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January 31, 2012

Book Review - 68 : The Suicide Banker

Author: Puneet Gupta
Publisher: Rupa & Co 

The Suicide Banker is the story of a young banker whose employers believe in the motto of turning conventional wisdom upside down. Against the backdrop of financial boom and subsequent meltdown during the first decade of this century. Sumit becomes an unfortunate witness, active participant and ill-fated victim in the affairs of Ind-Credit Bank. Over the course of life-altering events, the once blue-eyed boy is slowly but surely sucked into the dark abyss of financial world his dreams collapsing one by one in a heap, taking a heavy toll on his personal and professional life. Will he be able to survive?

Same in the spirit as Ravi Subramanian's Banking trilogy, the book moves at a brisk pace and we are introduced to a range of characters from all the hierarchical levels in the bank. The mystery seems interesting to start with and you genuinely feel sympathetic towards the rigmarole of Sumit's life. The language is crisp and there are quirky one-liners thrown in within the finance context. Even in personal relationships, there is a sincerity in Sumit's relationship with a junior colleague but at some point in the narrative, that plot-point is conveniently side-tracked and loses momentum. Such kind of road-blocks make this book a difficult read after the initial momentum.

Problem is, there are very little nuances here, everything is sanitized and things get extremely preachy in the narrative. The author writes with a heavy hand, underlining every single point it makes while telling this story, leaving almost nothing to subtlety. As a result, the book is too long and rambles on and on when clearly a reader has run out of patience. If you’re unfamiliar with finance jargon, much of this book is going to sound like Greek to you. It could have been gritty and realistic, but it goes for a more populist tone instead. The conflict seems too simplistic in the end, and you’re pretty much bored for much of the second half. The personal life description of the main protagonist is too detailed specially including those scenes where his wife is hosting a TV show and invoking responses from audience. Almost 10 pages could have been simply edited out because it hardly makes a difference to the main narrative.

I am going with 2.5/5 for Puneet Gupta's 'The Suicide Banker'. It is not a bad book by any means; it is just too long, too preachy and too many characters sounding similar in the end analysis. A little restraint and light hand would have done this book a lot of good. Read it if you are from finance background, you may feel different about it.

January 30, 2012

Book Review - 67 : The Cavansite Conspiracy

 Author: Manjiri Prabhu
Publisher: Rupa & Co.

The theft of the precious mineral stone, the cavansite, from The Crystal Museum of Minerals has left everyone puzzled, more so because the modus operandi of the theft has uncanny similarities with an international bestseller, The Cavansite Conspiracy by Chris Carver. While the police and the curator of the museum are on the hunt, a spiritual group in Bangkok too is interested in acquiring it by any means.

Meanwhile, Koyal Karnik, a lecturer in communication studies working in Hamburg, Germany, arrives in Pune to attend her friend Jasrajs wedding. Little does she know that she will not only be implicated in the theft of the cavansite, but that her friend will be murdered, and she will be forced to become a fugitive on the run. The only person she can trust is her ex-boyfriend Neel, with whom she takes off on a journey of mystery and love from India to Hamburg, then to the Isle of Sylt and finally, a London television studio. But can she really trust anybody? And what is the connection between Jasraj and the cavansite? What is Jasrajs fiance hiding? Finally, who is Chris Carver and what is his role in the mystery?

It is fast-paced and thrilling and keeps you glued most of the time in the narrative. The twist in the end was unpredictable and it is highly unlikely many readers will be able to guess it before the climax. The story moves around various countries and a gamut of plot points which will keep you glued. I particularly liked the sensitive treatment with which the problem of left handed people in India is dealt with. Considering at one point of life, i seriously thought myself to be ambidextrous, i was able to relate to the dilemmas and social restrictions that come on the way.

The romance between the couple is fun to read and extremely relatable. Both of them have a back story to fall on and are constantly throwing repartee which make their conversations spicy and juicy. The only time the book slips up is when the author infuses a Bollywoodish feel to the narrative by concentrating too much into the romance between Koyal and Neel.  Right under the nose of a death threat and conspiration to frame her, the couple play games on ice-dunes and make the romantic sparks flew. What was sorely missing was a song to be picturized on the couple in the Isle of Sylt! This acts as a deterrent to the pace of the story and intermittently takes away the focus from the murder mystery, diffusing a juveliness which is hard to fathom. But one should look beyond these nitpicking for an extremely rewarding read.

I am going with generous (3+0.5) = 3.5/5 for Manjiri Prabhu’s ‘The Cavansite Conspiracy’. Barring a few glitches in the end and a sagging middle portion, it is a tight thriller which delivers what it promises. It starts briskly and will keep you engaged most of the time. I recommend you make time to read it.

January 9, 2012

Book Review - 66 : Frosted Glass

  Author: Sabarna Roy
Publisher: Frog Books

Frosted Glass comprises one story cycle consisting of 14 stories and one poem cycle consisting of 21 poems. The Stories, set in Calcutta, bring to the fore the darkness lurking in the human psyche and bare the baser instincts. The stories, compactly written raise contemporary issues like man-woman relationships and its strains, moral and ethics, environmental degradation, class inequality, rapid and mass-scale unmindful urbanisation, are devoid of sentimentalization. They  move around the central character who is named Rahul in all the stories. We encounter the events that shape, mar, guide Rahul's life and also the lives of those around him, making us question the very essence of existence. Rahul symbolises modern man; he is not just one character, but all of us rolled into one.

Books like 'Frosted Glass' are nightmares for reviewers. There is so much good and bad about the book that it is a tough choice to make a decision. The character 'Rahul' is repeated in each of the story, so after reading few of them, you stop relating to him because subconsciously you are still thinking of the previous story. The author could have so easily name all the male characters with different names in the story and still come out with that common feeling of fake, half-done relationships.

There is a long list of sexual desires depicted in the book - threesomes and foursomes, making out in public places, exhibitionism in front of painters, kinky pleasure of getting raped by mutual consent, fellatio by a 12-year-old, extra-marital affairs gone wrong in bed, sexual experiments with homosexuals and so on. I am hardly straitlaced to be affected by such repressed and unconventional methods of portraying relationships but the sensation of being on a high fades away after a while when the writing gets repetitive with the sexual escapades, and to a point it becomes draining and boring.

 The story cycle still stands out for dispassionate style with which betrayal in personal relationships and resultant loneliness has been handled. The best thing is that the writer does not take sides between the betrayer and the betrayal and hence, you can empathize completely with that bitchy, saucy relationships. The poems weave a maze of dreams, images, reflections and stories. They are written in a reflective and many a time in a narrative tenor within a poetic idiom. The poems are inseparable in a hidden way and are elegantally sequenced.

I am going with 2.5/5 for Sabarna Roy's 'Frosted Glass. It is not a bad book by any means, but with a little more restraint and non-over-indulgence, it could have been so much better. In the hand, reading it feel likes being to your favourite restaurant but being undone by their signature dish.

January 5, 2012

Book Review - 65 : When a Lawyer Falls in Love

Author: Amrita Suresh
Publisher: Offshoots

Ankur Palekar, a third year law student believes his life is quite sorted out, except that he does not want to become a lawyer, has a family history of lunacy and has actually fallen in love. Vyas, Ankur's roommate and best friend, has no such problems - only a girlfriend who emerges from a grave yard of all places and who insists on visiting him in his boys' hostel. A Malayali friend, whose car never starts and vocal chords never stop, a college festival being organized without the college and an arranged marriage which is more deranged than arranged!

When a lawyer falls in love is a terrible, cliche title for a book that is actually not so bad but could have been much better. Keep aside the usual college romance, where the book actually falters is the fact that it has little or no association with lawyers. Come to think of it, if you are writing a story about a law college and students, at least delve into a little detail about the making of these budding lawyers. That's where i felt let down. It touches this plot-point only at the surface level, not making much efforts sufficiently into the complexities of becoming a lawyer. Instead what we get is a whole host of palmistry and astrology gyaan which to be frank is bit of a drag.

Having said that, there are portions written with sincerity and makes you relate to the whole range of characters without being over sentimental or cheesy. The editing is tight, and even though it could have done without those awkward clauses and pauses, it still holds on to its own when it comes to portraying the quintessential Bollywood type romance. There are few illogical turns in the narrative - like those living on campus switching to corresponding courses, students searching for those corporate jobs from year 3 and so on. But with competent writing and cheek-in-tongue jovial moments, you manages to finish the book in real quick time.

I am going with generous (2+0.5=)2.5/5 for Amrita Suresh, 'When a Lawyer falls in Love'. If you are a fan of chiclits and campus novels, you should like this. For others, don't read with too many expectations and perhaps, you will not be disappointed.

January 4, 2012

Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol : An exciting ride

Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol is an enthralling, exciting ride albeit ridden with preposterous scenarios and very little logic. It brings fun and action elements pervasive in the first three installments of MI series and presents an action-packed, adrenaline pumping journey which audience will love to be part of.

Tom Cruise returns to reprise his role of IMF agent, Ethan Hunt.  His team on this new mission comprises sexy but tough Jane Carter (Paula Patton), gadget-junkie Benji (Simon Pegg) and a cocky desk analyst William Brandt (Jeremy Renner). Together they must overcome all ‘limitless’ obstacles – including being disowned by the US Presidentwhen they're falsely blamed for bombing the Kremlin in their pursuit of crazy Russian businessman Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nvqvist), who by the way is determined to blow up the world using nuclear weapons.

The most exciting scene of the movie is when Ethun Hunt scales Dubai's 2500 odd-foot Burj Khalifa with nothing more than a pair of gloves. It is a brilliantly shot break-in sequence which makes you clutch your seat a little tighter.This is followed by a brilliant chase in the sandstorm giving you all the required goosebumps you expect in an action thriller. Ultimately, what takes the level to a higher level is the child-like enthusiastic attitude of Tom Cruise who gave his all to the character.

As expected, Anil Kapoor appears in a blink-and-miss role of Indian business tycoon, Brijnath. He is sleazy and utter lame dialogues such as ‘all Indian men are HOT’. The length and the impact of such a role again raise important concerns about Indian actors’ crossing over to Hollywood with very little to do or get in terms of quality roles. Why Indian actors vouch for such meaningless roles with the hope of ‘crossing over’ to Hollywood - a question remains unanswered. Nevertheless, it was sporting of him to allow being slapped and kicked by the curvaceous Paula Patton.

In the end, MI - GP is a perfect popcorn munching, seat clutching thriller. Watch it because it brings backs the fun just like seen in the last three installments.

January 3, 2012

Book Review - 64 : The Blogging Affair


Author: Amitabh Manu
Publisher: Frog Books

In hindsight, 'The blogging Affair' reflects the dark, ugly side of vanity publishing in India. It is hard to point out any other reason how such a book can get into the market in the first place. This is lazy, almost arrogant publishing at its best. It is so laidback, that it even forgets the most basic ingredient in a book - a plot. 

For the sake of it - here is the flimsy story: "A young woman’s body is found murdered in a suburban flat. The evidence reveals an affair with a married man. To the seasoned police force this is just another routine love triangle affair gone wrong. However, as other evidence comes to light, they are realising that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye. One detective comes across an anonymous blog and it sheds truth upon the case. The ramblings capture the ebb and flow of a criminal’s mind – and a murder of lust and betrayal: a sex-crazed husband wants the best of both worlds; the love of his wife and the challenge and raw passion of his mistress. When things take a turn toward hopelessness, will the husband end the affair? How far will he go to rid himself of this complication? The investigation twists and turns as the detectives solve this mind-bending case. The intrigue will leave you wanting more. The mystery will leave you perplexed. And you’ll ask, “Who is the blogger?”

Generally, i find writing book review of the murder mystery most difficult because of the inherent nature of the genre. But i cannot say the same for this book since there is no mystery at all in the book. That is a totally different thing that it rambles on and on for more than 340 odd pages. It is an unedited version of the manuscript, and i am sure that no one remotely associated with the book - author, editor, publisher had any idea what they are doing with it. Keep aside the numerous spelling, punctuation and grammatical mistakes, it just does not engage you at the most basic level.

Narrating the blog posts in a reverse chronological order and keeping the tone strictly gender-neutral raises red flags early in the book about the identity of the blogger. The married person's narrative is one big hoax and nothing else; writing about perverted sex moments without any links with the main story is ridiculous to say the least. I am not prudish by any means but continuously rambling about sex life without taking the story forward is insipid and frustrating to say the least.

The conversations between the cops and portraying their internal friction while solving the murder case is interesting to start with, but soon it also goes down the hill because there is no even an iota of mystery. In fact, there are such impractical and illogical plot points which will make you cringe no end. Sample these: The cops decides the sex of the blogger based on the colour of the dreams. The cops interrogates the married person on the phone rather than arresting him. The cops blatantly put forward all the clues in the front of all people remotely associated with the case as if solving a murder mystery is a child play.

It is not that writing is bad, i have read worse. It is the lack of a proper plot, structure and any sophistication which kills you no end. Transposing all the blog entries on a book doesn't make sense till you provide a cohesive feel to it. There are far too many digressions in the name of education, quotes, religion, sexual frustrations that you just don't get a feel of the main story.

I am going with 1/5 for Amitabh Manu's debut novel 'The Blogging Affair'. It could have been far more rewarding read if there was some thought process gone behind the plot and the narrative rather than just filling in the pages with nonsense clatter. It's back-breakingly long, and I can't remember one plot point that made me feel excited about this book. Indeed, an affair gone horribly wrong.

January 2, 2012

The Tumblr Bug Bit me...

Yes, i am finally on Tumblr. It was more or less just a matter of time. Of late, i am finding variety of thoughts crossing over my mind in the form of quotes, songs, videos, comments, photos which i desperately need to get out of the system. Twitter has a word limit of 140 and writing blog posts usually takes time and at times, require too much formatting. It is better to jot them down in a quick and efficient manner rather than just letting them go.

So, there you are... follow me here on tumbler. 

For all those who do not want to be part of yet another social networking websites, i will post weekly/bi-weekly updates on the blog.