Saturday, 31 January 2015

Brajesh's Review : Four - A Divergent Collection

Four - A Divergent Collection - was a new experience for me, I knew the story, I knew the characters, I knew the plot twists and this gave me a different kind of peace while reading this book.

One is not rushed in the narrative and you enjoy newer nuances of the story. It gave me a feel on how people would experience re-reading a book. This is something I seldom do, but after this experience I might start.

Veronica says, that when she started writing the trilogy she wanted to write it from Four’s point of view. However after a few chapters the story got stuck, and she moved to Tris’s voice. In Allegiant both Four and Tris get equal voice and one gets a peek into Four’s mind.

This book truly does justice to him. The story begins with Four’s transfer into Dauntless and his complex relationship with his parents. The main body of the book is almost like a prequel to Divergent, and the last 3 short stories tell Tris’s story but from Four’s eyes. Read after you are done with the main trilogy.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Also read Kim's Review of The Divergent Trilogy

Friday, 30 January 2015

Kim's Review : Four - A Divergent Collection

I read the Divergent Trilogy awhile ago in October. I had been advised by my friends who are also fans of the series, that I wouldn't like this one as much and so I should just wait until I could borrow it from one of them. But then, there was a great book sale and I just couldn't wait any longer, so I picked up a copy of my own.

And honestly, I have to agree with my friends. I didn't like "Four" as much as the rest of the Divergent Trilogy, because I felt most of the story was repeated, although it was from Tobias point of view. I loved Tobias as a character in the trilogy and loved the fact that in "Allegiant" Veronica Roth moved between telling the tale from Triss to Tobias perspective. However, in this book I didn't feel like I learned too much more either about the story or about his character, which is why it was a disappointment.

The first story of the collection, Free Four: Tobias Tells the Divergent Knife-Throwing Scene - this was pretty much a repeat from Divergent.

The second - The Transfer does give just a bit more detail about Four's Choosing Day Ceremony. But again most of the information had already been covered in bits and pieces in the trilogy itself.

The third story titled The Initiate was slightly better and helped flesh out his character, just a little more.

The fourth story The Son and the fifth and final story The Traitor again talk about life for Tobias as a Dauntless Initiate and when Tris just transfers to Dauntless.

There are also three additional scenes from Divergent, all told from Tobias's point of view, but none of them add more to the story.

Rating : 2.75 / 5

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Brajesh's Review : Personal

Personal by Lee Child is a simple story of identity crisis , turned into a cross country thriller across London, Paris and America. This is the magic of Lee Child. As I reach the end of my Lee Child collection, I really relish every new novel and thank God that he came up with Personal.

The story has all the usual components of Jack Reacher except the love angle, which simmers but never explodes. The story is fast and holds well across the 3 countries with a large amount of time spent in London.

Personal contrasts US and British lifestyle well and this is an added bonus of this book. Story ends with Jack Reacher in Austin, Texas - presumably the setting for his next book. And I just realized that I have only 2 books left in the series, hopefully Lee Child comes through with the next one soon.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Kim's Review : Ten Kings

Ashok Banker - better known for his comprehensive translation & amalgamation of multiple versions of the Ramayan has chosen a small incident from the Vedas (where 1 king defended his small Kingdom against 10 other kings) and turned it into a Historical Fiction novel with a lot of solid ideas spanning Philosophy, Kingship, Good Governance etc.

Its like The "Art of War" with an underdog story.

The  story is extremely simple, what makes this book a must read is how well Banker has explained 2 separate Philosophies followed by 2 different kings who follow the teachings of 2 different gurus.

What truly is worth striving for? An Ideal or your people? Is it necessary for a leader to be power hungry or should he be content with what he has and consolidate and build it?

This book, could be used brilliantly for Corporate training, because it has an interesting 5000+ year old historic story at its core, but the dilemmas are completed relatable in today's Corporate World.

Rating : 3.75 / 5

Brajesh's Review : Ten Kings

This is epic story-telling, Ashok Banker has taken a footnote from history, or to be precise the 7th mandala of Rig Veda and converted it into a stunning novel which gives us a peek into the "Bharat" of 3400 BC.

The significance of the date only hits you as you turn the last page, till then you are mesmerized by a battle of unequal. 60,000warriors led by 10 Kings against 6,000 Trutsu Bharat warriors led by King Sudas. Only one result should have been obvious, but history or in this case part mythology has funny ways of twisting the narrative.

The book is eminently relevant as it dwells deep into the morality of war and kingship. The high point of the book is the debate between Rishi Vashishtha and Rishi Vishwamitra on the peak of Uttang. This is not a historical novel, it's a historical thriller which never preaches yet has lessons which are probably as relevant today as they were 5400 years back.

I can't wait for the next book in this series. While Ashok Banker is well know for his English retellings of Mahabharata and Ramayana, I fell this is his best work ever. What an awesome book. Thank you Ashok Banker for giving a new perspective on the formation of Bharat-Varsha, even though it is a fictional account, historians will wonder if this isn't the authentic version.

Rating : 4 / 5

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Brajesh's Review : It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want to Be

Paul Arden's "It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want to Be" is similar to Rhonda Byrne's “The Secret” kind of philosophy, where the power of mind is emphasized and a ton of common-sense wisdom is presented through fancy models and charts.

I speed read this book in about 20 mins and felt those were 20 wasted minutes. Not sure where they got the quote of “world’s best selling book” on the jacket, but if that is true, we do live in a seriously problematic world.

Rating : 2 / 5

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Brajesh : Top 10 Books of 2014 – My Year of Non Fiction

A2Z Gift
Hi Friends, here is the list for 2014. Like last year, this has been culled out from my reviews and ratings , which you would have read through the year on my FB Album “2014 – Books (My Life Line)” or as part of the posts on the website maintained by Kim on “Kim and Brajesh’s Bookshelf“.

The usual disclaimers hold for the list.This compilation is from the books which I read in 2014. Hence the list is “my” list of favorites and by no means are a representation of any-kind except my personal interest and choice.

This has been an unusual year with respect to my reading pattern. I started the year with a bang, finishing 7 books in January and maintained a healthy pace till June, before peaking with 13 in August. Unfortunately the last three months have been unusually poor given our shift to London with only 8 books read over this quarter. Still, compared to the last year’s count of 57 a 64 in 2014 hasn’t been bad at all. Next year I will continue to push myself to an even larger no. However I am not setting any resolutions around the same. Finishing a yearly ritual (like this list) is oddly therapeutic and I must find newer ones, now that I am planning to give up the ritual around resolutions.

Interestingly the list this year consists of 7 Non-Fiction and only 1 each  from the Management, Fiction and Graphic Art Genre. This is a complete reversal from last year which had only 2 non-fiction representations. Not sure if this is a result of my interest moving to Non-Fiction or Non-Fiction giving me the better reads this year.

So here is the list in the ascending order of rank. A click on the title of the book will take you to a short review of the book.

10. Zona by Jeff Dyer [Non Fiction]. Totally utterly and completely nutty.

9. The Sceptical Patriot by Sidin Vadukut – Exploring the truths behind the zero and other Indian glories. [Non Fiction]. Need of today, more than ever before, a questioning mind.

8. The Novel Cure – an A to Z of Literary Remedies by Susan Elderkin, Ella Berthoud and Indrajit Hazara [Non Fiction]. The “Gifting Book of the Year”

7. Stephen King on Writing :: A Memoir of the Craft [Non Fiction]. If you ever want to write, anything.

6. Adi Parva – Churning of the Ocean by Amruta Patil [Graphic Art]. “Graphic Art Book of the Year”. Check out the attached collage of a few pages, This is ART.

Adi Parva Sample

5. A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong [Non Fiction]. If you ever want to read another book on mythology or fiction, read this first.

4.David & Goliath – Underdogs Misfits & the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell [Management]. This is a management thriller, unputdownable.

3. Don’t lose your mind Lose Your Weight by Rujuta Diwekar [Non Fiction]. The best fitness book ever written.

2. The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson [Fiction]. This is speed of light story-telling.  “The Fiction Book of the Year 2014″
100 Yr

1. Zealot – The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan [Non Fiction] “The Book of the Year 2014″. In a world which is increasingly becoming less tolerant and where serious questioning is equated with insult and blasphemy, this is probably the book to start a questioning renaissance on religious beliefs. This one evaluates Jesus as a historical figure.
ZealotZealot 2

List consists only of +4.5 raters like last year.

Sholay – The Making Of a Classic by Anupama Chopra (Non Fiction-Film) is the only book which I rated 4.5 but got missed from the list above. This is because it was a re-read and due to the practicality of keeping the list count to 10.

Given the list above is so thin on fiction, find below Honorable Mention Fiction Top 5.
  1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  2. Ten Kings by Ashok Banker
  3. Worth Dying For by Lee Child
  4. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  5. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
Other Honorable Mentions (Top 3)
  1. Korma , Kheer & Kismet – Five Seaons in Old Delhi by Pamela Timms (Non Fiction – Food) My first ever food book, and I couldn’t have been luckier.
  2. Garbage Bin by Faisal Mohd (Graphic Art) I am now on FB subscription of Guddu. If you were born in 70s inthe Hindi-heartland, this is definitely for you.
  3. Mumbai Confidential by Saurav Mohapatra & Vivek Shinde (Graphic Art) I really discovered the graphic art medium this year along with the genius of Saurav.
This post will be incomplete without a mention of my friends who wrote books in 2014. You guys are rock-stars and my personal inspiration. If the readers want to buy any of the books below, just click on the link in the name.
  1. Bolllybook The Big Book of Hindi Movie Trivia by Diptakirti Chaudhuri
  2. A Mentor, a Novice and More Cups of Cappuccino by Subrat Padhi
  3. Blissful Discontent by Pritha Lal
As a rule, I don’t rate books by friends.

I end the post with a hope that if this list helps even one person to chose his/her next read I would be delighted. I know a few friends who give credit to my past annual lists as a helping guide in their reading journey, it is thanks to you all that I continue the tradition.
See you again in 2016 January with the next installment …

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Kim's Review : Half Love, Half Arranged

As followers of this blog can tell, this isn't a genre that I normally read, but then this was a book written by a friends wife and we almost always buy books written by friends and family. At some level it is obviously to do our bit in increasing their sales / circulation, but I think there is also a thought at the back of the mind, that we hope to get an "inside look" into our friends and their minds and maybe their lives too.

Half Love, Half Arranged is Itisha's first novel and its quite a quick and easy read. Its not a typical Mills & Boon type story. Its more a Discovery of self. Somewhere between a Bridget Jones Diary and Confessions of a Serial Dieter.

Rhea Kanwar is Punjabi, 30, unmarried and tending to fat. A situation, completely unnatural and in quick need of correction for her concerned mummyji & daddyji. The pressure gets to Rhea too and she decides to do anything necessary to be married before her 31st birthday, including registering herself on

Her elder sister Pia is "happily" married with a kid and another who gets delivered along this book. Her younger sister Sia moves from Gothic to Minimalistic in the same time frame. And Rhea meets guy after guy, hoping and wishing and praying that "this is the one"

The cast are all easily identifiable characters for anyone who has lived in Delhi, or has watched Queen / Monsoon Wedding / Khosla ka Ghosla etc.

Half Love, Half arranged is a quick read. LOL funny in places and deeply sensitive in the questioning of her own identity. There are quite a few twists and turns along the way. But Rhea's happy ending comes with the guy whom I liked best among all the ones she meets through matchmakers and websites. I also identified much more with him because of the traits he shares with the guy that "I" married.

Its a beautifully, easy read, while also a voyage of self discovery. Its not painfully soppy, but quite "slice of life". Pick it up for yourself or a gift for friends who enjoy this genre - fans of  Helen Fielding, Anuja Chauhan, Koel Puri and the like.

No Rating as it is written by a friend.

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