Friday, 31 May 2013

Thundergod : The Ascendance of Indra by Rajiv Menon

Title : Thundergod: The Ascendance Of Indra
Author : Rajiv Menon
Genre : Fiction / Mythology
Publisher : Westland Ltd.
Pages : 384
My Rating : 7/10
Reviewed For : MySmartPrice Books / Indian Debut Writers Month 2013 / South Asian Challenge 2013 / First Reads Challenge 2013
 
 

Blurb:

 

One day a prince from one of the four great tribes will unite the sons of Aditi and he will sow the seeds of an empire that will rule the world. Born of a prophetic union between the Earth Goddess Gaia and Daeyus, chief of the Devas, comes the story of a child recounted by history to have become a king and retold by legend to have transcended into a god. Indra, destiny’s orphan, finds himself growing up in a vortex of treachery and tribal incumbency. Shielded from the usurpers of his birthright only by the watchful eye of the warrior sage Mitra, he first sets out to conquer the hearts of his tribesmen, and then the kingdoms of the unmapped world. Aligning forces with his brothers by blood oath and divine intervention Agni, Vayu, Varuna and Soma Indra embarks on a military campaign of epic proportions, stretching from the Euphrates in Asia Minor to Harappa on the Indian subcontinent, encountering formidable armies, demonic beings and powerful goddesses, and losing the only woman he really loves. Will he get her to love him again? Will he avenge the death of his father? Will he assume his place in the pantheon of the gods? In a compelling saga, blended by history, spiced by legend and mutated by myth, Rajiv G. Menon transforms ten years of research into a lightning rod of an action adventure that streaks into your consciousness with the speed of Indra’s thunderbolt.


 

My Review:

 


Thundergod: The Ascendance Of Indra is a complete high-octane read from the outset. Being an ardent mythology buff, something in me (I call it curiosity) prompted me to read this one, if only to know how the author had portrayed a less popular God like Indra!! The Hindu has described this book as “a story of unbridled flamboyance from a debutant author”, so yes - unbridled it is and how!! Mediocre doesn’t settle it for the author, the events here are at the extremum -  swashbuckling action, bloodbath, heartbreak, amorous dalliances, revenge, cowardice, conspiracies, shifting loyalties – you name it & it has got it.
 
The story kickstarts with King Daeyus (who is the chief of Devas – a clan of barbarian warriors) leading his men on a mission across the vast sandy stretches of the Karakum Desert. So brave and virile he is, (The way his character is sketched, I am compelled to imagine him as Gerard Butler from the movie “300”), that even the Earth Goddess Gaia, who being an Elemental is forbiden from consorting with humans, cannot resist him. The result of this brief tryst is Indra – whose birth is prophesied and who is destined to unite the sons of Aditi. However, from the moment Indra is even conceived, forces of nature & human beings alike start concocting to annihilate him. However, destiny’s child – Indra remains protected by supernatural powers and guarded by the warrior sage Mitra.  As the years proceed, Indra grows up in a vortex of treachery, tribal incumbency and splintering loyalties. On attaining adulthood, Indra claims his birthright position as well as his childhood sweetheart’s hand in marriage. However, on the other hand he loses her love in a series of unexpected events and is left heartbroken in a single stroke. A heartbroken & brave warrior never fears anything and needless to say, what follows next is Indra’s ambitious quest - first to conquer the vanquishers of his father & then the kingdoms of the unmapped world. The author charts Indra’s journey as he turns into a war machine and attains a new high after every conquest. Supporting him in the carnage are his brothers who are bound to him by a blood oath – Agni, Vayu, Varuna & Soma. Finally, the hunter becomes the hunted and Indra finds himself ensconced in Swarga after he fulfils his prophecy.
 
The author has created a plot which resembles a grand game of chess, where many players are introduced and their roles constantly oscillating between being a pawn or a knight. The plot is replete with testosterone-charged, adventuristic voyages of the protagonist. The most striking part, however, is Indra’s metamorphosis from an innocent, mortal lad to an alpha male to finally a God!! As a reader, I found him endearing, sympathized with him, watched him run high on heady brews as well as ambition, plough down entire armies of humans & other creatures alike and finally deteriorating into a power hungry king. The author has not created stereotypical perfect God but has a sketched a very flawed protagonist with whom the readers will share a love-hate relationship. Another major highlight of this novel was the author’s earnest attempt in meshing together Indian mythology & world history. His love for Greek & Indian mythology as well as meticulous research is clearly evident in this read.
 
While the plot is packed with pace, it also includes a lot of graphic war & erotic details. While at the start they seem inevitable, page after page of war scenes in all its glory of bloodshed becomes repelling and slows down the pace of narration. Secondly, the author has filled the plot with motley of characters & frankly, I was overwhelmed by the vast array of characters. Also, whilst doing so, the author has wonderfully developed Indra’s character but whilst showering all his attention on Indra, the author has not done justice to the secondary characters. Especially, the characters of Vayu, Varuna, Agni & Soma are not fleshed out properly neither is their equation with Indra. And lastly, with all the anticipation for the final battle building up, the ending seems to be rushed & abrupt which left me absolutely unsatisfied.
 
When this read came out, it garnered a lot of mixed reviews. And after reading this one, I got a feeling very much like that – mixed emotions!! While the author has to be lauded for a beautiful & bold debut effort, I also wish to read a more crispier plot in the sequel sans a little bit of gore. All in all, this is a complete page turner that will keep the reader hooked.




Monday, 20 May 2013

Nick of Time by Komal Mehta

Title : Nick of Time
Author : Komal Mehta
Genre : Fiction / Romantic Comedy
Publisher : Penguin Metro Reads
Pages : 248
My Rating : 6.5/10
Reviewed For : Author / Debut Indian Writers Month 2013

Blurb:


Alehya is back in Chandigarh after ten years to attend her childhood friend, Shagun’s wedding. However, her plans are rudely interrupted when she finds out about the man Shagun is going to marry.
Vicky, is a sorted guy who knows exactly what he wants in life. His decision of marrying Shagun has the approval of everyone who means a lot to him—everyone, except Shagun’s best friend, Alehya.
Shagun is excited about getting married to Vicky. This fulfils her childhood dream of marriage. But with her best friend and future husband being childhood frenemies, will things go by without a hitch?
As the wedding draws near, Shagun, Vicky and Alehya grapple with issues of love, confusion and guilt to discover what their heart truly desires. They have to make life altering decisions, in the Nick of Time, before time runs out on them and the life of their dreams!


My Review:

 

The plot of Nick of Time by Komal Mehta is based on the theme of love, friendship & The Big Fat-Indian Wedding. Obviously, it has all the ingredients for a complete masala read & is entertaining to the fullest!! This book revolves around the lives of three childhood friends – Aleyha, Vicky & Shagun who are coming together after a period of 10 years for a marriage that invokes a lot more complications & confusions rather than the happiness associated with it. Because amidst the wedding chaos, Aleyha, Shagun & Vicky tumble headlong into life altering consequences where they discover what their heart truly covets.

The story kick-starts with Alehya quitting her frustrating job & just as she’s celebrating her freedom she receives a call from Shagun inviting Aleyha to Chandigarh for her marriage. A gleeful Alehya looks forward to a fun-filled time (which will be definitely liberating from the humdrum of corporate life) in Chandigarh for Shagun’s marriage. However, all her plans for merriment go for a toss when she meets “The Groom”. It’s none other than her childhood frenemy – Vicky with whom she has had a history of unsolved issues. Alehya hates Vicky with as much fervour as she loves Shagun. Needless to say, there is friction between Aleyha & Vicky from the word go and sparks fly when they meet. But herein comes the twist in the tale where Shagun is hell bent on playing the peacemaker between the two & schemes to put them together so that they get over with their juvenile banter & start seeing each other for what they really are. Though for Vicky & Alehya, their last chapter didn’t end on an altogether good note, they decide to put it past them & start afresh for the sake of Shagun. What follows is a roller-coaster of a ride where Shagun, Aleyha & Vicky find love in the most unexpected places & have to decide between the right, the wrong & their heart.

What makes this read interesting is the narrative point of view. The author has put forth the story through the point-of-view of Aleyha, Vicky & Shagun & we get a glimpse into the confusion that reigns between their minds & hearts. However, this is essentially Aleyha ’s story – she has always been the consummate good girl but that is until she comes to Chandigarh for Shagun’s marriage. Coming back she discovers an entire a new side to her which she never even thought that existed. Bollywood movie buffs will love this book since this read follows the distinctive romantic comedy storyline & a very clich├ęd path with its typical twists & turns. A few mushy moments, toe-curling romance, naivety of first love, the reality check, dilemmas, heartbreak & a miraculous happy ending – you have it all in here. However, in spite of the predictable story line there is a refreshing factor in the author’s narration that makes this read delightful as well as easy on the senses.

Coming to the drawbacks, honestly, I did not like the cover page. For a read like this, one might expect the cover to be glossy but this one seems dull. Also, while it was necessary to include the typical Chandigarh slang to create a relatable background, the overt use of Hindi dialogues was a tad bit extra which might put some readers off. The plot is fast paced but after the initial build-up, I felt that the story dragged a little bit in the middle before picking up momentum towards the end.

Having said that, this novel is a sweet, quick read that portrays the balance between love & friendship. The author wonderfully brings forth the point that there are always two sides to every story. Pick it up on a weekend if you want to have an indulgent time & you will breeze through it.

Find the best prices for Nick of Time by Komal Mehta at ShoppingWish.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

A Short Affair Called Life by Rohit Kumar Singh Jadon

Title : A Short Affair Called Life
Author : Rohit Kumar Singh Jadon (RKSJ)
Genre : Fiction
Publisher : Leadstart Publishing
Pages : 195
My Rating : 6/10
Reviewed For : Author

Blurb:

 

Every now and then each one of us thinks of running away. Running away from everything, but we just cannot do it; Darsh goes for it. Though once, secure in his comfort zone, leading a very normal life, working with a multinational company, with a reputable position, and a perfect relationship with his college sweet heart. Yet, the usual, unanswered question, in his mind haunts him, What is the purpose of his life? He gives up everything and everyone to find a meaning to his life.
He finds out strangers are not so strange after all; they are like everyone else, mean and selfish, who will hurt you like everyone else. He discovers religion and spirituality the hard way, through his experiences. Finally, he understands the only divine way is to let live the human in you. He feels the pain of those in suffering and travels around unknown places, only to discover the already known truth of life.

My Review:


A Short Affair Called Life is a thought-provoking novel about self-discovery. In this read, the author has created a fictional yet relatable character – Darsh who is the quintessential & contemporary urban individual with a well-off & comfortable upbringing, a well-established career and a perfect relationship. Yet he is unsatiated with his perfect & normal life & is in perpetual search of that one elusive thing that will complete him, except that he doesn’t know what that thing is!! And hence he takes a  journey to figure out the intricate questions about life and mysteries surrounding it.

The book starts in the present day where Darsh is on a sabbatical, living into oblivion - trying to figure out the where his life is headed & what exactly does he want from life. The plot then moves back into Darsh’s past – his troubled childhood, the after effects, his love life & a special encounter with a spiritual person. These events have a major effect in moulding Darsh and his ideas about life and people. We then return back to the present where Darsh is still in a state of perpetual confusion but then a chance encounter with a stranger (Topi) triggers off Darsh in search of his answers to different locations.

Thus starts Darsh’s journey where he lives as a nomad & learns a new thing about life with each passing day through the hard way. The plot deals with almost every aspect about human life – love, family, friendship, pain, spirituality & ultimately happiness. The major highlight of this novel is that Darsh as the protagonist is very relatable. The first line of the blurb itself will strike a chord & will have many of us nodding their heads. There must have been times in each one of our lives when we have considered running away as an option to unresolved situations, confusion at crossroads or when faced with problems in life. And I am pretty sure that as the reader will proceed with the read, many of us will find a part of ourselves in Darsh. The author has chosen travelling as the medium to tell his the story. As Darsh travels from one location to another, he discovers new avenues & finds answers to his questions one by one. Another highlight of this read was Darsh’s experience at the Kumbh Mela. For someone who has never been to Kumbh (like me!), the description of Kumbh Mela & everything surrounding it was enlightening as well as interesting.

This novel is, without any doubt, the author’s work of introspection as the author’s thoughts leap out from the pages. Though the book starts on a promising note, there are a few places in the read where the plot seemed to move ahead in a random way & hence seemed disconnected. Also, the novel could have done with better editing which would have ultimately made the read a crispier one. There were a lot of spelling and grammatical errors which frankly, just hampers the joy of reading. Having said that, if you’re looking for a contemplative novel that you’ll breeze through, then this one will do.

Find the best prices for A Short Affair Called Life by Rohit Kumar Singh Jadon at ShoppingWish.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Homing Pigeons by Sid Bahri

Title : The Homing Pigeons
Author : Sid Bahri
Genre : Fiction
Publisher :
Shristi Publication
Pages : 328
My Rating : 7.5/10
Reviewed For :
The Reader Cosmos Book Review Program / South Asian Challenge 2013

Blurb:

 

In the middle of the catastrophic 2008 recession, Aditya, a jobless, penniless man meets an attractive stranger in a bar, little does he know that his life will change forever…..
When Radhika, a young, rich widow, marries off her stepdaughter, little does she know that the freedom that she has yearned for is not exactly how she had envisioned it…..
They say Homing Pigeons always come back to their mate, no matter where you leave them on the face of this earth. Homing Pigeons is the story of love between these two unsuspecting characters as it is of lust, greed, separations, prejudices and crumbling spines.

My Review:


From the outset, The Homing Pigeons is an engaging read. As the tagline says - "Not all love stories are perfect but then, neither are people” - this is the story of two imperfect people coming together and making an equally imperfect love story. Having said that, let me assure you that this read is not the mushy romance that is generally associated with love stories.
                                                                               
The story starts with Aditya who falls victim to recession & hence loses his job. Almost a year of unemployment, desperate & fruitless efforts to find a stable job in the sinking recession-hit market & a loveless marriage drive him to the edge of frustration. Totally broke and running out of options, Aditya finds himself in a bar, spending the last batch of his savings & drinking himself to numbness when an attractive stranger takes a seat next to him. An initial round of drinks and a bizarre business proposition later, Aditya ’s life takes a complete 360° turn which he hadn’t imagined even in his wildest of dreams.

Anticipation of a moment is much bigger and alluring than the moment itself. Radhika learns this the hard way where the freedom that she has been craving for so much from a tiresome marriage & an equally tiresome life is not as gratifying as she had envisioned it. Young & rich yet lonely, Radhika tries to seek out the one thing that will inject some colors into her otherwise dreary life. This is the story of Radhika & Aditya, story of their life – together & separated yet connected to each other.

On first impressions, the two protagonists – Aditya & Radhika seem completely different from each other like the two ends of a diameter. As a result, when the story starts, the reader might get the illusion of two parallel stories running together. But as the story progresses and oscillates between the past & the present, the readers get a glimpse of their romantic entanglements. The major highlight of this read is its unique narration where the point of view keeps alternating between Aditya & Radhika with each chapter. It is indeed a great effort by the author in deviating from the normal pattern of narration and giving the reader an insight of both the protagonists’ views without being repetitive.

However, for me the best part of this read was the character development. Aditya & Radhika are both flawed & complex characters with many layers to them. At the start of the read both might seem spiteful, shallow even. However, as the story unfolds, these various layers are slowly peeled off and with each flashback the readers get a glimpse into their real world, their insecurities, their regrets and vulnerabilities. Aditya & Radhika - both get hurt throughout the course of their life, sometimes by others and sometimes by each other. Initially, they try to shield each other from the pain by playing the sacrificial lamb but when even that doesn’t work, they start shielding themselves from the pain further by hurting each other. As the plot progresses, the characters grow and transform from being hated to someone being empathized. Another highlight of this novel was the wonderful manner in which their paths kept intersecting in spite of them running away from each other.

The plot has its own tides and ebbs making it  gripping at times and slightly drab at others. The constant oscillation between the past & the present is at times a bit confusing. However, for a major part of the read, the reader remains hooked. The author has sketched real & relatable characters and that too helps in making this read riveting. All in all, this is a thought provoking read which will keep the reader engrossed.