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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: 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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Book Review: HiFi in Bollywood by Rishi Vohra

HiFi in Bollywood by Rishi VohraWhenever  an author comes out with his/her second offering it intrigues me. It means something definitely went right for the author the first time round and also that the author would have matured more since his first book and would also be able to see things better from readers’ perspective as well.

HiFi in Bollywood by Rishi Vohra is the second book by the author. Apparently his first book Once upon the tracks of Mumbai which I read and reviewed sometime last year became a best seller. The cover design is definitely an improvement from his last book and I was expecting something similar inside the book too.

Rating

★★ (2 out of 5)

The Storyline

Rayhan Arora is doing a finance degree in the USA but his long cherished dream is to become a director in Bollywood. As a single parent child he has lot of respect or ‘darr’ of his father and is trying to live his father’s dream of studying in US and getting a good corporate job and settling there.

But when his father tells him to marry an Indian girl, the daughter of his long time friend in the US, Rayhan gets agitated and decides to try his luck in Bollywood aka Hindi Film Industry (HiFi). He takes off from Berkeley and lands in Mumbai without telling his father and gets a job as an assistant director in a big banner film directed by a big time director Saajan B with big star cast.

He meets different characters during this journey, a friend who hooked him up for the job, another one whose sexual appetite is voracious, his long time maid and her daughter who also has dreams to make it big in HiFi.

Also on the sets he meets the love of his life Viola whom he falls deeply in love with after having some arguments initially.

As the book progresses Rayhan understands how the film industry works & compromises one has to do here and how it all depends on the moods of superstars like Tarina and Jahaan khan. Its an uneasy ride for him from that point.

How Rayhan fits into the HiFi and how he handles issues at his personal end, is he able to make it big in the industry, does he gets the love of Viola is covered in the remaining book.

What I Think

Sometime last year I have reviewed the debut novel by the author Once upon the Tracks of Mumbai which although not too brilliant but did read promising and I had thought that the author would improve upon what he dished out the first time. And when I picked up this book I expected something of that sort.

To my utter dismay the book is a total let down, reads like a rip-off of a Bollywood movie, very mediocre writing and a total downer in every sense.

At some levels the book is inspired by the author’s own life and he has tried to weave a story around it but unsuccessfully. I think not all the stories that happen in one’s life are worth telling, certainly not in the manner in which Vohra did in this novel.

In his first novel at least the characters that were written were good but in this book the characters are very loose, they evoke no emotion good or bad. He couldn’t even depict Mumbai in a good manner this time around.

There is nothing new that you will learn about Bollywood (except may be that film industry people like to call it HiFi) or direction or any film making process except for the things that you already keep on reading in tabloids such as casting couch, homosexuality, star tantrums. Even if you replace the protagonist’s dream of becoming a filmmaker with any other profession it would not make a difference to story line.

If you ask me if there is anything good in this book, I will have to think  really hard and then also I can’t come back with anything worth mentioning. May be that one line from Jim Carrey about doing what you love that he quotes in the beginning and end of the novel.

Last Words

Now you might think that I am a bit exaggerating in my criticism of this book and I might agree up to an extent because this criticism is fueled not only by the worthless book that is written and published but by my disappointment towards the way new-gen Indian author treats the readers of today.

Unfortunately the formula to make a hit Bollywood movie is also being applied on the books it seems. Sell something cheap, short, with a cheesy title, easy to read (Hinglish) so that reader has a satisfaction that they have ‘read a book’ and the author can revels in the glory of the so called ‘bestseller’.

So yes don’t go by what I am saying, there will still be a reader base for such types of books and you might still find HiFi in Bollywood in the ‘bestseller’ list in the coming days. But its definitely not for people like me.

 

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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Book Review: Kamadeva The God of Desire by Anuja Chandramouli

kamadevaThere are books which you pick up by their cover design and Kamadeva The God of Desire by Anuja Chandramouli is one such book. First the title is interesting, I haven’t really seen any books on Kamadeva and then the cover design is very nice.

This is the second book by the author, I read and reviewed the first one around a year back titled Arjuna Sagar of a Pandava  Warrior-Prince.

Rating

★★★★ (4 out of 5)

The Storyline

The story is about Kamadeva who is considered the god of desire in Hindu Mythology. It traces the incidents  where Bramha’s lust gives birth to Kamadeva and upon his birth itself how he is cursed to meet his death by the destroyer, Shiva.

He is wielding the sugarcane bow and flower-tipped arrows and he is powerful enough to create desire in any human or deva’s heart. He is supported in his adventures by his insanely beautiful wife Rati. Together they stay in Amravati and learn and later teach different art forms like dance, love-making, sword fight etc. The relationship of Kamadeva with his dad Bramha is not so cool. However his bonding with Indra is great and both have good time in Amravati with booze, music and hot girls (aka apsaras). However destiny plays its part, the curse takes effect and Kamadeva is reduced to ashes by Shiva when he tries to create desire in his heart for Parvati.

Kamadeva is reborn in human form as Krishna’s son Pradumnya and Rati as Mayawati the wife of an Asura king. Both meet again after several adventures and sexual revelries and many such other adventures follows during his life time.

What I Think

The story of Kamadeva is one that I haven’t really heard in any mythology circles so I was intrigued. The story starts well and gives details of how the god of desire was born and what was he really like. Different traits of the protagonist are very well explained by the author. The difference between him and his father Bramha, he wanting to do something worthwhile with his life rather than just being a ‘pimp’, his undying love towards Rati, his deep-rooted friendship with Indra and Vasant and many other facets of his character.

Author Anuja Chandramouli’s writing has blossomed a lot more since her last book Arjuna. The writing is so good and so different that you will wonder that is this really the second book by the author. In her first book also I liked the writing a lot but this time around it is even better and so much more different which brings a freshness to the entire story telling.The author tells the story in the contemporary English rather than trying to burden it with unnecessary heavy and arcane words that take the juice out of the story.

The friendship between Indra and Kamadeva, his love for Rati, the lust of Bramha, Shambara’s love for Maya, the son and father tension between Bramha and Kamdeva, and so many more relationships and situations are so beautifully written. And while the story progresses it also deals with many issues such as females being used as a commodity by the male kind and more. However she also manages to keep the story witty.

At so many places in the book the author uses, to what it may look like to some ‘crude’ language but never crosses the boundary. It appeared to me at certain places that the author is trying to test the limits, challenge our society and its deep-rooted beliefs in our gods and goddesses.

She puts them on equal platform to and in some cases worse than the mortals. Lust, deceit, debauchery, extra marital affairs, polygamy, adultery, friendship all the colors can be seen in this story and if you are a logical person you might start to question the actions of gods and goddesses whom you worship (which I always do whenever I read more about our gods and goddesses, but that’s another discussion for another day).

The biggest problem in the book is that there are just so many stories within one story of Kamadeva so much that many a times you just lose track of the main story. So many characters, devas, asuras, trinity, rishis, etc. cloud the entire story.

The story reads good in the first half but in the second half when Kamadeva is reborn as Pradumnya the story just drags on with so many subplots and sub-stories that it really gets boring. The book I think is 100 pages too long. Either the story had to be succinct to be covered within 250 pages or should have been broken into two volumes.

Including the stories of Krishna, Shiva, Indra, Kamsa, Jarasandh, Pandavas et al. is a little too much to chew in one book even if you devote 2 lines to each and moreover no one wants to read about them any more.

But that’s the only complain I have with this book other than that as I mentioned earlier the author has done a fantastic job with the topic, research and specially the writing.

Last Words

Anuja Chandramouli is slowly climbing up the ladder in my favorite Indian authors list. The style in which she has written this book, I just want to say Bravo!.

If you are a mythology fan I would very much recommend you to read you Kamadeva The God of Desire with a caveat that you should have the patience to read through some of the stories that you have already read umpteen times.

With her writing skills, some day I would very much like to see the author writing a work of fiction.

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

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Review: The Crossover by Sunil Sandeep

the crossover

the crossover

The Crossover open heart verses, came up for a review some time back. I got intrigued because when  I read the excerpt it said the book is a collection of poems. Now I haven’t really read poems in a very long time and by a new gen Indian author probably never.

So I had no idea what to expect from this book and have never heard of author Sunil Sandeep. But I took the plunge.

The book is a collection of poems which talks about soul, your inner voice, spirituality. The book is essentially divided into three sections “Why?”, “Reality” and “The Path”.

Unless we question things around us, life is not worth living and working towards self-consciousness, knowing yourself is a long arduous task but it has to begin with Why. The book is a collection of 50 such poems talking about these aspects.

To begin with I didn’t get much from the poems or it was a little difficult for me to understand what the author wanted to convey but slowly and gradually it grew on me. It deals with meaning of life, questioning everything we are doing, trying to find the purpose of your life, touching your soul and then suggesting you break the shackles and find the truth.

It’s a little difficult to express the writing in words as it talks about something that can be felt, understood but hard to explain. For that I give credit to the writer for attempting to do it. However I feel that he felt a little short of it. The writing is good but not very good and it sometimes become difficult for an average reader to understand what the writer wants to convey.

What I liked most are the illustrations besides every poem by Betty bileterka, very precise and imaginative.

If you have been ever confronted with the questions about life, soul and a higher realm I think you should read it and you might require reading it 2-3 times to understand it well but if you are into this materialistic world and think that all of it is BS then don’t bother.

 

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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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