Monday, 12 May 2014

Kim's Review : Ajaya - Epic of the Kaurava Clan - Roll of the Dice


"Ajaya" is Anand Neelakantan's second book, but the first one that I read (I had bought Ravana as soon as it came out, but its still lying unread in my bookshelf.)

A chance visit to a small village in South India, that was celebrating the feast of Suyodhana (popularly known as Duryodhana) planted the seed of this thought in his mind and we the readers are truly blessed for having the opportunity to read what he conceptualised.

In this tale, Suyodhana is the righteous one and the Pandavas are the illegitimate children of the younger brothers wife who are conspiring to take control of the kingdom. The same stories that all of us have learnt about the Mahabharata from childhood, are turned on their head as propaganda by the victors of the war - the Pandavas.

Parashurama and his belief in the strict observance of class rules, forms a backdrop to the setting of this version of the Ramayana. Dhaumya is his mouthpiece/spy in Hastinapura who then allies with Kunti and her sons to spout his beliefs.

Duryodhana is the enlightened, sensitive one who truly wants to do his best to uplift his subjects from their misery.

The whole tale is retold from a more practical and believable point of view and this alone makes it worth reading multiple times (to catch the many nuances)

Rating : 4.5 / 5

Also read Brajesh's Review of this book.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Brajesh's Review : Purple Hibiscus

The Purple Hibiscus is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's debut novel. This is the story of a young teenaged girl struggling with growing-up, love and family conflict. The story is set in the background of Nigerian political turmoil and religious conversion and fanatical beliefs of converts.

I was quietly sucked into the simple and structured life of Kambili and fanatical and complex life of Eugene (her Papa) through a narrative which was thick, rich and layered. As the story grew, I was torn between hating Eugene and trying to appreciate his complex persona. In the end his religiously anchored justifications were unable to hide the evil of violent intolerance.

While the book gave lots of insights into the Nigerian life of 70s-80s, it wasn’t able to keep me emotionally involved beyond the first half. With such a powerful emotional narrative, the novel’s inability to keep me invested throughout, was a let-down for me.

The book also includes a short essay titled “Tiny Wonders” at the end of the novel. This explains the autobiographical inspirations for the book, from Adichie’s early years in Nigeria.

Her next novel “Half of a yellow sun” seems to have made a greater splash in the African-English-Literature genre, but I am not entirely convinced to pick it up as my next read.

Rating : 3 / 5

Also read Kim's Review of Purple Hibiscus


Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Brajesh's Review : Jest in time

"Jest in time" was launched as part of the TOI’s 175 year celebration.

I had a big smile on me, for the entire duration of the book. The layout of each page is lovely, the cartoons obviously speak a million words, and the journey of 175 years is a breeze.

I would recommend this book as a collector’s item, a coffee table, a history book or just pure joyful graphic art. In each of its avatars the book is a delight.

The journey from RK to Ninan to Neelabh is a story in itself and rather than write too much about the book I will let you sample a few pages of beauty.

Rating : 4 / 5

Monday, 5 May 2014

Brajesh's Review : Island of a Thousand Mirrors

Reading Nayomi Munaweera's, "Island of a Thousand Mirrors", which is set against the backdrop of the Tamil-Sinhala Lankan civil war, bought a great sense of melancholy to me.

I could almost feel the physical pain enter my body, through the pages, as I uncovered the horrors of civil war in my neighboring country.

The story is a fictional autobiography of two girls Yasodhara and Saraswathi, one Sinhalese - one Tamil.

The narrative is deeply personal and brought an unusual connection with the pain and story both. The book remains non-judgmental and leaves the reader with a feeling of futility towards any armed struggle, irrespective of ones ideological position. In the end only war is the sole winner as both sides lose.

The story of "Island of a Thousand Mirrors" moves swiftly from Sri-Lanka to US and back, while continuously pushing the story of Yasodhara forward. This book also touches on the trauma of displacement and emigration with a lot of sensitivity.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Brajesh's Review : The Laws of Spirit - A Tale of Transformation

I have never really liked/enjoyed self-help books, and this one also turned out to be an ordinary read. Dan Millman's "The Laws of Spirit - A Tale of Transformation" uses fable like construction to narrate the 12 universal laws.

While each of the laws of Balance, Choice, Process, Presence, Compassion, Faith, Expectation, Integrity, Action, Cycles, Surrender, and Unity are beautiful and noble, the book itself sounds too righteous and idealistic and is unlikely to connect with a modern audience.

Since a friend had gifted this to me, I read it, but would advise you to avoid.

Rating : 2 / 5

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Brajesh's Review : The 5th Wave

I am not a fan of Sci-Fi, and so I was reading a sci-fi book after a very long time, this book just happened to be Rick Yancey's "The 5th Wave"

So they never arrived with any good intentions, there was no close encounter of the 3rd kind or ET like love. It was just one wave after another in the form of 1. Lights Out, 2. Surf’s Up, 3. Pestilence and 4. Silencer.

And then the 5th Wave arrives. . . .

Cassie the protagonist, struggles for survival, fights her way through near death, loses her family and finds her love. Obviously she also fights the alien invasion and saves the world.

While this all sounds formulaic the book never gets predictable. You will keep turning the pages of this Sci-Fi thriller to know what happens next and I can guarantee you won’t be able to guess any of it.

The next wave is releasing in summer of 2014 and I will surely pick it up.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Friday, 2 May 2014

Brajesh's Review : Stephen King - On Writing

 "Stephen King - On Writing" was gifted to me by a fellow “lover of the words”. 

The book is in two parts. In part one, Stephan King takes us through his life in 100 pages. He then defines writing and follows up with part two over 150 pages titled “Toolkit”.

Every budding writer MUST read this book. I am confident that this book must have already changed the lives of many writers and will continue to do so for many more decades to come.

The advice is real and confident, it never gets preachy or idealistic.

The two fundamental lessons were as simple as “read a lot and write a lot”. The narrative is so intimate that you can feel Stephen King’s breath on your shoulder while you are reading.

This book also has some amazing extras in the form of his personal read-list and a real first hand draft of two edits of his story 1408.

I have post-its sticking out of almost every page of my copy of this book and I will keep going back to this book for life.

I have already learned lesson one Mr. King, no adverbs in this review. I would close the review by quoting from the last section of the book titled “On Living, A Postscript”. “ Writing isn’t about making money , getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching lives”.

Rating : 4.5 / 5

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Brajesh's Review : Garbage Bin

If you were born between 1965 - 1980 anywhere in the Hindi heartland, you will roll on the floor (yes, actual ROTFL) when reading this cartoon-strip-collection.

A colleague "bhaiya" from UP gifted this to me and by the end of the book, I turned a fan of Guddu.

Instead of a longish review, I am attaching pictures of a few sections which are bound to bring a few smiles. A host of important nuggets of my teenage life are captured beautifully by Faisal Mohd...

You can also follow Guddu and Gang on their Facebook page

Rating : 4 / 5

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