Book Review: Runner

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Author: Patrick Lee
Publisher: Penguin UK
ISBN13: 9781405914994
Genre: Fiction/ Sci fi
Pages: 464
Source: Flipkart

Runner by Patrick Lee is a chase thriller surrounding a young girl and a soldier who was in the right place at the wrong time. Sam Dryden, retired special forces, lives a quiet life in a small town on the coast of Southern California. While out on a run in the middle of the night, a young girl runs into him on the seaside boardwalk. Barefoot and terrified, she’s running from a group of heavily armed men who are trying to kill her. After Dryden helps her evade her pursuers, he learns that the eleven year old, for as long as she can remember, has been kept in a secret prison by forces within the government. But she doesn’t know much beyond her own name, Rachel. She only remembers the past two months of her life and that she has a skill that makes her very dangerous to these men and the hidden men in charge.Dryden, who lost his wife and young daughter in an accident five years ago, agrees to help her try to unravel her own past and make sense of it, to protect her from the people who are moving heaven and earth to find them both.

The author has written a very exciting science fiction thriller. It is a fast paced story, with characters that you connect to and immediately like. You want to see Sam and Rachel get through this together. There is plenty of high-speed action, so the book is a fast read. There is no time to take a breather, its like you are running with the characters. The only thing going through your mind then is DON’T. GET. CAUGHT. which also happens to be the tag line of the book.

Patrick Lee  is the author of three previous novels – The Breach (A New York times best seller), Ghost Country and Deep Sky. This is the first book in the Sam Dryden series.

Runner is a perfect blend of action, science fiction and drama. A great read for anyone who likes thrillers. The twist and turns in the plot hold your attention and leave you with a adrenaline high. Recommended for everyone who enjoys that flavour.

Rating 4.5/ 5

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Book Review: Lethal Spice

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Author: Swati Kaushal
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN13: 9789350097694
Genre: Fiction/ Crime Thriller
Pages: 336
Source: Personal Copy

‘Lethal Spice’ is a crime thriller set in the backdrop of a reality cooking show. It is October in Shimla. The air is crisp the mist is rising and the stakes are sky-high as the finalists of “Hot Chef” are pitted against each other in a live shoot at the historic gaiety theatre. A hundred-year-old stage steeped in tradition. Six contestants with a world to gain and everything to lose. Three judges who stand between them and their dreams. The spices are ground the fires are lit the knives have been sharpened. Then things start to go horribly wrong. Mala Joseph, judge and former winner of the reality show dies on stage. Shimla’s superintendent of police Niki Marwah is more determined than ever to get to the bottom of a perplexing mystery.

This is the second appearance of Niki Marwah in Swati Kaushal’s books. She is one of the very well etched characters. A confident police officer who commands the respect of not only those working for her, but also her superiors is a perfect protagonist. She stands out distinctly even when the other characters are very well written. Each of them is described in detail. From the personalities of the contestants to the emotions flowing around, the author has done a brilliant job at descriptions. The second half of the book twists before it ends, ticking all the right boxes on the crime thriller check list. The pace at which things happen is what keeps you hooked. Its just apt. Any faster and it would over speed, any slower and the reader would lose interest.

Swati Kaushal is the author of three best selling novels ‘Piece of Cake’, ‘A Girl Like Me’ and ‘Drop Dead’. An alumni of lady Sri Ram College, New Delhi and a MBA from IIM Calcutta, Swati has worked with Nestle India and Nokia mobile phones, India. While her home is in Connecticut, she is more often to be found wandering the secret gullies and mohallas of a good book, a cup of elaichi chai in hand.

I picked up Lethal Spice with a “I know the butler did it” kind of a mindset, but it ended up making my weekend perfect. Its a very well cooked spicy story with a brilliant after taste.

Rating: 4/5

Book Review: Once Upon a Crush

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Author: Kiran Manral
Publisher: Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd
ISBN13: 9789382473916
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 224
Source: Personal Copy

“Once Upon a Crush” is a story of twenty-nine year old free-spirited, Rayna De. Things aren’t going her way, a runaway friend is bunking with her, she has a boss who is a Satan reincarnate, her thirties are running towards her with all their might and to add to it, her love life is non existent. When Devan Ahuja enters the workplace, Rayna quickly falls head over heels for him. She tries telling herself otherwise, all in vain. Responses from the office hunk who has a model-turned-actress for a girlfriend are hot and cold at the same time, it confuses Rayna further. Meanwhile. he parents put in front of her, a Sid Bose, all with a fat pay pack and three bedroom house. The choices that she makes the story take interesting turns.

The author has described each character with a funny twist. Be it the overly dramatic friend Pixie or the highly irritating colleague Mathur, the boss Aparajita or the crush himself. You empathise with Rayna, a girl coming to the city of dreams from Kolkata. Its simple yet vivid at the same time. Kiran has added a new spice to an old recipe, making it very interesting.

Kiran Manral is an Indian writer, blogger, media consultant and the founder of India Helps, a volunteer network which works with disaster victims. She has also worked with several publishing houses as a features writer and journalist. A self-professed school gate mom, she lives in Mumbai with her family. This is her second book after ‘The Reluctant Detective’.

I picked up the book because I love the way Kiran Manral writes. Simplicity in writing makes it an easy on the eyes read. This one qualifies as a perfect Bollywood pot boiler. Its a nice light read. The pretty cover gets it placed in the chick lit section, but just like crushes aren’t gender biased, the book isn’t either!

Rating: 3.5/5

Book Review: Sita, An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana

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Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN13: 9780143064329
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 328
Source: Personal Copy

Ramayana is one of the two mythological Indian epics that have been told and retold over the years. It is the story of Rama, the son of King Dasharatha. He was the heir to his kingdom, an empire. Yet, due to the malice prevalent in the palace, the Prince was exiled for fourteen years. The Ramayana is all about obeying the rules and laws of Dharma, even at the cost of personal loss and unhappiness. She plays a prominent role in the epic, but is a very quiet and restrained character. Her abandons her in the end because of the persistent gossip among his subjects about Sita’s fidelity. Sita remains quiet, does not lose her composure, and does not vocally demand retribution. Sita’s silence is not the silence of the weak. It is the silence of the ascetic, who knows the truth, and so is patient. She knows her husband loves her, and she is indispensable to him. Moreover, she knows she is the Goddess who makes him the God, the woman who makes him the whole man.

The book explores the enigma of Sita and explains her real strength of character. “The journey to discover Sita makes you realize that the Ramayana is not a book, as most people assume, but a vast tradition manifesting itself in written, oral and visual traditions. And for some reason, children of India have been kept away from it. Yes, we are told of the Valmiki Ramayana, but we are not told that there are several versions of this original story itself a northern version, a southern version, an eastern version, which have barely a third of the verses common between them. Then there are Sanskrit plays written by dramatists like Bhasa and Bhavabhuti where Ram is a great hero, not necessarily God. Then we find Ramayanas of the Jains, the Buddhists as well as from South East Asia, which retell the same story but with a very different emotion. From the tenth century onwards we find the Ramayana in each and every Indian language, written by several authors, in different scripts, with different styles, all deeply immersed in bhakti. It is through these regional narratives, not the Sanskrit ones really, that ideas related to love, valour, fidelity and wisdom spread to every corner of India.” says Devdutt Pattanaik  in an exclusive article for Flipkart

Devdutt Pattanaik is a doctor who became a writer. Other books by this author include Business Sutra: A Very Indian Approach to Management, 7 Secrets of Vishnu, Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata, The Book of Ram, and Hanuman’s Ramayan.

Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana is a brilliant read. The illustrations add character to it. It makes you rethink the pre-set social norms of right and wrong. Devdutt is a master story teller. With this book he gives detailed insights about stories that have been told for ages. Yet again he effortlessly manages to makes you fall in love with mythology.

Rating: 5/5

Book Review: Family Life

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Author: Akhil Sharma
Publisher: Penguin Books India
ISBN13: 9780670087457
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 240
Source: Flipkart

“Family Life” revolves around the Mishra family, who move to the United States from Delhi in the 1970s. The eight year old narrator is in awe of everything around him from elevators to wall-to-wall carpet in their new house. Simple things like the hot water flowing directly from the taps also amazes him. He goes on to talk about the struggles and adjustments his family makes in order to fit in to the new world. Ajay narrates how his Father who works as a clerk in a government agency and mother who left her job as a high-school economics teacher in India and now works as a garment factory worker, are anxious about the acceptance of his elder brother in a reputed school. There is happiness and celebration all around when Birju wins acceptance to the Bronx High School of Science.
The twist in the story comes when the elder son of the family is in a unfortunate diving accident that leaves him severely brain damaged, blind, and mute. Only able to breathe by himself, otherwise incapacitated. The tragedy and the family’s response to it seen through young Ajay’s eyes touches the heart and leaves knots in the stomach.
Each member of the family suffers differently. His father becomes an alcoholic, his mother looks for cures through hoards of miracle workers while Ajay acts out trying to find an outlet for his feelings as well as his place in the world now that it’s been turned upside down.

The author relates the story with a view point of an eight year old, adapting a child’s sharp perception and simple language. The book makes you very sad and then smiles make sudden appearances on the childlike outlook of a grim situation. You sympathise with every character at all times. Its deeply unnerving and tremendously tender all at once.
This is Akhil Sharma’s second novel after the PEN/Hemingway Award-winning “An Obedient Father”. He is an Indian-American writer. A graduate of Princeton University, where he studied Public Policy. Sharma won a Stegner Fellowship to the writing program at Stanford, and won several O. Henry Prizes.

I read “Family Life” with a lot of sighs. Not everyone who reads it can relate to it, a few definitely will. Its one of those reads that shakes your core. This one does it with a large helping of sorrow topped with a kiss of dark humour.

Rating: 3.5/5

Book Review: Love among the Bookshelves

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Author: Ruskin Bond
Publisher: Penguin/ Viking
ISBN13: 9780670087341
Genre: non fiction
Pages: 200
Source: Flipkart

“It wasn’t a bookshop, or a library, or a great-aunt’s hoard of romantic novels that made me a reader; it was the week I spent in a forest rest house, in what is now the Rajaji sanctuary, between Haridwar and Dehradun” This is the first line I read and did not stop until I had read it all.
Ruskin Bond’s stories have amazed and inspired generations of readers. In this anthology, he presents the stories he grew up on, and the inspiration that he drew from them. In stories by authors such as P. G. Wodehouse, whose Love Among The Chickens is the inspiration for this book’s title, H. E. Bates, W. Somerset Maugham, Charles Dickens and Richard Jeffries, learn how young Ruskin Bond became the writer we all know and love.
Bond speaks out in this part-memoir. He draws readers into his past and reveals a process hidden in plain sight, yet one every non-writer wishes to understand. He gives out his secret to being the brilliant writer in a word: “reading”

The book is divided into chronological sections. From his childhood and school vacations, school days, the time he spent in Jersey with his aunt and his two years in London. Each section has a memory that has stuck by him, a book that belongs to that time of his life and an excerpt from that book. The best thing about the book is a list of Ruskin Bonds favourite books.

Ruskin Bond is a British-Indian writer. He is known best for his children’s stories. Some of his works are: The Room on the Roof, A Flight of Pigeons, The Sensualist, The Blue Umbrella, Angry River and The Parrot Who Wouldn’t Talk. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan for his contributions towards Indian literature. He now lives in in Landour, near Mussoorie with his adopted family.

Love among the Bookshelves is a classic Bond book. Its written simply yet there is something magical about it. It leaves you wanting more, much more.

Rating: 4/5

Book Review: Sita’s Curse, The Language of Desire

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Author: Shreemoyee Piu Kundu
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN13: 9789350097809
Genre: Fiction/ Erotica
Pages: 344
Source: Personal Copy

It is the story of Meera, a middle class housewife, her life and sexual longing. A girl who is burdened by the weight of a dead marriage. Struggling between her own sexual needs and the non existent affections of her husband, she tries to hide her feelings and desires, managing to survive on her memories and fantasies alone for fifteen years. However, she cannot take the pain of her lusty, sensual body going to waste as her husband cannot make love to her. Her constant search for fulfilment leaves her unsatisfied every time. Until one cataclysmic day in Mumbai, when she finally breaks free. Bold, brazen and defiant, Sitas Curse looks at the hypocrisy of Indian society and tells the compelling story of a middle-class Indian housewifes urgent need for love, respect, acceptance and sexual fulfillment.

The plot is explicit and detailed. Erotic from the prologue itself. The authors weaves, lust, desire, sex and sexual frustration neatly around the narrative. she evokes emotions from the reader. You feel the need, want, sorrow and hatred the characters feel in the book. It makes you sad sometimes, but soon brings you back with a hint of hope.

The author takes up some of the things that are considered as taboo, those that are not discussed and that are usually not looked at or given a thought to like the sexual longings of a woman, impotence, and marital rape. She has also incorporated the Mumbai deluge in the plot. The ugly face of the society is brought up front, and in very ironic manner.
The books makes you sit upright and take notice of things around you. It challenges the everything that has been taken for granted. Faith, Love, marriage, sex and desire are all dragged to the questioning.

Sreemoyee Piu Kundu is an Indian erotica writer. She has also written under the alias of Aranyani. A former Lifestyle editor and PR head, she has also written: A Pleasant Kind of Heavy and Other Erotic Stories, You’ve Got The Wrong Girl and Cut!. She is currently working on her next book, a political tragedy entitled Rahula.

Its about time that erotica makes its presence felt on the bookshelves in the land of Kama Sutra. Sita’s Curse is erotica with the classic Indian flavour being one of the foremost there. The book needs to be read not only with open eyes but also with an open mind.

Rating: 3/5