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Book Review: Ponni’s Beloved by Sumeetha Manikandan

Ponni's Beloved by Sumeetha Manikandan
 

Ponni’s Beloved by Sumeetha Manikandan

Summary:

(Goodreads)
This is an English Translation Of Kalki Krishnamurthy’s Ponniyin Selvan.
Kalki Krishnamurthy’s Ponniyin Selvan is a masterpiece that has enthralled generations of Tamil readers. Many authors have written phenomenal books in Tamil literature after Kalki Krishnamurthy, but Ponniyin Selvan remains the most popular, widely-read novel. It has just the right mixture of all things that makes an epic – political intrigue, conspiracy, betrayal, huge dollops of romance, infidelity, seduction, passion, alluring women, unrequited love, sacrifice and pure love.

 
Ponni's Beloved by Sumeetha Manikandan
Title: Ponni’s Beloved
Author: Sumeetha Manikandan
Paperback: 266 pages
Publisher: Indreads (February 16th 2017)
Genre: Indian Fiction, Indian Epic, Tamil Literature, Translation
Read: eBook
Stars: ★★★★★
Buy On: Amazon US | Amazon India

 

My Review:

Note: I received this book from the author via The Book Club in exchange for an honest review.

Though Ponni’s Beloved came to me for review, I thought the best person to review this book would be my MIL. Mom has read the original by Kalki and so is the best equipped to read and compare the books. The following are her words… [With a few of my edits 😛 ]

Mom’s Review of Ponni’s Beloved 😀

The original Ponniyin Selvan (Son of Kaveri) by Kalki Krishnamurthy with narrative pictures by the artist Maniam is one of the most unforgettable novels for Tamil readers.

In English Sumeetha Manikandan has captured the essence of the novel very well. The contents and narration of the story is almost the same as the original. She has not deviated in any way with the description. The flow of the story, the descriptions and the explanations were very good.

In Tamil the descriptions of the areas and the celebration especially in Adi Perukku (Chapter 1), Gokulashtami (Chapter43) & the Kuravai Koothu are so elaborate that the reader gets immersed in the story and feels like he/she is among the characters.
Sumeetha too has tried to involve the reader with her way of narration, however some of it is lost in translation. I had never expected that anyone could translate this without spoiling the flow of the story, but Sumeetha Manikandan’s Ponni’s Beloved comes quite close to the original.

Ponni’s Beloved has good momentum and once you start you can’t stop. The author has also used a lot of Tamil words which add to the feel of the tale. The book also has a bibliography at the end.

Some things that stood out in comparison to the original –

Kadambur described here is not the one near Kovilpatti. The hero Vanthiya devan is travelling from Kanchi to Thanjavur, so the place should be somewhere between Kallakurichi & Ulundurpet.

The one thing which is very much missing is the pictures of the artist Maniam, which added to the narrative along with the writer’s description in the original.

The character ‘Idupankari’ is spelt wrong. The sound of the name being important as Idumpankari means a person giving trouble.

Avvaiyar is blessed with old age, a boon she gets from Lord Ganesh and not Lord Muruga.

Parting Words…

I enjoyed reading Sumeetha Manikandan version of Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan and look forward to part 2.

Buy On: Amazon US | Amazon India

About the Author:

 
Ponni's Beloved by Sumeetha Manikandan
Sumeetha Manikandan is a bookaholic, thinker, feminist and a daydreamer, she reads across genres and is a crazy fan of history, romance and science fiction novels.
An avid reader of historical novels, she has been translating Kalki Krishnamurthy’s classic Tamil novel Ponniyin Selvan for the past ten years and hopes to translate more of his novels to English.
Sumeetha is married to filmmaker K.S. Manikandan and lives with her nine-year-old daughter in Chennai.”
 
Author Links:
Website/BlogGoodReads │ Twitter – @sumeetha2 │ Facebook – Page
 
 

May 27, 2017   2 Comments

Book Review: Mukti by A. Dharma

Title: Mukti
Author: A. Dharma
Paperback: 28 pages
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services, Inc. (December 31st 2012)
Genre: Short Story
Read: e-book
Stars: ****/5
Buy On: Amazon
Summary: (Goodreads)
mu·kti [moo k-tee] — the final extrication of the soul (purusha) from samsara; an end to human suffering and liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth.
Sanskrit: मुक्ति; release — from the root muc “to let loose, let go”

Mukti is a working girl, fresh out of college, living a sheltered upper middle class life in Mumbai, a city booming with call-centers and consumerism. But her parents have a plan that takes her by surprise. When their well meaning decisions clash against her view of the world; the issue is approached by both sides in a manner that is commonplace in their society. With an outcome that is just as common.

But unforeseen events unfold that drive Mukti’s relationship with her life over to the dark side.

My Review:

Kindle Freebie: Thanks A. Dharma for giving your book away and letting me know about it :)

Cover: Bright and pretty, it made me feel all bright and smiley.

Paper and font: Easy on the eyes!

Readability, language: : An easy read with simple language used delightfully!

Why did I choose this book: The blurb sounded promising.

Mukti is the story of a girl in the India of today, striving for freedom. She does try to stand up for herself; fight for what she wants but a lot of times just gives in to the pressure. She makes her choices and the sheer accidental nature of life leads her down paths she hadn’t meant to walk.
The story is about 23 year old Mukti who has just finished her studies and started working. Giving in to parental and societal pressure she agrees to an arranged marriage. And what follows is the short story.

Mukti simply means freedom but that word holds so much in it. There are so many freedoms we fight for everyday. The freedom of choice, the freedom to marry who and when we like, the freedom to work, the freedom to speak, the freedom to live and freedom from it all. A. Dharma explores the freedoms we have and the choices we make in his short story appropriately named Mukti.

Mukti’s story is not a new story, it can happen to anyone of us if our stars are misaligned, that said the story is still heart-breaking. A. Dharma takes a couple of sharp turns in the story, just when you’re starting to think you’ve grasped the storyline. And when he ended it, I couldn’t believe it was over. I went back a page to see if I missed something; the end was like falling of a cliff. And like falling of a cliff where the impact is delayed, it all hit me with a few seconds delay.

A. Dharma has based his story in the cities of Mumbai and Delhi with Mukti’s family living in Mumbai and the boy’s family in based in Delhi. He has done a good job of describing Delhi nights as I knew them – at night the streets are quiet with a silent sort-of beauty, India Gate looks beautiful in the night, but just a little away you can see corruption and violence, the people here are pushy with power and so are the cops. It feels like this struggle between beauty and evil.

How can you not associate and sympathise with Mukti, as women we’ve all been through some part of her life. The dilemma of what we want to do with our lives, societal pressures, parental blackmail, arranged marriages and the lot. Mukti’s parents are the typical parents who want to be done with a daughters wedding. It takes a great responsibility off their shoulders and they can breathe easy. And yet they love their daughter and want to see her happy.

The story is narrated by Mukti as she looks back at her life and contemplates what went wrong. A. Dharma uses simple language but spins an enjoyable tale that makes you smile at times as you remember a similar situation.

Like I was saying earlier the story took some abrupt turns. Not that it a bad thing, A. Dharma has done a good job with the story. But the story holds a lot of potential and a lot that’s left unsaid could be written. I’d love to have read about Mukti’s various debacles in the arranged marriage world. On another line, I would have liked to know more about Mukti’s inner struggle and her fight against what happens too. But there’s no taking away the unexpected end that A. Dharma throws in without a warning; it left me gasping.

All said and done I enjoyed reading Mukti and am looking forward to A. Dharma’s next book.

About the Author:
A. Dharma is an online marketing consultant who live in Mumbai and dreams of living in the heartland of India some day. He can be found on Twitter as @adharma.

Buy On: Amazon

May 13, 2013   No Comments

Book Review: Truly, Madly, Deeply by Faraaz Kazi

Title: Truly, Madly, Deeply
Author: Faraaz Kazi
Paperback: 258 pages
Publisher: Mahaveer Publishers (November 10th 2010)
Genre: Romance
Read: Paperback
Stars: **/5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Goodreads)
What happens when the most popular guy in school falls in love with his beautiful female equivalent?

A pompous Rahul is head over heels in love with Seema, a shy lady from the same school. After a whirlwind of innocent encounters, their teenage romance blossoms but the two never confess their love for each other. Friends and even a few teachers approve of their relationship which is no secret to anyone thanks to Rahul’s flaunting nature.

Seema, on the other hand, finds it difficult to handle the unnecessary attention she gets due to Rahul’s ostentatiousness. What follows is a series of misunderstandings and ego clashes causing them to drift apart.

Rahul loses his popularity, his numero uno status, his sanity and ultimately his love. By the time he realizes what he has lost, it’s too late. He takes desperate measures to woo her back and win back her love. But will Rahul ever get back Seema? And will Seema ever realize how much Rahul loved her and all the misunderstandings that transpired between them? Is there really any room for misunderstandings in love? In today’s world, can a person’s first love ever be his last?

My Review:


I won this book on Freado.com; Thanks Faraaz Kazi for offering your book as a prize.

Cover: Dark and sad.

Paper and font: Smelt like a textbook! :( And the print was readable even on the next page.

Readability, language: : Simple language but be warned its draggy with lots of philosophy. :(

Why did I choose this book: Had to read the book that claims to be “The only book written by an Indian author to be nominated in the ‘Top 100 YA Global Fiction List’.”

Truly, Madly, Deeply is a story of young love. Of Rahul and Seema who fall in love in school. What follows is the joys of teenage love but also misunderstandings and heart-break as two people learn to understand each other and withstand peer pressure.

The title is appropriate for a teenage romance for it is only at that age that we use the words truly, madly and deeply to describe love. With age and maturity we realise love is much more than that but as a teen we believe true love to be mad and deep.
Purple and blue make for a dark cover; I would have preferred a more upbeat cover but Kazi is trying to tell a dark story and that may have been his reasoning behind the cover. However a more warm cover would have been a better choice if you ask me. The cover reminds me of SRK sitting on a bench in KKKG but without the bright sunshine and green grass.
The blurb does spark an interest in the story though the testimonials and announcements about the books nominations could have been placed after the blurb rather than before. It’s as if Kazi thinks I would require convincing to read the book (after reading the book, I think he’s right).

It’s not often that a teenage romance gets written by an Indian author set in India, so Kudos Kazi for doing the unconventional. The story of the chain of misunderstandings between Seema and Rahul is entertaining and I found myself reading the whole book just to figure out if they managed to work out their differences and have a happily ever after.

Kazi switches between the U.S. and India as a morose Rahul has flashbacks to his love-story. Studying in the U.S. Rahul is a quiet to-himself chap who mops about and avoids making friends. But incidents there set-off the playback of his life and he drifts to India in his mind, reliving his romance. Kazi inserts a poem just before every flashback. The poems he has chosen are beautiful but it was irritating to have them pop up in the middle of chapters with no real connection to the story. Next time Kazi maybe you could put these poems at the start of the chapter? Also I couldn’t understand the necessity for flashbacks from the U.S. of A., a straight story would have been better.

The two main characters in the story Rahul and Seema, are typical teenagers except for the philosophy they keep spouting. Theirs is the typical teenage love story with it highs and lows, jealousies, scheming, back-biting, egos, one-up-man-ships and such. That said it is a rather true and cute lovestory that took me back to my school days. Rahul and Seema’s friends who make up the support structure of the story are just that – supports – they add little to the story. I wish there had been more of a role for Sahil, Rahul’s one friend in the U.S., as he made for an interesting character.

The storyline by itself is fine and even interesting but Kazi could have written the story in half the number of pages he has used. There are long descriptions that are not required along with philosophical discourses that make the book a drag. And the end is too abrupt and hazy. A more crisp story-telling would have does wonders. Also the book could have been formatted better and some language errors avoided with a better edit.

Truly, Madly, Deeply is a test of patience for a reader. I wouldn’t say its a bad book, rather its just fair with a lot of scope to have been better. Pick it up only if you are someone who likes lots of life and love philosophy. Definitely not worth a second read.

About the Author:
Truly, Madly, Deeply is Faraaz Lazi’s first book. He is a certified soft skills trainer and three-time post graduate! He runs a social media agency, Digi Imprint Solutions and lives in Mumbai. You can find him online at www.faraazkazi.com.

Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart

April 26, 2013   No Comments

Book Review: Just Married, Please Excuse by Yashodhara Lal

Title: Just Married, Please Excuse
Author: Yashodhara Lal
Paperback: 258 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (July 1st 2012)
Genre: Romance
Read: Paperback
Stars: ***/5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Goodreads)
Caution! Marriage Ahead-

Yashodhara, a quick-tempered gal from the big city is hitched to Vijay, a laidback desi boy from a small town – in one word – Trouble!
The young couple must learn to adjust to married life and to each other – whether it is Yashodhara’s ‘temper tantrums’ or Vijay’s foot-in-mouth syndrome – with a little help from their idiosyncratic staff, Zarreena and Vinod, their nutty friend Vivi and, of course, their respective families.

With the unexpected arrival of baby Anoushka a.k.a. Peanut, the battles escalate, fuelled by their vastly divergent views on raising a child. Will their many differences – so endearing at the start of their romance – actually turn out to mean that they are just incompatible? Will they ever manage to agree on anything? Or have they just bitten off more than they can chew?

My Review:


Cover: The cover reminded me of the posters of movies like Bombay to Goa (old); simple and bright. Could have done without the hand showing fingers crossed though, that looks a bit out of place.

Paper and font: Easy on the eyes!

Readability, language: : Simple language makes for a fast read.

Why did I choose this book: The title and blurb had me looking forward to a lot of marital drama. Being married myself, how could I not want to hear someone-else’s.

A quick and short romance leads Yashodhara to the doors of marriage and before she knows it, she has been carried over the threshold. And there starts the drama of two people living under the same roof. Marriage is like a tug-of-war, only here the objective is to keep the marker dead-centre. It takes a while for each side to figure out just how much to pull and how much to let go. Just Married, Please Excuse is a retelling of Yashodhara’s first three years of marriage; her trying to find equilibrium with surprises like a relocation and a child thrown in.

The title and cover had me expecting a lot of Just Married drama but the honeymoon period of marriage turned out to be just one part of the book. The blurb also let me believe there would crazy-ass fireworks in the story but alas, there were more sparklers than rockets.

The initial years of marriage is an age-old plot that doesn’t age as long as you have a good storyteller and Yashodhara is that. She weaves the story of two people of different minds and backgrounds coming together and finding the peace such that there is rarely a dull moment. The conflicts between Yashodhara and Vijay are things any married woman would associate with and had me chuckling often through the book.

Set in Bangalore and Mumbai the book took me down memory lane to the days when the Old Bangalore Airport was still on Airport Road and at a walk-able distance and in Mumbai there was a possibility of wrangling a flat at Bandstand with a sea view and claiming you had Shah Rukh Khan as your neighbour even if you never really visited or saw him.

Yashodhara does justice to each character in her just married story, describing them well not only in looks but also mannerisms. I laughed along as Vijay the quirky guy with foot-in-the-mouth syndrome learns to navigate the choppy waters of marriage and pregnancy. He has an awesome sense of timing and humour that brings out many a chuckle as long as you are not the wife at the receiving end. Zareena is the quintessential bossy Bombay maid. Kajal the fifty something maid from her mothers house makes for some hilarious moments of misunderstanding. Not to forget the families of both Yashodhara and Vijay that hold true to the saying “In India you don’t marry the boy/girl, you marry his/her family”.

The story has three parts – getting married and the honeymoon period, realising that wow, you’re really married, pregnancy and early baby days, and what follows the introduction of a third character in a two person equation. Yashodhara and Vijay share moments of bliss alongside some nasty friction as through the three years they slowly learn the art of being happily married. Yashodhara ties it all up well to end on a high note.

Written in the first person, Yashodhara uses simple language that keeps you engaged through the book. Her usage of languages and accents along with her sense of humour and wit add to the the comic timing to make the book an enjoyable read.

If you are in a relationship, just married, or ‘plain’ married, this is a book to pick up for an entertaining evening filled with nods of ‘having being there’ and many a laugh.

About the Author:
An IIM Bangalore graduate with over 10 years of work-ex, Yashodhara Lal started out as a writer with her blog – www.yashodharalal.com. Just Married, Please Excuse is her first book and I’m definitely looking forward to more books from her with similar wit and humour. She currently lives in Gurgaon with her husband Vijay and three children – Peanut, Pickle and Papad.

Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart

April 23, 2013   3 Comments

Book Review: Under The Hawthorn Tree by Ai Mi

Title: Under The Hawthorn Tree
Author: Ai Mi
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: House of Anansi Press (January 1st 2011)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Read: Paperback
Stars: ***/5
Buy On: Amazon
Summary: (Goodreads)
Yichang municipality, Hubei province, China, early 1970s. High-school student Jingqiu is one of many educated urban youth sent to the countryside to be “re-educated” under a dictate from Chairman Mao. Jing’s father is a political prisoner somewhere in China, and her mother, a former teacher branded as a “capitalist,” is now reduced to menial work to support Jing and her two younger siblings.

When Jing arrives with a group at Xiping village in the Yangtze River’s Three Gorges region, she meets geology student Jianxin, nicknamed “Old Three,” who is the son of a high-ranking military officer, but whose mother committed suicide after being branded a “rightist.” Despite their disparate social backgrounds and a political atmosphere that forbids the relationship, Jingqiu and Jianxin fall desperately in love. But their budding romance is cut short by fate…

My Review:


Cover: The book I got had a cute still from the movie. Not great but not so bad either.

Paper and font: Ivory and Ebony! :)

Readability, language: : The language is simple but it’s an easier read if you know some of the history of China.

Why did I choose this book: I impulsively picked this up at the library since the book has been a sensation in China since 2007 when Ai Mi shared it on her website and is now even a movie.

Set during the Cultural Revolution in China this is a quaint love story of Jingqui a poor city girl. Jingqui is selected along with a small group of students to go to the countryside for an educational project. The students live the rural life and interact with the farmers while writing stories that will become a part of the education system to further the cultural revolution.

Jingqui who comes from a politically questionable family knows she must be careful about what she says, writes and does to stay safe politically. Her life is already mapped out for her; after her schooling she will be sent to work in the fields somewhere in rural China where she will get a meagre wage. Love isn’t on the cards for her but fall in love she does with Sun Jianxin, the son of an army general.

Sun Jianxin or Old Third is an intelligent and kind boy but way out of Jingqui’s league. And there starts Jingqui’s lessons in love. A naive girl Jingqui has feelings for Old Third that she doesn’t understand. She struggles with her emotions and tries hard to avoid slipping. Her mother has always told her that one slip could cause much harm but Jingqui doesn’t know what her mother means by a slip. As her relationship with Old Third progresses, so does her internal struggles as she tries to figure out if she has slipped.

Completing her stint at the village Jingqui returns to the city and her life where she hopes time will help her forget Old Third but she finds that she cannot. And when Old Third starts to visit her in the city, her love is rekindled. She embarks on the journey of love, learning to accept and embrace it while discovering the meaning of true love.

Being ignorant as I’m about world history, Under the Hawthorn Tree took me a long time to read. Initially I found the story difficult to understand and it took me a while to grasp the history and setting of the book. It would have helped I think if I knew a little of China’s history before I read the book.

The characters are easy to associate with and feel for though. Jingqui’s naiveness brought a smile to my face as she struggles with her heart. Old Third’s love makes for the magic in love stories. The big heartedness of people who shared what little they had was touching. The societal structure of China in the 60’s and 70’s was an eye-opener.

Overall a simple love story, Under the Hawthorn Tree was an education in the lives of the people of China and their trials and struggles during the Cultural Revolution.

I did enjoy reading this book even though I had to push myself sometimes to read on. If you like touching love stories or have an interest in the history of China this is a book to read.

Buy On: Amazon

April 12, 2013   No Comments

Book Review: Shiva Trilogy by Amish Tripathy

Title: Shiva Trilogy (The Immortals of Meluha, The Secret of the Nagas, The Oath of the Vayuputras)
Author: Amish Tripathy
Paperback: 1. 436 pages, 2. 396 pages, 3. 565 pages
Publisher: Westland (April 1st 2010, August 12th 2011, February 27th 2013)
Genre: Indian Mythology
Read: Paperback
Stars: ****/5
Buy On:
The Immortals of Meluha:Amazon | FlipKart
The Secrets of the Nagas: Amazon | FlipKart
The Oath of the Vayuputras: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Goodreads)

1900 BC. In what modern Indians mistakenly call the Indus Valley Civilisation. The inhabitants of that period called it the land of Meluha a near perfect empire created many centuries earlier by Lord Ram, one of the greatest monarchs that ever lived. This once proud empire and its Suryavanshi rulers face severe perils.
The only hope for the Suryavanshis is an ancient legend: When evil reaches epic proportions, when all seems lost, when it appears that your enemies have triumphed, a hero will emerge.
Is the rough-hewn Tibetan immigrant Shiva, really that hero? And does he want to be that hero at all? Drawn suddenly to his destiny, by duty as well as by love, will Shiva lead the Suryavanshi vengeance and destroy evil?
Today, He is a God.
4000 years ago, He was just a man.
In a journey that will take him across the length and breadth of ancient India, Shiva searches for the truth in a land of deadly mysteries only to find that nothing is what it seems.
Only A God Can Stop It.
Shiva is gathering his forces. He reaches the Naga capital, Panchavati, and Evil is finally revealed. The Neelkanth prepares for a holy war against his true enemy, a man whose name instils dread in the fiercest of warriors.
Will he succeed? And what will be the real cost of battling Evil? To India? And to Shiva’s soul?

My Review:

Note: Thanks to the guys at MySmartPrice for offering me “The Oath of the Vayuputras” to review :)

Cover: All three covers have been beautifully designed with vibrant colours and textures.

Paper and font: The font was fine but I felt the paper and print quality kept varying through the books. I may have got a bad bind but my copy of the first book was a pain to hold up and read with one hand.

Readability, language: : Not a lot of big words that I didn’t already know, the books are quick reads even though they are big.

Why did I choose this book: I’ve been hearing a lot about the series and with my interest in mythology, there’s no way I’d have missed this series.

I have waited a long time to read this series. Yeah yeah I know book 1 and 2 were available but after seeing Che’s reaction to book 1, I decided to wait until 3 came out. I didn’t want to wait between books. That of course meant I heard a lot of opinions on the books and that did leave me a bit worried. Most people said the first book was good but two was a drag and three was quite a drag. With all that I heard I wondered if I would get to book three or would I give up midway.

Amish makes the premise that Shiva is a man and that there are no magical gods when writing his trilogy. The story starts off with Shiva coming to the plains from the banks of the Mansarovar to fulfil his destiny of ridding the world of evil. On drinking somras, the elixir of those times, his throat turns blue and people bow to the Neelkanth who has come to save them. Only the Neelkanth is reluctant to believe he is the saviour of the people and there starts the story of Shiva, who from a mere man becomes the Mahadev.

Evil is not a person, it is an idea or belief. This is something Shiva has to learn on his journey through the three books.

In “The Immortals of Meluha” Shiva meets the Meluhans who have found immortality. They are Suryavanshis who follow the path set out by Ram. They have order and discipline in their lives and believe in the betterment of the community rather than that of the individual. He fights the Chandravanshis who are the descendants of Ram too and have different beliefs and lifestyles to the Suryavanshis only to realise they aren’t evil.

This realisation leads him to the Nagas in “The Secret of the Nagas”. It’s in meeting them that he learns of Kali, the other half of his wife Sati and has to make peace with Ganesh, the other son of Sati. It is in this book that Karthik makes his appearance growing up faster than a normal boy. The Nagas take him to their city – Panchvati where Shiva again has to confront and revise his idea and understanding of evil.

 

“The Oath of the Vayuputras” is about Shiva’s confrontation with evil and his fighting the righteous fight. He teams up with the Vasudevs who are the guides of the Rudra avatar to take on evil and meets and understands the previous Mahadev Rudra through his tribe the Vayuputras who are sworn to support the Neelkanth in his war against evil. The book isn’t about whether Shiva will win, that’s a given but rather about how a man becomes so loveable that we still love, fear and worship him to this day.

The characters of the books are the ones we all grew up hearing about in our grandma’s stories – Shiva, Sati, Kali, Ganesh, Karthik…, they are all there in human believable form. Not gods but human beings like you and me who are flawed and yet loved. And there were some I’d never heard of before like Badhra, Shiva’s best friend, Krittika, Sati best friend, Parvateshwar the amy general after whom Sati is also called Parvati, among others. The characters are well sketched and memorable; each one of them.

Set in the Sapt Sindu or land of seven rivers the trilogy stays largely towards North India. Guess Amish’s next series will be on the South 😀 That said he has done a great job describing the terrain through the book. In my minds eye it was a movie playing out as I read the book. I could imagine the cities, the rivers and the wars so vividly through the book.

I enjoyed the trilogy and was hooked until the end. Didn’t like the last couple of lines though 😛 On one count I agree with all other reviews that the first book had pace but two and three are a drag. There is a lot of description rather than action. But I quite enjoyed that. One of the best parts of the book for me was the scientific reasoning behind all that magical technology of those times. It was interesting to read about the magic behind the divya astras, the bhramastra, and such (Amish has definitely done his research). I had seen too much magic in the Ramayan and Mahabharata on TV growing up.

I love stories and mythology is nothing but that, add to this the number of Gods we have in Hinduism and the two Epics and you have never ending stories. How can I not love Indian mythology. This trilogy is great if you like Indian mythology; well written it is an enjoyable read but be warned it does get draggy as you progress through the books.

Buy On:
The Immortals of Meluha:Amazon | FlipKart
The Secrets of the Nagas: Amazon | FlipKart
The Oath of the Vayuputras: Amazon | FlipKart

March 28, 2013   5 Comments

Book Review: The Other Side of the Table by Madhumita Mukherjee

Title: The Other Side of the Table
Author: Madhumita Mukherjee
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Fingerprint (January 18th 2013)
Genre: Epistolary
Read: Paperback
Stars: **/5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Goodreads)
Circa 1990.
A world drawn and woven with words.
A bond punctuated by absence and distance…
Two continents. Two cities. Two people.
And letters. Hundreds of them.
Over years. Across oceans. Between hearts.
Between Abhi, who is training to be a neurosurgeon in London, and Uma, who is just stepping into the world of medicine in Kolkata.
As they ink their emotions onto paper, their lives get chronicled in this subtly nuanced conversation through letters … letters about dreams, desires, heartbreaks, and longings… about a proverbial good life falling apart, about a failed marriage, a visceral loss, and about a dream that threatens social expectations…
Letters that talk. And don’t. Letters about this and that. Letters about everything…
Letters with a story you would never expect.

My Review:


Note: Thanks to the guys at MySmartPrice for offering me this book to review :)

Cover: Simple and soothing on the eyes.

Paper and font: White paper and smelt like a text book! :(

Readability, language: : The language was simple but the font and print could have been much better.

Why did I choose this book: The blurb had sounded interesting…

Some books you wonder why you read but then are happy you read it. This was one of those. When I picked up the book I had very different expectations of it. The blurb had set me up to expect some action, drama or mystery and I kept looking for it all through the book, didn’t find it at all and that did have me disappointed. That said the story kept me engaged through the book.

The Other Side of the Table is a collection of letters between Abhi in London who is training to be a neurosurgeon and Uma who is studying to be a doctor in Kolkata. Living in different worlds they have very different experiences in the field of medicine. They share their experiences, joys, disappointments, challenges and more through letters as the years roll by.

Uma as a girl trying to follow her dream in India can be related to easily. The challenges she faces at home, in society and at work are things most women experience in India at sometime or another. Her fighting spirit is something I associated with and felt for as she fought for what she wanted.

Abhi on the other hand is recognisable as the guy who leaves India with nothing to come back to but still misses his birth country and makes up the deficit by having more Indian friends around him. When he has trouble they help him out the most, though Abhi does have one non-Indian friend who also helps, so maybe he has mixed into new culture a fair bit.

Taking place in two countries far away from each other, the setting is perfect as a comparison between the lives of doctors and the study of medicine in both countries. The things that are common and so different too. Mukherjee makes all the appropriate references to seasons, festivals and holidays in both countries.

The book is written as letters and that helps overall but the letters were a bit dry and weirdly formal. I also think there were too many happy new years…

I enjoyed the medicine and doctor speak in the book. The peek into the lives of medical students and doctors was revealing enough to keep me reading the entire book. However I think for someone who isn’t very into medicine this might get a bit boring.

Given an option I would have added more drama and maybe even a sinister twist to the story. This was too tame and slow.

If you are looking for a slow, simple, not very complicated medical read, this book would be good as a one time read…

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March 19, 2013   2 Comments

Book Review: My Husband and Other Animals by Janaki Lenin

Title: My Husband and Other Animals
Author: Janaki Lenin
Paperback: 296 pages
Publisher: Westland(2012)
Genre: Biography (Short-Life-Stories)
Read: Paperback
Stars: ****/5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Goodreads)
Rom felt that all the trappings of the human world interfered with his ability to find king cobras. So he discarded his watch and shoes, and stripped down to a loin cloth. Not the best attire for his first brush with the devil nettle!

Whats it like being married to Rom Whitaker herpetologist, wildlife conservationist, and founder of the Madras Snake Park and Madras Crocodile Bank? Janaki Lenin, his wife, tells us, Theres never a dull moment.

In this compilation of stories, Janaki also an animal enthusiast gives us a peek into the zany and unpredictable world that Rom and she have built together, deep in southern India. They battle tree frogs that insist on colonising their house, travel to the wilds of the world pursuing venomous snakes and monster crocodiles, devote precious hours to befriending Gila monsters, playing with porcupines, and taming opinionated shrews.

Entertaining, playful, and downright amusing, the essays shed light on the kingdoms of beasts and plants. They provide flashes of insight into animal disposition relate human stories about the world and our place in it, and demystify natures secret code. Most of all, they highlight Rom and Janakis wide-eyed wonder at sharing this diverse planet with all creatures, large and small.

My Review:


Cover: Earthy and pleasing to the eye!

Paper and font: The kind you want to smell again and again with an easy on the eye font.

Readability, language: Simple no-nonsense language that you want to keep reading.

Why did I choose this book: I wanted to learn what it would take to move out.

Janaki Lenin’s ‘My Husband and Other Animals’ did not meet expectations…

Che and I hope to move out of Bangalore soon for a lot of reasons, some of them will make our lives better and some of them will be excellent for our dogs. But moving out isn’t just that simple, there are so many things that worry me – how will I deal with leopards, I’m not scared of creepy crawlies but neither do I want to play host to tons of them, can I really grow enough to sustain my family, and many other such thoughts are on the list. With all this running in my head I grabbed at ‘My Husband and Other Animals’ when I came across it hoping for answers. After all Janaki had also made the move from a city to a farm.

As I started reading I was disappointed, where were the solutions I was looking for. Not being someone who gives up easily I stuck with the book as Janaki recounted her and Rom’s adventures with snakes, frogs, crocs and leopards.

A quarter of my way though the book my disappointment was replaced by a soft smile as I travelled dusty paths with Janaki. She isn’t the standard storyteller who has a punchline at the end of each story; she is more like our grandmothers who tells a story for the telling. The story is everywhere not just at the end of the tale.

As I continued listening to Janaki’s stories of Rom’s childhood, how he setup the croc bank, the initial challenges they faced, their adventures in the wild across India and the settling down hiccups at the farm, I couldn’t help but notice a shift in how I saw life outside the city. Gone was the worry-wart who jumped out of her skin at every boo, instead I found myself making peace with all that was disturbing me. Life on a farm would be challenging and some things would be out of my control but that was all a part to living on or off the land.

Janaki lost one of her dogs to a leopard and almost lost a second too. It must have hurt to lose a dog but she learnt some invaluable lessons. And it wasn’t just leopards, there were the snakes to account for too. Being over protective isn’t the answer I learned, I had to think smart and plan ahead.

As the book came to an end I was wishing pages would add themselves, I wanted to hear more about Janaki and Rom’s life. But I guess for now I have to settle for keeping her book within arms reach and re-reading it. That is until I can meet this couple whose lives are a fairytale albeit not the fairy kind, and I’m looking forward to it. (As a kid I think I must have met Rom since Dad took us often to the Croc Bank but I guess I was too little to remember him.) Time to make a trip to Madras and the Croc Bank again.

Let me reinstate and revise what I started this review with –  Janaki Lenin’s ‘My Husband and Other Animals’ did not meet expectations… It exceeded them!

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March 12, 2013   No Comments

Book Review: Govinda by Krishna Udayasankar

Title: Govinda
Author: Krishna Udayasankar
Paperback: 458 pages
Publisher: Hachette India (July 2012)
Genre: Mythology
Read: Paperback
Stars: ****/5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Goodreads)
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, has dominated here. For just as long, the Angirasa family of Firewrights, weapon-makers to the kings and master inventors, has defied them. In the aftermath of the centuries-long conflict between the two orders, the once-united empire of Aryavarta lies splintered, a shadow of its former glorious self.

Now, the last Secret Keeper of the Firewrights is dead, killed by a violent hand, and the battle for supreme power in the empire is about to begin.

As mighty powers hurtle towards a bloody conflict, Govinda Shauri, cowherd-turned-prince and now Commander of the armies of Dwaraka, must use all his cunning to counter deception and treachery if he is to protect his people and those whom he loves.

But who holds the key to the fantastic and startling knowledge of the Firewrights, which in the wrong hands will bring doom upon the empire? And does Govinda have it in him to confront the dark secrets of his past and discover the true meaning of being Arya, of being noble?

My Review:


Cover: Nothing great but not so bad either.

Paper and font: Smell-Worthy with a print that is easy on the eyes.

Readability, language: Reads well and language is easy on the mind.

Why did I choose this book: I couldn’t let another perspective to the Mahabharata pass me by.

I grew up to the Mahabharata on TV but as time went by I started to question the epic as I knew it. Then last year I read ‘The Palace of Illusions’ by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and saw the epic in new light from Panchaali’s perspective. When I came across Krishna Udayasankar’s ‘Govinda’ I couldn’t give another perspective a miss. A story about a Govinda who does not have any super powers was very compelling.

The main characters are the usual Mahabharata ones, only here Krishna is more predominant in ‘Govinda’. Krishna Udayasankar’s book gives a deeper inside into the enigma of Krishna, a more real and practical perspective compared to the usual magical one. Seeing him as a man and understanding the reasons behind his magic made the Mahabharata so much more believable as an epic.

Udayasankar also has some very thought provoking takes on incidents and people of the Mahabharata – the man Panchaali truly loved, how she landed up with Dharma even though she had been won by Partha, the kind of man Dharma really was and the truth behind Dhulyodhana’s intentions and motivations, and the lead up to Dharma becoming Emperor and real people and reasons behind why he became emperor.

Even though it is the same old Mahabharata with the same core story, Udayasankar couldn’t have made it more different with her explanations and reasoning behind plots and situations. Krishna, his intentions, his mind , his heart and just why he did certain things are finally explained in a light and a world I could believe.

Udayasankar has done a good job of describing the kingdoms of those times, the terrain, the places, the people and their lives. Dwaraka does feel like utopia where everyone is happy and content. Indraprastha the mirror of Indra’s palace as it is supposed to be in the epic.

What I loved best was the premise that these men were not Gods but only human in all they did. Udayasankar knows her history well and her research shows. It was an enjoyable retelling of the great epic of India the Mahabharata and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, I just the author doesn’t take too long.

Definitely a book to read if you want a different perspective to the epic we all grew up too!

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March 5, 2013   5 Comments