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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Journey Home by Radhanath Swami - A Book Review

It has been two weeks since I finished reading this book. What an extraordinary reading experience it has been. It is an incredible story of a seeker who eventually becomes a revered seer.

The blurb gives a quick idea of what readers should expect from the book.

Within this extraordinary memoir, Radhanath Swami weaves a colorful tapestry of adventure, mysticism, and love. Readers follow Richard Slavin from the suburbs of Chicago to the caves of the Himalayas as he transforms from young seeker to renowned spiritual guide. The Journey Home is an intimate account of the steps to self-awareness and a penetrating glimpse into the heart of mystic traditions and the challenges that all souls must face on the road to inner harmony and a union with the Divine.

Through near-death encounters, apprenticeships with advanced yogis, and years of travel along the pilgrim’s path, Radhanath Swami eventually reaches the inner sanctum of India’s mystic culture and finds the love he has been seeking. It is a tale told with rare candor, immersing the reader in a journey that is at once engaging, humorous, and heartwarming.”

Can you imagine a desire for spiritual knowledge in a person so strong that he could hitchhike from Europe to India with almost no money? Sound incredulous, right? Those were exactly my thoughts when I came to know about the way Richard (later known as Radhanath Swami) reached India.

The year in 1970 and the author, then only 19 years old flies to Europe with friends. He is a Jewish American who lives in Chicago with his family. At that time, he is immersed in the hippy culture, but something is constantly nagging him. While he is in Europe with friends, he suddenly has a strong urge to satiate his spiritual quest. With practically no money in his pocket, he travels from London to some popular European destinations like Amsterdam, Florence, Athens, etc., and finally Crete where he decides he must visit India. Since, he has no money for a ship ticket or for airfare; he decides to hitchhike to India via Turkey. His journey is filled with various encounters and experiences that will make you wonder about the person’s determination.

So determined Richard was about his quest that he kept on moving towards his goal with conviction and determination. I am totally in awe for him and his life story.

The book gives you some of the very important lessons about life. It is an inspiring and enlightening story that could help many seekers like him in their quest.

I received this book from Jaico publishers in exchange for an unbiased review.

This book was originally published by Mandala Publishing in the United States in the year 2010. It was first published in India by Jaico in 2013.

About the Author:

Radhanath Swami was born in Chicago in 1950. In his teens he set out to wander the world on a spiritual quest, eventually discovering yoga path of devotion.

He presently travels in Asia, Europe and America teaching devotional wisdom but can often be found at his community in Mumbai. People who know Radhanath Swami speak of his dedication to bringing others closer to God. Almost in the same breath they speak of his lightness, simplicity and sense of humor. Visitors and friends are inspired by his unassuming nature and natural unwillingness to take credit for the works he inspires - community development, massive food distribution to indigent children, missionary hospitals, eco-friendly farms, schools, ashrams and emergency relief programs.

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Sorry… Again? Can he purge his sins? By Amit Singh

 The Blurb Says:
Sid is the inevitable effect of what a small town upbringing brings to the city life. A self-confessed “unromantic”, somewhere in his simple exterior lies a weak preacher, whose yardsticks of life change radically when the unpredictability of life starts experimenting with him.
Anushka, armed with her unselfconscious beauty and poisons imbued into her life, has declared war on the world of men from a young age.
Their romance, even after her protest, is ignited by a train robbery that becomes unforgettable for reasons other than the robbery, catches the warmth because of an adolescent romance that reaches consummation, but remains within the periphery because of a live-in relationship that is on the verge of break-up.
They fall in love, but somebody is not happy with their relationship. Sid is threatened. Will he rise above his fear this time?
The first time I read the title of the book – it hit me as unusual. It seemed like two titles were joined together to form it. I found it intriguing as well as it signaled that the novel was going to an interesting one. However, I was rather unimpressed with the cover of book. Had it been more cryptic and interesting, it would have been more in sync with the story in the novel.
In the beginning of the book, we find the protagonist stealthily coming out of his office to catch a flight. Why he is being so secret about it is not revealed and it builds up the curiosity of the readers.  Gradually, we know about Sid and his life in bits and pieces. We know about his past and present, his insecurities and fears and about the love of his life – Mallika aka Anushka. But, she has her own demons to fight – the untimely and mysterious death of her mother and the strained relationship with his father doesn’t let her trust anyone. How will she cope with her attraction towards Sid? Will Sid be able to make her trust people again? Can they ever be together given the shady pasts they have. All these are things to know when you read the novel.
It was definitely an interesting read. There were too many things happening to keep the readers engaged. Since, this is the author first book; I appreciate his work and how well he has crafted a complicated story. But there are a few cons that need to be addressed too.
First, is there were quite a few typos. Since, I was reading an e copy of the book, I could not mark them all, but there was one such typo that I remember because I spotted it twice in the novel. The term ‘carrier’ was used instead of ‘career’. I found this mistake quite off putting. I think the editor could have done her job better.
Secondly, I was not very impressed with the characterization of Mallika/Anushka. The way she met Sid for the first time was interesting, but the way she was later portrayed in the novel seemed unbelievable. The transformation we see in her in the novel seemed too drastic for the readers to believe. Other than that, I found the novel well executed.

If you are looking for a book to read on a train journey, this book will fit the bill. It is reasonably fast, intriguing and engaging.

I had received more than 2 months ago and it has been over a month before I finished reading it. But, somehow I was not able to post the review here. My genuine apologies to the author for the inordinate delay.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

How to Grow Mint from Stems?

Gardening has always been one of my interests, but my circumstances have always been such that I have not been able to take it up seriously. Every time, I pass by a nursery I wish I could buy as many plants as I could. But, obviously that doesn't happen.

A few months back, I was in a shopping mall where I came across a gardening counter. The person sitting in the makeshift shop was selling a variety of plants which included some veggies as well, like tomatoes, green chilies, etc. I asked him if he had mint. He told me that I need not buy it because it is very easy to grow it easily at home. All I need to do is plant the discarded stems in fertile soil and water it every day.

I was intrigued and decided it to give a try. The picture you see above is about two weeks after I planted the stems. As you can see the cute green mint leaves are growing happily. I chose about 10 sturdy looking stems out of which two dried up and 8 bore leaves.

So, the next time you buy mint leaves, don't discard the stems. Instead, plant them and watch fresh mint grow. While we are on the topic, did you know you can grow spring onions green at home for free? Check this post.

Thanks for stopping by. Cheers!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Thugs & A Courtesan by Mukta Singh Zocchi ~ A Book Review

"Meander through 1819 India with Firangia as he covers villages,jungles and small towns while on a journey of romance, devotion, crime and deception. But there is someone always watching over. This is pre-railways India, when merchants travel in caravans, noblemen with escorts and no road is secure.

On his way home after a trade expedition, Firangia's path is crossed by the beautiful Chanda Bai, traveling with a small party of guards. Though a warrior, she wishes to travel under his protection. Should he decline? Read about grandiose ambitions pitted against petty schemes, love and deceit and what in our modern times is termed evil. You will find in this intellectually ambitious, meticulously researched, action-packed historical fiction a broader, age-independent significance."

I received this book from 'Think Why Not'  in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.

When I first read the blurb, I found it quite interesting. The cover of the book also compliments the era in which the story is set. As is evident from title and the blurb of the book, the book talks about thugs, caravans  and courtesans. I found the whole setting of the book quite fascinating and was hoping it to be an exciting and action packed book. However, the book ultimately failed to make a mark for me.

There are a couple of reasons why it didn't work for me. First is the writing style. The common thing about books by debutant authors is that most of them write in a very easy language. But, that is not the case with this one - in fact, it is exactly opposite. The writing is way over the top and a bit too self indulgent. There were many instances when I felt the need to look up the meaning of a particular word. That is not exactly a bad thing, but it did interrupt the flow of the story.

Secondly, the narration of the book is quite slow and most of times the story loses focus. The book is laced with many short stories but, they do not seamlessly blend with the rest of the book. Characterization is also an issue with the book. There are so many characters in the book that it can get confusing at times. But, there
was not a single one that stood out and made a place in my mind.

While the subject of the book is quite interesting, the way it is written doesn't grab the readers attention. I just wish the novel could have been written in a more exciting way.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Me N Her - A Strange Feeling by Rikki Bhartia - A Book Review

I have been meaning to write the review of this book - Me "N" Her by Rikki Bhartia for quite a while now. But, somehow I was unable to word how exactly I felt about this book. I received this book from the author himself, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. The story revolves around Harsh and Jhanvi - it is basically their love story with quite a few twists and turns, but ultimately culminating into an happy ending. When I received the book review request, I did a quick search on what other people wrote about it and when I saw so many good reviews, naturally it piqued my interest and raised my expectations from the book.

But, 50 pages into the book and all my hopes were dashed. At one moment I was contemplating on leaving it midway but, then thought better of it. When I set aside some time to read a book, I want to read a book that is well written, is free from typos and errors and has something new to offer. I can understand if some typos miss the eyes of editor, but what do you make of a book that is full of errors and is written in a language so colloquial that will make wonder if reading it was a good idea at all. The author has written the book with a lot of emotions - that is visible in the writing style, but the I do strongly feel is that it could have been expressed in a much better way.

All the while I was reading this book, I felt as if I was reading a masala Bollywood movie script that is laced with Hindi 'shayaris' and repetitive use of the word 'yaar' in every other dialogue. While some people may like it, they were the biggest turn offs for me while reading the book. The story is also your run-of-the-mill love story and was quite predictable. I realize now that the book doesn't cater to readers like me. If you are a teenager or are about to step into twenties, you may connect with the story. But, for me it seemed like an old love story sold in a new form. The end of the book is such that one can expect a sequel - my only advise to the author is to come up with a book that is better - in terms of the language and story line.

I sincerely hope that the author takes this review in a positive way. I hope my review helps him to do away with the serious drawbacks in his next work. All the best to him.

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Devil’s Gate – An Impossible Journey by Deepak Kripal – A Book Review

Quoted from the blurb

"Sidelined By Man, Animals Turned To Demons.

 Plundered by humans of their habitats, animals take a drastic step when they decide to send a team of a cat named as Katy and a dog named as Dug, to an invisible island known, as the Island of ‘Five Hundred Graves’. The island becomes visible only for a short time on the night of the full moon.

Legend has it that the island is inhabited by the demons. Katy and Dug are supposed to negotiate a deal with the demons, convincing them to allow the animals inhabit the island. Majority of the animal community believe that tinkering with the other world could bring their wrath to the animals. The team is sent to the island nevertheless.

But can a deal with the dead be materialized?

Are there really demons on the island? Is there any conspiracy involved?

Will Katy and Dug be able to negotiate, or will survival remain their only question in the deadly island?"

This is perhaps one of the very unusual books that I have read in recent times. I was quite curious when I read the blurb – c’mon it is not often that one comes across a book that has animals like cat and dog as the protagonists. It did take some time to get into the book, but once I got the hang of the story there was no looking back. The first time I saw this book, I was not impressed with the cover – a grotesque looking creature rising out of a door was not exactly inviting. But, the story in the book more than made up for it.

As a debut author, the author has done a great job in coming up with a book with such an innovative story line. There is so happening here – there is the mysterious island, the unusual characters of Katy and Dug, demons, monsters, the sophisticated designed Devil’s Gate, the palace of Vanora, Vanora’s curse, the evil Penacus and more. The style of writing is simple and lucid. The suspense builds up gradually and keeps the readers engaged. However, I do think that there were some snags at the editing end as there were quite a number of typos that could have been done away with.

There is an underlying message in the books that speaks of the plight of animals – how humans are constantly destroying their habitats making it difficult for them to live peacefully. I was thinking that it might be horror book, but it really wasn’t. The book is laced with light humor that makes it suitable for readers of all age. In fact, all the time I was reading the book; I could imagine each and every scene in an animated version inside my mind. I can very well imagine it being made into an animated film! I feel it can be great hit among kids.

The end of the book was quite a surprise and it is likely that the author has a sequel in mind. In that case, I will definitely look forward to read it. If you like reading fantasy novels, this can catch your fancy too.

I received a free review copy from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Thank you for stopping by. Cheers!

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Great Indian Democracy by Manivannan K – A Book Review

Twenty-something Vikram rebels against his father and the mediocre life his engineering background has ordained for him by travelling to Delhi to become a stand-up comedian. Only, he is forced to see the serious side of his jokes when circumstances compel him to accept the position of a journalist at The Great Indian Democracy, an upcoming political magazine.

Life drifts along through plagiarized articles and pub-hopping until one day he finds out why he was hired in the first place. And meets Advaita, the annoyingly beautiful intern with whom he falls in love.

I received this book from ‘Pirates’ for an honest and unbiased review of the same.

The first thing I noticed about the book is the cover page – it looked inviting and promising. As Indians, the citizens of the biggest democracy of the world – we are quite aware of what entails a democracy – its plus points, its loop holes and everything else that is associated with it. With the Lok Sabha elections happening in the country, this title seemed quite apt to me to pick up. The blurb had quite raised my expectations and I was hoping that the book will offer me a new way to look at the state of democratic affairs in the country with a good lot of satire and humor.

The book started well, but didn’t quite live up to my expectations in the end. I was hoping that there would be something more substantial on the ‘stand-up comedy’ thing, but it seemed like that it was lost amidst all the other things that were happening in the book. The story line of the book is quite predictable. A lot of unnecessary things fill the pages at times – I couldn’t fathom how the weird description on the categories of girls contributes to the story in any way. Rather, I found it distracting. The writing style is simple which makes reading the book quite effortless. But, doesn’t the story make an impact on it readers? Let us find out.

The character of ‘Vikram’ failed to make an impact on me. Also, I didn’t find the character of Advaita all that interesting. To give the book a political flavour, issues that plagues our democracy are discussed throughout the book – there is nothing new or innovative about them and they are not even written with a new perspective. The only saving grace for the book are the various supporting characters like Ramesh Anna, Sus Cheta, Baldy – Vikram’s Boss, etc. They do lighten the read sometimes and somewhere add to the fun quotient; but, not as much as one would expect. Marketing this book as a comical satire on Indian democracy doesn’t work as the humor promised in the book is pretty much non-existent. If you are picking up this book for the humor it is promising, you are going to be disappointed.

I feel the book could have done better had the title been different and it was marketed differently. It is an easy read and you could pick up if you want a light read in between serious reads. If you don't expect the things the book promises, you might even like it.

Thank you for stopping by. Cheers!

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