Tag Archive | Easy Reads

The Rise of the Sun Prince- Shubha Vilas :46/52

Another Ramayana.

I’ve never been much of a Ramayana fan. I’ve read several versions right from ACK to Devdutt Pattanaik’s Sita and The Book of Ram. Asura too, if it can be counted as a ‘version’ of the book. But somehow The Ramayana has never fascinated me as much as The Mahabarata. Maybe because it is too goody-goody for my liking.

This version is a seven part series (phew!) and this book is just part one. So the narration is detailed and unhurried. Unhurried, but fast paced because I finished the book in two longish sittings on the train while going on my holiday and getting back. It starts off right from the very beginning with how Valmiki got recruited into writing the Ramayana with the background story of his transition from Ratnakar to Valmiki.

This is the Balakanda section and the real hero here is Vishwamitra rather than Rama. But ofcourse, Rama overshadows everything and everyone as he is meant to. Tadakka is killed, Ahalya is ‘restored’, Subahu is burnt to ashes, Maricha is sent flying 800 miles away. Vishwamitra tells the boys stories about Ganga and other rivers and his and their ancestors. Mantras and weapons are shared, wisdom passed on. Moral science lessons are imparted. Rama, of course, is so good and obedient that it almost hurts. Gaah. If a god is born human he should exhibit some human characteristics. A couple of shades of grey won’t hurt, Rama. Lakshmana is just a faint shadow, he does nothing much in this book other than stop a baby Rama from crying.  Ravana and his family get their due mention. Still fresh in my memory as the ‘good’ people from Asura, they are once again painted with that black tar brush here. Dasaratha is the scaredy cat who keeps marrying women to avoid a Kshatriya hating rishi from destroying him. 353 wives and no sons. Serves him right for giving away his only daughter. (Again, Shanta is fresh in my memory after I watched Vaisali last week and read up more about her)

I’ve always been a sceptical semi believer and so I read this book as mythological fiction rather than as The Ramayana. And since I didn’t read it with any reverence, I found the capitalizing of letters when referring to Rama and Sita distracting. This book is pure prose, simple prose and so I felt that the gushy descriptions of  the beauty of Rama and Sita were bit funny and out of place. Moon, sun, lotus blossom beauty. All this works better in poetry or poetic prose. So were the exaggerations such as Ayodhya having twenty million palaces and a moat so large that clouds mistook it for the ocean.  And referring to Dasaratha’s council of ministers the Big-M was simply hilarious.

The footnotes on every page were extremely distracting  and so I stopped reading them after a point. Again, I am forced to draw comparisons to Devdutt Pattanaik’s style of afternotes in each chapter. I prefer trivia tidbits rather than blah in the footnotes. And moral lessons and rules to improve the quality of my life? I’ll give that a pass please.

But yes, I enjoyed the book a lot. Nothing new here, but it was a good read. I’m not eagerly looking forward to the next six parts, but when they’re out, I will most certainly read them. ( Also, there’s some rule and order in which The Ramayana should be read. And if you start one kanda you just have to finish the rest or you’ll get seven rebirths of bad luck something.  I hope Shubha Vilas isn’t bringing bad luck to us)

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

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Love Kills- Ismita Tandon : 33/52

A dead woman. A dead man. A bunch of suspects. A determined police officer. Same old?  Oh no. It is dark and twisty interesting.

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Not an edge of the seat whodunnit, but an engrossing read nevertheless.

Thy Will is a deaddiction center run by a psychiatrist Johnny Will who had a disturbed childhood. His ways of ensuring that his patients stay sober are unethical and questionable, they say. I found it a bit contrived. But between him, Sera his psychologist and Zac his half brother, they run a tight and successful ship, catering to The Rich and Famous addicts. Things seem all rosy in the quiet little hill station of Monele until Mira, Johnny’s fiance is found dead due to a morphine overdose.  And when  another gruesome murder happens a few days later, things heat up. Fifteen years ago Johnny’s father was found dead under mysterious circumstances and Officer Ray who had his hands tied wasn’t able to nail Johnny in the crime. But this time, he is not letting him off that easily.

The narration did seem a bit cluttered with each chapter being written from the perspective of each character. I would have preferred longer chapters and lesser characters in this format. But the book keeps you going till the end without breaking the pace, keeping you guessing till the very end. Everyone seems to have a motive and the means, Johnny, Sera, the cousin Azaan, Zac, the evil aunt Adele. At one point I even wondered if it was Marie, the housekeeper. And everyone tells their story, trying to convince the reader of their innocence until finally, one of them reveals the truth. But is it the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Ah.

Three things bugged me in the book. One was the fictitious town of Monele. But this has nothing to do with the actual book. Rather, it was the local in me who found it difficult to accept a picture perfect town full of rich party people and a hotel called Seven Seas an hour or so away from where I actually live. I just got a bit picky. Faraway imaginary Malgudi and Brahmpur were perfectly fine with me. But a Monele that claims to be next door? A Ketti Palada, maybe.

The other was the excessive use of Westernised names. Agreed, Ooty is full of Anglo Indians, maybe even people with wannabe western names. I won’t be surprised if there is a house actually named Thy Will, we have a The Tryst there. But this setting, totally removed from ‘Indianness’ and Ootyness did seem a bit odd to me. Not a deal breaker though. The actual plot was interesting and made up for this, so I let it pass.

And ouch, ‘The lesser known poet’ being plugged in obviously and less obviously in more than one place. That made me cringe. The author’s poetry blog should have stayed in the About page, not in Officer Ray’s narration or in sly plugs elsewhere.

I don’t usually like to use the genre/category ‘Indian author’, but it was such a nice change to read a gripping murder mystery by an ‘Indian author’ instead of the current trend of  ‘humour’ or chicklit. I read the reviews of the author’s previous book, Jacob Hills and will definitely pick it up.

This book has been reviewed as a part of GetPublished program by IndiBlogger

Bridget Jones’s Diary- Helen Fielding : 26/52

Oh please. A book about a thirty something’s pathetic non- life. Enough already.

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No, I haven’t watched the movie. And yes, I’m a decade or so late reading this book and I’ve probably read a zillion blogposts and columns that have tried to sound just like this. So maybe I’ve exhausted my quota of laughter that was due to this book. But puhleese.

Thirtysomething, single, in lust with her boss, a bunch of supportive friends (mandatory gay man included), an airheaded mother, a bunch of random old couples and the Real Hero, an oh-so-aptly named Mark Darcy. The whole book is about how she tries to keep up her New Year’s resolutions of losing weight, drinking less, quitting smoking and finding a man. Makes me want to roll my eyes and say ‘Aren’t we all’.

This Mark Darcy makes just three or four appearances in the book and you don’t even feel anything for him. How  he ended up on the many lists of Lovable Fictional Men, I don’t know. Daniel, the smooth boss who indulges in Fuckwittage and cheats on Bridget seemed more lovable. Our very own Ganesha who drank milk gets a mention in the book and a terracotta oil burner tries to imitate him.  The airheaded mother was the best character in the whole book, she  even provided the necessary filmy drama at the end and helped tie up all loose ends for the Happily Ever After ending. And Bridget, well she frustrated me so much that I wanted to just grab her by her shoulders, shake her up and tell her to shut the eff up.

I wanted to write this post in the v.g style, but finishing the damn book was hard work enough. I don’t have anything left in me now.

Will I read The Edge of Reason? Yes I will. As I said earlier, I’ve got an OCD that makes me just have to read the sequels. And then, I’m kind-of masochistic too.

 

PS: Is it Jones’ or Jones’s ? Are both correct? It is bugging me.

 

The Carrie Diaries- Candace Bushnell : 23/52

Ok. I judge myself. This is not a book that a 30 something should be reading. Or even a 20 something. Or anysomething for that matter. This book shouldn’t even have been written. Or atleast shouldn’t have been hyped as Carrie before Sex and The City.

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But as I said, I read Summer in the City first  and so my OCD did not permit me to let part one of the series just go unread.

I really don’t know what the author was thinking. Almost everything is a total contradiction to the Carrie we know and love ( and sometimes hate). She took that horse-faced, curly haired, sexually liberated, funny, witty, independent, shoe crazy woman and turned her into an average teenager with  boy problems. Atleast in Summer and the City she was out of high school, in New York , sleeping with an old (thirty year old! gasp! ) man and partying with Samantha Jones. But for the whole thirty five chapters in this book she’s just smoking, drinking ,not losing her virginity, and feeling jealous of classmates (named Donna LaDonna and such) who are trying to steal her boyfriend. And then doing that some more. There’s no story, no plot, no twist, no turn, no direction. I won’t mind reading a good old Crosswinds or First Love from Silhouette now (Yup, that’s my vintage)  to get the bland taste of this one out of my mind.

Read this book if you want to un-Carrie Carrie Bradshaw.

 

 

Summer and the City- Candace Bushnell : 20/52

What better way to recover from Stephen King’s Carrie than a dose of good ole Carrie Bradshaw. Or that’s what I thought. Having loved the SATC TV series, I thought I’d give the books also a try

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Thinking that The Carrie Diaries would be too teeny bopper, I started off with Summer and the City assuming that it was about a more grown up Carrie. I was wrong. It is about a not-yet-eighteen Carrie experimenting in the big bad city. Experimenting with writing, fashion and older men. In no particular order. Set in the eighties, it takes some effort to deal with rubber, vinyl and plastic garments (loved the scrubs, though) , lack of hard disks and mobile phones and firebrand feminism. Oh, scratch the last one.

But what I absolutely couldn’t deal with was a Carrie who cooks and a Samantha who is engaged and wants to ‘settle down’. Very, very un-Samantha. Way to bring the characters we watched and loved come crashing down. Miranda is Miranda, on the right path to becoming Miranda. Charlotte too,making an entry at the very end, is very Charoltte. Carrie comes out as clingy and whiny at times, but that’s what she was with Big, so her clinginess with Bernard isn’t something new. And Bernard, though he sets a foundation for Carrie’s Big obsession, certainly is not Big. Not that it matters much, but I don’t know what genre this book comes under. Was it Young Adult fiction or Age-No-Bar Chicklit? If it was the former, I have problems with the unapologetic underage drinking and excessive smoking. If it is not, I don’t. (What does that make me?) Bleh and a half stars for the book, but I will certainly read The Carrie Diaries and Sex and The City only because my OCD won’t allow me not to.

Kaleidoscope- Danielle Steel :13/52

This was the first Danielle Steel I read, feeling all grown up at 17. I remember weeping throughout the book and this was one story that stayed with me even after I got over my Danielle Steel phase. So I revisited it after all these years. And not surprisingly, I wasn’t choking up as much this time.

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A love story that begins in the midst of the second world war ends in a tragedy with the man strangling his wife in a fit of anger and then committing suicide. Their three daughters get separated, two of them adopted and the eldest one ending up drifting from foster homes to juvenile hall. And hardened by the horrors of ill-treatment, rape and apathy, Hilary grows up seemingly cold and unfeeling. As with all Danielle Steel women, you have the rich , posh and titled Alexandra, married to a man decades older, dripping diamonds and designers. Megan who was a baby when separated is a doctor with not much of a back story.  Arthur Patterson comes across as the helpless henpecked wimp, but you don’t understand why Hilary hates him so much until she reveals a shocking secret towards the end, when he’s on his deathbed. John Chapman, the investigator hired to find and reunite the three sisters is again, the classic Danielle Steel hero, all sensitive and caring and gets conveniently coupled in the end.

Maybe because it was the second time reading it, or maybe because I’ve outgrown hardcore chicklit, this book didn’t do much for me this time.

(Another series  that I loved back then and feel like rereading are the books by Claire Lorrimer. The Chatelaine, The Wilderling and something else. Should try to get hold of them in some library. They’re too expensive here )

Hallways in the Night – R.C. O’Leary :12/52

Sometimes you stumble across a good book or a new author in the most unexpected way. I met Andaleeb Wajid through a Twitter conversation about kichda.  R C O’Leary somehow got to this blog and he was kind enough to send me his novel as a Kindle gift. And so I spent the weekend in a courtroom with Remo Centrella and Dave Mackno and I must say, it was a weekend well spent.

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An arrogant, steroid pushing baseball player gets killed by a cop. Self defense, he says. But when there’s 45 million dollars involved, a clean self defense claim doesn’t fully cut it. So what we have is an edge of the seat legal battle that makes you keep turning the pages till the very end. I love American legal dramas, be it reruns of The Practice or John Grisham novels. I don’t know if I am being fair to the author by saying that this was like a Grisham, but it was. And some more. The characters were well formed and I actually didn’t take sides till the end. I wavered back and forth throughout the trial. Did Dave Mackno overreact? Was he driven by his own ghosts from the past? At one point you want him to win, and a few pages later, you wonder if he should.

There are little backstories for all the characters, one of which becomes a vital twist towards the end. The book touches on some relevant and sensitive topics like the identity crisis that the African American lawyer goes through, how the internet broke a family and of course, the usage of steroids in sports ( Made me wonder why we never ever hear of steroid use in cricket. Could Slapgate have been ‘roid rage?) And then there was even a dumb witness who actually named his kid after Hulk Hogan!

A totally unputdownable book. Looking forward to the sequel.