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May 16, 2015

Book Review - 193 : My Clingy Girlfriend

Author : Madhuri Banerjee
Publisher : Westland Books

Madhuri Banerjee’s latest book My Clingy Girlfriend looks at romance from a man’s perspective in a fun-light-hearted way. A clingy girlfriend will go through your phone. She will destroy the contact numbers of every other girl on your phone. She will delete your Facebook profile. And will give you forty-five missed calls in the sixty minutes you put your phone on silent for an office presentation.

Obrokranti Banerjee’s girlfriend ticks all of these, and more. Caught between wanting to break up, and the fear that he’ll never find another girlfriend if he does, he finds himself doing things he never imagined: watching Shah Rukh Khan movies, having to fast with her on karva chauth, and perhaps worst of all, having his girlfriend join him on a boys’ night out!

Subtlety is definitely not the forte of this book and author goes full throttle in depicting the stinginess of the relationship between the two lead protagonists, ultimately turning Radha into a caricature. There is never a sense of belonging to her - no back story, no bad relationship experiences, no parental marriage discords, nothing at all which makes it all the more confusing as readers keep comprehending why she behaves in this particular manner. The tips given by Obro at the end of the book look like cut paste from newspaper columns and derails the book completely by slowing down in an otherwise fast paced, well edited book. But these 'tips section' stick out like sore thumb because they do nothing to add to the narrative and just add to the sexist one dimensional tone of the book.

However, if you can get past the narrow character traits, there is some fun to be had - the conversations between the protagonists will remind you of some of your own talks if you ever been in a relationship, specially a live-in one. There is also a really, really nice section where Obro actually think how miserable he has been all this while and how he is responsible for all the trouble in their relationship. I thought this perspective brought some sort of sanity and relatibility factor to his character. The climax is just too convenient and this may be another shot by yet another author to try and make a sequel out of really a 'no plot book'.

I am going with generous 2.5/5 for Madhuri Banerjee's 'My clingy Girlfriend'.  It is funny in parts, makes you think at times but otherwise tends to be cater on a one dimensional tone. Read it if you must.

[This book review was done in association with Writers Melon ]

May 3, 2015

Book review - 192 : Story of Tublu

Author : Jahid Akhtar

Publisher : Lifi Publications

Devastated by the floods, Bipin and his little boy Tublu move to a faraway land, where they meet the Sharma’s. This marks the beginning of a long and enduring relationship between Bipin and the Sharma’s, and the growing friendship of their children Tublu and Maina. The book captures the journey of this friendship through childhood to adolescence and into adulthood. From some interesting school and college humor, the story progresses on and develops into a mature narrative. As years pass, Tublu’s plain and silent crush on Maina develops into deep love and longing for Maina which bears the potential to conquer all of life’s challenges.

As you would imagine, this blurb and the foreword give away all the story and major twists in the book. One needs to wonder why anyone remotely associated with the book did not bother to check on this major goof up. Consequently, as a reader you are never deeply interested in the tribulations and the respective, coming of age story of Tublu. There is too much happening - moving to different places, devastation of floods, college memories, childhood nostalgia, happy but cliche ending but there is never a feeling of anything of genuine interest or even a slight tension in the narrative. You are going through the pages without really bothering what is happening with these characters.

I am going with 1.5/5 for Jahid Akthar's Story of Tublu. Noble intentions aside, this is a poorly structured and presented book asking for little investment from you as a reader. Even if you are a fan of mass fiction, this will be a difficult book to go through. Read at your own risk!

Book Trailer:

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

April 27, 2015

Book Review - 191 : Banquet on the Dead

Author : Sharath Komarraju
Publisher : Westland 

Kauveramma, the matriarch of a prominent family, falls into a well and drowns. The only curious detail is that there was no water in her lungs. Kauveramma was terrified of water, which raises the question of what she was doing at the well at the time of death and the possibility of foul play. Detective Pasha and Inspector Nagarajan’s investigation begins with a series of interviews with Kauveramma’s sons and daughters.

What makes the novel stand out is an almost Agatha Christie-sh kind of investigation treatment - each character has a motive to kill and each of them has an alibi to believe in. Author's way with words - in terms of scene visualization is captivating and an attempt not to deliberately try to dumb down the language is well appreciated. (something which a lot of current crop of novelists do). Pasha's subtle reading of clues - in view of body language, hand movements and reading in between the lines is what gives the story the necessary strength. The narrative is easy and the settings provides an almost countryside like calmness to the investigation.

Not all of the characters are well etched and the initial build up is excruciatingly slow. There seems to be an almost deliberate attempt to confuse readers with too many characters even though you can easily guess before hand that some of them has absolutely nothing to do with the murder. I was also disappointed that after initial few chapters - Pasha's shayari lines go out of the narrative and all we are left with is a stereotypical miyan fumbling Hyderabadi guy.

I am going with 3/5 for Sharath's 'Banquet on the dead'. I was not cent percent happy with how the actual murder take place - it is far fetched to have been done in that way. But nitpicking apart, it is a watertight murder mystery that deserves your time. Will be happy to read more only if author promises to give Pasha another novel to bring in those cheesy shayari lines again to the readers!

April 6, 2015

Book Review - 190 : Dead Meat

Publisher :  Penguin Books
Author :  Ankush Saikia

A body has been recovered from a tandoor oven, A young accountant is missing with a suitcase full of cash and a city in the heady grip of T20 fever with the annual championship playing on. This provides a eye catching background for private detective Arjun Arora who works the streets of Delhi dealing with the shady underbelly of the capital city. Hired to track down a missing person, Arjun stumbles upon a gruesome murder where the suspects seem to be linked to something larger and more sinister.

Dead Meat : There's a butcher on the loose is a part noir and part detective story. Saikia takes time to set in the story in with numerous characters and it does ramble on a snail pace while introducing each of them. The sweat and smell of Delhi is interspersed, first at a superficial level and then almost forced into the narrative, just like how Delhi is with its residents. The author does not shy away in dealing with real people across various strata of society - there is an almost underlining of creating a class distinction between the haves and havenots of the society during the investigation. 

There are portions of ultimate patience which you need to display as a reader because nothing really happens. The back story of Arjun's divorce and current fling provides nothing but cheap redemption to his personality. Arjun has a drinking problem and frankly, too much word space is given to this constant habit even while he is solving riddles to get to the killer. The plot points by the end are hazy and not all add up to the narrative. At over 400 pages, the narrative is way too long and leaves you exhausted as a reader feeling helpless just like Arjun being constantly stuck in traffic.

I am going with 3/5 for Dead Meat by Ankush Saikia. Much shorter in length and a bit fast paced, this could have been a great thriller set in Delhi. An opportunity not fully utilized.

March 29, 2015

Book Review - 189 : He fixed the match she fixed him

Author : Shikha Kumar
Publisher : Vitasta Publishing

Shreya is an independent professional in Delhi. Kunal runs a textile business in Mumbai and had been divorced. Their marriage is fixed by parents and due to reasons best known to author, Shreya never sees Kunal till the marriage day (How in these days of Instagram, Whatsapp and Facebook, this is even possible is something you will never fathom as a reader)

The author does try really hard to bring in twists and turns in every chapter but the story here is wafer thin and too predictable. Just like earlier Karan Johar movies - we have gala receptions, mata ki chowki, karwachauth and all that jazz to fill in pages. Nothing much happens for long duration in the book and we are inundated with one uninteresting character after another. The climax is done to death kind and there is not much effort made to even try and be different. At 280 odd pages, this is way too long and to add to the misery, it is poorly edited with numerous grammatical and spelling mistakes.

I am going with 1.5/5 for Shikha Kumar's debut novel. The book ties up with numerous companies for promotion -, Bharat Matrimony and Scavin Eyewear. One wish same amount of effort was put in writing and editing the book as done in the marketing. The results would have been far more rewarding for the readers.

January 29, 2015

Book Review - 183 : The Uncommon Memories of Zeenat Qureishi

Author : Veena Nagpal
Publisher : Tara Research Press

Traumatised in the aftermath of the London Tube bombing, the phobic 20-year-old Zeenat Querishi comes to India. Long before Zeenat was born, the eldest Qureishi brother, his wife, and six-year-old daughter Zainab were murdered.  Zeenat’s family believed the Mehras, their Hindu family friends, responsible and the friendship turned sour. Wild and impetuous Zeenat promptly falls in love with Ajay Mehra. Faced with proof that he was involved in the demolition of a mosque, she scorns him. Disturbed, Zeenat undergoes regression therapy in an atmosphere of paranoia and uncovers memories so powerful that she can project them. Communal bitterness that has simmered for centuries threatens to explode around her and Zeenat tries to find answers in the past that will help her understand and heal the present.

Set in the early 1990s, the book paces itself leisurely, at times a bit too much. The author wants to explore the communal lines in the wake of Ayodha riots and Babri demolition. One can already feel fatigued by these ideas as there has been so much written, talked, discussed and deliberated on these topics that it does not feel entirely fresh.  Problem is, all of this is lying under layers of detailing Hindu fundamentalism and Islamic terrorism. Material is dense, timelines are confusing and the jumps between the scenes in the narrative are not always seamless. Characters are introduced and conveniently forgotten in the narrative, only to question the motive of the writer. With multifaceted characters, it becomes boring after a while because you know none of them can think straight, they are just grey characters who will not appear what they are. It is also ironic that in a book which is trying so hard to please Muslim characters in the end make them complete jerks by the end. I am sure this was not the intention while writing this book.

I am going with 2/5 for Veena Nagpal's 'The Uncommon Memories of Zeenat Querishi'. The author has noble intentions and tries really hard to pack in a lot of things. But it left me exhausted as a reader, and i say that in the best form of the word. Try it, you may feel different.

January 18, 2015

Book Review - 182 : Hooked, Lined & Single

Author : Rashmi Kumar
Publisher : Srishti Publishers & Distributors

‘Hooked, Lined and Single‘ is about Alafia Singh, a 31 year old divorcee writer. She was married at the early age of 21, and the marriage lasted 11 months The book mostly deals with getting married again, finding another man and dealing with misadventures in that process.

There are portions of dry humour and inspired lunancy - like the one in which Alafia try matchmaking through or another one in which constantly spluttering whatdfuck friend is trying to impress her through culinary skills. But these moments are far and few in between. Structurally disjointed and too many loose ends in the book makes you wonder where exactly is this book heading into climax. There are long portions where nothing really happens in the story unless you encounter yet another man our lead protagonist is so desperately looking out for leading to a certain repetitiveness which is hard to fathom as a reader.

You never get a true sense why Alafia got divorced at 21 and what went wrong in the first marriage. Instead you are provided this as a FYI situation leading up to many more men. Most of the characters are introduced at a superficial level and soon forgotten. You just sense this book more as a collection of diary entries rather than forming a concrete story.

I am going with 2/5 for Rashmi Kumar's second novel. It is a much more improved than author's debut work but there is still scope of better things. We, as readers deserve much better work from her.

January 17, 2015

Quick notes on a book about leadership in Police

Authors : Radhakrishnan Pillai and D.Sivanandhan
Publisher : Jaico

Rating :  3 / 5

Chanakya's 7 secrets of leadership by Radhakrishnan Pillai and D.Sivanandhan is a book about the seven pillars of good governance. It depicts the pearls of wisdom left behind by Chanakya, a celebrated leader in 4th Century BC India. The Arthashastra is the prominent work of Chanakya's secrets and theories. It defines the concept of Saptanga, meaning the seven pillars of an established nation, which are: Swami, Amatya, Janpada, Durg, Kosha, Dand and Mitra iti Prakritya.

These seven footholds have been incorporated by many leaders in their organisational practices and they continue to be devoutly pursued by many to form a successful Kingdom. The co-author Radhakrishnan Pillai, takes the modern day example of D. Sivanandhan, former Director General of Police, Maharashtra. He is proclaimed to be an honest and capable leader and shares his views on being an efficient manager. Forming a relationship between things past and present, Radhakrishnan Pillai successfully delves into the intrinsic workings of Chanakya's Saptanga and applies it to modern day society. How current leaders adopt this treaty and apply it to their respective fields for success is analysed in this book.

The seven pillars of leadership display wisdom and with meticulous research it has been reflected in the work of the author. Second in the series after Corporate Chanakya, the authors delve into the practical example of Police force - their hardships, their trials and tribulations, the problems faced by them on a daily basis amidst harsh circumstances. Resolution to gang war in the early 1990s and almost no difference in professional & personal lives of the police force is abundantly illustrated.

January 15, 2015

Book Review - 181 : The Winner's Curse

Author : Dee Walker
Publisher : Srishti Publishers & Distributors

Orphan Harsh makes it to the billionaire club with a burning vision,sheer intellect and the blessings of his political Godfather. The favours must now be paid back, through a huge Guru Dakshina. To honour his Master's wish, Harsh, with the help of his fellow IITians, sets out to create a never-seen-before governance technology that will change the face of democratic India. Everything is at stake: money, reputations, egos and morals. Even lives. Will they succumb to insatiable greed in the murky games of politics,backstabbing and subterfuge, or will they be redeemed by the “Ten Commandments” that once forged their ideals at college?

Author knows a thing or two about setting up scenes as was quite evident from his earlier foray into the world of first time writers in the blooming but still nascent publishing industry of India. There are multiple scenes in this fast pace narrative which is testimony to the same fact - Protagonist meeting with investors in Dubai or the scenes where even the protagonist have to choose between two friends . Undercurrent fact that we may be dealing with some real educational institutes of India here keep the readers genuinely hooked up and sufficiently interested.

The first 40 odd pages are dense and it will take time to actually get your head around what exactly is going on with these characters and their motivations which is a pity in a thriller of this kind. The author does well to take some hot topics in politics and governance - UIDs, Aadhar numbers, National ids, whatever you want to call it. . I also enjoyed how the author makes a distinction between the have and have nots by the way one uses technology in their daily lives.

Editing leaves a lot to be desired in this book. In the print version i had, there are multiple repetitions of sentences, sometimes even entire paragraphs have been incorrectly printed. The pacing is brisk and there are sufficient number of twists and turns to take you though this frankly, long book (280 odd pages) for a thriller genre. I am also quite sick of Indian writers using the gay angle as a surprise package to make the plot thicker, it has been done to death and quite frankly, does not work anymore and any well read reviewer will see it coming from a distance.

Despite these nags and poor editing, this is decently researched and well compiled book dealing with an unique concept about UIDs. I wish it was more shorter and tighter to have a better impact on readers. I am going with 3/5

[ Review of S.V. Divvaakar earlier book, Beaten by Bhagath here. ]