Book Review: The Aryavarta Chronicles book 2: Kaurava

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Author: Krishna Udayasankar
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN13: 9789350096345
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 472
Source: Flipkart

Kaurava is the second book in the mytho-historical trilogy, The Aryavarta Chronicles. It begins with Emperor Yudhisthir and Empress Draupadi, ruling over the unified kingdom of Aryavarta. The kingdom was put together for them by Govinda, with blessings from the Firewrights.

The Firewrights rise up from ashes of history, divided in their allegiance and purpose, and ready to wreak havoc on the kingdom. As sinister plots and treacherous allegiances form, the once noble land transforms into a nightmare. The Emperor gambles away the empire, while the empress is sent into exile as various factions within the realm congregate to conquer and destroy each other. Govinda knows that the only way to protect the Empress and the land is by playing a life-threatening game.

The author keeps the core of the classic saga in close contact all through the story, not altering the essence at any time. It’s the descriptions of characters and the relationships between them, which she so beautifully portrays, that keeps you hooked.
The ruthlessness of Yudhishtir, the stubbornness and strength of Panchali, the few good traces of Duryudhan, along with the twists added by Asvattama, Shikandi and Dhrstyadymn make it a brilliant read. The Draupadi-Krishna relationship over the years has been analysed as platonic, brother-sister love. In the book Panchali and Govinda have an unrequited love which ends up being the first innocent victim in the race power. That is my favorite twist.

Krishna Udayasankar is an Indian best selling author from Bangalore, India. She has also authored Objects Of Affection and The Aryavarta Chronicles (Book – 1): Govinda.

I happened to read both the books in quick succession, and now I can barely wait for the third one. In all the reconstructions and de constructions of the Mahabharata, Krishna Udayasankar’s The Aryavarta Chronicles are my favourites.

Rating: 4.5/5

Book Review: The Aryavarta Chronicles book 1: Govinda

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Author: Krishna Udayasankar
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN13: 9789350094464
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 472
Source: Flipkart

Govinda is the first book of the Aryavarta Chronicles. It is an ancient Indian mythology series. It is de constructed re-telling of The Mahabharata.
Aryavarta – the ancient realm of the noble. For generations, the Firstborn dynasty of scholar-sages, descendants of Vasishta Varuni and protectors of the Divine Order on earth, have dominated. For just as long, the Angirasa family of Firewrights, weapon-makers to the kings and master inventors, have defied them. In the aftermath of the centuries-long conflict Aryavarta gets divided into several kingdoms.
When the last Secret Keeper of the Firewrights is dead, killed by a violent hand, and the battle for supreme power in the empire is inevitable. As mighty powers march towards a bloody conflict, Govinda Shauri, cowherd prince and  Commander of the armies of Dwaraka, must use all his abilities including that of deception and treachery to protect his people.

This book is woven around the Mahabharata saga but manages to take it surpass the divinity of saga and makes a simpler socio-political story. The main characters stay the same, only here Krishna is more predominant in Govinda. The author makes the charachter of Govinda more real and thus more believable. Taking magic out and portraying him as a man, not god yet keep the enigma intact makes you understand Krishna a little more.
Even though the core story cannot be played around with much, the author adds flavour by her explanations and reasoning behind plots and situations.

The author Krishna Udayasankar is a graduate of the NLSIU, Bangalore and holds a PhD in Strategic Management from the Nanyang Business School, Singapore, where she is presently working as a lecturer. Her other works include Objects of Affection, a full-length collection of poetry and has been the editor of Body Boundaries: The Etiquette Anthology of Women’s Writing.

Humanising a saga as epic as the Mahabharata could have worked in many ways. Looking at Gods devoid of magic, walking the earth as mere mortals isn’t how some people would like their stories to be. But it works perfectly for me. Its makes its easier to explore character relationships in a different light. The research is thorough and extensive, the twist add the much needed flavour, making it a fantastic read.

Rating: 4/5

 

Book Review: Lovers Like You and I

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Author: Minakshi Thakur
Publisher: Harper Collins India
ISBN: 9789351160298
Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction
Pages: 224
Source: Personal Copy

When the master of words Gulzar pens down a line for the cover, slaves like me pick it up without another thought. He calls it a novel with a rare ambiance of art and love. That put the book at a certain standard in my head. When I began reading, I was hoping it lived up to what I was expecting.

Lovers Like You And I is set in Delhi during the nineties. The book is a journey of young Nayan, born to an aloof doctor and an Assamese musician. It elaborates her experience of love as she transforms from a young girl to a woman. She meets men and women from varied backgrounds, generations and places, a film maker, a doctor, a student, a painter, who have at some point or the other in their lives, not only been in love but felt it and expressed it differently. It is through these encounters that she is exposed to the various faces of love. However, it is her own story with Salil, a drifter who alternates between poetry and backpacking that forms the core of the plot.
This is an unusual novel that evokes a lost era a time when people wrote letters and cherished the ones they received. With its effortless bilingualism and its seamless use of prose and verse, it challenges our notions of conventional storytelling to take us into a world where emotion rules and where time and leisure take on new meanings.

“Love is the magic word. Minakshi Thakur has revealed the hearts and souls of lovers like you and I. When love is real, the lovers are so unreal. Salil and Nayan never think of the thinkable and tangible. Its a novel with a rare ambience of art and love.” says Gulzar and I whole heartedly agree.

My favorite lines from the book are:
The sweet delusion of my soul rises in ecstasy like a bubble in a champagne flute, only to kiss the brim and burst into a union with the fluid twilight within… I can see two gold bands swim towards each other, intertwine, then disengage and chase each other, play and frolic in that sea of intoxication. I can almost touch the momentary exuberance of the mad convergence of my world with yours. That joy, fleeting, yet so eternal in its brief permanence, is like the world’s last sea wave lapping at my feet and ebbing away.

The book moves slowly into your bloodstream and makes you high on emotions. It is a must read if you are a romantic at heart.

Rating: 5/5

Book Review: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

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Author: Chris Hadfield
Publisher: Pan Books Ltd.
ISBN13: 9781447257516
Genre: Non- Fiction
Pages: 284
Source: Flipkart

Chris Hadfield is one of the most seasoned and accomplished astronauts in the world. He most recently served as Commander of the International Space Station where, while conducting a record-setting number of scientific experiments and overseeing an emergency spacewalk, he gained worldwide acclaim for his breathtaking photographs and educational videos about life in space. His music video, a zero gravity version of David Bowies Space Oddity, received over 10 million views in its first three days online.
If you are one of those ( like me) who relentlessly followed his tweets this, book is a treat.

An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth is the journey of the writer from dreaming of being an astronaut as a kid, to being a very successful one. Its a story of falling, getting up, dusting yourself and walking again. He gives us a zero gravity way of looking at life. A new perception. The book is a memoir of a life spent working towards the ultimate goal.  Begins with the inspirational viewing of the first moon landing on TV, moves on into  boisterous childhood within a large, loving, southern Ontario farm family. He very sweetly describes his years as a test pilot, his marriage to his high-school sweetheart and  fathering of three kids. It gets down right to business with his gradual movement up the ranks, but the best part comes in where he describes the missions in all their glory.

Reading a detailed description of life in space from the master himself is a definite delight. Portraying issues like going the the bathroom in space using humour has worked very well, and so has the creative naming of the chapters. Once you are through a few you don’t want to stop reading it. He also wraps in life lessons like setting goals, of training extra-hard, of sweating the smallest details, of staying humble and ready to learn more, and of the importance of never being a drag on your team, crew, or organization, learnt from experiences in them.

The book doesn’t go on to my most favourite list but lingers just short of it. Its is a must read for av-geeks and space junkies. It gives hope to everyone who has a dream and wants to live it.

Rating: 4.5/5

Reading

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Samuel sat on his favorite bench in central park. He had been there every morning for four decades. Reading people was his favorite pass time. People got used to seeing him there till a year back someone noticed he wasn’t around. He still read the faces he saw, the faces that couldn’t see him anymore.

Photo credit: Ashutosh Khandkar http://framingreflections.wordpress.com/

Storytime

ImageI read stories because they make me believe. Stories are fragile, created by balancing words on air with only imagination to hold them together. Stories are confounding, every beginning isn’t clear and all endings aren’t happy. I read cause it fill my mind.
I write stories to make sense of the chaos in my head. I write stories that I live in and the stories live in me. They help me understand, they help me in being understood. There are stories that end too fast and leave me craving, there are the ones that never end, they go on forever even when I stop reading.
Long stories are seductive, they wrap themselves around, like soft velvet as you read, you fall in love and the affair continues. A short story has a different feel to it. Like Stephen King said “A short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger”
Stories make the world perfect with words knit together in harmony, making reality palatable by adding a squeeze of fiction to it.
I make my stories, while my stories make me!
Photo credit: Ashutosh Khandkar http://framingreflections.wordpress.com/

Life between the lines.

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My first one came on my seventh birthday, wrapped in shiny pink paper with a bow on it. I opened it excitedly. I placed it on my table and stared at it for days. “Little women” it said on the cover. Then one night shyly approached it, picked it up and sat crossed legged on my bed. It’s smelled funny. I turned the first page and began to read! A few lines through, I realized we were going to be friends. We met almost every night. It transported me to a whole new place. A place where I was never alone. A place where magic was real. A place where the famous five, the hardy boys, Nancy Drew and I were friends. I would wait all day for the time we could be together. The stories were happy and fun. Made me smile, even giggle at times.
I was smitten, and thus began my love affair with books.
We grew up together, spent more and more time with each other. I would sneak a peek at every chance I got. There came times when our bedtime escapades became all day affairs. The stories became different too. They had darker shades in them. Of unhappiness and sorrow, of longing and belonging. What did not change was the love I had for books. It only grew, like my appetite to read.
I have learnt almost everything I know, from books. Sydney Sheldon taught me that no matter how big or small you are, the stars will shine down upon you. Eric Segal made me believe in love stories. Ayn Rand shrugged me along with the Atlas and changed the way I thought. Richard Bach cleared all my illusions and made me believe in my dreams. Mr. Jeppesen taught me how to fly a plane!
Each of these guy teaches me something new every time I fall back on them.
We are now inseparable. I have one with me, always. I have been seen reading in the most arbitrary places and times. I have read all night, all day and all night again!
I am as excited to open a book today as I was with my first one. The smell of a new book makes me smile every single time. I still believe in magic.
I wish I could crawl into one of them and live between the lines!