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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Symbol by Varun Gautam


The Blurb says:

A perfectly written script goes awry when Arjun encounters the unexpected. His belief in occult injustice solidifies when he, on one hand, fails to clear the much coveted IMS entrance exam and on the other hand, his friend Mohan gets more than what he deserved in life. Unable to cope up with this unfairness, he becomes directionless. With no way forward and some strained relations, he reaches the peak of monotony in his life and has nowhere to draw his inspiration from. One day suddenly he gets hold of a device called The Symbol which promises to solve all his problems.

Can The Symbol help him come out of his woes?

Will he be able to rise above the so called injustice and prove his mettle?

It is a journey that takes a peek into finding a new perspective and chartering inspiration from unknown territories, where none was thought to have existed.


I received this book from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

One look at the cover of the book will give you the feeling that it is likely a sci-fi thriller. But, in reality it is nowhere close to a sci-fi thriller. It is a different sort of book altogether - somewhat inspiring and motivational. After reading the book, I was left wondering if the cover of the book was intentionally designed that way. The author might have the answer.

We all have goals and dreams in our lives. But, sometimes our priciest dreams shatter despite our best efforts. How do one carry on with life after suffering a failure? Where to get the motivation from? How to overcome the setback and get the life back on track. This book by Varun Gautam tries to address these very questions in its own way.

To my eyes, there were three main characters in the story - Dhruv, Arjun and Mohan. Dhruv, Arjun's cousin is the one who is narrating the story - the most part of which revolves around Arjun. Mohan is Arjun's best friend, but things becomes strange between them when Mohan strikes a jackpot in life without any hard work. While most of the times, the readers will learn about Arjun's life - at times they also get a glimpse of Dhruv's life.

The book has its own pros and cons. The first 50 pages are somewhat confusing because of the way it is narrated, otherwise It is written well. The language used is simple. Through his words the author does inspire confidence and motivation. However, there are certain things which I felt needed more attention. We know Arjun got hold of a symbol - but it is not clear what it is. It seemed like some gadget but the author left it to the readers' imagination. Also, the comparison the author made with the happenings in Arjun's life with how the Indian cricket team was faring was a bit over-the-board. Agreed we are a cricket crazy nation, but drawing parallels between these two didn't feel right.

Overall, it is a commendable book for a debut author. Need some dose of inspiration? You can pick it up.

Thank you for stopping by. Cheers!


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Metamorphing by Kunal Pancholi

I should have posted the review of this book months ago. But, as fate would have it, it got postponed indefinitely. I received this book as a review copy from the publishers and hence, I have been feeling guilty for not taking out the time to post the review here. Finally, I am penning down my thoughts about it and I am feeling good. 

The 'metamorphing' in the title of the book is essentially 'metamorphosing'. I guess the author used metamorphing' for sheer convenience. 


When I first had a look at the cover of the book - Metamorphing by Kunal Pancholi, I gave me a eerie feeling. The cover depicts a murder site and it says - The Hunt Begins. It had been a while since I read a murder mystery, so I was really looking forward to find out what this book had to offer. Before delving further deeper into the story in the book, I must share what the blurb of the book has to say.


28TH APRIL, 2000: Flight No. 9x4876 bound to Srinagar has crash landed into the Everest Base camp. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the flight mysteriously went off the radar for few minutes and missed its landing. All passengers are feared dead… except for three bodies that are yet to be recovered.


8TH DECEMBER, 2050:This, without doubt is the most gruesome murder in recent times. Early this morning, an unidentified woman was found mutilated at the western gates of the abandoned Victoria Terminus Station in Mumbai. Authorities report her head was … well … semi-decapitated and she was drained of all her blood. The shocking part - the crime scene was devoid of any signs of blood spatter…


ROHAN: I was shorter than the shortest girl in school; I had to be ahead in the game!

RUDRA: "Was I a private detective? What kind of sinister case am I getting into?"


"A thrilling tale about two men bound by an untraceable yet undeniable fate. One running away from his past, another unaware of his own."
 
If you think you have an inkling of what is happening in the book, then you are likely in for some surprise. As is evident there are two main characters of the story - Rohan and Rudra. The story is narrated in first person by these two characters in alternate chapters. That can get quite confusing if not done right, but in this book the author has done a commendable job in maintaining the clarity in the narration. The language used in the book is simple and easy to understand. The two narrations, although completely different seem to complement each other quite well and build the tempo in the story.


I would not want to reveal anything about the story than what is already revealed in the blurb, as that would definitely be a spoiler. I would not be surprised if the author came up with a sequel of the book in future.


This book is a good choice for reading in journeys - it will surely keep boredom at bay.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Once Smitten, Twice Shy, Thrice Lucky by Sandeep Kothapalli ~ A Book Review





Quoted from the blurb:
 
“A narrative that spans 16 years and four cities, Varun takes a trip down the memory lane and opens up his world to you, describing the intricacies of shouldering the burden of expectations his family has on him and yet coming up triumphant, the importance of having a friend’s shoulder to cry on when you are down and out and the perks of being a soldier’s son. 

Join the emotional sissy that he calls himself; in his roller coaster ride as he tries to unlock the eternal mystery that is LOVE. In a romantic relationship that has gone kaput, with two women who are as different as chalk and cheese, he finally meets the love of his life.

But do good things come the easy way?

Before that, he has to bear the gut wrenching blows of the henchmen of a local Corporator, physically assault a senior HR leader in his company, almost lose his life in Dharavi and then take on the might of a powerful landlord turned realtor – all though at different stages of his life.

True love is never a one-time event in one’s life. It can hit you in various forms. ‘Once smitten, twice shy, thrice lucky!’ is a story that tells you why Love is a perennial feeling, a mixed bag of myriad emotions no one can ever describe in the true sense.”

I received the book from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.
 
The title of the book and the blurb reveal quite a lot about the book. In that sense, it can be said that the story seem predictable. But, the way the story unfolds is where the charm of the book lies. You can safely assume that the author shares the story of his life where he falls in love 3 times and only the 3rd time he meets the real love of his life. The book is quite bulky – it has to be- for the narration span over 16 years. That is quite a time to be covered in a single book. Plus there are 3 love stories, albeit 2 unsuccessful. 

The book is divided into three phases, each revolving around the 3 different phases in life. And love happens to him in all the three phases. There are a number of characters at play. I read the book quite slowly, so I found each one of them nicely sketched and depicted. It was as if, I could imagine everything in my mind. At times, it was monotonous – there were unimportant things explained in detail. Otherwise, there is a lot happening in the book, which keeps the readers engaged. Lahiri and Sasha were the two characters that stayed with me, even when I was done with the book. There was something inspiring about these two characters that made them special to me.

In the end, I realized that it is not just a love story; there are so many underlying themes which gel well that make the story entertaining and interesting to read. While you read this book, you are likely to take a few trips down the memory lane as there are quite a few things that most of us can relate to.

Thank you for stopping by. Cheers!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

5 Soul Searching Short Stories by Shailesh J. Khatri - A Book Review




Quoted from the blurb -

“Five stories with five critical messages on life… Five situations with the protagonist making a decision that changes his life... Five circumstances that show you that life is never fair and yet… one needs to make the critical decision.
Amar, a promising stock analyst, gets the job of his dreams. However, circumstances lead to his failure. What does Amar do?
Uma is looking for the purpose of his life. He wants to give up the luxuries of life to find the truth. Does he eventually succeed?
Ravi loses his job one fine day and befriends those who tell him that the rich should sacrifice for the poor. He believes them. Does he benefit?
Vikas is shocked and annoyed when his parents decide to take him to their native village instead of Switzerland. What does he learn?
Pratap, a gold medalist in law, gets the job of his dreams in a well-known law firm. He faces a trying case. How does he respond?”

I received the book from BecomeShakespeare.com in exchange for an unbiased review.

When I first heard about this title, I expected that this book will be packed with 5 stories told in an extra-ordinary way. The word ‘soul-searching’ in the title of the book is what got my attention. Now, Lets find out if the book live up to my expectations?

Consisting of a bare 115 pages, this book 5 Soul-Searching Short Stories by Shailesh Khatri falls in the type of book that you can finish reading in a short reading session. The plots of the story are such that you can relate to it – they are picked from the everyday happenings in an ordinary man’s life. However, the way the stories are written and narrated doesn’t make the desired impact. There is something lacking in the narration which makes the stories easily forgettable.

All the stories start well and have the capacity to keep the reader’s engaged, but somewhere in between the narration falters. The plots are good, but depth in characterization is lacking. Another minus point was that the stories were quite predictable. So, the reader had nothing to look forward to at the end of a story.

I understand the author has put in a lot of effort in his maiden book. I hope my review will help him in doing away with these drawbacks in his next work.

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Eggless Microwave Brownie in Just 3 Minutes


 I am very much a brownie person – I prefer a brownie over a cake. There are several reasons for that – brownie is easier and hassle free to bake. No matter how it turns out, you can always have it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.


I have tried several brownie recipes and you can find a few of them here too. But, the recipe I am sharing today here is different from all those I have already shared. This one is an instant brownie that you can make in your microwave in just about 3 minutes. Yes! You heard that right. The measures given here make 2 serving. It will satiate your brownie craving without giving you the guilt of gulping down a whole lot of brownies! 


 This is a fuss free recipe that needs only one mixing bowl, a strainer (optional), a whisk and of course 2 ramekins. If you have a friend over, you can make it less than 10 minutes and serve it.

Let’s hop to the recipe now.

Microwave Brownie

Ingredients:

2 tbsp maida or all-purpose flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp powdered sugar
2 tbsp yogurt
2 tbsp melted butter
1-2 tbsp water
2 tbsp chopped dark chocolate

Process:

Grease two microwave safe bowls or ramekins.
In a medium bowl, add shift all the dry ingredients. Made a hole in the center and add the wet ingredients and mix to form the batter. Add the chopped chocolate. Stir.
Divide the batter equally in the two greased ramekins/bowls.
Microwave it on a high for 2 minutes. Take it out and let it stand for a minute. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. Enjoy!

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Bluest Marble by Vipin Kumar - A Book Review



Book: The Bluest Marble
Author: Vipin Kumar
Publisher: Become Shakespeare
Price: Rs. 199
Pages: 264
Genre: Fiction

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

The Bluest Marble by Vipin Kumar is an inspiring novel. It is the story of an ordinary young man who has simple goals in life, but life has other plans for him. As the story unravels the readers get to know about the various facets of his life and personality.

The protagonist of the story is Aditya. He has a good job, good friends, a great bike (he is passionate about it), loving and caring parents. But, as destiny would have slowly things slips away from him – he is fired from his job, his friends desert him and his parents begin to see him as a loser. Aditya doesn't feel there is anything in his life worth living for, so he decides to end his life. And thus begins a new chapter in his life.

Aditya lands up in a mental asylum where he is named as Ram Kumar 125 – a name given to patients suffering from amnesia. Well, Aditya is not amnesiac, but he pretends to be so that he doesn't have to go back to his old life. He makes friends with Rajesh – a software engineer and Jacky who is a Doctor in theoretical physics. Amidst the new surroundings, new home and new friends, Aditya experiences life like never before. He discovers himself, his inner self and his key to happiness. What happens to him in the mental asylum? How he survives there? How he finds the secret to happiness – the bluest marble? You have to read the book to know about the same.

The book is narrated in flashback; the protagonist is telling the story of his life to his girlfriend and would-be wife Jenny.

The first part of the novel dwells on the kind of life urban bachelors working away from home in big cities live. There are various incidents and situations to which readers can relate. The writing style is simple and clear. However, at some point I did feel the narration wavering. I didn't quite relate to the conversations he has with his bike and often found them somewhat creepy. The experiences of the protagonist when he landed up in the mental asylum were the most interesting and intriguing part of the novel. I loved the way he gradually fought with his fears and insecurities and took to life head on.

Overall, it was a great read and inspiring in many ways. One of the things that I would have wanted to read about more is about his friends – Rajesh and Jacky in the mental asylum. If the author ever thinks of writing a sequel to this book – I would love to read how his friends did in life and how Aditya’s life took shape.

Thank you for stopping by. Cheers!




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.



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