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Saturday, 19 October 2013

Arjuna – Saga of a Pandava Warrior Prince – by Anuja Chadramouli - A Book Review

Arjuna – Saga of a Pandava Warrior Prince – by Anuja Chadramouli

Quoted from the blurb:

Arjuna is the immortal tale of one of India's greatest heroes. These pages retell in riveting detail the story of the Pandava Warrior-Prince who has captured the imagination of millions across centuries. This is the intense and human story of his loves, friendship, ambitions, weaknesses and follies, as well as his untimely death and revival, his stint as a eunuch, and the innermost reaches of his thoughts.

Told in a refreshingly modern and humorous style and set against the staggering backdrop of the Mahabharata. Arjuna’s story appeals equally to the average, discerning reader and the scholar. It spans the epic journey from before his birth, when omens foretold his greatness, across the fabled, wondrous landscape that was his life.

I am back again, with a review of yet another book from the mythology genre. If you follow book reviews by on this blog, then you would know that I love books based on the Indian Mythology. That’s why whenever I have the opportunity to read such books, I don’t let that go. I received this book from Leadstart Publishing along with 'Asura' for an unbiased review. You can read my review of Asura by Anand Neelakantan here.

First let me tell you that I can never get tired to reading books on Mahabharata and Ramayana. That’s why I did enjoy reading this book but not as much as I had expected to. Arjuna as we know is one of the Pandava brothers and in this book the author has tried to tell the story of his life. Arjuna is the most accomplished of the five brothers; he like his brothers has a divine origin, is the most successful archer and is bestowed with celestial power which proves indispensable in the battle of Kurukshetra. 

The author dwells on the various characteristic traits of Arjuna; she explores how despite being invincible, he has his own weaknesses and shortcomings; she treats him like a human. Some specific stories told about Arjuna in the book are not that common. So, you do get to read something new. But, overall the whole story is narrated in the back drop of Mahabharata and that is why I felt that this book was just another retelling of Mahabharata with a few extra pages about Arjuna. When I first saw the title ‘Arjuna’ I was hoping for an Arjuna’s version of Mahabharata. I thought it would be something like ‘ThePalace of Illusion’ by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. But that’s not the case. A person reading Mahabharata based book for the first time would enjoy it more. On the writing front, I would say that the author did a perfect job. It is lucid and keeps the readers engaged.

Overall, it is a great effort by a debut author. I will certainly look forward to her future works. Anyone interested in Mahabharata can pick up this book.

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Asura – Tale of the Vanquished by Anand Neelakantan - A Book Review

Asura – Tale of the Vanquished by Anand Neelakantan

We have all heard the epic tale of Ramayana. My earliest memories of it are of the Ramayana serial by Ramananda Sagar, which was telecast on Doordarshan. I was kid then but even then, I knew that Rama was the hero and Ravana was evil personified. This belief is deep rooted in us Indians. That is why when I read this book Asura by Anand Neelakantan; I took a while to absorb what I read. The blurb of the book best describes what the book is all about.

The epic tale of victory and defeat...

The story of the Ramayana had been told innumerable times. The enthralling story of Rama, the incarnation of God, who slew Ravana, the evil demon of darkness, is known to every Indian. And in the pages of history, as always, it is the version told by the victor that lives on. The voice of the vanquished remains lost in silence.

But what if Ravana and his people had a different story to tell? The story of the Ravanayana has never been told. Asura is the epic tale of the vanquished Asura people, a story that has been cherished by the oppressed castes of India for 3000 years. Until now, no Asura has dared to tell the tale. But perhaps the time has come for the dead and the defeated to speak. 

I have always held Ramayana and Mahabharata in awe. They are the treasure of Indian mythology. This book is a very different, in fact radical take on our conventional Ramayana. Read it with an open mind and you will be able to appreciate the author’s view. It takes a genius to have a different take on stories that have been there in our society since ages. But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have my problems with this book. Let me elaborate a bit.

The story of ‘Asura’ is narrated by two people. One is Ravana himself and the other is his follower, a common man – Bhadra. Ravana is depicted as a more humane character than we have always perceived him to be. He has with his own strengths and weaknesses, dreams and fears. He is driven by ambition and that is what makes him the lord of the Demons. He leads his people through numerous victories and carves out a vast empire from the Devas. Bhadra is a common man who follows Ravana throughout his journey to the throne and after. He has his own reason for his enmity with the Devas. As readers, we get to know about all the trial and tribulations in his life as well.

I think the book could have been shorter; it could have been better edited. In many stances, I felt like skipping pages. The self-conversations of Ravana and Bhadra that were sprinkled generously throughout the book were at times drag and made the read monotonous. I would have appreciated the book a bit more if the use of abusive language was kept to a minimum. That the author has put in a lot of effort in the research of the book is evident. You will find that there is an explanation or a new perspective on everything. Overall, I would say that it was great to read a new theory/perspective on Ramayana. It is hard to believe that this is the author’s debut book, he very much writes like a seasoned author. The style of writing is really impressive. You can actually visualize all the scenes in your mind. If you are a Indian mythology enthusiast like me, you can surely pick this book.

received this book from Lead Start Publishing in exchange for an unbiased review.

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Never Mind Yaar by K Mathur - A book review

The title is an attitude - our tendency to feel defeated by the scale and nature of certain problems. Rather than meet them head on, we circumvent them with a sigh and a consoling “never mind, yaar”.

 When long time friends Binaifer Desai and Louella D’Costa meet Shalini Dayal at Gyan Shakti College, a true friendship that transcends cultural and religious backgrounds is born. Louella is a Christian, Binaifer, a Parsi and Shalini, a Hindu.

The novel’s main plot line surrounds Shalini who has fallen for an impetuous student activist, Bhagu. Where does his desire to help the less fortunate lead him? The challenges are many - Shalini’s tradition bound family, the couple’s youth and inexperience and the travails of life in Mumbai, a city the girls love but know, is fraught with communal tension.

When I saw this book up for review on, I thought it was going to be a light and interesting read. But, I was sorely disappointed. To begin with, I had great difficulty getting into the story. The story starts with 3 girls, each with a different background meeting each other as they begin their college life. There is a detailed description of the college and college life. The author then moves on and weaves in a political angle into the story. The infamous Mumbai blasts also forms a part of the plot. Then there is a love angle as well. The blurb of the books says about it. I would say, that the author tried to incorporate too many things into the story and as a result, she lost the grip on the story. The book failed to arouse any interest in me.

I didn't find any relevance of the title 'Never Mind Yaar' with the story in the novel. I would say: stay away from the book.

About the Author: (from the cover of the book itself)

Born and brought up in Mumbai, K. Mathur lives with her family in New Zealand

Mathur showcases her unique perspective into her city’s psyche in Never Mind Yaar.

“I’ve always enjoyed my city except when violence has erupted between communities. On the whole people seem to get along fine. We are proud of our own community but accept that others are proud of theirs. The food we eat, the clothes we wear and the languages and dialects we converse in are diverse and most of us say vive la difference. But there’s a handful in every community who are extremely suspicious of those differences.”

“Why is secularism or a different way of doing things such a threat to these people? This issue has disturbed me since the 1980s when I witnessed communal riots in Mumbai. I felt compelled to talk about it in Never Mind Yaar. But first and foremost, the book is a love story and a story of friendship and fun between three young girls from different backgrounds – Hindu, Parsi and Christian – who meet at college.”

This review is a part of the biggest Book Reviews Program. for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books! Thank you Blog adda for giving me the opportunity.

Monday, 7 October 2013

English Bites by Manish Gupta - A Book Review

When look and see have similar meanings, how can overlook and oversee be opposites?

If you decide to be bad forever, you decide to be bad for good!

How can the weather be hot as hell one day and cold as hell the next day?

They are head over heels in love. That’s nice, but don’t we do almost everything head over heels?

Were you scratching your head over these? Well, I thought you would to do so.

Now tell me the longest English word you know. Yes, you can scratch your head as much as you like!

Okay. I will give you a hint. It has to be at least 35 letters long. Yes, you heard me right, at least 35 letters and no, you cannot go to Google.

Well, if you are wondering why I am flaunting my English skills today, then let me tell you about the source of my newly acquired skills. It is English Bites by Manish Gupta.

I received a review copy from the author for an unbiased review of the same.

English Bites by Manish Gupta is an ideal book for anyone who is intrigued by the English language. It will definitely satiate your curiosity and will help you to improve your English vocabulary. Through this book the author regales about his tumultuous journey of conquering the English language.

English language was the author's biggest nightmare at a point in life but, eventually with perseverance and incessant toiling he finally overcame it. English Bites is a unique English learning guide that is designed to make learning new English words easy and interesting. The use of jokes, anecdotes and amusing trivia about words, makes it a one-of-its-kind English learning book. Whether you are an individual looking to increase your word bank, or are preparing for CAT/GRE/GMAT, this book will certainly help you. 

The format of the book is interesting. The author highlights interesting new words in bold and shares its meaning in the footnote. This saves you the time of looking up the word in the dictionary. Although, I did feel at times that it was interrupting the flow of the book. However, one can choose completely overlook this section and refer it only when needed. This is not a book that you can sit down with and read in a go. Instead, it is one that needs to be read slowly, a chapter or less at a time. When I started reading this book, I made it a point to bookmark the parts I liked by folding the page. As I progressed with the book, I realized there was no point in doing so, as in every other page, there was something new. 

This book is not a piece of fiction and is not meant to tell you a story. It has only one aim - to help you with the English language. However, in this process, the author shares incidents and stories from his life that lightens the learning experience for the readers and breaks the monotony. However, at some points you might feel that there is too much happening, or it is too much to absorb. It is a sign that you must keep it aside for a while, ruminate over what you have learnt and come back when ready for more. 

Lastly, it is a book that you will have to read more than once to be fully able to learn from it. I will leave you with an interesting excerpt from the book that left me laughing out loud.

“While sharing a cozy corner with her current heartthrob, Sarah suddenly held John’s hand and looking up, announced: ‘The firmament is azure, let’s go to the shore.’ At first, he was not sure what she was suggesting. And just as they reached the destination, the firmament began to roar, and they were caught in a downpour. While running to find some shelter, she suddenly stopped him and looking into his eyes, said, ‘Let’s get bedraggled.’

“Poor John was unable to decide if it really was a flirtatious overture (courtesy the ‘bed’ in bedraggled) or if she meant something else. By a mischance, he decided to go with his initial hunch, and the stinging slap he received ensured that for the rest of his life he would remember that to get bedraggled is to get drenched in water.”

I would like to thank the author for offering me this book for review. I recommend this book to all English language enthusiast and lovers.

About the Author: Manish Gupta is a banking professional. When not crunching numbers, he examines the vagaries and idiosyncrasies of the English language. An engineering graduate from Punjab Engineering College and an MBA from XLRI School of Business and Human Resources, he lives in Mumbai with his life and two daughters.

P.S: If you would like to know which is the longest English word or other English language trivia, get yourself a copy of English Bites.
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