Hadal – CP Surendran – Book Review


HadalGoodreads blurb: Taking a break from her job in Maldives, young, attractive and unhappily married Miriam lands in Trivandrum, with the idea of writing a novel. Honey Kumar is a police officer in charge of visa extension, on a punishment transfer from Delhi to Trivandrum for graft. Miriam wants to extend her visa. Honey Kumar demands sex in return. When Miriam refuses to comply, he fabricates an espionage charge against her. That Miriam is sleeping with Paul Roy, director of the Indian Space Research Centre, renders Honey Kumar’s job of trapping her easier.

Inspired by a true-life incident, this is an incisive critique of the rot at the heart of India and the corruption, physical and spiritual, that permeates the structures of authority, and how that deep institutional breakdown impacts individual lives.

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Picture this; Miriam is a disgruntled Maldivian Govt Employee who is also a wannabe author who has just quit her job, packed her bags, turned her back on her husband and landed up in Kerala with the intention of penning down her first novel. Oh, and before I forget, she has also had a brief affair with Paul Roy, senior scientist with ISRO who by the way is married and has an eleven year old son and also resides in Trivandrum, Kerala.

Throw into this mix, Honey Kumar, inspector of police who is on a punishment transfer to the Foreigners Regional Registration Office, Trivandrum for having been caught accepting a bribe, and struggling really hard to settle down into his new role, the new city and overall with his new life in general.

What you get when circumstances bring these three in direct contact with each other forms the crux of Hadal by CP Surendran. Although the premise is based on a true story which I somewhat vaguely recollect reading in the newspapers some years ago, the truth is that this book deals more with the characters, their personalities, the myriad motivations for their actions and passion rather than with the true incident on which it is supposedly based.

And this works both ways for the book. While the fact that it is based on true incidents lends quite a bit of credibility to what otherwise seems quite an incredible plot by itself, the fact that the author chose to delve more into the individual characters and their sketches more than the happenings means that this book somewhat gets into philosophical and psychological territory more than I expected it to. In fact, after a point in time, the reader tends to forget the actual goings on in the book and would probably start to concentrate more on the individual characters and their mental make-up more than anything else. If you are the kind of reader who likes such detailed character sketches in your novels, then you would probably enjoy this book quite a bit. However, if you are the sort that likes a good yarn and puts a premium on the happenings more than the characters themselves, then this book might just about disappoint you.

The ending of the book is quite surprising, and quite frankly is worth the trouble of actually reading the book till the very end. While it is quite anti-climactic in nature, readers surely won’t feel cheated or short-changed by the author’s choice as to how to end the book.

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 publishers in return for a honest and unbiased review of the same.

Money Wise – Sharath Komarraju – Book Review


MoneyWiseGoodreads blurb: Do you obsess about money and yet not talk about it with parents or friends – and barely enough with the spouse? Do you worry about how much you have, how much you need, what you need to do to get more of it?

The world of money is bewildering. The biggest investment you will ever make is towards your financial education – and this easy-to-read guide provides just that. It answers vital questions such as:

– Where does money come from?

– Why do prices go up every year?

– How do I get out of debt?

– Should I invest in the stock market?

– What is the value of gold in our financial system?

– How do I make my investment portfolio shock-proof?

Practical, fun and straight to the point, Money Wise will equip you with the tools to manage your money with confidence and competence.

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In all my years of reading books (and that’s more than quite a few years I must say) I have developed a steady aversion to the ‘self help’ genre of books for more than few reasons. The primary one among them being that the authors rarely tend to personalize advice and instead resort to generalizing and universalizing the concepts explained and the advice given. It’s almost as if the ‘one size fits all’ approach supersedes everything else in this genre of books. And to be honest, I don’t blame the authors and publishers for such books, because after all they do target the mass market and in such markets there is hardly, if at all any, personalization that can be done in books of this genre. It is in such a scenario that Money Wise: The Aam Aadmi’s Guide to Wealth and Financial Freedom comes as a breath of fresh air.

Coming from the stable of Sharath Komarraju whose earlier works in fiction I have thoroughly enjoyed (read my reviews of his books at this link) I simply had to read this book and the fact that Sharath is a friend of mine (virtual only, mind you) and offered a free review copy meant that I went ahead and read it. And as is the norm with him, he didn’t disappoint me one bit with this book.

Given that Sharath himself has quit his IT job and has been engaged full time in authoring books over the past four years gave this book a lot of credibility in that he actually has personal experience when it comes to talking about money and how to manage it successfully. Plus, the fact that I actually know all the concepts that he has talked about in the book meant that it served as a good reminder of all of them and got me thinking about how I could take some simple steps to ensure that I manage my wealth better.

While the book itself deals with the basics of personal finance and gives us pointers on the various asset classes such as real estate, gold, bonds, stock and cash itself, what I found particularly endearing about it was the fact that the author chose the simplest of terms to explain all of them and that too in a conversational manner. Particular care has been taken to ensure that the book doesn’t get too technical or jargon heavy and is clearly targeting the layman reader who at this point in time is probably even hesitating to take baby steps towards the direction of managing his personal wealth. I am quite sure that all readers of this book, be it a hardcore finance professional or a complete newbie to finance, will surely have something positive to take away from it.

The first few chapters of the book deal with money, putting it in perspective and the basics of personal finance and are dealt with in an extremely light-handed fashion, ensuring that readers are not put off by the sheer depth of information that the rest of the book contains. And Sharath goes on to tackle the tricky parts of personal finance, portfolio allocation, the various asset classes and related information in an extremely easy to understand manner, and this to me, is where this book scores high compared to the countless others in this genre.

To me, the last chapter about ‘The Permanent Portfolio’ struck a chord which prompted me to give a serious re-think about what I was doing with my money. If you want to find out what Sharath is talking about in this chapter, go on, buy the book and read it in its entirety. Trust me when I say this, this book is truly worth the investment of time, money and effort you put into it and I personally guarantee manifold returns for this investment.

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 author in return for a honest and unbiased 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.

The Debt Collector’s Due – Adhirath Sethi – Book Review


TheDebtCollectorsDueGoodreads blurb: There comes a day in every boy’s life when he needs to sit down and decide what to do with the rest of it. But our layabout hero, Samay, slept through it, as he did most days growing up. Waking up aged twenty-nine, he finds that he barely has any money left in the bank and the only job anyone is willing to give him is as a debt collector for small businesses.

To top it all, he has had no luck with his college flame, Amrita. They were close friends once but are not even in touch any more.

His less-than-ordinary life takes a mad turn when he is mistaken by mob boss Pande for a hitman and given Rs 75 lakh as payment. Samay wants to take the money and flee the city, but he discovers that Amrita, now a journalist, is next on the hit list…

The Debt Collector’s Due is a wild ride through the drama of college heartbreak and a terrifying murder in south Mumbai’s Parsi colony to the sweaty alleys of Crawford Market and the mist-filled valley of Panchgani. This is a story about shifting fortunes and high stakes, a breathless read from the first page to the very last word.

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The Debt Collector’s Due is one of those simple fiction stories which have a reasonably simple story arc, easy to follow narrative and ordinary likeable characters. Unlike most debut authors who try and set out to tell a grand story with multiple narratives, parallel intertwining plot lines, Adhirath Sethi with this book takes us on a small journey with Samay Agrawal and his process of ‘coming of age’ so to speak.

The protagonist Samay is a ‘good for nothing’ kind of kid who has done nothing of note with his life, save for being friends with Amrita, who in any case dumps him to pursue a journalism course in Delhi. Pushed into a corner with no other option of earning money, Samay gets into the unofficial debt collection business and surprisingly turns out to be reasonably good at his job as well.

When one of his jobs goes bad and he gets mixed up with some particularly unsavory elements, it puts his story on a headlong collision course with that of Amrita’s, who by now is a ‘marked (wo)man’ by the mob for her revealing expose of a cover story. What happens when Samay gets back into her life is what forms the fairly well written climax of this story.

What I particularly liked about the book was that it is written in fairly simple language, is quite straightforward about how the narrative unfolds and the best of all is very crisp running into only 170 odd pages. The author makes no pretence of trying to write the next Indian spy thriller or anything great, and ends up churning out a good quick read in the bargain.

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

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

The Lesson – Sowmya Rajendran – Book Review


TheLessonGoodreads blurb: The adjustment bureau is snowed under with work, the moral police force is on the prowl. The country, but most of all the capital, must live by the Conduct Book. But it isn’t easy. Despite all the efforts of these organizations to maintain peace and social order, people, especially women, continue to flout the law – they ask for divorces, dress provocatively, drink with men and attempt to avoid marriage and childbearing. But there’s a one-man army, more effective than the entire moral police force put together, who will bring law to the land.

A vigilante who has his own methods. No matter how many wanton, difficult women there are, he will persevere for the greater good. He will shame them like they have never been shamed before. And when one particular woman’s rebellion threatens to spiral out of control, he’s called upon to remedy the situation … and teach her a lesson.

The Lesson is a dystopian satire about the violence that women live with, structural, systemic and even just the everyday sort. It is a book that will remind you that, after all these years, Big Brother is still watching you.

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With The Lesson, the author Sowmya Rajendran presents a scathing satirical and insightful look into Indian society as we know it today, filled with stereotypes of women being considered of loose morals based on the clothes they wear, with punishments like honor killings for crimes such as falling in love, etc. The author takes all of these societal ills and packages them into a dystopian futuristic city with a short, crisp and powerful narrative.

When the second daughter (the protagonist) walks into the offices of The Adjustment Bureau demanding for a divorce, she starts off a series of events which the author uses wonderfully well to present a picture of ‘the ideal society’ of the day and how it functions with guidelines and laws set down by The Adjustment Bureau and its president. And then, there’s the ultimate purveyor of justice, The Rapist, who as his name suggests dispenses with justice of the ‘highest order’.

Now, with a premise like that and characters such as the ones mentioned in the above paragraph, it is quite a no-brainer that the book is well written and the pages turn themselves with ease. What however, must be mentioned is the fact that the author doesn’t take the audience for granted and not once does the narrative become so unbelievable that it veers towards being more of science-fiction than satire, which is firmly what it is. And the ending, the last paragraph of the book delivers quite a power-packed punch which is quite the fitting finale to the narrative.

A must-read book for everybody who has thought about possible solutions to what is happening in most Indian cities today, and for fans of well written satire as well. 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.