Monday, May 22, 2017

A Glance at the Unknown by Sangeeta Sumesh

"A Glance at the Unknwon" by Sangeeta Shankaran Sumesh is a very light book which emphasis on the importance of good karma. Karma is like a boomerang, the far you throw your boomerang, the more fierce impact you get when it comes back. 

Book blurb
A Glance at the Unknown is an intriguing suspense thriller involving murder, rape, extra-marital affairs, treachery and tragedy. Each short story eventually converges into the main story.
Sid needs to find answers to his father's untimely and unfortunate death. He goes in search of the infamous goons, Veerargals, to avenge his father's death. Soon he realizes that he's not the only one marching toward the unknown and seeking answers to the mystery of life. Now, in a group of five, Sid and his acquaintances-turned-friends, want to unearth the enigma in their life.
They want revenge; do they find it? Will they be spared? What was the invisible truth? Were they able to unravel it? Read this captivating story to discover more.
As subtitle suggested "Sometimes answers to life come from unusual sources", "A Glance at the Unknown" starts with stories of three independent characters. Shiva, a successful businessman, got a huge shock when he found out his wife being homosexual. He went to the forest of Agamalai in Tamil Nadu in search of the solution to his problem. Seema, a student, found out her sister Shilpa was raped and murdered by few college guys. She went to Shilpa's college for further investigation, but criminals were already after her. She ended up wounded in the forest of Agamalai. Sid, a bright management student from one the best management institute in India, wanted to take revenge for his father's murder by terrorist group active in the forest of Agamalai. He also went there to kill the head of the gang. Saravanan tried to suicide by jumping in the waterfall near Agamalai forest.

Each character had completely different track; the only commonality between them was the forest. They met each other in the forest and became friends in their journey. They were all accepted by a tribe called Katuvaasis, who took a great care of the visitors. Tribes head lady also had seen worst days, wanted to join visitors in their quest to know the fact behind the curses befell on her. Their life got a new perspective, and they felt enlightened after meeting Siddha.

As I said earlier, the story is strongly built on the concept of Karma. When I read first four chapters which talk about Shiva's wife's betrayal, Shilpa's tragedy, Srinivasan's (Sid's father) death and Sid convocation ceremony, I was jumping from one plot to another, and I didn't understand what is happening with story-line. But once the flow entered the forest of Agamalai, things started becoming clear. Author has wonderfully woven four-five stories at a time and portrayed them as one story at the end. One thing that could have given a better ending to the story would be the part where Siddha helped each character. That whole scene was finished like the author was in hurry to finish the book. It could have been finer, but overall it was a good read. One can take it to his/her journey, and finish it within a day.

Talking about rating:
  1. Cover - 4 / 5
  2. Characters - 3.5 / 5 (Being a short book scope was less but justice was done to Sid and Shiva's character)
  3. Storyline - 4 / 5
  4. Concept - 3.5 / 5
  5. Overall - 4 / 5
Book can be found at - Amazon & Flipkart
Review from other readers can be found at GoodReads

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra - Baby Ganesh Agency

Four months back while window-shopping I found an interesting cover of "The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star". It is the latest book by Vaseem Khan in series of A Baby Ganesh Agency. I instantly liked the book and checked more about the author and his work. My efforts led two more books in the same series released earlier. We also got the chance to interview Vaseem on our blog. I got my hands on the first part of the series "The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra" around a month back. I should be punished for not taking the book with priority, but I am glad that I have broken the queue and taken book earlier than my planner prompted me.

Book Blurb
In this Indian-set mystery, Inspector Chopra inherits an elephant and an unsolved murder on his last day at work. Mumbai, murder and a baby elephant combine in a charming, joyful mystery for fans of Alexander McCall Smith and Rachel Joyce.
On the day he retires, Inspector Ashwin Chopra inherits two unexpected mysteries. The first is the case of a drowned boy, whose suspicious death no one seems to want solved. And the second is a baby elephant. As his search for clues takes him across the teeming city of Mumbai, from its grand high rises to its sprawling slums and deep into its murky underworld, Chopra begins to suspect that there may be a great deal more to both his last case and his new ward than he thought. And he soon learns that when the going gets tough, a determined elephant may be exactly what an honest man needs.
"The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra" is the first book in series and has its importance to take readers into the world of "Baby Ganesh Investigation Agency" sequels. The story started with the retirement of Inspector Ashwin Chopra. Ashwin Chopra had to take earlier retirement under medical conditions. But taking an early retirement for a person like Chopra was not easy to accept. On top of that, on his retirement, he inherited a baby elephant from his uncle. He was asked to take good care of the elephant. Chopra was promised that elephant was not a normal animal. If that was not enough, on last day of the job, he found out a case of a drowned boy. Police found boy's dead body from a sewer, and boy was drunk. Boy belonged to a poor family, and boy's mother wanted justice for her son's death. Chopra assured justice to the lady but it was his last day at the job and he was not able to do anything for the boy.

Police wanted to close the case as accidental death due to alcohol consumption. Being an expert in the field of crime cases, Chopra smelled something fishy in the behavior of his superior and inspector appointed in his place. He started investigating the case independently; and started finding shocking revelation one after another. The story became interesting as little elephant came handy to Chopra at multiple instances. 

The story is gripping yet light. You don't have to give extra effort to understand what is happening. Flow is flawless. I finished the book in 3 sittings. The book is written with an audience in mind. Every detailing, character and scene were portrayed with a proper thought process. It shows efforts applied behind the work. Author has nicely placed comic, thrill and drama in story keeping overall tempo. The book can be easily adopted as movie or series. Talking about rating:
  1. Cover - 4.5 / 5 (Conveys book in one picture)
  2. Characters - 4 / 5 
  3. Storyline - 4.5 / 5
  4. Concept - 4 / 5 
  5. Overall - 4.25 / 5
Book can be found at - Amazon & Flipkart
Review from other readers can be found at GoodReads

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Demand the Impossible!: A Radical Manifesto - Guest Review

You keep walking the road, people will follow you. Today we got another guest with us, who would like to publish his book review on our blog.

Book blurb
In an era defined by mass incarceration, endless war, economic crisis, catastrophic environmental destruction, and a political system offering more of the same, radical social transformation has never been more urgent—or seemed more remote.
A manifesto for movement-makers in extraordinary times, Demand the Impossible! urges us to imagine a world beyond what this rotten system would have us believe is possible.
In critiquing the world around us, insurgent educator and activist Bill Ayers uncovers cracks in that system, raising the horizons for radical change, and envisioning strategies for building the movement we need to make a world worth living in.
This book by the author can be seen as a mixture of facts, fantasies, ideology and solutions to the problems faced by society at large. Facts and fantasies are the strongest part of the book and evoke a lot of base emotions. Another strong point of the book is the themes the author picks and argues about. These are quite relevant to any society across any age. The weakest part in this advocacy though are the solutions. Solutions in the book are largely substituted by fantasies. But, that is acceptable as fantasies are the starting point for any possible solution. The main problem with the book is that the author’s idea of anarchy seems to be imprisoned by the prison of ideology and this prevents his fantasy from truly taking flight.

For example when the author reminds that we are unable to self-govern only because we lack in confidence and this leads to hero worship, he may be partly right, but he neglects another majority in public whose interest lies somewhere else and like to delegate certain responsibilities to more interested people. For example a scientist, a technology enthusiast, an adventure freak etc. would just like some of their necessities to be taken care by someone else (ideally in a mutually beneficial way).

His opinion that socialism without freedom can become slavery and brutality is a widely proven fact. But, I do not quite understand another of his assertions that freedom without socialism is privilege and injustice. It is a bit contrary to the idea of anarchy that he considers socialism to be the only viable bedfellow to freedom without giving chance to other forms of governance which may come into being in future.

But in-spite of the drawbacks it would be plain unfair to dismiss the book altogether, as the topic broached is highly complex and elusive to an easy solution since ages. I particularly enjoyed reading when the author resorts to fantasy. For example, I was thrilled on reading the following section: “What if we unleashed our wildest imaginations? The “what if” question might then blow open the spectrum of acceptable possibilities and take us down a rabbit hole or up into orbit-onto one of life’s restless and relentless journeys, exploring and experimenting, orbiting and spinning, inventing and adapting, struggling toward knowledge and enlightenment, freedom and liberation, fighting to know more in order to do more.”

The flow of the book and the sectional treatment also is interesting. Observation of the author in these sections regarding the state of the world is precise, though the reasons for the current state do not seems consistently true.

When the author eludes to the permanent state of war and deliberately created fear of nationalism, it feels appropriate particularly in current context. Though it is also true that this state of affair was largely localized to certain pockets of the world few years before Arab Spring and Iraq war. I believe when the author quotes an anonymous American soldier “We came to help, but a lot of people don’t seem to like us” he might be quoting a veteran of Iraq war, there is a distinct possibility that a veteran from Afghan war feels differently. Ritual search and pat downs could be as much part of a socialist, capitalist, communist or democratic setup. So blaming it on a form of governance rather than on inherent human inefficiencies seems to be wrong. Again war may be a racket in certain or most of the cases, but it becomes a racket only because of human inefficiencies. Although the author is right in fearing private defense corporations but India didn’t allow private defense companies to operate and this did not have any positive impact. On the contrary stifling of enterprise and reliance on lethargic state companies left the Indian military vastly dependent on expensive foreign imports, wasting money which could have been used for health and education.

When the author tells us that former slaves, blacks or other disadvantaged communities continue to be at disadvantage even today and our governance structure is the one to be blamed, he is right and steps are needed to remove these shortcomings in our system. Free education and affordable healthcare are enablers to any economy and hence should be non-negotiable. Still, there are many problems regarding states ability in financing. Concrete solutions to these problems by the author would have been welcome. Another utopian idea that the author discusses is world without prisons. Again the idea is great but a blueprint to carry out the idea is what would have been helpful. Similarly there are many topics which are raised but no effective solution is discussed.

To sum up, the book is good material for propaganda, but should be read with caution in order to step aside the trap of ideology created by the evocative facts. A more mature reader can find better alternatives for their intellectual cravings regarding governance in books like “The Republic.”

Book can be found at Amazon
Reviews from other readers can be found at Goodreads

This review was published by Aditya Piratla. He is a researcher in automotive systems in Bengaluru. He is an avid traveler, trekker, wanderer. He loves to read autobiographies, history, foreign policy, mythology and politics. You can reach him on Facebook or Twitter.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Narration of Moments, Unadulterated and Unpackaged - My Jiffies

My Jiffies by Priyanka Sharma Kaintura is not a story or a plot, it's just a flow of emotions. It is not even collection of short stories, but a collection of various sentiments. Page-long narrations or poems show feeling of human hearts.

Book Blurb
My Jiffies is a book of bite-sized stories that have the influence to tug at the chords of your heart. This book has seven categories - Orations, Eclogues, Monologues and Dialogues, Stories, Pathos, Satire and Sarcasm, and finally, Life Aphorisms and Epigrams.
Every noteworthy or insignificant, radical or mundane moment around us is a story, only if watched closely. A contained expression, a slightly longer pause, an anxious embrace, expectant silence, disquiet farewell; our jiffies can come from anywhere.
This book captures a string of such jiffies reciting tacit sentiments or messages turned upside down in our everyday life.
Priyanka Kaintura has divided book wonderfully in seven segments. Each segment starts with wonderful art and few lines. Each segment has its own narration which makes us feel the emotions with which narration was painted. Segments are:
  • Orations - Literally mean a formal speech. But this segment is flooded with various questions, incidents, and stories that one person can relate with day to day things. These snippets take readers to themselves and make readers ponder upon thinking process.
  • Eclogues - Poems, shorter ones. Most of these poems are written as Priyanka's own feeling towards various relationships and emotions.
  • Monologues & Dialogues - A very short conversation or mental note of various characters, mostly ending with thought provoking questions or line.
  • Stories - Bite-sized stories as blurb mentioned, but deep in meaning. I liked nine stories that Priyanka has created in line with nine shades of Durga
  • Pathos - Again short narrations/stories talk about some heart touching stories
  • Satire & Sarcasm - Short tales on thoughtful topics
  • Life Aphorisms & Epigrams - Poems, wonderfully penned down.
While other authors keep a theme in their mind even while writing short stories book, Priyanka has kept herself from sticking up to the single theme. Book talks about happiness, sadness, belongingness, separations, death, birth.

My Jiffies presents 150+ gems in form of words, some were portrayed as stories, while some were shown as quotes; and some were dressed up as poems.

Talking about ratings:

  1. Cover: 3.5 / 5
  2. Concept: 4 / 5
  3. Content: 4 / 5
  4. Overall: 4 / 5
Book can be found at Amazon & Flipkart
Reviews from other readers can be found at Goodreads

Friday, May 12, 2017

The False Spy by Major Nirmal Ajwani

Memoirs or Biology are not my forte, but "The False Spy" by Major Nirmal Ajwani is a different story altogether. The False Spy is the true life story of Major Nirmal Ajwani and other military personnel who were framed under Samba Spy Scam.

Book Blurb
Between August 1978 and January 1979, in a brief span of six months, 50-odd army persons were arrested by the Military Intelligence authorities under the charge of spying for Pakistan in what eventually came to be known as the ‘Samba Spy Scandal’.
What followed was nothing less than a humiliating debacle of justice in one of the most sordid dramas of greed, intrigues, cowardice and fabrication, as the judicial bodies were plunged into a see-saw between the preposterous claims made by the MI authorities and the facts stated by the accounts of the many soldiers who were framed in this scenario.
When Major Ajwani joined the army in 1964, he had the same rosy picture of the organization being the epitome of bravery, loyalty, discipline and flawless conduct that is embedded in the minds of most Indians. The author leads us by the hand through his very first days in the army, the initial tokens of success, soon to be overshadowed by the rude awakening to the rampant corruption and deception prevalent in the organization. Almost four decades later he recounts, in an eye-opening first-hand account, the unimaginable isolation and sense of ignominy faced by those who were falsely implicated.
The story started with Major Nirmal's entry into the army and Nirmal caught a whiff of corruption in the selection process. Though Nirmal was selected fair and square but that first impression was difficult to digest for young Nirmal. He served as an artillery officer for six years; and then took a role of a judge advocate. During his tenure as the judge advocate, Nirmal's insistence towards merit-based ranking had attracted the attention of many higher-ups who wanted to settle scores with him. Luckily or unluckily major was able stay protected during those times. But his posting location and short assignment at Samba gave some people who disliked his outlook to side track Nirmal. Nirmal got trapped in a case, in which he found out there were multiple victims already caught in it.

Based on intelligence from the Intelligence Bureau of India, two army personnel were caught for spy for Pakistan. These two spies recounted their story to IB and local police authorities. They never mentioned that anyone from the army was associated with their activity. Surprisingly when these spies were brought to the Army for their court martial they started spewing out names of army personnel. In a short span of 4-5 years, they named more than 150 army personnel. Nirmal has dealt with few cases during '76 - '77 as a judge advocate. But later, he was also blamed for the same crime.

Major has collected enough proofs, court discussions, and various letters to throw light on situations face by many such victims and their families. The way they are still fighting for justice even after serving their punishment shows perseverance of the Major and other victims. They are fighting for their pride, which was robbed from them. I am at a loss of words at the amount of effort being put in so they can clear their name and this book is written in the  hope that they will be able to gather enough support from people.

Other Interesting articles on the same topic:

Talking about ratings:
  1. Cover: 4 / 5
  2. Storyline: 3.5 / 5
  3. Content: 4.5 / 5 
  4. Overall: 4.25 / 5
Book can be found at Amazon & Flipkart
Reviews from other readers can be found at Goodreads

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Super Women - Inspiring stories of 20 women entrepreneur by Prachi Garg

Prachi Garg's books in "Super" series books are based on inspiring stories of women who became instrumental in entrepreneurship as an individual or as a sibling or as a partner. Super women is stories of successful stories of 20 women. Usually my husband read and write detail review, but I selected this book and decided to review it.

Book blurb
This book brings forth the stories of twenty women entrepreneurs who have struck a perfect personal-professional harmony, and a chord with their immediate consumers. Their innovative ventures encompass a varied range of services – from supporting victims of acid attacks, to providing free skin care solutions; from online retail of lingerie, handmade bags and fashion accessories, to eco-friendly products of everyday utility; from pet care products, to quirky merchandise; from empowering folk artists, to providing clinical assistance to those going through tough times; from image consulting to house hunting; from arty solutions, to innovative marketing and corporate communication; from creating happy readers to making religious ceremonies simpler – these entrepreneurs have opened avenues formerly unexplored. Superwomen is an interesting journey of how they played all their roles to perfection, aligning their families with their ambitions, showing the world their true mettle. 
"Super Women" is all about women entrepreneur who struggled to save their unusual dream. Women meant to be a homemaker and people believed that women have her comfort zone. The women discussed in the book, work out of that comfort zone and done unusual things. And made business profitable and successful. Stories that touched me
  • Madhavi Gandhi who founded ‘Happy Hand’ to revive traditional folk art to help the traditional folk artist. Happy Hand become the key entity between traditional artist and purchaser and make them get a good price for their art.
  • Ria Sharma runs an NGO named Make Love Not Scars who helps acid attack victims and other gender-biased violence. This NGO also helps depressive women who suffer this kind of act and make them feeling comfortable in their lives again.
  • Richa Singh started YOUE D.O.S.T online counseling system to support depressive individuals through trained individuals.
  • Masoom Minawala works as online fashion blogger her online portal name is Style Fiesta and this provides trendy advice on jewelry, accessories, and fashion.
  • Now, every woman is well aware of the the online lingerie store which gives women comfort of shopping and it has changed the views of Indian women about the lingerie shopping.
  • Rustic Art made eco-friendly, pure products for baby, hair, and body which are made of natural ingredients and this was started by environment enthusiast Sunita Jaju and Swati Maheshwari.
There are many others but I give some of it glimpse. Which gives idea about the women entrepreneur’s work and their business. I liked the concept, as book like these are my husbands and my favourite genre. But I felt author gave less emphasis on content part. Each author was assigned 4-5 pages. And I felt justice was not done to them.

Talking about ratings:
  1. Cover: 3.5 / 5
  2. Concept: 4 / 5
  3. Content: 2.5 / 5 
  4. Overall: 3.5 / 5
Book can be found at Amazon & Flipkart
Reviews from other readers can be found at Goodreads

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Ramayana - The Game of Life - Rise of the Sun Prince

This is my third book by Shubha Vilas, and trust me he never disappoint his readers. Shubha Vilas' writing shows his expertise as an orator and inspirational speaker. He always makes sure that Religion is not just shown as mythological or magical stories but the ocean of learning for mankind.

Book blurb
Ramayana: The Game of Life (Book 1), one of the world's great literary masterpieces, skillfully retold for modern audiences. Epics like the Ramayana have been recounted infinite times. Is there a need for another chronicle in the presence of so many? How is this one different? And is it relevant to our ever-changing modern lives?
Yes, there is a need, yes this is different and yes, it is relevant. This new series of books, each following one khand of the Ramayana, decodes the eternal wisdom of that poetic scripture through gripping narrative and thought-provoking instruction. In the time-honored custom of spreading wisdom through tales, every fascinating story in the epic is retold here and every character unfolded to captivate your heart and open your mind to life's deepest questions.
The narrative closely follows Valmiki's Ramayana, gently weaving in folk tales as well as the beautiful analogies of the Kamba Ramayana. The first of this six-volume series, Rise of the Sun Prince, takes you through the divine story of Lord Rama from His birth up to His marriage. Through these pages are revealed the tales of Dasaratha's leadership, Vishwamitra's quest for power and the intriguing story of a little-known stone maiden. Ramayana: The Game of Life has all of this and much more - food for contemporary thought drawn from an enduring masterpiece.
As rightly mentioned in the blurb, "The Game of Life - Rise of the Sun Prince" is first "khand" of epic Ramayana. The story depicts golden days of Ayodhya when it was ruled by the king Dasharatha. Ram, son of Dasharatha, was born out of divine sacrifice. Four main stories of this book would be, 
  • Background of Dasharatha & Ayodhya
  • Childhood of Ram
  • Ram's adventure with Vishwamitra
  • Sita's Swayamwar & Ram's wedding with Sita
I would say there is nothing new in story part, as on any given hour of any given day you will find Ramayana or related mythological scene playing on one or another channel. But innovative part of the series is author's deep understanding of action of each character. Author has successfully explained each action with proper message. Simply speaking, the book is divided into two parts, the story, and the learning. Though learning part is given as footer (as support to the main story), you will find equal weight given to learning. On many pages, you will find only a few lines of the main story but 80% page with learning. I think without this learning, this book might have ended as another version Ramayana. You can take story lightly but if you miss learning part you would regret it later.

Talking about ratings:
  1. Cover - 5 / 5 (I liked even previous cover as well)
  2. Characters - 5 / 5  (I already mentioned in my review of The Chronicles of Hanuman, I cannot judge characters of Ramayana.) 
  3. Storyline - 4.5 / 5
  4. Concept - 5 / 5 
  5. Content - 5 / 5 (We usually have this category under non-fiction but this is an exceptional case)
  6. Overall - 5 / 5
Book can be found at - Amazon & Flipkart
Review from other readers can be found at GoodReads