My grandmother sends her regards & apologises – Fredrik Backman – Book Review


GrandmotherRegards

Goodreads blurb: From the author of the internationally bestselling ‘A Man Called Ove’, a novel about a young girl whose grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters, sending her on a journey that brings to life the world of her grandmother’s fairy tales.

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy, standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother’s stories, in the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

When Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa’s greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother’s letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones, but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

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Now with a name like that and a cover like that any book lover worth his salt will find it hard not to pick this book up and read it, and true to its unconventional name and interesting cover, the book lives up to the ‘unconventional’ tag that most people will attribute to it. In fact so much so that it runs the danger of not being read completely. The initial slowness and uniqueness of the narrative can and will probably overwhelm most readers, but trust me when I say this, stick with the book beyond the first 20 odd pages and you will be taken on what ends up being quite a lovely pleasant journey.

As the blurb states, an ‘almost’ eight year old girl’s life is completely overturned when her best friend, her grandmother passes away. Gone are the days when Elsa could come home, cry her heart out, talk her heart out, argue about seemingly trivial things with her grandmother. With her passing, Elsa’s grandmother takes away most of what seems good to Elsa about her short life so far. She is completely at a loss as to what to do next, how to live the rest of her life.

And it is in this context that the final ‘treasure hunt’ that her grandmother sets her upon assumes importance. This gives Elsa a ‘purpose to her life’, an overarching noble goal to strive for, a final chance to prove to her grandmother that she is indeed worthy of all the trust that her grandmother reposed in her. That being said, the treasure hunt puts Elsa in the path of all the tenants and residents of the apartment building that she has spent all her life.

In fact it tests little Elsa’s courage and fortitude to an extent that even the little one couldn’t have imagined. As the treasure hunt crosses stage after stage Elsa soon realizes that it is more of a discovery of her grandmother’s past and her grandmother’s personality. With each stage, Elsa learns more about her grandmother as a person, and as an individual completely unique and different from how she knew her. The rest of the narrative takes us readers along on this bittersweet journey of Elsa where she figures out a lot of her grandmother’s past which explains the personalities of all her neighbors and their stories.

At the end of the book, readers are left with what can only be described as an extremely ‘warm’ feeling in their hearts and a beatific smile on their faces. The impact that this little girl’s treasure hunt has on us readers is nothing short of magical and therein lies the charm of this uniquely unconventional paperback.

Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in return for an honest and unbiased review of the same.

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Surpanakha – Hariharan Iyer – Book Review


Surpanakha_cover 1_rev2.indd

Goodreads blurb: Educated, young, no-nonsense bearing, able administrator-these are the equalities that won Sesha the loyalties of the people after three years of rule as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. An allegation that he was the mastermind behind the murder of 73 Kannadigas threatens to bring him down but he is miraculously saved at the 11th hour.

Even before he can relish his victory, Sesha is slapped with the charge of sexually offending a young nurse. This time around, the case is strong and his supporters are uncertain. Worse, his teenage daughter calls him ‘vile’ and walks out of the house. While Mythili, his wife promises her full support, her secretive activities-undertaken with the help of a retired cop-is cause of concern for Sesha.

Will Zarina, the human-rights activist, succeed in bringing him down? What about the insinuations of a celebrity lawyer that he is casteist and anti-minorities? When the young nurse is found dead, the case becomes even more complex. Who is innocent? Who is guilty? And who is the mastermind?

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What piqued my interest in this book was the fact that the storyline was based on contemporary politics in South Indian states and Tamil Nadu in particular. The protagonist being the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and the overarching story being political was something that interested me quite a bit. And believe me when I say this, the author has a firm hold on the subject matter of this book and does more than a fair amount of justice to the same.

One extremely strong point about the book itself is the character development. In his own unhurried, yet crisp manner, the author fleshes out each of the principal characters, their back stories, their motivations and their current state of mind. While this could have potentially reduced the book to a slow, drab affair, surprisingly these character sketches move the plot forward in this book.

One small dampener about this book is its predictability. I don’t know if it was just me or whether other readers also kind of saw the connection between the first and second halves of the book, and somehow predicted how the book would progress from its touch point at the middle.

A relatively larger dampener for me was the sheer abruptness and suddenness with which the book ended. Given all that was happening at that point in time, the proceedings come to a sudden end. And the choice of the main antagonist’s motivations also didn’t quite work for me at all. It was a little too unbelievable and fantastic for me to digest, more so given that the rest of the book is fairly grounded in reality throughout the proceedings.

All of the above being said, this book is a sure shot read for anybody who is interested in contemporary politics and are fans of well thought out and well executed books.

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This review has been written for the b00kr3vi3w tours Book Tour for this book. However, the views expressed above are completely honest and unbiased.

SurpanakhaTourBanner

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Links for downloading e-books – Amazon India | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Links for ordering paperbacks – Amazon India | Flipkart

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Giveaway link – http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/NDkxZDFkOGJiZDFlZWY2OGFjYzNkODJiMGM3Y2NlOjE3NQ==/?

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Linky – http://www.inlinkz.com/new/view.php?id=620449

The Curse of Brahma – Jagmohan Bhanver – Book Review


TheCurseOfBrahma

Goodreads blurb: The man who became a Brahmarishi…

The curse that banished him to the hell of hells…

And the revenge that threatens to destroy the three worlds…

When Lord Brahma, the God of Creation, banishes his star pupil from Swarglok in a fit of rage, he does not foresee that his decision will alter the fate of the three worlds. Mortally wounded, and anguished at Brahma’s unfair punishment, his pupil struggles to survive in Tamastamah Prabha, the hell of hells. In time, he becomes the Dark Lord, the most feared figure in Pataal Lok, who swears to destroy Brahma.

The power of the Dark Lord soon begins to make its presence felt in the mortal world. Vasudev, the brave prince of Bateshwar, becomes the hunter of Asura assassins; his closest friend, Kansa, almost dies while trying to save his sister from a group of deadly monsters; and the most valiant kings in Mrityulok turn over to the dark side, driven by forces beyond their control.

Only one person threatens the Dark Lord’s well-laid plans – Devki, the beautiful princess of Madhuvan, who is destined to give birth to the warrior Krishna.

Will the Dark Lord allow Krishna – the person who has been prophesied to destroy him – to be born?

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I know that this is the nth time I am repeating this, but most readers of my blog will know the interest I have in Indian mythology and various retelling of some well-known stories from the same such as the Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Puranas. And therefore, when The Curse of Brahma by Jagmohan Bhanver was published, I immediately jumped out of my seat and requested for a review copy of the same, and man, was it the right decision or what?

Right from the ‘get-go’, the author takes us on a joyride of SwargLok, MrityuLok (quite a funny name for earth I must admit) and PataalLok, the celestials, the gods, and most importantly The Dark Lord (inspired by Lord Voldemort or Voldemor’, in my humble opinion).

As the blurb reads, trouble, big trouble, is brewing in the mortal world as The Dark Lord is well poised to unleash revenge against the injustice meted out to him by Brahma all of two hundred years ago. By planning to use the mortal world to launch an all-out attack on SwargLok, he seems well set to extract his revenge on his master. However, what he doesn’t quite account for is the fact that the celestial trilogy, or at least two of them, Shiva and Vishnu have surreptitiously been following his activities over the years and have plans of their own to prevent any unnecessary bloodshed in the mortal realm. Do The Dark Lord’s plans bear fruition or do Shiva and Vishnu manage to thwart them will be answered only in the next two books of this trilogy, but suffice to say that this book is a brilliant first book in what promises to be a lovely trilogy.

Where this book scores really high is in how the plot is formed and the shape the narrative takes. Rather than resort to the now popular method of shifting the action from one setting to another resulting in creating an unnecessary tension in the proceedings, the author takes his time in patiently setting up the surrounding, the characters, their back-stories, their motivations and gradually keeps the narrative moving forward. He is not in a hurry to move at a breakneck pace and is content letting the story gradually build on the readers. After all, given that he is retelling the story of the birth of Krishna (at least in this book), he uses all of the tact and adroitness that Krishna himself will go on to display later on in his life.

While the author has taken considerable liberties with the retelling, the fact that the narrative remains coherent and believable despite the significant deviations from what is usually told speaks volumes for the research that he has done on Krishna and his life, and also for the confidence in his story-telling abilities as well. Not once was I bored during the entire book and the pages kept turning themselves. This is because of the fact that the narrative itself is so well structured and juicy enough that the book pretty much reads itself.

So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and buy the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers in return for an honest and unbiased review.

Bloodline Bandra – Godfrey Joseph Pereira – Book Review


BloodlineBandraGoodreads blurb: David Cabral is a journalist and also one of the original peepils: an East Indian from Pali Village, which is a viperpit, yes, but a happy, oblivious one. David manages to shake off the stupor of village life and heads to New York. There, he finds himself practically a slave, his drudgery leavened only by Japanese cello student Hatsumi Nakamura, whom he loves.

Bloodline Bandra is a riveting tale of love and loss, of home and homelessness. But you will remember it most for its portrait of life in the tight-knit community of Pali Village and a way of life that’s dying out.

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While the first part of this autobiographical book is quite entertaining and hilarious primarily because of the quirky and whimsical description of life in the village of Pali in Bandra, Mumbai, the second half is quite serious with the narrative arc and the fates of the characters taking on quite unexpected turns.

Read my detailed review of the book at The Tales Pensieve [Link to review]

Mumbai Avengers – S Hussain Zaidi – Book Review


MumbaiAvengersGoodreads blurb: Five years after 26/11 – the siege of terror in Mumbai that brought the country to its knees – India still seeks justice. The terrorists who planned it have disappeared into the darkness they emerged from and Mumbai seethes with fury. All the Indian government has achieved is the establishment of counter-terrorism committees.

But one man will stop at nothing in his quest to avenge the dastardly act. Retired Lt Gen. Sayed Ali Waris of the Indian army masterminds a covert mission with a team of daredevil agents: a sharp policeman, a suave tech expert, a cerebral scientist and two battle-hardened army officers. They strike like lightning even as they are pursued by the Pakistani army and the ISI, combing through every land and possibility in pursuit of the deadly killers. From Sweden to Istanbul, through Dubai, Pakistan and Singapore, they annihilate the perpetrators with single-minded focus, veiling the deaths as natural ones to save the Indian government diplomatic and political embarrassment. The stakes have never been higher.

This is a nifty, edge-of-your seat thriller with an intricate plot and jaw-dropping twists. As Waris and his team navigate untold dangers towards a nail-biting climax, will Mumbai finally be avenged?

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At the outset let me be honest in confessing that I picked up Mumbai Avengers by S Hussain Zaidi believing it to be a non-fictional book which dealt with the Mumbai underworld, which is the genre that this author generally dabbles with (all his previous books have been on this subject), and I thought it probably had to do something with a few vigilante gangsters in Mumbai avenging some wrong done to them. It therefore came as quite a surprise when I read the blurb and figured out that this was the rare occasion on which the author had actually penned a fictional book, that too in the spy thriller genre, and the blurb more than interested me in what the book might have to offer.

And when the action ended, and the dust settled after the breakneck pace at which the book hurtled along, I have to say that I am immensely satisfied and truly am left licking my lips in anticipation of more such fictional spy thrillers from the author if he so deigns to oblige his fans (of which he will have many more after this book for sure).

As the blurb reads, a group of covert agents who are not even authorized by the Indian Government or any of their agencies, under the able leadership of Retd Lt Gen Sayed Ali Waris of the Indian army, decide to stop kowtowing the Government line and wait for justice to be done to the main perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. A couple of battle hardened army men, a brutish policeman, a tech savvy Bengali and a femme fatale who also doubles up as the cyber/cerebral scientist; quite the motley crowd, aren’t they? And under the guidance of Waris, they set off on a journey of revenge which takes them from Delhi to Istanbul to Stockholm to Birmingham to Islamabad and Karachi in Pakistan.

Now, if the places and cities mentioned in the above paragraph were not enough to pique your interest, the fact that their targets were the five masterminds behind the planning and execution of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks will surely get you interested. The author’s expertise in writing about the underworld, and his wide contacts with people from intelligence agencies and the armed forces means that he has left no stone unturned when it comes to describing the revenge plans in great detail. In fact, as one reads the book it is quite hard to believe that this book is the author’s first attempt in this genre, and the book itself has the feel of a seasoned veteran author of this genre. This speaks volumes for the amount of homework that he has done and the sheer amount of groundwork that he has put into this book itself.

The narrative is taut and doesn’t allow readers to pause even for a moment to catch their breath. All the action in the narrative is extremely believable and the author does have the gift to allow the readers to visualize the scenes as if they are happening right in front of their very own eyes. And in books in this genre, both the above play a pivotal role in ensuring that the book ends  up being a good one, and not just another mediocre one.

Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers in return for a honest and unbiased review.