Looking for Love?

April 28, 2013

Quick Notes on Priya Kumar's 'Thinking Aloud'

Author : Priya Kumar
Publisher : Embassy Books

Rating : 3 / 5

The book is a collection of original quotes on the subjects that matter in life - thoughts on winning, happiness, courage, love, hope, self-worth, humour, attitude and more. Each quote is an insight that makes you think and believe that there is more to life. It's a short intake of inspirational and motivation quotes which can pump you up during the times you are feeling low. 

It belongs to the category of self help books and as in most cases, the main purpose of such books are written with the aim of boosting self confidence for a person and providing confidence to take the harder way over the wrong way. They also are instrumental in driving through tough or complicated situations and provide an effective way out.

The book is neatly divided into various short chapters starting with a prologue and then quotes pertaining to every subject matter. It is meant to be inspire people and should be judged within those boundaries. With its boost-up content and beautiful layout, this is an excellent choice for gift as well and meant for quick reading over a cup of coffee.

April 27, 2013

Book Review - 124 : The Homing Pigeons

Author : Sid Bihari
Publisher : Srishti 

Not all love stories are perfect, but then neither are people.

The book encapsulates the above quote completely and build the premise around it. For obvious reasons, the title of the book give away the ending of the novel which is almost a crime to do in a literary fiction. Still, there is an utmost sincerity attached to the narrative that even though my mind wandered around abundant logical loopholes and grossly over written lines, i was hooked by the characters and their tribulations.

In the middle of recession, Aditya meets a woman in the bar and his life changes instantly by the lure of a profession he never thought he would get into in his dreams. Radhika, a young widow and ex-lover of Aditya marries off her stepdaughter, little she knows her newly found freedom will never be the same she had envisoned ever.

The author decides to tell the story from the point of view of two narrators - Aditya and Radhika, with alternating chapters devoted to each of them. This unique narrative device does help in creating two flesh and blood characters and follow their lives over three decades. But what it also does is create flabby chapters with repetitions of the same thoughts or a plot point told from both characters point of view. This in turn, make the book long, and require some deft editing. It also meant that there are multiple plot points inserted which has little to do with the story and should have been cut it out in the first place (Aditya's friend turning to his own profession, for instance)

However, the expressions and emotions are something which we can all relate to and even though their problems are not out of this world, it is the simplicity with which things unfold keeps you hooked. It drive home the point that relationships can never be perfect since the drivers of those relationships are not perfect themselves and striving for that elusiveness will only take you away.

I am going with 3/5 for Sid Bihari's debut novel, 'The Homing Pigeons'. It is well crafted story which employs unique narrative device to tell the tale of its two characters. You just wished it to be lot shorter to have more impact as a reader. And yes, this is a mark departure for a publishing house towards quality writing who was once known to dish you mass fiction writers and books one after the another. Give it a chance, you won't be entirely disappointed.

[This book review is done on request of Srishti Publishers & Distributors]

April 26, 2013

Book Review - 123 : Salvation of a Saint

Author : Keigo Higashino
Publisher : Hachette (In India)
Translated by : Alexander O. Smith

There’s an extramarital affair followed by a dead body. Suave ladies’ man, Yoshitaka Mashiba, is found dead with a cup of spilled coffee next to him with traces of poison in it. His distraught mistress finds his body in his upmarket Tokyo home. Nothing suggests a forced entry and he was alone at the time of death. Was this a suicide or the perfect crime?

The mistress has a perfect alibi so the most logical suspect and the one person with a motive is Yoshitaka’s mysterious and beautiful wife Ayane. But she was visiting her parents in Hokkaido, hundreds of miles away from Tokyo. So she's out. Or is she? Things turn interesting when Kusangi, the prime detective on the case is seen falling for Ayane and develops a soft corner. Their interaction forms a key aspect in solving the crime as the detective have to overcome his personal bias towards the prospective killer.

Enter Manabu Yukawa, a physics professor who has an uncanny knack for solving crimes – Yukawa (very) slowly closes off all possible avenues of investigation before uncovering the startling truth. Helping them this time is feisty detective Utsumi who is not shy of having put her foot down with Kusangi. Conversations and conflicts between them becomes interesting and refreshingly provides a fresh female point of view on the investigation.

Those who loved author's last outing as a novelist are bound to find a similar kind of sustenance and should be excited with yet another perfect crime wrapped with grilling investigation sessions and mental games. In the end, it is not whodunit murder mystery but how the murderer has accomplished the crime which builds the core part of the narrative. It is always difficult to follow up a landmark book and this case is no exception.

Inherently Sherlock Holmes in its structure and style, the book is fast paced and requires complete attention. Obviously as a reader, you need to get acquired by Japanese names and come over every character's obsession with tea and coffee. The characters complement each other and bounce off ideas in order to reach the right conclusion about how the murder is committed and for the most part, becomes the talking point of conversation. The final conclusion do feel forced and certain loose threads does not culminate well but you are ready to take that on the chin for most of the cases. However, if you have not read is previous works, this one should be really adored.

I am going with 3.5/5 for Keigo Higashino 'Salvation of a Saint'. It is not as perfect as author's last novel, 'The Devotion of suspect X' but judging on an individual basis, it is yet another watertight, perfect crime thriller which will keep you hooked till the end. though you wish it was a little shorter and had more meat. 

PS: This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

April 19, 2013

Book Review - 122 : Hunger Games

Author : Suzanne Collins
Publisher : Scholastic

Confessions First. I watched the movie - Hunger Games (released March last year) before i went in reading this fantastic trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Even though i enjoyed the movie thoroughly, keeping my straight line thought of 'books-being-better-than-film-adaptation', i went in to read all three books in the past few months.

Hunger Games is written in the voice of 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem, where the countries of North America once existed. The Capitol, a highly advanced metropolis, exercises political control over the rest of the nation. The Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl aged 12–18 from each of the twelve districts surrounding the Capitol are selected by lottery to compete in a televised battle to the death. She volunteers for the 74th annual Hunger Games in place of her younger sister, Primrose. The male tribute chosen from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, a former schoolmate of Katniss who once gave her bread from his family's bakery when her family was starving.

Collins, who got inspiration to build up the trilogy by channel surfing of various reality shows on TV knows a thing or too about pacing and building up tension through the written word. Things move at such hectic speed that you need to take breaks to absorb all the drama and the action. This is not to take away the credit from the fact that there are some solid characters who reveal in this gory game of sweat, blood and character. It does portray that hypnotic level of violence but you enjoy it even though it is not real. And that's where the true victory of the book lies.

I am going with 4/5 for Suzanne Collins, Hunger Games. It is a video-game prototype book which reveal its card one by one, keeping you on tenterhooks all the time. If you haven't read it yet, you are definitely missing something in life. Go for it!

April 16, 2013

Old Notes on 'Electric Feather - The Tranquebar book of Erotic Stories'

Editor : Ruchir Joshi
Publisher : Tranquebar Press

Rating : 3.5 / 5

The editor of the anthology gives the readers the background of the book in the preface, which has the curious title “Repairing Brindaban”. When he asked his select group of authors to send unpublished, original writing 'about and around the erotic and the sexual', predictably not all jumped at his proposal. Some stayed mum, some showed disdain and some thought it was beneath them to write ‘porn’. But some young, promising and upcoming authors responded with their fare which found their way into the Contents.

Samit Basu’s The Wedding Night is nothing but unadulterated sex amidst games on the night of a wedding. Sheba Karim's gentle story of a girl down on vacation, and infatuated by her aunt was subtly nuanced and written with the kind of restraint that makes writing effective. Niven Govindan's story about a pair of gay lovers in Amsterdam, who are bound to each by a painful bond of hurting and pleasure makes for fascinating reading.

Tishani Doshi and Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, both surprise us with non-confessional stories about inexperience. In Madhavan’s story, a 27-year old man loses his virginity, courtesy of a colleague. In Doshi’s, a matronly woman in her first relationship pleasures herself on a train, text messaging her married lover through the night. 

On the other hand, couple of stories completely baffled me and made me question their presence in the anthology. The one by Abeer Hoque is straight out of some research paper on sexology and is utterly distracting by the insertion of those irritating footnotes. Same with Rana Dasgupta's 'Swimming Pool' which may appear to be a bold editorial choice but failed to made an impression despite an edgy premise.

There is a nice mix of what i call as highbrow erotica for the literary snobs and titillating, drooling stuff for the young teenagers and arguably, that is the best marketing way to sell more books. There is something for everyone here. Read when your sex hormones are in over drive, guilty pleasure at its best.

April 14, 2013

Notes on Kulpreet Yadav's 'India Unlimited - Stories from a Nation caught between Hype and Hope'

Author : Kulpreet Yadav
Publisher : LiFi Publications

Rating : 3 / 5

India has become a phenomenon in the contemporary world. It is capturing everyone’s attention from businessmen to Hollywood stars in the West - intriguing them and challenging their notions of what India represents. But how real is the Indian story on the ground? 'India Unlimited' is an attempt to bare the lives of the Indian people and their surroundings that define an ambivalent India trapped between Hype And Hope. 

The stories are set In villages, towns and Metro cities of a country under overhaul. It is an attempt to depict pain, pleasures and prejudices of everyday Indians as they adjust to the change that fate has thrust upon them. Inspired by real life incidents, this collection slides through various themes like appalling lives of street children, new perceptions of love or hate or sex, rampant organized crime, urban disorder, corrupt politicians, Influence of western values, depraved spiritual and Yoga Gurus et. al.

Just like most short stories collections published these days, this one has its own hits and misses, but most of the stories make a mark in dealing with the central theme of portraying the gap between what Indians expect in terms of money, respect and their individual professions. It helps that quite a few of the stories have been previously published in International Journals and online magazines, and to be honest are the best bits in the book.

The stories are told in lucid, easy manner without an hint of sounding preachy which is crucial for such a work because to be honest you don't want another lesson on how one should behave or feel in a developing country like India. The author maintains sensitivity in all his stories and that's the best part of the book. However, this comes at a cost of some stories being bland and a little boring to read. In few of the stories i found focused too much on similar feelings for sex and intimation which became repetitive as the book progressed.

The stories are situated across different strata of society and that's what makes this collection a little unique and does give a feeling of cohesion. Do read if you are a fan of short stories and looking for some quick bursts of self introspection.

April 13, 2013

Notes on 'Shades of Sin : Behind the Mask'

Author : Multiple
Publisher : APK Publishers

Rating : 3/5

Divided into three sections - Light Grey, Dark Grey and Black, 'Shades of Sin' consists of 25 short stories weaved around the vices like greed, lust, ego, pride, anger and jealousy. The stories encompass a gamut of writing styles and settings, contributed by 6 authors from diverse backgrounds. Even though the stories straddle a wide spectrum, there is a unifying feeling about the central theme.

'Burn' by Aanandita Chawla (AC) and 'A Woman's touch' by Vivek Banerjee (VB) brings a surprise by their spooky endings though you may see the end of the latter one coming from a mile. 'Shouting Out Loud' by Upneet Grover (UG) and 'The Blue Shoes' by Saksham Agrawal (SA) are slice of life stories which we all can relate to. 'The Butterfly effect' by UG does have an interesting narrative but the climax is a tad disappointing. 'An Illicit thought' by Sreelatha Chakravarty is arguably the best story in the anthology with emotions fluctuating from lust to jealousy and finally, culminating in an ending which very few of us can claim to guess second hand.

'For the Love of God' by UG make interesting comments about the life of a Colonel but is too short to have a strong impact. 'The Bet' by VB is standard ghost story with a predictable climax but does portray some decent atmospherics to set up the narrative. 'The Yellow Top' by VB does bring out the dark side of company politics and an unhealthy competition between colleagues even though laced with filmy tones. 'The Leap of faith' by UG takes leaf from the Mohammed Amir/ Asif no-ball spot fixing incident and builds own version of the same which keeps you guessing till the end. 'Dhaba' by SA effectively brings illuminates the vagaries of society by illuminating the irony of haves and have-nots struggling to make a living. 'Tamale's Temptation' by VB is a moralistic tale of a loyal government servant only to fall for the temptations in life and makes a point about all of us who have decided to take the easy way over the hard choices sometimes we have to make. 'Standing Tall' by UG, again a slice of life portrays the emotions of a person through everyday actions on road. 'Three lives' by AC narrates complex relationships between three people and even though it is well narrated, it has have been there, read that feeling to it. 'Ping by VB brings the facet of online chats and how it diffuses complexity in the larger scheme of relationships.

'The city never sleeps' by VB is edgy thriller story about a prostitute in Kolkata who has a secret behind her inner mode. 'Versions of Reality' by Vrinda Baliga portrays the thin line between reality and illusion and how relationships mirror that. 'A reason to Smile' by SA portrays the dark side of human nature behind that innocent smile. 'Virtual Love' by VB borders around the thin line between sexual perversion and an unhealthy obsession towards porn. 'The Slight of While by UG deals with an interesting premise with narrative alternating between reality and dreams.

The limitation of the anthology is that it makes excessive use of Peripeteia and Anagnorisis to tell the stories so that by the time you have read a few initial ones, you almost start putting a feeling of disbelief to the characters. Because you know their actions and feelings will not exactly be the same by the climax as expected as the authors are quite keen on having that surprise ending to tell their tales. This in turn, brings a predictability factor which may be avoided if you read the book in different sittings.

You will experience a variety of feelings while reading this book. A few will leave you disgusted and tempted, others will keep you engaged and hooked. But most of the unpredictable ones will leave you satisfied as a reader. There are very few writers these days who want to try something different and make a genuine difference by their writing. This is one such initiative. Go for it!

April 11, 2013

Book Review - 121 : Tantra

Author : Adi
Publisher : Apeejay Satya

Anu is a leather wearing, no-nonsense professional guardian with a reputation for killing the most dangerous vampires in New York City. But when her enemies murder the one person she truly cared about, all she wants is vengeance. The only clue points to New Delhi, so Anu puts in for a job transfer.

In India, she finds more than she expected. For one thing, her fellow operatives have made a truce with the vampires. For another, it’s way too hot to wear leather. At first, it seems Anu’s biggest challenge will be evading the nice boys her aunt wants her to marry. But when children start disappearing, she discovers forces older and darker than anything she’s faced before. All of Delhi is in danger, especially the sexy stranger who sets Anu’s pulse racing. To prepare for the coming battle, Anu must overcome her personal demons and put aside years of training. This time, her most powerful weapon will come from her mind, not her weapons belt.

The book falls under multiple categories - mystical fiction, vampires, supernatural stuff and a super-heroine. And there lies the biggest flaw of the book. It tries to grapple with so many sub-plots in one go that either the characters/situations remain under cooked or have very little significance to the narrative. Delhi seems to have picked as the city to pan out this story, but clearly this could have been any city. No place seems familiar and a passing reference of West (or central or North) Delhi makes fleeting appearances. The author place the story in Delhi but very few of us can claim to know of the city by the cafes and restaurants these characters interact and do all the action.

There is very little background given for Anu's vampire abilities and even though this may not have been necessary...with supposedly the first book in the series, it was crucial to build a relationship of your central protagonist with the readers. The author drowns the narrative by introducing so many tantric and spiritual stuff, you feel like an atheist sitting in a pravachan and don't know how to get out of it. Coming with a tacky cover design, the story starts briskly but takes too many detours to reach its ultimate destination.

It is not that books is a trash. There is some fun in the conversations of Anu and Amit, a fellow vampire. With dry and witty humour, these conversations keep you engrossed for a while. There is abundant research done for the mystical stuff but somehow it never becomes sum of its parts. The author takes a right step in the direction by going in an unknown territory as far as Indian fiction is concerned but botch it up by inundating the readers with too much of information in one go. 

I am going with 2.5/5 for Adi's 'Tantra'. It introduces a strong and interesting central character but concentrates more on the action than treatment of these characters. This book silently reminded me why i have always hated the 'Twilight Series' so much. Much ado about nothing. Read it at your own risk!

PS: The author mentions the website on the book and is lazy enough not to make one, instead directing towards the Facebook page of the book.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

April 10, 2013

Book Review - 120 : One Last Time

Author : Shubham Arora
Publisher : Paper Clip Books

Ishaan and Tithi grow up together in Ambala, meet again in Delhi and fall in love. They get into a long distance relationship because Ishaan has to move to New York for his studies. One fine day, Ishaan gets a phone call from Tithi who is about to be married and he sets off to meet her on a flight. From there on, the narrative alternates between past and the present and takes us through their love life from their childhood till date.

In between, there is a cricketer angle thrown in. A cricket match rambles on for a good 10 pages which does nothing to add to the story. In fact, there are many detours which does not contribute much to the main naarative. And there lies the biggest problem of the book. It is just a collection of scenes pieced together with little thinking behind how to unfold drama in these scenes. In the end, it just read so familiar and borderline boring.

The book is ultimately saved by some sort of chemistry between the lead pair. There in genuine sincerity in the frustration and anxiety portrayed for the long distance relationship and author does make a pertinent point how young couple find it exceedingly difficult to handle the LDR and the physical non-proximity. But Alas, you can't say the same about other things.  A nicely done cover page, however, aptly describes the story and captures the various time zones the narrative incorporates.

I am going with 2/5 for Shubham Arora's second novel, 'One Last Time'. If you are fan of mass-fiction romantic books, go for it. Otherwise it will be met out with a lot of disappointment because it has very little to offer new in terms of action or treatment.

April 9, 2013

Book Review - 119 : Behind The Silicon Mask

Author : Eshwar Sundaresan
Publisher : Westland

A techie community of around two hundred Indians stationed in Milwaukee suddenly finds itself under a siege. On a fateful Friday, a cyclonic snowstorm Super Susan is breaking winter records outside their windows. And beyond, somewhere in the inky darkness, a serial killer who targets immigrants is on the loose. An indiscreet TV journalist inadvertently has already informed him that almost the entire community resides within a three- block radius in downtown Milwaukee.

Two young techies belonging to the community - Partho Sen and Varun Belthangady are particularly under threat. Unaware of this fact, they carry on as usual. Varun must deliver a crucial software application for his Fortune-500 client before the weekend ends. Meanwhile, Partho must confront his inner demons to save the most important relationships in his life.

They must deal with these urgent needs, even as they deal with their rapacious corporate employer, an overambitious boss, unpredictable events unfolding in the living rooms and bedrooms of their colleagues and the effects of the most potent cocktail in the world. There is one man who can save them yet from the serial killer - Detective Farley of the Milwaukee Police Department. But will the serial killer prove too clever even for him?

The author touches upon certain points in the IT industry deftly - How a corporate deadline is so important that it may overlook a hidden danger to its employees? The author also touches upon how the power of public relations is able to make a company or an individual; what one sees is not always what the reality is. How employees at times push themselves too much in their jobs keeping their personal lives at stake? How IT employees deal with long distance relationships in the onsite-offshore model and how their libidos play funny games with them?

Good thing is that these points are subtly introduced and resolved, and this not-in-your-face treatment works wonderfully for the book. There are moments of loud thinking and deep introspection (a-lizard-in-the-room sequence) which add layers to both the book and the characters. It has took author almost 10 years to write the book and you can feel the umpteen number of twists and turns thrown in to keep the readers engrossed and hooked. The narrative works on a terrific pace and with around 10-15 main characters, it becomes an interesting account of keeping a tab on all of them.

What does not work for the book is over-mention of the IT language with details of production testing and bug-fixing thrown in like routine stuff. People who are not familiar with this kind of jargon will find it tough to sift through the pages as it will become difficult to comprehend the urgency and be aware of a critical situation. Also, it would not have hurt to kept the number of characters to a minimum, including couple of sub-plots of romantic relationships.

I am going with 3/5 for Eshwar's 'Behind the Silicon Mask'. It is a well researched fast pace thriller which will hook you from the beginning till its abstract ending. Read it, you will be pleasantly surprised with its tone and refreshing take on IT Industry.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

April 4, 2013

Old Notes on Saumya Bhattacharya's 'Dad's the Word : The Perils and Pleasures of Fatherhood'

Author : Soumya Bhattacharya 
Publisher : Westland 

Rating : 2.5 / 5 

“You don’t know suffering until you have children. You don’t know joy. You don’t know boredom, you don’t know — period,” says Philip Roth in The Anatomy Lesson. Soumya Bhattacharya’s book, Dad’s The Word: The Perils And Pleasures Of Fatherhood, not only quotes Roth but is rooted in the belief that becoming a father changes you forever.

Dad’s The Word does not profess to be a book on parenting, a treatise about fathering or any sort of go-to guide. It is simply a languorous unravelling of Bhattacharya’s most intensely private thoughts, fears and observations about being a father and more specifically, an entirely personal recounting of being his daughter’s father.

The author is not shy of self-exploration with his daughter as co-traveller, student and teacher on this great journey. How do you explain money and financial matters (why we don’t live in a bigger house with more things) to a child who is growing up in the country’s financial capital? How do you ban television-viewing when there isn’t a ‘great outdoors’ for your child to explore? Is it ok to give your nine-year-old an occasional sip of beer and wine? How do you explain the death of a pet? How do you justify your refusal to quit smoking?

The book is easy to read. It reflects on the whole parenting issues without making a heavy production out of it. It answers questions, leaves behind more questions and is prepared to face whatever situation that arrives in parenting. Therefore in one way parenting makes one bold, daring and responsible. To be able to think on their feet and to be able to answer convincingly, questions that are difficult to answer and learn to even evade the uncomfortable ones. 

The problem with the book is that pontificates a little too much, inundated with too much information about English writers and their classic works, in turn making the prose turgid. He also does not delve at all among the most important facet of Parenting - Sibling rivalry. No fatherhood can be complete without dealing with this important and exclusive theme. Read it for some of the insightful portions as the book is cut from his weekly columns. But as the writer says, "Anyone could have written this book". In the hindsight, after reading the book, may be yes!

April 1, 2013

Quick Notes on 'Alchemy - The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories 2'

Editor : Sheeba Karim
Publisher : Tranquebar Press

Rating : 3/5

The editor builds on a basic premise. So many elements of ourselves come together in the act of sex: skin and bodily fluids, desire, fear, greed, joy, stigma, pride, affection, guilt, often in the hopes of creating something more beautiful, our personal elixirs of life, however temporary, however permanent. In Alchemy, Tranquebar's second anthology of erotic short stories, editor Sheba Karim has brought together thirteen diverse works about the pains and pleasures of sex. The stories traverse through various continents, cultures, cities, genres, sexual orientation and milieu, taking the reader on an intimate journey through the complexities of sex, lust, and desire as the characters search for a cure for the alchemy of love.

Stories here does provide novelty and innovative ideas (including a futuristic tale of a four gendered orgy). Sexual passion, in its subtle forms, though play a central role while narrating these stories. Like many short story collections dealing with erotica, there are low and high points. This one is no different though i must quickly add that the high points are really strong and does invoke an emotion of passion.

The book starts with an unapologetic account of a postmodern man's attraction to his maid and ends with a libido-fill husband (whose wife had a recent miscarriage) encounter with a call girl who desperately wants to see Taj Mahal next year. There is a poignant tale of a boy's sexual awakening in a cinema bathroom and a lyrical meditation of a mysterious woman's carnal lessons to an imprisoned monk. My personal favourite, however remain the story about a male who is trapped in the body of a female and finds sexual solace in an abusive relationship with a college drop-out and budding politician. It has raw energy and touches an indescribable emotion about such people. 

I particularly found couple of stories dealing with foreigners or Indian people in foreign location overly complex and turgid. They do not particularly hold my interest but it seems a little rude to the writers/publisher who have gone out of their way to bring out an erotica yet again to warm up your senses. Do give it a chance but with a caveat of not liking every story you read here.