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Book Review: The Mask Diaries By Abhinav Goel

Book Review: The Mask Diaries By Abhinav Goel

Heard of the great Persian epic Sohrab and Rustum? It is that tale of the brave warrior Rustum who unknowingly slays his long-lost son Sohrab, in a single combat. A tale of valor, though it may seem, but this epic is not just about war, death and battle. It brings out the ironies of life. It brings out pride and anger – the masks we wear. It is about good and of evil existing within the protagonist and all around him too. Taking a cue from this great epic is Abhinav Goel’s The Mask Diaries. Profound and deep, the book is soul stirring, spiritual and takes you on a path of self-discovery.

The Mask Diaries- The fascinating story of Sohrab

He is cursed with a troubled and painful childhood. But his gift is enormous and overwhelming in every way. Blessed with the ability to read and influence minds around him, Sohrab is all set to journey around the globe. As a mind reader, he finds immense success, yet, he finds himself torn between the good and the evil. And that’s when, unable to conquer over his alter ego, Sohrab destroy all that he has- the fame, the adulation and the love received. The book is his journey as he lives life over five decades. Sohrab sees the world and takes you along with him on a journey, with him across the Himalayas, all the way to Paris and Hungary, towards self-acceptance.

“How beautiful this day is, how replete with the perfection of life! On days like these I wish to tear the Mask off my face for good, for I have everything that I ever aspired for. Yet, as I aspire to do the unthinkable, I realize that the Mask hides the skeletons of my past beneath it and the moment I tear it off, I will become naked in front of the world…” – excerpt from The Mask Diaries.

Truth of life- In a whole new avatar!

The narration surely stands out.  Very often books that belong to the genre of experiential, psychological or spiritual tend to become quite a heavy read for me. However, The Mask Diaries was quite the opposite. What appealed to me was the way the story line was dealt with. Crisp narration, a neatly laid out plot and characters etched with perfection, the book was indeed a pleasure to read.

The story is narrated in the voices of the protagonist, his mask, wife and son. The multiple voices did seem to confuse me in certain parts, but the story line gripped me and its flow soon cleared the cloud. Characters are easily identifiable, those we bump into each and every day of our life. The book is decently paced too and incidents are relevant in every way to today’s world.

I loved the way Sohrab’s childhood has been described. The vivid descriptions played on my mind and stayed well after I had closed that last page and had put the book down. It got me into a sort of introspection mode. I smiled with the book, fell in love and was also moved to tears. I lazed on my arm-chair book in hand, closing my eyes, drifting away in thoughts.

My Take 

Love self-realization books? Then The Mask Diaries could well be the one for you. It would prove to be a perfect thought-provoking read on a lazy afternoon. Oh well, otherwise too. It has the power to heal your soul. It teaches you to face your fears, and inspires you in many a ways. Along with the spiritual journey of the protagonist, the book leads you too, towards self-acceptance. From the depth of your mind, it churns out your darker shades and guides you towards forgiveness.

An interesting read!!!

Weekend Read- Jeffrey Archer Kane and Abel

Weekend Read- Jeffrey Archer Kane and Abel

“Fortune favours the brave”
— Jeffrey Archer (Kane and Abel)

After a string of average reads, I finally read something that made me say WOW!!!! Jeffrey Archer surely has woven magic in Kane and Abel (The story has nothing to do with the Biblical Cain and Abel). This book has it all- History, romance, suspense and drama. Kane and Able is a masterpiece, all with its well-developed story line that draw you right into each page.

The story of William Kane and Abel Rosnovski

They were both born on the same day in different parts of the world, totally unrelated. The two are distinctly apart, yet similar in many ways. Where William is the son of a Boston based Billionaire, Abel is a poor Polish immigrant out in the world seeking fortune. And when fate makes their paths cross, there is hatred, and an all-consuming rage to build their empire. Who succeeds? Do they learn to survive or is it the inevitable-of destroying each other?

 A must for enthusiastic readers

Kane and Abel is a beautifully carved saga that would mesmerize you at every stage. I first read this book when I was in high school, and just couldn’t resist reading it a second time. Some books indeed are captivating and the story would linger on longer than you think. What stands out is the brilliant characterization. Two strong minded individuals, from completely different backgrounds, yet are essentially similar, deep down in their hearts. They may be despicable, yet scratch within and you would surely find that spot of compassion and warmth. I have read other Jeffrey Archer books but nothing has come close to Kane and Abel, I must say. With a compelling story, it touches on a range of subjects, from the times of World War 1, till post World War 2 times. I struggled to put down the book.

The sore point

The book is voluminous and there are sub-plots crammed into each of the pages. Major portions of the story are purely descriptive without much of dialogues. I found a few of the chapters to be stretched. And with the narration oscillating between the two characters- “Kane and Abel”, I was a bit lost. Quite forgot what had been happening with the other character when I returned to him in subsequent chapters.

Nevertheless Kane and Abel is a masterpiece and a must read. The book is today considered an international success. Despite over 30 years of its release, it is still among the top on the New York Times best-seller list and among the top 100 list of best-selling books in the world. The sequel to Kane and Abel is The Prodigal Daughter, in which Florentyna Kane is the protagonist.

Kane and Abel is available in e-book format for Kindle Readers and paperback format on Amazon.in

Book Review: Before We Visit The Goddess By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Book Review: Before We Visit The Goddess By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

“What is the nature of life?
Life is lines of dominoes falling.
One thing leads to another, and then another, just like you’d planned. But suddenly a Domino gets skewed, events change direction, people dig in their heels, and you’re faced with a situation that you didn’t see coming, you who thought you were so clever.”
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Before We Visit the Goddess

If ever you feel like reading a fiction, that holds within its pages a deep tale, with elements of profoundness, pick Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Her writing surpasses all, and the stories never fail to grip me. Here earlier books such as Palace of illusions, Oleander Girl and Mistress of Spices, have been bestsellers and portrayed human relationships and its complexities in a unique way. The latest, “Before we Visit the Goddess” is yet another brilliant book from Divakaruni that recounts an unseen tale spanning across three generations, between mothers and daughters.

The storyline

“Before We Visit the Goddess” opens with Sabitri. Frail and stricken with old age, she has never met her American born granddaughter Tara. When she hears her granddaughter considering dropping out of college, she begins writing a letter to her detailing her own life, reminiscing the past. She was the daughter of a poor sweet meat -maker in rural Bengal. As a young girl when Sabitri falls in love with a boy from a rich household, little did she realize she would be discarded from her own community. Her life takes a turn when she seeks refuge in a professor whom she eventually marries.

Years later, she finds herself yet again staring at an uncertain future, as her husband dies, forcing Sabitri to take charge of life and her daughter Bela. Fighting all odds she sets up Durga sweets making it into a successful enterprise. Over the years, life and fate take her on a roller coaster ride. Bela, haunted by her mother’s choices, flees to America with the one she loved. But destiny had other plans and Bela is forced to search for her own path. Disconnected from her country and culture, she passes on much more than the bitterness of her life onto her daughter Tara.

Portrayal of characters

Emotions well portrayed, the tale describes a mother as she tries to save her own child from making the mistakes she had made years back. Yet she is unable to do so, generation after another. Sabitri is ambitious and resilient. Bela is talented and strong willed, yet lack’s the enterprising skill and ambition her mother possessed. Tara, disconnected from her roots, grows into a rebel. Her relationship with her mother remains rocky, as she throws away an education to find herself a monotonous job instead. All three women are distinctly apart, yet none crumble despite the agony and pain of betrayal they encounter. As relationships fall apart, its pieces are more difficult to gather. Yet the three generation attempt to find respect and purpose in life, trying to put as much of the pieces back together.

What I liked…. and did not too!

I loved the seamless integration of the three women and their lives across the years. Divakaruni’s characterization is a masterwork indeed. So is her prose. There were lines in the book that stayed with me much after I closed that last page.

However, parts of the book seemed to drag on with meaningless references. There were several loose ends that hardly had any conclusive narration. The book does open on an interesting note, but the climax doesn’t really do justice to the prose and closes on a rather hurried note. And yes.. The title of the book is quite a mystery to me. I can’t really fit in its significance.

Nevertheless Chitra Divakurni’s prose steals the show. Worth a read!!

The Very Best of R.K. Narayan (Timeless Malgudi)

The Very Best of R.K. Narayan (Timeless Malgudi)

Two decades ago, as a little girl, I was mesmerized by Malgudi days. The program was telecast on Doordarshan with a new RK Narayan story every episode. I loved RK Narayan then, and I still love his stories. There can be no better author who can describe the magic of everyday life, the common man, his pains, joys, and his zest in life.  

RK Narayan may not be amidst us today, but his writing career that spanned over seven decades still speaks volumes. His fictitious town Malgudi, and its host of unforgettable characters sure do win over hearts even now. For me, RK Narayan lives on, fresh, and his stories never fail to give me joy.

“How can two living entities possessing intelligence and judgement ever be tied together for a lifetime?”
― R.K. Narayan, Malgudi Days

The book “The Very Best of RK Narayan, Timeless Malgudi”, is a selection of his best- both fiction as well as Nonfiction. It has the timeless short stories such as A Horse and two goats and Astrologers day. The popular fiction The Guide charms you with its wit and humor. The compilation offers a good variety of tales. Each of the stories present everyday life with elegance, and with a humorous twist at times. And probably that’s the reason why I love RK Narayan so much.

Read one story a day at bed time and see the magic these tales weave on you.

If you love RK Narayan short stories, this book would surely not disappoint you. The book is available as a free read under Kindle Unlimited for e book readers!!

The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk-Sudha Murty

The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk-Sudha Murty

Reading real life stories are often so much more enjoyable than fiction. Sudha Murty’s “The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk” is one such book. The pages bring out Sudha Murty’s experiences as she lays down her learning on humanity and life.

It may seem to be no great literary work; yet, this book will surely win your heart over. There is absolutely no use of complex words; with the most simplistic form of narration. The book is a collection of 23 short stories and each one of them would leave you taking a peek into your inner self. The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk captivated me from its first page right till the end.

“It is very difficult to earn trust. It takes years to build and it can be destroyed in an instant by one bad deed. Trust requires an enormous amount of integrity and you have to prove every time that you are worthy of it. I am very grateful to our society and community.”
― Sudha Murty, The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk: Life Lessons from Here and There

What sets the book apart is that the stories aren’t fiction but real life experiences. Sudha Murty takes you on journeys across India, from Bombay, to Bangalore, to Orissa, places where she has touched lives through the Infosys foundation.

I loved the story of Vishnu, who achieves material success but knows not what happiness is. Another tale that gave me a sense of optimism, is that of a young girl who runs away from her step mom’s home, to be later found on a train bound to Bangalore. That journey changed the course of her life. All of the stories are about people, the kinds we all bump into every single day, in our office, home and neighborhood.

A light inspirational read with an amazing takeaway that would linger long in your mind. For those who don’t like voluminous books, and seek some quick food for thought, this book is a perfect read.

Book Review- The Spy By Paulo Coelho

Book Review- The Spy By Paulo Coelho

The Spy is Coelho’s account of the accused World War 1 double Spy – Mata Hari. He places his story close to the real facts; well of course in his own style. For those who aren’t familiar with who Mata Hari is, this book could be an eye opener on who she was.  I wouldn’t call it a spy thriller, but a historical drama pre-World War 1, written in an autobiographical style. Not a very bulky book, I managed to complete it in a single reading.

The Spy- Story of Mata Hari 

Mata Hari was executed by a firing squad in Paris on Oct. 15, 1917. Born Margaretha Zelle to a bourgeois family in Holland, she was raped by her school principal at the age of 16. Desperate to leave Holland soon after, she marries a Dutch army captain and moves to Indonesia. However, the officer abuses her physically and sexually for years. After attending a military function, where she witnesses another military wife’s suicide and a performance by Javanese dancers, Margaretha is inspired to rebel and return to Europe.

She soon makes her way to Paris, and reincarnates herself as Mata Hari, to become an erotic dancer where she combines Java-esque dance moves and strip tease. With her titillating performances, she quickly catapults to fame in the priciest nightclubs and becomes the toast of Paris. At a time when tensions among nations build up, Mata Hari is invited to perform in Berlin. Oblivious to the approaching hostilities of the War, she goes only to find that she is being recruited as a spy for the Kaiser.  What follows is a twist of fate for Mata Hari and she is caught in a web of political Vendetta.

Mata Hari as she was!

“Love is an act of faith & its face should always be covered in mystery. Every moment should be lived with feeling & emotion because if we try to decipher it & understand it, the magic disappears.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Spy

Narration style

The book traces the entire story of Mata Hari through two fictional letters- one written by Mata Hari to her defense attorney, M. Clunet; and another written by Clunet to Mata Hari. I liked this style, where Mata Hari narrates her own story, unmasking her persona, life and desires. The helplessness in Clunet on not being able to save her from the firing squad is well depicted too. Through this narration, Coelho has brought out facets of Mata Hari, as a deeply flawed woman, and whose sexuality helped her gain power and favors. She has the skill to influence men, having her own inflated sense of power, very often behaving recklessly.

What failed in the book

Despite bringing about a sympathetic feel to Mata Hari, I found her depiction pretty sketchy. The book breathes and speaks Mata Hari. Yet, I felt an element of inadequacy in the story line. There seemed an abruptness in the way the book saw its end. 

Take away from the book

Not really Paulo Coelho’s usual, but surely worth a one time read. If I had to pick out one thing that lingered on after I closed that last page, it is the fact that Mata Hari defied male expectations of her time and dared to live an unconventional life. And that’s one reason why her story deserves a read.

Book Review: The Girl of My Dreams By Durjoy Dutta

Book Review: The Girl of My Dreams By Durjoy Dutta

read my first Durjoy Dutta book this weekend, and I must say I loved it. It surely was an unusual blend – of a love story and a psychological thriller. The Girl of my Dreams is an intricate tale of different shades of human persona. It has madness, mess, love and, manages to keep you on the edge from the first page.

The Book…

The book traces Daman’s journey in search of the “Girl of his Dreams”. Having met with a massive accident, Daman wakes up from a deep coma, with weird memory flashes. He seems to remember nothing about the accident, except that there was a girl named Shreyasi by his side at the time of the accident. Her hypnotic eyes seem to haunt him, and flashes of her face seem to appear in his dreams. Strangely, soon after, he meets a woman who claims she is the Shreyasi- the girl from his dreams. But is she the real one, whom Daman believes it to be or, is she simply just an obsessive lover and stalker? Unraveling this mystery is now entirely in Daman’s hands.

Characters & Plot

Every character has been etched in a fairly decent manner. Well-developed to suit the plot, whether it is the confused Daman, the more composed girl-friend Avni or the stable friend, Sumit. I loved the way Durjoy has brought out the flaws and insecurities that probably every relationship goes through.

Plot has multiple twists and turns. And as you tell yourself that you have probably guessed the outcome, would come yet another turn, which would change the course of the tale. The first half of the book races through, keeping you hooked. I wouldn’t say the same about the second half, as it tends to get a bit chaotic. A couple of portions seemed out of context. The narration could have been kept crisper, omitting unnecessary detailing.  

The Finale

An average climax with traces of a commercial Bollywood flick, I felt a little let down with the outcome. For the suspense that was built through the course of the book, the ending could have been worked out a little better.

The Girl of My Dreams by Durjoy Dutta is a novel of love, romance, thrills and suspense

A fast-paced metro read !!!

*Featured Image Courtesy: twitter
Best Fiction I Have Read in 2016- The Girl On the Train By Paula Hawkins

Best Fiction I Have Read in 2016- The Girl On the Train By Paula Hawkins

So “The Girl on the Train” it is- the adult fiction book that topped The New York Times Fiction Best Seller list in 2016, in the Combined Print & E-Book Fiction category. It was for 10 weeks at the top of the list (as of October 30th), followed by Me Before You by Jojo Moyes with 7 weeks. With positive reviews right from the start, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins may seem yet another story, of love, lust and infidelity.

Yet, according to me, what clicked in the book is that element of suspense the narration held within it all along. Yes, indeed towards the end the book did get predictable, but otherwise, the book did have the right amount of clues thrown in at the right time. The Girl on the Train worked for me and here’s why it did.

The Plot
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day it’s the same route, moving past cozy suburban homes, and stopping at the signal that allows her to catch a glimpse of the same couple. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. 

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And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough for everything to change. Soon she is deeply entangled, in her own life as well as in the lives of many others. I wouldn’t want to divulge too much on the plot, but similar to other thrillers its best for readers to dive in on their own. The plot was cinematic indeed with vivid descriptions that played on my mind.

The Element of Suspense

None of the revelations in The Girl on the Train are straight forward. They keep you guessing, so as you read, the plot may seem to get murkier indeed.

The Ending
The only thing that left me disappointed was the ending, which played out like a movie scene. I felt it was a bit underdone, with elements of melodrama and action strewn in.

Despite this, a novel like “The Girl on the Train” is definitely a must read. It plays on your mind, pulls you into it and ensures you read it till that last page. That’s the power of Paula Hawkins and her well executed narration.

Book Review- Yashodhara Lal- When Love Finds You

Book Review- Yashodhara Lal- When Love Finds You

was recently told by an upcoming Indian author that my book reviews seldom present any Indian author and his book in positive light. Probably this is true, but it isn’t something I do with a pre-conceived notion or thought. At the beginning of 2016, when people were signing up for reading challenges on Goodreads, I took up a relatively different kind of challenge, of reading more Indian authors. We do have a fairly large publishing industry in our country, which churns out books by the dozens every month. Sadly, by the end of the year, I must say that I am a tad disappointed. 

Except for a few books, most of them aren’t really great literary pieces. Don’t get me wrong here. There is enough talent among Indian authors. There are decent story lines, and the comprehension and writing is fine too, considering English isn’t really the mother tongue of most. Yet, clearly, most books failed to leave a lasting impression. That magic, story tellers need to weave into their story to ensure readers are able to take something of the book when that last page is turned over, is missing. Most books are strewn with editing errors too.

Many authors, whose first book was a fantastic read, have failed to create the same impression with their subsequent ones. Yashodhara Lal’s latest book “When Love Finds You” is one such book. I loved her first book,Just Married, Please Excuse. It was a decent blend of humor and brilliant story telling. However, her latest book isn’t  anywhere close to this. 

Natasha, the protagonist in “When Love Finds You” is the strong willed working woman. She is the badaas boss, and she literally pushes her sub-ordinates to their limits to perform and bring in sales numbers. She is single and is sure that she has her life under control. At this moment enter, two new people into the office space, and into her life- Rishabh and Nikhil. Both are her superiors, smart and the entire office seems to drool over their looks. But things turn out a little different for Natasha as she begins to detest one, and the relationship with the other takes on a whole new form. Taking it on from here the book explores the emotional turmoil of Natasha, and how life teaches her to make some important decisions.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part is an over stretched corporate saga, strewn with characters with no relevance. The second part delves into Natasha’s relationships. I liked the way the transformation in her is portrayed here, from the badaas girl to a mellower person. She sure is the tough boss, but she needs a bit of love and care too. The story actually picks up momentum from the third part onwards. I loved the way Yashodhara subtly highlights the stigma attached with a single successful woman. They are often considered vulnerable and face challenges in the form of sexual harassment too.

I wouldn’t really say the story line is something new, though I did like parts of it. It’s got a fairly predictable ending, and doesn’t really leave a lingering feeling after that last page is closed. Yashodhara Lal’s latest surely failed to impress!!

About the Author:

Yashodhara Lal is an IIM-Bangalore graduate who has worked across FMCG, technology and media companies, most often in marketing and most recently in leading corporate social responsibility for a large MNC. She is also a fitness instructor and a yoga and music enthusiast and lives in Gurgaon with her three loud children and perpetually bemused husband. Her bestselling titles include Just Married, Please Excuse (2012), Sorting Out Sid (2014) and There’s Something About You (2015). She is also working on a children’s book, Peanut has a Plan, due for release in 2016. When Love Finds You is Yashodhara’s fourth book.

 

Book Review- The Legend Of Lakshmi Prasad by Twinkle Khanna

Book Review- The Legend Of Lakshmi Prasad by Twinkle Khanna

So folks, she’s back again! And this time not as the columnist who tickles those “Funny Bones”, but as a fiction writer, well, a short story writer to be precise. Twinkle Khanna aka Mrs. Akshay Kumar is out with her second book. The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad hit the stands a couple of days ago.  Her earlier work of non-fiction, despite all the negative criticisms, did quite keep me entertained. This time around, Twinkle Khanna brings four women-centric short stories packed into one paperback. With 287 pages I managed to complete it entirely in one sitting. It indeed is a light read.

Let’s get to the first story, about young Lakshmi Prasad – a simple narrative of female empowerment in rural India. It is the story of courage and hope when Lakshmi stands up against the patriarchal practices in society and guides them to look beyond. Noni Appa, in the second story finds love blossoming in her life during her twilight years. The third story of Elisa finds her searching for love over multiple marriages. But the most inspiring of them, is the fictionalized story of the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham, inventor of low-cost sanitary napkin machines. This Padmashri Awardee and his life have always intrigued me. It was a pleasure to read a story loosely based on his life.

All the stories broadly touch upon issues concerning women, their rights and concerns,mixed along with Twinkle’s signature style humor. Fairly simple writing, except for the use of unnecessary “superfluous” adjectives at junctures in the story. The underlying issues the book addresses isn’t something we haven’t already heard about. But of course they do need to be spoken about repetitively in a patriarchal society such as ours!!

So did I like the book? I wouldn’t really call it a great piece of fiction, but definitely appreciate the attempt made by Mrs. Funny Bones.

The art of writing short stories requires a certain skill, of being able to invoke the right emotion in those few pages and lines. And this is where Twinkle’s stories fail miserably. I wasn’t drawn to the characters nor did they leave a lasting impression. The writing was indeed simple, but it seemed more like fictitious commentary. Her tongue-in-cheek humor seemed way too out of place in many parts of the story. Though I was glad the stories had a happy end to it, they seemed blur and hurried. Agree that these are short stories, but the rate of build-up of the story and its winding up, just didn’t seem to correlate.

The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad failed to leave a lasting impression. Twinkle Khanna is surely better at writing weekly columns. Fiction doesn’t really seem to be her forte.