Tag Archive | Books

Water for Elephants


waterForElephantsIn essence this is clichéd love triangle where a guy meets a girl. She plays a damsel in distress and the guy rescues her from her evil husband. I know this doesn’t in the least sound new or exciting but I have to confess that an unusual setting and a great narrative is all it takes to make even such a clichéd story line gripping and  entertaining.

This story is set in the post war depression period in the US. Jacob who is a medical student at Cornell university – studying to be a vet. He looses his parents in a car accident and doesn’t have a home or money for tuition. In a moment of daze he leaves he climbs onto a train which happens to be the Benzini Brothers circus train. Soon he finds himself as the vet for the exotic animals there.

The circus here reveals something dark and grim under the glamorous and entertaining appearance. When the number of people on the train grew more than its capacity or if some employees suffered from incurable diseases due to contamination, the solution was to simply execute them by pushing them off the moving train.

Another classic example for this is Marlena’s marriage to August. On the exterior their marriage is rosy and picture perfect. August seems charming, caring and more. But on looking a little deeper you realize the reality isn’t quite this. Marlena suffers in the relationship as August is a schizophrenic – she eloped from home for the charming August who in reality did not exist. Not having a home to go back to, Marlena silently suffered in this dysfunctional relationship. And then Jacob comes along and there is an instant attraction and rescues her.

Overall, this is a good read. But like I said earlier the main story line is not unheard of but the setting in a larger than life post-war US circus is a winner. Another positive is the narration – the whole story is narrated by Jacob who is in his 90s and in a nursing home. A casual summer read – not something that will knock your socks off.

Overall verdict : 3.5/5

Beneath a marble sky


marbleHistoric fiction has come to be one of my most loved genres and I couldn’t help but fall in love with this book. This tale has everything that a great story has – battles, victories, romance, politics, greed, lust and more. Hailing from India and never having visited Agra or seen the Taj Mahal this book has made my urge to visit Agra more fierce.

As a chapter in history we have read about Shah Jahan building this architectural marvel of a mausoleum in loving memory of his wife and also about the wrath of Aurangzeb and his succession to the throne. But never have given such a first-person (though fictional) thought to the process.

The story is narrated by Princess Jahanara who is the daughter of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. She is intelligent, witty, a hopeless romantic, brave and knows the rules of politics and power. As a child she learned a lot from her mother Mumtaz who herself was a kind and intelligent women. Other important characters are Jahanara’s two brothers – Prince Dara & Prince Aurangzeb. Dara was to be king in succession is portrayed to be kind and open to all religions while Prince Aurangzeb is someone whose greed for the Peacock Throne and conservative interpretations of the Koran portray him as insensitive and brutal.

Meanwhile, Jahanara is married off for political reasons and loathes her husband. He is everything she despises – insensitive, does not respect women, illiterate and crass. During a childbirth Mumtaz passes away. After her demise, Shah Jahan becomes inconsolable and lost in grief. He decides to build a mausoleum for Mumtaz and asks Jahanara to head the project. This is where she met her Isa, her lover.

Jahanara suspects Aurangzeb’s intentions to succeed to the throne and overthrow his father and does her best to warn and prepare Dara but unfortunately that doesn’t have quite the ideal outcome. Aurangzeb kills Dara and imprisons Shah Jahan and succeeds to the throne. Jahanara manages to escape and leads one of those ‘happily ever after’ fairy tale endings.

My favourite character of the book is Ladli – who is Jahanara’s gorgeous, witty and loyal Hindu friend. She comes to Jahanara’s aide when the Peacock Throne needs her. Her language and use of expletives just cracked me up. She adds some more colour to the already wonderful tale. This book is a must read! Entertaining and gripping all at the same time.

Overall verdict: 5/5

The Immortals of Meluha


1900 BC. In what modern Indians mistakenly call the Indus Valley Civilisation. The inhabitants of that period called it the land of Meluha a near perfect empire created many centuries earlier by Lord Ram, one of the greatest monarchs that ever lived. This once proud empire and its Suryavanshi rulers face severe perils as its primary river, the revered Saraswati, is slowly drying to extinction. They also face devastating terrorist attacks from the east, the land of the Chandravanshis. To make matters worse, the Chandravanshis appear to have allied with the Nagas, an ostracised and sinister race of deformed humans with astonishing martial skills. The only hope for the Suryavanshis is an ancient legend: When evil reaches epic proportions, when all seems lost, when it appears that your enemies have triumphed, a hero will emerge. Is the rough-hewn Tibetan immigrant Shiva, really that hero? And does he want to be that hero at all? Drawn suddenly to his destiny, by duty as well as by love, will Shiva lead the Suryavanshi vengeance and destroy evil?

This is the first book in the Shiva trilogy which was a national best-seller. This book portrays the vivid imagination of the first time author Amish. In one line this book sets the myth of Shiva in today’s world which makes the readers more receptive and open to it. It is key to note that this book is classified as the ‘Alternative History/Fiction’ genre so the original myth has been twisted and turned to make the story more gripping and dramatic.

Shiva is the leader of the Guna tribe of Tibet which occupies the area near the Mansarovar lake at the foot of Mount Kailash. The ways of being of this tribe are rather barbaric and their constant challenge is to fight the aggresive Pakrati tribe. Shiva is convinced by members of the Suryavanshi tribe to immigrate to the other side of the hills – to India.

After Shiva immigrates to India (or Meluha), he consumes the Somras – a medicinal drink created by the Meluhan’s which transforms his throat colour to blue. This causes a certain excitement and anxiety among the Meluhans. Shiva seems puzzled at the strong devotion of the Meluhan folks. He later discovers that according to the Indian legends – an immigrant with a blue throat or a neelkanth would be the destroyer of all evil.

Shiva is invited to the city of Meluha and meets the emperor. He is astonished by how well planned the cities were. They were a sheer engineering marvel. Once he is at Meluha he falls in love with princess Sati who is a great dancer and a fierce warrior. Sati is also subject to some unfair traditions of the society called the Vikarma laws. Shiva removes the Vikarma law which was an unfair tradition being followed among the Meluhan’s. He also discovers that the reason for the rather long lives of the Meluhan’s is their secret medicinal drink – the Somras which is manufactured at a secret facility at Mount Mandar. During his stay and travel Shiva makes many friends. Some key characters like: Nandi – the Meluhan chief who convinced Shiva and the Guna’s to migrate, Brahaspati – the chief scientist at Mount Mandar, etc.

Throughout the book there are some hooded creatures (the Naga’s) who try to attack and abduct princess Sati. They are believed to be notorious and their fighting skills are feared. Not much is revealed about them in this book but their presence makes the book even more gripping.

The story about the union of Shiva and Sati as per the book is not in-line with the original myth. Shiva is pictured as an ordinary human being with his desires, flaws and regrets. His flaws to smoke weed, desire to obtain Sati, regret from a childhood incident where he did not perform his duty. This makes the story more acceptable to the mordern logical Indian who cannot accept the existence of a ‘perfect’ soul. To conclude, this book is an absolute page turner and a must read!

Overall Verdict: 4.5/5
PS: I may be biased in my overall rating as I love Indian Mythology!

 

If Looks Could Kill – Beverly Barton


A face to die for! MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL, WHO IS THE DEADLIEST OF THEM ALL? The victims are found face-down in the murky waters of Cherokee Pointe, Tennessee. The murders all share the same characteristics: the victims are found naked except for a black, satin ribbon tied around they’re necks — and they’re all redheads. Meanwhile, Reve Sorrell has come to Cherokee Pointe seeking answers about her connection to bad girl Jazzy Talbot. With their stunning looks, the two redheads are mirror images of each other — but raised in very different worlds. As the serial killer leaves another chilling calling card, Reve turns to Sheriff Jacob Butler to help her unravel the deadly secrets of her past. But one person will do anything to stop her — and they are closer than she could ever imagine!

This was my first Beverly Barton book and I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The book is a must read for any one who enjoys crime and romance. It gives you a good dip in both of these. It was an absolute page-turner and towards the end I found it hard to put this one down. Right from the beginning Barton narrows down the list of suspects but it still keeps you guessing about who the real killer is. Towards the end, I badly wanted to know if my guess about who the killer was, was right. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I was wrong, that made the end more exciting for me – who doesn’t like surprises?!

Lets now peekaboo into the plot.  Reve and Jazz (Jasmine) discover that they are twin sisters and have lived their entire life not knowing that they had a twin sister. Reve was discovered in the dumpster and after that adopted by a wealthy family – the Sorrells. Jazz on the other hand was brought up by her aunt Sally Talbot who was an eccentric old woman and wasn’t very well off but loved Jazz dearly. Both the twins due to their contrasting upbringing found it hard to accept the idea of sisterhood. Slowly as they get to know each other, they start liking each other almost instantly. Jazz is dating a guy called Caleb who has recently discovered he is heir to the wealthy Upton family in Cherokee point.

Slowly the twins become curious about their mysterious past and set out to discover the truth about their biological parents. And soon realize someone wants to keep them away from discovering the clandestine past. Meanwhile there is a serial killer on the loose who kills pretty red-heads and to their disadvantage Jazz and Reve are both red-heads and are next on the hit list. Slowly these seemingly different dangers intertwine together and makes matters extremely complicated and dangerous for the red-head siblings.

Reve meets Sheriff Butler in her first visit to Cherokee point and in their first encounter they despise each other. It is interesting to see how their relationship changes with time. With time the despise begins to fade and how they become romantically involved. This relationship adds the romance to all the conspiracy and murders. Overall an enjoyable read. I look forward to reading other Barton books.

Overall Verdict: 4/5

One Day – David Nicholls


‘I can imagine you at forty,’ she said, a hint of malice in her voice. ‘I can picture it right now.’He smiled without opening his eyes. ‘Go on then.’

15th July 1988. Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew meet for the first time on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways.
So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that? And every year which follows?
One Day is a funny/sad love story spanning twenty years, a book about growing up – how we change, how we stay the same.

The choice to read this book was again an easy one it was an international bestseller! I have to be honest and tell you that the book did not live upto its name. It was a very interesting read in the beginning and towards the middle of the book you just loathe the characters. You loathe Emma’s naiveness, Dexter’s pompousness. I haven’t still been able to make up my mind about the end of the book. I absolutely hated one of the over-the-top drama twists to the tale but I think the author made an ok-ish comeback after that. In short, nothing to look forward to.

This book showcases the relationship between a boy and girl over a span of twenty years. This book shows how the friendship evolves over time. How they get each others back through their  lows in both personal and professional life. Emma Morley has a crush on Dexter Mayhew and does her best to not show him that.

The initial phase of their friendship is the best the book has to offer. It is very realistic and probably something a lot of us can relate to. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the long letters they write to each other especially the detail of the underlining or upper case because that is exactly how I write! Having said that I wouldn’t want to relate myself to the naiveness of Emma.

Dexter is portrayed as the cool dude who is a big hit among women and is innocent at heart. He joins the media/entertainment industry as a tv anchor and transforms into one of those pompous, full-of-himself ass hole (Please ignore the usage of words but that seems like the most apt way to describe him). During this phase, he doesnt value his dear ones and takes them for granted. It is during this phase that Emma is working at a Mexican restaurant. She wonders what she is doing working as a waitress which was never what she had dreamt.

In the next phase, their lives take a turn and their roles reverse. Emma is now the successful writer while Dexter is the failure. He has made a mess of his life and is jobless and divorced. Emma is still there for him and he rediscovers his life. And this for me is the part that let me down the most. Too much drama just traumatized me and I would like to say it could have been much better.

Overall Verdict: 3/5

Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid


In Lahore, Daru Shezad is a junior banker with a hashish habit. When his old friend Ozi moves back to Pakistan, Daru wants to be happy for him. Ozi has everything: a beautiful wife and child, an expensive foreign education – and a corrupt father who bankrolls his lavish lifestyle.

As jealousy sets in, Daru’s life slowly unravels. He loses his job. Starts lacing his joints with heroin. Becomes involved with a criminally-minded rickshaw driver. And falls in love with Ozi’s lonely wife.

 But how low can Daru sink? Is he guilty of the crime he finds himself on trial for?

I have an interest in literature written in an Asian or middle-eastern set up so the choice to read Moth Smoke wasn’t a hard one at all. In one line this book can be described to be about sex, drugs, and class conflict in 1990s urban Pakistan. It urges the reader to judge the trial of an ex-banker and heroin addict who has fallen for his best friend’s wife. The book highlights one key transition affecting the life of a warm hearted banker. The first cause is the personal financial crisis he goes through after losing his job. Second cause is the society. It is interesting to see the role society plays in making him a darker person.

After Ozi and his family return from New York, Daru has his old friend back and he thoroughly enjoys their company. He finds Mumtaz, Ozi’s wife very intriguing in her ways of being and her open-mindedness. Mumtaz is a very non-conventional asian woman. She doesn’t feel affection towards her son and doesn’t appreciate her husbands inherited surreptitious fortune. Because of these reasons her married life is going through its lows for a couple of years now. She is an anonymous journalist and covers controversial stories and this is where she gets the excitement and enthusiasm in her otherwise boring and lonely life.

Slowly, joblessness makes Daru ‘try’ hash and soon becomes an addict and a seller too. During this phase, it is very clear to see his life falling apart. Daru and Mumtaz find a lot in common and indulge in intoxication and bantering. Slowly these meetings blossom into a full fledged affair.

Another harsh reality that dawns upon reading this book is the huge rift in lifestyle for people belonging to different classes in society. Daru despite being a better student and more hard-working has a much harder life and cannot take anything for granted. On the contrary, Ozi has a dont care attitude has the best cars, alcohol and mansion in town without having made any effort to achieve or deserve it.

What I find most fascinating in this book is the way in which Hamid forces the readers to rethink about the three central characters. Daru starts off as being the likeable guy who unfortunately loses his job, who was a good student in school, misses his mother, happy about his friends, doesn’t like too many favours from his family/friends and a friendly character overall. His character progressively becomes darker. This is shown by his hatred for his friend Ozi because of his financial situation, his betrayal to his ‘best friend’s wife.

Ozi starts off as being the spoilt New York returned guy who cannot manage without air conditioners. Slowly, Hamid brings out other characteristics like being a good father, a faithful and loving husband very strongly. Taking a look at the third central character Mumtaz, the initial description of an asian married woman with a young child makes her sound rather normal but her nature is far from that. She loves her privacy, loves adventure, enjoys alcohol, indulges in an extra-marital affair and does anonymous magazine articles about most controversial issues that society normally shuns away from. In the end, it makes it extremely hard for the reader to make any judgements about any of the protagonists.

However there is a downside to the book. The analogy that Hamid tried to portray between Shah Jahaan’s sons and the characters of the book failed quite badly. I don’t know if it was just me but I was slightly lost and disinterested during that phase but I am glad I dint give up on the book.

Overall verdict: 4/5

Lovers and Liars


A passionate love affair. A happy young family. And a successful 30-year marriage.

But which one will be destroyed by the truth?

Sophie and her sister, Jess, grow up knowing that a few little lies are necessary: You look great. It was only a joke. He’s just stressed. It doesn’t matter. Everything’s fine.

Everybody does it, don’t they?

But what about the big lies – about love, power and money? When Sophie discovers her father’s secret, and Jess falls in love with the charismatic Jake, Sophie has to look at her own life again. Should she keep quiet or tear her family apart with the truth?

And if she tells, who will pay the ultimate price?

I picked this book for casual light-hearted reading whilst travelling to work everyday as I did not want a rather heavy subject to be thrusted upon me. The title and the prelude suggested that the book was about relationships and betrayals, in short a family drama. I expected the subject to be rather something for easy reading which wasn’t the case. This book deals with the issue of domestic abuse.

The plot revolves around a British family of 4 based in London. The family includes Paige, Bill, Sophie and Jess. Paige is the main character of this story who is the victim of domestic abuse and doesn’t realize how she has been manipulated and exploited over the years. She does everything possible to save her marriage with Bill. He is an arrogant manipulative man who has a construction business and needs to in-control of everything and everyone. Sophie is their elder daughter, who is portrayed as a typical pretty, spoilt, popular girl. She feels responsible of taking care of everyone when in reality, she is the one who needs help in taking the right decisions. Jess on the other hand is a tom-boyish rebellious daughter which is a very big contrast when compared to her lovely sister. In the book, Jess’ character has shown a great spirit in taking decisions being independent and ‘thinking of herself’ which some members in her family are unable to do.

Sophie discovers Bill and his accountant Anthea Jones are having an affair and is in a fix whether or not to tell Paige about it. She tries to convince herself that she was blowing things out of proportion and that they had developed a personal comfort level with each other due to working together for long hours. Eventually the whole family finds out about this affair which Bill manages to very conveniently defy.

Bill is someone you can hate through the length of the book. He mistreats his wife, is an alcoholic. Does all the threatening in an extremely smart manner, spies on his wife, does everything to control her, criticizes her, ensures she has no friends, etc ,etc. Poor little Paige thinks he is just ‘under stress’ because of business is in trouble. Slowly she finds out the truth behind his behaviour. The manner in which the thought process of Paige has been showcased is great. How she makes the revelation that she indeed is the victim of domestic abuse, that her husband is not merely ‘under stress’ but a fanatical control freak and liar. I believe these are the most interesting and gripping parts of the book after which the unexpectedness of the book is rather low. You seem to be in a position to guess the ending which was rather a let down to me.  Overall a good read.

Final Verdict: 3.5/5

Khaled Hosseini- A Genius


Profound thinker and writer Khalid Hosseini has made a mark with his books -‘The Kite Runner’ and ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’. The two books became best sellers in no time! With such content and skill it would be a surprise if they weren’t….

Both the books give us a peekaboo into the lives of the people of Afghanistan. For a majority of us Afghani’s hav been just the news headlines and the figures, nothing more… Not many of us think about the emotions of the people living quite literally ‘IN the line of fire’. The two books are quite different and force you to picture the pain and misery of people there.

The first book that is The Kite Runner tells us more about the social barriers of caste that induce suffering. It is a story of two boys Amir and Hassan who are best friends right from childhood. Hassan is a Hazara (one of the lower castes) and he goes beyond limits for his dear friend who does not realize this at that point of time. In reality, Hassan is the Amir’s illegal step brother (which he discovers very later). Just to save himself from the disgrace, his faithful servant takes Hassan to be his child. The story is set in the background of the Sovient invasion. It tells us about how Amir flees from Afghanistan and has a life long regret of never having stood up for his best friend. A MUST read for all!
Amir might be the hero for a lot of people but for me Hassan is the true hero. He symbolizes true friendship and commitment. His forgiveness and love touching!

A Thousand Splendid Suns(ATSS) is again a great book but nothing in comparison with The Kite Runner.No wonder they say a writers first book is his best!
ATSS revolves around the story of two women and how they form a mother-daughter relationship in the hostile situation in Afghanistan where there had been one invasion after another. It also makes us aware of the pitiable state of women under the taliban rule. How the rules, regulations, schools even hospitals were different for both men and women. It is sadly the most inhuman behaviour one can imagine. But nevertheless it is a story of a fighter- Laila who not only overcomes the odds of life but also is lucky enough to spend her life with her childhood love -Tariq. Laila is an educated woman who dedicates her life to bringing her country back to life.

If you are still looking for another reason to read Khaled Hosseini books here it is…. Well… he is one hell of a good looking man! 😛 😀  hehehe

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