Thursday, 31 July 2014

Brajesh's Review : Private India

If I pick up an Ashwin Sanghi, I want to be sucked into the complex, multilayered world of symbols, rituals and mysteries. If I pick up a pure thriller, I like to be entertained like Lee Child. Unfortunately this collaboration between a historical fiction writer & symbologist (Ashwin Sanghi) and a thriller master (James Patterson), falls somewhere in-between.

This collaborative writing effort between the two authors, where one writes a part and then the other builds and writes some more and then it all comes together in final editing, is an interesting experiment and never compromises the fluidity of the narrative. Where the experiment failed is giving depth to the story, both from a point of view of a thriller and a historical fiction.

While Ashwin Sanghi ensures a few mandatory symbols and rituals in the story-line, these are fairly elementary and remain incidental to the main story line. The Mumbai showcased in the book is clichéd with the presence of Dharavi criminals, Colaba’s page 3 parties, Bollywood-Underworld Nexus, Local Train chases and equally clichéd Mumbai landmarks like Haji Ali Durgah, Mahim Church, VT Station, Muhammad Ali Road and Arthur Road Jail.

The story is a serial killer’s revenge saga with a liberal dose of sex, action, murder, terrorism and corruption.

Legendary James Patterson has built the “Private Series” as a franchise where he uses protagonist Jack Morgan’s US based PI service as the anchor. The franchise expands into India through the character of a troubled cop Santosh, who leads the India practice of Private.

This model is flexible to extend the Private franchise to newer countries and the inner jacket gives us a peak into a few such titles like Private London, Private Berlin, Private Down Under and Private L.A.

I was also introduced to the legend of James Patterson through the list of his published works printed at the end of the novel. This listed over 100 titles of his. I have attached a picture of these to give you an idea of how prolific James Patterson has been. It only clicked to me, once Kim started rattling off all the James Patterson - Alex Cross movies (mostly starring Morgan Freeman) that we have watched.

Unfortunately “Private India” was a disappointment for me and I will be careful in choosing my next James Patterson.

Rating : 3 / 5

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Brajesh's Review : Malavikagnimitram (Sanskrit Translation)

Malavikagnimitram is a Sanskrit Play by Kalidasa, recently Translated into English by Srinivas Reddy. Thanks to this translations, I had a chance to read one of Kalidasa’s work.

This play is about the love affair of King Agnimitra with Malavika his Queen’s maid servant. Early in the play the king is smitten by the beauty and dance of Malavika. The play then unfolds through the King’s friend and Vidusaka Gautama, who plots one scheme after another to ensure an opportunity for King to express his love.

The play is classically constructed over 5 acts and has a relatively simple story line with a happy ending. In the simplicity of plot the character development, poetic language and situational nuances hold the audience. This translation has done a great job of ensuring that the poetic flavor of the original Sanskrit isn't lost.

The first part of the book, give us a peek into the world of Kalidasa and his literature, through sections on History, Art, Language and Translation and prepares us well to appreciate the craft.

This play is part of the early literary work of Kalidasa and is relatively of simpler construction. The introduction also prepares us to enjoy the nuances of the play through a series of insights like Sanskrit being the language of elite and Prakrit being the language of commoner.

Kalidasa is the most translated Sanskrit poet, and possibly the most translated Indian writer of all times, I look forward to finding similar good quality translations of his other epics of Abhigyaanshakuntalam & Meghdoot.

The rating is for the translation, as I am obviously inadequate to rate the great poet, without reading this in the original form.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Kim's Review : Divergent Trilogy - Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant

You might think that Veronica Roth's Divergent Trilogy is just another fantasy trilogy aimed at Young Adults. But Divergent is host to much more "human" characters. The characters themselves aren't superhuman / werewolves / vampires / ghosts or zombies. Think Hunger Games rather than Infernal Devices.

This world (of Divergent) is confined to a fenced-in semi fantasy dystopian Chicago, where the lake has dried up, but the EL still zips across town. The town itself is crumbling in places. This world is divided into 5 factions. Each faction has its own manifesto, values, beliefs, demeanour and dress code. They are mostly grouped along the lines of what they think is the cause for errors in human nature and this decides their values, vocations and faction.

The factions are :
Abnegation - Blame selfishness and hence promote selflessness. Volunteer to help the city and individuals and always place others above themselves. Because of this selflessness, they are thought to be morally incorruptible and hence most of the City Leaders are chosen from this faction.

Dauntless - Blame cowardice and prize bravery. Their responsibilities to the city, center around security, so they work at protecting the borders, weapons manufacturing, tattoo artists and the like.

Erudite - Blame ignorance for the ills in society and pursue learning and wisdom, prizing intelligence. They form the city's librarians, doctors, scientists, and teachers.

Amity - Blame conflict and value democracy and peace. They take care of the farms which produce the food for the city.

Candor - Blame dishonesty and prize truthfulness over everything else. They see the world in black and white and mostly work as lawyers.

This whole world seems self contained and no one knows what exists (if anything does) outside the city fences.

While children live with their parents until 16, once they attain this age there is a ceremony every year in which the 16 year olds can choose which faction they want to belong to, in a public ceremony.

Once they choose their factions, there is a series of training and tests depending on the faction and whoever fails is deemed factionless condemned to live in slum like areas and get jobs like garbage disposal. If they clear all the training, they are initiated into their faction and become part of the faction family. If they choose a different faction than that of their parents, very often the parents cut of ties with their children or the new faction discourages their holding on to old ties, because they firmly believe "Faction before blood"

*** Spoiler Alert Begins  ***

To give a gist of each book, there area few plot lines revealed here. Skip ahead to 'Spoiler Alert Ends' if you want to keep the suspense alive.

The First Book in this trilogy - Divergent - is a complete page turner. It tells the tale of Beatrice 'Tris' Prior who chooses the Dauntless faction over her families Abnegation faction. But she hides a deep secret. In the faction test, she turned out to be "Divergent" - the rare case of someone who displays the aptitude and characteristics of more than one Faction. Beatrice could remain Abnegation or choose between Dauntless and Erudite. She chooses Dauntless and the rest of the book hurtles forward in true Dauntless fashion, you really don't know what to expect next.

The story development is really strong and all the ensemble characters are memorable. The plot line intriguingly weaves in romance, suspense, excitement, political maneuvering, back room deals etc which makes this a racy thriller to read. Tris has to do her best to save her parents from a Machiavellian Plot with serious repercussions for her world.

Of course, since this is a Young Adult Fantasy novel there is enough Romance to get the young female audience hooked and much like Edward and Jacob from Stephanie Meyers - Twilight series, I foresee a huge Tobias 'Four' Eaton fan following.

The Second Book in this trilogy is Insurgent. It starts off immediately where Divergent ended. With most of the Abnegation faction dead, a few refugees seeking shelter in the Amity compound. The Divergent army wakes up from the simulation. Those who are horrified with what they were forced to do, leave the faction, the rest unite with Erudite to control the city under Jeanine Matthews.

It turns out that "Divergent" is not really as rare as it was though to be, and there are plenty of them in the factionless section of town.

While quite a few lead characters die in Divergent, there is one character who comes back to life in Insurgent and plays a very important part in this book and Allegiant.

There is another upheaval within Tris's city and a lot more bloodshed, but finally the secret that the Abnegation wanted to reveal to the general population, but Jeanine Matthews wanted to keep concealed is out.

In Allegiant - the third part of the trilogy, a lot more is revealed. While the factionless have a grip on all the weapons and hence hold the power of the city forcing everybody to forget their original factions, a couple of the original cast join up with the resistance and head outside the city fences and realise that whatever they believed about their lives was almost a complete lie. Their lives have been almost like the Truman Show. a Genetic Experiment. And then a larger caste system is shown to be at work on the "outside" one based on genetic purity.

Where do Tris and Tobias stand on this genetic scale ? what can they do about it? What can they do to save their city which is on the brink of another major meltdown?

*** Spoiler Alert Ends ***

Each of these books was a page turner, I cannot really say that one was better than the other. They are all very well written. While the first 2 books are written from Tris' perspective, I loved the fact that we got to see a couple of chapters from Tobias' perspective in Allegiant. I think he has a much more complicated world view and that makes him more interesting.

I definitely am not a great fan of the ending, but I can see why Veronica Roth took that direction. 

Tris and Tobias are quite engaging characters and I loved Christina, Will, Zeke, Uriah and Marlene too. My only frustration with Tris is that she takes on too much responsibility on her own shoulders and would have greatly benefited from 'talking things out", but I guess this character flaw helps keep the story line moving.

There is one scene in a hotel room in Allegiant which was reminiscent of watching a Hollywood movie on Indian or Egyptian television, where it feels like a scene was cut out and just jumped to the next scene. This however helps keep the series PG 13, except for some heavy kissing scenes in all 3 books (for those who are considering whether to buy it for their kids)

Really glad I read this series after all 3 books came out. The suspense would have frustrated me if I had read them serially as they came out. (The George Martin Game of Thrones series is still driving me crazy, wondering about what is yet to come)

Rating : 4.5 / 5

Brajesh's Review : Moon Mountain

As I was putting my last graphic novel - Mumbai Confidential back in the book-shelf, I noticed that this graphic novel - Moon Mountain - in our shelf, also had Saurav Mohapatra’s name on the cover.

What turned out to be a bonus, was the fact that this one is an adaptation of a Bengali classic “Chander Pahar” written by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay.

Now if not for this graphic novel, there was no chance for me to get a glimpse into the magical world of this Bengali writer who wrote an amazing narrative of the pre-war African landscape, without ever traveling to the continent.

Even this small graphic novel gives a peek into the amount of research the author had undertaken with only the State Library as the source of his information in pre-Independence Calcutta.

I used the modern Googlemaps and Wikipedia to follow the route of the adventure which starts in Mombasa and travels across Kenya before crossing over modern day Tanzania, Congo, Angola and Namibia before culminating in the South Africa Forest of Richtersveld.

The graphic part of the novel is ordinary, but I am thankful to the adaptation, which introduced me to this legendary writer who I discovered also wrote the famous Pather Panchali.

Since I am already in love with Africa, discovering a well-researched story of this wild and mystical land was deeply satisfying.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Also Read : Kim's Review of Moon Mountain

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Brajesh's Review : Mumbai Confidential

Mumbai Confidential: Good Cop, Bad Cop is one of the best graphic novels that I have read, in a very long time.

The book uses all the power of graphic art to bring the narrative alive. More often than not in Graphic Novels, the style ends up hampering the story. This book is an excellent example of how the style can add to and amplify a story.

The novel uses 3 different graphic styles to distinguish the three time lines and one doesn’t get confused with the flashbacks and interludes.

The story by Saurav Mohapatra, is a crime drama set in 80's-90's Mumbai of encounter cops, underworld dons and dirty film producers. The plot twist is inspired by “Zanjeer” and the story isn’t particularly inspiring, but the brilliant use of graphic components makes this a must read.

Rating : 4 / 5

Also Read : Kim's Review of Mumbai Confidential

Friday, 25 July 2014

Brajesh's Review : How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

Every corporate slave is secretly in love with Dilbert, and I am no different. When I saw Scott Adam’s autobiographical advice book, given my recent delight with a similar book by Stephen King, I snapped this one up.

"How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big" is conveniently divided into 38 small chapters and starts smartly.

Scott’s personal battle with speech dystonia gives it the feel of a thriller. Unfortunately the book does not keep its pace and loses the reader in the second half.

Some of the advice is truly amazing and connected with me big time. I will list them here in the order that they appear in the book. Reading the list, you will realize how powerful and revolutionary these thoughts are.
“Passion is Bullshit” 
“Have a System not a Goal” 
“Decide, Don’t just Want” 
“Be Selfish 1st – Selfless 2nd” 
“Manage Odds for Success” 
“Humor – Diet – Fitness – Luck”.

The part which totally put me off was the “Affirmation Piece” I have never been a fan of Rhonda Byrne's “The Secret” and finding it embedded strongly towards the latter half of the book was quite disappointing.

The biggest take-away for me, was the happiness formula of Scott which goes something like “Happiness = Eat Right + Exercise + Sleep Well + Imagine a Great Future + Flexible Schedule + Progressive Improvement in Tasks + Help Others + Reduce Daily Tasks to Routine”.

I also loved his 6 Filters for Truth in the form of “Personal & Others Experience, Experts, Scientific Studies, Common Sense, Pattern Recognition” and the advice that unless a situation passes more then 2-3 filters simultaneously, one should always be wary of it.

I will round-off this review with the list of skills, which as per Scott Adams, increase the probability of individual success, and like the book I only agree with the first 7 in this list :-
1. Public Speaking
2. Psychology
3. Business Writing
4. Accounting
5. Design
6. Conversation
7. Second Language
8. Overcoming Shyness
9. Golf
10.Proper Grammar
11. Persuasion
12. Technology
13. Voice Technique.

Do read this as your tribute to all those Dilbert induced smiles.

Rating : 3 / 5

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Brajesh's Review : Anti-Social Network

"Anti-Social Network" is part of “Mumbaistan Series” written by Piyush Jha, whose introduction tells us that he is a director of films like Chalo America, King of Bollywood and Sikandar.

A quick check on IMDB revealed that these were small budget movies which didn’t earn much in terms of eyeballs or critical acclaim. The book which came to us as a review copy turned out very similar to a B grade Bollywood thriller.

Full of coincidences and lucky breaks for the protagonist Inspector Virkar, the book leaves you with little hope for our Police Department, Bollywood Directors or Thriller Writers.

The cover says it’s an up-all-night kind of thriller, and I can tell you nothing could be further from the truth. It is an ordinary story filled with cocaine snorting informers, internet porn loving criminals, a misguided psychology professor and an extremely ordinary story line.

The scenes are smartly crafted individually, but the narrative doesn’t flow. A lot of focus and intensity has been spent in getting the mood and setting right for each episode but nothing holds it together. The result is similar to a jerky, ordinary movie where the scenes are smartly shot.

One could feel Piyush’s film-making background influencing his writing significantly. I would recommend that you avoid this one.

Rating : 2 / 5

Also Read Kim's Review of Anti-Social Network

The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Brajesh's Review : Labyrinth

Labyrinth is the print version of some selected short stories from the virtual world of

A quick peek into the website tells us that this is a place where readers meet writers. The thought sounds noble and I also feel the site could be a great place for budding writers to get some exposure and may be constructive criticism.

Unfortunately, if I go by the stories in this collection titled Labyrinth, the site doesn’t have much hope.

Out of 17 short-stories in this collection, the best is “Sym – World” by Aditi Chincholi, which is set in the virtually reality of a video game. Most of the other stories were quite ordinary and a few were downright silly.

If I had to rate all the stories apart from Aditi’s story above, there were only two more which would qualify as readable. I have attached my ratings of these stories in the next picture.

I am still wondering what made me pick this collection up during my usual book-shop browsing (inspite of Kim requesting me not to).

If I would have read the acknowledgements and realized that the real force behind this publication was Shobha De, it might have saved me some time.

More than the stories I was happy to discover the website and hope to explore it in future .

Rating : 2.5 / 5

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Brajesh's Review : The Sceptical Patriot

If you are a thinker, you will love the spirit of inquiry behind "The Sceptical Patriot". If you are also willing to suspend the mainstream notions of media led logic, this book will come to you as a beautiful breath of fresh air.

To begin with I picked this one up thinking it will be another standard Sidin book of humor. The first three books by Sidin’s form a trilogy in the “Dork Series”. In those books he gives us a peek into the wonderfully funny and incredibly humorous world of a budding consultant.

"Sceptical Patriot" couldn’t have been more different than my expectation and from the earlier three.

This book is a brilliantly researched and powerfully constructed book, which questions the truth behind “Zero and other Indian glories”. Sidin picks up 7 famous Indian glories ranging from “inventor of zero”, to “the oldest university in the world” and then goes about questioning each with an sceptics mind.

He does this in a manner which is deeply engaging and quite entertaining. This is where the beauty of the book is, taking serious issues of historical relevance for India and then having an engaging yet objective analysis.

In today’s mass media led hysteria and increasingly intolerant debates on most issues, I wish there were more books like this. I salute Sidin for having the courage to step out of his comfort zone of humor and also take us all out of our comfort zone of accepting legends without question.

The only reason the book misses a perfect 5 is because I wish there was more research and more detail and it could cover more topics. While stating this limitation, I also understand the risk of taking it too far, which would make the book lose its readability.

Rating : 4.5 / 5

Monday, 21 July 2014

Brajesh's Review : Never Go Back

The first half of "Never Go Back" explodes at breakneck speed. Jack Reacher comes back to his old “100th MP Special Investigation Unit”. As soon as he enters through the gates of his old office, things go totally out of control, with the new leader of 110th behind bars, government agencies drumming-up court cases against Jack Reacher and plainclothes agents turn-up as street thugs.

The journey of Jack Reacher along with Major Turner over a multi-city chase is riveting, in Lee Child's usual edge of seat kind of stuff. Unfortunately all the great stuff goes South in the last quarter of the book and the unveil of the mystery is quite weak.

This is the last JR novel which has been released. As I wait for the next release, titled “Personal”, I will finish the 2 pending ones in the series.

There is always a great joy in finishing a book series, but only if you have another pile of books waiting for you.

Rating : 3 / 5

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Kim's Review : The Weeping Girl

After Stieg Larsson & Henning Mankell, I'm happy to have finally read my first Hakan Nesser - another master of the Swedish Crime Ficton genre and with a female lead detective for a pleasant change.

However, Ewa Moreno is not a recurring lead in his books. Chief Inspector Van Veeteren and Inspector Barbarotti are his 2 main leads (much like Agatha Christie's - Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple).

Ewa Moreno is Chief Inspector Van Veeteren’s protégé and as far as I know, The Weeping Girl is the only novel in which she is the main character. Although it is said that, the Van Veeteren series follows the murder cases investigated by Chief Inspector Van Veeteren – (later retired) – and his two crime squad protégés, Münster and Moreno. I will have to read more of his novels before I can say with any certainty how prominent her role is in the rest of the series.

The Van Veeteren series takes place in Maardam, a fictitious city in a made-up country that could be anywhere in northern Europe. But most of "The Weeping Girl" takes place in Lejnice around 120km away from Maardam, where Detective Inspector Ewa Moreno is headed for her one month Summer Holiday. Just before she sets off, her boss Chief Inspector Reinhart saddles her with the responsibility of interviewing Lampe-Lerman a career criminal and police informant who is in custody at Lejnice and who has said that he will only confess and give up names to Inspector Moreno.

On the train to Lejnice, a young teenager - Mikaela Lijphart - sits across her while weeping silently. The Investigator and concern in Moreno has her initiate a conversation with Mikaela who reveals that she is on her way to Lejnice to meet her father whom she has never known, who lives in a psychiatric facility. Her mother revealed his name and existence to her, just the day before on her 18th birthday as she was now "old enough to know"

When Moreno is at the Lejnice station on one of her visits to Lampe-Lerman, she encounters Mikaela's frantic mother who has come to the station to declare her daughter missing as she has not been heard from for a couple of days.

A few days later another dead body is found buried on the beach. This is too much excitement for the sleepy seaside town of Lejnice and Detectives from a neighbouring town are called in to help with the murder. A few days later, Mikaela's father himself goes missing.

Slowly the facts come out that Mikaela's father was accused of impregnating a 16 year old student - Winnie Maas - and then murdering her, which was when he lost his mind and had hence been in the facility for 16 years.

Detective Moreno finds herself pursuing this case, even though she is on holiday, because she is concerned for Mikaela and she finds help in likely and unlikely places.

The story is very well told, it keeps you completely hooked and I think kudos also have to be given to the Swedish translator - Laurie Thompson who has done a great job in keeping the reader hooked. It isn't a fast paced novel, but it moves forward steadily and keeps the reader engaged.

Moreno's thoughts and concerns in life are very different from what a British or an American female detectives would be and that gives a unique perspective into her mind and a bit of an idea of the Scandinavian way of life.

I really loved Moreno's insight into her own deductive skills, where she feels something in her brain when things start to fit together. She is a much more approachable and "normal/human" Detective than Detective Sarah Linden of The Killing - the American TV series, based on the Danish TV series - Forbrydelsen or Agent Carrie Mathison of Homeland who come across as disturbed and high strung.

I'd definitely like to read more of Hakan Nesser's work and will try to get my hands on as many of them as I can.

As far as I know, all 10 Van Veeteren books have been translated into English, but none of the Inspector Barbarotti series have. The Van Veeteren books have also been turned into a series of TV movies, much like Henning Mankell's Inspector Wallander series.

Rating : 4 / 5

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Kim's Review : Mumbai Confidential

Mumbai Confidential: Good Cop, Bad Cop was first released in 2013 in hardcover. Its the paperback version that has just been released. Written and illustrated by a duo from the ill fated "Virgin Comics" venture (I loved Snakewoman and Devi and felt quite bad when the venture was disbanded) Saurav Mohapatra (Devi, Witchblade) & Vivek Shinde (Snakewoman, Project : Kalki)

The star of this Noir Graphic Novel, is most definitely the city of Mumbai/Bombay. While not as painstakingly described as in The Anti-Social Network, Mumbai Confidential could not have been set anywhere other than Bombay of the 80's and 90's.

There's a good storyline going, although the story moves back and forth in time quite a bit. The illustrations fit in well with the story with the shifts in monochrome to colour fitting into the progress of the story.

The story centers around Mumbai Cop Arjun Kadam and his "Encounter Specialist" team. Since he dies at the end of the story (or rather the beginning of the book), you knpw that if there is Part 2 of Mumbai Confidential, then it will be with a different hero and a different set of characters.

This is not the kaleidoscopically colourful Devi / Snakewoman, colour is used sparingly in this novel. The art work is nowhere close to Craig Thompson's Habibi, but it is nowhere near as abysmal as Ramayan 3392 AD either.

Its an easy read and very atmospheric. An 80's crime thriller brought to life as a story board, would be the most appropriate description to me.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Kim's Review : Aisle Be Damned

"Aisle Be Damned - Swinging Hips, Praying Lips and Flying Tips" is the First Book published by Rishi Piparaiya. Rishi is currently the Director of Marketing and Direct Sales at Aviva and has earlier held positions with Citibank in New York and Mumbai, the reason I mention this is because it is extremely relevant to the genesis of this book.

While most of us who have to frequently travel on work, are content with grumbling to friends and family or anyone who will listen, how terrible our last flying experience was, Rishi has used all this material to actually come out with an extremely funny and relevant book. It is possible to empathise with almost every situation that he writes about related to the "flying" experience.

What started out as "Aisle Be Damned" has now graduated to "Window or Aisle" - a Monthly column for the Hindu Business Line.

"Aisle Be Damned" is a very easy read, each sub-section in each chapter, is about a page or less, so its perfect to read when traveling, or when you have time to just read one page before you go to bed, anytime when you know that you don't have the time to read a book cover-to-cover, but can read something in short bursts with multiple breaks in between.

This book is a great gift for frequent travelers and also for those who envy "frequent flyers" :), it captures the agony of flying very well, but while also keeping it light and funny.

Right from check in to catching a taxi at the other end, there are funny stories and tips for every situation, as a Reader, it is your responsibility to recognise which is a genuine tip and which tips are firmly tongue-in-cheek.

My husband who gets on (and off) an average of 4 flights each week, LOVED the book and I'm sure most people who find the premise of this book interesting, will love it too.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Kim's Review : Anti-Social Network

Anti-Social Network is Piyush Jha's 3rd book after Mumbaistaan and Compass Box Killer and the 2nd featuring Inpector Virkar of the Crime Branch in Mumbai, but this is the first of his books that I have read.

The basic plot summary is that a series of young adults are murdered across Mumbai and they see dto be connected and Inspector Virkar is here to save the day.

There is something about reading this book, that made me feel like I was reading a film script rather than a novel. (I've read my fair share of theatre scripts and read a few film scripts online too to catch nuances in dialogs from films like the Matrix or Inglourious Bastards.

Something about switching the tense to Present Continuous when describing a location and then switching again when it came back to the main story line, read like instructions to the sets crew.

Yes, there is a decent storyline in there, but its more suitable to a Bollywood Potboiler than a good crime thriller. I'm not even trying to compare the author to Henning Mankel or Stieg Larsson, it can't even hold up to the plot of an Erle Stanley Gardner or a Surender Mohan Pathak.

There is a lot of promise and possibility, but in the guise of adding twists and turns to the plot, the ending was actually quite predictable and I guess that is why I did not enjoy it so much.

The only thing I really liked about this book, was the love with which the city of Bombay/Mumbai has been described. With a little look at the history and development of locations.

The book however is a huge improvement over Indian authors whose primary target audience is young teenage girls and guys and I hope that it can entice this category of readers into reading books with little more to the story line than "falling in love"

Rating : 2.5 / 5

The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Kim's Review : Mortal Instruments Series - City of Bones

Cassandra Clare's - City of Bones is the first in her 6 part Mortal Instruments Series for Young Adults.

I'd loved her Infernal Devices Trilogy and since the Mortal Instruments Series also revolves around Shadowhunters, but in the current era, I was quite hopeful to find another series I would love.

Sadly, this was not the case. City of Bones, felt very simplistic after the Infernal Devices and there was a huge feeling of deja vu in this book. A girl with shadow hunter blood who doesn't know her true origins, a love triangle with her in the center. A fashion conscious yet bitchy, supporting heroine, etc etc.

Magnus Bane who is a constant in all Cassandra's series (and even has a 10 part e-book series starring him) is still alive and an essential part of the ensemble.

You would expect that with a passage of over a 100 years, there would be some upgradation in Shadowhunter technology and techniques, however it felt like only the clothes had been somewhat modernised and the setting shifted from London to New York.

I'm glad that on the recommendation of some other book loving friends, I had only bought the 1st book in the series, rather than all 6. After reading City of Bones, I just wikipediaed the end :) and will not be buying or reading the rest of the series.

If you do have a Young Adult in the house, then they may enjoy this series, especially if they are huge fans of this author and her characters.

Rating : 3 / 5

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Kim's Review : Infernal Devices Trilogy - Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince, Clockwork Princess

The first book of the Infernal Devices Trilogy immediately sucks you in.  There are just a handful of main characters, but that just strengthens the story rather than making you lose interest. The tale is mostly narrated from a single point of view - that of the heroine - 16-17 year old Tessa Gray.

The Trilogy could be considered Dystopian. While it is set in 1878, there is a lot of technology and magic involved. Faeries, goblins, werewolves, warlocks, vampires are all thrown in for good measure.

Tessa Gray has lost her whole family in America and sails to Southampton to be reunited with her brother who left some time ago for better prospects. However, she is kidnapped by the Dark Sisters and forced into obeying them, for fear that they may harm her brother if she doesn't.

It is only then, that she realises that she is not a "mundane" - a regular human being - but she has special powers. How "Special" her powers are, she is still in the process of discovering even at the end of Part 1 - Clockwork Angel

Part 2 - Clockwork Prince : while it gets darker, it also has some extremely humorous respite and the romance heats up. Teen Romantic Angst is greatly heightened. More details are revealed about the "Magister" and spies and traitors identified. This is the fastest paced book of the trilogy, a complete page turner.

Part 3 - Clockwork Princess, is much slower compared to Clockwork Prince. I was actually able to stop reading and do my jobs in between, whereas I read Parts 1 and 2 without even wanting to stop to eat or sleep. Clockwork Princess got all morbid towards the end and like a lot of recent movies I have watched, I wished the author had skipped the heavy waterworks inducing last chapters.

Finished this series in 2 days since Brajesh was on a business trip and I didn't have to worry about mundane stuff :)

The quotations at the start of each chapter (from Books and Poetry of that era) are extremely relevant to each chapter and tie in with Tess's love of books. There are also plenty of quotations that are bandied about in conversation by Will and Tess.

Most readers who have read both the Mortal Instruments series and The Infernal Devices Trilogy, by Cassandra Clare strongly recommended The Infernal Devices. I have bought City of Bones though and will decide whether to by the other 4 after reading it.

Its a great Young Fiction story.

Definitely pick up, if it is a genre that interests you.

Rating :
Clockwork Angel - 4 / 5
Clockwork Prince - 4.5 / 5
Clockwork Princess - 3 / 5

Friday, 11 July 2014

Kim's Review : The Wilderling

Claire Lorrimer is the pen name of Patricia Robins, daughter of renowned novelist Denise Robins. However, Claire's writing is quite different from her mother's Romantic Genre. Her books include 2 Historical Fiction Trilogies among other Historical sagas, some contemporary fiction and a couple of murder mysteries thrown in for good measure. She also published her Autobiography "You Never Know" in 2007.

"The Wilderling" is the second book in the Rochford Trilogy, but it can be easily read as a stand alone novel. The main character in this book is Lucienne Sophia Rochford, nee Sophie, nee Le Perle, nee Lucy, nee Countess Zemski. The first book in the series "The Chatelaine" is centered around her mother Willow and the final book "Fools Curtain/ the Dynasty" stars her much younger aunt - Zandra.

There is also a reference in this book, to characters from her Women of Fire Saga Trilogy : Mavreen aka Scarlett, Tamarisk aka Antoinette and Chantal.

The first part of "The Wilderling" deals with the surprise reappearance of Lucienne Sophia Rochford at the death of her father Lord Rochford, 17 years after the entire family thought that she had died at birth. Her father had discovered her existence a year earlier and sent her to a polishing school, where she could learn to be a Lady, before he planned to bring her home, introduce her to society and have her run his home for him, especially since his wife had left him with their 2 younger children and had been living in the United States. Sadly, he died before she could finish her education.

Slowly the details behind Lucienne's terrible childhood emerge and the family does their best to keep it concealed from the rest of the world. Part 1 occurs between 1911 & 1912, mostly focusing on Lucy's back story and ending at her elopement and honeymoon in Italy, with a few historical events woven into it - the sinking of the Titanic and the Suffragette movement among others.

Part 2 is set between 1912 - 1916, when Lucy begins to enjoy all the privileges of being rich and titled, with an indulgent, generous, non-demanding husband to boot. She gets involved with the Suffragette movement (although only superficially) and then with the set of "young" moneyed and penniless wastrels who are only interested in partying, dancing, the theater and movies. Her entire energy and time is devoted to these activities, while her little girl Teo is completely taken care of by her nanny. While the Count isn't very happy with the state of affairs, he explains it away by virtue of her being much younger to him and finally enjoying her life for a change.

However World War I breaks out close to home and slowly its not just the staff that is signing up to go off to war, but also her brothers and friends of the family. This part has almost equal parts of personal story and Historical events.

Part 3 set in 1916-1918 is much more heavily focused on Historical events than her personal story. Movement of the troops, gains and losses, the events in Russia involving Rasputin, the murder of the Russian Royal Family, the renaming of the British Royal family from their German antecedents to The House of Windsor and the Battenburgs to Mountbattens, the joining up of American troops, rationing, all of these are detailed in this part. The most detailed sections are the conversion of family homes to hospitals and convalescent homes and the conversion of park lands and forests to agricultural fields to help end dependence of imported food.

The Wilderling is very well written and very difficult to put down. I read it in 2 days straight and that's only because there were some jobs that could not be avoided.

This is the first time I was reading a book with so much detail about the events surrounding World War I and it was very enlightening. Geographically, the novel spans Britain, France, Holland, Italy and Russia. It is a very well crafted book of Historical Fiction because of the wealth of Historical information and detail that is skilfully held together by a very interesting story line.

Heavily recommended for lovers of Historical Fiction.

Rating : 4 / 5

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Brajesh's Review : A Wanted Man

"Wanted Man" begins where “Worth Dying For” ends, as Jack Reacher gets a ride in a car with 2 men and a woman.

One can sense some interesting times ahead, but what unveils is a lot of stretch and starts to border of fantasy in many ways.

A Wanted Man is one of the weakest novels in the series and can easily be skipped. One gets a feel that Lee Child just plugged this one in to create some action in JR’s journey from Nebraska to Viginia where the next book “Never Go Back” is set.

This one moves from simple murder to covert CIA , FBI and DOJ operations, to the really crazy land of money laundering terrorists. Overall an avoidable read.

Rating : 3 / 5

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Brajesh's Review : Worth Dying For

One of the best Jack Reacher’s of the lot. The passion with which he takes on the cause of justice in a godforsaken Nebraska village is quite engaging.

The characters are extremely ordinary, and the setting is a barren village. With a very limited cast of characters and no landscape to provide the meat, it is amazing to see how Lee Child constructs a story which is full of twists.

Simple people living a simple life are caught in the middle of something murky and shadowy. While the real horrors are only revealed towards the last few pages, the passion of Jack Reacher keeps the reader engaged and that is the uniqueness of this book.

The villagers are caught in the evil grip of a local family clan. The only other characters besides the clan members are the hired goons, a doctor, motel owner & housekeeper. Even with such a limited cast the human emotions and twists are rich in detail.

"Worth Dying For" is a completely standalone book, which does not draw much on the past of Jack Reacher. I personally liked this unusual storytelling approach.

The book ends with Jack Reacher with a broken nose and waiting to hitchhike en-route to Virginia, exactly where the next novel “A Wanted Man” starts.

Rating : 4 / 5

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Brajesh's Review : Tripwire

I was going over my book-lists of the last few years and realized that every Summer I seem to need a Jack Reacher rush. This year, it happened in June and I read 3 of this series back-to-back.

Tripwire, starts with Reacher sculpturing his tank like body, by digging swimming pools - a seemingly innocuous act which plays a very significant role at the end of the book. He then gets called back by his now dead mentor to unravel the mystery of a missing Nam soldier. He also meets his long term love fantasy Jodie (daughter of Col Leon Garber).

The book links extensively with many of his past novels, but also remains a stand-alone pure thriller. This one is best enjoyed once you are truly addicted to JR. Through the book, the reader is hooked on by the standard dose of chase and action. The mandatory twist at the end is also quite smart.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Monday, 7 July 2014

Brajesh's Review : Talk like TED - 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds

Being a TED fan, I had to pick this one up. Unfortunately this book by Carmine Gallo, is neither well written nor well researched.

The basic framework is built around 3 sections of Emotional, Novel and Memorable approach to presentation. Each of these also includes the 3 subsections which are fairly intuitive and basic.

While the neurological research supporting the construct sounds strong, the presentation is weak and does not add to the structure. I would ask you to skip this one and keep browsing to improve your presentation skills.

Or you can also look at my summary cheat-sheet to get all the gyaan of this book on one page .

The only plus from this book is that I now have a list of 10 odd great TED talks which I seem to have missed-out.

Rating : 2.5 / 5

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Brajesh's Review : David & Goliath - Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants

"David & Goliath - Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants" is a Management Thriller at its best. Unputdownable, page-turner and riveting - all the adjectives that you would normally associate with a thriller.

Watch the beautiful TED Video at TedTalks, to get a glimpse into this fascinating book.

Separated into 3 parts, each part has 3 real stories around with Malcolm Gladwell builds his amazing model which questions all the traditional wisdom of advantage-disadvantage and power.

Experience is no longer a pre-requisite of success for a basket-ball coach, big or small aren’t advantageous in the inverted U curve of class-size and best universities are no longer a strength for students.

The second section explores the theory of desirable difficulty where dyslexia turns into blessing, traumatic childhood builds strength and ends with the story of Walker, the man behind Martin Luther King’s success.

In the final section he explores the limits of power through examples of IRA, 3 strike rule in L.A. and the Jewish resistance to Nazi oppression.

I can go on writing about this book, but would stop here and add a picture of my notes which will give you an idea about how immersed I was in this book. I am sure I will go back to this book many a times in future. A strong contender to my book of the year for 2014.

Rating : 5 / 5

On Collecting Books. . . . .

Saw this somewhere . . . .

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Brajesh's Review : Embroideries

I had loved "Persepolis", the last graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi that I had read. However "Embroideries" didn’t live upto my expectations.

The story unfolds over one afternoon, where 9 Iranian women of varying life narratives, get-together for a post-lunch tea session. The stories are interesting and a few are thought provoking, as well. Unfortunately the graphic renditions didn’t add much to the narrative. It’s a read of about 20 minutes, I would suggest you browse over this in a book shop and then pick-up Persepolis to experience the real power of the author’s narrative, graphic art as well as the Iranian story.

Rating : 3 / 5

Friday, 4 July 2014

Brajesh's Review : DK Eyewitness - Religion

We are big fans of DK Eyewitness books and collect them as souvenirs of our travels. Apart from great pictures and useful information, the books never leave you overwhelmed with information. For DK books, less is more and the pictures do most of the talking.

I browsed through this book at a book-shop and the beautiful pictures with summary narrative, got me interested. Over 70 pages, the book gives a summary insight into all the major religions of the world. It covers Egyptian, Greek and Primal ways of life. Then moves onto Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Confucian Piety, Tao Principles. Shinto Harmony, Sikh Teachings and Zoroastrianism.

Then the three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam precede the final section on new religious beliefs of Scientology, Hare Krishna, Mormons & Unification Family Church. Each of the major religions are given 6 beautiful spreads and others are given 2 pages. I would recommend this to be a part of your collection, as a good reference book for quick fact-checks and photo reference on Religion. @ 199/- it’s a DK steal.

Rating : 3 / 5

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