Book Review: The Avatari

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Author: Raghu Srinivasan
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN13: 9789350095744
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 512
Source: Personal Copy

The Avatari is an intense trail through a mythical kingdom. Legend has it that only those chosen by destiny can gain entry into Shambhala, which is believed to hold the ancient wisdom. The story begins with a golden metal piece, which a character picks up, while on an expedition to the Himalayas in the 1930s. His grandson delivers it to a Laotian monastery in the late 1950s. This piece then gets stolen. Upon the request of a monk, Henry Ashton, a retired British Army Officer and his team sets on a life-altering journey to retrieve it and prevent it from being misused.
The group follows the trail, risking the perils of the inhospitable deserts of Ladakh, turmoil in Pakistan and the rugged mountains of Northern Afghanistan, where the Afghan War is at its height. But they are up against a deadly adversary with seemingly unlimited resources, who will stop at nothing to get possession of the ancient secret a secret that, if revealed, could threaten the very fabric of civilization.

The author etches out each of his characters beautifully, with great detailing. He picks his words with utmost care. It is a brilliant narrative, switching between numerous time period, locations and characters. On the surface it looks like it is a quest for a very valuable artifact, which if misused threatens to destroy everything. But going deeper reveals that it also serves as a timely lesson in history and somewhere along the way, highlights the human costs of violence and war. Srinivasan portrays the paradox between karma and freewill subtly yet beautifully.

Raghu Srinivasan is a serving officer in the Indian Army. His tenures have seen him patrol leech-infested tropical jungles, stare across the expanse of the African savannah and spot snow leopards in the Karakoram ranges. He is also the newest entrant on the brilliant Indian thriller writers list.

Read The Avatari for drama, read it for suspense, read it for a journey in to the magical imagination the author has!

Rating 4.5/5

Book Review: Supertraits of Superstars

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Author: Priyanka Singh Jha
Publisher: Rupa Publications India
ISBN13: 9788129129789
Genre: Non Fiction
Pages: 200
Source: Flipkart

Supertraits of Superstars: Success Secrets of Bollywood’s Brightest is a book which describes in detail the various traits of a few Bollywood actors that make them successful.
Priyanka Sinha Jha looks at eleven luminaries from Bollywood, and the attribute that is perhaps most responsible for their success. She details their stories, their struggles, their efforts to overcome setbacks, and what it is about them that made them not just reach the top of their game, but stay there. Be it Amitabh Bachchan’s discipline, Aamir Khan’s perfectionist nature, Salman Khan’s generosity, John Abraham’s enterprise or Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s grace each star has one unique quality that others can imbibe to reach greater heights in their own lives. With pithy observations and inspirational conversations, Supertraits of Superstars will show you how to live life star-size.

Each chapter is dedicated to a particular star. The quotes and the caricatures of the artists at the beginning of their chapters is brilliantly done, this is followed by an introduction to their present status, name and fame in India and the world. It cites examples, incidences and dialogues from interviews to underline their distinctive features. It feels like you are reading your favourite Sunday newspaper column.

The author Priyanka Sinha Jha is an Indian journalist and author. She has written on a wide range of subjects starting from celebrities, films, to business. She is currently working as an editor with Screen, an entertainment weekly.

The book is a quick read which you wouldn’t want to put down once you begin.

Rating: 3.5/5

Book Review: Advantage Love

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Author: Madhuri Banerjee
Publisher: Rupa Publications India
ISBN13: 9788129130020
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 200
Source: Personal copy

The story revolves around Trisha Mathur, a simple girl who leaves Lucknow for Delhi taking along the big city dreams in her starry eyes.
She meets debonair politician Vedant in college while having her first brush with student politics. She is swept off her feet by his irresistible charms and before she knows it, she falls head over heals in love. Soon after the flying in skies of romance, gravity of reality pulls them down. The man cant commit to taking the relationship further. Much to the dismay of the girl, he has his reasons and sticks to them. Vedant heads back to Bombay, while a very heart broken Trisha stays back in Delhi.
The sour experience she has had with love makes her vary of men. That is until the smashing tennis star, Abhimanyu, comes along.The small town girl in Trisha struggles to fit into the glam of the tennis circuits, eventually realising its worth for her. She decides to walk the lengths on the road to self-discovery. Fate strikes and brings Vedant back into her life. After a deuce between both the men, its advantage Trisha.

The author has told a simple story, in a way that it leaves a smile on your face. It has all the perfect ingredients to make it a lip smacking recipe. Love, infatuation, heartbreak, and rekindled romance. The characters are dreamy as they could be. A nice girl with her head on her shoulders and not one but two men of desire. You ride along the highs and lows of the waves of their relationships. There are parts which can be identified with very closely. It has something that, at some point in out lives we have all felt.

I picked it up the book because I like the way the author thinks, and how she just simply puts it across. Madhuri Banerjee is an Indian writer. She has written other titles such as Losing My Virginity and Other Dumb Ideas and Mistakes like Love and Sex.

Its a nice light read. Must read for all chick lit fans.

Rating: 3.5/5

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