The kite flyers

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 Blurb: A humane tale of childhood friendships, painful severance and soaring, joyful redemption.  Kumar and Raman are champion kite flyers, and Lakshmi makes superb barfis. The friends live and play together in the idyllic environs on the shores of the Kaveri river, learning about life from the friendly peanut seller. Till a small mistake shatters their idyllic childhood and alters the course of their lives. The story follows the three friends through the Tamil Nadu of the 1970s, with its politics and society on the boil thanks to the language agitation orchestrated by the ADMK and its charismatic leader MGR, and brings alive the era while addressing universal issues of politics, caste and gender.

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About the author: Dr. Sharad P. Paul was born in England, and grew up in India. He runs a busy medical practice specializing in skin cancer surgery and divides his time between Australia and New Zealand. Sharad holds senior academic positions in skin cancer surgery at the universities of Queensland and Auckland. He has received several commendations for his work in the field of cutaneous surgery and skin cancer surgery. Sharad writes both fiction and nonfiction (recently, a widely acclaimed book on skin titled, SKIN, a biography); his previous works of fiction are Cool Cut (2007) and To Kill a Snow Dragonfly (2012) and The Kite Flyers (2013).

Review: A painful human tale of severance, soaring and joyful redemption showcasing the politics of caste, gender, and language, set in a small village along the Kaveri river in Tamil Nadu sets the theme of young NRI writer Sharad P Paul’s The Kite Flyers. The novel explores the threatened decline of ancient Tamil culture and language through eyes and lives of three young villagers – Kumar, Raman and Lakshmi. The novel’s highlight is that it also explores the lives of Eunuchs, the ‘third gender’, who are seen both as sources of good luck and misfortune. The story portrays life in Tamil Nadu, series of incidents that moved people of the state, their fight for anti-Hindi agitation. The novel is set in an idyllic surrounding where friendship blossoms between three youngsters through their shared love of kite flying, but they succumb to fate which throws each of them into their painful and dark world. With the presence of Eunuchs in the novel, author has made his characters more interesting.

3

I got this book as a free review copy through a joint initiative of Harper Collins and Indiblogger.

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A God in Every Stone

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Blurb: July 1914. A young English woman, Vivian Rose Spencer is running up a mountain side in an ancient land. She picks up a fig and holds it to her nose. Around her is a maze of broken columns, taller than the tallest of men. Nearby is the familiar lean form of her father’s old friend, Tahsin Bey, an archaeologist. Viv is about to discover the Temple of Zeus, the call of adventure and the ecstasy of love. July, 1915. An Englishwoman and an Indian man meet on a train to Peshawar. Viv Spencer is following a cryptic message sent to her by the man she loves, from whom she has been separated by war. Qayyum Gul is returning home after losing an eye at Ypres while fighting for the British Indian army, his allegiances in tatters. When they disembark the train at Peshawar they are unaware that a connection is about to be forged between their lives – one of which they will be unaware until fifteen years later when anti-colonial resistance, an ancient artifact and a mysterious green-eyed woman will bring them together again over seventy-two hours of heartbreak, frayed loyalties and hope.

About the author: Kamila Shamsie is the author of five novels, including Burnt Shadows which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, and has been translated into over 20 languages. She has also written a work of non-fiction, Offence: The Muslim Case. A trustee of Free Word and English Pen, she grew up in Karachi and now lives in London.

Review:  A God in Every Stone, story set in Peshawar is about sides of British Indian rule and 1930’s Pakhtun uprising. The story is behind an artefact (a precious silver coronet), which is attempted to unearth in Peshawar by British archaeologist Vivian Spencer. Although the artefact is not discovered, Najeeb Gul Peshawari protégé does discover it. The story revolves around Vivian, Najeeb and his elder brother Qayyum.

Kamila’s novel is a page-turner in a classy sense of the word. The book is divided into two parts

1) The first is set in Britain and then Peshawar 1915

2) And the second half takes place in 1930.

I felt there was a legendary quality to her writing. Social responsibility and personal conscience pulled the author towards meticulously describing the struggle of subcontinent’s proudest people, against the British. Kamila Shamsie is a mature writer, her character development proves it. I liked the personality of Vivian Spencer who remains rational and surprising conception. For it is through Vivian we get a genuinely sympathetic view of the plight of the Pakhtuns, and the indifference of the British. Positioned during Mahatma Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement the novel is balanced, but frankly sensible, when it comes to critiquing the British. I hoped that this book would be a thriller but surprisingly it turned out to be strands of ancient history with a modern twist with discoveries. Not a disappointment for me. Shamsie’s authorial concerns are far nobler and more moral than that, and the reader can for that reason look forward to startling rewards.

4

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The other side

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Blurb: From a honeymoon in the hill that goes horribly wrong to an obsessed lover who wants his first love in life and in death; From a mentally deranged man who collects body parts of various women to stitch together his dream girl to a skeptic who enters a mansion of horrors to win a bet and much more, this book is filled with scenarios that are guaranteed to give you goosebumps and sleepless nights. ‘The Other Side’ is a collection of thirteen tales of the paranormal; a world that our eyes refuse to see, our ears deny hearing and our senses ignore the feel of. This is a book for someone who is brave enough to take up this invitation to journey through uncharted waters along with the authors, who were inspired by some bizarre experiences to pen down this work where the lines of reality have been blurred by the footsteps of imagination.

About the authors:  

The winner of the 2013 National Debut Youth Fiction Award and also the recipient of the YCOF National Excellence award in Creative Writing apart from being the first Indian author to win the coveted ‘Best Debut (Romance)’ title at the international Goodreads choice awards, Faraaz Kazi has been tagged as the ‘Nicholas Sparks of India’ by many and is rated amongst the top male romance writers in the country.

A pediatrician by profession, Vivek Banerjee is an author by accident.He lives in Saharanpur with his parents, obstetrician wife and two children. The pressures of his profession leave him with little leisure but he still finds time for his varied interests. An avid traveller, he has covered the length and breadth of the country in real life and the rest of the world in his imagination. A voracious reader, music lover, self-confessed geek and an amateur ornithologist, he would rather walk the road less traveled, given the time and opportunity.

Review: Thanks to Faraaz Kazi for the review copy in exchange of honest review. The Other side is an anthology by Faraz Kazi & Vivek Banerjee. The book consists of 13 horror stories which are supposed to blow your mind. The book is quite interesting with different stories on different concepts. The tales are about unforeseen events that happen around us. No doubt the authors were moved by strange experiences to write these 13 tales of varying paranormal incidences. Faraz Kaazi has done a good job of writing the epilogue and preface. The way he has told his own story kept me stuck to the book. Every story was not shocking, some had some twists, touch of reality and a few stories had comical endings. The stories are parallel to ghostlike incidents heard from elders and in villages.  I don’t prefer horror fiction as I hold an opinion that the usual horror movies seem all the same, I did not want to waste time in reading it. But I am glad to say that this book was astoundingly well written, it did not dishearten me. I welcome both the authors for creating a complete world, full of gloom and unspoken souls in this read. If you enjoy frightening stories, then you should read it and fright yourself with these 13 stories.

4

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On Beauty

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Blurb: Howard Belsey is an Englishman abroad, an academic teaching in Wellington, a college town in New England. Married young, thirty years later he is struggling to revive his love for his African American wife Kiki. Meanwhile, his three teenage children— Jerome, Zora and Levi—are each seeking the passions, ideals and commitments that will guide them through their own lives.  “After Howard has a disastrous affair with a colleague, his sensitive older son, Jerome, escapes to England for the holidays. In London he defies everything the Belseys represent when he goes to work for Trinidadian right-wing academic and pundit, Monty Kipps. Taken in by the Kipps family for the summer, Jerome falls for Monty’s beautiful, capricious daughter, Victoria.” But this short-lived romance has long-lasting consequences, drawing these very different families into each other’s lives. As Kiki develops a friendship with Mrs. Kipps, and Howard and Monty do battle on different sides of the culture war, hot-headed Zora brings a handsome young man from the Boston streets into their midst whom she is determined to draw into the fold of the black middle class – but at what price?

About the author : Zadie Smith is a British novelist, essayist and short story writer. As of 2012, she has published four novels, all of which have received substantial critical praise. In 2003, she was included on Granta’s list of 20 best young authors, and was also included in the 2013 list. She joined New York University’s Creative Writing Program as a tenured professor on September 1, 2010. Smith has won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2006 and her novel White Teeth was included in Time magazine’s TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005 list.

Review: Before I started reading the book, I searched on the net about her previous works. I read so many rave reviews of Zadie Smith. But all were recommendations for her book White Teeth nothing for this book. I am always attracted in new female authors and I was not thwarted in Smith’s writing. Zadie Smith’s book On Beauty is about two families on opposing sides of the culture war: The atheist, liberal Belseys on one side and the ultra-religious, ultra-conservative Kipps’ on the other. It’s also about race and racial identity: black versus white and the influx of poor Haitian immigrants into Boston. I liked reading Zadie Smith because she is an extremely talented writer. She paints a physical picture and a mental picture both with her words. The reader is taken for a closer almost spiritual look into the makeup of the characters. By the end of the book you feel you know the people of the story well. As an author she is complicated with her characters. Her vivid imagination is almost vast. I recommend this book if you like reading female writers.

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It’s Never Too Late

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Blurb: In a nation where most women are taught to be submissive at every stage in life, Maya stands out. In a society that finds fault in women for heinous crimes like rape, Maya stands up. Maya and Rajat fall in love while they study at IIT Kanpur, their daughter Sejal only makes the bond stronger even after years of marriage. Life is almost perfect when two petty criminals decide to make her fairy tale life a tale of horror and fear with their intention of molesting her. Will she be able to fight her fate while Rajat is away and save herself and her five-year-old? Will she be able to undo all stereotypes and face the male-dominated society after that fateful night? Will Rajat stand up with her as she decides to battle her fears and take the culprits to their just punishment? Its Never Too Late is a story of every woman who decides to fight her fears and even destiny of every human who chooses the right over the easy of every wife who shoulders all responsibilities of the house and of every mother who is unwavering in her resolve to ensure that her daughter grows up in a safer world.

About the Author:  Priyanka Baranwal is a freelance writer, poet and blogger. She is a science graduate and certified in Diploma in Pre & Primary Teacher’s Training with Specialization in Teaching English from American TESOL Institute, and Textile Designing. She has been a well appreciated teacher and has also worked with a NGO in Bangalore as Corporate Relationship Officer. She loves music, literature, writing, and travelling. Originally from Mirzapur (U.P.) and she is settled in Bangalore with her husband, Sumit Baranwal and son, Ashmit. Its Never Too Late is her debut novel.

Review: This novel is about Maya, who decides to fight against all odds and prove that it is not the women who are always responsible if something wrong happens. Maya an alumnus of IIT Kanpur meets her love Rajat. They get married and are blessed with a daughter Sejal. The story picks up energy only after 100+ pages. I would like to praise the author for not losing direction of the plot till the end.  The story has a social message that – treat a woman with respect because a society without women would be hell. This novel made me consider that Indian women are not weak. Women need to be appreciated in all the roles they perform. The narration is so simple and the readers can connect with the story well. A good one time read I will definitely recommend it others.

4

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Supertraits of superstars

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Blurb: Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Vidya Balan, Karan Johar. Each of these celebrities are adored and looked up to by millions who aspire to emulate their success stories. But what is it that separates them, and other Bollywood stars, from the rest? Which is that one defining trait that makes them stand out, and how can you benefit from knowing it?  In this one-of-a-kind book, Priyanka Sinha Jha looks at eleven luminaries from Bollywood, and the attribute that is perhaps most responsible for their success. She details their stories; their struggles, their efforts to overcome setbacks, and what it is about them that made them not just reach the top of their game, but stay there. Be it Amitabh Bachchan’s discipline, Aamir Khan’s perfectionist nature, Salman Khan’s generosity, John Abraham’s enterprise or Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s grace—each star has one unique quality that others can imbibe to reach greater heights in their own lives. With pithy observations and inspirational conversations, Supertraits of Superstars will show you how to live life star-size.

About the author:  Priyanka Sinha Jha is a journalist who in her eighteen-year-long career, has written on celebrities, films, lifestyle, business and more. She has been a correspondent for publications as varied as Citadel, The Asian Age and Intelligent Investor. At the age of twenty-six, she became the editor of Society, India’s first celebrity magazine, followed by a stint as editor of HT Style and HT Saturday. Currently, she is the editor of Screen, India’s foremost film and entertainment weekly. She has also contributed to Outlook, The Week and Tehelka, and has a regular column in The Indian Express: Play.

Review: It took me just a day to complete the full book. Easy and convenient read is how I would like to describe it. The author has attempted short biographies of 11 superstars of Hindi film industry such as Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Salman Khan and Vidya Balan. While reading the book I felt it was just like reading from few of film entertainment pages of the newspaper.  The best part of the book is that it does not just talk about character(s) of the favourite stars but also elucidates that how these qualities which they have, can be infused in ourselves which can facilitate us in realizing our goals. An insight into many sides of the stars was an appealing examine by the author. My preferred chapter was on my favourite star – Salman Khan. Not just each chapter starts with a citation relating to the star’s quality, but examples, incidences and dialogues from interviews help us to comprehend them in a better way. This book is non-fiction and I would highly recommend reading once.

4

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

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Eve’s Tomb

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Blurb: Vinamzi Lance, an Oxford graduate is shocked to hear about the murder of his Professor. He is more perplexed when he learns that the last message from the Professor is for him. However, the message turns out to be a code. Along with the Professor’s son Bruce, they embark on a frantic hunt through the Vatican and then to North America after the lost prophecy of Nostradamus. Retrieving the prophecy is not as easy as two great powers, the Church and the Virgins (a secret cult) embroil as they think it holds the destiny of the world.  Ironically all the intricate plotting of the Virgins and the Church turn to mayhem as they confront an adroit deception. Finally, the last hopes of saving the world from a nuclear disaster and the battle of the sexes are in the hands of Vinamzi and his friends. Will they be able to stop the destruction or will Eve’s tomb be a burial ground of them all.

Review: After reading the blurb the first thing I got in my mind – ‘Isn’t the author D R Hardian trying to be the Dan Brown with an Oxford graduate trying to crack codes with backdrop of Prophecy and Church’? It was the reason for me read this book completely. The cover of the book speaks a lot for the story –mystery which did stratagem me. The writing was simple. Racy plot made me finish the book in just 2days. The codes, main support of the story, for a surprise were rather abstract and the usual sort of symbols which says a lot about research done by the author. Despite simple writing, I felt the author has been hugely motivated by Dan Brown as his approach got reflected in it. I am a huge fan of Dan Brown and having read all his books, it’s easy to know his writing style. I wonder why he writer didn’t take the plot line to Saudi Arabia as the “Eve’s tomb” is actually present there? With no much logical flaws, I found many spelling mistakes which should have been taken care of prior to print. The plot was fine but I didn’t feel the need for so many characters. The story turned out to be a perfect thriller to my fondness, if you are interested to read Indianized version of Dan Brown writing than this is the book to read.

3

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

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In Cold Blood

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Blurb: The chilling true crime ‘non-fiction novel’ that made Truman Capote’s name, In Cold Blood is a seminal work of modern prose, a remarkable synthesis of journalistic skill and powerfully evocative narrative published in Penguin Modern Classics. Controversial and compelling, In Cold Blood reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a Kansas farmer, his wife and both their children. Truman Capote’s comprehensive study of the killings and subsequent investigation explores the circumstances surrounding this terrible crime and the effect it had on those involved. At the centre of his study are the amoral young killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, who, vividly drawn by Capote, are shown to be reprehensible yet entirely and frighteningly human.

Review:   After reading 50 pages of In Cold Blood, I searched on the internet for the killers and dead of this real world multiple-slaying narrated luminously by Truman Capote. I was surprised seeing the pictures, the murdered family, the courtroom stills, the crime scene, each room that held a body with a head blown open like a busted melon. Capote brought life into the characters that I felt I was seeing the murders right in front of my eyes. Capote productively made a difficult story very readable and believable. The difficult part was taking a true story constructed from witness statements, interrogations, and interviews between killers and author, and then putting it in between with dialogues. Having never heard of the Clutter murders prior to reading this book, it was intense, gripping. From their first of many trials to their execution, presents us with the moral dilemmas surrounding the punishment of crime. Capote does not make any definitive conclusions, but poses many questions to us regarding the murders. It is impossible to abridge the impact of this book in a few paragraphs. There are no desperate chases or climax. The author introduced the murderers, and then evenly alternated chapters between killers and victims, and then, when victims were killed, between killers and prosecutors. I liked this approach. It’s exceptional. It’s recommendable to read only if you like thrillers/suspense/crime fiction, others please keep away.

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Amar Akbar Anthony: Masala, Madness and Manmohan Desai

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As I am an avid reader and reviewer of books, I am always in hunt for good books and reading challenges, this is when I came across The Sunday Book Club’s challenge on their blog via twitter. Being my first literary challenge 2014, I excitedly showed my interest in it and got Sidharth Bhatia’s Amar Akbar Anthony: Masala, Madness and Manmohan Desai from them.

I am sure almost everyone has watched the movie Amar Akbar Anthony (A-A-A) at least once in their life. Like the movie Yaadon ki Baarat, A-A-A has a much known theme of lost and found siblings and parents. The story goes like -Pran and Nirupa Roy are parents of 3 boys, Pran gets involved in an accident and is alleged dead and Nirupa Roy ends up blind and alone selling flowers on the streets. The 3 boys are broken up from their parents and each other. Eldest (Amar) is brought up by a Hindu cop, next one (Akbar) by a Muslim tailor and last boy (Anthony) is raised by a Christian cleric. 22 years (the much-loved year gap of 70’s lost and found theme) later the boys (now grown up men) and their parents cross roads many a times and in the course of time they learn about each other.

The book does not deal with the story but with different prospects of it such as its making, plot, message, and providers. Manmohan Desai was inspired by real life news about a man who left his 3 sons in a park and committed suicide which led him make this movie as a debutant director and producer. To one side from anecdotes and quick looks from the movie, the author highlighted what made the movie very special from the other same theme movies of that era. He described Manmohan Desai as  ‘The Masala Maestro, The Maharaja of Madness’ who gave viewers mega cast, hit music, romance, comedy, tragedy, vengeance, apart from some appreciably scenes.

Sidharth Bhatia quoted a few citations from interviews story writer, cinematographer, lead actors and dialogue writer, which he pooled with his comments and insights.

The book has 5 chapters—

  • Making the Film
  • Spicing it Up: The Masala Film
  • The Manmohan Desai School of Secularism; Cosmopolitan Capers
  • The Mumbai Film
  • The Last Word in Entertainment

The best part of the book is that though author talks about film and its making, ins and outs, in-depth investigation, characterisation, and narrative, he also points out the errors in the movie such as Nirupa Roy gets hit on the head by a tree branch, turns blind, loses her sons and husband, gets hit, kidnapped and by the miracle of Shirdiwale Sai baba she gets her eyes, sons and husband back. These scenes are amusing in nature for me because such things happen only in movies, in reality it’s unattainable.

Despite not being a regular non-fiction reader, I do suggest this book as it’s a short book and can be easily read in a couple of hours. These days no one actually likes to read bulky books. This book was not a researched paper on Manmohan Desai’s cinema, but a fast, appealing, amusing work. If you have seen the movie before you will get to enjoy the book more if not grab the DVD first and then the book.

4

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Delhi stopover

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After reading lots of good reviews I decided to pick this book written by Tulika Malhotra. I was reading some heavy duty books for a long time and hence thought why not a light read.

The book is about a Lila Kapoor, a struggling, unsuccessful actress from the US who comes to Delhi to take a break from her not happening career and relationship. She accidently gets into the Indian modelling circuit and then her career spirals downwards. Towards the end, she is left without a relationship or a career. The story really goes right into the fashion industry like you’re right there! The book is super fast paced.

The book reminded me of Madhur Bhandarkar, yes the movie director, because his films and the story were so closely related, for a time I felt this was a mix of Fashion and Heroine. If you have seen these 2 movies than you can skip reading the book.

As the book has nothing great to talk about, I prefer keeping the review short.

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