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Book Review: The Jeera Packer by Prashant Yadav

The Jeera Packer by Prashant Yadav
 

The Jeera Packer by Prashant Yadav

Summary:

(Goodreads)

I once changed the history of Uttar Pradesh state with a gun and a finger. One shot, one man. Right man, wrong man. But that was thirty years ago. I shot people through their heads then. I pack jeera in a basement now.
This is me and here is my story.

He was the best sharpshooter in the state. A true bullet artist. But he gave it all up to lead a happy, normal, stable life . . . with his loving wife and dear son.

And that proved to be his undoing.

Resonant and deeply affecting, The Jeera Packer is the gripping tale of a man who after three decades of playing the happy family man returns to his profession of old for one final work—to shoot the chief minister.Convinced that this is his raison d’etre, will he manage to pull off this one last act, as his concluding hat tip to the man he could have been? Will he be able to brush away the jeera dust and rediscover himself? Or has the middle-aged family man already throttled the sharpshooter in him?

 
The Jeera Packer by Prashant Yadav
Title: The Jeera Packer
Author: Prashant Yadav
Paperback: 344 pages
Publisher: Fingerprint! Publishing (December 26th 2016)
Genre: Indian Fiction, Crime
Read: Paperback
Stars: ★★★★☆
Buy On: Amazon US | Amazon India

 

My Review:

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

Cover: Old-world Gangster!

Paper & Font: Ebony & Ivory with easy to read font

Readability, language: Easy with Lots of Bollywood references

The Jeera Packer is the story of a sharpshooter turned good boy. Now a jeera packer, he lives a simple life with his wife and son. But he’s troubled with the thought of his life’s achievement, his Taj Mahal. To satisfy this emptiness he sets out to kill the Chief Minister, believing it his raison d’être. It’s a tough goal with hurdles and a lot to lose. Life after will never be the same again. Will the Jeera Packer really thrown it all away, his good life for a moment of glory?

Impressions

 
I hadn’t realised it as I read the book but now I’m thinking of it, I just don’t remember the protagonist being named, he is simply the Jeera Packer through the book. Hence apt title, eh? The cover with it’s old-world UP gangster feel and title written in Hindi, totally appeals to me.

The plot isn’t like anything I’ve read before. Prashant Yadav managed to surprise me a few times. Set in UP, the backdrop of central India adds to the story & politics; in my minds eye, it was like watching an Anurag Kashyap movie. The story holds a good pace with a climax I never saw coming.

Characters

 
The characters of The Jeera Packer are sketched out well, and each character grows and gets richer as the story goes along. The local dada who is now a The Dada in politics, the Professor his brother who loves him yet yearns the chair, his steward Lal Mani who has proved his genius by surviving, and the Jeera Packer, a man who left Dada’s side to live the normal life and now wants to kill him. There are a lot of supporting characters too, each one adding meaning to the tale.

Story and Style

 
Prashant Yadav has a different writing style, the likes of which I’ve not read before. It took the first few chapters for me to grasp his style, but after I got the groove of it, the story rolled out beautifully. The language of the book is simple with lots of Bollywood dialogues and references thrown in. I enjoyed and even laughed out at some of the references and connections.
There’s a lot of Bullet philosophy and trivia I connected to in the book too. I smiled many a time at the references of a fellow Bulleteer.

In Short

 
I enjoyed reading The Jeera Packer, it’s good masala, an Indian Mid-West tale with a good pace and strong dialogues. If you like dark, emotional, filmy, action novels, The Jeera Packer would be perfect for you.

Buy On: Amazon US | Amazon India

About the Author:

 
Prashant Yadav - The Jeera Packer
A little boy who never grew up. A wise man who didn’t need to. A smartass who didn’t bother. Prashant Yadav went to IIT Kharagpur, IIM Ahmedabad & Stockholm School of Economics. He runs his own company, advises start-ups and practices karate.
 
Author Links:
WebsiteGoodReads │ Twitter – @pr_ashantyadav
 
 

September 23, 2017   No Comments

Book Review: Sultan of Delhi: Ascension by Arnab Ray

Sultan of Delhi: Ascension by Arnab Ray
 

Sultan of Delhi: Ascension by Arnab Ray

Summary:

(Goodreads)

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.

 
Sultan of Delhi: Ascension by Arnab Ray
Title: Sultan of Delhi: Ascension
Author: Arnab Ray
Paperback: 301 pages
Publisher: Hachette (October 26th 2016)
Genre: Indian Fiction, Crime
Read: Paperback
Stars: ★★★★★
Buy On: Amazon US | Amazon India

 

My Review:

Note: I received this book from the author via Hachette India (and an B00kR3vi3ws Giveaway) in exchange for an honest review.

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.

First Impressions

 
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.)

In Short

 
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.

Buy On: Amazon US | Amazon India

About the Author:

 
Arnab Ray - Sultan of Delhi: Ascension
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.
 
Author Links:
WebsiteGoodReads │ Twitter – @greatbong
 
 

January 29, 2017   2 Comments

Book Review: Destiny of Shattered Dreams by Nilesh Rathod

Destiny of Shattered Dreams by Nilesh Rathod

 
Destiny of Shattered Dreams by Nilesh Rathod
Title: Destiny of Shattered Dreams
Author: Nilesh Rathod
Paperback: 254 pages
Publisher: Rupa Publications(May 20th 2016)
Genre: Contemporary
Read: Paperback
Stars: ★★★★☆
Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

 

Summary:

(Goodreads)

An insider’s view into what goes on behind the glittering facade of corporate stardom, DESTINY of SHATTERED DREAMS is a fast-paced
tale of a brilliant young man’s meteoric rise. It is also a moving portrayal of the fallibility of love.

Ambition, passion
and raw courage are Atul Malhotra’s key aides to realizing his dreams as he learns the art of gambling for high stakes. What follows is a game of treachery, infidelity and murder.

The book lays bare the sordid corporate-politico nexus that compels this once middle-class boy to deftly learn the ropes and negotiate a world where dirty deals and power plays can make or break lives, where one wrong choice could be fatal.

A tale of yachts and hidden Swiss accounts, sordid affairs of lust, intrigue and exhilarating highs, Nilesh Rathod’s Destiny of Shattered Dreams is also the story of innocence forever lost.

 

My Review:

Note: Thanks to Nilesh Rathod for offering me his book to read and review :)

Cover: Eye-catchy

Paper and font: Font could have been bigger

Readability, language: Easy

I had mixed feelings when I first picked up Destiny of Shattered Dreams, the story of a man’s rise and fall in the corporate world. Corporate drama isn’t really my thing or maybe all books I’ve read until now of that type haven’t worked for me.

Either ways I’m tentative about those types of books but Nilesh Rathod’s book did sound interesting so, I took the shot. Glad I did too, I breezed though it and enjoyed reading it.

Atul Malhotra is a boy who comes from simple beginnings and with shear hard work has climbed the ladder. Now he has his own company and powerful political people have invested in it. But with big money comes big trouble.

The cover is a colour spread of red and blue representing dreams with a jagged crack running through it. Between the cover and title, clear expectations are set of shattered dreams. The blurb also sets the same expectation.

The story is mostly set in Mumbai but other cities like Delhi and Geneva also feature as work and holiday destinations. Mumbai is present in the story in the background but it doesn’t play a predominant role.

The characters are very real flawed people who I found myself encouraging at times and getting so irritated with at others. The shallowness of us human beings is so apparent though the story and characters of Nilesh Rathod. At times I also felt the characters were very stereotypical in their reactions, I’d expected a more liberal modern outlook in a contemporary book.

Right at the start within 20 pages I knew Atul was going to go to jail but as he told his story Nilesh Rathod captured my curiosity and held it right to the end. The pace of the book is good but I felt the climax was very clichéd and it dampened the end for me.

The book was an easy read in language and structure and I breezed through it. But I felt that there was too much poetry (it’s translation) and philosophy through out and that also took away from my enjoyment of the book. That said, if you like contemporary corporate or business drama, this book will fit the bill really well. A good fast read!

Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

About the Author:

Nilesh Rathod

Nilesh Rathod is a businessperson, writer and poet.Destiny of Shattered Dreams is his debut novel and he is currently working on his second novel. He lives in Mumbai.
 
 
Author Links:
WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook
 

July 19, 2016   No Comments

Book Review: Six Degrees by BlogAdda

Six Degrees by Various Authors, (Edited by BlogAdda)

 
Six Degrees by BlogAdda
Title: Six Degrees
Author: Various Authors
Paperback: 422 pages
Publisher: Leadstart Publishing and BlogAdda.Com (2015)
Genre: Young Adult/Adult
Read: Paperback
Stars: ★★★★☆
Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

 

Summary:

(Goodreads)

As part of their #CelebrateBlogging initiative, BlogAdda.com, ran the first edition of Game of Blogs in September 2014. Five characters and their descriptions were provided. The objective was to write a fictional story revolving around these characters. Bloggers came together as teams and after three rounds filled with its own set of twists and turns, three stories made it to the end.

The three stories in this book are a fascinating example of how one set of characters can have interesting lives with completely different dimensions. Six Degrees is a result of how collaboration can truly breed creativity in the modern day world of connected living.

 

My Review:

Note: Thanks to BlogAdda for offering me this book to read and review :)

Cover: Simple and pleasing.

Paper and font: Easy to read font, thin paper :(

Readability, language: Easy on the mind.

Why did I choose this book: This is a rather unique book, a collaborative effort of many bloggers, each story written by 10 people together.

Many months ago BlogAdda ran an activity called Game of Blogs. Teams of Bloggers were created and all teams was given the same set of characters and rules to create a story. These are the best three stories selected by a panel of judges.

The title isn’t clear at first glance and after reading my guess is that it relates to Six degrees of separation between the characters, stories and the storytellers. The cover is covered with a crowd of various types of smiley faces. A predominantly black and white cover with the title in blue. The colours make for a cover that is simple and pleasing to the eye. The blurb is to the point and explains the creation and objective behind the book.

All three plots were new to me and, so different from each other, they took me by surprise. One a sci-fi, second a murder mystery and the third a thriller-romance with LGBT characters! ❤️

Set in present day, all three stories have Mumbai and Delhi as the setting with Mumbai being the main stage. The cities are used well to support and push the stories forward.

The character set is mostly the same for all three stories, there’s Shekhar Dutta, Tara Dutta, Roohi Dutta, Jennifer Joseph, Cyrus Daruwalla and Arya Ahuja. Across stories these characters have some things about them that are the same, like Shekhar, Tara and Roohi are a family, Roohi is a little girl, Jennifer is a photographer, Cyrus a Law student,… But in each story the characters are also different and it’s was fascinating to see the same characters being different in each story. There were also supporting characters, but they were not common to all.

When I started out I wondered about the writing and my enjoyment of it but my fears in this case were baseless. Even though the writing style keeps changing through the book, between stories and in each story (expected with a large team of writers), the glue holds and it held my attention through out.

Each of the stories is written well but my favourite was the first because the plot was unexpected, the writing crisp and there were no sappy scenes. The last one was slow and melodramatic but I did like it too. It’s the in-between story that didn’t fit my bill, with lots of psycho poetry. But I did really like the Inspector Java character and the climax. I didn’t see that one coming.

With shortish stories, there aren’t many subplots and none that are unneeded. Each story builds well to the climax but once or twice I felt the drag and caught myself checking how many pages were left. There was also the goof up with Inspector Java, who’s brother-in-law is discussed at the beginning of the story but towards the end he’s declared single and a romance is broached.

All said and done, this book is a keeper for multiple reasons. As a blogger, it’s a matter of pride at the work of other bloggers. Then there’s the collaboration of over 30 people in the writing of this book. And lastly the fact that the stories themselves are a good read.

I recommend Six Degrees if you are looking for a hatke light & easy read, it’s refreshingly different [sorry for the cliché 😀 ]. Suitable for all ages except maybe young kids.

Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

The Authors:

 
BlogAdda (Editor), Anmol Rawat, Preethi Venugopala, Soumyaa Verma, Tina Basu, Ashutosh Bhandari, Paresh Godhwani, Prerna Maynil , Ramanathan P, Shoumik De, Srilakshmi I, Sneha Bhattacharjee, Hemant, Shamim Rizwana, Nirav Thakker, Tushar Mangl, Ritu Pandey, Sharon D Souza, Oindrila De, Anupriya Mishra, Vaisakhi Mishra, Tinu Menachary, Gauri Kamath, Ritesh Agarwal, Aayan Banerjee, Raghu Chaitanya.

Compulsory Text: 6 Degrees is India’s first book published through collaborative blogging, written completely by bloggers for the Game of Blogs activity at BlogAdda. Know more about Game of Blogs here. You can buy 6 Degrees: Game of Blogs if you liked the review. :)
 

June 21, 2016   4 Comments

Book Review: Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Timbuktu by Vasudev Murthy

Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Timbuktu by Vasudev Murthy

 
Vasudev Murthy's Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Timbuktu
Title: Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Timbuktu
Author: Vasudev Murthy
Paperback: 270 pages
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press (January 5th 2016)
Genre: Detective, Drama
Read: Hardcover
Stars: ★★★★☆
Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

 

Summary:

(Goodreads)

Still wondering what Sherlock Holmes was doing between his reported death in 1891 and his reappearance in 1894? All the world knew that Sherlock Holmes died at the Reichenbach Falls, tumbling over the jagged cliff in a deadly embrace with his nemesis Moriarty. But for history’s greatest detective, death was only the beginning. Rumors abounded that Holmes had been sighted advising the Japanese emperor, studying with the Dalai Lama, and protecting the president of the United States, but only Dr. Watson knew the truth. From 1891 to 1894, Sherlock Holmes was dead to the world and having the grandest adventures of his career.
It begins when an Italian scholar travels from Venice to 221B Baker Street, to beg the help of the legendary detective. He carries an ancient parchment, written in the hand of Marco Polo himself. It is a rubbing made from a brass disc found in the libraries of Kublai Khan, and it was torn in half centuries ago to protect the world from a terrifying secret, one that, apparently, first Marco Polo, then another great traveler, the Moroccan Ibn Battuta, took dramatic steps to guard. Where, if anywhere, is its missing half?
Holmes springs into action. He fakes his death at Reichenbach, and proceeds undercover to Venice. A murdered scholar, an archivist from the Vatican, British imperial politics and, of course, the dire hand of Moriarty propel Holmes and a surprised but resolute Dr. Watson, playing the roles they assumed in Morocco, on a perilous journey down the Sahara to the ancient city of Timbuktu and beyond. In deepest Africa, Holmes will confront ruthless criminals, an ancient culture, and a staggering surprise.

 

My Review:

Note: Thanks Vasudev Murthy for offering me his book to read and review :)

Sherlock Holmes The Missing Years: Timbuktu by Vasudev Murthy

Cover: Beautiful!

Paper and font: Smellishous…

Readability, language: Requires Time and Attention

Why did I choose this book: I have been a fan of Doyle’s work and Holmes is one of my all-time-favourite detectives. So, this was natural progression, plus it was Doyle who left this back door ajar…

By making Sherlock disappear for a few years Doyle created a space that has been filled by so many and so much. This is Vasudev Murthy’s second book in this space. In this pastiche Sherlock Holmes goes on an adventure that involves eternal life, Ibn Batuta, Marco Polo, Tuaregs, Moriarty and Timbuktu.

The title is clear and sets the right expectations by informing the reader that the book is about Sherlock Holmes during the years he was missing, it also indicates where he was or where this book is set. I really liked the cover which is detailed with well chosen font and colours. The little detail of Holmes pipe was a nice touch. The blurb on the inside of the jacket cover is long and somewhat complex but that is a good indicator of what to expect from the book.

The book I received was a hardcover and I must say after a long time, I’m impressed by the print quality of an Indian Book. The paper smells lovely, the font is well laid out and reads easy, and the binding makes me want to keep this book on my shelf. It’s worth noting though that this book is published by Poisoned Pen Press and printed in the USA, so my calling it an Indian Book, in all aspects may not be correct.

The plot is brand-spanking-new and not like any other Holmes novel I have read. There are clear connects with Watson’s style of narrating but Vasudev Murthy also adds his own style and goes on tangents all his own. The objective is clear right at the start, and we know that Holmes is on a quest. The story follows mostly a linear path with subplots being a part of the main narrative rather than separate entities.

The main story is set in Africa, in the environs of Timbuktu but Holmes also visits Rome and Venice. Set in the 1890’s Vasudev Murthy shines here, no matter anything else about the book, in research he gets full marks. The people, places, time and situation are described in so much detail that it’s clear the author spent good time studying his subject, he also seems to have found good subject experts.

Apart from Holmes and Watson, who to most extents are described and behave as I’ve known them, there a bunch of other characters, each described in detail so that I could imagine each one of them and even felt a fondness for a couple of them. One character though stays through majority of the book – Hasso Ag Akotey the chief of the Tuaregs, he doesn’t play a vital role but plays a constant role. There is also the Pope and Moriarty who make appearances in the book.

The story is structured well and has a streamlined flow but it’s complex. I had been warned by the author and I’m passing on the warning. This book isn’t a light read, it requires time and attention. I had to focus and pay full attention to the book, and reading fast was out of question, as I had to slow down and absorb every bit so that I would be able to put it all together as it drew to climax.

Vasudev Murthy has drawn out an elaborate plan that covers a large time and space but in it all he keeps a hold on all the ends and leaves no loose ends. The pace of the story is constant right to the end, a slow and steady pace that’s more academic than thrilling.

The story is narrated by Watson which is consistent with how Doyle went about it, though at times it’s Watson telling it as it was told to him by key characters, and at those times I felt a break in the flow and a slight disconnect. Vasudev Murthy’s hold on all the languages he uses is clearly good, well, I can’t vouch for the French, Arabic and Tamasheq but his English definitely had me reach out for the dictionary often.

In summary this is a good book but only for die hard Sherlock Holmes fans who have the time to do some intense reading. Deeply researched and well written, this book comes recommended by Roger Johnson, the Editor of The Sherlock Holmes Journal and having read the book I now see why. Pick it up at your own peril, for this is heavy and you’ve been warned. :)

Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

About the Author:

Vasudev Murthy

Vasudev Murthy writes on music, humour, management and crime. A violinist and animal rights activist, Vasudev lives with his family and five snoring dogs in Bangalore, India. He has been published by Bloomsbury, HarperCollins, Editora Vestigio (Brazil), Poisoned Pen Press, Sage, Rupa, LiFi, Gamesman (Korea) and Kokushu (Japan).

Author Links:
WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

 

March 3, 2016   1 Comment

Book Review: 30 Days of Daal by Pragati Bidkar

30 Days of Daal by Pragati Bidkar

 
Pragati Bidkar's 30 Days of Daal
Title: 30 Days of Daal
Author: Pragati Bidkar
Paperback: 153 pages
Publisher: Amazon Digital South Asia Services, Inc. (2 edition, 25 November 2015)
Genre: Cookbooks
Read: eBook
Stars: ★★★★☆
Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

 

Summary:

(Goodreads)

30 Days of Daal shatters the myth that cooking Indian food is complicated. The author has taken authentic daal recipes from the corners and heartland of India and made them simpler.

Whether you are a busy urban cook, or someone who is new to cooking Indian food, 30 Days of Daal will make it easy for you. The book contains attractive photos of the daal dishes and has precise step by step instructions with special notes when needed. There is also a section on how to stock an Indian pantry.

Daal is an essential component of an Indian meal, and is cherished as a source of vegetarian protein. Daal is the very soul of India. 30 Days of Daal allows you to cook and enjoy a different daal every day of the month so you never get bored.

 

My Review:

Note: Thanks Pragati Bidkar for offering me this book to read, use and review :)

Cover: Colourful

Paper and font: Easy on the eyes

Readability, language: Could be better

Why did I choose this book: Daal is my soul food, I could eat it everyday and not get bored of it. It’s what I make when I’m down in the dumps and even when I’m happiest. So, 30 Days of Daal is perfect for my first cookbook review. :)

30 Days of Daal is what the title says, 30 different types of daal from across India, in all it’s various styles and varieties. It covers daals from the simple Yellow Moong Daal to the Parsi Dhansak and Oriya Dalma.

This is a review of the first edition of 30 Days of Daal, however there is a new edition available now and things might be a bit different in it.

This book starts of with an introduction to what is Daal and explains why this simple lentil curry is so important to the Indian cuisine. This is followed by 30 recipes of a variety of daals and at the end there are details of all the lentils, rice, spices, oil, and cookware used and where you can get them. This section is specially helpful for Non-Indians or Indians who live in the US.

Daal Methya from Pragati Bidkar’s 30 Days of Daal. Daal Methya or Fenugreek Flavoured Daal with Chili Oil and ivy gourd palya as the vegetable dish

I tried out the book on my Kindle and on three ebook apps on my Android Nexus 6. I had hoped that it would be easier to use on the phone, as it would be handy in the kitchen and would be in colour, but I was disappointed by the books rendering on the phone. On all three apps the layout was bad and navigation difficult. Even on the Kindle the layout is a little off, but it worked well and was easy to use. Sadly, that meant I had to live with no colours.

Each recipe has an image of what the daal looks like, the set of ingredients needed and the method of preparation. The instructions are simple to follow and Pragati Bidkar has also added notes to make it easier for the first timer. For e.g. she reminds you that chillies splutter and that you must stand back to avoid getting splattered by oil.

One thing that was glaringly missing for me was the serving size. It meant that in some recipes I landed up making too large a quantity for the two of us and we had to eat the same daal for 4 meals to finish it. I’m not complaining too much about it, only because the daals turned out well. 😉

Smoky Black Masoor Daal with CoconutSmoky Black Masoor Daal with Coconut and banana poriyal as the vegetable dish

For some ingredients that are difficult to source outside India, special notes are added about substitutes. This helped me too (even though I live in India), as some of the ingredients aren’t easily available here too. Like Goda Masala, which is Maharashtrian and isn’t available at most stores.

I tried out the Daal Tadka, Daal Methya, Black Masoor Daal with Coconut and Tomato Daal and they all turned out well. As you can see for trying out, I choose the simplest recipes I could find but I flexed a bit and experimented a bit too with a couple. I’m looking forward to trying out the slightly complicated (to me) ones like – Daal Bukhara, Parsi Dhansak and Panchmel Daal from Rajasthan.

Over all this is a good book to have in the kitchen, as it can add much variety to a simple everyday dish like daal. I recommend it for all who love the Indian cuisine, especially if you like cooking it. 😉

Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

About the Author:

 
Pragati Bidkar Pragati is the founder and creator of the vegetarian food blog KamalKitchen.com. She started experimenting in the kitchen at a young age and since then has traveled to many places and absorbed regional cuisines and influences. She focuses on using local produce and selective herbs and spices. Her next book ‘Rice Bowl: Vegetarian Rice Recipes from India and the World’ will hit the stands on March 1st, 2016.

Author Links:
WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

 

February 25, 2016   2 Comments

Book Review: Love on 3 Wheels by Anurag Anand

Love on 3 Wheels by Anurag Anand

 
Anurag Anand's Love on 3 Wheels
Title: Love on 3 Wheels
Author: Anurag Anand
Paperback: 161 pages
Publisher: Srishti Publishers (December 6th 2015)
Genre: Contemporary, Drama
Read: Paperback
Stars: ★★★★☆
Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US | Flipkart

 

Summary:

(Goodreads)

What Happens When Love and Destiny Come to Loggerheads?
Love on 3 Wheels is a saga of love, lust, aspirations and trickery that unfolds over a period of three days, propelling those in its midst into an unmindful frenzy.
Sargam: A young and ambitious girl misplaces a parcel purportedly containing a large amount of cash. This sets off a turn of events that are certain to leave their imprint on the lives of many.
Sharib Sheikh: An auto rickshaw driver whose fault is that he fell in love with the wrong person at the wrong time.
Dr. Abhigyan Kukreti: A prominent doctor who has more skeletons in his personal closet than a mid-size cemetery.
Ameena: A simple village girl who, like Sharib, finds herself at the wrong end of love.
Junaid: A swindler with his heart in the right place.
A Real Love Story that is bound to make your heart skip more than a beat!

 

My Review:

Note: Thanks Anurag Anand for offering me this book to read and review :)

Cover: Eye-catchy!

Paper and font: Feels good and reads easy.

Readability, language: I didn’t come across a lot of words I didn’t know, but I did find a few.

Why did I choose this book: I’ve read Anurag Anand’s previous books The Legend of Amrapali and Where The Rainbow Ends and liked them, so… well…

This a story of three people (well, actually 5 but three key people) over 3 days. Circumstances change each of their lives drastically and this is the tale of how it all comes about. Anurag Anand explores human emotions and imperfections through the story.

When I first saw the title and read the blurb I kept wondering how much the title – Love on 3 Wheels would tie in to the book, but having completed the book the title makes a lot of sense as it connects up with the auto that plays a big role in the story, it also relates to the unbalanced nature of love, something going along on 3 wheels. The cover is quite different from ones we see these days, it grew on me, plus it reminded me of covers past, of books bought from handcarts on railway stations. The cover and blurb both remind me of the good old Higginbotham days.

The plot is a many time told tale of interconnected lives and how one little thing sets off an avalanche of events in many lives. But the story feels interesting and I turned the pages in haste as I tried to find out what happens to each of the key players. Keeping the story short to events over three days is also a good ploy to keep it tight and fast paced.

Set primarily in Delhi the story moves across the city. I’m not very well versed with Delhi but it did feel like the little I know of the place. Anurag Anand has used the city and it’s people well to add to the story and give it good backing.

There are 3 key characters plus 2 main ones. Each adding to the story and weaving themselves in. The characters are described well and I felt for and against each of them. I really came to like Ameena by the end but found myself loathing Sargam for her selfish attitude and callousness, and feeling something akin to pity for Sharib, the self-absorbed lover with no trace of reality. The characters are flawed, real and I could relate to them.

Spread over three days, Anurag Anand introduces each character in turn as the events unfold. The conflict is clear in the initial part of the book and it resolves itself as the story progresses. The story winds up well too, it’s not a happy ending and yet it felt real and believable. There are no loose ends, all characters are accounted for except Dr. Abhigyan Kukreti, who just disappears.

Written in third person, Love on 3 Wheels is easy to read; there were just a couple of words I didn’t know. The language is simple yet its descriptive and absorbing. The pace of the story is good, it kept me turning the pages as the complications began. It was like watching a magician make a knot and then with a flourish unknot it. I didn’t realise when I reached the end, and after about half-way, I kept on till the end.

I quite enjoyed Love on 3 Wheels, Anurag Anand has done a good job as the book has left me thinking and mixed up in emotion. Each character has endearing characteristics, and frustrating mannerisms, their personal stories and backgrounds make a good backdrop for the choices they make and it’s repercussions.

YA & Above. I recommend this book if your are looking for a good fast read, the kind you want to take on journeys, be its bus or train or plane or even if it’s just a reading evening with coffee or wine in the cosy chair. :)

Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US | Flipkart

About the Author:

Anurag Anand

 
Anurag is a banker who wrote his first book ‘Pillars of Success’ at the age of 25. After his first two non-fiction books, he has been writing in the fiction genre, and has written over 10 books.

Author Links:
WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

 

February 16, 2016   2 Comments

Indian Reads… #2: Chat with Author C G Salamander

 

Indian Reads… #2: Chat with C G Salamander about his book Palms Foster Home for Peculiar Stories

Interview with C G Salamander

After reading C G Salamander’s book I was intrigued by the workings of the mind that created Palms Foster Home for Peculiar Stories. And that’s the seed of this interview.

A fiction writer and a story teller, C G Salamander’s short stories and comics have been published in various anthologies and journals. His first book, Palms Foster Home for Peculiar Stories was released in 2015 and reviewed by me earlier.


(If you can’t see the video above, click here to watch on Youtube)

In our chat we talked about –

– what inspired his stories, how did cabbagism come about
– why his book is described as a ‘collection of episodic short fiction belonging to the comic fantasy genre’
– how did he become a writer, his journey to getting published
– his use of a pseudonym vs real name
– his upcoming comic book

I didn’t know much about the comic side of him [the book one, that is 😀 ] and I got to learn a thing or two about comics as we talked. Comics have come a long way from from my childhood (of Tinkle, Phantom & Amar Chitra Katha) and I have some catching up to do. :) I’d known that comics were a rage in the US thanks to shows like Big Bang Theory and websites like Panels(from the Book Riot family) but I hadn’t realised how much it was catching on here too. Should get back to them, where do you suggest I start?

I also got to understand something of the mind behind Palms Foster Home for Peculiar Stories. Do checkout my interview with C. G. Salamander and tell me what you think in comments.

Also, do read the book, here’s my review of Palms Foster Home for Peculiar Stories. :)

January 15, 2016   No Comments

Book Review: The Thirteenth Day by Aditya Iyengar

The Thirteenth Day by Aditya Iyengar

 

Aditya Iyengar's The Thirteenth Day
Title: The Thirteenth Day
Author: Aditya Iyengar
Paperback: 246 pages
Publisher: Rupa Publications (June 1st 2015)
Genre: Epic, Historical, Action
Read: Paperback
Stars: ★★★★☆
Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US | Flipkart

 

Summary:

(Goodreads)

It is the tenth night of the great war between the Pandavas and Kauravas. Bhishma, the venerable patriarch of the families, lies fatally wounded on the plains of Kurukshetra. On his deathbed he offers Radheya, his nemesis, a chance to rule the Kuru kingdom by capturing Yudhishthira.

In the Pandava camp, Yudhishthira, a reluctant warrior, tries desperately to hold his allies together and escape capture without appearing to be a coward. Meanwhile, his young and impulsive nephew, Abhimanyu, a warrior prince, dreams of glory and yearns for a chance to save the Pandava cause. The lives of these three warriors, Yudhisthira, Radheya and Abhimanyu, collide brutally on the thirteenth day. A story of how stories are created, how fact becomes fiction, how history becomes mythology and how men become legends, The Thirteenth Day re-imagines India’s greatest epic like never before.

 

My Review:

Note: Thanks Aditya Iyengar for offering me this book to read and review :)

Cover: Detailed!

Paper and font: Easy on the eyes!

Readability, language: Easy on the mind!

Why did I choose this book: A different angle to the many times retold story, caught my interest. I’ve read Draupadi’s perspective in the The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and have Uruvi’s (Karna’s Wife by Kavita Kane) point of view lined up. This was a good addition to the list. 😀

This is a retelling of the Mahabharata with the subject as Abhimanyu. This is his story – his quest for glory, his contribution to the war and his death.

As Abhimanyu’s story the title is appropriate for it was on the thirteenth day of the Mahabharata war that his valour on the battlefield made him a known name for ever. A darkish cover, there is something about it that I quite like, it drew me in every-time I walked past, inviting me to peer at the details. The blurb does a quick job of setting the stage and telling the reader what’s coming. Short and sweet.

I remember watching B R Chopra’s Mahabharat on Doordarshan, and the chakravyuh had made such an impact. I found myself cheering the young hero, being filled with indignation at his murder and feeling grief at his death; the emotions searing the character in my memory. So, this plot isn’t new and yet, it felt so because of the perspective.

Set in Kurukshetra the story starts out on day 10 of the war, when Bisma falls to the arrows of Arjun. In a bid to save the Kuru race, Bhishma asks Radheya to take the throne and bring about peace. The next couple of days are all attempts to capture Yudhishthira and it is these attempts that lead up to the chakravyuh. Aditya Igengar doesn’t just describe the war but also all that happens behind the scenes when the war is not on, in the camps and around the campfires, and does a good job of it.

The story is narrated from the perspectives of Yudhishthira, Radheya and Abhimanyu. The story unfolds with insight into their characters, their fears, their motives, their ambitions; I’d never before got to know Abhimanyu’s story this way. Aditya Iyengar has described each character well through the eyes of the main storytellers. The main and support characters are rich in detail and it felt like I knew them.

The story seems to follow a three act structure made up of days – 11, 12 & 13. There aren’t any loose ends but there is an abrupt end, smoothly delivered, such that the reader doesn’t feel all that bad about not knowing what comes after. The pace of the story is good with a build-up towards climax, that kept me glued to the book.

I enjoyed Aditya Iyengar’s style of writing and language. The Thirteenth Day was simple and easy to read both in words and sentences. The paper quality is good and the font makes for comfortable reading. The book is a breeze to read and an enjoyable one at that.

I’d recommend this book if your are a epic fan and even if you are not. For this book has insight into the minds behind the war and action & drama. So if you are someone who likes a good action drama, this is a book to pick up. YA and above.

Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US | Flipkart

About the Author:

Aditya IyengarAditya Iyengar has worked for ten years as a writer in advertising and television. He has been writing fiction for five years now, mostly in the hours between sunrise and ten AM.

Author Links:
WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

 

January 14, 2016   No Comments