Saturday, 9 December 2017

Review: Different Beads of the Same String : A collection of Short Stories

Different Beads of the Same String : A collection of Short Stories Different Beads of the Same String : A collection of Short Stories by Sujay Malik
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anthology has an advantage of covering a lot of ground in one book. This book is a mixed bag like most anthologies.

Anahita found her mentor in an old professor. As sometimes happens she feels attraction but he has his own past.

Swini, a Hindu loves a Muslim boy and the cant marry.

Michelle finds that Indian kids are as pathetic in taking care of their parents as Americans.

Feelijus is one good lesson about justice delayed is justice denied.

The stories are shorts, sweet and relatable though the themes and plots are old. 4/5 stars.


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Review: Where's the good in a goodbye

Where's the good in a goodbye Where's the good in a goodbye by Ravi Shirurkar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When two lovers meet their lives change. Change may be positive or negative. Jesper and Sara had positive influence on each other whereas Arjun and Eva had mixed results.

The book is just average and had so many pop psycology quotes in italics. It breaks the flow and is irritating.

Sometimes it is just plain regressive and sexist. See this passage (Arjun telling Eva that kissing her boyfriend is cheap):

Your friends know that I proposed you but they don’t know you kissed me in the middle of the street – 4 blocks away from your home. How cheap does this sound?

Money is overrated and this book reinforces this notion, see the passage below:

So how do people like Virat and Elon become so irresistible all of a sudden? The answer is M-word! The M-word is not some Magic but it’s MONEY! One should just take care of his M-word, and M-word takes care of the rest of the things.

2.5/ 5 stars.


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Thursday, 7 December 2017

Review: Kartikeya: The Destroyer's Son

Kartikeya: The Destroyer's Son Kartikeya: The Destroyer's Son by Anuja Chandramouli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster . . . when you gaze long into the abyss the abyss also gazes into you”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

The eternal fight of good and evil is not all black and white. This is my second book of Anuja. First one was “Shakti, The Divine feminine”. I see some common themes in her two books though I am writing about “Kartikeya” here. The story of Kartikeya is not very well known in north India from where I belong. Ganesh is more popular elder son of Shiva in these quarters. Though in south India Kartikeya (aka Murugan in Tamil Nadu) is worshipped with fervour. This books says that Karti is elder.

Indra is petrified to death due to rising power of Soora and his brothers Simha and Taraka. The rotten manipulator as he is, he approaches Vishnu for help. This is what he always does. It is foretold that Shiva’s son will kill Soora. So Vishnu ask him to wait patiently. Ananga (Kamdeva) and his wife Rati are distressed because Shiva incinerated him. Eventually Karti comes to world. Indra and Sachi are happy. Ajamukhi is daughter of Maya and beloved sister of Soora and company. Ajamukhi has nothing to do with their barbaric ways and happy to live away from them. She is killed by Sachi and they are livid. This sets up a deadly war. Indra’s daughter Devsena is Karti’s consort.


1. The best thing I found is language. It is powerful, intelligent, lyrical & poetic. It says so much in one sentence. I marvel at the beauty of it. I savored each sentence many times. The other writer who creates magic like this is Arundhati Roy. If all things are equal these two will score above all with their language. Language is first rate but I need to keep looking up the dictionary :).

2. The book is full of metaphors, symbols and allusions. It is poetry in prose and each reader can draw his own conclusions. I can give many examples but these two should suffice:

a) The instance where Devsena tells how her father took Surya’s chariot and took them for a ride. Surya was apoplectic as he himself denied that privilege to his own children. Don’t we see this everyday happening in modern India? People in position of power bend, flout and usurp rules at their whims and fancy. This is a satire on so called VVIP culture where might is right and different rules for poor and rich.
b) Description of Karti birth. The come of Shiva flew in universe and held by Agni, Vayu and Ganga. This is a clear indication of him being Ganga son though Parvati accepts him as her own. The gods are treated as humans here and though they have super powers they also have human traits.

3. Devas and Asuras are two sides of same coin. Indra is not above reproach. He has all the failings of Asura. He is manipulative, insecure and use every trick in the book to retain power. So after all Nietzsche is right. This is evident from his fall from grace in later religious texts and finally Krishna asks not to worship him (Goverdhan episode). This is happening in today’s politics well. All political parties use every dirty trick to stay in power. There is so little to distinguish them and we just vote according to our own prejudice, insecurities, paradigms and justify every bad action of the party we support. But the better course of action will be to oppose wrongdoings of every political party.

4. I don’t know anything about Kartikeya and hence there is no reference point unlike other mythical retellings. I liked Narendra Kohli’s retelling of Ramayan and Mahabharat in Hindi. He gave a socialist spin. Amish writes fantasy with epic/ mythic/ religious characters. Devdutt has some absurd conclusions/ interpretations in Jaya and other works. In Anuja’s books there are religious characters but treatment is very progressive and feminist. I see this as a very liberal interpretation of religion which is call of the hour. In the day and age of Beef ban, grih vapsi, religion sanctioned terrorism (called Jehad) these kind of books may help us to put things in perspective. My understanding is that our Vedic society was progressive, liberal and matriarchal but later on it became patriarchal and regressive during medieval period.

5. These books are for readers for want something to ponder about and not just some pot boilers (A la Chetan Bhagat). Anuja is a bestselling author and it makes clear that there a market for intelligent literature.


I give the book 5/ 5 stars.

P.S. I asked some questions to extremely talented Ms Anuja Chandramouli. She graciously and kindly granted me her valuable time from extremely busy schedule. This may throw some light on her thinking process for those who are keen to know more. Here is the link https://rajanmogha.blogspot.in/2017/1...



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Interview of Anuja Chamdramouli (Author of "Kartikeya: The Destroyer's Son”)

I had recently read the phenomenal book “Kartikeya: The Destroyer's Son”. I asked some questions to extremely talented Ms Anuja Chandramouli. She graciously and kindly granted me her valuable time from extremely busy schedule. This may throw some light on her thinking process for those who are keen to know.

Brief bio as taken from Goodreads.com

Anuja Chandramouli is a bestselling Indian author and New Age Indian Classicist. Her highly acclaimed debut novel, Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince, was named by Amazon India as one of the top 5 books in the Indian Writing category for the year 2013. Kamadeva: The God of Desire and Shakti: The Divine Feminine are her other bestsellers. Currently all three books are being translated into Hindi, Marathi, Gujarathi and Bengali, a real achievement for one so young. Her epic fantasies called Yama’s Lieutenant and its sequel has received an overwhelming response. Her newest books are on Kartikeya, Padmavati and Prithviraj Chauhan. An accomplished orator, she regularly conducts workshops on Creative Writing, Story Telling and Mythology in schools, colleges and various other platforms. Her motivational speeches have also been well received. According to Chandramouli, her work with youngsters in the rural belt helping them improve their Spoken English and Writing skills has been wonderfully satisfying and enriching. This happily married, mother of two little girls, lives in Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu. She is a student of classical dance and Yoga. 

Interview:

Rajan: This is your second book I am reading. First was Shakti. Language is first rate but I need to keep looking up the dictionary. This coupled with the fact that you use metaphors and allusions makes it clear you are writing for intelligent audience and not popular fiction. Is it deliberate?

Anuja: I don't deliberate too much when I am writing. In my opinion too much analysis results in paralysis when it comes to action at least! All my thoughts are channelled into telling the story and I don't interfere with the flow of words or stop to worry if it is too complicated or what have you. It is an organic process and I am happy to just go along. And I am not thinking about the audience either in terms of critical or popular approval. All I care about are the stories and I am confident they will make their way to those who love them as much as I do! 

Rajan:  I read many retellings. I liked Narendra Kohli in Hindi. He gave a socialist spin. Amish writes fantasy with epic/ mythic/ religious characters. Your take is different. In your books these are religious characters but treatment is very progressive and feminist. What’s your approach?

Anuja: Absolutely delighted that you find my treatment of mythology progressive and feminist. When it comes to my books, I do a whole lot of research but while putting it down, I go with whatever makes sense to me. The idea is not to perpetuate regressive and narrow - minded ideologies in the name of culture and tradition. As a mother of two little girls, I would like them to grow up in a world where they are not made to feel at a disadvantage on the basis of gender. Hence, using my chosen profession to shape the narrative of tales that are treasures imparted by a glorious tradition, to render them progressive is the very least I can do. 

Rajan: Your books are low on dialogues and rely more on atmosphere and emotions. This is a different approach but coupled with first question it makes a slow reading because in one chapter you cover a lot of ground and a lot happens. Why it is so?

Anuja: That applies to Shakti perhaps, but I think there are lots of engaging dialogue portions in my books. Really enjoy working on them. But I do spend a lot of time shaping each chapter till it feels perfect so yes, they do feel complete and can often feel very intense. Hence, even during the writing process, I need to recharge my batteries between chapters and subsequently, some readers may need a break too. However, others have complimented on the pace and the narrative style which they have said have kept them hooked and reading through the night!

Rajan: The book are very serious and to the point. Where are the fun and light moments?



Anuja: Again, Shakti was a very complicated subject and there was not room for too many laughs. However, when it comes to my other books and overall writing, there is a lot of humor to lighten the proceedings. My tales are supposed to make my readers smile a little, cry a little and think a lot!

The end

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Review: Zero Debt: Break the Debt Cycle and Reclaim Your Life

Zero Debt: Break the Debt Cycle and Reclaim Your Life Zero Debt: Break the Debt Cycle and Reclaim Your Life by Neeraj Deginal
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Indian kids don’t understand finance till they marry. Till the time they are in college they are provided money by their parents and they don’t know how to manage it. Even after getting ot of college they do not handle and the parents usually do this for them. So naturally we are not very wise in making decisions regarding money management.

The same thing happened with our author Sh Neeraj Denigal. He married and incurred a lot of debt. He had three credit cards, 3 housing loans and one car loan. This became so stressful that he had a nervous breakdown. Then he managed his finances better and became debt free and stress free.

The book give tips about managing finances, time, health, work life balance and nost importantly valuing the things which matter.

However the way author paid his loan after taking interest free loans from his elder brother is not a path breaking advice. Everyone does this. But some tips in book are good and we should read it once. Word of caution though; it will not make you debt free. Just tell you the dangers of running into that trap.





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Review: A Girl Called Renee

A Girl Called Renee A Girl Called Renee by Ruth Uzrad
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The persecution of Jews was a sad incident. It ruined many lives. One such girl was Ruth Uzrad who escaped from there to Belgium.

Just imagine the horror of two young girls in a train with no identification papers. She is put in an orphanage by a kind woman. Then she goes to France and take a pseudonym Renee. Finally she settles in Israel.

It is a book by Ruth Uzrad herself and a moving portrait of trials and tribulations of hers when she runs for her and her sister’s life.



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Review: You Are Meant To Sing!: 10 Steps to Unlock Your Inner Voice

You Are Meant To Sing!: 10 Steps to Unlock Your Inner Voice You Are Meant To Sing!: 10 Steps to Unlock Your Inner Voice by Helane Marie Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book is of a fighter who suffered from multiple problem in the past. She came over all these and found her voice.

She suffered from anxiety, depression, PTSD etc and was afraid to show her talent. Her mother also dissuaded her to follow her dreams and advised to take the safe path. But she found the voice within her overpowering and then broke her shackles. Ultimately music is the cure for all her problems. It has to come from your soul and you have to follow your dreams. That is the message.


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Review: Dharmayoddha Kalki: Avatar Of Vishnu

Dharmayoddha Kalki: Avatar Of Vishnu Dharmayoddha Kalki: Avatar Of Vishnu by Kevin Missal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lord Vishnu is the operator of universes. He comes to earth in human form when there is extreme evil to finish it off. There are four Yugs. Lord Vishnu incarnated as Ram in Treata Yug and Krishna in Dwapar. It is prophesied that he will be born as Kalki in Kaliyuga i.e. the present age.

This is story of eternal battle between good and evil represented by Kalki and Kali respectively. Kalki is son of Vishnuyath and younger brother of Arjan. He is a simple village boy having amazing strength. Kali along with his sister Drukuti wants to establish an empire. Only hurdle in his path is Kalki.

The author has given a note in the beginning itself that this is a fantasy and not a modern retelling of Kalki Purana (I didn’t know there was a book like that Wikipedia link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalki_P... ). The influences are many from GOT, star wars, LOTR and Bahubali. He wanted to create epic characters and not epic story. Fair enough.

The book is long and this is just book one. I liked the format of very short chapters and crisp clear dialogues. There are numerous characters and tribes, details of which are given in end. Subtle but significant difference between Pisacha, Asur, Rakshahsa, Nagas etc is told. All these details were difficult to assimilate and confused me at times.

I can see the influence of Amish Triptahi’s Meluha trilogy clearly. The Soma and Nagas are mentioned in that too. Amish also takes puranic characters and weaves a imaginary fantasy around them. However Amish kept the plot tight and story interesting, here the plot went sideways many a times and story slackens. But it is too early to pass judgement as this is book one. I will wait and watch.

3.5/ 5 stars.




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