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Me Before You-Jojo Moyes

Me Before You-Jojo Moyes

“Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes came as the much needed refreshing read, after I had completed the “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak. I largely read soft romances, though I don’t truly consider myself a romantic person. Probably that’s why I end up picking up these books. But, Me Before You isn’t one of those books with oodles of romance. In fact, I wouldn’t even want to categorize it under this genre. Yet, it is one of those books that give an emotional tug at the heart.

Louisa Clark has no great ambitions in life. Nor does she have any great desires. She is pretty much content with the simple life she lives- a close-knit family, a steady relationship and her job at the café. But life surely has other plans for her, and when she loses her job, she is forced to work as the caretaker for a quadriplegic, to sustain her family’s living and expenses. With no experience whatsoever, Louisa is to handle the wheel chair bound Will Traynor, who is nothing short of being bossy, moody and snappy, at most times. Having lived an active life, Will is yet to accept his fate, and consider life worth living. Louisa has a tough task at hand-handling his regime, medical condition as well as his state of mind. Slowly as Louisa learns to manage, and tries to bring in more cheer, she learns of Will’s shocking plans for his life. And that’s when she sets out to show him what life is all about. Would she succeed in this endeavor? What’s their relationship destined to be? Me Before You is a beautiful journey between two distinctly apart individuals, who happen to cross paths in life.

Jojo Moyes has a touch of polish in her writing as she laces her story with the right choice of words, conveying emotions in an almost perfect way. I found the book a lot predictable though, towards the end. But the quick flow in the narration kept me going. Life is surely all about choices and the book touches upon one such sensitive topic – euthanasia. I however felt, Jojo Moyes could have brought in some scope for introspection on this topic in her story. Also, looking at the book from a disabled’s point of view, I felt it didn’t bring in any positive light in thought processes.

Me Before You is just a sweet tale. Not overtly touchy and not too fading either. You would find fun-filled conversations that bring in a smile and at the same time portions that would make you all sullen. If you are die-hard romance fan, then this book may disappoint you. Otherwise just enjoy the real characters, honest and well-sketched. Me Before You is not a tear-jerker, but the story of Louisa and Will would leave a lasting impression on your mind.

The Book Thief By Markus Zusak- Review

The Book Thief By Markus Zusak- Review

Heard of books that feed the soul? The Book Thief may well be considered one. Let me tell you at the onset, this book isn’t for those who seek a light and quick read. Nor is it for those, who like all things bright and happy.

The Book Thief is for you if you love to get right into the skin of the characters. It is for you if experimental fiction thrills you. It is for you, if you love reading about the Holocaust, even if it is something you have heard enough about.

Set in Nazi Germany, it is the unforgettable story of Liesel Meminger, who is left in the care of the Hubermanns by her mother, when she is no longer able to afford her care. Meagre existence, the times of Hitler’s reign, bomb raids and the lurking fear of shrouding a Jew in their home, young Liesel sees it all. Yet, amidst all this, she discovers something she cannot resist- her love for books. It all begins, with Liesel’s brother passing away, and she finds herself stealing her first book- The Gravedigger’s Handbook. She considers it her last link to her brother. Nightmares begin to haunt her each night after that, of her brother’s death. But slowly in the care of her foster father Hans Hubermann, she finds warmth, and learns to read.

Liesel begins to settle down in her new life on Himmel Street. Despite the fear filled times of Nazi Germany, she finds herself bonding with Rudy, stealing food from farmers and, books from the mayor’s library. The book traces the events of World War II, with loved ones joining the Army camp, attacks by the Allies, and bomb raids. Liesel finds life disrupted, strewn across, as she fights to pick up its threads and weave it back in place. But how successful is she? What does life have in store for her post the war? The poignant book would surely leave a lump in your throat, as you bring that last page to a close.

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Markus Zusak’s Book Thief is surely startling in many ways. However, be prepared to sink into its vastness. The book is big and expansive, all with is 552 pages. It could have been more concise. There are portions that stretch and make reading slow. But then, it gives you a better understanding of life in those fear filled years of Nazi Germany.

What stood out in the book is the unique perspective, with “Death” as the story teller. The story of Liesel, brought out in a philosophic way, from death’s point of view. Yet, this book is nothing about death and dying. The writing is elegant, with expressive metaphors. Zusak throws in fate and chance encounters, to make them collide in a seamless fashion.

It surely is yet another book about the Holocaust. I wouldn’t want to compare this with the masterpiece- Schindler’s Ark. But, The Book Thief does a fair amount of justice to the subject. I wasn’t soaked in tears when I completed it, but yes, did sit in pensive though for a while. It is no easy read, and it takes a while for the book to fully sink into you. You need to give this book that time, to savor and truly appreciate all the metaphors and personifications it holds.

The Mother I Never Knew By Sudha Murty

The Mother I Never Knew By Sudha Murty

Last weekend I completed reading Sudha Murty’s “The mother I never knew”. A collection of two simple novellas, the book gives a peek into families and their past secrets- and how important are they in the here and now.

The book presents two different men and their stories. Venkatesh the bank manager, accidently stumbles upon his father’s past and discovers an abandoned wife and child. On the other hand Mukesh, the son of a well-to-do man, discovers on his father’s death that he was actually adopted. Both men accidently uncover a past, to find a mother they never knew existed. How do both of them make amends?

The Mother I Never Knew is a poignant dramatic book, reaching into not only human emotions but also subtly touching upon various social evils exiting in our society.

Sudha Murty writes in her trademark style- simple narration sans superfluous words. Both the tales are humble, straight forward stories. I wouldn’t call them something new, ‘cause books and movies have portrayed similar ones before. Nevertheless, I liked Sudha Murty’s touch as she delves into social practices and evils that exist in our society.

After substantial amount of serious reading this book seemed a breeze to me. The first novella “Venkatesh” kept me reading as narration moved on to events in a quick pace. However she could have surely omitted a couple of dialogues among the key characters, which seemed a bit irrelevant to me. The second novella “Mukesh” was quite a letdown. The plot dragged on and moved towards being very predictable. I liked the fact that in both the novellas the melo-drama was kept minimal.

The Mother I Never Knew may surely not be Sudha Murty’s best of fictions. If you would love to get a flavor of North Karnataka and its ways, this book could give you that experience. Otherwise I would call it an average read, which could be completed in a single sitting.

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!!!

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!!

Chetan Bhagat- Review of One Indian Girl

Chetan Bhagat- Review of One Indian Girl

Chetan Bhagat is truly the most loved or, the most hated author in the country. Surely, on one side we have a large percentage of readers who simply cannot stop adoring his books, and on the other side there is a larger number who simply dislike his books. Despite all the brickbats he receives for his featured columns in major dailies, or for his stint as a judge on a reality show, Chetan Bhagat’s books do sell and they rake in the moolahs!!

To me he is neither good nor a bad writer. He is average and yes, definitely over-rated. Reading a Chetan Bhagat is akin to watching a Karan Johar or maybe a Salman Khan movie. Loaded with emotions and relationship tangles, the plot may lack depth, with seldom any logic. Yet we all watch them once in a way. Chetan Bhagat books are no great pieces of literature, yet they appeal to the masses, and that’s why his books are ranked as a best seller and I do enjoy reading them once in a way.

Getting to his latest book- One Indian Girl…

Radhika Mehta is educated, intelligent and ambitious. She is a topper of sorts and after her MBA degree from IIM; she lands herself a job as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. She heads to New York, to start her professional life, much to her parents’ dislike, who are more than keen to see her married at 21. New York is an all new world for Radhika. She lives her life and accomplishes on the professional front, earning a bonus her father seldom saw in his entire banking career. Her mother though doesn’t appreciate it and the pressure to “settle” down into matrimony is mounted upon her. Fighting away the stereotypes, Radhika, does well professionally, has a string of relationships that makes her move base, from New York, to Hong Kong and then to London. It teaches her life’s important lessons and gives her an insight into what she wants and who she exactly is.

She eventually decides to settle down into an arranged marriage, when the unforeseen happens. Her ex-es land up at her marriage venue. Radhika’s mind is in the biggest of turmoil’s. With her wedding just 24 hours away, she has her present and past all in one place. Who would she choose and why? What exactly is in the mind of this one Indian girl? Read the book to understand this as Chetan touches that one raw nerve- feminism.

The books delves into the deep lying patriarchy in Indian society. The restrictions that are not spoken about yet exist all around us. Radhika deals with an insecure boyfriend who cannot handle her earning more than him and later a married boss who becomes her lover, but seldom acknowledges that she could want to start a family too. Neither of the men she encounters understand that she could want to have both worlds- a home as well as a career.

The narration and content is candid and simple, filled with relatable incidents and connections. Chetan brings in the entertainment element with the dramatic Punjabi family, loaded with aunts and cousins galore, plus a wedding scene to top up the drama factor. I loved Radhika’s characterization, and her evolving from a simple West Delhi girl to a chick smart corporate woman. The narration in female first person is impressive, with the entire story conveyed as Radhika’s thoughts and views.

I liked Chetan’s view and stand on feminism. In a world where everything is almost a hype, and the true meaning of feminism lost somewhere, he brings out the choices that women are forced to make.

Yet, the book fails on many fronts. Highly predictable, it isn’t very different from his earlier ones. There is a degree of monotony in the tone and yes, you could comfortably skip a couple of pages. It also lacked that “spark” and humor that would have made the book otherwise a better read.

Surely Chetan Bhagat may be no great writer, but his Bollywood inspired writing does make him a fairly decent story teller.  Worth a one-time relaxed read ‘cause when you do finish that last page and close the book, you are left behind with a smile — and thinking.

Would it be a future Bollywood block buster? Well only time can tell that!

The Secret of God’s Son- Usha Narayanan

The Secret of God’s Son- Usha Narayanan

‘The seas will devour the glorious city of Dwaraka. People will forget your name and your Gita!
May the world perish! May the world perish!’

This is the cruel curse Queen Gandhari throws upon Krishna. Mankind plunges into the evil of Kali Yuga. It is now on the shoulders of Krishna to reverse this curse and prediction. As he journeys through terrifying realms, he confronts Yama the Lord of Death and Shiva the destroyer and, vanquishes the Kali demon. He must lead his people out of the swirling vortex of greed, disease and misery. And there is one powerful weapon still — the secret surrounding his origin. Will he uncover it in time to fight off the cataclysm? In the answer lies the destiny of all humanity!

The Secret of God’s Son is the sequel to the highly acclaimed book Pradyumna- Son of Krishna by Usha Narayanan. After a successful career in advertising, radio and corporate communications Usha became a full-time writer. She is the author of several books including The Madras Mangler, a suspense thriller and Love, Lies and Layoffs, a lighthearted office romance.

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The book takes you on an interesting journey along with Pradyumna for, he is going to be the savior of all of mankind. It’s a cruel curse that Queen Gandhari cast upon Lord Krishna, and the consequences are not going to be good. Pradyumna has to save mankind from the evil clutches of Kali. He of course has the support of his loving wife Maya, yet, for Pradyumna this is no easy task. How does he do this and emerge victorious? Does he manage to reverse the curse? Loaded with the right blend of emotions, action, battle and drama, the “The Secret of God’s Son” would intrigue you right from its first few pages, till the end when you finally put down the book.

I loved Pradyumna’s characterization. He is charismatic yet has those shades of grey similar to what each one of us has within us. He asks rightful questions that stir your morals and conscious and you question yourself from deep within. Not to forget the characterization of Maya and the role of women as wives and mothers. Relevant in every way in today’s life and times.

Excerpt from the book: 

“Pradyumna smiled at Maya, knowing that this was just the beginning. Women such as those who had assembled here would provide the stability that the world needed in order to survive. Dharma could not win if half of humanity was denied their rightful place…”

The plot is strewn with twists and turns leaving you intrigued and drawing you into the vortex of the story. The climax of the book was perfect with the appearance of Kali. A visually stimulating read!

If you are a lover of the great Epics, Usha Narayananan’s The Son of God’s Son, won’t disappoint you. Usha has surely lived up to her reputation with this sequel. Rightly paced, with in depth research she knows how to bring out the best in a genre that’s generally a toughie for writers- mythology.

Another Excerpt from the Book:

“Draupadi will be the most beautiful woman on earth,’ declared a heavenly voice. And she will bring doom to the arrogant warrior clans.

The smoke turned black. Thunder rumbled in a cloudless sky. The priests felt a dread worse than death. Their eyes shut in fear and they failed to perceive the goddess, black as the void, who flashed out of the girl’s body. It was mighty Chandika, the fierce avatar of Durga, destined to devour the world using Draupadi as her medium.

Years passed. Blessed by the goddess, Draupadi grew into an enchanting woman. When Drupada arranged for her swayamvara, the kings who came to vie for her hand were spellbound by her charms. But she turned them away in disdain. She laughed at Duryodhana, the mighty Kuru prince. She scorned his companion Karna and called him low-born. The kings who failed to win her hand cursed her for her arrogance. And all the while, Chandika watched from above, her lips curled in contempt……”

Book Review- A Broken Man by Akash Verma

Book Review- A Broken Man by Akash Verma

What’s our country like? Look beyond the glitz and glamour of the metros, and you would find a nation plagued by discrimination, caste systems and political skirmishes. And bringing out these very shades of the country is Akash Verma’s love saga – A Broken Man.

Akash Verma, based out of Gurgaon, India has authored two bestsellers till now- It Happened that Night and Three Times Loser. His work has taken him across the country and this travel experience of his reflects in his writing.

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A Broken Man delves deep into the lives of Krishna and Chhavi- two young souls who meet in a politically charged environment of the Lucknow University Campus. From the upper echelons of society, Chhavi is the intelligent and pretty Brahmin girl who falls in love with the humble Dalit boy Krishna, from an obscure village in Bihar. Hardships and poverty are part and parcel of his life. But destiny brings them closer and nothing really can pull them apart. For Krishna, she is an inspiration to pursue his dreams, of writing. For Chhavi, Krishna is the simple and honest boy she has always been in search of. She propagates equality and is seldom affected by the caste and status of Krishna. But will the same destiny that got them together give them a future? A Broken Man is this quest of a poor and deprived Krishna who goes in search of hope, love and a meaning to his life.

A simple story, sans sub plots, sure does give A Broken Man an edge. Yet, it did seem to be yet another class based love story, which one has read earlier in books or seen in movies. What really scores for Verma, is the simplicity in his narration. It was raw and real. No superfluous language or out of the box characters. Chhavi and Krishna, the two main characters of the book are believable personalities – ones you would encounter anywhere around. I liked the fact that issues such as reservation, corruption and politics were addressed, blending well with the main story. Did notice a few minor glitches of editing though.

 Take a deep breath before you are born here, my child! You take birth in a land where I struggled; Gave it my sweat and blood. A land that I thought belonged to me..… Unbridled, uncompromising.”

-From A Broken Man

Love goes beyond boundaries- of religion, caste, creed and nations. But the pain of separation grows deep within. A Broken Man with its straight forward story line may well be worth a  read, if you enjoy reading about India, want a light read and

Murder in the Mews- Agatha Christie

Murder in the Mews- Agatha Christie

There are murder mysteries and then there is Hercule Poirot! This Belgian detective is surely AGATHA Christie’s greatest creation. Charming and not so modest about it, Hercule Poirot is known for his eccentric mannerisms. But well! He sure does manage to solve each of his cases with a dramatic twist. No wonder he has been the centerpiece in many of Christie’s novels.

And as the man himself says- “My name is Hercule Poirot, and I am probably the greatest detective in the world.” – Hercule Poirot in The Mystery of the Blue Train

And we don’t doubt that, do we?

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It’s been over twenty years, since the day I picked up that first Agatha Christie from my neighborhood library. Ever since, I have been intrigued by her writing style, the narration and the element of suspense the books carried. I have read a fairly large number of her books. And I don’t mind re-reading a couple of them. My recent “re-read” pick was Murder in the Mews. The book is essentially a collection of novellas that are light-hearted British murder cases. Four whodunit cases, each with an unexpected ending. It is a book that you would simply not want to put down.

The stories are set in the early 20th century, and give you a quick peek into British culture too. Señor Hercule Poirot with his razor sharp mind is all out to solve the four cases.

  • Case 1: How did A woman holding a pistol in her right hand manage to shoot herself in the left temple?
  • Case 2: An important letter is stolen at the time when an apparition was spotted. What’s the link?
  • Case 3: A rich old man is found dead in his study. Conflicting reports as to his mood during the day and who among the guests at his estate may have had a motive to slay the chap.
  • Case 4: Triangle at Rhodes-A marital triangle leads to foul murder but the ending will surprise you. 

The stories are short and crisp. But I somehow missed the elaborate investigative style that makes Hercule Poirot the man that he is. There is this element of eccentricity he carries, when he thinks aloud or, when he discusses the case with his aide Hastings. These conversations would often lead readers to come out with their own conclusions. And I quite missed Hastings too, who seemed to have done a disappearing act in all four of the novellas.

Murder in the Mews, nevertheless, is loaded with vigor and suspense. Brilliantly paced tales of murder and deceit. A must for all Agatha Christie’s fans!!