings, how her sister becomes her best friend?” etc, then don’t worry those are genuine questions most of the readers would be asking themselves.

Now had the title been “The Diary of a Confused Girl” and this was a blog post, I might have let it go but publishing this type of crap in a book? I am not sure how publishers today select books for publishing.

But then who am I if not yet another critique of the book and this book could well be a hit among the ‘chics’. So if you are a girl and don’t really think a book could be so bad and I am exaggerating then by all means give Wise Enough to be Foolish
a try and do let me know if you think otherwise.

But you are a guys I strongly advice against trying it.

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