Posts from — January 2017
Sultan of Delhi: Ascension by Arnab Ray
When a path is forged in blood, it is hard to find peace.
The son of a penniless refugee from Lahore, Arjun Bhatia has worked his way up from being an arms smuggler in the badlands of Uttar Pradesh to the most influential power-broker in Delhi.
But when the shadows of the past, of a friend he has lost forever and of a woman he can never be with, finally catch up to him, Arjun finds himself fighting the biggest battle of his life. For at stake is not just his iron hold over the government, but something even bigger—- his family…and his soul.
Spanning five decades and two generations, Sultan of Delhi: Ascension is an explosive saga of ambition, greed, love and passion.
Title: Sultan of Delhi: Ascension
Author: Arnab Ray
Paperback: 301 pages
Publisher: Hachette (October 26th 2016)
Genre: Indian Fiction, Crime
Buy On: Amazon US | Amazon India
Cover: Very Gangster!
Narration: Lovely smell and easy to read text
Readability, language: Easy with Lots of Desi cuss words
I met Arnab Ray at the IndiBlogger Conference sometime ago, it was the first time I had met him or had even heard of him but by the end of his talk, he had made an impression. I remember his wit and his own particular brand of humour. I’d enjoyed listening to him and so, when ‘Sultan of Delhi: Ascension’ came along I grabbed the book.
The Sultan of Delhi is the story of a sickly child who survives the journey to India during partition, and goes on to become one of the most powerful men in Delhi. Arun Bhatia has a drive to become someone and this drive takes him from being a mechanic to becoming a guns smuggler and then on to bigger pastures of Lyten’s Delhi, politics and business.
Some books manage to encapsulate the story in all it’s elements – title, cover, blurb and pages; The Sultan of Delhi is one of those books. The title is appropriate in that this is the story of the rise of a man to power; the cover shows the rugged drawing of a man holding a gun behind him, the image of a man who holds power and knows he holds power. And then there is the blurb that tells you the whole story and yet makes you want to read the book.
The plot is very Godfatherish, though I didn’t feel so while reading and realised only in hind sight, which says a lot for the writing. The plot feels new and punchy, Arnab Ray has delivered a complex plot simply, without any unnecessary complexities.
The story shifts from Lahore, to Uttar Pradesh and then Delhi as it unfolds over 50 years. Starting out at partition Arnab Ray draws a detailed background to his story right up to the 90’s, each place and setting adding to the tale, making it feel all to real.
Characters are the Core
The protagonist, Arjun Bhatia is a bad guy, it’s a fact established early in the book but the various facets of a bad guy are fleshed out well and I found myself feeling for and empathising with the character, and sometimes even rooting for him.
There are three main female characters, the wife, the mistress and the daughter. Each one of them is shown as their true selves, with both weaknesses and strengths. And the author brings out a lot of Arjun’s character through his relationship with them. For instance, when things go downhill, even though it is his daughter who delivers the worse blow, along with the hurt, Arnab Ray captures the pride a father feels for his daughter too.
Apart from the women who are given equal strength and voice as the male ones in the narrative, there are other characters that stand out. Arjun Bhatia’s sons and their friends as the typical rich spoilt kids with an unreal sense of reality. The ex-cop turned hitman with a wry sense of humour… The characters bring this novel to life.
Story and Style
The book is structured in three parts – Arjun’s initial years as a refugee and a gun runner, his move to Delhi and his rise to power and finally his battle to save his family and empire. The book starts out at a good pace and stays fast paced right up to the end. The author has tied up all loose ends and yet has left enough open to weave in part 2.
Arnab Ray’s language and writing style is very Hinglish, and I could connect and relate to it with ease. Be warned this book has a lot of profanity in it, in the native tongue too, but it adds that element to the telling, that punch that would be lost in translation.
Having picked up the book based on my only ever meeting with the author, the book delivered all I expected of Arnab Ray. Now, I can’t wait to read his three other books and this one’s sequel. (Before I started reading Sultan of Delhi: Ascension, I hadn’t realised this was a two part book, so to me the end seemed perfect, it felt so right. Then I realised there will be a second part, and now I’m all excited for it.)
Sultan of Delhi: Ascension is super masala fast paced read, perfect to settle down with on a lazy afternoon. You are going to want to read this at one go. Recommended if you like Indian Contemporary fiction filled with action and drama.
About the Author:
Arnab Ray, better known as Greatbong, is one of India’s most widely read bloggers who blogs at Random Thoughts Of A Demented Mind. He is known for his sarcastic takes on the Indian film industry, Indian politics and society in general. He is presently employed as a research scientist at the University of Maryland and resides in the suburbs of Washington DC. Sultan of Delhi: Ascension is his fourth book.
Website │ GoodReads │ Twitter – @greatbong
January 29, 2017 2 Comments
Anomalies by Colette Freedman and Sadie Turner
In the future there is no disease. There is no war. There is no discontent. All citizens are complacent members of the Global Governance. But one summer is about to change everything.
Keeva Tee just turned fifteen. All of her dreams are about to come true. She’s about to make the trip to Monarch Camp to be imprinted with her intended life partner. One day they’ll have perfect kids and a perfect life. But in her happy, carefree life in the Ocean Community, something weighs on her mind. She hears whispers about “anomalies”—citizens who can’t be imprinted. No one knows what happens to them, but they never seem to come back.
When Keeva arrives at Monarch Camp, her worst nightmare becomes a reality—she is an anomaly. After they are imprinted, the people she loves begin to change, and she starts to doubt everything she’s ever believed. What if freedom and individuality have been sacrificed for security? And what if the man who solves all the problems is the very man who’s created them—and what if he isn’t a man at all?
When Keeva finds a warning carved under a bunk bed she begins to understand: Nonconformity will be punished, dissent is not an option, insurgents will be destroyed.
Author: Colette Freedman and Sadie Turner
Narrator: Lucinda Clare, Punch Audio
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: SelectBooks (February 9th 2016)
Genre: Fantasy, Dystopia, Post Apocalyptic, Sci-fi
Read: audio book
Buy On: Amazon US | Audible | Amazon India
Note: I received this book from the author via YA Bound Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Cover: Eye-catchy blue!
Narration: Easy on the ears.
Readability, language: Easy on the mind.
Anomalies was my third sci-fi dystopian audio book, and I’m enjoying myself. It’s like I’m on a roll!
A World of Peace
Anomalies is set in a future world with no war, discontent and disease. People who survived the great war, now live in skill-based communities with their intended partners, governed by the Global Governance.
The book explores a world where people are happy, there is no illness, humankind is complacent, pliable and peaceful. This has been achieved by Sorbek Vesely, who heads the Global Governance that keeps citizens in check with advanced technology.
At fifteen children are sent to Monarch Camp where they meet their perfect partners and then go on to lead perfect lives in a perfect society. But there are anomalies, those who do not have perfect partners and who do not fit into the system. Keeva, the female protagonist is an anomaly.
The male protagonist is Calix, Sorbek’s son who he is grooming to be his heir. Calix hates his father, his methods and all he stands for, yet he is powerless to stop him.
Narration and Story
I can’t say more without giving up the story but I enjoyed listening to Anomalies on Audible. Lucinda Clare’s narration is excellent. At no point does the speech get monotonous and Lucinda Clare uses her voice well to switch between characters so each is distinct, she was a pleasure to listen to.
The authors have done an excellent job with world building, building slowly and in detail, so in my mind’s eye I could see this world as if it were real. Two characters’ POV also meant seeing this world from two extremes, the eyes of the oppressor and the oppressed. There are a lot of characters in the book, each one well fleshed out so I could associate with them as if I knew them.
The world at first glance seems great, but the peace and happiness is utopian and comes at the price of individuality with forced conformity. It made me sit back and question the value and importance of free will. Then there were Sorbek’s methods which while dishonourable and depraved, achieved peace, so does the end justify the means?
There’s more to the story than this of course, there’s another ancient race, a resistance and lots of action. The story sets a good pace and doesn’t let up right to the end. It’s 8 hours of listening and I found myself distraught at the end, wanting to continue and know more. I can’t wait for book 2.
The Short & Sweet
I enjoyed Anomalies; if you’re into dystopian sci-fi, this book comes highly recommended. The audio book with Lucinda Clare’s narration is especially recommended, I absolutely enjoyed listening to this book.
About the Author:
Sadie Turner is a Los Angeles-based producer and writer originally from Brighton, England, who works in business development with several Hollywood entrepreneurs. She has various projects in development, and also teaches yoga.
Colette Freedman is an internationally produced playwright with over 25 produced plays. She has co-written books with Jackie Collins and Michael Scott. Colette currently has several scripts in development.
Website │ GoodReads – Sadie Turner / Colette Freedman │ Twitter – Sadie Turner / Colette Freedman
January 20, 2017 No Comments
Lanka’s Princess by Kavita Kané
Surpanakha, Ravan’s infamous sister—ugly and untamed, brutal and brazen. This is how she is commonly perceived. One whose nose was sliced off by an angry Lakshman and the one who started a war but was she really just perpetrator of war? Or was she a victim? Was she Lanka’s princess? Or was she the reason for its destruction?
Surpanakha, meaning the woman as hard as nails was born as Meenakshi—the one with beautiful, fish-shaped eyes. Growing up in the shadows of her brothers, who were destined to win wars, fame and prestige, she, instead, charts up a path filled with misery and revenge.
Accused of manipulating events between Ram and Ravan, which culminated in a bloody war and annihilation of her family, Surpanakha is often the most misunderstood character in the Ramayana. Kavita Kané ‘s Lanka’s Princess tells the story from the vantage of this woman more hated than hateful…
Title: Lanka’s Princess
Author: Kavita Kané
Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Rupa Publications India (December 1st 2016)
Genre: Fantasy, Mythology
Buy On: Amazon US | Amazon India
Note: I received this book from Rupa Publication (India) in exchange for an honest review.
Paper and Font: Ebony and Ivory!
Readability, language: Easy
Why I picked Lanka’s Princess
Surpanakha plays an important role in the Ramayana tale by being that butterfly that flaps its wings leading to a world of destruction. She is the instigator of Ravana, her little sisterly act leading to war and the downfall of Lanka. Apart from that very little is told of her in the epic.
But how does Surpanakha get to that point of anger, hatred and revenge, where she wants to kill Ravana and will go to any lengths for it? What in her life led her to here? It was these questions that made me pick up Lanka’s Princess.
Lanka’s Princess is the story of a girl, youngest in the family, named Meenakshi for her beautiful eyes. A beautiful girl marred by life and situations, that bring out the worse in her, and bring forth Surpanakha, one who is hard as nails.
My Takeaways from Lanka’s Princess
Kavita Kané’s books usually have lead female protagonists who haven’t been given much voice in the telling of the epics. This is a first though, where the lead is an antagonist. Surpanakha as we know her has no redeeming qualities, by the end there is no good in her. But Kavita Kané explores the paths she takes though life showing the various little incidents that shaped her mind and soul into the demon she became, leaving me with mixed feelings in the end – animosity and sympathy for another woman dealth a bad hand of cards.
Writing mythological fiction must be challenging, these are age old stories that must be retold as new, with facts and timelines already fixed and the story well known. And yet, Lanka’s Princess got me to see a much neglected character in new light, her trials, her outlook and her choices that made her who she was.
In Lanka’s Princess, Kavita Kané explores Surpanakha’s character in deep detail, not holding back on her angst and negativity that fills the book. She shows up the importance even a dark skinned society gives to beauty and fairness, with Kaikesi, Surpanakha’s mother being the most vocal one, and the impact unkindess can have on a child’s mind and how far reaching it’s impacts are.
Through the book she also delves into the superficiality of Ravana’s love for his sister, Kumbha’s pure heart and his true love for his sister, the wrong that had been done to Surpanakha by Laxmana and the stereotyping of women done by men even back then.
The Book Itself…
Lanka’s Princess was an apt title as it was in her becoming the princess that she became Surpanakha, the hard one. The cover is lovely with an image of a girl in red and yellow contrasting well with the black background. The beauty of Meenakshi is captured in the eyes while her nails remind you of Surpanakha. The blurb grabbed me instantly.
The story begins with one of the rebirths of Surpanakha as a humpbacked woman and ends with another that explains her role in the cosmic cycle. In-between Kavita Kané has set the story in three parts and places, starting with Meenakshi’s childhood in the forest where her transformation to Surpanakha begins, the move and stay in Lanka where she truly becomes Surpanakha, and the forest of Dandak where she returns to start the war and take her revenge.
My biggest complain were the typos, grammar errors and missing words. Another proofread before publishing would have been so helpful. I enjoyed the story but the errors were a put off, and I really felt like knocking off a star for it. But I haven’t because the story is that good.
Lanka’s Princess is a well written story from the POV of much troubled and hated character, following her tale up to her death, telling a story not heard often. Kavita Kané sets a good pace with easy language that makes the book an enjoyable read. A sure recommendation if you are into mythological retellings and feminist writing.
About the Author:
Born in Mumbai, a childhood spent largely in Patna and Delhi , Kavita currently lives in Pune with her mariner husband Prakash and two daughters Kimaya and Amiya with Chic the black cocker spaniel and Cotton the white, curious cat.
January 16, 2017 No Comments
2016: My Yearly Reading Review
“Sometimes in order to keep moving forward, not only must you take one step at a time, but you must be willing to look back occasionally and evaluate your past, no matter how painful it is. Looking back lets you know whether or not you are headed in the right direction.”
― G.K. Adams
Before I begin planning my read year in 2017, I thought I’d revisit 2016 to see how I fared in my reading life. I do this every year but this time I thought I’d make a video of it.
This is a two part video. In the first part I talk about
– My book stats
– How this is the lowest reading year since 2011
– Experimenting with audio books
– Participating in the Ninja Book Swap
– Why Kindle Unlimited didn’t work out for me
– Learnings from all this data. Things to keep in mind for 2017.
How was your reading year in 2016? Any milestones crossed? What were your challenges?
January 10, 2017 No Comments