Book Review, Non-Indian authors

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I have a couple of thumb-rules regarding reading. My thumb-rules are a discussion for another day. 

But, why I brought it up today is because I broke some of my rules for this Booker shortlisted novel here. For one, I never watch a movie before reading the book. Two, I try to never buy a book with the movie poster for its cover. I like when books have virgin (referring to covers from before the movie was made) covers, still innocent and untouched by the movies adaptations. *sigh* However, here I broke these rules and I don’t feel guilty. For one, I want to watch the movie again! And then, I might read the book again. No book I’ve read recently has touched me the way this has. So my review might be coloured by my love for Kathy and Tom.

Kazuo Ishiguro weaves a simple world of a bunch of normal teens who turn out to be out-of-normal. He poses a philosophical question of love and emotion over science. To write anything more will serve as a spoiler and hence I shall refrain. His simple language renders a rare tenderness and gravity to the narrative. His tone in third person is impartial yet effortlessly shifts from strong to tender when need be.

In quite some time, a novel hasn’t really haunted me the way this one has. Never Let Me Go reads like a regular YA teenage love drama between Kathy, Tom and . You instantly feel that it’s a love-triangle- which it totally is- but then it gently creeps up on you that it is much more than just that. Their reality permeates into your psyche smoothly filling you with a cocktail of an uneasiness that only a good dystopia can render.

Verdict: To sum it up in three words – It’s a must read! It’s an emotional dystopian sci-fi that is very human at it’s heart.

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Book Review, Indian authors

Unladylike: A memoir by Radhika Vaz

To all the unladies out there who refuse to be bound by the rules of feminity.

A short-haired woman in red lipstick adorning a white tutu sitting in a majestic brown leather couch with her waxed legs wide apart sporting a ‘f***k-all’ expression like she doesn’t wp-image-973029516give a rat @$$ is a sight to behold on a book-cover. It’s a total badass, bold statement! Simply that and a tiny excerpt of the introduction and I was sold (thanks to an Amazon discount sale). I had known nothing else about the writer apart from that she is a comedienne. And women with a slick humor sense is something I always appreciate.

So, lo and behold. Here’s a woman who is in a constant repartee with her self, her sexuality and the society as such. The memoir starts in a classic childhood, teenage, adolescence, adulthood mode. Radhika Vaz started a confused kid and is over being confused as hell. And, the confidence she has gained with years spills from cover to cover. This is her way of dealing with her identity crisis- something she is in constant battle with and has come out unscathed. She writes of her tryst with body image issues, and with gender stereotypes. Her first period, her first kiss and the first time she watched porn- all make for good reads. It’s funny, honest and devoid of any voyeuristic pleasures. She is refreshingly brash, open and doesn’t give a fuck about the official ‘sanskaar’ brigade.

Her first period, her first kiss and the first time she watched porn- all make for good reads. It’s funny, honest and devoid of any voyeuristic pleasures. Enter adolescence and she bares her boy-girl stories with a clinically precise comic timing. It’s devoid of too much emotion-just enough to keep you interested. The chapters where she deals with her decision to not have a child if for every woman to read. If you have had a child, or are planning to, or are considering being childless or what not, you simply have to read her POV because it’s amazingly refreshing to know that people aren’t always pining and whining for kids! She just casually lets you know that it’s ok to secretly and not so secretly hate noisy and bratty kids!

At the end of the day, this ad agency exec-turned-comedienne has written a book that is easy to read. It has something for a wide variety of women. Read it if you are looking for a light, soft, easy-breezy book that’ll keep you company for a sound 3hrs, this is it!

Verdict: A tongue-in-cheek memoir of an identity crisis tackled successfully. If you are a teenager this book will help you know that you are not alone.

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Book Review, Indian authors

In the Name of God by Ravi Subramanian

Banker-turned-writer Ravi Subramanian’s 2017 release has nothing to do with banking. After a successful series of financial and banking thrillers that ensued the literati since If 

In the name of GodGod was a Banker, Ravi Subramanian is stepping out of his forte to deliver a crime thriller on the lines of John Grisham and James Patterson. His new novel, In the Name of God begins and ends in the capital city of Kerala, where I call home- Thiruvananthapuram. But in the span of 400 pages, Ravi Subramanian takes you on a whirlwind across continents before the suspense and thrill are put to rest.

The novel is mainly fiction. However, the story is largely based on real places, people, and incidents.Since Thiruvananthapuram is fondly named after the deity, Sree Padmanabhan is a sentiment to the natives. Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple stands tall at the heart of Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala. The temple houses 6 vaults (A to F). The vaults to  F have been opened numerous times under supervision and most of the riches in the vaults have been cataloged recently. However, the and vaults in the temple that have not been opened or cataloged for centuries and this has been a wire topic here down south. While the real-life incidents are a developing story back home, Ravi Subramanian’s thriller borrows quite a lot from the newspapers to be fictionalized. His story is that and lot more.

I haven’t read any of the author’s previous works and hence had no frame of reference

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Image courtesy: thirtysixandcounting.wordpress.com

or expectations from Ravi Subramanian. If anything, I was slightly apprehensive as this novel is based on places I still call home. But, Ravi did not slightly bit disappoint. He is often quoted saying that he would love to be known as the John Grisham of banking or finance thrillers. Who am I to judge! But I would definitely count on this thriller to be on the lines of a James Patterson – for keeping up the thrill and pace. Kabir Khan, the additional director for CBI who is played up as ‘India’s finest’ in cutting through bureaucracy, prejudice, and red-tapism is your run-of-the-mill detective with near to nil character detailing. You hardly “see” or “feel” his character through the pages. And for that reason alone I don’t see this novel being drawn into a ‘Kabir Khan’ series of investigations in the future. Interestingly, Kabir Khan, the officer in the Culture & Heritage crime dept who walks in to investigate a crime involving a temple is the son of an inter-religious couple. I was instantly amused at the clearly conscious choice of name for the officer and his placement in a religiously charged backdrop. Last but not the least, I found the book cover designing

Last but not the least, whatever happened to creative and attractive book covers! The plain and unimaginative cover art is the single-most off-putting aspect of the book. And apart from that, the book is quite an engaging, fast paced thriller. Written in the simplest of language the narration is a no-brainer, meaning puts no pressure on the reader. So, I don’t know about John Grisham, but I do think Ravi Subramanian is India’s James Patterson for his easily digestible thriller.

Verdict: For a book of 400+ page this one is a fast-paced easy to read thriller. It’s meant for the casual reader who loves thrill and adventure.

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Book Review, Non-Indian authors

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

British author Paula Hawkins became a New York Times best-selling author with her debut psychological thriller The Girl on the Train in 2015. The book flew off the counter

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Paula Hawkins

and then the movie happened. Though the movie didn’t fare quite well, the book was still sought after. Though the book also garnered quite mixed reactions; readers had a love-hate relationship with it. Into The Water, is her second thriller, that hit the stands last month. The cover of the book, however, looked intriguing enough for me to grab a copy! The water on the cover did add to the element of mystery to the story.

 

into the waterSo, without much ado let me dive into the deep waters of Paula Hawkin’s second psychological thriller ‘Into the Water’. The story, as her previous, is based in Britain- in the sleepy countryside of Bedford, just off London. The story surrounds Drowning Pool, “a place to get rid of troublesome women.” Nel Abbott wants to document the women who have lost their lives at the Drowning Pool through photographs and has been working on the project amidst some vocal objections. The story starts as Nel Abbott is found dead in the Drowning Pool and her estranged sister, Jules is called in as the only surviving guardian to Nel’s 15-year old daughter, Lena.

The story gives you the creeps in parts and parcels. There is mystery, intrigue and an element of the supernatural neatly weaved in. But most importantly, there are over 11 POVs, sometimes contradictory, through which the story is being said (good luck with that!). In true Paula Hawkins style, all the male characters in this novel as abusive and morally corrupt while women are victims of their circumstances. For those who find that disturbing, welcome to the club. For a thriller the book, at times, seems to drag the story to no end. But there is a mystery and I read it till the very end so I don’t miss the reveal in the end.

Verdict: If you a Paula Hawkins fan go right ahead for this dark tale of intrigue. And fans of thrillers might want to take on this book with some patience.

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Book Review, Indian authors

‘The Poison of Love’ by KR Meera

Love is like milk. With the passage of time, it sours, splits and becomes poison.

The novel opens with these lines that give the reader a taste of what is about to unfold inram the next 100 pages. It is about love- bitter and resentful, raw and vengeful, but at the same time innocent and needy. But, make no mistake this is not a cheerful story of love, but on the contrary an exotic, erotic and dark tale of love. This is the story of Tulsi and her tryst with her all consuming love for Madhav.

Tulsi, an IIT rank-holder is from a respected family in Kerala. She falls in love with a handsome and charming journalist, Madhav and elopes with him before her wedding. The novella takes you through her life from that to her ending up at Vrindavan as a Meera sadhu who lived on a ration and begged for alms.

This tragic anti-love novella titled in Malayalam as Meera sadhu by award-winning writer KR Meera is translated by Ministhy S. Much like her other short-stories with ‘The Poison of Love KR Meera is at her best literary form. The language is simple, concise and intense. The story is too short. Except a few repetitive phrases sprawling across the narrative, the story is relatable for anyone who has dared to love and has gone through the numbing pain of loss.

Verdict: An intense anti-love story like I have never read before.

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Book Review, Indian authors

Sita Warrior of Mithila : Book 2 of Ram Chandra Series by Amish

Yada yada hi dharmasya glanirbhavati suvrata|

Abhyuttthanamadharmasya tada prakritisambhavah||

O keeper of righteous vows, remember this,

Whenever dharma is in decline, Or there is an upsurge of adharma:

The Sacred Feminine will incarnate.

Amish’s Ram Chandra series had its debut with The Scion of Ikshvaku 2 years ago. Fans have been waiting for the release of Sita Warrior of Mithila since then. I do not claim fealty to Sita_Warrior_of_Mithila_coverthe fandom, let me confess, I haven’t read The Scion of Ikshvaku beyond a few chapters. I left it alone since I found it dragging in a manner familiar to me from Amish’s The Oath of the Vayuputras from the Shiva Trilogy (don’t get me wrong, I liked the book, the climax even). The slow place was acceptable to me there because it was the end of a series I had so dearly followed. Besides the characters in the narrative had all felt fresh and real. The Scion of Ikshvaku felt like it was merely riding on the fame and anticipation the Shiva Trilogy has caused in its splendor. However, the trailer and the cover of this book did not fail to appeal to my senses. Inspite of that, I began reading Sita Warrior of Mithila with ample apprehension and timidity. And then, the first chapter of the book happened!

After the first chapter I literally closed the book and said, “Amish, you have me hook line and sinker!” In here Sita is a badass! She is a warrior worth her salt. She is intelligent, smart and pragmatic. And yes, she means business! The story revolves around her cause and the means she adopts for it. She constantly reminds you of a modern working woman who has to balance her work and personal life, albeit with a very supportive and understanding partner who shares her goal. It’s a relationship in perfect harmony. *sigh* The story here has a pace, quite comfortable to any reader. The language is simple and comprehensible. But, that’s the thing with Amish! His works are known for the freshness of the plot than decorative language. Though in this case, the language is also overly descriptive and screenplay-ish, which is quite possibly intentional given his eye for detail.

AmishThe story here has a pace, quite comfortable to any reader. The language is simple and comprehensible. But, that’s the thing with Amish! His works are known for the freshness of the plot than decorative language. Though in this case, the language is also overly descriptive and screenplay-ish, which is quite possibly intentional given his eye for detail. He subtly touches contemporary debate points like meat-eating and Jallikettu. But fails to make a decisive statement anywhere. At some places, Amish seems to be struggling to defend certain characters in alignment to how we know them from the popular epic, Ramayan. And, throughout the narrative, his politics seems to be diplomatic. I would have loved a little more bravado, but still not complaining.

Amish explains his style of narration in this series as multi-linear, i.e, the first three books will respectively be in Ram’s, Sita’s and Raavan’s perspectives. All these three books start and end at the kidnapping of Sita by Raavan. The fourth and last book in the series will be the conclusive one that’ll take the story ahead and tie everything neatly with a bow. This means that a lot many parts of the story will be repeated in all three books. So, for readers intending to read the books one after the other may be at a disadvantage. But it also means that no matter where you start reading the series, between book 1 to 3, you do not miss out on the story.

 

Verdict: It is fresh, and fast! This Sita is to watch out for. Ram Chandra series is picking up with this installment of the story. So if you are a fan of the genre, you might not want to miss this.

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Book Review, Indian authors

Olympus: An Indian Retelling of the Greek Myths

Very few writers incite in me the urge to reach for their books at the devdutt_660_041113063104mere sight of their names on the cover and Devdutt Pattanaik is one of them because, according to me, he is the master of retellings. His works, Jaya and Sita have been revelations to me; and The Pregnant King is still one of my favorites. His stronghold seems to be his ability to stay subjectively objective in drawing from mythology what is relevant to the ever changing modern scenario. He is not a puritanist bogged down by the conservative traditionalist. Neither is he dismissive of the western view on Indian mythology. He understands that it is important to stand firmly grounded on the cultural nuances to understand and interpret Indian mythology. So when such a reasonable and learned man shifts his gaze to Greek mythology, and you love reading mythology, you follow suit.

olympusOlympus: The Indian Retelling of the Greek Myths comes to me in my near total ignorance of Greek Mythology, but for a few stories here and there. And, because I read from cover to cover, the Author’s note required atleast three reading of me because I believe that is the most important part of the book. It prepares you for what follows by giving you a briefing as to what Greek mythology came about geographically, politically, socially and culturally. The book is later divided into 8 books each for a Greek God and the mythical stories surrounding them.

Pattanaik, as expected of him, doesn’t stray from drawing parallels between Indian and Greek Mythologies. He finds parallels between characters, incidents, and ideologies. This book, like any good book, has worked up my curiosity about Greek mythology.

Pattanaik’s writing is simple and straightforward as always. The stories are almost journalist and to-the-point and the notes that follow are where he lets his analytical and reasoning brain at work. This is the kind of book you go back to for light reading. The stories are prophetic, pragmatic and sometimes cringe-worthy-all of what is beautifully handled by Pattanaik’s simple language that keeps him an observer and narrator, at a safe distance from all action. I would go as far as calling him a modern day Sanjaya, the commentator of the Mahabharata war to the blind King Dhritarashtra.

P.S. I would love for Devdutt Pattanaik to turn his gaze towards South Indian folklores, which otherwise seem to be largely neglected. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know his fresh and progressive views on the myths down south?

Verdict: This book is for Greek mythology neophytes and can serve as your crash course in the same.

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