Sunday, 24 June 2012

Brajesh's Review : Calico Joe

After a long time, I finished a book in one sitting. Started at 10pm and couldn't go to sleep until I was done with it around 1am. A very simple heartwarming story which is crafted in an extremely racy narrative. If you are a sports buff you will find greater connection and if you are a baseball buff, you have to read this NOW. I really didn't think the 25 page prologue explaining basics of baseball was required, but that could also be due to my basic knowledge of the sport. The books ability to bring the human emotions alive in a manner where the feelings of characters feel like mist on your mind is the real gem for me.

Rating : 4 / 5

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Smile A Little

Friends of mine who own the best bookshop in Cairo, posted this on their facebook page today. I loved it so much, I had to save it here on this blog where we share our love for the creatively written word.

Randy Glasbergen is a favourite of mine. His management cartoons are single shots like the cartoon below, but rank as high as Dilbert for me.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Brajesh's Review : The Boss is Not your Friend

Everything and everyone is bad & evil in the corporate world. That's the basic premise of this book. Difficult to sustain an entire book on such negativity and author realises this quickly to add some humour. Still he can't get over the continuous negative overtone and the book turns into a drag. Avoidable reading.

Rating : 2.5 / 5

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Brajesh's Review : Ubuntu

Nice thought, but I don't think it required an entire book. Could easily have been lucidly covered in a 1000 word article. Maybe the author's need to reach out to a larger audience forced him to repeat his formula structure from his last bestsellers Fish! & Fish Tales.

Loved the opening quote by Steve Biko "in the long run the special contribution to the world by Africa will be in the field of human relationship....."

Ubuntu does have the power to be one such concept. At the core it's about treating each colleague & subordinate as a complete human being (body+heart). Connecting on a human level.

Rating : 3 / 5

Monday, 11 June 2012

Kim's Review: The World Beyond

"The World Beyond" is author Sangeeta Bhargava's debut novel, but not her debut book. That honor goes to "Letters to My Baby", a book on pregnancy and baby care. Her 3rd book - "After The Storm" is also a novel of Historical Fiction but set in 1941.

The World beyond is set in the run up to the First War of Indian Independence in 1857. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Lucknow is ruler of Awadh and Prince Salim is his adopted son. Lucknow has just past its peak as a center of culture, music, dance, food, art and learning.

Rachel is the English daughter of Colonel Felix Bristow who looks down his nose upon all Indians (as most of the other English do) and Mrs. Margaret Bristow (who just cannot wait to go back to England permanently).Rachel however is an Indophile wanting to learn Indian music and in this pursuit she chances upon Prince Salim.

Prince Salim cannot be made heir because of the British law prohibiting adopted children from inheriting the throne, so he has no pretensions to the crown, but that does not make him any less of a Prince.

The backdrop of a glorious Lucknow makes the events that follow so much more horrendous. The history is well researched, but in the end the city and its history is a backdrop to the improbable love story.

I quite enjoyed the historical bits of the novel. As I said before, they are well researched. I have visited Lucknow a couple of times and now am slightly more aware of bits of history associated with the ruins I've chanced upon.

There are glimpses of perspectives  on the 1857 war from the English, an Indophile, the Nawab, his wife, his adopted son, Ahmed (Salim's cousin who is not in as comfortable a position as Salim), women in the zenana, Salim's daima (wet nurse), her daughter Chutki who loses her husband in the war, and Nayansukh (daima's son who was initially with the Nawabs army, but became part of the English army when the Nawab was "coerced" into dissolving his own army.

Sangeeta's blog actually has a few entries from Chutki's perspective and also Nayansukh's perspective that make for some interesting reading and I wish she had more of them. However, I guess she got busy with the new book and new characters took over her time.

I'm not much of a "Romance" reader, so I really can't comment on the love story. However the frequent "Pray, tell me"s and "Ya Ali's" in the dialogue irritated me after the first few repetitions (but this is a personal peeve)

"The World Beyond" is way better than the Kama Kahani series in its historical authenticity, but its not as engrossing as Indu Sundaresan.

Its a good book for a first time novelist and I will definitely pick up "After the Storm" too. I hope to see Sangeeta improve with each book she writes, because she seems quite prolific.

Rating: 3 / 5

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Kim's Review: Shadow Princess

Another brilliant book by Indu Sundaresan, following in the footsteps of  The Twentieth Wife and A Feast of Roses.

This book tells the tale of Shahjahan's daughters Jahanara and Roshanara and their brothers fights for their fathers throne. The British & Portuguese fight also gets more violent and it seems to reflect in the violence between the princes too.

Shahjahan who loses his wife Mumtaz Mahal within 4 years of being crowned emperor, begins to depend on his elder daughter Jahanara completely. Since his mother Jagat Gosini is long dead and he has exiled his fathers favourite wife Nur Jehan and his refusal to marry anyone else either when Mumtaz was alive or dead leaves a huge vaccum in the role of Padshah Begum of the zenana. Jahanara is forced to step up into this role too, which makes her sister Roshanara resent her all the more.

Given his complete depedence on his daughter and her resemblence to her mother whom he loved passionately, he refuses to let her marry out of fear of losing her too. And thus both the princesses are forced to remain spinsters inspite of being daughters of the most powerful man in India.

Thrust into these responsibilities at the age of 17, Jahanara is forced to sacrifice her love, ambitions, wants and desires for the sake of her father and be there for him at all times. This gave rise to a lot of gossip in that age which has been recorded by travellers to the Mughal darbar.

However, Indu Sundaresan as usual humanises her characters and you can't help feeling for the plight of these 2 princesses who should have had the world at their feet but couldn't. It just brings home the fact that being born a princess isn't the start or end of a fairytale, it could very well be an unending nightmare.

I heavily recommend this trilogy for anyone visiting the Mughal Monuments of Delhi, Agra and Fatehpur Sikri. It just helps set an atmosphere that you can then use to let your imagination run wild while taking in the beauty of these monuments.

Also read my reviews of The Twentieth Wife and A Feast of Roses.

Rating: 4 / 5

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Kim's Review: Tradewinds to Meluhha

Trade Winds to Meluhha is set in the Bronze Age of which little is known except for the bits and pieces of archaeological evidence gathered from sites in Mesopotamia (Sumer= Iraq  & around), Egypt and the Indus Valley (Meluhha - India + Pakistan).

Vasant Dave first came upon such a site, when visiting the 4,000 year old port at Lothal near Ahmedabad and storm channels at Dholavira in the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat and that was the starting point for this Bronze Age Novel.

Set during King Shulgi's reign in Babylon, the story is supposed to have taken place around 2138-37BC, three centuries before the great King Hammurabi founded the first Babylonian empire.

The tale follows Samasin, a stable boy in the house of the wealthy Babylonian Nergal. One day he is falsely implicated in the murder of a visiting Meluhhan businessman. Tipped off by Nergal's divorced wife Elati, he flees to the distant land of Meluhha in search of Siwa Saqra whose name the dying Meluhhan had uttered. During the course of the voyage, he falls in love with Velli who is still devoted to a man who jilted her. He also meets Anu, a Sumérian hairdresser in Meluhha, who conceals her true nationality until she can exact her revenge.

Circumstances bring all the characters together in Babylon when they discover the truth about the trade between Meluhha and Sumér, and the identity of the brain behind the operations. A trial before Babylon's Council of Elders ends in a serious counter-allegation that jeopardizes the judiciary itself. After a hot pursuit beyond the Lower Sea, the culprit is brought to book and sentenced to death.

Vasant has taken great care in adhering to historical accuracy as far as possible. He got Dr.Ratnagar an expert on this era to whet the book and took her feedback seriously. He had assumed wide use of camels as means of transport in Meluhha & had timed the hero Samasin's travel accordingly. Dr. Ratnagar pointed out the rarity of the camel in the Indus Valley during the time period of the novel. Single-humped Dromedary camels were not yet domesticated and double-humped Bactrian camels were rare. Ox-carts were the common mode of transport. The change resulted in rescheduling the entire travel plan which had to be completed before trade winds changed direction and the voyage back to Sumér was made impossible.

The Tradewinds of Meluhha is quite a page turner. The names initially are a bit of tongue & brain twisters, but once you get the hang of it, its much easier to keep pace.

Given that the names of places used in this story are ancient ones, I really wished I had this book in hard copy so I could keep referring back to the map. However, taking a printout of that single page, solved that problem for me.

The book needs a good editor to tighten the grammar, sentence structure, long winding sentences and spelling errors, but this is a problem faced by a lot of authors who self-publish.

The author has remained true to facts as far as possible, but in some cases (like laws that actually came into play during the later reign of Hammurrabi, rather than Shulgi during whose reign this novel is set) he has taken a few liberties which are perfectly acceptable for a writer of fiction.

While the setting may be pre-historical, the emotions are real. The reader can empathise with the hero and the emotions that he goes through although at times I wonder if he was so blind that he could not recognise people in front of him. He shows great logical skills in certain tasks and seems completely idiotic in not recognising the man who tries to kill him multiple times in various guises.

Its quite an exciting story and unique in its settings both in terms of time and space.

I have my fingers crossed that Vasant may find a good publisher to help him edit and bring out this book in hard copy.

Find out more about the author at Smashwords where you can download the free ebook, How I Wrote A Pre-Historic Novel.

This post is a part of Vasant Dave's blog tour:

1. Book Cover Justice   ...     ...
2. Indie BookSpot       ...     ...
3. Journey Reader       ...     ...
4. Kim & Brajesh's Bookshelf    ...
5. Kindle And Me        ...     ...
6. Life of an Intimate Flying Object
7. So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
8. Susan Russo Anderson ...     ...
9. Writing Sleuth       ...     ... 

Trade Winds To Meluhha by Vasant Davé is available as e-Book in various formats from the following web-sites:

Barnes & Noble

Friday, 1 June 2012

Kim's Review: Feast of Roses

The Feast of Roses begins where The Twentieth Wife ended. Mehrunnisa is now Empress Nur Jahan. Her daughter Ladli is also adopted by Emperor Jehangir and her life seems to be much better on the surface after the trials of the last few decades.

While she constantly rises to Jehangirs expectations and her mother-in-law Ruqayya Begum is willing to teach her all she needs to know about trade and politics, she has a formidable rival in Empress Jagat Gosini, Jehangirs first wife. She finds supporters amongst the courtiers who are angered by Mehrunnisas influence over the Emperors thoughts & actions in court.

The long dangling engagement of Prince Khurram (later ShahJahan) to her niece Arjumand Banu Begum (Mumtaz Mahal) is finally converted into a marriage because of the efforts of Mehrunnissa and Ladli. But once Arjumand is secure in Khurrams affections, she too begins to resent her aunts influence over the Emperor. Khurram who was brought up by Mehrunnissa is besotted by his wife and refuses Mehrunnissas offer of Ladli's hand in marriage at her insistence.

Thus begins the split between Khurram and Mehrunnissa and Jehangir. Mehrunnissa who wants a Royal husband for her daughter is forced to settle for Shahryar even though Ladli is in love with Khurram. This makes her take up Shahryars cause as heir to the throne.

In the background is the ongoing tussle for supremacy between the Portuguese and the English.

This story ends with Jehangirs death and Mehrunnissa being banished from court by Emperor Shah Jahan and Empress Mumtaz Mahal.

The book is very well written like The Twentieth Wife. There are so many similarities in the life stories of Mehrunnissa and the Chinese Empress Orchid. Strong women, married to the Emperor, having to face internal politics of the harem and external politics of men who resent the womens influence on matters of trade and politics even though the women were both well informed and skilled tacticians. Both had to face the British incursions and machinations and both were widely reviled by the public. I also see a bit of similarity with the story line of Mastani. I wonder how many more women had similar story lines in the days of kings and queens in societies where women were expected to neither be seen nor heard.

I do wonder how things would have turned out if Khurram had actually married Ladli and continued to live under the benevolence of Mehrunnissa. There was so much more that she could have taught him and guided him through. Maybe Aurangzeb would never have been able to come to power, maybe Jahannara and Roshanara would have been able to lead normal lives. Maybe Arjuman would not have died within 4 years of being crowned Empress. Maybe together as a united front they could have kept both the English and the Portuguese in their places. Maybe. . . .

Rating: 4 / 5

Also Read My Review of The Twentieth Wife.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...