Posted in Books

Book Review: It Started With A Friend Request, by Sudeep Nagarkar

About the author:
Sudeep Nagarkar is an Indian author, who has written two books prior to this one. His books are based around real life incidents. His books have been translated into regional languages as well.

Cover and blurb:
A story about love at first sight, and a relationship that quickly develops over the phone, with friends playing moral support and a twist that derails their love story. A nice cover design for the book as well.

My thoughts:
Some stories are just so-so. You love some places and you don’t like some places at all. I’m not a die-hard romantic, but I do like love stories. This one is probably for the die-hard romantics.

The story is about Akash and Aleesha. The former is a young working guy, who enjoys his life and is very excitable. He and his best friend Aditya go to a discotheque where Akash meets Aleesha, who is new to Mumbai and has come to the disco with her family friend and roommate Tamanna. Aleesha is a pampered girl, who worries more about a chat message going through than checking her exam marks. They get talking, and soon exchange their BBM pins. Over BBM, they slowly fall in love, and courtesy Aditya, they meet often as well. Their relationship goes through ups and downs, but they are guided through it by their friends. Then something happens that gives a bigger hurdle to jump over.

Right… what I liked is the concept of friendship in the book. What Kritika is to Aleesha, and Aditya is to Akash, the narration of that was nice to read. It made me feel happy to see such friends. Another thing was that the novel wasn’t too mushy. It was stretching from love to sickly sweet love, but I didn’t feel like it crossed over. I like the concept of true love that is portrayed. The ending warranted that, and it got it. Some parts to ponder over, positively… the way Akash expresses his love for Aleesha, the notes of love of each character and the twists. But I feel this novel, when looked at with a little depth, is more about the exploration of relationships than just a love story. The narration from different points of view of characters was also a nice touch, and it felt right in place from the prologue to the introduction chapters. The overall pace of the story was quick, and I could finish it in a few hours.

What I feel can be better is the language. It feels childish at places, but works to give a little simplicity at others. You feel stuck with some things, when it should move on sooner. If there are sex scenes in the novel (sometimes this feels a little too much), I don’t quite see the need to censor a word or two in the middle. When I see a prologue, I feel the epilogue should match it. So when we go into flashback with a gloomy hero, the epilogue should be starting with the flashback ending, and headed toward the climax or finale, rather than just a conclusion of all characters. This is something that could have perhaps got the story elevated a little more.

I haven’t read much of Sudeep’s work, but I think I will read his first two sometime as well. As for this novel, it’s a decent book. It wasn’t the story of an online relationship after all. It’s a one-time read for me, and a book that is best for travel.


Rated a 7 on 10!
Rated a 7 on 10!

Book details:
Title: It Started With A Friend Request
Author: Sudeep Nagarkar
ISBN: 978-8-184-00420-5
Genre: Fiction / Romance
Publishers: Random House India
Price: INR. 125

 


This book was given to me for review by Random House India. This is not a paid review.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.


Shared with
1) First Reads Challenge at b00k r3vi3ws
2) Indian Quills Reading Challenge at Tales Pensieve.


(Aug 10th, 2013)

Posted in Books

Book Review: Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

About the author:
Yann Martel was born in Spain in 1963 of Canadian parents. After studying philosophy at university, he worked odd jobs before turning to writing. In addition to Life of Pi, he is the author of the novels Self and Beatrice & Virgil.

Cover and blurb:
A story about survival, in possibly extreme conditions, I feel it is narration and plotting that can make or break the story.

My thoughts:
I have always wanted to read this novel. But over the years, it has skipped my mind. Or perhaps I wasn’t as passionate about reading then as I am now. Having recently seen the movie, I decided it was finally time I stopped postponing it, and took the book to read. I wasn’t particularly happy about buying the film artwork cover, but the other covers seem to be out of stock always. I guess that is one way of selling the film and the book, but I feel a non-film cover should still be available. (The details at the end of this review point to the film tie-in cover, but I’m using a non tie-in one as image.)

While I wouldn’t say the book is infinitely better than the movie, I think the book is better than the movie. The story of a young boy who grows up in a zoo in Pondicherry with his father who’s the caretaker and owner of the zoo, his elder brother and mother, Life of Pi puts believability to the test. Can we believe that a young boy can survive for nearly a year in a boat in the middle of nowhere, with a little food and in the company of a Royal Bengal Tiger? No. Possibly not, but the story is about that survival. It is about how the young boy, Piscine (Pi) Patel, formerly an introvert and mercilessly teased lad in school, finds that courage inside himself to tackle the situation and come out on top. I took Richard Parker to be anything we fear, and are trapped with, and it felt like the story showed we can come out successful against that fear as well. The hyena eating the zebra, the orangutan fighting for its life, then Richard Parker killing the hyena all felt like “survival of the fittest.” I liked the philosophy.

That being said, the initial part of the book, with them in India, felt a bore at times, with too much on Pi’s religion confusion. It didn’t work for me. Maybe that’s why the movie had a little extra in it, with a new character to bring some spice to Pi’s life. The part where the two brothers are taken on a personal experience that almost all animals are dangerous felt real, and the mirror at the zoo was a nice touch, both leading to the contrast toward the end, where Pi asserts himself as the stronger animal, than the 450 pound Bengal tiger. The evenness in the tone of narration puts across a nonchalant feeling, as if Pi, in his flashback, doesn’t actually feel anything for the past, he’s no longer in that moment, where he was exhilarated. It felt right at times, but a little more oomph would have been nice perhaps.

I wouldn’t put this book as one of my absolute favorites to date, but it’s a good book nonetheless.


A rating of 8/10
A rating of 8/10

Book details:
Title: Life of Pi
Author: Yann Martel
ISBN: 978-0-85786-553-3
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Publishers: Canongate
Price: INR. 450

 


This book is a personal copy. No payment was taken for this review.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.


Shared with First Reads at b00k r3vi3ws.


(Aug 10th, 2013)

Posted in Books

Book Review: Waves, by Ahila Thillainathan

About the author:
Ahila Thillainathan is a Sri Lankan author. She has written and self-published two books, a non-fiction titled The First Step, and a book of ten short stories titled Waves.

Cover and blurb:
Simple black cover with wording, and the blurb promised an exploration of life, which would delve into relationships as well.

My thoughts:
A book of short stories is a very welcome change to reading at times, but when it is a e-Book, I’m a little reluctant most of the time, since I’m not that fond of reading books on my PC. The book of stories felt interesting, and having got a recommendation for the same from a good friend, I took up the book.

My favorite story in the collection would have to be the first one, “Not A Waste of Breath”. The story, woven intricately, goes through a lot of emotions. Sadness at not being understood, not being loved or encouraged when a girl needed it the most, and then a little inspiration that the girl inspires her mother. The overall mood of the story is sadness, but it had a glimpse of life in it. I could relate with the feeling of not being understood.

Another story that had a good ending was Vani, which is the story of a girl by the same name. She’s bright, well loved by her parents and younger brother. The story brings the mentality of a family out well. Her parents care enough to celebrate her twenty fifth birthday, but her relative who comes looks to bring a relationship into her life, citing her age and not really knowing who the prospective groom is. The story ends a little abruptly I feel, but Ahila explores the love quite well by then.

The third of my favorites is “One Foolish Mistake”, which has a sense of fate associated with it. It hinges around three characters and their thoughts. One holds on to the past, another decides to abandon it and the third decides to abandon a future. It’s the third that felt like fate, and a fate that could have been avoided. But then again, that’s life.

The other seven stories in the book are all nicely written too, in simple flowing language. Some like “The Cuckoo”, “The Birthday Wish” and “The Mango Tree” appealed to me almost as much as these three, and the first one had a sad but expectable ending. The remaining four was here and there. I liked them, but not very.

Overall, each of the stories provokes thought, and I like that. I found a couple of typos, but nothing to ruin the flow of the stories. One thing I didn’t like was the words in the local language. (I guess it was a dialect of Tamil, or Sinhalese maybe?) I couldn’t understand it much, so it felt out of place.

I liked the read a lot, and I hope I get to read more of her stories soon.


Rated a 7 on 10!
Rated a 7 on 10!

Book details:
Title: Waves
Author: Ahila Thillainathan
Genre: Short Stories
Publishers: Self Published
ASIN: B008MX21MC
Price: INR. 165

 


This was an author requested review, in exchange for a review copy of the same, but not other payment.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.


Shared with First Reads at b00k r3vi3ws.


(Aug 8th, 2013)

Posted in Books

Book Review: Amreekandesi, by Atulya Mahajan

About the author:
Atulya Mahajan is the author of amreekandesi.com, a popular Indian satire blog. Born and raised in Delhi, he moved to the US in 2004 for his Masters and stayed on for five years before returning to India, in a Swades-inspired moment. During his time in the US, he started his blog to chronicle the lives of Indians living abroad, and this book is the culmination of that vision. When not busy writing hilarious pieces, Atulya works at an investment bank as a technologist.

Cover and blurb:
Both indicative of the humor genre, and I was interested in the read the moment I read the blurb. Two characters, with contrasting ideas of life abroad ending up as roommates. The premise itself promised humor, and in the end that was what I got as well.

My thoughts:
Among my peer group, there are two types of people that I have noticed. The first group want to do well, and study abroad, get settled there because the pace of development is higher and the quality of living is better. The second group are interested in visiting abroad, but they don’t want to settle there, because they have a sense of belonging over here. If one person from each of those were to end up as roommates in a foreign country, the situation was what I read in this novel, Amreekandesi.

First we have Akhil Arora, pampered child and the apple of his mother’s eye, the guy with big dreams but not one that his parents necessarily understand. While they are satisfied with the high pay job he has secured, Akhil wants to do his Masters from the USA and make use of the opportunity given to him by Florida State University (FSU). Though he at first wants to just go away from India, he later realizes that his family is here, and even begins to be thankful for the week his dad spends with him to get him settled there. His to-be-roommate, Jaspreet (or Jassi, or Jazz as he wants to be known in the US) just harbors ambitions of reaching the States. Having had his high expectations doused a year previously, he works for a year and then applies to more approachable universities and gets a call from FSU too. He’s also a pampered Punjabi boy, but unlike Akhil’s parents, Jassi becomes a hero to his proud parents and community. He just wants to go away from India, and live the better life, with American food and girls. He changes himself, accent and all, for that purpose. The book follows their life in the US. There’s even a little romance angle thrown in to the works.

I like breezy reads. They can be completed quickly, and more often than not, have a simple and interesting story. With Amreekandesi, the case was the same. I finished the novel in a few hours, and the story flowed quickly and kept the interest for that duration, and I even went back to some parts. There is humor, though not so much that you LOL throughout the book, but enough at the right places. The things like reaction of their parents to the news, the expectations, their initial surprise to American lifestyle and such are nicely done. From the time Nandita and Akhil meet, you want them to fall in love, and they do. However, I would have liked to see a little more fight from the parents’ side. It felt easy, and it might have been, but the character portrayal of Akhil’s mother especially made us expect otherwise. Narration and editing wise, I don’t have much complaints. I enjoyed the book, the mindset and approach to Indians looking to go abroad, and some of the characters, like Goyal and Akhil’s mom. Pick it up for a travel. You’ll like it.


A rating of 8/10
A rating of 8/10

Book details:
Title: Amreekandesi
Author: Atulya Mahajan
ISBN: 978-8-184-00395-6
Genre: Fiction / Humor
Publishers: Random House India
Price: INR. 199

 


This book was given to me as part of the Readers Cosmos review program. This is not a paid review.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.


Shared with
1) First Reads Challenge at b00k r3vi3ws
2) Indian Quills Reading Challenge at Tales Pensieve.


(Aug 8th, 2013)

Posted in Books

Book Review: House of Cards, by Sudha Murty

About the author:
Sudha Murty was born in 1950 in Shiggaon in north Karnataka. A prolific writer in English and Kannada, she has written nine novels, four technical books, three travelogues, one collection of short stories, three collections of non-fiction pieces and two books for children. Her books have been translated into all the major Indian languages and have sold over three lakh copies around the country. She was the recipient of the R.K. Narayan’s Award for Literature and the Padma Shri in 2006.

Cover and blurb:
Simple cover with the photo of a girl, as is with most of her novels I guess. I liked the blurb, and it promised a family tale, one that is common in India perhaps, but mostly remains a story untold.

My thoughts:
I’ve become a fan of this author of late. This is the third book of hers that I’ve read in the past two weeks and the fourth in this year. When I read Sudha, it is like simplicity takes the wheel, and everything else takes the back seat.

House of Cards brings a small family drama to the fore, with the simplicity of village life clashing with the city life. We are introduced to Mridula, a young studious hardworking girl, daughter of Bheemanna, who is a very rich person in Aladahalli, a small village near the towns of Hubli and Dharwad, in Karnataka. She’s the apple of her father’s eye, and a very jovial girl. She enjoys her life, and is always brimming with energy. Years pass by and Mridula grows up into a beautiful young lady, and talk of marriage starts. We are then introduced to Sanjay, a talented, but poor doctor, who works in Mumbai. He’s a little careless and forgetful, easily influenced. The two meet at a wedding, and then again cross paths when Sanjay has to deliver a package to Bheemanna’s neighbor, and spends a little time at his place while that neighbor is away. They soon fall in love, and get married. The couple shift to the city of Bangalore, where he pursues his post graduation, and she takes up a teaching job in a government school. Things appear to go smoothly, till he takes up private practice after getting tired of the job at a government hospital. The story is about their family life, and how they rise in status in the city, but begin to find differences in their relationship.

When it comes to tone and language of the reading, as I said before, Sudha keeps it simple. But in the plot, she explores relationships in depth. How Mridula stays the same hardworking innocent self throughout, how Sanjay is influenced by the power of luxury that he finds coming toward him and begins to want the best of the best, rather than what is necessary, and how their son Shishir realizes the value of family very late. It shows the love between daughter and father, in Mridula and Bheemanna; love between husband and wife, in Sanjay and Mridula; and a whole lot others. It is a light read, and I could finish it soon, but the story stays behind.

You can pick up the book for reading while traveling, because it is worth it, and it will hold you even after the story has ended.


A rating of 8/10
A rating of 8/10

Book details:
Title: House of Cards
Author: Sudha Murty
ISBN: 978-0-143-42036-1
Genre: Fiction / Drama
Publishers: Penguin Publications
Price: INR. 250

 


This book is a personal copy. No payment was taken for this review.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.


Shared with Indian Quills Reading Challenge at Tales Pensieve.


(Aug 7th, 2013)